COCU22C.Lent4C.31March2019

Readings

Joshua 5:9-12: The Israelites celebrate the Passover, as God proclaims that the “disgrace of Egypt” is removed from them, and have their first meal in Canaan. The day after that the manna stops arriving.

Psalm 32: A celebration of the joy and healing that confession brings, and the restoration that God offers those who admit their sin. God’s promise to instruct and guide those who trust in God.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21: In Christ we are reconciled to God, and we are called to invite others into this reconciliation – both between people and God, and between people and people.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32: Jesus’ parable of the loving and forgiving father who welcomes back his wasteful and repentant son, and seeks to reconcile him with his resentful elder brother.

forgiving father.frank wesley

Forgiving Father by Frank Wesley

Helpful websites
Textweek
Singing from the Lectionary
re-worship
Sacredise
Sacredise daily resource

Call to worship
In the name of God,
who created us,
who holds us and the whole world in divine embrace
In the name of the Son
who came into the world,
who reconciles us with God.
In the name of the Holy Spirit
who fills us with eternal life,
who links us with all Christians
and incites us to peace,
we come together to offer our thanks and praise.
(Source: Sheilagh Kesting, Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday)

Call to worship
Turn to God, with honest hearts
Turn to God, with open hearts
Turn to God, with hungry hearts,
Turn to God, with all your heart,
ready to worship, heal, grow. Amen.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

Prayer of adoration and confession
God our Parent,
we gather to open our hearts to you
trusting that you will welcome us with open arms.
We come to worship you.
The One who leads us through times of trial;
the One who supports us in sorrow and struggle;
the One who is beside us when all is bleak.
Holy One, we praise you.
A silence is kept
God our Shepherd,
we confess that we often lose our way.
Sometimes we follow like sheep
and end up in places that we should not be.
At other times we choose our own paths
and end up hitting a dead end.
In a moment of quiet,
we bring before you those things we have done in our straying
and ask that, in your mercy, you will bring us back on track.
May we, like the Prodigal Son, come to ourselves.
A silence is kept
May we trust and follow you alone.
May we listen and follow you alone.
May we worship you alone this day. Amen.
(Source: Jonathan Fleming, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

Prayer of Confession (Prayer for Lent)
O God, who makes all things new,
new stars, new dust, new life;
take my heart,
every hardened edge and measured beat,
and create something new in me.
I need your newness, God,
the rough parts of me made smooth;
the stagnant, stirred;
the stuck, freed;
the unkind, forgiven.
And then, by the power of your Spirit,
I need to be turned toward Love again. Amen.
(Source: Pamela C. Hawkins, from The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent and posted on Prayer and Creeds)

Lament of the lost son (Luke 15:11–32 and Psalm 32)
would I be happy,
this rejection of you
forgiven?
would I be happy,
telling you the truth
of all the wrong I’ve done?
I have kept such silence,
have stayed far from you,
and I am wasting away;
my stomach make my moaning,
for my voice fails me,
my strength fails me,
I have failed me, and you, and God.
would I be happy
if I came home
to you?
could I be happy,
bearing the shame,
all my losses, to you?
I abandoned Wisdom,
though you would teach me;
I discarded the principles,
the respect you sought to instill;
I have nothing left, now, but
regret, and can I let that go?
can I stand, the memory
of your strength to sure me up
in my weakness?
can I walk toward you,
the memory of love enough
to guide my way?
can I hope to be happy,
bringing my shame home
to you?
can I hope to know peace,
falling at your feet?
can the memory of you,
my Parent, save even me?
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

 

Prayer of Confession
Eternal God, Creator of all that is,
In you we live and move and have our being.
You have placed us on earth
and sustained our being through the produce of the land
and the cleanness of the air we breathe.
You have made us for each
to tend and care for the weak
and ensure a just sharing of the earth’s resources.
But we are part of a proud and hard-hearted people
who hoard what the earth provides
and seem loathe to share the fruits of our labours,
who live for today with little thought for tomorrow
who are afraid to let pain and suffering affect us.
Incarnate God, you know us in our inner being.
In your grace you offer us forgiveness
even before we have the chance to articulate our sorrow.
You embrace us in all our sinfulness
and in doing so give us the chance to start again
to learn from the example you have given us in Jesus,
who chose the way of the Cross
that all might know the depth of your love for all you have made.
A time for silent reflection
Spirit of God
open our hearts and minds
that we may grasp your forgiveness,
and forgiven seek to forgive others
and to live a life of reconciling love
modelled on the example of Jesus Christ
in whose name we make this prayer. Amen
(Source: Sheilagh Kesting, Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday)

Place (inspired by Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)
Loving God
may we be found
and may we find
a place called home
a place where faith holds us
and grace renews us
where forgiveness longs for us
to be who you will us to be

may we find a place called home
where we are accepted as we are
where we are taken in
and loved unconditionally

a place called home
where we belong
and our souls fit
and our questions are allowed
and our anger is heard
and our needs are recognised
and our pain is held
and our names are known

and may this
be that place, O God,
this community
this group of travellers and doubters
and companions on the way

this home
where your place
is our place
and place isn’t a building
but a way of being together
in relationship
held together
by love

Loving God
Homecoming God
may we make this a home
to all who still yet seek
a place of grace-filled sanctuary
and gracious welcome

So be it
Amen
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, Mucky Paws)

Prayer of Confession: Defying Expectation
We are sinners…
we are not only sinners
We are weak…
we are not only weak
We fail…
we are not always failures
We have destroyed…
also we have loved
You, God, do not limit us
to the stories by which the world knows us
You see much more in us
than the labels we give ourselves
Give us courage to defy all expectations –
especially our own –
and in your love
become all of who we are.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie, Hold This Space)

Prayer of Confession (inspired by Luke 15:1-32)
Beloved God,
with the eagerness of a child,
you wait for our coming,
with the urgency of a mother,
you long for our return
with the anxious heart of a father,
your arms ache to hold us.
The disappointment,
the judgment,
the turning away,
that’s us, not you.
Forgive us and heal us
of everything in us
that recoils from our common humanity.
You have given us such worth;
help us to take all creation at your valuation
and to know ourselves,
and all your children,
precious and loved.
(Source: Christian Aid website)

Prayer (based on Luke 15:11-32)
It was said of the Prodigal Son that he “came to himself.”
Help us to wake up to ourselves, and to You.
Set us free from the illusion of trying to be perfect
so that we might be more fully human.
Help us not to chase after an imaginary life,
and to find satisfaction in our real lives.
And turn us away from our self-rejection
so that we might see that Your arms open in welcome. Amen.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre

Prayer of Confession (based on 2 Corinthians 5:18)
Loving God,
you have reconciled us in Christ Jesus
and have given us the ministry of reconciliation.
We pray for all those from whom we are estranged.
Bring healing to strained or broken relationships.
Forgive us for the times we have wronged others,
whether by ignorance, neglect, or intention.
Grant us the courage and the grace to seek their forgiveness
and opportunity to make amends.
Where others have wronged us,
grant us a gracious spirit,
that we might forgive
even as we have been forgiven in Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: Prayers for Peace and Justice)

“My child, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. Now we have to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” Luke 15.31-32
My child, do you know how much I love you?
I give you everything, all that I have, all Creation.
It breaks my heart when you turn away –
how many times a day?
– but I love you, and I will give myself to you.
Come to me.
You may go to a far land or out into the field;
however far off you are I will see you.
I will come to you, shaking with love.
I will leave the party to come to you.
I will hike my robe up around my knees,
running foolishly, to come to you.
Do you know how I weep with joy?
Come home.
Rebellious or obedient, you are my Beloved.
I will silence your speech about just desserts.
I will ignore the wise advisors,
foolishly, extravagantly, over and over
I will offer you my best.
I will give you myself.
Come in.
Though you have turned from your brother
I will give you back to each other.
You who are dead to one another I will restore.
I will give you back your family.
I will bring you back to life,
give you back to myself.
When you break my heart again
I will still love you, still give you myself,
again and again forever, for the sake of love.
Come in, for our sake.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Pastoral Prayer (inspired by 2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
Reconciling Christ, bless our efforts to bring about reconciliation.
Give us the strength to persevere without counting the hurts,
and to find within ourselves the capacity to keep on loving.

Give us the grace to be able to stand in the middle of situations,
and to be a conduit for the deep listening
which can lead to healing and forgiveness.

Help us to conduct ourselves with dignity,
giving and expecting respect, moving from prayer to action,
and from action back again into prayer.

Grant that we may be so grounded in your love,
that our security is not threatened if we change our minds,
or begin to see a better way to act.

Bless those who are called to reconcile on a large-scale –
politicians, world leaders, leaders of business,
and those who stand in the midst of bitter conflict.

Reconciling Christ, bless us and bless all who engage
in the sacred work of envisioning new wholeness,
and bringing people and nations together. Amen.
(Source: Ann Siddall, Stillpoint Spirituality Centre)

Prayer for ourselves and others
Some of the best known words…
Some of the most comforting words…
We have heard stories
of being lost and being found.
We have rejoiced at stories
of being lost and being welcomed safely home.
We have reflected upon stories
of being those who were lost
as well as being those who were left behind.
As we think of these familiar parables once more,
We take time to think about ourselves
and all across our world who need to know
of your generous mercy
and unconditional love.
God of love,
You never cease to extend your divine embrace to us
when we turn to you.
Give us grace and understanding
to recognise the distress of others.
We pray for all who are in dark places
be it through their own choices,
the misguidance of others, or by force.
May all know that nothing can separate us
from your love.
A silence is kept
Lord, hear our prayer. Amen
(Source: Jonathan Fleming, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

Prayer of dedication
Holy One,
Just as you show us the ways
in which you wish us to live,
May you show us how to use these gifts
of service and money
to seek those who are lost,
to bring sight to the blind
and to welcome those
who are misguided in thinking
that they are beyond your love and forgiveness.
So be it. Amen
(Source: Jonathan Fleming, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

Music

Bring Us Home
Words by Rodney Romney; Music by Peter Strauch
Bring us home on love’s renewing tide,
To the place of our belonging,
Bring us home to your redeeming side,
Bring your scattered people home.
From our selfish views, learnings we refuse,
To the place of our belonging,
To the truth we are, to our rising star,
Bring your scattered people home.
(The link has an explanation about the song’s origin and author, and recording of the song. Also this link here. Still trying to locate all the lyrics)

We’re Part of the Blessing
ASH GROVE 6.6.11.6.6.11 D (“Let All Things Now Living”)
We’re part of the blessing of God’s new creation;
The world may not see it, but we know it’s true.
For God in Christ Jesus has given salvation;
The old life is gone! God makes everything new!
We’re part of the blessing, for we are God’s children.
We’re loved and forgiven! We’re welcomed back home.
And now we are called to be part of God’s kingdom,
To welcome the children God claims as his own.

A man had two sons and the younger said to him,
“I want my inheritance now! It is mine!”
His father divided the property with him;
That son spent it all and was soon feeding swine.
But then he remembered his father providing;
He thought he would beg to go home as a slave.
His dad saw him coming as he stood there waiting;
He ran out to greet him and welcome and save.

We’re part of the blessing of God’s new creation;
As we have been welcomed, may we share God’s grace.
There’s no room for grumbling in God’s gracious kingdom;
There’s no place to question God’s loving embrace.
The outcast, the sinner, the poor, struggling mother,
The addict, the seeker, the one who is lost —
God welcomes them home and invites them to dinner —
God runs out to greet us through Christ and his cross.

Biblical References: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3,11b-32
Tune: Traditional Welsh melody (“Let All Things Now Living”) (MIDI)
Text: Copyright © 2016 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
Email: carolynshymns@gmail.com New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com/

Malcolm Gordon (NZ) has written an insightful reflection, Empty Chairs and Empty Tables. ‘I wonder if you’ve ever sat around your kitchen table and someone hasn’t been there. Someone who normally is. Maybe they’ve been away for the weekend and missed the family meal. Maybe they were away for good. Have you noticed what that gathering feels like, what goes on in your mind when you look at the seat they used to fill. Its hard to enjoy yourself completely when there is someone missing. I think these stories are pointing to the truth that we are ALL diminished when someone is missing. We are relational creatures, woven into this life together – not existing merely alongside each other. There is a part of me that isn’t seen when you’re not here to see it’. (Longer reflection at the link).

The parable of the Prodigal Son is so well known that we may easily skim over the surface of it thinking we already know everything it has to tell us. However, the central teaching – of forgiveness and reconciliation – is never easy to learn. We need to review what repentance and restored relationships mean many times before we really learn to put these basic principles into practice in a real way.
One of the problems with our approach to this passage is that we have almost forgotten the brother of the Prodigal. We focus on the forgiveness of the father, and the restoration of the son, but we miss the fact that the two brothers had to learn to find each other again. This was not an easy task, since the brother who had remained at home would now have to split some of his inheritance with his returned brother who had lost everything. His resentment is natural and understandable. But, the question he needed to face was how much he valued his brother, how much he was willing to sacrifice for reconciliation, and how much he would rather be right than be in relationship. It must have been a tough choice, and the Gospel does not tell us what he finally decided to do. We are left to decide for ourselves the appropriate response in such a situation.
This week we will explore both the costs and the benefits of repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness. (This week’s Sacredise daily resource)

In Buechner’s classic Telling The Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy & Fairy Tale, he describes how parables such as that of The Prodigal Son can be viewed as comedy:
I think that these parables can be read as jokes about God in the sense that what they are essentially about is the outlandishness of God who does impossible things with impossible people, and I believe that the comedy of them is not just a device for making the truth that they contain go down easy but that the truth that they contain can itself be thought of as comic. It is hard to think of any place where this is more apparent than in the greatest parable of them all, the one that is in its own way both the most comic and the most sad. The Prodigal Son goes off with his inheritance and blows the whole pile on liquor and sex and fancy clothes until finally he doesn’t have two cents left to rub together and has to go to work or starve to death. He gets a job on a pig farm and keeps at it long enough to observe that the pigs are getting a better deal than he is and then decides to go home. There is nothing edifying about his decision. There is no indication that he realizes he’s made an ass of himself and broken his old man’s heart, no indication that he thinks of his old man as anything more than a meal ticket. There is no sign that he is sorry for what he’s done or that he’s resolved to make amends somehow and do better next time. He decides to go home for the simple reason that he knows he always got three squares a day at home, and for a man who is in danger of starving to death, that is reason enough. So he sets out on the return trip and on the way rehearses the speech he hopes will soften the old man’s heart enough so that at least he won’t slam the door in his face. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” That will hit him where he lives if anything will, the boy thinks, and he goes over it again. “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:18-19), trying to get the inflection right and the gestures right; and just about the time he thinks he has it down, the old man spots him coming around the corner below the tennis court and starts sprinting down the drive like a maniac. Before the boy has time to get so much as the first word out, the old man throws his arms around him and all but knocks him off his feet with the tears and whiskers and incredulous laughter of his welcome.
The boy is back, that’s all that matters. Who cares why he’s back? And the old man doesn’t do what any other father under heaven would have been inclined to do. He doesn’t say he hopes he has learned his lesson or I told you so. He doesn’t say he hopes he is finally ready to settle down for a while and will find some way to make it up to his mother. He just says, “Bring him something to eat, for God’s sake. Bring him some warm clothes to put on,” and when the boy finally manages to slip his prepared remarks in edgewise, the old man doesn’t even hear them he’s in such a state. All he can say is the boy was dead and is alive again. The boy was lost and is found again, and then at the end of the scene what Jesus as teller of the parable says is “They began to make merry” (Luke 15:23). Merry, of all things. They turn on the stereo. They break out the best Scotch. They roll back the living room carpet and ring up the neighbors.
Is it possible, I wonder, to say that it is only when you hear the Gospel as a wild and marvelous joke that you really hear it at all? Heard as anything else, the Gospel is the church’s thing, the preacher’s thing, the lecturer’s thing. Heard as a joke – high and unbidden and ringing with laughter – it can only be God’s thing.
And if it is a joke about the preposterousness of God, it is also a joke about the preposterousness of man as the sequel to the parable exemplifies. The word sin is somehow too grand a word to apply to the reaction of the prodigal’s elder brother when the sound of the hoedown reaches him out in the pasture among the cow flops, and yet in another way it is just the right word because nowhere is the deadliness of all seven of the deadly sins deadlier or more ludicrous than it is in him. Envy and pride and anger and covetousness, they are all there. Even sloth is there as he sits on his patrimony and lets it gain interest for him without lifting a hand, even lust as he slavers over the harlots whom he points out the prodigal has squandered his cash on. The elder brother is Pecksniff. He is Tartuffe. He is what Mark Twain called a good man in the worst sense of the word. He is a caricature of all that is joyless and petty and self-serving about all of us. The joke of it is that of course his father loves him even so, and has always loved him and will always love him, only the elder brother never noticed it because it was never love he was bucking for but only his due. The fatted calf, the best Scotch, the hoedown could all have been his, too, any time he asked for them except that he never thought to ask for them because he was too busy trying cheerlessly and religiously to earn them. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up” even as the prodigal himself was raised up, Jesus says, “and blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 11:5-6). Blessed is he who is not offended that no man receives what he deserves but vastly more. Blessed is he who gets that joke, who sees that miracle.

Communion liturgy by Thom Shuman
Call to Worship
L: Do you feel it? God’s kingdom is beneath our feet.
P: We live in the new creation shaped by God out of our brokenness.
L: Do you know it? God’s reconciling love in Christ
has shattered our ways of viewing people.
P: No longer do we label our sisters and brothers,
we welcome them with open arms.
L: Do you believe it? God has made everything, including us, new,
P: and sends us forth to share this good news with everyone!

Prayer of the Day
Holy God, Word Shaper:
you are not our accountant,
but our lover;
you are not angry at us,
but you forgive us;
you are not our enemy,
but the One who runs towards us
with wide open arms,
throwing steaks on the grill
to celebrate our newness!

Jesus Christ, Shaper of our story:
you travel to that distant country called our sin
to bring us home once again;
you share your inheritance with us
so we might be blessed;
you know the famine of our spirits
and fill it with your hope.

Holy Spirit, Life Shaper:
surrounded by your grace,
we offer glad cries of salvation;
encircled by your constant love,
we shout for joy;
enclosed in your comforting arms,
nothing can overwhelm us.

God in Community, Holy in One,
from now on we will remember our life in you,
even as we pray as Jesus taught us,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
We know our faults — the way we have treated others, our alienation from God, our unwillingness to be faithful people. We will not hide our sin or remain silent, but confess them to the One who surrounds us with steadfast love. Please join me as we pray, saying,

Unison Prayer of Confession
On this very day, Waiting God, we admit all the lengths to which we go so we might avoid you. You offer us that kingdom of joy and wonder, yet we would hide in places where temptation waits. You invite us to feast on your grace and peace, but we stubbornly refuse, because you also welcome those we call ‘outsiders.’ We are quick to see all the mistakes that those around us make, but hope you will ignore our foolish choices.
Celebrating God, before we come to our senses, we find you running towards us, sweeping us up in your arms, tears of grace mingling with our cries of confession, a mighty river washing away our sinful ways to restore us to new life. In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, we find no limitations on your grace, no reservations about your love, but a feast that overflows with wonder, a place we can finally call home.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
God rolls away everything that stands in our way – our past, our sin, our pain, our hesitation, and reshapes us into new people living in the new creation. What wonderful grace. We are forgiven!
Broken, we are made whole;
lost, we are brought home;
empty, we are filled with songs of gladness.
We rejoice and give thanks to God who has graced us with mercy. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
May we not be like the older brother, grumbling and resentful of your generosity. Rather, with joy and hope, we offer our gifts that others might be swept up in your loving and gracious arms. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May Abba our God be with you!
And also with you!
Lift your hearts to the One who welcomes us home.
We open them to our God, who runs to embrace us with grace.
Sing glad songs to the One who provides this feast.
We join in singing to God, who throws a party for us in this place.

On those days you called creation
from the hiding places of your imagination,
mighty rivers rushed down to the seas,
a rainbow of produce sprang up in fields,
day and night rippled with your beauty.
All this was from you, God of Wonder,
gifts for those created in your image.
But we demanded our share,
traveling to that far country called death,
squandering everything in sin’s hidden shadows.
Longing for us to come home,
you sent the prophets to surround us
with glad songs of deliverance,
but we regarded their words as empty husks,
continuing to waste away all our days.
So you sent Jesus, your Son,
to lead us back from the dead
so we might celebrate your life.
With all the prodigals as well as the pious,
with all the saints as well as the sinners,
with all the faithful, we sing to you:

Holy, holy, holy, God who reconciles us to yourself.
All creation is glad and rejoices.
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who finds the lost and guides them home.
Hosanna in the highest!

Holy are you, God of prodigals,
and blessed is Jesus Christ, in whom there is no deceit.
Coming to that far country we call life,
he shared the gifts of grace and peace;
telling us stories of families reunited,
he points us to you sitting by the kingdom’s window;
seeing us green-eyed with jealousy,
he hands us the glasses of reconciliation
so we might see others in a new way;
going to the cross and dying,
he comes to life in joy,
surrounded by your glad cries of resurrection.

As we remember how he welcomed those we overlook,
as we celebrate at the feast which is offered in his name,
we would reflect on that mystery we call faith:

Christ died, to be our salvation;
Christ was raised, to be our reconciliation;
Christ will return, to lead us home.

On this day, Parenting God,
pour out your Spirit
on the gifts of the bread and the cup,
the celebration of our new life with you.
In this feast you provide,
we find the healing we hunger for
in the bread which is broken for us.
At this table of peace and joy,
in the deep richness of grace’s cup,
we receive new sight,
so we can see our sisters and brothers in a new way,
not strangers,
but siblings,
not outsiders,
but members of the family.

And on the very day when all time will end,
we will gather with your family around your table,
our voices singing through all eternity glad songs to you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Sending
God sends us forth,
to be reconcilers of the broken and oppressed.
Jesus, our Brother, sends us to welcome everyone.
We will embrace the prodigals with joy,
we will make a feast for all of God’s people.
The Spirit sends us with arms full of healing.
We will go to bring hope to all we meet.

Thom M. Shuman

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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