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Keynote Address

ELLIE HENNING: He was born in 1938 in Clearbrook, Minnesota. He went to grade school in Plymouth, Indiana, high school in Foley and Ely, Minnesota and he graduated in 1956. He went to college at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota. He was a seminarian student at Lutheran School of Theology in Rock Island - formerly Augustana, graduating in 1964. His parishes have been Faith, Isle in Minnesota, 64-67; in Augustana, Grand Forks, 67-78; in First, Brainerd, 78-86; and Augustana, Minneapolis from 86 to the present. He's been married for 34 years as of June 4th to Doreen. He has three daughters - Patrice who's 30, Kristen who's 28, and Tiffany, who's 26 - who has a very much-loved grandson, Garrett, who's 23 months old. He made his Cursillo on #33 in Owatana in 1984, and he worked about ten weekends. He was Minnesota's S.D. for three years. I also have to say that as I've been trying to connect with Nate over the past three years and this year, especially, he loves to work with his hands. If you want your car worked on, I think he could probably help you out there. He does most of his typing of all of his letters, and he does the copying. The church bus - if that breaks down - often he's the one who is the go-between to get it to and from the mechanic or fixes it himself. It has been a great pleasure to work with him this past years, and I'd like for you to welcome Pastor Nate Lundgren.


Before we start tonight, if you notice the beauty on the altar this evening - that beautiful bouquet is there for a good reason. The 43rd wedding anniversary of the Jacobsen's from Nebraska. They have provided you with the centerpiece that we will enjoy. I think we ought to sing "Happy Anniversary," don't you?

Here we are again. I made my Cursillo weekend back in '84 and I always smile when you people tell the table - I can't even remember what my table was. But I made my Cursillo weekend and discovered that doing such is a one-time experience, upon which one spends the rest of your life building. The weekend was fine. The first team meeting was even finer. Those teams ever since then seem to get better and better, in my experience. I enjoyed the challenge of serving in Minnesota as the S.D., which back at that time primarily entailed the location of S.D.'s for 23 weekends. We were trying to move from three to five per weekend. I was only finding the head S.D.'s

Then I went to the meeting in Texas and was elected back three years ago. I wasn't sure about that, because I was following the man who now is a good friend, Al Sager. Al Sager - not only a friend, a seminary professor, a recognized author - just a very fine pastor. Yet when I heard I had to give the keynote address for that first convention, I thought, " Well, this is okay." I'll just pull together the best that I have and I'll lay it on the folks, and that'll fire the troops up and we'll get going. Then I discovered a year later that somebody thought the S.D. ought to do it again. And I thought what do you do then? And finally after a ragged shirt in Atlanta that some folks have said they remember, and after threatening a black lapel-piece in Indianapolis, tonight I look out on you with different eyes. There won't be anything splashy like that tonight. Tomorrow you'll be electing a new spiritual director for the Natioinal Lutheran Secretariat. I want that person, whoever it is to know that that's a holy privilege to be given. That's a significant spot to be able to fill.

As I thought about that, this talk has had a hard time a-coming. What legacy can I leave with you tonight? I'm not going to drop off the face of the earth. I hope not to die tomorrow. I hope a year from now I might even be able to stop in and enjoy part of your convention in my old haunts where I attended that famous Swedish seminary in Rock Island.

But what could I share in that critical role that might be helpful to you as we continue the Via de Cristo/Cursillo movement, and the concern that I would have for it? Getting letters from bishops regarding the theology on a weekend, getting letters from pastors about the behavior of fellow pastors on a weekend, having to justify to S.D.'s and lay people alike why in some communities you can't go if your spouse doesn't go, and others wondering (in our own situation) why the pastor has to go first. These are all part of the legacy of being an S.D. with the NLS. I decided for tonight we would focus - because of that beautiful theme that you've heard, "Unity of the Body," that I would focus on my concern for the Body Language of Cursillo. The body language of Cursillo. Think about body language.


What have you heard, so far? I haven't opened my mouth, but I hope you've heard a number of things. They come from what we call "body language." You may have heard of interest, or of boredom. You may have heard of even a slit-throat kind of motion that says, "you've gone over thirty minutes, Lundgren." You may have heard of something happy, or something sad. You may have heard of something that is spiritual or something that smacks of a kind of self-importance or elitism. Our actions, you see, communicate. Most of you know that - but we tend to forget that. I'm the worst -- just ask Doreen, sitting out there, about that. I'm sort of like Oly, who was asked by the counselor if he didn't tell his wife that he loved her. And he said, "I told her 34 years ago when we got married, and if I ever change my mind, I'll tell her again."

But we don't always say what we mean. We don't always communicate with our actions what we're saying with our voice. My concern tonight, I guess, is with that. Ask my daughters, whom I love dearly and watched grow up with pride, about the time they helped me near a scaffold. The board fell off and hit one of them on the head. You'd have thought it was their fault that they were there to get hit by the board that I had carelessly set. They remind me of that. Or ask the congregations that I have served. There are times that I sit in a council meeting or in some sessions with somebody that I know would just as soon I was not there. I hear them say something, and that little defensiveness within me causes me to do actions or say things. When they respond, it leads me to realize I had jumped the gun. They weren't really even saying that, but my actions spoke loudly to them.

How we act, you see, is vital to what it is that we're saying. I'm not sure who it was that wrote the little book Worlds of Youth but one of my favorite sections in Worlds of Youth is a little chapter where two people are talking. One of them says, "I want to get a Bible."

The other one says, "Oh, okay. What kind of Bible?"

"Well, I want to get one of those RSV Bibles."

"Oh, that's fine. Any other requirements?"

"Yes, I want it to be a red letter Bible."

"The person looks at him and says, "A red letter Bible - what's that?"

"Well," he says. "You know, that's the one in which what Jesus says is in red."

And his friend said, "Well, what about what Jesus did?"

"No, that's in black."

"Are you saying that what Jesus said is more important that what he did?"

And this argument goes on to point out the fallacy of thinking that what we say - even what Jesus said - is more important than what he did.

Non-verbal communication. Are Cursillo folks God's chosen people? I know some Cursillo folks that give me that message. We're special people - more special than most. Are others less than adequate without Via de Cristo? I get that sense from some folks at times. I think of the beautiful music we've shared with our folks that have been here who come from a tradition slightly different from some of the rest of us, in terms of body language. And we've sat and enjoyed the music and may have complained about the volume which wasn't their fault but we've dealt with this music and sometimes we've seen motions and actions that don't seem the same to us. Are they typical? For most of us, "no."

Are they okay? You bet! They're part of a tradition for someone who is sharing their life with us.

One week ago tomorrow, Doreen and I participated in a wedding for our niece whose father died. We were very close to this brother of Doreen's and wanted to be there for the wedding. And driving to the wedding we drove by this neat Catholic church. I've driven by it many times but out in the front this time was a sign and I have to say that the sign that I found out there struck me and I probably will never forget it. This is what the sign said on St. Stanislaus Church, Main Street, Lansdale. "When you pray, do you give orders or report for duty?"

The pastors that are present here, many of them, were in our discussion earlier today. Very appropriately, one of the items that was brought up was palanca. I read the newsletters from some of you people because you're kind enough to mail them to me and I've noticed discussions in your newsletters about palanca -- too much chocolate!

What is the real purpose for palanca? We talked about that, and we are suggesting to you - if not in a formal motion - we're suggesting to the rest of you that we look at palanca what does it mean to sacrifice for someone else so they may enjoy a Cursillo weekend? As has been said here so often, it's almost redundant, Via de Cristo/Cursillo is designed to build servants - to build servants. We get excited! We become thrilled with our experience. We come along strong and bowl over the seeker who's wondering what it's all about sometimes because of the language that our body speaks in our excitement over something new.

People, I remind you, are suspicious of radicals - suspicious of radicals whether they are Rush Limbaugh or Ralph Nader, whether they are Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, whether they are the young seminarian out in the first parish trying to make a spot in the kingdom or Jesus himself. People are suspicious of those whom they see as radicals. And I remind you of that word I have shared with you earlier from Colossians 3:3. Your life is hid with Christ in God. People should be able to look hard and there discover God present in our life - that we're linked to a presence and they should be able to feel that as they look at us and the life we live. Each of us constantly fights that urge to somehow take the higher place. When God comes to call, what does he want to find us doing?

He wants to find us keeping on working, at the tasks that have been given us and to be pleasantly surprised by His call to each of us. Getting in touch with power sometimes happens on a Cursillo experience and that, too, can be dangerous, because getting in touch with power, as many of our popular evangelists have taught us, can lead us to corruption of that power. As somebody has said, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Each of you could give abundant examples of the kind of body language in all of life or in Cursillo that you have experienced. An individual, a person communicates by the language of their actions and of their body.

I did my internship in Omaha about 32 years ago, and I remember what it was like being an intern and since that time have dealt with twelve or thirteen interns in the parish and trying to give them as good an experience as I had under Reuben Swanson back at that time. Presently, I work with an intern who is very concerned about communicating love to little inner-city children and moms and others who are in need of love. Just a few weeks ago, I convinced this intern, by mentioning it a number of times, that a Cursillo experience would be good. This person went and had that Cursillo experience, and happened to go along with a 72 year old from our congregation - a delightful older woman who had no transportation. They went and enjoyed the weekend - both of them - and even though it was time - it took til Saturday night for the intern to warm up and believe that this wasn't some kind of charismatic enclave. Again the body language of her friends had told her "beware of this. This is not your normal Lutheran theology." It took 'til Saturday night, but they finally broke through the facade and she came back having had a good experience. About a week later, knowing that the Ultreya was coming up for that weekend, I said, "Have you thought about calling so-and-so because she doesn't have a car, and it's the team and the weekenders that go to the Ultreya. It's out of town twenty miles or so. Have you thought of calling and seeing if she needs a way?"

"Oh, oh. I'll have to think about that."

Then, a week later as Doreen and I were sitting at a Twins game, I realized that nobody had checked to see if this woman had been invited. I actually went to the phone (missed a home run by Kirby Puckett) in order to try and find the phone number. I didn't have it along to call this lady. After the game we went right to the church. There was still time to call this woman. I found that she was at home, but it was too late now -- and she missed the Ultreya. What did the body language of this one, who professes to love and to care about human beings, communicate in that action?

I don't hold her up as bad. I'm saying we all do that without thinking and she did that without thinking. Each of us can find in our own lives that kind of body language as individuals where we have spoken about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As a body in Cursillo - as part of Christ's body we speak volumes by our actions as a group as well.

Congregational Ultreyas - how welcome do people feel in that Fourth Day when they return? How open are we? How careful are we to include those who in our case many of them don't live in the same socioeconomic class? How much with our congregations do we indicate "secrets" and let people wonder if there's something sinister going on? How often do we communicate true servanthood to those who have not experienced the weekend so that they would ask themselves, "I wonder what it is that that person has, that makes them somebody that I would like to know?" Are we elitist? Are we too busy? Are we at sometimes holier-than-thou?

Here we are with secretariats all the way from Florida to Washington state. We govern what happens on the weekends. We have something to do with the behaviors that are allowed. We have something to do with building attitudes -- the kind of attitudes that are welcoming -- that are a warm body language or that say something different than what our words are saying. Pastors and people wonder about that newfound zeal that comes back into their parish. And I have to ask the question, "Are we selling the opportunity to experience that or are we repelling that opportunity by the language that speaks through us?"

Yes, even the NLS has that kind of body language concern. Do we somehow advise, do we guide, do we provide for the grace experience that has meaning for people? Do we communicate to the ELCA, to the Missouri Synod, to the Presbytery, or to the Methodist Conference -- do we communicate by our actions that our first loyalty is to Christ and His church, and only secondarily to Via de Cristo? Many of us know that a trusted structure in Via de Cristo is important and many of us feel that even though we're a mixture of denominations, that it's helpful to have those solid Lutheran underpinnings there but do we sometimes hold those up in such a way that others are less than important in the kingdom......?

(Second side)

And so I ask - no, I pray that Via de Cristo will always be conscious, and we as members of it, of the kind of language that we communicate to others as the body of Christ.

Prayer - we all know that prayer is vital to every weekend and every person. Interesting it is that this past weekend I discovered that even Paul Harvey knows that. He had a neat quote that I share with you. Paul Harvey said, "If you can't sleep, don't count sheep, but talk to the shepherd." "If you can't sleep, don't count sheep, but talk to the shepherd."

We refer to somebody who is comfortable in a strange situation as being cool as a cucumber. Did you know where that comes from? "Cool as a cucumber." I'm told that a cucumber, when it's still hooked to the vine, is cooler under its outside shell on the inside than is the temperature outside. But, you know, if you disconnect it from the vine that is no longer true. By the same token, if somehow we, in our zeal, become disconnected from that "vine" we lose the ability to be cool as a cucumber in passing on the faith to others. As our shepherd Jesus said to keep us in servanthood "The greatest among you, the greatest in the Kingdom will be like a little child. The greatest among you will be the lowliest servant of all."

A mother who watched her son leave home very often - when that son would leave- and as he grew up into his teenage years, would hear the same word from her. And the word wasn't "be good" like some of us would say. The word wasn't "behave," like some others of us would say. The word was "remember who you are." Remember who you are.

You and I are citizens of the Kingdom. And, you know what, we were citizens of the Kingdom before we ever went through a Via de Cristo weekend. We're citizens of the Kingdom - a declaration made in our baptisms. Remember who you are!

I've noticed that loving, serving, caring people are very attractive. I had a friend like that in college. He was homely as sin (He's not here. I dare to say that). He married the most beautiful girl in school. Why? Because he was so beautiful on the inside - fun-loving, loving, serving - he was an attractive person. People were drawn to that kind of person.

There are no secret agents in Christ's organization. No, we sing the hymn, "They will know we are Christians by our love." And our body language will tell that love. So persevere, I remind you. If I'm not around to encourage you, I remind you to persevere as a definition of Ultreya. Persevere! Don't grow weary in well-doing. The pay is poor, but the fringe benefits, folks, are "out of this world." So persevere in communicating not only in words, but in your actions, in your body language as individuals and in the language of this body. Persevere in the message that I leave with you tonight. God loves you and so do I. Thank you.

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