January 17th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeBrother James’ AirChris Johansen, piano
Confession & ForgivenessPastor Linda
Gathering SongLight Dawns on a Weary World
#726
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 40vs. 1-13Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureLuke 4Pastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
HymnWhen Our Song Says Peace
#709
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayers of IntercessionPastor Linda
Peace
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Pastor Linda
Closing HymnO Christ the Same
#760 (tune: WOV #778)
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
DismissalPastor Linda
PostludeBrethren, We Have MetChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

P: God of goodness and mercy, help us as we open our hearts and confess our sin. 

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

 God of justice,

C: we confess that in the pursuit of our own dreams and desires,
we have not always been civil, not always humane, not always right.
Guided by your Spirit, what we would like to do is change the world –
make it more possible for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves –
a simple gift You intend for all.

Help us to be your witnesses, so that we can, with your help, change the world.
Enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to welcome the stranger, migrant and immigrant, and to love our enemy as a friend.
Amen.

~ adapted from a quote from Dorothy Day


Gathering Song – Light Dawns on a Weary World

1.
Light dawns on a weary world
When eyes begin to see
all people’s dignity.
Light dawn on a weary world:
The promised day to justice comes.

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

2.
Love grows in a weary world
When hungry hearts find bread
And children’s dreams are fed.
Love grows in a weary world;
The promised feast of plenty comes.
[Refrain]

3.
Hope blooms in a weary world
When creatures, once forlorn,
find wilderness reborn.
Hope blooms in a weary world:
The promised green of Eden comes.
[Refrain]


Greeting

    The grace and loving-kindness of our Savior Jesus Christ be with you all.

         And also with you.

Prayer of the Day

Let my soul be greening with the living light.
Let my heart awaken morning from the night.
Let the Spirit guide me to the present true and whole.
Viriditas, viriditas, the greening of my soul.
Grant to us, Gracious One, greening, hope, light shining in the darkness.
Grant, Lord, that darkness shall not overcome it, for in that light, there is you,
the Christ – for me, for all.   
Amen                              

adapted from Hildegard of Bingen

      


Psalm 40: 1-13

1 I waited patiently up-|on the Lord
who stooped to me and | heard my cry.

2 The Lord lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the | miry clay,
and set my feet upon a high cliff, making my | footing sure.

3 The Lord put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise | to our God;
many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust | in the Lord.

4 Happy are they who trust | in the Lord!
They do not turn to enemies or to those who | follow lies.

5 Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God! In your plans for us, none can be com-|pared with you!
Oh, that I could make them known and tell them! But they are more than | I can count.

6 Sacrifice and offering you do | not desire;
you have opened my ears: burnt-offering and sin-offering you have | not required.

7 And so I said, “Here I | am; I come.
In the scroll of the book it is writ-|ten of me:

8 ‘I love to do your will, | O my God;
your law is | deep within me.’ “

9 I proclaimed righteousness in the | great assembly;
I have not restrained my lips, O | Lord, you know.

10 I have not hidden your righteousness in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and | your deliverance;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and truth from the | great assembly.

11 You are the Lord; do not withhold your compas-|sion from me;
may your steadfast love and your truth continually | keep me safe.

12 For troubles without number have crowded upon me; my sins have overtaken me, and I | cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head, and | my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to de-|liver me;
O Lord, make | haste to help me.


Scripture Reading – Luke 4

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him
spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was
praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on
the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to
let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in
the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!’

And you will say, “Do here in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”

And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.


Sermon

“He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The year of the Lord’s favor described in Isaiah’s scroll refers to the ancient law of Leviticus. It was a Sabbath of Sabbaths: “Every 50 years you shall proclaim liberty and release throughout the land to all its inhabitants,” states the law. Slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be manifest.

This mythical law of Jubilee was designed to transform society and undo the damage that human greed causes: it was to free people who have been enslaved because of debt, who have lost their grazing land and homes because of tribal squabbles and bad dealings; in it they are restored – released from their burdens. Both land and people have a sabbath year of rest and restoration.

There isn’t any evidence that the year of Jubilee was ever put into actual practice. In Jesus’ day it stood alongside the promises of the prophets in the narrative of God’s intention for equality and justice, for salvation for all flesh.   But Jesus finishes reading, sits, and announces that today — in their presence — this ancient law and the promise of the prophet is fulfilled. Jesus’ incredibly short sermon will be the theme of his whole ministry. He has come to bring good news to those who are so poor that they have nothing; good news to those whose lives are defined by bad news; good news to those who are captive and burdened by illness, demons, or the strict laws of purity and righteousness; good news to those at the very bottom of the heap where good news is desperately needed.

Jesus’ concern for those who suffer the crushing effects of poverty rings throughout Luke’s Gospel. He blesses the poor and pronounces woe on the rich (6:20–26); he tells a young ruler to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor (18:18–26); the salvation that comes to Zacchaeus’ house “today” inspires Zaccheaus to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back four times as much as he took from people through fraud (19:1–10); and when, from prison, John the Baptist sends messengers to find out if Jesus is the real deal, the one who is to come, Jesus says, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk….the poor have good news brought to them” (7:18–23). Jesus does not separate economics from spirituality. The body matters. Matter matters. The condition of life for the bodies of living people matters. Jesus speaks of, and is, a salvation embracing spirit, soul, and body of this life. Realized eschatology. There is a reversal in store for the poor and oppressed, and for the privileged and wealthy, and in him, in the embodiment of God’s word, the year of the Lord’s favor has come.

             “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

            ….And then he said …  “The truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, yet Elijah was sent to none of the Israelites, but to a penniless Gentile widow in Sidon, the land of our enemies.  There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but God sent him to heal none of them, but rather to Naaman, a commander of the hated Syrian army.”

            When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.

So, that seems kind of abrupt … Why this sudden reversal on the part of his townies? What is there in this short sermon in Nazareth that changed their attitude so dramatically? In what way did he offend?

Isaiah’s quote echoes Mary’s song, that in Jesus’ birth, God is casting down the mighty and lifting the lowly. The people of Nazareth in Galilee thought this was going to be good news for them. They had for centuries been trampled by the great powers of the world passing through. Residents of Galilee were considered inferior even by other Jews. Galilee was surrounded by Gentile nations, and in the way of things, intermarried with different ethnic groups. Therefore, Galilee was not pure… they were considered uneducated and of no account. You might remember Nathaniel saying, “Can anything good come from Galilee?” That from a future disciple.

The home town crowd would have been very proud to have a prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.

But Jesus crossed the isle. He pointed out that in their own scriptures, God worked to benefit their enemies. In lifting the lowly, in leveling the rift of old animosities, they felt their own status lowered. The reversal is working against them if those further down the Totem pole are raised to be their equal.

There is something very true to human nature in the reaction that welcomes God’s new world order as long as they see themselves as the downtrodden beloved of God, but who can’t extend that jubilee beyond their borders. The hard thing about the God we know in Jesus is that whenever we draw a line between who’s in and who’s out, we will find Jesus with those we’ve pushed out. Reversals don’t favor insiders. That’s the problem with immigration, and the civil rights movement, women’s equality, religious pluralism, national health care. Equality upsets the balance that benefits the insiders.

The problem in this story is the wideness of God’s mercy.  In telling the stories of Elijah and Elisha’s merciful acts to non-Israelites, Jesus announces salvation not only to Galilee, not just to Israel, but beyond them to all people, chosen or not, local or not, ritually, religiously worthy or not. The very graciousness of the words, the spread of God’s salvation, becomes offensive to them. It irks the hometown-ers who want to claim Jesus’ message for themselves.  He grew up here, after all, why would he say God bestows equal favor on those hated Samariatans, or the Sarophenechian dogs, or tax collectors, lepers, and sinners, for that matter? The people of Nazareth call God’s justice into question.

The Jews of Jesus’ hometown read scripture as promises for them through God’s exclusive covenant, a promise of deliverance from their oppressors. But Jesus announces that this is not their deliverance. It is Gods deliverance that is, in fact, for all people who are oppressed and poor regardless of nationality, gender, race, or status.  Jesus greatly broadens the list of who counts. And that was offensive.

It still is. We, too, seem to have problems discerning the place of mercy, generosity and inclusion in justice. We’re good at judgment. We’ve got exclusion down to an art form, splintering off into ever more specific, distinct affiliations. Our society has become a study in pointillism.  

As Christians we like Jesus’ message because we recognize that we are the ones being brought into a new covenant. But most Christians – too many Christians, I would say, want the door to close behind us. If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then that’s God’s exclusive salvation club, right? We are God’s new chosen people, based on proper belief in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Selection becomes even more pointed depending on what must be professed and believed in order to qualify as a true Christian. God is left with a very small wingspan.

And if that is the argument, aren’t we are reenacting the morning in Nazareth? Is exclusion really true to the nature of the God we proclaim? Jesus consistently attends to the sinners and outcasts, to the political enemies of Israel, to the nobodies and untouchables.

It is true to human nature, though, to see ourselves in the role of whichever group is being spoken well of. It’s a hard sell to suggest that we are the problem, the oppressors, the privileged insiders whose lifestyle and worldview is unsustainable.  There’s an economy of greed and inclusion, an accounting mentality, that is wired in to our survival instincts and is offended – or perhaps frightened – by generosity and equality and justice.

Still, Jesus did bring good news of great joy. Salvation, redemption – these churchy words that I think mean inclusion and acceptance are available for all people. That is the good news. Free will has more to do with the limitations of the offer, than God’s will.

Normally, I try to stress the communal nature of God’s salvation and downplay our personal, sentimental, individualized acquisition of God through Jesus as our personal Lord and savior. But my aversion to that is due to the baggage the words carry, not to the concept of a personal relationship with God or Jesus.

 So, how about ending exclusion with a God chosen “you.” If we are all individuals, then there’s no comfort in numbers, no general admission, no exclusive groups. In a chosen “you”  there is the I and Thou relationship that Martin Buber wrote of with God. There is no longer “us and them” … but only “you.” A community of chosen “you’s.” (Not female sheep, but maybe like sheep – since all have gone astray).

And like all the chosen “you’s” of scripture, God hopes and expects things of you. We hear about a lot of individuals in scripture. We know of a great many people by name. But a pattern emerges when you look at those individuals. One is named, known, chosen for the sake of many. Sarah, Abraham were chosen and blessed to be a blessing to others. Moses, chosen to bring his people from slavery to freedom. Esher, Ruth, David: each is chosen for the benefit of many. Israel was chosen to be a light among the nations – not so that Israel would have exclusive rights to God, but so that others would see the light of God shining through them and be drawn toward the light and therefore to God. Jesus, himself, born not to rule as God’s king on earth, but as a “son born to you, a child given you,” to bring all people, all the separate, chosen, belov-ed “you’s” into the fellowship, justice and service of God’s holy, whole-of-many, embrace.

In leaving the categories of “us” and “them” behind, in reaching beyond it, perhaps the reversal God intends is one of full inclusion, equality borne in love. The wealthy, strong, and powerful are brought down (or perhaps, in the irresistible light of love, step down?) from their faulty and false love of self. The poor are noticed and lifted and systems change, and somehow we all meet in the middle, the valleys raised and the mountains made low.       

Because they were not open to the prospect of others sharing in God’s bounty equally to themselves, the people who heard Jesus preach that Sabbath morning were not able to receive it. It wasn’t the result of God’s doing, it was the natural consequence of their own free will. They refused to be one of many “you’s”, preferring the “I” that creates the “them”.

It is always a challenge to leave the categories of salvation up to God – especially if we take to heart Luke’s conviction that it is now, here, as well as in the fullness of time. But if God includes and invites and shows mercy in all directions and is not finally about judgment and exclusion … then really, we have nothing to worry about or fear and plenty to celebrate.

So let’s be about that, instead.  


Hymn – When Our Song Says Peace

1.
When our song says peace and the world says war,
we will sing despite the world.
We will trust the song, for we sing of God,
who breaks the spear and sword
and stills the storm of war.

2.
When our song says free and the world says bound,
we will sing despite the world.
We will trust the song, for we sing of God,
who opens prison doors
and sets the captives free.

3.
When our song says home and the world says lost,
we will sing despite the world.
We will trust the song, for we sing of God,
who brings us home at last,
and gives a song to all.


Prayers of Intercession

Peace

Lord’s Prayer

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

Benediction


Hymn – O Christ the Same

1 O Christ the same, through all our story’s pages–
our loves and hopes, our failures and our fears;
eternal Lord, the King of all the ages,
unchanging still, amid the passing years:
O living Word, the source of all creation,
who spread the skies, and set the stars ablaze;
O Christ the same, who wrought our whole salvation,
we bring our thanks for all our yesterdays.

2 O Christ the same, the friend of sinners, sharing
our inmost thoughts, the secrets none can hide;
still as of old upon your body bearing
the marks of love, in triumph glorified:
O Son of Man, who stooped for us from heaven,
O Prince of life, in all your saving power,
O Christ the same, to whom our hearts are given,
we bring our thanks for this the present hour.

3 O Christ the same, secure within whose keeping
our lives and loves, our days and years remain,
our work and rest, our waking and our sleeping,
our calm and storm, our pleasure and our pain:
O Lord of love, for all our joys and sorrows,
for all our hopes, when earth shall fade and flee,
O Christ the same, beyond our brief tomorrows,
we bring our thanks for all that is to be.


Dismissal

Go with the strength you have.
Go simply, lightly, gently
Go in search of Love.
And may the Spirit of God go with you.  Amen


Postlude

Chris Johansen