April 17, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

April 17, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

April 17, 2020

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
He is risen, indeed! Alleluia

Yesterday I mentioned the often quoted serenity prayer:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  It is most often associated with Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step Recovery programs. It certainly is wisdom for all of us, especially now, isn’t it?
Now, I’m going to admit a bit of ignorance on my part. I do not remember hearing that this was just the first part of a longer prayer written in the 1930s by Reinhold Niebuhr, a minister, theologian and professor.  I share it with you here.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

“Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time.” I’m reminded of how days usually moved so quickly before Covid-19. My sister would ask me what I did the week before and I could hardly remember. Usually I was rushing to do the next thing that needed to be done without pausing to celebrate what had happened or had been accomplished.
Suddenly life has slowed down from 60 mph to 5 mph and it’s disorienting. But is there a gift in this slowed down time? We are offered an invitation to notice and enjoy moments — brief moments of wonder, appreciation, love, kindness, grace, humor. And as we practice savoring the gifts of moments, we learn how to be more than “reasonably happy”… we learn how to be at peace in Christ and live in the joy of that peace that passes all understanding.

GRATITUDE & GODSIGHTINGS
“As I sit here in my apartment I am lucky enough to watch the trains go by and those of you that know me know I like trains.
In this quarantine I’ve been reflecting a lot and I look at the trains as a locomotive being Jesus and he is pulling us to follow him whether we are a box car a tank car or a empty Hopper we are attached to him to follow him ”                                 Danny Kiblinger

I had a surprise Easter visitor on Sunday. The door bell rang. I opened the door and there was Ethan Rhodes, six feet away, with a huge grin, holding a sign that said “Happy Easter.” His Dad, Scott, was there, too, and Mom, Cindy in the van. They had gone to visit grandparents and Aunt Kim and then I got a visit, too. It was just wonderful. Thank you Rhodes family.          Pastor Alessandri

WORSHIP NEWS  We will be taping worship this Saturday and it will posted later that day with the bulletin.  (Thank you Steve Pastena and Mary Grabill) Seminarian Katy Moran will preach her second sermon at Haven. The service will be posted to “premiere” at 9:30 am on Sunday (though you can watch it any time after that). As always, we pray you are blessed. I will be picturing each of you your “usual” pew and imagining the day when I will see you sitting there in person.

I will write again on Monday. If you have any thoughts, stories, Godsightings, music suggestions, inspiring quotes or humorous items, send them to me at l.alessandri1035@gmail.com. Stay warm. Stay safe. Stay well. Enjoy many moments each day and know you are loved.

The Peace of the Lord IS with you!
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read: John 20: 24-31 (the second half of Sunday’s Gospel)
24But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reflection:
I like Thomas. He speaks honestly. Before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “1Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14: 1-4) Now, I’m sure all the disciples were thinking what Thomas finally blurted, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14: 5) Jesus didn’t scold or dismiss Thomas’s lack of understanding. Instead, “6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14: 6-7)

When Thomas arrives to be with the other disciples in their locked hideaway, he is just like the other disciples before Jesus had appeared to them. Remember — those disciples hadn’t been sure whether to believe the women’s report of the empty tomb. Even when Peter and John went to see for themselves, they were not sure what it meant. Then Jesus appeared to them and showed them his wounds. Thomas is only saying aloud what all the other disciples had been thinking before Jesus appeared. He isn’t any more of a “doubter” then they had all been before they saw Jesus.

Thomas speaks for us —  How do we believe when we cannot see with our own eyes or touch with our own hands this Lord who lived, died and was resurrected? Because of Thomas, Jesus assures all of us —- “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Faith in Jesus is a gift freely given. As Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism:
I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. 

Faith in Jesus —- whose wounds we did not touch —is a gift freely available to us all through the Holy Spirit. I, like many of you, was fortunate enough to have parents who took me to church, where I was baptized, attended church, received Holy Communion and religious instruction and through those experiences, the Holy Spirit worked to help me believe in a Lord whose wounds I could not touch. It is a wonder. Now we are to be conduits for the Holy Spirit to make Jesus real to others.

Thank you, Thomas, for speaking up. Thank you, Jesus, for loving Thomas, meeting him where he was and providing what he needed. Thank you, Lord, for doing the same for each of us.

Prayer:
St. Thomas is remember on July 3rd in the church year. The suggested reading for that day are Judges 6: 36-40, Psalm 136: 1-4, 23-26, Ephesians 4:  11-16 and John 14: 1-7. Here is the prayer of the day: 
Ever-living God, you strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in the resurrection of your Son. Grant that we too may confess our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Music:
It seems some folks are responding to the pandemic with song. Here are several virtual choir pieces (Nancy Newkirk shared the first two selections.)
“We Are One” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLmnP_O3TBA&feature=youtu.be
“No Never Alone” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff31vWwW9D8&feature=youtu.be
“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr54po5s0nQ
“An Easter Anthem — The Blessing”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qTHuwISBTQ