March 4, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri

March 4, 2021 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

March 4, 2021

It was almost a year ago that Dolores’ family surprised her at Haven with a birthday coffee fellowship. It was the very last time we had a coffee fellowship before we had to close up our building to keep COVID at bay.

That is a good memory. Being together. Talking. Eating. Drinking coffee. Laughing. We WILL do that again!

But this year, as Dolores comes to another birthday, they are in a “lock-down” quarantine in her Homewood apartment building….and Dolores’s dear 17-year-old dog, Angel, died a few days ago. If you get a chance, send a card to Dolores or give her a call to wish her happy birthday. Let’s help assure her that she is not alone — Haven has her surrounded in prayer and love!

Bill Plavcan was scheduled to return back home with Becky this week. They are both still recovering from COVID. They are grateful for the support of Becky’s daughters and home nursing.

Karla Pile’s surgery went well. Stiches come out next week. Tender but she can walk and drive.

Here’s a real puzzler. Dave Resh had spent weeks getting the needed tests before a surgery at Mercy Hospital. He and Susie had gotten their second COVID shot two weeks ago. Yet, he received a call from Mercy saying he tested positive for COVID and surgery needed to be postponed. Susie has gotten a COVID test and is awaiting the results. They will be self-quarantining AND waiting for Mercy Hospital to call them back to explain how it is they have COVID after getting both shots. By the way, Dave and Susie are feeling fine so far.

GRATITUDE AND GOD SIGHTINGS.

Please remove our grandson, Gabe Seilhamer, from the list of those in the military.  He is safely home.  Thanks to all for the prayers.

Also I enclosed a picture of our table setting using the Christmas candles and the shells with “Beloved Child of God”.   I wanted Pastor Alessandri to see we are using our shells.  Our youngest grandson comes over to do his remote learning. We light the candles (lunch and supper) and he sees that he is a beloved child of God !!
The smallest gift can mean so much !
Thank you,  Joanne (Seilhamer)

 

I’ve been working on our annual congregational report to the Synod and ELCA. When it came to estimating attendance during the pandemic year they suggested:

In-person attendance — Add the total number of attendance and divide by the number of weeks you actually had in-person worship.  Our average was 45.

On-line attendance — Take the total number of views, multiply by 2. Take that number and divide by the total number of weeks you were posting worship. Our average using that formula is 64.

Which means our total average Sunday attendance for 2020 was 109. Higher than it has been in quite a few years.

Whether the estimated numbers are totally accurate, the good news is that we continued to provide meaningful worship for our members and others during a pandemic. To God be the glory for such a wonder.

Pastor Linda Alessandri

Washington County Interfaith Coalition
Interfaith Prayers for Our Times
March 2, 2021

Lal Ded (indigenous people)

This world compared to you—

a lake so tiny

Even a mustard seed

Is too large for it to hold.

Yet from the lake all Beings drink.

And into it deer, jackals,

Rhinoceroses, sea elephants falling.

From the earliest moment of birth,

Falling and falling in You.

 

Thomas Merton (Catholic Monk)

When I am liberated by silence, when I am no longer involved in the measurement of life, but in the living of it, I can discover a form of prayer in which there is effectively no distraction.  My whole life becomes a prayer.  My whole silence is full of prayer.  The world of silence in which I am immersed contributes to my prayer.

To whom do we pray? Is it deity?  Is it the connecting web of life that nurtures all living things?

Shall we be grateful for nourishment of body and soul?

Shall we say the words of many prayers…or take the time to simply breathe in life and holiness?

In silence, we accept your holy gifts.

You give voice in the life that surrounds us: You offer us your Presence.

In the name of Holiness, we pray.  Amen

Reverend Valerie Wills, Coordinator
Washington County Interfaith Coalition

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What in the world did someone actually do to cause this warning to be put on a pizza box?

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD
Read: John 2: 13-22

13The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Reflection: Today’s reflections and prayer are prepared by the Rev. David Kaplan

It’s not my favorite Gospel story, and I’m guessing it’s not yours either.  The Cleansing of the Temple, as it’s frequently titled, seems to portray an angry and destructive Jesus, perhaps even out of control, overturning stalls and chasing with a whip vendors and animals alike.  Still, it’s one of the few accounts outside of the Passion narrative to be found in all four Gospels.  John’s version (above), this coming Sunday’s Gospel reading, however, has a different setting and conclusion from the versions in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  In them the incident occurs during the first Holy Week and is a triggering event for the authorities to plot Jesus’ death (Mark 11:18).   In John the event occurs early in Jesus’ ministry and prompts a discussion about his saving work.  But first, what in the world was Jesus doing in this story?

In order to answer that question, we need to ask another question: what in the world were the animal merchants and money changers doing?  If you asked them, they probably would reply, “We’re providing a service for worshiping pilgrims, Jews from all over the world who come to this magnificent temple to pray and offer sacrifice.  Traveling too far or just don’t feel like carrying a goat with you?  No problem!  We’ll sell you one cheap – right here in the outer court.  Only have Roman currency with the image of Caesar that you’re not allowed to bring into the inner court?  No problem!  We’ll change your money into acceptable Hebrew coins that are good anywhere in Jerusalem for just a slight exchange fee.  Only can afford a small sacrifice?  No problem!  We’ve got the best looking dove facsimiles in town, all freshly captured this morning on the Temple mount, only two denarii plus temple tax and a small netting fee.  Remember: before bringing your gift to the altar, come to Bargain Ben’s by the smiling angels.  Free hitching posts for your donkey conveniently located at the foot of the mountain.”

Yes, that’s probably an exaggeration, but mercenary corruption of Temple worship was nothing new.  Old Testament prophets railed against it as well.  Jesus’ complaint about making my Father’s house a marketplace has its roots in Jeremiah 7:11, Has this house, which is called by my name become a den of robbers in your sight?  Zechariah 14:21, the final verse of his prophecy, promises there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord on that day (the day when God brings all his promises to fulfillment).  Malachi, the concluding prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures, also proclaims a word of judgment and grace to corrupt priests and temple worshipers, See I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap…he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Now we can begin to answer the question about what Jesus was doing by driving out the merchants and money changers.  It was not an impulsive burst of temper, after all, but an intentional prophetic act whereby he was assuming the authority to fulfill God’s promises of the time when the temple would be purified of all corruption.  It was to say to all who witnessed the event, “this is the time, and I am the one.”  No wonder then in the other three Gospels, when the religious authorities understood exactly what he was doing, they conspired to put him to death.  By this act he was affirming his claim in the most sacred place at the most holy time to be God’s chosen Messiah.

Here, however, is where John’s story goes in a different direction.  When challenged by the authorities, Jesus made a strange reply, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.  As with most of Jesus’ pronouncements in this Gospel the listeners misunderstood; to them his words sounded ludicrous: This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?  Just so we won’t misunderstand, John adds this clarifying note for his readers: But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  Aha! Now we get it: not only was Jesus claiming to be Messiah by this act, he was using it to point to his own saving death and resurrection.  No longer dependent upon a building however beautiful or magnificent, our worship is centered in Jesus, his body crucified and risen for us.  Suddenly this story which we had considered an unwelcome intrusion into our understanding of Jesus’ compassion and grace becomes good news to reinforce our faith.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  And so do we.

But the story doesn’t end with the last verse of the reading.  With a little assistance from St. Paul it becomes intensely personal: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  Against the all too common attitude of our culture frequently expressed, “It’s my body; I’ll do with it as I please,” these verses remind us that our bodies as well as our souls and spirits belong to the Lord.  My body – his temple, his tabernacle, his sanctuary through his death and rising, but frequently cluttered by distractions, temptations and outright sin.  The season of Lent in general and this Gospel reading in particular remind us that it’s not the ancient temple in Jerusalem, but we are the ones now in need of cleansing and purifying, even if it’s a bit painful.  With tough love through Word and Meal (sorry, I forgot to show the bulletin “Meal” heading during the Lenten devotion last night, but it’s right there on page 10!) and the work of the Spirit in our hearts, Jesus graciously cleanses us once more “to honor God, to reach out with love to our members and the community and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  Which is what temples – human and buildings – are made for.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as you drove out the merchants and money changers from the temple in the Holy City, so drive out from us all that would clutter our lives and distract us from serving you.  Make us sanctuaries to praise you and share your love with all people.  Amen.

Music:

Pastor Kaplan suggests:

Christ, the Life of All the Living (ELW 339) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gfxzcRNE_k

Built on a Rock (ELW 652)
(acapella with lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bKYNIKx7V8
(National Lutheran Choir) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa_0IONyMbM

God of Grace and God of Glory (ELW 705)
(with words)  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeUiCZTxOS0
(Paul Manz arr. for organ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWfH0QOwnRI

Lord, Prepare me to Be a Sanctuary  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkBfu-xyScw

Other Suggestions

“Build Us Kingdom Here” (Rend Collective) (“We are your Church”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8awpRHg5waw

“Same Power” (Jeremy Camp) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InsifiZxVXU

“Spirit Lead Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABWnLjXer10

“We Are Your Church” (Celebration Worship) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6Rgu_Wg4qU