The blessing of bread

As I’ve been reflecting on the lectionary readings for this week – Jeremiah 17:5-10 and Luke 6:17-26 in particular – I am aware that so much of life seems to be about the ups and downs, or the “curses” and the “blessings” as both writers call them. I am struck by Jesus standing on a level place from which to offer words that calm the people’s troubles and a touch that heals them.

The table is that level place. Here the ordinary elements of bread and wine, in the way that they are spoken of and shared, become the extraordinary: a tangible reminder of the presence of God with and within us.

This week I want to keep that focus and so a little bit of Godly play language and a little of my Celtic roots have gone into celebrating this blessing in a simple way.

As I have children in the congregation, I will begin by sitting with them in a half circle in front of the covered communion table with a small basket of some heads of wheat, bread, grapes, and an indestructible picnic glass of grape juice.

***

Once there was someone who did such wonderful things and said such amazing things that people wondered who he was. Finally, they just couldn’t help it. They had to ask him who he was.

One time, when they asked him, Jesus said:

“I am the bread that came down from heaven to give life to the world. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”

Many people didn’t understand. Some of them even got angry. But some of them decided to follow him wherever he went.

Another time, Jesus told those who were following him:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit.”

Point to the bread: Grain from the field, 

Point to the grapes/juice/wine: fruit from the vine .… 

As he sat at the supper table with them, he took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God for it, broke it, and gave it to them saying something like this:

“When you share the bread like this, I will be there.”

A piece of bread is given to one or more of the children.

And after supper, when they’d eaten everything they wanted to eat, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks to God for it, and shared it with them saying something like:

“When you share the cup like this, I will be there.”

A sip of juice is given to one or more of the children.

Stand and walk slowly to the altar. Remove the cover. Stretch your arms wide to show all that is set.

Grain from the field, 
fruit from the vine, 
ready at the table for us to share. 

The children (and any interested adults) are invited to come up to look and the wondering questions are offered – to encompass the whole congregation.

I wonder which part of this feast you love the best? 
I wonder if the wine and the bread make people happy?
I wonder if God comes close to us when we share like this?
I wonder who else God would like to come close to?

***

Addressing the congregation:

The table is ready. Christ himself is both the host and the meal. Eat the bread and be full of the life of Christ. Drink the cup and be filled with the love of Christ. Remember as you eat and as you drink that Christ is here and be blessed.

Communion is shared – first with those already gathered around the table. People should be encouraged to come up and stand together in groups around the table. Although this is a little less orderly than some congregations may be used to, there is a joy and togetherness at the table which can be a great blessing – especially to those who may feel isolated, unloved, or even unlovable.  

The elements are covered and the closing prayer is offered with arms outstretched to the whole congregation:

Christ is here.
Through the grain of the field
And the fruit of the vine
Shared among friends 
We remember:
God remains in us.

May we remain with God
To bear fruit in the world
In every season of our lives.

Amen.     

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.

 

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

No fast food here

Reflecting on Jesus as the bread of life and the centrality of the table in the Christian community … a thought that may be used as a call to worship or in a communion service.

There’s no fast food here.

No dedicated drive-through lane
to ensure easy come and easy go.
No disembodied voice asking for your order,
urging you to repeat it
slower,
clearer,
louder.
No quick transaction with cash or card
furtively exchanged by fast hands
for a big, brown paper bag
with the top scrunched down for easy handling.
No super-efficient process, or processing,
that may leave you feeling full –
but not fulfilled.

This table belongs to the God
whose generosity never gives out:
the God of grace,
the God of love
who gives us this day
the real food of his flesh
the real drink of his blood
that we may live in him
and he in us.

There’s no fast food here;
just daily bread.

Where God dwells

Resources for Proper 11B

Part One: In Our Worship

1. Welcome and notices

2. Opening prayer

from The Celtic Psalter

My dear King, my own King,
without pride, without sin,
You created the whole world,
Eternal victorious King.

King of the mysteries,
You existed before the elements,
before the sun was set in the sky,
before the waters covered the ocean floor;
beautiful King,
You are without beginning
and without end.

High King,
You created the daylight,
and made the darkness;
You are not arrogant or boastful,
and yet strong and firm.

Eternal King,
You created land out of the shapeless mass,
You carved the mountains and chiselled the valleys,
and covered the earth with trees and grass.

King of all,
You created men and women
to be stewards of the earth,
always praising You for Your boundless love …

… which we do now as we sing …

a medley of hymns/choruses appropriate to worship

I used:
O Lord, my God
How great is our God
As the deer pants for the water.

Part Two: In the Word

Old Testament Reading – 2 Samuel 7:1-10 (NCV)

King David was living in his palace, and the Lord had given him peace from all his enemies around him. Then David said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I am living in a palace made of cedar wood, but the Ark of God is in a tent!”

Nathan said to the king, “Go and do what you really want to do, because the Lord is with you.”

But that night the Lord spoke his word to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Will you build a house for me to live in? From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until now I have not lived in a house. I have been moving around all this time with a tent as my home. As I have moved with the Israelites, I have never said to the tribes, whom I commanded to take care of my people Israel, “Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?”’

“You must tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord All-Powerful says: I took you from the pasture and from tending the sheep and made you leader of my people Israel. I have been with you everywhere you have gone and have defeated your enemies for you. I will make you as famous as any of the great people on the earth. Also I will choose a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them so they can live in their own homes. They will not be bothered anymore. Wicked people will no longer bother them as they have in the past.”

New testament reading Ephesians 2:17-22 (TPT)

For the Messiah has come to preach this sweet message of peace to you, the ones who were distant, and to those who are near. And now, because we are united to Christ, we both have equal and direct access in the realm of the Holy Spirit to come before the
Father!

So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are the children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God. You are rising like the perfectly fitted stones of the temple; and your lives are being built up together upon the ideal foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, and best of all, you are connected to the Head Cornerstone of the building, the Anointed One, Jesus Christ himself!

This entire building is under construction and is continually growing under his supervision until it rises up completed as the holy temple of the Lord himself. This means that God is transforming each one of you into the Holy of Holies, his dwelling place, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you!

Reflection (with children)

Three symbols are placed around the sanctuary before the service – representing heaven, the ark of the covenant, and the temple of Jerusalem. Children are asked to look for the object that matches the question asked of them. When they have found the “correct” object for each question, the congregation will respond with whether or not that is a place where God dwells.

Where does God dwell?
In an unseen heaven far away
where we’ll meet Him on our judgment day?
No, no! God’s much nearer than that!

Where does God dwell?
In an oblong box of acacia wood
where She fits in snug as we think She should?
No, no! God’s much bigger than that!

Where does God dwell?
In a fancy temple made by human hands –
a holy place where few can stand?
No, no! God’s more loving than that!

Then where does God dwell?
What’s left to see?
Where has God gone?
Where could God be? 

An opportunity is given for the children (and congregation) to wonder about this. In our service, the children then gathered around a table to trace and colour in their hands which would be used later in the service in answer to the question.

Gospel reading – Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 (NIV)

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

*** 

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Sermon/meditation: Where God dwells

Holy Communion

Great and glorious God,
we praise You for Your great love for us
which does not ever leave us alone –
not when we’re weak,
not when we’re hurting,
not even when we’re full of sin and shame.

We thank You for that love made visible in Your Son
who took on human form to be present with us,
to share our suffering,
to feel our pain,
to die our death,
and – through his resurrection –
to open up the intimacy of a face-to-face relationship with You again. 

He ascended into heaven
that we might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
dwelling with and within us;
offering counsel and comfort
and wisdom and strength.

Forgive us for the times when our focus on the church
has been at the expense of Your kingdom;
when our holding on to You
has gotten in the way of others touching the hem of Your garment;
when we have mistaken bricks and stone for Your dwelling place
rather than our hearts, our hands, our homes.

As we come to the sacred space of this table,
with its familiar gifts of bread and wine
reminding us of Your presence in the everyday and the ordinary,
may we bear before You the brokenness and the longing
of those who are unable to be here,
of those who do not yet know of Your great love for them,
of those for whom the church has become a place of rejection
or disappointment or abuse.

<Communion continues with the words of institution/consecration …>

Part Three: In our Witness

The children’s “handiwork” is held up for the congregation who respond:
God’s right here!
In hands big and small,
we hold the hand of the King of all. 

The peace is shared.

God’s right here!
In hands that hold
the sick, the lost, the poor, the old.

The people hold their hands open as they offer their prayers of intercession for the world.

God’s right here!
In hands stretched out
to share God’s love all about.

The offertory is taken and blessed. 

Words of Mission and Benediction

God is on the move!

May we move with God
as instruments of healing,
agents of reconciliation,
and bearers of the sweet peace of Christ Jesus
to all people – near and distant.

And may the peace, the love, the hope
of God with and within us
permeate our hearts, our hands, our homes –
this day and forever. Amen.

Closing hymn/chorus

I used Hear our praises.

Glory

An opening prayer based on Psalm 29 (The Message)

Bravo, God, bravo!
All authorities and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before Your glory,
in wonder before Your visible power.

Yahweh Melek*,
Yahweh Tsebaoth**
,
Your voice rolls over the waters
like thunder tympanic: 

smashing the cedars,
skipping the mountain ranges,
shaking the deserts,
setting the oak trees dancing …

as we fall to our knees
and cry “Glory!”
“Glory to God
who rules and reigns
over everyone and everything.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who gives his people
strength and might.”

“Glory!”
“Glory to God
who blesses her people
with peace.”

 

* King of kings
** Lord of hosts, of all

In harmony

*an opening prayer, responding to the harmony in Psalm 133*

Psalm 133 – The Passion Translation

A song to bring you higher, by King David

How truly wonderful and delightful
to see brothers and sisters living together in sweet unity!
It’s as precious as the sacred scented oil
flowing from the head of the high priest Aaron,
dripping down upon his beard and running all the way down
to the hem of his priestly robes.

This heavenly harmony can be compared to the dew
dripping down from the skies upon Mount Hermon,
refreshing the mountain slopes of Israel.

For from this realm of sweet harmony,
God will release his eternal blessing,
the promise of life forever!

Gracious Gathering God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

from the beginning, connected
and through the connection, creative
and in all creation, communing

with Your children –

fashioned in Your divine image,
woven together with Your own hands,
named “beloved” and called according to Your good purpose and plan,

how wonderful,
how truly delightful it is
to enter this day into the sweet harmony
of Your salvation song:

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

As we meet together in this moment and this place
with all our sisters and brothers across time and space,
may our togetherness be a source of blessing
and a sigh of our deep yearning
for the day when You will gather up all things
in heaven and on earth
into Your perfect peace,
forever and ever.
Amen.