We all know that during the pandemic we are in a time of crisis. Everything we know has been turned upside down. Our narrative of what we are comfortable with has taken a new direction. It has been difficult and for some even painful to be physically distanced, to remain safe and continually be mindful of the others. However, kindness and compassion are vitally important attributes to share with one another in these days. We are all in this together. No one is alone. As we enter the last week of the Easter season, let us remember Christ’s resurrection power is for all. May we sow its hopefulness abundantly throughout our day.
In our Monday evening book study discussion group, we are reading The Book of Joy. I am amazed to see the joy that comes through the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. Both have had to deal with traumatic situations in life. Exile and disruption, apartheid and racism, yet they choose joy as a way of life. Where are you seeing joy, was the question to begin the discussion? Many answers came in the form of joy of family and milestones of defending dissertations. Watching springtime through nature, birds hatching and even caring for people in need. Where are you seeing joy in your day? How is Christ’s resurrection power helping you? Where is God’s love coming to life?
Jesus modeled for us a life of kindness and compassion filled with joy. He endured the difficulties of life, suffered, died and rose from the dead. Jesus was abandoned, but he has never left us through the gift of the Holy Trinity. Let us look around amid the pandemic and see the joy that surrounds us, where God’s love is coming to life.
Christ’s Blessings & Peace,
Years ago, I read something that sounds kind of odd: "The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home. Whoever said that was spoofing a bit. Anybody knows mountain climbers are tied together to keep from getting lost or going over a cliff. But there's another piece of truth here. When things get tough up on that mountain, when fear sets in, many a climber is tempted to say, "This is absurd! I'm going home."
The life of faith can be like that--doubts set in, despair overwhelms; and the whole notion of believing in God seems absurd. Jesus knew his followers would have days like that. So he said you all are tied together like branches on the vine-or like climbers tied to the rope-tied together by the Spirit, to trust in One who is always more than we can understand, to keep us moving ahead on the journey of faith, to encourage us when believing seems absurd.
Every generation faces new questions and perplexities. Does the sun revolve around or vice versa? Should nuclear weapons ever be used against an enemy? Is welfare the best way to bear one another's burdens? Jesus knew there were things sacred writings didn't address, things he had never talked about. But he added, "The Spirit will be your tutor, guiding you into all the truth."
We're in some pretty perplexing times, sticking close to home, physically untethered for fear of catching the virus. But, we are still tied together in Jesus. We feel a tug on the rope whenever we are tempted to settle for answers that make more sense but cannot give life. We feel the Spirit's guiding when we have lost our way and question the path we should take while staying connected to each other in Christ Jesus.
We've got a mountain before us. Grab the lifeline. Hold fast to God's Word.
Worship. Pray. Hang on. Wash your hands. Stay home.
In a world where we are continually barraged with discouraging news, and as of this week, a whole slough of conspiracy theories, it can be hard to spot the places where God's love, hope, and grace are abounding. Sometimes though, God has a way of hitting you in the face and showing up in your email box to take you on a little journey to show you where God is dwelling. That's what happened to me this week.
Early in the week I received an email. Actually, early this week I received a LOT of email...wowza! It's like people suddenly remembered that email is a thing. Anyway, this particular email came from someone I don't often receive emails from--it was one of our 8th grade confirmation students. In his email, he told me about a little project he's been working on. During his time at home he has been building bird houses, and he would like to donate them to some care facilities in the area. He was wondering if I had any ideas on what facilities he could contact, and if I had contact information for specific people there (it just so happens I have both of those!).
Ya'll. This is an EIGHTH grader! Let's be honest, there are a LOT of things he could be doing with his time at home. We are living in a time when young people have countless ways to connect with one another via different social media apps, and countless Disney content to consume on Disney+, not to mention any other streaming service out there. But this gentleman has chosen to get to work building bird houses to share with local nursing homes and care facilities. He's caring for creation AND doing something to spark joy in the lives of people who were an isolated group even before we began social distancing. This is God's love coming to life! This 8th grader is doing God's work of bringing the Kingdom of God to the here and now!
So...remember how he asked me if I had contacts for people? One of the people I thought to get him connected with was one of our dear CtK members who is the president of the resident's association at a local senior living community. This particular member is a vivacious, servant-hearted, faithful child of God who continually inspires me to keep on serving God and others no matter my age or what happens in life. So...I called her to see if I could share her contact information with this student.
Over the course of our conversation, this kindhearted woman shared with me the things that she's been working on during our time of physical distancing. Part of her day includes spending 4, yes, FOUR hours a day at her sewing machine making masks for people. Now, that might not come off as an impressive number of hours, but I have to be honest with you...I don't remember the last time I did any one thing for 4 hours straight, nonetheless something that requires cutting, ironing, and paying attention to fine details. I was pretty impressed by this.
So where are all these masks going? She's recruited 4 other women (all over 90, by the way) to join her in making them, and they are giving them to the staff of their LARGE facility they are living in. Mind you, these 5 women rarely get to connect with one another in person because of changes in procedure in their facility, so they have had to become pretty innovative in the way they work with one another.
Now, somewhere along the line, the staff of the care facility requested a different style of masks. Rather than getting discouraged by this, our dear Ctk member and her group of sewing angels got busy sewing this new style. Their one request: before staff get one of these new masks, they turn in their old one. Not to recycle the fabric, but so this group of 5 women over 90 can make arrangements for the 1st set of masks to be sent to Pillars and be distributed to those who are experiencing housing insecurity during this devastating time.
Ya'll. God showed up in my email box and at the other end of my phone this week. Through these two faithful members of CtK, God's love is certainly coming to life to bring hope, joy, grace, and reminders that God IS still here working among us even when things seem grim.
Peace be the journey,
Here’s the recording of our recent State of the Church webinar
Friends, these days of staying at home are getting long.
Normally we would fill this blog space with stories of God's love coming to life through the people of CtK, but since we aren't able to gather in person and most of us are home all day, it's kind of hard to see how and where that's happening. I mean, Pastor Nate and I could keep writing these blogs and what we see, but honestly...it would be the same 4 stories every 4 weeks.
With that being said, we'd like to invite YOU to be part of the CtK blog! We're curious to hear how you are seeing God's love coming to life from your homes. Are you seeing it through worship? Or maybe your kids did something that reminded you of God's love. Or maybe...your mail carrier or a grocery store worker or a nurse you know?
How is God's love coming to life in YOUR world these days?
We like to have one blog post every week, that's usually 300-500 words in length. Pictures and videos are welcome too!
If you'd be interested in submitting a blog post, please send an email to Maureen Loose, who will get you on the schedule and will take in whatever you send to be posted on our blog.
So CtK...how are YOU seeing God's love coming to life?
This weeks message, the first week of Easter comes from our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton of the ELCA. She shares how our Easters are remarkably similar to those of the first Easter. Amidst fear and anxiety and crushing disappointment, we sing our “Alleluias” with growing hope, strength, defiance and joy, confident that God loves us completely and has brought us into eternal life. The second video includes three leaders. They include Union for Reform Judaism, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Islamic Society of North America as they come together at the outset of their respective holy days in solidarity and in hope. As we walk together through this Covid-19 pandemic and recently our respective holy days (Passover, Easter & Ramadan) lets us find the hope that rests in God to remember we are not walking alone.
God’s Easter Peace,
Pastor Nate Gauerke
Wednesday evening, as I watched the White House Coronavirus Task Force, I heard the usual people speak. However, this time I was encouraged even in the midst of the darkest week for the virus in Wisconsin and in the darkest week for Jesus while on earth. In brief synopsis, these words were shared:
This made me think about what Jesus would be saying to us as he shares his last supper with the disciples. Eventually being betrayed, denied, painfully crucified, and buried. Let us not forget what happens three days later! Yes, resurrection! I can hear Jesus encouraging words:
Your pastors are encouraged…as you follow worship online! As you spread the word of Jesus Christ and share invitations for people to watch worship. By your acts of kindness and for your understanding that we are in uncharatered territory (wilderness if you will). The courage and resiliency you display as you call people to remind them, they are loved as well as those who are on the front lines in hospitals, grocery stores and the many other necessary workers who keep us going.
We miss you! We miss your hugs and greetings! We miss worshiping in person with you! We miss sharing Jesus body and blood with you! There will be a time we are together for worship, united in Christ. Until then, be well, be safe because we want all of you together, not some of you! Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t get complacent, Jesus never did. Finally, honor many who have died (14,762 in the US and 88,338 globally), above all, honor Jesus who died for you, who died for all. We’ll continue to meet and see you online, until we meet again in person.
God’s Blessings & Peace, Happy Holy Week, & A Blessed Easter,
It's been a couple weeks since we've blogged, but I just wanted to stop by to say: Thanks for continuing to be the church even when we can't be AT church!
As pastors, I think we get to see a birds-eye view of all the ways YOU have been active as a church, so...I figured I'd list all the ways that God is working through you to continue to BE the church even when we're not physically gathered together.
Siblings., God's love is coming to life at CtK...
I'm certain that if I had more time, I could come up with so many other ways, but honestly, perhaps this week I'll leave that to you! As you read this blog, feel free to comment on all the ways YOU are seeing God's love coming to life in your world!
Peace be the journey,
Welcome to another week of the CtK blog where we share stories of how God's love is coming to life at CtK!
This week, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Jameson.
Jameson is a lovable, inquisitive, expressive, and curious toddler, who LOVES coming to church. Just like most adults, Jameson has his church routine. Here's a little bit of what it looks like:
We give SO MUCH THANKS for Jameson and the ministry he offers all of us in the congregation. Through him, God's love is most certainly coming to life and reminding us all of the sense of wonder, awe, joy, laughter, and celebration that comes along with being a child of God. God is working through him to show us what it is to worship fully, to try new things, and to just be ourselves--singing loudly, dancing freely, and remembering that we are God's beloved children.
Peace be the journey,
The activities and preparations of getting ready for our Lenten themed Wilderness has been quite abuzz lately. For me, to be ready for the Ash Wednesday sermon, I needed a two-hour window of time of not being distracted. I ended up at Seth’s Coffee Tuesday morning, to relax and focus. As I worked through my sermon the activity at Seth’s was the usual. Customers in, customers out. Handshakes and hugs, well wishes and laughter. But there was one table next to the window, where the sunlight was streaming through, that caught my attention. One winter coat draped on the mother’s legs and the other coat piled on a chair of the 7ish year old boy standing alongside the table. I could hear the shake, shake, shake of dice, and then the roll of the dice onto a table. I marveled at their controlled interactive play and their sharing excitement for one another as they rolled their dice. Then the son with great excitement yelled, “Yahtzee!” God’s love was alive at this playful table!
Last night I certainly could see God’s love coming to life with amazing food, fellowship, and worship. Our rooms and renovated spaces were filled up! The sanctuary was full! We ran out of bulletins and we had so many confirmation students present that we needed to make more copies of the worship notes. The prayground was active with some of our youngest coloring, rushing the front of church, dancing, and playing together too! The fellowship hall and gathering space was bursting with conversations and people welcoming one another as families united at mealtime. The kitchen was busy with our 9th grade students serving soup, washing dishes, and busing tables. We come together on these Wednesday evenings to name our “Wilderness” journeys in life. We explore God’s presence in a relational, experiential, playful, and glad-hearted gusto. Helping and caring for one another in our deepest needs.
Last year’s Lenten theme was playful around Disney & Pixar movies. This year we will be playful about life’s wilderness journey. In worship last night (and at 11 am too) we received the sustaining spiritual meal of Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion. We also remember God’s promise of eternal life when the ashen sign of the cross was marked on our foreheads. Ashes are used to remind us of the reality that none of us gets out of this life without returning to the dust. Let us daily take on the Lenten discipline of devoting some time dwelling in scripture, the word of the week, the devotional booklet, meditating, and praying. It is important to play with one another like a mother and her child or the coming together that Lent has to offer. The reality of the world and local news can be sobering especially when we hear about the Coronavirus, shooting deaths at Molson Coors Brewery in Milwaukee, to the recent murder of two children in Kaukauna. Let’s play a bit more with one another. Let’s fellowship with one another and ask important questions. Let’s share the depth of spiritual presence God has and desires of us and we’ll see the love of God come to life at Christ the King and in the world.
God’s Lenten Blessings & Peace,
P.S. in case you missed the Ash Wednesday sermon question from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 here they are: