January 1, 2021

January 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:  January 2021

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.

1 Give thanks and praise that God knows intimately our complexities, failures, accomplishments, questions, goals and hopes, and still looks upon us with loving kindness, newness and a desire for us to thrive as individuals and communities.

2 Pray for our companion churches and international leaders as they confront multiple waves of the pandemic. Ask the Spirit to fill them with hope, resilience and reassurance that our faith in the presence and love of God, which we share as siblings in Christ, will unify us in caring for one another and in doing God’s work in the world, using our diverse gifts, cultures, languages, resources and perspectives in every circumstance.

3 Give thanks and praise to God that we are children of God, knowing and testifying to the good news that Jesus Christ became flesh and lived among us, and that we have seen the glory of God’s only son, full of grace and truth for the world.

4 National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month  We remember and pray for victims of sex trafficking, involuntary servitude, debt bondage and forced labor in our nation and around the world, and we ask God’s guidance in caring for victims and actively working to end this abuse, injustice and oppression.

5 Pray for Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, members of the ELCA Church Council and the Conference of Bishops. Give thanks for their humble service, their faith in Christ, their leadership and gifts, and their commitment to wrestle with difficult decisions and issues for the sake of the church and the world.

6 Epiphany  As people of faith, we are not immune from wondering about God, Jesus Christ and the Spirit. Pray that God will be patient with us, illuminating the truth of who we are as baptized children of God and the reality and certainty of the good news of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, our Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and teacher.

7 As the pandemic continues, pray for doctors, nurses, emergency responders and health care workers who need renewal, strength and our gratitude and recognition as they continue to serve at great personal risk and sacrifice for the sake of our health and well-being.

8 Give thanks for the people in our lives who inspire hope, faith and courage, and whose words and actions touch us, teach us the meaning of grace and move us to become bearers of mercy in the world.

9 In Christ we have received forgiveness of our sins and salvation through God’s unfathomable grace, showered upon us every day. Praise God!

10 Give thanks for God’s love and forgiveness in baptism, which marks the beginning of our journey with our siblings in Christ to share the good news, serve all people, grow the church and strive for peace and justice in the world.

11 Pray for parents, students, employees and business owners whose plans and routines change day by day and week by week due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, that they might be hopeful, resilient and able to adapt, change and endure.

12 Pray for our faith-based schools, early childhood education programs and day care centers as they provide experiential education, social interaction, stability and calm for the youngest of our children, who are often most vulnerable during times of uncertainty and anxiety.

13 God is mighty, majestic and eternal throughout the universe, generously sharing strength and blessings with us. Give glory and thanks to God, and shout for joy!

14 Ask God to help us practice justice, generosity and care for creation, sharing our resources with others who have few or who have lost resources or productive land as a result of natural and human-caused disasters.

15 Pray for the young adults who have applied for a yearlong journey in international service with our companion churches and organizations through the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) program, which will resume in 2021-2022 after a time of sabbath during the pandemic.

16 Thank God for our special relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a full communion partner with the ELCA since 1997; pray for the church, its members and its leaders, and pray that together we will find strength and new resources for the work of sharing the gospel and serving our neighbor, especially in these uncertain and challenging times.

17 Jesus invited Philip to follow him as a disciple, and Philip, in turn, invited Nathanael. Ask God to help us be faithful followers, students and, at the same time, disciples eager to invite others to join in God’s good work in the world.

18 Martin Luther King Day  Today we remember the life, ministry, sacrifice and activism of Martin Luther King Jr. Pray that his life and the legacies of others who have fought for civil rights and social reform will inspire our own commitment and persistence in working for racial justice, dismantling racism and combating white supremacy.

19 We may argue about what is legal, what we are entitled to or what we have the right to do with our bodies and lives. But Paul reminds us that we have been made one with the body and spirit of Christ; we “were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” Pray that the Spirit will guide us to live with humility and deference for who we are in Christ and in obedience to the ways and desires of God.

20 Inauguration Day  As members of society and the church who represent varied political affiliations and perspectives, pray together for our nation’s newly elected president and vice president, that the Spirit will grant them wisdom, strength, commitment to serving all people, a deep understanding of justice and mercy, and the courage to enact change for the well-being of our communities and nation.

21 Pray for the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering, an online event happening right now that gathers ELCA World Hunger leaders for learning, networking, sharing ideas and planning for our common ministry to address hunger and its root causes.

22 Pray for reconciliation, understanding and renewal in our divided nation so that we might work together for justice, compassion and generosity, serving our neighbors in need and the well-being of our communities as they struggle with vexing, deep-rooted problems. Ask the Spirit to inspire and guide our lives so that our values, decisions, actions and words reflect the gospel, the teachings of Jesus and the ways of God, who is good, gracious, merciful and just. 

23 Praise God that, as small and insignificant as we might be in the vast universe, we are wonderfully made and God knows every little thing about us and our human ways.

24 In Scripture we read about Jesus’ simple, personal and compelling invitations to Simon, Andrew, James, John and the other disciples to drop everything and follow him. Pray that when God calls us to follow and serve, we will respond with faith and trust, even if we do not yet know where God is leading us or what God is calling us to do.

25 Pray for ministries, nonprofit organizations and agencies that serve the daily needs of communities, families and individuals; pursue justice and equity; build resilience to cope with disasters and crises; accompany immigrants and refugees; and bring the hope and love of Christ where there is despair and weariness.

26 When, like Jonah, we are reluctant to forgive, practice mercy or share the gospel with those we deem undeserving, ask the Spirit to help us discern God’s ways, grace and mercy for all people, and to act boldly without personal bias.

27 Lydia, Dorcas and Phoebe, witnesses to the faith  Praise God for the witness and ministry of women of the early church. Give thanks for women of all ages and backgrounds who, responding to God’s call, continue to use their gifts, life experiences, knowledge and passions to grow the church, serve all people and be bearers of hope and healing in the world.

28 Give thanks for the Lutheran liturgy and worship practices that equip us for daily life, helping us to praise God, listen to God’s word and experience unity in the body of Christ.

29 Give thanks for the self-sacrificing generosity of people who demonstrate their gratefulness for God’s gift of life and their concern for their neighbors’ well-being by donating blood, plasma and even organs.

30 Remember in prayer those who continue to struggle with unemployment, underemployment and job searching as a result of the economic and health impacts of COVID-19.

31 Though our creeds do not speak of Jesus’ teachings, miracles or example, give thanks that, through Scripture, the Spirit reveals Jesus to be the source of our redemption and a trustworthy guide, instructing us how to live with one another, serve our neighbor and do God’s work in the world today.


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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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