June 11, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

 June 11, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)     

June 11, 2020

Haven Lutheran Church, Hagerstown MD


Here’s the background: In the last few years we have run behind our anticipated offerings by several thousand dollars by this time of year…And this year there was COVID-19 that has kept us in our homes and out of the church building. We had reason for some concerns for Haven’s financial health. So, we asked you to please mail in your offerings to keep us financially fortified for our ministry to do God’s Work with Our Hands.

NOW the good news
. For another month our offerings have exceeded the amounts we had estimated for the year. Terry Trovinger reported, “Continuing GOOD NEWS for Haven’s Financial position. Church Offering is now ahead of  our year to date  budget by $4,451.60 or 5.1%. Fantastic  job,  Haven congregation… Who would have thought! God continues to bless us through these trying times.”
For those who like to see the numbers —- to meet our  2020 financial plan for ministry, we estimated our offering through May 31 would need to be $83,253. The actual amount we have received is $87,705. THANK YOU for your faithful stewardship to God’s church.

In a time when we feel so much is out of control and chaotic,
YOU have professed your faith and trust in God’s goodness through your church offerings.
I give thanks to the Lord for your witness and generosity.
To God be the glory!

P.S. In case you are wondering about how we are doing with our expenses — We projected spending through May to be $88,498 (That is the entire financial plan for ministry [aka “budget] divided by 12 months.) As of May 31st, we have actually spent $86, 294. So our staff and church are doing a good job on that side of stewardship, too.

WORSHIP AT HAVEN This Sunday, June 14th, we will have worship available on-line.  We will also offer Drive-up & Outdoor Worship at 9:30 am at Haven IF the weather cooperates. Rain could endanger equipment and worship leaders.
We will make a “call”  about holding outdoor worship at 8:00 am based on the latest weather forecast.  This will allow time for folks to switch plans to joining the online worship option. We will put a message on our church voice mail if worship is cancelled due to a rainy forecast.
Quick access to outdoor worship cancellation – Any time after 8:15 am, you can call the church at 301-733-5056. As soon as you hear the initial greeting,  push the start button (* ) and you will be taken to the voice message about cancellations and special events. (You do not have to listen to the entire initial greeting. Just push * after the message has started.)
Of course, we are hoping the weather cooperates, but we needed to be prepared if it did not. And IF by chance we call off worship and it ends up being fine weather-wise at 9:30 am, please forgive us. We can only work off the information provided by weather forecasters and storm maps.

I have really enjoyed the the way some of our drive-up worshipers will beep and turn on their windshield  wipers to pass the peace. Well, as you see, somebody has some other ideas. Hope it brings a smile.

MICAH’S BACKPACK NEWS Wendi Perry, HARC Executive Director, wants to thank the many partnerships that were created to ensure that Micah’s Backpack was successful in meeting its goals for this school year regardless of the massive disruption of the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you to the staff of the United Way of Washington County for coordinating with us to collect and distribute the food bags to the nine designated locations. Also, thanks to the folks at Potomac Case Management for all their assistance in getting the food bags to needy families. Thank you to Family Healthcare of Hagerstown for the generous donation of children’s books, which were a wonderful gift to our kids during the last bag distribution. All of the bags and books not given at distribution sites were donated to the Robert Johnson Recreation Center to be given out to other needy families. Altogether, HARC and its partners overcame any and all obstacles to do God’s work, and blessings to each and every one who participated.
The last bag distribution for the school year was Thursday, June 4. Bags were taken to Meal Machine sites and the YMCA on Eastern Boulevard. HARC had received a donation of children’s books which were included in the bags. While many sponsors offered to continue to pack through the summer, this is a school year program. With potential food chain issues, the Micah’s Backpack steering committee may need sponsors to have extra supplies on hand next year.
The WCPS is still addressing how the school year may look in the fall. Chelsea reports that the Micah’s program will be needed more than ever.

The steering committee asks that everyone keep Micah’s Backpack and all Washington County school children in your prayers.   (article from *HARC’s weekly e-newsletter) *Hagerstown Area Religious Council

Saturday, August 15, 9 am – 12 noon
Otterbein United Methodist Church
103 East Franklin Street, Hagerstown

Have you been cleaning out your garage, attic, or shed?  Bicycles (adult’s and children’s) as well as bike tools and accessories can bring new life to someone through Bikes to the World.  Drop off your donations at Otterbein UMC to be processed on-site and transported in a box truck to Bikes for the World warehouse where they are prepped for shipping.  See Bikesfortheworld.org for exciting stories and details.

A prayer offered in this week’s  *HARC e-newsletter  (*Hagerstown Area Religious Council)

STARTING NEXT WEEK HAVEN MESSAGES AND DEVOTION WILL BE SENT OUT ON MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY. I will be stepping back from five to three day for now so I can use Tuesdays and Thursdays to do more calling to our members. Under the current circumstances, I am not taking Tuesdays off but I am taking off Saturdays. That seems to work better. Please keep sending me your notes of gratitude, Godsightings, inspiring pictures and funny sayings and cartoons. I do so greatly value staying in touch with you and helping us to stay connected.

God IS with us!
Pastor Linda M Alessandri

Read:  Romans 5: 1-8  (The second reading assigned to the Second Sunday after Pentecost)
1Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

Reflection:  Reflection and Prayer prepared by Pastor David Kaplan

In the long green season after Pentecost, sometimes called ordinary time (maybe this year, new normal time?), the assigned Sunday second readings aren’t always topically related to the Gospels.  Instead these readings have a life of their own – they’re more or less continuous passages from letters, often authored by St. Paul, that comprise most of the New Testament after the book of Acts.  Beginning this Sunday with the passage above and continuing through September 13 we’ll be reading successive selections from his letter to the Romans.  I believe the Holy Spirit had a hand in that timing.  Down through the centuries in periods of crisis and confusion, passages from Romans have given the Church renewed clarity in its life and mission (recall, for instance how 1:16-17, 3:28 were key verses for Luther and other Reformers).  Similarly, this letter may speak anew to us this year in our crisis and confusion.  In fact this very passage may speak an uplifting word to us here and now!

This coming Sunday is not the first occasion this year for Romans 5.  It was also the assigned reading for the third Sunday in Lent, March 15.  Doesn’t ring a bell?  That was the last Sunday we worshipped together in the sanctuary before the lockdown.  Our emphasis on that date with a wonderful sermon from Katy was the John 4 Gospel about the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well.  But what an appropriate Lenten message is contained in the first two verses of this reading!  Paul established in the first three chapters of Romans that none of us, neither Jew nor Gentile, can come into a right relationship with God by our own wisdom, obedience to the law, or spiritual experience: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23).  But God has done what we cannot do on our own, justified us, that is, put us in a right relationship by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith (3:24-25).  If those words sound a bit heavy handed and overly theological, it’s simply Paul’s complicated way of expressing John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son… In both passages God’s gracious gift in Jesus brings about our freedom and salvation and life; in both passages we receive that gift simply by trusting in him.

But wait, there’s more (with Paul there’s always more)!  The apostle goes on to explain in Romans 4 that it’s been that way from the start.  Abraham, our ancestor in faith, was put right with God by believing God’s promise and not by obeying God’s command (although he did that too).  And so through that long and sometimes slightly tedious discussion Paul arrives at the conclusion with which he begins chapter 5:  Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.  If you missed the last part of Lent because you couldn’t come to Church and were stressed out by the coronavirus, there it is in less than thirty words – the center of the Lenten message, the center of the Gospel, the center of our identity as baptized children of God: faith, peace, grace, Jesus!  All that’s lacking is some mention of the Holy Spirit.  But wait again – that’s there too!  Skip down to verse 5: God’s love has been poured into our hearts – like water over our heads – through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  So if you missed last Sunday, the festival of Holy Trinity because you couldn’t come to Church and were stressed out by the protests, there it is combined with the first two verses – the center of Trinity Sunday.  In fact we could use this passage as a reading for that festival as well.  Oops – too late – someone already thought of that.  Turns out in addition to the two Sundays this year, Romans 5 is the assigned second reading in Year C for Trinity Sunday!

But there are a couple of other thoughts in this passage worth considering.  One is boasting – taking pride in something – hardly a lost art in our day.  Paul was not the most modest of the apostles, but the things about which he boasted were never personal accomplishments or exceeding goals.  In fact, they were just the opposite – items that the world might consider humiliating or even shameful: floggings, stoning, shipwrecks, danger from strangers, hunger, thirst and the like (2 Corinthians 11: 21-33).  And here he invites us to join him in boasting in our own sufferings.  That just sounds weird – or neurotic!  How can people boast about the suffering they’re undergoing?  Lament, yes.  Complain, yes.  But boast?  Yes to that too, because God can use our suffering as spiritual discipline to help us grow.  Notice the chain Paul links together: suffering produces endurance which produces character which produces hope, the hope the Spirit gives.  Has it not been so, Haven, in the past three months?  Our initial suffering at not being able to worship together or see each other was sadness, but we didn’t despair.  Through online worship and phone contacts we found we could endure, and even grow closer, strengthening our character as a community.  And now we’re renewed in hope – not just the hope of worshipping inside again, but the hope that comes from letting the Spirit guide us even if that’s in new directions, whose outcome is not yet clear, but assured that it will not disappoint.  So, yes, it is possible to rejoice in suffering, simply because suffering will not have the last word, but through it God will enable us to grow into the hope that even death can’t destroy.

And finally, check out verse 7 where Paul speculates about the possibility of one human being dying for another.  History is filled with stories of saints, martyrs and ordinary folks who have done just that.  Our generation is no exception: first responders who rescued victims from doomed buildings that collapsed on those responders, teachers who sheltered their students from active shooters with their own bodies, doctors and nurses who died from COVID19 while treating others with the disease.  And the death of George Floyd?  In one sense that’s not quite in the same category.  George did not intentionally give his life for another; he was simply the victim of an unjust and corrupt system.  And yet the impact his death has carried to oppressed people of color in our own country and around the world, and even to those of privilege (of which I am one), a new cry for justice, mutual understanding and reconciliation.  How can we understand that apart from God’s continually renewing work to bring hope to all the earth?  I can’t begin to imagine where it will all lead, but this much I’m sure of: its roots are in the love God has for all people everywhere, in that while we were – and still are – sinners, Christ willingly and lovingly died for us.

Prayer: O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.  (Evening Prayer – Vespers, ELW, p. 317)

Pastor Kaplan offers these suggestions:
Jesus, Still Lead On, ELW 624
(choral ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14ttjKncnQw
(organ ,instrumental)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H3x-G_68ik

            Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service, ELW 712
(choral & bell choirs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIPIyM2Qz4k&t=23s

“Neither Death nor Life” (M. Haugen) ELW#622  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfySOEtbMxI

“Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zundjUFazfg

“Your Grace Is Enough” (Chris Tomlin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtnE_e1LylY