Sea Billows Roll Today

On this holy day we have lost two dear friends, John Couleur and Patty Frazer. Today the sea billows roll, not only where the hurricane Ian is taking hold, but here in our midst, as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death together. Fresh from the memorial services for Vivian Edstrom, Everett Jackson, Arnie Bolin, Mary Olson, Joan Erickson and Howard Geake, and awaiting the home-goings of Marion Christensen and Mary Koules, Kathy Davis, and Bruce McClellan, oh! How the sea billows roll. Even though we have hope in the bright shining glory of God, How hard it is to lose sisters and brothers!

Hope remains, defiantly: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me….surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

In this rather overwhelming time of loss, and clinging to hope, I return to the poetic words of my grandfather Eric, which he wrote on his 40th birthday, April 28, 1936. I dedicate it’s expression today to all these saints who have and are leaving us. May their memories be a blessing, and may the Holy Spirit of God comfort their loved ones.


I want no pomp, I want no state,

I want no colorful debate

Of what I was, or could have been;

Just take me out and tuck me in,

In Mother Earth beneath the sky.

‘Twas good to live, but good to die,

Just leave me in the wind and rain

With flowers that bloom and fade again,

‘Neath winter’s snow and April shower,

In calm repose ’til waking hour,

Just tuck me ‘neath the sod

With friendly hand, but speak of God.

With grief and hope,

Peter Hawkinson

What I Hold in My Hands

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game very day, and that’s the way baseball is.” (Bullet Bob Feller).

Everyone has a really weird habit — some more obvious than others. One of mine is that just about every day of my life I hold onto a baseball. This one has been with me for the last seventeen years since I caught it in the bleachers of a St. Louis Cardinals game. I’ve never stopped to consider the reasons why I hold onto it while I work everyday. Here’s my chance!

Certainly, and most obviously it bears the marks of my stresses and anxieties. Fingernails have found their way repeatedly into and under the leather. I also love it’s feeling in my hand, which help me think better about whatever I’m doing. It’s a little bit like a pacifier for an ADD affected guy like me, no doubt.

More importantly, the ball (and the game) hold deeper levels of sacred memories for me. In little league at River Park, I was a good-fielding third baseman and average at best at the plate. I blended in, and more often than not didn’t come through in big moments, except one day, one life-changing day when our game got moved to thillens stadium which had a real, lit up scoreboard, bleachers, a snack bar and lights! In the top of the seventh, I stopped a hard hit ball and we held on to a tie. Bottom of the seventh, I closed my eyes and pulled one down the line and drove in the winning run! That night remains for me a holy moment. Mom and Dad took me in their arms and the team over to the dairy bar for ice cream. Baseball!

Other memories come as I scratch the seams, this one of my first trip to Wrigley field with my cousin Tom — walking up the stairs and seeing that field for the first time, and being so excited when Tom told me his father saw Babe Ruth there years ago. Or the time I broke our neighbor’s window while we were playing running bases in the alley. The endless long slogs through summers with the cubs, and endless games of wiffle ball and “pinners” against the garage door. Watching my high school buddy Israel Sanchez (who eventually became a big leaguer) strike out fifteen in a row. Seeing “Field of Dreams”— and sitting in a puddle of tears longing to play catch with my dad. Playing catch with my girls — and waiting 2 hours in line with Hannah to get an autograph from Aramis Ramirez, who left just before we got to him! Church softball with Steve Fogel waving me around third. And always, always, Barnabys afterward! One hundred years of “lovable losers” until late one night in 2016 when we jumped for joy around the room.

Most of all, though, it’s the steady nature of baseball, how it holds the days of our lives, our “coming in and going out” as the Psalm says it. As Bob Feller (who I met and sat with in the stands) once said it, “Every day is a new opportunity.” Or as Terence Mann said to Ray in Field of Dreams, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”

The well-worn and scuffed up ball on my desk and in my hands holds my story. Like the game is life with all its ups and downs — tragedies (think black cat, 1969 Mets), Glorious days (think cubs beating Phillies 23-22 in 1979) when warm summer breezes blow from the south, rainouts (do-overs, that’s grace), double-headers (“Let’s play two” Ernie says!) and always, always opening day, when we’re in first place!

The baseball is a good friend, a steady companion like the game. And this, a metaphor for how I understand God’s presence through life’s journey.

Go, Cubs, Go!


Time To Laugh!

John Daniels was an early Covenanter I only wish I had the chance to know. A member of First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, he invented and patented all kinds of traps, even some that caught pigeons on the church eaves.

He had one other “preacher trap” in mind, as recalled by Herbert Palmquist in his book “The Wit and Wisdom of our Fathers” covenant press, 1967:

“One of his (Daniels) most ingenious ideas had to do with the length of the sermon. It was his belief that most sermons are much too long. Whatever was said after twenty minutes was wasted, and here preachers kept on for an hour or more! The congregation ought to have a voice in the sermon’s length. For this reason every seat should be equipped with a button. When the listener felt that they had had enough, they would merely press the button; when a majority of the buttons had been pressed, a trap door would open and carry the preacher and the pulpit down into the basement of the church. But in order that the preacher might not be embarrassed overmuch and so be tempted to lose heart, there should be someone down there ready to comfort the preacher with a cup of coffee.”

That story remains an important reminder that humor and laughter is such an important aspect of coping with the stresses of our lives, lest we take ourselves too seriously, and our challenges as though no others before us faced their own. As my father was prone to remind me when I was over-burdened, “The Kingdom of God was here before you came along, and it will remain after you are gone. Relax, take a deep breath, and do what you can!”

Good to laugh. Remind me of that and I’ll do the same for you. Now I need to finish this little blog and go and check out the pulpit floor!

Love from here

Peter Hawkinson

The Manager and the Questions

This week, I’m revisiting an old and familiar text as I prepare to preach on Sunday.

Luke’s “parable of the dishonest manager,” as the NRSV calls it, is about a manager who is called to account by his master, for his unscrupulous business practices.

This was the text of my senior sermon at seminary, an opportunity offered to all graduating students to share a word from the pulpit of our beautiful Miller Chapel, addressed to our peers.

I remember well my nerves in studying this passage, having taken one measly semester meant to teach me both how to prepare and deliver a sermon. (I think we spent one day on preparing.)

What I came up with was this: the manager, having had grand ambitions of making himself good money, cheating his master and getting away with it, is caught. And he begins to reassess, very quickly, what he actually needs. What is enough.

It worked. It preached. And on a campus of high-achieving, anxious, students, it might have been the right message for that time.

But, eight years later, I am coming back to this story and discovering new things about it (the gift and the challenge of a living word).

I am wondering about how this manager is commended for his actions. How he didn’t actually abandon any of his unscrupulousness, but changed its orientation; he went from trying to make extra money either for his manager or himself (the text isn’t all that clear) and towards trying to help out his fellow people. Recognizing, surely, that their goodwill was all he would have to go on after losing his position as manager.

I am wondering about how Jesus commends the man for acting shrewdly, for using money to “play the game” but to play it well.

And I am wondering how this might apply to us – people, it must be said, of considerable means. Even with inflation, even with rising expenses and growing financial concerns, still we are overwhelmingly fortunate. Privileged. Rich, even.

I’ll continue to mull all this over in the next few days. And I encourage you to do the same! Let’s prepare together for Sunday by reading Luke 16:1-13 and asking ourselves these questions (as well as others that come to mind):

-How am I using my wealth?

-Who is it connecting me to?

-How am I serving God or money? God or wealth? God or stuff?  

And if you have any brilliant insights, I trust you’ll share them with me before Sunday 🙂

-Pastor Jen

Marking Up Books

One of my very favorite things to do is mark up books. I always hope for a few mostly blank pages near the beginning which allow me as I read to collect the delicious and challenging quotes in the front, so that when I take it off the shelf someday I can collect the gist of the book, and find the quotes I kind of remember but want to find again. A marked up book evidences its value, that it somehow connected with me and/or challenged me.

The late Rachel Held Evans book “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church” is all marked up. The fourth blank page holds two quotes that captivate and challenge my view of the church at the same time. The first comes from Pope Francis, in his encyclical from 2013 entitled “The Joy of the Gospel”:

I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty, because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security…More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us, “Give them something to eat.”

The second, from Rachel Held Evans:

The Gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out…It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy. This is a kingdom for the hungry.

How are these thoughts comforting, and how do they challenge us?

Love from Here!

Peter Hawkinson