Summer reading

My ideal vacation involves a comfy couch and a stack of novels. To have the time free to spend an entire day just reading through a novel is one of my favorite things. I remember a particularly full week on Internship where I just needed a break and took a day to read the final book of the Harry Potter series. Then there was December 31 a few years ago where I actually met my New Year’s resolution to read The Hobbit, all in a Starbucks afternoon. With all of the running around and constant distractions of Internet and smart phones, to have the time and stillness just to focus on one thing is a breath of fresh air. I’ve done this also with the book of Job, and with one or two of Paul’s letters in the Bible, as well as a couple of the Apocryphal books (included in the Catholic Bible but not often in other translations, more on that in another post), not to mention reading through the entire Gospel of Mark during Holy Week and getting a feel for how the shorter episodes we get on Sunday mornings fit together.

summerSummer is also a time when we share stories of summers past and make new stories together. Beach time, camping trips, travel mishaps, family get-togethers, are all sorts of possibilities for exploring the world God has made within and around us. Whether its revisiting a traditional ‘every summer’ sort of place, or a brand new thing we’ve always wanted to try and finally have the resources to get to this year, summer seems a good time for living. Winter slows us down and keeps us indoors for thinking and introspection, but summer opens up wide for gardening and growth and everything seems to fly by all the more quickly, despite the days actually being longer this time of year.

Summer can also be a time of reflecting, though, especially if those we used to celebrate those annual gatherings with aren’t around any more. Do you ever get to those over-full schedules and think “What’s the point? What difference do I make? Why does this matter in the long run? What am I doing with my one precious life?” The circle comes around again, season to season, year to year, and those questions might crop up once in awhile, so we hold one another in prayer and we gather when and how we can and we live the best we know how. Living the questions grounds us in something deeper and connects us to what we need to grow even while we celebrate, and holding the balance is not always easy.

So this summer, my reading will include the usual theology and fiction, and I’m adding a book to the stack by my reading nook, called “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans. It has gotten some good reviews and appears to ask some good questions, and I look forward to chewing on it while I travel from Senior High Camp to a worship conference in Atlanta to maybe even a weekend vacation. You are invited to read it this summer, too, and chew on it a bit, and gather to discuss it at the first Theology on Tap of the fall, probably in September or August at the Peint O Gwrw. Let’s dig a bit deeper together into what questions we have, how we live them together, and where God has connected with us in our daily lives.

Shalom,
Pastor Nelson

Passover to Pentecost – Liberation to Formation

Holy Week, culminating in Good Friday and EasterSunday, is historically tied to the celebration of Passover, which celebrates and re-tells the story again and again of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. If you’ve not seen the animated “Prince of Egypt” retelling of this fantastic and centrally identifying story, go find it at your local library and prepare to be enthralled. Grab the kids, too, and watch it together. It’s not only the defining story of liberation and freedom, it’s the story the Jewish people celebrate every year, including the story Jesus and his disciples celebrated on the night when he was betrayed and instituted a new covenant with his own body and blood.

pentecost-tongues-of-fire-1Now, that may seem like a lifetime ago, well before the snow had given up on us for a season, but it’s the start of a journey we are still on. And not only that, but it connects strongly with this weekend’s story, too! Pentecost was a holiday festival celebration long before Jesus was born, tied up in the continuing story of our journeying together in the wilderness, led by a God against whom we constantly rebel, brought back again and again to life. Pentecost, then, is focused particularly on the giving of the Law on Sinai. Not so much for the sake of punishment as clarity about who we are and how we live our best, the Law, or Torah, is found in the first five books of our Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and was recorded by a number of different writers with different agendas. (Think of storytellers and lawyers and genealogists and archivists all trying together to put down what they find most important.) Some of it is history, some myth, some record-keeping, but it all points to the basic relationship God has with us. And it is beautiful in that light.

Pentecost celebrates also the first fruits of harvest in the spring. Those sweet and best things that we’ve been waiting all winter for, hoping for and longing for in the cold, dark, long nights and short days, are offered in thanksgiving for the received promise and return of new life. We’ve survived another winter! Thanks be to God!

Pentecost, then, was a time of celebrating God’s faithfulness, God’s giving and leading and calling us in freedom to become our best and most alive selves. How fitting, then, that the Holy Spirit would descend upon that party and liven it up even further! That Partheans, Medes, Mesopotamians, Ethiopians, Greeks, new converts from across the known world, and many, many others, would receive the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own languages makes perfect sense on this day. To know that God has claimed us and covenanted (like a marriage contract) to live among us, and to know that God meets us exactly where we are, without requiring us to live up to expectations first, without demanding that we fill out a form and check the ‘right’ boxes, without needing us to even speak the language of the neighborhood – this is good news for everyone, especially those who have ever felt like an outsider!

Now in these days, we have the same Holy Spirit to guide our living, moving, and being in the world around us from day to day. Our coworkers, neighbors, friends, and relatives, get to hear the Good News of absolute love and grace from us, and we get to hear it from each other! It will definitely be hard sometimes, not only to share that Good News but to hear it for ourselves, but God is persistent. Ridiculously, aggravatingly, ferociously persistent, God will not leave us alone until all are involved and included in the inbreaking of the Kin(g)dom of God. We will celebrate with Robin on Sunday the confirmation of her faith, begun by God in her baptism, and pray and promise to support her in this life of witness and struggle and reconciliation and joy, just as we do every time we affirm our faith together. I hope you’ll be there in person to celebrate with us, but for those who aren’t physically present, we trust the Spirit to hold us in communion across the miles, and to surprise us continually with signs and realities of new life in and around us.

God’s peace,

Pastor Nelson

Synod Assembly theme

“God’s Story, Our Voices” is the theme for our upcoming Synod Assembly at the end of the month in Rochester, and I am so excited to attend. This theme is the core of what we do in worship and in life, being shaped by God’s Story in worship and living that Story in our day-to-day. We have a host of wonderful workshops being presented at Assembly, and worship together in a great hall with hundreds of voices is a thrilling experience. This is a big community that gathers, and only a small portion of the full membership of our Synod! We are mighty in number, though spread across some distance, and we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves which we cannot see readily except perhaps in small glimpses where God surprises us.

Holy_SpiritI’m also excited to think of where our telling of God’s story will transform the community around us, and how that transformation begins in each of our own hearts and minds as we live with the words and the example and the gift of Jesus. Have you ever considered Sunday worship as a family reunion where we all share stories of great-great-grandfather Abraham, Rabbi Jesus who rose from the dead, and poor cousin Peter who just kept rushing headlong into things before thinking them through? I love to think of worship in this way, as we have all been embraced into a new kind of family where no one is excluded and all can be safe and celebrated.

It reminds me of being part of a theater troupe. There are stage hands, writers, choreographers, musicians, directors, actors, costumers… speaking of costumers, don’t forget the Altar Guild training this Sunday, May 17th, after worship! Our telling of the Great Story involves everyone’s gifts, and Altar Guild is one place for those with gifts of hospitality and creativity to play a part in telling the Story. The colors of the season have their meanings, the particular ‘props’ we use (like the chalice and the candles and the purificators) each have a purpose in making clear the point of our gathering and the altar guild is like the costumers of a play, or the stage hands who get all of the props in place so the actors can reach them when they’re needed. If you like working behind the scenes, or have ideas about other visual means for communicating worship, please know you are welcome!

There is a theater in Chicago whose mission statement I have held onto and kept on my desk for years, as an example of what I think worship can be when we are at our best in telling the Story: “Porchlight is Chicago’s music theatre. By uniting the arts of music, drama, dance, and design we transform stories into passionate and relevant events, which affect the lives of artists and audiences alike. As professionals and leaders in this field, we nurture and develop new artists and works, expanding and redefining the music theatre genre while matching artistic vision with fiscal responsibility.”

Isn’t that cool? I love that image, that vision, that possibility as Porchlight has expressed it. If we tweak it for our context, it might read something like: “Christ Our Emmanuel is Chatham’s Lutheran Church. By uniting the arts of music, drama, dance, and design we transform the stories of Scripture into passionate and relevant events, which affect the lives of artists inside and outside of our walls alike. As evangelical Lutherans and disciples of the Living Word, Jesus the Christ, we nurture and develop new believers to live out this Story in their various vocations, expanding and redefining the ‘church’ image while stewarding the care of new and old energies with a heart for God’s dreams in our community.”

What do you think? How does the Story of God’s love and welcome envelop and encourage you in creative rest, work, and play?

Pastor Angela Nelson

September Community Event

“Our church has been called to go forward with a spirit of hope, and love and faith in God’s grace to seek and serve the ever changing needs of our community.” – Christ Our Emmanuel’s Mission Statement

You may have heard that we are working up an event for “God’s Work, Our Hands” weekend in September. If you haven’t heard, we’re really excited to be putting together a community event, responding to the Heroin addiction in our area, which will include training on the overdose response kits that can save lives when overdoses happen (without fear of legal repercussions if you call for help for anyone who’s overdosed).

recoveryIt got me thinking, though, about addictions more broadly. Addictions that we joke about, like addiction to caffeine or chocolate. Addictions we applaud, like addictions to work. Addictions we assume are healthy, like addictions to taking care of our children. Addictions we actively encourage, like addictions to being liked.

The main thing about addiction is it’s power to take away a person’s freedom to choose. “I can stop any time” is a common statement made by the addicted, who can not, in fact, stop from obsessing about and acting on their addiction.

When we seek to gather and inform and support the wider community in this upcoming Heroin awareness event come September, the truth is that we all have addictions. Some of them we can name and actively struggle with, some of them we take for granted and can’t imagine living without. So I’m inviting y’all to read the book I’ve been reading to educate myself about this. It’s called “Addiction and Grace,” by Dr. Gerald G. May, and you can get it at the library, or I’ve ordered two copies to share at church. I received this book for my clinical work while in seminary, and it is a beautiful work, an honest reflection on how we experience the Grace and welcome and love of God when we are humbled by our lack of power over our addictions. Desire and attachment are powerful elements.

For example, addiction to money is an easy one to point to: I grew up kind of middle-class. We ate Hamburger Helper and drank Tang at home, and for school K-12 Dad always packed our lunches, which were simple sandwich and chips in tupperware, and kook-aid in a thermos. Eating out, even at a fast-food place, was at most a once a month, special occasion, event, and eating at a nice restaurant, like Olive Garden, was birthdays only. Then I went to college, where we had to use student I.D. money to eat, and suddenly I had all sorts of options. Then I lived on student loans for graduate school and started to hang out at coffee shops which had $6 sandwiches and $3 cups of coffee. I got used to this standard of living, and suddenly all I need to feel secure is the money to continue to live this way. It’s an addiction, and just a little bit more will make me feel safer. One of the ways I try to keep ahead of this addiction is to set aside my weekly offering first thing out of every Target paycheck, but it still makes my palms itch sometimes to put that $30/week aside and think of what I can and can’t do with the $70/week that’s left. Car payment? Groceries? Movie? Coffee? Why do I need these things?

So when ‘we’ work with ‘the addicted,’ we have to recognize in ourselves that we are also letting other desires choose our behaviors for us, other attachments direct our decisions, and that we all are in need of recovery and a whole lot of grace. It’s not just that we will be able to save someone who’s overdosed on Heroin after the September training event. It’s not just that we’re providing a service, though we are doing something very good and necessary for the community. When we talk about addiction, we are bearing witness to the ways in which Jesus has set us free, and how God continues through the power of the Holy Spirit to work freedom in us, as a community of believers together sharing the joys and struggles of this fragile, beautiful life which God has given to us

–Pastor Angela

Easter message

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly. The women came to the tomb to care for the body of their friend and Lord. They expected death. Seeing the stone rolled away, they entered the tomb; they entered into death. They didn’t find Jesus. Instead, they saw a young man, who told them not to be amazed, that Jesus had risen. This same stranger told them to tell the disciples and then head to Galilee. Is it any wonder that terror and amazement seized them?

We are on the other side of the first Easter. We have grown used to the story of the resurrection. The good news brings hope and comfort. It brings freedom and joy. But I don’t think it causes terror and amazement. Maybe we are missing something. The Greek word for amazement, “ekstasis”, means “change of place.” And that is what has happened to us and all of creation because of the resurrection. Before Easter, we stood in a place of sin and death. After Easter, we stand in a place of forgiveness and life. Everything has changed. We are not the same. The world is not the same. The deadly, but familiar, way of the world can no longer be counted on. This new reality of forgiveness, life and salvation is and should be unsettling. Terror and amazement indeed!

The world is turned upside down. It might look the same, but we are standing in a different place. Christ is risen. We are risen. Alleluia!

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
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Blessed Easter,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Lent

You may remember that, during Advent, we sang the same gathering hymn every Sunday: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It was our theme for the season and the traditional prayer of the church in that time of expectant hope. This Lent, as we are praying together, looking forward to resurrection in our own lives, and embarking on a more focused journey of discipleship, our sending hymn is the same every week. This gives us the opportunity to live into the words more deeply as we sing them Sunday after Sunday for five Sundays, each week holding a slightly different context for the hymn text. The ELW Hymnal Companion writes that the English translation, from the French adaptation in the Canadian “L’Arche” community, comes from 1970: “It takes into account the whole creation, servanthood, salvation, worship at the table, fear, and courage.” The opening line is: “Lord Jesus, you shall be my song as I journey,” and in Lent especially we work to be more aware of the ways Jesus journeys with us through every dark and difficult time until we are re-made in joy at the Easter dawn. No matter the divisions between us, our uniting theme is the love of Jesus for us and for all. This is the message which sends us out into the world at the end of our worship time together on Sunday mornings.

Alois Geiszler [10/31/1913 – 1/5/2015]

Alois Geiszler, 101, of Valatie died peacefully on Monday, January 5, 2015 at Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Valatie. Born on October 31, 1913 in Brooklyn, NY, he was the son of              Alois Geiszler and Marie (Becker) Geiszler.

alMr. Geiszler was a graduate of Dewitt Clinton High School in NYC. After graduating, he and his family relocated to Hillsdale, Michigan and then to Ghent, where he met and subsequently married   Agnes E. Moore in 1937, to whom he was married for 56 years,  until her death in 1994. He and his wife were members of Christ  Evangelical  Lutheran Church, Ghent for many years where Mr. Geiszler was the oldest surviving member. There, he was Superintendent of Sunday School and served on the church council, also being very active in the Chatham Grange.  Mr. Geiszler was a service manager in the automobile industry for many years prior to his retirement.  Mr. Geiszler loved tending to his vegetable garden each year and was an avid stamp and coin collector. After retirement, he and his wife spent many winters in Florida, always returning to the Chatham area.

He is survived by three children; daughters Ann Williams and husband Kerry of Ellington, Connecticut, Nancy Keller and husband Henry of Chatham, and son Alois Geiszler III and wife Barbara of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He is also survived by four grand children; Susan (Matthew) Wallace of Chatham, Steven (Vicky) Geiszler of Crofton, MD, Michelle (Jeffery) Wagner of Clayton, NC and Patricia (Nicholas) Susch of Painted Post, NY and ten great-grandchildren. In addition to his wife and parents, he was preceded in death by his sister, Leanore Gail.

Funeral services will be at a later date at the convenience of the family. Condolences may be conveyed at frenchblasl.com.

Seeking & serving with hope, love and faith in Chatham, New York