COCU20A.Lent 2A.8March2020

See also Lent 2B and Lent 2C

Readings
Genesis 12:1-4a: God calls Abram to leave his home country, and promises that he will be blessed and will be a blessing to others, and Abram obeys.
Psalm 121: A song affirming God’s help, attention and care.
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17: Paul holds Abraham up as an example of faith and relationship with God, and points out that it was not so much Abraham’s obedience as Abraham’s relationship with God through faith that ensured that God’s promise would be fulfilled through him.
John 3:1-17: Nicodemus comes to speak to Jesus at night, and is told that he must be born of the Spirit in order to see God’s reign, and that Christ came into the world to save through faith, not to condemn and judge.
(Summaries of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise. The link also provides reflections on the readings)

Resources: Textweek, Rex AE Hunt, Singing from the Lectionary, Sacredise

John 3:1-9 (Scholars Edition)
A Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Judean leader,
came to Jesus during the night and said,
“Rabbi, we know that you’ve come as a teacher from God;
after all, nobody can perform the miracles you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus replied to him,
“As God is my witness: No one can experience God’s imperial rule
without being born from above.”
Nicodemus says to him,
“How can an adult be reborn?
Can you re-enter your mother’s womb and be born a second time?”
Jesus replied,
“As God is my witness: No one can enter God’s domain
without being born of water and spirit. What is born of the human realm is human,
but what is born of the spiritual realm is spirit.
“Don’t be surprised that I told you,
‘Every one of you must be reborn from above.’
“The spirit blows every which way, like wind:
you hear the sound it makes but you can’t tell where it is coming from
or where it’s headed. That’s how it is
with everyone reborn of the spirit”.
“How can that be possible?” Nicodemus retorted.

Call to worship prayers here

Psalm 121
I lift my eyes from world to sky,
from where will I find help?
My help will come from Holy One,
maker of earth and sky.
Beneath your feet
the ground may tremble,
but you will never fall;
Holy One slumbers not,
is watchful ever
over the people of God.
Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will save you,
from trouble and from harm.
Fear not the sun’s hot flame,
nor moon’s shards of silver;
Holy One will be your shield.
Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will hold you;
your life is precious to God.
Holy One will keep you,
Holy One will seek you,
going and coming and ever more.
Lift your eyes towards the light,
however thick the dark;
help will come from Holy One,
maker of day and night.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story)

A centering prayer (gently, reflectively)
We may be born again,
born into the life of the Holy Spirit of God.
From the womb of God’s love
we will emerge into the unknown
and wait in faith for what may come.
Christ’s arms will hold us like a loving mother.
As the winds of the future blow where they may,
we are called to take one step at a time
towards the will of God for us in each moment.
We may be born into life everlasting
and a grace which is eternal in the Triune God.
A silence is kept
Come, Holy Spirit, and be with us today.
Guide us through our labouring,
whether it is easy or painful,
and bring goodness to birth through us and within us.
Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.
(Source W4W 2011)

Coming Together as Part of God’s Family
We are not alone. God is with us.
God is with us in the hills and valleys of life
God is with us in each sunrise and sunset.
God as spirit speaks to us through our everyday.
Through the people we meet, be they friends or strangers
Through our busyness or quiet times
God is the encouraging spirit in which everything that is, is

Be still, be silent before God – ask nothing, say nothing.
Be still, be silent. Leave space for God to be God.
God loves you. God is there beside you in the stillness, in the silence.
(Source: St Martin’s Presbyterian Church, Christchurch, NZ)

Gathering  (see also words of welcome and gathering)
We gather here
to celebrate life’s beauty and find healing for its pain,
to wonder at the mystery that gave us birth,
and to listen for the wisdom that guides us
in the quietness of this moment.
(Source: Gary Kowalski, UUA Worship Web)

Gathering
Life is a journey with others;
we travel as a people, on a winding road.
We share our lives, our experiences, our hopes, our fears.
With joy and hope we welcome other travellers
to share our lives.
We learn from each other.
We laugh and cry with each other.
We are home with each other.
And together we celebrate God’s presence
as we are refreshed and made ready
for re-creation in our lives and our communities.
(Source: Rex AE Hunt)

Prayer of thanksgiving  (see also prayers of thanksgiving)
O God, we thank you today
for the hope which Christ brings to us.
As each morning breaks in our Lenten journey
we believe that we may begin again in faith
and that all of our lives
may be reborn in your power.
We can look outward at the world
and see promises of change
that we have never seen before.
We find strength and gifts
within each one of us
which will transform the life of your church.
The past may be laid down
so that our feet can stand on a new ground of being.
Thanks be to you, O God of wonder. Amen.
(Source: W4W 2011)

Prayer of confession (see also prayers of confession)
Opening our lives to create space to be ‘born anew’ may feel fearful for us,
as we need to lay down many reassurances
and turn away from the familiar.
There are often many comforting reasons in staying just as we are.
Silent reflection
Give us your grace, Jesus Christ.
Be with us as we look at what lies before us.
Call us onwards towards your will and your way. Amen.

Words of assurance
All that is loving and understanding
is constantly reborn in the life of Jesus Christ.
We need not fear to open our hearts
to receive the gifts which await us in grace.
We are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
(Source: W4W 2011)

Prayer of Confession: 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. A silence is kept
We praise you for this faith, God:
and open our hearts to receive it. Amen.

Questions to ponder (see Marcus Borg ‘The Heart of Christianity’ (2004), Chapter 6 Born Again – a New Heart)
Rebirth: What do you understand by “being born again”?
Spirituality = becoming conscious of, and intentional about, a deepening relationship with God.
There are many ways of expressing what we mean when we speak of ‘rebirth’. Here are some. Which one do you think of when talking about ‘rebirth’?
Reconnect with God
Return Home from Exile
See Again
Receive the Gifts of the Spirit
Centre Your Life in God
Live into a New Way of Being
Dying to Old Self
Let Go of What Keeps You from God
Marcus Borg speaks of Four Ways of Born Again Experiences:
A sudden and dramatic moment in your life – a life changing event;
A gradual lifetime process that accompanies a deepening trust in God;
The shorter rhythms of our lives which may happen several times during a period of major change or transition;
The micro-rhythms (each day forgetting then remembering God)

St Martin’s Cross at Iona (scroll to end for image)
The St. Martin’s Cross was carved from a single slab of stone in the mid to late 8th Century. The most perfect of the surviving crosses on the Isle of Iona, Scotland, it stands in its original position where the monks of the island monastery placed it twelve hundred years ago.
The raised circles, or bosses, are thought to represent God with everything revolving around Him. Intertwined between these bosses are serpents, which in the Celtic world represented rebirth since the snake sheds its old skin; symbolizing our rebirth into a new life upon acceptance of Jesus.

Prayers for ourselves and others: A Litany for Lent
Sustainer and giver of life,
may all people be freed from the temptations of power,
from the urge to control rather than enable.
Come, Spirit, liberate us from the forces of domination.
(a time for silent prayer)
Loving Empowerer, may we
challenge the abuse of authority wherever it is to be found,
including in ourselves.
Come, Spirit, give us strength not to walk by on the other side.
(a time for silent prayer)
Still Small Voice,
may we learn to listen to each other,
and may those in authority understand the strength
that comes from true consultation.
Come, Spirit of Understanding, deepen our insights.
(a time for silent prayer)
Loving Creativity,
may we affirm ourselves and others,
understanding that we are all unique,
and have voices that need to be heard.
Come, Creator of Diversity, and help us see the value of difference.
(a time for silent prayer)
Inclusive and Compassionate God,
may we recognise and challenge discrimination
based on gender, race, age, sexual orientation,
clericalism and other excuses for exclusion.
Come, Spirit of Equality, and imbue us
with the values of interconnectedness with all created nature,
human and non-human. Amen
(Source: McEwan, Dorothea. et al. (ed). Making Liturgy. Creating rituals for worship and life)

Prayers for others: The faith we need
We take so much on to our shoulders God;
Sometimes it’s arrogance,
but sometimes it’s because we just don’t know what else to do.
There is so much need, so many wounded people,
There are so many challenges, and so many decisions.
We don’t want to fall into a magical, “Harry Potter” faith,
in which we use prayers like wands,
and avoid our responsibilities through childish dependence on you.
But, we also don’t want to live
as if what we believe is just an idea
with no real impact on our lives.
And so we pray for the strength and courage
to work for justice and healing
for those who are forgotten and hurting in our world,
and to strive to be fully engaged in our own lives;
But we also pray for the humility and wonder
to seek your Spirit’s strength and wisdom,
and to invite others into vibrant relationship with you;
because the faith we need is not just a ‘religious’ veneer,
but a real confidence in a reality that is bigger than us.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Prayers for others
O Jesus, Holy and Human One, look us in the face
and invite rebirthing in us, your church, we pray.
Grant us the faith 
to stay within the womb of your Body
and then to travel through the labour and sighing
which will bring us towards your cross and resurrection.
When we hold in our hands the sacred gifts of the wine and bread,
which are to us the true giving of your life for us,
may we see there all that we need for this journey.
Show to us what the world is waiting for,
as it looks in trembling longing 
for the authentic and strong birthing of your Gospel.
Grant to us the newly born trust of a child,
so that we are open to receive your wisdom and cherishing.
Invite in us a caring for others – 
one which has laid aside all prejudices and old wounds
and sees those around us as our true neighbours.
We pray for these people now: (silent or spoken prayers are offered)
Surround the whole world with your healing love, O Christ,
and take our hands as we walk towards each day, we pray.
Make us the agents of your life and peace. Amen.
(Source: W4W 2011)

See also Prayers for others – various

Sending out  (see also benediction and blessing resources)
Time has now come for us to leave this sacred place.
Our celebration need not cease.
It can echo in our lives,
in our words,
in our deeds,
in our moods,
in our dreams.
Carry worship with you wherever you may go.
Be a blessing in your going out and your coming in.
(Source: Gordon B McKeeman, UUA Worship Web)

Music
A Hymn of Exploration (Tune: ‘Northbrook’, 11.10.11.10)
We take the path that leads beyond this moment,
while seeking all the hope faith has to give;
we walk so near the edge of understanding,
while grasping what we need to know to live.

This is no abstract whim that we are tracing,
this story of God’s free, creative grace;
this is no empty, useless recitation,
but God’s own love that nothing can erase.

The vision that you give, each new disclosure,
will bring us closer to our common goal,
the point where you assure us of salvation,
for us and every other living soul.
(Source: 2010 Andrew Pratt blog)

Love Will Be Our Lenten Calling (Tune: ‘Picardy’, 87 87 87)
Love will be our Lenten calling,
love to shake and shatter sin,
waking every closed, cold spirit,
stirring new life deep within,
till the quickened heart remembers
what our Easter birth can mean.

Peace will be our Lenten living
as we turn for home again,
longing for the words of pardon,
stripping off old grief and pain,
till we stand, restored and joyful,
with the Church on Easter day.

Truth will be our Lenten learning:
hear the Crucified One call!
Shadowed by the Saviour’s passion,
images and idols fall,
and, in Easter’s holy splendour,
God alone is all in all.
(Source: Elizabeth Smith, TiS 684)

Wisdom Far Beyond (Tune: ‘Coronation Road’) 157 HoS
Wisdom far beyond our knowledge,
Word of endless mystery,
God, in whom is comprehended
all that was, is now, will be,
you have set us free to wander,
world on world, through time and space,
haunted by the hope of heaven,
nurtured by your constant grace.

Unimaginable lover,
faithful to eternity,
God, fulfilling and indwelling
all that was, is now, will be,
we can never stray beyond you,
loving Presence, you are here:
called to join your great adventure,
forth we go to find you there.

Beating heart of all creation,
first and final unity,
God who draws all things together,
all that was, is now, will be,
we have heard your distant music,
shared your dream of harmony:
now we go as reconcilers,
makers of community.

Focus of our search for meaning,
truth in our perplexity,
God the One by whom we measure
all that was, is now, will be,
centre of our heart’s devotion,
magnet of our questing mind,
spirit’s birth and soul’s companion,
journey’s end in you we find.
(Source: Colin Gibson, #157, Hope is our Song)

Tree of Life
Light of life beyond conceiving,
Mighty Spirit of our Lord;
Give new strength to our believing,
Give us faith to live your word.
Give us faith to live your word.

From the dawning of creation,
You have loved us as your own;
Stay with us through all temptation,
Make us turn to you alone.
Make us turn to you alone.

We remember truth once spoken,
Love passed on through act and word,
Ev’ry person lost and broken
Wears the body of our Lord.
Wears the body of our Lord.

Give us eyes to see you clearly,
Make us children of your light;
Give us hearts to live more nearly
As your gospel shining bright.
As your gospel shining bright.

God of all our fear and sorrow,
God who lives beyond our death;
Hold us close through each tomorrow,
Love as near as every breath.
Love as near as every breath
(Source: Marty Haugen, Hymnary)

Communion liturgy: Rex AE Hunt; John van de Laar, Sacredise;

St Martin’s Cross, Iona (showing details of the raised circles and intertwined serpents)

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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