COCU64C.3Nov2019

See also All Saints Day.

Readings:
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Habakkuk complains to God that justice is perverted and God’s help does not come, but then, as he waits for God’s answer, God’s word comes to him offering him a vision of the downfall of the proud and the vibrant life of the righteous.
Psalm 119:137-144
The psalmist celebrates God’s regulations, affirming their value and goodness for all time, and giving thanks for the strength they offer even in times of hardship.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Paul celebrates the faith, love and endurance of the Thessalonian Christians in the face of persecution and hardship, and prays for God’s strength to sustain and inspire them, so that they may glorify God.
Luke 19:1-10
In Jericho Jesus invites himself to be a guest at the house of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, in spite of the criticisms of people. As a result, Zacchaeus is transformed into a man of generosity and compassion.

Thought for the week
It should not surprise us that the Scriptures return often to the themes of repentance and forgiveness. One reason for this constant repetition is that these foundational ideas are harder to understand and practice than we may at first consider. For many of us, repentance has come to be viewed as a personal apology to God for things we have done wrong, and forgiveness is what God gives us in return. However the Biblical picture is far richer and more challenging than this. In the Bible, God’s forgiveness is given before we even know that we need it – that’s the miracle of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and it is demonstrated in the Zacchaeus story which is the Gospel reading for this week.
But, when forgiveness touches our hearts, it automatically leads us into two responses. The first is that we respond in repentance – which simply means to change. We stop doing the destructive things that rob us and others of life, and we embrace a new, life-giving way of behaving, thinking and speaking. The second response is that we begin to extend God’s forgiveness to others, recognising that as we accept them in Jesus’ name, so God’s Spirit can work healing and transformation in them through us.
This week, we will meditate again on the profound gifts of forgiveness and repentance.(Summaries and thought for the week by John van de Laar)

Diana Butler Bass, October 2016: Zacchaeus seems to be a guy who thinks you have to climb up to see God, to get closer to “power.” What does Jesus do? Jesus says, “Come down.” And invites himself to dinner. This is a radical rejection of the Roman patriarchal system and replacing it with hospitality. It isn’t about going “up” to see God. It is about sitting at table.

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COCU63C.All Saints Day.1Nov

(Can be celebrated on closest Sunday). 

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 115:16)
One generation shall praise your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They cried out in a loud voice, saying: Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! These beloved have gone on before us into eternal life. (Revelation 7:9-10).
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely. Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:10)

The day we prepare to honor
the saints who have gone before,
first we get honest about the skeletons in our closet,
about how monstrous we can be
and what’s spookiest about us
and what we most fear,
about our masks and false personas
and our secret aspirations,
about how we trick each other
and parade about stuffing ourselves with junk.
We get honest about it,
and also laugh about it.
We laugh at ourselves,
and also laugh at our evil.
Then, having lightened ourselves of the burden
of our righteousness,
tomorrow we can move on freely
without guilt or pretense
to be the saints we actually are.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Gospel feelings resources here.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
The saints gone too soon before the fullness of their grace was truly known by human minds.
The saints who were not lauded, but whose faithfulness bore generations of fruit.
The saints whose witness spoke truth to power and brought forth new creations.
The saints who died with doubts, questions, and hope in mystery.
The saints whose pained ends brought out words that God received, knowing their truth.
The saints whose legacies are the history from which we learn how to do and be better.
The saints who are only remembered by God and who rest in light perpetual.
For these and so many others,
we give thanks to God. Amen.
(Source: Rev Julia Seymour, posted on RevGalBlogPals)

A Call to Worship for All Saints Day
(Hebrews 12: 1)
We remember, O God…
The countless saints of history
who have blazed a trail of courage through time,
We remember, O God…
The tender touch of loved ones,
the example of heroes,
the healing words of comforters,
the remarkable acts of fearless ones.
We remember, O God…
The gentle strength of grandmothers,
the loyalty of friends,
the kindness of strangers,
the joy of children,
the sacrifice of parents.
We remember, O God…
The supreme love of Jesus,
the blessing of his Spirit,
the reminder of his words,
the sharing of his suffering,
the glory of his resurrection:
shown forth in the lives of his disciples,
young and old,
dead and living,
articulate and silent,
strange and familiar,
brilliant and ordinary.
We remember in every time and place the saints of God
who have shown us the Lord.
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…
let us worship God with joy!
(Desperate Preacher’s website)

A reflection by Joe Kay on Sojo: Death cannot separate us from love
“Those who die remain part of our lives. Death can’t break our connection to Jesus’ embodied spirit of love – he is with us always.”

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International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) – 3 Nov 2019

IDOP is recognised on the first Sunday in November each year, dedicated to the saints and martyrs of the Christian faith and for persecuted communities. IDOP website here.
In 2019 this falls on November 3rd, which is also the closest Sunday to All Saints Day.

God, you know
The plight of people far away
Oppressed by governments and vigilantes
In places
Where Christianity is an unpopular choice.
God, you knew
That the day would come here
When truth-telling would be despised
And siding with the oppressed
Part of the road less travelled.
Have mercy, O God,
Upon persecuted Christians there and here
Who are willing to suffer consequences
For speaking your Name
In word or in deed
In defiance or in advocacy.
Grant courage and strength
To all who would dare
To live their convictions out loud. Amen. (UMC Discipleship) Continue reading

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Reformation Day.October31

Reformation Day commemorates the day in 1517 when a German monk named Martin Luther (1483-1546) strode up to the church in Wittenburg and nailed his 95 ‘theses’ (or propositions) to the church door.
Luther’s intention when posting his theses was to highlight the practice of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church. Indulgences were pardons from sin that could be bought, meaning that those who were rich enough could buy forgiveness for all manner of sins.
Luther had hoped that pinning his protestations would spark wider debate and harden public opinion against the practice. However, so many people agreed with his ideas that they quickly spread across western Europe, helped by the recent invention of the printing press, leading to the religious revolt known as the Reformation.
The reformation led many Christians to break off from the Roman Catholic Church and establish new, independent churches of their own, such as the Lutheran Church.
Reformation Day was first celebrated in the Germanic region in the seventeenth century and between 1949 and 1967, Reformation Day was a national holiday in East Germany.

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COCU62C.27October2019

Readings:
Joel 2:23-32
God promises restoration from the judgement (what the locusts have eaten) and the outpouring of God’s Spirit on all of God’s sons and daughters.
Psalm 65
Praise for the God who answers prayer, who forgives sin, who formed the earth and who sends rain to bring an abundant harvest.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Paul reflects on his faithfulness as he nears the end of his life and looks forward to the reward he will receive, assured that God, who rescued him in the past, even when others deserted him, will bring him safely into God’s kingdom.
Luke 18:9-14
Jesus tells a parable about a self-righteous Pharisee, who fails to find a right relationship with God, and a penitent tax collector who finds justification.

Gospel feelings resources here.

Jesus’ parable calls us to humble recognition of our need for God’s grace.
Two people came into the temple to pray.
A white man came up front and prayed,
“God, I thank you that I’m not black.
Thank you that I’m not a woman, or gay,
or was abused as a child.
I mind my own business,
and I believe in you.”
An undocumented immigrant woman
forced to work the street
stood at the back and prayed,
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
I tell you, she went home closer to God
than the other.
For all who are full of themselves
will be empty of anything else.
But those who make room for God
will shine with glory.
(Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)
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COCU61C.20October2019

Readings:
Jeremiah 31:27-34
A prophecy of restoration, of an end to generational curses, and of God’s new covenant with God’s people – written on hearts, not stone.
Psalm 119:97-104
A song of rejoicing in God’s laws and instructions and the way they guide and lead to life.
2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5
Paul encourages Timothy, in the name of the coming Christ, to remain faithful to the Scriptures and to teach God’s message faithfully at all times.
Luke 18:1-8
Jesus tells a parable of a poor widow who persistently asks a judge for justice, and he finally relents because of her persistence. Then he muses about whether, when he returns, he will find people of faith on earth.

Gospel Feelings resources here.
Sermon: Excellent reflection by Debie Thomas on the Gospel reading here

Patient God (based on Gospel reading)
Patient God,
you persevere in your care for us,
in spite of our lack of persistence,
lack of praying at all times.
Merge our inner spirits
with your will.
Teach us again and again
to pray always
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
(Source:Bob Eldan)
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Anti-Poverty Week

In 2019, Anti-Poverty Week will be held from the 13th to the 19th of October. The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:
* Strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia; and
* Encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.

Everyone is encouraged to help reduce poverty and hardship by organising an activity during the Week or taking part in an activity organised by others.

9.30am service on 13th October focussed on Anti-Poverty Week (scroll to end of this page to download)

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COCU60C.13Oct2019

Readings:
Jeremiah 29;1,4-7
The people of Israel are in exile, but Jeremiah still asks them to seek the welfare of the city in whcih they live as foreigners. They are to live as God’s faithful people, no matter what the context.
Psalm 66:1-12
A call for all the earth to praise the God who rules over all, and for all nations to bless God.
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Although Paul is inprisoned for preaching the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection, the Gospel itself is not imprisoned. God offers life to those who die with Christ, and God remains always faithful, which is why Paul encourages Timothy to remind people of these thigns and to continue to serve and teach faithfully.
Luke 17:11-19
Jesus sends ten men with a skin disease to show themselves to the priests and they are healed as they go, but only one, a Samaritan, returns to give thanks.
(Summary of readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

The Road Through No-Man’s Land
Ten men united by dis-ease,
suffering both leprosy and
social rejection, bound together
by mutual repulsiveness,
inhabitants of no-man’s land.
Society, bound in its fear
of dread disease, convinced
of curse and sin, wallows,
in ambivalence, condemns
the hapless, piously
taking God’s name in vain.
One man, on a journey toward
his own rejection, penetrates
the impenetrable, crosses
into the “bad lands,”
mixes with the lowly
in the name of the most high.
Ten men, sent for examination
healed as they pass along the road.
Nine go, who knows where?
One, sensing unfinished business,
returns in thanksgiving,
departs in wholeness.
One man on his way to a cross
heals ten men with no destination.
One man gives thanks, receives life.
It all happened along the way;
in a place called “no-man’s land,”
that place of desolation
where dwells the kingdom of God.
(Source: William Dean, The House Blend, published 2008)

Lord God
Our lives are like the borderlands. We divide people into us and them. Insiders and outsiders. Friends and strangers. Those we love and those to be feared.
Our lives are like the village. We build walls around our serves and bar the gates. We let only those we want to inside. We judge others from the watch tower. We refuse entry and shut the gates to those we fear, those we are in don’t want to help, those different to ourselves, and those we don’t like. We protect ourselves from those we consider unworthy or outcasts.
Our lives are like those of the lepers, we find ourselves rejected and shunned by others. We stand outside. We find ourselves in need of healing and acceptance. We look for someone to love and care for us. To accept us.
May our life be like the healed leper receiving your Grace. May we be healed from the weeping sores of pride and selfishness. May the lesions of our apathy and fear be washed clean. May the scars of our ungratefulness and indifference towards others be replaced with new skin.
Lord God forgive and heal us. And as we express our thanks to you for the Grace you show us may we rise to follow you.
In Christ we pray. Amen
(Source: Glenn Elliott-Rudder, Facebook post on Preaching up a Storm, 2019)

PSALM 66 REDUX
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
The whole earth sings praise!
Wild wind whips glory,
babbling brook skipping sings,
green fields davening sway.
The smallest ears pick up the tune
that hums and pulses through all things.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
Oh God, Mother of all,
let my life move with
the earth songs beneath my feet
and the star songs above my head.
Let my heart jig and caper like a young lamb.
Let my soul sing and sigh and signify.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
No corner of the earth is apart from your power.
Everywhere a woman may roam,
she will see the signs and hear the songs:
Each day a new day.
Each moment an opportunity.
Each step, each listening step,
a step in hope’s direction.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
How may I live my gratitude, but with humble attention,
with an ear quick to listen,
gaze penetrating to see, a heart ready to love, hands eager to bless,
with a mind slow to judge and probing to discern,
with feet that move in hope’s direction,
dancing earthstar songs of praise. So be it.
(*Sing: Come all you people….)
(Source: Psalms Redux by Carla A. Grosch-Miller)
Note: If you search Redux Psalms you can download the file of them.

*Suggestion to sing “Come all you people, come and praise your maker (X3), come now and worship the Lord” by Alexander Gondo (arranged by John L. Bell)at the spots marked with an asterisk. 

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Labour Day – 7th October 2019

Labour Day takes place on different days in different countries and cities.
In Adelaide the first Monday in October is Labour Day (making it a ‘long weekend holiday’)
A prayer for Labor Day (written for U.S. context, can be adapted)
God bless those who labor,
especially those who labor so we may take a Labor Day vacation.
Grant your grace to those whose labor costs them,
whose labors degrade or wound or endanger them,
body and soul.
Bless those who pick our fruit and pack our meat,
who clean our rooms, tend our gardens,
gather our waste and care for our aged,
underpaid and unprotected.
Be with those who risk
to advocate and organize and unionize
those who labor for our sake.
Sustain those who labor unhappily,
and those whose labors
would be better spent with their children.
We pray especially for those who labor
under threat or force,
who are not paid, and are not free.
May all who labor be granted Sabbath,
and know their worth apart from labor.
In gratitude for your labors, O God,
we give thanks for those who join you
in creating the world,
that all our labors may create and not destroy,
bless and not abuse, and yield beauty and joy,
for the sake of the wholeness of all Creation.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light

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Gandhi’s birth anniversary 2nd October

In 2019, it will be Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.
Here is his prayer for peace.
GANDHI’S PRAYER FOR PEACE
I offer you peace
I offer you love
I offer you friendship
I see your beauty
I hear your need
I feel your feelings
My wisdom flows from the highest source
I salute that source in you
Let us work together
For unity and peace.

Rather than simply reading his prayer-poem and thinking ‘oh isn’t that nice’, let’s put it to super good use as a way of seeing those we view as ‘the other’ in a different perspective. We are about to read the prayer-poem a number of times, in a number of ways. As you read, hear the words, the sound and feel the vibration.
1) Read the poem.
Sit quietly for one minute with the thoughts of the poem. Be aware of what comes to mind. Your thoughts may be directly related to the words of the poem or may take you somewhere else. Be very aware of where, or to whom, these thoughts take you.
2) The scene in this poem is as though two people are sitting face to face, looking directly into each other’s eyes. Read the poem again, perhaps several times. Each time you read it, imagine two people who may be currently seen as oppositional, saying this poem to each other. For example, an Israeli and a Palestinian, a white supremacist with a Chinese-American, one world leader to another, a logger with a ‘greenie.’ Imagine what may have happened if the British had said this to the Native Americans, or the French to the Vietnamese, the Romans to the Jews of Bethlehem.
3) Braver still, can you say the poem to someone you know? If not out loud, say it in your head, imagining someone you are currently experiencing difficulty with; where a relationship has turned sour. This may be your partner, your teenager, your mother or father, a work colleague perhaps.
Be mindful of your thoughts; be aware of the way your body responds; be conscious of your feelings.
4) Finally, we all know that we are often in conflict with ourselves. Internally, one part of us arguing with another part of ourselves. Read the prayer-poem again, this time allowing the parts of you in conflict to speak to each other. Again, be aware of how you are feeling now.
(Source: Margaret Hepworth’s blog)

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