It’s Monday

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June 21, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen

Though today, June 21, is the official start of summer, the rhythms of summer are already in full swing. Schools officially broke for the summer. The warm days and cool nights of the past few weeks were welcome reminders of why we live in Minnesota even after the seemingly never-ending winter. The combustible energy of Vacation Bible School. The withering heat this week. The working for the lake-weekend rhythm of Minnesota summer has commenced for many. The rhythms of summer are in full swing.
Early in my ministry, I thought of summer as “down” time. A chance to breathe, vacation with the family, and make preparations for the fall. I can’t remember when it changed, but it did. Yes, it’s a different rhythm than in the fall through spring. But it’s a rhythm that connects with people in new ways and gives us a chance to highlight ministry in a new light.
This week we welcome 200 kids and volunteers for Vacation Bible School. Throughout July we will launch our yearly Tons of Love campaign to support our work with Ralph Reeder Food Shelf. At the end of July, Feed My Starving Children will host a weekend pack that will give our community, through these two initiatives, an opportunity to serve, financially give, and give tangible food items so that those who are food insecure, locally, and globally, will have access to nutritious meals. In August, our teens will engage in their yearly Summer Stretch and ministry plans will be finalized to launch another season in the fall.
On top of all that, we just crossed over the halfway mark on our giving for the water intrusion project and parking lot. More than $270,000 has been given or committed. Time is of the essence to get these done this summer. If you are able to give now, please do so. If you plan on giving but it may come in over the next few months, just let us know so we can be confident moving forward with these projects. Thank you for your commitment!
Are you getting a sense of the abundance of our common work this summer? As a reminder to all of you, no matter what your summer rhythm, these ministry rhythms will continue and will need your bodies and your energy to do the onsite work and your financial support to make it happen.
Three asks:
  • Give consistently and generously this summer. As a congregation, we voted on a 7% increase to our budget in 2022. As you can see from our income/expense lines through May, we will need your attention and ongoing generosity toward the operating budget this summer.
Operating Budget
Income: $805,950     Expense: $869,029  ($63,079)
Mortgage/Deferred Maintenance
Income: $150,651     Expense: $123,740    $26,911
  • Give over and above so that we can complete one or both of our proposed capital projects this summer. As a community, we need to take care of the facility that houses much of our ministry.
  • Give of your time and energy and money to support our ministry initiatives like Tons of Love, Feed My Starving Children, and ministry to our children and teens.
It’s a different rhythm this summer but we strike it to live out the same vision—At Incarnation we envision “A world filled with God’s grace and love.”
There are many ways for you to be part of that vision this summer! Peace. Kai

June 13, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen

Fr. Richard Rohr, in his daily devotional for June 13, said, “History has shown that a rather large percentage of Christians never get to the practical implications of their beliefs! ‘Why aren’t you doing what you say you believe?’ the prophet invariably asks.”
Two Sundays ago, I reminded us that the primary reason non-Christians state for not wanting to be part of a Christian community is, wait for it…their relationship with a person who is Christian. Maybe Rohr’s analysis of history is accurate. If we want to live and love like Jesus and we know from the scriptures that Jesus’ life was a full expression of God’s compassion and generosity and non-violence and kindness and peace and inclusion and love. Then, are we doing what we say we believe?
Another way to think about it is to respond to the first question God asks us in the biblical story, “Where are you?” In that Genesis 3 story, God’s question was an invitation to be honest with where they were (they had just taken and eaten the forbidden fruit). It’s that honest reflection of our gifts and our gaffes, our triumphs and our trials that deepens our awareness of the God who knows us at the deepest levels of who we are and has still chosen to love!
Can we offer that same desired gift of vulnerability and grace to others?
Question of the week: Where are you these days? Take some time this week and let that question settle into your spirit. Let God, and maybe even some others, know your response.
This week I’d also like to share some good news on our fundraising for the two capital projects—the water intrusion project and the parking lot project. As we began, we set ourselves a few informal goals that would help us raise the total needed for both projects, $527,073. TO DATE: We are half-way there!!!!
We hoped to receive gifts at these levels…
  • $50,000—We hoped for two. We have two commitments.
  • $20-25,000—We hope for six. We have five commitments.
  • $10,000—We hoped for ten. We have three.
We also need gifts in the $5,000, $2,500, and $5-$1,000 ranges. As you can see, we hope for gifts across all ranges of ability to give. Can you see yourself somewhere in those giving ranges?
All gifts are critical. Each should be able to give according to their ability for the good of the whole. Timing is critical so that we can do the projects yet this summer. If you can give by the end of June, thank you in advance. If you would like to make a commitment that could be given in the next few months, let us know. We move forward, together.
Peace, Kai

June 7, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen

In the past two plus years, we have spoken repeatedly about our identity using the language of “a church without walls.” Though it became our only reality during seasons of the Covid pandemic as we gathered on Zoom for our small groups and learning, our worship and community building, the church has always been “a church without walls.” You are the church—in all the places you live and learn, play and pray, hope and help. Your life, as a follower of Jesus, has never been bound by walls it has only been confined by your imagination. Where you are, God is. Where God already is, you are invited to go.
So, we are “a church without walls.” We always have been and always will be.
At the same time, we have walls that surround worship spaces and learning areas and prayer-filled corners and gathering spaces for the community. What happens within those walls can comfort us in times of sorrow and inspire us to new joy. That is critical stuff for the everyday lives that we lead and the motivation that it takes to engage those everyday lives with hope and love. So, we need to care for those walls and spaces—kids learn there, families grow there, adults mature there, community is sent into the world from there.
This summer we hope to care for those walls and spaces by repairing the water intrusion around the windows on the east end of Incarnation Hall and updating the parking lot to provide better access for our handicapped parking. See the end of this article for more specific information about the scope of the projects. Both of these projects are long overdue. It’s now time for us to make this commitment to our present community and our future ministry.
So, how will we fund these projects? The good news so far is that a few members of our community feel so strongly about making these projects happen that they have already given or committed over $200,000, with more to come soon. Since we are all part of this community, there are also ways for all of us to consider being part of our common work.
Using a round number, let’s say the total for both projects is $526,000. We’ve already had $200,000 committed. Since there are over 700 giving individuals or households in this congregation, $450 per household would come very close to covering the cost of the project. Or maybe we can think about it more specifically:
  • A full window replacement and repair would cost about $6,000 per window.
  • Maybe you are able to pay for the cost of one of the windows for around $1,500.
  • You could pay for the approximate cost of the one of the parking spots that will be redone for $2,100.
  • You could pay for the painting of some of the new lines at $100 each.
All gifts will be celebrated. We know the giving ability is not the same for each household, but we hope you would consider some level of response. We are always “a church without walls.” At the same time, we need to care for our walls and spaces—kids learn there, families grow there, adults mature there, community is sent into the world from there.
Peace, Kai

May 2, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen

Last week, I was one of the leaders of a retreat for fifty pastors spanning the denominational spectrum. It was hosted by Renovare’, a cross denominational movement of spiritual formation. I have been connected with this movement for more than 15 years.
At the heart of our living and teaching at Renovare’ are these principles:
  • The goal of spiritual formation is for our lives to become more like Jesus’ life.
  • The transformative energy behind this lifelong process is the gift of God’s Spirit.
  • This Spirit is always available and accessible.
  • Spiritual practices (like worship, prayer, giving, serving, acts of compassion and justice, etc.) give us the opportunity to experience this transforming grace in our lives.
  • Through this grace and these practices, we CAN become more like Jesus and be co-creators of a more loving world, just as Jesus helped us imagine.
In other words, we want to learn to live and love like Jesus, for a lifetime!
This process doesn’t just happen because we want it to happen or because we periodically dabble in it. The process of life change is life-long, take a great deal of intentionality, and requires a whole lot of patience—qualities in short supply in many of our lives.
It’s also a process that we can’t do alone. We need one another—parents, kids, neighbors, friends, and faith community. We need great writers and faithful witnesses from the past to show us the way. We need loving people in the present to show us that the way is still possible.
In a consumer driven (I want it my way, on my time), quick fix (let’s make it happen now), and individualistic (my needs come first) culture, this hill of spiritual formation is a steep climb. So, we take steps forward, see how it goes, and then step again. Intentional steps. Communal steps. Forward-looking steps.
Last summer as we were beginning to launch our ministry year, we had this formation process in mind. We knew that the experience of one hour a week (if that, for some) wasn’t going to be enough to invite and immerse our kids and parents in this life-long journey. We knew that a Jesus’ life, if we are going to pursue it, needs to be thought about and practiced at home as well as in our faith community. We wanted to create common experiences for our kids and their parents to worship and learn and serve.
We wanted to push against the consumer driven, quick fix, individualistic culture and say, “This Jesus life matters!” If it matters, we need to be willing to invest in it. Spiritual muscles, like bodily muscles, grow through consistent and ever-increasing engagement.
Now that we are at the end of this year of ministry year, we want to take some time and see how it went for those who were involved. The attached survey includes questions about children, youth and family ministries, as well as worship. Please take some time and fill out the questions that apply to you and/or your family. They will help us as we continue to shape and reshape our ministry.
The attached survey will only take a few minutes to complete. We hope you will complete it before May 15.
A phrase I have used often since I have been here is “Jesus didn’t come to help us build bigger and better churches; Jesus came to help us imagine and co-create a better, more loving world.”
Can you imagine being part of that more loving world?
Peace, Kai

April 19, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen(email Pastor Kai directly here)
Beauty inspires. Passion inspires. Excellence inspires. The Great Story of Jesus still inspires.
This captures Holy Week at Incarnation. I am so grateful for all the staff and volunteers that came together to create such an inspiring week. The tech team, the worship arts team, the worship teams—including hosts and ushers and communion assistants (on Palm Sunday for the first time in two years!), and the staff all working together to create an environment where the SPIRIT can make its way IN (IN-SPIRIT…INSPIRE) to our lives and we can feel a little more ALIVE.
Thank you.
I want to express a particular word of gratitude to Sean Turner and Amy Maakestad, our primary musicians. Music can lead us into and through the great story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in ways that nothing else can. This week it did.
Working with Sean and Amy I have been impressed by their passion for their work and for this community. They both bring a dedication to expanding our musical repertoire and are deeply embedded in the larger music scene of the Twin Cities—two of the many reasons why they are so well suited to lead us forward in our music ministry.
This week was a great example of what they can do. They told the story with both classic and contemporary music, with musicians from our community and from the larger community, and they told it with beaty and passion and excellence. Thank you, Sean and Amy. We are grateful for your ministry and we look forward to more of it!
This next week will be more of the same. The Senior Choir, along with a choir from Path of Grace Church, the Copper Street Brass, organ and timpani will sing three movements of the Gloria by John Rutter. There will be one service at 10:00am both in-person and livestreamed.
Beauty inspires. Passion inspires. Excellence inspires. The Great Story of Jesus still inspires.
See you in worship as we immerse ourselves in the Easter theme…BE ALIVE!
Peace. Kai

April 11, 2022

A special video for you today from Pastor Kai Nilsen
It's Monday - A Message from Pastor Kai Nilsen
Holy Week Worship
April 14: Maundy Thursday
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
Nursery provided.
April 15: Good Friday
11:00 a.m. Family worship, Incarnation Hall, NOT livestreamed
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
April 17: Easter Sunday
8:00, 9:15, 10:30 a.m.; all in Sanctuary, all livestreamed
Nursery provided at all services.

April 4, 2022

Senior Pastor Kai Nilsen  (email Pastor Kai directly here)

Have you felt the renewed energy in the building recently as a growing number of people have been gathering for worship, in conversation over coffee, and simply enjoying one another’s presence, even seeing faces of many? As we prepare for our Holy Week services, begin to consider whom you might invite to join you for worship—friends, neighbors, co-workers, extended family. Throughout the season, we’ve been centering our worship on the stories of those who encountered Jesus in transformative ways. During Holy Week, we gather around the ultimate transformative story—God’s story of turning tragedy into triumph, despair into hope, and even, death into new life.

Good news for us and for all. Invite someone to join you this upcoming week.
Holy Week Worship
April 10: Palm Sunday
8:45 and 10:15 a.m., both in Sanctuary, both livestreamed
Nursery provided.
April 14: Maundy Thursday
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
Nursery provided.
April 15: Good Friday
11:00 a.m. Family worship, Incarnation Hall, NOT livestreamed
7:00 p.m., Sanctuary, livestreamed
April 17: Easter Sunday
8:00, 9:15, 10:30 a.m.; all in Sanctuary, all livestreamed
Nursery provided at all services.
UPDATE: At the annual meeting, we mentioned that we are working on two capital improvement projects that we hope to be able to do this summer. 1) Water Intrusion Project around all the windows in the Incarnation Hall addition. 2) Parking Lot Upgrade: Phase one, the phase we hope to pursue this summer, will re-design and re-assign the handicapped parking spots so they can be closer to the building and will also address the water pooling and run-off issues outside of Door #1, in the current handicap spots.
Final plans are being made now. You will be invited to participate financially toward the projects soon.
As I write this, three more inches of snow surprised us again last night. Winter will not loosen its vice grip on us quite yet. But, spring will come. New growth will emerge. Community will gather. Resurrection WILL be celebrated.
In hope, Kai

March 28, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen . . .


One of my hopes for communities I lead is that staff and volunteers will share the same experience of an active growing life of faith. I want our volunteers to be find meaningful places to serve and offer their gifts and through their engagement grow deeper in their life of faith. The same is true for staff. I want this to be more than a job but a vocation—a way to actively use their gifts in service to the world.
One of the persons I have experienced this through is Becky Benson who leads our Engagement and Service Ministry. As you will read in the letter below, Becky is retiring at the end of April. What a gift she has been to the community of Incarnation and the larger community through her tireless and passionate engagement with our ministry partners. What a gift you have been to her. In so many ways, she models the good and curious and open and growing life of a Jesus follower. She will be missed. Over the next month, please take the opportunity to share with Becky what her presence and ministry has meant to you.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
Peace, Kai
Beloved Incarnation Siblings in Christ,
After nearly 21 years, I will be leaving my Incarnation staff role on April 29 to enter a new chapter: retirement. While I love the ministries we have shared and each of you as companions in these ministries, it’s time for me to move to this next phase with my husband, Mark, who has been retired since summer 2020.
The Bensons (who were new neighbors of former Incarnation Senior Pastor Gary and MaryAnn Anderson) stepped into membership of Incarnation in the fall of 1993, when Natalie was not yet two and Audrey was on the way. And then, in June of 2001, through an invitation I never dreamed would be extended, I joined the Incarnation staff as the part-time “Evangelism Coordinator” after a 17-year career with Honeywell. I didn’t know ANYTHING about serving in a church staff role, but I guess loving God and loving people was enough to get me started. From then until now, you and the Holy Spirit have formed me into the leader I am today, as I’ve had the privilege of inviting others to engage in service. There has been no greater joy than to come along side you, extend the invitation to join our communal work of making a better world, for you to say YES and then for us to do this work, side by side. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use my strengths in such life-giving ways over these last 20+ years; you also walked with me in care and love, celebrating many joys and comforting me through some pain. You raised my children and created a beautiful faith home for my family, a community with whom we have shared meaningful ministry.
Incarnation, you are RICH with many gifts, ideas, creativity, energy, resources, faithfulness and deep passion for God’s communal calling. I have every confidence that wonderful ministry will continue to take place as you step faithfully into the future. You will be in my constant prayers.
During the summer, I will not worship with the Incarnation community or engage directly as a part of Incarnation ministry, in order that space may be created for new leadership, whatever shape that takes. I hope to ease back slowly this fall as an Incarnation community member.
What’s immediately next for me? I’m not exactly sure, though I have a deep longing to use my gifts to engage in relationship and in a spirit of accompaniment with those locally whose lives are different from mine. The who and in what ways are not clear right now but I am sure God will point me in the right direction.
We will have a chance to celebrate the ministry we have shared together before the end of April, though the details are not known right now. Stay tuned. Until then, our shared work will continue as we, filled by God’s grace, feed the hungry in heart, body, mind and spirit.
With love and gratitude,

March 14, 2022

From Pastor Kai Nilsen . . .
This weekend I mentioned that my daughter and her fiancée had an opportunity to sing solos in Carnegie Hall with the symphonic winds group from Capital University. The small gift shop adjacent to the auditorium was packed with memorabilia, many echoing the famous quip, “What does it take to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice. Practice!”
What’s true in the development of your voice is also true in the development of a resilient life of faith. It doesn’t just happen because you want it to, even if you really want it to. It most likely won’t happen with a casual, infrequent engagement. The development of a resilient life of faith, a Jesus’ life, is a purposeful engagement over a lifetime. We developed a little mantra in our middle school ministry as we launched the program this year, “We want to learn to live and love like Jesus, for a lifetime.”
Faith formation, the language we are using at Incarnation, is the process of our lives being shaped, being formed into the likeness of Jesus. When Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he didn’t ask them to memorize certain scriptures so they could proof text their way through life. He didn’t give them an exhaustive list of faith doctrines to believe. He invited them to take on his life, “Love one another as I have first loved you.” John 13.
A formed life of faith doesn’t just show up for worship on Sunday, fulfilling your obligation, and then living as you choose the rest of the week. A formed life of faith takes on the mind of Christ (How would Jesus look on others? How would Jesus think about the issues we are encountering in the world?) and extends the hands of Christ (modeling the life of Jesus in his compassion for those outside the community and his sacrificial life for all).
The concept of the Inward/Outward journey is the way we give a framework to this movement. The Inward Journey is the set of experiences and practices that connect us with the mind of Christ and Jesus’ unconditional love and regard for all—including you! The Outward Journey is the set of practices and experiences that allow us to extend Jesus’ love and compassion into the world.
Did you get the language of practice connected to these journeys? Spiritual exercises or practices (prayer, worship, giving, serving, acts of compassion and justice, etc.) are activities that put us in the flow of God’s life in the world. Like the development of the voice, the more we “practice” compassion, generosity, non-judgment, forgiveness, love to friend and stranger, the more these gifts of God become part of us. They become our natural response to the world.
This season of Lent we have invited you to a number of practices (worship—Wednesday and Sunday, daily centering prayer through Psalm 46:10, walking the labyrinth, being generous in giving, offering yourself in compassion through gifts for Ukrainian refugees and Ralph Reeder through the Minnesota Food Share initiative).
How do you get closer and closer to being formed in the image of Jesus? Practice. Practice. Practice.
Peace. Kai
Kai Nilsen, Senior Pastor

  • If you are new to Incarnation or you want to learn more about Incarnation ministries, please complete this online form we’ll use to connect you to a ministry leader according to your interests.
  • Please consider giving online, allowing Incarnation to receive the funds quickly. You will be able to donate to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf, Feed My Starving Children, the Operating Budget and more through the same link.
  • If you are ill, someone is hospitalized, or there is a death, call the Incarnation Office at 651-484-7213. If it is outside of Office Hours, contact the on-call Pastor at 651-484-7213 ext. 204.