TLC 2023 Ann Report-Communications & Hospitality


Good Morning and Happy New Year!  This past year on the Communications Committee, we were focused on coming up with different approaches and focuses for the Committee to improve overall communications.  I would like to thank the members of the committee (Jerry, Karissa, Kim, Larry and Pastor Meggan) for their help with providing updates and changes to the reader board throughout the year.  We also were hoping to try and help these folks with getting into and out of the sign by changing out the locks.  We had a locksmith come out and change those out but unfortunately, we are still battling with the heat swelling the doors so we will continue to see if we can’t get that fixed for these folks.

Some other areas that the committee worked on throughout the year are as follows:

  • Storytelling videos that have been completed and posted on the church website and YouTube Channel.  Also had other platforms for storytelling including the Church Camp out and coffee hour
  • Monthly mailings to the congregation
  • Reading of the Advent Daily Devotionals on Facebook Live by Pastor
  • Also focusing on community connections through outdoor events such as Ashes on the Go, Food Trucks and Lawn Games, Pet Blessing, and Longest Night

As we go into 2023, we are looking to expand our committee membership to help expand communication with both our congregation and our local community.  If this is something that you are able to help us out with, please come and speak to me or any of the committee members as we are looking to grow the committee through volunteers and our reach.

God Bless!

Dean Metzger


Fellowship Time after worship is happening weekly

We had Soup Suppers during Lent and Advent

The Easter Breakfast was a great success

There was good attendance at the Food Trucks and Lawn Games event in June and the Game Night in November. 

-Sandy Blom and Church Council

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TLC 2023 Ann Report – President’s Report


Dear friends of Trinity, 

First off, I would like to thank all of you for the tremendous amount of support and giving you do for our church.It was a busy year as we slowly gathered more in person after the last two, long years of the isolation.We sent several kids to camp and got to hear about their experiences, we slowly returned to most of our pre-pandemic worship, and our outdoor activities were a big hit too.Thank you to all who made those events happen.

I’m also thankful for Pastor and Larry Mills who took our youth on the trip to Minneapolis/St. Paul where they got to see so many new and exciting things. With the cancellation of the ELCA Youth Gathering and the following backup event, I am thankful that our youth were able to still travel to Minneapolis/St. Paul and have that experience.

I would like to also thank Tammy Torrey for all her efforts in teaching our youth and the parents who bring them help to form their faith.

It has been a great honor to serve as your council President this year.Thank you for having the trust and faith in me.

Jerry Armbrust

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

Our Guiding Principles

1) God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit

2) Preach and teach the Good News to everyone

3) Witness your faith through actions and words

4) Accept and welcome all people

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Jan. 8, 2022 – Baptism of Jesus

Prayer of the Day

O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling to be your daughters and sons, and empower us all with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 42:1-9

1Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
  my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
 I have put my spirit upon him;
  he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2He will not cry or lift up his voice,
  or make it heard in the street;
3a bruised reed he will not break,
  and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
  he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow faint or be crushed
  until he has established justice in the earth;
  and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5Thus says God, the Lord,
  who created the heavens and stretched them out,
  who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
 who gives breath to the people upon it
  and spirit to those who walk in it:
6I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
  I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
 I have given you as a covenant to the people,
  a light to the nations,
  7to open the eyes that are blind,
 to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
  from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8I am the Lord, that is my name;
  my glory I give to no other,
  nor my praise to idols.
9See, the former things have come to pass,
  and new things I now declare;
 before they spring forth,
  I tell you of them.

Psalm 29

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

Acts 10:34-43

34Peter began to speak to [Cornelius and his household]: “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.”

Matthew 3:13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The story of Jesus’ baptism is gorgeous, but it does raise some questions. We might wonder, as John the Baptist did, why does Jesus come to baptized in the first place? And what does Jesus’ response to John’s hesitation mean? It might help if we remember where we are in the larger story.

Everything up to this point in the gospel of Matthew has established Jesus’ identity as God’s agent, whose life and actions will enact both God’s will and God’s reign. We had the very long lineage, or the begats, tracing Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph’s ancestry through so much of God’s activity with Israel. 

Jesus was born of Mary. He was threatened by murderous King Herod. The magi came and paid him homage. Joseph protected Jesus and Mary by fleeing to Egypt, and eventually returning. We are reminded of the Israelites time in Egypt under Pharaoh’s rule and their exodus, led by Moses. Jesus is the new Moses, but he is also more. By today’s scene at the Jordan River, Jesus is an adult, ready to truly be God’s agent and usher in God’s will and reign.

Compare Jesus to the rest of the crowd at the river. The people who came to baptized by John confessed and repented of their sins. They did this in order to prepare themselves to receive God’s forgiveness and salvation. But Jesus did not need to repent, so what is going on here?

Jesus himself answers John, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Righteousness is about moral uprightness, but it is also about relationship, specifically our relationship with God. Human righteousness entails being put in right relationship with God. Jesus does not need to be put in right relationship with God. But we do.

Jesus comes to the waters of baptism not for his own sins, but in solidarity with the sinners whom God has sent him to save. Jesus humbled himself alongside his people to wait on God’s mercy. If the time after Epiphany is a time for more manifestations, then this is one worthy of celebration. The inaugural event, very much an anointing of Jesus, is not in some majestic castle where the top one percent of society are invited. Nor is the baptism only in the company of those on earth who are so good we later call them saints. Jesus is anointed, named child of God, as you and were at the font.

Perhaps the greater epiphany is what comes next. By that I mean, what will Jesus’ life and ministry look like? For an answer to that question, we do well to turn to our reading from Isaiah.

Isaiah is speaking to a people in exile, not Egypt, but exile, nonetheless. Jerusalem has been sacked by Nebuchadnezzar, who has sent God’s people to Babylon. The exile signaled the loss of status as an independent nation for Israel (and here I am talking about the Israelites). The temple in Jerusalem was burned. There was an end to the dynasty of King David. 

As awful as wilderness and exile are, sometimes they are the spaces for amazing transformation. And helping the people to transform as a community of exile was Isaiah. Our scripture passage today is the first of four texts often called “Servant Songs,” songs that describe God’s servant and the work for which the servant is commissioned. We are not exactly sure who the servant is. It could be the whole people of Israel. It could be the prophet himself. It could be Cyrus, King of Persia, who later let the Israelites leave Babylon and go home. For us, gathered at Midland and Lone Star in 2023, what matters most is that after he was baptized and went into the wilderness, Jesus himself was called to walk like this servant. Growing up in a Jewish home, he knew these servant songs well. 

When we speak of justice most often, we maybe think about people, people other than us, getting what they deserve. It becomes a code word for revenge. This is not what Isaiah is referring to. In fact, there is no one word in the Bible which easily translates into “justice” in English. There are three, in particular, that appear in multiple biblical texts associated with justice: sedaqahmishpat and shalom.

Sedaqah can also be translated as “righteousness.” This is not “judgmentalism,” this is not about determining who is right and who is wrong. That is God’s work and God’s alone. Instead, sedeqah it is about orienting ourselves towards the whole community. Just one illustration, in the Middle Ages, Maimonodes, the Jewish philosopher, conceived of an eight-level hierarchy of tzedakah, where the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient becoming self-sufficient instead of living upon others. The second highest form is to give donations anonymously to unknown recipients. 

Next shalom, which is the peace that comes with justice. Justice in this deep and holistic sense is about restoring community, putting things right, repairing and healing our relationships with each other. 

Mishpat is a word which lays claim to the fundamental wholeness of the world, and to what God does when that wholeness is ripped apart, torn by neglect or violence or any violation of right relationship. We might speak of “restorative” justice, with its emphases on rehabilitation and reconciliation. In the case of Isaiah, the Israelites, Jesus, and our own lives, God intervenes to restore right relationship.

So, sedaqah sees the whole community in deep right relationality. Mishpat expresses the wholeness God promises to bring to anything hurting that wholeness. And shalom reminds us that the fruit of being in right relationship is deep peace. This is biblical justice. In fact, sometimes Jesus’ response to John is translated as “Let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all justice.”

The servant described in Isaiah 42 offers a profound example of power in the midst of vulnerability. The power that is held up in the servant is a different kind of power though. It is a power that does not scream or shout (verse 2). This offers a sharp contrast with the brutal force executed by the empires of his day and our own. We may not experience forces of modern empire shouting on the street corner or from a palace. But you can surely here shouts on radio, television, or social media. 

The remarkable thing we see in this text is how the people who have been traumatized by exile are called not to do the typical human thing, what has been called “circling the wagons.” Edward Said warns that nationalism quite often tends to be a natural consequence of collective trauma. It would be so easy to find in these texts what Said calls “an exaggerated sense of group solidarity, passionate hostility to outsiders, even those who may in fact be in the same predicament as you” (“Reflections of Exile,” 178). The Prophet Isaiah offers a vision of the world in which an individual or a group of people in the midst of brokenness, in spite of brokenness, and maybe even because of the brokenness, will be a light to the nations.

For us too, during difficult times when we feel helpless and out of control, either as individuals or as whole communities, we learn from the example of the servant. We should seek to cultivate the power that we do have amid our current state of vulnerability. Even during the direst of circumstances, we still have the power to enact justice in the lives of the people around us. 

As we have seen in the case of the servant, this power is a remarkable power. It is not like the power of the worldly institutions but a power that grows out of compassion, out of being concerned with the needs of the other. Even if we find ourselves in a completely hopeless situation, we can nurture compassion’s power. 

We can do this because we have a savior who does it first, last and always. Jesus the Christ, whose baptismal inauguration we celebrate today, was servant to all, including each of you. Even today, he meets us in the meal of bread and wine, given for you, for forgiveness and new life today. As one author put it, “God’s justice is beyond what we can fathom, we can only lean into the depth and breadth of God’s love and allow it to draw us into a full-bodied recognition of God’s love for God’s people, for the wholeness of Creation and thus for our intimate relationship one with each other.” (Hess, Enter the Bible)

Prayers of Intercession

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

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

A brief silence.

Calling God, you speak with power to your church. Open our hearts and minds to the new things you are declaring. Strengthen bishops, pastors, deacons, lay leaders, and teachers of the faith. Equip the baptized for your reconciling and redeeming work. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Renewing God, you provide the waters of the earth and in Jesus’ baptism you reveal the waters of life. Cleanse and protect oceans, rivers, and watersheds (local water sources may be named). Bring relief to parched lands and to communities without access to safe water. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Righteous God, you never weary of establishing justice. Increase cooperation and constructive dialogue between nations. Guide local, national, and international authorities to govern with equity, vision, and integrity. We pray for those in military service, for peacemakers, and for our enemies. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Abiding God, your mercy is steadfast. Give sanctuary to people who flee from oppression, war, poverty, and famine. Sustain health care workers, caregivers, first responders, counselors, and all who help and heal. Comfort those who are grieving or experiencing crisis (especially). Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Blessing God, in Christ you gather the beloved community. Kindle the gifts of your Spirit in your people. Accompany the newly baptized, those recently ordained, and any beginning a new ministry. Inspire synodical leaders and congregational councils to serve with imagination and wisdom. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

Promising God, your faithfulness endures throughout all generations. We give thanks for those who have died in Christ, trusting that we will be united with them and all the saints in Christ’s resurrection life. Merciful God,

receive our prayer.

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


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Dec. 24, 2022, Christmas Eve (Late)

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 9:2-7

2The people who walked in darkness
  have seen a great light;
 those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
  on them light has shined.
3You have multiplied the nation,
  you have increased its joy;
 they rejoice before you
  as with joy at the harvest,
  as people exult when dividing plunder.
4For the yoke of their burden,
  and the bar across their shoulders,
  the rod of their oppressor,
  you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5For all the boots of the tramping warriors
  and all the garments rolled in blood
  shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6For a child has been born for us,
  a son given to us;
 authority rests upon his shoulders;
  and he is named
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7His authority shall grow continually,
  and there shall be endless peace
 for the throne of David and his kingdom.
  He will establish and uphold it
 with justice and with righteousness
  from this time onward and forevermore.
 The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Titus 2:11-14

11The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]

The Birth of Christ

Margret Hofheinz-Döring
Wikimedia Commons

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

The story from Luke chapter 2 is so well known, so often portrayed in music and the visual arts, that we forget both its strangeness and wonder. I got to spend just a short amount of time this past summer with my great nephew, who was when I saw him, just a newborn. Perhaps for that reason, my sense of awe in God’s decision to arrive as an infant was renewed. A baby born in the best of circumstances today is incredibly vulnerable. Add to that world powers making Jesus’ parents travel far distances, a census filling up Bethlehem, and the chances of things going awry are greatly increased. 

And yet all of this is so in God’s character. From the beginning, God has shown up in the hidden and unexpected. A tour through the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament that God loves to be revealed through the hidden. This same God is so often reminding humanity to care for the outcast and the lowly. Like any good teacher, when it comes to the incarnation, God uses it as an opportunity not just to tell but show. All of this foreshadows Jesus’ own life and ministry. Though Jesus will grow up to be one of the most quoted and revered teachers, he will teach not just through telling but through showing. That showing begins with his first bed, a simple manger, and his first visitors, the lowly shepherds. 

There is a great deal that art and imagination have added to our understanding of Jesus’ birth that are not actually present in Luke 2. We often project sheep, cattle, a donkey, and innkeeper, and a barn onto the narrative, but they are not in the text. But what is present in our scripture passage tonight is plenty of good news, for you and me and the whole world. 

We hear and learn so much about this vulnerable infant laid in a manger. He is the Messiah, we are told, one who saves. And it becomes clear even this early in the story that he will not only save the Jewish people, but all people, as the angel makes clear to the shepherds. He is the savior of the world. That word is loaded and misunderstood, and I think it speaks to people differently depending on their life circumstances. But salvation has to do with healing, forgiveness, abundant life, and hope.

In the scripture tonight, Jesus is also called “the Lord” which means he will have power and authority. We, who know the rest of the story, know that Jesus will exercise his power and authority in strange and counter-cultural ways: eating with the outsiders, spending time with tax collectors and prostitutes, calling fishermen to follow him, ultimately dying on a cross wearing not a crown of gold but a crown of thorns.

If we reach back to the prophecy read tonight from Isaiah, even more is revealed about this infant laying in the lowly manger. There we read titles that are hard not to sing, thanks to George Fredric Handel’s Messiah. This newborn baby is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. That seems like a lot to put on a baby. But, again, this is no ordinary baby.

As we will sing later, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” The triune God we worship, even manifest in this baby laid in a manger, will take all of the brokenness of the entire world. That includes whatever burdens you are bringing tonight.

Earlier this week I watched one of my favorite movies, Moneyball, the story of Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players. I realized that one reason I love the movie is because, unlike the Christmas story and so much of the life of faith, there are few unknowns. You put statistics into the computer and figure out what baseball players to recruit. And you getting a winning team. There are days when all of that is incredibly appealing to me. 

We can be sure of God’s love, but what that will lead to, how exactly it will be made manifest, when it will be needed, are all unknowns. And though we are invited to the table to feast on the meal of bread of wine tonight, I have never been able to explain exactly how the sacrament works. 

But there is also a commonality between Moneyball and the story of Jesus’ birth. Both involve the company of misfits, the players or characters no one else really wants, and in both cases the stories are full of second chances; second chances for guys seemingly too old, players who throw the ball strangely, injured players. Likewise in the kingdom of God: virgin mothers, smelly shepherds, widows, orphans, foreigners, tax collectors, sinners, broken people like you and me are welcomed to the banquet. 

And, in his own way, Billy Beane and his data analysis ace Peter Brand turn the baseball world upside down. Commentators and their own manager scoff at the experiment at the beginning of the season. It’s laughable and will never work. At the end of the film, the audience learns that the Boston Red Sox adopt the A’s methods and two years later win the World Series. And for us, Jesus’ mother Mary already sang that the world is about to turn. With Emmanuel, God with us, God is doing a new thing, much larger than changing the game of baseball. God is reversing powers, lifting up the lowly, bringing down the mighty. There is a new reign beginning and it starts with Jesus, laid in a manger, the savior who is Christ the Lord. 

So tonight, let the prayers and familiar hymns and flickering candlelight wash over you. You are part of this story too. You are part of the story of the incarnation because you have heard this story and trust that God did in fact come in human form, Emmanuel, God with us. You do not need to do anything, be anything, prove anything to be the recipient of tonight’s good news of God’s tremendous love. You only need to receive it in this space.

Let the meal of bread and wine fill you up and nourish your body and soul. The one born in Bethlehem is the bread of life tonight, extending gifts of wholeness, belonging, and abundant life to a hungry and broken world. Ours is a God of abundance, a God who came for the entire world, whose bread never runs out, whose cup is always running over. 

The Prayers  

A:  Wonderful Counselor, increase our joy as the church gathers on this holy night to sing of our dear Savior’s birth. May the story of salvation live in the hearts of all who sing of its wonders. God of grace,  C: Hear our prayer.

A:  Mighty God, you have broken the yoke of sin’s burden through the birth of your Son. Comfort those whose burdens distract them from the deeper peace of this holy night and grant them a restful mind. God of peace, C:  Hear our prayer.

A:  Everlasting Father, uphold all who are in sorrow or need of your divine goodness and mercy (especially). We remember with thanksgiving all who have died and who now rest in your peaceful light. God of love, C:  Hear our prayer.

A:  Gracious God, bathe us always in the light of your Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord.  C:  Amen.

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Dec. 11, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that hinders our faith, that eagerly we may receive your promises, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 7:10-16

10The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. 15He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.”

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved. (Ps. 80:7)

1Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph | like a flock;
  shine forth, you that are enthroned up- | on the cherubim.
2In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, | and Manasseh,
  stir up your strength and | come to help us.
3Restore | us, O God;
  let your face shine upon us, and we | shall be saved.
4O Lord| God of hosts,
  how long will your anger fume when your | people pray? 
5You have fed them with the | bread of tears;
  you have given them bowls of | tears to drink.
6You have made us the derision | of our neighbors,
  and our enemies laugh | us to scorn.
7Restore us, O | God of hosts;
  let your face shine upon us, and we | shall be saved.
17Let your hand be upon the one at | your right hand,
  the one you have made so strong | for yourself.
18And so will we never turn a- | way from you;
  give us life, that we may call up- | on your name.
19Restore us, O Lord| God of hosts;
  let your face shine upon us, and we | shall be saved.

Romans 1:1-7

1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: 
  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
  and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,  25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

This was a challenging week for me. I have memories of being down in Arizona two years ago with my mom and half-brother Steve, my dad’s hospitalization and move to hospice. All of that was set alongside what felt like a wave of hospitalizations/critical medical tests/scheduled surgeries for Trinity members and friends. It did not feel like Advent—the season of hope, peace, and joy. 

In addition, early in the week I had some conversations and watched a movie that reminded me that this season can be very stressful for many of you—finding perfect gifts, decorating the perfect house, preparing to cook the perfect meal. I think this pressure shifts up and down as you go through different stages of life, but for some of you (or those you love) it may be very real this year.

And we put all of this side-by-side the story of Jesus’ birth. The story has these moments of awe and wonder and even perfection—in particular the visits from the angels and the star guiding the magi. We may get lulled into thinking that the God we worship only works in those magnificent and perfect ways. We may get lulled into believing that God then has no time for our challenging and messy lives. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. There is peace and joy mixed up with all kinds of scandal in the very beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Remember that long genealogy at the beginning of the story? Sometimes it’s referred as the begats—Harry begat John who began Steven and on and on. There are of course standouts in that list—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon.  

But there are also people we’d call “outsiders.”  Tamar was the Canaanite wife of Judah’s son; after her husband died, Tamar tricked Judah into fathering her a son.  Boaz’s wife Ruth started out as a Moabite, another foreigner.  

The text even makes this note; David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife. That’s right, the story of King David and his affair with Bathsheba is right there in the genealogy. So, it’s quite a way to begin the Gospel.   Finally, it ends, “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

Joseph wanted peace, comfort, and joy. He was engaged after all. But then his world came crashing down. Mary is found to be with child. Since Joseph does not know the cause of her pregnancy, he fears she has been unfaithful.  Betrothal was equivalent to marriage in that time and place—not like engagements today.  Infidelity counted as adultery. The marriage was completed when the groom took his betrothed to his own home. In the interval she remained in her father’s house.

Joseph is described as a righteous man. This means he must divorce his unfaithful wife. The law does not allow him to “forgive and forget.” His righteousness, however, is more than legal. He does not want to humiliate Mary with a public divorce proclaiming her adultery. He plans to divorce her quietly. He refused to act according to the law. Instead, he chose to act in a manner that Jesus himself would later embody by his attitude toward known sinners. 

However, before Joseph carries out this plan, he has a dream in which an angel explains to him that Mary’s pregnancy is of divine origin.  The angel addresses him as “son of David.”  And in this we are reminded of another problem with the whole Christmas narrative.  

That whole genealogy at the beginning of the gospel intends to show that Jesus is the son of David, Israel’s greatest king. But we never read “and Joseph fathered Jesus.” Even God, it turns out has snags: The ministry of Jesus as Son of David will focus on his quest to heal, gather, and restore the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus will reveal his identity as Son of God in manifestations of divine power over sea and storm, for example, but ultimately and definitively in his conquest of death, which had implications not only for Israel and the nations, but for all of creation. There is, however this snag, which God the Father had to resolve if these two identifications are to run together throughout the Gospel: if Jesus is God’s son, not Joseph’s, how can he also be a son of David? 

The only way for that lineage to work is for Joseph to adopt Jesus. He does this completely, even taking on the fatherly job of naming the child—Jesus, which means, the Lord saves.  Only in this way is Jesus is incorporated into David’s genealogy.  

And I take great comfort in the mix of characters in that long genealogy and the fact that a human act like adoption helps Jesus’ remain both Son of David and Son of God. It all serves as a reminder that God wants all sorts of people to be part of the reign of God and that God always finds ways to work through hardships and messiness. It takes all kinds to bring peace and joy and comfort to this earth.  It takes out of the ordinary actions like adoption. And all of that messiness leaves room for you and me.     

Let’s look at Jesus’ parents just a bit more. Joseph also shows us a profound trust. God does not appear to Joseph when he is wide awake and at prayer. There is no assurance of a burning bush or parting clouds on the mountaintop. There is only a dream. But I have to think that Joseph was open to the dream. 

We do not have the dialogue between the angel and Mary in Matthew’s gospel, but that does not lessen Mary’s importance. Without Mary’s obedience and without Mary’s willingness to receive the Holy Spirit, our salvation and healing would be in doubt. As one scholar wrote, “Just as Abraham obeyed God’s call for him to leave his familiar land to journey to a foreign destination, so Mary through her willingness to become the very Mother of God is the beginning of the church. She is also our connection to the people of Israel, for Jesus is born to a Jewish mother. His flesh is Jewish flesh.”

The upside down, backwards, craziness of this morning’s texts is precisely why we can also trust and obey God.  Again and again God’s people have turned their back on God. They have done everything except trust God. Yet God promises to never leave them. In Isaiah, God promises Emmanuel, God with us. Could God be any clearer on the fact that God is not going anywhere?

Consider again that genealogy—the outsiders, tricksters, sinners. God made it work; God did better than make it work. If God can use that messy group of people, God can work through us too. We also can be instruments of the Kingdom of heaven. We do not need to be perfect. We do not need to shy away from heartache and difficult moments. God is with us – Emmanuel. 

There seems to be no way for the story of Joseph and Mary to have a good ending—the righteous man, the pregnancy out of wedlock, the young couple alone in the world. But Joseph pays attention to the dream, listens to the angel of the Lord, and trusts. Mary obeys and is open to the Holy Spirit. Joseph adopts Jesus into that genealogy and sets the stage for a new kind of reign of God. 

Prayers of Intercession

As we prepare for the fullness of Christ’s presence, let us pray for a world that yearns for new hope.

A brief silence.

God our shepherd, let your Spirit move with power throughout the church. Give discernment and wisdom to our bishops, pastors, deacons, and lay leaders. Take away our fear, so that we serve and love, confident that you are guiding us. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God our source, awaken us to the beauty of the earth and the marvelous variety of life. Unite humankind in repairing and caring for your creation. Protect creatures and habitats in peril due to rising seas and warming temperatures. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God our vision, raise up leaders in every nation who dream of freedom and justice for all people. We pray for the work of international organizations that promote peace and human rights, especially Amnesty International (others may be named). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God our helper, come to the aid of all who cry out to you. Shelter migrants, refugees, and those fleeing war and famine. Bring relief to individuals and families experiencing hunger, homelessness, or impoverishment. Comfort any who are isolated or lonely. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God our Emmanuel, you are with us in our life together. We give you thanks for gathering us in worship and fellowship, and we remember those who cannot be present. Watch over those who travel. Heal the sick and speed their recovery (especially). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

God our hope, you bring life out of death, and you promise to be our God forever. Shine upon the faithful who now rest in the fulfillment of your promise and bring us also into your blessed reign of peace. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of our longing, you know our deepest needs. By your Spirit, gather our prayers and join them with the prayers of all your children. In Jesus’ name we pray.


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Advent at Trinity

Originally published in Trinity’s December 2022 Epistle.

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord!” is how our Psalm (122) for Nov. 27 begins. What a great invitation in the midst of our Expanded Advent. Advent is a season of journeys and anticipation. The journey of John the Baptist, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the journey of the magi from the East to greet the newborn king and our own journeys to see friends and family all mark these days leading up to Christmas.

We have tried to give you ways to take a breath and live into this rich church season while not giving you more things for your perhaps already to-do list. As early as Nov. 20 we will begin handing our Trinity-authored Advent daily devotion booklet and I will read the devotions aloud on Facebook live each day. Wednesday evenings (Nov. 30-Dec. 14) will include simple meals of soup and bread followed by Holden Evening Prayer, during which the message will be picture books read aloud. Dec. 21 we will go onto the patio for Blue Christmas: A Service of Night Prayer for the Winter Solstice. Dec. 4 we will conclude our Season of Gratitude and you will not want to miss our accompanist Kaiti Walton singing O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion. Dec. 18 we will sing along with our kids as they share the Christmas story with us during worship. Along the way we are also offering some opportunities for service: compiling holiday gift bags for residents of Trinity New Hope after worship Dec. 12 and assembling Christmas food boxes after worship Dec. 19. It’s not too late to join our Zoom study group (Psalms and Prayers) on Sunday evenings. Check out the Advent Playlist on our website ( for other ways to engage.

At some point, remember to simply breathe, perhaps the most simple and important part of prayer. Breath in and give thanks that the same God who gave you the breath of life came among us as a human being. Gaze up at the night sky and breath. Breathe out and give thanks for the shepherds who were the first to visit the infant Jesus on a night so long ago. With them and the angels, let us together give thanks for Immanuel, God with Us!

Pastor Meggan

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Dec. 4, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 11:1-10

1A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
  and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
  the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
  the spirit of counsel and might,
  the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

 He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
  or decide by what his ears hear;
4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
  and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
 he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
  and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
  and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

6The wolf shall live with the lamb,
  the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
 the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
  and a little child shall lead them.
7The cow and the bear shall graze,
  their young shall lie down together;
  and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
  and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9They will not hurt or destroy
  on all my holy mountain;
 for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
  as the waters cover the sea.

10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

1Give the king your jus- | tice, O God,
  and your righteousness to | the king’s son;
2that he may rule your | people righteously
  and the | poor with justice;
3that the mountains may bring prosperity | to the people,
  and the | hills, in righteousness.
4Let him defend the needy a- | mong the people,
  rescue the poor, and crush | the oppressor. R
5May he live as long as the sun and | moon endure,
  from one generation | to another.
6Let him come down like rain upon | the mown field,
  like showers that wa- | ter the earth.
7In his time may the | righteous flourish;
  and let there be an abundance of peace till the moon shall | be no more.
18Blessed are you, Lord God, the | God of Israel;
  you alone do | wondrous deeds!
19And blessed be your glorious | name forever,
  and may all the earth be filled with your glory. A- | men. Amen.

Romans 15:4-13

4Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, 
 “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
  and sing praises to your name”;
10and again he says, 
 “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
11and again, 
 “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
  and let all the peoples praise him”;
12and again Isaiah says, 
 “The root of Jesse shall come,
  the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
 in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12

1In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, 
 “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
 ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
  make his paths straight.’ ”
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John the Baptist Preaching to the Masses  –  Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

What I love about this morning’s texts is the repeated reference to trees, specifically to roots and stumps. Isaiah prophecies, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”  The Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah, “the root of Jesse shall come.” Then John the Baptist comes along and says, “Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Cutting, chopping, sprouting; we witness both destruction and growth, death and life.

Let’s start with Isaiah. The prophets fill many pages of our bibles. They were sent to both the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Passages contain stories, scolding, and words of hope recorded in the Old Testament. In today’s passage, Isaiah is presenting his audience with a mixed message. God will use the mighty Assyrians to reduce Israel to a stump.  Then God will turn on the Assyrians.  The promise made to Israel’s greatest king, David, of a family tree will not be broken after all.  The stump will produce a new shoot. This time, it will go well. Wisdom, understanding, fear of the Lord, righteousness, faithfulness will be the characteristics of the new king.  

Isaiah says what will be. John the Baptist’s speech is more open ended. The ax is lying at the root of the tree and the tree had better bear fruit. It soon becomes clear that trees and fruit have something to do with repentance.

What does repentance mean? Does it simply mean feeling sorry for our mistakes?  Is it about being a better person? Is repentance even something that we do, if our lives are now hidden with Christ? Repentance is a tricky thing to talk about as I look out on our family. For some of you, it dredges up feelings of guilt and unworthiness. It may even evoke a deathly fear of a day of judgment when God will separate good people from bad people. Didn’t we do away with repentance during Advent when we moved from purple paraments to royal blue ones?

On this Second Sunday in Advent, John reminds us that repentance is not primarily about our standards of moral worthiness. To repent is to take a clear-minded look at the ways in which one’s life colludes with the assumptions and behaviors of the old age, to turn away from such complicity, and to turn towards God and the attitudes and actions of the realm of heaven. Repentance is about God’s desire to realign us to accord with Christ’s life. Repentance is not about our guilt feelings.  It’s about God’s power to transform us into Christ’s image.  

Some of my favorite biblical scholars remind us that it is God who gets to determine the character of repentance. John the Baptist was not offering a better way to live, although a better way to live was entailed by the kingdom that he proclaimed was near. But it is the proclamation of “the kingdom of heaven” that creates the urgency of John’s ministry. 

Such a kingdom does not come through out trying to be better people. Instead, the kingdom comes. It’s coming makes imperative our repentance. John’s call for Israel to repent is not a prophetic call for those who repent to change the world. Rather, he calls for repentance because the world is being and will be changed by the one whom Johns knows is to come. To live differently, then, means that the status quo can be challenged because now a people are the difference.

To return to the tree image; we are grafted onto Christ. What is grafting precisely? Grafting is what happens when a section of a stem with leaf buds is inserted into the stock of a tree. The upper part of the graft becomes the top of the plant and the lower portion becomes the root system or part of the trunk. That makes it a pretty powerful image then—to be grated onto Christ.

What then, do we make of John’s harshness? I think that it can, at its best, shake us up, and remind us that God becoming human flesh is shattering everything old.  Christmas is quite beautiful but let us not forget that this new thing is changing the entire universe.  The world is about to turn.

The difference between John and Jesus is not their message, but the role they play in relation to that message. Today we overhear John addressing the spiritual leaders of his day, the Pharisees and Sadducees. John announces the coming judgment. John baptizes with water. His baptism is like the cleaning I had to do in my vehicle after friends tried to walk up a very muddied Table Rock trail. Jesus, on the other hand, does not announce judgment. He is the judgment. Jesus baptizes with fire. Jesus’ baptism is like purification in the form of refining or smelting metal to remove those unwanted elements. 

Every tree must bear good fruit, according to John, or it will be thrown into the fire. Drawing on prophetic condemnation of Israel’s refusal to trust God, John says the ax now threatens the very root of the tree. Israel has often been pruned by God, and the pruning has even meant exile. Yet God has never abandoned his love for Israel, creating it anew through suffering. John’s prophetic condemnation of Israel is but the form that God’s care of Israel takes—from stones, God will raise up God’s people again. Some of those stones, we will discover, are Gentiles who are grafted, according to the Apostle Paul, into the very life of Israel.

We are called to prepare, even as God is already preparing us, usually when we are unaware. This happens in radical trust that Christ himself is working to purify us and the world around us.  Christ is equipping us to become a dwelling place fit for himself.  When we remember God’s promises, we nurture this trust and God grows us into faithful servants.

Another helpful image in this story about John is “wilderness,” which can conjure up any number of memories or pictures or feelings. Jerusalem, with its magnificent temple, served well in this capacity both for Judeans and for those living in the Roman diaspora. For many, the pilgrimage to the temple was the definitive statement of their identity and allegiance. John, however, calls them away from the holy city and the temple toward the wilderness, a place of danger and testing, but also the place where Israel was formed, where God’s provision and care was demonstrated, and the people grew ready for God’s promises. In the wilderness, away from the trappings of human traditions and powers, we may see and hear God’s call more clearly. John’s ministry in the wilderness thus calls the people to remember who they were before their kings started building cities and temples, even before they had kings at all. 

Likewise, we are called in the wilderness of the season of Advent to remember and affirm that Christ has brought each of us out of bondage. Christ has completely reoriented our lives. Our own wanderings in the Christian life surely do and will include wilderness wanderings—hesitancy, resistance, doubt.  Still God promises to keep pointing the way ahead.

At our baptism we are joined with Christ to bring God’s will into the world.  Baptism does not so much welcome the baptized into an institution (as we might think of the church) but into an alternative (or countercultural) community empowered by the Spirit for life and witness.  Isaiah’s prophecy from today is read at baptisms.  “Pour your Holy Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”  

The Holy Spirit is poured in and we are washed into a baptismal life in Christ–life in a wilderness with deprivations and hard lessons, but also everlasting joy in the kingdom.  We are promised forgiveness and eternal life and we are called to imagine a new community now, in this life.  

Newly prepared to meet God-With-Us this season, we can pray with Paul that “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We will be changed, transformed, renewed by the gift of grace.  Anne Lammot wrote, “I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”  My prayer for you this Advent that God’s grace will not leave you where it found you.

Prayers of Intercession

As we prepare for the fullness of Christ’s presence, let us pray for a world that yearns for new hope.

A brief silence.

God, you renew the church in every age. We give thanks for hymn writers and theologians (especially John of Damascus, whom we commemorate today). Inspire teachers, writers, and musicians to delight and instruct your people. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You give us a vision of creation in harmony, when hurting and destruction will be no more. Teach us to be stewards of the earth and companions to its creatures. Restore to balance and wholeness what human greed has harmed. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You defend the cause of all who are poor and oppressed. Raise up leaders who will govern with equity and serve the common good. Guide judges, lawmakers, and public officials to protect the rights of those who cannot advocate for themselves. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You deliver those in need from suffering and fear. Come to the aid of any who are exploited or abused, especially children, elders, and victims of human trafficking. Provide safety and help to our neighbors without shelter, refugees, and those fleeing violence. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

You urge your people to welcome one another as you have welcomed us. Nurture ministries of hospitality and care in this and every congregation (local examples may be named). We pray for people who are homebound, hospitalized, or separated from loved ones (especially). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

You embrace all who have died trusting in your promises, and we give thanks for their faithful witness. Sustain us in hope until we are united with them in the joy of your eternal presence. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of our longing, you know our deepest needs. By your Spirit, gather our prayers and join them with the prayers of all your children. In Jesus’ name we pray.


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Season of Gratitude

Originally published in Trinity, Nampa’s monthly Epistle/Newsletter.

Dear Friends in Christ,

This month we are continuing our Season of Gratitude. Trinity Lutheran Church is a generous congregation. We are a community of faith committed to following Jesus, people committed to this congregation, and people committed to trying to bring in the reign of God. That is a lot for which to express our gratitude.

As the pastor of this congregation, I try to model both generosity and gratitude. I give around 10% of my income, most of it to the congregation. I share this not to boast, but because integrity is one of my core values. I could never ask others to be financially generous if I am not modeling it. I give to Trinity to model generosity, but I also give because I so deeply believe in what God is doing in and through Trinity Lutheran Church. I want to do what I can to help Trinity Lutheran, Nampa remain a vibrant congregation. Finally, I give to Trinity out of gratitude for this call, this community, and for God’s mission at work through us.

This is such an amazing community of faith. So many people are involved in all sorts of work and ministry. There are those who prepare our space for worship, those who help lead worship, and those who take Communion to members who cannot come to worship in-person. Other members help us reach out the larger community in new and old ways. Some of you tend to our physical property and make sure it is hospitable, some teach our youth, and still others write for our website and Epistle. And all of this is supported by your financial generosity, for which our leadership and I are grateful.

It is inspiring to witness so much ministry. It fills me with gratitude for each of you and for the Holy Spirit working through us collectively. And there is potential for even more ministry, more sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ with words and actions in Nampa, Canyon County, and beyond. Thank you once again for your ongoing financial generosity and thanks for being part of this Season of Gratitude.


Pastor Meggan Manlove

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Nov. 27, 2022

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Isaiah 2:1-5

1The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2In days to come
  the mountain of the Lord’s house
 shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
  and shall be raised above the hills;
 all the nations shall stream to it.
  3Many peoples shall come and say,
 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
  to the house of the God of Jacob;
 that he may teach us his ways
  and that we may walk in his paths.”
 For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
  and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4He shall judge between the nations,
  and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
 they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
  and their spears into pruning hooks;
 nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
  neither shall they learn war any more.

5O house of Jacob,
  come, let us walk
  in the light of the Lord!

Beating  Swords  into Plowshares

Amiens Cathedral

Psalm 122

1I was glad when they | said to me,
  “Let us go to the house | of the Lord.”
2Now our | feet are standing
  within your gates, | O Jerusalem.
3Jerusalem is built | as a city
  that is at unity | with itself;
4to which the tribes go up, the tribes | of the Lord,
  the assembly of Israel, to praise the name | of the Lord. R
5For there are the | thrones of judgment,
  the thrones of the | house of David.
6Pray for the peace | of Jerusalem:
  “May they pros- | per who love you.
7Peace be with- | in your walls
  and quietness with- | in your towers.
8For the sake of my kindred | and companions,
  I pray for | your prosperity.
9Because of the house of the | Lord our God,
  I will seek to | do you good.” 

Romans 13:11-14

11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 24:36-44

[Jesus said to the disciples,] 36“About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

In today’s text, Jesus tells his disciples about a waiting period–waiting for the coming of the Son of Man.  The comparison with the days of Noah is not the wickedness of that generation.  It’s that in the days of Noah life was going on as usual, with no striking or mysterious signs of the approaching judgment.  Like those folks, the disciples will not be able to recognize when the end is near.  Jesus wants the disciples to know that the end could come at any time. This knowledge should spur engagement in their mission.  

Jesus speaks also of one taken and one left behind in a field. Over the last century, these verses have often been read in support of dispensationalism, especially “rapture” theology. This theology attempts to plot where we are in proximity to the end—precisely what Jesus tells his disciples not to do. Jesus’ illustrations in our gospel do not likely depict a moment when the righteous are plucked up from the earth and taken to heaven, while others are “left behind” to await tribulations and final judgment. 

First, for first century audiences familiar with the ways of the Roman Empire, being left behind was surely preferable to being taken. Likewise, for the people of Noah’s day, being swept away was not a good thing. Instead, these sayings simply depict sudden, surprising separation, without indicating cause for judgment or reward on the part of those taken or left behind. 

Rapture theology, which has little or no scriptural support, may offer comfort for those who seek certainty or presume to have secured the inside track to heaven. However, the focus of this passage is on remaining vigilant amidst the uncertainty of a long wait, amidst discouraging circumstances.

It is the incapacity to attend to the important things in life that brings urgency to Advent.  It is so easy to sleep through God’s signals of alarm, to act as if today is like every other day.  If we are casual with today, what chance is there that we will be careful with our lives?  What hope is there that we can live as Christ wants us to live?

So Jesus attempts to rock his disciples and us out of these complacent ways of living and believing.  He presents us with a most dreadful picture–an intruder stepping into our bedroom while we are sound asleep.  “If the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into,” Jesus says.  We do not know the time of the break in, but the break-in is the cause for a change in thinking, an adjustment in priorities.

Being prepared for the coming of the Lord takes place in daily dying and rising.  We are living out our baptism and faith in this world. When I was wandering around denominations in my mid-twenties, wondering if the Lutheran tradition I grew up in would also be the place I would settle as an adult, it was the theology around the sacraments that truly brought me home. First, as someone who loves the natural world, I loved that we put such primacy on the promises bestowed through bread and wine and simple water. And I loved that even though I couldn’t explain how exactly they work; I fully believe that I can receive forgiveness and new life through the sacraments.

But more important, I also love that whenever I am wandering around as an adult, wondering what God is calling me to, I can return to the promises you and I make in baptism. It does not matter what your stage of life is. It does not matter what stage of faith you are in. We can all try to fulfill these promises and thus bring in a little bit of the reign of God into the world.

To continue in the covenant God made with us in baptism, we promise:

To live among God’s faithful people. We need some other people in our lives who will help keep us accountable, who will set examples, who will pray when we are too beaten up and who we can pray on behalf of when they are too weary. We need to be in relationship with other people who take discipleship seriously.

We promise to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper. The story found in scripture is a living word and has something to say to us today. I try to interpret the bible in this space, but you have each promised to encounter scripture in your living rooms, or on a walk, or at the kitchen table. Living into our baptism can be a lot and so you also promise to return to this space to feast on the Lord’s supper. Here you are nourished with the bread of life.

We promise to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed. The good news of God’s abundant love is for all and so you share it wherever you are. This promise is also woven into one of our guiding principles here at Trinity. We try to live out this promise as a collective body.

We promise to serve all people, following the example of Jesus. What was the example of Jesus? Stepping out of the middle of the page over to those in the margins of society. Seeing each person’s dignity. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Healing the sick.

And we promise to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Sometimes we, with our little amounts of power, are called not only to serve all people, but to improve structures and systems that harm people. This is the long communal work that very few people can do alone, and which needs the Holy Spirit’s power.

We know what we are supposed to be doing in the meantime–before the coming of the Son of Man.  Because we don’t know the day or the hour, we are always to be ready—living into our baptismal covenant.   

The message of Christ’s return is not meant to frighten us. Though that is exactly how some have interpreted it.  The message of Christ in today’s text is to give us hope. The Christ who is to come is the Christ who once lived among us on earth, and who is known in the gospel story as the friend and healer of those in need. Living in hope, expecting Christ’s return, is integral to the Christian faith.  We can insist that there is more to the human story and God’s own story than what has already been experienced.

What’s more, the hope we have is not personal only.  It is definitely not private. It is a communal hope. The church is a community of hope and responsibility in the world. Nothing this morning should deflate the Christian faith of worldly care. Christian hope in the future coming and reign of Christ can generate a commitment to the future, a commitment to the public good of humanity in this world. The promises of God urge us to lean forward toward the future in its entirety.

In these dark weeks, when the days are short and we see the sun less and less, we celebrate the dawn of Jesus Christ, the true light of the world. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says. By baptism and faith we are clothed with a person, the very son of God. He wells in us and we in him. So when people see and hear us, they see and hear the mercy, forgiveness, and compassion of Christ.  Might this Advent season be a time of immersing ourselves daily into such a way of living, spreading the good news that God is truly Emmanuel, God with us.  

Prayers of Intercession

As we prepare for the fullness of Christ’s presence, let us pray for a world that yearns for new hope.

A brief silence.

God of all, your children everywhere cry out for mercy. Awaken the global church to the urgent needs of our time. Break down barriers of culture and custom and unite people of all faiths in your redemptive and healing work. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of wonder, the earth’s beauty and abundance is your gift. Teach us your ways of sharing resources and caring for life. Guard fragile habitats, preserve the wild places, and protect endangered plants and animals. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of peace, you judge the nations. Beat our weapons into tools for serving the neighbor. Strengthen the resolve of all who work for an end to war. We pray for lasting peace in the land of Jesus’ birth (other places of conflict may be named). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of lovingkindness, you desire fullness of life for everyone. Fill those who hunger. Comfort the grieving and attend to those near death. Bring help and hope to any who are sick or needing your care (especially). God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of community, you are present when we gather in your name. Guide congregations in transition or conflict (especially). Give wisdom to congregational councils, call committees, and ministry leaders. Keep us alert to unexpected opportunities for mission. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

God of promise, your goodness is everlasting. We give thanks for the lives of the faithful who now rest in you. We trust that you will bring us into the company of all the saints with rejoicing. God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

God of our longing, you know our deepest needs. By your Spirit, gather our prayers and join them with the prayers of all your children. In Jesus’ name we pray.


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Commitment Sunday – Nov. 13, 2022

Prayer of the Day

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


Isaiah 65:17-25

17For I am about to create new heavens
  and a new earth;
 the former things shall not be remembered
  or come to mind.
18But be glad and rejoice forever
  in what I am creating;
 for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
  and its people as a delight.
19I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
  and delight in my people;
 no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
  or the cry of distress.
20No more shall there be in it
  an infant that lives but a few days,
  or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
 for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
  and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.
21They shall build houses and inhabit them;
  they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22They shall not build and another inhabit;
  they shall not plant and another eat;
 for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
  and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23They shall not labor in vain,
  or bear children for calamity;
 for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
  and their descendants as well.
24Before they call I will answer,
  while they are yet speaking I will hear.
25The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
  the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
  but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
 They shall not hurt or destroy
  on all my holy mountain,
 says the Lord.

Isaiah 12:2-6

2Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not | be afraid,
  for the Lord God is my strength and my might, and has become | my salvation.
3With joy you | will draw water
  from the wells | of salvation. R
4And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call | on God’s name;
  make known the deeds of the Lord among the nations; proclaim that this name | is exalted.
5Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done | gloriously;
  let this be known in | all the earth.
6Shout aloud and sing for joy, O | royal Zion,
  for great in your midst is the Holy | One of Israel. 

Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, [Jesus] said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  His followers were aghast and now they are awed.  They trudged after him.  As he approached the city, Jesus declared that God’s “visitation” had come with his reign.  He declared that the very stones of the temple would testify against those who rejected him (19:41-44). Now Jesus predicts again that all the stones will be thrown down.

Jesus contrasts his teaching with those of the false prophets of his day.  They also quoted the ancient words of God.  Jesus is announcing the coming judgment, but he is also cautioning against following prophets who claim to know God’s timetable, even invoking Jesus’ name.

This text from Luke’s gospel does not authorize yet one more set of charts or timetables to read God’s clock down to the last second.  Yes, Jesus followed the true prophets of old in teaching that the struggles in history and in disturbances in nature are more than accidental.  They remind believers that God triumphed over chaos in creating the natural world.  Yet, both human and supra-historical forces are still contending for the earth. 

And so, Jesus’ followers, you and I among them, are aware that Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s ultimate act in a struggle of cosmic proportions.  Only the final outcome is sure.  As the apostle Paul testified, “We ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22-23)

The hope to which Jesus testifies is not a trivial denial of the struggles, the pain and agony of human life.  It is not a trivial denial of the catastrophic forces of nature. These are real.  All summer we heard from prophets who interpreted such devastations as the context of God’s saving work.  Jesus joins this chorus.  He brings it close to the concrete realities of early Christians. But he adds something else, something that serves as the hinge of today’s text.  Jesus says, “This will be an opportunity to testify” and “By your endurance you will gain your souls!”

Jesus is promising that he will give the “words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.”  He commissions his followers, his disciples, to be his “witnesses” (Acts 1:8).  He does not send them out alone.  He assures them of the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.  And so even the harsh prophecies of Luke 21 are filled with the confidence of Jesus’ enduring presence.

Jesus references the various trials the disciples will face.  “This will give you an opportunity to testify” (v. 13). Is it possible for us to see, claim, and testify to God’s work amid the various setbacks, challenges, and even tragedies we face? The truth is that the last three Sundays, during this Season of Gratitude, we have listened in as three Trinity members have testified—have spoken clearly about the Holy Spirit at work in the life and reach of this congregation. 

Usually when we read texts like this one from Luke about being persecuted for testimony, we must face the fact that Christians have a place of privilege in this country. Unlike places like China, we are free to build sanctuaries and worship the Triune God without fearing for our lives.  

In the days and weeks ahead, I do not believe that we will suddenly be persecuted but if we live as the church we believe God has called us to be then we might become unpopular in our community or we might at least face raised eyebrows. 

For the past few weeks we have been lifting up our ministry initiatives for 2023. Our church council reflected on our history, strengths, and assets as a congregation. We read through our larger church body’s goals. We talked at length about our current context—both our geography and this moment in time. 

Faith formation became a priority, faith formation for children, youth, and adults. For some people in our country, the fact that we want to spend resources nurturing the Lutheran Christian faith of all people may seem laughable. I can imagine questions like, “You all still read the Bible? You pray and worship? But we gathered in this space believe the gospel of Jesus Christ still has the power to transform lives, so here we go.

As our leaders pondered a ministry initiative that could benefit the larger community of Canyon County, we returned to the idea of equipping people to have tough conversations in love. There will be Christians who think this is antithetical to the gospel. After all, all we should care about is saving souls, not helping to bring the kingdom of God to our corner of the cosmos. But we believe that part of what we are transformed to do is love and serve our neighbors. So here we go.

And finally, we want to keep going—as a community of faith, as one expression of the Body of Christ, as a Lutheran Christian congregation at the corner of Midland and Lone Star. We want to be stewards of the ministry our ancestors dreamed up when they first started this congregation. We want to continue gathering in this space for Word and Sacrament ministry. To quote our mission statement, we want to continue to be “a place to gather, refresh the faithful, and reach out with word and service to all others through the Holy Gospel.” 

To have the gospel as our focal point is counter cultural. So much of what we read or watch or hear encourages us to put our trust in material things or our own individual abilities. What does it mean to turn to Jesus as our leader, the one in whom we place all our trust? And then to testify? No physical possession, no human being, not even a political candidate can guarantee our life or our future.  That is work God has done through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to whom we are joined in the waters of baptism.  So, what, to what does this identity lead us?

In addition to our congregational ministry initiatives, there is the regular, daily work of God’s beloved people: welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick and those in prison, work for justice and peace, all in the name of our source of hope, love, and peace, Jesus Christ.  

God is active in the difficult, hard, broken experiences of life, always working to help, comfort, and save. And when we recognize these things, we discover the opportunity not just to see and benefit from God’s act but also to witness to it.

Just after this Jesus says, “So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and wisdom…” (v. 14-15). No, we will not be dragged before kings and governors. But we will face trials and tribulations. There are people who fear their physical safety and caring for them may be seen as wrong.  

God will not only help us to endure but also give us the courage and words with which to witness. It does not matter where we may go, or what may happen to us, or how often it may seem like the whole world is coming to an end. Jesus will be with us. Jesus will be protecting and providing for us. And we will be able to see God at work in our lives and give thankful testimony.

Jesus is not telling his followers to find some “silver lining” or “hidden blessing” during the tragedies of their lives. We are meant to look for God and, while we are looking, see God at work even in the most difficult of conditions. In the days ahead we will practice seeing and naming God at work in the everyday and ordinary parts of our lives and the lives of others. 

Jesus finishes his address with some words about endurance.  The “endurance” that “will gain your souls” is also not mere heroic persistence. The early Christians knew all about the “endurance” of toughing it out, and their endurance was often tested. But through Christ, this endurance is transformed from reliance on human strength to trusting in God’s love: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Endurance is itself a gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians who have been admired for their persistence regularly discount their own strength with such words as, “It was only by God’s grace that I held on.” 

David Livingstone, the legendary missionary to Africa, prayed, “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.” And he testified, “What has sustained me is the promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.’”  This is the promise Jesus conveys in the midst of his prophetic warnings of what will yet come. It is a promise for us today. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

United with your saints across time and place, we pray for our shared world.

A brief silence.

Reviving God, keep your church active in its mission and ministry. Encourage bishops, deacons, pastors, and lay leaders to risk boldly in their proclamation and fill them with wisdom and endurance for challenging times. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Renewing God, as the northern hemisphere prepares for winter, make us mindful of the ordered beauty of your creation. Teach us to treasure cycles of rest and new life. Help us care for what you have made. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Loving God, accompany all who make sacrifices for the sake of others. Safeguard first responders and active duty military personnel. Grant peace to veterans and heal any wounds in body, mind, or spirit. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Healing God, your people cry out to you. Sustain doctors, nurses, and hospital personnel in their tireless work. Uphold mental health professionals and those in their care. May the sun of righteousness rise on all who are sick (especially). Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Uniting God, unite this assembly in its shared mission and ministry for the sake of the gospel (specific ministries or initiatives may be named). Highlight ways we can better work together and give us patience to work through disagreement. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Consoling God, abide with all who grieve for loved ones who have died (especially). Comfort us with the promise of resurrection and new life with you. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Accept these prayers, gracious God, and those known only to you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.


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