September 13th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby BachChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnFor the Beauty of the Earth
#879
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 104vs. 1, 5, 6, 9-15Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Sermon & ScripturePastor Linda
HymnTouch the Earth Gently
#739
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Statement of Faith
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
Offering Prayer
Benediction
Blessing
Pastor Linda
HymnLet All Things Now Living
#881
PostludeOn Eagle’s WingsChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

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

This is week two of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical 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 creates a common good.  The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.

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

Presider:         We gather in the image of the Creator

Congregation:   who is a community of love.

We gather in the name of the Redeemer

who reconciles all of creation.

We gather in the presence of the Giver

who inspires new life and renews it.

This is the 24th week of Ordinary Time and week three of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. It’s time to consider community, food sourcing and nutrition, our relationship to animals, the forests, water, the earth. Recognizing the pain, repenting of our part, creating new life in alternative storylines – this is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.


Confession & Forgiveness

We praise you God, for the Earth that sustains life. Through the cycles of days and seasons, growth, dormancy, and renewal, you open your hand to give all creatures our food in due season. In your Wisdom you called for a Sabbath for the land to rest. But our living pushes the planet beyond its limits. Our demand for growth and the endless cycle of production, consumption, and waste is exhausting our world. The forests are burning, the topsoil erodes, the fields fail, the deserts advance, the seas acidify, storms intensify. Humans and animals are forced to flee in search of security. We have not allowed the land to observe a Sabbath, and the Earth is struggling to renew. And so we confess:

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.

You tell us the land must rest, free from the burden of production. You call us to pause from sowing, pruning, and reaping in ways that destroy the soil and local ecologies, yet we confess our demand for cheap food that accepts the abuse of pesticides, modifications, fertilizers and mono-crops that push the land to be sterile.

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.

You assure us that all can be filled from the yield of the earth, that our security is found in ‘enough’, yet we lack the courage to resist the myth of endless growth. We refuse to be satisfied. You call us to fairness and justice, to share equally, to walk humbly, yet we are mostly unwilling to live in ways that are sustainable and akin to the co-creatures of our habitats.

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.      

Turn us from fear and mistrust. Free us to imagine – and to live – a life reconciled to the Earth and all it must sustain, through the Good News of Jesus Christ, in whose hopeful name we pray.  Amen.


Hymn – For the Beauty of the Earth

1.
For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Refrain
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

2.
For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flow’r,
sun and moon and stars of light:
Refrain
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

3.
For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:
Refrain
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

4.
For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above;
for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Refrain
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

5.
For each perfect gift of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heav’n;
for thyself, best gift divine,
to our world so freely giv’n:
Refrain
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.


Greeting

We gather in the triune name of sacred Love. May God’s peace be ever with you, Christ’s mercy near at hand, and may the Holy Spirit guide and encourage you in all circumstances and in every need.   Amen

Prayer of the Day

As the rain hides the stars, as the mist hides the hills,
as the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of Thy face from me.
Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness, it is enough,
since I know, that though I may stumble in my going,
Thou dost not fall. And ever it is so, O God of grace, with Thee.
Amen

~ traditional Scottish Gaelic prayer


Psalm 104: 1, 5, 6, 9-15

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, you are | very great!
You are clothed with majes-|ty and splendor.

5 You set the earth upon | its foundations,
so that from now until forever it shall nev-|er be moved.

6 You covered it with the deep as | with a garment;
the waters stood a-|bove the mountains.

9 You set the limits that they | should not pass;
never shall they return to cover the | earth again.

10 You made the springs | into rivers
that flow be-|tween the mountains.

11 All the animals drink their | fill from them,
and the wild donkeys | quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air | make their nests;
among the branches they | lift their voice.

13 From your dwelling on high, you wa-|ter the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit | of your works.

14 You make grass grow for the cattle, and plants to serve | humankind.
that they may bring forth food | from the earth,

15 wine to gladden human hearts, oil to | make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the | human heart.


Scripture & Sermon

This is part three of a long sermon!

We began with Day 6 of Genesis 1 with a man and woman mysteriously made in the image or likeness of God. Last week turned the page to the second story of creation. God formed Adam from adamah (a dustling from the dust of the earth) and gave him the Garden to tend and till. But God thought that it was not good for the man to be alone, so, from the same dust, God formed all the other animals of the field and birds of the air, and brought them one by one to the man to see what he would call them, but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. And, uniquely, God created a woman from the man: bone from bone, flesh from flesh – not dust (not even from Venus!) 

Perhaps this was done so that we would hold all things in common with one another; being thus made communally, we would be one, though many.

I haven’t wondered about that before, about ‘why not dust?’    Maybe it helps account for God’s disappointment. Almost immediately, in trying to defend his own wrong behavior, the man blamed the woman and the enmity began – even before enmity toward the snake!

It’s fun to preach on familiar stories, because we know the basic outline. It leaves me free to ask questions and poke around in the details.

So. Eden. I always pictured a garden named Eden. The Garden of Eden. Am I alone in this? It didn’t occur to me that Eden was a land or region separate from, and larger than, the garden. But it was.         

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…[God made the man and set him off to the side.] And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the [same] ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were also in the midst of the garden.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Newly interested, I studied a map. The four rivers become one in southern Iraq. But that would not have been Eden. The four rivers converge there and empty into the Persian Gulf – the flow is wrong.

“A river flows out of Eden into the garden to water it, and from there it divides…” The Tigris and Euphrates originate in the mountains of Turkey and flow south. That would place Eden to the north, in arid mountainous wilderness where rain and snowmelt begin the mighty rivers. The ‘one river’ might have been a tenuous stream. That’s better.  It is there, in an austere, primal landscape that God plants a garden. The man (and all living things – flora and fauna) are made from wilderness soil. I hadn’t noticed this before. It seems significant. I do realize that we’re talking about the arid mid-east where wilderness was common, but the garden wasn’t planted in the Fertile Crescent, nor did it arise from the lush Nile Delta. That’s not our dust. The garden was planted where growth was less a given. The contrast more stark. Think of the wilderness stories: Abram was called out of Iraq and then Syria to go where the Lord would show him – eventually to Egypt, and three visitors came to him and Sara in the desert to say ancient she would bear a child. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away and out into the wilderness, and shown a well in the nick of time. Likewise, a ram got its horns stuck in a thicket to save Isaak’s life. Moses led the Israelites through the dusty wilderness for 40 years so that the next generation would enter the land of milk and honey. Jesus went from his baptism immediately  into the wilderness for 40 days. You can probably add to this list, but my point is that God seems to use the austerity for special purpose. God seems to use the likelihood of death to accentuate life. New things spring forth in the desert. So what might it mean that we are formed from that dust of toil and promise, vulnerable and enduring?

It might be another sign that life sparkles with God (hand-made with God-imbued wilderness dust, created in the image of Water). Life is created in the mystery of thin places, places where the line between life and death shimmers, it is so delicate, yet the desert itself is powerful, broad and deep.

Or it might be an overlooked warning of what’s coming. Another assumption I made was that the Garden of Eden was perfect. It was not perfect. Maybe I’m the only one who thought that it was, because the imperfections are kind of glaring.  “…And the man and woman were both naked, innocent, and were not ashamed.” We turn the page. Chapter 3. Ominous segue in the soundtrack. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.” Whispered misinformation and conspiracy theories there in the Garden. The lure of forbidden fruit. Blame and counter-blame and shame. In the Garden.

And out we go, sadder but wiser. Back to the wilderness, to toil by the sweat of one’s brow, yielding thorns and thistles in the plants of the field. Bearing children in pain, yet desiring the man even though he shall rule over you. Returning to the ground, for out of it you were taken. You are dust, (wilderness dust) and to dust you shall return.  Eden, and not the Garden, became our habitat. Arid, difficult soil becomes us, biblically, and figuratively. We get used to it.

But God did not push Adam and Eve out the door and slam the garden gate behind them. Well, yes, that did happen, but God came out, too, to be with them. God clothed them in skin, and sighed, and closed the door on the two great trees. I wonder what happened to the animals? The author left their fate to our imaginations. I’m still wondering if there were two of each by now, or still only the prototype named by Adam. I picture a parade, a precursor – all the animals and creeping and hopping critters coming out two by two and scampering off to explore. I like happy beginnings.

The world outside the garden became home.

Where is your home? Not your house, but your bit of ecology, the landscape that lights up when you see it, the part of creation that is of great consequence to you? We are fortunate to live rurally – there is such diversity available for our unique, particular inclinations. I hope there is a field or a tree or a rose you love… passionately. That is what it takes to change our behavior to match our intellectual values, and if we do not change, our climate will, too fast, and the world will suffer. We’ve been seeing the pain in California and Portland, on the Gulf Coast; the permafrost is melting; we’ve got denial and willful ignorance in charge of our national response. So it’s up to us to act with courage and self-denial and rational hope. We don’t need to fix the whole thing. We each need to love one river, one field, one tree, one butterfly or honey bee.

What does it mean—’tame’?” asked Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince.

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose. “

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important,”said the fox.

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.”

~ selections from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

For what bit of creation are you responsible?

Why do you think the Lord God wanted Adam to name each animal and bird God brought into being?

We will only change our behavior when we love, name, notice.

“Do not be afraid, I am with you,” said the Lord your God, “I have called you by name and you are mine.”                                          

~Isaiah 43:1

Hymn – Touch the Earth Gently

1.
Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently,
nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender,
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

2.
We who endanger, who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster clouds of disaster–
God of our planet, forestall and forgive!

3.
Let there be greening, birth from the burning,
water that blesses, and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children,
regeneration that peace will complete.

4.
God of all living, God of all loving,
God of the seedling, the snow, and the sun,
teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us,
using us gently, and making us one.


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

Peace

Lord’s Prayer


Offertory Prayer

You asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose,
    I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them, for the work was hard. You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.
    I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my life that you might work through me.
    I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only in those who make it easy to do so.
Lord, forgive me, renew me, heal me, nurture me, empower me, send me out as an instrument of your peace and justice that I might take seriously the meaning of servant-leadership.
Amen.                                               

~ Joe Seramane, Christian Aid Lifelines, South Africa

Benediction

May God who established the dance of creation,
Who marveled at the lilies of the field,
Who finds order in chaos,
Lead us to transform our lives and the Church to reflect God’s glory in creation.
Amen

Blessing

Go in peace with the strength you have.
            Go simply
            lightly
            gently
Go in search of Love.
And know the Spirit of God goes with you. You are not alone.  Amen


Hymn – Let All Things Now Living

1.
Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, God’s light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished,
as forward we travel from light into light.

2.
God rules all the forces: the stars in their courses
and sun in its orbit obediently shine;
the hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
the deeps of the ocean proclaim God divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing:
with glad adoration a song let us raise
till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, hosanna and praise!”


Postlude

Chris Johansen

September 6th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeTry to RememberChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnGather Us In
#532
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 24Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Sermon & ScripturePastor Linda
HymnO God of Every Nation
#713, vs 1-3
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Statement of Faith
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
HymnBind Us Together
WOV #748
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Offering Prayer
Benediction
Blessing
Pastor Linda
HymnWhen Love is Found
WOV #749, vs. 1-4
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludeby JoplinChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

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

This is week two of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical 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 creates a common good.  The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find 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 – Gather Us In

1.
Here in this place the new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away;
see in this space our fears and our dreamings
brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in, the lost and forsaken,
gather us in, the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

2.
We are the young, our lives are a myst’ry,
we are the old who yearn for your face;
we have been sung throughout all of hist’ry,
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in, the rich and the haughty,
gather us in, the proud and the strong;
give us a heart, so meek and so lowly,
give us the courage to enter the song.

3.
Here we will take the wine and the water,
here we will take the bread of new birth,
here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion,
give us to eat the bread that is you;
nourish us well, and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

4.
Not in the dark of buildings confining,
not in some heaven, light years away —
here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Gather us in and hold us forever,
gather us in and make us your own;
gather us in, all peoples together,
fire… of life in our flesh and our bone.


Greeting

We gather in the triune name of sacred Love. May God’s peace be ever with you, Christ’s mercy near at hand, and may the Holy Spirit guide and encourage you in all circumstances and in every need.   Amen

Prayer of the Day

 Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may move every human heart; that the barriers dividing us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; and that with our divisions healed, we might live in justice and peace and appreciation of the diversity your presence makes holy.     Amen.


Psalm 24

1 The earth is the lord’s and all | that is in it,
the world and those who | dwell therein.

2 For the Lord has founded it up-|on the seas
and established it up-|on the rivers

3 Who may ascend the mountain | of the Lord,
and who may stand in God’s | holy place?

4 Those of innocent hands and puri-|ty of heart,
who do not swear on God’s being, nor do they pledge by | what is false.

5 They shall receive blessing | from the Lord
and righteousness from the god of | their salvation.

6 Such is the generation of those who seek | you, O Lord,
of those who seek your face, O | God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O ever-|lasting doors,
that the King of glory | may come in.

8 Who is this | King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, might-|y in battle!

9 Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O ever-|lasting doors,
that the King of glory | may come in.

10 Who is this | King of glory?
Truly, the Lord of hosts is the | King of glory.


Scripture & Sermon – God’s Sensitivity to Relationships

We entered the Season of Creation last week with the creation of humans as told in Chapter 1 of the book of Genesis. There are two different creation narratives – not mutually exclusive, but definitely different in timelines and detail. They come from different ancient oral traditions. I like that. Chapter 1 is more of a cosmic view: the spirit of God blowing, rippling the face of the deep, organizing chaos into sunlight and moon-shadows, water and dry land. First creatures of the water appear, then birds winging the air, then land animals and, lastly, humans created in the never-explained ‘likeness’ of God.

 Chapter 2 provides a more incarnate vision, revealing a God deeply involved in the details of the handiwork…

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up… the Lord God formed man (adám) from the dust of the ground (adamáh), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east… Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it….

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman.           

~ lightly edited from Genesis 2

I like so many things about this story – it is part of my foundational image of God, kneeling by a stream forming figures from clay. I would think God would have started with snakes – they’re the easiest, then fish, birds – working up to humans in order of complexity. But no. God began with Adam. Then set the little man aside and planted a garden. Now, while the garden was growing, I imagine God observing this new thing, this little man figuring out how to move its limbs and fingers; how to walk, how to make sounds; poking around in the river clay himself, trying to eat it, perhaps, or rolling snakes and coiling snails. Finally, the garden was ready and Adam was placed carefully inside the hedged walls of his oasis. God continued to observe the man’s (likely awkward) efforts of discovery. After all, everything was new, and nothing had schematics for use. Despite beauty and prolific growth and pleasing green, Adam – no doubt overwhelmed – eventually sat down on a rock and watched ants. Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.

This is where I was headed, in case you’ve been wondering: God’s discovery that one is not enough. This realization was followed by a long stretch of research and development. Out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. But, as the Zebra whinnied away in search of greener grass, Adam sighed. There was not a helper found to be his partner. Animal husbandry and genetics was next on God’s learning curve, but, when you start with a prototype, special considerations must be made. A rib will do.  And the man said, ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.

“When love is found and hope comes home, sing and be glad…praise God and share our maker’s joy.” This (and other verses) come as a preview from our final song. It’s often used as a wedding song, but I am expanding/extending its love to friendships and community.

We are created for community. It is not good for the man or woman to be alone. Companions are needed. Helpers and partners make more things more possible. We are learning that in COVID-time. Even a helpmate or spouse is barely enough. We long for our gatherings of old. We see a masked friend and want to rush in for a handshake or hug. We miss the ease of family gatherings and community events prior to wondering how to keep ourselves and others virus free. This longing for touch and camaraderie is built in. Think of apostle Paul’s metaphor:

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say,‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong’, that would not make it any less a part of the body… If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?

~ from 1 Corinthians 12

We are communal creatures from the drawing board, requiring the skills and knowledge and personalities of others. Together we provide safety, strength, harmony, creative imagination and problem solving, food and cooking and art.  There is a sense of personal wholeness when we are together with others in a family or close community. There is accountability and nurture, mutual respect to work through issues that arise, someone to listen, someone to advise, someone to teach, others to love and be loved by. This mutual indwelling love seems to be God’s plan and purpose.

“When love has flowered in trust and care, build each day that love may dare to reach to beyond home’s warmth and light, to serve and strive for truth and right.”

But, the Eden story continues, and we know in life that intelligence and guile and hissed half-truths sneak in to poison trust and relationships, and things fall apart, badly. And God became sorry that he had created the human creatures, and it grieved him to his heart.

There is evil in the world. I believe that there are backstories and explanations for the evil in human hearts, and I trust that God works redemption for them, too, somehow, but the actions of betrayal and torture and slander and death cry out for justice. As we know from racism, sexism, bigotry – it is deep and insidious and inbred and becomes systemic, the norm, the expected way. Violence is the usual outcome of evil and greater violence has become the expected way of countering it. The deep human need for a sense of belonging  – and often the isolation of being, or perceiving to be, kept out of community – can turn to tribalism, threatening and being threatened by, lashing out. Our warring world history and local, current confrontations of protesting groups play this dynamic out before our eyes. Violence and murder are the first story out of Eden for a reason. Where there is love, and where two or three are gathered, there is jealousy, and hurt, and hate.

When love is torn and trust betrayed, pray strength to love till torments fade, till lovers keep no score of wrong but hear through pain love’s Easter song.

Loving our neighbors, even our enemies, is God’s difficult claim on our hearts. We are made for community, and called to hold it together; to uphold each person’s dignity and beloved status, to stand against those who would threaten it, to teach peaceful paths toward truth and reconciliation and not shy away because it is difficult work or inconvenient or will mess with our peaceful lives.

America, in particular, has a national narrative of individualism. At both a personal and national level, it is not good. Isolation leads to many ills – that’s why the phrase was changed from personal distancing to physical distancing as a means to slow the transmission rate of the virus. After a month or two of personal isolation efforts, it was obvious that community was still required – space between people and bubble groups is what is needed, not isolation from them.

COVID-time is teaching many old lessons and revealing some inconvenient truths. But there is also reason to hope. Animal shelters had a run of people looking for a pet to bring into their confined space. Freed from the coop, but without the usual places to congregate, people are rediscovering parks and nature. Gardening and home-made food has seen a resurgence as grocery store shelves emptied of convenience foods and restaurants closed. With the threatened meat shortage, people looked more seriously at vegetarian options. It’s not a return to Eden, but community gardens and communities looking at their options for local food supply is a major step forward for the earth. Domestic animals – and encounters with wild critters – provide a sense of purpose, warmth, opening up, comfort. We feel better in multi-species settings like the backyard or a woods walk. We get out of ourselves for a bit and are refreshed by the change. Many of us have taken to naming and forming relationships with the chipmunks that show up as soon as the back door is opened. (well, maybe I take that a step further than you do). But, being in nature, learning to name plants and geological features, awareness of the animals and birds and microbes that share our habitat, appreciation for the tremendous diversity (and fear of its loss) is a giant step toward love. And it is only love for the other that causes us to take up the challenge of personal change for the common good. And that is a pretty good definition of community and sacred living. Love for the other that causes us to take up the challenge of personal change for the common good.

“Lift up your hearts. Let love be fed through death and life in broken bread.”


Hymn – O God of Every Nation

1.
O God of ev’ry nation, of ev’ry race and land,
redeem your whole creation with your almighty hand;
where hate and fear divide us and bitter threats are hurled,
in love and mercy guide us and heal our strife-torn world.

2.
From search for wealth and power and scorn of truth and right,
from trust in bombs that shower destruction through the night,
from pride of race and station and blindness to your way,
deliver ev’ry nation, eternal God, we pray.

3.
Lord, strengthen all who labor that all may find release
from fear of rattling saber, from dread of war’s increase;
when hope and courage falter, Lord, let your voice be heard;
with faith that none can alter, your servants under-gird.


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

Lord’s Prayer


Hymn – Bind Us Together

Refrain
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together
with cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, Lord;
bind us together in love.

1.
There is only one God.
There is only one King.
There is only one Body;
that is why we can sing.
Refrain

2.
You are the family of God.
You are the promise divine.
You are God’s chosen desire,
your are the glorious new wine.
Refrain


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.

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 – When Love is Found

1.
When love is found and hope comes home,
sing and be glad that two are one.
When love explodes and fills the sky,
praise God and share our maker’s joy.

2.
When love has flow’red in trust and care,
build both each day that love may dare
to reach beyond home’s warmth and light,
to serve and strive for truth and right.

3.
When love is tried as loved ones change,
hold still to hope though all seems strange,
till ease returns and love grows wise
through list’ning ears and opened eyes.

4.
When love is torn and trust betrayed,
pray strength to love till torments fade,
till lovers keep no score of wrong
but hear through pain love’s Easter song.


Postlude

Chris Johansen

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

August 23rd Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby KabalevskyChris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerChris Tou
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnTree of Life and Awesome Mystery
#334, vs. 1, Lent 3,4,5
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
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
Benediction
Blessing
Pastor Linda
HymnShall We Gather at the River
#423, vs. 1 & 4
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludeby MozartChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

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.    
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 – Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.
Amen


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?


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

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

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

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 – Shall We Gather at the River

1.
Shall we gather at the river,
where bright angel feet have trod,
with its crystal tide forever
flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain
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.

4.
Soon we’ll reach the shining river,
soon our pilgrimage will cease;
soon our happy hearts will quiver
with the melody of peace.
Refrain


Postlude

Chris Johansen

August 16th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeArabesque
Debussy
Chris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnWord of God, Come Down on Earth
#510
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayPastor Linda
Psalm 36: 5-10Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingGenesis 1
John 1
Pastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
CreedPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionClaire Scriba
Lord’s Prayer
Blessing
Benediction
Pastor Linda
HymnLet Justice Flow Like Streams
#717
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeAllegro
Clementi
Chris Johansen

Prelude

Chris Johansen


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 – Word of God, Come Down on Earth

1.
Word of God, come down on earth,
living rain from heaven descending:
touch our hearts and bring to birth
faith and hope and love unending.
Word almighty, we revere you;
Word made flesh, we long to hear you.

2.
Word eternal, throned on high,
Word the brought to life creation,
Word that came from heaven to die,
crucified for our salvation,
saving Word, the world restoring,
speak to use, your love outpouring.

3.
Word that speaks God’s tender love,
one with God beyond all telling,
Word that sent us from above
God the Spirit, with us dwelling,
Word of truth, to all truth lead us;
Word of live, with one bread feed us.


Prayer of the Day

Glorious God,
you water the world with goodness and cover creation with abundance. We too often are drawn to discontent. Help us to soak in that goodness, to bathe in beauty, to refresh our spirits – longing for companionship – in connections and care. Keep us always mindful of your generous love for us and for all.  
Amen


Psalm 36: 5-10

5 Your love, O Lord,
reaches to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the clouds

6 Your righteousness
is like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you save humankind and animals, O Lord

7 How priceless is your love, O God!
All people take refuge
under the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast upon the abundance
of your house;
you give them drink
from the river of your delights

9 For with you is the well of live,
and in your light we see light.

10 Continue your loving-kindness
to those who know you,
and your favor
to those who are true of heart.


Reading

Genesis 1 (condensed)
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 brooded over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 6And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 8God called the dome Sky. 9And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.

John 1 (re-write)
In the beginning was Water, and the Water was with God, and the Water was God. 2Water was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being. What has come into being  4in water was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Sermon

Rosalyn R. LaPier Is a Research Associate of Women’s Studies, Environmental Studies and Native American Religion at Harvard Divinity School. She writes that “For thousands of years, Native American tribes across the Great Plains developed their own methods of living with the natural world and its limited water supply. They learned both through observation and experiment, arguably a process quite similar to what we might call science today. They also learned from their religious ideas, passed on from generation to generation in the form of stories.

The Blackfeet viewed water as a distinct place – a sacred place. It was the home of divine beings and divine animals who taught the Blackfeet religious rituals and moral restrictions on human behavior. It can, in fact, be compared to Mount Sinai of the Old Testament, which was viewed as “holy ground” and where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.”

Science and faith are kin. This is true for those in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as indigenous religions. Science and faith are two languages of observation of the natural world and of human ways, thoughts, inspiration; they are two meandering streams seeking cause, meaning and explanation of what is observed.

Trying to understand God – theology – was perhaps the first science, the primal explanation of the creation and causes and movement of life. God is the Alpha and Omega, first and last. That which was before all things, when nothing as yet existed. Although, according to Genesis, things did exist. Water was there. A watery chaos out of which God called land to rise and light to shine and life to grow.

Genesis 1 John 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 brooded over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 8God called the dome Sky. 9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.

“For the Blackfeet, Lakota and other tribes of the Great Plains, water is “life.” They understood what it meant to live in a dry arid place, which they expressed through their religion and within their ecological knowledge. Indigenous people from around the world share these beliefs about the sacredness of water.”

The Whanganui River, one of the largest rivers on the North Island of New Zealand, has come to be legally recognized as having “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.” Bolivia and Ecuador have passed laws for the Rights of Mother Earth, motivated by the belief that nature, including water, has legal rights.

The Lakota protests at Standing Rock demanding a right to clean water – free from the threat of potential environmental harm – was also an effort to protect it.

I’ve been thinking about indigenous religion’s relationship to the earth, about the sacredness of water, the absolute necessity of water, and that we have the same water now that the earth has always had – water is neither created nor destroyed.

The Israelites were tribal, indigenous people, too, when the stories started. Some of the earliest biblical material was edited out – especially during the religious revival after exile. The earliest stories were brought up to date. So there might have been more mythic stores. But even as it stands, the Bible tells its story through water. I began this series saying that God is in all things and all things in God – therefore, God is in the water and the water is in God.

In the beginning was the Water, and the Water was with God, and the Water was God. 2Water was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through it, and without it not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in water was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Instead of Word, what if the author of John has said Water? “And the Water became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth.” We don’t worship a word, after all, we worship Christ. And we aren’t all that good at honoring bodies even though God took human form.

So what would change if we truly believed Christ’s real presence is in, with, and under the water? That’s the formula Martin Luther used for baptism and communion. What might change in our appreciation and use of water if we honored it as a sacred element? Would we be better ecological evangelists, seeing that all people have access to fresh, clean water, using our collective will to break down barriers that prevent living water to flow to all people? Would we give more thought to what water reveals about injustice, racism, sustainability, the ecological web of which we are a part (but only a part, not the telos)?


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

Blessing & Benediction

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 – Let Justice Flow Like Streams

1.
Let justice flow like streams
of sparkling water, pure,
enabling growth, refreshing life,
abundant, cleansing, sure.

2.
Let righteousness roll on
as others’ cares we heed,
an ever-flowing stream of faith
translated into deed.

3.
So may God’s plumb line, straight,
define our measure true,
and justice, right, and peace pervade
this world our whole life through.


Postlude

Chris Johansen

July 19th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeBouree from Handel’s Water Music Chris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerHenrik Strandskov
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Kyrie
Pastor Linda
HymnLight Dawns on a Weary World
#726
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayPastor Linda
Psalm 114Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ReadingPastor Linda
Musical InterludeJay Stackhouse
SermonPastor Linda
Creed
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
Closing PrayerHenrik Strandskov
Blessing
Benediction
Pastor Linda
HymnJoyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
#836
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludefrom G Major Partita
Bach
Chris Johansen

Note: Audio for a full service appears here. A few individual parts of the service are also embedded in the text below.

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


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


Kyrie


Hymn – Light Dawns on a Weary World

1.
Light dawns on a weary world
when eyes begin to see
all people’s dignity.
Light dawns on a weary world:
the promised day of justice comes.

Refrain
The trees shall clap their hands; the dry lands, gush with springs;
the hills and mountains shall break forth with singing!
We shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace,
as all the world in wonder echoes shalom.

2.
Love grows in a weary world
when hungry hearts find bread
and children’s dreams are fed.
Love grows in a weary world:
the promised feast of plenty comes.
Refrain

3.
Hope blooms in a weary world
when creatures, once forlorn,
find wilderness reborn.
Hope blooms in a weary world:
the promised green of Eden comes.
Refrain


Greeting

We gather in the triune name of sacred Love. May God’s peace be ever with you, Christ’s mercy near at hand, and may the Holy Spirit guide and encourage you in all circumstances and in every need.  
Amen

Prayer of the Day

O Creator of puddles and skeeterbugs, in majesty and playfulness you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your vision help us notice, by your providence teach us to treasure, by your wisdom compel us to preserve, and by your hand push us along. We need your inspiration and encouragement. 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 114


Reading

Water is life. The story of God is told in water. God is in the water.

That is my premise for these weeks of considering water in scripture – but it’s more than a premise. If we read scripture paying attention to God’s way and will with water, if we can imagine that water bears the presence of God, carries an image of the divine (as we ourselves do), then what might that mean? 

My first flash of a thought was washing dishes and flushing toilets… waste water. Surely God is not flushed? But, the follow up thought was about lives we waste, flush away, because they are Black or gay or addicted or Muslim or Confederate flag-waving or tree hugging — whatever is the affront du jour. If we find it offensive or sacrilegious to throw God out with the bathwater, how can we not be humbled, horrified, outraged by our treatment of human lives? We cannot accept the glimmer of God in our bodies and deny it in others. 

But, back to the premise. Why should we consider God in the water? Because water is life. And where else would God be?

The first creation story in Genesis shows God’s breath sweeping over the face of the waters from which life will come. The second story shows God sitting on a river bank fashioning figures out of clay, breathing that same Spirit into the man’s nostrils to give him life. 

The third creation story is told by Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8: 
22 The Lord conceived me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. …

24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, … 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. 

27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight,  rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”

Musical Interlude

Jay Stackhouse

Sermon

Two things stick out to me as I read this passage. The first is how big a part water plays in creation – fountains of the deep and the seas assigned their boundaries and springs abounding with water. The second thing is the joy evident in the act of creation (no less, if creation is seen over time as evolutionary adaptation). It is best seen as a playful venture. Woman Wisdom always by God’s side, rejoicing in each new thing, her delight delighting God. She is “…rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” 

Delight is not mentioned among the attributes of God. We hear power words: omnipotent, omniscient, almighty, majesty, transcendence. Does it improve or denigrate your conceptualization of God to picture divine delight in forming mudpie people and transfiguring tadpoles?

Listen to these verses from Psalm 104. Do you not hear delight and playfulness in God’s design?

10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 

14 You cause the grass to grow for cattle, and plants for people, to bring forth food from the earth, 15and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly …

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan [a great and terrible sea monster in ancient thought] that you formed to frolic in it.” 

Again, it might be because it’s been hot and muggy and sunny – and I don’t have a swimming hole or enough water pressure to spin a sprinkler; it might be that I want a break from worrying about the coronavirus and the pandemic of racism, but I’ve been thinking of gushing water and clapping trees. It’s probably not a surprise that Light Dawns on a Weary World is one of my favorite hymns. It comes from Isaiah 55, where God compares his word to water:

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 

12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to the Lord a memorial, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

A memorial – like the rainbow – something to remind God.

7 “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord,” said the prophet Jeremiah (17). 8 “They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”         

Over and over again in scripture, we hear that Nature plays. Sea monsters and little lambs frolic. Life flourishes, springs gush forth. There is joy in water. Music in water. Peacefulness and restoration.  You’ve probably seen the ad on TV – 15 seconds of the sound of rain. I can feel my blood pressure drop 5 points when I watch it. It is a memorial for me that I’ve watched CNN too long, and so I get up and go away. I don’t know what it’s advertising, but it calms and changes brain activity from the barrage of words. The sound of water frees up space for our own thoughts. That ad has the amazing ability to help me, at least, wake from the passive sponge of 24hr repetitive breaking news, and come back to life.

18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43 

If the Bible were illustrated with emojis, what face would you insert at this point? What is the expression on God’s face? I picture mischievous joy. Can you hear the lilt in her voice, the playfulness expressed as springs bubble up in parched land and long dormant flower seeds push up out of impossible soil? Is there not delight in lambs and kids bouncing beside still waters in green pastures? 

We do ourselves a disservice if we can only imagine God as the old white guy Michelangelo painted, or hear a serious, if not actually stern, voice as the only appropriate biblical vocalization for God. God’s mirth is in water, springing forth, bubbling up, streaming by, living wells, roaring seas. 

Playfulness is in  provision: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;” God says through Isaiah (44). “I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. 4 They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.” 

Scripture is awash with water imagery – and mostly, it is a positive force: Cleansing lepers, and healing the lame; changing into wine; Jesus coming, walking through the waves of a sudden storm; the Ethiopian eunuch who sees a pond and says why not? What’s to prevent me from being baptized? New things spring forth. Restoration, renewal, hope, peace, well-being, happiness, new life gushing forth as the water breaks.

It all begins with water, and with joy, and with God.

This sermon is kind of pointless – a wandering point – but I have three hopes. 

One is that you will become aware of the place of water in scripture – listen for it, stop and consider its prominence, importance – its cherished status. 

The second is that you will begin to look for the presence of God in water outside of the baptismal font (like the presence of Christ is outside of the church building) and that it will cause you thought for the way water is used, abused, withheld, or is the agent of change, renewal, regrowth. 

My third hope is that you will take seriously the call to play – to frolic in the water like Leviathan, or splash in the next puddle you see and get your shoes wet, or move into the circle of the sprinkler if you have one that spins, or shoot your beloved with the kitchen sink sprayer and have a good-natured water fight right there in the middle of your kitchen, or take a lovely shower with good smelling suds. And in it and through it, remember that water is life and God is the water.


Prayers of Intercession


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

Lord’s Prayer

Closing Prayer

Blessing & Benediction

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 – Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

1.
Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love!
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, praising thee, their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the gloom of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.

2.
All they works with joy surround thee, earth and heav’n reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird, and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in thee.

3.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
wellspring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine!


Postlude

Chris Johansen

July 12th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnAs the Dark Awaits the Dawn
#261
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayPastor Linda
Psalm 104: 1-15Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ReadingPastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionPastor Linda
Blessing
Benediction
Pastor Linda
HymnAs the Deer Runs to the River
#331
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeChris Johansen

Part I

Part II

Note: audio of the scripture and sermon will posted below later today.


Prelude

Chris Johansen


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 – As the Dark Awaits the Dawn

1.
As the dark awaits the dawn, so we await your light.
O Star of promise, scatter night, loving bright, loving bright,
till shades of fear are gone.

2.
As the blue expectant hour before the silv’ring skies,
we long to see your day arise, whole and wise, whole and wise,
O lucent Morning Star.

3.
As the moon reflects the sun until the night’s decrease,
may we your healing light release, living peace, living peace,
unto your holy dawn.

4.
Shine your future on this place, enlighten ev’ry guest,
that through us stream your holiness, bright and blest, bright and blest;
come dawn, O Sun of grace.


Prayer of the Day

Giver of Life,
We thank you for water. Lakes and rivers. Oceans and streams and springs and creeks. Ponds and bogs and puddles. And rain, falling on the just and unjust alike. We squander that gift with contaminants and privilege and fail to see reflected in it your love for all. Forgive our sight so shortened we see only our own reflection. May holy rain cleanse the air, and cure our vision, and make everything fresh and new. 
Amen


Psalm 104: 1-15


Reading

70 to 75% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Roughly 70% of an adult’s body is made up of water, and about 85% of the adult brain is made up of water. Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible, more often than faith, hope, prayer, or worship. Water carries the story of God from beginning to end. Water is life.

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 brooded over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 8God called the dome Sky. 9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.

2:4 In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east… 10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon…13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 

6:5 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. 6And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry thaThen the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.t I have made them.’ 8But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord.

7:1 Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household …2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean; 3and seven pairs of the birds of the air also to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights… on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 

17 The flood continued for forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.24And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred and fifty days.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15Then God said to Noah, 16‘Go out of the ark…17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ …19And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families. The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’

Isaiah 43:2
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 

Isaiah 44:3
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 35:6
Then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

Isaiah 55:1
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;

Isaiah 58:11
The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

John 4:7    
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’… 9The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ 11The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ 13Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ 15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water…’

Revelation 21
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ …To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Epilogue:16 ‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’ 17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes, take the water of life as a gift.

Sermon


We turn on the tap and there it is, expected, clean, flowing water. 
For a few in this world. 
Water is life.
Water is power.
Water is scarce and overwhelming.
Water is diverted, contaminated, taken for granted. 
Water is a resource of privilege. 
Water is granted legal standing – personhood – in New Zealand, with “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities of a legal person.” In Bolivia, the government passed the “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth,” motivated by the belief that nature has legal rights. The Ecuadorian constitution recognizes the rights of “Nature with respect for its existence.”

Water is life.

And will be our topic for the coming weeks – and a proper sermon for this week will bob up soon. 


Prayers of Intercession


Lord’s Prayer

Blessing & Benediction

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 – As the Deer Runs to the River

1.
As the deer runs to the river, parched and weary from the chase,
we have come from hurt and hurry, thirsting for your healing grace.

Refrain
Jesus, source of living water, may we drink of you and live!

2.
When your Israel crossed the desert where no stream or spring was seen,
Moses struck the rock, and water flowed for them, refreshing, clean.
Refrain

3.
“Come and drink,” Isaiah summoned, “all who for God’s mercy plead!
God’s forgiveness, like a fountain, flows to satisfy your need”
Refrain

4.
Christ, we come from desert places, deepest thirst unsatisfied.
Lead us to the waters flowing from the cross on which you died.
Refrain


Postlude

Chris Johansen

July 5th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeAmerica, the BeautifulChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnHappiness Never Depends on Success
#70 in World of Song
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Kyrie
Prayer
Pastor Linda
Psalm 146Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ReadingIsaiah 42: 5-9
Isaiah 43: 18-21
Mike Miles
SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
CommunionPastor Linda
Blessing
Benediction
Pastor Linda
HymnThe Word
#24 in World of Song
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeChris Johansen

Part I

Part II

Note: individual audio pieces are below with the text


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Confession & Forgiveness

If the repeated storyline of white police killing colored bodies, of the coronavirus infection rate soaring in places where people refuse to abide by guidelines that protect their neighbor because they hold their personal rights above the consideration of others, of animals and ecosystems struggling to survive as climates change and the interrelationship of systems collapse – if this has caught at our hearts and taught us anything, it is that together, we must confess our entanglements with justice, hubris, entitlement, 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

God of heaven and earth,
we name before you the sin that enslaves, the sin that wounds us and others, the sin that scars our world. Forgive us and heal us. Give to us, and to all, the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Recall us to the essential inter-connection of your image residing mysteriously within each and every one. Call us to arise and act in love.   
Amen

Come, all who are weary, all who carry heavy burdens. As tender as parent to child, so gentle is God to you. As high as heaven is above the earth, so vast is God’s love for you. As far as east is from west, so sweeping is God’s forgiveness for you, and of all we would confess, renewing our lives in +Jesus Christ, our friend, our Redeemer, our All in all.          
Amen


Hymn – Happiness Never Depends on Success

1.
Happiness never depends on success
Won in the struggle for glory or treasure;
Often the humblest of homes may possess
Happiness unknown to seekers of pleasure

2.
Happiness dwells with content in the soul,
Follows the honest and faithful endeavor;
Happiness comes when yourself you control,
Free and unshaken by fear or by favor.

3.
Live not in dreams that are selfish and vain,
Look not with envious thoughts on your brothers.
Pure is our happiness, rich is our gain
When we rejoice in the welfare of others.

4.
Happy is he who has peace in his heart,
Peace with himself, with his God, with his neighbor.
He has of happiness found the best part,
Reaps he but little reward from his labor.

Text: C. Gandrup, Translated by S. D. Rodholm
Music: P. E. Lange-Muller

Kyrie

Prayer of the Day

Divine Spirit, give us grace to set a good example to all among whom we live; to be just and honest and kind in our dealings; to be conscientious in the discharge of every duty; mindful of the consequences of our actions and enjoyments. Lead us to be gracious, forgiving and courteous toward all – so that the mind of Christ may be formed in us, and lead us toward ever closer discipleship, ever truer expression of the image of God we bear.  O Spirit of Peace, be our guide in radical love. 
Amen.

Psalm 146

Scripture

Isaiah 42: 5-9

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
   who created the heavens and stretched them out,
   who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
   and spirit to those who walk in it: 

6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
  a light to the nations, 
7to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
   from the prison those who sit in darkness. 

8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
   my glory I give to no other,
   nor my praise to idols. 

9 See, the former things have come to pass,
   and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
   I tell you of them. 

Isaiah 43: 18-21

18 Do not remember the former things,
   or consider the things of old. 
19 I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.

20 The wild animals will honor me,
   the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.  

Sermon

Rest, realization, restoration. Sabbath.

If you’ve been with us during the past month, you’ll have the idea that Sabbath is more than a day off spent in front of the Telly; more than an occasional Jammy Day to do whatever you feel good about doing. More than the few hours a week carved out for church… (although those things are important for self-care, especially if they sound like a novel concept). 

But what are we to make of Sabbath?  We’ve spent four weeks talking about it from various angles. We’ve heard the original context in Genesis and the Ten Commandments. We remember stories from the Gospel about Jesus getting in quite a bit of trouble for breaking the law code of his day of proper Sabbath observance. He healed a crippled woman and a man born blind. He allowed his disciples to glean, shuck and eat wheat as they walked through a field. I mean, that’s not much to get excited about. We might remember references to Sabbath lack of activity from books like Laura Ingles Wilder’s ‘Little House on the Prairie’. If Sabbath is sitting on a hard-backed chair reading the Bible all day, no play allowed, and eating left-overs because you can’t cook, it’s not going to gain many adherents. 

What is Sabbath today?

George Robinson, on the webpage, My Jewish Learning, teaches about Sabbath.

“The rabbis who began to codify Jewish law during the time of the Second Temple, [this is what Jesus would know] specified  39 categories of prohibited activities– based on the activities that were involved in the building of the Tabernacle as described in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. One should not handle a hammer or money. One should not rearrange the books on a shelf.” [They were detailed oriented people!] He goes on…

“We are commanded in the Torah, ‘Six days shall you labor and do all your work.’ As Abraham Joshua Heschel says in his magnificent little book, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man [modern as of 1951], to abstain from labor on the seventh day is “not a depreciation but an affirmation of labor, a divine exaltation of its dignity.” We are suddenly lifted out of the process of time, removed from the world of natural and social change. Instead of creating the world anew, we are at one with the world created.

“We are not beasts of burden. We should not live to work. We should not be chained to routine. Shabbat unchains us.

“Shabbat is meant to be a day of peace. It offers us a chance for peace with nature, with society, and with ourselves. The prohibitions on work are designed to make us stop – if only for one day of the week – to stop our relentless efforts to tame, to conquer, to subdue the earth and everything on it. The prohibition against making fire is also said by the rabbis to mean that one should not kindle the fires of controversy against one’s fellow humans. And, finally, the Sabbath offers us a moment of quiet, of serenity, of self-transcendence, a moment that allows us to seek and perhaps achieve some kind of internal peace.

“Shabbat is also a time of joy, of good food and wine (even if the food preparation must be done beforehand).  The Sabbath was designed to be “a delight,” as our liturgy tells us. 

“But what about rest, menuchah? Rest means many things to different people and the crush of the modern world buffeting us has changed its definition for many… Perhaps we should be guided by a relatively simple principle, one derived from the quotation from Genesis with which we opened. We rest in a Sabbath sense when we no longer interfere with the world. In this way, we emulate God’s rest on the Sabbath, when the Creator ceased working on the world. During the six days of Creation, God asserted mastery over the universe by actively changing it. Then came a day in which the Creator relinquished that mastery. We emulate God when we relinquish our mastery over the world on the Sabbath, by refraining from altering nature. For one day, we declare a truce between ourselves and the rest of God’s creations.”

Rest, realization, restoration. For ourselves and the creatures whose habitats we share.

These are the words of sabbath. 
They are also the words of mental health. 

I’m still slowly reading Rob Hopkin’s book, From What Is to What If – Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want. Here are some statistics he reports: 83% of the people surveyed by the World Health Organization in 2018 report that they spend no time whatsoever “relaxing or thinking.” As many as 30% of adults in America seek medical help for insomnia. Depression and anxiety – especially among the 18 to 26 year olds – are considered an epidemic with physical, social, educational and economic consequences. In 2018, the average total electronic media consumption for US adults was 11 hours and 6 minutes per day. The average. 11 hours and 6 minutes looking at a screen or plugged into a device.  

And these are not statistics of personal failing. We are being played. Tech companies, and advertising giants use aggressive strategies and have clear objectives for how you spend your time. “A handful of people at a handful of technology companies…will steer what a billion people are thinking today,”  says Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google. And this Information Age is only 20 years old.

I’m reading from Rob Hopkin’s: pg 67,68.      (I can’t copy it w/o permission and haven’t heard back yet!)

Our lives can be better: Calmer. Focused. Intentional. 
Our communal life can be better: Calmer. Thinking. Empathetic.

It is not an accident that I chose  Sabbath as a theme for our COVID-19 lives. But it’s serendipity that the Black Lives Matter movement has taken hold of our imagination at the same time. (You may have noticed that the Marketing mind-meld caught up very quickly and is taking full advantage of our new awareness of Black lives.)

In COVID time, we are living in two time warps – fast and slow. Much of our lives seem to be on pause – progressing in slow motion. We can’t look forward to our accustomed schedules – everything future is hypothetical. Of course, it always has been, but we are easily lulled into thinking that we are in control, that the status quo is static as we bustle along, too busy to give it much thought. What is, will always be, and can be relied upon. Ah, ooops!

In our enforced Pause, the cultural, social world picked up speed. Maybe it’s because we have time to focus on one thing at a time, to rest our brains, to get enough sleep, to eat better food. Our increased brain health allows the hippocampus to imagine. And so we notice and care about injustice, we have time to think, to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, time to imagine new ways – perhaps, to perceive the new things of God. While we are paused, even nature seems to be enjoying a Sabbath from human interference.

Jesus’ parable comes to mind: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”    Mark 4:26-28

Our busyness, multitasking myth believing, tightly packed calendar lifestyle diminishes our experience of life. Physiologically. Fitting more in than fits, doing more than being, accepting stress as a necessary daily companion, chronically increases the stress hormone cortisol. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. It communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear. Remember that epidemic of anxiety and depression? Our bodies, our minds, our souls need Sabbath. Rest, realization, restoration. 

And not only for self-help, but for the sake of community – to be able to empathize imaginatively with others, to recognize the chronic stress we mindlessly put on the earth’s vital resources – clean air, clean water, clean soil.  

I was surprised at how quickly the environment reacted to the shut-down of industry and transportation. The earth heals itself given the chance. But that healing creates changes. It doesn’t go back to the way it was. We have had time to look at our lives and the lives of others that our action or inaction impact for harm. How much of the new life you have practiced in COVID-time would you like to continue? What among the things you had to set aside have you realized don’t add value to your life, there’s no need to pick them back up?  What new awareness of your neighbors, of the racism you have accepted or denied as status quo are you inspired to act on, out of love? What good are you prepared to bring forward?  

If we practice Sabbath – rest, realization, restoration – we can change our individual lives and our communities. 

 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you; 
I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness. 

 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 
 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness; rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Make it so.

Creed – Prayer of Julian of Norwich

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

Prayers of Intercession

Peace

In the coming week, please seek reconciliation with any you have wronged, any bruised relationship you have the power to heal, unless to do so would inflict upon them further pain. The Peace of Christ be with you always –

Communion

Great Thanksgiving

Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

Hymn – The Word

1.
With the Word all things began,
Life in ocean, life on land;
With the Word was man and woman
Raised from dust, created human,
Prince of earth and Child of God.

2.
When the soul of man was stirred
By a breath divine, the Word
Was in heart of man created;
This on earth inaugurated
Human life and history.

3.
Not the clever hand or brain
Can humanity explain.
For its secret is the spirit;
Only in the Word we hear it,
Self-revealing, heaven born

4.
Only in the Word ascends
Man beyond the life that ends;
In the Word he breaks his prisons,
Soars aloft to higher visions,
Comprehends eternity.

Text: N.F.S. Grundtvig; Adapted by S. D. Rodholm
Music: Aage Sorensen


Postlude

Chris Johansen


Instructions for listening via phone:

Call this number: (312) 626-6799
It will be long distance, if that applies (on a landline, for example).

Then, you will be asked to enter the meeting ID and password. You can find that in Linda’s email about the Zoom worship.

We will keep you muted, but you can participate in the discussion if you’d like – press *6 to unmute – and it helps to say your name before you talk, since we won’t know otherwise!

June 14: (Not a repeat except for scripture) Deut 5 & Matthew 11

Part I

PreludeSummertimeChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession
Prayer
Pastor Linda
Psalm 4Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano

Part II

ReadingDeuteronomy 5: 12-15
Matthew 11: 28-30
Pastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionChristy Wetzig
Peace
Lord’s Prayer
Blessing
Pastor Linda
HymnCome to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty
#777
Harry Johansen (vs. 1 & 5)
Chris Johansen, piano

Welcome

Hello, this is pastor Linda, and I welcome you to take this time to set aside whatever it is that’s occupying your mind. Turn off the TV, silence your phone (unless that’s the device you are using to listen in on!). Breathe in a huge, lung filling, belly-out, life-giving breath. Let it go – slowly. Close your eyes, breathe again. Try to focus your mind and body on the moment of now, the position in which you are seated, the sounds of your surroundings. Try to be open to the word of God, to a word of God to you. Be still. Breathe in fully again. Let it out slowly. Listen with all your heart and all your strength and all your mind.

We gather apart, yet never alone, in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen


Confession & Forgiveness

If the anguish, news videos, repeated storyline of white police killing black bodies again this week has taught us anything, it is that together, we must confess our entanglements with justice, hurts, entitlement, 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.

God of heaven and earth,

we name before you the sin that enslaves, the sin that wounds us and others, the sin that scars our world. Forgive us and heal us. Give to us, and to all, the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Recall us to the essential inter-connection of your image residing mysteriously within each and every one.     Amen

Come, all who are weary, all who carry heavy burdens. As tender as parent to child, so gentle is God to you. As high as heaven is above the earth, so vast is God’s love for you. As far as east is from west, so sweeping is God’s forgiveness for you, and of all we would confess, renewing our lives in +Jesus Christ, our friend, our Redeemer, our All in all.         

Amen.


Prayer of the Day

Open our eyes, Lord, especially if they are half shut because we are tired of looking, or half open because we fear we see too much, or bleared with tears because yesterday and today and tomorrow are filled with the same pain. Open our eyes, Lord, to gently scan the life we lead, the home we have, the world we inhabit, and so to find, among the gremlins and the greyness, signs of hope and beauty and love. Show us the world as in your sight, and grant us grace to heal.    Amen


Scripture

Deuteronomy 5: 12-15

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sermon

Linda Rozumalski

I initially chose the topic of Sabbath for this first series of the summer because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and the new shape that the virus has given to our communal lives. We don’t have many non-essential, laid-off workers as members in the congregation. We haven’t had anyone get terribly sick. So, I don’t think COVID has changed our lifestyles as dramatically here as it has for those in other regions of the country. And we’re rural (most of us). We aren’t confined to a room or building. We can go out into the woods or our gardens. Perhaps the biggest impact of COVID has been in the shift to on-line schooling and cancelled events or postponed medical office visits, and the inability to gather for worship. But still, being aware of the restrictions and wary of the illness, being told to stay home, watching the virus play out on a bigger stage, has put our usual patterns of ‘in and out and about’ into unusually intentional consideration.

That’s what the Sabbath was meant to do. At least one day a week, the Israelites were to remember that God brought them out of slavery. They were to stop. Put down their tools. Stop whatever work they were doing. Turn off their smart-phones and computer screens and amusements. Go home to share a meal and prayer. And rest. And remember. They and their slaves, their servants, their animals, the land. One day a week, stop; be intentional about their bodies and limitations, be intentionally together within their family units, and remember that they were not to fall again into slavery.

That was the point of Sabbath. Jesus told the Pharisees that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. It was a command, true, but a blessing, not the oppressive rule of law it had become by Jesus’ day. The intent of Sabbath is to step back and consider, to recognize the shiny new taskmasters for what they are, to put the competition, the striving, the dehumanizing way of the world on pause. To reject that slavery of domination where billable minutes, units of completion per hour, a never-ending push for worth and status through production becomes the sole measure of your value.

One day a week, God would have you remember that you are not defined by your output. One day a week everyone rests, and all distinctions and distractions – put in place to artificially prosper your worth – disappear. Old, young, rich, poor, slave, free, citizen, foreigner, of every eye and hair and skin color — are all simply and completely human beings, bodies alongside other bodies, all bodies beloved children of God. All in need of care. … And also your cattle, and goats and camels and sheepdogs, too.

This is the hardest lesson to absorb – it’s the commandment we throw away as optional. But it’s not, it’s vital. We have to regularly step out of the mindset and activity of the world, the powers and principalities that divide and polarize, that prioritize one set of values over another, one set of people over and against another, if we are to understand and follow the Sabbath intention. It’s not about taking a day off. It’s about taking yourself in. Observing the way of people and nature without the filters of your daily life and thought patterns and preferences. It’s about self-care and care for the all the others.

Pastor Kara Root wrote the commentary I’m reading about Sabbath. “One day in seven, this command says, you on purpose remember that you are not God. And you on purpose remember

that you are neither better nor worse than anyone around you, but connected in a mutual belonging to God and each other. This is what it means to be human. This is what it means to be free. But we forget this most of the time,” she wrote.

We think of freedom as personal, individualistic, our right. “I’m free and the law grants me my own, personal freedoms – and no one better mess with ‘em.” But true freedom can only exist if it is communal. The Israelites weren’t to trudge out of slavery in Egypt only to force others into it in Israel. Our nation has never been free, as much as we tout the value. Our individual and corporate freedoms come at the expense of someone else’s worth. They have from the moment we landed and claimed the land as our own.

Our disregard for Sabbath observance – regularly stepping out of the importance of self and humbly seeing ourselves as one among equal others – has been made clear in the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25th. I had never thought of Sabbath as a commandment for social justice. I had the luxury of thinking it was about self-care, spiritual-care, and family time. Wrong. That’s another lie of privilege I hadn’t seen until now.

This is where the second of these paired readings comes in. I’ve been struggling with this passage from Matthew. It seems paradoxical – and it might be – but I still wanted to figure it out and connect it more closely to Sabbath. Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I like the first sentence. I mean who wouldn’t want rest from our burdens and cares? But “take my yoke”? Be like Jesus? Work alongside Jesus? My “this is asking way too much of me” antennae are wiggling. “Learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The very first image I get when hearing that phrase is of the sun shining into the kitchen – a plate of two eggs, sunny side up with toast. Wrong yoke.

The next image I get is the visual memory of any number of rocky, root-tangled trails in Quetico as seen from beneath the canoe I’m portaging. Wearing a bulky Duluth pack, balancing a canoe, seeing only 8 or 10 feet of the trail ahead of me, no hands free to swat black flies, deer flies, horse flies or hordes of mosquitos. That was no sabbath rest, and the yoke was neither easy nor the burden light. Jesus must mean something else.

I remember a Carl Larsson print of an ox and work horse yoked together in front of a disk slicing and turning a black curl of Swedish earth. That yoke didn’t look easy, although it did balance the pull of the animals. The two could work as one.
Is that the kind of yoke Jesus meant?

My mind flashes to another image – a young African woman hauling two enormous buckets of water dangling from the ends of a yoke across her shoulders.

You can see why this passage has not settled easily into my mind.

The yoke is a tool of slavery, oppression, burdens. In our life experiences, the yoke may help us bear up under the load, but we will recognize it for what it is – the oppressive presence of the ‘powers and principalities of darkness’, as Mike Miles says. All those things that get in the way of healthy, mutual connections with others and even within ourselves. It is a national value to multitask and overwork and cram our schedules, grab a bite to eat and get back to it. The one who wears out first is a sissy. It is a national value to consider ourselves the very best kind of people and everyone else out to get us. It seems to be a national value to ‘divide and dominate’, to assume that peace can only be won with the biggest weapons. Talk about a paradox and a burdensome yoke.

So what is Jesus talking about? “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In rabbinic tradition, the rabbi’s particular teaching of the Torah was referred to as his yoke. We might liken it with the term ‘mantle’ – a mantel of learning. Jesus’ teaching of the Torah – the law and it’s interpretation – was easy. At least easy to remember. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength (every bit of yourself), and love your neighbor as yourself.” Those three loves, in that order. Not necessarily easy to do, but free of all the oppressive sub-laws, clauses, judgments and restrictions that the scribes and Pharisees insisted upon. Jesus gives us one thing to do. Love – actively, whole heartedly, indiscriminately, and aim it especially at those who can’t believe it.

The thing my brain does, being a visual thinker – I have to ‘see’ my thoughts in pictures to make sense of them – is to also take the second half of Jesus’ saying literally. “My burden is light.” The burden of love is light – not in weight, but in the absence of darkness and shadows. Once we take the yoke of love, we can’t pretend not to see. After George Floyd’s death caught on camera, after the weeks of peaceful protests and days of violent ones, after the death of Rayshard Brooks, yet another young black man killed by police in Atlanta on Friday, we can’t pretend not to see. The burden of light is shining into every city, every heart revealing what we don’t necessarily want to see or have revealed.

The burden of light illuminates the lie of freedom and peace and liberty, it exposes how deeply the darkness has sunk into us, become normal to us. How complicit good people are in the violence against the more colorful bodies among God’s people. We too have a color – that’s another sign of our presumption that we consider ‘white’ to be the norm, and color to be a variant.

Jesus’ burden was that he saw people in their bravado and in their need. He saw those the Law was killing, misleading, isolating, negating – and, seeing them, he loved them with the Beloved’s love.

That now is our burden, too… to observe the Sabbath, to see it as the equalizing compassion of God, and to carry-on the mantle of Jesus’ teaching, his loving, his seeing. “The Light shines in the darkness… and the darkness did not overcome it.” Nor shall it ever.


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


Come to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty

  1. “Come to me, all pilgrims thirsty;
    Drink the water I will give.
    If you knew what gift I offer,
    You would come to me and live.”

    Refrain
    Jesus, ever flowing fountain,
    give us water from your well.
    In the gracious gift you offer
    there is joy no tongue can tell.

  2. “Come to me, all trav’lers weary;
    Come that I may give you rest.
    Drink the cup of life I offer;
    At this table be my guest.”    
    Refrain

  3. “Come to me, believers burdened;
    Find refreshment in this place.
    Come, receive the gift I offer,
    Turn to me and seek my face.”
    Refrain

  4. “Come to me, repentant sinners;
    Leave behind your guilt and shame.
    Come and know divine compassion,
    Turn to me, I call your name.”    
    Refrain

  5. “Come to me, distressed and needy;
    I would be your trusted friend.
    Come and seek the gift I offer,
    come, your open hands extend.”
    Refrain

  6. “Come to me, abandoned, orphaned;
    lonely ways no longer roam.
    Come and take the gift I offer,
    let me make in you my home.”
    Refrain

Text: Delores Dufner
Music: The Sacred Harp

June 7: Deuteronomy 5 & Matthew 11

Note:
Linda is not feeling well today, but a text introducing the sermon series on Sabbath appears below. The other pieces of worship are in the audio here.
We will still be holding the planned 10am Zoom service.

PreludeHere Comes the SunChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Prayer
(text only)Pastor Linda
Psalm 131Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingDeuteronomy 5: 12-15
Matthew 11: 28-30
Henrik Strandskov
Introduction to Sabbath series(text only)Kara Root, Pastor at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis, MN
HymnWhen Peace Like a River
#785, vs. 1 & 4
Chris Johansen, piano

Welcome

Hello, this is pastor Linda, and I welcome you to take this time to set aside whatever it is that’s occupying your mind. Turn off the TV, silence your phone (unless that’s the device you are using to listen in on!). Breathe in a huge, lung filling, belly-out, life-giving breath. Let it go – slowly. Close your eyes, breathe again. Try to focus your mind and body on the moment of now, the position in which you are seated, the sounds of your surroundings. Try to be open to the word of God, to a word of God to you. Be still. Breathe in fully again. Let it out slowly. Listen with all your heart and all your strength and all your mind.

Confession & Forgiveness

We gather apart, yet never alone, in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Amen

If this week has shown us anything, we know that together, we confess our entanglements with justice, hurts, entitlement, 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.

God of heaven and earth,

we name before you the sin that enslaves us, the sin that wounds us and others, the sin that scars our world. Forgive us and heal us. Give to us, and to all, the freedom of the glory of the children of God, loved by your image residing mysteriously within each and every one of us.     
Amen

Come, all who are weary, all who carry heavy burdens. As tender as parent to child, so gentle is God to you. As high as heaven is above the earth, so vast is God’s love for you. As far as east is from west, so sweeping is God’s forgiveness for you, and of all we would confess, renewing our lives in +Jesus Christ, our friend, our Redeemer, our All in all.
Amen.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-loving God, throughout time you free the oppressed, heal the sick, and make whole all that you have made. Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin. In your lavish mercies, revive our faith, heal our bodies, restore us to wholeness, inspire kindness and courage, and mend our suffering communities. In all the beautiful names of God, we offer this plea.
Amen


Scripture

Deuteronomy 5: 12-15

12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Sermon series introduction

Kara Root

Source: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4093

Sabbath is a tricky concept for Christians.

We’ve tended to see it as a Jewish thing, not really applicable to us, or, more recently we’ve conflated it with trendy forms of self-care. It’s the only one of the Ten Commandments that we brush off as not really that important. But it’s the longest and most descriptive commandment, the hinge words between how we relate to God and how we relate to each other. It’s not a throw-away comment.

The Israelites are no longer slaves, no longer owned by a master and locked into a system that dictates their worth solely by what they produce. They’ve lived this way some 400 years; it’s deep in their psyche. Now they are free, and they will need to learn how free people live, alongside other free people, with God as their master instead of Pharaoh.

The other commandments take the people out of slavery; the Sabbath command takes the slavery out of the people. One day in seven, God says, you stop all work. You do this because you are not to be defined by your output. One day in seven everyone rests, and all distinctions that you erect to define your value and measure your worth disappear — old, young, rich, poor, slave, free, citizen, foreigner — you are all simply and completely human beings, alongside one another, all beloved children of God.

This is the hardest lesson to absorb, so we have to do it regularly, God tells us. We have to regularly step out of the mindset and activity of the world around us, the measuring, comparing, competing, striving, producing and consuming. We have to regularly stop doing and practice just being.

Like all the other creatures and the earth itself already do, we must succumb to the cycles of rest and renewal that God built into the fabric of existence, which we are brutally determined to transcend. One day in seven, this command says, you on purpose remember that you are not God. And you on purpose remember that you are neither better nor worse than anyone around you, but connected in a mutual belonging to God and each other. This is what it means to be human. This is what it means to be free. But we forget this most of the time.

While we seek meaning from our lives, forces around us seek to shape how we find that meaning. 24/7 connectivity in our pockets ensures we’re saturated with messages that strip us of our freedom and humanity, and suck us into relentless comparison and division, ranking and judging, striving and measuring. With social media, texting, email and phones ever at the ready, we’re justified in acting as though the world can’t run without us; (the average American checks their phones 80 times a day while on vacation).1

Spirituality is nice, and God is, of course, real, but do we really need God?  We’ve got it pretty much covered. Meanwhile we’re so disconnected from true selves that we can barely stand when emotion of almost any kind arises — it throws off our equilibrium. We’re chronically over-committed, under-resourced and exhausted, and who in the world has time for Sabbath?

If we step off the spinning carousel it will all fall apart, and we’ll never figure out how to put it together again. In fact, let’s label Sabbath self-indulgent, or keep rest a reward for a job well done! Let’s bolster our Protestant work ethic with a good dose of self-effacing pride. “How are you?” we’ll ask each other. “Busy!” we’ll answer, holding it out like a badge of honor, proof of a life well-lived. Look how well we are producing and consuming! We are not wasting any time.

Sabbath is one of God’s big ten, right up there with not murdering, because unless we regularly stop, we forget that God is God and we are not. We forget that we are creatures — with bodies and minds and hearts that need tending, dependent on the love and care of a creator who is ready to meet us when we stop moving long enough to be met. We forget that we are in this together, alongside everyone else, and we need one another because life isn’t meant to be done alone and against. And human beings that forget their humanity are arguably the most destructive force in the universe.

Rest is not a reward to be earned. It’s the starting point. The Jewish day begins at sundown. All creativity, invention and construction happen in the second half of the day, fueled by, and resulting from, rest. And when the Sabbath day arrives, everything stops, whether you are ready or not. Sabbath interrupts and takes over.

You don’t start Sabbath after all the work is done, the house is clean, the thank you notes are written, and the gutters are cleared. When the sun hits the horizon, you stop. The phone goes off, the screens go dark, the work is put down and the only thing left is human beings being human, in the presence of God, who was there all along but who largely went unnoticed until now.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s strange. We are trained to measure the worth of a day by what we accomplish; what do we do with a day in which the goal is not to accomplish a thing? Expect there will be restlessness. Often there are tears, as emotions we’ve stuffed down come up in the space we’ve made. These become, like hunger pangs during a fast, a sacrifice back to God and a gift to us, a reminder of our pressing need to stop, so unaccustomed and painful it is to have our basic humanity in our face like that. We’re out of the rhythm. We’ve forgotten how to remember.

Our texts this series all touch on the underlying truth that Sabbath is God’s strategy for helping us remember that God is God (and we are not), and that we are human beings, made in God’s image for love and connection, (and not locked in a never-ending competition for worth and resources).

You’re made to care for one another like God cares for you. You must stop, regularly, to remember this, or all the other commandments will become simply another way to measure, compete, and dehumanize yourselves and others. You’ll forget the God who saves you and the freedom you’ve been saved for, and you’ll go back to being slaves.


Notes:

1“Time for a digital detox? Americans check their phones 80 times a DAY while on vacation – and more than half have NEVER unplugged when taking time off,” Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5741687/Americans-check-phones-80-times-DAY-average-vacation.html


When Peace Like a River

vs. 1
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
it is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain
It is well (it is well) with my soul, (with my soul),
it is well, it is well with my soul. 

vs. 4
Lord, hasten the day when our faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll, 
the trumpet shall sound and the Lord shall descend;
even so it is well with my soul.

Refrain
It is well (it is well) with my soul, (with my soul),
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Text: Horatio G. Spafford, 1828-1888
Music: Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876