September 11, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

September 11, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Haven Lutheran Church

 September 11, 2020
















It has been 19 years since that morning when we could not believe what we were seeing. We could not fathom how four planes had become terrorist weapons. Three hit targets— the NY Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The fourth was thwarted but crashing in the now quiet fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all those aboard. After the shock, I also remember the grieving our nation experienced as we heard the stories of those who died and realized, with great vividness, how precious and precarious life is.  I also remember the great sense of solidarity, the deep longing to be able to “do something,” to help those who were hurt and an urgency to say “I love you” to family and friends.

We now find ourselves in another reality we could not have imagined — a world-wide COVID-19 pandemic. This time we are again grieving those who have lost their lives and the loss of “life as we knew it.” As a follower of Jesus, I am also grieving that we could not again find the heart and spirit to unite together as a nation to meet this unprecedented and unpredictable challenge. I hear the Lord calling to us through the voices of those who died in 9/11 and those who have died from COVID-19. Those voice are crying out to us to cross over the divides and work together to love, care and uphold one another. What good can any “winner” this upcoming election do, if we are not willing to be unite across divides, to dig in together, make the sacrifices and seek the welfare of ALL? Maybe it is this day that hangs like a cloud, but I do not mean to sound maudlin. What I do wish to do is to sound the trumpets and remember something else this day — Jesus always stepped over divisive boundaries to love because our Lord cares about each and every person and all of creation.

Franciscan priest, Mychal Judge, was a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department. His church, St. Francis of Assisi, was right across the street from the fire station Engine 1, Ladder 24 on West 31st Street.  He had printed the words of this prayer on a card to hand out to anyone who needed them. He was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center when he was ministering to a fallen firefighter. This is the prayer he carried. I can think of no greater way to honor those who died and affirm our commitment — pandemic or not —- to bring Jesus into the world, than to make this our prayer, too.

Lord, take me where you want me to go.
Let me meet who you want me to meet.
Tell me what you want me to say,
And keep me out of your way.

God IS with you. God IS with us,
Pastor Linda M Alessandri


Friday5 pm Spoken Service with communion in the sanctuary.

Sunday 9:30 am Worship On-line at

Sunday, 9:30 am  Drive-up and Outdoor Worship at (REMEMBER if weather looks uncertain & before you leave home, call the church after 8:30 am on Sunday  301-733-55056 Push the star button (*) as soon as the message begins to get worship cancellation information.

September 13, 11 am
                   K-Grade 5 Kids – Get Ready
for a GREAT TIME adventuring in God’s Word


Interfaith Coalition celebrates the International Day of Peace -September 20
Sunday, September 20, 4 – 5:30 pm

Local farm, located outside of Hagerstown MD.  Location is sent upon registration.

Music from different faith traditions will be offered, including the Hendersons from the Christian tradition; Grant Gustafson playing lute and presenting interfaith thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr., from the Baha’i tradition; Brian King playing harmonium and sharing Sanskrit chants, from the Bhakti tradition and The Oh My Starlings, bringing one or more of the following-banjo, ukulele, guitar and harmonium and sharing chants from the Sikh tradition.  Social distancing and safety protocols will be in place. Please bring folding chair. This event is free to the public, but love offerings are gratefully accepted. Registration is required as space is limited. Register at here.  For more information, call Paula Myers, 301-471-0590.

I WILL BE AWAY SUNDAY AFTERNOON (9/13) THROUGH THURSDAY (9/17) to meet up with my sister, Denise, and her brother-in-law, Paul in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Since the Outer Banks of North Carolina is closer than Atlanta, Georgia, I will slip off to be with Denise when she celebrates her 68th birthday on Wednesday, Sept. 16th. Everyone plans on staying safe and healthy at the beach…. no wild parties or crowded bars. If you will remember, Paul have a bone marrow transplant several years ago, so we will be extra careful and still have fun. So……..
1) IF YOU WOULD NEED A PASTOR’S CARE WHILE I AM GONE, please call PASTOR DAVID EISENHUTH, senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hagerstown. His phone number is 1-410-487-3960. He is kind, compassionate and can be quite funny. Don’t hesitate to call him if you need a pastor’s encouragement.
2) THERE WILL BE NO HAVEN E-MESSAGES on MONDAY, Sept. 14 or WEDNESAY, Sept. 16. See you again on Friday, September 18th.  But we can’t forget those baptism anniversaries.



Nancy Newkirk sent this in
Ray Cannata, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, printed and taped hundreds of signs encouraging churchgoers to sit apart by referencing Bible scriptures with a funny twist.

“Jesus sat the 500 down in rows. But not this one,” reads one sign.

“Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and if he were here today, he still wouldn’t be allowed to sit in this pew,” reads another.








Read  Matthew  18: 21-35

21Peter came and said to [Jesus], “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Reflection  (Today’s Reflection and Prayer was prepared by The Rev. David Kaplan)

On this sad memorial day we remember those who died in the terrorist attacks 19 years ago, especially those in Flight 93 whose sacrifice saved countless other lives.

“I have a question.”

On the heels of last week’s Gospel (Matthew 18: 15-20) about life together in the community of faith, Simon Peter needed to discover the limits: “How often?  I get it, Lord, that forgiveness is one of those keys to the Kingdom for your followers, but how often must I forgive a brother or sister who has sinned against me?  As many as seven times?”  Strangely, Jesus didn’t seem impressed by Peter’s overwhelmingly gracious suggestion!  Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times (one textual variation that’s taken into the KJV reads seventy times seven, but neither 77 nor 490 are to be taken literally).  In other words, “You’re asking the wrong question.  In the Kingdom forgiveness is without limit.  And to make that point abundantly clear Jesus then told the story that’s usually called the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (found only in Matthew).

If you grew up in Sunday School, you’re probably familiar with the plot.  The slave of a wealthy king or landowner owed his master a huge sum of money, ten thousand talents (equivalent today to a few billion dollars).  The point is that it was enormous sum, impossible for any slave to repay.  So the king was about to cut his loss by selling the slave and his family at the local slave market.  “Wait, wait, don’t sell me,” he pleaded to his master, “Be patient – I’ll pay you back!”  Sure, the king probably thought, when pigs fly you’ll pay me back.  But the king was gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He forgave the slave the entire debt – released him free and clear – not a penny did he owe.

Grateful and happy of course, at least for a moment, until… until he ran into that rascal from the kitchen.  “He’s never paid me back that $20 I loaned him three months ago.  Well, I’ll get that settled right now – pay what you owe, or to debtor’s prison you go!”  “Wait, wait, don’t cell me,” the second slave pleaded with the first, “Be patient – I’ll pay you back.”  This debt was manageable even for a slave – he could clear it in a few months.  But the first slave was neither gracious nor merciful, and would not forgive his fellow slave at all; instead he had him jailed.

The story may have ended on that tragic note.  But the other slaves in the household noticed what happened and were greatly distressed.  They could not remain silent, but told the king all that had transpired, and he in turn summoned the servant he had forgiven:  You wicked slave!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?  And now the slave who had been forgiven was sentenced to be tortured.  If we miss the point of this parable, Jesus spells it out very clearly at the conclusion: So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.  Here’s the tragic follow-up to the question I mentioned in last week’s devotion, when would we ever loose sin that should be bound up (and in fact was bound up)?   The answer – when to ignore it would deny forgiveness and reconciliation to a brother or sister in need.

Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  So we often confess at the beginning of our worship.  In response, the Pastor proclaims to us the Good News:  In the mercy of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for his sake forgives us all our sins… I therefore declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins – all ten thousand talents worth! – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  For such unspeakable grace our intention is that we will not sin again, or at least that we will not repeat the same sins that we were just forgiven.  If you forgive me, Lord, I promise I won’t do it again!  While God’s Spirit helps us work toward that goal, it’s usually a long process that the Church calls sanctification.  The sad truth is we continue to stumble along the way with the same old sins we committed yesterday, last week and even before the shutdown!  Thankfully God never says to us, “I’ll forgive you this time, but never do it again.”  God’s grace forgives us the 7th time, the 77th time and even the 490th time!  What God says, or rather asks us, is the decisive question of the parable, Should you not have mercy on your fellow slave, as I have mercy on you?

The response to – even stronger, the requirement of – being forgiven is to become a forgiver!  Just as Joseph in today’s first reading forgave his brothers who had sold him into slavery in Egypt, we reach out to those in our families and God’s family who have wronged us with words of mercy, healing and forgiveness. Without limit, without exception.  And as members of God’s family we keep watch and pray daily, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.  Especially do we pray for those who feel imprisoned in guilt for unforgiven sins.  The parable calls us not only to forgive when we have been wronged, but to encourage our brothers and sisters to do the same when they are the ones who have been hurt.  We may even be able to be reconcilers in helping to bring conflicted members together again.  God’s work – our compassion!

The parable is about life in the Church.  The terms “brother”, “sister”, “member of the church” (all three of those terms translate the Greek word for bother) are used consistently by Peter and Jesus throughout this conversation.  In other words, the story is not about forgiving those on the outside.  In itself it does not call us to forgive the terrorists who brought destruction to so many lives 19 years ago or to Osama Bin Laden who masterminded the plot.  And yet, as we consider the debt God forgives us and respond by forgiving others in God’s family, we may discover that while we still remember and grieve, the anger and bitterness we once harbored about the event have dissipated.  We will not bear grudges against people of Middle East descent or against the Islamic faith tradition, remembering that God’s mercy and compassion are for all peoples.

Prayer:  Lord, we remember the tragedy that devastated our nation 19 years ago.  We ask your blessing and healing on those who still bear personal scars of injury, illness and grief.  Assure them of your continuing presence, compassion and support until the former thins pass away, and you make all things new.  Meanwhile we rely on your gracious forgiveness day by day.  Teach us by your Holy Spirit to have mercy on others in your family as you have mercy on us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hymns:  Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive (ELW 605)

God, When Human Bonds Are Broken (ELW 603)

Drawn to the Light (ELW 593)


“Forgiveness” (Matthew West)

“Love Moved First” (Casting Crown)

“The Heart of God”  (Hillsong)