July 24, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

July 24, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

July 24, 2020

Haven Lutheran Church

WORSHIP AT HAVEN THIS WEEKEND
Friday 5 p.m.  Spoken service with Holy Communion in the sanctuary
(masks and social distancing required)
Sunday 9:30 a.m.   On-line Worship premieres at 9:30 am on havenlc.org
(and can be viewed any time after that.)
Sunday 9:30 a.m.  Drive-up and Outdoor Worship at Haven
Currently there is no rain in the forecast. The evening temperature the night before is predicted to be in the 70s, hopefully allowing the morning to be kind.

PASTOR’S GOING ON VACATION I will be leaving Monday, July 27th to drive to the mountains of North Carolina, to an area with the blessed low COVID rate as our Washington County. My sister will join me on Tuesday and we will spend the week together reading, playing Yahtzee, enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking leisurely hikes. I will be back in the office on Wednesday, August 5. We will have our face masks and practice good social distancing practices whenever we are out. I ask for your prayers, that my time away offer rest and refreshment and that my sister and I have safe travel. Even when away, I keep you in heart and prayer.

IF IN NEED OF THE PRESENCE OF A PASTOR WHILE I AM GONE, please call Pastor Lee Brumback (St. Paul Lutheran, Funkstown) 1-540-335-1710 (cell). He is kind, soft spoken and has a powerful faith.

SEMINARIAN KATY MORAN WILL BE BACK TO LEAD WORSHIP AT HAVEN July 31 and August 2. Let’s give her a great Haven welcome (with masks and social distance, of course.) Katy will be staying in the parsonage while visiting Hagerstown.

 REMINDER — There will be no communion the services on July 31 or August 2, but God most certainly will be at each and every worship service!

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH (and sometimes groan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the weekly COVID Update from Delaware-Maryland Synod Bishop William (Bill) Gohl, Jr.

The Church is not closed
When stay-at-home orders shut down the local food pantry, Trinity (Taneytown) began offering a drive-up food distribution every week in partnership with church neighbors. It has grown from about 30 households to a high of 84 last week! St. Peter’s (Ocean City) has leveraged the pandemic time to deepen the prayer life of the community. The pastoral staff sends out a prayer chain every day at noon (through Call Multiplier) with scripture, prayer and an encouraging word about the love of God lived out through their ministry, their church and their people! St. Paul (Curtis Bay), one of our smallest congregations, makes a significant community impact with monthly Maryland Food Bank distributions, as does St. John (Brooklyn), which continues to sustain its well-appreciated emergency Food Pantry! Pastor Bob Schmitt continues his port ministry, with seafarers still are being visited at gangways even as they are waiting months over their contracts to be able to return home. Living Water (Stevensville) is meeting for socially distanced worship and fellowship in their pastor’s driveway while continuing their work with Queen Anne’s County Backpacks for Kids program that helps kids have the food they need each day, and their work with Safe Haven by donating to their food pantry and safety net programs! Zion (City Hall Plaza) has packed and donated over 3,000 lunches for the Franciscan Center in Baltimore! And, our synod congregations continue to flood St. Dysmas, our congregation that gathers in the Maryland State Correctional Facilities, with notes to encourage and cheer our imprisoned siblings in Christ! Thanks be to God for your ongoing witness and ministry! This Church is not closed!

With my love and prayers,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read   Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

1[Jesus] put before [the crowds] another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
44“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Reflection  (Reflection and Prayer prepared by Pastor David Kaplan)

Before I offer a few thoughts about this fascinating Gospel text appointed for Sunday, I want to express my overwhelming thanks to Pr. Alessandri and Haven Congregation for the outpouring of love and generosity you have shown me during the past month of surgery and rehab for a broken hip.  Your calls, greetings, cards, meals, transportation assistance and above all your prayers have transformed a situation of pain and struggle into a marvelous reminder of God’s love and grace working through his people.  I am so grateful!

During the past two Sundays we have considered single parables from Matthew 13 – on July 12 the sower who scattered seed recklessly, and last week the land owner whose enemy sowed weeds among his already planted wheat.  Both were stories with unexpected twists; both stretched our understanding of how God’s Kingdom may be revealed in the lives of God’s people.  This Sunday, not one, but five separate parables tease our imagination and expand our vision of the Kingdom.  At first glance they don’t seem like parables – at least not like the two from the previous Sundays.  There’s no twist of plot with these five, in fact there is no plot as such.  They’re not really stories at all; they’re figures of speech which compare the Kingdom to a familiar object or event.  Grammatically, we would call them similes since the comparison is made explicit with the phrase translated “is like” (otherwise they would be metaphors).  The Hebrew term is mashal, which means a short comparison (although it later came to designate parables in the more familiar sense of stories).

The Old Testament setting of mashal is Wisdom literature.  Proverbs 25-26 contain a whole collection.  It’s fun to figure them out, like solving riddles – look at 25:14 for instance.  How are clouds and wind without rain like one who boasts of a gift never given?  Not too difficult – both promise a blessing (and rain is truly a blessing in the parched Holy Land), but the blessing never comes.  Or in 25:19 how is a bad tooth or a lame foot like trusting a faithless person in time of trouble?  They all let you down when you need them the most!  Not all are that easy to solve.  Sometimes you might need to pray for wisdom to decipher them – yep, just like Solomon in the first reading (see Pastor’s Monday devotion)!

So let’s briefly look at the five mini-parables in the Gospel and see how they fit the mashal pattern.  How is the Kingdom of heaven…

…like a mustard seed?  Both begin in tiny, almost imperceptible ways – a microscopic seed, a small town rabbi with a band of misunderstanding followers nailed to a cross – both would surely amount to nothing – but in three years and three days they grow beyond the world’s wildest imagination!

…yeast?  You can’t see it, but just a little causes the whole loaf to rise.  You can’t see it – the working of the Spirit, the Word, prayer, the meal in our hearts – but they cause us to rise and become leaven ourselves to a world in need.

…like treasure in a field?  A stranger to the Kingdom suddenly stumbles on it (hopefully didn’t fall and break a hip!) or stumbles on Jesus.  Suddenly life makes sense – worth giving up the trinkets he had been playing with, worth giving everything for.

…like a merchant in search of fine pearls?  She knew it was out there. She had heard rumors, read books, dreamed dreams – searched in a thousand places, every time she saw a pearl, could this be the one?  A lifetime of disappointment; but all at once, there it was – worth giving up all the other pearls for, worth giving everything for.

…like a net thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind?  All are welcome in the Kingdom – no exceptions!  No barriers of race, age, gender, sexual orientation.  Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world – he died and rose for us all!  (see below for a comment on how this mashal may have developed into a more standard parable*)

Those are possible points of comparison, but they’re not the only ones.  The similes are all open ended; you may think of other comparisons that are equally or more appropriate.  Again, you may even want to pray like Solomon in today’s first reading to give you increased wisdom or at least additional insights to open the richness of these mini-parables to you.  But the comparisons all have a pattern.  “Have you understood all this?”  Jesus asked the disciples at the conclusion of this teaching.  “Yes,” they responded with the same blank stare that students give their math teacher when he asks if they understand the quadratic formula.

But as with that formula there’s a pattern to all the parables in Matthew 13, long and short.  It’s what Jesus announces in the last verse of this Gospel: Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.  Scribes often get a bad rap in the New Testament, linked with the Pharisees in their opposition to Jesus.  But this verse is about a special scribe – trained for the Kingdom – familiar with old patterns, old customs and the Old Covenant, but open to the new saving work of the Kingdom ushered in by the coming of Jesus.  What’s interesting is this verse only appears in Matthew’s Gospel.  But maybe that’s the key, perhaps Matthew’s signature verse, revealing to us his purpose in putting together his Gospel as a whole and this collection of parables in particular.  He’s reflecting Jesus’ knack of taking old, familiar, everyday life in first century Holy Land as well as the old promises of the Hebrew Scriptures and transforming them all into the new message of God’s saving love and purpose for all people through the old shadow of death and the new glory of the risen Lord.  And if that’s the way we’re to understand these parables, maybe it gives some direction to the way we share that transforming good news to others today.

The Kingdom of heaven is like an old man hobbling around who is brought to his feet by sisters and brothers who love him more than he could ever realize.

*In commenting on the parable of the net, I intentionally omitted the sorting of the fish into “good” or “bad” categories with the explanation “So it will be at the end of the age.”  This expansion of the mashal into a story parable about end time judgment misses the meaning of the original comparison and is similar to the explanation of the wheat and the weeds (13:36-40) which also misses the meaning of the original parable (13:24-30).  Along with the explanation of the Sower (13:18-23) some New Testament scholars believe these sections were added later, perhaps by a well-intentioned copyist, who misunderstood the original meaning of Jesus’ stories.

Prayer
Lord, You bring us out of old patterns into new possibilities.  Transform our lives that in the midst of ordinary living, we may reflect your saving love and joy that transcend all we can imagine, through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Music

Suggestions from Pastor Kaplan
Thine the Amen, ELW 826  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwWnJoJ9x-o

In Thee Is Gladness, ELW 867  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNI_W2TnJG4

He Bought the Whole Field for Joy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlfQlKaVheg&list=RDXlfQlKaVheg&start_radio=1

Other Suggestions

“Jesus, My Treasure” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjRKHNOX78s

“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH3GY-7ee1Y

“You Are My All in All” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ScRmcpRip4

“God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens” ELW 771 (bell choir)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBl_wOHZdcg