Sounds of Home — Pitch

Tuesdays at 2pm
Welcome to the June 2nd edition of Sounds of Home!

Threw It Out the Window

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and threw it out the window,
the window, the window he threw it out the window,
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and threw it out the window!

Mary had a little lamb it’s fleece was white as snow,
and everywhere that Mary went, she threw it out the window,
the window, the window she threw it out the window,
and everywhere that Mary went, she threw it out the window!

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, a merry old soul was he;
he called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and threw them out the window,
the window, the window he threw them out the window,
he called for his pipe and he called for his bowl, and threw them out the window!

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey,
when along came a spider and sat down beside her and threw it out the window,
the window, the window he threw it out the window,
and along came a spider and sat down beside her and threw it out the window!


Like to lend your voice?
Our upcoming theme is “wave”

If you have a response to this theme – whether a story or memory, original piece of writing or poetry, music, radio drama, or one-liner – the sky’s the limit – between 5 seconds and 5 minutes in length – or if you would like to guest host or lead a song to sing together — we’re eager to hear from you!

To submit a response, please make an audio recording and send it to Molly,
or send in a written response to be read aloud on the program.

Contact Molly at tulkmo01@luther.edu for information and submissions.
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, June 7th.


The theme for June 16th is “yellow”
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, June 14th.

May 31 : Acts 2 & 1 Corinthians 12

Part I

PreludeYou’ll Never Walk AloneChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession
Prayer
Pastor Linda
PsalmHarry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReadingActs 2: 1-4
1 Corinthians: 12: 1, 4-27
Pastor Linda

Part II

SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
BlessingPastor Linda
HymnSpirit of Gentleness
#396
Chris Johansen, piano

Confession & Forgiveness

It has been one of those weeks.

  • The COVID-19 virus infection rate is rising daily in our county, state, and region even as it and the death rate is finally dropping in New York City.
  • George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer – caught on film from several angles and camera sources. The officer kneeling on the back of George’s neck was aided by two other officers, watched over by a fourth while he pleaded for breath. “I can’t breathe, officer. I can’t breathe.”  We heard his last anguished breaths.
  • In response to yet another tragic, baseless, horrific death of a man of color at white oppressor’s hands, the city erupted in mournful protest. “Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears…” Is the world about to turn?
  • Organized, mainly white agitators and anarchists took advantage of justifiable rage and grief, escalating the protests to fiery chaos and destruction of community businesses and communal property for their own ends.
  • Protests spread across the country. Every city, every heart knowing the truth of its own prejudice, its own mistreatment, negligence, mistrust of neighbors of different race or ethnicity or faith.

And still, the robins begin singing in the dark at 4:25 every morning. Flicks of flighted color, snatches of song fill the woodlands and meadows. Plants in gardens are growing by inches every day. The kids who moved in across from the parsonage late last fall are out screaming and laughing, dogs barking as they play. Loons and geese and owls and frogs echo over the evening lake. It’s the glory days of early summer. Growth and grace and golden sun and weeds and lawn mowers and boats and wonder.

In spite of our communal pause to distance and isolate, the world is racing on ahead in nature, in politics, in the consequences of our acts of omission and commission.

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us; the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Lord have mercy.

We are good people, mostly. We live lives of integrity and kindness, generally. We get along with each other, uphold one another in prayer and thought, want the best for our neighbor and community. Yet we know, “It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” Excuse the pronouns, it’s a quote from1916, attributed to the Reverend Charles Frederic Aked. Are we, in the safety of our isolation, allowing the oppression and hatred and fear to spread? Or is there a need for the good to stay grounded, aware, supportive, quietly holding onto the life we value – harbingers of hope and peace?

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us, the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Christ have mercy.

It is not wrong to see and appreciate and glory in the beauty that surrounds us. This is God’s creative gift of love. It is not wrong to hold our loved ones tight, to pray for those known to us, cherished, worried over. They are of our hearts. It is not wrong to look for the good we may do in our small realms, within ourselves, to mount our prayers on eagle’s wings while staying safe and close. There are many gifts and many callings and our best work is to discern and use our gifts for the kingdom of God to flourish.

  • And so we stop this morning to look inside, to consider well the life we lead, the lies we live, the truth of sin that astounds, and confounds and convicts us, the loving grace of God that claims and sustains us.

And we pray: Lord have mercy. Amen.


Prayer of the Day

       Rush upon us.

Overtake and consume us, O Holy Fire, until divisions turn to dusty ashes and walls of pride collapse.

       Spill out over us.

Surround and overwhelm us, O Satisfying Fountain, until we lavish love’s richness never measuring the cost.

        Dance among us.

Well up and erupt within us, O Living Word, until our tongues know words of peace, our hands work deeds of love, and our souls sing your praise. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Scripture

Acts 2:1-4

 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

1 Corinthians 12:1,4-27

And from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. …There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But all of these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

            For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

            Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be?

            20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this.

            But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

            27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The word of the Lord….thanks be to God.

Sermon

Linda Rozumalski

The Corinthians were not a unified body of believers. There was a lot of diversity – age, race, prior religious practices, socio-economic status. There were Jews and pagans, slave and free, male and female, young and old – all together in this new religious community, hemmed in, pressurized by the Roman Empire.

And now we hear that they were ablaze with the Holy Spirit – given gifts willy nilly, covering the whole gamut of spiritual gifts. This broad range of spiritual manifestations in Corinth was to demonstrate the power of God – not to dazzle outsiders with their insider specialness. It was to unify people in the midst of diversity, to show that all were one within God’s whole. It was to make obvious what they, and we, find so difficult to believe – that differences, uniqueness, particularities of language, color, attitudes, personalities, politics, gender, understanding, insight, ability are intentional in God’s design. We are not meant to be homogeneous. Therefore, we are not meant to be in competition. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…” We are meant to be cooperative – each difference and divergence lending color, depth, skill, beauty, integrity, joy to the whole. God distributes separate gifts, all activated by one and the same Spirit, allotted to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Something pops out each time I read this passage. I think it is important:  “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [Well, that’s one thing. Remember that bit.] To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge, to another faith, to another gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles…” Did you catch it? To some are given the gift of faith…  just to some within the body of Christ….. isn’t that interesting? Others are given wisdom, or knowledge, or healing but they/we/ members of the body of Christ – don’t all have faith! …but still all are members of the cosmic body of Christ. All gifts for the common good.

So that raises a question about the body of Christ. I always assumed it was the communion of saints – everyone who is a Christian in the whole world in all of time… and also then, smaller groupings form representing that communion – denominations or traditions or theological clumps that take shape as hands or knees.

But reading this I’m wondering if I’ve assumed too small, too narrow, too privileged a view of the body of Christ – and of course I have. I’ve figured it’s made up of people like me, Christians like me, believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord…. Because we can’t really believe what we read in the Bible, right? – that the good tidings of Jesus’ birth were to all people, that Christ died once and for all people, that God loved the whole world, that Jesus said this bread is my body given for you and for all people so that we might have life in his name.

We say or hear those words and still think, “Well, yes,  it says “all,” but it really means “all – who are Christians just like me,” right?  We can’t seem to let go of the limiting parameters and allow God’s grace to go willy nilly wherever God chooses. Which is why there’s a disco ball embedded in the sermon. That’s my better image for the Holy Spirit – dancing out in all directions, showering gifts “just as the Spirit chooses,” as Paul wrote.

What if we’re told about this diversity of people and diversity of gifts because that’s how God works in saving the whole world – all people – not just Christians, but all people regardless of creed or religion or status or goodness…

What if that’s the body of Christ? Broken, wounded, betrayed, disparate, whole, redeemed. All people – good, bad, religious, nonbelievers – that Christ/God is in and over and through every single person…  and only to some is faith given, or knowledge to discern, or wisdom. Only some care about God or worship Christ, but all are still part of the redemption of the whole. Herd redemption.

“The Word of God in Christ is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity: Verditas. This Word manifests itself in every creature,” said Hildegard of Bingen, 900 years ago.       Would it make us glad –  or miffed – if that saving Spirit is truly all in all, and not reserved – if the rules for God’s discernment are something we can never imagine or have eyes to see?

“Well, okay,” you may be thinking,” but so what?” The so what is that churches typically spend a lot of time and effort wondering how to get more people to come be like us – that’s the basis of evangelism. “Hear this Good News of God in Christ given for you, and practice your faith in this way, our way.” What if, instead, we spent a little bit of time inviting people to come be like us, but spent most of our time wondering what God was already doing in these other lives, in the left elbow of Christ’s body or the Right big toe?

What is God already up to in our neighbors – in the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in tribal land, Somali or Mexican communities in our region? What gifts do they manifest? Where is the Spirit of God giving breath that we snuff out of black and brown bodies? What are we missing?

What if the whole world – in all its secular and spiritual and diverse ways – is already acting out of the body of Christ? And our job – our mission if we are to accept it – we who were given the gift of faith or discernment or imagining – is to be using our gifts to interpret theirs. Instead of expecting them to become like us, what if we begin looking at them expecting to see God grinning back at us, wondering why it took so long for those with eyes, to see.

The Holy Spirit is not about to be tamed and if we keep trying to limit the activity to those most like ourselves, then we’re going to be missing most of what God is up to and only seeing what looks familiar. And that, it seems, would be missing most of the wonder of God’s design.

The Spirit of God moves among us and lifts and consoles, enlightens and inspires, but not for our sakes. God’s love is not an emotion, it’s a present reality that has ongoing effects, that splashes out of whatever container we might try to keep it in, that flashes around the room to a heart-pounding beat.

In Corinth and at West Denmark, the manifestations of the Spirit transforms and ignites conviction that changes people’s lives. Its purpose is aimed outward into and through that mystical body of Christ, not inward toward preservation or prestige of the community or individual members. Paul’s goal is not to create a tidy community, but a loving one infecting and effecting change in the world outside of itself.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the body of Christ is cosmic – for the whole of God’s people and not just for Christians (if indeed that’s true, as I believe it is) … Jesus didn’t teach and heal and feed and choose the insiders, he lived and worked outside to bring the outsiders home, to bring them in and give them a feast, and send them out again with the gospel – the good news of God that life-bathing redemption had come, that God was on the move.

There are as many spiritual gifts even in this small congregation as there are members, and it might do us good to take a few moments to pause and consider them so we know what to look for when we see our neighbors and the world.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.… God has so arranged the body, that members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it……..  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”


Blessing

May the love of God afflict you. May the love of God convict you. May the love of God compel you and console you, and give you strength and hope and joy in good measure.

Be well. All manner of things shall be well.


Spirit of Gentleness

Refrain
Spirit, Spirit of gentleness,
blow through the wilderness
calling and free;
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness,
stir me from placidness,
wind, wind on the sea

You moved on the waters,
you called to the deep,
then you coaxed up the mountains
from the valleys of sleep;
and over the eons
you called to each thing:
“Awake from your slumbers
and rise on your wings.”
Refrain

You swept through the desert,
you stung with the sand,
and you goaded your people
with a law and a land;
and when they were blinded
with idols and lies,
then you spoke through your prophets
to open their eyes.
Refrain

You sang in a stable,
you cried from a hill,
then you whispered in silence
when the whole world was still;
and down in the city
you called once again,
when you blew through your peiople
on the rush of the wind.
Refrain

You call from tomorrow,
you break ancient schemes.
From the bondage of sorrow
all the captives dream dreams;
our women see visions,
our men clear their eyes.
With bold new decisions
your people arise.
Refrain

Text & Music: James K. Manley

Sounds of Home – Souvenir

Tuesdays at 2pm
Welcome to the May 26th edition of Sounds of Home!

Bright is the Summer Day

Bright is the summer day, gayly we hike away
out to the woods and the meadows,
out from the noisy streets, out to a shady beach,
out where our fancy may take us.

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la–la-la-la–la-la.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la-la-la–la–la

Fresh is the balmy breeze whispering in the trees;
birds on the branches are swinging.
Sudden and silver clear, rises a song of cheer,
that is the meadowlark singing.

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la–la-la-la–la-la.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la-la-la–la-la-la-la-la–la–la

Music: Fr. Kuhlau, 1828; from the Light Opera “Elverhøj”
Text: Geo Kæstel, trans. by S.D. Rodholm


Like to lend your voice?
Our upcoming theme is “pitch”

If you have a response to this theme – whether a story or memory, original piece of writing or poetry, music, radio drama, or one-liner – the sky’s the limit – between 5 seconds and 5 minutes in length – or if you would like to guest host or lead a song to sing together — we’re eager to hear from you!

To submit a response, please make an audio recording and send it to Molly,
or send in a written response to be read aloud on the program.

Contact Molly at tulkmo01@luther.edu for information and submissions.
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 31st.


The theme for June 9th is “wave”
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, June 7th.

May 24: 1 Corinthians 15

Part I

PreludeDown a Country Lane
A. Copland
Chris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession
Prayer
Pastor Linda
Psalm 23Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Reading1 Corinthians 15:1-26, 51-57Pastor Linda

Part II

SermonPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
BlessingPastor Linda
HymnHealer of Our Every Ill
Hymn #612 (text below)
Chris Johansen, piano

Healer of Our Every Ill

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

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

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

Give us strength to love each other,
ev’ry sister, ev’ry brother;
Spirit of all kindness, be our guide.
Refrain

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

Text & Music: Marty Haugen

Sermon

Linda Rozumalski

Kids of every era are interested in superpowers. Maybe X-ray vision, invisibility, the ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound, flying faster than a speeding bullet, having super stretchy arms and legs and the other powers of cartoon life give kids a sense of power in the big adult world where they are small. Super-powered characters instill pride (or hope) for bodies struggling through the awkward transformations of youth when control of form, movement, growth – even voice – seems beyond them. 

The adult world sends many adults back to those dreams of superpowers (video games, not comic books or cartoons) as we realize how little in this life we actually can control. Maybe that is what’s behind all the hero talk. Not every muscle-bound sports star or military personnel is a hero, despite the label they’re given. Superpowers are revealed in times of need.

The teenaged environmental activist Greta Thunberg, holds up under intense public pressure and criticism. She wrote: “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm.  And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.” She inspires and empowers others with her passionate and eloquent devotion to climate care.

Health care workers and critical personnel who cook and clean and transport COVID-19 patients are deemed heroes, with superpowers of perseverance, self-less service on behalf of those who are likely passing along the virus which they in turn have first received.  Not quite the exchange Paul was writing about to the Corinthians, but we did talk about the similarities between the spread of COVID-19 and Christianity. Superpowers of cartoon and video-game heroes transform and protect their body. We would wish the same for ours.

Paul received his superpower along the road to Damascus. He had an encounter with the risen Christ that blinded him temporarily and transformed him through and through. From a Pharisee charged with reigning in Jews who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, he became the primary proclaimer of the good news of God: Christ died for our sins, was buried, was raised on the third day, and appeared to his disciples – alive, risen from the power of sin and death.

This letter of Paul to the church at Corinth is one of the earliest Christian writings. It predates the writing of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation by decades. It follows Jesus’ death and resurrection by some twenty to twenty-five years.  But those 25 years were transformative in the lives of his original disciples and others – like Paul – who somehow got caught up by the Holy Spirit and flung into a future and a life they could never have imagined.

In this chapter, Paul is working out the case for belief in Christ. As your ear can tell you, his writing is dense; thick with contingent clauses (if this, and if this, then this, but not this). He employs more commas per square inch than any other biblical writer – a sentence diagrammer’s nightmare. This epistle to newbie Christians in Corinth is a well planned argument laying out the case for Jesus as the Christ and, in today’s reading, in the necessity of the resurrection. Paul was creating the foundation for the Christian faith. Parables or narratives are easier for us to grasp. Maybe a particular image or question caught your interest in the swirling words.  

The thing that landed in my imagination this week was the bit about bodies.

“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality…”

It’s a passage usually read at the graveside as a word of promise and comfort, but seeing it away from that setting, and with COVID on my mind, I had some new thoughts.

Not many of us are really comfortable in our skin, our physiques, our form. And then, to add insult to injury, we age or weaken, or get sick.  And our bodies lose grace and power and vigor and form and become something else, something other than what we expect to see when we catch our reflected image in a mirror. Bodies are embarrassing. 

The early Greeks certainly thought so. They believed that bodies were so beneath us as a species that we are really only a soul imprisoned in flesh. The part of us that really matters is imperishable, the rest we throw away at death like a dragonfly leaving its exoskeleton on a log.

But that is not the gospel truth, and Paul is belaboring the point. The witness of scripture is that matter matters to God. God formed matter – trees, plants critters, beasts, elements, stars – and us, our bodies – carefully formed, carefully mated, carefully clothed, cared-for  … and to prove it, God became us, a particular body in Jesus, became our matter to insist that we matter, that we – frail, fragile, incredible in our bodies – are beloved and cherished. We are not bodiless souls waiting to shed this mortality, we are whole people, intensionally whole, integrated, marvelously and miraculously made.

Paul is making the case for the resurrection of this body – a transformation, transfiguration, metamorphosis, if you will, from earthly glory – just a little lower than the angles, psalm 8 says of us – into some other glory – the joy of God. And of course we don’t know how it happens or – to be completely honest, if it happens, but we take it on trust, that if there is God, and if Jesus was the son of God in a unique and mysterious way, and if Jesus was raised out of death, then we too share that future with God. For She would not abandon the child of Her womb.

“We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”  When this “perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality…..”

Wait a minute. We will not all die, but this mortal body will put on immortality… This doesn’t apply to all of us, but think of the implications! We will not all die, but this mortal body will slip into something comfortable.… We will swath ourselves in sacred skin…. don the divine like Clark Kent putting on Superman.  

Matter matters: creation is so beloved by God that it will be reworked, not wasted, or discarded or destroyed. In the conservation of matter nothing is lost, no one is lost, no body.  The Law of Conservation of Mass says that mass is neither created nor destroyed in chemical reactions. In other words, the mass of any one element (any body) at the beginning of a reaction will equal the mass of that element at the end of the reaction. 

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant— conserved over time. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another.  Mass and energy remain. That’s science… it’s also God’s way with us. 

I don’t know what resurrection is, or even that it is, but I hope that the witness of scripture is true and real and part of the promise of God to remake everything as real and tangible and alive as She formed it in the first place.

“Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;”   begins John Updike’s poem, Seven Stanzas at Easter.
“if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.”

The reality of bodies is that God  has taken your shape, your form, your body as a matter of infinite worth and beauty – and went to all ends to give it immortality, in becoming a body among us, in our image. Let us not be embarrassed by this miracle …………….

Sounds of Home — Nest

Tuesdays at 2pm
Welcome to the May 19th edition of Sounds of Home!



My Shepherd, You Supply My Need

My Shepherd, you supply my need; most holy is your name.
In pastures fresh you make me feed, beside the living stream.
You bring my wand’ring spirit back when I forsake your ways,
and lead me, for your mercy’s sake, in paths of truth and grace.

The sure provisions of my God attend me all my days;
oh, may your house be my abode and all my work be praise.
Here would I find a settled rest, while others go and come;
no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.

Text: Isaac Watts
Music: North American traditional
ELW #782; vs. 1,3

Mourning Dove Making a Nest

In preparing the nest the male collects the materials, brings to the female who places the material. The female lays flat, the male steps on her back and leaves the material. It is fun to watch. They are preparing for their second batch. ~ Diane


Like to lend your voice?
Our upcoming theme is “souvenir”

If you have a response to this theme – whether a story or memory, original piece of writing or poetry, music, radio drama, or one-liner – the sky’s the limit – between 5 seconds and 5 minutes in length – or if you would like to guest host or lead a song to sing together — we’re eager to hear from you!

To submit a response, please make an audio recording and send it to Molly,
or send in a written response to be read aloud on the program.

Contact Molly at tulkmo01@luther.edu for information and submissions.
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 24th.


The theme for June 2nd is “pitch”
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 31st.

May 17: 1 Corinthians 13

Welcome!

Reading1 Corinthians 13
(text below)
Nikki Strandskov
Reflection(text below)Mike Miles
Reflection(text below)Nancy Moe
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
HymnWill You Come and Follow Me
#798 vs. 2, 3 & 5 (text below)
Chris Tou, piano

Reading

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


Reflection

Mike Miles

Getting married? Asked one of your friends to be the officiant but your fiance’s parents are a little put off because they aren’t ordained? The wedding is out in the woods and you are walking up to the front to the ringing of a Tibetan prayer bowl? Your parents are okay with it but just told you Grandma isn’t coming unless there is a reading from the Holy Bible to consecrate the nuptials?

No problem. Just Google ‘best bible verses for a wedding’ and number one on the list is going to be I Corinthians 13 (I did it and it is). It’s got some really sweet sentiments about love that shouldn’t offend anyone and it never even mentions Jesus.  You might want to edit it down just a bit because of some crazy stuff but it should make everyone happy and help keep the peace with the new in-laws.

The thing is, these verses are not about sentimental love that makes us all warm and fuzzy. The church at Corinth was seriously divided on so many issues that Paul has to conclude this letter to them, “if anyone does not love the Lord Jesus- a curse be upon them.” Or as Clarence Jordan puts it in his Cotton Patch translation- let them be damned!

So what’s going on here? I believe this would fall under the “it’s all Greek to me department.” There are several Greek words used in the New Testament that are translated into the word ‘love’ that carry starkly different meanings. This confusing exchange between Jesus and Peter, after the resurrection, illustrates how much can be lost in translation:

…Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John do you truly love me more than these? “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,” Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” 

John 21: 15-17

What’s going on here?

Love, agape, is unconditional, sacrificial love. The love that God has for us. It implies action, unmitigated compassion, more than feelings. This is what Jesus keeps asking Peter, “Do you agape me?”

Peter was never very bright so his answer was, yes, Jesus I phileo you which is essentially saying I like being your friend. The reason Peter’s feelings were hurt the third time is Jesus asked the question using phileo instead of agape and it finally sunk in that he didn’t understand the depth of love to which Jesus wanted him to go.

The new commandment that Jesus gave them at the last supper was to love each other as he had loved them. Loving your neighbor as yourself was no longer enough. The new Covenant spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah had been fulfilled in the resurrection. The love of God is now written on the hearts of all who are willing to recognize it.   Unconditional, compassionate love for all is the new normal.

So back to Corinth. They didn’t get what the ‘agape’ of God meant in their new reality so they became  distracted by cosmetic divisions rather than focusing of the universality of love. As my musical mentor Mark Murphy puts it, “If love is not the answer then you’ve just asked the wrong question.

“I belong to Paul.” “I’m more impressed with Apollos.” “I follow Jesus (so there).” “I’m a mystic so I speak in tongues.” “I’m a gifted speaker so I’m going to preach.” “Somebody has to call attention to how unfairly the Romans treat us so why don’t you be the prophet?” “Who wants to cook at the soup kitchen, there’s a lot of people out of work?”

Why is it that what sets us apart always seems more compelling than that which should bring us together? Even before the pandemic, the issues that divide us as a nation were becoming as exponential as reproducing viruses: Left/right, Republican/Democrat, rich/poor, black/white, American/Mexican, Christian/Muslim, rural/urban, coastal/fly-over, vegan/carnivore.

Now we have to sort through who is for tyranny and who for liberty, is it better to have a job or protect our health, do people need financial support or does business need it more, do masks help or hurt, is there plenty of food or are we running out?

The Chinese character for the word ‘crisis’ is a combination of two words-danger and opportunity. There is plenty of discussion bantering about regarding potential lessons to be learned once ‘we’ get to the ‘other side’ of this ‘thing going on’. Where one lands is dependent on way too many variables for me to keep track of.

No matter what happens, my understanding of what discipleship to Jesus entails makes me want to err on the side of love. I don’t need to like everyone who is trying to maneuver the chaos but I do need to love them. I can’t pretend to know what this kind of love looks like in practice, but I do know that undeserved suffering, on behalf of people who somewhere along the way became engaged in way too much deplorable behavior, is somehow an important part of the answer.

One of the mantras that swirls around my attempts to be conscious is a poem from May Sarton. Many of you have heard this before.

We change people, if we do at all, by being something irresistible, not by demanding something impossible.

I hope for all our sakes, that Jesus got it right when he took the stand he took against the principalities and powers of darkness. The new command he left us with is to love each other the same way he loved us. Who’s in?


Reflection

Nancy Moe

Agape is the love inside us that we give freely to others regardless of our relationship to them. We want to help them, cooperate with them, or do good deeds towards them. Them is referring to people, nature and animals.

Food, in my house, is the language of love. I learned this from my Mom who learned it from her Mom. The food that comes into the house is grown sustainability, most often in a family garden. Cooking is done in a way that maintains the most the food has to offer. My concerns are for meals that are varied, flavorful, interesting and pleasing to look at. That is all about the food. Here is the best part…who the food is for. Mostly my family but often for friends and sometimes for strangers. I love to learn about guests food preferences so that I can make a meal that is pleasurable to everyone!

I make mistakes and sometimes fail in my goals for cooking. I’m always cooking by experience and experimentation, even when guests are expected. When dinner is served and loved, I say “Good, enjoy it now I’m not sure I can make it again”. Even when the food is not loved, there was love in the trying.

In a world where there is so much noise, gongs and clanging cymbals and many untruths are spoken, I can share food I prepare with kindness and generosity. Food prepared with love.


Hymn

#798

Will You Come and Follow Me, vs. 2, 3 & 5

“Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray’r in you and you in me?”

“Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris’ners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?”

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

Text: John L. Bell
Music: Scottish traditional (Kelvingrove)

Sounds of Home — Spell

Tuesdays at 2pm
Welcome to the May 12th edition of Sounds of Home!


There’s No Grandma Just Like Mine

There’s no grandma just like mine
Anywhere, she is so fine.
You’ve not any? What a pity!
Yes, it is a pity!

Mine is sixty-six, they say.
I was six the other day;
So we two just fit together,
Very well together.

She tells stories while she knits;
One about a wicked witch,
One about a lovely princess,
Such a lovely princess.

Out of paper she cuts bears,
Horses, roosters, sheep and hares;
They can stand up on the table,
Right upon the table.

When I set them in a row,
And a little breath I blow,
Then they move like they were living,
Just like they were living.

Little songs she sings to me:
She can count to ninety-three;
She can knit such nice warm mittens,
Soft and woolly mittens.

There’s no Grandma just like mine
Anywhere. She is so fine.
You’ve not any? What a pity!
Yes, it is a pity.

Text: From the Norwegian, translated by S.D. Rodholm
Music: L. Nielsen


Like to lend your voice?
Our upcoming theme is “nest”

If you have a response to this theme – whether a story or memory, original piece of writing or poetry, music, radio drama, or one-liner – the sky’s the limit – between 5 seconds and 5 minutes in length – or if you would like to guest host or lead a song to sing together — we’re eager to hear from you!

To submit a response, please make an audio recording and send it to Molly,
or send in a written response to be read aloud on the program.

Contact Molly at tulkmo01@luther.edu for information and submissions.
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 17th.


The theme for May 26th is “souvenir”
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 24th.

May 10: Mark 9 & 1st Corinthians 1

Part I

PreludeWaltz in A-flat Major; BrahmsChris Johansen, piano
WelcomeShawn Mai
Call to Worshipfrom In the Morning I Will Sing
by Marty Haugen
Molly Tulkki
Chris Tou, piano
PrayerShawn Mai
First ReadingMark 9: 34-35Christy Wetzig
Psalm 63Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Second Reading1 Corinthians 1: 10-18Christy Wetzig

Part II

SermonShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionChristy Wetzig
HymnNow Thank We All Our God vs. 1 & 3
(text below)
Chuck Parsons, organ
BenedictionShawn Mai
PostludeChuck Parsons, organ

Now Thank We All Our God, vs. 1 & 3

Now thank we all our God
with hearts and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom this world rejoices;
who, from our mothers’ arms,
has blest us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and Spirit blest,
who reign in highest heaven,
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heav’n adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Text: Martin Rinkhart; tr. Catherine Winkworth
Music: Johann Crüger

Sermon                   Shawn Mai

Grace to you, and peace, from God the creator, Jesus the Christ, and Spirit who sustains us.  AMEN.

If you are listening to this sermon on our podcast for the first time, West Denmark also gathers for a more informal live worship on Zoom on Sunday morning.  In lieu of a formal sermon, members of the congregation reflect in a more lectio Divina style on the texts for the day.  

Last week the Sunday morning church discussion went in an interesting direction.  I don’t remember who launched the idea, but it was something akin to paralleling being infected with the virus as a metaphor to our being infected with the Divine (those are my words).

I’ve been thinking about this parallel all week.

What resonated for me from the metaphor is my theological belief that a spark of the Divine lives within each one of us.   There is a God protected place within each one of us that is a part of God and that co-creates our life.  It is what makes my Shawnness, and your Christiness…your Mikeness and your Jayness.

I believe this part of us is named during the sacrament of Holy Baptism: “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.”  Our belovedness is named in these words.

On this Mother’s Day I’m remembering my mother.  Specifically, I’m remembering the story of my birth.  It is told that when I was born and the doctor told her that she had given birth to a boy, she reached up and kissed the doctor.  She had three girls already and now she had a son.  It was from my mother that I got a sense of my belovedness.  

One of my favorite pictures from childhood was taken not long before my mom died when I was 13 years old.  My mom and dad are standing on the porch of our house and there is a blurry figure in the bottom right hand corner of the picture.  It is me obviously on the move doing something goofy.  My mom has this look of adoration in her eye as she is in the middle of a big laugh, being entertained by her son.   

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is not primarily about people’s belovedness.  In fact, the letter that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth deals with the paradox of who we are as creatures of God.  As Luther aptly captures in his view of human beings, we are both saint and sinner.  

Each day of our life we work through the tension of living out these tensions.  It can be downright hard being a human being.  It can be confounding to sort out the questions of who are we? and why are we here?   Some days this may seem clear to us and some days we may utterly perplexed by the questions?  Some days I feel a great sense of worth and purpose and the next day I can feel like a worthless piece of…., well you know.

Today’s texts lift up the paradox in our Christian faith.  The first shall be last, the last shall be first.  Arguments with the disciples about who is the greatest.   Tension in the Corinthian community about who baptized who.  

Today a virus is the source of tension in our society regarding how much of a danger we are to one another.  Do we continue to isolate from one another and keep our businesses closed or do we relax restrictions and get the economy going again and avoid total economic collapse?

I’m not going to use this time to answer that question or make some sort of argument, but I am going to invite us to live in the tension of the question.  Who are we and why are we here?  What informs how we understand the answers to THOSE questions?

That is where faith comes in.     Raising our consciousness about what stories we live out is hugely important.  As human beings, our primal responses are rooted in the unconscious beliefs we carry around.  They are the sources of our fears, anxieties, perspective making, courage, imagination, creativity, phobias, behaviors.  

For me it’s a daily reflection on where I am experiencing connection and disconnection in my life.   My lifelong work is sorting out what stories I ground myself in.  My birth story with my mom is one of those stories I choose to believe.  That story grounds me in a sense of my worth which, in my best moments I believe and live fully out of, and in my worst moments totally forget and flap in the wind, lost and udder less.  Those moments are not pretty.

A faith story that grounds me is my baptism.  I was baptized on August 12, 1964 at Gustaf Adolph Lutheran Church in Gwinner North Dakota.  Those are just circumstantial facts.  The story about what I believe about my baptism and my purpose in life is rooted in a Jewish creation story.  IT goes like this…

Once there was this great ball of light that was everything.   Then, like in all good Jewish stories,  there was an accident, and the light shattered into thousands of shards of light…these thousands of shards of light, the wholeness of the world, the light of the world, fell into all events and all people in the world where they remain hidden to this very day.  

According to the holy story, the whole human race is a response to this accident.  We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all people and in all events…to make it visible once again…  thereby, to restore the innate wholeness of the world.

We are involved in a collective task that is in Hebrew called:

 “Tecunolaum”  

It involves all people who have ever been…who are here now…and who are yet to be born.  WE are all healers of the world.  And now for the other side of the story:

It seems the particular gift of the church at Corinth is to shed light on the truth of paradox.  WE have the power to bring together and heal and at the same time we have the power to draw apart and divide.  In today’s world it is where Fake News is born.  

Initially when I read the reading from 1 Corinthians for today, I did a great big eye roll.

The eye roll felt familiar.  I began to think about the politics of our day.  I don’t much like getting political in sermons but give me a moment to make a point.  

I have a hard time sorting out my confusion when  I hear our country’s leadership talk one day about the numbers of infections and deaths that could explode if we go back to our regular routines while at the same time stoking the cries of those decrying the use of masks, wanting to open up America, and not wanting someone telling them what to do…. I look at the divisions in the church in Corinth a little differently.   I become curious about a human dynamic.  

It’s in the same writing to the church at Corinth that Paul uses a metaphor that makes sense to me:  But we have this treasure in jars of clay.

I am not a philosopher, but the image of a clay jar makes sense to me.  

In third grade a girl in my class had a pottery cup that held the pencils in her desk.  I coveted that piece of pottery so much!  One day she dropped it and it broke.  She was going to throw it away, but I begged her to give it to me.   It was Shelly Butler, who already thought I was a big dork, but I still groveled for this trash she was going to throw away.  

She didn’t quite understand why, but she gave it to me.  I glued it back together and you’d thought I’d won first prize in a drawing for Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar.   The pot was broken and worthless to Shelly Butler but glued back together became a prized possession for me.

WE live in a tension that is called being human.  What one person thinks is important, another person couldn’t care less.  

One philosophical term I came across as I reflected on this over the course of the week was dialetheism.  Wikipedia defined it as “Ambiguous situations where humans can affirm both a proposition and its negation”. The example they used made sense to me: “if John stands in the doorway to a room, it may seem reasonable both to affirm that John is in the room and to affirm that John is not in the room.

So, whether you call it paradox, dialetheism, fake news…

FOR ME, a person who likes to believe I’m always right, its confounding.  

But it’s a thing.  It’s a dynamic that Paul is writing about to the church at Corinth and Jesus is pointing out to his disciples as they figure out who is greatest.   My brain aches when I think too hard about it but apparently, it’s why the first will be last and the last will be first.  

All that arguing and thinking too hard tosses me back to my images and metaphors.  

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

It probably also relates to the story I cling to about my birth and my belovedness.  My mother may have thought I was quite the gift but If you asked my sisters about my belovedness, they would say I was a bit of a spoiled brat.  Both are probably true.  

So, I’m going to go back thinking about being infected with the divine.  That gives me something to do.  I can continue to free up that part of myself, my best self, and keep befriending it.  

It’s like the sun and how great a sunny day can feel.  Paradoxically, a cloudy, rainy day can feel depressing and hopeless.  It doesn’t mean the sun isn’t there…it’s just momentarily blocked.  The clouds don’t make the sun any less a reality.  

Again, from Paul:

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

AMEN

Sounds of Home – Æbleskiver

Tuesdays at 2pm
Welcome to the May 5th edition of Sounds of Home,
Celebrating Æbleskiver!

Æbleskiver Recipefrom the WD cookbook

4 eggs, 2 c. milk, 2 c. flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 T. sugar

Separate eggs and beat whites until stiff. Into large bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add egg yolks and milk and mix well. Fold in beaten egg whites and bake in oil in aebleskiver pan on the stove top turning frequently until nicely browned and round and cooked in the middle.


Like to lend your voice?
Our upcoming theme is “spell”

If you have a response to this theme – whether a few thoughts, an original writing, poem, music, radio drama, memory or story, or one-liner – the sky’s the limit – between 5 seconds and 5 minutes in length – or if you would like to guest host or lead a song to sing together — we’re eager to hear from you!

To submit a response, please make an audio recording and send it to Molly, or send in a written response to be read aloud on the program.

Contact Molly at tulkmo01@luther.edu for information and submissions.
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 10th.


The theme for May 19th is “nest”
Deadline for submissions is Sunday night, May 17th.

May 3 : Acts 17 & 1Thessalonians 1

Prelude

Benedetto Marcello Psalm 19 Chuck Parsons, organ

Opening

Confession

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 savior. In you, Holy Spirit, is marvelous 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, 1342-1416

Sermon

You may listen to Pr Linda here.

Some of you may know that, prior to the mid-March ‘shelter in place for the sake of your neighbor’ close-ing, I was planning a three week coast-to-coast hike in England in May. Fortunately, I was planning a solo hike and arranging the details myself, so there aren’t catering or pre-booked cancellations to manage. Other than a rain jacket, new boots, and various guide books, my only real expense was the flights. Aer Lingus has offered a voucher for the tickets and, hopefully, they’ll continue to fly and I’ll be able to try it all again next year. I’ve been left with a longing – and a number of really excellent maps. Studying them, google-earthing sights along the way, following the hand-drawn topographic maps of Alfred Wainwright (the trail designer) in comparison to my huge detailed map of that area of England is a new hobby. GPS, well marked pathways, and a plethora of maps has given me a (perhaps false) sense of courage. I can do this grand adventure! Especially, since, at the moment, I’m not supposed to leave my yard!

I wonder what of those traveling benefits the apostle Paul had with him. I imagine they had maps of some sort. He must have known where he was going, the general direction of cities in Asia Minor, and the Roman Empire had well marked roads. Knowing the geography is important in getting an idea of the tremendous scope and energy of Paul’s ministry, and in seeing the spread of the early Christian church. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was not given a home in Jerusalem, nor was it received as truth among many/most of the area’s Jews. Christianity was forced to move beyond the cluster of villages, the home regions of Galilee and Judea where Jesus and the disciples lived. They say the church was born in persecution. Without opposition, hardship and the threat of persecution snapping at their heals,  the Christian faith might not have spread. As it was, Paul traveled and taught throughout the Mediterranean basin, encouraging those who had fled persecution in Jerusalem or Rome and came into contact with the world of Gentiles. On this, his second missionary journey, Paul sets out again from Antioch to travel through Syria and Cilicia.

Along the way he meets a man from Macedonia, and guided by a vision, Paul and his companions set sail for that region. At Philippi their message is well received – particularly by a group of women led by Lydia. But they also encounter opposition after Paul drives out the “spirit of divination” from a slave-girl and her owners get angry about losing their ‘small business’ profit from her fortune-telling reputation. The owners drag Paul and Silas before the authorities, charging them with disturbing the city and advocating customs that are unlawful for Romans, after which Paul and Silas are flogged and thrown into prison. An earthquake breaks open the prison doors (and their chains), and through a series of favorable events, the jailer comes to faith, and is baptized along with his whole household. Meanwhile, the magistrates decided to release Paul and Silas and so they are free to continue on toward Thessaloniki, the leading city of Macedonia and headquarters of the Roman governor. 

I don’t really enjoy preaching on the book of Acts, it’s better, more interesting, just to read it – but, pairing it as we are is a good idea. We hear the action of Acts with the letters that Paul wrote to the various communities along the way –  Corinth, Galatia, Philippi, Rome, and today – the very first book of the New Testament to be written – the letter to Christians in Thessaloniki.
So, first from the Acts of the Apostles, a few verses from the 17th chapter:

After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessaloniki, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three consecutive sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures,  explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.”  Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women.  But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house where they had been staying.  When they could not find Paul and Silas, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city authorities, shouting, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also,  and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.”  The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go. 

The charges brought against Paul and Silas in their absence are similar to those brought against them earlier in Philippi, but ratcheted up a notch. They are charged not simply with disturbing the city, but with turning the “whole world upside down”; not simply for advocating new religious customs, but with what amounts to treason — “acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king, one named Jesus”.

Following what is becoming a typical pattern for Paul, the Thessalonian believers send him and Silas off to Beroea, where they find a more receptive audience in the synagogue. But they have made enemies in proclaiming Jesus the messiah, and the opposing Jews from Thessaloniki follow Paul and stir up crowds against him in Beroea. Crowd sourcing protests are nothing new! So Paul’s sympathizers get him out of the city and convey him as far as Athens. From there, Paul travels on to a safe haven in Corinth, where Silas and Timothy eventually rejoin him.

The term, “geography of faith,” has stuck in my head as I’ve been reading about Paul’s missionary trips. It’s also the subtitle of a book I refer to now and then, An Altar in the World, by Barbara Brown Taylor. A geography of faith certainly applies to the movements of the apostle Paul. He is constantly on the move, teaching and arguing the scriptures in synagog after synagog, town after town, being shouted down, threatened, imprisoned, pursued from city to city. He has covered most of the north shore of the Mediterranean by now. It’s hard for me to imagine that life, that calling, and passion without feeling increasingly anxious. I get restlessly defensive just reading about it. I could never do that. Never. I have no passion to turn the world upside down, I have no gifts for that. It seems so completely and entirely foreign to me – his world and his life and his faith – that I can find no connection in it to my own. The map of the Mediterranean might as well be the map of the moon. So it is easy for me (and maybe for you, too) to dismiss this stuff as historical and biblical – and therefore doubly inapplicable to my normal quite small, mostly insignificant, peaceful, COVID-sheltered life. And therefore… I don’t have to do anything about it. I’ve found my own safe haven from the threat of the gospel in that I’m so not like Paul, God would have no reason to expect it of me.

Except,…when I stop to think about the lives of people in those towns and villages and communities – like Lydia or Jason. People who listened, were stirred, curious, convinced: Those whose lives the living Word transformed. The travelog of Acts sets out the large context, the map of the Roman world. Paul’s letter to the folks he left behind in Thessaloniki gives God’s mission a particular place, a location, where the hand-drawn topographical maps  – and Google Earth that can bring you to a street view of a specific home – are key to God’s purpose. Maps are ways of marking out a trip, of paying attention to the geography of place names and locations. Looking at the scale of big maps allows one to cover a lot of turf, see the big picture. Traveling it all seems overwhelming. Topo maps show variations in terrain, notice the meanderings of a creek bed, indicate high points and ridges, help one find one’s way. I’m more at home with topographical maps. But then, I notice that I’ve lost some of my excuses for not engaging this grand, “too big for my imagination” mission. God’s word is clearly both all-encompassing and located in small details. God’s purpose, God’s work for us to be about, is clearly about both the world, and our neighbor.

From Corinth, with Silvanus (Silas in Greek) and Timothy, Paul writes a letter back to the community of believers they left in Thessaloniki:

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10   Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.  We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith, and labor of love, and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only there, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, the Christ.

In the synagogs, Paul argued the scriptures, set forth his case for belief in Jesus and the necessity of his death and resurrection.  Paul made enemies as well as converts, and he moved on. 

In his letter to those he left filled with God’s word, but facing the opposition of the enemies stirred up against them, Paul provides pastoral care. 

His letter is to gentiles, converted/converting pagans. They were not part of God’s original covenant and plan. His letter is to all of us who may not feel like insiders in the church, born and bred, dyed in the wool, holy to the core. It is to those of us who have questions and doubts and wonderments about the word of God and Jesus Christ, but yet who are drawn to the word of life, the table of mercy, the community of faith. He says to them, to us …God has chosen you. 

So much for excuses. So much for safe distancing between the missionary activity of Paul and my own little life. 

“God has chosen you.”

“Hmmmm. Chosen for what?” (I mentally reach for my shield of excuses

“Chosen for life.” 

“Oh?” 

“Chosen for all of the ways in which your life, your work, your prayers show the labor of love, the imitation of Christ, the conviction and joy of your faith.” 

“Oh.”  

“You may not be accused of turning the world upside down, but you may very well, be responsible for turning someone’s world around.” 

“Ooooh!”                  (ask Harry about his mom’s one word conversations!) 

“For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only there, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you…” 

“So, we don’t need to speak about it if our lives demonstrate the love and hospitality of Christ?” 

“You might be asked questions, be drawn into a conversation, be inspired to share the motivation of your service or hospitality, but we don’t necessarily need to hit the road proclaiming loudly the pathway that leads to God.” 

“Oh, good.” 

“In fact, Lydia and Jason proclaimed it more loudly by living their lives, staying home, letting their transformed attitudes and actions attract notice and converts. Staying put may be the more difficult path, to let yourself be known. Being beguiling may be the best form of transmitting the good news!” 

“Ohhhhh!”

The irony is that on the one hand, the charges brought against Paul and his fellow travelers – that they are disturbing the peace and promoting disloyalty to the emperor – weren’t true, just as the same charges brought against Jesus weren’t true. The movement of Jesus’ followers is not about political ambition or plotting to overthrow Caesar. Those who bring the charges, who have incited mobs and gathered ruffians to attack Paul and his companions, were in fact the ones “disturbing the peace.”

But at the same time, there is something that is very true – though not in the way they meant it – in the charges that the proclamation of the gospel threatens to “turn the world upside down.” Loyalty to Jesus the Messiah supplants all other loyalties — to family, nation, empire, or religious hierarchy – to our values, and comfort, and small, peaceful, mostly insignificant lives biding our solitary time. What will happen when we are released? How might our hearts and lives turn from ‘what is’ to ‘what if’? How might this new normal that doesn’t yet feel normal work on us to imprint radical change environmentally, economically, socially.  We have known racial, economic and environmental justice is a necessity, that this nation’s systems must change if we are to live into our own national values of integrity, equality and freedom – now we have the power of knowing that it can happen. Whole societies can change overnight if they are convinced it’s in their own best interest. If we are compelled by a virus, can we not be compelled by the suffering of racism and poverty, the suffering of global climates changing? The world is about to turn. But will we move it, mitigate while there’s a bit of time, or will we retreat and react? 

The good news of Jesus the Messiah does indeed threaten upheaval. It’s true in large scale, world map kind of ways, but more significantly, it’s true in individual lives, in the topographical maps, the peaks and valleys and obstacles that show up in our lives. Hearing that you are chosen by God has a certain comfortable, secure feel, but it is also a truth that won’t let you sit still in comfort. God, as they say, comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. Those reversals of being chosen and being challenged, of being forgiven as we practice forgiveness, receiving in joy what we pass along in service, become the topography lines in the geography of our faith. Once we’re infected, the viral nature of God’s ways spreads its sacred contagion throughout our lives, attitudes, outlook, excuses. We can’t help but get involved. It’s good work, being an imitator of Christ, finding ways of translating, transmitting God’s love into your occupations and relationships and convictions. God has chosen you, for life – in every sense of the phrase. And for that we don’t really need a map, you know the way. The path is well marked. 

Thanks be to God.

The Church’s One Foundation

~ Chuck Parsons, organ
  1. The Church’s one foundation
      Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
    She is His new creation
      By water and the Word:
    From heav’n He came and sought her
      To be His holy Bride;
    With His own blood He bought her,
      And for her life He died.

3 . ’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
  Shall be the Church at rest.

Samuel John Stone (1839-1900)  Music: Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)