Trinity Connections

Pastor Phil Wold

philwold@gmail.com cell - 307-763-1115

Trinity ConnectionS

WORSHIP SCHEDULE

We will have one Sunday service at 9:00 a.m.

outdoors, weather permitting

we have chairs,

We will continue to have 7:00 p.m. worship on Wednesday Nights


August 6

And all ate and were filled;

and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces,

twelve baskets full.

And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Matthew 14

More of "What I Could Have Said…" about the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 from the Gospel of Matthew.

“We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

That is the answer the disciples give Jesus when he asks them; “you give them something to eat.”

We have nothing.

The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 shows us that, often, God does not respect our analysis of things.

“We have nothing here.”

Jesus replies; “Bring that nothing to me” and he blesses and breaks it, he gives it to the disciples, and all ate and were filled.

This is a story of what God does to the lines we draw, the judgments we make, the limitations we put on love. When we conclude that there is no hope, that is our mis-judgment.

“We have nothing here.” Apparently, that means we have everything God wants us to have, to work God’s purposes in the world.


August 5

Taking the five loaves and the two fish,

[Jesus] looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves,

and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

Matthew 14

More of "What I Could Have Said…" about the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 from the Gospel of Matthew.

If we hear this great story as encouragement to share, our focus might well be misplaced. We are then considering what we can all accomplish if we just tap in to our better angels, or something like that.

Jesus “blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples.”

This is a story, not of how marvelous you and I can be. This is the story of what God can accomplish through you - that is, through you as one of Jesus’ disciples.

As we look at the many issues facing our country today, we know that we must do the hard work of striving for justice and economic opportunity. We must face the realities of our own failures, repent of our own part in injustice, forgive (by God’s help) and seek to build a better world. We must do what we are able to do. At the same time, we pray for the God who has created all things, to work God’s miraculous power of healing and hope, reconciliation and love, to lead us to a community of love that is only possible by the power of God.


August 4

Hey Friends! My computer is not cooperating with me right now, and so I missed providing a devotion yesterday. I am hoping to get Trinity Connections for Tuesday August 4th sent before the stroke of midnight…

There is a comedian who likes to use stories from his own life as the foundation of his performances. He had an entire show based on how he often says just the wrong thing. He titled it “What I Should Have Said.” That came from a situation where, looking back on it, what he should have said was… nothing. What he did say only made matters worse.

I was thinking that this week I might share a few things that I - maybe not SHOULD have said - but things I COULD have said in my sermon on Sunday. In a way, there is no connection to the comedian. There is no hilarity, nor big mistakes here, just the thought that one could say things differently, or add some insights that were not included…

So, here goes.

On Sunday we heard the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 from the Gospel of Matthew. As I stated in my sermon, this is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels.

The feeding of the 5,000 is important to the story of Jesus- to the story of the Church - to the story of you and me as God’s people in Christ. I said that on Sunday.

I could also have spoken more about the “miracle” aspect of this miracle. For many years, we who are thoroughly “modern” have had a problem with miracles. Many people find talk of miracles to be, if not crazy; at best, wishful thinking. Even the Gospel writers did not strive to portray Jesus as a “miracle worker” - rather, they pointed to him as one who bore authority and power from God.

Some have suggested that what really happened on that day Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, was that Jesus inspired the people to share. One way to see that, is that it would be a miracle of God to get us to share. Another way to see that, is that sure sounds astonishingly boring.

Jesus was not crucified because, like a kindergarten teacher he encouraged us to share. He was not seen to be God’s Messiah because he suggested that the people of Israel open co-ops.

In the miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus showed the Disciples and all gathered there, that God wanted abundance and life for the whole people of Israel, and all the world. The miracle of God working healing and life in and through you, shows that God continues to work God’s amazing gifts in the world.


August 3

I think this is the first day I missed since we began in March. Sorry about that. I am blaming my computer for this...


August 1

This week, we had Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp

It will continue to be available for the entire summer.

As we look ahead to the school year, let us pray for those making important decisions, and let us trust that come what may, we will be able to make the necessary accommodations to keep people safe, and to educate our children.

Perhaps this prayer from our hymnal fits best…

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

July 31

This week, we are offering Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp, and I invite you to join our children in the prayer from each day of Compassion Camp.

Prayer for Friday - the theme is Compassion With the World

Joyful Spirit,

Your loving hands are always creating freedom, release, and fresh starts!

Help us do the same today by caring for all living things with gentleness and care.

Open us to humbly receive that same care ourselves.

Make our hearts smile and our actions sing with your promise of abundance toward the whole world. Amen.

July 30

This week, we are offering Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp, and I invite you to join our children in the prayer from each day of Compassion Camp.

Prayer for Thursday - the theme is Compassion Along the Way

Loving Spirit,

You are active and alive, always moving and stirring within and around us!

Please be an encouraging wind at our backs, giving us open minds and soft hearts to follow where you lead.

Make us flexible and present in each moment that we might embrace compassion by letting go of what we expected. Amen.

July 29

This week, we are offering Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp, and I invite you to join our children in the prayer from each day of Compassion Camp.

Prayer for Wednesday - the theme is Compassion For Myself

Gentle One,

Thank you for your Spirit within us who guides, encourages, and strengthens us.

Help us see ourselves through your eyes - with love, kindness, and deep joy.

May we love our bodies, treasure our hearts, and celebrate our spirits. Amen.

July 28

This week, we are offering Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp, and I invite you to join our children in the prayer from each day of Compassion Camp.

Prayer for Tuesday - the theme is Compassion To The Neighbor

Dear Jesus,

Your compassion always looked like courage.

Strengthen our hearts with your bravery as we risk, reach out, and lift up our siblings near and far.

Help us keep our eyes on you. Amen.

July 27

This week, we are offering Vacation Bible School online: Compassion Camp.

This is provided by Illustrated Ministry, and their resources are very inviting. You might want to join in. If so, please email Deb to get the access code: tlco@actaccess.net

I will be sharing the prayer from each day of Compassion Camp.

Prayer for Monday - the theme is Compassion At The Table

Welcoming One,

Your warm, wide arms are always open, drawing us into your heart full of love.

Make our arms your own, helping us see and welcome with compassion all those we meet. Amen.

July 25

I decided to focus on pieces of the liturgy this week because of this post-communion prayer, which I have come to really appreciate.

Look closely at this prayer. It names God’s abundant generosity; the gift of salvation; our unity with Christ; the power of God’s love which we bear to the world; and finally, rests in the promise that we bear this gift forever in Christ. All in fewer than 60 words…

God of abundance,

with this bread of life and cup of salvation

you have united us with Christ,

making us one with all your people.

Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit,

that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world

and continue forever in the risen life

of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

July 24

This week I am sharing from our liturgies in the ELW hymnal. These words we use in worship can help to shape our faith, and point us to the Gospel.

I remember a young pastor telling about serving as a military chaplain, he said when he led the liturgy with soldiers, they called out the responses so enthusiastically, that it almost blew his hair back.

In a congregation I served, one member loved to call out the “Thanks be to God” in the Sending at the close of the service with great enthusiasm. I think many of us grew to cherish that.

Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.


July 23

This week I’d like to share each day from our prayers and liturgy in the hymnal. These words we use in worship can help to shape our faith, and point us to the Gospel.

There are two parts of the funeral liturgy that I would like to share today:

First, the opening line, which is from II Corinthians 1.

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

the source of all mercy and the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows so that we can comfort others in their sorrows with the consolation we ourselves have received from God.

The second is what is called the Commendation. I like how it clearly proclaims that we commend one into God’s hands as a forgiven sinner:

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock,

a sinner of your own redeeming.

Receive her into the arms of your mercy,

into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,

and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen

July 22

This week I am sharing from our prayers and liturgy in the hymnal. A history professor in seminary shared the insight that our practice of worship, shapes what we believe.

This beautiful prayer is in the liturgy of Compline; Night Prayer:

Keep watch, dear Lord,

with those who work or watch or weep this night,

and give your angels charge over those who sleep.

Tend the sick,

give rest to the weary,

bless the dying,

soothe the suffering,

comfort the afflicted,

shield the joyous;

and all for your love’s sake.

Amen.

July 21

This week I’m sharing from our prayers and liturgy in the ELW. These words we use in worship can help to shape our faith, and point us to the Gospel

Today I will share the closing phrases from the “Preface” the prayer that precedes the Words of Institution in the Communion service.

I remember a seminary professor talking about this part of the service. He preferred the wording that included: “angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim…” He said that he liked the idea of all of the heavens joining us in praise of God, and thought this said it best. Maybe he was right.

This wording is used during the 7 Sundays of Easter…

And so, with Mary Magdalene and Peter and all the witnesses of the resurrection, with earth and sea and all their creatures,

and with angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim,

we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord..

July 20

This week I’d like to share each day from our prayers and liturgy in the hymnal. These words we use in worship can help to shape our faith, and point us to the Gospel

I will start with this from the order for Confession. In fact, I can’t decide, so I will share both of the “Prayers of Preparation.” One thing that they touch on, is the fact that the reason for confession is not to wallow in guilt, but to hear God’s word of forgiveness…

God of all mercy and consolation, come to the help of your people, turning us from our sin to live for you alone. Give us the power of your Holy Spirit that we may confess our sin, receive your forgiveness, and grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.


July 18

“put on the Lord Jesus Christ…”

- Romans 13:14

This week I’ve been sharing some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

Bird Armor Quinn G. Caldwell

September 10, 2017 https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_bird_armor

"Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ…" Romans 13:12-14

When the artist Seamus Moran visited the Tower of London, his attention was arrested by a disturbing sight: standing amid the rows of suits of armor for men and horses, a little metal outfit, maybe two and a half feet tall. A suit of armor made for a child. Probably it was made for ceremonial purposes, not for battle. But still: what sort of world so glorifies war and violence that it would dress a child in metal so heavy he could hardly have been able to move?

In response, Moran created Harness: Armour for Birds, now on display not far from the child's armor. The ridiculousness of a bird wearing armor is exactly the piece's point. At what point do you become so self-protected that you can no longer do the thing you were created to do? How much protection do you need—and how much can you bear before you stop being able to grow, or fly?

Jesus knew about burdens, the ones the world gives us and the ones we give ourselves. He knew about harnesses, and yokes. Don't put on the heavy armor, he said. Put on the light armor. Don't put on the armor that smells like grease and machines and war. It might protect you, but it will sink you to the ground. Instead, put on the armor that feels like feathers on the wind and smells like the sun on a child's skin. Don't put on the world, he said. Put on me.

Prayer

Jesus, may your love be the only breastplate I wear between me and the world. May it protect me from my fear and let me rise. Amen.


July 17

“And who is my neighbor?”

- II Luke 10:29


I am sharing some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

This is from the WELCA Daily Grace devotion. Catherine Malotkey is an author and leader, serving in Stewardship at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Last week, Trinity provided meals for Lunch Together. We can be proud of our work in serving the hungry, here in Sheridan, and throughout the world.

Someone’s in need Jun 27, 2020 -

https://www.womenoftheelca.org/blog/daily-grace/someones-in-need

I can get distracted from God’s command to love my neighbors. Like the lawyer in Luke 10, I can spend a good amount of time wondering who my neighbor is. I can’t love the whole world. My resources—my time, energy, compassion, and money—are limited. So if I’m going to distribute scarce resources, I need to decide where, or to whom.

You don’t have to be everything, just be yourself. You don’t have to work miracles, just love. You don’t have to solve everything, just work on something.


Inspire me, God. Help me transcend my hesitance to answer your call to be of help, to respond with compassion to the needs of neighbors all around me. Now is always the time, for someone in need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This message is an excerpt from “Transcending our hesitance” by Catherine Malotky in the March 2020 issue of Gather magazine.



July 16

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother”

- Proverbs 18:24 NIV


I am sharing some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

I think this devotional is by Gene Veith, a Lutheran scholar, (from a different branch of American Lutheranism. :) )

This is a nice reflection on Luther and his dog Tolpel. Another scholar thinks that this name for his dog was more playful than Veith suggests. He offered the translation “Clownie.” (If Tolpel was like some of my dogs, Clownie might not be adequate to name it’s… how shall I say it??? idiosyncrasies!)

I really find Luther’s suggestion that God’s greatest gifts are the most common, one that can keep me thinking for some time today.

Peace to you, Pastor Phil

Last week we were on Spring Break, visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and three grand-daughters in Oklahoma. Here we were privileged to witness one of their family milestones: getting their first dog. A bouncing, excited, affectionate Labrador retriever.

It made me recall that Luther was a dog-lover. He had a dog named Tölpel (which was apparently a synonym for “Dummkopf”). I love this quotation:

“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.”

Luther’s Works, Volume 54, Table Talk (Philadelphia: 1967), p. 175

Think about that! God’s greatest gifts are the commonest. But because they are so common, we take them for granted. Yes, dogs. But what else? (Having children. One’s spouse. Food and drink. Colors. Reading. Baptism. The Lord’s Supper, and on and on and on.)

[Another] quote from Luther about dogs…

‘When Luther’s puppy happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, he [Martin Luther] said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”

Luther’s Works, Volume 54, Table Talk (Philadelphia: 1967), pp. 37, 38. May 18, 1532


July 15

“When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests…”

Acts 17:6-7

I am sharing some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

his is from the UCC Still Speaking Daily Devotional, May 31, 2018. It can be found at:

https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_the_great_reversal.

The Great Reversal - by Pastor Bob Thompson May 31, 2018

"He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly." - Luke 1:52, CEB

For 25 years, I've walked past two paintings on the wall of our church's largest Sunday School room, which doubles as a parlor and chapel.

Recently an insurance adjustor had those paintings appraised. Both are original oil on canvas. One of them is "Mother with Child" by William Mulready, a nineteenth century British artist. I was shocked to learn its value is estimated at $25,000. The other painting is "St. Anthony in Paradise," by Annibale Carracci, an Italian artist who died in 1609. Its value is $40,000.

Who knew? Construction dust covered them a few years back during remodeling. Kids have played in that room. Hundreds of Confirmands have met there. In retrospect I'm a little surprised that no kid (or grown up!) has thought it amusing to add a mustache to the little boy Jesus.

Several years ago someone broke into that room late on a Friday night and stole two sofas, two end tables, and two lamps, but left $65,000 worth of art hanging on the wall.

By contrast, almost a decade ago we opened our 1958 cornerstone and found stock certificates placed there by the building committee chair. We immediately thought, "These must be worth something!" One of them might indeed have been worth tens of thousands of dollars, except that the company had long ago declared that it was lost. Every paper stock certificate from 1958 is now worthless.

The Gospel radically turns upside down the value we place on things and people. We stand in awe before power and wealth and fame, while heaven laughs. People we find insignificant or unworthy or unredeemable are the very ones through whom God changes the world.

Prayer: O God, you who see all with clarity, open my eyes to people and things today that otherwise I would ignore. Help me to value who and what you value, through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC

July 14

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

Matthew 7:7

I am sharing some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

Anthony Robinson is a UCC minister in Seattle, he is also a teacher and writer. I find his writing for UCC Still Speaking Daily Devotional is often very excellent. This devotion can be found at:

https://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_be_careful_what_you_ask_for?utm_campaign=dd_apr29_20&utm_medium=email&utm_source=unitedchurchofchrist

Be Careful What You Ask For by Tony Robinson

“Therefore the Lord will give you meat. You shall eat not one day only, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole month – until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.” - Numbers 11:18-20

As Grandma used to say, “Be careful what you pray for.”

In the wilderness the people, weary of manna from heaven, demand meat. God, who is just sick of all the whining, gets a little testy. “You want meat . . . okay. You’ll have it. You’ll have it until it’s coming out of your nostrils.”

So now we have this practice of “social distancing.” Keep your distance. I get it. Here in Seattle, it is working.

But it seems to me that we’ve been doing a whole lot of “social distancing” as Americans for quite some time now, if of a slightly different form. “Polarization,” breaking into camps and tribes. Projecting all our stuff onto those terrible others. “If only we could get rid of those people, we’d be fine.” Leaders sowing division and discord, pitting people against each other to hold onto power.

Could it be that God is giving us what we asked for – in spades? And could it also be that amid this crisis God is saying, “Wake up. Stop demonizing and dividing and ruling by setting people against each other. That way lies disaster. The only way forward, the only way out, is by coming together (even as we keep our literal distance) and re-discovering your common humanity. I know no nation or race, no gender or class.”

We’re in this together.

Prayer Help us to find one another, to cherish one another, to come together in our nation and throughout the world – now. Amen.


July 13

Do not fear the terror of night, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at noonday. - Psalm 91:5-6

I think I will share some e-mail devotions that I have set aside lately, so we can hear some other voices.

Mary Lutti is a retired seminary professor, and a writer I have come to appreciate very much. I think there is a great gift to writing a short piece like this. I am reminded of a story I tell often. Pastor Al Rogness was president of Luther Seminary before I attended there. I saw him one day after being a pastor for a few years, and I thanked him for his book of devotions - a book I turn to still… He replied with these exact words: “We all have to steal from somebody. You might as well steal from somebody good.” (I think, in part, he was saying I could go ahead and steal his stuff, since he stole it first!)

This is by Mary Lutti

Fearful Empathy

Do not fear the terror of night, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at noonday. - Psalm 91:5-6

The Bible is always telling us not to be afraid. And that’s because there’s so much real stuff to be afraid of. Like now, as shelves empty, markets tank, leaders dither, and old people die in a day. Life is scary enough in ordinary times. It’s much scarier now. So the Bible exhorts us again, “Don’t be afraid!”

And yet people are. Even Bible-believing people. Some are downright terrified, hoarding enough toilet paper to last till 2039. And like clockwork in our nasty age, they get roundly mocked on social media, called out as irrational, impervious to scientific information, bad, stupid, and wrong.

Maybe you’re heeding both the Bible and good scientific information. Maybe you’re feeling reassured and calm. Maybe you’re side-eyeing the panicky, too. But here’s the thing: Fear is fear, and human beings are what we are. All of us by nature are vulnerable and exposed.

So admit it—aren’t you also just a little bit afraid? No matter how much you know, or how often you wash, don’t you also feel foreboding? I know I do. A drastic spike in the infection rate could find me searching for a case of Charmin, too.

It would be great if we were all at our rational best right now. But we’re not. Optimal if we all rose brilliantly to this occasion. But we won’t. So the next best thing is to dismount our high horses, summon some empathy from that quavering place inside us where we too feel afraid, cut each other some slack, and just be kind.

Prayer If you can’t make us unafraid, O God, at least make our fears a bridge to others, an empathetic tie that binds.


July 11

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19

Another reminder; worship tomorrow, Sunday, July 12th will be one service at 9:00 a.m.

“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” I have a suspicion we could reflect on these words for a year, and not begin to plumb their depths.

Here is a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - referenced in the quote I shared on Thursday. He touches on how others look at him, and how he looks at himself, and wonders which is more accurate. Then, he comes to a conclusion of where his identity lies.

Who am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell's confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

freely and friendly and clearly,

as through it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

equably, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing

My throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

tossing in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?

Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me like a beaten army

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?


Who am I? They mock me, these lonely question of mine,

Whoever I am, Thou Knowest, O God, I am thine.


Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25


July 10

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19

I suspect that you know by now, that Sunday worship, July 12th will be one service at 9:00 a.m.

I am sharing another, sort of involved quote - and again - I think it is worth wrestling with this statement. It is a theologian’s summation of Thomas Cranmer’s understanding of being human, (his anthropology).

…Cranmer is credited with writing the Book of Common Prayer, the worship book of the Anglican Church, in the mid 1500’s. This quote is from theologian Dr. Ashley Null, Anglican priest and Cranmer scholar.

Here is the quote:

“According to Cranmer’s anthropology, what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.

The trouble …is that we are born with a heart that loves ourselves over and above everything else in this world, including God. In short, we are born slaves to the lust for self-gratification, i.e., concupiscence. That’s why, if left to ourselves, we will always love those things that make us feel good about ourselves, even as we depart more and more from God and his ways.”

In other words, “I do not do the good I want…”

There is a “sermon illustration” type of story that folks like to use when talking about stewardship. It goes something like this: “If you want to know what a person values, look at their checkbook.” The implication is, that if you value the Church and charity, your checkbook will show gifts given to charity, if not, it will show checks written for stuff for yourself.

Let me simply say, that Paul would disagree with this. Our checkbooks might show if we have overcome our selfishness through disciplined giving. They might show how we have fared in the battle to have our actions mirror our values; but the fact is, if they do, this is a gift of grace, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25


July 9

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19


I think this is a wonderful quote. It is sort of long - kind of involved - and may be a bit hard to grasp, but I think it is worth wrestling with this statement.

It is a quote of a German theologian, Oswald Bayer, from an article I read a few years ago…

…Oswald Bayer observes:

“Our whole life histories are placed before a permanent tribunal in which we act as accused, prosecutor, and judge. Throughout our lives we continually seek to find excuses for the fact that we live as we do, that we… are as we are and not something else.”

How true!… [the writer says] …And so Bayer maintains:

“I constantly vacillate, even to the very end of my life, between the judgment others make about me and my own judgment of myself. I am constantly trying to ascertain others’ judgment about me and my own judgment of myself; I arrive at some point of calm, and then become unsure of myself again. My identity is a floating one. Who am I? asked Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Am I what others say about me? Am I what I know about myself? Am I balanced between these different evaluations? Questions such as these relate to my inner being, not just to something external. They affect the core, not the shell. It is not true that judgment is an addition to being. What I am, I am in my judgment about myself, intertwined with the judgment made of me by others. Person is a ‘forensic term.’” Oswald Bayer (Born: September 30, 1939)

Paul’s line, “I do not do the good I want…” is so very honest, and speaks to the self critique that we bear, speaks to the fact that person is a forensic term. And so very often, the judgments we make of ourselves are far from accurate. I think of a statement I heard by Dr. Martha Stortz, that what people miss when they do not attend worship, is appropriate affirmation AND appropriate critique. That is, we affirm ourselves for our selfishness, and we fail to find our identity and goodness in God’s creative activity. The Gospel frees you from the inaccurate judgments of you by yourself and by others, and helps you to face the appropriate call to repentance and forgiveness.

Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25


July 8

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19

I get to participate in the Montana Synod Stewardship Task Force. I sort of smile about that, because the reason I am on that committee is because Trinity Lutheran Church is so strong in this part of our walk of faith. I suspect that is often how those things go. You are good stewards, I get credit for leading a generous congregation.

Did you know that congregations that invite their members to make an annual commitment to give, (an estimate of giving, or a pledge) give significantly more?

Is that because members those congregations are more inherently generous?

I suspect not.

I think that when we see the truth of Paul’s insight, we see that; while we may well intend to be generous, it is so often true; "I do not do the good I want…”

Making the commitment to give helps us to be the generous people we strive to be.

Interesting.

Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25

July 7

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19

I think one of the great errors we make in looking at our own and others’ actions, is that we fail to take into account the truth of Paul’s insight here. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” While we like to suggest that what matters is what we intend, if we hurt someone, it doesn’t matter as much as we would like it to.

I may have meant well when I did this or that, but my own selfishness got in the way. If I admit that, I don’t need to defend my my error, I can confess my error, and seek reconciliation.

That is a more direct path to healing relationships, than the long road of trying to prove that I intended well, and didn’t mean to be so self absorbed, didn’t mean to hurt others, didn’t mean to leave you out… It is the hurt I caused that matters, the forgiveness I can ask for, and the healing that is possible.


Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25


July 6

“For I do not do the good I want,

but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

Romans 7:19

I have wondered about this for a long time… What if we understood this statement by Paul to include us? “I do not do the good I want…”

What if we saw this as a universal truth of being human?

What I mean by that, is what if we internalized this? What if we really understood that sin is a power at work in us, and more than simply actions done or left undone?

I think of Paul’s statement in First Timothy: “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.”

This is not the same as saying “nobody is perfect.” Not even close. That cliche is often used simply to let one’s self off the hook, or to excuse someone else’s sin without repentance or reconciliation.

Paul is addressing a deep reality of human life. At our best, in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven sinners. Forgiven and set free. I suspect that God intends our forgiveness to fill us with compassion and patience for others, and for their failings and hurtful deeds.

What if?

I think this knowledge would aid us in our closest relationships, as well as giving us insight to better engage in political conversations, racial reconciliation, and pretty much any and all of our dealings with one another.

Blessings to you in all your relationships.


Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7:24-25

reminder: Wednesday evening worship is at 7:00. When weather permits, we are outside, on the shady side of the building.


July 4

“…I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

Joel 2:28

I have shared a quote about each of the seasons of the church year this week. Today, Pentecost.

Dr. Matthew Skinner is a New testament professor at our seminary in St. Paul. He also participates in a weekly podcast, which I listen to often. This is the quote that spurred me to this venture this week.

I trust it will move you to wonder with me about the dreams we might dream, the creativity that God might work in us, the ways we might faithfully live the resurrection hope into this world.

A blessed 4th of July to you, and as we celebrate the freedom we have been given, may we rejoice in our responsibility to the God who loves us beyond measure, and enlists us to join in loving this world God loves so very much. (John 3:16)

Pentecost is an invitation to dream.

For when a community of faith quits dreaming dreams, it has little to offer

either its members or the wider world.

…these dreams involve

adopting a new perspective on what's possible,

rousing our creativity to free us from conventional expectations.

They help us see that maybe what we thought was outlandish

actually lies within reach.

Matthew Skinner

Pentecost: When Christians Dream 06/12/2011

I highly recommend the entire essay, it is available at:

https://day1.org/articles/5d9b820ef71918cdf2002e58/matt_skinner_pentecost_when_christians_dream




July 3

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 43:19

Below are the opening lines from a sermon by Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor. She is an Episcopal priest, an author, and one of the best preachers I have had the privilege to hear in person. I cannot find this sermon on the internet anymore; my notes say it “was preached at Cannon Chapel, Emory University, on April 16, 2006…”

What a wonderful way to begin.

Drink in this word, which gives a vibrant description of Easter…

Happy Resurrection Day!

May the news of Christ's risen-ness

touch the dead spots in your heart

and bring them back to life,

so that you become part of the good news

that flows forth from this place today.

May you be springs of living water

in all the dry places on this sweet, parched earth.

May the fresh life that God has given you

spill over to freshen all the lives that touch yours

in your homes,

in your work,

in your schools

and neighborhoods.

May you be Easter people,

this day and forever.

Easter sermon, Barbara Brown Taylor


A few notes:1. A blessed 4th of July Weekend to you! We will have worship at 9 and 10 on Sunday, we have had good “social distancing” at our services. If you feel that you can go out, we feel we have provided a fairly safe way to be together. There are chairs here for the outdoor services. On Sundays you might bring an umbrella to block the sun if it is hot out… (Or if it rains just a little bit, and we decide to “weather” it.)2. re: the July newsletter. I sent it yesterday. If you would like a cleaner copy of the July calendar, I can send that to you now.


July 2

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

A few notes:

1. Wednesday night worship is very nice - we are able to sit in the shade outside the fellowship hall. We have been able to worship on Sunday and Wednesday with good “social distancing.” If you feel that you can go out, we feel we have provided a fairly safe way to be together.

2. We are working to put together a July newsletter. I am planning to send it to you as a pdf. That way, we don’t have to gather people together to fold and mail… We will mail it to those who do not have internet.

+++

Considering the seasons of the Church year in this Covid-tide, we come to Lent. This season of repentance can be a great gift, as we return to God, our creator and redeemer.

In the “Invitation to Lent” in the Ash Wednesday service, we hear this: “we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and of neighbor.”

The disciplines of Lent are named as “self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love…”

All of these are gifts given by God.

Sometimes it is possible to miss the fact that repentance is not a work by us, but a work of the Spirit.

I like this reflection by Martin Smith, an Episcopal priest, who offers up “letting go” as a balance to “discipline.” (Well, he comes pretty close to denying the value of discipline, but that’s how I interpret it. Ha!)

Letting Go

Dwelling on this thought of letting go, and handing myself over to the Spirit will bring me much closer to the experience of Jesus than the word “discipline” that so many of us have been trained to invoke at the beginning of Lent.

It should help us smile at our anxious attempts to bring our life under control, the belt tightening resolutions about giving up this or taking on that.

What we are called to give up in Lent is control itself.

Deliberate efforts to impose discipline on our lives often serve only to lead us further away from the freedom that Jesus attained through surrender to the Spirit, and promised to give.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).”

–Martin L. Smith, A Season for the Spirit, 2004


July 1

“let your steadfast love and your faithfulness

keep me safe forever.”

Psalm 40:11

As a people who mark time in seasons, we have many resources to face this “Covide-tide.” Epiphany follows Christmas as a season to note that God has sent Jesus to bring God’s love and life to all the world.

I find it a powerful insight that while philosophers might speculate about God’s attributes - all powerful, all knowing and more - the God of the Bible is one who comes into our midst in order to enter into a relationship of faith and trust with you.

The prayer I have included today addresses God as “unchanging.” What is it that never changes about God? It is that God loves you, pursues you, takes hold of you, and enlists you in God’s work of redeeming the world.

Psalm 100 says “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

It is God’s love that is eternal…

In this “season”, let us take note of the presence of God in our midst.

This is a prayer for the day of Epiphany; January 6th.

Prayer on Epiphany

Father of Light,

unchanging God,

today you reveal to people of faith

the resplendent fact of the Word made flesh.

Your light is strong,

your love is near;

draw us beyond the limits which this world imposes,

to the life where your Spirit makes all life complete.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen

Vatican II Sunday Missal: Millennium Edition, 2001


The TRINITY CONNECTIONS reflections from previous months are on the Connections March, April, May, June pages