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August 13, 2017

posted Aug 15, 2017, 5:54 PM by Susan Fernandez

Have faith. So easy to say, yet something we struggle with daily. Especially in times we see anger escalate, leaders clash, and friends turn to foes. In Matthew 14:22-34, we hear Jesus, who is walking on water, call out to Peter to come. Peter even asked to be called. But once he received the call and the reality of his surroundings struck him, he gave in to fear and faltered.

How many times do we talk the talk, but back down when it’s time to walk the walk. We want to be called to a challenge we see as worthwhile. It may be a promotion, an event, our family or school. But once we’re there, reality seems different than we thought.

Where does our faith break down? Do we pay too much attention to our surroundings and what could go wrong and not enough on our calling? Even when our faith cracks a bit, Jesus is there to catch us and raise us up, as he did Peter. I will try to wake tomorrow to ask how I can make the world better. It may not be in a grand way, but with faith to take that step forward, and knowing Jesus is there catch me if I do fall, I will succeed. So will you. Just try. 

August 6, 2017

posted Aug 9, 2017, 9:46 AM by Susan Fernandez

As Lutherans, this past sermon really speaks to us. It’s about food. But it’s also about conflicts of rest and responsibility. For me, having just come back from vacation – and our first cruise – I can relate.

We start with a glimpse of Jesus’ human side, seeking a way to get away from the pressures he’s been facing. While he didn’t have a big cruise ship at his disposal, he did try to sail away. But even in this, as he rowed, he was met with a huge crowd, and one that was getting hungry. Matthew 14:13-21 tells the story about feeding thousands with just a couple loaves of bread and fish.

Just like so many of us in the summer who try to get away, every vacation still is met with our responsibilities. Our friends and families may give us some respite, but it is usually short lived. We are held to a certain standard in others’ eyes. And we seek to meet those standards in our own ways like cooking, laundry, finances, etc. Sometimes we take a moment from our vacation to check in, or jump right back into our routine when we return. But it is still nice to get away to re-energize.

But we see in this story, people in Jesus’ time didn’t give him the luxury to get away. And he always met his responsibilities with wit, passion, and grace. Not only did he feed those thousands, but there were left overs! Perhaps his human side showed some grumbling in private moments, but the disciples show us this combination of human with divine bringing peace and comfort time and again in so many ways.

I only hope I can follow this example to come back from summer vacations serving others with enthusiasm, showing through my actions the love of Christ. Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Even at the beach. 

July 23, 2017

posted Jul 26, 2017, 7:26 AM by Susan Fernandez

My grandparents were tenant farmers. I remember playing hide and seek in corn fields and the feel of chickens eating out of my hands. They worked hard to produce crops which helped to feed many families. They taught me to pull weeds, getting the root and then working over the soil so it they would not return. We learned to be grateful for bounty, but be watchful for harm (weeds, weather, thieves, etc.). 

While my grandparents planned well, there were always hardships in their path. They rarely complained, knowing things would work out. They would take in crops that only part could be sold; they had to put down sick animals without being able to use the meat. This week’s sermon highlights how there will be things we don’t expect. The weeds grow. And they may be put in our path by those who seek harm. 

The parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-43), the servants had many thoughts of why there were weeds and how to take care of them. But God knows best and will ultimately separate what’s good and fruitful from what’s bad and evil. We sometimes think we are in control, but we have to recognize we are only tilling God’s soil. One day the harvesters will know the work we have done by the crop that has been produced. Go out and make it good. 

July 16, 2017

posted Jul 20, 2017, 7:28 AM by Susan Fernandez

We often overplan our lives. Early on we are told to “save for a rainy day” and the “early bird gets the worm.” Do we miss out? I believe in listening to my impulsive side now and again.

This past week’s Gospel (Matthew 13:1-9) is a parable of a sower of seeds. This is a highly recognizable parable, but also one that can have many interpretations. To me, I see a lesson of impulse mixed with nurturing. Did this farmer toss seeds everywhere on impulse knowing they won’t all take root? Would he have been wiser to makes rows and prudently place seeds in only good soil to optimize return?

There are times in my life I am grateful that I have planned well. I know I have a 401(k) for the future. My car is paid for. My son has the start of a college fund. But I am most proud of the times I acted on impulse. I went to Florida with my friends in college, barely affording my airfare. I saw an off (off) broadway show just because I was walking by.

As Christians, we need to act on impulse when the opportunity arises. God presents us with many cases. Do we pass by the homeless on the street? Or do we buy that person a sandwich at the shop around the corner? (Or plan ahead and donate to Midnight Run.) Do we pass the lost child because we are already late to a meeting, or stop to find her parents or the police? Our time is precious, but to whom? If we act out in the way we are taught, we make time to sow seeds where ever they present themselves. Sometimes it is in the thorns and nothing may grow there, but we must go forward and try. 

June 25, 2017

posted Jun 26, 2017, 8:32 AM by Susan Fernandez

Yikes. The readings today, on the surface, are a bit overwhelming. Jeremiah tells how he has been forced into this ministry and comes across nothing but resistance and Jesus warns his disciples how they will meet with opposition and scorn. 

But each holds hope. Jeremiah, despite being mocked and taunted, exclaims to “Sing to the Lord!” Jesus assures that if we hold God above other worldly things, we will be with him in Heaven. 

But to succeed, we need to be strong in our faith. How many times do we falter in our lives? For me, daily. Hourly even. At work, I get dragged down into arguments over ideas. At home, I lose my temper of dishes left behind. At church, I grumble at the hour I need to get out of bed. (Yes, I said it.) But for the things that are important, really, truly important, we find the strength to hold fast and persevere. That’s true in our faith. We need to find the strength to recognize bad things do happen, but our faith is strong enough to power through. And when we may weaken, sometimes we simply have to be strong enough to ask for help and trust our family, friends, and congregation can help carry the burden, or provide a newfound strength to become renewed and continue our work, here on Earth for the power of the good in Heaven. 

June 18, 2017

posted Jun 21, 2017, 12:46 PM by Susan Fernandez

As we celebrated Father’s Day this week, we are reminded how much we learn – and have left to learn – during our life’s journey. Pastor told a story of a young boy asking his grandfather how old he was. 67, the man tells him. In amazement, the boy says “Wow! Did you start at 1?”

Indeed, we all started at a place where we knew nothing and had to be taught and grow to become who we are today. No matter how important we may think we are today, or how busy, or stressed, or in control, we all had to rely on others to grow. We didn’t ask at 1. It was given to us freely by our families, friends, communities. The nurturing, education, love, support that built us up was all a gift given with nothing expected in return.

But now that we are older, we do have a responsibility to pay it forward. To give of ourselves to those now starting out – whether it’s a child at 1 or someone in need starting over. And through that giving, we also find we continue to learn and grow to know God’s love better, to fulfill God’s mission, to share God’s good news.

Reread Matthew 9:35 – 10:8 and how Jesus sends his disciples, and by extension each of us, out into the world to spread God’s words and work to those who need and accept it. For we all started somewhere. And we grow by sharing those gifts that were shared with us at 1. 

June 11, 2017

posted Jun 12, 2017, 10:19 AM by Susan Fernandez

I see trees of green…

For many, you can finish this sentence – maybe even already have a tune in your head. Louis Armstrong’s iconic “What a Wonderful World” was a perfect match to the story of Creation in this week’s sermon. Trees of green, red roses too, skies of blue, clouds of white – even the dark sacred night… So many call outs to God’s handiwork in those first few days, with the acknowledgement that all of these things make for a wonderful world.

If you were to read through the Celebrate insert, something else may strike you in stark juxtaposition. The second reading has Paul saying “farewell” and the Gospel retells Jesus sending his disciples after his resurrection with a reminder that he will be with us “to the end of the age.” So our first reading is the beginning and the other texts with words of endings.

Perhaps I read a bit too much into this, but that immediately stood out to me. Maybe because “What a Wonderful World” reminds me of an ending – as it was the song I danced with my father at my wedding, as many brides do as they begin a new life. But it signifies an ended, having just passed the first anniversary of my father’s death. Every beginning on Earth has an ending. And some endings mean a new beginning, whether it’s new flowers growing or a new life in Heaven. Let’s enjoy each gift and moment as a blessing and strive to make this a wonderful world for all.

If you missed it last Sunday, join us this Sunday! And remember, it truly is a wonderful world.
Click here to watch and listen to Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World.

June 4, 2017

posted Jun 7, 2017, 1:50 PM by Susan Fernandez

If you missed last Sunday, you missed a lot. It was Pentecost, which we also celebrate as our Confirmation day. With just one Confirmant this year, Jake deserves a lot of credit for standing before everyone to confirm his faith on his own. He was a testament to Christian faith and courage with his family and congregation as witness.

Pentecost service is always one of my favorites. While the whole imagery of dancing tongues of fire on people’s heads (Acts 2) still leaves me a bit mystified, making it real in the pews leaves me in awe. Our congregation did not disappoint, with 10 languages eloquently represented in the reading.

Now Pastor didn’t dwell on the whole dancing fire thing, but equated Pentecost to something more tangible, at least to me. He said Pentecost is a signpost as we travel through the Christian calendar. One of many. It’s a marker of something amazing that has occurred and for us to pause and learn. While he talked about his travels down Route 66 and catchy shaving cream ads, these ads make us giggle, stop, and think. And buy, of course. But today, we need to carefully observe God’s signposts and do His marketing in the world through our words and actions.

I liked the signpost analogy because one of my favorite sayings is “It’s not the destination, but the journey.” I believe that because I often don’t have a destination in mind, but enjoy every bit of the journey. As Christians, we know the destination – and aren’t in too much of a rush to get there. So let’s enjoy the journey together and do good work as we go.

Sorry you missed it – but join us on Sunday so you don’t miss the next one. 

May 28, 2017

posted Jun 1, 2017, 8:26 AM by Susan Fernandez

I missed it. Like many, I was away for the Memorial holiday weekend. I hope others made it to the pews and can share more of what we missed. But I know what I didn’t miss.

I was able to remember our fallen heroes at two different services in two towns – Lake George and Dobbs Ferry. Each held times of celebration and mourning. Both are appropriate and necessary. Each was under attended, but those present were dedicated, respectful, and appreciated.

And I realized that sounded familiar. Our pews are often under filled, but those present (in body or spirit) are dedicated, respectful, and appreciated. And we are here to pay respect and praise God, who has given us so much to be able to be where we are today.

But as I lament the empty spaces, I also see the activity. Amazing Sunday School teachers and students who show up each week and are present in God’s word; Nick – always early – to practice a tune and fill the space with love through his music; various people who attend meetings at any given time to further God’s work whether it be a congregation committee, Council, or community meeting to support each other; not to mention the pre-school children echoing life through the halls and so many other activities.

It’s what’s happening in between the empty space that is meaningful and why we show up. And why we need to show up to do what we are called to do. We do God’s work through our hands (as says one ELCA slogan). And it is meaningful, important, and appreciated.

But now, really…what did I miss last week? 

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