August 28, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

August 28, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Haven Lutheran Church


 August 28, 2020

Friday5 pm Spoken Service with communion in the sanctuary.

Sunday9:30 am Worship On-line at

Sunday, 9:30 am  Drive-up and Outdoor Worship at Haven
(REMEMBER if weather looks uncertain & 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 worship cancellation information.


“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).


Fueled by a heat wave and ignited by lightning strikes, some of the
worst wildfires in California’s history have erupted across the state. At least four people have died, tens of thousands of people are under evacuation orders, over 1 million acres have burned, and more than 1,000 structures have been destroyed and thousands more are threatened. Some evacuees face the difficult decision of whether to stay in a shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lutheran Disaster Response is engaging with Lutheran Social Services of Southern California and Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, along with the three California synods (Sierra Pacific, Southwest California and Pacifica), to assess the situation and determine the best ways to respond. We expect immediate needs to include food and other life necessities, as well as emotional and spiritual care for those who have been traumatized. Long-term recovery assistance may include rebuilding and repairing homes.

You can support wildfire survivors. Gifts to “U.S. Wildfires” will be used in full (100%) to assist those affected by wildfires until the response is complete.
Please join me in praying for those whose lives are being impacted by disasters at this time: wildfires, COVID-19, severe storms, hurricanes and more. Even as we face multiple crises, by working together, we can reflect Christ’s light and hope to our neighbors in their time of need.
With gratitude for your partnership,



The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response Funding

P.S. You can make a donation on-line to the Lutheran Disaster Relief/U.S. Wildfires at You can also send a check payable to Haven Lutheran Church with LDR-Wildfires in the memo line and we will forward your donation.

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH – Here are some “masters of the nap”














The Church is not closed!
St. Luke’s (Harford Road) donated ten rehabbed laptop computers to Woodhome Elementary-Middle School to assist with distance learning in the new school year! Calvary (Mt. Airy) has been working with the Howard County Health Department, allowing their parking lot to be a drive-in COVID Testing Center! St. Martin’s (Annapolishas formed an anti-racism working group and are sorting through the resources that are available from our Synod’s Racial Justice Team, Women of the ELCA, and the Metro DC Synod, too! St. Mark’s (St. Paul Street) is taking God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday into the streets, with a socially distanced neighborhood clean-up as a way to witness together – and a way to meet and fellowship with their pastoral candidate! Thanks be to God for your ongoing witness and ministry! How is your congregation or ministry serving during these strange times? Email me,, and put The Church is Not Closed in the subject line!
With my love and prayers,



From the back cover of BECOMING A 21ST-CENTURY CHURCH: A Transformational Manual: Why are 80% of our congregations stagnant or dying?  there are a variety of reasons.  This book dives deeply into one of the main reasons–the failure to adapt to the cultural changes of our day.  When the Reformation began 500 years ago it sparked a number of radical changes (like worshipping in the vernacular rather than in Latin, etc.) that shocked the church.  Over time many saw the merit of those changes and adapted.  In the very same way today, major cultural changes are taking place.  Is the church making the necessary effort to appropriately adapt to them without compromising our central message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

     This “transformational manual” addresses the cultural shifts and provides practical and experience-based ideas to appropriately respond while keeping a strong emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus.  Are you ready to become a 21st century church?

You are invited to read this brief book with other members of Haven and enter into some discussion of its content and how it may speak to our church and the future. Pastor Alessandri will have copies available soon ($12 each) or you can order your own from Amazon (Kindle version is $9.99) She will also organize discussions via Zoom or in person in the Gathering Room.

We have also been invited to Trinity Lutheran Church (Hagerstown) to hear the book’s author Rev. Dr. Fred Lehr speak and lead discussions on the ideas and suggestions contained in the book on six Wednesdays at 6 p.m. (Sept. 2, 16, 23, 30, Oct7, 14.) Those six presentations will take place in Trinity’s large sanctuary where social distancing will easily be accommodated and masks will be required. These sessions will also be simulcast on YouTube and taped so they could be viewed at another time by individuals or groups.

We may be limited during this pandemic but we are not limited in our ability to read, pray or discuss together where the Lord may be leading us.

Contact Pastor Alessandri l.alessandri1035@gmail or 301-733-5056, #2) for a book or  to say how you want to be a part of this discussion. We will find a way!

A Pause in God’s Word
Read  Matthew 16:21-28

21From that time on, [after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah,] Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Reflection (I thank Pastor David Kaplan for today’s Reflection and Prayer)

He had it all right.  At the same time, he had it all wrong.  Pastor warned us about it in her sermon last week: It only took two verses for Peter the star student to become Peter the stumbling block.  There went the student trophy!  How could that happen so quickly?  We get a rather confusing clue in one of those two verses, the closing verse of last week’s Gospel, Matthew 16:20: Then Jesus sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.  Why not?  Now that the disciples knew his real identity, wouldn’t he want them to clear up all those misunderstandings that were circulating among religious folk that he was Jeremiah or Elijah or John the Baptist or simply another prophet?   How much confusion that would have eliminated if he had encouraged – or even allowed -them to share that good news.  And isn’t that what disciples are supposed to do anyway?  So why the order to be silent?

Simply because Simon Peter didn’t know what he was saying.  The confession came from his lips, but it was inspired by Another: Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you… What was also not revealed to him was what it meant for Jesus to be Messiah and Son of God.  Simon undoubtedly believed the understanding common in his day, that the coming Messiah would be a divinely guided earthly ruler after the pattern of King David of old, that he would rule over Israel and other nations in justice and righteousness, but also with strength and power.  In fact, Psalm 2 which contains both titles Messiah and Son of God is a coronation psalm of this promised one.  In that psalm the Lord declares to his anointed son: Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.  Wow!  The mighty Roman Empire broken like pottery shards while Jesus reigned supreme.  What a glorious road for Jesus – and for us! – lies ahead, maybe just around the corner.

And then the zinger.  We are going to Jerusalem – yes, yes, of course, where else would we be going?  That’s where God will surely overthrow the secular and religious authorities and put Jesus on the throne – and us at his side – forever and ever, Amen.  But, alas, that’s not what Jesus said, but rather, We are going to Jerusalem where I must undergo great suffering …and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Peter was speechless.  No, Peter was hardly ever speechless, and certainly not here.  Where everything was on the line, he needed to make a strong rebuke: God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.  But Jesus’ rebuke of Peter’s rebuke was even stronger: Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.  Not a conquering hero, but a suffering servant – that’s what it meant for Jesus to be Messiah, son of the living God!   And whether it was the tempter in the wilderness trying to persuade Jesus to take the easy way, or Peter here trying to persuade Jesus to take the obvious, human way or the authorities around the cross taunting him to take the spectacular way of escape, Jesus recognized the source behind it all, “the old satanic foe,” and steadfastly resisted to the point of giving himself completely on the cross.  Only then could the disciples proclaim with understanding, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Only then could they grasp what Simon Peter’s confession was all about.

I missed Holy Week this year.  Sure, I appreciated the online services from Haven and the Synod, but I missed being in Church with you to experience once more the story which is at the center of our life, the story of Jesus’ suffering and death and resurrection.  I especially missed gathering around the altar on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday and Easter to feel and touch and taste the true body and blood of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.  I hope and pray that next Holy Week we’ll all be able to do that safely.  In the meantime, though, the summary of the story is right here in the opening verse of this Sunday’s Gospel, and the meal is now available again at worship (and if you’re not able to attend, please call Pastor Alessandri, and she will be delighted to bring it to your home).

But it’s more than just a summary of what God’s Messiah and Son underwent for our salvation twenty centuries ago.  It helps us in the midst of present suffering.  What a week of suffering and struggle this has been for our nation – devastating fires in California, a cataclysmic hurricane in Louisiana, social protesting which turned violent in Wisconsin, the widening political divide and the ever present threat of COVID-19, which has now claimed more than 180,000 lives all over the country!   In addition to those headline events out there, many of us have experienced our own struggles and hurts – serious illness, broken relationships, loss of loved ones or employment or income, worries about our children’s schooling this coming year.   Where is our Lord in the midst of all this suffering on the outside and the inside?  Where God has always been – right in the midst of it.  In a week like this with a Gospel reading like this, I find it helpful to pray before the crucifix which hangs in my bedroom.  While I realize that many Protestant groups, including some Lutherans, claim that crosses in our churches and homes should be empty crosses as a reminder of Easter and the resurrection, I’m also aware that Jesus’ wounds were visible and touchable (remember Thomas!) after he arose.  The crucifix reminds us (at least it reminds me) that victims of the tragedies afflicting our land and victims of personal suffering are never alone – Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer, Jesus came to do that very thing for us as Messiah and Son of God.  He invites us to join our suffering to his suffering that he may bear it with us and for us.

And even more – he invites us to take up our cross and follow.  That’s a bit different from the suffering that befalls us.  Taking our cross is rather an intentional life style of denying and sacrificing ourselves for the sake of our neighbor.  That could mean – and on many occasions down through the years has meant – literally giving one’s life as a martyr.  Earlier this month Catholics and Lutherans remembered the death of Maximillian Kolbe, a priest imprisoned at Auschwitz, who voluntarily gave his life in place of a stranger sentenced to death.  More recently we’ve heard of teachers in the midst of school shootings who have sheltered their students with their own bodies.

Most of us, though, won’t be called to make that one total sacrifice.  In Luke’s version of this Gospel Jesus adds a word to his call to take up the cross and follow: daily.  Not always a one-time total event, the way of the cross is more frequently a daily walk of following Jesus.  In practical terms, what might that look like?  It might look like those saintly qualities Paul lists in Sunday’s second reading, especially the more difficult ones toward the end of the reading: Bless those who persecute (or even gossip about) you… rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (don’t need to try to cheer them up)… live in harmony with one another (even those who annoy us)… do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are… so far as it depends on you, live  peaceably with all… never avenge yourselves (don’t try to get even)… do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  A reminder, though, it doesn’t happen at once; it’s a walk in progress, guided by the Spirit, strengthened and nourished by God’s word and meal.  But it is a walk that defines us as disciples of Jesus Messiah and Son of God. And that’s good news we can tell everyone!

Prayer (Prayer for Wednesday in Holy Week, ELW, p.30):  Almighty God, your Son our Savior suffered at human hands and endured the shame of the cross.  Grant that we may walk in the way of his cross and find it the way of life and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

“Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus,” ELW 802

Through the Night of Doubt and Sorrow, ELW 327
(anthem variation)

Jesus Still Lead On, ELW 624


“I Will Follow” (Chris Tomlin)

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

“I Have Decided” (“Live” Elevation Worship)