January 8, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

January 8, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Epiphany Bishop Gohl Sermon (pdf)


 January 8, 2021


We each have our own words to describe what we felt and thought watching our U.S. Capital assaulted, invaded, ransacked and looted. Many of us were glued to our televisions like we were on 9/11. We watched knowing our nation and world was being changed and it filled us with anxiety, horror and great dis-ease. This on top of the COVID-19 pandemic that has already shaken us and brings changes yet to be seen.
9/11 seemed to pull the people of our nation together as we grieved the great loss of life and scrambled to try to find ways to helpfully respond. Rightly or wrongly, we turned our anger and desire for justice toward those who had invaded and assaulted our nation in NYC and DC. But what do we do about those we watched assault the Capital on Wednesday? What do we do with the anger and grief? When we call for justice, what will that mean?

We can’t sidestep the events of Wednesday. Arrests, though appropriate, will not completely resolve what was revealed. It was not a simple matter of a “difference of opinion”  but a difference in accepted facts and truth and what is lawful and constitutional. We saw among those rioters, Americans who felt white supremacy and self-proclaimed militias has been legitimized by their acceptance by national leaders. While I know many of the protesters were expressing a frustration with feeling ignored, left0ut or discounted in national and political discourse, I also know that many would not accept that many others have experienced those same frustrations and great injustices due to their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Everyone = ALL. Every persons accepted, afforded dignity and welcomed at the table. Which sounds remarkably like what Jesus taught us, what God revealed to us about the love of God.

I am not saying we all have to think alike or have the same opinions about the role of government and economic policies. What I am saying is that we cannot abandon the command of our Lord to love God and our neighbor to promote or further those opinions. Thus we cannot demonize or dismiss those who disagree with us and we will ask the same of others for the sake of civil discourse, our common humanity and, for we who claim Christ is our Lord, for the sake of God’s love of all creation. Maybe what Wednesday’s events revealed to me was the danger of complacency and silence.  We try to be polite and peacefully “get along,” as we should.  Yet there seems to be a line and I’m not always sure where it is. Yet, as we saw at the Capital, saying nothing to injustice, prejudice, slurs, hatred, and lies will unleash them to do great harm. And so we reflect and pray. We take the gospel seriously and we ask God to give us discerning wisdom and courage as try our very best, with God’s help, to let love be the leader who can take us to unity and peace for all.

Your pastor and partner in ministry,
Linda M. Alessandri

P.S. As always, I am open to your comments and discussion. We are a “Haven” where we can have peaceful, respectful conversation in which we both speak and listen. I am available.

Other Responses to Wednesday’s events:

ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (video message) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLie5YiRydw
DE-MD Bishop Bill Gohl  I’m attaching a copy of Pastor Gohl’s Epiphany Day sermon in which he shares his own experience as part of a prayer group who was in DC on Wednesday. Warning: it is very disturbing. If you wish to hear the Bishop’s sermon, you can go to https://www.facebook.com/EpiphanyLC/  and scroll down to the Epiphany (Jan. 6) worship service.




















Did you know? Haven’s live stream Epiphany worship service got over 150 views and our Christmas Eve service had over 200 views!  Encouraging

Elaine Michael shared this new year’s house blessing from Pastor Karl Muhlbach, Trinity Lutheran, Boonsboro.

May God add a blessing to the house that is here.
God bless this house from roof to floor, from wall to wall,
From end to end,
From its foundation and in its covering.
In the name of the Triune God +
All disturbance cease,
Captive spirits freed,
God’s Spirit alone
Dwell within these walls

Christ, in our coming

And in our leaving,
The Door and the Keeper;
For us and our dear ones,
This day and every day,
Blessing for always. Amen.

HAVEN’S COUNCIL GIVE OUR MUSIC DIRECTOR, STEVE PASTENA, AND ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT, MARY GRABILL, A SPECIAL END OF YEAR GIFT  Since our financial health was very good in 2020 and our staff had to work through many challenges, time shifts and extra responsibilities, the Personnel Team requested the Council to authorize a one-time “bonus” at the end of 2020. Pastor Alessandri and the Council agreed. We received the following notes of thanks

Thank you so much for your beyond generous bonus! I feel truly blessed to be here at Haven among such wonderful people. This year has been challenging, for sure. I miss being able to sing with the choir and congregation, and miss seeing many of our members in the sanctuary. However, I am glad to be able to continue serving, and to play a part in making sure our friends, neighbors, and family in Christ can worship with us from the safety of home. God-willing, we will get this vaccine soon, and put this pandemic behind us. Until then, I am happy to keep editing our recorded services. I wish you all the best this holiday season. Have a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year.

Your servant in Christ,
Steve Pastena

Haven Family & Friends,

Thank you for the generous gift you have given me.  It is an absolute pleasure to work somewhere where you truly feel that you and your work is valued and appreciated.  As many of you know my husband during this pandemic has had some job changes and this generous gift will help to keep our family on track during these difficult times.  God bless to you all and may you all have a healthy, safe and spiritually filled 2021.

God’s blessings,

Mary Grabill (Administrative Assistant)


SUPPLIES FOR THE REACH COLD WEATHER SHELTER are being collected by the Hagerstown Lions Club. NEEDED: Wipes, White Socks and Toilet Paper for clients at the REACH local cold weather shelter.   *Donations can be dropped off on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 12 Noon- 1:30 PM or 4:30 -6:00 PM at the portico of Otterbien United Methodist Church, 108 E. Franklin St., Hagerstown, where the Hagerstown Lions will be collecting items. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

*Can’t make on January 13th? Any donations brought to Haven this Sunday or left on the parsonage back porch will be taken to the Lions Club collection on your behalf.

All COVID-19 vaccine appointments for Washington County residents age 65 and older are currently filled. You can get updates on the vaccination program at https://www.meritushealth.com/patients-visitors/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccine-information/

In the meantime…. Wear your mask. Wash hands frequently. Socially distance from those who don’t reside in your home. Use hand sanitizer when out. Stay vigilant and well for your sake and the love of your neighbor.


Read   Mark 1: 4-11
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Reflection   (Reflection and Prayer prepared by Pastor David Kaplan)

No angel chorus, no band of shepherds, no bright shining star, no visitors from the East, not a trace of the Christmas story that we’ve read and sung and celebrated the past several Sundays – Mark begins his Gospel with John the baptizer fully grown appearing in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People from all over came to listen, to confess sins, to be dunked in the Jordan River and hear the good news of God’s cleansing and forgiveness.  And to hear a promise of one who was coming, who is more powerful than I…I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thongs of his sandals…  It’s like coming into the middle of a movie.  “Wait a minute, Mark,” we want to say, “You call this the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.  But there must be something more, something earlier that you could provide to set the stage for this moment.”

That “something earlier”, that story of Jesus’ coming into the world as a child occurs in Matthew and Luke (where we even read about the birth of John the baptizer) along with a theological reflection about his incarnation (God’s Word becoming flesh) in John’s Gospel.  Mark, the earliest and shortest of the Gospels, plunges immediately (one of the catchwords of this Gospel) into the action.  We believe that he was writing to a persecuted congregation whose members quickly needed to know the comfort and challenge of following Jesus.  So we first meet him here, not as an infant, but fully grown, presenting himself out in the wilderness for John to baptize.  And so he was – baptized by John in the Jordan.  No discussion, no argument about worthiness (compare Matthew 3:14-15), just that simple six word phrase.  After Jesus’ baptism, though, Mark adds two significant details: the descent of God’s Spirit on Jesus and the affirming voice from heaven.

The heavens were opened for the Spirit to descend on Jesus.  Opened?  No, that’s the vanilla word that both Matthew and Luke use to describe this event.  Mark uses a much stronger expression: torn apart, which literally refers to the rending or tearing of a garment.  The word is both fulfillment and foreshadowing.  It is the answer to the desperate prayer of the returning exiles in Isaiah 64:1 who felt God had given up on them: O that you would tear open the heavens and come down… The only other time Mark uses the word is near the end of his Gospel right after Jesus’ death on the cross: And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.  What’s the link connecting these passages?  All three are about access to God’s presence, which the Spirit makes possible.

The Holy Spirit is the driving force in Jesus’ ministry and his steadfast commitment in times of trial, temptation, and struggle all the way to his death and resurrection.  Moreover, it is his gift to all who would follow, as John promised the crowds: I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.  Along with the Spirit is the voice of strength and assurance from the torn apart heavens: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.  The saying is a blend of two Old Testament verses, Psalm 2:7 (addressed to a king) and Isaiah 42:1 (addressed to God’s servant).  Together they assure this promised Servant-King of the Father’s abiding care and concern.      

Now we have a real beginning, or perhaps a second beginning!  After the angel chorus, the band of shepherds, the bright shiny star, the visitors from the East, fast forward thirty years or so.  See how Mark begins his Gospel with Jesus’ baptism, accompanied by Word and Spirit and free access to the Father: the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the beginning of his healing and teaching, the beginning of a long journey to the cross.  If the beginning of 2021 has gotten off to a rocky start, hardly the improvement we hoped for over 2020, here is a beginning that brings us real hope, the Baptism of our Lord, which we celebrate on Sunday.

It’s not just Jesus’ Baptism we remember, however, but our own, thirty days or thirty years after our birth.  It’s the water poured over our heads, the heavens opened as the Spirit continues to descend into our hearts and lives.  It’s the assurance of God’s word that we are God’s beloved children and heirs of the eternal life our Lord won for us.  It points to the meal that tears apart all barriers to God’s presence in our lives as we share Jesus’ body and blood together.  It’s the Epiphany that brings God’s light into our darkest nights.  It’s the beginning that renews our ministry and mission in times of trial and struggle and temptation all the way to death and resurrection.  Through the wilderness of this year, whatever it brings, as Luther reminds us, we remember our Baptism, dying daily to the old barriers that lock us in, and rising to the new life that Christ alone gives in order to share his good news and love with all.  So don’t despair in the midst of COVID, riots, and the everyday cares of life!  Baptized in Jesus’ name, we begin anew wherever this year’s journey leads.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus we thank you for your baptism in the Jordan River.  We thank you for our baptism whenever and wherever it occurred.  Strengthened by the Spirit who descended on you and the assurance that we are your beloved children, help us to share your light and life in this dark and dying world.  Amen.

Pastor Kaplan suggests:

Christ, When for Us You Were Baptized (ELW 304)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER78SzyiyrM

When Jesus Came to Jordan (ELW 305) (instrumental with words)


Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters (ELW 445) (Oleta Adams)

This Is the Spirit’s Entry Now (ELW 448) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU3s46pKoOI


“Down A Galilee’s Slow Roadway” An anthem variation of a hymn from a new ELCA hymnal supplement (All Creation Singshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmWRlrBF7ME