July 3, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us. With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey, that we may spread your peace in all the world, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

2 Kings 5:1-14

1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” 
  He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”
8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30

1I will exalt you, O Lord, because you have lift- | ed me up
  and have not let my enemies triumph | over me.
2O Lord my God, I cried | out to you,
  and you restored | me to health.
3You brought me up, O Lord, | from the dead;
  you restored my life as I was going down | to the grave.
4Sing praise to the Lord, | all you faithful;
  give thanks in ho- | ly remembrance. 
5God’s wrath is short; God’s favor | lasts a lifetime.
  Weeping spends the night, but joy comes | in the morning.
6While I felt se- | cure, I said,
  “I shall never | be disturbed.
7You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong | as the mountains.”
  Then you hid your face, and I was | filled with fear.
8I cried to | you, O Lord;
  I pleaded with | my Lord, saying,
9“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down | to the pit?
  Will the dust praise you or de- | clare your faithfulness?
10Hear, O Lord, and have mer- | cy upon me;
  O Lord, | be my helper.” 
11You have turned my wailing | into dancing;
  you have put off my sackcloth and clothed | me with joy.
12Therefore my heart sings to you | without ceasing;
  O Lord my God, I will give you | thanks forever.

Galatians 6:[1-6] 7-16

[1My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5For all must carry their own loads.
6Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher.] 
7Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. 8If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 9So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. 10So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
11See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! 12It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh. 14May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ ”

16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What a great set of scripture passages for the Sunday after Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. This was our fifth year of this four-day day camp for youth ages 6-13. We had between 80-95 youth at the Hispanic Cultural Center each day, learning about conflict resolution, mindfulness, connecting with nature, and media literacy. Cosmo from Empty Hand Combat joined us the first afternoon and camp ended Thursday afternoon with a dance party led by the Swahili children’s choir. We plan and plan and execute, but as with lots of things we plan, including last weekend’s church campout, it’s the serendipitous moments of grace that we remember. I’ll share a few of those moments in this sermon. 

But first let’s turn to the final chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We daughters and sons of the Reformation could easily think only of Paul’s emphasis on justification by grace through faith when we read and think of this letter. Indeed, that’s a gift Paul offers in previous passages. Chapter five includes one of my favorite verses on freedom, which would have been appropriate for the weekend preceding July 4. 

But our passage today reminds us that Paul is equally concerned with ethics as evidenced by this “so what does all this really mean for our daily lives section.” I led a Bible Study on Galatians on Zoom throughout June and as I’ve talked about it and thought about it, I’ve summed it up to conversation partners this way. Paul makes it clear that we are freed through Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t give us permission to be jerks (I actually used another word that would probably pause our livestream). 

One scholar explained that faith and works function throughout this letter as a kind of dialectic. Put another way, faith and works are an inseparable pair of opposites, no different than how breathing in follows breathing out. That’s why Paul tells the Galatians to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ. It’s why simultaneously each person must bear their own load, to take up one’s share of the common responsibilities of those in need. It’s why Paul emphasizes that a person will reap what they sow. He tells the Galatians to not lose heart in doing good, to not grow weary in the assurance that they will reap what they have planted. 

Faith, a gift from God in itself, brings with it gifts of forgiveness and new life. We are invited into the new creation Paul writes of. But we are also invited to participate in new creation, to imagine and create and contribute to it.

One of our craft projects las week was decorating white tiles with permanent marker and then dropping rubbing alcohol on it and swirling it around—super colorful and fun. One of the adult shepherds, a volunteer who leads an age group for the four days, made a tile that everyone admired. It was taken home by someone else. 

The next morning during announcements it was suggested that someone made a mistake. A child came forward to the shepherd artist. The shepherd explained that the tile was meant to be a gift for her mom. There was repentance on the child’s part and amazing grace, more than I probably would have mustered, by the shepherd. She showed him how to decorate his own tile, so it looked like hers. This adult showed the kid what it means to live in new creation, and I hope that the memory of the experience will not fade soon.

In verse 11, Paul takes the parchment from the scribe and writes his own P.S. or postscript. These words are his last opportunity to drive home his point before the letter is handed over to the courier. What Paul writes in his postscript harkens back to the central controversy that prompted the letter in the first place.

Paul founded the churches in Galatia. He spent time among them as the Galatians nursed him back to health while he recovered from an injury or illness. Paul preached that both Jews and Gentiles are justified or brought into right relationship with the God of Israel through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul then left them to preach elsewhere.

After Paul left, other teachers arrived in Galatia and preached a different gospel. These other teachers told the Galatians that to be in right relationship with God they must all be circumcised. Paul calls these teachers hypocrites who don’t even keep the law themselves but want to boast in the Galatians being circumcised. 

Paul learned about these teachers and fires off this letter to the Galatians. He argues that it is not words of the law like circumcision that bring the believer into right relationship with God. On the contrary, Paul says, come as you are. They only thing needed to be in right relationship with God is Jesus. The passing reference to “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision” is shorthand for this conflict inspiring the entire letter. 

Instead of circumcision or uncircumcision, what really counts is new creation. Often, we have read this as the individual believer or follower of Jesus, but we should remember that Paul’s primary concern through this letter is not so much for the individual but for how groups of people can be in right and just relationship with one another and the church.

I could not help but think about all of this when my Karen Hunter, Nampa’s Episcopal Priest, and my colleague of 10 years, told me this story about one family who came to Peace Camp last week. The mom had emailed our coordinator Brendan shortly before camp started. She wondered if her teenage son, developmentally delayed, could be signed up with the six-year-olds, and she would help that group out. 

Our leadership team thought that sounded fine. Several older sisters also came and helped. At the end of the four days the mom told Karen what a great experience they had all had, including the son. No Vacation Bible School had allowed him to participate because of his learning disabilities. Presumably they could not fit him in the age categories they had created. 

Now, we should be gentle with other churches. I have no idea how many the mom approached. But a “no” from one church is really too much in my humble opinion. Further, I have been part of congregations and church affiliated groups that put too much emphasis on the laws that separate and categories and exclude. New members have been brought to tears by rules in church kitchens. But, this weekend I’m celebrating that Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids, said yes to the child of God, yes to relationship over rules, yes to new creation.

The Apostle Paul traces the movement from life in God’s Creation, to death through Jesus’ crucifixion and the call of believers into this cruciform life, to a new creation. In this new creation, the old ways of relating, that one must become something else to belong, that one must exclude others from table fellowship, fall away. What remains instead in new creation is a new call into right relationship with the other, a call that extends not only to one’s fellow human beings but beyond to God’s Creation itself.

I see a great tie-in with our story from Luke’s gospel in which Jesus sends the 70 out on a mission. It becomes clear, if it was not always obvious, that this is a mission of dependence. That is, this is God’s mission through Jesus Christ, and he remains in charge. We do not always know where that will take us (physically, relationally, emotionally). We do not go by ourselves but in community. We do not always provide for ourselves. Sometimes we depend on the kindness of strangers. The goal of the mission is not the elevation of power or status by those sent by Jesus. The goal is the joy that comes in participating in Jesus’ mission of life now and life eternal. This joy is both for us and for those who receive the fruits of our mission. 

What matters most of all is our eternal relationship with God through Jesus. This relationship is yours by grace. We are at the same time recipients of and heralds of God’s grace and mercy. As the 70 disciples journey to Jerusalem, they see the depths to which God’s grace extends. They will be called to witness to what they have seen. Regardless of the visible outcomes of their ministry, their place in God’s kingdom is secure. And still, faith is active in love. Faith and works remain bound together like our inhale and exhale, all part of the new creation.

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Lord of the harvest, you send your church into the world to proclaim Christ’s new creation to all. Renew the church as it carries out your mission of peace and healing. We pray for missionaries who accompany your people. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your creation abounds with flowing waters and diverse creatures. Guide the work of climate scientists as they develop and advocate ways to restore earth’s natural balance. Motivate humankind to adopt lifestyles that protect and sustain the earth. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

You guard the nations; let no leaders exalt themselves, but lift up the most vulnerable and work for the good of all. Send your Spirit to eradicate classism and inequity, violence and war, poverty and hunger. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

You desire abundant life for all. As we celebrate Independence Day, instill in us gratitude, generosity, and persistence in working toward freedom for all people (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Mothering God, you care for all people in need. Nourish those who are hungry. Restore employment to those who have lost work. Heal those who are sick, and comfort all who are dying or grieving (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We remember the saints who proclaimed your reign on earth and now rest in you (especially Thomas the Apostle, whom we remember today). Make us faithful in our witness to Christ’s new creation. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

June 19, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world. In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us, and defend us from everything that is evil, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a

1Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.
4But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 8He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. 9At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. 
  Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
11He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15aThen the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.”

Psalm 42–43

1As the deer longs | for the water-brooks,
  so longs my soul for | you, O God.
2I thirst for God, for the | living God;
  when shall I come to appear before the pres- | ence of God?
3My tears have been my food | day and night,
  while all day long they say to me, “Where now | is your God?”
4I pour out my soul when I think | on these things;
  how I went with the multitude and led them into the house of God, with shouts of thanksgiving, among those | keeping festival. R
5Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God.
6My soul is heav- | y within me;
  therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan, and from the peak of Mizar among the | heights of Hermon. R
7One deep calls to another in the roar of | your cascades;
  all your rapids and floods have gone | over me.
8The Lord grants lovingkindness | in the daytime;
  in the night season the Lord’s song is with me, a prayer to the God | of my life. R
9I will say to the God of my strength, “Why have you re- | jected me,
  and why do I wander in such gloom while the enemy op- | presses me?”
10While my bones are being broken, my enemies mock me | to my face;
  all day long they mock me and say to me, “Where now | is your God?”
11Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God.
43: 1Give judgment for me, O God, and defend my cause against an un- | godly people;
  deliver me from the deceitful | and the wicked. R
2For you are the God of my strength; why have you re- | jected me,
  and why do I wander in such gloom while the enemy op- | presses me?
3Send out your light and your truth, that | they may lead me,
  and bring me to your holy hill and to your | sanctuary;
4that I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my | joy and gladness;
  and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O | God my God.
5Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquiet- | ed within me?
  Put your trust in God, for I will yet give thanks to the one who is my help | and my God. R

Galatians 3:23-29

23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 8:26-39

26Then [Jesus and his disciples] arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”—29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Wonderful as our Old Testament and gospel stories are today, I’ll be preaching on Galatians this morning and for the next few weeks. I want to get to the heart of the matter and the text, which I believe we find in that now iconic verse, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” We will return to this verse, but let’s first remember a bit about why Paul sent this letter and what he’s trying to accomplish.

Paul is livid. Why? Because the followers of Jesus Christ in Galatia seemed to have turned so easily away from the good news, the gospel. Paul’s frustration is with his opponents, who have placed the observance of the law as central to the marks of faith. At the heart of their preaching is that faith requires obedience to the law. It seems that these opponents have linked the work of the Holy Spirit and promises of Abraham to law observance—or at least to circumcision and food practices. 

Is there a place for the law in the life of faith? Yes. First Paul reminds the followers that God has given the inheritance to Abraham by promise and thus, by grace. It did not depend on Abraham’s ability to follow the law. The law does have an important function. It points out transgressions. The law is not opposed to God’s promises. The law is a guide toward the kind of abundant life God wants for God’s creation. But the law cannot guarantee that life. Put another way, the law directs and instructs people toward abundant life where absolutely everyone thrives. 

The Galatians’ understanding of the law has been muddied. They have placed their future in their ability to follow the law. Paul reminds them that in Christ they are already children of God. They should put their trust in God, not in their ability ot follow God’s good and just law. Why? They, and we, are incapable of withstanding sin’s power. The law can and does point toward goodness, justice, and peace, put it cannot create a peaceable, loving, and just people. I love how one scholar put it: “The law is not in the business of transformation.”

It is only through the cross and resurrection that God has done what neither the Galatians nor we could do for ourselves. Simply by being in Christ, they are heirs of the promise to Abraham—promises which included descendants and land. And in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Paul’s opponents encouraged the Galatians to take on the very practices of law observance that would publicly identify them with Jewish people. In contrast, Paul reminds the Galatians that their hope has never been in any act that they have accomplished or their public identity. 

In Christ, the distinctions of being a Jew or Gentile are reframed. They can be one in Christ—as circumcised or uncircumcised. There is unity in the midst of their diversity. These relationships that once contained power dynamics and strife are not relationship of mutual blessing.

One scholar wrote, “Baptism is not the project of shedding all our group-identities until we stand naked and can be clothed in Christ; it is discovering that being a member of the family of God is our true group-identifier. It’s hard to remember this is our modern world which embraces individualism. Being clothed alike in Christ does not mean that distinctions disappear. Distinctions persist but they lack determinate bearing for the faith. 

The Apostle Paul cast a powerful vision, but it was incomplete by the time his lifetime ended. His vision, rooted in the power of the cross, was abolishing the distinctions between slaves, freed people, and free people before God. Paul’s vision was abolishing distinctions in Christian community with regard to giftedness, leadership, and mutual respect. 

While we are right to thank Paul for his vision and for penning Galatians 3, we have to acknowledge Paul’s lack of critique of the institution of slavery as contrary to God’s will. He had ample opportunity, especially in a few of this other letters. 

Today, we and many other ELCA Lutherans commemorate the Emmanuel Nine, martyrs. On June 17, 2015, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, the Rev. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, and the honorable state senator and pastor of the church, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney were murdered by a self-processed white supremacist, a member of an ELCA Lutheran congregation, while they were gathered for Bible study and prayers and the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2019, a resolution to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance for the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine was adopted by our ELCA churchwide assembly. Today, we remember the Emmanuel Nine, we pray, and we commit to repenting of the sins of racism and white supremacy that continues to plague the ELCA. 

The tragedy of 2015 can feel quite distant. We might wonder how it is relevant to our congregation in Southwest Idaho. I think two things are helpful to remember. First, that the ELCA is a web of systems made which include 65 synods, thousands of congregations, and many thousands of individual members. We are not just part of the ELCA. We actually are the ELCA.

Second, the sins of racism may look different in Idaho than they do in South Carolina, but that does not mean they do not exist. We can look back at our history—learn the stories of African Americans in Idaho but also the Indigenous, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanics. Racism, manifested in individual acts or structures exists as well today. 

And racism exists alongside every other ism that divides—there is neither native born nor illegal immigrant, there is neither monied nor working class nor poor, there is neither black nor brown nor white, there is neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent, there is neither male or female, there is neither Californian nor Idahoan. 

The Apostle Paul may not have lived out his own words exactly as we might have wished, but he certainly gave us something to work towards. Martin Luther King Jr picked many of them up when he wrote “Paul’s Letter to American Christians.” King wrote, “Through your scientific genius you have made of the world a neighborhood, but you have failed to employ your moral and spiritual genius to make it a brotherhood.” 

Further on, he writes, speaking for Paul as he does throughout the letter, “I understand that there are Christians among you who try to justify segregation on the basis of the Bible. They argue that the Negro is inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham. Oh, my friends, this is blasphemy. This is against everything that the Christian religion stands for. I must say to you as I have said to so many Christians before, that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Moreover, I must reiterate the words that I uttered on Mars Hill: “God that made the world and all things therein . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

King’s appeal to Galatians 3:28 stresses further that in Christ all divisions are eradicated despite what some may say. We are called then to do two things at once—to see that in Christ all divisions are eradicated and at the same time to recognize diversity. This means recognizing, for example, that we all have hardships, but that my hardships are not caused by the color of my skin. It means that there has been progress from the founding of our country, through the Civil War, through the Civil Rights Movement, through the last decade, but there is still much work to do—individually and as a society.

The law will not save us, not heal us. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, or maybe by Jesus’ own faith itself. What matters is that we are freed to love our neighbor. From the point of view of a twenty-first century democracy, Paul’s radical reordering of human relationships before God does not now seem nearly radical enough. To understand ourselves as clothed with Christ, who risked himself entirely for God’s purposes, is to apprehend our full responsibility as adult heirs of God. 

We are people with both the grace and the responsibility to discern the implications of Paul’s vision in ever-widening circles. We are preparing the world for the fullness of God’s presence. Since the day of the cross, the power of God has been on the move: calling people into dynamic relationship with God; inviting us into communities of well-being; and effecting freedom, full agency, and respect for all people. Today we remember that we are called into this work as well, with a great cloud of witnesses. Thanks be to God.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Prayers of Intercession

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

God, our truth, through the ages you have spoken through prophets. Stir up in your church a passion for your word revealed in Jesus, that following the witness of the Emanuel Nine, your church studies the scriptures, shows hospitality, prays without ceasing, and embodies prophetic justice in community. Embolden church leaders and all the baptized to remember the lives of the Nine, repent of racism and white supremacy, and renew our commitment to your word revealed most fully in Jesus, our way, truth, and life. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of the earth. Restore places where land, air, and waterways have been harmed. Guide us to develop and implement sources of energy and food production that do not destroy the earth. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of those who are marginalized or cast out. On this Juneteenth observance, guide us continually toward the end of oppression in all its forms, especially white supremacy. Bring true freedom and human flourishing to all your beloved children. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Immanuel, God with us, you embrace in love those who cry out to you. Lift up all whom hatred has cast down; embolden those who need courage to speak and act against oppression; sustain those who are weary from efforts that bring no end to injustice. Comfort parents weeping for children, children who have been separated from parents, and families in crises of any kind. Restore hope where it has been lost, so that all may trust your love that reaches to the depths of pain and suffering. God of grace, hear our prayer.

You hear the cries of those who celebrate and those who grieve on this Father’s Day. Nurture mutual love and tender care in all

relationships. Comfort those for whom this day brings sadness or longing. God of grace, hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We give you thanks, Holy God, for the faithful life and witness of Clementa, Cynthia, Daniel, DePayne, Ethel, Myra, Sharonda, Susie, and Tywanza, the Emanuel Nine. May their faith and witness to your forgiving love in Jesus Christ inspire all people to pursue paths of justice, courage, and self-giving love. God of grace, hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

June 12, 2022 – Holy Trinity

Prayer of the Day

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One, and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three. Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity, and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

1Does not wisdom call,
  and does not understanding raise her voice?
2On the heights, beside the way,
  at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3beside the gates in front of the town,
  at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
4“To you, O people, I call,
  and my cry is to all that live.

22The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
  the first of his acts of long ago.
23Ages ago I was set up,
  at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24When there were no depths I was brought forth,
  when there were no springs abounding with water.
25Before the mountains had been shaped,
  before the hills, I was brought forth—
26when he had not yet made earth and fields,
  or the world’s first bits of soil.
27When he established the heavens, I was there,
  when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28when he made firm the skies above,
  when he established the fountains of the deep,
29when he assigned to the sea its limit,
  so that the waters might not transgress his command,
 when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
  30then I was beside him, like a master worker;
 and I was daily his delight,
  rejoicing before him always,
31rejoicing in his inhabited world
  and delighting in the human race.”

Psalm 8

1| Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in | all the earth!—
2you whose glory is chanted above the heavens out of the mouths of in- | fants and children;
  you have set up a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe | and avenger. 

3When I consider your heavens, the work | of your fingers,
  the moon and the stars you have set | in their courses,
4what are mere mortals that you should be mind- | ful of them,
  human beings that you should | care for them? 
5Yet you have made them little less | than divine;
  with glory and hon- | or you crown them.
6You have made them rule over the works | of your hands;
  you have put all things un- | der their feet:
7all | flocks and cattle,
  even the wild beasts | of the field,
8the birds of the air, the fish | of the sea,
  and whatever passes along the paths | of the sea.
9| Lord our Lord,
  how majestic is your name in | all the earth! 

Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

John 16:12-15

[Jesus said,] 12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

“Hospitality of Abraham”, icon by Andrei Rublev.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The Holy Trinity, the center of this Sunday’s celebration, is, I believe, one of the most counter-cultural Christian beliefs. To begin with, we live in what is often called “the information age.” Whether it is true or false, no one can deny that there is an abundance of information.

Amid all this information, however, the concepts of theories, ambiguity, caveats, nuances, and hypotheses are not favored. They take up too much time for a sound bite or tweet and they take up too much room on my internet browser’s newsfeed. There is very little room for either supernatural or the unexplainable. And the Holy Trinity truly is both supernatural and unexplainable. It is mystery—perhaps one of the greatest mysteries of our faith.  

Somehow this mystery has not deterred Christians from naming institutions after the Trinity for years—colleges, seminaries, nursing homes, hospitals, and of course churches. I have never looked up the statistics, but I am quite sure that if we catalogued names of Lutheran congregations in this country, Trinity would come out on top or be a close second to Good Shepherd. 

Today’s celebration is counter cultural for another reason—it is about mutuality and interdependence. I watched a video this week of physician and author Gabor Mate speaking about the “toxic culture of materialism.” In the toxic culture of materialism, materials, and especially the possession of material things, is far more important than connection, love, or spiritual values. 

Mate went on to remind his audience that human beings, we, need relationships, all different kinds of relationships: relationships with the natural world, relationships with other human beings, relationships with meaningful and creative work that contributes to the good of the cosmos, and life-giving relationship with our own selves. We are naturally wired for empathy, compassion and connection but there are many barriers to us practicing those things today.

We, gathered in this space and time, have a clear mandate to love one another as Jesus loves us. And we worship a God who exemplifies community, mutual relationships, and a loving symbiosis. The community within the Trinity speaks to our lives here and now.  

Let us not take the Trinity for granted. Think how radical it was to those early Christians and also new Christians today. The God we worship is not a pantheon of gods like those we read about it Greek and Roman mythology—a roster of gods who are in a power struggle, who often use humans as pawns for their own benefit—Zeus, Athena, Helena, Apollo. 

One writer put it this way: Then, along came the Christians. “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” What’s this? Still a Unity of Being, but also a Trinity of Persons? The concept was…confusing to those who had dispensed with multiple deities, who had fully embraced the notion of one God, who wanted to keep things plain and simple. Why complicate things? And what does it mean anyway? 

The truth of it all originates in the language of Jesus. In our passage from John today, Jesus was talking with his followers about their futures, when he would no longer walk beside them on earth: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. For all that the Father has is mine.” In another place Jesus declares, “Do you not know that the Father is in me and I in the Father?” Still elsewhere he prays that his disciples may be one “even as the Father and I are one.” This is not the language of form and function. This is the language of relationship, the language of mutual devotion. 

A twelfth-century scholar, Richard of St. Vincent, reflected on this. He spoke of God in terms of shared love, a community in which that love is expansive and generous. It is love that cannot be self-contained. It overflows from Parent to Child to Spirit and back again. These notions are captured so well in the long Athanasian Creed, which I have pondered all week. It captures the relationships within the Trinity so well and so poetically. Here’s just a portion of it:

“We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor diving the divine being. For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another. But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. Uncreated is the Father, uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit. The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite,” and on it goes. 

I used to read this creed in our old Lutheran Book of Worship, or green hymnal. I always liked it because the Holy Spirit got more equal footing in this creed than in the Nicene Creed, which we will read today and in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. I am not sure why this beautiful creed did not make it into the ELW, our newer cranberry hymnals. It could be its length. It could also be the male father language, which is quite dominant. That’s a fair critique. We do well to remember that both the Bible and all three of our primary creeds were written in patriarchal cultures, cultures in which when men and male language dominated everything else. 

At the same time, there is enough in both scripture and tradition for us to know that the first person in the Trinity is beyond gender. In one of our Communion hymns, the mystic Julian of Norwich wrote, “Mothering God, you gave us birth.” Holy Wisdom, personified in our text from Proverbs, is almost always feminine. The list of female imagery, especially as mother, for God in scripture is actually quite lengthy. What does this mean for those of us worshiping in 2022? So, it’s okay, even good, to change the words occasionally, in our heads or out loud, from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to Mother, Son, and Holy Spirit. What is essential to keep is the equal standing and the relationality captured in the Athanasian Creed and in the Trinity itself. “We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor diving the divine being. For the Mother is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.”

We might also find it both fun and helpful to think beyond gendered words. One of the best ways to do this, because it is so theological appropriate and simultaneously poetic, is to speak of the Trinity as Lover, Beloved, and Love. We speak of the Father who loves, the son who was beloved by the father and Spirit, the Spirit who is love. They are, as the Athanasian Creed professes, coeternal in majesty: Lover, Beloved, and Love.

Some have said that the love of God, the love that IS God, is like a divine Dance, as we will sing today, a dynamic and graceful and deeply intimate movement. In this movement, the God who is “I AM” is not alone, never alone, for the very essence of God is relationship. 

This is far different from those mythological deities of old who were always fighting with one another, rivals and annoyances of one another. This is also far different than much in our materialistic culture today, in which material things, especially the possession of them, matters far more than connection or love. In contrast, what we see in the Trinity is a dance of Persons who are mutually affirming, mutually caring. For the very essence of God is relationship, community, unconditional love.

“Come, join the dance of Trinity, before all worlds begun—the interweaving of the Three, the Father, Spirit, Son.  The universe of space and time did not arise by chance, but as the Three, in love and hope, made room within the dance.”  Love and hope—they are at the heart of the Trinity, and not just within the Trinity.  We are invited into the dance as well.  A dance is not something stagnant.  There is movement and joy.

Yes, for people who trust this Triune God, who choose to be followers of this God, there are real life implications. Yes, it might mean being in a room with people who are different, people who have done awful things, people we have hurt and those who have hurt us. Yes, it can take discipline to learn new steps to the dance, new paradigms, and new ways of seeing. And most scary, at least for me, is that we are not always in control. Are we ever in control? In this dance, we are ultimately free, free to love, free to be loved, and free to invite others to the dance.

“Come, speak a loud of Trinity, as wind and tongues of flame set people free at Pentecost to tell the Savior’s name.  We know the yoke of sin and death, our necks have worn it smooth; to tell the world of weight and woe that we are free to move!”

Prayers of Intercession (From Sundays and Seasons)

United in Christ and guided by the Spirit, we pray for the church, the creation, and all in need.

A brief silence.

One God, giver of life, you established peace through your Son and gave your church the hope of sharing in your glory. Enliven us by your Spirit to speak and act in love for the sake of the world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Creator of all, you rejoice in creation and have given humankind responsibility for the works of your hands. Instill in everyone your Spirit of care for the earth, especially in areas threatened by ecological devastation (areas may be named). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Loving Redeemer, you delight in the human race. Move the hearts of world leaders to seek wisdom, speak truth, and care for all endangered by poverty, prejudice, or violence. Further the work of international collaboration and peacemaking. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Abiding Comforter, you call out to all who live. Restore severed relationships and protect children who lack trustworthy caregivers. Grant hope to those who are experiencing fear, pain, or grief (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Holy Three, you are community and you create community. Build up ministries that support those who are isolated or lonely. Give endurance as we nurture vital relationships in our congregation and beyond. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Holy God, we remember your saints for their strong faith and witness, even unto death. Console grieving families. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

God of every time and place, in Jesus’ name and filled with your Holy Spirit, we entrust these spoken prayers and those in our hearts into your holy keeping.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

June 5, 2022

Prayer of the Day

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of earth. By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love, empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 2:1-21

1When the day of Pentecost had come, [the apostles] were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
 that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
  and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
 and your young men shall see visions,
  and your old men shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
  in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
   and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
  and signs on the earth below,
   blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness
  and the moon to blood,
   before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

Pentecost  —  Keur Moussa Abbey, Keur Moussa, Senegal

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

24How manifold are your | works, O Lord!
  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full | of your creatures.
25Yonder is the sea, great and wide, with its swarms too man- | y to number,
  living things both | small and great.
26There go the ships | to and fro,
  and Leviathan, which you made for the | sport of it.
27All of them | look to you
  to give them their food | in due season. 
28You give it to them; they | gather it;
  you open your hand, and they are filled | with good things.
29When you hide your face, | they are terrified;
  when you take away their breath, they die and return | to their dust.
30You send forth your Spirit, and they | are created;
  and so you renew the face | of the earth.
31May the glory of the Lord en- | dure forever;
  O Lord, rejoice in | all your works. 
32You look at the earth | and it trembles;
  you touch the mountains | and they smoke.
33I will sing to the Lord as long | as I live;
  I will praise my God while I | have my being.
34May these words of | mine please God.
  I will rejoice | in the Lord.
35bBless the Lord, | O my soul.
  Hal- | lelujah!

Romans 8:14-17

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

John 14:8-17 [25-27]

8Philip said to [Jesus,] “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. [
25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”]

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I came across this letter from a pastor while cleaning files this week. It begins, “Dear members… For many months I have given much earnest prayer and thought to the matters that have sorely distressed our congregation. Since the Annual Meeting I have sought to gather the opinions of many members to determine if a solution was possible. As I gave serious study to these matters after Easter, I came to the conclusion that a solution could be found if a majority of our members sincerely desired one.”

The conflict must be some hot-button issue right. The letter sounds contemporary in many ways, but it was written in 1954 to the members of Soldier Lutheran, the church I served in Iowa before coming here. At issue? A beloved country church building and a protentional new church building in town.

It was a reminder that church conflict and questions about who we are not new. They existed even during what some people thought was the golden age of Protestantism in this country. That all may seem like small comfort if you have read headlines about our brothers and sisters in the Southern Baptist Convention the last several weeks. 

Lest we think our own denomination is not having struggles, please pray for our ELCA Lutheran sisters and brothers in the Sierra Pacific Synod of Northern California and Nevada. They have been through so much, too much to explain in this sermon, but trust me that they need our prayers. We are one body with many members and when one part of the body is in pain, we all hurt.

Trouble of course is not contained within the church community. There are many days when these times feel unprecedented. The world is a mess. I have been watching an old crime show which aired during my teenage years and I’m astonished by the relevancy of the themes—gun violence, children dying because parents depend only on faith healing, immigrants fleeing Central America’s Northern Triangle, fights about who controls a woman’s body, and systemic racism. 

What is a community of people trying to follow Jesus supposed to do exactly? Which issues do we address and how? Those are the big issues facing our society, what about our own families and workplaces and circles? What should take priority there? How are we to live? We say we are followers of Jesus; what precisely does that look like here and now?

We might think it would be so much easier if Jesus would come again and simply tell us how to live and what to do. We would listen, right? Fifty days after Easter it’s easy to forget that the way of life Jesus taught, the reign of God he began to usher in, the way of life he lived each day actually cost him his life.

It is his very absence that he speaks about and anticipates in today’s gospel reading from John. He is slowly and deliberately preparing his followers for his absence. In his farewell speech, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, sometimes translated as Counselor. Throughout the farewell speech the Paraclete is depicted as a teacher and witness. It is with these actions of teaching and witnessing that the Paraclete will form and shape Christian community. 

We heard today that the Paraclete will “remind you of all that I have said to you.” This is helpful because I don’t think we often consider the Holy Spirit’s role as a one who reminds, or who causes us to remember as a community. After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the disciples rememberedwhat Jesus had said and done, and they were brought to deeper understanding and faith. In other words, the Paraclete does not teach new things, but keeps Jesus’ own teachings alive in the post-resurrection community. 

Later in his farewell speech, Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” Here Jesus points to the importance of fresh encounters with the words of Jesus. These encounters will be given at the time of need, not in advance of that time. Jesus identifies the Paraclete as the medium for those encounters.

2000 year later, these descriptions of the Paraclete should give us comfort and assurance. We also are not left orphaned, even though Jesus is not present as he was with his first disciples. The Paraclete enables past, present, and future to converge in the life of the church. The Paraclete enables the words of Jesus to resound afresh in ever-changing circumstances. 

On the one hand, the Paraclete’s role is essentially conserving. The Paraclete enables the Christian community, including in our time, to reach back to the teachings of Jesus and “remember,” to bring Jesus’ teachings to life afresh with new understanding. 

That’s the work I try to do every time I step into this space—to bring Jesus’ teachings to life with new understanding. But it’s also what was on display when our confirmands told their faith stories. It’s the work we do on Monday morning’s right now as we study Luke’s gospel. And it is the work our church council and teams do when they read the words of Jesus and ask how those words inform our mission today.

At the same time, the Paraclete’s role is also creative. The Paraclete enables the word of Jesus to move forward from its moment in history to the present life of the church. The Paraclete gives new meanings to the teachings of Jesus as the changing circumstances of faith communities and the world demand.

Several members have helped me remember the important role of our imaginations in this moment. What they are speaking of is this creative role of the Paraclete which we can call on. Not every situation we face today as individuals or as a community was imagined in the gospels. One teacher wrote, “Biblical stories often refuse to provide all the information we readers desire. But that void of information opens a space in which we can read our lives into the story.”

The Paraclete ensures that there is an ongoing communication between Jesus and the contemporary communities of faith. The Paraclete’s teaching, witness, and interpretation can take many forms in the life of the faith community. One scholar wrote, “story and interpretation, history and theology, are inseparably linked in the life of Jesus and the church.” It is incumbent upon the faith community, us, to engage in conversation between the story of Jesus and our own stories. 

The goal is not a purer understanding of church doctrine. It is in the end about how those early disciples and future followers of Jesus will live. The disciples can still love Jesus, but not by clinging to cherished memory of him nor by retreating into their private experience of him. Instead, they and we can continue to love Jesus by doing his works and by keeping his commandments. When we live what Jesus has taught us and demonstrated in his own life, then we will find ourselves once again in Jesus’ love. 

In a new book called On Living Well, Pastor Eugene Peterson writes, “Jesus was not what today is called a good communicator, the kind of person whom advertising firms hire to write copy. This is because, as it turns out, Jesus is primarily interested not in communication but rather in communion. His chief concern is not that we get a new piece of information but that we become new people. And to do that, he needs us to get involved—asking questions, wondering who we are and where we stand, curious and intrigued, on tiptoe, ready to take risks.”

The Paraclete we celebrate today is with us still, teaching and witnessing, reminding us how to be a communion. We live in turbulent times but that does not change the fact that the love of God is present and remains our ultimate guide as we ask questions, wonder who we are, remain curious and ready to take risks.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

Holy Living One, Holy Moving One, burst open our locked doors, and by your Spirit drive us out into the world proclaiming your mighty deeds. Direct our words and actions, trusting the Advocate abiding in and among us. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Feed and care for creatures that remain hidden to us yet contribute to the vibrancy of your creation. Train us to interact with creation from a place of wonder, awe, and reverence. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Send your Spirit to places where language is a barrier to justice and mercy for those who seek it. Bless the work of translators, interpreters, and teachers. Promote understanding for the sake of those longing for true freedom and peace. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Comfort all who live in constant fear and any who are suffering (especially). Remind them that your Spirit has made them your children and that they are never far from your glory. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Guide all bishops, pastors, missionaries, and other ministers of the gospel (as you did for Boniface, whom we commemorate today). Foster our relationships with partner synods and local ministry partners (especially), that our visions and actions are Spirit-led. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Gather your people across regions, nations, and lands. Root our common life in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and by your Spirit bind us together with all the saints who have gone before us. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

May 29, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into your one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 16:16-34

16One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Psalm 97

1The Lord reigns; let the | earth rejoice;
  let the multitude of the | isles be glad.
2Clouds and darkness sur- | round the Lord,
  righteousness and justice are the foundations | of God’s throne.
3Fire goes be- | fore the Lord,
  burning up enemies on | every side.
4Lightnings light | up the world;
  the earth | sees and trembles.
5The mountains | melt like wax
  before the Lord of | all the earth.
6The heavens declare your righteous- | ness, O Lord,
  and all the peoples | see your glory. R
7Confounded be all who worship carved images and delight | in false gods!
  Bow down before the Lord, | all you gods.
8Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Ju- | dah rejoice,
  because of your judg- | ments, O Lord.
9For you are the Lord, most high over | all the earth;
  you are exalted far a- | bove all gods.
10You who love the | Lord, hate evil!
  God guards the lives of the saints and rescues them from the hand | of the wicked.
11Light dawns | for the righteous,
  and joy for the hon- | est of heart.
12Rejoice in the | Lord, you righteous,
  and give thanks to God’s | holy name. 

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21

12“See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

14Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
16“It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
 And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
 And let everyone who is thirsty come.
 Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
20The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” 
  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

John 17:20-26

[Jesus prayed:] 20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

This morning’s text is the final portion of a long prayer. The prayer is the final scene of Jesus’ farewell meal–the Lord’s supper –with his disciples.  He has prayed for himself and his work. Then he turned from his own glorification to prayers for the future life of his followers, his disciples.  

This is not like the prayer in the garden in Gethsemane. Here, as Jesus prays, the disciples are within earshot. Earlier in the evening Jesus gave the disciples plenty of information. He told them what was about to happen. He told them how he would provide for them in the future. Now Jesus quits offering information. He prays. 

At the center of the prayer is the relationship that God the Father and Son share. Jesus is working to draw everyone into that relationship. Jesus is close to the Father’s heart,” or as the King James Version puts it, “in the bosom of the Father.”

Jesus prays, “As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us….”  Jesus prays that his disciples may be drawn into the life of the Holy Trinity. The Father sends Jesus to humanity for this reason. God sends Jesus so that all humanity will exist between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What we hear today is Jesus’ prayer for those who come to believe through the work of his disciples, which means this prayer includes us. Jesus prays for those who will become Christians through the life and faith of others in every age.

Jesus turns his attention to the world and expresses his desire that the world will come to share in the knowledge of God. This knowledge marks the life of the faith community. He says, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” This is his core prayer for the unity of the faith community. Jesus prays that the world will receive the community’s witness through its oneness. And this is the crux of the text–for the community to be “one” means that they, we, mirror and share in the oneness of Jesus and the Father.  

The purpose of this perfection of oneness is not only an experience of divine love for us in our communion with God and one another. The purpose is beyond us. This being perfected in oneness is so that the uncomprehending, sometimes dangerous world, as we witnessed so horrifically this week, may also trust and know God’s love in the sending of the Son.   

The oneness of the Father and Jesus is synonymous with love in John’s gospel. What the world is to see in our display of that oneness is the love of God miraculously made manifest.  Our love for God and one another becomes then an offering in and for the world to experience the love through which all creation has come into being.

To be in community does not imply that a person has become just one more copy in a series of interchangeable parts.  Community does not dissolve differences or personalities into one great muddle of marshmallow.  

Community calls first for the ability to listen to differences and second it is the capacity to enter into real reconciliation.  What does such reconciliation look like?  It is the correspondence of hearts where there is a forking of minds.  When we live in such a community we truly are witnesses of God’s glory.  

This all makes me think about Benedictine monastic communities, with their emphasis on hospitality. One sister from Holy Wisdom Monastery near Madison, Wisconsin explains her community by reflecting on one of the last segments in the Rule of Benedict. Chapter 66 is titled, “On the porter of the monastery.”  It sounds surprising simple.  

What does being a doorkeeper have to do with the spiritual life?  The Benedictine sister goes on to explain that the inclusion of this chapter is essential, for a real monastery is open to the world and the porter, not the abbot, not its invisible membership, is the monastic who keeps the door.  The porter is the monasteries public face.  And the public face of a good monastery is warm, welcoming, and open.  But the difference is that a Benedictine monastery , most of all, has at its heart the requirement to be open.

The chapter on the porter is its manifesto.  “Put an old monastic at the door,” the chapter instructs, “one whose mature age does not permit her to wander about…and so that visitors will always find someone there to answer them.”  The intention is clear.  The welcome is “Always.”  The openness is “At whatever hour of day or night.”  And the reception is a warm one: “As soon as anyone knocks or a poor person calls out, the porter will reply,” “Benedicte/Thanks be to God.”  

Thank God that someone has come to stretch our minds and souls.  Thank God that someone has come to shake us out of our complacency.  Thank God that someone has come to prod us beyond ourselves.  A Benedictine community does not exist for its own sake.  A Benedictine community is a community that makes community with the world

In a congregation like this one, we too can make community with the world. We already have diverse life experiences and perspectives represented among us. As we lament the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, it might seem that even the church is not united in what action such lament might move us to. There are many preachers this Sunday who will paint a picture of the path forward, a path to prevent ever having to watch such events unfold, events which break our hearts. This sermon is going to suggest something more challenging.

In the spirit of the oneness and love woven through Jesus’ prayer, I suggest that we each find someone in this congregation whose solution to mass shootings is different than our own. Spend an hour with that person and find the one or two things you do agree on, and I firmly believe you will find them. Then write to elected officials on the local, state, or national level and share your experience. Write, “My sister in Christ and I don’t agree on everything, but these last two weeks we said enough! On this we agree. Please act where you are. We are acting in Canyon County, Idaho.” Many elected officials believe we are much more divided on the solutions than I think we actually are.

Remember, we also exist for the world.  Jesus prays to God, “the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.  I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  This love for one another, this oneness, this community of God’s people is a witness to the world.  

Like branches of a vine, we live in something larger than ourselves, in which we are nurtured to bear fruit by the Spirit dwelling in us. But because we are more than vines, we also become more loving by choosing to follow Jesus’ model and teachings about what love is: tending, feeding, bearing witness, and breaking barriers for love—societal barriers and also barriers we set up for ourselves, including some that we may think make us rightly religious, but which do not make us loving.  

This love is the substance of Jesus’ glory. And it is what he wants us and the world to know. Oneness and love are linked throughout the passage with knowledge, and that is where it concludes. To know God is to have love in us and to have Jesus in us. This also takes us back to where the prayer began, glory and knowledge. To know God in 17:2-3 is eternal life, and now we find that eternal life will be an extension of the love of God stretching back before the foundation of the world, forward to us, and beyond us to the communion of the saints and to those who may be able to experience God’s love through us.

We are not witnesses on our own.  To listen in on Jesus’ prayer is to be reminded of his love and his forgiveness that we need so desperately in this broken world.  Jesus prays to God that we will be in God’s hands.  Held in God’s hands we receive a gift.  Next week we will celebrate Pentecost.  We will rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit, who witnesses through us; who helps us make community with the world.  And in our hearts, we can hold Jesus’ prayer, “And I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”  Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

Holy God, make your people one as you and your Son are one. Extend the gifts we have been given by your Spirit to all people, especially those experiencing division or questioning your love. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Make worthy the work of scientists who look to the stars and planets, as well as scientists who look to atoms and molecules. Bring innovation and well-being to humanity through their discoveries. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Keep in our minds those who have died in war, both military and civilians (especially). May we honor them by seeking peaceful solutions to the conflicts that arise among nations and peoples. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Grant freedom to all who are overwhelmed by chronic illness, depression, or constant worry (especially). Open them to receive health and salvation in Christ Jesus through the Spirit’s gift of faith. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Stir imagination and understanding throughout the church in the work of poets, theologians, and hymnwriters (like Jiřī Tranovský, whom we commemorate today). Lead us into new visions and fresh expressions of your presence. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Unite us with the saints who have died and been raised in Jesus. Train us to wait with eager longing for Christ to come again, even as we sense his presence with us now. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Trinity and Future Directions

Pastor’s Column in Trinity Lutheran’s June Epistle/Newsletter

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our council leadership finally has the energy and capacity to start visioning about what the Holy Spirit might be calling us into next as a congregation. Though it is well and good for the council to lead the way, it is important for all you to be part of this visioning and discernment. Guided by the ELCA Future Directions Goals, at our May meeting we brainstormed how we might better equip people of all ages for their baptismal vocations, how we can continue to be an inviting church that embraces all the diversity of our larger community, and how we might work towards justice, peace, and reconciliation with ecumenical and interfaith partners. Language is important, and so alongside this work around Future Directions, I want to encourage us all to ponder how we talk about our congregation itself. Are we a family, a community, a communion, or a movement? Each of those words is layered in meaning. We might be multiple things at the same time and Trinity Lutheran certainly holds a different place in people’s lives in various moments in time. Whatever language we use, I pray that we continue to be outward looking, here for our neighbors, while always nurturing the faith of those already along for the ride. I pray that we stay adaptable even as we make sure that what we do and who we are aligns with the Gospel, our mission, and our guiding principles. I pray that we love God and our neighbors and offer forgiveness and grace when we fall short. I pray that we remain grounded by the traditions passed on by those who have come before us while celebrating and embracing the diversity of gifts offered by those with us now. Thanks for being along for this journey and helping us figure out where the Spirit is leading us.

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

Posted in Reflections, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

May 22, 2022 (Confirmation Sunday)

Prayer of the Day

Bountiful God, you gather your people into your realm, and you promise us food from your tree of life. Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit we may love one another and the world you have made, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 16:9-15

9During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.

11We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

Altar commemorating Lydia’s Baptism   —  Thyatira, Macedonia

Psalm 67

1May God be merciful to | us and bless us;
  may the light of God’s face | shine upon us.
2Let your way be known | upon earth,
  your saving health a- | mong all nations.
3Let the peoples praise | you, O God;
  let all the | peoples praise you.
4Let the nations be glad and | sing for joy,
  for you judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations on earth. 
5Let the peoples | praise you, O God;
  let all the | peoples praise you.
6The earth has brought | forth its increase;
  God, our own | God, has blessed us.
7May God | give us blessing,
  and may all the ends of the earth | stand in awe. 

Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

10And in the spirit [one of the angels] carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.
22I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
22:1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

John 14:23-29

23Jesus answered [Judas (not Iscariot),] “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove and Confirmands

This morning I am simply setting the framework for you to hear the faith stories of our two confirmands, Jason and Giada. I never would have selected this passage from Acts for Affirmation of Baptism Sunday, but it’s a good one. First, I want to back up and read the verses preceding what Tami Robinson read.

6 [Paul and Timothy] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them; 8so, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 

Sometimes I think it would be great if the Holy Spirit was this direct with my individually, our congregation, and the larger church in our era. The story from Acts 9, Paul and Timothy’s travels through their time with Lydia, was the story we explored at our Northwest Intermountain Synod Regional Gathering in Burley last Saturday. Six of us from Trinity, along with over 50 others spent time in triads reflecting on the story. 

We were asked when and how we had an experience or challenge in the past two years like Paul and Timothy? A second question followed, was there something new that came out of the experience or challenge? And finally, was there an unexpected blessing we could see now?

Much of Giada’s and Jason’s stories are shaped by similar reflections about their entire lives. These young disciples are well practiced in seeing God at work in their lives, often in unanticipated and surprising ways. 

I was also struck, reading their faith stories or statements ahead of time, how steeped our youth have been in the faith practices in our passage from acts: prayer, meaningful conversation, hearing or reading the Word of God, and hospitality. 

And I love most of all that we read that it was outside the gate by the river, where they all sat down and spoke together. The river is also prominent in our reading from Revelation. The natural world overwhelms in Idaho to anyone paying attention. Mountains, lakes, valleys, canyons, and rivers are places where we cannot but help but be reminded of the God who made all things and the Holy Spirit who sustains us still. Giada and Jason and most of us gathered here have been impacted for better by the landscapes of the Mountain West.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is the driver, in our story from Acts, in the faith stories we will soon hear, and in the affirmation of faith ritual itself. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit which sustains and leads each of us and the church collectively. So now let us hear how the Spirit has been at work specifically in two people’s lives.

Jason’s Faith Statement

Hello everyone, 

Thank you for coming to church this sunday. I will start today by introducing myself. My name is Jason Mills, and I have been part of Trinity Lutheran Church all of my life. My faith journey started a while back in September 2019 and I had just lost my dog Rosco. I went up to Luther Heights as part of my conformation class. When I got there, I was thinking about leaving that night because I didn’t think that I could handle being away from home. It was a challenging time for me. I’m grateful I had a huge amount of support through this time from friends who were up there. I became closer with a very special person by the name of Kelly Preboski, the new camp director up at luther heights, who I barely knew. She talked me through my struggles, and made sure everything would be okay. 

The following day, I was feeling sad but wanted to make the most of this opportunity. Soon, I open my mind to this crazy idea that following what God wants for me is more than just reading the bible. I needed to understand that God is with me all the time. The Holy Spirit is working in ways that are not clearly always clearly recognized. The following year, Covid hit and I was stuck in the house with nothing to do. Luther Heights was closed like most other things but I had just started to open my mind to Christ and became optimistic as to what I could learn. 

Finally, I got to go back to my church and was excited to start paying attention to the service. I heard about a youth program coming up. The Luther Heights program came up with a new idea called L.I.T. which stands for Leader In Training. After learning more about it, I knew that is what I wanted to do last summer. When I got there, I couldn’t believe what a great opportunity it 

was. I met 7 other amazing L.I.T’s who had made the same choice as me to go up to camp. I loved how diverse and relatable that we were. 

One thing that kept sticking out to me during bible study every day was the book in the bible by the name Corithians.It spoke to me as a book. I could relate to and find answers that made sense to me very quickly. Part of Corinthians is Chapter 12: verse 12. It sums up what I saw a lot of with people at camp, it reads: 

For just as the body is one and has many members and all the members of the body though many are one body so it is with Christ. 

This verse was immediately shown by the camp counselors and how all of them felt called. They were part of something bigger than they could by themselves. Yet, all of what they were experiencing belonged to them individually. I see my faith take many shapes, forms, pathways, and roads. But I know that the place I go, is where I will belong. Just like how I felt like I belonged as an L.I.T this last summer. 

The best experiences in my faith journey come from the people. There I find myself becoming more connected to everyone and my own self. 

There is where I felt accepted, loved and maybe sometimes a little confused to be around. The rest of my time as an L.I.T went by really slow and I don’t quite know why. It could have been the cute little kid that I stayed up with until 1 in the morning because he was home sick and 

needed to have someone sit with him until he fell asleep, or the endless questions I got from everyone in my cabin asking me what time are we gonna go get food or do I have to sing this song.I created a group of close friends up at camp that I feel like I could tell anything to before the first week was over. The experience changed my faith forever in more ways than I can explain,to name a couple. The best experiences in my faith journey come from the people. There I find myself becoming more connected to everyone and my own self. 

This other verse from Corinthian 1 -13:13 is another great verse. It says “And now these three remain; faith,hope, and love abide by these three and the greatest of these is love.”
Love was one that took a while, but is a strong part of who I am as a person and as a member of my community. Hope is another thing that has shaped me in the eyes of faith. It doesn’t matter the views of people who have not seen God, but I have hope that he will come and show them as well for me. I continue to have hope and trust in the people that are in my life. 

To the many and all people in my church that have changed my faith. I say thank you. To name a few: Pastor Megan for being my pastor for as long as I can remember, Tammy Torrey and Steve and Renee VanAtter, for being a big part of making sure I stay on the right path as a youth at this church. David Sheriff, for sitting down with me and having one of the deepest most life changing discussions that give me a different perspective on life. Specifically, how I should cherish every part of my life and never take anything for granted. My parents who raised me and brought me to church every Sunday and a couple Wednesdays, even when I didn’t feel like it. And last, but not least, for encouraging me to go to camp and experience that once in a lifetime experience year after year. 

For those wondering what is next for me on my faith journey? I can say confidently that this is not the end of the journey for me. I will continue to explore and live out my faith, through love and hope. I will continue to be an active member of our worship leaders: whether It be doing sound and video, crucifer, acolyte, or lector. I will continue to go to Luther Heights as a L.I.T and progress as I get older into being part of kitchen staff until I have the opportunity to be a counselor. I hope that as I get older, I can become someone that helps younger youth like I once was. To find their purpose in life. I want to show them the path that God has created for them so that they can connect with Him and continue to live and grow in their faith, as I did. 

Giada’s Faith Statement

The most important part of my faith is trusting the path God has for me. I wanted to start off my faith statement with a bible verse from the book of Psalms. Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped. And my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” The way I receive this verse is that the Lord will hear my calls and he will protect me and guide me to be strong. I want to thank my family for always supporting me and wanting what’s best for me. I know I can be a little sassy and spoiled sometimes but I really do appreciate everything that you guys do for me, and I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without you guys. Choosing people who impacted my faith was difficult because the whole congregation has. So many of you have been here for me growing up in this church. I have been here since I was a baby, and there have been many people who have had an influence in my faith. Some of these people consist of the Wards, Penelope, the Mills, Amanda, Sandy and Sharon, and the list goes on. But thank you to those people because you guys definitely made going to church more enjoyable as a kid. But there are 3 main people who have really taught me about God and helped me grow in my faith. First is Pastor Meggan, Pastor has really impacted my faith journey because she is always pushing us to be involved and pushes us to bring out our best abilities. Even if you don’t want to do something or if you are scared to, she will encourage you to do it, and when you look back on it you are glad you did. One thing I love about Pastor is that she supports our congregation outside of church.  She has shown up to some of my basketball games and it shows that she cares about me and I really appreciate it. I think it’s amazing that she puts time into getting to know the people from her congregation better. The second person is Mrs. Renee, she played an important role in educating me about God and our religion as a child. I remember going to Crop Walks with her and having to memorize the Lord’s Prayer in her class. I always wanted to sit next to her when I was younger because she’s such a welcoming and sweet person and I think anyone in this church would say the same. The last person is Mrs. Tammy.  She taught me about God and the bible as I got older but she always made it fun. we always had a super fun craft, and I remember having toilet paper roll fights. Mrs. Tammy is the kindest soul you will ever meet and she cares a lot about the kids in church. I don’t think I have ever seen her at church without a smile on her face. This church means a lot to me, and I have gained family-like bonds and even best friends from it.

            One of the places I feel closest to God is definitely at camp. I have made such amazing memories at camp over the years, but one of my favorites was the second or third year I went to camp. It was the first year I went with Alexa and I had a huge crush on the boy cabin counselor. We were splitting up to do activities and he was going to do basketball so I obviously chose that one because the love of my life was leading it. But I go play basketball and I was the only girl there and I remember going back to the cabin and talking to Alexa about how I had probably impressed him. Another one of my favorite memories was when Penelope was driving us back from camp that year and we stopped in Hailey to get lunch at Shorty’s diner. It was Alexa, Jason, Michael and I with Penelope. We were looking at the menus and deciding what to eat when the waitress came to take our order. Michael then asked the waitress if they served horse and the memory has stayed with me ever since. Church isn’t just a place to worship God it’s also a place to create relationships. That’s why I love church campouts because I get to spend time with some people from church that are like family to me. I have some really good memories like, Alexa and I driving up to the campout and watching Barbie, going into Jason’s tiny tent and watching dance moms, launching off each others shoulders at the lake, and playing games in the dark which didn’t really end well. 

I know that God is always with me, and that there are reasons people come in and out of your life and sometimes things won’t go your way but it can end up being what is best. There have been times where I have lost way in my faith and have been angry or upset at God for putting me through things. Last year I was getting ready for basketball practice when I found out that my grandparents were moving to Illinois. I tried to act strong and not be upset about it, but it was a really hard thing for me to go through. My grandparents had been there my whole life and suddenly they were moving to a different state. This would mean no more going to their house and beating them in Trouble or Kings in the Corner, no more candy muffins or delicious lefse, no more going out for breakfast in the morning and asking for extra crispy bacon. I didn’t really comprehend that they were leaving until they came to say goodbye. I know it wasn’t an easy thing for them to do either, but everyone knew it was for the best. Another time I have been angry at God was during my basketball season, I had gotten a stress fracture in my back halfway through the season. The injury caused me to be out for the remainder of it, but even though I couldn’t step on the court in my uniform I still involved myself with my team and the sport I love playing. I was confused why out of everyone, I was being put through this. One of the worst feelings is watching your team and some of your best friends have fun and succeed without you. This experience was really hard because I couldn’t do the thing I love with the people I love. I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve it, but after all the hard work and physical therapy I realized that it was a learning experience. I got to see things from a different angle and really figure out that I shouldn’t take things for granted. When these things happen it’s hard to believe that Gods doing what’s best for you. But even through all the anger and sadness, you will always find your way back to God and you have to remember that he will always love you and accept you. I plan to continue to grow in my faith and still be an active part in the church. This summer I have amazing opportunities that will help me strengthen my relationship with God. I am going to be an LIT up at Luther Heights in July which I’m super excited about. We also have our youth trip to Minneapolis which I think will be a really good learning experience and a good way to give to the community. Hopefully in the future I will be able to continue to serve at camp and here at Trinity. 

Prayers (Sundays and Seasons)

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

God of new life, open your church to the unexpected ways your Spirit is at work. Guide bishops, pastors, deacons, and lay leaders in their visioning, partnership, and planning. Surround us with your peace. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Give a vision of increase and abundant harvest for farmers, laborers, and gardeners who are beginning their growing season. Join their efforts with the goodness of creation to feed all living things. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Shine your light of wisdom and peace among nations. When those in power seek to assert dominance over others, confound their ways and make them yield to your humble authority. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Give safe haven to those who seek healing, liberation, or peace (especially). Create places filled with hospitality where hurting people find your loving presence and wholeness. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Uphold the work of ministries and organizations in our communities who assist people experiencing homelessness, citizens returning from prison, and all marginalized people (especially). Accomplish your will through their efforts. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Assemble your people at rivers, streams, and fonts, where we remember our baptism and welcome others into the communion of saints. Gather us with those who have died (especially) when we meet together at your river of life. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

May 15, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, you teach us that without love, our actions gain nothing. Pour into our hearts your most excellent gift of love, that, made alive by your Spirit, we may know goodness and peace, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 11:1-18

1Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Peter’s vision of the sheet with animals, Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894

Psalm 148

1Hallelujah! Praise the Lord| from the heavens;
  praise God | in the heights.
2Praise the Lord, | all you angels;
  sing praise, all you | hosts of heaven.
3Praise the Lord, | sun and moon;
  sing praise, all you | shining stars.
4Praise the Lord, heav- | en of heavens,
  and you waters a- | bove the heavens.
5Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
  who commanded, and they | were created,
6who made them stand fast forev- | er and ever,
  giving them a law that shall not | pass away. 
7Praise the Lord| from the earth,
  you sea monsters | and all deeps;
8fire and hail, | snow and fog,
  tempestuous wind, do- | ing God’s will;
9mountains | and all hills,
  fruit trees | and all cedars;
10wild beasts | and all cattle,
  creeping things and | flying birds;
11sovereigns of the earth | and all peoples,
  princes and all rulers | of the world;
12young | men and maidens,
  old and | young together. 
13Let them praise the name | of the Lord,
  whose name only is exalted, whose splendor is over | earth and heaven.
14The Lord has raised up strength for the people and praise for all | faithful servants,
  the children of Israel, a people who are near the Lord. | Hallelujah!

Revelation 21:1-6

1I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
 “See, the home of God is among mortals.
 He will dwell with them;
 they will be his peoples,
 and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
 Death will be no more;
 mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
 for the first things have passed away.”
5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”

John 13:31-35

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Patterns, habits, and routines are good. When I am with friends with little kids, I am especially mindful of this. But I also am healthier and more whole when I stick to a consistent bedtime, when I stick to an exercise routine, when life is somewhat calm and predictable. Disruption is hard on the mind, body, and soul. 

I appreciate routine and calmness in my journey of faith too. I like that our music changes, but that I generally know what to expect when I lead worship here or worship with other ELCA Lutherans. The routine lets me enter into the liturgy more deeply. Words repeated year after year, through songs, prayers, and creeds bubble up when I need them outside of Sunday morning. Furthermore, part of making a community of faith trustworthy is making it predictable. We build trust in one another and the God we follow through meaningful rituals and by predictably showing up for one another with our words and actions.

But sometimes the life of faith includes disruption. The Holy Spirit’s work often challenges our deepest assumptions about how Jesus Chris is present and at work in the world. We may look to things like the cross, the sacraments, and prayer as reliable places where God has promised to be available and gracious. 

But there are also times when the Holy Spirit works in ways that are unexpected, offensive, and downright transgressive. One scholar wrote, “The fact that a thing is transgressive does not make it holy, but it can—and often is—the case that Christ frequently calls us into encounters that upend our deepest theological commitments.” 

Peter has had a conversion experience of sorts. This experience has led him to a new understanding of the Christian community; it is a place where Jews and Gentiles participate together, on the same ground, in the salvation God provides. But everyone else has not reached the same conclusion as quickly as Peter. And the implications of Peter’s new understanding apply not only to him but to the wider church as well. 

When Peter returns to Jerusalem he gets a question, which sounds more like a rebuke: “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Why did Peter accept hospitality from and share meals prepared by Gentiles? Peter had acted in ways that fly in the face of generations of practices that certain Jews adopted to honor God and safeguard holiness. 

Peter responds with a summary appropriate to his audience. He bears witness to what happened to him. He notes that he recognized in his new Gentile friends “the same gift” that God previously gave to him and other Jewish believers. He also calls his audience’s attention to something Jesus said back in Acts Chapter 1, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

In other words, Jesus himself authorized Peter’s conclusion that God regards Gentile believers in the same light as Jewish believers, for Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as a gift from him. Peter urges his listeners to see his actions as a faithful response to God’s owninitiative, certified by Jesus himself. 

The witness itself is remarkable for several reasons. Peter has no textual witness to fall back on. He has no prophetic utterances to conjure from the collective memory of his people. Very little prepared him for this Gentile emergency, though he did stay with Simon the Tanner before his encounter on the roof. That stay, in an unclean house, perhaps laid some groundwork. 

Peter is speaking to those who knew him and know his faith. The only argument Peter could give with kinship eyes bearing down on him was no argument at all, simply an experience. This fact kind of terrifies me; makes me a little squeamish. Why? Because the idea of experience has gotten a bad reputation in Christian thought in recent years, and for good reason. 

Claiming an experience of God, of faith and truth, has served as a tool for every will to religious power. The claim to an experience has graced greed, violence, and oppression with a facade of righteousness. But, and this is a big but, Peter shows us its proper use, [experience] confronts the cult of the familiar—of family, faith, nation, and story. 

This story of Peter’s witness shows the breaking open of a life, Peter’s life, and the breaking open of a whole people’s life. God spoke to Peter and now through Peter God is speaking to the saints gathered there to hear. Peter remembered a promised baptism for the Jewish body and saw with his own eyes that baptismal promise stretched over Gentile bodies. “Gentile bodies have been touched by God, just as we have,” Peter states. 

The Holy Spirit is surely in this moment. The listeners all take note. They must consider their people’s relationship with God, going back centuries. God has again done a marvelous new thing beyond anticipation: even Gentiles receive the repentance that leads to life. 

Look what happens when you bear witness to Jesus and his good news with boldness and generosity. The church watches what the Spirit does, discerns whether there’s some kind of precedent for that, and follows where the Spirit leads. 

There is a lot about discernment in this story. In Acts, discernment comes about as communities of believers consider their circumstances, their convictions about Jesus, their sacred texts, their lived experiences, their values, and their hopes. In other words, there is a rich mix of influences: experience, scripture, memory, conversation. This defines the church as a community always endeavoring to live into the new possibilities it believes God has in store. When faced with challenging seasons of discernment, we should also make space for a variety of witnesses as we attempt to understand the Triune God’s work in our world.

Not much has changed really, as far as what goes into discernment. When I came to Trinity from rural Iowa, where everyone was still baptized whether they came to worship again or not, I had to do my own discernment with this congregation. Would we commune those who were not yet baptized? My own personal experience was that people came to the table and were hungry for the Sacrament. Hands were outstretched. I could not always be sure that these strangers were baptized. I read scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. I also read written witnesses by other people who had already gone through this conversion. Sara Miles’ book Take this Bread was at first a very disruptive read, but later everything she said seemed like common sense. 

In a literate society, books are often the medium for witness. Although podcasts might be bringing Peter’s oral witness back in vogue. Our time, some say, is the golden age of memoir. Everyone has a story to tell. Novels, memoirs, nonfiction books have taken me all over our country and all over the world, introducing me to individuals and cultures I may never have been exposed to if I had not opened a particular book. They have increased both my empathy and my imagination.

We know it’s true that written words hold great power and books can change readers’ hearts. English professor Farah Jasmine Griffin notes that many books, from the Bible to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Elie Wiesel’s Night, confront readers “with powerful narratives that not only tell the stories of oppressed people, but also hold the mirror up to humanity, often showing us parts of ourselves we’d rather not see.” As I read this week, “Books about difficult topics can show us our failures. They can impel us to make our society more just. They can transform us into more empathetic people.”

And so I was heartbroken this week when I read the article about the Nampa School Board banning 22 books forever from our school libraries. I cannot imagine the work of either formation or transformation in a world that simply erases these particular books. What’s more, the board set up a process for discernment and then ended its own process prematurely. 

Then on Thursday afternoon I went to an end of year event and chanced to talk with the librarian for our neighbors at West Middle School. She was still devastated, and new grief had come over her the last few days as she kindly asked students to please return various books on the banned list.

What does all of this have to do with the church? A whole lot. What happens after Peter’s witness was a very big deal and ushered in a whole new way of being church. Jews and Gentiles will participate together, on the same ground, in the salvation God provides. 

We too, as the church, are part of such a change. Depending on who you ask, the big shift began 50 to 100 years ago. It was accelerated by the pandemic. We have no idea how long it will take to all resolved, easily another 50 to 100 years. We are not going back to what was. We are in the midst of something big, what Phyllis Tickle called the church’s every-500-years rummage sale. 

What this means is, we are in the midst of big discernment. “Discernment” isn’t just a dressed-up word for “decision making.” Discernment is the process by which people, or a group of people, clarify their choices and values to see which next step best aligns with what they believe to be the right thing. And then they can decide. In some sense, discernment is a process of clarifying one’s choices and comparing them with one’s “yardstick” that holds meaning. And there is always an expectation that God is in some way present and active in the process.

As the community of Acts discerned what was next for them, so we are also discerning our next chapter. And here is what I know to be true. We are going to need all the influences and tools we can handle—experience, scripture, witness, memory, conversation, and yes, books that carry other people’s experiences and memories, even if those books make us uncomfortable. “Fear not” or “be not afraid,” appears over 90 times in scripture. We do not need to be afraid of what the Holy Spirit is doing in and for the church. We can simply trust that God is doing something new and follow where the Holy Spirit is leading.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

Loving God, lead us to follow your Spirit, rather than our own prejudices or desires, as the church cares for one another. Open us to perceive your gifts in those we least expect. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Inspire us to praise you through the beauty and majesty of the natural world around us (local natural areas may be named). Urge us toward more deliberate care of the world you have made. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Humble the rulers of nations before your splendor. Direct them to the people who need their attention most, and turn them from the temptation to hoard wealth or power. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Hasten to dwell among those who are in pain or distress (especially). As Christ enters our deepest suffering, remain with those experiencing despair and great need. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Place holy love at the center of all our relationships and communities. By your love heal us, convict us, and renew us. Bring an end to racism in our churches and communities. Let everyone know your goodness by the love we show one another. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Give us a place in the diverse company of your beloved saints. Teach us the value of each person’s identity, and bless us with a shared identity as your children, kindred of Christ. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Telling Our Faith Stories: A Congregational Model

            “I tend to get uncomfortable sharing about myself with strangers and was surprised with the comfort level I felt,” reflected one of my parishioners after our workshop. After surveying various methods and practices in storytelling, I concluded that Anne E. Streaty Wimberly’s practice of story-linking, both simple and adaptable, made the most sense for a faith storytelling workshop for my parishioners. In February 2020, twelve church members and I spent a day with the biblical story, the stories of others, and our own stories.  

Follow this LINK for the rest of the article published in Word and World: Theology for Christian Ministry, Winter 2022. I will keep it posted here until this journal issue is online.

Posted in Reflections, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

May 8, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep. By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete in everything good that we may do your will, and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Amen.

Acts 9:36-43

36Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Dorcas

St. Twrog’s Church
Maentwrog, Wales

Psalm 23

1The Lord| is my shepherd;
  I shall not | be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down | in green pastures
  and leads me be- | side still waters.
3You restore my | soul, O Lord,
  and guide me along right pathways | for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall | fear no evil;
  for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they | comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence | of my enemies;
  you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is | running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days | of my life,
  and I will dwell in the house of the | Lord forever.

Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, 
 “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, 
 “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
 and thanksgiving and honor
 and power and might
 be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15For this reason they are before the throne of God,
  and worship him day and night within his temple,
  and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
  the sun will not strike them,
  nor any scorching heat;
17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,
  and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
 and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

John 10:22-30

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

There was something compelling to me this year and this week about the story of Tabitha, Dorcas, and the widows. Maybe it’s because this is only the second Mother’s Day when my own mother is a widow, a new word for us. Maybe coming back into the sanctuary, there have been times when I have missed dearly the widows who sat faithfully every week in the back center pew. Many of them have since joined the community of saints who have died. Maybe it was the story coming across my newsfeed this week of the first women ordained as Lutheran pastors in Poland.

Women have made great advances in my lifetime. We can celebrate that the two young women whose high school graduations we will aplaud next week have opportunities their great grandmothers might not have imagined. And yet we know there is still work to do, locally and globally. For every Dorothy Day serving the poor whose memoir is published, Malala Yousafzai standing up to the Taliban, Leymah Gbowee working for peace in Liberia winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or Amanda Gorman using her poetry to paint a vision, there are women whose voices never get heard. 

Widows are still vulnerable, but we also might think of single moms fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; stories of missing indigenous women in our own country; women of all ethnicities escaping domestic violence; or widows next door to you worried about keeping their houses during this crazy housing market. 

To be sure, we all know men vulnerable to the brokenness of this world too. But on a day when our country, or at least Hallmark, prods us to honor our mothers, and when a New Testament writer takes time to mention the only woman disciple ever mentioned by name in the entire New Testament, it is a good day to take stock of women’s places in our own communities and the world. It’s a perfect day to examine how the Gospel might inform our lenses, our perspective.

All of this assumed that in this place, in person and online, we believe and confess that scripture and our faith are not just about the salvation of our souls or what happens to us after we die. The good news of Jesus Christ informs our living here today. It informs how we see the world and encounter all God created. 

Collectively, all our readings from Acts during the Easter Season, serve as powerful illustrations of the living and resurrected Jesus Christ continuing to live and bring redemption and reconciliation through the church. That is an incredibly accurate description of what happens in today’s text from Chapter 9.

Tabitha, a woman, is a disciple of Jesus. Here we get a view of a new future in which men and women in Christ have a different way of seeing themselves–as disciples, followers of Jesus. By referring to her with both names (Tabitha is Aramaic and Dorcas is Greek) the author hints that she lives in a multicultural environment. Maybe she has friends who speak Aramaic and others who speak Greek. She sounds like a bridge builder in her community. 

We also learn about her charity work for the widows–she clothed them. What an intimate and caring gift. Making clothes for someone else requires you to know that person–what size she wears, maybe what she likes, what you think is appropriate for her life. One scholar wrote that Tabitha “helped knit the community together, literally clothing the people with protection, beauty, dignity, and love.”

We enter the story at the end. As in our own encounters with the end of life, there is glory and grief. The glory is a life well lived, lived in service to others. Tabitha’s life hangs together beautifully as someone devoted to helping people, especially widows. Widows, that group of people vulnerable in ancient and current times, made vulnerable by death’s sting, have always been a special concern for God and here for Tabitha as well.

We know from this story that Tabitha’s life was woven in good works of charity. So, the widows weep. They weep for her and maybe for themselves. We will never know if Tabitha was in fact one of them. What we do know is that they claimed her as one who cared for them. Here glory joins grief because to lose someone who cares for the weak and the vulnerable, whose life is turned toward making a difference in the world and who is making a difference, is a bitter loss. The widows have lost Tabitha and a disciple is gone. This is what stops Peter in Joppa.

Peter’s presence declares an unmistakable and wonderful truth: women matter. This woman matters, and the work she does for widows matters to God. It matters so much that God will not allow death the last word. Others had been raised from the dead in the Gospels, but this is different. This is not a little girl or the brother of a friend of Jesus; this is a disciple raised from the dead. Tabitha is not finished in life or service. “Tabitha, get up.” 

Tabitha is an activist who lives again in resurrection power. Her body has been quickened by the Holy Spirit, and her eyes are opened again to see a new day. She has work to do and joy to give to the widows: you have not been abandoned, dear widows, God has heard your weeping and returned her to you. 

More importantly she is alive. Willie James Jennings writes that “we know that death imagines a special claim to the bodies of women. Their deaths are normalized and naturalized in social orders that value men’s bodies far above all others. It will not be so among the disciples. They will find Peter standing next to Tabitha, a gift of God who has been given again the gift of life. It is not accident that the first disciples to have this little taste of the resurrection is a woman, because it was a woman who gave birth to the resurrection. And Peter is there once again to see a miraculous sign point to faith’s direction–many who found out about this believed in the Lord.”

Peter does not bring her back to life as a reward for all her good behavior or because he can’t handle the grief around him. Bringing her back to life validates the urgency of her work. She, as her own person, also matters, but we assume she will not live forever. Eventually death will overtake her a second time, after her story ends. But the leadership and love she provides now has an opportunity to live again–through her ongoing efforts and the charity that is supposed to dwell at the center of every Christian community. Her contributions are essential to the church’s ability to bear witness to the wholeness Jesus Christ brings to individuals and communities.

Today happens to be the saint day of another remarkable disciple, Julian of Norwich. During her lifetime, Julian experienced the first and second waves of the Black Death in England. Resulting turmoil from the plague was a major cause of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, which ended with suppression of the rebels by King Richard II.

Little is known about Julian’s real name or background. Her decision to become an anchoress followed a severe illness when she was 30 years old, high fever, difficulty breathing and the sense of being paralyzed. But it was while fighting this illness that Julian began to experience the first of her many visions.

Julian’s first vision took place as a priest was approaching her bed. “The priest brings a cross to her. The cross begins to glow. She sees Christ standing right in front of her, is quite startled, and then a voice at one point says to her, ‘Look up to heaven. Don’t look at the cross but look up to heaven.’”

Julian interpreted this voice as a temptation and not the voice of Christ: “She was looking directly at the suffering Christ but was being tempted to look away from his suffering.” Instead, Julian looked down to the crucifix as the priest told her to.

Where her eyes had been fixed upward “towards heaven” prior to her visions, now she held her gaze on the cross each time she experienced one. By fixing her eyes on the cross, Julian perceived that “glory comes through suffering, in particular the suffering of Christ, and not in spite of it.”

Julian would continue to experience religious visions throughout her life, writing detailed accounts of each. The visions declared that love was the meaning of religious experience, provided by Christ who is love, for the purpose of love. These descriptions were eventually compiled into Revelations of Divine Love, the earliest surviving English-language book written by a woman. 

Her words have been carried down to us in the ELW hymn 735, “Mothering God, you gave me birth in the bright morning of this world. Creator source of every breath, you are my rain, my wind, my sun. Mothering Christ, you took my form, offering me your food of light, grain of life, and grape of love, your very body for my peace.”

Something about the good news of Jesus Christ gave life and callings to both Tabitha and Julian. The message of mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation, and most importantly abundant love, that they heard, envisioned, and experienced is the same message passed on to us as well. We hear it proclaimed we receive the gifts and promises of Jesus’ mercy and love in the simple meal of bread and wine. Might we be strengthened for service and follow in the ways of these two remarkable disciples.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

Set free from captivity to sin and death, we pray to the God of resurrection for the church, people in need, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

Gentle Shepherd, enable your church to respond to the voice of Jesus. Give us unfailing trust, unafraid to join in Jesus’ work of renewing all things. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Feed your people at the table of creation. Prepare a safe place for those whose environments are dangerous or unhealthy, especially those making difficult journeys. Prosper your creation for the sake of every living thing. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Warm the hearts of all who celebrate and all who mourn on Mother’s Day. Accompany those yearning to be mothers. Help us to heal from broken family relationships and open us to receive your nurturing love from all who serve mothering roles in our lives (especially). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Seek out those who weep while they await healing or consolation (especially). Set people in their path who can provide the care they need, and wipe away every tear from their eyes. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Inspire the words of prophets and saints who employ innovative imagery to stretch our understanding (as did Julian of Norwich, whom we commemorate today). Send Christ to instruct us with motherly care. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Enfold us in the great multitude of saints from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages. Wash us in your saving grace every day, guiding us to your waters of life. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

In your mercy, O God, respond to these prayers, and renew us by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment