September 13th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
Preludeby BachChris Johansen, piano
Confession & Forgiveness
Pastor Linda
HymnFor the Beauty of the Earth
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 104vs. 1, 5, 6, 9-15Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
Sermon & ScripturePastor Linda
HymnTouch the Earth Gently
Harry Johansen
Chris Johansen, piano
Statement of Faith
Prayers of Intercession
Lord’s Prayer
Pastor Linda
Offering Prayer
Pastor Linda
HymnLet All Things Now Living
PostludeOn Eagle’s WingsChris Johansen

Part I

Part II


Chris Johansen

Opening Prayer


Hello and welcome to this worship service of West Denmark Lutheran Church.

This is week two of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. This year’s Season of Creation is a time to consider the integral relationship between rest for the Earth and ecological, economic, social, and political ways of living for the moral imagination that creates a common good.  The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. Recognizing the pain, repenting, creating new life in alternative storylines is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.

Hello and welcome to this worship service of West Denmark Lutheran Church.…….

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.

This is the 24th week of Ordinary Time and week three of the liturgical Season of Creation, an ecumenical conversation of environmental care. The earth is suffering, people are suffering – it’s time for a radical new narrative of consumption, energy production, waste and greed. It’s time to consider community, food sourcing and nutrition, our relationship to animals, the forests, water, the earth. Recognizing the pain, repenting of our part, creating new life in alternative storylines – this is where we will find hope. But first we feel the pain.

Confession & Forgiveness

We praise you God, for the Earth that sustains life. Through the cycles of days and seasons, growth, dormancy, and renewal, you open your hand to give all creatures our food in due season. In your Wisdom you called for a Sabbath for the land to rest. But our living pushes the planet beyond its limits. Our demand for growth and the endless cycle of production, consumption, and waste is exhausting our world. The forests are burning, the topsoil erodes, the fields fail, the deserts advance, the seas acidify, storms intensify. Humans and animals are forced to flee in search of security. We have not allowed the land to observe a Sabbath, and the Earth is struggling to renew. And so we confess:

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.

You tell us the land must rest, free from the burden of production. You call us to pause from sowing, pruning, and reaping in ways that destroy the soil and local ecologies, yet we confess our demand for cheap food that accepts the abuse of pesticides, modifications, fertilizers and mono-crops that push the land to be sterile.

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.

You assure us that all can be filled from the yield of the earth, that our security is found in ‘enough’, yet we lack the courage to resist the myth of endless growth. We refuse to be satisfied. You call us to fairness and justice, to share equally, to walk humbly, yet we are mostly unwilling to live in ways that are sustainable and akin to the co-creatures of our habitats.

God of mercy and justicewe confess these truths to be self-evident.      

Turn us from fear and mistrust. Free us to imagine – and to live – a life reconciled to the Earth and all it must sustain, through the Good News of Jesus Christ, in whose hopeful name we pray.  Amen.

Hymn – For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flow’r,
sun and moon and stars of light:
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony
linking sense to sound and sight:
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above;
for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

For each perfect gift of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heav’n;
for thyself, best gift divine,
to our world so freely giv’n:
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.


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

As the rain hides the stars, as the mist hides the hills,
as the clouds veil the blue of the sky,
so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of Thy face from me.
Yet, if I may hold thy hand in the darkness, it is enough,
since I know, that though I may stumble in my going,
Thou dost not fall. And ever it is so, O God of grace, with Thee.

~ traditional Scottish Gaelic prayer

Psalm 104: 1, 5, 6, 9-15

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; O Lord my God, you are | very great!
You are clothed with majes-|ty and splendor.

5 You set the earth upon | its foundations,
so that from now until forever it shall nev-|er be moved.

6 You covered it with the deep as | with a garment;
the waters stood a-|bove the mountains.

9 You set the limits that they | should not pass;
never shall they return to cover the | earth again.

10 You made the springs | into rivers
that flow be-|tween the mountains.

11 All the animals drink their | fill from them,
and the wild donkeys | quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air | make their nests;
among the branches they | lift their voice.

13 From your dwelling on high, you wa-|ter the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit | of your works.

14 You make grass grow for the cattle, and plants to serve | humankind.
that they may bring forth food | from the earth,

15 wine to gladden human hearts, oil to | make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the | human heart.

Scripture & Sermon

This is part three of a long sermon!

We began with Day 6 of Genesis 1 with a man and woman mysteriously made in the image or likeness of God. Last week turned the page to the second story of creation. God formed Adam from adamah (a dustling from the dust of the earth) and gave him the Garden to tend and till. But God thought that it was not good for the man to be alone, so, from the same dust, God formed all the other animals of the field and birds of the air, and brought them one by one to the man to see what he would call them, but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. And, uniquely, God created a woman from the man: bone from bone, flesh from flesh – not dust (not even from Venus!) 

Perhaps this was done so that we would hold all things in common with one another; being thus made communally, we would be one, though many.

I haven’t wondered about that before, about ‘why not dust?’    Maybe it helps account for God’s disappointment. Almost immediately, in trying to defend his own wrong behavior, the man blamed the woman and the enmity began – even before enmity toward the snake!

It’s fun to preach on familiar stories, because we know the basic outline. It leaves me free to ask questions and poke around in the details.

So. Eden. I always pictured a garden named Eden. The Garden of Eden. Am I alone in this? It didn’t occur to me that Eden was a land or region separate from, and larger than, the garden. But it was.         

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…[God made the man and set him off to the side.] And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the [same] ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were also in the midst of the garden.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Newly interested, I studied a map. The four rivers become one in southern Iraq. But that would not have been Eden. The four rivers converge there and empty into the Persian Gulf – the flow is wrong.

“A river flows out of Eden into the garden to water it, and from there it divides…” The Tigris and Euphrates originate in the mountains of Turkey and flow south. That would place Eden to the north, in arid mountainous wilderness where rain and snowmelt begin the mighty rivers. The ‘one river’ might have been a tenuous stream. That’s better.  It is there, in an austere, primal landscape that God plants a garden. The man (and all living things – flora and fauna) are made from wilderness soil. I hadn’t noticed this before. It seems significant. I do realize that we’re talking about the arid mid-east where wilderness was common, but the garden wasn’t planted in the Fertile Crescent, nor did it arise from the lush Nile Delta. That’s not our dust. The garden was planted where growth was less a given. The contrast more stark. Think of the wilderness stories: Abram was called out of Iraq and then Syria to go where the Lord would show him – eventually to Egypt, and three visitors came to him and Sara in the desert to say ancient she would bear a child. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away and out into the wilderness, and shown a well in the nick of time. Likewise, a ram got its horns stuck in a thicket to save Isaak’s life. Moses led the Israelites through the dusty wilderness for 40 years so that the next generation would enter the land of milk and honey. Jesus went from his baptism immediately  into the wilderness for 40 days. You can probably add to this list, but my point is that God seems to use the austerity for special purpose. God seems to use the likelihood of death to accentuate life. New things spring forth in the desert. So what might it mean that we are formed from that dust of toil and promise, vulnerable and enduring?

It might be another sign that life sparkles with God (hand-made with God-imbued wilderness dust, created in the image of Water). Life is created in the mystery of thin places, places where the line between life and death shimmers, it is so delicate, yet the desert itself is powerful, broad and deep.

Or it might be an overlooked warning of what’s coming. Another assumption I made was that the Garden of Eden was perfect. It was not perfect. Maybe I’m the only one who thought that it was, because the imperfections are kind of glaring.  “…And the man and woman were both naked, innocent, and were not ashamed.” We turn the page. Chapter 3. Ominous segue in the soundtrack. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made.” Whispered misinformation and conspiracy theories there in the Garden. The lure of forbidden fruit. Blame and counter-blame and shame. In the Garden.

And out we go, sadder but wiser. Back to the wilderness, to toil by the sweat of one’s brow, yielding thorns and thistles in the plants of the field. Bearing children in pain, yet desiring the man even though he shall rule over you. Returning to the ground, for out of it you were taken. You are dust, (wilderness dust) and to dust you shall return.  Eden, and not the Garden, became our habitat. Arid, difficult soil becomes us, biblically, and figuratively. We get used to it.

But God did not push Adam and Eve out the door and slam the garden gate behind them. Well, yes, that did happen, but God came out, too, to be with them. God clothed them in skin, and sighed, and closed the door on the two great trees. I wonder what happened to the animals? The author left their fate to our imaginations. I’m still wondering if there were two of each by now, or still only the prototype named by Adam. I picture a parade, a precursor – all the animals and creeping and hopping critters coming out two by two and scampering off to explore. I like happy beginnings.

The world outside the garden became home.

Where is your home? Not your house, but your bit of ecology, the landscape that lights up when you see it, the part of creation that is of great consequence to you? We are fortunate to live rurally – there is such diversity available for our unique, particular inclinations. I hope there is a field or a tree or a rose you love… passionately. That is what it takes to change our behavior to match our intellectual values, and if we do not change, our climate will, too fast, and the world will suffer. We’ve been seeing the pain in California and Portland, on the Gulf Coast; the permafrost is melting; we’ve got denial and willful ignorance in charge of our national response. So it’s up to us to act with courage and self-denial and rational hope. We don’t need to fix the whole thing. We each need to love one river, one field, one tree, one butterfly or honey bee.

What does it mean—’tame’?” asked Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince.

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarrassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose. “

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important,”said the fox.

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.”

~ selections from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

For what bit of creation are you responsible?

Why do you think the Lord God wanted Adam to name each animal and bird God brought into being?

We will only change our behavior when we love, name, notice.

“Do not be afraid, I am with you,” said the Lord your God, “I have called you by name and you are mine.”                                          

~Isaiah 43:1

Hymn – Touch the Earth Gently

Touch the earth lightly, use the earth gently,
nourish the life of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder, ours to surrender,
trust for the children tomorrow will bear.

We who endanger, who create hunger,
agents of death for all creatures that live,
we who would foster clouds of disaster–
God of our planet, forestall and forgive!

Let there be greening, birth from the burning,
water that blesses, and air that is sweet,
health in God’s garden, hope in God’s children,
regeneration that peace will complete.

God of all living, God of all loving,
God of the seedling, the snow, and the sun,
teach us, deflect us, Christ reconnect us,
using us gently, and making us one.

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’s Prayer

Offertory Prayer

You asked for my hands that you might use them for your purpose,
    I gave them for a moment, then withdrew them, for the work was hard. You asked for my mouth to speak out against injustice.
    I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my life that you might work through me.
    I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient for me to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, and only in those who make it easy to do so.
Lord, forgive me, renew me, heal me, nurture me, empower me, send me out as an instrument of your peace and justice that I might take seriously the meaning of servant-leadership.

~ Joe Seramane, Christian Aid Lifelines, South Africa


May God who established the dance of creation,
Who marveled at the lilies of the field,
Who finds order in chaos,
Lead us to transform our lives and the Church to reflect God’s glory in creation.


Go in peace with the strength you have.
            Go simply
Go in search of Love.
And know the Spirit of God goes with you. You are not alone.  Amen

Hymn – Let All Things Now Living

Let all things now living a song of thanksgiving
to God the creator triumphantly raise,
who fashioned and made us, protected and stayed us,
who still guides us on to the end of our days.
God’s banners are o’er us, God’s light goes before us,
a pillar of fire shining forth in the night,
till shadows have vanished and darkness is banished,
as forward we travel from light into light.

God rules all the forces: the stars in their courses
and sun in its orbit obediently shine;
the hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains,
the deeps of the ocean proclaim God divine.
We too should be voicing our love and rejoicing:
with glad adoration a song let us raise
till all things now living unite in thanksgiving:
“To God in the highest, hosanna and praise!”


Chris Johansen