March 2019

These past few weeks, I have been reading a book by Frances Fitzgerald entitled The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. Fitzgerald explores the history of the American evangelical movement (and the huge diversity that almost makes it difficult to call it a “movement”), noting several important themes that link the various groups involved. “Evangelical” is not synonymous with “fundamentalist;” fundamentalists are one group in a wide spread, grouped together mainly by understanding the Bible to be authoritative, that God has been active in human history, but particularly through Christ’s saving actions, and the importance of a transformed life and evangelism. Pretty broad strokes! In fact, Fitzgerald reports that some historians believe that the overarching category of “Evangelicals” was created more so by journalists and charismatic political leaders than by those belonging to the groups themselves.

Fitzgerald begins with a history of the American religious movements in the early Great Awakenings. These awakenings tended to impact oppressed peoples, and as such, these early groups tended to have emphases on social justice issues. The leaders of the Second Great Awakening were early abolitionists, argued for racial equality (in the early 1800s!) in schools, and one seminary became a stop on the Underground Railroad.

As the movement has grown, it has developed new branches into the wide variety it is today, with fundamentalists often claiming the loudest voice. While this has been a fascinating history, I am reminded of our own, different understanding of “evangelical.”

The word “evangelical” comes from a Greek word that means “I tell the good news.” That’s it! We put a lot of emphasis on the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so we share that good news with the world. This word is our word too. We are called to share this good news in stories and in actions, to proclaim the hope that we have been given. Not as a means to our own salvation, but out of a response to that salvation. It moves us. It transforms us. Our spiritual ancestors have been modeling for us how to tell our stories for generations: just tell it. Tell it in whatever way we have to, whether that is narrative, poetry, dialogue, living out the story. We are evangelical in nature. Let us share the stories together.

Shalom,

Nicole

February 2019

A Note from Intern Nicole

Throughout January, we have been reading together Andrew Root’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together. I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on lived theology. I confess to you that I have a tendency to “live in my head.” I get really excited about ideas, words, stories… But Bonhoeffer reminds me that theology is not just thinking about God, but living out my baptismal calling. Theology is asking the question, “Where is God?” in the wonderful events, in the mundane events, in the painful events. Theology is asking, “Where is God calling me now?” As disciples, we are theological people, but that identity calls us into the world. It calls us to name the brokenness of our world, but also to name God in the midst of that brokenness.

As we continue into Epiphany, we listen for God to be revealed to us, and for us to also be revealed to ourselves. There’s a discernment to that. There’s a faithful questioning. What is God up to? How is the Spirit moving? Part of our discipline is as disciples is to observe and notice those moments. The word “martyr” comes from the Greek word “to witness.” Witnessing has two parts: sharing a testimony (for the martyrs, sharing their testimony even to their deaths), but also seeing.

February is a month that many of us celebrate love with Valentine’s Day. We know from loving other human beings that love is more than a feeling: it is a conversation that happens with words, but also with support, with showing up when the other needs us. Love, like faith, is lived; it’s a relationship that goes two ways. One of my spiritual advisers recommended that I try centering prayer as a spiritual discipline: this is a time of quiet, a time for me to spend in silence, simply listening for God. It is a time separate from my normal prayer practices of speaking to God; it is a time to listen. This has been a lot more difficult than I had anticipated; it turns out that I struggle a lot to quiet my mind, to simply be. But, it has also been a rewarding experience. My life is full of information coming from advertisements, articles, conversations, etc. To take the time to stop and listen for God has changed the way that I think about life. As the name would imply, “centering prayer” re-centers me; I still am surrounded by the same barrage of ideas and information, but I am centered in it. I can see in and through it better. Even on the days when I find centering prayer to be a struggle, when I spend the whole time trying (and feeling like I am failing) to be quiet, I find that I am more willing to look for God, more prepared to witness God’s action around me.

So, sisters and brothers, let us be on the lookout. Let us witness God’s work in this world, and let us bear witness to our God with our hands and feet and voices. Let us live our faith and love for others to see.

Shalom

January 2019

Epiphany comes from a Greek word that just means “appearance.”  It grew into our current idea of an “epiphany” as an insight, but it originated with the idea that those insights come from God, that they are revelations from God.  This same word is used to describe Jesus, as God’s “appearance” in the world.

But, as we’ll continue celebrating the appearances of Christ in our world, we’ll read stories this Epiphany of all the ways that Christ’s presence surprises us.  Jesus miracles are surprising; his teachings are surprising; his journey takes surprising twists and turns. It is in the places we least expect to find Jesus that there he is bringing the Kingdom of God, in the everyday things.  One of my favorite projects in Seminary was when we were all given half an hour to wander around the campus. We were supposed to take a picture of some place where we saw God doing something at Luther Seminary and share with the rest of the class what we saw.

In Advent, we followed LEAD’s Advent resources with the theme of living intentionally, taking the time to notice the gifts of God around us and wonder about the ways we can be gifts for others.  We can continue that into Epiphany. As we go out into our lives, where does God appear to us? In song? In art? In a kind word on a busy morning or the face of a friend we have not seen in a long time?  In a good book? We believe that God is most fully revealed in Christ, but that God’s work and God’s love touch everything around us. Where is God moving in our neighborhoods? The answer may surprise us.

Taking it a step further, the apostle Paul tells us that we are the body of Christ.  How do our actions reveal the love of God for the world? Our own stories of faith are shaped by others sharing their faith with us; the same is true for those we meet in our jobs or at school, on the bus, on the freeway, in our homes.  Our lives tell who God is to the world; we “show” Christ to the world.

December 2018

There’s something truly beautiful about moving directly from Christ the King Sunday to the opening chapters of the gospel of Luke.  From celebrating the reign of Christ to the birth of this vulnerable baby in a vulnerable family. To celebrate the promise that Christ is lord of all and then move to the beginning of the incarnation, where God flips all our expectations on their heads.  The barren will have children. The blind will see. The hungry will be fed. But the tyrants will be overthrown. God’s reign is not one of “might makes right,” but of love, compassion, justice, and mercy. The king comes not with armies and terror, not as a conqueror, but as a baby, as a crucified savior.  Dwell in these reversals throughout Luke and in these days of Advent. Expectations are flipped on their heads, and power structures are reversed.

The gospel of Luke opens with the stories immediately leading up to Jesus’ birth.  We read about John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, born to a family too old to have children.  We read about the angel visiting Mary, a woman who wasn’t even married yet. This beautiful nativity story we love from Luke begins setting up the great reversals in this story.  The people of Judah, God’s chosen people, have been conquered; they live as an occupied Roman territory, with Rome imposing leaders and policies. And in the midst of this, an angel appears to an unmarried woman in Nazareth, saying that she will bear the promised messiah.  This child will be named Jesus, from the Aramaic for “he saves,” but Luke does not tell us about visits from far away kings or wise men who recognized and celebrated this child. Nor does Luke tell us of a frightened and jealous King Herod who fears this baby. Instead, the ones who notice in Luke’s telling of the story are shepherds who have been visited by angels.  The Magnificat, Mary’s song, celebrates the idea of reversals that will continue to be important throughout Luke’s gospel. She sings,

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53)

In this Advent season, as we begin our year of studying the gospel of Luke, we remember these great reversals and surprises, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all: God with us.  

Shalom,

Nicole

November 2018

Grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

I love where Thanksgiving falls in relation to the church calendar.  Our calendar begins four sundays before Christmas with the season of Advent.  Christ the King sunday (this year on November 25) is our New Year’s Eve, and it falls three days after Thanksgiving.  How fantastic is that? To end the church year, sent into Advent with a spirit of thankfulness and celebration.

The LEAD team has done a lot of focusing on hearing and telling stories.  For people of faith, thankfulness for what God has done is a part of our story.  When God closed the Red Sea behind the Israelites and they knew they were finally free from slavery, the first thing they did was sing songs, praising God and thanking him for saving them (Exodus 15).  Paul starts most letters by thanking and praising God for the congregations he was writing to (Romans 1:8, 1 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 1:3, Philippians 1:3, etc.).

And so, as our liturgical year comes to a close, I give thanks to God for this congregation.  I give thanks that you have welcomed me and accepted the call to help prepare me as a leader in the Church.  I give thanks for the ways you have responded to the call for hunger ministries, for fellowship ministries, for youth ministries and education ministries and justice ministries.  

What is your story of thankfulness?  What have you seen God doing? Let us give thanks together.

Shalom

October 2018

This month has been rich with learning opportunities for me. I have had the chance to participate in committee meetings to see first hand how the communal life of this congregation is organized. I have had the opportunity to lead confirmation and preach. Thank you for all the support you have shown in this first month of internship, for the feedback you have provided, for the prayers you have offered.

The LEAD team has challenged us all to look at our own stories of faith. Scripture is full of people sharing their experiences of what God has done in their lives, and God is still active and moving in the world. Some of the stories seem grandiose, and others seem more subtle, but each storyteller was convinced that in their story, God was up to something. Who do they say that God is? They say God is present, and God is moving in our lives. As you reflect on your story, I invite you to reflect on what God has been doing. Sometimes the answer is obvious, and other times it seems more ordinary.

As I have heard and explored my call to ministry, I have heard and seen the stories and calls of so many people around me. Hearing those stories has shaped my faith and changed my own story. The earliest disciples of Jesus did not have training in public speaking; they didn’t go to seminary; they were mostly fishermen. But they were willing to tell their own stories, to answer Jesus’ question “who do you say that I am?” and to proclaim who they had seen Jesus to be to others. Our faith lives are shaped by the disciples’ stories, and they continue to be shaped by the people who share their stories of where they have seen God active.

So what “ordinary” things is God up to in our own lives? While some of us are better at poetry or arguments or art, we all have a story. Who does your story say that God is?

Shalom,

Nicole

September 2018

Grace and peace to you!

Thank you for opening your congregation to serve in the role of an internship congregation.  Throughout this coming year, I will have the chance to experience full-time, pastoral ministry in action as one of the requirements for ELCA seminary training. Over the course of the next year, you all will be instrumental in helping me transition from student to pastor.  This is an opportunity for me to grow in my calling to be a pastor. I will have chances to preach and lead groups, as well as participate in the “behind the scenes” aspects of ordained ministry.

In agreeing to serve as an internship site this year, this congregation has taken part in the education of pastors for the larger Church.  At the front of this educational role will be Pastor Connie and the internship committee. I will meet with Pastor Connie weekly to discuss the internship, and for Pastor Connie to provide feedback, support, and mentoring.  In addition, an internship committee formed of lay members will meet with me monthly; these members will also be responsible for providing feedback and support, to share their faith, and to be partners in ministry. At three points, formal evaluations will be submitted to Luther Seminary.  The first will be after three months. Both Pastor Connie and I will evaluate how I have acclimated and grown as an intern, and we will note areas for continued growth. At the six month and final evaluations, Pastor Connie, the internship committee, and I will all submit our evaluations. In the final evaluation, Pastor Connie and the internship committee’s evaluations will include recommendations for the next stages of my ministry journey.

Another part of the internship process is the internship project.  As I get to know the congregation more, I will work with Pastor Connie and the internship committee to develop a project that will give me experience envisioning, developing, and leading a ministry opportunity.  The goal of the project is to give interns an opportunity to explore their own leadership style, and to practice matching their calling and unique skills with the needs and opportunities of their particular internship site.  It is at the heart of the contextual learning process.

Although Pastor Connie and the internship committee will have the most formal roles in this educational process, I also ask for your continued support and prayers through this next year.  If you have any questions about the internship process, I would love to speak with you, or you can explore the Contextual Learning website from Luther Seminary. I look forward to getting to know this congregation better, and to have this opportunity to grow as a Christian public leader.  Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.

Shalom,

Nicole

August 2018

Grace and Peace!

I am Nicole Hanson-Lynn, a student at Luther Seminary and new intern at Christ the King!  This past year, I have had the opportunity to get to know some of the congregation through various courses, and I am excited to get to know you all more over this next year.

I grew up in Kasson, MN with one sister, one brother, and one German shepherd.  As a child, I participated in most of the youth activities at my church, and when I was in high school I helped teach Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and confirmation.  I also enjoyed attending several different summer camps over the years, and I am very fond of camping ministry.

After high school, I attended Wartburg College in Waverly, IA.  There I majored in religion and minored in writing. I loved learning how to read Greek and Hebrew, and I spent one semester in Denver working in a Hispanic church.  While I was at Wartburg, I met my husband, Anthony, who is now a band director in Victor, IA. I also worked as a camp counselor at Outlaw and Atlantic Mountain Ranches, Lutheran camps in Custer, SD during two summers.  My favorite was the more rustic sites (especially one with no electricity or running water!)

Currently, I am in the fourth year of my studies at Luther.  I have especially enjoyed the Bible classes. In my free time, I enjoy reading, knitting, and learning new languages.  

I want to thank you for this opportunity to grow and learn from you during this internship period.  I am excited to see where the Spirit leads during this time.

Shalom,

Nicole