September 18, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

September 18, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Haven Lutheran Church

 September 18, 2020

Friday 5 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.

A SPECIAL TREAT THIS WEEKEND –Seminarian Katy Moran will preach and Pastor Alessandri will preside at each service this weekend.

From the Hagerstown Area Religious Council E-newsletter (9/9/20)





















The Church is not closed!
Our Baltimore Lutheran/Episcopal Campus Ministry at Towson, UMBC and Morgan voted to loan their van to the North Avenue Mission until January since they can’t use it for campus ministry volunteering. God’s work – our van! Ascension (Towson) has resumed hosting food trucks in the parking lot on Wednesday evenings, grab-and-go this year. With the continued economic devastation impacting many groups during this pandemic, they have added a new ministry with the food trucks as they bring hot food deliveries to a high-rise housing building for the elderly in Sandtown, in Baltimore City. This is supported by Ascension members with meals provided from food trucks on their lot – helping both those in need of food and those in need of paid work. Ascension is partnering with Intersection of Change, a group working to feed city residents! Haven (Hagerstown) provided the supplies for 72 elementary school children and 48 middle schoolers to begin a new year of learning online; to this are added prayers for the students, parents, teachers, and staff, that they have a safe, enriching, and smooth first semester!

With my love and prayers,






















A PAUSE IN GOD’S WORD   (from Pastor Dave Kaplan)

Read: Matthew 20:1-16
[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Reflection (Today’s reflection and prayer were prepared by Pastor David Kaplan)

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is the official title of this difficult Gospel parable for Sunday.  But the subtitle is more revealing: It’s Not Fair!  Indeed, that’s the usual reaction of those reading it for the first time.  And it’s still the reaction of many seasoned Christians who have heard the story all their lives.  It’s certainly not difficult to make a contemporary connection.  Folks today grumble about unequal pay for equal work.  Here the issue is equal pay for unequal work.  In either case, though, it sounds like some are getting favored treatment while others are being cheated.  By our usual economic standards that just isn’t fair.

So what prompted this parable in the first place?  It goes back to the story in the previous chapter (19:16-22) of the rich young man (ruler in Luke’s version), who was searching for eternal life.  Even though he had always obeyed the commandments, he felt something was lacking in his life.  Jesus challenged him to sell his possessions, of which he had an abundance, give the proceeds away and then come and follow.  It was just too much for the young man, and he walked sadly away.  Jesus then shared with his disciples how difficult it would be for those who put their trust in riches (or any other distraction) to enter God’s kingdom.  “What about us, Lord?” Peter asked.  “Look we’ve left everything and followed you.  What then will we have?”  The answer was reassuring: Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother…for my name’s sake will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.  But (always a “but”!) many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.  What in the world did he mean by that?

The parable which directly follows that strange verse gives a clue.  The workers, whom the landowner hired were paid in reverse order from the time of their hiring: Give them their pay beginning with the last and then going to the first. That may have been a simple result of who was closest to the pay booth, which presumably was near the entrance to the vineyard.  Those who were hired at dusk would be closer to the entrance than those hired at the break of day, who would have worked their way to the remote sections of the vineyard.  But the order also provided the opportunity for the first hires to observe the distribution of the wages.  Probably they were ecstatic at first, “Look, these latecomers were given the daily wage: what then will we have?”  Anticipating a greater reward for the longer hours they put in, they were shocked and chagrined to discover they only received what they were promised – exactly the same amount as those who worked just an hour.  No wonder they grumbled and complained against the owner; no wonder we might have done the same!

Their reaction leads us back to the question of fairness: what would have been a “fair” resolution to the pay distribution at the end of the day?  If those who only worked an hour in the evening were given a day’s wage, perhaps those who began working in the afternoon should have been given twice that amount, and those who began in the morning three times the daily wage.  No, because the owner went five times to the marketplace to hire workers, not three.  So to make it completely fair, there should be five pay brackets?   And within each bracket, should those who picked just 30 bunches of grapes receive the same amount as those who picked 50?  And shouldn’t workers get docked if they took a break?  Turns out fairness is not quite as simple or as pleasing as it sounds.  If the workers were to be paid absolutely fairly on the basis of the amount of work each completed, the story’s focus would have shifted from the owner’s generosity to each worker’s accomplishments (or lack thereof).

As it stands, however, the owner never agreed to pay fairly.  He agreed with the workers who were hired first to pay the “usual daily wage” (which he did).  He agreed with the second group hired and presumably the other three groups to pay “whatever is right” (which he also did).  And he answered the complaint of the first workers with two stinging questions: Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?  Or are you envious because I am generous?  That’s the quality that best describes the owner of the vineyard – not fairness, but generosity!  Generous in searching five times for idle workers to come into his vineyard to find fruitful labor.  Generous in paying them all in full for a day’s work.  And, yes, generous in graciously giving the last the same full day’s pay as the first.

In Hebrew Scriptures, the word for vineyard is sometimes used literally to designate an actual field where grapes are grown and harvested for wine (1 Kings 21 for instance).  More often, though, the word is used symbolically as a designation for Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7 is the classic passage).  In this case the owner is always Yahweh, the Lord.  Jesus carried over that Old Testament symbolism in his teaching.  In fact, for the next three Sundays (including this Sunday) vineyards appear in the Gospel reading.  So today’s parable is not simply a strange anecdote about how a local vineyard owner paid workers he recruited.  It’s about an unfair God, whose grace far surpasses human notions of what is right and proper.   We already encounter this unfair, gracious God in the first reading for Sunday, Jonah 3:10-4:11, where the prophet Jonah went a second time (remember the first time he ran away and ended up in the belly of a “great fish”, not necessarily a whale!) to Nineveh, “that great city”, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.  There he proclaimed his message, Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  It was only fair because of all the evil the Assyrians had committed on surrounding nations including the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  But in this story, a strange thing happened: at Jonah’s one sentence prophecy of doom, the people of Nineveh from the king down to the lowliest slave all repented of their evil.  And then God repented of the evil he had planned to do against the city and did not destroy it!  “I knew it all along,” yelled a despondent Jonah, “I knew you were gracious and merciful…”  Not fair, but overwhelmingly generous!

So down through the years with parables like Jonah and the Workers in the Vineyard (the Merciful Father also fits in this genre) God gently rebukes all of us long-time Kingdom workers who occasionally feel unappreciated and ask out loud or under our breath, What then will we have?  Shouldn’t we at least receive a little bonus?  Nope.  What we receive is the gift held out for everyone and graciously extended to longtime disciples and newbies alike – daily forgiveness and life and hope and renewal and joy.  And one thing more that the workers didn’t receive, and Jonah and even Peter hadn’t yet received, the gift of the Lord who gave himself for us on a cross and continues to do so in his word and meal and through the work of his generous Spirit in our hearts.  No room here for grumbling – only rejoicing as first and last blend together in this new vineyard serving the Lord who daily calls us to our tasks.  And rejoicing together in the gifts he generously supplies and provides to welcome still others in his vineyard!

Besides, we wouldn’t want a God who is truly fair by our standards.  Remember those ten thousand talents from last week – we couldn’t begin to pay them back!

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice in the generosity you show us daily.  Help us also rejoice in the generosity you show others that together with glad and generous hearts we may share the work you give us in your Kingdom and invite others to discover your grace.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Pastor Kaplan’s recommendations

Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us (ELW 707)

O God of Mercy, God of Light (ELW 714)

All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly (ELW 461)


“Generous God”

“Generous Giver”

Phillippians 1: 21a  “For to me, living is Christ”
“Let It Be Jesus”