Browsing articles in "Zion’s Blog"

Come and See the Light!

Dec 21, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   Pastor's Blog  //  No Comments

It’s the week before Christmas, and all through the house … we’re all running around like crazy trying to get things done. In this busiest of seasons, can we take a moment to listen to what the angels say to the shepherds in the gospel of Luke?
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
There are many times throughout Scripture where scared people are told, “Do not be afraid.” God says it, angels say it, Jesus says it. We are prone to being afraid – especially afraid of what we don’t know. The shepherds had no idea the angel was talking about, but they went to see. They were afraid, but they went. And we are invited also, no matter what we are afraid of, as Jesus said to the disciples, to “come and see.”
Come and see. Our Christmas Eve candlelight service is 9:00 pm. We have healing services scheduled for January 14th and February 11th, at 4:30 pm. A simple service of healing prayers and a bit of singing. The Garfield community service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held at Friendship Baptist Church on January 20, 2017 at 7:00 pm. Come be with the members of our community in ecumenical worship. At Zion Lutheran Church, you are always welcome to join us for worship at 9:00 am on Sundays. We extend a special welcome to all – people of all backgrounds, people of all ethnicities and religious histories (or none), wherever you find yourself on your faith journey, people of all gender identities. We are affirming of anyone who is seeking God, or anyone who isn’t sure. Come and see.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5). We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, the One who lights our darkness. We join together to behold the light that is always here. He seems to shine especially bright in this season of short days and dark nights. Jesus is born! Amen! Merry Christmas!

Our June Healing Service

Jun 2, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   General, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Our next healing service is this Saturday, June 4th, 2016 at 4:30pm.  Join us and bring your prayer concerns…all are welcome!

CPR Training May 21, 2016

May 9, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   General, Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Join us on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 11:00 am for CPR training and receive a FREE CPR Anytime Kit so you can share the skills you learned with your family and friends.  Training is provided by Hackensack UMC.  Space is limited and pre-registration is required.  Call Pastor Janet Blair at 646.321.3737 today to reserve you space!

Healing Service May 14, 2016

May 6, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   General  //  No Comments

Are you in need of a healing touch?  Perhaps someone you know and love is?  Join us on Saturday, May 14th, at 4:30pm for a healing service that includes the laying on of hands and a personalized prayer for healing.

I am so confused…

Mar 16, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be handed over to the Gentiles.  They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.  On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this.  Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

 

Luke 18:31-34

 

As I read this bit of scripture, I find myself feeling very confused on so many levels.  The first thing that strikes me is that last verse, explaining that the disciples did not understand any of this.  Really?!  Helloooo…what don’t you get?  How much plainer does Jesus have to speak to make you understand what’s coming for him?  Surely you know what the prophets have written about the Messiah—you’ve been listening to the stories all your lives!  How can you not understand?  How can you possibly be blinded to what Jesus is telling you?

And then there’s my confusion over Jesus’ seemingly blasé attitude as he explains to his disciples what is about to happen to him.  “Okay guys, this is the part where I’m going to be handed over to my enemies, mocked, insulted, spit upon, flogged, and killed.  It’s alright though, because my father will raise me from the dead on the third day.  No big deal, I just want you to be prepared.”  I mean really, even if you know how it will all end, how do you just put it out there like you’re simply planning a walk in the park?  Even though you know that you will rise from the dead, getting to that point is not going to be a cake walk; we’re talking about a ridiculous amount of pain, suffering, and torture.  Why would you willingly take that on, knowing how much you will suffer before it all ends in glory?

And finally, I’m confused when I consider why Jesus would even want the truth to be hidden from his closest confidantes.  Why wouldn’t he want those who had been with him from the beginning of his ministry, those he was closest to, to fully understand what was about to happen?  Surely, even if the disciples really were dense enough that they wouldn’t get it on their own, Jesus could open their eyes to see the truth of what he was saying.  Why all the mystery?

The only conclusion I can come to is that if anyone actually got it, if anyone understood that Jesus was on his way to his death, they would have done whatever was necessary to prevent his arrest and subsequent crucifixion.  And THAT would have prevented Jesus from taking our sin to the cross with him, so that we might be reconciled to God—something we could never do on our own.  It would have defeated the purpose of his entire life and ministry on earth.  That would have been disastrous for us all, to be separated from God eternally because of our sin.  Jesus willing took it all on so that we would be able to spend eternity with our Father who created us, and our brother who came to our rescue and saved us.  He had to be calm about it so he wouldn’t alarm the disciples.  They had to be blinded to the truth so Jesus could successfully complete his mission and all of humanity could be saved.

This Sunday, we begin Holy Week with the celebration of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We are on the march to Jerusalem as we speak; the march toward the cross and the deep sadness that comes with the realization that our Messiah has died, and we had a hand in nailing him to the cross.  But the story doesn’t end with Good Friday and the tomb.   In our grief, we continue the march beyond the cross to Easter Sunday; to the resurrection and new life in Christ.  Thanks be to God!

 

Jackie Matyasovski, Deacon

The One Who Serves: A Reflection on the Words of Jesus

Mar 10, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   General, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Please come join us for a contemplative reflection on the Gospel using the ancient practice of Lectio Divina on Saturday, March 19, 2016 from 10am to 12pm.  Breakfast will be served.  All are welcome!  While registration is not required, we’d love to know that you’re going to attend so we can plan accordingly.  For more information or to register, please call Pastor Janet Blair at 646-321-3737.

YOU give them something to eat

Mar 9, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done.  Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him.  He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.”

He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and guy food for all this crowd.” (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.”  The disciples did so, and everybody sat down.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them.  Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

 

Luke 9:10-17

 

Have you ever been hungry?  Have you ever been detained at work or a meeting and your stomach started protesting?  I know I have, and I’m willing to bet you have, too.  That’s where we find the people in our reading today—they’ve traveled to an out-of-town meeting and it ran longer than anticipated.  It’s growing late; they’re getting tired and their tummies are growling.

This is not a new story for most of us; in fact, this is one of the most well-known of Jesus’ miracles—the feeding of the 5,000.  There are many people who have never read a Bible or set foot in a church who know this story.  More often than not, when this scripture reading comes up on a Sunday, the sermon focuses on the miracle of feeding so many people with so little food—just five loaves of bread and two fish—but today I’d like to focus on Jesus’ response when the Disciples urge him to send the people off to find their own food and lodging for the evening.  Rather than saying, “Yea, you’re right.  It’s getting late.  Tell everyone to head on out and go home or head into town for the night.  Dinner and lodging is not included in this conference—I’m not responsible for their well-being any longer,” he tells them “You feed them.”

I have to think the Disciples felt a little panicked at this—“Uh, no one told us we would have to feed this group!  We don’t have enough food here, and we certainly don’t have the money to go into town and buy the food.  How would you have us feed so many people?”

It’s not very different for us today, is it?  There are hungry among us everywhere, and I’m not just talking about people for whom dinner is late tonight—I’m talking about people who haven’t eaten in days; people who truly know what it means to be hungry.  Do we tell them to go into town and find their own dinner, which may mean picking through the garbage dumpster behind the local McDonald’s, or do we feed them ourselves?

And what about those who are spiritually hungry?  Those who do not know the story of Jesus and how he loved them so much that he willingly died for them.  Those who know the story, but don’t think that they are worthy of such a gift.  Those who have heard the story but have rejected it and are searching elsewhere for meaning to their lives.  How do we treat those hungry souls?  Do we send them away and tell them they’re on their own, or do we open ourselves up to them and help them to see that Jesus cares about their spiritual needs as well as their physical ones?

For Jesus, it is impossible to minister effectively to one type of need without considering the other, and through this miracle—this feeding of the five thousand—he sets an example for us.  We are responsible for fulfilling each other’s physical and spiritual needs, just as Jesus did.  In this story, he first ministers to their spiritual needs by welcoming them and speaking to them about the kingdom of God.  He then meets their physical needs by healing those who were in need of healing, and feeding their bodies when the hour grew late.

It is our job as “little Christs”, to seek out the physically, as well as the spiritually hungry, and to feed their bodies and their spirits.  During this season of Lent, consider not only your own hungers, but the physical and spiritual hunger of those around you, then share your wealth—both physical and spiritual—with them.

 

Jackie Matyasovski

Deacon

To whom do you belong?

Mar 2, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways …
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb …
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them – they are more than the sand; I come to the end – I am still with you.
Psalm 139

 

Psalm 139 is one of the most beloved psalms. It is a prayer to a God who is a paradox – both far away, powerful over all things, yet personal, loving, and concerned. The psalmist addresses God as “You” six times in the first eight lines. The psalmist and God are intimate. God created us, knit us together, body and soul, even before we were born, and is always with us. God is so close to us.

 

And when we are asking, “Who am I?” this psalm helps us find the answer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous German theologian who was executed by the Nazis after he helped plot to assassinate Hitler, wrote in prison:
“Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.”

 

We find who we are, and we find our worth, in whose we are. Sometimes we feel that we are not worth much, but God, who knit us together carefully and lovingly, treasures us. That is why Jesus came to earth: to live, suffer and die, for you. For me. It is hard for us to accept because we sometimes think so little of ourselves. Yet here we find a voice that says that God, who made us and truly knows us, values us for who we really are. And so we belong to God. It is in God that we find our selves.

 

The psalmist ends with the understanding that he or she is so small while God is so great! God’s thoughts are as vast as grains of sand. It is useless to try to count them. It is useless for us to try to really get a handle on who God is. In a sense, God is truly above and beyond us. But in the end, the psalmist says, “I am still with you.” God is still here. Even Jesus was afraid on the cross that God had abandoned him – but God was with him. Even when we are afraid that God has abandoned us, God, the one who knit us together before we were born, is still here. What a comfort that is to us in all of our difficult times! We are not on our own. God knows us in every part of our being, God knows who we are, God treasures us, and God is here. Amen.

 

Janet Blair, Vice Pastor

Check your Bags at the Door

Feb 24, 2016   //   by Jackie Matyasovski   //   Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way toward Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me all you evildoers!”

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Luke 13:22-30

 

Are you one of those people who returns home from shopping and is determined to only make one trip from the car to the house?  You know the type; they come home from the grocery store and stubbornly attempt to carry a week’s worth of groceries in one trip, hanging multiple bags from each arm and carrying the rest along with the keys and possibly a purse, swaying dangerously and looking for all the world as though a gentle breeze might knock them over.  And if they manage to get to the door unscathed an even greater task awaits—trying to open the door and get everything through it.  Not everyone is successful, and the results can be disastrous.

In our text today, Jesus instructs his listeners to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door,” and cautions them that “many will try to enter and will not be able to.”  But Jesus is not talking about the potential danger of trying to carry too many grocery bags.  He is speaking of the danger of attempting to carry pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness through the door to the kingdom.  He is speaking of those whose heads are swollen and chests are puffed up with the belief that they are better than everyone else; that they are somehow privileged and deserving of the kingdom of God.  He is warning them to remember that their salvation is a gift, not something they have earned.  Jesus is urging them to put aside all the human baggage they carry around and instead to earnestly desire to know him and diligently strive to follow him.

And what about us?  It is not enough to simply listen to Jesus’ words or admire his miracles—we must turn from our sin and trust in God to save us.  We must put aside our pride, our ego, our greed, our desire to “do it ourselves” and instead take on the nature of Christ; to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

During this season of Lent, let’s work on removing the things from our lives that would prevent us from being able to go through the narrow door; the thoughts and actions that would keep us on the outside looking in through the window and wailing because we are not welcome.  Let us instead work on cultivating a gentle spirit that focuses outward to the needs of others instead of inward to ourselves and our selfish wants.  Let’s put down our bags, pick up our crosses, and follow Jesus to and through the narrow door and in to the feast in the kingdom of God.

 

Jackie Matyasovski, Deacon

The Power of Evil Comes to Judas

Feb 17, 2016   //   by zike   //   General, Pastor's Blog, Zion's Blog  //  No Comments

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

Luke 22:1-6

 

In the scripture assigned for today, Jesus is on his way to the cross, a journey that is appropriate for us to contemplate during Lent.

 

In this passage from the gospel of Luke, the festival of Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, is near. During this holy time, we find that that those people who should be most attuned to holiness are focusing their efforts on finding a way to kill Jesus. Why? Because they are afraid of the people, who are threatening to make Jesus powerful. The chief priests and the scribes are afraid of the power of Jesus, and they are afraid of the power of the people. The people are no longer under their own control. Their evil desire to protect themselves results in their efforts to put Jesus to death.

 

So into this situation comes the willing figure of Judas. Luke makes us give second thought to the character of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. The scripture says that Satan “entered into Judas.” Tradition has it that this was the downfall of Judas, that his behavior and his suicide that followed show that he was condemned. But the situation raises questions. Judas is identified as one of the twelve. He is one of Jesus’ closest friends. What can have driven him to betray Jesus? In Luke, it’s not just the money. In fact, the money seems to be an afterthought, a reward for his betrayal.

 

Could God have a role in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus? In Acts 1:16, Peter says, “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas.” Could Judas have been just a tool of the situation that called for betraying Jesus, which resulted in Jesus ultimately being put to death and then rising from the dead for our salvation? In fact, if Judas had not betrayed Jesus, would we be saved today?

 

Yet there is the matter of Satan. Whether or not we think Satan was a person, Luke seems to say that a force other than God influenced him in his actions. So if this force controlled Judas, was he really responsible for what he did? And if he wasn’t responsible, can we then say that his actions were a result of his sin?

 

I think we can’t help looking at our own sin. It is hard for us to explain where it comes from. It is hard for us to know whether Satan is outside us or within us. It is hard for us sometimes to know why we do what we do. St. Paul wrote, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:18-19). I think that Judas was in fact responsible for his own actions, just as we are responsible for our own actions. But sin is hard to explain. How can we resist it when we don’t even understand it where it comes from?

 

We can only resist sin by falling back into the redeeming arms of Jesus. Jesus died for you and me. And whether or not Judas’ sin was forgivable, he represents our entire world of sinners, for whom Jesus died. What do you think of the idea that Jesus died for you and for me, but also for Judas?

 

The problem was that Judas took matters into his own hands to try to control events – why this happened is not clear. Who was responsible, God, Satan, or Judas himself? We cannot know. But one thing we can be sure of is that we cannot trust ourselves. We can only trust God. Trust in God will allow us to put ourselves in Jesus’ arms, and Jesus will keep us safe. We need Jesus to save us from the power of sin. And he will! Lord Jesus, guide us, protect us, save us. Amen.

 

Pastor Janet Blair

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