February '24

February 1

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, 

so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead 

by the glory of the Father, 

so we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

The season of Lent can be a time of preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil, the night before Easter. I want to encourage us all to look ahead to this Lent as a time that can be a gift for our faith walk. With that in mind I thought I would share this prayer from the hymnal. 

It is a prayer for those preparing for baptism. 

As I consider this prayer, it seems fitting for all of us in our lives with Christ. 

Merciful and most high God, 

creator and giver of life, 

you have called all people from darkness into light, 

from error into truth, from death into life. 

Grant grace to name/s and bless them. 

Raise them by your Spirit. 

Revive them by your word. 

Form them by your hand. 

Bring them to the water of life 

and to the bread and cup of blessing, 

that with all your people 

they may bear witness to your grace 

and praise you forever 

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


ELW page 75

Blessings on you today, may you bear witness to God’s grace.

Pastor Phil 

February 2

He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. 

Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Mark 1:31

On Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law.

It can be interesting to consider different translations of a text. The Common English Bible, a translation published in 2010, renders Mark 1:31 this way: 

“He went to her, took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.” CEB

I much prefer this translation - - - “raised her up.” 

I think that here in the first chapter of his Gospel, Mark is pointing ahead to the resurrection, when Jesus is raised from the dead. 

Like Peter’s mother-in-law, you have been raised by Jesus, and like her, you get to live out the resurrection, and like her, you are called to serve.

Peace to you in your serving today, Pastor Phil 

February 3

Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength

Isaiah 40:31a

We have worship tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. I hope to see you here.

As is most always the case, I will be preaching on the Gospel story tomorrow. (I have reasons for that, and would gladly explain…)

The First reading tomorrow from Isaiah is wonderful, and so I thought I would share the closing verses of that passage with you for today’s Connections.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

Isaiah 40:27-31

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel,

“My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

5th Sunday after Epiphany

February 4

The worship service will be posted online.

We are coming to the end of the season of Epiphany, next Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, and Ash Wednesday is February 14th.

The Prayer of the Day

Everlasting God, 

you give strength to the weak and power to the faint. 

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, 

that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation, 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. 


February 5

Do not fear, for I am with you,

do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

As we look ahead to Ash Wednesday, I would like to take the next week and a half to reflect a bit on prayer and to consider our walk with Jesus.

Here is a quote I set aside quite some time ago…

“God is always present, but we are not always present to God. 

As one spiritual writer puts it, 

‘God is no more present in a church than in a drinking bar, 

but generally we are more present to God  in a church than in a bar.’” 

Ronald Rolheiser, Catholic priest and theologian, born 1947

I pray that this coming season of Lent will be a time for us to seek to be more aware of God’s presence in every moment of our lives. Not only in church, but each and every day.

May you be present to God today, Pastor Phil

February 6

O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly;

hear my voice when I cry to you.

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,

the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

ELW Psalm 141:1-2 

There are many people who are very faithful in prayer. Before I came to Trinity to be interviewed by the Call Committee, I had a nice visit with Bishop Omland about Trinity. He said that one thing he knew about you, was that you were a congregation of prayer. 

This was true. While some of us would be described as excellent in prayer, there are also many of us who have a more wobbly relationship with our praying. I would like to encourage everyone - our marvelous as well as our ‘not-so-great’ pray-ers to consider ways to have this coming Lent be for you a time of renewal in your praying for this world in need.

Here is a wonderful line from Saint Augustine:

True, whole prayer is nothing but love. 

St. Augustine

Praying for you, Pastor Phil

February 7

But now thus says the LORD,

he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

Looking ahead to the season of Lent:

I am planning to center our daily Trinity Connections on prayer over these weeks that lead us to Easter.

Here is something I set aside quite some time ago from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972).

Prayer is not for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. 

It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. 

All things have a home; the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. 

A soul without prayer is a soul without a home."  

Rabbi Heschel also said that while prayer 

"serves to partake of God's mysterious grace and guidance," 

we do not pray to achieve anything. Rather, "We pray in order to pray.

Isn’t that powerful? We pray in order to pray.

May you pray in the confidence that God has called you to this relationship.

Peace, Pastor Phil

February 8

I cry aloud to God,

aloud to God, that he may hear me.

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;

in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying…

Psalm 77:1-2a

I knew a pastor who criticized people who might pray only when they are in distress. He would say something about “nine-one-one prayers.” When I heard this, I would think that at least they are praying.

Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Nobel prize winning author. He wrote:

“I only pray when I am in trouble. 

But I am in trouble all the time.”

Each and every prayer we offer, is prayer to God from someone who is in need. We need not pretend to pray as one who is above the fray and doing great. We pray from our deep need.

God is the giver of all good things, and prayer can be a foundation for a life of gratitude, and gratitude gives life to so very much.

I am grateful for you, and I am praying for you.

Blessings, Pastor Phil

February 9

“The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, 

and then they will fast on that day.”

Mark 2:20

With Ash Wednesday approaching, I am thinking about something I set aside years ago. A preacher said that she thought we make a mistake when we do not encourage people to fast during Lent. I’ve often suggested taking something on instead instead of giving something up. Inviting us to be more intentional in prayer, or to add Wednesday evening worship or something like that. She says that is, quote: “a bunch of bunk.” Not only does this hurt my feelings, it makes me think. She suggests that we miss out on one of our few chances to encourage self-sacrifice. 

The preacher’s name is Rev. Barbara Schmitz. She wrote :

“…the purpose of giving something up is to sharpen our senses. It is to realize, ‘I am really hungry.’ …And then to sit with it. To sit with the thirst, the hunger, the emptiness, the loneliness, and let it be real. …And then the most important step: to invite God into that vacuum. 

‘Oh, God, I'd love a cup of coffee this morning, but how much more so, oh God, do I need you! Come and fill me, fill me up, I am empty, Lord, and I need you!’ 

Rev. Schmitz concludes:

The key is to become empty so that God can fill us up.”

Preaching To Myself: And Other Hints On How To Preach Great Sermons 52 Weeks A Year by Barbara G. Schmitz

As you look ahead to how you will mark the days of Lent, I pray that we will worship together, pray for one another, and know God’s presence always.

I wish you a good weekend, and a reminder that the funeral for Virginia Todd will be at 11:00 Saturday morning.

Peace, Pastor Phil 

February 10

And he was transfigured before them, 

and his clothes became dazzling white, 

such as no one on earth could bleach them.

Mark 9:3

On Sunday we will hear the story of the Transfiguration. We turn to this story every year on the last Sunday of Epiphany, as we look ahead to Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Here is a prayer for Transfiguration:

Holy God, mighty and immortal,
you are beyond our knowing,
yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ,
whose compassion illumines the world.
Transform us into the likeness of the love of Christ,
who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,
the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. 


Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

God’s blessings be upon you, Pastor Phil 

Transfiguration Sunday

The Last Sunday of Epiphany

February 11

I hope to see you at 9 a.m. worship on this Transfiguration Sunday

The service will be posted online.

The Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, 

the resplendent light of your truth 

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. 

Transfigure us by your beloved Son, 

and illumine the world with your image, 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever.


A blessed day to you, I’m cheering for the Vikings in the Super Bowl today!

Pastor Phil

February 12

Then a cloud overshadowed them, 

and from the cloud there came a voice, 

“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”

Mark 9:7

Yesterday we heard the story of the Transfiguration, and now we look ahead to Ash Wednesday and Lent.

I have suggested that we might look at these days as a pilgrimage… this pilgrimage begins with Ash Wednesday services at Noon and 7:00 p.m.

Here is a prayer for us today…

Holy God,

you have revealed the glory of your love in Jesus Christ,

and have given us a share in your Spirit.

May we who listen to Christ

follow faithfully,

and, in the dark places where you send us,

reveal the light of your gospel. 


Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

Blessings in the week to come. Pastor Phil

February 13

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Psalm 95:7

Our Bishop, Pastor Laurie Jungling, wrote a sermon for congregations to use this past Sunday. She addressed the message of the voice that was heard proclaiming “This is my Beloved Son; listen to him!”:  

“Somebody once wrote, 

‘How hard it is to listen, really listen. It's a habit, a ministry, a way of life. But it needs cultivating. Listen to your children, to your spouse, to a friend, to your pastor's sermon. Listen for God. In fact,’ she adds, ‘why not give up talking for Lent and just listen!’” 

I want to be clear that it was Bishop Laurie who quoted this suggestion of giving up talking for Lent. (If I ever suggested such an exercise in silence, we’d have to declare that irony was dead!) 

I’m most interested in the focus on listening. I know I can be too busy talking to listen, and our Bishop’s call to listen is a good lead in to Lent. May the days to come be a season of listening, and may you hear as clear as ever, that God has sent Jesus Christ to make you a member of God’s family, now and forever. Peace to you, Pastor Phil

Ash Wednesday

February 14

A blessed Valentines Day to you. A blessed Ash Wednesday to you as well.

I hope to see you at worship here today at Noon or 7:00.

For our Lenten Midweek services, we will be considering prayers from our tradition, beginning today with the text from Matthew that gives us the Lord’s Prayer. 

Our Prayer of the Day for Ash Wednesday:

Almighty and ever-living God, 

you hate nothing you have made, 

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. 

Create in us new and honest hearts, 

so that, truly repenting of our sins, 

we may receive from you, 

the God of all mercy, 

full pardon and forgiveness 

through your Son, 

Jesus Christ, 

our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever.


February 15

It is the LORD who goes before you. 

He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. 

Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

Here is a nice reflection on Ash Wednesday from Pastor Katie Langston, who has an interesting biography. She has shared her story in the memoir: “Sealed: An Unexpected Journey into the Heart of Grace.” Pastor Langston grew up in the Mormon tradition, and is now a Lutheran pastor.

She wrote:

"The cross upon our foreheads

is the reality that God has joined us in our deepest sorrow, 

that he has traveled to the darkest recesses of hell to rescue us, 

and because of that, we belong to him... 

…We are dust. We are dust. 

And in Jesus, God became dust for our sake, 

so that we might be raised to his life, now and forevermore.”

Katie Langston

I remember a professor sharing a profound experience he had as a pastor. He was visiting with someone who was in crisis, and that person was despairing of life itself. As he spoke with this sad, sad person, he had a vision of the cross on her forehead. The mark of the cross she had received in her baptism so many years before. This cross spoke of the fact that no matter how alone she felt, she was accompanied by the one who had given his life for her…

It is interesting to consider Ash Wednesday as a day for outlining in ashes, an unseen cross that we bear each and every day of our lives.

May we all know that this cross we bear speaks of the reality that God has taken hold of you and will never forsake you.

Blessings, Pastor Phil

February 16

“For where your treasure is, 

there your heart will be also.…”

Matthew 6:21

A blessed Friday to you, I pray you have a good weekend. (I might have to apologize, because my prayers for a good weekend might well include a bit of fresh snow!)

I liked this reflection by Pastor James Howell, United Methodist preacher:

“My richest gain I count but loss.” Lent is the season to reassess what has value, what doesn’t, how much we offer up to God. Do we urge our people to embark on a fast? It’s not dieting. It’s not being glum and feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s solidarity with those who aren’t choosing to fast. It’s weaning ourselves from dependencies on things. It’s an awakening to where our treasure is.

May this Lenten season be time of awakening for us all.

Peace, Pastor Phil  

February 17

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness

Mark 1:12

Tomorrow we hear Mark tell us about Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. 

It is a very brief account. Just 2 verses:

“And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

Commentators will tell us that in the biblical story, the wilderness is a place of arduous testing and divine deliverance…

We each have our own wilderness experiences - and these trials, temptations and challenges are faced in all sorts of situations. 

On this first Sunday in Lent, we hear of Jesus entering the wilderness, and I would like to point out, that we believe that Jesus made this journey for you.

Here is a prayer for the 1st Sunday in Lent.

Into the Wilderness

Lent 1 

O God, divine presence, wild spirit,

we enter into this season of Lent

aware of just how much wilderness can change us.

Some of us enter with trepidation,

some, with a sense of familiarity,

some, with exhausted, empty spirits,

some, with foreboding and resistance,

some, with anticipation and hope

eager, in a strange way,

to be laid bare 

and broken open 

by the wilderness.

Lead us gently by the hand,

Into this wide open, 

fierce wilderness,

that we might be able to trust 

where this journey may take us

and how it may change us.  Amen.

Wendy Janzen (Canada), 2022. Burning Bush Forest Church Creative Commons: Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-4.0) Together in Worship www.togetherinworship.net

1 Lent

February 18

Worship today at 9:00 a.m. I hope to see you here.

The service will be posted online.


Holy God, 

heavenly Father, 

in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, 

and in the wilderness of temptation 

you protected your Son from sin. 

Renew us in the gift of baptism. 

May your holy angels be with us, 

that the wicked foe may have no power over us, 

through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and forever. 


February 19

And just as he was coming up out of the water,

he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

And a voice came from heaven,

“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:10

As we enter this week, here is a prayer grounded in yesterday’s Gospel reading:

God of wilderness and water,

your Son was baptized and tempted as we are.

Guide us through this season,

that we may not avoid struggle,

but open ourselves to blessing,

through the cleansing depths of repentance

and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit.


Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

Peace, Pastor Phil

February 20

For our midweek worship this season, we are going to look at prayers from our tradition. Each week we will sing the Holden Evening Prayer liturgy, and we will turn to a prayer from our hymnal for the time of reflection.

We might suspect that prayers from our heart are more genuine than prayers written by someone else. Yet, these prayers provided for us can give words to our own thoughts. Not only that, prayers we have received from others can help to shape our faith, and be a gift to our relationship with God.

Here is a insightful comment about prayer by Pastor Eugene Peterson.

Prayer is not a way in which we order things; 

it is a way in which we become ordered. 

The primary action in prayer comes from God, 

and more often than not God does not act 

in ways that we can duplicate, 

often not even recognize at the time. 

Eugene Peterson

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

February 21

Worship this evening at 7:00, dinner beforehand, begins at 6:00, I hope to see you here. Midweek worship can be a life-giving Lent discipline.

This evening we’ll sing Holden Evening Prayer and we will consider a prayer from our hymnal that is based on a prayer in the Vespers service in the Book of Common Prayer. 

The prayer:

Keep watch, 

dear Lord, 

with those who work, or watch, or weep, 

and give your angels charge over those who sleep. 

Tend the sick, 

give rest to the weary, 

bless the dying, 

soothe the suffering,

comfort the afflicted, 

shield the joyous; 

and all for your love’s sake. 


Tish Harrison Warren wrote a book titled A Prayer in the Night. It is an insightful and beautiful reflection on this prayer. I have a suspicion that we could profitably use this prayer for a week or more of daily meditations.

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

February 22

"I will listen to what the Lord God is saying."

Psalm 85:8

Prayers that are given to us by our Church, our worship hymns and our liturgies can speak to us with the Gospel Good News. Tish Harrison Warren states this in insightful ways in her book “Prayer in the Night”.

She tells a story of hiking in an area where there were cairns along to the trail because of regular fog. She uses this as an analogy for the guidance the liturgy can provide:

“In times of deep darkness, 

the cairns that have kept me in the way of Jesus 

were the prayers and practices of the church. 

When I could not pray, the church said, 

"Here are prayers." 

When I could not believe, the church said, 

"Come to the table and be fed." 

When I could not worship, 

the church sang over me the language of faith. 

Inherited ways of prayer and worship - liturgical practices - 

are a way that the ancient church built cairns for us, 

to help us endure this mystery, 

to keep us on this path of faith, to guide us home. 

…In many ways I am still wandering in the fog. 

But I have found cairns to follow, 

and they have guided many others 

in the midst of this crazy and unpredictable weather.”  

Prayer in the Night Page 31

May God continue to guide you! Pastor Phil

February 23

Rejoice with those who rejoice, 

weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15

Let me share a bit more from the book A Prayer in the Night. 

Tish Harrison Warren writes about how the evening prayer from Compline was a gift to her:

“When my strength waned and my words ran dry, 

…I needed other people’s prayers.” 

She writes:

Every prayer I have ever prayed, 

from the most faithful to the least, 

has been in part a confession uttered in the Gospel of Mark: 

"I believe; help my unbelief (Mark 9:24)

That was my prayer as I repeated the well-worn words of Compline that night. And as countless nights before, the church, 

in the midst of my weakness, responded with her ancient voice:

“Here are some words. Pray them. 

They are strong enough to hold you. These will help your unbelief.” 

Prayer in the Night - by Tish Harrison Warren pg. 8

A blessed weekend to you, Pastor Phil

February 24

A Prayer grounded in tomorrow’s texts…

God of Sarah and Abraham,

long ago you embraced your people in covenant

and promised them your blessing.

Strengthen us in faith,

that, with your disciples of every age,

we may proclaim your deliverance in Jesus Christ

to generations yet unborn. Amen.

Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002

Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

Blessings, Pastor Phil 

2 Lent

February 25

Worship today at 9:00 a.m. I hope to see you here.

The service will be posted online.


O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. 

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, 

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

February 26

Yesterday in the sermon, we heard again from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, part of the “Invitation to Lent.” 

I find these words a compelling invitation to a life-giving piety, and I want to share them with you again:

We are created to experience joy in communion with God, 

to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. 

But our sinful rebellion separates us from God, our neighbors, and creation, 

so that we do not enjoy the life our creator intended.

...As disciples of Jesus, 

we are called to a discipline that contends against evil 

and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. 

I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent -

self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting,  

sacrificial giving and works of love - 

strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament.

In this invitation, sin is defined as those things that cause us to be unable to enjoy the life God intends for us. I like that definition.

God’s displeasure with our sin is more about how our lives, and the lives of those around us are hurt, rather than God's anger over our disobedience.


May your Lenten Pilgrimage be a time of joy in living in communion with God and a time of loving one another and all of God’s creation.

Peace, Pastor Phil

February 27

Tomorrow evening at 5:00, those who serve on the Altar Guild will be meeting to talk about our work on behalf of Trinity. Our Altar Guild friends prepare the sanctuary for worship, especially tending to preparing everything for us to celebrate Holy Communion. 

We have a prayer that we use as we prepare the table for Holy Communion, and as I was looking at this yesterday, I thought it might be nice for you to know this prayer. 

Gracious God, 

loving all your family with a mother's tender care:

As you sent the angel to feed Elijah with heavenly bread, 

assist us as we prepare 

to share your word and sacrament with your Church. 

In your love and care, nourish and strengthen 

those who will receive this sacrament, 

and give us all the comfort of your abiding presence 

through the body and blood of your Son, 

Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Thanks be to God for those who serve us so faithfully, pray for us so lovingly, and rejoice in joining together for us to know God’s presence and love.

Pastor Phil 

February 28

Tonight we will gather for worship, we’ll sing Holden Evening Prayer and we will consider a second prayer from our hymnal. There are some 70 pages of prayers in the front of our hymnal. In addition to the Prayer of the Day for each Sunday, there are prayers for worship, for the Church for daily life, for healing and for many other occasions and contexts. Today’s prayer is titled a prayer for “Congregational Ministries” and it is on page 76 in the ELW. We will let the words of this rich prayer guide our reflection in worship today.

The prayer:

Almighty God,

your Holy Spirit equips the church with a rich variety of gifts.

Grant that we may use them to bear witness to Christ

in lives that are built on faith and love.

Make us ready to live the gospel and eager to do your will,

so that we may share with all your church in the joys of eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

I suspect that there is plenty to consider in this prayer for each one of us. 

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

February 29

The Altar Guild met last evening to talk about their service to Trinity; preparing our worship space for us each week. This is a labor of love, love for God, love for the gifts we receive in worship, and in truth, love for you.

We concluded our meeting with this prayer:

Grant, O Lord, 

that we may handle holy things

with reverence and prayer, 

and perform our work

with such faithfulness and devotion 

that it may rise with acceptance before you 

and obtain your blessing, 

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  


I like how that prayer speaks of handling holy things with "reverence and prayer." I know aspects of this prayer might not fit our tradition especially well; as Protestants, we tend not to name “things” as holy. I think of a song I really like titled "Everything is Holy Now."

At the same time, while all things are holy, there is a sense in which we are more aware of the holiness of things when we use them in worship.

[Let me add that we believe God’s acceptance of our actions lies in God’s generosity, rather than our faithfulness or devotion.]

I still like the prayer… And even more, I like stopping to take note of those who serve us so faithfully, and do so without any expectation of thanks or praise.

That seems exemplary.

It also speaks of a great measure of faithfulness and devotion.

On behalf of your congregation; “Thank you Trinity Altar Guild!” 

Pastor Phil