COCU Index Year C

Year C – COCU Index 2018-19
Remembering Mary Oliver

(died Thursday 17th Jan 2019, aged 83 years old)
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean – 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Cherish “your one wild and precious life.”

Day of Mourning, 20th January 2019
The Day of Mourning invites all Uniting Church in Australia congregations to hold worship services that reflect on the effect of invasion and colonisation on Australia’s First Peoples and our identity as a nation. It is recommended for the Sunday before Australia Day on 26th January (the Sunday will be 20th January 2019). Also check out #changetheheart
Martin Luther King Jr Day (USA), 21st January
COCU10C, 20th January 2019
COCU11C, 27th January 2019
COCU12C, 3rd February 2019
COCU13C, 10th February 2019
COCU14C, 17th February 2019
COCU15C, 24th February 2019

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order

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Day of Mourning.20Jan2019 (Australia)

The Day of Mourning allows Australians to stand together in remembering the truth of our history and honouring the culture of Australia’s First Peoples, their families and the next generations. The 15th UCA Assembly in July 2018 endorsed the proposal that the Sunday before Australia Day be declared as a Day of Mourning. In 2019, this will be Sunday 20th January. The Day of Mourning was brought to the Assembly by our sisters and brothers in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), and was endorsed in the spirit of our Covenant relationship with the UAICC. The Day of Mourning Worship Resource invites all Uniting Church in Australia congregations to hold worship services that reflect on the effect of invasion and colonisation on Australia’s First Peoples and our identity as a nation. A link to worship resources is attached below and on the link 

It may also be helpful to look at resources on this website for Australia Day, Reconciliation Sunday and NAIDOC Week.

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COCU10C.20January2019

Isaiah 62:1-5: Isaiah’s prayer for Jerusalem, and prophecy that God will restore her to be a place that people celebrate – even as bride and groom celebrate each other.

Psalm 36:5-10: A song of celebration for God’s unfailing love and care which includes all humanity and all of creation.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11: No one can acknowledge Jesus as Lord except by the Holy Spirit, who gives gifts to God’s people. These gifts are diverse, though God is one, but all are given for the common good.

John 2:1-11: At a wedding in Cana, they run out of wine, and Jesus’ mother tells the servants to do whatever he tells them, in spite of Jesus saying his time had not yet come. Then Jesus tells them to fill the water jars with water and take some to the host. When he tastes the water, it has become wine.

(Bible summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

RCL readings handout RCL readings.Epiphany2

This is also the Sunday set aside by the Uniting Church in Australia for the Day of Mourning, to reflect on the effect of invasion and colonisation on Australia’s First Peoples and our identity as a nation. This is scheduled for the Sunday just prior to Australia Day, January 26th. Click on the link for more information, and worship resources.

Components of worship
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

Beloved,
you make the water of my life into wine,
my ordinary into your holy.

You request miracles of me
the moment before I know I’m ready.

What was for purification of uncleanness
you make into celebration of beauty.

You change my despair to gratitude
in secret, my dark certainty to wonder.

You make this life into a wedding feast,
my faithful marriage to the Holy One.

Always you turn piety into a party.
And always the best is yet to come.

This wine is not for discussion.
It’s to drink. It’s good. It’s really good. Let’s dance.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Collect for Epiphany 2C
God of abundant life, God of aged best wine,
when our lives seem to us dreary, you change it,
you change us into the best, the best we can be, the best wine.
May we drink life to the fullest with Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.  Amen (Bob Eldan)

Prayers for others
God of righteousness – spread your wings
Over the earth, enfold the suffering in clouds of mercy.
Reach into the tragedies of this earth,
Especially the chaos and despair in places of natural disasters and conflicts.
May our hands be yours, bringing relief
Precious is your love, O God.
May we take refuge  in the shadow of your wings.

Guide the leaders of nations – in grace
Teach us, your people, to be Your heart,  your love abundant.
Like a mountain of love reaching to the heavens
A gift of the Holy Spirit given, that we may be
A place of refuge in the dust, hope in darkness
In your light may we see, may we be light
Precious is your love, O God.
May we take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Merciful God, be with us all, – this day
The sick and the dying, the worn, and fearful and all who suffer.
Call us by name, the name you give, love.
A fountain of mercy pouring forth light
You who lift us up, known before birth
Naming, calling, holding, caring.
Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Gracious and Holy One, we give thanks for all the blessings of this life
Miracles of grace – of being found, of air and water, of food, song and prayer
Tenderly hold us, gently lift the cup, the wine of your delight.
Precious is your love, O God
May we take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Amen.
(Source: RevGal Prayer Pal) Continue reading

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COCU11C.27January2019

Readings
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10: Ezra reads the book of the law to the people. They respond in remorse, but Nehemiah encourages them to be joyful and to celebrate.

Psalm 19: A celebration of God’s word, proclaimed and revealed in creation, which makes naive people wise, which gladdens the heart, which gives light to see by, and which is a valuable treasure.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a: Paul teaches that the Christian community is like a body with many parts. Each has a gift, and each must use their unique gift for the benefit of the “Body of Christ”.

Luke 4:14-21: Jesus reads from Isaiah’s scroll about God’s anointing for ministry, and God’s liberating work through God’s anointed. Then, he claims this prophecy for himself.
(Bible readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Components of worship
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

A reflection on the 1 Corinthians reading (we are the body of Christ):
Out running in the cold winter air, most of my body was warm, but my fingers were cold. Riding my bike, it’s my forehead that suffers. But they’re all a part of me. And while I deal with the winter cold I think of you who are in Australia, who have been living through this awful summer heat. We’re at different extremes, but we’re all part of the same planet, all part of the same humanity.
Paul says we’re all parts of one body. Somehow, even without our knowing, when one suffers we all suffer. When one rejoices we all rejoice. Our sadness and gladness mingle together into one joy. In prayer we enter a deeper consciousness, even if it’s beyond our knowing: the reality that we belong, that we are all one living being. We enter into the suffering, and the joy, of the world. We become one with all our body. Our joy is there for others, and our pain is not ours alone. We receive the gift of their happiness, and help them bear the weight of their sorrows. Our souls are woven with theirs. In this way, even sitting in our room in silence, by the mystery of God’s grace in us, we become part of the mending of the world. (source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, www.unfoldinglight.net)

Duo by Secret Garden with images from the universe (if using Psalm 19)

Music

In a world full of sorrows wicc_hymn_in_aworld_full_of_sorrrow

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COCU12C.3February2019

COCU is a coding index so the lectionary weeks remain consistent for each year. 


Readings
Jeremiah 1:4-10: Jeremiah is called to be a prophet, and God explains God’s knowledge of Jeremiah from his conception, and God’s message for Jeremiah to preach. Note both the “yes” and the “no” in the message Jeremiah is given.

Psalm 71:1-6: A prayer for God to protect and be a refuge from one who has trusted and praised God since the womb.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13: A celebration of the noble and godly characteristics of love, which lasts forever and is the greatest of all things. Again note the “yes” (love is…) and the “no” (love is not…).

Luke 4:21-30: After reading the “yes” in Isaiah’s scroll (last week) and claiming the prophecy for himself, Jesus confronts the people of Nazareth with a “no” because, like their ancestors, they are offended by the idea that God can work in and through “outsiders” and Gentiles, and they refuse to accept the teachings of the prophets. This offends the people, and so they attempt to kill Jesus.
(Bible readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Components of worship
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

Gathering (Together in the spirit of prayer)
As followers of Jesus
we gather to seek the intimate presence
of the Source of life
whose wonder we see in morning light
and cosmic radiance…
and ponder in ancient bedrock and new life …
Yet mixed with that celebration
is an awareness of times
when indignation, envy or selfish anger
have blinded us
to signs
of the ancient yet living promises,
and closed our ears
to the murmurs of the faithfulness
of the holy mystery we name God.
We yearn to have the Breath of life
open our lives
to horizons wider than our landscape …
to following Jesus to the edge …
and beyond;
and open our mouths to sing the praise
and speak the compassion, justice and hope
of the Word of life
in the midst the confusion and strife of the world …
to speak, unknowing, a healing word
to those whose troubles are known
only to the Holy One …
and in our living
encourage and sustain
those who we name in our silence and on our lips…
As followers of Jesus
we express our concern for others …
and for ourselves …
In listening for the voice of the divine Spirit of grace
heard in Jesus,
may our lives be open
to a bigger vision
of good news for the poor …
hope for the hope-less …
release for the captives …
of comfort for the grieving …
of a national generosity of spirit
that welcomes rather than shuns …
that respects rather than demeans …
May our living be more fruitful …
as we follow in the way of Jesus …
and pray as he taught his friends:
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 in the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen
(Source: Jeff Shrowder)

Fear
When God calls us on to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step. When Isaiah was called by God, his first response was to say, “Woe is me! I’m lost!” When Moses was called, he hid his face in his terror. When poor Jeremiah was called, he was scared and pleaded, I am just a boy and I’m not good at speaking. But to each one of them, God spoke these gentle and gracious words. “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.”
(Br. Geoffrey Tristram, Society of Saint John the Evangelist)

Good News? (reflecting on Luke 4:16-30 )
Jesus,
Christ,
You claimed to fulfil the prophesy
To proclaim good news to the poor.
To proclaim freedom for the prisoners
To help the blind in the recovery of sight
To set the oppressed free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
But what does that mean?
What is good news for the poor?
There have always been poor and it is not likely that there won’t be poor in the foreseeable future.
Did you mean poor in spirit?
Morally poor?
Poverty of character?
What sort of prisoners were you talking about?
Surely it wasn’t criminals?
Was it about prisoners or captives of circumstance?
Was it about political prisoners?
Was it about those in an occupied territory?
Was it about human condition such as poverty or slavery or detention?
What blindness were you giving sight to?
Was it literally people who are blind and cannot see?
Was it metaphorically blindness?
Blindness to the truth?
Blindness to the struggles of others?
Blindness of bias or prejudice?
Blindness to our own faults or weaknesses?
What oppression were you freeing people from,
Because there is and has been oppression in many forms since you spoke these words?
Oppression due to poverty?
Oppression by governments and powers?
Oppression by slavery ?
Oppression by discrimination and injustice of the denial of human rights?
Oppression by fear and violence?
And what is the Lord’s favour?
Does that mean God has favourites?
Does God take sides?
Does God give blessings to some more than others?
And what year do you mean because the world is still as messed up as it always has been? Are you referring to a time to come?
A time of change?
An ongoing period of renewal?
So, help us Lord.
Help us to understand these words.
May we not be so confused or confounded that we wish you out of our lives or wish you dead like your people did.
May we learn to wait on your answers.
May we learn patience in following you.
May we learn wisdom in the slow release of your anti-kingdom.
May we learn persistence in walking your prophetic way of the cross.
May all this be so.
Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Spirit of the Lord – open our eyes to see with clarity and our hearts to fill with compassion,
Anointed us with your blessing, that we might be empowered to do good in the world.
Not only in our words but our actions and in a changing of our values may we proclaim good news to the poor.
Send us courage and insight that we might recognise those who are imprisoned by a sense of guilt or shame, those locked away by loneliness and mental illness, those restricted by social barriers that we might help them on the way to freedom.
Liberate us from apathy and empower us to work to set right injustice in the world which leads to oppression of the innocent and vulnerable.
God, open our eyes that we may no longer be so blind to the suffering and struggles of others, that we might see hope and proclaim your blessing for all.
This is asked in the name of Jesus. Amen

1 Corinthians 13
No matter how powerfully or eloquently I speak,
if I do not speak in love,
it’s all just noise.
If I know everything
and understand life completely
and have miracle-producing faith
but do not act in love
it’s all for nothing.
If I give away everything I own
and die a heroic martyr’s death
but do it without love,
I have just wasted my time.
To love is to be kind.
To have time for the other.
To be generous, humble and gentle.
To let go of keeping score of faults,
and instead to rejoice in what is good and true.
To love is to bear willingly,
to trust deeply,
to hope boldly,
to endure patiently.
Love does not die.
Beliefs will end; languages will fade;
knowledge will exhaust itself:
knowledge and belief are not the whole picture.
But there is a wholeness,
and we let go of the part for the whole.
When I was a child
I spoke and thought like a child.
Becoming an adult, I abandoned those ways.
Now we see through foggy glass,
but in time we will see clearly, face to face.
Now I know only partially;
in time I will know fully—
and know that I have been fully known.
We have these three great gifts: faith, hope and love.
And the greatest is love.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK (John van de Laar)
When Jesus read the scroll of Isaiah in his hometown of Nazareth, the people listened attentively. When he claimed that he was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, they were amazed and questioned how it could be, but they were still open to Jesus’ message. It was only when Jesus began to challenge their sense of entitlement, and when he pointed out God’s concern for outsiders, that they got murderously angry. The radical inclusivity of Jesus was scandalous and offensive to these people. They wanted to believe that they were “in” with God, and that meant there had to be others who were “out”. But, when Jesus suggested that outsiders were really the true insiders, they refused to let go of their stereotypes, their sense of privilege, and their need for exclusivity.
It’s tragic when God’s people are more like the people of Nazareth than Jesus. We love to talk about Jesus the Messiah, and to hear how God’s Reign has come to us. But, sometimes, when we are challenged by the Gospel to welcome those whom we believe are “sinners” or “outside” of God’s “chosen ones,” we may prefer to attack the messenger rather than do the difficult work of opening our hearts. We all have those we struggle to love. We all have those whom we believe are undeserving of God’s grace. But, if God’s favour could be earned – even by praying a “sinner’s” prayer – it wouldn’t be grace. The challenge of the Gospel is the way it calls us constantly to expand our welcome and inclusion until all people discover that they are actually “in” with God. This challenging journey into radical, inclusive grace is the focus of this week.

A CELEBRATION OF LOVE

I have had
many beautiful encounters with love
in my life –
Sometimes it has been the love of nature – the soft lines,
strong trunks
and the mossy smell of bush.
Sometimes has been
the tenderness of another person – a oneness in relationship,
shared silence,
the mingling of tears,
the fragile flower of romance.
Sometimes love has been
a passion for justice,
the fight for equality,
a concern for others,
grief at the Church’s divisions, anger at its petty-mindedness.
Sometimes love has been parenting
of child and adult, of others and self, of nature and ideas.
Sometimes love has been creating
words and music, color and form, line and texture, buildings and gardens,
one’s own kind
and one’s own life.
Sometimes love has been pain and sorrow,
sometimes dream and fulfillment,
sometimes tearful ecstasy,
sometimes common sense practicality,
But at all times
love has nurtured me,
enlivened me,
fulfilled me,
wooed me
and drawn me on into the oneness of God,
divine lover,
creator,
liberator,
never-dying life,
the source of all our loving.
And now
in the knowledge
that no love is ever wasted
and that all love
becomes part of God’s love,
I thankfully celebrate
all the loving that God
has graciously allowed me to partake,
create,
or enhance.
(Source: Progressive Christianity website)

MUSIC

The world needs love
The world needs love; so many hearts are hurting.
Lord, work through us, help us to spread your peace,
bringing to all – through your forgiving spirit –
freedom from guilt, from bitterness release.
Reconcile us; help us to share your calmness,
’till anger stills and all our conflicts cease.

The world needs hope, a vision for the future,
what life might be, if all would live in you.
Help us to lead – through your transforming spirit –
lives that reflect what you would have us do,
to share our gifts, show forth your loving kindness,
encourage all to find their hope in you.

The world needs faith, a willing dedication
of all we are and all we might yet be.
Help us to serve – through your empowering spirit –
in active faith in our community.
Love for each soul, respecting and upholding,
declares the worth of all humanity.

The world needs joy, a sense of celebration
that human lives have such diversity.
Help us to see – through your dynamic spirit –
each person’s part in life’s vitality.
Sharing our joys, supporting others’ sorrows
make our small world a better place to be.
(Words: Philip Sudworth 2002, Tune: Finlandia)

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COCU13C.10February2019

Readings

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

Psalm 138

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

Components of worship 
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

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COCU14C.17Feb2019

Reading

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Luke 6:17-26

Components of worship 
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

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COCU15C.24Feb2019

Readings

Genesis 45:3-11,15

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

Luke 6:27-38

Components of worship 
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

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COCU17C.Transfiguration Sunday.3rdMarch2019

Transfiguration Sunday – last Sunday in Epiphany
See also COCU17A.Transfiguration A and COCU17B.Transfiguration B resources on this website

Year C readings
Exodus 34:29-35: After bringing the tablets of the law down the mountain, Moses’ face shines. And every time after speaking with God in the Tent of Meeting, he addresses the people with a shining face, after which he covers his face with a veil.

Psalm 99: A psalm of praise for God’s holiness and glory, for God’s love of justice, and for God’s guidance and discipline of God’s people.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2: In Christ, believer’s hearts are unveiled to receive the truth, and we are able to reflect God’s glory, being changed to be more and more like Christ.

Luke 9:28-36 (37-43): Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where his face is transfigured, his clothes shine white, and the disciples, who had fallen asleep, wake up to find Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah.
(Bible reading summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Components of worship
(Scroll down for resources for this particular Sunday)
Acknowledgement of Land
Gathering
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Readings
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
(Communion)
(Communion Hymns)
(Music)

Call to worship
We gather as the faithful of God,
we come to listen to what God has to say to us.
God has invited us to this place;
may our faces reflect our hopes and our hearts.
We gather as the faithful of God,
people of the new covenant of hope and promise.
We boldly enter into the presence of God,
hoping to be transformed into new people.
We gather as the faithful of God,
our fears melting away in the heart of God.
We come to share in the freedom of the Spirit,
we come to praise God’s holy name.
(Source: Thom Shuman)

Call to worship
Let’s go up to the mountain
let’s go up to the place where the land meets the sky
where the earth touches the heavens,
to the place of meeting,
to the place of mists,
to the place of voices and conversations,
to the place of listening.
(Source: Bill Loader)

Dazzling: A Blessing for Transfiguration Sunday
Believe me, I know
how tempting it is
to remain inside this blessing,
to linger where everything
is dazzling
and clear.

We could build walls
around this blessing,
put a roof over it.
We could bring in
a table, chairs,
have the most amazing meals.
We could make a home.
We could stay.

But this blessing
is built for leaving.
This blessing
is made for coming down
the mountain.
This blessing
wants to be in motion,
to travel with you
as you return
to level ground.

It will seem strange
how quiet this blessing becomes
when it returns to earth.
It is not shy.
It is not afraid.

It simply knows
how to bide its time,
to watch and wait,
to discern and pray

until the moment comes
when it will reveal
everything it knows,
when it will shine forth
with all that it has seen,
when it will dazzle
with the unforgettable light
you have carried
all this way.
(Source: Jan Richardson, paintedprayerbook.com)

Reflection
We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
(Source: Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela)

Prayer: Give Way to Glory (inspired by Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36)
May we give way to glory, O God
May we let the light tangle with our lives
that we may see what you see in us
may we see what you see
a love born in eternity
that find a home in our souls
and wants to be there
a word that lifts itself
from page into life
and tells a story
that begins with itself
may we see what you see
a vision that brings past and future
into the one meeting place
and offers is all as present
a wisdom born of generations
where time nurtures the promise
and the longings of believers
wondering if this will the be the generation that breaks it open
May we give way to glory
and dare its splendour
to rekindle our faith
and transfigure our lives
So be it. Amen
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Listening to the Stones)

Continue reading

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COCU5C.ChristmasDay.25thDec

Note: COCU relates to a way of coding for the lectionary year.

Palestinian artist: Ibrahim Hazimeh

Readings Year C
Isaiah 52:7-10 The messenger who brings good news
Psalm 98 O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things
Hebrews 1:1-4 in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son
John 1:1-14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us

Readings Year B
Isaiah 52:7-10
The joy of seeing the messenger of good news, who announces peace and the reign of God, and of knowing God’s protection and care.
Psalm 98
A song of celebration of the God who comes to save God’s people, and who comes to judge the earth in righteousness and justice.
Hebrews 1:1-4 (5-12)
God has spoken to us through God’s Son, who is the likeness of God’s being, who has
been appointed as ruler over all things because of his love of goodness, and whose rule is just and eternal.
John 1:1-14
The eternal Word who created the world has come into the world as light shining in darkness and has given life – as children of God – to all who believed in him and received him.
(RCL reading summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

If you came to this place expecting a tame story,
you came to the wrong place.

If you came for a story that does not threaten you,
you came for a different story than the one we tell.

If you came to hear of the coming of a God
who only showed up so that you could have a nice day
with your loved ones,
then you came for a God whom we do not worship here.

For even a regular baby is not a tame thing.
And goodness that cannot threaten complacency and evil
is not much good at all,
And a God who would choose to give up power and invincibility
to become an infant for you,
certainly didn’t do it just so you could have dinner.

But.

If you came because you think unwed teenage mothers
are some of the strongest people in the world.

If you came because you think that the kind of people who work third
shift doing stuff you’d rather not do might attract an angel’s
attention before you, snoring comfortably in your bed, would.

If you came because you think there are wise men and women to be
found among undocumented travelers from far lands and
that they might be able to show you God.

If you came to hear a story of tyrants trembling
while heaven comes to peasants.

If you came because you believe that God loves the animals
as much as the people
and so made them the first witnesses to the saving of the world.

If you came for a story of reversals
that might end up reversing you.

If you came for a tale of adventure and bravery,
where strong and gentle people win,
and the powerful and violent go down to dust,
where the rich lose their money but find their lives
and the poor are raised up like kings.

If you came to be reminded that God loves you too much
to leave you unchanged.

If you came to follow the light
even if it blinds you.

If you came for salvation and not safety,
then, ah, my friends,
you are precisely in the right place.

So what are you here for?”

(Source: Quinn G. Caldwell, All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Abingdon Press, 2014)
Artwork by Anthony VanArsdale for the National Black Catholic Congress
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUrfd51mns8

god today has a human face
blanket wrapping grubby grace
heaven’s child in earth’s embrace
god today has a human face

hope today has a human face
new life born in dusty shed
promise crying to be fed
hope today has a human face

peace today has a human face
war zone pierced by infant’s cry
from Baghdad to Palestine
peace today has a human face

joy today has a human face
angels pointing down our street
heaven swirling at my feet
joy today has a human face

love today has a human face
prodigals are welcome home
refugees no longer roam
love today has a human face

earth today sees heaven’s face
mystery present in this place
turning point of time and space
earth today sees heaven’s face
(Source: Craig Mitchell)

Glossies cascade from my letter-box,
a mind-numbing coloured cornucopia,
each dazzling gift a bargain.
The first-ever Christmas gift was found
wrapped in straw and non-disposable nappies,
in Palestine, at the census,
stamped with a star, but posted beyond the stars,
marked ‘No Commercial Value’, signed, with a cross,
‘From heaven to earth, with love.’
(Source: Michael and Honor Thwaites Heritage Association)

…love beyond anything we can grasp or comprehend
love without limit and without end
love that is unearned and unearnable
love that has within it the ever-present possibility of forgiveness, healing, of new beginnings
love that is for all, yet leans especially towards the despised, the broken, the forgotten
love that holds each one of us, even when – especially when – we can no longer hold anything
love that broke its own silence, that uttered its own Word,
that came among us full of grace and truth…
[from a Christmas card]

An Australian Aboriginal Christmas Prayer
Father of the Dreaming
Your enduring love has sustained us for over 60,000 years.
Your presence, as the guiding light in our
lives has ensured that we,
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia continue to walk on our land in Your footsteps.

During the Christmas Season we sing of
our gratitude for the example of Your life,
which gives us new meaning to our lives.
We acknowledge and we are comforted by our companionship
and Your promise to be with us,
Your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

As we celebrate Christmas Day may
wonder take hold of us again,
opening our eyes to the marvels of Your creation and,
renewing our desire to imitate your gentleness and peace.
We ask this in Your name, Jesus,
in whose life we rejoice today. Amen.

Artwork: Nativity by Australian Aboriginal artist Duwun Lee

A Christmas blessing
May you find joy in perfect and imperfect harmonies. May angels witness your silence between sounds. And may you look to the heavens for a star to guide you to a home full of love and promise.
(Source: Facebook post by Moira Deslandes, 2017)

Christmas benediction
Like a tender child in your arms,
may the nearness of God warm you.
Like the awe of the shepherds,
may the love that unites us all enfold you.
Like the song of the angels,
may the promise of our belovedness give you hope.
Like the wonder of Mary and Joseph,
may God’s presence awaken us to our siblings in the poor.
Like the radiance of the star over Bethlehem,
may the light of God’s love shine in you,
give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
and guide your feet into the way of peace. Amen. 
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
www.unfoldinglight.net

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Harmony Day, 21stMarch

It is managed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and is intended to celebrate the cohesive and inclusive nature of Australia and promote a tolerant and culturally diverse society. Harmony Day began in 1999, coinciding with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and each year. It is an opportunity for everyone to come together and participate in local activities. Orange is the colour chosen to represent Harmony Day. Australians are encouraged to wear orange clothing and/or the distinctive orange ribbon to show their support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia.
(This text has been taken from www.cute-calendar.com)

Carrying the message ‘Everyone belongs’, Harmony Day encourages Australians of all ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds to participate in their community, get to know one other, and understand and trust each other, respecting our cultural and religious differences. Acknowledging each other and our diversity helps us to grow as a community and as individuals, and in appreciating the world in which we live. Christians can support these goals.

The theme for 2019 is, ‘‘Harmony – it’s up to us’.

A message from Bishop John Henderson (LCA) that also provides some guides for prayer.

As I wrote in my 2017 message for Harmony Day, Jesus called his followers to show the way in being good neighbours to all those around them, just as God sends the sunshine and rain to everyone regardless. In Deuteronomy God tells the people of Israel, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)

How, then, are relationships across ethnic, cultural, political and religious divides going in your neighbourhood?

Such relations might not be as acrimonious in Australia and New Zealand as in some other parts of the world, but we still have some way to go before our societies know complete harmony. Many things still divide us. Deeply rooted suspicions and prejudices remain. Too often we hear people talk in ways or do things that denigrate others, and we remain silent, or even join in. So we mustn’t give up on promoting goodwill, understanding and tolerance. It matters.

Of course there have always been people who see the world differently to us, with a different set of rules to live by. We can feel threatened by these differences, if we let them. It makes all the difference when we make the effort to know who that other person really is by listening to their story and appreciating their experiences. Just as nowadays we have learned to enjoy food from all over the world, we can also learn to appreciate the colour and flavour each person brings to our community. There will be things that perplex us, or with which we cannot agree, particularly in matters of faith, but we can still learn to value each other as human beings.

How does faith in Jesus help us do this?

Jesus clearly showed that love for our neighbour does not require us to agree with them on everything. Yet God’s love is for all people. Obeying his Father, Jesus laid down his life for us. St Paul says that when he did that we were sinners, God’s enemies. That act of love for us, which we do not deserve, is why we love and serve others. Whether or not we agree with others’ beliefs and actions, God’s action for us obligates us to love and serve them. Each person is God’s special creation. We are to treat each one with care and respect.

Please join me in the following prayers for Harmony Day, and feel free to add your own.

Prayers

Lord our God, we confess to you our failure to live well with others.

  • We have failed to show hospitality to strangers, about whom we are often ready to believe the worst. We have judged them according to ugly caricatures and expected them to meet higher standards than we expect of ourselves.
  • Help us to be generous in the allowances we make for people of different cultures, accepting that there are logical and legitimate ways of doing things that are different to our ways. Help us to be initiators of friendship with people of difference, open to learning to understand why they think and do as they do, and open to being changed by them.
  • We have been insensitive to others and hurt them by what we have said and done. Help us to remember that you are the creator of every person, that you love every person and desire us to treat all persons with dignity.

Help us, we pray:

  • to remember that even if we are convinced that we are speaking your truth, and convinced that the time is right to speak boldly, you want us to act in love and not out of self-righteousness;
  • to recognise situations in which your will is not clear, and to participate constructively in discussions about the best way forward;
  • to find the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to stay silent, and find the right words for every occasion;
  • to have the courage, discernment and self-control we need to engage well with those with whom we disagree;
  • to guard and strengthen our faith as we interact with people of other faiths and none; and
  • to deepen our knowledge and understanding of our faith so we can more effectively speak the gospel.

Lord our God, we also pray

  • that the freedoms of thought, belief, speech, conscience and association may spread, take hold and be valued and defended in all places where there is now discrimination, intolerance and persecution;
  • that wherever these freedoms are enjoyed, people will exercise them responsibly, with due regard for their fellow citizens;
  • that we may stand against influences that lead us to unnecessary violence and war;
  • and that Christians everywhere will come to understand freedom as freedom to die to self and to serve others, just as Jesus served us, and died and rose again for us.

Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
20 March 2018

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