September 27th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeMorning Has BrokenChris Johansen, piano
Opening PrayerHenrik Strandskov
WelcomeShawn Mai
HymnWhen Morning Gilds the Skies
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the DayShawn Mai
ScriptureAmos 4:13Henrik Strandskov
ReadingOld TurtleAbel Wetzig
Mercy Wetzig
Psalm 100Chuck Parsons, organ
ScripturePhilippians 4:4-7Henrik Strandskov
Part II
ReflectionShawn Mai
HymnFor the Fruit of All Creation
#679, vs. 1 & 3
Shawn Mai
Chuck Parsons, organ
Statement of FaithShawn Mai
Prayers of IntercessionNikki Strandskov
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
HymnThis is My Father’s World
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
BlessingShawn Mai
PostludeAshokan FarewellChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Chris Johansen


Presider:         We gather in the image of the Creator

Congregation:   who is a community of love.

                        We gather in the name of the Redeemer

                               who reconciles all of creation.

                        We gather in the presence of the Giver

                               who inspires new life and renews it.

Opening Prayer

Hymn – When Morning Gilds the Skies

When morning gilds the skies,
my heart awaking cries:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall,
this rings my curfew call:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

When mirth for music longs,
this is my song of songs:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s holy house of prayer
has none that can compare
with “Jesus Christ be praised!”

No lovelier antiphon
in all high heav’n is known
than “Jesus Christ be praised!”
There to the-eternal Word
the-eternal psalm is heard:
oh, Jesus Christ be praised!

Let all of humankind
in this their concord find:
may Jesus Christ be praised!
Let all the earth around
ring joyous with the sound:
may Jesus Christ be praised!

Sing, sun and stars of space,
sing, all who see his face,
sing, “Jesus Christ be praised!”
God’s whole creation o’er,
today and evermore
shall Jesus Christ be praised!


We gather in the triune name of sacred Love. May God’s peace be ever with you, Christ’s mercy near at hand, and may the Holy Spirit guide and encourage you in all circumstances and in every need.   Amen

Prayer of the Day

Gracious God, as creator you inspire and work for that which is good. Your  faithfulness, kindness, goodness and grace are the constants that inspire us. Continue to inspire in us awe and wonder for all You have created. Today in this worship, we honor you and praise you for all that you have created.  Amen.

Reading: Amos 4:13

For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind,
    reveals his thoughts to mortals,
makes the morning darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!

Reading: Old Turtle

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.

Reading: Phillipians 4: 4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


This past week I had a conversation with a physician at the hospital. It’s a conversation of sorts that I’ve had with lots of people over the years. The physician described the spiritual tradition of her childhood, in this case Hindu. She framed herself as not a religious person, maybe even agnostic. She then shifted to talking about the role nature plays in her life. I then noticed these beautiful nature photographs on her wall. She explained this sense of connection she feels in nature and her photography when she feels disease and disconnection in her life. Nature helps her to make sense of what goes on around her. It has helped to inspire wonder and be a bit more at peace with that which is out of her control.

These past weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the role of creation and nature in my own spirituality. I’ve been taking more seriously how the natural world around me is a source of how I interact with and understand the divine. It is not just an environment to meet God in but it has become more of a direct experience of God.

In a time filled with angst, helplessness, anger, and distress, creation doesn’t just exist to catch our imaginations with beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges but creation reveals some powerful truths. Paradox, our role as co-creators, and finding peace in the messiness of the created world are three ponderings that have been there for me lately.

First, paradox. Writer, philosopher, and modern day mystic, Parker Palmer writes a lot about paradox. As we sit in this season of autumn, I thought of his reflections on autumn and paradox. He writes:

“Autumn is a season of exhilarating beauty. It’s also a season of steady decline and, for some of us, deepening melancholy. The days become shorter and colder, the trees shed their glory, and summer’s abundance starts to decay toward winter’s death.. Today, at age 76 — as I weather the autumn of my own life — I find nature a trustworthy guide. It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well-done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning. But, as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the most difficult of times.
The hopeful notion that new life is hidden in dying is surely reinforced by the visual glories of autumn. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself — as devastating as we know it can be — contains the hope of a certain beauty?
The closest I’ve ever come to answering that question begins with these words from Thomas Merton:
“There is in all visible things… a hidden wholeness.”

In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each; they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out.

Even though the lakes and woods of the north country are where I find a sense of home now, I learned about paradox through the Kansas landscape. The wind can howl all day long, making you feel as though you’ve been beat up and yelled at, and minutes later find yourself looking at the most beautiful sunset, an expansive sky that goes on forever, and feel an incredible calm settle into your soul…as Henrik said “a peace that passes all understanding.” It is that experience in the natural world that points to a truth that is undeniable. A truth, as Parker Palmer says, where there is a hidden wholeness.

Alfred North Whitehead developed what is called process thought. There is process theology, process philosophy, process metaphysics…a way of thinking about the world and how God, you and I, and the natural world evolve. Whitehead’s classical statement is a set of antithetical statements that attempt to avoid self-contradiction by shifting them from a set of oppositions into a contrast:

  • It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
  • It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.
  • It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
  • It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
  • It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.

There are lots of take-aways for me with the notion of paradox. For one, it calls out my black and white thinking. It is a way to more deeply appreciate that I don’t have all the answers, I have limitations in my perspectives, and others are trying to make sense of the world’s complexities in their own way.

In a day marked by divisiveness and binary thinking, to pause and take in the nature of paradox. The moment we think we have the right answer is the moment we need to stay curious. I try to keep in mind when I’m assessing my students and what they need to learn in their educational process, that I know a lot from my training about assessment and students learning issues AND at the same time don’t know my ass from a hold in the ground. Stay open and malleable.

Another important tenant of process theology and what nature teaches us is that we are co-creators with God. Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, love etc.) remain eternally solid.

We see this truth in the change of seasons. One path we travel down is green and full of abundant life. We turn the corner into autumn and we are acutely aware of change. What doesn’t change is there is beauty and goodness. The golds, reds, and oranges of fall turn into the white and stillness of winter turn into the promise of new life in heavy buds and greens of spring turn into the fullness of summer. We need them all and beauty and goodness is infused in it all. We live amidst the nature of change but the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, and love) remain eternally solid.

In being co-creators, we have the responsibility to keep our end of the relationship. To behold the natural world as it is and to honor what it gives.
As one writer put it, to see the sky as not just a good place for putting smokestacks. A wetland as not a missing wheat field. The earth is not just a handy location for development and disposal. All things and beings and people in the world are not just what we can use them for.

If we take the basic principle that is present all major religious tradition to love your neighbor as yourself, it is to behold and honor each place where we step, how we impact that place, and what we leave behind. Understanding our carbon foot print is to honestly understand our integrity as a human being in relationship to God.

Mercy and Abel shared a profound sense of this in their story, “Old Turtle”. It’s related to paradox and goes a step further. The nature of God is many things…expansive like the sky, dark like the depths of a cave, quick as an antelope, and God is a sound, a sense, and a feeling very close, the ant said.” These qualities of God are in each one of us. They are in us to know the expansive experience of life. We know the beauty of autumn and we know the melancholy of darkness. We work and interact with our world and the earth as co-creators with it. Earlier in the service Henrik read from Philippians 4. That text speaks of a peace that passes all understanding. Paul’s words describe a state of being that all of us long for. A state of being at peace with that which is around us. To feel a profound sense of belonging. To behold and to be held. What Paul is talking about is a peace that can exist in all circumstances.

Life isn’t easy. This part of the world was formed by an ice age where rocks collided, water rushed, and the violence of nature profoundly reshaped. It is testament to the forces of life that are beyond our control and at the same time we have a role in their unfolding.

Again, process thought is instructive. The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God’s will.

The author who wrote “Old Turtle” also wrote a book “Paddle Whispers” that chronicles a trip he took through the boundary waters. He captures the beauty and sometimes the violent conditions of his journeys.

He writes:

“There are, I believe, only three kinds of people in the world. There are the ones who have said, “Yes.” There are ones who have said , “no.” And there are the ones who haven’t noticed a question yet.
I have a canoe on my head, a rock in my shoe, mosquitos up my pants, blackflies burrowing into my neck, and beaver bog water running down my backside. And I think this must be today’s version of the question.
But if I have it figured right, there are only about two hundred and ninety steps to go on this portage trail, and at the end of it is a cold, blue lake that’s going to feel about one thousand times better than the best shower I’ve ever had.
If its true as Socrates once said that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” then its equally true that the unlived life is not worth examining.
That’s if I have it figured right.”

The ponderings of these last several weeks, on creation, have given me a new awareness and a new framework in how I’m taking in my world. It’s teaching me to be more opened up by the mystery, to be humbled by the grandeur, to fear not only God’s power but my power.

In these days of beauty and terror, in these days of sabbath and isolation, in these days of hope and despair love has found us. I can’t always understand but I can know. I may not always like it but I can love. May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN

Hymn – For the Fruit of All Creation

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God.
For these gifts to ev’ry nation, thanks be to God.
For the plowing, sowing, reaping,
silent growth while we are sleeping,
future needs in earth’s safekeeping, thanks be to God.

For the harvests of the Spirit, thanks be to God.
For the good we all inherit, thanks be to God.
For the wonders that astound us,
for the truths that still confound us,
most of all, that love has found us, thanks be to God.

Statement of Faith

Prayers of Intercession

Lord’s Prayer


Hymn – This is My Father’s World

This is my Father’s world,
and to my list’ning ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world;
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world;
the birds their carols raise;
the morning light, the lily white,
declare their maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world;
he shines in all that’s fair.
in the rustling grass I hear him pass;
he speaks to me ev’rywhere.

This is my Father’s world;
oh, let me not forget
that, though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world;
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let heaven ring;
God reigns, let earth be glad!



Chris Johansen