May 28, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

May 28, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

May 28, 2020                                    

Christ is Risen! Alleluia
(He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!)

Thanks to the generosity of Trinity (Hagerstown) member, Scott Paddock, we have the use of an FM transmitter this Pentecost Sunday! Yahoo! What does that mean? It means that this Sunday, May 31st at 9:30 am you can park your car in the parking lot in front of the education wing and use your radio to listen to a worship service which will be outside on the hill. OR, if you’d prefer, you can bring your lawn chair to sit outside, as long as you are socially distanced from non-family members and wearing a face mask.

Yes, we will be singing.
Yes, we will still be taping and posting a worship service for those for whom it is not safe to venture out.

There are some protocols we need to follow to remain compliant to state regulations and our insurance company. We need your cooperation and compliance to these protocols so this can be a safe and pleasant experience for everyone. (Please — Let’s not put our ushers or pastor in the role of needing to “police” worshipers.)

1) People who opt to be seated in cars must remain in their cars. Windows may be opened 1 inch. Gloved ushers will bring bulletins to your vehicles. You will be told the FM station to which you will tune your radio.

2) Those seated outside must remain six feet away from non-family members and wear face masks.

3) THE CHURCH BUILDING, INCLUDING THE RESTROOMS, WILL NOT BE OPEN. (Think twice before having that second cup of coffee before coming.)

4) We will not be serving communion this Sunday. That is another level of detail that we still need to figure out.

5) As with many things during this pandemic, we are learning the nitty-gritty of a new technology as we go. Since this is our first try at this, we ask for your patience and good humor.

Now, if you are like me, when you read all those “you may not” notes, the rebel “Adam” or “Eve” wants to throw a bit of a tantrum about all the limitations. We are tired of being restricted. We are tired of being confined. We don’t like masks. We want to hug our friends. Why can’t I use the restrooms?

Believe me, I hear you! Yet, with the freedom to begin to step away from our COVID-19 restrictions comes the responsibility to conduct our ministry in faithfulness to the joy of the Gospel and in care for the safety of its members, community and neighbors. We may have varying interpretations about what is needed for safety and varying opinions what is overly cautious. For the sake of love of neighbor, we deem it best to follow the latest Maryland state and CDC guidelines and ask your understanding and adherence. As the situation and guidelines alters, we will adapt, too.

Now that we have all the “rules” out of the way, I invite you to get excited with me to be able to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon a fledging community of Jesus’ followers many years ago. What a great day to have our first worship together in over two months. What will the Holy Spirit inspire this community of Jesus’ followers to do and be as we move out of our individual “upper rooms” of isolation? This experience has changed us in ways we may not be able to articulate. The pandemic has changed our community, schools, business, homes and world in ways we still cannot fully see. Where is our church in all of that? What role are we to have in this “new world”?

Let the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon common men and women at Pentecost inspire and assure us that God is at work and ready to lead us. Let us listen, pray, watch, wonder and follow our Lord so we can be a source of hope, wisdom and love for our community.

FOR THOSE FOR WHOM IT IS NOT YET WISE TO VENTURE OUT, please know 1) WE WILL tape a Pentecost worship service that you can view at home starting at 9:30 am on Sunday; and 2) whether at home or in the parking lot, we are united as one through Christ and we hold each other in heart and prayer. Thanks be to God.


From the May 27th edition of the HARC E-Newsletter
(HARC = Hagerstown Area Religious Council)













God IS with us!
Pastor Linda M. Alessandri



Read: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
24O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
26There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
27These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
28when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
30When you send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.
31May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works —
32who looks on the earth and it trembles,
who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the LORD.
35b  Bless the LORD, O my soul.

Reflection  (Reflection and prayer prepared by Pastor David Kaplan)
Many Christians are Christmas people, many are Easter people (including me), but Jan was a Pentecost person.  No she was not charismatic in the popular sense of the word, never spoke in tongues (to my knowledge), never insisted that you needed a personal encounter with the Lord (apart from Baptism) to be numbered among the elect.  Still she loved the festival of Pentecost and all that went with it – dressing in red, making sure the kids were wearing something red, and that I properly had on my red clergy shirt.  Red geraniums (gerania?) were always the flower of the day whether we could purchase them through the congregation or had to buy them at a florist shop.  Her Pentecost hymn was Spirit of Gentleness, which was introduced to The American Lutheran Church through the women’s organization when she was conference president of that group.  She loved the biblical story of Pentecost from Acts 2 (except for the listing of the nations in verses 9-11, which she routinely skipped when she was lector), and she loved Psalm 104, the appointed psalm for Pentecost.

Why Psalm 104?  Probably because of the reference to God’s Spirit in verse 30: You send forth your Spirit, which summarizes the Pentecost event in five words.  But the psalm doesn’t have in mind tongues of fire descending on followers of the promised Messiah.  In fact, the psalm doesn’t have in mind anything about the promised Messiah, or even God’s Old Testament saving works which are remembered and praised in the three psalms which follow (105-107).  In a word Psalm 104 is about creation, or more accurately about God as magnificent Creator, whose wonder and wisdom are reflected and praised in all the natural world: clouds and wind, fire and flames, sun and moon, mountains and valleys, springs and streams, grass and plants, wild and domestic animals, storks and mountain goats, food and drink, bread and wine.  There’s a place for everything in this wonderfully created world, and everything has its place!  Darkness is no longer an enemy or adversary to light, but rather a companion – God made the darkness for the wild animals to prowl and search for prey (20-21), and light for humans to work (22).  The huge dreaded sea monsters (Leviathan, in verse 26 is translated crocodile in Job 41, but more generally sea monster) from other religions are really just another part of God’s good creation – he made them to have fun in the seas!  So indeed, sing and praise God while we live and have our being!

Besides its association with Pentecost, I think that’s why Jan loved this psalm.  She wasn’t overly enthusiastic about how insects fit into this grand scheme (although she learned to tolerate caterpillars and butterflies and moths), but she enjoyed the natural world from the mountains to the seashore.  And there was something else: her passion for jigsaw puzzles.  She loved the way everything fits together in Psalm 104, and none of the pieces is missing.  That’s why I think she wanted the entire psalm read at her memorial service – she didn’t want any piece left out.  The wonder is she still held onto this psalm when the puzzle began to fall apart for her, and she could no longer walk in the woods or sit at the beach or even work puzzles.  Were there Pentecost Sundays toward the end when the psalm seemed to her like a cruel joke?

Maybe it seems like that to us in our weak moments this Pentecost.  Yes, there is still much beauty and wonder in creation from our struggling gardens at Haven to the mountains and valleys and rivers that surround us, but the darkness of fear and separation this year has been no friend or companion.  And the microscopic C-monster is nothing to play with.  The pieces have all fallen off the table, and even when we try to pick them up, so many seem missing.  Perhaps an alternate psalm, a lament, would be more appropriate for Pentecost 2020.

And yet there is recognition in verse 29 that things aren’t quite as simple or ideal as they might seem in the rest of the psalm. God hiding his face, God withdrawing his breath, and creatures die and return to dust.  That’s the stark reality, isn’t it, for us and all creation?  Suddenly like a piece that doesn’t belong, Ash Wednesday intrudes into this psalm and into our Pentecost celebration: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.  End of psalm, end of story?  Of course not.  Now verse 30 can be more than a five-word summary of the Pentecost story in Acts.  God not only sent forth his Spirit to the apostles in Jerusalem, he sends it to us as well and to all creation to renew the face of the earth!  Notice the verbs are all in the present tense in this verse: not just that God sent his Spirit a long time ago when we were baptized, not just that God will renew the earth when he comes again in glory, but that now in the midst of the darkness and despair that surrounds us, the Spirit comes to help us renew each other and to care for his creation – even if we can’t yet put all the pieces together.  One border piece at a time – first calling one another for mutual support, then the car-worship connection, yes that fits, and later going back to the sanctuary, and down the road a bit the bread and wine…wait, where did this piece come from?  It looks like it might be at the center, and it’s shaped like a lamb, in whom all the pieces really do fit together guided by the Spirit who renews the face of the earth.

What do you know?  Maybe this psalm is about God’s saving work after all, inviting us to praise his creation even now, and to receive the Spirit’s glimpse of a time when every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and all that is in them (including monsters and viruses!) sing and praise God even beyond our being in this life: Blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!  And I think Jan might be somewhere in that chorus.

Prayer: (Psalm Prayer for Psalm 104):  God of majesty, we are constantly surrounded by your gifts and touched by your grace; our words of praise do not approach the wonders of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, that our lives may be refreshed and the earth renewed, until the new heaven and new earth resound with the song of resurrection in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Pastor Kaplan’s suggestions:
“Spirit of Gentleness” ELW #395
(“devotional piano music”)

Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling, ELW 582

Another suggestion:
“All Creatures of Our God and King”/ “All Creatures, Worship God Most High!”
LBW #527 (Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
ELW #835 (Lutheran Choral ensemble)
(hand bell rendition)
(David Crowder Band)