March 18, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri

March 18, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

March 18, 2021

KEEP THE PRAYERS COMING
Nancy Newkirk had surgery on her “new” knee on Wednesday. They think they caught an infection early. They did a thorough cleaning and left the knee appliance. Nancy will likely need to do antibiotic infusions again at here home when she is released. Nancy may need to have meals delivered for a while that agree with her diabetic guidelines. We’ll let you know if that is the case.

Dave Resh came through his surgery at Mercy Hospital yesterdsay. He didn’t get out of recovery until late, so Susie wasn’t able to see him but did get to talk to him on the phone. He seemed to be doing well.

Jean Carbaugh’s husband, Fritz, has been at the DC VA Hospital for 23 days. The seperation has been difficult on them both. The Latest news is that Fritz will be transferred to the Martinsburg VA Hospital today. Still no visitors, Jean said, “But at least I could get some personal/comfort items to him.  Right now all he has is a pair of shoes and his cell phone.”

GOOD NEWS…WE’VE MET THE $5000 MATCHING FUND CHALLENGE FOR THE ROOF PROJECT.  Wow, in three weeks, $6, 120 was donated toward the roof project. When you add the $5000 matching fund, that’s $11,120. Is that not amazing? Add the $6550 that had been donated before we announced the matching fund and we’ve collected $17,670 toward our $100,000 loan. Wow! We are on our way.
Many thanks to those who have sent in contributions. The Debt Reduction Campaign team met on Wednesday. Look for more information in the upcoming April newsletter and in a letter that should come to your home the week after Easter. “Blessed to be a blessing,” is the joyful anthem of grateful children of God. Let’s keep singing!

 

HAVEN’S E-MESSAGES MAY BE WINDING DOWN   When we had to shut-down and quarantine one year ago, it was important to keep us connected. Not worshiping together and seeing one another during coffee fellowship was tough. Not knowing how long or where COVID-19 was taking us was hard. We were in unchartered waters. Science and medicine learning in real time and we tried to keep up with the evolving information. Adding anxiety and complexity were the competing sources telling people it was a hoax, precautions unnecessary and protecting our individual preferences was more important. Haven’s E-Message became a way to provide prayer, encouragement and the evolving information from the CDC, Maryland and the DE-MD Synod to help us all navigate the pandemic and ground our trust and faith in our unshakable, faithful Lord.

We’ve gradually moved the number of days we have sent out the E-Message to two. As we move toward Holy Week and the gradual unfolding of renewed life in this pandemic, I’m going to reduce the content of the E-Message. For now, I need to shift my attention to preparing Holy Week Worship that will be livestreamed and our first Easter back in the sanctuary since COVID-19 appeared in our lives. After Easter, I am hoping, as more and more are vaccinated, that I will be able to shift some time back to visits with our homebound members and those in nursing homes.

To reduce the prep time for the E-Message, I’m am going to discontinue the devotional PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD. While it is of greatest importance that we remain in God’s Word each day, I think there are other available devotional resources that can provide good, daily grounding in our Lord’s Word.

First, there is the printed resource we provide quarterly, entitled The Word in Season. The current issue for April, May and June is available in the church narthex and on the parsonage back porch. Second, I commend to you Luther Seminary’s God Pause, which I had sometimes used in our E-Message. You can access God Pause at https://www.luthersem.edu/godpause/. To make it even easier, at that same site, you can subscribe to God Pause and it will be delivered to your e-mail box each day.

For now, I will continue to include birthdays, anniversaries and prayer request updates. I will pass on any new developments here at Haven, with our roof project, and the DE-MD Synod. I will include other news we receive from the Hagerstown community. I will still include GRATITUDES AND GODSIGHTINGS, photos from members and our God Squad Explorers and the very popular “Because We Need to Laugh.” So please continue to send me your experiences of gratitude and God sightings, humorous items and inspiring pictures or stories.

I do give thanks for each of you. I give thanks for all that you have done to help one another during this very difficult time. I give thanks for where the Lord will lead us. Confident of God’s steadfast love and presence, we can live as a grateful people who know the Lord is with us and ahead of us.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,
Linda M Alessandri

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD
Read  John 12: 20-32
20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Reflection         Reflection and Prayer prepared by the Rev. David Kaplan

We wish to see Jesus.  We wish to see him in his nearer presence when we arrive at the fullness of his kingdom, but we also wish to see him in the joy and sorrow, the gloom and the gleam, the celebrations and pandemics that fill our lives at this time.  We wish to see Jesus always, and we’re not the only ones.  This coming Sunday’s Gospel, written above, begins with a conversation between Jesus’ disciple Philip and some Greeks who believed in the Lord God of Israel and had come to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover festival during the first Holy Week.  Their wish was the same as ours: Sir, we wish to see Jesus.  Philip shared their request with Andrew and together they informed Jesus.

If we weren’t familiar with the story or hadn’t just read it, we might expect Jesus, full of compassion for all people, to respond to the request of these foreigners something like this: I will come and see them.  Instead, his reply seemed to have nothing to do with their request:  The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified… unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Suddenly what appeared to be a simple matter of meeting with outsiders for an hour or so, maybe sharing lunch, teaching them more fully about the God who so loved the whole world was in reality the signal for Jesus that the time of his passion had come.  The hour had arrived for him to be glorified, to be lifted up from the earth, not just at Easter or Ascension, but more immediately on a cross.

What a painful moment it was!  In his humanness Jesus declared, now is my soul troubled.  Can we even begin to imagine the depths of the struggle that raged inside of him?  Why not escape while there still a few precious moments left?  Why not pray, Father save me?  No, for this reason he had come to this hour.

But couldn’t they, couldn’t we see Jesus apart from the suffering of crucifixion?  Couldn’t they have that simple lunch meeting?  Couldn’t we just jump from Palm Sunday hosannas to Easter alleluias without Good Friday cries of agony and abandonment?  The answer of Jesus in this story, the answer of the New Testament as a whole is a decisive NO.  To see Jesus in the deepest sense of the word, to understand most clearly who he is, what he came to do, and how he embodies most fully the height and depth of God’s love for this fallen world is to see him stretched out in the pangs of death, sacrificing himself without holding back a shred, body given and blood shed to seal the new covenant of the first reading’s promise.

The image Jesus used to describe his passion, however, involves none of this heady theological language.  It’s simply that of a seed ready to be sown, so familiar to his first listeners, eager to plant their crops as soon as they returned home from their Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  That same tiny image is just as familiar to us, eager to plant gardens after a cold and snowy winter.  I only need to go to my kitchen drawer to see an envelope with perhaps 20 butternut squash seeds carefully gathered from the vegetable of my last homemade pie.  You may also have seed packets somewhere around your house.  The problem is the seeds will produce nothing as long as they’re simply lying in the packet.  As Jesus pointed out, they need to be planted in the ground.  Not quite warm enough yet with a threat of frost through April, but we’ll soon be able to dig furrows in window boxes, backyards and (yes, Amy!) in Haven’s back forty.  As we see tender sprouts poke through the surface of the well weeded and wetted earth, we may pause in wonder and thanksgiving at the God sighting before us: out of tiny seeds emerge new plant life soon to spread over the entire garden (especially spaghetti squash!) and bear much fruit (or many vegetables).  In our momentary reflection, though, let’s not forget the critical point that Jesus was making: it’s not just a matter of planting seeds in the ground, and a week later plants spring up; in some sense between the planting and the springing the seeds must die: unless a grain of wheat falls in the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies it bears much fruit. 

Just so, Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried… On the third day he arose again… put down and lifted up to fulfill God’s saving plan for us, to drive out (same word we had a few weeks ago in Mark’s Gospel to denote Jesus casting out demons) the ruler of this world, and to draw all people to himself.  Now those Greeks could have their wish granted, not just for a brief get-together, but for all time and forever.  Now we can see Jesus as he truly is, not just as teacher, healer, companion, comforter, but as the Lord who died and is alive to bring us close to himself and to all who wish to see him for all time and forever.

To see Jesus in this way, in the setting of suffering, cross and resurrection; of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday (what the Church calls the Triduum, the Three Days) is much more than a visual exercise.  It’s a call to follow and serve and in some way to let go of our lives: whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there will my servant be also.  For most of us that doesn’t come easily; it’s a long process with lots of slips.  But the good news is that Jesus is always there along the way to pick us up when we stumble and fall; his word and meal each week assure us of his sustaining presence with us, and the disciplines of Lent – prayer, fasting and works of love – help us stay on course.  The Spirit keeps directing and often redirecting us.  And we have an abundance of examples, brothers and sisters who have seen Jesus and followed faithfully and courageously.  In her sermons this week Pastor has shared two powerful stories of ordinary people who have given themselves in amazing ways: Steve the “tough guy” in Brother Michael’s Catechism Class who accomplished 350 pushups, ten at a time to the point of collapsing, so that every student could have a doughnut, whether he or she wanted it or not; and the Black String Triage Ensemble (Living Lutheran, Jan.-Feb., 2021) who come like first responders to situations of violence in Milwaukee to bring the comfort of music in the midst of crisis.  Yesterday was St. Patrick Day, which is not really about snakes, leprechauns or green beer, but a bold bishop and missionary who spread the Gospel among pagan tribes in Ireland and other places in Northern Europe.  Thankfully, we don’t have to be a tough athlete, a skilled musician or a daring missionary to give our lives in following our Lord.  Ample opportunities abound at Haven including the garden option mentioned above, where the produce grown helps hunger needs in the community and around the world.  And that too is where we see Jesus clearly – in the face of our neighbor in need.

Prayer: O God, your Son chose the path that led to pain before joy and the cross before glory.  Plant his cross in our hearts, so that in in its power and love we may come at last to joy and glory, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.  (Prayer for Monday in Holy Week, ELW, p. 30)

Hymns:
Pastor Kaplan’s Suggestions:

Seed That in Earth is Dying (ELW 330) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwLT3LJIHQQ

There in God’s Garden (ELW 342) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxrKn2EbtKk

What Wondrous Love Is This (ELW 666) (St. Olaf Choir) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsVnvN3EVxY

As the Winter Days Grow Longer (ACS 924)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShdnMHJtIlo