Christ is Risen! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Having just replied as you’ve been taught, does it feel more like an echo now than a first excited exclamation to say that? Or all too back into ordinary time, are we cast back into the mindset of those two upset disciples walking a dusty rocky road in a world that again bears no promise for them?
Suppose someone was to come to you on your walk today outside these walls and say “Christ is Risen!” How would you respond? Are we “built up” enough confidently to say “indeed”? Equally, are we built up and sent forth enough ourselves to bring the news that Christ is Risen to others on their roads so that they with joy can answer “indeed!”?
Today we start a five week period of focus, perhaps like walking an Emmaus road now named Rice Blvd., about the future of Christ the King Church’s ministry. You have been so well-led and so inspired by God’s Spirit to respond generously to the Build Us Up, Send Us Forth Capital Campaign that 85% of the $3 million goal has been subscribed. In the next weeks we will rehearse what the campaign has enabled us here at CTK to do. This obviously centered on the physical side of “Build Us Up.” It was necessary and is wonderful. We conclude the campaign June 4, appropriately Pentecost Sunday—that very day when the church was born, empowered, and sent into the world to assist people on their own roads, even to walk them onto promise-filled roads.
Having been around the block, having been your Interim Pastor coming nigh a year, and having experienced the wonderful and unusual strengths you have individually and as a congregation, my privilege now is to share with you my vision of what Christ the King Church could do and be remembered for on its road of discipleship in the years ahead. This is the stuff of well-detailed strategic planning, which this congregation has never actually done. Such planning always begins with visioning, so well begun already in the call process.
What could it look like so consciously to be sent forth as Christ the King’s Easter/Pentecost people? What could that final 15% in this campaign make possible? When the mortgage is paid down or more according to the plan, when $100,000 or much more is freed for new ministry, what could happen, especially when you yourselves are even more loosed into the world with God who is loose in the world?
I see a congregation already that supports dozens of ministries, but could become better known for it. Without compromising those, I see this congregation also rallying around one thing beyond our foundational worship and music that clearly demonstrates that we love the neighbor as Jesus loves us and that we do justice and walk humbly with God, per Micah 6:8. That one thing might be Freewheels for Houston, which already is getting known for advocacy and hands-on work for immigrants, helping them with transportation, job-training and placement. I see also among y’all a principled and diverse group of youth, academics, veterans, police, and legal minds coming together with other people of color and religious difference to counter hate in ourselves, our community, and our great city. CTK can be a force and a model of such positive change in our wider community!
These new outreaches are already happening. Support will be needed to see that all of the amazing different talents and perspectives given us by God would cohere together as non-partisan examples of a congregation showing the world God’s unusual reign of mercy, rather than showing again like too many others God’s rule just happens to look like our own political preferences. THAT would be a such a distinctive sign to “Generation Z” that they would want to ally with a worshipping prayerful place that brings divine mercy and healing to wherever suffering happens.
But I also have a genuinely new vision for CTK that could leverage the exceptional gifts of this congregation even more to broaden the experience of God’s love in the world. It is based on the premise that we still require our own spiritual building up just as society-at-large needs it and just as also we are sent forth. The very idea that God is loving and gracious, the heart of Christian faith, is absent in most of the popular teaching of so-called Christian mega-churches. Most Christians are even less than rudimentary in knowing how to pray, read the Bible, or in their experience of the beauty of worship. Enduring energy for doing God’s love in the world cannot be sustained without the spiritual relationship-knowledge base. Education and advocacy beyond our walls are gifts we can carry so effectively.
So I ask: what would it look like to bring faith-formation to those whose lives are defined by traffic and beltways? Those are our Emmaus roads, while lives of anxiety and hopelessness still mimic those disciples. A vision already being tested is to place tens of regular monthly “house-meetings” all around metro-Houston to deepen friendship around conversation and prayer. For those and more, live-streaming of our worship, education, music, and more could inspire many with our distinctiveness and, above all, the beauty and grace of the Lutheran Christian witness. Special educational accents could be developed. With up to 70 or more lawyers in this congregation, it seems to me that we could learn and teach a lot more about the Lutheran take on “Law and Gospel” and its reverberations in our own daily lives. Talk about new! Imagine the example of “ a lot” of lawyers convened, talking, and even agreeing about something, like God and justice! I can imagine cognates with our business, academic, medical and other significant internal constituencies. Frankly, given my own take on what is happening about church leadership training and what has been attempted before here, I see no reason why CTK, having learned from mistakes, could not become an important ally again with the whole church for training of pastors, deacons, and all people for lives of graced faith.
As this congregation has grown this past year, I would expect growth to quicken from such efforts. People want to be partners in God’s mission when they see the church bring the relevance of God to the world! When faith is active in love beyond church walls, life together inside the walls overflows.
I could go on forever about possibilities. Of course, some of my own biases filter what I see. But I do celebrate what I have heard and seen here. And I see so much more for you in your next great chapter of breakout ministry when you complete this final 15% of Build Us Up, Send Us Forth. God’s Pentecost Spirit will fill you with renewed strength and vision not only to walk your Emmaus road with a spring in your step. You will accompany untold more to break bread, lift the cup of salvation, rejoicing that God in Christ is actually here in, with, and through us. You will host for others the taste of heaven on earth.
Duane Larson Christ the King Lutheran Church Houston, TX April 30, 2017