Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Isaac’s servant goes back to Abraham’s homeland to find a wife for him. He meets Rebekah, who responds according the sign he had asked of God, and so he brings her back to Isaac who marries her.
Psalm 45:10-17
A psalm celebrating a royal wedding and the beauty of the bride as she is led to the king.
Romans 7:15-25a
Paul laments his struggle to do the good that he wants to do, while the sin nature within him leads him to do what he doesn’t want to do, but he celebrates Christ who provides freedom from this struggle.
Mt 11:16-19, 25-30
Jesus laments the resistance and misunderstanding of those who judged both John and him, and gives thanks that God reveals wisdom only to the childlike. Then he invites those who are burdened to come to him and receive rest.
(Bible readings summary by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Wisdom incarnate (inspired by the Gospel reading)
they shout at Wisdom,
why do you not dance
to our lively tunes?
they cry to Wisdom,
we are wailing, why
do you not mourn with us?
they accuse the messenger
announcing Wisdom, of demons,
heed not the call to turn
they accuse Wisdom
of gluttony and drunkenness,
of befriending the unworthy
Listen, you who shout at Wisdom,
cry and wail and accuse –
Wisdom’s deeds are Wisdom’s vindication.
Wisdom thanks the God of all,
Creator, sender of Wisdom to earth
and Spirit sustainer or Wisdom on earth
Wisdom whispers in the dark,
heard by those who stay awake,
hidden from those who cast long shadows
Wisdom utters an invitation
to the weary, the burdened, the tired:
I will give you rest.
Wisdom says, you shall learn from me
a way of ease and freedom, for
I am gentle and I am humble in my heart
Wisdom offers rest within that heart, Divine;
come to me, come all you weary,
for I have come for you.
(Source: Sarah Agnew, Pray the Story) Continue reading

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Service of Lament – Pilgrim Uniting Church: Black Lives Matter

In Australia we concluded Reconciliation Week on June 3rd. We have witnessed what has been happening in the USA and many other places in the world with the horrifying treatment of George Floyd at the hands of 4 police officers – 3 who stood by while another kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes, leading to his death. As followers of the Way of Jesus we are compelled to stand alongside our brothers and sisters to demand change, and to demand justice.
(For #45 to hold a Bible aloft outside a church – as if God is on his side, is an appalling misrepresentation of the Christian gospel).
“The call for lament echoes throughout scripture. There is a power in naming our griefs. It changes us because it is a form of resistance. Rev. Casey T. Sigmon: “Lament promotes the sacredness of all life by protesting and naming all losses that prevent the flourishing of life.”
(Quote from ‘The Many’)

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Genesis 22: 1-14
Abraham takes his son Isaac out to sacrifice him to the Lord, but God stops him and provides a ram for the offering instead.
Psalm 13
A psalm of lament in which the psalmist cries out to God, but also affirms his trust in God’s goodness and love.
Romans 6:12-23
Paul encourages the Roman Christians to turn from sinful living and to obey God in order to find life and righteousness, and he reminds them that, while sin leads to death, God’s gift in Christ is life.
Matthew 10:40-42
Jesus teaches that those who receive prophets and righteous people will be rewarded, as will those who care for the followers of Christ.
(Bible summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Singing from the Lectionary
Weekly Worship (Church of Scotland)

Hospitality is described in the New Testament as a spiritual gift. This may lead us to believe that it is only required of those to whom this particular gift has been given, but this would be a mistake. In the Old Testament hospitality was expected of all of God’s people, and, as with other spiritual gifts, the task of those who have received the gift of hospitality is to teach the whole church how to be hospitable. This means that the call to hospitality – to welcoming and receiving others in Jesus’ name – comes to all who seek to follow Jesus.
The Gospel is built on the fact that God has offered hospitality to us. God has welcomed us into God’s family and made us part of God’s new community of love and justice. We have done nothing to deserve this. It is simply a gift of grace. But, in response we should find ourselves unable to resist offering hospitality to others. As we have been welcomed and accepted so we desire others to know God’s grace and love, and so we seek to welcome and accept others in Jesus’ name, without requiring anything of them, or expecting anything in return. If we seek to understand what it means to be holy, we will discover that hospitality is a significant feature.
This week we seek to respond to God’s call to hospitality.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

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WCC prayer cycle – South Sudan (28June-4July 2020)

There are church leaders from South Sudan in the Uniting Church in Australia and six other denominations and seven different states. Rev. Amel Manyon and Rev. Paul Dau are Uniting Church Ministers, originally from South Sudan. Amel was the first Sudanese woman ordained in the Uniting Church.

Sudanese people have experienced the devastating trauma of war, fleeing as refugees, and the challenges of re-settlement in Australia. They hold the hope of working together for peace and unity within the Australian diaspora community.

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UCA Anniversary.22 June1977 (closest Sunday is 21st June 2020)

UCA 43rd anniversary service – Pilgrim Uniting Church 2020

The Uniting Church in Australia celebrated the formal union of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Church on June 22nd, 1977. Continue reading

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(Also, closest Sunday to UCA Anniversary)

Genesis 21: 8-21
Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away, but God promises to make Ishmael’s descendants into a great nation. When Hagar and Ishmael find themselves without food and water in the wilderness, God comes to their rescue.
Psalm 86: 1-10, 16-17
A plea for God’s mercy and rescue for the Psalmist who is in trouble, and a song of praise and affirmation of God’s greatness.
Romans 6: 1b-11
Followers of Christ have died to sin and been raised to a new life in Jesus. Therefore we are no longer slaves to sin, and death no longer has power over us, but we are alive for God in Christ.
Matthew 10:24-39
Disciples are not greater than their teacher, and so if the teacher is insulted, the disciples will be even more. But, followers of Jesus must not fear those who can destroy only the body. Rather we must be willing to acknowledge Jesus, proclaim his message publicly and not seek to save our lives. When we seek to save our lives we lose them. Jesus did not come to bring peace, but conflict, and we are to love Christ more than our own lives.
(Bible summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Delores Williams offers a black womanist reading of Hagar, that she, like “many black women, goes into the wide world to make a living for herself and for her child, with only God by her side.” This reading provides dignity to Hagar, and to all those who experience injustice. Like Hagar, they can enact agency. They are not dependent on the existing familial systems of injustice. As they seek to make their way, they can expect to find God with them, attentive to all who cry for justice.
(Rev Dr Steve Taylor, guest contributor to Church of Scotland resources, quoting Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, Orbis, 1993, 33)

Bob Cornwall writes, “As I’ve pondered the story of Hagar and Ishmael, I’m reminded that God hears the cries of people in need, including people who live outside our own circles. This reading is fitting at a time when we’re wrestling with the legacy of slavery in this country as well as whether black lives truly matter. It’s fitting because it reminds us that Hagar was a slave and an African. That’s why it figures prominently in the African American churches. It tells the story of God’s liberation of an African slave and her son.” (Bob Cornwall, Ponderings on a faith journey)

Everyone wants to be Hagar,
brave, resilient, probably beautiful,
a good mother,
a good pray-er who remembers
the time God gave her a sweet spring.
Everyone wants to be Hagar
because that’s the heart of the story,
but, when the parts get passed around,
this is who gets to be Hagar —
the ones who are enslaved,
cast out, vulnerable, lost,
sexually abused, thirsty or endangered.
The Hagar-people get the well.
It is historically accurate
that in many cases
the progeny of
the ensarahs and enslavers,
the casters-out,
those who endanger,
turn away from vulnerability,
blame victims, get excited
about protecting their own rights,
and ignore those thirsty
for a sip of hope,
often get the land.
The well is life,
but the land often ends up
just a mouth-full of dust.
(Source: Maren Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)

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Refugee Week (World Refugee Day June 20)

‘Angels Unawares’ by Canadian artist Timothy Schmaltz (St Peter’s Square, Rome)
Refugee Week 2020: Year of Welcome
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World Elders Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD), June 15

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Men’s Health Week, 15th-21st June

Men’s Health Week
Mental Health: Inactive men are 60% more likely to suffer from depression than those who exercise.
Sleep: Men who sleep 7-8 hours a night have a 60% decreased risk of a fatal heart attack than those who sleep five hours or less.
Nutrition: Getting your 5-7 servings of fruit and veggies a day is as simple as 1 apple, ½ an avocado, 1 stalk of celery, ½ a grape fruit and 5 pieces of broccoli! Drinking: Those who drink no more than 4 to 10 alcoholic drinks a week have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Drinking more than 10 a week almost doubles the risk.
Exercise: Men who climb 50 stairs or walk just 5 blocks a day may lower their risk of a heart attack by a whopping 25%.
For support, try chatting to a neighbour, friend or family member. Or call either of the below helplines – stay safe, and know that you are not alone.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78

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Genesis 18: 1-15 (21:1-7)
God appears to Abraham in the form of three visitors whom Abraham welcomes and serves. And they promise that in a year’s time, Sarah will have a son. But, when Sarah laughs in disbelief, the strangers reaffirm the promise. And then their promise is fulfilled and Sarah gives birth to a son.
Psalm 116: 1-2, 12-19
A Psalm of thanksgiving for God’s mercy and the way God hears the psalmist’s prayer. And a prayer of commitment to keep calling on God’s name and giving thanks.
Romans 5:1-8
God has made us right with God through Christ, given us undeserved privilege, and made it possible for us to grow in strength and endurance through times of trial. In addition, God has given God’s Spirit to fill our hearts.
Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23)
Jesus notes that the harvest is great but the workers are few, and then he sends his disciples out to share the message of the Gospel with the people of Israel. He instructs them not to take anything with them, but to trust in the hospitality of the people to whom they go. Then he warns them about the rejection and persecution they will endure, but that these moments will be opportunities to speak about Jesus.
(Summaries by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Matthew 9:35-10:23: Matthew’s Missionary Commentary
in a time of confusion, you teach a daring way forward,
in the presence of despair, you proclaim good news,
in the midst of dis-ease, you bring peace and health.
Good Shepherd,
in this strange and sorry season on this Earth,
we often feel like sheep without a guide.
Come near that we may
experience your compassion for your twenty-first century people,
embody your hope for our pandemic planet,
work for your vision for a world where everyone can breathe.
Cast out demons of racism and hatred.
Make us into labourers of right relationship.
Help us harvest connection and community.
Send us out to serve and support
the overwhelmed, oppressed, and under-loved,
the hurting, harassed and helpless,
the tired, troubled, and thrown to the ground.
Your way is demanding.
The cost of discipleship is high.
You ask us
to embrace simplicity,
to go into potentially unwelcoming places,
to enter into the midst of wolves.
Grant us discernment that we might be
wise as serpents and
as innocent as doves.
Grant us grace that we might be
your faithful disciples.
(Source: Diaconal Minister Ted Dodd, a Facebook post)

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