COCU Index Year B 2018

Year B
Autumn season (southern hemisphere)

COCU24B, Lent 6B/Palm Sunday – see also Year A and Year C/
Passion Sunday, 25th March 2018

COCU25B, Holy Week Monday, 26th March 2018
COCU26B, Holy Week Tuesday, 27th March 2018
COCU27B, Holy Week Wednesday, 28th March 2018
COCU28B, Holy Week Thursday/Maundy Thursday, 29th March 2018 (Year A link here)
(* FREE Maundy Thursday Agape Liturgy. This booklet has been produced by St Andrews Episcopal Church Seattle WA and has been made available with the kind permission of Cherry Hairston as a free download in the Godspace store)
COCU29B, Good Friday, 30th March 2018 (Year A link here)
COCU30B, Holy Saturday, 31st March 2018 (Year A link here)
COCU31B, Easter Sunday, 1st April 2018 (Year A link here, Year C link here)
(‘April Fools Day’)

Year B COCU Index (link is to a NZ resource)

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order

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See also Palm Sunday A and Palm Sunday C

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
An exhortation to give thanks to God for God’s eternal mercy. Also a cry for God to save God’s people, and an invitation for God’s people to join a procession of thanksgiving, marching to the altar with palms, blessing the one who comes in the Lord’s name.
Mark 11:1-11
Jesus instructs his disciples to fetch a young donkey for him to ride. Then he rides it into Jerusalem and a procession forms with people laying their coats and leafy branches on the road, while shouting out “Hosanna, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”. Then Jesus goes into the temple, looks around and leaves because it is late.
Isaiah 50:4-9a
In contrast to the happy hosannas and the cheerful parade that normally accompanies Palm Sunday, Isaiah offers an entry into Holy Week in a far more stark way. This is the story behind the populism of Palm Sunday. Here are the words we perhaps need to hear to shape Holy Week. This is Isaiah’s third ‘servant song’. The servant songs were written at the end of the Babylonian exile and over time, especially in the Christian era, the songs have been given many diverging interpretations. But what is clear is that the servant is Israel charged with keeping true to Yahweh. The way Israel is to do this, given the history of exile and oppression and invasion, is not to respond to the conflict with conflict. Quite the opposite. ‘Do not cry or lift up your voice’ says God. Your attempts at power have all failed and to return power with power will fail once more. Instead listen to God, listen and learn. Do not turn away from learning about God: this will sustain you. Keep the faith alive, speak of it, teach it, even when people attack you for it. It is easy to see why the early Christian applied this to Jesus: it seems to mirror his life. Both Israel’s and Jesus’ lives were in parallel: our journey through Holy Week is similar to Israel’s journey through exile.(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Church of Scotland)
Philippians 2:5-11
There is a lot written about the nuances of the words of this hymn, a hymn that was possibly written before Paul included it in this letter. We could, and many have, used a lot of paper defining and redefining what these words mean. But that turns it into an academic exercise and worship is hardly the place to dance of such pinheads. This hymn is a great long word about Jesus as Christ. It hardly breaks for breath and takes us through the vast journey from incarnation to death and how Jesus now reigns throughout the universe. It begins with Christ becoming human and emptied all the ‘god-stuff’ (that universal reign) and became a slave in human terms, bound in skin. When that happened, when Jesus became human, the sacrifice was great: God to human. How small it must have felt to be limited in skin, but that’s the point. That is the first sacrifice. The second sacrifice is giving up even that, in love, for others. Such giving of self is what we are called to model. Slaves to the limits of our humanity which ends in death which as we all know is a fixed moment for us. There is a point when we die. Except for Jesus this is not fixed, or so we believe. The hymn at this point moves onto exaltation of Jesus and so every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. In effect the whole of creation praises Jesus. It might be worth reading further to the next few lines that say, “For it is God who is at work in you,” because this great hymn, and all the exaltation it speaks of, and the wonder of self- emptying that leads to resurrection, this God who does all that, is at work in you. That’s the bit, surely, to hang on to. All that praise to a God who is involved in all of that redemption is in you. (Source: Roddy Hamilton, Church of Scotland)

Resources for Palm Sunday – prepared by Roddy Hamilton, on the Church of Scotland website.

In 2018, Easter Day falls on April Fools’ Day, April 1st. The events of Palm Sunday open themselves to an element of foolishness in interpretation and application. We have already encountered this call to foolishness in Lent 3, but on Palm Sunday, the implications and impact of this call to Gospel foolishness are made more clear, and our need to respond is made even more urgent.
The archetype of the Fool is an important and subversive one, since the fool, traditionally, was the only person who could speak truth to power. The musical Godspell portrayed this through dressing Jesus up in clown make-up and clothing. Rather than being an irreverent and mocking way of thinking of Christ, the fool image is a prophetic and transforming way of encountering Christ’s message and work, and this is particularly true as we think of the rather foolish image of a Christ processing into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey – not the most compliant of species at the best of times. What makes this even more subversive and comical is the comparison with the second procession that would have been happening in Jerusalem that day – Pilate, on his white war horse, and his Roman troops arrayed in their best and most intimidating military finery. In Mark’s account of this event, the strangeness of the procession is further heightened by the fact that Jesus does not immediately overturn the tables in the Temple. Rather, he simply looks around and leaves – leaving the crowds, I am sure, rather bewildered and perhaps anti-climactic. It is only the next day, when the “safety in numbers” is no longer there, that Jesus does his work of cleansing the Temple. It is clear that Jesus is working hard here to reveal that God’s Reign is present, but to avoid either the excess of a military dictatorship, or the uprising of a bloody and violent revolution (which may well have arisen if he had done his table-turning with the crowds in attendance – in spite of what the other Gospels may say…). So, this Sunday may be a good time to reflect on the foolishness of Christ, and the foolishness of following Christ in the ways and values of God’s upside-down Realm. This is actually the wisest way to live and offers real strategies for addressing our world’s crises, and the seeming wisdom of the world’s systems which are, in fact, fostering inequality, injustice, climate change, ethnic and religious violence, and fragmentation of our world and societies. When the simplicity, humility, generosity, compassion, justice, and grace of Christ are fully embraced – as foolish as these qualities may seem in today’s competitive world – the impact on our world is life-giving, healing and peace-making. The question we need to face is whether we are willing to become fools for the sake of the Gospel – and for the healing of our world. (John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The parade that wasn’t
Surely there is a story behind this story of Jesus arriving Jerusalem? There is the whole intrigue of secret passwords, as if there is a network of Jesus followers. Clearly, if this is so, Jesus movement was seen to be quite at odds with the Romans. We may see this as obvious but we don’t often tell the story as if there was danger to those who lifted their heads above the crowd.
Though this is what Jesus does, because the other story behind the story is the alternative parade into Jerusalem that day of Pilate arriving for Passover, Pilate who rarely came to Jerusalem because it was too hot. That would have been the bigger parade, with standard bearers and a crowd shouting because they were compelled to do so rather than because they wished to do so.
Contrast that with Jesus’ much smaller parade, but that was clearly seen as a counter- kingdom parade to the Romans’. Jesus’ entry doesn’t seem to be supported necessarily by the residents of Jerusalem. Jesus’ support consisted of outsiders, people not resident in Jerusalem and they hail Him from outside the city. Only after the mock parade and the hosannas does Jesus enter the city and go to the temple. Only there He simply looked around and turned on his heels.
The big thing about the triumphal entry is that it isn’t. Nothing happened. It’s one of the great anti-climaxes in the gospel. We have all the street theatre, and the mocking of the Roman governor, but in the end, Jesus just turns round and goes back to Bethany. People’s expectations are unmet. They are crying for some kind of revolution in the shape of the historical past but it doesn’t materialise. Perhaps this disappointment in Jesus is the beginning of the turning of the crowd.
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Church of Scotland)

Donkeys at dawn
Messiahs on a mission
palm branches propelled crowds crying
people parading
Jerusalem jousting
disciples departing
gateway giving way
hosannas being hurled
a salvo of shouts
and a king on a colt
starts the slippery slope
that ends the enterprise
of hosanna headlines
with a cross and crucifixion when the words weary
and silence descends
and there is nothing left to say
Welcome to the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning…
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Church of Scotland)
* The link will take you to Roddy’s series of prayerful reflections that could be used as a continuum for a service without the usual ‘structure’ of a worship service. Some are included below, but inserted into the elements of worship.

Gathering words (from a poem, The King is coming)
Our God arrives, clothed in frail human flesh,
riding a meek donkey’s foal.
This is not the first time You have come to us, O God
The history of human affairs is the history of Your arrival among us,
As Creator,
Prophet’s voice and
Priest’s desire.
The story of each of our lives is the story of Your coming to us,
As Comforter,
And so we praise You;
Open our eyes to Your Presence, Lord;
Come to us again, Lord;
Hosanna – Save us again, Lord.
And be glorified among us.
For You are our God. Amen.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

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St Patrick’s Day, 17 March

A prayer adapted from St Patrick’s Breastplate
We bind unto ourselves today
the strong name of the trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in three.
We bind this day to us forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River; his death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom; We bind unto ourselves today.
We cast off the works of darkness today,
And put on the armour of light,
Light before us and behind,
Light within and light without,
Light to guide and to lead us,
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
Christ behind us, Christ before us,
Christ beside us, Christ to win us,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love us,
Christ in mouth of friend & stranger
Let us wrap ourselves around with the belt of truth,
And strap on the breastplate of righteousness,
Let us clad our feet with the gospel of peace,
place the helmet of salvation on our heads.
And take up the shield of faith.
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
We bind unto ourselves today, the power of God to hold and lead,
God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay, God’s ear to harken to our need,
The wisdom of our God to teach, God’s hand to guide, and shield to ward,
The Word of God to give us speech, God’s heavenly host to be our guard.
In the love of God who shelters us,
In the light of Christ who walks beside us,
In the power of the Spirit who dwells within us,
We place ourselves today.
Let us clothe ourselves with Christ.
We bind unto ourselves today the strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same, the Three in One, the One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation, Eternal God, Spirit, Word;
Praise to the God of our salvation, Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)

About St Patrick (source: Patheos)
Born in 387 AD, Patrick was not a particularly devout youth when he was captured at age 16 by Irish marauders. But during his six years of slaving as a shepherd in Ireland, he discovered a deep faith in Christ. He wrote of his conversion in his memoir, Confessio:
And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
Patrick escaped after following instructions from God in a dream to go to the coast where he would find passage on a ship. He returned to his family, but a few years later, he had another vision:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish.” . . . and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
The vision prompted Patrick to study for the priesthood, which led to his ordination as a bishop. But he couldn’t forget Ireland. He sailed back in 433 and preached to – and converted – many all over Ireland for almost forty years. He also served the poor, suffered hardships, and wrote of his love for God in Confessio. Patrick died March 17, 461, in Saul, Ireland, where he had built the first Irish church. Tradition maintains that his grave lies at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland.
Legends abound regarding Patrick. Two of the most enduring: He purportedly drove the snakes off the island (likely a metaphor for driving out Druidism, which was symbolized by snakes). And stories tell of how he used the green three-leafed clover, a shamrock, to teach the Trinity. Legend has it that Patrick created the design of the Celtic cross on a day when he was preaching close to a pagan standing stone. Potential converts considered such stones sacred because they already carried carvings of a circle, a symbol of the sun or moon gods. As the legend says, Patrick drew a cross through the circle and then blessed the stone. In thus creating the first Irish Celtic Cross, he displayed his willingness to adapt heathen practices and symbols to Christian beliefs as a way of easing the transition from pagan to Christian.
The Legacy
Deep faith: Visions and dreams played an important part in the spiritual life during Patrick’s time. He obeyed God’s call to return to the island on which he had been enslaved. He first repaid his slave price to his former captor, then confronted druids and royalty in dramatic fashion. God called him to preach and pray, serve and suffer, though he did not always feel worthy or able.
Evangelistic fervor: Patrick’s mission in life was to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He spent over thirty years preparing and almost forty years evangelizing the lost people of Ireland.
Love for God: Indeed, everything Patrick did – each journey, each task, each sermon, each prayer – sprang from an all-consuming devotion to Jesus. He considered Christ as his savior (spiritually), his rescuer (literally), his redeemer, his leader.
Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth. . .

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Psalm 133; Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

Resources: Textweek

A prayer for the Sunday after Easter (John 20:24-29)
It would be wrong, Lord,
for us to say that
we have no doubts,
for this world is trying
to deny all we hold dear,
and is insistent in its cry.
There are days when
like Thomas, your dear friend
we need to reach out
and touch the hand
that has led us these long years,
see the place
where spear and nails
have made their marks.
Forgive our doubts
and in times of tempting
be our confidence,
so close that like Thomas
we might joyfully declare
‘My Lord and my God!’
© John Birch,

Hymn: In praise of doubt
(Tune Forest Green   AHB 240   TiS 316)
(Words: George Stuart, Volume 4 of Singing a New Song No. 50)

Some people say, “To doubt is wrong”
We should not doubt at all;
To question our beliefs, they say
Could bring about our fall;
But doubt permits an honest stance
In those who are devout;
For those who think about beliefs
Can sing in praise of doubt.

The Thomas’ story has been used
To judge, condemn, deplore;
But Thomas shows he is sincere;
He wanted to be sure.
For doubt can help and not deter
A vital turnabout;
Yes! Those who care about beliefs
Can sing in praise of doubt.

If our beliefs prevent our search
For new and different creeds;
Let us beware of narrow views
Where dogma often breeds;
With new, exciting facts we learn
Much love can come about;
Yes! Those who grow in their beliefs
Can sing in praise of doubt.

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

A 2018 message from Colleen Geyer, General Secretary, Uniting Church Assembly

Quote by Desmond Tutu
: When those who are role models treat women as equals, then the narrative changes – ‘if you want peace, let women take the lead’

An adaption of the Franciscan prayer, by Deborah Hirt
Lord, make me an instrument of peace:
Bless all women who daily strive to bring peace to their communities, their homes and their hearts. Give them strength to continue to turn swords into plowshares.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love:
We pray for all women who face prejudice, inequality and gender disparities. Help us seeand to face the discrimination against women inall the many forms it may take.
Where there is injury, pardon:
Comfort all women who suffer from the pain of war, violence, and abuse. Help them to become instruments of their own reconciliation and peace.
Where there is division, unity:
Forgive all women and men who let differences breed hate and discrimination. Let your example of valuing all of creation help us to see that we are equal partners in the stewardship of your world.
Where there is darkness, light; where there is untruth, truth:
Comfort all women who struggle in the darkness of abuse, poverty, and loneliness. May we stand with them in light to acknowledge their suffering and strive to remove the burdens of shame or embarrassment.
Where there is doubt, true faith:
We pray for all women who live in fear of their husbands, fathers, and forces that control their lives. Help them to be empowered to be their true selves through your everlasting love and faith.
Where there is despair, hope:
We pray for all women who live in the despair of poverty, violence, trafficking, slavery,and abuse. May the light of your love bring them hope.
Where there is sadness, new joy:
Help us to see the strength and goodness in all women and men.
Transform our hearts to celebrate the love and grace of all people.
And may we be blessed with the courage of St. Clare of Assisi to follow our own path of love for you and all sisters and brothers.
(posted on Godspace by Christine Sine, originally sourced from Intern at Franciscans International)

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Numbers 21:4-9
The people of Israel complain about being in the desert because there is no food or water and they don’t like the food God has provided. Then a plague of snakes attacks them and they ask for forgiveness and salvation. God instructs Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole so that anyone who is bitten by a snake can look at the bronze snake and be healed.
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
A song of praise for God who punished those who, in their foolishness disobeyed and rebelled, but who forgave and saved them when they called out to God.
Ephesians 2:1-10
Though we once followed the ways of the world and were dead in our sins, deserving judgement like anyone else, God saved us through Christ, as an act of grace that we did not earn. But God has created us to do good works in Christ.
John 3:14-21
As the snake was lifted up on a pole in the desert, so Christ is to be lifted up so that all who seek to be saved may look to him. God sent him into the world to save, not condemn, but those who love darkness rather than light are already condemned, because they want to keep their actions hidden and not have them exposed.
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

COCU22B.Lent4B.Readings (formatted in landscape A4, folded)

Elements of worship

Centering reflections to begin worship

Call to worship

Prayers of confession (words of assurance)

Prayer of confession 
 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the New Human be lifted up,
that whoever trusts may have eternal life.
— John 3.14-15

You have to look your evil in the face to be healed.
The snakes that plagued the Hebrews in the desert
were their betrayal come back to bite them,
their being Eden’s serpent.
The cure was to gaze at their sin.

So we gaze upon the Crucified One, our victim,
and look our awfulness in the eye
and only there grasp forgiveness,
and only then become truly alive.

On the cross is lifted up
our racism, our violence, our materialism,
our deep seated me-first-ism.
Posted there is our last text to God,
“I’ll let you know when I need you.”
We look at it, look at it hard,
to get free of the lie that we’re just fine,
the lie that keeps us from knowing
how deeply we are forgiven,
how vastly we are blessed,
how infinitely we are loved.                      (Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
A silence is kept as we reflect upon these words for ourselves.
(Followed by words of assurance)

Prayer of praise and confession
Eternal and ever-blessed God,
We give you thanks that you have gathered us within this place today;
that we can lift our voices in praise,
bring our prayers to you together
and hear your word and respond to your gospel.
So accompany us,
that our minds may be enlightened by your truth, our hearts may be warmed with your love,
our lives may be empowered by your grace;
so that we may go from this place
to love you and our neighbour more.

Forgive us for the broken promises
when we did not count the cost
and it was harder to keep them than we thought.
Forgive us for the promises that we have made
And then forgotten about.
Forgive us for the things we have left half-done because of the lack of perseverance.
Forgive us for the things we have not even attempted, for the things we were afraid to do,
for the things we were too lazy to try ,
for the things we put off from day to day
until we never do them.
Living God, perhaps we should have done so much more
with the talents that you have given to us.
Perhaps we should have worked harder to turn dreams into reality.
Help us to use the time that remains to us well
so that we may be able to say at the end,
“I have finished the work that you have given me.”
Loving God, grant to us
strength to bear our burdens and not to faint or fall,
strength to conquer our temptations and do what is right,
strength to walk with you each day throughout our lives
until we reach our journey’s end.
Hear these prayers, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Source: Rev Colin Sinclair, Church of Scotland)

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world
to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned;
but those who do not believe are condemned already,
because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
 John 3.16-18

Infinite Love, heart of all life,
you loved this word into being
with such love
as to birth yourself among us,
Love begotten as the Beloved.

Opening ourselves to your love
we live beyond our mortal selves
and join your eternal Oneness.

Your presence does not separate but unites;
love does not push away, but embraces;
you do not condemn, but save.

Trusting this we know
we are loved, never rejected.
When our trust fails we are doomed:
withdrawing into ourselves
we aren’t open to love,
the only source of life.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

A poem: The serpent dies 
(Numbers 21: 4-9; John 3: 14-21)

No need to explain how the serpent’s bite
surfaces (stealthy as the coming of night)
while you’re reading the news; or worried and alone;
or when suffering long; or when a doctor intones
challenging words; or when darkness falls;
or the voice on the end of the telephone call
declares a once-loved relationship done;
when hope seems lost, when joy seems gone.

No need to explain how this serpent hides
next door to our hearts, marks left inside
where poison drips from the tip of its fangs:
in rage, in bitterness, in lonely pangs
of guilt and regret; in the resentments we bear.
And in hurts that we cause we do our own share
of spreading its toxin and resulting grief.
The serpent is death – the fear of it.  Relief

ever seems to elude us; but we may declare
its ultimate defeat; for above its shadow there
rises greater light – see, lifted up,
the one who for us drank the cup
of suffering, whose love even in death
conquered its evil; by whose living breath
we also may thrive. We turn trusting eyes,
snake-bitten, upon Christ, and the serpent dies.
(Source: Andrew King 2015)

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Reflecting on a change of leadership: This is not about a difference of political opinion, as that’s far too small to mourn over. It’s about a fundamental difference in how we view the worth of all people—not just those who look or talk or think or vote the way we do.
(source: John Pavlovitz)

A Blessing for the Politically Despondent.
by Joel McKerrow

There shall come a time,
When the way we hope it could be feels so very far away.
When the system shows itself for what it is.
When the politicians spend more time bitching than leading,
stabbing backs than backing those who truly need their support.

When the truth seems too hard to decipher through the lies.
When the ballot paper seems…empty of good choices.
When it doesn’t seem to even matter
which party is in power,
for they shall all wield the same.

When we are told we have the power to change our society
and yet out voting
feels like it means nothing. An appeasement of the masses
more than a piece of societal changing history.

There shall come a time,
and in that time
and in that sense of frustration
and despondency
and the draw towards apathy,
may you find a higher something to hold onto.

Something above political ideals.
Something above the hollow notion of failed political promise.
Something to remind you.
Something to instil hope within you.

May you take the discouragement
and find courage somewhere within it.
The courage to believe that
regardless of politics,
regardless of our leaders pandering to powerful people,
regardless of our faltered political ideals,
that there is still a way to change the world around us.
And it begins with you. And it begins with me.
And it is more than just numbering boxes on ballot paper.

For I have met the real ones. The ones who give themselves again and again to the bettering of our world. I have seen their dirty fingernails, their tired eyes, their patient sitting beside, the way they look you in the eye, the way they listen, the way they teach our high schools, the way they fight for the homeless, the way they resist the rat-race trappings of the western dream, the way they sew seeds into the community, the way they bring people together from all sides of every spectrum, the people who deserve to be politicians. And indeed some of them are.

I have seen those who refuse to give in to the disappointment,
who choose to look around them and say,
“This is what I can do. Here. Now. This is what I can do regardless.”

So may that be you. May that be me. And maybe politics wont even matter if we all chose to live like this. So lets keep voting till we get there, regardless of how empty it can feel, lets not trick ourselves into thinking this will change things even if we do nothing else. Lets keep doing more in the everydayness of our lives. I have met the real ones and what strikes me about every one of them is this…they are just normal people who choose to do something. And isn’t it always a small group of normal people making decisions like this that bring about the change we so desire.

So when the time comes may you be one of these…a real person. Doing real things to bring about real change. Even if it is just to those around you.

By the Streams of Babylon
DIX (“For the Beauty of the Earth”)

By the streams of Babylon we sit weeping bitter tears.
Here so many hopes are gone; now we’re filled with countless fears.
Yet, O God, you tell us: “Rise! See the world through faith-filled eyes!”

We will rise and seek your way, knowing love will one day win.
We won’t let fear rule the day; we will welcome strangers in.
Every day, we’ll seek and find countless ways to be more kind.

By your grace, we’ll rise above even in this troubled hour.
Where there’s hate, we’ll choose to love; we will speak your truth to power.
With the poor and refugee we will build community.

We will pray for those who lead even as we take a stand.
We will rise with those in need, seeking justice in the land.
We will learn and listen well from the truth that others tell.

We will rise and work for peace; we will treasure your good earth.
We will march, that wars may cease; we’ll see every person’s worth.
God, now give us faith-filled lives as we heed your call and rise.

Biblical References: Psalm 137:1; Joshua 24:15; Ephesians 1:17-18; Deuteronomy 10:19; Hebrews 13:1; Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Psalm 34:14; Micah 6:8
Tune: Conard Kocher, 1838, Abr. William Henry Monk, 1861, Harm. The English Hymnal, 1906
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: New Hymns:


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COCU21B.Lent 3B.4March2018

In a world of seriousness and a Church of purity, the Lectionary calls us to a strange way of being this week – foolishness. The cross, which is God’s wisdom and God’s strength, is placed alongside the law in the readings this week, and as we examine these two themes side by side, we discover that they are actually both calling us to the same thing – as surprising as that may sound.
Exodus 20:1-17
God gives the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, instructing them how they should live as God’s people.
Psalm 19
A psalm that celebrates how creation reveals God’s glory and wisdom and how God’s commands and teachings are more valuable than anything, making those who follow them wise. Then a call for God to forgive hidden sins follows the song of praise.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
God’s wisdom is far wiser than human wisdom, although it appears like foolishness and weakness to human beings. God’s wisdom and strength is Christ crucified which offends those who seek human strength and wisdom, but saves those who are willing to believe and embrace it.
John 2:13-22
Jesus drives out the animal sellers and the money changers from the temple. Then when the religious leaders ask for a sign to prove he has the authority to do this, he tells them that if they destroy the temple, he will rebuild it in three days – to which they respond with incredulity. The disciples, however, after he is raised, realise that he was referring to his body.
(Comments on readings by John van der Laar, Sacredise)

On Foolishness
Committing to an uncertain future, to what we do not know yet, is foolishness: “To pledge is to say ‘I do’ to the knowing venture . . . . Pledging your allegiance to what you do not yet know is enormously risky . . . . We pledge to take the risk to follow something that may prove not to be there, something that may prove to be way different from what we imagine. We accept the prospect that others might think us foolish—that we might prove to be foolish.”
(Source: Esther Lightcap Meek, A Little Manual for Knowing, p 27)

“The joke of it is that often it is the preacher who as steward of the wildest mystery of them all is the one who hangs back, prudent, cautious, hopelessly mature and wise to the last when no less than Saint Paul tells [her] to be a fool for Christ’s sake, no less than Christ tells [her] to be a child for [her] own and the kingdom’s sake.”
(Source: Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p 98)

Here is Frederick Buechner’s take on this passage, from “Paul Sends His Love” in Secrets in the Dark:
The message that a convicted felon was the bearer of God’s forgiving and transforming love was hard enough for anybody to swallow and for some especially so. For Hellenized sophisticates—the Greeks, as Paul puts it—it could only seem absurd. What uglier, more supremely inappropriate symbol of, say, Plato’s Beautiful and Good could there be than a crucified Jew? And for the devout Jew, what more scandalous image of the Davidic king messiah, before whose majesty all the nations were at last to come to heel?
Paul understood both reactions well. “The folly of what we preach,” he called it (1:21), and he knew it was folly not just to the intellectually and religiously inclined but to the garden variety Corinthians who had no particular pretensions in either direction but simply wanted some reasonably plausible god who would stand by them when the going got rough.
Paul’s God didn’t look much like what they were after, and Paul was the first to admit it. Who stood by Jesus when the going got rough, after all? He even goes so far as to speak of “the foolishness of God” (1:25). What other way could you describe a deity who chose as his followers not the movers and shakers who could build him a temple to make Aphrodite’s look like two cents but the weak, the despised, the ones who were foolish even as their God was and poor as church mice?

Elements of worship

Centering reflections to begin worship

Call to worship
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COCU20B.Lent 2B.25Feb2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
God promises Abram and Sarai that they will be parents of many nations, that they will be blessed with many descendants and that kings will come from them. Therefore God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai’s name to Sarah – Princess.
Psalm 22:23-31
God is praised and celebrated because God cares and provides for the oppressed, and all nations will come to worship God, both poor and prosperous, healthy and those close to death.
Romans 4:13-25
Abraham did not receive God’s promise through obeying the law, but through faith, and this faith was considered to be his righteousness – his approval by God. In the same way, when we place our faith in Christ, who died and was raised, it is considered our righteousness – our approval by God.
Mark 8: 31-38
Jesus predicts his death, but Peter objects. Jesus, then reprimands Peter, and tells all his followers that they must take up their crosses and follow him, not trying to save their lives, but willingly giving them up for the sake of the Gospel.

The Lectionary this week challenges what we understand by the word “faith”. What becomes clear here is that faith is not about some intellectual assent to certain propositions. Rather, faith is about the losing of our lives for the sake of the Gospel, which includes both the purpose to which we devote our lives, and the practices by which we seek to live out that purpose.
(Summaries of readings by John van der Laar, Sacredise)

Opening prayer: Faith that carries the cross
It is too easy, God
for faith to become an escape
– a way to avoid the pain of being human and alive;
or a path to success
– a way to pursuade the universe to give us the things we want;
or a system of control
– a way to bend others to our will
But the faith you offer is different, Jesus,
more dangerous and compelling;
It’s the faith that carries the cross,
that embraces death
and lays itself down for the sake of others;
It’s the only faith that can lead us to resurrecton
to life renewed and overflowing.
We praise you for this faith, God,
and open our hearts to receive it. Amen.
(Source: John van der Laar, Sacredise)

Call to Worship
(based on readings including Psalm 22 and Mark 8:31-38)
We come to worship this day from different places.
O God, do not be far from us.
We come to worship this morning for different reasons.
O God, do not be far from us.
We experience the presence of the Spirit in different ways.
O God, do not be far from us.
We hear Jesus’ words with different ears.
O God, do not be far from us.
“Deny yourselves.”
O God, do not be far from us.
“Take up your cross.”
O God, do not be far from us.
“Follow me.”
O God,
we thank you for drawing near to us
in this place,
in our lives.
(Source: Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith)

Prayer of confession/Prayers of who we are
(This prayer could form a reflective ‘prayers of who we are’, followed by silence and Words of Assurance)
No dying today

You keep talking about dying, Jesus;
about how life is found
not by white-knuckled clinging;
but by a prodigal losing.
We nod and smile, and ponder the deep significance of these words,
and then, with a slow sigh of relief,
we go back to our life-preservers;
our safe, protected worlds;
our well-sheltered, comfortable spirituality;
and we turn our eyes away from those who reach out to us,
those we could touch with Your life,
if only we would take the risk.
What were you thinking, Jesus?
Surely faith is about finding life,
not laying it down?
Surely we need to follow You in order to be sure
that life doesn’t end when we die?
There’ll be no dying today, Jesus – not if we can help it.
And if your promise is to be believed;
no dying at all – ever.
If only we could keep away the images of those others,
the different, the lonely, the misunderstood, and the forgotten,
the hungry, the abused, the least;
the ones in whose eyes we glimpse, in unguarded moments,
the outline of your face;
the ones in whose silence we hear a sound,
not unlike your voice,
inviting us to carry a cross.
A silence is kept, followed by words of assurance.
Source: John van der Laar, Sacredise)

The following prayer could also be used for a Prayer of Confession. It is inspired by Mark 8:35 – For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
Simply invite people to sit with their hands open, as if releasing something precious. Allow silence to conclude.
Blessing in the Round
This blessing
cannot help it;
it’s the way
it was designed.
Lay it down
and it rises again.
Release it
and it returns.
Give it away
and it makes a path
back to you.
There is no explaining
how it delights
in reappearing
when you have ceased
to hold it,
no hiding the sly smile
it wears
when it shows up
at your door,
no mistaking the wonder
when it circles back around
just at the moment
you thought you had
spent it completely,
had poured it out
with abandon
where you saw
the deepest thirst for it,
had put it entirely
in the hands
of those desperate
in their hunger.
But here it is,
the perfect circle of it
pressing into your hand
that curls around it
and then lets go,
and releasing
and receiving again
like the breath
that does not belong to us
but sets us in motion.
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook)

If any want to become my followers,let them deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me. Mark 8.34

Crucified One,
give me grace to enter the wound of the world,
to accompany those who suffer,
to willingly suffer for others’ sake,
not for the purpose that I meet you there,
which gives me joy,
but that I meet them there –
not that they may be a means to my joy,
but that I be a means to theirs.
Help me trust that you are with me on the cross
not for my sake but for theirs.
Let your love in me overwhelm my fear
and transform my selfishness.
Give me true self-giving love,
which is the only joy. Amen.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me – Mark 8.34
Abandon the illusion you’re a self-contained individual.
Be a part of this wounded world,
and find yourself with Christ.

Set aside your own desires,
give yourself fully for others;
be the hands and heart of Jesus.

Renounce self-protection,
accept your brokenness,
and reach out for love.

Let go of your own plans.
Join in the healing of the world.
You will not be alone.

Follow your soul, not your ego.
Follow it right into people’s suffering.
Follow it right into the heart of God.

Pour yourself out;
let the world pour in;
then you are one with the Beloved.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Prayer reflection (inspired by Romans 4.18 where Paul writes that, “Hoping against hope…” Abraham continued to believe the promise of God)
Hope nonetheless.
Hope despite.
Hope regardless.
Hope still.
Hope where we had ceased to hope.
Hope amid what threatens hope.
Hope with those who feed our hope.
Hope beyond what we had hoped.
Hope that draws us past our limits.
Hope that defies expectations.
Hope that questions what we have known.
Hope that makes a way where there is none.
Hope that takes us past our fear.
Hope that calls us into life.
Hope that holds us beyond death.
Hope that blesses those to come.
(Source: Jan Richardson, The Painted Prayerbook)

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resources in times of natural disaster/tragedy

Another school shooting – Lord have mercy. And more ‘thoughts and prayers’ and ‘thoughts and condolences’. Mike Rayson reflects: “Thoughts and prayers” are not enough for those who follow Jesus. The following text, written to the tune Hyfrodol (Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – UMH 196) is in response to the latest school shooting onValentines Day 2018 in Florida. You are free to use it, this Sunday or any other day. Please attribute the name of the writer: (c) 2018 Rev Mike Rayson, O.S.L –

(c) 2018 Rev Mike Rayson, O.S.L –
Hymn Tune: Hyfrodol (UMH 196)
Meter D

On the road toward the city
We shall ride into the pain
Of a death we know is coming
For to die is life to gain
Jesus, teacher, friend, companion
Though this road is rough and steep
We’ll go with you through the valley
Even when the shadows weep

Madness, mayhem, curse and trouble
Hold your breath as fire draws near
Thoughts and prayers are well intentioned
Lest we face the tempters fear
May the weapons of our children
Be reformed as tools for peace
Holy Spirit, call us forward
To a time when war will cease

Lord, the saints are sad with sorrow
Spur us on and light the way
Walking where the path is narrow
Give us strength to be the change
Turn our hollow prayers to action
As we stand against the dark
For when your light blazes in us
There can be no brighter spark

On the road toward the city
We shall ride toward the pain
Of a death we know is coming
For to die is life to gain
Jesus, teacher, friend, companion
Though this road is rough and steep
We’ll go with you through the valley
Even when the shadows weep

Another shooting – Lord, have mercy! A gunman opened fire Sunday morning Nov 5th 2017 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, near San Antonio, Texas. More than two dozen people are dead and many are injured.

If We Just Talk of Thoughts and Prayers 
O WALY WALY LM (“Though I May Speak”)   (MIDI)

If we just talk of thoughts and prayers
And don’t live out a faith that dares,
And don’t take on the ways of death,
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.

If we just dream of what could be
And do not build community,
And do not seek to change our ways,
Our dreams of change are false displays.

If we just sing of doing good
And don’t walk through our neighborhood
To learn its hope, to ease its pain,
Our talk of good is simply vain.

God, may our prayers and dreams and songs
Lead to a faith that takes on wrongs—
That works for peace and justice, too.
Then will our prayers bring joy to you.

(Source © 2017 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email:     New Hymns:

Sutherland Springs Beatitudes:
Blessed are they who are devastated,
for theirs is the realm of heaven.

Blessed are they who grieve for this country,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed they who are nonviolent,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who long for a culture of peace
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are they who seek healing, not revenge,
for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are they who desire only blessing for all,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are they who work for the healing of the world,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who meet opposition
in their work for peace and justice,
for theirs is the realm of heaven.

Blessed are you when people dismiss and insult you.
Rejoice, and be glad:
great is your reward in the heart of all things,
for in just this way
they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Another response: A Prayer of Anguish – Seeking Answers in a Sea of Questions, by Shane Phipps

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COCU19B.Lent 1B.18thFeb2018

Readings Lent 1B
Genesis 9:8-17
God promises Noah that God will never again destroy all life through a flood, and God gives the rainbow as a sign of this promise.
Psalm 25:1-10
A plea for God to be merciful and to not remember the sinfulness of the psalmist’s youth, but to teach the psalmist God’s ways and deliver him from his enemies.
1 Peter 3:18-22
Jesus died for us and was raised to life, having preached to the “spirits in prison” who disobeyed in Noah’s time. And now we are given the sign of baptism to show that we are saved & cleansed within by Christ, who now rules with God in heaven.
Mark 1:9-15
Jesus is baptised by John, affirmed by God and sent into the wilderness to be tempted. Then after John is arrested he begins his ministry calling people to repent and believe in his Good News message.
(Bible readings summary by John van der Laar, Sacredise)

Background for OT readings: Howard Wallace
Background on NT Readings: Bill Loader

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

Weather Forecast (inspired by Genesis 9:8-17)
God needed some way of remembering,
Or we needed some way of remembering
that God would remember,
Some sort of Post-It note,
“That pretty bow you tied around your finger”*
As it’s also been called,
A reminder that God would never smack us again,
Which shows up at the oddest times.
Yet many seem to have forgotten
What sort of “us” is meant here.
It’s you and me, yes;
But it’s also “them” over there,
The people with different
looks and lives and even so-called beliefs,
Next door and across an ocean.
Oh – and every other living creature, too.
O God, I trust you remember the details.
But when will the rest of us remember
That we’re all in the same boat?
With the sun shining, I hope we get some rain soon.
(Source: Scott L. Barton, Lectionary Poems)
(*The phrase about the “pretty bow” is from Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish” Symphony #3)

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

Call to Worship
Following God’s ways is not easy;
 We are called to step out in faith.
We do not know what will happen tomorrow;
 We are called to put our trust in God.
We know that God’s love is always with us;
We know that God never abandons us.
Come, join together in this time of worship;
 Come, join together in following Jesus.
(Source: Rev Mindi, Rev-o-lution)
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