On my first Sunday as Senior Pastor here at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, I shared the following story, one I first heard some years ago: Bob Armstrong, who then worked in stewardship with ELCA congregations in Alaska, told me of one trip to an isolated Alaskan village. The weather was terrible, snowy and icey. Bob was waiting for his flight in an isolated part of the Anchorage airport, watching the weather outside grow increasing grim. He was flying Alaska Airlines, but the plane was just a four-seater, just the pilot and three passengers. And, as far as Bob could see, there was just one other passenger, and he was near Bob sitting with his heavy coat on and his hood covering his head. No one else, not even the pilot, seemed to be in sight. Bob’s flight was called – the other man got up and went out to the plane and surprised Bob by taking the pilot’s seat. As Bob boarded the flight, the pilot looked at Bob and looked out at the weather and said, “Well, you and I, we are in this together!”
Armstrong's story continues to be true for our congregation – we, you and I, are in the ministry of Jesus Christ together here at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica.
Looking again at what I said that first Sunday, I continue to affirm those words. I asked that day, "What should you expect from me?" and wrote: Here’s what I believe is most important – we all live in the midst of God’s unconditional love for us. That’s it. That’s really all there is. The problem, our problem, is that we sometimes or even often have difficulty accepting God’s love and living as if God loved us unconditionally.
Thus, you will hear a lot about God’s love for humankind from me over these next months and, hopefully, years. About receiving God’s love for us all and trying to live as if we believe that God loves us unconditionally.
There is much more to our Christian faith, of course, than God’s love for us all. But, if I have learned anything over the years is that God’s love for us all is the most important fact of our life and faith as Christians. If we really believe and remember God loves us, we can live different lives, lives that are focused on loving each other and lives free from worry about what might happen to us in this life or in the life to come.
And, you will hear often from me about God’s (and Jesus’) commitment to the poor and marginalized, something most of us here at Mt. Olive are not. Jesus spoke about the poor a lot, perhaps more than any other topic. The Gospels make it pretty clear that Jesus wants us to share His concern for the poor.
So, you will probably hear a lot about this from me also.
Obviously, my ecumenical and interfaith experience has influenced my ministry and beliefs. As has my global experience, especially my time in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
We, you and I, are in the ministry of Jesus Christ together here at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica. I thank God daily for you all and this opportunity.
Rev. Eric C. Shafer
Contact Pastor Shafer any time at:
Pastor Eric Christopher Shafer became our Senior Pastor here in Santa Monica in April of 2014, coming to California from New York City and his position as Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Faith Community Relations for Odyssey Networks, where he was responsible for fund-raising and relationships among US faith groups. While at Odyssey he led efforts to open membership to faith groups beyond Christianity, Judaism and Islam and greatly expanded fund-raising. For his efforts in producing CBS television’s 2012 Christmas Eve special Shafer was named “2012 Religion Communicator of the Year.”
Prior to his tenure at Odyssey, Shafer served as Senior Pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lansdale, PA, the 9th largest congregation in the ELCA. Other positions held by Pastor Shafer include: Director for Communication for the ELCA; Assistant to the Bishop of the ELCA’s Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod; and pastor of Holy Trinity Memorial Lutheran Church in Catasauqua, PA.
He is a graduate of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and serves on Muhlenberg’s Board of Directors. Shafer has extensive international expertise including time teaching in South Africa and Madagascar and multiple trips to Jerusalem and the West Bank. He may be best known for his work, while at the ELCA in Chicago, on the stop-motion animation children’s program, Davey and Goliath.