November 8th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby MendelssohnChris Johansen, piano
Confession & ForgivenessPastor Linda
Gathering SongTo Be Your Presence
#546
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 100Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureJonah
Luke 15: 4-6
Pastor Linda
SermonPastor Linda
HymnWill You Let Me Be Your Servant
#659
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Statement of FaithPastor Linda
Prayers of IntercessionBarb Kass
Offertory Prayer
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
Benediction
Dismissal
Pastor Linda
Closing HymnChrist Be Our Light
#715
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Postludeby ClementiChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

P: In heart and spirit, if not in person, we are gathered together in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.                          

     Amen

P: God of goodness and mercy, help us as we open our hearts and our inward eyes. Hear our confession.

C: We convince ourselves that we cannot do the work you have called us to do. Loving others in the way of your love carries a high cost. We would prefer to be left alone and to follow our own guidance and plans.

You give us your word to follow and your mercy to sustain, yet we behave as though we can’t hear and don’t need you.

Selfishness, greed, the many distractions around us, bind us, insulate, and isolate us from the world. It is easy to ignore the needs and voices of others when we act with only ourselves in mind.

We are truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness. Open us to do what’s right and good in the days to come; surround us and renew us with your grace. AMEN

P: God is good, and loves us unconditionally, at all times and in all places. Unmerited, we have been saved. In the name of Jesus our sins are forgiven. AMEN.


Gathering Song – To Be Your Presence

1.
To be your presence is our mission here,
to show compassion’s face and list’ning ear,
to be your heart of mercy ever near,
alleluia!

2.
To be your presence is our mission bold,
to feed the poor and shelter homeless cold,
to be your hands of justice, right uphold,
alleluia!

3.
To be your presence is our mission blest,
to speak for all the broken and oppressed,
to be your voice of hope, your love expressed,
alleluia!

4.
We are your heart, O Christ, your hands and voice,
to serve your people is our call and choice,
and in this mission we, the church, rejoice,
alleluia!


Greeting

    The grace and loving-kindness of our Savior Jesus Christ be with you all.

         And also with you.

Prayer of the Day

God of the seas, sky, and dry land, when Jonah turned to run from you, you showed him that nothing and no one could hide from your presence. You are in all things, and you love all things. Show us the gift of your presence, and help us to carry your word of compassion and inclusion to all the world. We pray in the name of Jesus, who flawlessly carried out your love. Amen.    


Psalm 100

1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, | all you lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence | with a song.

3 Know that the Lord is God, our maker to whom | we belong;
we are God’s people and the sheep | of God’s pasture.

4 Enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and the | courts with praise;
give thanks and bless God’s | holy name.

5 Good indeed is the Lord, whose steadfast love is | everlasting,
whose faithfulness endures from | age to age.


Scripture: Jonah

1Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, 2‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ 3But Jonah set out to flee from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. 5The mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. 6The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’

7 The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8Then they said to him, ‘Tell us: What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’ 9‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ 10Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

11 Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. 12He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’ 13Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them. 14Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’ 15So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the Lord God even more, and they offered a sacrifice and made vows to God.

4 But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

2Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2saying, ‘I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, “I am driven away from your sight; how shall I look again upon your holy temple?” 5 The waters closed in over me; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped around my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me for ever; yet you brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. 7 As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.  8 Those who worship vain idols forsake their true loyalty. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’ 10Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

3The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 2‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ 3So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. 4Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ 5And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

4But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. 2He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. 3And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ 4And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’ 5Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

6 The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. 7But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. 8When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

9 But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ 10Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Luke 15: 4-6

Jesus told this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep.”


Sermon

What kind of community are we? Even those of us who are not Danish, enjoy the Danish-ness of West Denmark. Fastelavns, Æbleskiver, nisse, red and white woven paper heart baskets, nordic music, things made with butter, words – seemingly without consonants that sound as though they were just swallowed by accident – there’s a lot to love. Out in the community we are sometimes called West Democrat – I’m sure fondly and with high regard, don’t you think? Because of the pleasure we take in science and the natural world, we are sometimes mistaken for pagans. They’re close. Worshipping God revealed in nature is not quite the same as worshipping nature as a god. 

We self-identify as a congregation who believes in the triune God – the ‘once and on-going’ spirit of creation and transformation and redemption, we sing (pretty well!), we value getting along, unpretentiousness, and take seriously the vocation to “tend and till” –  social and environmental care and justice, life-long education and growth, living in concert with nature – these things are important. We are open and progressive and value traditions and rituals.  Is that about right? And we are small. One of many small ones in the county.

Mobility and the epoch of self-awareness and personal choice have created monoculture communities. For some time now, we have had freedom to congregate where we feel the closest affinity to those around us. Like with like, where, when “one of these things is not like the others,” it shows and can feel awkward or uncomfortable and so we avoid that setting and find one where we fit in, blend in. 

Why am I talking about this? I suppose you’ve got it figured out. We have experienced a tense week, and have every indication that it will be a stressful near future. The tensions have revealed the high degree of unity within and the distinctness from grouping to grouping of Americans.

Many of the elections – certainly that for president – are nail-bitingly close as votes continue to be counted with the promise of re-counts. Nationwide, the two major parties are very close numerically. But that seems to be the only manifestation of closeness. We are exhorted to maintain physical distance to discourage the spread of the coronavirus – and I don’t imagine there is an inter-party positivity rating. We don’t associate. Distance is the reality we hear in rhetoric, see in the news, and experience emotionally. Politics and religion have always been bedfellows – both provide structure and interpretations of how to live as a society: how values, power, wealth, and status are engaged or disengaged from the common good, our common life together. So, it’s not a surprise that inter-religious unity and empathy has taken a further hit in this atmosphere of extremism, demonizing those who do not share similar theo-political perspectives and world-views.

And so, at last, I circle around to Jonah and Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep. I’m not going to talk about the whale. Given what we have observed in our country over the past three to six months, that has become the most believable part of the story. Jonah’s distain for the message of warning and reconciliation he was charged to bring to his mortal enemies, the Ninevites, his desire to run in the opposite direction, to sail to the furthest-most reaches of the sea, to escape God’s gaze – these reactions seem reasonable enough. What sounds to our ears like a fish tale, is the part where the boatload of pagan sailers convert and pray to God and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and well-being after their brief encounter with Jonah. And certainly unbelievable is the part where the entire city of Nineveh, all the animals, and the King hear Jonah’s short proclamation and repent! They fast and pray for forgiveness to a God they do not know, pack away their finery and wear sackcloth and ashes hoping that the God of Jonah, who fashioned the earth and seas and all therein, who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast loving kindness and relents from punishing, will do just that. They pray that God will hear them and turn away the promised wrath. They believe this strange message from a strange, sullen prophet who wandered into the middle of their city and called out their wicked ways. Hard to believe, right? Like impossible.

The story of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur, the most solemn religious fast of the Jewish year, the last of the ten days of penitence that begin with Rosh Hashanah. The Day of Atonement. In Midrash teaching, God says, “Would I accept the repentance of the people of Nineveh and not yours?”

We leave Jonah still sitting by the withered bush on a hill outside the city watching his hated enemies re-order their lives, shake off the ashes, and tentatively find their new normal as reformed citizens of the world.

We don’t know the end of his story. Did Jonah retreat into an embittered stalemate with God? Did he gradually (or suddenly!) come to terms with this God who is relentless in mercy, entrenched in love?

The ending is intentionally open, I imagine, because the author didn’t know which path you will take (we will take). 

We have options as citizens. And as American Christians, it would seem. But fewer as shepherds. “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’”

If we are to be true to our calling, we at West Denmark are composed by, formed by, the gospel of Jesus Christ – God reconciling herself to the world through this beloved son. We are not defined by adherence to the law – meaning our good deeds working for social or environmental justice, or by our political alliances, or even our adoptive Danishness. We are united by the Holy Spirit through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. That is the grounding of our lives together. Therefore, we are a community that may consist of any amount of diversity and differences – yet remain of “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all, through all, in all.” Ephesians 4We are allowed a vision many do not have because they don’t know the stories about Jonah and lost sheep and God’s love, that puff of divine breath in our nostrils of clay that brings us to life. 

Love is the cornerstone of Christian community and ministry to the wounds of the world. We are blessed to approach our siblings in Christ from that place of love. It may not play out like a “loverly”  encounter. It may not feel very loving. Love may not be what is returned. But, anyone who has loved someone else knows loving them doesn’t erase conflicts or differences.  Neither do conflicts and differences erase love. The shepherd likely did not ‘feel it’ as he backtracked and searched for that one dumb stray sheep, but he acted on it, just the same.

Biblical stories remind us that we are called to represent the promise and presence of God. We’re called to practice hospitality, honesty and hope;* to recognize (and not reject) the modifiers that identify a person’s faith, or lifestyle, or politics. To accept the inevitable (and welcome!) differences. In the radical hospitality of our welcome statement, we want West Denmark to be a safe place to be different, to engage and explore issues, to ask questions, to try out a new way of reading or thinking about the Bible and daily life. We live together in this spiritual space and we will do well to remember the quiet ones. If there is one person among the congregation who voted differently than the 99, one person who feels betrayed and disoriented – the way many of us did 4 years ago, the way Jonah seems to be feeling, if that one person is made to feel other-ed, then we are not a welcoming Christian congregation. The challenge is to live defined, modified by our Christianity, rather than allowing our Christianity to be modified by anything other than Christ.

This sermon comes with thanks to Rolf Jacobson, Karoline Lewis, and *Joy J. Moore for their language and ideas in a post-election podcast posted on Working Preacher. 


Hymn – Will You Let Me Be Your Servant

1.
Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant, too.

2.
We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are trav’lers on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

3.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the nighttime of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

4.
I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we’ve seen this journey through.

5.
Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant, too.


Statement of Faith

We are not alone; we live in God’s world.
We believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.

We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
     to celebrate God’s presence,
     to live with respect in Creation,
     to love and serve others,
     to seek justice and resist evil,
     to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our center and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.  Amen

Prayers of Intercession

Lord of heaven and earth
of all nations and peoples
all faiths and no faith

We humbly ask:
reveal yourself


To those who are suffering, those testing positive, those too fearful to get tested. To those caring for the sick as the days become weeks, become months

Compassionate God, we humbly ask:
reveal yourself


To all who are refugees, and especially for families desperately waiting to be reunited with their children,

Compassionate God, we humbly ask:
reveal yourself

To those who are powerful,

Compassionate God, we humbly ask:
reveal yourself


To all who are powerless,

Compassionate God, we humbly ask:
reveal yourself


To ordinary people
in their everyday lives,
that this world
might reflect your love
and your abiding presence with us.

Compassionate God, we humbly ask:
reveal yourself.  Amen


Offering Prayer

Lover of our souls, you open wide your hands and satisfy the needs of every living creature. We thank you and bless you for your tender care. Through the time, skills, and financial resources we give to our congregation help us to serve our neighbors, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and bring justice to the oppressed in our world. Help us in these gifts to go where you send us, in all the beautiful names of God.    Amen.                 

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen


Benediction

Dismissal

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

Thanks be to God.


Hymn – Christ, Be Our Light

1.
Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Refrain
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

2.
Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.
Refrain

3.
Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.
Refrain

4.
Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.
Refrain

5.
Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
signs of your kingdom come.
Refrain


Postlude

Chris Johansen