COCU28A.Maundy Thursday.13April2017

photos.MaundyThursday1

Maundy Thursday, Pilgrim Uniting Church, Adelaide

Readings
Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Running sheet and script for Pilgrim UC Maundy Thursday service 2017
Word and PDF format. Resource available to use freely (but we’d love to know if you use it). Maundy Thursday 2017 running sheet PDF version   Maundy Thursday 2017 script

Holy Thursday, and it is time to come to the table.
Here at the table, there is bread.
Here at the table, there is wine.
Here at the table, there is Christ,
offering the gifts to us with beautiful simplicity and astonishing love.
As we linger at the table, as we leave the table, what will we do with what we receive?Blessing the Bread, the Cup
For Holy Thursday
Let us bless the bread
that gives itself to us
with its terrible weight,
its infinite grace.
Let us bless the cup
poured out for us
with a love
that makes us anew.
Let us gather
around these gifts
simply given
and deeply blessed.
And then let us go
bearing the bread,
carrying the cup,
laying the table
within a hungering world.
(Source: Jan Richardson, Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons)

He said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
And they began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” …
Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night.”
Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
And so said all the disciples. (from Matthew 26.21-35)

Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket.
I have the nails.
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me.
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love’s empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light) Continue reading

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COCU24A.PalmSunday.9April2017

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem by Francis Hoyland

(See also Palm Sunday C)

Readings:
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29: A celebration of God’s goodness and faithful love, answering prayer, turning the rejected stone into the capstone, and inviting people into God’s presence.
Matthew 21:1-11: Jesus instructs the disciples to bring him a donkey and its colt, then he mounts the colt and rides into Jerusalem, where a procession gathered to celebrate him, while others wondered who he was.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources:
Christine Sine (Godspace) has an excellent list of resources and links here.
Christine Longshurst has worship resources for Palm Sunday here.
Rex AE Hunt, Karen Mitchell-Lambert’s reflection on Palm Sunday,

Introduction
For the past five weeks of the Season of Lent we have been preparing…
preparing for this moment in the story of Jesus’ journey.
Now, we are one week from Easter!
Today is what has traditionally been called ‘Palm Sunday’.
But you won’t hear about “palms” in this story from Matthew.
The Gospel of John, written several years later, is the only one that says
people waved ‘palm’ branches for Jesus.
This is the day on which, our tradition tells us,
Jesus entered Jerusalem, and just days before his death.
So I invite you to reflect on
some of the feelings associated with Holy Week. A silence is kept
Let’s imagine we have come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.
We begin by listening again to Matthew’s story:
to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, his own city,
to encourage the people to see
and experience God in new ways. (the Gospel is read)
(Source:Rex AE Hunt)

what is this?
are you stealing my colt,
taking its mother from me, too?
is this any way to treat
your neighbour, friend?
The Lord needs them.
what is this?
trust in the matter of a moment,
acceptance, the word
of a stranger become friend
in an instant?

who is this?
heralded, feted, hero
triumphing into town
on a donkey – that’s my donkey
and foal – looking humble
and dignified all at once.

who is this?
all the city cries,
in surprise at this stranger,
their neighbour (a saviour?)
stealing their hearts in
the matter of a moment.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story – includes soundcloud)

Interesting background to the palms and other imagery here.
‘People waved palm branches, a symbol that had once been placed on Jewish coins when the Jewish nation was free. Thus the palm branches were not a symbol of peace and love, as Christians usually assume; they were a symbol of Jewish nationalism, an expression of the people’s desire for political freedom’.

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Communion – various

Craig Mitchell’s communion liturgy (between Palm Sunday and Passover) using ‘questions’ reminiscent of the Passover meal structure.
http://craigmitchell.typepad.com/mountain_masala/2010/04/holy-week-chapel-service.html
Gathering
There are times when the story of our lives takes an unexpected turn
A new chapter that throws us off-balance a turn of events that leaves us stumbling, bewildered, frightened, and speechless
a shocking, unexpected loss
a close relationship shattered
a bitter reality revealed
an undeserved fall from grace
A time when all our beliefs are called into question
when friendships turn fickle
when every choice feels like a dead-end
when truth itself is played like a chess piece
There are times when the story of our lives pauses at a blank page
and there seems nothing to write, nowhere to go next,
no-one to tell, and no-one who cares
We all know times like these
we all carry their memory in our hearts
Today we gather in order to remember such a story of a week in which promise and betrayal, wild expectation and deep despair, firm friendship and fierce denial, go hand in hand.
In this time between Palm Sunday and the Passion
amidst cries of welcome and calls for execution
we place ourselves alongside the disciples of Jesus
who knew him well, who chose to flee
Today we remind ourselves of the unpredictable journey of those days
Let us step into the twilight of this story
trusting that light will be shed on the shadows of our own lives
hoping that things left buried might stir from their graves
and stumble toward a new dawn
What longings and yearnings to you bring to this Easter journey?
What temptations and betrayals might test your heart?
We invite you to glimpse and listen and touch and taste,
to allow your senses to be windows to a story
waiting to be written on your heart, mind and soul.
(note: the link gives information about the ‘stations’ people explored)
Let us accompany one another into this place
where promises will be broken
where truth will be compromised
where tears will flow
where a kiss means death
May we not look for an easy way out of this eventide
but learn to wait, to watch, to listen
to hope that that the night might reveal what the daytime conceals.
Communion
Why have we gathered here?
We come because we have been called to live out a story
What story shall we live?
The story of saving love
Where did this story begin?
It was whispered before time began,
it was sung in the melody of Creation.
Whose story is this?
This story is God’s alone to tell
It hums in the rivers and the trees
It whispers in the skies and the seas
It calls to the people of all places
It speaks in our hearts, in our lives

Why then should we speak of this story?
This story calls our name in Creation
This story claims our lives through the Cross
This story shapes our future through the Spirit
We are its telling in this time and this place
So tell me the story of this night, of this table
The Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed
took bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it
(taking and breaking bread)
Tell me what he said and did
This is my body which is broken for you
Do this and remember me

Tell me what he said and did (taking and pouring cup)
In the same way, he took the cup and said
This is a new covenant in my blood
Drink it and remember me
This is our common story
our deep memory, our true destiny

So let it also be our story-telling, our testimony
Let’s celebrate the way that grace has shaped our lives
I invite you to say aloud a prayer of thanks (pause)
Hear the storytellers of all ages whisper with us
Holy. holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest
Blessed in the one who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest

What is our prayer on this day?
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us
So this everyday meal becomes an eternal feast
So that our eating and drinking today
unites us with Christ,
whose body and blood are given for us.
So we know that you live in us
and that we live in you
So that we live in your world
knowing it is indeed yours.
Living God, this is our prayer. Amen. Continue reading

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COCU23A.Lent 5A.2April2017

Elements of worship for Easter 5A (a compilation) Worship elements 5A

RCL readings Easter 5A

Resources: Rex AE Hunt, Bill Loader on 1 Peter 2:2-10, Acts 7:55-60

Lyn Seils Robertson: Gospel Feelings

God said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”
Then God said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37.3-5)

There are parts of you,
maybe great parts,
that have withered and died.

Maybe spiritual gifts that you have buried,
a face of yourself you have closeted,
wounds ignored, hopes starved.

Some have passed on, forever.
But some, God may breathe life into.
God may bring bone to bone and sinew to sinew.

You may be aware of it; a daily ache.
Or it may be unknown to you,
a hidden mystery.

What part of you is God bringing back to life?
Where is God’s breath blowing,
the dry bones moving?

Don’t direct the wind.
Don’t even worry where it is.
Just prophesy to the dry bones.

Speak hope.
Be open to the miracle.
Let God breathe, and wait.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

When Lazarus heard his name
he took a sudden breath.
With visceral trembling blood resurged.
But then, as when awakening some days,
he lay a moment, mired,
reluctant to rise from the familiar
swaddling of his death
Rising, even more than dying,
there could be no return:
for if he chose to stand,
all he knew would then be lost

And still now every morning,
each momentary wish for healing
is a risk, a wakening call
to change, to choose,
to leave so much behind,
and be again made new.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light, 1996)

Here’s a fabulous story on a congregation that saw themselves as the ‘living stones’ rather than a building: ‘The church is not the building. It is our faith and the people’. Full text below (scroll down) – would make a great story to tell as part of a sermon.

In 2011, Rev Rob Williams (Moderator) was guest preacher at all three services on the theme, ‘When life closes in’, using the Acts 7 reading (stoning of Stephen). Carol Y wrote a very thoughtful reflective piece for the 9.30 worship on the theme which could be used at other times to invite people into a gentle, contemplative space on ‘when life closes in’. A reflection on ‘When life closes in’

Arlington Presbyterian Church Housing

Arlington Presbyterian Church sold its church to make way for an affordable-housing project. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

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COCU22A.Lent 4A.26March2017

Readings:
1 Samuel 16:1-13: God instructs Samuel to stop mourning for Saul and to anoint a new king for Israel in Bethlehem. After examining seven of Jesse’s sons and rejecting them, Samuel finally anoints the youngest boy, David, and God’s Spirit comes upon him.
Psalm 23: David’s Psalm of praise for the God who cares for him like a shepherd, providing nurture, peace, care, protection and an eternal place of belonging.
Ephesians 5:8-14: Paul encourages the believers to live as people of the light, doing what pleases God.
John 9:1-41: Jesus heals a man who was born blind, and, because his was done on the Sabbath, the religious leaders start an investigation, calling in the man’s parents and ultimately throwing the man out of the synagogue. Then, Jesus teaches that he came to bring sight to the blind and to reveal the blindness of those who think they see.
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Rex AE Hunt, Textweek, Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday,

NONE SO BLIND (John 9:1-41)
The man was born blind
yet through spit, mud and washing
he saw: a new life.

The authorities
would not, could not, dared not see
and rejected him.

Jesus brings light, sight
to lives that are limited
by our not seeing.

He calls us to see
more clearly, love more dearly,
follow more nearly.
(Source: Jeff Shrowder, 2017, The Billabong)

Call to Worship
When God appeared on earth in the person of Jesus,
most of the world did not recognize him
and therefore did not worship him.
Today we ask for faith that will open our eyes
to see Jesus for who he is,
that we might worship him in truth.
People of God, behold your God!
We open our eyes to see his glory.
We open our ears to hear his wisdom.
We open our hands to offer him gifts.
We open our mouths to sing his praise.
We open our hearts to offer him our love.
He is Lord!
(Source: Reformed Worship)

Words of Assurance
In God, Source of Life:
our deaths are not the final word,
our moments of crisis are part of eternal possibility,
and our weakness is taken up into the courage of God.
As followers of Jesus of the Way:
our humanness is touched with divine life,
our tears are mingled with longing love,
and our solidarity with those who suffer
is joined by divine presence.
In the Spirit of Creativity:

there are no boundaries on the dream,
there is no end to hope,
and we will never live beyond the cherishing of God.
(Source: DMcRae-McMahon, adapted)

Prayers of Intercession (based on Man Born Blind)
We have learned today of the healing of blindness and the intransigent blindness of the Pharisees.
We may feel superior that we are not like them yet there are times when we close our eyes rather than see clearly what is around us.
When self-centredness blinds us to the wreckage of human problems
and stubbornness blinds us to the troubles of our brothers and sisters;
Jesus, Light of the world, lighten our darkness.
When we turn away so we cannot see the inequalities where we have so much while others live I poverty, Lord Jesus Light of the world, lighten our darkness.
There are many diseases around the world that it is a disgrace that with funds available could be healed, blindness caused by drinking dirty water in Africa and cataract removal operations which quickly and easily restore sight.
Areas where the light of Christ is being extinguished by persecution and violence.
Help those who live in the darkness of unbelief, disillusionment and hopelessness to come to the light of Christ.
We see the generosity of your grace and mercy and we bring to you something a small part of all you have given us, give to us a generous heart and spirit as we dedicate both our offerings and our hearts that we may serve you and your church
As you touched the eyes of the man born blind touch us with you love that we may touch others. Bless our families and our homes and any we name before you in the silence of our hearts… Gracious and loving God, we believe, help our unbelief, Amen.
(Source: Church of Scotland Starters for Sunday)

MUSIC

He healed the darkness of my mind by David Haas.
Youtube link here. Link on Hymnary here including preview of the music. Can also be sung to O Waly Waly and Dunedin tunes.

He healed the darkness of my mind
The day he gave my sight to me
It was not sin that made me blind
It was no sinner made me see.

Let others call my faith a lie
Or try to stir up doubt in me
Look at me now! None can deny
I once was blind and now I see.

Ask me not how! But I know who
has opened up new worlds to me
This Jesus does what none can do
I once was blind and now I see

 

Posted in COCU Year A, Year A | 1 Comment

COCU40A.Trinity Sunday A.11th June 2017

(see also Trinity Sunday B and Trinity Sunday C)

A collection of resources here: Trinity Sunday A

Words for Worship 2011: w4w Trinity A

Psalm 8 developed for Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (Rev Jeff Shrowder)
(it is ‘topped and tailed’ with words from a prayer in Uniting in Worship 2)
Holy and life-giving God, we offer you thanks and praise in wonder and awe, in delight and astonishment: for you are Creator of all things, and Lover of each one.
You have made us in your image,
and surrounded us with the glory and splendour of your creating word.
Yet you have given us these works of your hands:
you have put the world at our feet;
sheep and cattle, kangaroo and emu,
birds of the air – magpie and pelican,
fish of the sea – dolphin and barramundi
all the creatures that live and move in the depths and shallows,
the creatures of the deep and the ocean floor.
O LORD, our God, how splendid is your name in all the earth.
When we failed to honour your work and your being,
your Word of Wisdom came among us in Jesus,
sharing with us the joy and pain of our humanity
Therefore, with the whole creation …

Meerkats

Image sourced from ABC news.

 

 

 

 

 

Prayers of thanksgiving, confession and assurance (based on Psalm 8)
Majestic and mysterious God,
you have set the heavens ablaze with your glory,
and whispers of your truth
sound from the mouths of babies before they can speak.
When I look at the multitude of stars
that you have spun into place,
I wonder why you would bother with us humans.
How insignificant we are compared to all of this.
How can you possibly care for us –
we are so small, so vulnerable and so temporary.
Yet you give us the biggest job of all
to care for your imaginative creation,
you have placed the precious works of your hands
beneath our feet so we might tread with sacred steps,
nurturing and nourishing the earth, sea and sky
holding all of life with our own life.
Majestic and mysterious God
your name echoes through everything
until it rests in our hearts.
Creator, Parent, Father, Mother God forgive us
when we forget to notice your wonders around us
when our vision is limited to our own concerns
Jesus the Christ, Son of God, one who calls us
forgive us when we fail to listen and to follow
and when we forget to call others into discipleship
Spirit of God, unseen as the wind, gentle as the dove
forgive us when we choose to be comfortable
instead of being disturbed into action for justice for all
Brothers and sisters in Christ
God sent the Son into the world, not to judge but to save,
and the Spirit is promised as our comforter and guide
be assured that there is nothing that can come between us
and the forgiving, healing and renewing power
of the love of God, three in one,
Source, Son & Spirit.
Know and live as children who are free
We are forgiven  – thanks be to God, Amen (Rev. Jennie Gordon)

God is love
God is Love.
Love is not an object but an action, a process.
God is love and the loving of love, and the receiving of love.
God is an unfolding relationship.
So God is one, and yet must also be more than one.
God is a loving parent and a begotten child
and the love that proceeds from them, all three.
God is community. God is a family.
The Holy Trinity live in loving attentiveness to each other
but it is not a closed circle. They open out to us.
You are invited to come to the table, to share in that love,
to be part of God’s nature, God’s being, God’s loving.
This is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.
All people are our sisters and brothers, all living beings,
all Creation: though we are many there is only One of us.
Join the communion of the One Who Is Many.
Come into the tender love of the Mother who births us,
the Lover who desires us, and the love begotten in us.
Find your being in the Holy One in whom we are One.
You are the fourth person of the Holy Trinity.
Come. (Steve Garnaas-Holmes, www.unfoldinglight.net)

Trinity
God says:
I set you on a life journey. I built the road but I did not give you a map.
There are gently rising hills as well as rough difficult rocks that you cannot
see beyond. There are crossroads, detours, roundabouts and at times you
may prefer to scuttle back to the safety of the predictable and known. You
don’t see me but you do see my creation and through that, occasionally glimpse my order, beauty in a seashell, a song, or a storm, and of course your purpose and ultimate justice.
Jesus says:
I go beside you but do not always nudge you when there is a choice to make,
a decision on the journey. I know the path. I have been a human sojourner,
know about relationships, the easy and the difficult. I have had to make choices.
Do not fear because I am beside you and understand your life, its joys and
its pains.
The Spirit whispers:
You barely see me, perhaps a glimpse at sunrise or like a bird hovering high
in an arc near the clouds. But I sweep across the sky and indicate the better
or best path to follow, though the voices in your head are constantly bickering
and confusing you. Watch out for dangerous paths. You will need to pause,
slow down, patiently listen, then look upward to discern me. I will keep
you safe to go ahead in your journey, to experience both challenges and abundanceof life far beyond your imagining.
(Source: Wendy Ratawa, Prayers that Unite, 2017)

Blessing
The love of the faithful Creator,
The peace of the wounded Healer,
The joy of the challenging Spirit,
The hope of the Three-in-One
surround and encourage us
today, tonight, and forever.
May the blessing of God – the Creator, the Healer,
and the Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always. Amen.
(The Blessing of our Days, Iona Community)

A Relational Universe
If a rational Creator started this whole thing, then there has to be a “DNA connection,” as it were, between the One who creates and what is created. One of the many wonderful things that scientists are discovering as they compare their observations through microscopes with those through telescopes is that the pattern of the neutrons, protons, and electrons in atoms is similar to the pattern of planets, stars, and galaxies: both are in orbit around one another, and all appears to be in relationship to everything else. We now know the same is true in biology, as Robert Lanza’s work on biocentrism so brilliantly demonstrates: “the universe is created by life and not the other way around.” [1] Our word for that foundational life is Spirit, hovering like a brood hen over the formless void in the very first lines of the Bible (Genesis 1:1-2).
There is a similarity between the perceived two ends of the universe, the Creator and all the creatures, just as Christians should have expected. Genesis describes the creative plan: “Then God said: Let us create in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves” (Genesis 1:26). The Hebrew text daringly uses plural pronouns; and I suspect a Christian would say that the deep Jewish intuition was correct, which is again shown in Genesis 18 with the three visitors to Abraham, and perhaps in the book of Job (1:6) which seems to speak of a Divine Council that confers with itself.
The energy in the universe is not in the planets, nor in the atomic particles, but very surprisingly in the relationship between them. It’s not in the cells of organisms but in the way the cells feed and give feedback to one another through semi-permeable membranes. The energy is not in any precise definition or in the partly arbitrary names of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three! This is where all the power for infinite renewal is at work:
The loving relationship between them.
The infinite love between them.
The dance itself.
In other words, it is an entirely relational universe. If, at any time, we try to stop this flow moving through us, with us, and in us, we fall into the true state of sin—and it is truly a state more than a momentary behaviour. It is telling that the first destabilization of the foundational structure of the atom (in New Mexico in July 1945) created the atomic bomb. With supreme irony, the test site is still called “Trinity” as Robert Oppenheimer first named it.
The divine flow either flows both in and out, or it is not flowing at all. The “trap doors” at either end must be kept open in order to both receive and let go, which is the work of all true spirituality. The Law of Flow is simple, and Jesus states it in many formulations such as “Happy are the merciful; they shall have mercy shown to them” (Matthew 5:7). Or as we cleverly put it “What goes around comes around.” We are conduits.
References:
[1] See robertlanza.com/the-biocentric-universe-theory-life-creates-time-space-and-the-cosmos-itself/.
Adapted from Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016), 55-56, 71-72. thedivinedance.org.

Trinity as Evolutionary Principle: Trinity is a dynamic mandala of God’s ongoing creativity
Trinity and the Law of Three.
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting—it has been found difficult and left untried.” G. K. Chesterton [1]
The key to reawakening the power of this primordial Christian symbol lies in shifting the Trinity away from an abstract theological speculation on the inner life of God and re-imagining it as a pattern in the very fabric of reality – a template that is coded into all of creation.
Post-Einsteinian physics demonstrates that life is not static, but dynamic. As our theological paradigm shifts away from a static universe to a universe in perpetual motion, the whole Trinitarian frame shifts with it. Like a key clicking into place, the Trinity reveals itself as a metaphysical code that unlocks theology and science and illustrates a fresh understanding of a creative and contemplative engagement in the world.
For the late theologian Beatrice Bruteau (1930-2014), the Trinity is first and foremost an image of relational unity. The three “God-persons in community,” as she sees it, comprise the prototype and the prerequisite for the expression of agape love – the energy of the Godhead itself. Bruteau builds a detailed case for why threefoldness is the necessary condition for agape love. She goes on to demonstrate why threefoldness is by nature “ecstatic” or, in other words, self-giving and generative. By its very threefoldness, it “breaks symmetry” (a term borrowed from quantum mechanics) and projects the agape love outward, calling new forms of being into existence, each of which bears the imprint of the original symbiotic unity that created it. “It is the presence of the Trinity as a pattern repeated at every scale of the cosmic order,” she believes, “that makes the universe a manifestation of God and itself sacred and holy.” [2]
My own contribution to this ongoing Trinitarian conversation takes up at the point that Bruteau’s leaves off. My goal has been to see whether it might be possible to anchor this necessary threefoldness in a deeper universal principle: the Law of Three.
Understood within the context of a universe in motion, and with the Law of Three as its template, the Trinity becomes a dynamic mandala of God’s ongoing creativity in an evolving universe. It becomes, in fact, the evolutionary principle. The Trinity as a symbol of relationship invites us to trust the relationality of nature itself and to reconsider what we understand about the very nature of love. It is no longer a pre-existent “property” of God, but an emergent property of the whole of creation, joined in that divine dance.
References:
[1] Gilbert K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1910), 48.
[2] Beatrice Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy: The Creation of a Self-Creating World (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 14.
Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, “Trinity: The Evolutionary Principle of Unfolding Creativity,” The Mendicant, Vol. 7 No. 1 (CAC: 2017), 1, 5.

Music

Noble, Yet Mystical Ground… (Tune: ‘Was Lebet’ 11 10 11 10D)
Noble, yet mystical, ground of creation,
star-fire and sun shower, and darkness and dreams;
all that through senses draws forth adoration,
God, we would worship, the love that redeems.

Human, yet awesome, the Christ, our relation,
offers a spirit: we learn to forgive.
Conquering our will this divine annexation
offers a way for us simply to live.

Spirit of living gives hope for our dying,
something transcending this life and its frame,
onward and upward in faith we are flying,
goal of existence, your love is our aim.
(Source: Andrew Pratt)

Where love writes the music
Where love writes the music,
the air is filled with song;
and those who hear the love-beat
are called to sing along.
The Father, Son and Spirit are doing what they do.
Let’s resonate, participate,
until we’re singing too.

Where love sets the dance-steps,
a movement’s taking birth:
a joining hands together
of heaven and the earth.
The Father, Son and Spirit are doing what they do.
Let’s resonate, participate,
until we’re dancing too.

Where love starts the rhythm,
it echoes through the land;
inviting all the people
to come and join the band.
The Father, Son and Spirit are doing what they do.
Let’s resonate, participate,
until we’re playing too.

Melody line: Where_love_writes_the_music.
Copyright © 2016 Katherine Abetz and Heather Prowse

 

Posted in COCU Year A, Trinity Sunday, Year A | 1 Comment

World Water Day.March22

UN World Water Day (WWD) is recognised each year on March 22, and may be helpfully explored if the focus of the service is the Year A Gospel reading on the woman at the well, and life-giving water. Each year, WWD highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. The 2017 theme ‘Water and Wastewater’ provides an important opportunity to highlight the symbiosis between water and wastewater in the quest for sustainable development (in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 6 target that aims to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse).
Worship resources: Church World Service.

  • 1 of every 6 people in the world lacks access to safe drinking water.
  • Twice as many lack access to improved sanitation.
  • 80 countries, home to 40% of the world’s population, are encountering serious water shortages.
  • In the 1990s the number of children killed by diarrhea — the result of unsafe water and sanitation — exceeded the number of people killed in armed conflicts since the Second World War.
  • One toilet flush (western toilet) uses as much water as the average person in a developing country uses for a whole day’s drinking, cooking, washing, and cleaning.

Lord Jesus Christ, You call all who are thirsty to come to you and drink from the fresh and living water that flows from your heart. Yet many live in dry and thirsty lands, drink from polluted streams and struggle for access to safe drinking water.
Have mercy on them O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Forgive our selfish and unthinking actions that have stripped forests, polluted wells and caused toxic waste to enter the water systems.
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We thank you, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We commit ourselves to value and care for your gifts to us. May rivers of living water flow from us with compassion and caring to all who suffer from thirst and pollution.
Have mercy on them O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, We thank you, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with you in your death. By it we share in your resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit
Have mercy on us O Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Refreshed by your spirit, and following in your footsteps, may we continue to serve you provide cups of cold and refreshing water for the people and creation entrusted to our care.
Have mercy on all of us Lord
And fill us with the waters of life.
Amen
(Source:Christine Sine, Godspace)

Here’s a sobering look at why not to leave the water tap running…..

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Ash Wednesday

ash wed image

New song by Kathy Douglass: ‘With These Ashes‘…
With these ashes, we remember
What we’re made of, what we’re made of
With these ashes, we remember
We are made of dust
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
So it has always been
Ashes to ahses, dust to dust
We return again
Listen to the Soundfile here.
A PDF of the music: Music.With these ashes (please attribute author)

Ash Wednesday
So the day comes around again
and we find ourselves surprised
again
by the truth
that we are mortal
The stuff of dust and ashes.
Our egos and esteem are held up
to the brutal mirror of the finite:
Know that you will end.
The world will continue without you.
And it’s only with our vision so narrowed
that we are again
able to see
all that lies beyond us:
Know that you are not God.
Know that all the things that make heaven and earth
reach way beyond you.
Live today with faith in your humanness
and let that lead you to life.
Welcome to Lent.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie)

Ash Wednesday: Karl Rahner
Dust is a good subject for reflection on Ash Wednesday, for dust, symbol of nothingness, can tell us a great deal. The prayer that accompanies the distribution of ashes comes from Genesis (3.19): ‘From the earth you were taken; dust you are and to dust you shall return.’ Dust is the symbol of coming to nothing: it has no content, no form, no shape; it blows away, the empty, indifferent, colourless, aimless, unstable booty of senseless change, to be found everywhere and at home nowhere. And scripture is right. We are dust. We are always in the process of dying. We are the only beings who know about this, know that we are bound for death, know that we are dust. Through our practical experience we come to realise that we are dust. Scripture tells us that we are like the grass in the field, like an empty puff of air. We are creatures of drifting perplexity. Despair is always threatening us and our optimism is a way of numbing bleak anxiety. Dust is what we are.
It is difficult for us to avoid hating ourselves. The reason why we cast our enemies down into the dust, tread them into dust, make them eat the dust, is because we are in despair about ourselves. What we cannot stand in others is what makes us despair about ourselves.
Dust has an inner relationship, if not an essential identity with the concept of ‘flesh’. Flesh certainly designates in the Old and New Testaments the whole human person. It designates us precisely in our basic otherness to God, in our frailty, our weakness, our separation from God, which is manifested in sin and death. The two assertions, ‘we are dust’ and ‘we are flesh’ are, then, more or less essentially similar assertions.
But the good news of salvation rings out: ‘The Word became flesh.’ God himself has strewn his own head with the dust of the earth. He has fallen on his face upon the earth, which with evil greed drank up his tears and his blood. We can say to God exactly what is said to us: ‘Remember that you are dust, and in death you shall return to dust.’ We can tell him what he told us in Paradise, because he has become what we are after Paradise. He has become flesh, flesh that suffers even unto death, transitory, fleeting, unstable, dust.
Ever since that moment, the sentence of terrifying judgement, ‘dust you are,’ is changed for people of faith and love. With the dust of the earth we trace on our foreheads the sign of the cross, so that what we are in reality can be made perceptible in a sign: people of death, people of redemption. ‘Dust you are’: the judgement still has a mysterious and shocking sense. The old sense is not abolished. But it descends with Christ into the dust of the earth, where it becomes an upward motion, an ascent above the highest heaven. ‘Remember that you are dust.’ In these words we are told everything that we are: nothingness that is filled with eternity; death that teems with life; futility that redeems; dust that is God’s life for ever.
(Source: From The Eternal Year, Burns & Oates, London, 1964)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that we remember we come from the earth and shall return to the earth. Everything is connected. We live as part of creation, not above or separate from it. It isn’t just about personal sin and death, but a reminder that our lives are linked in love as part of God’s joyful ecology of beginnings and endings.
(Source: Diana Butler Bass)

I’ve got ashes on my forehead and I’m trying hard to learn
This dust that I have started from is where I shall return.
(Source: Jonathan Rundman, ‘Ashes‘, from the album Sound Theology)

Wonderful Ash Wednesday sermon by Jennifer Henry here, posted on Ched Myers blogsite.

(from Sojourners)
Ash Wednesday is the day many Christians mark as the first day of Lent, the time of reflection and penitence leading up to Easter Sunday. Clergy all over the world dispense ashes, usually made by burning the palm fronds distributed on last year’s Palm Sunday, making the sign of the cross on the bowed foreheads before them. As they “impose” or “dispense” the ashes, the pastor or priest reminds each Christian of Genesis 3:19: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”

It isn’t intended to be a downer. It’s supposed to be a reminder that our lives are short and we must live them to the fullest. OK, maybe it’s a little bit of a downer — that verse from Genesis is what God said to Adam and Eve when he expelled them from the Garden of Eden for their sins. But there’s a big party the night before Ash Wednesday. That’s Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” a secular observance that evolved out of “Shrove Tuesday,” the last hurrah – usually marked by eating of pancakes or other sinfully sweet foods – before the solemnity and penance of Lent set in.

Fun fact: Lent is actually longer than 40 days. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but most churches don’t count the Sundays as part of Lent.

It used to be true that Catholics made up the lion’s share of people celebrating Ash Wednesday. But today, most “liturgical churches” — those with a regular, calendar-based liturgy, or set of rituals and observances — mark the day, including Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other Protestants.

There is no mention of Ash Wednesday in the Bible. But there is a tradition of donning ashes as a sign of penitence that predates Jesus. In the Old Testament, Job repents “in dust and ashes,” and there are other associations of ashes and repentance in Esther, Samuel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. By the 10th century, the monk Aelfric tied the practice, which dates to the eighth century, to the period before Easter, writing, “Now let us do this little at the beginning of our Lent that we strew ashes upon our heads to signify that we ought to repent of our sins during the Lenten fast.” By the 11th century, the practice was widespread throughout the church — until Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, threw the practice out in the 16th century because it was not biblically based. There’s no Lent in the Bible, either, though many Christians see it as an imitation of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and battling with Satan in the desert.

No one is required to keep the ashes on his or her face after the ritual. But some Christians choose to, perhaps as a reminder to themselves that they are mortal and fallible, while others may choose to leave them on as a witness to their faith in the hope others will ask about them and open a door to sharing their faith.

Just a thought……
In some monastic communities, monks go up to receive the ashes barefoot.  Going barefoot is a joyous thing.  It is good to feel the floor or the earth under your feet.  It is good when the whole church is silent, filled with the hush of people walking without shoes.  One wonders why we wear such things as shoes anyway.  Prayer is so much more meaningful without them.  It would be good to take them off in church all the time.  But perhaps this might appear quixotic to those who have forgotten such elementary satisfactions.  Someone might catch cold at the mere thought of it.
— Thomas Merton

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
Blessed are you, Christ one, Word and redemption,
You created everything, including our being.
It is written that we are formed from the dust of the earth.
And it is said that we are all made of star-stuff –
the ash of the Universe.
May we humbly listen anew to your call of grace.
As we journey to the cross,
May we receive these ashes,
May they be a sign for us;
An opening of a time of reflection,
As we think upon who we are and how we live;
At the start of the road towards Easter,
Breathe into us again the breath of life,
Mark us with your purpose,
That we might bear your light and love into the world.
As an anointing of blessing.
Amen.
(source: Jon Humphries, on Prayers that Unite)

Dust to Dust
Great article here by Barbara Brown Taylor
“The gospel of the day is not about the poverty of flesh so much as it is about the holiness of ashes, which are worthy of all reverence. It was God who decided to breathe on them, after all, God who chose to bring them to life. We are certainly dust and to dust we shall return, but in the meantime our bodies are sources of deep revelation for us. They are how we come to know both great pain and great pleasure. They help us to recognize ourselves in one another. They are how God gets to us, at the most intimate and universal level of all”.
Read the full article here.

reduction – a poem by Thom Shuman

greed, envy, worry,
doubt, brokenness, grief:
you take the juices
of our burnt out lives,
pouring them into
the Spirit, setting
the temperature on low
and
as you gently keep stirring,
you mix in the crumbs
from the Table,
adding a dash of
of the Cup’s nectar,
some sprigs of time,
a couple of hope leaves,
patiently waiting for
the sauce of
grace
to emerge;

almost forgetting the place
where you stored them,
you take the palms you
had gathered up off the road
while the crowd scurried
on towards Calvary,
and with a pair of old scissors,
you slowly snip them up into
smaller pieces,
and when there is
plenty, you strike a match
and set them ablaze, your prayers rising
like incense,
singing a love song, as the ashes
pile up and up, enough
to baptize us in humble
discipleship.

(c) 2012 Thom M. Shuman

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COCU21A.Lent 3A.19March2017

 

jesus_samaritan_woman_nsama_zambia

Jesus and the Samaritan woman (Zambia)

Readings
Exodus 17:1-7: The people of Israel grumble against Moses because of their thirst and the lack of water, so God commands Moses to strike the rock, and when he does so, water gushes out.
Psalm 95: An invitation for God’s people to worship God, and not harden their hearts as Israel did at Meribah, resulting in them not entering God’s rest.
Romans 5:1-11: In Christ we have been made right with God, and have the Holy Spirit as assurance of God’s love. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us, and now we are God’s friends.
John 4:5-42: Jesus, while resting at Jacob’s well in Samaria, meets a Samaritan woman, speaks to her about living water and reveals himself as the Messiah to her. In delight she returns to her village and brings others to meet Christ, and they too believe.
(Summaries of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

UN World Water Day (WWD) is recognised each year on March 22, and may be helpfully explored if the focus of the service is the Gospel reading on the woman at the well, and life-giving water. See the related link on this website here which includes prayer resources and links.

In a culture where only men can initiate marriage or divorce
she’s been thrown away by five husbands,
and now is used by one who won’t commit to her.
In a culture where women draw water in order of social status,
she’s there for her morning water at noon. She’s a pariah.
He’s a Jew and she’s a Samaritan; he’s a rabbi and she’s a woman.
She has no reason to expect an exchange at all, let alone respect,
and certainly not an engaging theological discussion.

But he sees her—her, not people’s judgment of her.
He sees her as she is, and accepts her without judgment:
she is not immoral; she has been used.
He sees her wound. And he sees the truth in her.
He sees her not as someone flawed,
but someone gifted.
He talks theology with her,
longer than with anybody else in the Gospels.
Then she leaves her water jug,
not out of forgetfulness but because she knows she’s coming back.
She goes into the village,
and the former outcast becomes the first Christian evangelist.
She brings people to Jesus.
Something happened in her that changed her.
What was it?
Imagine this: Jesus comes to you
in the dull midday heat of your ordinary life.
You are bound by judgments of how good you are.
And he sees through that. Sees you. You. Your soul.
He sees your wounds, sees your giftedness.
He sees how your wounds inhibit your gifts…
and yet can propel your gifts.
And in his knowing he sets you free.
Leave your water jug.
What is the news in you to tell?
What will you do? How will you tell it?
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Charlie’s blog: One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is one found in Luke 25. Jesus walked into the temple to find a woman preaching. When He realized what was happening, He walked up to the pulpit and pushed the woman off of the stage. He then said, “No woman should have authority over any man, for it is impossible for a man to learn from a woman. I say to you, strike down any woman that tries to pastor a church.”
Do you know why I love that story? Because it never happened.
What the New Testament does show, however, is Jesus helping, loving, and lifting up every woman He came in contact with. John 4 shows a Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus and how it moved her to share His message with the “men” in her town (verse 28). The Bible says that many of the men believed because of her.
As their conversation started Jesus told the woman to go call her husband and come back. In those days a woman was not to talk to a man in public without her husband present, but this isn’t why Jesus said that. Jesus brought this up to expose the sin in her life.
Jesus wasn’t interested in stale gender roles and following what the culture at the time thought was “right.” He valued the woman and saw her worth as a human being.
The story in John 4 is the true story, but so many people today act like the story in “Luke 25” is what really happened. If being a Christian literally means being a little Christ, maybe we should start by treating both men and women the way He did.

‘Return to God: Divine Grace and Human Struggle’
Christ is ready to offer “the living water”, the gift of God to the thirsty soul that misses the mark in seeking her joy and rest. What aspects of the Samaritan Woman’s encounter with Jesus particularly stand out for you: Confrontation? Confusion? Clarification? How would you compare your encounters with the presence of Jesus with the Samaritan woman’s encounter?  How have you responded to the offer of living water?
One can hardly imagine that going about one’s daily business, drawing water from a well, in a way that would minimise the chance of an encounter with others, in the midday sun, would lead to an encounter that would be a crossroad experience, an experience that would involve confrontation, confusion and clarification. The confrontation is totally unexpected as Jesus breaks the social conventions of the day and speaks to not only a Samaritan, not only a Samaritan woman, but a Samaritan woman who is living a lifestyle at odds with the Mosaic Law! Clearly the Samaritan woman is uncomfortable and as we read, we can just empathise with her as she tries to end this encounter. In doing this, the conversations becomes confused with the woman focussing on the everyday physical meaning of Jesus’ words in an attempt, maybe a deliberate attempt to avoid facing the spiritual issues about which Jesus is speaking. And yet we get the impression that Jesus’ insight into this woman’s life and his persistence is both convincing and convicting. At this stage, the Samaritan woman gains clarification of her reality and responds, not just in the way that the prodigal son responded, but with gratitude and witnessing to the presence of the Messiah, and the reality of his provision of “living water” that is both satisfying and eternal.
(Source: South Australian Council of Churches Lenten Study 2016, p.17)

Woman of Sychar
Between the mountains of curses and blessings
We hold the memory of prophets and kings.

I follow the footsteps of Dinah’s shaming
To draw water for cooking and washing small-things.

Like Dinah, the men in my life led to naming
That I could not wed a husband of mine.

Yet lonely I’m not for I live with another
I survive with whoever is there at the time.

For such is the life of Samaria’s woman
That during the day I would go to the well.

I am met and conversed with – by a Messiah!
My story he details and chooses to tell.

We joust with our words in long repartee –
A dialogue given for many to comment.

His wisdom and care lightens my spirit.
Somehow I know I am called to speak out.

I run into town to tell all and sundry –
Here is good news – let there be no doubt.

I follow Him now – and will do so forever
Join with me in song – Join with me to shout:

Hosanna! Hosanna! The Lord is come!

(Source: Amelia Koh-Butler, Hyphenated Faith)

Thirsty (John 4:4-42)
Christ,
Source of living water,
We thirst for what we don’t really know or understand,
Too often we don’t even know that we are thirsty,
Too often we hunger not knowing that we are filling ourselves with emptiness and hollowness.
Too often we deny our need,
And wrap ourselves in layers of self-deception.
You come to us and challenge us with your confronting truth,
Of our need for healing and reconciliation,
For transformation and renewal,
For new life
Teach us how to worship in Spirit and in truth,
Letting go the façade of piety,
Turning from our habit of religion,
Into mission and service,
Inviting others into relationship,
With you and others,
That open us to hunger for love and life which opens eternity,
For you are the one.
So come and meet us when we least expect it,
and burst the bubble of our impoverished complacency.
Thus, we pray.
Amen.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Praying Romans 5:1-11
God,
In you we are justified by faith.
We have peace in you Jesus, who is Christ,
ln you we access to your grace.
In you we stand;
and in you we hold hope of sharing the glory of God.
Teach us Christ, your way of well being,
Help us hold your hope in our sufferings,
Knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint us, because your cycle of hope is found in your love which has been poured into our hearts through you Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Whilst we are still weak,
We remember that at the right time
You came, lived and died for us, the ungodly,
Through which you proved your love for us,
Even while we still were sinners.
So, surely then, now we have been justified by your love,
In your grace we are saved.
We were enemies,
We are reconciled
We are saved
May we embody your life.
May we live your love
May we share your grace
That we might join with you in reconciling all people.
Humble us once more,
That we might live for you
and follow in your way.
So it may always be so.
Amen
(source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Introduction to Prayers for Others
It’s common to think about ‘living water’ – the powerful metaphor from this week’s readings – as something we receive. We focus on our own dryness and thirst, and feel rightly grateful that God comes to us with the offer of gracious refreshment and life. But, to stop there is to leave the extraordinary message of this passage incomplete, and to allow the Gospel to support what can become little more than selfishness. As we follow Christ the call this week is to move from being only recipients of living water to givers of it – especially to the poor and the marginalised. This was the journey of the Samaritan woman, and it is the inevitable, and even uncomfortable, journey for anyone who is serious about living life under God’s reign. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
We offer prayers for those who long for the refreshment of living water…..prayers are offered.

 

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COCU20A.Lent 2A.12March2017

See also Lent 2B and Lent 2C

See also Autumn (southern hemisphere)

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.

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)

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)

Continue reading

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