Just a thought…

This month we will celebrate the 501st anniversary of the Reformation. One of the thrilling aspects of the reformation is to engage the changing church. For so long the church was focused on being a place to gather. A time when success was driven by butts and bucks (how many people were in worship and how much money was in the offering plate each week).

I think we are past the time of the church simply being a place to gather. No longer can we simply judge the “success” of a congregation by these measurements. The idea of “if you build it, they will come” is no longer a reality.

Phyllis Tickle wrote in her book, The Great Emergence that “every 500 years, the church goes through a rummage sale, and cleans out the old forms of spirituality and replaces it with the new ones.” In essence, the church goes through a massive reformation.

This happens to be that time. While the church can still exist within the walls of a building, it has the capacity for so much more. We can be a church that both gathers and scatters. We can bring the Good News of Christ wherever we go…the places we work, eat, and drink.

That is one of the exciting things about having my ordination take place in a brewery. It continues to live into the changing church and our capacity to reach out to people in all kinds of unique places.

It is also why our offering will go to the Live On Endowment Fund. This fund continues to support seminary students, campus ministries, new missions, and redevelopments (like Celebration). They are empowering leaders to think about doing church differently.

We are continuing to be made new through a God that is alive and active in the world and in us. While being made new we will continue to celebrate Christ, Care for Others, and Serve the World. It is an exciting time friends!
 
God’s Peace,
Ryan Dockery

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

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

Credo graphic sept 2016

Warning, yet another nerdy confession follows. In college, I loved listening to an NPR radio show called, “This I Believe.” It was a revival of Edward Murrow’s program from the 1950s. Originally, Murrow launched the program to help people articulate individual beliefs rather than ascribing to religious dogma or patriotic platitudes. The show encouraged famous and everyday people to distill their beliefs into a simple essay, and then read the essay aloud over the air. The unveiled creeds diverged in countless ways, but all of them began with the same words, “This I believe.”

As Christians, we share a common set of beliefs confessed in the Apostle’s Creed. These shared beliefs form the foundation of our faith and our life together. Beyond this, we each hold individual beliefs about the world, the people and the experiences around us.  I believe it is essential to our faith and to the sharing of the gospel that each of us can clearly articulate what we believe.

In September, we will start a new series called Credo. As part of this series, I invite you to share your beliefs in a personal creed. More specifically, I am inviting you to write and read a personal statement beginning with the words, “This I believe.” It might take the shape of a top 10 list, a prayer, or a monologue. The point is not to be perfect or profound, though I imagine that will happen, the point is to articulate the beliefs that inform who you are and what you do.

We will share some of these creeds in written form via this electronic newsletter, eCelebrate. Some of the creeds may be read aloud in worship; others may be recorded to share in worship or on social media (of course with your permission).

So, what do you believe? Think about it. And get ready to share.

Pastor Jen

You can follow this link to explore the original and revived additions of This I Believe.

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

Just a Thought

In the inspired words of Avril Lavigne,  “Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” It’s true, life can get pretty complicated. We heap on commitments, clutter our lives and our closets with excess, and cloud relationships with layers of distraction. Then we come up gasping for breath in the midst of it all. Why’d we have to go and make things so complicated?

Lent invites us to fast from complication. To step back from our indulgence, to evaluate and declutter our lives. This Lent, we explore the Simple life to which Christ calls us. We will take a look at simplicity in Love, Faith, Giving, Stuff and Presence.

Each week we will practice simplicity with lenten challenges for the whole family. As we gather for worship we will practice simplicity as we fast from the typical spread of doughnuts and sweet treats – and survive on coffee and juice alone.

Now don’t get me wrong. This life is simple, not easy. We tend to make things complicated. Recovering from our own foolish ways can be quite a task. But it will be worthwhile.
Here’s to simplifying our lives together.

 
peace.

Pastor Jen