Rest

Originally posted on tvprays.org

I have found myself needing rest and enjoying rest in new ways. My body, mind and spirit are occasionally beyond tired—really weary. Sometimes I thankfully have moments, usually when I am in conversation with lay people or other Nampa community members, when I have a flurry of creativity and energy. But when I approach Thursday evenings, a rough draft of my sermon finished and most of the workweek behind me, I look forward to my days of deep rest and disengagement from my church to-do list. That list is replaced by things like read, do laundry, go on walks, and more reading. I used to see rest solely as a means to an end. I reasoned that I would be hardly any good to anyone (workplace, family, and friends) if I was worn down and constantly running ragged. Rest was part of the large umbrella category of self-care, meant to prevent burn-out. Instead of burn-out, my generation of pastors would have long lasting careers in public ministry. When I started as a pastor in rural Iowa, I was stunned to realize how tired I was on Sunday afternoons. A mentor fortunately explained that this was completely normal for some pastors. He took a nap every Sunday afternoon and called it rebooting. I did this for a long time. Then I built new emotional and social muscles and Sunday mornings did not tire me out in the same way, not unless it was an especially big day. I still want to rest on Sunday afternoons, but now I also want rest on my day off, really rest, not just fill it up with different activities. Life has changed in so many ways with the pandemic. For me, there is a tiredness that is new. I have a little more stamina than I did when we began, but my mind, body and spirit still feel the weight of all the things. The first time someone used the phrase decision fatigue, I knew he was naming my reality. In addition, I have information fatigue, production fatigue, learning fatigue, Zoom fatigue, and empathy fatigue. 

Now, before the tvprays.org readers send me notes asking me to please heed my own advice and rest, I will assure you that I have been resting. I have found pleasure and rest lying on my really long sofa and reading for hours, drowsing off, reading again. On my days off, I try to pair this activity with long walks, hydration, and meals that include vegetables. What I know now, in a way I do not know if ever fully grasped before, is that there is intrinsic value in rest. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done in the world and rest is one thing that equips me for my corner of that work. But even without the productivity, there would be value in the rest. If I truly believe that I am a beloved child of God, then I need to believe that God wants me to rest and that God’s loving gaze in on me while I am resting. That may be old news to a lot of people, but not to me. I am not even nurturing a relationship with another human being in these moments, which would be beautiful. But I am nurturing my relationship with God. There are feelings of vulnerability and exposure. My prayer is something like, “Here I am God. Not producing. Not being excellent. Maybe not even learning anything useful. Am I really enough in this particular moment?” And the answer is always “Yes. Keep resting.” I am not finished with my discoveries in resting. I assume in six months, in ten years, in twenty years, my body, mind, and spirit might rest differently but I hope to carry with me the joy and peace I have in rest, and mostly the beloved emotion I am starting to feel, even when I am doing nothing that fits our definitions of productive.

For Rest

The world hustles and benefits

from a cruel lie—

idleness must be earned.

….

When we rest we can remember

it is not a reward but an essential beat,

for in our stopping, we witness

what God is doing inside and way beyond us.

From Meta Herrick Carlson’s Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Everyday Life

Posted in Reflections | 1 Comment

Feb. 28, 2021

Prayer of the Day

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Psalm 22: 23-31

23You who fear the Lord, give praise! All you of Jacob’s line, give glory.  Stand in awe of the Lord, all you offspring of Israel.
24For the Lord does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither is the Lord‘s face hidden from them;  but when they cry out, the Lord hears them.

25From you comes my praise in the great assembly; I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the Lord.
26The poor shall eat and be satisfied, Let those who seek the Lord give praise! May your hearts live forever! 

27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of   nations shall bow before God.
28For dominion belongs to the Lord, who rules over the nations.29Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship; all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel before the Lord.
30Their descendants shall serve the Lord, whom they shall proclaim to generations to come.

31They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying to them, “The Lord has acted!”

Romans 4:13-25

13The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8:31-38

31[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
34He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

 “Then he began to teach them.” We are encouraged to ask, what happened before the “then”? Our passage picks up in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter had responded, “You are the Messiah.” Dramatic healings, perplexing parables, incredible miracles, and shocking inclusion can all be seen as the characteristic activities of an appealing messiah. The Messiah is the anointed king through whom God will deliver or save God’s people. 

We are right to imagine that Jesus’ first disciples associate this title Messiah then with earthly glory. And in the disciples’ defense, they have witnessed a lot of local fanfare around Jesus. Crowds of mostly peasant villagers have swarmed to Jesus in order to witness and receive his healing powers. Whenever local leaders oppose Jesus, Jesus bests them in the debates. And so, it is hard to blame the disciples for seeing their future full of earthly glory.

But the model confession of faith by Peter has a disturbing sequel. And Jesus’ words jolt the disciples. Jesus lays the future out quite plainly. Up until now in his ministry, Jesus has spoken only cryptically about persecution. Now he says clearly that he, the Son of Man, must undergo rejection, suffering, and death. It is precisely for this reason that his followers will take up crosses and lose their lives. 

Yes, Jesus will rise again. Yes, persecuted disciples will receive new life. Still, here it becomes clear that the road to messianic glory runs through death on the cross. The disciples are following Jesus to a cross. 

An important word in today’s passage from Mark is “must.” “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering.” Often this verse is taken to mean that Jesus’ mission is principally to suffer and die. In this kind of reading, Jesus “must” go to the cross in order to affect a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. 

But let’s pull the camera out and look at this verse in light of all of Jesus’ ministry. When we do that, we get a different, but still profound, explanation for Jesus’ death. Jesus dies because powerful humans oppose both his healing mission and, more specifically, the disruption that mission brings to established law and order. 

Let me repeat that, Jesus dies because powerful humans oppose both his healing mission and, more specifically, the disruption that mission brings to established law and order. This means that Jesus’ opponents are opposing what Jesus first announced when he came on the scene: the in-breaking reign of God.

The power, me might even call it the politics, at work in Jesus’ ministry has been and will continue to be central. For example, Jesus is unflinching in his insistence that the divine mission to welcome and reconcile sinners outweighs the stigma of associating with them. God’s mission to end human suffering is more important than any religious tradition that might hinder it. In other words, religious tradition is only worth keeping if it helps alleviate human suffering, if it helps usher in the reign of God. 

This is not a Christian correction to legalistic Judaism. It is instead a radical channeling of the longstanding Jewish belief in God’s compassion for the marginalized. 

What is the result of Jesus’ announcing this mission with his words and actions? The response to this healing, life-bringing mission is violent antagonism from the people invested in maintaining the status quo. This should no longer surprise us.

One scholar said, the real epiphany of today’s passage “is not that Jesus’ mission is to die, but that his faithfulness to God’s healing mission will inevitably result in his death…. Jesus ‘must’ die because his commitment to human healing will not falter.”

It might be easy for us to shake our heads at Peter’s rebuke and think that we never would have spoken to Jesus the way he did. But I am not so sure. Remember how the peasants out in Galilee were treated during the time of the Roman Empire or kingdom. Now this man Jesus comes along who is clearly the Messiah. 

They want the earthly liberation and victory they have always imagined—in which earthly power stands up to earthly power. Imagine Peter walking over to Jesus and taking him aside to set him straight about messiahship. “Suffering, rejection, and death are not on the agenda. Power, prestige, and dominion are on the agenda. It’s King David’s throne we’re after, ruling the nations with power and might. We signed up for a crown, not a cross!”

Peter was blinded by his own preconceptions, everything he thought should be on the messiah’s agenda. How often are we guilty of this? We assume that we know what must be done, so that even a word from Jesus himself cannot change our minds. We get blinded by our own prejudices, presuppositions, and preconceptions. We think we would never rebuke Jesus outright like Peter. Our rebuke is benign neglect, quiet indifference. 

In the midst of the conversation between Jesus and Peter, who Jesus addresses, seems to grow beyond the inner circle. We, the audience 2000 years later, are also drawn into Jesus’ invitation when he uses words like “anyone” and “whoever.” 

Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

In other words, as one scholar wrote, anyone who says they “follow Jesus must understand that sacrifice is involved. Discipleship is not some comfortable affiliation with Jesus but a life-changing-and potentially life-threatening—commitment to him.”

I think the most problematic word in the text for me today is not even in the text itself. It is how we have translated it, “take up your cross.” At its worse, it has been translated into something like, “bear your suffering meekly,” which drives abused women and others back into the hands of their abusers. More subtly but as much a distortion, a few weeks ago I was reading a book on Christian leadership which was lifting up deep humility. I wanted to hurl the book across the room and say, I finally believe in myself. Please do not shush me now, just when I am finding my voice. Fortunately, that’s not the cross-bearing Jesus is talking about.

Still, I know that I too am called to self-sacrifice, to take up my cross as an individual and as part of various communities. Our context of 21st century America, with our democratic government and economy shaped by capitalism, is both similar and different to 1st century Galilee under Roman occupation. 

Our context may be different, but the questions are the same: What are the barriers to the reign of God breaking in? What sacrifices will I make, that will cost me, really cost me, so that the reign of God comes in more quickly? Most days it feels like I have so little power to make any change. Where do I have power that I can wield? What power do I have with my voice, my wallet, my vote, my relationships? 

As a pastor of a congregation, these words of Jesus’ make me ask, what cross is our community asked to take up? What barriers to the reign of God breaking in can we help destroy? What will it cost us?    

These are all hard questions to ask during a pandemic, when the world has experienced so much death and loss. But the pandemic has also put a magnifying glass on those barriers to the reign of God. Every day we can read or hear about disparities in our health care system, barriers to exercising the right to vote, the widening gap between rich and poor. My deep abiding hope through all of it is that we will not waste all that has been brought to light.

This hope is grafted to the cross the Jesus himself bears. He carries it in a way I never will. Further, God will keep being present in surprising ways, just as Jesus was on the cross. Peter was hoping that Jesus would have earthly power, wealth, and fame and turn out to be the one on top. Martin Luther called this way of God working through things that are powerful a theology of glory. Jesus reveals, our passage today, and then again and again that God often works through the hidden, through weakness, even shame and death. Luther called it the theology of the cross.  

One scholar wrote that “A theology of the cross declares that the church is not Christendom, faith is not certainty, hope is not optimism, and love is not painless….To confess Jesus as Messiah is to recognize his dying body on the cross, and to recognize that discipleship is the way of our own cross.”

Prayers of Intercession

Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Your gift of grace is for all people. Give confident faith to all the baptized, that they may follow you wholeheartedly. Give new believers joy in your promises; give hope and courage to those who suffer for their faith. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

All the ends of the earth worship you. From galaxies to microorganisms, preserve your creation. Teach humanity to wonder at your works and to join you in tending to creation’s well-being. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

You rule over the nations. Raise up advocates for peace and justice within and between nations. Give life where hope seems dead; call into existence new realities we cannot even imagine. (Here specific places of need may be named.) Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

In Jesus you joined humanity in suffering and death. Reveal to all the depth of your love shown on the cross. Accompany all who suffer in body, mind, and spirit. Restore all who are sick or grieving. Bring vindication for victims of injustice, exploitation, and oppression (especially). Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

You made Abraham and Sarah the ancestors of a multitude of nations. Bless grandparents, parents, and foster parents, and the children who look to them for care and guidance. Console those who deal with infertility, parents who have entrusted their children to adoption, and children longing to be adopted. Equip ministries and services to families. (The congregation’s ministries and community services may be named.) Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Strike in our hearts the desire to help the needy. Help us to recognize that hunger affects not nameless, faceless people, but other human beings: people with families, hopes, and dreams for a better future. Allow us to work hard to bring about positive change in the lives of these people. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

We await the day of Christ’s coming in glory. Lead us by the example of all the saints whom you have called to take up their cross and follow you, that together we may find our lives in you. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Feb. 21, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin. Renew us in the gift of baptism. May your holy angels be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Genesis 9:8-17

8God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Psalm 25:1-10

1To you, O Lord,
  I lift up my soul.
2My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3Let none who look to you be put to shame;
  rather let those be put to shame who are treacherous.
4Show me your ways, O Lord,
and teach me your paths. 
5Lead me in your truth and teach me,
  for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
6Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
7Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
  remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
8You are gracious and upright, O Lord;
therefore you teach sinners in your way. 
9You lead the lowly in justice
  and teach the lowly your way.
10All your paths, O Lord, are steadfast love and faithfulness
  to those who keep your covenant and your testimonies. 

1 Peter 3:18-22

18Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 1:9-15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Prayers of Intercession

In Jesus your realm has come near to us in every place and time. Give your church throughout the world a spirit of humility and repentance; teach us to trust always in the good news of your salvation. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

You have made a covenant of mercy with every living creature. Protect all the earth’s creatures from destruction. Empower the work of biologists, conservationists, and science educators. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

All your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness. Direct the words and actions of leaders in our community and throughout the world, that they may maintain justice for the lowly. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Even in the wilderness you are with us. Walk alongside migrants and refugees crossing dangerous lands. Tend to those whose lives feel desolate. Give healing and strength to all who suffer (especially). Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

In the covenant of baptism you claim us as beloved children. Nurture us in our baptismal identity and teach us to live within it for the sake of others. Strengthen this congregation’s ministries of care and concern (especially). Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.In baptism you join us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We praise you for all those who have died trusting in your faithfulness. Bring us with them to the fullness of your reign. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Horizons

Originally published on tvprays.org.

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature.

This Emerson quote has always resonated with me. My family moved to Custer, South Dakota, in the southern Black Hills, when I was four. We drove southwest to Colorado and east to Sioux Falls and neighboring Minnesota too many times to count. The home I grew up in looked out over those same Black Hills. I first noticed this connection between the health of my eye and access to the horizon when I lived in Hyde Park Chicago for three years. Being within walking distance of Lake Michigan was so important to my well-being. It did not matter if it was a warm spring day or a blustery winter day, I loved staring south out over the lake and seeing nothing but water. I worried about my year in St. Paul, Minnesota, where would I see the horizon? But the gift of the neighborhood where I lived was its proximity to the University of Minnesota experimental fields and Minnesota Fair Grounds—acres of prairie and horizon. I spent my pastoral internship year in Cheney, Washington and in the fall would walk the edges of that college town and marvel at the Palouse—mile after mile of golden wheat fields. Then I lived in a village in Western Iowa’s Loess Hills. There, I was stuck down in a valley, so it was really only on my drives north to Sioux City or south to Omaha that the health of my eye, in Emerson’s words, was restored. For better or worse, I made both of those trips often. 

I remember marveling in my first few months in southern Idaho that driving in one direction I could see the Boise Foothills and in another I was looking at the Owyhees. Now, ten years into my life here, I have many places to see the horizon. One of my favorite drives is toward the vineyards. I love coming over the hill and suddenly seeing the Snake River Valley laid out below. The old road along little Lake Lowell in south Nampa has become both a refuge and a special place to walk with friends. Many days I simply walk the street west of my house, wondering how long the fields will be fields and I will be able to see the horizon. Is it simply nostalgia, the way I grew up, that has connected my health with access to a view of the horizon? Perhaps. But I think there is more. 

When I see the horizon stretched out before me, I regain some perspective about the world. It is not that my needs are unimportant. I do not forget that I, too, am beloved by God and other human beings. But I am one person in this vast cosmos. Every verse I have read in the Psalms about God being the creator of all, not me or any other human being, comes back to me.

Psalm 8

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 

Psalm 19

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament* proclaims his handiwork. 

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; 2 for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. 

[and if you later had to ask…]

10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.

Psalm 46 (the basis for Martin Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God)

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present* help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Psalm 148

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created. 6 He established them for ever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

The horizon helps me regain perspective and remember to whom I am to offer praise for my life and all the life in the world. Strangely, while standing out there looking at a wide open space, be it Lake Michigan, the Palouse, or mountains rising up across the high desert, I do not feel lonely. I may be standing alone, but with no distractions on the horizon I remember that the creator of all is indeed with me. Instead of loneliness, I experience solitude.

On my good days, when I come to view the horizon with a lift already in my step, something else happens. Looking out at nothing frees my mind to imagine and dream. I become the girl in the song Wide Open Spaces by the trio The Chicks: 

She needs wide open spaces

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces

She knows the high stakes

Not hindered by distractions, freed by the seemingly blank slate provided by the lake, prairie, fields or ocean I am looking at, I dream up crazy ideas: trip to go on with friends, solutions to local community problems, new partnerships, new theological connections, ways to be church in this new decade. Nothing is impossible because it is just me and the horizon and God. Some of those musings are retained on the walk home. More importantly, the freedom and boldness I gain, looking at the horizon, sticks with me as well.  

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Feb. 14, 2021 (Transfiguration Sunday)

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved Son, and illumine the world with your image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2 Kings 2:1-12

1Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”
4Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”
6Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.
9When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm 50:1-6

1The mighty one, God the Lord, has spoken;
  calling the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty,
God shines forth in glory. 
3Our God will come and will not keep silence;
  with a consuming flame before, and round about a raging storm.
4God calls the heavens and the earth from above
to witness the judgment of the people.
5“Gather before me my loyal followers,
  those who have made a covenant with me and sealed it with sacrifice.”
6The heavens declare the rightness of God’s cause,
for it is God who is judge. 

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

3Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 6For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9

2Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Sermon – Pr Meggan Manlove

The story of Jesus’ Transfiguration points us to mystery.  It’s a mystery beyond the reach of historical reconstruction or scientific verification. We are all children of the Enlightenment, whether we are lab scientists or social workers. The story of the transfiguration attempts to draw us into who Jesus is.  We do not sit comfortably with mystery.  We want everything to be factual. Today I am going to draw on two different traditions. Hopefully this will help us hear the story in a new way.

Two summers ago, when I was back in my hometown of Custer, South Dakota, I spent a few hours with Larry Peterson, a family friend and Lutheran pastor. Around twenty years of Larry’s ministry was serving as director of the retreat center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We talked about the ways Lakota Christians interpret a variety of scriptural passages, but what stood out to me was the interpretation of the Transfiguration. 

Larry told me this story about when he was serving a White congregation in Hill City. “When I first came to the Black Hills again, in 1980, I got involved in a text study group meeting at St. Matthew’s Church in Rapid City.  This Episcopal Church served mostly Native American people, and the Priest was Fr. Bob Two Bulls. In our text study we were looking at the Transfiguration text and he said, ‘This is my favorite text.’ I thought he was joking, but I asked him why he liked this text so much. He responded that this was a text that everyone in his congregation could relate to. I told him that I find this to be a very difficult text because basically no one in my congregation, including myself, can relate to the event of this text. 

Bob Two Bulls went on to share with me what the vision quest is all about, and that even if a member of his congregation had never, personally, been on such a quest, they would know how meaningful an experience it is for the community.  Oftentimes a Lakota person will go on a vision quest if they are having a hard time figuring out direction for their life, or if they are struggling to know how they might help a member of their community who is going through a particularly difficult time in their life. 

When the person decides to take part in this ‘Crying for a vision’ they have a Spiritual leader prepare them, take them to a place to be alone as they seek to have this vision, and then meet with them following the two or three days they spend ‘On the hill.’ The person comes back to the Spiritual leader and relays to that person what they heard on the hill. The speaker may have been someone from the past (a grandparent, aunt, or uncle who has died), an animal, or just a voice. The Spiritual leader helps them understand what the message may mean, and how they might live in response to this vision.” 

I personally will never hear the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration the same again. Was Jesus crying for a vision? Maybe. The heavens had broken open during his baptism and he had heard a voice from heaven, “You are my son.” Maybe, having predicted his death and knowing what lie ahead, he wanted to hear the voice again. We can never be sure what Jesus was seeking. This disciples too had a vision. They saw their friend and teacher’s outside appearance change to dazzling. Further, they hear the voice affirm that this is God’s Son and that the imperative: “Listen to him.”

One other piece of this story that really stood out to me as I set it beside the Native American vision quest was the place of these other human beings. What I mean is, a vision quest may be a solitary experience, but it involves community, with other people helping interpret the vision and experience. That is as significant as the vision itself. This leads us into to the other tradition that may be helpful.

The Transfiguration, with all that seems strange to my post-Enlightenment ears and brain, also reminds me of what Celtic spirituality refers to as liminal spaces. Liminal space is a place of transition, it’s the moment in time caught between then and now, the past and the not yet. If that does not describe Jesus between his predictions about his death and resurrection and his time in Jerusalem, what does? Liminal spaces can make us feel uncomfortable—see Peter, who is in such a tizzy. 

And yet, eve in its awkwardness, there is a sacredness in liminal space. If we move through it well, then we move into fullness. The poet, John O’Donohue made this connection with sacredness and liminal space, which he referred to as thresholds, saying, “when we cross a new threshold worthily…we heal the patters of repetition that were in us, that had us caught somewhere. I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth.” 

Shemaiah Gonzaelz says that “When we push through liminal space, beauty breaks through in a glimmer as we see a truer reflection of who we are meant to be.” She continues by explaining how crucial community is to this process. It makes me mindful that Jesus did not go up the mountain alone. This is similar to but quite different from his 40 days in the Wilderness. He takes Peter, James, and John with him. If he had gone alone, it seems that he would not have remained that way. Elijah and Moses appear.

Gonzaelz, my guide for liminal spaces, writes, “I have been known to gather moss in liminal space, and it is community that has saved me. Community serves as a mirror, to see my weakness in the reflection of another but also to shine light on my strengths. In community I learn how to lean on another for support, knowing there will be a time when I will supply to shoulder to cry on or the arm to lean upon. In community I see who I was created to be and I rest, gathering strength for the transition to come. This is the crux of liminal space, as we can only come into fullness as humans in community, when we realize we are not alone.”

The transfiguration of Jesus comes at a point of major transition as he shifts from his active ministry among the people toward Jerusalem, the place of his death and resurrection. Jesus knows how hard it will be for his disciples to understand this.  And so, he takes his closest disciples, his community, and heads up a mountain. He sets out on a sort of vision quest during this transition time.  

On the mountain, they come into the presence of God the Father, and their hearts and souls are opened. They see what their eyes can barely believe. Their friend and teacher, the very human Jesus, is transfigured before them.  His clothes become dazzling white. Elijah and Moses appear before them. 

Jesus was affirmed as God’s Son, on a mission that will lead to suffering and death. Other passion predictions will follow, but none of them will be divinely affirmed as the first. The word from the cloud, “Listen to him,” is a reminder to pay attention to Jesus’ reliable words. He will continue to teach and heal. Ultimately this will all lead to his laying down his life.

Part of what it means to follow Jesus is to look for where God’s glorious new life bursts forth minute by minute. It means having the eyes of faith to see it. Eyes of faith perceive the presence of God where God is not noticeable, where we do not expect to find God, whether it is in a stranger’s welcome, the hospitality of a child, or even in someone’s question about God. Look for God where God is not noticeable and hold onto the promise that you never need to find him. And remember that you need a community to be a faithful disciple or follower of Jesus. Certainly, you can have moments of solitude and those can be life-giving, but we need other human beings.

I return to those words of Sheimaiah Gonzalez: “In community I see who I was created to be, and I rest, gathering strength for the transition to come. This is the crux of liminal space, as we can only come into fullness as humans in community, when we realize we are not alone.” 

Our Lenten theme, starting Ash Wednesday and carried through each of the midweek worship services, is Created for Community. Perhaps we can find some liminal spaces this year during Lent. Further, even though, we are physically separated, we can be mindful that we are part of so many communities—the creation, all the saints, our neighbors, those on the margins, and of Jesus Christ himself. From the snow silently falling, the neighbor we have gotten to know, the people experiencing homelessness, the friend who died, the Word and Sacraments, all of these communities God has made us part of are how we follow the imperative central to the Transfiguration Story, “Listen to him.” Amen. 

Prayers of Intercession

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

A brief silence.For the gospel proclaimed in word and deed, for communities of faith far and near, and for all who show the face of Christ throughout the world, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For creation: sun, moon and stars; life forming in the dark earth and ocean deep; mountains, clouds and storms, and creatures seen and unseen, and for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our stewardship of God’s creation, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For those responsible for safety and protection: for emergency responders and security guards, attorneys and advocates, civil servants and leaders of governments, that they witness to mercy and justice throughout the world, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.For all who suffer this day (especially), that Christ our healer transform sickness into health, loneliness into companionship, bereavement into consolation, and suffering into peace, let us pray.Have mercy, O God.

For companions on life’s journey in this worshiping community, for loved ones who cannot be with us this day, and for guidance during struggles we face, that God’s glory is revealed around and among us, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.In thanksgiving for the faithful departed who now rest from their earthly pilgrimage (especially missionaries Cyril and Methodius), that their lives of service and prayer inspire us in our living, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

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February Letter to Congregation

Dear Members and Friends of Trinity,

Transfiguration Sunday, the day we traditionally bury the Alleluia Banner at Trinity, is Feb. 14. This year, each household is invited to bury a seed paper Alleluia Banner (enclosed). Watch the flowers bloom throughout the season of Lent and send us a photo for Easter Sunday. 

Lent begins Feb. 17 with Ash Wednesday. There are a number of churches providing some form of Ashes on the Go

St.  Paul Lutheran Church, 842 Alameda Dr., Ontario: 3-5 pm 

Faith Lutheran Church, 2915 S. Montana Ave., Caldwell: 9 am-noon and 5-6:30 pm 

Trinity Lutheran Church, 8 S. Midland Blvd, Nampa: 4-6 pm 

Hope Lutheran Church, 331 N Linder, Eagle: 7-9 am and 4-6 pm  

Shepherd of the Valley, 3100 S. 5 Mile Rd., Boise: 6-7 pm 

A number of cluster congregations, including Trinity, are contributing to a prerecorded Ash Wednesday worship service which will premiere on tvprays.org at 7 pm. Please save your removable tattoo ashes(enclosed) for that service.

The website, tvprays.org, will also be the place to find midweek Lent worship services each Wednesday, premiering at 7 pm. Five different congregations will each provide a full service.

Part of Lent at Trinity will be participating in God’s Global Barnyard (gathering money to buy farm animals for people in third world countries). A supply of Barnyard collection boxes and coloring books is in the church narthex, ready for you to stop by and pick up yours. Council members will help deliver these supplies after Ash Wednesday. 

Lent is a very appropriate time to deepen our prayer life. Copies of Christ in our Home are available in the narthex and Bob Cola can send you a copy. If you have not yet followed tvprays.org, consider making that one of your Lenten disciplines. 

Thanks again for continuing to support ministries at Trinity financially online, with bill pay or sending checks through the mail.

Finally, we know February/March will be big COVID-19 vaccine months for our congregation, with many of you over age 65. As you seek to schedule your appointments, please do not get discouraged. Please share information with each other and do not be complacent about masking and distancing, even after you receive the vaccine. 

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Feb. 7, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint. Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Isaiah 40:21-31

21Have you not known? Have you not heard?
  Has it not been told you from the beginning?
  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
  and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
 who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
  and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23who brings princes to naught,
  and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
  scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
 when he blows upon them, and they wither,
  and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25To whom then will you compare me,
  or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
  Who created these?
 He who brings out their host and numbers them,
  calling them all by name;
 because he is great in strength,
  mighty in power,
  not one is missing.

27Why do you say, O Jacob,
  and speak, O Israel,
 “My way is hidden from the Lord,
  and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Have you not known? Have you not heard?
 The Lord is the everlasting God,
  the Creator of the ends of the earth.
 He does not faint or grow weary;
  his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
  and strengthens the powerless.
30Even youths will faint and be weary,
  and the young will fall exhausted;
31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
  they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
 they shall run and not be weary,
  they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

The Lord heals the brokenhearted. (Ps. 147:3)1Hallelujah! How good it is to sing praises | to our God!
  How pleasant it is to honor God with praise!
2The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem,
and gathers the exiles of Israel.
3The Lord heals the brokenhearted
  and binds up their wounds.
4The Lord counts the number of the stars
and calls them all by their names. 
5Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
  there is no limit to God’s wisdom.
6The Lord lifts up the lowly,
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
  make music upon the harp to our God,
8who covers the heavens with clouds
and prepares rain for the earth, making grass to grow upon the mountains. 
9God provides food for the cattle
  and for the young ravens when they cry.
10God is not impressed by the might of a horse,
and has no pleasure in the speed of a runner,
11but finds pleasure in those who fear the Lord,
  in those who await God’s steadfast love. 20cHallelujah! 

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.
19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39

29As soon as [Jesus and the disciples] left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

There were things I was drawn to in each of our scripture passages, but for a variety of reasons, not least of which are the longings in my own soul, I kept being drawn to the passage from Isaiah. Isaiah speaks to the Israelites and I will reference that audience often, but I implore you to hear his words for you and me today. We may be centuries apart in time, but the prophet’s message is still so relevant.

The passage ends with a beautiful image: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles.” This picture gives us hope and gladness—soaring above it all, being the swift and strong eagle, with a bird’s eye view of all that is below. But the first metaphor Isaiah uses, comparing us to grasshoppers, is less satisfying—more like being compared to a sheep.  

In describing the greatness of our Creator, Isaiah starts off comparing us to the small leafhoppers who are more prey than predator.  Grasshoppers have gotten a bad rap over time. In Aesop’s fables they are the lazy, playful bug that has nothing for the winter and must beg the industrious ant for food and shelter. In the movie “Bugs Life,” the grasshoppers torment the ants like a street gang. I’m indebted in this sermon to Pastor Todd Weir for the way he opens up the grasshopper metaphor. 

Humans generally have a negative view of the grasshopper as a pest that can eat us out of our spot on the food chain. It is not uncommon for grasshoppers to be thicker than flies during a Midwest summer. When you walk through a pasture, each step causes a ripple of life that surges 10 feet away as the mobs of grasshoppers leap out of the way. They eat everything—the corn, the alfalfa, and garden tomatoes.  

Something about grasshoppers speaks of playful adolescents trying to come into maturity. They look like their tongue is perpetually sticking out, they are quick to leap away and hide in the grass and have a built-in fiddle to play away the day. Grasshopper seems like an excellent name for a spiritual novice.

Why did Isaiah choose grasshoppers to represent humanity in this chapter? Grasshoppers have five eyes. Part of their adaptability and survival comes from their ability to see everything around them in a great panorama.  It is this ability to see the wide horizon that can take us beyond being a spiritual novice. If we only see the next blade of grass in front of us, we will not grow and thrive.  

As long as I remain down in the grass, content to only look in front of me, I quickly become weighed down by trivia. I might be annoyed by the attitudes of other people, caught up in my own selfish struggles. I might wonder why the grass does not taste better or worry that I will run out of grass altogether.

When I read Isaiah, I hear him saying to us, “Look grasshopper…Have you not seen, have you not heard? Look around at the big world. Behind it all is your creator, who has the expansive power of life, a power that can make a small grasshopper soar like an eagle.” In faith, it is the capacity to look at the vast expanse of the world with a sense of awe and wonder that lifts us to new heights.  Seeing things with the eyes of amazement, seeing ourselves in the context of being part of a majestic creation, gives our faith the wind beneath our wings to soar. 

Isaiah hopes to help the Israelites to again see their creator as omnipotent and omnipresent. The Israelites are in exile in Babylon. The match is unequal. Israel cannot stand up to the Babylonians. The relationship is beyond challenge. Only God can powerfully intervene to assure the ineffectiveness of Babylon. No one knows how or when or where the victory over the Babylonians happened. It is announced and the Israelites are expected to trust the announcement, to trust the good news.

Isaiah begins this morning’s passage with rhetorical questions, chiding the Israelites for not having recognized who God is: “Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?”  God is the source of all that is in the world.  God is the subject of the great verbs of creation: “who sits, who stretches, who spreads, who brings, who makes.”  Everything is an object of God’s verbs.  Everything submits to God’s power. 

Here the move is from earth and its inhabitants and the heavens to princes and rulers. But where earth and the heavens are established by the power of God, princes and rulers are cancelled out. They become nothing, just like the gods they serve. Earthly governments are as fragile as newly planted growth. They are extremely vulnerable.  One gust of God’s hot air makes the nations wither. There is no alternative source of life in the world except God.  

The Israelites are asked to lift up their eyes on high. No one can deny that the stars are impressive, but the stars are not rivaling God. They are witnesses to the power of God. It is God who created them, who calls them by name, and who keeps them all present. No other god, no idol can make any comparable claim.

The poet reiterates a complaint the Israelites voiced in exile, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” Then the poet provides the most extreme claim for the incomparability and singularity of God as creator.  God’s work as creator is not a one-time deal. It is a continuing work that entails God’s endless, energetic attentiveness to creation. God is not worn out, not exhausted.  

God the creator God is directly attentive to the faint and powerless, to those who have no energy of their own. The creator sustains and gives life to creatures who have no intrinsic power for life of their own. In context it is the exiles in Babylon who are resourceless, faint, and powerless.  It is precisely for them that God is decisive.  

The concluding verses state an either/or.  Either folks will be faint, weary, and exhausted, or those who hope and wait and expect God will have strength to fly, to run, to walk, with no weariness or fainting. God is the single variable—either weakness or God. There is no third alternative, no chance for strength apart from God. This whole doxology is certainly meant to enhance God but taken in context it is something more.  It asserts that the seemingly abandoned exiles are not alone but have available a source of omni energy and power.

Sometimes we need to sit in awe of God and rest in the mystery. I think this is what Jesus was doing in today’s gospel text when he went and prayed. There is so much work to be done. The kingdom of God is breaking it but not yet fully here. People are still hurting in body, mind and spirit. We and they need to know about God’s love and desire for all creation to have abundant life. It can be so alternative to what we absorb in our daily lives.

In another sermon, Isaiah reminded the people that their ways were not God’s ways, neither were their thoughts divine thoughts.  It is hard for us to believe that our measures of what is just, what is merciful and what is best are not in sync with the mind of God. They seem good to us. But we are not omni, Isaiah says. We have some perspective, but not the omni-perspective of God, who knows the movement of all history toward all futures, who knows our place among those billions of galaxies.

When the calculations comparing our smallness with God’s greatness are finished, we can react to our position in the universe in several ways. We can slink away in despair and denial, like grasshoppers hiding in the grass. Or we can crawl back into God’s big saving hands, Isaiah proclaimed. The birth, death and resurrection of Jesus confirmed that this God who knows all, creates all, controls all and plans all also loves all. God has no inconsequential creatures or untended corners of the universe. God tells us how precious we are in God’s sight.

The proclamation is always a shock because it is not the way we operate. We who counsel each other to let the little things go, we who can only manage a limited number of details are amazed by God yet again. God has the whole world well in hand. We can be happy to live inside a wrinkle of God’s palm, content to be a part of an ongoing creation process, amazed to be so loved and, most days, unafraid of what it all means.

Prayers of Intercession

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

A brief silence.For the church: for ministries of healing and wholeness, for hospital, hospice, and military chaplains, for those serving in prison ministry, for all who proclaim freedom and release in the name of Christ, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For creation: for insects in the grass, clouds on the mountaintops, for cattle and the rainwater they drink, for the humility to take our place among all creatures of the earth, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For the nations: for all who lead in cities and towns, states and countries; for community organizers, school officials, and CEOs; for international health organizations, that in times of trial, fear, or hopelessness, they find freedom in service to those most in need, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For all wearied by life’s burdens: for those who are poor, for those lacking supportive relationships, for those crushed by debt, for those struggling with chronic pain or other sickness, for those exhausted from overwork or stress, and for all who cry out to you (especially), let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

For this congregation: for outreach and social ministries centered here (especially); for parish nurses and visitors; for ministries of companionship and support, for the young people in this place who open us to new understandings, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.In thanksgiving for the faithful departed, who were called by name and now rest from their labors, that their lives serve as witnesses to the goodness of God, let us pray. Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

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Jan. 31, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Deuteronomy 18:15-22

[Moses said:] 15The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. 16This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” 21You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a word that the Lordhas not spoken?’ 22If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

Psalm 111

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 111:10)1Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
  in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.
2Great are your works, O Lord,
pondered by all who delight in them.
3Majesty and splendor mark your deeds,
  and your righteousness endures forever.
4You cause your wonders to be remembered;
you are gracious and full of compassion. 
5You give food to those who fear you,
  remembering forever your covenant.
6You have shown your people the power of your works
in giving them the lands of the nations.
7The works of your hands are faithfulness and justice;
  all of your precepts are sure.
8They stand fast forever and ever,
because they are done in truth and equity. 
9You sent redemption to your people and commanded your covenant forever;
  holy and awesome is your name.
10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who practice this have a good understanding. God’s praise endures forever. 

Mark 1:21-28

1[Jesus and his disciples] went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Van Limburg brothers 1375 – 1416

The Healing of a Possessed

illuminated manuscript — 1413-16

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

At the heart of today’s gospel passage is Jesus’ first public act. We should take note because this is his first. It might seem strange to our 21st century ears and eyes when we first hear or read about Jesus’ exorcism of the demon. I have done lots of blessings, but no exorcism. But let’s not let that fact distract us. 

What is Jesus really doing to this man? He is liberating him. First Jesus rebukes the demon, “Be silent.” Then he casts the demon out, “come out of him!” And the unclean spirit comes out. The man if free and his life is changed forever. 

We can barely count the ways that Jesus has changed this man’s life. His physical body is changed, no longer possessed by the demon. Yes. Jesus cares about actual physical bodies. The man’s social standing is forever altered, for the better. This means his mind and spirit are going to be changed as well. He can be part of community now. Through the exorcism, Jesus has liberated the man in so many ways.

In Jesus, God is doing something new, but it is not entirely out of character. Remember that the central story of Israel’s past is the liberation from Egypt, through the Red Sea. The Passover is still celebrated by Jews every year. Each year, on Maundy Thursday, Christians remember Jesus and his disciples celebrating the Passover.  

Then, on Mount Sinai, God gave the 10 Commandments to the liberated Israelites. We think about rules confining us, limiting us, but these rules were given so every single person in the community could live an abundant life. Over and over, God has been a God of life and liberation for all people. 

The story of the exorcism continues this theme and makes it new. As one pastor said, “Jesus has come to oppose all the forces that keep the children of God from the abundant life God desires for all of us.” Let me say that again, “Jesus has come to oppose all the forces that keep the children of God from the abundant life God desires for all of us.”

Is that not a message we still need to hear? Is it not a message the world needs to hear? Of course, it is, because there are still forces that bind us, forces that keep the world from experiencing the abundant life God desires for all creation. Such binding forces include systemic racism, polarized worldviews that demonize one another, and environmental disregard, just to name a few big ones. 

What does this look like for our personal embodied lives? Each one of you can probably name forces that bind you. I know that some of the strongest forces in my life that go against God’s desire for abundant life, are simple and every day. Chiefly, these forces include the deep need to continually produce and the desire to be perceived as excellent or perfect. 

I do not mean to imply that productivity and perfectionism are inherently bad, but when they are not checked, they can bind me and others in destructive ways. I believe we are pushing our individual selves, our systems, and our natural resources too hard and too fast. It is unsustainable for our communities, the earth, and our embodied selves.

“And yet,” those are our words of promise and hope. And yet, the kingdom of God breaks in through Jesus Christ and offers a new way—a way of abundant life and liberation. And Jesus comes as one with authority. As we hear in our scripture passage from Mark this morning, this authority seems to permeate everything he does and speaks. Jesus’ authority, I would contend, comes from those two things aligning. His actions align with his words. 

The scribes, who Jesus is contrasted with, depend only on words and teaching. We read that Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and taught. The text says, “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Jesus is not teaching something new. He comes from and follows the same tradition as the scribes. 

But he is giving a different interpretation. The scribes’ teaching has not liberated the people. It has, instead, oppressed and enslaved them. Jesus brings a new interpretation. And Jesus not only teaches this liberation with his words. He also pairs it with his actions by exorcising the demon.

Where does this leave us, those of us who are trying to faithfully follow Jesus today? Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney says, “We can no longer pretend that we can follow [Jesus] without following him into the broken places of the world. We can no longer pretend that we can follow Christ without paying an exorbitant price at some point. We can no longer claim we follow Christ if we never leave our places of safety and never raise the ire of those who construct and benefit from the systems that impoverish and imprison.”

After worship, members of Trinity Lutheran will gather on Zoom for our annual meeting. The annual meeting packet includes many words attempting to tell the story of how individual members and our entire congregation tried to follow Jesus and bring life and liberation to the broken places of our community. 

Certainly, we have brought life to the broken places in our community through the ministry of Trinity New Hope affordable housing. Trinity Community Gardens and our food pantry continue to feed people, some who have experienced food insecurity for the first time this year. Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids is another collaboration Trinity is a part of—a ministry valuing each and every youth who participates, equipping them to be peace makers in their communities.

We may not be changing housing and food access systems across the Treasure Valley, yet. But we are impacting people’s lives. And the exorcism in our text shows us that Jesus himself found value in changing one person’s life, giving liberation to one person. We can receive courage and assurance from this story that giving new life, one person at a time, if being faithful to the life of Christian discipleship.

This text today about Jesus liberating the one man, making a difference in this one embodied person’s life, also had me remembering the many ways our members follow Jesus beyond the ministries of our congregation. Last year, shortly before the pandemic hit the Treasure Valley, we captured many of the ways our members reach the community with your actions, either through dollars given or through volunteer hours. 

Amongst our membership are people dedicated to young people who serve as youth coaches, tutors, and mentors. We have people who have served meals at the Nampa Salvation Army and others who volunteer through the senior center meal program. Collectively, you support all sorts of feeding programs locally and nationally. We have members who register people to vote, ensuring that barriers do not block people from participating in the voting process. Members care for the environment through simple things like recycling and reusing but also through trail maintenance.

A year has passed since we asked for the many ways you serve beyond the ministries of this congregation. I wonder what is the same and what has changed because of this most unusual year. What healing ministries are you part of now? How are you reaching out to people bound by the forces of this world? Where are you bringing life to another’s body, mind, or spirit?

Jesus’ authority came because his actions aligned with his words. This year, more members and friends of Trinity have found their voices. We have regular contributors to tvprays.org, lay people witnessing to the liberation and life God desires for all creation. We had a record number of contributions to our Advent daily devotion—more stories of God arriving in your life and/or sending you to serve others. 

Addition members and friends have grown in witnessing to God through simple interactions within your families or circles of friends and neighbors. It might be mentioning a book you or reading or telling someone you will pray for them or sharing a personal story about how the Holy Spirit buoyed you when you felt broken. 

The world, our neighbors, our family and friends need healing that comes through both our actions and words. When we are wavering about what to do, where our own authority comes from, we need only look to the life and ministry of Jesus, who came “to oppose all the forces that keep the children of God from the abundant life God desires for all of us.” Amen.

Banner created early in 2020 after surveying Trinity members on how they give their time and finances beyond the ministries of Trinity Lutheran Church

Prayers of Intercession (for service of healing) from ELW

Let us pray. Loving God, our source and our final home,we give you thanks for the gifts of life on earth, for our human bodies and all you have created. In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Merciful God, by the wounds of your Son we are healed. Bring your saving health to all people.In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Holy God,your Spirit came upon us in the waters of baptismand brought us into the communion of saints. Renew in us the grace of baptism, by which we share in Christ’s death and resurrection. In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Mighty God,your Son Jesus brought healing and wholeness to all. Bring your healing presence now to all who are sick or in pain. Grant hope to all who are discouraged or in despair.In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Compassionate God, the strength of those who suffer,bring hope and peace to all who are in mental, physical, or spiritual distress. In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Almighty God, source of human knowledge,give skill, wisdom, and compassionto all who provide medical care.In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

Loving God, our creator and redeemer, give gentleness and courage to family members, friends, and caregivers of those who suffer. In your great mercy, hear us, O God.

God of great and abundant mercy, with your presence sustain all for whom we pray. Drive away their suffering, give them firm hope, and strengthen their trust in you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

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Opening Mark’s gospel in 2021

Pastor’s column for Trinity Lutheran’s February Epistle

Dear Friends in Christ,

    Of all the things I could write about this month, I may have picked an odd one—Mark’s gospel. I could implore you all to read the many pages in our 2020 annual report, which shows the amazing ministry that occurred during a most unusual year. I could once again encourage everyone to log on to our annual meeting, not just so we have a quorum, but so we can see and hear more members of the body of Christ. I could spell out how, despite the changes we will have to make, I have had a major attitude adjustment about Lent (thanks to conversations with Trinity teams) and am actually excited about what we have planned.

   What I am most excited about this year is studying, reading, preaching through Mark’s gospel. This is the shortest gospel and the first one written, according to most scholars. I encourage everyone to take some time this year and read Mark straight through in a few sittings and then reflect on the Jesus you meet in those pages.

     The incarnation, God made flesh, opens the door to unimaginable possibilities.  God has truly entered the human condition, a human condition that is not all clean and lovely, warm and welcoming.  No longer can we say that God cannot understand what it is like to struggle against the cold, to be betrayed by a friend, to grieve the loss of a loved one, to fear suffering and or death, to experience a seeming absence of God the Father.  Our God has truly walked our walk.  God’s Word of love has truly taken flesh.

     Jesus not only spoke of God’s reign of justice, but he stood in solidarity with the poor and the outcasts.  Jesus not only spoke of a God who longs for our wholeness, but he touched a leper to clean skin, a stooped woman to straightness.  Jesus not only said, “I love you,” to the hungry crowd, but fed their hungers with truth and with bread.  He did not just say, “I love you,” to us, but picked up a cross, suffered, died our deaths, and rose that we might know life eternal.  

     Turning the page to 2021, I remain most excited and hopeful about following this figure Jesus and following him within the company of our particular community of faith. 

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Trinity New Hope Annual Report

Trinity New Hope is its own separate nonprofit. However, it share ties to the congregation through board members, proximity of the homes to the church property, and office space in Trinity Lutheran Church’s building. We like to include a report on Trinity New Hope in our annual report packet to keep our church members and friends informed.

TRINITY NEW HOPE

Trinity New Hope’s tagline is “Help and hope for those in need.”  That’s what we do!  We are very proud of the numerous families we have been able to help this year, including assisting several families transition from homelessness to a clean, safe home in which to live.  Trinity members have participated by helping to provide furniture, appliances, cleaning supplies, and holiday gifts for our tenants.  

Since Trinity New Hope is a 501(C)(3) non-profit corporation, we are eligible to receive donations.  In 2020 Trinity New Hope participated in the Home Partnership Foundation’s Avenues for Hope housing campaign, which raised $24,200 from 121 donors.  We exceeded our fundraising goal of $20,000 and received donations from more than a dozen different states!  Our goal is to use part of the funds raised to build a large storage shed on the Trinity New Hope land, which will provide space for a workshop for our maintenance staff and a place to store maintenance tools and materials.  

In 2020, Trinity New Hope received a $100,000 loan for capital improvements from the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA.  We were able to utilize these funds to install new siding and windows on all 16 homes.  A local contractor, A&S Siding, completed the work.  This company went above and beyond to help us stay within the budget for this project, including donating materials and labor to replace damaged wood found under some of the old siding.  A&S did outstanding work for us, and we are proud of the improved curb appeal of our homes.

Trinity New Hope’s 16 single family homes are overseen by our amazing staff:  Tami Romine (property manager) and Steve Van Atter (maintenance manager).  If you see these fine individuals, please thank them for their excellent work!  

The Board of Directors is proud of the difference that Trinity New Hope is making in Nampa.  If you have a heart forthis ministry, please contact Pastor Meggan or any board member.  There are many opportunities to volunteer, and we would welcome you to the team.

The Board of Directors, Trinity New Hope

(Pastor Meggan Manlove, Tami McHugh, Cathy Winwood, Judy Kellar, John Hergert, Shelly Regis, Debra Harris, and Andrew Hanson)

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