March 14th Worship

Order of Service

PreludeWhen Morning Gilds the SkyChris Johansen
Opening Prayer
Confession & Forgiveness
Barb & Mike
Gathering SongAll Are Welcome
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
GreetingBarb & Mike
Prayer of the DayBarb & Mike
Psalm 41vs. 1-4, 10-13Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ScriptureLuke 16: 19-31Mercy & Abel
SermonBarb & Mike
Statement of FaithBarb & Mike
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s Prayer
Barb & Mike
Closing HymnWhen the Poor Ones
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludeRondo, by ClementiChris Johansen

Audio Recording – Full service


Chris Johansen

Opening Prayer

God of Spirit, life and love,
It has been a year, and we are still gathering together in different ways this morning,
from computer screens, from telephones, on Bluetooth,
we gather, reaching out across the wires, waving from a safe distance,
to come together as the West Denmark community.

From living room to front porch to car seat, we gather as we are able,
ready to be of service to each other, to the world,
ready to build the community of hope and of love,
as we face this bright morning.

We are apart, but we are together, offering our love, our commitment,
our hope, and our prayers, in service to one another and this world.


Confession & Forgiveness

L: In heart and spirit, we are gathered together in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen

L: Recognizing our need for forgiveness, for belonging, let us confess our sin, and seek reconciliation with God and with each other.

                   Silence for reflection and self-examination.

C: God of glory,
we confess that we have not sought your face.
We ignore the needs of the
poor and turn away from our own kin.
We allow the gospel to go stale,
and hide the light you have given.
Forgive us; give us grace.
By the renewing gifts of your Spirit
inspire and empower us again
to show the wonder of your love in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

L: The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.
The LORD upholds all who
are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
Know that you are forgiven, and be at peace.
Thanks be to God!

Gathering Song – All Are Welcome

Let us build a house where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek
to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found
in water, wine and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground
where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus,
is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that frees us.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach
beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach,
and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger
bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

Text & Music: Marty Haugen


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

Come Lord!
Do not smile and say you are already with us.
Millions do not know you and to us who do, what is the difference?
What is the point of your presence if our lives do not alter?
Change our lives, shatter our complacency.
Make your word flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood and our life’s purpose.
Take away the quietness of a clear conscience. Press us uncomfortably.
For only thus that other peace is made, your peace.

~Don Helder Camara



Psalm 41: 1-4, 10-13

1 Happy are they who re-|gard the poor!
The Lord will deliver them in the | time of trouble.

2 The Lord protects and revives them, those blessed | in the land,
and does not hand them over to the power | of their enemies.

3 The Lord sustains them | on their sickbed
and ministers to them | in their illness.

4 I said, “Lord, be merci-|ful to me;
heal me, for I have | sinned against you.”

10 But you, O Lord, be merciful to me and | raise me up,
and I | shall repay them.

11 By this I know you are | pleased with me:
that my enemy does not triumph | over me.

12 In my integrity you | hold me fast,
and shall set me before your | face forever.

13 Blessed be the Lord | God of Israel,
from age to age. A-|men. Amen.

Scripture Reading – Luke 16: 19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Thanks be to God


The story of the rich man and Lazarus is not a feel good parable. It’s a story with no wiggle room which is hard for us living in a culture where we expect some wiggle room.
Luke has been emphasizing how the status of the rich and the poor is reversed in the kingdom of God for months. When Mary is told by the angel that she has found favor with God and is with child, her prayer of praise includes the hungry have been filled and the rich sent away empty. In the Luke version of the beatitudes, Jesus tells the poor that God favors them, that the kingdom of God belongs to them, and warns the rich of what is to come since they have already received their consolation in this life.
Luke makes clear that the poor are a focus of Jesus’ ministry. In his inaugural sermon, Jesus declares that he has been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord “to bring good news to the poor”. Jesus admonishes his followers not just to invite to their parties the friends and neighbors who can repay them, but to extend their invitations to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind”. This is echoed when Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where all are welcome.

While the poor have good news preached to them, the the rich receive a somewhat different message. The rich young ruler who asks Jesus how he can inherit eternal life is told that he is to sell all he has and distribute the money to the poor. When this makes him sad (because of his wealth) Jesus comments that the rich tend to have more difficulty entering the kingdom of God  In weeks to come we will hear of Zacchaeus giving half of his wealth to the poor and of the early church selling their possessions and giving them to all who were in need.

 Still, the story of the rich man and Lazarus might be difficult for many in wealthy nations, whose lifestyle stands in sharp contrast with a majority of people in the world who live on much less. Along with everything else Luke says about money and possessions, it stands as a stinging indictment not only of the great value we place in financial security, but also of the drastic inequities between rich and poor we allow to perpetuate.

In this story, God’s eternal judgment has everything to do with how wealth is used in this life and whether we attend to those less fortunate in our midst. It’s a story where there are no buts and one that pretty much says if we want to cover our own, it needs to be with a commitment to caring for the poor.

In 1977, I wrote a sermon for a New Testament class on this parable. This would be the point where I would quote global statistics about wealth inequities as it relates to the United States.  My statistics from 45 years ago were not good, and if I updated them for 2021, they would be so much worse! We live with the realities that we can always find money to bomb Syria but not to raise the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars; that billionaires got richer during a global pandemic yet there are 137 countries in the world that haven’t received a single dose of a vaccine, that 40% of food bought in the US is not eaten but thrown away. I am going to stop here!  All of this is important for careful consideration and response, but it is not what I want to leave you with today.

As we look back at the story (the original text, not the delightful paraphrase from Mercy and Abel), the rich man has no name, but the poor man does-Lazarus. This is the only parable that Jesus tells in which a character has a proper name. And it is interesting that throughout the entirety of the parable, Lazarus is completely passive. He longs for the crumbs, the dog lick his wounds, the angels carry him to Abraham’s side. Even in heaven when the rich man addresses him, it is Abraham who replies. Lazarus himself neither speaks nor wills himself to accomplish any activity whatsoever. The only thing of value that Lazarus has in this life is a name which means ‘he who God helps’. It is this very name that seals the indictment upon the rich man. It is also the piece of the parable that should make us…uncomfortable.

It is the detail of the gate that caught my attention this time around.. A gate serves two purposes; both as a means of keeping unwanted people out, but also as a means of entry or welcome into the kingdom.  The rich man and Lazarus are connected in life by this gate, for the presence of Lazarus here indicates that he is the rich man’s responsibility, though he does not provide for Lazarus. In fact, he seems thoroughly unconcerned by the existence of Lazarus at the gate, which might be viewed as a willful or chosen ignorance at best, and an intentional failure of responsibility at worst. The rich man’s gate keeps Lazarus out instead of serving as an instrument of grace that welcomes him in. 

The gate is God’s invitation for us to participate in grace, an invitation to join God in what he is already doing in our broken world toward reconciliation and redemption. The rich man has every opportunity to cross through the gate to Lazarus. This would be an act of solidarity; an intentional placement of his presence with the poor and an intentional cooperation with God to bring healing, justice, resources, and wholeness to Lazarus.  But the rich man’s choice to stay separated from Lazarus indicates his lack of mercy.  His decision is a failure to cooperate with the grace of God in action – all of which lead to his spiritual demise and to God’s judgement. Note that what was a gate in life now becomes a chasm in death.

A gate can keep out, but also welcome in that exists and functions by the will of humans. A chasm exists independently of human decision or effort. The parable is clear to communicate that it cannot be breached. It is a permanent statement of in and out, belonging and not belonging.

The presence of the gate in conjunction with the name Lazurus, he who God helps, is a promise of God’s justice. It is a certainty that God will act on behalf of the poor, the broken, the helpless, the outsider, the unwanted, the unseemly, the unhealthy.  It is also certain that to those whom God has given a means of resource, of power, of riches, of opportunity, of influence, there is the expectation of grace, and the expectation that we be God’s presence.  When we fail to act with mercy, with hospitality, when our gates serve to keep people out, when we are willfully ignorant, then our just God does help Lazarus. But, when God has to act because we will not, the grace gate is removed and a chasm takes its place. And we miss the opportunity.

One of Liz’s dad’s (Larry Dodge) favorite sayings was Think Globally, act locally. It’s a good way to wade through the implications of the parable. We do have to think about our relationship to the global community and cannot ignore our part in economic injustice. West Denmark’s commitment to tithe off the top of every fundraiser is a good model for all of us. If everyone does a little, it can become a lot, and it will make a difference.  

But just as importantly is to be mindful of those around us who need those gestures of kindness.  Who are the Lazarus’ in our lives? Who sits at our gate waiting to be invited in to sit at our table? Who do we throw our scraps of time and feigned attention to without really engaging, and who do we purposely or just with blind callousness not see? This parable is short on excuses, the contrast between the characters tells us that all of our perceptions of differences that hold us back from caring for each other really don’t matter.   In the end, it is the risky and often uncomfortable choice to do small, humble acts of kindness and encouragement when the opportunity presents itself to a neighbor in need that defines our spiritual destiny.

Gates of division are all around us. Fear, misunderstanding, and indifference keep them shut. We acknowledge in our opening prayer of confession that God call us to a difficult, blessed vision of a very different way 

May we all find the courage to open the gates in our lives and be the presence of God so needed for the challenges of change, called for, and overdue  in our homes, in our community and in our world. Amen

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

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


Maybe in this there is a glimpse of the kingdom
a foretaste
a hint
a promise.

Let it hold you and let it send you
so you will never be at peace
until all are fed
until all know home
until all are free
until justice is done
until peace is the way
until grace is the law
until love is the rule
until God’s realm comes
until God’s realm comes
until God’s realm comes….


Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; comfort the weak, afflict the comfortable; honor all people; love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God.

Hymn – When the Poor Ones

When the poor ones, who have nothing, still are giving;
when the thirsty pass the cup, water to share;
when the wounded offer others strength and healing:

We see God, here by our side, walking our way:
we see God, here by our side, walking our way.

When compassion gives the suffering consolation;
when expecting brings to birth hope that was lost;
when we choose love, not the hatred all around us;

When our spirits, like a chalice, brim with gladness;
when our voices, full and clear, sing out the truth;
when our longings, free from envy, seek the humble:

When the goodness poured from heaven fills our dwellings;
when the nations work to change war into peace;
when the stranger is accepted as our neighbor:

Text: José Antonio Ilivar; tr. Martin A. Seltz
Music: Miguel Manzano


Chris Johansen