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What another memorable week we’ve witnessed! It began in the midst of wrestling with the continued cost of COVID-19, even while we celebrated the hopeful news that vaccines are beginning to be distributed. It continued with witnessing the sheer beauty of frost-covered trees glistening in the sunlight, while resuming a return to “school” in whatever form that may take for your children.


Wednesday brought another disturbing and “unprecedented” incident in our public life. The assault on the Capitol has since drawn the response of a host of pundits; I suspect that you are not eager to hear yet another. This seems to be the kind of event that calls for a faith response, for quietism is a very distinct response in itself. I have been guilty of that as often as anything else.


Both Jesus and Luther are explicit in voicing a need to respect the place of and need for good government. Likewise, our Church’s ethical stances have repeatedly echoed the Scriptures in the need to speak out against injustice, even as we live out a different standard – one which honors the dignity and role not only of those called to public service, but of every neighbor of every kind, and dares speak truth to power when it is abused.


I share the fatigue of colleagues who know that voicing a sharp rebuke from a perspective of faith risks it being said wrongly, heard wrongly, or used wrongly and inviting an avalanche of angry response. That is a risk I must take, for the sake of all that sustains and enables the health of our public life. There is no vaccine against apathy, vitriol, or scapegoating, let alone blatant falsehood.


I don’t know all the answers and I have plenty to still learn. As we put forth a collective effort to “restore” community life in the wake of COVID-19, I pray for a focused restoration of civic order in our public life, respectful debate, humble truth, and open dialog. It is not just a call for acceptance or tolerance of those with whom we may vehemently disagree, but real humility and a renewal of commitment to listen openly to the honest concerns and experience of all our neighbors (especially those who are most easily overlooked, as Jesus so clearly witnessed) as well as the courage to address injustice when it arises.


I conclude with a prayer shared with us by Synod Bishop Amy Current on Thursday:


Gracious God, the news of yesterday, acts of violence, racism, loss of life, idolatry of power, along with the continued and palpable divisiveness in our country, rising COVID -19 cases and deaths, and all that leaves aching, we bring to you in prayer.


We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In the depths of pain and anger, we gather before you, O God, our rock and our refuge. You are our only comfort. You are our only hope. Faithful God, surround us with your everlasting arms. Hear our cries of despair, heed our calls for justice, and do not let us lose hope, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.


Pastor Tim

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Sunday's scriptures will focus on Simeon and Anna, two elders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. Simeon had been promised he would not see death until he had seen the Messiah come. His words "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace ..." have been become one of the ancient songs of the church. In many traditions, this is the response sung after receiving communion. About a year ago, I wrote a setting of these words sung as though I were a Jewish man. Composers can do that when words move them.


Anna, we are told, was an elderly widow who devoted her life to prayer and churchwork, much like many of our older members. They model for us how to live our lives in sync with God. They proclaim as loudly as their voices are able the good news of Emanuel, God with us. Imagine being that young couple, Mary and Joseph, and you are listening to the elders of the community praising God because of your child. No wonder "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." It is almost too much to assimilate.


God was doing something new. The prophet Isaiah told us in his message in chapter 43, "Behold, I am doing a new thing ..." Here in Luke 2, God is doing a new thing. He is living and dwelling among us. We are reminded again in Revelation 21 "Behold, I make all thing new." So whether we are in Genesis, Isaiah, Revelation, or entering A.D. 2021, God is at work making all things new. With Simeon, we can point to the "light to lighten all nations." With Anna, we can tell others that God is at work redeeming Jerusalem (a crossroad for the nations and a metaphor for the whole creation).


Our old may dream dreams and our young may see visions (paraphrasing Joel and Acts), but we all have the task of proclaiming the God with us to our brothers and sisters in and out of the faith. May 2021 be the year of the Lord's favor, a jubilee to the Lord.


Richard

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Wishing you a Merry Christmas! I hope and pray that you and your loved ones have been able to truly celebrate the spirit of this season and to sense the presence of Christ in whatever ways you can!


After so much planning and preparation, we anticipated sharing Christmas Eve with you in the parking lot, safely singing carols in our cars, and circling around the light of Christ, passing the flame of our faith in a symbolic symbol of our calling. Sadly, Mother Nature had other plans and prevented us from doing so due to the bitter cold and wind. We pray, however, that you were able to join us online for a memorable Christmas Eve at home, sharing our virtual community of faith, and encouraging one another at a distance! Thanks so much for being a part!


The candles, icons, and banners will go away for now, but we’ll still be lighting up the neighborhood with extra strands that point to the hope that is ours in Christ. Come drive through the church lot and savor all that we can still celebrate in the days ahead!


Meanwhile, please recall a couple of brief announcements:

  1. If you haven’t yet followed through on your commitment to making ministry happen in 2021 by sharing your Faith Promise form, please do so either online or via the mailbox prior to year’s end. We are 75% of the way toward our goal, but the Visioning Council will be meeting to finalize our budget proposal in just a few short days. We would appreciate all of the insight, plans, and feedback we can gather! Thanks in advance! Gifts intended for 2020 need to arrive at the church office by Thursday noon. If you need it recorded in 2020, do not depend on the mail service. Stop by mornings 8:30 to 12:30.

  2. We’re delighted to share two unique gifts with you in worship this Sunday: First, we’ll once again savor the incredible arrangements and harmonies of the Nordic Choir from Luther College and the Minneapolis-based National Lutheran Choir. Their voices have been a source of such encouragement in a chapter when we can’t easily sing together! Second, we’re blessed to be able to welcome the insights of Pastor Adam Hamilton, who has offered to share the Word with us and with churches around the country this Sunday. Pastor Hamilton will share his sermon from Kansas City, centered around how “incarnation” isn’t just about something that happened 2000 years ago, but still today. We thank him for the opportunity to focus on other aspects of our ministry this week!

Our worship will continue on demand through our website and YouTube and will be livestreamed on Facebook at 9:00 a.m. Sunday.


Hope that you can be present with us this weekend in whatever way you can!


Pastor Tim

650 240TH STREET 

NORTH LIBERTY, IA 52317

(319) 665-2200

OFFICE@HOLYTRINITYNL.ORG

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