Saturday, 28 April 2012

Service for Sunday 29 April 2012 (Year B, Easter 4)

Call to worship
Like sheep we go astray – but Jesus is the good shepherd, who calls us safely home again.

Hymn Together in Song 10 The Lord’s my Shepherd

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Loving God,
We thank you that you provide for our needs
That you do know and want what is best for us
And you carefully guide us in the paths of our lives.
We confess
That like sheep we wander astray
We get ourselves into trouble
We get lost.
We fail to listen to your voice and follow where you lead.
Forgive us our failings
And draw us back to you
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus is the good shepherd, who seeks out and gathers together the lost sheep.
No matter how far we have strayed.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God.                                              
Kids’ Time

Hymn Together in Song 239 Jesus the Lord said

Psalm 23
John 10:11-18
This is the word of the Lord,
Thanks be to God!

A Queensland drover was grazing his herd on the long acre along a remote pasture in outback Queensland when suddenly a brand-new Range Rover emerged from the dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Bolle sunglasses and Yves St Laurant silk tie, leans out the window and asks the drover, "If I can tell you exactly how many sheep and lambs you have in your herd, will you give me a lamb?"

The drover looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Nokia mobile phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds he receives and email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored.

He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his high-tech, miniaturized HP Laser Jet printer and finally turns to the drover and says, "You have exactly 1,586 sheep and lambs."

"That's right. Well I guess you can take one of my lambs," says the drover.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as he stuffs it in the back of the car.

Then the drover says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my lamb?"

The young man things about it for a second then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Parliamentarian from Canberra," says the drover.

"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you know?"

"You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already know to a question I never asked.  You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know anything about sheep. Now give me back my dog!"

In the first century, the image of the shepherd caring for sheep was a good image. In first century Israel, sheep really did recognise the shepherd’s voice and follow him. People were familiar with it. No-one had to go far to see in real life the risks a good shepherd would take to protect the sheep.

In 21st Century Queensland, the image is distorted. We know sheep can cope without a shepherd in constant attendance.  They have fences to protect them from straying more than however many hectares they’re allowed to roam.  We see dirty brown sheep out in dusty paddocks by themselves. They’re not pampered or loved. No-one knows them by name. They don’t have names.  But they exist, they live, sometimes they even thrive.

In 21st Century Queensland, we’ve also seen our masses of dirty brown sheep starving through droughts – or hanging in barbed wire fences after floods.

So the shepherd, leading his flock, sacrificing his own comfort and risking his own safety – is an image that’s alien for us.

But perhaps we can gain more meaning, not less, from the difference.

The picture of Jesus as shepherd draws on an image from what’s almost a different world. It’s a world in which each sheep is precious; valued; in which each has a name; and in which each is sure of the constant care and protection of the shepherd.

Hardly surprising that in Scripture, the image of the shepherd was used for both God’s love for the people and for the responsibility kings had for the nation.

We could choose which kind of sheep we will be – in relationship to Jesus the Good Shepherd.

We can be like first Century sheep, following closely, listening for the shepherd’s voice, trusting the shepherd’s protection. We can be like 21st Century sheep and go it alone (or with a mob of other sheep, but no resident shepherd.) We can trust ourselves for our own means of strength.

For 21st Century sheep, when trouble arises, suddenly, they’re on their own.  The flood comes up in a rush, or the cyclone hits, no-one’s got time to muster hundreds of sheep.  It’s not that the grazier doesn’t care, it’s simply a matter that the job is impossibly large. The grazier doesn’t give his sheep names – they’re not individual s – he knows they belong to him because of their ear tags.

Jesus invites us into a close relationship – we can stay with him and he will stay with us. But it really is an invitation and we are free to choose whether to accept or reject it. We can be like the sheep who stay close to the shepherd – and know his love and care – or we can be like modern sheep who are alone most of the time.

Unlike sheep – God has given us free will – the freedom to choose.

Hymn Together in Song 223 How sweet the name of Jesus
Prayers of the People
Loving God,

We pray for all of the people who choose to stand alone,
who choose independence and not to follow Jesus.
Should a time come when they are not strong enough to stand alone,
We pray they will find you there waiting.

We pray for all of the people who have strayed away from you
Whether by accident or intention.
That each may be found safe
And brought back to your care.

We pray for all of the people who have never left you
May they never tire of following
And never fail to hear your voice
May they know your strength and peace
When the going gets rough.

We pray for ourselves, wherever we are in relationship with you
And however easy or difficult our path is right now.
May we always follow your lead
Always seek your wisdom
Always trust you in hard times.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn Together in Song 209 And can it be

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 29 April 2012: A World-wide Community

Ashgrove West Uniting Church

Good morning,

Many of you will know I’m involved in lupus activism.  I’m a very inactive activist, in that all I do is on the internet so I don’t actually have to go anywhere or do anything.  (Going places and doing things can be quite problematic for me at times.)

On 10 May, people with lupus and their carers, around the world are recognising World Lupus Day.  (No, you don’t need to throw me a party or give me presents.) Planning for World Lupus Day has made me think about the world-wide lupus community.  We’ve created an informal on-line network. Any time, day or night, anyone with lupus needs to talk to someone who understands, there’s someone free on Twitter.  We’ll probably never meet face-to-face, but we’re a supportive community anyway.

That’s what the Christian church is like as well. We form a community that transcends the boundaries of nations, and in the church’s case, even of time.  At any time, some Christian somewhere in the world (in fact, probably many Christians in many parts of the world) is praying.  At any time, somewhere in the world, some Christian is offering service to another person in Jesus’ name.  At any time, somewhere in the world, some Christian is standing up for what they believe is right. At any time, somewhere in the world, some Christian is struggling with faith and doubt.

This is who the church is – not only the people we see together on Sunday morning – but people all around the world, people who have lived from the time of Jesus until now, people like you and me. Most of them we will never meet in this lifetime, but we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Grace and peace

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sunday 22 April, 2012. (Year B, Easter 3)

Sunday 22 April, 2012
Year B, Easter 3, White

Call to Worship
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is who we are. (1 John 3:1a.)

Hymn Together in Song 380 Yours be the glory, risen, conquering Son
Ashgrove West Uniting Church

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Thank you God for your amazing love for us
Love so great that you would accept us as part of your own family
Love so great as to give Jesus for us
Love so great as to raise him from death and offer us new life with him.

We confess that while you love generously, we love selfishly
We fail to love you with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength
We fail to love others as ourselves
We do not deserve to be called your children.

We thank you that your love for us does not depend on our deserving it
The quality of your love for us does not depend on the quality of our love for you.
In Jesus’ name we pray.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Whatever we have done, and whatever we have been, in Jesus we have become children of God. So I have confidence to say to you “our sins are forgiven”.
Thanks be to God!

Kid’s Time

Hymn Together in Song 467 I am the church! You are the church!

Acts 3:12-19
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

We are still in the Easter Season, and the readings are based on the encounters of people with the risen Jesus. In today’s readings, we read about first century believers in Jesus and their relationship with him; but we also learn about ourselves. In today’s readings there are a number of things which show what it is to be a Christian both then and now.  We’re going through the three readings as we heard them. CHRISTIANS, THEN AND NOW…..
ACTS 3:12-19
·         ARE HEALED This reading follows on from the encounter between Peter and John and a crippled beggar – in Jesus’ name he was healed. The beggar’s response was to cling to Peter and John, to go with them  - and be there to hear  what they said about who they were and what they were about. Being a Christian doesn’t always mean we have healing of our physical ailments – but it sometimes happens. Many in the church have been healed of spiritual ailments of various sorts. The ultimate healing that we all need, is humanity’s worst affliction - death.  In his resurrection, and in the promise of our resurrection, Jesus has healed even that.
·         ARE COURAGEOUS (when necessary). Peter stands up, amid the crowd and witnesses to Jesus. This is the same Peter who three times denied even knowing Jesus. Even in our society, it can take courage to claim the name of Jesus Christ, and to stand up for what we believe in.
·         KEEP THE DOOR OPEN. In his speech, Peter makes an invitation to those who’ve already rejected Jesus to change their minds. That is something we, as a church, need to be doing today: inviting people to think again about their relationship with Jesus. In keeping the door open, we need to also be aware of helping people to grow once they enter the church. As well as inviting and welcoming people, we need to be nurturing as well.
·         REPENT (Greek metanoia, literally “turn around”.)  Peter tells his listeners it isn’t too late- they can repent, that is turn to orient their lives towards God. Christians are people who repent – who actively try to turn our lives towards God. That’s not a once-off thing. It’s something that has to be done, and re-done every day.
·         OBEY. Peter and John didn’t just happen to cure the crippled man and give this sermon. They did it out of obedience to what God had called them to do: to witness to the risen Christ. We are still called to the same obedience.
1 JOHN 3:1-7
·         LOVED BY GOD. That’s what this passage begins with: see what love the Father has given us! We are still loved by God in the same way.
·         CHILDREN OF GOD. We’re loved by that we are called children of God. We’re not children of God by nature. We’re made God’s children by God’s love reaching to us in Jesus – to build a relationship that is as close as, in fact closer than, any family relationship.
·         LOVE/SHARE. To accept God’s love, to be children of God, means we’re not only drawn into relationship with God, but also into close relationship with each other. In a close relationship we share things: the good things we have, and the burdens we need to carry.
·         PRAY. Any good relationship is based on communication. Prayer is what keeps the lines of communication open between us and God.
LUKE 24:36B-48
·         HAVE MET JESUS. The first century disciples had met Jesus prior to his death – but meeting the resurrected Jesus was a new, and life-changing experience. Meeting the resurrected Jesus is still a new and life-changing experience.
·         MEET TOGETHER. When the group met together, Jesus was there with them. It’s a promise Jesus has made to us in Scripture, that whenever we meet together in his name, he is here with us as well.
·         FEAR/DOUBT/QUESTION. Jesus had to confront far and doubt and questioning in the early disciples as they met him and thought they were seeing a ghost. Christians today still have times when we are afraid. We still have times when we are afraid. We still have times when we have doubts. That’s part of being human Jesus showed complete understanding of these people, and moved to allay their fears and doubts; not to condemn them. Still today, Jesus is patient with us, and comes to reassure us in our times of fear and doubt, not to judge us for our failure to trust him.
·         BELIEVE. The next step after fear and doubt, and sometimes, even at the same time as fear and doubt, comes believing.
·         STUDY THE SCRIPTURES. The reason Jesus was able to teach the disciples from the Scripture, was that they studied the Scripture, and knew what he was talking about. In a sense, the Scriptures are the universal language of Christianity. Whatever our different denominations or traditions, the same Bible informs us all. (Yes, there are some variations on which books made the canon of the Bible for some Christian traditions – but the core of the Bible is the same for all of us.) So Jesus is able to speak to all of us through the word of Scripture.
·         ARE SINNERS/ARE FORGIVEN. This is exactly what Jesus has come for: to help people recognise that we are sinners, and to grant us forgiveness for our sins.  Sin is anything in our lives that has separated us from God’s love; anything that causes a rift between us and God. Jesus bridges the rift.
·         FORGIVE. The appropriate response to our being forgiven is to forgive others.
·         ARE SENT TO BE WITNESSES. The next verse, after 48 says: “And see, I am sending you…” and sends us to be witnesses to Christ, and to the forgiveness offered in his name.
So, that was a brief picture, of our forebears in faith, and of us as a church today.  It’s the essence of who we are – of who Christ has made us, and calls us to be.

Hymn Together in Song 665 Jesus Christ is waiting…



Prayers of the People
Loving God
We thank you for the people who doubted
The people who gathered the proof so that we might believe.
We pray today for everyone who needs proof of your love
For people who are suffering physical, mental, or emotional pain or illness
May they experience first-hand your love, compassion and care.
For people facing frightening events and difficult decisions
May they experience first-hand your love, compassion and peace
For people facing death
May they experience first-hand your love,  compassion and resurrection.

And with ANZAC Day approaching this week, we pray for those who are suffering as a consequence of war:
For those who have lost loved ones – or those who are waiting anxiously for loved ones to come home
For those who have lost homes or livelihood or security
For those who live in fear
For those who have returned from war, and have been hurt in ways others can’t understand.
For those whose families must carry the burden of the pain caused by war.
May your son, the Prince of Peace, teach us what peace is.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 595 O Jesus I have promised


Threefold Amen

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Newsletter Reflection: Lest We Forget

Good morning,

ANZAC Day is coming up this week.  It’s a high holy day of Australian Civil Religion. While people might campaign to have the shops open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Christmas Day, no-one would dare interfere with the sanctity of ANZAC Day.

So what is it we are supposed to remember on ANZAC Day? That on this day, back in World War I, a whole lot of young Australian and New Zealand men were sent into a battle they had no hope of winning, and were predictably slaughtered? That today, all over the world, young men and women are placed in a situation where they are in constant danger for their lives, but many of them are doing it in hopes of making the world a safer place?  That, in our modern world, the people who make the decision to go to war, don’t actually go themselves (unlike the days when kings went at the head of the army)?

Maybe we remember all these things: that war costs us the lives of so many of our young people, who have the potential to do so much if they were allowed to live their lives; that for each of those lives lost there’s a family that will never be complete again; that today we have wars going on all over the world for all kinds of reasons, not all of them in any way justifiable; that many of the world’s refugees and displaced people are running from the horrors of war.

Maybe what we remember is this: human beings have failed in a big way. We don’t love our neighbours as ourselves. We don’t forgive those who sin against us. We don’t love and pray for our enemies. We resent, we fear, we hate, and we fight. It’s part of who we are.

The answer to humanity’s failing is Jesus. Where we fail to love our neighbours, he loves us no matter who or what we are. Where we fail to forgive, he has gone to the cross to forgive our sins. Where we have failed to pray for our enemies, he prays constantly at God’s right hand for us, the very people who have hurt him and let him down. Where we resent, fear, hate and fight, Jesus answers with love.

Grace and peace

Dates to note:
16 May. 7pm. Church Council.
16 June. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.
17 June. Adult Fellowship will have special offering envelopes to support Mercy Ships women’s health projects
15 September. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.
17 November. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Newsletter Reflection: What's For Sale?

God Help Us!

Good morning,

During the Easter Sunday service, we heard the story of “The Easterless Island” by Tom Kerr, about the commercialisation of Easter. At the same time, there was an image up on the screen of an advertising campaign that said “It’s only Easter if it’s Darrel Lea.”

That particular campaign may have been pretty blatant, but how many other businesses use the holiest points in the Christian calendar to pad their bottom lines? We hear news items about Christmas and Easter sales – how they impact the health of the economy. 

Thinking about it during the week since then, I’ve realised that the best Easter gift I ever received, was some boiled eggs with little faces drawn on them – and the one I gained the most delight out of giving was an eggshell I handpainted for someone whose health condition meant they couldn’t have chocolate (or even a boiled egg.)

It made me wonder just how often we spend ridiculous amounts of money on gifts for people who weren’t looking for gifts, but were just glad to be told we cared. Maybe it’s time for a move for anti-commercialism. Whatever we see on tv ads, or read in catalogues, love isn’t a commodity we can buy.  Jesus wasn’t born for the sake of toy companies, and he didn’t die for the chocolate companies.

ANZAC Day is coming up soon, and unlike Christian celebrations, no-one would dare try to turn that into a money-making event. (Yes, children, the midnight soldier will visit and leave chocolate guns during the night. Kind of doesn’t work, does it?) In Australia, the death of our soldiers is far more sacred than the death of our Saviour.  It’s something to think about.

Grace and peace

Dates to note:
16 May. 7pm. Church Council.
16 June. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.
17 June. Adult Fellowship will have special offering envelopes to support Mercy Ships women’s health projects
15 September. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.
17 November. 7am to 10.30am. Working bee for cleaning/maintenance of church, hall and grounds.

Please note: Iris is not preaching this week, so the service will not appear on this site. Feel free to come to church!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Service for Easter Sunday 2012

Call to Worship

Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed! Allelujah!

Hymn Together in Song 370 Christ the Lord is risen today

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

God of Easter,
We come before you on this day of mystery and miracle,
not fully comprehending what you have done,
not even beginning to understanding how you have done it,
but knowing that you have done it for love of us.

We come before you hesitant and awed,
finding that the rules of life we know,
the boundaries within which we live,
are not limits to you.

We come with hope and expectation,
finding in Jesus’ new life,
the promise that you have a
new life planned for each one of us.

We confess that we sometimes live
in the shadow of Good Friday:
as if all the hope in the world had died,
and that were the end of the story.

We confess that we sometimes
are reluctant to tell others, who we are:
the people of Easter,
given life because Jesus is alive.

We confess that we sometimes
speak, think and act in ways that deny the truth
that Jesus has died for us
and Jesus has risen for us.

Forgive us all that we do
which denies the wonder of your love for us.
Help us to live truly as Easter people
people who know Jesus is alive:
and proclaim that knowledge
in all we think, say and do.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
We are Easter people! We have been given new life, because of Jesus’ life.
So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Kids’ Time
Hymn Together in Song 719 Big Kids Little Kids (Easter verse)
Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18
This is the word of the Lord!
Thanks be to God!
KERR, Tom, “The Easterless Island” in Wriggle: Tracing Around an Invisible, Wriggling God.  Brisbane: Youth and Children’s Ministry Unit, Uniting Church in Australia, 2001. Pp 81-83.

Hymn Together in Song 376 I know that my Redeemer lives



Prayers of the people

God, who brought Jesus to new life, we pray for new life in our world.
We pray for new life, for those still recovering from  natural disasters.
We pray for new life for all those affected by traffic accidents over the Easter weekend.
We pray for new life for those in our community for whom Easter is just another holiday and means nothing real for their lives.
We pray for new life for those who are depressed or dejected for whom life holds no hope.
We pray for new life for all those we care about who are unwell.
We pray for new life for those we know who have died.
And we pray for new life for ourselves – that the wonder of Easter would bring us back into a renewed relationship with you.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Passing the Peace

Hymn Together in Song 526 Lord, Jesus Christ.

Service of Holy Communion
From Maundy Thursday service

Hymn Together in Song 380 Yours be the glory, risen conquering Son


Threefold Amen

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Service for Good Friday, 5th April, 2012

Call to worship

Today is a sad day in the life of the church, a sad day in all of human history. The day used to be known as God’s Friday, but over time, language changed as language does, and it became known as Good Friday.

It’s a strange term, because on this day the ultimate evil occurred – the ultimate of human sinfulness showed itself. Human beings killed the son of God. Human beings killed the one who came into our life to save us from sin

The light, as the writer we know as John, said, had come into the world. He had come into our darkness. Into the darkness, indeed. On this day, it appeared the darkness was strong enough to put it out. Yet even in this absolute darkness, even on a day when evil seemed to rule the earth, God was at work.

Hymn Together in Song 330 O Sacred Head Sore Wounded


God of Good Friday,
we come before you amazed, at love so great it could pay any price for us.
We come before you awed and humbled,
ashamed by the cost of our sinfulness,
overwhelmed that in Jesus, you would pay the cost,
embarrassed that we cannot repay what Jesus has given.

Holy God,
We can see ourselves in so many parts of the Good Friday story.
We see ourselves in Judas,
trusting that the end will justify the means.

We see ourselves in the disciples,
running away when our problems become too great.

We see ourselves in Peter,
denying Jesus for fear of fingers pointing at us.

We see ourselves in Caiaphas,
who decided that one person’s needs weren’t as important as everyone else’s.

We see ourselves in the crowd
caught up in what is happening around us, and joining in – without questioning the ethics of what may be happening.

We see ourselves in Pilate,
washing our hands of our own actions, not acknowledging our own responsibility.

We see ourselves in Barabbas,
the guilty set free at the price of Jesus’ life.
We see ourselves on Jesus’ cross,
calling out, wanting to know where you are, and why you seem to have abandoned us when we are in despair, and pain.

We see ourselves in the women at the foot of the cross,
torn apart by the events of life, and helpless to change the pain we must live with.

We see ourselves in the soldiers who gambled for Jesus’ clothes,
so hardened by life that we can ignore others’ distress.

Help us, we pray, this Good Friday,
to see ourselves, and know who and what we are
And help us to give ourselves over to you,
to your love, your grace, and your mercy.
Transform our lives, and help us to respond,
to the love you have given us in Jesus.
In his name pray Amen.

Kids’ time – Lyndal

Hymn Together in Song 357 When his time was over.

Reading John chapters 18 and 19 (interspersed with verses of “Were you there when you crucified my Lord?” Together in Song 345 – some verses changed.) – Lindy/Josh
Solo: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Reading John 18: 1-14
Solo: Were you there when they came with swords and spears?
Reading John 18: 15-27
Solo: Were you there when his friends betrayed and ran?
John 18:28 – 19:16
Solo: Were you there when they called for him to die?
John 19:17-25
Solo: Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
John 19:26-37
Solo: Were you there when they pierced him in the side?
John 19:38-42
Solo: Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?


Public opinion is a very changeable thing. Politicians who have won by a landslide at one election, to be voted out at the next, understand this.  In a week, Jesus went from being the most popular person on the street, to the most hated.

All of Jesus’ human life.  All of his earthly ministry.  Everything he had come to do, teaching, healing, miracles, debates with other rabbis – that cry of “Hosanna – save us!” from Palm Sunday. Everything was leading him to this.

Here it was – a huge miscarriage of justice. An innocent person – history’s only completely innocent person – was executed for treason.  In truth, it was not possible for him to be treasonous – as he was the highest authority present.

But this was the fulfilment of the ancient law.  In the law God had given Israel through Moses, sin would be overcome by a sacrifice – a first-born male animal, pure, without blemish, sacrificed in place of human beings. The sacrifice would pay the penalty for the crime of offending God’s perfect justice.  But such sacrifices were temporary – there would always be another offering needed, because human beings continually fall short of God’s perfection.

This was what Good Friday was about. God provided another sacrifice – one so perfect as to be able to compensate for all of human sin, for all of time – God’s own first-born son.

Human sin brought Jesus to the cross – but that had been the plan all along – that Jesus would suffer the punishment on behalf of those who put him there, on behalf of you and me.  Jesus would be the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

Each Sunday, when we declare in worship that our sins are forgiven, it is because of this one event, this one miscarriage of justice, which could pay the price for all of our failings.

Hymn Together in Song 341 My Song is love unknown
Psalm 22:1-8, 25-31 (responsive from Uniting in Worship.)
My God, My God, why have you abandoned us?
There are so many times and places where it seems you have abandoned your creation!
The innocent still suffer, and those who are corrupt seem to prosper.
War and rumours of war, are heard of all around the world.
Why have you abandoned your creation? Where are you in the hurt, in the evil, in the injustice?
Is your heart breaking for the evil of this world?
Evil caused by the darkness in human souls?
Is your heart breaking now, just as it was when the evil of human hearts tried to extinguish the light of the world?
We pray for this world, and for all of its needs: that those in need will find that you have not abandoned them, but that you are right there, sharing their pain, feeling their hurt – and offering them the strength to go on.
In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Hymn Together in Song 342 When I survey
Depart in silence

Monday, 2 April 2012

Service For Maundy Thursday, 5 April 2012

Dead palm leaves scatter the sides of the path outside the church – people must pass them to enter.
Seats are arranged in a circle. Seven candles are on the table in the centre.
A bowl and a jug of water are on the table.
A chalice of wine and plate with flat bread are on the table.

Welcome to this service of worship. Our format this morning is a series of readings and reflections. As we go through today’s service, I will ask you all to take turns at doing the Bible readings. And we begin with our first reading.

Reading:  John 1:1-5

The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not put it out. But today, we remember that the darkness tried to put out the light of the world. Jesus’ last night of his earthly life was one when light struggled with darkness; hope and joy struggled with despair and loss.

This morning, we follow the events that make up tonight’s story – the last night before Jesus’ crucifixion – as told by someone who refers to himself as “the disciple Jesus loved.” As we retell the story once more, we realise that we are also the disciples Jesus loves – that this night of darkness and shadows is one which Jesus faced for us – the darkness which struggled with the light, was the darkness of the world, and also the darkness of our own lives.

Extinguish first candle.

Responsive prayer:
Loving God, we give thanks for the Light of the world come among us:
We give thanks for the Light of the world come into our lives.
When we meet times of darkness, of despair and hopelessness:
We give thanks for the light of the world come into our lives
When we meet times of darkness, of uncertainty and doubt:
We give thanks for the Light of the world come into our lives.
When we meet times of darkness, of injustice and unfairness:
We give thanks for the Light of the world come into our lives.
When we meet times of darkness, of danger and of fear:
We give thanks for the Light of the world come into our lives.
When we meet times of darkness, of sorrow and regret:
We give thanks for the Light of the world come into our lives.
We give you thanks in all things Loving God, for the gift of the Light which dispels the darkness of the world, and the darkness of our lives.

Our journey through this long dark night begins with a celebration: friends sharing fellowship together over a meal, and preparing for the festival of the Passover – the festival to celebrate God’s salvation, the freedom of the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. So, preparing to celebrate salvation, the friends gather for a meal….

Reading: John 13:1-20

Our lives lead us down many dusty roads: and we collect the dirt on our feed. Sometimes what we collect is a physical or spiritual or emotional load which we cannot bear. Sometimes what we collect is guilt – a dirty, unclean feeling in our souls – a knowing that we have failed to be and to do what is worthy of disciples of Jesus.

Pour water into the bowl.

In our baptism, Jesus meets us and washes us clean from the discomfort and burden we bear. Until we have been washed clean by Jesus, we are not clean  - until he has wasked us, we have no share with him. But more than that … Jesus teaches us to do the same for each other, to go his way of self-sacrificing love; to ignore our pride and dignity, for the sake of serving each other.

In baptism, we have been washed clean by Jesus, at times we may need to recall that cleansing. You are invited to come forward, to think of what you have been freed from, and what you may yet need to be freed from; to touch the water and be assured of the cleansing love of Jesus.

Extinguish second candle.
Reading: John 13:1-30

What a dark, lonely night; for Jesus, who knew he was about to be betrayed; for Judas who was about to betray him; for the other disciples who really did not know what was happening.

Jesus tore the bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas. Only Jesus, Judas and the disciple who tells the story knew what this meant: it was a secret shared between the three of them. The traitor, the betrayed, and an observer. Could  any of them have changed what was about to happen?

Jesus would not stop it. Through these events people would see God glorified. Judas would later try to stop it, but by then would things would have progressed to the point where nothing could be done.  And, like us, the disciple Jesus loved could do nothing but observe and retell the story.

We like to condemn Judas for what he did, and imagine that we would never do anything like that. To sell Jesus for money! But I wonder… do I sometimes take the bread in communion, and go into my daily life to betray Jesus by the way I live, by the way I relate to other people?

Judas was not alone in his betrayal. In the course of this night, others would also betray Jesus: they would run away or deny him, abandoning him to his fate.

If we put ourselves in Judas’ sandals for a moment: he realised what he had done and repented. He gave the money back. But it was too late, the chain of events begun with his betrayal could not be stopped.

How often do we find that when we do something, unthinking, or knowingly wrong, that it has consequences we don’t foresee?  We can’t control the results of our actions. The rest of the twelve would see Jesus again after this night, and would know his forgiveness and his continuing love: Judas would not have that opportunity – not believing in the possibility of forgiveness, not expecting to be freed from his guilt, he compounded one crime with another and took his own life.

On this night, Jesus would teach the disciples many things: about love and forgiveness, about what the future will bring, but Judas had already gone, and would hear none of it. Having had the opportunity to choose for or against Jesus, he chose to be against him.

Break off some bread, dip in the cup and eat – then pass around the group.

Extinguish the third candle.

Reading John 13:31-35

It was Jesus’ last night with his disciples, and all the time he had to prepare them for what was to come. While the other gospels show Jesus praying alone, to prepare himself, in this account of the story, Jesus took his last opportunity as a teacher.

Just as he had demonstrated in washing their feet, he again told them to love one another. This was how they would be known and recognised as his disciples: by their love for one another.

At another time, Jesus is said to have summarised the Law into two mandates from the Old Testament: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.  On his last night he said: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This was a much more difficult command. Jesus’ love would take him through this night and into Good Friday, through betrayal, abandonment, torture and death. A community of people who had such incredible love for each other really would be a witness for Christ in the world.

Extinguish fourth candle.

Reader: John 13:36-38

It was a little rash of Peter, perhaps, to say “I’ll lay down my life for you.” And yet, the time would come when he would do just that. But that was for the future. On this night, he would do the unthinkable – he would deny even knowing Jesus. With his own safety threatened, possibly his life threatened, he would take the safest way out, and protect his life at the cost of his loyalty to Jesus.

And for his part, Jesus, knowing that one disciple was going to betray him, one was going to deny him, and others would abandon him all together, still turned his attention to them and to their needs. The time was short, but he went on to teach them all that they would need to know for the coming weekend: he assured them that they would eventually be able to go to him – his Father’s house had room for all of Jesus’ followers.  While events may be frightening, confusing, they would not be left alone. The Holy Spirit would come, would be with them, just as Jesus had been with them.

Jesus promised them peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” Peace promised, in the face of what was to come. Peace which could overcome the fear and confusion. What kind of peace could this be? What kind of peace could be offered by someone about to be tortured and killed? And yet, he left them peace – the peace of never being left alone. While they would abandon him, he would never leave them. The peace of knowing that Jesus had a place for them saved in his Father’s house. Jesus left them the paradox of peace in the midst of despair, of turmoil and strife – peace in the midst of persecution and oppression.

The last thing he did before Judas returned, was to pray. Jesus prayed to consecrate himself as a sacrifice to the glory of God. He prayed for his followers: that they would be one. In all the disunity among Jesus’ followers then and now, we are all still one in him. He prayed to consecrate his followers as they went to show his love, and so bring the gospel to the world.

Holy God, as Jesus prayed for us, so we pray for ourselves. May we, and all of Jesus’ disciples throughout the world be one in him. May we through our lives as individuals and through our joint life as a community of faith, bear witness to the Light. May we carry the Light of Christ in the darkness of the world, and may our lives in Christ bring glory to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Extinguish fifth candle.

Reading: John 18:1-11

If Judas is not remembered for anything else – he will always be remembered for this one night, and for the kiss which this gospel does not record, but which is burned into our recollections of this night. We shudder in horror at the thought of the touch of the traitor’s lips – the kis of Judas is like the kiss of a venomous snake.”

The soldiers and police asked for Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered “I am”  … I AM is the way God identified God’s self to Moses on the mountain. I AM … Jesus was not simply identifying himself as the person they were looking for – but someone far more than they expected. I AM: confronted with the reality of who it was they came to arrest, they fell to the ground.

Surely, Jesus could have just walked away from those men who had come with their lanterns, torches, and weapons, who collapsed on the ground at the mere sound of his voice. But instead, he gave himself into their custody, asking only that his followers be allowed to go free. He would give his life in return for their freedom, and ours.

Extinguish sixth candle.

Reading: John 18:12-27

The reason it was Peter who denied Jesus, is that it was Peter who followed him. The others did not have the opportunity, they’d already deserted.

Peter probably didn’t even think about what he was doing. Those accusing voices asked “Weren’t you with him? You sound like a Galilean – aren’t you one of his followers?” What could  Peter have done, except to tell the lie – to say “Of course not! You’ve mistaken me for someone else! I don’t even know him.”

Sometimes, when we’re frightened, or in an awkward situation, it’s easier to pretend that we don’t even know Jesus than it is to speak the truth about him. To confess Jesus among people who are against him makes us vulnerable – puts us at risk. Had any of us been standing by that same fire in the courtyard, would we have acted differently?

Peter denied Jesus the third time, just as the rooster crowed. The gospel writer doesn’t tell us how Peter felt, but we can imagine the pain and guilt as he remembered Jesus’ words earlier that night: that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

Extinguish seventh candle.

The rooster crowed, and it was morning.

The time to celebrate will come, but for now, it seems as if the darkness truly has beaten the light. We go out, in silence, into the darkness and despair of Thursday.  We have yet to go through Friday. But we go, knowing that the light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not put it out.