Order of Service
|Prelude||Bouree from Handel’s Water Music||Chris Johansen, piano|
|Opening Prayer||Henrik Strandskov|
Confession & Forgiveness
|Hymn||Light Dawns on a Weary World|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Prayer of the Day||Pastor Linda|
|Psalm 114||Harry Johansen|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Musical Interlude||Jay Stackhouse|
Prayers of Intercession
|Closing Prayer||Henrik Strandskov|
|Hymn||Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee|
Chris Johansen, piano
|Postlude||from G Major Partita |
Note: Audio for a full service appears here. A few individual parts of the service are also embedded in the text below.
Confession & Forgiveness
P: In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
P: We confess our entanglements with justice, hurts, and greed – and God’s difficult, blessed vision of a very different way. We seek the face of God, confessing our sin.
Silence for reflection and self-examination.
we have sinned against you and each other. We pray for your forgiveness and healing. The good we want to do, we often fail to do. The harmful actions and thoughts we do not want, we turn to again and again. Deliver us, Gracious God. Save us, save our neighbors, save all your creatures from our lack of imagination and courage. Gird us for the challenges of change needed, called for, overdue. Guide our way in your way.
P: We who were once far off have been brought near to God through the cross of Christ. May we forgive one another as God in Christ has first forgiven us.
Hymn – Light Dawns on a Weary World
Light dawns on a weary world
when eyes begin to see
all people’s dignity.
Light dawns on a weary world:
the promised day of justice comes.
The trees shall clap their hands; the dry lands, gush with springs;
the hills and mountains shall break forth with singing!
We shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace,
as all the world in wonder echoes shalom.
Love grows in a weary world
when hungry hearts find bread
and children’s dreams are fed.
Love grows in a weary world:
the promised feast of plenty comes.
Hope blooms in a weary world
when creatures, once forlorn,
find wilderness reborn.
Hope blooms in a weary world:
the promised green of Eden comes.
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.
Prayer of the Day
O Creator of puddles and skeeterbugs, in majesty and playfulness you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm. By your vision help us notice, by your providence teach us to treasure, by your wisdom compel us to preserve, and by your hand push us along. We need your inspiration and encouragement. Help us be the people you intended when you formed us from clay, when you puffed hopefully into those little nostrils. Let us be that creation.
Water is life. The story of God is told in water. God is in the water.
That is my premise for these weeks of considering water in scripture – but it’s more than a premise. If we read scripture paying attention to God’s way and will with water, if we can imagine that water bears the presence of God, carries an image of the divine (as we ourselves do), then what might that mean?
My first flash of a thought was washing dishes and flushing toilets… waste water. Surely God is not flushed? But, the follow up thought was about lives we waste, flush away, because they are Black or gay or addicted or Muslim or Confederate flag-waving or tree hugging — whatever is the affront du jour. If we find it offensive or sacrilegious to throw God out with the bathwater, how can we not be humbled, horrified, outraged by our treatment of human lives? We cannot accept the glimmer of God in our bodies and deny it in others.
But, back to the premise. Why should we consider God in the water? Because water is life. And where else would God be?
The first creation story in Genesis shows God’s breath sweeping over the face of the waters from which life will come. The second story shows God sitting on a river bank fashioning figures out of clay, breathing that same Spirit into the man’s nostrils to give him life.
The third creation story is told by Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8:
“22 The Lord conceived me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. …
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, … 26 when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
Two things stick out to me as I read this passage. The first is how big a part water plays in creation – fountains of the deep and the seas assigned their boundaries and springs abounding with water. The second thing is the joy evident in the act of creation (no less, if creation is seen over time as evolutionary adaptation). It is best seen as a playful venture. Woman Wisdom always by God’s side, rejoicing in each new thing, her delight delighting God. She is “…rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.”
Delight is not mentioned among the attributes of God. We hear power words: omnipotent, omniscient, almighty, majesty, transcendence. Does it improve or denigrate your conceptualization of God to picture divine delight in forming mudpie people and transfiguring tadpoles?
Listen to these verses from Psalm 104. Do you not hear delight and playfulness in God’s design?
“10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
“14 You cause the grass to grow for cattle, and plants for people, to bring forth food from the earth, 15and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart. 16 The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly …
“24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan [a great and terrible sea monster in ancient thought] that you formed to frolic in it.”
Again, it might be because it’s been hot and muggy and sunny – and I don’t have a swimming hole or enough water pressure to spin a sprinkler; it might be that I want a break from worrying about the coronavirus and the pandemic of racism, but I’ve been thinking of gushing water and clapping trees. It’s probably not a surprise that Light Dawns on a Weary World is one of my favorite hymns. It comes from Isaiah 55, where God compares his word to water:
“10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
“13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to the Lord a memorial, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
A memorial – like the rainbow – something to remind God.
7 “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord,” said the prophet Jeremiah (17). 8 “They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Over and over again in scripture, we hear that Nature plays. Sea monsters and little lambs frolic. Life flourishes, springs gush forth. There is joy in water. Music in water. Peacefulness and restoration. You’ve probably seen the ad on TV – 15 seconds of the sound of rain. I can feel my blood pressure drop 5 points when I watch it. It is a memorial for me that I’ve watched CNN too long, and so I get up and go away. I don’t know what it’s advertising, but it calms and changes brain activity from the barrage of words. The sound of water frees up space for our own thoughts. That ad has the amazing ability to help me, at least, wake from the passive sponge of 24hr repetitive breaking news, and come back to life.
“18 Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43
If the Bible were illustrated with emojis, what face would you insert at this point? What is the expression on God’s face? I picture mischievous joy. Can you hear the lilt in her voice, the playfulness expressed as springs bubble up in parched land and long dormant flower seeds push up out of impossible soil? Is there not delight in lambs and kids bouncing beside still waters in green pastures?
We do ourselves a disservice if we can only imagine God as the old white guy Michelangelo painted, or hear a serious, if not actually stern, voice as the only appropriate biblical vocalization for God. God’s mirth is in water, springing forth, bubbling up, streaming by, living wells, roaring seas.
Playfulness is in provision: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground;” God says through Isaiah (44). “I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring. 4 They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.”
Scripture is awash with water imagery – and mostly, it is a positive force: Cleansing lepers, and healing the lame; changing into wine; Jesus coming, walking through the waves of a sudden storm; the Ethiopian eunuch who sees a pond and says why not? What’s to prevent me from being baptized? New things spring forth. Restoration, renewal, hope, peace, well-being, happiness, new life gushing forth as the water breaks.
It all begins with water, and with joy, and with God.
This sermon is kind of pointless – a wandering point – but I have three hopes.
One is that you will become aware of the place of water in scripture – listen for it, stop and consider its prominence, importance – its cherished status.
The second is that you will begin to look for the presence of God in water outside of the baptismal font (like the presence of Christ is outside of the church building) and that it will cause you thought for the way water is used, abused, withheld, or is the agent of change, renewal, regrowth.
My third hope is that you will take seriously the call to play – to frolic in the water like Leviathan, or splash in the next puddle you see and get your shoes wet, or move into the circle of the sprinkler if you have one that spins, or shoot your beloved with the kitchen sink sprayer and have a good-natured water fight right there in the middle of your kitchen, or take a lovely shower with good smelling suds. And in it and through it, remember that water is life and God is the water.
Prayers of Intercession
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, our Lord the 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.
~ Julian of Norwich
Blessing & Benediction
Go with the strength you have.
Go in search of Love.
And know the Spirit of God goes with you.
Hymn – Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love!
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before thee, praising thee, their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the gloom of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day.
All they works with joy surround thee, earth and heav’n reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird, and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest,
wellspring of the joy of living, ocean-depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine!