Attentive

At every moment God seeks entry into your heart. He gives you the opportunity to be part of his kingdom. You are offered the opportunity to live in the kingdom of light, the very kingdom of God, or to go your own way and walk on still in the darkness.

Why do you not choose? Why not leave the darkness and walk in hope? Leave your loneliness and learn to walk with God.

David Adam ~ The Path of Light

I have been guilty this year of neglecting attentive prayer.

I have prayed. Oh, have I prayed. Yet, as I look back over the year I realise that it has all been productive prayer i.e. prayer for a my purpose.

Wisdom.
Patience.
Healing.
Forgiveness.
Rest.
Guidance.

Prayers for my needs.
Prayers for the church.
Prayers for the world.
Prayers during pastoral visits.
Prayers from the lectionary.
Prayers for the pray-ers.

I have prayed. Oh have I prayed. And God has been faithful.

God has been there for me. In a big way. But in my busyness, I have often only been half present with my wandering thoughts and divided attention.

There have been, it seems, so many things more pressing than attentive prayer – with the result that I have dislocated myself from the divine presence; placed myself in hell by attending to all the pressing things (even the really good and noble things) before attending to the presence of God that is my hope and my redemption.

So, this morning, as I lay quite still upon my bed, I affirmed that “the Lord is here” and gave myself up to the silence. At which point, my stomach rumbled. Loudly. And the neighbours’ dogs began barking. And Little Cat hopped up to purr a happy hello.

“The Lord is here,” I muttered again and again, as if it were a wish – no, a command! – rather than a reality.

My stomach gurgled. The dogs a little further up the street took up the call. The garbage truck passed by. And Little Cat curled up against my side, a warm and welcome lump of love …

… which is when I felt it. Like soft light through wind-stirred leaves, God embraced me. And my soul smiled.T

The Lord is here.
The Lord is.
The Lord….

Poppy Sunday

The prayers for this week’s Remembrance Service are taken both from the Uniting Church assembly resources (download from link at the bottom of the page) and a wonderful resource for Christian pilgrims and worship leaders: Tess Ward’s Celtic Wheel of the Year.

While the focus is on peace-making, I have chosen to use the lectionary readings for the week rather than some more obvious alternatives as they speak of the richness of human experience: the sanctity of life, the blessing of family (and children in particular), the vulnerability of the poor and the powerless, the inclusivity of God’s love and life, wise warning against the two-faced decision makers who are not prepared to give their all.

We see, especially in Ruth’s story, the protecting, restoring power of God coming full circle as Naomi’s advice to her daughter-in-law results in a good marriage, the birth of a child, and Naomi – in turn – being blessed by the love given and received. From loss, alienation, vulnerability comes harmony, security, the blessing of family, and the ever-expanding plan of salvation as Ruth (a foreigner) is written into the Messiah’s family tree.

As we remember, we recognise the difference that one life can make – in both its absence and its presence – and we are challenged to consider what difference our own lives will make in bringing about the peace of God’s promised kingdom, for all people.

I have included hymn suggestions from Together in Song. The service should flow through prayer and rituals related to the readings with the suggested hymns holding together a sacred space for our joy and sadness.

Let us remember:
peace begins with me

<water is poured from a plain jug into a plain (preferably transparent) bowl>

Blessed be you O Sacred Peace-maker
who longs for harmony
and weeps over the things we do to each other.
Indwell Your Spirit of peace in all we do this day.

Psalm 127 (The Message)

If God doesn’t build the house,
the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.

TiS 10 The Lord’s my Shepherd

Praise to you Suffering God.
You know the wounding by metal
of skin that was made to love.

Your prophets spoke long ago
of melting down weapons and bombs
to make machines for hospitals and farms,
of using money and intelligence spent studying war
on housing all and finding cures for our dis-eases.

Praise to you for not abandoning us
but remaining with us in the darkest dereliction
of our choice.

Be still in the silence and aware of the Love with and within …

<fresh, silk, or paper (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUiRFyPfwvU) poppies are floated on the water in the bowl>

O Holy One who came in peace,
your blood fell on dusty ground
like scarlet poppies in golden fields,
standing erect as graves,
for every father, son and brother;
for every woman too;
row on row of unmarked stone,
indecently clean and straight
belying the messy stain
that can never be eased from our story now.

As age shall not weary them,
may despair not overcome us.
We will not cover the spectre of terror with forgetfulness.
We will remember them.

<a candle is lit and, if appropriate, opportunity is given for sharing our remembering>

TiS 586 Abide with me

For all the war studied
and all the lessons never learned,
we offer our contrite hearts
and our sadness
and place them into Your hands.

<silence is kept>

Hear then the Good News (from Hebrews 9:27-28 The Passion Translation):

Every human being is appointed to die once, and then to face God’s judgment. But when we die we will be face-to-face with Christ, the One who experienced death once for all to bear the sins of many! And now to those who eagerly await him, he will appear a second time; not to deal with sin, but to bring us the fullness of salvation.

So, the peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.

<the peace is shared>

Old Testament Reading: Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 (NRSV)

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighbourhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Gospel Reading: Mark 12:38-44 

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Meditation: let us remember (peace begins with me)

<can be done as a responsive prayer with the congregation offering the alternate lines>

Giver of peace, we pray for an end to war
but there can be none without living for peace.
We pray for peace in the world
but there can be none without peace in the nations.
We pray for peace in the nations
but there can be none without peace in our communities.
We pray for peace in our communities
but there can be none without peace between neighbours.
We pray for peace between neighbours
but there can be none without peace in our homes.
We pray for peace in the home
but there can be none without peace in the heart.
Give peace in our hearts this day O God
and when the fighting of this world overwhelms us,|
let us know that peace begins with us.
Amen.

TiS 607 Make me a channel of Your peace 

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict,
and ask that God may give us peace:

for the servicemen and women
who have died in the violence of war,
each one remembered by and known to God;
may God give peace.
God give peace. 

for those who love them in death as in life,
offering the distress of our grief and the sadness of our loss;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

for all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day,
remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;
may God give peace.
God give peace. 

for civilian women, children and men
whose lives are disfigured by war or terror,
calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity;
may God give peace.
God give peace. 

for peace-makers and peace-keepers,
who seek to keep this world secure and free;
may God give peace.
God give peace. 

for all Defence Force chaplains offering support,
encouragement, acceptance, compassion and understanding
wherever and whenever it is needed;
may God give peace.
God give peace.

for all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious;
asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve
in the search for reconciliation and peace;
may God give peace.
God give peace. 

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we will never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world,
and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever.
Amen.

TiS 614 O God of love 

May God’s dream of peace bless the world.
May every gun be dropped so every mouth be fed.
May every plan of war be torn up so every person may go to school.
May every fist raised become a tender hand towards a child.
May all God’s people sit in the shade of a tree, without fear.
Be present in our choices – this day [and evermore] –
and use us in Your dream of peace.
Amen.

Hallelujah love

The texts for this week focus on the salvation love of God – to which we respond with hearts and minds and voices: HALLELUJAH! They are:

  • Psalm 146
  • Ruth 1:1-18
  • Mark 12:28-34
  • Hebrews 9:11-14

Chloe Axford at engageworship has a wonderful reflection on the meaning of the word “Hallelujah” as well as some creative ideas for the call to worship which can be found at https://engageworship.org/ideas/hallelujah-reflection.

A gathering prayer (based on Psalm 146)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Lord God Almighty,
we gather together this day to praise You
from the depths of our innermost being,
for You are our hope and our help.

You are the Creator of heaven’s glory,
earth’s grandeur, and ocean’s greatness:
through sky and soil and sea You settle us
into this salvation life
which knows no end –
even when our bodies return to dust
and our plans and projects are over.

Unlike all our experts and politicians and distinguished leaders
who fail and fall,
You alone keep all Your promises
and we claim them now –
O Jacob’s Jehovah,
great Zion’s God:

justice for the oppressed (hallelujah),
food for the hungry ((hallelujah),
freedom for the prisoner ((hallelujah),
sight for the blind ((hallelujah),
restoration for the sinner (hallelujah),
protection for the immigrant and the stranger (hallelujah),
support for all left defenceless in their grief (hallelujah).

 Lord, You will reign forever:
You are God for good!
So receive the hallelujahs of our hearts:
some joyful
some broken,
some searching,
some hoping
but all gathered together in Your anthem of love.

Amen.

Prayer of confession (following the Ruth reading)

The world teaches us many ways to love, but most are based on selfish desires and the fulfilment of our own needs. Seldom are we prepared to make the sacrifice of Ruth, of Christ, and to bind our lives to another, lovingly, completely, unconditionally. And so, this day, we make our confession:

It is painful to confess, O Loving God, how hard it is to love
as You have demonstrated through Your own sacrifice and self-giving. 

We long for love;
we pray for love;
we sometimes even beg for love
or lie to secure and hold onto love. 

Yet, in our own offering of love,
there is often a hardness of heart,
a brokenness, a poverty
that speaks of past hurts and disappointments;
of an aching chasm between what we need and long for
and what we have received, endured, put up with.

Still, You call us to give expression of our love for You
in the way in which we love our neighbour,
forgive the brother or sister who has wronged us,
and embrace the stranger.

As we sit in the silence and savour Your Love with and within us,
we say sorry for the inadequacies of our own ….

<silence is kept>  

Here then the Good News (based on Hebrews 9:11-14):

Christ alone has made our salvation secure, forever.

Jesus has offered himself as the perfect sacrifice that now frees us from our dead works and our hard hearts to worship and serve the living God.
Hallelujah!

May his love for us cleanse our consciences,
heal our wounds,
and help us to love others as God loves us:
compassionately and completely.

In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

<the peace may be shared>

Prayers for the world – I wrote a letter to my love 

In response to the meditation, the congregation is invited to write a love letter to someone who is suffering: the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner the blind, the sinner, the immigrant or the stranger, someone left defenceless in their grief that were mentioned in our gathering prayer. 

For some, these will be people known by name; for others, it may be a person or group of people that they have encountered through the news or social media or church bulletin. Each letter should be a prayer for them in their current circumstances and an expression of our love and care.

After a few minutes of prayerful writing/drawing, the congregation sings “make me a channel of Your peace” – or similar – as they come up to the altar and “drop” their letters into a bowl or heart shaped container symbolising the love of God.

Words of mission

In God’s Kingdom, all are loved for who they are.
Hallelujah!
Welcomed, loved, healed, forgiven  –
we are not far from God’s kingdom.

And now, as we are sent forth,
God’s kingdom is not far from those
who are longing and hoping and searching for love.
Hallelujah!

An acrostic prayer – Psalm 34

This week’s worship is inspired by Psalm 34 which is an acrostic poem following the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 

Written at one of the lowest points of David’s life, it is full of encouragement to drink deeply and feast with plenty on the One who provides – even in the most difficult of circumstances. 

Combined with the other readings, the many words relating to taste, touch, sight and sound all invite us to experience the reality of God’s presence which moves us from desperation to deliverance, fear to joy, seeing to believing.

The opening prayer/call to worship below is based on the Psalm but written to represent the English alphabet.

A mighty shout shall fill this place
Because God is good.

Can you understand God’s purpose?
Do you doubt God’s saving power?
Evil does not go unpunished
for the Lord listens to his people.
God stoops down to hear our prayers.
He encircles us, empowers us, shows us how to escape.

I’m boasting of his miracle-deliverance;
Jumping for joy over what God’s done for me.
Know that my testimony is true:
Love wins.
My lips are full of perpetual praise!
Nothing can destroy me.

Oh, if only those with crushed spirits and broken hearts would cry out,
“Protect me, Lord.
Quiet my fears.
Rescue me from my many troubles.
Shelter me in your love.”
Then joy will come.

Unfettered, we’ll feast with plenty;
Victorious, we’ll walk with our heads held high.
We’ll glorify God together;
eXalt his glorious name;
yoke our lives with his.

Zestily – that’s how God moves us to live!

For the prayers of praise and thanksgiving that follow, the congregation can be divided into small groups – each receiving a piece of paper with a word relating to your meditation they are to use to form their own acrostic prayers. The invitation is for them to share what they are grateful for and then try to express this in an acrostic form. After a few minutes, a representative from each group reads their prayer aloud – perhaps interspersed with verses from a hymn/chorus of praise.   

 

Hidden Folks

14 October Psalm 22:1-15 Job 23:1-9, 16-end Hebrews 4:12-end Mark 10:17-31

In last week’s readings we encountered the God of the “thrust out” who seeks to embrace and welcome in all people – particularly the vulnerable and discarded. This week, we are challenged to see not only these “hidden folks” but also our hidden selves through four passages which all have to do with the capacity to see:

  • The Psalmist, David, in the midst of a time of terrible persecution and suffering feels like he is invisible to God. “Look at me,” he demands even as his enemies croon, “Now let’s see if your God will come to your rescue!” This Psalm is, furthermore, a foreshadowing of the suffering of Christ on the cross from the opening cry of “God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?” to the mocking jeers and the awful thirst and the agony of every joint in his body being pulled apart.
  • Job, too, pours out his lament, his bitter complaint that he can catch no glimpse of God though he searches the four corners of the earth. He feels as though his face is covered with darkness and yet he will not be silenced.
  • The rich man in Mark’s Gospel is a good man who has honoured all of God’s commandments and wants to know what more he should do to inherit eternal life. As Jesus instructs him to sell all of his possessions and give them to the poor, he is really challenging him to see and take responsibility for those who live on the periphery of his community.
  • Hebrews 4:12-16 highlights how exposed and defenceless we all are before God’s eyes. Our thoughts, our secret motives, our innermost being is penetrated to the core by the Living Word.

 

Call to worship/Gathering prayer

Hidden folks is a hand-drawn, interactive game which involves searching for people hidden in different landscapes. A creative preface to the gathering prayer is to encourage people with devices to download the app (android and apple compatible) and play a round with those without devices assisting them. 

Alternatively, any image from a magazine or newspaper containing a crowd of people could be used with instructions to spot a particular person (e.g. a lady in a hat) or to pick a person and share who you think they are and what they’re doing there based on the picture.

Before the gathering prayer, the following wondering is offered: “I wonder who we’ve forgotten to look for, who didn’t even make it into the picture?”

O God who gathers us in,
we are grateful this day for the brothers and sisters
with whom we have come – boldly and freely –
to where love is enthroned
and we are welcomed and known.

Here we receive mercy’s kiss;
here we discover the grace that we urgently need;
here we are pierced by the energising power of the Living Word.

… but …

you are the God who seeks to gather the whole world in
and the whole world is not here.

Make us mindful this day
of those we have not invited into this place of grace;
of those we have not even thought to invite:
the unknown,
the unwanted,
the unseen,
the discarded
who have been in your custody since the day they were born.

Stay close to them,
and us,
as we enthrone you with our songs and shouts of praise.

Amen.

An appropriate hymn such as Together in Song 474 “Gather us in” is sung.

Prayer for the day

by John van de Laar (www. sacredise.com)

Money talks and power makes the world go around,
or so they would have us believe;
And we, forgetting that other voice,
join the march in hopes that we may find a place
among the rich and strong.

But, you, O God, feel no shame,
fear no harm
as you walk among the poorest and weakest
feeling completely at home.

Thank you for the voice of your love
that keeps singing of the power in weakness,
the wealth in simplicity,
and the freedom and safety that is found
in walking your humble, serving way.

Amen.

 

God of the “thrust-out”

I’ve been studying the feminist church later, particularly, the “church in the round” as a modern understanding of what it means to be Christian community. At the same time, I’ve been reading Rachel Held Evan’s book “Inspired.” As I looked at the lectionary readings this week these two influences together moved me from an academic discussion on divorce or how we enter the kingdom of heaven as little children to the times when I have felt kept at arms-length by hard-hearted laws and even well-intentioned disciples of Jesus because of my femininity. In my imagination, Sarai and Samuel were born ….

Based on Mark 10:2-16 and Psalm 26 

Sarai turns over the loaf of bread in her hands, oblivious to how soft it feels in comparison to what she and her son, Samuel, have just had for breakfast. She has no coin to pay for it in any case; for anything, really. She has only come, again, to the marketplace for a glimpse of the man who was – up until a few weeks ago – her husband. 

As he and his rabbi join another group of men, she sidles closer to hear the heated argument that is taking place.  “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” one sneers. “Yes,” her heart moans over the quiet reply, “it is lawful for a man to put his wife and child out on the street simply because she over-seasoned his dinner.”

Lost in her anger, her shame, her pain, she nearly walks away until the unexpected, inexplicable words root her to the spot. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

The words that hold her fast have less to do with divorce than they do with the radical hospitality of the one who utters them.

Never before – not even amongst the most progressive of her husband’s friends – has she heard that, as woman, she is equal in the eyes of God: equal in God’s desire for her to have a blessed life, equal in responsibility for the state of her marriage, equal in the ability to demand that the one who has treated her so shamefully should be put aside.

She is “gerushah” – “a woman thrust out.” There is no masculine equivalent in her language, in her community, or in her experience. 

And yet, this man – the one called Jesus – who is known for his powerful teachings and miraculous signs – speaks of the sending away of one’s husband as if it is as natural as the sending away of one’s wife.

She shakes her head in disbelief; then smiles as she looks around the group and lists to herself all of the reasons that she has heard over the years as valid grounds for divorce:

“Oh, he can’t keep his hands to himself. Put him aside!”
“Ha, I saw him spinning around on the street just yesterday like a fool. Throw him out!
“And him! He’s far too noisy. Send him back to his mother!”

The smile swells into a giggle; the giggle into the first true joy she’s felt for many years; and both bread and hard-hearted husband are forgotten as she sets off to share what she has heard.

Later that day, Sarai returns to the place with Samuel in tow, as well as a few of the other discarded women with whom they had shared bread and light-hearted laughter and curiosity about the one who would dare say such things to the Pharisees. 

As Sarai points him out, the women began to jostle their little ones forward, to cry out for a blessing from the one who had seen them, who had proclaimed them equal.

This time it is not the law that keeps them at a distance; on the margins, as always, where the unwanted and the weak and the discarded seem destined to live. It is Jesus’s own followers with their coarse manners and rude rebukes that send the children scurrying back towards their mamas with tear-stained cheeks.

Unbidden, the words of an old song flow from her tired, wounded, angry heart; words her mother used to sing to her when life seemed unfair; words apparently penned by David himself during the terrible time of persecution when Saul was still king and resentful of the young shepherd and his harp:  

God, You be my judge and declare me innocent!

Clear my name, for I have tried my best to keep your laws
and to trust you without wavering.

Lord, you can scrutinise me.
Refine my heart and probe my every thought.
Put me to the test and you’ll find it’s true.

I will never lose sight of your love for me.
Your faithfulness has steadied my steps.

I won’t keep company with tricky, two-faced men,
nor will I go the way of those who defraud with hidden motives.

I despise the sinner’s hangouts, refusing to even enter them.
You won’t find me walking among the wicked.

When I come before you, I’ll come clean,
approaching your altar with songs of thanksgiving,
singing the songs of your mighty miracles.

Lord, I love your home, this place of dazzling glory,
bathed in the splendour and light of your presence!

Don’t treat me as one of these scheming sinners
who plot violence against the innocent.
Look how they devise their wicked plans,
holding the innocent hostage for ransom.

I’m not like them, Lord—not at all.
Save me, redeem me with your mercy,
for I have chosen to walk only in what is right.

I will proclaim it publicly in every congregation,
and because of you, Lord,
I will take my stand on righteousness alone!

With these last words she squares her shoulders, sets her chin high, and steps forward to challenge those who stand in her way …

… just as an indignant cry comes from Jesus: “Why are you getting in the way of these little children? Do you not know that my kingdom belongs to such like these? That they show you the way to enter my shalom, my peace?” 

And gently, lovingly, patiently, he takes each one in turn into his arms, wipes away their tears, asks about their family, and murmurs a blessing over them until dusk approaches and the noise of the marketplace dissipates as families head home for the evening meal.

Sarai and Samuel stroll home together in happy silence, their hearts full of wonder:

  • who is this Jesus who challenges the teachers of the law as easily as he does his own disciples?
  • how could he know of God’s intentions at the beginning of creation and suggest that the law was written by hard hearts instead of loving hands?
  • but above all, where is this kingdom in which women have equal rights and children are treasured heirs and how could they get there?

Home (in God’s hands)

prayers for Proper 22B

Opening Prayer

by Christine Gilbert, from the 15th Assembly Worship Resource: 
Abundant grace, liberating hope

[Lord God Almighty,
King of Creation,]
we come before you as real people –
made in your image,
broken in body and spirit,
longing to be mended
in the shape of your love.

So hear us as we pray:
Spirit of Jesus, be with us now.

We bring hearts full of questions,
aching to hear your voice of acceptance.
An often scattered and fractured people,
frozen in fear, we pray:
Bind us, unite us, fill us with your peace.

The table in our midst draws us out
into community and invites us to share.
In our singing and in our silence
we pray with open hands:
Make us your body, O Christ.

Prayer of the Day

by Thom M. Shuman

We will not find
that needed justice
in our apathy;

we will not find
that elusive wholeness
with our quarreling;

we will not find
our hoped for unity
with our doctrines;

we will not find
our misplaced love
with our hating;

we will not find
that rest we crave
in our overflowing planners;

we will not find
the peace you offer
in our well nursed grudges.

but

we will find you
in the brokenness of the Bread
and in the breaking of our hearts;

we will find you
when we drain the Cup,
refill it with our gifts,
and offer it to a little child;

we will find you
when we squeeze closer together,
making room at the Table
for all your people.

Help us to find you,
God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray together, saying:
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 for ever.
Amen.

Prayers of the people

yvonne@liturgies4life
for people going through divorce, the end of a relationship, or 
difficulties at home

Praise be to You, O unchanging God,
who journeys with us through life’s joyous and sorrowful seasons,
for though You never ordain suffering,
You help us to make sense of love’s purpose when hardship befalls us.

Be still in the silence and aware of God’s love with and within you …

Ever-loving God we thank You for love shared and lives joined together.
We hold before You memories of good times and bad times
as we acknowledge the thoughts and feelings within us today:
sorrow and grief at the dream we have lost
of what love and partnership and family was supposed to be,
frustration, anger and confusion at how we have gotten to this point,
guilt and shame at things that we have said and done
that have contributed to the breakdown of our relationship,
fear and anxiety over what the future holds for us.

Instill in us this day, a sense of Your resurrection power
and a reassurance of Your constant presence.
Walk closely with us as mourning turns to gladness
and the trial and turmoil of this change
is transformed into the hopefulness of possibility.
Heal our woundedness,
forgive our faults,
and restore to us the certainty that we are loved by You.

Be especially present with friends and family who do not understand
the full extent of our journey
and help us to be patient with their questions, their criticisms and their advice.

Guide us in caring for our children
and creating new households full of Your love
so that we might deal with them daily with wisdom, gentleness and affection.

Sustainer of all,
hold our past with compassion,
our present with Your tender mercy,
and our dreams with the fullness of new life in You.

Amen

Star-gazing

As part of our journey during the Season of Creation, the Loop has created space for our community to encounter God in earth, humanity, sky, mountains and through the blessing of animals in different ways.

This past Friday, we enjoyed the quiet out in Uranquinty, simply staring at the stars and drinking in the silence as we contemplated the wonder of the God who knows them – and us – all by name.

Many thanks to Ruth Kerr who wrote the reflection below for the evening and has given me permission to share it here:

Stargazing

 

 

Earth Sunday: open your eyes

*reflection based on Romans 1:18-23 and John 1:1-14 for Earth Sunday – Season of Creation*

A couple of years ago my optometrist told me that the best gift I could give myself when I hit 40 was a pair of reading glasses. I’m now 42 and quite proud of the fact that I still haven’t had to get a pair; although, honestly, my eyes are very tired after a few hours of serious study and there are more than a few nights when I’ve gone to bed with a searing headache.

That gift to myself is actually long overdue, but I have plenty of good excuses: I don’t have time to go and see an optometrist; I’ve never found a pair of frames that really suits my face; it’s just another thing to remember and misplace and waste time looking for; but – honestly again – I’m actually pretty smug about the fact that I’ve spent hours of my life in front of a computer screen gaming and I still have excellent eye-sight!

The truth we encounter in Scripture today is that God longs to be known and offers us all of creation as the lens through which we can begin to see God’s eternal power and to unveil the mystery of God’s divine being.

Equally true is that many of us don’t want these God-coloured glasses – even though they’re the best thing for us. And we’re full of fantastic excuses:

  • we don’t have time to sit with and see the Divine Optometrist;
  • we’ve never found frames that suit our pre-existing picture of God or ourselves or the world around us;
  • they’re yet another thing for us to forget and misplace and have to intentionally search for;
  • and, actually, we’re pretty smug surrounded by the cheap figurines we’ve accumulated along life’s way that give the impression that we’re really important or smart or popular or successful or just plain better than other people.

The Message tells us that the reality of God is plain enough (vs. 18).

It’s captured in the stars, the silence, the burnt-orange sunsets, the crashing seas.

It’s in the science that keeps us grounded to this spot instead of suddenly floating away; that dictates that with the phloem and xylem of a flower cut off from the roots of the plant, it will wither and die in a few days; that allows us to create and capture our thoughts while sitting in our studies in Australia and share them with people we’ve never met, in places we’ve never visited in an instant.

It’s in the sum total of your life story and my life story woven together – all of the “coincidences,” all of the “you won’t believe what happened next-s,” all of the inexplicable moments that we haven’t even shared out loud because people might think we’re crazy.

The reality of God is plain enough … if we are prepared to open our eyes and take a long and thoughtful look at what God has created.

When we put on the God-coloured glasses of creation, and take a long and thoughtful look around us, there are a few things that we can see more clearly.

Firstly, we can see that God is far bigger than we can ever imagine or comprehend or describe or even begin to worship adequately. That’s why mystery is such an important term in the Christian faith: we’ll never know it all; we’ll never be able to claim that we are on the inside track of God’s good graces while others are on the out; we’ll never have a perfect understanding of who God is or what God wants – at least not in this life.

But God longs to be known by us, and every day, if we’re open to it, God enriches our knowing and our wonder and our love by unveiling the next little bit of the Divine mystery that we’re ready to receive, ready to wrestle with, ready to respond to.

In being open to the length and breadth and height and depth of God – and God’s love – we, secondly, see more clearly our own smallness in the ways in which we seek to contain and control this creative fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – or Birther of the Cosmos, Liberator of Women, and Comforter of those who weep – if we’re looking for less traditional imagery and language.

Sometimes we don’t treat God like God because we’re afraid of what we might have to sacrifice or surrender or change along the way. Sometimes we’re just being stubborn. Sometimes we’re so focussed on being good leaders that we forget to be humble followers. Sometimes we want things to work out in our favour, to go according to our plans. Sometimes we’re enraged by the bad things that happen to good people and the good things that happen to bad people and figure that if we take charge things would turn out more fairly. And sometimes, well, sometimes we think that we know best so we roll up our sleeves with an “I’ve got this God” attitude and get right to work without thinking through the consequences or worrying about who we might hurt or alienate or forget along the way.

There’s no excuse for it. No way to avoid the damage that we do when we pretend to know it all, to have it all sorted; when we replace the hands that hold the whole world with our own.

For it’s when we try to trivialise God’s glory and apportion God’s love and administer God’s justice through our own small view that human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate and people lose faith in a church that has lost sight of the renewing, restoring, revitalising life and love of the God who paints with many colours ….

Indeed, through the lens of creation we begin to see the both-and possibilities of God, rather than the either-or (or even neither-nor) position that, in our smallness, we seem to adopt as our default way of being in a world so big and a universe so unknown and mysterious.

In the beginning … was the Word and the Word was with God; in that beginning, as all things came into being through the Word and the words “let there be light” brought something new into the darkness, we saw the full glory of God – not in the light obliterating the darkness but, in fact, accentuated by it.

Light and dark;
heaven and earth;
ebb and flow;
life and death;

Father, Son and Spirit;
proton, neutron, and electron;
gas, liquid, and solid;
animals in the sea and sky and on land;

spring, summer, autumn, and winter;
earth, air, fire, and water;
north, south, east, and west ….

In our ever-expanding Universe, God is always astounding and – sometimes – confounding us – in the miracles of conception and development, the abundant diversity of life, and the confluence of factors that sustain it.

You and I are wholly insignificant in the grand scheme of things and yet we act as though we are at the centre of the universe and all that exists should either contribute to our happiness or be cut off, cut out, ignored, isolated, attacked, ridiculed, corrected, or even – obliterated.

Do you want to know the most amazing thing about being God’s created children?

Despite our smallness and our relative insignificance and our silliness, God sees us – clearly; beyond the skin and bones that God knit together cell by cell, to who we are in our hidden depths … and God wants to be known and loved and worshipped by all (the whole) of us.

Over the next five weeks of the season of creation, as we look together at the earth, at humanity, at the sky, at the mountains, and at the animals, we have the opportunity to examine our lives through the lens of God’s creation and see who or what it is that we are really worshipping.

Against the vast mystery of who God is and how and why God loves us, we can know our own smallness and take ownership of the myriad ways in which our insecurities and ambitions have damaged the Earth and caused the people with whom we have journeyed pain or sorrow. We may even be moved to that radically vulnerable act of saying sorry and working towards reconciliation and understanding.

We can be liberated through the creative imaginings of God who brings together colour and form and function in oftentimes contradictory and surprising ways to enrich the grand tapestry of life from the sense of scarcity and self-importance that leads to so much of the mistrust and wrongdoing in the world.

We can find rest as we entrust those things that we have grasped hold of as our own and sought to manage and contain and control into the hands of the One who holds the whole world.

And, above all, if we’re open to it, we can be surprised by God, delighted by the gift of Earth, re-energised and revitalised by the wonder of what is and what might be.

So … clear a morning, or an evening, turn off your phone, shake off your walking shoes, pack a picnic, head to a quiet spot … perhaps even take a friend or a family member with you … and sit in a place that speaks to you of God’s greatness and your smallness … and treasure a moment in which you are surrounded by the handiwork of God … and wonder at the fact that in that moment God is treasuring you too – for you are God’s handiwork.

The reality of God is plain enough … if we are prepared to open our eyes and take a long and thoughtful look at what God has created.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motho ke motho … alive in community

Words to live by …

… learned at a young age through the life-lifting devotions penned by Herbert Brokering and Scott. C. Noon in my belonging in various forms of youth ministry …

A tree can only live
in an environment.
A word can only live
in a context.
A baby will only live
in an embrace.
A thought will only live
if received.
A human can only live
in a family.
A noun can only live
with a predicate.
I can only live
in community.

… lived in the gift of multicultural worship and the learning of an unfamiliar tongue …

Motho ke motho ka batho ba bangwe –
loosely translated as “a person is a person because of other people.”

… longed for in the wide open spaces of a new(ish) land …

“We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

Romans 5:2 (The Message)