A Word from Pastor Linda
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
The month of May seems to get busier and busier, as the start and end of our school year shift further back. May is filled not only with Mother’s Day and college graduations, but all of the end of the school year concerts and picnics and field days and exams and even high school (and middle school and elementary school and preschool) graduations.
In this midst of all this busyness, here at Christus Victor we will celebrate with our 8th graders on Sunday, May 20 as they Affirm their Baptism, the rite we usually call Confirmation.
Most of us were probably baptized as infants or small children and don’t remember much of anything from our baptism. But regardless of when and in what tradition we were baptized, some adults – parents or grandparents, godparents or sponsors – probably made some promises on our behalf – to raise us up as followers of Jesus. The rite of Affirmation of Baptism is a chance for our teens to take on the responsibility for their own faith development, to say YES themselves to those things their parents and sponsors promised some fourteen years ago.
Our confirmands will respond to this question: Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
- To live among God’s faithful people,
- To hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
- To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
- To serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
- And to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
Their response will be “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.”
Affirming our baptism, saying YES to the God who loves us and saves us unconditionally, is not only for 8th graders. Some congregations use this rite regularly with the whole congregation, often on the Sunday in January when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. During Lent here at Christus Victor, we focused on Spiritual Practices, some of the ways that we live out our faith in daily life. These baptismal promises offer another model for how we structure our lives as followers of Jesus.
Look at them again and ask yourself how you are doing keeping those promises. Of course, none of us can “serve all people” or “strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” But we can work for justice and peace wherever God has placed us and serve the neighbors who cross our paths. As we think about our own Christian discipleship, however, rather than beating ourselves up over what we have left undone, we need to remember that the response to these promises is “I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.”
As Martin Luther writes in the Small Catechism about the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him.” Instead, we know that God sends the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to help us follow Jesus, witness to the God we know, and work for God’s kingdom here in the world.
May 20 is Pentecost, that feast day in our church calendar when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit, a fitting day to celebrate our confirmands. May we not only celebrate with them this important faith milestone, but also take this opportunity to renew our own faith and promises, remembering to ask God to help and guide us in all that we do.
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
Blessings to you in this Easter season.
During the season of Lent, at our midweek Lenten services and in small discussion groups, we explored the idea of Spiritual Practices or Spiritual Disciplines.
We Lutherans have traditionally been uncomfortable talking about spiritual practices because of our emphasis on grace. We do need to remember that we are saved by God’s grace and our spiritual practices do not earn us God’s love or forgiveness. However, Jesus does not then command us to do nothing, but rather he invites us to follow him. Spiritual practices or disciplines are how we follow Jesus in response to God’s unconditional love.
Here is one definition of Spiritual Disciplines:
“Spiritual disciplines…are simply behaviors that all Christians should practice regularly as part of their Christian faith. These habits of the Christian faith help us focus our attention on God and on being his disciples.”
The languages of “disciplines” reminds us that in our busy world full of distractions, it does take discipline and commitment to follow Jesus. I personally prefer the term practices since it reminds me that none of us will ever master any of these. Plus, a discipline seems more like something one does out of obligation, while a practice implies a sincere desire to learn and to grow in the faith.
Thanks to Michelle Hinojosa, Emily Rott, Pastor Art Puotinen, Pastor Paul Uhl, and Mike Gehring for their willingness to share their experience and wisdom about these various spiritual practices at our midweek Lenten services.
We explored five different practices and looked at some concrete ways that we can incorporate them into our daily lives.
- Encouraging – Try to follow Luther’s instruction in his explanation of the 8th Commandment to “interpret everything our neighbor does in the best possible light.”
- Inviting – Find a gracious way to bring your faith or your commitment to church up in regular conversation with an unchurched friend or co-worker.
- Worship – Come to worship with an attitude of “holy expectancy.” Come early and spend five to ten minutes before the service begins in prayer for the leaders of worship and those around you who look like they are carrying heavy burdens.
- Prayer – Commit to finding 5-10 minutes a day for either prayer or silent meditation.
- Giving/Serving – Each day, find a simple act of service you can do for someone in your daily life.
I hope you have a chance to try some of these out and that in doing so, you deepen your walk with Christ in this Easter season.
Peace, Pastor Linda
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Mark 1:3
As I write this in early November, the Halloween displays in the stores have already been replaced by Christmas wrapping and presents. Radio stations have begun playing Christmas music and at least one of my friends on Facebook has bragged about having his shopping and wrapping completed.
What’s the hurry?
The church has traditionally done its best to resist the culture’s rush to Christmas, but it often feels like a losing battle. We can be tempted either to give in and start getting out the decorations as soon as the Halloween candy is finished or we can become the churchy versions of Scrooge – railing against all things Christmas until December 24th at the earliest.
We do have another alternative, however. The season of Advent allows us to celebrate and prepare for the coming of Christ in a way that can give us space to escape the hustle and bustle of the world’s Christmas frenzy and pause and reflect on the magnitude of God’s gift to us at Christmas.
We live in a culture of immediacy and are usually not very good at waiting. Advent, however, asks us to do just that. We may resist it, but, as with so many things in life, taking the time to wait and prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas makes our Christmas celebrations that much sweeter.
Here at Christus Victor, we will be waiting and preparing for Christmas in a variety of ways this Advent season:
· Our Advent study “A Not-So-Silent Night” is already underway, but it’s not too late to connect with a group.
· Pick up an Advent calendar or devotional to use with your family at home throughout the season.
· Join our Sunday School families for an afternoon movie outing to see “The Star” at the Elk Grove Cinemas on December 3rd.
· Enjoy our Children’s Christmas program at worship the weekend of December 16 and 17 and our annual Christmas concert by our musical groups on the evening of the 17th.
· Join our Confirmation students and their families in serving at Feed My Starving Children on Wednesday, December 20th.
And, of course, we encourage you to worship with us throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. On Sunday, December 24, we will have one service in the morning at 10 to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent. (NOTE: There will NOT be Saturday worship on December 23.) Then, we will celebrate Christmas Eve with three worship services at 4:30, 9, and 11pm. On Christmas Day, we will have one service at 10am.
You can find additional details about all these activities in this issue of The Communicator and on our website.
Have a blessed and peaceful Advent as you watch and wait for the coming of our Lord.
We spent most of our recent western vacation hiking in National Parks. During those hikes, I found myself remembering a newsletter column I had written for the congregation where I previously served after a summer vacation in Acadia National Park in Maine. Back then, my younger children were the ones who had trouble keeping up on the hikes, but this summer I was the one often lagging behind! My thoughts then still seem relevant as we begin another program year and embark on our Vision 2020 journey.
Here’s what I said back in 2008: As we trekked up and down mountains and took in the beautiful scenery, I spent some time reflecting on church and the nature of Christian community. The more I thought about it, I realized that our journeying together as a family through Acadia was a lot like the ways we journey together as a church community. So, I offer some reflections from our travels. Perhaps you will recognize these experiences from your own family vacations and ponder how they might apply to our life together as a congregation.
- No pain, no gain.
- Sometimes before you can move forward, you need to stop and look back and see how far you’ve come.
- Not everyone travels at the same pace.
- Sometimes you need to slow down and wait for those who’ve fallen behind.
- Prodding and harassment are not the best methods for getting the reluctant to move forward. Patience is better.
- There are great views all the way along, not just at the mountaintop.
- If you don’t periodically stop and check the map, you’ll lose your direction.
- Sometimes you end up where you’re supposed to be, even though you didn’t go the way you intended.
- Don’t stop the momentum when you’re heading uphill.
- Periodic nourishment makes for happier campers.
- Overcoming adversity is good for building community.
We have already begun our new program year here at Christus Victor with our Kickoff Sunday on August 20. There is lots of energy and excitement as we begin a wide variety of educational programs, musical opportunities, fellowship events, and service projects. While this is wonderful, some of us may be overwhelmed by changes and all that is going on, or simply wonder if we are trying to go in too many directions at once.
At the same time, however, we are also beginning another round of long term planning and visioning with our Vision 2020 Team leading the way. In the weeks to come, you may hear more about this and about opportunities to share your thoughts about where God is calling Christus Victor.
As we do move forward, let us remember that we do so together as a community of followers of Jesus, committed to sharing the good news of the gospel and Making Christ Known.