December 2018

Greetings to the Holy and Beloved People of God,

At the end of October, Intern Nicole and I attended a retreat as part of the internship experience. The retreat was entitled: SURELY GOD IS IN THIS PLACE: DWELLING, SOJOURNING, PLACEMAKING and was led by Rev. Dr. Charlene Rachuy Cox, dir. of Contextual Education at Wartburg Seminary. It was a time apart to reflect and share about how we are present in the places we move through and live in.

We explored how place forms and shapes us, thinking about questions like; What does place have to do with who you are, how you feel and think about yourself and what you believe. John Inge in “A Christian Theology of Place” writes, “One only needs to open the Bible at the beginning of Genesis and read a few pages to be left with the impression that place is important to the writer.”

It made me think about a book I had read by Kenneth Bailey, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels.” He has a chapter on the story of Jesus’ birth drawing on Luke 2:1-20 that has me thinking differently about Jesus’ dwelling, sojourning and placemaking in Bethlehem.

Our place influences how we make sense of our encounter with God coming to us. In the West our tradition creates a scene of a late night arrival, no place to stay but a stable with the animals and shepherd visitors. In the Eastern tradition, Mary is alone when the child was born. This then is reflected in worship practices where the altar is hidden from the congregation and the event of the elements becoming the body and blood of Jesus takes place out of sight. There is a mystery in the coming of Christ. The tradition for Christians in the Middle East was to focus on the birth having taken place in a cave which would have been some of the first dwelling places for the people of the Middle East.

Bailey makes a strong case about the place where Jesus was born taking into consideration the context and culture of the people in the Middle East. He places the birth of Jesus in a home. Bailey draws a picture of Jesus’ birth among extended family that welcomed them in with warm hospitality into a peasant home that consisted of a large family room that housed the whole family including the farm animals who were housed with the family to heat the home when it was cold and to prevent theft of the animals. The inn that was full was the guest room attached to the back of the home or the roof. The manger that Jesus was laid in was either built into the structure of the home or was a wooden feed box.

This coming of Jesus’ family into a town that welcomed him and surrounded him with extended family as well as the shepherds welcoming and worshiping is a refreshing way for me to think about the dwelling, sojourning and placemaking of Jesus and his family. Lynda Schneekloth and Shibley Robert in their book, Placemaking: The Art and Practice of Building Communities state that “Placemaking is the way all of us human beings transform the places in which we find ourselves into places in which we live.”

As we prepare ourselves for the “Advent”, for the coming of our Lord, I invite you to think about dwelling, sojourning and placemaking for God is in this place.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

November 2018

Greetings to the Holy People of God,

Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen.

This is the table prayer that I grew up with as our family of 5 kids, two parents and one grandparent prayed together before we ate. This is how I was taught to say thank you. I don’t have memories of my mom or dad saying, say thank you. But I’m sure they did. I remember telling my own children, “now what do you say?” Giving thanks is something we learn over and over again and it changes us.

In an episode of The Simpsons, young Bart sits down with his family to a meal. When it's his turn to pray and give thanks, he says something to this effect: Lord, my dad earned the money to pay for this food and my mom worked for hours to cook it. What did you do? Thanks a lot for nothing.''

Bart Simpson is a cartoon character of a satirical working class family that pokes fun while criticizing social issues. It’s one way to get us to look at ourselves. It’s a way to get us to look at the self we don’t readily want to see. The old Adam and Eve self that says I want to know good and evil for myself. The brother Cain who kills the best part of himself when he takes his brother’s life and now really does know good and evil up close and personal and is pulled out of relationship with God as well. The book of Genesis witnesses to us how quickly we can and do turn from God. Giving thanks to God and giving thanks for each other is a beautiful discipline to draw us into relationship with each other.

I use a form an Ignatian prayer where I begin with seeing myself loved by God, created in God’s imagine and asking for God to shed light in this time of prayer. Then I give thanks and then I explore where I have drawn close to God and where I have pulled away from God and then I conclude with this: I resolve to be open to the changes you are calling forth from within and will help me to change.

When I was reading about this Ignatian form of prayer, someone said that the form is designed to open a person up with God’s love and a sense of thankfulness so that we can do the hard work of exploring and looking at the areas where we pull away from God. I have found this to be true. I need to be soften a bit, so that I can really take a good look at myself and see the sinner that I am and admit to the brokenness that God wants to redeem and heal so that God’s love and grace can shine through. I am thankful for this process.

As a community of faith this month will give us ample opportunity to give thanks. We begin with All Saints Sunday, by giving thanks to all those who have die, who have gone before us and left their impressions upon us and we give thanks for the newly baptized who remind us of the new life that God is about. We will give thanks for our 9th grade students; Alex Kimura, Sage Marks and Alex Rohm who will confirm their faith. We will work together to pack meals for Take Away Hunger and then sit down and enjoy a thanksgiving meal together on November 18. On Christ the King Sunday we will welcome our new Director of Music Ministries, Kevin Edens and welcome our 5th graders to the table for Holy Communion.

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Giving thanks opens us to receive God’s mercy when we know that we deserve God’s justice. O give thanks to the Lord for he is good.

Believing It Boldly Loving Everyday,

Pastor Connie Spitzack

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