Order of Service
|Prelude||If You Believe||Chris Johansen, piano|
Confession & Forgiveness
|Hymn||Soli Deo Gloria||Harry Johansen|
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the Day
|Psalm 89||vs. 1-8||Harry Johansen|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Scripture||2 Samuel 7: 1-17|
|Scripture||Luke 1: 30-33|
|Statement of Faith||Barb Kass|
|Prayers of Intercession|
Confession & Forgiveness
In heart and spirit, we are gathered together in the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Recognizing our need for forgiveness, for belonging, let us confess our sin, and seek reconciliation with God and with each other.
Silence for reflection and self-examination.
God of justice and compassion,
we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed.
We have not been faithful stewards of your love, of your word of grace, of your creation, or of our harvest and abundance. Too many hunger in our world of plenty. Forgive our sin, increase our faith, strengthen us in service, and bring us to trust in the everlasting life that is ours through your Son. Amen
In the mercy of God, there is forgiveness; there is life, and redemption, and peace.
Hymn – Soli Deo Gloria
O God of blessings, all praise to you!
Your love surrounds us our whole life through.
You are the freedom of those oppressed;
you are the comfort of all distressed.
Come now, O holy and welcome guest:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!
All praise for prophets, through grace inspired
to preach and witness with hearts on fire.
Your Spirit chooses the weak and small
to sing the new reign where mighty fall;
with them may we live your gospel call:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!
All praise for music, deep gift profound,
through hands and voices in holy sound;
the psalms of David, and Mary’s praise,
in wordless splendor and lyric phrase,
with all creation one song we raise:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!
All praise for Jesus, best gift divine
through word and witness, in bread and wine;
incarnate love song of boundless grace,
priest, teacher, prophet in time and space,
your steadfast kindness with human face:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!
A billion voices in one great song,
now soft and gentle, now deep and strong,
in every culture and style and key,
from hill and valley, with sky and sea,
with Christ we praise you eternally:
Soli Deo gloria! Soli Deo gloria!
Prayer of the Day
In peace lies the future which is not hidden in the present instant. The gloom of the world is but a shadow behind it yet within reach, is joy. Take joy. Now and forever may the day break and the shadows flee away. (We are, after all) half heroes, anti-heroes, half-hearted sons and daughters, echoing faintly, or not at all, hiding out, dreading that love that summons us, summons us, when all is said, to become ourselves which can only be, by choosing… to be chosen. Amen.
~ Daniel Berrigan
1 Your love, O Lord, forever | will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will pro-|claim your faithfulness.
2 For I am persuaded that your steadfast love is estab-|lished forever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly | in the heavens.
3 “I have made a covenant with my | chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to Da-|vid my servant:
4 ‘I will establish your | line forever,
and preserve your throne for all | generations.’ “
5 The heavens praise your won-|ders, O Lord,
and your faithfulness in the assembly of the | holy ones;
6 for who in the skies can be compared | to the Lord?
Who is like the Lord a-|mong the gods?—
7 a God who is feared in the council of the | holy ones,
great and awesome to those | all around.
8 Who is like you, Lord | God of hosts?
O mighty Lord, your faithfulness is | all around you.
Scripture: 2 Samuel 7: 1-17
1 Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” 3 Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: 5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” 8 Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; 9 and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. 17 In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
I’m guessing that many of you are familiar with folk music. More often than not, a song tells a tale, a story that may be nothing more than how a beautiful sunset caught you by surprise because of the way clouds were rolling through after a summer shower. Some can recall epic adventures that describe the rise and fall of empires or sea journeys that take months or even years to complete.
The back story of getting from there to here sometimes has to be unpacked to make the present moment make sense. The story behind the song takes longer to tell than to just to sing the song. What precedes our text today is one of those times that needs a second look if we are to understand what is going on right before our eyes.
Way back in Genesis, God called Abraham to leave Ur (in southern Iraq) to go to Canaan where he was promised that he would be made into a great nation. There were many stops along the way, so many that by the time he arrived in the land he was promised, he was ninety-nine years old, Sarah his wife was way beyond child bearing years, and yet the promise made to him was fulfilled and Isaac was born.
The nomadic life that Abraham embraced continued with his clan even after his death. They never aspired to be anything but shepherds tending their flocks. Even in the place they had been promised, they existed as strangers sojourning in a foreign land. They never fully occupied it, taking it over and acting as though it was theirs. They lived in their tents, herded their sheep, and to the writer of the book of Hebrews, that was a sign that they were living by faith.
This detachment from possession and place made them dependent on God in ways that seem utterly foreign to us. It’s not as though they didn’t have other options. They came in contact with other occupants of the land, people who raised grains and tended vineyards. People who built villages and cities. People who had other gods. Life for all of them was tentative, dependent on weather and water, and the good will of tribes who came and went trusting each other to share the bounty of the land.
Fast forward to the escape from Egypt, 40 years wandering in the wilderness and the return to Canaan. There were more Israelites, more Canaanites, Philistines, gods of all kinds, and miraculous interventions that kept everyone guessing who is really in charge here. In short, a recipe for disorder, conflict, war. Life under the judges became much less tolerable and the Israelites began seeking new ways to deal with the chaos.
They wanted to be like all the other people they were meeting along the way and have a king. They were sternly warned by Samuel that having a king was not as straight forward a solution as they thought. Kings didn’t exist for the sake of the people, the people existed for the sake of the king.
A king would have the authority to conscript the young men into armies and labor camps to provide safety and wealth for their rulers. A king collected wives and concubines from whomever caught his fancy. A king would take the best of their vineyards and fields, exact taxes, demand loyalty and service.
The prospect of becoming slaves, losing control over their possessions, their children and servants, and serving at the whim of their king did not deter them. The people were willing to accept this fate so they could be “like all the nations”. God told Samuel to give them what they were asking for and that began the downward slide into being assimilated by the worst of cultural and political idolatry that surrounded them.
The descent begins immediately. The chosen people begin to reflect all the failings of their pagan neighbors. War, greed, immorality, deceit, become standards of conduct. God rejects their first king Saul, and David is courted as his replacement. The embrace of this dysfunction is reflected as the Israelites pivot on a dime chanting, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” I Samuel 18:7.
David, who not too long ago was no more than a meager shepherd, has been in constant motion since being chosen. He has to flee for his life from Saul, wage battles here and there all over Canaan, capture Jerusalem, and rescue the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. One of his allies seeks to earn his favor by building him a palace, and he finally decides that he has earned a well deserved rest.
The first thing he reflects on is the injustice of him
living in a palace while God remains in a tent. David has been so enamored of
the pagan landscapes around him that he can’t fathom how God could claim that
she has no intention of living in a temple- a tent is where she has always
lived and that is what she is content with. God prefers mobility, keeping
options open, modesty.
David has been distracted by what he sees as his legacy-lots of fancy stuff, power and prestige, safety for the nation. The usual kingly agenda. He has lost track of what is really important- a community of common purpose that transcends time with justice and equality for all. That is the “house” that God wants to build for David and his descendants.
We, like David, have been corrupted by the idolatry that surrounds us-we want better stuff and more of it. The modest satisfaction of daily bread from our interactions with Creation is quaint and from a time and place that we have long ago transcended. Who needs the garden when we have Amazon Prime?
The question is, do we see ourselves as settlers or sojourners? Are we David or Abraham? How we answer determines where our hopes, and loyalties lie, what our professions will be, who we serve and why. Are we building our own legacies or longing for a kingdom that is just for all. Are we here to possess or are we only visiting?
Scripture: Luke 1: 30-33
30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
I was glad when Mike said he could write something about the 2 Samuel passage. Honestly it did not do much for me. God’s promises to David are generous, and God follows through even though David makes a mess of his life time and time again. The Psalms are certainly a testimony to the faithfulness of God from the point of a very fallible David.
To have this paired with Mary’s encounter with Gabriel is more interesting to me. I am struck by the parallel of God choosing two young, vulnerable people. God’s way of choosing the unexpected –David the shepherd-boy and the woman child Mary, may be because they are the ones who can hear and believe that God will do a new thing on this earth. And both say yes.
The contrast that is most striking to me is while David gets a whole page of promises: kingship, protection from enemies, dwelling place for David’s people, rest and an everlasting legacy, Mary simply receives the message that she has found favor with God. No promises of anything really- except a pregnancy outside the confines of her commitment to Joseph resulting in the birth of a son who “will be great, be called the Son of the Most High, will be given the throne of his father David, and will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; with an everlasting kingdom.”
What did Mary get out of the offer? Judgement and gossip about the pregnancy, a birth in the harshest of conditions, the need to flee her country and become a refugee to protect her child from a threatened and jealous king, realization at an early age that Jesus looked to a parent beyond herself and Joseph, 18 years of guy on the couch? We don’t really know how Mary stood the suspense of wondering what was going to happen when Jesus “emerged”. Then the fear of the consequences of his public ministry only to be rebuked by his “who is my mother, who are my brothers…”, and finally the arrest, trial and crucifixion, all witnessed by the woman who said yes. And the resurrection.
I have to wonder, why did Mary say yes, and also ask, what if she had said no?
There is more written about this than I expected. I was glad for the grammar police pointing out that her response recorded as “may it be” is not passive but the middle voice; not indicative but an optative mood. What does that mean?
The middle voice suggests co-operation, not passivity.
The optative mood indicates possibility, not certainty.
Did Mary have a choice to make?
On one hand, some refer to Mary’s statement as “an expression of resignation to the will of God” (Barnes) – Mary’s passive acknowledgment of a done deal.
On the other hand, some understand her words as active consent. Here’s one sample: God’s message, writes Godet, by the mouth of the angel was not a command. The part Mary had to fulfill made no demands on her. It only remained, therefore, for Mary to consent to the consequences of the Divine offer. She gives this consent in a word at once simple and sublime, which involved the most extraordinary act of faith … Mary submitted herself of her own free will to what she felt was the will and wish of her God.
What if …Mary did have a choice, what if she had said ‘no’?
For sure, God’s ultimate purposes cannot, and will not, be frustrated. Paul writes, “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman …” (Galatians 4:4). This holy text says, “born of a woman”; it does not say “Mary.” It is speculation on my part, but if Mary had said “no,” Jesus would still have been “born of a woman,” but not Mary. At that point in divine salvation-history, the Son was sent; the Savior was born; God took on complete humanity (the incarnation). Nothing could frustrate that – not even Mary.
But Mary says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”
God picks the unlikely, unexpected, the young and vulnerable, Mary. She is the child who sings in the Magnificat that the mighty will be brought low, and the poor raised up. Mary is us, in our better moments. She represents that every one of us is a recipient of God’s grace.
The 13th century Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said it this way: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the Divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and culture? Then is the fullness of time: when the Son of God is begotten in us.”
What if Mary had said, “No?” What would God have done to her (if God ever takes ‘no’ for an answer.) Certainly not some hard punishment. We are not saved by our works, but by faith. And it is not Mary’s works or actions that bring the Messiah into the world, but her faith. But it does present a question. And if Meister Eckhart is right, that we are all meant to be “mothers of God,” what would it mean if we say “No,” if we shrink from the angel, but do not come around and give assent?
Augustine said it is like this: “When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from the light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. So it is when people withdraw from God.”
In the second of Allesandro Allori’s paintings of the meeting between Mary and Gabriel, Mary shrinks from the angel, creating a moment of promise and peril. Dianne Bergant wrote: “According to ancient Christian writers, God waits for Mary’s yes; creation waits; Adam and Eve wait; the dead in the underworld wait; the angels wait; and so do we. With Mary’s yes, hope is enlivened and history is changed. Salvation is created among us, and the fate of history is altered by a Godly presence.”
When God asks us to participate with in moving his purposes toward completion, do we have a choice to make? I believe the answer is yes.
What if we say “no”?
For sure, God’s ultimate purposes cannot, and will not, be frustrated. Will it simply, yet profoundly, mean that we exclude ourselves from participating in what God is doing? Possibly and sometimes it is just that way.
If we let Mary’s words guide and encourage: “I am the Lord’s servant, … may it be to me as you have said,” a free and willing yes, we can let her words influence our mind and heart as we’re invited to cooperate with God – whether in something small and apparently insignificant, or large and utterly unimaginable. Like David, like Mary, we choose to be chosen.
Song – Wayfaring Stranger
Performed by Mike Block & Derek Gripper
Statement of Faith
We are not alone; we live in God’s
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
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
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.
The God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus.