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

hunger-in-america-hands-go-orange

You give them something to eat. – Jesus

Well there you have it. When the crowds closed in, the disciples were motivated to send them on their way. They looked hungry and pretty needy. But Jesus had something else in mind. “You give them something to eat.” So they gathered their sparse resources and Jesus turned the little something into an abundant feast for all. (John 6:1-14).

I imagine Jesus would respond in the same way today. When a hungry kid shows up to school day after day without a thing to eat. When the man on the corner pleads for compassion and nourishment. When a family of four falls subject to unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. You give them something to eat.

Throughout 2017, we give head to Jesus’ command as we focus on hunger – both locally and globally. We started back in January as we began to gather food and funds for Souper Bowl of Caring. A mound of cereal, peanut butter, jelly, chili, spaghetti and more accumulated at the foot of the cross. This food will fill the bellies of our hungry neighbors served through Cypress Assistance Ministries. You give them something to eat.

This summer, we will gather around tables for sacred worship. Remembering all the times that Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to others. Breaking Bread is a central part of the Christian faith, and so we follow Christ’s example of gathering around tables – with people we know well and people we seek to understand. And together we learn that those who hunger, hunger not only for daily bread, but also for meaningful connection. You give them something to eat.

This fall, we’ll turn our focus to world hunger. We celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Beer & Hymns. For this 4th annual event, we join our Bishop, Mike Rinehart, in an effort to raise $500,000 for ELCA World Hunger. Let’s raise a pint in hopes of raising $5,000 to help alleviate hunger around the world.

You give them something to eat – today, and tomorrow, too.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

 

credo water

Well friends, you were certainly up for the challenge. Back in September, I welcomed / invited / challenged our community to write personal creeds, statements of faith that proclaim your understanding of God and your modus operandi. Throughout our Credo series we explored the wholehearted confession of faith we share in the Apostle’s Creed as well as the unique personal creeds that tug at the heart of each individual.

These personal creeds took on a variety of shapes. We received a little Hebrew lesson from Meredith and an insistent plea that God loves all from Carrie. We experienced a beautiful story of belonging from Griffen and a Top 10 List from Sister Shelli (of course).  Chuck encouraged us to respond to hate with love and respect and Rey challenged us to embrace a God that’s bigger than our imagination. The Cordes family taught us that God is good at Algebra, while the Drapers revealed a creative, humor-filled God of the platypus. Kathy pointed to the face of God unveiled in her children and grandchildren while Amber celebrated her 30th birthday with a God who redefines our expectations.

Thank your for exposing your heart, for sharing your faith. Through the diversity of our experiences and the depth of our understanding – we come to know God more fully. And this is good news. We learn more about God when we are in relationship with God’s people. This, I believe.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

credo water

The gauntlet has been cast. Last month, I challenged all of you to write a personal creed, a statement of faith that proclaims your understanding of God and your modus operandi. Are you up for the challenge?

You – yes you, in the back row – you are invited to write and read a personal statement beginning with the words, “This I Believe.” September 18 we will start our new series, Credo. The series explores one of our communal statements of faith, The Apostles Creed. As Christians, we hold certain beliefs in common, and diverge on others based on our unique life experiences.

Your creed might take on a variety of forms. You might elect to write a topical creed focusing on a key characteristic of God. Maybe highlighting the welcoming nature of God, the radical welcome of Jesus – inviting all to the table – and your own personal calling to stand for welcome. Or, perhaps the format will give shape to your creed. Perhaps you are a list-maker or a poet or a storyteller. Let the medium be your guide in shaping the message.

I invite / welcome / challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone, to intentionally reflect on your beliefs, and to find the courage to share. Don’t know where to begin? Here are two examples of personal creeds. I hope they stir your imagination as you prepare to write your own. Still perplexed? Lets grab a coffee, or a glass of wine and figure it out together!

Peace.

Pastor Jen

 

This I Believe
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe that God, my God, called life into being.
That God stooped down, felt the dirt under her fingernails, and stirred-up: new life.
Maybe it wasn’t in 6 days, or a year or a decade. But it was in time, in divine time.

And in this creation, God, my God, saw that it was very good.
The creepy crawly things, the slightly smelly things, the seemingly useless things.
The creator of all – saw it all – as good, as worthy, as purposeful.

This God, my God, did not see all that was made and say, “That will do.”
Instead, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Fill the world with good things.
With green growing things, spiny spikey things, untamed wild things. Multiply!

In the midst of this creation saga, my God breathed deep
And exhaled her very own breath of life, into thin air, and fulfilled: new life.
Human life, in the image of God, the heartbeat of the Creator.

And this life-giving, fruit-bearing heart was set to work.
To till and to keep, for the sake of others.
To reign, not with dominion, but with creative passion and wonder.

Eden did not last long.
The shiny packaging of sin, of power, lured the life-giving keeper away from wonder, Temptation took root, life began to dwindle.

Creation groans. God, my God, looks on in despair. But not defeat.
The Creator of all, creates again.
This time, breathing her very own breath of life into divine lungs.

Hope is restored. New life breaks forth from the desolation.
From the wounded side of the divine, pores living water for all.
The life-giving, fruit-bearing keeper is restored and lives to restore.

This, I believe.

 

This, I believe.
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe all people have intrinsic value. Not based on how they behave or what they have accomplished. Based on their humanity.

I believe that I have intrinsic value. That I am not defined by how busy I am or how much wealth I amass. That the labels that adorn my clothing, my car, my home – do not define me. That the only brand I adorn with integrity is ‘Child of God’. And this label is not of my earning. It is a gift. Abundant grace.

I believe that you have intrinsic value. Whether you agree with me, whether you are kind to me. Whether we know each other well or live worlds apart. Whether we share a similar system of belief or have nothing left in which to believe. You, neighbor, have value. Not because I have blessed you with my approval, or afforded such worth to you, but because you, too, were created Imago Dei, in the image of God.

I believe that I am not meant to be the dispenser of value; I am meant to be a conduit of honor. I honor others by knowing their name and relating from a place of shared humanity. I honor others by being genuine and kind, by acknowledging my faults and seeking reconciliation. I honor others by curbing my appetite for power, by living simply so others might simply live.

I believe that Jesus was and is the perfecter of honor. The quintessential example of valuing others based on shared humanity. In incarnate love, Jesus came to dwell among us, to be one of us. And in perfect love, the intrinsic value of all people – Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, male and female, and anywhere in between – is affirmed. Jesus invites all of humanity to love one another.

I believe that my paramount responsibility in this life is to love people well. Starting with myself, extending to my family and friends, my community of faith, neighbors close to home and neighbors separated by space. When I live well, love radiates through me and my soul magnifies the Lord.

This I believe, with my whole heart.

From the Pastor

Celebration’s Renovation Campaign has officially begun. And we are off to a great start! Thanks to the generosity and foresight of a couple key folks, we have $11,500 of our $60,000 goal in hand. Wow. Once again, I am in awe of the faithful giving in this community. With over 20% of our total campaign already raised, I am confident that we can reach this goal together.

Just over a year ago, Celebration moved into Bethesda’s Chapel as a ‘temporary tabernacle’. As we looked for a place of our own, we just so happened to find it a little closer to home than anticipated. God has certainly been at work in this venture. Now, we have the opportunity to deepen our mutual ministry with Bethesda, transform this space to reflect our community and grow together into the future.

Now, it’s time to get to work. In the month of July, look for work to begin on the audio-visual system, kitchenette, exterior signs, offices, band set-up and sanctuary. Renovations will continue as funds become available. Take a look at this Renovation Campaign Handout, for an outline of all renovations and the anticipated expense.

In order to transform this temporary tabernacle into our new Ministry Center, we need your help. I invite you to consider how you will contribute to Celebration’s Renovation Campaign. Perhaps you’re able to give a generous financial gift. Perchance you are a seasoned carpenter, able to share your craft. Maybe you are a savvy fundraiser willing to host an event or an experienced grant-writer poised to communicate on our behalf. With our powers combined*, we can make this happen.

In the weeks to come, you will have opportunities for conversation and consideration. Then on Sunday, July 24 we will gather campaign commitments. I welcome your questions and contributions.

Peace.

Pastor Jen

*Captain Planet has not officially approved of this sentiment, but I think he would.

 

From the Pastor

The Making of Celebration April 2016

One of my favorite little people, my Goddaughter Marley, asked one question consistently, incessantly, for a while. What’s that making that noise? She loved to ask. She loved to make a noise and then ask. With any minute noise, she demanded an answer. And ‘I don’t know,’ was certainly not sufficient. Marley was (and still is) on a mission to discover her world.

So are we. The people of Celebration are on a mission to discover God at work in the world – and join in! So it seems most fitting to ask a few questions to remember who we are and what we are up to. Beginning Sunday, April 10, we will start a new sermon series called The Making of Celebration. The ‘making’ takes into account the 8+ years of faithful ministry that have brought us to this point, as well as the perpetual ‘making’, the creative work still happening today.

As a community, we will ask the basic questions, the tools of journalistic discovery: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? And with these careful queries and a hearty curiosity, we’ll discover God at work in this community, through this community, for the sake of the world.

Let’s discover together.

Pastor Jen

 

Just a Thought

Brother Christopher Markert

 

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” -Phillippians 1:3-5

Greetings Celebration friends!

Pastor Jen invited me to share with you an update on what is happening in my life and ministry these days.

As many of you know, I left Celebration at the end of February in 2015 to serve as the interim Director for Evangelical Mission (DEM) for the Synod Office. This interim was meant to be short-lived with plans for me to move to Galveston in August. There on the Island, I would begin serving as the Director of Ministries for Lutherhill’s new Zion Retreat Center while also developing a new Lutheran Franciscan mission.

But the Holy Spirit had other plans (as God often does!).  For a whole host of reasons, what was to be a three-to-four month interim was extended to 11 months. And although I hadn’t applied to interview for the DEM position, at some point during the call process the interview team invited me to consider interviewing. At the end of February I was offered the position of DEM.

The role of the DEM is to help the synod in figuring out how we do mission together-  how we start and support new churches and ministries, how we revitalize existing churches and ministries, and how we practice generosity in our congregations and as a synod.

Of course, the difficult part for me was stepping down from my leadership role at Zion Retreat Center and the new Lutheran Franciscan mission. However, we are now in conversation with Lutherhill, the Lutheran Franciscans and the Synod Office in how we will move forward with the collaborative ministry on Galveston Island.  And in my role as DEM I get the joy of working in a new and different way to support this endeavor in Galveston!

I thank you for your prayers and support over the years, and especially this past year. And I want you to know that I continue to pray for Celebration and cheer you on in mission!

Peace and good,
Pastor Chris Markert
Director for Evangelical Mission

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 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

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
pc