Just a Thought…

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”2 Corinthians 5:17

 

So, I was the kid that lined up all my school supplies (trapper keeper included), carefully laid out my new outfit and probably would have slept with my shoes on if mom would let me. Eagerness for a new school year nearly consumed me. I couldn’t wait to meet my new teacher, catch-up with friends, show off my sweet friendship bracelets from summer camp and, oh yeah, learn.

The beginning of a new school year, of anything really, is marked by excitement and perhaps a tinge of anxiety. The uncharted territory of a new class, a new grade, a new school, ushers in uncertainty. A freshly minted kindergartner or college student leaves the comfort of the known, the familiar, for a new adventure. The old is not forgotten, it becomes a steady foundation, a step stool to peek into the future.

“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”

So, I wonder. How are you being made new? This lifelong faith of ours calls us to renewal throughout all the ages and stages in life.

How is Christ making you new? Perhaps a new job, a new hobby, a new relationship. These experiences teach us about God, and about ourselves. When we step boldly from comfort zone, into a new adventure – God promises to show up.

On August 24, we will celebrate the new school year with Blessing of the Backpacks – a reminder that wherever we go, God is with us. A reminder that God is with us in excitement and uncertainty. A reminder that in Christ, we are a new creation.

It’s just a thought!

Vicar Jen

Just a Thought…

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied.  He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of the storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  Matthew 13:51-52

 

Happy 4th of July everyone!

I just got back from my two weeks in Germany, where, with a bunch of other Lutherans, we followed in the footsteps of Martin Luther.  One of the purposes of the trip was to train those of us who are interested in taking groups in the future. This is especially pertinent, as 2017 is the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

In Germany, we visited Erfurt, Eisenach, Eisleben, Naumburg, Wittenberg, Leipzig and Dresden. We saw where Luther was born, baptized, and lived as a youth. We saw where he wrote the New Testament in German while hiding from the Pope in Wartburg Castle. We saw the doors of the Wittenberg Church where Luther would have nailed the 95 Theses. We visited the Black Cloister, where Martin and Katie Luther lived.  And we also had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some Bach history, Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and the Zwinger in Dresden.

One the things that stuck with me, especially in Leipzig, was how ancient architecture coexists next to modern buildings. Old and new. Side by side.

 

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There was something inspiring about that for me. And it reminded me of Celebration, and our original commitment to being a post-contemporary, “emergent” church. And what we mean is that we honor and celebrate that Lutheran heritage that has been passed on to us in faith, while at the same time being open to new ways of being the Body of Christ in the world today. Old and new. Side by side.

This is a gift. And it isn’t always easy. But, I believe it makes us a healthier community. And that is something to celebrate!

Old and new. Side by side.

It’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum,
pc

Just a Thought

“In the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  -Matthew 5:16

 

A little contingency of the Celebration tribe just returned from the Exponential Conference in Orlando, Florida. I’m still a little dazed. In just four short days, we experienced a whirlwind of potent insights, fruitful conversation and a little dose of Disney, too (no, shocker there!). Before I share more, I want to say thank you. I’m grateful to serve among a people who value leadership development and creative experiences. Celebration folks are intentional about learning and growing both in faith and in being the church. Thank you!

It was my first time to experience Exponential, a conference focused on church planting and new missional communities. A variety of speakers shared their experience in their own context and faith traditions. One speaker in particular really captured my attention. Michael Frost suggested that outreach is less about telling and more about living. Frost suggests that Christians are called to live questionable lives. Don’t get your hopes up, he didn’t mean morally questionable. We aren’t called to run-amuck. Frost suggested that we live in such a way that others might be curious about our lifestyle, our motivations, curious enough to ask questions.

As believers, one of our primary concerns should be the arousal of curiosity among unbelievers leading to questions and faith sharing.” –Michael Frost

Questionable living. This idea really resonates with me. I must confess, I can become a little leery, and weary, of aggressive Christians who push their faith on others. But I am all about living wholeheartedly among others; living a life saturated by God’s love for us. A life that entails walking humbly, turning the other cheek, feeding the hungry, and loving the neighbor; a life that both shows that I believe, and helps me believe more fully along the way.

This form of outreach grows from relationship and integrity. This form of outreach invites others into conversation. And in conversation, we have the opportunity to share our faith. To explain that the way we treat our friends, our spouses and our children – are modeled after Jesus’ compassion and respect of others. To explain that our generosity with time and talents – are simply in response to God’s overflowing generosity to us. This is the Good News in real life.

So, my friends…

  • How are you living a questionable life?
  • How are you responding to people’s questions?

It’s just a thought,
Vicar Jen

Just a Thought…

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

-Isaiah 6:8

I’m still coming down from the high of our Festa Italiana. Wow! Just…  Wow.  What a phenomenal event it was.  The food was tasty, the ambience was warm and inviting, the entertainment was outstanding, and the servers served like professionals.  Most importantly, we exceeded our fundraising goal!

But there was a deeper lesson we learned (or maybe re-learned) as a congregation. I found myself learning it at the event, as people came up to me saying things like “Wow, Chris- you did such an amazing job!” Of course, the only reply I could honestly give was, “I didn’t do anything…”

And that is mostly true.  Except for some ancillary support (lending dishes, purchasing last minute extra items, encouraging others, etc.) the entire success of Festa Italiania happened at the hands of others.  From Jo and Mike birthing the original dream for the Dinner… to those who were captivated by the dream and joined together to plan and coordinate the event… to ownership of the entire congregation by making donations and serving… as well as the financial support of friends and partner churches… the Festa Italiana was a group endeavor!

Ministry is the work of the people. It is never just the work of the pastor, or vicar, or a Council or the Ministry Team. Each of us is called to ministry in and through our Baptism.  And the Vicar Event Planning team lived this out in its fullness!

On occasion, someone will approach me and say, “Pastor, I think Celebration should…”  And then after sharing a really great idea for ministry, the person walks away, expecting me or others to make it happen.  Friends, if this was ever a way we did ministry at Celebration, it will no longer be!

 

From now on, when you have an idea for a new ministry, you will have immediate permission to establish an Action Team as long as:

  1. It doesn’t violate our church’s mission/core values;
  2. You recruit enough people who share your interest to carry out the ministry; and
  3. It is self-funding.

If these three things can be answered faithfully, the you are free and fully authorized to move forward! No more waiting for the Ministry Team or Council to start new ministries, to plan events, or coordinate activities.  We will encourage and support the members as the primary ministers of the congregation!

 

This was something we talked about when we first launched, and we never quite fully lived into it. But, you will begin to see our church culture shift from “pastor-type” people leading ministries, to lay people being ministry leaders. The job of the Ministry Team and pastoral leaders will now be to offer you resource assistance as you minister in the name of Christ and his Church.

Exciting? Yes! Scary? Yes! Who will make sure no mistakes are made? No one! We will embrace them as they happen, and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. And we will be stronger because of this paradigm.

I give thanks for those who dreamed up and coordinated the Festa Italiana as they gave witness to the Church at its best.  May God stir up each of our imaginations as we seek ways to minister in Christ’s name, and then are set free to serve!

It’s just a thought.

+pax et bonum

 

pc

Just a Thought

As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.  -2 Corinthians 6:1-2

When I was younger, I remember my mother cautioning me, “Chris, the older you get, the faster time flies.”

I never knew what she meant. Until now.  I still can’t believe it’s already 2014.  What happened to Thanksgiving? And Advent?  Was that Christmas and News Years that flew right past us?!

It also means that I’ve been partnering with others to birth this new mission church called Celebration for 7 years!  SEVEN YEARS! (I guess it is true that times flies when you’re having fun).

Didn’t we just launch? Didn’t we just move into the storefront? Didn’t we just charter… and call Mary Lee to be our Associate in Ministry… and adopt Holmsley?!

Well, 2014 is gearing up to be an exciting year, and as is our tradition, I have a new theme for our congregation for this coming year. Our congregational theme is:  Now Is The Time!   This theme is based on 2 Corinthians 6:2.

  • When should we go out into the community to serve? Now is the Time!
  • When should we share our faith as an invitation to others? Now is the Time!
  • When should we welcome the stranger? Now is the Time!
  • When should we seek a permanent location? Now is the Time!
  • When should we be an incubator of leadership for the larger Church? Now is the Time!
  • When should we start planting a new missional community? Now is the Time!

As followers of Jesus, we’ve all been called to the important, holy work of changing the world with the love of God. And yet, sometimes faithful people act as if the Holy Spirit has left the building… as if we’re all alone in this task. Sometimes it almost seems as if we’re afraid and timid to step out boldly in faith to shine with the Light that burns within us.

But we’re not alone! And the good news is that Now Is The Time!

So, if you weren’t afraid of failure, what would you do in your life? And, if you weren’t afraid of failure, what would you have Celebration do in 2014?  Because…  Now is the Time!

Just a thought.

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

“I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.” -Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead

“For God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  -2 Corinthians 5:21

 

One of my favorite shows is The Walking Dead. I know, I know.  It’s not the most “family friendly” of shows. Some might even question why a pastor would watch such a graphic, and sometimes gory, show.

But what I love about The Walking Dead is how it captures the spirit of the human condition- how broken people seek to survive in a broken world.  How some are able to overcome their own foibles  and rise to become heroes, while others with upstanding character fall from grace.  Oh, and I enjoy the zombies, too!

That’s the way of life, actually, isn’t it? One reason I am Lutheran is because  of our understanding of sin, and how it permeates everything. We too, like the folks of The Walking Dead, are a broken people living in a broken world.  Although sometimes we may rise heroically, there will always be times when we fail miserably.

It’s like the Zombie virus. As Rick Grimes would say, “We are the Walking Dead!” There’s no escaping it, it will always catch up with the survivors in the show.  And that’s the same for us when it comes to sin.

It’s as Saint Paul says, “So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me… I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25).

Yes, thanks be to God for Jesus, who overcame death and the grave to bring life to the world. And in Christ, there is a kind of forgiveness that allows us to start over and begin again… and again… and again.

No, forgiveness doesn’t wipe away the evil we do, the brokenness of our lives. There will always be consequences that come with sin and evil.

However, Christ is able to take our brokenness and transform it, redeem it. Christ keeps sin and death from having the last word. And that is hope that can even overcome zombies!

Just a thought on this All Hallow’s Eve.

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants— men and women alike— and they will prophesy.’    Acts 2:17-18/Joel 2:28-29 (NLT)

 

Coming off of the celebration of our 6 year anniversary of the launch of Celebration, I can’t help but marvel at how the simple “What If” Dream of one man (Pastor Jim Hinkhouse) would unfold into a congregation deeply rooted in the Gospel of Christ, experimental while remaining faithful to our inherited Lutheran tradition, and invested in the life of this local community.  God is good all the time!

If you haven’t been around Celebration recently, you’ve missed the strange sensation that God is up to something among us. It started about a month ago, as we began an intentional period of dreaming, of prayer and scripture study, of asking God who God wants Celebration to become.

It always comes back to one thing:  We’re in the work of creating opportunities for people to encounter Christ.  Because encounters with Jesus change people.  And changed people change the world!

Some people tell me they don’t like when we do interactive worship, like Animate Summer and Faith Labs.  However, one of the goals of Animate Summer is to help households practice having faith conversations at home.

So, imagine how I felt as a pastor when a family in our congregation shared with me how their youngest child has made it a rule that no one can eat dinner until everyone goes around and shares “highlights and lowlights!”

People are being changed by the Gospel.  Families are being changed by the Gospel. Cypress is being changed by Celebration because people are encountering Christ.

And it all started with a Dream that God planted in one person.

What Dream is God planting in you these days?

It’s just a thought!

+pax et bonum  

pc

Just a Thought…

We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.  We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.  2 Corinthians 6:8-10 NLT

 

bishop3
Bishop

 

So my dog died this week.  His name was Bishop.  He was 14 years old.  A beautiful cocker spaniel he was. I got him the first year of my first call as a pastor, while serving in Philadelphia.  He’s been with me through think-and-thin. He lived a very long and happy life, and he died in his sleep after spending lots of quality time with those who loved him.

It’s still sad, though, because I miss him. And it wasn’t the best week for him to die, as this is has been an extra-busy week. But that always seems to be the case. Tragedy is never convenient. But it comes nonetheless.

The week has also been filled with some great things- I had the chance to spend time with friends and colleagues at the first Youth and Family Ministry Network meeting of the Fall. I had the opportunity to see the awesome Broadway musical Book of Mormon and ran into some good friends while there. This weekend dream-leaders from Celebration will be meeting in retreat to dream together about our church’s future. And Saturday night is Lutherhill’s always-spectacular S’mores and Champagne Gala.  Sometimes, good things come, even when we don’t plan for them or expect them.

That’s the truth about life, isn’t it?  It can’t be all tragedy, all the time.  It can’t be all good stuff, all the time.  The bad helps give meaning to the good and the good helps makes the tragic bearable.

I would rather have not had to grieve the death of Bishop.  But I wouldn’t trade in the amazing 13 years we had together as companions.

As a church, we’ll have moments of joy together, and moments of sadness.  Sometimes we’ll agree and sometimes we’ll disagree.  And sometimes we’ll go through periods of excitement and periods of boredom.   But this all adds up to life.  Life in Christ.  A household of faith.  And I wouldn’t trade that in for anything, either.

So, here’s to life!

It’s just a thought.

 

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” -Colossian 2:6-7

I was recently reading some writings of a financial “guru” about being better at financial stewardship.  One of the things he said gets in the way of moving forward with debt reduction is that some people don’t even check their accounts regularly nor do they balance their checkbooks.  How can someone move towards financial health if she doesn’t even know her current financial situation or where she spends her money?

It’s the same with health.  If someone wants to become healthier, but has no clue how much he weighs, how many calories he eats, or how much he exercises, it makes it much more difficult for him to make a plan to move toward physical health.

So, what’s the hardest thing you struggle with in faith these days?  Do you struggle with just getting to worship on a regular basis?  Participating in small group life with other believers?  Entering intentional prayer or scripture reading on a daily basis? Practicing the biblical tithe (giving 10% of your income to the work of God)?

What’s the biggest obstacle you face these days in your spiritual growth and development?

The reason why this is an important question is because we can’t grow if we don’t know in which ways we need to grow.  So maybe take some time to reflect on where you’d like to grow spiritually, and then begin working to grow in that particular part of your spiritual life.  You’ll be glad you did.

It’s just a thought!

+ pax et bonum

Just a Thought…

But then some of the believers stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the assembly, after a long discussion, Peter stood up and addressed the others… Then everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them… When they had finished, James stood up and spoke…

Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates…   Acts 15

 

For the past three weeks I’ve spent a lot of time at assemblies and conferences…  Two weeks ago was our own Synod Assembly where in a landslide, we re-elected our Bishop Mike Rinehart to a six-year term.  Last week, I was in Downtown Houston for the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  This week I’ve spent with Methodists meeting in Annual Conference in Amarillo.

It’s funny how similar we Christians of different denominations really are.  In our larger gatherings, there are resolutions and budgets, elections, worship and fellowship.  We pray and argue, and stand in the hallways and gossip.  But the one thing that unites us all is Jesus Christ.

I used to think assemblies and conferences were a waste of money, time and missional energy.  But these past few weeks have shown me the importance of pastors and laity and churches gathering to deliberate on just what it means to be the Church in this day and time.

And it’s not that much different than the early church, which had multiple conferences and convocations, councils and meetings to pray, worship, debate, and make decisions. And these meetings shaped the future generations of the Church, just as our conferences and assemblies do today.

They may be  occasionally tedious, boring and contentious, but I have been touched by what the Holy Spirit does when we gather together beyond our little corners of the Church to witness to God’s loving action through Jesus Christ  today.

So, pray for the Church- not just for Celebration, but for all Christians, in all the various ways we gather. Celebrate the work we do when we work together as the Body of Christ.

It’s just a thought!

+pax et bonum