June 21st Worship

This week will look slightly different! Linda is off, and Shawn Mai is presiding. The time on Zoom at 10am was like a traditional worship service, and the audio from that is posted right here. The text of readings and reflections can be found below the Order of Service.

Order of Service

WelcomeShawn Mai
PreludeSoftly and TenderlyChris Johansen, piano
PrayerShawn Mai
ReadingsIsaiah 35
Matthew 11: 28-30
Henrik Strandskov
Opening ReflectionShawn Mai
HymnThis is My Father’s WorldChuck Parsons, organ
PoemSabbath 1985, by Wendell BerryMercy & Abel Wetzig
ReflectionShawn Mai
PrayersNikki Strandskov
HymnO God Our Help in Ages PastChuck Parsons, organ
BenedictionShawn Mai
PostludeChuck Parsons, organ

Prayer of the Day

The sacred is everywhere,
At the heart of everything
That was, is, or to be…

Creativity God, whose renewing breath fills our planet,
may we discern this vibrant presence among us,

In these long life giving days of summer light,

In the aliveness of the landscape at the steps of West Denmark
and in the mysteries of the northern forest.

May our spirits be lifted to rejoice with the forest that surrounds us
and all the creatures this day.

May it be so.


Isaiah 35: 1-8

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
    “Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
    He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
    He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Holy Way;

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Shawn Mai

Good morning.  A blessed Father’s Day to all who are fathers, who have fathers, and who take on role of Father, Grandfather, uncle or mentor. 

We also recognize today the gift of light in the summer solstice.    In these long days we are especially aware of the lushness of creation, the food it provides, and the context for rest and reflection.

Pastor Linda has set up a thoughtful, reflective topic this summer.  Sabbath.  The context she tee’d it up with was provocative for me…the pandemic.  When Linda talked about a “forced Sabbath”, that got me thinking about sabbath in a very different way than I have before.   Life tends to offer up the unexpected…even unexpected rest or a “stopping” we did not see coming.

As a hospital chaplain, I work every day in a context where people are sidelined from life unexpectedly because of illness.  An unexpected diagnosis, a body part malfunction, or a nasty virus that alludes a vaccine.

I think about the dear woman in our own congregation who was out walking her dog last Advent season and unexpectedly fell and broke her leg in several different places.  She ended up immobilized at home for eight weeks through the Christmas holiday and into the new year.  The way she engaged the world, understood herself, and found value was in being active and engaged.  The fall and breaking of her bones forced her into an unexpected Sabbath of sorts.  

Collectively, we walked out of this West Denmark church last March, not knowing that we would be taking a sabbath time away from this building and our being together in person.  Today we worship apart on zoom.  A forced exile or a Sabbath time to reflect on what it means to be a faith community defined in new ways.

Sabbath- the Sabbath (/ˈsæbəθ/; Hebrew: שַׁבָּת‎) is a time set aside for rest and worship. According to the Book of Exodus, the Sabbath is a day of rest on the seventh day, commanded by God to be kept as a holy day of rest, as God rested from creation.

I dug into the word for Sabbath a bit more.  The Hebrew word for rest is nuach-to rest, to be quiet. Sometimes, it is synonymous to shabat- to cease or to rest. The Greek word for rest is anapausis meaning cessation, 

Cessastion- Stopping, halting, ceasing. 

So, today we halt.  Not everything is neat and tidy.  It would have been more convenient to know that a pandemic was coming so we could have planned for it.  But more often than not, life doesn’t unfold like we need it too. 

Also, we live in a society that isn’t necessarily wired for Sabbath. 

So today, we once again ponder the meaning of the messiness with the help of Wendell Berry and his Sabbath  Poem 1985.  The image Barry uses in his Sabbath poem 1985 is a forest.  As I ran through Straight Lake Park yesterday, I had to crawl through some downed trees, slip and slide through some mud, and I noticed the forest floor is a bit of a mess with its tangling of limbs, vines, and plants,   that make unique from any other forest floor.  That is God’s creation. 

Hymn – This is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening 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.

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 everywhere.

Text: Maltbie D. Babcock
Music: Franklin L. Sheppard

Sabbath, 1985, by Wendell Berry

Voice 1:  How long does it take to make the woods?

Voice 2 As long as it takes to make the world.

Voice 1 The woods is present as the world is, the presence
of all its past, and of all its time to come.

Voice 2: It is always finished, it is always being made, the act
of its making forever greater than the act of its destruction.

Voice 1: It is a part of eternity, for its end and beginning
belong to the end and beginning of all things,
the beginning lost in the end, the end in the beginning.

Voice 1: What is the way to the woods, how do you go there?

Voice 2: By climbing up through the six days’ field,
kept in all the body’s years, the body’s
sorrow, weariness, and joy.

Voice 1: By passing through
the narrow gate on the far side of that field
where the pasture grass of the body’s life gives way
to the high, original standing of the trees

Voice 2:.
By coming into the shadow, the shadow
of the grace of the strait way’s ending,
the shadow of the mercy of light.

Why must the gate be narrow?
Because you cannot pass beyond it burdened.
To come in among these trees you must leave behind
the six days’ world, all of it, all of its plans and hopes.
You must come without weapon or tool, alone,
expecting nothing, remembering nothing,
into the ease of sight, the brotherhood [and sisterhood!] of eye and leaf.

Reflection, continued

Berry reminds us that at a certain point we must leave our expectations at the door.  Expecting nothing, remembering nothing.

Life happens and recreation will happen.  Maybe Sabbath is also rest from our illusion of control.

Last summer Mike and Barb experienced the sudden alteration of the forest they live in. 

As far as what we are doing with our forest post blow down it is as simple as this. I was told by an agro-forester from UW Madison to do as little as possible with the remains. The forest wasn’t destroyed it was made young. She said that I am now managing a young forest instead of an old forest. We don’t want to disturb the soil or run over young trees with big equipment. Without a canopy sunlight will be hitting the floor so too many trees will come up too close together. There are not enough grazing animals going through the woods to thin the overgrowth so there will be some hands on management to do. Also no fires sweeping through which has the same result. Ecologically informed stewards are going to have to do the work along with nature. 

Mike’s reflection on their approach to a forest forever changed I find instructive as we face unprecedented times of forced Sabbath and the impact, not of an 80 mile an hour wind but of a microscopic virus that can change our internal landscape.

Sabbath is a time to stop.  To listen.  To breathe.  To accept.  To let go.  To grieve.  To wait for the next unexpected, creative adventure.  To pray.

Hymn – O God Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home:

Before the hills in order stood or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God, to endless years the same.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all our years away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the op’ning day.

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last and our eternal home.

Text: Isaac Watts
Music William Croft

To participate in Zoom using a phone:

If you’re on a cell phone, you should be able to tap one of the “One-tap mobile” numbers in the email. It looks like a complicated number, but it will dial the number, then pause (that’s what the commas tell it to do), and enter the ID, pause, etc. automatically. You’d just have to wait, and you’ll be in eventually.

If you have a landline (or a cell phone without the email on it to tap), then any of the regular phone numbers should work. They’ll just be long distance calls (for example, if you lived in Chicago, then the Chicago number would be a local call). On a cell phone, or landline with nationwide calling, it shouldn’t make a difference. You’ll need the Meeting ID and Password from the email, too, and enter that when it asks.

You can also join on the computer, and use the phone for audio (if you don’t have a microphone on the computer). Join the Zoom on the computer first for video, then when it asks about audio, click “phone call” instead of “use computer audio”. It should give instructions on how to call in – use any of the phone numbers provided there.

The following link has more information on joining by phone – scroll to “Joining by phone only” if you aren’t planning to use a computer for the video:
Note: you can mute/unmute on the phone by pressing *6