April 18th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeChris Tou, piano
Confession & ForgivenessPastor Linda
Gathering SongAs the Sun With Longer Journey
#329
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 98
ScriptureActs 6:1 – 7:2a; 44-60Pastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
HymnI Received The Living God
#477
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
Statement of FaithPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionChristy Wetzig
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Pastor Linda
Closing HymnThat Easter Day with Joy Was Bright
#384
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
DismissalPastor Linda
PostludeChris Tou, piano
[Photos]Claire Scriba

Audio Recording


Prelude

Chris Tou

Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

   C: Amen

P: Trusting in the promise of God’s word, we admit the sin that confronts and confounds us.

     Silence for reflection and self-examination.

P: Most faithful God,

C: We confess that we have failed to walk in the way of your Son. We have shut our ears to your call to serve as Christ served us. We have shut our eyes to the suffering of your people and of your world. We have closed our minds to the possibilities of life and the mysteries of faith.
Call us out, gracious God, and grant us life.

P: We who were once far off have been brought near to God through the cross of Jesus. May almighty God grant you grace to forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.     Amen.


Gathering Song – As the Sun with Longer Journey

1.
As the sun with longer journey melths the winter’s snow and ice,
with its slowly growing radiance warms the seed beneath the earth,
may the sun of Christ’s uprising gently bring our hearts to life.

2.
Through the days of waiting, watching, in the desert of our sin,
searching on the far horizon for a sign of cloud or wind,
we await the healing waters of our Savior’s victory.

3.
Praise be given to the maker of the seasons’ yearly round:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- Source, Sustainer, Lord of life,
as the ever turning ages roll to their eternal rest.

Text: John Patrick Earls
Music: Carl F. Schalk


Greeting

P: The grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

       C: And also with you.  

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

                           

      


Psalm 98

1 Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done | marvelous things,
whose right hand and holy arm have | won the victory.

2 O Lord, you have made | known your victory,
you have revealed your righteousness in the sight | of the nations.

3 You remember your steadfast love and faithfulness to the | house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the victory | of our God.

4 Shout with joy to the Lord, | all you lands;
lift up your voice, re-|joice and sing.

5 Sing to the Lord | with the harp,
with the harp and the | voice of song.

6 With trumpets and the sound | of the horn
shout with joy before the | king, the Lord.

7 Let the sea roar, and | all that fills it,
the world and those who | dwell therein.

8 Let the rivers | clap their hands,
and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord, who comes to | judge the earth.

9 The Lord will judge the | world with righteousness
and the peo-|ples with equity.


Narrative Connection

Today we leave the gospels and change gears a little bit, but not by much.

In the next few weeks we will be reading from the Acts of the Apostles – which is volume two of the set written by the author of Luke. Chapter 1 of Acts begins with Luke’s address to the same nobleman or patron to whom he wrote the gospel of Luke: “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen… While staying with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth.”

Today we skip over the story of the Holy Spirit coming among them – we’ll pick it up for Pentecost – but instead we find the disciples in Jerusalem, following step one of their instructions. Peter has experienced a transformation and has become the rock, the leader of the seedling movement of witnesses. They are in the beginning stages of forming the body of Christ, a communion of fellowship in his name.

The end of chapters 2 and 4 are nearly identical: “Awe came upon everyone, because many signs and wonders were being done by the apostles.The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
                  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number.”

It sounds too good to be true – well, at least too good to last.           

As we know from history, claiming allegiance to Jesus’ way – living into an alternative kingdom – is never done without risk. Continuing to preach the message of Jesus raised the hackles of the establishment. The chief priests and Pharisees and scribes who had had Jesus killed are still hot under the collar. They thought this nonsense about the Messiah had been laid to rest, but here is this group acting and speaking in Jesus’ name. It was risky business the apostles were about. They were compelled by the Spirit and the force of Christ’s love to share their good news, anyway – to care for one another and the least and lowest, anyway – to tell what they believed to be true of God in Jesus in spite of the risk. This might tell us something about God’s love. It isn’t a cozy hug. It isn’t a ‘keep you safe, hot coca and slippers’ kind of love. God never promised you a rose garden. (You have to be at least as old as I am to know that reference). The risk warns us that it is worth paying attention, pulling up your socks, and trusting that you are part of God’s will, part of the glorious works that will be achieved – thorns and all.

Sure enough, the disciples were arrested and brought before the high priest and council. The Sanhedrin was enraged and wanted to kill them. However, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.

35Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. 37After him another man rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them — and you may even be found to be fighting against God!”

A wise man. The disciples were off the hook temporarily and were released. But even without the controversy and agitation of the religious elite, there was trouble. It may be one of the encouraging parts of this awful story – that even in the first rendering of Christ’s community, even with this communal, all-in practice of koinonia, there was grumbling and conflict. The encouraging bit is that God always finds a way forward…in spite of our efforts,   our actions,    our failings.

Scripture Reading – Acts 6:1 – 7:2a; 44-60

Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prokorus, Nickanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them, blessing them for their task.

7The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

8Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9But some of those who belonged to the synagogue stood up and argued with Stephen. 10They could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; and they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2And Stephen replied:

Well, Steven replied with one of the longest speeches in the New Testament. The result should stand, perhaps, as a warning to pastors not to preach so long. Stephen did not answer the charges, but instead recounted the history of Israel – to the teachers of Israel – with special emphasis on their doubt, their divorce from (and headstrong disobedience to) the will of God. This was received by the Sanhedrin as we might expect. He ends with this:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. 52Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. 53You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

Well, 54When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven… 56Look, he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

The word of the Lord.          …..thanks be to God


Sermon

Even the apostles couldn’t do everything. And even within an ideal community of sharing all things in common, not all things can be shared in common… because not all people have the same gifts and needs. So, Stephen becomes a kind of subversive refectory worker, equalizing food distributions between the Greek and Jewish widows in his day job – and doing signs and wonders when the dishes are washed and he can get out of the kitchen.

It’s the signs and wonders that get him into trouble – that, and that he can’t seem to stay quiet. His powerful witness provokes the already irritated religious elite so much that he is killed in an impulsive act of mob violence. Stoning was the preferred Jewish method of execution, but the Jews were not allowed to put people to death under the terms of their occupation by Rome. That’s why Jesus was passed back and forth between Herod and Pilate with the crowd controlling matters from the sidelines by threatening to riot and revolt. The Jews weren’t allowed to kill outright.  So, in his stoning, Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr, and he comes not from those on the frontline preaching the word, but from those back in the kitchen feeding the hungry.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus was all about feeding people and eating with the wrong sort of people. Improper table fellowship was one of the most persistent criticisms against him. And serving God through caring for the poor, for sojourning immigrants, for widows, for children left at the border is not something we should expect (or hope) to get away from. In Luke’s theology, ordinary becomes extraordinary. Regular people do highly irregular things when God gets involved, and salvation has more to do with this life than the next. God’s care, in Luke, is evident for living people who hunger and thirst and struggle and grieve. This world matters – if not ultimately, at least certainly while you are living it!

Luke fashions the telling of Stephen’s involvement in a way that reveals the mission and ministry and the risk of the church; showing the cruciform nature of Christian discipleship. Stephen’s story is a mini-series redo. In his serving, in his teaching, in the way he interprets scripture – opening it up to new vision – in the forgiveness and mercy he calls down on his enemies, Stephen reflects Jesus’ model. Faith, community, serving in Christ’s name is a commitment that comes with risks and consequences – occasionally, like the martyrs of every age, including the risk of death.   

We are formed in the image of God, we say; Luke says that image also reflects the image of the cross, of Jesus broken by the sin of the world. Scriptural echoes in today’s story remind us that suffering has always been a consequence of the calling for God’s people, because suffering is a side effect of love. As Stephen prays for his enemies and forgives his attackers, “Lord, do not hold this against them,” we hear the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”

One of the points to ponder about the kingdom of God is that ordinary, unknown people keep popping up as main characters for a moment or two. That might worry us if we think that staying in the background might keep us safe, might let us pass by un-noticed, unscathed.

Stephen wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the gospels. He might have been part of the crowd, but from the little we know, these seven kitchen workers joined the group of disciples after the resurrection and Pentecost, like us. Along with the others, his name is Greek, indicating that he was one of the Hellenists – Jews from the diaspora who spoke Greek, not Aramaic. This new community formed in Jesus’ name was a lumpy amalgamation, not a smooth mixture despite their sharing of resources and holding all things in common. Cultural and social differences created tensions. But Stephen shows up, hears the story, is given a way to serve, gets caught on fire by the Spirit of God, and dies for his faith.

Aside from being commemorated as the first Christian martyr and getting a prize spot of Feast Days – the day after Christmas – Stephen is an unknown character. He did his bit. It had life and death consequences. He was included in the story. Becoming a martyr shouldn’t be a career choice, but it happened – it happens. The language of the reading today, the social dynamics of insider/outsider,  cultural differences creating conflict, willful misunderstanding and false accusations, mob violence leading to impulsive killing of the innocent… sounds eerily familiar – ancient ways that have not gone away. Our nation is a lumpy amalgamation – where cultural, racial, language differences are still sharp points of conflict, inciting violence, mob mentality, the death of innocents. The disregard of the value of lives, bodies because of skin color or sexual, gender, religious, language differences is still a sin, a divorce from the way and love of God (who created all of our bodies and distinctions as signs and wonders of divine love).

Mostly, the story of Stephen is here to teach us about being “the church” – the community that enacts the work of Christ in the world…. it is a mission dropping us in the deep, way over our heads. Stephen shows that the impossible ethic of love is possible, although costly. He didn’t set out to die, he was fulfilling his vocation of serving in the kitchen in Jerusalem – making sure the rations were distributed fairly. It was just an ordinary job. He, an ordinary person doing an ordinary job. That is the life of the church. That is the life of the church living the ethic of love in our daily lives. There are lots of ordinary jobs represented among us. There are just as many extraordinary people – ordinary people who might one day trip over the stumbling block that is Christ, and rise up, bruised but inspired, set on fire by the Spirit of God.

Through us, the ripples of small, ordinary and unknown become amplified in ways that might be invisible to us, but together are overwhelmingly wonderful – as they are orchestrated and seen by God.

One does not need to be divine to do what Jesus did. In the simple act of feeding widows, Stephen does the work of Jesus and opens himself to the realm of God. The church is not an hour a week commitment: it is a living. Your mission, child of God, is to live it:   to follow Christ into the world in your ordinary, everyday life; to imagine the realm and the pleasure of God; to take up the task that is yours to do, to be love incarnate for those who need its life-givingness and hope…. to care… for the world, its impoverished, its isolated, its biodiversity, its suffering, its joyful, amazing creative life-force. To see this all as God’s work, God’s doing, God’s concern – and to share in that love, no matter what the cost to you.

It may be minimal, or it may cost you your life – but if it is the work of God, it will be all and it will be enough. Sometimes that is a word of grace – that what you do and who you are is enough, it is God’s love enacted through you, and you are adequate for the job. Like Stephen in the kitchen, or in the street doing signs and wonders, you have been given what you have to give, and in the ripples of life, what you do is enough…it spreads out all around you in ways you can’t imagine. All that is asked of you – of any follower of Christ – is the witness of your life. Live it with joy and in hope and in the solace of the saints who have gone before. Be the love of God, and all shall be well. In God’s watchful love, all manner of things shall be well.


Hymn – I Received the Living God

Refrain
I received the living God,
and my heart is full of joy.
I received the living God,
and my heart is full of joy.

1.
Jesus said: I am the bread
kneaded long to give you life;
you who will partake of me
need not ever fear to die.
[Refrain]

2.
Jesus said: I am the way,
and my Father longs for you;
so I come to bring you home
to be one with us anew.
[Refrain]

3.
Jesus said: I am the truth;
come and follow close to me.
You will know me in your heart,
and my word shall make you free.
[Refrain]

4.
Jesus said: I am the life,
far from whom no thing can grow,
but receive this living bread,
and my Spirit you shall know.
[Refrain]

Text & Tune: Anonymous


Statement of Faith

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

Trusting that God wants to hear the desires of our hearts, let’s approach God’s throne together. I’ll end each prayer with “Lord, in your mercy,” and I invite you to respond: “Hear our prayer.”

Let’s pray.

Dear God, we come before you again, and the world doesn’t seem any better than it was last week. Still, we come before you again, lifting up the needs of the world up to you, who grieves each sparrow that falls, and rejoices when love is shared in the world. Help the church, your body on this earth, do your work. Give us eyes to see injustice. Give us lips to speak the truth in love. Give us hands to bind up wounds. And let our feet spread your good news of mercy wherever we go. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Dear God, thank you for those who stand up for peace and justice in our community and the world. We ask that their voices be heard and that laws would be changed, armies would stand down, prisoners would be freed, weapons would be dropped, forgotten, as love conquers the world, the kind of love that casts out all fear. We pray that compassion would take the place of suspicion. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of mercy, the earth groans under the weight of our greed and selfishness and willful ignorance. How long must it suffer from our sin? Teach us humans the meaning of “enough,” and help us take care of each bit of earth we touch. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of mercy, we bring to you those who are sick, those in pain, those whose minds and hearts grieve, those who are weary of doing good. Especially we think of Selma and her family and Carl. Be the rest they need for their souls. In this silence we name before you those for whom we’re especially burdened….

God of mercy, we also speak to you in this silence that which we don’t speak to anyone else, knowing you listen with love and compassion to our deepest secrets….

Gather all the prayers of all the people to your bosom, O Lord. Amen.

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

Benediction


Hymn – That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright

1.
That Easter day with joy was bright;
the sun shone out with fairer light
when, to their longing eyes restored,
the apostles saw their risen Lord!

2.
O Jesus, king of gentleness,
with constant love our hearts possess;
to you our lips will ever raise
the tribute of our grateful praise.

3.
O Christ, you are the Lord of all
in this our Easter festival,
for you will be our strength and shield
from ev’ry weapon death can wield.

4.
All praise, O risen Lord, we give
to you, once dead, but now alive!
To God the Father equal praise,
and God the Spirit, now we raise!

Text: Latin hymn; tr. John Mason Neale
Music: European tune, adapt. Michael Praetorius


Dismissal

Go into this week with the strength you have.
Go simply, lightly, gently
Go in search of Love.
And trust that the Spirit of God goes with you.  Amen


Postlude

Chris Tou

April 11th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeChris Tou, piano
Confession & ForgivenessPastor Linda
Gathering SongSigns and Wonders
#672
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 4
ScriptureLuke 24: 13-35Barb Kass
SermonPastor Linda
HymnChrist Has Arisen, Alleluia
#364
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
Statement of FaithPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Pastor Linda
Closing HymnAlleluia, Jesus is Risen
#377
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
DismissalPastor Linda
PostludeChris Tou, piano

Audio Recording


Prelude

Chris Tou

Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

C: Amen

P:  By our baptism we are united to Christ and raised to new life. Let us confess to God all that awaits resurrection in our lives.

       Silence for reflection and self-examination.

Lord of love,

C: we find it hard to believe the witness of the resurrection: we resist your unfailing love for us and for others, and we turn our backs on the gift of new life, choosing instead the way that takes us away from you and leads us back toward death. Free us from this power of sin, guide us by your Spirit, and help us in our weakness, that we may live as your children, restored to new and everlasting life.  Amen

P:  By God’s grace you are forgiven and born anew.  May you be strengthened daily with the power to walk in God’s light and love.     Amen.


Gathering Song – Signs and Wonders

1.
Signs and wonders lead the dancing from the heart God frees from fear:
wings of angels greet the maiden, and God finds a dwelling here:
boldly may we lift our hands, bow the head, and voice Amen;
thus does glory shine at midnight: open hearts invite the starlight.

2.
Hope and freedom join the circle: Mary to the garden came,
saw the radiance of the marvel, heard the Risen call her name;
boldly may we heed Christ’s call, step beyond the garden wall:
beautiful the feet proceeding with good news of death’s defeating.

3.
Cast aside all fear and hiding; hand in hand we dance the round.
God is with us, Christ abiding, and the Spirit’s gifts abound.
Called by God to holiness, let us boldly serve and bless;
and to hearts that sigh and hunger may our lives dance signs and wonders.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien
Music: Trente quatre pseaumes de David


Greeting

P: God is here to bless you. And blessed are you, beyond telling.
         Christ be with you in this day and every day, in every need, in every way.    

C: And also with you. 

Prayer of the Day

     God of life, You are the peace of all things calm.
            You are the place to hide from harm.  You are the light that shines in dark.
            You are the heart’s eternal spark.  You are the door that’s open wide.
            You are the guest who waits inside.  You are the stranger at the door.
            You are the calling of the poor.  You are my Lord and with me still.
            You are my love, keep me from ill.  You are the light, the truth, the way.
            You are my Savior this very day.    Amen

                           

      


Psalm 4

1 Answer me when I call, O God, defender | of my cause;
you set me free when I was in distress; have mercy on me and | hear my prayer.

2 “You mortals, how long will you dishon-|or my glory;
how long will you love illusions and seek | after lies?”

3 Know that the Lord does wonders | for the faithful;
the Lord will hear me | when I call.

4 Tremble, then and | do not sin;
speak to your heart in silence up-|on your bed.

5 Offer the appointed | sacrifices,
and put your trust | in the Lord.

6 Many are saying, “Who will show us | any good?”
Let the light of your face shine upon | us, O Lord.

7 You have put gladness | in my heart,
more than when grain and | wine abound.

8 In peace, I will lie | down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me | rest secure.


Intro to Sermon

In the prologue to his gospel, Luke says that he set out to make an orderly account of the information regarding Jesus that was circulating at his time – which was at least 50 years after the first Easter Day. There were many stories – some written, some still in verbal form; many of the letters of Paul had been copied and were being carried and shared from town to town; the gospel of Mark was written by this time.  Another source that we call Q contained stories and information which are not included in Mark but are evident in Matthew and Luke’s gospel accounts – so that was in circulation …   

            50 years after the death of Jesus on a cross on the hill of Golgotha there was still a hubbub – still a confusing assortment of ideas, beliefs, parables, misinformation, conspiracy theories, rumors and doubts. Luke wanted to sort it all out and provide an orderly account. So, not a scientific account or a reporter on the scene account, not a dictated from angelic messenger account and not even an historically accurate account, but an orderly, gathered, thoughtful, faithful account of God’s good news for us through Jesus.

The Christian faith is born and nurtured where people share in the life of God through word and action, in expressions of mutual care, in fellowship with Jesus and others, in a sacramental approach to our lived lives and the world around us, in the willingness to gather, to share it all with others. That is what it means to be the church as an encounter space for Christ.

In the gathering and expression, Jesus is present, though not seen. It is not by our will or command or learning, but by God’s grace that he comes among us. First Mary and the women, then Peter, then Cleopas and his unnamed companion, then the rest of the disciples in groups and on occasions were given an experience with the risen one and were transformed by it, unaccountably emboldened and changed. Theirs is the witness, the faith, through which we are given the story.

Though the tomb was empty, the space was filled with God. “And the word lived among us,” to borrow from the prolog to John’s gospel, “the word lived among us full of truth and light.”

Scripture Reading – Luke 24: 13-35

The Gospel according to Luke, the 24th chapter.

Now on that same day two of those who had followed Jesus were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

He asked them, “What things?”

They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 

Then Jesus said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.      

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 

They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

The Gospel of our Lord……Thanks be to God


Sermon

The disciples’ walk to Emmaus is one of my favorite post-resurrection stories – and there are some helpful details to notice:

  • One is that information alone doesn’t create faith.  This is an important point.  Like a virus, faith is infectious; it’s shared and caught and spread, not learned. “Where two or three are gathered,” Jesus said, “there I will infect you.”   As the three were walking along, Jesus explained the scriptures to Cleopas and his companion. He gave them bullet point instruction highlighting scripture that foretold his coming, that explained his suffering, that promised his rising – but even with this first-hand tutoring, they didn’t understand. They didn’t know this ‘walking man’  until the bread was broken and handed on and their eyes opened and Jesus left them. I think this is important because it points to the necessity of relationship – to the intertwining of scripture and life and others and God’s spirit. Memorizing the Bible won’t create faith. Living the gospel might.
  • There’s also our perennial curiosity about Jesus’ resurrected body. The interesting witness from each of the gospels is that no one who saw Jesus after his death recognized him by sight, but only in deed, only through action. Whether it’s here in Luke’s telling of Jesus blessing and breaking bread, or in Matthew’s gospel where the two Marys take hold of his feet, or in John’s gospel when Mary mistook him for the gardener until he spoke her name, or when Thomas was able to poke his finger around in Jesus’ wounded side, or when Peter’s empty nets filled with fish – in all of these recollections and traditions there seems to be a necessity for some physical element, some earthly, human connection in order to complete the transaction from encounter to recognition to belief.   As shown again in these examples, information isn’t enough. Our eyes might blind us. Our rational minds might mislead us or block the possibilities. In all of the gospel stories, faith (mind and life altering trust in the presence of God in Jesus) requires minds, bodies, and spirits – whole selves – experiencing in order to know. This points to the necessity of a church community, of gathering, of being together the body of Christ, of enlightened, interpreted experience in order for faith to thrive.

The most engaging feature of this story for me is its mysterious, ephemeral sense. The unknowing, almost-but-not-quite theme functions like an invitation. I’m interested in the riddle of a story that makes a shift from dark things to light in the presence of absence, in the medium of things that are seen and then not seen.

These two disciples, friends of Jesus, were walking away from it all, leaving town discouraged, scared, heartbroken – Jesus was dead and his tomb empty – robbed? Maybe, but why? The women told a crazy tale about seeing someone who told them Jesus was still living… raised?  How could he be… it was just the women, but still it’s unsettling.  His closest companions had withdrawn to their upper rooms to grieve and worry. Probably, they’d say their goodbyes and go back to whatever life was left for them, whatever pieces they could pick up again. These two were on their way back home. Their forlorn disappointment is palpable. A stranger catches up to them and entrances them with the interpretation of scripture he offers. It stirs their broken hearts. They urge him to stay for supper and the night. They don’t make the connection though until it all changes in a flash of recognition – and then they are left alone again.  The ah-ha moment lit up Christ’s disappearance. I can see them grasping for the trailing wisps as he disappeared. And then it’s dark again.  

I like it when scripture matches my experience. Mostly, I feel that true, mind-altering, life-changing faith is a bit beyond me, that I’m just on the verge of understanding or loving or accepting God’s will in my life, but I can’t ever quite get there. I like the words. I’m drawn to the imagery and stories and poetry of scripture. I like being spiritual and religious. But real belief? Real commitment to this cause of God? All-out giving away of my whole self – heart, body, mind, soul, life – to follow in the Way of Christ – wherever that might lead me?

I don’t think I can do that. I can kind of see what it might ask of me, where it could lead, and I don’t want to let go and go.    I’m not one of the medieval mystics I admire so much and keep quoting to you. I’m just me – mostly afraid of big changes and settled and hopeful and skeptical and happy to keep my faith on a poetic flight path – giving what encouragement I can to those who live it far better and far truer than do I. There is a gap in the transference from what I know to what I do.   If transcendence is living out of myself and into God, then I am rather earth bound, suspended somewhere between Easter Day and Earth Day. Fascinated but cautious.

I love the woods and creeks and bogs and fields around me. I have a theology strongly leaning toward an earth-centered redemption for all of creation in God’s ‘presence and will’ here, now, among the people we know and have opportunity to love, among those who are strangers to us and whom we have opportunity to serve. But I do also recognize that this is a position – a prerogative, a luxury – of privilege. I’ve been born into a pleasant, peaceful place with possibilities – not torture or political oppression or crushing poverty. I recognize the danger of my white privilege, even while I’m not quite sure what to do about it, how to lessen the gap between my comfort and the crumpling needs of the poor, of the afflicted, and of the earth.

In the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chauvin trial, continual gun violence, domestic violence, political posturing, big business, big egos – we see the power of empire. We see it in false divisions that defy the common good. Why is defending the environment, or the value of science, racial justice, excellent education, compassionate health care and funding for those who provide these essential skills a political stumbling block? The earth’s habitat and her creatures are, for the majority of the people of this country and in our world, irrelevant. They are costly. Their concerns are luxuries for those privileged to care, while the rest of the earth’s population concerns themselves with survival… or greed – either end of the extreme of human need. To be alive and aware is to be swept up in the overwhelming issues of the day. It is hard to see what role, what transformative power faith might have in the conflicted values of life inside the empire.

And so, a week after Easter, we’ve eaten all the chocolate, picked through the jelly beans for our favorites and we’re back to this strange version of Covid life, waiting for a time when we can say we’re past it. Chances are your life doesn’t feel particularly Easter-ified. True, things are greening, the trees are budding, the green blade rising, but chances are you don’t expect anything spiritually transformative to happen to you. You aren’t looking for it with the same anticipation you might have for the return of orioles and hummingbirds. We are used to Easter. We’ve heard this biblical word. Christ is arisen…and then we go on to Monday, sink back into the dullness of things hoped for but as yet unseen, of promises made, of God’s love seen and unseen.

But there is this weird bit about the presence of Christ’s absence.

The thing that kept Cleopas and his companion from recognizing Jesus when he was with them might have been that they thought he was dead and gone; they were so lost in their sad and tangled thoughts that they did not recognize him any more than you and I would recognize him as we walk through the world – because – like them – our eyes are conditioned to not see what we don’t expect to see. Our minds filter out the improbable. Yet the freeing, joyful, hopeful improbable is just as real as what we expect to see.

Did you know that Cleopas and the unnamed companion are only mentioned here in this story? Nowhere else in the Bible or other gospels.  Did you know that Emmaus is not mentioned anywhere else biblically, historically, nor is it confirmed by archaeological evidence? I read that the word Emmaus means ‘warm spring’. Their hearts burned within them and they sprang back into life and action after Jesus vanished from their sight. I don’t know that either of these details are significant in their absence of corroborated reality, but they lend themselves to the mystery of Jesus appearing and disappearing, as if Emmaus and Jesus were merely a mirage in the purple gloaming of evening. I’m grateful that it’s only when he vanished from sight that these two unknowns came to believe. It’s only in their shared amazement that they were compelled to action to share their experience. The absence of Jesus caused them to recognize his presence just like the empty tomb was filled with God.

I believe that, even though Cleopas and his companion did not recognize Jesus on the road, Jesus did recognize them – and knew them for who they really were. And I suspect that the reason the resurrection is more than just an old, odd, isolated, poorly explained, extraordinary event that took place a long, long time ago in a land far away but now is over and done with, is that, in spite of it all, God continues to see us, to see you, and know you for who you really are. God continues to be present even in the absence of Jesus’ presence. We need that knowing, and long for it. I believe that whether we recognize him or not, believe in him or not, again and again Jesus comes and walks a little way with us along whatever road we’re following.  And I believe that through something that happens, something we experience or participate in, through someone we know Jesus offers us, the way he did at Emmaus, the bread of life, a new hope, a new vision of light that even the darkness of sorrow and death and daily life cannot quench.

The new life of Easter doesn’t erase or cancel or minimize our disappointment, or render our experiences irrelevant. This is the life we have, the life we live.  Christ among us calls us to retell the bad times, and then to look again, perhaps to see something different that we missed the first time – how God is present in it, with us, along the way – revealed – if not in a trumpet blast, then perhaps in a whisper, a touch, a saving, holy word.    Though the tomb was empty, the space was filled with God. Christ’s true presence is revealed in his absence. Just like at a super table in Emmaus when the bread is broken.

Christ has arisen, for you, for the world, for all the seen and unseen.     Peace be in you.


Hymn – Christ Has Arisen, Alleluia

1.
Christ has arisen, alleluia,
Rejoice and praise Him, alleluia.
For our Redeemer burst from the tomb,
Even from death, dispelling its gloom.

Refrain
Let us sing praise to Him with endless joy;
Death’s fearful sting He has come to destroy
Our sin forgiving, alleluia!
Jesus is living, alleluia!

2.
For three long days the grave did its worst
Until its strength by God was dispersed.
He who gives life did death undergo;
And it its conquest His might did show.
Refrain

3.
The angel said to them, “Do not fear!
You look for Jesus who is not here.
See for yourselves the tomb is all bare;
Only the grave clothes are lying there.”
Refrain

4.
“Go spread the news: He’s not in the grave;
He has arisen this world to save.
Jesus’ redeeming labors are done;
Even the battle with sin is won.”
Refrain

5.
Christ has arisen; He sets us free;
Alleluia, to Him praises be.
Jesus is living! Let us all sing;
He reigns triumphant, heavenly King.
Refrain

Text: Bernard Kyamanywa; tr. Howard S. Olson
Music: Tanzanian traditional


Statement of Faith

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

United in spirit, though physically separated, let us pray for the church, for all people, and for all of creation. Each petition will end with Hear us, O Lord, and your response is, Your mercy is great.

God of Creation, after the joy and sunshine of Easter came grey skies and rain. We thank you for the rain, for the small birds who are singing each morning, for the farmers who are starting seeds. After the hope brought by vaccinations, came surges in new infections. Nevertheless we thank you for science and for the medical workers who guard our health. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it is too easy for us to see only the sadness around us, until you open our eyes and hearts to the truth of resurrection. Help us to live in hope. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.

God of Justice, guide our judges and juries, attorneys and investigators. Help them to search impartially, to prosecute and defend ethically, and to decide wisely and justly. Care for those whose mission it is to serve and protect us, especially our members in the police force and military, and keep them safe. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.

God of Love, keep in our hearts love for all your people, not only for the people who are like us. Help everyone on earth to know they are your beloved children, in whatever way they understand you. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.

God of Strength and Comfort, we ask your help and healing for all who are ill, frail, or injured in body, mind, or spirit, especially those known to us whom we name silently or aloud. [Pause for names.] Comfort all those who mourn, especially the family and friends of Jim Christiansen, whose memory is a blessing. Hear us, O Lord, your mercy is great.

We ask all this, and the inward petitions of our hearts, in the strong name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Benediction


Hymn – Alleluia! Jesus Is Risen!

1.
Alleluia! Jesus is risen!
Trumpets resounding in glorious light!
Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever!
Oh, what a miracle God has in sight!

Refrain
Jesus is risen and we shall arise.
Give God the glory! Alleluia!

2.
Walking the way, Christ in the center
telling the story to open our eyes;
breaking our bread, giving us glory:
Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.
Refrain

3.
Jesus the vine, we are the branches;
life in the Spirit the fruit of the tree;
heaven to earth, Christ to the people,
gift of the future now flowing to me.
Refrain

4.
Weeping, be gone; sorrow, be silent:
death put asunder, and Easter is bright.
Cherubim sing: O grave, be open!
Clothe us in wonder, adorn us in light.
Refrain

5.
City of God, Easter forever,
golden Jerusalem, Jesus the Lamb,
river of life, saints and archangels,
sing with creation to God the I Am!
Refrain

Text: Herbert F. Brokering
Music: David N. Johnson


Dismissal

Go into this week with the strength you have.
Go simply, lightly, gently
Go in search of Love.
And trust that the Spirit of God goes with you.  Amen


Postlude

Chris Tou

Easter Sunday Worship

Order of Service

PreludeChris Johansen, piano
WelcomeShawn Mai
Opening liturgyShawn Mai
Molly Tulkki
Chuck Parsons, piano
Opening hymnJesus Christ Is Risen Today
#365
Shawn Mai
Molly Tulkki
Chuck Parsons, organ
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Shawn Mai
Psalm 118vs. 17, 21-24Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 24: 1-12Henrik Strandskov
SermonMarty Jones
HymnNow the Green Blade Rises
#379
Shawn Mai
Molly Tulkki
Chuck Parsons, organ
CreedShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionWetzigs
Lord’s PrayerShawn Mai
Closing HymnDay of Arising
#374
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Blessing / BenedictionShawn Mai
PostludeChuck Parsons

Audio Recording – Full service

Prelude

Chris Johansen

Welcome

Standing on the Threshold of Easter

We last gathered at the foot of the cross where Jesus was crucified. We have waited in grief and prayer.

It is now early dawn, day after the Sabbath. There is still darkness. We come with the women, to anoint Jesus’ body. We come in grief.

And in the midst of deep darkness and grief, life breaks through, as it always does, miraculously, surprising us by joy.

Here now, readings from the gospels of Mark and John.

Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace; and they called together the whole cohort. And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” … She said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!”…Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”!

The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying how do you do
They’re really saying
I love you

I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more
Then I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world

Gathering Song – Jesus Christ is Risen Today

1.
Jesus Christ is ris’n today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

2.
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heav’nly king, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

3.
But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured; Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s king, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

4.
Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
praise eternal as his love; Alleluia!
praise him, all you heav’nly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Alleluia!


Text: Latin Carol; Charles Wesley, st. 4
Music: J. Walsh

Greeting

A. Alleluia! Christ is risen!
C. Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

A. This is the day that the Lord has made!
C. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Prayer of the Day

We’ve existed in the tomb of grief for so long.

On this Easter Sunday,

Let us roll away the stone

The stone that stifles the divine spark within us

That keeps us from being our true selves

Let us liberate ourselves from the tombs that we have built around us

Tombs of greed

Tombs of selfishness

Tombs of fear

Tombs of hurt and bitterness

Let us set our spirits free To live to our true potential

                           

      

Psalm 118: 17, 21-24

17 I shall not | die, but live,
and declare the works | of the Lord.

21 I give thanks to you, for you have | answered me
and you have become | my salvation.

22 The stone that the build-|ers rejected
has become the chief | cornerstone.

23 By the Lord has | this been done;
it is marvelous | in our eyes.

24 This is the day that the | Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be | glad in it.

Scripture Reading – Luke 24: 1-12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Sermon – Marty Jones

Hymn – Now the Green Blade Rises

1.
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain
Wheat that in the dark earth many years has lain
Love lives again, that with the dead has been
Love is come again like wheat arising green

2.
In the grave they laid Him, love whom we had slain
Thinking that He’d never wake to life again
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen
Love is come again like wheat arising green 

3.
Forth He came at Easter, like the risen grain
He that for three days in the grave had lain
Quick from the dead, my risen Lord is seen
Love is come again like wheat arising green

4.
When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain
Thy touch can call us back to life again
Fields of our hearts, that dead and bare have been
Love is come again like wheat arising green

Text: John Macleod Campbell Crum
Music: French Carol

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

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

Hymn – Day of Arising

1.
Day of arising, Christ on the roadway,
unknown companion walks with his own.
When they invite him, as fades the first day,
and bread is broken, Christ is made known.

2.
When we are walking, doubtful and dreading,
blinded by sadness, slowness of heart,
yet Christ walks with us, ever awaiting
our invitation: Stay, do not part.

3.
Lo, I am with you, Jesus has spoken.
This is Christ’s promise, this is Christ’s sign:
when the church gathers, when bread is broken,
there Christ is with us in bread and wine.

4.
Christ, our companion, hope for the journey,
bread of compassion, open our eyes.
Grant us your vision, set all hearts burning
that all creation with you may rise.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien
Music: Carl F. Schalk


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

Postlude

Chuck Parsons

March 28th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeBreathe on Me, Breath of GodChris Johansen, piano
Confession & Forgiveness
Palm Sunday Liturgy
Gathering SongAll Glory, Laud, and Honor
#344
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Opening Prayer
Psalm 118vs. 19-29Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 19: 29-44
SermonChristy Wetzig
Nicene Creed
Prayers of IntercessionSharyl Manwiller
Lord’s Prayer
Peace
Closing Prayer
Closing HymnSing, My Tongue
#355
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Blessing / Benediction
PostludeHosanna, Loud HosannaChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full Service

Prelude

Chris Johansen

Confession & Forgiveness

We begin worship with recognition that we do not always live up to our highest ideals or values, and with trust that God’s love encompasses us always.

L:  In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.                           

C: Amen

L: 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

L:  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

Palm Sunday Liturgy

M:Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: Let the sea roar, and all that fills it…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: Let the field exult, and everything in it…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: For he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.

W: Hosanna in the highest!

M: Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: Let the rivers clap their hands…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord…

W: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

M: for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

W: Hosanna in the highest!

Gathering Song – All Glory, Laud, and Honor

Refrain:
All glory, laud, and honor
to you, redeemer, king,
to whom the lips of children
made sweet hosannas ring.

1.
You are the king of Israel
and David’s royal Son,
now in the Lord’s name coming,
the King and Blessed One. [Refrain]

2.
The company of angels
is praising you on high;
creation and all mortals
in chorus make reply. [Refrain]

3.
The multitude of pilgrims
with palms before you went;
our praise and prayer and anthems
before you we present. [Refrain]

4.
To you, before your passion,
they sang their hymns of praise.
To you, now high exalted,
our melody we raise. [Refrain]

5.
Their praises you accepted;
accept the prayers we bring,
great author of all goodness,
O good and gracious King. [Refrain]

Text: Theodulph of Orleans, tr. John Mason Neale
Music: Melchior Teschner

Opening Prayer

Everlasting God in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

                           

      

Psalm 118: 19-29

19 Open for me the | gates of righteousness;
I will enter them and give thanks | to the Lord.

20 “This is the gate | of the Lord;
here the righ-|teous may enter.”

21 I give thanks to you, for you have | answered me
and you have become | my salvation.

22 The stone that the build-|ers rejected
has become the chief | cornerstone.

23 By the Lord has | this been done;
it is marvelous | in our eyes.

24 This is the day that the | Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be | glad in it.

25 Hosanna! | O Lord, save us!
We pray to you, Lord, pros-|per our days!

26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name | of the Lord;
we bless you from the house | of the Lord.

27 The Lord is God and has giv-|en us light.
Form a procession with branches up to the corners | of the altar.

28 You are my God, and | I will thank you;
you are my God, and I | will exalt you.

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

Scripture Reading – Luke 19: 29-44

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

Thanks be to God

Sermon – Christy Wetzig

I should admit at the outset that I’m a Palm Sunday scrooge. Why must we read these passages from the four Gospels every year when, Look, in the Luke version there aren’t even any palms! It smells to me like the floral industry met behind closed doors with the Lectionary Committee to find an agreement that everyone could benefit from.

Palms are so foreign to us northerners. They are traditionally a symbol of Jewish nationalism–by waving them to Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, the people show that they are welcoming a king to the Jewish nation. Similarly, they lay their cloaks down on the path Jesus would walk, another tradition to show respect for a king, like a red carpet.

According to one preacher I read, kings had been riding into Jerusalem on donkey colts ever since Zechariah had prophesied this: “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations…”

A king riding a donkey is a lovely symbol of peace. It was actually begun by that warrior king David, rider of warhorses, who put his son Solomon on a mule to ride into Jerusalem as his successor.

So Jesus also seeks out a donkey colt, to fulfil the Messianic prophecy, but it sort of muddles the minds of the people watching that day, since naturally they assume Jesus is declaring kingship. Little did they know he had a very different plan in mind.

Jesus enters Jerusalem, following a rocky path across a valley from the nearby hill called the Mount of Olives, probably among a large group of pilgrims heading for Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that week. Among them are a large group of his followers lauding him with the traditional cheer for pilgrims to the temple in Jerusalem: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” While this cheer was given to any pilgrim on the Jerusalem road, it takes on special–Messianic–significance here, especially accompanied by an echo of the angels’ song from the night of Jesus’ birth.

So this pilgrim king doesn’t correct any of the missunderstandings accompanying his entrance to Jerusalem–he seems instead to feed them. However he would spend the next week, revealing exactly what sort of king they had welcomed into their city–and it would cost him his life.

What does this king do first? He weeps over the city. Jesus weeps because they don’t get it–they’re looking to him for the kind of peace that comes from war and oppression, and that focus has made it difficult for them, even his friends, to comprehend the very different peace he has to offer.

So, weeping over one’s domain–not a very kingly thing to do. But it gets stranger: a good king would probably go to the Roman garrison and scope out its weaknesses, but he goes instead to the temple. Since it’s the week before the Passover and crowded with pilgrims, this is a big week for commerce, a sort of Black Friday. But he drives all the merchants out, trying to cleanse the temple from commerce and return it to its use as a house of prayer. 

Once the last merchant slinks out, Jesus dusts off his hands and begins to teach the surprised onlookers. And every day this week, he would go to the temple and teach, and crowds would gather early in each morning to get a good spot to hear what he had to say, and every night he would go back out of the city to sleep on the Mount of Olives.

As he teaches in the temple this week, he makes no friends. For a king, he has no political savvy. In fact, he seems even to purposely be offending, poking the religious leaders especially. I’ll just list–bullet point style–all the remarkably tone-deaf teachings into which he indulges this coming week, and you can make up your mind why they decide to “off” him: 

  • He begins, as I said, by driving out the money-makers;
  • Then he deliberately, openly refuses to answer the teachers’ challenge of his authority over what goes on in the temple;
  • He tells a thinly veiled parable that ends with the people in charge being destroyed;
  • When given questions by the teachers of the law, he answers them wisely and craftily, making them sound a little stupid, then stumps them with a question of his own;
  • He warns the people about the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law (while in the hearing of the teachers of the law);
  • He insults the rich people by praising a poor widow who comes to drop a penny into the offering box; 
  • He discounts the beauty and grandeur of the temple, of which the Jewish people were so proud, foretelling that it will be destroyed; 
  • And then he finishes by foretelling the end of the age in odd, scary, violent language.

I sort of sympathize with the religious leaders–the king they had heard lauded at the beginning of the week has revealed himself to be a troublemaker, a challenger of the values of society, a friend of the nobodies: children, the sick, and the abject poor. Personally, he’s not even the kind of Savior I want–I would have wanted him to like me, to point me out as a model of good behavior. But instead if I had met Jesus I’m sure he would have quickly seen my secrets and turned me face to face with my most pernicious shortcomings.

So forget “goodwill to men”–even “peace on earth” doesn’t seem really his aim. His violent outbursts in the temple, turning over tables, had only been a picture of his violent turning of the tables on society, teaching a radical new way, a topsy turvy way, where power is brought low and only the humility that comes from absolute trust in God is elevated. During his entire ministry, three years of itinerant preaching and one final, intense week of teaching in the temple, Jesus had pricked our consciences and awakened our guilt, showing us how utterly opposed his kingdom is from the one we’ve established in our countries, our churches, our hearts. Nothing we can do can measure up to the standards he set. Or, more aptly, to crouch to the level he set, to creep through the eye of a needle. Look at us: white Americans with money and education, church people–there’s no way we can possibly please a God so partial to the poor and downtrodden and marginalized. 

He made it perfectly clear that we were hopelessly lost.

Lately in church and in society we’ve been talking a lot about white America’s faults, and to tell you the truth sometimes I leave church feeling just a little beaten about the head. Because there’s nothing I can do about my whiteness, my Americanness, my middle class upbringing, my college education.  At least I’m a woman. Poor Jeff over here doesn’t even have that. Not only are we the perpetuaters of the malaise of our society, but now Jesus is telling us that only the poor and downtrodden can inherit the kingdom of God.

And what does Jesus do next? He goes willingly to the cross and dies, and some say his kingdom came, not at his kingly entry into Jerusalem, but (true to his overturning of the values of our world) at that moment when he gave up the ghost, or when the stone rolled away from his tomb. His topsy-turvy kingdom came into the world, and all our shortcomings were wiped away, our secrets were brought to light, and Jesus brought us near to himself, yes, even us, the white, the rich, the privileged. 

Maybe the poor and outcasts had always been near to Jesus–they knew that they were nothing without Christ, that in clinging to him they would find life. Maybe it was the religious leaders, the powerful, the people like you and me, who really needed Christ’s death, who needed to be brought near.

The religious leaders didn’t want to hear it. They said, “Stop with the singing, stop with the palms, stop with the cloaks and the donkey colt.” 

Jesus says to them, “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

I believe the stones are every day quietly going about the business of praising God. Quiet, because that’s in their nature, but steady, which is also in their nature. They are who they are, to the best of their ability: sharp, smooth, sparkly, craggy, supporting lichens and mosses, providing homes for all sorts of creatures, slowly wearing away to create sand. They do the job that God has given them to do–and that is how they cry out praise to God.

Have you heard that verse in Isaiah (55:12): “The trees of the field will clap their hands”? Have you stood under a stand of white pines on a windy day and heard the roaring of its needles in the wind? Have you watched a grove of quaking aspens shimmer as the gentlest breeze sets its leaves shivering? Have you heard oak leaves rattle in the winter breeze and thought of all the insects overwintering inside them, and the birds who are sustained by them? This is how trees clap their hands. 

At the end of the book of Job (38:4-11), God says to Job, 

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements–surely, you know!
Or who stretched a line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut in the sea with doors
When it burst out from the womb,
When I made clouds its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And prescribed limits for it
And set bars and doors,
And said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, 
And here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

If this is the God we worship, I don’t think we need to worry about justice being done in the world. God does not, in fact, need us. The stones will do the work, if God calls them. It takes a mighty kind of trust to throw up our hands and let God do the work.

Still, there is work that God has called us to do, equipped us to do, but only a little. If we are the sea, we should definitely make proud waves. If we are the morning stars, we should sing together. If we’re aspens, we should shimmer. If we are Danish American Lutherans, we should do whatever it is God has put in our hearts to do, and trust that it is enough. We have been brought near to God. It is enough.

And the palms will wave, whether or not our hands are waving them.

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the father, the almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, 
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made. 
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary
and become truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death  and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

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

Passing of Peace

Closing Prayer

Into your hands, almighty God, we place ourselves: our minds to know you, our hearts to love you, our wills to serve you, for we are yours. Into your hands, incarnate Savior, we place ourselves: receive us and draw us after you, that we may follow your steps; abide in us and enliven us by the power of your indwelling. Into your hands, O hovering Spirit, we place ourselves: take us and fashion us after your image; let your comfort strengthen, your grace renew, and your fire cleanse us, soul and body, in life and in death, in this world of shadows and in your changeless world of light eternal, now and forever. Amen

Hymn – Sing, My Tongue

1.
Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
tell the triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the wondrous story
of the cross, the Crucified;
tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
vanquished death the day he died.

2.
God in mercy saw us fallen,
sunk in shame and misery,
felled to death in Eden’s garden,
where in pride we claimed the tree;
then another tree was chosen,
which the world from death would free.

3.
Tell how, when at length the fullness
of the appointed time was come,
Christ, the Word, was born of woman,
left for us the heav’nly home,
blazed the path of true obedience,
shone as light amidst the gloom.

4.
Thirty years among us dwelling,
Jesus went from Nazareth,
destined, dedicated, willing,
did his work, and met his death;
like a lamb he humbly yielded
on the cross his dying breath.

5.
Bend your boughs, O tree of glory,
your relaxing sinews bend;
for a while the ancient rigor
that your birth bestowed, suspend;
and the Lord of heav’nly beauty
gently on your arms extend.

6.
Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
be for all the noblest tree;
none in foliage, none in blossom,
none in fruit your equal be;
symbol of the world’s redemption,
for your burden makes us free.

7.
Unto God be praise and glory;
to the Father and the Son,
to the eternal Spirit honor
now and evermore be done;
praise and glory in the highest,
while the timeless ages run.
Amen.

Text: Venantius Honorius Fortunatis; tr: John Mason Nealee


Sending

L: Go in peace. Serve the Lord.
C: Thanks be to God

Postlude

Chris Johansen

March 21st Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeNow the SilenceChris Johansen, piano
Opening Prayer
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Liz Dodge
Gathering SongGod, Whose Giving Knows No Ending
#678
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Liz Dodge
Psalm 84vs. 1-4; 10-12Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureLuke 18:31 – 19:10Liz Dodge
ReflectionLiz Dodge
Creed
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Liz Dodge
Closing HymnLet Us Ever Walk with Jesus
#802
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeImmortal, InvisibleChris Johansen

Part I

Part II

Prelude

Chris Johansen

Opening Prayer

It is good to be here in your presence Lord.
Here we are at home with each other and with you.
Here we discover the joy of life and the strength to live each day
with praise in our hearts to you. 
You alone are God!
You alone can show us the way to the life that lasts forever.
We love you, Lord,
and we lift this prayer in adoration of your holy name. Amen.

~ posted on SermonHelp.com. http://www.lectionarysermons.com/

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

Gathering Song – God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending

1.
God, whose giving knows no ending,
from your rich and endless store:
nature’s wonder, Jesus’ wisdom,
costly cross, grave’s shattered door,
gifted by you, we turn to you,
off’ring up ourselves in praise;
thankful song shall rise forever,
gracious donor of our days.

2.
Skills and time are ours for pressing
toward the goals of Christ, your Son:
all at peace in health and freedom,
races joined, the church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
lest we strive for self alone;
born with talents, make us servants
fit to answer at your throne.

3.
Treasure, too, you have entrusted,
gain through pow’rs your grace conferred;
ours to use for home and kindred,
and to spread the gospel word.
Open wide our hands in sharing,
as we heed Christ’s ageless call,
healing, teaching, and reclaiming,
serving you by loving all.


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

Lord of the lost,
We are quick to judge and slow to accept those whom we consider lower than ourselves. But you show us the way of acceptance, forgiveness, and peace. We honor your name for teaching us to love, for the sake of the one who is the essence of love itself, Jesus Christ our loving Lord. Amen

                           

      

Psalm 84: 1-4; 10-12

1 How dear to me | is your dwelling,
O | Lord of hosts!

2 My soul has a desire and longing for the courts | of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the | living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest where she may | lay her young,
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king | and my God.

4 Happy are they who dwell | in your house!
They will always be | praising you.

10 For one day in your courts is better than a | thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents | of the wicked.

11 For the Lord God is both sun and shield, bestowing | grace and glory;
no good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk | with integrity.

12 O | Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their | trust in you!

Scripture Reading – Luke 18:31 – 19:10

31Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

35As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Thanks be to God

Reflection

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

People of God, as we come to prayer
let us remember that we do not
have to twist the arm of a reluctant God
to seek good things for this world,
nor find ways to persuade a distant God
to come near and listen to us.

Let us remember that as we pray
we kneel alongside Jesus Christ,
in the presence of God,
with the help of the Spirit.

So let us bring to mind now
those people who are in need of our prayers:
those who are ill, or anxious;
those who are lonely or sad;
those who are despairing or defeated;
those who are hungry or homeless;
those whose relationships are breaking apart;
those who are bullied or abused;
those who cannot find work;
and those who are over-worked.
In silence now, let us make our own specific prayers
for those on our hearts and minds today.

(silence)

In the presence of God,
alongside Jesus Christ,
with help from the Spirit
may we go into this week
to live out our prayers through our lives.
Amen.

~ written by Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre and Faith community. http://www.stillpointsa.org.au/prayer/prayers-and-liturgies/

Lord’s Prayer

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

Closing Prayer

Lord of our richest encounters
you heard the hidden cry of Zacchaeus
to welcome you into his home.
Teach us too hear the whispers of the world,
to feel its pain, and then bravely voice
so may cries for justice, and for peace.

~ posted on Us. (the new name for USPG). http://www.weareus.org.uk/churchresources/sunday/
Inspired by Luke 19: 1-10

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 Us Ever Walk with Jesus

1.
Let us ever walk with Jesus, follow his example pure,
through a world that would deceive us and to sin our spirits lure
Onward in his footsteps treading, trav’lers here, our home above,
full of faith and hope and love, let us do our Savior’s bidding.
Faithful Lord, with me abide; I shall follow where you guide.

2.
Let us suffer here with Jesus, and with patience bear our cross.
Joy will follow all our sadness; where he is there is no loss.
Though today we sow no laughter, we shall reap celestial joy:
all discomforts that annoy shall give way to mirth hereafter.
Jesus, here I share your woe; help me there your joy to know.

3.
Let us gladly die with Jesus. Since by death he conquered death,
he will free us from destruction, give to us immortal breath.
Let us mortify all passion that would lead us into sin;
and the grave that shuts us in shall but prove the gate of heaven.
Jesus, here with you I die, there to live with you on high.

4.
Let us also live with Jesus. He has risen from the dead
that to life we may awaken. Jesus, you are now our head,
we are your own living members; where you live there we shall be
in your presence constantly, living there with you forever.
Jesus, let me faithful be; life eternal grant to me

Postlude

Chris Johansen

March 14th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeWhen Morning Gilds the SkyChris Johansen
Opening Prayer
Confession & Forgiveness
Barb & Mike
Gathering SongAll Are Welcome
#641
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
GreetingBarb & Mike
Prayer of the DayBarb & Mike
Psalm 41vs. 1-4, 10-13Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 16: 19-31Mercy & Abel
SermonBarb & Mike
Statement of FaithBarb & Mike
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Dismissal
Barb & Mike
Closing HymnWhen the Poor Ones
#725
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeRondo, by ClementiChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full service

Prelude

Chris Johansen

Opening Prayer

God of Spirit, life and love,
It has been a year, and we are still gathering together in different ways this morning,
from computer screens, from telephones, on Bluetooth,
we gather, reaching out across the wires, waving from a safe distance,
to come together as the West Denmark community.

From living room to front porch to car seat, we gather as we are able,
ready to be of service to each other, to the world,
ready to build the community of hope and of love,
as we face this bright morning.

We are apart, but we are together, offering our love, our commitment,
our hope, and our prayers, in service to one another and this world.
Amen.

Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

                   Silence for reflection and self-examination.

C: God of glory,
we confess that we have not sought your face.
We ignore the needs of the
poor and turn away from our own kin.
We allow the gospel to go stale,
and hide the light you have given.
Forgive us; give us grace.
By the renewing gifts of your Spirit
inspire and empower us again
to show the wonder of your love in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.




L: The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The LORD upholds all who
are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace.
Thanks be to God!

Gathering Song – All Are Welcome

1.
Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

2.
Let us build a house where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek
to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

3.
Let us build a house where love is found
in water, wine and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground
where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that frees us.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

4.
Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

5.
Let us build a house where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Text & Music: Marty Haugen

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

Come Lord!
Do not smile and say you are already with us.
Millions do not know you and to us who do, what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency.
Make your word flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood and our life’s purpose.
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience. Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus that other peace is made, your peace.

~Don Helder Camara

                           

      

Psalm 41: 1-4, 10-13

1 Happy are they who re-|gard the poor!
The Lord will deliver them in the | time of trouble.

2 The Lord protects and revives them, those blessed | in the land,
and does not hand them over to the power | of their enemies.

3 The Lord sustains them | on their sickbed
and ministers to them | in their illness.

4 I said, “Lord, be merci-|ful to me;
heal me, for I have | sinned against you.”

10 But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and | raise me up,
and I | shall repay them.

11 By this I know you are | pleased with me:
that my enemy does not triumph | over me.

12 In my integrity you | hold me fast,
and shall set me before your | face forever.

13 Blessed be the Lord | God of Israel,
from age to age. A-|men. Amen.

Scripture Reading – Luke 16: 19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Thanks be to God

Sermon

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a feel good parable. It’s a story with no wiggle room which is hard for us living in a culture where we expect some wiggle room.
Luke has been emphasizing how the status of the rich and the poor is reversed in the kingdom of God for months. When Mary is told by the angel that she has found favor with God and is with child, her prayer of praise includes the hungry have been filled and the rich sent away empty. In the Luke version of the beatitudes, Jesus tells the poor that God favors them, that the kingdom of God belongs to them, and warns the rich of what is to come since they have already received their consolation in this life.
Luke makes clear that the poor are a focus of Jesus’ ministry. In his inaugural sermon, Jesus declares that he has been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “to bring good news to the poor”. Jesus admonishes his followers not just to invite to their parties the friends and neighbors who can repay them, but to extend their invitations to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind”. This is echoed when Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where all are welcome.

While the poor have good news preached to them, the the rich receive a somewhat different message. The rich young ruler who asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life is told that he is to sell all he has and distribute the money to the poor. When this makes him sad (because of his wealth) Jesus comments that the rich tend to have more difficulty entering the kingdom of God  In weeks to come we will hear of Zacchaeus giving half of his wealth to the poor and of the early church selling their possessions and giving them to all who were in need.

 Still, the story of the rich man and Lazarus might be difficult for many in wealthy nations, whose lifestyle stands in sharp contrast with a majority of people in the world who live on much less. Along with everything else Luke says about money and possessions, it stands as a stinging indictment not only of the great value we place in financial security, but also of the drastic inequities between rich and poor we allow to perpetuate.

In this story, God’s eternal judgment has everything to do with how wealth is used in this life and whether we attend to those less fortunate in our midst. It’s a story where there are no buts and one that pretty much says if we want to cover our own, it needs to be with a commitment to caring for the poor.

In 1977, I wrote a sermon for a New Testament class on this parable. This would be the point where I would quote global statistics about wealth inequities as it relates to the United States.  My statistics from 45 years ago were not good, and if I updated them for 2021, they would be so much worse! We live with the realities that we can always find money to bomb Syria but not to raise the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars; that billionaires got richer during a global pandemic yet there are 137 countries in the world that haven’t received a single dose of a vaccine, that 40% of food bought in the US is not eaten but thrown away. I am going to stop here!  All of this is important for careful consideration and response, but it is not what I want to leave you with today.

As we look back at the story (the original text, not the delightful paraphrase from Mercy and Abel), the rich man has no name, but the poor man does-Lazarus. This is the only parable that Jesus tells in which a character has a proper name. And it is interesting that throughout the entirety of the parable, Lazarus is completely passive. He longs for the crumbs, the dog lick his wounds, the angels carry him to Abraham’s side. Even in heaven when the rich man addresses him, it is Abraham who replies. Lazarus himself neither speaks nor wills himself to accomplish any activity whatsoever. The only thing of value that Lazarus has in this life is a name which means ‘he who God helps’. It is this very name that seals the indictment upon the rich man. It is also the piece of the parable that should make us…uncomfortable.

It is the detail of the gate that caught my attention this time around.. A gate serves two purposes; both as a means of keeping unwanted people out, but also as a means of entry or welcome into the kingdom.  The rich man and Lazarus are connected in life by this gate, for the presence of Lazarus here indicates that he is the rich man’s responsibility, though he does not provide for Lazarus. In fact, he seems thoroughly unconcerned by the existence of Lazarus at the gate, which might be viewed as a willful or chosen ignorance at best, and an intentional failure of responsibility at worst. The rich man’s gate keeps Lazarus out instead of serving as an instrument of grace that welcomes him in. 

The gate is God’s invitation for us to participate in grace, an invitation to join God in what he is already doing in our broken world toward reconciliation and redemption. The rich man has every opportunity to cross through the gate to Lazarus. This would be an act of solidarity; an intentional placement of his presence with the poor and an intentional cooperation with God to bring healing, justice, resources, and wholeness to Lazarus.  But the rich man’s choice to stay separated from Lazarus indicates his lack of mercy.  His decision is a failure to cooperate with the grace of God in action – all of which lead to his spiritual demise and to God’s judgement. Note that what was a gate in life now becomes a chasm in death.

A gate can keep out, but also welcome in that exists and functions by the will of humans. A chasm exists independently of human decision or effort. The parable is clear to communicate that it cannot be breached. It is a permanent statement of in and out, belonging and not belonging.

The presence of the gate in conjunction with the name Lazurus, he who God helps, is a promise of God’s justice. It is a certainty that God will act on behalf of the poor, the broken, the helpless, the outsider, the unwanted, the unseemly, the unhealthy.  It is also certain that to those whom God has given a means of resource, of power, of riches, of opportunity, of influence, there is the expectation of grace, and the expectation that we be God’s presence.  When we fail to act with mercy, with hospitality, when our gates serve to keep people out, when we are willfully ignorant, then our just God does help Lazarus. But, when God has to act because we will not, the grace gate is removed and a chasm takes its place. And we miss the opportunity.

One of Liz’s dad’s (Larry Dodge) favorite sayings was Think Globally, act locally. It’s a good way to wade through the implications of the parable. We do have to think about our relationship to the global community and cannot ignore our part in economic injustice. West Denmark’s commitment to tithe off the top of every fundraiser is a good model for all of us. If everyone does a little, it can become a lot, and it will make a difference.  

But just as importantly is to be mindful of those around us who need those gestures of kindness.  Who are the Lazarus’ in our lives? Who sits at our gate waiting to be invited in to sit at our table? Who do we throw our scraps of time and feigned attention to without really engaging, and who do we purposely or just with blind callousness not see? This parable is short on excuses, the contrast between the characters tells us that all of our perceptions of differences that hold us back from caring for each other really don’t matter.   In the end, it is the risky and often uncomfortable choice to do small, humble acts of kindness and encouragement when the opportunity presents itself to a neighbor in need that defines our spiritual destiny.

Gates of division are all around us. Fear, misunderstanding, and indifference keep them shut. We acknowledge in our opening prayer of confession that God call us to a difficult, blessed vision of a very different way 

May we all find the courage to open the gates in our lives and be the presence of God so needed for the challenges of change, called for, and overdue  in our homes, in our community and in our world. Amen

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

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

Benediction

Maybe in this there is a glimpse of the kingdom
a foretaste
a hint
a promise.

Let it hold you and let it send you
so you will never be at peace
until all are fed
until all know home
until all are free
until justice is done
until peace is the way
until grace is the law
until love is the rule
until God’s realm comes
until God’s realm comes
until God’s realm comes….
Amen

Dismissal

Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; comfort the weak, afflict the comfortable; honor all people; love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God.

Hymn – When the Poor Ones

1.
When the poor ones, who have nothing, still are giving;
when the thirsty pass the cup, water to share;
when the wounded offer others strength and healing:

Refrain
We see God, here by our side, walking our way:
we see God, here by our side, walking our way.

2.
When compassion gives the suffering consolation;
when expecting brings to birth hope that was lost;
when we choose love, not the hatred all around us;
[Refrain]

3.
When our spirits, like a chalice, brim with gladness;
when our voices, full and clear, sing out the truth;
when our longings, free from envy, seek the humble:
[Refrain]

4.
When the goodness poured from heaven fills our dwellings;
when the nations work to change war into peace;
when the stranger is accepted as our neighbor:
[Refrain]

Text: José Antonio Ilivar; tr. Martin A. Seltz
Music: Miguel Manzano


Postlude

Chris Johansen

March 7th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeChuck Parsons, organ
Opening PrayerShawn Mai
Confession & ForgivenessMarty Jones
Gathering SongThe Lord’s My Shepherd
#778
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
GreetingShawn Mai
Prayer of the DayMarty Jones
Psalm 119vs. 167-176Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 15: 1-32Henrik Strandskov
SermonMarty Jones
HymnGod of the Sparrow
#740
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
CreedShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionClaire Scriba
Lord’s PrayerMarty Jones
Closing PrayerShawn Mai
Blessing / BenedictionMarty Jones
Closing HymnFor the Fruit of All Creation
#679
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
PostludeChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full service

Prelude

Chuck Parsons

Welcome

Opening Prayer

God of the journey,
we wander through the wilderness,
worn from our growing pains.
As we learn your ways, help us to
follow your commandments,
discern your wisdom, and
proclaim your glory.

Confession & Forgiveness

We begin worship with recognition that we do not always live up to our highest ideals or values, and with trust that God’s love encompasses us always.

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

Gathering Song – The Lord’s My Shepherd

1.
The Lord’s my shepherd; I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
in pastures green; he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.

2.
My soul he doth restore again,
and me to walk doth make
within the paths of righteousness,
e’en for his own name’s sake;
within the paths of righteousness,
e’en for his own name’s sake.

3.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
yet will I fear no ill;
for thou art with me, and thy rod
and staff me comfort still;
for thou art with me, and thy rod
and staff me comfort still.

4.
My table thou hast richly spread
in presence of my foes;
my head thou dost with oil anoint,
and my cup overflows.
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
and my cup overflows.

5.
Goodness and mercy all my life
shall surely follow me,
and in God’s house forevermore
my dwelling place shall be;
and in God’s house forevermore
my dwelling place shall be.


Text: The Psalms of David in Meeter
Music: James L. Macbeth Bain, arr: Gordon Jacob

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 Seeking God, it is always your joy to celebrate the finding of the lost treasures in our world, but most especially the returning of lives to your home. Help us today to bring our treasures and our emptiness, our missing pieces, and our very selves into your home, so that you may celebrate with us in a rich feast of joy and reconciliation which you have prepared for us through Christ our Lord

                           

      

Psalm 119: 167-176

167 I have kept | your decrees
and I have | loved them deeply.

168 I have kept your commandments | and decrees,
indeed, all my ways | are before you.

169 Let my cry come before | you, O Lord;
give me understanding, according | to your word.

170 Let my supplication | come before you;
deliver me, according | to your promise.

171 My lips shall pour | forth your praise,
when you teach | me your statutes.

172 My tongue shall sing | of your promise,
for all your command-|ments are righteous.

173 Let your hand be read-|y to help me,
for I have chosen | your commandments.

174 I long for your salva-|tion, O Lord,
and your teaching is | my delight.

175 Let me live, and | I will praise you,
and let your | judgments help me.

176 I have gone astray like a sheep | that is lost;
search for your servant, for I do not forget | your commandments.

Scripture Reading – Luke 15: 1-32

1Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

Thanks be to God

Reflection – Marty Jones

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

Text: Jaroslav J. Vajda
Music: Carl F. Schalk

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

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

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that you your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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 – For the Fruit of All Creation

1.
For the fruit of all creation,
thanks be to God.
For these gifts to ev’ry nation,
thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safe-keeping,
thanks be to God.

2.
In the just reward of labor,
God’s will is done.
In the help we give our neighbor,
God’s will is done.
In our world-wide task of caring
for the hungry and despairing,
in the harvests we are sharing,
God’s will is done.

3.
For the harvests of the Spirit,
thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit,
thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all, that love has found us,
thanks be to God.


Text: Fred Pratt Green
Music: arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams


Postlude

Chris Johansen

February 28th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeChuck Parsons, organ
Opening PrayerShawn Mai
Confession & ForgivenessMarty Jones
Gathering SongThere’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
#587
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
GreetingShawn Mai
Prayer of the DayMarty Jones
Psalm 122Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 13: 1-9, 31-35Henrik Strandskov
SermonMarty Jones
HymnThy Holy Wings
#613
Shawn Mai
Anne Parsons
Chuck Parsons, organ
CreedShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionMercy Wetzig
Abel Wetzig
Lord’s PrayerMarty Jones
Closing PrayerShawn Mai
Blessing / BenedictionMarty Jones
Closing HymnMy Life Flows On In Endless Song
#838
Shawn Mai
Anne Parsons
Chuck Parsons, organ
PostludeHow Can I Keep From Singing?Chris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full service

Prelude

Chuck Parsons

Welcome

Opening Prayer

God of the journey,
we wander through the wilderness,
worn from our growing pains.
As we learn your ways, help us to
follow your commandments,
discern your wisdom, and
proclaim your glory.

Confession & Forgiveness

We begin worship with recognition that we do not always live up to our highest ideals or values, and with trust that God’s love encompasses us always.

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

Gathering Song – There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

1.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in God’s justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in heav’n.
There is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment giv’n.

2.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and a promised grace made good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
in that upper home of bliss.

3.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of the mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.

4.
‘Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
it is something more than all:
greater good because of evil,
larger mercy through the fall.
Make our love, O God, more faithful;
let us take you at your word,
and our lives will be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.

Text: Frederick W. Faber
Music: Calvin Hampton

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

God, by the passion of Jesus you transform a shameful death to be for us the means of life. As the mother bird spreads her wings to make space for all, may we continually work for a kingdom that is inclusive, accepting, and filled with unconditional positive regard.  May we live our belovedness in ways that give life instead of being reactive to a world that struggles to understand your grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  AMEN

                           

      

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they | said to me,
“Let us go to the house | of the Lord.”

2 Now our | feet are standing
within your gates, | O Jerusalem.

3 Jerusalem is built | as a city
that is at unity | with itself;

4 to which the tribes go up, the tribes | of the Lord,
the assembly of Israel, to praise the name | of the Lord.

5 For there are the | thrones of judgment,
the thrones of the | house of David.

6 Pray for the peace | of Jerusalem:
“May they pros-|per who love you.

7 Peace be with-|in your walls
and quietness with-|in your towers.

8 For the sake of my kindred | and companions,
I pray for | your prosperity.

9 Because of the house of the | Lord our God,
I will seek to | do you good.”

Scripture Reading – Luke 13: 1-9, 31-35

Repent or Perish

1There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo′am fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The Lament over Jerusalem

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Thanks be to God

Reflection – Marty Jones

Hymn – Thy Holy Wings

1.
Thy holy wings, O Savior,
spread gently over me,
and let me rest securely
through good and ill in thee.
Oh, be my strength and portion,
my rock and hiding place,
and let my ev’ry moment
be lived within thy grace.

2.
Oh, let me nestle near thee,
within thy downy breast
where I will find sweet comfort
and peace within thy nest.
Oh, close thy wings around me
and keep me safely there,
for I am but a newborn
and need thy tender care.

3.
Oh, wash me in the waters
of Noah’s cleansing flood.
Give me a willing spirit,
a heart both clean and good.
Oh, take into thy keeping
thy children great and small,
and while we sweetly slumber,
enfold us one and all.

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

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

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that you your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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 – My Life Flows On In Endless Song

1.
My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Refrain
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?

2.
Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
[Refrain]

3.
What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
[Refrain]

4.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?
[Refrain]

Text & Music: Robert Lowry


Postlude

Chris Johansen

February 21st Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeO Worship the KingChris Johansen, piano
Opening Prayer
Confession & Forgiveness
Christy Wetzig
Gathering SongCome to Me, All Pilgrims Thirsty
#777
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
GreetingJeff Wetzig
Psalm 15Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureLuke 10: 25-42Jeff Wetzig
SermonHenrik Strandskov
HymnSisters and Daughters
Tune: #461
Henrik Strandskov, text
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
CreedChristy Wetzig
Prayers of IntercessionClaire Scriba
Lord’s PrayerJeff Wetzig
Closing HymnTo Be Your Presence
#546
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Closing Prayer
Blessing / Benediction
Christy Wetzig
PostludeBethenaChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Part 1

Audio Recording – Part 2

Prelude

Chris Johansen

Opening Prayer

God of heaven and earth, open our hearts today to your heart. Grant us, in this time at least, the humility to confront your magnitude. Push us, nudge us, out of our way and into yours. Amen.

Confession & Forgiveness

P: Boldly we come before the throne of God–confident in God’s steadfast love and forgiveness in the face of our shortcomings. Let us confess our sin together.

  Silence for reflection and self-examination.

P: Dear God, 

C:  Lowering our heads before you, we confess that we have too often forgotten that we are yours. Sometimes we carry on our lives as if there was no God and we fall short of being a credible witness to You. For these things we ask your forgiveness and we also ask for your strength. Give us clear minds and open hearts so we may witness to You in our world. Remind us to be who You would have us to be regardless of what we are doing or who we are with. Hold us to You and build our relationship with You and with those You have given us on earth. Amen

                   

Gathering Song – 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, everflowing 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

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.

                           

      

Psalm 15

1 Lord, who may dwell in your | tabernacle?
Who may abide upon your | holy hill?

2 Those who lead a blameless life and do | what is right,
who speak the truth | from their heart;

3 they do not slander with the tongue, they do no evil | to their friends;
they do not cast discredit up-|on a neighbor.

4 In their sight the wicked are rejected, but they honor those who | fear the Lord.
They have sworn upon their health and do not take | back their word.

5 They do not give their money in hope of gain, nor do they take bribes a-|gainst the innocent.
Those who do these things shall never be | overthrown

Scripture Reading – Luke 10: 25-42

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.[a] “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[b] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing.[c] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Thanks be to God

Sermon – Henrik Strandskov

As some of you know, I am the official Sign Meister of West Denmark Church. In that exalted role, my main duty is to change the message on the sign out by the road. It’s a fun job because I like the challenge of saying something meaningful in only three or four lines, with no more than 22 characters or so on each line. One of my favorites was a summertime message that referred to the clear glass windows at the altar end of our sanctuary – “NO STAINED GLASS, BUT PLEASE ENJOY GOD’S TREES AND SQUIRRELS.”

The literary form we have in today’s gospel reading is a parable. Like church signs, parables are short literary works that pack a lot of meaning into a small space. They’re usually longer than church signs, of course, and they usually have more of a plot.

Today, let’s look at the parable of the Good Samaritan, and parables in general, as much for their intellectual challenge as for their spiritual content. In fact, I want to argue that parables are verbal games and puzzles, brain teasers whose very intellectual challenges enhance the power of their spiritual message. As the Welsh theologian C. H. Dodd wrote in 1935, “At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt to its precise application to tease the mind into active thought.” 

To tease the mind into active thought . . . In other words, when you hear a parable, get that happy-dappy, been-here-done-that smirk off your face. You’re supposed to realize that maybe you don’t know precisely what it means. And that’s supposed to make you think a little bit. Now, I know I don’t have to emphasize this here at West Denmark Lutheran Church. This isn’t one of those churches where you check your brain in the narthex. But once in a while, even when we do bring our brain with us all the way into the pew –we forget to use it. As the sign said, the trees and squirrels are nice to look at through those beautifully-clear windows  –  but don’t let them distract you from the intellectual work of church.

And I’m just as guilty as anyone of watching the squirrels instead of using my brain. Why do you think I usually sit way up front? But when I read or hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, I am reminded of two times when a preacher said something that broke through my lazy-brain syndrome and, as Professor Dodd would put it, “teased my mind into active thought.”  The first time was almost 30 years ago at a family reunion in the Rocky Mountains. Before that I had always had a specific problem with the Good Samaritan story.

I admit there are other parables I have had trouble with. How about that farmer who left 99 sheep unguarded so he could look for the one who was lost. Didn’t he have to worry about wolves or sheep rustlers or something? I suppose I finally decided I didn’t know enough about sheepherding to judge the actions of the man in the parable.

But I was never able to rationalize my problem with the Good Samaritan story in the same way.

The story starts when a lawyer tests Jesus by asking how to achieve eternal life. Jesus responds like a great college professor. He says, “You’re a good student; you’ve read the assigned text. What do you think it says?”

It turns out the young lawyer really is well prepared. He not only quotes the text, he quotes two texts and combines them in an elegant little bit of prose. From Deuteronomy 6, verse 5, he takes “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength.” From part of a verse in Leviticus, he gets, “(Y)ou must love your neighbor as yourself.” He puts those together, adds a little bit of his own, and comes up with, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”  And Jesus, quite rightly, says, “Yeah, you got it, my friend; right answer!”

But this smart young lawyer, who knows his stuff and deep down is, I think, a pretty sincere guy – he just has to show off a little, so he keeps pushing. And so he asks, “But who’s my “neighbor”?

Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. And the parable itself seems so obvious. Of course, anyone who is hurt or suffering or in need – anyone who needs taking care of – that’s your neighbor. People didn’t say “Duh!” then, but that would have represented our attitude hearing that story as Sunday school kids. This is kindergarten theology. Oh, there are a few extra details to give the story, and the moral, some texture. Two religious types refuse to help their neighbor. So you can add, “Don’t be a hypocrite” to the parable’s message. And since one of those despised Samaritans was the good guy in the story, maybe you could add, “Don’t be a knee-jerk bigot.”

But when the actual parable ends, Jesus asks the legal expert, “Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” And that’s where I had my big problem and more or less gave up on this parable. Jesus spent all that time telling a story with a simple-minded moral, and then he ends it with the wrong question. The original question was “Who’s my neighbor?” not, “How do I be a neighbor?” Did Luke get the story wrong? Did the punch line from one parable get conflated over the decades with another parable? I’m afraid my respect for the reliability of the Gospels went way down just because the ending of the parable of the Good Samaritan couldn’t have been right.

Of course, the problem was not with the author of Luke, whoever that wonderful writer might have been, but with my own inability to let my mind be “teased into active thought.” And that brings us to our family reunion back in the 90s. One of the closing events was a family church service, and we had the great honor of having Richard Jessen, the Lutheran bishop of Nebraska, lead the service. Well, it wasn’t such an honor; Dick Jessen is my second cousin. The text that Sunday, 7,000 feet up in the Rockies, was the parable of the Good Samaritan, and Dick was the first preacher I had heard who acknowledged my problem with the text – the discrepancy between the question Jesus had been asked and the question he ultimately presented back to the bright young lawyer. Bishop Dick simply pointed out that Luke expects his readers to understand that there is an unspoken little scolding in Jesus’ words. Without saying it out loud, he is telling the legal expert – and us – that the man had asked the wrong question, the question with the obvious answer, the kindergarten-theology question, the question that was not really worthy of him. The hard question, the important question, is not a “Who?” question, but a “How?” question. How do I love my neighbor as myself? What do I have to do to “gain eternal life”? So the parable finally made sense to me – I was given permission to hear both what Jesus was saying and what he was implying; to hear that little scolding he was giving the lawyer. I think the lawyer heard it. At the end of the story he didn’t bluster, “But you didn’t answer my question about who my neighbor is!” No, he took his medicine and, probably a little sheepishly, answered Jesus’ question about what is necessary to be a neighbor to someone else – be the one who shows mercy.

Many years after that reunion in Colorado, I learned about another way of looking at parables, and this parable in particular, while sitting in our usual pew in our church in Brunswick, Maine. The preacher was our pastor and friend, Mary Baard.

As an aside, I have to tell you about a little coincidence. As I was writing this last week, our copy of the Intercounty Leader arrived. The subject of the lead obituary was Luck-native Fern Hammerstrom Baard, who was Pastor Mary’s mother-in-law.

Back to Mary’s sermon. She discussed St. Augustine’s interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable. St. Augustine saw the story as an allegory, with each element being a specific metaphor for some aspect of Christianity. Here is part of Augustine’s interpretation. Remember that the parable starts with a man being attacked by thieves while he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho.

 “Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead.”

It goes on like that. Mary’s emphasis in her sermon that Sunday was where Augustine included us, that is, members of the Christian church. Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint: We’re not the Samaritan; in the allegory, the Samaritan is Jesus himself.

Augustine did not invent the idea of interpreting the parables as allegories. Apparently that had been around since the time the ink was barely dry on the Gospels. One hundred years before Augustine, in the first half of the two hundreds, the church father Origen wrote down his allegorical interpretation of the Good Samaritan, and he himself said that he was just recording what earlier Gospel interpreters had written. According to Origen, “the man who set forth is Adam, Jerusalem is Paradise, Jericho the world, the thieves the invisible or hostile powers, the priest the Law, the Levites the Prophets, the Samaritan Christ, the wounds disobedience, the beast of burden the Body of Christ” and so on. In other words, even the Samaritan’s donkey gets a starring role.

Frankly, I’m dubious about the validity of allegorical interpretation of parables. Okay, I’m more than dubious. Admittedly, Jesus himself gave an allegorical explanation for some parables, such as the parable of the sower and the different types of soil. But the danger is to take the allegories too far, as, I think, Origen and Augustine did. The Saturday discussion group yesterday talked about overthinking some religious concepts. I believe that’s what happened here and, from what I’ve read, continued for a millennium and a half, as Christian scholars continued to beat the parables to death with allegorical correspondences.

But I’m trying to stress the intellectual challenge that parables can provide – as we said before, they can tease us into active thought. So if nothing else, it can be fun to consider these somewhat overblown allegories and maybe use them to squeeze a little more meaning from a parable we thought we were familiar with. For instance, I asked you earlier to think about where St. Augustine put you in the story. Well, he didn’t identify us as individuals, but indirectly, as members of the Christian church. In the allegory, the inn where the Samaritan takes the injured man is the church. And that’s a nice idea – that the church is the place of refuge where those who have been beaten down by circumstances can find healing. And that places a responsibility on the church and on us as its members to carry out that healing. When I was presented with that idea, the parable took me to a place I hadn’t expected. Unfortunately, St. Augustine goes on to say that the innkeeper represents the apostle Paul, and he uses some heavy-duty theological reasoning to make that metaphor work. Well, that’s going a little too far for me. But that’s okay. I forgive St. Augustine for his allegorical excesses because he helped me let this familiar parable surprise me a little. So, thanks, Augie. And thanks to Bishop Jessen and Pastor Baard for showing me ways that a simple story I thought I knew had some hidden riches.

I’ve used up my time this morning without saying anything about the second part of our Gospel reading, the story of Jesus’ visit to the sisters Mary and Martha. I say a little about it in the upcoming hymn, which I wrote for my daughter Cordelia’s college baccalaureate service 16 years ago. But I’ll just leave you with one additional idea to “tease you into active thought.” Bible scholars recommend that when you try to understand a Gospel passage, you should always look at the context – what comes right before and after it. In this case we have to ask ourselves why the author of Luke put the Mary and Martha story immediately after the Good Samaritan story. In a way, they contradict each other. In the Good Samaritan, we learn how to do the work of being faithful people, how to extend the hospitality of the church to everyone in need. In the Mary and Martha story, on the other hand, we are told that the sister who is doing the work of hospitality – preparing the meal and making the house welcoming for their holy guest – is choosing the lesser good. She is gently rebuked while her sister, who just sits and listens, is praised.

By juxtaposing the two stories, Luke asks us, as Jesus asked the lawyer, “How do you interpret it?”

And to answer that question, we have to take our minds off the squirrels and engage in some active thought.

And that’s the sermon for February 21, 2021.

Hymn – Sisters and Daughters

1.
Sisters and daughters, come to the celebration;
bring lamps and oil to make it bright.
Where there are shadows, you will illuminate them –
darkness will flee before your light.
Lift your lamps to bless this household;
lift your lamps to grace this feast:
Let them shine on mighty and lowly people –
searcher and teacher, sinner, priest.

2.
Bearers of goodness, keepers of heaven’s bounty,
nourish your talents so they thrive;
They are your gift and also your obligation;
share them and make the Word alive:
They will gleam like that coin of silver –
lost in darkness, joyfully found;
When you invest your hearts in the lives of others,
treasures of righteousness abound.

3.
Martha and Mary honored their holy caller,
one with her hands and one her heart.
Martha chose duty, serving with loving labor;
but Mary chose the better part.
Feed and clothe and shelter the helpless;
they are God within your reach;
Then stop to listen: Even the least of these has
bibles of wisdom she can teach.

4.
Sisters and brothers, you are God’s holy children,
able to hear creation sing.
Duty or worship, labor or contemplation:
What are the off’rings you must bring?
Mercy for the troubled in spirit;
justice for the captive in need;
Then, hand in hand, walk humbly beside your God
wherever your life’s path will lead.

Text: Henrik Strandskov
Music: W. Moore (Holy Manna)

Creed

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Prayers of Intercession

The response today after …’Good Creator’……….is “Hear our prayer”

God of mercy and compassion, hear our prayers of thanksgiving and petition today. We gather as close as we are able in your holy name

God of Mercy, look on the people in the Texas blackout. Hasten the help they need, encourage neighbors to generosity. Stir up the authorities that can help in the present and plan for their future. As the world grows smaller we find neighbors everywhere we look. Give us the courageous love to care for each other.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

God of healing, hear our prayers for all people who are suffering illness of any sort. Send them good care, hope and peace in their suffering. Please bless the fair distribution of the Covid vaccine everywhere and relieve the fear that shadows us. We pray especially for our family and church friends, for Pastor Linda and those we name before you now.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

Father of Peace, watch over everyone who lives with violence, oppression and intimidation. Give your peace beyond our understanding, soften hearts, relax clenched fists, open minds to holy peace and reconciliation for all creatures.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

We thank you, Father, for our lives set here in your beautiful creation. We thank you that where we live is still green and fruitful and we confess our complicity in spoiling other lives and places by our greed. It is so hard to see forward in this ecological crisis and hard to know how to help. Help us wake up and step out to put an end to poverty and pollution, to move from privilege for a few towards equity for all.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

We thank you, Father, for the spirit of wisdom that you pour on all people. We thank you for the prophets and teachers, poets and disciples who speak of healing, faith and peace to humankind. Open every heart to holy wisdom and respect among all peoples.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

Thank you, Father, for the technology that keeps us together in spite of the pandemic. It saves our spirits from isolation and discouragement and even gives us a new sense of who we all are. Make all people wise to the blessings and the costs of technology. Teach us to use it wisely. Thank you for this new adventure in being a church.

Good Creator……….hear our prayer

AMEN

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

Hymn – To Be Your Presence

1.
To be your presence is our mission here,
to show compassion’s face and list’ning ear,
to be your heart of mercy ever near,
alleluia!

2.
To be your presence is our mission bold,
to feed the poor and shelter homeless cold,
to be your hands of justice, right uphold,
alleluia!

3.
To be your presence is our mission blest,
to speak for all the broken and oppressed,
to be your voice of hope, your love expressed,
alleluia!

4.
We are your heart, O Christ, your hands and voice,
to serve your people is our call and choice,
and in this mission we, the church, rejoice,
alleluia!

Text: Delores Dufner
Music: Charles V. Stanford


Closing Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so
guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so inhabit our
wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to
you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always
to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Postlude

Chris Johansen

February 14th Worship

For information about upcoming Lent services, click here!

Order of Service

Part I
Opening PrayerShawn Mai
PreludeO Lord, What A MorningChuck Parsons, organ
GreetingShawn Mai
Confession & ForgivenessMarty Jones
Gathering SongChrist Whose Glory Fills the Skies
#553
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayShawn Mai
Psalm 36vs. 5-10Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureLuke 9: 28-45Henrik Strandskov
SermonShelter in PlaceMarty Jones
HymnI Want to Walk As a Child of the Light
#815
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
CreedShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionAbel Wetzig
Mercy Wetzig
Lord’s PrayerMarty Jones
Closing PrayerShawn Mai
Blessing / BenedictionMarty Jones
Closing HymnBeautiful Savior
#838
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeFantasi over Dejlig er JordenChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full service

Opening Prayer

We arise today
In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.

We arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wing of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of Soul.

We arise today
Inspired by the majesty of God’s love in Christ.Jesus
May we worship and live in this inspiration
Compassionate of heart,
Clear in word
Gracious in awareness
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
O Lord we are grateful for this morning!

~adapted from John O’Donohue

Prelude

Chuck Parsons

Welcome

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

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

Gathering Song – Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies

1.
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true and only light,
Sun of righteousness, arise,
triumph o’er the shades of night;
Day-spring from on high, be near;
Day-star, in my heart appear.

2.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
unaccompanied by thee;
joyless is the day’s return,
till thy mercy’s beams I see,
till they inward light impart,
glad my eyes, and warm my heart.

3.
Visit then this soul of mine,
pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
fill me, radiancy divine,
scatter all my unbelief;
more and more thyself display,
shining to the perfect day.

Text: Charles Wesley
Music: J.G. Werner

Prayer of the Day

When you created the universe you said,
“Let light shine out of darkness,”
The light of your love unbinds us everyday,
Let that light scatter the darkness in our hearts
And reveal the freedom of your transforming love
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. 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 ani-|mals, 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 life,
and in your light | we see light.

10 Continue your lovingkindness to | those who know you,
and your favor to those who are | true of heart.

Scripture Reading – Luke 9: 28-45

Jesus transformed

28 About eight days after Jesus said these things, he took Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes flashed white like lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him. 31 They were clothed with heavenly splendor and spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he would achieve in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were almost overcome by sleep, but they managed to stay awake and saw his glory as well as the two men with him.

33 As the two men were about to leave Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it’s good that we’re here. We should construct three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—but he didn’t know what he was saying. 34 Peter was still speaking when a cloud overshadowed them. As they entered the cloud, they were overcome with awe.

35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” 36 Even as the voice spoke, Jesus was found alone. They were speechless and at the time told no one what they had seen.

Jesus heals a boy

37 The next day, when Jesus, Peter, John, and James had come down from the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to take a look at my son, my only child. 39 Look, a spirit seizes him and, without any warning, he screams. It shakes him and causes him to foam at the mouth. It tortures him and rarely leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to throw it out, but they couldn’t.”

41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and crooked generation, how long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon threw him down and shook him violently. Jesus spoke harshly to the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father. 43 Everyone was overwhelmed by God’s greatness.

Jesus warns about his arrest

While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Take these words to heart: the Human One is about to be delivered into human hands.” 45 They didn’t understand this statement. Its meaning was hidden from them so they couldn’t grasp it. And they were afraid to ask him about it.

Thanks be to God

Reflection – Marty Jones

Hymn – I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light

1.
I want to walk as a child of the light
I want to follow Jesus
God sent the stars to give light to the world
The star of my life is Jesus

Refrain
In Him, there is no darkness at all
The night and the day are both alike
The Lamb is the light of the city of God
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus

2.
I want to see the brightness of God
I want to look at Jesus
Clear sun of righteousness, shine on my path
And show me the way to the Father
[Refrain]

3.
I’m looking for the coming of Christ
I want to be with Jesus
When we have run with patience the race
We shall know the joy of Jesus
[Refrain]

Text & Music: Kathleen Thomerson

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

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

Closing Prayer

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that you your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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 – Beautiful Savior

1.
Beautiful Savior, King of creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Truly I’d love thee, truly I’d serve thee,
light of my soul, my joy, my crown.

2.
Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands,
robed in flow’rs of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
he makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

3.
Fair is the sunshine, fair is the moonlight,
bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
than all the angels in the sky.

4.
Beautiful Savior, Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
now and forevermore be thine!

Text: tr. Joseph A. Seiss
Music: Silesian folk tune


Postlude

Chris Johansen