Friday, April 17, 2015

Holy Cross is Building Up and Growing Out

Building Up

PhotoGod is Good!  It is my good pleasure to share how we have seen the Spirit working in our church this Easter season.   After the long cold winter we have been blessed with not only the coming of Spring, but of new life to our church.   There is so much to celebrate that I probably will forget to mention something.  Please see this as a Good thing!  Some of the highlights are:

1. Worship! It was amazing to see so many people in church this Easter!  The growth of our Worship Team was on display as they led us in songs that were passionately and excellently offered up to God.  We are blessed have Jon Torgrimsen lead us and the team and we are seeing the fruit of the good work he is faithfully doing for us day after day.  More people need to worship with us, because they can come to Jesus through the good work of all who work to build up our worship.   Faith can be awakened and strengthened.

2. Mission! Our food ministry to Springfield had totally turned around the reputation in our community.   I had a man stop me on the street last Sunday as I rode my bike with my son and tell me about how he had heard that we in Holy Cross are doing great things.  Now this is not why we serve, we serve because Jesus served, and we are called to be a blessing to our neighbors.  Otherwise we are just another club and not the church.   We can create space in our church and activities for more people to help out serving Springfield.   One of the blessings of serving is it can heal those who do the serving.  Having purpose can help make people more appreciative of the good gifts God has given them.  We can be a bridge between those in the community who want to help and those who need it.

3. Kids!  Notice all the new kids lately.  Holy Cross has always had a heart for children and we are seeing lots of new faces in our Sunday School, we've got 5 high schoolers playing in our worship team or helping out with media and sound upstairs, ten middle schoolers in confirmation.  Our Christian Nursery School is having an amazing year!  With new programs to serve the parents and children of our community (this should be seen as mission too!)  More kids need to come along with us because in a world without purpose,  those who mentor our children can share with them how God in Jesus Christ has a purpose for their lives.

4. Outreach! Our upcoming Rock Cafe, our movie nights, our tables at town events to collect food and share the Good News of our congregation to this community. More ideas will be on the way.   Our hope is that these events can help us find ways to engage our community and make it easier for you to invite people to our church.  Many of these people who come will find God's grace through our congregation!

5. Community! Thanks to the diligence of our community action team people our fellowship/coffee hour after church had taken place Sunday after Sunday.  If you remember how it was a few years back when we would not always have it, this is an amazing blessing.   I have noticed people are staying a long time after worship to savor the relationships the Spirit is building. Our Mardi Gras/ Shrove Tuesday pancake dinner and upcoming picnic will provide more opportunities to build relationships.   We need to expand the circle, because hey! there are a lot of lonely people out there and God says it is not good for anyone to be alone.

6. Spiritual Growth! We had 19 people participate in the first Discipleship Academy course!  14 of them completed it and attended every session!   We will have our second course "Bonhoeffer's Thought"  Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 PM in May.   We will continue to find ways to grow disciples through our ministries, because it is the outcome that God expects and it leads people to a blessed life in communion with Jesus Christ and their fellow disciples.

7. Prayer! Holy Cross has always been a place of deep prayer and it continues to be so.  Open your eyes on Sunday and witness people praying for each other all over our church!  We are not church who leaves the prayer up to the pastor alone, but engages the entire community.   While we continue to pray deeply for Gianna Torgrimsen and Tom Nolz for their healing, please know that one of the joys of serving Holy Cross is all the stories of answered prayer I hear.  This past month three stories of God providing deep healing have been shared with me.   Prayer gives, healing, hope, peace, direction and inspiration to our lives.   It helps God change things in us.   More people need the gift of prayer,  more people need to learn how to pray, we can do our part to fill this need.

Reaching Out   

As I described these seven signs of how the Holy Spirit is working to build up our congregation, please notice that I tried to make the case in each instance of how these things that God is doing for us can be a blessing not just for us, but for our neighbors as well.  To me the most amazing part of our redevelopment has been Holy Cross's restructuring of things so I can can concentrate more intently on the things that God has called me to: preaching, teaching, equipping, modeling discipleship and providing Spiritual direction.  Each passing month I am able to spend more and more time meeting with people in town, community leaders, families who send their kids to our school, people I meet in Dunkin Donuts, to bring Christ to them in my humble way.   I am grateful for this opportunity,  I need to thank Jim Donaldson, Steve Bertschy especially, for their daily contributions to help get things off my plate so I can do what God called me to do.   Lots of others have helped and we have really had a culture change in our congregation where we are working together more effectively as a church.  I praise God for this.

But now I need to ask for your help and support in these areas.

1.  Talk about Holy Cross and share this message with every person you can.  We have Good News to share!  I am out in the community for our church and I need you with me as well.   I can only do so much, and people will often respond better to your impressions than mine.   I am the pastor I am supposed to think my church is great.  No one thinks that about you.

2. Support our church by carving out some time to show up and help out.   Start with coming to church more often.  Our church life is better when you are here,  and I am betting your life will be better too.   Move up to helping out the ministry and mission of our church by plugging into an area of service.  Pray for me and the mission of Holy Cross every day.

3. Give a financial offering to God through Holy Cross.  Your contributions will help us do God's work.  My thoughts on stewardship are simple, God has blessed you and you can use your blessings to bless others.   We are blessing people with the work we are doing as a church following Christ.   We will be pledging later on this Spring to our annual fund.  If you have never pledged before I ask that you prayerfully commit to trying. We bring Jesus Christ to people in your neighborhood,  we shepherd your neighbor's children,  we pray for and feed your neighbors in their time of need.  We show love to the people you love.  Yu-Mei and I tithe 10 percent of our income and God not only provides, but blesses us through this.  The real upside is that this money we give does God's good work in Springfield and beyond.

Please pray on these points and act on them.  Please also give thanks to God for the incredible work he has done in us and will do in the future.   See you in Worship and at the Rock Cafe next Saturday May you be blessed this day.

In Christ,
Pastor Knecht

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Chaos of Holy Week and Hope of Easter

No,  I am not writing about how busy I am!   I am writing about how chaos plays a role in the story of Holy Week and Easter, with the hope that when your life seems chaotic you just might see God at work.

Kaos vs. Control

Control good?
During my childhood, the spy film parody Get Smart made fun of the cold war with the Soviet Union by describing a spy on spy battle between two international spy agencies KAOS and CONTROL.   The hero Maxwell Smart, agent 86, worked for CONTROL; his enemies such as the recurring character Siegfried, worked for KAOS.   The default assumption that control is good and chaos is bad, underlies how the characters are divided up into good guys and bad guys.  This should make sense, if you asked a person on the street their true feelings, control would be seen positively and chaos negatively by most people (there is always a minority of chaos lovers out there).

Chaos bad? 
One of my underlying assumptions about culture is that often the deepest issues of the human condition are not actually discussed in the places where they are intended to be discussed, but happen in places hidden in plain sight.  A satire like Get Smart can bring to light a deep issue in a way that we can laugh about it, and perhaps think about it in a deeper way later.

The battle between chaos and control happens in every human heart.  Too much chaos- life is stressful and dangerous.  Too much control- life is stifled and growth is impossible.  Our fear for survival may lead us with a preference for control,  but when things become too predictable life is robbed of any sweetness and joy.

Chaos vs. Control on the Road to the Cross 

Sometimes we confuse control with peace with disastrous results.   Too much need for control can lead us down unhealthy paths.  It can hurt those we are called to care for (like our kids).  It can rob all the joy from life.  Most of all, it reveals a complete lack of trust in God.

The gospel accounts show us that the fear of chaos leads Pontius Pilate to condemn Jesus to death unjustly and release a guilty man who actually caused real chaos that led to the death of innocents (Barabbas).  Fear of chaos led Jesus's enemies to conspire to have him betrayed in secret rather using legal means.   Judas' gut reaction to the unknown woman's chaotic act of anointing Jesus seems nudge Judas into betrayal of his master.  Pilate, Judas, and the leaders of the opposition to Jesus all want to do away him because he represents a potential chaos that brings change to the world they wanted to keep.  And they were right.

Jesus as Agent of Chaos 

The order of the world that Jesus came to change, was unjust and oppressive.   The Romans, Sadducees and Pharisees all had issues with being over controlling of others.  Jesus came to bring dignity and respect to those marginalized by the world.   He wanted every person to know they are God's child.  He died to set all free from sin and he created a whole bunch of chaos to get to the cross. I know many will upset by me describing Jesus as one who brought chaos but that is exactly how the Bible describes it.

On the road to Jerusalem Jesus eats and drinks with those he is not supposed to, touches and heals those who were ritually unclean. Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was certainly a chaotic affair,  then he heads straight to the temple and overturns all the tables of the money changers.  He then confounds Pharisee and Sadducee (liberals and conservatives) alike through his teaching.   He heals and forgives his enemies as they lead him to the cross, refuses to acknowledge the authority of Pilate to judge him, and questions God the Father.  When he dies the temple curtain is torn in two.   Matthew even talks of earthquakes and people coming back from the dead.

Why would the Savior of the world intentionally to cause so much disruption and chaos?

Chaos as the Stuff of New Creation 

My own personal faith story is that God used the chaos I was going through in my early twenties to bring me to a living faith in Jesus Christ.   The Holy Spirit called me from an old way leading to death to a new way leading to life.   I was open to listen because my life was a chaotic mess.   God used chaos to bring about something new and better.

This is how God has worked since the beginning of space and time.

Genesis 1 tells us that the earth was formless and void, which Biblical Scholars of the Hebrew Bible have been telling us for a long time was an idiom meaning a "chaotic mess".   God calls forth light and then uses the stuff of chaos to create the universe.   The meaning is simple,  chaos is a tool that God can use to bring new life.   Jesus used the chaos of holy week to make a new creation, which includes all people in a promise of salvation.   The chaos he created overthrew the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil.

If you are going through a chaotic time now, please know the promise of the resurrection in Jesus Christ.  God can use it to bring you to something new better.   God is not only stronger than chaos, God can use it to bring you to new life.   Please let me be clear,  I am in no way advocating one seek out chaos.  Real chaos happens on its own, and seeking it out doesn't sound healthy or faithful to me. However, if you are going through something really terrible now, please know that God can use even this to bring you life and hope.   God loves you so much he will use every tool at his disposal to bring you new life.    We need not be held in bondage to fear of an unpredictable future or the possibility of an unbearable present, because we have a God who can use all things to love us.

He is Risen!

Be blessed,
Pastor Knecht