Pastor Kurt’s Blog
Disciples and friends of Living Christ,
As most of you know, I will be heading off for sabbatical for 3 months very soon. Part of my time away will be spent doing spiritual direction. What is spiritual direction, you ask? That’s good question, thanks for asking.
Spiritual direction is spiritual practice dating back to the 300s AD/CE. There were Christians collectively known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers who rejected the imperial culture around them and went off into the desert, away from society, to pray and meditate on God’s presence in their midst and the world at large. Through time, regular people began to seek these desert dwellers out in search of help in their faith walk with Jesus.
Some sought discernment of God’s will for their life, others wisdom or clarity, others a break from the hustle and bustle, others for help in seeing God’s presence in their life or within a particular problem they were facing. Regardless of the situation, these Christian mystics would listen to their visitors’ stories and ask questions. In particular, they would direct these seekers’ attention to certain moments or situations and ask them to ponder, “Where is God at work in this situation? In your situation? Where do you see God at work?”
I am entering into a spiritual direction, sometimes called spiritual companionship, as I wrestle with the changes that are happening in church and society and discern how I can be a better pastor in the midst of these changes. I am seeking help in discerning what God is up to in my life so that I can change or adapt in ways that are faithful to my pastoral and baptismal callings.
In many ways, I think that is what Living Christ is trying to do right now as we study the book The Invitational Christian on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday, the author Pr. Dave Daubert suggested that there are 2 main reasons that make healthy congregations vibrant, life-giving. The first is that these congregations help people be a part of the mission of God. The second is that these communities deepen people’s spiritual connections to God in ways that are transformational.
As we study this book, we are having to ask ourselves those same kinds of questions as what the Desert Fathers and Mothers asked seekers: Where is God at work in your life right now that is leading to you being transformed? What is life- giving to you and how is Living Christ helping to make that happen? If Living Christ is not helping to make this happen, what needs to be changed to help you and others experience that life-giving change?
While I do not know what will happen or how my sabbatical will change me – or how the book study will change Living Christ – I look forward to seeing the results come January. I am excited to see what God is up to, what transformation / resurrection God will affect in us.
In Christ’s love, Pr. Kurt
Dear Disciples and Friends of Living Christ,
I can’t believe it’s June already. School is out and summer vacations are upon us just as gas prices are at their highest ever and COVID cases are beginning to rise... again. Still, we get to at least think about these blessings and challenges. Certain families in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas are going to spend the summer trying to figure out how life will go on without their family members and friends.
Violence seems to be everywhere these days. There have been on average 10 mass shooting events per week this year. More than one a day. We want to do something to help, but Buffalo and Uvalde seem awfully far away.
Of course, violence happens in a variety of ways: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. While progress was being made to protect the dignity and freedoms of LGBTQIA+ folk, recently, many states including Arizona have passed laws that have begun to chip away at that progress. Fear of violence in the LGBTQIA+ community is growing again. Many don’t even feel safe leaving their own homes.
On June 18, we will have an opportunity to publicly take a stand in love and solidarity with the community against hate and violence. This is all the more important because the church has historically been and remains a major contributor towards that hate and violence. This an opportunity for us to witness to our faith that we are all one in Christ, and that oneness matters because with it comes the love and peace of God that brings an end to fear and violence.
In Christ’s love, Pr. Kurt
Disciples and Friends of Living Christ,
Well, we are officially out of our old building and into the new. That process will be completed the morning of Ash Wednesday when I hand over 12 pounds of keys for the old building to the new owners and we get our rent deposit back.
The buyers, Southwest Health and Behavioral Services, have big plans for the property. They will convert the sanctuary into counseling offices and a small group meeting space. Downstairs will become more offices, and they hope to build 4 to 6 housing units on the undeveloped property for mothers with addiction so that their children can remain with them and not be placed in foster care. Our building and property will be a great blessing to Southwest and their clientele. We pray it all goes as planned.
We too are entering a time of change and growth. Lent, based on the Latin word for “spring,” is officially upon us this Wednesday. During Lent we are called to a time of repentance, a time to let our old sinful self die, to shake off the decay of sin, and spring into a new way of living in Christ.
One of the way that sin clings to us so obviously these days can be summed up in one word: polarization. The idea that we are polarized as a society and that it is a problem is about the only thing we agree upon these days.
What makes polarization a problem is not that we have differences. There have always been differences; God created in diversity and sustains that diversity for our good. A loss of diversity is a step backwards in our process of growth, in our relationship with God, creation, and our neighbor.
Polarization is problematic because it not only reflects an intolerance of difference, but is grounded in an arrogance of “I/We” have the right answer and “You/They” have the wrong or even evil answer. That way of seeing leaves no room for dialogue or compromise, only digging in one’s heels.
Part of Jesus’ ministry was to bring about reconciliation, to overcome polarization and its broken ways of thinking and acting... in ME. While it easy to point the finger and blame polarization on others, if we are to be faithful to our calling in the Gospel to repentance, to living life from a whole new perspective, then we need to start with making a change in our own self.
That is the theme for us this year in Lent, especially for our Lenten Wednesdays, beginning with Ash Wednesday. We will be reading and discussing the book “Last Best Hope” by George Packer about polarization in the United States. We will also look at the processes that create polarization in us (without us even knowing it) and how we can shift or “repent” and change so that we can be healers of polarization and not perpetuators of it.
I hope you will take the time to join in this Lenten/Spring growth opportunity so that together we can be better witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection that brings healing and wholeness to us and the world.
In Christ’s service and yours, Pr. Kurt
(You can find more info about the book under the Education tab)