I would like to share with you some great words of wisdom. First, in "The Wizard of Oz," the wizard shared this important observation: "A heart is not measured by how much you love others, but by how much you are loved by others.
Second grade theologian - Popeye, the Sailor Man - (I can't sing, so I won't sing it), but how many of you have heard this? "I'm Popeye the sailor man. I'm Popeye the sailor man. I am what I am and that's all that I am. I'm Popeye the sailor man." Think about that.
Third grade theologian - Dennis the Menace. Dennis is talking to Joey. Does everybody know who Joey is? Joey is really depressed, and Dennis says, "Joey, you're gonna be you for the rest of your life, so you better get used to it."
I don't know about you, but those are pretty profound statements. What does this have to do with this tool that we call Via de Cristo - the Cursillo Method? What does all this have to do with life? I want to read the words of a song that our church choir sang recently - that really just struck me. It turns out that the Emmaeus Movement uses it, but I have never heard it at a Lutheran Via de Cristo function. It is sung to a very slow black gospel tune:
"Slow down, slow down, slow down and see Jesus.
Slow down and see the Lord face to face.
Slow down, slow down, o foolish one with eyes so blinded.
Slow down, slow down, and see His face.
Slow down, slow down, and hear Jesus.
Hear His words soft and clear.
Slow down the noise that crowds out the Saviour's speaking.
Slow down and hear His voice.
Slow down, slow down, slow down and feel Jesus.
His hands and feet were wounded for you.
Slow down, slow down, you troubled soul and busy mind and
Feel the peace that He gives."
I think the words of this song echo what God is saying to us on Thursday night of a weekend? Isn't that what God is asking us to do when we have the silent period? To just slow down and get to know this fellow Jesus.
Have you ever read the little sayings on the back of the giving envelopes? I read them and they really sometimes give me profound thinking, and this one was pertinent here: "The business of her life was crashing in on her, but the woman had no resources for vacation."
How many times have you known somebody who showed up at a weekend - particularly you busy mothers - and that was your - "I needed a break - a vacation away from the kids". I hear that more from busy mothers than from fathers.
I recently received something from a psychologist friend of mine and it outlines a prescribed life-style and about nutrition and exercise, and the amount of water and sunlight you take in. Here's what I found interesting: "Take time daily for relaxation, and "trust in God." In an age where distrust of government business and helping professionals is at an all time high, the need for divine trust is imperative.
Take time to contact the eternal God Spirit daily. The above recommendations aid in the maintenance of a low level of stress and in the prevention of serious illnesses. It seems to be talking about what we talk about at a weekend.
Let's look at what Jesus said in Mark 6 verse 30: "And he said to them, come away to a deserted place all by yourself and rest awhile, for many were coming and going and they had no leisure - even to eat."
This is from Christ in our Home, which I enjoy reading every evening: "Many people experience a great shortage of rest. We live in a go, go age, always trying to get more done in less time , so that there will be more time for rest. But if we have a chance to rest, do we take it? Can we really relax or are we so geared for doing that we can't stop doing, and take time for being?"
Another thought from Christ in our Home. This reading is talking about the apostle Thomas: "Thomas stared at the scarred feet and hands of Jesus, and he saw for the first time in the history of humanity a life that had thrown away and then recycled." Think about that.
In Jesus' resurrected life there is hope for us and for our planet.
I love the description that my pastor uses of a Cursillo Weekend. It's like going and having your system roto-rooterized! He says that's what a Via de Cristo Weekend is like for him - a pastor who's busy in the grind. Do you ever feel like your life could use a roto-rooter?
Here is another great theologian of our time, the comic strip "The Family Circus." In one of the strips, one of the children is talking to his sister, and the sister is leaning forward with her face right up against the mirror, and says: "Mirrors are there to remind us what we look like in case we forget." That's what Jesus does. He reminds us what we look like in case we forget.
I enjoy the newsletters that I receive from all over the country, and this one is from Iowa, and was done for many years by Pastor Carroll Lang. "God gives us position and shape and value." We're formless until He gives us that position and shape and value. We know that we all need a solid foundation in order to make it through the rainstorms of life. What is the only really solid foundation that there is? The only sure bet?
After His death and resurrection, Christ came to those who were hiding in fear of their lives and said: "Peace be with you." He also comes to us and says that same thing: "Peace be with you." He grants us inner peace - the kind of peace that we need if we are ever to open the doors to ourselves. We must open our door before others can see our own beauty, and see the face of Christ in us.
Now what does this all have to do with where this movement has been? Most of you, I'm sure, know a little bit of the history. It was started in the late forties by Bishop Juan Hervas of the Spanish Catholic Church, as a tool to get the men of the church more involved in the work. (If scholars write a book of the great people of history, he should be in it.) Forty-three years ago it was given to the Catholics by God.
The movement was brought to the United States in 1957 - but in '61 they had the very first Catholic English-speaking Cursillo Weekend. That's thirty years. Then in 1972, as we've talked about, Cursillo was introduced in the Lutheran Church by our Catholic and Episcopal friends. That's only 19 years. Since then, 31,000 people have gone through it during that time period.
Being a salesman, I am taught to break everything down. We are to make things manageable. We don't say our goal is this for the year. We say what is it for the week? Well, that works out to be 1636 people per year who have been affected and touched by the hand of God through a Lutheran Cursillo/Via de Cristo Weekend. That's 136 people per month. That's a lot of individuals whose lives have been touched!
Let's look at the NLS for a second. I have a copy of the minutes from the first meeting on January 11-13, 1981 at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Thirty-two lay and clergy people gathered at this church representing fourteen local Lutheran Cursillo Secretariats throughout the United States for "the purpose of sharing a common interest."
That's what we're here for this weekend: The purpose of sharing for a common interest. And they had three points of interest that weekend: (1) Formation of a national secretariat, (2) present a response to the Catholic Cursillo movement, and
(3) committees to develop a framework of particular study areas for the secretariat.
And that first group passed this resolution: "That we, the undersigned, and others associated with us desire for the sake of our common purpose to band ourselves together in a National Cursillo Secretariat for Lutherans. And, therefore, it is resolved that we, and others of like mind who are or may become associated with us, constitute ourselves into such a secretariat." Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?
And who were some of the people who were present? Well, some of them are present today and some of them are not. The Rev. Ed Simonsen, was the first Spiritual Director, is here from the Rainbow Secretariat in Washington. Luther Piel -- at that time from the Atlanta Lutheran Cursillo movement -- was the first president. Robert Sael is now a pastor, but at that time was a lay person with the Lutheran Cursillo of Central Michigan, was the vice president. The secretary was Martha Erickson of Minnesota. Greg Steele from Florida was treasurer. There was also another delegate - Rev. Carroll Lang - Rev. Carroll Lang. This first group asked a representative from the ALC (American Lutheran Church) to speak to them. He was not a Cursillista - and he reminded them to keep their priorities as to the ongoing life of the church: "Cursillo is an ongoing way to enable people to gain a new light on what it is to be a Christian."
And isn't that what a Via de Cristo Weekend is about: What is it to be a Christian. They set these purposes out in the initial constitution:
(1) To support, strengthen and guide the autonomous secretariats affiliated with us so that the church may more effectively Christianize its community." That's the end product. When you buy a drill, you're not buying the drill for the drill itself. You're buying it for the hole it makes. The end product is what's important in the Via de Cristo Movement.
(2) "Assisting the affiliated secretariats in developing Christian leaders and their awareness of their responsibility to Christ, the local church, and the environment in which they live."
(3) "Coordinating the flow of information and resources among the various affiliated secretariats." We're improving on that objective.
(4) "Encouraging the use of liturgy and rollo outlines, which are in keeping with general Lutheran practice." I was glad to hear about the pastors being excited tonight to really work on the Spiritual Director's Manual.
(5) "Providing organization and direction for affiliated Cursillo communities."
(6) "Expanding the Cursillo movement in the United States and throughout the world." We're slowly spreading throughout the United States. Because of the hard work of the Minnesota Movement, Lutheran Cursillo is going to Papua, New Guinea.
Let's look at where we've been from the standpoint of numbers. Originally, there were fourteen secretariats and thirty-two delegates. Now let's compare 1990 and 1991. We are building, and any achievements that are made by the current Secretariat are not our achievements. They belong to everyone who preceded us.
One of our current goals is to get more pastors to attend. I hear it said at every NLS meeting that one of the chief problems nationwide is to get more spiritual directors involvement. And I think that one way we could do that is to get more pastors to attend this meeting and that enthusiasm would hopefully filter down to the individual secretariats.
We had four pastors attend last year, and three attend each of the three years before that. We have 17 pastors this year and that is not counting pastors who showed up just for today! We had 40 lay delegates attend last year and 56 this year. We have more delegates and more secretariats! Total attendees -- not counting the local secretariat people -- numbered 54 in 1990 and ninety-two this year. More people are coming here, and then taking that enthusiasm back to their local Secretariat and spreading the word. I am overwhelmed at the number of people from Texas who have registered and come out. I am convinced that this movement is on the verge of a quantum leap! A quantum leap for the entire Via de Cristo and Lutheran Cursillo movement. And why? Why do I firmly believe that for the future?
Well, let's look at some of the things that are happening in society. People need Christ, and a good way to find Christ, to slow down and "feel" Jesus is through Cursillo. Don't ever think it's the only way, but a good way - a good tool.
Let's look at a quote from the ELCA constitution: "Our ministry is to participate in God's mission. This church shall nurture its members in the word of God so as to grow in faith and hope and love to see daily life as the primary setting for the exercise of their Christian calling." The exercise of their Christian calling and use the gifts of the Spirit for their life together and for their calling in the world." Isn't that what we say on a weekend?
I am not an expert on the ELCA, but I firmly believe that there is no other Lutheran related course or retreat program that has had 31,000 people go through it. Let's look at the Mission 90 Program. If you've seen the videos and the promotions the ELCA has done, you are familiar with what they are saying in the Mission 90 program.
I understand that Bishop Chilstrom attended an Episcopal Weekend in the early days of Minnesota, around 1979. What are the three watchwords of Mission 90 : "See, Grow, and Serve" Compare that with our "Piety, Study, and Action." I read from Bishop Chilstrom's letter that accompanies the Mission 90 video: "I am pleased that you will be encouraging people to focus on the basic teachings of our church and how we live as believers in the world." Then he says the title for the 6 video tapes: "What does it mean to be a Christian?" You could entitle a Cursillo Weekend the same way:"What does it mean to be a Christian?" I once made a presentation to our congregation I talked about how we were going to have a Search Bible Study. How many people know what a Search Bible Study? It consists of eight straight Wednesday nights, with each class lasting two hours. What we are going to do is condense it into three days and it's going to last three days. You're going to stay at a camp, and have fourteen presentations. That's how I sold it. And the people who were familiar with Search said "That sounds like fun." Sometimes when you're presenting things, you need to talk the language of your listener.
Bishop Chilstrom also says on the video: "I welcome your ideas and suggestions for building on this foundation." It sounds like an invitation to us. How many of you have watched any of the videos? The one I'm most familiar with is the one entitled "Grace."
What is Friday on the weekend all about? What is the whole theme of Friday? "Grace!"
You'd almost think the Mission 90 series is a public relations program for the Via de Cristo. He talks about grace and Bishop Chilstrom says "God's grace is here now for us. We need only receive it because it is free and undeserved. We need to become receivers as well as givers - open to receive love and comfort from others even when we haven't earned it." This quote is from the manual that accompanies the Grace video.
Bishop Chilstrom further adds this insight: "I know that all of us can look about and find people in our lives who have become moments of grace for us, and we discover that grace sometimes comes to us not because of what has happened, but in spite of what has happened."
Cursillo offers to people what Bishop Chilstrom is asking members of the ELCA to offer. So what can we do? Here is a quote from the giving envelopes for Easter Sunday: "Strike up the band. Christ is risen. Strike up the band and begin your march of joy and freedom for those whose songs has been shredded or stolen from them."
When I started college, I was Jewish. I didn't become Christian until after college. I went to Wake Forest University which at that time was a Baptist school. To say that the Baptists jumped on me (that's the appropriate word) is an understatement. They kept telling me often that I was going to Hell if I didn't accept Christ. I was so turned off to Christianity that I was anti-Christian when I graduated from college. There is nothing wrong with having passion for Jesus. My reunion group was talking recently and somebody asked the question, "what does the passion of Jesus mean?" Here is a definition from the Webster's dictionary: "It is intense or violent emotion, sexual appeal, or love. A violent emotional outburst."
Everyone in this room gets passionate about something in their life. Let me give you an example. You go with me to a Wake Forest football or basketball game, you find out that I am passionate at the games. I'm passionate about my racquetball when I play. You get me in a good Trivial Pursuit game and I've been told I get a little passionate sometimes.
Is there anything wrong with getting passionate and excited about Jesus? I'm not talking about being fanatical and going crazy. I get excited about Jesus and I enjoy being a Lutheran. I was baptized Presbyterian in 1974 and then became engaged to a Lutheran and switched to her church.
I would like to share with you excerpts from a couple Lutheran magazines. The first article features Lutheran churches that are growing, and it spotlights four congregations in their evangelism issue and discover the secret of their success.
The article first focuses on a church in California, and it says the "gift of passion" is key. Here is a quote from the pastor: "We found out early in the life of the congregation that to be in effective in a community that is predominantly non-Lutheran we had to meet the people where they were."
Isn't that a key point we talk about on a Via de Cristo Weekend? Christ comes to each of us where we are now. We are called to accept Pilgrims where they are now. It's one of the few places where people are accepting of others. One of the members of the California church says, "Equipping people for ministry is a major part of this church's ministry. That means seeing themselves as ministers from God." Isn't that the charge that the Pilgrims receive on Sunday?
The word the pastor used to describe the key to the experience at this church is passion: "We Lutherans do not need to have any more programs - we need to have passion for our mission."
A recent ELCA publication deals with people who farm the land and focuses on programs for rural America in ministry. One of the key points is that the ELCA provides training for lay leaders through courses at rural institutes, workshops, and conferences. I would add "and at Via de Cristo weekends." We fit right in there.
The brochure says: "ELCA walks the walk of faith with rural people by exemplifying its awareness of the changes taking place in America." What do we talk about? That Christ walks with us -- not just on Sunday morning, and not just at church. I don't have to sell you on Via de Cristo, but sometimes we don't realize how good a tool God has given us. Be sold on this product we've got.
There was an excellent article in the Lutheran Women Today magazine recently. One pastor says, "I have been plagued from time to time by questions and doubts about the manliness of the Christian faith." Man after man stood up and shared from the heart what God has done for him, and what Christ meant to him and her in his life. We need to feel enthusiasm for Christ, and show this enthusiasm for Christ. Let's talk about enthusiasm! There's nothing wrong with having the same passion for God that we have for other things -- such as sports.
There was an article in the May, 1990 issue of The Lutheran magazine entitled "Congregations Personalize Mission 90." I think you could modify it to say Via de Cristo personalizes Christ."
Another article appeared in the May, 1990, issue entitled: "Congregations Where Everybody Is Somebody." Isn't that what we
talk about on a Weekend?
I would like to challenge you with a quote from Plus Magazine, which Norman Vincent Peale founded: "The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it." Is your aim for your movement - your secretariat - your life too low? Raise it up a little bit.
My closing remarks to you are from a poem entitled "Promise Yourself":
>Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
>Promise yourself to talk health, happiness and prosperity to everyone you met.
>Promise yourself to make your friends feel that there is something worthwhile about them.
>Promise yourself to look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
>Promise yourself to think only of the best.
>Promise yourself to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own success.
>Promise yourself to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. (As a footnote, I would urge you to avoid talking about the problems that your secretariat or your movement has had in the past. You need to talk about your achievements, and then move on.)
>Promise yourself to wear a cheerful countenance at all times.
(Luther Piel talked about wearinga smile.)
>Promise yourself to share a better you with every living creature.
>Promise yourself to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble in your life.
God bless you.