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Pastor’s Letter – September 2013

shutterstock_37490122Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This September is a big month for me. It is the month that I enter the third act of life. I have been thinking about this important milestone for the past year. I have moved through times when I just wanted it to pass unnoticed to throwing a big party with friends and family. I have chosen the latter option. Yet I still move forward with trepidation. Therefore, I sought out some people who could give me some insight.  I turned to my Kindle and found a piece written by Henri Nouwen on the “Challenge of Aging” in his book Bread for the Journey. He wrote:

“Waiting patiently in expectation does not necessarily get easier as we become older. On the contrary, as we grow in age we are tempted to settle down in a routine way of living and say, “Well, I have seen it all…There is nothing new under the sun…I am just going to take it easy and live the days as they come.” But in this way, our lives lose their creative tension. We no longer expect something really new to happen. We become cynical or self-satisfied or simply bored. The challenge of aging is waiting with an ever-greater patience and an ever-stronger expectation. It is living with an eager hope. It is trusting that through Christ “we have been admitted into God’s favor…and look forward exultantly to God’s glory” (Romans 5:2).

I certainly do not see myself “settling down” and I hope I never lose that “creative tension” that continually urges me to learn new things and to experiment with new things. Yet older people are considered unable to “think out of the box” and that we are “stuck in our ways.” Yet I know people who are in their eighties and nineties who are still having an impact on the people that they meet. I want that for myself as well. Inevitably, it is all in God’s hands, but that has been the case since the day we were born.

My hopes extend to the church. I hope that the church does not slip into a place where it believes that it has done everything and seen everything. I hope it does not lose that creative tension between what has been and what is about to happen. I hope that as the church passes into its third act, it continues to believe that what we have seen up to this point is only the tip of the iceberg for humanity.

At the Farmingville Congregational United Church of Christ, we may be witnessing their next act taking shape. In August, a dozen of us went to a local nursing home to sing for the residents. We did all right but the people really enjoyed it! We reached out, for an hour or so, where we had the opportunity to enter their world and they entered ours. Maybe the new motto for the church fits regardless of age, “Everyday people sharing faith, friendship and fellowship.” If I can do just that for as long as God allows, I would have a very satisfying life.

To God be the glory forever and ever!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand
Interim Pastor

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Pastor’s Letter – July 2013 – Peripheral Vision

Dear Friends in Christ,

I have been playing a game on my tablet called Marble Saga. The game consists of a series of colored marbles that go around a variety of mazes. The goal is to clear the marbles before the front marble falls into a hole. When the stream of marbles does reach the hole, it moves very quickly, where the colors seem to combine. I reach this point often and when I do, I think it looks like those candy necklaces you can buy in the store. There is a marble shooter within the maze that spins around from which a marble may be released toward the stream. All you have to do is touch the screen where you want the marble to hit the stream of
marbles with the hope that it hits the optimum spot to clear the matching color. Sounds easy, but there is alsoshutterstock_77040343
a great deal of strategy required.

This is not an easy game for me to play because you have to be aware of the peripheral movement of the beads as it moves around the screen. The player gets higher scores if they are able to remove several colors at once and to shoot successfully through the lines of marbles.

Recently my eye professional pointed out to me that my peripheral vision was very limited. Understanding this, I realize that while playing the game, I seem more focused on the center of the game and not so much on what is happening on the outer edges. I have to push myself to look beyond the immediate.

Relationships can be like this, as well. We see what is directly in front of us but we miss the things that are taking place beyond our peripheral vision. At these times, it is as if we are wearing blinders. The result is that frustration builds, tensions mount and feelings are hurt. Our intentions are good yet often we miss the mark.

On the other hand, Jesus did not miss anything. He could be walking down a crowded street with people pushing in on him from all sides, yet he saw the man who climbed a tree or felt a woman touch him on his robe. He saw people wherever he was, regardless of what he was doing. He saw the marginalized, he saw the hopeless, and he saw a person’s need without anyone uttering a word. Jesus also did not rush in with a quick response or try to fix the situation. Instead, he would ask questions that would reveal the intent of the person and what they were seeking from him. He listened first, contemplated the best response and acted. The best example of this is the story of the woman who was about to be stoned for her sins. Jesus comes upon the
angry crowd, stoops down to draw in the sand and then responds with the famous quote, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:2-11).

We are not as astute as Jesus is. God gave us a neck so that we could look around; God gave us ears to hear the other; God gave us a heart so that we could empathize; yet, we are more comfortable staying focused on our own agenda. We jump to conclusions and react in an unhealthy way to the other person or the situation.

For this reason, Jesus instructed his disciples to forgive each day seventy times seven because he knew that we would need that much forgiveness every day if we were to experience peace within a community. In order to do this, we must be able to participate in self-reflection in order to consider what role we played in the situation and then not only forgive but, also, voice our regrets.

Further, if we could only stop and think about what is happening, consider the feelings and intent of the other, plan for possible positive responses and choose our words and actions so that the needs of the community are met, a stronger community would emerge.

May we consider working on our peripheral vision when it comes to one another.  May you have a blessed summer!

I thank God for you,
Pastor Kathy Nealand

Related Artlice The .Emotional Intelligence of Jesus by Roy Oswald

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

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Pastor’s Letter – April 2013 – It Only Takes A Spark

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Lobby card for The Jackie Robinson Story

Lobby card for The Jackie Robinson Story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new movie came out April 12 (“42”) about Jackie Robinson.  If you are not old, enough to remember the Brooklyn Dodgers or what it was like to live in the midst of segregation in the 1950s, you might want to go see it.  It might just inspire you.

For a large part of the population, it might be hard to imagine a time when blacks and whites were segregated.  They did not go to the same schools, they did not live in the same neighborhoods, they did not eat in the same restaurants and they did not use the same public toilets.  This is only a few ways that society separated out the people who inhabited the United States in those days.  Baseball was no different because they had their own leagues.  Jackie played baseball for the black teams but one day a white manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers dared to recruit Jackie for his all white team.  The movie depicts the challenges and difficulties of taking such a bold step and the courage it took to face the “Giants” of prejudice in the world.  This action set off a domino effect that would begin to break down the barriers that existed at that time.  There is a line in a song, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  A spark was struck that day!

In a sermon recently, I spoke about how Jesus fought against the wrongs of society and was willing to take his fight all the way to the cross.  I asked the congregation if everything was good and right today, if there were no injustices in the world.  All were silent at first and then someone said of course, there are things that are wrong about our current world.  We do still have our own giants to conquer.

I could then point to the barriers that exist today.  We could talk about the treatment of immigrants in this country.  We could talk about tax laws that favor the rich and discriminate against the middle class and the poor.  What I did talk about is the discrepancy of providing services to the poor.  Our rules and regulations seem to make it difficult for people in need to get assistance.  Even food pantries limit the amount of food they can give to a family.  Could part of the problem be that our food pantries have limited resources and so need to give out small amounts in order to make it last longer?

Hebrews 13:16: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

A miracle happened…on Saturday, April 6, members of this church went down to the local Stop n’ Shop for six hours to collect food and other items from shoppers.  People were so generous.  As I said on Easter morning, “God showed up!”  Many people helped to fill up ten (10) shopping carts of food.  We packed up three cars and delivered all of it to Smithhaven Ministries in Coram.  The people there were overwhelmed.  We give thanks to all the people who helped to make this a very successful food drive and we ask for blessings on their lives always and forever.

Al congregations, in order to do the work of Jesus, to stand up to the injustices and giants of the world, needs to be fortified, encouraged and empowered for the work.  We need to strengthen our leaders and members physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  We accomplish this through community and worship.  This leads me to the injustice small congregation’s face.  This injustice comes from external forces but also internal forces.

With limited resources of time, talents and treasures small congregations feel the need to pull back, to do less than they would if they were in larger congregations.  However, I realized during my first year as a pastor that regardless of the size of the congregation, the people deserved the best of what I could give.  Therefore, I have to put in the same amount of effort whether I have 2 people in front of me or 1,000.  The people of God deserve nothing less; you deserve nothing less.  I believe this because we all struggle against the giants of the world.  We all need courage to fight the good fight.  Therefore, I believe that we need to provide the best uplifting worship we can so that we are empowered to do as Jackie Robinson did during his lifetime.  I would hope that you would want that, as well.  Jesus expects nothing less.  Trust that God will make a way.  May God bless every congregation’s worship and ministry today and forever!

I thank God for you,

Rev. Kathy Nealand

Interim Pastor

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Pastor's Letters

 

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