sermon for Universe Sunday

(Season of Creation)universe

Proverbs8:22-31; Psalm8; Colossians1:15-20; John6:41-51
I invite you to pause for a moment and really appreciate where you are. Yes in church, in Madison. But also appreciate the wood of the chair you’re sitting on and light shining at you, in from windows and down from electricity. Appreciate the air you’re breathing, how it smells, how it tastes. And your surroundings, the clothes touching your skin, those gathered with you, and the trees and sky and soil surrounding you.

Now change your thought. Picture instead the farthest place away from here you’ve ever been. You may think of another country, or another geography, or another time and era. Recall how the people were different, and the birds you didn’t recognize, the weather that was unusual.

If that place seems far away, then think about this detail: six months ago, at the time we were celebrating Easter and resurrection, you were about 186 million miles away from here. Even if in this same sanctuary, you were located far away on the opposite side of the sun.

As the earth zips along its orbit at 66,000 miles per hour, even if you’re passing the time waiting for next year to be back to that same location, still you’ll be someplace new, as our solar system goes hurtling within the spiraling arms of our neighborhood in the Milky Way galaxy at 483,000 miles per hour. We won’t complete that trip of rotation around the galactic year for another 225 million of our years.

But even then you wouldn’t be back to an original location, because the whole of the universe has continued expanding at maybe 1.3 million miles per hour over the 13.8 or so billion years since the Big Bang.

If you’re trying to keep up with the math, these grand distances end up measured in lightyears, which are unbelievably great, since light moves at 186,000 miles per second, so the distance over a year is about 6 trillion miles. For that, we could say that you’ve covered a lot of territory in your life, but “territory” is still an earthbound word, for the terra firma of land. We don’t want to say that you take up a lot of space. Sillier still, this unfathomable scale has been summed up in a Monty Python song[1], so we need to dig deeper.

How about thinking of it this way: for the promise of resurrection to keep up with you since Easter six months ago, the Holy Spirit has had to fly after and keep trying to alight on you against the stiff breeze of million mile an hour solar winds and cosmic radiation. So, as our group prepares to travel to the Holy Land, we’re not reversing the spacetime continuum to go back to the Jerusalem or Bethlehem of Jesus, yet we must confess Jesus continues forward, not only the Lord of what has gone past but also the fullness of what’s to come.

Amid an expanse of his cosmic domain, let’s first pause for perspective at our nearest star, the sun. There’s been a sense for a couple hundred years that nature is “red in tooth and claw,” with survival of the fittest. Either that makes God our Creator a brute or else it plain doesn’t square with a Lord who was willing to die on the cross, emptying himself in love, in which case nature would (as old the old poet had it) “shriek against [the] creed” for those “who trusted God was love indeed.”2

Yet we need not be distracted by what goes violently wrong. We may still trust love as the shape and goal of the universe. With our detour past the sun, David Keesey-Berg shared an excerpt from cosmologist Brian Swimme,3 that the sun gives 4 million tons of itself every second for our life, using up and sacrificing for our warmth and light and photosynthesis creating food. And stellar fusion creates the elements that make up our bodies, perhaps a hint of life out of death. From this generosity of the self-giving sun, then, we see the shape of life not merely or even mostly in competition but as a symbiosis, sharing, life together, in relationship.

Trusting this is the Wisdom and guiding force present since before worlds began, we should be able to identify such fingerprints as godly indicators.

But the harder trust, the more incredible sense, may be to forecast that into the future, not only of origins but also of destinations, of goals. That requires the language of redemption, which the writer of Colossians understood must be entirely true to be true at all.

With that, Joseph Sittler, a Lutheran theologian, gave a famous speech at a World Council of Churches gathering in New Delhi 55 years ago in which he proclaimed with Colossians that some views are too small, with the error (he said) of “assum[ing] that there were ‘thrones, dominions, principalities, and authorities’ which have a life and power apart from Christ, [assuming] that the real world was a dualism, one part… (ensconcing the power of evil) was not subject to the Lordship of the Creator in Christ.”4 Sittler highlights how Colossians won’t back down, though, emphasizing “all things” six times in these few verses. Sittler even says, in the aftershock of hydrogen bombs, that “When atoms are disposable to the ultimate hurt then the very atoms must be reclaimed for God and [God’s] will.”5 From the microscopic to the vastest unimaginable scale, this proclamation can leave nothing out.

So to be your redeemer and Lord, Jesus must be able to redeem you from your wrongs and sins, be able to redeem and restore fractured relationships, must offer salvation from illnesses and death. His message of resurrection must chase you through the stars and across the galaxy, and it must include not just small personal moments of human trust and doubt, of justice versus evil, of worries and endings, but must also include the eventual fate of the whole cosmos, or else it can’t be true. “All things, in heaven and on earth, things visible and invisible.” He must be Lord of your very specific life on earth, simultaneous to being responsible for and committed to the nearly infinite details of the universe.

So the instances of interactions with our life simply must be everywhere. Trusting this fullness and Wisdom of Christ as Lord of all, for example, we attend especially in this time of stewardship to him as Lord of our finances and schedules. But it’s not just the microeconomics of families, but the macroeconomics of this household of earth. So his lordship must also include banks that steal from customers and fail in their role even as they’re too big to fail and he must redeem them and us from their failure. And the lordship of Jesus must save us from commercial capitalism that tries to convince us comfort and convenience are our kings and queens. Mortgages and markets must not ultimately control or own us. Jesus must be Lord for the whole economic system that pretends it can persist in depleting a finite earth.

With Professor Sittler’s word on evil authorities, we must once again proclaim that Jesus is Lord of the sad, disgusting politics we face right now, not just in claiming votes of those who believe a candidate is chosen by God, but Jesus is somehow redeeming even those who are deemed irredeemable, since no rulers or powers remain outside his reach.

In another separate aspect of his same realm, Jesus is Lord of zoology and climatology and astronomy, as we’ve noticed better in recent weeks of this Season of Creation, delighting in beastly monsters and abundant animals, and commanding even the weather. So, again, Jesus must be Lord not only of sunsets over serene mountain lakes but also in redeeming toxic waste and bringing good, raising new life from landfills.

He is Lord not just of morality and ethics, as is most often the presumption of the religious, not just for the innermost contemplation that guides future motives, but also Lord of the nebulae and galactic clusters farther away than our best telescopes can peer into the past. And as Lord, he must be expected to bring newness not only out of supernovas but also somehow to pull life out of black holes and the cold, lonely distance of expanding entropy.

This Lord Jesus came because God so loved the world, God so loved the cosmos (with that original Greek word), and—should we discover realities beyond ours—God so loves the multiverse.

He came down from heaven, as he says in John. We needn’t hold that as someplace up above the sky, beyond space. We might simply say Jesus came to the existence we know, even if we only know it in part, only dimly. He came to give you life now, and on the last day—whatever that means and whatever we expect—on that day he will still be giving life. This is his ongoing work, the will of God, even when we don’t really get it and fall back into the clutches of the other authorities or imagine life lacks his wholeness.

Yet again to remind and reconnect you, of the blessing and your role in it, to conclude here is another poem from Colossians Remixed. As I shared back in July, this stunning updating is an expansion of the reading we heard today:


In an image-saturated world,

a world of ubiquitous corporate logos

permeating our conscience

a world of dehydrated and captive


in which we are too numbed, satiated, and


to be able to dream of a life otherwise

a world in which the empire of global

economic affluence

has achieved the monopoly of our


in this world

Christ is the image of the invisible God

in this world

driven by images with a vengeance

Christ is the image par excellence

the image above all other images

the image that is not a façade

the image that is not trying to sell you


the image that refuses to co-opt you

Christ is the image of the invisible God

the image of God

a flesh-and-blood


in time and history

with joys and sorrows

image of who God is

the image of God

a flesh-and-blood


in time and history

with joys and sorrows

image of who we are called to be

image-bearers of this God

He is the source of a liberated imagination

a subversion of the empire

because it all starts with him

and it all ends with him


all things

whatever you can imagine

visible and invisible

mountains and atoms

outer space, urban space and cyberspace

whether it be the Pentagon, Disneyland,

Microsoft or AT&T

whether it be the institutional power


of the state, the academy or the market

all things have been created in him and

through him

he is their source, their purpose, their goal,

even in the rebellion,

even in their idolatry

he is the Sovereign One

their power and authority is derived at best

parasitic at worst

In the face of the empire

in the face of presumptuous claims to


in the face of the imperial and idolatrous

forces in our lives

Christ is before all things

he is sovereign in life

not the pimped dreams of the global


not the idolatrous forces of nationalism

not the insatiable desires of a consumerist


In the face of a disconnected world

where home is a domain in cyberspace

where neighborhood is a chat room

where public space is a shopping mall

where information technology promises

a tuned-in, reconnected world

all things hold together in Christ

the creation is a deeply personal cosmos

all cohering and interconnected in Jesus

And this sovereignty takes on cultural flesh

And this coherence of all things is socially


in the Church

against all odds

against most of the evidence

In a “show me” culture where words alone

don’t cut it

the Church is

the flesh-and-blood


in time and history

with joys and sorrows

embodiment of this Christ

as a body politic

around a common meal

in alternative economic practices

in radical service to the most vulnerable

in refusal of the empire

in love of this creation

the Church reimagines the world

in the image of the invisible God

In the face of a disappointed world of


a world in which all fixed points have

proven illusory

a world in which we are anchorless and


Christ is the foundation

the origin

the way

the truth

and the life

In the face of a culture of death

a world of killing fields

a world of the walking dead

Christ is at the head of the resurrection


transforming our tears of betrayal into

tears of joy

giving us dancing shoes for the

resurrection party

And this glittering joker

who has danced in the dragon’s jaws of


now dances with a dance that is full

of nothing less than the fullness of God

this is the dance of the new creation

this is the dance of life out of death

and in this dance all that was broken

all that was estranged

all that was alienated

all that was dislocated and disconnected

what once was hurt

what once was friction

is reconciled

comes home

is healed

and is made whole

because Grace makes beauty out of ugly



all things

whatever you can imagine

visible and invisible

mountains and atoms

outer space, urban space, and cyberspace

every inch of creation

every dimension of our lives

all things are reconciled in Him

And it all happens on a cross

it all happens at a state execution

where the governor did not commute the


it all happens at the hands of the empire

that has captured our imagination

it all happens through blood

not through a power grab by the sovereign


it all happens in embraced pain

for the sake of others

it all happens on a cross

arms outstretched in embrace

and this is the image of the invisible God

this is the Body of Christ6





[1] “Galaxy Song,” (viewer discretion, please)

2 Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam A.H.H.” canto LVI

3 The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story p39

4  “Called to Unity” in Evocations of Grace, p39

5 p46

6 from Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire, Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmat, p85-89



sermon for Storm Sunday

Job28:20-27; Psalm29; 1Corinthians1:21-31; Luke8:22-25

Given the lack of Mosquito Sunday or Lamprey Sunday, Bacteria, Virus, & Parasites


Sunday or Carp-With-a-Face-Only-a-Mother-Could-Love Sunday, given that Sundays of that nature are not named amid this Season of Creation, it seems Storm Sunday bears the weight of less lovely parts of creation and how to address those and see them as part of the whole. That will be our final direction, too, with a crucified God willing to engage the ugly and painful in creation and our lives.

We begin in continuing to recognize the complexity of creation not being straightforwardly constantly charming. Some in this vast family of creatures are even plain unlikeable (though honestly that just reinforces the notion of it being a family, since almost all of us know what it’s like not always to get along in our families, occasionally finding each other lacking in adorable lovability).

Already in this Season of Creation, we’ve dealt with aspects of creation that don’t appeal to us, that aren’t useful as “natural resources” and may even—in the very identity of their existence—prove harmful to humans. We glimpsed that broader delight—moving beyond the anthropocentric, human-focused view of the world—most specifically in God’s praise of Leviathan, the fearsome sea monster.

We may meet that idea still more deeply with storms, that there isn’t an unambiguous good in them. Just as we must see ourselves simultaneously as sinners and saints, there is the complexity of evil versus righteousness even within the elements of nature.

Water, for example, is most often glorified in our worship services as life-giving, as the cleansing spring to purify and renew us in our baptism, and as what parches the dry and weary deserts to refresh flowers and sustain our own bodies. Yet particularly in recent weeks, we’ve also endured a negative side of water, when there’s too much and it takes away life, when floods destroy crops and trickles find ways to seep into our basements.

With that sense, it seems we have to gird ourselves for the buffeting of this storm. Rather than retread the same territory of past weeks that declares God’s blessing as wider than the measures of our mind, today we can’t leave the creatures of the deep off to the side or declare that God is the mother who loves even the ugly faces.

In this confrontation, an obvious approach is awe. Storms demand respect or amazement. That may be with anvilhead cumulonimbus clouds blackening against the top of the troposphere with internal gales that can sling up and down softball-sized hail. I can’t quite comprehend that, much less truly big things like jet streams and the Coriolis effect. And then there are the stunning statistics, like lightning bolts being five times hotter than the surface of the sun and carrying a billion volt electrical charge. Or Hurricane Matthew with winds that sustained at more than 175 mph (while category 5)  and was bigger than the whole state of Wisconsin, with an intensity from which some will never recover, and yet amid that had an eye of the storm where it was calm and the sun was shining. I can’t really grasp the experience of either of those fronts.

Perhaps I don’t need to mention blizzards and windchills right now. I will say that a part of me unwisely longs to witness a tornado. But, again, I can’t fathom that it could peel asphalt from a road and lift homes off their foundation and bend metal vehicles beyond recognition and toss them miles away. The closest image I can hold of it is Dorothy’s house spinning up away from Kansas, with trees and a chicken coop, a rowboat and a cow drifting past. Even more incomprehensible is the thought that tornados can annihilate one house, and then leap completely over another and leave it unscathed. Particularly since among these destructive so-called “acts of God,” that sense of tornadoes is labeled on occasion as the “finger of God,” we’ll have to return to that.

In the meantime, we may trace at least some of the reason for this correlation. Indeed, when God speaks in the book of Job, it is out of a whirlwind. Both God and storms are seen as rare things larger than we are, enormous and unpredictable, as unapproachable and therefore associated with the terms fear and awe. That’s interesting, since we don’t much these days or in this place hang on to these concepts of God. We better envisage God as that loving Mother or as buddy Jesus—and what a friend we have in him!—or as a benign encouraging energy. But perhaps a side benefit to this Storm Sunday is not only that we pay attention to this part of creation, but also hold on to the inexplicable mystery of an awesome God.

So we might try to approach this fearsome grandeur (of either God or storms) by seeking the benefits, sort of peering past the humbling to glimpse more agreeable edges, finding that metaphorical silver lining in the literal thunderclouds. So we might notice that nitrogen essential for the growth of plants and for our own wellbeing is made available by the violence of lightning strikes. We may find gratitude for cyclones stirring ocean waters warming colder parts of the ocean and the planet. We may observe the spring floods not only carved the Grand Canyon but also year-by-year sustained life both by clearing away waste and by depositing rich silts, from making the ancient Nile fertile for farming for our predecessors to fostering the richness for abundant life in Mississippi backwaters in a way that our runoff-controlling dams no longer allow. We’re up against the balance of where storms encourage life and where our resistance to the storms also squelches ecological well-being.

Of course, while we talk about the power of storms, we also have to recognize our own power that magnifies the storms, that is making ocean waters more fertile for violence and is enraging wildfires and changing the content of clouds and is creating feedback loops that likely in some way are affecting not only our insurance premiums but our neighboring farmers and food prices and such. We aren’t merely victims in this complex and interrelated system.

But that, more than ever, might make us ask about the place of God, about where God is in the midst of the storms. This, of course, is Job’s question. In the verses we heard today, Job trusts that there’s some wisdom of God’s in the storms, a decree and shape for winds and lightning bolts, some kind of divine plan for where waters will flow. In interesting poetic language, Job declares that even Death and Destruction don’t understand this. We might take that to mean the storms aren’t only the work of punishment or disaster, but something more.

Yet even while these verses proclaim some confidence in or acceptance of God’s work and wisdom in the inexplicable, Job won’t give up his protest. In this same speech a few paragraphs later, he accuses God of hurling him to and fro, saying “you blow me apart in the tempest” (30:22, NJB). So it seems we must deal with agency, of God causing the storms, of these, indeed being acts of God.

For that, the Gospel reading supposes two alternate possibilities. On the one hand, if the storm is allowed to wreak its havoc, if the waves swamp us and danger threatens to overpower us, if we are in some figurative or actual way “sunk,” then we have to wonder if God is asleep at the wheel, if Jesus is snoozing in the back of the boat and not at all mindful of our trauma or terrors. The version of this story in Mark’s Gospel has the disciples begging the incisive question, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?!”

With the other perspective, it may seem that in that instance (at least) God cared. Jesus woke up and the one with power to command the winds and the water rebuked the storm, and the raging waves ceased.

Now, maybe those disciples had the benefit of being able to prod Jesus in their boat. Yet if we have the privilege of carrying everything to him and the promise that he hears, still we must ask about these storms, these alleged acts of God. I may be wrong, but I don’t believe that my petitions or insistent begging or frantic prayers would make the tornado skip over my house to hit somebody else’s instead. On the other hand, while I do believe God established patterns for weather and natural systems, I don’t believe God just puffed the atmosphere into existence and lets it run its course, but still interacts with us and responds to us and strives for us.

So what? What could that mean?

Perhaps again we turn to Paul’s stunning words from the start of 1st Corinthians for another perspective, this message of the cross as God’s wisdom. In this alternative vision, storms aren’t the “acts of God” wantonly spreading destruction, much less inflicted as punishment (as we’re sometimes told, for categories of sin or whatever). And God’s presence is not either ignorant of our concerns nor simply elevating us out of risk and worry. Rather, in the cross, we have the peculiar evidence of God with us in suffering and even through loss, a God who won’t miraculously still every storm at our insistence, but even more miraculously won’t abandon ship or leave you alone in your fears. God in Christ is not unscathed by the storm. This incomprehensible and awesome God, mightier than a hurricane and more persistent than the spread of floodwaters assures, “Fear not, I am with you, oh, be not dismayed, for I am your God and will still give you aid.” (How Firm a Foundation, ELW 696)



reflection on Lutherans & Sacraments

for World Communion Sunday

(Habakkuk1:1-4,2:1-4; 2Timothy1:1-14)


In the MCC Vision-Tending team that is focused on this partnership, in worship committees, and other conversations have been requests about better understanding each other. We’re not smushing together denominations, but sharing while also maintaining our individual unique identities and beliefs. Of course, at MCC that’s still not just two categories of beliefs but uniquely proliferates to each of us gathered now. Still, this World Communion Sunday, celebrating what it means to be together and partaking in sacraments seemed like an appropriate time to reflect on similarities and differences.

So this is a fast reflection on the general Lutheran sense of sacraments. Clearly that can’t hit all the questions, but will at least try to establish a core. I want to jump in with the song the Chimes just played for us: Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. That’s a perfect place to begin, making us ask: do you know Jesus loves you because of the Bible? The standard tale claims somebody hanging by a thread could open that well-stashed Gideon copy in their hotel’s drawer. But they most likely wouldn’t open to a passage that told them Jesus loved them. They may hit a part with rules they broke or a violent historical account. Even if they found exactly the right verse, while at rock bottom they likely wouldn’t believe that that message of love could be for them. That Bible, they’d figure, must’ve been written for somebody else.

Preaching is intended to resolve that gap, declaring to each other the message—or the Word from God—that Jesus loves you. Not that Jesus loved a type of person or somebody back when the Bible was written. Or that Jesus loves generically. The message of a sermon, or when we proclaim the gospel to each other, is that Jesus loves you. Yes, you.

Still, that’s not foolproof. You may remain unable to hear my voice as a word from God applying to you. Given that I don’t know what you’ve done, can I claim that God could love you? Or you may have had a rotten week which sure didn’t exhibit God’s love, so it may still feel like the message is for someone else. Plus, I stand up here, and some of you sit way in the back.

Which brings us to sacraments, to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as Jesus trying to ensure the promise is delivered directly to you. In baptism, as the water hit Sawyer’s and Auden’s heads, it came with God’s declaration, “You are my son, my daughter, I love you. I will always love you, no matter what.” That promise was delivered with the splash of water so that Auden and Sawyer may trust it was exactly for them and nobody else in that moment.

And as you take a nibble of bread and sip of wine, Jesus is promising that he is there for you, with the fullness of his gracious, forgiving, loving presence, offering his life and all he has. For you. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how you feel about it, this is for you.

Saying this is Jesus’ body and blood almost certainly raises questions. Those of you with Catholic backgrounds know transubstantiation. Well, Lutherans don’t go in for that hocus pocus.* Instead, we might begin to ask: where is God? Quickly we’d respond that God is everywhere. That means God is in my shoe and out in the chicken coop and God is in the bread, because God is ubiquitous.

But the importance is in knowing where to look for God. We tend to look at death or tragedies, at refugees of war or a frustrating political mess and wonder where God could possibly be. That’s the situation we’ll hear in Habakkuk. But it’s vital not to be stuck with the guessing games of where God might be or what God might be up to. Instead here is the confidence in water of God promising love. God is in a piece of bread to offer forgiveness and life. So even when it’s miserable and you’d wonder if God forgot about you or maybe you’re even being punished, you can rather remember your baptism, receive and taste again the assurance of Jesus with you.

Though it’s surprising that God would use packaged bread from the co-op and Wollersheim wine and plain ol’ unholy tap water, you may even more doubt another of God’s means and ends, meaning me and you. First, what makes me a pastor? I’m a scrawny young goofball, and certainly no better than you are. But this role isn’t about being holier or having magical mojo. Really, anybody can say these words, just as whenever you’re told God loves you. I’m just here for reliability, hopefully so you can count on me (and the same for Sonja). I’m paid to hang around this place so when you need to be told God loves you, you can rely on me to say it.

And I’m supposed to do that for you with God’s utter abandon, with the total unconditional sense, not based on how good you’ve been or likeable you seem or anything like that. God is so reckless and so insistent on this love that it’s not based on earning it at all, as 2nd Timothy says (though indirectly, as I’m having to apply that message for you now). For this constant support and guide and resource, God chooses even babies. God makes this promise before we can prove how we’ll turn out in life at all.

With that was an interesting Confirmation discussion this past week. One student said she would’ve preferred a choice about being baptized. But do we ever have a choice about being loved? We can run or reject or rebel, but we can’t stop being loved—in good instances from people we know, but always from God. God chooses love before all and through all.

Alongside that, it strikes me as a little silly that we have elected that teenage as the time for Affirmation of Baptism. That age in life is about exploring all the edges and possibilities, pushing boundaries and testing authorities. Most teenagers would be hard-pressed to claim the love of family, of which they’ve had good evidence, so why ask them to affirm a love from God that requires much more uncertain trust?

Still, that exhibits the persistence of this promise. Jesus is still for you, still striving after love, still offering life, continuously working for and through you, whether you think you understand it or not, can explain it or not, whether you’d choose it, ready or not.

And that’s some of the important Lutheran word for a World Communion Sunday, that this isn’t limited by or dependent on how well we’re getting along or how well-qualified anybody thinks we are. This is the presence of the Holy Spirit more constantly than we can imagine and can only begin to trust. This is God’s way of using the mundane as sacred, the unexpected blessing, the earthy for godly purposes, the ordinary as miraculous, in bread, wine and water, from common folks, in drawing a diverse group of us together, binding us across the world, throughout the generations as family, and motivating us to share this life with all.

*As delivered, I’m realizing this was poor word choice.  Behind it, “hocus pocus” was a term from those who didn’t understand the Latin “hoc corpus meum est—this is my body,” and thought the priest had powers in magical incantations to transform the bread to something else. But that distinction got lost in what seemed like making light of disparaging others’ beliefs. I apologize.


sermon for Animal Sunday

(Job39:1-12,126-30; Psalm104:14-23,31; 1Corinthians1:10-23; Luke12:5-6,22-31)
For a couple decades, Dave Rhoads, an emeritus professor from the Chicago seminary, has been among the most important inventors and instigators for this ecological edge in Lutheran churches. (He’s also a friend of Joyce Anderson’s from her church in Racine.)
Fitting this Animal Sunday, Dave tells of a dream where he was going to receive communion and found himself next to a snake, and then a person next in line, and then a raccoon with its paws extended, then a bird at communion eating bread crumbs.*
Perhaps that’s an image to keep in mind for this day, and is among the reasons we ourselves are receiving communion each Sunday of this season, even without bears and turtles lined up with us, still a reminder that we are in communion with all creation—not just with wheat and grape, but with pollinators and soil microbes and deer along the roadsides that lead to markets and grazing blackbirds and sunshine and rain and so much more.
But if you’re still feeling that we’re a mainly human contingent gathered in church this morning, then you may yet turn your faithful attention to the words we have from Psalm 104. This is no Isaian (65:25) “peaceable kingdom,” where the wolf lays down with the lamb and the lion eats straw like an ox. No, in Psalm 104 the lion still eats ox like a lion. Those young lions lurk and prowl at night to find their food, food given to them by God, just as the grass is given for cattle and grain for us. It may not be a utopian dream in Psalm 104, but it very much is a faithful “topian” vision. It’s not a “utopia” (literally meaning “no place” or “not a place”) but is firmly rooted in place, in the actual topography of our lives amid this world. With that, the Psalm sees God not only as some distant goal, but as fully engaged and caring about these different and disagreeing creatures here and now. So the lions still get to be carnivores. And humans get wine. (Though, for full disclosure we’re not the only ones who enjoy alcohol; cedar waxwings eat fruit that has hung on trees too long and fermented, until they can even get so tipsy they can’t quite fly on course. Though it’s not that birds need a DUI patrolling squad car—an absurd notion, but which we’ll reflect on more later.)
Anyway, just as we heard in another beautiful and expansive selection in Job that portrays members of creation far from humans, Psalm 104 also nicely attends to distinct habitats as blessing from God for biodiversity, the varieties of life. God grows trees for birds. God created night for nocturnal animals. From our Darwinian understanding of natural selection we may question which direction this actually proceeds, but nevertheless Psalm 104 is onto something in its attention to specific habitats with the thriving of species.
Among that, I especially have been enjoying what we read from verse 18, “the stony cliffs are a refuge for the badgers.” Instead of “badger,” other translations use the odd animal terms “coneys” or “hyrax.” So I sent a note this week to one of my Old Testament professors, Diane Jacobson, who worked on this translation for our hymnals. Since it relates to our own shared habitat, I asked her, “can the Wisconsin Badger fans amid my congregation claim blessing with the appearance of these badgers?” She replied that was, “remarkably insightful and clearly part of original authorial intent.” So there you have it, a special divine nod to Bucky.
Whether it’s as playful as that or not, I also love Diane’s translation in verse 22, where the night ends and the sun rises and, as she phrases it, the lions “lay themselves down” in their dens. It seems a poetic reflection of that old bedtime prayer, “now I lay me down to sleep.” Though we’re awake at different times and eat different things and rest in different places, still the echo in that verse ties our lives to the lives of lions, refusing to let them be too separate from us. We can see other animals as our siblings, as part of this vast family.
But that may confront us with the Gospel reading, which seems to play family favorites. Last week I’d said that our God doesn’t care “exclusively or maybe even mostly about humans.” This would seem to be yet another example of why I should read ahead to the next week’s lesson and actually pay attention to what Jesus says before I open my big mouth. Or maybe it’s an example of the interplay of Scripture, how it doesn’t all say the same exact thing, but does disagree or is in situational dialogue with itself. So last week’s readings portrayed God’s delight in cavorting with Leviathan the sea monster, though it was harmful to humans. But today Jesus promises that “you are of more value than many sparrows” or flowers of the field or ravens. One reading seems to say humans are just one among many, amid the mix of this grand family of creatures, and the other says you are most valuable.
So what would make Jesus say we are more highly valued by God than sparrows? We certainly can’t say you’re cuter than a tiger cub or more precious than pandas. It may be claimed that, just as we feel special kinship looking into the face of a chimpanzee, that we’re valued because we are more like God, though I’m particularly reluctant to make that argument. Indeed, as categories of creature or Creator, we’d have to confess we’re more like chinchillas or alligators or poinsettia plants or moon rocks than like God.
Instead, might the value be by body mass, that big creatures get more attention than little ones? That’s often our human tendency, to count and notice the plight of megafauna like elephants or polar bears or whales, but to be less invested in smaller creatures.
Or maybe lifespan gives us more value, where mayflies only last for a day, or rabbits breed three times per year and are mature at four months old, or why Jesus mentions sparrows, that typically live only to 4 years or so in the wild, just as Aldo Leopold noticed chickadee mortality rates were more than 50% after a single winter.
Or maybe another factor in our value and associated with our lifespan is our place in the food chain, that it takes a lot of mosquitoes to feed one bat, or rabbits to feed a hawk, that there are fewer snakes than mice and fewer mice than grasshoppers. Or in your case, that it takes a lot of salmon, who ate even more herring or crayfish, which had to eat scads of larvae or plankton.
To try on a completely different version, though, of why God would value us differently than lilies or sparrows, it might be because of what we’re capable of, or what our potential is. This is true in both negative and positive ways. To return to the absurd drunk flying cedar waxwings, they don’t need police to pull them over for imbibing too much fermented fruit because they won’t do much harm that way, whereas we need laws about drinking and driving because we are all too liable to harm others.
Or, in an apparently more benign perspective, what we cause in getting this bread and wine here today may be terribly destructive. That process may be destroying other life and interrupting cycles of well-being and altering the habitats that other animals depend on. Fields may be covered in pesticides and insecticides that help our grain and grapes to grow, but harm other life and, we’re learning, will even wreck the health of the soil. It’s still a fairly new thing to think of healthy dirt. More, our roads not only bear risk for the deer standing alongside them, but also carry vehicles that are polluting the air and changing the climate of the planet, even for those animals that live far, far away from direct human presence.
And there are those birds of the air that Jesus mentions. My life may be of more value than many sparrows (and our habits benefit house sparrows and crows and seagulls). But I wonder about trading the value of my life, what it would be not to count myself more than, for example, an extinct passenger pigeon. I wonder what I’d trade to be able to see flocks that block out the sun all day. Or to see an auk or 12 foot tall great moa of New Zealand or a Carolina parakeet that was exterminated for the benefit of making hats or an ivory-billed woodpecker that simply didn’t have enough old forests.
Or if I wouldn’t actually trade my life for a bird’s, what would I sacrifice? We figured out how to make do without DDT in order for bald eagles again to soar over our Wisconsin lakes and figured it may be okay that cranes cause crop damage. But what else of my life would I change or give up for the wellbeing of another creature?
That question may be the reason we hear the assigned reading from 1st Corinthians today. There’s nothing very natural or animal-ish in there, but maybe it is the guidance from Jesus that we as faithful humans have a spot in creation not only to cause harm but to ask what we may sacrifice for others (or for “otters”), following the way of the cross that doesn’t try to claim my own life is more valuable for being hoarded, but finds the worth in community of God’s blessing.
Perhaps that’s a perspective of our value, in assessing what can go wrong, and also in figuring how to do better. We’re valued because God strives so much to redeem you. Weighing whether comfort and convenience, our worries in life of what we eat or wear, that this is not worth the loss of life, I’m offering the last word to Aldo Leopold. From his speech at Wyalusing State Park, this is for “the funeral of a species,” on a monument to the passenger pigeon:
We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that [humans] are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution. This new knowledge should have given us…a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures;…of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.…
These things, I say, should have come to us. I fear they have not come to many.
For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun. The Cro-Magnon who slew the last mammoth thought only of steaks. The sportsman who shot the last pigeon thought only of his prowess. The sailor who clubbed the last auk thought of nothing at all. But we, who have lost our pigeons, mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the pigeons would hardly have mourned us. In this fact [and this potential], rather than in [synthetic] nylon or [computers or nuclear] bombs, lies objective evidence of our superiority over the beasts.**
** found in A Sand County Almanac
Rejoicing with all creation, let us pray for the church, the world, and all those in need.
God of all creation, with all creation we join in praise. And as Francis of Assisi preached your word to the birds, we pray you open our ears to hear other creatures preaching you to us. We also give thanks for these favorite animals in our household or larger family of earth now (PAUSE) Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray today as one among many, as one species surrounded by millions. So we think of those who are close, like the chickens and chickadees, crows, raccoons, and coyotes, and those farther away and more foreign to us, in jungles and deserts, on mountains and in the depths of seas. In all of this, we ask your blessing on these creatures and sustenance in their habitats. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give thanks for political movements that care for creation, for 100 years of the National Park Service, for the Endangered Species Act, the Department of Natural Resources, for nations working together on climate change, for organizations that motivate us to take up this challenge. Expand our hearts and strengthen us for sacrificial love. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
We pray for the health of creatures who are at risk, for snow leopards and orcas, rhinocersoses and manatees, for karner blue butterflies and kirtland’s warbler, for those suffering from too much rain–for farmers, those with flooded homes, and creatures around there. For all these places of concern, for animals as well as the people we worry about and which we name now, silent or aloud (PAUSE). Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Celebrating the beauty of creation’s habitats, we also celebrate the beauty of these quilts that surround us today. We praise you for the blessing of hardworking and deeply caring hands that have made them, and pray for all the places around this world where people will receive them from Lutheran World Relief. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
In the promise that you chose us and, in the fullness of time, will gather all things on earth into your embrace, bring us with all creation around your throne in eternal praise. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Gather all these prayers and whatever else you see we need as we join together with these concluding words:
Jesus Christ, teach us to empathize with Earth. Make our spirits sensitive to the cries of creation, for justice from the land, the seas, and the skies. Jesus Christ, make our faith sensitive to the longing groans of the Spirit in creation. Jesus Christ, make our hearts sensitive to the songs of our kin, celebrations from the sea, the forest, and the air. Christ, teach us to care. Amen

sermon for Ocean Sunday

(Job38:1-18; Psalm104:24-26; Ephesians1:3-10oceans; Luke5:1-11)
In spite of having been an official promoter for the Season of Creation for a number of years, this is my first time actually using it.

The Season of Creation was put together (by Norman Habel, whom Lindy Wilson met long ago up at Holden Village) to cover an apparent gap in the normal lectionary, that there was no explicit time to highlight and reflect on God as Creator and our place amid this vast sweep of creatures in creation. (At the end of the Season, we’ll attend to just how vast the sweep is, on Universe Sunday.) Even without that explicit opportunity, though, I hope I am among those clearly showing you we should be seeing Creator, creation, creatures, creative faithfulness most everywhere we turn. Still, I’m in favor of this Season of Creation…at least basically.

See, I’m also discovering it leaves a couple of conundrums. The first is that in the common lectionary and in our usual worship service, we don’t focus on themes or concepts or nouns in this way. The center of worship isn’t generically love or family or prison or health or morality or whatever. Those things may come up, but it’s through our overall lens: the norm of our focus is Jesus and God. So it’s a conundrum to call today “Ocean Sunday,” as if that’s our primary focus, rather than God.

The other conundrum or temptation is that, since creation isn’t typically highlighted, there’s a lot that could be crammed into these days. There is so much room for faithful reflection on oceans that we’d be flooded with or drowning in the possibilities (as even those metaphors might indicate).

Just as an example from other potential Bible passages, I remember hearing Jeff Wild talk about trees marking the Bible, with the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden at the beginning in Genesis 2, the tree of Jesus’ cross in the middle, and the tree for the healing of the nations at the end in Revelation 22. Well, we could say the same about oceans and God’s trajectory of salvation. The very start of Genesis 1 has the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep, the tehom in Hebrew, a primordial chaos from which God will call forth life, or maybe it’s even a play on the name Tiamat, a dead Babylonian god, with the biblical story as a counterpoint that our God doesn’t battle and destroy, but orderly creates life.

In the middle, instead of the tree of the cross, we might notice the Sea of Galilee, not only in today’s reading, but even more instead of the tree of death we might say the sea is life, as the resurrected Jesus meets his followers there to lead into the next part of the story (John 21).

And in Revelation 21, alongside a new heaven and a new earth is a change, that the “sea was no more.” Admittedly that’s a strange line for today, when we are called to notice faithfully the goodness and life in the oceans, the extravagant abundance of coral reefs as the richest biodiversity on the planet, the remarkable foreignness of bioluminescent creatures that somehow survive in the dark depths that would crush us with such severe water pressure, or the currents ebbing and flowing across the globe, responsive to the moon and rotation around the sun, and the amazing migrations and whale conversation along the leagues of those open expanses, or even the liquid breathing that is hydrologic cycles of evaporation and rain and clouds and temperature exchange that form hurricanes to stir up weather and nutrients and in some enormous way sustain patterns of life. Revelation can’t want to get rid of all of that when it says “the sea was no more,” right? The thrust of Revelation, rather, is symbolizing an end to the fearful primordial mess that didn’t want to cooperate with a God of blessing and life.

Indeed, in another way that 21st chapter of Revelation emphasizes some of the same main point as this Season of Creation, that faith isn’t about heaven that’s elsewhere or else-when, but is for the here and now. “The home of God is among mortals,” Revelation declares, as does the overall message of Scripture. God is with us. And not just us. This isn’t a God who cares exclusively or maybe even mostly about humans.

That points us—at long last—to an ocean reading we do have assigned today, from the book of Job. (Incidentally, in three years of Revised Common Lectionary readings, we hear from Job twice but will have three readings from Job in these four weeks of the Season of Creation.) At this point in the story, for 37 chapters Job had been puzzling out why life wasn’t going well, why he suffered, and his friends said God was punishing him.

But then God speaks, and maybe even seems a bit distracted, or at least clearly and certainly isn’t focused on punishing Job. God in some way says that life isn’t centered on us. And so life amid creation may seem confusingly chaotic to you, but it’s also much vaster, grander, and more complex than we can understand. That was true of what people knew back then, and in substantial ways it is true even of our scientific knowledge today. There’s still so much we can’t quite comprehend, of how our blood levels relate to the salt of the ocean, of how dolphins communicate with brains that exceed ours, or simply of how jellyfish came to be.

But maybe more important than the message that we’re in the same incomprehensible boat as Job is that in this speech God has delight for creation, for creatures God made, not as natural resources waiting to be used by humans, maybe not useful to humans in the least, and even on occasion harmful to us, but still a delight to God.

This comes out also in the snippet of Psalm we read, about God sporting and cavorting with Leviathan. That delighted, almost giddy appraisal takes up a whole chapter in Job 41, comprising the culmination  of God’s speech. What’s significant is that Leviathan was the sea monster, the most fearful part of that oceanic chaos, the thing that swallowed sailors and couldn’t be caught and ruled in destroying boats with tremendous terror. Now, we don’t need a fish finder searching for the Loch Ness monster in order for this faithful sentiment of these verses to be true. It means that God can see fearsome great white sharks as good, as well as giant squid that we’ve never even seen alive, much less plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs and weird enormous trilobites and chambered nautilus and millions of years of sea life that existed—or, better, were creatures—long before humans were anywhere in sight.

Maybe with that non-human emphasis, we’re ready for a change in tone amid this reflection. It’s a task of striking some sort of balance. God wasn’t saying Job was unimportant or that his suffering was trivial or meaningless to God. Similarly, it’s not that God doesn’t care about you to highlight the fact that God delights in lantern fish of the deep and oozy sea cucumbers and that God would mourn the overharvesting of blue tang because they look like “Finding Dory” and people want them in aquariums or cod for Friday fish fry.

But that overfishing becomes exactly a hard point with our Gospel reading. We may take this in all kinds of ways that would be contradictory to the overall point of this day. The reading has creatures of the deep, but it doesn’t seem to emphasize marine ecology. Instead, the people catch too many fish (apparently at Jesus’ instruction) and then leave behind their boats for what would seem to be claimed as the more important task of catching people. And it would be an obvious stretch to say that Jesus called them away from their boats in order to stop the overfishing of the Sea of Galilee and let the natural ecosystem restore. In spite of having a nice setting along the sea, this reading seems too human-centered.

Even worse is when we transform these natural details and the realities of life instead into spiritual metaphors, that when Jesus says to cast your nets in deep water that it’s about trying to be open to a deep and mysterious experience of faith. I’m sure loads of sermons have been preached that way on this text, but it has little to do with what Jesus says, and it sure doesn’t have much direct connection to lives of faith in this world. For some pious-sounding lesson, it becomes detached from life and interactions amid creation.

And if that’s a risk with the Gospel reading, it’s a direct impediment in the Ephesians stuff. It’s trying to open our eyes to the vastness of a cosmic Christ, to which we’ll return next month, but in the meantime it’s convoluted and dense and the whole thing in Greek is one long run-on sentence and it’s thick with technical theological jargon and—even though it wraps up by proclaiming that the ultimate goal of Jesus is to attend to and care for all things on earth—still it hardly touches down to the ground or dips its toes in the actual water of what this really means here and now.

That seems like an anti-climactic point to wind up this sermon, but I’m going to do it anyway, maybe as a caution: if we’re only encountering creation (in this case, the oceans) for how they’re useful to us, for resources or recreation, or—probably even worse—if we diminish their reality by making them an ancient symbol of chaos or a contemporary symbol of beach-side relaxation, if they become an idea instead of a reality, then we’ve taken away the mystery and the otherness that God intends and loves, and with which God intends us to be in relationship and loving for its own sake as well. Perhaps God’s retort to Job can stand for us today and in these weeks as well:  “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?” Let’s keep diving into that challenge from our Creator.


a funeral sermon

With Thanksgiving for the Life of Greta Karen Hammonds

June 24, 1939 + September 9, 2016greta

Exodus34:6-7a; Psalm23; 1Corinthians13:4-13


This is about love. It’s a gathering about love. It’s ultimately about the love of God in Christ Jesus, as we’ll say more later. But firstly you’re here for love because you loved Greta or because she loved you. Those may be bonds of family, or chosen ties of friendship, or relationships with some sort of care, that you received or gave or even simply observed. Through that, in some way, this isn’t general loveliness, but is the very specific love you connect with Greta.

Now, I’m at a disadvantage for only having met her once, and only knowing small bits from her sister Jean, so I’d like to hear maybe in a word or a sentence some of the ways you associate love with Greta. (Things mentioned:  family, she cried when I left home, marrying into a great family, she babysat my children, community table meals, the cat lady, potato salad.)

I’ve heard she was giving, that she was very generous in sharing what she had and not keeping it for herself. I’ve heard she always gave hearts each year as Christmas presents, a sure symbol of love. I’ve heard she took care of her mother at the end of her life. I’ve heard she cared for our country and fellow citizens in working the polls. So there are these things to recall, memories to cherish, stories for telling and reminding each other in these days (and that’s an important part of the reception and chance to share more of this after worship) and it’s also for understanding that they continue to shape you, as you embody this love of Greta in an ongoing way.

This is some of what we heard in 1st Corinthians and why we heard it. It’s most common as a wedding reading, but with Greta we can see it as a frame for all of life in our relationships. This is how things are supposed to work and what our connections ought to be like.

Of course, it can also seem sort of idealized, that we’re not always patient or kind and don’t always do the right thing and sometimes just can’t endure it. That is true for me, and I’m sure for you, and I know it was true for Greta, too, because it’s unfortunately just how we are, just true for all of us, as much as we try and as good as we may be.

But that’s also exactly why we heard the couple of brief Bible verses from Exodus, where there’s sort of a message that if it were easy and we didn’t have to keep struggling at it, then it wouldn’t really be love. These verses where God models and promises love, steadfast love, love that lasts through the generations, and God can do that precisely because love must be slow to anger and faithful in striving for forgiveness, this kind of love from God is exactly because we need it.

This is the point in the Bible story leading up to these verses. God makes this strong declaration and promise at a surprising moment in the story; it comes just after the people had made the golden calf, that premier example of idolatry and turning away from God, and Moses was furious at them, and all of this even as they were right at the foot of Mount Sinai where God was giving them the 10 Commandments. Even with that direct and present reminder, still they could blow it.

But that sure wasn’t the first time; it seemed all too natural for their history in this story. Before that golden calf, the people were complaining about wandering in the wilderness and grumbling about the miracle of manna that kept them nourished day after day. And before that, before the escape through the Red Sea and the plagues striking Pharaoh and all the wonders of God’s work to save them, of love as this ongoing salvation project, before that they were complaining even that they didn’t want to be freed from slavery.

Which is all to say that these weren’t easily loveable people. For all the blessings that surrounded them, they weren’t always appreciative. As God is promising and practicing steadfast love through their generations, we can’t help but notice they weren’t especially holy or nice or smart. And all too often they could be lousy, nasty, curmudgeonly boneheads. But through their best and their not-so-good, God promised to love them anyway, and kept at it, with enduring patience and more.

That’s true of love and Greta, as well, in all those things you named about her and so much more, for all the really remarkable care and tender affection, and also for when that fell short or fell apart for some reason. It’s true in your relationships with her, maybe in very small ways or maybe really dominant ways. It’s true in love that spreads throughout family and across the years.

And it’s especially still true of God’s love. See, we gather today because of love. We gather because love isn’t the same as understanding all the answers, not the same as everything working out just how we wish, not the same as everything going right. But we gather because of love. We gather to celebrate relationships and what has gone well, of life well lived and enjoyed. We also gather to lament the things that haven’t gone that way, most especially that you are separated from the love of Greta, and that there isn’t any good, clear reason of why that is, of why she died now, or why any of us need to face the loss and pain of death.

But this love isn’t an explanation or a solution. This love will lead Greta and you with her into light and life, but in the meantime it goes through the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, because that’s what love does.

We gather because love endures. Just as we heard, it persists in promise to the thousandth generation. That means it’s for Greta and her siblings. It’s for her parents, back to old times in Stoughton, and beyond that back to Norway and wherever else. It’s back to the very beginning, and it’s also forward, to you six children of hers, and your families, and on to generations so distant yet to come.

And for all the interruptions and disruptions, for all the disappointments and desperations, for Greta and for yourself you may be faithfully confident that nothing now, nothing in your past, nothing yet to come will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. For that amazing promise, all that’s left is to say Amen.


“God’s work. Our hands”

a reflection for a day of service

Welcome to worship, or welcome back to worship, as you’ve been off working on service projects. Besides this reflection, though, those projects may in themselves be worship.

To think faithfully about what constitutes worship, a frame might be in German terminology, where this gathering is known as Gottesdienst. It’s a fun almost play on words (if ever before the sprechen of Deutsch has been referred to as “fun”). Gottesdienst is literally translated as “God-service.” The play on words is in the tension of whether we are serving God or God is serving us. (In typical faithful paradox, the answer is probably “both!” A similar tension exists in the Old English origins of our word “worship,” which was fully “worthy-ship.” Our usual sense of worshipping God is that we offer praise, but this is also the venue for God making us worthy.)

With the Gottesdienst or God-service version as a good frame for this morning’s various projects, the play on words gets complicated when we add some pronouns and prepositions into the mix. It’s not just a matter of God serving us or of our service to God. It is also God serving “them” (to choose a broadly generic third person pronoun), and—still a notch more for playing with the words—it is God serving them through us, plus we serve others for Christ’s sake.

In another twist amid this already complex mix, as we understand God with us and embodied in us, we’re left with the question of where to identify Christ’s presence. With the “what would Jesus do” sense and when we describe behavior as Christ-like, we say that when we do good things, we are acting like Jesus. But also central to our faithful understanding is that what we do, we do to Jesus, in the “as you did it to the least of my sisters and brothers, you did it to me” verse (Mt25:40). There, Jesus may identify himself even more closely with those who need help than with those helping. In the upcoming Bible reading (Luke 15:1-10), then, God may be identified both with lost and finder, and we may equally be shepherds for God or sheep needing to be found.

One final bit of ambiguity to throw at you. I really appreciate the phrase, “God’s work, our hands.” It is the ELCA’s motto, the catchphrase of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and it’s a good one. But just like the good UCC motto of “God is still speaking,” it leaves ambiguity. Not everything we say is God’s speech, and not all that our hands do belongs to God. So what does? We might claim our projects today as godly—in quilts and advocacy and tending creation and all. What about what else you’ve done this morning, in getting your family ready and preparing breakfast and driving on streets and singing hymns and greeting others and even breathing? How do we see these more as God’s work for or through your hands? How can we consider all these layers of reality of your life and God’s more fully intertwined?

The breadth of the question is indicated in a poem I’d like to share. In spite of “God’s work, our hands” being a phrase claimed by modern Lutherans, this 550-year old poem is by a Spanish Catholic mystic, Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours