December 27th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeCarol of the BellsChris Johansen, piano
OpeningShawn Mai
Gathering SongO Come All Ye Faithful
#283
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
PrayerShawn Mai
Reading“The One and the Many”Shawn Mai
ReadingLuke 2: 1-7Mercy Wetzig
ReflectionShawn Mai
HymnYour Little Ones, Dear Lord
#286
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingLuke 2: 8-15Mercy Wetzig
Abel Wetzig
HymnAngels We Have Heard on High
#289
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
Readingby Richard RohrShawn Mai
ReflectionShawn Mai
ReadingJohn 1Shawn Mai
Musical Meditation“Every Star Shall Sing A Carol”Mark Hulsether
Prayers of IntercessionClaire Scriba
Lord’s PrayerShawn Mai
Closing HymnJoy to the World
#267
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
PostludeGod Rest, Ye Merry GentlemenChuck Parsons, organ

Note: I promised full audio, but forgot to record any of it! So find audio of music and prayers below.
-Chris T.


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening

We light this Candle on this, the brink of a new year,
Letting go of what has been,

All: Open and hopeful for what may come,

Renewed, restored, ready
To live Life fully anew.

All: May we move forward with intention.


Gathering Song – O Come All Ye Faithful

1.
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
come and behold him, born the king of angels:

Refrain:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

2.
The highest, most holy, light of light eternal,
born of a virgin, a mortal he comes;
Son of the Father now in flesh appearing!
[Refrain]

3.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God in the highest:
[Refrain]

4.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
[Refrain]


Prayer

Like the wise men we come to worship.

Like the shepherds we come to see what God has done.

And like believers through the ages,

we come to give thanks that God has not held God’s self distant,

but has entered our world with God’s love.

O come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord.

Amen.

Reading – The One and the Many
Scripture Reading – Luke 2: 1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Reflection

Every night before we go to sleep, Chuck and I always share “3 things.”  We’ve done it for years.  I started thinking about the theme that runs through many of those things.    Let me first say, there are days that it’s like slogging up the hill.  Those days that Chuck has felt lonely and isolated because of COVID or I’ve felt overwhelmed by too much going on at work, one of us forces the issue and it becomes simply a discipline.    Sometimes its not three, its one.

So, the theme.   A great meal, a particular time with one another, a connecting time with a friend, a beautiful hike, and most often on Fridays it has to do with Goerge or Sylvie.  Fridays we are child care providers.  What I notice, even on the crappy days, somehow love flows through the gratitude.   Love of food, love of nature, love of friends, love of family, love of love. 

What is love?  Is it simply a thought or random feeling? 

Might it be that unifying force?

I believe love is a transformational energy.  If this hasn’t been a year where we could easily become cynical about love and what it is, then sentimentality has won out.   

2020 has had plenty of that “tear us apart” energy.  A pandemic and nasty political climate have been layers of grief that have seemed relentless. 

Raping the earth, a climate crisis, food insecurities, poverty, homelessness, huge economic disparities, turning a blind eye to those suffering…those things that tear at the fabric of our humanity. 

Merry Chrismtas!

AND We are here today.  We are connected, albeit electronically, but connected. 

God is the connecting transformational energy that we experience as love.  The Christmas story is where we learn it comes to us in the vulnerability of a baby.  The story is a metaphor for how one bit of vulnerability blossoms into a gathering and connection of disparit people from different parts of the world and universe. 

It all starts with one. starts   One expression in vulnerability.    One infant looking back at us, on humanity with unconditional positive regard.  A look of love that is to you this day.

We have the joy of having our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren in our pandemic bubble.  Chuck and I babysit our grandchildren George and Sylvie every Friday.  Many weekends we take them to the cabin for Friday and their parents come up and join us for part or all of the weekend.

About a month ago I was getting ready to leave in my pickup and the kids were going to leave shortly after.  George followed me out the door and I turned around.  He was following me down the sidewalk and said: “I just want to see you leave.”    I was so taken with the look on his face I whipped my phone out to take a picture.  We have this look we share and the moment captured the look.  I felt seen.

In developmental psychology there is a “thing” called attachment.  Baby’s need a secure attachment that is usually created through a loving parental look.  Maybe Christmas is more about the infant looking back at us…somehow our taking in God’s unconditional positive regard.  God is less a father or a mother and simply the vulnerability of a baby.  No sense of judgement.  Just the existence of pure love looking back at each one of us. 


Hymn – Your Little Ones, Dear Lord

1.
Your little ones, dear Lord, are we,
and come your lowly bed to see;
enlighten ev’ry soul and mind,
that we the way to you may find.

2.
With songs we hasten you to greet,
and kiss the ground before your feet.
Oh, blessed hour, oh, sweetest night
That gave you birth, our soul’s delight.

3.
Oh, draw us wholly to you, Lord,
and to us your grace accord;
true faith and love to us impart,
that we may hold you in our heart.

4.
Until at last we too proclaim,
with all your saints, your glorious name;
in paradise our songs renew,
and praise you as the angels do.


Reading – Luke 2: 8-15

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”


Hymn – Angels We Have Heard on High

1.
Angels we have heard on high,
sweetly singing o’er the plains,
and the mountains in reply,
echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain:
Gloria in excelsis Deo;
gloria in excelsis Deo.

2.
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
which inspire your heavenly song?
[Refrain]

3.
Come to Bethlehem and see
him whose birth the angels sing;
come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
[Refrain]


Readings & Reflection

It’s starts with one and blossoms into a gathering and connection of disparit people from different parts of the world and universe.  Glory to God in the highest heaven.  Peace and good will to all people.

It is the power of that love coming together for good that changes the world.  It reminds me of the Jewish creation story.  Once there was one unified light that shown through all the universe and creation.  One day there was a terrible accident and that light was shattered into millions of pieces…each piece landing in every piece of creation throughout all of history.  Takun Olam is the Jewish notion that the work of humanity is to bring together all of those shards of light back into that one unified light.  It happens when one vulnerable love connects with another and pretty soon brings back together a portion of that light.

I saw it this summer when Mike Miles gathered together all the people who love this land around here and want to save it from corporate hog farming.  I caught it on facebook as I was in the cities.  What touched me was seeing Mike chatting up our conservative Republican neighbors who showed up to protest as well.  We love these neighbors and we sit on either side of a political divide.  To see Mike, in all of his loving liberalness loving up our beloved Trumpian neighbors, it was a moment of recognizing love transcending any political beliefs.

When we are one voice and we join with a chorus of others, in the name of love…love of neighbor, love of creation, or love of an infant Jesus…the world is transformed.  When one voice becomes many community transforms the world.  It is what drives us all back together each week to love.  Love one another and love, love.

Last fall in early October I was up at the lake house in the middle of the week.  It was a Wednesday night, so there would have been choir at church, but there is this pandemic.  I had gotten an email several days earlier announcing that Christmas in Christ Chapel at Gustavus would be happening virtually this year and not in person.  My years in Gustavus Choir were some of the most meaningful of my college experience.  Christmas in Christ Chapel was and continues to be a highlight of my Christmas season..  Each Christmas in Christ Chapel has ended the same way for the last 50 years.

The email I read was inviting Gustavus choir alum to tape themselves singing the last two verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful” as we sang it every year for Chrismtas in Christ Chapel.  Verse three in parts and verse four with the descant.  

With my lone voice in the living room I decided to give it a try.  They sent us the key to record it in.   It felt odd in October, all by myself, to sing a Christmas hymn, expecially singing base on a verse.  I did several takes.  I finally felt good enough about it to send it.   One acapella aging voice…what does one voice become when mixed with decades of others.  I found that out this past week.    Well, it happens to be about a great musical mixture, creative ears, love of music, and a spirit of community.  Somehow it came together.  The notion of one coming together and becoming a force for good hit me in the experience of taking my weak solitary voice on a cold October Wednesday night and putting it together with others. 

See the video here (note: the video will automatically start about an hour in, though you can start from the beginning if you’d like to watch the entirety of the event):


Musical Meditation

Mark Hulsether

Note: Video and Mark’s thoughts on the piece can be found at his blog, by clicking here:
https://marksbloggingexperiment.com/2020/12/27/12-songs-for-christmas-every-star-shall-sing-a-carol-new-millennium-peace-version/


Every star shall sing a carol
Every rock on every shore
Greet the dawn of new beginnings
Sing of hope for all who mourn

Glory to god, peace on earth; Hear the angels’ song.

When the powers that rule creation
Had a cradle on this earth
Holy was the human body,
Holy was the human birth

Who can tell what other bodies
God may hallow for a home?
Here today we welcome Jesus
Brother of our blood and bone

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Blessed are the ones who cry
Blessed those who thirst for justice
Soon their tears will turn to joy

Wolf will no more kill the rabbit
No more homeless in our streets
We will beat our swords to plowshares
Till the soil and plant good seed

Glory to god, peace on earth; Hear the angels’ song.

Babylon the great is fallen
Mighty tree bearing bitter fruit
Now the riders are approaching
Now the axe is laid to the roots

Glory to god, peace on earth; Hear the angels’ song.

Every star and every planet
Every creature great and small
Sing with us the angel chorus
Sing of hope and grace for all

Glory to god, peace on earth; Hear the angels’ song.



Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen


Closing Hymn – Joy to the World

1.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her king;
let ev’ry heart prepare him room
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n, and heav’n and nature sing.

2.
Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ,
while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3.
No more let sin and sorrow grow
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

4.
He rules the world with truth and grace
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love,
and wonders of his love,
and wonders, wonders of his love.


Postlude

Chuck Parsons

November 22nd Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeChuck Parsons, organ
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Christy Wetzig
HymnLift High the CrossChuck Parsons, organ
Psalm 136vs. 1-9, 23-26Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureJeremiah 36: 1-8, 21-23, 27-28Henrik Strandskov
Reflection Part 1Jeff & Christy Wetzig
ScriptureJeremiah 31: 31-34
Luke 22: 19-20
Henrik Strandskov
Reflection Part 2Jeff & Christy Wetzig
CreedJeff Wetzig
Prayers of IntercessionChristy Wetzig
Lord’s Prayer
Closing Prayer
Benediction
Jeff Wetzig
Closing HymnJesus Shall ReignChuck Parsons, organ
PostludeChris Johansen

All Parts


Prelude

Chuck Parsons


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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.     Amen

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.    Amen


Hymn – Lift High The Cross

Refrain
Lift high the cross,
the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore
his sacred name.

1.
Come, Christians, follow
where our captain trod,
our king victorious,
Christ, the Son of God.
Refrain

2.
All newborn servants
of the Crucified
bear on their brows the
seal of him who died.
Refrain


Psalm 136: 1-9, 23-26

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for the | Lord is good,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever.

2 Give thanks to the | God of gods,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever.

3 Give thanks to the | Lord of lords,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

4 who alone | does great wonders,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

5 who by wisdom | made the heavens,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

6 who spread out the earth up-|on the waters,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

7 who made | the great lights—
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

8 the sun to gov-|ern the day,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

9 the moon and the stars to gov-|ern the night,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

23 who remembered us in our | low estate,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

24 and rescued us | from our enemies,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

25 who gives food | to all creatures,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;

26 Give thanks to the | God of heaven,
for God’s mercy en-|dures forever;


Scripture: Jeremiah 36: 1-8, 21-23, 27-28

36 In the fourth year of Judah’s King Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Take a scroll and write in it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah, and all the nations from the time of Josiah until today. 3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I intend to bring upon them, they will turn from their evil ways, and I will forgive their wrongdoing and sins. 4 So Jeremiah sent for Baruch, Neriah’s son. As Jeremiah dictated all the words that the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them in the scroll. 5 Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I’m confined here and can’t go to the Lord’s temple. 6 So you go to the temple on the next day of fasting, and read the Lord’s words from the scroll that I have dictated to you. Read them so that all the people in the temple can hear them, as well as all the Judeans who have come from their towns. 7 If they turn from their evil ways, perhaps the Lord will hear their prayers. The Lord has threatened them with fierce anger.” 8 Baruch, Neriah’s son, did everything the prophet Jeremiah instructed him: he read all the Lord’s words from the scroll in the temple.

21 The king sent Jehudi to take the scroll, and he retrieved it from the room of Elishama the scribe. Then Jehudi read it to the king and all his royal officials who were standing next to the king. 22 Now it was the ninth month, and the king was staying in the winterized part of the palace with the firepot burning near him. 23 And whenever Jehudi read three or four columns of the scroll, the king would cut them off with a scribe’s knife and throw them into the firepot until the whole scroll was burned up.

27 The Lord’s word came to Jeremiah after the king had burned the scroll containing the words written by Baruch at Jeremiah’s dictation: 28 Get another scroll and write in it all the words that were in the first scroll that Judah’s King Jehoiakim burned.


Reflection

Christy & Jeff Wetzig

Performance art. In case you’ve never heard of performance art, here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
Performance art is an artwork or art exhibition created through actions executed by the artist or other participants. It may be live, through documentation, spontaneously or written, presented to a public in a Fine Arts context, traditionally interdisciplinary.

These are those artists who sit in a room for 24 hours straight without moving while wearing a bed pan on their head. Or something like that. People love to deride performance art because it can get pretty uncomfortable and weird. You could make a painting or write an article, but to get a visceral reaction, one must use one’s own viscera; hence the preferred medium for these artists is their own bodies. It’s the physical reaction to a perhaps shocking behavior that could have the power to change society or the world. 
Here’s an example. A colleague of mine, Wayne Roosa, wrote about one performance artist using his body to call attention to a societal problem.

 Chinese artist Zhang Huan performed his Twelve Square Meters in the poor neighborhood of Beijing East Village in 1994, a protest against the deplorable sanitation conditions of public toilets there. The toilets did not work, flies swarmed, and the stench of human waste was everywhere. Complaints to the government got no notice. So Zhang brought attention to the situation by lathering his naked body with honey and fish oil and sitting on a rough-hewn latrine in the public toilets until hordes of flies and insects covered him. In this way he shamed the authorities into cleaning up. The courage required to transgress against decorum, sanitation, and law, in a generation of young Chinese artists whom the government often jailed as unpatriotic for protesting human rights violations, is quite extraordinary. But it also put the artist in bodily and legal jeopardy.

The Avant-Garde and Sacred Discontent: Contemporary Performance Artists Meet Ancient Jewish Prophets
Wayne Roosa
Image Journal: issue 83

Another performance artist, to draw attention to his cause, laid on his left side for 390 days and then rolled over onto his right side for 40 days. While lying on his side he baked bread over a fire made from cow dung and ate it.

Another performance artist bought new underwear and wore it without washing it for a certain amount of time, then buried it on the banks of a river for another stretch of time. He then dug up the composted underwear and tried to put it on.

Wait, Jeff, that was Jeremiah. 

No, that’s all performance art.

I’m pretty sure that’s Jeremiah, and the guy with the dung bread was Ezekiel. God had wanted Ezekiel to bake the bread over a fire of human dung, but Ezekiel refused and so cow dung was their compromise. God had the prophets do some pretty personal stuff. Like Hosea who was told to marry a prostitute who would be unfaithful to him. And Jeremiah never married or had children because God forbade him.

And just like the performance artists in China, or anybody who speaks truth to power, the prophets were pretty unpopular people. Jeremiah spends a lot of time in prison or on the run for the things he says and does; once he gets thrown into a cistern and sinks into the mud. In chapter 20 he curses the day he was born because everyone hates him, mocks what he says, and still the word of God burns inside him so he can do nothing to resist it. 

In the passage for today Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch record God’s message of judgement on a scroll. It’s the first time Jeremiah has been asked to write God’s words down. As the scroll is read before the king, the king participates in the drama by cutting it apart, column by column, and throwing each piece into the fire. Then he commands his henchmen to seize Jeremiah and Baruch.

“But God hides them.” So Baruch gets another scroll, and writes down all the words from Jeremiah’s mouth, and, the text says, “added to them many similar words.”

It’s another visceral performance, the word of God is no longer just soundwaves in the ear, but words scratched onto a page, and the bodies here are full of action, and there’s the violence of a slicing knife and flame that reduces the page to ash.

In the past God had spoken out the words of judgement, placed them on the tongues of the prophets, but no one listened. God had tried to embody his words with these elaborate, bizarre performances by the prophets that would make visual and physical his words for the people. The people laughed. Now God tries a new tack, to have his words written down, made physical on the page. But like the ten commandments in the hands of Moses, the first copy is destroyed and another copy has to be made, and Jeremiah goes on the run.

It wasn’t working. The covenant God was seeking with the people kept getting broken–God’s people turned the other way. There had to be another way to get through to them.


Scripture: Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Luke 22: 19-20

31 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

Luke 22:
19 After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.

Reflection pt 2

Christy & Jeff Wetzig

It’s God’s last ditch effort, to write out God’s covenant with the people by tattooing it on their hearts. There would be no escape, no chance for them to break it. How did God physically embody this covenant? By becoming a baby, lying in a manger, God in a baby’s body, and this body would be broken and consumed, bit by bit by a trailing host of eager, disloyal, doubting, trusting lovers.

How’s that for performance art?

As a postscript, we would like to acknowledge just how hard it is to worship in this virtual way. God made us with bodies, linked the physical with the spiritual and so God used the prophets’ bodies to teach and Jesus was God’s body, but here we are trying to do church while squinting into our screens, alone in our rooms talking to our computers. God bless Zoom and everything, but this virtual experience of worship can end up ringing pretty tinny–exactly because it lacks all connection to the visceral and corporeal. It denies our bodies’ desire to worship.

We used to take our bodies to a sacred space and participate in rituals that were an extension of the prophets’ work making spiritual ideas physical, and then we would go have coffee–sit beside one another, hug or shake hands, eat cookies together, wipe up each others’ crumbs. It was communion a second time over.

But just because we can’t sit with each other in the pew or at the table doesn’t mean that we can only “virtually” worship–your body will feel left out. Decide on a ritual of your own and then observe it. Light a candle and pray as the smoke rises. Go outside to a special spot and sing a psalm. Or pick up the phone. Make something and leave it on a doorstep. Do what you can–be creative–do something this week to bring God into the world, to make God visible just like Jeremiah did.

See, I knew we could make performance artists out of them.


Creed

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.     Amen

~Julian of Norwich


Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Closing Prayer

God, whose fondness for humanity knows no limit,
Write your word upon our hearts, so that we need no scroll, no book, no script to know that you love us. Show us the power of your covenant, that you will be faithful to us, even when we fail to remain faithful to you. For the beauty of your word inscribed upon us, we pray, in the name of the one whose body and blood became your new covenant with us, Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Amen.

Blessing

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


Hymn – Jesus Shall Reign

1.
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run;
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2.
To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head;
his name like sweet perfume shall rise
with ev’ry morning sacrifice.


Postlude

Chris Johansen

October 25th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeIf You BelieveChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Barb Kass
HymnSoli Deo GloriaHarry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Barb Kass
Psalm 89vs. 1-8Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Scripture2 Samuel 7: 1-17
ReflectionMike Miles
ScriptureLuke 1: 30-33
ReflectionBarb Kass
Statement of FaithBarb Kass
Prayers of Intercession
Offering Prayer
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Barb Kass
PostludeChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

In heart and spirit, we are gathered together in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.                          

     Amen

Recognizing our need for forgiveness, for belonging, let us confess our sin, and seek reconciliation with God and with each other.

                   Silence for reflection and self-examination.

God of justice and compassion,

we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.

We have not been faithful stewards of your love, of your word of grace, of your creation, or of our harvest and abundance. Too many hunger in our world of plenty. Forgive our sin, increase our faith, strengthen us in service, and bring us to trust in the everlasting life that is ours through your Son.    Amen

In the mercy of God, there is forgiveness; there is life, and redemption, and peace.                

     Amen


Hymn – Soli Deo Gloria

1.
O God of blessings, all praise to you!
Your love surrounds us our whole life through.
You are the freedom of those oppressed;
you are the comfort of all distressed.
Come now, O holy and welcome guest:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

2.
All praise for prophets, through grace inspired
to preach and witness with hearts on fire.
Your Spirit chooses the weak and small
to sing the new reign where mighty fall;
with them may we live your gospel call:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

3.
All praise for music, deep gift profound,
through hands and voices in holy sound;
the psalms of David, and Mary’s praise,
in wordless splendor and lyric phrase,
with all creation one song we raise:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

4.
All praise for Jesus, best gift divine
through word and witness, in bread and wine;
incarnate love song of boundless grace,
priest, teacher, prophet in time and space,
your steadfast kindness with human face:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!

5.
A billion voices in one great song,
now soft and gentle, now deep and strong,
in every culture and style and key,
from hill and valley, with sky and sea,
with Christ we praise you eternally:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!


Prayer of the Day

In peace lies the future which is not hidden in the present instant.  The gloom of the world is but a shadow behind it yet within reach, is joy. Take joy. Now and forever may the day break and the shadows flee away.  (We are, after all) half heroes, anti-heroes, half-hearted sons and daughters, echoing faintly, or not at all, hiding out, dreading that love that summons us, summons us, when all is said, to become ourselves which can only be, by choosing… to be chosen. Amen.

~ Daniel Berrigan


Psalm 89

1 Your love, O Lord, forever | will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will pro-|claim your faithfulness.

2 For I am persuaded that your steadfast love is estab-|lished forever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly | in the heavens.

3 “I have made a covenant with my | chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to Da-|vid my servant:

4 ‘I will establish your | line forever,
and preserve your throne for all | generations.’ “

5 The heavens praise your won-|ders, O Lord,
and your faithfulness in the assembly of the | holy ones;

6 for who in the skies can be compared | to the Lord?
Who is like the Lord a-|mong the gods?—

7 a God who is feared in the council of the | holy ones,
great and awesome to those | all around.

8 Who is like you, Lord | God of hosts?
O mighty Lord, your faithfulness is | all around you.


Scripture: 2 Samuel 7: 1-17

1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. 17 In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.


Reflection

Mike Miles

 I’m guessing that many of you are familiar with folk music. More often than not, a song tells a tale, a story that may be nothing more than how a beautiful sunset caught you by surprise because of the way clouds were rolling through after a summer shower. Some can recall epic adventures that describe the rise and fall of empires or sea journeys that take months or even years to complete.

The back story of getting from there to here sometimes has to be unpacked to make the present moment make sense. The story behind the song takes longer to tell than to just to sing the song.  What precedes our text today is one of those times that needs a second look if we are to understand what is going on right before our eyes.

Way back in Genesis, God called Abraham to leave Ur (in southern Iraq) to go to Canaan where he was promised that he would be made into a great nation. There were many stops along the way, so many that by the time he arrived in the land he was promised, he was ninety-nine years old, Sarah his wife was way beyond child bearing years, and yet the promise made to him was fulfilled and Isaac was born.

The nomadic life that Abraham embraced continued with his clan even after his death. They never aspired to be anything but shepherds tending their flocks. Even in the place they had been promised, they existed as strangers sojourning in a foreign land. They never fully occupied it, taking it over and acting as though it was theirs. They lived in their tents, herded their sheep, and to the writer of the book of Hebrews, that was a sign that they were living by faith.

This detachment from possession and place made them dependent on God in ways that seem utterly foreign to us. It’s not as though they didn’t have other options. They came in contact with other occupants of the land, people who raised grains and tended vineyards. People who built villages and cities.  People who had other gods. Life for all of them was tentative, dependent on weather and water, and the good will of tribes who came and went trusting each other to share the bounty of the land.

Fast forward to the escape from Egypt, 40 years wandering in the wilderness and the return to Canaan. There were more Israelites, more Canaanites, Philistines, gods of all kinds, and miraculous interventions that kept everyone guessing who is really in charge here. In short, a recipe for disorder, conflict, war. Life under the judges became much less tolerable and the Israelites began seeking new ways to deal with the chaos.         

They wanted to be like all the other people they were meeting along the way and have a king. They were sternly warned by Samuel that having a king was not as straight forward a solution as they thought. Kings didn’t exist for the sake of the people, the people existed for the sake of the king.

A king would have the authority to conscript the young men into armies and labor camps to provide safety and wealth for their rulers. A king collected wives and concubines from whomever caught his fancy. A king would take the best of their vineyards and fields, exact taxes, demand loyalty and service.

The prospect of becoming slaves, losing control over their possessions, their children and servants, and serving at the whim of their king did not deter them. The people were willing to accept this fate so they could be “like all the nations”. God told Samuel to give them what they were asking for and that began the downward slide into being assimilated by the worst of cultural and political idolatry that surrounded them.

The descent begins immediately. The chosen people begin to reflect all the failings of their pagan neighbors. War, greed, immorality, deceit, become standards of conduct. God rejects their first king Saul, and David is courted as his replacement. The embrace of this dysfunction is reflected as the Israelites pivot on a dime chanting, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” I Samuel 18:7.

David, who not too long ago was no more than a meager shepherd, has been in constant motion since being chosen. He has to flee for his life from Saul, wage battles here and there all over Canaan, capture Jerusalem, and rescue the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. One of his allies seeks to earn his favor by building him a palace, and he finally decides that he has earned a well deserved rest.

The first thing he reflects on is the injustice of him living in a palace while God remains in a tent. David has been so enamored of the pagan landscapes around him that he can’t fathom how God could claim that she has no intention of living in a temple- a tent is where she has always lived and that is what she is content with. God prefers mobility, keeping options open, modesty.

David has been distracted by what he sees as his legacy-lots of fancy stuff, power and prestige, safety for the nation. The usual kingly agenda. He has lost track of what is really important- a community of common purpose that transcends time with justice and equality for all. That is the “house” that God wants to build for David and his descendants.

We, like David, have been corrupted by the idolatry that surrounds us-we want better stuff and more of it. The modest satisfaction of daily bread from our interactions with Creation is quaint and from a time and place that we have long ago transcended. Who needs the garden when we have Amazon Prime?

The question is, do we see ourselves as settlers or sojourners? Are we David or Abraham? How we answer determines where our hopes, and loyalties lie, what our professions will be, who we serve and why. Are we building our own legacies or longing for a kingdom that is just for all.  Are we here to possess or are we only visiting?


Scripture: Luke 1: 30-33

30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

Reflection

Barb Kass

I was glad when Mike said he could write something about the 2 Samuel passage. Honestly it did not do much for me. God’s promises to David are generous, and God follows through even though David makes a mess of his life time and time again. The Psalms are certainly a testimony to the faithfulness of God from the point of a very fallible David.

To have this paired with Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is more interesting to me. I am struck by the parallel of God choosing two young, vulnerable people. God’s way of choosing the unexpected –David the shepherd-boy and the woman child Mary, may be because they are the ones who can hear and believe that God will do a new thing on this earth. And both say yes.

The contrast that is most striking to me is while David gets a whole page of promises: kingship, protection from enemies, dwelling place for David’s people, rest and an everlasting legacy, Mary simply receives the message that she has found favor with God. No promises of anything really- except a pregnancy outside the confines of her commitment to Joseph resulting in the birth of a son who “will be great, be called the Son of the Most High, will be given the throne of his father David,  and will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; with an everlasting kingdom.”

What did Mary get out of the offer? Judgement and gossip about the pregnancy, a birth in the harshest of conditions, the need to flee her country and become a refugee to protect her child from a threatened and jealous king, realization at an early age that Jesus looked to a parent beyond herself and Joseph, 18 years of guy on the couch? We don’t really know how Mary stood the suspense of wondering what was going to happen when Jesus “emerged”. Then the fear of the consequences of his public ministry only to be rebuked by his “who is my mother, who are my brothers…”, and finally the arrest, trial and crucifixion, all witnessed by the woman who said yes. And the resurrection.

I have to wonder, why did Mary say yes, and also ask, what if she had said no?

There is more written about this than I expected. I was glad for the grammar police pointing out that her response recorded as “may it be” is not passive but the middle voice; not indicative but an optative mood. What does that mean?

The middle voice suggests co-operation, not passivity.

The optative mood indicates possibility, not certainty.

Did Mary have a choice to make?

On one hand, some refer to Mary’s statement as “an expression of resignation to the will of God” (Barnes) – Mary’s passive acknowledgment of a done deal.

On the other hand, some understand her words as active consent. Here’s one sample: God’s message, writes Godet, by the mouth of the angel was not a command. The part Mary had to fulfill made no demands on her. It only remained, therefore, for Mary to consent to the consequences of the Divine offer. She gives this consent in a word at once simple and sublime, which involved the most extraordinary act of faith … Mary submitted herself of her own free will to what she felt was the will and wish of her God. 

What if …Mary did have a choice, what if she had said ‘no’?

For sure, God’s ultimate purposes cannot, and will not, be frustrated. Paul writes, “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman …” (Galatians 4:4). This holy text says, “born of a woman”; it does not say “Mary.” It is speculation on my part, but if Mary had said “no,” Jesus would still have been “born of a woman,” but not Mary. At that point in divine salvation-history, the Son was sent; the Savior was born; God took on complete humanity (the incarnation). Nothing could frustrate that – not even Mary.

But Mary says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”

God picks the unlikely, unexpected, the young and vulnerable, Mary. She is the child who sings in the Magnificat that the mighty will be brought low, and the poor raised up. Mary is us, in our better moments. She represents that every one of us is a recipient of God’s grace.

The 13th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said it this way: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the Divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? Then is the fullness of time: when the Son of God is begotten in us.”

What if Mary had said, “No?” What would God have done to her (if God ever takes ‘no’ for an answer.) Certainly not some hard punishment. We are not saved by our works, but by faith. And it is not Mary’s works or actions that bring the Messiah into the world, but her faith. But it does present a question. And if Meister Eckhart is right, that we are all meant to be “mothers of God,” what would it mean if we say “No,” if we shrink from the angel, but do not come around and give assent?

Augustine said it is like this: “When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from the light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. So it is when people withdraw from God.”

In the second of Allesandro Allori’s paintings of the meeting between Mary and Gabriel, Mary shrinks from the angel, creating a moment of promise and peril. Dianne Bergant wrote: “According to ancient Christian writers, God waits for Mary’s yes; creation waits; Adam and Eve wait; the dead in the underworld wait; the angels wait; and so do we. With Mary’s yes, hope is enlivened and history is changed. Salvation is created among us, and the fate of history is altered by a Godly presence.”

When God asks us to participate with in moving his purposes toward completion, do we have a choice to make? I believe the answer is yes.

What if we say “no”?

For sure, God’s ultimate purposes cannot, and will not, be frustrated. Will it simply, yet profoundly, mean that we exclude ourselves from participating in what God is doing? Possibly and sometimes it is just that way.

If we let Mary’s words guide and encourage: “I am the Lord’s servant, … may it be to me as you have said,” a free and willing yes, we can let her words influence our mind and heart as we’re invited to cooperate with God – whether in something small and apparently insignificant, or large and utterly unimaginable.   Like David, like Mary, we choose to be chosen.


Song – Wayfaring Stranger

Performed by Mike Block & Derek Gripper

Statement of Faith

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
We believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus

     to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:

     to celebrate God’s presence,
     to live with respect in Creation,
     to love and serve others,
     to seek justice and resist evil,
     to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our center and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.  Amen


Prayers of Intercession

Offering Prayer

Lover of our souls, you open wide your hands and satisfy the needs of every living creature. We thank you and bless you for your tender care. Through the time, skills, and financial resources we give to our congregation help us to serve our neighbors, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and bring justice to the oppressed in our world. Help us in these gifts to go where you send us, in all the beautiful names of God.    Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

The God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.

Amen


Postlude

Chris Johansen

October 18th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby BachChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Jeff Wetzig
Gathering SongCome Down, O Love Divine
#804
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 75vs. 1-12Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Scripture1 Samuel 1: 9-11, 19-20, 2: 1-10Jeff Wetzig
ReflectionChristy Wetzig
HymnMagnificat from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReflectionClaire Scriba
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s PrayerJeff Wetzig
BenedictionJeff Wetzig
Closing HymnGuide Me Ever, Great Redeemer
#618
Pastor Linda
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludePrecious LordChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

Most Merciful God,

We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.

Amen

God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead in sin,

and made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. Almighty God strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit, that Christ may live in your hearts through faith.

Amen      


Hymn – Come Down, O Love Divine

1.
Come down, O Love divine; seek thou this soul of mine
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near; within my heart appear
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

2.
Oh, let it freely burn, till worldly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

3.
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing—
true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

4.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the pow’r of human telling;
no soul can guess Love’s grace till it become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.


Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, you are always ready to hear our cries. Teach us to rely day and night on your care. Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all this suffering world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen


Psalm 75

1 We give you thanks, O God, we | give you thanks,
calling upon your name and declaring all your won-|derful deeds.

2 “I will appoint a | time,” says God;
“I will | judge with equity.

3 Though the earth and all its inhab-|itants crumble,
I will make its | pillars fast.

4 I will say to the boasters, | ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not | lift your horns;

5 do not lift your | horns so high,
nor speak with | a proud neck.’ “

6 For exaltation comes neither from the east nor | from the west,
nor does it come | from the wilderness.

7 It is | God who judges,
who puts down one and lifts | up another.

8 For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup full of spiced and | foaming wine;
the Lord will pour it out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and | drain the dregs.

9 But I will re-|joice forever;
I will sing praises to the | God of Jacob.

10 “I will break off all the horns | of the wicked;
but the horns of the righteous shall | be exalted.”


Scripture: 1 Samuel 1: 9-11, 19-20, 2: 1-10

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

2
1Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
    for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
    the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
    he will give strength to his king,
    and exalt the power of his anointed.”


Reflection

Christy Wetzig

Hannah was married to Elkanah. She wasn’t able to have children, and in this culture having an heir was so important that, in order to provide himself with a child, Elkanah was entitled to take another wife. This wife, Peninnah, bore lots of children, and she liked to rub it in. It was a lowly thing in that culture, to be a barren wife. Even though Hannah had the love of Elkanah, she had no standing in the culture–when he died, all she owned would go to Peninnah’s children, and there would be no one to take care of her. She was a step away from being a beggar on the street.

When Hannah goes to the temple, pleads for a child, and God grants her desire, she sings this song. She sings of the way God comes to the aid of the downtrodden and reverses the fortunes of the powerful. She sings of a God who delights in subverting the values of our world–not just rocking the boat, but overturning it.

We see this theme again and again in the Bible. Gideon, in the book of Judges, appears in a nightmare to one of his enemies, not as a powerful soldier but as a loaf of barley bread bouncing down the mountain, squashing the army. Samson, that strong man, after his strength is shaved from him, leans against a wall and prays for God’s strength. The house falls down around him, killing more Philistines than he ever had as a strong man. Samson was the son of another barren woman who, like Hannah, prayed to God for a baby. Hannah, singing as her sister Mary would in a thousand years, that old song about God saving the weak and laughing at the strength of the powerful.

The old song is continued with the Beatitudes, Jesus’ great words subverting the values of our culture once and for all. Jesus was, after all, the earth-shattering incarnation of this–Jesus intervening on behalf of the poor, Jesus preaching against the oppression of the religious elite, Jesus ducking a revolution–instead giving his life quietly, humbly, in a declaration of God’s love for humanity.

But why does God favor the poor and weak? Surely poverty and powerlessness doesn’t make one righteous?

The classic, ​A Light in the Forest​ by Conrad Richter, tells about how surprised the Native Americans were when European settlers erected barns and storehouses almost before they built houses. The bigger these buildings were, the richer the farmers were–the more invulnerable to severe winters and the hunger that plagued the native tribes. But instead of chucking their hunting and gathering traditions in favor of the more enlightened “Get Big or Get Out” ethic, the natives clung to their ways, much to the surprise of the white invaders. According to an elder in ​A Light in the Forest​,

Some Indians think [the Great Spirit] favors the white people. They say the white people have their flocks of cattle to kill from when they are hungry…The Indian has none of these…Some think this is bad, but of truth it is good. It shows the Indian he is not supported by storehouses but by the Ruler of Heaven…I have often been in want. It taught me that the Great Spirit suffers us Indians to be so for a purpose. It’s to show us our dependence on him who is the Father of us all and to let us know that if we do our part he will always supply us at just the right time.

Although we risk romanticizing poverty here, we see that the vulnerability that scarcity reveals can bring a person closer to one’s Creator, reminding us that we rely on God for every need. Come winter, a man with hungry children at home would be more likely to pray on his knees for a deer to cross his path, and gratitude would make fragrant the pot of stew that it provided. A strong man made weak would pray to God for strength. Barley bread rolling down the hill would find its fierceness only in God, not the deadliness of its crumb. A woman sobbing for a child looks to God for succor and provision.

But we sitting here in front of our computers are not hungry hunters or barren women, and frankly Hannah, singing her song, holding her firstborn in her arms, was no longer downtrodden either. Like us, she had standing in society. Hers was born of being the mother to a son. Ours comes from white privilege, education, land ownership, bank accounts…

Shouldn’t Hannah, like us, be prepared to be overthrown, to be knocked overboard so that others more favored by God can climb into the boat?
I’d say, wear your life jackets. Welcome a plunge into cold water.

But looking at Hannah’s song again, and Mary’s song, and Jesus’ beatitudes, I see another undercurrent. It’s humility, that memory of our substance–dirt clasped in the hand of God, the soil into which our bodies will return again, our breath only the briefly borrowed spirit of God, animating for a time our lungs of clay.

“Talk no more so very proudly,” Hannah sings.

It doesn’t sound like much–humility–but it might be enough to overturn the boat of privilege. Observing our shared carbon composition with not just other

human beings but with our neighbors the squirrels and our neighbors the oak trees, might just make our privileged duds feel a little shabby. Might make us want to tear down our storehouses of dust. Might make us jump out of the boat of our own accord, to make room for others.

I’m not sure how to “become humble.” It sounds like a self-help book read upside down. For me, humility seems to begin out of the discipline of eating weeds from the garden, and being nourished by them. The discipline of getting on my knees in the woods and harvesting mushrooms. Being thankful for these gifts of the humus, for which I neither toil nor reap. The discipline of any work that brings me closer to the ground. I hope this helps me understand more fully my humanity, which I hold in common with my enemy, that other person over there.

But these are just baby steps really. What we should be doing is looking for God to act. Hannah believed fully in the benevolent intervention of God in the world. She saw God bringing justice into an unjust world. So maybe instead of looking to see what we can do we should really be getting out of the way of God’s working. Maybe that’s true humility, true poverty–realizing that we’re just a loaf of barley bread. But what wonders of grace, mercy, love, and justice God can work with a loaf of barley bread, we have but to step back and see.


Hymn – Magnificat

My soul proclaims your greatness O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you;
you have looked with love on your servant here
and blessed me all my life through.

Great and mighty are you, O holy One
Strong is your kindness, evermore,
How you favor the weak and lowly one,
Humbling the proud of heart

You have cast the mighty down from their thrones
and uplifted the humble of heart
You have filled the hungry with wondrous things
And left the wealthy no part

Great and mighty are you, O faithful one
Strong is your justice, strong your love
As you promised to Sarah and Abraham,
Kindness forevermore

My soul proclaims your greatness O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you;
you have looked with love on your servant here
and blessed me all my life through.


Reflection

Claire Scriba

I didn’t want to write on this text.  I almost turned it down.  “So Hannah got lucky, I said to myself.  I wonder if it lasted.”  It reminded me of my unanswered prayers and on bad days I fall into a pit just thinking about them.  It reminded me of times I couldn’t recognize my own face for the bitterness it wore. 

So I decided I’d write about unanswered prayers instead and I spent the week on why a benevolent God would allow bad things to happen.  It’s a very old topic, ancient really.  A lot of people have written about it, so many that there’s a special word for that kind of argument…theodicy.  I couldn’t follow the arguments I found and the old ones I knew by heart just made me angrier…..humility, faith, submission and gratitude.  Sops for fools I said to myself.  I was really angry.

So I decided I’d wait till after the Saturday discussion, like Linda does, to write this and I was still loaded for bear when I joined it yesterday.  I told them that I thought songs of praise like this were rubbish, sweet propaganda written by men to entice the not-yet-disillusioned into the fold.  I asked them where to put anger like mine, where in the Bible there are real answers for it.  And not Job, please, I was too angry for Job. 

Those kind West Denmark people listened.  They didn’t turn away, they didn’t try to mollify. They talked a bit about their own experiences, they welcomed what they called my courage in bringing up a hard subject.  I was gently reminded of the book of Psalms.  And, of course, there was my answer.  As Mike Miles says “if the answer isn’t love, you’re asking the wrong question.”  I was heard with love and my anger dissipated.  This morning it is gone though I can still feel where it burned me. 

I am mercurial by nature.  I can blow very hot and very cold, though not as often as I used to.  And I owe that improvement to West Denmark, to you.  West Denmark is a safe place to be human and that is what I’d like to ask you about.

This is what I’d really like to know:  How have you done it?  How have you made West Denmark a safe place to be fully human? Yesterday’s discussion was a perfect example of what actually does help with unanswered prayers and grief: a safe place to share them, and that’s what all of you are, a safe place to be real.  I’ve done it several times here, in tears and in puzzlement and yesterday in anger and you have never failed me.  You’ve listened and you’ve talked with me as I’ve dropped one rock after another out of my backpack.  I carry around fewer rocks these days and joy visits me much more often because of you.

I’ve never found a church like you.  I feel very close to the Kingdom of God here.  If I weren’t committed elsewhere I’d never have moved away and I’d ask to be buried in your cemetery. 

I think you should consider my question seriously, though, because you have a miraculous thing going and each of you is contributing to it all the time.  Aren’t you curious, too?  What are the seeds this all grew from?  Why do they still prosper?  Do they have to be Danish? Name the parts if you would, I want the recipe. I want you to have the recipe too so you can delight in being an ingredient. 

Then again I don’t expect you’ll spend too much time on that list.  I can almost hear Donna Mortensen saying “Well, it’s nothing special, it’s just what good humans are supposed to do.”  Thank you, each of you.  You are a wonder to me.


Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

The God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.

Amen


Hymn – Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer

1.
Guide me ever, great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore, feed me now and evermore.

2.
Open now the crystal fountain where the healing waters flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliv’rer, strong deliv’rer,
shield me with your mighty arm, shield me with your mighty arm.

3.
When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs and praises, songs and praises
I will raise for evermore, I will raise forevermore.


Postlude

Chris Johansen