June 29, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

June 29, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

June 29, 2020

Haven Lutheran Church, Hagerstown MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PASTOR KAPLAN UPDATE. He fell on Friday and had surgery on his hip on Saturday On Sunday, they had him up walking and he could put his full weight on his hip. Wow! Maybe I should have placed this under GRATITUDE AND GOD SIGHTINGS. I think Pastor Kaplan is showing us the healing benefits of staying active and healthy.

Pastor Kaplan was hoping he would do physical therapy at Merits. He will find out today. I was already approached by several people at worship yesterday who offered to run errands or give rides when Pastor Dave needs the help. His “Garden Buddies” have told him they will watch over his garden until he is able. He was touched by the love of his home congregation.

Keep the prayers coming, that Pastor Dave has the strength, patience and perseverance for his therapy and recovery and that his healing is speedy and full.

WORSHIP AT HAVEN Every Saturday evening when we are having outdoor worship I pray the weather is good and then I add my p.s. “Or at least make it VERY clear what we should do.” Well, yesterday it was very clear that we were going to have a sunny morning. We set up.  We had folks in cars, several seated in lawn chairs and our worship team = 33.

I hope those of you who stayed home were blessed by the worship service on-line. Didn’t Steve Pastena have a remarkable “Amazing Grace” prelude and a stellar organ postlude!

 

 

 

GRATITUDE AND GODSIGHTS

From Scott Rhodes and family

Here is a God sighting from our trip to Solomon’s Island. Such beauty.

 

 

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read  Zechariah 9: 9-12
9Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

11As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
12Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Reflection

Background  The Babylonians defeated the last of the Hebrew nation about 597 BCE. Because of their resistance, the Babylonians destroyed much of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Babylonians then took many of the Jewish leaders and the educated and wealthier Hebrew population into exile in Babylonia. During that time of exile, the prophets upheld God’s faithfulness and God’s promise that they would once return to what was their homeland, Jerusalem and the Temple.

In 539 BCE the newest super power in the Middle East – Persia – defeat the Babylonians, The Persian king, Cyrus, released the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem, with permission to rebuild it and the Temple. Temple reconstruction is thought to have begun around 537 BCE.

The return to Jerusalem had been disappointing to many of the Hebrews who returned. Having lived on the dream of restoration of the Jewish kingdom during exile, they did not anticipate the rubble they would find. Concentrate on rebuilding the city and its fortifications first or the Temple?
Who would be “in charge” — the many Jews who had not been taken away to exile who remained in the region or the returning population with its religious leaders and priestly descendants? Casted over all of this was the fact that they were still not an independent nation but under the Persian’s authority.

This is the time when the prophet and priest, Zechariah, was active. He shared visions of the restoration of the Hebrew nation and in particular the life of the Temple. In this particular passage, he shares a prophecy about the coming of a messianic king to Jerusalem and the Hebrew nation, who will inaugurate an era of disarmament and prosperity. It is a passage that we now hear on Palm Sunday or Christ the King Sunday, seeing Jesus as the humble ruler riding on a donkey rather than a war horse stead, bearing peace.

That’s the history. What captured me, however, was the promise in verses 11 and 12. Because the Lord has made a covenant with you, which the Lord will keep, we move from being prisoners in a waterless pit to being “prisoners of hope.” Shift that idea of “covenant” from the one made with Israel, to lay over the covenant God has made with each of us at our baptism. “Prisoners of hope.” Oh, my gosh, what an absolutely stunning and beautiful description. Because the Lord is steadfast and keeps promises, hope is our home and our inheritance. We can live in hope knowing God is always with us and God will restore us to life (though it may not be the “life” we once knew.)

In yesterday’s sermon for the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, I mentioned how faith in not a matter of right thinking but trusting God and loving Jesus. When we do that, we are not leaving our minds or reasoning behind but moving into that home and inheritance of hope and faith. I wrote, “That is why faith often looks like courage. It doesn’t remove doubt, but faith is the courage to go into an unknown future in spite of doubts. Faith doesn’t remove fear. Faith is the courage to do the right thing even when your knees are trembling. Faith doesn’t remove disappointments or guarantee victory. Faith is the courage to keep on going when you may want to cut your losses and give up.”1 (Adapted from a quote from Mark Trotter, “Plant it and Stand Back” Collected Sermons ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc. 2007 0-000-0444)

We are moving into the fourth month of an active response to COVID. We have been living in unchartered waters and we are still unable to see with clarity what is ahead. We are tired and weary, yet cautious, wanting to remain safe and care for our neighbors. Into that Covid fatigue, comes these words to remind us that we are not without resources to carry on. We are “prisoners of hope.” Oh, not a Pollyanna, pat on the hand kind of hope. (“Oh, don’t worry. Everything will be alright.”) We have a hope with muscles. It’s backed by the power, love and goodness of God. Even though we may not see when or how life and church will unfold, we do not give up on our hope — our faith in God.

That doesn’t mean we won’t still have times when we are tired, agitated or downright angry at this new “abnormal normal.”  What it does mean is that we will keep our eyes open to notice God at work — in blessings, through others, in opportunities to serve our neighbors even now. We “prisoners of hope” stay curious and wonder what goodness the Lord may be able to shape out this messiness AND how we may be called to be a part of that newness. This is why we can say, “God is good all the time.  All the time God is good.” We don’t say it blindly or superstitiously. We can say it because we know it is true. We’ve seen it in scripture, in Jesus and in our own lives. In exile or home, we are prisoners of a hope in a God of love who is faithful and steadfast, right here with us and already ahead waiting for us.

Prayer (In part from Lana Gilster’s devotion on today’s reading at Luther Seminary’s God Pause)

“During this pandemic isolation I miss worshipping together. I miss singing familiar hymns. I miss our friends. Our loss can leave us wordless, breathless. God remembered Zechariah and Israel. And God promises to remember us—and to come to us in ever new ways.” Keep us captives of hope in you, that we may anticipate, see and join the renewed and new ways that you will bring into our lives, community and world. Amen.

Music:

“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”  ELW #596
(organ, choir & congregation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFktMLdeFac
(contemporary) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XBKxqLBefg

“Thine the Amen” ELW #826
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwWnJoJ9x-o&list=RDwwWnJoJ9x-o&start_radio=1

“Hymn to Hope” (instrumental) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjmMiQCS_W8

“All My Hope” (Hillsong Worship) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyHZwkd4bys

  1. Adapted from a quote from Mark Trotter, “Plant it and Stand Back” Collected Sermons ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc. 2007 0-000-0444