October 2018

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

I once was blind but now I see. Are you familiar with that line from the hymn, “Amazing Grace”? Our Lead Team is asking you to take an adventure with us of writing your story of how the Holy Spirit has been working in your life. I wouldn’t ask you to take that risk without going there with you. So here’s a bit of my story, a practice run for me. I offer it, so that you may take the risk and write your story and then share your story at the Story Telling Retreat on October 6. Or if you are unable to make the retreat, please tell your story to someone you trust.

I was changed from being depressed to being joyful. I think I first began to recognize it with a simple devotional exercise, where the leader of the retreat asked me to imagine God looking at me with eyes of love. I know how to look at someone with eyes of love and it was a wonderful experience for me to imagine the loving gaze of God upon me and to just bask in God’s love. It was an exercise I did for many weeks and I continue to do. I tend to look to the negative side of things. My attention is drawn there. And with my attention drawn to the negative of what could go wrong or how to improve, or be strategic, I was missing the joy of moments that drifted before me. With my focus on the negative, I was also more prone to fear, frustration and resentment which does not leave much room for joy.

The Holy Spirit was persistent with this process of transformation. It was at Epiphany, the second Sunday in January, where I put a bunch of Epiphany words in a basket. These words would act as a star to guide us through the year. Words like love, support, hope, and friendship. The word that I drew out of the basket was the word “JOY”. This was to be the word that would guide me through the year.

I had a Christmas ornament, made out metal, rough in texture but yet sparkling that I kept before me and then I came across a devotion that talked about gritty joy. Yes that fit as I struggled to look for joy in the midst of the grittiness of life. So where I would first focus on the negative of a situation, the light of joy helped me to see more. The light of joy gave me more depth perception and helped me to be kinder and more patience. My capacity to love grew as I trusted God’s love for me and so did my joy.

I experienced this gritty joy, this transformation most clearly in my relationship with Gary. Do you remember Gary? About 4 years ago, I met Gary because he had taken up residence in King Park. So often I was exasperated, wanting to help, wanting to fix rather than just walking with him and living with the gritty joy of our relationship. The church became his address and my cell phone the number he would put down as contact information because Gary is homeless. So I was pulled into many conversations and realized that I was one of the stable people in Gary’s life. He trusted me.

What does this have to do with joy? I thought of Paul’s rejoicing in his letter to the Philippians from jail. There is a joy there that is beyond Paul’s ability that comes from God. Gary lives in a prison of sorts, with mental illness that keeps him out of a home for himself and yet he so wants to help others. We have an ongoing conversation about loving your neighbor as yourself. Gary loves his neighbor more than he loves himself. He would rather help fix a neighbor than do the hard work of caring for and loving himself. I can be like that too. It’s a hard journey. But God is faithful and joy helps to guide me. A joy that is not of my own making but a joy that is complex and complicated. It is a gritty joy that lives in the roughness of this world, where we are broken, where we each live in a sort of prison. Our confession says it well, “we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” And the joy, the gritty joy is found in Jesus coming to us in our brokenness.

I can’t fix Gary. And I don’t know where he is most of the time. But I can walk with him for a time on this journey of brokenness and gritty joy because Jesus walks with us, meeting us in the depression, in the negative and in the places where all seems hopeless. The Holy Spirit has given me a joy that is not my own and a joy that I can share with you. You gave me the environment in which to cultivate this relationship. Because CTK has an Emergency Fund.

Pray with me this prayer that has become a favorite of the Lead Team and blessings to you as you put together your story.

O God you have called your servants to ventures on 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 supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

September 2018

Greetings to the Holy and Beloved People of God,

Thank you for your willingness to be an internship site for Nicole Hanson-Lynn as she completes her seminary education and prepares for ordained ministry. This is a rare opportunity to be involved at the ground level of our church’s process of training its leaders. Internship is a learning time before being called and ordained to Word and Sacrament Ministry.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America takes great effort in training its future leaders and values a process that recognizes a mutual relationship between the individual and the community. I can recognize a call from God to serve the community through Word and Sacrament (ordained ministry) but it also must be recognized by others in the community. This community at Christ the King has said yes, we will help Intern Nicole by recognizing her call to ministry and that it comes from God.

Nicole has been engaged in this process for a long time. Her call has been nurtured through her home congregation, St. John Lutheran in Kasson, MN. They have supported and encouraged her, as well as Wartburg College and camping ministries. For the last 3 years she has been taking classes through Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN and involved with a Candidacy Committee from her home synod, Southeastern Minnesota and they will continue to walk with her until she is approved for ordain ministry and called to a church.

We get to be a part of this process for the next year, helping her to further discover this call to ministry where she is being set apart to tend to God’s Word and how God has been made known to us through Jesus and how God’s grace comes to us in the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. She is learning how to provide leadership in a congregation.

When she is called to a church, that church will trust that we have been faithful in our part to walk with her in this learning process as well as the seminary and the synod. At her ordination, Nicole will be asked these questions:

·      Will you preach and teach in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and creeds and confessions?

·      Will you be diligent in your study of the Holy Scriptures and faithful in your use of the means of grace?

·      Will you pray for God's people, nourish them with the word and sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and holy living?

·      Will you give faithful witness in the world, that God's love may be known in all that you do?

 We get this opportunity to walk with her as she prepares herself to boldly say, “I will, and I ask God to help me.” Take this opportunity to be in conversation with her about her call to ministry and think about your call to ministry, to God’s kingdom work here and now. How has the Holy Spirit called you to serve in this community of faith? How has God equipped you to be a worker in the kingdom? 

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

August 2018

Greetings Holy People of God,

On July 22 at a special congregational meeting, we voted to be an internship site for Nicole Hanson-Lynn.  There was good discussion and great enthusiasm for our internship adventure. Intern Nicole will begin on August 13 and on Sunday, August 26 we will officially welcome Intern Nicole to this year of service and learning with a reception between services and a “Service of Beginning” during our worship service at both 8:30 and 11:00 a.m.  Learn more about Intern Nicole on page 8 of this newsletter. For Nicole, not only is this a requirement for her to complete her Masters of Divinity at Luther Seminary before she can be called as an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it is also a real time classroom or laboratory where she will learn more of the practical side of being a pastor.  And I think you, the people of Christ the King will provide an excellent environment for learning. Thank you for your willingness to train this future pastor for service in the larger church.

An Internship Committee of 5-7 people will soon be formed and will meet monthly with Nicole.  They will support, encourage, affirm and challenge Intern Nicole through formal and informal experiences, listening and feedback.  They will assist her in reflecting on her learning goals, mid-point and final evaluations, project proposal and report. They will help to introduce Intern Nicole to our community.

I will be Intern Nicole’s supervising pastor and provide a supportive relationship on a daily basis, guiding, listening, challenging and offering feedback during the internship as well as being a resource for her.  We will meet weekly. And I too, will submit mid-point and final evaluations as we reflect on Nicole’s learning goals and project proposal and report. In August, I will go to Luther Seminary and receive new supervisor training and boundaries training.

Intern Nicole will have all the responsibilities of a pastor with the exception of presiding at Holy Communion and Holy Baptism, the two sacraments of the Lutheran church.  This is set apart until she is receives her first call by a church and then is ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament.  

We get this opportunity to be a part of the formation of this new leader in the church.  Intern Nicole will be with us for a year. Once that is completed she will continue in the candidacy process and be available for first call after her Candidacy Committee approves her and she is assigned to a synod.

Our responsibility as a community of faith is to encourage and nurture this new leader as she is being shaped for future service in the church.  We will provide financial support through a stipend, mileage and program expenses. Please keep Intern Nicole and our community of faith in prayer as we begin this journey.  Take time to introduce yourself. Wear your name tags. Introduce yourself again. Invite her to your home or out for coffee (I think she prefers tea) but you get the point.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

June/July 2018

Greetings Pentecost People,

I want to personally invite you to attend the Story Telling Retreat on Monday, June 4 beginning with a simple meal at 5:30 and retreat from 6:00 – 9:00.  The retreat will be led by our LEAD Coach Jim Merhaut.  We need to learn to tell our story because if we don’t, who will?  We are witnesses of the things that God is doing among us.  A witness simply tells what they see and experience.  Our faith, our trust in Jesus, gives us a way to see the world that just must be shared.  It is good news.

Your Lead Team continues to listen to God and you.  At our last meeting we reflected on what we have heard God saying to us through the Bible studies and through our focus groups.  Through scripture and prayer we have heard that all are welcome as the early church struggled to figure out what they should do with the Gentiles.  We witnessed prayer and listening to God and practiced being together and bringing different things to the table.  And we kept listening to God.  We reason together and sometimes reasoning might even look like arguing.  We trust in the Lord and we are devoted to one another.

Through the focus groups we heard these themes repeated: a desire to be inclusive, fellowship, we see ourselves as disciples, we appreciate many options to fit the many needs and schedules, we love music, we are about feeding others in many and varied ways and tradition.

We invite you continue in conversation with us.  This summer we will be busy meeting our neighbors.  We have met with some of our gardeners and preschool teachers.  We will meet with people from area elementary schools, West HS, Johnson Co. Neighborhood Community Center and area businesses.  If there is someone in the neighborhood that you think we should have a conversation with, please let a Lead Team member know.  We welcome your conversation.  Please hold us in prayer as we seek to engage in God’s kingdom work.

Bible – believing it boldly loving everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

May 2018

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

My son recommended a Youtube interview with Jordan Peterson and now I am hooked on his series, “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories starting with Genesis, the creation and up to Joseph’s brilliant coat which adds up to fifteen 2 hour lectures with 30 minutes of Q & A.  Each month a new lecture is added.  Peterson continues to do this because he is interested in the topic and so is the audience with a huge Youtube following. It is also an experiment with making education more accessible to more people using technology.

When I started watching, I looked at the comments to get a quick review before I invested my time.  I was surprised by the overwhelming positive comments as well as people saying that their lives had been changed for the better. I continued to watch because I was curious about his take on the bible. It’s been fun to listen to and has brought new life to familiar stories.  He offers a fresh and hopeful perspective.  I enjoy watching his own witness as it unfolds as he weaves together his own discipline of Psychology with the Biblical stories.

I am reminded of the power of God’s word again from a person I would never have expected. I am reminded that God is relentless in his attachment to the world and will work with whoever is willing.  I want to be a part of that work. What experiments are we willing to try as we tell our story of Jesus’ love for us and how we have interwoven these stories into the very fabric of our lives?  Sometimes I find that knowing the story so well can become a stumbling block to being open to what God is wanting to do in partnership with us.  How do we explain something that we know by heart, that we have lived with so long to someone who doesn’t know or has struggled with God?  We keep telling our story and how we walk with God on this wonderful, complicated and complex journey through life and we trust God.

Our mission, our vision is to be engaged in the kingdom work God is calling us to do.  We are disciples.  We keep learning from God’s word as it unfolds before us and becomes the very fabric of our lives.  And we trust God and the mysterious ways in which God calls us to use our own talents and gifts to witness in this world that God loves us and we love God.

We have our work cut out for us.  And I give thanks to God that I get to do this work with you.  You are a faithful flock that trusts the Good Shepherd.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack