“Where Can I Go?”


Threshold Moment:  Winter’s Light by Tim Janis

Welcome:  This week’s Psalm brings home this message: we are in an intimate relationship with God. There is nowhere we go that God is not present–no state of our being that results in our being abandoned. God has knit us together, has woven us, knowing us from before our beginning. God, indeed, is holding our lives.

Music:  *Video   God Is Holding Your Life (Richard Bruxvoort Coligan)      —Michelle Currie

Call To Worship:

We come with praise

for the wonderful works of God.

Even before we speak,

God knows us completely.

The Holy One knows us and sustains us,

even in our moments of confusion and doubt.

Who can count the thoughts of God?

They are more than all the sands of the desert.

Like clay in the hand of the potter,

we are shaped into vessels of divine will.

We come with praise

for the wonderful works of God.

Opening Hymn: May Christ Find a Dwelling Place Rooted in Love  (John Foley)      —Michelle Currie

Opening Prayer: 

Gracious God, you never leave our side.

Open us this day to feeling and knowing your presence deep in our hearts so that we might show forth love with the same confidence, offering your reign of right relationship on earth as it is in heaven. We praise you for your close attention, holding our lives together in care. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Scripture:   Psalm for a Winter Day and Psalm 139      —Peter McPheeters

Sermon:                                                  Rev. Paula Norbert

                     Celebration of the Lord’s Supper

            Words of Invitation        The Bread and The Cup

                             Prayer of Thanksgiving

Music:  Meditative Musical Instrumental ~ One Bread One Body (John Foley)      —Michelle Currie

Musical call to Prayer:  (two times)  Hush now in quiet peace, be still your mind at ease. The Spirit brings release, so wait upon the Lord.

                         Prayers of the People

Closing Hymn: Just A Closer Walk With Thee (Traditional)      —Michelle Currie

May you live with the knowledge that
God is holding your life even as we hold
each other. You are not alone.
You are loved. Amen.

Postlude:  Blest Be The Tie That Binds


Psalm for a Winter Day

Lord God, creator of all seasons and ages,
I praise you for all that is beautiful in this winter day of February coldness: the strong, black patterns of trees
standing tall, the utter whiteness of snow as it layers the lawn, the stillness broken only by the sound of a brave snowbird,the bush under the rainspout drenched in ice.
Oh, all that is glistening with cold this morning, praise the Lord!
All creatures snuggled away in nests, caves, and trees, praise the Lord!
Oh, all peoples bundled in winter wear, scurrying to work, praise the Lord!
Cars, trucks, and buses chugging along the freeway, praise the Lord! Cows, steers, and sheep on hillsides, braving cold, praise the Lord!
Oh, crunch and crackle of shoes on frosty snowfall, praise the Lord!
All ponds and lakes deeply frozen and lovely formed, praise the Lord!
Little rabbits leaving deep footprints ‘neath my window, praise the Lord!
Yes, all the winter world, whose beauty we so often miss,
whose weather we so often condemn, praise the Lord,
and bless God’s holy name, for our world has wonders and tiny miracles if only our hearts as well as our eyes are
open to see.
—Joyce Rupp

Psalm 139: 1-18 Lukan Psalter translation

ADONAI, you’ve searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up,
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You trace my journeys and my resting places;
and are acquainted with all of my ways.
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips;
but you, O God, know it altogether.
You press upon me, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
it is so high I cannot attain it!
Where can I go then from your Spirit,
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me,
and your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,”
darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
darkness and light to you are both alike.
You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well.
My frame was not hidden from you
while I was being made in that secret place,
knitted together in the depths of the earth;
your eyes saw my body even there.
All of my days
were written in your book,
all of them planned
before even the first of them came to be.
How precious your thoughts are to me, ADONAI!
How impossible to number them!
I could no more count them
than I could count the sand.
But suppose I could?
You would still be with me!

Sermon – February 7, 2021

“Known and Beloved”

Rev. Paula Norbert

In the beautiful version of Psalm 139 today, we hear the Psalmist singing “ADONAI, you’ve searched me and known me.” We may be very used to the language of a personal God, especially for those of us who were raised Christian, but for those of the Hebrew Scriptures, the thought that Yaweh would know us, would be close to us, would care about the movements of our lives, that was something new and profound. We know that the Hebrew poets made sure to highlight that their God was not one so detached or distant that the people could not “know” God or themselves be known fully and wonderfully. This direct and intimate relationship is demonstrated in this Psalm that uses the Hebrew root “yada” over and over again–pointing to a kind of “knowing” that has a level of certainty, of not only familiarity, but of confidence in the relationship. What does it mean to truly know someone and to have someone truly know us? It’s a very sacred, intimate thing to allow someone to know us in the deepest ways, to know our thoughts and hopes and yes, our vulnerabilities, but if we count even a few within our lives who know us and accept us, that is an amazing gift. Let us pray,
Loving God, we trust that you desire to know each of us so that we may better know you. We ask your presence here this morning to guide us, inspire us, and enable us to continue on our path of wisdom and compassion. Amen.

Over these past months, many of us have connected with long lost friends and neighbors, perhaps extended family with whom we may have lost touch. I know that I have been so grateful to connect via Zoom or by phone with friends whom I met over many years, dating as far back as high school and college or at other times in my life. Certainly, some of these people knew me at a certain time in my journey and we’ve been able to share some memories now long forgotten and to share some laughs. Most of all, we’ve shared some of our stories beginning where we left off all those years ago. It’s really been a gift to reconnect with some folks that I lost touch with.

And then there are those special friends, those dear, dear members of our family or circle of closest confidantes who truly know us. If we have one or two of those people in our lives, now that’s a true blessing, isn’t it? To have even a few people who care to know the inner workings of our hearts and minds, who know our best qualities as well as our limitations, our vulnerabilities and broken places, that is a very sacred relationship. I think that quality of relationship is what the Psalmist is highlighting here. The Psalmist is celebrating a relationship with our Creator that is sacred and profound and connects us in the deepest possible ways. We know Yaweh and Yaweh knows us deeply, intimately, in the ways reserved for only the very few in our lives. And those with whom we form the closest attachments, those individuals who are in that small circle of beloved friends, they provide a window through which we may glimpse the ways in which we are known by them and yes, by our God.

The Hebrew word Yada means to know and this word is repeated throughout the Hebrew text of this Psalm to emphasize the many ways of knowing another, the many ways in which God knows us. Some form of this word occurs sixty times in the Psalter, emphasizing that the concept of “knowledge” is a critical element of any meaningful relationship. We are to know God, just as God knows us. As the psalmist says, “It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (13).

One commentary speaks about the dynamic relationship that is possible between us and our creator, between the Psalmist and Yaweh. From the beginning, the psalmist addresses God directly, using the personal name of Israel’s God, Yahweh (1, 4). Second person pronouns occur ten times in the first six verses: “you have searched,” “you know,” “you discern,” etc. In addition, the psalmist refers to self thirteen times: “you have searched me and known me,” “when I sit down and when I rise up,” “my thoughts,” “my path,” etc. By using these pronouns, the Psalm reflects the profound relationship of the “I” and “You” (or, “I” and “Thou”) in ancient Israel. Scholar Walter Brueggemann describes this relationship by saying, “The Psalms are prayers addressed to a known, named, identifiable You. This is the most stunning and decisive factor in the prayers of the Psalter.”1

In a book titled Tales of the Hasadim, Martin Buber, an early twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, offered these words concerning the relationship between God and humankind:

Where I wander – You!
Where I ponder – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
When I am gladdened – You!
When I am saddened – You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You, Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!2

The Psalmist writes,

“You created my inmost being
and stitched me together in my mother’s womb.
For all these mysteries I thank you—
for the wonder of myself,
for the wonder of your works—
my soul knows it well. “

Our Scriptures invite us to believe that each one of us was formed and framed by God, that each of us was reverently, wondrously, strikingly, remarkably, differently made – in ways that are beyond our ability to express or even fully explain. The Psalm is both a Psalm of Thanksgiving and a song of faith; it expresses the belief that at any time and in any place, we may be assured of God’s ongoing creation and God’s tender care for each of us and indeed for all of creation. And if we can embrace the belief that our Creator has made us wonderfully and knows us deeply and loves us beyond measure, may we then develop a belief in ourselves that helps to quiet the voices of self-doubt that may limit who we are and who we might be. That is a great invitation, isn’t it, to imagine ourselves through the eyes of those who love us most, to see ourselves in the eyes of God. And, if we are acceptable and lovable, how might we then extend compassion to those who are hardest to love?

Relationships take time and must be nurtured, whether between friends or in our relationship with the Divine, and the good news is that relationships can ebb and flow and that we can find our way back to one another, to the best parts of ourselves, and yes, we can always find our way back to our beloved Creator who is waiting to know us more deeply. “For all these mysteries I thank you—for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works—my soul knows it well. “ Amen.

1Walter Brueggemann, “The Psalms as Prayer,” in The Psalms and the Life of Faith, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 19095),34, italics original.
2Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasadim: The Early Masters (New York: Schocken Books, 1947), 212.

Closing prayer (adapted from St. Augustine)
God of life, on the days when burdens weigh heavy on the heart and difficulties bring weariness, be the strength that is needed. When the road seems tedious and endless, and life has no music in it, be a spark of joy and light. Amen.