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Look What God Has Done

April 9, 2012

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples,

but the Lord rises up

and his glory appears over you.

Lift up your eyes and look about you:

all assemble and come to you.

Isaiah 60.1-2,4

If there is one thing we are not good at as a parish, if there is anything our staff falls short of as a group, if there’s one place where I always utterly fail, it is acknowledging and celebrating wins. We should never be self-congratulatory in a prideful way (some church communities are). But, we shouldn’t be reluctant to know and name our wins, because our wins aren’t even ours to begin with, they’re God’s.  So, recognizing and naming them is just giving him the glory. Before moving on to the next challenge we need to stop and thank God for his faithfulness and victory.

Sunday was a great victory and an amazing demonstration of God’s faithfulness.

  • To begin with, the weather was perfect, if you could have custom ordered a day, that would’ve been it.
  • The Cow Palace looked great, thanks to the efforts of dozens of ops ministers under the 24-7 lead of our Weekend Director Barry Sheehan (with some significant decorating design from staffers Alison Demartin and Kellie Caddick).
  • Sight and sound were truly wonderful, thanks to our Creative Director Lucas Busco and Audio Engineer Jeremy Travos (don’t tell anyone, but they’re both wizards who possess magical powers). Thanks also go to their team of tech ministers.
  • The “preshow” playfully greeted guests and helped them feel comfortable (an incredibly important thing to do for the unchurched). It was thanks to the talent Kristin Costanza and Chris Wesley demonstrate around here weekly.
  • The ceremonies were flawless given the professional direction of Brian Crook, Bob Barczak and all our liturgical ministers; everything else ran smoothly too, thanks to hosts and parking ministers.
  • The music was moving, inspiring and profoundly worshipful led by Rob Belanger, Al Walsh, Rich Skirpin and all their musical colleagues.
  • The kids program, Time Travelers, was over the top fun and excitement thanks to Lisa Scata, Maggie German and their ebullient team of kid ministers. I saw one of their rehearsals and it was delightful.
  • I know my Associate Tom Corcoran joins me in also extending thanks for the extra effort and labor of our other staff members last week: Kathleen Leslie, Jack Boivard, Matt Little, Jerry Dolle and Shaun Doyle.  They filled in all the holes and kept everything running on Ridgely Road as well as at the Fair. And I hasten to add that all of us were powerfully assisted by the sustained efforts of so many volunteer ministry leaders.

Wonderful as all their work was however, it would have been of limited value if our parishioners hadn’t done their job, inviting unchurched friends and family. That they did was abundantly obvious.  We more or less filled the Cow Palace…twice.  We also did that last Christmas, but Sunday there were several hundred more chairs than Christmas too (about 3,200).  From the perspective of the stage all I could think was “Wow!”

All that said, I think probably everybody I just mentioned would agree with me that our hats are off to Maria Folsom-Kovarik, Director of Adult Ministry, for her remarkable vision, direction, and determination.  It was Maria who planned an unprecedented program getting members into ministry, at least for the day (we called them “First Serves”). Probably 600 people participated.  Maria and her leadership team, a very impressive group, who all worked with discipline and dedication, seemed to do the impossible.

In turn, Maria would hold me remiss if I failed to acknowledge that the heroes of the day for all of us were the First Serves themselves.

When I arrived at the Cow Palace on Sunday morning, about 8:15am, I wondered into the ministers “backstage” area, where they were gathering.  Immediately I was struck by a feeling of déjà-vu. I was remembering my first experience of a weekend at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church.  There, I was also wondering around the place before the service and I saw circles of people, hand in hand, apparently praying together. What was that all about, I thought. It turned out they were all member ministers, and they were praying for the people they would be serving. In the whole of my Catholic experience, I had never seen anything like it; it amazed me.  That was the amazing sight I saw Sunday morning at the Cow Palace.

You know, not so long ago around here, Easter was a crazy chaotic exercise filled with frustrated efforts, hurt feelings and lots of dissatisfied consumers. This Easter people got up out of the pews, donned the T-shirts of servants and served instead. And because of what happened this Easter, we are a different parish church. We’re in a different place, you’ll see.

Look what God has done among us, lift up your eyes and look.

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  1. Praise the Lord for all He is doing through you and Church of the Nativity. What an inspiring example to churches of all denominations of what can do if we submit ourselves to his will.

    Praying that God will continue to bless your ministry.

    John D
    Bundaberg, Australia

    PS Is the book still on its way? Can’t wait to read it!

    1. Hi John,

      Michael and his associate, Tom, have been working on the book and it is currently being looked at by some editors and publishers. Please keep this project in prayer as it unfolds.

      Thank you for your comment and interest in Church of the Nativity!

      Kellie Caddick

  2. Hey don’t forget the great message
    We were all doing ordinary things but together produced an extraordinary result

  3. Regarding your sermon on the 2nd Sunday of Easter (April 15): Extremely good and Christo-Centric!

    Had a comment about what you seemed to develop as an “ecclesiology of teamwork.” You implied that when the Church (or church) functions as a team, it is more open to the power of the Resurrection.

    Having lived and worked at the Vatican for years, I would note:

    1. From the beginning, reading Acts all the way thru, there was often not teamwork between early apostles/disciples.
    2. In fact, dissension in the first four centuries of the church, was the norm, lead by gnostics and Arians, who fought viciously with “orthodox” views. At times, many of the major Sees were held by Arian bishops. It took 3 councils–the first called by the King–to come up with an agreement on what might be held in common by Christians, in the 4th Century. Still there was dissension.
    3. Then, of course, the Eastern churches, decided they had had enough of Rome, and went their own way….And of course, the Reformation, and Council of Trent, in which the Roman Church became increasingly hostile to what lay outside its borders.

    The point is the assembly of Jesus’ people has always had a great deal of dysfunction and was not a team–from the very beginning.

    The Power of the Resurrection is so overwhelming, that in spite of the dysfunction in the assembly of Christ, this Power has allowed his assembly to accomplish miracles in lives, communities–the whole world. This Power is so great that it is active even when not explicitly accepted, in any mosque, or synagogue, or temple. As you have written about in this blog, Jesus’ presence (or grace) is a gift, is free and powerful, and creates the divine in us and the church despite our lack of teamwork.

    As you said, the more we share this gift of grace as a team, we become a healthier and more effective assembly of Jesus. The mystery is that It remains present, even when we do not.

    Peace, Nick

  4. My wife, Linda, and I have been attending Nativity for almost 2 years. Your messages and the power of the church has inspired us to a new commitment to our faith. We have begun to tithe, become small group leaders and volunteered for First Serve. More imporant, we are growing in our spiritual life and appreciate you and all of you who minister at Nativity for the example you show for what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. You have made a big difference in our lives. Thank you.

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