In the Sanctuary at 8:30AM and 11AM -
a blended service of traditional and contemporary elements with communion

In the hall at 9:45AM
scripture, prayer, and creative response with communion

Worship each Sunday @ 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

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We have moved the service that was tentatively planned for this Friday July 13th to Friday, September 21st 7PM-8:30PM in commemoration of th...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where have you seen God working this week?
1-  in sparing Florida from Irene's impact
2-  my family was safe during the earthquake last week
3-  when a co-worker told me "you're doing a great job"
4-  in my family
5-  in a happy beginning to the school year
6-  in sparing us from Irene
7-  changing Irene to a tropical storm before it hit Rhode Island
Where did God use someone else to bless you this week?
1-  my kid's new school teachers
2-  when all signs were pointing toward the worst, a student rewarded my faith in them and were innocent
3-  receiving a gift I didn't expect
4-  using my mother to bless me this week
5-  my co-workers at the rummage sale blessed me by their dedication and cheerful companionship
Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
1-  helping my neighbor
2-  using me to bless my mother and sister with words of wisdom
3-  I was cheerful and reliable when needed at the sale
4-  giving encouraging words to a friend
How has Trinity helpedto sustain you in your following of Christ in the world?
1-  just knowing they are available for me and my family
2-  Trinity provided the venue, donation, goal and other workers to achieve positive results from the rummage sale
We have begun receiving inquiries about scattering (interring) the ashes of loved ones in the memorial garden.
The following is our current working policy on the matter:
Ashes will be scattered (interred) in a designated section of the garden during the fall of 2011 on All Saints Sunday, November  6th, at the conclusion of worship.

Ashes will be poured into the garden soil (the burial of containers is not allowed by law since we are not a cemetery).  Marker Stones are optional - those who desire them must use the approved company - contact SAM in the office for more details.

A special work day to renew and spruce up all of the memorial gardens is being planned for the fall - donations for additional plants  are always welcome!

Any questions, please contact Pastor Keith
Search for "Trinity Lutheran Pembroke Pines"
Our current FB Page has a picture of a dragonfly in the garden.
And about 200 friends.
Friend/like us today and get the latest news and information first!

The one with the prayer labyrinth is the wrong one. That one will be deleted shortly.
All Classes will meet at 9:30AM unless otherwise posted.
A brand-new Sunday school experience with classes that focus on both Old and New Testament Bible Stories will commence for pre school through 5th grade on Rally Day, Sunday, September 25th at 9:30AM in Charter Hall. Pastor Keith will be using each week's story as the basis of his sermon, so participation in class will help the children grasp a deeper understanding of God's Word. Confirmation Class for 6th through 8th grade will be meeting with Mrs. Earline LaCroix on the left (East) side of the hall and continuing through exploration of the Bible and our Lutheran faith tradition. Our High School and Young Adult Class (HS+) meets in the youth area (just look for the couches!) on the left side of the hall just past the Confirmation Class. Youth-led under the mentorship of Faith Lombardo, this class allows our young people to engage the faith and their challenging lives in a safe and supportive atmosphere. This year our newest adult class will be diving deep into the same stories that the PreK through 5th Grade Sunday school is learning as well as everyone will hear proclaimed during the sermon. Here's a chance to explore the questions, the background, the connections, the history and more. Led by Pastor Keith, this class will meet on the left side of Charter Hall between Confirmation and the kitchen (for quick access to the coffee!)  

Please register for Classes on your worship slip so we can plan for space accordingly!

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011:

First Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-11

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 12:1-14

Psalm: Psalm 119:33-40

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 149

Second Reading: Romans 13:8-14

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20

The Gospel readings from the last several weeks have shown us Jesus trying to prepare his disciples to take over his mission, once he's no longer physically there to lead them. Here we see him address issues of conflict management, and his advice seems to hold true, even centuries later: try to work out the conflict privately and go through increasingly public discourse.

The last verse is one of the more famous Gospel verses, the one that tells us that we only need two or three to gather in the name of Christ, and he'll be there. But what does this verse mean for the larger church? If Christ is with us when we gather in his name, even in very small groups, do we really need the larger Church?

The Church as Societal Institution suffers from many problems, and today's crop of atheist writers are happy to enumerate them. I'll be the first to say that child abusers who achieve a position of power are a problem that must be dealt with swiftly, and I'm as bothered by scientific illiteracy (as well as other types) as any atheist. But the church has other profound problems, and one of them is that we're supposed to be a group that gives people a compass and a meaning, yet we do a very poor job.

Alienation is one of the issues that the Church faces but often doesn't know how to solve. Especially in larger churches, it's too easy to come to church every Sunday, yet not make meaningful connections. Many people can't conceive of having time to go to church on Sunday, much less at any other time. How do we get busy people to commit to a church, especially when they feel little denominational loyalty? How do we help people get to know each other well enough so that they would feel comfortable bringing conflicts to the church for resolution? Can you imagine doing what Jesus suggests earlier in the Gospel, bringing disputes to your Church brothers and sisters? If not, why not?

Throughout the twentieth century especially, we've seen churches try to solve these problems by adding programs to the weekly schedule, so as to focus not just on worship. Many denominations meet throughout the week with Bible studies, covered dish dinners, musical rehearsals, and the like. Many churches offer not just fellowship, but also the opportunity to do some social justice work. Churches offer these opportunities for a variety of reasons, but one of them is to keep people feeling connected, both to the church and to each other. As churches get ever larger, individuals feel ever more isolated.

Some of the more interesting late-twentieth and twenty-first century church movements have focused on that last verse and decided that the largeness of the institutional Church is the problem. When churches acquire a building, they sacrifice many opportunities to serve the world, because the building has needs. When institutions have a payroll to meet, they choose not to give as much to the poor as they could, if they had no employees.

Some modern groups have decided to simplify, to emulate the early church, which was often small enough to meet in people's houses and to share a real meal, not a symbol of a meal. Some modern groups go even further and actually pool their resources, and some even go so far as to live together. There's an exciting stream of the Emergent church which finds inspiration in earlier monastic movements and other intentional Christian communities.

Of course, this life choice wouldn't work for everyone. But we are in a time of great Church reformation, and it will be interesting to see where it all leads. As we approach both the 10th anniversary of September 11 and later, Reformation Day, it’s a good time to think about how to shape our own individual churches to make them places where we could bring conflicts to be solved, where we feel the presence of Christ in our brothers and sisters gathered there. How can the Church be a force for peace in the modern, multicultural world?

Many thanks to the wonderful volunteers who helped make the rummage sale a huge success.  A great deal went into the planning and coordinating the rummage sale and our success was the result of the efforts of many people who were willing to help wherever they needed, from the generations to helping before, during and after the sale.   
We are now well on our way to supporting the youth on their quest to join others during the ELCA Youth Gathering and service event in 2012.  Without the continual support and generousity of the congregation and community, several of these teens will never have the opportunity to participate.  Thanks to your donations we raised over $1,400 from this event.   Thank you one and all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

To be received on Sunday OCT 30th during either service.
If you desire to formalize your relationship with the our faith community, please RSVP on your worship slip or by contacting SAM in the office.  Worshippers at Trinity are not required to become members, some never do, but voting on congregational matters or serving on our congregational council is only open to regular members.

Folks may opt to become ASSOCIATE MEMBERS (who maintain their main membership at another congregation but who desire to formalize their commitment to our faith community) or REGULAR MEMBERS (folks for whom Trinity represents their primary faith community).  

If you have any questions, please speak with Pastor Keith or contact SAM in the office.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pastor Keith's Most Recent Sunday Sermon
is found at the top of the BLOG.
All sermons may be found archived on youtube  - search for pastorkeith2011
Sermons are also typically posted on the Trinity Facebook page and mp3 audio should be available on the Trinity Home Page beginning this week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Matthew 16:21-28    August 28, 2011

When I was a kid I had a friend named John. Behind John’s house there once was a huge brick factory that left a very large sand pit after it closed down.

For a couple of kids, that sand pit became the ideal place for us to live out our rather active and adventurous imaginations. One of the things that we liked to do was to take our bikes to the mounds of dirt, rock, and sand piled high around the pit and race down them onto makeshift ramps made of scrap wood and fly into the air like little Evel Knievels (for those of you who have no idea who he is - think X-Games). During those years my bike was a yellow three speed with a straight shift on the frame and baseball cards clipped to the spokes with clothes pins- it made that cool sound as the cards slapped against the spokes. And any mother who saw us race down those mounds, lose control, and flip head over heals into the sand would have sworn that we were trying very hard to lose our lives. Over the long and glorious days of summer, we collected scraped elbows and skinned knees and had sand in places where I am certain it was never meant to be. It was all so glorious and somehow we lived to tell about it!

Now nearly four decades later, I was recently watching a video of my multiple bout with cancer surviving drama teacher working on his bucket list by parachuting out of a perfectly good airplane. It intrigued me - the “wouldn’t that be cool!” part of my midlife brain was captivated and I found my fingers typing out the address for the company’s webpage on my computer. The part of my brain reserved for sanity had been locked away somewhere else.

We all have taken risks of one kind or another, I imagine. Some for the thrill. Some on a dare. Some for reasons many of us would never comprehend. Then there are some folks who by the very nature of their occupations place or placed their life at risk for our sakes.  So we might approach a text like today’s gospel with curiosity or even fear. Listen:

 Then Jesus told his disciples, "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 will find it.

Those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it, says Jesus. Though it might disappoint some of you, this text is not an encouragement for us to hustle out to some south beach high rise for some high risk bungee jumping screaming “Jesus, this one is for you!” as we hurl ourselves off into the sky.

Now that clearly would be misunderstanding the text.
But what we do know is this:
Jesus died to give us life, Scripture tells us. Life in abundance, true life.

We are called to give up one life so that we may fully realize another. We give up life to and for ourselves so that we can live truly for, with and in Jesus.

We give up life to and for ourselves so that we can live truly for, with, and in Jesus.
That is what is declared for us at our baptism:
“In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.”

In summary: We die to ourselves so that we may live for, with and in Christ.

If we want to lose our life for Jesus, then as the text clearly states, we need to do some heavy lifting (and this noticeably does not require an airplane, a parachute or bungee cord.)

Listen: Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  
We lose our life when we are willing to deny ourselves, to humble ourselves and get out of the way so that Jesus can claim our hearts and minds and all that we are at the very center of our being, to be his dwelling place. We lose our life and deny ourselves when we truly submerge our will and let God’s will rule our lives.

"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.   

When we submerge our will and let God’s will rule in our lives, then cross bearing becomes walking in the footsteps of Jesus by living a humble and self-giving life.
There are a number of instances in Scripture where this is taught or embodied for us - take for example a passage from today’s second lesson:
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
From Paul’s list emerges the truth radical picture of what it means to follow Jesus. A picture that could only truly emerge if we die to ourselves in order to live in, through and for Christ.

During the Holocaust in France, in a tiny mountain Huguenot village 350 miles from Paris called Le Chambon-sur-lignon, 5,000 Jews, mostly children, found shelter with 5,000 Christians, almost the entire population of the village.
Defying the French government which was collaborating with the Nazis, the villagers of Le Chambon hid Jews in their homes for years. They provided the refugees with forged identification, provided education for the children, ration cards, and sent them to safety in Switzerland.

Once Chambon became ”a city of refuge,” they felt compelled to diminish suffering and put into action the principles in which they believed, that faith without works is dead.
For the people of Le Chambon, taking up their cross and following Jesus had a meaning beyond words - they chose to embody their faith at great risk and personal peril.

The call to take up our cross and follow Jesus does not dwell only in history. It comes to us again and again challenging us to live for Christ, with Christ and in Christ. The current fad of one-upmanship with respect to state immigration laws already has many of our Christian brothers and sisters picking up their crosses to follow Jesus. In Alabama, for example, their new immigration law makes it illegal for a church member to pickup the child of an undocumented person and drive them to Sunday school or church. That is a crime in the state of Alabama. Or Georgia’s new immigration law that has some churches and businesses declaring themselves “safe zones” where law enforcement will not be welcome to enter to check immigration status.  If such laws come to Florida would we be a refuge or a bystander? Would we give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty regardless of immigration status - even if it meant breaking the law?   Would we follow Jesus, bearing our cross, dying to ourselves, placing ourselves firmly in the biblical witness of caring for the stranger, the alien, the outcast?  
Over the course of our lives we all have taken risks of one kind or another, I imagine. Some for the thrill. Some on a dare. Some for reasons many of us would never comprehend. If and when immigration reform comes to Florida, how much would we be willing to risk to bear witness that we are a cross-bearing people?


Friday, August 26, 2011

Please join us tomorrow (SAT)
from 8am-2pm

Lots and lots of neat stuff -
from clothes to kitchenware, from baked goods to lunch, and lots of interesting goodies!

REMEMBER: All proceeds go to support our youth as they prepare for a week of worship, learning and service at the ELCA's National Youth Gathering in 2012! 
Sympathy Cards
For the family of Candy Foley
May be sent to:

Samantha Foley
1910 SW 98 Terrace
    Miramar, 33025

A Reminder that the Memorial Service will be held Saturday SEPT 3rd at 4PM with a light meal to follow. Earline LaCroix is looking for volunteers to assist with the meal.

In lieu of flowers the family has asked that gifts be made out to Trinity with a note that the donation is for the Memorial Fund in honor of Candy. These funds will be used to replace our acolyte robes. 

Candy asked before she died that those attending her funeral wear bright colors to celebrate life. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, August 28, 2011:

First Reading: Jeremiah 15:15-21

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 3:1-15

Psalm: Psalm 26:1-8

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

Second Reading: Romans 12:9-21

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28

This Gospel shows us a picture of Jesus who knows that he's on a path to crucifixion. With clear sight and clear mission, Jesus warns his disciples of what's ahead.

Peter has a typical reaction: "That will never happen." Peter reminds me of today's prosperity preachers, who deny the ugliness of the world, the difficulties of life, and the mission that Jesus calls us to do. Forget all that, the prosperity preachers say. Believe in God and God will shower financial wealth on you. If you don't believe me, look at the bestsellers in any Christian bookstore. It's full of books with titles like God Wants You to Be Rich. My inner cynic sneers: "Yeah and maybe God can do something about my wide hips. And maybe God could fix the leak in my colleague’s roof. And maybe God can make sure that the children of all my friends get good grades in school."

My inner cynic is perhaps too dismissive too quickly. If God appeared in my study this morning, God might say something like, "Yes, I could do something about your wide hips--and so could you, since you've done it before. Yes, I can fix that leak. If those children study, they're likely to get good grades." Then God would wait for me to stop whooping with joy, and God would say, "But I have a larger vision for the world. I have a different definition of the word rich. I'm creating my Kingdom not just in Heaven, but right here and now, on your planet, and I want you to be part."

We'll have all kinds of crosses to bear, Jesus warns us, and we'll lose our lives in all kinds of ways. But we'll get wonderful rewards.

It's important to stress that Jesus isn't just talking about Heaven, or whatever your vision is of what happens when you die. If Jesus spoke directly, Jesus might say, "You're thinking too small. Did I give you an imagination so that you let it wither and waste away? Dream big, dream big."

I'm rereading N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. He's got interesting things to say about our ideas of life after death, but he's quick to stress that Jesus doesn't just announce a Kingdom in some Heaven that's somewhere else. On the contrary--the appearance of Jesus means that God's plan for redeeming creation has begun. And we're called to help. Wright says, ". . . you must follow in the way of the cross, and if you want to benefit from Jesus' saving death, you must become part of his kingdom project." (204-205). He points out, "But God ordered his world in such a way that his own work within [our] world takes place not least through one of his creatures, in particular, namely, the human beings who reflect his image" (207). And for those of us who feel inadequate to the task, Wright (and before him, Jesus) reminds us of all the talents that we have at our disposal: "God gloriously honors all kinds of ways of announcing the good news" (226).

For many of us, the most difficult part of Jesus' mission that he gives us will be the willingness to believe that the arc of history bends towards justice, as Martin Luther King reminded us. The arc of history also bends towards beauty and wisdom and love and mercy. Some of us are so beaten down that we forget. Some of us would have no problem being crucified for our faith, but it's much harder to believe in God's vision of a redeemed world and to work to make that happen. But scripture and thousands of years of theology makes it clear, as Wright says, "We are called to live within the world where these things are possible and to agents of such things insofar as they lie in our calling and sphere" (248).

We'll lose our current lives of bitterness, fear, hopelessness, and rage. But we'll find a better one as we become agents of the Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank you for your generous donations and for meeting the deadline of SUN AUG 21st to drop everything off.
The rummage sale is a few short days away, on August 27th from 8AM - 2 PM. 

Please join us for bargains, food and fun.  We have lots of good stuff at great prices!
Come hungry. Grilled hot dogs and hamburgers will be available for sale. Special note to chili lovers.  Our chili cookoff Blue Ribbon winner, Marilyn, will be graciously donating a pot of her delicious chili. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two photos and descriptions on the front page of the Local section of the Herald today - lifting in up our Blessing of the Backpacks - Thanks Eileen Soler!

The Funeral Service for Candy Foley will be held Saturday September 3rd at Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines, at 4PM with a memorial meal to follow in Charter Hall coordinated by Earline LaCroix. As a reminder, overflow parking is available on the back field (just look for the cones as to where to enter the field). In lieu of flowers the family has suggested any donations be made out to Trinity indicating that they are for the "memorial fund" which will be used, in accordance with Candy's wishes, to purchase new acolyte robes.   Our prayers continue to be with Samantha and Candy's family in this time of grief and mourning.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for August 21, 2010:

First Reading: Isaiah 51:1-6

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 1:8--2:10

Psalm: Psalm 138

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 124

Second Reading: Romans 12:1-8

Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20

In this Gospel reading, we find Jesus asking some of the basic questions. “Who do men say that I am?” “Who do you say that I am?” It’s a curious exchange that has Peter proclaiming Jesus as Lord, and Jesus instructing him not to tell anybody about himself.

Hmmm. Is this a basic existential moment? Surely, of all the humans who have walked the earth, Jesus would have the least reason for asking these questions—depending, of course, on your view of Jesus. Many of us believe that Jesus understood his purpose from babyhood, or at least during his childhood, when he disappeared only to be found in the Temple, teaching the priests (that story appears in Luke, not in the other Gospels). On the other hand, some scholars speculate that Jesus didn’t understand the full scope of his mission, that Jesus, like many of us, spent his days asking God, “Am I doing what you want me to do?”

We see in this text Peter getting the kind of affirmation that many of us crave. Jesus tells Peter that he will be the cornerstone, the rock.

I think of Peter and imagine that in times of frustration, he must have looked back at this moment with Christ. What a comfort that memory must be.

I spent much of my younger years longing to be sure that I was doing what God put me on earth to do, as if I had only one destiny, and I might be missing it.

My parents, in their wisdom, kept reminding me that God can use me no matter where I am. God is the original collage artist, taking bits and pieces that don’t seem to go together, and creating them into a cohesive whole.

It might be worth thinking in poetic terms about this Gospel. If Peter is the Rock, who are you? Some of us are willow trees that bend with storms but don’t break. Or maybe you’re sand, having been worn down by those storms, but still valuable. Maybe you’re soil made rich by the compost of circumstances. Some of us are grass, that steady groundcover that makes the larger plants possible by holding the soil in place.

I could go on with these metaphors, but you get the idea. The Gospel wants us to wrestle with these questions. Who are you? And who is the triune God in relation to you?

What part does Jesus play in your life? A guy you see once a week in church? A fellow traveler? Comforter? Savior? Someone you don’t know very well because you just don’t have the time? Co-creator of a joy-filled life? Reason for living?

More importantly, can people see who Jesus is to you by the way you live your life? How is your life a testament, like Peter’s? How can your life be more of a testament? What changes can you make today?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

1- at Hollywood Beach
2- at Trinity Lutheran Church
3- He protected us from Emily
4- today's baptism
5- working in my family through this transition of life
6- I was able to see my DR by a cancellation. The visit had to be done before my surgery
7- watching someone speak of their strong relationship with God, a person who had none with Him a year ago
1- at Calvary Chapel service by the pastor
2- a friend came to help me when I needed it
3- in Trinity Lutheran Church
4- a new store clerk thanked me for my patience and asked if I was a teacher - I am and that comment eased my stress about going back.
5- my grandbabies
6- I was missing from church due to not feeling well and I got calls
7- the hearing aid dealer gave me a hearing aid at a very reduced price
8- God used my mother to bless me and my family
9- my son took time to help me on a project I was working on
10- in someone giving me advice and reminding me of things I know but have forgotten
1- celebrate recovery at Calvary Chapel
2- in Trinity Lutheran Church
3- in giving blood at the Blood Drive
4- I held a prayer vigil when a friend was near death. She is out of the hospital and doing better.
5- God uses me to bless my mother and family
6- when I was able to give a ride and a listening ear to a friend in need
1- I heard my son humming a hymn at the dinner table and I am grateful that our Trinity family supports us in our faith
2- just by letting me know they are available and the sermons help me. Thanks be to God!
3- it keeps me grounded in understanding my beliefs when others have different beliefs
4- preaching the word of Christ and with music
5- renewal of my baptism through witnessing todays baptism
6- yes
7- by planting a seed in my heart to get closer to the Lord
Hand is on the mend - saw the good Dr. Schwartz today - who pronounced it broken - but only mildly so. I am now sporting a much smaller splint (thanks for that!).

Continuing preps for Sunday. Here's a teaser: Let's say that a woman had a daughter tortured by an illness that gave her constant seizures.
The woman meets up with Jesus on the road and begs for mercy for her daughter.
She must have hea...rd of his extraordinary power to heal: the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. Some can be healed even with a word, from a distance.

So we ask ourselves not what would Jesus do – but rather what did Jesus do? In this encounter, what did Jesus do?

He had options, didn’t he?
(A) Out of compassion he could have immediately healed the daughter with a word.
(B) He could have immediately commended the mother's faith in seeking him out and believing that he had the power in the name of God to heal and then immediately heal the daughter. Isn’t that what he did for the Centurion? Didn’t Jesus help out this Roman soldier, not a Jew at all, after commending his faith and then healing his sick servant with a word?
(C) Or he could have called the woman an offensive derogatory name and refuse to help her.

Of those three options and to be sure he had many more, Jesus at first is silent and then calls her a dog.
What is Jesus up to?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

See the top of this BLOG or
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, August 14, 2011:

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Genesis 45:1-15

Psalm: Psalm 67

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 133

Second Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Gospel: Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

I don't like this picture of Jesus that today's Gospel represents. He treats the Canaanite woman rudely, with a complete lack of compassion. What do we make of this vision of Christ?

Part of the answer may depend on your view of Jesus/God. Do you see God as completely formed? Do you see God as never making mistakes?

If so, perhaps you should re-read your Bible, especially the Old Testament. Throughout the Scriptures, we see God changing course, often influenced by humans. God does not command us to be passive and just accept whatever comes our way--whether it be from God, powers and principalities, other humans, or Satan. That theological idea that we have to just accept our lot in life in the hopes that we'll get our reward in Heaven--it's a major misreading of the Scriptures and of theology.

I like the idea of God who allows us to disagree--and a God that sometimes agrees that we are right in our disagreement. I like the idea of a God that is being shaped and changed by creation, just as we are being shaped and changed by creation--and by God.

I know it's not as comforting as what many of us were taught in Sunday School. I know we'd rather believe in an absolute God, a God who has all the answers. We don't want to believe in a God who gets tired. We don't want to believe in a God who doesn't have absolute control. We want a God who can point and make magical changes, even though everything we've experienced about the world doesn't suggest that God does that act very often, if at all.

In today's Gospel, we see a tired, irritable Jesus. It's a terrifying idea (I'd prefer a divinity of infinite patience), but it's the best support to show that God did indeed become human.

The Canaanite woman is much more Godlike than Jesus in this Gospel. Here's a woman who is desperate to help her child. When Jesus rebukes her, she stands up to him and argues her case. And she persuades him. She demands justice, and because she stands her ground, she wins. Her behavior is much more Christlike than Christ's.

She has much to teach us. We are called to emulate her. When we see injustice, we must cry out to God and demand that creation be put right. Many theologians would tell you that if you want God to be active in this free will world that God has created, that you better start making some demands. God can't be involved unless we demand it (for a further discussion of this concept, see the excellent books of Walter Wink). If God just intervened in the world, that would violate the principle of free will which God instilled in creation. But if we invite God to action, then God has grounds to act.

I would argue that some of the most sweeping social changes of the twentieth century were grounded in this principle of crying out to the wider world and to God to demand that justice be done. Think of Gandhi's India, the repressiveness of the Jim Crow era in the USA, the South African situation decried by Archbishop Tutu, the civil wars in Central America, the Soviet occupied Eastern Europe: these situations horrified the larger world and the movements to rectify them were rooted in the Christian tradition. True, there were often external pressures applied (economic embargoes and the like), but each situation prompted prayer movements throughout the world.

I remember lighting candles on Christmas Eve in support of Polish Solidarity workers and praying for their safety and success. I remember going to an interfaith prayer vigil in downtown D.C. on the 15th anniversary of the Soweto uprising. I learned the songs of the Civil Rights movement as a child. Listening as an adult, I see those songs as cries to God demanding that justice be restored.

Let the Canaanite woman be your guide towards right behavior. Let the actions of Jesus remind you that even if you're snappy and irritable, you can change course and direct yourself towards grace and compassion. Let your faith give you hope for a creation restored to God's original vision of a just and peaceful Kingdom.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

This Sunday's Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33

I have never walked on water, but I have walked on walls while on the water. Serving in the navy, especially in the area in and around the North Sea in winter has given me the opportunity to see what the forces of wind and current can do to churn up waves and almost casually smash them against a 400 foot, four thousand ton vessel and rock it sideways until the walls – we navy types called them bulkheads, were just as convenient as the floors (or decks) to walk upon. To eat we would sit on the floor and munch on sandwiches hoping that our stomachs were sturdy enough to hold everything down. The buffeting of wind and wave got so intense near the English Channel one winter that our main radar sheared off its mounting and crashed into the sea. Having witnessed men clinging to safety nets like spiders on a web as wave after wave pounded and flooded the aft deck of our little ship while we were trying to secure a tow into port during a vicious storm has made it much easier for me to understand how the ancient people of the Bible saw the churning seas and waterways as the primordial forces of chaos at work in the world. The sea represented all of the dark and fearful forces, powers and anxieties that threaten the goodness and peace of life.

In our passage this morning the disciples are alone for the first time without Jesus many miles from shore, Jesus having stayed behind to pray in solitude. The waves were literally torturing the boat, buffeting it back and forth, the very forces of chaos threatening them. But a number of the disciples are sturdy fishermen who for generations have worked this lake in storm and darkness and fear comes not from the pounding waves, but from their seeing Jesus walking towards them on the water.

In college I had to take a unit of Physical Education in the art of wrestling – I remember very little from those painful and humiliating weeks, except this, if you were on top you were in control. The same idea is at work in our scripture this morning –  It is not that Jesus couldn’t find a boat in the wee hours of the morning and walking was the next best alternative – rather, Jesus walking on the water would represent to all who saw it God conquering the forces of chaos, for in Scripture only God could hold the forces of chaos at bay.

So, we have the disciples on a boat being tortured by the waves far far from land in the early morning darkness before dawn and here comes Jesus embodying the very power of God walking on the water, to show them who was in charge, that they need not worry, and the first thing they feel is not  relief or elation – “It’s JESUS! – YEAH!” but rather, fear strikes their hearts and they think that Jesus must be a ghost. Why – because only God can walk on eater and have power over the chaos and they in their hearts continue to fail to understand who Jesus is.

It’s been 25 years now since my friend Lisa died, died young, not even 18, died after lingering for a week in a coma as her body slowly shut down, organs failing after she went into cardiac arrest due to a severe asthma attack. I had been away, overseas on a school English Department spring break trip – and this was before cell phones and Facebook and even a public internet and as expensive as it was to call home, I didn’t and had no idea that anything had happened at all. No idea until my parents met me as soon as I had arrived back, they having driven from New York to Annapolis Maryland to take me home to see her one last time before the death spiral of her organs was complete, to say good bye.

Having driven hundreds of miles my parents turned around and drove hundreds more back to New York and after a brief stop at home to the hospital. Alone, I went in to the ICU first meeting her nurse who told me that they were just waiting for the drugs to wear off so that the doctors could officially declare her brain dead, then her mother who had a walkman in her hands – a cassette player and earphones with a tape of her most recent choral concert, to try to wake her up, she explained to me.  Go in to her, she said. Speak to her. If she hears your voice, maybe she’ll wake up. Talk to her, please.

The room was noisy, not from people, for I was alone, but from the beeps and huffs and gurgles of monitors and respirator and other equipment fighting the losing battle to keep her alive. And I looked at her and saw the effects of organ failure upon the human body rendering it unrecognizable, for no amount of imagination could transform the person laying in that hospital bed back into the young woman who I had help teach to drive or tutored in math or had spent countless hours talking and talking and talking. Who had just a few months before wept at the idea that time and life might soon be drawing us apart as college and careers would add distance.

Talk to her, her mother said and perhaps she will wake up, as if the sound of my voice had the power to push back death fast closing in, as if the love shared in a deep and meaningful friendship could provide the miracle needed. Fear absolutely seized me – what to do, what to do?

So there’s Jesus walking on the water, coming to the boat, to the disciples. The waves are torturing the boat, crashing one after the other, pounding. Peter, standing in for every disciple, a mix of faith and doubt, calls out Lord, if it is you – the doubt here expressed in a word that means vacillation – faith to doubt to faith to doubt – back and forth. Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. And it is Jesus and Jesus says “come.”   If Peter had in faith recognized Jesus he never would have left the boat – for Jesus would have met him there in his moment and place of need, right there in the boat.

In our own faith, so often the faith of Peter, vacillating back and for between faith and doubt, fear and strength, do we believe that in our time of need when chaos is not just knocking at our door, but smashing against it, torturing it, that Jesus, our Emmanuel, will be present and not just present, but present in power, walking on the water, Lord of heaven and earth, even over the power of death itself? Faith for us is not about us being able to walk in the water, only God can do that, but rather in the face of all evidence, that God in and through Christ Jesus, is with us on the boat as it makes its way through every storm of life. Amen.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for August 7, 2011:

1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying. (Ps. 85:8)
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

This week’s Gospel reading reinforces the themes we found in last week’s lesson. The disciples are in the boat and Jesus walks across the water to them. They don’t recognize him; indeed, they’re terrified. When they realize who it is, Peter (always enthusiastic, in a bumbling puppy way) asks Jesus to bid him to come, which he does. Peter walks across the water with no problem, until he realizes what he’s doing and starts to sink.

Now, most of us probably haven’t had experiences where we’ve suspended the laws of nature, but most of us can probably relate to what Peter experiences. When I first learned to type, I got to the point where I could type at a very fast speed—until I thought about what I was doing. If I just let my fingers go and didn’t look at them, if I did what I knew I could do, I’d be fine. I’ve had similar experiences in learning foreign languages and more recently, in learning to play the mandolin and the guitar; if I play the notes without double checking both my fingers and the chord charts and music books, I find out that I really can play—still more haltingly than I would like, alas.

This story is also about God’s presence and our inability to recognize the Divine all around us, as well as our trouble accepting the miraculous. One of the narrative arcs the Bible is God’s desire to be with God’s creation, to know everybody, to be fully present in our day-to-day lives--to the extent of becoming human. And God has to go to great lengths to get our attention—bushes burst into flame, oppressive governments release the captives, loaves and fishes feed thousands, people rise from the dead, God goes so far as to take on human form—miracle after miracle, and still humans don’t understand and don’t want to accept God’s daily presence.

Even when we do let ourselves glimpse the sacred and divine, even when we experience the miraculous, how quickly we forget and let the mundane swamp us. Psychologists would probably tell us that our approach is a coping mechanism, that if we let ourselves be that open to God, we’d go insane, or at least we’d look insane to our fellow humans. I’m not sure I agree. Maybe we’d be better witnesses, better disciples.

Be on the lookout for God in your daily life. Maybe it will just be a wink from the Creator, like a tree full of butterflies. Maybe you’ll be in the presence of the full-blown miraculous, and all doubts will vanish—the tumor shrinks, the passengers escape the burning plane, the hurricane curves out to sea. Watch for God, listen for God, be alert. God is there, by your side, both during the times of the miraculous as well as the mundane.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sunday August 14th from NOON until 3PM
$5 Donation gets you in to sample the chilis and cornbreads as well as salad and dessert. Enjoy the LIVE MUSIC provided by our own Jacob Smitter and the ever-popular PURSELL FAMILY bluegrass band!
More competitors welcome for chili and cornbread categories - please RSVP!
Please sign up on your worship slip or contact SAM in the office.
All proceeds ot benefit Trinity Youth participation in the 2012 ELCA National Youth Gathering and servant event.
Saturday August 27 from 8AM until 2PM.
Volunteers still needed!
Donations of gently used items and baked goods still needed!
Items for the rummage may be left in the left side of Charter Hall (Munson Mueller Hall)
All proceeds will help support our youth
during the 2012 ELCA National Youth Gathering.
Please contact Jean Myers at
BMyers613@bellsouth.net or (954) 962-5376 with any questions.