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)

Prayer of confession (The stoning of Stephen)
(this may be ‘paired’ with the ‘prayers of the people’ – in the prayer of confession candles are extinguished, and then lit again in the prayers of the people)
Our Christian background is no stranger to violence. We have fought wars in the name of Christ. We have sung hymns with violent and war like language in the name of Christ. We celebrate the martyrs of the church and we worship the crucified Christ. Yet in Christ, God has reconciled the world to God-self. We are aware of the need to work towards reconciliation and peace with each other, to fully become people in God’s own image. As we do so, let us acknowledge our past and where we fall short of love.
For the times we resort to aggression, violence and intolerance towards others.
Forgiving God, we seek wholeness. (a candle is extinguished)
For the times we have caused pain in others, either willingly or unknowingly.
Forgiving God, we seek wholeness.
For the times we have watched and benefited from the violence of others.
Forgiving God, we seek wholeness.
For the times we have remained apathetic to the violence in our society; standing back, being too afraid or too busy to become involved in helping those in need.
Forgiving God, we seek wholeness.
A silence is kept
Words of assurance…..

Prayers of the people
Lord Jesus Christ, you assumed our poverty to transform it. We pray for those whose life is ground out of them by the violence of poverty; for those in our cities and towns, for those in distant lands, especially those living in countries burdened by international debt. To all thse you have promised the kingdom of God. We pray for that kingdom and its coming.
(A candle is lit)

Song: O Lord hear my prayer (Taize)
Loving God, you gave your prophet a vision of the day when swords will be turned into ploughshares. Our hearts ache as we remember before you the casualties of war: civilians, soldiers, rivers and forests, and all your creatures We look now to that day when war will be no more, and you will split the full metal jacket of our hearts to reveal living hearts for peace.
(A candle is lit)
Song: O Lord hear my prayer (Taize)
Accepting God, you inspired your apostle Paul with a vision for our world. A world where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. May we, your creation who are so prone to brutally reacting to differences, be infected with Paul’s vision. Teach us to not identify and evaluate each other by our differences but to see each other as you see us in Christ Jesus, whole and complete. For those cultural groups in which racial hatred and violence are intrinsic to their tradition, we ask that you would uncompromisingly use us as salt and light for change. Inspire us with courage, lead us with patience and use us with persistence.
(A candle is lit)
Song: O Lord hear my prayer (Taize)
God of peace, it is inconceivable that a country that is proudly cultured and sophisticated should be so ready to inflict injury on its own members. We hear of the obscene violence inflicted on women, children, the elderly and other powerless people and it sickens us. How you must weep. The very relationships that should promise supreme safety become putrid prisons for the powerless. Help us to end it. Give safety to those who experience violence within relationships, and repentant shame to those who perpetrate that violence.
(A candle is lit)
Song: O Lord hear my prayer (Taize)
Overcoming violence calls and challenges us to live out our Christian commitment in the spirit of honesty, humility and self-sacrifice. To work together to break down the walls of separation and hostility for  a world where religions and cultures may live in peaceful co-existence and in mutual openness and trust. We open our hearts and extend our hands to all those eager to work together to end violence and build lasting peace with justice, in the full knowledge that God reigns supreme over all for good and is ever present amongst us in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Source: Liturgy to celebrate the launch of the decade to overcome violence)

Singing from the Lectionary (Natalie Sims)

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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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