Connections September '21

September 30

“God saw everything that he had made,

and indeed, it was very good.”

Genesis 1:31

On Sunday, we will hear part of the Creation story from Genesis. In the first chapter, we hear numerous times, God’s proclamation of the goodness of creation, culminating in the exclamation: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

In Genesis chapter 2, we hear a different announcement:

“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Gen. 2:18)

Dr. Rolf Jacobson, OT professor at Luther Seminary, points to the divergence, from the many pronouncements of the goodness of creation in the first chapter - 7 times - to “It is not good…”

He suggests that the goodness of creation lies in relationship.

From the very beginning, we were created for relationship. The gift of the Gospel is a gift of love and grace which unites us with God, and is lived out in our relationships with everyone around us…

There is cosmic significance to this story of good news, and we gather together weekly to live into that goodness, and to be empowered to share those gifts in our daily lives.

Peace to you,

Pastor Phil

September 29

And [Jesus] took them up in his arms,

laid his hands on them,

and blessed them.”

Mark 10:16

Children are often overlooked and undervalued. When it comes to caring for children, we often talk a good game, but fail to live up to our hopes for our children.

I suspect that each of us, at times, feels feels overlooked and undervalued. Maybe that is part of the appeal of this story. We not only treasure the image of Jesus taking children in his arms and blessing them, we can imagine our own selves receiving this much needed affirmation from Jesus.

Take note - each child we see, every child every where, is of ultimate value to Jesus. Each one, he longs to take in his arms and bless.

Note this too - Jesus has given himself for you, reached out his arms, so that you might rest in God’s loving embrace.

May you see the opportunities God provides for you to reach out with God’s love to God’s children. May you see the many ways God cares for you as well.

Peace, Pastor Phil

September 28

““Let the little children come to me;

do not stop them;

for it is to such as these

that the kingdom of God belongs.”

Mark 10:13

This coming Sunday we hear from Mark chapter ten.

Pastor Tony Campolo is a retired professor, and much more. He is quite a story teller. In a sermon on this text, he suggests that Jesus saw kids as one’s who “know their own importance,” and are not “overly concerned about themselves.”

He tells a great story…

“I have a friend who has a five-year-old daughter. He ran upstairs to see her one day because there was a thunderstorm -- lightning, thunder roaring, light flashing. When he got to her room, his little girl was standing on the window sill, leaning spread-eagle against the glass, lightning, thunder flashing, roaring outside. He said, "Jennifer, what are you doing?"

She said, "I think God is trying to take my picture."

[Campolo goes on]

“Not a bad statement. Here is a little girl who knows who she is, who knows her value, who knows her worth. If you are going to live life fully, you first of all have to feel good about yourself.”

That good feeling about yourself lies, not in anything you have done, but in the fact that you have been created and redeemed by God, who loves you, and calls you to live as God’s own child.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

“but that it is to precisely these children – suffering, dependent, & vulnerable – that the kingdom of God belongs.” LOSE

& indeed, the central issue in all of Scripture: that God is most reliably present among the vulnerable, the hurting, & the dispossessed. And if that’s where you find God, then that’s probably where you should find God’s Church – extending grace & help & support & understanding & love for those who are down & out, those the culture is prone to leave behind, those without power, those who are easy to miss or dismiss. For it is to such as these, Jesus says, that the kingdom of God belongs. And only when we recognize our own dependence & vulnerability & see ourselves in those who suffer, he goes on to say, can we imagine aright – & thereby receive – the reign & presence of God.

I wonder, what might it mean to receive the kingdom “as a little child?”

September 27

“Truly I tell you,

whoever does not receive the kingdom of God

as a little child will never enter it.”

Mark 10:14

This coming Sunday we hear from Mark chapter ten.

There we have this well known scene:

“People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”

I wonder, what might it mean to receive the kingdom “as a little child?”

Could it be that a child will receive a gift with joy, not asking if she or he deserves it?

Is there a simplicity that Jesus seeks from us?

I wonder. I invite you to reflect on these words this week, and I encourage you to keep your eyes open for the many gifts God provides you in the days to come.

May you receive the gifts God gives with joy and may that joy overflow.

Peace, Pastor Phil

September 26

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 - Sunday School between services.

The Prayer of the Day for today:

Generous God,

your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do

empower us to bear the name of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord.


18th Sunday after Pentecost worship will be posted online

I hope to see you here in worship, Pastor Phil

September 25

[Jesus said] For truly I tell you,

whoever gives you a cup of water to drink

because you bear the name of Christ

will by no means lose the reward.”

Mark 9:41

Old Testament Professor Rolf Jacobson likes to point out that Jesus invites his disciples to hospitality. Not so much extending, but receiving hospitality. He suggests that receiving hospitality requires humility, it means we are not in control, at all, and it means standing at the mercy of others.

In tomorrow’s reading from Mark 9, we hear Jesus commend those who give a cup of water to his disciples.

I wonder how that changes the conversation… (Really, I do wonder about this. I am not sure I have much of an idea of where this points us, but Dr. Jacobson thinks it is worth considering…) When we receive hospitality, when we are at the mercy of others, we surely will be humble in offering our perspectives and our gifts.

May you receive the gift of this day with joy, and may you know God’s presence always.

God bless, Pastor Phil

September 24

I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

Psalm 122:1

I just read a reflection by ELCA pastor Kim Knowle-Zeller who told about a pilgrimage she had taken… She suggests that when you are on a pilgrimage, you pay closer attention to most everything. You take note of the land, of the people you encounter, of the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and all.

This line got me thinking: “If you desire to go on a pilgrimage but don’t have the time or resources to travel across the country or the world, I invite you to see your daily life as a pilgrimage.”


Today would have been my dad’s 91st birthday.

One thing Leigh liked to do was to take quite different routes to the places he drove to regularly. He would have several different routes to work, or across town and more.

Once, on vacation with Laura, Susie and David, I got lost while driving. (Hard to imagine, I know!) Susie and David were quite young, and they called out from the back of the car “You’re taking a grandpa shortcut!”

After some conversation, we learned that when their grandpa took them places around Butte he would do his usual, driving many different routes. They would ask him where he was going, and he always told them he was taking a shortcut. Knowing my dad, I’m sure that some of those shortcuts involved driving significantly far afield on the way home…

This makes me smile to this day. Leigh simply liked to take in different perspectives on things, see different parts of town, look at things in a fresh way.

Today I’m imagining that perhaps he was going on short pilgrimages, where he could enjoy the beauty diversity and wonder of God’s world.

Along with Pastor Knowle-Zeller, I invite you to see your daily life as a pilgrimage. A time of taking notice of God’s wonderful world, of the people you encounter and the opportunities God gives you to share love and hope and life.

Pax, Pastor Phil

September 23

Rejoice with those who rejoice,

weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15

A couple months ago, I mentioned the book “Prayer in the Night” by Episcopal priest, Tish Harrison Warren. She reflects on the Christian life using as her framework, a prayer from the liturgy for the close of the day, Compline.

The prayer begins:

“Keep watch, dear Lord,

with those who work,

or watch, or weep this night…”

Pastor Harrison Warren says that taken together, working and watching and weeping are a way to endure the mystery of life’s difficulties and God’s place in it all. She says: “They are a faithful response to our shared human tragedy - but only when we hold all three together, giving space and energy to each, both as individuals and as a church.” pg. 74-75

There is a lot there. A lot.

But I want to touch on the suggestion that we are called to respond together. We often do a very good job of of this, but we rarely mention it. That’s ok.

But we might be wise to remind one another that a good part of being Church - is simply weeping together, watching for God’s presence together, bearing one another’s burdens, and so, fulfilling the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

The peace of Christ be with you, Pastor Phil

September 22

They said to each other,

“Were not our hearts burning within us

while he was talking to us on the road,

while he was opening the scriptures to us?"

Luke 24:32

The story is known as “The Walk to Emmaus.”

Two disciples, devastated by Jesus’ crucifixion, yet having heard early Easter reports, encounter a stranger on their walk home.

They are prevented from recognizing that it is Jesus. Has his appearance changed, or is it that resurrection is so unexpected? Whatever, they are not yet able to see.

Jesus asks them what they are talking about, and they tell of how Jesus had been crucified. They utter this poignant line:

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel…”

The Easter story is so very rich with meaning for us.

Most often we consider the deep love of Jesus giving his life for us, the terrible suffering he endures from human violence, the great victory and hope of the resurrection...

Among the many themes in the Easter story, on the road to Emmaus, we encounter dashed hopes.

I am grateful for the insight that biblical hope is entirely different than optimism.

Optimism is the belief and expectation that things are getting better and better. That life will all work out, and in the end, all will be well. It is a projection of the present, into a happy future.

Biblical hope is the expectation that God will work something entirely new. Like resurrection, it may well be surprisingly unexpected...

After Jesus shares insight from scripture, and breaks the bread with them, we read: “Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…” and after he is gone, they say: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

Resurrection hope ignites our hearts, and sends us out in joy.

I pray that we might find renewal in these days, and be sent out to serve with joy.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 21

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.

Lamentations 3:24

I read a very thought provoking devotion last week. The author reflected on a scripture text that spoke of dashed hopes…

He lamented how this latest wave of the COVID pandemic has been so deeply disappointing. (I suspect that we don’t fully grasp how differently this plague has been experienced in more crowded parts of our country and the world.)

We had hoped for a fuller return to a more regular life, and yet, here we are.

This passage from Lamentations speaks a word of lament and hope…:

…my soul is bereft of peace;

I have forgotten what happiness is;

so I say, “Gone is my glory,

and all that I had hoped for from the LORD. Lamentations 3:17-18

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

The lament speaks our disappointment, the word of praise redirects us. Our hope is not in this or that outcome, but in God alone. Disappointment can readily paralyze us and fill us with despair.

Our hope is in God, who will lift our hearts and will continue to call and send us as God’s agents of love and grace and will fill us with hope and perseverance.

Blessings to you today. Pastor Phil

September 20

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.

Mark 9:36-37

I am still thinking about yesterday’s reading from Mark.

Jesus tells us that it is in receiving the least and the lost that one achieves greatness. This means that most everything we consider of ultimate importance moves down the list quite a long ways.

In the end, it is as simple as it sounds: love is what matters most.

I think we know that, and as we read the Gospel of Mark, and see Jesus go to the cross in love for us and for all the world, we believe it as well.

Peace to you today, Pastor Phil

September 19

“Whoever wants to be first

must be last of all

and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35

Here is a prayer for today:

God of unsearchable mystery and light,

your weakness is greater than our strength,

your foolishness brings all our cleverness to naught,

your gentleness confounds the power we would claim.

You call first to be last and last to be first,

servant to be leader and ruler to be underling of all.

Pour into our hearts the wisdom of your Word and Spirit,

that we may know your purpose and live to your glory. Amen.

Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 - posted online as well...

September 18

“Whoever wants to be first

must be last of all

and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35

Here is The Prayer of the Day for tomorrow:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

The Disciples arguing over who is the greatest strikes me as a bit odd. Yet this prayer reminds me that “selfish ambition” might well be as much a temptation for me, as it was for the disciples.

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” This is a holy calling, and a life-long pursuit in our walk with Christ.

I hope to see you in Church tomorrow.

Blessings, Pastor Phil

September 17

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God,

serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.

I Peter 4:10

Trinity received a very nice letter and gift this past week.

The family of Pastor Marbury Anderson, who served Trinity from 1948-1952, gave a gift in his memory. Pastor Anderson (August 4, 1923 ~ April 14, 2020) served Trinity as his first call, and I believe he also served St. Luke’s in Buffalo. He was ordained and he married his wife, Sylvia, on the same day, June 13, 1948. The newlyweds must have made their way directly to Sheridan.

He “retired” in 1991, but he went on to serve at least 4 other congregations as interim or visitation pastor. A funeral service was held for Pastor Anderson on August 28th, at Central Lutheran Church, in Minneapolis.

Pastor Marbury's family said that they were giving gifts to honor his ministry at each of the congregations he served in his career.

What an interesting and inspiring way to celebrate his ministry!

At a service in 1997, celebrating the heritage of the Augustana Theological Seminary, the seminary in Rock Island, Illinois as well as the Augustana denomination, Pastor Anderson was honored to preach. One comment from this sermon is of interest to us here: “For my initial parish I was sent to Wyoming, 359 miles from my nearest Augustana neighbor.”

Pastor Anderson’s family has given us reason to consider our connectedness as members of Christ’s Church. One might suggest that we not only transcend miles, but also years and generations…

As I looked online to share a bit more of Pastor Anderson’s story, I had a bit of a surprise. For over 15 years I have read that the preaching professor at Luther Seminary (first David Lose, now Karoline Lewis) is “the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary…”

That’s OUR Pastor Marbury Anderson!

His son and daughter-in-law gave the gift to Luther Seminary in his honor.

May your servanthood as a member of Christ’s Church extend from all those who have handed on the faith to you, and may we all find joy in the gifts given, and our opportunities to share them with generosity.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 16

“Whoever wants to be first

must be last of all

and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35

This coming Sunday we hear Jesus address the Disciples with his deeply counter-cultural teaching. They had been arguing over who was greatest, and Jesus gives them this instruction on greatness:

[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

I wonder what it might mean for us if we took this verse, and reflected on it for a month. What if, each morning and evening, we took time to ponder these words. What if we prayed about what they say to us, and spent time each day contemplating where these words of Jesus might point us in our lives?

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

You know, I’m not exactly sure I want to do that.

What would the cost be?

It reminds me of the thought provoking questions New Testament professor Mark Allan Powell, offered in his book; "Giving to God":

“What would happen if God were in charge of your finances?

Would you use your money differently?

Do you think you would have less money?

Or more?”

Actually, I am fairly sure that time contemplating these words could be a wonderful gift for us. For Jesus desires the best for us all, and he knows that true life lies in service to those around us, bearing God’s love to this world in need.

Peace to you in your service, Pastor Phil

September 15

"Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received."

I Peter 4:10

My colleague and friend, Pastor Scott Hedegaard serves Redeemer Lutheran Church in Great Falls, Montana. He shared this nice reflection the other day and I thought I would share it with you…


Check out 1 Peter 4:7-11.

The conference kicked off well. I had been encouraged to attend this event on stewardship. The first keynote speaker made some superb points. He was so good in fact that I actually took notes, which I rarely do.

What was most intriguing, and wonderful, was that in a stewardship presentation he never once mentioned money! I know that that goes against the grain of what most people believe about stewardship. Yet it is far more than that.

Peter writes, "Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received." God has given us our time, our talents, and yes our possessions, all signs of God's gracious love toward us. We give, and we love, by using all our gifts to the glory of God and to the benefit of others.


“Make us good stewards of all we have received, O God. Amen”

Thanks Pastor Scott, for your insight and encouragement.

Peace to you Trinity Friends, Pastor Phil

September 14

Immediately the father of the child cried out,

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24

This coming Sunday we hear the story of Jesus, placing a child in the midst of the disciples, and telling them that when one welcomes a child in his name, one welcomes him. (Mark 9:30-37)

We bypass the story of the man who turns to Jesus to help his son in 9:20-29. The father brings his son to Jesus, because no one else, including Jesus' disciples, can cure him.

As Jesus converses with the father, Jesus suggests that the father only needs to believe that Jesus can heal the child.

The father’s reply: “I believe; help my unbelief!” is so very striking.

I wonder how it might help us in our walk of faith, if we were to see that our believing can be lived out in tandem with unbelieving.

This father confesses his faith, yet owns his coinciding unbelief.

Apparently, that unbelief is not disqualifying. Jesus heals the boy, and we are left to join the father in believing, and perhaps also join him in that fervent prayer: “help my unbelief.”

Peace, Pastor Phil

September 13

“[Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves

and take up their cross and follow me”

Mark 8:34

On Sunday we sang the hymn, “God of Tempest, God of Whirlwind” and I thought the first stanza might provide fitting words for Trinity Connections.

If one were to consider these words a prayer, this petition is not the sort of thing we would pray, apart from the Spirit’s leading, and the promise of the Gospel, which moves us from salvation to service.

The tune is the same as the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory.”

God of tempest, God of whirlwind,

as on Pentecost descend!

Drive us out from sheltered comfort;

past these walls your people send!

Sweep us into costly service,

there with Christ to bear the cross,

there with Christ to bear the cross!

It is interesting to consider how the call to take up our cross sends us from “sheltered comfort” to “costly service.”

May God bless you in your costly service today and always.

Pastor Phil

September 12

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Today is the first Sunday of our Fall Schedule.

Worship at 8:30 and 11:00 - Sunday School between services.

The Prayer of the Day for today:

O God,

through suffering and rejection

you bring forth our salvation,

and by the glory of the cross

you transform our lives.

Grant that for the sake of the gospel

we may turn from the lure of evil,

take up our cross,

and follow your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


16th Sunday after Pentecost worship will be posted online

I hope to see you here in worship, Pastor Phil

September 11

[Jesus] asked them,

“But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered him,

“You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29

This weekend, as we mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, our Gospel lesson speaks of Jesus’ self-giving love, and our call to take up our cross.

“If any want to become my followers,

let them deny themselves

and take up their cross

and follow me…”

Here are a few lines from our Presiding Bishop, Pastor Elizabeth Eaton:

“Now, as then,

let us pray that we will continue to hear our calling as church.

…This calling has been made real

by every church member

who has drawn on the courage and freedom we have in Christ

to love and serve all neighbors.

Like the first responders on 9/11,

our church must be ever-present amid tremendous need,

whether during a national tragedy, a natural disaster or a global pandemic.

Even as our congregations gather in worship this weekend

to proclaim the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

…we are reminded that love of God and neighbor moves us from worship and learning into service and action.”

To that I add, Amen

September 10

[Jesus] asked them,

“But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered him,

“You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29

Sunday we hear the dramatic story from the very middle of the book of Mark:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…”

The cross is the center of our theology.

The cross of Jesus Christ witnesses to our God who will go to any length to have you know God’s love for you and all the world.

There are two things at work in this central story -

First: Insight into who God is...

The Second goes with it: Insight into who we are...

I have a sense that the walk of faith is a lifelong discerning of the answers to those questions. Who is God? and, given our answer to that question. Who are we?

We gather each Sunday to hear once again the great Good News of who God is, (the one who went to the cross for you and all the world) and to hear once again the call to take up our cross and follow...

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 9

[Jesus] asked them,

“But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered him,

“You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29

On Sunday we hear the dramatic and powerful story of Jesus asking the Disciples important questions, and then giving them these life altering marching orders:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

I think we all know the truth of these words, and we all find that we can’t believe it… Faith is like that, a believing what we know to be true and yet cannot always grasp. Like Luther says in the Small Catechism:

“I believe that I cannot, by my own effort or understanding, believe…”

There is a tension in this walk with Jesus, and I think this is one of the primary reasons that we are called to gather together weekly, in order to engage this tension, and find ourselves again, believing the unbelievable Good News of God’s great love for us and for all the world.

I hope to see you on Sunday

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 8

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.


II Peter 3:18

I really like this verse from the conclusion of Second Peter.

These words come to mind as we look ahead to the beginning of the Sunday School year. Let us pray for our children in our congregation, indeed, let us pray for each member of Trinity, that together we might grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Let us also pray for every student in our schools: in Sheridan College, in our high schools, all the way down to pre-schools and Head Start, that these children of God may grow in knowledge of God’s wonderful creation.

May their learning increase their wonder, and may their wonder lead them to know their creator.

We pray this in the name of “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 7

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:23-25

I know that many of us may not be in worship in the next few weeks because of continued concerns about Covid. I want to say this clearly - do not feel guilty. You have decisions to make, and if you conclude it is best to stay away at this time, God’s blessings be with you.

For those who are comfortable in worship, I deeply hope to see you on Sunday morning.

We belong to one another, and we need each other.

Looking for a word of inspiration, I ran across this nice line:

“I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup

than I can comprehend

the wild, uncontainable love of God.”

Brennan Manning

I believe that encountering and listening for this wild, uncontainable love is more fully experienced in community. Yes, we can encounter God on our own. At the same time, gathering for worship bears gifts we cannot engage anywhere else.

Since the writing of the book of Hebrews, - (at least since then, probably before) - God’s people have had to encourage one another “not to neglect meeting together.”

So, this is my encouragement. I hope to see you Sunday.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 6

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong

I Corinthians 1:26-27

Today is Labor Day. The unofficial end of summer, and a day to consider those who labor, and to give thanks for all.

I would like to encourage you to consider your vocation.

I am not asking you to think about your “job.” No. Much more. Consider the ways your baptism sends you out to in serve this world.

Reading on the ‘net, I encounter this note: “Vocation is perhaps one of the richest, deepest, and most multifaceted doctrines of the Church…”

When Luther spoke of vocation, he did not limit it to one’s job or work. The word vocation is related to the word “calling.” Luther understood that we might have numerous callings - parent, child, sibling, teacher, student, farmer, laborer, nurse, caregiver and more…

On this Labor Day, I encourage you to consider your many callings, and to look for ways God calls you to live out your baptism in service toward God and neighbor.

Blessed Labor Day to you and yours, Pastor Phil

September 5

Here is a prayer for Labor Day -

may you have a blessed holiday weekend.

Almighty God,

your Son Jesus Christ dignified our labor

by sharing our toil.

Guide us with your justice in the workplace,

so that we may never value things above people,

or surrender honor

to love of gain or lust for power.

Prosper all efforts

to put an end to work that brings no joy,

and teach us how

to govern the ways of business to the harm of none

and for the sake of the common good;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


(Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 78)

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

September 4

O the depth of the riches and wisdom

and knowledge of God!

Romans 11:33

Here’s another reflection by Pastor Mary Luti, whom I have said is one of my favorite authors of these brief devotional insights.

No Idea by Mary Luti

A preacher I know once stopped short in the middle of her sermon, head down, silent. After several seconds, she looked up and said softly, “I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

She hadn’t wandered from her point or lost her place on the page. She’d been cogent and confident right up to that moment.

The moment she was overcome with a searing awareness that she was out of her depth.

The moment it struck her that when it comes to the Mystery, neither she nor anyone else on the face of the earth has the faintest clue.

The moment when she, who’d been nattering away like a person who knows things, was so mortified by her impudence that she couldn’t go on.

She finessed the awkward moment with a joke, finished, and sat down. Afterwards, nobody mentioned it. Except one astute parishioner who told her that when she’d said, “No idea…,” he’d wanted to shout, “Hooray! The truth at last!”

He’d always distrusted the glib way religious people—right, left, and center—speak of the Holy, as if they were God’s press secretaries emerging from the briefing room with verbatim notes to report out the divine mind. He had no idea, either, but he’d never heard anyone in church admit it.

It’s not that we don’t know or can’t say anything true about God. There are things we do know, things we rightly stake our lives on. But they are few. Maybe God-talk would feel more honest if it were equally modest.

Maybe people would trust it more if it were diffident, if it left some things blank.

Maybe it would ring truer if we proclaimed the depth of the riches by silence and sighs as well as talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.



See why I like Mary Luti so much?

Interesting thoughts...

Martin Luther, in one of his most important early works, the Heidelberg Disputation, makes an interesting criticism. He contends that a “person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened.” (Thesis 19)

In order to know what we are talking about, we look to Jesus and the cross, and nowhere else.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow for worship. We’ll see if the preacher has any idea what he’s talking about. (And we’ll trust, that even if he doesn’t, God knows, and the Spirit will help us all to hear the Good News!)

Blessings, Pastor Phil

September 3

"Jesus went through all their towns

proclaiming good news …

and making people well."

Matthew 9:35

I have shared insights from Pastor Mary Luti often. She is a wonderful writer, a retired professor and part of the The Stillspeaking Writers’ Group, who put out the daily devotion of the UCC.

HOW WE HEAL - Mary Luti - June 2018

The truth about human beings is that we're broken. The larger truth is that we heal. The even larger truth is that we heal each other. We have the power, often by the simplest of acts, to help each other heal.

The gospels' most vivid stories are about healing. We call them 'miracles,' and they are, but not just because the lame walk, the blind see, and the deaf hear. It's the way those things happen, so close, so human. Jesus lifts people to their feet, applies salve to their eyes, touches their ears.

The miracle isn't the healing. The miracle is that one person decides not to stand aloof from another person's pain. The wonder isn't that people are healed, it's that they're loved like that. The greatest need we have is to be treated with care, treated like human beings, but because that's so rare, when it happens it seems miraculous.

We say, "If you have your health, you have everything." That's not true. Some people aren't healthy, but they have something many healthy people would gladly trade for—people who pray for them, accompany them, don't forget them, a circle of care. In such circles even people facing death may experience a kind of healing, even the dying find the blessing of life.

Jesus didn't heal everyone, but he showed us a new kind of life that can be ours when we don't retreat into one-person worlds. He gathered the church as a circle of care to give that new life away, hand to hand, heart to heart, suffering body to suffering body.

It's how we heal—by the company we keep.

Prayer: Encircle us with care, merciful Jesus, and make the church a healer, good company for the world.

I think that Pastor Luti is suggesting that one of the gifts of the faith community, is the healing that is borne to us in relationship.

I hope to see you in worship on Sunday, our last Sunday of the summer schedule, with one service at 9:00 a.m.

May God’s healing peace be with you, Pastor Phil

September 2

"I will forgive their iniquity

and remember their sins no more"

Jeremiah 31:34

Martin Copenhaver, President of Andover Newton Theological School which is in Massachusetts. (Which is hard for me to spell.) I have been fortunate to hear Pastor Copenhaver preach, at the Festival of Homiletics.

Forgiving and Forgetting by Martin B. Copenhaver

In my experience, when someone says, "I will forgive, but I will never forget," it usually means: "I will never forgive."

In his masterpiece, City of God, Saint Augustine says that, when we are redeemed in the world to come, we will still remember our own wrongdoing, but in a different way than we do in this life. In this life, we cannot remember our own wrongdoing without being pained by it. In the world to come, we will be able to recall events without remembering the pain associated with them. There will be a kind of forgetfulness. To be redeemed, then, is in some way to be spared the pain that can accompany recollection.

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet announces God's new covenant and makes a promise. God says, "I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more" (Jer. 31:34). In forgiving, God chooses not to remember.

To forgive, something like forgetfulness is required. We are not expected to erase every memory of hurt or injustice from our cerebral "hard drives." Rather, we are to forgive so completely that it is as if we have forgotten.

Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard observed that forgetting is the opposite of creating. In creating, you make something out of nothing. In forgetting, you make nothing out of something. He says that choosing to forget hurt or injustice suffered at the hands of another is like taking something and putting it behind your back—it's still there, if you were asked about it, you'd have to grant that it exists, but you don't look at it, it's not between you, but behind you.


O God, help me to remember to forgive and, in so doing, to forget.

I have never liked the saying: “Forgive and forget."

I still don’t. But I really like what Rev. Copenhaver says here.

May our forgiveness be complete, and may it open the future for all whom we love.

Blessings to you today, Pastor Phil

September 1

…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.

Isaiah 40:31

This is from the daily devotion of Women of the ELCA. Written by Cara Strickland, she writes about faith, food and more.

God as Delight - Cara Strickland

When I was 10, I found Jesus in a cake. Our family was celebrating Twelfth Night with friends who hosted a party on each of the 12 days of Christmas. From the day after Christmas until the day before Epiphany, they would sing, play games, and set out cookies.

That cake was a first lesson that God hides in other things—often things that say something about God’s character. For example, Jesus describes himself as living water. This is a clear invitation to consider how God is refreshing, necessary, present in each cell of my body and a substance without which all creation would perish.

So, when I think about baby Jesus hiding inside a delicious chocolate cake, I ponder God not just as a necessity but as a delight. God in Christ is something to celebrate, a cause for joy.

This message is an excerpt from “God hides in a piece of cake” by Cara Strickland in the January/February 2021 issue of Gather magazine.

What a fun notion, God as delight.

May you delight in God's presence with you this day!

Peace to you, Pastor Phil