Aug. 7, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church. Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

1The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

10Hear the word of the Lord,
  you rulers of Sodom!
 Listen to the teaching of our God,
  you people of Gomorrah!
11What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
  says the Lord;
 I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
  and the fat of fed beasts;
 I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
  or of lambs, or of goats.

12When you come to appear before me,
  who asked this from your hand?
  Trample my courts no more;
13bringing offerings is futile;
  incense is an abomination to me.
 New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—
  I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
14Your new moons and your appointed festivals
  my soul hates;
 they have become a burden to me,
  I am weary of bearing them.
15When you stretch out your hands,
  I will hide my eyes from you;
 even though you make many prayers,
  I will not listen;
  your hands are full of blood.
16Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
  remove the evil of your doings
  from before my eyes;
 cease to do evil,
  17learn to do good;
 seek justice,
  rescue the oppressed,
 defend the orphan,
  plead for the widow.

18Come now, let us argue it out,
  says the Lord:
 though your sins are like scarlet,
  they shall be like snow;
 though they are red like crimson,
  they shall become like wool.
19If you are willing and obedient,
  you shall eat the good of the land;
20but if you refuse and rebel,
  you shall be devoured by the sword;
  for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Business Men, Mother and Hungry Child

Department of Justice
Washington, DC

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

1The mighty one, God the | Lord, has spoken;
  calling the earth from the rising of the sun | to its setting.
2Out of Zion, perfect | in its beauty,
  God shines | forth in glory.
3Our God will come and will | not keep silence;
  with a consuming flame before, and round about a | raging storm.
4God calls the heavens and the earth | from above
  to witness the judgment | of the people. 
5“Gather before me my | loyal followers,
  those who have made a covenant with me and sealed | it with sacrifice.”
6The heavens declare the rightness | of God’s cause,
  for it is God | who is judge.
7“Listen, my people, and I will speak: Israel, I will bear wit- | ness against you;
  for I am | God, your God.
8I do not accuse you because | of your sacrifices;
  your burnt offerings are al- | ways before me. 
22Consider this well, you | who forget God,
  lest I tear you apart and there be none to de- | liver you.
23Whoever offers me a sacrifice of thanksgiving | honors me;
  I will show the salvation of God to those who go | the right way.”

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. 3By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
13All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Luke 12:32-40

[Jesus said:] 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I made a trip to Boise with a friend this week, shortly after I began preparing this sermon in earnest. She asked how I was doing and I blurted out, “I’m preaching on Isaiah chapter 1 and it’s a chance to name all the things wrong with Christianity right now.” 

Reading through these verses reminded me of one of many conversations I had in July at Luther Heights with Jen, the camp nurse for the week. Jen is from American Falls and is a staff alum, but she now lives and works in Reno. In one conversation she told me how frustrated her high school daughter gets with the kids from her huge church youth group. “They have these long Bible studies and then get to school and none of it carries over.” 

My dad always said the school playground just took on different iterations throughout life. A high schooler sees the inconsistencies between the youth group Bible Study and school. Adults who leave church see similar, sometimes deeper and more troubling, inconsistencies. People leaving the church often cite the hypocrisies of Christians as a chief reason for leaving. The sentiment goes, “What they profess on Sunday morning in worship seems to have no impact on their lives—how they spend their time, how they treat their family, who they vote for, what they do with their money.”

Writer and theologian Brian McLaren’s most recent book addresses all of this. The book is titled Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned. I’m leading a small group online discussion on the book starting mid-August and 11 people, some in the church, some on the fringes, are signed up so far.

Isaiah does in fact have much to say about inconsistencies, hypocrisy, better and worse worship practices. Despite the harsh words in chapter one, this passage also gives me deep hope for people of faith because of what it reveals about the God we worship.

First, I think it is very important to point out that unlike other scripture passages that speak of individual faith and practice, we need to hear these words addressed to an entire community. It would be easier to preach this text in the American South where they say ya’ll regularly. Hear the “you” as a “you all.” 

The second acknowledgement is that we are reading a critique of worship while we are in the middle of a worship service—a bit strange. Pastors and church musicians often become the greatest critics of other people’s worship services. Couldn’t the musicians have prepared more? Why are we singing this hymn, which is too high for anyone here? The preacher seems to be phoning it in today—no real preparation. Who baked this communion bread, and this wine is too sweet.

None of those complaints make it into our reading from Isaiah today. First and foremost, Isaiah wants worship with integrity. Isaiah uses the strongest language possible, addressing the hearers as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah.” These cities are long gone. But Isaiah refers to them to call out the worst in the people he is speaking to. The two cities had become a byword for wickedness in the extreme and divine annihilation, but perhaps not for the reasons our Western ears and minds might assume.

The particular wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah is a matter of their greed and injustice. When a prophet uses the word injustice, he’s not talking about punishing the deserving. Justice and injustice refer to fairness and equity, chiefly economic equity.

The fullest account of the “sin” of the Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament is in the book of Ezekiel: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. The two cities became bywords for injustice and so Isaiah implies that the southern kingdom of Judah, especially the leaders and people of Jerusalem, now mirrors their condition. 

Isaiah calls his listeners and all of us to carry out acts of worship in ways that reflect integrity. On a first reading, Isaiah seems to say that God rejects the entire worship system. He says that God disregards and dismisses every type of worship act in which the people engage, ranging from sacrifice to prayer. 

But the keys to Isaiah’s meaning are embedded in his words. First, the prophet quotes God as saying, “I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity” (verse 13). Second, he says that God declares, “Your hands are full of blood” (verse 15). So, it is not worship per se that God rejects. It is worship carried out with no regard for ethics. Acts of worship, even if performed correctly and abundantly, cannot compensate for the mistreatment of people, especially of the weak and oppressed. 

Isaiah next calls us to practice justice. Isaiah has told his audience that their hands are full of blood (verse 15). On one hand, this may recall the many sacrifices that the people have been offering and that God has rejected (see verse 11). The people’s hands are indeed filled with the blood of sacrificed animals. But that is not the point that the prophet is making. The people’s hands are full of blood in the sense that they have been mistreating people. They have not been practicing sound ethics in their dealings with the oppressed and vulnerable.

It does not take much imagination to recall instances distant or nearer to our own time when the church has done all the right things in worship but has disregarded the oppressed and vulnerable. The Crusades, the Inquisition, Protestant-Catholic conflicts, condoning the slave trade and slavery of Africans in this country, facilitating church boarding schools where indigenous children were stripped of their families, languages, spiritualities, and heritage. And after the church took part in moving civil rights forward in this country for so many people, other parts of the church led the backlash, slowly trying to strip away gains made. I’ll admit to moments where it all becomes a little overwhelming to me and I simply want to walk away from it all.

But then I listen in as Isaiah summons the people to wash the blood of injustice from their hands. The prophet names general ways in which the people can do this. They can “cease to do evil” (verse 16), which has the sense of something that can be done immediately. They can also “learn to do good” (verse 17), which has the sense of something that takes place over a longer period of time. God, through the prophet, does not seem to be finished with this people yet. God has not given up hope for transformation.

The prophet names more specific ways that the people can “seek justice”—they can “rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (verse 17).1 In so doing, they will turn away from the sin of Sodom (verse 10), which the prophecy of Ezekiel defines as having “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease” while failing to “aid the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

As we listen in so many years later, Isaiah invites us also to turn away from unethical dealings and to turn toward justice. He now invites his audience and us to accept the good that can come if they repent. The verb translated “let us argue it out” in NRSV is rendered elsewhere as “let us settle the matter” (NIV) and “let’s settle this” (CEB). 

Those alternate translations seem to better capture the sense, since what needs to happen is not up for debate or negotiation. The prophet calls the people to agree with and accept God’s evaluation of their situation, and to change in light of it. The imagery of sins that “are like scarlet” and that are “red like crimson” could reflect the previous statement that the people’s “hands are full of blood” (verse 15). Their sins becoming “like snow” and “like wool” (verse 18) could be the result of the people’s washing themselves (verse 16). 

Even though Judah has been devastated and Jerusalem has been left isolated, the people’s repentance can lead to their experiencing the blessings of the land that God intends them to have. Failure to repent, on the other hand, will lead to further judgment. 

One pastor wrote this past week about how it is inherent to Christianity to place trust in the notion of change. He goes on “When we pray for the heart of Vladimir Putin to soften, when we long for a person from whom we’re estranged to get back in touch, when we work to transform humanity’s relationship to our planet, we’re putting all our eggs in the basket of change. There will always be some kinds of science and some kinds of religion that maintain nothing ever changes. But change is in the character of crea­tion, and sometimes situations and people can change for the better. Conversion is the name for the way a person’s heart and soul and actions can change for good when they encounter the embrace of God’s ever-loving arms.”

What is true for individual conversion and trust in the notion of change must also be true for an entire community of Christians. It is why I stay with this community of faith; I trust that the Holy Spirit is transforming us still, Trinity Lutheran, the ELCA—our church body, the holy catholic (small c, meaning universal) church. God is not done with the church yet. Repentance in the Old Testament meant to turn around. In the Gospels and most of the New Testament it means to have a new perspective. With the Spirits help, we are capable of both—turning back to God and the mandate to care for the vulnerable and oppressed and to experience the world with new perspectives. That should give us hope for present and future.

Prayers of Intercession

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

Trusting in God’s extraordinary love, let us come near to the Holy One in prayer.

A brief silence.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your church. Fill all who proclaim the gospel with your Spirit. Equip your flock to speak your word of promise and hope in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your creation. Dwell among us and sustain our earthly home. In places of famine, provide nourishment. In places of plenty, fashion us to be good stewards of your bounty. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your world. Be our helper and our shield in places torn by strife and violence (especially). Raise up courageous leaders to govern with compassion and justice. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon your children. Look upon all who wait for your steadfast love. Console those who grieve and embrace those who cry out to you (especially). Help us to trust your promise and not be afraid. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Let your lovingkindness be upon this community. Fashion our hearts to strive for the way of peace. Strengthen the outreach ministries of this congregation (specific ministries may be named) and all who care for those in need. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

With thanksgiving we remember all who have died in faith and now rest in you. As they placed their hope in you, so strengthen us to trust in your promise of new life. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Receive the prayers of your children, merciful God, and hold us forever in your steadfast love; through Jesus Christ, our holy Wisdom.

Amen.

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July 31, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives. Teach us to love what is worth loving, to reject what is offensive to you, and to treasure what is precious in your sight, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

1Give thanks to the Lord, for the | Lord is good,
  for God’s mercy en- | dures forever.
2Let the redeemed of the | Lord proclaim
  that God redeemed them from the hand | of the foe,
3gathering them in | from the lands;
  from the east and from the west, from the north and | from the south.
4Some wandered in | desert wastes;
  they found no path to a city where | they might dwell.
5They were hun- | gry and thirsty;
  their spirits lan- | guished within them.
6Then in their trouble they cried | to the Lord,
  and you delivered them from | their distress. R
7You led them | on a straight path
  to go to a city where | they might dwell.
8Let them give thanks to you, Lord, for your | steadfast love
  and your wonderful works | for all people.
9For you satisfy the | thirsty soul
  and fill the hungry | with good things.
43Whoever is wise will pon- | der these things,
  and consider well the Lord’s | steadfast love. 

Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Luke 12:13-21

13Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus,] “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Message/Pastor Meggan, Sierra, Mwajuma, Kevin, Giada, and Alexa

Sierra, Mwajuma, Kevin, Giada, and Alexa will be sharing some of the message this morning, but I promised to provide an introduction and conclusion. Perhaps we’ll ask Jason, now in Florida, to narrate the slide show on Sunday School kick-off day in September. Larry gets today off.

The nine of us have been reading and reflecting on two verses from Ephesians Chapter 3 since last September, when we first began preparing for our trip to Minneapolis St. Paul: “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” 

With this verse as the launch, the ELCA Youth Gathering team landed on the theme of Boundless for the Gathering, originally scheduled for summer 2021, with an expected attendance around 30,000. The Gathering was first postponed to 2022 and then cancelled last winter due to Covid and perhaps registration numbers. Our Trinity group decided to go to Minnesota anyway, partially influenced by plane tickets already being purchased. I saw that the Lutherans from the Northeast Iowa Synod were holding an alternative event for their synod on the Univ. of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul during the original dates and asked if we could tag along. A group from Montana and another group from Minnesota also joined the event. In the end, around 220 of us were there for three nights, with our group going early and staying late.

The theme of Boundless is primarily about God, but I want to say a big thanks to the youth and their families for their boundless flexibility and graciousness as our plans altered. Your commitment to this trip was never taken for granted, never. And our experience as a group was richer because of the gifts and personality that each youth brought with them. Our experience was also enriched by partnering with Hope Lutheran, Eagle, who sent three youth and their young disciples director Casey Cross, who all our youth know through Confirmation Co-op. 

Back to Boundless. For those of you who attended camp this summer, the words of Ephesians should sound familiar, because many camps now use the same theme as the ELCA Youth Gathering for their summer bible studies. And it has ended up being a great theme for this year—to ponder the “breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Snippets of our time together will come out as the youth share what we learned about Minneapolis/St. Paul, what we learned about ourselves and our group, and what we learned about God. Perhaps because we had so many interesting and flavorful meals together, the metaphor I keep returning to is that we had a feast of experiences. We truly experienced God’s boundless creation, God’s boundless forgiveness, God’s boundless invitation, and God’s boundless promise. So let’s hear what we learned.

YOUTH REFLECTIONS

What we experienced and what we will continue to share with you all through our storytelling in the weeks and months to come, is what the writer of Ephesians captures. We might ask, the breadth, length, height, and depth of what? I think it’s a metaphor to speak of the wonders of a multi-dimensional God, who is a God of power, rich in mercy, lavish in grace, and rich in wisdom. In 3:19, the author speaks of knowing “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” To know Christ’s love is greater than knowledge itself. 

This is the same Triune God we encountered on the public buses and trains, in the clear warm waters of Lake Bde Maka Ska, in the adrenaline of our food box assembling, in the beauty and stillness of the Cathedral of St. Paul, in the hospitality at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church last Sunday, in our keynote speaker’s stories and messages, in the laughter and fun at nightlife, in the delicious food cooked by people of many different backgrounds, and in our sharing and reflections as a small group each night. Thanks to all of you who helped make this trip possible and thanks be to God, whose boundless love, mercy, power, and wisdom we know and experience each day.

Prayers of Intercession

Trusting in God’s extraordinary love, let us come near to the Holy One in prayer.

A brief silence.

O God, you are wholeness. Where there is division in your church, bring reconciliation and healing. Guide the work of theologians, Sunday school teachers, seminary professors, and all who provide instruction for the building up of your church. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you are the source of all life. Where creation cries out in distress, bring relief and renewal. Bless farmers, ranchers, distributors, and all who provide our food. Nourish the land and all its habitants. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you are wisdom. Where nations and communities yearn for peace, bring justice. Strengthen those who toil for the welfare of others, especially military personnel, police, first responders, and activists, and for the healing of the nations. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you are life. Where your people are overwhelmed with the busy-ness of life, bring encouragement. Accompany all who experience emotional, mental, or physical distress (especially). Renew us at your table of mercy. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you are our treasure. Where scarcity and anxiety pervade your church, bring abundance and vitality. Guide the work of church councils and committees and give them clarity for the work of ministry in this place (specific ministries may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

O God, you are resurrection. We give you thanks for all your saints (especially). Inspire us by their example of faithful living to set our minds on things above and to be rich in love toward you. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Receive the prayers of your children, merciful God, and hold us forever in your steadfast love; through Jesus Christ, our holy Wisdom.

Amen.

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Understanding Homelessness at a Citywide Level – book review

The main characters in Homelessness Is a Housing Problem are not individuals experiencing homelessness; they’re cities. The book’s central question is this: What might explain the substantial regional variation in per capita homeless rates in the United States? The answers may not surprise everyone, but the authors’ route to their conclusions will both inform and inspire.

Gregg Colburn teaches at the University of Washington, where he studies housing policy, housing affordability, and homelessness. Clayton Page Aldern is a data scientist and policy analyst based in Seattle. If those bios make you wonder if this book is full of figures, tables, and endnotes, the answer is a resounding yes. While reading the first chapter, I texted a family member who works in statistics and said I might need her help. As I kept reading, however, I found the writing style very readable. The authors include stories, illustrations, and summary sentences with every argument, and I never grew frustrated or bored.

Read my full review in The Christian Century magazine by clicking HERE.

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Minnesota Day 6

We said goodbye to our companions from Hope Lutheran, who had an earlier flight, and ate breakfast at the Hope Breakfast Bar in downtown St Paul. Then we took a tour of the Wabasha Street Caves.

We took the bus to the Cathedral of St Paul.

We walked over to the state Capitol building. Several of us jumped on the guided tour that took us to the top of the building.

We took the bus back towards St Thomas, stopped for ice cream, filled up water bottles on campus, and headed to the small park near campus (Shadow Falls park along the Mississippi River).

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Minnesota Day Five

Today began with closing worship led by a variety of Boundless participants. We finally saw the video Mwajuma recorded earlier in the week, in which she talked about her own faith. Bishop Kevin of the Northeast Iowa Synod preached and presided. Then we said goodbyes, took a group photo, and headed out for the day.

We headed to Hmongtown Marketplace for shopping and lunch.

Then we went to Como Park (with mini-golf) Como Zoo, Como Conservatory, and Como Town. Everyone seemed to find something they enjoyed.

We came back to the St Thomas neighborhood for a delicious dinner at Mario’s.

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Minnesota Day 4

This was our service day (part of us crashing the Northeast Iowa Synod’s Boundless youth event at the Univ of St Thomas). Part of the day was with The Food Group in New Hope, MN and the afternoon was at Open Door’s community garden in Eagen. More pix of the whole trip later.

Morning with The Food Group

Afternoon with Open Door

Last Night of Large Group

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Minnesota Day 3

Yesterday we went on a 2 and 1/2 hour Grayline bus tour of the Twin Cities. We met the tour bus along the Mississippi River in downtown St Paul and had them drop off us off on Lake Bda Maka Ska in Minneapolis. I know the Twin Cities better than most other cities (topic for another blog post) but I learned so much on this tour. The themes of the tour were water and the former rivalry between the two cities.

Group looking at the Mississippi with part of downtown St Paul in the background.
Minnesota State Capitol
Cathedral of St Paul-the archbishop made sure the dome stood just a bit higher than the capital dome.
One of the many beautiful homes we saw on historic Summit Avenue.
Minnehaha Falls (a place people have visited for centuries, named by the Dakota long before Longfellow wrote the poem that launched his fame)

I haven’t been taking photos at night but our keynote speaker was Aisha Cox, who opened up the Parable of the Good Samaritan and asked us all “What do you want to be known for?”

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Minnesota Days One and Two

In the planning, this trip had many iterations. In the end, we (youth and adults from Trinity, Boise and Hope, Eagle) are joining the ELCA Northeast Iowa Synod’s Boundless event for several days on the University of St Thomas campus in St. Paul. We arrived a day before the official event began. Here are some pix and captions:

Group photo at Midtown Global Market, a contrast to our next stop-the Mall of America
Worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Minneapolis’ Longfellow Neighborhood
Former Luther Heights Bible Camp counselor La’Taya joined us all day, including this excursion along the river.
Lunch at Owamni by the Sioux Chef
Planetarium at the Bell Museum (natural history). There may have been some learning and also some napping.
After listening to our keynote speaker we headed to the Anderson Student Center for Nightlife. Here we are at the end of a large group Clue-like game
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Summer Preaching – 2022

July 2022 Trinity Epistle Pastor’s Column

Dear Friends in Christ,

I love the gems found in the Revised Common Lectionary (our three-year cycle of scripture readings) this summer! Before you read this column, I will have begun a three-week series on Galatians, on which I have also been leading a Monday Zoom Bible Study. The Apostle Paul is fired up, to put it mildly, in this letter and for good reason. I’ve often thought that no one should form a theology based solely on this letter, in large part because of Paul’s anger, and yet it contains a few of my favorite passages in all the letters and one of my favorite scripture passages of all time. I will try to faithfully open these letters and show how they are relevant to our lives of discipleship today. Then we will flip back the pages in our Bibles and have a summer of the prophets, not profits. We began hearing stories about Elijah and Elisha (recorded in 1st and 2nd Kings) in June. On July 17 we will turn to passages from the Minor Prophets (so named because their books are shorter, not because their words are not mighty) including Amos and Hosea. In August we will move to words from Isaiah and finally Jeremiah. The prophets we will hear from this summer lived and worked during the times of the monarchies or kingdoms. Who were these individuals and what was their task? Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel wrote this in his classic The Prophets, “The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism. He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heard expected. His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God. Why do the two need reconciliation? Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.”

I cannot predict exactly how these ancient words will resonate with our community of faith today, but I trust the Holy Spirit to show up in our gatherings, these ancient texts, the current context, adapted rituals, and our open hearts and minds. 

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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Learning Peace

Originally published on tvprays.org

How beautiful upon the mountains
   are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
   who announces salvation,
   who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ (Isaiah 52:7)

The last week of June around 95 youth ages 6-13 participated in the 5th year of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. We have had a few bumps, like so many other organizations, these past few years and I always sweat if we will get enough volunteers, if the lunches will be delivered, if the afternoon guests will appear, and so many other details. We plan and plan and finally execute. As with most things, it is not what we plan for that finally brings the most joy or that we will remember in years to come. It is the surprises, the grace moments in which the Holy Spirit has clearly taken over and we are simply along for the ride. 

This year those times included a moment of repentance and reconciliation between and youth and adult, a family welcomed last minute who brought so many gifts to the week, a spontaneous dance party that no one could resist participating in. I shepherded a group of 12 ten-year-old youth through the week and grew to absolutely love them all. I loved that when they were creating their public service announcements for Media Literacy there was a deep care for all of God’s creation—other human beings and the natural world. I loved that they explored being embodied as our Mindfulness instructor led us through various yoga poses. I loved the way the City of Nampa Forestry staff included absolutely everyone when we planted trees at Stampede Skate Park on a gorgeous and cool morning. I loved that though most of the youth had untangled a human knot many times, they were up for the challenge when our Conflict Resolution teacher kept making the knot bigger. 

A favorite moment was with a girl who made it known she preferred the Play for Peace games over crafts each afternoon. One day I insisted she go color a tile and then drop rubbing alcohol on it. The next thing I knew she was dragging me over to show me her piece of art. Could we all be so willing to try to new things, to go out of our comfort zones, to take risks, big or small? There are so many powerful reminders about the reign of God that we receive when we spend time with children—the ability to make a good friend in just four days, the wonder about so many things, the ability to fully be oneself. Because we are all different, not every kid is able to carry all those traits, but they were on display collectively throughout our time together. 

The week was pure gift for me amidst all the sad, hard, and exhausting things we are living through. As hopeful and uplifting as my time was alongside the 10-year-old group, I also gleaned hope and deep joy witnessing the many adult volunteers. We were curious how so many one-day volunteers would impact the group but they each came so eager to give their time and other adults and youth welcomed their participation eagerly. This was a group of adults who had, beyond the planning team, not spend much time together, but with some clarity about our mission and roles they bonded over shared experiences and watched out for one another. 

I always anticipate those moments in the week when someone’s actions or inactions gets on my nerves and I am asked to practice peace-making, not passivity, but active peace. Even with the anticipation I am annoyed that the Holy Spirit interferes in the week that way. Why can’t I simply help lead the kids’ learning, why do I have to grow too? It does remind me why we are all there. Peace is not something that just happens. It is something we practice. We bumble along. We pick up new tools or insights or perspectives. We get better at it. Together we work towards and for peace. The Holy Spirit woos or beckons the whole community toward a more peaceful world. We get such a small glimpse of that peaceful world during the four days, but it’s a glimpse I return to throughout the year. Where have you had a glimpse of people actively working toward a peaceful community or world? 

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