Readings: Acts 8: 26-40: Philip is instructed to go to a certain road where he encounters an Ethiopian eunuch on his way home after worshipping in Jerusalem. Philip finds him reading Isaiah’s scroll, and explains what the Scriptures say about Jesus. Then he baptises the eunuch Psalm 22: 25-31: A psalm of praise and commitment in which God is celebrated for God’s provision and authority, and all people are challenged to worship God, to fulfil promises to God, and to proclaim God’s righteousness to unborn generations. 1 John 4: 7-21: An exhortation to love one another, because God is love. If we cannot love our brothers and sisters whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we do not see, but, as God has loved us, inspiring love for God in our hearts, so too, we should love one another. Such love drives out fear. John 15:1-8: Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. God desires us to bear fruit, and to do so we must remain in Christ.
(Summaries of Bible readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
So, the Ethiopian Eunuch is reading aloud (a very common practice – if you had the ability to read, then you would read aloud) from the scroll of Isaiah (Ch53), a passage that has come to be associated with the passion of Jesus. What was this Eunuch doing reading this particular part of Isaiah? Well, the background is that Eunuchs were specifically excluded from the temple (as had been this particular Eunuch’s experience in Jerusalem), based on the application of the Deuteronomy text (23.1): “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord” (NIV). But here, in the very section of Isaiah where the Eunuch is reading, is this text:
Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever” (Isaiah 56:3-5)
A text of inclusion. It would have been a ‘favourite’ part of the Isaiah scroll for the Eunuch, one he would return to again and again, as it gave him a place of belonging. And, in the course of reading this text of inclusion, he would have become familiar with the surrounding text (no verses and chapter headings in those days!) including Chapter 53 that is the focus of the Acts 8 reading today (and for the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch):
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
After Philip gives witness to Jesus, the Ethiopian is baptized (in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy), and eunuchs find a place of belonging in the reign of God. That which was excluded has now been included.
It would have been a surprising and wonderful moment for both Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Here’s a great reflection on this reading by Richard Beck.
(excerpt) The “eunuch story” may, at least in part, speak to the issue of social contribution or function. It seems that great emphasis was given to function in the old covenant “congregation of the Lord”. The “commission” of old covenant community focused around the growth of the Jewish nation, particularly in terms of the “be fruitful and multiply” directive. What we think of as evangelism wasn’t a primary focus — having and raising children with a particular worldview and a peculiar kind of monotheism was. Eunuchs could not contribute to this social mandate, and were therefore viewed as vestigials, as supernumeraries. There was a central religious goal, and these eunuchs were people who, having no way to further that goal, had no place in the religious community.
So, when the Spirit of the Lord went to miraculous lengths to ensure that the first known Christian non-Jewish convert was both of an alien culture and a “functionless” eunuch, the intention was to make us think about what it means to have “function” within the new covenant community of faith, and further: about how the Christian community, like a family, must embrace a non-utilitarian society”. Continue reading →
Readings Acts 4:5-12: Peter and the other disciples are put on trial by the religious leaders, who ask them by which name or power they have healed the lame man. Peter, in response, tells them that it is by the power of Jesus that the healing has happened. Though they rejected Jesus, he has become “the cornerstone” and is the name through which humanity is saved. Psalm 23: David celebrates God as his shepherd who provides for him, cares for him, protects him, and in whose house he will live forever. 1 John 3: 16-24: As Jesus laid down his life for us we should lay down our lives for each other. We are called to follow God’s command to love one another – in action, not just in word. John 10: 11-18: Jesus proclaims himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and takes it up again. (Bible readings summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Prayer of the Day
Gracious God, help us to live in love and charity with others,
and, as we ask for your forgiveness, enable us to be forgiving.
Take from our lives the hidden grudges and concealed hate.
Forgive us that we have so often denied you;
that like lost sheep we have turned away from you;
that we have sung with our lips what we have not had the courage
to practice in our lives.
Forgive our sins, comfort our sorrows, calm our fears,
and take from us every proud thought.
So fill us with love and concern for others,
and make us ready to help and quick to forgive.
We thank you for every good thing in our lives
for home and friends and family;
for all the beauty and loveliness in the world about us
which has lifted our hearts and made us glad;
for life itself with all its promise and possibility.
We thank you that in every great experience of life,
when it seemed as if we were passing through water and fire
we are not alone, but you were there as companion and friend.
We thank you that we are yours, created for your glory;
that you have called us all by name,
that through Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep,
who lived and died and rose again for us,
you have redeemed us;
and that your love will never finally let us go, or ultimately give us up.
We thank you that so often you have come to us
in the ordinary and everyday things of life, in our work and in our leisure .
Help us there to seek you and find you and serve you,
as in Christ you have sought and found and served us.
We ask it for his sake. Amen. (from Companion to the Lectionary, Vol 3, by Neil Dixon)
An alternate Psalm 23 from Thom Shuman the Mall is my shepherd,
I shall always need more.
It makes me lie down in mattress stores;
it leads me beside coffee shops;
it restores my greed.
It leads me down paths for the sake of its sales.
Even though I walk the aisles of outlet stores,
I am not afraid,
for you are at my side
your credit cards and coupons – they comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me at the food court
in the midst of shoving shoppers,
you anoint me with cappuccinos,
my latte overflows.
Surely stress and debt shall follow me
all the days of my life (and my kids),
and I shall live at the mall
every day of my life.
(Source: Thom M. Shuman) Continue reading →
At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (see John 17.21). Hearts are touched and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The World Council of Churches commemoration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity traditionally runs from Friday, January 18 through Friday, January 25 (northern hemisphere, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul) and around Pentecost (southern hemisphere), which is also a symbolic date for unity. It is usually between the Day of Ascension and Day of Pentecost which in 2018 is 13th May and 20th May. In 2018, the theme is, “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power” is inspired by Exodus 15:6. The resources for the week have been prepared by members of different churches in the Caribbean.
Caribbean Christians of many different traditions see the hand of God active in the ending of enslavement. It is a uniting experience of the saving action of God which brings freedom. For this reason the choice of the song of Moses and Miriam (Ex 15:1-21), as the motif of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2018 was considered a most appropriate one. It is a song of triumph over oppression. This theme has been taken up in a hymn, The Right Hand of God, written in a workshop of the Caribbean Conference of Churches in August 1981, which has become an “anthem” of the ecumenical movement in the region, translated into a number of different languages.
Downloadable 2018 booklet for service preparation available at this link.
A Call To Worship(based on Psalm 98)
O sing to the Lord a new song, For our God has done wonderful things! Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth, Lift your voices in praise and shout for joy! For the Lord is a righteous judge who come in victory, And all the earth will worship his Holy Name!
Call to worship (Based on Psalm 98)
Here today there is love, freely available to all.
Not our human loving, fragile and intermittent,
but God’s supreme love.
May a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
break forth into joyous songs of praise.
Here today is love, higher than our loftiest hopes,
deeper than the immensities of time and space,
God’s inclusive love.
Let the seas roar their praise,
and everything in them.
Let the rivers clap their hands
and the hills sing together their happiness.
The joy of the living Christ Jesus be with you all.
And also with you. (Source: Bruce Prewer)
A Prayer of Confession
Loving God, our lives are ever open to your Spirit. You know us better than we know ourselves. Our thoughts are known to you before we think them and our words are already in your ear before we speak. O merciful God, we acknowledge that we have often spoken without thinking and have hurt those you have commanded us to love. We have closed our hearts when they should be open and withheld compassion when we should have cared. O give us grace to live according to the commandment of your love and cleanse our hearts today from all wrong. Amen.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
We rejoice and give thanks, O Lord, that your love is for absolutely anyone who comes to you with humble heart and a searching spirit. You do not withhold your love and grace because of someone’s nation, tongue or tribe.
We acknowledge that we are not so free from prejudice and intolerance. And yet, humbly we look to you for unconditional love – and we rejoice with all of creation in your lavish gift of love and tenderness toward us. How blessed we are that we should be called children of the Living God!
And there is something else we are aware of Lord. At the heart of it all, we know that if your love should ever be withheld from another because of race, or clan or station in life, it could not but be withheld from us. If you do not love all you could not love any. We rejoice in this amazing truth!
O Lord God, we lift up our hearts in praise and open our hearts to receive the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to make our hearts your heart and our lives the vehicle of witness to your divine love! Amen.
A Prayer of Dedication
For the beauty of the earth, the joy of human love and the wonder of your grace, we give thanks O Lord. All of these things are gifts from you. May the gifts we bring become instruments that will spread your gifts to others. Amen.
The International Workers Memorial Day is held around the world each year on April 28th to remember those who have died in the work place, and to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisations in the fight for improvements in workplace safety.
Service here (2015 service at Pilgrim UC) – note this is 5.5MB 2015 IWMD
This was written in response to the tragic loss of lives at Dreamworld (October 2016) in Queensland. It has been adapted for the IWMD service by leaving out the specific names mentioned in the first few lines.
Lives cut short
countless and nameless, myriad lives are cut short
before their abundance of life can be lived to the full.
There’s no sense to be made of a life cut so short,
no eternal purpose or universal will to the ending;
none, at least, I can fathom without recoil
from projected platitudes or power wielded cruel.
There’s no sense to be made, yet sense we make
for sense-making creatures we humans beings are:
sense-seeking missiles through the cold arc of life
huddled on a watery planet, seeking the joy of life
or simple survival while life still pulses or wanes.
The sense is in life itself, lived while yet we have breath:
clustered or lonely, embittered or enraptured,
watching the far flung fires of the cosmos
that light the night sky, pin-prick pointers to a scale
beyond most capacity to grasp, so far
beyond a petty god with a petty agenda of sins.
The sense is in life lived abundantly, and shared,
more 10:10 than 3:16 in John’s cosmic view,
lived as companions in life, loving and sharing
more than selfish scrabbling for all we can own.
Good God, bring us to our senses, to life as a gift.
A gift beyond price, is life to each being,
and all that we can do we must to protect
the fragile life each one carries and shares,
not in self-ish defence but in abundance shared.
If each felt as gift, and was treasured among all,
what new life might be possible, life in abundance!
Abundant life: the eternity of life lived in each moment,
not lived for some cloudy future beyond pearly gates,
but here and now, each moment a treasure, a gift,
a chance to enrich through encouragement and service.
Mourning those now gone, lives cut short, what can I do
but live eternal life here and now, God help me, anew. Rohan Pryor, 28 Oct 2016 For Amanda Dawson, the Dreamworld four, and Rachel Millen, and so many others including my Dad, Robin Pryor.
Uniting Church in Australia Assembly 2016 – remembering ANZAC Day and Armenian Genocide (April 24th, 1915): On the 25th of April Australia remembers the ANZACs and their sacrifice at Gallipoli in the First World War. On the 24th of April, one day before ANZAC Day, Armenians remember the martyrs of their nation, victims of a Genocide that was fuelled by political and cultural hatred. Armenians also remember the ANZAC soldiers who saw the injustice that they were suffering and stopped to help them. The ANZACs created the first relief for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and provided them with the much needed medical care, and in many instances, keeping them safe from the hands of the Turkish soldiers. (UCA Assembly resolution here, and background here).
2016 UCA Assembly prayer for congregational use:
God of remembrance,
help us this day to remember the sacrifice of the first ANZACs at Gallipoli.
In your hands are the destinies of this and every nation.
We give you thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in this land
and for those who lost their lives to defend them.
We pray that we and all the people of Australia,
gratefully remembering their courage,
may have the grace to live in a spirit of justice, of generosity, and of peace.
We pray that people around the world,
remembering their sacrifice in providing aid to a people being massacred,
may have the compassion to reach out to those in need.
God of love and grace,
we praise you
for all those who stood firm in their Christian faith in the face of persecution,
exile and death;
for all those who endured the Armenian Genocide.
Hear our voice as we pray
for all those Armenian men, women and children who were deported,
driven in death marches, and massacred mercilessly;
for all those who continue to trample on truth, justice and human rights.
that this nation may not perish but prosper under your care;
that you may uproot from our hearts every trace of hatred and the spirit of vengeance;
that those who are the descendants of those noble martyrs may have a deep sense of gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility.
we may value the freedom and security we are privileged to enjoy in this beautiful country;
that your power of resurrection may inspire us to live as a righteous people
prepared for every good work;
that we may be a compassionate, forgiving and loving people.
Let us pray for the victims of war;
For the wounded and the dead.
For those who mourn and are afflicted.
For the earth and its innocent creatures –
Now mutilated and in disarray.
For the aggrieved and suffering souls –
Now bombed into submission and tormented silence.
For the scales of justice –
Now locked in false balance.
For the dove –
Now mocked by the metal wings of cruelty and greed.
For the yearnings and labours of peacemakers,
healers and teachers –
Now degraded by the cunning and cowardice of warlike minds.
For the needy whose precious resources are now wasted and spent.
For the beautiful treasures, icons and holy places –
Now defiled by a crass science, now smashed by vulgar and heartless economies.
For those who seek to know what has befallen their world –
Now deceived and bewildered by the dictatorships of information.
We lament this poisoned and sorrowful state,
We resist this brutal invasion of the common soul.
We pray for peace. Amen
(Source: Michael Leunig, ‘When I Talk To You’)
In A Minute’s Silence Timeless God,
Christ of the Cross,
Spirit of Peace,
In a minute’s silence take us into compassion and understanding.
In a minute’s silence may we find ourselves almost walking in the shoes of those we remember.
In a minute’s silence may we seek the joys that sustained them in the trials that they faced.
In a minute’s silence may we find the courage that empowered them in the suffering they endured.
In a minute’s silence may we be inspired to love like the sacrifice that they made.
In a minute’s silence may we comprehend the ripples of pain that bounce around the world in response to such disturbance.
In a minute’s silence may we learn the lessons which will lead to such things never occurring again.
In a minute’s silence may we decide to be better in ourselves, that the world may be better with us in it.
In a minute’s silence may the world change for the better.
In a minute’s silence may all this be so.
In a minute’s silence we pray.
Amen. (Source:Jon Humphries)
During this time of remembrance;
God, creator and master of all life,
we confess that our view can be limiting;
of each other and of the world.
Open our eyes this day to see those on either side of the trench,
as fathers and brothers and sons,
as mothers and daughters and sisters.
We particularly remember those who stood on the grounds of Kapyong:
we pray for those who lost their lives and we remember their families;
we pray for those who carry the wounds from the battles and we remember their families.
We remember those who cared for the soldiers of Kapyong; the doctors and nurses, the Chaplains and the families.
Let us never forget those who suffer for others, in the example of Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: Matt Stuart, Australian Army chaplain)
For all whose lives have been taken by war,
grant your mercy O God.
For soldiers, civilians, those wounded and neglected,
grant your mercy, O God.
For earth despoiled and living beings sacrificed,
grant your mercy, O God.
For our glorification of war and violence
and our willingness to hurt others
to defend ourselves,
grant your mercy, O God.
We give thanks for your beloved
whom we have sacrificed;
we ask blessing for their loved ones,
confess our need for your grace,
and pray for the redemption of society.
Spirit of compassion and gentleness,
in the name of the One who was sacrificed,
save us by your grace,
and grant us your mercy.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
Lord of Peace, Let us remember. Let us remember the human cost of war.
Let us remember the sacrifice of those who fight because their country calls them to.
Let us remember the death and destruction that results when people take up arms against one another.
Let us remember those who have lost their life as a result of hostilities, both soldiers and civilians.
Let us remember the wounds and scarring that so many carry having been involved or caught up in conflict, whether they be physical, emotional or psychological.
Let us remember the lasting impact upon people, families, regions, countries and cultures in the aftermath of war.
Let us remember the reasons that have led to war.
Let us remember the peace-makers who have worked, and still work, to prevent war and conflict.
Let us remember the joy of peace and the power of reconciliation.
Let us remember the way of the Christ which leads to peace.
Let us remember all these things, that we might yet learn
And that we, as humanity, may yet find a way to end conflict that leads to fighting and war. Let us remember. Lest we forget.Amen. (Jon Humphries)
UCA ANZAC resources
Rev Sue Page and Rev Matthew Stuart, Ministers in the Uniting Church in Australia, and defence force chaplains, put together some fabulous resources for the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli. ANZAC Centenary Resources PDF
Lest we remember
And this poignant song from Andrew Dutney. Beautiful. Sound file here.
Small (‘pay what you think’s a fair thing) cost to download.
Lest we remember, lest we recall,
we’ll build ourselves a monument,
we’ll sanctify the war.
We’ll number our heroes.
The dead we’ll ignore.
Nobody remembers what the young ones dies for.
Lest we remember, lest we recall,
in case we remember the pain of it all.
And over and over we’ll tell it again:
the story of bravery,
of dashing young men.
The reasons we’ll argue,
the blame we will lay,
’till truth as we tell it
is history some day.
Lest we remember, lest we recall,
in case we remember the pain of it all.
Lest we remember, lest we recall,
in case we find reason for just one more war.
from I’ve Got Eyes, released 01 September 1980
Andrew Dutney: Vocal and acoustic guitar; Graham Ashton: Violin.
And this from Paul Kelly, Letter from a Trench (sound file here). Achingly beautiful.
And more from Paul Kelly who writes: ‘My friend, composer James Ledger, asked me to write text for an orchestral and choral work commissioned for the Gallipoli Centenary. I sent him a short poem and last night (24th April, 2015) at the Sydney Opera House heard it played and sung for the first time. It was a spine tingling experience”. Link is here.
Can you see us? Can you help us?
Lying broken on the shore
Look at us – we’re scattered playthings
Busted toys, no use, no more
We’re not heroes, we are fellows
From the country, from the town
We’re Jack and Jim and Doug and Darcy
Bill and Tom and Reg – all down
We are dying, can you hear us?
We are screaming on the shore
We haven’t had our lives or wives yet
We never will, we’re never more
We didn’t think, we never thought
We’d die like this so far from home
Remember us, we died in smoke
We died in noise, we died alone
(Words: Paul Kelly)
Opinion piece by Greg Rolles here. Definitely worth a read!
“Australia’s investment in World War One commemorations is not being replicated around the world. The government of Australia is spending more on World War One commemorations than the United Kingdom and France combined – both much more significant players in the war. It should be asked why the 25th of April has become such a significant milestone in what it means to be a part of white Australia?”
On Anzac Day (Anglican Prayer Book)
God of love and liberty, we bring our thanks today for the peace and security we enjoy. We remember those who in time of war faithfully served their country. We pray for their families, and for ourselves whose freedom was won at such a cost. Make us a people zealous for peace, and hasten the day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither learn war any more. This we pray in the name of the one who gave his life for the sake of the world: Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen. Continue reading →
Readings: Acts 3: 12-19: Immediately after the healing of the lame man, Peter addresses the crowds, explaining that the power to heal the man came from the same Jesus that they had crucified. Peter then calls the people to turn back to God. Psalm 4: A plea for God to remember God’s faithful servant, and an affirmation of how God cares for those who trust in God. Finally, a call for people to stop chasing lies and turn back to God. 1 John 3:1-7: Because of God’s love, we are God’s children, and we have hope that when we see Christ we will be like him. Therefore, we resist sin and seek to live in righteousness as Jesus is righteous. Luke 24: 36b-48: Jesus appears to the disciples, showing them his hands and feet, and eating a piece of bread to prove that he is not a ghost. Then he shows them how he has fulfilled the Scriptures, and he calls them to proclaim repentance and faith in Christ as his witnesses. (Bible summaries: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Micah 4:1-5 (alternate reading)
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, 2and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. 5For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.
A great story related to Micah 4.3 Artist Melts 1,527 Guns And Turns Them Into Shovels For Planting Trees
story by Amanda Froelich
The project Palas por Pistolas by artist Pedro Reyes seeks to show “how an agent of death can become an agent of life.”
Gun control is a touchy subject – and for good reason. Existing solely to wound or kill, they are a dangerous weapon, one that if not employed for reasons of necessity, may harshly rip families apart.
In Culiacán, Mexico, the city with the highest rate of gun deaths in the nation, many people know the devastating consequences these weapons can contribute to. That’s where creative activist Pedro Reyes comes in. Reyes is an inspired artist who likes to focus on the failures of modern culture in a positive light. He doesn’t believe in failure but instead believes that failure is the outcome of a certain perspective. With this unique perception, he transforms things people see as broken and models them in a new way.
Concerning guns, he felt that something positive could be transformed from their matter, and, therefore, started a campaign asking residents to hand over their guns in exchange for a coupon they could use to buy electronics or household appliances.
After Pedro collected 1,527 guns for the project, Palas pro Pistolas, he had them melted down and transformed into 1,527 shovel heads. These new shovels were then distributed to art institutions and public schools, where people in the community are now using them to plant a minimum of 1,527 trees.
“If something is dying, becoming rotten and smelly, I think there is a chance to make a compost in which this vast catalog of solutions can be mixed in an entirely new way.” In Palas por Pistolas he was aiming to show “how an agent of death can become an agent of life.”
It’s interesting to note that 40% of all the guns Reyes collected were automatics of military caliber. After the collection, they all were transported to a military base and publicly smashed with a steamroller. Then, they were melted and recycled into shovels with wooden handles. Now they exist solely for the purpose of planting trees and creating life!
Some of the shovels have even made their way to the Vancouver Art Gallery, the San Francisco Art Institute, Maison Rouge in Paris and other locations around the world.
A shovel, like a gun, can be used for a productive purpose or a hateful one. But with inspired intent, may these tools always be utilized for the purpose of optimizing land and creating space for something new to flourish. Gathering words – general
Music Peace be with you
Christ Is Our Peace
Christ is our peace,
Christ is our health,
he the true Word,
his the true wealth –
gifts to be shared by the simple and poor:
peace in your land,
peace at your door.
Peace in your mouth,
Peace in the hands
Open to truth,
to love’s demands:
those who would go with Christ also must bleed –
bright is the flower,
burst is the seed.
Readings Psalm 133
A song of celebration for the blessing of living in unity. Acts 4:32-35
The early disciples of Christ bear witness to the resurrection through their generosity and care for one another, ensuring that no one among them had any need. 1 John 1:1-2:2
John writes to testify to Jesus and to open the door to fellowship for the believers with one another and with God. However, if we claim to be in fellowship but live in “darkness” – denial and sin – we lie. But, if we confess our sin, and live in the light we do, indeed, have fellowship with God and others. John 20:19-31
Jesus appears to the disciples in the closed upper room, giving them a gift of the Spirit, and sending them just as he was sent. Then, Thomas who wasn’t at this appearance, is encountered by Jesus, and his doubts are removed.
Christ is Risen! The Easter celebration continues with the familiar upper room appearances from John’s Gospel. But, this year the supporting texts highlight a feature of the resurrection that can easily be missed – the way Christ’s resurrection brings us into a unified, loving community in which we share joy and abundant life together. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
The challenge and the promise of Easter is how to help a community of fearful dismay realise they are a community of the resurrection. That is why Easter is both an event and a season in the church – it takes time to come to terms with the enormity of the event and what it means, then and now. This second Sunday of Easter is therefore an opportunity to let the events of the previous weekend sink in a little deeper. The scripture passages lend themselves to that – celebrating unity of purpose, care for one another and acknowledgement of our need of God’s peace and forgiveness in the midst of distress and brokenness. (Source, Church of Scotland)
The rhythm of breath – drawing air in, and sighing it out –
pulses in all of creation, O Lord
It is a simple sign of the resurrection;
of the life that cannot be quenched,
even by death itself.
We know what it is to breathe, Jesus
our lives depend on it
even as they depend on You
Risen, Alive and Present;
So, breathe into us again, Lord Jesus, we pray
breathe the life that never dies,
breathe the hope that never despairs
breathe the courage that never turns back
breathe the joy that never stops singing
Breathe into us, Lord Jesus, and teach us to sing,
to worship, with every breath
And to live the inspiration that is Your resurrection.
Amen. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
Call to Worship (based on Acts 4:31-37) As early followers of Jesus gathered
for fellowship and worship,
praying and singing and reading the scriptures,
so we gather this morning.
We read in Acts
that the whole group of those who believed
were of one heart and soul.
They shared everything–
everything they owned,
everything they had.
God’s grace was at work in them,
powerfully at work
within them all.
There was not a needy person among them.
May it be so for us as well. Amen.
(Source: Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith)
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ was (and is!) the proclamation of a new understanding of God’s activity in human life.” (Charles Cousar, p.279 – Texts for Preaching – A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Year B, Walter Brueggeman, Charles Cousar, Beverley Gaventa and James Newsome]
I enter the garden of your presence
open to the mystery of your love.
The hurt I have caused and the hurt I have borne
I lay to rest in the tomb of your grace.
All resentment, shame, dread and anxiety
I wrap in the linens of your mercy.
All distrust and defiance
I lay in the ground of your patient redeeming.
See if there be any evil in me,
and in your tender mercy lay it to rest.
let Christ rise in me,
free of all fear, free of the power of doubt
and the shroud of the past.
Let Christ rise to new life in me,
wounded but whole,
radiant, forgiving and alive with your love.
Create me anew: by your grace let there be light.
This is the day you are making;
let me rejoice, and be glad in it.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
Rev Steve Koski, reflecting on Easter Sunday, writes:
On this Easter morning, I turn, as is my tradition to the best Easter book ever written by my favorite theologian, On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss:
“…from beginning to end, from start to the close,
everyone knows Z is as far as the alphabet goes.
Then he almost fell flat on his face on the floor,
when I picked up the chalk and drew one letter more.
A letter he’d never dreamed of before.
In the places I go and the people I see,
I couldn’t survive if I stopped at Z.
So ON BEYOND ZEBRA, it’s high time you were shown ,
that maybe you don’t know all there is to be known.”
Love wins! Love always wins! If love isn’t winning it simply means the story isn’t over yet!
Wishing everyone one letter more on this Easter and encouraging us all to imagine and pick up the chalk and draw one letter more for our world – a letter we’ve never dreamed of before.
“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”~ Mary Oliver
“On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry – old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling – and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have.
We don’t realize all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren’t put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. May the spirit and light of this Easter morning bless us all, watch over us and protect us on our journey, open us from the darkness into the light of peace and hope and transfiguration.” (Source: John O’Donohue, Dawn Mass Reflections, excerpts from WALKING ON THE PASTURES OF WONDER)
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on COCU31B.Easter Sunday.1April2018
Joan Chittister , The Liturgical Year: “Everyone who has ever lived, who will ever live, will someday undergo a Holy Saturday of our own. Someday we will all know the power of overwhelming loss when life as we know it changes, when all hope dies in midflight. Then, and only then, can we begin to understand the purpose of Holy Saturday.
The importance of Holy Saturday lies in its power to bring us to the kind of faith the spiritual masters call ‘mature.’ Holy Saturday faith is not about counting our blessings; it is about dealing with darkness and growing hope. Without the Holy Saturdays of life, none of us may ever really grow up spiritually.”
Praying in the Spirit of Easter Saturday
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday. We pray in this liminal time, This in in-between time, The place of paralysis in the midst of confusion, The bit or gap where the chasm of despair or hopelessness seems sometimes all too close. We pray for those who are in-between. For those who have to wait, Mourners, The grieving, Refugees, For those who walk in the shadow of death, For those waiting for results or treatment, Those between employment, Those between opposing powers. For those for whom the promise of paradise seems but a mirage or a place beyond the horizon of their hope.
Lord of Easter,
You have walked by this way before us.
For us the Easter story moves ahead towards resolution and resurrection, but for many the reality of the future is unclear and uncertain, just as it was for your disciples and followers that Easter Saturday.
Be with us, Christ, and all those caught in the vortex of waiting.
Carry all beyond our fear and despair to hope.
Lift us all and strengthen us when the weight of uncertainty presses down upon us.
Sustain us when we feel trapped by circumstance.
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
Comfort and uphold us all.
Enfold us in your love, that we may bear the angst is waiting.
Transform us into survivors.
Walk with us into tomorrow.
Walk us into how and healing.
Bring us into resurrection.
This we ask of you.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)
Patheos: Holy Saturday – the Space Between
Before we rush to resurrection we must dwell fully in the space of unknowing, of holding death and life in tension with each other, to experience that liminal place so that we become familiar with its landscape and one day might accompany others who find themselves there and similarly disoriented. The wisdom of the Triduum is that we must be fully present to both the starkness of Friday and to the Saturday space between, before we can really experience the resurrection. We must know the terrible experience of loss wrought again and again in our world so that when the promise of new life dawns we can let it enter into us fully in the space carved by loss. As the great poet of Hafiz reminds us, we must let our loneliness “cut more deep” and “season” us, so that we are reminded of our absolute dependence on the Source of all. Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let it ferment and season you as few human Or even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight Has made my eyes so soft, My voice so tender, My need of God Absolutely clear. —Hafiz
(read more here) Continue reading →