Faith and Life’s Ups and Downs
Almost 10 years ago, in the midst of my then congregation’s relocation, our staff gave me a special birthday card. The message said: “On the roller coaster ride of life, birthdays are the part where you look down and start to feel all queasy!” Inside there was a 3D rollercoaster and the soundtrack of a rollercoaster ride, complete with – you guessed it – people screaming and laughing and shouting in the background! I can’t help but laugh at how accurately and humorously it sums up not just our lives of faith, but also the ups and downs of congregational life.
Since the first worship service in the Etiwanda High School teacher’s lounge in November 1984, Cross and Crown has had quite the rollercoaster ride!! Charter Member Darleen Nelsen shared with me a glimpse of what the community’s first year was like. She told me how someone had loaned the church a pickup they weren’t using. In it they fit an organ, a portable altar, podium, candle sticks and even a box of nurse ry toys – all they would need for worship. And early each Sunday morning the pastor drove the pickup out of his garage to the high school where a team would unload and set up for worship. What a labor of love! These folks really believed that God wanted a Lutheran church in Rancho Cucamonga and they were willing to make sacrifices, to set aside their own comfort, to do whatever it took to build that community of faith here!
After only a year, they outgrew that space and moved into a “big, empty open space” in the Stater Bros shopping center. Beside seating for 100-150, they had only the basics … a sink, a counter, restrooms. Working together, reaching out into the community, they built office, nursery and education space as they grew in faith and in numbers. Darlene shared how, after only 5 years there, they were able to build and dedicate the church building on Etiwanda.
33 years after that April 29, 1990, dedication, Cross and Crown is leaving the Etiwanda building for a new adventure in ministry and, no doubt, feeling a mix of emotions. Disappointment and Excitement. Joy and Sadness. Gratitude and Grief. It’s been a wild ride, not just the last 33 years here on Etiwanda, but almost 40 years of ups and downs and quick turns left and right since Cross and Crown’s beginning. And like Disney’s Space Mountain, a lot of the ride has been in the dark, not knowing what’s next or what joys or challenges might be ahead. Yet in the midst of it all, God’s love, presence, comfort and strength has been the foundation and the light of this community, graciously guiding, encouraging and, yes, challenging the people of God to keep the faith and trust in God’s faithfulness . . .
Change IS hard, but we are Easter people! As God faithfully helped those first charter members to bravely and sacrificially put mission and ministry ahead of their own comfort, so too God longs to help you navigate the twists and turns of this ending and new beginning! As we die to self and to our limited expectations, God promises to bring new and abundant life out of our Good Friday experiences.
Our fears and anxieties might tempt us to quit or complain or settle for less than what we sense is God’s desire, but God is faithful and powerful! In Ephesians 3:20-21 we’re reminded that God’s power is at work in and through us as we work for God’s glory. God can and WILL DO immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.”
The future may be unclear and may feel uncertain, but you and I ARE God’s Beloved! Like a rollercoaster ride, we’re not in control. While we don’t always know how long we’ll have to hang on and ride through our fears, we do know that we are strapped in and held safe by God’s presence, love and faithfulness -- ALWAYS!
We may be tempted to think it all depends on us, but God promises that we are NOT alone. After that first Easter, when Jesus breathed his peace into the first disciples, he promised that he was not only with them, but was going ahead of them to prepare the way. It was the same promise God gave Moses and Joshua as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Not only is Jesus with us, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, God give us the gift of one another and a community of faith and support that includes our sibling churches, our Pacifica Synod and ELCA and other ministries and people of faith as our partners in serving Christ and our community without being overcome by our fears and anxieties.
Darleen told me that the first years of Cross and Crown were ”a lot of work, and also a lot of fun!” From “church in a pick-up truck”, only one year later they needed seating for 100-150.
Cross and Crown leaves Etiwanda with far more than those charter members had.
Knowing God’s faithfulness and all the ways God creates new beginnings and brings new life out of our Good Friday moments, I can’t help but wonder …
what miracles might God accomplish through all of YOU working together and reaching out into the community again, inviting others to be part of this new adventure in faith??
Together with you, in God’s Gracious Grip,