January 31st Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeBist du bei mirChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Carolyn Saunders
Gathering SongLove Divine, All Loves Excelling
#631
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Carolyn Saunders
Psalm 22vs. 22-31Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureLuke 7: 1-17Carolyn Saunders
SermonPastor Linda
read by Nikki Strandskov
HymnHealer of Our Every Ill
#612
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
Peace
Lord’s Prayer
Benediction
Carolyn Saunders
Closing HymnSent Forth By God’s Blessing
#547
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
DismissalCarolyn Saunders
Postludeby HandelChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

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

Silence for reflection and self-examination.

L: Ancient One, and ever new,

C: forgive us when we neglect to care for the widows and the orphans,
for the bereaved and the lonely;
forgive us when we fail to be signs of your miraculous help in the world.
Instill in us the constant hope and the steadfast faithfulness –
to be your disciples,
to be your messengers,
to be your hands and feet in this world.
In the name of the One who brought hope and helping to our world, we pray. Amen.

L: Happy are those whose help is in God, the one who made heaven and earth.
Blessed are those whose hope is in Christ, the one who keeps faith forever.
In that spirit of faithfulness,
God in Christ has forgiven us
and invites us to rise in new life.


Gathering Song – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

1.
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down!
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter ev’ry trembling heart.

2.
Breathe, oh, breathe thy loving Spirit
into ev’ry troubled breast;
let us all in thee inherit;
let us find thy promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

3.
Come, Almighty, to deliver;
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

4.
Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav’n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love and praise!


Greeting

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

         And also with you.

Prayer of the Day

Loving God, we gather as your people,
    hungry for your word,
    longing for your touch.
Breathe new life into our lives.
Touch us and heal our brokenness.
Make us your witnesses in the world, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

                           

      


Psalm 22: 22-31

22 I will declare your name | to my people;
in the midst of the assembly | I will praise you.

23 You who fear the Lord, give praise! All you of Jacob’s | line, give glory.
Stand in awe of the Lord, all you off-|spring of Israel

24 For the Lord does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither is the Lord’s face hid-|den from them;
but when they cry out, | the Lord hears them.

25 From you comes my praise in the | great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the sight of those who | fear the Lord.

26 The poor shall eat | and be satisfied.
Let those who seek the Lord give praise! May your hearts | live forever.

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn | to the Lord;
all the families of nations shall bow | before God.

28 For dominion belongs | to the Lord,
who rules o-|ver the nations.

29 Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow | down in worship;
all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel be-|fore the Lord.

30 Their descendants shall | serve the Lord,
whom they shall proclaim to genera-|tions to come.

31 They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people | yet unborn,
saying to them, “The | Lord has acted!”


Scripture Reading – Luke 7: 1-17

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

The gospel of the Lord…..Praise to you, O Christ.


Sermon

Do you remember Jesus’s sermon in Nazareth (the one that nearly got him pushed off the cliff)? In it, he challenged his hometown gathering with a reminder that, in their own scriptures, God works good among those who are not necessarily faithful to God – even among those who are outsiders to the faith – even among those who oppress God’s chosen people. He reminded them of the food provided to the widow of Zarephath in Sidon, and the healing of Naaman the Syrian general back in the day when the prophets Elijah and Elisha tended to them, saved them, on God’s half – through God’s deeds although they were not Jewish. Stories of care for those outside the fold of the chosen flock were a powerful (and unappreciated)  illustration of the wideness of God’s mercy, the breadth of God’s love and concern, the lengths to which God will go. 

Jesus said, “This promise of scripture to heal and free and save all people has come to be fulfilled today, now, in your hearing, through me.” And they tried to get rid of him.

In today’s reading, Jesus has moved beyond words and is enacting the promise of life and restoration as he reaches out to heal and to save. The Greek word sozo – becomes either “heal” or “save” in English, depending on the translator’s preference… but in Greek there’s no distinction – healing and saving is one thing, one word – to be healed is to be saved. One and the same.

But anyway, Jesus has come back to Capernaum (the town teaming with fish). It, like most towns of Judea, is watched over by soldiers of the Roman occupation – but we find here an interesting dynamic. The Gentile centurion is not an antagonist in the story. Rather, he is held in high regard – by Luke as the storyteller and by the Jewish population that he “serves”. We are told that he is humble and well thought of –  he has built a synagog for this community – he is a benefactor and on such good terms with the Jewish elders that he is able to send them to Jesus to intercede for him.

Confucius said you can tell the quality of a man (or woman, but Confucius didn’t say that) by the way he treats the lowest and least of his acquaintances. In this regard, the centurion is a good man. He wants his beloved slave restored to health (perhaps he is a good cook). There is no sense that Jesus is being tested by either the Roman authority or the Jewish elders. All in all, this is a very gracious scene in which Jesus’s help is requested and trusted by Jews and Gentiles alike.

Although the elders say this Roman officer is worthy of Jesus’ attention toward his slave, the centurion himself sends a message that intercepts Jesus. “I am not worthy for you to enter my house – no need for you to come all this way, but, if you will, just say the word.”  The centurion understands chain of command – Jesus needs only to speak the word and the thing will happen. Jesus is amazed by this man’s insight (noting that he has not found its equal in all of Israel) and he commends the centurion for his faith. Jesus does not go on, he does not enter the house,  he does not meet the centurion, nor see the sick slave. But those who return to the house find the servant alive and recovered.

The message we glean from this story (and many others like it in the gospels) is that faith heals. “Be on your way, your faith has made you well.” “You have only to knock and the door shall be opened,” “You have only to ask in Jesus’ name and the deed shall be done” You have only …… to….. believe.

Take a big breath.

I’m curious about what’s going on in your heads right now…because I imagine it’s similar to what happens in my head when I study these passages. We’re questioning either our belief or the truth of the Bible – maybe both. We’re thinking of loved ones weve prayed for, a lot.  We think of people we’d say are pillars of faith whose prayers have – apparently – gone unanswered. We have stormed heaven’s gate with earnest prayer and still lost the one we hoped to save.

Oh ye of little faith? Is that the conclusion? Not enough faith?

What other options have you considered? That you aren’t worthy? that you don’t have the right words? that the Bible is an ancient book and we don’t really think that way anymore? that God doesn’t have the kind of power to intercede in earthy terms and save real people of real disease?  that God doesn’t care?…that God just ….. isn’t?

There are a lot of options for our dark nights, and this is shaky ground for a sermon.

But I will say that you aren’t alone if you’ve entertained those thoughts.  Not at all.

I will assure you that you aren’t alone if you’ve railed against God for the silence, the emptiness, the lack of results, the question that goes unanswered. “Eli, eli, lama sabach thani – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” Does that sound familiar? These are the tortured words of lament Jesus cried from the cross, and they have echoed through the ages with those who suffer and grieve. Where are you God?  Why has this happened to me, to my loved one? Why are you so far away?

But… we would be hasty to draw the conclusion that God is absent or powerless or that we are inadequate. Luke has paired this healing story with another one. And as we will see, the second story separates healing from faith. There are differences between the stories, set side by side, for a reason. They interpret each other, they show us that there is not a formula for healing:   the right words at the right time, meeting a minimum thresh-hold of faith, equals God showing up with a cure. 

It doesn’t work that way.

These stories are paired to show that Jesus is not a miracle working medicine man, as much as we might want him to be, and that the presence or absence of miracle cures is not a litmus test for God’s power, for God’s love, for God’s compassion, for God’s existence, or of our faith.

You’ll have to search elsewhere for that proof.   

 I think this reading is about something other than the mystery of cures.

In the second story, Jesus isn’t sought out for intercession. He stumbles upon a funeral procession in full swing as they meet at the town gates of Nain. Jesus, his disciples, and a large group of his followers have to stop at the gates and wait for the crowd accompanying a funeral bier as it makes its way out to the burial grounds. The dead man’s widowed mother passes by.

We can picture this scene: the stately march of the shouldered bier, the loud wailing and vocal trills of the professional mourners, the crowd of witnesses and, in their midst, three shrouded, huddled figures, dressed head to foot in black. The widowed mother is borne along, supported on each side by a female friend. She doesn’t raise her eyes from the ground. She has lost not only her only son, but her only source of livelihood, her protection, her hope, her future. She is a woman utterly bereft.     

Jesus sees her – and has compassion.

This is the first time in the gospel that Luke as the narrator uses the word “Lord” in relation to Jesus. “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her.” Jesus is at his most “lordly” – not on the backside of a miracle basking in the wonder and mystery of God’s glory in the healing of the centurion’s slave, but as one who looks at human need and death and grief and is filled with compassion, as one who feels for us, with us.

There is no expression of faith in this story, no request for help; there’s no mention of the widow or of her son being worthy. There is only grief. There is only mercy. There is only saving and healing – one word, one action, one event.

Yet Jesus approaches her and says perhaps the least compassionate thing he could say to someone drowning in grief – “Hush now. Stop your weeping.”  What? That’s not something to say when one has just lost a loved one. This is not good grief counseling.

But Jesus could say it because he knows the power he has in the second word – he touches the funeral bier, enters the forbidden place of death and emptiness and absence and says, “I say to you arise.”

If we’re shaky about miracle healings, what do we make of a widow’s son being raised from the dead? Isn’t the Bible the strangest, most challenging, daunting, befuddling thing you have to consider this week? Maybe not the Bible, but life – and it’s the same thing – God in the midst of life and death – interrupting, intersecting, interposing life in the midst of death. Healing, saving, one word, one thing.

I’m not trying to make light of the problem of faith and suffering and the presence or absence of God. This is a genuine faith crisis point for many of us and it can’t be addressed fully enough in a sermon without sitting here all day and having a very long conversation ……

The miracle cures and revivals or resuscitations that Jesus was able to perform did not bring an end to pain, sickness, suffering, hunger, or death. He did not provide a force field of divine favor and protection: Not for those who followed him – not even for those whom he healed. Even though the slave recovered, even though the son was raised, they got sick again – eventually they died. Their life on earth ended. Each of our lives will end.

But in saving these people, Jesus entered into their lives – Jesus transformed their lives in ways they would never forget; in ways that witnessed to God’s power, God’s compassionate mercy. In ways that happens for us, still, today.

These stories aren’t about cures and healings, or even about faith. They are case studies, object lessons about God’s power evident in Jesus. Through them we see promises made specific, particular, about God’s intent to save all people regardless of the strength of their faith, regardless of their standing or righteousness – even as far afield as the foreign slave of a Roman military officer,  or as insignificant as a nameless widow from Nain. We are shown again and again, and as many times as it takes until we believe it, that the Bible is about God for us: for us to know, for us to trust, for us to look for and be found by,   for us to be glad in and confident of…

Because Jesus has come among us with healing in his wings to save and to rescue and to transform our lives – in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, from this day forward, and forevermore: one word, one deed….save us, Gracious God.

We pause for a few moments of reflection 


Hymn – Healer of Our Every Ill

Refrain:
Healer of our every ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.

1.
You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness;
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts.
[Refrain]

2.
In the pain and joy beholding
how your grace is still unfolding,
give us all your vision, God of love.
[Refrain]

3.
Give us strength to love each other,
every sister, every brother;
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.
[Refrain]

4.
You who know each thought and feeling,
teach us all your way of healing;
Spirit of compassion, fill each heart.
[Refrain]


Prayers of Intercession

Eternal God, You have been our resting-place through the ages.
Generations come and pass away, but You abide forever.
We thank you for Your presence among us.
You bring us comfort amid our trials,
clarity where confusion persists,
peace in the midst of conflict,
and hope of eternal life.
Hear us now as we pray for Your Church and the needs of the world,
for You are the God of our lives.
Lord, hear our prayer…and in Your love, answer.

We pray for the Church here at West Denmark, and across the world;
may it be true, engaging, glad, and active, doing your will.
Let Your church be always faithful, O God,
and ready to promote the cause of compassionate love and peace.
Lord, hear our prayer…and in Your love, answer.

We pray for all who govern and hold authority in the nations of the world.
We pray that everywhere upon this earth there may be justice and peace.
Lord, hear our prayer…and in Your love, answer.

We pray especially today for the well being of people
in parts of the world affected by climate change, hunger, and poverty, and the pandemic.
We continue to pray for peace and racial justice.
Lord, hear our prayer…and in Your love, answer.

Lord, we pray for all people in their daily life and work—
for our families, friends, and neighbours, and for those who are alone.
We name before you individuals and families
experiencing personal hardship or facing and uncertain future,
those who are separated from loved ones,
those who grieve this today,  and those who are sick in hospital or ill at home.
Hear us Lord as we now lift up those people and those situations
you have placed upon our hearts… 
And especially, for those who fall between categories, into the cracks, who struggle with addictions, identity, mental health, loneliness. Be present with all these, your beloved, and send us into their lives
Lord, hear our prayer…and in Your love, answer.

Lord in Your love, hear all our prayers—both the spoken and unsaid. May our prayers further Your purposes for us all, and bring us to that place where we may experience the joy and rest in your faithful, attentive love.  Amen.


Lord’s Prayer

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

Benediction

Arise to life, to help, to hope;
arise to spread God’s news!
Arise to love, to care, to give;
arise to be Christ for the world!


Hymn – Sent Forth By God’s Blessing

1.
Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this dwelling take leave.
The supper is ended. Oh, now be extended
the fruits of this service in all who believe.
The seed of Christ’s teaching, receptive souls reaching,
shall blossom in action for God and for all.
Your grace shall incite us, your love shall unite us
to work for your kingdom and answer your call.

2.
With praise and thanksgiving to God ever-living,
the tasks of our ev’ryday life we will face–
our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring,
embracing God’s children, the whole human race.
With your feast you feed us, with your light now lead us;
unite us as one in this life that we share.
Then may all the living with praise and thanksgiving
give honor to Christ and his name that we bear.


Dismissal

Go forth with God’s blessing.
Go forth to serve God’s people. Go forth in peace!


Postlude

Chris Johansen