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The Week of Lent 5, April 1, 2020
Prelude O God Our Help In Ages Past Arranged by Paul Manz
(Chorale, Variations 2 & 5)
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal,
have mercy on us.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Show us your mercy, O God,
and grant us your salvation.
Give us the joy of your saving help again,
and sustain us with your bountiful Spirit.
Give peace in all the world;
for only in you can we live in safety.
Keep the nations under your care,
and guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and sustain me with your Holy Spirit.
Lord, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come before you.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray.
Lord God, our refuge and strength, when the restless powers of this world and the waters of chaos rise up against your holy city, watch over it and keep it safe. By the river that flows from the throne of the Lamb, purify this New Jerusalem as your chosen dwelling, for you are with us, our stronghold now and forever. Amen.
Scripture Reading—Psalm 46
1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8Come, behold the works of the LORD;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10"Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth."
11The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
“Be still and know that I am God.” My family will tell you that I have a hard time being still. I pace and fidget. During these days of quarantine, I have walked my neighborhood many times. The other day my neighbor greeted me and said, “you really like to walk a lot, don’t you?” She was politely saying, “you don’t know how to be still, do you?” The French philosopher-theologian Pascal said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” No wonder God had to give us a command to take a Sabbath, to stop and rest now and then.
In Psalm 46 we hear that the kingdoms of the earth are in an uproar…the earth is melting away…desolations threaten. Then comes the command, “Be still and know that I am God.” In the ears of a restless sort like myself, these words sound harsh, dismissive. “How can you be still in a time like this?” But this isn’t a rebuke, as in “sit down,” “stop pacing,” “be quiet.” It is an invitation to enter into the transcendent stillness of God. Remember the story of Elijah before the Lord in 1 Kings 19. The prophet was running for his life from Jezebel and despairing of his call as God’s prophet. On the mountain he encounters God not in the rock splitting wind, or the rattling earthquake, or the raging fire. No, God was in a sound of sheer silence. “Be still and know that I am God.” It means, “don’t be afraid of what comes next.”
We have entered a time of waiting. In Hebrew, the verbs “wait” and “hope” are interchangeable, translated from the same word. But what is it we are waiting for? For waiting, like hoping, demands an object. Theologian Richard Lishcer writes: “We are waiting for a solution to the inexplicable. We are waiting for deliverance from our vulnerability to nature, of course—and from death—but even more from our vulnerability to the self-interest, lying, hoarding, and venality that make the pandemic even worse. Which is to say, we want to be delivered from ourselves.” That more than, back to normal, is what we are waiting for. “Be still and know that I am God.”
We believe that God is with us in our restlessness, our anxiety. That for our sake Jesus subjected himself to convulsions and pangs of human life. The Gospels are honest about his fear in the Garden of Gethsemane, his stumbling and falling on the way to Golgotha, or his agonizing thirst while hanging on the cross, only to be met with mockery. “Be still and know that I am God…because I know how restless your existence is.”
It was this suffering, crucified God, that was so vivid for those in ancient times, especially the Middle Ages. They knew better than we the invisible threats of sickness and death. The God upon a cross was their only refuge and strength. In my more anxious, restless moments, I find myself saying repeatedly a phrase from those ancient days, “But all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This is the best-known line of the mystic Julian of Norwich. She was an anchoress who lived in solitude in Norwich, England in the late 14th century. The plague of 1348–49 was still a raw memory in the eastern part of England when Julian fell desperately ill and took to her bed. Her illness made it hard to breathe, so she prepared herself to die. Her priest was called by her side, and as he prayed the final blessing upon her, he held before her eyes a crucifix. Then a mysterious thing happened. The figure on the cross began to bleed, a scene she described in graphic detail. What she described was a clinical account of something everyone in Norwich would have recognized, like the symptoms of an illness. This Jesus submits himself to the very illness that he cures, even dying from it as he heals her. Her visions are recorded in her Showings or Revelations of Divine Love. It was looking upon the crucified Jesus that led to that well-known line, “But all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
We won’t be here in the sanctuary for Holy Week, but I am thankful that we are headed to the cross to behold the crucified God. This Lent has stripped us bear, and the God upon a cross is our only refuge and strength. “Be still and know that I am God.” In Julian’s visions, several chapters after her declaring that all shall be well, the Lord says to her, “you shall not be overcome.” The nations are in an uproar, the earth melts, desolations threaten the globe. “Be still and know that I am God…all shall be well…you shall not be overcome…for the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Hymn of the Day Lord of All Hopefulness SLANE
Arranged by Paul Manz
1 Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever child-like, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
2 Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
3 Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
4 Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
Text: Jan Struther, 1901-1953
Text © Oxford University Press 1931.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray for the church, the world, all people according to their needs.
Each petition will end with “Hear us, O God”
with the congregation responding: “Your mercy is great”
Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love. Hear us, O God,
Heal those who are sick. May they regain their strength and health through the care of others. Forgive us of our fear, which prevents us from working together and neighbors from helping one another. Forgive us of our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability and callousness to suffering and death. Hear us, O God,
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow. Be with those who have died. May they be at rest with you in your eternal embrace. Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace. Hear us, O God,
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. Be to them their refuge and strength. Hear us, O God,
Be with the leaders of our nation and the leaders of the world. Give them the wisdom to act with charity and concern for the well-being of the people they serve. Hear us, O God,
Whether we are home or away, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace that passes understanding and keep guard over our hearts and minds. For you live and reign with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Almighty God bless us, defend us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.
Postlude O God Our Help In Ages Past Arranged by Paul Manz
From Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2012 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #22525New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Beth Eden Lutheran Church, Newton, NC