October 18th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby BachChris Johansen, piano
Welcome
Confession & Forgiveness
Jeff Wetzig
Gathering SongCome Down, O Love Divine
#804
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Greeting
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 75vs. 1-12Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Scripture1 Samuel 1: 9-11, 19-20, 2: 1-10Jeff Wetzig
ReflectionChristy Wetzig
HymnMagnificat from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
ReflectionClaire Scriba
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s PrayerJeff Wetzig
BenedictionJeff Wetzig
Closing HymnGuide Me Ever, Great Redeemer
#618
Pastor Linda
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
PostludePrecious LordChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chris Johansen


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

Blessed be the holy Trinity, one God who forgives all our sin, whose mercy endures forever. Amen

Most Merciful God,

We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name.

Amen

God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead in sin,

and made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved. Almighty God strengthen you with power through the Holy Spirit, that Christ may live in your hearts through faith.

Amen      


Hymn – Come Down, O Love Divine

1.
Come down, O Love divine; seek thou this soul of mine
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near; within my heart appear
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

2.
Oh, let it freely burn, till worldly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

3.
Let holy charity mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing—
true lowliness of heart, which takes the humbler part,
and o’er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

4.
And so the yearning strong, with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the pow’r of human telling;
no soul can guess Love’s grace till it become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.


Prayer of the Day

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, you are always ready to hear our cries. Teach us to rely day and night on your care. Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all this suffering world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Amen


Psalm 75

1 We give you thanks, O God, we | give you thanks,
calling upon your name and declaring all your won-|derful deeds.

2 “I will appoint a | time,” says God;
“I will | judge with equity.

3 Though the earth and all its inhab-|itants crumble,
I will make its | pillars fast.

4 I will say to the boasters, | ‘Boast no more,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not | lift your horns;

5 do not lift your | horns so high,
nor speak with | a proud neck.’ “

6 For exaltation comes neither from the east nor | from the west,
nor does it come | from the wilderness.

7 It is | God who judges,
who puts down one and lifts | up another.

8 For in the Lord’s hand there is a cup full of spiced and | foaming wine;
the Lord will pour it out, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink and | drain the dregs.

9 But I will re-|joice forever;
I will sing praises to the | God of Jacob.

10 “I will break off all the horns | of the wicked;
but the horns of the righteous shall | be exalted.”


Scripture: 1 Samuel 1: 9-11, 19-20, 2: 1-10

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the Lord. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord, and wept bitterly. 11 She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

19 They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”

2
1Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
    for not by might does one prevail.
10 The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
    the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
    he will give strength to his king,
    and exalt the power of his anointed.”


Reflection

Christy Wetzig

Hannah was married to Elkanah. She wasn’t able to have children, and in this culture having an heir was so important that, in order to provide himself with a child, Elkanah was entitled to take another wife. This wife, Peninnah, bore lots of children, and she liked to rub it in. It was a lowly thing in that culture, to be a barren wife. Even though Hannah had the love of Elkanah, she had no standing in the culture–when he died, all she owned would go to Peninnah’s children, and there would be no one to take care of her. She was a step away from being a beggar on the street.

When Hannah goes to the temple, pleads for a child, and God grants her desire, she sings this song. She sings of the way God comes to the aid of the downtrodden and reverses the fortunes of the powerful. She sings of a God who delights in subverting the values of our world–not just rocking the boat, but overturning it.

We see this theme again and again in the Bible. Gideon, in the book of Judges, appears in a nightmare to one of his enemies, not as a powerful soldier but as a loaf of barley bread bouncing down the mountain, squashing the army. Samson, that strong man, after his strength is shaved from him, leans against a wall and prays for God’s strength. The house falls down around him, killing more Philistines than he ever had as a strong man. Samson was the son of another barren woman who, like Hannah, prayed to God for a baby. Hannah, singing as her sister Mary would in a thousand years, that old song about God saving the weak and laughing at the strength of the powerful.

The old song is continued with the Beatitudes, Jesus’ great words subverting the values of our culture once and for all. Jesus was, after all, the earth-shattering incarnation of this–Jesus intervening on behalf of the poor, Jesus preaching against the oppression of the religious elite, Jesus ducking a revolution–instead giving his life quietly, humbly, in a declaration of God’s love for humanity.

But why does God favor the poor and weak? Surely poverty and powerlessness doesn’t make one righteous?

The classic, ​A Light in the Forest​ by Conrad Richter, tells about how surprised the Native Americans were when European settlers erected barns and storehouses almost before they built houses. The bigger these buildings were, the richer the farmers were–the more invulnerable to severe winters and the hunger that plagued the native tribes. But instead of chucking their hunting and gathering traditions in favor of the more enlightened “Get Big or Get Out” ethic, the natives clung to their ways, much to the surprise of the white invaders. According to an elder in ​A Light in the Forest​,

Some Indians think [the Great Spirit] favors the white people. They say the white people have their flocks of cattle to kill from when they are hungry…The Indian has none of these…Some think this is bad, but of truth it is good. It shows the Indian he is not supported by storehouses but by the Ruler of Heaven…I have often been in want. It taught me that the Great Spirit suffers us Indians to be so for a purpose. It’s to show us our dependence on him who is the Father of us all and to let us know that if we do our part he will always supply us at just the right time.

Although we risk romanticizing poverty here, we see that the vulnerability that scarcity reveals can bring a person closer to one’s Creator, reminding us that we rely on God for every need. Come winter, a man with hungry children at home would be more likely to pray on his knees for a deer to cross his path, and gratitude would make fragrant the pot of stew that it provided. A strong man made weak would pray to God for strength. Barley bread rolling down the hill would find its fierceness only in God, not the deadliness of its crumb. A woman sobbing for a child looks to God for succor and provision.

But we sitting here in front of our computers are not hungry hunters or barren women, and frankly Hannah, singing her song, holding her firstborn in her arms, was no longer downtrodden either. Like us, she had standing in society. Hers was born of being the mother to a son. Ours comes from white privilege, education, land ownership, bank accounts…

Shouldn’t Hannah, like us, be prepared to be overthrown, to be knocked overboard so that others more favored by God can climb into the boat?
I’d say, wear your life jackets. Welcome a plunge into cold water.

But looking at Hannah’s song again, and Mary’s song, and Jesus’ beatitudes, I see another undercurrent. It’s humility, that memory of our substance–dirt clasped in the hand of God, the soil into which our bodies will return again, our breath only the briefly borrowed spirit of God, animating for a time our lungs of clay.

“Talk no more so very proudly,” Hannah sings.

It doesn’t sound like much–humility–but it might be enough to overturn the boat of privilege. Observing our shared carbon composition with not just other

human beings but with our neighbors the squirrels and our neighbors the oak trees, might just make our privileged duds feel a little shabby. Might make us want to tear down our storehouses of dust. Might make us jump out of the boat of our own accord, to make room for others.

I’m not sure how to “become humble.” It sounds like a self-help book read upside down. For me, humility seems to begin out of the discipline of eating weeds from the garden, and being nourished by them. The discipline of getting on my knees in the woods and harvesting mushrooms. Being thankful for these gifts of the humus, for which I neither toil nor reap. The discipline of any work that brings me closer to the ground. I hope this helps me understand more fully my humanity, which I hold in common with my enemy, that other person over there.

But these are just baby steps really. What we should be doing is looking for God to act. Hannah believed fully in the benevolent intervention of God in the world. She saw God bringing justice into an unjust world. So maybe instead of looking to see what we can do we should really be getting out of the way of God’s working. Maybe that’s true humility, true poverty–realizing that we’re just a loaf of barley bread. But what wonders of grace, mercy, love, and justice God can work with a loaf of barley bread, we have but to step back and see.


Hymn – Magnificat

My soul proclaims your greatness O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you;
you have looked with love on your servant here
and blessed me all my life through.

Great and mighty are you, O holy One
Strong is your kindness, evermore,
How you favor the weak and lowly one,
Humbling the proud of heart

You have cast the mighty down from their thrones
and uplifted the humble of heart
You have filled the hungry with wondrous things
And left the wealthy no part

Great and mighty are you, O faithful one
Strong is your justice, strong your love
As you promised to Sarah and Abraham,
Kindness forevermore

My soul proclaims your greatness O God,
and my spirit rejoices in you;
you have looked with love on your servant here
and blessed me all my life through.


Reflection

Claire Scriba

I didn’t want to write on this text.  I almost turned it down.  “So Hannah got lucky, I said to myself.  I wonder if it lasted.”  It reminded me of my unanswered prayers and on bad days I fall into a pit just thinking about them.  It reminded me of times I couldn’t recognize my own face for the bitterness it wore. 

So I decided I’d write about unanswered prayers instead and I spent the week on why a benevolent God would allow bad things to happen.  It’s a very old topic, ancient really.  A lot of people have written about it, so many that there’s a special word for that kind of argument…theodicy.  I couldn’t follow the arguments I found and the old ones I knew by heart just made me angrier…..humility, faith, submission and gratitude.  Sops for fools I said to myself.  I was really angry.

So I decided I’d wait till after the Saturday discussion, like Linda does, to write this and I was still loaded for bear when I joined it yesterday.  I told them that I thought songs of praise like this were rubbish, sweet propaganda written by men to entice the not-yet-disillusioned into the fold.  I asked them where to put anger like mine, where in the Bible there are real answers for it.  And not Job, please, I was too angry for Job. 

Those kind West Denmark people listened.  They didn’t turn away, they didn’t try to mollify. They talked a bit about their own experiences, they welcomed what they called my courage in bringing up a hard subject.  I was gently reminded of the book of Psalms.  And, of course, there was my answer.  As Mike Miles says “if the answer isn’t love, you’re asking the wrong question.”  I was heard with love and my anger dissipated.  This morning it is gone though I can still feel where it burned me. 

I am mercurial by nature.  I can blow very hot and very cold, though not as often as I used to.  And I owe that improvement to West Denmark, to you.  West Denmark is a safe place to be human and that is what I’d like to ask you about.

This is what I’d really like to know:  How have you done it?  How have you made West Denmark a safe place to be fully human? Yesterday’s discussion was a perfect example of what actually does help with unanswered prayers and grief: a safe place to share them, and that’s what all of you are, a safe place to be real.  I’ve done it several times here, in tears and in puzzlement and yesterday in anger and you have never failed me.  You’ve listened and you’ve talked with me as I’ve dropped one rock after another out of my backpack.  I carry around fewer rocks these days and joy visits me much more often because of you.

I’ve never found a church like you.  I feel very close to the Kingdom of God here.  If I weren’t committed elsewhere I’d never have moved away and I’d ask to be buried in your cemetery. 

I think you should consider my question seriously, though, because you have a miraculous thing going and each of you is contributing to it all the time.  Aren’t you curious, too?  What are the seeds this all grew from?  Why do they still prosper?  Do they have to be Danish? Name the parts if you would, I want the recipe. I want you to have the recipe too so you can delight in being an ingredient. 

Then again I don’t expect you’ll spend too much time on that list.  I can almost hear Donna Mortensen saying “Well, it’s nothing special, it’s just what good humans are supposed to do.”  Thank you, each of you.  You are a wonder to me.


Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

The God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.

Amen


Hymn – Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer

1.
Guide me ever, great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore, feed me now and evermore.

2.
Open now the crystal fountain where the healing waters flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliv’rer, strong deliv’rer,
shield me with your mighty arm, shield me with your mighty arm.

3.
When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell’s destruction, land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs and praises, songs and praises
I will raise for evermore, I will raise forevermore.


Postlude

Chris Johansen