August 30th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeMorning Has BrokenChris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerHenrik Strandskov
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnBring Peace to Earth Again
#700
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 50vs. 7-12, 18-22Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Sermon & ScripturePastor Linda
HymnIn Deepest Night
#699
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Barb Kass
Closing PrayerHenrik Strandskov
Benediction
Blessing
Pastor Linda
HymnGod of the Sparrow
#740
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludeby HaydnChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

Hello and welcome to this worship service of West Denmark Lutheran Church.

    Today we shift themes a bit – entering a liturgical season of creation. But, because America is having a moment – coronavirus, gun violence, racism, militarized policing, effects of global warming, revved up political posturing – it’s not going to be about bunnies and gardens and blue skies. It’s likely to be uncomfortable at points. You’ve probably realized in your own life, that real change seems to require having your feet slip out from under you. It’s in that disorienting view of the world from your bottom that another storyline becomes possible. And it is alternative storylines that finally give us hope. But first we feel the pain.


Confession & Forgiveness

P:  Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God, who forgives all our sin, whose mercy endures forever.
C: Amen

P: We confess our entanglements with justice, race, and power – 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.

P: Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy. For self-centered living, and for failing to walk with humility and gentleness and our eyes wide open:

      C: Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For selfishness, and for hearts that are not at rest with ourselves or with enough:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For misuse of human relationships, and for unwillingness to see the image of God in others:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For arrogance and attitudes that divide families, neighbors and nations; for racism, inherent and denied:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For reluctance in sharing the gifts of God, and for carelessness with the resources of this earth:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For hurtful words that condemn, and for angry deeds that harm:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

For squandering the gifts of love and grace and growth:

            Holy God, holy and immortal and among us, have mercy.

In the unrequited love of almighty God, Jesus Christ lived our human lot, and was murdered when we could not see past privilege and certainty and the end of our nose. Yet, for mercy’s sake, God forgives all of that, again and again. As a called and ordained minister of the church of Christ, and by his authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Creator, and of the + Christ, and of Holy Wisdom.
Amen.


Hymn – Bring Peace to Earth Again

1.
Where armies scourge the countryside,
and people flee in fear,
where sirens scream through flaming nights,
and death is ever near:
Refrain
O God of mercy, hear our prayer:
bring peace to earth again!

2.
Where anger festers in the heart,
and strikes with cruel hand;
where vio-lence stalks the troubled streets,
and terror haunts the land:
Refrain
O God of mercy, hear our prayer:
bring peace to earth again!

3.
Where homes are torn by bitter strife,
and love dissolves in blame;
where walls you meant for shelt’ring care
hide deeds of hurt and shame:
Refrain
O God of mercy, hear our prayer:
bring peace to earth again!

4.
O God, whose heart compassionate
bears every human pain,
redeem this vio-lent, wounding world
till gentleness shall reign.
Refrain
O God of mercy, hear our prayer:
bring peace to earth again!


Prayer of the Day

O God,
where hearts are fearful, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door, grant imagination and resilience. Where distrust twists our thinking, grant healing. Where spirits are weakened, grant soaring wings and strengthened dreams. Help us be the people you intended when you formed us from clay, when you puffed hopefully into those little nostrils. Let us be that creation.  Amen 


Psalm 50: 7-12; 18-22

7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak: Israel, I will bear wit-|ness against you;
for I am | God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because | of your sacrifices;
your burnt offerings are al-|ways before me.

9 I will not accept a calf | from your stalls,
nor goats | from your pens.

10 for all the wild animals of the for-|est are mine,
the cattle on a | thousand hills.

11 I know every bird | of the mountains,
and the creatures of the | fields are mine.

12 If I were hungry, I | would not tell you,
for the whole world is mine and all | that is in it.

18 You make friends with a thief | when you see one,
and you cast in your lot | with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your | lips for evil,
and your tongue devis-|es deceit.

20 You are always speaking evil | of your kin
and slandering your own | mother’s child.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still, and you thought that I | am like you.
I have made my accusation; I have put my case in or-|der before you.

22 Consider this well, you | who forget God,
lest I tear you apart and there be none to de-|liver you.


Scripture & Sermon

April 22 was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day’s Jubilee. I had the idea back then to keep the earth as a thread running through my year of preaching. We began the summer considering sabbath for the earth and for ourselves – even as we are experiencing an enforced sabbath – brought to us courtesy of the coronavirus. The theme merged to water as an image of God and my perhaps heretical suggestion/question: what if God is water – as intimately involved in our lives as the composition of each cell, as necessary for survival, as equally shared with all life.

The Season of Creation is another earth lens through which to read scripture. It began in 1989 when the Orthodox Patriarch proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for creation for the Orthodox Church. The World Council of Churches extended the celebration into a season, and the Lutheran World Federation joined in advocacy and witness to the gospel values of dignity, reconciliation, justice and peace.

The Season of Creation is a world-wide, ecumenical, liturgical conversation of environmental care. This year’s Season of Creation is a time to consider the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living, for the moral imagination that accompanies the Jubilee.

Because our faith is incarnational, because God brought into being a material world, and because God chose to live among the Israelites, living faith values human bodies. But not only human bodies. As the apostle Paul wrote, creation too, is groaning in labor pains, waiting for redemption. We are part of a lush, infinitely diverse habitat, surrounded by other life and dependent on it for our own welfare.

The season officially starts 1 September, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.

So that’s the introduction and field of exploration for the next month.

But we aren’t beginning in the very beginning. We will begin on day six, because I’m interested in those human bodies, and because staying silent is not an option.

Genesis 1:24-31, shortened slightly

“And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them. God blessed them, and said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.  God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

But it didn’t take long for a fatal flaw to emerge. God’s intention, God’s longing, was to be in an authentic, mutual relationship with the human creature. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” And so God gave us intelligence and creativity and self-determination. Yet somehow it went to our heads, and we devised ways of being gods, and lording it over, and dealing out death instead of life.

Genesis 6:3-6

Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

The prophet Isaiah takes up God’s voice:            

Isaiah 5

1Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
I expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!
8 Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
15 People are bowed down, everyone is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.
20 Ah, you who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes, and shrewd in your own sight!
22 Ah, you 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of their rights!

Micah continues:
Micah 6:1,3-8

Hear what the Lord says: ‘O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!’…

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Human beings, animals, water life, insects, plants, even things that we don’t think of as living; rocks, earth, mountains, sky and stars, all live in relationship to one another.  If all participants in creation are living together in a state of right relationship, balance occurs, and it is holy.  But when the relationship is troubled or broken, balance is disrupted, and negative consequences result.  When creation is abused or traumatized, it has a ripple effect on everything, including the relationships between people; and, vice versa, when human relationships are troubled or broken, consequences spill out into the natural world. This spinning cause and effect is the condition in which we live. We know the earth can heal itself given time and space. Disturbed, traumatized land doesn’t go back to the way it was before, but new things spring forth; adaptive growth and healing cover the old scars, a new landscape emerges.

What about traumatized human lives, disturbed relationships? Leaving them to their own devices doesn’t seem to have the same result as in nature. The hurt gets entrenched, abuse becomes the status quo, the divide becomes institutionalized. It has to do with that free will and creativity bit. Humans seek their own advancement over communal healing, grasp at power and wield it against others who must therefore be their enemies, be ‘less than’, be of no account. We’re not as eager to do justice, and love kindness, and to walk humbly with God than we are to approve of the words.

Racism, supremacy, is nothing new.  And because we live with it always in the background – and usually denied – it becomes the accepted way to live, to think, to react. We come to it innocently enough – taking on the values and biases of our parents, speaking a common cultural language, living in tribes of commonalities.  But we are all racist.  Accepting that is the first step. Maybe especially the church.

For example, chances are there isn’t a single blond-haired, blue-eyed white person in the Bible. Yet the Christmas angels and baby Jesus are usually blond and white in Christmas cards (Biblical angels all have male names, by the way. Put that in your manger scene!).

Seminaries like Luther are only now devising shortened programs and fewer restrictive pre-requirements that allow minorities access to Master of divinity degrees.  Religion has been shaped by centuries of white males in power. Theology (the interpretation of scripture) still relies on traditions of white males, emphasizing stories and agendas that advantage white males. How many “Christ the Mother Hen” Lutheran church’s do you see? It’s hard to name a church after the Ethiopian Eunuch – the only black man I can think of right now. That’s nobodies fault! But the fact remains that we are biased toward white privilege in the church.

White Christians are surprised – if not openly offended – at the idea that Abraham and Sarah were Iraqi, that Moses’ married a black woman, that Jesus most likely did not look European. It’s interesting that the Bible doesn’t tell stories about race. Slaves were not of a different race, they were the bounty of war or had debt they couldn’t repay. Ethnic differences come secondarily to religious beliefs, politics and economics in creating biblical outsiders or oppressed.

But not so with us. Our storyline is all about color. Good guys wear the white hats. Darkness is associated with danger, fear, sin. Dark hearts intend evil. What about dark skin?

But racism isn’t simply about personal prejudice based on the color of your skin. It has to do with social and institutional power, economics, policies that consistently advantage being white.

Words are important. They don’t prevent the killing of Black people (although they can incite it), and are not a substitution for action, but language does matter. Not being actively racist isn’t enough. The time has come for change. The call is to be actively anti-racist. There are questions we would do well to ask: What deep inner reckoning do I need to make? What changes can I make? How can I help build a more perfect union?  We need to learn and unlearn. We need to immerse ourselves in stories. We are stuck in a history we do not understand. We live in a country completely infected by racism, yet live in denial of its existence ‘here’. When this moment of COVID-19 awareness is past, what kind of return do we commit ourselves, our prayers to? Reform simply tweeks the status quo to make it more comfortable for those with power. Transformation, deconstruction, re-imagination is required, a new landscape, authentic communal change and shared power. That is the point of fear, of course. Especially for those who believe zero-sum gain scenarios. “If Blacks or other minorities come up, then I will be forced down. If they are given benefits, I will lose mine. If Black lives matter, then mine doesn’t.”

Facts are not the agent of change – love is, passion is, so, too, stories that transport us to new possibilities. Compassion – suffering with – in relationship. What if there was an interracial friend site like on-line dating? Like pen-pals of World War 2? What if we had an opportunity to be paired with a black congregation? Would we take it?

Change will happen when we are in enduring, inquisitive, respectful, loving relationships with people who are not white. Change will happen when we dare to be vulnerable and mutual and open to hearing the harm and abuse of discrimination, and confess our part, and repent (turn away from it) – taking responsibility for our moral compass.

The readings for today express God’s pained disappointment with the way of the human heart that justifies and blames and bullies. Our relationships with people are reflected in nature where we are just as ignorant, abusive, passive in the face of institutions and policies that favor the wealthy – are too big to inconvenience with emission controls, too important to reign in consumption. I realize the ‘we’ hardly applies to this congregation, but climate change and racism do rhyme. It’s not enough to be good individuals. More is at stake than our personal enjoyment of nature, or our recycling habits, or water use. Remaining silent and safe is not an option. That is not the life we are called to. That’s not the Christ whose life we follow.

This topic is too big for one sermon. I don’t know where or when it will show up next, but the gospel, the good news, is that we do have power, we do have imaginations, we are quite capable of devising new systems, new policies, new stories to tell. We could use our will to choose to share our  preferential status with the rest of creation and our human siblings.  Change is possible, overdue, required, blessed.   

May it be so.


Hymn – In Deepest Night

1.
In deepest night, in darkest days
when harps are hung, no songs we raise,
when silence must suffice as praise,
yet sounding in us quietly
there is the song of God.

2.
When friend was lost, when love deceived,
dear Jesus wept, God was bereaved;
so with us in our grief God grieves,
and round about us mournfully
there are the tears of God.

3.
When through the waters winds our path,
around us pain, around us death:
deep calls to deep, a saving breath,
and found beside us faithfully
there is the love of God.


Prayers of Intercession & Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

   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      

Blessing

God, grant that we may be inquisitive,
       persistent,
       committed,
to kindness,
to loving what we do not yet understand,
to walking humbly on this earth,
to being yours.  Amen


Hymn – God of the Sparrow

1.
God of the sparrow God of the whale
God of the swirling stars
How does the creature say Awe
How does the creature say Praise

2.
God of the earthquake God of the storm
God of the trumpet blast
How does the creature cry Woe
How does the creature cry Save

3.
God of the rainbow God of the cross
God of the empty grave
How does the creature say Grace
How does the creature say Thanks

4.
God of the hungry God of the sick
God of the prodigal
How does the creature say Care
How does the creature say Life

5.
God of the neighbor God of the foe
God of the pruning hook
How does the creature say Love
How does the creature say Peace

6.
God of the ages God near at hand
God of the loving heart
How do your children say Joy
How do your children say Home


Postlude

Chris Johansen