September 27th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeMorning Has BrokenChris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerHenrik Strandskov
WelcomeShawn Mai
HymnWhen Morning Gilds the Skies
#853
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayShawn Mai
ScriptureAmos 4:13Henrik Strandskov
ReadingOld TurtleAbel Wetzig
Mercy Wetzig
Psalm 100Chuck Parsons, organ
ScripturePhilippians 4:4-7Henrik Strandskov
Part II
ReflectionShawn Mai
HymnFor the Fruit of All Creation
#679, vs. 1 & 3
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
Statement of FaithShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Pastor Linda
HymnThis is My Father’s World
#824
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
BlessingShawn Mai
PostludeAshokan FarewellChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Presider:         We gather in the image of the Creator

Congregation:   who is a community of love.

                        We gather in the name of the Redeemer

                               who reconciles all of creation.

                        We gather in the presence of the Giver

                               who inspires new life and renews it.

Opening Prayer

Hymn – When Morning Gilds the Skies

1.
When morning gilds the skies,
my heart awaking cries:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall,
this rings my curfew call:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

2.
When mirth for music longs,
this is my song of songs:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s holy house of prayer
has none that can compare
with “Jesus Christ be praised!”

3.
No lovelier antiphon
in all high heav’n is known
than “Jesus Christ be praised!”
There to the-eternal Word
the-eternal psalm is heard:
oh, Jesus Christ be praised!

4.
Let all of humankind
in this their concord find:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Let all the earth around
ring joyous with the sound:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

5.
Sing, sun and stars of space,
sing, all who see his face,
sing, “Jesus Christ be praised!”
God’s whole creation o’er,
today and evermore
shall Jesus Christ be praised!


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

Gracious God, as creator you inspire and work for that which is good. Your  faithfulness, kindness, goodness and grace are the constants that inspire us. Continue to inspire in us awe and wonder for all You have created. Today in this worship, we honor you and praise you for all that you have created.  Amen.


Reading: Amos 4:13

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind,
    reveals his thoughts to mortals,
makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!


Reading: Old Turtle


Psalm 100

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with a song.

3 Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom we belong;
we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

4 Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the courts with praise;
give thanks and bless God’s holy name.

5 Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is everlasting,
whose faithfulness endures from age to age.


Reading: Phillipians 4: 4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


Reflection

This past week I had a conversation with a physician at the hospital. It’s a conversation of sorts that I’ve had with lots of people over the years. The physician described the spiritual tradition of her childhood, in this case Hindu. She framed herself as not a religious person, maybe even agnostic. She then shifted to talking about the role nature plays in her life. I then noticed these beautiful nature photographs on her wall. She explained this sense of connection she feels in nature and her photography when she feels disease and disconnection in her life. Nature helps her to make sense of what goes on around her. It has helped to inspire wonder and be a bit more at peace with that which is out of her control.

These past weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the role of creation and nature in my own spirituality. I’ve been taking more seriously how the natural world around me is a source of how I interact with and understand the divine. It is not just an environment to meet God in but it has become more of a direct experience of God.

In a time filled with angst, helplessness, anger, and distress, creation doesn’t just exist to catch our imaginations with beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges but creation reveals some powerful truths. Paradox, our role as co-creators, and finding peace in the messiness of the created world are three ponderings that have been there for me lately.

First, paradox. Writer, philosopher, and modern day mystic, Parker Palmer writes a lot about paradox. As we sit in this season of autumn, I thought of his reflections on autumn and paradox. He writes:

“Autumn is a season of exhilarating beauty. It’s also a season of steady decline and, for some of us, deepening melancholy. The days become shorter and colder, the trees shed their glory, and summer’s abundance starts to decay toward winter’s death.. Today, at age 76 — as I weather the autumn of my own life — I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well-done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But, as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the most difficult of times.
The hopeful notion that new life is hidden in dying is surely reinforced by the visual glories of autumn. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself — as devastating as we know it can be — contains the hope of a certain beauty?
The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton:
“There is in all visible things… a hidden wholeness.”

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each; they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out.

Even though the lakes and woods of the north country are where I find a sense of home now, I learned about paradox through the Kansas landscape. The wind can howl all day long, making you feel as though you’ve been beat up and yelled at, and minutes later find yourself looking at the most beautiful sunset, an expansive sky that goes on forever, and feel an incredible calm settle into your soul…as Henrik said “a peace that passes all understanding.” It is that experience in the natural world that points to a truth that is undeniable. A truth, as Parker Palmer says, where there is a hidden wholeness.

Alfred North Whitehead developed what is called process thought. There is process theology, process philosophy, process metaphysics…a way of thinking about the world and how God, you and I, and the natural world evolve. Whitehead’s classical statement is a set of antithetical statements that attempt to avoid self-contradiction by shifting them from a set of oppositions into a contrast:

  • It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
  • It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.
  • It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
  • It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
  • It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.

There are lots of take-aways for me with the notion of paradox. For one, it calls out my black and white thinking. It is a way to more deeply appreciate that I don’t have all the answers, I have limitations in my perspectives, and others are trying to make sense of the world’s complexities in their own way.

In a day marked by divisiveness and binary thinking, to pause and take in the nature of paradox. The moment we think we have the right answer is the moment we need to stay curious. I try to keep in mind when I’m assessing my students and what they need to learn in their educational process, that I know a lot from my training about assessment and students learning issues AND at the same time don’t know my ass from a hold in the ground. Stay open and malleable.

Another important tenant of process theology and what nature teaches us is that we are co-creators with God. Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, love etc.) remain eternally solid.

We see this truth in the change of seasons. One path we travel down is green and full of abundant life. We turn the corner into autumn and we are acutely aware of change. What doesn’t change is there is beauty and goodness. The golds, reds, and oranges of fall turn into the white and stillness of winter turn into the promise of new life in heavy buds and greens of spring turn into the fullness of summer. We need them all and beauty and goodness is infused in it all. We live amidst the nature of change but the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, and love) remain eternally solid.

In being co-creators, we have the responsibility to keep our end of the relationship. To behold the natural world as it is and to honor what it gives.
As one writer put it, to see the sky as not just a good place for putting smokestacks. A wetland as not a missing wheat field. The earth is not just a handy location for development and disposal. All things and beings and people in the world are not just what we can use them for.

If we take the basic principle that is present all major religious tradition to love your neighbor as yourself, it is to behold and honor each place where we step, how we impact that place, and what we leave behind. Understanding our carbon foot print is to honestly understand our integrity as a human being in relationship to God.

Mercy and Abel shared a profound sense of this in their story, “Old Turtle”. It’s related to paradox and goes a step further. The nature of God is many things…expansive like the sky, dark like the depths of a cave, quick as an antelope, and God is a sound, a sense, and a feeling very close, the ant said.” These qualities of God are in each one of us. They are in us to know the expansive experience of life. We know the beauty of autumn and we know the melancholy of darkness. We work and interact with our world and the earth as co-creators with it. Earlier in the service Henrik read from Philippians 4. That text speaks of a peace that passes all understanding. Paul’s words describe a state of being that all of us long for. A state of being at peace with that which is around us. To feel a profound sense of belonging. To behold and to be held. What Paul is talking about is a peace that can exist in all circumstances.

Life isn’t easy. This part of the world was formed by an ice age where rocks collided, water rushed, and the violence of nature profoundly reshaped. It is testament to the forces of life that are beyond our control and at the same time we have a role in their unfolding.

Again, process thought is instructive. The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God’s will.

The author who wrote “Old Turtle” also wrote a book “Paddle Whispers” that chronicles a trip he took through the boundary waters. He captures the beauty and sometimes the violent conditions of his journeys.

He writes:

“There are, I believe, only three kinds of people in the world. There are the ones who have said, “Yes.” There are ones who have said , “no.” And there are the ones who haven’t noticed a question yet.
I have a canoe on my head, a rock in my shoe, mosquitos up my pants, blackflies burrowing into my neck, and beaver bog water running down my backside. And I think this must be today’s version of the question.
But if I have it figured right, there are only about two hundred and ninety steps to go on this portage trail, and at the end of it is a cold, blue lake that’s going to feel about one thousand times better than the best shower I’ve ever had.
If its true as Socrates once said that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then its equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.
That’s if I have it figured right.”

The ponderings of these last several weeks, on creation, have given me a new awareness and a new framework in how I’m taking in my world. It’s teaching me to be more opened up by the mystery, to be humbled by the grandeur, to fear not only God’s power but my power.

In these days of beauty and terror, in these days of sabbath and isolation, in these days of hope and despair love has found us. I can’t always understand but I can know. I may not always like it but I can love. May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. 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 safekeeping, thanks be to God.

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.


Statement of Faith

Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Benediction


Hymn – This is My Father’s World

1.
This is my Father’s world,
and to my list’ning ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world;
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

2.
This is my Father’s world;
the birds their carols raise;
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world;
he shines in all that’s fair.
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me ev’rywhere.

3.
This is my Father’s world;
oh, let me not forget
that, though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world;
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let heaven ring;
God reigns, let earth be glad!


Blessing

Postlude

Chris Johansen

September 20th Worship

Order of Service

Preludeby ScarlattiChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession
Liz Dodge
HymnListen to Your Children Praying
#752
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Liz Dodge
Dramatized Scripture &
Dialogue
Genesis 1: 26-28
Genesis 2: 7-8, 15, 19
Tretsvens
Scripture &
Confession with ‘The Voices of the Whale’
Mark 10: 42-45Wetzigs
ForgivenessLiz Dodge
Reflectionfrom Richard RohrLiz Dodge
HymnAll Things Bright and Beautiful
With One Voice #767
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayers of IntercessionGreg Marsten
Lord’s PrayerLiz Dodge
SendingAbby & Alex Ritchie
Closing Prayer
Blessing
Liz Dodge
HymnO God Beyond All Praising
#880
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeCon Spirito
Clementi
Chris Johansen

Full Audio

(Individual pieces of music are also embedded in the text below)


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Hello and welcome to this worship service of West Denmark Lutheran Church. I’m Liz Dodge

We gather in the image of the Creator

Congregation:   who is a community of love.

We gather in the name of the Redeemer

                               who reconciles all of creation.

We gather in the presence of the Giver

                               who inspires new life and renews it.

This is week 4 of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. It’s time to consider community, food sourcing and nutrition, our relationship to animals, the forests, water, the earth. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.


Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hymn – Listen to Your Children Praying


Lord, listen to your children praying,
Lord, send your Spirit in this place;
Lord, listen to your children praying,
send us love, send us pow’r, send us grace.


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

In the beginning God created all things,
and God saw that they were good.

At our beginning, God created us
unique and irreplaceable, loved and wanted by God,
known and treasured by God even before He created us.

In all our new beginnings, God creates something new
so we will seek God in the freshness of this morning,
in the laughter of friends,
in the colors of creation,
and in this beautiful place.

Lord God, King of Creation,
open our eyes to see your presence,
our souls to sense your presence,
and our hearts to love your presence,
ever here in your creation,
and ever beyond it in eternity.
Amen.

~ Adapted from Liturgy of Creation (http://www.wellsprings.org.uk/liturgies/creation.htm).  Posted on Third Space blog. http://third-space.org.uk/blog


Dramatized Scripture

Reading 1: Genesis 1:26-28

Reader 126 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky. Let them rule over the tame animals, over all the earth and over all the small crawling animals on the earth.”

27 So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. 28 God blessed them and said, “Have many children and grow in number. Fill the earth and be its master. Rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky. Rule over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


Reading 2: Genesis 2:7-8, 15, 19

Reader 2Then the Lord God took dust from the ground and formed man from it. The Lord breathed the breath of life into the man’s nose. And the man became a living person. Then the Lord God planted a garden in the East, in a place called Eden. He put the man he had formed in that garden. 

15 The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it.

19 From the ground God formed every wild animal and every bird in the sky. He brought them to the man so the man could name them. Whatever the man called each living thing, that became its name.


Voice 1            I am the first human being, the voice of the human being in Reading One.  I am Adam and Eve.  I am humanity!

Voice 2            I am the first human being, the voice of the human being in Reading Two. I am Adam and Eve. I am humanity!

Voice 1            God made me in a special way. The word of God in Genesis One says so!

Voice 2            And God made me in a special way. The word of God in Genesis Two says so!

Voice 1            I am created in the image of God. Do you understand? The very image of God!    

Voice 2            I have been made personally by God.  Do you understand? By God’s own hands!

Voice 1            I am like God, created in God’s own likeness.

Voice 2            I am liked by God. I even live in a garden where God likes to walk and talk!

Voice 1            I have human reason. That makes me superior to all other living creatures! Superior! Get it!

Voice 2            I am flesh taken from Earth itself and breath that comes from God. So I am kin with all other creatures. We are family! Do you understand family?

Voice 1            Family?  Fiddlesticks! I am the ruler over all creatures.  I dominate! I tame! I rule all other creatures. Your family!

Voice 2            I have a partnership with all other creatures. We are friends. We are partners.

Voice 1            I am authorized by God to conquer the Earth, to harness nature, to put creation under my feet.  Yes, to control your friends!

Voice 2            I have been given the responsibility by God to serve Earth and preserve it, to care for Earth as God’s garden.

Voice 1            I can conquer creation.  I rule!  I rule!

Voice 2            I groan with creation.  When you rule, I suffer. I suffer!

Voice 1            I am the king of Earth. I bear the image of God! I am king over creation! I rule!

Voice 2            I am a servant on Earth, caring for creation.

Voice 1            I am king! God said so!  God said so!

Voice   2          I am a servant, God said so!

Voice 3            Wait just a minute!  Stop your arguing!

Voices 1 & 2   I have God’s word on my side!

Voice 3            Sure you have!  But do you have the final word?

                        Do you have Jesus’ word?  Do you?  (Silence)

Voice 3            Who is the one who reflects the true image of God on Earth?  Come on!  Who?

Voice 1& 2      Jesus Christ!

Voice 3            Who is the true servant of God?  Come on.  Who?

Voice 1& 2      Jesus Christ!

Voice 3           And how does Jesus invite us to live?  To rule like the Romans and dominate like their Caesars?!  Or to follow the way of the cross and serve as Christ came to serve? Listen to his word from the Gospel for today!


Reading 3: Mark 10:42-45 

42 Jesus called all the followers together. He said, “The non-Jewish people have men they call rulers. You know that those rulers love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority. 43 But it should not be that way among you. If one of you wants to become great, then he must serve you like a servant. 44 If one of you wants to become the most important, then he must serve all of you like a slave. 45 In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve. The Son of Man came to give his life to save many people.”


Confession with ‘The Voices of the Whale’

Voice 1            I am the voice of whales long ago. Ancient whales, humpback whales and the whale that swallowed Jonah.  I am a whale. (Applause)

Voice 2            I am the voice of whales today, whales that circle your continent and dance with delight near your shores.  I am a whale.  (Applause)

People             Welcome, whales, welcome to our worship. 

Voice 1            I am a large creature but I’m not a monster. I am sensitive to the sounds deep in the ocean below and the cries of my calf in a storm.  I am something like the soul that feels the mood of the sea.

Voice 2            I am a special species and not for sport. I have an amazing radar, a compass that guides me across thousands of miles through rough waters back to my home base to give birth.

People             Welcome, whales, welcome to our shores

Voice 1            Not so long ago, humans hunted us whales and slaughtered us by the thousands.   They came in ships and cried aloud:

Voices 1 & 2  ‘We rule the waves!  We rule the whales’

Voice 1            Humans thought they ruled everything.  They did not care. They left blood all over the ocean, along the shores and deep in our memories.  And they cried aloud:

Voices 1 & 2  ‘We rule the waves!  We rule the whales’!

People             We are sorry, whales, we are sorry!

Voice 2            In recent years something has happened.  Humans have become more sensitive, more ready to celebrate life with us along the shore, more ready to save our species.  I hear them cry:

Voices 1 & 2  ‘Whales help us wonder!  Worship and wonder!

Voice 2            In recent years the tide had turned.  But many creatures of the sea are still slaughtered senselessly. Thousands and thousands of baby harp seals are clubbed or shot to death in the Artic North. Some are even skun alive.  Blood stains the snow, the ice and the memories of their kin.  Now I hear some humans cry:

People             ‘Whales help us wonder!  Confess and wonder!

Voices 1 & 2   Will you join with us as we remember the past and promise to care for the wonders of creations.


Confession & Forgiveness

We are sorry.
As humans, we have slaughtered species without concern.
As humans, we have sought to dominate nature.
As humans, we have been cruel to our kin.
We are sorry. We are sorry.
We are sorry.                We are sorry. We are sorry.

Leader:    I speak for Christ:
I forgive your sins of destructive domination.
I forgive your lack of concern for creation.
I invite you now to celebrate your humanity
both as servants of Christ and servants of Earth.

People:           Shalom! Shalom!
                        Let the whales come home!


Reflection

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, writes about the “Universal Christ”, or as he calls it, “Another Name for Everything”. 

“Christ is more than Jesus’ last name. Jesus is a person whose example we can follow. Christ is a cosmic life principle in which all beings participate. The incarnation is an ongoing revelation of Christ, uniting matter and spirit, operating as one and everywhere. Together—Jesus and Christ—show us “the way, the truth, and the life” of death and resurrection.

I preface this reflection by acknowledging that Father Richard has his critics.  His philosophy is drawn from early Christian works and teachers, as well as Eastern religions and Jungian psychology.   However, I find his and his colleagues’ writings relevant and understandable.  Thus I share them with you on this Season of Creation Sunday.  

Christ Since the Beginning

God’s First Idea,” Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, Sunday, February 17, 2019

Have you ever wondered why creation happened in the first place? Or, like the old philosophical question, why is there anything instead of nothing? Many of the saints, mystics, and fathers and mothers of the church have said that God created because, frankly, God (who is love) needed something to love. To take that one step further, God created so that what God created could then love God back freely….

If you’re a parent, compare this with your relationship with your children. Probably your fondest desire, maybe at an unconscious level, when you first conceived or adopted a child was “I want to love this little one in every way I can!” Perhaps you thought, “I want to love this child so well that they will love me in the way that I have loved them.” Your love empowers them to love you back.  I think this is what God does in the act of creation. God creates an object of love that God can totally give Godself to that will eventually be capable of loving God back in the same way, in a free and unforced manner.

…….

**

Coherence and Belonging
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The kind of wholeness I’m describing as the Universal Christ is a forgotten treasure of the Christian Tradition that our postmodern world no longer enjoys and even vigorously denies. I always wonder why, after the rise of rationalism in the Enlightenment, Westerners would prefer such incoherence. I thought we had agreed that coherence, pattern, and some final meaning were good. But intellectuals in the last century have denied the existence and power of such great wholeness—and in Christianity, we have made the mistake of limiting the Creator’s presence to just one human manifestation, Jesus.

The implications of our selective seeing have been massively destructive for history and humanity. Creation was deemed profane, a pretty accident, a mere backdrop for the real drama of God’s concern—which we narcissistically assumed is always and only us humans. It is impossible to make individuals feel sacred inside of a profane, empty, or accidental universe. This way of seeing makes us feel separate and competitive, striving to be superior instead of deeply connected and in search of ever-larger circles of union.

I believe God loves things by becoming themGod loves things by uniting with them, not by excluding them. Through the act of creation, God manifested the eternally out-flowing Divine Presence into the physical and material world. Ordinary matter is the hiding place for Spirit and thus the very Body of God. Honestly, what else could it be, if we believe—as orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims do—that “one God created all things”? Since the very beginning of time, God’s Spirit has been revealing its glory and goodness through the physical creation. So many of the Psalms assert this, speaking of “rivers clapping their hands” and “mountains singing for joy.” When Paul wrote, “There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11), was he a naïve pantheist or did he really understand the full implication of the Gospel of Incarnation?

God seems to have chosen to manifest the invisible in what we call the “visible,” so that all things visible are the revelation of God’s endlessly diffusive spiritual energy. Once a person recognizes that, it is hard to ever be lonely in this world again.

Taken from :  https://catholicclimatemovement.global/fr-richard-rohr-on-creation-and-incarnation/


Hymn – All Things Bright and Beautiful



Refrain
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

1.
Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
God made their glowing colors,
God made their tiny wings.
Refrain

2.
The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky.
Refrain

3.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
God made them every one.
Refrain

4.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
Refrain


Prayers of Intercession

Lord you give life to life!
From day one, your Spirit brooding over the deep,
your wind rushing, your breath filling.
As creatures of the earth we rejoice in life
using our breath, our being
to raise this hymn of praise:
Hallelujah to the sun’s hot passion
embracing the ground’s great shoulders.
Hallelujahs for the growth from seed to plant
greening the earth; its fruit—beauty and food!
Hallelujahs for generations of life
tumbling one after another.
Life creeping, swimming, flying, running,
below, above, upon, within.
All the world sings, calls, signals, speaks
praise to God whose glory grows in all that breathes!

We pray for all we know who are sick, in mind or body,
or who suffer from chronic conditions,
and those who are in need of your comfort.

We long for reconciliation with those we have harmed
with harsh words or harsh actions,
and for peace among our warring nations.

Fill us, enliven us, to be ambassadors of life abundant,
breathing out your song in harmony,
singing to you, our Creator,
whose glory shines through all the world. Amen.

~ written by Carol Penner, and posted on her Leading in Worship blog.  http://carolpenner.typepad.com/

Prayer

God, our Creator, as we reflect on the ways that humans have sought to dominate creation help us to hear the cries of creatures such as the whale.  Fill us with your risen power. Help us to serve and preserve our planet home and to celebrate life with people from all lands and nations. In the name of Christ, the Risen Servant, who is the true image of God among us. Amen.


Lord’s Prayer

Sending Out

Voice 1            What about the whales?  Let’s not forget the whales!

Voice 2            And all the other creatures that humans have exploited.

Voice 1            We should help save the whales and other endangered species.

Voice 2            And we should celebrate the whales. They’re coming back to life–like Jesus Christ did!

Voice 1            What do you mean? What on Earth is the connection between Jesus Christ and whales or any other creatures?

Voice 2            Well, you recall Jesus saying that just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so he would be 3 days and 3 nights in the depths of Earth, in the heart of creation, and would rise again.

Voice 1            That’s right! He did rise again.  He was part of Earth, buried deep in Earth and rose to bring life to all peoples on Earth

Voice 2            And…And to bring life to all creation, including the revival of whales. Our Lord is the cosmic Christ whose risen presence fills all creation and gives life to all creatures.

Voice 1            So serving Christ also means serving creation!

Voice 2            And working with Christ to keep life alive on Earth!


Closing Prayer & Blessing

Christ calls you to be his disciples,
to serve him with love and compassion,
to serve Earth and the peoples of Earth.

Will you care for creation?

With Christ, we will care for creation!
With Christ, we will keep our planet green!
With Christ, we will celebrate life!

May the Risen Christ, who brings and restores life to all in our planet,
fill you with his living presence
to praise the Creator and help revive creation.

Go in peace!
Serving Christ and loving Earth!

We go in peace,
serving the Risen Christ
and celebrating all creatures–including whales!


Hymn – O God, Beyond All Praising



1.
O God beyond all praising, we worship you today
and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
for we can only wonder at every gift you send,
at blessings without number and mercies without end:
we lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word,
we honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord

2.
The flow’r of earthly splendor in time must surely die,
its fragile bloom surrender to you, the Lord most high;
but hidden from all nature the eternal seed is sown—
though small in mortal stature, to heaven’s garden grown:
for Christ, your gift from heaven, from death has set us free,
and we through him are given the final victory.

3.
Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor may serve you as our King;
and whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
we’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.


Postlude

Chris Johansen

September 13th Worship

Order of Service

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

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

This is week two of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. This year’s Season of Creation is a time to consider the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living for the moral imagination that creates a common good.  The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.

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

Presider:         We gather in the image of the Creator

Congregation:   who is a community of love.

We gather in the name of the Redeemer

who reconciles all of creation.

We gather in the presence of the Giver

who inspires new life and renews it.

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


Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hymn – For the Beauty of the Earth

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

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

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

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

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


Greeting

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

Prayer of the Day

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

~ traditional Scottish Gaelic prayer


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scripture & Sermon

This is part three of a long sermon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world outside the garden became home.

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

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

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

“‘To establish ties’?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For what bit of creation are you responsible?

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

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

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

~Isaiah 43:1

Hymn – Touch the Earth Gently

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

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

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

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


Statement of Faith

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
We believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

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

Prayers of Intercession

Peace

Lord’s Prayer


Offertory Prayer

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

~ Joe Seramane, Christian Aid Lifelines, South Africa

Benediction

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

Blessing

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


Hymn – Let All Things Now Living

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

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


Postlude

Chris Johansen

September 6th Worship

Order of Service

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

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

This is week two of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. This year’s Season of Creation is a time to consider the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living for the moral imagination that creates a common good.  The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.


Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

       Silence for reflection and self-examination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For squandering the gifts of love and grace and growth:

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

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


Hymn – Gather Us In

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

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

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

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


Greeting

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

Prayer of the Day

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


Psalm 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scripture & Sermon – God’s Sensitivity to Relationships

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

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

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

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

~ lightly edited from Genesis 2

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

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

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

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

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

~ from 1 Corinthians 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hymn – O God of Every Nation

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

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

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


Statement of Faith

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
We believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

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

Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer


Hymn – Bind Us Together

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

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

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


Offering Prayer

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

Benediction

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

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

Blessing

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


Hymn – When Love is Found

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

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

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

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


Postlude

Chris Johansen

August 30th Worship

Order of Service

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

Welcome

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

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


Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

       Silence for reflection and self-examination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For squandering the gifts of love and grace and growth:

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

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


Hymn – Bring Peace to Earth Again

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

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

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

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


Prayer of the Day

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


Psalm 50: 7-12; 18-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scripture & Sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1:24-31, shortened slightly

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

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

Genesis 6:3-6

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

The prophet Isaiah takes up God’s voice:            

Isaiah 5

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

Micah continues:
Micah 6:1,3-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be so.


Hymn – In Deepest Night

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

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

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


Prayers of Intercession & Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

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

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

Blessing

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


Hymn – God of the Sparrow

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

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

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

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

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

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


Postlude

Chris Johansen

August 23rd Worship

Order of Service

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

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


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

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

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

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

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


Hymn – Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery

1.
Tree of Life and awesome myst’ry,
in your death we are reborn:
though you die in all of hist’ry,
still you rise with ev’ry morn,
still you rise with ev’ry morn.

2.
Living Water of salvation,
be the fountain of each soul;
springing up in new creation,
flow in us and make us whole,
flow in us and make us whole.

3.
Give us eyes to see you clearly;
make us children of your light.
Give us hearts to live more nearly
as your gospel shining bright,
as your gospel shining bright.

4.
God of all our fear and sorrow,
God who lives beyond our death,
hold us close through each tomorrow,
love as near as ev’ry breath,
love as near as ev’ry breath.


Prayer of the Day

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


Psalm 46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scripture & Sermon

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

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

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

Genesis 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~retelling of John 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Creed

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

~Julian of Norwich


Prayers of Intercession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

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

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

Blessing

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


Hymn – Shall We Gather at the River

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

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

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


Postlude

Chris Johansen

August 16th Worship

Order of Service

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

Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

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

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


Hymn – Word of God, Come Down on Earth

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

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

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


Prayer of the Day

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


Psalm 36: 5-10

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

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

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

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

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

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


Reading

Genesis 1 (condensed)
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 6And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 8God called the dome Sky. 9And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.

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

Sermon

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1 John 1
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while the spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters. 3Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. 6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 8God called the dome Sky. 9 And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. 11Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Creed

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

~Julian of Norwich

Prayers of Intercession


Lord’s Prayer

Blessing & Benediction

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


Hymn – Let Justice Flow Like Streams

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

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

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


Postlude

Chris Johansen

August 9th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeFor the Beauty of the EarthChris Johansen
Opening Prayer
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Liz Dodge
HymnLord of Glory, You Have Bought Us
#707
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayLiz Dodge
Psalm 145: 8-9, 14-21Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ReadingJohn 4: 3-42Dave & Diane Clifton
Liz Dodge
ReflectionCommentary from David Lose at Mount Olivet Lutheran ChurchLiz Dodge
Creed
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Liz Dodge
Closing PrayerHenrik Strandskov
BenedictionLiz Dodge
Closing songJesus Met the Woman at the WellPeter, Paul & Mary
PostludeHere, There and EverywhereChris Johansen

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Opening Prayer

God of wonder and glory, this world around us is awesome.
You created it!
You continue to hold it together,
even as we threaten to tear it apart.

God of justice and righteousness,
to you we look for the truth.
You are the ultimate judge.
Your wisdom cuts through the lies.

God of grace and mercy,
the love you have shown us in Jesus is more than we deserve.
Your arms are open wide,
like a waiting father for his prodigal children,
ready to welcome and restore.

We come to you just now thirsting for your living water.
Guide us to the streams of your wonder and glory,
your justice and righteousness, your grace and mercy,
that we may drink and be satisfied,
renewed for our continuing journey with Jesus.

This we pray in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit….

Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

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


Hymn – Lord of Glory, You Have Bought Us

1.
Lord of glory, you have bought us with your lifeblood as the price
never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice;
and with that have freely given blessings countless as the sand
to theun-thankful and the evil with your own unsparing hand.

2.
Grant us hearts, dear Lord, to give you gladly, freely, of your own.
With the sunshine of your goodness melt our thankless hearts of stone
till our cold and selfish natures, warmed by you, at length believe
that more happy and more blessed ’tis to give than to receive.

3.
Wondrous honor you have given to our humblest charity
in your own mysterious sentence, “You have done it all to me.”
Naked, sick, in prison, hungry – in the least, your face we view,
saying by your poor and needy, “Give as I have giv’n to you.”

4.
Lord of glory, you have bought us with your lifeblood as the price
never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice;
Give us faith to trust you boldly, hope, to stay our souls on you:
but, oh, best of all your graces, with your love our love renew.

Text: Eliza S. Alderson
Music: Rowland H. Prichard


Prayer of the Day

God of life,
Shower us in your living water, bringing us to new life, fresh and clean. Walk with us as we share the knowledge of your living water with others, so that all might live.
Amen.


Psalm 145: 8-9, 14-21

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
    he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.


Reading: John 4: 3-42 (Readers’ Theater)

Narr:    Jesus and his disciples left Judea and returned to Galilee.
            The trip took them through Samaria.
            After a time, they came to the Samaritan village of Sychar,
            near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 
               Jacob’s well was there;
            and Jesus, tired from the long walk,
            sat down beside the well for a rest.
            The disciples ventured off to look for provisions.
            It was about noon, and before long
            a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water.
            Jesus said to her,

Jesus:  Would you please draw some water for me, and give me a drink?

Narr:    The woman was surprised,
            for Jews usually refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. 

Woman: I can’t believe that you, a Jew, would even speak to me,
            much less ask me for a drink of water!

Jesus:  If you only knew the gift God has for you
            and who you are speaking to!
            Because if you did, you would ask me,
            and I would give you living water.

Woman: Sir, you sit by this deep well,
            a thirsty man without a bucket in sight.
            Where would you get this living water?
            Do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob,
            who laboured long and hard to dig and maintain this well
            so that he would have clean water to share with his sons and daughters,
            his grandchildren, and his livestock? 
            How can you offer better water than he and his family enjoyed?

Jesus:  Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment.
            You must return to this well again and again.
            But the water I offer you is different.
            I offer water that quenches thirst forever.
            It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within you,
            giving life throughout eternity.
            You would never be thirsty again.

Woman: Please, sir, give me this water!
            Then I’ll never be thirsty again,
            and I won’t have to keep coming here to get water.

Jesus:  Go and get your husband.

Woman: I don’t have a husband.

Jesus:  Technically you are telling the truth.
            But you have had five husbands
            and are currently living with a man you are not married to.

Woman: Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet.
            So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist 
            that Jerusalem is the only place of worship,
            while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, 
            where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus:  Woman, I tell you that neither is so.
            The time is coming when it will no longer matter
            whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.
            Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—
            when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship
            but on the truthful hearts of worshipers.
            You worship what you don’t know, while we worship what we do know,
            for God’s salvation in coming through the Jews.
            The Father is spirit,
            and He is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth
            and deeply spiritual as well.
            Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain,
            if you do not seek the Father,
            then you do not worship.

Woman: I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ.
            When he comes, he will explain everything to us.
           
Jesus:  I am the Messiah!

Narr:    Just then his disciples came back.
            They were shocked to find him talking to a woman,
            but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?”
            or “Why are you talking to her?”

            The woman went back to the town, leaving her water pot behind.
            She stopped men and women on the streets
            and told them about what had happened.
            And because of her testimony, the village of Sychar was transformed—
            many Samaritans heard and believed.
            They approached Jesus and repeatedly invited Him to stay with them,
            so he lingered there for two days on their account.
            And as he spoke to them, many more came to believe.
            They began their faith journey because of the testimony of the woman at the well;
            but when they heard for themselves,
            they were convinced that Jesus was God’s Anointed –
            the Saviour sent to rescue the entire world.

this setting drew inspiration from The Voice Bible translation of Scripture, copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. http://www.hearthevoice.com/


Reflection

David Lose
Mount Olivet Lutheran Church

Sometimes I think the way we interpret this passage says as much about us as it does the passage.

For this is a passage and story that has, in my opinion, been notoriously misinterpreted, in part because we read it in isolation of the rest of John’s gospel and in part because of the Church’s history of bad treatment of women.

So let me lay my cards on the table: I don’t think the Samaritan woman is a prostitute. I don’t think that she has a shady past. And I don’t think Jesus forgives her. Rather, I think he calls her not to repentance but to life-giving faith. Allow me to explain.

The character who occupies center stage of this passage is a woman of Samaritan descent, and even if we don’t know what that means, John goes out of his way to tell us. First, Jews and Samaritans don’t get along (verse 9); second, women and men generally keep a safe social distance from each other (verse 27).

All of which explains why she is so surprised when Jesus asks her for a drink. When she makes a remark to that effect, he offers her living water. Confused, but intrigued, she asks about this miraculous water. Jesus eventually invites her to call her husband, and when she replies that she has no husband, he agrees: “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband” (4:18).

And that’s precisely the sentence that has moved preachers of all stripes and across the centuries to brand her a prostitute. Yet if we read more closely we discover that there is nothing in the passage that makes this an obvious interpretation. Neither John as narrator nor Jesus as the central character supply that information. Jesus at no point invites repentance or, for that matter, speaks of sin at all. She very easily could have been widowed or have been abandoned or divorced. Five times would be heartbreaking, but not impossible.

Further, she could now be living with someone that she was dependent on, or be in what’s called a Levirate marriage (where a childless woman is married to her deceased husband’s brother in order to produce an heir yet is not always technically considered the brother’s wife). There are any number of ways, in fact, that one might imagine this woman’s story as tragic rather than scandalous.

The difficulty with the all too regular interpretation is that it interrupts and distracts from the rest of the story. Immediately after Jesus describes her past, she says, “I see that you are a prophet” and asks him where one should worship. If you believe the worst of her, this is nothing more than a clumsy attempt to change the topic.

But if you can imagine another scenario, things look different. Keep in mind that “seeing,” in John, is an important theological activity. “To see” is often connected with belief. When the woman says, “I see you are a prophet,” she is therefore not changing the subject but making a confession of faith.

Why? Because Jesus has “seen” her. He has seen her plight of dependence, not immorality. He has recognized her, spoken with her, offered her something of incomparable worth. He has seen her — he exists for her, has worth, value, significance, and all of this is treatment to which she is unaccustomed. And so when he speaks of her past both knowingly and compassionately, she realizes she is in the presence of a prophet.

For this reason only does she risk the central question that has divided Samaritans and Jews for centuries: where is the proper place of worship? This is no awkward dodge or academic diversion. This is a heartfelt question that gets to the core of what separates her from Jesus. And when Jesus surprises her with an answer that is simultaneously more hopeful and penetrating than she’d expected, she leaves her water jar behind to tell her neighbors about this man.

Can we imagine that? That John has not placed before us a morality tale but rather is offering this woman as a striking and inspiring example of faith? Of what happens when Jesus likewise sees us and invites us to see and believe in him in return? …..

This woman…is a Samaritan woman of no account (she is not even named) who comes at noon. Not, by the way, because she was ashamed of her shady past and so wanted to avoid her neighbors — as the traditional interpretation reads — but because just as darkness represents disbelief in John, so also daylight signifies faith. In the presence of the “light of the world,” this woman leaves behind her ordinary tasks and life (symbolized by her water jar) to share the extraordinary news of the one who sees us truly and deeply (“he told me everything I have done”), loves us as we are, and commissions us to share this news with others.

………..This nameless woman, shares the same insight and activity as Jesus’ principle disciples, except perhaps that where they each told one other person, she tells all her neighbors!

So let’s admit that how we interpret this passage says a lot about us and our theology. And then let’s interpret this passage… as John inviting us to imagine that anyone — even someone as unlikely as this nameless Samaritan woman … or unlikely as us! — is seen by Jesus, loved by Jesus, and has the capacity to bear witness to the one who comes to enlighten our lives and world and to give us living water to satisfy even our deepest thirst.

Taken from https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1920 on 8/1/20


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


Prayers of Intercession

Living Water (inspired by Exodus 17: 1-7)

In the dry wildernesses of our lives,
in the days of heat and thirst,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When we begin to doubt your presence,
and grumble that your love is unreliable,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When life’s regrets and the bad choices we have made
leave us feeling excluded and unworthy,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

When circumstances, or the inhumanity of others,
have left us alone and wounded,
you offer us living water,
Thank you, gracious and generous God.

We thank you and praise you, O God,
that how ever we may thirst,
what ever we may need to satisfy our souls,
you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ;

So we drink deep of the living water
and, as we draw from your wells,
we seek to pass the cup to others
who, like us, are thirsty for your grace.

Amen


Lord’s Prayer

Closing Prayer

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.


Closing Song: Jesus Met the Woman by Peter, Paul & Mary

Jesus met the woman at the well
Jesus met the woman at the well
Jesus met the woman at the well
And He told her everything she’d ever done

He said, “Woman, woman, where is your husband?”
He said, “Woman, woman, where is your husband?”
He said, “Woman, woman, where is your husband?”
“I know everything you’ve ever done”

She said, “Jesus, Jesus, I ain’t got no husband”
She said, “Jesus, Jesus, I ain’t got no husband”
She said, “Jesus, Jesus, ain’t got no husband”
“And You don’t know everything I’ve ever done”

He said, “Woman, woman, you’ve got five husbands
“He said, “Woman, woman, you’ve got five husbands
“He said, “Woman, woman, you’ve got five husbands”
“And the one you have now, he’s not your own”

She said, “This man, this man, He must be a prophet”
She said, “This man, this man, He must be a prophet”
She said, “This man, this man, He must be a prophet”
“He done told me everything I’ve ever done”

Jesus met the woman at the well
Jesus met the woman at the well
Jesus met the woman at the well
And He told her everything she’d ever done


Postlude

Chris Johansen


August 2nd Worship

Order of Service

Greeting
Confession & Forgiveness
Prayer of the DayHenrik Strandskov
Readings
Reflection
Prayer InterludesHenrik Strandskov
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
CommunionCarolyn Saunders
Closing Prayer

Audio

Audio snippets can be found embedded in the text below.


Confession & Forgiveness

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

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

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


Prayer of the Day

Across the continent, on the shores of small tributaries, in the shadows of sacred mountains, on the vast expanse of the prairies, or in the safety of the woods, prayers are being repeated, as they have for thousands of years, and common people with uncommon courage and the whispers of their ancestors in their ears continue their struggles to protect the land and water and trees on which their very existence is based. And like small tributaries joining together to form a mighty river, their force and power grows.

~Winona LaDuke


Reading: Genesis 1: 2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 


Reflection

Mike Miles

Water-the Alpha element. Before the first day it was there when the earth was formless, empty, and dark. Water-on the second day it is shaped into the water over the sky (atmosphere?) and the water under the sky.

It is not until the third day that the seas are separated from the land and it is two days later that the waters “teem with living creatures”.

Water-The only element that exists in three forms; liquid,solid and gas, in a natural state. Water-combines a volatile gas, hydrogen, with another gas that is necessary for combustion to happen, oxygen, and the combination of the two atoms extinguishes fire.

Water is the basis of all life on earth, is the most abundant element on, and above, the earth, and yet we know so little about it. All the water on earth has been here from the beginning. We have what we have and must learn to live with it because we can’t live without it.

We are going to reflect on some basic knowledge about water today. While we can’t add to it or take away from it, we can learn about how it moves from here to there creating and maintaining life all over the planet we call home.

As you listen to the readings, think about how the water of the formless void came to make up 90% of a flower and 80% of your lungs. Think about how 75% of Americans live near a polluted water source and how more children die from drinking contaminated water than die from war.

Open your hearts and minds to the deep mystery that water is. There is nothing in the multi-verse more full of wonder than colorless, tasteless H2O and we get to live on a blue planet because of it. Let’s begin.


Water Facts

Amazing water

  • In a 100-year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about 2 weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere.
  • A trillion tons of water is evaporated every day by the sun!
  • More than 90% of the world’s supply of fresh water is located in Antarctica.
  • The earth is a closed system that rarely loses or gains extra matter. Essentially, this means that the same water that existed on earth millions of years ago is still present today.                                                                           
  • If the entire world’s water were fit into a 4 liter jug, the fresh water available for us would equal only about one tablespoon.                   
  • There is more fresh water in the atmosphere than in all of the rivers on the planet combined

America

  • In one year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons (indoors and outside).
  • Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day.
  • American use 5.7 billion gallons per day from toilet flushes.
  • Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons annually nationwide. That’s equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes.
  • About 27 trillion gallons of groundwater are withdrawn for use in the U.S. each year.
  • Over 42,000 gallons of water (enough to fill a 30×50 foot swimming pool) are needed to grow and prepare food for a typical Thanksgiving dinner for eight

Everyone else

  • It takes about 12 gallons per day to sustain a human (this figure takes into account all uses for water, like drinking, sanitation and food production)
  • 844 million people lack basic drinking water access, more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend an estimated 40 billions hours a year collecting water.
  • Every day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhea attributed to poor water and sanitation.
  • Lost time gathering water significantly reduces productive farming time for women in parts of the developing world. With safe water nearby, it’s estimated that women could feed 150 million of the world’s hungry.
  • For every $1 invested in safe water and sanitation, a yield of $5 to $28 USD is returned in increased economic activity and reduced health care costs

For a list of more facts collected by Mike, look at the document below:


Prayers

(as you reflect on the facts above)

I’ve known rivers
 
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human
blood in human veins
 
My soul has grown deep like the rivers
 
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young
 
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep
 
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the
singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans,
and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset
 
I’ve known rivers
 
Ancient,dusky rivers
 
My soul has grown deep like the rivers

~ Langston Hughes

What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone,
in the forest, at night, cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible speech
the most comforting speech in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
As long as it talks I am going to listen

~Thomas Merton

When trees take over an island and say so all at once
some in pigeon some in pollen with a coniferous hiss
and run to the shore shouting for more light
and the sun drops its soft coverlet over their heads
flash to and fro
like spirits of sight whose work is on the water
where the massless mind undulates the intervening air
shading it blue and thinking
I wish I was there
or there

~Alice Oswald


Prayers of Intercession

The water that God called into being is at the heart of all that lives.
Mindful of the many ways water affects our lives,
let us pray for our waters and for the life of the world around us.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for all people of faith,
and for the transformations in their lives that are marked by the sacredness of water:
at the Red Sea, in the Jordan and the Ganges Rivers,
in ritual baths, in the washing of feet, and in Holy Baptism.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for the leaders of nations, corporations, and communities around the world,
that they may exercise wise stewardship over the waters of their lands,
so that all people may have clean water to drink and live free from waterborne diseases. (silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for the wisdom to shape creative solutions to conflicts over water
in the dry places of our planet, and for justice and peace in desert lands.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for the oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, watersheds, streams,
ponds, deltas, marshes, and swamps of our planet,
for the waters beneath the ground,
and for all creatures that live in the waters of the earth.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for all who suffer from too much water
in the destruction of flood, storm, tsunami, and ice;
and for those people and creatures who suffer as the glaciers and ice floes vanish.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for all who thirst for water, for health, for love, for wisdom, for God,
that their cups may be filled to overflowing.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We ask your prayers for all who have died and for all who mourn,
that their tears of grief may be turned to wellsprings of joy.
(silence)
Lord, in Your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Blessed God, in your wisdom you uphold creation
and renew it again and again.
Help us to see all water as holy water,
and all our concerns as bathed in the living water Christ gives us,
in whose name we pray. Amen.


Communion

Invitation to Celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion

The peace of the Lord be with you.
All:  And also with you.

Together, yet distanced, we gather at the table to remember. We remember Jesus who recognized the burdens of our lives and said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” To those who were parched, he said, “I will quench your thirst.” And to those who hungered, “I will nourish you with the bread of life.”

Through the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we remember the love and compassion of God. We remember God’s goodness.

On this day, not only do we remember, but we are re-membered. Our sins are forgiven, our lives are renewed. We are made whole! We are re-membered and restored to following faithfully the ways of Christ.

All:  Thanks be to God!

We remember on the night before he died, Jesus gathered with his disciples, his closest friends, in an upper room. Around the table, they celebrated by remembering the Passover. They came as they were, accepted for who they were. Their lives were open to the indwelling of God’s Spirit.

Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, saying: “This is my body which is broken for you. Take and eat, in remembrance of me.” As the meal came to a close, he took the cup, blessed it and said, “This is my blood, the cup of the new Covenant, which is poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Take and drink, as often as you will, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of that holy night, we take the bread, break it and eat, remembering Christ’s life was broken so that our lives might be made whole.

And we take the cup and drink, remembering that by this cup of blessing, we are refreshed, restored, renewed.

Praying together, let us give thanks for the bread broken in love for us and the cup of our joy:

All:  Because the broken bread has meant our healing, because the outpoured cup has meant our life, because this time of sharing has meant the communion of our souls, and because we have here been graced by your presence, O God, we give you thanks and pray that our lives may be renewed in the life and the love of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Lord’s Prayer

Closing Prayer

You call us,
Wanderer of seashores and sidewalks,
inviting us to sail out of our smug harbors
into the uncharted waters of faith
to wander off from our predictable paths to follow You
into the unpredictable footsteps of the kingdom;
to leave the comfort of our homes and accompany
You into the uncomfortable neighborhoods we usually avoid.

As we wait,
in our simple, sometimes crazy,
constantly uncertain lives,
speak to us, Spirit of Grace:
of that hope which is our anchor;
of that peace which is our rock;
of that grace which is our refuge.

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
Amen.


A couple videos about water

July 26th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeMalagueñaMercy Wetzig
GreetingJeff Wetzig
Opening PrayerHenrik Strandskov
Confession & ForgivenessJeff Wetzig
HymnLift Up Your Arms
(tune #461)
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Henrik Strandskov, text
Prayer of the DayJeff Wetzig
Psalm 77: 7-20Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ReadingNumbers 20: 1-13Abel Wetzig
ReflectionNikki Strandskov
Reading1 Kings 17: 1-16Jeff Wetzig
ReflectionMark Hulsether
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Christy Wetzig
Closing PrayerHenrik Strandskov
BenedictionJeff Wetzig
PostludeFantasy on Holy MannaChris Johansen

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

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Mercy Wetzig


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

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

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

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


Hymn – Lift Up Your Arms

1.
Lift up your arms to welcome the morning sunshine,
Let us give thanks for God’s new dawn;
Thanks for the gift of sunlight on misty river,
Gift of a moon though night is gone.
God, Creator, making the morning,
God, Creator, making this day,
Thanks for a world remade for us every dawning,
Thanks for our own lives ever new.

2.
High on the mountain, pure, hidden springs are flowing,
Fed by forgotten rains and snows.
Their precious water, filling our lakes and rivers,
Nourishes everything that grows.
Holy Spirit, free-flowing fountain,
Pouring Grace on each thirsting heart.
Life-giving water feeds all the world around us:
Grace from the Spirit heals our souls.

3.
Thanks for the good folk joined with us here in worship,
Gathered as one in Jesus’ name;
But in the warmth we share in this sanctuary,
Let’s not forget why Jesus came.
Not to comfort wealthy and righteous,
But for sinner, outcast, and lost:
Help us, O God, to cherish the Other yonder:
Love is the meaning of your cross.

Text: © Henrik Strandskov, 2017
Music: William Moore (c. 1825)

This hymn text was composed for the installation service of the Reverend Cordelia M. Strandskov as pastor of Second Congregational Church United Church of Christ, Norway, Maine, on Sunday, February 26, 2017.


Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us your abundant mercy, and give us those good things that come only through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. 
Amen.


Psalm 77: 7-20


Reading: Numbers 20: 1-13

1The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.

So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness.


Reflection

Nikki Strandskov

I’ve not found it easy to come up with something to say today. But then I remembered that I’m just writing a reflection, not a sermon; so this may seem a bit random, but it’s what I have reflected on this week.
The passage we have heard from Numbers speaks of water, but the water is not really the point of the story. Yes, Moses strikes a rock and water gushes out for the thirsty Israelites and their livestock – but God faults him for grandstanding with the staff and for acting as if Moses himself, as a sort of magician, is causing the water to come from the rock, rather than giving the glory to God.

Almost more than anything, even coffee hour, what I am missing most during this pandemic is the singing – a part of worship that, we are told, may not even come back when we once again gather in person. When I first began to think about this passage, I looked it up on the website Hymnary and also used Google to see if I could find commentary or sermons. The sermons all seemed to focus on the disobedience of Moses. Although in the parallel story in Exodus, God tells Moses to strike the rock with his staff, in Numbers he is not told to do so – it’s his own idea, and the way he speaks to the people suggests that he is taking the credit for this miracle to himself. All this makes for a lot of sermons about being obedient to God’s word, usually as interpreted for you by doctrine or your pastor. But the hymns are different. As one might expect from poets, which is what the writers of hymn lyrics really are, they bring in the visual image of water gushing forth from a rock.

Though one might say the opposite of water is fire, one could also make a case for water’s opposite being rock. Rock is hard, mostly stationary, and usually dry, and an inhospitable place for plants. Water is usually moving, refreshing, helping plants grow. Rocks have their uses, but we could probably live without them. Water – not so much. A rock in the desert – I imagine a big piece of granite, but it could be sandstone or some other mineral – can provide shade. The writer Elizabeth Clephane, in “Beneath the Cross of Jesus,” speaks of the cross as “the shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land.” Numerous hymns speak of God or Jesus as a rock, using rock as a metaphor for stability, unchangingness, shelter, and a firm foundation, as in Grundtvig’s hymn, “Built on a Rock.” On the Hymnary site, put “Rock” in the search field and you will come up with over 5,000 hymns.

Oddly enough (considering how many hymns reference baptism), the word “Water” comes in second, with only about 4,500 hymns. Water in hymns is identified with purification, refreshment, and life, but also with danger and loss of control, as in “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea.” Several hymns seem to specifically reference the story (whether in Numbers or Exodus) of God bringing forth water from a rock. In “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” we hear “Open now the crystal fountain Whence the healing stream doth flow.” In Fanny Crosby’s hymn “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” she says,

“Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;”

In the well-known hymn, Rock of Ages, Augustus Toplady speaks of Jesus as the rock from which healing waters (and blood) flow, and also as a rock which can give shelter even as it, itself, is broken “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.”

And, in Henrik’s hymn we’re singing today, he envisions the Holy Spirit as life-giving water – an unusual metaphor for an aspect of the Trinity usually characterized as breath or air. I hope that you will look at some of the hymns I have mentioned, listen to them, and sing them this week, and think about rocks and water as two essential parts of God’s creation.


Reading: 1 Kings 17: 1-16

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; he went and lived by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15 She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.


Reflection / Song

Mark Hulsether

My song is like the shadow of a rooted northern pine
And the echo of the wind across the plain
It soars like the thunderclouds riding above the storm
I feel it like the calm behind the rain
It’s hard to remember as the summer sun beats down
A cooling breeze will come with the night
My song is like the echo of the wind across the plain
And the shadow of a rooted northern pine

The colors of the sunset are dancing on the waves
Birds are singing long before the dawn
The rain has turned the yellow grass to seven shades of green
Ancient rocks are soaking up the sun.
It’s only a moment that we can smell the rain
And taste the salt on each other’s’ skin
It’s only a moment and then we’re underground
So do not waste the time that you’re given

May the cold winds of winter bear you up upon your wings
May the work you do build bridges and not bombs
May the people in your dreams be friends
May you always find the strength to carry on
May your children learn forgiveness
May your parents age with grace
And may the songs you sing always ring true
May the light that shines within you be the light upon your path
May there always be grace surrounding you.

© Mark Hulsether, 2014


Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Closing Prayer

Benediction

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy.
The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.
Amen.


Postlude

Chris Johansen