COCU Index Year B 2014-15

The COCU Index for Year B, 2014-15: COCU master index.YearB.2015

Upcoming Sundays (and Easter week)
COCU 23B, 22nd March, 2015, Lent 5B
COCU 24B, 29th March, 2015, Palm Sunday
COCU28B, 2nd April, Maundy Thursday
COCU29B, 3rd April, Good Friday
COCU30B, 4th April, Holy Saturday
COCU31B, 5th April, Easter Day
COCU32B, 12th April, Easter 2
COCU33B, 19th April, Easter 3
COCU34B, 26th April, Easter 4

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Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

In a new photographic series, Gods of Suburbia, Dina Goldstein examines the role of faith in our modern society. She takes traditional religious and mythological iconography — everyone from Jesus to Buddha — and plunks them into today’s world in order to explore how they intertwine. Perhaps the most jarring photo in the group is “Last Supper, East Vancouver,” a Downtown Eastside twist on Leonardo da Vinci’s classic painting. Instead of a feast, there are empty beer cans and soup in plastic bowls.
As Goldstein describes on her website: “My reenactment of history’s most famous dinner party is meant to portray the treatment of the most vulnerable by society. I have placed Jesus and his Apostles, a street gang, specifically in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. This is Canada’s poorest postal code and a place of chronic drug abuse, alcohol addiction and mental illness. Jesus and the Apostles consume the diet of street people: cheap packaged noodles, cheap beer and canned tuna, while Judas plots his betrayal of Jesus. In Vancouver, so much money has flowed into the Downtown Eastside, but it is still a place of violence, addiction and homelessness. Like Judas, who betrayed Jesus for money, many have benefitted from initiatives to help Vancouver’s poor, yet the poor still have nothing”.
(Source: Huffington Post)

last supper east vancouver

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Palm Sunday

Readings: Readings Palm Sunday

Great article here by Ched Meyers.
“We need to undomesticated Palm Sunday in our churches. Jesus was staging a kind of counter-demonstration. While Pilate rode into the city on a military stallion, Jesus entered on a borrowed donkey, symbolized sovereignty—but also Zechariah’s promise that Yahweh would one day banish the war horse forever! Our churches have the habit of recreating that “demonstration” in our Palm Sunday liturgies. But to really represent this gospel story in our world, we need to re-contextualize its symbols into our political moment, and re-place our witness back into public space”

In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s killing and the aftermath that he was unarmed and shot, the cry of the innocent is ever more in our minds. God is on the side of the innocent. God defends the undefendable. God hears the cries and brings deliverance. However, God’s justice is about restoration, not punishment. Seeking revenge against Mr. Zimmerman or the police that did not arrest him does not bring restoration, it brings revenge. While nothing can bring back young Trayvon, we can work to end racial profiling and violence. We must work to speak out for the innocents, whether they are sitting in prison for crimes they didn’t commit or gunned down for looking suspicious. We must stop the violence first and foremost. And as we recall Jesus, we see Jesus in the life of Trayvon, who looked too suspicious as a rabble-rouser and reformer and didn’t behave at all the way they thought a Messiah should. Jesus is in Trayvon, and Jesus is in you and me. But we must remember, from the scriptures of old, that God hears the cries of the innocent, and will bring justice. Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell,

A communion liturgy for Palm Sunday John van de Laar.

A communion liturgy for Palm Sunday by Craig Mitchell (text is also on ‘Communion’ page) – a ‘question’ and response liturgy reminiscent of the Jewish passover meal with the questions through the meal

Bruce Prewer’s Palm Sunday liturgy

A contemporary reading: Cosmic procession by Bruce Sanguin (from If Darwin prayed, pp56-57)

God of galaxies and gerbils,
and this ‘gay great happening illimitably earth’
with great hope and celebration
we join the procession of life
en route to Jerusalem,
honouring the Christ,
in Jesus,
as alpha and omega.

The palm branches we throw down –
the royal carpet for His passing –
are our own lives,
offered as hallelujahs
that it has all come to this:

Fourteen billion years it has taken
to come to this One,
arriving as servant, though honoured as King;
as peasant, though Lord of Compassion;
no formal education, though born as Wisdom;
dormant in the stars, gestating in the pregnant Earth;
and through Mary, Mother of God.

What joy is ours as we take our place
in the great procession of life,
heralding and blessing
this One who comes in your name,
and all who are coming
with a song of holiness on their lips
and a yearning for wholeness in their hearts.

is this one who comes in your name!

Contemporary reading: Jesus takes on the city (adapted, St Oswald’s)
It was on the Sunday that he took on the city.
Religious freaks usually appear in the desert
Urging folk to come into the open air
And find God through getting back to nature.
God, they seemed to say, doesn’t live in the city.
God, they seemed to say, prefers the smell of a garden to that of a gutter.
God, they seemed to say, prefers the gurgling streams, not trickles of urine from the bladder of a homeless person.
They saw the city as a place for sin. God doesn’t go there.
It was on the Sunday
That he took on the city.

Meekness and majesty, manhood and deity,
In perfect harmony. The eternal one dwells in humanity,
Kneels in humility and washes our feet.
O what a mystery, meekness and majesty.

The Unking

We call you ‘King’, Jesus,
but you’re not like any king we’ve ever heard of;
You don’t flaunt your power,
waving your hand dismissively
to change the lives of your subjects;
You don’t hoard your wealth,
and tax your people just to grow more comfortable
in your isolated palace;
You don’t exploit the weak and unconnected,
or use the ambition of ladder-climbers
to further your control.
No, you are the King who lays down his crown,
to walk among us as one of us;
You are the King who lays down his life,
to bring abundant, eternal life to all who seek it;
You are the King who draws the weak, the rejected, the poor, the child
into the centre of the conversation
and into the heart of where real power lies.
You, Jesus, are the UnKing – the King whose Kingdom,
redefines everything we know
and will continue to do so for eternity. Amen (John van de Lear)

Other resources for Palm Sunday on John’s website here.


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IWD – International Women’s Day (March 8 each year)

When those who are role models treat women as equals, then the narrative changes – Desmond Tutu ‪#‎IWD2015‬

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Autumn poems and images

a poem for autumn

a poem for autumn

Dead leaves crackle and shout their praise,
shake their shakers and noisemakers,
applauding in gratitude
for all the green that has gone,
all the life, the breathing in and out,
the shade, the birds sheltered
and bugs fed, air cleansed,
the nations healed, the earth renewed.

Give thanks
for the gifts offered, the things we leave,
the mistakes made, the afternoons spent.
Give thanks for the nights
when even the leaves rested.

Give thanks for ourselves, finely veined,
the chewed edges of grief, love given,
our letting go and arriving.
Kick the leaves.
It was good, it was good.

Give thanks for the welcoming earth,
receiving life and death with open arms,
making of our words and hands
a compost for others.
Give thanks that it all settles
into the dark, into the moist mystery,
already, under scumbling clouds
devoted to the green rising.

Kick up for joy the heart’s dry husk,
this blessed sackcloth, future’s bones,
the peace of doing without,
this rustling flesh, this loss.

The white oak, the red oak, the hickory,
the maple, the beech, the ash, all praise,
the grasses, the dry grasses praise.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

Prayers for autumn by John Birch on his website.

Autumn leaves sunset sky

Autumn leaves sunset sky

poem for autumn

poem for autumn

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Lent 1B resources

Readings set for Lent 1B Readings Lent 1B
Genesis 9:8-17

Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Background for OT readings:

Background on NT Readings:

Follow Me (For Lent)
Here is a story of grace and truth –
of love received, life revealed.
Here is a saga of freedom and cost –
of pasts forgotten, futures chosen.
Here is biography of found and lost –
of paths taken, homes forsaken.
Here is a meeting of here and when –
of earth’s place, heaven’s embrace.
Here is a testament of claim and call –
of breath’s gasp, Spirit’s grasp.
Here is a testing of desert and dreams –
of challenge spoken, powers broken
Here is a chorus of lament and longing –
of doubt singing, hope springing.
Here is a journey of step and stumbling –
of death walking, life stalking. (c) Craig Mitchell 2015

A wonderfully evocative poem on the Gospel reading (Mark 1:9-15) by Jennie Gordon:
across the universe
through one immutable rend
in heaven’s curtained sphere
she descends upon you here
as rising you collide
in Jordan’s waters deep and wide
a voice speaks, pouring through the gash
of these ripped worlds
and blessing claims, names and re-frames
then she that bears you, births you
into enforced wilderness
and it becomes your task, your test,
you taste the tempter’s first but not his last caress
while angels wait
and forty days play long
and then, and only then,
the time is right for gospel song.
© Jennie Gordon 2008

Confessional Prayer:

Jesus Christ boldly faced the wilderness, its dangers and wonders.  He struggled with his mission to make known God’s loving purposes for all people. Guarded and guided by God’s Spirit, he was triumphant and began to proclaim the Gospel, and the hope that the reign of God would bring to an end of oppression and deliverance for those held captive.
On our lack of repentance and our failure to believe the good news: Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, your victory in the desert assures us that as you followed the way of the cross there were victories over evil in its many forms until its powers were broken on the cross, and you were raised triumphant forever.
On our lack of repentance and our failure to believe the good news: Christ, have mercy

Grant us vision and courage that in our time we may recognize and struggle with all oppressing and dehumanising forces in the world, and become signs of the in-breaking of the reign of God.
On our lack of repentance and our failure to believe the good news: Lord, have mercy.

Adapted from Rev. Ron Gordon


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Ash Wednesday

Wonderful Ash Wednesday sermon by Jennifer Henry here, posted on Ched Myers blogsite.

(from Sojourners)
Ash Wednesday is the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the pastor or priest reminds each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

It isn’t intended to be a downer. It’s supposed to be a reminder that our lives are short and we must live them to the fullest. OK, maybe it’s a little bit of a downer — that verse from Genesis is what God said to Adam and Eve when he expelled them from the Garden of Eden for their sins. But there’s a big party the night before Ash Wednesday. That’s Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” a secular observance that evolved out of “Shrove Tuesday,” the last hurrah – usually marked by eating of pancakes or other sinfully sweet foods – before the solemnity and penance of Lent set in.

Fun fact: Lent is actually longer than 40 days. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but most churches don’t count the Sundays as part of Lent.

It used to be true that Catholics made up the lion’s share of people celebrating Ash Wednesday. But today, most “liturgical churches” — those with a regular, calendar-based liturgy, or set of rituals and observances — mark the day, including Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other Protestants.

There is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible. But there is a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes,” and there are other associations of ashes and repentance in Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” By the 11th century, the practice was widespread throughout the church — until Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, threw the practice out in the 16th century because it was not biblically based. There’s no Lent in the Bible, either, though many Christians see it as an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert.

No one is required to keep the ashes on his or her face after the ritual. But some Christians choose to, perhaps as a reminder to themselves that they are mortal and fallible, while others may choose to leave them on as a witness to their faith in the hope others will ask about them and open a door to sharing their faith.

Just a thought……
In some monastic communities, monks go up to receive the ashes barefoot.  Going barefoot is a joyous thing.  It is good to feel the floor or the earth under your feet.  It is good when the whole church is silent, filled with the hush of people walking without shoes.  One wonders why we wear such things as shoes anyway.  Prayer is so much more meaningful without them.  It would be good to take them off in church all the time.  But perhaps this might appear quixotic to those who have forgotten such elementary satisfactions.  Someone might catch cold at the mere thought of it.
— Thomas Merton

Dust to Dust
Great article here by Barbara Brown Taylor
“The gospel of the day is not about the poverty of flesh so much as it is about the holiness of ashes, which are worthy of all reverence. It was God who decided to breathe on them, after all, God who chose to bring them to life. We are certainly dust and to dust we shall return, but in the meantime our bodies are sources of deep revelation for us. They are how we come to know both great pain and great pleasure. They help us to recognize ourselves in one another. They are how God gets to us, at the most intimate and universal level of all”.
Read the full article here.

reduction – a poem by Thom Shuman

greed, envy, worry,
doubt, brokenness, grief:
you take the juices
of our burnt out lives,
pouring them into
the Spirit, setting
the temperature on low
as you gently keep stirring,
you mix in the crumbs
from the Table,
adding a dash of
of the Cup’s nectar,
some sprigs of time,
a couple of hope leaves,
patiently waiting for
the sauce of
to emerge;

almost forgetting the place
where you stored them,
you take the palms you
had gathered up off the road
while the crowd scurried
on towards Calvary,
and with a pair of old scissors,
you slowly snip them up into
smaller pieces,
and when there is
plenty, you strike a match
and set them ablaze, your prayers rising
like incense,
singing a love song, as the ashes
pile up and up, enough
to baptize us in humble

(c) 2012 Thom M. Shuman

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casting out demons
a prayer of thanksgiving and confession, to go alongside Mark 1:21-28
Cheryl Lawrie,

we thank you for this extraordinary world
and its reminders of resilience, grace, hope and life:
for when grass shoots break through concrete
when the sun emerges after storms
for when people offer laughter in deep sadness
In these moments we see glimpses of who you are –
and we are grateful.

Yet if we reduce you to being like the cycle of nature
or the best of humankind,
we diminish your power to make the impossible real:
to break apart the impenetrable evils of oppression,
to cast out the very real fears that paralyse us
to banish the insidious demons of judgement and worthlessness

Forgive us God when we do not trust you to deal with the unspeakable awfulness in our lives and world.
In the silence we name the parts of our lives and our world that we believe are
too broken to ever be made whole

Leader: Cast out our demons, Lord,
People: Make us new again

Forgive us when contribute to the brokenness of the world and the lives
of people around us.
In the silence we name the things we have done that separate us
from you and from others

Leader: Cast out our demons, Lord,
People: Make us new again

Forgive us when we trust darkness more than we trust your light.
In the silence we name the things we think we need to keep hidden.

Leader: Cast out our demons
People: Make us new again

Scripture says that those who are in Christ are a new creation;
everything old has passed away;
see, the new has come!

Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven’

People: Thanks be to God.

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COCU 11B.Epiphany 3B.2015

Readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

A reflection based on Psalm 62.5-12
Beloved, for you my soul waits in silence.
My hope is hidden in your silence.
Life of my living, you are my earth.
You are what cannot be taken.
In the gravity of your grace I rest.
In your silence is my deep belonging.

I trust in you, Holy One.
I pour myself into your hands,
into this light, my resting place.

Rich or poor mean nothing;
they are an illusion.
I abandon my little “happy” and “sad.”
They are both lint.
Do I catch myself trying to gain?
Ah, ignore all that fool’s gold.
Ignore it. Let it go.

I keep hearing this in the silence;
the silence says it over and over:
the only power is Love,
and love, all love, is God.

Beloved, you live, you speak, you resound
in all we do.
(c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

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Australia Day resources – various

Straya – national anthem
This youtube clip has gone viral as an unofficial ‘national anthem’ for Australia to the tune ‘hey ya’.

Rev Ken Sumner, an indigenous leader in the Uniting Church, reflects on Australia Day in this article.

Song for Australia – words by Helen Wiltshire here: Australia Day.Song for Australia.HW (music in ‘Here’s a New Day, published by Pilgrim Publishing,, 08 82123295)

Loving God, undiminished by distance, unconstrained by place or time, forever seeking, forever calling, forever drawing humanity to yourself and to each other, we glimpse your Spirit in the brooding silence of awesome landscape, the ancient law of Aboriginal nations, the unspoken trust of honest mateship. Yet in the vastness of this place, Australia, we often feel alone, alienated, unworthy of more than a passing acquaintance with your love.
Help us understand you ever yearn to make us whole, drawing near in Christ to show us the way. Amen.
(Source: Rev BL Smith, published in Frontier News, August 2011)
=> could be shaped as a prayer of confession, with silence after ‘with your love’, and the last line as words of assurance.

The French historian Ernest Renan (1823-1892) described forgetfulness as “essential in the creation of a nation”.  Renan is known for the statements that a nation is “a daily referendum”, and that nations are based as much on what the people jointly forget, as what they remember). Renan states: “Forgetfulness, and I would even say historical error, are essential in the creation of a nation.” Historical research, by revealing unwanted truths, can even endanger nationhood. nationality is based on sentiment. “All nations, even the most benevolent in later practice, are founded on acts of violence, which are then forgotten”. “Unity is always achieved by brutality”. He believed that people unite in their memories of suffering because alleviating grief requires a “common effort” which serves as a foundation for unity. Members of a community feel as though they have accomplished something great when they are able to survive in adverse conditions.  “Now, the essence of a nation is that the people have many things in common, but have also forgotten much together”. Renan concludes that a nation is “a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which are really one, constitute this soul and spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other, the present. One is the possession in common of a rich trove of memories; the other is actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to continue to value the undivided, shared heritage….To have had glorious moments in common in the past, a common will in the present, to have done great things together and to wish to do more, those are the essential conditions for a people. We love the nation in proportion to the sacrifices to which we consented, the harms that we suffered”. (Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?“, conference faite en Sorbonne, le 11 Mars 1882).
What might this mean for Australia?

Opening prayer/call to worship
Our land is alive with the glory of God
Desert sands hum and gum trees dance
Brown grasses sing
and mountains breathe their stillness.
All created things add their rhythm of delight
and even the stones rap out their praise.
Let our voices mingle with the song of the earth
May our hearts join the beat of her joy
For our triune God is with us:
Our creator surrounds and upholds us.
Christ Jesus walks beside and upholds us.
The Spirit moves within and between us.
Blessed be God, our wonder and our delight.
Jenny Tymms

Call to worship
As we tread the ground of this place,
call to us, Spirit of God.
Open our ears to hear the sound of your voice
speaking in the desert silences,
stirring in the moving
of the grey-green bushland trees,
singing songs in the rhythm of our farmlife
and rising free in the humming of our cities.
Call to us again, Spirit of God.
Make your music of peace and joy in the midst of our life.
For your song is true, your voice is of love,
and in your Holy Spirit lies our hope. Amen.
Dorothy McRae-McMahon

Acknowledgement of land
This prayer by Dorothy McRae-McMahon could precede an acknowledgement of land.
Sometimes we think we are small gods, God of all creation.
We think we own this land
and can tame its eternal energies.
But it teaches us who we are in the cosmos, O God.
Its endless changing rhythms
of flood and dryness,
fire and fertility
invite us, age by age,
to simply take our place as your humble children
thankfully receiving small and larger gifts,
invited to cherish a mysterious landscape of your making…….

…….We acknowledge that we are on the land of the (name of traditional custodians of the land eg Kaurna) people and that the Spirit was in the land revealing God to them through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the Kaurna people and gave them particular insights into God’s ways. Therefore, we honour the wisdom of the Kaurna Elders and their continuing culture, and pray that we might all work together for reconciliation and justice in this nation.
(Using words from the Preamble to the Uniting Church constitution)

The Acknowledgement of country was written by Jonathan Hill who is an  Aboriginal poet living in New South Wales:
We begin with the acknowledgement of country:
Today we stand in footsteps millennia old.
May we acknowledge the traditional owners
whose culture and customs have nurtured,
and continue to nurture, this land,
since men and women
awoke from the great dream.
We honour the presence of these ancestors
who reside in the imagination of this land
and whose irrepressible spirituality
flows through all creation.

ther suggestions for wording for acknowledgement of land here)
For more resources …..
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COCU10B.Epiphany2B.18 January 2015

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Ps 139:1-6, 13-18; 1 Cor 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

There is a God who steps free of the binding chains around our souls,
and calls us in a voice which also knows our name,
and always knows our pain,
who lifts our feet as though our life stands cupped in a saving hand
and cherished forever in a life-filled place.

Affirmation 1 (based on Psalm 139:1-6)
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it. Amen.

Song: Weave our lives together (Helen Wiltshire) (Tune: Glenfinlas 65.65)

Weave our lives together,
sinew, blood and bone;
shape us in completeness,
secret and yet known.

Knit our souls together, spirit, mind and heart;
weave us in the darkness;
craft our ev’ry part.

Hold us in enchantment;
nurture us in grace;
search us in our being;
carve for us a place.

Draw us to your presence,
gather us in care;
call us to your beauty;
nourish each one there.

Woven, shaped and living;
held within love’s womb;
may we spring and flourish,
grow and come to bloom.

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