Order of Service
|Opening Prayer||Henrik Strandskov|
|Confession & Forgiveness||Jeff Wetzig|
|Hymn||Lift Up Your Arms|
Chris Johansen, piano
Henrik Strandskov, text
|Prayer of the Day||Jeff Wetzig|
|Psalm 77: 7-20||Harry Johansen|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Reading||Numbers 20: 1-13||Abel Wetzig|
|Reading||1 Kings 17: 1-16||Jeff Wetzig|
|Prayers of Intercession|
|Closing Prayer||Henrik Strandskov|
|Postlude||Fantasy on Holy Manna||Chris Johansen|
Note: Audio for a full service appears here. A few individual parts of the service are also embedded in the text below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hymn – Lift Up Your Arms
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.
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.
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.
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.
2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? 5 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.” 6 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. 7 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 8 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.
9 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.
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.” 2 The word of the Lord came to him, saying, 3 “Go from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 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. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the wadi. 7 But after a while the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “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
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
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.