Blog Worship Invitations

Good Friday Reflection

An Offense Too Great To Bear

This is our Savior.   
Born to be our God, clothed in human flesh.   
Lived without sin.  Loved without limit.   
Gathering to himself person after person in need of hope.

This is our Savior.  
Who lived out the covenant practices established by God for the good of God’s people, and who opened the door to our understanding that these things are not just about meeting the letter of a law, but allowing the very heart and soul to be shaped by God.  God’s love.  God’s holiness.  To be shaped by our connection with a loving and holy God.

This is our Savior.  Who healed the sick. 
Who protected the wrongly accused. 
Who forgave sin.   
Who gave humanity a glimpse of the one who formed us and breathed life into our frail and naked skin.

Who sat and ate with his friends and enemies, who reclined at the table, spun stories of God’s grace, and showed that you can go to the home of a sinner and come away blessed and a blessing.  

And this is our Savior.
Wrongly accused.   Unforgiven.  
Injured in the frail and naked skin he wore.   
Called a sinner, a liar, an enemy of God.  
Abandoned by his friends.  Betrayed with a kiss.   
Taken, beaten, and berated.   

The fullness of the Creator of the Universe, tied up in captivity.   
The one big enough to encompass the cosmos, 
bowed down under the weight of some wood formed cross.   

Surely this is a wrong worth righting.   
A misunderstanding of epic proportions and a miscarriage of justice.  
An offense against God.  Against God’s son.  
Against all in us that reflects the image of God in this world.

An offense too great to bear.

And yet.  The one falsely accused.  Made to bear the weight of sin and the indignity of death on a cross.   This is the one.   This is our Savior. Who uttered the words.   Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

 Our offenses are like smooth stones.   We hold them in our hands and examine them for their weight of accusation.  For their feel of comfort – the story of grievance we replay until it helps define us or direct us.   We hold our offenses like stones to be thrown – a sense of protection against future injury, or the power of knowing we have the ability to fight back when the moment arrives.  

Without our offenses, we can feel frail.  Naked.  Unprotected.  

We are left without the option of defining ourself by what we are against.  

But the alternative is scary.   Needing to define ourself by the breath our creator has breathed into our frail and naked skin.   To hear the words ‘you are beautifully and wonderfully made.’  To remember how blessed we are to be called a child of God.  

To understand who we are as we look into the mirror of Jesus’ call …  to love our One and Only God with all that we have, all that we are, all that we will be.  

And to let that love be shown in how we treat the person sitting next to us. And the person living next door to us.  
And the person we are tired of, and the one who frustrates us.  
And the one who caused us to pick up our rock of offense in the first place. That rock?  It is an offense too great to bear. 

Because.   This is our Savior.  

The one who looked at every opportunity to pick up very righteous indignation, who could have fought for his freedom, but instead choose to fight for ours.   

This is our Savior, who refused to be offended, but instead chose to feel compassion.   To gaze down at the ones who were killing him and offer forgiveness instead of vindication.

On this most holy day, we remember that it is true – all sin has a cost.  

Ours and theirs.  Mine and yours.   

Sin brings death into the world (Rom 6:22-23).   
It keeps us from fully knowing the love of our holy God.   
It keeps us from deeper, truer, more honest love.  
It keeps us from ease with one another.  All sin has cost.

And sometimes sin has consequences.  
Relationships that need to be rebuilt.   
New paths that need to be forged.  
Repayment that needs to be made.  

These things are a part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting that God is at work within us to will and to act in order to fulfill God’s hopeful future for our lives.  (Phil 2)

But the cost of sin?  It has already been paid.  

Ours and theirs.  Mine and yours.

Jesus chose to fight for our freedom and allow himself to be hung on a cross, asking our Holy God to forgive us for we know not what we do.

If Jesus is who he said he is, and did what we know he did, then today, choose to receive not just his forgiveness.  Not just his grace.  But his freedom.  

Any offense is too great to bear.   

It wears down the offended, keeping our hands too full to receive. 
To busy clinging to what was wrong that we lose the option of reaching out for what could be so very right.

And the one who has the most reason to hold something against us has instead opened his arms in love to bear the weight of all that we have done and all that has been done against us.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.   In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God 
something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

This is our Savior.

This is our Lord.  

This is our freedom and our hope.

~Rev. Heather James
drawing by Kevin James

Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Palm Sunday Worship

Thank you to the many people who contributed to this video.

Words and music by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown
© 2005, 2006 Thankyou Music
CCLI License # 1452675

“Give Me Jesus”
Words and Music by Jeremy Camp
Words © Public Domain
Music © 2006 Stolen Pride Music

“I Will Celebrate”
Words and Music by Linda Duvall
©1982 Universal Music

“King of Kings”
Words and Music by Naomi Batya and Sophie Conty
© 1980 Universal Music

“Jihovah Jirah”
Words and Music by Don Moen
©1986 Integrity Music

Blog Worship Invitations

Worship Invitations

Each week, during this time when we aren’t meeting together in person, we will be posting some ideas about how you can worship this weekend and live out our call to Love God and Love our Neighbors. These are things you can do with all ages, in solitude or with others. 

Let us worship the Lord together as we celebrate this unique Palm Sunday!

The Word: This week, we will be reading together Mark 11:1-10.  I am putting together a worship video this week as we begin Holy Week.  The video will be online by 8am Sunday morning, and you can access it through the SOTH Connections FaceBook page, or by going here:

Action: Take the opportunity this Holy Week to be a constant learner.  To read the accounts of Jesus’ journey into Jerusalem and journey to the cross with the backdrop of our 2020 world.  To pick up a book or initiate a conversation with someone about following Jesus. Extra points if you choose someone with a different perspective than your own. Let your learning enrich your faith.

Something for our Younger Ones:  This would be a good week to create your own set of Resurrection Eggs – telling the story of Holy Week one item at a time.  Here is one set of instructions, but there are many online.  

Service:  Let’s lay down our coats for Jesus this week – do you have a winter coat you no longer use that you could donate for those in need?  At the time of this writing, the Salvation Army in Puyallup (17407 Meridian E.) is still accepting donations.  Or set aside your donation for when you are able to gift it to one of the shelters or organizations in your area.  

Song:   Enjoy this Celtic Worship version of Be Thou My Vision.

Prayer:  You are invited to join the SOTH community for a time of prayer – pausing at 6:00pm on Sunday nights, and know that others are praying with you as well.  This week, spend five minutes praying for members of SOTH as they come to mind.  Then close with offering God your gratitude and praise.  

Almighty God, Giver of all mercies, we thank you for your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all.  We bless you for creation, for the gift of life, and for the joy of the connection we share with others. We bow in gratitude for the incomparable love you have shown us by redeeming this world through the grace and gift of Jesus Christ.  Fill us with wonder at the grace of your mercies, with thankfulness that we may make known your praise. All glory and honor to you, oh Lord our God. Amen.

Go in peace and serve the Lord with joy.

Pastor Heather

Blog Worship Invitations

Worship Invitations

Welcome to this week’s edition of the weekly Worship Invitation email!   

Each week, during this time when we aren’t meeting together in person, we will be emailing you some ideas about how you can worship this weekend and live out our call to Love God and Love our Neighbors.   These are things you can do with all ages, in solitude or with others. 

Let us worship the Lord together!

The Word: This week, we will be reading together Ezekiel 37:1-14.  Spend some time this weekend in a quiet space reading and reflecting on the passage – and listen for the word of life.

Action: This week, I invite you to keep a gratitude list.  You can keep this list in your personal journal, calendar, or on a piece of scrap paper on your nightstand.  Every morning and evening, write down three things you are grateful for in our world.  (Six things a day, right?)  Throughout the week, notice how a practice of gratitude shapes your view of life and how you experience God’s Spirit at work breathing life in you.  

Something for our Younger Ones:  Here’s a 31 day gratitude journal you can print for your kids: grateful.  Who am I kidding?  We should ALL print one out!   Thanks to for the resource!

Service:  Write a thank you card (or heart felt email) to someone who has helped to show you God’s love during your life.   Bonus points if you can honor and thank someone who showed up a time when you felt dry or lifeless, and brought hope when it was most needed.

Song:   Craig and Eric (from Shepherd of the Hill) put together a fun gift for you.   Click here for I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.  Feel free to sing along!

Prayer:  We will be pausing at 6:00pm on Sunday nights, to pray together where we are and know that others are praying as well.  This week, I encourage you to begin with gratitude to God, remember those in need, join in this written prayer, and close with the Lord’s Prayer. 

Gracious God,  God of all compassion and consolation, your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls.  Pour out your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrectionand faith through Christ, our Lord.  Help us to dance with the spirit, the breath of life, which calls us out of the valley of dry bones and into the Kingdom of God, both a present reality and the grounding of our future hope.
Holy Father, Father of Christ who revealed the way of life, inscribe your law on our hearts that in this life, we may be the body of Christ.  Help our hands to hold the sick and suffering.  Help our feet to walk with the poor. Help our ears to listen to those who live in despair.  May our eyes be affixed upon the suffering of the cross and the hope of the empty tomb so that we may live as resurrection people. (excerpted from this pastoral prayer)

Go in peace and serve the Lord with joy.

Pastor Heather

Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Flower Gardens

A word from Pastor Heather about growing a garden of hope at this moment.

Blog Shepherd of the Hill

A Taste of Worship

In this time where we are worshiping together at a distance, here is a taste of worship for the people of Shepherd of the Hill.

And for those who want to sing along, here are the lyrics:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 

there is no shadow of turning with thee; 

thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; 

as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.


Great is thy faithfulness! 

Great is thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

all I have needed thy hand hath provided–

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

join with all nature in manifold witness 

to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, 

thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, 

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]

Written by Thomas Chisholm (1866–1960) with music composed by William M. Runyan (1870–1957).

Blog Worship Invitations

Worship Invitations

Welcome to this week’s Worship Invitations – ideas for how you can worship this weekend and live out our call to Love God and Love our Neighbors.These are things you can do with all ages, in solitude or with others.

Let us worship the Lord together!

The Word: Here is the President of Whitworth University, Beck Taylor, preaching on Mark 10, and what it means to let Jesus heal us and bring us sight. I found this message thoughtful and thought provoking as I think about what it means to live in both grace and truth at this moment.

Action (based on Mark 10:46-52): 1. Spend some time reflecting on how this current moment invites us to receive new sight.  Is there something in this situation that is opening your eyes in a new way to faith and God’s love for you?   2. We hear the cries for mercy increasing from those sitting by the side of the road right now.  Put together a few simple food and toiletry items, with a note of encouragement, in a bag (or email the office to have us leave a ‘bag of grace’ outside the office door for you) and find someone in need to give it to this week.  As an alternative, consider a gift to a local food bank instead.

Something for our Younger Ones:  Given the timing, I just can’t resist – here is a link to one of my favorite Veggie Tale excerpts – The Story of St. Patrick .  Like the sermon on Mark 10, this has to do with grace and truth, but also with bravery and perseverance.  Enjoy!

Service:  Make a plan to be a “stealth blesser” for one of your neighbors this week. Leave a note of encouragement on their doorstep, use chalk to decorate the sidewalk along your street, drop off a treat (probably best to be pre-packaged rather than homemade given the circumstances), or a roll of toilet paper tied with a bow.

Song:   Sheri shared this great version of Hold On to the Rock.  Take a listen, and you might even want to tap your toes and sing along!

Prayer:  Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us. We want to see. Help us open our hands to receive your care, and open our hearts to care for others in your name. Amen.

Friends, may the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Go in peace and serve the Lord with joy.

Pastor Heather

Blog Shepherd of the Hill

Beyond the Building

I recorded a brief pastoral word for the congregation where I am currently serving as the Transitional Pastor – Shepherd of the Hill PCUSA, Puyallup, WA. Sad and glad. Those are the words of the day. We might miss being together, but what an amazing opportunity to live out our call in new and powerful ways.

Blog Worship Invitations

Worship Invitations

March 15, 2020

Welcome to Worship Invitations ~ a weekly tool assisting God’s people in loving God and loving their neighbors well during this time of social distancing.

Each week you will find a series of invitations to help support your faith journey, and to provide an alternative when corporate worship and fellowship is not possible in real space. These are things you can do with all ages, in solitude or with others.

Let us worship the Lord together!

The Word: Take a listen to this wonderful Lectio Divina podcast, Exhale, on John 15:1-5 about remaining in God’s love.   Take the opportunity to breathe as you listen and prayerfully reflect on the words.

Action:  It’s supposed to be sunny on Sunday.  If you are able, walk outside – wander in your garden, walk in a local park, wander around your neighborhood.  Breathe fresh air and give thanks for life.  Let your kids run and play.  Take in the view and enjoy the work of our Creator.  Pray for the people you pass, the neighbors in their homes, the people in your home.  Remember the words of Acts 17:28:  In God, we live and move and have our being.

Something for our Younger Ones:  Author Sally Lloyd Jones has a wonderful Lenten guide for kids that uses the stories of The Jesus Storybook Bible.  You could jump right in or double up and catch up from the beginning.   Also for adults who will be caring for children in the  coming weeks – here is an online activity resource: Hands On As We Grow.

Service:  Write a note (or email) of encouragement to someone.

Song:   Check out this version of Kyrie Eleison by Chris Tomlin.  Kyrie eleison means “Lord, Have Mercy.”

Prayer: Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep this day, and give Heaven charge over those who sleep.  Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ. Rest your weary ones. Bless your dying ones. Soothe your suffering ones.  Shield your joyous ones, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Friends, may the love of God the Father, the saving grace found in Jesus Christ, and the strength of the Spirit guide you and hold you in this day, and always.

Go in peace and serve the Lord with joy!