(in process of updating)

Acts 7:55-60: Stephen who has been on trial, expresses his vision of Jesus glorified, which angers the religious leaders, who drag him out of the city to stone him. But, Stephen, as he dies, prays for his attackers, and commits himself to God.
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16: The Psalmist (David, according to the heading) pleads for God’s protection and deliverance from enemies who seek to harm and ensnare him, and commits his soul into God’s care.
1 Peter 2:2-10: Christ, who was rejected by people, but honoured by God, is the cornerstone on which God is building a spiritual temple in which followers of Christ are the stones. This community that built on Christ is called out of darkness into God’s light to be God’s holy nation.
John 14:1-14: Jesus encourages his disciples to trust in him and not be troubled, for he is the way to God and God is revealed and known in him.
(summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Resources: Textweek,

In my Abba God’s house there are many rooms….
I go and prepare a place for you;
I will come again and will take you to myself,
so that where I am, there you may be also. John 14.2-3

Jesus is not talking about being dead and entering into the afterlife.
He’s talking about entering into this life, being really alive.
God’s house is not death. It’s God’s presence.
It’s this life. This moment.
The Beloved goes before you into this moment,
is here in this moment before you are,
and makes room for you,
opens a space, blesses your belonging.
The Gracious One comes to you:
leaves the place of divine certainty and perfection
and meets you where you are, in your uncertainty,
your limitation, your partiality,
and takes you to himself,
gathers you into his heart,
so that where he is,
not where he’s going to be after he dies, or you do,
but where he is—right here, right now,
in the intimate presence of God—
you may be.
What if you were to enter your life?
It’s ready for you.
What if, in gratitude and humility,
you were to live it welcoming others
into the many rooms
of God?
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Thomas said, “How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to Abba God except through me.” John 14.5-6
A zen koan*.
People have used it to imagine Jesus answering a question he wasn’t asked.
He was not being asked which religion will get you saved.
Not comparing one ism with another,
after all, he was Jewish, talking to Jews.
It’s not that there is one religion, one “way” and no other way;
there is no “way” at all. No set of rules. No formula. No ism.
Not even Christianity.
There’s only relationship. Presence. Love.
He’s not selling a religion, he’s offering himself.
Jesus is not trying to convert you.
He’s inviting you to love him.
“John,” the story’s author, sees Jesus as the embodied love of God,
the Word made flesh.
God’s koan.
Love is what Jesus means by “me.”
The only way to God is through God’s love.
Love is the way, the truth, and the life.
Forget religion.
Christ hides in all of life and whispers,
“Love me.”

* A koan is a riddle or puzzle that Zen Buddhists use during meditation to help them unravel greater truths about the world and about themselves.

Breath prayer: + love … me +
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Singing from the Lectionary (Natalie Sims)

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ANZAC Day resources


Uniting Church in Australia Assembly 2016 – remembering ANZAC Day and Armenian Genocide (April 24th, 1915): On the 25th of April Australia remembers the ANZACs and their sacrifice at Gallipoli in the First World War. On the 24th of April, one day before ANZAC Day, Armenians remember the martyrs of their nation, victims of a Genocide that was fuelled by political and cultural hatred. Armenians also remember the ANZAC soldiers who saw the injustice that they were suffering and stopped to help them. The ANZACs created the first relief for the victims of the Armenian Genocide and provided them with the much needed medical care, and in many instances, keeping them safe from the hands of the Turkish soldiers. (UCA Assembly resolution here, and background here).

2016 UCA Assembly prayer for congregational use:
God of remembrance,
help us this day to remember the sacrifice of the first ANZACs at Gallipoli.
In your hands are the destinies of this and every nation.
We give you thanks for the freedoms we enjoy in this land
and for those who lost their lives to defend them.
We pray that we and all the people of Australia,
gratefully remembering their courage,
may have the grace to live in a spirit of justice, of generosity, and of peace.
We pray that people around the world,
remembering their sacrifice in providing aid to a people being massacred,
may have the compassion to reach out to those in need.
God of love and grace,
we praise you
for all those who stood firm in their Christian faith in the face of persecution,
exile and death;
for all those who endured the Armenian Genocide.
Hear our voice as we pray
for all those Armenian men, women and children who were deported,
driven in death marches, and massacred mercilessly;
for all those who continue to trample on truth, justice and human rights.
We pray
that this nation may not perish but prosper under your care;
that you may uproot from our hearts every trace of hatred and the spirit of vengeance;
that those who are the descendants of those noble martyrs may have a deep sense of gratitude and a deep sense of responsibility.
Grant that
we may value the freedom and security we are privileged to enjoy in this beautiful country;
that your power of resurrection may inspire us to live as a righteous people
prepared for every good work;
that we may be a compassionate, forgiving and loving people.

Let us pray for the victims of war;
For the wounded and the dead.
For those who mourn and are afflicted.
For the earth and its innocent creatures –
Now mutilated and in disarray.
For the aggrieved and suffering souls –
Now bombed into submission and tormented silence.
For the scales of justice –
Now locked in false balance.
For the dove –
Now mocked by the metal wings of cruelty and greed.
For the yearnings and labours of peacemakers,
healers and teachers –
Now degraded by the cunning and cowardice of warlike minds.
For the needy whose precious resources are now wasted and spent.
For the beautiful treasures, icons and holy places –
Now defiled by a crass science, now smashed by vulgar and heartless economies.
For those who seek to know what has befallen their world –
Now deceived and bewildered by the dictatorships of information.
We lament this poisoned and sorrowful state,
We resist this brutal invasion of the common soul.
We pray for peace. 
(Source: Michael Leunig, ‘When I Talk To You’)

In A Minute’s Silence
Timeless God,
Christ of the Cross,
Spirit of Peace,
In a minute’s silence take us into compassion and understanding.
In a minute’s silence may we find ourselves almost walking in the shoes of those we remember.
In a minute’s silence may we seek the joys that sustained them in the trials that they faced.
In a minute’s silence may we find the courage that empowered them in the suffering they endured.
In a minute’s silence may we be inspired to love like the sacrifice that they made.
In a minute’s silence may we comprehend the ripples of pain that bounce around the world in response to such disturbance.
In a minute’s silence may we learn the lessons which will lead to such things never occurring again.
In a minute’s silence may we decide to be better in ourselves, that the world may be better with us in it.
In a minute’s silence may the world change for the better.
In a minute’s silence may all this be so.
In a minute’s silence we pray.
(Source:Jon Humphries)

During this time of remembrance;
God, creator and master of all life,
we confess that our view can be limiting;
of each other and of the world.
Open our eyes this day to see those on either side of the trench,
as fathers and brothers and sons,
as mothers and daughters and sisters.
We particularly remember those who stood on the grounds of Kapyong:
we pray for those who lost their lives and we remember their families;
we pray for those who carry the wounds from the battles and we remember their families.
We remember those who cared for the soldiers of Kapyong; the doctors and nurses, the Chaplains and the families.
Let us never forget those who suffer for others, in the example of Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Source: Matt Stuart, Australian Army chaplain)

 For all whose lives have been taken by war,
grant your mercy O God.
For soldiers, civilians, those wounded and neglected,
grant your mercy, O God.
For earth despoiled and living beings sacrificed,
grant your mercy, O God.
For our glorification of war and violence
and our willingness to hurt others
to defend ourselves,
grant your mercy, O God.
We give thanks for your beloved
whom we have sacrificed;
we ask blessing for their loved ones,
confess our need for your grace,
and pray for the redemption of society.
Spirit of compassion and gentleness,
in the name of the One who was sacrificed,
save us by your grace,
and grant us your mercy.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Lord of Peace,
Let us remember.
Let us remember the human cost of war.
Let us remember the sacrifice of those who fight because their country calls them to.
Let us remember the death and destruction that results when people take up arms against one another.
Let us remember those who have lost their life as a result of hostilities, both soldiers and civilians.
Let us remember the wounds and scarring that so many carry having been involved or caught up in conflict, whether they be physical, emotional or psychological.
Let us remember the lasting impact upon people, families, regions, countries and cultures in the aftermath of war.
Let us remember the reasons that have led to war.
Let us remember the peace-makers who have worked, and still work, to prevent war and conflict.
Let us remember the joy of peace and the power of reconciliation.
Let us remember the way of the Christ which leads to peace.
Let us remember all these things, that we might yet learn
And that we, as humanity, may yet find a way to end conflict that leads to fighting and war.
Let us remember.
Lest we forget. Amen.
(Jon Humphries)

UCA ANZAC resources
Rev Sue Page and Rev Matthew Stuart, Ministers in the Uniting Church in Australia, and defence force chaplains, put together some fabulous resources for the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli. ANZAC Centenary Resources PDF

Lest we remember
And this poignant song from Andrew Dutney. Beautiful. Sound file here.
Small (‘pay what you think’s a fair thing) cost to download.

Lest we remember, lest we recall,
we’ll build ourselves a monument,
we’ll sanctify the war.
We’ll number our heroes.
The dead we’ll ignore.
Nobody remembers what the young ones dies for.

Lest we remember,  lest we recall,
in case we remember the pain of it all.

And over and over we’ll tell it again:
the story of bravery,
of dashing young men.
The reasons we’ll argue,
the blame we will lay,
’till truth as we tell it
is history some day.

Lest we remember, lest we recall,
in case we remember the pain of it all.
Lest we remember, lest we recall,
in case we find reason for just one more war.

from I’ve Got Eyes, released 01 September 1980
Andrew Dutney: Vocal and acoustic guitar; Graham Ashton: Violin.

And this from Paul Kelly, Letter from a Trench (sound file here). Achingly beautiful.

And more from Paul Kelly who writes: ‘My friend, composer James Ledger, asked me to write text for an orchestral and choral work commissioned for the Gallipoli Centenary. I sent him a short poem and last night (24th April, 2015) at the Sydney Opera House heard it played and sung for the first time. It was a spine tingling experience”. Link is here.

Can you see us? Can you help us?
Lying broken on the shore
Look at us – we’re scattered playthings
Busted toys, no use, no more

We’re not heroes, we are fellows
From the country, from the town
We’re Jack and Jim and Doug and Darcy
Bill and Tom and Reg – all down

We are dying, can you hear us?
We are screaming on the shore
We haven’t had our lives or wives yet
We never will, we’re never more

We didn’t think, we never thought
We’d die like this so far from home
Remember us, we died in smoke
We died in noise, we died alone
(Words: Paul Kelly)

You can listen to the ANZAC Centenary ConcertABC Classic FM 8:00pm, 25 April 2015

ANZAC Day resources
(Anglican) Anzac Day liturgical resources

Opinion piece by Greg Rolles here. Definitely worth a read!
“Australia’s investment in World War One commemorations is not being replicated around the world. The government of Australia is spending more on World War One commemorations than the United Kingdom and France combined – both much more significant players in the war. It should be asked why the 25th of April has become such a significant milestone in what it means to be a part of white Australia?”

On Anzac Day (Anglican Prayer Book)
God of love and liberty,
we bring our thanks today for the peace and security we enjoy.
 We remember those who in time of war
 faithfully served their country.
 We pray for their families,
 and for ourselves whose freedom was won at such a cost.
 Make us a people zealous for peace,
 and hasten the day 
when nation shall not lift up sword against nation
neither learn war any more.
 This we pray in the name of the one who gave his life
for the sake of the world: 
Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.
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Earth Day April 22nd


Earth Day 2017 marks the first anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement. Despite this remarkable achievement, we cannot afford to pull back our efforts. To build a world that values environmental protection and cultivates sustainable communities for all people, we must have educated citizens.

Earth Day is held on April 22nd each year, first held in 1970. Earth Day was the brainchild of U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who sought a way to place environmental protection on the national agenda at a time when pollution was compounding. The Democratic senator enlisted college students to organize and coordinate the day. More than 20 million Americans attended Earth Day festivities on April 22, 1970, aligning a broad spectrum of cohorts: Democrats and Republicans, urban and rural communities, labor and business leaders. The energy that surfaced that day has been credited with spurring the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and the passage of signature environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972) and the Endangered Species Act (1973) – all initiatives enacted under President Richard Nixon. Earth Day has since expanded to 192 countries, according to the Earth Day Network. More information here.

The movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues. Forty-six years later, we continue to lead with groundbreaking ideas and by the power of our example.

And so it begins. Today. Right here and right now. Earth Day is more than just a single day (April 22). It’s bigger than attending a rally and taking a stand. This Earth Day and beyond, let’s make big stuff happen. Let’s plant 7.8 billion trees for the Earth. Let’s divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100% renewable. Let’s take the momentum from the Paris Climate Summit and build on it.

Resources on Season of Creation may also be of interest.

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”
(Source: Rachel Carson)

WCC statement on Earth Day 2016

In 2016, 150+ world leaders signed the #ParisAgreement on #EarthDay2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Read more here.

Look at the world (John Rutter and Cambridge Singers) – youtube clip
Words to the song:

Look at the world, everything all around us
Look at the world and marvel every day.
Look at the world: so many joys and wonders,
So many miracles along our way.

Praise to Thee, O Lord for all creation.
Give us thankful hearts that we may see
All the gifts we share, and every blessing,
All things come of Thee.

Look at the earth bringing forth fruit and flower,
Look at the sky the sunshine and the rain.
Look at the hills, look at the trees and mountains,
Valley and flowing river, field and plain.

(Repeat Chorus)

Think of the spring, think of the warmth of summer,
Bringing the harvest before winter’s cold.
Everything grows, everything has a season,
Till it is gathered to the Father’s fold:

(Repeat Chorus)

Every good gift, all that we need and cherish,
Comes from the Lord in token of His love.
We are His hands, stewards of all His bounty
His is the earth and His the heavens above.

(Repeat Chorus)

All things come of Thee!

For the beauty of the earth – youtube clip with music by John Rutter

See the world through the eyes of the Creator, Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, marking Earth Day.
“I exhort everyone to see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated,” he said. “The relationship of (hu)mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations”. In his universal prayer intention for April, Francis prayed “That people may learn to respect creation and care for it as a gift of God.”

Worship in celebration of creation ((McCormick Theological Seminary) WorshipinCelebrationofCreation (PDF)

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COCU34A.Easter 4A.7thMay2017

Acts 2: 42-47: a description of the life of the early disciples as they shared in worship, hospitality and caring for one another
Psalm 23: David’s famous psalm of confidence and hope in God’s care, guidance and provision
1 Peter 2:19-25: Peter encourages the believers who are going through trials because of their faith, and reminds them that Christ, who suffered though he was innocent, is the example we follow.
John 1o:1-10: Jesus warns about those who are thieves and robbers, who do not care for the ‘sheep’, and he speaks of himself as the gate for the sheep, through which the sheep move to find pasture – and the abundant life that Jesus offered.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

RCL readings Easter 4A

Here are some starters for Easter 4A, from various sources.
Easter 4A elements of worship

Preaching peace reflections

Amazing clip, but maybe not the image Jesus had in mind when he spoke about the shepherd and the sheep…..

Easter and the bandit shepherd
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10).
Every year in this Easter season, we hear the passage where Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and warns his friends to beware false shepherds. He speaks about the bandit shepherd, calling this shepherd a thief.
It may not mean so much to us. But for nearly a hundred years, if you were Catholic, Protestants were the religious bandits, and if you were Protestant, it was Catholics you were to shun. In generations past, bandit shepherds were identified as clergy of other faiths, which were to be shunned. Jews still endure occasional outbursts of graffiti and public insults. Muslims, whose numbers have increased due to migration in the past four decades, are now in the firing line. 
It happens within a religion. Muslims in Syria, Libya, the Sudan, and other countries are facing a murderous banditry masquerading as their own religion but upending their values and their profound commitment to peace, and executing large numbers of Muslims who do not agree with their views about violence and God’s will. Many have had to flee to seek safety and refuge in other countries, including Australia.
There isn’t a religion in the world that cannot be twisted to the service of hatred. All around the world the alt-right has found a new public platform, and the din of conflicting values and attitudes is being waged in the streets and in the pages of the press. These public figures are not clergy, but they are shepherds, leading souls to want to be cruel rather than merciful, punishing rather than welcoming, and bigoted rather than open to others.
(adapted from an article by Nancy Rockwell, April 2017)

Call to Worship
In the darkest valley,
at the banquet table;
in the hard work of life,
at the moments of ease;
in our day-to-day reality,
at times set aside–
like this time, now–
for worship, for listening, for paying attention;
with every step we take:
goodness and mercy follow us;
our cups overflow.
(Words: Joanna Harader, Spacious Faith)

Call to worship
Day by day, God leads us:
to the deep, deep pools of peace,
to the green, lush lawns of grace.

Day by day, Jesus calls us:
to pour out ourselves in service,
to anoint the stranger with hope.

Day by day, the Holy Spirit shows us:
the community we could be,
the family we are called to become.
(Words: Thom Shuman, Lectionary Liturgies)

Call to worship
As the Good Shepherd of every flock, we come to worship you today.
God of infinite love: we come in response to your warm tenderness to us.
As the Compassionate Carer of all vulnerable people, we give you our thanks.
God of limitless mercy: we come to respond to your gentle nurturing of us.
As the Leader, Guide and Protector of every flock of “sheep” and “goats” – we revere and praise you for your generous and gracious mercy to us all.
God of all peoples: we come to praise you in response to your welcoming and generous care of all your people, which overflows with love and understanding. Amen.
(Source: Joan Stott, The Timeless Psalms)

Prayer of Thanksgiving (inspired by Psalm 23)
“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.” Psalm 23:5
O Holy One,
you are our host as well as our shepherd.
You invite us to the banquet,
the banquet of life.
All parts of the world are invited –
enemies and friends,
the alienated and powerful,
those close at hand and those far off.
You offer the abundance and lavishness
of bread broken and shared
and the cup of refreshment that leads to new life.
We praise and thank you for your abundant spirit.
Goodness and love unfailing,
these will follow us all the days of our lives,
and we shall dwell in the home of our God
for all eternity.
(Words: Sonya Dyer, Prayerbook)

Prayer of thanksgiving
God of infinite love: we come today in response to your warm tenderness to us. As the Good Shepherd of every flock, and of every tradition and culture, we come to worship you and to revere you for your all-inclusive love and care of all that you have created. In confident trust we gather together as your people in this time and place to offer to you our praises of thanks for the way your love is seen and experienced in all spheres of life – if we but take the time to look and see God at work amongst us – blessing and surrounding us with grace and mercy.
The Lord is our shepherd; we have all that we need.
You are close beside us.

God of limitless mercy: we come in response to your gentle nurturing of us as we travel through life with all its challenges and blessings. Gracious God, as the Compassionate Carer of all vulnerable people, we give our thanks and praises for the way you support and strengthen us when we are at our weakest points in life and living. There are many times when we are overwhelmed by the pressures of life; and that is when we are most in need of our Good Shepherd, to nurture us with your presence as you walk beside us, giving us the trust in you we need.
The Lord is our shepherd; we have all that we need.
You renew our strength.

God of all peoples: we come to praise you in response your welcoming and generous care of all your people, which overflows with love and understanding. As the Leader, Guide and Protector of every flock of “sheep” and of “goats”- so we revere and praise you for your generous and gracious mercy to us all. We give to God our thanks and praises for the wonderful gift of trust, which allows us to confidently come to God with our prayers, our praises and our thanks. We are so blessed by the encouragement we receive in response to that blessing of sure and certain trust that God is indeed our Good Shepherd.
The Lord is our shepherd; we have all that we need. You guide us in right way. Amen.
(Source: Joan Stott, The Timeless Psalms)

Prayer (inspired by Psalm 23)
Holy God,
you are our shepherd,
we shall want for nothing that truly matters.
In green pastures you give us rest
and beside deep, still waters you lead us.
You promise to be with us always,
offering freedom from the frictions of hatred, anxiety, fear and pain.
You give us living water to satisfy our thirst for peace.
We praise you and wonder
if this is for all people.
You refresh and restore our souls
and guide us in right paths
for the sake of your name.
When we are cast down
we have been shown ways to bring a new creation
to life in our world.
Your unique plan for all of life and for each life
is written into our very essence.
May we believe it is a plan
filled with hope,
grown out of love.
Help our unbelief.
Even though we walk in the dark valley,
we will fear no danger
for you, God, are at our side,
with rod and staff to give us courage.
Each life, every nation, has its share of valleys.
Some seem to have more than is right.
You are a constant companion in the darkness.
When violence, pain and loss are heavy
you comfort.
When we are aching, lost and discouraged,
you seek us out.
When we go astray,
your compassionate judgement draws us back.
Receive our gratitude. Know our darkness.
You spread the table before us in the sight of our enemies
and richly bathe our heads with oil.
Our cups overflow.
O holy one,
you are our host as well as our shepherd.
You invite us to the banquet,
the banquet of life.
All parts of the world are invited –
enemies and friends,
the alienated and powerful,
those close at hand and those far off.
You offer the abundance and lavishness
of bread broken and shared
and the cup of refreshment that leads to new life.
We praise and thank you for your abundant spirit.
Goodness and love unfailing,
these will follow us all the days of our lives,
and we shall dwell in the home of our God
for all eternity.
(Source: Sonya Dyer, Prayerbook)

Divine Care (a fresh look at Psalm 23)
All is ready,
the Divine host has prepared
for all our needs.
Still places, thin places,
where waters flow,
wildflowers show off
the bounty, beauty
of creation: souls
restored, minds cleared,
bodies rested. The Divine
has taken such good care.
Even in the dark places,
the harsh places, where
rain does not fall, where
soil cracks deep and
thirsty, Divine Comfort is,
even there: stars pierce
the night, angels’ flight
sends a breeze to ease
the mind, give body breath,
soul rest; to clear a path
of humility, of kindness.
The Divine has taken
such good care.
A home awaits, feast is laid,
cups ever full, love overflowing,
mercy, goodness, showered
like oil anointing each day
of life, and here I’ll stay,
in this house the Divine
has made ready for us,
the beloved, Divinely loved.
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, Praying the Story) Continue reading

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COCU33A.Easter 3A.30April2017

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Peter continues his sermon on the Day of Pentecost and encourages his hearers to believe in Jesus as Messiah, to repent and to receive God’s Spirit, and 3000 people respond.
Psalm 116:1-4,12-19
A psalm of praise, thanksgiving and commitment in response to God’s gracious rescue.
1 Peter 1:17-23
Because God, through raising Christ from death, has led God’s people to eternal life, we should love one another.
Luke 24:13-35
Jesus appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who invite him to stay the night with them. They share a meal and, as Jesus breaks the bread, they recognise him.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

New Music by David MacGregor: On the Road (hearts are burning). Links to MP3 backing track, score and words

New resource: Walking to Emmaus again, by Rev Sarah Agnew and published by Wild Good publications, based on a creative engagement with the Emmaus story in a service at Pilgrim Uniting Church in 2014.

Opening of Worship (inspired by the events in Luke 24:13-35)
Easter is not an event that has occurred
it’s an adventure that has begun
not a place that we have visited
but a path on which we stand
a story not complete, but unfolding
characters still breathing
stations still teeming
with the promise of new life
not just for you and me
but for all people, in all places
a cosmic crux
a turning point of time
Easter is the season
of wild hope
of dangerous intent
of potent promise
where the future flaps unfurled
in the spirit’s breeze
where hopes bubble
with uncorked effervescence
where toes tap
to free-form rhythms
where rainbow hues
splash empty canvas
Here and now, we continue the journey
we re-enter the story
to explore our questions
to uncover our doubts
to face our nagging need
We walk the path
of two who traveled a dusty roadwrapped in confusion and despair
two who shared the company of a stranger
voicing their pain
airing their fears
and in the listening
heard words of hope and promise
and in the eating
received true bread of life
Here and now, we re-enter the story
with expectation that Christ
will also reveal himself to us
in sights and sounds
in words and symbols
in bread and wine
Let us pray:
Risen Christ
walk with us this day
be our companion and guide
be our teacher and friend
be our host and servant
bringing your gifts of faith, peace and hope
and deep joy
as always. Amen.
(Source: Emmaus Worship Service, with words by Craig Mitchell (2005) & Iona Community)

Luke 24:13-25
Too often, like those on the way to Emmaus,
we recognise the presence of the risen one in hindsight.
that mysterious transitory presence
dancing at the edge of awareness
never constant, steady, or predictable.
Perceived in fleeting moments
amid the seemingly mundane
we learn to treasure such experience in retrospect.
Did not our hearts burn within us?
Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him.
But being on the way
we may meet the risen one in the past
as well as in present
in remembering
in suddenly being taken to another place
another time
that opens new paths of remembering:
Do this in remembering me.
(Source:Jeff Shrowder, 2014)

Christ who walks alongside us,
Often without us realising,
May we be more aware of your presence.
As Easter people we know the facts,
But don’t always comprehend their meaning.
How foolish we are,
And how slow of heart to believe your truth and your way as you would have it.
Meet us where we are at.
Teach us again and open our minds,
Awaken in us a new epiphany,
An experience of knowing you in a new way.
Open the Scriptures to us,
That we might hear you as The Word of God,
Leave us surprised and changed,
Reinvigorated in our faith and following.
Set our hearts on fire with a slow burning passion to live your love,
Being and making disciples,
Witnessing to your reality,
And sharing learning about you and what you call us to,
What you call us to be
And what you call us to do.
Word of God,
Who walks alongside us and who journeys with us,
Meet us where we are at,
Teach us again and open our minds,
Reinvigorate in our faith and following,
Leave us surprised and changed.
May it always be so.
Jon Humphries, Prayers that unite)

ROAD, TABLE, ROAD (Luke 24: 13-35)
The weary miles coat our feet
in the dust of the Emmaus road.
Afternoon sky shimmers with heat,
and the light, like a crust of fire cast off by the sun,
scrapes at eyes already raw from weeping.
We have left Jerusalem, but not our grief –
he died, the one we called our Lord –
and we, bereft of purpose, joy and hope,
now try to find our way without his leading.
Like a cleft tree or uprooted vine, our hurting minds,
stung by the strength of death,
cannot conceive of anything greater still;
thus we’re blind to hope too wild for cracked hearts to receive –
angels saying Christ’s risen from the tomb –
the news the women would have us believe.
So we dully plod the dusty road,
gloom our only companion
until someone joins our journey:
just a man, we assume, like us;
and while we talk of all just done in Jerusalem,
he listens, mildness in his voice as he probes our words,
tale spun from our bewildered thoughts.
Though the blindness of our sad minds to who he is remains,
yet our hearts begin to feel a lightness
as this one stranger, his words kindling flame,
shows from Scripture what Christ had come to do.
Uplifted, rapt (though still he gives no name),
surprised to find that hope has surged anew,
we beg his presence at our evening meal.
But when he takes the bread, gives thanks,
the view we have of him is changed,
for now his real identity is revealed:
Christ, who gave himself for the life of the world,
who sealed the new covenant in which we are saved
by his body given, his blood shed –
and who, raised by God, triumphed over the grave.
Questions will wait; we don’t, can’t understand it all,
but hardly care.
Weary no more, we want to tell the others what we can;
hurrying we head through the open door
to the road again, to Jerusalem.
Sensing how much more there now is in store
for the hungry of the world,
we’ll tell them that Jesus who died and rose is our bread –
that he is life, greater than death. Praise him!
(Source: Andy King 2014) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year A, Year A | Comments Off on COCU33A.Easter 3A.30April2017

COCU32A.Easter 2A.23rdApril2017

Acts 2: 14a, 22-32 Peter declares the resurrection of Jesus to a crowd amazed at the signs of the Spirit’s presence and power.
Psalm 16 In you, O God, I take refuge
1 Peter 1:3-9 Salvation is the outcome of faithfulness
John 20: 19-31 Jesus appears to the disciples and to Thomas

Bill Loader Commentary: John 20:19-31, 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2: 14a, 22-32

Easter is a season, not a one-day event. The Great Fifty Days reach from last week up to and including the Day of Pentecost. The discipling purpose of Easter Season historically is twofold.  The first purpose is doctrinal. Easter Season was (and is) a season to for “mystagog,” teaching the “mysteries of the faith” (core doctrinal matters) to the newly baptized and reminding the rest of these core teachings. Second, it is a time to help the newly baptized, and indeed all the baptized, discern, claim or reclaim their spiritual gifts and their calling to ministry in Christ’s name and the Spirit’s power. Easter Season culminates with Pentecost, where we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (doctrine) and commission persons into their ministries (ministry). (UMC)

These things did Thomas hold for real:
The warmth of blood, the chill of steel,
the grain of wood, the heft of stone,
the last frail twitch of blood and bone.

His brittle certainties denied
That one could live when one had died,
until his fingers read like Braille
the markings of the spear and nail.

May we, O God, by grace believe
And, in believing, still receive
the Christ who held His raw palms out
and beckoned Thomas from his doubt.

(Source: Thomas Troeger, 1984, Psalter/Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church)

Easter 2A elements of worship

Easter Prayer
God of Creation,
creating anew,
the silence is broken.
With the women in the garden
we catch our breath,
wipe our tears,
and try to articulate our experience with you.
What words can describe
shadows fleeing from the tomb?
How can we tell of the morning
the world turned upside-down?
No mortal words will do.
Still, we must spread the news: Christ is risen!
Our knees are weak from running
our voices tremble on the edge of fearful joy.
Our eyes have seen the glory
of the Lord loosed upon the world!
May every breath we take,
every word we utter,
everything we do,
witness to the truth
of Christ’s resurrection.
(Source: Sharlande Sledge, Prayers and Litanies for the Christian Seasons)

Christ who is God,
God who is Christ.
Spirit in all,
Help us to be deeply Easter people.
Bearers of good news for hard times.
Strip off the candy coating of hollow triumphalism and empty piety,
Cast into the glory of resurrection the shadow of the cross,
So that we might remember that ours is not a fairy tale faith,
Full of magic and happily ever-afters
But is the way of the Christ,
Where eternal life is the resourcing of hope and perseverance,
The power of love and grace,
To lift us from the dying of dreams and wishes,
And bring resurrection in the hard realities of life.
Help us embrace the mystery of your call,
Which takes us through the valley of the shadow of death,
And helps us embrace our fear and doubt,
To transform them into healing and wholeness,
Where redemption and renewal become possible,
Even though things once were hopeless.
May we learn this Easter what it truly means to take up our cross and follow you,
Sharing in your life and walking in your way,
Living your love and grace as we work with you to build God’s Commonwealth of the common good.
Thus may it be ever so.

(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
John 20.21-23
This is why Jesus has been raised from the dead:
to give us his Spirit.
This is how Jesus has been raised from the dead:
not in his own body now but ours:
we, the Body of the risen Christ.
God now sends us as Jesus,
to forgive.
When we forgive, all are set free.
When we retain sins we are stuck with them,
the burden ours as much as theirs.
But we are Spirit, sent to be free,
and to set free.
Breathe in all judgment.
Breathe out God’s grace.
God breathes us into the world,
grace-filled and free.
Breathe deeply, and go.
Breath prayer: + Free … to forgive +
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Your door’s too light to shut out God.
Young man –
Young woman –
Old man –
Old woman –
Middle-aged man –
Middle-aged woman –
Your door’s too light to shut out God.
You may think
You’re safe from trouble
And nothing can get in,
You may think
The door is barred
For fear of what has been,
You may think
That what you’ve done could
Never be forgiven,
Or most of all,
That love is gone,
Along with joyful living;
But when for all
That you’ve been through
You then expect the least,
The Lord of love
Will walk right in
And say just one word: Peace.
(Source: Scott L. Barton, Lectionary Poems) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year A, Easter season, Year A | Comments Off on COCU32A.Easter 2A.23rdApril2017


Acts 10: 34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-8 or Matthew 28:1-10

Bill Loader commentary on reading from Matthew, John, Colossians, Acts.

Music: Singing from the Lectionary
Easter Day: Easter Day Melody Line & Words (Helen Wiltshire, Norm Inglis)

See also Easter Sunday B and COCU31 Easter Sunday C

Pope Francis’ 2017 Easter Vigil sermon.
“When the High Priest and the religious leaders, in collusion with the Romans, believed that they could calculate everything, that the final word had been spoken and that it was up to them to apply it, God suddenly breaks in, upsets all the rules and offers new possibilities. God once more comes to meet us, to create and consolidate a new age, the age of mercy. This is the promise present from the beginning. This is God’s surprise for his faithful people. Rejoice! Hidden within your life is a seed of resurrection, an offer of life ready to be awakened.”

‘The tomb was empty,’ the Scriptures said later, metaphorically perhaps but pointedly, nevertheless. People had known His presence again, not the same as before the crucifixion, true, but real, nevertheless. Transformed. Somehow or other Jesus had defeated death, had snatched new life from its cavernous throat. The implications were overwhelming. Death, even once transcended, could never be permanent again. In fact, life itself could never be the same again. Jesus risen from the dead made life the stuff of eternity. Jesus transformed leads us to look beyond the obvious, to allow for the presence of God in alien places in unanticipated ways. Resurrection begs the scrutiny of the obvious, the celebration of the sacrament of transformation.
(Source: Joan Chittister)

I love this detail that John includes in his account of the resurrection: that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “while it was still dark.” I am counting on that beautiful detail: that resurrection happened in the night and in the shadows; that in the presence of deep mystery filled with uncertainty and hope, life still begins again. On this day, while it is still dark for so many, I offer this blessing for you.
SEEN (for Easter Day)
You had not imagined
that something so empty
could fill you
to overflowing,
and now you carry
the knowledge
like an awful treasure
or like a child
that curls itself
within your heart:
how the emptiness
will bear forth
a new world
you cannot fathom
but on whose edge
you stand.
So why do you linger?
You have seen,
and so you are
already blessed.
You have been seen,
and so you are
the blessing.
There is no other word
you need.
There is simply
to go and tell.
There is simply
to begin.
(Source: Jan Richardson, from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons)

At the Tomb — A litany for 5+ voices
1st voice: Woman, why are you weeping?
1st woman: We mourn these dark days of death and denial.
Abandoned, betrayed, forsaken.
Left alone. Jesus gone.
Where have they laid him?
1st voice: Woman, why are you weeping?
2nd woman: We are afraid for our Leader.
Humiliated in both life and death.
Robbed from the grave.
O where have they laid him?
2nd voice: Mary, do not hold onto me.
1st voice: Women, why are you weeping?
Women: We weep for Jesus, missing.
We weep for Columbian* kin, missing.
We weep for children entangled in bitter domestic disputes, missing.
1st voice: Men, why are you weeping?
Men: We weep for Jesus, humiliated and tortured.
We weep for all political prisoners, suffering at the hands of oppressors.
We weep for Muslims vilified by world powers and the media.
We weep for peaceful protestors violently opposed.
1st voice: Women, why are you weeping?
Women: We weep for Jesus, abandoned and alone.
We weep for the elderly, separated from family and community.
We weep for children, orphaned by AIDS.
We weep for the our young, devastated by war.
2nd voice: Do not hold on to me as I was.
For I am with you, now, in the least of these.
As you weep for them, you weep for me.
As you serve them, you serve me.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ lives in the gardener,
in the immigrant who mows our lawns and trims our shrubs.
Christ lives in the teacher,
the day care worker who minds our children.
Christ lives in the tortured,
the prisoners of “the war on terrorism.”
Christ lives in those for whom we weep.
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
*Columbian: consider changing this reference to a nation currently in crisis.
(Source: Ana Gobledale, Worship Words)

Good News God,
your angels appeared to the faithful women of Jesus’ company,
bringing them news more wonderful and awe-inspiring than they could imagine –
Christ is Risen!
Surely your angels can interrupt our lives, too,
breaking into our losses and sorrows
and offering a message of tremendous joy to change our lives!
Come this Easter morning, we pray,
and fill us with the joy of the women disciples,
the first witnesses to your resurrection,
that our lives may also be renewed in hope and glory.
Let us roll back the stone of the grave
and pick up the stones of Alleluia once again!
In Christ we pray, Amen.
(Source: Elizabeth Dilley, Worship Ways, United Church of Christ)

Call to worship (see also general listing for call to worship)
Christ is risen. 
Christ is risen indeed!
Do not be afraid. 
The risen life of Christ is clothed with grace.
We will look with trembling hope
into the face of a love which is beyond understanding.
We will see the glory of God!
All the earth may resound with joy,
for the costly courage of our God
has overcome all which would threaten life.
The Christ has entered every dark place
and now stands before us,
surrounded by the light of true life.
This life will never be defeated
by the betrayals or violence of humankind. 
For love is stronger than death
and Christ is the source of our salvation.
Praise be to you, Jesus Christ!
(Source: Words for Worship 2011)

Call to Worship
We come to this place,
seeking Jesus in the familiar story of our faith.
Do not meet us only here, O Living Christ,
but surprise us with Resurrection power
in all the places of our lives!
We gather together to sing and pray the story we know by heart,
a story of loving triumph and powerful grace.
This story of “Alleluia!” means great joy
for the One who lives and the ones who witness to this new life
in all the places of our lives!
We rejoice and thank you for the life of your son,
resurrected by the power of your loving, vibrant Spirit.
Let this same Spirit fill all the places of our lives,
that we may know the truth
of resurrection for the rest of our lives!
We join our hearts in song and sing
“Alleluia! Gracious Jesus!”
for Christ is living and so are we!
Alleluia indeed!
(Source: Elizabeth Dilley, UCC, Worship Ways) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year A, Year A | Comments Off on COCU31A.EasterDay.16April2017

COCU30A.Holy Saturday.15April2017


2016 Holy Saturday resource: COCU30C.2016ResourceHolySaturday
2016 Stations – response sheets: COCU30C.Stationssheets.HolySaturday

2017 resource including stations COCU30C.HolySaturday2017

Holy Saturday Vigil, by Andrew O’Neill

Praying in the Spirit of Easter Saturday
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
We pray in this liminal time,
This in in-between time,
The place of paralysis in the midst of confusion,
The bit or gap where the chasm of despair or hopelessness seems sometimes all too close.
We pray for those who are in-between.
For those who have to wait,
The grieving, 
For those who walk in the shadow of death,
For those waiting for results or treatment,
Those between employment,
Those between opposing powers.
For those for whom the promise of paradise seems but a mirage or a place beyond the horizon of their hope.
Lord of Easter,
You have walked by this way before us.
For us the Easter story moves ahead towards resolution and resurrection, 
but for many the reality of the future is unclear and uncertain, 
just as it was for your disciples and followers that Easter Saturday.
Be with us, Christ, and all those caught in the vortex of waiting.
Carry all beyond our fear and despair to hope.
Lift us all and strengthen us when the weight of uncertainty presses down upon us.
Sustain us when we feel trapped by circumstance.
Lord of Easter,
God of all times,
We pray in the Spirit of Easter Saturday.
Comfort and uphold us all.
Enfold us in your love, that we may bear the angst is waiting.
Transform us into survivors.
Walk with us into tomorrow.
Walk us into how and healing.
Bring us into resurrection.
This we ask of you.
(Source: Jon Humphries, Prayers that Unite)

Sojourners: What did Jesus do on Holy Saturday?

Patheos: Holy Saturday – the Space Between
Before we rush to resurrection we must dwell fully in the space of unknowing, of holding death and life in tension with each other, to experience that liminal place so that we become familiar with its landscape and one day might accompany others who find themselves there and similarly disoriented. The wisdom of the Triduum is that we must be fully present to both the starkness of Friday and to the Saturday space between, before we can really experience the resurrection. We must know the terrible experience of loss wrought again and again in our world so that when the promise of new life dawns we can let it enter into us fully in the space carved by loss. As the great poet of Hafiz reminds us, we must let our loneliness “cut more deep” and “season” us, so that we are reminded of our absolute dependence on the Source of all.
Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you as few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice so tender,
My need of God
Absolutely clear. —Hafiz
(read more here) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year C, Holy Saturday | Comments Off on COCU30A.Holy Saturday.15April2017

COCU29A.Good Friday.14April2017


Year A readings
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16-25   Bill Loader commentary
John 18:1 – 19:42 Bill Loader commentary on the Gospel

Bill Loader, An order of service for Good Friday
Reflections: God of the mountainTwo words from the Cross, Caiaphas – did you know?
A reflection by Rev Matt Stuart on Good Friday

What Abides For Good Friday
You will know
this blessing
by how it
does not stay still,
by the way it
refuses to rest
in one place.

You will recognize it
by how it takes
first one form,
then another:

now running down
the face of the mother
who watches the breaking
of the child
she had borne,

now in the stance
of the woman
who followed him here
and will not leave him

Now it twists in anguish
on the mouth of the friend
whom he loved;

now it bares itself
in the wound,
the cry,
the finishing and
final breath.

This blessing
is not in any one
of these alone.

It is what
binds them

It is what dwells
in the space
between them,
though it be torn
and gaping.

It is what abides
in the tear
the rending makes.
(Source: Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace)

“So gather up the brokenness
and bring it to me now;
the fragrance of the promises
they never dared to vow;
the splinters that you carried,
the cross you left behind;
come healing of the body,
come healing of the mind.”
(Source: Leonard Cohen)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22.1
Jesus, fully human,
feels the anguish of God’s distance,
the bare landscape of abandonment.
Jesus, fully divine, feels that anguish, too,
the ripping ache of aloneness.
This is not the cry of someone deserted by God
but of one who knows God listens
when we feel that way.
This is the cry of God, brokenhearted for us.
God does not peer into our loneliness from above,
but lives there, suffers there.
The void is the silence of the soul of God,
the desert of our exile,
whose sandstone canyons echo with God’s own sobs.
This is the prayer of a lifeguard whose lungs cry for air
who has dived deep to rescue us from drowning.
This is the cry of a mother running into the flames
for her children.
This is the sigh of the Beloved
whose ear is pressed to the door of our hearts
from the inside.
This is the only voice of hope.
My God, my God,
you have descended so deep into my suffering
that even I no longer see you.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

This morning in church as I listened to the story of Good Friday something strange struck me. The servant of the high priest who Peter attacked with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemene is named. His name was Malchus. Later in the story we are also told that he had a family. I reflected on why this person, who plays an insignificant part in the whole story, was named. It struck me that this victim of violence had a name, had a face, had a family.
This is still true today. The children gasping for breath after a sarin attack in Syria have a name, have a face, have a family. The people killed when the Americans drop the “mother of all bombs” on them, have a name, have a face, have a family. The people of North Korea, threatened with violence both internally and externally, have a name, have a face, have a family. the men, women and children held in Manus and on Nauru, have a name, have a face, have a family.
When I visited the battlefields of WW1 in France I noticed that the many gravestones of unidentified soldiers were engraved with the words “known unto God”. The victims of violence are always known unto God- God knows their name, their face, their family.
Those who perpetuate violence often try to keep their victims anonymous. The challenge of Good Friday is for us to see them as fellow human beings, to discover their names, to look into their faces, to weep with their families, to enter into their suffering just as Jesus did on the cross so that through this we may find healing for our world. (Rev Bev Fabb, 2017)

Readings for 2016 Good Friday service at Pilgrim UC: COCU29C.GoodFriday readings

Order of Service at Pilgrim UC: COCU29C.Good Friday2016

On the nature of the cosmos – a contemplation by Duane Clinker

Reflecting on the final words of Jesus – Hope Filled Words on a Hopeless Good Friday.

A wonderful resource of art, music and readings for Good Friday at ‘Gospel Feelings‘ website, by Lyn Seils Robertson. (Additions are made following the lectionary, so a website worth checking out each week).

Listening to words from the cross (Wellsprings liturgy for Good Friday) Continue reading

Posted in COCU Year C, Lent & Holy Week | Comments Off on COCU29A.Good Friday.14April2017

COCU28A.Maundy Thursday.13April2017


Maundy Thursday, Pilgrim Uniting Church, Adelaide

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

Posted in COCU Year A, COCU Year C, Maundy Thursday, Year A | Comments Off on COCU28A.Maundy Thursday.13April2017