Reflections - Former PastOr Colleen Nelson, RETIRED SEPTEMBER 2018

Pastor Colleen Nelson, Retired September 2018

Pastor Colleen Nelson, Retired September 2018

Reflecting on Zion's 125th Anniversary  2015

My personal expressions of thanksgiving to you - I am thankful for our wonderful anniversary celebrations and those who worked so hard to make them meaningful.

I am thankful for all of the guests who were able to come and share their journey to ministry.

I am thankful that you called me to lead this community of faith.

I thank God for the love and care that you show each other by being there for one another. There are so many gifts feely offered from the giftedness of each of you that I couldn’t begin to name them all.  Pastor Nelson




Zion Warming Station

February 1 - April 1, 2018


Bring the Homeless Into Your House

Is not this the fast that I choose: 

to break the bonds of injustice, 

To undo the thongs of the yoke, 

to let the oppressed go free, 

and to break every yoke? 

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, 

and bring the homeless poor into your house; 

when you see the naked, to cover them, 

and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, 

and your healing shall spring up quickly. 

Isaiah 58:6-8a

The prophet Isaiah is there to challenge the people who are returning from exile about being true to what God expects of them in terms of worship and action. In this passage, it’s not that the practice of fasting is not a good worshipful act, but the real question is what does it mean? To Isaiah, it’s not about our own holiness, but about our reflection on what’s going on in the world. 

True fasting includes breaking the bonds of injustice and setting people free. It’s also about being a community of care. Share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house. Do not hide yourself from your own kin. When we acknowledge that we are all related, then we will make sure to see that each has what they need. 

Isaiah is convinced that the kind of fasting that frees people causes us to light up and be a beacon for others. Not only that, but we receive healing ourselves through our actions. I believe the world needs what we have: God’s light and truth and healing. 

On February 1st, we at Zion will welcome the homeless into our house. It has taken a long time to get to this place. Almost two years ago, we started the Housing Issues Collaborative. Community agencies and providers meet together to talk about housing access for those who were finding it difficult to acquire and stay in stable affordable housing. During those discussions, we often talk about the lack of a place for people who are homeless to just come in out of the cold. Several people decided to tackle that issue this winter. They got themselves organized, did research, and acquired a small grant to open a warming station. The big challenge was finding a place to start. After almost giving up on getting it started this year, Zion and Neighbors Together partnered and came forward to help. 

Please welcome our “kin” into our church home during February and March as a trial warming station for those who have nowhere else to go at night. We will fast from the use of our fellowship hall area from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am so that others can be warm. 

God has given us the grace to be a beacon of light and a healing presence in our community. 

Pastor Colleen

Reformation Celebration Is Here

For Lutherans, the end of October is much more than skeletons, costumes, pumpkins and candy.  For us, October 31st is the Eve of All Saints Day, the day Martin Luther started a controversy in the church that would echo throughout Europe and eventually the world. 

“Wittenberg was a small provincial town on the edge of the empire in 1517 when professor and pastor Martin Luther lit an evangelical spark that illuminated God’s grace and prompted the reform in the Western church.  Over the next five hundred years the good news spread far beyond Saxony and Europe.  Today the family of Lutheran churches includes the Lutheran World Federation with 72 million congregations in 145 church bodies in 98 nations and the International Lutheran Council with 35-member bodies in 30 nations.” (Reformation 500 Sourcebook, Augsburg Fortress)

Among those millions of congregations is Zion in La Grande, Oregon.  500 years after it all started, we will celebrate our place in the Lutheran family and look ahead to the new things God is doing today to bring Christians back together.  We’ve invited our partner churches, St. Pete’s Episcopal, La Grande United Methodists, First Presbyterian, and First Christian to join us for a Sunday of celebration.  It would be a great day to invite your family and friends. 

            Reformation 500 Festival Worship Service

            Sunday, October 29th, 10:00 am

            Special organ, choir and instrumental music

            Luncheon of brats, kraut, salads, side dishes and dessert

To prepare for our big day on the 29th, join the adult forum on Sunday mornings in October to watch and discuss selections from the new movie

Martin Luther:  The Idea That Changed the World.

“Martin Luther chronicles the real-life story of the seismic upheaval that rocked the western world in the early 1500s. Against all odds, a lonely outcast stood up to the world’s dominant superpower—the Catholic Church—and won. It was a battle of ideas that formed Western society as we know it today, sparking the rise of individualism, universal education, religious freedom and new roles for church and state.

Narrated by Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and starring Padraic Delaney (The Tudors), this highly-visual docudrama uses full-scale dramatizations to tell a great adventure story. With treacherous intrigue, outsized personalities and famous showdowns, it does not shy away from the darker side of Martin Luther’s story.”  (PBS International)

Let’s have fun with our Lutheran story and reflect on what it means today.

                                                                                                            Pastor Colleen

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem.  Luke 9:51

In the Narrative Lectionary which we are using, this passage from Luke is assigned for Ash Wednesday.  I find it intriguing, because Jesus is very clear about what time it is in his journey and what he needs to do.  He sets his face toward Jerusalem, the place of encounter where he will “face” the opposition that is building against him. 

It makes me wonder how many of us pay attention to the timing of our life journeys.  When is it time to make a turn?  For me, this is often a difficult question because I’m not always that great at making decisions.  I think about all the possibilities and second guess myself.  I could turn this way for a while and see where the path leads.  On the other hand, that other way looks like it has good potential.  There’s always one hand and the other hand.  What to do?  

Things get more complicated when the path ahead is challenging.  I can take the path of least resistance, the easy way.  This way doesn’t challenge anyone and lets me relax and be content.  Or, I can take the difficult road that challenges assumptions and is not content with how things are.  It means that some folks are not going to like what I stand up for and will try to impede my way. 

Jesus set his face.  He was clear about the path ahead and what he had to do.  I just wish I could be that clear.  Here’s the problem – there are some folks today who have set their face and are very clear.  I just don’t happen to like the direction they are taking.  It pushes me into decision mode.  I have to set my face now, too, whether I like it or not. 

The journey of Lent this year might just be about where your face is set.  Take time to think about your own face, the faces of those around you, and the faces of those in leadership.  Ultimately, yours is the path of discipleship, and Jesus is calling you to walk beside him, facing in the same direction.  This is a time to take a good hard look at where you were heading and see if you need to make a turn in order to be in step with Jesus.  It won’t be easy, and there are no promises that it will be safe.  Jesus was not safe.  He just went. 

I invite you to pray this Ash Wednesday prayer as you go.

Lord Jesus, Great Teacher, You place tremendous responsibility upon those who follow you. You demand more than we are often willing to give. You promise no safety, only that the way will be rough. Make us ready and willing to walk your rocky path and carry your subversive word to hostile ears, for the hope and promise of rewarding life in Jesus Christ. Amen.                                                                                                                                   

Pastor Colleen


         MAKE IT A HABIT

The habit of giving thanks seems to get lost in the shuffle of modern life.  We get caught up in acquiring things and see the good things in life as the benefits of our hard work.  The scriptures remind us that it is God who provides for our needs.  Giving thanks to God is a habit we are encouraged to cultivate.  When we do, we will see God’s work in all things.

Around the time the Pilgrims landed on the North American continent, there lived a pastor, Martin Rinkhart, who served a parish in the town of Eilenburg, Germany.  Rinkhard lived through the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, a time of extreme hardship.  In Rinkhart’s own town, 8,000 people died of illness in a single year, 1637.  Rinkhard himself presided at 4,000 of those burials, including some members of his own family.  Yet, during these years of war and devastation, Rinkhart wrote a table blessing that begins:  “Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices” (ELW 839/840). Now a beloved hymn of the church, this table prayer calls us to an enduring, relentless habit of thanksgiving.          

As we hold hands around our Thanksgiving tables with family and friends, there will be those in the gathering who have great joys to celebrate, others who are dealing with pain and loss.  Most of us will find ourselves somewhere in between.  Our years are a mix.  If we remember well, we will see God’s hand in it all and know why we are stopping to give thanks.     

New habits, intentionally planned, are welcome changes in our lives.  Make yours a habit of giving thanks.  See if it will change you.  Start simple.  Decide on a time and place and method.  Be concrete.  Create a thanksgiving corner.  Write notes.  Fill a special offering container.  Do whatever it takes to make it real and help you remember.  Once you have developed the habit, notice what’s happening within you.  Is the Spirit moving?

Now thank we all our God. . . .  

I’d like to take a moment right now to give thanks for you.  You may have heard me say more than once how much I love it here in our valley.  Yes, this is the most beautiful part of Oregon, and the mountains and valleys are magnificent.  I thank God for this wonderful natural world.  Even more I thank God for the people in my life and this community of faith.  I thank God for your faithfulness and your care for one another.  I thank God for your willingness to think new thoughts and try new things.  I thank God for your tenacity, drive and energy.  I thank God for the uniqueness and giftedness of each of you.  And I thank God that we are striving together to walk the way of Jesus in the world. 

                  Story and theme are from Sundays and Seasons 2006

                                                                                          Pastor Colleen Nelson

Message from Pastor Colleen

I’m excited to be called to Zion after having served as pastor in residence since June of 2013. The adventure continues!

Won’t you join me and the members of Zion as we explore the meaning of the Christian faith for our time and place? It’s a journey that has many entry points. Come as you are wherever you are on the path between doubt and certainty. We’ll walk together toward new discoveries.

Faith for us is not as much about assenting to a set belief as it is about how we live faithfully as Christians. Walking the Way of Jesus brings love, healing and wholeness into the world. That means we take seriously the giftedness of each person we meet. God may just change us both because we got to know each other. God may also change the world through us.

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
We are always being made new!


Installation service - Pastor Colleen Nelson

Installation service - Pastor Colleen Nelson

Pastor Colleen's Bio

I am a graduate of The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) and have been in parish ministry for 25 years, previously serving at Trinity in Battle Creek, Michigan and St. Mark in Chicago. I received training at the Institute for Spiritual Leadership as a Spiritual Director. For two years I worked in administration at LSTC in the Doctor of Ministry program. I call central Iowa, where I went to high school and college, home. I was a professional flutist before I went to seminary. I have explored the Northwest for many years because my children and grandchildren live here. In addition to spending time with family, I particularly enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and skiing.

To Members and Friends of Zion:

Thank you for being a supportive, loving community to me. It means so much to have people who care and will back up that care with acts of kindness.

Thank you for giving so freely of your time and talents to the ministry of Zion. There is so much going on all the time both within the walls of the church and in the community that it could be overwhelming if you weren't contributing so much.

Thank you for being so generous with your financial support of the congregation. Giving to God is a high priority in your life. For that, I am grateful.

Thank you for your extravagant welcome to all whom God sends us. A community with permeable boundaries is a true Christian community.

Thank you for your creativity and wiillingness to try new things. You deal well with change.

Thank you for the ministry you do in your daily life because you are a disciple of Jesus. You volunteer and help others in more ways than I could ever count each week.

Thank you for being who God created you to be.

Many Blessings,

Pastor Colleen