What’s an Ultreya? part 2

In my last post, I wrote about what an ultreya is— in this post I’ll address what we actually do at an ultreya. Often the ultreya starts with some snacks (what would a Lutheran gathering be without food???). Then there is some singing. You may get a chance to hear (or request) your favorite weekend song. There are announcements about upcoming weekends and other matters of concern to the community. Then we have a speaker.

The speaker is someone who attended a weekend and is asked to share his or her struggles and successes in walking with Christ. The talk lasts about 15 minutes, and may deal with some aspect of piety, study or action (these are issues we discuss in our renewal groups). Hearing about what and how another Christian is doing helps me to make progress in my own faith walk and reminds me that I am not alone.

After the talks, the participants break into smaller groups and share a discussion question related to the talk. If a pastor is present, the meeting may end with communion and a brief worship service. Often we close with a circle prayer. Everyone is welcome to share their prayer concerns out loud, or silently in their hearts.

The ultreya gives me a sense of joy as I experience God’s presence and the love of a Christian community. It helps me to put my problems into perspective, and I feel peaceful, resting in God’s hand.

For more about Christian community see these posts:

John Stott on the Christian Community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer — What it Means to be in Christ as a Community

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Community of Saints

What’s an Ultreya?

Recently my husband and I served on a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend. The purpose of the retreat is to encourage participants to stay connected in small groups called reunion or renewal groups. There are also meetings of the larger community, and these are called ultreyas.

Via de Cristo has its roots in the Catholic Cursillo movement which originated in Spain during the 1940’s. The word ultreya is an archaic Spanish word used by Catholic pilgrims who visited the Shrine of St. James. This shrine was high up on a mountaintop, and the pilgrims had to climb to reach it, a tiring task. “Ultreya” was the word they shouted to encourage each other to keep going as they climbed, and it means to “persevere upward.”

The ultreya has been called “the reunion of the reunion groups.” It is a place to reconnect with others from your weekend. Like the renewal group, it is not a womb into which we retreat, but a springboard where we go to be energized in order to better live out our ideal to evangelize the world.

If you think of your spiritual life as a banquet, then the ultreya is a fast food stop along the way. It should never replace attending worship services at your church, or the renewal group meetings. Those are your steady meals. It shouldn’t become a duty or burden that interferes with your normal life. But now and then you need a little extra refreshment. Some comfort food. I attended my Via de Cristo weekend in 1990 and the ultreya offers a way to meet many friends I have made while serving on teams.

For the content of an ultreya stay tuned for my next post …..

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:

Cursillo/ViaDeCristo/3day weekends

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

The Importance of a Team Member

Recently I served on a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat team. Via de Cristo is a lay movement designed to encourage leadership in the local congregation through attendance at a three-day retreat. On the retreat there are 15 talks and group discussions about what it means to be a Christian in the church and in the world. New attendees are called pilgrims. At our first team meeting, we received the following information about what it means to be part of the team. This could apply to many other Christian ministries, and if you take the instructions seriously, it is quite humbling. Remember, we’re here on earth for one purpose — to glorify and serve God and others. Is that evident in your life?

Why am I here Lord?

  1. I’m here to praise God and to do God’s holy work here on earth.
  2. I’m here to imitate Jesus Christ and be a window to the pilgrims.
  3. I’m here to pray and make sacrifices for the entire team and the pilgrims.
  4. I’m here to help establish a Christian community by bringing Jesus Christ to these three days and by accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  5. I’m here to know the intent of the talks and to help the speaker accomplish it by guiding and directing discussion at the table.
  6. I’m here to display Christian discipleship–love of my fellow human beings, acceptance of other persons and individuals by leadership (not domination) and showing my concern for others.
  7. I’m here to demonstrate true leadership–not glory seeking but in loving concern; to be a guide, not a counselor, to be a listener and to be tolerant.
  8. I’m here so that when these three days are over the pilgrims will be able to say of the team members, ‘I came looking for Christ and I found Christ in this team.’
  9. I’m here to ask humbly that God’s will be done — not mine.
  10. I’m here, Christ, to submit my heart and soul to you so that our love will bloom and grow.

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

What is Via de Cristo?

Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

My Via de Cristo Experience

True Piety

Yesterday I posted about false piety … today I am listing the qualities of true piety, as taken from my Via de Cristo talk.

  1. First, true piety is authentic.  It springs from a desire to know God and must honestly reflect our beliefs. Acts of true piety are not about earning God’s favor.  They are a grateful response to His love.
  2. True piety nurtures our relationship with God. We will come to see ourselves as children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Christ, and temples of the Holy Spirit.
  3. True piety requires courage. It takes courage to live up to the potential God sees in us, to be a light in the dark world.  And it takes courage to call others to do the same.
  4. True piety is natural.  God doesn’t call us to become a different person, He calls us to be the person He made us to be. Our piety is to be lived out in everyday life, in the place and with the people He has given us.
  5. True piety is joyful.  Living a truly Christ-centered life is exciting.  We will find the strength to do greater things than we ever imagined, things that will attract and inspire others.

God promised that we would not have to walk through life alone, so authentic piety is only complete when it is shared. When we direct our lives to Christ that primary relationship will affect every area and every other relationship in our lives. We will experience a radical change of perspective that will alter the way we interact with God, ourselves, others, and even the world.

For more about piety see these posts:

A Mother’s Piety

What Does Piety Look Like #2

Piety and Me

The Simple Life

Recently I was called to do a talk on an upcoming Via de Cristo weekend. The title of the talk is Piety. As I read and studied in preparation, I came across a concept promoted by John Newton — gospel simplicity.

Newton’s premise is that the faithful life, a life of true piety, is simple but challenging. He wrote:

“If I may speak my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply upon Christ, as my peace, and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling.”

How do we know if this dedication to Christ has taken place? Well, there are two aspects: simplicity of intention and simplicity of dependence.

Simplicity of intention means that we have one overarching goal in life — to please and glorify Jesus through all of our actions. Our happiness and God’s glory are inseparable. It is self-denial–denial of self-righteousness, self-wisdom and self-will. It is imitating Christ in all things.

If simplicity of intention is about our aim in life, simplicity of dependence is about trust. All of our pain and trials are made worse by unbelief. When we direct our lives completely to God, we accept everything we experience as coming from God’s hand, and ultimately all of these things will be for our good and for His glory.

These two “simple” qualities will lead to a mature Christian life of genuine obedience. It won’t come automatically, because we are constantly distracted by sin which muddles our intentions and motives. Newton suggests that in every decision of life, we ask ourselves these two questions:

  1. Sustained by the all-sufficiency of Christ, am I motivated by God’s glory alone?
  2. Eternally secured by the blood of Christ, am I dependent upon God’s wisdom, timing and His power alone?

Are you living a life of gospel simplicity? It’s good food for thought.

For more about John Newton see these posts:

Out of the Depths — Book Review

Amazing Grace — The Musical

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!

At our denomination’s annual conference this year there was a lot of talk about evangelism. Not surprising, as that is primary the mission of the church. I was struck by the many creative ways that different congregations were going about that mission. For example:

  1. We have a church plant in Hawaii that meets in a park by the ocean, and partners with a surf shop to offer free surfing lessons.
  2. One pastor regularly breakfasts at the local diner, she he can meet and get to know folks in the neighborhood.
  3. Another church, during the winter months, floods an area nearby to create a skating rink for the community. They also visit the local laundromat and offer to pay for people to do their laundry.
  4. A Chinese American pastor has started a ministry to visiting Asian students and faculty at the local college.
  5. One of our pastors has written a book about his experience doing prison ministry.

It strikes me that there is one thing that all these strategies have in common –they all involve building relationships. That’s how the church grows, and no amount of advertising will replace it. If we want others to catch the vision of the Christian life, we must be willing to go out and meet them where they are. We must be in relationship with them. We must care about them.

Lutheran Via de Cristo puts it this way: Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. So, who is the person in your life that you can befriend? (I am asking myself as well).

For more about relationships see:

Servant Relationships

Prayerful Relationships

It’s All About Relationships

God is Bigger

Recently I attended a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend. While there, I learned some new Christian songs. This one touched my heart. Whatever is going on in your life today, you can be sure that God is big enough to handle it for you!

For more music from Via de Cristo retreats, see these posts:

Only a Shadow

Have You Seen Jesus?

Make Me A Channel of Your Peace

Waiting is Worthwhile

I mentioned in my previous post that I recently attended a Via de Cristo retreat weekend. At the beginning of each weekend, participants are told, “don’t judge the weekend until it is finished.” Things that seem uncomfortable or maybe confusing become clear as time passes. In other words, WAIT, get the full picture before you make a decision.

I realized that this is good advice about many things in life. When we prejudge a person, or an event, we often get it wrong. I can think of people who didn’t impress me at our first meeting, who became friends with much to appreciate. I have had work environments that started out feeling uncomfortable but became nurturing with time and attention. In the book of John, we read:

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. “John 7:24

In other words, don’t make a determination when the information you have is superficial. Be patient. Sit with it a while. See how things play out. Pray for God to open your eyes so that you can see His will. Keep your heart open, too! Our Lord is full of surprises! Don’t miss out on a blessing because you didn’t wait.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. “Psalm 27:14

For more about Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

Vineyard Via de Cristo — Some History

What’s My Ideal?

A Via de Cristo Prayer of Confession and Forgiveness

Vineyard Via de Cristo history #3

In the Bible, the image of plants is often used to convey a message to us about how God raised up a people for Himself. Like all good farmers and landscapers, God knows the value of fertile soil. Seeds are planted where they will be able to flourish and grow and yield fruit– where they can sink down roots and take in the nutrients and moisture needed to spread and be what they can be at their best.

As I think about the future of Via de Cristo, I think about the soil in which we are planted. I rejoice in the many layers of good, rich dirt which will give us the strength we need to carry this method and message forward–through all the trials, difficulties and successes we will have.

The topsoil, if you will, is our brothers and sisters in Rainbow Via de Cristo (now Living Stones Via de Cristo). This is where many of us first came to know this movement and what it is about. Here is where we felt God’s grace and love in a way we never had before. Here is where we forged lasting and deep friendships with Christian brothers and sisters. This is an important place for us.

But vineyards require a lot of nutrients, and our roots sink even deeper through Rainbow to the national Via de Cristo movement– back to the folks in Miami and Iowa who stepped out in faith many years ago because they were convinced that God was doing a new thing in the Lutheran Church.

And our roots go even deeper — to the island of Majorca after WWII and a group of Spanish Catholics who developed a short course in Christianity to excite and encourage lay people to walk the walk of a committed Christian.

tAnd deeper yet–our roots touch the soil that is the Church — the Body of Christ on earth. Nothing we are and nothing we do can be any good if it is not rooted in the Church.

Finally our roots sink until they come to rest in the most fertile soil of all — the Living Word of God that is Jesus the Christ. He is the source of all our strength.

Because we are so rooted, we know that Vineyard Via de Cristo will produce branches. It will bear fruit. It will become a splendid vine. Not because of who we are, but because of whose we are.

For more on Lutheran Via de Cristo see:

What is Via de Cristo?

Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

My Via de Cristo Experience

Vineyard Via de Cristo — Some History

I am part of a lay movement in the Lutheran Church called Via de Cristo, as are a number of the ladies who have been authors on this blog. I recently came across a talk my husband had given at the inception of Vineyard Via de Cristo (https://www.vineyardviadecristo.org) — this group broke off from another Via de Cristo group called Rainbow (now Living Stones) in order to expand the movement geographically. Via de Cristo holds retreats for Christian men and women with the goal of helping them learn to be leaders in their home congregations.

Today is one of those happy/sad movements that punctuate our lives as individuals, as we leave the Rainbow Via de Cristo community in order to form a new group. For those of us who are parents, we vividly remember the passages of our children as they started school, or graduated from school– as we watched their confirmations or saw them go off to their first proms. All of these were times when we were filled with happiness and pride in their progress and sadness in knowing things would never be the same.

Those happy/sad feelings are on both sides of the situation, of course. No matter how interesting or challenging or invigorating new circumstances may seem, we always feel some concern, some anxiety, when we leave the security of the known for the insecurity of the future. We’re steeping out and counting on what went before to be the foundation and strength we need to carry on.

For more about change see:

Life Changes

How the Reformation Changed the Environment

Fanning the Flame #10 Continued … Creating a Culture for Change

to be continued ….