From the Pastor

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God will be with them ; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Revelation 21:1-5

Happy New Year!

And blessings to you for a happy and healthy 2016.
In the Christmas season, we celebrate the God who came to dwell among us, to be our God. This God brings peace, salvation, new life. This God wipes the tears from our eyes, wipes the pain and suffering, mourning and sadness from our hearts. The healing presence of God does not deny the past, rather it reorients our lives to a hope-filled future; reorients us to new life.

As we look to the new year, filled with hope, we celebrate this newness together. We get to be for each other a reminder of God’s healing presence. In the weeks to come we will explore the theme, “Behold, I make all things new!” Each week will incorporate a meaningful ritual to remind us of God’s healing presence in our lives, and to reorient our hearts to newness. The rituals will invite God’s blessing for our bodies, our homes, our work and our play. In these acts, we live into our faith, expecting God to dwell with us, remembering that we are God’s people, always marked by newness.

Peace.
Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

thankyou

Grateful. I am so very grateful for the love and support this community has shared with our growing family. The Baby Book Shower was simply delightful. The company was excellent, the cake scrumptious and the extensive library of children’s books – so very thoughtful. I also learned that my ever expanding belly is more than 3 feet in circumference – yikes! – and that I cannot match up books with their authors to save my life – major fail! The girls’ bookshelf is overflowing with intentionally selected books. I can’t wait to start reading to Lily & Emma. Thank you.

Beyond this delightful shower, I am grateful for all the ways you care for us on a weekly basis. From checking on my oh so swollen feet, to insisting that I not lift even the lightest of things. It’s a humbling experience to rely on the help of others! But through your care, I feel loved.

I am especially grateful for your willingness to share your own stories of pregnancy and parenting. What an incredible gift to be invited into your lives, into your treasured memories, into your hearts through these stories. It is certainly a privilege and joy.

Just four more weeks and, as Sister Shelli said, “We are having babies.” I am grateful that you are included in this “we”. This whole process has helped me understand more fully the importance of community, and especially this bold, genuine, compassionate community of faith we call Celebration. Thank you for loving Matt and I so very well and loving Lily & Emma before they’re even born. Your faith-filled actions bring Christ to life, here and now.

With gratitude,

Pastor Jen

Reformation – Beer & Hymns

Celebrate the reformation with a good ol’ hymn sing!
We’ll make a joyful noise as we enjoy some tasty brews.

Reform - Beer and Hymns

Sunday, October 25 – 4-6pm

Saint Arnold Brewing Co.
2000 Lyons Ave.
Houston, TX 77020
saintarnold.com


Benefitting

All proceeds will benefit Lutheran Campus Ministries in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.


Registration & Sponsorship

+ Individual Tickets – $25 per person, all ages

Ticket price includes entrance fee, beer (root beer available), snacks and general merriment.
And of course – the satisfaction of supporting Lutheran Campus Minsitries!

+ Sponsorship opportunities available.

Help underwrite the cost of this event so more funds may go to Lutheran Campus Ministries.

+ Donations welcome!

Not able to make it? You can still make a monetary contribution in any amount.
Your entire gift will go directly to Lutheran Campus Ministries.

Register Now! – for Individual Tickets & Sponsorships

Click here for online registration through EventBrite.


Hosts

This adventure in fellowship and fun is hosted by the people of Celebration Lutheran Church. We are excited to share a little of our community style with you! Thanks for joining us!

For more information, contact Shelli Williamson.

From Pastor Jen

Let justice roll down

Over the past several weeks we have heard stories of faith in action from various saints in our community. The Cordes family shared their experience in Guatemala as they took time to Act, Love and Walk alongside the Q’eqchi’ people. Shelli divulged her not-so-secret obsession with calendars as she invited us into the story of Mary & Martha, a story of both listening & serving with an invitation to Live in the &. These stories of real faith in real life help us experience God at work in our lives here and now.

Starting August 9, we will embark on a new sermon series: Let Justice Roll Down. Justice can be a slippery, unruly topic as it is often shadowed by personal politics or systemic struggles. Often, people within the same community approach justice in a variety of ways. So where do we look for a word of truth about justice?

Justice in the Bible seems to oscillate between extreme or inhumane (Old Testament) and unfair or placating (New Testament). And yet throughout the Bible, justice is upheld as a value within the Kingdom of God. What does this mean for us today?

The prophet Amos confesses that God is angered when people propagate injustice and oppression. The people of Amos’ time are misguided, they turn the other way as people are being abused and neglected. Amos tells his contemporaries that no amount of shiny offering or embellished praise can cover-up broken relationships. And so the prophet Amos declares, “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). How are we as Christians called to “let justice roll down”?

As this series unfolds, we will explore a variety of injustice – racial, economic and environmental – for example. Warning – this series will likely stir up more questions than it answers. But together, we will find ways to be advocates for justice and purveyors of peace as Jesus was in this broken world.

Peace,

Pastor Jen

Farewell Just a Thought

“Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there…  But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.” -Acts 20:22-24 (CEB)

springSo, this is it.

The days are growing longer and the nights shorter.  Lent is almost upon us. And then it will be Holy Week, and Easter, Memorial Day and Pentecost, the end of school and summer, and then it will be Fall. The next thing you know it’s 2016.

That’s how life seems to go. Fast. So fast.   And then, POOF!  It’s over.

As I reflect over the past 7 1/2 years of ministry together as pastor and people, all I can say is, “Wow! It went really fast!” I think back to September 2007 when we launched our first worship at Robison Elementary School— a dream becoming a reality. Hopes being hoped.  A people being formed into a household of faith by the Holy Spirit.

It wasn’t always easy. We hit obstacles. We had struggles as we found our identity and as we sought to follow Christ faithfully. Sure, we made mistakes. And we learned along the way.  But, I can also say that it has been a blast! Celebration is a congregation that doesn’t take itself too seriously… a church that laughs, and loves, and enjoys worship, and believes the best.

I wish I could take credit for who Celebration has become as a church. But I can’t. It was never about me. It was always about a God willing to entrust this Great Experiment called Celebration to us. And, it was about a people willing to be transformed by the Gospel, who were then willing to roll up their sleeves to bless and change the world around them with God’s love.

My friends, I will miss being your pastor! As I shared the Gospel with you and cared for you, you did the same for me. It was mutual.

And my hope for you as I take my leave is that you would never lose your spirit of adventure! That you would remain authentic, and quirky. That you would continue to be an incubator for leadership and a laboratory for ministry for the larger Church.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the past 7 1/2 years. I love you all and I wish you the best!

And, that’s just a final thought.

+Peace and good,
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Just a Thought…

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  -2 Corinthians 5:17-18

happy new year

I love the beginning of the new year! There is something holy for me about ending a year reflecting on the past 12 months- all the joys, the griefs, the stresses and the silliness- and then giving them up to God to celebrate a new, fresh start.

Of course, this letting go and starting fresh can happen each and every day. In fact, Martin Luther encourages it!

In the Small Catechism, in the section on the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Luther writes that the promise God makes in Baptism “signifies that the old Adam in us… should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, so that a new creation can come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous…”

So what are you still holding on to in this New Year that needs to be released? What petty or selfish thoughts need to be drowned? What resentments need to be put to death? Where do reconciliation, forgiveness, and love need to rise up and come forth for you in 2015?

As has become tradition for us at Celebration, we will be offering Epiphany Home Blessings during the Season of Epiphany. This is one of my favorite things to do at this time of year! If you would like to have your home blessed (it’s okay to have it blessed again!), please note it on your Connect Card during worship, or email me.

May God surprise and delight you in 2015!

It’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum
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Just a Thought…

“The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn.” -Isaiah 61:1-2

My heart is heavy. I mourn with the family of Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson, Missouri and people across this nation. The pain is real, and the God we believe in teaches us to call a thing what it is – death is death, violence is violence and injustice is injustice. And yet, calling a thing what it is – is not always easy. Our world is full of shades of gray. Stories are layered, experiences are nuanced and truths are complex.

My brother-in-law is a police officer. He is a kind and generous man, who loves my sister and my niece deeply. He genuinely cares about his work and aims to make the community safer. As he prepares for a 12-hour shift, he ritually layers Kevlar and polyester, pride and anxiety. He departs in good courage, not knowing what the day might bring. I believe that all people should treat police officers with respect, trust their integrity, and honor their role in maintaining good order.

At the same time, I hear the cries of our black brothers and sisters who bear undue, unearned suspicion. Young black men, black boys, learn to navigate the justice system not with integrity, but with submission. Race paints broad strokes of assumption and prejudice. Power reigns down on their lives not with dignity, but with discrimination. We live in a broken world where the color of ones skin still means more than the content of ones character.

We don’t know all the details that lead to the death of Michael Brown, and disputing the facts will not mend the brokenhearted. But we do know that racism still exists, that all people can make poor choices and that real lives are caught in the crossfires. We do know that our God is a God of mercy. And in this season of Advent, we anxiously await the coming of our merciful Savior. The one who mourns with those who mourn and speaks out for the oppressed. Our call as Christians is to be purveyors of Christ’s mercy in this broken world.

Heavy words from this heavy heart.

Vicar Jen

 

Just a Thought

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

Blessing of the Animals
Blessing of the Animals

So, we just had two fun ministry events this month- the joint Blessing of the Animals we did collaboratively with Messiah and Covenant, and the Reformation Beer & Hymns fundraiser at St. Arnold’s Brewery.

The Blessing of the Animals brought together about 40 folks with their pets to give thanks for the gift of companionship. Several folks walked up from the dog park to have their dogs blessed. In the end, this Blessing was for the community, and people invited friends to join them.

The Reformation Beer & Hymns fundraiser brought together more than 140 people to sing songs, sip some brews and raise money to support the Lutherhill’s new Zion Retreat Center in Galveston. We were able to raise over $5000 for Lutherhill! Although many of us from Celebration attended and had a blast, this event was not for us, but for the sake of others.

Beer & Hymns
Beer & Hymns

 

While the Beer & Hymns was going on, some folks from the church went downtown to join A Simple Thread in providing needed resources to the homeless community as we move into the colder time of year. Again, this ministry wasn’t about us, but about those in need.

This is what we mean when we say in our Guiding Principles that It’s Not About Us. Because it isn’t. It never was. When our life and values become Christ’s life and values, then it is no longer about what we want, what we like, or what we expect. It’s about God and God’s desire for others to know and experience Christ in their own lives.

Because encounters with Christ change people.  And  that’s what it’s all about.

This Sunday is All Saints Sunday. It’s the day in the Church year when we specifically remember our loved ones who have died in the past year. So, think about your friends, co-workers and neighbors who may have lost someone this year. What if you invited them to join you on Sunday to help them honor the ones they love? Maybe it’s an invitation that will change their life.

 

Because, it’s not about us.

And, it’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum
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Just a Thought…

Unicorn StickerA spritely little unicorn sticker greeted me in the top right corner of my paper. It was the kind of sticker with a holographic ring around it; you know the kind that shimmers as the light dances across it. Next to the sticker, neatly lettered in cursive, the words “Well done.” I was elated, proud that my hard work had paid off. This little mythical creature brought an easy smile to my face.

One of my more playful seminary professors, Kae Evenson, likes to add these little pops of joy to seminary students’ papers. (I bet you thought this was elementary school – nope!) She thinks we take ourselves too seriously and need to revel in simple joys. While it certainly did bring me joy, I must admit it also brought a since of pride and approval.

The truth is – I do crave affirmation. I like to hear that my efforts have not been lost in the sea of busy-work and busy-ness. I like to hear that my time has been well used and my labor was not in vain. And while I do feel so loved and cared, sometimes this praise doesn’t come as readily as my fragile ego demands.

Sound familiar? On not so grace-filled days, do you find yourself waiting? Waiting for a friend to recognize how dedicated you are. Waiting for a boss to praise your diligence and productivity. Waiting for your family to realize that dirty clothes don’t wash themselves and tasty meals don’t just appear?

Waiting.

One of my favorite songs we sing at Celebration is Well Done by Moriah Peters. The tune is delightful, the musical stylings excellent and the words speak to my heart. It goes a little something like this:

So when my life’s a leap of faith, I can hear you say, Well Done. Well Done.
I’m gonna chase you Lord, I’m gonna show the world your love.
I’ll run. I’ll run. I’m gonna run this race just to hear you say well done.

This is the praise we need. Well done. In one of Jesus’ parables, the obedient servant is greeted with praise,  “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). While a little praise from this world is always welcome – it is fleeting. This affirmation from Jesus is the one I really long to hear. I need to hear that I am good. I need to be reminded that I am faithful. And I need to hear that this goodness and faithfulness flows from God who loves me beyond measure, just as I am. And with this, I can run the race with perseverance knowing that God says, Well Done. And the playful God I know likely has a shiny unicorn sticker, too.

It’s just a thought.

Vicar Jen

 

Here’s a link to Well Done for your listening pleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu1VwK0fY9g

Just a Thought…

tardisDo you watch Doctor Who?  I was late to the show… by about 45 years!  It’s a British television series about an ancient cosmic time-traveler known as The Doctor, who travels by  a blue old-fashioned police phone box, who gets into all kinds of trouble, saving all kinds of people and planets with a variety of companions to assist him in his journeys.

It sounds silly, I know. But it’s fun to watch. I started with the new generation of the series (which re-launched in 2005).  It’s science and tech-heavy, but occasionally there are little hints of spirituality that burst through the storyline. That’s what happened the other day while I was watching an episode.  The Doctor says to his current traveling companion Clara, “Souls are made of stories, not atoms.”

Souls are made of stories. I find that theologically accurate.

Yes, Lutherans are science-friendly. We are not afraid of engaging the Sciences to help us better understand the universe and this world we live in.  We don’t believe Science and Faith are diametrically opposed. With that said, I believe that, at the core of our being, we are made up of stories.  These stories include the stories of a God who created the heavens and the earth… The stories of our ancestors who, whether enslaved or free, whether wandering or landed, encountered this God as Liberator, Judge and Lover of all… These stories include our own family stories, the stories of our own life experiences, and even the storied waters of Baptism as we enter THE Story of Jesus, and follow the way of Christ.

We cannot be who we are without the stories that make us who we are. Or, as the Doctor says, “Souls are made of stories, not atoms.”

Next Sunday, as we kick off Learning Curve, the children of our church will be focusing on the Parables of Jesus. These are stories that give us glimpses of who God is and what life in God’s Kingdom is like.

Come nourish your soul this Fall with the Story of Stories!

It’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum
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