August 10, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

August 10, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

August 10, 2020

Haven Lutheran Church

WORSHIP AT HAVEN How many of you joined Haven on-line to worship yesterday? Twelve others worshipped on Friday at 5 p.m. On Sunday, over 35 members of Haven and Trinity Lutheran (Hagerstown) churches came together in our Drive-in and Outdoor Worship Service to sing, hear Pastor Bruce Barth’s message and share communion. However you are worshiping our Lord at this time, know that in Christ we are united, made one Body of Christ to serve the Lord in our neighbor. Thanks be to God.

MEAL TRAIN FOR ANN LOCHBAUM – Through the website “MealTrain” we are arranging to provide a meal every other day for Ann Lochbaum as she recovers from back surgery. If you did not receive the link to volunteer to take Ann a meal and would like to do so, PLEASE call or email the office ASAP and we will get you connected. Thank you.

This is another photo from my recent vacation. It is the PRAYER TREE of Blowing Rock, NC. Each white paper you see (many more that you can’t see) is a tag on which someone has written a prayer before attaching it to the tree. Behind the front tree you can see a wire crate overflowing with prayers from previous months and years.

In the Spring of 2018, Sheri Furman, owner of the cozy little lavender and gift shop on the corner of Main Street and Maple Street, Take Heart, came across several bags of wooden hearts that had not sold in her store. “Why aren’t you selling?” she said aloud. Instantly an answer came. Put them in a bowl in the garden. She thought it was a strange think for God to suggest. It puzzled her. She left the bags in the store and went home.

The next morning, Saturday, Sheri headed out of town. In the car, she thought of those hearts again. If she ignored that message, it would lie heavy on her own heart the whole trip. Sheri called the store manager and asked if she would put the hearts in a bowl outside the shop. “And put a pen and a card in the bowl with the words ‘Prayers? Wishes?’” she added. She said it flew out of her mouth without even thinking about it.

Sunday night, driving home, Sheri came down Main Street. Her headlights flashed on the tree beside my shop. What on earth? Hanging from its branches were the hearts, dozens of them. It was incredible.

Sheri parked, walked over to the tree and looked at one of the hearts. Someone had written on it: “I pray for my sweet mom’s body to be rid of disease. Jesus, all things are possible with you.” Wow. All 100 hearts, hanging from the tree. Prayers on every one. “We pray for a successful adoption. We love him so.” “I pray we all come together as one.” “I pray that my mema (grandma) will always be in memory and loved.” “For my sister grieving the miscarriage of her baby boy.”

Sheri felt honored that so many people had chosen this tree outside her shop to share something so personal and heartfelt. There was a sense of responsibility too. God was up to something. What it was, she couldn’t fully grasp. But she was pretty sure this wasn’t the end of it. What should she do next? She didn’t have any more wooden hearts, but she could get paper tags.

The next day, Sheri purchased a couple hundred paper tags and put them out under the tree. Within two days, people had added their prayers and they were hung them from the tree. She bought out every tag from every store around. Nearly every day, there were people lined up, waiting to leave their prayers on the tree. In two weeks, there were nearly a thousand prayers.

Sheri went online and ordered tags in bulk. She got plastic sleeves to protect the tags from rain. She worried a bit about how it looked, thousands of slips of paper flapping in the breeze, right on Main Street. Blowing Rock has been voted North Carolina’s most beautiful town. It’s right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A favorite spot for tourists. And my shop was across the street from city hall. But nearly everyone I heard from was supportive.

More than 1,000 new prayers were added each month. The population of Blowing Rock is only 1,200. Some of the tags followed up on earlier ones. People who had found living organ donors after posting a prayer. Who had been healed of chronic pain. Overcome addiction. Infertile couples now expecting. Singles who had found their soul mates. There was sadness too. People who’d lost loved ones. But even then, there was a sense of comfort, of community.

When I was visiting Blowing Rock in July there were over 30,000 prayer cards hanging on several trees, vines, and any available vegetation next to Take Heart. Each place there was a card, there were several more behind it.  I was awed, humbled and utterly fascinated. A woman who listened to God’s prodding + a bowl with pens and wooden hearts and slips of paper in plastic sleeves, + the simplest, purest form of an invitation, “Prayers? Wishes?”  = becomes God’s holy ground, a safe, accepting place where anyone can offer prayers about their heart’s deepest desires, hurts, and hopes. It grew from such a simple and humble beginning — a woman who used what she had to answer God’s puzzling nudge.

Pastor Linda M Alessandri    (More on the The Prayer Tree on Wednesday)








SO WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE GOING A BIT COVID CRAZY? Here’s what someone did. Can you think of a good caption?







NOTES OF GRATITUDE AND GODSIGHTINGS – Haven’t received any for awhile. I know God IS with you. Where have you seen or experience God’s presence or love lately?


Read: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1Thus says the LORD:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
2Happy is the mortal who does this,
the one who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and refrains from doing any evil.
3Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely separate me from his people”;
and do not let the eunuch say,
“I am just a dry tree.”
4For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
5I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.]
6And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant —
7these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
8Thus says the Lord GOD,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.

Reflection: (Prepared by Professor J. Blake Couey as posted on

As Judean exiles began returning to Jerusalem in the late fifth century BCE, the boundaries of the worshipping community had to be renegotiated, especially after the rebuilding of the temple. Some voices argued for defining the community narrowly among ethnic lines (see Ezra 9:1-3; Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-27; Ezekiel 44:6-7). From a later Christian perspective, these arguments might seem misguided, but we shouldn’t criticize them too quickly. The post-exilic Jewish community was small and vulnerable. Strict enforcement of boundaries might aid communal survival. And let’s not forget that, even today, Sunday mornings remain “the most segregated hour of the week” for most American Christians, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Isaiah 56:3-8 offer a more expansive vision of the makeup of God’s people. (Although the lectionary jumps from verse 1 to verses 6-8, the intervening verses are necessary for understanding the passage as a whole.) Two classes of people who were previously excluded from the community are now welcomed into it: foreigners and eunuchs. These verses are likely a direct response to Deuteronomy 23:1-6, which denied access to “the assembly of the LORD” to Ammonites, Moabites, and men with damaged genitals. Nehemiah 13:1-3 appeals specifically to these laws as warrant for the continued exclusion of ethnic non-Jews from the post-exilic community.

Isaiah’s inclusion of these marginalized groups isn’t just a token nod to diversity. Their envisioned participation in the worshiping community is full and robust. Not only are eunuchs allowed into the temple, but God offers them permanent memorials there to compensate for their lack of descendants to carry on their names (Isaiah 56:5). And God doesn’t wait for devout foreigners to find their way to the temple (the “if you build it, they will come” approach). Rather, God “will bring (them) to my holy mountain.” Their prayers and sacrifices will be accepted, and their worship will be “joyful” (verse 7). In the final verse of the passage, God promises to continue bringing new people into the community (verse 8). Historically, this reflects the reality that exiled Judeans returned in waves over multiple centuries. Theologically, it reflects the persistent trajectory across scripture to expand the boundaries of God’s people in ever more inclusive ways.

This week’s New Testament readings offer rich points of contact with Isaiah 56. In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus encounters a deeply faithful foreign woman, who forces him to rethink his own narrow conceptions of the boundaries of God’s people. And in Romans 11:1-2a and 29-32, Paul insists that including Gentiles among God’s people doesn’t mean God has rejected Jews. This is an important caution for Christians to remember, given the persistence of supercessionism—the problematic belief that Christianity has replaced Judaism—and dramatic recent increases in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Widening the scope of our welcome must always serve God’s intention to “be merciful to all” (Romans 11:32).

Prayer: (ELW p. 79 “Prayer for the Human Family”)

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and, through our struggle and confusion, work to accomplish your purposes on earth; so that, in your good time, every people and nation may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


All Are Welcome” ELW 641

“We All Are One in Mission” ELW 576

“Let Us Adore” (Elevation Worship)

“Love God and Love People” (

“God Is On the Move” (7eventh Time Down)