Jan. 17, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, for the countless blessings and benefits you give. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

First Reading:  1 Samuel 3: 1-20

1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.  2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [11Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”  15Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”  19As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.]

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18

1Lord, you have searched me out;  O Lord, you have known me.
2You know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.

3You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. 

5You encompass me, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

13For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. 

15My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; my days were fashioned before they came to be.
17How deep I find your thoughts, O God! How great is the sum of them!
18If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,[a] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Sermon – Bishop Kristen Kuempel (see full worship service on Youtube)

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

For the body of Christ gathered throughout the world and for all servants of the gospel, that following Jesus, the church lives out its calling every day, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For the well-being of creation, for plants and animals, and for all that God has marvelously made, that we serve as wise stewards of Earth, our home, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For police officers and firefighters, for attorneys and paralegals, for peacekeepers and military personnel, and for the leaders of governments, that they provide protection to all people, especially the most vulnerable, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For those lacking food or shelter, for those who are sick or grieving, and for those who are imprisoned or homebound (especially), that God console all who suffer, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For our neighborhood, for visitors joining us for the first time or returning, and for those absent from our assembly, that all who seek to know God are nourished by word and sacrament, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

In thanksgiving for the saints who have gone before us (especially Antony and Pachomius, renewers of the church), that their lives give us a vision of the gospel in action, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

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

Amen.

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Communications and Christian Ed and Youth

COMMUNICATIONS

As for all of us, the past year has presented the communications team with many challenges and opportunities.

Driving by, you may have noticed that the message board isn’t getting changed quite as often as usual, but it is getting changed thanks to great volunteers. Our website got a really slick makeover this year and we’ve really upped our game with the monthly mailings to all members, since we’re unable to pick them up on Sundays.

One of the most exciting challenge opportunities we’ve had this year was branching into social media and online broadcast via YouTube and Facebook live.

Patrick Kelly, Communication Team Liaison

CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND YOUTH

Multigenerational Sunday School Obviously, the first few months of this year went according to plan, with on-site Sunday School classes which reached out to all ages. Starting at 8:45 Sunday mornings, children and adults gathered with faithful leaders into various age-groups for preschool, grade school, teens and adults. Youth Education leaders were Tammy Torrey, Amanda Hansen, Larry and Kim Mills, Julie Haugen. Pastor Meggan led the adult studies, currently called “Adult Forum.” See below* 

The middle of March our traditional ways went “out the window” and were transformed into other means of teaching. Each younger student received lessons that were mailed via USPS, or Emailed, or on-line. Personal contact was made through phones, computers, or in person— but at a distance. Frolic Curriculum was used for 3-5 year olds, and “Water Washed; Spirit Born” was the curriculum used for the next age group up. These are reusable materials for future years.

In December, in traditional fashion, some of the youth were able to give a unique and fun Christmas Program on-line. It was presented in segments prior to online Wednesday night Holden Advent Services.

A huge thank you goes out to all the teachers who accepted the challenge and made the best of things this difficult year. The main goal was to maintain connections and continue spiritual instruction. 

Adult Forum* After mid-March, Zoom became the mode of shared time together to study, learn, grow and communicate on Sunday mornings @ 8:45 before zoom worship at 10:00am. A variety of spiritual books and relevant articles were read and discussed. In addition to Pr Meggan’s teaching, others filled in for her at times, if needed. 

Compassion Camp Box & Winter Activity Packets New this summer was an at home “vacation Bible school” called “Compassion Camp.” Tammy Torrey assembled and sent out to all the Sunday school children notebooks with Bible lessons and projects, and then activity boxes full of the art supplies for those projects. Each child was assigned an adult mentor to experience a one-on-one fun learning experience and build relationship. There were five lessons to cover within the summer months. By all accounts, it was a huge success and worthwhile. Thank you, Tammy! Likewise, during the first winter month of December, Julie Haugen assembled, delivered or sent out winter (Advent & Christmas) activity packets to all the the Sunday school children. These were to provide fun actives for the kids to work on over holiday break, tying in Biblical teachings. Thank you, Julie! 

Monday Morning Study Individuals who participated in this group met at the church every Monday morning to study a designated book, have discussions, share personal concerns and pray together. Zoom meetings became the new normal after mid-March, just like with Adult Forum. Adults who participate truly value the atmosphere of learning and caring that is present. It is open to any adult and usually led by Pr Meggan. 

Confirmation Co-op Classes (Monthly Gatherings) Confirmation Co-op is a combined Confirmation program with the other Treasure Valley ELCA churches. It is a big help to share this responsibility with other area churches. Not only do the youth (7th – 9th graders) get an opportunity to meet others their age, the leaders can also share ideas and best teaching methods and support one another. Larry Mills and Pr Meggan lead Trinity’s group. This fall Kevin Mills was confirmed, having finished his required lessons. Congratulations to him as he moves forward in his spiritual growth and service. Remaining in the program are Giada, Annmarie, Jason, Diane, and Alexa. 

Teen Book Study Part of the this year Pr Meggan and Young Disciples Minister Casey Cross held a book study for 10th-12th graders once a month in a local coffee shop. Discussion of the book and keeping connections were the goals of this time together. This has continued with the necessary precautions. 

Luther Heights Bible Camp Sadly, but necessarily, all in-person camps were cancelled due to the pandemic. Hopefully, next summer will be the best attended camps! LHBC depends on volunteers for its many needs. Several of the volunteers this year were members of Trinity. Camp Executive Director Kelly Preboski created and offered (upon request and a small fee) what essentially was “Camp in a Box” for any camper who requested one. 

Trivia Night This fun, local annual fundraising event took place on March 7, 2020 at Trinity. The funds raised were split between the two congregations: Trinity Lutheran and Faith Lutheran in Caldwell to help pay for Luther Heights camp scholarships for their youth.

Trinity Youth (College) Scholarship No applicants were received for this $500.00 scholarship, therefore it was not awarded. 

Theology Institute Opportunity New this year was an on-line opportunity for one of our youth to attend the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute out of Augsburg University, Minneapolis. Mwajuma Dusbae was selected to attend this year. She is also the youngest member of Trinity’s Church Council. 

Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids Again, sadly, this camp had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. After the cancelation decision, Director, Deaconess Diane McGeoch made contact with all the former attendees via packets which provided future camp information and coloring pages. For a small fee, she was able to mail out Peace Camp activity boxes later in the fall. It was a beautiful way to keep in touch with those who wish to attend again next summer and bring their friends with them.

Respectfully Submitted, Mary Braudrick / TLC Council representative

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Council President’s Annual Report

Guest Blog Post

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

Mission Statement:  Trinity Lutheran Church is a place to congregate, refresh the faithful, and reach out with Word and service to others through the Holy Gospel.            —December 3, 1978

As my family would say, “Who would have thunk it?”  12 months ago we met as a congregation and voted for nearly $50,000 in property improvements including roof replacement, expansion of our sound system, and refinancing our mortgage.  What grand plans we had for this year!  Fast forward three months and it felt as if the world came to a stop.  Shops were closed, we could no longer meet in person, we couldn’t gather with friends and family, we couldn’t share a meal all due to a pandemic caused by Coronavirus.   Fear of the unknown and uncertainty were a guarantee.  We feared for ourselves, our families and our church family, many who are in the most fragile of health groups.  We had no idea how to do this (insert any “this”), nor how long it would last? 

The first council meeting we had after the state “stay in place” order was so comforting and reassuring.  Our first thoughts were of our congregational members – who needed what, who was connected with whom and how could we create networking to check on each other.  We thought of individual gifts:    Who had extra time, who would benefit from connecting, who was okay on their own with their own support system?    

Our next thoughts were “How can we worship?  What would this look like?  How can we be safe?”  Thanks to all of our congregational members and to Meggan who were willing to “try new things”, we were able to Facebook live and most soon learned to ZOOM  which allowed us to fellowship! ! !  As Bishop Kuempel said, none of our pastoral leaders signed up to be televangelists but we learned and adapted.  Small groups resumed through zoom, small family groups adopted one another, we even figured out how to celebrate communion in our homes.  During the summer and fall months, we even figured out how to safely hold in person outdoor worship and small outdoor gatherings.  

Last, but not least, we looked at options for financial stability during this tenuous time.  We put projects on hold-temporarily.  Thanks to the Cares Act and the lead of Treasurer, Lloyd Keller we made a commitment to keep our small staff employed and paid.  We looked for other ways to reach out to congregational members to continue their donations and offering – we mailed envelopes to homes, we added on-line giving to our website as well as Pay Pal,  we had drop off noisy offerings and your giving continued.  We applied for and received several grants which have allowed us to continue in our missional endeavors.   Finally, in December the refinancing happened, the speaker system was completed and the roof was scheduled for repair and replacement. Our Cares Act loan was forgiven and we ended December stronger financially than most years prior. 

This is how our goals during the pandemic were formed and supported.  To say things were uncertain, to say we were concerned, to say we were “in it together” was an understatement but our faith and commitment were strong.  

As things settled in and we knew this would not be a short term issue, we looked forward to a new normal.  Our Cluster developed it’s own COVID task force which I was honored to participate in.  Again, the utmost concern for this group was safety for all members when and if we could reconvene in person.  They helped adapt the synod guidelines for each of our unique buildings, staff and space.  Trinity brought these back and formed their our own COVID Task force – I thank these folks for their ongoing commitment of implementing our current guidelines, Jeff Henderson, Sharon Jones, Randy Miller and Steve Ward­­­­­­­­.

Fast forward to now.  We have just completed the season of Advent and Epiphany where we get to look forward. The vaccine is just starting to be administered in our community but we know it will be several more months before it will be available to everyone.  Even then, many will choose to wait for herd immunity.  We will continue to watch the numbers and exhibit caution, respect and consideration for those around us.  As for Trinity, we remain committed to each other, to our mission and to our future.  I am thankful for our Cluster and Synod who banded together in ways we could have never dreamed to help us through this time with online worship, ideas and expertise and community.  I am thankful for this incredible and committed Council.  We also owe Meggan a gratitude for her resilience, dedication, teaching, patience and ministry to our congregation.  Without her, this could have been a very different year.  Last, but not least, I am grateful for each of you, your gifts, your flexibility, and your community.  We know that “church” does not mean a building or location.  It has been a privilege to serve you.  

Kim Mills, Congregational Council President

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Pastor’s Annual Report

Today we sent our our annual report packets to our congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa. There is a lot to read there. I will be distributing the reports daily here on my blog, encouraging members to read a report or two each day in preparation for our annual meeting, Jan. 31. I will begin with my own report and follow it with those from various ministry teams/committees/task forces.

 “’Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37). “Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13: 34).

We have experienced so much this year as a congregation, as individuals, and as members of society. Council President Kim Mills did a masterful job recounting the year and the annual report packet includes many stories of teams, task forces, and staff pivoting and adapting. 

Why, after this year, are we still a healthy congregation with strong connections? One reason we weathered the year well is because, though we are most certainly grounded in the communal worship experience, meaning it is what we always return to, it was never the only piece of our identity or mission. Worship, particularly the pillars of Word and Sacrament, nourish us for a life of discipleship beyond that hour or so on Sunday morning. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our words and actions, growing in relationship with one another, God, and our neighbors, living out our faith in our daily lives are all components that were part of our life of faith before the pandemic. So, when worship needed to shift significantly, we had other totems. 

Another reason our annual report is full of mission and ministry at the end of 2020 is because we are guided by neighbor love, described in the verses from Luke and John above. Neighbor love is why we stopped in-person worship in our building in March. Neighbor love is why we put practices into place so we could safely gather in smaller groups to continue ministries. Neighbor love is why you reached out with notecards, phone calls, and driveway visits. Neighbor love is why members of Trinity helped our partner ministries, Trinity Community Gardens and Trinity New Hope affordable housing, pivot and thrive, feeding and housing those in need. 

Leading us through all of this are so many remarkable individuals. How did Kim Mills, a scientist and healthcare professional with a huge heart for our congregation, end up as our president, elected at the February council meeting? The Holy Spirit. Thank you, Kim, for your servant leadership. One of our council’s goals was financial stability. Lloyd Kellar secured a PPP Loan and refinanced the mortgage, this despite the credit union lobby closing periodically because of COVID and loan officers being diagnosed with COVID. Thanks Lloyd. The trials Lloyd faced were matched only by your generosity in financial giving! A second council goal was worship weekly. Thanks to our three accompanists, Trish, Karissa, and Wendy who did a lot of adapting, to schedule changes in the beginning and later to requests for various recordings. All three of them were agreeable and did everything in their power to help us keep singing, praying, and worshiping God. Thanks to Bob Cola who made sure the council’s third goal of communication and connectedness was a reality each and every week. Finally, thank you to the entire church council for extra meetings, lots of adapting, and always being open when I asked what the third, fourth, of fifth option was.

“10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’ 11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. 13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Jeremiah 31: 10-13

We had moments of return during 2020. I remember the deep joy and gladness when so many of us gathered on the church lawn for outdoor worship in August, September and October. We are, as the virus has reminded us daily, embodied creatures and we are meant to be in embodied community. This passage from Jeremiah reminds us that people of faith have been scattered before. God is faithful. We will worship and recreate and serve the Nampa community in large groups again. It is not going to happen quickly. I do not have a clear vision for 2021 but I do have hope. My hope is grounded in the relationships that make up this congregation. More important, my hope is grounded in a God who also experienced real embodiment and whose relationship with and love for creation is everlasting. That is more than enough to sustain us.

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Jan. 10, 2020 Baptism of our Lord

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading:  Genesis 1: 1-5

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Psalm:  Psalm 29

1Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders;  the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor. 

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6the Lord makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7The voice of the Lord bursts forth in  lightning flashes.
8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 

9The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare.  And in the temple of the Lord all arecrying, “Glory!” 

10The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forevermore.

11O Lord, give strength to your people;

Second Reading: Acts 19: 1-7

1While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—7altogether there were about twelve of them.

Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared[a] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with[b] water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”

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

John August Swanson’s The River

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

As much as the gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about Jesus’ birth, scripture tells us little about Jesus’ upbringing and formation. We know he was brought up in the faith by Jewish parents. According to Luke, Jesus was teaching in the temple at age 12. But none of those stories fill us in on Jesus’ awareness of his identity. Did he know he was the Messiah? Did Mary tell him he was the son of God? Scripture keeps that a secret. It does not matter enough to make it onto the pages.

What did get recorded in all four gospels is Jesus’ baptism. In today’s telling of that event, there are few details about Jesus himself, many more about his cousin John—clothing, diet, words coming out of his mouth. No such details are given about Jesus. That lack of information helps shine the spotlight on what we are told; that he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” Whether or not Jesus knew his identity before this moment, we’ll never know. But Jesus could have no doubt now. He is the Son of God. What’s more, he is Beloved.

The remainder of the Gospel is the story of Jesus and what God did through him. After the baptism there is no going back, no containing God. One scholar is famous for saying that after the baptism, God through Jesus is loose in the world. Full of God’s Spirit, Jesus will finish the story with his own crucifixion when the temple is torn apart. 

What difference does the story of Jesus’ baptism make after the events that unfolded this week? I can speak most clearly for myself. On Wednesday afternoon, as I watched the new from Washington D.C. unfold, I felt anger and sadness. I may not have a laundry list of feelings, but I felt anger and sadness deep in the core of my being. Trinity members shared feelings ranging from surprise, embarrassment for our country, and a knot in the stomach that would not go away. 

If you think Wednesday’s events were isolated, a one-off, please begin to see them in the context of 2020 (pause), if not our country’s entire history (pause). What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ today, next week, this year?

Our identity as followers of Jesus is made possible through Jesus himself and the gift of baptism into the Holy Spirit. At birth we are born into a life on earth; in Baptism we are adopted into a life in the family of God. In neither birth do we take the initiative. Even when an adult comes to the baptismal font, it is God who does the acting. We never asked our parents to be our personal parents. We never ask God to be our personal god. In both cases we can turn away from the relationship, but the relationship stands. Even if we turn our backs on it, even if we leave God, God waits for us to come back. 

What precisely does it mean to follow Jesus, to live a life of discipleship? There have always been different understandings and different paths within the Christian family, but the contrasts were on full display this week.

When the mob breached the Capitol and violently stormed the Senate chamber Wednesday afternoon, one insurrectionist could be seen carrying a white flag with a cross in the corner: the “Christian flag.” And after the mob took over the Capitol, some demonstrators unfurled a massive banner outside. It read “Jesus 2020.” 

This is not the Christianity that I signed up for and I believe whole-heartedly that it is part of our baptismal identity, our walk as disciples to denounce these actions.

The events of Wednesday also served as a reminder that we must continue to call out and denounce the white supremacy that is still so seeped into our national fabric. An interfaith prayer group gathered outside Luther Place Memorial Church in D.C. early Wednesday morning. Near the end of the two-hour service, a gaggle of men adorned in patriotic clothing and “Make America Great Again” hats approached. One walked into the middle of the circle, pretended to fall, and laid on the ground while another man knelt on his neck—an apparent attempt to mock the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. There is much to renounce and there is so much work to be done.

A colleague asked me during a continuing ed event what we all thought was at the heart of our call as congregational pastors. I do not remember how others responded, but I know that I said “hope—my job is to bring hope.” My hope is rooted in the story of Jesus found in the gospels. 

I admire the Humanists and Agnostics and Atheists in my life. If people are willing to come together to work on housing, hunger, and human rights, I will meet them at any table, and I know so many members of Trinity Lutheran who will do the same. 

But during weeks like this one, I depend on the deep well of my faith, which includes the promises made in my baptism. Despite everything this week, I have hope, not fleeting hope, but deep and abiding hope. I have hope because of those pastors and faith leaders who prayed for peace for several hours at Luther Place. 

Among them was Bishop Leila Ortiz of the ELCA Metro D.C. Synod, who said, “My hope and my mission is to highlight the humanity and the belovedness of all of God’s creation, and this particular violence—this particular permission to be violent—is so profoundly disturbing and antichrist.”

Ortiz was speaking, in a very contextual way, about the promises each of us makes in the Affirmation of Baptism. This week especially I have heard echoing in my mind the final three promises: to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

In other words, we are called not only to have hope but to be and bring forward hope through our words and actions. We do this through denouncing evil when we see it, including when people do evil while bearing the name Christian. We are vessels of hope when we truly advocate for people seen as less-then through who we vote for…how we spend our dollars, and how we use our voices. 

Naïve as it may be, I continue to have hope in government. I have hope because despite the forces pushing against them, civil servants across the country worked to ensure a safe and fair election. Their dedication to their vocations gives me hope and I have hope because our election system, though certainly imperfect, is still working. 

I have hope because various states and local municipalities across this country continue to experiment with policies, laws, and funding to correct past injustices and create a path for abundant life for all people. There are loopholes and bad laws and much work to be done, but we can learn from state and local trials.

I have hope because of teachers. So much has been done to put down education as something that makes me an unfeeling elitist instead of an informed citizen. Despite every criticism and funding cut, teachers seem committed as ever to ensure that every child receives an education and becomes a critical thinker.

I have hope because, as awful as Wednesday’s events were, as difficult as the last year was, many people are decrying the assault on the nation’s capital as well as those who have tried to stop the peaceful transition of power, always something we could simply trust in before. There is, I believe, a growing curiosity about how in the world we arrived at this moment. There is curiosity about those who see the world differently than you do. If that curiosity can be paired with love, then our hope will grow. As Bishop Ortiz said, “My hope and my mission is to highlight the humanity and the belovedness of all of God’s creation.” None of the United States citizens who stormed the capital truly knew their belovedness. Of that, I am sure. But that can change.

As followers of Jesus, our hope is most strongly rooted in the promises of baptism, the promises made by God, for new life with Jesus Christ, for the presence of the Holy Spirit, for the belovedness of all God’s creation. Hope is ours today because the God we worship is a God of love and mercy and also proximity. God is not a puppeteer far off in some distant heaven. The Holy Spirit is with us today.

The Spirit is here among us—in relationship with us and with all creation. God is not done with any of us. More important, God’s love is bigger than all of us. We must have hope today and tomorrow and next week and month. It is our calling, our identity and it is the only thing that can truly root out violence and hate and finally, someday, bring lasting peace and abundant life for all of creation. 

References:

Video Message from Bishop Leila Ortiz

Religion News Article, “As Chaos hits Capital, two forms of faith on display.”

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

For the body of Christ gathered throughout the world and for all servants of the gospel, that following Jesus, the church lives out its calling every day, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For the well-being of creation, for plants and animals, and for all that God has marvelously made, that we serve as wise stewards of Earth, our home, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For police officers and firefighters, for attorneys and paralegals, for peacekeepers and military personnel, and for the leaders of governments, that they provide protection to all people, especially the most vulnerable, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For those lacking food or shelter, for those who are sick or grieving, and for those who are imprisoned or homebound (especially), that God console all who suffer, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For our neighborhood, for visitors joining us for the first time or returning, and for those absent from our assembly, that all who seek to know God are nourished by word and sacrament, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

In thanksgiving for the saints who have gone before us (especially Antony and Pachomius, renewers of the church), that their lives give us a vision of the gospel in action, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

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

Amen.

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Jan. 3, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading:  Jeremiah 31: 7-14

7Thus says the Lord:  Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.” 8See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. 10Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.” 11For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. 13Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the Lord.

Psalm:  Psalm 147: 12-20

12Worship the Lord, O Jerusalem;  praise your God, O Zion,
3who has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blessed your children within you.
14God has established peace on your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
15God sends out a command to the earth, a word that runs very swiftly. 
16God gives snow like wool, scattering frost like ashes.
17God scatters hail like bread crumbs. Who can stand against God’s cold?

18The Lord sends forth the word and melts them; the wind blows, and the waters flow.
19God declares the word to Jacob, statutes and judgments to Israel.

20The Lord has not done so to any other nation; they do not know God’s judgments. Hallelujah!

Second Reading: Epheisans 1: 3-14

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[b]

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,[a] and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,[b] full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,[c] who is close to the Father’s heart,[d] who has made him known.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

It is true that our church year began with the season of Advent, waiting for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem and waiting also for Jesus to return. But I think it is fair to say that we are all ready to say goodbye to the calendar year of 2020. Good riddance! You, the community of Trinity Lutheran, heard me lean into poetry a lot during 2020, during sermons, in devotions I wrote for tvprays.org, even sometimes in business meetings. Plenty of stories, fiction and nonfiction, will be written about 2020, but while we were living that narrative, poetry seemed to be a better fit. 

While my father was in residential Hospice in December and following his death, my mom and I listened to a lot of poetry put the music. Mom had turned to the John Prine Pandora Station in 2020, which included his poetry, along with that of John Denver, Willy Nelsen, and Fleetwood Mac. The lyrics washed over us in ways that are hard to explain but they certainly captured our feelings for fleeting moments. Of course, those musicians are storytellers, but their form has bursts and moments of silence instead of the arc of a novel or narrative history or short stories.

All of that is my introduction to John’s prologue to his gospel. Unlike Luke and Matthew with their casts of characters and tension and resolution, the prologue is poetry. John captures our attention with his words and phrases and images. I think like so many big things (years such as 2020, feelings like grief, desperation or exhilaration) John thought, “other people like Matthew and Luke have written about the birth of Jesus in story form, but I am going to do something different.”

John’s prologue does not allow us, and I’m certainly including myself, to be distracted by the shepherds, the magi, the angels, Mary and Joseph. We don’t get to ask questions like, why did those people show up? Why did God in Jesus appear to them first? Why was there no room for baby Jesus in the inn? All of those wonderful and, I would argue elsewhere, details are pruned out of the story and all we have left is God taking on human flesh.

We are given just a moment, as long as it takes to read the prologue, to wonder at God coming and living on earth as a human being. What kind of God does that? What does God in human flesh do here on earth? Are we supposed to be afraid? 

The first words of the prologue are “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” These words are meant to remind the early readers of John’s gospel and us of the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning” and the way God used words to create.  So, it appears that though God being born in human form was something new, Jesus was with God the creator from the beginning.

It is no mistake that the symbol of John the gospel writer is the eagle. John’s Christmas story begins in the vaulted heavens, though it does not end there. Not only did the Word create life and light from heavenly splendor, but the eagle suddenly dives toward the ground. “Mission Control, the Eagle has landed.” But this is not a gentle glide like present-day space shuttles. In this symphony the violins give way to the sudden thud of the bass drum. Heaven crashes to earth with the startling new: “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

And within a few words and phrases we learn more about God’s character. This is a God who brings life and light into the world. The prologue continues, “to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” In other words, this is a God who is all for adoption. God’s life and light are available to all people.

Further into the prologue, John writes, “From [Jesus’] fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” God has always wanted abundant life for the creation. God gave laws for order and to live abundant life together in community, but something new is happening with the incarnation, with Jesus. God’s grace and mercy will take on a new form. 

All the Christmas Eve and Epiphany characters may be missing from John’s prologue, but even John the gospel writer cannot erase John the baptizer or witness. In verses 15 we read, “(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 

Basking in the love and comfort of Christmas, of the incarnation, of Immanuel, we might be wondering, how do we respond to the life and light received through Jesus? John the Baptist shows us the way. We testify to Jesus. We witness. In Jesus, we have a way to know God and to tell others about the God we worship.

We cannot witness what we do not really know or understand. My nephew Joe joined my mom and I in Mesa on 28th. Joe teaches math at a community college in California. He is whip smart about so much and to listen to him talk is to be reminded of all the things I have no authority witnessing or pointing to, most especially mathematical equations. I am so grateful for his gifts and the way he uses them to better the world.

Thanks be to God that anyone can witness to Jesus, though even that takes practice and a bit of training. Following the example of John, the Baptist and witnessing to the Jesus we read about in the gospels is a far different task than witnessing to Christian values espoused by popular American Civic religion. So, how do we get to know this Jesus we are to point to, to witness?

This being the first Sunday in the new year, many of us might be creating resolutions, thinking about how we will live into the brand-new year. I am going to make a strong suggestion that one of all of our resolutions is not to read more scripture, maybe a worthy endeavor but a little to broad. Read Mark’s Gospel. It is the shortest gospel and it is the one we will spend the most time in as a congregation. Read it during these dreary winter pandemic days. Or read it as part of your journey in Lent. Or save it for a camping trip next summer. But read the Gospel of Mark straight through and reflect on the Jesus you meet in those pages.

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

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

In gratitude for the Incarnation, for the Word become flesh, we now try to gift others with God’s saving love tangibly expressed.  Mother Theresa of Calcutta said, “we believe God loves the world through us.  Just as he sent Jesus to be his love, his presence in the world, so today he is sending us.”  

We may not be called to embody such love for the poor and dying in the streets of Calcutta, but each of us in our own way are called to embody God’s love in some way to neighbors near and far.  We who receive Christ become children of God, bearing witness to the Light who comes with grace for all people.  Like luminaries we are illumined from within by the presence of Christ.  

A second sort of resolution for 2021 as people of faith might be to reflect on all the bright spots of 2020. It was a remarkable exercise to read Christmas letters in one sitting and hear different friends and family members lament parts of the past year but also lift up what we might call blessings or lessons. We believe that God walks with us through dark valleys and that the Holy Spirit transforms us in those moments. 

For all the pain and suffering we witnessed in 2020, let us learn from the year. What do you want to remember and maintain? Small joys with family? New relationships with your neighbors? A deeper awareness of our global connectedness? Supporting local restaurants? Seeing those who grow and distribute food as essential?  Don’t let January pass by before jotting down what you want to remember from 2020. And let those lessons shape the love you bear in 2021. Loving one another with the love we first received from God, we declare, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Prayers of Intercession

Joining our voices with the song of the angels, let us pray for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

Redeeming God, you gather together your people from the farthest parts of the earth. Protect your church from stumbling. Let it not be overcome by sorrow, division, or despair. Make us radiant with goodness, that we might live always to the praise of your glory. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

You bring together heaven and earth. All creation testifies to your splendor. Hold the ecosystems of this earth in delicate balance, from coastlands to farmlands, forests to wetlands, deserts to rainforests. Show us new ways to live in harmony with the world around us. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

You overflow with grace upon grace. Expand the imaginations of those who serve in positions of authority. Open their hearts to the needs of their nations and communities. Protect all those in harm’s way and those risking danger for the sake of others. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

You bring consolation to those who weep. Embrace those who feel far-off, excluded, or defeated. Accompany those living with chronic and invisible illness. Sustain the weak and weary. Refresh those who labor under the weight of pain or sickness (especially). Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

You come to us in the beauty of darkness and of light. Bring justice and reconciliation to communities divided by oppressions and misuse of power. Guide us to speak holy words of advocacy and truth. Help us to honor your image in one another. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

You turn our mourning into joy. We give thanks for those who have died in faith (especially). With all the saints, give us our inheritance in Christ. In the fullness of time, gather us all together in your mercy. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of mercy, come quickly to us with grace upon grace as we lift these and all our prayers to you, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Dec. 20, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

1Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
4But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

Psalm: Luke 1:46b-55

46bMy soul proclaims the greatness | of the Lord,
47my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior,
48for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your | lowly servant.
From this day all generations will | call me blessed:
49you, the Almighty, have done great | things for me
  and holy | is your name.
50You have mercy on | those who fear you,
from generation to | generation. R
51You have shown strength | with your arm
  and scattered the proud in | their conceit,
52casting down the mighty | from their thrones
and lifting | up the lowly.
53You have filled the hungry | with good things
  and sent the rich | away empty.
54You have come to the aid of your | servant Israel,
to remember the prom- | ise of mercy,
55the promise made | to our forebears,
  to Abraham and his chil- | dren forever. R

Second Reading: Romans 16:25-27

Paul closes his letter to the Romans by praising God because, in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God has revealed the promised, divine plan of salvation for all humanity. Paul proclaims this gospel of Christ in order to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations.25Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—27to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

In this annunciation, Luke makes clear that God comes with good news for ordinary people from little known places. This king will not be born to royalty in a palace, but to common folk in a stall. Here Luke highlights the role of the Spirit, a special emphasis in this gospel.26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Gospel Reading and Sermon from Northwest Intermountain Synod Bishop Kristen Kuempel:

Prayers of Intercession

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

God of power and might, fulfill your promise and come quickly to this weary world. Hear our prayers for everyone in need.

Gracious God, all generations call you blessed. In this holy season we pray for our neighbors of other denominations and faiths (Nearby churches, mosques, temples, and synagogues may be named). Inspire the faith of their people. Cultivate understanding among us and strengthen us in love and service to our community. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Creator God, you scatter the proud. Everything we have belongs first to you. Bless and protect the seas, mountains, plains, forests, skies, and soils that surround us. Give us humility as we tend them. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Righteous God, you humble the powerful and lift up the lowly. We pray for the leaders of all nations, that they amplify the voices of people in need. Guide all people entrusted with leadership, to create societies in which everyone can flourish. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Compassionate God, you fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. Nourish those who lack access to adequate food and nutrition. Bless the work of advocates, community organizers, and food pantries. Encourage others to provide for their neighbors in need. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Healing God, you pour out mercy to all who cry out to you. Surround everyone in need of healing in body, mind, or spirit with your tender presence (especially). Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Eternal God, you are faithful to the promises you made to our forebears. We give thanks for the ministry of Katharina von Bora Luther and other ancestors who organized, planned, dreamed, encouraged, and reached out as they served you. We give thanks for the bold leadership of female leaders in our own time. Inspire others with their steadfast witness. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Draw near to us, O God, and receive our prayers for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.

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Affordable Housing in 2020

If any of my blog followers are looking for a year-end giving opportunity, here is one. Trinity New Hope affordable housing is in the middle of a statewide online financial campaign (Avenues for Hope) for various nonprofits that are addressing affordable housing and homelessness. You can give by following this LINK. Read on to learn about our history and goals for the 2020 campaign.


On April 30, 2015 Trinity New Hope acquired 16 3-bedroom 2-bathroom single-family homes built in the mid-1990’s with the goal to provide clean and affordable housing for families in Nampa, Idaho. The Board of Directors wanted to provide help and hope for those in need by offering safe, clean homes in which to live and by being willing to take chances on prospective residents who may have faced job, health, and housing challenges, including homelessness.

In the past five years, Trinity New Hope, Inc. has been run by a dedicated volunteer board of directors, a part-time property manager, and a part-time maintenance staff member. As a team, Trinity New Hope, Inc. has provided resources for our residents and has diligently raised funds and reinvested into property improvements. Since Trinity New Hope, Inc. acquired these homes, we have been able to replace all roofs, gutters, windows, and siding. We have remodeled the majority of the interiors. Landscaping has been improved, a new playground has been added, and a pergola built. Thanks to donors who gave during past Avenues for Hope campaigns, we have resurfaced most of the bathtubs, replaced HVAC systems, professionally cleaned the duct work in every unit, and replaced refrigerators, stoves, and carpet in several homes. We have tried to be good stewards of these homes and have made great progress in improving them for our residents.

Despite making so many physical improvements to the properties, we are most proud of the differences we have made in the lives of our residents. In the past five years, we have been able to help 20 families move from homelessness into a single-family home. We have provided emergency rental assistance to 3 families for two months each due to short-term financial hardships. We have donated appliances and furniture to 10 families. We have given cleaning supplies and shared holiday gifts with nearly 50 families.

At Trinity New Hope, we are proud to provide high-quality affordable housing and to be able to make a difference in the lives of our residents. This year our goal is to raise $20,000 (with at least 108 unique donors) to help improve our homes and to build a new maintenance shed.

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Dec. 13, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Isaiah 61:1-11

61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

4They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; 6but you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. 7Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. 8For I the Lordlove justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.9Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.

10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Psalm 126

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

3The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

4Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

5May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

6Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

12But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you;13esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.15See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.

23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.25Beloved, pray for us. 26Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

John 1:6-28

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

15(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. 24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Sermon by Pastor Meggan Manlove

Advent is a church season of repentance and hope. It is also about waiting, a word that has taken on new meaning for me this particular year. On December 3 my mom called to tell me my 94-year-old dad had been taken by the ambulance to the hospital with sepsis pneumonia. By the time I started writing this sermon, dad was on Hospice and we were waiting. There has been so much waiting this year—for answers about COVID19, for guidance on how to live safely with the coronavirus, waiting for the election to be over, now waiting for the vaccine to be distributed, waiting for a peaceful transition of power, waiting for the new normal. 

And we are waiting, this Advent, as we always do for Immanuel to be born, to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. We are waiting simultaneously for Jesus to come again. The Old Testament prophets are big characters in the Advent journey of waiting and repentance and hope. But the star character of Advent is John, who we hear from today. He is primarily a witness; he points to something not himself.

John is, in fact, emphatic about the fact that he is not the Messiah, not the Savior. He has come to bear witness to one greater than him. I love that about John. So many people, so many businesses, even churches seem to either directly or indirectly claim to be the one, to be the person or institution which will save us. Saving us looks like whatever they have to offer—power, security, wealth, glamour, identity, belonging, being part of a protected or superior group.

And so, it is counter-cultural to say, I am not the messiah, but I will point you to the one who is. John’s witness transcends all of time as he bears witness to the light that has come into a darkened world: “[John] came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John’s role as witness and Jesus’ role as Messiah are inseparable.

Again, John begins identifying himself by what he is not. He is not the Messiah. John identifies himself as the prophetic voice of one like Isaiah. In the sixth century before Christ, Isaiah announced the return of God’s people from their years of captivity in Babylon: “I am the voice of one crying out “in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.”  

John’s role is to make straight the way for the one who comes as Messiah. John does this through his identity in the role given him by God. He is simply the witness to the one whom God has sent.

John was always the primary witness, the one pointing to the true Messiah, the true Savior, the one who can actually bring healing and wholeness, yes for the Israelites, but as we will read later in this gospel, for the entire world. John’s vocation or calling to be a witness had me reflecting on one of Trinity Lutheran’s guiding principles: witness your faith through actions and words. 

And this reminded me of the ongoing discussion among my colleagues about what has been and should be emphasized in our congregations—right belief or right action. I think the question is unhelpful because both are important. What we believe about God, the cosmos, ourselves, one another, abundant life, all shape our actions. The reverse is also true: new habits, new practices, new actions can impact what we believe. 

If I believe that I am scum of the earth, a worthless sole, unloved, unwanted, that will impact my actions. If I believe I am God’s gift to the universe, entitled to riches and prosperity and that only my life matters, that will impact my actions. If I believe that God and other humans love me for simply who I am, with no regard for my looks, productivity, or skills, just Meggan Hannah, then that will also impact my actions. I am free to love as I have been loved.

And if I spend time with people who are different than me, that will change my perspective. If I travel to other parts of the world with my feet or by reading or watching films, my beliefs and worldview could transform. If I am beloved by my neighbors, if my community loves me through daily acts of deep kindness, that will influence what I believe about humans, myself, and maybe even God.

In a very real way, the relationship between beliefs and actions was on display in Idaho this past week, garnering national news. The Anne Frank memorial, part of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, was vandalized. And it was not random words that were plastered on the memorial; it was swastikas. 

Why? Why did the perpetrators believe this was a good thing to do? What beliefs shaped this action? What love, compassion, empathy is missing in their lives? Whose actions are they following and modeling? Was this act of hatred and vandalism going to save Idaho from something? What is their understanding of salvation or healing? (pause) And the church needs to ask, in the words of one of our Confessions of Sin, what work have we left undone? What beliefs or actions have we held that permitted whatever this was to be fostered, for the people to think their actions were helpful?

John was pointing to the one true Savior, the one true healer. And in his pointing and witnessing he used both words and actions. Words and actions both matter; it’s never either or, but instead both/and. They are all part of what it means to be a witness. 

John is the first person in the gospel to bear witness and confess that Jesus is “the Son of God.” Many who heard John witness to the Messiah offer their highest commendation of his God-given role: “John performed no sign, but everything he said about [Jesus] was true” (10:41). His role was later complete as the gospel writer offers the final comment on John: “And many believed in him [across the Jordan]” (10:42).

As people of faith, we have a unique opportunity to identify the role that all persons of faith are called to by God. Each one of has heard the words of this text and, as important, experienced God’s love. We know the importance of John’s witness to Jesus. And, like John, God commissions us to bear witness to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the one who has come in the flesh, the one who is here with us, and the one who will come again in his reign as Lord of all. 

What does it mean to testify to Jesus, the light, the savior and healer? Do we imagine ourselves as witnesses to the light? Do we think of ourselves as witnesses to the light which shines in the darkness?

Into the bleakness of winter will soon come the light of the world. We are called to testify, to witness to that light, to Jesus the Word made flesh. That is the gift of that name, the Word made flesh. Jesus is God’s Word and action in one being. We can point to the light of God’s presence in so many ways. Point to the light of Christ shing into the shadows of our human brokenness, bringing good news to the oppressed, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and releasing those imprisoned to freedom.

John the Witness reminds us of the importance of pointing to even the tiniest light and saying “Look, behold, the Lamb of God!” This Advent let us see light when there seems to be none and then let us point to that light, the light of Jesus. Like John, we can point to Jesus and say “Look!” so that all might know God’s love and mercy and peace. 

Prayers of Intercession

God of power and might, shine your radiance and come quickly to this weary world. Hear our prayers for everyone in need.

A brief silence.

God of preachers and messengers, you have entrusted your church with the work of proclaiming good news. Strengthen the witness of bishops, pastors, deacons, church musicians, lay leaders, and all people who contribute their prayers and talents to public worship (the congregation’s worship leaders may be named). Embed your word in their hearts. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of every living creature, you announce the year of your favor for all of creation. Extend your kindness and relief to endangered animals and plants. Strengthen the human beings who rely on the rhythms of nature to make their living. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of all peoples and nations, you plant us as your oaks of righteousness and ask us to care for one another. Be present with the leaders of every nation as they govern. Give them a spirit of righteousness, that your goodness and mercy is revealed through their actions. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of exiles and wanderers, you repair what was once destroyed. We pray for people who have been displaced from their homes by fire, flood, earthquake, or storm (survivors of recent natural disasters may be named). Support the work of Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, and all disaster relief organizations in their recovery efforts. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of the powerful and helpless, you clothe us with strength when our spirits are weak and weary. Bestow your spirit upon this congregation and empower us to comfort the people who turn to us in times of need. Make your church a place of refuge and healing. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of sinners and saints, you offer joy even in the midst of our grief. We are grateful for the beloved, imperfect people whose lives testified to your radiant love (especially Lucy, martyr of the church). Anoint all who mourn with the oil of gladness. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Draw near to us, O God, and receive our prayers for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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Nov. 29, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins, and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Isaiah 64:1-9

64 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
    so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
2 [a] as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
    no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
    those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
    because you hid yourself we transgressed.[b]
We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
    or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have delivered[c] us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
    and do not remember iniquity forever.
    Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm 80:1-7

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn[a] of our neighbors;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

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

I give thanks to my[a] God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of[b] Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:24-37

24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light,
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
    and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert;[b] for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Sermon – Guest Preacher Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche

Prayers of Intercession

God of power and might, tear open the heavens and come quickly to this weary world. Hear our prayers for everyone in need.

A brief silence.

We pray for the ministry we share in Christ’s name. Open our hearts to your call for justice, peace, and healing. Attune us to the needs of the world as you draw near. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

We pray for this planet in need of restoration: for devastated habitats, polluted waters, thawing ice, blazing fires, swelling floods, and long-lasting droughts. Renew the face of the earth and our relationship to it. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

We pray for all people who care for others in our community and around the world. Fill them with compassion and the power to respond with justice for those who are oppressed, with welcome for those who are excluded, and with relief for those who suffer. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

We pray for people who are in crisis as the seasons change: for those without homes facing severe weather, for those who are unemployed or underemployed, and for those in poverty or facing food insecurity. (Local feeding or housing ministries may be named). Relieve their burdens, sustain their bodies, and ease their minds. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

We pray for the people in our families and congregation who live with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, addiction, and other invisible illnesses (especially). Ease their suffering and support them when they struggle. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

We give thanks for the lives and witness of those who died while waiting for justice, peace, or healing, those whose names we know and those whose names are known only to you. Sustain all who still yearn for the completion of your redeeming work. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Draw near to us, O God, and receive our prayers for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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