Blessed

Greetings To God’s Faithful People,

A question that one of our candidates for the Director of Youth & Family Ministry positions asked of us, the search committee, was that if we could use only one word to describe Christ the King, what would it be? We had great answers around the table, like Friendly, Welcoming, Outreaching, Mission-minded and Faithful.

A while back, I was told that Becca Ode pronounced us as “Blessed”. She did this at one of our outdoor worship services last summer. It was a beautiful day to worship outside and she was enjoying it. As we were visited by a snow egret flying above us and as Becca was making her way to communion, she said, “We are blessed.” Out of the mouths of babes, we are named.

Yes, we are blessed. Thank you, Becca.

What’s your word to describe our community at Christ the King? How do you think the Holy Spirit would describe us? Do we see ourselves as people who are loved fully and completely by God? Do we see ourselves as blessed? What happens to us when we start here, at this place? It is our home base. Created in the image of God and loved, completely and wholly loved, washed and claimed in the waters of Baptism and fed at the Lord’s Table with his body and blood.

When we start here at this place and move forward with this assurance and trust, we see ourselves for who we truly are. From this place we move more deeply in relationship with Jesus and want to do something with what we have been given. We can’t keep it to ourselves; this love propels us to move and to act.

So it is not surprising that when Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven in the parables of Matthew 13, they are all parables of action, not of stagnant or inanimate things or a place.

The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a sower sowing seed on all kinds of soil. The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to someone sowing good seed in his fields and an enemy comes at night and plants weeds and they are allowed to grow together. The Kingdom of Heaven is like someone planting a mustard seed that starts small and grows big. The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with lots of flour. The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone found and hid, then goes and sells all that he has and buys the field where it is hidden. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of pearls and on finding a pearl of great value, he sells everything in order to buy it. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea that catches all kinds and the good are put in baskets and the bad are thrown out.

Jesus asks his disciples, “Have you understood all this?” and they answered, “Yes.” Then Jesus encourages them to bring out this treasure and tell others. We know these treasurers, so practice bringing them out and sharing with others. You might begin with one word or pray with these parables and discover the richness of God’s kingdom as the Holy Spirit breathes life into these parables.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,
Pastor Connie Spitzack

LEAD Assessment

Greetings to Jesus’ faithful disciples,

I’m very proud to report that 100% of our council has taken the LEAD assessment. Will you help us? The leadership at LEAD encourages a goal of half our worshiping population. Our average attendance is 153, so our goal is to have 77. I receive a weekly update from LEAD as to how many have taken the assessment from Christ the King. We have 35 assessments completed as of March 27. Thank you for taking the time to fill out the 20 questions. We have until Wednesday, April 12, to reach and hopefully exceed our goal.

You may take the assessment at church between worship services or on Wednesday mid-week services. I have paper copies available as well as electronic devices to complete the assessment with. Please help us to get a better lay of the landscape at Christ the King. Church members, friends of Christ the King, and visitors are welcomed to take the assessment. We appreciate all the voices coming together to help us get a better understanding of who we are.

The results of this assessment will be tabulated at LEAD, and we will receive a written report and have Jim Merhaut, our LEAD coach, go over the results with our LEAD Team. Our LEAD team will then share the results with you. If you are interested in seeing an example of the Assessment Results report, please let me know and I would be happy to share the sample copy with you.

The Assessment will give us a picture of where we are on the Leadership Landscape. This is just one of the tools that we will be using to put our Mission and Vision Statement into practice.

The Leadership Landscape measures what we say about ourselves along two axes. The first is the range between deep, bold, consequential faith in Jesus Christ and complacent faith in Jesus Christ. This is not a judgment on faithfulness. It is a metric that gauges movement or faith practices as they are more or less shaping daily life. Ask, “How is faith being lived out?” The second is the range between innovative and cautious. This describes our willingness to experiment, run pilot projects, try new ideas, or test hunches compared with our need to maintain our ways of life. Ask, “Is there space to create?”

In Peggy Hahn’s book, The Sacred Valley, one of the first gifts about Christian leadership she received from her pilgrimage on the Inca Trail was that she was not as in good a shape as she thought she was. By the end of the first day of a 4-day hike, they have to make a choice: either return to Cusco or continue the hike to Machu Picchu. Committing to the journey requires stepping out into an uncertain future. She quickly learned that success in hiking or leadership is as much about how you think as it is about what you do.

“We can talk ourselves into trying hard things we have never done before and attempting to move in a new direction or we can just as effectively talk ourselves into a panic and resist something uncertain. What we say to ourselves really matters. We can set a posture of openness or we can close the door to expanding our worldview and God-view by how we behave and think. Growth is a choice we make. I am talking about a readiness to become more ourselves, growing into who God made us to be. A real walk in faith.” (p. 7-8)

We have been given some good tools here to assist us in looking at ourselves from a new or different perspective—a perspective that I hope will engage our faith in Jesus Christ and move us away from complacency. In the short time I have been involved, I have grown and challenged my own mindset by recognizing the areas where I have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. I have thought about how I tell my story of how the Holy Spirit is transforming and changing me. I give thanks to God for the opportunity to take this journey with you as we engage in God’s kingdom work. As I have heard repeatedly in our gospel lessons from John, the harvest is ripe—we have work to do, this is our time.

Join me in prayer:

O God, you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love is supporting us;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Partners on the Journey,
Pastor Connie Spitzack

A Note from Pastor Connie

Greetings Holy People of God

There is much in store for us in the coming year. We will begin the LEAD process with Mary Knudson-Dion, Susan Surom, Matt Orvick, Chris Rothfuss and me forming the LEAD team. Hold us in prayer that we may be faithful servants in this process and communicate with you as we seek to participate in the kingdom work God has called us to.

In October the council met with Rev. Erika Uthe, Assistant to the Bishop to discuss our enrollment in the LEAD process offered through the synod in partnership with Way to Lead which is a nonprofit organization that grew out of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod as a means to help congregations. LEAD is all about empowering Christian leaders, transforming faith communities that influence the world. Their mission is to grow leaders with deep, bold, consequential faith in Jesus Christ. We will join with the following churches from our synod:

Elvira Zion (Clinton) 
Faith (Eldridge)
Gloria Dei (Cedar Rapids) 
Grace (Davenport)
St. Paul (St. Center) 
St. Stephen (Urbandale)

I know there is much work ahead of us but I am excited to begin this process.

And soon a committee will be formed to begin the process of hiring a Director of Youth and Family Ministry for Christ the King. We have so much to give thanks to God for and so much to keep praying for.

I offer you this pray to begin with as we move forward with seeking a director of youth and family ministry.

Almighty God, you alone are the great Shepherd of the sheep, and we turn to you to lead and guide us in all things. Our trust and our hope is in you.

You are the way, the truth, and the life.

As you have raised up faithful servants of your church to tend your flock in every time and place, open our hearts to consider new possibilities for youth and family ministry in this community of faith.

May we be open to your grace.

Inspire us to be a people of insight, recognizing our own unique gifts and talents, yet seeking a director of youth and family ministry who will complement who we already are with a vision of what we are to become.

May we be open to your wisdom.

Give us a holy patience in this time of our seeking, a patience that trusts in you for our present care, knowing that you will bring our good work to fulfillment in your time.

Lead us and guide us, gracious God.

Keep us faithful in mission, regular in worship, responsive in stewardship, mindful of the needy, and diligent in prayer.

Lead us and guide us, gracious God.

Fill us all with your Holy Spirit and magnify our gifts of discernment, that we might follow your will and leading into a future yet unknown.

Lead us and guide us, gracious God.

Bless the work and ministry of the Council and future Search committee. Give us the gifts we need to seek and find this leader of your own nurturing, that we might grow in faith and love and ministry.

Lead us and guide us, gracious God.

All these things we ask, O God, with whatever else we need, in the name of him who is the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,
Pastor Connie Spitzack
 

A Note from Pastor Connie

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us we are the light of the world. I hope you will read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 to help inform your idea of what it means to be the light of the world. As think about my witness and our witness as a community to the world, I look back to Genesis. Our adult forum on Sunday mornings has been studying Genesis. We are in the place where God is building a nation to help the world know their creator. Nation building is a long and arduous process. First we see how God shapes Abraham. For Abraham and Sarah there is so much waiting. And it is when they are old that God does his best work, creating in them what they cannot create themselves and Isaac is born.

In the waiting time, both Abraham and Sarah attempt to get the process moving, acting on God’s promise to build a nation through them. Abraham tries to pass his wife off as his sister with Kings more than happy to take Sarah into their fold and Sarah offering her handmaiden, Hagar to provide the heir that Sarah cannot produce and Ishmael is born. What is God up to in this waiting time? God is gracious and patient. Abraham and Sarah are definitely being shaped through this experience. It is almost as if God is replaying the Adam and Eve story again. Will they turn to God or will they take for themselves? Like Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah repeat the story. And God continues in faithfulness to shape these people.

God decides that Abraham should have some foreknowledge of what will happen to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because Abraham will become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. Abraham has been chosen, singled out to teach his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right so that God may bring about what God has promised. So Abraham enters into his first ethical debate with God as Abraham pleas for the life of his nephew, Lot and his family and mercy and justice come head to head. And God is both just and merciful as the towns are destroyed and Lot and his daughters are saved.

Once Isaac is born, Sarah demands that Hagar and her son Ishmael leave. I wonder what would have happened if Ishmael and Isaac had grown up together? Would it have been the same fate as Cain and Able? In the next generation Esau and Jacob part ways to ensure the life of Jacob and the continued building of the nation through which God blesses the world.

Soon after their departure, God puts Abraham to the ultimate test in the binding of Isaac for sacrifice. It is an awful test of Abraham’s loyalties and his love. He has sent one son away and now another to be bound in sacrifice to God. Abraham loves his sons and he loves God. Abraham’s first loyalty was to God. He has learned over much time to love and trust God.

As this family navigated God’s shaping and forming them to be a great nation, I see God’s active hand in the mix. As I reflect on what it means for us to be a light to the world, these stories of God’s nation building come to mind. And I turn once again to God. And I ask you to turn to God as we shine in this world. I ask you to pray. Pray for our council and the LEAD process that that Mary Knudson-Dion, Matt Orvick, Susan Surom and myself will embark upon. Pray for our soon to be Director of Youth and Family Ministry as we make our preparations of putting together a job description and continuing to financially support this position. Keep turning to God, learning to trust God as we journey along, shining on the corner of Melrose and Mormon Trek.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,
Pastor Connie Spitzack

A Note from Pastor Connie

Greetings to the Holy People of God, 

It was the donut that caught my eye as I sat in the library at church. A picture of a chocolate frosted donut coupled with a book and I just have to investigate further. A new book? I better check it out. This led me to “The Donut Theory” by Linda Gillis. This is a book for Colleen, Kurt and me. It is a devotion book for the church office written by a church secretary. But you might enjoy it as well. And right next to is another book by the same author, “Humble Beginnings.”

As I flipped open the cover, again I was drawn into this book. I saw in handwriting, “Given in memory of Glen Gillis, the husband of my cousin, Linda…Glen died way too young in the Spring of 2016 of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Signed Valerie Buns, dated 12/2016.”

Valerie belongs with us. You may not know her. She is quiet and does a lot of behind the scenes work. I’ve had coffee with her and she has given me some hostas as she thinned her garden. You may have tasted one of her sweet rolls at the Easter breakfast or received a kind note from her on behalf of Christ the King. Like I said, she works behind the scenes.

Now new connections have been made, personal connections. This author, Linda is a cousin of Valerie and when I read these devotions I think of both of them. Linda ends the forward of her book with these words, “Should you find some of the stories…a bit corny –it is something you might expect from an author who grew up on a farm in Iowa.” And there is another connection.

Think about what captures your attention and who are the people that influence you especially in regard to our faith in Jesus. Who are the people that help you to trust God? What captures your attention and draws you closer to God and your neighbor? What makes you hungry and thirsty for God? What helps you to see God’s activity in your immediate context?

The Holy Spirit knows what will get our attention. I’m not proud, food usually captures my attention. God speaks to us in these common things – water, bread, wine, words and captures our attention and our hearts. Where would we be without these things? In a world of hurt. God loves us and comes to us in the very things we need to survive. God loves you and comes to you in the very environment in which you live.

Are you paying attention? Think about that, paying attention means that you give it some thought, some time, you look for it and it will cost you. Thinking about God and looking for God will cost you time and attention away from yourself which is well worth it. It may cost you some repentance – to think again about God and how God is revealed in our lives.

A star captured the attention of the wise men and they followed it so that they could worship a king, our King, Jesus. We too have a star to follow and he captures our attention and we respond with an eagerness to be in his presence and worship him.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,
Pastor Connie Spitzack

A Note from Pastor Connie

At our annual meeting in January, we will vote to adopt our new mission and vision statement. Thank you to Kevin Heckman and our Long Range Planning Committee for their work in this effort. The mission and vision statement will be the tool we use as we move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ sharing the gospel and serving those in need. Our Evangelism Committee is already focusing on ways to help the congregation share the gospel and our Mission and Justice Committee continues to look for opportunities to reach out and partner with others as they have just begun the school back pack program with Horn and Borlaug Elementary Schools. We are also thinking about expanding our community garden. And we continue to work toward a full-time director of Youth and Family Ministry. Thank you to all who have stepped up with pledging or continued contributions to this effort. At the annual meeting, we will report on how we are moving toward this goal.

With this momentum, I along with the council think that we are ready for a process that helps us to keep focused on our mission, especially as we serve and reach out to our community; we also want people to know the God who loves us so deeply and faithfully. We have filed an application to become “A LEAD Congregation”, which is a process offered through the Southeastern Iowa Synod in partnership with LEAD, a non-profit organizations that is committed to growing Christian leaders with the hope of deeper discipleship and a greater passion for sharing the Gospel in a changing world.

As a LEAD (Living Everyday As Disciples) Congregation we can expect:

Congregational Coaching:

  • LEAD Congregational Assessment
  • Coaching for the LEAD Team in our congregation using one or more of LEAD’S processes within LEAD’s four growth indicators for vital continued behavioral change
  • Individual Coaching

Strategic Learning Seminars:

  • Congregations working together toward making technical and adaptive change:Listening through the Tune In Process that strengthens the our relationship with the neighborhood, following God in mission.
  • Centering through the Wake up Process that clarifies our purpose, core values, and strategic goals while working towards alignment.
  • Exploring through the Dig Down Process that sharpens theological lens, governance and staffing, as well as generosity.
  • Connecting through the Work Out Process focusing on best practices in faith formation, hospitality and relationships with integrity.

The commitment and investment includes time, energy, prayer, listening, intentional planning, and financial contribution. As well as an investment in new behaviors that will open us up to God’s mission in our neighborhood and in the world with the support of a learning cohort of congregations, a trained coach, the Office of the Bishop and the best LEAD has to offer us. We will learn together what it means to lead God’s church in this changing world. This is an 18-month process of intentional time of learning.

I look forward to walking with you in this next step in our journey together. As we have been studying the book of Genesis in the Adult Forum, Abraham was chosen by God, simply because of a willingness to go. So we take a step of faith and go and we go with God.

The Bible Project . . . a Resource Gift for You

For all our visual learners and those who like to get an overview of a book of the Bible before you read it, do I have resource for you!

It’s called the Bible Project and it’s a pastor and artist from Oregon who have put this resource together in which they introduce a book of the Bible in 7-9 minutes framing up the book and highlighting major stories and connections.

You can find this resource on YouTube or visit their web site. This is a free resource. If you are interested in their Read Scripture Plan, to read through the Bible in a year, I have a copy in my office and plan to use it in the new year.