COCU Index Year B 2017-18

Year B
Summer season (southern hemisphere)/
winter season (northern hemisphere)

COCU19B, Lent 1B, 18th February 2018
COCU20B, Lent 2B, 25th February 2018
COCU21B, Lent 3B, 4th March 2018
COCU22B, Lent 4B, 11th March 2018
COCU23B, Lent 5B, 18th March 2018
COCU24B, Lent 6B/Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, 25th March 2018

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

Citation index (Vanderbilt Library) in canonical order

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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
Tho 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 fi-re 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
Tho 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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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)

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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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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Lent 2018

Lent begins after Shrove Tuesday (February 13th in 2018) and Ash Wednesday (February 14th in 2018)
Lent, those 40 day’s leading up to the crucifixion of Christ, when we commemorate his 40 days spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry, inspires people of all traditions to fast, or voluntarily give things up for a season. But it is often just that, a voluntary giving up. Historically the fasting of Lent was, for many people, a necessity rather than a choice. This was the hunger season, that season of the year when there were no fresh crops and the stored goods from last year were dwindling. Hunger and starvation was at its height. Yet it was also a season of hope and promise. New seeds were being planted in the expectation of abundance to come. (Christine Sine). So as you get ready to walk through Lent and look forward to the celebration of Easter this year what gnaws with hungry pangs at your soul – is it God’s call for transformation within yourself? Is it your passion for justice and healing? Is it your desire for the restoration of polluted areas of our earth? or is it something else that comes to mind. There are many studies that can be accessed on the web, including A Journey into Wholeness by Christine Sine (available as a PDF here). Each week of Lent emphasizes a different area of brokenness in our world. Over the five weeks of Lent we will deal with issues of inner healing, hunger, homelessness, stewardship of creation and the brokenness of God’s family.It is our hope that the daily reflections in the book and the additional reflections on the blog will help draw people more fully into those themes, beginning a few days before Lent with reflections on preparing for Lent and Easter.

There’s also a new downloadable e-version incorporating daily reflections, updated resources and weekly litanies (cost, available on Amazon etc).


Fasting:  Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, and many other people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year. Pope Francis: “fasting must never become superficial”. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis says that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others. In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.” Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. (from an article by Christopher J Hale).

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COCU18B.Ash Wednesday.14Feb2018

ash wed imageValentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday in 2018
On the surface, the confluence of Valentines and ashes seems to produce an odd and uncomfortable couple, but it’s fitting to have one day of celebrating love in all its forms while also recognizing our mortality.
Love and dust? There’s no better pairing.
The ashes remind us that this phase of life is limited. We lose sight of how much each day is a precious gift. We fail to see the many possibilities for gratitude, celebration, and love that are present in each day. The hearts remind us that love creates us, animates us, and sustains us through our limited days. Love gives us this day and all its possibilities. Love is for everyone we can touch in some way, even strangers a half a world away. Together, the ashes and hearts remind us that we’ve got to decide how we’ll use today. Will we bring more division, pain, and indifference into our world? Or will we choose to do all that we can to make the world more as God would have it? We all must choose.
Lent sharpens our focus on what matters. It challenges us to get re-grounded and find creative ways to bring healing and love to others, especially the marginalized and the needy and the victims of injustice and abuse. Lent prompts us to examine what’s getting in the way of giving and receiving love in our lives. It calls out the insecurities and fears that form walls. It challenges our prejudices and our selfishness.
Above all, it forces us to see injustices and do something about them; to recognize those who are hurting and find a way to help heal them; to reach out to the outcasts and the refugees and embrace them.
We mustn’t waste the daily chances that God provides to make a difference.
Ultimately, Lent encourages us to forge a trail of love through our daily dustiness and to transform our ashy selves with creative acts of kindness and compassion. It reminds us that we are physical beings for now – formed in the elements of stardust – but we’ll always be animated by a breath of life and love that wants to guide us.
So, let’s heed the Valentine/Ash Wednesday reminders. And let’s pray for the faith and the courage to live each day boldly, kindly, and joyfully right up to the day when we exchange our heartbeat for a deeper place in God’s heart, which is love.
(Source: Joe Kay, Sojourners)

Fact: Australians are expected to spend a staggering $1 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts this year, more than ever before.
(Given the story of St Valentine, one can only ask – why?! How easy it is to lure/manipulate people by commercial propaganda for the sake of making a profit).

What Lent teaches us about real love (Valentine’s Day/Ash Wednesday)
I love that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year. Valentine’s Day – that bane to single people and the unsentimental, the feast day of our culture’s obsession with love and romance – is momentarily subverted by a reminder of what love really looks like: self-denial and commitment. Ash Wednesday in many ways is one of the most passionate and powerful expressions of love – God’s love for us, and our love for God.
Ash Wednesday and Lent, the season of reflection and preparation for Easter, take love to a whole new level. Lent is a season of self-denial, a pushing away of distractions that keep us from enjoying our First Love. My priest likes to say, when imposing ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return – and remember that you are beloved.” In other words, life is short, and too often our priorities are completely jacked up. And though Lent is a time to mourn the ways we forget God, it is also a time to remember that we are still beloved.
In our human relationships, we would do well to remember the brevity and brutality of life. We won’t always have time to tell say “I love you” before our beloved can never hear it again. We can “stay connected” and always want to make time, but never quite get around to it; we can forget our partners in the tyranny of the urgent, or in the demands of parenthood; we can lose our loved ones far sooner than any of us anticipate.
Valentine’s Day does a great job at communicating love for one day, but it lacks the impetus or mechanism to help us do the hard work of love. And one thing required for the hard work of love is a repudiation of the very things that keep us from loving well. Ash Wednesday, with its accompanying fast, is that repudiation.
Falling in love makes you reprioritize your life. In those first blushes and crushes of human love, we can get butterflies in the pit of our stomachs; we forget to eat or lose our appetites. We can put off good things or even tasks that once seemed necessary and absolute because we cannot tear ourselves away from the object of our affection (eventually, my now-husband and I would go on grocery dates because we really needed food, but we also wanted to be together). We go into “hibernation” when we first fall in love, spending as much time with our beloved as we can.
When our beloved is God, Lent can be that hibernation period to fall in love all over again. God responds to the sin that keeps us from divine relationship, not by punishing us or withdrawing from us, but by wooing us away from other, lesser gods and back to the lover of our souls.
We even receive a special gift on Ash Wednesday. The ashes imposed on our foreheads are a sign of repentance and mourning, showing the severity with which we take our falling short. We are not supposed to display our fasting and repentance in a pious way, but we’re also not supposed to wash them off.
To me, those ashes are a mark and reminder, as deep and personal as jewelry or flowers. Those ashes show that we are loved, and that our beloved’s commitment to us is constant and true, even when we are not. They show that divine Love is not just about feelings or sentiments, but about death to everything that hinders it.
The ashes remind us that the heart of love is laying down one’s rights and one’s life for our beloved. When we first fall in love, we easily let go of things we held dear and thought we couldn’t live without, because we have found something greater. I’ve only been married for nine months, but I can already see how the human heart can snap right back into its worst habits and desires as relationships grow comfortable and familiar. Our beloveds don’t need candy or sentimental gestures. They need the passion and commitment that come from love’s first awakening.
It’s because of the tendency to forget our First Love – to rely on emotions and feelings instead of true sacrifice and commitment – that we need Ash Wednesday this Valentine’s Day. In Jesus, God puts aside everything to make us God’s beloved on the cross. This is not a sentimental gesture. It is a whole-hearted, full-throated commitment. Jesus is all in, and Lent is an invitation for us to join him.
For those who observe, may we be willing and able to say yes.
(Source: Juliet Vedral, Sojourners)

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 ashes, dust to dust
We return again
(Source: Kathy Douglass)
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
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: Karl Rahner, from The Eternal Year, Burns & Oates, London, 1964)

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are deeply part of God’s creation. We are made of dust, formed from the soil of the Earth. And like all mortal creatures we will one day return to dust. So we share a great kinship with all living things, and with all of creation. We are tied together both by the dirt we come from and the dust we will return to. May this spark in us a greater compassion and care for all of creation, today and all days. Amen.

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.
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This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday in Epiphany – a season in which we reflect upon and rejoice about the ways in which Christ is revealed to us.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20: Moses promises that God will raise up a prophet for Israel like him, but warns that the people will be held accountable for whether they listen to that prophet.
Psalm 111: A song in praise of God’s deeds, God’s care and provision for God’s people, and celebrating how the fear of God brings wisdom.
(Note: Psalm 111 is an acrostic poem with 22 phrases, each beginning with the subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet, thus serving as a tool for remembering and reciting).
1 Corinthians 8:1-13: Though idols are nothing, if eating meat sacrificed to an idol causes a brother or sister to stumble, we should rather not eat. Rather than knowledge, which creates pride, we should seek love, which builds up.
Mark 1:21-28: As Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum, the people are amazed at him. When he casts out a demon, they are staggered and the news about him spreads throughout the entire region.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

John also provides a global application each week for the readings which is well worth a look. Here’s the one for this week which is very appropriate in our current global context (political, social, economic):
Global Application:
The issue of power and glory is a massive one in our world – as it has always been. Power, by our understanding, is “power over” – the capacity to conquer, to coerce or to humiliate. Authority is the ability to command and direct others and not to be under the command of others. In service of this kind of power, dictators have brought suffering on their own people, corrupt politicians and business leaders have feathered their own nests, while ordinary people have to pay the consequences for their greed. In service of this power, wars are fought and nations deny their connectedness. In service of this power, men beat and abuse the women and children they claim to love. In service of this power religious organisations have lobbied governments, excluded those of different creeds or ideologies, and have pronounced judgement on the world. This quest for this kind of power has created systems like Nazism, Apartheid and all sorts of destructive nationalisms. Napoleon was right when he said that power corrupts. But, when Jesus reveals God’s power and glory, it is an authority of a whole different order. It is not a “power over”. Nor is it a manipulative “power under”. Rather, Jesus calls people into God’s liberating community – collaborative, shared power. This is why Paul encourages the believers not just to enjoy their own freedom, but to consider its effects on others, and to serve them. That’s why Jesus’ teaching was so captivating for people – he called them to share in God’s Reign, and he revealed the freedom it offers. He did not use his authority to oppress, judge or control. In a world where a few powerful nations use their power to shape the world’s systems in their favour, where super wealthy people resist carrying larger tax burdens for the sake of those who have less, and where strong economies dictate the terms of trade to smaller and weaker ones, we could do with a lesson in power from Jesus. And, as those who seek to follow Christ, we can work within our systems to collaborate with others, whoever they may be, to work for greater justice and equality, without trying to control things according to our own agendas, or fearing that we will somehow lose if we share our “power”. It’s easy to stand in judgement on those who see justice differently from us, but that simply polarises our world more. It may be that Christ’s example calls us to stand with those who still believe in the idols of wealth and power, while gently revealing the freedom of Christ through our grace, love and servanthood.

There are a number of websites that provide paraphrased Bible readings which enable people to hear the readings in a fresh way. Nan C. Merrill’s ‘Psalms for Praying: An invitation to wholeness’ is a great resource. Psalm 111 is printed below. There’s a link below with more information about the book and where you can purchase it.

Praise the Beloved, O my soul!
I will give thanks to you with my whole heart;
to all who will listen, I will tell of your goodness.
Wondrous is Creation, Great Builder;
I take pleasure in pondering your work.
Full of honour and integrity are your teachings;
those who follow them will find new life.
You lift the hearts of those who suffer;
You come to them in their need.
Your steadfast Love is food for the soul,
nourishment in times of fear.
You are ever mindful of your covenant,
a very Presence to the weary and afflicted.
Your voice is truth to those with ears to hear,
your precepts are sure; written on the hearts of your people,
they are to be lived forever with faith-filled love and assurance.
You bring new life to the world;
Yes! life in abundance is your gift to us.
Holy and glorious is your name!
Reverence for you, O Holy One,
is the beginning of wisdom;
a good understanding have all who practice it.
Your Spirit endures for ever.
(Source: Psalms for Praying: Psalm 111, Nan C. Merrill, pp227-228)

Gathering prayers

Prayers of confession/Prayers of who we are

Prayer of Adoration & Confession
God of creation,
God of love,
God of justice,
You made us,
You know us,
You hear us…
You created us to be agents of peace,
You created us to be purveyors of justice,
You created us to share your love with others.
You know that our lives do not always mirror this…
You know that we sometimes let opportunities pass us by.
You know that we sometimes keep your good news to ourselves…
In words of grace you forgive us
of living a life that does not speak of your reign.
Hear us when we confess that our living is not always balanced…
May you rejoice with us when it is…
Hear us when we confess that our loving is not always made known… May you rejoice with us when it is…
May we find your authority
in the way Jesus lived
May we live in his Spirit,
and bring about the justice you call for.
Forgiveness we seek, new life we need. (Pause)
As we confess our sin,
We seek your forgiveness.
In the words we have spoken and have left unsaid.
God of creation,
God of love,
God of justice,
Who made us,
who knows us,
who hears us…
Be with us
as we dedicate ourselves once more to your way
and once more to your reign…
So be it. Amen
(Source: Church of Scotland)

casting out demons: a prayer of thanksgiving and confession, to go alongside Mark 1:21-28
God, we thank you for this extraordinary world
and its reminders of resilience, grace, hope and life:
for when grass shoots break through concrete
when the sun emerges after storms
for when people offer laughter in deep sadness
In these moments we see glimpses of who you are –
and we are grateful.

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

Forgive us God when we do not trust you to deal with the unspeakable awfulness in our lives and world.
In the silence we name the parts of our lives and our world that we believe are
too broken to ever be made whole
Cast out our demons, Lord:
Make us new again
Forgive us when contribute to the brokenness of the world and the lives of people around us.
In the silence we name the things we have done that separate us
from you and from others
Cast out our demons, Lord:
Make us new again
Forgive us when we trust darkness more than we trust your light.
In the silence we name the things we think we need to keep hidden.
Cast out our demons, Lord:
Make us new again

Scripture says that those who are in Christ are a new creation;
everything old has passed away;
see, the new has come!
Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven’
Thanks be to God.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie,

Prayer of Confession/Prayers of who we are: Demons
God, I do not know what burdens people carry,
what demons they wrestle with silently,
what triumph it may for them to appear normal,
to be decent, to show up.
Give me compassion for each person,
aware that spirits haunt us all.
Give me grace to bless and not to judge,
to heal and not to hurt,
even those who invite hurting.
Free me from my own demons,
my ego and its demands on myself and others.
(a silence for reflection)
I do not know another’s inner story,
its landscape, its dark places, its villains.
I don’t know; I don’t need to know.
I only know your tremendous love
even for me, and equally for them.
Help me remember.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Other resources on this site for worship resources:
Prayers of dedication/prayers of offering
Prayers for others
Words to conclude Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer– various
Words of Mission
Benediction and Blessing

Music resources
Two reliable ‘go to’ websites are Singing from the Lectionary managed by Natalie Sims and Together to Celebrate managed by David MacGregor. There are many other sites, including denominational websites (eg United Methodist Church USA)

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Transfiguration Sunday is the last Sunday before Lent. Once again Epiphany closes with the Transfiguration of Jesus – the turning point, the final affirmation, before Jesus set his sights on Jerusalem and the coming confrontation and sacrifice. The challenge of this week is for us to learn to recognise God’s glory – in Christ, but also in all people and all things. It is this capacity for glory that can make a massive change to how we live in the world, and then through us, make a change to the world itself.
2 Kings 2:1-12
Elisha prepares for his time to leave the earth (since he never dies in the Scriptural account) and Elisha refuses to be separated from him. Then, when Elijah asks Elisha what he wants before he leaves, Elisha asks for twice Elijah’s spirit. Elijah tells him that he will receive it if he sees Elijah being taken away. Then, Elijah is caught up in a wind and carried away, but Elisha sees and grieves the departure of his master.
Psalm 50:1-6
God radiates and God’s voice speaks across all the earth calling God’s people to God’s self.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Jesus is the glorious image of God, and God has shone into our hearts the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in Christ. It is this glorious Jesus that the Apostle preaches.
Mark 9:2-9
Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain where they see Jesus transfigured into a radiant white, and Moses and Elijah appearing and talking to Jesus. Then they hear God’s voice of affirmation and then all is back to normal. Then Jesus instructs them not to tell anyone until after he is raised.
(Summaries of lectionary readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

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COCU13B.Epiphany 5B.4th February 2018

Isaiah 40:21-31
To whom can God be compared? God created the earth and human rulers are short lived. Why should God’s people complain that God has forgotten them? Those who wait on God will be renewed.
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
An exhortation to praise God for the way God restores those who have been exiled and broken, for the way God provides for God’s people and for the creatures of earth, and for the way God treasures those who honour God.
1 Corinthians 9:16-23
In his preaching of the Gospel, Paul explains how he becomes all things to all people in order to win them for Christ.
Mark 1:29-39
Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law and then many sick and demonised people come to be healed. After that Jesus goes off alone to pray, but Simon and others track him down. Then Jesus leads them off to other towns to preach and heal.
(Summaries of lectionary texts by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

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Australia Day resources – various

Listen to the Whisper: Music written by Geoff Boyce, sung by Tim and Alison Solly, with images from Colebrook memorial (Adelaide, SA) – can be used for Acknowledgement of Land.

Great Spirit, God of every people and every tribe,
we come to you as your many children,
to ask for your forgiveness and guidance.
Forgive us for the colonialism that stains our past,
the ignorance that allowed us to think
that we could claim another’s home for our own.
Heal us of this history.
Remind us that none of us were discovered
since none of us were lost,
but that we are all gathered within the sacred circle of your community.
Guide us through your wisdom to restore the truth of our heritage.
Help us to confront the racism that divides us
as we confess the pain it has caused to the human family.
Call us to kinship.
Mend the hoop of our hearts
and let us live in justice and peace,
through Jesus Christ, the One who came
that all people might live in dignity. 
(Source: A Gathering Prayer from Native Ministries of the Episcopal Church: Resources on the Doctrine of Discovery)

A creed for Australia
We believe that this ancient land
with its unique creatures
is a precious gift from a loving God
whose mercy is over all creation.

We believe in God’s care for the people who treasured it
through un-numbered generations;
the One who grieves in their suffering
and rejoices in every noble aspiration.

We believe in God’s compassion
for the patchwork of refugees
who for two hundred years have come to this continent
looking for a place to call their home.

We believe in God’s steadfast love
for this nation and all its children;
that he is creating a new people from many races,
colours and gifts, to fulfil a high destiny.

We believe that the best way forward
is the way revealed by Christ of faith, hope and love,
where no needy person is neglected
and no bidding of the Spirit ignored.
(Source: Bruce D. Prewer) Continue reading

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Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King Jr Day is observed in the USA on the third Monday of January, which is around his birthday on 15th January. On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. King. It was federally observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, and over 30 years later, the day is traditionally celebrated as a day of service, with people volunteering time and talent to help others, thus paying homage to Dr. King’s legacy.

Martin Luther King had a profound impact in his own country, and around the world.

Continue reading

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