October 2, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

October 2, 2020

Two Opportunities Each Week

This Sunday, October 4, 9:30 am we will resume worship in Haven’s sanctuary. The church will be aired out. The pews have been professionally cleaned. Bulletins and communion elements will only be handled by sanitized or gloved hands. Everyone will wear masks, hum hymns and practice social distancing. We hope you will come. A baby step toward some sense of “normalcy.”

We also understand that some are not yet comfortable being with a group inside a building. Each must decide what is safe for him or her. We honor your choice and invite you to worship on-line.

In Christ we are united, one body of Christ, together offering our lives, praise and thanksgiving to the Lord our God.

Prayer from this week’s E-newsletter of the Hagerstown Area Religious Council







MY OWN ON-LINE, DISTANCE LEARNING EXPERIENCE Usually the DE-MD Synod offers an annual retreat for rostered ministers on a topic of significance. It IS a time to get away, to learn and to catch up with colleagues in a pleasant and relaxed setting. But not this year. This year the Bishop’s Leadership Retreat will be on-line Monday, October 5 and Tuesday, Oct. 6th.

The topic is Resilience — which seemed to me to be a rather timely subject. So I will not be in the office on Monday and out on Tuesday through 12 noon so I can ZOOM into the presentations. I will get a first-hand knowledge of the challenges of learning and keeping my concentration on a computer screen. I’ll let you know how it goes.

FYI — Here are some resources recommended on Resilience from the speaker:

The Netflix Brené Brown special, “A Call to Courage;” (Watched this On Wednesday — must warn about some foul language)

Carol Dweck’s Ted Tal, “The Power of Believing You Can Improve”
Lucy Horne’s Ted Talk “The Three Secrets of Resilient People”






















Read  Matthew 21:33-46

[Jesus said to the people:] 33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Reflection (Today’s Reflection and Prayer were written by Pastor David Kaplan)

For a third straight week the Gospel reading takes us to a vineyard.  Only this week it’s not just the Gospel but the first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7) and the psalm (Psalm 80: 7-15) as well.     These readings differ widely in literary style: the first reading is a love song (with explanation), the psalm as we discovered Monday is a lament, and the Gospel is a parable (actually an allegory).  Yet they share much in common.  In every reading the vineyard is a metaphor for Israel; in all of them the creator and owner of the vineyard is God; they all describe the care and extensive labor the owner invested in the vineyard that it might yield wonderful grapes; but in all three readings the owner’s purpose for the vineyard is thwarted.  The Gospel reading gives the most extensive explanation.

This reading is actually a brief symbolic history of Israel.  The tenants are the religious leaders to whom God entrusted the spiritual growth and response of God’s people.  The absentee owner sent slaves to collect the produce; but the tenants not only refused the request, they killed the slaves who were sent.  The patient owner sent still others to collect the grapes – same result!  Since the story is an allegory where every character or object has a “real-life” counterpart, we need to ask whom these slaves represent in Israel’s history.  Not surprisingly, the answer is the prophets or other special messengers God sent to call a disobedient Israel back to Godself.  While not all of them suffered the fate of the slaves in the story, many of them were rejected and suffered abuse.  The execution of John the Baptist, who was mentioned in the preceding parable, might have been the last straw.

But it wasn’t.  The owner decided to try one more option: send his own son.  They will respect my son, he reasoned.  The tenants, however, had other ideas.  This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance, which strangely enough was a realistic possibility under the absentee landlord laws of the day.  And that’s exactly what they did – threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  It’s not difficult to figure out that part of the story, is it?  Jesus, who at several occasions along the road to Jerusalem had announced to his disciples that their journey would lead him to a cross, now disclosed to his opponents the same harsh reality.  Moreover, the timing could not have been any more critical – he told this story during the first Holy Week, just days before his passion would unfold, while the listeners were already plotting the story’s climax: Come let us kill him.  In fact, at the conclusion when the Pharisees and priests realized he was speaking about them, they wanted to arrest him on the spot!  The only reason they didn’t, Matthew informs us, was the surrounding crowds whom they feared because the crowd still regarded Jesus as a prophet.  All that would soon change, and the son of the owner whom the tenants killed would correspond to the Son of God whom the authorities, both secular and sacred, would crucify.  In case his readers miss the point, Matthew switches details from Mark’s earlier version of the story (Mark 12:1-12).  In Mark the tenants killed the son and then threw his body out of the vineyard; in Matthew the order is reversed – the tenants took the son outside of the vineyard and then killed him.  What difference does it make?  The Gospels all proclaim that Jesus was killed outside the Holy City (as were all who were crucified there) so that the corpses and blood would not defile the worshipers and their offerings presented at the Temple.

So what happened to the wicked tenants for all the evil they had done?  When Jesus asked his listeners what the owner would do, they pronounced judgment on themselves: He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.  Of course, that is exactly what justice demands.  But it is not exactly what Jesus said.  Instead he quoted verses 22-23 from Psalm 118: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it amazing in our eyes.  While they were undoubtedly scratching their heads about what that could mean, we have more of a clue.  For we read those very verses as the Psalm for Easter!  The owner’s son rejected by the tenants, God’s son rejected by the authorities – OK, time to be transparent, isn’t it?  It’s not just those bad Pharisees and priests back in the first century.  And it certainly isn’t just the people of Israel, the Jewish people, who so often through history have been scapegoated for Jesus’ death.  This is a Holy Week story, after all, and even though we missed Holy Week this year (at least assembling for the traditional services), we remember our involvement in it:  Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee, ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee (ELW 349, see hymns below). 

But greater than our involvement or theirs (whomever the “theirs” may refer to) is the purpose and power and infinite compassion of the owner of the vineyard, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who raised his rejected Son to life and made him the head cornerstone of his new vineyard, the Church.  So the risen Lord comes to the vineyard in his Word and Meal and Spirit, not to “put us wretches to a miserable death”, but to restore us to forgiveness and life, to peace and joy, and, yes, to renewed opportunities for bearing fruit in abundance.  Easter brings a surprise ending to the story where tenants and messengers alike, with the living presence of the owner’s son in our midst, offer ourselves to him, bring new life to all in the vineyard and open its gates to people on the outside to join us – even if they work for only an hour!

Prayer: Lord, we confess that so often we have been unfaithful and unfruitful tenants in your vineyard and have even rejected your presence in our lives.  Thank you that through your dying and rising for us we are assured of forgiveness and life.  By your Spirit’s work renew us to bear good fruit to praise you and serve our neighbors in your holy name.  Amen.


Pastor Kaplan suggests:

Ah, Holy Jesus (ELW 349)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4MKOP-vhQ0 

My Song Is Love Unknown (ELW 343) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMart4wXsI0

Now the Green Blade Rises (ELW 379)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVduV0ustWw


“Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” (children’s choir) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2svZhZT6Pro

“Christ Is Enough” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fZ-tBR7LJ0

“Nobody Loves Me Like You” (Chris Tomlin) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd9VpmHjU4k

“His Strength Is Perfect” (Steven Curtis Chapman) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGC9KT918Kk