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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, December 27, 2017

New Year's Eve Meditation

The readings for Sunday, December 31, 2017, from the Revised Common Lectionary:

Isaiah 61:10—62:3
Psalm 148
The splendor of the LORD is over earth and heaven. (Ps. 148:13)
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:22-40

By now, you may be feeling that familiar post-holiday let down, even if you have great plans for New Year's Eve. Many of us spend the first weeks in the new year feeling bereft: our favorite set of holidays is over, our friends and families have left us and maybe left us feeling let down, and we have to deal with all the ways our holidays weren't what we wanted. Maybe we have whiney children to entertain. Maybe we're missing a loved one who won't ever return to us. We miss the lights and the sense of anticipation, the parties and the expectations. What's left to look forward to? Our New Year's resolutions? Presidents’ Day? No wonder so many of us go into a funk.

It's important to remember this feeling when we hear about the life of Jesus in the weeks to come. From a distance of 2000 years, it's difficult to understand why so many people were resistant to Jesus' message. But many of Jesus' contemporaries had a post-Christmas feeling when they saw Jesus in action: "This guy is our Messiah??? For how many years did we wait??? And this is what we get???" Keep in mind that the Jews of Jesus' time wanted a Messiah who would defeat the Romans and return their holy places to them. What did they get? A guy who spoke of love, a guy who offered them spiritual liberation, which was not the kind of liberation for which they yearned.

But throughout Jesus' life, there were some people who recognized him. Today we hear about Simeon. In later weeks, we'll hear about the first disciples, who left their careers and family to follow Jesus. We'll also hear about people who didn't believe, people who would eventually demand the death of Jesus.

Where are you in these stories in the weeks to come? Are you Simeon, who has been faithful, for decades longer than most of us could have been? Are you Anna, the prophetess who has been watching for a very long time? Are you Mary and Joseph, parents to a very special child? Are you the disciples, willing to risk it all, if it means a closer relationship with Christ?

Or are you a Pharisee, disappointed with what God offers you? How can you move away from being wrecked by your emotions, in order to see the great gifts offered to you?

Maybe, instead of adopting the standard resolutions (losing those 10 pounds, getting a raise, exercising more often), you could snap out of your post-Christmas blues by thinking about resolutions that would enrich you spiritually. Could you read your Bible more? Could you start and end your day in prayer? Could you move towards tithing? Could this be the year you take a retreat?

God reaches out to you, going so far as to take on human form. What are you willing to do in return?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Poinsettia Dedications


(Please notify the church office if any corrections are needed )
In MEMORY of Robert by Edwin Richardson
In MEMORY of my mother by Pearl Williams
In MEMORY of Grandparents by Dottie Cerrone
In MEMORY of Evans Small by Grace Small
In MEMORY of Olive and glen Ruth by Patricia Messmer
In HONOR of the Messmer and Mannon Family by Patricia Messmer
To the GLORY of God by Claire Kulenic
In MEMORY of Daddy and Grandparents by Debbie, Donna, Diane, and Aimee
In HONOR of mom by Debbie, Donna, Diane, and Aimee
In Memory of Virginia Ehrmen and Raginhild Bengtson by Janise Bengtson
To the Glory of God by Omar Pagan and Glorisol Hernandez and Family
In MEMORY of Hilda E. Parrilla by Omar and Glorisol Pagan and Family
In MEMORY of Judith Vasquez by Jairo Bosch and Clementina Ferrari
In MEMORY of Andrew James Roiniotis by Daisie Roiniotis
In MEMORY of all our loves ones passed by Dany and Vince Vega
In HONOR of our Trinity Family by Dany and Vince Vega
To the GLORY of God by Patricia and Pawan, Jonathan, Megan, and Natalia
In MEMORY of Bonford Talbert II, Bonford Talbert Sr., Genevieve Talbert, and Howard & Elizabeth Richards by Beverly Talbert
In HONOR of Reed Talbert Family by Beverly Talbert
To the GLORY OF GOD by Beverly Talbert
In MEMORY of Evans Small by Grace Small
In MEMORY of Shirley Walker by John Walker
In MEMORY of Felicity Amanda Plata (Grandma) by Perla Dube
In MEMORY of our Loved Ones by the Baumal Family

In HONOR of Dany Vega and Barbara Gilson by Pastor Keith and Piper

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Meditation on Christmas Eve

Many of us have had a tough year; we may feel the emptiness of the mangers of our lives, as we have come to see the vulnerabilities of our health, our jobs, our relationships, our larger pictures.

But even as we perceive emptiness, God is hard at work, ready to redeem all the frayed fabrics:

We may see only shreds and strips, but God sees a beautiful new creation, just waiting to be brought forward.

Our great teachers remind us that shreds and strips take on new strength once they are woven together.

And all of creation reminds us of the creator who forms our very center:

The manger may seem empty, but it won't be for long:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017:

Matthew 1:18-25

This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've now spent several weeks with people who hear amazing news about God's plan for them and the world.

Joseph has spent some time thinking about how to handle Mary's pregnancy.  He thinks of quietly unweaving himself from Mary. This behavior is our first indication of his character. Under ancient law, he could have had Mary stoned to death, but he takes a gentler path.

And then, his life takes an even more surprising turn. He follows the instructions of the angel who tells him of God's plan. He could have turned away. He could have said, "I did not sign up for this!" He could have said, "No, thanks. I want a normal wife and a regular life."

Instead, he turned toward Mary and accepted God's vision. He's there when the family needs to flee to Egypt. He's there when the older Jesus is lost and found in the temple. We assume that he has died by the time Christ is crucified, since he's not at the cross.

I'm interested in Joseph this year because he has a role in the supporting cast, not a part where he is the star.  Let us today praise the people in the background, the people who step back to allow others to shine. Let us praise the people who do the drudgery work that makes it possible for others to succeed.

Many of us grow up internalizing the message that if we're not changing the world in some sort of spectacular way, we're failures. Those of us who are Christians may have those early disciples as our role models, those hard-core believers who brought the good news to the ancient world by going out in pairs and travelling long distances and staying faithful through jail and shipwreck and hostile crowds.

But Joseph shows us a different reality. It's quite enough to be a good parent. It's quite enough to have an ordinary job. It's quite enough to show up, day after day, dealing with both the crises and the opportunities.

Joseph reminds us that even the ones born into the spotlight need people in the background who are tending to the details. When we think about those early disciples and apostles, we often forget that they stayed in people's houses, people who fed them and arranged speaking opportunities for them, people who gave them encouragement when their task seemed too huge.

I imagine Joseph doing much the same thing as he helped Jesus become a man. I imagine the life lessons that Joseph administered as he gave Jesus carpentry lessons. I imagine that he helped Jesus understand human nature, in all the ways that parents have helped their offspring understand human nature throughout history.

Let us not be so quick to discount this kind of work. Let us praise the support teams who make the way possible for the people who will change the world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2016:

Luke 1: 39-26

This Sunday, Trinity will hear the story of Mary's reunion with her cousin Elizabeth.  You may remember that both women are pregnant, and both women should not be pregnant:  Mary because she is unmarried, and Elizabeth because she is barren.  I have always assumed she is barren because she is older.  One version of Luke (earlier in chapter one) notes that Elizabeth and her husband are "very old."

Some years, it's Mary's part of the story that speaks to me:  a young woman, inexperienced, still under control of her elders, with something strange happening.

This year, I confess it's Elizabeth.  I think of all the ways that one's body changes not only with adolescence, but with old age.  I think of my own 52 year old feet, not swollen with pregnancy, but with arthritis.  I cannot imagine pregnancy right now.  And Elizabeth was older than I am.

I spent my younger years declaring that biology isn't destiny:  we can do whatever we want, no matter what bodies we inhabit. 

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, in ways we can't imagine when we're young. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.  I've seen far too many people ravaged by the cancer cells that take over.

But the Mary and Elizabeth story reminds us of the body's miraculous capacity.  This year, I'm focused on life springing from improbable places.  I'm thinking of these pregnancies as metaphors, and it's Elizabeth's pregnancy that speaks to me this year.

In a culture like ours that worships youth and beauty, it is good to remember that God doesn't discard us when we might think we've outlived our usefulness.  We may look at our past decades and sigh over what we have not achieved.  God looks at us and sees so much potential.

Let us be like Mary and say yes to God.  Let us be like Elizabeth, ready for a new life, even if we're not sure exactly where it will take us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The reading for Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017:

Luke 1:26-38

Can we relate to Mary? Two thousand years of Church tradition tend to paint her in terms that serve whatever purpose society needed at the time. So in some decades we see Mary a perfect woman, sinless and blameless, the kind of woman who transcends humanity and gives birth to the Lord. Some decades write Mary out of the picture once the work in the stable is done, while other decades depict her as an interfering mother—the first helicopter parent!

We’ve heard the story of Mary so many times that we forget how remarkable it really is. We forget how bizarre the story told by the angel Gabriel must seem. A young girl growing God in her womb? A post-menopausal woman conceiving? It’s all too much to fathom.

I always wonder if there were women who sent Gabriel away: "I'm going to be the mother of who? It will happen how? Go away. I don't have time for this nonsense. If God wants to perform a miracle, let God teach my children not to track so much dirt into this house."

We won't ever hear about those women, because they decided that they didn't want to be part of God's glorious vision.

It’s important, too, to notice that God’s glorious vision doesn’t always match the way we would expect God to act. We see a history of God choosing the lowly, the meek, the outcast. Moses the stutterer, David the cheater, Peter the doubter. What business school would endorse this approach to brand building?

But our Scriptures remind us again and again that God works in mystical ways that our rational brains can’t always comprehend. If God can accomplish great things by means of a young woman, a woman beyond child-bearing years, a variety of wandering preachers and prophets, tax collectors and fisherman, just think what God might accomplish with all of our gifts and resources.

Of course, first we have to hear that message, that invitation from God. It’s hard for this message to make its way through all the fear-based messages beamed to us from our culture. The angel tells Mary not to be afraid, and that is a message we need to hear. Don't dance with your dread. Don't keep company with your fears, your worst case scenarios.

 We have much to fear, but we’re not that different from past cultures.   Our culture gives us stories of terrorists and a planet's climate near collapse and refugees who can find no shelter. Our Scriptures tell us those same stories.  But those Scriptures also tell us of a God that breaks into our normal lives to remind us that God is redeeming creation even if we aren’t aware of that process. Our prophets remind us that ruin doesn’t have to last forever. Gabriel gives the promise that nothing is impossible with God.

Now, that is Good News indeed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The Gospel for Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017:

John 1:  1-14

When I was younger, the Gospel of John confounded me. What kind of nativity story did John give us? Does he not know the power of narrative, the importance of a hook in the beginning?

Look at verse 14, which may be familiar: "And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." As a child, I'd have screamed, "What does that mean? How does word become flesh?"

And then I became a writer, and I learned how the word becomes flesh. I invented characters who took on lives of their own, who woke me up early in the morning because I wanted to see what happened to them. Yes, I know, I was the God of their universe. But as anyone who has had children will know, you make these creations, and they have their own opinions, and they live their lives in ways you couldn't have known they would.

But lately, I've begun to see this first chapter of John in a less-writerly way. Words become flesh every day. We begin to shape our reality by talking about it. We shape our relationships through our words which then might lead to deeds, which is another way of talking about flesh.

Think about your primary relationships. Perhaps this coming year could be the year when we all treat the primary people in our lives with extra care and kindness. If we treat people with patience and care, if we say please and thank you more, we will shape the flesh of our relationships into something different. Alternately, if we're rude and nasty to people, they will respond with rudeness and cruelty--we've shaped the flesh of the world into a place where we don't want to live.

Our words become flesh in other ways, of course. It's not enough to profess we're Christians. Our words should shape our actions. The world is watching, and the world is tired of people who say one thing and act another way.

How can we enflesh our Christian beliefs incarnate in our own lives? That's the question with which we wrestle year after year. It's easy to say we believe things, but it's much harder to make our actions match our words, to live an authentic life.

The good news: it gets easier. You must practice. Our spiritual ancestors would tell us that daily and weekly practices help to align our words to our actions.

I have an atheist friend who says she envies me my ability to believe. I tell her that there's not a class of people who just have faith. We come to it by our actions. We pray, we pay attention, we meet in church, we study, we read the Bible, we help the poor and outcast, we pray some more--and years later, we realize that we are living a life consistent with our values.

Soon, we will think about the New Year, and some of us will make resolutions. What can you do to make your words and beliefs take flesh?

Saturday, November 18, 2017


 Christmas Eve Worship at Trinity Lutheran
11AM Service of Candles and Carols with help from our choir and musicians
5:30PM Service of Candles and Carols featuring our Ukuleles and friends
7:30PM Service of Carols and Candles with help from our choir and musicians
11PM "Midnight Mass" Christmas Eve Service of Carols and Candles

*All services include  Holy Communion

Trinity Lutheran embraces radical hospitality for a radical gospel of Good News for all!

Trinity Weekly Blast

This Week's Trinity Blast! Newsletter.
All the good stuff. Reflections, Pictures, Updated Calendar, Ministry Updates, the Prayer List, Key information. If you are not automatically receiving it - send a note to tlcppines@gmail.com with your email and we will add you to the BLAST! list. http://mailchi.mp/12111e712fd8/open-this-weeks-tlc-blast

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, November 19, 2017:

First Reading: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Judges 4:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 123

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

This week's Gospel gives us the parable of the talents. One servant turns his 5 talents into 10, one turns his 2 talents into 4, and the servant who buries his one talent in the yard doesn't create any new capital. It's easy when reading this Gospel to focus on the word "talent." It's natural to think of our own talents, to wonder how we're investing them, and how we're wasting them by burying them in the yard.

The parable makes it clear what will happen to people who bury their talents. Now, I know that many of us are blessed with a multitude of talents. We do have to make judicious choices about which talents are worth cultivating. I hope that we won't be the servant cast into worthless darkness because we pay attention to one set of skills over another.

But let's look at that parable again. Let's look at that word, "talent," again--in the time of Jesus, it was an economic term, not a personal development term. Read the parable substituting the word gold blocks for talent.

It's worth noting that a quantity of 5 talents, according to my Bible footnote (and my Bible is published by Oxford University Press, so I trust the footnote), is worth 15 years of wages of this laborer. In an article from The Christian Century, James Howell, a Methodist minister, points out that the servant who got just one talent would be receiving more money than most of us get in a lifetime of work: "This amount would stagger any recipient and send him into utterly uncharted territory. A Mediterranean laborer wouldn't have any more of a clue about how to invest five talent than the guy who bags my groceries would about $74 million (even if I and all my friends tried to advise him)."

As I read this week's Gospel again, I forced myself to think about the fact that this parable really is about money. It's not instructing me to return to the piano keyboard at the expense of the computer keyboard. And it's an unusually Capitalist message from Christ. I'm used to the Jesus who tells us to give our money away. I'm not used to the savior who encourages us to make wise investments of our money.

I'm not used to thinking of money management as a talent. But this parable makes clear that it is. Jesus makes clear that money is one of the gifts we're given, and the verses that follow (31-46, ones that aren't part of this week's Gospel) show that Christ is not straying from his essential message. The verses that follow talk about treating the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner as if those people are Christ incarnate. God has a vision for how we'll use that gift of money.

The servant who was cast into out darkness was cast out because the talent went to waste buried in the ground. How would he have been treated if he had given the money away to the poor, the sick, the stranger? I suspect he would NOT have been cast into outer darkness.

Our collapsing Capitalist paradigm often doesn't take community into account. Not making enough money in America, where workers have unreasonable demands like a living wage and safe working conditions? Just move your industry to a country that has less oversight. Sure, you rip apart the social fabric, but at least you're making money.

God calls us to a different vision. Our God is always obsessed with the poor and dispossessed. And we're called to be part of that obsession.

Unfortunately, the times we're living in mean that we'll find many opportunities for this aspect of Kingdom Living. With the holidays approaching, we might think about our customs. Maybe, instead of giving people who have lots of stuff even more stuff, we could donate to a charity in their name. In my family, the adults decided that instead of exchanging presents with each other, we would choose a different charity each year and donate to that charity. Maybe, instead of an endless whirl of parties, we might give some time to our local food pantries or soup kitchens. As we buy a book or two for our favorite children, we could buy a book or two for local reading programs or donate to RIF (Reading is Fundamental, the nation's largest child literacy organization).

The ways to help heal the world are endless, and God invites us to join in this creation project. We can donate money, time, skills, prayers, optimism, hope. Doing so is one of our most basic Christian tasks.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, November 12, 2017:

  • First reading and Psalm
    • Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
    • Psalm 78:1-7
  • Alternate First reading and Psalm
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 or Amos 5:18-24
    • Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 or Psalm 70
  • Second reading
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • Gospel
    • Matthew 25:1-13

  • How mystifying, this parable of the wise bridesmaids with more than enough oil and the foolish, unprepared bridesmaids!  I would have expected Jesus to make a different point, one about those with abundant resources sharing with those who have a lack.

    But once again, Jesus is full of surprises.  It's not a parable about sharing.  And if you reread it again, you may realize, as I did this morning, that it's not a parable about staying awake either--all of the bridesmaids get drowsy and sleep.

    Through his parables and more importantly, through his life, Jesus shows us that we're allowed to have down time.  We're allowed to sleep.  Jesus retreated periodically to recharge, and we should do.

    But those foolish maidens aren't going on a women's retreat at a nearby church camp.  No, they have come to their task unprepared.  It's not like the task was unknown.  I assume that one of the basic job requirements of being a bridesmaid is to have oil for the lamps.

    Or maybe it's not one of the basic tasks.  Note that the bridegroom is delayed.  Maybe the foolish bridesmaids assumed the wedding party would come by the time it was dark.  Maybe their fault lies in not anticipating the unforeseen.

    So, what does this parable tell us for modern life?  For those of us who are waiting and watching, what does it mean?

    I love this quote from this post by Matthew L. Skinner: "Faithful readiness must be active readiness. It means saying that even though the wedding banquet hasn’t yet begun, together we will act as if it has. To live otherwise is to be exposed as unaware, perhaps revealing our estrangement from the bridegroom, from Jesus himself."

    Too many people will read this text and see the wedding party as a metaphor for Heaven.  Perhaps it is, although I imagine Jesus would have had a very different idea of Heaven than that of 21st century folks.  Too many people will focus on the possibility of a second coming in our lifetime, and that's why they keep the lamps ready.

    But God did not create this planet just to wreck it out of displeasure.  Absolutely not.  The Good News that Jesus gives us again and again is that the redemption of creation breaks through into our daily lives.

    If we wait for a distant Heaven, we've missed the point.  The Good News is that we don't have to wait.  It's happening right now, in all sorts of ways.

    But many of us will miss it, because we're not looking or we're not used to seeing God in our daily lives.  Perhaps instead of keeping a gratitude journal or instead of asking how our days have been, perhaps a better question would be, "Where have you seen God today?"

    In this way we'll keep our oil replenished and our lamps ready.  We will know the bridegroom, because we will have gotten in the habit of seeing him.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2017

    Meditation on the Feast of All Saints

    I am writing this meditation on this Sunday's Gospel on Nov. 1, which is the actual Feast of All Saints.  Many churches will celebrate some aspect of this festival on Sunday, Nov. 6, with these readings:

    First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-9

    First Reading (Alt.): Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

    Psalm: Psalm 24

    Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-6a

    Gospel: John 11:32-44

    For many of us, it's been a difficult autumn.  We've had severe storms, and for some of us, those storms have reminded us that everything we build is more precarious than we thought.  We've had another horrifying terrorist event yesterday.  And then there are all of our individual losses.

     Even in years when we aren’t surrounded by constant examples of how short our time here can be, All Saints Day comes around to remind us. We don’t have long on this side of the grave. It’s a good festival to take some time to think about what we’d like to get done while we’re still here.

    The Feast of All Saints is a high festival day that celebrates the saints that have come before us. Alas, in many Lutheran churches, we don't celebrate the long line of saints that Catholics do; most Protestants who observe All Saints Day mark the lives of those gone in the past year. Perhaps as we continue to reform the church, we should move back to a broader understanding of saints as the entire community of Christians.

    It’s a good time to think about those who have gone before us. You might spend some time on this feast day thinking about the great saints who have helped to form Christianity through the centuries. How can we be more like them? For what would we like to be remembered in future centuries?

    If you have relatives and friends who have served as models of a life well lived, this would be a good time to write a note. We won’t be here forever. Write to them now, while they’re still here and you still remember. On a future All Saints Sunday, you might light a candle in their memory. But in the meantime, you can tell them how much they have meant to you.

    In many cultures, this feast day becomes a family time. Think of the Mexican tradition of taking picnics to the graveyard. Now would be a good time to record your family memories. Write them down while you still remember. Make a video. Assemble those records.

    But we should also use this All Saints Day to look forward. For many people, this day is bittersweet. We’re reminded of our losses. It’s hard to think of transformation.

    But dream a little on this All Saints Sunday. If you could create a new life out of the threads that you have, what would you weave? Or would you start again, with different yarns and textures? What is your dream of a renewed life?

    Jesus invites us to be part of a Resurrection Culture. We may not always understand how that will work. Some years the taste of ash and salt water seem so pervasive that we may despair of ever tending fruitful gardens of our lives again. But Jesus promises that death will not have the final word.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2017

    Meditation for Reformation Sunday

    The readings for Sunday, October 29, 2017:

     First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34
    Psalm: Psalm 46
    Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28
    Gospel: John 8:31-36

    Here we are, back at Reformation Sunday.  Each year, as this Sunday of celebration approaches, I find myself thinking about what needs to be reformed and what should be preserved.

    It's been a tumultuous year for many of us, a year of natural disasters, a year of discovering how far apart we are politically, a world where we might feel like history is in rewind mode, and we're afraid of what year our time machine might land.

    Some of us might have been able to find comfort in our churches.  Some of us may be worried that just as the globe seems to be hovering on the edge of schism, so are our churches.

    We should take heart that the Church has always been in the process of Reformation. There are great Reformations, like the one we'll celebrate this Sunday, or the Pentecostal revolution that's only 100 years old, but has transformed the developing world in ways that Capitalism never could. There are smaller ones throughout the ages as well. Movements which seemed earth-shattering at the time (monastic movements of all kinds, liberation theology, ordination of women, lay leadership) may in time come to be seen as something that enriches the larger church. Even gross theological missteps, like the Inquisition, can be survived. The Church learns from past mistakes as it moves forward.

    Times of Reformation can enrich us all. Even those of us who reject reform can find our spiritual lives enriched as we take stock and measure what's important to us, what compromises we can make and what we can't. It's good to have these times where we return to the Scriptures as we try to hear what God calls us to do. It may be painful, but any of these processes may lead us to soil where we can bloom more fruitfully.

    We may think of that metaphor and feel despair, as if we will never be truly rooted, flowering plants. But rootlessness can be its own spiritual gift. The spiritual wanderers have often been those who most revitalized the Church, or on a smaller level, their spiritual communities. The spiritual wanderers are often the ones who keep all of us true to God's purpose.

    If you have been feeling despair, take heart. Jesus promises that we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. You might not be feeling like you know what the truth is at this current point; you may feel tossed around by the tempests of our current times. But Jesus promises that we will know the truth. We will be set free. We don't have a specific date at which we'll know the truth. But we will.

    We proclaim the Good News throughout the church year:  we are already redeemed.  God has already claimed us.  God's vision of a new creation breaks through our daily scrim each and every day if we would but open our eyes.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

    The readings for October 22, 2017:

    First Reading: Isaiah 45:1-7

    First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 33:12-23

    Psalm: Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]

    Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 99

    Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

    Gospel: Matthew 22:15-22

    This week's Gospel contains a saying of Jesus that is probably familiar: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Mathhew 22, verse 21). Even people who have never set foot inside a church are probably familiar with this saying, although they may attribute it to somebody else, like Shakespeare or Ronald Reagan.

    I love how Jesus realizes that the Pharisees have set a trap for him, and he manages to avoid entanglement. This passage also shows Jesus reacting to the legalistic outlook of the spiritual leaders. He seems to tell us not to be so rigid in our formulas of our finances. We know what we must do. We have bills and obligations (among them, caring for the less fortunate); we cannot escape those worldly cares. But in figuring out our tithes and taxes, we should not lose sight of the larger spiritual picture.

    God calls us to more than a rigid formula of living. Instead of dividing up our budget into tight categories, we should always be on the lookout for ways to love each other. Some days/months/years, that love might be manifest in monetary ways. But in a way, just writing a check is much too easy. God calls us to be involved with each other's lives. That doesn't mean we need to hop on a plane to personally respond to every huge disaster. Look around--you'll see plenty of opportunities just outside your door.

    My mother has a theory about tithing money. She posits that in our society, giving money isn't the same kind of sacrifice that it would be in earlier times. Most of us have more money than we know what to do with. You might disagree, but if you compare your income to the rest of the world's, you are rich beyond compare. I would argue that we buy so much stuff because we have that much disposable income. Do you really need more than one outfit a day? Is your closet overstuffed, like mine is? There's a disconnect.

    My mother says that the more precious commodity in our culture is time, and I think she's right. Most of us can barely find time to phone each other. Have you tried to have anyone over for dinner lately? It seems to take the scheduling skills of those people who used to organize Superpower Summits. My mother's theory is that if Jesus spoke directly today, he'd tell us to sacrifice time, not money.

    What if you gave 10% of your time? There's 168 hours in a week. If you gave 17.8 hours to God, how would you need to change your life?

    And the reality is, that God wants and needs more from us than a mere 18 hours a week. God wants an ongoing relationship with each and every one of us. And that relationship should transform us to do the tough work of transforming creation, of creating the Kingdom of Heaven right here and now.

    In these days of financial ups and downs, the message of Jesus seems more prescient than ever. If we save up our treasures on earth, moth or rust or inflation or deflation or bad policies or some other kind of ruin will leave us bankrupt.

    The way we live our lives moves us closer to God or further away. If we devote our lives to God, our whole lives, not just an hour on Sunday, then we'll find a relationship that we can count on in good economic times and bad. And that relationship can help us transform not only ourselves, but our families, our communities, everyone we touch.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017


    Join us Saturday October 21st from 3PM-5PM for a free concernt at the Trinity Pumpkin Patch featuring Trinity's Uke group "Dear Kate," Christian band "Ultreya" and "Kayla and Marina." Enjoy the concert, find that special pumpkin, and food will be available for purchase. All Welcome!

    Celebrating Dany Vega's 10 years of service!

    For the past 10 years, Dany Vega has held positions as Trinity's custodian and later Facilities Manager, working from her deep love of God to serve both our congregation and community. In honor of her 10 years of service, Trinity will recognize her during a special coffee hour following the 11AM worship service on Sunday October 22nd. The Trinity Congregational Councill will be presenting her with a gift of appreciation for her faithful service and the congregation and community is welcome to add cards and/or gifts of appreciation to a basket that will be made available during the coffee hour for this occasion.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

    The readings for Sunday, October 15, 2017:

    First Reading: Isaiah 25:1-9

    First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 32:1-14

    Psalm: Psalm 23

    Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23

    Second Reading: Philippians 4:1-9

    Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14

    Today's Gospel sounds impossibly harsh. The kingdom of heaven is compared to this story of a king who can't get people to come to the wedding feast? Is God really like the King who murders people who won't come to the party and burns their city? Is God really like the king who punishes a guest who comes in the wrong clothes? And such a punishment!

    Some churchgoers, no doubt, will hear a sermon this Sunday that revolves around judgment and punishment. My opinion is that God rarely has to punish us, because our poor choices provide punishment enough.

    So, let's look at this parable from a different angle: what's keeping us from accepting the invitation to the wedding feast? If the wedding feast is the kingdom of God, what keeps us away?

    Obviously, as we devote more and more of our time to work, we have less time for the things that matter, like family, God, our friends. Many of us don't have time to eat; some of us can’t even slip away to go to the bathroom! Jesus is quite clear on this issue: we must prioritize. What good will it do us to work ourselves this way, to devote ourselves to earthly things, like work and earning money?

    Or maybe we reject God's invitation because we feel inadequate. We'll accept at a later time, when we've improved ourselves. But that's the good news of God's grace that we find throughout the Gospels. We don't have to wait. God loves us in all of our imperfections.

    Perhaps we should see ourselves in the wedding guest that didn't have the right garment. What clothes do we need to invest in to make ourselves better wedding guests?

    Maybe we need to clothe ourselves in the garments of love and acceptance. Think of what attitudes you need to wrap around yourself, and work to shed the ones that do not serve you.

    Maybe we need to clothe ourselves in some regular spiritual practices. We have thousands of years of history that suggest some techniques that work: regular prayer, regular spiritual reading, cultivating a spirit of gratitude, taking a day of rest, singing the Psalms to calm our nerves, and the list could fill a book.

    Life is short, and Christ returns to this message again and again. We think we will have time to get to the things that will be important. We'll do it later, when the kids are older, or when we don't have to work so long and hard. We'll do it when we retire.  We'll wait until we have more money.  Once we lose that 20-100 pounds, we'll buy the right clothes and go to feasts to celebrate sacred occasions.

    But God calls us to focus on the important things now. The apocalyptic tone of the recent readings may seem overly dramatic, but apocalypse dramas remind us that everything that is precious can be gone in an instant--and so the time to focus on what we hold dear is now.

    It's a luxury that so many do not have, to appreciate what we have while we still have it, to be able to tell our loved ones that we love them while they're still with us.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2017

    Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

    The readings for Sunday, October 8, 2017:

    First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7

    First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

    Psalm: Psalm 80:7-14 (Psalm 80:7-15 NRSV)

    Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 19

    Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

    Gospel: Matthew 21:33-46

    Today's Gospel contains a parable that seems to tell the story of Christ, in the vineyard owner's son, who is killed by the tenants. I suspect that when modern readers, many of whom own property, read this lesson, they identify with the vineyard owner far more than they do with the tenants. But what would happen if we thought about ourselves as the tenants?

    Notice how the tenants are so stuck in their self-destructive ways that they can't change. Now, as we settle into the season of autumn, as we race towards the end of the liturgical year, it might be useful to do some self-evaluation. What are our habits that get in the way of us living as the people of God? By now, you might despair to realize that these are the same patterns you've wrestled with before. But take heart. As you continue to attempt to make changes and go astray, each time you try to get back to a more wholesome way of living, it should take less time to make the necessary adjustments.

    The Gospels that we've been reading give us reassurance that we can go astray, and God will still welcome us back. Now all this talk of going astray may not be the most useful image for us. Many of us have grown up in churches that berated us with talk of sin and tried to make us change by making us feel ashamed. We live in a toxic culture that tells us that we're not doing enough, not earning enough, not buying the right stuff. Many of us spend our days with voices in our head telling us those same messages. Who wants to come to church to hear the same thing? We've tried, we've failed, we know, we get it.

    The danger is that we might quit trying to live the life that God envisions for us. God doesn't want us to live the way we've been living. Many of us might agree--we don't want to be living these lives.

    So take a different approach. What would a healthier life look like? What would a God-centered life look like? How would it feel?

    Now choose one action that gets you closer to that God-centered life.  We have a variety of choices.  Maybe we'll add one prayer to our day.  Maybe we'll donate to an additional charity.  Maybe we'll read to schoolchildren.  Maybe we'll turn off the news and quiet our brains so that we can hear God's suggestions of how to order our lives.  Small action by small action, choice after choice, day after day, we can structure a life that looks like the one God would hope we could have.

    Of course, there will be times of despair.  There will be times of abject failure.  Read the lessons again and think about the natural order of horticulture. The land must be cleared occasionally so that new growth can take place. God continues to call to us to work for the vision of the redeemed creation that God gives us.

    Remember that God promises that no matter how far away we are from that vision, God will meet us more than half-way. If we're feeling like a rejected stone, remember that God has great plans for rocks of every shape. 

    Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

    The readings for Sunday, October 1, 2017:

    First Reading: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

    First Reading (Semi-cont.): Exodus 17:1-7

    Psalm: Psalm 25:1-8 (Psalm 25:1-9 NRSV)

    Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

    Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

    Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32

    This Sunday's Gospel continues to explore the notion of fidelity and fairness. People ask about Jesus--who grants him authority?  Jesus gives them a question they're afraid to answer, for fear of getting the wrong answer, and Jesus refuses to answer the question. 

    Instead, he gives a parable about two sons, neither of which is true to his word.  One says that he'll go work in the vineyard, and he doesn't.  One says he won't work, but then he does.  Which son represents you?

    The lesson of this Gospel is clear: we get credit for our actions, not for our speech. This idea may fly in the face of what we believe to be good Lutheran theology. What about the idea of grace? Many of us were taught that we're such dreadful humans that there's nothing we could do to justify the gift of salvation. God swoops in and redeems us, even though we're fairly hopeless people. That was the message I got from many a church event, Lutheran and otherwise.

    But as a grown up, going back to revisit these passages, I'm amazed at how often God requires more of us than just saying we believe in Christ, more than just accepting Christ as our saviour, more than just having faith. In the words of Luther, faith should move our feet. In the words of James, faith without works is dead.  We don't confess belief in Christ so that we can relax on the sofa.  We confess our faith and go to work in the vineyard.

    Our goal each and every day is to be the light of the world, the yeast that makes the bread rise, the radiance that allows people to see God at work in the world.  Notice how small our actions can be.  The yeast is tiny, but from its small actions, flour and water transform into bread.

    Ideally we're yeast and light, but the good news of today's Gospel, and many of the others that we read throughout our 3 year lectionary cycle, is that even when we fall short, God will still love us. If we've said we'd do the work, and we fail to do it, we have other days when we can show up. God will still welcome us. The world is full of darkness, waiting for our light.

    Saturday, September 23, 2017


    Our rescheduled college cookie pack up takes place this Sunday September 24th and next Sunday October 1st during coffee hours. Donations of homemade cookies or money to help defray cost of shipping welcome and appreciated!


    The BLOODMOBILE will be at Trinity
    Sunday September 24th
    from 9AM until 1PM
    Please come and give!

    Friday, September 22, 2017


    Full worship schedule returns this Sunday
    8:30AM for the early birds in the sanctuary
    9:45AM for something different in the fellowship hall
    11AM for the whole shebang (choir, organ, ukuleles, flute, keyboard, and occasionally bongos) in the sanctuary
    At every service we practice radical hospitality.
    At every service we are fed and forgiven.
    Hope to see you there!
    (Thank you Eileen Soler for this awesome pic from our Post-Hurricane Irma Unity service!)