Order of Service
|Prelude||Chris Johansen, piano|
|Gathering Song||Golden Light|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Prayer of the Day||Pastor Linda|
|Confession & Forgiveness||Pastor Linda|
|Baptism of Magnus James Hanson||Pastor Linda|
|Psalm 84||vs. 8-12||Harry Johansen|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Scripture||Galatians 3: 1-9; 23-29||Pastor Linda|
|Hymn||Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Prayers of Intercession||Pastor Linda|
|Closing Hymn||Go, My Children, with My Blessing|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Postlude||Chris Johansen, piano|
I’m taking things out of order today because we have a baptism! Covid has postponed it, but today we welcome Magnus James Hanson into the family God, holding him – together with his mom, Karn; dad, Hans; and sister Kirsten – in prayer and celebration, rejoicing in the gift of his life and in the God of his being.
We are also celebrating Mother’s Day, giving thanks for those who bore us and those – biological or not – who have nurtured and fed us.
And, because the Church recognizes her in the historical, spiritual life of the church, we’re celebrating Julian of Norwich, who is commemorated each year on May 8th.
Julian was most likely a Benedictine nun living in an isolated cell attached to the Priory in Norwich England. When she was 30 years old, she contracted an illness so serious and came so near death they gave her last rites. But, she survived and at the end of her illness, she experienced several visions that she understood to have come from God – visions which declared love as the meaning of all life; love provided by Christ who is love for the purpose of love.
This is one of her visions: “And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God. In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it. But what is this to me? Truly, the Creator, the Keeper, the Lover.”
Julian died around the year 1416.
We’ll be hearing more from her presently.
We are also hearing today from Paul’s letter to the church he founded in Galatia. I mention this now, because it is pertinent both to Julian’s message of Love as the meaning and purpose of the spiritual life, and to baptism.
Paul’s letter is a polemic, a scolding of the newbie church for doubting the free, outright gift of love and divine embrace that’s found in Christ. Paul had belabored this point during his time among them, but then later heard that they were being swayed by misinformation from another group of missionaries who insisted that males must be circumcised first – that converts to Christianity must first succumb to the laws of Jewish inclusion as the people of God. Circumcising a baby boy at eight days old was the sign of the covenant of belonging given to Moses. Paul rightly assumed that circumcision as a prerequisite to inclusion might be a stumbling block to faith for fully grown men. That topic is the occasion for his letter.
So, what is it that is being asked of us – what is being promised – when we bring our child to baptism? When we come to the Lord’s table in holy communion? When we profess that we are aspiring disciples of this one we call Christ, the living word of a living God? What are the rules of engagement, the parameters of inclusion, the laws governing faith and its benefits?
These are the questions for today.
Gathering Song – Golden Light
Golden light of morning bright
The sky is now adorning;
As sleeping child in mother’s arm.
My God has shielded me from harm;
I thank Him for the morning.
Golden light of morning bright
Is shed upon my labor;
As birds their morning songs employ,
I praise my God for life and joy
To me and to my neighbor.
Golden light of morning bright
To me is life and gladness;
For I am happy every day
I walk upon God’s holy way,
In joy as well as sadness.
Now I pray that God today
Will send to me His blessing;
My daily task I then fulfill,
According to His holy will,
His wondrous peace possessing.
With the sun my course is run
Until it has descended;
Oh, may this fleeting life of mine,
Just like the sun, for others shine
Until life’s day is ended.
Text: N.F.S. Grundtvig
Prayer of the Day
In you, Father all-mighty we have our preservation and our bliss. In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother, and Saviour. In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvellous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing; for love you wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen
~Julian of Norwich
Confession & Forgiveness
P: Trusting in the promise of God’s word, we admit the sin that confronts and confounds us.
Silence for reflection and self-examination.
Most faithful God,
C: We confess that we have failed to walk in the way of your Son. We have shut our ears to your call to
serve as Christ served us. We have shut our eyes to the suffering of your people and of your world.
We have closed our minds to the possibilities of life and the mysteries of faith.
Call us out, gracious God, and grant us life.
P: God who is rich in mercy and love, gives us a new birth into a living hope through the waters of baptism. By the water and the Word God delivers us from sin and death and raises us to a new life in Jesus Christ. We are united with all the baptized into the one body of Christ, anointed with the gift of God’s Spirit, and joined together in God’s mission for the life of the world.
Karn and Hans, called by the Holy Spirit, trusting in the love of God, do you desire to have your child baptized into Christ?
In receiving this gift, you also accept responsibilities to help your little one as he grows and matures, and with him, to:
live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper,
to care for others and the world God made,
and to seek to know Christ through God’s living Word.
Do you promise to help Magnus grow in faith and live the Christian life as you are empowered to do so by God’s Spirit and supported through this community?
Sponsors and families (as you stand in for the community silenced by zoom), do you promise to nurture and support this family and Magnus, and to pray for him in his new life in Christ?
At the Font:
Blessed are you, holy God. You are the creator of the waters of the earth. You are the fire of rebirth. You poured out your Spirit on your people Israel. You breathe life into our dry bones. Your Son Jesus promised to send the Spirit to us that the world may know your peace and truth.
Pour out your Spirit, and breathe new life into this child being baptized today. By your Spirit adopt us all as your children, heirs through our savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Magnus James, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Loving Father, sustain Magnus with the gifts of your Spirit: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of curiosity and love of the Lord, the spirit of joy in your presence, both now and forever. Amen.
Magnus, child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked wit the cross of Christ forever. Amen.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life.” Let your light shine, little one, so that others will be drawn to the love of God.
We welcome this brother into the body of Christ, the family of God, the mighty, holy mission of Love. Thanks be to God.
Psalm 84: 8-12
8 Lord God of hosts, | hear my prayer;
give ear, O | God of Jacob.
9 Behold our defend-|er, O God;
and look upon the face of | your anointed.
10 For one day in your courts is better than a | thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents | of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is both sun and shield, bestowing | grace and glory;
no good thing will the Lord withhold from those who walk | with integrity.
12 O | Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their | trust in you!
Scripture Reading – Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29
1You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4Did you experience so much for nothing? —if it really was for nothing. 5Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” 7so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” 9For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed. 23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
The word of the Lord
Paul is difficult to read – worse to listen to. For one thing he uses too many commas and clauses for most of us to keep up with. Even reading it to myself, I find it hard to stay with the main thought. And secondly, we can tell that he’s angry, but he argues with people and ideas we don’t have access to. So even if we follow the sentence structure, we are still likely to miss the point. Basically, in the first part of the reading, Paul is urging the Galatians not to fall back into the power of the law, but to experience God’s love as freedom and faith.
This was to say that Christ is the completion of the law – the finale, and that in Jesus, God’s love has come, full stop. The law is a teacher, a tutor, a disciplinarian for our relationships with one another so that we don’t trample the rights of the poor or powerless. But the law Jesus fulfills is that of God’s love for all that is, all that exists. It is a gracious embrace –
There once was a mother named God. God had three daughters – Faith, Prudence, and Elska.
Faith was a very trusting soul. She believed everything her mother told her – even when it didn’t seem like it could possibly be true. On more than one occasion, Faith could be heard to say, “Nothing is impossible for God.” And she was right. Faith was a simple person, loyal, believing the best of her friends, trusting people’s motives and her sisters’ love. Faith was, however, often disappointed in relationships out among the neighbors and found her fidelity ignored, taken advantage of, or not returned. God loved her eldest daughter and held Faith in high regard.
Her sister Prudence had a sharper edge. Prudence was a stickler for rules. She kept track of all the slights and infringements. Even as a youngster, Prudence could catch her mother’s inconsistencies and demanded to know which rule was really the rule. Prudence tended to be like Miss Marple – Agatha Christie’s spinster detective – who says, “I always believe the worst about people. What is so sad is that one is usually justified in doing so.” Prudence knew the depths to which people would go to justify themselves and she had little compassion for those who disregarded the rules.
To protect the vulnerable (like her older sister), Prudence made up new rules to give clarity to the old rules. These could not as easily be explained away as suggestions or good advice. Prudence didn’t like to leave room for interpretation.
When she was involved in a project, however, everyone knew what was expected of them. They knew the parameters of their job and the consequences for slacking in their duties. She was an organizer. And perhaps unexpectedly, Prudence loved children – they were so teachable – she was a nanny for many years, filling in for absent parents, protecting, disciplining, teaching the proper ways of doing all things well. Prudence was a strong woman and a force to be reckoned with, but beneath the unbending exterior Prudie was motivated by compassion and a strong sense of justice.
Elska was considerably younger than her two sisters, but she was far from an afterthought. In fact, it was almost as though she had always been there, a promise in God’s apron pocket. She was a free spirit. Elska threw herself into everything, loved everyone, and had a wild, unrestrained joy that seemed to attract people from the fringes. Elska didn’t pay much attention to Prudence’s warnings and fears. She was respectful, but unimpressed with the rules of proper behavior. She ignored traditions and social niceties, not to make Prudence mad, but because the rules no longer served the purpose they once held. Instead of helping people, these rules and traditions now kept people from loving and being loved, they kept people segregated into categories and aware of their divisions. Elska could drive Prudence crazy with just a word, and truth be told, it seemed as though she enjoyed doing that.
Faith watched these interactions, shook her head and smiled. “Elska has life,” she thought, “and she has it abundantly, gloriously. Elska brings out the best in us – even in law-loving Prudie.”
And Faith was right.
God loved her daughters – each with their own gifts, each fulfilling a need, each serving a place in God’s household. But it was Elska’s love that completed the work begun by Faith and Prudence.
The work of Elska – the work of love – is what cuts across the barriers that divide and separate us.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
These closing lines from today’s reading stand as an enduring eliminator of those hierarchies that the law – sister Prudence – establishes among us. When we use race, ethnicity, or status as an inherent reason to look down on others or when we think that anatomical, physiological, or genetic traits make some people more deserving of power, influence, and respect than others … this verse serves as a corrective.
At this point we will all nod our heads and say, we know these things aren’t really important …. but if these distinctions don’t matter, why are we so invested in them? Why do we work so hard at maintaining them? Why does it matter what status others enjoy, what work they do, what lifestyle they lead, what they look like, where they live, what color their skin? Most of us do get confused on this point: we know that our worth – and the value of others – is in God’s eyes and that we all fall short of the glory of God, of what God desires for us and of us. And we trust in the words of Paul and other voices of scripture that God’s love is far greater than the sum of our failings…. but still we behave and believe as though all sorts of minor things matter more. We judge ourselves, and often we judge others, based on a host of value markers like education, income, industriousness, age, body size, table manners—whatever. Over and over again, we set up structures like those Paul was describing.
But, Paul says, “It’s over. Let it go.” Holding on to those distinctions as value markers is to risk becoming enslaved once again by the binary structures of Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female, in/out. Paul tells us that those distinctions exist only in the minds of humans, not in the mind of God.
Let that really sink in. The distinctions we make are only ours – manmade, so to speak – and not God’s. God likely has other categories of value than the ones we consider noteworthy. There’s no future in our hierarchies and certainly no freedom. We’ll forever be measuring where we stand and worrying about what the neighbors think. We’ll forever be looking in the mirror and finding flaws, looking at our neighbor and, by the necessity of our egos, finding even more flaws. Paul states his insight in one of scripture’s most radical sentences, with implications so unsettling that throughout the ages people have tried to show why it should not be taken literally, but domesticated, tamed, brought back into the realm of the old law, handed back to Prudence to manage and order. Don’t let her have it!
“Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” Paul implores.
And for those of us who call ourselves children of God through faith, letting the implications of that sentence find expression in our lives will require a radical openness to God’s relentless efforts to crack our shells and make us useful. Being one in Christ Jesus is a frightening, tradition blasting, gracious, beautiful gift of God.
And among the things that matter in the Christian life we pray for Magnus, this sentence, “there are no longer the old distinctions…for you are all one in Christ ” surely rides near the top. It is the work of Love for each and every child, love of which there is always more – like a mother’s love – a mother named God.
Hymn – Mothering God, You Gave Me Birth
Mothering God, you gave me birth
in the bright morning of this world.
Creator, source of ev’ry breath,
you are my rain, my wind, my sun.
Mothering Christ, you took my form,
offering me your food of light,
grain of new life, and grape of love,
your very body for my peace.
Mothering Spirit, nurt’ring one,
in arms of patience hold me close,
so that in faith I root and grow
until I flow’r, until I know.
Text: Jean Janzen; based on Julian of Norwich
Music: Carolyn Jennings
Prayers of Intercession
text adapted from Barbara Bruneau, a retired Lutheran pastor in southern Minnesota, posted on RevGalBlogPals. Our response today is silence for prayer as you fill in the blanks.
we thank you for this day, especially for the women in our lives who have borne us along…
We pray for this beloved and troubled world…
For those who have jumped but not yet landed…
For those who have committed to an action but have not yet reached the result…
For those whose life and health are in the hands of others…
For those who seem brave only because they have no other choice…
For those living in regions of pandemic or violence who are hoping to get through just one day without a friend or family member dying…
For those who wait… for health… for justice… for love… for an answer… for an ending…
For those who know that even a safe landing may be messy and painful…
God of the beginning and the end and the in-between, support us in our moments and days and years of being suspended in mid-air. Let us trust fully in the landing. Amen
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
Hymn – Go, My Children, with My Blessing
“Go, my children, with my blessing, never alone.
Waking, sleeping, I am with you, you are my own.
In my love’s baptismal river
I have made you mine forever.
Go, my children, with my blessing, you are my own.”
“Go, my children, sins forgiven, at peace and pure.
Here you learned how much I love you, what I can cure.
Here you heard my dear Son’s story,
here you touched him, saw his glory.
Go, my children, sins forgiven, at peace and pure.”
“Go, my children, fed and nourished, closer to me.
Grow in love and love by serving, joyful and free.
Here my Spirit’s power filled you,
here my tender comfort stilled you.
Go, my children, fed and nourished, joyful and free.”
Text: Jaroslav J. Vajda
Music: Welsh traditional; arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams
Go into this week with the strength you have.
Go simply, lightly, gently
Go in search of Love.
And trust that the Spirit of God goes with you. Amen