Written by Corlan Ortmayer Harrison | Kitchen and Special Events Coordinator
Food is love, and my Grandma Ortmayer wrote the book on the topic. As the wife of a Montana Methodist minister during some rather tough times in our nation’s history, including WWI, WWII, the Great Depression (you get the picture), the Ortmayer table was always a welcoming destination for those in need of a meal full of love. She had an uncanny ability to create a beautiful meal with so little. Every meal at Rev and Mrs. Ortmayer’s table always started with gratitude for God’s bounty and my Grandma Ort’s gifts for turning that bounty into a blessed meal. During the Vietnam war, when political tensions were high and as a nation we were at odds with pro-war and anti-war demonstrations, my grandfather and I talked about love. He shared with me that if all the parties in play with the war would sit down at an Ortmayer breakfast table and share a platter of grandma’s pancakes, they could have a civil conversation and find solutions to differences. He had experienced many peace treaties around the table over his wife’s pancakes. I call them Peace Pancakes. If you know any political leaders, feel free to pass the recipe on; better yet, invite them over for breakfast and conversation.
Grandma Ortmayer’s Peace Pancakes
3 ½ C flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda (to each cup of buttermilk)
3 C buttermilk
3 Tbsp oil or melted shortening
Sift flour and baking powder together and set aside; lightly mix eggs; add soda to buttermilk.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add eggs, buttermilk and oil. Stir to combine but don’t over mix (some lumps are fine).
Using a ¼ measuring cup, gently pour pancake batter on a preheated (350 degree) griddle. Turn cakes when bubbles start to pop +/- 2 minutes.
On Sunday, August 4th, Pastor Susan preached a sermon called Don’t Mess with Widows in reference to Luke 18:1-8.To read the full sermon clickHERE
During her sermon she asked for a congregation response:
“I don’t think Luke should tell us what this parable is about but if he does I think it would be more accurate to say: “Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray for justice, persist with hope, stand collectively in the very act of faith, upset the apple cart in solidarity and raise a holy ruckus!” But that is what I see when I walk around inside this story. I want to hear what you see. Send me a text or an email this week and tell me what your life experience allowed you to see in the stories of Jesus. They are there a gift to you. What do you see? Amen.”
Here are some of the responses:
A Response from Michelle
The message that hit me on Sunday and that I keep coming back to all week regarding Luke 18:1-8, is that we should do as God does: “quickly grant justice” to those who ask for it. That, then, though, begs the question of how.
What can those with no political or financial power do to alleviate the suffering of separated families, caged children, and homeless languishing in feces- and rodent-lined streets? Here are a few things I’ve come up with that I, personally, can do right now: Vote, write letters to the editor, research the issues and hold discussion groups, have an open and loving heart and be present with everybody I come in contact with on a daily basis, and spend more time pulling weeds and caring for the plants in the Peace and Carrots garden. I can also nurture the values of service and compassion and peaceful action for my daughter, and hope that her light becomes contagious to everyone she meets.
And as for whether the Son of Man find people of faith on Earth – my thought is that if love and the simple willingness to consider those who think and eat and pray differently from us exist, then, I hope, the answer is yes.
A Response from Anna
Persistence Pays: Luke 18:1-8
Quite early one morning Jerry and I went for a walk in Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden—a favorite thing to do. The subtle changes from season to season delight us, and each time we look for new paths to explore.This time was different, though.You see, there was this pesky fly.It found my face: sticky, steamy, sweaty…Paradise!
I swatted. I swiped. I scratched. I shook.Didn’t help. That would-be passenger hung around my chin all around the Garden and over to the parking lot. How could any critter be so persistent when it was so obviously unwelcome?Grrr!
Back in the air-conditioned car, I got to thinking.Moisture is absolutely essential for a fly.And there’s precious little in the high desert. The fly meets its true destiny as squishy food for a finch, not by my fingers.So it persisted in the struggle for survival.
Think about it. Prayer and persistence. That’s what Jesus was talking about in his story about the unjust judge and the importunate widow. Persistence in clamoring for justice.Being a nuisance, making a fuss, not taking no for an answer. That self-serving judge of the court didn’t give a fig for an annoying old lady.He could just brush her off, so he thought. But like my fly, she persisted. Her voice got ever more shrill; her presence ever more irritating.
Odd as it sounds, I started to identify with that widow. True, I live in comfort among friends and I’m included in the legal system, while she had no legal rights whatsoever. We had one thing in common, however.She was old, and so am I. People stop noticing you when you are old. They don’t listen to what you say; they don’t take you seriously. You feel powerless. But, like the widow, you have a secret weapon. You have time.You can be persistent.
In Claremont, California where I live, every Friday afternoon at four o’clock, men and women from my retirement community stand on all corners of the busiest intersection, waving placards for peace. They have persisted in this witness since the Vietnam War. Others travel to the U.S. border to advocate for refugees fleeing injustice. Still others of us stay home and write Amnesty International letters month after month. We are inspired by the far greater commitment of some Chicagoans. Every summer evening, grannies grab lawn chairs and go sit on neighborhood street corners where gangs roam; moms cook hot dogs and hamburgers and offer them to gang members.They face danger daily, yet they persist. They pray with their bodies, their persistent actions.
Jesus’ parable shows us that persistence has power. Power to bring justice for yourself or another; power to end gun violence; power to provide homes for people who are homeless; power to help disenfranchised communities vote; power to restore the earth.
So don’t lose heart. “…Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable…with the utmost patience…” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). That is what it takes for justice to reign.
The fly will always win. Pray and persist!
A Response from Jerry
There they were. In black and white. Right in the Call to Worship. Words that jumped out and grabbed my imagination: “table of abundance,” “persistent presence.” Words then hammered home in Scripture story and sermon.
My thoughts soared back through the eons since creation that shaped us to today. Too often we feel squeezed by scarcity and overlook the persistent abundance, the overwhelming potential built into the very essence of the universe. This is not some elusive, esoteric, spiritual abundance, but an actual physical abundance sourced by the mysterious energy at the heart of the universe, which is adequate to bring into reality every persistently expressed need.
Isn’t that how life emerged on earth? First a single living cell sunbathing in primeval water, over eons became a fish, whose fins eventually became flippers so it could maneuver not just in water but also on land. And through sheer persistence, those flippers grew into legs, and some fish evolved into animals. Through more millennia of persistence some animals learned to walk on two legs and became human.
I know the Bible doesn’t explain it that way, but that’s how science makes sense of the paleontological record. Sheer persistence of the life force within the universe is how God created all that is.
So if the laws of the universe allow a persistent fish to become an animal and a persistent animal to become human, why isn’t it reasonable to believe that with persistent longing, praying, asking, working, organizing, voting, sacrificing and, if necessary, nagging, we can bring about justice and peace on earth?
A Response from Mike
There was this Jew who did not care for mildness,
He walked without a strong strategic plan,
His actions with the money changers, cows and birds
Made plain he did not deeply see the need for words.
And as we ponder how to heal our tribes inequities
May we too, kick over the tables of safe communities.
A Response from Mary Kay
I am thankful and blessed for the life and opportunities I have had. At Susan Boyer’s invitation to reflect on justices, I share the following.
As a babysitter, I made 50 cents an hour, caring for up to four children at a time. As a road construction worker, my brother, three years my senior, made $3.50 an hour as a tar sweeper.
When I was 16, a member of the Elgin Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren asked if I would like a summer job where he worked – Owens Illinois Bottle Cap Factory. I said yes. He picked me up every morning and brought me home every evening. I covered desks in personnel and marketing while secretaries and salesmen were on vacation, one to two weeks at a time. In personnel I noticed that there were two hourly salary schedules – one for women and one for men. I didn’t think too much about it at the time.
I started teaching in the fall of 1968. In 1974 when my first daughter was born, I as required to take a leave of absence without pay and cover the costs for my medical insurance. Men working in the same teaching positions women held, could take up to six days for the birth or adoption of a child with no loss of pay or termination of insurance coverage. In 1978 when my second daughter was born, I was able to use accumulated sick leave and had medical insurance coverage paid by the school district.
When the first group of students went through the doctoral program at La Verne College, I applied. I was denied acceptance. Position was recognized over scholarship. All the students were men. Out of over 40 administrative positions in the Azusa Unified School District, only two were held by women. I was a an out of the classroom resource teacher, though that was not considered an administrative position. Of those accepted into the program, all were men. Several men who graduated in my class were in the group. I was the only applicant in that group who graduated from La Verne College with honors (Cum Laude). It seems that position was more significant than scholarship for the first cohort of the Doctoral program.
It is now 2019. My daughter works as an American Sign Language – English Interpreter for an agency contracted by New York Public Schools to provide interpretation services in mainstream education classes. She has worked for the agency for six years. As one of nine interpreters at the high school where she woks she is the only one to have passed the test for national certification. One male interpreter who has worked one year with the agency and has not passed the exam was earning what she was offered after passing the exam. The other male interpreters at the same school all earn more than she does.
May these responses encourage you. And may we each step into the stories of the Bible. Amen.
On Family Sunday we heard three perspectives of family from members of our congregation. Benjamin Akins shared his journey of finding La Verne Church of the Brethren during Family Sunday. He shares his perspective after coming from a more conservative, evangelical background:
I first heard of the La Verne Church of Brethren while I was attending Bonita High School. In fact, I was classmates with a couple of you here today, or perhaps your children. I once asked a classmate what this church was about and he explained that it was the kind of place that is inclusive and appreciative of all kinds of peoples and religions.
For some reason, I bristled at that.
You see, I grew up as a Pentecostal, charismatic evangelical. While it’s certainly not the case for everyone in that tradition, I grew up with a sense of disconnect from people of other traditions. I saw everyone who wasn’t a witnessing, bible thumping, evangelical as a sinner who would eventually go to hell, and I was awaiting my reward in paradise. I was told, ‘Live in the world but not of the world.’ ‘Do not let thyself be unevenly yoked,’ even though I never understood what eggs had to do with people I hung out with. These were the messages I was taught as a boy who wasn’t wise enough to understand them. And they are, of course, very wise messages. We shouldn’t let ourselves be tainted by the evils of the world. Pride, bigotry, greed, etc. Nor should we surround ourselves with people who may enable our relationship with these evils. But it took me a long time to realize that who someone loves and the god that person worships, or lack thereof, is not a measure of their character.
I started to have this realization at a very turbulent time in my life and it was around this time that I started attending this church. Church and family had been woven together for me and I had been attending church with my parents since I was born. But I had never really thought of church as family.
On the day I first attended La Verne Church of the Brethren, I was supposed to meet my mother and father at their church. To be honest, being charismatic evangelical is exhausting to me. I grew tired of having to perform my faith. Oh, I better lift my hands during worship because that’s what everyone else is doing! Oh! I better learn how to pray fervently so that God knows I really mean it. I was tired.
As I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to muster the energy to get ready and head to church, I just thought, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. So, I decided to find a church myself. The first place that popped up in my head was the La Verne Church of the Brethren. It was close, had a nice campus, and the service started late enough that I could be on time; I think that was the clincher.
The sermon that day was one of Pastor Susan’s series, Is That Really In the Bible? And the story was about the woman who welcomed a fleeing king into her tent and drove a stake through his skull in the night. Susan told the story with such a soothing voice and I thought, “This is a cool place.” I had missed the singing from hymnals, something I was accustomed to as a boy in a 90’s, something that was replaced by an image of Rock & Roll Jesus. I missed the quiet reverence that could be found in a place of worship. Suddenly I found a place where I could find peace in my heart where it was so desperately needed. I felt welcomed like a parent welcoming home their child after being gone for so long.
I started coming here every week because I found peace and comfort from the words of our former pastor Janet. I found encouragement and a call to action from Susan. Later on, I found the joyous friendship of Dawna. I still remember Shawn and Tom inviting me to their table at a church luncheon and feeling so instantly welcomed. At a time when I finally understood how important empathy and compassion are, two things I never really saw growing up. I had this place to show me what those words mean. I was forever grateful that I could bare my soul to Janet and she would accept me like a mother who knows the true meaning of grace.
We live peacefully, simply, together. I fell in love with those words. Susan taught me that peace is never passive. To turn one’s cheek and to say, “You struck me as a lesser, now strike me as an equal,” is deeply empowering and it showed me pacifism comes from a place of strength. I started looking for simplicity in my own life. The words of the apostle James then stood out so clearly to me. Pure and simple religion is this: to take care of the orphan and widow and to not let oneself be tainted by the evils of world. Here, I was inspired to live out my faith by taking care of others. After all, my god is not only my god. The Bible isn’t just speaking to me. My religion is not just about my relationship with my creator; it’s about my relationship with all creation. Because we are a family together. Not just those here in the church. We are all on this earth as one family. And no more, do I look at others with the disconnected feeling that they are a sinner and I am awaiting paradise. They are my family. All of you.
Sometimes I look back to the days before I got a theological education with false nostalgia. Back then I strove to read my Bible in search of the one spiritual truth I knew would be unleashed if I just read it “right”.But the problem was I never felt like I read it “right” or read it enough.The youth worker at my church when I was in high school was absolutely sure of the truths that were in plain sight on its pages.He would ask questions of us that I knew had only one right answer.When I would ask questions about what he wanted us to learn from his Bible studies, he would get frustrated with me.I learned that he didn’t want my questions, just my open heart to the word he wanted to place there.I knew I wasn’t getting it right and the last thing I ever expected was that I would become a minister some day.I didn’t have his certainty and so why would I want to do what he was doing?
Through the twists and turns of life I ended up a seminarian, just as surprised about it as my former youth leader.In seminary I read the New Testament in its original language.I was taught how these books came to be written and the male power that decided which books made it into the Bible and which ones would be rejected. The discrepancies between Biblical stories were pointed out to me and I heard that news with increasing dread.There were times I thought my professors were a bit sadistic…taking pleasure in stealing the Bible from me.
But the deeper truth is that theological education gave me the Bible in a much more profound way. I was overwhelmed with the realization that my relationship with God wasn’t contingent on my reading the Bible the “right way.”When I stopped worshiping the Bible, I was able to truly worship the Living God, which opened me up to a deeper and more authentic relationship with what I found in the pages of my Bible.By having an adult conversation with the Bible I discovered that there was more than just one truth for me in its pages. When I stopped trying to be good enough to climb the spiritual ladder in order to have an encounter with God I met the God who is as close to me as my own breathing.I now live in the joy of knowing that God makes the journey to me every day and in every circumstance.
Because I sat in classrooms discussing this confounding book with my fellow students who had different life experiences and different perspectives, I got a larger understanding of the life of the early Christian community.After class we would get coffee together and talk about what we had been taught that day.We argued.We contemplated the future of the church.We told our stories and shared our life lessons.We got angry at each other.Then we got up and went to chapel, where we worshiped, sang and prayed together.Life is messy.The church is filled with frustrating theological diversity.And the Bible has room for all of it.
I no longer approach the Bible as an idol but as a friend.I ask it questions and it usually responds with more questions …questions like “Why do you think the writer said it like that?What was he trying to convey to the readers of his time?”Then the questions become more personal “What do you need to hear from this story today, Susan?”I am no longer content with understanding the Bible as a rulebook for a life in Christ.I am driven to find a more costly discipleship than just Jesus died for my sins.The Bible is a sacred book that is flawed, worn, tested and profoundly beautiful.It calls me to live a life of love and sacrifice and that journey so far has been filled with pain and joy. My nostalgia for an earlier time only comes when I wish I too could have all the answers with none of the personal questions…when I could say, “It’s simple.It is all there in black and white.”….when I could rest in my certainty and condemn all others.But the vast majority of the time I am grateful that I now get to drink from the Bible’s living water and let it lead me to a deeper relationship with the holy.
Progressive Youth Ministry Conference – It actually exists. Every winter, like-minded folks gather for 4 days of inspiration, collaboration, and celebration, all designed to strengthen our ministry with students, both children and youth. These youth workers are both clergy and lay, professional and volunteer, young and well-seasoned. They are from all over the map and, mostly, mainline churches.
Although we have attended this conference before, this year it felt especially well-timed. As our congregation walks through the Strategic Planning Process, it was affirming and encouraging to realize we are on the “right track” with the changing nature of student ministry.
The theme of the conference this year was “Faith in the Age of Reason.” Acknowledging that we live in a culture that expects every mystery to be solvable, given enough time and CSI skills, the church is having difficulty finding its place. But as speaker after speaker reminded us, every answer to every question raises more questions. Every answer drives the mystery deeper. And life continues to present us with quandaries like: Who am I? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why don’t the people I pray for always get better? Why am I getting bullied at school? Why are school children in Nigeria being kidnapped from their classrooms? How can I make a difference in the world?
It is in these spaces, these mysteries, the church needs to stand, the church’s people need to stand. We need to stand with poetry and prayer, scripture and silence, music and art, ritual and, above all, relationship. We stand in the spaces with each other, most especially with our children and youth.
Students don’t need more programs. They are programmed to the hilt – sports (school and club), arts (dance, music, drama), school projects, and service organizations, even the internet and social media provide programs for short attention spans. What our students need is space for their questions and caring adults to stand with them in the mysteries.
Of course, how that happens is continually evolving. But what has been reaffirmed for us is this: Student Ministry needs to be organic, meeting students where they are and addressing their interests and needs. It needs to be relational, with a wide array of church folks to walk, work, and wonder alongside them. It needs to be safe space, where diversity is not just welcome, but celebrated. And it needs to be willing to stand in the margins of life and society, moving beyond the “bubble” and walls of the church. Students are far less likely to come to the church than they are to welcome the church that comes to them.
Won’t you please join us as we explore what this all means for our community?
Following my ordination to ministry service in December, 2015, I want to say, “Thank you, La Verne Church of the Brethren; thank you for being my community of faith and so much more.” It is difficult for me to conceive of ever having ventured into ministry without your insight and encouragement. Truly, it was you who suggested that I consider a vocation in ministry. I never saw that coming! It was you who encouraged me to teach Sunday school, to direct Peace Camp, to sing, to lead worship, and even to preach. You called out gifts in me that I had not recognized in myself.
I am deeply grateful for the years I have been steeped in Brethren theology. Brethren take seriously the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples the night before he died. By sharing a last, loving meal, washing his disciples’ feet, and offering them the symbolic bread and cup, he demonstrated an out-flowing love that sought not to receive but to give. As followers of Jesus, we love God and seek to take that love into the world. And can’t our world use a little practice in humility, service, reconciliation, peace, and justice right now?
Each of us is known to God by our own unique name; and we are called to live fully into the truth that we are perfectly and wonderfully made. What I have learned in this journey towards accepting my gifts and being ordained is that I needed my church community to love me and guide me through the process. You, like me, have been called to boldly offer your gifts to a world that desperately needs your authenticity, compassion, joy, intellect, strength, playfulness, perseverance, curiosity, encouragement, and wisdom.
This Lent, Pastor Janet and I are planning a sermon series called “Sunday School Stories Revisited.” We live in a Bible-saturated culture in which most people know the story of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Joseph and the multi-colored coat, and the Prodigal Son, just to name a few….but most people have never read them. It just proves the saying about the Bible that it is “the book millions live their lives by and hundreds have actually read.”
I do a sermon series in the summer called “Is That Really in the Bible?” about stories in the Bible most people have never heard. This series is different. These are the stories we have all heard numerous times and had interpreted for us. For example, we are told that the story of Adam and Eve is about original sin and that marriage is between one man and one woman. Is that true or could it be that is an interpretation placed on the story?
Pastor Janet and I have chosen five biblical stories to look at again and actually read together. We want to take them out of the children’s Sunday School classroom, where many of them have been interpreted into moralistic stories, and find the complexities and truths that each story has to tell. We want to see these stories with adult eyes and mine their theological depths.
We hope you join us for Lent this year, as we dust off some well-loved stories and allow the Bible to speak to us anew in our current age. Use the season of Lent as a time to crack open your Bible and join us on this journey.
On November 1, 2015, Gary Colby did us the favor of taking a picture of our church family on the courtyard after worship. November 1, 1890 was the day the original 27 members of the La Verne Church of the Brethren organized to become a church. 125 years later, we stood on the courtyard to commemorate this anniversary.
When the church staff looks at this picture, we are filled with gratitude. It is a joy every day to do ministry alongside such incredible, salt-of-the-earth people. Thank you for continuing the legacy begun on November 1, 1890. Thank you for being such an excellent church family.
Letha Ressler posted this photo on Facebook after going over to the church sanctuary one night to prepare the worship table for Sunday. She found that the lights in a dark sanctuary created peace crane shadows on the wall of the choir loft. When I first saw the photo I was taken by its beauty. However, as I began to plan for Advent worships around the theme of darkness, Letha’s photo kept returning to my mind. I thought of the night the shepherds looked up into the night sky and saw a heavenly host.
Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, we will be looking at darkness, its gifts and challenges. On Christmas Eve, cranes will be flying above the choir and casting their shadows. It will appear as if the heavenly host has flown right into our church sanctuary. That is what we are hoping for as we wait for Christ to be born again. We want to hear good news of great joy! Join us on Christmas Eve at 9:00 p.m. as we wait in the darkness for the One who is the Light of the World.
Not long ago my son sent me an article about Stephen Colbert, new host of the Late Show and an active Catholic. In the article I learned that Colbert’s father and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash when Colbert was 10 years old. He was traumatized but he did not become resentful. The interviewer asked him why. “My mother,” he said. “She was broken but not bitter.” He talked about how this horrible shock taught him not to live his life in fear. Then he said the most astounding thing. He said, “That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.
I have been living in the midst of that statement ever since I first read it. Henri Nouwen says it this way:
We have to find the courage to embrace our brokenness, to make our most feared enemy our friend, and to claim it as an intimate companion.
What a statement to be able to say you are grateful for the most traumatizing event of life….that we can make friends with the dark.
To be grateful for the dark that gestates the seed and the dark that brings trauma.
To be grateful for the dark that holds our dreams and the dark that brings the dark night of the soul.
To be grateful for the dark in which the light of the world is born and to be grateful for the dark where Herod’s plot is discovered.
As we approach the season of Advent, the nights lengthen and the days shorten. Many of us will leave for work in the dark and return home in darkness. We must make friends with the darkness. Join us this Advent season as we look at the dark that gives definition to the light and the darkness where the outrageous becomes possible. For it was in the darkness that Joseph found direction; where the light of the world was born; where the magi saw a sign; and shepherds heard the good news.