29 May 2011
Year A Easter 6
Call to Worship
God has planned
that we should never be alone
never be lost or frightened
in the world.
God's Spirit is here
within us and among us
drawing us into the love
that God holds for us all.
God's Spirit surrounds us
and enfolds us-
giving us help, comfort,
and guiding us with wisdom.
In the Spirit
God meets us in this place.
Let us worship God.
Hymn Together in Song 415 Praise the Spirit in creation
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
we give you thanks
for your constant presence with us
for your constant care over us
for your constant love for us.
We thank you that each moment of every day
we are in your care.
We confess the times
we have thought
as if you were absent
as if we were alone in the world.
We make this confession,
aware of Jesus' promise,
that we would never be left alone.
We give you thanks for that promise
and pray that you would
help us live in accord with
your Spirit living among us.
In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Hymn Together in Song 412 God sends us his Spirit
1 Peter 3:13-22
About 14 years ago, my family went on a camping trip to Lamington National Park. (That was back in the days when I could handle sleeping on the ground.) We'd heard about it and seen promotional brochures, and the highlight of staying there would be the treetop walk. For those who haven't been there, the treetop walk is just what the name says, it's a suspended walking path or very long bridge, going through the rainforest canopy.
I really wanted to do the walk, but I've always been afraid of heights, which slightly complicates walking through the rainforest canopy. It is a bit of a distance from the solid ground. I wanted to do this so much, that I tried.
I started to walk, and about a metre off the ground, froze and decided that was enough adventure for me and I was going back.
A small hand grabbed mine, and Clarissa (about 5 at the time) said, “It's all right Mummy, you can do it. I'm not letting you give up.”
So I was led through the rainforest canopy by a super-confident little girl, who wouldn't let go no matter how sweaty my hand got, and wouldn't hear of stopping or turning back.
I wasn't scared. I was terrified. But I did it. If I'd been alone, I would have given up.
A couple of years after that – I held on to that same hand, only slightly bigger, while Clarissa lay in a hospital bed with a fractured skull.
At night, I slept on a trundle bed beside her her bed, with my arm up in the air – because even when she slept, she gripped tightly to my hand. She wanted to be sure I was there with her – that she wouldn't be alone.
It's a part of the way God made human beings, that we draw strength from each other.
When we are with someone, we can have the courage to face things we never could alone. It doesn't mean we're not afraid, but it means we can have the courage to go on even when we are afraid. Even when the other person can do nothing to change the situation, having someone who cares for us there makes a difference.
Our reading from John's Gospel this morning is part of Jesus' farewell discourse. It's part of the conversation from that dinner at the last supper – the night he instituted holy communion. It was a big event.
There were a lot of very frightening things about to happen. Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, taken for trial, and executed within the next 24 hours. People would be on the lookout for Jesus' disciples, planning to do similar horrible things to them.
Jesus wanted to assure his closest followers that through all that was about to happen, the wouldn't be alone. Jesus would return to them. Not only that, but God would send another helper, and advocate, someone to be with them for ever, to never leave them alone.
We know from subsequent scripture, and church history, that a lot of frightening things did happen to those disciples, and to others who have followed them. Even though they were clearly scared, those early disciples were able to stick to their faith, continue to spread their message, to carry on. They knew they weren't alone.
They weren't alone: neither are we.
Does anyone realise what significant day happened this week? I know there was a football game of some sort, but otherwise? Thursday was National Sorry Day. That was the start of Reconciliation Week.
I know that this event doesn't get as much attention as the State of Origin. I think this is an example of God's Spirit being with us, and working among us – that effort to reconcile the differences between people and groups, especially when there has been a long history of tension, mistreatment and misunderstanding. Human beings clearly messed up the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country. But even through that we were not alone, and the Spirit has inspired people throughout the years to try to reconcile the differences, to learn to share resources, to respect each other.
We see the Spirit at work whenever anyone stands up for justice, for peace, for understanding between people.
We see the Spirit at work whenever someone reaches out to care for a person in need.
We see the Spirit at work whenever we find that strength or courage we just don't think we have, but we absolutely need.
Jesus said the Advocate is to “be with you for ever”. That means today we are still not alone. We do go through difficult, frightening and challenging times personally; the world around us does go through turmoil and changes we don't understand; and we may find ourselves frightened and confused at times. But, we do not face those difficult and challenging times alone.
Hymn Together in Song 407 Breathe on me, breath of God
Elders – Lindy what it means to her to be an elder
Prayers of the People
we pray for your world
a world you have never abandoned or left alone
but which sometimes appears to be alone.
We pray for peace
in the middle east
and in all the parts of the world
where peace seems a distant hope
May your Spirit
guide the leaders of our world
and teach them how to create peace.
We pray for people
who must make difficult decisions
in their work lives
and in their home lives.
May your Spirit guide
their thoughts and actions
and grant them wisdom.
We pray for people
who have the needs of others
in their care.
May your Spirit give
them gentle words and actions
and grant them patience and understanding.
We pray for indigenous Australians
especially those from the stolen generations
who struggle to find their identities
May your Spirit give
all Australians a desire to work together
for the good of everyone.
We pray for the needs of those we know
who are in special need at this time.
(Names from prayer list)
Help us know your Spirit with us,
sustaining us and strengthening us.
In Jesus' name.
The Lord's Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 687 God gives us a future