Readings and Psalm for Sunday, August 29, 2021, Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus protests against human customs being given the weight of divine law, while the essence of God’s law is ignored. True uncleanness comes not from external things, but from the intentions of the human heart. Last week Jesus told us “the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Now James says God has given us birth by the word of truth. We who were washed in the word when we were born in the font return to it every Sunday to ask God to create in us clean hearts.

Prayer of the Day

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures. Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside, and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves, that we may be preserved through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9

1So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.
6You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” 7For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?
9But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Psalm: Psalm 15

1Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
 Who may abide upon your holy hill?
2Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,
who speak the truth from their heart;
3they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil to their friends;
 they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.
4In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who fear the Lord.
They have sworn upon their health and do not take back their word.
5They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes against the innocent.
 Those who do these things shall never be overthrown. 

Second Reading: James 1:17-27

17Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

1Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around [Jesus], 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
  but their hearts are far from me;
7in vain do they worship me,
  teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

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Opportunities to Put Your Faith in Action

Advocate for Others: As members of the ELCA, we believe that we are freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. God uses our hands, through our direct service work and our voices, through our advocacy efforts, to restore and reconcile our world. Through faithful advocacy, the ELCA lives out our Lutheran belief that governments can help advance the common good. The latest issues of ELCA Advocacy can be read here.

ECLA Advocacy Action Alert – Join faith leaders in contacting Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4). Learn more about the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act here. Send a customized message today through the ELCA Action Center.

Donate Pantry Items:  Current Top Needs:  Canned beans, shelf-stable milk, canned tomatoes, cooking oil, and bottled water.  Always Needed: peanut butter, pasta of all kinds, canned vegetables, pasta sauce, soups, macaroni and cheese, canned tomatoes, canned fruit.  Also needed, Personal Items: shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene products.  You can learn more about the Upper Valley Haven here.  You may bring donations directly to the Haven or bring them to worship on Sunday and make sure they get there.

Sign up to Volunteer at Cover – Outdoor Projects Every Week!  The COVER Home Repair program relies on the participation of community volunteers like you. By lending a hand with home improvement projects, you can help greatly improves the quality of life for local families, elderly, and mobility challenged.  It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills.  View volunteer opportunities and sign up here!

Volunteer with Sustainable Hanover and the Norwich Energy Committee (From our Creation Care Team): Sustainable Hanover and the Norwich Energy Committee are collaborating with the Maine-based non-profit Window Dressers  to make custom-built, interior storm window inserts for Norwich and Hanover residents or those that work in Hanover and live within 30 minutes. The inserts are easy to install, remove, and reuse. They let light in, keep drafts out and reduce heating costs.

You can sign up for inserts and learn more on our two town websites (the signup button is the same for both
towns because this is a joint initiative):



Volunteers including those ordering window inserts will build the inserts at a Community Build, a barn-raising-style community event on November 12-17, 2021, at the Norwich Congregational Church.

The well supervised construction process will accommodate participants with a wide range of ability and mobility levels, making it an accessible and
fun event.

Low-income households may pay far less than the prices paid by others.  They will also be asked to pitch in as volunteers.  Renters can use the inserts as well!

If you are interested, have questions or want to see a sample insert, please email Judy Payne

Readings and Psalm for Sunday, August 22, 2021, Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

In Sunday’s gospel many people take offense at Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood; even many of Jesus’ disciples peel off. This is the backdrop in John’s gospel for Peter’s confession of faith. “To whom can we go?” asks Peter, in words we sometimes sing just before the gospel is read. “You have the words of eternal life.” In order to take such a stand, as Peter and Joshua did, Paul tells us to arm ourselves with the word of God. We pray in the Spirit that we might be bold ambassadors of the gospel.

Prayer of the Day

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal. Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth, that, renouncing what is false and evil, we may live in you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2aAnd Joshua said to all the people, 14“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

Psalm: Psalm 34:15-22

15The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
  and God’s ears are open to their cry.
16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
  to erase the remembrance of them from the earth.
17The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them
  and delivers them from all their troubles.
18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
  and saves those whose spirits are crushed. 
19Many are the troubles of the righteous,
  but the Lord delivers them from every one.
20God will keep safe all their bones;
  not one of them shall be broken.
21Evil will bring death to the wicked
  and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22O Lord, you redeem the life of your servants,
  and those who put their trust in you will not be punished. 

Second Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

10Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Gospel: John 6:56-69

 [Jesus said,] 56“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Readings and Psalm for Sunday, August 15, 2021, Mary Mother of Our Lord

Mary’s role is not limited to giving birth to Jesus and mothering him in his childhood. In John’s gospel, she is among the women standing near the cross; in Acts, she is among the disciples awaiting the gift of the Spirit. Through all that happened she continued to see how God was at work through her son, keeping the ancient promises to her ancestors, brushing aside the rich and powerful, and focusing on those as poor and powerless as Mary herself.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son, you made known your gracious regard for the poor, the lowly, and the despised. Grant us grace to receive your word in humility, and so to be made one with your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 61:7-11
Psalm 34:1-9
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 1:46-55

First Reading: Isaiah 61:7-11

7Because [the] shame [of God’s people] was double,
 and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot,
therefore they shall possess a double portion;
 everlasting joy shall be theirs.

8For I the Lord love justice,
 I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
 and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
 and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
 that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
 my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
 he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
 and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
 and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
 to spring up before all the nations.

Psalm: Psalm 34:1-9

1I will bless the Lord at all times;
 the praise of God shall ever be in my mouth.
2I will glory in the Lord;
let the lowly hear and rejoice.
3Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord;
 let us exalt God’s name together.
4I sought the Lord, who answered me
and delivered me from all my terrors. 
5Look upon the Lord and be radiant,
 and let not your faces be ashamed.
6I called in my affliction, and the Lord heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear the Lord
 and delivers them.
8Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who take refuge in God!
9Fear the Lord, you saints of the Lord,
 for those who fear the Lord lack nothing. 

Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

4When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Gospel: Luke 1:46-55

46Mary said,
 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
  47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
  and holy is his name.
50His mercy is for those who fear him
  from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  and lifted up the lowly;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
  and sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
  in remembrance of his mercy,
55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
  to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Synod Assembly 2021 Report

Editor’s Note: You can find 2021 NE Synod Assembly Videos and Resources here.

Wendy and I were asked to represent Our Savior Lutheran Church at this year’s virtual Synod Assembly. Many years ago, I had represented the congregation in-person in Springfield, Mass. The downside of the virtual format was the inability to meet-up face-to-face; the livestreaming of the worship service was choppy, and we didn’t “break bread together.” 

But, there were many benefits. 

The benefits:

  1. The administrative issues which required voting was handled very smoothly with plenty of advanced preparation. 
  2. All of the various Church’s social justice organizations were well represented and didn’t require individuals walking from one venue to another. 
  3. They were able to pull-off a wonderful tribute to honor the role of the women clergy of the ELCA. 
  4. You were able to clearly hear and see up close the various speakers.
  5. We didn’t need to look at the back of individual’s heads, and for those that chose to do so we could clearly see their faces.
  6. We didn’t have to travel to Springfield and stay overnight, but were able to participate in the comfort of our homes.

We realize the need to have an in person Synodical Assembly, but hope that it will also be offered via livestream so others who are interested could at least tune in and observe what is being discussed.

Keynote: Guy Erwin, Univ. Lutheran Seminary President

“We Never Did It This Way Before”

We need to do things in new ways; but we have always been adaptable.

What do congregations do today?

  1. Sustain themselves, provide continuity
  2. Provide worship
  3. Maintain Property
  4. Offer programs
  5. Teach the Faith
  6. Maintain a Pastor
  7. Support the wider Church body

We trust in Jesus, and count on others

  1. An established community
  2. Loyalty to identity
  3. Support of society
  4. An appeal to message and custom

Are these relevant?

Church is to offer:

  1. Blessing, communicate God’s love
  2. Spiritual nourishment
  3. Organizing community

What’s ahead for our Church as we know it?

  1. The Church may experience decreasing resources, as well as decreasing membership
  2. Looser community, less homogenous group, more diversity
  3. What are the core values that need to go forward?

Apply Luther today

  1. Rediscover Grace! Shift from fear of hell, to fear of meaningless
  2. Finding the Christ in everything
  3. Inspire, rather than information, how to process religious information

Big tent, little Church

God’s work, though our hands!!!!!

Bishop Davenport’s Sermon

Based on the reading of the Mustard seed. It is planted and then things happen, though no work on the part of the worker. As we go through the seasons of our lives, they are all different, but they are all true.

But we never did it this way before!!!

Mary didn’t say “But Lord, we never did it this way before!”, but the Apostles did question Jesus “But Lord, we never did it this way before!” Do we want to do it this way, or God’s way? Should we strive to work for “normal”, when normal didn’t work for everyone (racial injustice)? Only recently, with respect to women, LGBTQ rights, have we done things differently. True leaders don’t care much about the “role” as much as they care about the “goal”. We need to bring about God’s Kingdom, we need to work to show God’s love!!!

Bishop Hazelwood’s Report Summary and Conversations 

It is not going to be the same; there will be challenges and opportunities:

1. Creation of small groups to read, pray and break Bread together.

2. God is outside our “Buildings”, in the world

3. Hybrid church will continue and give access to those who couldn’t pre-pandemic

4. COVID has increased Faith; gathering versus connecting

The Church has an important voice:

  1. To achieve social justice
  2. The normal is different, how do we transition into something new?
  3. The church is not a “club”
  4. How we learn about Jesus, and teaching his Way

What does the future hold?

  1. The Bishop sees three basic Christian cultural expressions: Roman Catholics; Evangelical/Pentecostal; and Progressive Liturgical. We will need to partnership with other likeminded denominations, i.e., Episcopalian, Congregationalist, etc.,.
  2. Congregations will need to experiment, try new “things” even if this means that sometimes we will fail. (we heard from some congregation what they tried).
  3. “Weirdness”, what makes us different? We are unique; we are being reborn over and over again.

-Paul and Wendy Manganiello