Written by Pepe Demarest, Pastoral Intern
Is it just me, or does it seem like Halloween supplies were not even put away before the stores started to put out Christmas decorations? The weather too seemed to play along with an early snow covering. In my neighborhood, I noticed trees were decorated, lights were adorning houses, and wreaths were hung up on doors before the jack o’lanterns were off the stoop. In my own house, my wife and daughter started listening to Christmas music the first time they lit a fire in the fireplace. If it isn’t just me, what is going on?
Well, we did just end a very contentious election season that still isn’t settled, the Covid-19 pandemic- instead of flattening- continues to spike. Hospitals are near capacity. Most schools have gone to distance learning. We have to be so careful about visiting (if we can visit at all) our vulnerable friends and relatives. The colder weather also put an end to outdoor worship. Even when we try to be neighborly and smile at our neighbors, they can’t see it because our mouths are covered with masks. The sense of isolation and dread got so bad for me, I needed to stop using social media- and social media was how I connected with a lot of my friends. So, I get why people want some to create a sense of warm and fuzzy feelings.
I totally understand wanting to rush to the season of Christmas. Christmas is, after all, a time of nostalgia, remembering through rose-colored glasses the happier days. For others, Christmas is a time to look to a bright future, imagining reconnected relationships gathered in harmony around a plentiful table. Theologically we remember the birth of the infant Jesus and look forward to the new Kingdom his second coming will bring.
But church, we are not there yet. We haven’t even gotten to Advent yet.
In the liturgical calendar, we still have the Feast of Christ the King to celebrate. Besides it being our name day, Christ the King Sunday focuses on the end times when the kingdom of Jesus will be established. With all of the political turmoil, and all of the various powers vying for dominion in our lives (money, material goods, perfect relationships, trying to make our insides feel as good as others’ outsides look), it is important to remember that there is really only one King for Christians, and that King has made us his co-heirs. But again, that Kingdom isn’t fully established yet, so how do we get through this cold, dark winter?
If Christmas asks us to look to the past and toward the future, and Christ the King points to a not yet realized future, how do we live day to day in this “valley of tears”? Perhaps what we need “right this very minute” is not Christmas, but Thanksgiving. If we can be present in the moment, gratitude is an excellent tool to use throughout the day to refocus on what the present moment is, instead of wishing for what it might be. Try to establish a habit, like when you brush your teeth, of focusing your attention on what you are grateful for right at that moment.
We are all so physically distanced, yet electronically connected, and yet still suffering from Zoom fatigue. So, maybe as an Advent practice, try to write notes of gratitude to people. Store clerks, police officers, receptionists rarely are thanked for their important work; they would appreciate the recognition and you can help bring this community together. I am sad when I project to what Thanksgiving and Christmas are going to be like this year; small gatherings and lost loved ones. Yet, if I can live one day at a time, one hour at a time, and be grateful in those moments for the breath of God that continues to sustain me, I will be more ready for that beloved community that is coming.
Written by Pastor Peter Hanson, Lead Pastor
In the summer of 2014, we welcomed the creation of the St. Paul Area Synod’s brand new mission to the Latinx [*] community in and around New Brighton. Though one of the faith communities supported through Christ the King’s Local Mission Partners team, Cristo Rey has always been more than just a partner. Meaning “Christ the King” in Spanish, Cristo Rey is a faith community planted, taking root, and growing up completely within the existing faith community of Christ the King.
Even though it has gotten financial and organizational assistance from the Synod and the ELCA, Cristo Rey has always been a part of CtK. Our staff and church councils overlap. Children and youth from Cristo Rey regularly take part in BAM, Confirmation, Youth Musical and more. We have intentionally gathered for bilingual worship on such occasions as Ash Wednesday.
At various times Ana Becerra, Cristo Rey’s Mission Developer, has likened the Christ the King/Cristo Rey relationship to a reversible jacket (“it’s the same, but it looks different depending on which side you’re wearing out”) or to one house with two different doors (“once you’re inside, you realize you’re in the same place!”). It’s true that there are important linguistic and cultural differences between Christ the King and Cristo Rey. At the same time, we are united in Christ and in shared mission we have to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and body in this world. We may say it in different languages, but the meaning is the same: We are Christ the King! ¡Somos Cristo Rey!
Two more things before I go:
Written by Isaac Warner, CtK Council President
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls…
In 1964, native son Bob Dylan wrote the classic hit “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” Penned at the height of the civil rights movement, the lyrics confront the listener and give off a get-with-the-program vibe reminding us that change often comes whether we’re ready or not. The song’s everlasting nature transcends decades and movements and could just as easily describe America today as it does the America of the 1960s. While each generation could credibly claim they witnessed the greatest changes to American life, the year 2020 feels uniquely qualified to take the cake.
In just the last nine months, we have been devastated by the coronavirus, which in Minnesota shows no signs of letting up anytime soon; witnessed the brutal murder of yet another Black man at the hands of the police, George Floyd; endured one of the most excruciating presidential campaigns in modern history; and realized that the advances in racial equity some thought we had achieved in the ‘50s and ‘60s were nothing more than superficial fixes to a system that continues to deny Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples full participation in society.
When I was asked to write this blog post offering a reflection on the election and where we go from here, I was wary—I don’t exactly hide the fact that I personally think Donald Trump is unfit for office. But, the longer I spent thinking over how I would accomplish the seemingly impossible, it became clear that I needn’t look any further than one of our our own. In response to disparaging comments made by President Trump toward immigrants, ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton remarked that,
“We should be fostering a world where each of us sees every person—regardless of race, origin, ethnicity, gender, or economic status—in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of dignity and respect. In working for a healed, reconciled and just world, we all should faithfully strive to participate in God’s reconciling work, which prioritizes disenfranchised, vulnerable and displaced people in our communities and the world, bearing witness—each of us—to the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
Regardless of political party, we should be placing our trust first in God and then in leaders who, at an absolute minimum, treat others with a basic dignity that we deserve.
At the time I’m writing this, we don’t yet know who our president will be for the next four years, but I have hope. It feels like the times they are a-changin’. I’m hopeful that good will prevail; that we will eradicate the disease that is systemic racism; that we will acknowledge our failure to honor the rights of the Indigenous; that we will live out God’s word through our actions; that we will treat all Americans with the compassion that has so often been denied the “least of us;” and that we will continue to carry out our values in ways that directly benefit our community.
For me and my husband Nate, things are going to look a little different too. He has had the good fortune of being offered a dream job and we are following it down to sunny California. We will be moving later in November and I will be stepping down as Council President at the end of the month. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this congregation these past 15+ years as a member, leader, council member, and now president for two terms. I will cherish the relationships I have built here, and I will miss working with all of you creating a church that is more inviting, inclusive, and inspiring than ever before. I am confident that the work we have done together will continue to unfold and that our best days are ahead. Thank you for everything you have done for me and my family and I look forward to joining you again in community when I visit home.
Heavenly Father, please watch over us as we elect our leaders. Give us the strength to carry out your will and to continue our journey to the beloved community. We pray for our country and ask that you guide us to a future that is more equitable and just and treats all people with the dignity they deserve. Amen.
Written by Ana Becerra, Seminarian and Cristo Rey Mission Developer
In 2017 we commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Then as now, I like to point out that we do not celebrate the separation from the Roman Catholic Church, but rather we commemorate the ways the church has been reformed. 2020 is also a year when we are constantly reforming or adjusting things in all aspects of our life, from having doctors visits via Facetime, to having school on Zoom, to having our worship pre-recorded on YouTube or as drive-in services held in the parking lot.
For some people this reformation has been easy—but for me (and others like me) it is hard because I truly love to be with people! Giving proper hugs is in my Latinx DNA, and technology has never been my strength. Even so, I have come to see all these new ways as beautiful opportunities to stay connected with you. One example of reformation and adjustment is how we will be commemorating Dia de los Muertos on Sunday, November 1st at 12 noon in the fire pit by the CtK Community Garden.
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) started in Mexico as a way to remember and honor our deceased loved ones. It is a pre-hispanic tradition, meaning that it was practiced before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors and Christian missions. Later, when the Roman Catholic faith had become predominant in Mexico, Día de los Muertos was connected with the festivals of All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).
We observe Día de los Muertos by visiting cemeteries to decorate the graves of our departed. Some of us make little altars with photos to honor our loved ones. Like so much in life and faith, the way we observe Día de los Muertos has changed and reformed. As Christians, we do not celebrate the way our ancestors did. Today, when we make altars we use 3 levels to represent God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—not the three levels of earth, heaven and Mictlan (the Aztec underworld). The candles we light remind us of the light of Christ in our lives, and the water represents our baptism. In addition, we add food that our muertos loved when they were with us. Especially popular are calaveras made with sugar and painted in bright colors, which represent the sweetness of our time on earth, and even sweeter when we go to our Lord. (The recent movie “Coco” lifts up some of the traditions of Día de los Muertos).
Luther helps us see that the call to be church in the language of the people is connected in a particular way to how we Latinxs members of Cristo Rey /Christ the King relate to our faith through our culture. May God accompany you in whatever way you celebrate All Saints Day, knowing that your siblings in Christ from Cristo Rey will be praying in Spanish for all who have passed away and now are in God’s presence.