October 12, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

October 12, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

October 12, 2020

I hope you were able to worship with the Haven community last weekend on-line or in-person. We had 39 persons at our second in-person worship service in the sanctuary. We made a few changes and continue to encourage everyone to stay aware of that six feet of social distancing.

The gospel readings from St. Matthew have been tough these last few weeks. It has been a challenge to squeeze the gospel — God’s good news — out of them. That is one reason I will be glad to resume in-person Bible Study this Wednesday 10 am. There we look at the readings for the following Sunday. We dig, probe, ask questions and wonder in a safe, respectful and supportive environment. More than once it helped me to see different pathways of meaning. Participants mention that it prepares them to listen more deeply to the readings on Sunday AND wonder how I will go about preaching on them. I hope, when you feel comfortable and safe doing so, you will join us.

(When you come, please use the entrance near Big Brothers Big Sisters. Follow the signs to the cleaned Sunday School area we will use that allows social distancing. Please wear a mask. No previous Bible study experience necessary.)

Pat Pile is recovering from a fall that caused fractures in her pelvis. They were waiting for news from an orthopedic doctor to see if there was any further action that could be taken to help healing and relieve pain. Please keep Pat, caregivers Karl and Karla and the Pile family in prayers.

Grant Wills is home and says he is feeling much better. They are still awaiting some test results. Please keep Grant, Valerie and their family in prayer.


This is the year of “the longer it goes on, the more change there is”.  With Washington County Schools starting as virtual learning, there have been some changes in the Micah’s backpack program.  The program is using the Washington County Public School System’s Meal Machine for the distribution of food for weekends. This meant that there were two things member groups needed to consider.  The first is that backpacks (with a weekend’s worth of food) would be handed out from one of their distribution sites by members of the sponsoring group. They would take the food to a designated site and give bags to any students who came there. This would possibly be a time commitment of 2 hours, each week on the part of the sponsor. Secondly there was no assurance that the site would be serving would be one that the students of Fountaindale School or even of other students in our neighborhood. There was no assurance that the backpacks was being given to one of the students identified as in need by a school. If there were bags leftover, the sponsor would take them back.

Member groups were given 6 days to let HARC know our commitment.  Several members of the HUNGER team met with pastor and after discussion decided that the congregation should not try to participate until students are back in the classrooms.  At that time, we would be able to be sure we are helping our neighborhood children.  We offered to start participation as school attendance is phased in, if there were needs at Fountaindale.  It is a hard decision. It may mean that some students somewhere in the county will not have the chance of extra meals. However, we wanted some assurance that our backpacks of food were getting to the kids known to be in need. We hope we the world will soon allow us to be back into this ministry of feeding hungry children in our neighborhood.

At last week’s Being a 21st Century Church presentation, the author, Rev. Dr. Fred Lehr, made this observation. Traditionally, Lutheran churches have been primarily worship-focused which then may lead us to have gospel missions, providing for the hungry, collecting clothing or other needed items, making quilts, gathering school supplies and such. What has traditionally been considered the primary “activity” of the church was to provide worship, Word and Sacrament. This is true for many Christian churches not just Lutheran and it has led to rich music and liturgy that inspired great ministry.
Lehr went on to say that for those who stand outside our churches, worship is not a likely entry point. Many of our ways of “doing” worship — sung liturgies, standing/sitting, passing the peace, etc. —- seem foreign to the “unchurched” and only meant for the “in crowd” who are familiar with them. This is NOT to say there is anything wrong with our worship. It is just not where someone totally unfamiliar with Jesus could easily get an introduction.
Lehr then proposed that a church that wants to serve the gospel in the 21st century may need to change their way of thinking of themselves. Instead of being a worshipping community that does mission, be a mission-driven church that also worships. Doing ministry comes first and worship provides the meaning and strength for doing mission. What Lehr was not so clear about was how that would look. What would it look like for churches to think of doing ministry, not worship as the “main thing” in order “to honor God, reach out with love to our members and the community and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ” ? Pray and think. I think there is some deep truth here we need to wrestle with so that we can serve God and our neighbors in this not-so-familiar 21st century.


Pumpkins practicing social distancing.
(Charlotte Loveless)

Some can sleep anywhere.



Read: Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]

1O sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
4For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
8Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9Worship the LORD in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10Say among the nations, “The LORD is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13before the LORD; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.

This psalm inspires energy and engagement. Read this psalm aloud with heart. It gets your heart and blood racing. It is not merely a poem but a dynamic call to worship and mission. Professor Nancy Koester writes:  “The Psalm brims with imperatives: three times we are told to sing, and after that to bless, tell, declare, ascribe and worship. This Psalm is motivational. It moves people to proclaim God’s mercy and might.” (working preacher.com) It gives us our marching orders. We are not meant to be spectators but participants.

After we are told to “sing a new song, we are told to ” to bless God’s name (verse 2). Of course God does not need our blessing. But in worship, “to bless God is to tell of God’s saving deeds…to extol God’s mercy, might and compassion. Ancient worshippers in the Temple used Psalm 96 (and others like it) to bless God, and they may also have knelt and lifted up their hands. Worship is between the worshipper and God, yet it moves outward with another imperative: we are to tell others of God’s salvation. This is not just preaching to the choir, but to all the world. The Psalmist says we are to declare God’s glory “among the nations” God’s marvelous works “to all the people.” So Psalm 96 has been called a “missionary psalm.” (Koester)

Why praise God and tell others?” Because he is above all the other small “g” gods we have created on earth. More reasons why? Ascribe to the Lord. “‘ascribe’ is to name a quality that belongs to a person or thing. To a deer we ascribe speed and grace and to an artist or composer we ascribe creative genius. To God we ascribe glory and strength — especially when looking at creation.” (Koester)

With all the wonder and character of God before us we “express our gratitude and dependence on God, we are told to bring an offering, come into God’s courts (verse 8) worship the Lord, and tremble before God (verse 9). In verse 10 (not included in the lectionary) we are to say to the nations that the Lord is King.” (Koester)

This psalm captures what worship is to be each time we gather. Read this psalm before you walk into church or tune into the on-line worship. Read it again while you wait for worship to begin. Read it with enthusiasm. Let it be a preparation for our worship. Whether we come to worship full of  joy or sorrow, confidence or apprehension, calm or anxiety, it says “get ready — God is here!” God is with you, with us. Lay what is in your hands & mind at the altar and grab onto that Lord. Make your own list what you would “ascribe” to the Lord and lean into God who is all those things you may have listed — faithful, steadfast, forgiving, gracious, strong, everlasting, peace. Then sing. Right now you may sing aloud in your living room or sing silently mouthing the words behind masks in the sanctuary. Still, sing and worship for our God is worthy and good.

Prayer  (ELW Prayer for Psalm 96)
Ever-living God, the heavens were glad and the earth rejoiced when you sent your Son, the incarnate Word, to dwell with us. Help us to proclaim your glory to those who do not know you, until the whole earth sings a new song to you, with your Son and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever. Amen.

Professor Koester’s suggestion

“Earth and All Stars” ELW 731   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTlH8IAqGAQ


“Worthy of Worship”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=300ad6croT8

“Is He Worthy?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrbykRFzggo

“You Deserve” (Anthony Evans)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG0p1rFb2Go