COCU Index Year A 2016-17

(See also the season of autumn – in Australia commences March 1)

Year A
COCU22A, Lent 4A, 26th March 2017
COCU23A, Lent 5A, 2nd April 2017
COCU24A, Palm Sunday, 9th April 2017 (see also Palm Sunday C)
COCU25A, Easter Monday, 10th April 2017
COCU26A, Easter Tuesday, 11th April 2017
COCU27A, Wednesday in Holy Week, 12th April 2017
COCU28A, Maundy Thursday, 13th April 2017
COCU29A, Good Friday, 14th April 2017
COCU30A, Holy Saturday, 15th April 2017
COCU31A, Easter Sunday, 16th April 2017 (see Year C here)

COCU Year A 2016-17

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order.

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COCU23A.Lent 5A.2April2017

Elements of worship for Easter 5A (a compilation) Worship elements 5A

11am Music (Common Praise) 150, 405 tune 1, 140, 142 (2011)

RCL readings Easter 5A

Resources: Rex AE Hunt, Bill Loader on 1 Peter 2:2-10, Acts 7:55-60, John 14:1-14

Here’s a fabulous story on a congregation that saw themselves as the ‘living stones’ rather than a building: ‘The church is not the building. It is our faith and the people’. Full text below (scroll down) – would make a great story to tell as part of a sermon.

In 2011, Rev Rob Williams (Moderator) was guest preacher at all three services on the theme, ‘When life closes in’, using the Acts 7 reading (stoning of Stephen). Carol Y wrote a very thoughtful reflective piece for the 9.30 worship on the theme which could be used at other times to invite people into a gentle, contemplative space on ‘when life closes in’. A reflection on ‘When life closes in’

Arlington Presbyterian Church Housing

Arlington Presbyterian Church sold its church to make way for an affordable-housing project. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

May 22nd is identified as World Sunday for Peace, in conjunction with the World Council of Churches International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica. A prayer for peace written by the churches in Jamaica can be downloaded here.

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COCU22A.Lent 4A.26March2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13: God instructs Samuel to stop mourning for Saul and to anoint a new king for Israel in Bethlehem. After examining seven of Jesse’s sons and rejecting them, Samuel finally anoints the youngest boy, David, and God’s Spirit comes upon him.
Psalm 23: David’s Psalm of praise for the God who cares for him like a shepherd, providing nurture, peace, care, protection and an eternal place of belonging.
Ephesians 5:8-14: Paul encourages the believers to live as people of the light, doing what pleases God.
John 9:1-41: Jesus heals a man who was born blind, and, because his was done on the Sabbath, the religious leaders start an investigation, calling in the man’s parents and ultimately throwing the man out of the synagogue. Then, Jesus teaches that he came to bring sight to the blind and to reveal the blindness of those who think they see.
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Rex AE Hunt, Textweek, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday,

NONE SO BLIND (John 9:1-41)
The man was born blind
yet through spit, mud and washing
he saw: a new life.

The authorities
would not, could not, dared not see
and rejected him.

Jesus brings light, sight
to lives that are limited
by our not seeing.

He calls us to see
more clearly, love more dearly,
follow more nearly.
(Source: Jeff Shrowder, 2017, The Billabong)

Call to Worship
When God appeared on earth in the person of Jesus,
most of the world did not recognize him
and therefore did not worship him.
Today we ask for faith that will open our eyes
to see Jesus for who he is,
that we might worship him in truth.
People of God, behold your God!
We open our eyes to see his glory.
We open our ears to hear his wisdom.
We open our hands to offer him gifts.
We open our mouths to sing his praise.
We open our hearts to offer him our love.
He is Lord!
(Source: Reformed Worship)

Words of Assurance
In God, Source of Life:
our deaths are not the final word,
our moments of crisis are part of eternal possibility,
and our weakness is taken up into the courage of God.
As followers of Jesus of the Way:
our humanness is touched with divine life,
our tears are mingled with longing love,
and our solidarity with those who suffer
is joined by divine presence.
In the Spirit of Creativity:

there are no boundaries on the dream,
there is no end to hope,
and we will never live beyond the cherishing of God.
(Source: DMcRae-McMahon, adapted)

Prayers of Intercession (based on Man Born Blind)
We have learned today of the healing of blindness and the intransigent blindness of the Pharisees.
We may feel superior that we are not like them yet there are times when we close our eyes rather than see clearly what is around us.
When self-centredness blinds us to the wreckage of human problems
and stubbornness blinds us to the troubles of our brothers and sisters;
Jesus, Light of the world, lighten our darkness.
When we turn away so we cannot see the inequalities where we have so much while others live I poverty, Lord Jesus Light of the world, lighten our darkness.
There are many diseases around the world that it is a disgrace that with funds available could be healed, blindness caused by drinking dirty water in Africa and cataract removal operations which quickly and easily restore sight.
Areas where the light of Christ is being extinguished by persecution and violence.
Help those who live in the darkness of unbelief, disillusionment and hopelessness to come to the light of Christ.
We see the generosity of your grace and mercy and we bring to you something a small part of all you have given us, give to us a generous heart and spirit as we dedicate both our offerings and our hearts that we may serve you and your church
As you touched the eyes of the man born blind touch us with you love that we may touch others. Bless our families and our homes and any we name before you in the silence of our hearts… Gracious and loving God, we believe, help our unbelief, Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)


He healed the darkness of my mind by David Haas.
Youtube link here. Link on Hymnary here including preview of the music. Can also be sung to O Waly Waly and Dunedin tunes.

He healed the darkness of my mind
The day he gave my sight to me
It was not sin that made me blind
It was no sinner made me see.

Let others call my faith a lie
Or try to stir up doubt in me
Look at me now! None can deny
I once was blind and now I see.

Ask me not how! But I know who
has opened up new worlds to me
This Jesus does what none can do
I once was blind and now I see


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Trinity Sunday Year A

(see also Trinity Sunday C)

A collection of resources here: Trinity Sunday A

Words for Worship 2011: w4w Trinity A

Psalm 8 developed for Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (Rev Jeff Shrowder)
(it is ‘topped and tailed’ with words from a prayer in Uniting in Worship 2)
Holy and life-giving God, we offer you thanks and praise in wonder and awe, in delight and astonishment: for you are Creator of all things, and Lover of each one.
You have made us in your image,
and surrounded us with the glory and splendour of your creating word.
Yet you have given us these works of your hands:
you have put the world at our feet;
sheep and cattle, kangaroo and emu,
birds of the air – magpie and pelican,
fish of the sea – dolphin and barramundi
all the creatures that live and move in the depths and shallows,
the creatures of the deep and the ocean floor.
O LORD, our God, how splendid is your name in all the earth.
When we failed to honour your work and your being,
your Word of Wisdom came among us in Jesus,
sharing with us the joy and pain of our humanity
Therefore, with the whole creation …


Image sourced from ABC news.






Prayers of thanksgiving, confession and assurance (based on Psalm 8)
Majestic and mysterious God,
you have set the heavens ablaze with your glory,
and whispers of your truth
sound from the mouths of babies before they can speak.
When I look at the multitude of stars
that you have spun into place,
I wonder why you would bother with us humans.
How insignificant we are compared to all of this.
How can you possibly care for us –
we are so small, so vulnerable and so temporary.
Yet you give us the biggest job of all
to care for your imaginative creation,
you have placed the precious works of your hands
beneath our feet so we might tread with sacred steps,
nurturing and nourishing the earth, sea and sky
holding all of life with our own life.
Majestic and mysterious God
your name echoes through everything
until it rests in our hearts.
Creator, Parent, Father, Mother God forgive us
when we forget to notice your wonders around us
when our vision is limited to our own concerns
Jesus the Christ, Son of God, one who calls us
forgive us when we fail to listen and to follow
and when we forget to call others into discipleship
Spirit of God, unseen as the wind, gentle as the dove
forgive us when we choose to be comfortable
instead of being disturbed into action for justice for all
Brothers and sisters in Christ
God sent the Son into the world, not to judge but to save,
and the Spirit is promised as our comforter and guide
be assured that there is nothing that can come between us
and the forgiving, healing and renewing power
of the love of God, three in one,
Source, Son & Spirit.
Know and live as children who are free
We are forgiven  – thanks be to God, Amen (Rev. Jennie Gordon)

God is love
God is Love.
Love is not an object but an action, a process.
God is love and the loving of love, and the receiving of love.
God is an unfolding relationship.
So God is one, and yet must also be more than one.
God is a loving parent and a begotten child
and the love that proceeds from them, all three.
God is community. God is a family.
The Holy Trinity live in loving attentiveness to each other
but it is not a closed circle. They open out to us.
You are invited to come to the table, to share in that love,
to be part of God’s nature, God’s being, God’s loving.
This is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.
All people are our sisters and brothers, all living beings,
all Creation: though we are many there is only One of us.
Join the communion of the One Who Is Many.
Come into the tender love of the Mother who births us,
the Lover who desires us, and the love begotten in us.
Find your being in the Holy One in whom we are One.
You are the fourth person of the Holy Trinity.
Come. (Steve Garnaas-Holmes,

The love of the faithful Creator,
The peace of the wounded Healer,
The joy of the challenging Spirit,
The hope of the Three-in-One
surround and encourage us
today, tonight, and forever.
May the blessing of God – the Creator, the Healer,
and the Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.
(The Blessing of our Days, Iona Community)

A Relational Universe
If a rational Creator started this whole thing, then there has to be a “DNA connection,” as it were, between the One who creates and what is created. One of the many wonderful things that scientists are discovering as they compare their observations through microscopes with those through telescopes is that the pattern of the neutrons, protons, and electrons in atoms is similar to the pattern of planets, stars, and galaxies: both are in orbit around one another, and all appears to be in relationship to everything else. We now know the same is true in biology, as Robert Lanza’s work on biocentrism so brilliantly demonstrates: “the universe is created by life and not the other way around.” [1] Our word for that foundational life is Spirit, hovering like a brood hen over the formless void in the very first lines of the Bible (Genesis 1:1-2).
There is a similarity between the perceived two ends of the universe, the Creator and all the creatures, just as Christians should have expected. Genesis describes the creative plan: “Then God said: Let us create in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves” (Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew text daringly uses plural pronouns; and I suspect a Christian would say that the deep Jewish intuition was correct, which is again shown in Genesis 18 with the three visitors to Abraham, and perhaps in the book of Job (1:6) which seems to speak of a Divine Council that confers with itself.
The energy in the universe is not in the planets, nor in the atomic particles, but very surprisingly in the relationship between them. It’s not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another through semi-permeable membranes. The energy is not in any precise definition or in the partly arbitrary names of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three! This is where all the power for infinite renewal is at work:
The loving relationship between them.
The infinite love between them.
The dance itself.
In other words, it is an entirely relational universe. If, at any time, we try to stop this flow moving through us, with us, and in us, we fall into the true state of sin—and it is truly a state more than a momentary behaviour. It is telling that the first destabilization of the foundational structure of the atom (in New Mexico in July 1945) created the atomic bomb. With supreme irony, the test site is still called “Trinity” as Robert Oppenheimer first named it.
The divine flow either flows both in and out, or it is not flowing at all. The “trap doors” at either end must be kept open in order to both receive and let go, which is the work of all true spirituality. The Law of Flow is simple, and Jesus states it in many formulations such as “Happy are the merciful; they shall have mercy shown to them” (Matthew 5:7). Or as we cleverly put it “What goes around comes around.” We are conduits.
[1] See
Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 55-56, 71-72.

Trinity as Evolutionary Principle: Trinity is a dynamic mandala of God’s ongoing creativity
Trinity and the Law of Three.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting—it has been found difficult and left untried.” G. K. Chesterton [1]
The key to reawakening the power of this primordial Christian symbol lies in shifting the Trinity away from an abstract theological speculation on the inner life of God and re-imagining it as a pattern in the very fabric of reality – a template that is coded into all of creation.
Post-Einsteinian physics demonstrates that life is not static, but dynamic. As our theological paradigm shifts away from a static universe to a universe in perpetual motion, the whole Trinitarian frame shifts with it. Like a key clicking into place, the Trinity reveals itself as a metaphysical code that unlocks theology and science and illustrates a fresh understanding of a creative and contemplative engagement in the world.
For the late theologian Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014), the Trinity is first and foremost an image of relational unity. The three “God-persons in community,” as she sees it, comprise the prototype and the prerequisite for the expression of agape love – the energy of the Godhead itself. Bruteau builds a detailed case for why threefoldness is the necessary condition for agape love. She goes on to demonstrate why threefoldness is by nature “ecstatic” or, in other words, self-giving and generative. By its very threefoldness, it “breaks symmetry” (a term borrowed from quantum mechanics) and projects the agape love outward, calling new forms of being into existence, each of which bears the imprint of the original symbiotic unity that created it. “It is the presence of the Trinity as a pattern repeated at every scale of the cosmic order,” she believes, “that makes the universe a manifestation of God and itself sacred and holy.” [2]
My own contribution to this ongoing Trinitarian conversation takes up at the point that Bruteau’s leaves off. My goal has been to see whether it might be possible to anchor this necessary threefoldness in a deeper universal principle: the Law of Three.
Understood within the context of a universe in motion, and with the Law of Three as its template, the Trinity becomes a dynamic mandala of God’s ongoing creativity in an evolving universe. It becomes, in fact, the evolutionary principle. The Trinity as a symbol of relationship invites us to trust the relationality of nature itself and to reconsider what we understand about the very nature of love. It is no longer a pre-existent “property” of God, but an emergent property of the whole of creation, joined in that divine dance.
[1] Gilbert K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1910), 48.
[2] Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 14.
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, “Trinity: The Evolutionary Principle of Unfolding Creativity,” The Mendicant, Vol. 7 No. 1 (CAC: 2017), 1, 5.


Noble, Yet Mystical Ground… (Tune: ‘Was Lebet’ 11 10 11 10D)
Noble, yet mystical, ground of creation,
star-fire and sun shower, and darkness and dreams;
all that through senses draws forth adoration,
God, we would worship, the love that redeems.

Human, yet awesome, the Christ, our relation,
offers a spirit: we learn to forgive.
Conquering our will this divine annexation
offers a way for us simply to live.

Spirit of living gives hope for our dying,
something transcending this life and its frame,
onward and upward in faith we are flying,
goal of existence, your love is our aim.
(Source: Andrew Pratt)


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Christ’s entry into Jerusalem by Francis Hoyland

(See also Palm Sunday C)

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29: A celebration of God’s goodness and faithful love, answering prayer, turning the rejected stone into the capstone, and inviting people into God’s presence.
Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus instructs the disciples to bring him a donkey and its colt, then he mounts the colt and rides into Jerusalem, where a procession gathered to celebrate him, while others wondered who he was.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Christine Sine (Godspace) has an excellent list of resources and links here.
Christine Longshurst has worship resources for Palm Sunday here.
Rex AE Hunt,

For the past five weeks of the Season of Lent we have been preparing…
preparing for this moment in the story of Jesus’ journey.
Now, we are one week from Easter!
Today is what has traditionally been called ‘Palm Sunday’.
But you won’t hear about “palms” in this story from Matthew.
The Gospel of John, written several years later, is the only one that says
people waved ‘palm’ branches for Jesus.
This is the day on which, our tradition tells us,
Jesus entered Jerusalem, and just days before his death.
So I invite you to reflect on
some of the feelings associated with Holy Week. A silence is kept
Let’s imagine we have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
We begin by listening again to Matthew’s story:
to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his own city,
to encourage the people to see
and experience God in new ways. (the Gospel is read)
(Source:Rex AE Hunt)

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World Water Day.March22

UN World Water Day (WWD) is recognised each year on March 22, and may be helpfully explored if the focus of the service is the Year A Gospel reading on the woman at the well, and life-giving water. Each year, WWD highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. The 2017 theme ‘Water and Wastewater’ provides an important opportunity to highlight the symbiosis between water and wastewater in the quest for sustainable development (in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 6 target that aims to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse).
Worship resources: Church World Service.

  • 1 of every 6 people in the world lacks access to safe drinking water.
  • Twice as many lack access to improved sanitation.
  • 80 countries, home to 40% of the world’s population, are encountering serious water shortages.
  • In the 1990s the number of children killed by diarrhea — the result of unsafe water and sanitation — exceeded the number of people killed in armed conflicts since the Second World War.
  • One toilet flush (western toilet) uses as much water as the average person in a developing country uses for a whole day’s drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning.

Lord Jesus Christ, You call all who are thirsty to come to you and drink from the fresh and living water that flows from your heart. Yet many live in dry and thirsty lands, drink from polluted streams and struggle for access to safe drinking water.
Have mercy on them O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Forgive our selfish and unthinking actions that have stripped forests, polluted wells and caused toxic waste to enter the water systems.
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We thank you, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We commit ourselves to value and care for your gifts to us. May rivers of living water flow from us with compassion and caring to all who suffer from thirst and pollution.
Have mercy on them O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We thank you, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with you in your death. By it we share in your resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Refreshed by your spirit, and following in your footsteps, may we continue to serve you provide cups of cold and refreshing water for the people and creation entrusted to our care.
Have mercy on all of us Lord
And fill us with the waters of life.
(Source:Christine Sine, Godspace)

Here’s a sobering look at why not to leave the water tap running…..

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Ash Wednesday

ash wed image

New song by Kathy Douglass: ‘With These Ashes‘…
With these ashes, we remember
What we’re made of, what we’re made of
With these ashes, we remember
We are made of dust
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
So it has always been
Ashes to ahses, dust to dust
We return again
Listen to the Soundfile here.
A PDF of the music: Music.With these ashes (please attribute author)

Ash Wednesday
So the day comes around again
and we find ourselves surprised
by the truth
that we are mortal
The stuff of dust and ashes.
Our egos and esteem are held up
to the brutal mirror of the finite:
Know that you will end.
The world will continue without you.
And it’s only with our vision so narrowed
that we are again
able to see
all that lies beyond us:
Know that you are not God.
Know that all the things that make heaven and earth
reach way beyond you.
Live today with faith in your humanness
and let that lead you to life.
Welcome to Lent.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie)

Ash Wednesday: Karl Rahner
Dust is a good subject for reflection on Ash Wednesday, for dust, symbol of nothingness, can tell us a great deal. The prayer that accompanies the distribution of ashes comes from Genesis (3.19): ‘From the earth you were taken; dust you are and to dust you shall return.’ Dust is the symbol of coming to nothing: it has no content, no form, no shape; it blows away, the empty, indifferent, colourless, aimless, unstable booty of senseless change, to be found everywhere and at home nowhere. And scripture is right. We are dust. We are always in the process of dying. We are the only beings who know about this, know that we are bound for death, know that we are dust. Through our practical experience we come to realise that we are dust. Scripture tells us that we are like the grass in the field, like an empty puff of air. We are creatures of drifting perplexity. Despair is always threatening us and our optimism is a way of numbing bleak anxiety. Dust is what we are.
It is difficult for us to avoid hating ourselves. The reason why we cast our enemies down into the dust, tread them into dust, make them eat the dust, is because we are in despair about ourselves. What we cannot stand in others is what makes us despair about ourselves.
Dust has an inner relationship, if not an essential identity with the concept of ‘flesh’. Flesh certainly designates in the Old and New Testaments the whole human person. It designates us precisely in our basic otherness to God, in our frailty, our weakness, our separation from God, which is manifested in sin and death. The two assertions, ‘we are dust’ and ‘we are flesh’ are, then, more or less essentially similar assertions.
But the good news of salvation rings out: ‘The Word became flesh.’ God himself has strewn his own head with the dust of the earth. He has fallen on his face upon the earth, which with evil greed drank up his tears and his blood. We can say to God exactly what is said to us: ‘Remember that you are dust, and in death you shall return to dust.’ We can tell him what he told us in Paradise, because he has become what we are after Paradise. He has become flesh, flesh that suffers even unto death, transitory, fleeting, unstable, dust.
Ever since that moment, the sentence of terrifying judgement, ‘dust you are,’ is changed for people of faith and love. With the dust of the earth we trace on our foreheads the sign of the cross, so that what we are in reality can be made perceptible in a sign: people of death, people of redemption. ‘Dust you are’: the judgement still has a mysterious and shocking sense. The old sense is not abolished. But it descends with Christ into the dust of the earth, where it becomes an upward motion, an ascent above the highest heaven. ‘Remember that you are dust.’ In these words we are told everything that we are: nothingness that is filled with eternity; death that teems with life; futility that redeems; dust that is God’s life for ever.
(Source: From The Eternal Year, Burns & Oates, London, 1964)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that we remember we come from the earth and shall return to the earth. Everything is connected. We live as part of creation, not above or separate from it. It isn’t just about personal sin and death, but a reminder that our lives are linked in love as part of God’s joyful ecology of beginnings and endings.
(Source: Diana Butler Bass)

I’ve got ashes on my forehead and I’m trying hard to learn
This dust that I have started from is where I shall return.
(Source: Jonathan Rundman, ‘Ashes‘, from the album Sound Theology)

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

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
Blessed are you, Christ one, Word and redemption,
You created everything, including our being.
It is written that we are formed from the dust of the earth.
And it is said that we are all made of star-stuff –
the ash of the Universe.
May we humbly listen anew to your call of grace.
As we journey to the cross,
May we receive these ashes,
May they be a sign for us;
An opening of a time of reflection,
As we think upon who we are and how we live;
At the start of the road towards Easter,
Breathe into us again the breath of life,
Mark us with your purpose,
That we might bear your light and love into the world.
As an anointing of blessing.
(source: Jon Humphries, on Prayers that Unite)

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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COCU21A.Lent 3A.19March2017



Jesus and the Samaritan woman (Zambia)

Exodus 17:1-7: The people of Israel grumble against Moses because of their thirst and the lack of water, so God commands Moses to strike the rock, and when he does so, water gushes out.
Psalm 95: An invitation for God’s people to worship God, and not harden their hearts as Israel did at Meribah, resulting in them not entering God’s rest.
Romans 5:1-11: In Christ we have been made right with God, and have the Holy Spirit as assurance of God’s love. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us, and now we are God’s friends.
John 4:5-42: Jesus, while resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria, meets a Samaritan woman, speaks to her about living water and reveals himself as the Messiah to her. In delight she returns to her village and brings others to meet Christ, and they too believe.
(Summaries of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

UN World Water Day (WWD) is recognised each year on March 22, and may be helpfully explored if the focus of the service is the Gospel reading on the woman at the well, and life-giving water. See the related link on this website here which includes prayer resources and links.

In a culture where only men can initiate marriage or divorce
she’s been thrown away by five husbands,
and now is used by one who won’t commit to her.
In a culture where women draw water in order of social status,
she’s there for her morning water at noon. She’s a pariah.
He’s a Jew and she’s a Samaritan; he’s a rabbi and she’s a woman.
She has no reason to expect an exchange at all, let alone respect,
and certainly not an engaging theological discussion.

But he sees her—her, not people’s judgment of her.
He sees her as she is, and accepts her without judgment:
she is not immoral; she has been used.
He sees her wound. And he sees the truth in her.
He sees her not as someone flawed,
but someone gifted.
He talks theology with her,
longer than with anybody else in the Gospels.
Then she leaves her water jug,
not out of forgetfulness but because she knows she’s coming back.
She goes into the village,
and the former outcast becomes the first Christian evangelist.
She brings people to Jesus.
Something happened in her that changed her.
What was it?
Imagine this: Jesus comes to you
in the dull midday heat of your ordinary life.
You are bound by judgments of how good you are.
And he sees through that. Sees you. You. Your soul.
He sees your wounds, sees your giftedness.
He sees how your wounds inhibit your gifts…
and yet can propel your gifts.
And in his knowing he sets you free.
Leave your water jug.
What is the news in you to tell?
What will you do? How will you tell it?
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Charlie’s blog: One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is one found in Luke 25. Jesus walked into the temple to find a woman preaching. When He realized what was happening, He walked up to the pulpit and pushed the woman off of the stage. He then said, “No woman should have authority over any man, for it is impossible for a man to learn from a woman. I say to you, strike down any woman that tries to pastor a church.”
Do you know why I love that story? Because it never happened.
What the New Testament does show, however, is Jesus helping, loving, and lifting up every woman He came in contact with. John 4 shows a Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus and how it moved her to share His message with the “men” in her town (verse 28). The Bible says that many of the men believed because of her.
As their conversation started Jesus told the woman to go call her husband and come back. In those days a woman was not to talk to a man in public without her husband present, but this isn’t why Jesus said that. Jesus brought this up to expose the sin in her life.
Jesus wasn’t interested in stale gender roles and following what the culture at the time thought was “right.” He valued the woman and saw her worth as a human being.
The story in John 4 is the true story, but so many people today act like the story in “Luke 25” is what really happened. If being a Christian literally means being a little Christ, maybe we should start by treating both men and women the way He did.

‘Return to God: Divine Grace and Human Struggle’
Christ is ready to offer “the living water”, the gift of God to the thirsty soul that misses the mark in seeking her joy and rest. What aspects of the Samaritan Woman’s encounter with Jesus particularly stand out for you: Confrontation? Confusion? Clarification? How would you compare your encounters with the presence of Jesus with the Samaritan woman’s encounter?  How have you responded to the offer of living water?
One can hardly imagine that going about one’s daily business, drawing water from a well, in a way that would minimise the chance of an encounter with others, in the midday sun, would lead to an encounter that would be a crossroad experience, an experience that would involve confrontation, confusion and clarification. The confrontation is totally unexpected as Jesus breaks the social conventions of the day and speaks to not only a Samaritan, not only a Samaritan woman, but a Samaritan woman who is living a lifestyle at odds with the Mosaic Law! Clearly the Samaritan woman is uncomfortable and as we read, we can just empathise with her as she tries to end this encounter. In doing this, the conversations becomes confused with the woman focussing on the everyday physical meaning of Jesus’ words in an attempt, maybe a deliberate attempt to avoid facing the spiritual issues about which Jesus is speaking. And yet we get the impression that Jesus’ insight into this woman’s life and his persistence is both convincing and convicting. At this stage, the Samaritan woman gains clarification of her reality and responds, not just in the way that the prodigal son responded, but with gratitude and witnessing to the presence of the Messiah, and the reality of his provision of “living water” that is both satisfying and eternal.
(Source: South Australian Council of Churches Lenten Study 2016, p.17)

Woman of Sychar
Between the mountains of curses and blessings
We hold the memory of prophets and kings.

I follow the footsteps of Dinah’s shaming
To draw water for cooking and washing small-things.

Like Dinah, the men in my life led to naming
That I could not wed a husband of mine.

Yet lonely I’m not for I live with another
I survive with whoever is there at the time.

For such is the life of Samaria’s woman
That during the day I would go to the well.

I am met and conversed with – by a Messiah!
My story he details and chooses to tell.

We joust with our words in long repartee –
A dialogue given for many to comment.

His wisdom and care lightens my spirit.
Somehow I know I am called to speak out.

I run into town to tell all and sundry –
Here is good news – let there be no doubt.

I follow Him now – and will do so forever
Join with me in song – Join with me to shout:

Hosanna! Hosanna! The Lord is come!

(Source: Amelia Koh-Butler, Hyphenated Faith)

Introduction to Prayers for Others
It’s common to think about ‘living water’ – the powerful metaphor from this week’s readings – as something we receive. We focus on our own dryness and thirst, and feel rightly grateful that God comes to us with the offer of gracious refreshment and life. But, to stop there is to leave the extraordinary message of this passage incomplete, and to allow the Gospel to support what can become little more than selfishness. As we follow Christ the call this week is to move from being only recipients of living water to givers of it – especially to the poor and the marginalised. This was the journey of the Samaritan woman, and it is the inevitable, and even uncomfortable, journey for anyone who is serious about living life under God’s reign. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
We offer prayers for those who long for the refreshment of living water…..prayers are offered.


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COCU20A.Lent 2A.12March2017

See also Lent 2B and Lent 2C

See also Autumn (southern hemisphere)

Genesis 12:1-4a: God calls Abram to leave his home country, and promises that he will be blessed and will be a blessing to others, and Abram obeys.
Psalm 121: A song affirming God’s help, attention and care.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17: Paul holds Abraham up as an example of faith and relationship with God, and points out that it was not so much Abraham’s obedience as Abraham’s relationship with God through faith that ensured that God’s promise would be fulfilled through him.
John 3:1-17: Nicodemus comes to speak to Jesus at night, and is told that he must be born of the Spirit in order to see God’s reign, and that Christ came into the world to save through faith, not to condemn and judge.
(Summaries of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise. The link also provides reflections on the readings)


Resources: Textweek, Rex AE Hunt, Singing from the Lectionary, Sacredise

John 3:1-9 (Scholars Edition)
A Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Judean leader,
came to Jesus during the night and said,
“Rabbi, we know that you’ve come as a teacher from God;
after all, nobody can perform the miracles you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus replied to him,
“As God is my witness: No one can experience God’s imperial rule
without being born from above.”
Nicodemus says to him,
“How can an adult be reborn?
Can you re-enter your mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
Jesus replied,
“As God is my witness: No one can enter God’s domain
without being born of water and spirit. What is born of the human realm is human,
but what is born of the spiritual realm is spirit.
“Don’t be surprised that I told you,
‘Every one of you must be reborn from above.’
“The spirit blows every which way, like wind:
you hear the sound it makes but you can’t tell where it is coming from
or where it’s headed. That’s how it is
with everyone reborn of the spirit”.
“How can that be possible?” Nicodemus retorted.

Psalm 121
I lift my eyes
from world to sky,
from where will I find help?

My help will come
from Holy One,
maker of earth and sky.

Beneath your feet
the ground may tremble,
but you will never fall;

Holy One slumbers not,
is watchful ever
over the people of God.

Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will save you,
from trouble and from harm.

Fear not the sun’s hot flame,
nor moon’s shards of silver;
Holy One will be your shield.

Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will hold you;
your life is precious to God.

Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will seek you,
going and coming and ever more.

Lift your eyes
towards the light,
however thick the dark;

help will come
from Holy One,
maker of day and night.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

A centering prayer (gently, reflectively)
We may be born again,
born into the life of the Holy Spirit of God.
From the womb of God’s love
we will emerge into the unknown
and wait in faith for what may come.
Christ’s arms will hold us like a loving mother.
As the winds of the future blow where they may,
we are called to take one step at a time
towards the will of God for us in each moment.
We may be born into life everlasting
and a grace which is eternal in the Triune God.
A silence is kept
Come, Holy Spirit, and be with us today.
Guide us through our labouring,
whether it is easy or painful,
and bring goodness to birth through us and within us.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.
(Source W4W 2011)

Gathering  (see also words of welcome and gathering)
We gather here
to celebrate life’s beauty and find healing for its pain,
to wonder at the mystery that gave us birth,
and to listen for the wisdom that guides us
in the quietness of this moment.
(Source: Gary Kowalski, UUA Worship Web)

Life is a journey with others;
we travel as a people, on a winding road.
We share our lives, our experiences, our hopes, our fears.
With joy and hope we welcome other travellers
to share our lives.
We learn from each other.
We laugh and cry with each other.
We are home with each other.
And together we celebrate God’s presence
as we are refreshed and made ready
for re-creation in our lives and our communities.
(Source: Rex AE Hunt)

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COCU19A.Lent 1A.5March2017

See also Lent 1B and Lent 1C

Christ in the desert.Iwan Nikolajewitsch Kramskoi.1872

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7: God warns the man and woman in Eden not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but they are tempted by the serpent, and eat some of the fruit, at which point they realise their nakedness and cover themselves with fig leaves.
Psalm 32: A Psalm of David celebrating God’s forgiveness which is given so freely to those who confess their sin and do not try to hide it, and also an acknowledgement of God’s invitation to guide God’s people and lead them to life.
Romans 5:12-19: Through one person sin entered the world, and all people have likewise sinned against God, but in Christ, God has given the free gift of forgiveness and right relationship with God.
Matthew 4:1-11: Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness, but overcomes the temptation to satisfy his appetites by turning stone into bread, to gain power and influence by the miraculous act of throwing himself off the temple, and to gain the world’s wealth by worshiping the devil.
(Lectionary readings summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Call to Worship
Ashes have been smeared and sins have been confessed…
We follow our faithful Lord.
These times, they are troubling. This journey, it is hard…
We follow our faithful Lord.
It is God who sustains, not the temptations of this world…
We follow our faithful Lord.
In the Lord is our trust, our protection from harm…
We follow our faithful Lord.
Come, let us worship the One whom we serve…
We follow our faithful Lord.
(Stephen Fearing, Wild and Precious Life)

Call to Worship for Lent
Lent calls us to journey, this and every day,
following Jesus wherever he leads us.
Lent calls us to journey:
to the place where God covenants with us,
to receive the new names we are given.
Lent calls us to worship together,
to tell future generations the good news.
Lent calls us to practice justice,
to bring God’s hope to all people.
Lent calls us to faithful living,
to trust the One who gives us life.
Lent calls each of us to take up our cross,
to trust the One who bears it with us.
Lent calls us to journey with God.
Let us worship God, who walks with us,
this and every day.
(Source: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Darkness and Light
(could be used to accompany candle lighting at start of service, and as a call to worship)
The darkness loves to parade itself, God,
to draw our attention and steal our energy,
with fearful threats
and dire prophecies of doom;
and we all too easily give it just what it seeks.

Community candle (or Christ candle) is lit

But, if we can just drag our gaze away
we discover that there is another reality;
that your light shines undimmed,
that your care is undiminished,
that your strength and protection
are unfailing.

And so, even in the midst of pain, suffering, evil
even when it seems your light is almost out,
we choose to remain under the shadow of your wings;
to trust in your salvation,
to speak your words,
and to dispel the darkness
by lighting the flame of faith again
in our hearts. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

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COCU17A.Epiphany8A.Transfiguration Sunday.26thFeb2017

Please refer also to  Year C Transfiguration Sunday.

Exodus 24:12-18: God calls Moses to come up the mountain to receive God’s commands, and he obeys and spends 40 days and nights with God on the mountain.
Psalm 99: A celebration of God as Israel’s king, who loves justice, who answered the calls of God’s people for help, and who speaks from the pillar of cloud.
2 Peter 1:16-21: Peter affirms the reliability of his teaching, and that of the other apostles, reminding his readers of his experience with Jesus on the mountain, and confirming his trust in the message of the prophets.
Matthew 17:1-9: Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain, where he is transfigured and talks to Moses and Elijah who appear with him. God proclaims Jesus to be God’s beloved son, and afterward, Jesus instructs the disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until after the resurrection.
(Summaries of readings: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek, re-worship,

Prayer of approach
You are the pre-dawn glow
that promises yet another new beginning;
You are the still dusk
that brings rest to a weary world;
You are the prophecy
of God’s life-giving Word inscribed on our hearts;
You are the law
that finds its fulfilment in love;
You are the mountain
where the presence of God blazes and burns;
You are the valley
where the face of God peeks out from suffering eyes;
You are the glory that we long for,
the whispered rumour of a different order,
the Shining One who transfigures all things.
You are the One we worship. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Guided meditation: A time for journey, a time for silence….
We’re going to make space for a spiritual movement up the Mount of Transfiguration.  Spiritual mountain climbing sounds difficult, even dangerous. But it really requires discipline, which is an effort of a different sort.  As Henri Nouwen said, “In the spiritual life, the word ‘discipline’ means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act’. Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied… to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”   We’re setting aside some time right now to make space.  Get comfortable.  Get up and move around quietly if you wish to let your body mimic the movement of images we’ll use within this prayer.  We’re going to figuratively and prayerfully climb a mountain to gain a more-than-ordinary perspective with this guided meditation.

1.    Image what little you can see of your world from the “ground level” of your immediate time, location, and experience.  Call to mind recent joys.  Hold onto one of those images with a feeling of delight. . . .  Call to mind immediate needs that are in the forefront of your daily vision; people and situations close to you in terms of relationship or physical proximity.  Hold onto one or more these images with a sense of tenderness and care. . . .
(could include a brief musical interlude, or simply hold silence)

2.    Imagine yourself next moving to a higher vantage point.  Image the world as you gain a “higher” perspective: look down and “see” from your store of memories the more distant joys of your past. Or imagine some future happiness and just smile inwardly. . . .That appreciation or anticipation welling up is a prayer of thanksgiving.  From this same vantage, glimpse the needs of people you know about but with whom you’re not in close relationship. From this vantage you can take in whole groups of people with a single glance, so focus on a group of people who live different lives than you do. Now, with expanded compassion, hold onto that image. . . .
(could include a brief musical interlude, or simply hold silence)

3.    We move a third time.  Now image the world from the peak of a mountain.  See the world’s beauty and connectedness.  Look down and find yourself, your own life, if you can. Do you feel differently about your own self from this vantage point?  If you were really on the top of this mountain, would you feel less attached to things and schedules and other priorities that now dictate your movements?  And look at the world below. What movements or patterns are you seeing in the overall social landscape, in the ecosystems below?  Are you praying for different things in different ways from this distance where national boundaries disappear and even distinctions among species fade?  . . . .
(could include a brief musical interlude, or simply hold silence)

4.    Image earth finally from a great distance in time and space.  Rather than seeing yourself as small and insignificant, see yourself as part of something vast, ongoing, eternal. Can you feel love for that tiny planet and its creatures—and all beyond its gravitational pull?  Can you imagine a Sacred Compassion embracing all that is throughout all Time?  At this pinnacle of perspective, you might even glimpse – as did Peter, James and John–the Cosmic Christ, the Christ who is our all in all, the Spirit that pervades all things, the human Jesus united with Divine Love, the Light of Lights.  To attain this perspective in a real and lasting way is what some call “enlightenment.”  Of course Jesus shone on the Mount of Transfiguration!  Of course the disciples noticed his change.  Of course he was then ready to set his face toward Jerusalem and the requirements of pure LOVE.
(could include a brief musical interlude, or simply hold silence)
(Source: Ellen Sims, That Preacher Woman blogspot).

God Unsheltered
The mind would build its shelters,
its walls, its solid boundaries,

its holding pens for those mysteries
that challenge the edges of thought;

would seek to grasp, to domesticate
the God beyond comprehension;

would seek with dogma’s fences
to keep wonder dulled and distant,

the heart thus safely protected
from the love that burns like fire.

See it consuming Moses on his mountain,
see it sweeping Elijah into heaven,

see it shining like the sun from Jesus’ face,
this love that moves God, unsheltered,

down the mountain, to the road to the cross.

(Source: Andrew King, 2017, A poetic kind of place)

Transfigure Us
Son of the Father,
The pleased one of God,
Transfigure us.
Transfigure our comprehension of who you are.
Grant us that greatest of epiphanies,
The insight of the fullness of your nature.
May we find and hold you in awe that we might not take you for granted.
Continually humble our understandings of you,
That we might not presume in arrogance to define who you might be,
Or get stuck in the moment of an understanding of one aspect of your being.
Transfigure how we see you,
That we might, in relationship and friendship, be inspired to come to know you better.
Transfigure us,
That in knowing you better we come to know your call to us better.
Transfigure us,
So that in following you and embodying your way,
Our living and being might be transfigured,
As you redeem and transform us through your love and grace.
Transfigure us, Christ,
Now and always may it be so.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that unite)

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