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Mary Lynn Coulson: finding the bigger embrace of God’s love

If people reject God, then what?

Mary Lynn Coulson
Mary Lynn Coulson

St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

  • Contact:  1050 Thomas Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 858-273-3022 www.standrewspb.org
  • Membership: 90
  • Pastor:  Mary Lynn Coulson
  • Age: 31
  • Born: Kansas City, MO
  • Formation: St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN; Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA
  • Years Ordained: 4

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor Mary Lynn Coulson: Preaching is one of my passions — it’s one of my favorite parts of my job. I usually do a contemplative reading of the readings prescribed by the Lectionary. On Mondays of the week, I do a lectio divina — a contemplative Bible reading of the text I’m going to preach about. I spend the week letting it stew and reflecting on it. I don’t usually start writing my sermon until Saturday evening. I like to focus on the scripture and why it matters for us. Why are we reading this ancient text today? It’s important to be authentic, so my first draft is what I preach. I don’t do a lot of editing. What I preach is usually what I need to hear in that moment of the day.

SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

PC: God loves all of us, our whole authentic selves, even the parts we don’t like about ourselves, hide from people or mask in our lives. God is calling us to always show up in our lives as our fullest selves, and to know that full self is totally beloved of God. That knowledge that God loves the total parts of me, even the parts I don’t like, is transformational. It changes the way we show up in the world and relate with one another.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PC: To serve, to celebrate, and to share in the love of God. Service is embedded in the DNA of this parish. We’ve had Tuesday night meals for the homeless as a ministry in this community for almost 11 years. The people who go to the church here want to encounter people different from themselves and give of themselves; they want to grow and learn through encountering and serving people.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PC: I don’t believe in a traditional heaven and hell. God is bigger than that, and our understanding of God and of life and life after death is so limited and miniscule. God exists out of time and place, out of physicality, and in Jesus God chose to exist in human time and human physicality in this unique way. Because of that, all of creation was somehow sanctified in this way so that, when we die, we are reunited with God in this bigger way, in this cosmic out-of-time, and out-of-place way…. If people reject God, then what? My response is still that God is bigger than that — and more expansive than that. The way I picture God is a tiny sliver of the truth. In the Bible, it says God made humans in God’s own image. It’s not that I am the image of God by myself — but I and every other human being who ever existed and ever will exist all made up together is the image of God. That transcends any kind of personal free will. Within that, there is a total interconnection of every living thing in the universe. There are ways within us that we choose to be closer to God or reject God, but my idea of God is bigger than that. No matter what, we go back into this bigger embrace of Love.

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Mary Lynn Coulson
Mary Lynn Coulson

St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church

  • Contact:  1050 Thomas Ave, San Diego, CA 92109 858-273-3022 www.standrewspb.org
  • Membership: 90
  • Pastor:  Mary Lynn Coulson
  • Age: 31
  • Born: Kansas City, MO
  • Formation: St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN; Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA
  • Years Ordained: 4

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor Mary Lynn Coulson: Preaching is one of my passions — it’s one of my favorite parts of my job. I usually do a contemplative reading of the readings prescribed by the Lectionary. On Mondays of the week, I do a lectio divina — a contemplative Bible reading of the text I’m going to preach about. I spend the week letting it stew and reflecting on it. I don’t usually start writing my sermon until Saturday evening. I like to focus on the scripture and why it matters for us. Why are we reading this ancient text today? It’s important to be authentic, so my first draft is what I preach. I don’t do a lot of editing. What I preach is usually what I need to hear in that moment of the day.

SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

PC: God loves all of us, our whole authentic selves, even the parts we don’t like about ourselves, hide from people or mask in our lives. God is calling us to always show up in our lives as our fullest selves, and to know that full self is totally beloved of God. That knowledge that God loves the total parts of me, even the parts I don’t like, is transformational. It changes the way we show up in the world and relate with one another.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PC: To serve, to celebrate, and to share in the love of God. Service is embedded in the DNA of this parish. We’ve had Tuesday night meals for the homeless as a ministry in this community for almost 11 years. The people who go to the church here want to encounter people different from themselves and give of themselves; they want to grow and learn through encountering and serving people.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PC: I don’t believe in a traditional heaven and hell. God is bigger than that, and our understanding of God and of life and life after death is so limited and miniscule. God exists out of time and place, out of physicality, and in Jesus God chose to exist in human time and human physicality in this unique way. Because of that, all of creation was somehow sanctified in this way so that, when we die, we are reunited with God in this bigger way, in this cosmic out-of-time, and out-of-place way…. If people reject God, then what? My response is still that God is bigger than that — and more expansive than that. The way I picture God is a tiny sliver of the truth. In the Bible, it says God made humans in God’s own image. It’s not that I am the image of God by myself — but I and every other human being who ever existed and ever will exist all made up together is the image of God. That transcends any kind of personal free will. Within that, there is a total interconnection of every living thing in the universe. There are ways within us that we choose to be closer to God or reject God, but my idea of God is bigger than that. No matter what, we go back into this bigger embrace of Love.

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Previous article

Coronado: drama under the rectilinear streets

Ed McVaney, Prince Edward, Chris Kyle and Jesse Ventura, Spreckels mansion death, bridge rescue, Oz roots in Coronado, Spanish land grant, school board fight, Cays architecture, SEALS
Next Article

St. Andrew’s Lutheran: a model of giving and serving others

The question tends to be, “What do I get out of this?” rather than “What can I do?”
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