July 4, 2021

Prayer of the Day

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us to proclaim the coming of your kingdom. Give us the courage you gave the apostles, that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace in every circumstance of life, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.Amen.

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

1All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
  9David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.

The New Colussus by Emma Lazarus (the poem on the Statue of Liberty pedestal)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

2I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows—4was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark 6:1-13

1[Jesus] came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief. 
  Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What does it mean to be embodied? How do we get grounded? What does it mean to be from a place and space or to journey physically? These are just some of the questions I have had as I thought about physical dislocation, the last kind of dislocation described in Diana Butler Bass’ article , “Religion after Pandemic”

Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, relational, and physical. She suggests that communities like ours need to be about the work of relocation. This includes finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities.

As I said, this week we are focusing specifically on physical dislocation. Bass writes, “We’ve lost our sense of embodiment with others and geographical location. For millions, technology has moved ‘physicality’ into cyber-space and most of us have no idea what to do with this virtual sense of location. Without our familiar sense of being bodily in specific spaces, things like gardening, baking, sewing, and painting have emerged as ways of feeling the ground and the work of our hands. We’ve striven to maintain some sort of embodiment even amid isolation. But the disconnection between our bodies, places, and other bodies have been profound. That’s physical dislocation.”

Jesus has his own dislocation experience in our story from Mark this week when he returns to his hometown. The truth is that he does not seem too bothered by the entire affair and is as grounded as ever. It is the people in his hometown who are more dislocated. They recognize the hometown boy, “the carpenter, the son of Mary.” With those two phrases they recall with clear shame that there was no birth father involved. They are suspicious. Will they welcome Jesus’ physical self back to his hometown?

Jesus knows that his vocation will be rejected in his native region, by his relatives, and finally in his own household. He must concede that he is a prophet without honor, stripped of status and robbed of clan identity. He is disowned. He withdraws and takes up again his mission to the village circuit. 

Jesus sums up the general mood: “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”  The more familiar something is, the harder it is to believe it to be holy.  

We know something about this in our own time and place.  Most of us have grown up with the sacraments, with the word of God read and preached, with the liturgy.  We have seen countless baptisms, confessed our faith through the creeds countless times, and heard hundreds of absolutions. We take our place easily at the Lord’s Table.  

During the first part of the pandemic, so much of embodied worship had to change. Good things came out of that experience, in my estimation. Chief among them was that people created, sometimes for the first time, sacred spaces in their homes. This was biblical—just look at Jesus using the very ordinary to create the means of grace, what we now call Sacraments. That faith would be practiced and taught in the home is also in line with what Reformer Martin Luther tried to do with the Small Catechism—giving parents a tool to teach the faith in every household. 

And yet, people have always made pilgrimage to holy places. People have built temples, altars, synagogues, churches, temples, mosques. And those places, whether a special rock outcropping or a valley or a structure built with human hands became holy. In our tradition, physical spaces like sanctuaries can help people feel closer to God, especially because of the memories and relationships and moments of immanence and transcendence. Can we make idols of church buildings? Yes, and that is surely something to be wary of. Maybe the pandemic helped us find an equilibrium—not idolizing the things or place of worship, but we no longer take for granted this and other sacred spaces and faith practices, particularly when we practice together for the sake of our neighbor and our broken world. 

Back to the story in Mark’s gospel, Jesus summons his community. Originally the community of the twelve disciples was created for two reasons: to accompany Jesus and to be sent out to preach and cast out demons. This is a simple start, just the beginning. Later, this community will reckon with a second call—to a discipleship of the cross. In such discipleship they will experience the clash between the kingdom of God and powers of the world. 

We, listening in 2000 years later, are struck most by the utter dependence of the disciples upon their hospitality. They are allowed the means of travel (staff and sandals). They, like Jesus, who has just been renounced in his own “home,” are to take on the status of a sojourner in the land. The focus of the hospitality is the household. The apostles are told to “remain there until you leave that district.”  

Jesus reckons with the inevitable prospect that certain places will refuse to “receive or hear” the apostles.  The symbolic gesture of shaking dust from the feet implies “a witness against” these places. The vocation of hospitality is taken with deadly earnest. Households that refuse it are thereafter shunned.

I love one scholar’s suggestion about the contrast here—the similarities and differences between the marching orders for Jesus’ nonviolent campaign and the traditional strategies of other subversive movements.  Like modern guerillas, for example, Jesus’ disciples are subject to the social and political perceptions of the local population. These perceptions will determine whether or not they will be “received”—always a good test of one’s “Popular base.”  

Unlike normal guerillas, however, who must “eat and run,” Jesus’ followers make no effort to be covert. Where they are offered accommodation, they stay and establish a profile. And whereas a military-based movement will usually seize by force what is needed, at least in situations of acute need, Jesus forbids retaliation in the event of rejection. This makes the missionaries completely vulnerable to, and dependent upon, the hospitality extended to them.  It prevents them from being able to impose their views by force.

As our physical bodies relocate this physical sanctuary, I confess having more questions than answers. What is essential to our embodied gatherings? Besides bread and wine? What is equivalent to the staff and sandals? What are the necessary tools for us to praise God, to pray, to listen, to hear the promises of God’s love and mercy? I admit being quite grateful for our sanctuary’s simplicity.

Another question, in light of Jesus’ sending out the disciples, is how do we balance rest and comfort with the call of discipleship? We know that many of us are more than tired. The word buzzing around on social media is “languishing.” I know that what many of us want, including myself, when we come to this space is comfort and peace. At the same time, we know that the call to discipleship is a call outward. In other words, while we physically relocate ourselves in this space what physical symbols are needed to remind us that this is primarily a place to be sent forth from? How do we find rest and restoration in God and in the life of intentional Christian community while being mindful of the call to love our neighbor when we leave this physical space. 

The story of Jesus and his early followers, including the story today, is ultimately one of people on the move, sent forth, meeting people where they are. The breaking in of the reign of God is also about physical bodies—God embodied in Jesus but then this Jesus healing and restoring and welcoming back to community physical bodies that have been cast out or marginalized.

We are more like Jesus’ community than we think.  We can sound like those people in Jesus’ hometown. But the story never ends in those broken places. God keeps calling people to embody God’s word. God chooses to touch and heal us through the ordinary physical stuff like water, bread, and wine. As we go to proclaim the good news and care for the marginalized and sick, we go with this authority.  It does not look like much, but in the kingdom of God, looks can be deceiving.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

A brief silence.God of all, through the waters of baptism you claim people of all races, ethnicities, and languages as your beloved children. Sustain the baptized and increase their faith, that your gospel may be proclaimed throughout the earth. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of the heavens, your creating Spirit animates the universe. We give you thanks for the moon and stars, for the planets and the Milky Way Galaxy, and for all of the mysteries of the cosmos that remain unknown to us. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of freedom, you have liberated us from sin and death and rescue us from all forms of spiritual, social, and political oppression. Defend us from tyrants in our midst and deliver us from all forms of slavery or corruption. Direct our freedom for works of liberation and wholeness. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of compassion, you became vulnerable in the person of Jesus Christ in solidarity with the disempowered. Strengthen those who feel faint, give courage to those who fear, and bring wholeness to those in need (especially). Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of holiness, you send us out into the world to proclaim your love. We pray for our outreach ministries (local ministries may be named). Equip us as we leave this place to witness and serve our neighbors. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.We give you thanks that in every time and place you call forth prophets who move us towards freedom. Thank you for those who work for human rights, community organizers, and all who strive for liberty for all. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interviewed by Latter-day Saints

I first met Nampa resident Kim Kellar my first spring here when a local LDS stake hosted a midweek Lenten soup supper and worship. Journeying with Mormons through Lent was as weird as it sounds but the conversation with Kim was great, the first of many. We later became friends through the Nampa Ministerial Association, now the Nampa Interfaith Council. He become a big supporter (emotionally and financially) of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. It was fun to sit down with him for this interview. Fun Fact: I was the second non-LDS person to be on the podcast.

Enjoy One Heart. One Mind. Nampa: Heeding God’s Call with Pastor Meggan Manlove.


Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

June 27, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, we implore you to hear the prayers of your people. Be our strong defense against all harm and danger, that we may live and grow in faith and hope, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.Amen.

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

1After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.
  17David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan. 18(He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.) He said:
19Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
  How the mighty have fallen!
20Tell it not in Gath,
  proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
 or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
  the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

21You mountains of Gilboa,
  let there be no dew or rain upon you,
  nor bounteous fields!
 For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
  the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

22From the blood of the slain,
  from the fat of the mighty,
 the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
  nor the sword of Saul return empty.

23Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
  In life and in death they were not divided;
 they were swifter than eagles,
  they were stronger than lions.

24O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
  who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
  who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

25How the mighty have fallen
  in the midst of the battle!

 Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
  26I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
 greatly beloved were you to me;
  your love to me was wonderful,
  passing the love of women.

27How the mighty have fallen,
  and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 130

1Out | of the depths
  I cry to | you, O Lord;
2O Lord, | hear my voice!
  Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my | supplication.
3If you were to keep watch | over sins,
  O Lord, | who could stand?
4Yet with you | is forgiveness,
  in order that you | may be feared. 
5I wait for you, O Lord; | my soul waits;
  in your word | is my hope.
6My soul waits for the Lord more than those who keep watch | for the morning,
  more than those who keep watch | for the morning.
7O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is | steadfast love;
  with the Lord there is plen- | teous redemption.
8For the Lord shall | redeem Israel
  from | all their sins. 

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

7Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.
  8I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—11now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have. 13I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15As it is written, 
 “The one who had much did not have too much,
  and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Mark 5:21-43

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So he went with him. 
  And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
  35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Healing of the Daughter of Jairus – Jesus Mafa

Sermon – Pr Meggan Manlove

This week we return to the themes of dislocation and relocation. In her article, “Religion after Pandemic” Diana Butler Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, physical, and relational. She suggests that religious communities need to be about the work of relocation. What does she mean? Finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities.

This week we are focusing specifically on relational dislocation. What amazing scripture passages we have: Jesus in a crowd of people but also curing and healing people through human touch, David lamenting the loss of relationship after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, and the church at Corinth hearing that they are not alone but in relationship with many other Christian communities. 

For the sake of focus, I am not going to preach on the story in Mark, but I do commend the other texts to you today, especially David’s lament and Psalm 130. If we ever needed permission from scripture to cry out to God for the deaths of loved ones, for broken relationships, for a year with limited relationships because of the pandemic, these texts give that permission for lament.  

Before diving into the gospel, let’s look at what Diana Butler Bass means precisely when referring to relational dislocation. She proposes, “We’ve lost our daily habits of interactions with other humans, the expression of emotions together in community. Have you worried you won’t know how to respond when you can be with your friends without distance, with no masks? How it will feel to be in large groups again? How will work or school feel back in person, with others at the next desk or waiting on customers face-to-face, or in the first in-person meeting? What happens when plexiglass comes down, the mask is off? That’s relational dislocation.”

I will admit that I thought I had a pretty good handle on relational dislocation, until Tuesday evening. Some friends and I went to an open house in Boise for a new nonprofit organization we all support. The venue was The Bishops’ House, now near the old penitentiary. It’s a big old house with a large wrap around porch. 

Two experiences stood out. Inside the house the conversation was lively, so lively that we had to stand close to one another to hear. You know that buzz in a loud, indoor, crowded setting? I could not remember the last time I had experienced it and finally I had to excuse myself and go out onto the porch. That’s where I ran into my second experience. 

I ended up in a fun conversation with people from two other nonprofits I like: the literary organization The Cabin and the Idaho Community Foundation. Suddenly I was not just citizen Meggan, also child of God, I was Pastor Meggan who serves the church with the affordable housing and the garden. Did I have a business card? I could not just put my contact information in the chat. I suddenly realized how out of practice I am networking.

It was an energizing evening but when the three of us got in the car to drive back to Nampa we confessed being exhausted. That was the evening of the big windstorm, which seemed to represent what was going on in my insides after such a social few hours. And it’s not that I will now avoid such events; I simply need a bit of practice. Many of us are relationally dislocated. Some practice and intentional reflection will help us get relational relocated.

Our stories today from Mark’s gospel are all about relationships. We might say that these two incidents together help us understand each of them. They both involve women in crisis—in fact we do not know them by their names but by their needs. They were not outsiders to begin with but both are now subject to the taboos around the mysterious power of life (blood) and the even more mysterious (and seemingly unconquerable) power of death. Neither the bleeding woman nor the dead girl should be touched, at the risk of conveying their uncleanness to others.

I think a good word to describe the woman is “tired.” A flow of blood for twelve years would exhaust a person, as if her life force were draining away. On top of that would be the discomfort and, worst of all, the feeling of isolation, or relational dislocation, that comes with uncleanness and the taboos around it. And yet Jesus ignores the taboo for the sake of relationship. 

He doesn’t permit this touch to stay anonymous, a passive healing on his part. He lets himself be sidetracked from hurrying to Jairus’ home long enough to find the person who has reached out to him with a touch that is more specific, more intentional, than merely jostling him in the crowd. Perhaps the crowd wanted to get near a celebrity, but this woman was reaching for her life. Jesus felt both her weariness and her deep hope. How could he simply walk away?

The other nameless and needy woman is barely a woman, just twelve years old and ready to begin her adult life. However, an unknown illness has struck her down, driving her father to extremes in his desperate search for help.  He was a leader, a religious leader in the synagogue, and yet this precious child’s illness has reduced him, weakened him, lowered him to the ground in front of a traveling folk healer in a last-ditch effort to prevent the worst from happening.

It seems that desperation, drives Jairus, the synagogue leader to Jesus. Jairus’ moment of faith comes a little while later, when the news arrives of his daughter’s death. Jesus then preaches briefly: “Do not fear,” he says to the grief-besotted man, “only believe.” Fear not; only believe. Jesus’ sermon was for all of us who suffer from the human condition. 

Into the midst of this comes the silent woman with the hemorrhage, without the boldness of the leader, simply hoping for one healing touch. And for Jesus, the most important thing in that moment is to face the person who has touched him, to encounter her has human being and not just as an anonymous touch. Another translation might read: “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.”

During the delay, the synagogue leader gets the bad news that his daughter is already dead, and Jesus is no longer needed.  “Don’t bother,” the messengers say, “it’s too late.” Jesus speaks quietly, personally to Jairus right then, reassuring him: “Don’t listen to them; just trust me.”  When they arrive at Jairus’ home they make their way through the hired mourners. Jesus addressed them as he did the frightened, faithless disciples back in the boat, during the storm.  Where is their trust?

It must have been a tender scene, in the quiet that surrounds the sorrow for a dead child, yet Jesus is once again calm and confident. He reaches down to invite the little girl to rise up and live. And the little girl gets up immediately and walks around to the amazement of all. Jesus has to be the one to remember that she might be hungry after her ordeal and tells them to feed her.  He doesn’t miss the most ordinary and compassionate details.

Why does Jesus perform such miracles? The purpose is to establish Jesus’ identity: They are not stories about how to get God to do what we want, which is just another way of trying to stay in control.  Instead, they are stories about who God is and how God acts, and what God is like.  This is no ordinary man. This man is the son of God. Trust him. Holding on to that knowledge would sustain the early Christian community and the church today, all of us, and give us strength to meet the days to come and not lose heart.

Frederick Buchner puts us in the place of the little girl, with Jesus speaks to us, taking our hand and telling us to rise up and live: “You who believe, and you who sometimes believe and sometimes don’t believe much of anything, and you who would give almost anything to believe if only you could…’Get up,’ he says, all of you—all of you.”  Jesus gives life not only to the dead, but to those of us who are “only partly alive…who much of the time live with our lives closed to the wild beauty and the miracles of things, including the wild beauty and miracle of every day we live and even of ourselves.” 

Partly alive seems like an odd descriptor for life now, and yet it resonates. There are parts of me that have been dormant, out of practice, seemingly asleep. Those parts include the one accustomed to lots of hugs with friends and parishioners, the part that finds a connection point with most people I meet, the part who can handle a noisy crowd, the part who listens as someone bears their soul, and yes, the part that carries around business cards. 

Reflecting on her first airplane trip since the pandemic, pastor and writer Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote, “We just haven’t had much practice yet being the us we are after having stayed home for a year. So I want to join my voice with others who are saying: gentle. Let’s be gentle with ourselves right now. But let’s also be brave….

I almost cancelled my trip, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The thing about not having much practice yet being the me I am now, is that I didn’t realize how amazing it would be to feel so open-hearted. My “bodyguard” wasn’t needed. I had lovely conversations with people I didn’t know, and enjoyed just walking around feeling grateful to be there. But I did need a lot of breaks. More time alone in a quiet room than I needed before. And that’s ok. 

Nadia is right. We can be both gentle and brave as we live into relationships, old and new, today. Jesus bids, “Get up.” And at the altar he gives us something to eat, something extraordinary—his own body and blood, simply bread and wine, mercy and new life.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

God of hope, the ministry of your church extends across borders, from nearby neighbors to far and distant countries. Accompany all those who labor eagerly in service of the gospel, that through your good news all might experience transformation. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Almighty God, we give you thanks for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land that provides our food. Guard all species of plants and animals from harsh changes in climate and empower us to protect all you have made. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Righteous God, we pray for nations and their leaders. Give them a spirit of compassion and steer them towards a fair distribution of resources; that none among us would have too much or too little. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of healing, your touch has the power to make us whole. We pray for those suffering from physical or mental illness. Embrace those who are sick (especially). Surround them with your unwavering presence. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We pray for this assembly and all those gathered together in worship. Revive our spirits, renew our relationships, and rekindle our faith, that we might experience resurrection in this community. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.We give thanks for the faithful ancestors in every age whose lives have pointed us towards you (especially). Envelop them in your love, that (with Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, and all your saints) we may be reunited with one another in the last days. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Land to Live On

Originally published on Luther Seminary’s Faith+Lead Blog.

A few years ago, an unexpected visitor walked into the Trinity New Hope (TNH) property manager’s office at the end of the day. A very shy and frail woman was carrying her oxygen bag. This woman shared things that had been weighing her down for many years, things that happened when she was barely an adult. The property manager assured her that she saw value in the person sitting in front of her, that the events from so long ago should not diminish the woman’s belief that she is deserving of a good home. Since the day the woman and her grandson qualified for housing at TNH, she has thrived. She helped her daughter, the mother of the grandson, leave a bad relationship and she completed the long process of officially adopting her grandson. Recently, she celebrated 15 years at her place of employment. This is the kind of story our board has heard regularly since Trinity Lutheran Church entered the world of affordable housing. 

How Does a Church Get Involved with Affordable Housing?

The Trinity New Hope affordable housing story may be a bit unusual. In the 1990s the Sisters of Mercy wanted to create several affordable housing neighborhoods in Nampa. Meanwhile, Trinity Lutheran Church had been discerning what to do with excess land. A great partnership was born, but the project included struggles. Nampa’s Planning and Zoning Commission did not approve the original duplexes and insisted on single family homes. A neighborhood association formed to protest the development. But the congregation and Sisters prevailed. The church entered a fifty-year ground lease agreement with Mercy Housing and New Hope (16 three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes) was built. This was all in partnership with Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA). 

I began serving as pastor of Trinity Lutheran in the fall of 2010. During one Sunday worship service in the early months of 2013, four big sections of the fence separating the parking lot and the New Hope backyards fell down. Mercy’s management company tore down the rest of the fence and in the spring announced that they would not rebuild any of it. That was the start of something new in more ways than we could have imagined.

A picture containing sky, outdoor, road, lined

Description automatically generated

In 2014, a Mercy Housing staffer called to say Mercy had decided to leave Nampa and focus on other areas in the West. With financing from IHFA, Trinity Lutheran Church bought the houses from Mercy and created a separate nonprofit organization, Trinity New Hope. Most, though not all, board members are also members of the congregation. Our property manager’s office is in the church building. Our HUD designation is Section-42 housing. 

A Multitude of Other Models

A different housing model was begun by another church across town. Grace Episcopal Church recognized a need for housing single moms pursuing some form of education. When the house next door to the church hall was put up for sale, the priest found a donor to purchase the house. The church created a nonprofit, The House Next Door. They can provide rent-free housing for up to four moms and their kids. Residents have pursued their GEDs, associate degrees, college degrees, and even a law degree. The moms practice communal living and support one another in their parenting and academic pursuits. 

Collister United Methodist Church in neighboring Boise recently partnered with local nonprofit Leap Housing Solutions. Similar to what Trinity did in the 1990s, Collister has entered a long-term lease agreement with Leap. They hope to break ground this spring on two units (three-bedroom homes) on the church property.

First Baptist Church in Clarendon, Virginia worked with Arlington County to help finance a 10-story structure over its existing sanctuary. The end result is 70 units of dedicated affordable housing, which is 60 percent of the building’s 116 units. The project was not without controversy, but it also inspired other churches in the region to consider affordable housing models.

Gethsemane Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle also built up, adding a seven-story building stacked on top of two floors of church facilities. The 50 apartments in Compass Dekko Place serve individuals and families earning between 30 to 60 percent of the Area Median Income.

Spokane Urban Ministries (SUM) formed as a response to the growing need for affordable housing in the Spokane area, and reflects the combined effort between four ELCA congregations: Grace, St. Paul’s, Emmanuel, and Salem. Each church gave either a sizable financial gift or land to the project: 47 affordable apartments in West Central Spokane. In the following years, Grace closed, and St. Paul and Emmanuel merged to become All Saints Lutheran. All Saints and Salem remain active participants in the ministry of affordable housing through SUM and involve ecumenical partners in the work as well.

In Orange County, CA, Garden Grove United Methodist Church campus on Main Street built Wesley Village on unused land. This 47-unit affordable housing complex is a multi-generational affordable housing community that includes senior housing and adult day care, a Head Start center, and health services, all part of a partnership with the nonprofit community organization Jamboree Housing Corp

Components of Good Designs

I made several assumptions while writing this piece, chief among them that readers are already aware of the housing crisis impacting many communities right now. Nonprofits addressing this issue can point you to the statistical data you might need to make your case. They can also help you both understand and explain the variety of barriers to housing faced by so many people. To this information, along with the variety of models described above, I will add a few things which can be helpful in every context.

Partnerships are clearly crucial to any venture into affordable housing. Fortunately, most regions facing an affordable housing struggle or crisis also have organizations addressing the problem with creativity and expertise. Churches do not have to do this work alone. 

What we bring to the conversation is our theological lens. When I sat in conference rooms,living rooms, and the sanctuary in 2014, I talked about neighbor love and neighbor justice. I quoted Matthew 25:31-46, hoping it was okay to add housing to the list of feeding, welcoming, visiting, and clothing. I also quoted Martin Luther’s explanation to the Seventh Commandment, “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.”

Reflecting over the last five years, I am struck by what a gift proximity to TNH has been to our congregation. To see the houses each time we drive into the church parking lot is significant. A few Trinity members help explain the impact it’s had over time. One member wrote, “Jesus taught that true faith is shown in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, which often involves going outside ‘our group’ of Sunday morning worshipers. We have Trinity New Hope houses on the perimeter of our parking lot where we can see the children playing in the yard. We have its business office inside our education wing. We have church members serving on its board of directors. We participate in activities that support the residents.  Each time we show up at 8 S Midland (or drive by) we are reminded that faith is not just about what ‘we’ want/need but about selfless ministry to the world. Our participation makes us a more hopeful and less self-centered congregation.” A newer member reflected, “Trinity New Hope is part of why I first came to Trinity. It gives witness to the congregation’s commitment to serving the community. Trinity New Hope is one indication that TLC has a living and active faith that has real world implications (rather than being a Jesus centric social club).” A long-time member shared, “I think we’ve gained from other Christians or non-Christians for serving people with low-income housing. Kind of like putting our money (and energies) where our gospel is.”

Call to Action: Helping without Real Estate

I have tried to provide different models and tips for churches that might want to use their land for housing. However, there are other valuable ways to help solve the housing crisis. Once you know who is working on the issue in your community there are abundant ways to partner: donations, prayer, writing letters to Planning and Zoning or City Council, testifying in favor of Conditional Use Permits or other zoning changes, and writing letters to the editor. You can also raise awareness about housing issues by hosting discussions on books like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted. In fact, time spent in any of these areas might lead someone to ask, “What about that unused land in back of our building?” What step will you take today? 

Posted in Housing, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

June 20, 2021 (Commemoration of Emanuel 9)

On June 17, 2015, Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sharonda Coleman- Singleton, and Myra Thompson were murdered by a self-professed white supremacist while they were gathered for Bible study and prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (often referred to as Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Pastors Pinckney and Simmons were both graduates of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. A resolution to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance for the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine was adopted by the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on August 8, 2019. Congregations of the ELCA are encouraged reaffirm their commitment to repenting of the sins of racism and white supremacy which continue to plague this church, to venerate the martyrdom of the Emanuel Nine, and to mark this day of penitence with study and prayer.

Prayer of the Day

O God of creation, eternal majesty, you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your strength pilot us, by your power preserve us, by your wisdom instruct us, and by your hand protect us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1 Samuel 17:32-49

  32David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”
  38Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.
  41The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord‘s and he will give you into our hand.”
  48When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20

9You, O Lord, will be a refuge for | the oppressed,
  a refuge in | time of trouble.
10Those who know your name will put their | trust in you,
  for you never forsake those who seek | you, O Lord.
11Sing praise to the Lord who | dwells in Zion;
  proclaim to the peoples the things | God has done.
12The avenger of blood will re- | member them
  and will not forget the cry of | the afflicted. 
13Be gracious to | me, O Lord;
  see the misery I suffer from those who hate me, you that lift me up from the | gates of death;
14so that I may tell of all your praises and rejoice in | your salvation
  in the gates of the cit- | y of Zion.
15The nations have fallen into the | pit they dug;
  in the snare they set, their own | foot is caught.
16The Lord is revealed in | acts of justice;
  the wicked are trapped in the works of | their own hands. 
17The nations go down | to the grave,
  all the peoples | that forget God.
18For the needy shall not always | be forgotten,
  nor shall the hope of the poor be tak- | en away.
19Rise up, O Lord, let not mortals have the | upper hand;
  let the nations be | judged before you.
20Put them in | fear, O Lord;
  let the nations know they | are but mortal. 

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

1As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, 
 “At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
  and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 3We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 7truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
  11We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. 12There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. 13In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Mark 4:35-41

35When evening had come, [Jesus said to the disciples,] “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Sermon – Pr Meggan Manlove

We have this morning an iconic story from the gospels—Jesus calming the sea. How many of us remember portrayals of this story in children’s bibles or paintings in churches or art museums? This story may not have Jesus’ walking on water, that second sea-crossing will come two chapters later, but the story is still striking in its drama and power. What is really going on here?

First, Jesus and the disciples are not just going fishing. There is, in fact, an agenda. They are headed to the other side, to gentile territory. Jesus is not content to proclaim the reign of God only in his home region and to his own people. Healing, restoration, love, and life are for all people. The journey across the sea shows that his vision for the reign of God is vast. Jesus himself is not afraid of difference, of going beyond his comfort zone. Crossing boundaries is essential to his ministry.

The trip is launched at the end of Jesus’ first sermon. Jesus is in the boat when the storm arises, unconcerned, and in a moment of high drama, the terrified disciples scream at their dozing leader, “Master do you not care? We are dying.” Unaware of the purpose of their journey, they betray their fear and abandonment. Jesus silences this lack of faith as well as the storm itself.

Jesus rebukes the wind, reminding us of several verses from the Book of Psalms, “at your rebuke the waters fled” and “He rebuked the Red Sea.” In this story, the lake is now the great sea, which means all that comes with that name: chaos, threat, danger. Jesus’ rebuke of the sea sounds like his rebukes of unclean spirits, the demons, elsewhere in the gospel. The sea listens to him, as the unclean spirits did. 

His questions to the disciples may make us squirm, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Is Jesus really saying that if we have enough faith we can somehow transcend our animal brain chemistry? One commentator proposed that Jesus’ question is actually an invitation to reflect on where God is in the midst of storms. Is God immanent (present in a personal way) or transcendent (mighty, distant, powerful)? Maybe Jesus was inviting the disciples to reflect on what it means to be alive on the other side of a situation they thought would kill them. 

What we as a congregation are doing today, what our national church did on Thursday, the anniversary of the Emanuel Nine deaths, might very well feel like being on a stormy sea. To look back at Dylann Roof’s horrific actions, to know that he was part of an ELCA Lutheran congregation spurs us into further uncomfortable examination. None of it feels good.

African American Author Rozella Haydee White remembers, “I was working for my denomination [the ELCA] at the national headquarters, one year after Dylann Roof murdered nine Black people at Mother Emmanuel AME…The massacre rocked me to my core. Not only did this tragic event happen on the heels of years of killings of Black and brown people, it was perpetuated by a young white man who was affiliated with my denomination. 

“I was an outspoken leader in my denomination on issues of race and justice. I wrote about the massacre and how I felt being a Black member of a predominantly white denomination. I shared how my heart was broken after years of working toward racial justice and education, only to find that we were raising white young adults who had the power and desire to violently kill people who look like me.” 

The choppy sea we are traveling across, this reckoning with prejudice and systemic racism, did not start with Roof. They have a long history. Writer and farmer Wendell Berry invites his readers to imagine congregations full of slave owners and slaves from the point of view of the pulpit. 

“How, facing that mixture, and dependent on the white half of it for your livelihood, would you handle such a text as the Sermon on the Mount? …If a man wanted to remain a preacher he would have to honor that division in the minds of the congregation between earth and heaven, body and soul. His concern obviously had to be with things heavenly; unless he was a saint or a fool he would leave earthly things to the care of those who stood to benefit from them.” 

What was the result of this separation? Berry writes, “Thus the moral obligation was cleanly excerpted from the religion. The question of how best to live on earth, among one’s fellow creatures, was permitted to atrophy, and the churches devoted themselves exclusively and obsessively with the question of salvation.”

This is just one example of the church stepping out of conversations about earthly matters. Instead of dealing with the oppression to embodied Black people, the church made faith only with salvation, and salvation was only something that happened after our life on this earth. The church went further, in other instances, and actually helped foster the idea that white bodies are better than black or brown ones.

Have there been exceptions to this? Were there pastors and lay people who spoke out about slavery? Yes. Did Christians speak out about lynching of black bodies? Did people who proclaimed to follow Jesus protest the clan and other white supremacist groups. Of course and as we open up conversations about racism, we can turn to those prophetic figures. But they were not in the majority. 

There has always been so much fear about how life would change. What would our society look like if everyone really was treated equally? How would power shift if we acknowledged with actual resources the labor forced out of slaves and the land taken from indigenous people? What life would look like if we really did that work is a big unknown and for most people it is really frightening, maybe even more frightening than being out on the sea in a storm.

I have known for a long time that artists and theologians took this story and made the boat symbolic of the church, whose safety Jesus’ presence guarantees. The boat on the sea is the official symbol of the National Council of Churches. I thought, well that might work for Christians in countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith, but not here. But as our denomination and local congregation continue this work of reckoning with prejudice and racism, as we build relationships that can sustain conversations about prejudice and racism today, I find the symbol of the boat on the sea both helpful and hopeful. 

This miracle of Jesus calming the sea declares the claims God makes upon us. If we cannot sympathize with the disciples’ terror in the presence of a man who instantly calms a raging sea, perhaps we have become numb to the discomfort or danger that accompanies the notion of God’s visitation. 

In a 1928 Advent sermon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested that the tenderness of the Incarnation (God in human form) has left people unable to “feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us.  We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”  

Jesus quiets the forces that threaten chaos, makes the unclean clean, and restores the unacceptable to wholeness. These acts upend our cherished assumptions about order, security, autonomy, and fairness.  When God comes so near, we cannot hide. And we cannot push God away.

The fault with Jesus’ followers in the story of the stilling of the storm is the persistence of their fear. Jesus juxtaposes their fear with the desired response of faith.  Faith means a willingness to let God be God. The faith Jesus has in mind is both faith like his (enabling him to remain tranquil in the throes of a storm) and faith in him (relying upon his ability to save). Such faith cannot leave us unchanged. 

Such faith gives us tremendous hope.  We have all experienced, as individuals or as part of a community, times of tumult and grave tumult. We try to wake God up to take care of us.  At those times the text speaks to our condition. It pictures Jesus in the boat with the disciples, present with us and concerned for us even when we do not perceive his care.

Edward Hopper’s lyrics paint the picture for us: “Jesus, Savior, pilot me Over life’s tempestuous sea; Unkown waves before me roll, Hiding rock and treacherous shoal; Chart and compass come from thee.  Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”  

We do not know where he will pilot us, only that he will. We need this assurance, just as the disciples did, because we do not know what is on the other side of the sea. Mark’s story addressed a community of believers in Jesus Christ who, in the guise of the disciples, are challenged to trust Jesus more.  

They, the members of the early church, may also be challenged to “cross over” to the Gentile mission, despite the turmoil this Jesus movement stirred up in the early church. Remember that this storm and peace take place during a specific place: between Jesus’ ministry on the west bank of the Sea of Galilee and his first work in gentile territory.

Jesus’ influence broadens across traditional geographic, ethnic, and religious divides. God will continue to issue the early church to follow Jesus’ example and see outsiders as equal members of the body of Christ. This is not a new vision. Jesus takes his cue from the creation story in Genesis Chapter One, when God the Father is described creating human beings, all of them, in God’s very own image. We call this the Imago Dei, the image of God. It sounds great but living it out for every person can sometimes stir up fear and unrest, maybe even lead to violence. At the very least, God’s vision leads to discomfort.

However, and this is the however to hear today, we can be sure that Jesus will never leave us. He gave us the Holy Spirit who is with us still. Our storm might be caused by examining the church’s history of racism and dreaming of a future where people and systems recognize the image of God in every single person.  The storm might toss us to and fro. Jesus is the one gives power to rebuke and who ultimately brings peace.  

A Litany of Remembrance for the Emanuel Nine 

We join with Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in remembering the slain nine—the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, the Rev. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lee Lance—and those who survived.  

We remember.  

We remember that they lovingly welcomed the stranger into a Wednesday-night bible study—they sang, they prayed, they gathered to study the word of God.  

We remember.  

We pray for the continual presence of God’s peace; may it comfort and surround the families of the nine who were slain.   

We remember.  

We pray for the African Methodist Episcopal Church, its senior bishop and episcopal leaders, the community of Charleston, and all who continue to grieve—trusting that God will continue to unite us in the work to end racism and white supremacy, so that we may be witnesses of Christian unity.  

We remember.  

We remember the legacy of the Rev. Pinckney and his fight for racial justice for his parishioners and his community. Let us not only be moved by emotion but also be moved toward action.   

We remember.  

We call the United States to remember and confront its history of racial injustice. We must not forget the crimes committed against humanity in the name of Christ: the land theft from and genocide of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of black bodies that built this nation.  

We remember.  

We call this country to remember the policies and practices that excluded Chinese immigrants and that forced the internment of Japanese Americans.  

We remember.  

We call this country to remember the exploitation of migrant farm workers from Latin and Central America and the separation of families at the U.S. southern border.  

We remember.  

We remember the faith leaders whose lives are a living witness to black liberation and womanist theology in the struggle for black freedom: Bishop Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey, Jehu Jones, Daniel Payne, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, James Cone, and Katie Cannon.    

We remember.  

We remember the unarmed innocent black lives lost at the hands of law enforcement: Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Daunte Wright, and many others, known and unknown.  

We remember.  

We remember the innocent, unarmed black bodies that were racially profiled, shot, and killed because whiteness stood its ground: Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Ahmaud Arbery, Renisha McBride, and many others, known and unknown.  

We remember.  

As we remember, Living God, may we be re-membered as your body, connected to one another and empowered for the work you call us to do in the name of Jesus and by the power of his renewing Spirit. 


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving for Night Sky

Originally posted on tvprays.org

Last week I spent a few days at Luther Heights Bible Camp, between Stanley and Ketchum, with a friend. We were there to contribute, specifically to lead staff training sessions. But there are always gifts received while at camp and this time was no different. On our second night, we stepped out of the cabin around 11 PM and took a stroll. The night sky was gorgeous. I remembered the times I came home to my parents’ house, west of Custer, SD, on college breaks. Having left the eternally grey skies of Moorhead, MN behind for a week or more, I would get out of the car and immediately look up into the clear starlit sky. I felt so much joy and comfort. During college summers, one of my favorite parts of leading backpack trips in Montana for junior and senior high youth was sleeping under the stars the last night of the trip. After college, I spent a year in Syracuse, NY working in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. My three roommates and I had a poster with memorable quotes from life together. One of the first Meggan quotes that went up was “Look, you guys. The stars are beautiful tonight.” My roommates (from Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Oakland) thought my suggestion was quite amusing, but I also got them to look up. 

“God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.” (Genesis 1:16)

“’Is not God high in the heavens? See the highest stars, how lofty they are!’” (Job 22:12)

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;” (Psalm 8:3)

I do not know what it is about the night sky that I love so much, perhaps because it is not one thing. It is beautiful. It allows for discovery—finding different constellations. It encourages observation—waiting for a shooting star. It demands awe and wonder—the speed of light combined with the age of stars. 

Somehow, the night sky can also invite deeper conversations. Laying in sleeping bags with a bunch of campers, we could suddenly talk about anything and everything. We all seem so insignificant under the twinkling dome, and the world stands still long enough for any question. And of course, there is the comfort that comes knowing that loved ones far away might look up and see the same stars. 

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the darkness of the night sky and for the twinkling stars. Thanks for wonder and awe and beauty. Thank you for conversations with earthly companions and knowing, even amid the vastness, that we belong to you. Amen.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , | Leave a comment

June 13, 2021

Prayer of the Day

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

1 Samuel 15:34–16:13

34Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
16:1The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
  6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord‘s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lordsaid, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20

1May the Lord answer you in the | day of trouble,
  the name of the God of Ja- | cob defend you;
2send you help from the | sanctuary
  and strengthen you | out of Zion;
3may the Lord remember | all your offerings
  and accept | your burnt sacrifice;
4grant you your | heart’s desire
  and prosper | all your plans. 
5We will shout for joy at your victory and unfurl our banners in the name | of our God;
  may the Lord grant all | your requests.
6Now I know that the Lord gives victory to | the anointed one;
  God will answer out of the holy heaven, gaining victory with a | strong right hand. 
7Some trust in chariots and | some in horses,
  but we rely on the name of the | Lord our God.
8They collapse | and fall down,
  but we will arise | and stand upright.
9O Lord, give victory | to the king
  and answer us | when we call. 

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17

6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
  [11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ] 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
  16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Mark 4:26-34

26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
  30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
  33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Sermon – Pr Meggan Manlove

In her article, “Religion after Pandemic” Diana Butler Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, physical, and relational. She suggests that religious communities need to be about the work of relocation. What does she mean? Finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities. 

What does dislocation and relocation have to do with our passage from Mark’s gospel this morning? Perhaps Jesus’ first Kingdom of God parable about the seeds can help us think about temporal relocation. 

But first, let us reflect on our own temporal dislocation. How often have you thought: What day is it? Or, what time is it? Did I miss an event? What month are we in? All of those examples are about temporal dislocation. 

On the one hand, there may be aspects of time that we want to retain from pandemic life. Some of us may have found the slower speeds of the last eighteen months life-giving. We found, as if it was lost, time for walks, phone conversations, game nights with family, or picnics. 

On the other hand, some of us, especially the more social, felt like time crept along at a snail’s pace. Still others, teachers and healthcare workers, were busier than ever pivoting and keeping up with information and now are in need of a week at the beach or a big party.

I am working with the assumption that all of us, to some extent, need some recalibrating this summer. Though maybe it will take on different forms. What a gift then to live in a geographical climate with seasons, including a long growing season. This is where we turn to Jesus’ agricultural parable about the seed growing.

The parable of the seed growing secretly relates events we all understand.  Someone scatters seed on the ground, goes to sleep and rises daily, the seed sprouts and grows and the planter does not know how.  

People plant seeds and wait for them to grow. We don’t need to know or worry about the science of germination and photosynthesis. Assuming the environmental conditions are right, we can go about our lives and let nature do its job. 

However, it is also true that seeds do not instantly transform into mature plants. They grow. Jesus knows that part of the joy and anxiety of planting involves observing that growth. Any child who has planted beans in plastic cups can speak with enthusiasm about the anticipation reflected in verse 28, “The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”  

A few weeks ago, we had two trees planted at Trinity, a Spring/Snow non-fruit bearing Crabapple and a Sensation Maple. We will bless them during today’s worship service. Like vegetables or flowers, the trees will grow and we will observe their growth together. The natural world gives us both a way to mark time, but also a way to participate. 

At least for the first month, our trees will be watered weekly. For those of you with gardens or rows of flowers, how often do you water? How often do you pull weeds? Maybe you celebrate when you see buds or blossoms. 

A shoot gradually develops into a plant over time. Jesus’ parable this morning includes no discussion of weeds, frost or pests hindering growth—only relentless, certain progress toward the harvest. His point? The kingdom of God is coming.

The parable underscores the certain emergence of the fullness of God’s rule in our lives and our world. The parable instructs us toward patience and hope. The agricultural representation of God’s reign reminds us that God alone will bring it to pass.  

What I love about the parable of the seeds is that it tell us about God’s time while simultaneously nodding to the fact that we live in a world shaped by earthly time. Both are good for God created them both. We can live in patience for the fullness of time, God’s time. But God also created the sun and moon and stars, which help us keep time. God rested on the sabbath and commanded us to keep in holy. Some time is for work, some for worship and holy rest. 

I cannot prescribe for each one of you the best way to relocate yourselves temporally in this new time. Maybe you need just two minutes each day to drink your morning beverage and remind yourself what month and day it is. Or maybe you need to check in with a friend in another state each Saturday. Perhaps you need to journal a few lines of gratitude each Friday as the work week ends. Or you could need a walk on the Nampa Greenbelt to observe the changing seasons, or a drive through the country to watch the crops grow. 

The church has its own ways to mark time and help you relocate. Maybe singing the familiar hymns and sharing the Lord’s Supper will help you relocate yourself temporally. We will slowly be reading our way through several books of the Bible this summer: Mark’s Gospel, 2nd Corinthians, Ephesians, and also First and Second Samuel. Reading through any of these on your own could be a way to mark time and get just a little more grounded.

Remember that it is incredibly natural to feel a bit out of synch, temporally dislocated. Please continue to give yourself grace as you reach into the toolbox and experiment. Summer 2021 will hopefully offer ample opportunity for rest, reflection, and relocation. 

The good news, or great news, is that our parable confirms that we hope for a future promise that is based on both the past and present. Jesus has already described the beginning of his reign. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”  

Seeds have been planted and have germinated. They are growing, even now in our midst. Do we see them? A growing plant might look the same to us on consecutive days, yet it grows. We are called to discern signs of God’s fostering such growth in our midst. We will be better equipped to do this as we relocate ourselves in our present reality.

The final question we ask today is, do we have a role at all in God’s kingdom, in God’s time? Well, Jesus calls us to participate in his ministry. As Jesus’ disciples, we share in his ministry of proclaiming the reign of God. The fullness of our kingdom hope remains in the future, but we enact it, in part, in the present, through God’s power, following the contours of Jesus’ ministry as a model. This ministry attends to all aspects of human vitality, laid out in the visions of seeds planted and plants and shrubs growing.  

This is never clearer than in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  We are witnesses as the individual declares how he or she will live out the faith.  Together we welcome them into the Lord’s family saying, “We receive you as fellow members of the body of Christ, children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us in the kingdom of God.”  

In one baptismal hymn we sing this welcome: “In the water and the witness, in the breaking of the bread, in the waiting arms of Jesus who is risen from the dead, God has made a new beginning from the ashes of our past; in the losing and the winning we hold fast.”  What will happen next? We cannot be sure. 

We come to the feast of bread and wine, marking time, and witness God’s gifts of life and forgiveness. We pray for God’s kingdom to come even as we know it is already here. Then we wait patiently, knowing that God is the one responsible for growing the kingdom. Because of this we have hope.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

A brief silence.Holy God, you plant the seeds of faith in every nation. Enliven your church, so that the good news of your grace may root and grow throughout the world. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Creator, even the trees, shrubs, and flowers delight in your goodness. From the depths of the soil to the highest mountain, bring forth new plants. Restore growth to places suffering drought. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Judge of nations, we pray for our leaders and those in power. Grant them the ability to regard those under their charge with humility, dedicating their lives in service to others. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Divine comforter, you show compassion to those in need and provide relief to those who call on you. Bless all who suffer, especially people trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Sovereign God, this house of worship belongs to you. We give thanks and pray for our church musician(s) (especially). We dedicate to you the joyful noise that comes from this place; the cries of children, the melody of voice and instruments, and the songs from our hearts. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.Eternal God, we give thanks for our ancestors in the faith who are now at home with you (especially). We look forward to that day when we are reunited in your new creation. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Storytelling for City Council

A letter written to Nampa’s City Council, asking them to support a Conditional Use Permit for an affordable housing development. The Council denied the request for Copper Depot. Read the coverage of the 5-1 vote in our local newspaper.

May 27, 2021

Honorable Council Members,

My name is Meggan Manlove. I live at 11116 W. Mission Pointe Dr., Nampa. I am writing today in favor of the Conditional use Permit for Copper Depot.

I served for several years on the Mayor’s Bike/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and I currently sit on the city’s Building and Site Design Standards Committee. I attended several open meetings for the Nampa Comprehensive Plan. The Plan supports Copper Depot because it promotes infill development and workforce housing. 

I know you are in a tough spot. I am one of the citizens who followed the entire legislative session, including the passing of HB 389 in just three days! On city staffer Matt Jamison’s recommendation, I listened to the recording of your special council meeting May 14. I know what is at stake. A development like Copper Depot does not pay for itself in the way that other projects might. 

I could try to pitch that stable housing for employees keeps money flowing through the local businesses they frequent. The residents will pay other local taxes that help our city. I could remind you that there was real fear about the neighborhood changing and home values decreasing when New Hope was built in the 1990s. Neither of those things happened. Trinity New Hope housing looks great today, and it helps real people.

Other people can make those arguments more persuasively. So here is my real pitch. At many community events, I hear leaders talking about our Christian values in Nampa. We are a city full of faith communities. Jesus taught in ways that often confused his followers, but he was crystal clear about the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor. And in the parable that describes who exactly the neighbor is, the neighbor turns out to be the stranger, someone we have not even met. Jesus also had no qualms that institutions were supposed to be part of neighbor love and neighbor justice. It was not just the business of the synagogues. The state (Rome, Idaho, Nampa) had a responsibility. This stance did not go well for Jesus, you may remember. And yet, he is the guy many of us profess to follow.

I am hopeful that many other people will bring to the public hearing statistics and real stories that put a human face on workforce housing. My plea is one grounded in my own faith—let’s practice some neighbor love, not just with our words but with real actions and resources.

Pastor Meggan Manlove

Posted in Housing, Reflections | Tagged , | 1 Comment

June 6, 2021

Prayer of the Day

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory. Increase our faith and trust in him, that we may triumph over all evil in the strength of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20

4All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, 7and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
  10So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; … 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
  19But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Psalm 138

1I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with | my whole heart;
  before the gods I will | sing your praise.
2I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name, because of your steadfast | love and faithfulness;
  for you have glorified your name and your word a- | bove all things.
3When I called, you | answered me;
  you increased my | strength within me.
4All the rulers of the earth will praise | you, O Lord,
  when they have heard the words | of your mouth. R
5They will sing of the ways | of the Lord,
  that great is the glory | of the Lord.
6The Lord is high, yet cares | for the lowly,
  perceiving the haughty | from afar.
7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you | keep me safe;
  you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right | hand shall save me.
8You will make good your pur- | pose for me;
  O Lord, your steadfast love endures forever; do not abandon the works | of your hands.

Mark 3:20-35

[Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
  28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
  31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

In her article, “Religion after Pandemic” Diana Butler Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, physical, and relational. She suggests that religious communities need to be about the work of relocation. What does she mean? Finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities. In fact, this is the work our leadership is going to take on in earnest at our June church council meeting, but the work of relocation belongs to all of us.

What does dislocation and relocation have to do with our peculiar passage from Mark’s gospel this morning? Jesus’ words and actions early in his earthly ministry might provide an anecdote to the historical dislocation Bass describes. Bass writes, “We’ve lost our sense of where we are in the larger story of both our own lives and our communal stories. History has been disrupted. Where are we? Where are we going? The growth of conspiracy theories, the intensity of social media, political and religious ‘deconstructions’ these are signs of a culture seeking a meaningful story to frame their lives.

Jesus is certainly disrupting history, no doubt about that. That’s been clear ever since he came on the scene. But he is also so clear about what he is doing. It may seem, and does seem, to onlookers that he is all about destruction. And there is some deep truth to that. However, what Jesus is finally about is the reign of God, and that reign is about life. 

Our specific story this morning about Jesus is one that can make us feel a bit wobbly, particularly his words about family. And yet, as we will sing later, this story can also be our fortress as we find our footing in the days, months, and years ahead.

Up until now, Jesus’ life has been a whirlwind of one amazing event after another.  He is curing people of various diseases. He is casting out demons.  And he is teaching that the Kingdom of God is coming. And so, his fame and popularity are growing.  

When we pick up the story today, so many people are crowding around to see Jesus that it is difficult for them to eat. In other words, it’s so crazy that they can’t do the most basic task necessary to survive.

Imagine being one of Jesus’ siblings during this chaos.  Hear the dinner conversation. “Did you see how he healed that man? Our brother is amazing!”  “You go ahead and think that. I think that Jesus has gone mad.” “No, no, but I am worried about him.” “Why?” “He is going to get himself into all kinds of trouble.  The leaders are furious that Jesus is disrupting the status quo.”  “Yes.  And they are nervous because he is giving all sorts of people hope, hope that things as we know them will change forever.” “Maybe his power is going to his head.”  “No.  That wouldn’t happen to our brother. Still, we need to restrain him and bring him home safe.”

Coming from Jerusalem, the scribes were having a very different conversation. “Things have gotten way out of hand with this Jesus. Who does he think he is, casting out demons and healing outcasts?” “He is teaching, and preaching, and working wonders with a new kind of power.” “Yes, ordinary people are starting to believe that their lives might get better.” “I don’t like change.”  “It’s more than life simply changing. Do you know what will happen if people are allowed to hope, if they start to believe their lives will change?” 

For his part, Jesus won’t tolerate his opponents or his family. He interrupts them with more proclamations of God’s reign. It is breaking into the world.  The reign of God will bring hope and disruptions. God is going to have a family that reaches beyond bloodlines. It is a family that could include everyone—even those people, especially those, who do not look like they belong.

Jesus replies to the attacks on him by his family and scribes. He speaks about a house divided. The scribes have attributed Jesus’ power to cast out demons to being demon possessed himself. The scribes, according to Jesus, do not understand how households work. For a ruler to take up arms against himself would be the prelude to disaster. Divided households cannot survive. In fact, if Satan’s host is at war with itself, people should rejoice—for he has come to an end. 

Jesus offers the only reasonable interpretation of what is occurring. Someone has invaded the domain of the strong man, Satan, and that someone is the “stronger one” who John the Baptist preached about-Jesus. Satan is being deposed and his domain plundered. 

And then comes this question and answer. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  

In many ways, this powerful statement affirms the stance Trinity Lutheran has taken on partnerships and collaborations: if you are not harming people, if you want to partner on life-giving work like feeding and housing and peacemaking, let’s meet at the table and talk. Jesus is clear that bloodlines are not the most important thing, and denominational and religious lines are not of highest importance either. What is important is doing the will of Jesus’ Father. This is a great scripture passage to support partnering with all sorts of people. 

The clarity of Jesus is rare and worth noticing in this passage. He does not speak in parables or use a metaphor we have to untangle. He says, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” And yet, we do not know exactly what anyone in this crowd has done, and so our understanding of what it means to do “the will of God” is a bit sketchy. 

One scholar noted that it appears to involve sitting [Skinner]. What he meant was that the people sitting around Jesus, the crowd that surveys Jesus, is remarkable for being passive. They are patient. They are present. They are simply in the house with him. This simple presence is so inline, so consistent with Jesus’ other very clear command—follow me.

This does not mean that there are no other activities involved in doing the will of the Father. All four gospels help flesh out the life of discipleship. But simply, or profoundly, sticking around Jesus seems to be a significant part of kinship with Jesus, of being part of this new family, of being part of the reign of God. 

If Diana Butler Bass is right, and we are experiencing historical dislocation, then our story today is a compelling and life-giving story. My impulse, fostered by so much of the culture we exist in, is to produce and then produce more, to be excellent if not perfect, to try to change the world. 

In moderation and shared by a community, those impulses might be okay. But not checked, they can be downright damaging. The gospel today calls us to be grounded in Jesus’ himself, in God almighty incarnate, a human being. He is the one taking on the powers of the world, not me or you or our neighbor. Let me repeat that, Jesus is the one taking on the powers of the world, no one else.

How then, do we relocate ourselves in this particular story? In Jesus’ own words elsewhere, how do we abide in Jesus? Being here in worship is one answer. That’s difficult in this bridge time, while we rebuild the worship experience for our next chapter. Prayer, devotions, spending time with strangers as Jesus did, are all part of relocating ourselves in the Jesus narrative. 

Of course, faith is active in love and that love needs to ultimately be active in the world, in our daily lives, in the life of the church. But there is a difference between activity directed by the 24-hour news cycle, the latest on social media, all the competing narratives right now and activity directed by the story of Jesus. One feels like a field of slippery mud and the other is solid. There are other life-giving narratives, to be sure. But we are gathered in this place this morning because at least for this chapter of our lives, if not other chapters, we choose to trust the story of Jesus. We are sitting with him like that crowd, sticking with him, abiding in him.

To worship, prayer, spending time with strangers as Jesus did, we might add the story itself, as a way to sit with Jesus. Earlier this year, in a church newsletter column, I encouraged all of us to read the gospel of Mark straight through, advice I will admit to not following yet. My plan is to use my few days up at camp, helping with staff training, to read the shortest of the four gospels. This story has spoken to people for generations, transformed communities. Why would we expect that it is has lost its power? Maybe we can trust that, like past generations and saints gone before us, if we truly stick with Jesus and locate ourselves in his story, surprises will start to occur.  

Prayers of Intercession

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

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

God of wholeness, we pray for believers all over the globe (global mission partners may be named). Unify us in service of the gospel, that we may work together as beloved siblings to share your love with all. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of the cosmos, we pray for creation; the gardens, waterways and creatures near to us and diverse forms of life that remain unseen. Teach us to treat the natural world with reverence, seeking restoration when human divisions have caused harm to your beloved creation. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of all people, we pray for harmony among the nations. Cast out from us unclean spirits of greed and fear, that we may work in solidarity with one another for the common good. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of abundance, we pray for those who are oppressed or in any need. Encourage those who have begun to lose heart. Strengthen and renew us with your Spirit. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

God of righteousness, we pray for this holy house of worship. Set our gaze upon things eternal, that in thanksgiving for your mercy, we may extend grace to more and more people. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.God of the ages, in your goodness you have sent us faithful witnesses for every time and place. We give you thanks for those saints who now rest in your eternal mercy (especially). Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Tagged | Leave a comment

May 30, 2021

With a link in the sermon to the song written about my dad.

Prayer of the Day

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

Isaiah 6:1-8

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of the Lord’s robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above the Lord; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of the glory of the LORD.”
4The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Word of God, word of life.
Thanks be to God. 

Psalm 29

1Ascribe to the | LORD, you gods,
ascribe to the LORD glo- | ry and strength.
2Ascribe to the LORD the glory | due God’s name;
worship the LORD in the beau- | ty of holiness.
3The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; the God of | glory thunders;
the LORD is upon the | mighty waters.
4The voice of the LORD is a pow- | erful voice;
the voice of the LORD is a | voice of splendor.
5The voice of the LORD breaks the | cedar trees;
the LORD breaks the ce- | dars of Lebanon;
6the LORD makes Lebanon skip | like a calf,
and Mount Hermon like a | young wild ox.
7The voice | of the LORD
bursts forth in | lightning flashes.
8The voice of the LORD | shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilder- | ness of Kadesh.
9The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe and strips the | forests bare.
And in the temple of the LORD all are | crying, “Glory!”
10The LORD sits enthroned a- | bove the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king for- | evermore.
11O LORD, give strength | to your people;
give them, O LORD, the bless- | ings of peace.

Romans 8:12-17

12Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Christ.

John 3:1-17

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish people. 2He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 3Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the dominion of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the dominion of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11“Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son-of-Man. 14And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son-of-Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16“For God loved the world in this way, that God gave the Son, the only begotten one, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I feel extra pressure on Holy Trinity Sunday while serving a congregation with the same name, pressure to say something profound or beautiful about the Holy Trinity. But one of the gifts of the particular way we worship here at Trinity Lutheran is that not everything has to be done through the sermon. The prayers, the hymns, the scripture passages, and Holy Communion all help reveal who the Trinity is and what the Trinity does. That is good, because life circumstances drew me strongly to Nicodemus this week, in particular to his questions.

At my dad’s funeral at the end of December, we had the church in Arizona play a recording of a song written in honor of my dad about fifteen years ago. Dad was in the first group of elders in my hometown of Custer, South Dakota to be part of Elders’ Wisdom-Children’s Song. My dad spent a morning with a classroom of fifth grade students, telling them about his life, answering their questions. Then the children worked with a local musician and wrote a song about my dad. Dad’s song was titled “Questions I have asked on my way?” (Here is a LINK to the song).

Each verse begins with a question: Verse one: In this valley (the valley where I grew up west of Custer) where is God’s face? Verse two: How can we find equality? Verse three: Will the fighting ever end? Verse four: How can we all be together and belong? The questions collectively say a lot about my dad. But what always struck me is how those perceptive fifth graders picked up on my dad’s curiosity and humility. They had a World War II Veteran who loves sports and horses. But the thread the fifth grade students pulled was my dad’s big questions about life and community and God.

And it is these questions that tie us back to the main character in today’s gospel story—the Pharisee Nicodemus who comes to Jesus under the cover of night to ask his own questions. It is way too easy to mock the Pharisee Nicodemus for misunderstanding Jesus, thinking we have to somehow all crawl back up into our mother’s wombs. He sounds a bit silly in his misunderstanding. But I think we do well to admire this questioner who becomes a follower of Jesus. Yes, he comes by night so as not to be seen, but he will not be kept away. His curiosity about God, for reasons we never learn, has been heightened. He does not presume to have all the answers about faith. He seeks out Jesus and he will not be deterred from his questions. 

How refreshing, what a tonic for the certainty about God and whose side God is on or what God’s will is, which seems so pervasive today. It seems so abundant whether you are reading the opinion section of the newspaper, listening to the radio, or reading an email from your aunt Elizabeth. Certainty about God abounds.

That is not how I was raised. I am comfortable standing here affirming that God is a God of love and healing. I am also confident declaring God’s preferential treatment for the poor and outcast. I love so many of the stories we read in scripture, and I equally love stories of people trying to follow Jesus. But certainty about the rest of God is harder to come by in my soul.

In part, that is because one other thing I have some confidence about is that faith is a journey, as tired as that metaphor may sound. To give at least a little time to the Trinity we are celebrating today, I will admit that there were times I found the Trinity intriguing, periods when I thought it was too confusing to bother with, later one of the best gifts of Christianity, and still later something best just to confess rather than ever explain. And there are many aspects of faith, of being a disciple, that have shifted and moved, and grown or shrunk in my nearly 45 years.

That is another thing I love about Nicodemus—his journey and transformation. John Chapter Three is certainly his most prominent scene in the gospel, but it is not his only appearance. Near the end of chapter seven, Nicodemus reminds his colleagues that, according to the law, they should not judge Jesus before giving him a trial. This gets him rebuked. Nicodemus makes his third and final appearance after Jesus’ crucifixion. He accompanies Joseph of Arimathea to collect, anoint, and bury the body of Jesus. With this action, Nicodemus declares his allegiance to one who had just been executed for a capital offense. 

There are other disciples whose faith we get to see transform, but Nicodemus, who starts with so many questions, resonates with me during this season. First, he brings questions and is confused. He later invites others to slow down in their judgment. He finally risks publicly honoring the one just executed. Faith takes time.  

This morning, I have hope both in Nicodemus’ beginnings as a disciple, along with his growth. It all takes time, and that appears to be just fine with God. This is perhaps where our greatest hope can be found—God’s faithfulness through this whole journey, and presumably through our journeys of faith as well. 

It is okay to have questions. My dad always assured me that questions revealed that my faith was active and alive. It is okay to feel like you have taken a few steps forward and then a step back. Things might look clear to your friend but blurry to you. That does not mean your faith is less than. 

I would say that being curious about our faith in God might lend itself to curiosity about the world God created. And that curiosity about one another and the natural world can lead to the empathy and compassion Jesus commands over and over. We have talked a great deal this past year about neighbor love, how that is the calling that unites everyone who follows Jesus. Just as questions and curiosity can reveal an alive faith, maybe questions and curiosity about the stranger can reveal neighbor love. That’s true, of course, only if the curiosity eventually leads to empathy, compassion, and action.

That work can feel daunting, even overwhelming. We do well to remember we are never along. The deepest hope for me comes in God’s faithfulness through all of the questions and blurriness. God continues to give mercy and healing. God is patient. And God’s love endures forever.

Today we celebrate the God who created the world, the God who liberated the Chosen People from slavery in Egypt. We celebrate the God who loved the world so much that he took on human form and was laid in a humble manger in Bethlehem. The reign of God Jesus preached and lived led to his death on the cross, but the tomb could not hold in this God of love and life. We celebrate that the Holy Spirit shows up this many years later in our worship and in our lives. God keeps creating, redeeming, and sustaining today. 

The Triune God is on a journey too. That may feel unsettling, as if it takes away from God’s immanence. But I do not think so. God’s journey reveals only a deep transcendence, an ability to be in relationship with creation.

I am going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes about the Trinity, which I think sums up so much of Nicodemus’ journey and our own relationship with the Trinity. Here are some words from Jurgen Moltmann: “God is not only other-worldly but also this-worldly; he is not only God, but also man; he is not only rule, authority and law but the event of suffering, liberating love. Conversely, the death of the Son is not the ‘death of God’, but the beginning of that God event in which the life-giving spirit of love emerges from the death of the Son and the grief of the Father.”

Prayers of Intercession

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

A brief silence.We pray, O God, for your holy church around the world. Revitalize and renew us, that we may be reborn once again through the waters of baptism and the blowing wind of your Spirit. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for your power revealed to us in creation; for cedar and oak trees, for rushing waters, for the echoes of thunder. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We pray for the nations and our leaders, that led by your Spirit, they work towards a world where all of your children enjoy peace. We pray especially for (nations currently experiencing war or turmoil may be named). Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We pray for healing for all those who suffer, especially victims and survivors of trauma or violence. Give respite to those living with PTSD or any other mental health concerns. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We pray for this worshiping community (congregation/community may be named), that the splendor of your majesty and the holiness of your mystery may be glorified through our worship and our relationships with one another. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.We give you thanks, O God, for those who have died in the faith (especially). We remember also those whose lives have been lost due to the horrors of war. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment