This is a special online reflection for Sunday December 26th, 2021
Even though Christmas Day can be a rough day for some, I trust that yesterday was a good day for you. And given the current easing of restrictions related to COVID, I hope that has meant you have had time with family and friends.
The tone of the Christmas celebration for Christians is clearly one of Joy. Joy that comes from the startling, good news that God becomes human … one with us … through the birth of a vulnerable babe, Jesus.
And this is a genuine being at “one with us:” … in Jesus God shares in human life in all its complexity … including right from the beginning experiencing the consequences of the propensity of humans to treat each in despicable ways.
Many churches mark December 28th as the feast of the Holy Innocents. The Gospel reading is from Matthew Gospel chapter 2 and concerns the necessity for Mary, Joseph and Jesus to escape from King Herod and his thugs.
“Now after [the Magi/Wisemen] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (V.13 … NRSV)
Mary, Joseph and Jesus thus became refugees.
Herod was a murderous despot who stooped at nothing to hold onto power including cosying up to whoever was the Roman Emperor and having his soldiers seek out any boy who might possibly be the newborn king. There is no sugar-coated Christmas story here!
Rev. Dr. Melinda Quivik writes in commenting on the passage:
This Jesus, born in the midst of Herod’s brutality, knows our suffering, comes to the frightened and the sick and the hungry, feeds and heals, and teaches the presence of God’s power wherever there are tears.
Today so many people experience the same plight as Mary, Joseph and Jesus … having to flee from despots and other dangers. And many of these refugees actually have no place to go … no place where they can experience genuine sanctuary. According to the United Nations Agency for Refugees, there are 20.7 million people under its care, of which a half are children. An even more frightening statistic is that currently 48 million people have been forced out of their homes while remaining in their own countries.
Christian churches have long offered sanctuary to those fleeing oppression, seeking safety, and St Luke’s (along with other churches and organisations) has supported refugees in the Geelong region for many years.
Clearly the need for a practical and prayerful response to this need is not abating.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this ministry. If you want to find out how you can help, feel free to contact us. The details are on our website.
Let’s pause in prayer:
Compassionate God, Almighty in Love,
We give thanks for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate in a special way at this time of the year, We also remember that with Mary and Joseph, he became a refugee and had no place to call his own; look with mercy on those who today are fleeing from danger, homeless and hungry. Bless those who work to bring them relief; inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts; and guide the nations of the world towards that day when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Worship next Sunday (January 2nd) will be in person at 9.30 am, we hope.
Best wishes and blessings for the New Year to you and yours.
The peace and joy of Christmas
Fill your hearts and lives
And the blessing of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – be with you all, evermore,
Thanks to Deb for this mornings scripture reading.
Great and compassionate God,
we come before you in love and with humility.
We worship you
You are God the Creator.
You brought everything that we know,
everything that we see,
everything that we are
into being through your living word.
We worship you
You are the God who is the triune community of love
You are the God who loves us so much
that you sent your Son to release us from our bondage: to save us.
We worship you
You are the God who calls us to follow Christ and live as part of his Body the church.
In the name of Christ, We worship you.
(People are invited to pause and consider the things they are thankful for and also consider what are the things weighing upon them at this time)
Prayer of confession
We come before you
aware that all of us fall short:
We all make mistakes.
We all struggle to love like Jesus.
To live life fully, you call us to love you, love neighbour and love ourselves.
Lord forgive us for the times when we neglect you.
Forgive us for the times when we put ourselves before your way and the good of others.
Forgive us for the times when we damage ourselves
through our thoughts and actions.
Jesus came preaching peace to those who are near, and peace to those who are far off.
My friends you are free:
to be forgiven people,
to serve as forgiven people,
to celebrate as forgiven people.
Thanks be to God.
Hebrews 10: 19-25
19 We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. 20 He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain—that is, through his own body. 21 We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. 22 So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24 Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.
Last Thursday was Remembrance Day and we pick this up now in our prayers for others.
Compassionate and ever-present God, we pray,
For all who have been caught up in and impacted by war …
For all whose bodies and spirits bear the marks of war…
For all who have lost loved ones due to war …
For all who continue to suffer due to war…
For all who minister to veterans, the families of veterans and survivors …
For all who live in despair …
For the peoples of our world that they may embrace your way of peace and reconciliation …
For all of us – called to be messengers of your hope, we pray…
For the Church that we may hold fast to the hope we find in the Gospel …
We also remember others whose needs weigh heavy on our hearts this day.
Thanks to Sue, Claire and Jean for participating in this morning’s worship.
Psalm 146: 1-2, 7b-10 (NRSV)
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Let us pray:
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord, all you people
God our hope and life,
Triune community of perfect love,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Praise be your name.
You were before all things,
You are the author of all things,
You brought life and light out of nothing,
Yet you are closer to us than we can imagine, and you always remain faithful to us all and all your creation:
Faithful in love.
Faithful to save.
Faithful to tend.
Faithful to share.
And so we worship You,
with all of our heart,
all of our mind
and all of our strength.
And we rejoice to know that when our hearts are misled,
Your heart is to forgive.
When our own thinking is confused
You show us that truth is found in the way of Jesus
When our strength fails,
You draw near and hold us close.
Hear us in the quiet as we confess to You
where we have turned away from You or others
and where we need Your healing and forgiveness.
We give You thanks, Oh God, that in you is life and forgiveness beyond measure,
You who upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
Who sets prisoners free,
and gives sight to the blind,
who lifts up those who are bowed down,
and loves the righteous.
You who watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
who frustrates the ways of the wicked.
You Lord God, reign forever,
for all generations.
Holy and Compassionate God,
Most perfect loving Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Through Christ you proclaim the way to life in all its fullness,
Through Christ you offer us the promise of sure and certain hope of eternal life …
In the life death and resurrection of Jesus you declare that your love is such that even death itself cannot overcome it …
We give you thanks that you do not leave us alone as we face the mystery and shadow of death…
As today we remember people who have been precious to us and who have died,
Hold us in your care …
Bless us with comfort and peace …
Creating and forgiving God,
We confess that we have not always loved as Christ has loved us.
Forgive us and enable us by your grace to forgive anything that has been hurtful to us.
Assure us that through Christ you set us free from sin and bring healing and wholeness.
And we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Isa. 25: 6-9
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Rev. 21: 1-6a
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
All Saints Prayer
For all the saints, who from their labors rest, The saints gone too soon before the fullness of their grace was truly known by human minds. The saints who were not lauded, but whose faithfulness bore generations of fruit. The saints whose witness spoke truth to power and brought forth new creations. The saints who died with doubts, questions, and hope in mystery. The saints who held to the truth through it all. The saints whose legacies are the history from which we learn how to do and be better. The saints who are only remembered by God and who rest in light perpetual.
For these and so many others,
we give thanks to God. Amen.
Lets look to the Psalms as we come to God in prayer
Drawn from Psalm 37
(1-4) Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Trust in God, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Delight in everything about God, and God will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit the way you live to God; if you trust God, God will act to show where you are right,
and bring justices to your case, like the bight noonday sun.
Be still before God, wait patiently for her response.
Do not fret over those who seem to be getting their way despite evil desires and motives.
Trust in God to show you how they will be stopped, and truth and grace will prevail.
Run from evil, and do good; so you shall be at home with God for ever.
For God loves justice and will not forsake his faithful ones.
The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom; they speak for justice.
The law of their God is in their hearts; they don’t slip as they follow in God’s footsteps.
God we recognise that we do slip.
We strive to be faithful to your love and grace to us, but too often we focus on ourselves:
we want to be as successful as others in our careers, families, sports or talents
we become frustrated and angry when others don’t understand the world the way we do
we hold on too tightly to beliefs that make us comfortable – when you challenge us to see things from your point of view.
Forgive us God.
Help us to learn from the wise ones – from the scriptures, from your Saints through history and today, and even from the insights of the young.
Today open our ears and our hearts to listen and learn from you, to hear again the questions and guidance for us from your Son Jesus, and the wisdom and courage offered through your Holy Spirit.
Teach us to spend more time listening, asking questions to understand and act positively, than in preaching, prosecuting or politicking others to get things our way.
Family of God, through God’s Spirit we can always draw on the fountain of wisdom and love, even in the darkest of times and when our actions (or inaction) shame us so much. There is enough mercy to cover all your sins, and not yours only, but those of the whole world. Take up the challenge then – live as Christ showed us, as he called you and me to serve in the world.
Live as forgiven people, for in Christ, such you truly are!
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Gospel reading: John 1: 1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’)
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.
Prayers of the People & Dispersal (by Rev. Ann Perrin, UCA)
Ever-living, ever-present God,
You are with us.
We come before you this day
knowing we’re are to be dispersed,
sent out into your world
to be your church in new ways.
If we are resistant to this change Lord,
hear our prayer of confession
and bless us with forgiveness,
patience and resilience
for we are committed to care for each other as we care for ourselves.
So help us to discover new ways to share
why we live our lives committed to sharing the promises of the gospel.
During these times of change, we will remember those whose groups are still unable to meet together in our buildings, or new challenges to gathering,
and the new ways we will need to navigate to be community.
We remember planned baptisms, weddings and celebrations
And pray times for rejoicing will not be too far away.
We remember those for who this time is one of uncertainty and challenge
those who now live with fear and in isolation,
and those for whom this time is one of anguish and death.
Hold all those in need of your love at this time.
Holy God, you encourage us when doubtful to draw closer to you.
Allow us to recognise your Holy Spirit as our guide, comforter, and companion.
And so with the hope you instill in us
and when the time time is right and this season of our church is over
we will return as your gathered community
with the joy of Easter Day,
celebrating our resilience, knowing our communities are stronger then ever
to continue your work to help build a flourishing world where ever we find ourselves.
Life-giving God you have come amongst us in Jesus,
And in Jesus you announce good news for the poor, liberty for captives, sight for those who cannot see and freedom for the oppressed.
In you is love that surpasses all loves. You are the Light of all lights.
We confess our need of you …
We are not meant to navigate this life on our own …
Help us to be honest about ourselves … help us to disentangle the good from the bad …
Enable us to be humble enough to declare that in too many ways we have not lived up to the standard of living found in Christ …
Bring your healing, forgiveness, and good news into our lives …
Break us free from anything that takes us away from the path of Christ …
Please gather us up into the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Assure us that you desire to forgive us through and through … that you desire to deal with the burden of guilt that so many carry. May we hear your good news of hope and liberty right within the core of our beings … And may we be open to the Holy Spirit transforming us more and more into the people you would have us be. Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. 2 They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. 3 And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. 4 I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.
Luke 4: 14-21
Prayers for intercession
O Lord, hear the deep prayers of our hearts:
Prayers for hope for those who feel desolate and are struggling to find meaning in life
Prayers for healing for those who are in physical, mental or spiritual need
Prayers for jobs for those who cannot find paid employment
Prayers for community for those who feel isolated
Prayers for peace for those whose lives are filled with conflict.
Prayers for people who genuinely listen for those seeking to be understood.
Prayers for comfort for those who grieve.
Prayers for food and clean water for those who hunger and thirst.
Prayers for shelter for those who are homeless.
Prayers for those impacted by droughts, fires or flooding rains
Prayers for freedom for those who live under dictatorships.
Prayers for wisdom for our leaders.
Prayers for spiritual growth and health for our churches.
Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves of the good news that Christ calls us … indeed calls all … to life in all its fullness.
As we pray, hear words of Scripture and reflect on our theme let us seek to be open to the prompting of the Spirit so that Christ can enlighten us …
Let us give time during this service to intentionally wait upon the living God who is always with us whether we acknowledge this or not …
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You embrace all time and eternity in your care,
Your way is the way of love and compassion,
You are abundant in grace and truth.
All your works praise you,
And your way is revealed in Jesus Christ our Saviour and brother
Help us to honor you,
Blessed and holy Trinity,
One God, for ever and ever …
As we pause in prayer, Saving God, it is a relief to know that nothing we do or say, or do not do or say, can be hidden from you.
You know our needs even before we name them …
You see how we stumble along the path of life … often because we are weighed down by all the ‘stuff’ which keeps us from following Jesus.
Holy One, empty us of our tendency to cling tightly to unneeded things or unhealthy pretensions … instead fill us with your grace and hope. As we let go of all which might hold us back, give us the trust to follow Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, into that life with which he offers to each of us.
Silence may be kept
Declaration of forgiveness
My friends, Christ has come to loose our bonds
and give us liberty.
In his name I declare the forgiveness of sins
and the life that is eternal.
If Christ sets you free, then you are free indeed.
Thanks be to God.Amen.
Friends embrace the life Christ offers. Amen. Amen.
In the last video we looked at the way Jesus challenged his followers and challenges us by drawing attention to children.
The account of Jesus taking children into his arms and blessing them comes immediately before the passage we are about to here.
And you might remember that Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God belongs to children … that the way to the kingdom is not complicated … it is simple … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.
Let’s listen now to today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel about a man who found himself challenged about his approach to the things of God.
A Rich Young Man’s Question
17 Jesus started to leave on a journey, but a man ran to him and fell on his knees before Jesus. The man asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
18 Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commands: ‘You must not murder anyone. You must not be guilty of adultery. You must not steal. You must not tell lies about your neighbor in court. You must not cheat. Honor your father and mother.’”[a]
20 The man said, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commands since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
22 He was very sad to hear Jesus say this, and he left. The man was sad because he was very rich.
23 Then Jesus looked at his followers and said, “How hard it will be for those who are rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The followers were amazed at what Jesus said. But he said again, “My children, it is very hard[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 And it will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. It would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!”
26 The followers were even more amazed and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked straight at them and said, “For people this is impossible. But for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter said to Jesus, “We left everything to follow you!”
29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth. Everyone who has left his home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or fields for me and for the Good News 30 will get a hundred times more than he left. Here in this world he will have more homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. And with those things, he will also suffer for his belief. But in the age that is coming he will have life forever. 31 Many who are first now will be last in the future. And those who are last now will be first in the future.”
Well obviously, there is your name. Which in my case is a little complicated because while I am known as Paul, Paul is actually my second name. My first name is William and after years of trying to explain this to banks, companies and government authorities I have given up. So, for example, when I travel and use my passport, I have to remember that when someone calls out, William. Well, that’s me.
But we are more than names …
“Elise is the lady who lives in the house on the corner with all those beautiful roses.”
“Fred is the guy who is into fishing in a big way.”
I remember many years ago hearing a funeral eulogy for a man, who I did not know personally but who had been described to me by his family. A friend of the man gave the eulogy, and he outlined all the important committees and company boards that the man had served on but said nothing about the man’s character … how he cared for is family, his kindness, his sense of humour … that sought of thing. So, I didn’t think the man who gave the eulogy really gave us a true picture of who his friend was. I frankly thought the man’s character spoke far more about who he was than the years he had served on a particular company board.
In todays’ reading it is clear that the identity of the man who came to Jesus and asked him about how he could inherit eternal life was bound up with his wealth.
It is for good reason that this passage is often entitled in Bibles “The rich man” or “The rich ruler.”
Jesus of course diagnosed this straight away. (Pause)
Jesus is about to go on a journey and the man rushes up to Jesus and kneels at his feet.
The man, in the process, almost overdoes the greeting by describing Jesus as “Good teacher,” which Jesus later picks up on.
And after this startling entrance and greeting, the man asks Jesus, what he must do to inherit eternal life.
Now the word inherit is important and we will come back to it in a moment.
But, as you heard, Jesus’ response was to point to the law.
And the man tells Jesus that he has kept the laws since he was a boy … which we have no reason to believe was untrue and which was therefore pretty amazing. No doubt he was thus known as a good man.
But when Jesus challenged the man to give up his riches because they were holding him back from inheriting eternal life, he just couldn’t do it.
Jesus looked straight at the man and loved him. Jesus said, “There is still one more thing you need to do. Go and sell everything you have, and give the money to the poor. You will have a reward in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
He just couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t give up his wealth and all that went with it. And so he went away sad!
It is not that having stuff in itself is wrong … but when wealth … when stuff defines who you are … defines your identity … as it did for this man … then there is a problem … it is a barrier to inheriting eternal life … it is a barrier to being authentic … to being truly alive … alive in God … alive in Christ.
The discomforting word here for us, of course, is that we are being provoked by Jesus to ask ourselves what are the barriers to us inheriting eternal life?
When Jesus looks at us with love, what would he have us let go of?
If not wealth, are there other things … obsessions … anger … an inability to forgive … attitudes or patterns of thinking. What might be acting as barriers for us to inheriting eternal life????
And now back to that word “inherit.”
The point about the life that Jesus offers in this life and the life to come, is that it is inherited!
What normally happens when you inherit money or a house or a box of your grandparent’s stuff? Unless there has been some skulduggery going on, you simply receive it. To inherit something is to receive a gift.
To enter into the way of life that Jesus offers means accepting that we can do nothing to earn it!
Like the wide-eyed joy and openness of a child we are simply to receive the undeserved gift of the life and love of God poured out in Christ Jesus.
Faith means simply being ready to receive and trust Jesus …
And then allow the life and love of Christ to shape the way we live, the way we relate to others, the way we honour God …
In a world where we so often are told we have to work for something, we have to buy, we have to do something to get it, we have to create our own image, this is pretty weird. But it is the Gospel.
Real hope … real life … involves receiving the gift.
The rich man had allowed his wealth to define who he was. His wealth had become something unhealthy and a barrier to living God’s way.
Jesus loved him and challenged him to let go of it and live … to begin living a little of eternal life of God right now.
Jesus wants that for you and me to be free and alive …
So be open to Jesus’ challenge to you about what you might need to let go of … what might act as a barrier to inheriting …to receiving … life in all its fullness … the life of Christ.
To the fisherfolk Jesus said:
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people.
To the tax collector Jesus said:
To the rich man Jesus said:
“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At the last supper Jesus said:
To you and to me and to all of us Jesus says:
~ written by Rev. Kathleen Sheets, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Jesup, IA.
Great God of Heaven and Earth,
you call us to leave behind our preoccupations
and to follow you into the future.
Sometimes we find your call challenging.
We are comfortable, maybe even complacent, in our present.
May this act of giving be a gesture of our willingness
You invite us to extend that love to the world around us—
to care for others….
We pray for the many who do not have enough:
enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm;
enough employment, or money to pay their bills;
enough medicine or medical care.
We also pray for those who have more than enough,
but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life;
who indulge in dangerous or self-serving activities
to dull their pain or loneliness.
We pray for those impacted by COVID 19 and for all those … like intensive care nurses … who are serving so self-sacrificially to care of others.
We pray for our planet … teach us to be good stewards of the environment.
We pray for the Church both locally and globally that your Spirit might continue to stir its leaders and members to a faithful and energetic living out and sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ … and we remember particularly the Catholic Church in Australia which has been meeting in recent days to consider its future.
Compassionate God, Your grace reaches out to all of us.
You call us to live as citizens of heaven,
working together with one heart and mind.
Strengthen us to live in a manner worthy
of the Good News we have received,
offering our lives in service of Your kingdom,
where the last are first, and the first are last,
and there is grace enough for all.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord, Amen.
Based on a prayer by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
Welcome to a video from St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton. I’m Paul Stephens, the ordained minister in placement.
Today we will be hearing two short passages of scripture which involve children, Jesus and Jesus’ followers. And frankly they are quite challenging!
Don’t forget that to contact us or find out what is on at St Luke’s go to our website: “stlukesuca.org.au” for all the information you need. Please let us know what you think of our videos, we value your feedback.
Light Christ candle
Let us come aside for a few moments in quiet prayer. I will shortly lead a prayer adapted from material from Uniting in Worship 2 and the writings of Bruce Prewer …
Try to put aside anything that might distract you.
Take a moment or two to take stock of how things are for you … maybe a need for encouragement, a need for some words of hope or for strength to face difficult matters … a need for assurance or forgiveness …
Then hold onto the good news that the living God who has come amongst us in Jesus, is close …
God, source and home of all things,
in the beginning you sang creation into being
and formed this rich red land;
you are worthy of all praise.
Lord Jesus, brother and healer,
Word of God and one-with-us,
your love for the world took you to the cross;
you make us whole.
Spirit of God, within and among us,
midwife of a world transformed,
and bringer of new life;
you inspire us to live in hope.
God of grace:
Spirit, Son, Father,
whose love never ends,
whose mercy is beyond telling,
whose faithfulness continues to surprise;
May we place you and your way at the centre of our lives …
May we never take your love for us and all things for granted …
May we be honest with ourselves and with you about our flawed nature and our need for forgiveness …
Have mercy upon us, according to your grace in Christ Jesus: uncover our self-deceits, forgive our sins and deal with the heavy burden of guilt.
Restore us to your way, re invigorate our faith and hope.
Stretch our love so that we may be able to forgive others just as you forgive us.
Both texts you are about to hear involve Jesus trying to shake up the mindset of his followers.
In the first short passage you will hear how those followers were arguing about their ranking … who had the highest status in the group. Who was Jesus’ best friend?
The second passage begins with the followers of Jesus basically treating children as a nuisance; and trying to shoo them away. They think that Jesus has better things to do than spend time with children.
From The International Children’s Bible
Who Is the Greatest?
33 Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum and went into a house there. Then Jesus said to them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest.
35 Jesus sat down and called the 12 apostles to him. He said, “If anyone wants to be the most important, then he must be last of all and servant of all.”
36 Then Jesus took a small child and had him stand among them. He took the child in his arms and said, 37 “If anyone accepts children like these in my name, then he is also accepting me. And if he accepts me, then he is also accepting the One who sent me.”
Jesus Accepts Children
13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children. 15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed them.
Sermon: “Jesus’ blessing of children … a radical act.”
Jesus’ words and actions described in these two short passages would have been quite mind-blowing for those who were present.
And if we can dust away some of our own preconceived ideas about what is going on here, we too might find that Jesus has something a bit challenging to say to us.
In Jesus’ day, children were, of course, considered very precious by their families,but beyond their family children had no social or legal status at all. If a child was Jewish, they also had no place in the life of the local synagogue. It was not until a boy was aged 13 that he could be involved in synagogue after he had had his bar mitzvah. In a sense then a child was a non-entity. Like women, lepers, tax collectors and so many others, children were amongst the least and the lowly.
It was like children were to be neither seen nor heard.
In the first passage that we heard Jesus disciples are arguing about who in their small group was the greatest.
I am not sure how they tried to measure this. As I said earlier, maybe they tried to work out who amongst them Jesus considered his best friend.
In 2021, in terms of measuring who is the greatest, I guess we could talk in terms of the number of followers someone has on a social media site, the amount of money someone has amassed, the fact that someone is called a celebrity …
In the groups or organisations or businesses you are associated with or have been associated with, how does or did the pecking order work?
Jesus undercuts all this by bringing children into the picture … and remember what we have just said about the place of children in Israel in those days.
He tells his follows that God’s way involves not fighting for status but serving others … not shooing children away but bringing them into the centre of things … it involves welcoming the least and the lowly.
And in the second passage Jesus commends the approach of children to matters of faith …
We are to receive the good news that Jesus offers with that kind of wide openness and joy that little children can display …
Jesus knew that children can teach us so much.
So, let me conclude with three take away messages from these two passages about Jesus and children.
The first message is that Jesus challenges all worldly ideas about who is the greatest.
The second message is Jesus’ slightly uncomfortable challenge to us and all concerning who we welcome and who we might be inclined to shoo away.
And the third is the good news, that receiving the blessing of Jesus … knowing you are loved and valued by God … is not complicated … it is not about all the stuff you have or have not done … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.
preaching good tidings to the people,
proclaiming release to captives,
setting at liberty those who are bound:
we adore you.
friend of the outcast and the poor,
feeder of the hungry,
healer of the sick:
we adore you.
denouncing the oppressor,
exposing the hypocrite,
overcoming evil with good:
we adore you.
pattern of gentleness,
teacher of holiness,
prophet of the kingdom of heaven:
we adore you.
dying to save us from our sin,
rising to give us eternal life,
ascending to prepare our heavenly home:
we adore you. Amen.
Prayers of intercession
Through Jesus, you invite us to bring to you all our concerns and the matters that lie heavy on our hearts …
We remember all those … and especially children … who today have no safe place to call home … who today experience fear, poverty and all sorts of trials …
We remember all those … especially children … who are feeling despairing … who struggle to find hope in the world …
We remember all those … and especially children … who we know who are ill, who are impacted by COVID, who are grieving, who are close to death …
In the quiet of our hearts, we name before you are own needs … our own struggles … our own worries …
We pray for the church and all those who seek to reflect the way of your kingdom of faith, hope and love … all those who seek to walk the way of Jesus and bring good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed …
We offer these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray and say:
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
During this time of COVID-19 many people have benefited from having companion animals at home …or in our case our daughter’s dog, Alfie.
In so many ways animals, great and small, are a blessing.
In this video we thought we celebrate this … the blessing of animals. On the day this is video is released it will be just over a week till the feast day of the Christian leader who is renowned for his connection with the care of all creation, St Francis of Assisi. His feast day is October 4th
O God, our God, how great you are.
We praise you for your creation and all that is in it … including we humans.
We are in awe at the complexity and beauty of all that is
Thank you for the light which wakes us
morning by morning,
and for the greater light which shines in Jesus Christ.
You are always more ready to reach out to us than we are to reach out you.
Enable us to search our souls and be honest about our need … our need for the hope you offer through Christ … our need for the forgiveness and healing you offer in Christ …
Enable us to receive your love and grace and empower us by your Spirit to live more fully in the way of Christ … loving you, our neighbours and ourselves … and caring for the good gift of your creation.
We pray in the name of Christ, Amen.
Introduction to the theme and reading
Have you heard the quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi to the effect that Christians should preach the Gospel at all times and only when necessary use words? Well, sorry to be a spoil sport but there is no evidence that he ever said this and besides he was well known for preaching with words … apparently, he danced on one occasion when preaching a sermon to a congregation that included the Pope of the day.
That said Francis (who was born in 1182 and died in 1226), and the community of followers that gathered around his leadership, was all about living out the gospel in deed as well as word. His life was marked by shunning of worldly goods, prayer, humility and service of the poor.
As a young man Francis experienced a conversion: he gave up the prospect of a life of power and riches to share in a radical living out of the way of the cross of Christ.
 Michael W. Blastic, “Franciscans” in William H. Willimon and Richard Lischer (eds.) Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching, Louisville Westminster, John Know Press, 1995, p. 158
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
In “Together in Song” there is a brilliant hymn by William Henry Draper based on the Canticle of the Sun which is a prayer attributed directly to Francis.
Prayer of thanksgiving
God, our Creator,
We give thanks for the blessing of companion animals … and we think of those creatures special to us.
Thank you for the joy, playfulness and sometimes the surprising humour they display. Thank you for their company in lonely hours and the healing their presence can bring. Thank you for the pure beauty of every animal…
Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call them his brothers and sisters. Help us to care for the animals entrusted to us.