Blessings Abound

Archive for Casey Cross

Blessings Abound

A Blog post by Casey Cross, a Messy Church USA  Board of Director

Casey serves as Young Disciples Director at Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID. She leads a team for their Messy Church. 

iStock

Like many congregations, we offer backpack blessings at the beginning of each new school year. This year, as I was talking to my pastor about what those would look like, he offered an idea that we could write blessings for each other. The idea quickly evolved from there and we decided to hand out tags on which we would write a word, prayer, blessing, or thought, return them at the offering, then take a new tag on our way out at the end of worship.

This shared activity is especially meaningful because we are living in a time where we are overwhelmed with the countless ways we are different and divided from one another. With more and more statistics and articles written about the Lonely Generation, American’s declining trust, rising suicide rates, and unfortunately even more cultural realities exemplifying our disconnection from one another, we need to respond as a church – the Body of Christ – together.

We need to practice and model trust, not only in our God, but also in one another. Our support for one another, practicing forgiveness, grace, and simply just paying attention to one another becomes counter-cultural, world-changing action. With simple exercises like the blessings we shared today, we put our skin in the game. We are in this together. And we walked from worship with signs of God’s transformation in our lives, to serve as reminders of our connection to one another and God’s love wherever we go.

Blessing Basket at Hope Lutheran Church

All ages were part of this activity. The tags filled with art, color, prayers, and words from our children were especially thoughtful. I was deeply blessed by the opportunity to read many of the tags before they were dispersed at the end of the service. What a lovely insight into the hearts of our congregation members.

Another reason an activity like this is so important is because when we get caught up in the day-to-day of our lives, it can be easy to relax into consumer-mode. Show up, get filled, feel good, check it off your to do list, and move to the next thing. When this happens, we forget that God is actively involved in our lives. But Wisdom is living within us, speaking to us, moving us, and living through us. We do not worship just for ourselves, but with and for each other. We matter to each other and we have something to share with each other. These blessings gave us an opportunity to remember this and experience it.

I know this exercise may not have meant much to some of the people in attendance. Some may have worried they didn’t have the “right” words, some may have not understood what it was for, and some may have just thought it was meaningless. It’s okay. That’s what grace is all about. It doesn’t stop what God has done and is doing in our lives together.

I am thankful for a congregation and pastor who tries new things. These ideas don’t always go smoothly. They aren’t perfect. But we try stuff. We are in it, together. No matter what, that is what we are living together. The details may fade away in time, but we will never forget that we are God’s beloved children, we are not alone, we have each other… wherever we go.

Blessings Abound
Hope Lutheran Church

In the words of our congregational mission statement – we love, we experience, and we discover God and God’s will in the world.

Reprinted with permission from blog of Casey Cross.  You can follow Casey at https://caseykcross.wordpress.com.

Messy Church USA logo and mission
Equipping Messy Churches to start, sustain and connect across the USA

Follow the Star

A blog-post by Casey Cross

“They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9

When I think about those wise ones who followed the star, I think about leadership. The best teachers are life-long learners. The best leaders know how to follow others. I always find it interesting that when we are most purely ourselves, living out of our gifts, we end up modeling for others and becoming leaders without even trying. This is the case with those who followed the star. Was it curiosity or pure scholarship that brought the Magi on such a journey?

We do not know a lot about these astrologers. We only know that they were doing their thing – observing the stars. Little did they know, they would have their own followers, thousands of years later. We who hear and celebrate the story of Jesus’ birth, follow the wise men on their journey, first to King Herod, and finally to the home where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying. By joining them on their journey, we are reminded once again where God is found, among the outsiders rather than the elite.

Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

These wise men were also on a journey of hospitality. On their way to meet Jesus, bringing gifts, and building new relationships are at the heart of hospitality. With their presence, they welcomed Jesus to earth. Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

We can learn a lot from these wise men on their journey. In a way, it was a journey of proclamation, to show homage to the king of the Jews. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the historical reference to the word homage is in reference to making a public acknowledgement of allegiance to one’s Lord. By showing homage, these travelers publically claimed the king of the Jews their personal lord. How do we translate this homage to our celebration of Christ’s birth every year? Do we use this holy-day as an opportunity to publically name Jesus our Lord and Savior, or do we spend too much time focusing on the gifts and minutiae of creating a “perfect” day?

As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us.

I see leadership, homage, and hospitality celebrated in the organization of Messy Church. As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us. We are all both learners and teachers. Everyone has an opportunity to share in a piece of the story, share their perspectives, life experiences, and gifts. We share a meal together, growing in our relationships as well as our faith. We join the journey together; following the promises of God like the wise ones followed the star, to the place where it all comes together, in Jesus the Christ. God with us, Emmanuel.

Casey Cross serves on the Messy Church USA Board of Directors. She is the
Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID, where she has led the start of the first Messy Church in Idaho.

Celebrate the Light

By Casey Cross

Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID and member of the Messy Church USA Board of Directors

Single Lit Candle
Pexels.com. Used with Permission

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1: 5

I’ve been finding myself taking a lot of night walks lately. Many people would think that’s crazy, especially with the weather in Idaho as cold as it’s been. I will admit, by the time I get to the end of my walk I am really looking forward to entering my warm house. But there is a bit of magic that happens on these night walks, a quickening in my spirit. When I look up at the clear, dark sky and let my eyes adjust, I realize things aren’t as dark as I initially thought. In fact, the stars seem to shine clearer and brighter than usual.

Maybe that’s the key? Doing something that isn’t just, “the usual.” When we put ourselves out there, sometimes even literally out there taking a night walk, we see things from a different perspective. When we try something that others would call unusual, we connect with ourselves in a new way, there is a quickening in our spirit that makes us feel more alive.

Darkness has a way of closing in on us, making us feel like darkness is all there is. It can be suffocating, scary, and empty. Darkness can feel big and all encompassing. Yet, there is hope in the stars. When I’m in an especially dark place in my walk all I need to do is look up. If I see even just one star, I am reminded where the true power lies. The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light. Despite distance and the passage of time, this little light meets me where I stand. This little light is all I need to find my way through the darkness and to know I’m not alone.

This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.The real power is not in the enormity of darkness, but the clarity of a single fleck of light.

So, maybe this is the key? I am constantly amazed by the wondrous gifts of God’s grace that surround us, especially in those things that seem most mundane in our daily lives. This is the miracle of Advent, that in our darkest days of the year, in the most common moments of life, God shows up.

Star
Photo by Rev. Josh Clark, August 2018, Sisters, OR
Used with Permission

In order for transformation, both of these keys are needed. We need to put ourselves out there so that we can see what God is doing in the most simple of things. In these intersecting moments, we meet God in a new way and we are changed. It can feel like such a miracle that we cannot help but share it with others.

This is what I see when families try Messy Church for the first time. They hesitantly walk in, unsure of what to expect from this new thing, uncomfortable. By the end of our celebration time together, they are completely different people. Alive! Awake! Connected to the stories of God’s love for us in a real, tangible way. We move to our meal together, eating casseroles, sitting next to our new family members, and expectantly looking ahead to our next gathering together.

Like the stars, we can live as points of light in the darkness, shining, as a reminder that the darkness has not, does not, and will not overcome. God with us, Emmanuel.