COCU21B.Lent 3B.4March2018

In a world of seriousness and a Church of purity, the Lectionary calls us to a strange way of being this week – foolishness. The cross, which is God’s wisdom and God’s strength, is placed alongside the law in the readings this week, and as we examine these two themes side by side, we discover that they are actually both calling us to the same thing – as surprising as that may sound.
Exodus 20:1-17
God gives the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, instructing them how they should live as God’s people.
Psalm 19
A psalm that celebrates how creation reveals God’s glory and wisdom and how God’s commands and teachings are more valuable than anything, making those who follow them wise. Then a call for God to forgive hidden sins follows the song of praise.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
God’s wisdom is far wiser than human wisdom, although it appears like foolishness and weakness to human beings. God’s wisdom and strength is Christ crucified which offends those who seek human strength and wisdom, but saves those who are willing to believe and embrace it.
John 2:13-22
Jesus drives out the animal sellers and the money changers from the temple. Then when the religious leaders ask for a sign to prove he has the authority to do this, he tells them that if they destroy the temple, he will rebuild it in three days – to which they respond with incredulity. The disciples, however, after he is raised, realise that he was referring to his body.
(Comments on readings by John van der Laar, Sacredise)

On Foolishness
Committing to an uncertain future, to what we do not know yet, is foolishness: “To pledge is to say ‘I do’ to the knowing venture . . . . Pledging your allegiance to what you do not yet know is enormously risky . . . . We pledge to take the risk to follow something that may prove not to be there, something that may prove to be way different from what we imagine. We accept the prospect that others might think us foolish—that we might prove to be foolish.”
(Source: Esther Lightcap Meek, A Little Manual for Knowing, p 27)

“The joke of it is that often it is the preacher who as steward of the wildest mystery of them all is the one who hangs back, prudent, cautious, hopelessly mature and wise to the last when no less than Saint Paul tells [her] to be a fool for Christ’s sake, no less than Christ tells [her] to be a child for [her] own and the kingdom’s sake.”
(Source: Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth, p 98)

Here is Frederick Buechner’s take on this passage, from “Paul Sends His Love” in Secrets in the Dark:
The message that a convicted felon was the bearer of God’s forgiving and transforming love was hard enough for anybody to swallow and for some especially so. For Hellenized sophisticates—the Greeks, as Paul puts it—it could only seem absurd. What uglier, more supremely inappropriate symbol of, say, Plato’s Beautiful and Good could there be than a crucified Jew? And for the devout Jew, what more scandalous image of the Davidic king messiah, before whose majesty all the nations were at last to come to heel?
Paul understood both reactions well. “The folly of what we preach,” he called it (1:21), and he knew it was folly not just to the intellectually and religiously inclined but to the garden variety Corinthians who had no particular pretensions in either direction but simply wanted some reasonably plausible god who would stand by them when the going got rough.
Paul’s God didn’t look much like what they were after, and Paul was the first to admit it. Who stood by Jesus when the going got rough, after all? He even goes so far as to speak of “the foolishness of God” (1:25). What other way could you describe a deity who chose as his followers not the movers and shakers who could build him a temple to make Aphrodite’s look like two cents but the weak, the despised, the ones who were foolish even as their God was and poor as church mice?

Elements of worship

Centering reflections to begin worship

Call to worship

Prayer of Approach
God of the Sabbath
We pause with you on this seventh day,
the end of a busy week for some
and a week that has dragged along for others,
approaching you with our trials and joys.
We come to rest in your presence

We bring to you
our complicated encounters,
the difficult news and reasons to rejoice,
the aches and pains that have hindered us,
the strains from labours and long work hours.
We come to rest in your presence

Thank you that you meet us here,
Creator who rested on the Sabbath,
Son who wrestled in the wilderness
And Spirit, who comes among us now,
inspire, refresh and guide us.
We come to rest in your presence Amen.
(Source: Wendy Young, Church of Scotland)

Prayers of confession (words of assurance)

Overturning tables
This reflection by John van der Laar could be adapted for use as a prayer of confession, leaving silence at the end, followed by Words of Assurance.
Truth be told, Jesus,
There are lots of tables that need overturning
in our lives;
Beneath the veneer of respectability
the tidy rows and neat regulations
hide dark addictions and angry judgements
hungry greeds and heartless rejections
We know the pain – and so do those around us –
of keeping up the facade;
What a relief it would be to have it all
upset, smashed, scattered, destroyed
So, perhaps, Jesus, today you could pay us a visit
and help us to radically rearrange
the furniture of our lives. A silence is kept.
(Source: John van der Laar, Sacredise)

This reflection, Another Way, by John van der Laar (Sacredise) could also be adapted for Prayers of Confession (or Prayers for Others). 
Teach us the courage, O God,
to turn from what seems so natural, so safe:
the way of grasping power,
and befriending the powerful,
in the hope of protection and security.

Teach us the humility, O God,
to turn from what is so enticing, so persuasive:
the way of accumulating things,
and trusting in wealth,
in the hope of comfort and life

Lead us, O God, in another way,
the way of true security, true wealth,
the way of Christ, the servant,
the way of weakness and simplicity. (A silence is kept)

Lead us, O God, in another way:
the way of caring for the neglected,
feeding the hungry,
housing the homeless,
protecting the threatened,
and challenging the powerful,
the foolish way of the Gospel,
that brings salvation to all. Amen.

Prayer of confession
Lord our rock and our redeemer,
In this season of Lent we bring our confessions to you;
We are sorry when the meditations of our hearts
have not matched the words of our mouths
and have not been acceptable to you.
Lord, redeem

We are sorry when those on the margins
have been overlooked and ignored by decision makers.
We are sorry for when we are complicit
and have ignored or tolerated the unjust practices
of the money changers of our day.
Lord, redeem

We are sorry when those who have laboured hard
have not been given a fair and just price to live well.
Sorry for when we have trusted in the foolishness of others more than we have followed the wisdom of your ways
Lord, redeem

Thank you for your endless mercy and abundant grace,
in which we place our trust. Amen
(Source: Wendy Young, Church of Scotland)

Prayer for illumination

Reflection on Psalm 19: a responsive reading
Roddy Hamilton has written given Psalm 19 a thoughtful treatment.  He suggests: “You need to read this real slow and have an instrumental version of Fields of Gold playing in the background. It is indeed a thing of beauty. Voice A is reading the Psalm and Voice B is interpreting it. Take your time with this one. Enjoy the beauty of the psalmist’s poetry and make space for wonder. Don’t let it pass. It’s too valuable.”
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork.
Look to the mountains and see everlastingness…
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
Search both day and night and watch for the glory of it…
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
Listen to the silence and hear wonder speak…
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
Look to the horizon to hear a word about eternity…
In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a beloved from a wedding canopy,
and like a strong athlete runs its course with joy.
Look to the sunrise and enjoy God’s forever-promise…
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
Look to the seasons and live God’s rhythm…
The law of God is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of God are sure, making wise the simple;
Look to creation’s order and accept its wisdom…
the precepts of God are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of God is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
Look to justice and truth and feel their light…
the fear of God is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of God are true
and righteous altogether.
Look to the word and recognise its call…
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
Look to God’s commandments and taste their sweetness…
Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Look to creation’s order and know justice…
But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Look to grace and know its forgiveness…
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Look to what brings life and live its example…
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Look to God’s covenant and know its love…
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.
The heavens are telling the glory of God.
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, and posted on Mucky Paws)

Prayers for Others (and words to conclude prayers for others)

This reflection, Weak and Powerful God, by John van der Laar (Sacredise) could be adapted as an introduction to prayers for others, followed by prayers of intercession. 
Money talks and power makes the world go around,
or so they would have us believe;
And we, forgetting that other voice,
join the march in hopes that we may find a place
among the rich and strong.
But, you, O God, feel no shame,
fear no harm
as you walk among the poorest and weakest
feeling completely at home.
Thank you for the voice of your love
that keeps singing of the power in weakness,
the wealth in simplicity,
and the freedom and safety that is found
in walking your humble, serving way.
We offer our prayers for others….

Thanksgiving and Intercession
His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume me.’
If we were to give thanks for our blessings
to count and name them one by one
we would be giving thanks for a very long time
and for that we give you abundant thanks, loving God.

And with this attitude of gratitude
we bring before you those never far from your heart
and bring them to the forefront of our minds and mouths.
May your will consume our actions

We pray for all those who are far from home
Who have been displaced because of conflict ,
Who are wandering in a desert of destitution,
Who are longing for a place to call home,
Who are ignored by international regulations,
And left out of decisions that affect them.
May those who are often overlooked be ignored no more.
May your will consume our actions

We pray for all those who are struggling close to home
Who have been unsettled by a change of circumstances,
Who are wandering in a desert of insecurity,
Who are longing for a job, good health or companionship,
Who feel overlooked by the rapid pace of life.
May those who are often overlooked be ignored no more.
May your will consume our actions

We pray for all those who are struggling financially
Who the economic system is stacked against,
Who are wading through a deluge of debt,
Who are finding it hard to make ends meet,
Who are excluded because of unfair trade.
May every table of injustice be overturned.
May your will consume our actions

In the name of the one we seek to follow. Amen
(Source: Wendy Young, Church of Scotland)

Lord’s Prayer – various

Prayers of dedication (offering prayers)

Words of Mission


Together to celebrate – Rev David MacGregor
Singing from the Lectionary – Natalie Sims

“Inspired by love and anger” (John Bell, Iona) – echoing the love and anger of Jesus turning the money changers table in the temple.
Youtube clip here.
It reminds us of all the injustices of the world, which many of us have turned a blind eye towards. The song speaks of those who cry out for justice, of the affluent who want to keep the status quo, of the God who hears and calls, and of the One who answered that call…

Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain,
Informed of God’s own bias we ask him once again:
“How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self interest turn prayer and pity blind?”

From those forever victims of heartless human greed,
Their cruel plight composes a litany of need:
“Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners and dreams find their release?”

From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,
The fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry,
“Don’t query our position! Don’t criticise our wealth!
Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!”

To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age,
We offer earth’s indifference, its agony and rage:
“When will the wronged be righted? When will the kingdom come?
When will the world be generous to all instead of some?”

God asks, “Who will go for me? Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome, will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?”

Amused in someone’s kitchen, asleep in someone’s boat,
Attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed and wrote,
A Saviour without safety, a tradesman without tools
Has come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools.

Thom Shuman resource including communion liturgy – Thom Shuman Lent 3B

Pilgrim midweek HC service COCU21B.Lent3B.Midweek.2018

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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