Worship and Music Annual Report

WORSHIP AND MUSIC 

Worship and Music and Altar Guild work together throughout the liturgical year planning ways to integrate our worship services and worship space to allow members to fully experience God’s word.  

This year started as many others as we worshipped together for Advent and Epiphany.  Focus was on how to bring visual and acoustical meaning to our worship liturgy and space.  Plans were made and ready to go for Lent until March came and the COVID pandemic began.  Thanks to our Cluster and Synod, we were able to celebrate Holy Week and Easter but not in the way any of us could have imagined when we started the year.  WAGM worked all year with Meggan to walk through new ways to worship.  We took ideas and guidelines from the church Council to try to implement ways to continue to worship weekly.  We surveyed members to find out what was important, where we could improvise, and what we could adapt to a new media.  Meggan was tireless in learning new technology and platforms to worship live via Facebook:  included was how to frame the altar, how to bring the sanctuary to our congregational members, how to continue employing our accompanist, how to safely choose lectors, singers, and other worship assistants safely, when to wear masks and when it was safe to remove.  Most challenging was working with our synod to bring communion to our homes.   We even figured out how to have a baptism and confirmation safely.  

Our cluster was very supportive of also helping us learn the art and technology of pre-recording services.  Our team and our congregational members learned to record themselves in their yards, their homes and even in front of our Christmas trees and Advent candles and home altars.  Meggan, again, led the way to splice and dice our recordings (even when they were filmed the wrong direction) into beautiful worship services.  Many of us teamed up with other households to ensure access to this technology.  

Eventually, again using synod and cluster guidelines, we were able to commit to small outdoor in person worship services monthly as a goal.  We managed this using fire pits, outdoor speakers, blankets and heating units up until November.  We had a service of Lament, Beer and Hymns sing along, Pet Blessing, planning for the holidays with COVID and Trinity trivia.  We even had outdoor worship on the patio in the snow.  Our December, Christmas Eve in person fireside worship was cancelled due to rising numbers of COVID cases in the state.  

Even now, we continue to plan for an uncertain future all with the goal of returning to regular worship together and in person once we know it is safe. 

Kim Mills

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Jan. 24, 2021

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Jonah 3:1-5

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

Psalm 62:5-12

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
    those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
    they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no confidence in extortion,
    and set no vain hopes on robbery;
    if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;
    twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12     and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all
    according to their work.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

29 I mean, brothers and sisters,[a] the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;repent, and believe in the good news.”

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The phrase “the good news” is prominent in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. The gospel itself begins, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Our passage today begins, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.” In other words, the good news is that God’s reign is breaking in—right now. 

It is hard to explain how shocking this would have been for the first crowds who heard Jesus utter such a phrase. Remember that Jesus is living within the Roman Empire. But this empire didn’t refer to itself as an empire. Instead, it was the Roman kingdom. And good news was something people heard regularly. Good news is what was delivered when soldiers came back from a military battle, having conquered some group of people, outsiders, who would now pay taxes to the Roman kingdom. 

Now Jesus is proclaiming good news, but it’s not about some human battle on a military field. It is not about the Roman kingdom. It is about God’s kingdom, or God’s empire. The kingdom is not a dream or a blueprint. It is breaking in right now. This inbreaking of God’s kingdom and reign will mean the end of violence, exclusion, separation, and hate. The game is going to change, and with it the rules we have known. Again, it is not a question of if or when God’s reign will break in. Jesus declares it to be so already.

Jesus follows this up with the imperative, the command, to repent and believe in the good news. Each of these words are crucial. Repent is not so much about confession. That has its own place in the life of faith. Repent means a change of mind and heart. It means having a different perspective, something Jesus will go on to model throughout his ministry. 

Yesterday I was in the optometrist’s office ordering new lenses for my glasses. The slogan next to the eye-glass display was “change your perspective.” Anyone who has ever gotten glasses as a kid or in the magic decade of your 40s for reading, knows the truth of that statement. Putting on glasses changes your perspective and sometimes your life. Repentance, as commanded by Jesus, means to see the world, God and myself differently; to hold them in my heart differently. 

Jesus also gives the command to believe in the good news. I prefer the word trust here, rather than believe, trust in the good news. But whatever word we use, know that both our heart and mind are involved. We are putting our allegiance, our trust into the inbreaking of the kingdom. 

But this is not how Christian faith is usually described. When I told an acquaintance that my dad had been hospitalized, the first question was, “is he a believer?” I was taken aback. I think I sort of nodded and sheepishly walked away. If not distracted by life, I would have asked, a believer in what? That’s God’s reign is breaking in now? Yes. That he is a beloved child of God? Yes. That him stating his belief in such a god is the end of the life of faith? Not exactly. Certainly we believe that the promises made in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism are irrevocable. And it’s God who keeps the promises. Not us! 

Those promises stand, while we are simultaneously invited into the inbreaking of God’s kingdom. With a changed perspective, with hearts open, we cannot help but get caught up in the nets of being a follower of Jesus. In our gospel text for today and in the story of Jonah, we are reminded that God has, does, and will continue to use all sorts of imperfect people as the kingdom of God breaks in. God has already acted. Metaphors Jesus will use later imply that we are going to bear fruit; connected to him as a branch is connected to vine, steeped in the gospels, in close proximity to today’s most ostracized people as Jesus himself was, praying that’s God kingdom will come, we will naturally bear fruit. 

Perhaps the strangest text in our collection today is the one from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I almost left it out of worship, but I love Paul’s urgency. One scholar wrote, “Paul’s words call for a re-prioritization of values that, like Jesus’ own exhortation, encourage putting stock into heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones.” 

We will never know what Paul would have written to 21st century Nampa residents. Surely Paul would be floored to know that Jesus did not return shortly after Paul’s own death. But the call for a re-prioritization of values remains urgent. Getting any one group of Christians to agree on those values would seem to be a herculean task, but I actually think there is a lot we agree on. What do you think? 

Is making sure that children know that they are beloved by multiple adults not part of the reign of God breaking in? Are food and shelter and self-worth for everyone not all things mandated by Jesus? We might not like that Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, but it is a very clear command. What could that love of enemies, real embodied love, do for the world? What fruit might we see from that change of mind and heart, that sort of repentance?

Yes, the kingdom of God is at hand. We are already beloved and enough in the eyes of God. And yet Jesus calling his disciples shows that other human beings were always going to be and will always be part of the inbreaking of the kingdom. Today the fishermen leave their nets and follow Jesus. Later, Jesus will send the disciples out in the world. The message and command are the same: repent and trust, the kingdom of God is at hand. Have a change of perspective.

I think this can all feel really big, especially in this particular moment in time. Following Jesus may appear to have too many ugly consequences. Indeed, sharing a message of repentance and trusting in God’s kingdom rather than the status quo has consequences. Recall that our gospel passage today starts with, “Now after John was arrested.” Strangely, this good news is often not going to be a popular message.

Or, you might be asking, who am I to point to the kingdom of God breaking in? I am having trouble seeing it and feeling it right now, let alone talking about it. To this I would say, see exhibit A—Jonah’s sermon to the Ninevites, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” It is a very short sermon that does not even mention God. Yet all of Nineveh repents. Why? Because God can use our reluctant, imperfect words to do bear amazing fruit. 

I have no idea what daily actions and minimal conversations need to happen in your spheres of influence. Who is truly alone and feeling not solitude but isolation? Who feels they are not enough? What group of people have you grown aware of who seem to be forgotten by the rest of us? Part of trusting the good news is trusting that God can do these big things that seem nearly impossible for us mere mortals.

I think the Psalmist speaks for all of us today, all of us who are yearning for security and stability. Part of trusting the good news and having a changed perspective is remembering that only God can provide the stability for which we yearn. But God can in fact provide it.

When I was in my fifth year of ministry in rural Iowa, I thought for a while that I would never get another call to a congregation. I needed friends and family to love me and assure me that the Holy Spirit was at work. Many times, this past year, we wondered how our congregation would endure, especially spiritually and emotionally. We have utilized the gifts of members in many ways, but God was our rock, our light, our well rooted vine. I would feel corny talking about it if I did not believe that deep in my soul. It is what our psalmist is referring to this morning.

The Psalmist seems to be having multiple dialogues. In the first move, she reminds herself that “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Having remembered her history with God, assured of the rest and deliverance provided by God, the “mighty rock,” the psalmist implores the listeners to have the same trust.

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” I know, she says to her listeners, that you want to put your trust in lots of other things. But they won’t last. They are fleeting.  She concludes, “power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.” 

The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Let us be going and participating in this kingdom of God. Not when we are ready. Not when we have the right words to say. Not after we’ve made a 10-point plan. Now. Change your perspective and see as Jesus sees this world. And know that we can never do this work alone. Nor do we need to. God is with us.

Prayers of Intercession

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

A brief silence.

For the church throughout the world, for pastors and teachers, for deacons and deaconesses, and for musicians and servers, that all proclaim the good news of God’s reconciling love, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For skies and seas, for birds and fish, for favorable weather and clean water, and for the well-being of creation, that God raise up advocates and scientists to guide our care for all the earth, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For those who provide leadership in our cities and around the world, for nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, for planning commissions and homeless advocates, that God inspire all people in the just use of wealth, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For those who are sick, distressed, or grieving; for the outcast and all who await relief (especially), that in the midst of suffering, God’s peace and mercy surround them, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For our congregation and community, for families big and small, and for the organizations that meet here during the week, that God’s steadfast love serve as a model for all relationships, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

In thanksgiving for our ancestors in the faith whose lives serve as an example of gospel living, including James Torell, that they point us to salvation through Christ, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen

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Gospel and Growth and Mutual Ministry Annual Reports

GOSPEL AND GROWTH  

Team members are Mary Braudrick, Tam Robinson, and Penelope Smith

PRE-COVID19

January – The movies chosen for the Midwinter Movies are: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, “Hidden Figures”, “The Lion Woman”, “Emanuel”, “West Wing Season 3, Episode 1 – Isaac and Ishmael”, “The Upside”, and “Ferdinand”.  Movies were viewed at Tami and Penelope’s homes.  The average attendance was about 12 people.  Penelope introduced the “Invitational Tool Box” at the annual meeting.  This is a resource helps us find ways to include family and friends in all church activities.

February – We organized a “Drop in and Pray” event for February 19, 2020 from 4:00 to 7:00 pm.  We had scheduled prayer time for the first 60 minutes and the remainder of the time was open to anyone. We saw members and non-members alike attend. We had a handout for participants with the weekly scriptures plus information about Lenten and Holy Week services. The theme will be “Open My Life, Lord” for the mid-week services.

AFTER THE COVID SHUTDOWN

March – We began a time of change and learning to be flexible.  How do we stay connected in a time of social distancing? We are recognizing the need to cancel in-person worship and the Lenten soup suppers.  We are moving forward with caution in planning the Church Campout, a summer movie, and a Birthday Potluck in October!

April – We discussed ways to adapt the Invitational Toolbox to work with our new limitations.  We added some new activities such as sending cards, making calls and texts.   We will give Sharon Jones copies for the friendship bags.  We scheduled a possible summer movie (Little Women) for June 17th. More discussion on a birthday potluck and beginning discussion on the Advent Daily Devotional Booklet.

May – Many people are responding to the need for communication with our members who are isolated.  They are doing backyard beverage gatherings with 1 or 2 people and proper distancing, drive-way visits, zoom gatherings, and creating limited groupings for safety.  During May and June, we will be contacting our previous Advent Devotional authors and some potential new ones.  The camp-out is still on the calendar with some doubts.  How do you keep the six feet away from each other?

June – We continue to discuss ways to stay connected.  Kim Mills may host a Beer & Hymns Gathering in her back yard.  The women’s lunch may meet on the church lawn with a BYO sack lunch since potlucks are being discouraged.  We are encouraging people to meet in small groups outdoors.  These gatherings allow for deeper conversations than phone calls or zoom meetings.   Trinity is having a Week of Prayer Event beginning June 7th.  We will let the council make the decision about having the camp-out as scheduled.  The birthday potluck is still on the calendar.

July – The Mills are hosting Beer & Hymns in their backyard on July 19th and will have a guitarist.  There will be safety guidelines in place.  Home Communion teams have volunteered to do outdoor communion with homebound (not in care facilities) members or those who do not have access to the internet.  The women’s lunch will be on July 28, on the church lawn.  The younger kids will have an “at home VBS” called Compassion Camp.  The Church Campout was canceled.

August – We met in-person outside on the church lawn.  It was great to be together without Zoom.  Home Communion and Compassion Camp are still going on.  The Beer & Hymns was a success with only a couple of hiccups.  A Lament Service was held outdoors on August 26th.  It was well attended, and everyone seated themselves at a safe distance from one another and wore masks. There were also 30 views on YouTube!  The Birthday Potluck is being revamped to be an outdoor event with a BYO meal.  Conversations after the meal will be jump started by talking about ways to still celebrate the upcoming holidays while still recognizing the pandemic.

September – The Advent Devotional is in progress.  We have received our first submission from Sarah Henthorn!  The deadline is October 15th.  Pastor Meggan plans to read the devotions on Facebook live during Advent. We are looking at ways to hold the Mid-Winter Movies.  We cannot have it in our homes due to space limitations.  We are researching comedies because we all need a good laugh! As a way of staying connected a work party is being organized to clean up a senior’s yard.

October – We held the Meal Gathering on October 14th.  After the discussion on ways to celebrate holidays we played a couple of games of Covid Bingo.  Some prizes were Equal Exchange coffee and chocolate, sanitizer, and cloth masks.  We had a good time.  We discussed some new ideas for the Advent Devotional and how to get them distributed to the congregation. Pastor will be video taping some of our favorite soup makers as they prepare a soup that would have been shared at a soup supper!  We will be helping in the printing of business cards for members to give to friends and neighbors that highlight ways to connect with Trinity.  Those will be mailed to each family. 

November – We have printed and distributed about 125 copies this year.  Mary & Penelope put together the last 25 so there would be some for the food boxes again this year.  We talked about the Gospel & Growth Committee description in our By-laws and decided it needed to be updated.  We drafted the changes and proposed it to the Church Council at the November meeting.  They approved the change, and it will be presented to the congregation at the Annual Meeting for ratification.  We are postponing the Mid-Winter Movies until the virus situation improves.  We do not have any idea when that will be.

We are not meeting in December.  Our next meeting will be January 14th, 2021 at 2:00 pm.  Tami Robinson

MUTUAL MINISTRY

The Mutual Ministry Committee meets with Pastor Meggan to share concerns that may arise within the congregation in a safe and confidential environment. We also discuss the ministry of Trinity Lutheran Church, including committee work and goals or concerns that arise. Due to the added stresses of the pandemic, the mutual ministry committee met more frequently in 2020. The committee provided feedback as the congregation experimented with new technologies and engaged in community in new ways. The committee also advocates for Pastor’s well-being and continues to support her as she finished her dissertation this year. Members of the committee in 2020 were: Tammy Torrey, Sharon Jones, Steve Ward, and Vice President Sarah Henthorn.    

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Property and Stewardship Annual Reports

PROPERTY COMMITTEE

I want to personally thank Peggy and Darrel Miller, Jerry Armburst, Lloyd and Greg Keller, David Sherrif and Bryce Quarve. A big thank you to Bob Torrey. His work is still carrying on! We give deep thanks for the refinancing. We deep cleaned the sanctuary in 2020 and our roof is getting done right at this very moment. Yeah!  Furnaces have been fixed. Bryce, Greg, and David have been re-wiring our speaker system. Patrick Kelly will build our worship tech station. We plan on planting a couple trees this spring in memory of Klayton Hanson and Gerald Manlove. We have accomplished a lot this past year with all the “things” we have had to deal with in 2020.  I want to thank all that I have mentioned and our members for supporting us.  

Tom Friddle

STEWARDSHIP  

The traditional view of “stewardship” is a period each fall when a church asks its members to pledge for the upcoming year – to make a commitment to future giving of their offerings. 

Our fall financial campaign took a different approach in 2020. Unable to safely gather at “cottage meetings” or in the blue Koinonia Room at church, we went virtual. The Stewardship team interviewed members, asking them about the pandemic: their initial concerns and their observations about our congregational response. These interviews were compiled into a 20-minute video shown at worship on September 20th, then posted on YouTube, Facebook and the church website. Our thanks to Emily Bentley (plus Cedar and Pearl), Bob Cola, Sharon Jones, Lloyd Kellar, Pastor Meggan Manlove, Kim Mills, and Steve VanAtter for their willingness to go on camera and share their stories. Here is the link, if you would like to take another look at this video:

God’s Grace and its Various Forms – YouTube

In addition, we interviewed Paulette Blaseg and Sheila Anderson (Trinity Community Garden) and Tami McHugh (Trinity New Hope), asking how our ministry partners had fared during the pandemic. These interviews were made into a separate video, posted in the same places. Use this link for another look:

Ministry Partners-Fall 2020 – YouTube

We followed these videos by mailing pledge cards to our members. We thank you for your overwhelming response to this new way of doing things!

The broader perspective on stewardship is this concept: Christians acknowledge that all we are and have are gifts from God. This acknowledgement permeates our daily decisions about how we use our time, what we do with our stuff, how we care for our bodies and our world, and how we share our giftedness (both within our church and in the world beyond the narthex doors.) Year-Round-Stewardship is how Trinity addresses this broader focus, and in 2020 we had: 

January – Stewardship of Generosity – Emphasizing that we carry the tenets of our faith into our giving/volunteering outside the church, we conducted a survey and created a banner highlighting the 94 different causes in 13 separate categories supported by our members. That exercise revealed that we members donate our time and our money to so many other places outside the church!

February – Stewardship of How We Think about Resources (money, time, health, relationships) – do we view them as abundant or scarce? We had 47 responses to a survey, ranging from “scared to death” to “totally secure”. 9 surveys fell to the concerned side of the spectrum, with 38 falling on the more secure side. 

March – Stewardship of Money – Our aim was to have people be a bit less automatic about how much money they give, and a fun way to do this was to ask them to “Mess with your Council Counters” by giving an odd amount. For example, give $27 instead of $25 or $11 instead of $10 or add 73 cents to your check. The target day was to have been March 15th, but at this point, the sanctuary was closed to in-person worship. However, 10 households did follow through with some very interesting checks.  

April – Stewardship of Stuff – was intended to support the spring yard sale, but it was cancelled due to COVID. We encouraged people to clean garages and closets while “staying home”, to be ready for future donation opportunities. 

May – Stewardship of Gratitude. Weekly challenges were posted on Facebook, asking people to identify things for which they are grateful. These included plants and animals (we got LOTS of pet pictures!), a sacred song or Bible verse or story, people in their lives, and something previously taken for granted (yes, toilet paper).

June – Stewardship of Your Brain – was another Facebook challenge focused on what people were doing to keep their brains healthy during the pandemic. Remember the lovely video of Marilyn Kirkness doing her art work?! 

July – Stewardship of Habits – focused on the 2020 word-of-the-year change. We looked at how modifying our habitual way of doing things has made us sad, but also may have been a good thing at times. 

August – Stewardship Means Helping Others – Being good stewards of our relationships includes sharing things that will enrich others’ lives, so we asked people to share the title of a favorite baseball movie, a creative strategy for dealing with the heat, a favorite summer dessert or homemade ice cream recipe, a favorite recipe for grilling, and a favorite fresh summer fruit or vegetable.

September – Stewardship of Finances – In addition to the fall financial campaign video and mailings, we also held a 3-session Adult Forum study called “No Catchy Slogans”, diving into the deeper meanings behind some oft-used stewardship slogans.  Throughout the year, we encouraged continued giving by making sure return envelopes were included in monthly mailings from the church – and we THANK YOU for using those envelopes!  

October – Stewardship of Time and Talent – We attempted to sign up volunteers by mail and got very little response, so we will revisit this concept after in-person worship resumes. 

November – Stewardship of Creative Giving – covered alternate ways to give, including the new PayPal online giving button on the church website, the Endowment Fund, direct giving from IRAs, and other ways indicated in the new Gift Acceptance Policy approved by Church Council and now posted on the church website.

-18-

December 2020 – Stewardship of the True Meaning of Christmas – using Advent Conspiracy materials, we explored ways to Worship more Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All. This included a 3-session video discussion series on Zoom during Adult Forum, weekly handouts sent by email, and holiday “conversation topics” used at fellowship time.

We thank you for your support during two online fundraisers. Idaho Gives in April/May netted $2145, with nearly 50% of the donors and money donated by non-members. Avenues for Hope in December raising $24,200 through donations and “prizes” for our Trinity New Hope housing ministry! The generosity of our members and the community is overwhelming.

We sadly said goodbye to two key members of Stewardship team during 2020 – to Ruthann Sutton who moved to Yakima, WA, and to Bob Torrey who died this fall. We miss them so much, but remembering their words and examples inspires us to continue this important work.

Phil Cronk and Penelope Smith

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Church in Community Annual Report

CHURCH IN COMMUNITY  

COMMUNITY GARDEN:  Submitted by Sarah Henthorn

The Middleton Canyon Springs site produced 5306.9lbs and the Trinity Community Garden had 2305.5lbs.  A total of 7136.8lbs were gleaned and 178lbs came from Duncan (farm donation) for a total of 14,927.2lbs!  That is quite an increase over 2019.  Our grand total is now 404,927.2lbs  for thirteen years!!!  We are so thankful for the leadership of Paulette Blaseg who continued after Sheila Anderson’s move to Oregon and for all the super dedicated volunteers who work so hard to supply food throughout Canyon and Ada counties.  You are truly appreciated.  

CROP WALK:  Submitted by Steve VanAtter

The Crop Walk was a virtual event this year.  It raised $4300 which went to the Wilder Food Bank, Caldwell Salvation Army and Nampa Seventh Day Adventist Food Bank.  Hopefully it will be an actual event next fall. Thanks for your on-going contributions and participation.

EQUAL EXCHANGE COFFEE & CHOCOLATE SALES:  Submitted by Renee VanAtter

We have had a few phone orders since the start of COVID.  Remember to call Renee VanAtter if you are needing coffee, chocolates, teas or other goodies.  By purchasing these items Trinity members support Equal Exchange which provides a living wage for farmers as well as programs that support people to get loans to start their own businesses.  Thanks for your purchases.

FOOD PANTRY:  Submitted by Joyce Becht

We did not do any monthly food collections which we paired with Bible verses last year due to the pandemic.  We are grateful for any in-kind donations.  Kellars and VanAtters shop for the pantry when needed, keep inventory and check expiration dates on all our supplies.  Pastor Meggan uses these resources to help low income families.  Many thanks for helping to feed others in these desperate times.

FOOD PRESERVATION CLASSES:  Submitted by Sarah Henthorn 

 No classes were offered due to the pandemic.  There was no way to properly provide social distancing.

NOISY OFFERINGS  Submitted by Joyce Becht

What wonderful donations you gave in spite of difficult times with the pandemic!  You did not miss a beat!  We had a wonderful total of $1588.49!  Your generosity is so gracious to all the worthy causes on our list.  Thanks again for your massive support.  We always welcome your input as we continue to explore new programs along with our old favorites for the new year.   Virtual hugs to all!!!

SERVICE PROJECTS:  Submitted by Joyce Becht

Souper Bowl of Caring raised $72 which was used to buy supplies for our food pantry.   Thanks for thinking of others … Feed my sheep.

Community Dinners  at First United Presbyterian Church on Tuesdays were canceled for Feb. 11, Apr. 14 and May 12 due to the pandemic.   Hopefully 2021 will be available for us to serve.  

God’s Work, Our Hands:  West Middle School Oct. 12  We decided to honor our hard-working school  staff with a catered lunch done by Silver City BBQ.  They were served pulled pork, potato salad, barbecued beans, cole slaw and various dessert treats.   We received many thank you notes and comments on this special meal.  We continue to keep that staff and children in our thoughts and prayers.

Gloves/Hats/Mittens/Socks Nov. 29  Socks are always needed at the shelters so we used our funds to buy for the women and children at VWCS.  The Lighthouse Mission for Men had been relocated to Boise at that time.  Thanks for your warm donations.

Thanksgiving Food Boxes x 6 Nov. 22 and Christmas Food Boxes x 8 Dec. 20

Your donations of gift cards were absolutely phenomenal! Steve & Renee VanAtter and Tim McHugh shopped for and assembled the food items in each box plus a gift card for a ham or turkey.  With extra monies donated extra items were purchased for the boxes to help with Covid matters – toilet paper, sanitizer, wipes and soap plus 4 turkeys! Information about Trinity’s on-line Christmas services were also included.  They were joined by Sarah Henthorn to do the deliveries.  We are so thankful for these willing volunteers.

Thrivent Project for Trinity New Hope Totes x 16 Dec. 19   VanAtters applied for a Thrivent money card which they used to purchase fruit and granola bars which filled our totes along with Advent Devotionals & Christmas cards and information about Trinity’s on-line Advent and Christmas services.  Emily Bentley along with Cedar and Pearl helped deliver wagons full of goodies to our neighbors in Trinity New Hope.  Again we are so blessed with our volunteers and their gift of time and talents.

Thanks again for all you do to shine a beacon in our community.  Your generosity and compassion  are truly appreciated.  Blessings abound.

Nampa Idaho
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Jan. 17, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, for the countless blessings and benefits you give. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

First Reading:  1 Samuel 3: 1-20

1Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.  2At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  10Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” [11Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”  15Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”  19As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.]

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18

1Lord, you have searched me out;  O Lord, you have known me.
2You know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.

3You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O Lord, know it altogether. 

5You encompass me, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

13For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well. 

15My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; my days were fashioned before they came to be.
17How deep I find your thoughts, O God! How great is the sum of them!
18If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20

12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” 17But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

John 1:43-51

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you,[a] you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Sermon – Bishop Kristen Kuempel (see full worship service on Youtube)

Prayers of Intercession

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

A brief silence.

For the body of Christ gathered throughout the world and for all servants of the gospel, that following Jesus, the church lives out its calling every day, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For the well-being of creation, for plants and animals, and for all that God has marvelously made, that we serve as wise stewards of Earth, our home, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For police officers and firefighters, for attorneys and paralegals, for peacekeepers and military personnel, and for the leaders of governments, that they provide protection to all people, especially the most vulnerable, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For those lacking food or shelter, for those who are sick or grieving, and for those who are imprisoned or homebound (especially), that God console all who suffer, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For our neighborhood, for visitors joining us for the first time or returning, and for those absent from our assembly, that all who seek to know God are nourished by word and sacrament, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

In thanksgiving for the saints who have gone before us (especially Antony and Pachomius, renewers of the church), that their lives give us a vision of the gospel in action, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

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Communications and Christian Ed and Youth

COMMUNICATIONS

As for all of us, the past year has presented the communications team with many challenges and opportunities.

Driving by, you may have noticed that the message board isn’t getting changed quite as often as usual, but it is getting changed thanks to great volunteers. Our website got a really slick makeover this year and we’ve really upped our game with the monthly mailings to all members, since we’re unable to pick them up on Sundays.

One of the most exciting challenge opportunities we’ve had this year was branching into social media and online broadcast via YouTube and Facebook live.

Patrick Kelly, Communication Team Liaison

CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND YOUTH

Multigenerational Sunday School Obviously, the first few months of this year went according to plan, with on-site Sunday School classes which reached out to all ages. Starting at 8:45 Sunday mornings, children and adults gathered with faithful leaders into various age-groups for preschool, grade school, teens and adults. Youth Education leaders were Tammy Torrey, Amanda Hansen, Larry and Kim Mills, Julie Haugen. Pastor Meggan led the adult studies, currently called “Adult Forum.” See below* 

The middle of March our traditional ways went “out the window” and were transformed into other means of teaching. Each younger student received lessons that were mailed via USPS, or Emailed, or on-line. Personal contact was made through phones, computers, or in person— but at a distance. Frolic Curriculum was used for 3-5 year olds, and “Water Washed; Spirit Born” was the curriculum used for the next age group up. These are reusable materials for future years.

In December, in traditional fashion, some of the youth were able to give a unique and fun Christmas Program on-line. It was presented in segments prior to online Wednesday night Holden Advent Services.

A huge thank you goes out to all the teachers who accepted the challenge and made the best of things this difficult year. The main goal was to maintain connections and continue spiritual instruction. 

Adult Forum* After mid-March, Zoom became the mode of shared time together to study, learn, grow and communicate on Sunday mornings @ 8:45 before zoom worship at 10:00am. A variety of spiritual books and relevant articles were read and discussed. In addition to Pr Meggan’s teaching, others filled in for her at times, if needed. 

Compassion Camp Box & Winter Activity Packets New this summer was an at home “vacation Bible school” called “Compassion Camp.” Tammy Torrey assembled and sent out to all the Sunday school children notebooks with Bible lessons and projects, and then activity boxes full of the art supplies for those projects. Each child was assigned an adult mentor to experience a one-on-one fun learning experience and build relationship. There were five lessons to cover within the summer months. By all accounts, it was a huge success and worthwhile. Thank you, Tammy! Likewise, during the first winter month of December, Julie Haugen assembled, delivered or sent out winter (Advent & Christmas) activity packets to all the the Sunday school children. These were to provide fun actives for the kids to work on over holiday break, tying in Biblical teachings. Thank you, Julie! 

Monday Morning Study Individuals who participated in this group met at the church every Monday morning to study a designated book, have discussions, share personal concerns and pray together. Zoom meetings became the new normal after mid-March, just like with Adult Forum. Adults who participate truly value the atmosphere of learning and caring that is present. It is open to any adult and usually led by Pr Meggan. 

Confirmation Co-op Classes (Monthly Gatherings) Confirmation Co-op is a combined Confirmation program with the other Treasure Valley ELCA churches. It is a big help to share this responsibility with other area churches. Not only do the youth (7th – 9th graders) get an opportunity to meet others their age, the leaders can also share ideas and best teaching methods and support one another. Larry Mills and Pr Meggan lead Trinity’s group. This fall Kevin Mills was confirmed, having finished his required lessons. Congratulations to him as he moves forward in his spiritual growth and service. Remaining in the program are Giada, Annmarie, Jason, Diane, and Alexa. 

Teen Book Study Part of the this year Pr Meggan and Young Disciples Minister Casey Cross held a book study for 10th-12th graders once a month in a local coffee shop. Discussion of the book and keeping connections were the goals of this time together. This has continued with the necessary precautions. 

Luther Heights Bible Camp Sadly, but necessarily, all in-person camps were cancelled due to the pandemic. Hopefully, next summer will be the best attended camps! LHBC depends on volunteers for its many needs. Several of the volunteers this year were members of Trinity. Camp Executive Director Kelly Preboski created and offered (upon request and a small fee) what essentially was “Camp in a Box” for any camper who requested one. 

Trivia Night This fun, local annual fundraising event took place on March 7, 2020 at Trinity. The funds raised were split between the two congregations: Trinity Lutheran and Faith Lutheran in Caldwell to help pay for Luther Heights camp scholarships for their youth.

Trinity Youth (College) Scholarship No applicants were received for this $500.00 scholarship, therefore it was not awarded. 

Theology Institute Opportunity New this year was an on-line opportunity for one of our youth to attend the Augsburg Youth Theology Institute out of Augsburg University, Minneapolis. Mwajuma Dusbae was selected to attend this year. She is also the youngest member of Trinity’s Church Council. 

Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids Again, sadly, this camp had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns. After the cancelation decision, Director, Deaconess Diane McGeoch made contact with all the former attendees via packets which provided future camp information and coloring pages. For a small fee, she was able to mail out Peace Camp activity boxes later in the fall. It was a beautiful way to keep in touch with those who wish to attend again next summer and bring their friends with them.

Respectfully Submitted, Mary Braudrick / TLC Council representative

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Council President’s Annual Report

Guest Blog Post

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

Mission Statement:  Trinity Lutheran Church is a place to congregate, refresh the faithful, and reach out with Word and service to others through the Holy Gospel.            —December 3, 1978

As my family would say, “Who would have thunk it?”  12 months ago we met as a congregation and voted for nearly $50,000 in property improvements including roof replacement, expansion of our sound system, and refinancing our mortgage.  What grand plans we had for this year!  Fast forward three months and it felt as if the world came to a stop.  Shops were closed, we could no longer meet in person, we couldn’t gather with friends and family, we couldn’t share a meal all due to a pandemic caused by Coronavirus.   Fear of the unknown and uncertainty were a guarantee.  We feared for ourselves, our families and our church family, many who are in the most fragile of health groups.  We had no idea how to do this (insert any “this”), nor how long it would last? 

The first council meeting we had after the state “stay in place” order was so comforting and reassuring.  Our first thoughts were of our congregational members – who needed what, who was connected with whom and how could we create networking to check on each other.  We thought of individual gifts:    Who had extra time, who would benefit from connecting, who was okay on their own with their own support system?    

Our next thoughts were “How can we worship?  What would this look like?  How can we be safe?”  Thanks to all of our congregational members and to Meggan who were willing to “try new things”, we were able to Facebook live and most soon learned to ZOOM  which allowed us to fellowship! ! !  As Bishop Kuempel said, none of our pastoral leaders signed up to be televangelists but we learned and adapted.  Small groups resumed through zoom, small family groups adopted one another, we even figured out how to celebrate communion in our homes.  During the summer and fall months, we even figured out how to safely hold in person outdoor worship and small outdoor gatherings.  

Last, but not least, we looked at options for financial stability during this tenuous time.  We put projects on hold-temporarily.  Thanks to the Cares Act and the lead of Treasurer, Lloyd Keller we made a commitment to keep our small staff employed and paid.  We looked for other ways to reach out to congregational members to continue their donations and offering – we mailed envelopes to homes, we added on-line giving to our website as well as Pay Pal,  we had drop off noisy offerings and your giving continued.  We applied for and received several grants which have allowed us to continue in our missional endeavors.   Finally, in December the refinancing happened, the speaker system was completed and the roof was scheduled for repair and replacement. Our Cares Act loan was forgiven and we ended December stronger financially than most years prior. 

This is how our goals during the pandemic were formed and supported.  To say things were uncertain, to say we were concerned, to say we were “in it together” was an understatement but our faith and commitment were strong.  

As things settled in and we knew this would not be a short term issue, we looked forward to a new normal.  Our Cluster developed it’s own COVID task force which I was honored to participate in.  Again, the utmost concern for this group was safety for all members when and if we could reconvene in person.  They helped adapt the synod guidelines for each of our unique buildings, staff and space.  Trinity brought these back and formed their our own COVID Task force – I thank these folks for their ongoing commitment of implementing our current guidelines, Jeff Henderson, Sharon Jones, Randy Miller and Steve Ward­­­­­­­­.

Fast forward to now.  We have just completed the season of Advent and Epiphany where we get to look forward. The vaccine is just starting to be administered in our community but we know it will be several more months before it will be available to everyone.  Even then, many will choose to wait for herd immunity.  We will continue to watch the numbers and exhibit caution, respect and consideration for those around us.  As for Trinity, we remain committed to each other, to our mission and to our future.  I am thankful for our Cluster and Synod who banded together in ways we could have never dreamed to help us through this time with online worship, ideas and expertise and community.  I am thankful for this incredible and committed Council.  We also owe Meggan a gratitude for her resilience, dedication, teaching, patience and ministry to our congregation.  Without her, this could have been a very different year.  Last, but not least, I am grateful for each of you, your gifts, your flexibility, and your community.  We know that “church” does not mean a building or location.  It has been a privilege to serve you.  

Kim Mills, Congregational Council President

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Pastor’s Annual Report

Today we sent our our annual report packets to our congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, Nampa. There is a lot to read there. I will be distributing the reports daily here on my blog, encouraging members to read a report or two each day in preparation for our annual meeting, Jan. 31. I will begin with my own report and follow it with those from various ministry teams/committees/task forces.

 “’Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:36-37). “Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are disciples, if you have love for one another’” (John 13: 34).

We have experienced so much this year as a congregation, as individuals, and as members of society. Council President Kim Mills did a masterful job recounting the year and the annual report packet includes many stories of teams, task forces, and staff pivoting and adapting. 

Why, after this year, are we still a healthy congregation with strong connections? One reason we weathered the year well is because, though we are most certainly grounded in the communal worship experience, meaning it is what we always return to, it was never the only piece of our identity or mission. Worship, particularly the pillars of Word and Sacrament, nourish us for a life of discipleship beyond that hour or so on Sunday morning. Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through our words and actions, growing in relationship with one another, God, and our neighbors, living out our faith in our daily lives are all components that were part of our life of faith before the pandemic. So, when worship needed to shift significantly, we had other totems. 

Another reason our annual report is full of mission and ministry at the end of 2020 is because we are guided by neighbor love, described in the verses from Luke and John above. Neighbor love is why we stopped in-person worship in our building in March. Neighbor love is why we put practices into place so we could safely gather in smaller groups to continue ministries. Neighbor love is why you reached out with notecards, phone calls, and driveway visits. Neighbor love is why members of Trinity helped our partner ministries, Trinity Community Gardens and Trinity New Hope affordable housing, pivot and thrive, feeding and housing those in need. 

Leading us through all of this are so many remarkable individuals. How did Kim Mills, a scientist and healthcare professional with a huge heart for our congregation, end up as our president, elected at the February council meeting? The Holy Spirit. Thank you, Kim, for your servant leadership. One of our council’s goals was financial stability. Lloyd Kellar secured a PPP Loan and refinanced the mortgage, this despite the credit union lobby closing periodically because of COVID and loan officers being diagnosed with COVID. Thanks Lloyd. The trials Lloyd faced were matched only by your generosity in financial giving! A second council goal was worship weekly. Thanks to our three accompanists, Trish, Karissa, and Wendy who did a lot of adapting, to schedule changes in the beginning and later to requests for various recordings. All three of them were agreeable and did everything in their power to help us keep singing, praying, and worshiping God. Thanks to Bob Cola who made sure the council’s third goal of communication and connectedness was a reality each and every week. Finally, thank you to the entire church council for extra meetings, lots of adapting, and always being open when I asked what the third, fourth, of fifth option was.

“10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’ 11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again. 13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.” Jeremiah 31: 10-13

We had moments of return during 2020. I remember the deep joy and gladness when so many of us gathered on the church lawn for outdoor worship in August, September and October. We are, as the virus has reminded us daily, embodied creatures and we are meant to be in embodied community. This passage from Jeremiah reminds us that people of faith have been scattered before. God is faithful. We will worship and recreate and serve the Nampa community in large groups again. It is not going to happen quickly. I do not have a clear vision for 2021 but I do have hope. My hope is grounded in the relationships that make up this congregation. More important, my hope is grounded in a God who also experienced real embodiment and whose relationship with and love for creation is everlasting. That is more than enough to sustain us.

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Jan. 10, 2020 Baptism of our Lord

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

First Reading:  Genesis 1: 1-5

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Psalm:  Psalm 29

1Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

3The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders;  the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor. 

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6the Lord makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

7The voice of the Lord bursts forth in  lightning flashes.
8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 

9The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe and strips the forests bare.  And in the temple of the Lord all arecrying, “Glory!” 

10The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forevermore.

11O Lord, give strength to your people;

Second Reading: Acts 19: 1-7

1While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied—7altogether there were about twelve of them.

Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared[a] in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with[b] water; but he will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[d] with you I am well pleased.”

John August Swanson’s The River

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

As much as the gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about Jesus’ birth, scripture tells us little about Jesus’ upbringing and formation. We know he was brought up in the faith by Jewish parents. According to Luke, Jesus was teaching in the temple at age 12. But none of those stories fill us in on Jesus’ awareness of his identity. Did he know he was the Messiah? Did Mary tell him he was the son of God? Scripture keeps that a secret. It does not matter enough to make it onto the pages.

What did get recorded in all four gospels is Jesus’ baptism. In today’s telling of that event, there are few details about Jesus himself, many more about his cousin John—clothing, diet, words coming out of his mouth. No such details are given about Jesus. That lack of information helps shine the spotlight on what we are told; that he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” Whether or not Jesus knew his identity before this moment, we’ll never know. But Jesus could have no doubt now. He is the Son of God. What’s more, he is Beloved.

The remainder of the Gospel is the story of Jesus and what God did through him. After the baptism there is no going back, no containing God. One scholar is famous for saying that after the baptism, God through Jesus is loose in the world. Full of God’s Spirit, Jesus will finish the story with his own crucifixion when the temple is torn apart. 

What difference does the story of Jesus’ baptism make after the events that unfolded this week? I can speak most clearly for myself. On Wednesday afternoon, as I watched the new from Washington D.C. unfold, I felt anger and sadness. I may not have a laundry list of feelings, but I felt anger and sadness deep in the core of my being. Trinity members shared feelings ranging from surprise, embarrassment for our country, and a knot in the stomach that would not go away. 

If you think Wednesday’s events were isolated, a one-off, please begin to see them in the context of 2020 (pause), if not our country’s entire history (pause). What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ today, next week, this year?

Our identity as followers of Jesus is made possible through Jesus himself and the gift of baptism into the Holy Spirit. At birth we are born into a life on earth; in Baptism we are adopted into a life in the family of God. In neither birth do we take the initiative. Even when an adult comes to the baptismal font, it is God who does the acting. We never asked our parents to be our personal parents. We never ask God to be our personal god. In both cases we can turn away from the relationship, but the relationship stands. Even if we turn our backs on it, even if we leave God, God waits for us to come back. 

What precisely does it mean to follow Jesus, to live a life of discipleship? There have always been different understandings and different paths within the Christian family, but the contrasts were on full display this week.

When the mob breached the Capitol and violently stormed the Senate chamber Wednesday afternoon, one insurrectionist could be seen carrying a white flag with a cross in the corner: the “Christian flag.” And after the mob took over the Capitol, some demonstrators unfurled a massive banner outside. It read “Jesus 2020.” 

This is not the Christianity that I signed up for and I believe whole-heartedly that it is part of our baptismal identity, our walk as disciples to denounce these actions.

The events of Wednesday also served as a reminder that we must continue to call out and denounce the white supremacy that is still so seeped into our national fabric. An interfaith prayer group gathered outside Luther Place Memorial Church in D.C. early Wednesday morning. Near the end of the two-hour service, a gaggle of men adorned in patriotic clothing and “Make America Great Again” hats approached. One walked into the middle of the circle, pretended to fall, and laid on the ground while another man knelt on his neck—an apparent attempt to mock the 2020 killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. There is much to renounce and there is so much work to be done.

A colleague asked me during a continuing ed event what we all thought was at the heart of our call as congregational pastors. I do not remember how others responded, but I know that I said “hope—my job is to bring hope.” My hope is rooted in the story of Jesus found in the gospels. 

I admire the Humanists and Agnostics and Atheists in my life. If people are willing to come together to work on housing, hunger, and human rights, I will meet them at any table, and I know so many members of Trinity Lutheran who will do the same. 

But during weeks like this one, I depend on the deep well of my faith, which includes the promises made in my baptism. Despite everything this week, I have hope, not fleeting hope, but deep and abiding hope. I have hope because of those pastors and faith leaders who prayed for peace for several hours at Luther Place. 

Among them was Bishop Leila Ortiz of the ELCA Metro D.C. Synod, who said, “My hope and my mission is to highlight the humanity and the belovedness of all of God’s creation, and this particular violence—this particular permission to be violent—is so profoundly disturbing and antichrist.”

Ortiz was speaking, in a very contextual way, about the promises each of us makes in the Affirmation of Baptism. This week especially I have heard echoing in my mind the final three promises: to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

In other words, we are called not only to have hope but to be and bring forward hope through our words and actions. We do this through denouncing evil when we see it, including when people do evil while bearing the name Christian. We are vessels of hope when we truly advocate for people seen as less-then through who we vote for…how we spend our dollars, and how we use our voices. 

Naïve as it may be, I continue to have hope in government. I have hope because despite the forces pushing against them, civil servants across the country worked to ensure a safe and fair election. Their dedication to their vocations gives me hope and I have hope because our election system, though certainly imperfect, is still working. 

I have hope because various states and local municipalities across this country continue to experiment with policies, laws, and funding to correct past injustices and create a path for abundant life for all people. There are loopholes and bad laws and much work to be done, but we can learn from state and local trials.

I have hope because of teachers. So much has been done to put down education as something that makes me an unfeeling elitist instead of an informed citizen. Despite every criticism and funding cut, teachers seem committed as ever to ensure that every child receives an education and becomes a critical thinker.

I have hope because, as awful as Wednesday’s events were, as difficult as the last year was, many people are decrying the assault on the nation’s capital as well as those who have tried to stop the peaceful transition of power, always something we could simply trust in before. There is, I believe, a growing curiosity about how in the world we arrived at this moment. There is curiosity about those who see the world differently than you do. If that curiosity can be paired with love, then our hope will grow. As Bishop Ortiz said, “My hope and my mission is to highlight the humanity and the belovedness of all of God’s creation.” None of the United States citizens who stormed the capital truly knew their belovedness. Of that, I am sure. But that can change.

As followers of Jesus, our hope is most strongly rooted in the promises of baptism, the promises made by God, for new life with Jesus Christ, for the presence of the Holy Spirit, for the belovedness of all God’s creation. Hope is ours today because the God we worship is a God of love and mercy and also proximity. God is not a puppeteer far off in some distant heaven. The Holy Spirit is with us today.

The Spirit is here among us—in relationship with us and with all creation. God is not done with any of us. More important, God’s love is bigger than all of us. We must have hope today and tomorrow and next week and month. It is our calling, our identity and it is the only thing that can truly root out violence and hate and finally, someday, bring lasting peace and abundant life for all of creation. 

References:

Video Message from Bishop Leila Ortiz

Religion News Article, “As Chaos hits Capital, two forms of faith on display.”

Prayers of Intercession

Guided by Christ made known to the nations, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all people in need.

A brief silence.

For the body of Christ gathered throughout the world and for all servants of the gospel, that following Jesus, the church lives out its calling every day, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For the well-being of creation, for plants and animals, and for all that God has marvelously made, that we serve as wise stewards of Earth, our home, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For police officers and firefighters, for attorneys and paralegals, for peacekeepers and military personnel, and for the leaders of governments, that they provide protection to all people, especially the most vulnerable, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

For those lacking food or shelter, for those who are sick or grieving, and for those who are imprisoned or homebound (especially), that God console all who suffer, let us pray.

Have mercy, O God.

For our neighborhood, for visitors joining us for the first time or returning, and for those absent from our assembly, that all who seek to know God are nourished by word and sacrament, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

In thanksgiving for the saints who have gone before us (especially Antony and Pachomius, renewers of the church), that their lives give us a vision of the gospel in action, let us pray.  Have mercy, O God.

Merciful God, hear the prayers of your people, spoken or silent, for the sake of the one who dwells among us, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

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