As ‘ordinary time’ returns after the Lent and Easter cycle, we return to semi-continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel. The lectionary also follows 2 Corinthians.
Psalm 138
Praise and thanksgiving for God’s unfailing love, God’s promises, God’s answers to prayer, and God’s protection.
1 Samuel 8: 4-11, (12-15), 16-20; (11: 14-15)
The people of Israel demand a king and God concedes, instructing Samuel to tell them how hard it will be to have a king ruling over them. Then Saul is appointed as king.
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Paul explains his hope and faith in God that compels him to preach, for as God raised Christ, so God will raise all who believe in Christ. This gives us hope and perseverance in the face of the troubles we must deal with in this life.
Mark 3:20-35
In response to the religious teachers who claim that Jesus is possessed by a demon, Jesus teaches that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and that Satan cannot fight against Satan. Then, when his mother and brothers come asking for him, Jesus declares that all who do God’s will are his siblings and parents.
(Summary of Bible readings by John van de Laar, Sacredise)

*This week there are alternate readings – Genesis 3:8-15 is paired with Psalm 130. Rev Roddy Hamilton has some wonderful prayers/reflections based on the Genesis reading. 

Printed version of readings, landscape folded format, COCU42B Readings

Useful resources
Liturgy for this Sunday on Rex AE Hunt’s website
Church of Scotland Weekly Worship 2021

Gathering words (inspired by 1 Samuel 8, 11; 2 Corinthians 4–5; Mark 3)
We look to the rulers of this earth
for leadership, wisdom, and strength.
We look to these bodies of ours
for stability, fulfillment, and joy.
We look to families and friends
for love, compassion, and hope.
When rulers betray, when bodies fail,
and when families disappoint,
God offers another look.
God will guide us.
God’s Spirit will sustain us.
Christ will welcome us home.
Come, my sisters and brothers,
we are all God’s family now.
(Source: The Abingdon Worship Annual 2012, © 2011 Abingdon Press by Mary Scifres, adapted. Posted on the Worship Elements page of the Ministry Matters website)

Call to Worship (based on Psalm 138)
With my whole heart, we give you thanks, O God!
In the face of all the things that clamor for our attention each day, we turn to focus our adoration on you alone, O Lord!
Even though your name is above every name, O God, you recognize us and cherish the meek.
You, Lord, do not give any special honour to the proud and arrogant.  Instead, you strengthen those who are ridiculed and downtrodden.
Let us lift our voices in praise of the God of Love!
Together, let us worship the God who never forgets us!
(Source: Amy Loving, The Worship Closet)

Call to worship
Come, let us worship our God with joy and thanksgiving:
Everything in us says
Thank you! 
At worship in this sacred place we say it again:
Thank you! 
For your love, for your faithfulness;
Thank you!
When earth’s rulers hear what you have to say, O God,
They’ll sing of what you’ve done:
How great the glory of God!
Finish what you started in us, God.
Your love is eternal—stay with us, now, that we may say
Thank you!
(Source: Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation: Curator of Worship and Liturgical Arts, based on Psalm 138, The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)

Prayer of Confession (inspired by 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1)
Faithful God, we confess that we sometimes act as though there is no hope.  We forget the promise of resurrection.  We fail to see your grace at work in our lives, and so we waste time dwelling on our afflictions instead of celebrating our blessings.  Open our eyes, dear Lord.  Give us your vision, so we may glimpse your eternal glory.  Encourage us, so that we persevere and never lose heart.  We pray these things in the name of the One who holds our future in the safety of his hands.
(Source: Amy Loving, The Worship Closet)

Prayer of Approach and Confession
(inspired by Mark 3:20-35)
O God, you call us like a good parent to you to guide and protect us, to nourish and lead us. Brother Jesus, you call us like a caring elder brother to serve us and help us, to cheer us and invite us. Healing Spirit, you call us and move us ever closer into fellowship with you and each other.
Yet like unruly children we strain at your guidance, we try to break away and do it ourselves. We feel our strength and imagine to be all powerful. We rejoice in our life and imagine ourselves to be immortal. We know our talents and want to be independent rather than depend on you. Before we know it we are in the grip of other powers, leading us away from your loving ways into the slavery of selfish greed, adoring false gods of youth-fulness, materialism and power.
Lord, forgive us and free us. Open our eyes how your wisdom knows true leadership to be service. Open our hearts that we may learn that neither race or tribe, culture or religion are barriers to separate us but that we are all one family in your love.
So open our hearts and minds to learn again to live your love as we celebrate and worship you here together.
(Source: Rev. Andrea Price, Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday)

Call to Confession (from 1 Samuel 8: 4-11)
Leadership and governance is on everyone’s mind these days.
Competing visions of the common good strive for our attention.
Like the people of Israel in today’s text, we may be tempted to seek rulers
whose ways are not the ways of God. (a silence is kept)

Litany of Confession
When we forget that God’s ways lead all to the blessings of justice and mercy:
Lord have mercy.
When we forget that God’s ways lead all, especially the most vulnerable,
to blessings of safety, health, meaningful work:
Christ have mercy.
When we forget that God’s ways lead all to the blessings
of the shared abundance
of God’s beloved creation:
Lord have mercy.

Assurance of Pardon (from Mark 3: 34-35)
Jesus reminds us: “Who is my mother, and who are my sisters and brothers?
All those who do the will of God are my brother and sister and mother.”
In Christ we are forgiven all our failed efforts at community,
and invited afresh to rejoin the family of God, seeking blessing for all.
(Source: Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation: Curator of Worship and Liturgical Arts)

Prayer of thanksgiving and repentance
God of all majesty
You have given us a wonderful world,
and have also given us the ability to explore and understand it.
We praise you for the majesty and beauty of creation,
and for the opportunities which we have to enjoy and appreciate all that you give to us.
As stewards of creation,
we have the responsibility to care for the world you have given.
We can manipulate our environment- for good or for ill,
to the benefit or the detriment of our fellow creatures.
We acknowledge afresh the huge impact that we humans as a species have
and the huge impact on the planet – and repent of the ways in which this has often been contrary to your will.
We pray that you will give guidance and discernment
to all who seek to discern between helpful and harmful applications
of human advances and innovations.
We pray for the impacts of technologies on society –
on how we interact, on how we view ourselves, other people,
or the world around us –
even how we view our Creator.
We give thanks for the opportunities to explore the issues that technology raises;
we pray for wisdom as we reflect on how these technologies might be used.
As Christ called on his followers to be salt and light,
to have an impact on the communities in which we live,
we pray that, as we seek to witness for God in the world,
we will always do so in a loving and gentle way,
remembering that we need to be faithful to our calling to be salt and light.
Loving Lord, as we as a church, as society, as a nation,
and as a world seek to wrestle with significant issues,
we pray for wisdom, discernment and compassion for all.
We pray all these things in the name of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ
(Source: Rev Dr Alistair Donald, Church of Scotland, adapted)

Sermon thoughts
(Gospel) Unquestioning allegiances to family and nation keep us bound to satanic systems, but Jesus binds the satan and breaks us free to be the new family of God.

Jan Richardson reflection here.

Sermon reflections (Andrew Prior) – Healing the family sandwich

This contribution from Walter Brueggeman could be worth pursuing in reflections for 2018 – whether our priorities are focussed on God or derived from a national identity and values. (The quote is relevant to many other countries, not only the U.S.) “The crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.” ~ Walter Brueggemann
(this quote was included in this article about the fusion of nationalism and faith, and also in the 2017 Lenten Studies series by Walter Brueggeman)

Sermon Starter
The reading from Mark’s gospel addresses that thorny issue of power. Who gives Jesus his power? And what is his power, anyway? It might be worthwhile to explore the power dynamic in first-century Palestine to place Jesus in context. Perhaps what made him so threatening to his contemporaries is that he had a very different understanding of power and a different leadership style. And it worked. Are there current parallels? How do we respond to those whose leadership styles are different from the rest and who understand and use power differently than we do? How do we use our own power? What kind of power do we have as a church community?
(Source: Gathering)

Rev Avril Hannah-Jones sermon using the Hebrew Scriptures from 1 Samuel.
And a response from Christopher Ridings (Facebook post): In this Brexit and Trump era, the question of what constitutes a leadership of integrity matters even more so today than then. Funny, something you pointed out, Avril, has been an eye opener in that you traced Israel’s kingship further back to Ruth, Moabite ancestress of David. In this gritty short book of Ruth we see the determination to stick like glue to the depressed Naomi to see her safely back home to Bethlehem, one great quality of the sort of person to look up to as we do. A person who leads by “loving one’s neighbour as oneself” risking even her honour to secure Naomi’s security (and hers with her), readiness to sacrifice becomes the Christlike embodiment of true leadership.

The image below might be a catalyst for a sermon/reflection – the front cover of Time magazine. Given the theme in the Old Testament and Gospel this week, it’s definitely worth reflecting on in terms of the fundamental call of Christians to the reign of God. (‘Politics’ per se might be a step too far for a sermon, but the values of the reign of God can be clearly articulated and seen as distinctive – rather than a faith that has become aligned with consumerism, nationalism, punitive action against refugees and asylum seekers, tax breaks for the rich and ongoing disadvantage for the poor etc).

In 1 Samuel we read of the tensions that existed in the people who in today’s reading demand a new way of being ruled. They didn’t think that Samuel’s sons would act in a just manner when the time came for them to take over. They also wanted to be just like all of the other nations who had a king to rule over them.
The experience of Samuel has come full circle. Eli’s sons were not seen to be suitable heirs and so Samuel was chosen. Now, here is Samuel in a similar situation. Eli’s sons were unsuitable due to their religious character flaws when they ate too much of the sacrifices and slept with the women from the temple, Samuel’s sons were ethically flawed: perverting justice and taking bribes.
The request is taken badly. Samuel was displeased at the people’s request and God saw it as a rejection of him and his ways. A period of persuasion takes place with Samuel following God’s commands and telling the people exactly what a king would mean. The understanding of this antimonarchic understanding of the world may have come from the experience of some of the Canaanite Kings or even the example of Solomon (1 Kings 10-11).
Despite Samuel’s best efforts and persuasion the people still wanted a king. They looked for justice and felt that a king could provide that. The people had missed the fact that the culture they so earnestly desired was similar to the ideals that God offered them. Justice, fairness, community are all aspects of God that even now churches strive to bring about.
The people wanted their community to be like all the others around them. What do our communities want? Do they want to be the same as those around them or be something different? What about our churches? Do we want to blend in or stand out?
Power, authority, monarch, God, justice, ethics: hand in hand or mutually exclusive?(Source: Spill the Beans)

The people said to Samuel,
“We really want a king!
Please find someone to lead us,
to fight for us and win!”
Samuel told the people,
“Here’s what a king will do –
he’ll send your sons to battle,
he’ll make life hard for you!
“The best of everything you have
the King will make his own!
you’ll have to work much harder,
and then you’ll moan and groan!”
But the people said to Samuel,
“We want a king to reign –
like all the other countries!
We want to be the same!”
Samuel told the people,
“But we’ve got God above,
who only wants the best for us,
and leads and rules with love!
But the people wouldn’t listen,
“We want a king!” they said,
“What will I do, Lord?” Samuel cried,
God answered, “Go ahead,
“give them what they ask for –
a king to rule them all.”
So Samuel searched the land
and chose a man called Saul.
What kind of king, I wonder,
did Saul turn out to be?
Did he make the people happy?
We’ll have to wait and see…
(Source: Spill the Beans)

Prayers for others (inspired by Psalm 138)
Gracious and eternal God,
you have raised up your name and your word
above everything;
your steadfast love endures for ever.
In a world where every day
some division or strife arises
we bring our prayers for others
and for ourselves.
Do not turn from the work of your hand,
your human creation
and the world in which you have set us:
by your holy breath
comfort the lonely;
bind up the broken-hearted
and those who mourn;
calm the fearful;
rejoice with those who celebrate;
be present to those who call on your name,
to those we named on our lips,
and in the silence of our hearts,
those whose concerns are known only to you;
in Jesus’ name we pray…
(the Prayers of the People continue)
(Source: © Jeff Shrowder, The Billabong website.

Call to Offering (from 2 Corinthians 4: 13-15)
St Paul writes of confidence in the power of God
revealed in the resurrection of Jesus
that must underlie a life of faithfulness and generosity:
“I believed, and so I spoke”.
Today, let us believe, and give with generosity
that God’s goodness may be known in the world.

Generous God, take our gifts this day and use them
so that we may be part of your great work in this world.
Through our giving, bring justice and love closer to all,
not just in our community but in the world beyond these walls.
Strengthen our church so that we grow together each day
into a powerful voice for healing and peace. Amen.
(Rev. Susan A. Blain, Minister for Faith Formation: Curator of Worship and Liturgical Arts)

Reflections by Rev Roddy Hamilton on the alternate reading – Genesis 3:8-15 
(from New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

Beginning Words
Once there was a tree
in the middle of a garden
It’s fruit rich in colour
and sweet to the taste
no one had ever eaten of it
and there it hung
until one day
in a moment of daring
like a child on the edge of adulthood
it was picked
and tasted
and everything changed
Let us gather round
the tree of life
and worship the one
whose garden it is.
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

Contemporary Reading
A: There are many names for God
B: Some we can pronounce
A: Others we can’t
B: Some, once written are not allowed to be erased
A: others we simply whisper in sacred spaces
The Bible begins with the name Elokim for God. God as a force of nature. The word ‘El’ means God and it is attached to some aspect: the sun, the moon, the waters so God is ‘The power of the sun’, ‘the force of the river’. But the name Elokim is slightly bigger. It suggests ‘the force of all forces’. Elokim is the one who created all of them. So the first name used of God is a word that describes force and creativity.
A: The second name is Hashem, and refers to God not as a power, but as a person. It literally means, ‘The Name’ and once you have a name you can speak to God and God speaks back. Hashem is God in relationship.
Now, Genesis One speaks of God as Elokim: force, power, creation.
Genesis Two and Three speak of God as Elokim-Hashem, both names together. During the troubled time of trees of knowledge, forbidden fruit and the eating of that fruit, God is described as Elokim-Hashem.
But in Chapter 4, God is referred to only as Hashem, ‘The Name’, God in relationship.
A: Before the fruit was eaten, God was simply a force.
B: But after it, God is in relationship.
A: Only when the first two people related to each other through their differences, their uniquenesses, by their names: Adam & Eve, did they recognise God as a relationship too.
B: No longer something at a distance, a force, Elokim
A: But now intimate and close, in conversation with, Hashem. 
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

Loving God
breath that gives life
imagination that dreams futures
love that begets us all
may we have ears to hear
the deep down love
that always renews
that is woven into
and recreates a world
each day
with a new song in the morning
and a different shade of sunset every evening
and in such wonder and mystery
may we speak with honesty
and acknowledge with humility
we are often confused
between beauty and pain
between wonder and conflict
between the poetry we use to describe creation
and the reality of a world that is hurt and rebellious
And in the middle of that
we find ourselves
with our questions
and confusions
Why, O God,
such harm in the world
Why, O God,
the fear we know
Why, O God,
the pain and the worry and the conflict
Such bitter tasting fruit
we have tasted
we have eaten
our innocence has died
so may we
O God
with the love we trust
be part of this world
and live in the transformation of it
dare to speak of hope
reveal the values that love the world again
repopulate the world with morals that build community again
Yes the fruit is tasted
and our eyes are now open
May we live the faith
trust the grace
share the compassion
and moves us all
from being lost
towards being your community again
So be it. Amen
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

In the thinness that is this place, O God
and the love which holds it together
and in the word that shapes mysteries
beyond what we understand
may we unfold the messiness of our lives
and trust it is all held
in a greater love
May we have eyes that can see
where the sacred lies
in the stoor of the world,
the invitation to new living
in the fruit from the eden tree,
the renaming of who we are
in wrestling with angels,
revealed grace
in the breaking of bread,
the stories of Emmaus encounters
in the noisy crumbs of bread,
the promise of milk and honey
in the wildness years,
the universal, borderless love
proclaimed from the belly of a whale,
such messy holiness
may we have eyes to see it
and see it here
at table
among these people
in this story
of saviour and friends
deniers and betrayers
hesitants and doubters
that we find ourselves among them
no different
except our names
and hear your word for us
a messy word
called love
called grace
called Jesus
In the thinness of this place
we gather in a love
that calls us
and shows itself
in the chaos of salvation
and the scattering of crumbs
So be it. 
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, New Kilpatrick Parish Church website)

Components of worship on this website
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Prayers for others
Lord’s Prayer
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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