August 12, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

August 12, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

August 12, 2020

Haven Lutheran Church


On Monday I shared the story of Sheri Furman who put some hearts and a pen in a bowl outside her store in Blowing Rock, N.C and was overwhelmed with the response to her simple invitation — “Prayers? Wishes?”  In a few days there were hundreds of prayers hanging from the tree and vines next to her shop, Take Heart. In a year there were thousands.

On June 26, 2019, an electrical spark from a utilities box at the back of the store, Take Heart, ignited a fire that quickly consumed the store inventory and blackened the inside walls. What would happen to all those prayers hanging on the trees next to Sheri Furman’s shop in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I’m going to let Sheri tell her own story as she wrote it for the devotional publication, Guidepost.  (April 27, 2020)

“The fire that overtook my little gift shop on Main Street that evening last June burned fast and hot. The spray from the firefighters’ hoses turned the air wet with steam. The street was blocked in both directions. Still, the streets were lined with friends and townspeople, all concerned for my staff and me.

A police officer guided me to a location where I could watch as the firefighters put out the last flames. I stood maybe 50 feet away. I was grateful my staff was safe. But everything I’d worked for was gone.

What are you doing here, Lord? I thought.

I looked to the right of the shop, to the leafy tree between my boutique, Take Heart, and the bank next door. Its branches sagged from the weight of thousands of paper tags in plastic sleeves, each one with a handwritten prayer. The hopes of so many people… what if they went up in flames too? I thought of everything that had happened in the past year. So many blessings. God’s love, his grace, so evident. Was there room for one more miracle?

In the spring, a middle-aged man came into the shop. “I wrote a prayer a few months back about my cancer,” he said. “I’ve never been so scared. Well, I just wanted you to know I’m in remission. Those prayers saved my life.”

My mind flashed back to that first cryptic messagePut the hearts in a bowl. Only God could have seen what would grow out of a small tree and a bunch of wooden hearts and paper tags. “It’s nothing I did,” I said. “But I’m so very happy for you. God has blessed you.”

……Now on this June night, I looked again at the tree, just a few feet from the burned-out shop. I’d worked a full day and been on my way home when an employee called. “The store is on fire!”

The leaves had turned to ash. The branches were scorched and black. But the plastic sleeves? They hadn’t melted; they’d protected the tags from the fire hoses. How? How had more than 10,000 prayers escaped the flames? I lifted my head to the heavens. I knew exactly how.

In the months since the fire, the prayer tree has continued to touch people’s lives. Today its branches hold more than 30,000 prayers, nearly triple the number before the fire. The outpouring of love I’ve received has been overwhelming. The community that rose around the tree has only grown stronger.

This month, we’re starting a website for people anywhere to “post” prayers to the tree. And the man who had cancer? Turns out, he’s a builder and wants to help us reopen.”

Sheri Furman From  – Posted on Apr 27, 2020


Washington County Interfaith Coalition

Interfaith Prayers for Our Times

August 11, 2020

Native American (Ogibwa)


Look at our brokenness.

Teach us love, compassion and honor

That we may heal the earth

And heal each other

Muslim (Koran)

You alone we serve: to You alone we come for aid.

Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom you have blessed,

Not of those against whom there is displeasure

Nor of those who go astray

It is difficult to understand what path is our own. Source of the holy, keep us moving along our sacred path.  Heal our judgment and suspicion. Awaken us to our need to invite each other into companionship, learning to walk in the direction of hope. We walk our own path as individuals and encounter many on a parallel journey. Enrich us in our encounters with those whose path seems different from our own remembering always that it is you who have made each of us and placed us together on this earth. Be in our hearts as we journey, and in our minds as we learn together.   Amen

Reverend Valerie Wills, Co-coordinator
Washington County Interfaith Coalition

 From Susan Strobl
























Read Psalm 67
Old Testament Professor, Rolf Jacobson, writes “Psalm 67 is a song meant for public worship. We can imagine a worship leader or choir singing the body of the psalm, with the congregation or a larger choir intoning the refrain.”

1May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
2that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3Let the peoples praise you, O God;
 let all the peoples praise you.
4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
5Let the peoples praise you, O God;
 let all the peoples praise you.
6The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, has blessed us.
7May God continue to bless us;
let all the ends of the earth revere him.

Reflection   (Prepared by Old Testament Professor, Rolf Jacobson as posted at

Blessing: Already and Still
In Psalm 67, the poet begins by asking for God’s blessing in verse 1 and requests God’s continued blessing in verse 7: “May God continue to bless us.” But the poet also stands in the people’s midst and announces God’s blessing: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us” (verse 6). And this is often the role of the public, Christian leader: to ask the Lord to bless and even at the same time to remind God’s people of how much God has already done.

In Psalm 67, the poet has the fruits of harvest in mind: “the earth has yielded its increase.” The bounty of nature is not a bad place to start—the image of trees bearing fruit, fields yielding grain, and pastures teeming with livestock communicate blessing even today, when so little of the population is in direct contact with farming. But other images can be added:  the beauty of nature, the birth of a new generation, the existence of good government and public servants, the love of parents and friends, good health and good medical care, music and joy. One could keep going.

Why must the Christian leader remind people of God’s blessings? Because it is easy to forget. Recently, as I left a baseball stadium on an absolutely beautiful day, I heard one young man mumble to his friend, “What has God ever done for me?” The implication seemed to be both that God hadn’t done anything and that everything the young man had in life was the result of his own hard work. It is good—even necessary—for the Christian leader to stand in front of the assembly and remind us of all our blessings. And it necessary—even good—for the Christian leader to stand in front of God and ask for the Lord’s continued to blessings.  God has blessed us richly. And we rely on God’s continued blessings.

Blessing:  Foundation of God’s Mission

But the psalm has one more important lesson to teach about God’s blessing activity–God blesses for the sake of mission. Indeed, God’s blessing is the foundation of mission. Within the psalm, it is clear that the ultimate purpose of God’s blessing is mission: “that your way be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (verse 2). So that the peoples and nations might praise God.

This emphasis in the psalm is also the basis of Israel’s identity. According to Genesis 12, the reason that God elected Israel in the first place was for the purpose of mission—that Israel would itself be a means of grace. God chose Abraham and Sarah and promised them descendants and also promised that “you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (verses 2b-3).

The message is repeated in Exodus 19, when God renewed the covenant with the descendants of Abraham whom he had just rescued from Egypt. The Lord said, “you shall be a priestly kingdom and a holy nation” (verse 6). And what did the priest to do, other than be the channel of divine blessing? Israel was not chosen for its own sake, but was chosen for the sake of mission. And Israel was not blessed either because of who it was or for its own benefit. Israel was blessed so that all the families of the earth may be blessed through it.

When we pray with Psalm 67 that “God continue to bless us” or when we end the end of the worship service with the wish that “the Lord’s face shine upon you,” we do so for the sake of God’s mission. In order that through God’s people, all of the world might experience God’s saving help.

Prayer    (ELW Psalm 67 Prayer)
God of wisdom, through your power the earth has brought forth its noblest fruit, the tree of the cross. Unite all people in its embrace, and feed us with its fruit, everlasting life through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.


Psalm 67

The Blessing
(Pittsburgh Churches Virtual Choir)
(Kid’s version) by Kids

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) – Matt Redman