COCU Index Year C 2015-16

(Also, see Summer – in Australia)
Year A
COCU11A, Epiphany 3A, 22nd January, 2017
(Australia Day, 26th January 2017)
COCU12A, Epiphany 4A, 29th January 2017
COCU13A, Epiphany 5A, 5th February 2017
COCU14A, Epiphany 6A, 12th February 2017
COCU15A, Epiphany 7A, 19th February 2017
COCU17A, Transfiguration of Jesus (Epiphany 8A), 26th February 2017
(See also Transfiguration of Jesus Year C)

COCU18A, Ash Wednesday, 1st March 2017

COCU Year A 2016-17

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order.

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Isaiah 9:1-4: Isaiah prophesies a reversal of fortune for the people of God who are occupied by Assyria – though they are in darkness, light will break in, and they will be freed from their oppression.
Psalm 27:1, 4-9: David’s Psalm celebrating God’s protection and the security he finds in God’s presence and in God’s sanctuary.
1 Cor 1:10-18: Paul confronts the Corinthians about the divisions and factions among them, reminding them that it is only the message of the cross that is important and that offers God’s power for salvation.
Matt 4: 12-23: Jesus begins his ministry and is seen by Matthew to be fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the light shining in the darkness. He preaches the nearness of God’s reign, calls his first disciples and heals those who are afflicted with disease.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek, Church of Scotland starters, Re-worship

Call to worship
O come let us worship and lift our hearts . . .
Not because the world is good and last week was awesome,
but because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,
the God of the whole Earth.

O come let us worship and raise our hands . . .
Not because our lives are all sweetness and light,
But because even those who walk in darkness
can see a great light,
the Bright and Morning Star

O come let us worship and bow down . . .
Not because God gives us what we want,
But because God gives us what we need –
the holy child Jesus, God’s Unspeakable Gift.
(Source: Leonard Sweet, Preach the Story)

Call to Worship
Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves:
That it is not we who chose Christ,
but Christ who chose us,
That we are not here because of our goodness
but because of Christ’s grace,
That we are not here to enlighten ourselves,
but to allow Christ to enlighten us,
That we have not come to be entertained
but to worship God with heart, soul, mind and strength.
(Source: Bruce Prewer’s webpage)

Prayer of Invocation
Gracious Light-Bearer,
Into the shadows of our isolation
you speak words of life and community.
Challenger of our lives,
you call us from places we call home
to lead us more deeply into the world you love.
With your gentle, healing touch
you redeem the broken places of our lives
and you heal the wounded places of the earth.
Inspire our worship here this day,
so that we may receive liberation in your word,
and be filled to overflowing
to share your reconciling love throughout the earth.
We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
(Source: Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website)

Prayer of Confession
God said: “Let there be life
And instead we have stifled life.
God said “Let there be love
and instead we have practiced schism
God said “Let there be peace
And instead we become experts at grumbling
God said “Let there be friendship
And instead we fear
God said “Let there be goodness
And instead, we hide our faces.
God of all Gods
Life of all life
Turn us towards you
who turn towards us
Lift up our faces
So that we may become more like you
And in so doing
may live lives of courage, justice and love.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

God of Presence and Light
God of Presence and Light,
We like to imagine that we are bold and strong,
that there is nothing that can frighten us
But, we are not strangers to trembling,
Our doubt leaves us feeling alone and afraid,
and our hiding brings much rejection to You and to others.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Our self-centredness leaves us feeling deprived and poor,
and our grabbing results in great need.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Our sort-sightedness leaves us uncertain and insecure
and our lack of listening divides and separates.
Forgive us, Lord, and help us.
Somewhere inside of us we do believe,
we do trust and we do love;
The simple gifts of worship and love that we offer now are tokens of this faith;
signs of our thanksgiving
and of our longing to be more bold in following you.
May our gifts and our lives be your instruments of healing and comfort;
For the sake of all in our world who grieve, all who despair,
and all who live in want and hatred.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

More prayers of confession – see the listing on this website

Contemporary reading – Psalm 27
How easy the author succumbs to every noise and anxiety. How easy it is to fall in heap.
But the author wants to believe, wants courage and strength. They are God’s gift.
The headlines in the papers every day can arouse a lot of anxiety.
Even in the safety of my home,
one noise at night can make my heart jump with fright
and I start believing the house could be surrounded
by who-knows-what – coming to get me.
And then I know that I have succumbed to my own scattered fear when
what I need to do is refocus
on what is good and beautiful in life.
So I focus on the Presence of a loving caring God
who raises me out of my stress,
and helps me stand tall again,
in spite of the things that make me anxious.
Deep inside, I hear my heart say to me
“Come on, take hold of that good Presence”.
Even then in my anxiety I hear myself say
“Oh God, help me. Do not hide yourself from me.
Though mother and father are of no help to me,
surely there is a God who will bring me
to my moment of strength”.
Yes, I say to that Good Presence
“Show me the way.
I do not want to be like thosewho throw themselves on the useless heaps of life”.
I want to believe in the Goodness of Life.
I am ready to wait for that.
Yes I shall breathe better.
I shall gather my courage and my strength.
God gives them to me. If only I will wait for God’s gift.
(Source: Francis Macnab. A Fine Wind is Blowing/13)

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Australia Day resources – various

acknUCA President Stuart McMillan’s message for ‘Survival Day’ 2016.

Aboriginal responses to Captain Cook – hard hitting video!

Acknowledgement of land
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. Jonathan Hill. 

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

New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, has called for Australia to ensure it continues to embrace refugees in an Australia Day address.  “We are potentially at risk of losing what makes Australia the best place in the world to live because some want to shut our door and avert our eyes.”

Stan Grant – racism debate 2015

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

Aboriginal people respond to Australia Day:

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)

Notable speeches by Indigenous Australians here.


Prayer celebrating diversity
O God, you created all people in your image.
We thank you for the astonishing variety
of races and cultures in this country.
Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of friendship,
and show us your presence
in those who differ most from us,
until our knowledge of your love is made perfect
in our love for all your children;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Adapted, Lutheran Book of Worship: Minister’s Desk Edition,
(Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1978)

Listen to the Whisper: Music written by Geoff Boyce, sung by Tim and Alison Solly, with images from Colebrook memorial (Adelaide, SA)

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.

A rolling brown land
Lord God,
your Spirit has moved over the face of Australia,
and formed from its dust a rolling brown land.
Your Spirit has moved over its warm tropical waters
and created a rich diversity of life.
Your Spirit has moved in the lives
or men, and women, and children,
and given them, from the dreamtime,
an affinity with their lands and waters.
Your Spirit has moved in pilgrim people
and brought them to a place of freedom and plenty.
Your Spirit moves still today
in sprawling, high rise cities,
in the vast distances of the outback,
and in the ethnic diversity of the Australian people.
Lord God,
in the midst of this varied huddle of humanity
you have set your church.
Give us, the people you have so richly blessed,
a commitment to justice and peace for all nations;
and a vision of righteousness
and equality for all people in our own country.
Help us to look beyond our far horizons
to see our neighbours in their many guises,
so that we may be mutually enriched by our differences.
and may our love and compassion for all people on earth
be as wide and varied as our land
and as constant as the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: Douglass McKenzie, ‘Uniting in Worship’, Peoples Book p. 240)

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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Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1: 29-42

Resources: Textweek, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday,

Commentary: (a multitude of links on Textweek also)
Rev Andrew Prior, One Man’s Web

This coming Sunday marks the second Sunday after Epiphany. Already there have been the almost annual collection of social media posts lamenting the appearance of hot cross buns and Easter eggs in the stores and shops. I am certainly not a fan of the consumerism that drives this, but as a person of faith, I am a little glad of what these things remind me of. The appearance of reminders of Easter so soon after Christmas can be helpful to us who follow the Christ. It helps break us out of any sentimental or nostalgic idea of Christmas and a toothless baby Jesus. The incarnation is one of the bookends of the Jesus story. The other is the cross (of course there is the prologue before the birth narratives and the epilogue of the post-resurrection occurances), but we sell the gospel short if we fall into the trap of the Creeds and neglect the life and ministry of Jesus.
As we journey through the in-between time of After Epiphany, after Christmas and before Lent and Easter, we are reminded of the life, purpose and ministry of the Christ who calls us to follow. Let us mind the gap in our creeds, for there is more to the incarnation than a baby in a manger, and salvation holds more than the cross. In this time we are reminded of Christ’s baptism and are called to reflect upon our own.
Who is this Christ that we follow?
What is his work that we are called to join in?
How can we better embody Christ as the Church, both together and as individuals?
This is something to think about.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

The Spirit will descend like a dove
The Spirit will descend like a dove,
The Spirit will fit you, each, like a glove.

Jesus said, come and see, and they came;
Jesus says, follow me, with him we remain.

Creator says, my beloved, my son;
Creator speaks and the world will be one.

Wisdom will welcome all to the feast;
Wisdom has walked with humble and least.

The Holy comes to earth to reside.
The Holy leads us all towards life!
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story)

Approach to God
God beyond all names,
We do not know all of your names, because you are known by so many. But you know all of our names.
We are here because we have been called into being,
named into being.
To know some of your names is to know some of your glory.
We know you as father and mother,
we know you as redeemer and sustainer.
We know you as comforter.
We know you as friend.
May we know you, and may we know ourselves
and may we know each other
by many names
Oh God beyond names.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

We give thanks for callings of leadership, callings of service, callings of insight, callings of challenge.
God, you have called us by our names.
We give thanks for the gift of difficult conversations, knowing that we are called into deeper fellowship and friendship with each other.
God, you have called us by our names.
We give thanks for those who have the courage to call others into their own deepest name
God, you have called us by our names.
We give thanks for those who know how to rest, knowing that we are more than what we do.
God, you have called us by our names.
We give thanks for the gift of being known. To be known is to be loved.
God, you have called us by our names.
May we turn with love towards all those we meet, to offer the gift of naming, knowing and loving.
God, you have called us by our names.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

In the life of John, we witness the power of vocation and the power of humility.
We each have capacities and incapacities, callings and limitations.
Often, we respond to each other with comparison, jealousy and pain.
Help us change from the chaos of comparison, and more toward the vocation of life.
In the life of two cousins, Jesus and John, we witness people who knew their purpose and identity.
Our deepest purpose is love. Make us people who live in our purpose.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, the one who invites us to join him where he is. Amen
(Source: Church of Scotland)

Jesus, friend of many, when two people asked you where you lived, you said “Come and see”.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space.
Jesus, you are close to those searching for homes in our towns and cities, because you, too, searched for homes. You found home with your friends.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space.
Jesus you are close to those who seek employment in our communities. You had work to do, you knew your deepest purpose. You lived your deepest purpose.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space.
Jesus, you are close to those who are ill and in need of support. You were the one to whom people turned when they were at the end of themselves. And you, too, turned to friends, when you were near the end.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space.
Jesus you are close to those who are seeking refuge. Before you began to remember, you were carried from one country to another, and there, refuge was given.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space.
Jesus you are close to the marginalised. You were friends with those on the margins. You honoured and respected people from the margins. And you, too, were forced to the margins. And even there, you brought belonging and home.
Yours is the open heart that makes space for all.
May we find space, and may we make space. Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

People of the Light
In this season of Epiphany,
we are still the people walking.
We are still people in the dark,
and the darkness looms large around us,
beset as we are by fear,
loss –
a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.
We are – we could be – people of your light.
So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
as we wait for your appearing;
we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
as we exhaust our coping capacity;
we pray for your gift of newness that
will override our weariness;
we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
in your good rule.
That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
your rule through the demands of this day.
We submit our day to you and to your rule,
with deep joy and high hope.
(Source: Walter Brueggemann,  Prayers for a Privileged People)

Litany for 2 voices (inspired by 1 Corinthians – and a short summary thereof!)
For no one can lay any foundation
other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (3:11)
The foundation for blessing and grace.
The foundation for our unity.
I always thank my God for you
because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (1:3, 4)
The source of wisdom.
The source of our ministry and teaching.
God is the source of your life in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1:30)
What is God’s wisdom for human sexuality, legal disputes,
marriage, singleness, widowhood, food sacrificed to idols?
What is God’s wisdom for testing and temptation?
Do you not know that your body
is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
which you have from God,
and that you are not your own?
For you were bought with a price;
therefore glorify God in your body. (6:19-20)
How do we glorify God in what we wear for worship,
how we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
How do we recognize and release the gifts of the Spirit
for the common good?
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three,
and the greatest of these is love. (13:13)
Let us receive and proclaim the good news
of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Let us give thanks for this life
and for the resurrection of the dead.
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting? (15:54-55)
For Jesus Christ is our sure foundation.
For Jesus Christ is our sure foundation.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” (16:23)
(Source: April Yamasaki, Emmanuel Mennonite Church)

Epiphany Prayer
God of revelation and epiphany –
Through the words of the prophets
You have shown us the world
of your dreaming and longing:
A world built on justice,
overflowing with plenty,
and crowned with joy.

And through the coming of Emmanuel –
his living and loving,
his words and actions –
you have shown us
how such a world might be fashioned.
Help us to take, hold and grow into these understandings;
and, like Jesus,
may we always be ready
to live generously,
love expansively,
speak boldly
and act courageously,
that the Kingdom of your dreaming,
with its justice, abundance and joy,
may become the present reality
of all the peoples of this world.
(Source: Christian Aid website)

Surely my cause is with the Holy One, and my reward with my God (Isaiah 49.4)
A bird I have not seen appears at our feeder.
Before I fetch the little book I know
it has a name and habits
and my unknowing does not touch it.
Its name is Thou. Its name is My Precious.
Its habit is magnifying the glory of God.

The world only knows the name it gives you.
The Panel of Judges that sits in your head
does not know your name, Beloved,
cannot see beyond certain accomplishments
and people you have influenced,
can’t see what only God sees,
how well you receive God’s love
and let it overflow from your tiny hands.

There are birds in your soul no one has named.
But an Unseen One knows such delight
watching them feed on grace.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Sermons (a small sample of the many online resources)
Lectionary Lab 2017

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COCU7A.Epiphany of the Lord (January 6, 2017)

God of gold, we seek your glory:
The richness that transforms our drabness into color,
and brightens our dullness with vibrant light;
your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.

God of incense, we offer you our prayer:
our spoken and unspeakable longings, our questioning of truth,
our searching for your mystery deep within.

God of myrrh, we cry out to you in our suffering:
The pain of all our rejections and bereavements,
our baffled despair at undeserved suffering,
our rage at continuing injustice;
and we embrace you, God-with-us,
in our wealth, in our yearning, in our anger and loss.

Jan Berry

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World Interfaith Harmony Week

unWorld Interfaith Harmony Week is celebrated in the first week of February each year, 1st – 7th February.
This age of globalization needs enlightened people in each faith who can examine their sacred writings and traditions and identify the aspects that can benefit all humanity as well as those that preserve each religion’s identity.
World Interfaith Harmony Week aims to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith and non-faith. It provides a platform, one week in the year, where people of every group can recognize their common values, build ties with each other, and work alongside one another to bring peace and harmony to their communities.
World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible.
World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.
Resources on the Uniting Church ‘Relations with Other Faiths‘ website could be helpful.

Scripture in the Round, a poem by Earl Livings.
Sacred, an exhibition at the British Library, September 2007
Somewhere outside, the addled cultures
of exclusivity clash, and clash again,
as have all zealots, all purgers
of scapegoats, all crusading armies,
to the same breathless end.

In here, Jew, Christian, Muslim,
the curious, the lapsed or distant,
circle these Abrahamic accounts,
variations on the one theme
of listening to the source
of all blessings.

We cannot touch the papyrus
unearthed from the rubbish tip
of ancient Oxyrhynchus, the gold
and vibrant ink letters and images
on vellum, the marriage contract,
the ceramic lamp, all transfigured
by the music of visionary tongues,
can only stand before each
Torah, Gospel, Qu’ran,
as if before an opening star,
and know them as incarnations
of that lush silence that inspires
believer and non-believer
to Truth, Beauty, Good,
which we carry outside,
the heart thrumming.

A prayer by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy
Eternal God, Creator of the universe, there is no God but you.
Great and wonderful are your works, wondrous are your ways.
Thank you for the many splendored variety of your creation.
Thank you for the many ways we affirm your presence and purpose,
Thank you for the freedom to do so.
Forgive our violation of your creation.
Forgive our violence toward each other.
We stand in awe and gratitude at your persistent love
for each and all of your children:
Christian, Jew, Muslim,
as well as those with other faiths.
Grant to all our leaders attributes of the strong;
mutual respect in word and deed,
restraint in the exercise of power,
and the will for peace with justice,
for all.
Eternal God, creator of the universe, there is no God but you. Amen.
(Excerpted from Current Dialogue 24/93, p.36)

In the space between traditions by William L.(Bill) Wallace
(click on link for words and music)

Deep in our minds by William L. (Bill) Wallace)
(click on link for words and music)

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COCU9A.Epiphany1A.Baptism of Jesus.8thJanuary2017

(see also Year B, Baptism of Jesus and Year C, Baptism of Jesus)

Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10: 34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Baptise Us Christ
Baptise us Christ.
Baptise us into your faith.
Baptise us in your communion.
Baptise us into your family.
Baptise us in the flow of life.
Baptise us in compassion.
Baptise us in the work of mercy and justice.
Baptise us through your Spirit, beyond the waters of our baptism,
Baptise us completely in the way of your cross.
Baptise us, Christ.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Sermons (yes, many, many online, but here’s a small sample of fresh sermons)
Lectionary Lab 2017


Here at Jordan’s river
Here at Jordan’s river all is washed away.
As God’s reign draws nearer, nothing is the same.
Gone are class and status; gone, degrees and fame.
Grace alone can save us on God’s judgment day.

We at Jordan’s river meet on level ground.
Valleys are uplifted; mountains fall to earth.
None dare trust their lineage;
None need doubt their worth.
Still the prophet asks us, “Will you turn around?”

God, reform, renew, us; turn us toward your will.
Till our hearts for learning; root us in your word.
May the fruits of action grow from all we’ve heard.
As we lose our old lives, God, be with us still.

(Source: Ruth Duck, Tune: Noel Nouvelet, TiS 382 Now the Green Blade Rises)

Down By the Jordan
Tune: LOBE DEN HERREN (“Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty”)

Down by the Jordan, a prophet named John was baptizing,
Preaching a message the people found bold and surprising:
“God will forgive! Show that you’ll change how you live!
Surely God’s new day is rising!”

There by the river, the crowd came with great expectation:
“Are you God’s Chosen One, sent here to rescue our nation?”
“No!” John replied. “He who is mightier than I
Judges and offers salvation.”

Jesus, you went to be baptized along with the others,
Taking your place among sinners, God’s lost sons and daughters.
Then with great love, God’s Spirit came as a dove!
Your work began in those waters.

Here in the Church, we are baptized and filled with God’s Spirit.
Freed and forgiven, we’re welcomed with joy! Can you hear it?
This is God’s sign! This is how God says, “You’re mine!”
Let’s take the good news and share it!

(Source: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor, Upper Room Books, 2009,,

O Radiant Christ, Incarnate Word
O radiant Christ, incarnate Word,
eternal love revealed in time:
come, make your home within our hearts,
that we may dwell in light sublime.

Our bartered, busy lives burn dim,
too tired to care, too numb to feel.
Come, shine upon our shadowed world:
your radiance bathes with power to heal.

Your glory shone at Jordan’s stream,
the font where we were born anew.
Attune your church to know you near;
illumine all we say and do.

O Light of Nations, fill the earth;
our faith and hope and love renew.
Come, lead the peoples to your peace,
as stars once led the way to you.”

(Source: Words, Ruth Duck; Tune: Wareham)

Christ is our light
Christ is our light! the bright and morning star
covering with radiance all from near and far.
Christ be our light, shine on, shine on we pray
into our hearts, into our world today.

Christ is our love! baptised that we may know
the love of God among us, swooping low.
Christ be our love, bring us to turn our face
and see in you the light of heaven’s embrace.

Christ is our joy! transforming wedding guest!
Through water turned to wine the feast was blessed.
Christ be our joy; your glory let us see,
as your disciples did in Galilee.
(Words: Leith Fisher; Tune: Highland Cathedral)

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Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23

This year, Christmas 1 falls on January 1, so it may be worth exploring the resources for New Years Day as well.

Mike Frost reflection on the Flight to Egypt

Orazio Gentileschi, Orazio; The Rest on the Flight into Egypt; Birmingham Museums Trust;

This isn’t a very well known Christmas painting, but I really like it.
During their escape from the murderous King Herod, the holy family rests in what looks like a derelict building. Their donkey waits on the other side of a broken wall as Joseph takes a nap and Mary feeds her child. There are dark, foreboding clouds on the horizon.
The setting reinforces the appalling situation they find themselves in. Destitute, alone, and taking brief shelter in a ruin.
Orazio Gentileschi’s picture is a strange composition. But it beautifully portrays the utter exhaustion of the holy family’s hurried escape from Bethlehem. They look like a modern day refugee family fleeing Aleppo.
Joseph has collapsed in sheer exhaustion.
Mary’s feet are dirty and she appears too tired to even cradle her hungry child, who looks furtively in our direction.
Gentileschi obviously related to the refugee status of the holy family. He painted five versions of this picture. As a young painter he had become caught up in the licentious and violent world of fellow painter Caravaggio, who not only influenced his work, but led him into scandal. Gentileschi was sued, imprisoned, and disgraced. But the last straw was when one of Caravaggio’s circle of painter friends raped Gentileschi’s daughter, Artemisia.
Gentileschi fled to England where he relaunched his career, including painting this picture.
I can’t help but see his own world-weariness depicted in it.
It reminds us that Jesus was indeed a refugee, an important truth when we consider that we are living in a time with the highest levels of human displacement on record.
An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homeland. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Jesus’ own displacement results in the fulfillment of prophecy, whereby the Messiah would be born in David’s city but also come out of Egypt.
But it also reminds us the church must be on the side of the poor, because God himself had chosen to side with the poor and defenseless. Indeed God became one of them! Since it is clear that God had always favored the poor, it should also be clear that commitment to their relief and welfare should be our priority as well.
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

A New Father, Awe-Struck
Tune: MUELLER (“Away in a Manger”)

A new father, awe-struck; a mother so mild;
A stable; a manger; a dear, newborn child—
God, as we imagine that family so blessed,
We sometimes forget they were poor and oppressed.

A woman—considered to have no real worth—
Said, yes! She would bear your own Son here on earth.
We hear her bold singing! Her faithful words soar:
“God humbles the rich and God lifts up the poor.”

As Joseph and Mary began a new home,
They suffered oppression from rulers in Rome.
Then, fleeing from Herod to save their son’s life,
They looked for a land free from violence and strife.

We hear in our own day the cries of the poor;
We see in Aleppo the terror of war.
In women and children and men who must flee,
We glimpse, Lord, your life as a young refugee.

When some say that only the wealthy have worth,
O God, we recall where you lived here on earth.
May we in your church serve the poor and distressed;
For, working for justice, we give you our best.

Biblical references: Luke 2:1-20; 22-24; Leviticus 12:6; Matthew 2:13-18; Luke 1:46-55; Matthew 25:31-46 and Micah 6:8.
Tune: James Ramsey Murray, 1887.
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:

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New Year prayers and blessings

Abdullah Kurdi gives a heartfelt message for the new year in this video.

“I wish you a very happy new year. Hopefully next year the war in Syria will end and peace will reign all over the world” (Abdullah Kurdi, 2016 New Year message)
(This video message could be good to download, as a catalyst for ‘prayers for others’)

Leunig new year resolutions

Leunig new year resolutions

celtic blessing



Readings for NEW YEAR’S DAY
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 A Time for Everything
Psalm 8 God’s Glory and Human Dignity
Revelation 21:1-6a The New Heaven and the New Earth
Matthew 25:31-46 The Final Judgement

There is time (inspired by Ecclesiastes reading)
There is time, They whisper on the wind,
Holy One, Holy Three
There is now, They kiss with warming sunbeams
Holy One, Holy Three
There is here, They smile through human eyes,
Holy One, Holy Three
There is you, and them, and we
Holy One, Holy Three
There is now, this present moment, they call
to all that live, Holy One, Holy Three
There is you, and me, and the infinite
Holy One, Holy Three
There is, in all times and tides and seasons,
Holy One, Holy Three
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

MusicAs the old year passes
(Tune: As the Green Blade Rises/Jesus Christ is waiting – Noel Nouvelet; Words: David MacGregor)

As the old year passes
we look back, reflect:
times of joy and promise,
times we’d best forget.

God of the ages
help us walk your way.
Help us greet your future,
seize tomorrow’s day

As the old year passes
sorrow wells within:
loved ones no more ’round us,
all that could have been.
God of compassion,
heal each ailing heart.
Guide us to your future
where new life may start.

As the old year passes
we cry for our struggling world.
Climate ever-changing,
fighting too often heard.
Jesus, you call us
to cherish all you give.
Call us to your future
where all in peace might live.

As the new year dawns now
we would give you praise.
Faithful God, come lead us
onward in new ways.
We’ll love and serve you
in the faith of Christ,
in your Spirit’s future:
people of new life.
(© 2007 Willow Publishing – covered by CCLI licence)

Help me to pray my prayers
May they not just be nice words or nice thoughts that echo in the void
between what is and what could be.
May they not just be nice words or nice thoughts that resound in the empty space
of resolutions and good intentions.
May the seeds of your Word germinate in the bare soil of my being
and grow into a rich and fruitful faith and discipleship.
May l walk the talk
Live the life
Follow your way
May these be real change points and not trite clichés.
Christ in Jesus,
Help me to make this so, Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

May we not keep our blessings,
but give them away:
so that others might learn new dance steps,
so children might be fed,
so bridges might be built
and so grace may flow to all in your world.
(source: Thom Shuman)

Help us, Loving God, to meet the challenge of our time.
To hold fast your truth revealed in Jesus Christ,
and yet see your Holy Spirit moving in unexpected ways.
Give us grace to celebrate our gifts with generosity and commitment.
May we leave behind ways that have lost their relevance,
and go forward together in your name, to become a vital church;
Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
(Source: John Maynard)

Parker J Palmer: Five Questions for crossing the threshold

Parker J Palmer – Ithaka:
As we embark on the journey called a New Year, here’s an excerpt from “Ithaka,” a well-known and much-loved poem by C.P. Cavafy. Ithaka is the Greek isle that was the destination of Odysseus’s epic journey in Homer’s “The Odyssey”—and the poem’s central message is one I want to keep in mind as 2016 unfolds.
I suppose that message could be boiled down to the old saw, “It’s the journey, not the destination that counts.” But I think there’s more to it than that.
For me, the poem raises a big question: “What must I do to allow the journey to make me wise—full not only of experience but also of understanding?” My answers include paying attention, taking nothing for granted, opening myself to “the stranger” and that which strikes me as alien, and practicing compassion and gratitude. I hope you’ll find the question as worth pondering as I do—and, if you feel moved, post your own answers.
May your journey through 2016 leave you “wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way!”
pjpWonderful insights on Huffington Post’s feature – religious and spiritual leaders offer hope for 2013. Definitely worth a look!

Huffington Press blessings for 2015 (in poster format)

As this year ends
As this year ends and gives way to a new one
think of it as a gift you have received.
In the joys and struggles, delights and losses,
grace has made its way into you.
Give thanks even if you don’t know what for.
Whatever regrets you have for the year just passed,
hand them over now. Without judgment,
place them in the hands of the Forgiving One
and let it all simply become part of your story.
Whatever hopes you have for the year to come,
trust it as another gift.
Be prepared to welcome the moment
each moment, with wonder and love.
Whatever resolutions you make for the new year,
know that a deeper current than what you want
or what you resolve is what God is doing in you.
Attend, and follow.
The new year will bring you grace.
May you receive it deeply.                  (c) Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

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Jesus Christmas box

Rev David McGregor’s Christmas sermon 2015luke-2-8-20-christmas-day-2015-sermon


Non-white nativity, by Janet Mckenzie,

“In an out of the way kind of place, in an out of the way kind of time, in an out of the way kind of town there was God’s truth: a baby born to bring light and love to all people in every time and in every place.” (from ‘all in nativity’ 2016, Rev Jennifer Hughes, Brougham Place UC)

Instead of searching for belief
in a virgin birth,
or in the God who comes as human,
I hope this year
only for the faith to live
as if the darkest parts of my life and world
are the manger into which
love has been born again.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie, Hold this space)

“He didn’t rise to prominence along the normal alpha-male route of threats of eye-for-eye revenge, but by way of non-violent resistance, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation”.
Brian McLaren – read more here.

Luke 2:1-8 Most of our images of the nativity is with Mary and Joseph in a shed in the middle of a field all alone. It would seem that historical research in modern times actually gives us a different understanding. The word we use for inn does not accurately reflect what they were trying to talk about. (Source: Karen Mitchell Lambert. Read more here)

God in amongst us:
Christ in the midst of our busyness,
As we rush headlong from place to place,
and from thing to thing,
In the hectic pace of our living,
May we remember to look to recognise those who care for and support us.
May we see the progress we have made and the growth that has occurred.
May we notice the good things that we have shared and shared in,
And may we identify the connections with you that have challenged and sustained us.

God in amongst us:
Christ in the midst of our stillness and solitude,
As we wait for the next thing,
Experience loneliness,
In our times of restriction and withdrawal,
May we see the progress we have made and the growth that has occurred.
May we notice the good things that we have shared and shared in,
And may we identify the connections with you that have challenged and sustained us.

God in amongst us:
Christ in the midst of all life,
Whatever our state of being,
Wherever the place we find ourselves,
Whenever time may hold us,
May we look to the Spirit’s prompting.
May we attend to the needs of others even as we attend to our own.
May we love our neighbour as ourselves,
And find your love for us lived around, amongst and within us.
Thus, may it be. Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries)

Archbishop of Canterbury 2015 Christmas Sermon

British street artist Banksy’s 2012 Christmas card is, in many ways, a conventional Biblical landscape painting, which shows what are presumably the figures of Joseph and Mary — she astride a donkey — making their way toward Bethlehem, only to find their route blocked by the graffiti-covered Irsaeli West Bank barrier. To the left, a shepherd tends his sheep, while in the distant sky a cross-shaped star lights up the heavens over the imposing concrete wall.


Sociologist of religion Rodney Stark claims that the most outlandish and revolutionary phrase written in first-century Rome was “For God so loved the world…” The pagan gods, as they were understood, did not love the world—they used the world. They were not revered for their virtue or good character, but were worshipped (placated) by humans for reasons of personal gain, hope for revenge, conquest or safety. The legends of the gods’ too-human characteristics of selfishness, pride, lust, greed, rapaciousness and general skullduggery are legion. People of this time would not have had categories for the idea of a God whose basic orientation was love: other-centered, self-donating love. And yet, this is the very clear message of Christmas (Steve Bell).

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Blue Christmas


All throughout these months,
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.
It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory,
by touch,
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.
So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you,
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you,
even though you cannot
see it coming.
You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.
This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away,
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.
So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.
This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Cure for Sorrow)

What to do when Christmas hurts blog entry (John

Blue Christmas liturgy on Godspace blog by John Palovitz

Rev Cathie Lambert reflects on Blue Christmas 2016.
The depth of my heart’s cry was for Aleppo. I cannot comprehend what it is like to run for your life. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of seeing loved ones killed in front of me. I don’t understand the despair, the nightmare it must be to feel forgotten by much of the world. I feel completely helpless. The enormity of the trauma and destruction is overwhelming. The easiest response is often denial. But I cannot ignore the pictures, the stories and the messages. At the Blue Christmas service, we invite people to take a blue bauble or a star to hang on their tree or give to someone as a gift. I took a star for Aleppo. As the story goes, a bright star shone in that part of the world 2000 years ago. It was a guiding light, bringing hope to many. My Aleppo star is a constant prayer of hope for a people who have nothing left this Christmas time.

In the light and beauty of day
We give thanks in awe and wonder.
In the dark and stillness of night
We dream of healing and hope
(Gretta Vosper)

Interesting article here: What to do when holidays hurt.

We held our third ‘Blue Christmas’ service this year. In addition to  people grieving the loss of a loved one, we included all kinds of losses – health, security etc, as well as recognizing those who support others who suffer loss (including those supporting refugees).

We are a city church and open our doors each day for people who wish to use the church for quiet meditation, reading and ‘being’. We have prepared a resource for people who wish to drop in to reflect on ‘blue feelings’ at Christmas. The resource has been compiled and adapted from several sources. The resource enables some guidance for reflection and prayer without a formal church service led by a minister, which suits many of the folk who work and play and visit the CBD, and who prefer to drop in and quietly read and meditate in the church.

Blue Christmas, Blue Christmas PDF

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