January 22, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri

January 22, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)


 January 22, 2021

STARTING NEXT WEEK HAVEN’S E-MESSAGE WILL BE POSTED ON TUESDAY AND THURSDAY.  If events or circumstances increase, we will go back to three times a week. Please be sure to send in any news, GRATITUDES and GODSIGHTING,  pictures, song suggestions or other items of interest to me (l.alessandri1035@gmail.com.) This is one way we can stay connected to one another during these times.

SUNDAY’S WORSHIP MATERIALS FOR THOSE WATCHING ON LIVE STREAM will be available on the parsonage back porch after 2 pm. You can pick up hymnals, bulletin,  and blessed communion sets.

STILL DON’T HAVE YOUR 2021 OFFERING ENVELOPES? Just contact me (l.alessandri1035@gmail.com) or the church office and we will put them on the parsonage back porch or arrange to have them delivered. Thank you for your faithful giving.







ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL CALENDAR WEBSITE  January 22 is National Blonde Brownie Day and *Celebration of Life Day. (“*Celebration of Life Day on January 22nd honors the children and grandchildren who bring joy to our lives. The day is a reminder that each child and each life is to be held as a precious gift with the highest respect and dignity”…. As if grandparents need a special day to spoil their grand kids. 

If none of those appeal, you may want to celebrate National Pie Day tomorrow. Then there is National Compliment, National Beer Can Appreciation and National Peanut Butter Day on Sunday, January 24. If you still want some reasons to celebrate, then wait until Monday and get to popping on National Bubble Wrap Day! It’s also National Irish Coffee Day and, if you really want to mess with people, there is National Opposite Day. (“The aim of the day is to have fun all day long saying exactly the opposite of what you really mean. This day has kids rejoicing everywhere. It is also a great day for adults to play along and break out of the winter blues. Maybe we should have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner!”)
Whatever the reason, find reason to celebrate something that is good or right, tasty or beautiful “just because” we are surrounded by blessings we can often overlook.

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH  (Fresh from Atlanta)

















A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD  (Devotion and Prayer prepared by Rev. David Kaplan)

Read: Mark 1:14-20
14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.


Remember last month when the devotions featured key words for Advent?  Three related key words bind together this Gospel text: repent, believe and follow.  They were key words at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  They’re still key words for disciples as we begin this year in his name.

If I remember correctly, repent was one of those Advent words, but it’s also a good word for the weeks after Epiphany, and (spoiler alert!) it’s going to pop up again in Lent.  We usually think of it in terms of feeling sorry for or confessing one’s sins, and that’s certainly part of the biblical understanding; but in both Testaments the root meaning of the word is much more general.  In the Old Testament it actually means to turn or turn around or turn back.  It’s translated by that more general meaning in the last verse of Sunday’s first reading, Jonah 3:10: When God saw…how they (the people of the city of Nineveh) turned from their evil ways… In fact, in the preceding verse (not included in the reading) the king of Nineveh, using exactly the same word, twice speculated that God may relent…he may turn from his fierce anger… God never needs to repent in the way we usually understand, but God is always open to turning from judgment to grace!  In the New Testament the word most frequently translated repent (as in Sunday’s Gospel reading above) literally means to change one’s mind.  That too often refers to sin, but it can also be used with the more general meaning.  So in verse 15, when Jesus called people to repent, was he simply exhorting them to change their sinful ways of living (as John the Baptist had done), or was he encouraging them to change old patterns and lifestyles in light of the kingdom he was ushering in?

As he would later explain, Jesus’ kingdom was not like the ones that people were familiar with or expected.  His Kingdom was not geographical, but spiritual.  Not built with force, but with love.   Not celebrated by being served, but by serving.  Not expressed in self-gratification, but by self-giving.   And Jesus himself loving, caring, giving was at the heart and center, extending the good news of this kingdom not to a privileged few, but to all who believe.  Believe – the second key word of his reading!   As it’s used in the Gospels, and especially in verse 15, the word doesn’t mean assenting to or agreeing with a particular teaching or a set of principles.  It’s simply trusting Jesus and being open for his Kingdom to dwell and grow in our hearts.  If you’re like me, though, and like the people to whom Jesus first spoke these words, that’s not so simple after all.  Like the devastated father later on in Mark’s Gospel (9:24), I believe; help my unbelief!  And Jesus does just that.  Through his word with us, through his presence in his meal, through his Spirit poured upon us in Baptism, through the support of our brothers and sisters in the faith (and lack of it at times), Jesus enables us to do what we could never do on our own: let go of our need to control our own lives – and often the lives of others – and simply trust him and let him guide us.  But again, that’s not so simple: he may guide us in ways we hadn’t expected to places we really didn’t want to go (remember Jonah!).

Still he calls those who believe to follow.  The folks who last week came and saw were now invited by Jesus into a closer relationship with him.  The word follow appears three times in the last few verses of this Gospel, once as an invitation and twice as a response.  Jesus’ invitation in verse 17 is a three word phrase that literally means come after me.  The response of Andrew and Simon was immediate (another key word in Mark’s Gospel) and life-changing: they left their nets and followed him (here the Greek word for follow is used).  When Jesus went down the shore to call James and John, the response was even more dramatic, for it involved not only turning away from a profitable business, but turning from family ties as well:  they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him (here the word translated followed means went after).  From now on instead of fishing for fish, they would be fishing for people!

These three key words help lift the veil for us during Epiphany time so that we can understand more clearly this familiar opening to Jesus’ public ministry.  Fishers  with families and businesses and daily routines, who so often held them as captive as the fish they caught in their nets, suddenly saw a glimpse of a new possibility of letting go, a light in the darkness of their lives, an inviting voice in their wilderness of despair.  Perhaps an illusion or a self-delusion, but like the magi a few weeks ago, they were willing to turn away from old patterns to come and see.  Maybe the word he spoke, maybe the compassion in his eyes, maybe the way he revealed his heavenly Father to be their heavenly Father, maybe just his presence with them, something about this Jesus hooked them, and planted the seed of faith within them.  Then when he invited them to come after him, how could they delay?  They left their nets, they left their boats, they left their Dad in order to follow Jesus.

Still happens that way sometimes – people turning heads and hearts away from old patterns to come to Jesus, who helps them believe in him and the good news of his Kingdom.  Then he invites them to leave home and family and occupation to follow him.  More often, though, he invites would be disciples to follow him exactly where we are, to share his good news by our words and actions in the midst of our homes and families and occupations.  So how can we delay?   The darkness of COVID, of political strife, of racial and gender bias, of division and hatred, as well as all the personal issues which daily weigh us down, has been pierced by the light of Jesus’ Kingdom.  He calls us as believers to share that good news of his light and life, “for there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”*

*Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb, inaugural poem.

Prayer: Lord you call your people in every age to turn from self-destructive patterns, to dwell in your presence and receive the good news of your kingdom, then to follow where you lead us.  As disciples of old left their nets to follow you and serve, help us also to follow and share your light in this dark world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Pastor Kaplan suggests:

You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore (ELW 817)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgomtIc1_yc

Drawn to the Light (ELW 593)
(soloist)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I7-bKXFrb8
(guitar)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVChhVSijNI

I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light (ELW 815)
(choral rendition) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMx3ZMdaYyQ

Come, Follow Me, the Savior Spake (ELW 799) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF3kZG-VajY

Other Suggestions
“I Will Follow” (Chris Tomlin)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ohvhmGSfxI

“Live for the Kingdom”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89_LvReFilI