Pentecost Yr A 2020

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Like wind, as of fire, living water. Acts 2:2, John 7:38, Pastel & Acrylic, Mark Hewitt 2020

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge that we are on land of the Kaurna people, the traditional custodians of the Adelaide Plains. We are awed that they celebrate the religious significance of place, plant and all living creatures; and that care for the earth is implanted in their law. We honour them and also delight in the sacred in our midst. We pray that in the power of the Holy Spirit we might work together for reconciliation and justice in this land

Preparation for Worship

You may wish to set the space before you for worship. There may be symbols you wish to use to prepare for Pentecost. There is the postcard, like wind as of fire, living water. Coloured cloth, Red is good for today & or a lit candle as a symbol of Christ with us. You may wish to make a hot chocolate to have with you this morning or get it ready to have afterwards.

I suggest you watch the family worship video first, even if you are home alone. It won’t be the same if you watch it after. It will show you what you can do with the things in your pack which can help to prepare for this worship video.

Acts 2:1-20 NRSV

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.

John 7:37 NRSV

On the last day of the festival,  the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Reflection

We heard from two gospel writers today. Set at two different festivals. At Two of the three pilgrimage feasts of Jesus’ day. The first account takes place at feast of Pentecost and is told to us by Luke, yes it’s from Acts but Acts is Luke’s gospel, book 2. In the telling of the event the disciples are trying to describe something really dramatic that changed their life around. Putting into words something beyond words. They were trying to describe the power, drama and the emotion. They did not say the Spirit was wind or Fire but like wind, as of fire.
Wind - This was something they felt; as if they were cleansed by a strong breeze coming off the waters blowing over & around them;
Fire - As if they were warmed right through by standing close to a fire. Warming their whole person.
This is high drama and so they used very strong or powerful language. ‘like the rush of a violent wind’, ‘Divided tongues, as of fire’. What takes place here is about community, as the entire community is present. All are baptised into the Spirit, at the same time. This is not about individuals even though it’s a gathering of individuals.

The Second account of the Spirit is set at the feast of Tabernacles and is told to us by John. Still quite a visual description of the Spirit but different, no like wind or as of fire.
Water - Jesus tells the disciples the Spirit will flow like rivers of living water from believer’s hearts. A pouring out, an action, fluid, moving.

So we have two quite different accounts of the actions of the Spirit of God, these aren’t the only ones in scripture. What can we make of them? The Spirit’s arrival or actions are not to be upheld as one off’s, what we have in these narratives are wondrous actions that symbolise God’s ongoing presence among those who follow after Jesus the Christ. Yes, these two accounts use quite dramatic descriptors of the Spirit but in my experience the Spirit’s presence has not been overly dramatic but gentle. Rather than a violent wind, more like a breeze or a breath. Ruffling my hair if anything. Rather than divided tongues as of fire, yes fire, although more so, the warmth that comes from standing by a campfire on a cold night or the warmth flowing from my hands when holding a mug of hot chocolate. Warmth filling my soul. Then living water, rather than fast flowing rivers, more so, like water of the shallows gently lapping the shore line. The Spirit of God in my experience is the Spirit of Gentleness. A Spirit of Gentleness that is forever flowing over and around our lives. Every moment of everyday.

We are about to enter the longest season in our Church liturgical year. The season after Pentecost, one that stretches out for almost half a year. Right up to Advent in December. So, we have plenty of time to explore more about the coming of the Spirit in our lives. This time is also a season where we have to live with the threat of the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic lockdown may be easing but the virus is still active.

What does it mean to continue the ministry of Jesus in such a world?
What does it mean to move about in such a world knowing we do so with the Spirit of Gentleness flowing from our hearts like rivers of living water?

Rev Mark Hewitt

Prayer - Warming Presence

Warming Presence in a morning cuppa

Slowing in the midst of busyness,
I take this time, O God,
to focus on the warming cuppa
and share in this moment with you.

I give thanks for the time with you,
O timeless One.
It is I who pack so much into my days
that I miss you, and long for you.
You are never far away.

I give thanks for the warmth of the cup,
O Warming Presence.
As I hold it,
I am reminded that you hold me always.
It is I who step apart from our space together.

I give thanks for the sweet smell, rising in the steam,
O Breath of Life.
I too often forget the simple joy
of finding new life and sweet goodness,
in the simple act of breathing in freshness,
and breathing out all that has passed.

I give thanks for sipping the comforting fluid,
O Refreshing One.
Too often, I miss the precious life-giving nourishment
In my quest for better or best.
This is the best, as it is now, here, present,
in the sipping and savouring of the drink.

I give thanks for the life-giving energy,
O Vital One.
As simply as drinking from this cup,
You offer energizing vitality when I most need it,
And it is there, to sip and savour every ‘mouthful’
At any moment in my day.

So, as I take time in this moment,
feeling warmth,
"breathing in sweetness of life,
breathing out, letting go of all that weighs me down,
I cherish the refreshing nourishment you offer,
And savour the renewing vitality,
in this moment, in this cup,
with thanks, O gentle, humble Giver of Life,
ever present, ever there. Amen

Rev Anne Hewitt

Pentecost, wind, fire, water. Prayerful Colouring, Mark Hewitt 2020

Easter 7 Ascension

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Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

John 17:1-11 NRSV

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

Luke 24: 50-53 NRSV

Then Jesus led them out of the city as far as Bethany, where he raised his hands and blessed them. As he was blessing them, he departed from them and was taken up into heaven.  They worshiped him and went back into Jerusalem, filled with great joy, and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God.

Message

What we heard in Jesus’s farewell discourse in John, was a prayer. An intimate prayer offered publicly. I am careful in my use of gender specific language to describe God. As all humanity, male and female are made in God’s image. I do not wish to limit God to any one gender. Here though, in Jesus prayer, Father is a term of intimacy rather than maleness. In John’s gospel this prayer comes immediately before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. This prayer focuses on unity, on holding up the church, and for the disciples to be blessed in their work. For John, who was writing for the early believers, the point now is “how do we move forward?” At the core of the prayer is Jesus’ request that God will protect the disciples (the church) and keep them (it) unified. While we cannot know what will happen to the early believers at this point in John’s gospel, the impassioned hope and prayerful expectation is that they may not be divided in vision or purpose.

This emphasis on unity does not mean that all Christians are expected to agree but rather the hope is that we will recognize that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

Luke then gives us a short account of Jesus departure. Luke then goes on to fill another book. The book of Acts, with an unfolding narrative about how the early believers come together as church and become the body of Christ continuing Jesus’ mission and ministry.

What does it mean for us? Put simply, we together are the Body of Christ and need to see Christ in each other. We have been living with COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. One of the joys evolving in this difficult time, is how much we, as God’s people, are being church, rather than going to church. We are the people of God and the Body of Christ. As these restrictions are now lessening, we find ourselves on a threshold. How will we continue to express the Way of Christ in this new era? How will the difference that we have lived in, develop the difference in how we will become? Great questions, needing prayerful consideration.

Prayer

Go from here, full of the tenderness of Jesus’ care for each and every one of us. Go from here, carrying with you the abundance of God’s grace and love, and letting it overflow as blessings to all. Go; for Christ is out in the world, still calling us to life and love. Amen

Easter 6 The Advocate is coming

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John 14:15-19 NRSV (adapted)

‘If you love me, you will follow my teachings. And I will ask God our Creator, and you will be gifted another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees it nor knows it. You know it, because it abides with you, and it will be in you.

‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.

Even when alone its easy to feel you are not alone when the Autumn Sun breaks through, You observe the last autumnal leaves on the crepe myrtle, the fiddle wood is in flower as are the salvia and daisy. It’s more difficult to realise that when alone you are not alone when it’s all dark and grey. Yet even then when alone, we are not alone.

John 14:15 – 19  This is a very small part of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples. Talking about how the relationship is lived out between Jesus and those who love him.

You may have noticed one of the variations I made when reading our passage of Scripture, I read “if you Love me you will follow my teachings” Rather than “if you Love me you will keep my commandments”. This is the tricky thing with translations. For our Christian scriptures are translated from the ancient Greek into modern English. Both ways of saying the phrase is accurate to its meaning but there is more. Jesus in using the term that we translate as 'commandments' Is not some authoritarian person commanding or demanding that something be done on orders. In this instance with Jesus’s use of the word. Jesus is refereeing to the totality of his revealings of God. Whether through his teachings or actions. This continues Jesus’s earlier teachings about faithfulness to his Word. That is Word with a capital W. Word with the capital W is another term used the cover in part everything Jesus has revealed about God through his teachings or actions. Put simply to love Jesus is to live a life of love grounded in Jesus’s own love.

Fear not as the Advocate will be there with us as we live a life of love grounded in Jesus’s love.
Advocate is a translation of the Greek word Paraclete: A word that in Greek means many things
- the one who is called alongside us
- the one who exhorts (to strongly encourage or urge)
- the one who comforts
- the one helps
- the one who make appeal’s on one’s behalf.
The Advocate/Paraclete is all those things and more. It is the Spirit of Truth. As Jesus is the Truth, The Spirit of Truth shares the work of Jesus.
The Advocate – Paraclete – Spirit of Truth, we simply call the Spirit or Holy Spirit.  They are all one and the same.

Jesus promises the disciples they will not be left alone the Spirit is coming. To be with them as they live a life of love grounded in Jesus’s love. They will not be orphaned from their Lord. This was a promise and hope from Jesus to strengthen the disciples in the coming dark days. This is a promise, hope and reality for us today.

The Darkest of days may be behind us but there are still dark days ahead. We may be on the way out of our lock-down. But it’s not over yet. The way out ahead of us is longer than up to this point in the pandemic. We may be filled with hope as our government has shown us a future. That hope may fade. Rest assured. At all times past and into our future we remain in Jesus’s promise The Advocate – The Spirit of God is with us. Is with you!

Prayer

God of all, we have gathered here to praise and worship you because we have known your power and movement in our lives. We have felt your love surrounding and upholding us. Your Holy Spirit, the Advocate, has walked beside us through celebration and grief; a gentle, constant reminder of your presence.

God of mercy, we commit ourselves to be your church together because we know that you will not abandon us or leave us orphaned, but will be our sustainer forever. We commit ourselves to be a community that shows forth your abiding love to those who have felt abandoned by this world.

And so we pray this day:

for those who are grieving, and seeking a new way forward;

for those who are experiencing housing insecurity, hunger, or food insecurity;

for those with health concerns, mental or physical, that keep them isolated or unable to live into the fullness of who they could be;

for those who have been rejected by their families or communities;

for those who have been blamed or shamed by those who were supposed to give support or accountability;

for those who are living with violence and trauma as part of their daily lives.

Holy God, we know that the hurts of this world are not what you want for us. We know that you are with us, our comfort and consolation, even in hard times. Help us to come alongside each other, as well. Help us to be the tangible presence of your Holy Spirit, the hands and feet of your love in this world. Help us, O God of grace, to love each other as you have loved us. Amen

Seasons of the Spirit

Easter 5 – Mothers Day

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Prayers and Reflections for Sunday 10 May 2020

Happy Mothers’ Day
to all the mothers
and those who have mothered us.

If today is a sad day for you,
we pray God’s comfort and blessings upon you.

Here is the worship material for this Sunday.  It consists of some prayers and a written reflection.  Please find a quiet comfortable place and allow yourself some time for silent reading. Or if you are a couple or family, you might like to read it out to each other. As you work your way through the document, you will find some places to pause and answer questions.  If you want to come back to them later, that would be all right too.

We pray that God will bless you richly as you spend this time in prayer and contemplation.

Grace and peace,

Richard and Rosalie Upton

Easter 4

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John 10:1-10 - Jesus the Good Shepherd

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’ 6Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

There is a danger of thinking that Easter is a day, or at best, a weekend.
But in reality, Easter is not a moment in time!
It's an experience. It’s is something that happens to us, just like it happened to a group of companions long ago,
and has happened to people throughout history. The resurrection experiences are not simply exclusive gifts for people who are specially blessed – those who walked with Jesus, and shared his ministry. The same gift is offered to us. In different ways, at different times in our lives, to experience the presence of God in Christ in ever new ways.

In the Gospel reading set for today (John 10:1-10) are three main images:
that of the shepherd
that of the gatekeeper
that of the known voice.
And all three are significantly helpful for us as we think about the implications of the Easter event for us, and for our world.
The image of the shepherd is one of commitment and provision.
The concept of the gatekeeper brings with it thoughts about security, and protection, and boundaries, and within those boundaries, freedom.The awareness of the beloved voice brings comfort, closeness and confidence.

These three images have connections into the resurrection stories we know well …

  • There is a reminder of Jesus after the resurrection feeding the disciples on the shore, and of his conversation with Peter – “Do you love me? …Feed my sheep”
  • There is a reminder of the what happened to the disciples and to Thomas when the doors were closed, and the disciples were locked away. Jesus comes into the room that is locked, opens the doors that have confined them, and sets them free to discover the One who is “My Lord and my God”.
  • There is a reminder of Mary’s experience in the garden where she’s lost in her grief, and can see nothing clearly, and understand none of the events she’s experienced, until Jesus calls her by name, and love is restored, life is resumed.

And these resurrection experiences are not lost on us.
Jesus the shepherd still provides and cares for us.
Jesus the gatekeeper still opens up for us new ways of living.
Jesus still speaks to us, comforts us, guides us and calls us to new experiences and opportunities.

And so Easter truly becomes an ongoing blessing not simply a weekend wonder, nor even a Sunday surprise.
The reality of Jesus’ presence – the outcome of his sacrifice for us and of God’s act in raising him from death –
is a gift from each of us, every day.

 

Prayer

Help us to hear your voice, Loving Jesus,
as you call us into new life.
Make us ready to respond to every need,
let us see every person as one of your friends,
show us your life continually present in our world.
Help us to acknowledge the boundaries you set, Loving Jesus,
as you shelter us and protect us.
Within those boundaries, set us free to be people of faith and service.
When you open doors for us, may we be eager to come in and go out,
to share with everyone the love and the life you give.
Help us to follow in your way, Loving Jesus,
as you lead us into the experiences of this day and this week.
May we be quick to take note of the blessings
you bestow on us and on all people,
and let our gratitude be seen in the ways we care for our neighbours and our world.
For your love’s sake, we ask it. Amen

Easter 3: On the road or are we?

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Luke 24:13-35 - The Walk to Emmaus

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ 25Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ 27Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Message

There are a few stories in scripture that are my favourites, and today’s is one of them. Not quite sure why? Maybe because it’s so unassuming, A very human occurrence, Two people walking along a road from one place to another place. In this case Jerusalem to Emmaus. Yes sure. They have just gone through some shattering events and they are processing by walking and talking. Scripture only tells us the name of one of those walking, Cleopas and “a companion,” perhaps it is his wife, with him? We don’t know who they are whether male or female. They are talking about – and weighed down by –  Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus joins them on the road, they do not recognize him immediately; perhaps their grief and loss blind them. It is when they offer Jesus hospitality, a sign of love, and when he blesses and breaks bread that the revelation happens, and they recognize the stranger with whom they have been walking and talking. A transformation takes place within the travellers; they shift from standing still in a state of sadness to bursting with life and hope. In great haste, they return to Jerusalem to tell the other followers of Jesus what they have experienced: Christ’s resurrection and their own. The exact location of Emmaus is not known that invites us to grapple with what is the truth and what is historical in this story from Luke. Jesus scholar John Dominic Crossan stated, “Emmaus never happened. Emmaus always happens.” What does he mean by that, what is the truth? The two disciples were totally preoccupied. As we are all too familiar, it is easy to become preoccupied, missing the obvious going on around. Caught up with our own thoughts, events, concerns, or grief So preoccupied that we don’t recognise that God is amongst us.

The current world in which we find ourselves is a classic example. With our partial lock down & physical distancing.  For many of us our personal world has become so much smaller. Added to that, with all our newsfeed about Coronavirus. So easy to get preoccupied. Consumed by self. We might not be on the road But God remains our companion. God has never left us.

Have you seen God travelling with you at the time Or when looking back, can you see that God was your companion?\
If not, what revelation is needed so you can see with clarity? Go into this coming week knowing you have God as your companion.

Prayer

God of the wilderness,


In the muteness of isolation,
your Spirit whispers a gentle presence;
In the brokenness of separation,
your embrace is hope and life;
When all appears at be at risk -
our community, our life, our future,
you are present, bearing us to life again.
You are before us,
beside and behind us.
We trust in you.
All in Christ, we pray. Amen.

Rev Simon Hansford, Moderator of the Synod of NSW and the ACT
https://assembly.uca.org.au/component/k2/item/3150-prayers

Road to Emmaus, Prayerful Colouring, Mark Hewitt

ANZAC Day Prayer

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Prayer

God our Father, we hold before you: those crippled or maimed
in body as well as in spirit,
those who suffer nightmares
that years of peace cannot rub out, those who cannot or will not forgive.
Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
God the Son, we hold before you:
those who use the young and old
to wreck havoc and commit unthinkable crimes, those in a broken world
confused by words of hatred and revenge.
Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
God the Spirit, we hold before you: ourselves when we have done nothing about
the wrong all around us,
those who have not forgiven us.
Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
We repent of all that we have done,
and all we have not learnt from the past.
We hope for grace to know ourselves forgiven, and to offer forgiveness to others.
Amen.

Source:
https://assembly.uca.org.au/images/Ministries/Defence_Force_Chaplaincy/ANZAC_Day_Resources.pdf   Page 11

Easter 2: Trust & Rejoice

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John 20:19–31 Jesus Appears to the Disciples NRSV

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Message

So today, as we hear the good news of Jesus’ life and resurrection from death,
we are invited to trust God with our lives. Throughout our Lent Easter season we have been looking at events from the perspective of the disciples. Today is no different.  The disciples would have been experiencing; Fear, confusion, disbelief & tinges of joy. Who can blame them?

Death and life can be scary, with the elements of the unknown or unknowable leaving us to wonder what to believe, whom to trust.
Now is no different, we or people we know have lost their jobs, had hours reduced, pay cut. Or for many of us we are asked to stay at home
or work from home. Keeping contact with others to a minimum. YET at the same time the horrors we were told to expect has not happened.
Is this real? Everything still seems normal. BUT then we see reports, images, video from places other than Australia & New Zealand
And they are living the horror. What we see is not necessarily what we experience. Does that mean we discount or trust?

We find ourselves in a similar position to that of the disciples in the locked room. With issues of Death and life in our face, elements of the unknown or unknowable leaving us to wonder what to believe, whom to trust. We may even find ourselves in our own locked room.
Be mindful of whom or what you are locking out. Keep the locking out to the physical to keep each other safe. Make the effort & find creative ways to keep in contact with one another. We continue to be the church, be it at a physical distance from each other. Our church life continues even though it is different. When worshiping using our online resources or printed material, do so knowing others of our community are doing so too. When you pray and keep in contact. Do so knowing others are doing so too.

We may be in locked rooms but we know that is no barrier for Jesus, as he enters locked rooms.

Prayer

Almighty God,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
intellect to understand you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you
and life to proclaim you,
through the power of the Spirit
of our loving Lord,  Jesus Christ.
Amen

The Mark of the Nails. Prayerful Colouring. Mark Hewitt

Easter: The catastrophe will pass With New Life

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John 20:1–18 The Resurrection of Jesus

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Message

As a metaphor for events of Easter Jesus was thrown into the fire & burnt on Good Friday.
Betrayed & abandoned by many. Left to the authorities who collaborated in power & did their worst.
Yet death did not stop Jesus. Our scripture reading today from the gospel of John is clear!
Jesus is not to be found among the dead but among the living. New Life has burst forth.
This is a changed Jesus. Still the Jesus of before but transformed. Had been through death and is now able to travel with the living.
That us!

Take heart Jesus understands human experience. We have seen him go through it all.
The highs & lows over this past week. The celebratory entrance into Jerusalem last Sunday.
A meal with friends serving them – Thursday. Betrayal – suffering & death – Friday
Jesus understands human experience.

The bushfire can also be a metaphor for our own lives. Hopefully none of us will ever have to go through what Jesus went through.
Although we can identify with times or situations in our own lives or those close to us or the world around us
that are times of approaching fire, thrown into the fire & being burnt. Then the aftermath.
Scared, bare, landscape with ash all around.

Then new life. Buds bursting forth. We are changed by the experience. Transformed A new person in many ways.

Leave the ash behind look for & embrace the new shoots in your life.

Prayers of Hope ...

... for ourselves, those dear to us or to the situation around us, locally, nationally or globally.
The hope of new life into those situations.

A time of prayer from the heart spoken or unspoken …

Conclude with…

God of new life, we pray that you will care tenderly for the life here.
We pray that the work we do will bring life to others beyond this place,
Especially in places where it is hard to survive.

We give thanks for the life we experience in each one of us
and we pray that the way we love and work together will encourage that life.

We are glad to be here with each other. Trying to care for each other,
Giving and receiving in a sharing of gifts and graces
that we may be a part of the transforming life of God.
Amen

Easter: New life blossom. Prayerful Colouring. Mark Hewitt

 

Good Friday: Catastrophe upon us

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This land is familiar with fire & being burnt
Fire has also been used to manage this landscape
We started this Lenten journey in the bushfire season
Major fires had spread across the nation.
We now live in times where a virus,
like a fire front is spreading across the world.
We are going to use imagery of the fires
As a metaphor for the dark time that Jesus
Went through in his trials & execution on the Cross.
And also as a metaphor for the dark & difficult times in our own lives.

Prayer of Confession

God who never turns away from us in rejecting judgement,
We enter this day as the one
Where we are invited to look deeply into our lives.
Embrace us with your costly love as we face our realities –
The tough truth about ourselves
Which stands stark and clear before your cross.

Silent prayer

Loving Jesus, we grieve our constant failure to be your true people.
Our lives are often limited by our own concerns
And closed off by prejudice and ignorance.

 Silent prayer

Show us our self-righteousness as we tell ourselves
That we are the chosen ones in this world.
Break through our self-deception so that we may see ourselves
As ordinary human beings,
Those who share in the crucifying of good
And who are far more dependent
on your grace than we will ever own.

Silent prayer

Forgive us, O God:
For we know not what we do
and we know not what we have done.
Amen

Statement of Affirmation

God would rather die than stop loving us
And offers us forgiveness.
As we stand before the grandeur of this love,
Let us receive the pardon of the Christ
and live as people who walk in faith towards the Easter Day.
Amen.

Good Friday: Crucifixion bound to a tree. Prayerful Colouring. Mark Hewitt