From the Pastor

Just + Love Series

God certainly has a sense of humor. This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and we celebrate Easter on April Fool’s Day! Nothing says romance like being smeared with ask; and I can’t help but imagine Jesus plotting the most epic April Fool’s prank with the empty tomb. All heresy aside, while it might not set the most contrite tone for Lent, it does put a fresh bent on our ancient rituals.  If you’re curious how this happened, take a look at these articles from USA Today  and Snopes.

No matter what holidays bookend the season of Lent, our invitation is still the same: Return to the Lord our God. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are tangible ways in which we return to God. When the world clutters our priority list, Lent invites us to declutter and simplify so that God might rise to the top of our priorities, again.

Throughout this season of Lent, we will explore God’s invitation for simple living:

The Prophet Micah declares, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Jesus offers the same invitation in another way, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly.
 Love God, Love Neighbor.
 Just + Love.

God’s invitation for simple, wholehearted living is Just + Love.

Just + Love is lived out in relationship, community and social justice. Throughout the season of Lent, we will delve into several social justice issues that are close to home and especially relevant in our world today: Criminal Justice, Peace, Race, Ethnicity and Culture and Human Sexuality. Our parent denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has published several Social Statements that connect biblical teachings with Christian practice. With these statements as our guide, we will learn from community leaders and partner organization.

I invite you into this season of Lent, to the holy practices and holy rhythms of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. A season of discovery, meaningful conversation and Just + Love.
Come, let us return to the Lord.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

Clockface

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. – Henry David Thoreau

At the turn of a new year, I’m inclined to think about time – about the minutes and hours that comprised the past year, and about the unmarked time that inhabits the year to come. And I wonder, what will I do with this time? How can I make the most of it?

Throughout my childhood, my dad tinkered with clocks as a hobby. My childhood home was full of antique clocks with stark faces and staccato hands marking the time as it passed. This kind of time is observed and managed. This kind of time is rigid and unyielding.

Another kind of time – Kairos – marks time not with minutes, but with divine encounter. Kairos is God’s time, the holy moments that disrupt our organized, over-stuffed days. In daily Kairos, God becomes incarnate and our time is in God’s hands. The moment becomes slow and acute, and full of meaning.

This is my hope for the new year, that my time – that your time – might overflow with Kairos – divine encounter. That your hopes, resolutions, commitments might be spacious enough to make space for God. That you might hold your time gracefully so that you might radiate grace.

I leave you with this prayer written by Walter Brueggemann found in his collection, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.

Occupy our Calendars
Our times are in your hands:
But we count our times for us;
We count our days and fill them with us;
We count our weeks and fill them with our busyness;
We count our years and we fill them with our fears.
And then caught up short with your claim,
Our times are in your hands!
Take our times, times of love and times of weariness,
Take them all, bless them, break them,
Give them to us again, slow paced and eager,
Fixed in our readiness for neighbor.
Occupy our calendars,
Flood us with itsy-bitsy, daily kairoi,
In the name of your fleshed Kairos.  Amen.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

Wait for it. Wait for it. This Sunday, December 3rd marks the beginning of Advent, a season of holy longing. With Christians around the world, we eagerly anticipate the birth of Christ.  We prepare room for Jesus – in our daily lives, in our homes, in our relationships. This is an active waiting filled with hope and great joy. And when Christmas finally comes, it’s worth the wait.

As you and yours wait faithfully, there’s no need to sit idly and twiddle your thumbs. Think of these as holy possibilities, not holy obligations. I commend to you this Active Advent Calendar. It contains a list of reflections and activities that embrace the waiting and help you prepare for the birth of Jesus.  If you’re a rule follower, you can begin today, December 1 and continue through to Christmas. If you’re a rebel, I dare you to meander throughout, pick your favorites, change up the order, do what you will. Either way, I hope that this time of active waiting will create space in your life so that Christ might manger with you.

Advent Blessings!

Pastor Jen

 

ACTION! ADVENT CALENDAR

  1. Create space for your nativity, as you set it out take a moment to retell the story. Don’t have a nativity? Ask Pastor Jen to help you make one or find one.
  1. Make a list of 10 things that bring you HOPE.
  2. Keep awake! What makes you tired or bored. How might you be more awake to God at work in these things?
  3. Wake up 10 minutes early, use the time to execute a Random Act of Kindness.
  4. Contribute toward the Christmas Food Bag collection for our friends at Holmsley Elementary.
  5. Read about Christ the Light (John 1:1-5) then go for a walk in or around your neighborhood and look at Christmas lights.
  6. Make a homemade card for someone and hand deliver it.
  7. Introduce yourself to a neighbor that you have never met before.
  8. Make a list of 10 places that bring you PEACE.
  9. Prepare the way of the Lord! What might it look like for you to prepare Christ room in your home and your heart?
  10. Buy some water, coffee, cocoa, snacks, etc. to give to people you meet on the street.
  11. Read Luke’s Nativity Story (Luke 2:1-20) then retell the story in your own words.
  12. Find 5 things that you could do without and donate them.
  13. Read a newspaper or watch the news, then pray for all the places that need peace in our world.
  14. Sit still for 5 minutes and imagine what peace looks like.
  15. Make a list of 10 things that bring you JOY.
  16. Do not be afraid! Think about what makes you afraid. Is it realistic? How does it hold you back from living fully?
  17. Bake some treats for Bethesda’s Cocoa & Cookies gathering, then come mingle.
  18. Read Matthew’s Nativity Story (Matthew 1:18-2:12) then retell the story in your own words.
  19. Buy something you’d really like to have for yourself and give it away.
  20. Give $5 to someone who looks like they could use a little joy and love.
  21. Create some paper snow-flakes and hang them up for others to enjoy.
  22. Make a list of 10 people who taught you how to LOVE.
  23. Let your soul Magnify the Lord. Find a Christmas Eve Worship to attend with your people.
  24. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

 

From the Pastor

 

HOORAY

 

It’s Annual Meeting time, hooray! No really, it’s a delight to do this holy work – the work of being church together. While some may dread this ‘business’ of the church, we honor it as holy work ordained by God. On November 1, we gathered for the first part of our Annual Meeting, the Congregational Forum. This was a time to review the past year and to discuss possibilities for the future. And now we look to the second phase, the Congregational Meeting slated for Sunday, November 12. This portion of the meeting is intentionally nestled in the heart of 9:30a worship to remind us that the work we do is sacred. We’ll take a look back through 2017 and look with hope into 2018. You should come, it won’t be that bad.

Around this time, we also hear our annual reminder of our guiding principles and firm foundation. These are the core commitments that draw us together as a community and keep us focused.

We are a community committed to:

  • Celebrating Christ through worship, music, ritual and the creative arts.
  • Caring for Others through fellowship, learning and pastoral care, primarily within the context of small groups.
  • Serving the World through community organizing and development, social outreach, and environmental stewardship.

We stand firmly on Our Foundation:

  • Simple: We do only those things that accomplish God’s purpose for our church.
  • Great: We will be the best at what God is calling us to be.
  • Emergent: We will celebrate God in the rhythms, rites and practices of the ancient church while seeking God in current movements and future stirrings.

We make choices based on these Guiding Principles:

  • Jesus is Lord.
  • God shows up in the most surprising and unexpected ways.
  • Jesus welcomes everyone.
  • Innovation is good for God’s Church.
  • It’s not about us!

We Believe the Best!

We are a Believe the Best Community. There is often a gap between what we expect and what we experience. When this happens, we can choose to fill the gap with BELIEVING THE BEST or ASSUMING THE WORST. Believing the Best is based on trust and goodwill. Assuming the Worst is based on distrust and suspicion. As a community, we commit to Believing the Best – of our God, of ourselves and of others. Guided by trust and goodwill – our community reveals the Kingdom of God here on earth.

There you have it. This is who we are as a community of faith. Let’s celebrate this holy work that God has called us to do.

Hooray!

Pastor Jen

 

 

From the Pastor

 

Luther Rose

 

From one celebration to the next! After marking our 10th Anniversary with generosity and joy, we look forward to marking the 500thAnniversary of the Reformation with grace and unity.

October 31, 2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther proposed a conversation, 95 theses to be exact, around issues of repentance and the selling of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. This conversation turned into the Lutheran Christian tradition, a tradition steeped in grace and sacramental community.

Our community will celebrate the 500th Anniversary in a couple ways.

–        500 Years of God’s Grace in Action – A sermon series and worship focus for the month of October. Each Sundaywe’ll explore core theological concepts and grace in action through the Lutheran tradition.

–        Reformation Book Store – A mini-book store will open October 8 with an offering of Reformation-themed books from Augsburg Fortress.

–        Reformation Beer & Hymns – Our 4th Annual event will take place at Saint Arnold Brewing Co. on October 22. This year, Bishop Michael Rinehart will join our faithful band! Get your tickets today! All proceeds go to ELCA World Hunger.

–        Reformation 500 Prayer Service at the Co-Cathedral in downtown Houston, on the evening of October 25. We celebrate our shared history with the Roman Catholic Church. All our welcome!

–        Reformation Sunday! A celebratory worship on October 29. Wear red!

Let’s celebrate 500 years of God’s grace in action. And in doing this, we’ll likely catch another glimpse of God’s reforming work among us still today.

Peace.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

This community is marked by generosity! Celebration has been a community of bold faith and exceptional generosity since the beginning. What better way to celebrate our 10th Anniversary than to give $10,000 to our partner ministries.

But, wait. That’s a lot of money! How can a small community have such a big impact? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s what we have in mind…

 

WHO?
With so many worthwhile ministries and non-profits around, it’s a challenge to narrow our efforts. We selected the following partner ministries that represent our core values, new and old relationships, and ministry both locally and globally.

ELCA World Hunger
Works to end hunger so people can flourish wherever they are.

Holmsley Elementary School
Our partner school, a Title I campus located in the Cypress area.

Montrose Grace Place
Creates a safe space for vulnerable homeless youth of all orientations.

Refugee Services of Texas
Helps immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples integrate and thrive.

Cy-Fair Helping Hands
Addresses needs and empowers of those who are housing insecure.

Sagrado Corazon
A new missional community in our synod, just like Celebration was 10 years ago!

HOW?
Now that we know who, how is this going to come to life? We hope to raise funds in a variety of ways.

Reformation Beer & Hymns – October 22
The largest portion will come from the 4th Annual Reformation Beer & Hymns. Through this event, we hope to raise $5,000 for ELCA World Hunger. These efforts will dovetail with the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod focus on raising $500,000 for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. With our powers combined, we can make a bold impact on world hunger!

10th Anniversary Celebration
Beyond Beer & Hymns, we hope to raise additional funds as we celebrate 10 years of ministry! This will include a love offering, BBQ lunch, games, challenges and more. This day will certainly put the FUN in FUNdraising. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Individual Donations
And because our goal is bold, we also welcome individual donations! Perhaps you’d like to give a gift in honor of a beloved pastor or ministry leader – past or present. Or maybe you cannot make it to either event but you’d still like to mark our 10th with generosity. We welcome your gifts for ‘10 for 10’ effort.

Between our 10th Anniversary Celebration and Individual Donations, we hope to raise the remaining $5,000. These monies will enable us to share $1,000 each with Holmsley Elementary School, Montrose Grace Place, Refugee Services of Texas, Cy-Fair Helping Hands and Sagrado Corazon.

10 for 10! Let’s continue Celebration’s legacy of bold faith and bold generosity!

Pastor Jen

One year ago, we began renovating this holy space. Wow! What a transformation. In just one year, we have implemented over $40,000 in renovations from paint to projection, furniture to fixtures. Most recently, our chapel was completely transformed by the installation of new carpet and wood-look flooring. This work was completed ahead of schedule thanks to the incredible support of this community!

Our next renovation phase will reimagine the entrance, chapel and outdoor space. We will paint and repair exterior gutters and spruce up the landscaping outside, commission a hand-crafted altar, install new pendant lighting inside, and freshen-up the pavilion out back. It’s quite a to-do list! We anticipate that this phase will cost approximately $8,500.  We hope to complete this renovation phase in time for our 10th Anniversary celebration on September 24th.

Beyond this physical work of renovation, we also celebrate the reimagined relationship with Bethesda Lutheran Communities. One year ago, we entered into our lease agreement with Bethesda. This partnership has been incredibly fruitful as we join together in mission in ministry. Our worship life is enriched by the presence of our Bethesda friends each and every week. We are better together!

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

Sabbatical

 

On the seventh day, God rested. After six long days of creative, life-giving, fruitful work, God rested. We humans are invited to follow this same rhythm. We are commanded to honor the sabbath and keep it holy. Sabbath is time set apart for sacred rest and renewal. We may find daily sabbath through moments of quiet reflection and prayer. We may find weekly sabbath in Sunday worship, family meals and lazy afternoons. We may find annual sabbath with a weekend or a weeklong vacation. These times of rest and renewal are life-giving; refueling us to head back into fruitful work.

After a decade of faithful ministry, Sister Shelli will head off for Sabbatical, an extended time of sabbath rest. We will send her off with God’s blessing in worship Sunday, June 11, and she’ll return to community life Monday, August 7.

Here’s a note from Sister Shelli about Sabbatical:

Hi friends!  I’m delighted to share with you that I have been granted a sabbatical leave beginning June 12 through August 7 this summer.  I have had the privilege to serve alongside Celebration for over 10 years.  I began my time here in January 2007 as a member of the initial Launch Team which met weekly at the Cork Cafe to discuss and dream what a new mission start in Cypress could look like and be.  I have to tell you that I am just as excited today about celebrating Christ, caring for others and serving the world as I was then.   Together we are doing great things!  During my sabbatical, I will be setting time apart for rest, renewal, discernment, spiritual direction and some adventurous learning experiences and educational endeavors.  Whereas I look forward to this gift of intentional rejuvenation, please know I will return with even more passion, vigor and a refreshed vision for mission!

From the Pastor

This September our community of faith will celebrate 10 years of faithful ministry!  What a delight! From the very first worship in 2007 at Robison Elementary School, Celebration has been marked by creativity, community and generosity. So it’s only fitting that we mark this coming anniversary likewise. Ideas are brewing and plans are coming together. We want you to save the date for our 10th Anniversary Celebration – Sunday, September 24.
And… as you eagerly anticipate, we need your help! The vision and hard work of countless people have brought us this far by faith. If you know of particular individuals that simply must be part of this celebration please share that information on the back of your connect card or email me. We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to celebrate the incredible things God has done through this community of faith!
And… just as Celebration has been marked by generosity from the very beginning, we will mark this milestone with generosity, too! On Easter Sunday we cast the vision for Ten for 10 – giving $10,000 to partner ministries in honor of our 10th Anniversary! This will include our 4th annual Reformation Beer & Hymns, individual gifts and a couple additional fundraising efforts. With our powers combined – we’ll mark this milestone of community life with generosity, and in this we mirror the generosity of our God.
In honor of our name – this promises to be an epic Celebration! All to the glory of God, and for the joy or our human hearts.
Hope you can join the celebration.
Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

Paschal Candle and Font 2017

So… we made a Paschal candle. It is beautiful, slightly imperfect and full of character. This two foot wonder tells the story of our gathered community. All of our old candles – altar candles from weekly worship, beeswax vigil candles from Christmas Eve, taper candles from festival Sundays – all of these were melted and molded to become our new paschal candle. And it is beautiful.

Fire has long been a sign of God’s presence. Moses found God in the burning bush. The Israelites followed a pillar of fire through the wilderness. Our Jewish ancestors lit lamps in the tabernacle and sacrificial fires on the altar of the temple. Fire was precious, and essential to life – for warmth, for food, for illumination.  Jesus captured the essence of light and fire to be a reminder of divine presence. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Throughout the season of Lent, we tread cautiously through the darkness. We acknowledge the dim corners of this world and hold out hope for the light of life. In Holy Week, we continue to walk with Jesus in his last days. On Good Friday, the darkness closes in and it seems that all hope is lost. And then, Christ lights our way out of the darkness – from death to life.

On Easter Sunday, we light our new Paschal candle, a reminder that Christ is indeed the light of the world, the light no darkness will overcome. This Easter we gather to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Baptism. The light of the Paschal candle, the light of Christ, extends in blessing to the newly baptized, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). This invitation is granted to each of us in baptismal living – and the light of Christ grows.

Throughout the fifty days of Easter, the Paschal candle stays illuminated – a reminder of our enduring resurrection hope. And then, on Pentecost, the light extends to the people as tongues of fire rest upon them and they are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4). God’s church is set ablaze with the Spirit – and the light of Christ grows.

The light of Christ knows no bounds. This little light has the power to illuminate the world – casting out darkness and dispensing the shadows. This is the light of life – Jesus, our Savior. Thanks be to God.

Pastor Jen