August 23rd Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby KabalevskyChris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerChris Tou
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnTree of Life and Awesome Mystery
#334, vs. 1, Lent 3,4,5
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 46Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Sermon & ScripturePastor Linda
CreedPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s PrayerPastor Linda
Closing PrayerChris Tou
Pastor Linda
HymnShall We Gather at the River
#423, vs. 1 & 4
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludeby MozartChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Chris Johansen


Confession & Forgiveness

Ten years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution affirming that water and sanitation are fundamental human rights “essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” 

Water was not included in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it seemed to be a limitless resource available to all. But a perfect storm of global water depletion and destruction, growing poverty and inequality, and rising water rates for residents – often the result of the privatization of water services – led to a full blown human rights crisis by the turn of the 21st century. With billions living without access to clean water and sanitation, the call for water justice was born. The fight to recognize the human right to water was surprisingly fierce and bitter. It was opposed by the private water utilities and the bottled water industry, the World Bank that was promoting water privatization in developing countries, the World Water Council, and many wealthy countries of the North, including Great Britain, Canada and the United States. 

P:  In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen

P: We confess our entanglements with justice, hurts, and greed – and God’s difficult, blessed vision of a very different way. We seek the face of God, confessing our sin.

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

Holy God,
we have sinned against you and each other. We pray for your forgiveness and healing. The good we want to do, we often fail to do. The harmful actions and thoughts we do not want, we turn to again and again. Deliver us, Gracious God. Save us, save our neighbors, save all your creatures from our lack of imagination and courage. Gird us for the challenges of change needed, called for, overdue. Guide our way in your way.    

P:  We who were once far off have been brought near to God through the cross of Christ. May we forgive one another as God in Christ has first forgiven us.    

Hymn – Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery

Tree of Life and awesome myst’ry,
in your death we are reborn:
though you die in all of hist’ry,
still you rise with ev’ry morn,
still you rise with ev’ry morn.

Living Water of salvation,
be the fountain of each soul;
springing up in new creation,
flow in us and make us whole,
flow in us and make us whole.

Give us eyes to see you clearly;
make us children of your light.
Give us hearts to live more nearly
as your gospel shining bright,
as your gospel shining bright.

God of all our fear and sorrow,
God who lives beyond our death,
hold us close through each tomorrow,
love as near as ev’ry breath,
love as near as ev’ry breath.

Prayer of the Day

O God,
eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and rest and are satisfied. There is so much we take for granted, so much we fail to see because of its familiar and ordinary nature. Fill us with wonder and appreciation for the mystery and majesty of all that has being through you. Fill this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you. We offer these prayers in all the holy names of God.

Psalm 46

1 God is our ref-|uge and strength,
a very present | help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the | earth be moved,
and though the mountains shake in the depths | of the sea;

3 though its waters | rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble | with its tumult

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the cit-|y of God,
the holy habitation of | the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall | not be shaken;
God shall help it at the | break of day.

6 The nations rage, and the | kingdoms shake;
God speaks, and the earth | melts away.

7 The Lord of | hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob | is our stronghold.

8 Come now, regard the works | of the Lord,
what desolations God has brought up-|on the earth:

9 behold the one who makes war to cease in | all the world;
who breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the | shields with fire.

10 “Be still, then, and know that | I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted | in the earth.”

11 The Lord of | hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob | is our stronghold.

Scripture & Sermon

God: the Alpha and Omega, first and last. That which was before all things, when nothing as yet existed.

In his books Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle argues that the existence of change (of seasons, for example) requires “that there must be an immortal, unchanging being, ultimately responsible for all wholeness and orderliness in the sensible world.” This Unmoved Mover must be perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplating only the perfect contemplation.” The very supposition of a ‘before’ and ‘after’, requires some first, prior principle. He argues that in the beginning, if the cosmos had come to be, this first motion would lack an antecedent state, and since “nothing comes from nothing,” therefore, by logical necessity, God exists.

300 years earlier, the Greek philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, Thales, is recognized as the first to turn from mythology in explaining the world and the universe, and instead explained natural objects and phenomena by naturalistic theories and hypotheses, in a precursor to modern science. Aristotle reported Thales’ hypothesis that the originating principle of nature and the nature of matter was a single material substance, namely, water.

Genesis 1

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters.

This likely sounds familiar. It began last week’s reading. You might also remember that I wasn’t able to finish my sermon last week – and listening in on the zoom service, I was almost glad. You’re very good at taking up a topic and playing with it, offering ideas and reflections and questions. That might be a way to combine “new” church and “normal” church when we take to our pews again. I’ll write half a sermon and you all can contribute the rest!

Anyway, I haven’t gotten last week’s aborted topic out of my system. By now, you may realize that I like imagery. I think and remember things in pictures, not sentences. I would never have cut it in classical Greek culture. I have made a point over the years of introducing you to a variety of images for God, (including female). I believe that when we are presented with something that doesn’t fit our pre-conceived categories or stock images, we’re forced to consider that dissonance, to pause our rote religious expectations — and think! And that’s my preaching goal. I want to coax you away from static, standard, simple images and conventions and assumptions. I want Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling ‘old white man with a beard and bulging muscles in a pink dress’ to be just one of many ways you picture God.

I want a flood of options to flash before your eyes: a gardener planting Eden, a potter forming little creatures from dust and ashes and water; God as clothing – swaddling, cloak, breastplate; God as purifying fire, as warrior, as king; God as shepherd, as lamb; God as woman sweeping her house or kneading bread, God as mother hen, God as eagle; God as dazzling bright cosmic light; and, yes, God as Water, the originating principle and prime material substance of the cosmos.

And, when, on Day 6, after the wild animals of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind has been paraded past, God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’, I want you to wonder about that image. What part of God, what feature or trait or substance is it that we share?

I’m threading fine line, but at least for today, follow me into heresy. I’m playing with a ‘what if.’

What if God is water? What if Thales and Aristotle were right? What if water is the image in which we are created? It means our bodies are 60% divine. That should give us pause – both in how we treat our own bodies, but certainly in how dismissive, egocentric, human-centric we can be in regard to other creaturely bodies, also equally divine. It means every living thing is sacred, because every living thing contains water. It means the very fact of our continued existence requires God. Humans can live for up to 40 days without food, but every living cell in our body requires water to function. Water lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, and helps to flush waste. We can live only 3 to 7 days without water.

1 In the beginning was the Water, and the Water was with God, and the Water was God. 2 Water was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in water was life.

~retelling of John 1

Primordial ooze – that watery chaos of complex cells and gregarious genomes that the wind of God’s Spirit nursed into life; rain and snow coming down from heaven, watering the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, accomplishing the divine purpose, succeeding in the thing for which it is sent; water pouring on the thirsty land, streams on dry ground; a new thing springing forth, (do you not perceive it?) a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, springs gushing forth in the valleys; still waters in green pastures, living waters of the co-creative womb; ever-flowing streams rolling down justice and righteousness in a parched and weary world; water flowing from the pierced side of Jesus; a river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Come, to springs of living water.

God is water because all things – seen and unseen, known and unknown – are in God and, as water, God is in all things. All things react to water, are acted upon by water, and new things spring forth: microbes and long dormant seeds come to life when water soaks into dry soil — like hope in despair. The oldest mature seed that has grown into a viable plant was a Judean date palm seed about 2,000 years old, recovered from excavations at Herod the Great’s palace. The oldest carbon-14-dated seed that has grown into a viable plant was Silene stenophylla (a campion), an Arctic flower native to Siberia. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed an age for the seeds of 31,800 years (±300 years). In 2007, more than 600,000 frozen mature and immature seeds were found buried in 70 squirrel hibernation burrows 125 ft below the permafrost. Believed to have been buried by Arctic ground squirrels, three of the immature seeds were viable. Scientists successfully germinated plants which grew, flowered and created viable seeds of their own. Rain and melting snow form rivulets and streams and rivers – and along their way leach minerals from the earth and stones, and the salt water seas are created.
Water performs miracles.

So, of course, water is vital and amazing, and a source of kinetic energy – turbine and geothermal. Water has awesome power in tsunamis or a single, steady drip. Water is poised, liminal as glistening dew on a spider’s web. Water is luminous, reflective in and of light, self-revealing profound depths in shadow. Water is a portal to mystery – of growth, of ocean depths beyond the limits of human ability or reach or understanding. Water is powerful, dangerous, capable of great destruction, life-taking, as well was life-giving. But/and through danger and suffering, change occurs, new life rises. Water powers the climate in an eternal cycle, and will as long and heaven and earth endure.
But is water God?

I am playing with this proposition. I’m pretty sure I don’t really think God is water. But, all things are possible with God… and if cherished, necessary, ordinary, abundant, always-with-us water is how God chose to be present with us in this earthly experiment, while yet cosmically absolutely other; being God for the rest of the cosmos uniquely present in their need, then I’m interested in the then what’s.

What difference might it make if God is ordinary water with all of its extraordinary qualities and uses and necessities and apparent contradictions?

Jesus’ parables teach the kingdom by means of everyday, ordinary experiences. Maybe we got waylaid and misdirected by those Greek philosophers and their dualistic, logical necessities. And maybe the biblical redactors and writers of both testaments were so intent on being distinct from the pagan’s little gods that they flung us out too far in the other direction, describing God and distancing God to project power over all, instead of being satisfied with power in all, through all, uniting all. Majesty and glory glinting off rippling waves, reflecting the whole world in a single drop.

Water is a known entity. Water is ordinary and extraordinary. We all (ideally) have access to water, interact with water daily, immerse ourselves, quench our thirst, offer it up to a stranger – a cool glass of life-giving, sacred sustaining.
An Omnipotent God, King of the universe, Exalted and robed in majesty with the blue planet as His footstool is perhaps good on the Sistine chapel ceiling, but is too ‘other’ to love; is perhaps a God to fear, a God to bow before in subservience and shame, but not the God God wanted to be for us in the first incarnation – the first mixology. God wanted to surround and uphold us, to teach us to float on turbulent waters, trusting in the power of buoyancy and hope and the breath in our lungs. God wanted to take us out like Abraham and show us the night sky. And gently dampen us with dew while we count the stars. Envelop, surround, quench her little earthlings and comfort us, not judge us from on high, from that ceiling throwing thunderbolts. Maybe God did not want to be known as a God who punishes and divides and bullies – created in our own image of threatened self-reflecting, but instead to be known in the beauty of ordinary time, ordinary events, remembered with every shower, rejoiced over in every baptism, present in very day, in every living thing.

Maybe we were given the wrong image to worship and love and share.
Have I coaxed you into that creative dissonance of perceiving something new?


In you, Father all-mighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and Savior. 
In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. 
         You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us.
         You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.    

~Julian of Norwich

Prayers of Intercession

As we are one in the spirit, though separated in body, let us pray for the church, the world, and all that is in it. Your response today is Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

Generous Creator, as summer draws to its close and the sounds, scents, and sights of autumn await us, remind us to appreciate and share the beauty and bounty you bestow on us in every season. Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

God whose ways are not our ways, we pray for those whose lives, homes, and livelihoods are in danger from the effects of fire and wind and for those living under the threat of hurricanes. We acknowledge that some “acts of God” are consequences of our own acts of carelessness and poor stewardship of your creation. Inspire us to care for the suffering and to do what we can to prevent further disasters. Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

God of all, we pray for our brothers and sisters in all nations who are facing their own problems while we are concentrating on our own. Let us not forget that we are all in this world together. Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

Loving God, we pray for our nation, for our elected leaders and representatives at all levels, that they may make wise and thoughtful decisions for the good of all. Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

God who is with us in times of sorrow and suffering, we pray for all those grieving the loss of loved ones, and for all those who are ill, injured, or frail in body, mind, or spirit. We pray for all who are separated from those they love by the pandemic. We pray for those who serve in our military and police forces , that they may return home safe and whole in body and spirit . Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.

We ask all this in the strong name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer


   May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you.

    May the Lord look upon you with favor and grant you peace.   Amen      


Go with the strength you have.
     Go simply
Go in search of Love.
And know the Spirit of God goes with you.

Hymn – Shall We Gather at the River

Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
the beautiful, the beautiful river;
gather with the saints at the river
that flows by the throne of God.

Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
soon our pilgrimage will cease;
soon our happy hearts will quiver
with the melody of peace.


Chris Johansen