Note: this is also Migrant and Refugee Sunday
Song of Solomon 2:8-13
The young woman celebrates her lover, admiring his strength and beauty, and remembering his invitation for her to join him as they enjoy the weather, the sounds, the fruits, and the beauty of Spring.
Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
A Psalm in celebration of God’s appointed king as handsome in appearance, but also as just and righteous. The context is the wedding of the king, and thus the beauty and sacredness of this human union is also celebrated.
God has given us every good and perfect gift. Therefore, we need to live God’s law, remembering it and putting it into practice. We are called to be good listeners who are slow to anger, who have a humble attitude and who care for the marginalised and vulnerable in our world.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Jesus is questioned by the religious leaders because his disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat. In response Jesus warns against worship that is only lip service, and explains that it is not what comes from outside that defiles us, but what comes from the heart.
(Bible summaries from John van de Laar, Sacredise)
For anyone wishing to reflect on the Song of Solomons – the only reading we have in the RCL from this book in the Hebrew Scriptures – this article could be helpful (the Mystics use of the Song of Solomon). MysticismArticleTucker P+14
In the Song of Solomon, the author paints an idyllic portrait of earth’s generous face – seasons turn as they should, rains fall on time, then ease gently as flowers and fruit and fragrance burst through. The visceral joy of spring is tangible in the text. This is the antithesis to the flood story in Genesis: “the rains are over and gone and the turtle dove is heard singing.” Don’t miss the opportunity to invite listeners into their intimate place as part of creation. This text poses an important opportunity to reconnect an ever more disconnected humanity to the whole. The unity, wholeness – the integrity – of creation is celebrated in this passage. There is, by reflecting on the generous imagery in the text, an opportunity to imagine God as lover, passionate about the planet and besotted over us. The text speaks of this lover, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills, a joyful part of creation; dependent and in harmony with the earth. There is deep connection to God, the lover, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice at the world so lovingly created, yet corrupted and scarred by our over-consumption. Heartbreak must ensue, even in the face of unbreakable love.
How can we ensure that our children and our sisters and brothers across the earth continue to be embraced by the loving, dependable arms of creation? The earth is meant to turn with the seasons, new life has its day, and then hands itself back to the earth it emerged from – so do we. We are all a part of the cycle of life and death. We can argue that those yet to come are not the inheritors of earth, but the rightful owners. We have borrowed it from them. A life that embodies integrity will step on the earth so gently that it hands it back to the rightful owners of the new day in better condition than it was handed to them as theirs dawned.
(Source: Church of Scotland)
Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One (Boaz’ Song to Ruth)
Rise up, my love, my fair one. Come away.
The winter of my witlessness is past.
My concentration on the harvest may
have made me heedless but I see at last.
The mist that filmed my mind is over, gone.
The fairest of flowers appears and it is you.
The singing in my heart has me undone
and I am glad and now know what to do.
The figs have ripened. Vines are in full bloom.
Their fruit and fragrance are as naught to all
your luxury which floods away my gloom
and makes me more than eager for your call.
Arise, my love, my fair one. Come away.
This day of days shall be our wedding day.
(Source: Thomas John Carlisle, from Eve and After: Old Testament Women in Portrait , published by Eerdmans, 1984. Published on Lectionary Poems)
The next few weeks include readings from James – here’s a link to fabulous stations on the Book of James that could be done over several weeks, or a whole service devoted to stations. (Thanks Sara Hargreaves and Sam Hargreaves)
Mark’s Gospel continues with a story about the washing of hands. There is a glaring injustice exposed in this text; but, because we modern readers are removed from the historical context, it is easy to miss. The convention of thoroughly washing hands and implements was a privilege of the rich. A peasant farmer or fisher, tilling the land and scraping a living, expected to pay extortionate taxes to an occupying force, could not realistically follow the strict cleanliness laws being purported here. In fact there is an irony at work, because those well-connected and wealthy enough to follow these laws gained their wealth by compromising and colluding with the powerful occupiers, taking advantage of the poor and marginalised. There was no integrity.
Jesus shines a light on the hypocrisy and sides distinctly with those being abused by the system. He calls for an integrity of words and action. In fact, he elevates what we do above what we say. Quoting them as ‘intentions’ it becomes clear to the listener that these are ‘actions’. When the ideals we pay lip service to do not have action to support them, things fall apart. Jesus says it is not what comes from outside that defiles, but what comes from inside. If we constantly ‘feed our children’ the idea that things can make them happy however, and money is a measure of success, do we stunt their potential to grow well?
(Source: Church of Scotland)
Martin Luther King, that great leader of the American civil rights movement, was never just concerned with the liberation of African American people. He had a much wider vision. Near the end of his life he was reaching out to labour unions and poor white people all across the country. For King, the true work was always about bringing into being what he continually described as, “the beloved community”. A community where race, class and gender stereotypes were done away with and all people are treated equally and at the same time are celebrated as unique, precious individuals. The Beloved community sounds an awful lot like Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God. How is your worshipping community growing the beloved community?
(Source: W4W, 2015)
Components of worship (links to resources on this website)
Acknowledgement of Land
Prayer of thanksgiving
Prayer of confession/prayers of who we are
Words of Assurance
Prayer for Illumination
Prayers for others
Prayer of Dedication
Benediction and sending out
Call to worship or statement of purpose
Religio: the life (James 1:17–27)
this is what we strive for:
to see, clearly, through the glass
with perfect love – to
to remember, stepping through
the frame, into
to embody, to enact, through
perfect love – with
to see, clearly, the overlooked,
the little, the least: to
see, to act, to love
this is the religion we strive to live;
may it be so. Amen.
(Source: Rev Sarah Agnew, PrayTheStory)
Prayer of Confession
God, we confess to being more comfortable
with being pleasant with each other than being intimate,
more prepared to be polite than truthful,
more willing to like than to love.
We do not truly know how to be the beloved of each
other because we do not know truly and deeply
how we are the beloved of God.
We do not understand or experience
how deeply we are accepted and loved by you God,
so we live smaller, less interesting, more tentative lives.
But we are your beloved, we are held in your mind and your heart,
we are your people.
May we experience your forgiveness and your care.
May we relax in the love you have for us.
May we live as your beloved people.
(Source: W4W, 2015)
Words of Assurance
Source of love and grace,
we thank you that your love for us,
your gentleness with us, and your grace in us,
are always present.
We thank you that we are your beloved,
we are held in your heart and your hands.
We rejoice that your love is there for everyone.
We rejoice that we are loved simply because we exist.
We are loved because we are loved. Amen.
(Source: W4W, 2015, adapted)
May this money become a part of the great work of God’s new world and shape the beloved community. Amen.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Giver of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1.17
Beloved, every little thing
is a signed card from you.
Every blade of grass and breath of air,
each moment has your blessing in it.
Each bit and trinket is a gift.
In every thought or feeling, sight or sound,
there is what that thing says,
and what you whisper besides,
and there is you.
Even in the hurts and disasters
there is your voice, your calm hand,
the unfolding of grace.
At the end of the day
my heart is strewn with wrapping paper.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, www.unfoldinglight.net)
Prayer of Intercession
God, we know that there are millions
of people in the world who are a million
miles from a life that can be described as
the beloved community or the Kingdom of God.
Today we pray for all of those who have lost
any shred of hope that such a world
can ever come into being.
We pray that millions more will have the courage
and the compassion, the tenacity and the hope,
to work for this world to come into being.
We pray that you will raise up doers
of the words of God and not just hearers.
We pray, in the words of the Epistle of James,
that we will, “Therefore rid ourselves of all sordidness
and rank growth of wickedness,
and welcome with meekness
the implanted word that has the power
to save our souls.”
May we be a part of your good news, saving the whole world.
(Source: W4W, 2015)
Commissioning and Benediction
Friends, hold your heads high.
You are loved by God.
You are central to the growth
and flourishing of God’s Kingdom
You are at the heart of God’s beloved community.
You are called to hold high the hope of the world,
the truth that we are all one people,
one family, one community.
We have one mother and father,
one creator, one great lover
who watches over all.
Go in peace to love and serve God
and God’s people.
(Source: W4W, 2015)
On the one hand, the Song of Solomon offers a delightful invitation to recognize the winter is past, and the rains have come and gone, so let us rise up and go. And on the other, for some, that spring has turned to the depths of winter, when hopes are dashed, when the future is unknown and uncertain. It will open up a discussion about the plight of refugees, with some stories about tragedies in Europe and off the coast of Libya this week included for reflection. Refugee & Migrant Sunday 2015 discussion resource.