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.

 

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.

Day Eight: Open Up The Way

Psalm 85:1-2,8-13
Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

During the first week of Advent, our call to watch and wait for the coming of Christ found expression in our lament for God to turn us again:
~ from the busyness that dulls our aching need for a Saviour,
~ from the pain of the world that makes us wonder where God actually is at times,
~ from the hopelessness and despondency that comes from seeing the “wicked” prosper time and time again,
~ from our apathy and inactivity in the face of the immensity of the world’s problems,
~ from our fair-weather faith and half-hearted commitment to live in loving relationship with God,
~ from the rubble and ruin of our plans and ambitions,
~ and from those who exercise authority over us in destructive and debilitating ways.

Which “turning from” was of most significance to you?

Which will be the hardest to maintain?

The readings throughout this second week give us a glimpse of what we’re headed towards as we invite God to open up the way to the good fortune and forgiveness, love and faithfulness, peace and righteousness that are characteristic of God’s coming shalom community (Ps. 85).

Today, in particular, we immerse ourselves again in the familiar story of John the Baptist who came, as the prophet Isaiah had said, to prepare for God’s arrival (Isaiah 40:3-5, Mark 1:2-4).

The message he preached was simple: forgiveness was possible; the old could be washed away; and One was coming with such power and presence that all could be transformed from the inside out.

We claim both the hope and the truth of that message through the sacrament of Baptism: that outward symbol of our inward turning from our old way of life to a new way of kingdom-living.

As a Christian, I have no memory of my own baptism as I was a toddler at the time; and as a teenager and young adult, I struggled to understand how something I could not even recall was supposed to be so significant.

But as a mother who has placed her children into a minister’s outstretched arms and entrusted them into the care of Christ and his Church, the imagery of Isaiah has special significance:

“Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture”
(Isaiah 40:11, The Message).

This is the One of whom John the Baptist spoke with such reverence: a Gathering God – the Good Shepherd – who bundles us up in his arms and hugs us to his heart as he carries us and leads us to good pasture ….

On a large piece of paper express what the words “good pasture” may look like in your life – you may want to draw, paint, put together a collage, use words. Feel free to add to it over the course of the week.

***
Alternatively, you may want to remember your baptism. Ask a parent or family friend to share any memories they may have. Look through family documents for a picture or a certificate. If you have children, tell them the story of their baptism and why it’s significant. 

If you are not yet baptised, you may want to explore this further with your pastor and/or faith community.

 

A Gathering Prayer

Following on from the gathering in – with string idea that I recently shared is a prayer based loosely on Psalm 119:49-56 which connects us with the countless generations of men, women, and children who have experienced the faithfulness of God in the triumphs and the struggles of their lives.

The naming of these saints in Scripture deliberately includes people of different ages, genders, callings, and covenants – and even those whose stories have been made known to us without naming for all have place in the kin(g)dom of God.

The simple response of two lines (in bold) roots us in this wide family and reminds us that God knows us by name. For large congregations, each person can offer their name simultaneously but in smaller congregations, I would encourage taking the time for each to offer their name in turn. It is an intimate moment of being seen and offering oneself to be known.

***

God we gather this day,
though life is difficult and full of its own troubles.

We gather though it often seems that the wicked prosper and flourish
even as we go through tough times.

We gather though people mock us, look down on us,
and ridicule our way of life, our beliefs.

We gather because Your Word comforts and counsels us.
We gather because Your age-old revelation keeps us on the right track.

We gather because Your instructions ignite a song within our spirit
as we walk the pilgrim way.

But above all,
we gather because we know You;
because we have experienced Your touch upon our lives
and can boldly proclaim that You are a good and gracious God –
merciful and kind,
just and true,
faithful to Your promises.

You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You are the God of Benjamin, of Samuel, and of David.
You are the God of Ruth, Deborah, and Esther.
You are the God of Daniel, of Jonah, and of Jeremiah.
You are the God of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
You are the God of Peter, of Paul, and of John.
You are the God of Mary, Lydia, and Dorcas.
You are the God of the many unnamed people who You fed, who You taught, who You healed.

Today, we gather to remember that You are the God of <insert your name>
and we place our hope in Your presence and Your promises.

Gathering in

Unknown

A simple call to worship for a multicultural, multigenerational gathering which involves participants wrapping a ball of string around their wrist or waist before passing on to the next person until the entire community is literally joined together.

The “gathering” words below can be prayed repetitively until the binding is complete or once followed by a chorus such as “Bind us together, Lord,” or similar.

Father, we come from different places,
with different names
and different faces.
As we pass this piece of string:
gather us in.
Gather us in.

Jesus, we come with different creeds,
with differing opinions
and different needs.
As we pass this piece of string:
make us all kin.
Make us all kin.

Spirit, we come with different stories,
with different joys
and different worries.
As we pass this piece of string:
let peace begin.
Let peace begin.

***

A few necessary notes on “detangling” ….

Depending on the intent of the entire service (and length), you could keep people connected for it’s duration with untangling happening with twirling or turn-taking or careful scissor work – often with much accompanying laughter outside the gathering afterwards. This works best with participants attached at the waist during the service and can illustrate quite practically how inconvenient community can be and how intentional we have to be about maintaining our connections with one another.

If there are lots of little ones who might need toilet breaks or concern about people’s comfort or the connection interfering with other parts of worship, then the string should be wrapped in a single loop around people’s wrists. They can easily slip their wrist out at the desired point in the service. These can be replaced by prayer cards with thanksgivings or requests that they write but that requires a lot of extra preparation – punching holes in the cards for the string to be slipped through, providing pens etc. but it can be a tangible reminder of the experience if hung in the foyer or sanctuary afterwards.