By Pastor Peter Hanson
In last month’s blog post, I wrote about how we were emerging from the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic (“slowly but surely, new life emerges around and among us…”). In these past few weeks since beginning our gradual return to in-person worship and other ministries, I’ve been considering this image alongside similar metaphors that I have found helpful for making sense of what we have all been experiencing.
Early on in Covid-tide, for example, I was drawn to the overlapping images familiar to us in the Upper Midwest: that the initial lockdown was like a “blizzard,” the on-going mandates and adjustments were like a “long winter season,” while the lingering consequences of the Corona Virus could be thought of as a sort of “ice age.” More recently, a Methodist Pastor named Jenny Smith provided a helpful image of running back-to-back marathons (the intended audience of her blog is other pastors, but I believe much of it applies to many of us who are active in church life, both volunteers and staff members).
Surveying the landscape of our life together in the newly unfolding time of re-opening and re-gathering, I’ve more recently been thinking along about the image of re-surfacing, like a deep-sea diver coming up for air. And the more I consider this image, the more I am struck by its somewhat natural corollary: “the bends.”
In our excitement for being back together, for returning to a sense of normalcy or even for discovering or creating a “new normal,” I wonder sometimes if we are being careful enough, intentional enough, deliberate enough about our emergence, about our return to the surface. I wonder if, like seasoned deep-sea divers, we need to be more careful not to resurface too quickly, in order to avoid subjecting ourselves to decompression sickness—a condition commonly known as “the bends.”
Friends, now is not the time to rush to put the many and varied pieces of our congregational life back together all at once. We need to start small. We need to pace ourselves. We need to leave ourselves room to grow—and leave room for the Holy Spirit to do her work. And we need to check in frequently with one another—since we are definitely not all at the same comfort level regarding such diverse things as handshaking, singing, sharing food, hugging, or simply occupying public spaces together. We need to embrace our congregational discipleship as a journey, not a destination.
Let’s be compassionate with ourselves as well as kind and understanding with one another. Let’s be intentional, deliberate, and careful with as we re-surface, each of us at a slightly different pace. Let’s remember—and remind one another—to breathe. And even though the earth should change, the mountains tremble, and the waters roar and foam, let us be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46).
By Paul Wilde L’Heureux
“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries. It is never wasted.” —Prince
For years, I’ve had a front-row seat to see what Growing Compassion — the CtK core value we’re focusing on this month — looks like. My wife, Jenny, for more than the 20 years we’ve been married was often called upon to help her dad, Leslie, through transplants, surgeries, setbacks, and hard-fought progress. I saw how, for her, compassion translated to a calling to care and readily demanded action and sacrifice — a lesson she’d certainly learned from her dad and her mom, Trudy. As farmers, conservationists, and active members of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in northwest Minnesota, they’ve regularly demonstrated compassion through service and prayer. We lost Leslie last January, but I’ll be forever grateful for the sense of compassion he helped instill in Jenny.
Jenny and I, along with our son, Leo, have been members of Christ the King for a handful of years now. I regularly see Jenny’s compassion—particularly focused on kids—show up as she volunteers to help with church activities and events, like Vacation Bible School. And while I have helped her out here and there, it has been much more recently that I have found ways of actively participating on my own.
I’m honestly not entirely sure how it started — it may have been Deb asking for volunteers to pick up items from members of the congregation for the yearly garage sale, or perhaps Pastor Peter or Pastor John announcing a call for volunteers to sing with the choir for Christmas. All I know is that by the time I was helping to lay bricks to build the bread oven, I was hooked. I was also feeling the “growing” part of growing compassion, which, like most growing, could be awkward or painful at times. Participating on my own without Jenny’s outgoing spirit and service experience next to me, I felt like a new kid at school a bit at first. But thanks to the gracious and welcoming CtK community, I’ve found encouragement, friends, and purpose along the way.
When I accepted nomination for and joined the Council earlier this year, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into, but trusted those that asked me and showed up eager to learn and serve in new ways. I am particularly excited to learn about some of the ways we are talking about expressing “God’s calling to care for all creation” by considering commitments to projects like adding solar panels to our roof or speaking with local officials about how we can more ecologically handle runoff water from our land.
I have been impressed by the peek behind the scenes that I’ve been blessed to have, and not at all surprised to learn that participation in the Council means not just lending a voice, but actively demonstrating compassion and service in new ways.
It’s not hard to look at the world as it is and see that it could use more compassionate acts of caring, justice, service, and prayer. What’s surprising is how easy it can be to join in.
By Amity Lantz-Trier
If you ask a middle school or high school student what their favorite season is, many of them say summer. Not only because they don't have to go to school but because they can be outside. It's common to picture this age of kids spending a large amount of their time sitting in front of a computer screen or a tv watching a show or playing a video game, but now more than ever they are spending more and more time outside.
The urge to be out in nature and connect in a different way with God's creation is definitely not lost on this generation. Taking a pause and disconnecting from our fast-paced, high-activity culture is refreshing at any age. These are some of the many reasons how spending a week hiking in the mountains of Montana can leave a lasting impression.
Since 1951, Christikon has been a special place for spiritual growth and renewal with friends, old and new. Christ the King has taken many different groups over a number of years because, even as time passes and the world changes, the lessons learned are valuable to the human experience and touch on our core values as Christians. The Christikon experience allows those present to connect with each other in a way that is unique to their shared experience. The conversations, laughter, joy, tears, and everything else that happens is special to that time, in that place, in a way that can't be replicated.
The most transparent way going on this trip grows our compassion is seeing first hand that the way that we treat the earth reflects our Christian values. We see that we should care about creation because it brings glory to God. We care about creation because doing so helps other people. The environmental issues we face are ethical issues and provide an opportunity to draw others toward God. We care for creation because we live in it. We care about the environment because God tells us to. We care for creation because it reveals God’s character, and the beauty of creation in its most natural form.
As we head west for another week to encounter God in new and exciting ways, we ask for your prayers for safe travels, unfiltered joy, raw emotion, and steps that draw us closer in our relationship with our Creator. Amen.
By Pastor John Schwehn
On this July 4th Sunday, we give thanks to God for the gift of freedom. Our freedom from living under authoritarian rule or occupation in these United States makes lives of self-determination and self-government possible. Wave the flag, launch the fireworks, ring the bells! This weekend, we celebrate this nation home which God so richly blesses.
This month, we also begin a series of reflections on our core value of Growing Compassion, which states: We value God’s calling to care for all creation through compassionate justice, service, and prayer. As people of faith on this 4th of July weekend, we celebrate not only our freedom from but also our freedom to. God’s grace has freed us from the power of death, from the need to constantly worry about the status of our own salvation. Our ultimate freedom comes in Christ, on the cross and the empty tomb. God’s love and forgiveness sets us free every day! This good news (our freedom from) gives us callings to love and to serve (freedom to).
Indeed, the church bears powerful witness to the truth that my claim to freedom is inextricably bound up with the freedom of my neighbor and the freedom of the planet from which I am created. If we didn’t know this before, the pandemic offered a crash course of this truth. Before the widespread availability of vaccines, I was not safe from infection until my neighbors were also safe from infection. My health indirectly and directly impacted the health of others. Or, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a singularly great American – famously wrote in 1963: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly…Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”
So perhaps this holiday weekend is the perfect time to begin reflecting on our call to Growing Compassion, on our freedom to love even more deeply our planet home, our fellow Americans, our God who creates us in freedom and also gives us callings and responsibilities of care.
When rooted in Christ, freedom is broader, more joyful, more challenging, and more meaningful than a narrow understanding of our right to individual liberties and choices. Instead, when we find our true freedom in Christ, we celebrate that we belong to one another. We celebrate the freedom in which we all were created while also striving for that “more perfect union” (as articulated in the preamble of The Constitution) in which all Americans, our planet home, and all people everywhere live lives of true dignity, freedom, and justice.
 Letter from Birmingham Jail, which can be accessed here: