Connections - September

September 30

“Consider the generations of old and see:

has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?”

Sirach 2:10

I mentioned yesterday that my team - the Minnesota Twins - were in the Major League baseball playoffs. They came into these games having lost 16 consecutive playoff games. That is 4 more consecutive losses than any other franchise. Ever.

The hope was that they would put an end to this chapter of their existence. They have now extended their record losing streak to 18 games and are done for the year.

I am wondering what we are to do with life’s little frustrations. This is not the sort of thing that matters in any significant way, is it? It’s just a game. One team has to win, one has to lose.

I suspect that there is a lesson in all of this for us long-suffering Twins fans. Among those lessons, is the fact that it’s only a game. Another lesson might well be found in the Psalms “Do not put your trust… in mortal men, who cannot save.” (Ps 146:3 NIV)

Sports can be a fun diversion, and there can be life lessons in our games as well. I’ve been reminded, again, that there is really only one place for us to place our trust and hope!

September 29

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

II Timothy 4:7-8

Major League Baseball had a shortened season this year, and their playoffs begin this afternoon.

I like to follow the Minnesota Twins, and they are in these playoffs. Of course, I will be very interested in how they do in these next few days.

Sports, like many things, can be given an outsized place in our culture. Writers have often reflected on how “baseball imitates life.” I have a book of essays titled: “How Life Imitates the World Series.”

Well, I hope to enjoy some of these games, and to see a few of my favorite players do well. It would also be nice for my team to win a bunch of games.

I wonder if a sports mind-set might not always be the wisest way to look at life, though. Must there always be winners and losers? Does baseball really imitate life? Are our failures lasting, like a team’s loss? Do our successes define us as a star?

Of course not.

In some ways, there is not a lot of grace in sports. You either win or lose. Baseball may imitate life, to a point, yet in the end, that metaphor does’t hold. The grace of God in Jesus Christ brings us all together, not on the same team, but in the same family, beloved by God and united forever.

September 26

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,

but in humility regard others

as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3

A good friend of mine liked to joke about how some congregations act as if they are a gathering of especially good Christians. He would say about the congregation he served as pastor: “we’re a bunch of lousy Christians.” He would go on about that, saying that they were not-so-great disciples, who needed to return to worship weekly in order to hear the word of forgiveness, and to re-kindle what little goodness (or faith or knowledge) they had.

Humility need not be a dour self-loathing. It can be a joyful acknowledgement that God has called us to relationship with God and one another, and forgiveness will be a key to God’s call.

As I think about it, I give thanks to God, for I am blessed to have this lousy Christian for a friend! Not only him, maybe you too!

September 25

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

Philippians 2:1-3

I imagine that many of us are looking forward to the end of this election season. In many ways, commentators and observers will say, we are a very divided people.

Paul suggests that in Jesus Christ, we are made one. He locates our unity in the love of Jesus.

Thomas Merton wrote about being in a city, and seeing a crowd of people. He says: “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs…”

And then he makes a very thought provoking statement:

“It was like waking from a dream of separateness…”

We will not be united by seeking for one side to win over the other. Only in Christ will we be one. And this unity is a gift God has promised to us, and in Christ, all division is an illusion.

September 24

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

II Timothy 1:5

My reflection today is a bit different. This would have been my dad’s 90th birthday. (He died 3 years ago) - His faith has been a great gift to me, and, in ways, love and faith shared is his legacy.

Some might suggest that Rosa Parks’ legacy was her work in the Civil Rights movement. I wonder if she would have seen her legacy as love and faith shared and lived out in the world.

I remember hearing, years ago, that Rosa Parks belonged to a Lutheran Church when she was arrested in 1956 for sitting in the front of a bus. I have never read anything about the pastor of her congregation at the time, Pastor Robert Graetz. It is inspiring to learn about someone with such foresight, who shared his love in profound ways. I trust you will find this article worth your time…

I will post an interesting interview of Pastor Graetz at the end of this article…

Robert S. Graetz, Rare White Minister to Back Bus Boycott, Dies at 92

Targeted by the Ku Klux Klan, he drove Black people to and from work during the Montgomery boycott and remained an unbowed voice for desegregation.

By Alan Blinder Published Sept. 20, 2020 Updated Sept. 22 New York Times

As a young Lutheran minister in Alabama in the 1950s, the Rev. Robert S. Graetz Jr. would alternate his driving routes to thwart attackers. He once measured a 15-inch-deep crater left by a bomb that had targeted his home in Montgomery. And to shield his young children from fear — and the shards of glass that would follow another explosion — he would play a “game” with them in which they would crawl behind a couch when there was a suspicious sound outside.

Defying the menacing of the Ku Klux Klan, intimidation by the authorities and isolation among fellow clergymen, Mr. Graetz remained a rare, unbowed voice for desegregation among white people in Alabama, supporting the Montgomery bus boycott that transformed the nation’s budding civil rights movement.

“I have always contended that the absence of fear is not the point,” Mr. Graetz wrote in “A White Preacher’s Message on Race and Reconciliation: Based on His Experiences Beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” a memoir published in 2006. “What you do when you are afraid is what makes the difference. We often had good reason to be afraid.”

Mr. Graetz, who seemed to toggle seamlessly between foot soldier and field general in civil rights and social justice causes for seven decades, died on Sunday at his home in Montgomery. He was 92. In confirming the death, Kenneth Mullinax, a friend and a family spokesman, said Mr. Graetz had been in hospice care in recent months with Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Graetz never gained the international prominence of a friend, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nor the through-the-ages symbolism of a neighbor, Rosa Parks. But as the pastor of Montgomery’s all-Black Trinity Lutheran Church, he was a forceful advocate for equality, accepting scorn and derision.

The bus boycott began less than six months after Mr. Graetz arrived in Montgomery, the state’s capital, after Mrs. Parks’ arrest. Although word of her detention spread quickly through the city’s Black neighborhoods, Mr. Graetz, a newcomer, did not know what had happened until another minister alerted him to plans for a protest that were afoot.

Mr. Graetz telephoned Mrs. Parks, who sometimes led N.A.A.C.P. activities at his church, to inquire about the expected demonstration. Only then did he learn that it was her arrest that had prompted the action.

Mr. Graetz, with the help of his wife, Jeannie Graetz, aided the boycott. In his Sunday sermon he urged parishioners not to board Montgomery’s buses on Monday and offered them rides to work. After a Monday morning spent giving rides to Black residents, he went to the courthouse to watch Mrs. Parks’ trial, which proved swift: She was found guilty and fined. Mr. Graetz was forbidden to sit in the courtroom’s “colored” section.

The boycott, first planned as a one-day event on Dec. 5, 1955, lasted more than a year, and Mr. Graetz continued to drive Black residents to and from work. Some white ministers privately endorsed the desegregation effort but dared not speak publicly for fear of being condemned by their congregations.

Not Mr. Graetz. Wearing a cross that read “Father, Forgive Them,” he appeared at the courthouse with Dr. King — captured in a photograph on the front page of The New York Times — and became so well known that The Montgomery Advertiser asked him what it was like to live as a pariah.

“I don’t know any pariahs,” he replied.

Mr. Graetz became a target of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. In August 1956, while he and his family were traveling in Tennessee, his parsonage was damaged in a bombing. The mayor of Montgomery suggested that it was a publicity stunt by supporters of the bus boycott.

The boycott ended in December 1956, but anger continued to simmer. In January 1957, while the Graetz family, including a newborn, slept, a bomb exploded outside their home at 2 a.m. No one was injured. Mrs. Parks later memorialized the attack in notes that the Graetz family purchased at auction in 2018 and donated to Alabama State University, a historically Black institution in Montgomery.

Although the authorities made arrests in the attacks, the suspects were acquitted by all-white juries. Mr. Graetz believed that the jurors had begrudged him for helping Black people.

“If anything, a white person who was helping a Black person was seen as worse than the Black person,” he said in an interview for this obituary in August 2018.

He found particular solace in the 27th Psalm, which includes the verse, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.”

Robert S. Graetz Jr. was born in Clarksburg, W.Va., on May 16, 1928. Early on, his family, with a lineage of Lutheran clergymen, pegged him as a future minister.

Growing up in West Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II, Robert attended segregated schools. He considered a career in medicine but enrolled at Capital University, in Columbus, Ohio, to study theology. He became interested in civil rights while writing a sociology course term paper about inequality in education. He soon founded a campus group to focus on race relations and joined the Columbus chapter of the N.A.A.C.P.

He married Jeannie Ellis in 1951 and had seven children with her. She survives him. (A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.)

The couple moved to Alabama in 1955 and lived in Montgomery for several years (Mr. Graetz was a groomsman at the wedding of Fred Gray, Mrs. Parks’s lawyer) before moving to Ohio, where Mr. Graetz had taken a position at a church. Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, gave them a silver serving tray as a going-away gift. The tray remained in a place of honor in the Graetz home in Montgomery, where the couple continued to meet with student groups and others on civil rights pilgrimages in later years.

“We feel God has given us the unique privilege of standing with one foot in the Black community and one foot in the white,” Mr. Graetz wrote in his memoir. “It may not be comfortable, but that is where we are. And until God tells us it is time to slow down, we intend to keep pressing ahead with our witness.”


Here is the video -

Robert Graetz - Civil Rights Leader | American Freedom Stories | Biography

September 23

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-7

Our second lesson this coming Sunday is from Philippians 2. A colleague and friend considers this to be the ideal text for Christmas. Not the story from Luke. Well, maybe in addition to Luke. Or maybe he would agree that Philippians 2 is an excellent sermon on Luke 2.

The message that, when coming to be with us and save us, God “emptied himself” of power is truly remarkable. It may be the key mystery and miracle of Christmas.

Almost always, we conclude that power is the solution to whatever difficulties we face in life. In Jesus, God sets aside power, and brings salvation through mercy, forgiveness and love. This is not an easy way. In fact, this way follows the path of suffering and the cross.

In the end, though, it is love that prevails, and we are invited to this same path. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

September 22

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?"

Matthew 16:25-26a

Much of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a story of God working in unexpected ways. This verse, “those who lose their life… find it” is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

I like this reflection by Frederick Buechner, writer, poet and theologian…

Inspection stickers used to have printed on the back, “Drive carefully: the life you save may be your own.” That is the wisdom of men in a nutshell. What God says, on the other hand, is, “The life you save is the life you lose.” In other words, the life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself; and only a life given away for love’s sake is a life worth living. To bring this point home, God shows us a man who gave his life away to the extent of dying a national disgrace without a penny in the bank or a friend to his name. In terms of men’s wisdom, he was a perfect fool, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without making something like the same kind of fool of himself is laboring not under a cross but a delusion.

Frederick Buechner, “Wishful Thinking” pg 28

September 21

And this is God's doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well…

Philippians 1:30

Our 2nd reading yesterday was from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. There, Paul speaks of suffering for Christ as a privilege. What a thing to say.

I wonder how often we think of following Christ as an entering into his suffering.

(We need to be careful in talking about suffering. I would not want to suggest that it is good, or that a sufferer deserves their lot in life…)

In reflecting on Paul’s words, Pastor Janet Hunt wrote an interesting reflection about a child who was just baptized:

“[He] will suffer, as we all do. But what I am wondering now is how this faith we hold - and which promises to hold us - can accompany him in all of that, enabling his heart to be softened, his resolve to go deeper, his courage to be greater, his hope to expand rather than hardening him, weakening him, stealing his courage, shrinking his hope.

For this is the way of Jesus, is it not?

…I am wondering at what it means to walk into the suffering, instead of avoiding it. I am wondering how the pain we all experience might just be transformed when it is not ignored or avoided. Indeed, I am wondering what it looks like to do this as Jesus did, leaning always into the love and grace and power of God…”

To follow Jesus has the cost of entering into the suffering of this world which God loves so much. And Paul says that while this may be difficult, it is a privilege, for we join Jesus in his love for the world. May we see God’s presence every step of the way.

September 19

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness;

for we do not know how to pray as we ought,

but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words

Romans 8:26

In his Sermon on Prayer… from April/May 1519, Martin Luther encourages you to pray to God with a clear understanding that God will hear your prayer. There is nothing you possess that makes you worthy in prayer. This is actually good news, because this means that the faithfulness of God is the ground of your hope. That, as we might say, is an unfailing hope!

We pray after all because we are unworthy to pray. The very fact that we are unworthy and that we dare to pray confidently, trusting only in the faithfulness of God, makes us worthy to pray and to have our prayer answered… Your worthiness does not help you and your unworthiness does not hinder you.”

Martin Luther, Sermon on Prayer… The Anotated Luther 4:153

September 18

Surely it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness;

but you have held back my life from the pit of destruction,

for you have cast all my sins behind your back.

Isaiah 38:17

Yesterday I used the term: “God is hidden.” I have read theologians who say to be careful about such language. Yes, God is hidden, but that is due to our blindness. God is also revealed. We believe that the revelations of God is hidden most wondrously, in the cross of Christ.

God’s presence is certain, but difficult to comprehend, and it takes another to help point out to you where God is at work in your life. As it says in Romans 10; "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” I think of someone who said their bishop liked to say: “It takes two to Gospel."

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

September 17

Even though you intended to do harm to me,

God intended it for good,

in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.

Genesis 50:20

Mindful that we are hearing from a number of parables in the Gospel of Matthew in Sunday worship, I’m thinking about the place of stories in our faith and in our lives.

I like this insight of Soren Kirkegaard, that we look back to seek understanding, while having to live into uncertainty. I suspect that often, the stories we tell about the past are more orderly than life actually is. That is probably ok, but it might be good to remind one another of this reality every once in a while. . .

I think this is why it can be so profound to have someone help us to see the presence of God in our lives. With the messiness of life, it can begin to be easy to suspect that God is absent.

Yes, God is hidden, but God is surely present, and seeks to be in relationship with you always.

Life can only be understood backwards;

but it must be lived forwards.

- Soren Kierkegaard

September 16

The heavens are telling the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

Mindful that we are in the midst of several Sundays where we hear a parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, I’ve shared a couple of nice - parable-like stories.

Story is an important way for us to understand who we are. Story connects us to one another and to God. I think of a line that I have run across; “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.” As God’s people in Christ, we are a people who have a particular story that shapes who we are, and how we live.

By telling [our] stories, we come to see the significance and coherence of our lives as a gift, as something not of our own heroic creation, but as something that must be told to us, something we would not have known without the community of faith. The little story I call my life is given cosmic, eternal significance as it is caught up within God’s larger account of history…. The significance of our lives is frighteningly contingent on the story of another.

- Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon Source: Resident Aliens

September 15

Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

Psalm 54:1-2

Yesterday we considered a story that Mark Allan Powell told as a parable about prayer. An interesting thing about parables is that there can be many, many ways to read the story.

I just ran into a story filled with different insights for life and prayer. It’s kind of a long story (for these devotions), but I think you will appreciate it…


Jimmy Macdonald, a former amateur boxer who now is a drug treatment counselor, was kayaking along the shore just north of Lake George Village when things started to go badly.

“I was meditating and taking photos and I drifted away from my family, …I didn’t think I needed the life vest so I kept it in the boat.”

“The water was kind of rough that day, and when I tried to get back …the kayak kind of tipped over. A couple of people …asked if I needed help, but I had too much pride to ask for help. But then I realized the shore was too far away …I held onto the boat …I was just trying to stay afloat.

“I thought I was going to die. I was absolutely powerless and wished I had asked for help earlier. I …asked God to please help me. I seriously thought I was going to drown. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Tiki boat.”

Tiki Tours captain Greg Barrett said, “I noticed the paddle about 20 feet from the kayak. …It looked like he was floundering.

“One of the priests heard him yell help, and then I noticed his life preserver was not fitted properly and was up around his neck.”

“So Deb Oliveira, our new deckhand on her first day of work, and four of the priests scooped him up onto the bow of the boat. His eyes were the size of silver dollars.”

Jimmy said, “I was so exhausted, I barely could swim to the boat. Deb …and the priests pulled me up. They saved my life.”

When he got onboard, he said that he had been sober for seven years, and thought it was ironic that he was rescued by a Tiki boat, which is essentially a floating bar. “A bar on the water saved my life,” Jimmy said, laughing. “But no one was drinking. It was all priests.”

“I’ve since told the story to others that just like getting sober, I couldn’t do it on my own and trying to fix things myself almost cost me my life until I admitted I was powerless and asked for help.”

Captain Barrett said the priests said a prayer for him, followed by a robust “Amen.”

“Then Jimmy told us he was a recovering heroin addict, so not only was it ironic that he was saved by a Tiki boat, but he was saved by seven priests! It was divine intervention!”

Captain Barrett said the rescue also helped him deal with a past trauma. “I told Jimmy that by me helping him, he helped me,” he said. “It really is a great story. With everything going on, sometimes good news is needed.”


Blessings to you, and may we all turn to God for help, knowing that God is always with us.

September 14

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

James 5:16b

Our reading from the Gospel of Matthew yesterday, was the first of five Sundays where we hear a Parable from Jesus.

A simple story can say so much. I like this simple story that Mark Allan Powell shares at the conclusion of a chapter on prayer as being a conversation with God. I thought I would share it with you, and encourage you to wonder if you might be like this little child. You might also wonder along with me, if perhaps God gladly takes hold of you when you need it most.

“I was in a grocery store one time where a mother was traversing the aisles with a young child seated in the cart. He kept pointing at everything they passed, whining, “I want this! Mommy, I want this!” It was a bit annoying, to be frank.

Then, she took him out of the cart and held him and he was suddenly quiet. He didn't ask for anything more, and I thought, he didn't want this or this — he wanted her.

Maybe he didn't know that was what he wanted, or how to ask for it, or even that it was an option. In any case, I think there is a parable here for one of the more important things we can learn about prayer and about God and about ourselves.”

Mark Allan Powell, Loving Jesus, Page 168

September 12

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear…

Psalm 46:1-2a

Seeking a prayer to share with you yesterday, I read many beautiful prayers. These traditional words from our liturgies can be a great gift, helping to give shape to our faith and lives.

Here is a prayer for “Times of Discouragment, Despair”

God our comforter, you are a refuge and a strength for us, a helper close at hand in times of distress. Enable us so to hear the words of faith that our fear is dispelled, our loneliness eased, our anxiety calmed, and our hope reawakened. May your Holy Spirit lift us above our sorrow to the peace and light of your constant love; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

September 11

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD;

and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.

Psalm 22:27

Today is September 11th, a day of remembrance.

I pray that we might remember well those who came together to lend aid and care and protection. I pray that we might remember those who gave their lives for their neighbors. I pray that we might remember that God has called us to be a people of hope and life and love. May our remembering be blessed, so that our living may show forth God’s great love for all the world.

Here is a prayer for Emergency Workers from our hymnal -

God of earth and air, water and fire, height and depth, we pray for those who work in danger, who rush in to bring hope and help and comfort when others flee to safety, whose mission is to seek and save, serve and protect, and whose presence embodies the protection of the Good Shepherd. Give them caution and concern for one another, so that in safety they may do what must be done, under your watchful eye. Support them in their courage and dedication that they may continue to save lives, ease pain, and mend the torn fabric of lives and social order; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ELW Page 85

Looking ahead to worship on Sunday, September 13th. It seems clear that the 8:30 service will be inside, and the 11:00 service will be outside… Beginning this Sunday, September 13th, I will have my Sunday School class via Zoom. Starting at 10

September 10

As a deer longs for flowing streams,

so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

Psalm 42:1-2a

I think that I have mentioned before, something that has me feeling quite upbeat, and even downright optimistic. I have received an email from Publishers Clearing House, and they have informed me that I soon could be the winner of a lot of money!

Laura brought me down a bit when she mentioned that I have received that email before, to no avail. She’s right, of course, and I may be wise to hold off on any significant purchases until AFTER I actually have that very large check in my hands.

Of course, I’m kidding, but I have to admit that those emails can fill me with longing. How nice it would be to have that big pile of money.

I was struck by the insight I heard years ago from David Lose, that while we all know having more money will not make you happier; each of us suspects we’re the exception to that rule. To that I say: “ouch!”

I recently have seen some thoughtful reflections on the spiritual nature of our yearnings. The Psalmist speaks of a thirst for God. While I may hope for those folks to come to my front door with that giant check, I may be wise to nurture a different sort of yearning.

Joan Chittister - [American Benedictine nun, theologian, author, and speaker - per Wikipedia] - wrote a marvelous reflection on how our longings shape our connections with God.

“Life is meant to be lived to the full. The only question for the restless soul is: For what do we yearn? If we yearn only for more of ourselves, we will never be satisfied because in our smallness we are not enough for ourselves. If we yearn for God, we will not be satisfied either but we will at least know that we have what we are alive to discover: the Glory of God…”

May our thirst for God shape our love for the world. Peace to you - Pastor Phil

Sunday, September 13th - worship at 8:30 and 11:00.

Beginning this Sunday, September 13th, I will have my Sunday School class via Zoom. Beginning at 10 - email me for the Zoom address

Sunday School will begin for our kids on Sunday, September 20th. We are hoping that parents will join our children, wearing masks, and meeting in the Fellowship Hall. Sunday School will begin at 10:00 a.m.

September 9

Thus says the LORD,

who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters,

…Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:16a, 18-19

One thing that strikes me as odd, pretty much every time I see it, is a reference to “the new normal.”

One wise Trinity member likes to share that Erma Bombeck line: “normal is a setting on the dryer.”

The word “normal” probably suggests all sorts of things. Expected, usual and typical seem to fit the dictionary definition. I suspect is also conveys an element of what is acceptable in polite society.

For the Church, normal might well be unexpected and atypical. It may be a realm of grace and forgiveness that is even unusual.

I have a suspicion that a new normal for the Church, is simply another way to live out God’s amazing love and undeserved grace. As always, each circumstance will present its own possibilities, and so, pandemic or not, we are always winging it as we go.

And so, as we venture into a new school year, and go back to our regular schedule, don’t look for a new normal. Look for the many ways God will work God’s amazing grace for you and in you.

Peace friends, Pastor Phil

Looking ahead: Next Sunday, September 13th, we will have worship at 8:30 and 11:00. Worship will be outside when weather permits. We may be inside at 8:30 and out at 11:00.

Sunday School will begin for our kids on Sunday, September 20th. We are hoping that parents will join our children, wearing masks, and meeting in the Fellowship Hall. Sunday School will begin at 10:00 a.m.

September 8

I was glad when they said to me,

“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Psalm 122:1

Lately I have seen that various venues are open for people to gather together, and I wonder if I would go. Would I go that store? Would I attend that concert?

Each decision must be considered carefully, as we seek to be careful for own health, as well as act in ways that keep our neighbor safe.

While we will have worship outside as long as we can, (if the temperature is below 60 - I’m pretty sure we’ll want to come inside!) we know that eventually that outdoor worship won’t be an option.

For those who are sure that they should not come inside to worship, we will continue to provide worship services on our web site:

It can be frustrating to find ourselves making these decisions, yet know that you are in our prayers, and we trust one another to seek to do what is wisest for each of our households.

Blessings to you, Pastor Phil

Looking ahead: Next Sunday, September 13th, we will have worship at 8:30 and 11:00. Worship will be outside when weather permits. We may be inside at 8:30 and out at 11:00

Monday, September 7


Here is a “Litany for Labor Day” put together by Thomas Weitzel, a Lutheran Pastor in Florida. This is posted at:


L. Let us pray to the Lord of all creation, from whom comes life and work and purpose.

Almighty God, when you formed us lovingly out of the dust of the earth, you breathed into us the breath of life and gave us work and purpose for living. C. You placed Adam in the garden of Eden to till and keep it.

L. Through our work, you made us co-creators with you, shaping the world in which we live. C. You gave dignity to our labor by sending your Son to labor with us.

L. By our labor, you enrich the world. C. By our labor, we enjoy the fruits of creation.

L. By our labor, we find direction and purpose. C. By our labor, our families are made secure.

L. For providing varieties of work and for blessing us by our labor: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those who plow the field and those who make the plow; for farmers and farm workers, for steelworkers and machinists; for those who work with their hands and those who move the earth: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those who tend the sick and those who seek new cures; for doctors and nurses, for scientists and technicians; for those who keep notes and those who transcribe: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those who think and those who create; for inventors and explorers, for artists and musicians; for those who write books and those who entertain: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those who work in offices and those who work in warehouses; for secretaries and receptionists, for stockers and bookkeepers; for those who market products and for those who move them: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those who inspire our minds and those who motivate us; for teachers and preachers, for public servants and religious servants; those who help the poor and those who work with our children: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. For those whose labor is tidiness and cleanliness; for janitors and sanitary workers, for drycleaners and maids; for those who produce cleaning products and those who use them: C. We give you thanks, O Lord. L. For those who sail the waves and those who fly the skies; for captains and attendants, for astronauts and deep sea divers; for those who chart and those who navigate: C. We give you thanks, O Lord.

L. You bless us all with skills and gifts for labor. C. You provide us opportunities to use them, for the benefit of others as well as ourselves.

L. Guard and protect those who labor in the world. C. Bless the work of our hands, O Lord.

L. Look kindly upon the unemployed and the disabled. C. Give health to the sick, hope to the bereaved.

L. Keep us from laboring only for greed. C. Make us loving and responsible in all that we do.

P. Creator Lord, you are the source of all wisdom and purpose, you are the blessing of those who labor. Be with us in our labor to guide and govern our world. Give all men and women work that enhances human dignity and bonds us to one another. Give us pride in our work, a fair return for our labor, and joy in knowing that our work finds its source in you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. C. Amen

September 5

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them,

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these

who are members of my family, you did it to me.’.

Matthew 25:37-40

Tony Campolo is a retired professor, baptist minister and influential leader and writer. Here is a nice reflection by Dr Campolo on our life in Christ.

“One of the most startling discoveries of my life was the realization that the Jesus that I love,

the Jesus who died for me on Calvary,

that Jesus is waiting, mystically and wonderfully in every person I meet.”

Tony Campolo

September 4

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; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

I Corinthians 1:26-29

For some reason this jumped out at me this week. Mike Yaconelli suggests a delightful way to see God at work in the small things of the world.

“The power of goodness is found in the tiny.

Since the beginning, God has chosen the tiny over the large:

David over Goliath, Gideon and his three hundred soldiers over thousands of Midianites,

Elijah over the prophets of Baal, one sheep over ninety-nine sheep.

Spirituality is about doing the tiny work of God, little acts, small responses to God’s presence in our lives.

Mike Yaconelli

September 3

Devote yourselves to prayer,

keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2

Eugene Peterson (1932-1918) was a Presbyterian minister best known for The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible that can be very poetic, and give interesting insights to texts. He was a wise and well loved teacher in the Church.

Here is a compelling insight into prayer…

“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

September 2

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,

“Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!”

Genesis 28:16

Sometimes, a sort of funny comment says more than you might think at first. This I pulled, I think from a sermon, or an email, or in conversation with my friend Doug.

When looking back at events in our lives, we might be surprised at how God has been present and has helped us along the way… When looking at how things have transpired, we might well see that God has been at work in unexpected and

“Who knows what things in life

are preparing us for what things in life?”

Doug Vold

September 1

He loves righteousness and justice;

the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD..

Psalm 33:5

A blessed September to you…

In my collection of quotes, I have almost 3 dozen by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Among them are many insights into Sabbath rest and to prayer. Wikipedia says that Heschel “was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century. Heschel, a professor of Jewish mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, authored a number of widely read books on Jewish philosophy and was active in the civil rights movement.” He lived 1907 – 1972.

Here is the insight I want to share today:

“Wonder, not doubt, is the beginning of knowledge…

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…

[We should] get up in the morning

and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.

Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible;

never treat life casually.

To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel