November 20, 2020 – Message from Pastor Alessandri

November 20, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEEKLY E-MESSAGE FROM DE-MD SYNOD BISHOP WILLIAM GOHL  There was a ZOOM worship and party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bishop Gohl’s ordination. He begins his message this week remembering the many people who had a life-giving part in his life and ministry. Even if you do not recognize any of the names, it led me to remember the many people who have influenced and enriched my life. In this time when we are more likely to think of our losses, it feeds the soul to sit with those persons and things for which we are grateful even in these messy times. So I offer you the link to his message this week https://mailchi.mp/demdsynod.org/5828ob69wx?e=eaf6cad205 or you can find it on the demdsynod.org  Let your heart be filled with the beloved in your story.

 

Donations for “Jesus Loves You” Bags

 

 

 

John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another

Jamie and Jim Cannon are collecting donations for “Jesus Loves You” Bags that will be distributed to individuals that might be homeless or in other wise unpredictable living conditions in the Hagerstown area. These bags are COVID safe in Ziplocs with a few helpful items in each.

The list of items below are what we have in mind to distribute. If this sounds like a cause that is meaningful to you, donations from the list below would be appreciated.

To practice safe donating, you may drop your donation at the church office or text us at 240-405-7379 and we can swing by and pick it up from your front porch.  Also, if you are not comfortable shopping right now but would still like to donate, we will receive cash/gift card donations and make the purchases. (our address is 13421 Marquise Drive, Hagerstown, MD 21742) We are assembling our first round of Jesus Loves You bags beginning Saturday, November 21 and will continue to assemble them through the winter months. Each bag will contain a message about Jesus and His unconditional love for them.

We recognize donating is a very personal decision so do what feels right to you.

Items:

large ziplock bags

adult socks

keychain flash light or small flash light

granola bars

gloves/hats

hand warmers/shoe warmers

hand sanitizer

disposable masks

Thank you!

Jamie and Jim

FIRST AN APPOLOGY AND THAN A SMILE  I have a confession. I do not check my cell phone regularly. I know, I know… I need to jump into the 21st century. But that is the reason I did not find this great photo of Ethan Scott until yesterday. It’s a picture from our God Squad Explorer Zoom Party on November 1st. I had asked the kids to bring stuffed animals to the party since we would be reading about Noah’s Ark. So I apologize to Ethan and Cindy for this terribly delayed sharing of Explorer Ethan.
Now the smile. You must admit it is rather ironic that I would find this picture the day after I wrote to you about my snake frights on vacation. I had to laugh out loud. If I need a snake handler here in Hagerstown, I’ll call on you, Ethan!

                                           Pastor Alessandri

 

 

A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD

Read: Matthew 25: 31-46

Jesus said to the disciples:] 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.’ 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Reflection
I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that Sunday is the end of the year.  The bad news is that it’s the end of the Church Year, not 2020!  But here’s some more good news: we always end the Church year on a high note, praising our Lord Jesus Christ as King of the Universe and King of our lives.  With all the kings of all the ages strutting on the world’s stage for their fifteen minutes of fame, Jesus remains King for all time, or as the last book of the Bible puts it, ruler of the kings of the earth…King of kings and Lord of lords.  That’s how he appears at the time of his coming again as Sunday’s Gospel reading (above) announces: When the Son of Man comes in his glory…all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…

That reading, the third and last of Jesus’ end time parables in Matthew 25, is usually entitled the parable of the sheep and the goats.  There both groups recognize who’s really in charge.  There both groups address him as Lord.  There both groups realize his decision is final.  The problem, of course, is that it’s not the way things appear in the present time.  Here and now, it’s the rulers of this age who seem to have the final say; or the polarizing divisions that separate people from each other; or the disasters – both human and natural – that appear decisive.  The events of the past month – the bitter election, the exponential increase of the pandemic, the devastation caused by several hurricanes – have overwhelmed us all.  Where is Christ the King in the midst of this chaos?

According to this story, he’s not where we expect him – or even would like him to be.  Not above us directing some cosmic computer to bring an end to all this mess and straighten out the world and our lives.  Not crashing in on us like a super-hero to bring vengeance to the wicked and vindication to the righteous.  Rather the King is among us – right in our midst – but not by any easily identifiable royal appearance.  Rather he is here in the form of the humble and lowly, the hungry and thirsty, the ill-clad and abused, the orphan and the lonely, the immigrant and the outcast, the prisoner and the addict, the victims of COVID and HIV.  In the parable neither the sheep nor the goats recognize him in any of these very strange disguises that run counter to the world’s perception of a ruler.  That was the irony of the inscription over his head as he hung on the cross: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  For those in charge, who had all the trappings of authority, it was a joke.  For most of his followers it was a shattered dream.  But for those who remembered and believed his word it was profound truth.  For them, and now for us, it wouldn’t seem strange that he appears in those “despised and rejected” forms of humanity.

The key to the parable, though, is not recognition but response.  As in the preceding two parables that we’ve considered during the past two weeks, the response is divided.  Two Sundays ago it was the wise maidens who brought oil reserves for their lamps, and the foolish maidens who did not.  Last Sunday it was the two servants who doubled the talents with which they were entrusted, and the servant who buried his talent in the ground.  This week, as the title suggests, it’s the sheep and the goats.

It’s no mystery what divides their response.  While the sheep may not recognize the king in disguise, they do perceive a brother or sister or neighbor in need; and they respond in a human and caring and compassionate way: you gave me food, you gave me something to drink, you gave me clothing, you took care of me, you visited me.  Nor was this ministry ever done for personal recognition or achievement; in fact, at the end, the sheep weren’t even aware of it: when was it we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink…?  Their response was automatic, as servants who reached out to others without thinking – simply because they saw a human need.  Likewise, the response of the goats was automatic: they turned their eyes and hearts away from those in need without giving it a second thought: when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger… and did not take care of you?  Their refusal to minister, whether prompted by disdain for those they considered unworthy or simply because they were entirely focused on their own needs, revealed their basic lack of human concern.

Moreover, in the end time setting of all these parables the response and lack thereof have eternal consequences.  The wise maidens enter into the wedding banquet; the foolish are locked out.  The servants who doubled their talents enter into the joy of their master and are entrusted with greater responsibility; the one who buried his talent is cast into the outer darkness.  The sheep are called blessed by my Father and are invited to inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; the goats are termed accursed and are ushered into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 

All of which may leave us more than a little perplexed.  If we reflect on these parables, as the Spirit certainly leads us to do, we naturally wonder, on which side of the division are we?  Wise servants who adequately prepare for what may be a long night of struggle and watching and waiting to discern the Lord’s coming, or foolish servants completely unprepared and caught up in the needs of the moment?  Servants who generously use the gifts the Lord has put in our care to help and support others, or those who hoard the gifts and bury them in the ground for safekeeping?  Sheep who caringly minister to those in need, or unfeeling goats concerned only for themselves?  In my more honest moments I find myself on both sides of each divide.  I am both wise and foolish, both generous and selfish, both caring and self-centered, both sheep and goat, both saint and sinner.  And I confess at times a deep seated anxiety that the balance is tilted to the wrong side of the ledger, and the locked door and outer darkness and eternal fire are beckoning.

On the off-chance that you may share my struggle, I have Good News and Good News.  The Good News is that as Lutheran Christians we don’t read Scripture texts, even Jesus’ parables, in isolation.  We always read Scripture in light of the central proclamation of God’s saving love for us in Jesus Christ.  Not our wisdom, not our use of God’s gifts, not even our ministry to others can bring us into a right relationship with God.  Only Jesus does that by his wisdom, by his becoming God’s supreme gift for us, by his caring enough so that when we are hungry, he gives us the bread of life; when we are thirsty, he gives us living water; when we are strangers, he welcomes us to his feast; when we are naked, he clothes us with white robes; when we are sick, he cares for us with compassion and healing; when we are caught in the prison of sin, death and the power of the evil one, he sets us free to praise him and share his love with others.  The Good News is that even in this final parable in Matthew, Jesus is not only King, he is the Shepherd, who feeds the flock, seeks the lost, brings back the straying and lays down his life for both sheep and goats.  And no bad news, not even 2020, can pull us away from him.

Prayer: Great Shepherd King, ruler of the Universe, thank you for caring and helping and healing and saving, the least of your brothers and sisters, even us.  Strengthened by your Word and Meal and Spirit and example, help us to care for those in our lives who need assurance of your kingly power and shepherdly care through our ministry to them.  Bless us as we end this Church year, raise our hearts in thanksgiving this week even if we’re separated from family and friends, and prepare us to celebrate your coming as we begin Advent next Sunday.  In your holy name we pray, Amen.

Hymns:
Pastor Kaplan’s suggestions

Crown Him with Many Crowns (ELW 855)
(choral)             
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vWRXvWZPUQ
(acapella)        
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vbCtxbpRIM     

Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service (ELW 712)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIPIyM2Qz4k

Christ Is the King! (ELW 662)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lccZng7K_M

Other

There Is A King  (Acoustic | Elevation Worship) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNB7r_9_iLQ

King of Kings (Hillsong) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of5IcFWiEpg