March 5, 2023

Prayer of the Day

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism you bring us to new birth to live as your children. Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your Spirit we may lift up your life to all the world through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Genesis 12:1-4a

1The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4aSo Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

The Calling of Abraham  —  Abbey of Saint-Savin, Vienne, France

Psalm 121

1I lift up my eyes | to the hills;
  from where is my | help to come?
2My help comes | from the Lord,
  the maker of heav- | en and earth.
3The Lord will not let your | foot be moved
  nor will the one who watches over you | fall asleep.
4Behold, the keep- | er of Israel
  will neither slum- | ber nor sleep; 
5the Lord watches | over you;
  the Lord is your shade at | your right hand;
6the sun will not strike | you by day,
  nor the | moon by night.
7The Lord will preserve you | from all evil
  and will | keep your life.
8The Lord will watch over your going out and your | coming in,
  from this time forth for- | evermore. 

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

1What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.
13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

John 3:1-17

1Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 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 kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom 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 him, “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 so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

I was drawn to our scripture passage from Genesis, the call of Abram and Sarai, this Lent because of our emphasis on baptism. It’s true that the story of Nicodemus and Jesus carries heavy tones of baptism as well. But when I stop to consider for myself or teach a group of people about how our God is a god of covenants and promises and faithfulness, it is the story of Abraham and Sarah that I turn to first.

If you are reading along in Genesis, there is an obvious literary break at this point in the narrative. This break in the narrative distinguishes between the history of humankind and the history of Israel (the people, not the nation). 

The God who calls the world into being now makes a second call. This call is specific. The call is addressed to aged Abraham and Sarah and the purpose of the call is to fashion on alternative community in creation gone awry. As one scholar [Brueggemann] says, “It is the hope of God that in this new family all human history can be brought to the unity and harmony intended by the one who calls.” It is clear from the verses we read today that the call to Sarah and Abraham has to do not simply with the forming of Israel (the people, not the current nation), but with the re-forming of creation, the transforming of all nations.

There are two themes central to this story and central to our Lenten theme of living into our baptisms: promise and faith. Promise is God’s mode of presence in this story. The promise is God’s power and will to create a new future sharply discontinuous with the past and present. The promise is God’s resolve to form a new community shaped only by miracle and reliant only on God’s faithfulness. And then faith is the response to God’s promise. Faith is the capacity to embrace the future God announced.

We Lutheran Christians gathered in sanctuaries for worship today are not the only ones who turn to this story to remember the relationship of God’s promises and the response of faith. Our Jewish friends turn to this story with us.

On February 24 an email was sent from our presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton about a spike in anti-Jewish hate and that extremist groups were planning a national day of hate for the 25th, targeting Jews. If we think for a minute that anti-Jewish hate and anti-Semitism exist only in major urban areas or on the coasts, we only need remember the anti-Semitic language etched on the stones of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise in 2017 and swastikas that were found painted on historic Boise buildings and in the underpasses on Boise’s Greenbelt in 2021.

This is a modern issue with ancient roots. I’m particularly aware of my own responsibility to not perpetuate the problem in this moment because we are spending a year in Matthew’s gospel and much of Lent and Holy Week in John’s Gospel. It is bad readings or misinterpretations of these two gospels especially that have led the Christian church itself to be ani-Jewish and anti-Semitic. 

Too often we have easily lost track of the inter-Jewish disputes occurring in the gospels. Instead, we have read, or been told, that Jesus was rejecting all Jewish law and customs. Further, and even more damaging, the church has blamed the Jews for Jesus’ death on the cross instead of seeing Jesus’ crucifixion as Rome’s decision, Rome’s power, and Rome’s form of execution. 

Interpretations of the Apostle Paul’s letters have also been problematic at least and harmful at worst, which brings us to today’s reading from Romans. First let’s remember that Paul’s mission to the gentiles was to announce that the same relationship, the relationship Paul called faith, had become available to non-Jews through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Gentiles, that’s you and me, could be part of the people of God, Israel (the people, not the nation), alongside the Jews.

As Paul worked to build up the Jesus community, the central conflict developed around this question: whether non-Jews in Jesus communities also had to live as Jews. Paul insisted they did not. He saw Abraham’s faith relationship to God as prior to circumcision and prior to the faith practices of the Torah given at Mount Sinai. 

Paul also knew that God’s saving power in the Exodus, through the Red Sea, came prior to Mount Sinai and the Torah. Paul never challenges the Torah-shaped life of Jews. He does affirm that Torah life follows God’s creation of a relationship with Israel. 

Let me put this another way. God redeemed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, where they had been Pharoah’s people. The revelation of the Torah came as an answer to the question, “How shall we live, now that we are God’s people?” God redeemed non-Jews, gentiles, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Whereas Jews are guided by the spirit of God into the lifestyle of Torah, we are guided by the gifts of the Spirit into the lifestyle, or law, of love. To state it plainly, Christians are not the “new Israel” or the “true Israel.” According to Paul, when gentiles come into Christ-faith through God’s grace, they become “those who share the faith of Abraham” (Romans 4:16). We have been “grafted in” to the holy root, part of the dough that is made holy by the holiness of its first fruits (Romans 11:16-17).

Given this relationship with the Jewish people, the anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic hate in Christian history is heartbreaking. Our own Lutheran tradition bears extra pain, which the ELCA acknowledged in 1994 and again 2021through A Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community.

One paragraph from the document reads, “In the spirit of … truth-telling, we who bear [Martin Luther’s] name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations. In concert with the Lutheran World Federation, we particularly deplore the appropriation in our day of Luther’s words by modern anti-Semites for the teaching of hatred and incitement to violence toward Judaism and the Jewish people.”

It is statements like this one that actually give me hope. I have deep and abiding hope that the Holy Spirit is at work through new scholarship, through inter-faith relationships, and through individuals and groups of people who say no to anti-Semitism. The rise in anti-Semitism in the past few years has me on alert and it is surely part of the reason I preached this sermon today, and yet I can see that the Holy Spirit has been at work. In our ecumenical tradition we do not perpetuate anti-Semitism as unconsciously or consciously as we did in the past. 

Still, there is more to do. There are more ways in our families, our circles of friends, and our larger community where we can stop the spread of anti-Semitism and affirm the blessedness of the Jewish people. I invite you to ponder those small and large actions as you leave this space.

I take comfort in the fact that since the earliest chapters of Genesis, God desires a thriving and diverse creation. We read in those earlier chapters of Genesis that divine intentions are repeatedly corrupted (think the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, the Tower of Babel). Human hearts remain perpetually wicked. However, and this is the big however that keeps repeating throughout scripture, instead of quitting, God decides on a different strategy such that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” through Abraham.

First comes the call. God calls Sarah and Abraham to a land God will show them. The call is followed by the promise. God will make of them. God will bless them. God will magnify their name. God will bless those who bless them. Notice that the future to be received by the people Israel is no accomplishment or achievement of their own. It is a gift by the one who is able to give good gifts. 

Abraham and Sarah may not be able to conjure up these gifts, but they can receive them. They can and do concede that the initiative for life is held by this other one, by God. Abraham believed the promise. He obeyed. He asked no questions. Trusting the promise without any visible evidence is what is meant by faith, itself a gift from God.

This is the gift given to us in the waters of baptism, not by anything we do to initiate the gift. We, like our ancestors of faith, are recipients. Our church professes that baptism brings forgiveness of sins, redeems us from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation or healing to all who trust the promise.

We follow a God of promise, a God of relationship, who has continued since the very beginning of beginnings to desire relationship with creation. God desires a thriving and diverse creation, with multiple life-giving relationships. Some days that can be a utopic vision seemingly out of reach. Today let it be the world we help create because our God is faithful, strengthening us for the work, and is always accompanying us.

Prayers of Intercession

Sustained by God’s abundant mercy, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

O God, you so love your church. Raise up leaders who care for your people. Bless lay theologians, seminary and college professors, and all who are called to the ministry of teaching, that they form and inspire us for the work of the gospel. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you so love your creation. Breathe new life into our planetary home. Guide the work of researchers, scientists, and activists who love your earth and who inspire us to care for the natural world. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you so love the world. Uphold leaders who resist tyranny and oppression. Strengthen organizations that promote peace and harmony (especially). Direct their work to alleviate human suffering and to address its root causes. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you so love your people. Draw near to all who live with mental illness, depression, or addiction, and accompany them in healing and recovery. Hear the cries of those who look to you in their distress (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

O God, you so love your children. Bless the young in our midst, and delight us with their joy, wonder, and curiosity. Revive our ministries with children and youth and equip us all for faithful discipleship. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

O God, you so love your saints. As our ancestors in the faith have been a blessing to us, so inspire us by their example of holy living to be a blessing to those who come after us. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your steadfast love and your promise to renew your whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Savior.


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Feb. 26, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us, and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
3:1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ ” 4But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm: Psalm 32

1Happy are they whose transgressions | are forgiven,
  and whose sin is | put away!
2Happy are they to whom the Lord im- | putes no guilt,
  and in whose spirit there | is no guile!
3While I held my tongue, my bones with- | ered away,
  because of my groaning | all day long.
4For your hand was heavy upon me | day and night;
  my moisture was dried up as in the | heat of summer. R
5Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and did not con- | ceal my guilt.
  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” Then you forgave me the guilt | of my sin.
6Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in | time of trouble;
  when the great waters overflow, they | shall not reach them.
7You are my hiding-place; you preserve | me from trouble;
  you surround me with shouts | of deliverance.
8“I will instruct you and teach you in the way that | you should go;
  I will guide you | with my eye. R
9Do not be like horse or mule, which have no | understanding;
  who must be fitted with bit and bridle, or else they will | not stay near you.”
10Great are the tribulations | of the wicked;
  but mercy embraces those who trust | in the Lord.
11Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice | in the Lord;
  shout for joy, all who are | true of heart. R

Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19

12Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

1Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, 
 ‘One does not live by bread alone,
  but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 
 ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
  and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
 so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 
 ‘Worship the Lord your God,
  and serve only him.’ ”
11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Pastor Meggan’s Sermon

The season of Lent emerged in the early Christian church as the final, intensive time of preparation—of instruction and formation—for people who would be baptized at Easter. Remember that during the first centuries of the Christian Church, baptism was for adults. Lent was designed to lead baptismal candidates to their baptismal waters. Preparation was long and full of instruction. As the final time of preparation, Lent was chiefly a time of Christian formation.  

We moved our baptismal font for the season in the attempt to draw new attention to the baptismal waters and promises. We will spend time during this season considering what it means to walk wet, as baptized children of God, in Nampa, Idaho in 2023. Freed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, what’s next?  Nothing was required of us to come to the font, to receive the promises of forgiveness and abundant life. And yet the Sacrament of Baptism includes promises and declarations of our own which can inform our living today. All of the Old and New Testament texts assigned for the Sundays of Lent this year help us in the baptismal journey.

The question today then is why is Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the wilderness an important story for people about to be baptized into the Christian faith? Why is it an important story for Christian formation? This is our backdrop as we enter this morning’s narrative. 

Today we see and hear Jesus reacting to his own set of tensions. Alone in the wilderness, fasting for 40 days, he also is locked-in in his own way. How will he react to his conditions? What direction will his life take? How will he choose to live? In Jesus’ case, the answers to these questions will not only shape his life, but the whole of humanity.

This is not a temptation scene. This is a scene in which an appointed agent tests Jesus’ solidity. The tester is a prosecutor, not a demon. He is an inspector with official responsibilities before God. He is not a cosmic force arrayed against God.  He is not Satan; he is the satan, the inspector and tester. We might consider the book of Job in the Old Testament, and the figure of the satan that is found there—that is the character.

The first thing to notice is that Jesus is brought to the place of testing by the Holy Spirit.  That means that no matter how things finally come out, Jesus is not ambushed. He is examined. The next thing to observe is that this examination begins with a ritual weakening of the candidate. Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights. We are told that at the end of this rigorous fast he was hungry.  This may seem obvious, but it is significant.  

Hunger is not simply a biological state.  It is an index of what it means to be a human being. Jesus, as a result of his ritual fast, has become fully alive, a human being at the most basic level, capable of the greatness and depravity that hunger brings to life. It is in this state of basic human life that the tester approaches him.

The tempter asks him to turn stones into loaves. The real test is whether Jesus will desire to leap above being a human being and claim status as a son of God. The tester is testing to see whether Jesus will expect privileges, expect the laws of nature to change so that he will have bread to eat without relying on someone to bake it, someone to grind the meal, someone to harvest the grain, someone to plant the grain. Will Jesus ask something of the world that it does not give?

Then the tester takes Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” for angels will rescue you.  Spectators are not mentioned, but the temptation must be for Jesus to make some sensational demonstration that he is the Son of God. Jesus refuses, not because of any lack of faith in God’s power and care. He refuses because honoring God excludes every kind of manipulation, including putting God to the test.

The third test is for Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world, to assume the role presently played by the Roman emperor. The test is to do it by surrendering to the devil’s kingship. The tester’s command challenged Jesus to accept the current state of the rebellious state of the world. With Jesus’ power, he could have it all. But Jesus will not deviate from worshiping the one true God, even for the noble-sounding purpose of taking over all the kingdoms of the world. 

In this fourth chapter of Matthew, we see Jesus’ earthly life as that of one who fully shares the weakness of our human situation. The picture of Jesus as the obedient Son of God does not abolish or compromise the image of Jesus as truly human.  Jesus is both Son of God and Son of Man.

Those preparing for baptism in the early church who asked: “Why should I believe in Jesus?” are given answers in today’s text. Jesus is a model of obedience to God.  He emerges victorious from his combat with the tester. He can safeguard and maintain his honor and avoid shame. Until his arrest, trial, and death, no one—human or spirit—succeeds in shaming him, tripping him up, or causing him to fall from his ministry. This is the consequence of unflinching obedience to God.

In our service of Baptism in 2023, the baptized, or the parents and sponsors, participate in what we call the “Profession of Faith.” The Profession begins with something we do not often discuss, a three-fold renunciation. Three-fold, the same pattern we hear this morning in Jesus’ trial with Satan. The pastor asks, “Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?…Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?…Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?” One definition for renounce is to reject.  I like combining reject with a slightly different translation, “to give up.”  

We do not renounce them of our own power, but with the power of the Holy Spirit. The message from today’s story in the wilderness is not to go and be like Jesus, renouncing the devil. Instead it’s a reminder that in baptism we are united with Christ, who can in fact reject, or give up, the powers of this world.

We are saying that, united with Christ, we give up all of those things that defy God; that we give up everything else which we serve: money, power, privilege.  We renounce them and yet we know full well that most of us will bow down to one of these in our lifetime, if not this very afternoon. So why is this part of Baptism? 

Because in the waters of Baptism our old self is drowned and we are united with Christ, and Christ truly did give up and reject the devil and the powers of this world that rebel against God. And so, we come up from the waters forgiven, free, and with new life.

Jesus’ time in the wilderness is also a prelude to his entire ministry. Jesus refuses in the wilderness to turn stones into bread, but soon he will feed thousands in the wilderness with just a few loaves and some fish (Matt 14:17-21; 15:33-38), and he will teach his disciples to pray to God for their “daily bread” (Matt 6:11).

Jesus refuses to take advantage of his relationship to God by hurling himself down from the heights of the Temple, but at the end of his earthly ministry he endures the taunts of others (Matt 27:38-44) while trusting God’s power to the end upon the heights of a Roman cross (Matt 27:46).

And Jesus turns down the devil’s offer of political leadership over the kingdoms of the world. Instead, he offers the kingdom of the heavens to all those who follow him in the way of righteousness.

All of this should have us asking: What does it look like to trust God? What are appropriate uses of authority and power that serve the world by serving God? These questions can guide our living and formation just as they guided early Christians preparing for baptism. How should we live out our faithfulness in the realities of daily life, empowered by “Emmanuel, God with us?”

Overwhelming and desolate as our wildernesses may seem, today’s gospel reminds us of something essential: Jesus has already gone ahead of us, even to the most forsaken places of the wilderness. Jesus meets us in the most difficult tests of our lives. No place is so desolate, so distant, or so challenging that Jesus has not already been there. And no temptation is so great that Jesus has not already overcome it.

Prayers of Intercession

Sustained by God’s abundant mercy, let us pray for the church, the world, and all of creation.

A brief silence.

You alone are God. Sustain your church in times of wilderness. Give vision and wisdom to bishops, their staff, and all entrusted with the ministry of administration (especially). Counsel all who faithfully lead your people into the future. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You create verdant gardens and expansive deserts. Tend to the needs of every living creature. Bless those who work in fields and orchards (local sources of food and food distributors may be named), that the world is nourished by the fruits of their labor. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You know our temptations. Sustain those who govern and legislate. Instill in them a sense of your justice and righteousness, that equity and peace would pervade all the regions and nations of the world. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You are a hiding place for all in distress. Draw near to exiles, and accompany all refugees and immigrants, especially children who travel alone. In times of trouble, trauma, or illness, surround your people with your steadfast love (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You offer abundance to all. Bless the ministries of hospitality in this place. Care for those who tend to the needs of others, especially worship greeters, coffee hour hosts, and nursery attendants (other ministries of care and hospitality may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

You alone are God. We praise you for the faithful departed in every age. Unite our prayers with theirs, until our wilderness journey is complete, and we rest in you. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your steadfast love and your promise to renew your whole creation; through Jesus Christ our Savior.



Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Lent Threads

Originally published in the Trinity, Nampa Epistle/Newsletter.

Dear Friends in Christ,

            This Epistle will be posted/printed around Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church season of Lent. There are two threads that you can trace through Lent at Trinity this year. The first is the Sunday morning readings, which all tell us something about this God we trust and follow. Taking a cue from the early church, which used Lent as a time for baptismal preparation, Sunday worship and the sermons will hopefully help us consider what it means to “walk wet,” as Dan Erlander writes, to live as baptized children of God in the world today. What good news and what instruction can be found in the old, old stories of Jesus in the wilderness, God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well, Jesus healing the man blind from birth, and the Dry Bones? Another, surely related, thread this Lent will be woven through our Midweek Night Prayer, sometimes called Compline, services. Each Wednesday in Lent we will remember and celebrate saints the church recognizes, people who have followed Jesus faithfully and whose lives can both instruct and inspire us. You will be familiar with a few of these individuals, people like Harriet Tubman, Patrick, and Jesus’ father Joseph, but others will likely be new: George Herbert, Perpetua, Hans Nielsen Hauge. If even reading this piques your interest, be sure to check out the faith formation playlist on our website ( for more. Lent is a time to go just a little deeper in the life of faith—deeper in prayer, reading scripture, serving our neighbors, and pondering what it means to faithfully follow Jesus. Blessed Lent everyone!

Pastor Meggan

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ash Wednesday -2023

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

1Blow the trumpet in Zion;
  sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
 Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
  for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
2a day of darkness and gloom,
  a day of clouds and thick darkness!
 Like blackness spread upon the mountains
  a great and powerful army comes;
 their like has never been from of old,
  nor will be again after them
  in ages to come.

12Yet even now, says the Lord,
  return to me with all your heart,
 with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
  13rend your hearts and not your clothing.
 Return to the Lord, your God,
  for he is gracious and merciful,
 slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
  and relents from punishing.
14Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
  and leave a blessing behind him,
 a grain offering and a drink offering
  for the Lord, your God?

15Blow the trumpet in Zion;
  sanctify a fast;
 call a solemn assembly;
  16gather the people.
 Sanctify the congregation;
  assemble the aged;
 gather the children,
  even infants at the breast.
 Let the bridegroom leave his room,
  and the bride her canopy.

17Between the vestibule and the altar
  let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
 Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
  and do not make your heritage a mockery,
  a byword among the nations.
 Why should it be said among the peoples,
  ‘Where is their God?’ ”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Today’s Old Testament lesson comes from one of the shortest books of the Bible. Taken from the second of its three chapters, the prophet Joel speaks of the blessing that is possible for Israel, if only they would repent. Considering the blessings that come with repentance, we might think that the people would eagerly, without hesitation, run to God’s open invitation for penitence. But despite its potential for blessing, the Israelites of old resist repentance with every ounce of their being.

Why? Why are people so reluctant to repent when they know that blessings are waiting? Well, repentance necessitates recognition and admission of guilt, of having done wrong, of being sorry for the hurt one caused another. Individually or collectively, people would rather live in denial than have a contrite spirit, admit they are mistaken, and say “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” And if sin is about being separated from God, who wants to admit that? 

Joel is among the biblical prophets who repeatedly, to no avail, encouraged Israel to turn to God and leave its faults and failures, its sins, behind. We are not confident about the context that this particular prophet lived during. What we can be sure of is that he writes to warn Israel that communal sin has consequences.

I confess that I am coming to Ash Wednesday this year informed by a discussion series I led on Brian McLaren’s book, Do I Stay Christian? Although in the second half of the book McLaren gives compelling reasons for being Christian, the first half is disheartening to say the least. It is a blunt retelling of systemic sins in the name of Christianity. Readers are reminded of them all: Christians killing non-Christians in the name of religion, Christians killing Christians in the name of religion, slavery, colonization, the destruction of indigenous cultures in the name of relgions, upholding patriarchy leading to the harm of countless women, and anti-Semitism.

These sins are not limited to one geography or centuries past. I will never forget the way my heart broke when I watched the news about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in the summer of 2017. The participants claimed to follow the same Jesus we do. How is that possible and, more importantly, what is our responsibility and what can actually be done?

First, we belong to a long tradition of repenting for the collective sins of our ancestors. The Lutheran Church has made specific public apologies for Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism. More recently, we have apologized for being complacent in the doctrine of discovery, a belief system which displaced thousands of Native Americans across the United States. 

There is justifiable criticism for apologies that are not followed by concrete actions. However, when action follows, then formal and public repentance can be a powerful step towards reconciliation with our neighbors and with God. It is always a good time to repent, but I am thankful for a liturgical season that calls us to take the practice of repentance particularly seriously for a period of time.

So let us return to our Old Testament text. Joel uses the image of an invading army of locusts to get the attention of a nation, whose short-term perspective made it oblivious to the dangers that lay ahead. To get the full impact of this imagery, one needs to hear Joel’s words in Chapter 1, “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4). The image is clear—all is lost and there is no hope for restoration. The situation is so hopeless that even the animals groan and cry out to God. 

In our reading today, Joel returns to the call to repentance issued earlier. This time the sense of hopelessness is replaced by a glimmer of hope in God, who is, according to Joel, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (2:13b). There is, however, a catch. Reprieve is a contingent blessing. It depends on how Israel responds to God’s call to return. Joel makes it plain that a change of heart and a commitment to follow God are the requirements for the reprieve. With a cry of desperation that one more appeal could make a difference, God pleads, “Yet even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.”

With a strong sense of urgency, Joel calls on Israel, even though there is no guarantee, but “Who knows whether God will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind” (2:14a, b).

Joel calls for the entire community to gather, suckling infants, children, and aged alike, to fast, weep, and plead for God’s mercy. This appeal to God is accompanied by a reminder to God that Israel is God’s heritage. The reminder seems foolish since Israel has not followed God’s commandments and can only hope that God will respond with an undeserved kindness—a kindness based on God’s grace and character.

In this season of Lent, is not Israel’s plea our plea as well? Should we not also fast and cry out to God? Should we not recognize that any reprieve God gives is neither earned entitlement nor priceless privilege? Instead, God’s forgiveness is a manifestation of God’s grace, of God’s love and care for humanity.

In an online clergy group, another pastor said someone from a different tradition now at his congregation did not want to receive ashes. The pastor inquired, what else can mark the start of Lent besides Ashes? Now, I love and appreciate that our service tonight includes the Imposition of Ashes, and that ashes remind us of both our mortality and of our sin and brokenness. And yet Joel reminds us that the long confession and the invitation to the discipline of Lent are also crucial to this day and this entire season. 

On Ash Wednesday it is more than enough to return to God and know God’s presence: in our worship, in our long prayers, and in the meal. Our brokenness and our community’s brokenness are never the final word. God loves the world too much to let our sin be the final word. We trust a God who makes all things new.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Feb. 19, 2023

Prayer of the Day

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah, and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son, you foreshadowed our adoption as your children. Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Exodus 24:12-18

12The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14To the elders he had said, “Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.”
15Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. 17Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Psalm 2

1Why are the nations | in an uproar?
  Why do the peoples mutter | empty threats?
2Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt, and the princes | plot together,
  against the Lord and against the | Lord’s anointed?
3“Let us break their | yoke,” they say;
  “let us cast off their | bonds from us.”
4God whose throne is in heav- | en is laughing;
  the Lord holds them | in derision. 
5Then in wrath God | speaks to them,
  and in rage fills | them with terror.
6“As for me, I have anoint- | ed my king
  upon Zion, my | holy mountain.”
7Let me announce the decree | of the Lord,
  who said to me, “You are my son; this day have I be- | gotten you.
8Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for | your inheritance
  and the ends of the earth for | your possession. 
9You shall crush them with an | iron rod
  and shatter them like a | piece of pottery.”
10And now, you | kings, be wise;
  be warned, you rulers | of the earth.
11Submit to the | Lord with fear,
  and with trembling | bow in worship;
12lest the Lord be angry, and you perish in a sudden | blaze of wrath.
  Happy are all who take ref- | uge in God!

2 Peter 1:16-21

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Matthew 17:1-9

1Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Transfiguration  —  Duccio, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

For weeks we’ve been up on a mountain with crowds of Jesus’ new followers. We listened in as Jesus spoke about what it means to follow him. This morning we skip ahead in the story and go up a very different mountain with the inner group. There is no long sermon or speech. It has the form of a historical narrative, but its content is so otherworldly that it is hard for us to accept its historical authenticity. 

No matter how we read it, the story points us to mystery, a mystery beyond the reach of historical reconstruction or scientific verification. Scholars can talk about Jesus the historical figure. But none of it tells us anything about the mystery of Jesus’ as it was experienced by the community that grew up around him. The story of the transfiguration attempts to draw us into that mystery.  

The Gospel writer Matthew refers to what occurred on the mountain as a vision.  He does not mean an inner psychological experience. He does mean that the “seeing’ is not a natural function of ordinary eyes but is God-given. God grants the disciples the power to see what otherwise would have been invisible to mortal perception.

The inside troika, Peter, James, and John are asked to see before listening, to see past it all–Jesus’ words, his ministry, his teaching, his healing, his preaching, his friendships, his prayer, his wisdom. Jesus invites them now to see through and beyond all that. He invites them to see something that can be apprehended most accurately not by ear or eye, but by the heart and soul: his true identity. “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

The transfiguration comes at a critical point in Jesus’ life, a point of major transition. Here he shifts from his active ministry among the people and toward Jerusalem, the place of his death and resurrection, the place where human and divine will intersect. And knowing how hard it would be for his disciples to understand and witness this, Jesus takes his closest disciples and heads up a mountain.  

There they come into the presence of God in a new way. Their hearts and souls are opened to see what their eyes can barely believe. Their friend and teacher, the very human Jesus, is transfigured before them. The appearance of his face changes.  His clothes become dazzling white. They sense the presence of Moses and Elijah. And God perceives their fear and responds by speaking to them. God wants them to begin to understand how this Jesus, fully human, is also fully divine.  

The story of the transfiguration of Christ functions, according to one writer [Henri Nouwen], as something of an icon. The transfiguration offers access through the gate of the visible to the mystery of the invisible. There, high on the mountain, the familiar face of their beloved friend and teacher is revealed in a new light, and in that light their hearts can hear the voice of God saying: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  

Icons have long been important to the Orthodox churches of the Christian family.  Painted in egg tempura on wood, these tools for prayer and liturgy most often depict scenes of Christ, Mary and the saints. Created according to rules handed down from generation to generation, icons are venerated as representations of the divine, windows through which the soul can see the realities of the kingdom of heaven. Their purpose is to pull one into the image in order to see through it and beyond it to the heart of God, to the reality of the great Mystery.

The story of the transfiguration becomes a luminous narrative icon, a painting in words that points beyond the text to the true reality of Christ, the light of the world.  Its aim is to help us see beyond Jesus of Nazareth, the Galilean, to see him radically transformed into the Son of God, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Only then will we begin to take in the foreshadowing of his resurrection and future glory.  

This moment on the mountain will sustain the disciples in the weeks ahead. We might assume it grounded Jesus once again in his identity and gave him what he needed has his ministry changed. Transfiguration Sunday is always celebrated the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. No matter where we are in the three-year cycle of assigned readings, we stop reading about Jesus’ teaching and healing and head up the mount of Transfiguration before beginning the Lenten journey. The vision of Jesus’ glory is meant to sustain us for the forty days.

It has been a bit strange really to remember where we were three years ago when we were reading these same verses, about to enter into the strangest and hardest Lent of my time as a pastor. And yet I am so grateful for all the glimpses of God’s glory that I and we collectively experienced before we closed the church. All sorts of icon moments and glimpses of God’s glory sustained our community. As we are about to embark on another Lent, I invite you to ponder for a few moments what glimpses of glory have sustained and will sustain you in faith: it might be a verse or story from scripture, a sacred song, relationships, or something in the natural world. Close your eyes if you’re comfortable and let something surface. Pause.

Give thanks for whatever came to the surface. Put it somewhere accessible in your heart or mind. The transfiguration is about God’s presence. God repeats the words spoken at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased,” and then God adds, “Listen to him!” We hear of the intimacy that marks Jesus’ relationship with God.  

The transfiguration is a means of grace, an event in which God is present. It is sacramental. How does this event shape Jesus’ first disciples? Peter offers to make three dwellings, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He wants to make the event permanent. But the transfiguration, like whatever you came up with in your mind’s eye, cannot be made permanent. It is mystery. It is a glimpse. Peter is interrupted by the voice from the cloud. After God speaks, the disciples fall to the ground and are overcome with fear. Jesus touches them, they are healed. Jesus tells them, “Do not be afraid.”  

These are hard times in which to see clearly.  A murky human-made smog of dreams deferred, of violence, confusion and fear stings our eyes and blurs even what is closest to us. Where God would bring light, we linger in the darkness of ignorance and fear. Our reading from 2nd Peter this morning is speaking directly to us: “You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

God’s gift is in the transfiguration icon, the intense light that allows vision and insight. God permits us from time to time to see through to the heart of the matter.  God permits us to see purpose and future, hope and possibilities for meaningful action and participation. And God’s gift is that God is there, waiting to be seen.  God is the reality behind the icon. The challenge to us is to be committed enough and bold enough to keep our eyes open. Will we dare to look, to pass through the gate of the visible to the mystery of the invisible, and then to accept responsibility for everything we see. 

The truth is that every time we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper, we enter into a bit of a mystery. I have studied scripture, church history, and numerous theologians, and still I am overwhelmed with the mysteries of both sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. How can water and a few words bestow such great gifts as forgiveness of sins and abundant life? How can these great gifts be given so freely through words and ordinary bread? Because Christ promised it would be so. God chooses to bestow God’s grace through these mysterious and marvelous sacraments. Baptism and Communion are means of grace. All of this is true, and I can explain it to some extent but when I try to expand on it I usually end up pausing and proclaiming—it’s a marvelous mystery. 

Like the Transfiguration, this meal is a glimpse and then it is over. Never was I so mindful of this as when on internship with campus ministry at Eastern Washington University. Every Saturday evening after worship I was responsible for disposing of the remaining elements. I dutifully went out the back door and poured the wine on the ground and broke up the bread for birds and other critters. Sometimes our gatherings were so wonderful that, like Peter, I wanted to create a marker, but disposing of the bread and wine was a reminder that we were meant to go back down the mountain and keep welcoming the reign of God. So it is for us in this place. After Communion we give thanks for the healing that springs forth abundantly from this table and ask God to renew our strength to do justice, love kindness, and journey humbly with you. 

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

Embolden your church as it witnesses to the majesty and mercy of your Son. Equip lay preachers, deacons, and pastors. Move us to share our stories of your faithfulness and forgiveness; may our lives proclaim your greatness. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Dwell with your whole creation, from the tallest mountain peak to the deepest valley. Bless the work of conservation organizations and protect vital habitats (locally threatened waters or lands may be named). Support the work of disaster relief agencies around the world. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Guide and give wisdom to all in authority: our mayor (name) and local leaders, our governor (name) and state legislators, our president (name) and national legislators. Bring freedom and justice to all nations. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Give shelter to those lacking safe homes. Spur communities to work for fair housing for all. Protect our neighbors whose dwellings do not keep out dangerous cold or heat; accompany with your touch those who are homebound, sick, or isolated (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Make us eager to receive your Word in scripture. Help us recognize Jesus’ voice in the needs of our neighbors; make us confident to follow the way of the cross. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Receive our thanksgiving for the holy ones who have guided us in faithfulness and gathered even the unlikely as your people. With our forebears in faith and all who have hoped in you, teach us to wait with courage until the promised day dawns. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Feb. 12, 2023

Prayer of the Day

O God, the strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do, and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[Moses said to the people:] 15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm 119:1-8

1Happy are they whose | way is blameless,
  who follow the teaching | of the Lord!
2Happy are they who observe | your decrees
  and seek you with | all their hearts,
3who never do | any wrong,
  but always walk | in your ways.
4You laid down | your commandments,
  that we should | fully keep them. 
5Oh, that my ways were made | so direct
  that I might | keep your statutes!
6Then I should not be | put to shame,
  when I regard all | your commandments.
7I will thank you with | a true heart,
  when I have learned your | righteous judgments.
8I will | keep your statutes;
  do not utter- | ly forsake me. 

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

1Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Sermon: Pastor Meggan Manlove

I want to say at the top of my sermon that if your attention landed on those verses about divorce you are likely not alone. I will address those verses briefly but maybe not to everyone’s satisfaction, but I love theological conversations so please call me if you leave today feeling a bit unresolved about any of this.

As Jesus gets deeper into his Sermon on the Mount, his words today remind me of the first time I got a letter from the local regional hospital hospice while serving as a pastor in rural Iowa. A parishioner had been admitted and the letter went something like—at the end of this person’s life we want to care for the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. To that end, we are wrapping around the person with medical staff, pastor, social worker, family, and volunteers. Hospice knew how to care about the whole person.

As part of ushering in the kingdom of heaven, which actually comes to us in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is showing people again what it means to live in community. I say “again” because this is not new. God did something quite similar after he brought the Hebrew people out of Egypt and gave them the 10 Commandments. The commandments were a gift more than anything else. Because of our sinful nature, people need rules for how to live well together. They are the side bumpers that help us thrive. They are the mother telling us not to touch the hot stove. They are the speed limit and stop signs that help us navigate living in the world together. Collectively, good laws, whether civic or from God, have the goals of wellness and wholeness for the collective body.

Because of our sinful nature, it was never enough to say, “be nice to one another.” To return to the body image, think of the doctor who is with a patient who says, “I’m experiencing pain.” For a good doctor, that is not enough. A good doctor probes physically and with verbal questions until the source of the pain is found. The remedy must fit the condition. Likewise, the body of Christ needs specificity. 

Further, like the practice of medicine itself, as the world changes, as societies evolve, the law needs new interpretations. This is what Jesus does when he takes up adultery and divorce, already addressed in the Old Testament. Jesus’ teachings reinforce the dignity of women and warns against a culture of male privilege. We know today that there are other good reasons for both women and men to ask for divorce. And, to return to the goal for the collective, many of those divorces are good for the entire body, the entire community, even if they initially cause pain. 

Those of you who grew up memorizing Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, know that Luther followed Jesus’ example when he wrote his explanations to the Ten Commandments. It’s his Large Catechism that I want to lift up today, particularly his explanation of the Fourth Commandment, to honor mother and father, which is again about the collective body.

After writing several paragraphs about how children ought to treat their parents, Luther writes “In addition, it would also be well to preach to parents on the nature of their responsibility, how they should treat those whom they have been appointed to rule.” He argues later, “therefore let all people know that it is their chief duty—at the risk of losing divine grace—first to bring up their children in the fear and knowledge of God, and, then, if they are so gifted, also to have them engage in formal study and learn so that they may be of service wherever they are needed.” Do you hear how Luther, in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount, is interested in the wellness and wholeness of the entire body, the society, the beloved community.

I admit that the verses in our passage that I am most interested in for our own time are those about oath keeping. Jesus’ suggestion to let one’s “yes” be “yes” is essentially an encouragement to ensure that one’s spoken word is so authentic and so in line with one’s intentions that it is already above question just on its own, even without an additional strengthener. In other words, then, Jesus is calling for his audience to demonstrate the highest possible level of trustworthiness and integrity, not only in their dealings with other humans, but also in their dealings with God.

Oh that the Holy Spirit could come among us as at Pentecost and give us new rules for interacting with the internet. But seriously, what does the kingdom of God look like in the face of algorithms that are continuously connecting our data and then filling our feeds accordingly? I cannot, with complete confidence, draw a line from Matthew 5 to a new catechism for the Digital Information Age, but I think it’s something the church needs to consider, and I have these wonderings. 

First, the incarnation is at the center of our Christian faith. God came to earth and decided to live as a human being. The most obvious and faith inspired anecdote to the internet is to live an embodied life. It’s one reason I celebrate ten of our members being on retreat this weekend up in the mountains. Go on a walk, have coffee with a neighbor, hug your grandkids, fold your hands and pray to God, sing aloud in your home, in the car, during worship, feast on the Lord’s Supper. God made us embodied, and our bodies are truly remarkable. Live an embodied life.

That said, it’s hard for even the oldest or most technology resistant among us to avoid the internet. And even if we do, friends, neighbors, and relatives are impacted by the internet. We are all living in the Digital Information Age. And it has a huge impact on the concept of truth and information sharing.

So, know what’s going on and have some understanding for how it all works. People are living in different “fact world” described by a variety of narratives. If it feels like you and your neighbor have completely different understandings of what is going on in the world or community, you very well might. These often-conflicting narratives are reinforced by Computerized Recommendation Systems (algorithms) which encourage reactive responses. They reinforce a particular world view (no matter what it is). And these world views are one dimensional and lack any nuance. And, as someone said, know that when you go out to research something on the internet, the internet has already researched you. 

In a discussion about all this, a woman lamented that when she switched her newspaper subscription to an online subscription, she noticed how her reading patterns changed. The online subscription knew which headlines to feed her. Before, she would occasionally end up reading an interesting sports story, but now that doesn’t happen. I think you can still get some papers to send you an exact digital replica of the physical paper, but that may take an extra effort. What she was illustrating was how algorithms stifled her curiosity. She now has to be more intentional about nurturing and feeding her curiosity. 

What is in our power to respond to the algorithms, in addition to living an embodied life and nurturing curiosity? What response might help usher in Jesus’ reign in the Digital Information Age? Become aware of your own patterns of reactivity. Stay in relationship with those you disagree with, no one said reign of God work was easy. When you bump into resistance it may be that you are on the right track, though you may not be. Understand that other people may be living in a different “fact world” than you.

Nothing in this scripture passage says that we are going to, in this lifetime, create a world without sin, pain, or suffering. But we can ask for less violence, more actual truth, less retaliation, more generosity, more embodiment, more curiosity, and more true empathy.

Someone in my text study asked, where is the good news in any of this? I admit that it’s hard to hear much of God’s promises in this particular passage from Matthew. And yet, for those of us who know the whole story, it should be very clear that Jesus does not ask of us anything God does not do. For example, Jesus calls us to practice of nonretaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took in his cross. In like manner we are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because that is the character of God. We are to be honest in relationships because God is honest with us.

But there is more good news, really. For the sake of this new collective body Jesus is forming, Jesus’ own body was broken on the cross. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “The sign of that body, which was given for us, and communion with it provide the disciples with the strength for [all] Jesus commands.”

Luther himself says the Lord’s Supper “is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger. For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses. But it has to suffer a great deal of opposition…. For times like these, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment” (LC). So come to the feast as the Holy Spirit shapes us as the body of Christ.

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

Inspire your church that it may be a sign of life throughout the world. From the exploration of faith with children and new believers to missionaries and bishops, shape lives of faithfulness, so that all find abundant life in your ways. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Nourish your creation. Accompany all who plant and water. Bless the work of farmers; provide for subsistence farmers facing drought and climate change. Guide the work of agricultural scientists toward sustainable ways to feed the world. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Give growth where there seems to be no hope for life. In nations and regions where reconciliation seems impossible (especially), empower peacemakers with your Spirit. Where death holds sway through violence, disease, and hunger, equip relief workers to bring hope. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Nurture all in need (especially). Bring healing to all who experience trauma caused by systems of injustice and destructive relationships. Give courage to those struggling to repent and those seeking reconciliation. Sustain all who work for restoration (local restorative efforts may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Encourage this congregation. Call us to a common purpose and keep us from quarrelling. Turn our hearts toward you and guide our leaders, so that our choices may be lifegiving for all. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Thanks be to you for the lives of all who have died in Christ. Teach us to follow them in your ways and gather us with them into the promise of eternal life with you. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

The Camper Goes Online

Originally posted on as Video Conferencing and Sacred Space

Hebrews 10:24-25, 24And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I first opened a Zoom video conferencing account when the Lutheran Outdoor Ministry board president moved us from conference phone calls to Zoom in 2015. I asked our synod if we could use its account while convening the executive director search committee for Luther Heights in 2018. But it was not until I volunteered for Thriving Leadership, a Lilly funded initiative shared by California Lutheran University and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, that I really understood how video conferencing, and Zoom specifically, could be used to create and foster community. The week before Trinity Lutheran, the congregation I serve as pastor, shut down in March 2020 I participated in an online training about Zoom. I learned about simple tools like letting people turn off their cameras, encouraging people to light a candle to separate our time and space, sharing my screen for litanies and prayers, and using break-out rooms. These became vital tools during the early months of the pandemic and I have continued to employ the them often, even after our congregation resumed in-person gatherings. As traffic congestion increases, as people search for faith communities and are nervous about stepping inside church buildings, I have taken book studies, Bible Studies, and spiritual practices online. I am so grateful to Desta Goehner (CLU) and Ray Pickett (PLTS) for writing the Thriving Leadership FormationLilly grant and to Mark Yaconelli, author and founder of The Hearth, for writing our spiritual practices handbook. Leading spiritual practices groups for our synod, as part of this project, nudged me to enhance online spaces and experiment with different curriculums and methods of operation. I am also grateful for the group of women who started meeting around the same time was launched. We met weekly for at least 18 months and my online leadership was nurtured by our time together.

Every time I gather a group using video conferencing, it feels a bit like I am on the trail again with a group of high school youth and we have stopped for Bible Study. I love campfire and all-camp worship and games during which youth get to run and scream, but for me the best part of camp as both a camper and counselor was the cabin group—the relationship formed between young adult and campers. I love the small group for relationship building and mutual learning.

But there is also something surprising about how video conferencing can help create sacred space for people. It surely is not the only modern tool that can do that (check out several applications on my smart phone) and I would first in line to argue that whenever possible we should be in sacred spaces offline (feasting on the Lord’s Supper together, digging in gardens, hiking in the Boise Foothills). But when I read an article arguing that silence was a worship practice Zoom could not replicate, I argued against it in my head. When I sit in silence with groups I am leading on Zoom, it is most often during a spiritual practice. I have given the participants prompts for their imaginations—a memory, an image, a scripture passage. Is that really so very different than the silence I give our congregation in the midst of Confession and Forgiveness or in the midst of the bidding prayers on Good Friday? I am not so sure. For now, I am grateful for the technology and the ways it is helping me connect with people across the Treasure Valley and across the entire synod. 

I am grateful to have found new ways to both connect and serve. I will also be one of the first to get myself up to the Sawtooth Mountains this summer to unplug, pull up a chair on the deck at Luther Heights and talk to a new or old friend. It does not have to an either/or option. We can embrace both in person and online communities.  

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for new and ancient ways of creating Christian community. We ask your Holy Spirit to guide us as we nurture our relationships with you, one another, our neighbors, and the natural world.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | 1 Comment

Jan. 29, 2023

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart. Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace, that in our words and deeds the world may see the life of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Micah 6:1-8

1Hear what the Lord says:
  Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
  and let the hills hear your voice.
2Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord,
  and you enduring foundations of the earth;
 for the Lord has a controversy with his people,
  and he will contend with Israel.

3“O my people, what have I done to you?
  In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
  and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
 and I sent before you Moses,
  Aaron, and Miriam.
5O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
  what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
 and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
  that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”

6“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  and bow myself before God on high?
 Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
  with calves a year old?
7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
 Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
  and what does the Lord require of you
 but to do justice, and to love kindness,
  and to walk humbly with your God?

Psalm 15

1Lord, who may dwell in your | tabernacle?
  Who may abide upon your | holy hill?
2Those who lead a blameless life and do | what is right,
  who speak the truth | from their heart; 
3they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil | to their friends;
  they do not cast discredit up- | on a neighbor.
4In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who | fear the Lord.
  They have sworn upon their health and do not take | back their word.
5They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes a- | gainst the innocent.
  Those who do these things shall never be | overthrown.

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, 
 “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
  and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
26Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The Beatitudes are first of all descriptive of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus is a messiah, a savior, who quite literally walks the talk. Before climbing the mount and preaching, Jesus has been very busy. He went throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He cured diseases and every sickness among the people. It’s no wonder his fame spread. So, the one who preaches the Sermon is the one who is physically making all things new. The sayings of the Sermon on the Mount are the interpretation of Jesus’s life.

There were times Jesus was all those things he names in the Beatitudes. He was the ultimate peacemaker. His life and death encapsulate those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He mourned for individuals and for our broken world. And in emptying himself for the world he showed us what it meant to be poor in spirit. 

That Jesus lived what he preached may be a faithful reading of the Beatitudes. But it does not fully answer the question of what this iconic text means for us living some 2000 years later on a different continent. For that, it’s helpful to remember that the Sermon on the Mount was not addressed originally to individuals but to a community that Jesus began through calling the disciples. 

Sometimes the word makarios is translated as happy. Do any of you remember that translation? Our translation today uses the word blessed, which carries with it all sorts of problems, including what is sometimes called the prosperity gospel, the idea that earthly riches are a sign of God’s blessing. I prefer the translation I read online by a fellow pastor who wrote, “Jesus is saying to those who are hurting and those who side with them, God loves you too. Although it seems sometimes like God sides with the rich and powerful, Jesus has good news: God cares for those who feel they have lost in the game of life. So, good news, you who are poor. God is with you. When you are grieving, God is near. 

Jesus’ trip up the mountain is much like Moses before him. Like during the time of Moses, Israel suffers under an oppressive ruler. Like Moses, Jesus’ life is threatened in its earliest days. Like Moses, Jesus (and his family) has to flee the threat of death. Like Moses, Jesus too emerges out of Egypt to follow God’s call to liberate the people. Like Moses, Jesus wanders in the wilderness and relies on God for sustenance.

This morning, like Moses at Mt. Sinai, Jesus interprets God’s vision of a world aligned with God’s concerns. In this way, Jesus’ sharing and interpreting of these commandments is not so much an imposition of rules for an obedient life. It is instead a guide to a life of wholeness aligned with God’s creation and grace. So, both the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments are not rules as much as they are visions for communal wholeness rooted in God’s liberation of the oppressed. Also, like the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount is narrated and set within a larger story about the character of a faithful God.

You might ask, is this vision for the reign of God about heaven or about the here and now? The absolute answer is that it is about both. Are the Beatitudes supposed to drive us to God’s grace by showing us how we can never love perfectly or are the beatitudes showing us how to live now? The answer is both. It’s true that we cannot depend on our works for salvation, but we also cannot cast aside the radical demands of the law.

There is great symmetry and order to the Beatitudes and its worth paying attention to. Let’s take the first four as one stanza. Take a look at your bulletin. This stanza includes those who are suffering. Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In other words, blessed are the dispossessed, abandoned, poor, homeless. Is anyone here mourning today, last week? This blessing if for you, who looks on the many tragedies near and far and weeps. They will be satisfied and comforted in the eschaton, the age to come. God loves them.

One scholar wrote, “no one is asked to go out and try to be poor in spirit or to mourn or to be meek. Rather, Jesus is indicating that given the reality of the kingdom we should not be surprised to find among those who follow him those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek.” And Jesus is not idealizing poverty. Later he will encourage his followers to fight it. The Kingdom of Heaven, which we will hear about throughout Matthew’s gospel, has come near you. When God reigns, the poor get a better deal.

If the first four beatitudes are about those who are suffering, the second four are about those who help them. Look again at your bulletin. Blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

All of these are preludes to Jesus’ later teachings, in which he will favor mercy over sacrifice, in which he will emphasize forgiving not just in words but from the heart, in which he will teach peacemaking within community and in the larger world. Finally, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, or justice, sake. In other words, serve others and give generously, and see what happens. Blessed are those who hunger for the well-being of others, justice for all (Rinehart).

The last verses switch from third person to second person and things get personal. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” This world is suffering, Jesus says. Look around, listen, feel the earth groaning. God cares about the suffering, as God always has. If we are the people of God, the body of Christ, we will care about the suffering too.

We often talk about the Season after Epiphany being this time when we learn more and more about who Jesus is. His identity is manifested or revealed gradually over the course of weeks. But this season is also about what it means to be Jesus’ followers, both as individuals and as community of faithful followers. The scripture passages encourage us to have specific types of encounters—with those who are meek, mourning, poor in spirit, and yes persecuted for righteousness sake. When we have those encounters, we then have our own epiphanies. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Action in accord with Christ does not originate in some ethical principle, but in the very person of Jesus Christ.” In other words, our discipleship is inextricably tied to the person and ministry of the one we follow—Jesus. 

If none of this sounds like really good news to you, you are not alone. Remember that this is the very beginning of Jesus’ very long Sermon on the Mount. For today we do well to pair the Beatitudes with our reading from First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul’s first letter to that early church community, with its many dysfunctionalities. Paul reminds the Corinthians that God is making all things new. 

As is consistent with God’s character, God chooses what looks foolish to the world. In this case that includes both the Corinthians themselves and the cross, that ugly symbol and wretched thing which Jesus died on. The new life the Corinthians, you and I enjoy is not the result of our worthiness. It is the result of the connection between God and Jesus the Christ, and the choice God made to give us life in that same Jesus Christ. Today, tomorrow, forever, Jesus Christ is both the messenger, preaching the Beatitudes and painting a vision for the reign of God coming to us, and Jesus Christ is the message itself—the message of God’s abundant and unfailing love. Amen. 

Prayers of Intercession

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

A brief silence.

Cultivate humility in your church. In gatherings of every size, teach us to boast only in the cross. Shape your church to be people of kindness, generosity, and justice. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

The foundations of the earth bear witness to your faithfulness; the mountains and hills echo with your holiness. When we mistreat your creation, show us the error of our ways. Inspire us with reverent awe to honor all you have made. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

You make foolish the wisdom of the world. Raise up honorable leaders who seek justice, love mercy, and pursue peace. Frustrate plans that are corrupt, wicked, and self-seeking. Prosper the work of peacemakers (local and international reconciliation efforts may be named). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Bless all whom the world rejects. Accompany those who are regarded as foolish, weak, low, and despised; reveal your power and presence at work where it is least expected. Give your life, strength, and wisdom to all in need (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

As with your people Israel, remind this congregation of your saving acts. Remind us how your faithfulness brought us through difficulties and sustained us despite our weaknesses. Establish the cross as the center of our life together. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Praise to you for your blessed saints in every time and place (especially). Trusting you accompanied them in poverty, persecution, and in every trial, we trust you abide with your people always. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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


Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

TLC 2023 Ann Rprt- Pastor’s Report


In 2022 it seemed that we traded the word pivot for transition. Or maybe we have just grown so accustomed to pivoting that the switch from the ELCA Youth Gathering (cancelled) to a different trip to the Twin Cities and the Labor Day Weekend fire evacuation at Luther Heights that led to fall retreats down in the valleys seem almost normal. But in the life of the congregation there were multiple transitions. Sometimes they were behind the scenes, like different people climbing the ladder to change cloths on the suspended cross and Karissa Armbrust stepping fully into role of Treasurer. Other times they were roles everyone sees, like College of Idaho student Kaiti Walton joining our team of accompanists after Trish Bishop’s move to Washington. New volunteers were added to our sound and streaming team and altar guild. We also transitioned our annual God’s Work. Our Hands. Day in September—partnering with CWI student groups to beautify neighboring West Middle School. Read about more transitions in our team and committee reports. I have thought often of these scripture passages as we transition roles and equip new disciples.

Numbers 27:22-23

22So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation; 23he laid his hands on him and commissioned him—as the Lord had directed through Moses.

Romans 16:1-2

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

We also had transitions in the cluster. The Confirmation Co-op Team looks completely different than the pre-pandemic one. We added a quarterly cluster e-news publication and two-part workshop: Listening with Ear of My Heart. Pastor Lucas Shurson was installed at Faith, Caldwell and hopefully more installations will happen around the cluster in 2023.

One of our council’s goals was to keep telling our stories. If you look at the website (with its many contributions from Trinity members), our Video Devotions page on, and our Advent Daily Devotional, you will see that, though the work of storytelling never ends, this year we made great strides.

Thank you finally for the faith active in love that you each exhibit in your daily lives. Everything we do at Midland and Lone Star is done so you can share the love of God wherever you are: work, home, playground, senior center, coffee shop, and even the highway. Thank you for taking seriously our dismissal to Go in peace and serve the Lord. At Luther Heights we all shout this response: You know we will. So it is at Trinity, I know you will and for that I am grateful. 

Pastor Meggan Manlove

Posted in Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment