Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Born in us today

Luke 2:8-20
The Shepherds and the Angels
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Come and see- 
The baby Jesus, now grown
invites you to be part of the story - 
to share at this table
and to wonder at the gift of God
born among us this day

Jesus, promised by prophets
Longed for by the oppressed
Dreaded by kings
Heralded by angels
Born in a manger
Sought out by shepherds
Lived life among the poor and lowly
the outcasts and the strangers
He taught and preached and healed
and gathered friends around him.
Around the table, at supper,
He took bread and broke it, saying:
This is my body broken for you.
He took the cup and said: 
This is the new relationship with God
made possible because of my death
Do this when you are together to remember me.
And so, today, even as we greet the baby God born for us,
in Bethlehem, house of bread - 
we take this bread and this cup,
symbols of the love he has for us
and we share to remember him.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God as we celebrate your birth today,
as we remember that humble shepherds were among the first to greet you,
we thank you for your life lived among the ordinary.
We see you, O God, in ordinary people and in the strangers and outcasts.
We see you in the poor and the homeless
in the lonely and the oppressed.
We see you in the prisoners and in the refugees.
We see you in the persecuted and the downtrodden,
in every place where love is withheld 
For you are love.
And, as we gather at this table and share in this feast to which you invite us,
we bring with us all those who are left out in the cold today,
those who are excluded because they do not conform
those who have been too badly hurt to want to seek company
and those who long to belong but don't know how.
May we find space to be inclusive, to be open to others, without judgement,
even and especially when we are unsure.
May we err on the side of generosity
for you are a generous God
whose arms embrace and welcome all.
You made your dwelling among us
May your living alongside us change the way we live.
And as we share in these your symbols of love, 
send your Spirit on us and on this bread and wine
that as we carefully unwrap your gifts 
we may be filled and changed by the wonder of love born anew in us.

Here is bread, torn and offered to you - a symbol of Christ's love today

Here is wine, poured out for you - a sign of the lavish gift of God.

By these signs, remember God born for us - light and life for the world.

Prayer after Communion
God, present in the manger, journey with us through life.
Pierce through the glitter and the tinsel and bring us back to the starkness of your love
born for us today, present with us always.
And, with these symbols of God with us may we fill our world with light and with love
For Christ is born and lives in us, today and always.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Dreams and visions

Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
God’s Spirit Poured Out
Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Come to this table all you who dream
and you who plan
You who have visions
and you who like cold, hard facts
Come to this table where God invites you
to know grace and mercy and love
served up in bread and wine

God came in Jesus
to reveal the signs all around
of a different way of living
A way in which we each honour one another
A way in which we love each other
A way in which we make space for the other
Jesus used ordinary things around him
to show us the way of love.
The night he was betrayed,
He gathered his daiciples around him
and shared supper with them
teaching them, even in that last meal
lessons in love.
Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and shared it, saying,
This is my body, broken for you
He took wine and passed it around his disciples,
a new relationship with God made possible
And said: Do this to remember me.
As we follow Jesus' example here today, let us first give thanks.

Prayer of Thanksgivng
God we thank you that, in Jesus, you showed us
that the kingdom of heaven is near
His birth, his life and death, his rising to life
brings hope - not for some distant world of justice and peace
but for our ability, with God's grace, to know the world we long for
the world you long to see for all your people, here and now.
And so as we take these ordinary gifts of bread and wine
that you make special
may we know that you take our gifts too
and use them to make a difference in our world.
So, this Advent, we offer you our hands and our feet
our voices and our intellects
our everyday work and pursuits
asking you to transform all that we offer
in the work of your kingdom
that transforms the world around.
Give us insight and inkling, resolve and direction
to see your kingdom come
bringing life and light in every darkness
and joy and peace in every corner of the world.
Send your Spirit on us and on these gifts of bread and wine
that as we share communion with God and with one another
we may know love born anew in us
and peace that passes all understanding.

This bread is a symbol of the life of the kingdom
Take, eat and live out incarnation

This wine is a symbol of the possibility of relationship
with God and our neighbour
Drink it resolving to repair division

We do this to remember Jesus

Prayer after communion
God you have fed us with the bread of life
May we go and enhance life for others
You have allowed us to drink of the wine of the new kingdom
May we herald in that kingdom in this place today
And, in every encounter we have in the world
may we live out God with us today and always.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Confounding conspiracy

Daniel 6:6-28

So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.
Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.”
When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Daniel Saved from the Lions
Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity!
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living God,
enduring forever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Plotters, conspirers, those who thrive on the misfortune of others
Come to this table
The faithful, the gentle, all who feel put upon or used
Come to this table
Bystanders, onlookers, those who observe but don't get involved
Come to this table
Christ who took on flesh, who encountered all of these
invites you to eat at this table
to be fed the living bread
and to be changed from the inside out.

Foretold by prophets all through the ages
Longed for by the oppressed down through the years
Looked for in the stars
Sought in the palace
The living God took on flesh
and dwelt among a people unprepared
to be confronted with the word of life.
The Son of God walked among prophets
confronted the authorities
sat down with the outcasts
ate with sinners.
And, the night before he died,
He taught his friends about life and death
and gave them a sign by which to remember him:
He took bread, gave thanks and shared it among them saying:
This is my body, broken for you
Do this in memory of me.
He took the cup and, sharing, said
This cup makes possible a new relationship with God
Drink this and remember me.
And so we, the righteous, the sinners, the outcasts, the prophets,
do as our Lord Jesus commanded.
We take bread and wine and, with God's blessing, share in this sacramental meal.

Prayer of thanksgiving
God as you look upon us now
seeing into our hearts
As you look upon us 
missing no one and nothing
As you look upon us in love
remind us that none of us are beyond your redemption
or out of the reach of your saving grace.
You welcome all to your table
The sinners, the outcasts, the persecutors, the oppressors,
the spiteful, the meddlers, the do-gooders, the conspirators,
alongside the faithful, the perplexed, the hurt and the downtrodden.
You welcome all.
And you feed us with the bread of life.
You welcome us to your table
with love and forgiveness and with comfort and understanding
and your unconditional acceptance 
of us just as we are
thaws our hearts
heals our hurts
and changes our lives.
Send down your Spirit on these gifts before us
So, that as we taste your goodness here
we may make space
at our tables 
and in our lives
for all those forgotten or rejected
by society today
and be moved to share
all you have given us
for the sake of your kingdom.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

(Taking bread)
Here is your Lord, approaching you with arms outstretched in welcome
His body broken for you

(Taking wine)
Here is your Lord, offering you a new relationship with God
Love poured out for you

Do this to remember him

Prayer after Communion
Lord we have feasted on your goodness
Take us now into the world
filled with your love
inspired by your giving
ready to share all that we have received from you.

Friday, 2 September 2016

God chooses you (Deuteronomy 30; Luke 14)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Luke 14:25-33

The Cost of Discipleship
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

This is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ who chooses you to dine with him in this place today.
Choosing you, he invites you to find, at this table, strength to carry your cross.
So come all who are hesitant and dithering.
Come you who are sure and committed.
Choose Christ who has chosen you.
Choose life, symbolised here in bread and wine.

Jesus constantly laid before his friends, choices:
The choice to remain or to follow
The choice to listen or to ignore
The choice to be blind or to see
The choice to be sick or to be whole
The choice of life or of death.

His disciples chose life - they followed, they listened, they saw, they were made whole.
And even though they often faltered or dithered or forgot, Jesus didn't give up or let up - he kept on holding out forgiveness and newness of life.
And so, the night before he died, he gathered his friends around a meal, spoke to them again of the cross and invited them to remember him by choosing to share in this feast together.
He shared bread, symbol of his body, broken for the life of the world.
He shared the cup, symbol of a new relationship with God.
This table bears those symbols today.
Before we share, let us give thanks.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God we thank you that you never impose yourself on us but gently, persistently invite us into relationship with you.
You invite us to choose life over death, to take up our cross and follow Christ.
May we choose life for the sake of the world.
God we pray for our world in all its pain and suffering.
We pray for all those who, every day,  are forced to make hard choices or for whom there is no choice.
Those forced from home and family by war, by oppression, by danger, by evil or natural disaster.
Show us how to restore the voices of those who are silenced along with the freedom to choose for those who find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
May your cross symbolise the way of suffering carved out in love that transforms pain and renews life. May we always be willing to bear another's burden, to lift up the suffering and to know the blessing of travelling together.
We pray for refugees, for migrants, for all seeking a place to call home. May we choose to open our hearts to make room, to share the road and to know ourselves taught by those whose learning is wrought through pain and hardship.
May we choose life for the sake of the church.
God we thank you for all those who have gone before us on the journey of faith. Those on whose shoulders we now stand. Those who surround us as we share this feast. May we always make space for others around your table, where there is love enough for all.
Give your church boldness and wisdom to proclaim the God who invites all people to choose life.
May we choose life for our sake and the sake of the communities in which we live.
As we go about our everyday lives give us courage to serve and to be served.
Be with those whom we know who grieve, who have lost the joy of living. Help us to put ourselves aside and sit with them until we are ready to continue the journey together with you.
So, choosing God, as we come to this table today, may our choice witness to the hope we have in you. Send you Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and of wine that they may become life for all.
Feed us here with strength to take up our cross and follow you every day.

(Taking bread)
This is Christ's body broken for the life of the world.

(Taking the cup)
This cup symbolises Christ's shed blood reminding us of forgiveness and newness of life.

By these we remember Christ who took up the cross and offered life to us.

Prayer after communion
God who has fed us and confronted us again with our oneness with all the world, strengthen us to take up our cross and follow you, gathering up along the way all those who falter and fall, all those who dither, those who are blind or sick and want to be whole. We who have choices, everyday may we choose life with you, life in all its fullness for the sake of the world and the kingdom of God.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Unfinished (Mark 16:1-8)

Mark 16:1-8
The Resurrection of Jesus
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Jesus has gone from the tomb.
At this table, we celebrate resurrection in company with the women who went to anoint his body.
Amazed, terrified, stunned into silence, here we release their story: Jesus is risen.
Jesus is risen and feasts with us here as we remember him.
There is a place at this table for you who are frightened.
There is a place at this table for you who are weary.
There is a place at this table you who have no voice.
There is a place at this table for you.
Take your place and meet the risen Christ.

Our Maundy Thursday services retold the institution of this sacrament: How Jesus, the night he was betrayed, gathered friends around him to share the Passover meal and, after supper, took bread, broke it, blessed it and shared it with them saying:
This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.
He also took the cup, saying: 
This cup is the new relationship made possible because of my death. Drink this in remembrance of me.
Jesus instituted this remembrance before he was betrayed, denied, abandoned by his friends and killed.
We celebrate because he rose again, demonstrating that God's love is greater than evil and God's grace brings forgiveness for all.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God, here in this sacrament, instituted by Jesus before his death, we celebrate all that confounds death and the evil that stalks our world. We celebrate love, forgiveness and grace.
We celebrate good news that cannot be hushed up, stories that overcome terror.
We celebrate Jesus - his birth, his life, his death and resurrection. We celebrate all that he taught and all that he modelled in his living and dying.
As we look in despair at the evil that continues to stalk our world, may we be hopeful, audaciously hopeful that love continues to have the last word and that there will always be good news stories to be told in every time of darkness and hopelessness.
God we pray for victims of terror, for those who mourn, for those who are homeless, for those forced to flee for their lives. Give us compassion and the willingness to meet others in generosity of spirit, sharing all that we have and being open to receive all that others bring to our lives, sharing our common humanity as children whom God calls beloved.
At this table, O God, as we greet Jesus, risen and going on ahead of us, may we be anxious not only to remember him but to follow him into all the world.
Send your Spirit on us and on this bread and this wine, that as we share this feast we may also share Christ's breath of life and of peace with which to bless our homes, our communities and our world today.

The body of Christ, broken for you, that you may remember him
The blood of Christ poured out for you that you may know a new relationship with God.
These gifts of God, given for the life of the world.

Prayer after communion
Risen Lord Jesus, here you have fed us with life and with hope. May we not remain silent or afraid, but take these gifts into your broken world, knowing that death does not have the last word, that evil is not stronger than love, that your forgiveness and grace is sufficient to heal and transform every darkness.
So may your life bring hope and healing for the nations and peace against the odds.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

All about love

Mark 12:28-44
The First Commandment
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
The Question about David’s Son
While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?
David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’
David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.
Jesus Denounces the Scribes
As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
The Widow’s Offering
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Come, dine.
Jesus invites all to this table.
The rich and the poor.
The proud and the humble.
All who live in abundance.
All who live in scarcity.
Jesus calls us, who are not far from the kingdom
to share at this table where there is love and nourishment for all.
Come, dine at the table of our Lord.

As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he taught his disciples about life and death, about suffering and triumph, about loving God and loving each other. He asked and answered questions and did all that he could to prepare those he loved for what lay ahead.
And, on their last night together, the night on which he was betrayed, he gathered his disciples around a table, shared supper with them, and instituted this memorial, the sacrament that we share in memory of him.
Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, saying: This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat, to remember me.
After supper, he took the cup saying: This cup is the cup of salvation, making possible the forgiveness of sin and a new relationship with God. Drink this to remember me.
Here we have symbols of Christ's body broken for us and Christ's blood poured out for us.
Let us give thanks to God.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength. And love your neighbour as yourself."
Jesus, Son of God who is love, as we gather round your table to follow your instruction to remember you in bread and wine, may we be called back to remember all the other things you taught us:
To love God and one another.
To share what we have.
To live humbly, at peace with one another.
As we approach your table we confess that we have failed to heed your teaching here in this community and we have failed our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
So, before we share these holy symbols of love that you prepare for us, we bring to you our prayers of confession and our prayers for those we have not loved as you love.
Lord forgive us for all those times we have tuned out the evening news programmes or skimmed over the newspapers because we have become hardened to stories of war and conflict, to suffering and distress.
We are familiar with stories of hunger and homelessness, unmoved by images of desolation, accepting of tented cities housing refugees and resigned to places of beauty being raised to rubble.
God forgive us that we can so easily dismiss injustice, inequality and racism, that we can so easily distance ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ who look to us for help.
Break our hearts as yours is broken for all your children who suffer today.
Show us, who live in comfort, that the needs we see around the world meet us on our doorsteps too.
And, as our hearts are broken, may we respond with love and compassion, giving of ourselves as you gave.
Send your Spirit now on this bread and this cup. 
As we break this bread, may we remember your broken body and our broken world.
As we share the cup, may we remember your blood poured out for us along with the bloodshed throughout our world today.
And, in our remembering, may we be broken and poured out to serve the world in which we live, the world, near and far, that you call us to love and to serve.
For then we will truly remember you.

This is the body of Christ broken for you and for all humankind.
Take, eat and remember in love.

This is the cup of salvation, Christ's blood shed that we might know a new relationship with God.
Drink this to remember the promise.

Prayer after communion
Lord Jesus we have remembered you at your table, sharing in your broken body and blood shed for us. May these symbols of everlasting love shatter and inspire us so that we cannot be the same but are moved to share your love until it hurts with all your children throughout the world.
Nourished by your gifts to us, may we see clearly how and where you want us to serve you in the world and, in the strength of your love may we truly love one another by serving one another in the name of the One who created us, who redeems us and who sends us out into all the world.