Summer Scripture or RCL

July Epistle Column

Dear Friends in Christ,

There is a whole lot that I am not sure of about the rest of this summer, but one thing I do know is which books of the Bible we will be hearing from during Sunday morning worship. Trinity has, since before I arrived, followed the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of biblical texts. Each of the first three Gospels has its own year and we hear from John’s Gospel during Lent, the Season of Easter and on many festivals. We began the year of Matthew (year A) during the Season of Advent, in December 2019. Following Holy Trinity Sunday (June 7 in 2020) in year A, we began a series of readings from Romans that will last fourteen weeks. This is by far the longest series in Romans that the lectionary ever gives us. I will not always bring the Romans text into my sermon, but it will always often be read. In her book A Three-Year Banquet, Gail Ramshaw says that it is the letters/epistles, like Romans, “that instruct us in what to make of the gospels.” For example, “It is the epistles that give us examples of how the ethical comments attributed to Jesus took root and grew in Christian communities.” Congregations have a choice during the time after Trinity Sunday about which Old Testament texts to hear. One option is the complimentary texts, which are supposed to compliment the assigned gospel reading. The second option, and the option we are using this summer/fall, is the semi-continuous texts (reading through part of the Old Testament semi-continuously). During year A, our semi-continuous selections from especially Genesis and Exodus are read. Ramshaw again, “The idea is that, since Matthew relies so consistently on the tradition of Moses, during the year of Matthew these books are proclaimed.” We started our journey through the semi-continuous readings of Genesis and Exodus on June 14 with God’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah. The Psalm we read is always meant to be a response to the Old Testament reading and is assigned accordingly. I am not writing a column about the Revised Common Lectionary to confuse you. My hope is that this explanation will enrich your hearing this summer. Maybe you will dig more deeply into one or more of these books: sit down on a rainy day and read Romans straight through, listen to the entire Book of Exodus during a car ride, read the assigned Psalm as part of your daily devotions for the entire week. I am going to be reading through the Spark Story Bible’s Genesis and Exodus passages for our families; find the videos on your YouTube channel. Remember, scripture for Lutherans is a Living Word. It is meant to be encountered and wrestled with anew by every generation and every disciple.

Peace,

Pastor Meggan

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June 28, 2020

Prayer of the Day

O God, you direct our lives by your grace, and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world. Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen (ELW)

Genesis 22:1-14

1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. 9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

PSALM 13

1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me?

3Look upon me and answer me, O Lord my God; give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
4lest my enemy say, “I have defeated you,” and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

5But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart is joyful because of your saving help.
6I will sing to the Lord, who has dealt with me richly.

Matthew 10:40-42

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan

When Edith and I talked about which day her grandchildren would be baptized, looking to see if the scripture was appropriate was not the first thing I thought of. And yet, this morning’s gospel text, short as it is, speaks a word of promise and welcome for the newly baptized.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Jesus is placing his hearers not in the place of the ones offering the welcome. He is placing them, and us, including you four baptized today, in the place of the ones receiving the welcome. He says in effect, “Whoever welcomes you all welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the Father who sent me.” This text is a promise.

Whenever we witness a baptism, it is an invitation to recall our own baptisms and our own baptismal identity. Through the waters of baptism, we are welcomed into the Body of Christ and invited into a new way of living. To switch metaphors, we are grafted to Christ through holy baptism, marked with the cross of Christ forever, commissioned to follow Jesus daily.

Our three verses from Matthew’s gospel today come at the end of a long discourse by Jesus. All of Matthew chapter 10 is Jesus sending out the Twelve Apostles in mission. Sometimes this chapter is called the “missionary discourse.” Jesus offers words of guidance, warning, and promise about the disciples’ mission.

Here’s a summary: These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions (5). If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town (14). See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves (16). So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered (26). Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me (34). Whoever welcomes you welcomes me (40).

In other words, Jesus is sending them into a dangerous world as part of his mission to love, save, bless and be reconciled to that world. But the disciples will find welcome. Those who welcome them also welcome and receive Jesus.

This morning we recognize that your four baptisms are like all other baptisms, traced back throughout the history of the Christian church. The same Triune God was named today as was in the early church. Water was used then as it was today. The journey of discipleship began for you four as it has for so many others.

We also recognize that this is a unique time. The Body of Christ to which you belong has gone through many transformations throughout history. I think we are currently undergoing yet one more. If congregational leaders were being encouraged to get out of their buildings and encounter people in society in 2019, then COVID-19 made us leave the buildings at a rapid pace, at least temporarily.

What can learn in this time and space? What happens when we listen and look at Jesus’ teaching and example in light of our current context? Jesus never invited people to the synagogue or temple. Nor did he instruct his disciples to give such invitations. Instead he met people in their homes, in the public square, at banquets. Rarely did he even tell stories or parables which were set in synagogues or temples.

I am not suggesting that we get rid of our church building or quit inviting people into this space for worship, or Al-anon meetings, celebrations, or learning opportunities. One thing I have always appreciated about Trinity is how we think about our building. We appreciate its functionality, but rarely do I hear it idolized. It is never the thing we worship; it is simply one of our tools for worshiping God. It is this resource for which we are caretakers and it is a resource not to be hoarded, but one to be shared, with all sorts of groups. Our perspective on this space is one of the reasons leaving the building was hard but not devastating.

We have our own local context, and yet we are part of a larger body of mainline Christians. And this church, particularly those congregations that are predominantly white, in in the United States, are used to being in positions of power. Most of our ancestors may have come to this country as immigrants, but they were not the marginalized for very long. And most of us were taught in school that we can trace our individual histories back to the people who settled this country. But settled is actually a polite word for colonize.

Why is it, I wonder, that I critique the colonizers and missionaries who pillaged Africa, Asia, and Latin America but I forget that those stars in our flag were colonies and that this whole country was colonized. Land was taken from countless Native Americans, including the Shoshone, Bannock, Paiute, and Nez Pearce here in Idaho. The church and state worked hand-in-hand to set up schools where kids were taken from their families. Everything connecting them to their culture was stripped.

The church, instead of walking alongside people and learning what all of God’s children had to share in our reign of God work, said it knew all that was true. Instead of waiting to be welcomed, the institutional church and its members claimed power and control, and frankly abused them both. We may not have been there, but all of this is part of our larger history.

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me.” As one pastor put it, “Jesus’ words make me realize that I have a privilege his early disciples did not have. I have power. I have the power to welcome others—or to turn my back. This is true not just in my church, but in my community and country, where we cannot decide whether we are going to receive refugees or not. I think that Jesus’ words here apply to those refugees more than they apply to me. I don’t need to be welcomed like they do.”

She continues, “Jesus never meant us to be powerful. Jesus never meant us to hold all of the cards—just this one card, this ace in the hole. We are to go out without weapons but with hands that heal like Jesus’ hands, with words that cut and cure like his. That’s it.”

Here is something true, we do not have to wield power like the church has in the past. Through water and the word, we are freed of sin, freed to follow Jesus’ way of love and vulnerability. This way of life is not dependent on buildings or even the institutional church. Thanks be to God. It is not about us having all the answers and control.

This new way of life is dependent on the Holy Spirit showing up where people gather (both online and in-person). Jesus gives no clear script to the disciples during his missional discourse. I think that as we encounter people who are not members of our congregation, as we await a welcome, our job is primarily to listen. We might be so bold as to ask, “How can I pray for you?” We might ask, “What is weighing on your heart or mind today?” We do not have to fix things. We do not have to hold all the truths. We could let go of the church’s tendency to wield power and control. We could simply listen.

And if we seem to be welcomed, we might remember that following Jesus is also dependent on telling our particular story—a story of a God who created the universe and is still creating. We have had some amazing sunsets in Nampa this past week. I think it’s worth knowing the story of the God who ends each day with those beautiful colors.

It is a story of one who is redeeming our broken world, who knows what it is like to walk around as a human being because that’s what Jesus did. Can we tell a story of God bringing about spiritual, physical, emotional wholeness in our personal or communal lives?

It is a story of the Holy Spirit, still moving among us, giving us life and hope for each new day. Are you living a story that bears any hope? Finally, it is a story about God at work in each one of us and in the strangers we have not yet encountered.

I do not know exactly how the Holy Spirit is going to use this time, but I think there is something to learn during the displacement from our buildings and as we undertake the task of deciding what is essential. It may all take us back to the core of our faith. We are followers of Jesus, sent out to neighbors and strangers, telling the story of the God who loves the world.

Prayers of Intercession (Sundays and Seasons)

Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.

A brief silence.

 God of companionship, encourage our relationships with our siblings in Christ. Bless our conversations. Shape our shared future and give us hearts eager to join in a festal shout of praise. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

God of abundance, you make your creation thrive and grow to provide all that we need. Inspire us to care for our environment and be attuned to where the earth is crying out. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of mercy, your grace is poured out for all. Inspire authorities, judges, and politicians to act with compassion. Teach us to overcome fear with hope, meet hate with love, and welcome one another as we would welcome you. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of care, accompany all who are in deepest need. Comfort those who are sick, lonely, or abandoned (especially). Strengthen those who are in prison or awaiting trial. Renew the spirits of all who call upon you. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of community, we give thanks for this congregation. Give us passion to embrace your mission and the vision to recognize where you are leading us. Teach us how to live more faithfully with each other. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

God of love, you gather in your embrace all who have died (especially Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon). Keep us steadfast in our faith and renew our trust in your promise. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Communion During the Pandemic

I have realized that earlier this spring I thought a great deal about how to faithfully be a minister of the sacrament during the pandemic. I had some conversations with colleagues, Worship and Music planning team members, and Trinity’s church council. But I never shared my theological and sacramental assumptions and thinking with our entire congregation. We reached Easter Sunday and I simply said it was time to celebrate Holy Communion in the homes, with little explanation.

Here is what I wrote to synodical bishop, Kristen Keumpel, on March 20, knowing she was preparing a document about Holy Communion during this strange time:

“I was at first crushed when you told us to hold off on Holy Communion over the internet. I have been doing the theology in my head, discussed with Worship and Music Tuesday and council last night via Zoom, about introducing it at the end of Facebook Live this Sunday and getting people prepared to have elements in their home the 29th.

We are hungry for the Lord’s Supper but simultaneously committed to being part of the larger church. So we will wait. I so appreciate you being open to this.

We Gen X pastors went through seminary 15-30 years ago, post Vatican II and post worship renewal movement. We were taught to value the Means of Grace [sacraments of Holy Communion and Holy Baptism]. It worked. Most of us love the sacraments and we taught our congregations to love the sacraments. We bring them up in our sermons. We teach classes. We carefully equip Home-Communion Ministers. We even use the Evangelical Lutheran Worship [hymnal] prayer once or twice a month for sending Communion with these ministers.

We have never been in this space before. Televangelists did not have relationships with their viewers like I have with my parishioners watching Facebook Live. They also did not value the sacrament. When the church experienced the 1918 flu, Lutherans were not yet celebrating Holy Communion every week. There is no theology written specifically for these circumstances–when Lutherans hunger for the Lord’s Supper weekly, we have the current technology, and we are experiencing a pandemic (an emergency situation). I want to ask the people arguing against Holy Communion in the homes watching pastors on screens, ‘You know when the practical theology for this will be written? In the spring of 2020.’

But then I look at the phone tree/buddy system my council created last week and am reminded that this can all wait several weeks and just tend to the relationships Manlove.”

The most helpful piece I read about Holy Communion during the Pandemic was written by California Lutheran University Campus Pastor Hazel Salizar-Davidson. Please read her thoughtful and storied reflection.

Salazar-Davidson ends, “Practicing the Eucharist in our homes makes sense to this time and this place. Practicing it virtually alongside other believers is necessary. The table looks differently than we have ever experienced before but we are still setting the table.  Communion does two things. It builds community. That’s in the name. It also offers God’s presence without us needing to do anything to ask for it or receive it. We just get to be there as God resides among us while we eat and drink. I believe real presence is in the meal and in the lives of those that taste and see – no matter how, when, or where we have the meal. I believe that we, as pastors, deacons, and lay people can facilitate real presence in many ways into the lives of those who wish to be a part of the body of Christ. I believe I have been called to do just that. Let the church be the church. We are all called to facilitate, witness, engage in the overlapping of virtual and physical realms and to stand in awe of the Spirit’s presence.”

Before Easter Sunday 2020, Bishop Keumpel did complete “Communion in Extreme Circumstances,” which is on the Northwest Intermountain Synod website. Some of Trinity’s homebound members have used this document in their homes, setting up a home altar and participating in Holy Communion. The document also allowed our congregation to join other congregations in the synod, celebrating Holy Communion weekly, whether we are using Facebook Live or Youtube.

Home Communion in this new way has taken some getting used to for some of our members. Like all new faith practices, this one has taken some practicing. And our leadership at Trinity is still figuring out how to make sure that everyone can celebrate Holy Communion while we are not worshiping in-person in our sanctuary. Below are some photos of home altars shared by parishioners.

Penelope Smith’s recent home altar

Winwood’s Easter home altar

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June 21, 2020

Prayer of the Day

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, except that of knowing that we do your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW p. 40) Continue reading

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Soul Friends

Soul Friends (originally posted on tvprays.org June 18, 2020)

I have been pondering all the kinds of relationships that we are part of and need. We are relational by nature, even those of us who are more introverted. I need relationships with communities of people who have similar interests or background and stories. I need people to confide in and people who will hold me accountable to growth. In recent weeks we have been reminded of our need to be in relationship with people who are not like us. My compassion for all people grows when I put names and faces to the people who are different from me. I also need people to do things with—hiking, reading, discussing, re-creating. And I need people who share my faith, who are companions on this journey of discipleship. Continue reading

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June 14, 2020 (Commemoration Emanuel 9)

A Confessional Litany and Lament Commemorating Nine Who Were Slain at Mother Emanuel AME Church

They were doing what we are called to as they engaged in bible study.

It was Wednesday night— a stranger walked in, and these people welcomed him and prayed together:
the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders,
the Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, the Rev. Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson, and the honorable state senator and pastor of the church, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney.

This stranger wanted to ignite a “race war,” he said, after he shot and killed them, denying them the very humanity he claimed for himself, claiming rights and privileges associated with “whiteness.”

Now we are grieved, once again in pain,
burning and anguished, lamenting the horror of evil unleashed. And so we cry out,
Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us. 

Sorrow and heartache have come to us.
Death and mourning have visited us.
We feel far from you, O God, and distant from one another. And so we cry out, Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

Evil besets us in our land.
We acknowledge that our nation is socialized in ways that promote and normalize colonialization.
We cry out against the horrors and agonies of racism. And so we cry out,
Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

The privileged of our nation have benefited from practices that dehumanize indigenous peoples. We have claimed as “discovery” lands that were not ours. These lands have been stolen and the nations, that were the original occupants of these lands, slain. And so we cry out,
Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

Tribalism has led to the denial of your presence, O God.
Present generations,
the children whose ancestors were kidnapped and sold into slavery, those forced to labor not on their own behalf,
still suffer and struggle to live in freedom
while the children of colonizers,
live out of “white privilege,”
denying the fullness of your presence in all people. And so we cry out, Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

Assaults born of greed and murder continue propping up
white privilege that is institutionalized in our church and nation, preventing us from recognizing
the twin evils of racism and nationalism
still perpetuated among us. And so we cry out,
Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

Open our eyes, O God, open our hearts.
Open our ears, O God, open our minds.
Help us to behold one another as you behold us.
Help us to be more firmly rooted
in the practices of the gospel—so that, when we pray,
the way we live will make real the dream of your beloved community within and among us. And so we cry out,
Have mercy, O God, have mercy on us.

With the help of your mercy and grace, lead us to think, believe, and change. May your gospel’s transforming power by the working of the Holy Spirit be present in us, in our churches, in our nation and all the nations of the earth. May it be so. And the people said, “Amen.” Amen.

Continue reading

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Time for Deep Listening

(Pastor’s Column for Trinity Epistle, June 2020)

Dear Friends in Christ,

Of all the things that the time of the pandemic is, and there are plenty of descriptors, it could also be a  time of deep listening. In the midst of this listening, our congregation will continue to carry out the practices that both ground us and shape us–worship, study, prayer, generosity, sharing the Good News. But some deep listening might guide us to transform and adapt those faith practices and to even create new ones. Continue reading

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Anti-racism Learning in Southwest Idaho

I am writing this specifically for my congregants at Trinity Lutheran Church in Nampa, Idaho. Anyone who knows how to do a search on the internet can find a list of articles or books to read, films to watch, or pieces to listen to which will help them live into the current moment and better understand systemic racism and white supremacy.

I have tried to identify when my own journey began. I am embarrassed to say that although many books, conversations, and relationships shaped me and planted seeds, it was not until Ferguson that I sensed that the Civil Rights Movement had not solved as much as I had been told and that, as important, laws passed then had been chipped away at in the following years. What’s more, as a white person, I benefited from the lack of progress in ways I did not even understand.

I have not arrived. My personal work is far from over. There are new voices I need to read and more conversations I need to have. But I have done some work and I shepherd a flock of people who are at all different stages on this journey, but might be curious about recommendations from their pastor. Here are just a few great ones: Continue reading

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Empathy, Curiosity, and Hope

Originally posted on tvprays.org June 3, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about how we do not allow ourselves or one another to hold two truths together at the same time. That is not very helpful and leaves little room for dialogue and transformation.

The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American man, at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers was horrific. Floyd’s killing should make all of us uncomfortable because it reveals the racism that is still so pervasive in our country. We can see the racism in our society, including in police forces, while also knowing law enforcement officers who are anti-racist. Continue reading

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Pentecost 2020

Prayer of the Day

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit. Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (ELW)

 

Acts 2:1-21

Continue reading

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