October 2, 2020

October Prayer Ventures

In 1 Peter 5:6-7 we read: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” The Apostle Peter assures us that God will hear our humble, honest, and trusting prayer, made in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER VENTURES:  October 2020

These petitions are offered as guides to prayer for the global, social and outreach ministries of the ELCA, as well as for the needs and circumstances of our neighbors, communities and world. Thank you for your continued prayers for the life and mission of this church.

Give thanks for the gifts, witness, leadership and faith of our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ. Pray that we will continue to grow as a church centered in the gospel and committed to the inclusion of all people. Pray that we will recognize and challenge the dynamics of bias, fear, power and privilege that discourage participation and equity in this church and in society.

2 Ezekiel confronted the Israelites for their resistance to change and to God’s ways of fairness. He rejected their arguments that change was too difficult, that they were acting only as they were raised and that he needed to live in the real world. Pray that we will repent, embrace God’s peace and justice, and heed God’s command, through Ezekiel, to “get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!”

3 Francis of Assisi, renewer of the church (1181-1226)  Pray that we will greet each day with a sense of awe, gratitude and respect for creation, for the organisms and creatures that inhabit the earth and for humanity in all its diversity and complexity ― the handiwork of God.

4 The Lutheran World Federation’s Season of Creation 2020 invites us, through prayer and activism, to give thanks for creation and renew our human vocation for its care. Join Lutherans around the world in the online meeting and closing prayer today.

5 Persist in praying for all affected by Hurricane Laura, by wildfires in the western United States and by flooding and severe weather. Pray that we will generously assist relief and reconstruction efforts and support the work of Lutheran Disaster Response.

6 Give thanks and praise to God that our righteousness and salvation come not through our own efforts but through faith in Jesus Christ.

7 Ask forgiveness for our involvement ― consciously or unconsciously ― in perpetuating the racism, laws and structures that benefit the majority through inequality and oppression. Pray for the Spirit to stir our humility, wisdom and persistence as we reflect on our lives and society and strive for racial justice, reform, reconciliation and unity as children of God.

8 Ask God to strengthen our faith and deepen our roots in the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that we will draw on God’s strength through our faith, especially when we grow weary or doubtful in the face of the world’s challenges, criticism and ridicule.

9 Pray that we will actively engage with our communities and neighbors, developing the resilience and hope needed to absorb, endure and recover from the spiritual, medical, social and economic impacts of natural and human-caused disasters.

10 Remember in prayer those who have lost jobs or are furloughed from work, that they will have the resources and support to meet their daily needs as they seek employment. Pray that our congregations will be welcoming, supportive and ready to help, concerned for their dignity and their spiritual, physical and emotional needs.

11 Give thanks and praise to God for welcoming us into the kingdom of God, an undeserved gift to be shared with the world. Pray that we will never take the joy and blessings of this gift for granted or hide it from our neighbor.

12 The Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), a joint ministry of the ELCA and the Lutheran World Federation, represents Lutherans at the United Nations. Give thanks for the LOWC’s work in monitoring issues of concern to the church, sharing our perspectives and speaking for peace, justice, human rights, respect for international law, and better standards of living for all people.

13 Pray that we, too, will hear Paul’s assurance to the Philippians in difficult times, that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Ask that the Spirit fill our lives with peace, love and mercy that will shine brightly in the world.

14 Pray for our companion-synod relationships throughout the world, especially during this time of physical separation, that we will continue to nurture and strengthen one another for life and ministry through prayer, study, communication, and sharing resources for doing God’s work in the world together.

15 Throughout our baptismal journey, Psalm 23 encourages, calms and nourishes us with the reassurance that we are never without God’s love, attention and guidance. Give thanks to God and pray that we will reflect God’s loving presence and care in all that we do and say.

16 Pray for the leaders, voting members and others gathered, in person and online, for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod Assembly, that the Spirit will strengthen, guide and encourage them in choosing leaders, proclaiming the gospel, growing the church, serving our neighbor and doing God’s work in an ever-changing world.

17 Pray for active-duty military and their families, especially in times of deployment, transition and separation, that their faith will comfort and strengthen them and that they will have confidence knowing they are always connected with the love, support and concern of their home community of faith.

18 Remember in prayer newly elected synod bishops. Ask the Spirit to give them the wisdom, vision and faith to meet the challenges of their ministries, helping congregations and special ministries spread the gospel, serve our neighbors in need and grow the church.

19 Ask God to help us provide comfort, support and hope to our neighbors who feel helpless and  overwhelmed amid the pandemic, natural disasters, economic struggles and social unrest.

20 Pray that we will experience God’s love, encouragement and unity in the body of Christ through worship and the sacraments ― in person, online or however we gather.

21 Give thanks to God for one another and pray for our siblings in Christ, that we will be steadfast in our faith, proclaim the gospel in our daily lives and serve as examples of God’s mercy and love in the world.

22 Thank God for our special relationship with the United Methodist Church, a full communion partner with the ELCA since 2009. Pray for the church, its diverse ministries and its members and leaders, that together we will find mutual support, new partnerships and new resources for the work of sharing the gospel and serving our neighbor.

23 “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it,” for God is great, powerful and wondrous. Sing praise to God!

24 Pray for students, teachers, school staff and parents as they continue to adapt to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on school environments and distanced learning.

25 Reformation Sunday  Praise God for the gift of grace that sets us free to change and be changed, to form and reform as the body of Christ for the sake of humanity, serving our neighbor and doing God’s work in the world.

26 Pray for the Spirit to deepen our understanding of what being a Lutheran Christian means, through prayer, Scripture, reflecting on our creeds and teachings, being renewed and united through the sacraments, and opening ourselves to God’s voice and guidance in an ever-changing society and world.

27 Give thanks that, though we have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations, God has set things right with us and restored our relationship through the gift of grace we have in Jesus Christ. Pray that throughout our baptismal journeys we will spread the hope and good news of God’s merciful love for humankind.

28 The ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship program supports students of promise attending ELCA seminaries. Pray that we will generously support this program to make seminary more affordable, to enable more future ministers to study and to help them graduate with less debt as they respond to God’s call to serve as the church needs and the Spirit leads.

29 “God is our refuge and strength.” Give thanks and praise to God and reflect on how God sustains you, gives you courage, influences your decisions and actions, and equips you for living as a follower of Christ in the world.

30 Pray for the Spirit to guide and inspire our discernment and decisions in the upcoming presidential election, and to help us prioritize the needs of our neighbors, the well-being of communities in turmoil and the task of healing the deep divisions in our society.

31 Reformation Day  Give thanks and praise to God for the ministry, teachings and impact of Martin Luther and other church reformers, who took great risks to refocus our faith, institutions and practices on the word of God and the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that we will continue to be a reforming church, mindful of the Spirit’s guidance as we discern how to follow Christ ― now and in the future.

 

 


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Pentecoste Sunday was our first time for in-person worship. It went well. Some thirty-eight people were present. Everyone was agreeable in following the guidelines to sit only in designated places, to wear masks (except for worship leaders), to refrain from singing, receive communion in the pew, and social-distance upon arriving and finally leaving. There was a problem with the sound system, which we believe has been fixed. With the same procedures in place to keep us safe, we will continue corporate worship.

The service is live-streamed on YouTube, and available after worship time for you to see. Remember- it’s a blended service in the sanctuary at 10am. If you are at home, you may have elements of bread and wine in front of you, and feel that connection as we at Trinity’s altar receive the blessed sacrament.

 

As per the governor’s plan and guidelines for corporate worship published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its Delaware-Maryland Synod of which Trinity is a part, we will resume public worship on Sunday, May 31st.  As per the governor’s plan, attendance is limited to 50% of the available seating.  Since our nave seats several hundred, this should not be a problem (it would be nice if it were a problem!).  Since it is difficult to practice social distancing in Fellowship Hall, our services for the foreseeable future will be at 10AM (a compromise time, ala the Unity services) upstairs in the sanctuary.  We hope to have a blend of traditional and praise music at each or at alternating services.  Here is what to expect:

    1. You must practice social distancing at the entrance of the main door to the church.  You will be asked to remain at the end of the rail at the ramp door until the person in front of you has gone through the inner doors.  If standing facing the church, these are the doors to the far left.  DO NOT CONGREGATE IN THE NARTHEX OR OUTSIDE THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH!
    2. One usher in protective gear will be at the door to give you a bulletin and a communion kit (described below).  The production of the bulletins will be done in such a way as to minimize physical contact with them.  The person reproducing them will wear gloves&d place the bulletins in a box for the usher to hand to you.
    3. When you enter the church, you will you see tape roping off some pews, and tape marking off some areas of each pew, so as to allow separated seating for you and your family in others. so we can all keep at least 6’ feet apart.  This is strongly worded in the governor’s directive.
    4. You must always wear a mask.  The only exceptions will be the worship leaders who will remain in the chancel, and separated from each other and from you by larger distances.
    5. There will be no offering by way of the passed plate.  There will be a box at the doorway for you to place your offering on the way out.  Please be careful not to touch envelopes or cash which might already be in the box.
    6. We will attempt to leave by rows, again to practice social distancing.  Wait for an usher to direct you out.  DO NOT CONGREGATE IN THE NARTHEX OR OUTSIDE THE DOORS OF THE CHURCH!
    7. We will have communion, but it will be taken in your pew by way of an individual serving.  The elements will be in a container much resembling the liquid creamer we put in our coffee.  Upon tearing off the first seal you will find a wafer.  Upon removing the second seal you will find grape juice. You will be directed by the pastor when to consume the elements.  Wine is preferred to grape juice, but is not available in these cups, since they are generally used in congregations which use only grape juice.  Please dispose of your kit by putting it in a box at the door. I understand the communion cups are difficult to open so you might want to bring napkins in case of spillage!  If you have concerns about opening the wine portion, opening and consuming only the wafer is fine.
    8. Only the bathroom by Memorial Hall will be available for your use.  This is to minimize cleaning.
    9. The service will be around 45 minutes, since it is difficult to wear a mask for a longer period.
    10. Please take your temperature at home before coming out.  If you have a temperature, obviously you should remain there, and watch the service from home.

Some people will still be reluctant to come to public worship, so the service will be live streamed.

Under no circumstances should you feel
compelled to attend the service
.

We all must make individual decisions about potential exposure to the virus.  If you do not come, please be part of the service by watching on our live stream.  Your financial support of Trinity has been very encouraging, and we hope it will continue as the situation unfolds.

A further note—since it is difficult to practice social distancing in the office area, restrictions as to who may enter there will remain in place.  We do not want the staff to be infected.  Signs at the Randolph entrance will tell you how to interact with the staff.

Pastors David and Greg have not been making visits.  Fortunately, no one has been hospitalized lately.  Walter Bell died during the lock-down.  However, his family attended to his burial and Trinity did not play a part.  Rules are especially stringent at viewings and services at the funeral home.  Our pastors will not make visits to homes until it is safe to do so.  Hospital visits will be on a case-to-case basis.  It may be possible to arrange a Zoom meeting.  Funerals will have to follow guidelines established by the funeral directors, except at church- where our own guidelines will be in effect.

We are so happy that our community of faith will once again be able to meet in our beautiful sanctuary.  Please, please, please observe the guidelines above so we can all be safe!  We pray that the rate of infection for COVID-19 will continue to decrease and that our regular opportunities for social interaction will return.

If you have any questions about what is contained in this article, please call the church office at 301-733-2878 or email us at office@tlchag.org.  If you have other suggestions as to how we can be safe in worship, please feel free to share them.

 

Trinity Sunday

I told you we would be using the Athanasian Creed on Sunday, The Holy Trinity. Celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, inthis namesake feast of our congregation, we recall that God is for us Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I asked you to look at the creed and promised part 2 about the Trinity today. Here it is!

image.pngOne of the courses I had in seminary eons ago was simply called “The Holy Trinity.” It was taught by a brilliant but somewhat eccentric professor, Robert Jenson. Dr. Jenson had an illustrious career, teaching at several seminaries and universities. He was the author of many seminal books and articles. He died in 2017 at the ripe age of eighty-seven.

I remember the course with some chagrin, because I nearly failed it. Back then, grades at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (now United Lutheran Seminary) were pass/fail. Failure was below 70%. I eked my way through it with a 71. I would like to say that, after taking the course, I came through it with a clear understand of the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, that is not true. I struggle each year on the Feast of the Holy Trinity (the Sunday after Pentecost) to preach a sermon which helps my listeners understand the Godhead we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This year I pawned it off on Alex Knepper, a first year student at United Lutheran Seminary. Count your blessings, deacons Inga and Peggy, for if Alex wasn’t available, it would have been one of you!

My best explanation of the Trinity is that God reveals himself (the pronoun itself is a difficulty) as the Father who creates the Son who redeems, and the Spirit which sanctifies. I have to admit that makes sense but it is a heresy called Modalism. I’m not exactly sure why it’s a heresy, but take my word for it, Dr. Jenson called a number of us in the class out on this point.

image.pngThere are three Monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Monotheistic means “one God.” All three rejected other world religious views (i.e. near-Eastern polytheism, Buddhism and Hinduism) to embrace one, single God. For Jews and Muslims, this understanding is quite clear. There is one God. Some people mistakenly ascribe to the Prophet Mohammad in Islam same status just short of divinity. That’s patently wrong. Mohammad is God’s prophet, important as he may be for the tradition. But Christianity is left with an uneasy understanding of Jesus as God’s Son.

Over and over again, Jesus proclaims himself as God’s Son. His meaning is quite clear. He is part of God, and while inhabiting a human body, he is more than human, more than a prophet or a teacher. He is the Redeemer, the long-expected Messiah. Of course, Jews could not accept this. The idea itself was reprehensible. It was blaspheme, a crime punishable by death. That was the charge which got Jesus into such trouble. Jews would look at Christians and say they were no longer monotheists because they had TWO gods, not the one revealed in Hebrew scripture.

Then add in the Spirit, which comes on Pentecost to the disciples and that band of followers who believed Jesus was the Messiah. Being described under many names—the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost—it seems that there is now another God. Jews would reject this notion out-of-hand.

When Mohammad received his call in the late 500s to be a prophet of God and begin a religious tradition we know as Islam, like Jews, he looked at Christianity and wondered how it could proclaim a unified God with three different persons as theology, by then well defined. He could accept Jesus as a prophet, but not equal to God. For Islam, there is but one God. That’s the cry you hear coming from minarets at prayer time in Islamic countries.

image.pngNeedless to say, the theology which supported this understanding of a three-part-Godhead (ugg, I’m back in Modalism) was fought out with incredible acrimony in the Church. Many heresies, especially about the nature of Jesus as part of the Trinity, came and went. People were persecuted and excommunicated because they espoused wrong views. I’m glad burning at the stake for heretics was not in vogue in the 1970s, when I nearly flunked the course on the Trinity at Gettysburg Seminary!

In the end, we can only understand God so far as God has revealed herself to us. We get a small peek at the vastness of God when we see the Trinity at work (I’m headed to Modalism again). The great mystery of God is that this divine thing chooses to be involved with us. The fullness of that divinity cannot be understood by us in the here and now.

The creed which bears the name of that great defender of orthodoxy in the Catholic Church, St. Athanasius, makes clear the unity of the Trinity. Where the creed comes from is a mystery itself. Some think it was a teaching lesson for Spanish priests. Its length and condemnatory language make it daunting for us to use but once a year on the only day of the year we celebrate a doctrine, rather than an event or a person. I think it’s important for us to use, since it is one of the three ecumenical creeds. Its very length and the strength of its language do make clear how important it is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be part of our belief in a God who is at the same time mysterious and available.

Give it a go, Alex!
– Pastor David

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