There are more than a few pearls of wit and wisdom that have gone forth from the mouth of Pastor Erik Christensen over the years, and certainly quite a few that I was blessed to be present for during my time in Logan Square, but as I reflect on my time serving with the faithful disciples at St, Luke’s, it seems that some of the pearls are resonating so strongly with me that it feels appropriate to weave them throughout this reflection.
I came to St. Luke’s in September of 2013 as an MIC student. Along with Stephanie Berkas, it was my first experience of team ministry, and oh my goodness, it was so much fun. One of the first things Pastor Erik said that year was “These people…you can trust them, and they trust you. They’ll give you a lot of room and space, and you won’t mess them up. So just try. Whatever it is, just try.”
It was the first time I ever thought that ministry was so much less about “getting it right and not screwing up” than it was about seeking new ways to uncover God in the midst of our worship, our community, our neighborhood, and our world. It’s an incredibly liberating thing to actually receive grace like that, and simply be invited to try—to search out whatever God and the Holy Spirit are doing and try to uncover it together as a community.
You are a safe community, St. Luke’s. You are trusting and open and willing to try. And that is a gift to our church.
St. Luke’s is also where I was first immersed in the practices of crafting worship. So much more than prescribed settings and words in the ELW, St. Luke’s has a storied history of deftly weaving in poetry, story-telling, art, music, and movement in a way that beautifully smears the distinctions between the sacred and the secular, tacitly and overtly proclaiming that all the created world is infused with and blessed by the Divine.
In my call now, as Pastor to a faith community in suburban Houston, Texas, I bring many of the liturgical sensibilities I began sharpening at St. Luke’s. Another pearl from Pastor Erik that I carry with me in my work is that “Ritual is what holds us and shapes us.” Ritual and liturgy are what cradle us and help us to make and verbalize meaning when the world seems to spiral out of control and we’ve lost the ability to articulate what or how we feel. I think there’s tremendous comfort in having our deepest pains and most overwhelming joys voiced for us and by us in the communal words and actions of worship.
I’ve seen here in Houston how calling a community back to the central things of word, water, and meal can breathe new life and open up new ways of being together that had once felt forgotten and lost.
You are a delightfully gifted worshiping community, St. Luke’s. You lament, rejoice, and honor every emotion in between together. And that is a gift to our church.
A final pearl that’s resonating with me lately goes back to the beginning of my time at St. Luke’s. Pastor Erik said, “It takes a special group of people to consider themselves a teaching congregation. Not every church can be a teaching parish. I think St. Luke’s is. I think they take their responsibility very seriously. So learn from them.” I didn’t know at the time just how true those words are. My time as a seminarian at St. Luke’s is but one chapter in a long and colorful narrative of a community of faith that truly sees itself as educators. Truly one of the highest callings in our world is being charged with teaching, growing, forming, and shaping.
It’s a posture and practice that I’ve tried to adopt in my own call. Our lives are a constant journey of learning, and the extent to which we can walk alongside and teach one another in this walk of faith and journey of discipleship reflects a constant inbreaking of the reign of God.
You are a teaching community, St. Luke’s. You are curious, adaptive, and constantly searching. And that is a gift to our church.
St. Luke’s is where I began to learn to take risks, to be a thoughtful liturgist, and to be an inquisitive educator.
And I am immeasurably grateful for the gift that you have been to me.
St. Luke’s, you are a gift to our church.
With humility, gratitude, and affection,
The Rev. Chris Michaelis
New Hope Lutheran Church
Missouri City, TX