COCU15A.Epiphany7A

NOT IN 2020 LECTIONARY

Readings:
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18: God calls the people to holiness, instructing them to treat one another with compassion, integrity, justice and fairness.
Psalm 119:33-40: A prayer for God to teach the psalmist God’s ways and to give understanding, commitment and reassurance to help in following God’s ways.
1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 : Christ is our foundation, and we all build our lives and community on that foundation so that we become together the temple of God’s Spirit. To do this does not require human wisdom, or following particular leaders, but recognising that God has given us all things in Christ.
Matthew 5:38-48:Jesus teaches his followers not to seek revenge or pay-back, but to treat those who oppress and harm them with grace and generosity, and to love even their enemies and persecutors.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

This could be one of the most challenging passages in the Bible. Which of us really love our enemies? Who are our enemies? We can look at those who are mostly far away – like terrorists and maybe those with whom our countries are at war. However, what of those about whom we talk disparagingly? Do we love our political opponents, those who differ from us in religion, especially those within our own faith? Do we love those who oppose our own views in varying ways, or people who are obscenely rich according to our opinion? It is interesting to reflect on the degree of love which lies in a God who sends the rain on the just and the unjust – something which precludes us from ever interpreting natural events as reward or punishment. Who are the hardest for us to love and what will we do about it? (Source: W4W, 2011)

Enemies by Wendell Berry
If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,
how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then
is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go
free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not
think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

Tell yourself
Who told you you were so contingent?
Who convinced you you had to prove yourself,
or protect the being of yourself?
Your being is inviolable, absolute.
You can dare to be as vulnerable as the air,
as fragile as light.
You can love your enemy
and you won’t be diminished.
You can turn the other cheek
since they can’t even hurt the first one.
They can harm your flesh
but they can’t damage your you.
You don’t have to fear their fear,
or hate their hate,
or strike back at their violence.
Who says you have to conquer anybody?
Who but one who has never been loved
says love is feeble?
Tell yourself something else:
one who loves has conquered all.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

fulfilling the law : love (Matthew 5:38–48)
when the world slaps us in the face, in God we turn to face another day
when the world pulls the coat from our back, in God we offer the whole rack
when the world makes us walk too far, in God we walk further than they ask
when the world begs for all that we can offer, in God we give more than we thought we had
when the world has lost its Way, in God we will remember, and we will stay
when the world shows us its fear, in God we will show God’s love
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, praythestory)

A personal meditation (based on Psalm 119: 33-40)
Today’s selected section of Psalm 119 is much more practical in its application
to daily life than others sections as it deals with a world that is all too familiar to us! The psalmist obviously recognised his own short comings, and had some pointed requests for God: “Teach me …; give me understanding…; turn my eyes…; reassure me …; renew my life …”
The responses to those God-inspired requests would be: obedience; heart-felt security; personal happiness; discernment and a change of priorities; distraction from money-making urges; and a new beginning to a truly God-centred life.
Professor Walter Brueggemann discussed “Torah Obedience”thus: “…The message is that life is reliable and utterly symmetrical when the torah
is honoured… the torah is not a dead letter… but an active agent which gives life…torah is not just a set of rules, but is the mode [means] of God’s life-giving presence. Obedience to the torah is a source of light, life, joy, delight… delight is a repeated response to torah… The torah is no burden, but a mode of joyous existence… ” 1`
Creative pause: Following God’s decrees is the way to “God’s life-giving presence.”
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses addressed the people of Israel several times when they were in the wilderness in the land of Moab, where he yet again explainedGod’s Torah Laws to them. Moses said: “Observe the [decrees and laws of the Lord my God] carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?… Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them….” 2 The significant difference to other religious practices was that God was “…near us whenever we pray to him…” 2 when following God’s decrees. Carefully and faithfully following God’s decrees
known as “Torah obedience”, meant that people had God’s Holy Presence with
them. That “Torah obedience” is summed up thus: “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength…” 3Jesus updated that, combining two decrees from God: “‘…You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!…’” 4
Creative pause: Follow those decrees “…and you will live!…’” 4
The psalmist prayed: “…give me life through your word…” The gift of ‘life’ was a constant teaching point by Jesus to his disciples, including his ‘I AM’ statements where fullness of ‘life’ through Jesus was offered because he was the Gate/Door; the Bread; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth and the Life; and the Source of eternal Life. The ‘Life’ offered through obedience to God’s decrees is as Jesus said: “’…Do this and you will live!…’” 4 The lawyer wanted a more specific answer about keeping or not keeping the Law – so was ‘life’ not enough for him?
Creative pause: “…give me life through your word…”

References
1 Professor Walter Brueggemann from “The Message of the Psalms”, Chapter 2, page 40
2 Deuteronomy 4: 6, 8-9 (NLT)
3 Deuteronomy 6:5 (NLT)
4 Luke 10: 27b-28 (NLT)
(Source: Joan Stott, The Timeless Psalms)

Opening prayer
Like the psalmist we plead with God: “…Teach me…renew my life …”
Listening God, through your mercy and grace you hear our prayers.
Like the psalmist we plead with God: “Turn my eyes…reassure me …;”
Responding God, through your compassion, you guide and bless us.
Like the psalmist we plead with God: “…give me understanding…” and
in response we promise: “…I will put them into practice with all my heart…”
Empowering God, through your glorious power and holiness,
you give
 to us the strength to learn from your decrees,
and respond in obedience. Amen
.
(Source: Joan Stott, The Timeless Psalms)

Call to worship
Love lies at the centre of Godly life.
It goes far beyond our human impulses
and travels towards people in unexpected ways.
It shines through shadows of prejudice
and pushes away old judgements.
It crosses over boundaries of race and colour,
and diversities of class, politics and religion.
There is no-one who is not embraced.
The rain falls on the just and unjust, 
sent by a God who is far beyond our imagining. 
Let us try to love our neighbours this day, 
as God would have us do.
(Source: W4W 2011)

Prayer of invocation
Come to us, Loving Spirit,
and enhance our lives with your gifts of grace and hope.
Inspire in us a grander dream for our relationships,
with one another, and outwards into the world.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

Prayer of thanksgiving
O God, we thank and praise you
for being the source of all love for humankind
and for the creation within which we live.
We thank you that your love still flows towards us
when we have failed you,
or when we have forgotten
your calling to us to love others.

We are grateful for times in our lives
when those around us bring love
when we have not deserved it,
people who are true to your hope for humankind.
Our hearts lift when we see
the fruit of costly love, Jesus Christ,
love which is like that
which you have offered to us all.
Thanks be to you, O God. Amen.
(Source: W4W 2011)

Collect

God of acceptance,
you have no enemies,
because you have loved us all into your embrace.
Empower us to love our enemies,
to pray for their good.
Then we will be free together,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
(Source: Bob Eldan)

Prayers of who we are/prayers of praise
Listening God, like many people before us, we plead with God to “…Teach me …renew my life …”, because we know we have failed to love and serve God as we have promised and expected. So often, we feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges that are placed before us; when we are distracted by so many things that bewilder and confuse us; so that often we question our values and the priorities we once considered to be important.
We praise you, God of all creation; that we can come to you for answers, and for the second chances you give to us in life.
We pray for people for whom life is tough and difficult; for all who have lost their way in life and are struggling to make sense of their life and their living; and for all who recognise that they need to start again and to be renewed in body, mind and spirit. May they rediscover the joy of a life lived and blessed by their Creating and Liberating God.

Responding God, like many people before us, we plead with God to “Turn my eyes… reassure me …”; because we have been captured by worthless things that make a mockery of things of true worth and which are of spiritual value.
We praise you, God of all peoples, of all races and cultures;
that we can come to you for answers.
We pray for people who counsel people of all ages, conditions and circumstances; for mentors and teachers; for coaches and leaders who have responsibilities for guiding young people; for law enforcement agents; and for all who administer the law in their nations. Reassure them about their life’s roles and the advice they give; so that justice and peace may be realised wherever people meet together, in their homes; their local communities; at their employment; and in their cities and towns.
Empowering God, like many people before us, we plead with God to: “…give me understanding...” There are so many things in life and relationships that we do not understand!
We praise you, God of all wisdom, that your holy word offers the way to life in all its fullness, through Jesus.
We pray for all who have the privilege of sharing the truth of your word through words and action; through their compassion and sensitivity, that the truth of God’s steadfast love and gracious mercy may be seen and recognised through their various ministries.
All praise to you, God of great love. Amen.
(Source: Joan Stott, The Timeless Psalms)

Prayer of Confession
O God, it is not easy to love everyone.
We find before us all sorts of barriers,
things which divide us
and tempt us to reject people.
We live far from the dimensions of your generosity,
even though we know that you offer it to us
when we do not really deserve it.Silent reflection
Bring your love to us now, Jesus Christ.
And when we receive it with gratitude, 
may we offer it to others, we pray. 
O God, we acknowledge that, in our societies,
we live with long histories of separation
and assumptions about others.
We sometimes find it hard to receive and celebrate
people of other religions, ethnicities and cultures.
We remember wars and injustices
which we find hard to overcome. Silent reflection. 
Bring your love to us now, Jesus Christ.
And when we receive it with gratitude,
may we offer it to others, we pray.
This we pray in faith. Amen
(Source: W4W 2011)

Words of assurance
In Jesus Christ, love is the way and the gift.
It is never withdrawn from us,
but lies in the heart of God in encouragement and grace.
We are forgiven!
Thanks be to God!

Offering prayer (see also Offering Prayer resources here)
O God, may your love and ours be extended into the world
as we share what we now place in your hands in your offering.
Guide us in its use, we pray. Amen.

Prayers of intercession (also see prayers for others here)
O Jesus Christ, lover of all,
open our lives to see others as you see them, we pray.
Show us beauty which has been clouded by assumptions
and worth which is covered over by old and misguided teachings. 
Give us humility so that we own our real failings
and have an openness to learn and receive from strangers.
As we bring before you now our prayers for love and peace,
may we be open to those from whom we have been alienated: (the people pray)
Bring us together, Jesus Christ,
May we be honest and humble
as we try to add love to the world, we pray. 
Grant that your church may be an example to the community
in its preparedness to meet others who differ from us.
Let its creative engagements
with those who are in conflict bring peace.
Bring us together as your people,
both across the churches and across the world.
Make us a sign of your peace, O Christ, 
grateful for all that we are given by you
and hopeful for a world which has a new future. 
Go with us now, we pray. Amen.
(Source: W4W 2011)
(The song, God of the poor/Beauty for Brokenness, would be good to sing after this prayer – words here and below in the Music section)

Commissioning and benediction
Let us go from here,
committed to loving our neighbours as ourselves.
And may the light of Christ’s life lead us on,
the faithfulness of God’s love inspire us
and the warmth of the Holy Spirit
be offered to all people. Amen.
(Source: W4W 2011)

MUSIC

God of the poor/beauty for brokenness (Graham Kendrick)
Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can’t speak

God of the poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame

Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain

Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need

Chorus

Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again
Until the nations
Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
And bring you their praise

Chorus

 

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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