Feb. 5, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive the prayers of all who call upon you. By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do, and give us the grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12]

1Shout out, do not hold back!
  Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
 Announce to my people their rebellion,
  to the house of Jacob their sins.
2Yet day after day they seek me
  and delight to know my ways,
 as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
  and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
 they ask of me righteous judgments,
  they delight to draw near to God.
3“Why do we fast, but you do not see?
  Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?”
 Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
  and oppress all your workers.
4Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
  and to strike with a wicked fist.
 Such fasting as you do today
  will not make your voice heard on high.
5Is such the fast that I choose,
  a day to humble oneself?
 Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
  and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
 Will you call this a fast,
  a day acceptable to the Lord?

6Is not this the fast that I choose:
  to loose the bonds of injustice,
  to undo the thongs of the yoke,
 to let the oppressed go free,
  and to break every yoke?
7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
  and bring the homeless poor into your house;
 when you see the naked, to cover them,
  and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
  and your healing shall spring up quickly;
 your vindicator shall go before you,
  the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9aThen you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
  you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

9bIf you remove the yoke from among you,
  the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10if you offer your food to the hungry
  and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
 then your light shall rise in the darkness
  and your gloom be like the noonday.
11The Lord will guide you continually,
  and satisfy your needs in parched places,
  and make your bones strong;
 and you shall be like a watered garden,
  like a spring of water,
  whose waters never fail.
12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
  you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
 you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
  the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 112:1-9 [10]

1Hallelujah! Happy are they who | fear the Lord
  and have great delight in | God’s commandments!
2Their descendants will be mighty | in the land;
  the generation of the upright | will be blessed.
3Wealth and riches will be | in their house,
  and their righteousness will | last forever.
4Light shines in the darkness | for the upright;
  the righteous are merciful and full | of compassion. 
5It is good for them to be gener- | ous in lending
  and to manage their af- | fairs with justice.
6For they will nev- | er be shaken;
  the righteous will be kept in everlast- | ing remembrance.
7They will not be afraid of any | evil rumors;
  their heart is steadfast, trusting | in the Lord.
8Their heart is established and | will not shrink,
  until they see their desire up- | on their enemies.
9They have given freely to the poor, and their righteousness stands | fast forever;
   they will hold up their | head with honor.
[ 10The wicked will see it and be angry; they will gnash their teeth and | pine away;
  the desires of the wick- | ed will perish. 

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16]

1When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
6Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But, as it is written, 
 “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
  nor the human heart conceived,
 what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. [13And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
14Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
16“For who has known the mind of the Lord
  so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.]

Matthew 5:13-20

[Jesus said:] 13“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Festival of Lights by John August Swanson

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

This was one of those weeks during which I was reminded how much a congregation is captive to the type of week their pastor had. Our Monday study group is reading a spiritual memoir by a former Ladder Day Saint. The overwhelming feelings of never-good-enough, never-pure-enough ooze off the page. The stories she tells and guilt she expresses are both unique to the LDS experience and shared by people from many traditions with a strict moral code. But for me it has all served as a reminder that lots of us, maybe some of you gathered here today, often suffer from similar feelings. At the end of the week, I attended a leadership conference at Northwest Nazarene University. It had moments of deep connection, inspiration, and encouragement. But I also experienced moments of conviction and reminders of all it takes to be a good leader today. 

I have often suffered from what one of my best friends calls a case of the shoulds. I should be doing this or that, I should have done this. I should do this one thing and then I will be enough—for myself, the universe, in the eyes of God. And we live in a society which seems to demand the lethal combination of perfection and productivity. How much weight are you supposed to lose in the new year? How many hours are you supposed to put in at your job? Are students achieving the right test scores? Are you making enough money? 

And sometimes, if we are not careful, our theology gets mixed up with these earthly expectations which are so antithetical to the gospel. We think we will only be right with God if we accomplish x, y, and z.

So, in other years my sermon on these verses from Matthew might go a very different direction, this week I find it utterly life-giving and I experience pure joy to hear Jesus’ declaration this morning. You are the salt of the earth. Period. You are the light of world. Period. There is no you are salt and life IF or, you will be salt and light AFTER. It’s pure declaration. As one author put it, “The office of the prophet has now fallen on this new community, who has become salt and light for the world. (Hauerwas)” 

All we did was say “Yes. I will and ask God to help and guide me” at our baptisms, and yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus makes us salt and light. It is so. In our passage from Matthew, Jesus addresses his disciples and the crowd. The “you” is a “you all.” In other words. You all are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. At other times in his ministry, Jesus will warn about the public practice of one’s righteousness. But today Jesus encourages the people to let others see their good works. Why? Not for their or our praise, but for the praise of God.

Before the annual meeting I invited our leadership to write on a shared document people/events/wins we could celebrate at the annual meeting. In essence, I asked “where have we been salt and light?” Council president Jerry Armbrust read them during the annual meeting, but I think some of them are worth hearing again.

One member wrote, “A huge win that I have seen throughout Trinity Lutheran is how everyone within our congregation has really stepped up and helped out when needed. When there is a need you will see many church members offer to help. I also love how everyone is so welcoming to newcomers and always have a smile on their faces.” You all are the salt of the world.

Remember how I began the sermon, talking about how so many of us never feel that we are enough, never feel we fit in? Another member wrote, “I love that I have found a group [the Monday Morning Study Group] of like-minded, or not, people of faith with whom I can have open discussions.  I can be myself at all times-and my friends at Trinity care for me anyway.” You all are the light of the world.

Another member wrote, “I am inspired by all the stories of how faith intersects with daily life, in large and subtle ways!” You all are the salt of the earth.

Finally, one member added, “I think a win/success has been Trinity and its members showing me their faith every single service and in every get together. It resonated so much in me and filled me with faith when I doubted and has given me courage in myself.” Y’all are the light of the world. And thank you for not hiding the light under a bushel. 

In our introduction to the sacrament of Holy Baptism, the leader proclaims that “We are united with all the baptized in the one body of Christ, anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and joined in God’s mission for the life of the world.” Y’all are salt of the earth. Y’all are the light of the world.

What is Jesus’ own context for today’s teaching? Jesus preaches as a teacher who is steeped within the Jewish tradition and Jewish faith. That is, Jesus should not be understood as offering something that supersedes the law. Instead, his teaching should be viewed as that of one who holds the law in the greatest respect. 

One scholar suggested that “Jesus’ teachings, then, are best understood as those of a Jewish reformer, not as those of one who is attempting to denigrate and displace an ‘outdated’ religious system.” Jesus is at once doing something new; he is God incarnate after all, and Jesus is one in a long line of Jewish teachers and prophets.

We keep Jesus’ own company by looking at a text he would have known, our scripture passage from Isaiah. Jesus himself is looking at a crowd of people who are in many ways being crushed by the power of the Roman Empire. His audience would have resonated with Isaiah’s situation. It’s a time and place when the people wonder how is God present in a context with so much misery, poverty, injustice, and infighting? And in these conditions, what does salty salt taste like? What does light that is allowed to shine do?

Isaiah 58 shares the condemnation of hypocritical worship practices found so often in the prophets. Proper fasting, says Isaiah, is to loose the bonds of injustice, let the oppressed go free, feed the poor, and clothe the naked. In other words, fasting is not simply a ritual exercise done by an individual for his or her own benefit. By freeing the worshiper from concern for the self, fasting contributes to God’s mission of justice and liberation for all people.

Isaiah calls the people to restore and mend the divided community, mirroring God’s restorative action outlined earlier. The community will “represent and resemble God in the world.” This is a perfect place to lift up the Jewish notion of Tiqum Olam, the mending of the world. How might our actions, great and small, play a role in mending the world? What does it look like to follow God in building, restoring, feeding, clothing, caring, and repairing individuals and a community in need?

Before we get too far building that long list, it is good to hear one more final word of promise, this time from Isaiah, who declares, “You shall cry for help, and [God] will say, Here I am” (v. 9). “Here I am” is the typical and appropriate biblical response of a person called by a superior or by God. It was in fact Isaiah’s response when God commissioned him to be a prophet. But now, surprisingly, God takes those words of quintessential human response into God’s own mouth. Now, God says, “Here I am.” 

When Luther Heights program coordinator Allie McIntosh was commissioned to writing a blessing for the end of the camp week, these verses from Isaiah 58 inspired the blessing’s bridge. Now, at the end of each week of camp, campers going down the mountain hear their counselors remind them, “Then you will call. And the Lord will answer. You’ll cry for help, and he will say “Here I am!” Thanks be to God for the one who answers all our cries as we try to help usher in the kingdom.

Prayers of Intercession

Called together to follow Jesus, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

Call your people to seek your wisdom in difficult conversations and action. Give the church everywhere courage to repent for the ways we have tolerated and practiced injustice (injustice such as systemic racism, church sanction of colonialism, church protection of sexual abusers may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Inspire our wonder at creation, from the light of dawn to the beauty of the dark night. Sustain the unseen depths of the ocean to the plants and animals we know well. Bring healing to lands and communities experiencing natural disasters (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Instruct the powerful in your ways. Provide upright leadership in business and industry, that workers are not oppressed. Throughout the world, inspire voters and raise up politicians to heed your call for nations to practice righteousness. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Loosen the bonds of injustice in our midst. Grant peace to endless quarrels, put an end to hunger, and break every yoke of oppression. Shelter all who flee abuse in their homes or violence in their communities. Satisfy those afflicted in any way (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Shape our congregation to be salt for the earth. Give us delight in your commandments, that we are generous with those in need. Make us steadfast in our trust in you, ready with tangible mercy and compassion for our neighbors. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

The cross and resurrection bring redemption from sin and death. We praise you for (the Martyrs of Japan and) all whose unshaken faith in Christ shines forth in their witness. Keep them in our remembrance and bring us with them into the kingdom of heaven. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We bring to you our needs and hopes, O God, trusting your wisdom and power revealed in Christ crucified.


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1 Response to Feb. 5, 2023

  1. Mary says:

    We had a sermon that was on the salt and light too, but yours was wonderful. I enjoyed it and glad you post your sermons. Comforting to know I am salt and light, that’s it!

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