Message from Pastor Alessandri March 31, 2020

20March31 Message from Pastor Alessandri (click here for pdf)

March 31, 2020

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

Wasn’t yesterday’s sun and warmth a blessing? I opened a window and let the cats smell the fresh Spring air. Ken Tice even ran the lawn mowers here. There are flowers blooming around the church. We’ll take our signs of hope where ever we can get them and give God praise.

Maryland is now under “stay at home” orders since March 30, 8 pm. “No Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, or for other necessary purposes.” Please be wise and safe. We are fighting an “enemy” we haven’t yet tamed or controlled. For those of us not on the front line of health care or science, our job is to cooperate with their advice so they are able to do their jobs. Be patient and good to yourselves. Be caring and loving to the “neighbor” you can still call, face time with, or for whom you can pick up groceries. We WILL get to the other side of this coronavirus desert. God IS with us.

With the new restrictions we will again need to think of how we can worship together. Though many of us would say worship is an “essential” service, I do not want to ask anyone to violate this state order. So stay tune. As I have said before, the Church is not closed and Easter is NOT cancelled. WE are church. The Lord IS Risen. Nothing —- not even Covid-19 — can change those truths.

THE WORD IN SEASON DEVOTIONAL BOOKLETS FOR APRIL, MAY, AND JUNE I am so glad someone asked us how they could get a copy of this quarterly devotional booklet that many of you use faithfully. My original plan was to place the booklets on the back porch of the parsonage with a pump sanitizer next to the box and invite you to pick one up. We could then deliver copies to those who could not pick one up. Now the new “stay at home” order…… hmmmmm.

For now, I am going to leave the devotionals on the parsonage back porch. IF you are on your way to or from the grocery store, pharmacy, drive-thru restaurant or medical appointment and want to swing by to pick up a devotional, they will be there. If I am told that it’s a violation of the orders, I will let you know.

In any case, stay in God’s Word. Drink in the love, promises and steadfast faithfulness of our Lord.

MICAH’S BACKPACKS UP AND RUNNING AGAIN. We have received the news that arrangements have been made for Micah’s backpacks to be delivered. All packed food bags will be taken to the YMCA parking lot on a Friday morning and delivered by volunteers from United Way and Potomac Case management Services. Don’t know how all the program pieces came together with the schools closed, but I say, “Praise God.” Children will have needed food!

At this time our coordinator, Linda Clark, says she does not need anyone to pack the bags or deliver them. She will let us know if that changes. Thank you, Linda.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR NOTES, WORDS OF GRATITUDE AND GOD SIGHTINGS

As I have been reading the past couple of days messages from Pastor, I began to think of the early Christians. They were not able to worship in groups or had to hide in catacombs. They were vilified by the Romans and non-believers.

In some ways, I feel akin to those early Christians. No buildings to gather for worship and yet their faith in the Lord was lauded and “seeped” out to the world. As Pastor said, we may not be together under one roof, but our faith is being expressed with kindness, thoughtfulness, and Love.

May God’s Peace Be With You

Pam O’Connor

COMMENTS AFTER THE POSTING OF THE MARCH 29 WORHSIP

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bracken Family

Dear Pastor, Pastor Dave, Steve, Grant, Scott and Mary – Thank you for your time and talents in putting the church service together on YouTube. I hope I didn’t forget anyone. Know that all the frustrations were appreciated. Peace, Marge Cunningham

Loved the posted worship. Let’s me feel and stay connected. I hope this can continue this way until we can all join one another again in harmony! Dawn Freeman

What a blessing to be able to participate in worship with you all today from my apartment at Fairhaven CCRC, Sykesville, MD. The video was superb, and with my hearing impairment the accompanying subscript was appreciated. I watched the service in late afternoon. The service here at Fairhaven was also on our in-house cable service. Bob Hart

Many thanks to you & Mary for arranging the video church service yesterday. I was so happy to sit here at home & worship as though I was in our beautiful sanctuary at Haven. The liturgy & the sermon were so meaningful, especially since your weekly devotions featured Ezekiel & Lazarus. It is important to stay connected & keep our faith strong. God bless you, Joan Schupp

God IS with you, dear church,

Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A PAUSE WITH GOD

Haven member, Amy Mason, told me about “God Pause,” a daily devotion put out my Luther Seminary. “God Pause” was the inspiration for naming our daily devotions, “A Pause with God.” You can access the Luther Seminary devotions at https://www.luthersem.edu/godpause/ and if you like, you can subscribe to it (at no cost) and have it delivered into your e-mail box daily. It reminds me each day, as I turn on my computer and begin work, to first take some time with the Lord. Today’s devotion came from Luther’s “God Pause.” It was a God sighting for me when I read it on Monday. It is so appropriate and meaningful for today, though it was prepared for the Lenten season long before we moved into the current coronavirus pandemic. I hope it feeds your faith and your hope. God IS good. God IS with us.

Psalm 118:1–2, 19–29 (NRSV)

1O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever! 2Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” 19Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. 20This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. 22The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. 23This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success! 26Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. We bless you from the house of the LORD. 27The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you. 29O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Devotion

We near the end of our Lenten journey, and the readings place us in the shadow of the cross. As Jesus triumphantly enters the city he loves, we who know the story anticipate that the crowd in praise will soon be a crowd in protest. The open gate gives entrance to the enemy. Those whom God loves will again respond with rejection. Yet, the psalmist challenges us to pause and give thanks.

Linger in this day to glimpse the presence of God. When we do not worry about tomorrow, we can marvel at the wondrous things God is doing today. The rejected remnant will become the cherished legacy. God is turning the stumbling blocks in our lives into stepping stones toward our future.Whatever struggles this season of fasting has revealed, remember: God’s love is steadfast and endures.

Prayer

God whose steadfast love endures, allow me to accept the victories of today without worrying about the battles of tomorrow. Amen.

Joy J. Moore

Associate Professor of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary

Music:

Turn it up and rock with Michael W. Smith https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks86XlVKaB8 “For the
Beauty of the Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUU6jkHh1n8

“For the Beauty of the Earth” by John Rutter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTOfSKXkRa0

For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the skyes
For the love
Wich from our birth
Over and around us lies
Over and around us lies

Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joy ful hymn of praise

For the beauty of the hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale

And tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light

Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joy ful hymn of praise

For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth
And friends above
For a gentle
Thoughts and mild
For a gentle
Thoughts and mild

Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joy ful hymn of praise

For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
Graces human and divine
Flow’rs of earth and buds of heav’n
Flow’rs of earth and buds of heav’n

Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joy ful hymn, our joy ful hymn of praise
This our joy ful hymn of praise

Songwriters: John Rutter
For the Beauty of the Earth lyrics © Word Music, Inc., Hinshaw Music Inc (chrismon Music Division), Oxford University Press Uk

 

March 30, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

20March30 Message from Pastor Alessandri (click here for pdf)

March 30, 2020

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

Among the many things we may be learning from these last few weeks is 1) patience (or our need for it) and 2) when faced with the unexpected you do your best to make the best of it.
So I start with words of deep gratitude to Scott Rhodes, Mary Grabill and Mike Freeman who worked MANY hours to get the taping of Haven’s Sunday worship available for your viewing. As Scott wisely said, “Well, we learned something.”  I also thank you for your patience when we could not get the service up by our 9:30 am worship time. I hope you found another way to settle in the presence of the Lord and our Haven community Sunday morning. And, I hope you will be encouraged and uplifted whenever you get the chance to watch Haven worship.

My newest technological challenge this will be to lead a meeting of the Washington County Conference ministers on Zoom. Zoom is a way to have a group “meet” via their computers or phones. If folks have a camera on their phones or computers, the people in the meeting can see one another, too. Our DE-MD Synod is allowing the conferences to use their Zoom accounts to encourage us to stay in touch. And, they will help me learn how to use it. Onward into the 21st century I go.

Speaking of technological challenges….  When I turned on the new computer in my office for the first time last Saturday to find I had over 12,000 emails in my Outlook e-mail account. Yep, over 12,000. Emails from 2016 to present, including spam and previous deleted items. Yesterday I began sorting and deleting. I’m down to 8,000. When faced with the unexpected we do our best and practice patience — though it is not always easy. 🙂

For the unknown angels who see that the plants in the church narthex are watered, I want you to know I gave them big drinks yesterday. Only one was looking very sad, but I watered them all and thanked them for hanging in. How I look forward to the day when we can be together in that space, greeting one another, laughing, ministering to one another and moving into worship or coffee fellowship.

That day WILL come. Now, we are called to sit tight, protecting our health and the health of our community and pray. We pray for the police, fire and ambulance personnel, and all the people in health care who are in “harm’s way” for the sake of others. We pray for the many other workers — in grocery stores, take-out restaurants, delivery persons, truck drivers, those collecting our garbage, overseeing utilities and preparing on-line learning for their students. We pray for those in authority that they are guided by wisdom and what is good for the local, national and world communities. We pray that we are able to stay well and be beacons of God’s steadfast hope and love.

God’s peace IS with you,
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

NOTES OF GRATITUDE AND GOD SIGHTINGS

P.S. Elaine Michael received the following link to a song. She found it inspirational, comforting and a God sighting. When she received the link, it carried this message:

This song is adapted from a prayer by Dietrich Bonheoffer. He wrote this prayer a few weeks before he was executed in April 1945, and sent it to his family as encouragement and a profession of faith. The corona virus gives the song a special resonance today.  Arthur Magida (Professor and Author)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN7dGz6NH5M&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0ZBcaa2JOuAMZbk7EDKtoSBR63lfRNo1n4fD5_JDLUomTtGVbqdRqiXHA

A PAUSE WITH GOD’S WORD

Read: Psalm 143: 7-11:
7Answer me quickly, O LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me,
or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
8Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
9Save me, O LORD, from my enemies;
I have fled to you for refuge.
10Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God.
Let your good spirit lead me
on a level path.
11For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life.
In your righteousness bring me out of trouble.

Reflection:  Psalm 143 is plea to God in time of crisis. It is a psalm attributed to David. We do not know if it’s about a trial in his personal life or one faced by the Hebrew nation. What we do know is that we can identify with it and we can pray it earnestly in our times. We can pray fully trusting God to hear, to be our refuge and to be at work, even now, to bring goodness, light and life where we might only see frightening unknowns.

Prayer/Act:  Pray Psalm 143: 7-11, pausing after each verse. Silently, aloud or on paper, add whatever comes into your heart and mind after each verse, lifting it to our listening Lord.

Music offering:
The first two are musical versions of the psalm. They each have refrains for you to sing along.
“To You, O God, I Lift Up My Soul”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WllurpdAepc
“To You, O Lord” (composed by Marty Haugen who also wrote Holden Evening Prayer) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmxm9AJljY4

March 29, 2020 Sermon

March 29, 2020 Sermon

Haven’s Worship Service March 29, 2020

Click Worship Service Videos and the Haven website will open to the Haven Worship Service Videos page.  There you will see the Worship Service March 29, 2020 video. Select the red play button to start the video Worship Service (video has 2 parts so when part 1 is finished it should automatically start part 2).  We apologize for the delay.

Worship Service Videos

DELAY IN POSTING THE RECORDING OF HAVEN’S SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICE

Due to technical difficulties there will be a delay in posting the recording of Haven’s Sunday Worship Service.  We will post it as soon as it is available.  Thanks for your patience.

 

Thanks, Mary

Pastor

Sunday Bulletin March 29, 2020

March 29, 2020 Service of the Word bulletin (click here for pdf)

Message from Pastor Alessandri March 27, 2020

Message from Pastor Alessandri March 27, 2020 (click for pdf)

March 27, 2020

The Peace of the Lord be with you!

Yesterday I “attended” my second Zoom meeting with Bishop Gohl and rostered ministers of the DE-MD Synod. The Bishop has set up this weekly meeting with pastors and deacons to share updates and encourage us to share concerns, resources and suggestions. I was uplifted by several particular messages.

The church is NOT closed. The church building is closed. The church —- the people of God — are still being church, even in these circumstances. The church is still doing God’s work. People are caring for their community with phone calls, by dropping off food and perscriptions, seeking ways to be helpful. The church is continuing to share God’s word and worship, even if it is on-line. The pastor, staff and members are still doing ministry. The church is NOT closed. The church building is closed.

Another message: Easter is NOT cancelled. Our worship service on Easter may not be held but that does not stop Easter from coming. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the celebration of God’s victory over sin and death. It is a celebration that is not confined to one day but infuses each of our days with joy, hope and life-giving possibilities. Easter can not be cancelled. Jesus is Risen.

WORSHIP UPDATE  Pray for us as we try our first “taping” of worship on Saturday. We know we will learn and we hope God will be glorified and you will be blessed. It will be posted on Haven’s Facebook page and our website and you can view it at any time. (Though, 9:30 am on Sunday would be especially nice.) Tomorrow we will send out the “bulletin” for the service.

WORSHIP UPDATE II Yesterday at the synod Soom meeting, several asked about having a “drive-in” Easter worship like I had suggested in yesterday’s e-note. The DE-MD Synod liason with the Governor’s office is going to check on whether that would be considered a violation of the no more than 10 at any gathering. Stay tune.
Other churches have decided that whatever Sunday we will be able to gather together again will be an Easter season celebration with all those great bombastic hymns and the Easter Sunday readings. That does sound lovely.

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER WORSHIP ON-LINE The worship services being prepared and taped by the DE-MD and Metro DC synod for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter promises to be well-done, as they safely bringing together musical and worship resources to make it special. No, it will not be the same as being able to be togehter, but it will be a way to walk with Jesus through Holy Week to Easter.

HAVE SOME CABIN FEVER AND WANT A BIT OF EXERCISE? In the tele-conference yesterday, one pastor said congregation members have been showing up to do yard work around their building. It is not a group of people but individuals coming at their convenience to rake or weed. You are certainly welcome to do so at Haven IF you feel it is safe for your health to do so. I will put yard bags on the parsonage back porch if you get itchy to be out in a yard. Any filled bags can be put on the grass at the end of my driveway to be picked up on Wednsday. Again, ONLY if you feel it’s safe and you practice good social distancing.

NOTES OF GRATITUDE AND GOD SIGHTINGS  (Send yours in to encourage us all.)

We are grateful for food and Michael’s ability to keep feeding us meals  that so far we haven’t grown tired of eating! Even leftovers are usually fun.                      Amy

Pastor Alessandri’s daily messages & words of inspiration & Pastor Kaplan’s reflections. They are so welcome & helpful in getting through this difficult time.                Elaine 

I will not be sending out a note on Saturday or Sunday, though we will send out the bulletin for Haven’s Sunday worship today or Saturday. I remind you that in additon to Haven’s on-line worship, you can view the DE-MD Synod Sunday service at 10 a.m. The bulletin for that service is on the DE-MD Synod website. https://demdsynod.org/    Then click on CO-VID 19 Response and it will take you to the bulletin and link you to the service when it is aired. All the Sunday and Wednesday synod services  remain available so you can view them at any time.

Stay well. Call someone. Laugh. Marvel at the unfolding Spring. Take a walk. Pet your dog or cat. Talk to God. Turn off the news and  put aside your phone for part of each day and simply rest in God’s peace and certain love.
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A Pause with God’s Word

Read: John 11:
28When she[Martha] had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she [Mary] heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Reflection:  “Jesus wept.” When asked to select a verse to recite aloud at their confirmation, many a student tried to get away with choosing John 11: 35. It didn’t usually fly with the pastor since he or she knew it was chosen for its brevity not as expression of faith.
Yet, “Jesus wept” is a powerful statement. I once presided at a funeral in which two adult siblings had died together in an automobile accident. There had been a shadow over the circumstances of the crash. When I asked what Bible verses they wanted to include in the funeral service, the family chose John 11:35 for the gospel reading, “Jesus wept.”
What brought them comfort amid the tragic, unexplainable events was knowing that God grieved with them, Jesus cried with them at the seemingly senseless loss of life. They knew asking “why” was a dark hole that would not lead them anywhere helpful. Clinging to the goodness, compassion and tears of God who was with them, would be the solid ground on which they could stand and make their way through their sorrow.

Prayer:  As we watch the news and hear infection and death numbers increase, we can feel our tension rise and a lump of sorrow or panic in our throats or gut. You grieve our sorrows, too, Lord. You weep with us, even though you know, like Jesus did, that you will bring light out of darkness and life out of death. Help us to feel your comfort and trust in your resurrection power. Amen.

Act: Defy fear or anxiety. Do something for pure fun. Let joy have a place in your heart and day.

Music offering:  “Safe” Phil Wickham  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciW8r-5kCDY
“Blessed Assurance” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDeiy9-t2GE

Message from Pastor Alessandri

20March26 message from Pastor Alessandri  (click for pdf)

March 26, 2020
The Peace of the Lord be with you!
Though Mary and I are still working from home, the new computers are installed in the church office. The computer in my office totally crashed (caput — in untechie language) several weeks ago. I found myself making many trips between the office and the parsonage each day as I needed to access something that could only be done on a computer. I confess that sometimes there was some unholy mutterings. You never know how much you have come to depend on something until you don’t have it.
You never know how much you have come to depend on something until you don’t have it. We are all re-learning that in a big way right now, aren’t we? Whether it’s being able to jump in the car to go out anywhere or getting together with friends or going to work or gathering for worship, we are being reminded of what is precious and important to us. May we not forget when we are again back to a “normal.”
WORSHIP UPDATE This Saturday Steve Pastena, Pastor Dave Kaplan, Grant Wills, Scott Rhodes and I will lock ourselves in the church, practice proper social distancing and tape a worship service for Sunday. This is totally new for all of us. So, in advance, we ask your patience and forgiveness as we venture into the uknown. To quell any nervousness, I am concentrating on the chance to “be with you” and any others who may click on our Facebook or webpage. Most importantly, I am praying that God be honored and glorified as we worship.
WORSHIP UPDATE II The state of Maryland has extened the closing of schools until April 24th. Though it has not been explicitly stated, this is likely an indication that the recommendation to limit gatherings to 10 or less will stay in place for the health and safety of the community. The idea of not being able to worship together for Holy Week and Easter is painful. It puts the exclamation point on the seriousness of this virus. It also challenges our commitment to care not just for ourselves but the wider community. I have not spoken yet with our Worship Team or Council to set an official, tentative date for resuming in-person worship. I will let you know as soon as we can.
In the meantime, I have asked Mary to contact our florist to see if palms can be delivered to church on Friday, April 3. IF that’s possible, we will prepare them to be distributed and place them outside the doors of the church for you to be able to pick up palms. Stay tune. We are waiting to hear if the Easter flowers we ordered will still be delivered. If so, we will put them outside the church for pick up and deliver to those who do not wish to venture out.
Palm Sunday and Easter Worship? We are talking about what Haven and/or our conferenece of Lutheran churchers can do. I have even had the wild thought of pulling out our “worship on the lawn” sound system and inviting folks to stay in their cars for worship and to receive communion. Still thinking that and other ideas through. Again, stay tune.
One on-line Holy Week and Easter worship opportunity will be available through our DE-MD Synod. Bishop Gohl wrote in his weekly e-mail:
We already know that Bishop Leila Ortiz from the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod I are collaborating with our staff colleagues and will provide online worship for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter together. These promise to be special opportunities for us to be together across our synods – and are offered to enhance, not replace, any online gatherings with your local faith community. More about these services next week.
You never know how much you have come to depend on something until you don’t have it. Even though we are phsically seperated, we are still united, together and one in Christ. That is something we still have. The eternal love, presence and care of God. That is something we still and will forever have. We make sacrifices now for one another and offer them to God as a blessing of thanks and praise. We WILL get through this. As we make our way, we have prayer, kindness and faith to offer as the Body of Christ, that extends beyond any restrictions or isolation.
God IS with you. God IS with us.
Pastor Linda M Alessandri
P.S. If you didn’t see this posting on facebook yesterday, we share it here. Thank you Scott and Ethan for one of today’s smiles.

A Pause with God’s Word
Read: John 11: 1-14
1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Reflection: In the gospel of John, miracles are called “signs.” They are displays of all that God wants for us and all of creation. They point to the power and intent of God redeeming love. The miracles show that God’s deepest, loving desire is to bring healing, calm storms, feed hungers and bring life when all hope seems gone.
When we read the beginning portion of this Sunday’s gospel, we can be rather upset with Jesus. Why let his friend, Lazarus, die and cause his sisters to grieve? Just to make a point? That seems rather cruel of a loving Lord. These might be the same wonders we have had as someone we love suffers. That might be the same questions we have now, “Why doesn’t God just come and clear the world of the coronavirus?”
This has been one of those questions pastors dread. If God is all-powerful and all good, why do bad things happen? We dread it, because we only have God’s Word and our imperfect understanding to lean on. This is what I know.
*God does not inflict suffering or death as punishment. Whatever disease had caused Lazarus to die was not caused by God as judgment. Jesus made that clear in last week’s gospel when he was asked if a blindman was blind because of his sin or the sin of his parents. Jesus clearly says, “Neither!” To inflict suffering is contrary to the nature of God who created a world out of love and out of love has been trying to call it back to goodness ever since humans turned away.
*God is not a Master Game Player, creation is not God cosmic game for God’s amusement and we are not simply pawns without freedom. God remains active and present in God’s creation and though us. God cares deeply about us and creation. Yet the “rules” and reasons for God’s direct intervention in this unfolding world of ours are beyond our understanding. That is one of the mysteries of the divine that we live in but cannot grasp. That is one of the mysteries where we depend on faith — that the God who created the universe and us is good and loving all the time, no matter the circumstances, even when we don’t understand. That is the meaning of that wonderful call and response: “God is good,” “all the time.” All the time,” God is good.”
As Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem and possible death, the Lord wanted us to know that death was not more powerful than God. We may want to tell God when and where to exert that power and God will lovingly receive our requests. Yet testing God is fruitless. If we in heart say to God, “If you are so powerful than do this or I won’t believe you anymore,” we venture into the dark, away from the Light, down a pathway that will not serve us or bring us relief. While God desires us to know God and draw close, there are things about the Lord which are beyond our human understanding. In faith, we trust God’s goodness even when we cannot understand. That is the Rock on which we stand, on which we can live and go forward in hope and in the assurance of God’s eternal love and care.
Prayer: Lord, we become anxious when we can’t explain or control the way things are. You gave us the gift of thinking and reason and yet, in times like this, we face the uncomfortable truth that we are not God and we cannot know or control everything. Quell our anxieties. Fill us with the certainty that YOU are a God we can trust and on you, our Rock, we can cling, stand and still see your goodness around us. Amen
Act: Sing! Any song of joy or praise will do. I offer one from our hymnal, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less.” Here are several links to sung versions. Sing along, in voice or silently in heart, and know you are loved! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVE-xXFDOwg (contemporary) OR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFktMLdeFac (traditional choral)

Message from Pastor Alessandri March 25, 2020

Message from Pastor Alessandri March 25, 2020 (click link to download pdf)

March 25, 2020
The peace of the Lord be with you!

PASTOR’S WEDNESDAY PROJECTS Today my schedule almost seems normal. I have to be at the church office to let in the gentlemen who will install our new computers. (Hurray!) Steve Pastena (Music Director) and I will be finalizing plans for Sunday’s worship. (Yep, we are going to try taping a service for Sunday morning) and at 4 pm we open any bid submitted for the replacement of our church and parlor roof. Still, all this has to happen with wise social distancing, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and making sure we keep our hands away from our faces. All of that is the “almost” of this day’s “normal” activities.

Take a breath of the Holy Spirit’s comfort and hope. Few things seem “normal” but many things are blessing us. I may be restricted to my home but I have a home that is warm and comfortable, with more than enough food and clean water. I can watch movies or television, read books, do crossword or jigsaw puzzles, keep in touch with people on my computer or phone and write notes. We may be restricted but we have more than enough to survive and for which we can lift up our thanks and praise to God. Keep your eyes open to the blessings, “normal” (ex. the taste of the first cup of coffee or tea) and extraordinary (ex. a good conversation with someone you have not spoken with for a while.) Here are some “God sightings” noticed by Haven members:

Among other blessings I’m grateful for are, each day, shelter, food for nourishment, friends and neighbors with whom to visit. Although our personal space has doubled from @ 3 feet to 6 feet we can still visit and share kindness. Time is a blessing. We have time to take care of all those things neglected.
Regarding time you need to take time for yourself too. Time to relax and rest assured that we will get over this big bump in the pathway of our journeys. Charlotte Loveless

I am grateful for being able to sit on my porch today and listen to God’s voice in my wind chimes, the beautiful birds, the blowing of the wind, the smells and sights around me, and the stillness and calm as I read God’s word. Nancy Newkirk

Before the day ends, name three things for which you are grateful and give God thanks. Gratitude can open our eyes and hearts to the goodness that is, even in these difficult times. And speaking of blessings, be sure to read Pastor Kaplan’s reflections for today’s devotions. (see below) Powerful!

I will be in and out of the parsonage and church office, but I remain available. I will check both phones throughout the date to get messages and return calls. I am keeping you in heart and prayer.

God IS with you,
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

A Pause with God’s Word

Read Ezekiel 37: 1-14
1The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Reflection by Pastor David Kaplan
“Can these bones live?”

The answer to God’s question in verse 3 was all too obvious. A valley full of dried up bones, how could they ever come to life? For God’s exiled people, which these bones symbolized, the answer came in the form of a lament: “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Cut off from their homeland, cut off from one another in a foreign land, most of all, cut off from ever again experiencing God’s goodness or joy or hope. “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered….” was their plaintive cry in Psalm 137. This was physical, social and spiritual distancing all wrapped up in despair.
“Can these bones live?”

At times during the past few weeks I’ve wondered. Not especially about my bones (although that’s in the background) but about the quarantined community, which these bones may very well symbolize. Are we cut off completely, cut off in our homeland, cut off from one another, cut off from our neighbors, most of all, cut off from ever again experiencing God’s goodness or hope or joy? In those moments of doubt and even despair, it’s OK to sit down and weep.
“Can these bones live?”

Thankfully the prophet Ezekiel, God’s messenger to these despairing exiles – and to us this coming Sunday – was open to a different possibility. It was a possibility that sprung from faith – not yet clear, not yet certain, but still an opening – “O Lord God, you know.” Maybe, just maybe, when human efforts are exhausted and every end seems like a dead end, maybe then we can hear the echoes of a different voice: “O dry bones hear the word of the Lord.” Maybe then we can feel the blowing of the wind, the caress of a gentle breath, the renewed energy of God’s Spirit – all the same word in Hebrew – assuring us of new life: “I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, and I will bring you back…” And they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

No, it’s not yet Easter. Not yet even Lazarus. This story is about community restoration, not individual resurrection. But that’s where we are in this crisis, aren’t we, longing for a renewed sense of community. And yes, God did fulfil his promise and restored his people with new hope and joy. And the promise and the Word and the Spirit are for us and in us even before the empty tomb, even in Lent, especially in this Lent of despair. For it’s not only Lent, today is March 25, the festival of the Annunciation (nine months before Christmas!) where the angel announced to Mary, “You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus…and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Can these bones live? Through the darkness that surrounds us, don’t be afraid; in this pregnant promise there is life in abundance for all.

Prayer: The exiled Hebrews felt like dried up, lifeless bones. A young Mary was told she would bear the Son of God. Lord, you bring new life into our trials. You bring life in ways we could never have imagined possible. Give us the eyes of hope and truth. Strengthen our faith to see and believe in your goodness and love. Then give us the voice to share these sightings of you with others, that they too may receive your breath of life. Amen.

Act: If you haven’t already, start a list of those things for which you are grateful. Post it on the refrigerator or a place where you will surely see it each day and add to it as you notice other blessings.
Feeling fearful? Write down your fears as a letter to God. Read what you have read. Ask God to give you nerve and courage to persevere in faith. Say: “Lord, I place my fears in your powerful and loving hands.” Then burn your list of fears or tear them in tiny pieces to be put in the trash or shoveled into your garden.

Note from Pastor Alessandri – March 24, 2020

Note from Pastor Alessandri March 24, 2020 (click link to download pdf)

March 24, 2020

The peace of the Lord be with you!

March 19th was the first day of Spring. The amount of daylight time has begun to increase. With all the other important news, it hardly got noticed. And now, we seem to be having a bit of a cold snap, making it a bit harder to see it as spring. Yet…..
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it is the earliest spring we’ll have seen in our lives (so far). The last time spring arrived this early was in 1896—a whopping 124 years ago! It makes me smile to realize that in this year when we need more light and signs of hope, we get the earliest spring in 124 years. So, I would like to suggest we do a little Spring dance of thanks. You choose the dance and music. Since you are home alone or with family, “dance like nobody’s looking.” At this time, in these circumstances, take comfort in knowing the light of the day and the Light of the world are steady and true.

WEDNESDAY LENTEN VESPERS (Evening Prayer service) The DE-MD Synod will livestream a midweek Lenten service on March 25, at 7 pm. To see it “live” you go to the synod’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DelawareMarylandSynod/). On Facebook, you can scroll down until you see the video that has a red “LIVE” button in the corner, or you can click “Videos” in the left hand column, where the “LIVE” button will also appear. You do not need to have a Facebook account to watch, but if you would like to comment, you will need to be logged in.
The recording of each Wednesday evening service is posted on our DEMD Synod YouTube channel and the COVID-19 Response page on our website (https://demdsynod.org/covid-19/ ). On Sundays and Wednesdays, the worship videos will appear at the top of the webpage, but on other days, you will have to scroll down to the Digital Worship section to view past services.
(I thank Deacon Julie Stecker, Assistant to the Bishop for Communications, Youth + Family Ministry for providing directions for folks like me who need coaching in digital matters.)

PASTOR’S TUESDAY PROJECTS I will be taking the information I received from Haven Connectors yesterday and checking to see that all members have a Connector. Then it is on to decisions about Sunday’s worship. I hope to put on my Dean hat for a bit to start checking in with other Lutheran pastors.

Know you are loved, beloved children of God. Reach out to someone today to see how they are doing. I have found folks to be very grateful to speak with a church friend. Stay strong and hopeful. The Lord will walk with us through this and out into the other side. Read the Ezekiel reading in the devotions below. “You shall live and you shall know that I am your God.”

God, who is faithful, IS with you,
Pastor Linda Alessandri

P.S. FOR A LIGHT MOMENT Haven member, Nancy Newkirk, has written lyrics for a new song parody, “Stay Home” to be sung to the tune of “Born Free.” You can also hear her sing it if you visit her Facebook page. Nancy wants everyone to know she does not mean to make light of  our current situation. She is simply offering a moment of humor to lighten our hearts.

Stay Home
(sung to the tune of “Born Free”)

Stay Home!
And wash your hands daily.
Get plenty of Clorox,
And several rolls of TP.

Stand Back!
And please keep your distance.
If you get much closer,
I’ll have to break both of your knees.

Six Feet!
It’s not much to ask us.
It’s better than six feet under!
Don’t you all agree?

Distance!
And good sanitation
Will help the whole nation
In stopping COVID-19

Be Strong!
Stay mentally stable
Be faithful and pray that
We’ll soon be free!

A Pause with God’s Word

Read Ezekiel 37: 1-14
1The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Reflection When I checked for the assigned reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent, I discovered this Ezekiel reading. It felt like a “God sighting.” Here in this time and under our circumstances we have a reading about God’s commitment to bring life to a nation that felt like dried up bones.
God is interested in breathing life into us, even when we feel brittle, unsure or broken. Amen, to that Lord.

Prayer: (adapted from the New Zealand Prayer Book)
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring them hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever likes ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you. Amen.

Music:  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErwiBz1QA4o OR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-HszBrTGfANote from Pastor Alessandri March 24, 2020