Holy God, we give thanks for this day of grace and for gathering us from different corners of this city to do the work you have put before us. Before we begin this holy work, we pray for your mercy.
Forgive us, for self-centered living and failing to walk with humility and gentleness, for longing to have what is not ours, for an unwillingness to see your image in others.
The COVID pandemic has shown us the best of humanity: health care professionals adapting treatments, scientists creating vaccines, neighbors caring for neighbors. The pandemic has also revealed the gaps and inequities in our society. We lament the gaps between the rich and poor, the advantaged and marginalized, which have been revealed. Forgive us for our parts in in this inequity, for the work we have left undone.
Tonight, we lift before you all who govern. May those who hold power understand that it is a trust from you to be used, not for personal glory or profit, but for the service of the people. Drive from us cynicism, selfishness, and corruption; grant in your mercy just and honest government; and give us grace to live together in unity and peace.
Guide our elected leaders in their discernment during this meeting. Help them to imagine what is still possible. Give them creativity in their labors. Grant them courage, patience, and vision. And strengthen all of us in our vocations of service to others.
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.
34Peter began to speak to [the people]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1Give thanks to the Lord, for the | Lord is good; God’s mercy en- | dures forever. 2Let Israel | now declare, “God’s mercy en- | dures forever.” 14The Lord is my strength | and my song, and has become | my salvation. 15Shouts of rejoicing and salvation echo in the tents | of the righteous: “The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly! 16The right hand of the Lord| is exalted! The right hand of the | Lord acts valiantly!” 17I shall not | die, but live, and declare the works | of the Lord. 18The Lord indeed pun- | ished me sorely, but did not hand me o- | ver to death. 19Open for me the | gates of righteousness; I will enter them and give thanks | to the Lord. 20“This is the gate | of the Lord; here the righ- | teous may enter.” 21I give thanks to you, for you have | answered me and you have become | my salvation. 22The stone that the build- | ers rejected has become the chief | cornerstone. 23By the Lord has | this been done; it is marvelous | in our eyes. 24This is the day that the | Lord has made; let us rejoice and be | glad in it.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
1When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint [Jesus’ body]. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
“So, they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” It is not the triumphal and happy ending we have come to expect from stories. Mark ends his gospel differently not just in comparison to Victorian novelists but compared to Matthew, Luke and John. Nothing is tied up neatly. What a fitting Easter story for 2021, a year in which we are starting to see the end of the pandemic, but we certainly have no beautifully written script.
Let’s begin with what led us to this moment—the women fleeing from the tomb. Jesus Christ, Son of God, proclaimed the reign of God was at hand. He did more than proclaim with his words. He restored the marginalized to the social order; he ate with outcasts; he said that the greatest commandments are to love God and neighbor; he was continually in conflict with religious authorities and the powers of empire.
Jesus was put on trial. The chief priests stirred up the crowd, crying for Jesus to be crucified. Inside the palace courtyard, Jesus was mocked, crowned with thorns, led out to the cross. Darkness fell over the land from the sixth to ninth hour when Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The temple curtain was torn from top to bottom and a centurion proclaimed, “Truly this man was God’s Son.” Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in a tomb hewn of rock.
The women who come to the tomb at down expect to pay their respects to their recently deceased teacher and friend. They come ready to anoint his body. Dead people are supposed to stay dead. But none of the normal patterns of life and death are at work on this early morning. The tomb is already open. The women are greeted by a young man in a white robe. They see nothing of Jesus. There is simply an empty tomb and the announcement that Jesus of Nazareth has been raised.
“He has been raised.” Someone has raised Jesus. The normal patterns of life and death have been disrupted by someone—someone who can undo the power of death. The women flee in “terror and amazement.” They know the identity of the one who raised Jesus. It is God who has raised Jesus. It is God who has altered the rules of their known world.
In the midst of this revelation, silence no longer seems like a failed or inadequate response. Silence is appropriate. One scholar noted that the women’s silence creates a space for the voice and presence of God to resound. What words can the women speak in those first few minutes that would not trivialize the moment? We too, living so many centuries later, live in a moment of holy awe when we read the story.
The story seems to end with one last collapse. The world much is as it has always been—shrouded in darkness and disappointment. Yet we know the world is not the same. The tomb is empty. Jesus is out, beyond death’s reach, on the loose. We know this cannot be the end of the story.
The story, the whole story of Jesus, has generated momentum that carries beyond the ending. The messenger told the women something else. “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Jesus will precede his disciples into Galilee, as he told them. The Gospel has given us every reason to believe that what Jesus promises will take place. He died and was raised just as he said. His followers scattered, as he said they would; before the cock crowed twice, Peter denied him three times.
So, there is every reason to believe that the rest of his promises will be fulfilled. The disciples will witness. The gospel will be preached to all the Gentile community and beyond.
And so, the empty tomb is not really the end. Eyes must be opened, ears unstopped, and tongues loosened. There is reason to be hopeful about the future—but not because any of Jesus’ followers demonstrated heroism. We can only anticipate that like the first blind man Jesus healed, the women and the rest of the disciples will make it to Galilee. They will be prepared finally to do what they were called to do—follow Jesus.
One scholar wrote that “with the reinstated community comes the reinstated journey of following: he is going before you…. [They are told to go to Galilee, where the first disciples were called.] We are told that the story, which appeared to have ended, is beginning again.” “Here at the end of the story we find ourselves in exactly the same position [as Jesus’ first disciples] but if we have understood the story, we should be ‘holding fast’ to what we do know: that Jesus still goes before us, summoning us to the way of the cross. And that is the hardest ending of all: not tragedy, not victory, but an unending challenge to follow anew. Because that means we must respond.”
The surprise is that the resolution of tensions in the story is left for the future. There is hope because Jesus is no longer imprisoned in the tomb. God can be trusted to finish what God began.
Jesus is full of surprises. The world’s uneasiness in the presence of Jesus is fully justified. He will not be bound by tradition that defines human life; even death has no final power over him. The end only marks a new beginning—a beginning of the good news that Jesus, the one who is the ultimate threat to our autonomy, now becomes our source of life.
Jesus is not bound by the ending of this morning’s Easter story. He continues into the future God has in store for the creation. In the meantime, there is only the Word, the bread, and the wine, and the promise that “you will see him.” We walk by faith and not by sight. We can only trust that God will one day finish the story, as God has promised.
Like the women on that first Easter morning, we celebrate a moment of holy awe. Jesus has been raised from the dead. And today we are invited into the story. The empty tomb announces the Resurrected One’s presence on the road ahead. Resurrection means that Jesus, the Living One, goes ahead of us.
It seems nearly impossible to not respond to the resurrection by bringing in the reign of God Jesus had announced from the beginning of his ministry, by witnessing the love experienced in Jesus. Forgiveness and new life spur us to be part of the transformation of our communities and the entire world. We will return to those themes every week after Easter as we learn more about this Jesus we are trying to follow.
On this Easter morning we have hope because Jesus, the Living One goes ahead of us. Death does not have the final word. God has a restorative vision of the world, of human interactions, of creation flourishing, of the least among us having abundant life, of every single human being fully seen and loved and valued, and of shalom, peace for all.
The Living One can be found only when we experience that he is ahead of us and that he opens up a future for us. Jesus transforms our community of followers into courageous witnesses to Jesus’ presence. The resurrection calls us to give accounts for the hope that is in us. The risen Christ has already gone ahead of us to Galilee, to meet us again and again in the world. Let us leave the tomb with great joy, knowing we will encounter the risen Christ on all the roads of our lives.
Prayers of Intercession
Alive in the risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we bring our prayers before God who promises to hear us and answer in steadfast love.
A brief silence.Praise to you for your power revealed in the resurrection! Fill your church with the power of your love that is stronger than death. Send us to tell the good news wherever death holds sway. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Praise to you for your life at work in the resurrection! Fill all of creation with your life. Bring it to blossom and flourish; use it to remind us of your persistent grace. Cultivate our care for what you have made. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Praise to you for the peace made possible in the resurrection! Fill the nations with your peace. Draw together people of all nations and languages; reveal new possibilities and inspire new beginnings. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Praise to you for the hope of the resurrection! Fill all in need with hope: those who are afraid or confused, those who are sick or suffering, those who are dying, and those who grieve (especially). Assure them of your promises. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Praise to you for the joy of your resurrection! Fill this assembly with joy as we are called your beloved in baptism. Multiply that joy so that we share it at home, at work, and in our community. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.Praise to you for your faithfulness revealed in the resurrection! Fill us with trust, that we join with (Benedict the African and) all who have gone before us in proclaiming: “your mercy endures forever!” Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
In the hope of new life in Christ, we raise our prayers to you, trusting in your never-ending goodness and mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.
Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love one another as he loves us. Write this commandment in our hearts, and give us the will to serve others as he was the servant of all, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.
Exodus 12:1-4 [5-10] 11-14
1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. [5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. ] 11This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
1I love the Lord, who has | heard my voice, and listened to my | supplication, 2for the Lord has given | ear to me whenev- | er I called. 12How shall I re- | pay the Lord for all the good things God has | done for me? 13I will lift the cup | of salvation and call on the name | of the Lord. 14I will fulfill my vows | to the Lord in the presence of | all God’s people. 15Precious in your | sight, O Lord, is the death | of your servants. 16O Lord, truly I | am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your handmaid; you have freed me | from my bonds. 17I will offer you the sacrifice | of thanksgiving and call upon the name | of the Lord. 18I will fulfill my vows | to the Lord in the presence of | all God’s people, 19in the courts of | the Lord‘s house, in the midst of you, | O Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
31b“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
The name of our worship service, Maundy, comes from the commandment or mandate Jesus’ gives his disciples, “to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The world needs that love so much, always but maybe especially right now. Jesus has just demonstrated the love through the act of foot washing, something we witness tonight.
Foot washing has often been the focus of our Maundy Thursday worship services here at Trinity, and for good reason. But in my first call in Iowa, Holy Communion was central because this was the night the fifth graders celebrated their first Communion. My theology around the Lord’s Supper became robust on the prairie of Western Iowa as my congregation and I moved to weekly Communion and as I began to talk with them about lowering the age of first Communion.
Those theological discussions and changes in practice had occurred in this congregation by the time I became your pastor. We had classes on Communion for our upper elementary, Confirmation, and adult students. But it was not until this past year with the pandemic that we really had to consider our theology around the Lord’s Supper.
It was Thursday evening. The next day Jesus would die. He knew it and he told his disciples. They were at supper together, a farewell meal. As they were seated around the table, he took bread and wine and told them that this was his body and blood and that they should eat and drink. He told them that after he was gone, they should continue to observe this supper, for forgiveness of sins and in remembrance of him.
Last Sunday I helped lead a group of 7th and 8th grade confirmation students through a discussion of the Last Supper as recorded in Mark’s gospel. The conversation lagged until I called on one student who usually contributes. “What strikes you in this story?” I asked. The student replied, “The story begins with Jesus saying someone will betray him and it ends with him saying Peter will deny him. Right in the middle of those two things, Jesus breaks the bread and shares the cup.” I was speechless. If not on Zoom, I would have caught the eyes of the other adult leaders and we would have shared a gaze of admiration. Yes, in the middle of betrayal and denial, Jesus shares this love feast with its gifts of forgiveness and mercy.
Ever since that night, the followers of Jesus the world over have observed or celebrated the Lord’s Supper as their most solemn act of worship. The Holy Spirit has used this simple meal to give the church some of the most profound and rich truths and gifts of God.
When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we come to remember him. We recall who Jesus is and what he has done, what he continues to do and what he yet will do. He is not visibly with us as he was with the disciples that evening. As we remember him, we dwell on his life, from his birth in Bethlehem to his ascension. We remember especially the cross, where his body was broken and his blood was shed for us.
Whether we see him or not, our risen and ascended Lord is here in a living presence. He is with us, singularly in bread and wine, his body and blood. We not only have a memorial; we have a presence. And in the bread and wine he gives himself. This is the good news of the gospel in visible form.
And so, it is called a communion. Receiving life with him and in him, we are in fellowship with him, and through him in fellowship with each other. We are reconciled to God and to each other. We are the restored family of God.
Whenever and however we receive him, we come in repentance and faith. We come to receive the forgiveness of sins. We come in penitence, in sorrow for the sins that grieve him. And we come in glad confidence that he forgives us, as he has promised to do.
It is a sacrament of thanksgiving, called the Eucharist. When a Christian stands before the throne of God, when all sins are forgiven, all joy restored, then there is nothing left to do but to give thanks. Thanksgiving is our only full and real response to God’s creation, redemption, and the gift of heaven. All the motifs of the faith, like melodies in a great symphony, are brought together in the sacrament—repentance, faith, forgiveness, joy, love, hope, and thanksgiving.
A year ago, I said that theology about Holy Communion during a Pandemic, with new technology available had not yet been written. It would be written in the next months. And that’s what happened, on social media, in journals, in emails. I was grateful our synodical bishop found a way to give us permission to share the meal through new mediums. It fed and nourished our members in ways my words may never have. People told me it took some practice, but it gave them comfort and sustenance, both of which were needed.
Now we have reached a chapter where we can again celebrate the meal in person—what a gift—but we will retain the home altars and home communion during this bridge time. And later, we will take all we have learned and do more Holy Communion theology together for a brand-new time. Lest we think this is the first time Christians have had to work out our Holy Communion theology, just read all of First Corinthians Chapter 11, not just the four verses read tonight.
Pastor and theologian Al Rogness wrote, “The Lord’s Supper is God’s gift to us to strengthen our faith. The Christian who realizes this will want to receive this gift often, probably as often as it is offered…. No matter how often, communicants should prepare their hearts by careful self-examination and by prayer. The Scriptures warn against coming casually as a matter of form without repentance and without faith in the Lord’s promise of forgiveness.” Rogness lays out the balance that must be struck—receiving the gift of Communion as often as it is offered and receiving it with a prepared heart.
During our Holy Communion classes at Trinity for the 4th-6th graders, I say that the Lord’s Supper is a gift they will continue to learn about throughout their life. This was not his final lesson. We are never finished being reminded of the gift of the Lord’s Supper.
After this past year, I come to this meal tonight we a renewed appreciation for the gifts of forgiveness and abundant life. I come exceedingly grateful to share it in-person with other embodied human beings. I come with a bit more awe and wonder. Even though I believe Jesus’ promises are sure, I trust that the gifts are guaranteed, and I believe Jesus’ presence is real, I can never explain exactly how it all happens. In the end, I am comfortable not needing to explain or fully understand. There is just enough mystery in the Lord’s Supper to leave me bewildered by the mystery of it all. It is a mystery I love sharing with others. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession
The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.
United by the servant love of God in Christ, we pray this holy night for the needs of the world.
A brief silence.You call your people to hand on what we receive from you. Form all the baptized into teachers of faith. From one generation to the next, give your church hunger for your promises in the sacraments and joy in receiving and sharing your word. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Your creation provides all that we need. Cleanse and protect the water you have given for washing and drinking, water on which all life depends. Sustain crops and herds that provide food; teach us how to live so that there is enough for all. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
You redeemed your people from slavery. Preserve people throughout the world who flee violence and oppression (especially). Establish just leadership in place of tyranny and peace in place of war. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.Jesus loved his followers to the end. Grant assurance of that love to all who need it: those living with guilt, those struggling to forgive, those who are lonely or overlooked. Heal the sick and embrace the dying. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Jesus washed the feet of the one who betrayed him. Inspire this congregation’s ministries of service (especially), that we love as Jesus loved us. Give us renewed courage to serve. Bless the ministry of deacons throughout the church. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.Your glory shone in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We thank you for generations of the faithful who have proclaimed our Lord’s death. Unite us with them in hope until he comes again. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Hear these and all our prayers, O God, in the name of the one who loves us to the end, Jesus Christ our Redeemer.Amen.
1When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, [Jesus] sent two of his disciples 2and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. 7Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. 8Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. 9Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 10Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 11Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.
4The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
7The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9aIt is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
9Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I | am in trouble; my eye is consumed with sorrow, and also my throat | and my belly. 10For my life is wasted with grief, and my | years with sighing; my strength fails me because of affliction, and my bones | are consumed. 11I am the scorn of all my enemies, a disgrace to my neighbors, a dismay to | my acquaintances; when they see me in the street | they avoid me. 12Like the dead I am forgotten, | out of mind; I am as useless as a | broken pot. 13For I have heard the whispering of the crowd; fear is | all around; they put their heads together against me; they plot to | take my life. 14But as for me, I have trusted in | you, O Lord. I have said, “You | are my God. 15My times are | in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who | persecute me. 16Let your face shine up- | on your servant; save me in your | steadfast love.”
5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.
9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove
Today we celebrate Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. What are we to make of this event? Let’s start with the way the story is told. Notice how only a few verses actually recount Jesus’ entry into the city. Most of the story relates the care with which Jesus has made the arrangements for this event. This could be evidence that Jesus has planned the entire occasion in advance. He has arranged for the colt. He’s even provided signals for the disciples to use with the people watching the colt.
Jesus knows exactly what he is doing. He is carefully orchestrating a piece of what one scholar describes as “street theater.” Jesus enacts a carnivalesque parody of kingship. He is ridiculing kingship as the world has always known it. He begins at the Mount of Olives. This is no accident. This mountain was the traditional location from which people expected the final battle for Jerusalem’s liberation would begin.
According to Zechariah 14, it is from this place that God will fight the nations and restore Jerusalem. Simon Maccabaeus entered Jerusalem this way in the second century BC. So did the leader Menahem. Jesus has what neither those men had: divine character, unanimity with God. But he does not use those traits as the crowd might have expected.
From the Mount of Olives Jesus begins his “final campaign.” When he sends out for provisions, however, the situation becomes rather strange. The provisions he seeks are not the weapons of war, but simply a colt.
The crowd spreads branches and cloaks before Jesus as a symbol of honor. They praise him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” “God saves.” “Long live the King!” And Jesus rides through the midst of the adoring crowds.
But Jesus comes not as one who lords his authority over others. He humbly rejects domination. He comes not with pomp and wealth. Instead, he is identified with the poor. He does not come as a mighty warrior. He is vulnerable and refuses to rely on violence.
Jesus portrays a totally different understanding of “rule.” He invites people to see and live in the world in a new way. Jesus confronted the powers with disarming love. He rode to certain death with no attempt to intimidate, destroy or surprise his enemies. In this moment Jesus does many things. He fulfills one prophecy while subverting others. He changes the notion of kingship, as he has from the beginning of his ministry.
What are we to make of these events and this Jesus? What is our response to look like? We might start by exploring Jesus’ words and actions before he entered Jerusalem. What has his life’s work been? To announce again and again with words and actions that the reign of God has come near.
The reign of God looks like casting out demons, feeding people, healing people. Jesus has also been in conflict with the powers that be. The reign of God is in conflict with the status quo. Jesus has been in conflict with religious authorities who seem to favor rules over mercy and the abundant life. Jesus is also in conflict with the powers of empire, specifically Rome. It is these conflicts that lead to his death on the cross, which we as a congregation will mark with our self-guided Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.
For me, the passage from Philippians this morning gives us a preview of Good Friday, but also some clues about how we might follow Jesus. Paul writes, 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.”
I will confess that emptying oneself is not something I am particularly drawn to right now, especially because I feel somewhat drained. I know many of you feel the same way. All I want to do is fill us all up again. Further, this passage has been used by Christian communities to encourage a self-emptying that leads to complete depletion, no value of the self. Nothing could be further from the truth of the Jesus we encounter in the gospels, the Jesus who truly sees and values each person’s full humanity and belovedness. So, we do well to read the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2 with deep humility and a little trepidation.
Yet, as we look around the world, we know that servanthood and authentic humility are what are community and the world needs. It is precisely what the reign of God coming in would look like. At the center of the Philippians text is the image of self-emptying.
Perhaps the image of a pitcher of water being poured into a glass is instructive. Though we often focus on the pitcher and understand the act of emptying as a loss, we should concomitantly focus on the glass or the act of filling up. The water shifts and takes the shape of its object, ultimately changing it. When Jesus pours himself into the form of an enslaved person, he dignifies, indeed, deifies this likeness. Jesus lowers himself to uplift. Jesus emptied himself into humanity in order to change it. In the ultimate act of empathy, Jesus becomes who and what we are, so we, in turn, can become who and what he is.
One commentator used the helpful metaphor gained from traveling on trains, when we are often reminded to mind the gap. It is a cautionary statement; to be careful of the distance between spaces, the holes and cracks where one might fall, trip, or be injured. I think this warning is implicit in Philippians. Growing to be more like Jesus can be filled with pitfalls. When we do not have the mind of Jesus, we are likely to behave in ways that do not glorify God. When we do not have the mind of Jesus, there is discord, confusion, and destruction. How, then, do we keep our minds stayed on Jesus?
Christians have many tools: prayer, worship, community, relationships and scripture. We must refresh ourselves by studying the life, words, and actions of Jesus. We must practice kindness, love, forgiveness, and humility. To avoid the gaps, we must be focused and intentional. We must exercise our empathy, not just in words, but by becoming what God needs for us to be. As one of our guiding principles at Trinity says: share the good news with our words and actions.
It is quite natural to limit a reading of Philippians to our individual selves. But on a day when we final are able to be together in-person in real time, I invite us to consider what it looks like for us to be a self-emptying community of faith? Where are the empty glasses within our congregation and the larger community of Nampa? Where we might we be invited into deeper humility and servanthood together? What are the gaps in our life together that need minding? I do not have answers today, only what I hope are questions that are faithful to Jesus’ gospel message.
I acknowledge, finally, that each of us comes to worship today having experienced the last year in our own way. You might have come so exhausted and weary and just needing to be filled up. Know that Jesus has done everything. You are more than enough child of God and you are loved so much.
Maybe you came here well past your second vaccination. After a year of lots of isolation, you are rearing to go, looking to somehow heal the world’s brokenness, to be part of the reign of God breaking in. Jesus has set an example in his humility today and in his foot washing on Maundy Thursday. Turning the world upside down will end up costing him his life on Friday. Discipleship comes with costs. But death, as we Easter people know, will not have the final word. Jesus has called us to follow him, to be servants. Thanks be to God; Jesus was the ultimate servant himself.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.In Jesus you came among us as a suffering servant. Give your church humility. Redeem your people from pride and the certainty that we always know your will. Heal us and empower us to confess Christ crucified. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
In creation, life springs from death. Redeem your creation awaiting resurrection: restore lost habitats and endangered species. Create new possibilities for areas affected by climate change (especially), grant relief from natural disasters (especially), and nurture new growth. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Jesus was handed over to the powers of this world. In all nations, instruct the powerful, that they would not exploit their power but maintain justice. Sustain soldiers, and guide those who command them, that they serve those in greatest need. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
On the cross Jesus joined all who feel forsaken. Abide with those who are condemned to death. Defend those who are falsely accused. Console and strengthen those who are mocked or bullied. Accompany all who suffer (especially); grant respite and renewal. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
You called followers to tend Jesus’ body in death. Sustain hospice workers and funeral directors. Bless this congregation’s ministries at times of death: those who plan and lead funerals, those who prepare meals, all who offer support in grief. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
God, our healer and our refuge, we pray for all who suffer from gun violence. This week we lift up all those impacted by the mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder. With your mercy, bind up wounds, restore bodies, and heal hearts. Comfort the mourners and embrace the lonely. With your might, empower us to change this broken world. Make us advocates for a stable society, alive with hope in you. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
You inspired the centurion to confess Jesus as your Son. We praise you for the faith you have given to people of all places and times. Give us also such faith to trust the promises of baptism and, with them, to look for the resurrection of the dead. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.
O God, with steadfast love you draw us to yourself, and in mercy you receive our prayers. Strengthen us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, that through life and death we may live in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.
31The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; in your great compassion blot out my offenses. 2Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I know | my offenses, and my sin is ever before me. 4Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are justified when you speak and right in your judgment. 5Indeed, I was born steeped in wickedness, a sinner from my mother’s womb. 6Indeed, you delight in truth deep within me, and would have me know wisdom deep within. 7Remove my sins with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be purer than snow. 8Let me hear | joy and gladness; that the body you have broken may rejoice. 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my wickedness. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12Restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
5Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; 6as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” 7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
You wash us through and through and remember our sin no more. Make your church a community of forgiveness throughout the world. Give your people courage to forgive; through them show the world new possibilities. Bless ministries of repentance and reconciliation. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
You fill the earth—from tiny grains of wheat to the mighty thunder—with your presence, and you call us to attend to your will for all creation. Grant weather that prepares the soil for seeds; protect all from violent storms, flooding, and wildfires (especially). Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
You promise to write your law on our hearts. Guide citizens throughout the world to shape communities that reflect your mercy, justice, and peace, and give them creativity to work for the welfare of all. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
You sustain us with your bountiful Spirit. Restore the joy of all who need to know your presence: those who are lonely or feel unforgivable, those who need healing of mind or body, those who are dying, and all who grieve. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Jesus calls us to follow him in life and death. Empower this congregation in discipleship. Equip children and teachers in Sunday school, confirmation, and learning ministries. Give us your truth and wisdom and teach us to follow Jesus. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
Here other intercessions may be offered.In the cross of Christ, your name is glorified. We praise you for those who have given us words to worship you (especially Thomas Cranmer). With all those who have died in Christ, bring us into life everlasting. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen.
You who try to faithfully serve the Lord; praise the name of the Lord. Praise Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Holy Spirit, Redeemer, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Savior, Healer, Giver of Life.
Blessed be the name of the Lord from this pandemic time when we have kernels of hope, from this time when some of us are still so busy and the pace of life has slowed for others, when we feel isolated but see the path towards ending isolation.
Bless the name of the Lord from this time and into the future that we sometimes fear, sometimes dream about, the future we can really only imagine.
From that time when the sun rises over the fields and fills the earth with light to the sun’s setting over cities and towns. The name of the Lord is to be praised.
Who is like the Lord our God? Do I sometimes try to make myself a God? Do others? No one is like God.
God raises up the veteran with PTSD, the addict, the immigrant, the woman with the eating disorder, and the single mom experiencing homelessness. God lifts up the single dad who lost his job, the person living with depression, and the person who escaped an abusive relationship.
God makes all of these beloveds sit with the top one percent.
God gives those who have started life with every disadvantage a sense of belonging, real worth, and a home in which to live.
This Wednesday our Midweek Lenten Worship service theme is created for community with those on the margins. We remember that Jesus himself was in community with the lepers, tax collectors, unclean, and demon possessed. He died between two thieves. In Exodus 22:21-22 we hear God’s command to “not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan.” We are called to be in community with those on the margins because that is the example set by and commanded by God. It is a puzzle to me sometimes, this being in community with those on the margins, because there are times in my life when I felt like that is where I was. And yet I know I possess a great deal of power, that my life’s story usually takes up the center of the page in our society. And yet remembering those few times when I felt marginalized, when I was yelled at for being a woman pastor or when the pharmacist argued with me about my epilepsy meds (meds I never could have afforded without insurance) and I thought I would never get my driver’s license back, helps me be in community with those on the margins of society.
Author and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson advocates for gaining proximity with those on the margins, not so we tokenize them and say, “See, I have a friend who is experiencing homelessness,” but so that we understand another person’s circumstances, challenges, and life better. In Just Mercy, Stevenson writes, “Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the oppositive of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”
“O Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.”(Psalm 136:3)
Mar. 11, 2021
Dear Friends and Members of Trinity,
I love how the refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” repeats throughout Psalm 136. We who know God’s steadfast love have been shaped by that love. The Holy Spirit transforms it into the neighbor love which has guided and continues to guide us. We could be guided by greed, fear, anxiety. Sometimes those emotions have impacted us individually, but collectively we have intentionally chosen neighbor love as our guide.
Our COVID Task Force (Jeff Henderson, Sharon Jones, Randy Miller, Steve Ward, Kim Mills, and I) continues to watch Canyon County’s status according to Southwest District Health. As I write this we are in Yellow. Following CDC guidelines, we can have up to 30 people in the sanctuary (we have measured and done the math). It is impossible to decide which 30 people for a Sunday service and asking the question seems inconsistent with our guiding principle “all are welcome.” When we get to Grey, we will still need to practice physical distancing between families and wear masks. For some time into the future, worship indoors will not include assembly singing (because we spread the virus so much further when we sing). We have many members who have been vaccinated and the state is opening vaccines up to more people weekly. Still, some of you may not be vaccinated until April and youth vaccinations will probably begin in the fall. In addition, we are reading about the variants and watching to see if and how they spread. So, where does that leave us?
We have chartered a hybrid plan back to in-person worship, the event that grounds our faith. But life at Trinity has always been about more than worship and so our return to in-person events also includes service, fellowship, and pastoral care. Please see the back of this letter for a timeline. Our sound system/streaming team, led by Bryce Quarve, has been hard at work. We will keep streaming, with better equipment soon, going forward.
If you are vaccinated and/or staying isolated, please consider huddling up with another household or two when you watch Sunday worship, especially for Easter Sunday.
St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the sanctuary will be open from 5-7 PM for three stations (including Holy Communion).
Clean-up day, March 20
Palm Sunday, March 28, we will worship on the patio/lawn at 10 AM. We will record worship and it will be on YouTube later.
Easter Egg Decorating for our youth (and accompanying adults), March 30
Maundy Thursday, April 1, we will allow 30 people to sign up for worship (look for a link sent via email or call the church office). This worship will also be shared via Facebook Live.
Good Friday, April 2, the sanctuary will be open from 5-7 PM for Stations of the Cross (some art created by Trinity members).
Easter Sunday, April 4, we will have a prerecorded worship service incorporating many readers and musicians from Trinity.
Easter Sunday, April 4, we will also have a sunrise service with Holy Communion on the patio at 7 AM. This will be a simple 20-minute service.
Earth Day S’Wine Swap, April 22 (read more on the website and in the Epistle)
We have two more outdoor worship services planned: April 18 and Pentecost, May 23.
In May or June, we plan to start having a monthly Sunday morning indoor in-person service and a monthly Wednesday evening indoor in-person service. These, like Maundy Thursday, will be limited in number and will require you to sign up in advance.
O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
4From Mount Hor [the Israelites] set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” 6Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lordand against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” 9So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
1Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good, for God’s mercy endures 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. 17Some were fools and took rebellious paths; through their sins they were afflicted. 18They loathed all manner of food and drew near to death’s door. 19Then in their trouble they cried to the Lord and you delivered them from their distress. 20You sent forth your word and healed them and rescued them from the grave. 21Let them give thanks to you, Lord, for your steadfast love and your wonderful works for all people. 22Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of your deeds with shouts of joy.
1You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
[Jesus said:] 14“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Sermon – Meggan Manlove
God’s abundant love for the world—that’s what we hear in today’s gospel text, these iconic verses from John Chapter 3 that are on billboards, tattoos, bumper stickers. It is a love for all people, you and me, our friends, our enemies, people we have never met. What’s remarkable about this love is that it does not depend on transactions. What I mean is, God continues to love the world with abandon and often that love is not returned.
Put another way, we human beings continue to rebel against the will of God. We do not welcome in the reign of God. We do not perfectly love our neighbor as Jesus instructed us to do. We so easily are self-centered. Martin Luther used a Latin term to describe this, Incurvatus in se, “curved in upon oneself.” We put ourselves ahead of others. As our gospel passage says, we love darkness instead of the light of God.
When we are getting ready in the morning, we look in a mirror. We straighten out a hair, maybe put on some makeup, check that we’ve brushed our teeth thoroughly. But what about our insides, our heart, soul, and mind? What will help us see ourselves as we really are, our insides? Who will hold up that mirror?
Worship is one place that happens. Worship is for people who have have not trusted God’s promises or walked in God’s ways, who have have hoarded and squandered the gifts of God’s creation, who have failed to welcome the stranger and the outcast, or make room at the table for the homeless and the hungry. Each week, in our confession, we announce that we are not who we would like to think we are. And each week we open ourselves to the God of second chances.
Pastor Bill White tells a story some of you might remember reading in high school. Silas Marner was a shriveled up old miser who had been falsely accused of stealing. He responded by becoming a recluse for fifteen years. His major joy in life was counting his gold. He loved to sit by the lamp at night and let the coins run through his fingers. Then a thief stole his gold and Silas believed he had been reduced to nothing.
Shortly after the theft, a destitute woman left her little girl sleeping in front of the fireplace in Silas’s cottage. The next day the woman was found dead. When no one claimed the child the old miser raised her. It was an experience of delight, and it slowly changed him. He began to speak to his neighbors, and his cottage, once dark and drab, took on a new cheer. There was light in his eyes and a smile on his face. There was an outward focus to his life. No longer was he turned in on himself. The child gave Silas a reason to exist. Parenting became an experience of grace, an encounter with God.
Grace is always an undeserved gift of God. In Ephesians, Paul expresses his amazement that God did not lose his temper when we mess up. “4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Oh my goodness! This is the best gift. Some have called these verses the heart of the Christian faith. It is all grace, all gift; we are saved by a gift. We cannot do it ourselves, nor can we overcome our self-centeredness by ourselves. God does it for us. All we have to do is trust God.
Hear that passage from John 3 again, and I’m going to use the word trust instead of believe. “16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Paul puts it this way in Ephesians, “8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
This past week, the camp director I worked for for three summers died suddenly of cardiac arrest. This is the third man of great importance to me to die in a six-month period: Trinity member Bob Torrey, my own father, and now Bob Quam. I did give Bob’s family and my mom a heads-up about this sermon. I want to say to God in my prayers, “Enough!” As if that is how prayer works. And yet, in a way it does. And each one of those men, in his own way, modeled being really honest with God. God, they showed me, was big enough to take all of my pain and anger. It would not scare God away.
Each one of them was also an instrument of God’s grace. They all saw my messy side, my brokenness, my worse self, and loved me and assured me of God’s love.
More than that, they modeled their trust in God’s love through their own lives. I have laughed at how each of them had a stubborn streak that sometimes scared me, sometimes made me laugh, always reminded me of their humanness.
My dad grew up in a home that modeled love of neighbor but also had just enough of an image of fire and brimstone God that he looked for something else as an adult. He found it with a Lutheran pastor and congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota. That congregation proclaimed loud and clear the grace of God. My dad got that message of grace. It was transformative. And after he died, through greeting cards, Caring Bridge notes, and phone calls, our family my family was reminded just how many people received the gifts of God’s grace through my dad.
Bob Torrey came to his adult faith in this space and with the community of faith that is Trinity Lutheran Church and he never looked back. Everyone who has joined the congregation in my tenure has a story of receiving the love of God through Bob. At the heart of Bob’s passion for stewardship was his deep awareness of God’s grace. He was great at talking about stewardship of finances. But what God was always stewarding himself was God’s grace. He never seemed to tire of passing that gift along, whether in a council meeting, fellowship time, new member class, or passing of the peace.
Bob Quam, my camp director, was sometimes a troubled soul, but possessed so many gifts. One of those gifts was getting college staffers excited about sharing the grace and love of God with kids. He believed in the power of the God we encounter in scripture, in the Beartooth Wilderness, and in Christian community. God’s grace spilled forth in Bible Studies, hiking, worship, and mealtimes. And last July, on my birthday, his message was, as it had been for every former staffer on Facebook, “Welcome to another year Meggan. May if flow with grace and truth.”
The free gift of God’s grace has been written about in volumes, songs, treatises and now I am sure you could find hundreds of videos of people explaining it. But experiencing God’s grace and love has to be lived. Likewise, trusting God’s grace finally must be lived. I am so grateful for the way my dad and Bob Torrey and Bob Quam helped me learn to live this trust.
I certainly do not trust God’s grace and love every moment. It is not a trust that leaves me with no agency for my own life. I still try to make good decisions and take responsibility for my life and actions. But when I have failed miserably, when I hurt other people, when I become curved in on myself, the way out is to trust the God of second chances, to remember that God loves the world, me and you and everyone else. This grace and love are pure gift.
I firmly believe that opening this grace up to others is one of the church’s deepest and most important callings right now. It is something the world needs desperately. It is the balm for the oppressed, the salve for the overworked, the comfort for the anxious.
The way we become right with God is trusting in what God has done and is doing. It is a gift. We stumble, we fall, and mess things up each day of our lives. But God’s love is everlasting and abundant and pure gift. It is so much bigger than our mess. God’s love and grace are free gift, and they are transformative. Thanks be to God.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
You sent your Son that the world might be saved through him. Inspire the witness of the church throughout the world. Empower missionaries, Bible translators, and ministries of service in your name. Bless our partners in ministry (specific mission partners may be named), our ELCA global partner churches, and Young Adults in Global Mission. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
From east to west your steadfast love is shown. Nourish seas and deserts, wilderness areas and cities. Give water to thirsty lands; nurture spring growth that feeds hungry creatures; bless farmers as they prepare for the growing season. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
You sustained your people in the wilderness. Give courage to all who lead in times of crisis and scarce resources. Prosper the work of those who aid victims of famine and drought (especially). Bring peace in places where scares resources cause violence. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Your mercy endures forever. Deliver all who cry to you, especially those who are hungry or without homes. Give life in places where death seems triumphant; give healing to those who are sick and comfort to those who mourn. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
By grace we have been saved. Fill this congregation to overflowing with that grace, that we show mercy to others. Nourish any in our midst who are hungry, especially children, and bless our ministries of feeding and shelter (especially). Give us patience and courage when the way seems long. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Your Son was lifted up that whoever believes might have eternal life. We praise you for all who have died in Christ. Bring us with all the saints into the fullness of your promises. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Spirit of sweetness, teach us the ways of transformation and fertilization, the path from pollen to sweetest honey.Teach us to taste the essence of each place we alight. Draw us ever closer to the wisdomhidden within beauty. As with your bees, give us flight and sunlight, passion and productivity, and cooperation with those around us. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Exodus 20: 1-17
1God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. 12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims its maker’s handiwork. 2One day tells its tale to another, and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard, 4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends of the world, where God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5It comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber; it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of it again; nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple. 8The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes. 9The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.
11By them also is your servant enlightened, and in keeping them there is great reward. 12Who can detect one’s own offenses? Cleanse me from my secret faults.
13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense. 14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in yoursight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
1 Corinthians 1: 18-25
18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Sermon Meggan Manlove
Today’s scripture passages invite us into reflections on the role of buildings and spaces in our lives. It isn’t as if we need these passages to prod us into such reflecting. Many church leaders, including Trinity’s council members, have been talking about this for just about a year. Last spring, we heard, and sometimes shared, the phrase, “The building is closed, but the church is open.”
I confess that I have always been grateful that Trinity’s building is not too big, that our predecessors never overbuilt. When I served my congregation in Iowa, we had two church buildings, a big, beautiful country church three miles south of town where we worshiped Memorial Day through the end of June and the town church, a second massive structure built in the 1960s, where we worshiped eleven months of the year. Donations would come in for the country church all year long. At first, I would say to myself, “imagine what ministry these checks could fund.” But I soon realized that the people writing those checks would never defer the funds away from the country church to ministry in town. They wanted to maintain the building, so important to their families.
And I will admit that there was something amazing about the history: the Norwegian immigrants who came across the prairie and decided that they wanted to build a place of worship. The curved wooden balcony, the reed pump organ, the one painting saved when the first country church burned down, and the cemetery, the only private one left in the county, that circled around the building. I grew to enjoy the month of worship there.
One of my regrets about my time in Iowa is that we did not utilize people’s admiration for the building to tell stories of faith. I wish I had asked more pilgrims to the church and residents about their ancestors’ faith and how it inspired them to build that beautiful church.
I will never be certain if maintaining to the two buildings was the best use our resources; not that it was my choice. I honestly do not think there is a magical formula for figuring out when a building has become an idol that we worship, instead of a place that we gather together to worship. I actually do believe that church buildings can be sacred spaces instead of idols. All of those things are simultaneously true. And today’s story of Jesus in the Temple and the Ten Commandments encourage us to keep asking questions about our relationships to physical buildings and to faith practices. Those questions are especially appropriate during Lent, when our refrain is “return to the Lord your God.”
The temple cleansing completes the inaugural event begun with Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. That miracle revealed the grace and glory of Jesus and the abundant new life Jesus offers. The scene in the temple also brings new life—but in a very different way.
We cannot ignore the religious and historical context of the Jerusalem Temple. We can read all the rules dictating this in Deuteronomy. Cattle, sheep, and doves were required for burnt offerings in the Temple. Since Passover was a pilgrimage feast, many of those coming to worship in the Temple would have journeyed a great distance and would not have brought animals with them. This was not a quick trip to town; it was a journey cross-country on foot. And so, they needed to buy animals in Jerusalem in order to participate in temple worship.
Furthermore, the temple tax could not be paid in Greek or Roman coins because of the human image, the emperor’s head, on these coins, and foreign coinage had to be changed into the legal Tyrian currency in Jerusalem. By now I hope we are seeing that the sale of animals and the changing of money were absolutely necessary if the worship was to proceed.
Surly there were inevitable abuses of the temple system, but in today’s story, Jesus confronts the entire system itself, not its abuses. Jesus confronts the practice and the setting and the process. He calls all of it into question, including the authority of the Temple and its worship.
The Jews demand a sign. Jesus responds to their request with the saying about the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple. They respond, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”
Early readers of the gospel familiar with historical events knew that Jesus’ words could not refer to a building. Why? Jesus could not refer to a building because the Romans had destroyed the temple in 70 C.E. and it still stood in ruins years later.
So what in the world is going on here? The narrator clues us in. We must interpret this incident by connecting it with Jesus’ death and resurrection: When Jesus referred to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple, “he spoke of the temple of his body.” What did this mean to John’s readers and, more importantly, what does it mean to us?
The animals and birds mentioned were prescribed by the Levitical code for sacrificed used for atonement and purification. Jesus disrupted the trade necessary for sacrifice. Jesus foreshadowed the permanent end of sacrificial worship in Jerusalem and its replacement with his own death.
This would have been really, really good news to early readers of the gospel. After all, the Temple had been destroyed; and with its destruction went the tangible means for forgiveness, the sacrifice. Now Jesus has replaced the Temple with nothing less than himself.
“But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” The disciples remembered, and so do we each time we make our “journey” through Lent. This is an introduction of a new spiritual order. It is not about anything we do. It’s about Jesus and the love he shared.
It is something quite amazing to think about the embodied adult Jesus. We remember all the other bodies, just like ours that he came in contact with—people he ate with, healed, cast out demons from, and raised from the dead. And this list of characters might remind us of the characters in our own lives.
It is downright amazing, humbling, and truly awesome that God became embodied. God is inherently relational and if we ever needed proof of that, the incarnation is it. God was never content to be off in the distance. Scripture is full of God arguing with humans, making covenants, giving us ways to live together. And yet in the incarnation, God’s relational character goes to a whole new level. Divinity and humanity relate to one another in a new way. God knows embodiment.
This Lent we are encouraged to “Return to the Lord your God.” We are also planning our embodied return to in-person worship. As embodied creatures who have been apart and out of the building for a long period, how do we want to come back? What is most essential to nurturing our faith? What is most life-giving to the least among us and in our community? I come back to the question that has helped congregations measure the efficacy of their mission for years: “If Trinity Lutheran were to disappear tomorrow (not shut down due to a pandemic but really disappear), what, if anything would be missed?”
We can point to our affiliated nonprofits of Trinity Community Gardens and Trinity New Hope to be sure. But what else would be missed? The building? Our message? The embodied people? What do we hope would be missed? How can we carry those questions into our embodied return?
For better or worse, I have more questions today than answers. Fortunately, God is big enough for all of them. And God will continue to show up in the questions, in the unknown, in uncertainty, even when we do not know what steps to take. As Paul writes in his letter to the early church in Corinth, “For the message about the cross is foolishness.”
The cross, in Jesus’ time and place, really was the most shameful and humiliating way to die. And yet that is what our embodied God did. It was the cost of eating with the wrong bodies, the cost of declaring that all bodies deserved to be whole and well, the cost of breaking the rules when the rules hindered the in-breaking of the reign of God.
We could all meditate on that line from First Corinthians for a lifetime. No trained theologian or pastor who says they fully comprehend the cross is worth his or her salt. But it is worth all of us pondering during these last few weeks of Lent, as we make our way to Good Friday. More questions: What kind of God chooses the cross? What kind of God reveals greatness in weakness? The kind of God who will continue to show up and be revealed when our broken embodied selves are downcast, forlorn, grieving, and lost. Thanks be to God.
Prayers of Intercession
Relying on the promises of God, we pray boldly for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
There is no God before you. Purify the faith of your church, that your people place their trust in nothing beside you. Your name is holy. Guide your church, that in every situation your people’s words and actions honor your name. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
The heavens declare your glory. Renew your creation. Provide leaders in the struggle for clean air and water; protect creatures and crops that rely on healthy ecosystems; give all people the willingness to repent when our way of life pollutes the earth and skies. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Your foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. Fill leaders with the foolishness of your peace and mercy. Your law defends the vulnerable. Work through legislators, judicial systems, and systems of law enforcement to protect the wellbeing and freedom of all (especially). Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
Your weakness is stronger than human strength. Protect those who are vulnerable and give courage to all who are suffering (especially). Defend victims of crime and bring redemption to those who have harmed others. Give sabbath rest to all who labor. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
You call us to proclaim Christ crucified. Give clarity to this congregation and our leaders, so that we might follow Christ beyond our own habits and comfort. Clear out anything in our common life that would obscure the gospel or that serves our own interests. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
God, who searches for the lost: this season brings the lengthening of days. The longer light reveals what had been hidden. Cleanse our hearts as we spring-clean our dwellings. May there be ample room in our hearts for justice, kindness, compassion and generosity, and from the abundance of our possessions, may we give away what we no longer need. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
The cross of Christ is your power for all who are being saved. Thank you for (Perpetua, Felicity, and) all the martyrs whose witness reveals the power of the cross. Give us the same trust in life and in death. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.
We entrust ourselves and all our prayers to you, O faithful God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have found myself needing rest and enjoying rest in new ways. My body, mind and spirit are occasionally beyond tired—really weary. Sometimes I thankfully have moments, usually when I am in conversation with lay people or other Nampa community members, when I have a flurry of creativity and energy. But when I approach Thursday evenings, a rough draft of my sermon finished and most of the workweek behind me, I look forward to my days of deep rest and disengagement from my church to-do list. That list is replaced by things like read, do laundry, go on walks, and more reading. I used to see rest solely as a means to an end. I reasoned that I would be hardly any good to anyone (workplace, family, and friends) if I was worn down and constantly running ragged. Rest was part of the large umbrella category of self-care, meant to prevent burn-out. Instead of burn-out, my generation of pastors would have long lasting careers in public ministry. When I started as a pastor in rural Iowa, I was stunned to realize how tired I was on Sunday afternoons. A mentor fortunately explained that this was completely normal for some pastors. He took a nap every Sunday afternoon and called it rebooting. I did this for a long time. Then I built new emotional and social muscles and Sunday mornings did not tire me out in the same way, not unless it was an especially big day. I still want to rest on Sunday afternoons, but now I also want rest on my day off, really rest, not just fill it up with different activities. Life has changed in so many ways with the pandemic. For me, there is a tiredness that is new. I have a little more stamina than I did when we began, but my mind, body and spirit still feel the weight of all the things. The first time someone used the phrase decision fatigue, I knew he was naming my reality. In addition, I have information fatigue, production fatigue, learning fatigue, Zoom fatigue, and empathy fatigue.
Now, before the tvprays.org readers send me notes asking me to please heed my own advice and rest, I will assure you that I have been resting. I have found pleasure and rest lying on my really long sofa and reading for hours, drowsing off, reading again. On my days off, I try to pair this activity with long walks, hydration, and meals that include vegetables. What I know now, in a way I do not know if ever fully grasped before, is that there is intrinsic value in rest. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done in the world and rest is one thing that equips me for my corner of that work. But even without the productivity, there would be value in the rest. If I truly believe that I am a beloved child of God, then I need to believe that God wants me to rest and that God’s loving gaze in on me while I am resting. That may be old news to a lot of people, but not to me. I am not even nurturing a relationship with another human being in these moments, which would be beautiful. But I am nurturing my relationship with God. There are feelings of vulnerability and exposure. My prayer is something like, “Here I am God. Not producing. Not being excellent. Maybe not even learning anything useful. Am I really enough in this particular moment?” And the answer is always “Yes. Keep resting.” I am not finished with my discoveries in resting. I assume in six months, in ten years, in twenty years, my body, mind, and spirit might rest differently but I hope to carry with me the joy and peace I have in rest, and mostly the beloved emotion I am starting to feel, even when I am doing nothing that fits our definitions of productive.
The world hustles and benefits
from a cruel lie—
idleness must be earned.
When we rest we can remember
it is not a reward but an essential beat,
for in our stopping, we witness
what God is doing inside and way beyond us.
From Meta Herrick Carlson’s Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Everyday Life