August 21, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

August 21, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Haven Lutheran Church 

August 21, 2020

BECOMING A 21ST-CENTURY CHURCH: A Transformational Manual This brief book seeks to address the cultural shifts in which churches are operating and how we might respond while staying true to the gospel of Jesus. Trinity Lutheran Church (Hagerstown) is going to read this book together. They will also have the author, Rev. Dr. J. Fred Lehr come to speak and lead discussions on the ideas and suggestions contained in the book. Those six presentations will take place in Trinity’s large sanctuary where social distancing will easily be accommodated. These sessions, starting in September, will also be taped so they could be viewed at another time by individuals or groups. Trinity’s Senior Pastor David Eisenhuth has invited the members and friends of Haven Lutheran Church to attend or watch these “21st Century Church” presentations at no cost to us.
I do not have the exact dates for the presentations. I will post them as soon as possible. But here is a thought. While many of us have less on our calendars than usual, could as many Haven folks as possible read this brief book and/or “attend” these presentations in person or virtually? For those who don’t feel comfortable going to Trinity’s sanctuary, we could set a time to watch the presentation on line and schedule a discussion of the contents. Why? Councils and special study groups [Canoeing the Mountains] have been having discussions of “what to do” and “how to be church” in our times and what it means to be church. Now, in this time when we have more time there is an opportunity for more Haven members to join in this exploration of the future and mission of churches. Right now, I just ask you to think and pray about this. Everyone could participate in the ways that fit your comfort.


Friday, 8/14  5 p.m.
Spoken Service with communion in the sanctuary.

Sunday, 8/16 9:30 am Worship On-line at

Sunday, 8/16 9:30 am  Drive-up and Outdoor Worship at Haven
(REMEMBER if weather looks uncertain & and before you leave home, call the church after 8:30 am on Sunday  301-733-55056 Push the star button (*) as soon as the message begins to get to the voice mail box that will let you know if worship has been cancelled.)

Shared by Marge Cunningham                      

I saw this on Facebook this morning and had to share with you.  It’s so true and it also brought back something I used to say to some of the people in my lab that had to work (including me) on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday preparing a cell infusion for someone with stage 4 cancer on a clinical trial.

“I bet any one of these patients would give anything to have working on a weekend be their biggest problem”
                                                                       Susan Strobl












                 For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. – Isaiah 56.7
Beloved, all:
This has been a strange week of re-entering more of the familiar travel around our synod; it started, and ended, with covid tests reminding me that where things might seem normal, they are certainly not normal.
My week began with a call from a colleague who shared that a space we shared had been also shared by someone who had received a positive covid diagnosis. Though I never came into contact with that person, I knew that I would be in a few places (including careful baptismal and ordination contact) with others this weekend. Fortunately, my doctor was able to expedite a test and I observed strict precautions until I received the welcome news that the test was negative.
This weekend, my responsibilities as bishop of our synod, ramped up towards greater in-person gatherings. On Saturday, my day began with the privilege of preaching alongside my colleague Pastor Christine Myers Parker at the funeral of Pastor John Yost, Jr. Pastor Yost was one of my predecessors at Epiphany (Baltimore), and a beloved colleague, mentor and friend. That afternoon, I was with the community gathered at St. Philip’s (Wilmington) to preach and preside for the joyous celebration of Quinn Marie Nelson’s outdoor baptism! Quinn is the infant daughter of Emma Wagner (Lutheran World Relief) and Pastor John Nelson. I was grateful for the hospitality that the family of God at St. Philip’s and Pastor Patrick Downes offered to me and Quinn’s extended family! Sunday started early as I preached for a well-done hybrid in-person/online blended service for St. Paul (Aberdeen), a congregation in pastoral transition; supervising a vote at Bethel (Northeast) – our only congregation in Cecil County, Maryland – that helped them enter into an innovative pastoral relationship with Vicar Zachary Wright, a candidate under the care of our synod’s Candidacy Committee from Calvary (Mt. Airy). That afternoon, I had the solemn privilege to confer the Church’s gift of Ordination for Sarah Kretschmann to Word and Service Ministry in an abbreviated, socially-distanced liturgy held at Salem on the Mount, the chapel of Mar-Lu-Ridge, our synod’s beloved outdoor ministry; Deacon Sarah, a member of Breath of God (Highlandtown), has been called to serve on the staff of Lutheran World Relief.
In each of those places, I was amazed by the resiliency of those whose expectations had to be tempered by challenging current realities; so grateful for pastoral and lay leadership that sacrifices and leverages technology and space for the sake of the gospel; heartened by the swift adaptability (not always synonymous with the workings of the church) to make life passages, worship and community accessible to all. 365 miles later, it was an immersive experience in God’s expectation and challenge to be a house of prayer for all people coming to pass right before my very eyes.

Monday found me having another covid test since I had been in so many places over the weekend. While I was careful and mindful of CDC best practices, I don’t want to carry anything but good news across our synod. This week, I will be self-quarantining until, hopefully, I have that precious negative covid report, again.

Evangelism Workshop
Jamie Domm, author of Digital Discipleship & Evangelism, will lead an online workshop, “How to Build a Strong Digital Strategy for Your Church or Ministry,” on Monday, August 24 beginning at 11am.  From Domm’s presentation you will learn how to establish your brand, set goals and measure results through key performance indicators, choosing the right platforms for your target audience, developing and organizing an integrative communications strategy, best practices for digital communications, and more. By following the principles outlined in this presentation, you’ll be able to establish a strong foundation for implementing a comprehensive Digital Discipleship and Evangelism strategy.  To learn more and to register at (Pastor Alessandri is registered. I have an extra copy of the book by this name, too.)

Generosity Series
Tuesday, August 25, from 4-5:30pm, we will offer a workshop on Align Your Budget with Ministry of this Time by Scott McKenzie. This workshop reminds us that during this time of disruption and change, we have an opportunity for evaluation of ministry impact and effectiveness that is essential as we work to align budgets with ministry in the new normal. Cost will be $10.  To register, go to
If the cost is a concern, please contact Karen Kretschmann at
(COULD SOME PERSON(S) FROM HAVEN ATTEND THIS ON-LINE WORKSHOP ON OUR BEHALF. We can reimburse the cost and I [Pastor Alessandri] would greatly appreciate hearing about this presentation.)

Critical Conversations
Our synod’s CLAIM (Coalition of Lutherans Advancing in Mission) ministry is sponsoring three Critical Conversations to help us move forward in understanding and implementing personal change.  Each month for three months a book will be read then followed up with a conversation to discuss what has been learned and to share practical ideas for “making the change.”  Books can be purchased, in either electronic or hard copy, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle (or any vendor you prefer) and a list of questions to consider as you read and then discuss will be provided.  Interested participants should RSVP to so discussion materials and Zoom links can be provided.

The first of these conversations will be Tuesday, August 25 7:00-8:15pm || So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. In this bestseller, Seattle-based writer prompts people of all races to start having honest conversations about race, giving readers handy phrases and questions to start unpacking racism within their own social networks.  She tackles subjects ranging from intersectionality to micro-aggressions, or subtly racist remarks or actions.

With my love and prayers,

















Read   13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Reflection  (Today’s Reflection and Prayer was prepared by Pastor David Kaplan)
At the center of Matthew’s Gospel, at the center of the Church’s identity, at the center of our faith is the critical question that Jesus himself asks in this text: who do you say that I am?  The setting of the question is probably not accidental.  Caesarea Philippi was a pagan cultic center, originally associated with the Greek deity Pan (god of nature, the wilds, music and fertility), but other shrines to other deities have been discovered there as well.  In this false religious center the truth about Jesus is openly proclaimed for the first time!

Jesus preceded his question with another one: Who do people say that the Son of Man (Jesus’ self-designation) is?  That sounds innocent enough, like an invitation to a good theological discussion!  Moreover, there were enough opinions circulating to keep the discussion alive for hours: Jeremiah, Elijah, another prophet, John the Baptist!  You could make a theological case for any of them, and we can imagine a lively conversation as the various names and opinions were reviewed and shared.

But Jesus was interested in something more significant than an engaging discussion.  “OK, but now a more personal question:  Who do you say…”  Now we can imagine a sudden silence, perhaps eyes looking down (“I hope he doesn’t call on me”).  Then out of the blue a bold answer that no one expected:
You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Where did that come from?  No mystery: it came from the lips of Simon Peter.  No, it came through the lips of Simon Peter.  The real source of this confession of faith was God:  Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. Twice in this Gospel, at Jesus’ baptism (3:17) and later at the Transfiguration (17:5) the voice came without form, affirming “You are my Son.”  Here God chose to reveal Jesus’ true identity in human words through which Peter was richly blessed and by which he was given a position of divine authority in the early Church: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (16:18).  The verse has been a source of discussion and controversy since the time of the Reformation.  Lutherans have tended to emphasize the confession as the “rock” upon which the Church is founded while Catholics understand the “rock” as Peter himself (and the office of the Pope, which that denomination believes began here).    To complicate the issue is a play on words in the Greek text: the word for Peter is Petros, while the word for rock is petra – almost identical, but not quite.  Perhaps the best we can do is admit it’s not an either-or, but a both-and: both Peter and the confession he spoke are at the very foundation of the Church, as is the binding and loosing that Jesus speaks of toward the end of the text.

Here again is a bit of controversy:  does binding mean holding people captive to their sin as we pray in our confessional prayer: “we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves…”?  Then loosing would be setting people fee, speaking the word of forgiveness.  Or does binding have to do with sin itself?  When we forgive someone, we bind up the sin that separates us so that it cannot come between us again.  When we let sin loose, it’s always there to haunt and hurt, “I remember that time when you…!”  Either alternative is possible, but my reading of the text favors the second.  And in either case, as Jesus will make very clear in chapter 18 (coming up next month!): it’s not an arbitrary choice.  Jesus’ followers are always called seventy times seven to attempt to bind up sin through forgiveness.  The hard word of letting sin loose only applies when forgiveness that is offered is refused or not extended to another in need.

But how does Peter’s confession itself speak to us?  That may be difficult to discern because it’s actually a Jewish confession of the first century.  Unless we’re familiar with Hebrew Scriptures, our Old Testament, we can easily miss its meaning.  Messiah is the Hebrew word for “anointed” and goes back to God’s promise that he would send an anointed one to rule over God’s people, and in fact to rule over the world, in justice and righteousness forever.  In the OT Israel’s kings were anointed before they took office, and most people were looking for a king who would defeat enemies and rule gloriously.  But prophets and priests were anointed as well, and often their ministries involved struggle and suffering, an issue which would get Peter in trouble in next Sunday’s Gospel!  Son of God also has its roots in the OT, particularly in Psalm 2: I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me,” You are my son; today I have begotten you…” (2:7). Over against secular kings of the day who also claimed divine sonship with one or another of the pagan gods, Jesus is Son of the one, true living God, whose proper name Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew verb to be, the only One who is and was and is to come, the living God.  What the confession does say to us is that God keeps promises, that Jesus is the fulfillment of all those promises, and that we can trust all we have and are into Jesus’ care and keeping.

And it invites us to make our confession as well.  Jesus’ question certainly was not simply intended for those twelve back in Caesarea Philippi.  In this strange, dark year where all the props on which we we’re accustomed to lean were swept away, who do you say that Jesus is?  For me the biblical images of rock, anchor, fortress still resonate.  In the midst of a divisive election campaign that almost surely will become more bitter as the weeks drag on, I look to Jesus as healer, reconciler, ruler of the kings of the earth.  As one who has struggled with a serious injury this summer, I confess Jesus as renewer and restorer as well as a constant presence in times of pain, suffering and loneliness.  In your situation, who do you say Jesus is?

And finally it’s good to remember the “you” in the text is actually plural.  Yes, our individual confessions are helpful and needed, but so are our collective confessions as a community of disciples.  In our devotions let’s at least occasionally confess the Apostles’ Creed that was spoken over us when we were baptized and became sons and daughters of the living God: I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord…

What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, son of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.

Prayer (Prayer of the Day for the Confession of Peter, January 18):  Almighty God, you inspired Simon Peter to confess Jesus as the Messiah and Son of the living God.  Keep your church firm on the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth and follow one Lord, your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Pastor Kaplan’s suggestions
Built on a Rock (ELW 652)
(congregational singing)
(Choral arrangement) \

The Church’s One Foundation (ELW 654)

Of the Father’s Love Begotten (ELW 295)
(St. Martin’s Chamber Choir)
(Ely Cathedral Choir)

From Nancy Newkirk

“Song of the Body of Christ”