May 3, 2020

Prayer of the Day

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name and lead us to safety through the valleys of death. Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security to the joyous feast prepared in your house, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW p. 33)

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved

Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

1 Peter 2:19-25

19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. 20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

John 10:1-10

1 “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Sheep blocking the road in Ireland

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Metaphors of Jesus the Good Shepherd and Jesus the gate follow the story of the healing of the man born blind from birth. Jesus sees a man born blind, and the disciples ask him about the cause of the blindness. The disciples assume the blindness must be a form of divine punishment for sin—sin of the man or sin of his parents. Jesus shifts the frame of reference. He will not speculate about what caused the blindness but instead focuses on what can be done about it.

Jesus does not heal the man immediately but puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. The man born blind, eventually is healed, receiving his sight. And many verses of scripture are about him bearing witness to a Jesus whom he has never seen.

After the healing, Jesus goes on to teach, explaining that thieves and bandits return as people who the sheep do not know and to whom they will not listen. It is not entirely clear who the thieves and bandits and even the stranger in today’s gospel text are or who they represent. Whoever they are, one thing is absolutely clear, they do not offer, provide, usher in abundant life. Jesus, the gate or door, is the one who brings with him abundant life. This abundant life is for the man born blind from birth. This abundant life is for those who do not even know Jesus yet. This abundant life is for you and for me.

The Forth Sunday in Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday in our tradition. We read from John’s Gospel, Chapter 10 and we read the beloved 23rd Psalm. But this year, when we only read through Chapter 10 verse 10, we would be better off calling it Good Gate Sunday. I don’t want us to rush past this powerful gate, or door, metaphor. It seems especially fitting this year when closed doors are in fact giving life to us and to people who we may never meet. I posted a photo about a month ago of an empty church sanctuary, with the caption, love looks like an empty church. Hard as it is to be quarantined, difficult as it for so many small businesses, right now, love also looks like closed doors. There is so much about Coronavirus that we really do not know yet, whatever talking heads say. And so, love and abundant life, right now continue to look like closed doors or gates.

Other parts of the economy will need to open back up so that abundant life is accessible to people who have been laid off. Other parts of the economy will need to open back up because they can open up without gathering large crowds of people. For the church, abundant life may still include closed doors.

Fortunately, the church has never been tied to a building. We say we are the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, the people, not the building. Much as I enjoy time in our sanctuary and fellowship hall, they are not core to our identity. Since about a week after we first shut down, I have been singing an old Jay Beech song from my first ELCA Youth Gathering in Dallas, We are the Church. The Body of our Lord. We are all God’s children and we have been restored.

The church is not a building where people to to pray;

it’s not made out of sticks and stones, it’s not made out of clay.

You can go to worship but you cannot go to church;

you can’t find a building that’s alive no matter how you search.

The church, it is the people living out their lives,

called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ.

We will return to our building, and I will rejoice to gather with all of you then. But there is no building that can pronounce the life-giving words of Jesus’ today, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Jesus the gate or door can keep thieves and bandits out. Closed doors can give abundant life during a pandemic. But the metaphor of Jesus the gate has more richness to it, as all good metaphors do. Eventually a gate or door swings open. Sheep run out into green pastures. They play and recreate, or as my old camp director used to say, re-create. There is life beyond the gate, abundant life. This life is for everyone, for the whole world.

This leads us beautifully to our scripture passage from Acts. Sometimes I think it’s odd that we have all of these readings from Acts during the Season of Easter, before we celebrate Pentecost, which comes at the beginning of the Book of Acts. But the Easter Season is about learning what it means to live as Easter people, when death has been defeated, when resurrection followed the cross. And I find comfort in turning to the Book of Acts and being reminded of how those early followers of Jesus practiced being Easter people.

Our passage comes right after the passage we read each Pentecost Sunday. Those baptized on Pentecost came from different regions, speaking different dialects. Some may not have shared the native languages of others, in spite of a shared Jewish faith. There would have been distinct food preferences and different levels of financial security. There would have been different prejudices to navigate, and different interpretations of Torah. Just when one was beginning to learn the names of those seated at dinner, new faces would appear. Daily, the text says, “the Lord added to their number” (verse 47). It is an unstable situation.

In many ways, the take-aways from Acts 2:42-47 are pretty simple. Followers of Jesus eat together. They pray together. They learn together. They have things in common; they practiced generosity. The collective name for these activities is faith practices. Now, faith practices are not a set of hoops you to jump through before receiving abundant life. Faith practices, like those referenced in Acts 2, are what abundant life consists of.

Whether abundant life comes because we are protected by closed doors or abundant life is experienced in those lush green pastures beyond an open gate, something comes next. The man born blind from birth could not stop witnessing, pointing to Jesus, the man who healed him. We never hear about him after John Chapter 9, but it may be safe to assume that his life of following Jesus did not end the day he regained his physical sight. Would he not want to make sure everyone else had abundant life? Would he not want to spend a little more time praising and thanking God? Would he not want to learn a bit more about this Jesus?

The goal of faith practices is to produce a distinct identity, to develop a shared vocabulary, to build a community that can carry each other’s joys and burdens. The problem is that such formation can often create a rigidity of form, a settled script of behavior. There is a lack of porousness in the communal boundary. Faith communities with robust faith practices may struggle making space for difference. And yet, Pentecost gave the early church a community that was full of difference, a community that needed to build a common life even as it changed from day to day.

Yes, sometimes hearing from people who are not like me makes me initially uncomfortable, like I have missed a perspective or experience. But when we lean in, we are introduced to new worlds. In the last month, webinars with diverse panels of people from across the country helped me see the pandemic and the activity of quarantine through different eyes. Other voices even help me interpret my own experience in a new way. I had to look at some of my subconscious assumptions and examine if they were worth holding onto.

If different people impact our faith practices, then so do different circumstances. The thing about faith practices is that they are not stuck in time and space, as the pandemic has surely reminded us every day. What prayer and the Lord’s Supper and learning and sharing looked like in First Century Palestine is one thing. We can assume they looked quite different when they Christian faith was taken across the Mediterranean to the British Isles and into Scandinavia, where Christianity bumped into Celtic and Nordic Spirituality. European immigrants came to the United States and faith practices transformed again.

Worshiping in the home, watching a screen, is not ideal. I was told earlier this week that it has taken several weeks for a few us to get used to this. That’s right. It takes practice. Giving thanks to God during quarantine can be challenging. Our stewardship team is going to help you out with that in May. Look for the first prompts in today’s bulletin and on our Facebook page. Generosity may look different right now. Some of us have less, because of job loss. Some of us may have more, because we are not eating out or spending money on entertainment. You might find a new charity today on Idaho Gives. It is not just money that Idaho nonprofits need—it’s the boost to their morale, each financial gift says, “we believe in what you are doing, keep it up!”

Each one of us has been given abundant life by Jesus, the gate. He is both the source of abundant life and following him is the way to abundant life. As we continue to adapt our faith practices of prayer, learning, Holy Communion and generosity, may we, like the man born blind from birth, always be pointing to Jesus as the source of abundant life.

Open Gate

Prayers of Intercession (Adapted from Sundays and Seasons by Larry Mills)

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

 Shepherding God, we thank you for the educational ministries of your church. Enrich the work of teachers, professors, mentors, advisors, and faculty at colleges, seminaries, and learning sites as we work with these new mediums. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Creating God, we praise you for those who maintain and operate farm equipment, for those who plant and harvest crops, for local markets, and for those involved in agriculture of any kind. Strengthen their hands as they feed the world. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Guiding God, no one should be in want. Bid the nations to return to your paths of righteousness and inspire our leaders to walk in your ways, so that all may have the opportunity to live abundantly and sustainably. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Comforting God, you carry us tenderly. We pray for those who walk through dark valleys overshadowed by anxiety and overwhelmed with suffering. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Nurturing God, you desire justice for the hungry. Bless advocacy work, food pantries, and feeding ministries in our congregations. May none of our neighbors lack for basic needs. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Everlasting God, your beloved have heard your voice; you have called them by name and guided them to your side in death. We thank you for their lives of faithful witness. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | 1 Comment

April 30, 2020 Congregational Letter

April 30, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know that the stay home order has been deeply disruptive to our common life and many of us did not expect that it would go on this long. I miss seeing your faces each week. Yet, as we celebrate the Easter Season, we proclaim that wherever we find ourselves Sunday morning, God is with us.

As you know, the governor of Idaho has proposed a four-stage plan (https://rebound.idaho.gov) to facilitate re-opening businesses across the state between May 1 and mid-June. While places of worship are listed in Stage 1 of the plan, Stage 1 also states that “gatherings, both public and private, should be avoided.” Stage 2 allows groups of “less than 10” and Stage 3 allows 10-50 people. It is not until Stage 4 where groups greater than 50 are advised to meet and “large venues” are allowed to open back up. And even then, appropriate physical distancing needs to occur, and “Vulnerable Idahoans” should “minimize exposure to social settings where distancing may not be practical, unless precautionary measures are observed.”

Our church council sat with all of this during a special meeting April 27. The ELCA Treasure Valley congregation leaders, including myself, have been checking in weekly and recently proposed creating a COVID-19 Task Force. At Monday’s meeting, Trinity’s council voted to be a part of this. The purpose of the task force is “To create protocols and procedures that would need to be met to safely have in-person gatherings and worship in ELCA Treasure Valley Cluster congregations.” Key assumptions in the proposal include: “No one congregation has all the expertise or wisdom to move forward, but together we can make a more informed decision.” To allow time for the task force to complete its work, Trinity’s council concurred that “In person gatherings will not happen prior to June 1.” An important parameter of this work is, “We are looking for a conservative approach based in science that values the health of our community versus gathering in person.”

So, we will keep the church closed for in person gatherings through May 31. We will begin streaming worship from the sanctuary via Facebook Live May 17. We know many of you have keys to the building, but we would like to leave the building as empty as possible. If you need access to the sanctuary or another part of the building, please call Bob Cola who is keeping office hours. I continue to work from home.

I am so proud of how our congregation has stepped up to take care of each other. Many of you are making phone calls, sending cards, emailing and praying for one another. This closure has gone on longer than many of us expected and the novelty of meeting online may be wearing thin. I encourage you to continue reaching out to one another. On the back of this letter you will find the goals guiding our council and the ways we are trying to meet those goals in the weeks ahead.

Peace, Pastor Meggan

Attachment:

Goals during Pandemic (Adopted at March 30, 2020 Special Council Meeting)

  1. Worship Weekly
  2. Financial Stability
  3. Communication and Connectedness

Sunday Morning Worship

  • May 3 and 10 Pre-recorded, premiered on YouTube and then posted to YouTube
  • May 17 and 24 Facebook Live from the sanctuary, then posted to our YouTube channel
  • May 31 Cluster pre-recorded for Pentecost on YouTube
  • Bulletins and sermons mailed weekly to members without computer/internet…
  • May 17 Holy Communion at 12pm on Zoom monthly (3rd Sunday) for members without computers or internet. Available for any member with a telephone.

Financial Stability

  • Thanks for your continued generosity through automatic giving or mailing to the church!
  • Another return envelope will be coming in late May
  • Talk to Stewardship Team members Ruthann Sutton or Penelope Smith if you need help setting up bill pay

Communication and Connectedness

  • Find prayer concerns in your weekly bulletin, emailed/mailed to members and posted under “Worship” at nampatrinity.org
  • Announcements at nampatrinity.org and on our Facebook page
  • Five-minute devotion by Pastor Meggan at 7pm every Wednesday on Facebook Live (accessible on Facebook anytime following)
  • Sunday Adult Forum on Zoom at 8:45 am
  • Monday Morning Study Group on Zoom at 10 am
  • Coffee with Pastor Meggan on Zoom every Tuesday in May at 1 pm
  • Fellowship Time on Zoom each Sunday at 10:45 am
  • Daily devotion by a cluster congregational leader at tvprays.org
  • Much informal connectedness among members, through telephone calls and cards; thank you for taking care of each other!

Final Note: If you are missing any Zoom numbers, please contact Pastor Meggan

Posted in Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

April 26, 2020

Prayer of the Day

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread. Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW p. 33)

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

1 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. 15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones. 16 O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds. 17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

1 Peter 1:17-23

17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21 Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. 22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Supper at Emmaus by artist He Qi https://www.heqiart.com/

Sermon – Meggan Manlove

On every other Third Sunday in Easter when I have opened up this text, I have used multiple illustrations of loss and despair and sadness to portray the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We do not need such illustrations this spring. We have a deeper understanding of what it is to have made plans and have them altered drastically. The COVID-19 death count climbs daily and people suffering from many illnesses are dying alone. Almost all of us are physically separated from some people we love. I hear, in a new way, the disciples’ words of longing, “But we had hoped…” There is so much I had hoped for this spring and summer.

At the heart of this beloved post-resurrection appearance of Jesus is the moment of recognition for the disciples. But first, Jesus opens up the scripture to them, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets.” This is not the first time Jesus has referred to scripture in his ministry. He has showed his followers again and again that what God is doing through him is new but completely in God’s character. He is the fulfillment of the scripture. Immanuel, God coming in human form, was original, but the abundant love and mercy that led God to such a new venture is as ancient as creation itself.

Then Jesus does something else that is completely true to his character—he breaks bread. We might think of the Lord’s Supper, the meal he shared with his followers before his death on the cross. But Jesus’ bread-breaking in Emmaus should remind us of many other meals in his ministry, starting with the one where he fed 5,000. Breaking bread is a way that Jesus has both taught and ministered. Sometimes when he ate with people, he showed that God is a god of abundant life, a God who wants everyone to have enough physical bread, to no longer be hungry. God cares about actual physical bodies.

Other times, when Jesus ate with people it was about emotional well-being; he was expanding the dining room table so that everyone was welcomed. God cares about our emotional well-being as well as our physical selves.

After Jesus breaks the bread, the passage reads, “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us?” Recognition of Jesus is one of the ways we become faithful followers.

Right now, in a time when we may be feeling more isolated or afraid or simply unsure about the future, it is a real gift to recognize Jesus in your midst. That is how we begin to receive the love he gives. Next Sunday we will be reminded through scripture that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Is there a more comforting metaphor for God? I don’t think so. But if you do not recognize the Good Shepherd when he comes searching, there is not much comfort. Recognition becomes everything.

Recognition becomes everything when we continue following Jesus into our daily lives. Whenever we serve our neighbor, we serve Jesus. But not much serving happens if we do not know how to recognize Jesus or if there are other barriers.

There are so many things that get in our way of our eyes being opened to Jesus in our midst. Our hearts might be burning, but barriers to recognition are abundant. And barriers are as personal as each one of us. We have our own conceptions of what Jesus will look like. Sometimes I assume he can only look like me. Sometimes we assume he will not be in a certain part of town or certain country in the world or he would never speak a certain language.

Recognition is also hindered by distractions. We get busy trying to keep up with the advertising that hits us every time we turn on a device, open a magazine, check our email. We convince ourselves that we will never be enough until we have X, Y, and Z. And all of that trying to keep up simply does not leave much time or space for recognizing Jesus in our midst.

Everything I have been taught about preaching cautions me not to do what I am about to do—to lift up a member of our particular congregation. But today we are saying goodbye to Sheila Anderson. So I’m breaking my rules.

So many of us have talked recently of the many hats Sheila wore in the congregation—Trinity Community Garden, Church in Community, Church Council, she served on the Search Committee for my call over ten years ago, voting member at Synod Assembly, and she has been an adult forum participant.

So yes, Sheila has contributed a lot by what she has done. But what everyone really wants to talk about and what several members wrote about is who Sheila is. We have been trying to capture Sheila’s essence. People have been celebrating the part of Sheila that motivates her to say yes to those various ministry and, more importantly, what we each experience when we are with her.

People have written and spoken about her kind spirit, her big heart, her willingness to share her pain and her joy. Sheila has learned to see Jesus in each one of us. That’s why we love her so much. We know, when we are with her, that she actually, genuinely cares about us.

Sheila recognizes Jesus not only in fellow and sister church members. Sheila recognizes Jesus in the Sheriff Inmate Labor Detail crews that volunteer in the garden. She sees Jesus in the children of our congregation. She sees Jesus in people she easily understands and those who puzzle her. She sees Jesus in the people she delivers food boxes to. She recognizes Jesus in the stranger.

What is hopeful to me is that even though I know Sheila was born with some of this essence, a lot of was developed throughout her life. One of the things I will personally miss about Sheila is her curiosity. Even though she is a full-grown disciple with a mature faith, she is eager for continued growth and transformation.

That transformation and growth are open to all of us. Every single one of us can continue to grow in our recognition of Jesus. In fact, as the world changes, this transformation and growth are necessary. Our predecessors in the faith, whether pillars like Martin Luther and Mother Theresa or family relations like our grandparents, could never have anticipated the world we live in today. Every generation has to learn anew how to recognize Jesus in their midst, taking the best wisdom from the past and having open hearts and minds in the present.

What is beautiful about today’s Emmaus Road story is that the gifts given to the disciples are for us too. Though I have not had the blessing of opening up sacred texts in-person with people for over a month, I have been amazed at the rich Bible Study discussions I have had with colleagues, parishioners, and even new acquaintances through video conferencing.

One evening it was a passage from Corinthians with our church leadership. Another time it is was a chapter from Isaiah with a new group formed through the Treasure Valley Cluster. Our morning study group embarked on a journey through the Book of Acts this past Wednesday. Personally, I continue to find nourishment and a voice for my own prayers in the Psalms. Whatever this time of COVID-19 is, it is certainly a time to continue encountering God in scripture or a time maybe to begin encountering God in scripture.

Knowing this old, old story of God’s love is the foundation for recognizing Jesus. We do not need to have passages memorized. We do not need to know the context for each book. We do not need to understand it all completely, as if that was possible. We simply need to engage scripture often enough, so we remember that God’s intent all along, including this current era, is to mend the entire universe.

If scripture can continue to be opened for us, as it was for those sad and despairing disciples on the Emmaus Road, that what can we say about the bread that was broken? Ultimately, Jesus was building relationships every time he fed and ate with people.

That is possible today as well, even as we continue to practice physical distancing. I have been astounded with how videoconferencing and the telephone have introduced me to knew people in the last month, people telling their stories from Seattle and New York City to the amazing bankers in Nampa who helped us apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. Have I always been my best self, ready to recognize Jesus in the stranger? I can’t guarantee, but I am trying.

And members of our congregation have been calling one another, checking in on one another. Are we not experiencing our members in new ways, getting to know each other all over again? There is always more to discover. I am reminded of something Sheila Anderson said in adult forum when I returned from sabbatical in October. I asked everyone to share an experience they had during the time of congregational renewal. “I have worshiped with some of these people for twenty years” Sheila said. “and during the storytelling workshop I learned things about them that I had never known.”

To be listened to, to be known, to be truly seen and fully accepted, not with eyes, but with our hearts, that is what we all desire. That is how well Jesus knows us. Jesus also know that we, like Cleopas and his companion, need first to take time for our sadness and grief. Jesus does not rush them. He literally walks alongside them first, before revealing himself to them. As we continue through this chapter of life together, might we, like the disciples, experience Jesus there alongside us. Only then will we move from saying, “We had hoped,” to “were not our hearts burning within us”? We are loved and known, accepted fully by the risen Lord Jesus. Thanks be to God.

Prayers of Intercession (adapted from Sundays and Seasons by Juvi Masumbuko)

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

For those whose hearts are fervent with love for your gospel, that they are empowered to tell the story of your love in their lives and to show hospitality in response to this love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the diverse natural world: for jungles, prairies, forests, valleys, mountains, and for all the wild and endangered animals who call these spaces home, that they are nurtured and protected. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Come to our aid  O God, as the coronavirus spreads globally, heal those who are sick, support and protect their families and friends from being infected. May you give us Hope and Peace. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Strengthen and encourage those in public health services and in the medical profession: care-givers, nurses, attendants, doctors, all who commit themselves to caring for the sick and their families. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the faith forming ministries of this church. For those preparing for baptism, first communion, confirmation, and membership (especially). For those who participate in Sunday school and adult education; guide and inspire learners of every age and ability. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Create in our hearts a yearning to rest in your promise of eternal and resurrected life. Give us thankful hearts for those who have died, even as we look forward to the hope of new life with you. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

Easter When It Feels Like Lent

Newsletter Column for May 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

How do we live into the Season of Easter when it still feels like Lent? If it was one of the weirdest Holy Week’s ever, this may end up being the most awkward of Easter Seasons. Everything is supposed to feel different after Easter, because in the resurrection God has done something brand new. The economy may open back up a bit in the weeks and months to come, but we are not going back to the old normal. Everything has indeed changed, but the change includes death and isolation. The words of the disciples on the Emmaus Road may resonate with us in a new way during Easter Season 2020, “But we had hoped…” (Luke 24:21).

I often use the word hope at the end of funeral sermon. In my attempts to not gloss over the grief people feel, not wanting to give into cultural pressures that make little room for real mourning, I say that we honestly grieve the loss of whoever has died, but we grieve as people with hope. That is how we might live into this Easter Season. Jesus’ resurrection appearances in the various gospels will surely be our guide to hope, but so will our letter: 1 Peter. This letter is one of the most hope-filled books in the New Testament. Its purpose is to encourage Christian converts living in the midst of a hostile society. Like most of the letters, there are a few passages that I would rather ignore; I have to remember that the letter was written in a very different time and place. Still, there is enough life-giving in the letter to hold our attention. The author names “a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). That living hope is ours as well, even as the world around us groans. We hope that the God who created life out death on Easter morning will continue to create life from death. We hope that transformation is possible. And finally, like those disciples in the Emmaus Road story, we might say “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32).

This year at Trinity was supposed to be all about inviting people and continuing to share our stories of faith. As much as our world has been turned upside down or inside out, I still believe that can happen. We are people with living hope, a hope that is not of our own making but is pure gift from God. How we share that living hope may look different in the midst of a pandemic and physical distancing, but it can still happen. I would say it needs to happen. This hope cannot be summed up and put onto a bumper sticker. It is shared in continuous acts of love and relationship. It is sometimes beyond words, but it is real all the same. Claim the living hope of the resurrection as your own in whatever way you can (some days it will be easier than others and that’s okay). Then share that hope through your love for neighbor and stranger.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Pastor Meggan

 

Posted in Reflections, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment

April 19, 2020

Prayer of the Day:

Almighty and eternal God, the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt, may we, who have not seen, have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW p. 32)

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

22 “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says concerning him, “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ 29 “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

Psalm 16

1 Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight. 4 Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. 5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. 7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. 10 For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. 11 You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Sermon by Bishop Kristen Kuempel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IP28ZY5w6A&feature=youtu.be

Prayers of Intercession (from Sundays and Seasons)

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

Open the doors we close, O God, when we fear those who worship you in different ways. Guide us to unity and harmony so that we may come to respect and cherish our commonalities. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Open the paths we ignore, O God, when we prioritize financial gain and convenience over listening to the groaning of the earth. Inspire all to care for the world you have made so that living things might thrive. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Open the rooms we lock, O God, to those who live without a homeland or place of safety. We pray that generous nations offer refuge and peace for all. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Open the hearts we close, O God, to the cries of those in pain. We pray for those isolated physically or emotionally through incarceration, addiction, mental illness, chronic suffering, grief, and all in need. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Open the ways of love, O God, in the pursuit of peace throughout the world, and bless the efforts of missionaries, healthcare professionals, activists for women and children, and relief workers, especially those who find themselves in harm’s way. (Here other worldwide ministries may be named.) Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Open the way to eternal life, O God, as we remember those who have died in faith (especially Olavus Petri and Laurentius Petri, renewers of the church). Free us from the fear of death, that we embrace the peace you have promised. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

 

 

Posted in Sermons | Leave a comment

Time for Questions

Originally published on Treasure Valley Prays.

Acts 4:32-37: 32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). 37He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This is an incredibly unique time to be living through. There are moments when I am still frightened about getting sick or about which family members, friends, or parishioners will get sick. I worry about the economy. We hear that COVID-19 is the great equalizer, but I know that is not true. There are populations that will be affected more severely; that is part of the broken system we live in. As I write, a meat-packing plant in my home state of South Dakota has closed indefinitely. This one factory employees 3,700 workers who collectively speak more than 80 languages. Those workers’ pandemic experience is much different than that of people who can work from home.

Clear Phoenix Skyline

In the midst of sorrow over these inequalities, some of us, maybe those of us with time to read a devotion like this one, have time to wonder and ask questions. We might have seen photos of city skylines or mountain ranges that are consistently clear for the first time in many years because pollution has drastically decreased. We might ask, how can that be sustained?  We might be spending more time with family and friends, either with the people we are stuck with or thanks to digital platforms. We might wonder, on the other side of this, will we make time for these connections? With restaurants closed, friends and I are sharing recipes and cooking more. I absolutely feel closer to my food sources and I wonder, how can I keep this up when the tap to the economy is reopened? And the big one—life has slowed down. Many of us are walking more, listening to the birds more (at least in Southwest Idaho where spring has sprung), simply enjoying the small things in life. I heard from a friend who teaches at a big state university. She and her husband have four kids. Her summer meetings and travels have been cancelled or postponed. She is disappointed that she will not catch up with colleagues, but she said, “I kind of might enjoy just staying home. It might be fine.” Will we rejoin the cycle of being overly busy when it is available?

There are times when I experience an ugly but real cynicism in myself about what will happen on the other side of this pandemic. But I also have a deep and abiding hope that transformation could occur. Most of us do not have a huge currency for changing the larger world. We are not elected officials or CEOs. What currencies we have are our ability to vote, our money, and our time. The thing about these big systems we are part of is that they are made up of smaller communities which include individual members. On the days when my hope is abundant, I imagine a different world. We know we will not go back to the old normal. How will we live? Before the tap is opened, we could take some of the time we have been given to ask  what we want the world to look like later.

In mid-March, a friend shared a YouTube video of Hunter Parrish singing Beautiful City, from the latest Godspell revival on Broadway: “Out of the ruins and rubble, Out of the smoke, Out of our night of struggle, Can we see a ray of hope? One pale thin ray reaching for the day. We can build a beautiful city, Yes, we can, yes, we can. We can build a beautiful city, Not a city of angels, But we can build a city of man. We may not reach the ending, But we can start, Slowly but truly mending, Brick by brick, Heart by heart, Now, maybe now, We start learning how.”

I assume that composer Stephen Schwartz had, as his inspiration, the passage from Revelation 21, in which John is shown the holy city Jerusalem, but the thing about that passage is that it does not contain much about what human behavior should look like. For that reason, I included the passage from Acts Chapter 4, in which resources are shared so that all had enough. Granted, this is a community of people who shared amongst themselves internally. Reading the entire book, we know that this was just the beginning. Eventually the Apostles were reaching out to others, continuing to learn how to bring about the reign of God as Jesus had taught them. That is our calling as Easter people.

Will the beautiful city suddenly appear in our world in six, twelve, eighteen months? I doubt it. Can we take this pause from life as we knew it and ask questions about what our corner of the world might look like later? Absolutely. The last verse of Schwartz’s song is, “When your trust is all but shattered, When your faith is all but killed, You can give up bitter and battered, Or you can slowly start to build!”

Prayer: God our comforter, you are a refuge and strength for us. Enable us so to hear the words of faith that our fear is dispelled, our loneliness eased, our anxiety calmed, and our hope reawakened. Amen.

 

Posted in Reflections | 1 Comment

April 12, 2020 (Easter Sunday)

Prayer of the Day

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW p. 32)

Acts 10:34-43

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

14 The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. 15 There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; 16 the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” 17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord. 18 The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. 20 This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. 21 I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Colossians 3:1-4

1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Matthew 28:1-10

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Meggan Manlove, TLC – April 12, 2020

Every Ash Wednesday, I mark your foreheads with ashes in the sign of the cross. I take time to point out that one of the reasons we use ashes is because they remind us of our mortality. In my adult lifetime, I have never before experienced a Lent when the global population was so obviously facing our mortality together. We may have begun the Season of Lent by giving some things up voluntarily. But we ended in collective and communal grief for lives and experiences that have been lost or will be lost.

Holy Week itself has been abnormal. Usually this is one of my favorite weeks to wonder in and out of the sanctuary. Members of our altar guild put in hours behind the scenes this week preparing. There is the altar to set for Maundy Thursday. There are bowls and towels for foot washing. The cloth on our suspended cross gets changed from purple to black for Good Friday. And the smells—oil for anointing, candles burning, and of course Easter lilies. I missed all of that this Holy Week. So much has changed for this week, in our daily routines, in our life as citizens of this world.

But today is Easter, and we get to celebrate together what has not changed. And what has not changed is that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The tomb is not only open. It is empty. Jesus is going ahead of us and so we can proclaim, He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

This Easter, I am not going to try to pretend that the four gospel writers do not have their own way of telling the story of Jesus resurrection. And I am not going to hide my delight that this is Matthew’s year.

I love different aspects of all four of the gospels and one of the things I love about Matthew is how he remembered to draw in the natural world. Matthew’s gospel is the one that includes a star leading Magi from the East to the infant Jesus. Matthew’s gospel includes Jesus giving his long sermon specifically from a mountain. Matthew’s gospel is the one that includes an earthquake at Jesus’ death. And Matthew’s gospel has an earthquake at the resurrection too.

I will admit that until this year I did not have a lot of empathy for those guards appointed to Jesus’s tomb. That changed this year. The earthquake Idaho experiences was downright frightening. It would have welcomed a messenger from God telling me to not be afraid, though I might have rolled my eyes.

When we want to talk about life being difficult, we turn to the metaphor of an earthquake. We say things like, “It feels like the ground beneath me has shifted.” That’s what the COVID-19 pandemic has done. There are so many aspects of our lives that have changed in the past few weeks. So much has shifted. It makes sense that rolling a stone away from the already empty tomb would cause an earthquake, cause the earth to shift. The world would not be the same after Jesus’ resurrection.

God chose to resurrect Jesus knowing our human need for it.  Without it, doubts flourish.  God knew that we are like the Pharisees who always asked for one more sign from Jesus to prove himself.  Knowing this, God raised Jesus from the dead.  It’s as if he said, “See, what he was telling you is true.  Nothing can separate you from my love.  I do not lurk at a distance, ready to pounce on you when you fail.  Instead, I walk with you, giving as much as I dare.  Look at Jesus and know that everything he said is true.”

The earthquake at Jesus’ death caused rocks to split.  Tombs were opened and bodies of saints were raised.  There is no question about who will roll the stone away.  When the two Marys go to the tomb there is a great earthquake; “for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.”  The guards shook and became like dead man.  The resurrection is an earth-shaking event.

There is more to this angel that rolls back the stone.  There is a fabulous painting that depicts Matthew’s resurrection story.  In the painting the two Marys are looking up the angel who is sitting on a big bolder.  He is looking at them with an expression that says, “Well, what did you expect?  He told you he would be raised from the dead.  He has gone ahead of you.”

The angel speaks to the women with familiar words, “Do not be afraid.”  I could have preached an entire sermon on those four words; how desperately we need to hear the imperative: “Do not be afraid” or “You there. Stop being afraid.” Reject your current state of fear for the angel is bringing you news of great joy.

The angel tells them Jesus has been raised and that they should tell the disciples that Jesus is going ahead to Galilee, where the disciples will see him.  The empty tomb is not the end of the story.  Jesus told his disciples earlier, “But after I am raised up, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”  The angel reminds us of that promise and sends the women to a task of calling the scattered disciples to Galilee. The women go with a mixture of feelings appropriate to the perception of this awesome, earth shaking reality—both fear and joy. The women become witnesses and agents of the resurrection.

“They will see me in Galilee.”  The promise of the story invites us to a community where tragedy turns to comedy, where things are all shook up.  Death no longer holds us.  The corrosive crust of our sins is shattered through the forgiveness that comes in the community gathered around bread and wine, where Jesus himself has promised to be.  The resurrection is about the invitation to gather in this forgiving community.  Only the one who has died because of us and who is raised by God has the power to stand among us and say, “Rejoice!  Do not be afraid.  Go tell my sisters and brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

For us today, as for the women at the tomb, Jesus’ promise means that he goes ahead of us to lead us into the world–into a transformative way of life that testifies to the power of resurrection wherever we live.  Jesus is going ahead–not going away.  The empty tomb does not signify absence but presence: it announces the Resurrected One’s presence on the road ahead.

We are to look for experiences of the resurrection presence not only in Galilee but also in Nampa, Boise, the entire Treasure Valley–on all the roads of our lives.  Resurrection means that Jesus, the Living One, goes ahead of us.  Jesus can be found only when we experience that he is ahead of us and that he opens up a future for us.  He transforms our community of followers into courageous witnesses to Jesus’ presence.

What will this community look like?  What does it mean to experience the resurrection?  I find it helpful to return to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus speaks of both guideposts and promises. I preached on the Beatitudes the first Sunday in February in our sanctuary. For me, facing the pandemic, experiencing the earth beneath me shifting, today the Beatitudes sound like something we will all be able to relate to a whole new way.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Blessed are those who mourn.

Blessed are the meek.  Blessed are those who hunger and search for righteousness.

Blessed are those who show mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart.

There can be no doubt in my mind that Jesus both walks with us and is ahead of us on this particular Easter Day. And in that we can find deep hope.

Resurrection means that Jesus transforms our community into courageous witnesses to Jesus’ presence.  The resurrection is manifest in the community of Jesus disciples.  They walked through the door into a new world suddenly full of hope and possibility.  Frightened, discouraged, grieving men and women somehow were transformed into brave, hopeful, loving bearers of good news. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession  (adapted from Sundays and Seasons by Keaton Woodcook)

Uplifted by the promised hope of healing and resurrection, we join the people of God in all times and places in praying for the church, the world, and all who are in need.

A brief silence.

God of resurrection, from the very beginning you give the church the gift of women as your witnesses: as preachers, teachers, and leaders. Open our ears to their proclamation this day and always. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

All your creation praises you—the earth hums, the seas pulse, the stars shine, and the galaxies whirl in glorious harmonies to honor you. Let us hear and blend our voices in the song. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

The countries of the world experience disunity and conflict; even amid a global crisis we set our minds on fear and greed rather than on your rule of justice and steadfast love. Convict the hearts of our leaders and persuade them to choose human life over profit or power. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We still weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn. Cradle the fearful, the suffering, and the dying, assuring them of your loving presence, especially those lives threatened or claimed by COVID-19. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Bless the creative service of worship leaders this day: musicians, worship assistants, preachers, readers, and all others who provide welcome and hospitality in the midst of homebound isolation and distress. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Risen Lord, you went ahead of us into the grave and defeated the powers of evil. We remember those who have died. Inspire us to live our lives in this resurrection hope and draw us to you in our final days. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

With bold confidence in your love, almighty God, we place all for whom we pray into your eternal care; through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Posted in Sermons, Trinity Lutheran | Leave a comment