Wisdom From The Saints

From Glad Hearts, edited by my Father, James Hawkinson, two of the saints speak to us today.

The first is David Nyvall (1863-1946), Covenant educator, founder, and first president of North Park College and Seminary. Reflecting on the Word of God, he writes:

“If one goes to the Bible with an eye for errors, contradictions, grammatical anomalies, historical mistakes, or imprecise information and numbers, then the Bible is only great enough for scholarship about these matters. But if one goes to the Bible with an eye for the life that surges like mighty waves rising from bursting streams here and there, then one will be rewarded infinitely more. The Bible occupies a world that should be studied with a telescope rather than a microscope. What a loss it would be to study the stars and the Northern Lights with a magnifying glass! Let us admit that while it is also worthwhile to study the Bible with a microscope…this is the right of the research process…But according to Hebrews, faith looks through a telescope and notices that which is invisible under the research microscope, that is, that the Bible embraces the whole world of light and life, of comfort and guidance. And it is certainly true that no discovery of formal errors can take away anything of essential value from the Bible’s contents, just as if during a morning walk one’s admiration for the fresh, newly-born nature would be destroyed through the discovery of a leaf containing irregular, faulty edges or of stones which are not all cut into four square edges.” (P. 316)

The second voice is that of my childhood pastor, Glen Wiberg (1925-2017), who speaks of the Church as Christ’s welcoming community:

“The church, with the pail and dipper, is still the bearer of God’s invitation–good news for the thirsty. There is a meeting place with an address where you are not only welcome but where your thirst can be quenched. There is a word. There is a font of life. There is a table. There is broken bread. There is a water pail and dipper. ‘In, with, and under’ these earthy things there is the presence of the living Christ, God’s chosen One, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The One who offers the gift of eternal life freely to all who thirst says, ‘Come, this gift is yours, without money and without price.’ There is no better menu any place. The source of life is not a concept, nor a theology, nor a ritual, nor an organization, nor even an experience however ecstatic. The source of life is a Person–Jesus, the living One who speaks and with outstretched hand says to you, ‘Welcome!’ (P. 357-58)

Wearing Skin

Over the course of the last week, I’ve started visiting church members again. Now that I have my vaccines, and they have theirs, I’ve started sitting in living rooms and meeting rooms, talking with people I haven’t seen at all, or have seen but rarely, over the last thirteen months.

Giving them hugs. Holding their hands to pray. Patting their arms.

After a year of being so isolated, touch feels more important than ever.

But even as I sit with these dear friends, and as I slowly expand my social circle at home to include a few more people for dinners and baking days, there is still a hesitancy that flavors all of these interactions.

We aren’t quite sure, still, how to inhabit our bodies. Bodies which we have spent the last year worrying ceaselessly about, trying to protect from germs and viruses. Bodies which we have closed off in our homes, kept distant from other bodies. Bodies which maybe have grown in ways we didn’t anticipate or ask for this year (I’m looking at you, “COVID 19”), or bodies which have been a constant source of anxiety to us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Barbara Brown Taylor’s essay on Incarnation, or “The Practice of Wearing Skin,” in her book An Altar in the World. In that piece, she reflects on all the messages society gives us about our bodies, about all the ways we’re taught to be critical of our bodies, to distance ourselves from them, and especially in the church to spiritualize our faith instead of making it physical and embodied.

We talk a lot and listen a lot and read a lot but we don’t always live and move and interact a lot with those bodies. And that has been the case exponentially more so in this past year. (Maybe you are one of the few who has learned to listen to her body a lot more this year, who has moved it in ways that felt good and nourished it with some of the extra time you weren’t using to go out and travel – in which case, I congratulate you. Now for the rest of us…)

We may not even pay much attention to our bodies until they demand it through illness or injury or even the limitations of aging. Then we complain and critique and bemoan our bodies, but rarely turn to them with gentleness and care and love.

And we are missing out, when we do that, on a major way that God reveals God’s self to us.

“What many of us miss, in our physical dis-ease,” Taylor writes, “is that our bodies remain God’s best way of getting to us.” She writes about Jesus’ ministry, which was so deeply physical, so thoroughly embodied: he broke bread and washed feet and hugged children and went fishing. “Most of us could use a reminder that God does not come to us beyond the flesh but in the flesh, at the hands of a teacher who will not be spiritualized but who goes on trusting the embodied sacraments of bread, wine, water, and feet. ‘Do this,’ he said – not believe this but do this – ‘in remembrance of me.'”

The incarnation of our faith is not an optional add-on; it is an essential piece.

God reveals things to us in our bodies that our minds can’t understand in the abstract: the feeling of cool, clean sheets on your bed; the warmth of a hot meal on a cold day; the soft touch of a baby’s cheek or the solid warmth of a dog’s belly. The soft bite of communion bread and the sweet tang of grape juice. Do this in remembrance of me.

It will take some time to get back to our bodies, and maybe even longer towards making peace with them and respecting them as, in Taylor’s words, “our soul’s address.” It will be a while yet before we can gather all together and hug each other and eat together again.

But as we begin that journey back, let us do so with a renewed attention to our bodies; to what they need from us, and what they can teach us, about ourselves and others and God. Let us remember to care for our bodies, and others’ bodies, as our soul’s address. As a temple of the Holy Spirit.


-Pastor Jen

Old Life

In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones iconic song Mother’s Little Helper, “What a drag it is getting old.”

These have to be the words our Labrador Retriever Silas would say if he could speak these days, now well into his 13th dog year. In fact, he speaks through his old body, racked with joint pain and cataracts and his now almost total loss of hearing. There is absolutely no doubt his constant sleep will soon be permanent. I wonder if he knows it as I look into his eyes, and rub his ears while his tag wags still. It’s hard to watch his diminishment (except for his voracious appetite, the only bit of his old self remaining!).

Last night, while snuggling with him, the words of the ancient prophet Isaiah found my spirit:

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (40:30-31)

These are the same words on the gravestone of my dearly departed brother-in-law, Dwight Peterson, whose body was ravaged by an infection when he was just 18, and left him in paralysis until his death at the age of 54. I never once saw him walk, let alone run or fly like an eagle, but what comfort I find in those hopeful words on his grave that hold out faith in the promises of our good God, who promises to renew us even as our old age wreaks havoc on our bodies and minds.

Ours is a resurrection faith of hope in the face of diminishing realities that our mortality makes inevitable. Just as inevitable, we are crazy enough to believe, is the renewal of our health and strength, our bodies and spirits, sure as now sufferings and death have their way with us.

As I grow older I’m less an expert on Orthodoxy and better at wandering into wonderful mysteries that are the bunny trails of God’s abundant love…creating, redeeming, sustaining. I’m sure its sacrilege to speak of a heavenly glory for Silas and all the other creatures that we love and who love us. Yet I will revel in my helplessness to ease his pain to imagine a day soon when he can walk freely and run boldly again, maybe even leap off some heavenly dock into an endless lake of never ending joy, for Silas like me is one of God’s creatures. It is that hope which shall comfort us when we put him off to sleep sometime soon.

And how fun it will be someday to see Dwight again, among the saints, fully on his feet again, as he was first created to be, renewed in his strength in ways that I can only imagine.

It is this hope I will choose to rest in as I begin to feel the aging effects of this life, the contemplations of all that’s yet to be. Thanks be to God!

Peter Hawkinson

The Day After Easter

(Guest Blogger, Mary Rhodes)

2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

The writer Ann Lamott has come up with a great name for this pandemic journey we’re all on together: “Covid College”. And when you think about it, we have been in a weird kind of shared classroom this past year, forcing us to change and grow. Last week, Pastor Jen revealed a bit of her own Covid College experience when she blogged about how reluctant she felt this Easter season to embark on the pathos of the stories of Holy Week. “I’ve felt those things too much and too often already in this past year,” she wrote. Can we all relate?

It’s interesting that our sacred telling of the Easter story in 2020 and 2021 almost bookends our first year at Covid College. A high point of Easter last year for my husband Steve and me was the surprise of seeing Pastor Pete and Bonnie on our driveway in their car packed with hydrangeas, begonias and Lillies. Their “drive-by delivery” brought a bright and unexpected human touch while we felt so cut off from our church and world.

This Year?

Holy Week: All the chaotic, fast-moving and volatile stories of Holy Week– power-hungry Pharisees; treacherous Judas; frightened Peter; Weak-willed Pontius Pilate; fickle crowds that welcome Jesus one day, then shout to crucify him five days later– helped me see Jesus in a new way. I kept thinking: That’s exactly how my world feels to me right now. I discovered this new connection to a Savior who knows how it feels to navigate constant uncertainty, disappointment, and risk. Jesus triumphed over life’s toughest roadblocks. Now he walks alongside us too.

Easter Sunday: This was my first Sunday service after zooming for 12 months. What a coming-out party! Still, the hard lessons of the day were clear: “If ever there was a year we come to Jesus’ tomb with tears, this is it,” said Pastor Pete. “If you came here weeping this morning, God is so close. He will meet your tears, your sorrows and griefs right where you are.” Our glorious Sunday celebration was a full-blown, all-out tribute to the power of church and community. Thank you, Winnetka Covenant! He is risen, indeed!

Our Leaders: Should we take a congregational vote on whether to let Pastor Pete retire his polka dot blanket? Will Pastor Joel, after his epic Holy Week monologue on facebook, be the next breakout podcast personality? Is Pastor Jen destined for the British Baking Show? Are there adequate words to describe the power and range of Dimitri’s talents? This has been a year of creativity and resourcefulness for our leaders as they’ve battled their own pandemic fears and crises while finding new ways–from their kitchen table and living room couch– to encourage and lift us up with God’s Word. There are still a lot of unknowns and tough decisions. We’re not out of the Covid woods yet. But we’re blessed by the innovative ways they keep us connected and inspired. They are in our prayers.

We’ve all changed. In fact, there’s a lot of areas we individual members may decide to cut out of our lives; things we’ve discovered we don’t need or care about after this past Covid College year.

But we know this: we need Church!

Mary Rhodes

It’s Time!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:1-2)

I am excited beyond words for this Sunday! Yes, it’s Easter, and the news is as good as it gets! Yes, my phone’s weather app says its going to be sunny and 65 degrees! But what captivates my spirit is the thought of being together again, really all together again!

WE ARE GATHERING FOR WORSHIP OUTSIDE AT 10:30, AND I AM URGING YOU TO BE THERE! Just for one holy moment, because we can be outside, limited numbers fall by the wayside. Familiar restrictions remain. Personal distancing, and mask-wearing stay with us. Our touches, even embraces will soon re-commence, but not quite yet. But we are copying and folding 200 bulletins, and I hope we can hand them all out!

Together we will hear the story of Jesus’ resurrection, and sing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” as we ponder its meaning yet for us. We will have the chance to look into each other’s eyes once again, and see how much all the children have grown. We will share in the resurrection feast of Holy Communion, and we have a way to do that safely. We will sing the Lord’s Prayer to our God, and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” to each other. And though we won’t be able to become a mass choir and sing the Hallelujah chorus, we have a special end to our service planned. All will be invited into the sanctuary space and narthex, finding space, to hear Charles-Marie Widor’s Toccata played by our own Joshua smith. It’s a seven minute grand piece that seems to imagine what the sound of entry into God’s glory might be like.

Then we will make our way back outside to renew friendships and greet each other informally before heading off into the afternoon sunshine.

Reflect on the words of the ancient psalm above, that the Israelites would sing together as they walked up into the holy city. It’s a celebration of being together in one place, at one time, to worship God together. And though it is most certainly true that we ARE the Church much more than we COME to Church, it’s time, it’s time for us to come together again, our feet standing in the same place for the first time in a long time!

So come, please! Come and invites some friends to join you. Bring your lawn chairs (we’ll have chairs if you need them!) and keeping wearing your mask (we have some of them too!). Find your spot on the lawn, and come with your heart wide open to rejoice.

Hoping for 200! Love from here!



A reminder that this outdoor service will be live-streamed on our you tube channel at 10:30. We completely understand that some of us for health and safety reasons will not be able to join in person. Join us on-line!