January '24

January 1

After eight days had passed, 

it was time to circumcise the child; 

and he was called Jesus, 

the name given by the angel 

before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

The 8th Day of Christmas is “Name of Jesus Day.”

A blessed New Year to you and yours!

Peace, Pastor Phil

The Prayer of the Day

Eternal Father, 

you gave your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus 

to be a sign of our salvation. 

Plant in every heart the love of the Savior of the world, 

Jesus Christ our Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever.


The Ninth Day of Christmas 

January 2

But grow in the grace and knowledge 

of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

To him be the glory 

both now and to the day of eternity. 


2 Peter 3:18

In the liturgy for Name of Jesus Day, (which is the 8th Day of Christmas, yesterday) the Order for Confession and Forgiveness could well serve as words to reflect on here at the beginning of the year 2024.

I share them with you, with wishes of a Blessed New Year to you, and prayers that we all might grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

Confession and Forgiveness

All may make the sign of the cross, the sign that is marked at baptism, as the leader begins.

Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God,

the Word made flesh,

our life and our salvation.


Trusting the goodness and lovingkindness of God our Savior,

let us confess our sin.

Silence is kept for reflection.

God of life,

you promise good news of great joy for all people,

and call us to be messengers of your peace.

We confess that too often we hoard our joy,

our resources, and our security.

We nurture conflict and build barriers.

We neglect the needs of our neighbors

and ignore the groaning of creation.

Have mercy on us.

Where we are self-centered, open our hearts.

Where we are reluctant, give us courage.

Where we are cynical, restore our trust.

Renew us with your grace

and give us again the hope of eternal life in you. Amen.

Hear the good news:

We are children of God and heirs of God’s promises

through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus we are forgiven and redeemed.

Sing with joy, for all the ends of the earth

shall know the salvation of God.


The Tenth Day of Christmas 

January 3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 

who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing 

in the heavenly places, 

just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world 

to be holy and blameless before him in love.

Ephesians 1:3-4

I had the privilege of offering the Invocation at the beginning of the Sheridan Council meeting last night. (It was held on a Tuesday this week because of New Year’s Day…) 

I always feel that I am doing this on behalf of our whole congregation, and I seek to use something from our tradition. Yesterday’s meeting had a spare agenda, with the main action being appointing some citizens to serve on different boards. I used a prayer from the Order for Blessing.

I thought I would share it with you on this Tenth Day of Christmas…

Blessed are you,

O Lord our God, ruler of the universe. 

You made the whole earth for your glory;

all creation praises you.

We lift our voices to join the songs of heaven and earth, 

of things seen and unseen.

We give you thanks, O God, 

for those who serve our community of Sheridan, 

and we ask you to bless the fruits of their work.

Grant us faith to know your gracious purpose in all things, 

and continue your blessings to us 

through the bounty of your creation; 

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and forever.


Christmas Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

January 4

Be strong.

Psalm 31:24

I have shared this beautiful Christmas poem by Howard Thurman before, and I thought that on this 11th Day of Christmas we might be wise to consider Reverend Thurman’s inspiring and challenging words.

The Work of Christmas Begins - Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among brothers,

To make music in the heart.

Merry Christmas! Pastor Phil 

January 5

On entering the house, 

[the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother. 

Falling to their knees, they honored him.”

Matthew 2:11

Today is the 12th Day of Christmas. 

There is a tradition of marking Epiphany with a Blessing of the Home service. Here is a home blessing:

Eternal God, bless this home.

Let your love rest upon it 

and your promised presence be manifested in it. 

May the members of this household (Names) 

grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Teach them to love, as you have loved us; 

and help us all to live in the peace of Jesus Christ our Lord. 


One last time, Merry Christmas! Pastor Phil

January 6

In the time of King Herod, 

after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, 

wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 


“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? 

For we observed his star at its rising, 

and have come to pay him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

Today is Epiphany, the Christmas season has come to an end, and now we look ahead into the year 2024, and seek to live into the transformed reality that God has given us through the incarnation.

Here is a nice Epiphany prayer:

Bright Morning Star,

your light has come,

and the birth of Jesus

has overwhelmed us with joy.

Like the magi of long ago,

may we be drawn to you

and offer you such gifts as we are able. Amen.

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

The Baptism of Our Lord

January 7

Today is the First Sunday after Epiphany, which we mark as Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. I hope to see you at worship today at 9:00 a.m. The service will be posted online.

The Prayer of the Day

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, 

your voice moves over the waters. 

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, 

that we may follow after your Son, 

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, now and forever. 


January 8

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.”

Mark 1.10-11

Yesterday we heard the story of the Baptism of Jesus. The First Lesson was a reading from the creation story in Genesis one. In part, we reflected on the fact that the wonder of belonging to God through baptism is something that might best be engaged poetically.

Here is an inspiring poem by Jan Richardson. She has some very thought provoking web sites, mostly for preachers, but I am sure normal people could find her quite interesting as well. (paintedprayerbook.com)

Blessings to you today, Pastor Phil

Beginning with Beloved

A Blessing - by Jan Richardson

Begin here:


Is there any other word

needs saying,

any other blessing

could compare

with this name,

this knowing?


Comes like a mercy

to the ear that has never

heard it.

Comes like a river

to the body that has never

seen such grace.


Comes holy

to the heart

aching to be new.

Comes healing

to the soul

wanting to begin



Keep saying it

and though it may

sound strange at first,

watch how it becomes

part of you,

how it becomes you,

as if you never

could have known yourself

anything else,

as if you could ever

have been other

than this:


–Jan Richardson

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com

January 9

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

Genesis 1:1

Sunday our first reading was from Genesis. There, if we listen closely, we hear that you have been created by God, and God has announced that you are a good gift from our loving God.

I like this passage from the conclusion of the Mark Allan Powell’s book, "Loving Jesus" and I want to share it with you. Dr. Powell concludes his book with a deep confession that God's love for you is grounded in this; that God has created you as one who is lovable, one who is - as Genesis says some seven times about creation - "good."

Blessings to you today, Pastor Phil

“The biblical truth is this: God loves us, 

not in spite of what we are but because of what we are, 

because we are essentially and ultimately the lovely and lovable people whom God in grace made us to be…”

"Grace is more than pity. 

God made us to be lovable, and so we are. 

God's love is not blind or silly, 

but based on perception clear and profound. 

Indeed, God sees things in us that we might not see in ourselves, 

including our potential, or even better, our destiny. 

God adores us not out of foolish infatuation, 

but because we are, in fact, adorable. 

God takes delight in us not because God is easily delighted, 

but because we are in indeed delightful. 

God loves us not because God is too dense 

or generous to see us as we are, 

but because we actually are essentially and ultimately lovely. 

This is the great truth that cuts into our complicated lives. 

Loving Jesus begins and ends with this truth. 

Loving Jesus is our way of coming closer to this God, 

of adoring the God who adores us, 

of taking delight in the God who delights in us, 

of loving the God who loves us first."

Loving Jesus - 194, 195-96, Fortress 2004

January 10

Philip said to him,

“Come and see.”

John 1:46

On Sunday, we will hear from the first chapter of John, the story of Philip being called by Jesus. Right after his call to follow, Philip finds Nathanael and invites him to follow. Nathanael expresses his doubts and Philip wisely invites him simply “Come and see.” 

The first congregation I served was St. Philip’s Lutheran Church in Hastings, Minnesota. (There were more than a few jokes about that!)

The congregation found John 1:46 to be a guiding verse for them. Philip’s words have been spoken countless times through the years, and we too might want to echo his invitation. Knowing our living Lord, who brings the love of God to life, is worth sharing.

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

January 11

Nathanael said to him, 

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him,

“Come and see.”

John 1:46

I just saw an interesting opinion piece in the Washington Post. The writer talked about how, as he has grown into adulthood, he has not been a very religious person. He suggested that he might look into his tradition a bit more in 2024, and reflected on some of the gifts of each path, that of being more, and that of being less, religious.

I liked the “conversation” I had with the writer and his thoughts in his essay. I then made the mistake of reading some of the comments. Most folks in the comment section thought he was stupid to consider God or any religion…

Well, I don’t want to say much about that, other than it was disappointing.

On Sunday, we hear from John, the story of Philip being called by Jesus and his invitation of Nathanael. Nathanael expresses great doubt about Jesus. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip wisely responds with anything but an argument: “Come and see.” 

The best we have to offer others, is that they meet Jesus, and know the grace of God. No great defense of the faith. 

“Come and see…” 

Simply sharing the story of God’s love for them and all the world, shown in the story of Jesus who enters the world in humility, serves in love, and gives his life in grace and forgiveness. 

Peace, Pastor Phil

January 12

I do not understand my own actions. 

For I do not do what I want, 

but I do the very thing I hate.

Romans 7:15

I like the line that 90% of the statistics you see are made up. Which, of course, is made up. I’ve seen suggestions that already, by this time in January, most people who make New Year’s resolutions have failed at what they resolved to change for the year. 

I wonder. Sounds about right.

In our hymnal, one Order for Confession and Forgiveness has us praying: “Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin, and cannot free ourselves…”

I have a suspicion that it is hard for us to fully comprehend what it means that God has chosen to restore you to relationship. You belong to God; today and always, by God’s loving choice of you. You may be captive, you may be unable to free yourself, but that is not the entire story. God who created you, also redeems you. 

This is a gift beyond measure, and might be something to warm our hearts on this cold day.

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

January 13

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.

He found Philip and said to him,

"Follow me."

John 1:43

Here is a Prayer of the Day for tomorrow… 

Insistent God,

by night and day you summon your slumbering people,

So stir us with your voice

and enlighten our lives with your grace

that we give ourselves fully

to Christ's call to mission and ministry. Amen.

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

2nd Sunday after Epiphany

January 14

Worship is at 9:00

The worship service will be posted on the Trinity web site.

Be safe and stay warm, Epiphany blessings to you, Pastor Phil

Here is a Prayer of the Day:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, 

most merciful redeemer, 

for the countless blessings and benefits you give. 

May we know you more clearly, 

love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, 

day by day praising you, 

with the Father 

and the Holy Spirit, 

one God, 

now and forever. 


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The Devotions for January 15-21 were written for "God Pause" the daily email devotion from Luther Seminary. Monday - Friday focus on the texts for Sunday, and the reflections on the weekend look at two hymns...

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January 15

When God saw what they did, 

how they turned from their evil ways, 

God changed his mind 

about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; 

and he did not do it.

Jonah 3:10

As I mentioned, I wrote the God Pause devotions for Luther Seminary this week. Luther asks alumni to prepare God Pause. We are to write on the lessons for the coming Sunday. The 1st lesson on Monday, the Psalm on Tuesday, the 2nd lesson on Wednesday, the Gospel on Thursday and Friday. Saturday and Sunday we are to write a reflection on a hymn. We write a prayer for each of the devotions as well… 

Blessings to you this Martin Luther King Day, stay warm! Pastor Phil

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10

It is curious that so often when we think of a prophet, we think of the scolder yelling at us on the street corner, telling us how evil we are, and how we are all going to perish.

Our reading from Jonah concludes with a quite different vision of a prophet.

As a result of Jonah's effective—if rather underwhelming—sermon, the people all repent. This brings God’s life-giving change of mind, as God relented from the calamity he was going to visit on the people.

Today we mark the Martin Luther King holiday in the United States. We might well consider the Rev. Dr. King as a prophet who, like Jonah, called our entire society to live more in tune with God’s desire for creation. Of course, the beloved community that MLK called for is still a future hope. The prophet Jonah, and Dr. King, together, call us to continued repentance.


O God, help us to hear your call to love our neighbors, whom you have created in your image. Grant us the strength to stand up for righteousness, justice, truth, and love. Amen.

January 16

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, 

for my hope is from him.”

Psalm 62:5

Psalm 62:5-12

In his book, Churches and the Crisis of Decline, Dr. Andrew Root suggests that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent resistance was a “waiting with the world.” The psalmist calls us to a similar waiting. 

Some have argued that Dr. King’s assertion that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” is naive. Dr. Root contends that what these critics fail to realize is that MLK trusted that God does the bending.

The psalmist commends a similar trust: 

“On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.” 

Waiting can feel like an overly passive posture in light of all we face. We are wise to listen to the psalmist who implores us to trust the one who is faithful.


O God, we wait for you. Shape our waiting with the Word of your faithfulness and make us faithful bearers of your love—toward one another and toward all whom you love. Amen.

January 17

I mean, brothers and sisters, 

the appointed time has grown short

I Corinthians 7:29a

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Paul’s words to the people of Corinth call us to a deep forgetfulness. It is as if he advises: “Live as if you are not bound by your relationships, travel on as if you are not immersed in the griefs and joys you know today, set aside those financial issues that occupy your mind.” 

One commentator notes that if this were all Paul had written, his message would be completely other-worldly.

The Reformation tradition values deeply the insight that there is a “simul” quality to the Christian life. We are simultaneously saint and sinner. 

We are also—simultaneously—people with no concerns about daily troubles, and people immersed in life’s daily affairs. Paul’s other-worldliness is balanced by deep love for the world God loves. 

“The present world is passing away,” Paul says, and our faith assures us that God is also working to make us and God’s world new.


O God, help us to hear your call to set aside our worries, and your invitation to join you in your great loving concern for all. Empower us in our walk with you. Amen.

January 18

Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:18

Mark 1:14-20

That word “immediately” catches our hearts, doesn’t it? Mark writes that, in response to Jesus’ call, Simon and Andrew “immediately” leave their nets to follow. It can be intimidating to consider such an “immediate” response. Interestingly, in the call of James and John, the immediacy refers to Jesus calling them.

The good news of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaims bears great urgency, an insistence. As Mark tells the story, his use of the word immediately, especially at the beginning of his gospel, makes Jesus’ determination to highlight the coming of the reign of God almost palpable. As this call echoes through the ages, the disciples stand as an example for us, following immediately and leaving all behind.

In his Small Catechism Martin Luther teaches that the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens us. 

Jesus’ call invites a response, and with the disciples, we find that the gospel encompasses our entire lives, sending us to serve with joy.


O God, in the many ways we respond to your call, may you so work in us that we might grow in grace and find delight in you and in one another. Amen.

January 19

And Jesus said to them, 

“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

Mark 1:17

Mark 1:14-20

A powerful reality of Jesus calling his first disciples is that they follow without knowing a whole lot more than his invitation to “repent, and believe in the good news.” Yet here we see four men for whom the encounter with this man Jesus is enough to move them to leave everything and follow him. 

In their following they will come to know who Jesus is. He will teach in parables, he will feed the hungry, he will work healing, and set people free from bondage. He will contend with his adversaries and he will continue to proclaim the inbreaking of the kingdom, inviting all to repent. 

In their faltering discipleship they will follow Jesus to the cross, and while the Gospel of Mark ends with the resurrection itself being a secret, their response to Christ’s call will witness to the power of God’s resurrection love for all.


O God, may your resurrection hope animate our love for your world. Amen.

January 20

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” 

(ELW 631)

At the Festival of Homiletics fifteen years ago, Dr. Walter Brueggemann, in his inimitable style, spoke of Charles Wesley, author of this hymn, as a preacher here putting forth a profound creed. Wesley gives us an entire framework for our lives in Christ, beginning with “Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heav'n to earth come down,” and concluding with “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”

Between creation, incarnation and wonder, the preacher calls us out of the errors of self-sufficiency, and commends us to live in God’s grace and life. Brueggeman saw in this hymn a call similar to that proclaimed by Martin Luther King, Jr., that our faith might give rise to lives of justice and love. Since hearing these remarks many years ago, however imprecise my recollection is, I have grown to treasure this closing line as a beautiful confession: “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”


O God, may we so look to your gift of your Son that we find ourselves lost in wonder, love, and praise. Amen.

January 21

“There's a Wideness in God's Mercy” 

(ELW 588)

Dr. Gerhard Forde, former professor at Luther Seminary, liked to suggest that “Are you saved?” is not a good question. The question should rather be “What are you saved for?” 

His answer was succinct: “Your neighbor.”

Jesus’ call to repent is a liberating word inviting us to live in the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Our response can find us entering into the wideness of serving the world with God’s love for all.

Each stanza of this hymn opens with a line that could give rise to entire sermons. There is a wideness in God’s mercy, and welcome for the sinner. The love of God, broader than our ability to comprehend, sends us to serve in joy. We owe something more than all, which might well be another way of saying that we are saved by grace.

May God’s wide mercy be with you in all you do, and may you be a gift for God’s world in need.


O God, in the wideness of your mercy, embrace us with your love, and send us with purpose and joy to be bearers of your justice and peace. Amen.

January 22

““You are the light of the world. 

A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”

Matthew 5:14

I liked this summary of the seasons of the Church year so far suggested by Diana Butler Bass: 

“Epiphany is the church season in which God’s light 

is revealed in the world, when glory is made manifest. 

The spiritual flow of these winter seasons are 

awaiting light in the darkness (Advent); 

Light overcoming darkness (Christmas); 

and following the light to its glorious source (Epiphany). 

The story moves from flickering candle light, 

to the Light of the Cradle, 

to seekers welcomed into 

the widening circle of light.”

I love that a commentator had a problem with Matthew 5:14. He wrote that you are not the light of the world, Jesus is. You can only reflect the light. 

I think he was thinking of the Gospel of John - (chapters 8 and 9) - where we hear Jesus say “I am the light of the world.” 

Yes, Jesus is the light, but we are invited into that light, and we get to be a part of a “widening circle.”

As the days grow longer, I invite you to look for the places God is shining the light of Christ into your life, and keep awake for opportunities to shine forth yourself.

Peace, Pastor Phil

January 23

“I give you a new commandment, 

that you love one another. 

Just as I have loved you, 

you also should love one another”


I thought this was an excellent devotion last week on Martin Luther King Day. It came from our WELCA daily devotion, Daily Grace. It is an excerpt from a Women of the ELCA blog entry titled: “His mantra was love.” This is written by Valora Starr.

Blessings to you today, Pastor Phil

Love in action this MLK Day

To my family and the rest of the nation in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King was a sign of hope.

In a keynote address at a Luther League Convention in 1961, an event sponsored by the American Lutheran Church for Lutheran youth, Dr. King spoke about agape (a Greek word for unconditional love), the love of God operating in the human heart. “Love is the most durable power in all the world, and it is through love that we will solve this problem that is destroying our nation and the nations of the world,” he said.

Many who knew Rev. King well called him the “love doctor.” He banned all weapons and any form of retaliation. When his bodyguards asked him how they would protect him with no guns, he answered, “With love.”

This love thing takes work. Love has everything to do with how people of faith become the difference they want to see.

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve,” Dr. King said. How might you serve with love today?

Copyright © 2024 Women of the ELCA. women.elca@elca.org.

January 24

They were astounded at [Jesus’] teaching, 

for he taught them as one having authority, 

and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:22

On Sunday we continue to hear from the First chapter of Mark. 

Jesus teaches with authority, the authority of God’s Messiah, sent to set us free. 

We are not sure - in our day and age - how to understand the actions of Jesus casting out unclean spirits. It is probably not helpful to equate this with mental illness. We do know this. Jesus, sets this man free from terrible bondage, bringing him healing, and restoring him to his loved ones and his community. 

At the beginning of Mark - as he starts out his telling the story of Jesus - Jesus is baptized, he calls disciples, he teaches with authority, and then he sets this man free. This is authority that is truly astounding.

I like this prayer grounded in the Gospel story:

Holy God, you gather the whole universe

into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring healing to all wounds,

make whole all that is broken,

speak truth to all illusion,

and shed light in every darkness,

that all creation will see your glory and know your Christ. Amen

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

Augsburg Fortress. 

Peace, and Light and Healing to you, Pastor Phil

January 25

Just then there was in their synagogue 

a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, 

“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? 

Have you come to destroy us? 

I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Mark 1:23-24

On Sunday, January 28th, we will have our Congregational Annual Meeting following 9:00 worship. I hope that you can be there with us.

I often mention that I collect one liners, sayings and quotes. 

Here is a thought provoking stewardship insight from David Lose

Stewardship is not first about giving, 

but about seeing all that we have been given

and rejoicing in a way that cannot help but shape how we act. 

In our Gospel story on Sunday, we encounter a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus casts out the spirit, and restores the man to himself. I like this line from William Loader, Australian New Testament scholar:

"The kingdom of God in Mark is good news because it… 

…[enables] people to be how God made them to be."

Let us rejoice that God sets us free as well, to be who God has made us to be.

Blessings, Pastor Phil

January  26

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, 

“What is this? A new teaching—with authority! 

He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Mark 1:27

I wonder about a story like this. Looking at it from the outside, we might marvel at Jesus’ authority and power. Yet, what if we step into the story, and consider how Jesus might heal you and me? What if we contemplate the ways in which we need to be set free from powers that assail us?

There are many powers at work in our lives, and Jesus has come to set you free from all that would diminish your life and interfere with love.

Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift!

Peace, Pastor Phil

January 27

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, 

[Jesus] entered the synagogue and taught.

Mark 1:21

I like this prayer grounded in tomorrow’s Gospel reading:

Perfect Light of revelation,

as you shone in the life of Jesus,

whose epiphany we celebrate,

so shine in us and through us,

that we may become beacons of truth and compassion,

enlightening all creation with deeds of justice and mercy.


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

A blessed Saturday to you, Pastor Phil

4th Sunday after Epiphany

January 28

Following 9:00 a.m. Worship today

Trinity Congregational Annual Meeting

Hope to see you in worship today.

The service will be posted the Trinity web site.

The Prayer of the Day

Compassionate God,

you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken

and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord.


January 29

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, 

“What is this? A new teaching—with authority! 

He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Mark 1:27

Diana Butler Bass offered a compelling reflection on yesterday’s Gospel story. What caught her attention in the story was the fact that those who witnessed the healing responded in amazement.  

She suggested that the man with the demon was the opposite. He taunted Jesus and dared him to do anything to improve his life. She said this:

“Sadly, our culture is more like him than Mark’s amazed crowd. We spend a good deal of our time being angry and shocked. Honestly, spend any time at all on social media, listening to the news, or even talking with your friends, and you know the man with the unclean spirit.

We inhabit a world of cynicism and snark, of hopelessness and dread. These are our demons. They close off our imaginations, they isolate us from hope and always tempt us to believe the worst. Eventually, we give in because we don’t want more disappointment, more broken promises, more hurt. Nothing will change. Taunting is easier.”

There are so many ways to name the demons that seek to tear down our lives and our communities. This sermon by Dr. Butler Bass was a creative reading that invites us to dream, to believe.

Let us set aside “cynicism and snark . . . hopelessness and dread” and rejoice in the hope that Jesus promises you in setting you free from all that would possess you. 

Have a hope filled day, Pastor Phil

January 30

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Isaiah 40:21

Our First Reading on Sunday will be from the wonderful 40th chapter of Isaiah. Today I want to simply invite you to reflect on the closing three verses of Sundays text, Isaiah 40:28-31. These ancient words still proclaim promise and hope for all who wait for the Lord.

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.

Peace, Pastor Phil

January 31

In the morning, while it was still very dark, 

Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, 

and there he prayed.

Mark 1:35

We are two weeks from Valentine’s Day, and this year, that is also Ash Wednesday. I think I mentioned in the January Newsletter, that a friend said he told his congregation to plan to be at Ash Wednesday worship, and to make “date night” for a different time. (I like having someone else say that, and not me...)

We will have worship at noon and at 7 p.m. on Ash Wednesday.

This coming Sunday we will continue to hear from the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark. As the story of Jesus continues, and Jesus heals another person in need, and crowds come to him, we are told, in a simple sentence, that Jesus went out to a deserted place to pray.

There is no mention of what he prayed, or how, or anything else. Just that he went off to pray.


As we look ahead to Ash Wednesday, let me encourage you to think about how you will mark the season of Lent this year. Perhaps you might want to adopt a particular pattern of prayer.  

Here is a favorite prayer in our household, may it accompany you and perhaps shape your prayers today:

O God of justice and love, 

we give thanks to you that you illumine our way through life 

with the words of your Son. 

Give us the light we need, 

awaken us to the needs of others, 

and at the end bring all the world to your feast; 

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 

to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever.


From the ELW Service of the Word, ELW page 220

Blessings, Pastor Phil