Sept. 25, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world. Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. 2At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, 3awhere King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. 6Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: 7Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” 8Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.
9And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. 10I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. 11Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; 12and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. 13In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, 14Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. 15For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

1You who dwell in the shelter of | the Most High,
  who abide in the shadow of | the Almighty—
2you will say to the Lord, “My refuge | and my stronghold, 
  my God in whom I | put my trust.”
3For God will rescue you from the snare | of the hunter
  and from the | deadly plague.
4God’s wings will cover you, and you will find ref- | uge beneath them;
  God’s faithfulness will be your shield | and defense. 
5You shall not fear any terror | in the night,
  nor the arrow that | flies by day;
6nor the plague that stalks | in the darkness,
  nor the sickness that lays | waste at noon.
14I will deliver those who | cling to me;
  I will uphold them, because they | know my name.
15They will call me, and I will | answer them;
  I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue and | honor them.
16With long life will I | satisfy them,
  and show them | my salvation.Prayer of the Day

1 Timothy 6:6-19

6Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

11But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
17As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Luke 16:19-31

[Jesus said:] 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Sometimes I see the growing wealth gap and I simply despair. I have no hope for the uber wealthy—they cannot help themselves the voice in my head goes. Then I read about people like Yvon Chouinard, founder of clothing company Patagonia, who made the news this week for giving his company away to help all of us.

This news was simply the latest in a remarkable history of a company with what Simon Sinek calls a just cause. Take for example Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative. It includes a commitment to make high-quality clothes that will last a long time, so they don’t have to routinely replaced (which reduces waste); a promise to repair their products for free, so that people don’t throw them out (which reduces waste); a partnership with eBay, so that people can “reuse,” buy and sell secondhand products (which reduces waste) [and is part of the slow fashion movement]; and when a product finally does come to the end of its life, Patagonia will take it off your hands to recycle it rather than have us throw it in the garbage (which reduces waste).

Anyone who looks at a wealthy person and thinks, “well, it’s a forgone conclusion that he or she will always walk by the least among us” should consider Chouinard and Patagonia. There are many ways to walk on this earth as a wealthy person. And individuals and companies can make money if they are driven by a just cause, not the bottom line.

In Jesus’ words this morning, two very different lives are exposed with sobering insight. We dare not miss their wisdom. A life well lived is never lived apart from those around us. Blessings received are never meant to be enjoyed alone. It is only in caring for those around us that we live the life God intends. Someone once remarked that the only reason that the Dead Sea is dead is because it never let any of the water that entered it go out again. It kept it all for itself and in failing to share became stagnant and lifeless.

After two verses that set up the initial tension between the rich man and the Lazarus, who lives at the rich man’s gate, and, we can imagine, was visible to the rich man every time he left his home, both men died and find themselves with reversed fortunes for all eternity. Lazarus did not earn his fate but received compensation for misfortune and misery that were beyond his control. The rich man, however, finds himself tormented in Hades as the consequence of his own actions, or as a consequence of his inaction in regard to Lazarus.

The rich man’s first response to his condition is as self-absorbed as the life he lived. He calls to Abraham to release Lazarus with some water to cool his burning tongue. The fact that he knows Lazarus’s name means that he knew the name of the man he passed every day and to whom he would not give even his table crumbs. 

Abraham addresses the rich man with the same term with which the father in the prodigal son parable addresses his elder son, “child,” and tells him that it is not possible for anyone to cross the divide. Abraham actually says, “Those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so,” perhaps implying that Lazarus would have done this deed of mercy were it allowed. The rich man, by contrast, is incapable of compassion for Lazarus, even in death.  

But he does muster some compassion for his brothers. After he learns that his torment cannot be relieved, he asks Abraham to employ Lazarus as a messenger, again with no regard for Lazarus other than as someone to do his bidding, to his five brothers to warn them in order that they may avoid his fate. Abraham denies this request also. There will be no Christmas Carol ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future to warn his brothers. 

Abraham holds firmly to the position that the brothers have Moses and the prophets, who are sufficient to convince the convincible to live their lives with compassion for the poor. From our perspective, we also have this story to add to our warnings.  The rich man, who could not reach his brothers through Lazarus, has reached his brothers and sisters through the telling of the story.  

The author of 1st Timothy reminds us that the love of money, and not money itself, is the root of much evil. Throughout the centuries of human experience with trade and commerce, humanity has found it difficult to have wealth yet not become possessed by it or love it. The practice of stewardship is central. Acting as stewards rather than owners can function like a riverbank that helps to keep our desires flowing powerfully where they belong. Or, remembering that we are stewards rather than owners can raise speedbumps for us when we have taken a questionable road in pursuit of “more.”

An explicit message in 1st Timothy is that communities need to pay attention to their desires.  We would do well as a church to develop a vocabulary of attending to desires. Created as we are in the image of God, we are born to desire God and to care for one another. Disordering of desires can lead to worshiping things other than God and turning others into means to our self-interested, self-absorbed ends.

This is root of the rich man’s sin—he puts his trust in the world, not God. And this is something anyone can do—rich or poor.  That this is at the heart of our scripture verses today means that these texts apply to all of our lives.  

Few of us gathered here will have the opportunities of Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia. Most of us, when it comes to love of our neighbors and care for the land, are going to have an impact by acting in our local context. I can think of few other great guides for this than Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer, essayist, poet sometimes called the prophet of rural America. 

He recently published his latest book. Here are a few lines from a review I read this week, “Now in his late 80s, Berry writes from a singular perspective, drawing on a lifetime of experience. As in all his work, he returns to fundamental questions about how people might live together in ways that heal and nurture all members of a local community.” 

Writing about the local economy some time ago, Berry wrote, “So far as I can see, the idea of a local economy rests upon only two principles: neighborhood and subsistence. In a viable neighborhood, neighbors ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighborhood. This practice must be, in part, charitable, but it must also be economic, and the economic part must be equitable; there is a significant charity in just prices.”

A realist, Berry adds, “Of course, everything needed locally cannot be produced locally. But a viable neighborhood is a community; and a viable community is made up of neighbors who cherish and protect what they have in common. This is the principle of subsistence. A viable community, like a viable farm, protects its own production capacities. It does not import products that it can produce for itself.” (Orion Magazine)

The rich man of our parable would have been hard-pressed to fit into Berry’s economy, but Chouinard could have. So could the prophet Jeremiah, who we heard from again today. 

The LORD instructs Jeremiah to purchase the field, because the prophet has the right to redeem it. This well-known practice in ancient Israel involved the purchase of land by the next of kin, usually when a relative had died, in order to keep property within the clan (cf. Ruth 4). The significance of this action is profound given the historical context of the second Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.

In the middle of city’s impending destruction, Jeremiah makes an investment in the future stock of Judah’s eventual restoration, when “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”  This symbolic action of hope does not cancel out the word of judgment that Jeremiah had already proclaimed. The judgment of the LORD was certain. The fate of the people was sealed. In fact, it was being fulfilled even as Jeremiah was signing the deed of purchase. 

Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and Judah and carry off its inhabitants into exile. The prophet, however, activates the future in the present through a symbolic act of purchasing a field. God’s people would be restored and would again thrive in the land (verse 15). Perilous times require the faithful to put into embodied action the hope that God has announced, which is already here, but not yet.

As we sort through the specific issues of justice and mercy in our time and place we are reminded to really see our local economies, to look into the eyes of our neighbors, and to gaze deeply into the waters and soil and landscape of Southwest Idaho or the places where we reside. 

We have the word of God passed down through generations to warn us, guide us, and give us hope. Here, to close, are a few stanzas from Wendell Berry’s A Poem on Hope.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of imagination. By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place. It lights invariably the need for care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world. The world
is no better than its places. Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them. When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.

Prayers of Intercession

As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.

A brief silence.

O God, rich in mercy, fill your church with righteousness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Empower the baptized by your Spirit to be rich in good works and ready to share. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Protect the earth and its creatures. Provide water, food, shelter, and favorable habitats, especially for endangered species. Preserve threatened ice caps, glaciers, parks, and beaches. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Increase justice in nations, local governments, and courtrooms. Guide lawyers and those who hold public office to act with compassion and discernment (local authorities may be named). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Give food to the hungry. Set the captives free. Lift up those who are bowed down. Watch over the stranger. Tend to those who are ill (especially). Stir us to act in the best interest of our neighbors. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Enliven our praise. Inspire musicians, artists, poets, and all who create beauty in this place (those who plan and lead worship may be named). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Enfold the saints who have died in the arms of your loving care. Grant that the holy angels accompany us and bring us to eternal life with them in the light of your presence. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

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Sept. 18, 2022

Prayer of the Day

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son to learn love for one another. Keep our feet from evil paths. Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Jeremiah 8:18–9:1

18My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
  my heart is sick.
19Hark, the cry of my poor people
  from far and wide in the land:
 “Is the Lord not in Zion?
  Is her King not in her?”
 (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
  with their foreign idols?”)
20“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
  and we are not saved.”
21For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
  I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

22Is there no balm in Gilead?
  Is there no physician there?
 Why then has the health of my poor people
  not been restored?
9:1O that my head were a spring of water,
  and my eyes a fountain of tears,
 so that I might weep day and night
  for the slain of my poor people!

Psalm 79:1-9

1O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have profaned your | holy temple;
  they have made Jerusalem a | heap of rubble.
2They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds | of the air,
  and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts | of the field.
3They have shed their blood like water on every side | of Jerusalem,
  and there was no one to | bury them.
4We have become a reproach | to our neighbors,
  an object of scorn and derision to | those around us. 
5How long will you be an- | gry, O Lord?
  Will your fury blaze like | fire forever?
6Pour out your wrath upon the nations who | have not known you
  and upon the kingdoms that have not called up- | on your name.
7For they have de- | voured Jacob
  and made his dwell- | ing a ruin.
8Remember not our past sins; let your compassion be | swift to meet us;
  for we have been brought | very low.
9Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory | of your name;
  deliver us and forgive us our sins, | for your name’s sake. 

Luke 16:1-13

1Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Parable of the Unjust Steward

Andrey Mironov
Oil painting, 2012

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Today we continue the Season of Creation with the 2022 theme of listening to the voice of creation itself. I had been committed in my planning to incorporate various authors into my sermons but wondered how scientist Rachel Carson would fit in. Then I read our passage from Jeremiah 8 and gave a little prayer of thanks to the Holy Spirit.

Carson lived from 1907-1964 and was trained as a marine biologist. She pursued careers both as a specialist in commercial fisheries and as a writer. Her most influential book was Silent Spring, published in 1962, in which she demonstrated the harmful effects of pesticides on the health of the environment. The book’s power comes in its combination of hard science and its descriptions of the devastation of wildlife in forests and streams.

Her writing is a call for action, but first it is a lament, a call to listen to the voice of creation. She writes, “As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life – a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways. These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task no “high-minded orientation,” no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.” 

No Pollyanna, Carson knew that pesticides were here for good, but she lamented the cost that came with no moral deliberation, ““It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.” 

Like parts of Silent Spring, Jeremiah 8 is pure lament. Who is speaking is not always clear, but the tone of the message is crystal—lament. God is the primary speaker, but we also hear from Jeremiah himself. Hear again v. 18 and 19: 18My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. 19Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”).

In v. 18 God through Jeremiah expresses grief and the loss of joy or pleasure at the events. God’s heart is sick and so is Jeremiah’s. In the next verse we hear divine lament. We also get to hear God ask “why!?” All of this is an expression of divine suffering, something we do not talk about much, but a suffering because of what has happened to the relationship between God and humanity.

As we consider longer fire seasons, a global water crisis, barges of trash in the ocean, and other environmental tragedies I think this passage from Jeremiah reminds us that God today suffers both because of human actions and also with human beings. It is clear in our passage from Jeremiah that something similar is going on. God and Jeremiah suffer because of the people; the people have provoked God with their images and foreign idols. God is not coolly unaffected by the rejection but as one deeply wounded by the broken relationship. 

God does not view what has happened to the people with a kind of detached objectivity. There seems little satisfaction that justice has now been done, however much the justice was deserved. God does not leave the people then, nor us, along to wallow in the ill effects of their own sins. God turns from the role of judge to that of fellow sufferer. Jeremiah chapter 8 may remind those of us gathered here of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem.

Lament is a faithful response to much in the world and knowing that God suffers with us may give some comfort, but my goal on a Sunday morning is to ultimately leave you with good news. For that we will turn to this most strange and hard to comprehend parable from Luke’s gospel.

The parable begins with some nameless informant telling a certain rich man that his steward has been wasting his money. The master does not inquire. There is no trial. Instead, he simply reads the steward the riot act. “What’s this I hear? You are a disgrace!” the master says. “Turn in your books! You are fired!” The steward comes out of his master’s office with none of his old life left at all. It is over.

But that’s not where the story ends. Watch. “So the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do now that my master has taken away my managership? I’m not strong enough to work as a laborer. I’m too proud to be a beggar. Aha! I’ve got it! I’ll use my brains and ace out that unforgiving tyrant. He would like me to turn in my books? Well, I’ll do just that—after I’ve made a few adjustments.

And so he calls in his master’s debtors and settles accounts with them at considerable write-offs. He knocks the bill of one of them by half, the bill of another by a fifth. This might at one and the same time make him look bad to his manager and good to the debtors. The master might remember the original amounts so cash on hand won’t matter. But the debtors might think kindly of the steward’s write-offs and “receive him into their houses” after he is fired. 

In the end, we read that “The Lord praised the unjust steward, for children of this age are wiser in their generation than the children of light. One pastor wrote that “somehow, between verse 2 (“What’s this? You’re fired!”) and verse 8 (My beamish boy! You’re a genius!) the master of the steward has turned from unforgiving bookkeeper to happy-go-lucky celebrator of any new interest that comes along. 

In a way, the steward had died. He was freed to think things he could not have thought before. He then becomes the agent of life for everybody in the parable. He gives life to his master. Somehow the sight of a loser pulling off a scheme like this in the thick of despair loosens up the master. 


More importantly, the steward gives life to his master’s debtors. Would they have ever approached the master directly? No. The debtors would never have gone near the steward if they had not been convinced he was dead to all the laws of respectable bookkeeping. 

This parable speaks for Jesus’ own life. Jesus himself was not respectable. He broke the Sabbath rules. He hung out with crooks. He died as a criminal alongside other criminals. The church has always had trouble leaving Jesus looking like the character he actually was in first century Palestine. The church cannot resist the temptation to gussy him up into a respectable citizen. 

Parables are not meant to be allegorized. They are not supposed to be fit into an algebraic equation. Resisting this temptation is very hard for our post-Enlightenment minds I will readily admit. Pastor and author Eugene Peterson once accurately described parables as narrative time bombs. 

Today’s parable is about stewardship. Whatever we have now is no more than a temporary management, but an important one. The parable invites us to be like this wise steward. He was ready to cheat the present order for the sake of the new order he knew was coming. Jesus concludes the parable with a moral that recalls Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.”

I could not help but be reminded of the steward’s craftiness and Jesus’ own lack of respectability when I read about something that took place Wednesday evening up near Luther Heights. First some background. In 1992, a sockeye salmon returned to Idaho waters from the Pacific Ocean. His journey included navigating 900 miles and 6500 feet of elevation gain, something salmon have done for millennia. But rather than returning with thousands of others, upon entering Redfish Lake (his native spawning ground), he was discovered, alone. Nicknamed “Lonesome Larry”, local fish biologists were able to harvest his sperm and fertilize thousands of eggs. This was done to rebuild and reestablish the local population of sockeye salmon. 

Wednesday, Kurt Tardy from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ fish and wildlife sockeye recovery project, invited forest and fire personnel to witness and assist with the release of 102 adult sockeye salmon into Pettit Lake. All are genetic descendants of Larry. The release will allow for natural spawning in Pettit Lake and, it is hoped, many more returning salmon in the years to come. The Forest Service reported that it was a beautiful representation of new life and hope for this area. 

Lonesome Larry, the salmon, went literally against the water. And he was unconventional in his spawning journey. To me this is a reminder that as we human beings work to heal God’s good creation, the natural world itself may be one of our greatest sources of inspiration and teachers. Then we witness the humans. In the midst of Ross Fork fire, something beautiful happened. I’m not sure if the Forest Service broke its own rules or even bent them, but the rangers did make room for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe to continue its inspiring sockeye recovery project. It’s clear to me that the Holy Spirit has been opening hearts and minds all over the place.

There is a great deal to lament as we scan environmental destruction in this country and globally. Since Silent Spring was published, we have learned some things and helped heal various places. Meanwhile, population growth and unchecked Capitalism have created new problems. Amid this seeming chaos, we are called to be stewards of the land and of all God provides. Today we give thanks for a Savior who was like no other and who might inspire us to follow him in unrespectable and unconventional ways as we try to heal this planet we all share.

Prayers of Intercession

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

As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.

A brief silence.

God our Savior, you keep your church in faith and truth. Accompany those preparing for baptism or affirmation of baptism. Enlighten preachers, teachers, seminarians, and all those who share your good news with the world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Divine teacher, you instruct your children to be responsible stewards of your creation. Show us how best to care for the earth and its resources, and guide those who work to develop sustainable practices. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Ruler of the nations, you direct those in authority. Give leaders wisdom and compassion so that all may live in peace. Inspire public servants to follow the example of courageous leaders (especially Dag Hammarskjöld) and safeguard the dignity of each person. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Helper of the needy, you lift up those who are oppressed. Breathe justice into economic and social systems that perpetuate poverty and hunger. Sustain food ministries, clothing banks, and emergency shelters (local outreach may be named). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Sustainer and giver of life, you bless this congregation with abundance. Instruct us in the proper and faithful use of wealth and resources, that we share generously. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

God of glory, you gather your saints around your throne. Keep us thankful for the witness of those who have gone before us (especially), and bring us with them to the heavenly feast that has no end. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

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Sept. 11, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion, you lead back to yourself all those who go astray. Preserve your people in your loving care, that we may reject whatever is contrary to you and may follow all things that sustain our life in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

11At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse—12a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them.

22“For my people are foolish,
  they do not know me;
 they are stupid children,
  they have no understanding.
 They are skilled in doing evil,
  but do not know how to do good.”

23I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void;
  and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking,
  and all the hills moved to and fro.
25I looked, and lo, there was no one at all,
  and all the birds of the air had fled.
26I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert,
  and all its cities were laid in ruins
  before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
27For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28Because of this the earth shall mourn,
  and the heavens above grow black;
 for I have spoken, I have purposed;
  I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Psalm 14

1Fools say in their hearts, “There | is no God.”
  They are corrupt, every deed is vile; there is no one who does | any good.
2The Lord looks down from heaven up- | on us all,
  to see if there is anyone who is wise, who seeks | after God. 
3They have all proved faithless; all alike | have turned bad;
  there is none who does good; | no, not one.
4Have they no knowledge, all those | evildoers
  who eat up my people like bread and do not call up- | on the Lord?
5See how they trem- | ble with fear,
  because God is in the company | of the righteous.
6Your aim is to confound the plans of | the afflicted,
  but the Lord| is their refuge.
7Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come | out of Zion!
  When the Lord restores the fortunes of the people, Jacob will rejoice and Israel | will be glad.

Luke 15:1-10

1Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus.] 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I am going to be straight with you today that there is a lot going on in our scripture passages, especially situated as we are in this Season of Creation. And that’s on a day that is already filled with so much—Sunday School restarted, we’re celebrating the ministry of Luther Heights even as the forest near camp burns, we’re planting and dedicating our Peace Pole from Peace Camp 2021 on the anniversary of 9/11, we are celebrating guests the same day we say goodbye to a long-time member. 

It’s a lot. But that is one of the things that the life of faith, and life in a faith community, actually excels at—holding seemingly contradictory things side-by-side. Asking, where is God in all of this? How is the Holy Spirit working in the messiness that is real life?

I have colleagues who might discourage me from reading the Jeremiah text and Luke texts on the same Sunday—for they seem so opposed. One is doom and gloom and the other is about throwing parties. Is the same God active in both passages. Definitely yes. Last week something stirred in me a memory of my dad and I standing in the pew of my home congregation in Custer, SD singing the liturgy together. A perfectly normal Wednesday morning turned into a pool of tears as I cried and cried. But I was simultaneously so filled with gratitude—for my dad, for music, for that congregation that loved me into so much of who I remain. Sorrow and gloom alongside deep joy—messy. 

So, we have this seemingly wonderful gospel text full of good news. The lost sheep and the lost coin are both found by a loving God whose mercy is everlasting. The thing is, most of us who read and hear this gospel are probably among those 99 sheep who God left in the wilderness to go search for the lost sheep. We might have felt alone and forgotten by God out there. Are we really rejoicing when the lost is found and brought back? If someone we had not seen for a while showed up today, would we accusingly ask, “Where have you been?” or would we simply say, “I’m so happy to see you! What’s new?” Do we want the lost to be found or are we more like the Pharisees and scribes who grumble and say, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

In the second parable we do not hear about the other coins. The focus is entirely on the searching God, who like the woman in Jesus’ parable just keeps looking. And now, with this parable, we are reminded that each of us has been lost at some point, maybe even today. And the reason why the “holier than though” attitude of the scribes and Pharisees (and maybe a few grumblers here—I’ll count myself among them) is unacceptable. The real reason to seek and love the lost and throw the party is because ours is a seeking and loving God. 

Basking in the gaze of this loving and seeking God, we could say, great. Carpe Diem. Anything goes. God’s mercy is everlasting. Except that right before he tells these parables, Jesus has talked at length about the cost of discipleship. What’s more, our passage from Jeremiah reveals that while God is a God of relationship and never quite gives up on the human family, there are expectations.

The prophet Jeremiah implores his first audience and us to listen to God’s voice speaking through the natural events. The imagery of approaching catastrophe in Jeremiah’s narrative emphasizes the direct connection between the disobedience of the people and the cosmos and natural order. The entire earth groans when there is unrest among humans. When we abuse God’s wonderful creation, we hurt ourselves. The prophetic idea of knowing God involves living decent and honest lives in harmony with all of God’s creation. 

Pope Francis wrote, “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet… The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor.” 

I think the harshest line in the Jeremiah passage is verse 22, 22“For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” The people have not just done evil, they have not been wise. As one scholar put it, “On the basis of everyday common sense, this people should have known better what it means to do good and shun evil.” 

Likewise, should we as a large body of people not have known better? How could the Flint, Michigan water crisis have happened in 21st century America? Don’t we collectively know better? Isn’t there enough science, compassion, wisdom, and technology today to have prevented the current water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi? For those in the West, we might take a god hard look at sources like the Ogallala Aquifer and the Colorado River. What are their futures? Will we listen to them and to the land around them so people can access them for years to come? To read statistics on the global water crisis is sobering, but to read about it happening in this country is devastating and should move us to action.

What has happened that we are so apathetic about how out of balance our collective relationship with the natural world is? How can we get back in sync? There are prophets in our own time that it might be more obvious to turn to, but I actually find it both hopeful and helpful to go way back and hear from saints from the Christian family who struggled with this imbalance long ago. One such saint is Hildegard of Bingen, the German mystic born in 1098. Most of her writings, as we have them today, are records of her visions. She also wrote hymns, treatises on medicine, lives of saints, and poems. Today she is sometimes known as the patron saint of green and growing. 

She believed, as Jeremiah did, that humans had been given wisdom and tools to live in harmony with the natural world. She wrote, “With all these things in the world [God] surrounded and fortified humankind and everywhere imbued them with the greatest strength, so that creation might assist them in all things and partake in all human works, so that they might do their work with creation—for humankind can neither live nor even exist without creation, as shall be shown to you in the present vision” (The Book of Divine Works 1.2.2).

Hildegard also had hope that we could turn things around when they went sideways—and the way to do that was through the restoration of justice. The solution to our ecological crises does not lie in fixing the physical damage of the natural environment alone. From Hildegard’s perspective, the only way to restore balance, harmony, and viridity to the natural world is to restore true justice to all aspects of the human condition.

To me it’s appropriate that we celebrate what Lutheran Outdoor Ministries is and does during this Season of Creation. I firmly believe that it’s nearly impossible for human being to help usher in the reign of God if they have never had a glimpse of the kingdom, and one place to get a glimpse is at camp. Not only are you living in intentional Christian community, but you are living in close proximity to the natural world. 

And yet we also get a glimpse of the reign of God each week when we celebrate Holy Communion. We eat bread, which comes from wheat, grown in fields rooted in soil. We drink wine made from grapes on the vine. Each of us comes to the table with the burdens and joys of the particular week but also from a particular life. We gather around the table together and remember God’s promises of forgiveness and new life. The grumpy, the lost, the foolish, the wise all together receiving the gift of Jesus himself. It is messy and beautiful, and it is absolutely a glimpse of creation restored, if just for a moment in time.

Prayers of Intercession

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

As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.

A brief silence.

Your people receive mercy and your grace overflows in our lives. Fill your church with faith and love, and give understanding hearts to those who work to strengthen our ecumenical and interreligious commitments. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your creation groans as it suffers the impacts of pollution and lack of care. As the seasons change, renew in us the will to protect plants, animals, and habitats. Bless us with bountiful harvests that all may share. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your world is shattered and the nations rage. Remember us in your mercy. Teach wisdom to our elected leaders so that we know peace in our world, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your children wander homeless and the hungry cry for bread. Seek out those who are lost or lonely, anxious or depressed, or struggling with addiction or illness. Provide for those in any need (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Your work is done in this congregation with our hands, feet, voices, minds, and hearts. Build up the ministries of this community (local ministries and partnerships may be named), that we serve our neighbors and welcome the stranger in your name. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Your blessed saints who have died now rest in your presence. Give us thankful hearts for those who have been examples of faith in our lives, and receive us with joy when we come to share eternal life with you. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

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Season of Creation at Trinity

Dear Friends in Christ, 

Trinity has a long tradition of celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi with a pet blessing. This year we are going to extend our celebration into an entire season: The Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is the annual Christian celebration to listen and respond together to the cry of Creation: the ecumenical family around the world unites to pray and protect our common home. 

The Season “Celebration” begins on 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends on 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and ecology beloved by many Christian denominations.  

This year we will unite around the theme, “Listen to the Voice of Creation.” The Psalmist declares, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge…their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the Earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (19: 1-4)  

During the Season of Creation, our common prayer and action can help us listen for the voices of those who are silenced. In prayer we lament the individuals, communities, species, and ecosystems who are lost, and those whose livelihoods are threatened by habitat loss and climate change. In prayer we center the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. We will also celebrate God’s good creation as we have come to know it and care for it here in Southwest Idaho. We will incorporate the regular lectionary texts into this season and worship will feel much the same. Get ready to sing many of the wonderful hymns about creation in our hymnal resources. As always, get your animals ready for the Pet Blessing on our lawn Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 6:30 PM. 

Peace, 

Pastor Meggan 

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Sept. 4, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings with your continual help, that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Jeremiah 18:1-11

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2“Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.
5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. 9And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Thus says the Lord: Look, I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Turn now, all of you from your evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.

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 wonder- | ful for me;
  it is so high that I cannot at- | tain 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 mar- | velously made;
  your works are wonderful, and I | know it well. 
15My body was not hid- | den 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. 

Philemon 1-21

1Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, 
  To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, 2to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God 5because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. 6I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. 7I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother.

8For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, 9yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. 10I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. 12I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. 13I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. 15Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother—especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. 21Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Today we begin a season that is new for Trinity Lutheran, at least in my time here, The Season of Creation, an ecumenical movement begun in 1989. It begins with Sept. 1, a day of prayer for creation and culminates Oct. 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Having grown up in the Black Hills of South Dakota and serving here in Southwest Idaho since late 2010, I was particularly drawn to this year’s theme, The Burning Bush

I still remember the big fires of the west from my youth. Custer State Park and Yellowstone National Park both burned in the summer of 1988. My stepbrother Mike worked for the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota. He first served on the fire line across the American West every summer and then moved to law enforcement in the fire camps. When I moved to Idaho, I learned about the Great Fire of 1910 that destroyed Wallace Idaho, the fire that impacted how we think about forest fires and forests themselves in this country. 

The planners of The Season of Creation, writing about The Burning Bush, remind us that “the fire that called Moses as he tended the flock on Mt. Horeb did not consume or destroy the bush. This flame of the Spirit revealed God’s presence. This holy fire affirmed that God heard the cries of all who suffered and promised to be with us as we followed in faith to our deliverance from injustice. In this Season of Creation, this symbol of God’s Spirit calls us to listen to the voice of creation.” Listen to the voice of creation.

There is a family of writers who have lifted up stories in our country of when humans have not lived well with the natural world, writers who woo their readers to listen to the voice of creation. I can think of no one better to begin this Season of Creation with than Timothy Egan

In his book The Worst Hard Times, Egan writes about the environmental disaster of the Dust Bowl by following a dozen families and their communities. Egan writes, “The drought was in its fourth year, and it was the worst in at least a generation’s time. But long dry periods were as much a part of the Great Plains as the grass itself. What was different in 1935 was that the land was naked. If the prairie had been held in place by adequate ground cover—grass, or even the matted sprouts of wheat emerging from winter dormancy—the land could never have peeled away as it did, with great strips of earth thrown to the sky.” We can hear the high plains crying out for restoration.

One of the prominent characters in Egan’s narrative history is Hugh Bennett, who FDR appointed as director of the Soil Erosion Service. Egan quotes Bennett, “Of all the countries in the world, we Americans have been the greatest destroyers of land of any race of people barbaric or civilized,” Bennett said in a speech at the start of the dust storms. What was happening, he said, was “sinister,” a symptom of “our stupendous ignorance.” 

Perhaps of greater interest to those of us living in the Intermountain Region is Egan’s book The Big Burn, about the Great Fire of August 1910, which killed 86 people over two days and burned more than three million acres of forest. The fire is also credited with saving the then fledgling Forest Service, so grateful was the public for the service of the fire fighters.

What I love about the way Egan writes is that he tells the history of the land and human interactions with it. Whether it’s the high plains of the Texas panhandle or the forest of the Idaho panhandle, he begins with how the Indigenous peoples lived with the land. He then introduces his audience to people like the cowboys on the XIT ranch in Texas, cowboys who loved the grassland and warned newcomers to not take the plow to grass. In The Big Burn we meet Gifford Pinchot, Teddy Roosevelt’s chief forester, who shared with Roosevelt a deep interest in conservation and was a man ahead of his time.

Egan never suggests that we should go back in time. He recognizes, like the biblical authors we heard from today, that human beings have a propensity for greed but that we also have a desire to correct, to repair, to transform our relationship with the land as individuals and as communities. We have, today, so many disciplines at our disposal. We can learn from history, ecology, biology and even psychology. And to all of these, people of faith, which includes we Christians gathered in this space, can add faith. Faith, our relationship with the Divine, the Holy Trinity, can help us transform our relationship with the natural world. 

The famous passage in Jeremiah about the piece of clay and potter’s house reminds us that God cares about what we do—as individuals, as the church, and as communities. God is not indifferent. When God is angry, it is because God cares. Anyone who is a parent can understand and relate to this. Loving and caring for a child brings with it a whole host of emotions. 

What does God desire? Justice, the biblical justice in which there is enough for all and there is true equity. So, we have this image of God as a potter who works with clay (the people). God wants the best possible vessel to emerge. I love the image of God as artist because it brings with it a trait that is right there in Genesis Chapter 1 but that we seem to often forget—creativity. This passage from Jeremiah reminds us that we worship a God who take initiative, who is creative, and who responds to the clay, the people. 

Will the people repent and turn toward God? Will we be open to new ways of being on this planet with the rest of natural world? To return to forest fires and their history and future in this country, I confess that I do not come today with clear answers. I am not a trained ecologist. My gut tells me there is no one perfect answer. And yet I take heart from stories of land management agencies and firefighters today, stories of those working with Indigenous people to set purposeful fires. For thousands of years many tribes used small intentional burns to renew local food, medicinal and cultural resources, create habitat for animals, and reduce the risk of larger, more dangerous wildfires. 

Going forward, I believe we will need a mixture of the best of ancient practices, the best of modern science, and finally the will to keep trying new things and to sacrifice. We depend on the natural world for so much. Extreme weather events may continue. If they do, fires, floods, and drought will of course bring the most harm and danger to those who are already the most vulnerable. When God is first in our lives, as our Gospel commands, then we have to shape our lives to care for the most vulnerable.

 In Luke 14, Jesus makes it clear that while grace and forgiveness may be freely received, discipleship comes at a cost. If we are to be disciples, to really follow Jesus, we are called to put him, and his Kingdom values, before all else. The examples Jesus gives address two areas which can easily dilute our discipleship: family (v.26) and material possessions (v.33). These words about family may strain our ears so many years later. Take heart, Jesus is not encouraging animosity between family members. The meaning is not literally to hate, but to ensure family does not prevent our single-minded focus on following Jesus. 

Writing to Christians in the context of Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it this way, “The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man [woman] which is the result of the encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship, we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Since this happens at the beginning of the Christian life, the cross can never be merely a tragic ending to an otherwise happy religious life. When Christ calls [someone], He bids [them] come and die.”

A disciple of Jesus must be ready to carry the burden not only of tensions in the family, but even of civil disobedience to the point of legal punishment. This was often the experience of the Gospel writer Luke’s first readers. By the time Luke wrote it was clear that things would not be easy withing the Roman Empire. We, trying to follow Jesus so many years later, to live well with the natural world, to help bring in the kingdom of God, may not have to contend with the Roman Empire. What we face instead are materialism, consumerism, greed, and a me-culture that begs all of us to ignore any notion of the collective good, including the beautiful planet we all call home.

That may bring us to despair, but we have so many stories to give us hope. We have the story of God the potter going back to the wheel again, never giving up. We have stories of people who lived in harmony with the untamed high plains and giant forests. And finally, we have stories of people who destroyed that harmony but later learned from their mistakes. 

We want enough food, water, clean air, and natural beauty for everyone who inhabits this corner of the universe now. We want it for those who come after us too. What are we willing to sacrifice? What are we willing to change? We will exercise our power with our votes, our money, and our time. Our desire to heal the world will be manifest in a million little ways empowered always by the Holy Spirit. For the same Spirit who appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush is with us still, giving us all the strength and creativity and wisdom we need. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

As scattered grains of wheat are gathered together into one bread, so let us gather our prayers for the church, those in need, and all of God’s good creation.

A brief silence.

We pray for the church around the world and for the mission of the gospel. Refresh the hearts of your people, deepen our understanding of every good thing we share, and strengthen our partnerships in the faith. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

For the well-being of the earth and all its creatures: for trees and forests, for all that will yield fruit this season, and for streams and other bodies of water. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

For the nations and those in authority: for the elected leaders of our towns, states, and country, and for international organizations. Grant wisdom to those who govern and raise up citizens who make decisions in the best interest of their neighbors. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

For all in need: for those who suffer from disease, who struggle with homelessness or food insecurity, for those whose family life is difficult, and for all in this community who need your care (especially). God of grace,

hear our prayer.

For this community of faith: for all our labors—begun, continued, and ended in you—that they glorify your holy name. Bless your people with the strength to live into their many vocations for the sake of the world. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

We give thanks for the saints who now rest from their labors. Give us faith, like them, to love you with all our hearts, and by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life. God of grace,

hear our prayer.

Gathered together in the sweet communion of the Holy Spirit, gracious God, we offer these and all our prayers to you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Amen.

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August Epistle Column

Originally published in Trinity’s August newsletter/Epistle.

Dear Friends in Christ, 

Twenty-five years ago, Dorothy Bass edited the book Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. I read it on my own and then read it with at least one group during my time here at Trinity (the names of the Trinity women who led discussions on the various chapters are still written in my book). We live out many of these practices intuitively in this congregation, but I hear a yearning in this moment to grow in the practices, not as an end to themselves but to deepen our relationship with God. What’s included? There are familiar practices like keeping the Sabbath, hospitality, shaping communities, singing the faith, household economics, discernment, and testimony (which we call storytelling). Others not highlighted in the original book but certainly part of our life of faith include serving the poor, caring for creation, reading scripture, embracing diversity, and listening. But, some might ask, we confess that we are saved by grace through faith, apart from works, are practices not just another way to talk about works? First, let us all be clear that even though works are not salvific, they are still part of the life of faith. Faith without action is not exactly a living breathing faith. Knowing the gifts we have received from God, how can we not respond with both works (faith active in love) and practices (which deepen our relationships with God, our neighbors, and ourselves)? In the months ahead, look and listen for this language about practices. Hold one another and our congregational leadership accountable. Are we missing some of the practices in our life together? What are you specifically hungry for in your life of faith? Where and how do you want to grow in faith and how can this community of faith help facilitate that growth and transformation? We never fully arrive, expect at the very beginning in the waters of baptism. Every day after our baptisms we remember our identity as child of God and try to live into that identity however that day calls.  

Pastor Meggan 

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Aug. 28, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace to those who are humble. Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Jeremiah 2:4-13

4Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5Thus says the Lord: 
 What wrong did your ancestors find in me
  that they went far from me,
 and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
6They did not say, “Where is the Lord
  who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
 who led us in the wilderness,
  in a land of deserts and pits,
 in a land of drought and deep darkness,
  in a land that no one passes through,
  where no one lives?”
7I brought you into a plentiful land
  to eat its fruits and its good things.
 But when you entered you defiled my land,
  and made my heritage an abomination.
8The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
  Those who handle the law did not know me;
 the rulers transgressed against me;
  the prophets prophesied by Baal,
  and went after things that do not profit.

9Therefore once more I accuse you,
 says the Lord,
  and I accuse your children’s children.
10Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
  send to Kedar and examine with care;
  see if there has ever been such a thing.
11Has a nation changed its gods,
  even though they are no gods?
 But my people have changed their glory
  for something that does not profit.
12Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
  be shocked, be utterly desolate,
 says the Lord,
13for my people have committed two evils:
  they have forsaken me,
 the fountain of living water,
  and dug out cisterns for themselves,
 cracked cisterns
  that can hold no water.

Psalm 81:1, 10-16

1Sing with joy to | God our strength
  and raise a loud shout to the | God of Jacob.
10“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the | land of Egypt.
  Open your mouth wide, and | I will fill it.
11Yet my people did not | hear my voice,
  and Israel would | not obey me.
12So I gave them over to the stubbornness | of their hearts,
  to follow their | own devices. 
13Oh, that my people would lis- | ten to me,
  that Israel would walk | in my ways!
14I would quickly sub- | due their enemies
  and turn my hand a- | gainst their foes.
15Those who hate the Lord would | cringe in fear,
  and their punishment would | last forever.
16But I would feed you with the | finest wheat
  and satisfy you with honey | from the rock.” 

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

1Let mutual love continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. 4Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. 5Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” 6So we can say with confidence, 
 “The Lord is my helper;
  I will not be afraid.
 What can anyone do to me?”
7Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 15Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 14:1, 7-14

1On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
12He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

God wants to be in relationship with the chosen people, will all humanity, including us. The first three verses of Jeremiah Chapter Two present the metaphor of a marriage, a marriage from which the people walked away: “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” Do you remember the honeymoon? God seems to be asking. Have your ancestors told you the story of your fidelity and mine? It was wonderful. We loved each other and were faithful.

What went wrong? Well, what always goes wrong? God brought the people out of the land of Egypt into the Wilderness, then through the Wilderness into what scripture calls the land of milk and honey, and then gave them kings. But then the Israelites looked around at the other people and decided they might like to try worshiping the gods of their neighbors.

Why did they do that? Why do we turn away from God, worshiping other gods? We go after worthless things because their “worthlessness” is deferred. Their immediate payoff is so satisfying. Yes, God’s acts of deliverance were amazing. But the thrill of walking between the walls of the water in the Red Seas belonged to people long dead. Those are just stories to us now. We want our own vivid experience. 

For the Israelites, the heart of Jeremiah’s speech is idolatry. God comes at the subject in three different ways: the people have chased after worthless things (and become worthless themselves in the process). They have “changed gods’ (forsaking the one who made them what they are today). And they have tried to draw strength from worthless sources (cracked cisterns that cannot hold anything). 

I want to have you wonder with me about what we idolize. What are our cracked cisterns today? I actually think that unlike Jeremiah’s audience, we do remember our past, or multiple pasts, but we distort them. Sometimes we make idols of these pasts.

Although historians have yet to locate such an idyllic chapter in this nation’s history, their conclusions haven’t stopped large segments of the population from glorifying the past. Selective memory holds attractive appeal. Warm sentimentality, however oblivious to real experience, feels good. 

Pastor Peter Marty wrote, “One wonders what past era [people] might have in mind. Was it America’s legacy of enslaving African peoples, only to lynch numbers of them later? Was it the 18th century and its primitive medicine, or the 19th century and its marginal sanitation? Perhaps his cherished past exists somewhere in the past 100 years, when women still lacked the right to vote, laborers had frighteningly few rights, the needs of the disabled went largely ignored, Agent Orange wreaked havoc, and the waterboarding of terror suspects became acceptable to some top brass.

Nostalgia that ignores blemishes of the past makes for shabby history. The ancient Israelites, who longed for the fleshpots of Egypt despite being freshly liberated from the pharaoh, remind us that glorifying the past is not an exclusively modern or American phenomenon. Anyone from any epoch is capable of shelving complexity for the sake of remembering the good and forgetting the bad.”

The people hearing from God through the prophet Jeremiah seem to have forgotten that God was present leading them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. And in that forgetting they defiled the land once they arrived there.

We are present in the text too. The prophet is speaking about the ancestors. He is speaking to their descendants. And their descendants, including us, are reading the prophet’s words. Many generations are wrapped up in God’s question, “What did I do wrong, that you, all of you, were unfaithful?” God is asking the question to all three of these groups.

God first inquires about the ancestors. The passage of time leaves God especially vulnerable to what might have gone wrong in the past. God could have failed during the time of the patriarchs, during the time of deliverance from Egypt or during Israel’s wilderness experience. God could have failed as the newly formed nation entered the land of promise or when leadership was turned over to a succession of judges, prophets, and kings.

Even if the fault lies with the divine, God is willing to examine all of the possibilities. But once the question is asked, the answer seems obvious. One scholar explains, “God’s question seems to be rhetorical, with the answer self-evident: God committed no wrong in the relationship.”

What does this look like today? In what ways have we been unfaithful to God? You know them. We have all confessed our sins earlier in the service, our communal sins but also our individual sins. We know our unfaithfulness. Another way to get at this is by asking, what would we love our community to look like? Instead of getting caught up in nostalgia about the past, instead of idolizing some picture painted of what was, inaccurate as it may be, we might ask, “how do we want to live the lives we have been given now—today?  

God, through Jeremiah, is calling the people to borrow God’s vision, oh my people, and this is what you will see…. “My vision of shalom, of a peaceable kingdom is this. It is my dream for you and for all creation.”

Is the dream over? No, it is not. We know this because at the end of the passage, God still calls the people, “my people.” And God describes Godself as a fountain of living water. Let’s dwell there for a minute. Living water rains, runs, flows, and swirls. It washes away impurity, transports nutrients, constitutes leaf and stem, blood and bone. Where water flows, life abounds. Where water stagnates, disease takes hold. Where there is no water, life cannot even begin. 

As today, the climate of much of Israel was defined by a rainy season (winter) and a dry season (summer). The summer brought sunshine and beautiful blue skies. But if one did not live near a natural, constant source of living water, such as a spring, water could be hard to come by, and was truly precious.

Israel’s Iron Age (1200-539 BCE) was a time of technological innovation. New technologies included terracing and iron plow-points. These facilitated agricultural intensification and geographical expansion. Another technology whose use made it possible for Israelites to settle and thrive in highland regions that had previously been inhospitable was the cistern, referenced in our Jeremiah text.

In Israel’s central highlands, settlers hewed bell-shaped cisterns from bedrock. These collected and stored water from the rainy winter for use during arid summer. They dug channels to direct rainwater into the cistern. 

In places where the bedrock was formed predominantly from chalk, the chalk formed a natural seal when wet, further minimizing water loss. In other places, cisterns could be sealed with a plaster compound. 

What was God’s critique and lament? “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”

Today, when water flows from taps, it may be difficult to grasp the force of water as a metaphor. And yet, in this high desert it should be somewhat translatable. What if our canals were broken up one day, unable to transport water to crops? What if our reservoirs dried up for good? Those tools are all made by humans, in our control. But a fountain of living water that never stops flowing? That is the definition of hope and life.

Hope remains. God does not want simply to terminate the relationship but is willing to struggle, perhaps to fix blame but also perhaps to recover the relationship. In spite of their idolatry, despite their unfaithfulness as a people, God calls Israel “my people.” Even now, there is hope for the nation. This hope, rooted and grounded in the nature of the divine, will not fail. “In Jeremiah’s prophecies, Israel’s hope is as sure as its doom,” one scholar wrote. He continues, “Hope such as this is ever present, encouraging humanity, individually and collectively, to embrace God’s best, no matter what.” It may feel like the world is changing too much, too fast even during this one hour of worship. Fear not. We worship a God of living water who will never forsake us.

In the service of Holy Baptism we ask God, “Pour out your Holy Spirit, the power of your living Word, that those who are washed in the waters of baptism may be given new life” and later, “sustain this person with the gift of your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever.” Not just the day of baptism, not just this week, or month, or year. We ask, and God promises, to stay with us forever. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

For the church and its leaders, we pray. Uphold all deacons, pastors, and bishops who serve and teach your people (national, synodical, and local leaders may be named). Awaken in your church a spirit of invitation that reaches ever outward. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For the well-being of creation and its inhabitants, we pray. Stir in us reverent awe for the beauty of the natural world, for oceans and lakes, rivers and streams, forests and deserts (local places may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For the nations and peoples of the world, we pray. Sustain the efforts of those who pursue justice and equity for all. Defend and accompany all immigrants and refugees and all who are persecuted for their ethnic origin or religious beliefs. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit, we pray. Be present with those who live in isolation or fear, especially those who are incarcerated or detained. Comfort all who are sick or grieving (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

For this congregation and its ministries, we pray. Prepare children, teachers, and youth ministry directors for a new year of learning. Embolden our witness to invite others to the table. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

For all the saints who confessed God’s name (especially Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Moses the Black), we give thanks. May we cling to the promise of our risen Savior, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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

Amen.

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Aug. 14, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression, and you call us to share your zeal for truth. Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed, and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Isaiah 5:1-7

1Let me sing for my beloved
  my love-song concerning his vineyard:
 My beloved had a vineyard
  on a very fertile hill.
2He dug it and cleared it of stones,
  and planted it with choice vines;
 he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
  and hewed out a wine vat in it;
 he expected it to yield grapes,
  but it yielded wild grapes.

3And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
  and people of Judah,
 judge between me
  and my vineyard.
4What more was there to do for my vineyard
  that I have not done in it?
 When I expected it to yield grapes,
  why did it yield wild grapes?

5And now I will tell you
  what I will do to my vineyard.
 I will remove its hedge,
  and it shall be devoured;
 I will break down its wall,
  and it shall be trampled down.
6I will make it a waste;
  it shall not be pruned or hoed,
  and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
 I will also command the clouds
  that they rain no rain upon it.

7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
  is the house of Israel,
 and the people of Judah
  are his pleasant planting;
 he expected justice,
  but saw bloodshed;
 righteousness,
  but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19

1Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph | like a flock;
  shine forth, you that are enthroned up- | on the cherubim.
2In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, | and Manasseh,
  stir up your strength and | come to help us.
8You have brought a vine | out of Egypt;
  you cast out the nations and | planted it.
9You cleared the | ground for it;
  it took root and | filled the land.
10The mountains were covered | by its shadow
  and the towering cedar trees | by its boughs.
11You stretched out its tendrils | to the sea
  and its branches | to the river. 
12Why have you broken | down its wall,
  so that all who pass by pluck | off its grapes?
13The wild boar of the forest has | ravaged it,
  and the beasts of the field have | grazed upon it.
14Turn now, O | God of hosts,
  look | down from heaven;
15behold and | tend this vine;
  preserve what your right | hand has planted. 
16They burn it with | fire like rubbish;
  at the rebuke of your countenance | let them perish.
17Let your hand be upon the one at | your right hand,
  the one you have made so strong | for yourself.
18And so will we never turn a- | way from you;
  give us life, that we may call up- | on your name.
19Restore us, O Lord| God of hosts;
  let your face shine upon us, and we | shall be saved.

Hebrews 11:29–12:2

29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. 31By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
32And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented—38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
39Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Luke 12:49-56

[Jesus said:] 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided: 
 father against son
  and son against father,
 mother against daughter
  and daughter against mother,
 mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
  and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Our passage from Isaiah labels itself a love song, and it surely begins that way: “Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.” 

But then this love song, which is really a sort of parable, similar to the story about sheep that the prophet Nathan tells to convict king David, and similar to the many parables Jesus told, the love song or parable makes a sharp turn. We read, “And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” 

It turns out that Israel and Judah are the vineyard and God is the vine grower. With this parable, God is declaring judgement, yet it is judgement born of love. In a very clear way, the love song continues even as God through the prophet Isaiah describes the destruction which will come. 

Like the people of Israel and Judah we have been taught often about God’s love and grace—how God chose, cleared, dug, planted, and safeguarded us. “Lucky us,” one scholar wrote, “We are infinitely loved and assured. We are therefore relieved of heavy obligations, duties, and requirements—and are immune to certain ultimate devastations. In no time, we are lounging in the easiest of all the world’s religions, leaning back into the entitlements of grace and an arrogance of heritage. Love was looking for something else.” He concludes that, “God’s love, it turns out, comes with expectations after all.” Three times we read it: God “expected.” 

A vineyard, as those of us so close to the Snake River Wine Country know, is not full of decorative flowers. A vineyard is for farming. The vintner needs and expects fruit, not just any fruit, but fruit that refreshes, feeds, pleases the palates, gladdens the heart, and can be the center of communal celebrations. 

For four lines the vineyard owner speaks, but now it is over. God has gone silent, and the prophet Isaiah must disclose what occurred. What did the people do that was so bad? It comes in the final verse, “He expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry.” The passage descends from the beautiful to the horrible. 

We, reading the text so many years later, do well to take some time and dwell on the two words that weigh so heavy in the text: justice and righteousness. As I have said before from this pulpit, we need to take care when the Bible speaks of justice because it is at once a concept so central to the entire Bible and yet so far from our contemporary understandings of the word. 

There is also no one word in the Bible which easily translates into justice in English. There are three words. The word used in our Isaiah passage today is mishpat, a word which lays claim to the fundamental wholeness of the world, and to what God does when that wholeness is ripped apart, torn by neglect or violence or any violation of right relationship. We might speak here of “rectifying” justice or “restorative” justice. 

Righteousness, in our country today, typically signifies individual morality. The Hebrew word usually designates the fulfillment of one’s obligations to others. The everyday phrase “do right by somebody” captures this sense of the word. 

And so, we can conclude that the members of the vineyard did not do right by anybody. Nor did they seek wholeness and right relationships with one another, their neighbors, or God. 

So then what? Is there any hope to come from this horrible ending of a beautiful vineyard now destroyed? In fact there is hope. However, it will not be found in these seven verses, but through the imagery of the vineyard carried forward in scripture. 

The theme of a “new song” of the vineyard is first sounded in Isaiah Chapter 27. God announces God’s own intent to keep the vineyard night and day against all enemies, “I have no wrath. If it gives me thorns and briers, I will march to battle against it. I will burn it up. Or else let it cling to me for protection, let it make peace with me…In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit.”

John’s gospel, Chapter 15 develops a Christ-centered interpretation of the vineyard. It explores the source of Israel’s true fruit. It lies in complete dependence of the branches on the vine. God, the Father, is thus glorified by the righteous fruit that the followers of Jesus Christ produce. And what undergirds every adaptation of the vineyard metaphor, the dominant witness encompassing it all, is that God is making all things new.

Listen to the words again of our Psalm, which is always a response to our first reading, “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.”

In the musical adaptation of the famed book The Secret Garden, my second favorite song is simply, “Wick.” Orphan Mary Lennox has gone to live with her grumpy uncle in England after her parents died of cholera in India. At her uncle’s estate, Mary discovers a secret abandoned garden and makes friends with Dicken, who teacher her about gardening through the song:

“When a thing is wick, it has a life about it.

Maybe not a life like you and me.

But somewhere there’s a secret streak of green inside it.

Now, come and let me show you what I mean.

When a thing is wick, it has a light around it.

Maybe not a light that you can see.

But hiding down below a spark’s asleep inside it,

Waiting for the right time to be seen.”

Mary and Dicken move around the garden, doing their work. At the end of the song, Mary finally joins in the singing, 

“When a thing is wick,

And someone cares about it,

And comes to work each day, like you and me,

Will it grow?” she asks. And Dicken assures her, “It will.”

Will the followers of Jesus Christ living in 2022 pursue justice and righteousness? Will we tend the vineyard? The end of the parable is left open. Will we seek wholeness, care for the neglected, lift up those God shows preferential treatment for again and again—the widow, the orphan, the foreigner and whoever they might be today? Will we do right by our neighbors? The invitation is open. I trust that there is plenty of wick in the vineyard of the reign of God. 

What’s more, we trust and follow a God who is always making things new, including on this day, when we gather around a meal of bread and wine. Together we feast on the fruit of the vine, Christ’s love poured out for us, his body given for us. We are nourished in faith and love as we hear the promises of mercy of new life. We cannot help but respond to such love with fruit of justice and righteousness.

May the psalmist’s words become our prayer, 

18And so will we never turn away from you;
  give us life, that we may call upon your name.
19Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
  let your face shine upon us.” Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

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

Arise, O God, and sustain your church. We pray for all who dedicate their lives to serving your people. Renew our commitment to our siblings in faith around the globe, and bless the work of our ecumenical and interfaith partners (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Arise, O God, and sustain your creation. We pray for all places affected by natural disasters (especially). Transform the devastation of floods and fires into fertile ground for new life and growth. Fill heaven and earth with your life-giving Spirit. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Arise, O God, and sustain the nations. We pray for all elected officials. Kindle in them a desire to administer your justice. Strengthen their resolve to defend those who are vulnerable and to stand publicly against all forms of oppression. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Arise, O God, and sustain those who are oppressed. We pray for people harmed by racist discrimination, ableist discrimination, and all people discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. Rescue us from all systems that degrade our fellow human beings. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Arise, O God, and sustain this assembly. We pray for this community, celebrating with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (concerns may be named). In our joy and in our tears, be near us. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, we remember the saints (especially Maximilian Kolbe and Kaj Munk) who have gone before us. May we run with perseverance the race set before us until we find our rest in you. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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

Amen.

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Aug. 7, 2022

Prayer of the Day

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

Amen.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

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

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

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

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

Business Men, Mother and Hungry Child

Department of Justice
Washington, DC

Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23

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

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

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

Luke 12:32-40

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

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayers of Intercession

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

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

A brief silence.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

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

receive our prayer.

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

Amen.

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July 31, 2022

Prayer of the Day

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

Amen.

Psalm 107:1-9, 43

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

Ephesians 3:14-21

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

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

Luke 12:13-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUTH REFLECTIONS

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

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

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

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

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

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

receive our prayer.

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

Amen.

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