October 30, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

October 30, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)


October 30, 2020

When you come to worship this Sunday — in-person or on-line — bring all those you have loved, all those who inspired you to love the Lord and those who encouraged you to be your best child-of-God self. Bring your own cloud of witnesses to lift before our Lord with praise this All Saints Sunday. And don’t forget to bring those in your life right now who are a blessing. This is a day when we celebrate that in Christ, all time and distance collapses as we are united together as one people of God.

I WILL BE ON VACTION NOVEMBER 3-12  This is my annual autumn vacation with my seminary friend and colleague, Pastor Ann Melot. This year we have rented a house on the sound side of the Outer Banks NC. Secluded, we will stay safe, enjoying, books, puzzles, Scrabble, Yahtzee and, this year, a return to Cribbage (Ann has to re-teach me every time.) A special treat this year is a gazebo on the end of the dock — a beautiful place for morning coffee or a sunset beverage, even if it means bundling up to stay warm.

I never leave town without arranging for a pastor to lead worship in my absence and a pastor to be available in the event you would want or need a pastor’s presence and care. This time, Pastor Lee Brumback (St. Paul’s Funkstown) has graciously agreed to provide that presence and care if you need him. His phone number is 1-540-335-1710 (cell).

Please keep me in your prayers, that my time away is rich with peace, fun, rest and safe travels, so I return refreshed for our ministry together at Haven.


So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8.36


When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting “I’m clean livin’.”
I’m whispering “I was lost,
Now I’m found and forgiven.”

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak of this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak
And I need His strength to carry on.

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say . . . “I am a Christian”
I’m not holier than thou
I’m just a simple sinner
Who received God’s good grace, somehow!

“When I Say, ‘I Am a Christian’” (1988)
The Rev. Dr. Carol Wimmer, Pentecostal theologian

Pre-Election Ecumenical Worship Service

On Sunday, November 1 at 7 pm (please note the corrected time), join me, Bishop Kevin Brown of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Peggy Johnson from the United Methodist Church, and Bishop Charles Amos of the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church for an ecumenical worship service, via Zoom, praying together for our country and our election.
Please join the service (Zoom) at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86332666620?pwd=Z29kVnIxeVJsbWtOeWpCbXRPM3dTdz09#success             Passcode: 675249

Evening Prayer in Honor of Bishop Gohl’s 20th Ordination Anniversary
Join us on Wednesday, November 11 at 7 pm for a festive Evening Prayer liturgy broadcast live from St. Mark’s (St. Paul Street) on Bishop Gohl’s 20th Ordination Anniversary! We had hoped to have an in-person gathering and reception, but we will celebrate online and give thanks for the ministry and partnership we share! You will be able to find the service live on Facebook and likely YouTube, and on-demand on our usual platforms afterward.

I continue to recover well from my shingles. I had an ophthalmologist appointment on Monday, there was some shingle infiltration into my right eye, which was addressed with medication. I feel good and am slowly resuming my full schedule again. Many thanks for your prayers, cards, and good wishes.

On the Way Together,





Read     Matthew 5: 1-12
1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Many of us recognize this familiar passage, the appointed Gospel reading for Sunday, as The Beatitudes.  That title is from the Latin word beati, a plural adjective meaning blessed.  Appropriately it’s the first word of each beatitude: Blessed are the…  More importantly, though, taken together, how should we understand the Beatitudes, and why are they connected to All Saints’ Day (November 1, this coming Sunday)?

The place to start is not with the first beatitude in verse 3, but with the setting narrated in verses 1-2.  When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying… The Beatitudes, then, are the opening section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Notice that sermon including the Beatitudes is addressed to disciples, not to the crowds.  The crowds are present listening to the sermon, but they are mentioned only here at the beginning (5:1) and once again at the end (7:28).  The “them” in verse 2 clearly refers back to the disciples, as does the “you” throughout the rest of the sermon.  In other words, the Beatitudes were never meant to be a general code of conduct for everyone to follow; they are words for Jesus’ followers.

But what kind of words?  Frequently we hear them interpreted as if they were commandments; this is how we “ought” to live.  But there’s no “must”, “should”, “ought”, “shall” or “shall not” to be found anywhere in the reading.  Or roughly to quote a New Testament professor from many years ago: Beatitudes are indicative, not imperative; descriptive, not prescriptive.  What he meant was they don’t command us how we should live, but describe how life is for disciples in God’s Kingdom.  By standards of the world and our culture it’s not very appealing.  Who wants to be humble in spirit when those around us are asserting or exalting themselves?  Who wants to grieve the loss of two hundred thousand citizens if it interferes with my personal freedom?   Who wants to be a peacemaker if it means working with others whose views I can’t tolerate?  Who wants to advocate justice to the oppressed when it likely will incur anger or rejection?  Yet these are the very situations in which Jesus’ followers through the centuries have found themselves cast.  It’s exactly what Pastor Alessandri shared in Monday’s devotion based on Revelation 7 (first reading for All Saints’ Day):  It IS a tribulation/ordeal to find yourself at odds with the worldly status quo and measures.   Yet still we sing and praise and celebrate believing it is the Lord who will be victorious.  When the Lord makes all things new, there will be no more hunger and thirst, no more scorching heat, no more tears of pain and sorrow.

With promises that impact our lives in the present as well as the future, the Beatitudes bring that same good news.  In fact, each of them is a couplet with the first half describing the difficult surface situation in which disciples find themselves, and the second half proclaiming the deeper, mostly hidden reality of God’s grace that surrounds and upholds them through it all.  Yes, it goes against the grain to be humble in spirit, but it’s part of the Kingdom that we share.   So sad to grieve the loss of so many each day to the virus or to cancer or to human violence, but God continually comforts us with the assurance that none of these horrible occurrences or anything else in the universe can separate us from the love and life Jesus brings us or from his presence that continually goes with us.  It’s not easy to try bring God’s peace to conflicting parties, especially if we happen to be one of them, but the God who sends rain on the just and the unjust has poured water over our heads to make us children forever so that we can reach out to embrace everyone as brothers and sisters.  How painful to be persecuted, criticized or ridiculed for supporting outsiders or the oppressed, but we’re in such great company of prophets and martyrs and first responders and mechanics and pastors and custodians and teachers and clerks and Special Olympians who went before us and who even now are in the stands, where there are no restrictions, to cheer us on!

Far from commands for us to achieve, the Beatitudes are statements of the gospel to bring God’s good news and comfort and hope to struggling disciples.  In a world that is often hostile, in a culture that is polarized, in a time that has turned lives around so that they will never be the same, these disciples strive to lead lives that are faithful to the Lord who died and rose for them and who assures them their struggle is not in vain.  In this time and place we are those disciples.  The New Testament even calls us saints, not because our lives are perfect, but because like all those saints who have gone before us whom we remember on Sunday, we have fought the good fight, we are running the race, we’re keeping the faith.   And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia!  (ELW 422, vs. 4)

Prayer: (Prayer for Commemoration of Saints, adapted, ELW p. 59)   Lord God, you have surrounded us with so great a cloud of witnesses.  Grant that encouraged by the example of the saints at Haven who now rest from their labors, we may persevere in the course that is set before us and, at the last, share in your eternal joy with all the saints in light, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Pastor Kaplan’s suggestions:
Rejoice in God’s Saints (ELW 418)

Give Thanks for Saints (ELW 428)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nvMb3isg-k

Rise Up, O Saints of God! (ELW 669)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQil4RTBXeU

“The Beatitude” (Michael Talbot) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln3IEnrUS7k

(Bethel)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsaMoJwHerc
(Hilltop) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8clFkbP0lQw&list=RD5yxs5wFpnGg&index=6

All Saints’ Day (Featuring “Your Heart” by Chris Tomlin)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNlgG_-wjpM


A favorite hymn to use on a Sunday when the gospel includes the Beatitudes is “Blest Are They,” written by David Haas. Mr. Haas is a prolific contemporary hymn composer who came to us out of the Roman Catholic tradition. He also wrote, “We Are Called” and “You Are Mine,” which have also become favorites at Haven.
It is with great sadness that our music director, Steve Pastena, and I have decided to suspend use of Mr. Haas’ music in worship at this time. Mr. Haas is accused of multiple sexual misconducts, including rape and the abuse of minors; allegations that he has broadly admitted to and acknowledged.  The Catholic music publishers, GIA, has terminated their relationship with Mr. Haas. Many of the Roman Catholic Archdioceses “are advising that parishes, schools and ministries should refrain from using music composed by Mr. Haas until such time as there is a resolution to the allegations against him.”
Yes, Mr. Haas has not been convicted and deserves his day in court. Yet the sheer pervasiveness and severity of the allegations makes it impossible to ignore. This is not about being, “politically correct,” but being mindful of the terrible pain caused by sexual abuse and the misuse of power anywhere, but particularly in the church.

An article out of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Milwaukee*  goes into greater detail, including victim-survivors asking the church to ban the use of his music. (Content warning, the linked article describes graphic abuse) The article suggests that we ask ourselves some of these questions about continuing to use David Haas’ music:

  • What if a survivor is in your community and hears his music in the liturgy?
  • How can you justify contributing to the royalties that financially sustain someone who has caused harm such as this?
  • What does it say to victims of abuse if your desire to sing “your favorite song” outweighs their pain?

If you want to discuss this with either Steve or myself, please be in touch by email or phone. We pray for all who have suffered and for Mr. Haas and his family.

(Content warning, the linked article describes graphic abuse)