500 Plus. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, October 2017 Edition

On Sunday, October 29, we’re doing something new . . .

This October marks the 500th birthday of the Reformation. Legend has it that Martin Luther wrote 95 thoughts about faith, Jesus and the church (The 95 Theses) and posted them to a church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. Scholars debate if this posting actually happened, but we know his words didn’t stay local. His writings spread like wildfire. In a few short years, a new church movement took root, launching new Christian traditions. As Lutherans, the Sunday before October 31st is our annual “birthday party” where we celebrate this Lutheran flavor of the Christian faith that God gifted to us. But our experience of the Christian faith is not the only tradition out there. We are surrounded by Baptists, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Reformed, Church of Christ and more. Each one can trace their start and growth to these 95 thoughts about faith and God. For almost 500 years, the story of Christianity has been reflected in the ways we split apart. As individuals and communities who experience God in different ways, we sometimes separate from each other. Christian history can be described as a history of division. But there’s also a history of unity and coming together. On October 29th, heirs to the Reformation will worship at Christ Lutheran Church.

Pascack Reformed Church and First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) will join us for worship at our church at 10:00 am. A joint choir will sing, and we’ll give thanks for the variety of gifts God gives each of our communities. We’ll celebrate our shared history and also our joint witness as churches who are different but united in Jesus Christ. As communities of faith, we are grateful for the different identities the Holy Spirit has given to each of us. As part of the body of Christ, we are grateful that our differences do not divide us from Jesus. I invite you to be at this joint worship service at 10:00 am on Sunday, October 29th. And let’s discover where the Spirit is leading us in the next 500 years.

See you in church!
Pastor Marc

My Mini-van is famous

Wegmans, the grocery store I fell in love with while living in Ithaca, is coming to the neighborhood. As a way of showing good will to the local community, they actively support local non-profits and food banks. I serve as the treasure of the Tri-Boro Food Pantry which services 100 families in Northern New Jersey. The store opens at the end of September but they have already sent us several donations. On August 24, Wegmans threw what they call a rodeo. As the first trucks arrive to stock a store, non-profits get to pick what they need from a truck. Five different non-profits converged on the new store. A photographer from The Record was there and got a picture of me smiling. We sent four mini-vans and SUVs to our small food pantry. Thank you Wegmans!

Pencil Pusher. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, September 2017 Edition

When was the last time you used 60 #2 pencils? When was the last time you saw that many pencils in one place? Growing up, I longed to be the kid with the fancy mechanical pencil with the right kind of lead for the scantron tests. I didn’t want to use those yellow pencils ever again. And now that I’m older, I rarely write. Instead, I give my fingers a workout on a keyboard, and I keep my thumbs busy on the screen of my smartphone. I didn’t expect to spend a day this summer surrounded by those yellow pencils. But on the last day of Vacation Bible School the kids, volunteers and I were elbow-deep in those pencils I avoided. We were also knee-deep in glue sticks, crayons and two pocket folders. We spent the day packing 20 backpacks full of school supplies for students in need. The supplies we packed were graciously donated by the kids at VBS themselves and members of CLC. The 3 through 11 year olds that made up our VBS classes were packing backpacks for kids their age to actually use. The week the kids spent wasn’t only about trying to have fun with God. It wasn’t just an excuse to dress up as superheroes every day. They were there to learn how God makes them heroes, and they spent a day being the heroes God calls them to be. Being a hero isn’t only for those with super strength. Sometimes a hero means finding 60 #2 pencils and giving them to a kid who needs them.

This September is the start of a busy programming year at CLC. Our 2 worship Sundays kick-off is on September 17th. Confirmation classes, Sunday School and Youth Group will start up right after. Our committees and ministry teams are gearing up for an exciting year. And our interfaith and community partnerships are hitting the ground running. We’re going to spend the year finding new and exciting ways to be the body of Christ in Northern New Jersey. One of the gifts God gives us every day is the very faith that drives us to know that God’s love, mercy and hope are not abstract. These attributes of God are part of who we are. As we start a busy September, let’s see the different and unexpected ways God is calling us to make a difference in our church and in our community. Because being engaged with our neighbors is how we can be like Jesus who never stopped engaging with a world who desperately needs him.

See you in church!

Pastor Marc

Prayer Rally for Love and Solidarity

[Paul writes:] With what should I approach the Lord
and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before [God] with entirely burned offerings,
with year-old calves?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?
[God] has told you, human one, what is good and
what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:6-8

Pastor Marc joined clergy from throughout the Upper Pascack Valley for a Prayer Rally for Love and Solidarity. More than 100 people from at least 8 congregations (Christian and Jewish) attended the event at Veteran’s Park in Park Ridge. Pastor Marc offered a reading and a reflection during the event.

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Was anyone else outside this afternoon watching the solar eclipse? Did anyone else forget to put on sunscreen before they climbed on the roof of their church to watch the moon move in front of the sun? I know I’m going to be a tad sunburnt tomorrow but I’m glad I was able to participate in a celestial event where people from all over this nation posted jokes and memes about it online, ate moonpies and other lunaresque treats, and we all looked a tad dorky wearing those paper sun filters over our eyes. And even though the glasses made us look silly, we needed them. Without them, the UV rays and light from the sun would literally burn our eyes. In the days leading up to today’s event, news articles and tweets and Facebook posts said the same thing over and over again. Don’t look directly at the sun. Don’t take a #selfie with the eclipse in the background because that won’t stop the UV rays from reflecting off your phone and harming your eyes. We needed to get the right kind of NASA recommend polarized shades. And if any of this is news to you right now, just keep the information in your back pocket as preparation for the next eclipse in our neighborhood in 2024. These warnings about observing the eclipse shows us how intense the sun actually is. We needed to do a lot to prepare ourselves to engage and observe and witness such an event. Solar eclipses happen without any input or help from us. They are a product of the dance the moon and earth and sun do together. We witnessed today something that is part of our world and our universe right now. We know eclipses happen – but we have the choice in how to engage with them.

This evening, as we gather together as neighbors and friends, as we unite to say yes to peace and love and unity – and as we say no to hate, anti-semitism, racism, homophobia, nazism – and to anything and anyone that tries to split us apart, I am personally grateful for each and everyone of you. I am grateful for the intensity, the power, and the love and hope each of you brings here tonight. I am grateful for the shared witness my colleagues and friends from the Upper Pascack Valley Clergy Group show by being here in body, mind, and prayer. And I’m eternally grateful for the same Spirit that compels each of us to be here right now. This Spirit, I believe, is embedded in God’s good creation. It’s a Spirit that’s moved over the waters, breathed life into our souls, and is even now, moving among us. It’s the same Spirit that moved the prophet Micah to speak out against those who oppressed the people and it’s same Spirit, I believe, that brought us here together tonight. This Spirit wants us here so that we can speak, with one voice, loudly proclaiming that the rallies, movements, and groups supporting Nazism, Confederate ideology, white supremacy and terror are not who we are and this isn’t who God wants us to be. The evil lurking in the hearts of those who use cars, trucks, and vehicles to cause death, violence, and destruction is not something God endorses, supports, or believes. Those who drive into crowds, march through college campuses with lit torches, and who shout words that deny the very human diversity that God intended are not living in God’s Spirit. They are trying to make fear and violence the cornerstone of our human community and they hope we will just accept it, as if this kind of evil is part of the universe that we choose not to engage with.

Yet the Spirit that lived in Micah is a Spirit that refuses to let fear win. It’s a Spirit that compels us to engage with this evil forcefully, honestly, and with an intensity that cannot be blocked. As a Lutheran, I am mindful of how communities bearing the Lutheran name worked against the Spirit of God and were part of some of the worst violence in living memory. As an American, I am mindful of the different ways own communities push our neighbors to the margins. I am mindful of the ways Christians throughout history have twisted the true and expansive vision God has for our human community. Yet I also know this Spirit that lived in Micah refuses to give up on us. I know that this Spirit, when she recorded the words “love your neighbors as yourselves, ” truly meant it. I know that this Spirit is active right now, empowering us to uncover the ways we fail to match the unlimited love God has for each of us. And I know that this Spirit helps us do more than just gather together. The Spirit inspires us, strengthens us, and compels us to know what justice is and to seek it; to know what love looks like and to go do it; and to walk faithfully and humbly with the God who will never stop showing us what God’s vision of the world truly looks like. May our love for our neighbors burn with an intensity matched only by the sun. And may the moments we share this evening, moments reflected in anti-hate rallies in Charlottesville, Boston, New Orleans and in vigils and rallies locally and nationwide, reflect that Spirit of hope, love, and unity that God wants everyone to share.

Amen.

Giving Away the Building. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, Summer 2017 Edition

How big is our church? Well…there are different ways to answer that question. We could share the physical dimensions of the church, measuring how many people fit in our sanctuary and how tall our church steeple is. We could talk about the number of church members our community has or how many people we have on our mailing lists. But I like to think about our size by looking at our relationships and connections. Our church is big because everyone who calls CLC home is connected to people outside of our church building. We all have neighbors, classmates, coworkers, and friends. Some of our family and friends are living all over the world. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our impact isn’t limited to only the people we see on Sunday morning. Jesus is with us wherever we go and is active in all the relationships we have. Our church isn’t only building on the corner of Church and Pascack roads. The church is the people God has called to be here and the church impacts everyone through the relationships we all have.

One of the relationships that unite us as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA – our denomination) is the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The LWF is a global communion of 145 Lutheran denominations from 98 different countries. It’s a network of 74 million Lutherans who worship, pray, celebrate, and gather together for an assembly every six years. The most recent assembly of the LWF was this past May in the country of Nambia. Our denomination’s Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, attended. In her recent article in the Living Lutheran, she wrote about being a global community united in our life with Christ. And she shared a story I would like to share with you:

At the LWF Assembly a delegate from Russia told this story of freedom in Christ. There used to be a Lutheran church in St. Petersburg. It was a beautiful structure witnessing to the glory of God where the Lutheran immigrants who arrived in the 18th century could worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. It was skillfully crafted out of wood. St. Mary’s Lutheran Church still stood in St. Petersburg, renamed Leningrad.

The church was a place of worship and hope during the siege of Leningrad during WWII. But people were freezing and starving to death in Leningrad. There was no wood for heating or cooking. So the Lutherans looked at their beloved church and then looked at the suffering around them. Piece by piece they dismantled their building and gave it away for the life of their community.

Last month, we committed ourselves as a congregation to Raise the Roof on our ministry by replacing the flat roofs on our buildings. We are doing this because we know we are a community with a vibrant future in Northern New Jersey. We will continue to share Jesus in all our relationships and use everything God has given us, including our buildings, to give ourselves away for the life of our communities. As we move forward into a new and exciting future, let’s remember that we are more than a building. We are the church. And we are here to love and serve each and every day.

See you in church!

Pastor Marc

Entrusting the Faith. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, June 2017 Edition

At our last Confirmation class for the 2016-2017 year, Pastor John Holliday of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Old Tappan shared something I want to share with you. For the last year, we have partnered with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church to teach Confirmation. Kids from Prince of Peace and Christ Lutheran Church talked about faith, Jesus and learned from each other. When we met for our last class this year, Pastor Holliday shared how Confirmation is more than just education. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we’re giving these 7th and 8th graders a job to share Jesus with the next generation.

At first glance, this seems like we’re asking 7th and 8th graders to bring their kids to church if being a parent is where God leads them later in their lives. That’s true but being a parent and passing on our faith to children isn’t the limit to what the Holy Spirit is doing. The next generation of faith-filled Christians is anyone who hasn’t experienced Jesus in their life. This can be a friend who doesn’t go to church or an older family member who doesn’t know who God is. This next generation can be the newborn baby who is coming to church for the first time and also their parents who never grew up in a faith community. The next generation isn’t defined by age. The next generation is defined by the people, old and young, who are going to meet Jesus. And it’s this relationship with Jesus that brings us into a church community where Jesus’ promises show up. In the Rite of Confirmation, the church does something amazing. We affirm that these amazing youth, Brendan, Connor and Josette, are already the church. Since their birth, Jesus has loved them. Since their baptism, God has made them leaders in this community. And now, through Confirmation, we entrust to them the calling God gives to each of us: to share the faith, to live our faith and to help others discover the love Jesus has for each of them.

As we gear up for a busy June, we continue to be a community committed to making a difference, physically and spiritually, in our community. On June 4th, we will confirm three youths at our 10:30 am worship. I invite you to come to worship on that day. On June 11th, we’ll bless our Genesis Garden after the 10:30 am service as we enter our 32nd year feeding our neighbors in need. On June 18th, our summer schedule starts with one service at 9:30 am. We’ll honor our graduates and host a special congregational meeting at 10:30 am to give all an update on some property projects the church will need to address. And then, on June 25th, we’ll hold our annual blessing of the animals. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are entrusted to live out our faith and to pass it on to people who need to know God’s love for them. Let’s keep doing that hard work all summer long.

See you in church!

Pastor Marc

It’s Gonna Be Maaaayyy. From Pastor Marc – My Message for the Messenger, May 2017 Edition

I am a fan of bad puns and silly jokes. And that’s why April 30th is special to me. For the last few years, I’ve shared the same internet meme on my social media accounts. It’s a picture of Justin Timberlake during his days in NSYNC. He’s smiling and singing their hit song “It’s Gonna Be Me.” But the caption on the picture has nothing to do with the word “me” because Justin’s changes the words. He turns “me” into a long, vibrato filled version of “maaaaaayyyyyy.” On April 30th, we know that “It’s gonna be maaaaaayyyyyy.”

My guess is you’ve just let out a large groan and probably a fake laugh. Those are always the right responses to a terrible pun and a silly joke. Yet, this meme is telling the truth. It really is going to be May. May is a special time at Christ Lutheran Church because of the amazing programs and events you support with your time, donations and prayers. On May 6th hundreds of people from around New Jersey and New York (last year, we had visitors from as far away as the eastern end of Long Island) will attend our Trash & Treasure sale. Our neighbors who can’t afford a new outfit for work or toys for their children will be able to find the item they need to better their lives and their families. The volunteers who spent hours sorting clothes, cleaning glassware, and making sure everyone is fed with great meals, will help our guests find what they are looking for. The thousands of dollars raised will be used by the CLC-Women’s Group to fund projects at church and charities all over the world. Trash & Treasure is one way we use what God gives us to share God’s love all over the world. Thank you for your donation and being part of this amazing event.

May is also a time when we prepare our congregation to change in new ways. This year, we’re confirming three young people on Pentecost (June 4). These amazing kids and their families have made an impact in our community since they first walked through the doors. The entire congregation will empower them to be full voting members of the community. They will have the power to serve on council, vote at our meetings and continue to make a difference locally and all over the world. The Holy Spirit is with us no matter how old we are. It will be amazing to watch where the Spirit takes all of us through their leadership and voices.

For much of April, we watched as flowers bloomed, grass turned green and leaves began to sprout. With the change of seasons, we witness a new creation being born. This April, we were there for Easter and saw how Jesus changed the world. Now is the time to discover what this new creation is all about. Let’s see what God is blooming in our community because it’s going to be May.

See you in church!

Pastor Marc

I Met a Sitting US Senator

The Adult Choir and Music Director at my church is the NJ State Teacher of the Year. On Sunday she was recognized by Senator Bob Menendez at an event in honor of Evangelina Menendez (the Senator’s mother) and Women’s History Month. I was invited to the VIP reception before the ceremony. It was my first time talking to a sitting US Senator face-to-face.

They also caught me in my natural pose.

Photos provided by the office of Senator Bob Menendez.