Pastor Kurt’s Blog

10 Aug 2023

August Message

Dear Disciples and Friends of Living Christ,

In June and July, we had gatherings to discern how to move forward with redevelopment. I have given 2 presentations based on the work of Andy Root, a practical theologian at Luther Seminary. The first presentation was based on his book “When Church Stops Working,” which you can read about in last month’s newsletter. The July presentation was based on his book “Faith Formation in the Secular Age.” Here is a brief synopsis of Pastor Root’s work.

We live in a secular age now, but it hasn’t always been that way. The way people have perceived the mundane/secular and the sacred has changed through time, with God and the transcendent slowly getting pushed to the background or out of the picture entirely.

In Luther’s day – we’ll call this time period and before “Secular 1” – the secular and sacred realms intersected regularly. There were demons, angels, and spirits everywhere, and a person was permeable to those spirits, i.e., you could be possessed, for good or for bad. When you had an experience of the supernatural, society had ways to address those events (churches, temples, gurus on mtn tops). For example, when Luther thought that God was trying to strike him down with lightning, he promised to dedicate his life to God. Soon after, he went to the monastery in Erfurt and became an Augustinian monk.

By the early 1800s – we’ll call this “Secular 2” – the secular and sacred/religious are completely separate. God doesn’t get involved in the public sphere and the person is “buffered” from the transcendent realm. We no longer believe diseases are caused by spirits but viruses. By the early 1900s, you can believe in religion, for learning morality (don’t be a jerk), or getting therapy (to help be happy, to live out your authentic self), but you no longer have to believe in the transcendent to be considered a “good” person.

By the 1980s, there arises “Secular 3.” The transcendent doesn’t matter. Only the measurable world (science, medicine, technology) exists. The world is flat; there are no 7 levels of Heaven or 9 levels of Hell or even God. You think you feel transcendence or experienced the supernatural? No, that’s just your own psychological need/ displacement/ transference or simply indigestion.

Conservative Evangelical Christianity operates in Secular 2, and for the most part, so does Liberal Progressive Christianity. Evangelicals believe they must stake out space for religion, otherwise all will be lost to the secular world. This is a life and death struggle. It calls for people to commit to Jesus and the Bible and the ideas therein. This commitment is to IDEAS about Jesus (ideology), not to the actual person of Jesus or God, per say.

You can see why Evangelicals insist that the USA is a Christian nation and are trying to use the courts to create a religious space in their struggle against Satan/liberals (even Christians who don’t believe the way they do because if you don’t have the right beliefs, then you are going to hell). Faith is a thing you do (vibrant, strong commitment; a human work), not a result of what God has done through the cross which transforms you.

Evangelicals seem to be winning (people, money, influence, belief) but 1) lay evangelicals don’t know their theology any better than mainline; 2) they are fighting this war on Satan’s terms (based on human strength and commitment) and therefore are bound to lose. God has always pursued a different path that speaks to human weakness, death, and resurrection. That path is called ministry.

Ministry is for both lay and ordained people. Basically, ministry is the process of reaching out to embrace and be with humanity for the sake of love and communion. This calling in the Gospel is what drives worship, evangelism, justice, and fellowship and leads to our justification and sanctification, our salvation.

In Christ’s love, Pr. Kurt

4 Apr 2023

April Message

Dear Disciples and Friends of Living Christ,

First, thank you to all for your kind words to and support of me and my family as we grieve the death of my mother, Margaret Ann. Some say that we should not grieve the death of a loved one because of the resurrection of Jesus, that grief means that one does not have faith in the resurrection. I disagree.

During his life, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and he wept over Lazarus. Jesus grieved. Grief is a natural human response to death and decay and loss. Grief is the sign that we actually loved the ones who have departed from our presence. Grief is the sign that something or someone actually mattered to us in life.

At the same time, Jesus also hoped, hoped that tomorrow will not be the same as today, but, by the grace of God, it will get better. Even as he hung on the cross, saying “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus trusted God. Jesus’ words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” were not empty words. They were words of grief and hope.

As such, we too have the freedom to grieve and hope; we grieve as people of faith who have hope. And because of Jesus’ resurrection, our faith and hope have not been in vain. Grief and Faith are not mutually exclusive, but companions in our walk with God. So, let us walk in faith, hope, and love all the days of our lives, and in grief, when we need to.

In Christ’s love, Pr Kurt

11 Feb 2023

February Message 

Dear Disciples and Friends of Living Christ,

It is hard to believe that we are coming up on the third anniversary of the pandemic. Lent was just beginning, and having recently adopted our new mission statement – Inviting-Challenging- Growing in Grace-filled Discipleship – we set out to put that in motion by starting dinner church.

The purpose of dinner church was to have a more laid-back worship with time for discussion that made for a more welcoming and interactive time so that the people we invited to share in the meal and discussion wouldn’t be so intimidated. People leery from past negative church experiences could ease into a safe yet faithful and relevant community.

The early results were positive. New people were starting to show up. The discussions were lively and pertinent to everyday life. We were nourished in body, heart, mind, and soul. And then at week 3, it all came to a crashing halt because of (sigh) COVID.

Three years later, we are approaching the beginning of Lent once again, only this time COVID seems to be waning. We have grown accustomed to the threat that COVID posed, but with vaccines and masking, it doesn’t seem so threatening any longer. A danger perhaps, but not life and death like it was in the early days.

It was also decided that it is time for us to try dinner church again. Ash Wednesday is February 22, which will be a joint service with LCM|Canterbury, and will be our typical service with prayers, hymns, communion, and the imposition of ashes.

During the Wednesdays in Lent, starting March 1, however, we will do dinner church, with the main course catered and attendees asked to bring side dishes ALONG WITH GUESTS YOU HAVE INVITED.

The theme for Lent three years ago was “The Fruits of the Spirit.” This time around, we will delve into the lives of various saints from various times and continents. Throughout the centuries, the church has lifted up various people whose lives of service and faith are meant to inspire and encourage us in our own lives and faith walk with Jesus, to see how God uses ordinary people to be salt of the earth and the light of the world (to use Jesus’ words from Matthew 5). In other words, people just like us.

Please join us for what I hope will be a fascinating, enjoyable, and meaningful time of learning, praising, and table fellowship. I also hope that you will make every effort to invite folks to share in this meal and conversation.

Or as Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before others so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in Heaven.”

In Christ’s love, Pr. Kurt