Pastor Julie’s Message for the Summer

Ordinary Time

We have entered into the long season of Pentecost.  It’s also known as Ordinary Time.  There are no major or lesser festivals that fall on Sunday this year, so we are simply to be about the business of being the Church and everything that it entails.

Lest you begin to think that this is a time to take it easy, the opposite is true.  Certainly, we take the time for rest and re-creation, we also tend to the needs of the church so that we are ready for the fruits of our labor come this fall.  Sunday School will start up again with a whole host of other activities and ministry programs.  The work and ministry of the Church is ongoing.

To help us live into ministry engagement.  The Church Council is visioning a new process for “Committee Work” around the Church.  Instead of gathering once a month on a Wednesday evening, we are going to hold discussion groups on Sunday mornings between the services.  We hope to engage people in an informal setting to share what’s going on in and around the church.  We are hopeful that this will help facilitate communication within the church and also be able to invite people into ministry areas that they have a passion for.

The Church Council will work on when we will schedule these meetings and we are looking forward to trying a new way to join together and be the Church.  Please speak to a Council member if you have any questions regarding where you might like to focus your attention.

Peace,

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’s Message for June

Synod Assembly – Be Not Afraid

The theme for the NJ Synod Assembly this year was “Be Not Afraid.”  Interestingly enough, I have preached on this very topic on numerous occasions.  It’s one of those Bible verses that brings comfort and hope and one that we need to hear over and over again.  Clearly, we are in need of hearing these words.

The word, Fear, is mentioned nearly five hundred times in the Bible and nearly one-quarter of those references are some form of ‘Fear Not’ or ‘Be Not Afraid.’  Many times it is spoken to people who are trembling in fear over some type of encounter with the ‘Holy’: shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, or God uttering the words in the book of Revelation.

I believe that it was very important to have this theme as the centerpiece of our gathering as a Synod.  We live in a fear-filled world.  All too often, people use fear to motivate us to do things we wouldn’t normally do.  In addition, as we move forward, living into all of the change that is necessary for us to be the church in this time and place, we will be afraid.  Things will be different and we can’t even foresee how different they will be.

The promise and hope are contained in what is the second part of the sentence:  “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  The promise of God’s presence with us in every trial we face can never be minimized.  It is an amazing promise that fills us with awe, peace, and wholeness.  We are never alone, no matter what we face.

May this always be your hope.

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’e Message for April

We are an Easter people and “Alleluia” is our song.

Bishop Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

As many of you know, music has played an important role all throughout my life.  I started my unofficial piano lessons with my sister Jean at age six.  I joined the Junior Choir at the age of eight since that was the earliest age that you could join.  I played in the bell choir beginning in fifth grade.  Music has always been there as a friend, helping me deal with all of life’s issues and as an expression of contemplation and worship.

We are an Easter people.  These words from St. Augustine roll around in my head from time to time.  In the deep recesses of my mind, I recall a song like that that we used to sing in Sunday School, but the tune seems to be illusive – just beyond the edge of my memory.  I’ve pondered these words for years.  What does it mean to be an Easter people and have ‘alleluia’ as our song?

As some of you are aware, I used to tour with Lutheran Youth Encounter in a band called Common Bread.  I recall the first time that I was introduced to the ministry of Lutheran Youth Encounter.  I was in middle school and was in awe of the words and the music that I heard.  I remember it as a life changing event and I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to audition for the band as soon as I felt old enough.  In a way, I fell in love with this ministry and knew that I was to be a part of it.  They brought a message of love and hope that I still carry with me this day.

At the ripe old age of nineteen, I felt that it was my time to apply and audition. I was placed on a National Team that toured the East Coast.  We were one of four National Teams and three International Teams in 1984. It was an amazing two years, making relationships, spreading the message of God’s love, and going on an adventure every single day.  So many experiences form us through life.  This was a major life experience for me.

Sadly, I received a phone call last month from an old LYE friend.  After fifty-one years in the ministry, Lutheran Youth Encounter was closing its doors.  One thing is for certain, the way we do ministry has been changing over the past several years, and this closing truly signifies the need for change.  However, I have been struggling with this change.  It saddens me that something that brought such life and joy will no longer be there.  It saddens me that my children will not have the opportunity hear the message in this format, or even be a part of a team if they so desire.  It feels like a huge loss.

As I contemplated this loss, the words from St. Augustine came back to me.  To be an Easter people is to always live in hope, that new life springs forth even in the midst of loss, pain and grief.  I am waiting for what will come next now that LYE is no more.  I know that something will come next.  That is how the Spirit works.  I don’t know what it will be, just that it will be.

To be an Easter people means living in hope for what comes next.  Life is full of twists and turns.  We cannot see what is before us, but we can move forward even when we feel stuck in grief. We never make the journey alone, and for that, I can only sing ‘Alleluia!’

May Easter peace be yours,

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’s Message for March

“Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?”  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  John 20:13-16

 Through the years, I have often found this Easter encounter to be interesting and a bit curious.  It’s not that fact that Mary encountered two angels.  It’s not even the part where Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus.  My curiosity has always been piqued by the part where Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener.  The gardener!  How can something like that even make it into the gospel account of the resurrection?

Our Lenten journey has made something clear for me.  In wrestling with all of the Lenten readings this season, I was especially struck by our reading for the Third Sunday in Lent.  You may recall the parable of the Fig Tree.  The gospel of Luke, the thirteenth chapter, tells us the story of a fig tree that hasn’t produced fruit in three years.  The owner wants it cut down as it is taking up valuable resources.  The gardener pleads for the life of the tree saying that he will tend and nurture the tree to new life.  Yes, the gardener…

Standing these two accounts side by side offers us wonderful images of who Jesus is and what his resurrection means for us.  As a wonderful old hymn tells us, “The powers of death have done their worst,” trying to rob the fullness of life that God intends.  Yet, the grave is not the end for the grave can not hold him.  The resurrection has the last word.  God’s will is not judgment, for he sends us Jesus who is a word of grace and mercy.  The image of the gardener speaks of love and the tender care that Jesus has for us, so much so that he gave his life for ours.

May our curiosity always continue to be piqued by God’s incredible grace and mercy.

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’s Message for February

The Lenten Journey

 Our Lenten Journey begins early this year with Ash Wednesday on February 10.  We will have barely cleaned up from Super Bowl festivities and we will be set on a path from death to life: a true movement from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Have you ever thought about our Lenten Journey as a movement from death to life?  It truly is.  On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our mortality with the somber words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  But the mark of the ash is not a shapeless form.  The Ash smudge is a cross, reminding us that our entire existence is in God’s hands.  We see this movement from death to life in the earth around us.  We move from stark earth to tender greens, to buds that will blossom when the time is right.  Even the days are getting longer as we move to the time of rebirth.

Join us in the journey this Lent.  Let us mark the time together, witness the mystery together, and celebrate new life in our midst.  To help prepare us, I share this poem by Susan Palo Cherwien:

 

Journey

Whether we want it or not

life in space and time sweeps us along on a journey

Time is in motion

Space is in motion

We live on a turning planet circling a star

and the star with all its companions moves through space

in one spiral arm of a large galaxy

which is moving in a circular journey through space and time.

We are on a journey of becoming

Whether we want to be or not.

The church year, most especially in Lent,

is an opportunity to do this consciously

to participate consciously in becoming

in transforming rather than just being

swept unwillingly

unknowingly

along.

When we follow Christ into Lent

we turn onto a path into wilderness

where we may encounter hard rocky places

tempters

and thirst

but that will lead us out into the gold

of the Easter dawn.

 

Peace,

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’s Message for January 2016

In Wonder of the New

It is that time of year again when we start fresh.  We reflect on what the last year has meant to us and also what it has brought us.  We think about the ways that the year has challenged us, with change, illness, struggles, and all of the rest.  We also think about our blessings, the moments in time when we experienced joy, the treasured moments, and God’s presence in our lives.  Finally, we turn to what is to come, the new.

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet?  My list always seems to start the same way every year.  I always resolve to get healthier.  What does it mean that it’s on my list year after year?  I know the answer, yet it is a frustration year after year…  What does it take to change?  What can help us besides all of the technology that is out there?

This year, we can turn to our Gospel readings throughout the month of January.   First, we encounter the Word becoming flesh and living among us.  Then we learn that Jesus is baptized and begins his path in ministry.  Jesus attends the Wedding at Cana and performs his first miracle or sign that points to the abundance of God’s grace, mercy, and love.  Jesus preaches in the temple and claims his identity and announces the shape and form of his ministry.  Of course, this stirs up a ruckus for those who like the status quo and don’t want to embrace the new.

Jesus claims his ministry that truly begins after he is baptized.  On January 10, we will celebrate the Baptism of our Lord with the baptism of little Oliver, which will be a joyous occasion for all of us.  Can we use this opportunity to remember our own baptism and what happens in, with and under the water?  We are made new through the water.  We can begin again, perhaps on a new path in ministry.  The question that I ask you to ponder is, “What shape will your ministry take in the next year?”  Be mindful and pray on this question.

I invite you to worship every Sunday to explore the new in your life.

Happy new you,

Pastor Julie

Pastor Julie’s December Message

“It Was Delicious”
On All Saints’ Sunday, we welcomed Lily Pazereckis and Christopher Wild to the Lord’s Table to receive Holy Communion. I truly enjoyed spending time with both of them as we met together to prepare and try to understand this unique gift that was given by Christ. After the wonderful celebration of worship, I had a chance to speak with Christopher to ask him what he ‘thought’ about Communion. His response struck me. He licked his lips and declared, “It was delicious.”
What an amazing answer! The truth of his statement was so stark and beautiful that I have been sharing his words everywhere I go. And so I feel as if I must continue to ask this question, perhaps with better words, “What does Communion mean to you?”
For Martin Luther, he believed in the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion. Through the Word, Christ is present in, with, and under the bread and the wine. As Luther stated, “Holy Communion is not merely a reminder that Christ at one time died for us, but the sacrament itself is the forgiveness of sins.” Holy Communion is the embodiment of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. But again, I must ask the question, “What does this mean to us or for us?”
It seems wholly appropriate that Messiah Lutheran will move to weekly Communion at Sunday services this Advent. In the season where we wait for the Lord, we also understand that Christ is present with us. It is a season of the now and not yet, which is a place that we can only approach with wonderment. Advent is an annual time to consider God’s coming in every way and time possible. God comes to us in meal, in Word, as light, and our community gathered, as a complete surprise after a long wait.
This season, I invite you into the joy of Christ’s presence in much the same way that Christopher expressed it following his first Communion. I ask you to explore what this gift means to you and for your life. In our pondering, may we see that indeed, “It is delicious.”
Come, Lord Jesus.
Peace,
Pastor Julie