COCU64C.3Nov2019

See also All Saints Day.

Readings:
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Habakkuk complains to God that justice is perverted and God’s help does not come, but then, as he waits for God’s answer, God’s word comes to him offering him a vision of the downfall of the proud and the vibrant life of the righteous.
Psalm 119:137-144
The psalmist celebrates God’s regulations, affirming their value and goodness for all time, and giving thanks for the strength they offer even in times of hardship.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Paul celebrates the faith, love and endurance of the Thessalonian Christians in the face of persecution and hardship, and prays for God’s strength to sustain and inspire them, so that they may glorify God.
Luke 19:1-10
In Jericho Jesus invites himself to be a guest at the house of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, in spite of the criticisms of people. As a result, Zacchaeus is transformed into a man of generosity and compassion.

Thought for the week
It should not surprise us that the Scriptures return often to the themes of repentance and forgiveness. One reason for this constant repetition is that these foundational ideas are harder to understand and practice than we may at first consider. For many of us, repentance has come to be viewed as a personal apology to God for things we have done wrong, and forgiveness is what God gives us in return. However the Biblical picture is far richer and more challenging than this. In the Bible, God’s forgiveness is given before we even know that we need it – that’s the miracle of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and it is demonstrated in the Zacchaeus story which is the Gospel reading for this week.
But, when forgiveness touches our hearts, it automatically leads us into two responses. The first is that we respond in repentance – which simply means to change. We stop doing the destructive things that rob us and others of life, and we embrace a new, life-giving way of behaving, thinking and speaking. The second response is that we begin to extend God’s forgiveness to others, recognising that as we accept them in Jesus’ name, so God’s Spirit can work healing and transformation in them through us.
This week, we will meditate again on the profound gifts of forgiveness and repentance.(Summaries and thought for the week by John van de Laar)

Diana Butler Bass, October 2016: Zacchaeus seems to be a guy who thinks you have to climb up to see God, to get closer to “power.” What does Jesus do? Jesus says, “Come down.” And invites himself to dinner. This is a radical rejection of the Roman patriarchal system and replacing it with hospitality. It isn’t about going “up” to see God. It is about sitting at table.

Resources:
John van de Laar, Sacredise (brief reflections and prayers for the day)
Church of Scotland, Starters for Sunday
Sermon: Rex AE Hunt, Reflections on Sycamore Theology

At the feet of wisdom (Psalm 119:137–144 )
You are holy, you are just.
God, You judge with Wisdom.

You are faithful, Holy One,
decree only what is right and good.

Your promises can be trusted,
your word is sweet to hear.

You lay a path of Love to follow,
a path of justice and truth.

Your justice reigns throughout the earth,
Your holiness is everlasting.

Zeal sometimes consumes us, God,
when those against us act with fear.

Your words of justice, Your way of Love,
will help us trust in You.

Though we feel small, despise and are despised,
we will remember what we have learned;

sitting at the feet of Wisdom,
delighting in Your Word.

Though troubles come, though we know anguish,
we will find life in understanding;

we will live because of You,
will thrive through Your good teaching. Amen.

(Source: Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story – includes SoundCloud recording)

Gathering
May the name of our Lord Jesus be glorified in you, and you in Christ, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1.12
Today may you shine with Christ’s glory,
as surely as Christ shines more brightly
because of you.
May you shine with God’s grace this day,
transparent to God’s mercy and love.
May God breathe deeply in you,
and make you true to your call.
Know that for your sake prayer is offered
and gratitude given, with hope and joy.
Today may you be Christ’s glory,
and Christ be yours.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Prayer of ConfessionGrace And Forgiveness (John van de Laar)
It is not a perfect life we live, O God;
We are people of ambivalent goodness,
and too fragile desires for justice and righteousness;
We need your grace and forgiveness,
and your strength to bring grace into the world.

It’s not a perfect world we live in, O God;
There is greed and want, exploitation and marginalisation,
and too many people excluded for indefensible reasons;
We need your grace and forgiveness,
and your strength to bring grace into the world.

Remind us, O God, that it is not perfection you seek,
but humility, brokenness and repentance;
Lead us into a love for you that is reckless and selfless;
that, because we have been forgiven much,
will risk everything for you,
washing your feet,
and those of the poor and suffering,
weeping with you,
and those who grieve,
standing with the rejected and mocked,
even as we share their lot.
We need your grace and forgiveness,
and your strength to bring grace into the world.
Amen.

Prayer of confession: Skeletons (John van de Laar)
In each of our hearts is a locked place, God;
Like a forgotten room or a dark cupboard,
We would prefer to forget it even exists,
But inside it are things that won’t stay hidden.

Others would never suspect that we carry such a place;
We guard our faces so no evidence appears,
And we keep our lips sealed,
allowing no escape for the stories of the skeletons in our cupboard.

But in the quiet moments, the unguarded times of solitude,
The doors we struggle to hold shut fly open
and the skeletons – these living guilts – come out and dance
Mocking us and reminding us of our secret shame.

Free us from the power and the prison
of the skeletons in our cupboards, Jesus;
Teach us that mistakes and brokenness and failure
are part of creative and bold living
Remind us that what is hidden holds us in bondage
and cannot be healed;
And lead us through our shame to confident joy in You.

Let us know the touch of your forgiveness and healing,
and teach us to pass this acceptance on to others
friends, family and strangers
who, like us, pretend to be whole
While within them, skeletons still dance. Amen.

On Riches: Seeking Wisdom: Zaccheus meets Jesus (Luke 18:9–14)
an original story by Sarah Agnew

MUSIC

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy TiS #136

Everyone belongs by John van de Laar
Every pointing finger, every careless word
Each self-righteous judgement, each voice we have ignored
Each excluded pilgrim we fail to walk beside
It’s you we’re hurting, Jesus; you we have denied

CHORUS:
Give us eyes to see you, Jesus, and hearts that will embrace
Your image that is present in each and every face
Let our love for you be spoken in more than word and song
But in living out your welcome where everyone belongs
Everyone belongs

Every warm acceptance, every need addressed
Every selfless action, each person that we bless
When we stand together with those the law condemns
It’s you we’re loving, Jesus – hidden there in them

CHORUS

Zacchaeus was a Tax Man
AURELIA 7.6.7.6 D (“The Church’s One Foundation”)

Zacchaeus was a tax man who one day climbed a tree,
For he was short in stature and said he could not see.
And yet he had a problem that mattered even more:
He didn’t see the suffering his greed had caused the poor

O Lord, you saw Zacchaeus – so wealthy, yet alone.
You said, “Come down – and hurry! I’m coming to your home.”
For you broke bread with sinners and saw within each one
A person loved and treasured – God’s daughter or God’s son.

It wasn’t just the treetop that helped Zacchaeus see;
Your love and welcome showed him how different life could be.
He said that he’d start over and work to make things fair;
He’d speak the truth, bring justice, and find new ways to share.

O Christ, you bid us welcome and help us all to see!
May we respond by building a just society.
Then children won’t be hungry and all will share your bread.
Then those who now must struggle will live in joy instead.

(Text: Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, bcgillette@comcast.net)

Hymn Note for “Zacchaeus Was a Tax Man”
Many people grew up enjoying the song “Zacchaeus was a wee little man,” celebrating this beloved story of Jesus and a tax collector. This new hymn lifts up other aspects of Luke 19:1-10 beyond Zacchaeus’ height; it celebrates Jesus’ love for everyone and the call for his followers to work for justice for all.

N.T. Wright comments: “Luke’s is the only gospel that tells us of him [Zacchaeus] and his sudden moment of glory, and the hardened old tax-collector fits in to three of Luke’s regular themes: the problem of riches and what to do about it, the identification of Jesus with ‘sinners,’ and the faith which recognizes Jesus as Lord and discovers new life as a result ( Luke for Everyone, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, p. 222).

Luke Timothy Johnson observes, “the story of Zacchaeus (19:1-9) is meant to contrast with that of the ruler in 18:18-23. Both men were powerful, both wealthy. The first kept all the commandments, and could be considered as righteous. But he could not do the “one thing remaining,” which was to hand over his life utterly to the prophet, and to signal that commitment by selling his possessions and giving them to the poor. Zacchaeus, in contrast, was regarded as a “sinner” by those accompanying Jesus because of his occupation as chief tax-agent. But he is eager to receive the prophet “with joy” and he declares his willingness to share — indeed if this reading of the story is correct, his regular practice of sharing — his possessions with the poor, not as a single gesture but as a steady commitment” ( The Gospel of Luke, Sacra Pagina, Liturgical Press, 1991, p. 287).

Joel Green finds, “Unlike the rich ruler, Zacchaeus does not employ his wealth so as to procure honor and friends; rather, he is a social outcast who puts his possessions in the service of the needy and of justice. Such a person would indeed be eager to welcome Jesus, anointed by the Spirit to bring “good news to the poor (4:18-19), with joy!” ( The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1997, p. 672).

Communion liturgy by John van de Laar

Communion liturgy: Thom Shuman

Call to Worship
We gather in awe
standing in the presence of the One
who crafted the stars, the mountains, the seas.
We gather in faith,
trusting that the One who has held little children
holds our lives in the heart of God.
We gather in need,
seeking the One who longs for justice
to grace each and every person in creation.

Prayer of the Day
You stirred the dust
and created us for service;
you breathed into our lungs
so we could share your good news;
you shape our hearts
with the tools of compassion
so we will seek justice for all.
We thank you, God of gifts.

In the hospitality of Zaccheus,
we see your openness
for all who are different;
in the grumbling of his neighbors,
we hear the echoes
of our own prejudices and fears;
in his transformation
into a new person,
we see your grace
which is prepared for us.
We thank you,
Companion of the poor.

You cradle us in the peace
of the resting night;
you awaken us
with the light of dawn
and the warmth of your gentleness;
you walk with us through each day,
nudging us to be that blessing
we are called to be to others.
We thank you,
Surprising Spirit.

God in Community, Holy in One,
we lift our thanks to you,
even as we pray as Jesus teaches,
(The Lord’s Prayer)

Call to Reconciliation
How patient is God! We run around trying to do everything our way, and God just waits. We try to buy life and happiness, and God waits. We hurt others and walk away from those in need, and God waits. God waits, and upon hearing our heartfelt prayers and cries for help, God touches us with forgiveness and new life. Come, join me as we pray to the One who waits to hear – from us!

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
Surrounded by so many seductions, Patient God, we find it difficult to see you in our lives. Justice has a hard time surviving when there is so much persecution and affliction towards the little ones of the world. Our neighborhoods, our families, even our churches, are filled with strife and contention.
We cry for help, Listening God; forgive us! As we wait for your grace to fill our lives, may we open our hearts to your hope and healing, always giving thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Rich, poor; young, old; sinner, saint. We are all God’s children, and God transforms each of us into the people we are meant to be.
Broken, we are mended; separated from others, we are made one; longing to serve, we are sent forth. Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
How easily we overlook the Zaccheus in our midst – the father short of money, the woman short of hope, the children short of food. As we offer our gifts, we pray you would open our hearts to recognize all around us, especially those looking for you in us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of all hope be with you.
And also with you.
Lift your hearts to the One who comes to feast with you.
We offer our hearts to God who is in our midst.
Children of God, sing praises to the One
who feeds you with goodness and hope.
Our hearts and voices resound with joy.

In your heart, God of wonder,
you wrote the vision of creation,
and the Word shaped the mountains
from the rich loam of the valleys,
your Spirit breathed life into every
which sprang forth from your imagination.
Welcomed into your garden with hope,
we forgot your words of hospitality,
running to catch a glimpse of the parade
of seductions sin and death brought to town.
Prophets came, your vision written on their hearts,
your voice standing behind their words
which sought to bring us back to you,
but we took no delight in their invitations.
So you sent your Beloved, Jesus the Christ,
to be the guest of sinners in every time and place,
that we might receive the gift of salvation.

So, with reformers and saints who have gone before us,
with friends and neighbors sitting around us,
we lift our songs of praise to you:

Holy, holy, holy are you, God of justice and righteousness.
All creation keeps watch for your justice.
Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the One who comes to call us home.
Hosanna in the highest.

In your heart, Forgiving God,
you wrote the vision of redemption,
and sent Jesus, your Servant of righteousness,
to your people at the appointed time.
When our zeal for sin consumed us,
he came to feed us with the bread of life;
when our souls were emptied out
by the corruption of death,
he came to grow abundant faith in us;
when we saw only destruction on the horizon,
he came to stand at his watchpost,
defeating sin and death so they could
never harm us again,
and inviting us to find life and peace
in your heart’s home for all eternity.

As we remember his life, his teachings, his words,
as we celebrate the good news of his resurrection,
we speak of our faith, which often seems a mystery:

Christ died, faithful to the end;
Christ was raised, your righteousness come true;
Christ will return, our hope and peace.

In your heart, Blessing God,
your wrote the vision of a community
which would live out your kingdom here on earth,
pouring out your Spirit of life and grace
upon the gifts of the Bread and Cup,
and on your people gathered for your Feast.
As we are fed by your Word become life,
give us understanding so we might hear
those who are crying out for hope;
as we are nourished by your Spirit of peace,
may we go to all who live surrounded by oppression,
bringing justice to every place
where it has never prevailed.

And when we are gathered in that vision
of life forever which is written in your heart,
we will join our sisters and brothers
from every time and place, forever praising you,
God in Community, Holy in One. Amen.

Sending
God gives us the vision,
so let us go to see others as our sisters and brothers.
Jesus gives us the eyes,
so let us look in all the unexpected places
to welcome all into our lives.
The Spirit calls us to watch,
so let us bear witness to the justice and hope
coming into our shattered world.

(c) 2016 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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