Ordinary Sunday 16B (25-07-2021)

The following service was streamed live via Zoom  on July 25th at 10:30am.

The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day.   Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Note: We have reversed the order of Ordinary Sundays 16 & 17; hence this service is a week late.

-oOo-

“Of all the creatures that creep and breathe upon the earth, there is none more wretched than man.” (Homer) 

CALL TO CELEBRATION 

Life is an indescribable gift. Our gathering together in this sacred place is a celebration of that gift. So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God. 

OPENING SENTENCES 

L: We give thanks for the life that pulsates within us 

R: breath and heartbeat, joy and sorrow, dance and stillness. 

L: We give thanks for the life that ebbs and flows between us 

R: loving, understanding, creating, embracing and letting go. 

L: We give thanks for the web of life
that surrounds and sustains us 

R: feeding, protecting, teaching, inspiring mutual care. 

L: We give thanks for the source of all life, 

R: this living universe, of which our lives are an expression. 

PRAYER OF AWARENESS 

God of the important and the common place, may our hearts be opened to be attentive: that seeing, we may perceive, and hearing, we may understand, and understanding, we may act. Amen. 

HYMN 25 – “As Pants the Hart” (click here to listen)

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

   Reflection “Love” By Anna Compston. 

Love is a whisper, Not a tornado.
Love is a drift of petals,
Not a mighty oak tree.
Love is the song of a flute,
Not the blast of a trumpet.
Love is a beckoning finger,
Not a pair of handcuffs.
This is its strength. It invites,
It does not force.
It’s like a camp fire. We gather round, And are warmed. 

     Silence 

Let us now be ‘gathered round’ and allow this sacred space, to offer its ‘warmed’ care to us. Let us rest in its quiet, away from the hustle and demands of everyday life. And let us lay down our concerns. (30 seconds silence) 

REPENTING 

L: Because we sometimes are resentful of those whose gifts and successes outstrip ours, and therefore denigrate them . Come with your grace, Saviour God. 

R: Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. 

L: Because we look at the more foolish and morally lax crowd around us, and tend to get smug and self righteous about our own behaviour. Come with your grace, Saviour God. 

R: Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. 

L: Because at times we allow ourselves to be unduly influenced by those who always seem sure of themselves, and let their approval rule us. Come with your grace, Saviour God. 

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R: Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. 

L: Because we sometimes become frightened of the liberty you have given us, and fall back into legalistic attitudes and actions. Come with your grace, Saviour God. 

R: Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. 

L: Because we allow our fear of strangers to out-manoeuvre our love, and permit closed minds and hearts to become our habit. Come with your grace, Saviour God. 

R: Create in us a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within us. 

L: God of Christ Jesus and our God, we ask forgiveness for our failings, a purging of our motives, a changing of our attitudes, a raising of our sights, and a strengthening of our will to love and serve you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Through Christ our Saviour. Amen! 

TRUSTING 

L: Remember, my friends, to live out your forgiveness. Christ came ‘preaching peace to those who are near, and peace to those who are far off’ ‘You are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,’ and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us. 

R: Thanks be to God. 

FROM THE WORLD AROUND US
“Homeless in Egypt” by John Johansen-Berg.

When people flee from scenes of war and carnage, when people know terror because of violent rage, where is the place of sanctuary?
When families are split by conflict, when wounded victims escape from bloodshed, where will they find a refuge?
Wounded Healer, you inspire us to welcome the asylum seeker, you encourage us to open our hearts and homes to the refugee.
When we offer sanctuary to such as these, we open the door to the child whose family fled to Egypt. 

FROM THE GOSPELS – Mark 6: 30-34

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognised them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS 

“Let There Be Spaces in Your Busyness” 

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mk.6:31a)

Kahlil Gibran’s meditation ‘Speak to Us of Marriage’, from his popular book, The Prophet, is much loved by folk wishing to be married, and who are looking for a reflection or reading that is not biblical. I am sure you have heard it. “Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls” 

Indeed, this particular meditation is as well known, if not more so, than some biblical passages. Further on in this meditation, Gibran writes: “Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music”. 

Then towards the end: “And stand together yet not too near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. 

And because I like to re-jig his meditation a bit, I add: “…let there be spaces in your togetherness. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you”. 

All of us need ‘spaces’ – physically, emotionally, spirituality – in our busy lives. And getting married is not a bad time to be reminded of this. 

It is also salutary for all those involved in ministry, to recognise that, according to storyteller Mark, Jesus encouraged the disciples/others to desist, to care for themselves, to reflect, and not to feel they must respond to every ‘squeaky door’ or appeal for assistance. 

They were not God. They were not the saviours of the world. They were limited human beings who needed space. They needed time out so as to be able to continue on; to sort out what was important. 

New Zealander Ian Cairns’ comment on this passage is another good reminder of this need: “This brief passage… gives us a fleeting, but appealing, insight into the natural rhythm of the lifestyle of Jesus and the circle around him: times of intense effort are succeeded by moments of unwinding, and of quiet relaxation. The fact that the intention on this occasion was frustrated, detracts nothing from the attractiveness of the ideal.” 

Do you have a ‘space:’ a place of peace and rest in the ‘natural rhythm’ of your life, where you retreat for silence and re-creation? So asks Bruce Epperly, co-author of The Call of the Spirit: Process spirituality in a relational world. 

Let’s listen to Epperly for a moment:
“Our so-called ‘space’ or ‘quiet place’ can be anywhere.Since my retirement, I am re-discovering the joy and peace of walking along the beach, on the sand, at waters edge. Feeling the texture of both against the soles of my feet. Even on a cool and cloudy winter’s day.” 

Epperly says other ‘space’ places could also include: a favourite chair or study, a meditation room in your home, a park, or the bush, and yes, the seashore. 

He goes on:
“Your quiet place can also be a rejuvenating activity – gardening, walking, stargazing, journaling, meditating, praying, writing poetry, or driving in your car by yourself. Health of body, mind, spirit, and relationships require stillness as well as action, space as well as intimacy. Even the most intimate friends and couples require time alone.” 

Many advisors call this ability to create ‘spaces’ in our lives, ‘boundary setting’. Indeed, Epperly suggests today’s gospel story is just about that. 

“Jesus took time apart with his followers. His ‘no’ to work, even the good work of healing and teaching, said ‘yes’ to spiritual growth and self-care. His ‘yes’ to compassion was grounded in interconnectedness with God and his followers.” 

There is an art and a discipline to finding ‘spaces’. It also takes practice. So Epperly offers some suggestions how we can create these ‘spaces’: 

      • Sabbath time. Take a few hours a week, a day, a month, for silence, for retreat, for prayer. 
      • Breathing prayers. Breathing in. Breathing out. Remembering God’s presentness, and centring in God’s companionship.
      • Keeping meals sacred. Install and use an answer phone.
      • Cultivate intimate relationships. Relationships take time and require leisure. 
      • Distinguish the important from the trivial.
      • Learn to say ‘no’. 

The storyteller Mark was clearly impressed with what he was told about the beginnings of the Jesus movement. Part of his story this morning describes, in summary, what he saw was the impact of Jesus’ ministry. For Mark, it seems the nature of the Jesus’ ministry was to offer leadership in teaching, and in acts of compassion that brings healing and sets people free from what oppresses them. 

But this can be demanding work. People get tired. They need time out. They are not God. They are not the saviours of the world. They are ordinary human beings who need ‘space’ to continue on. Let there be spaces in your togetherness, your living, your busyness. Even your ‘good and helpful’ busyness. 

So this morning Mark’s story is not about the so-called ‘biggies’…such as feeding the 5,000, or walking on water, or grain that produces at the rate of 100 times, for example. What we get is an ‘OK’ for the very human need for ‘space’ in our lives. 

So let us learn to create ‘spaces’. And let us all learn to use them well. “…for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” 

WE OFFER OUR CONCERNS AND JOYS TO GOD IN PRAYER 

God our holy Friend, the world is beset with many more problems than we can handle. Even our neighbourhood is too much for us. Just the needs of our families at times exhaust the resources of our wisdom patience and strength. We give thanks for the revelation in Christ that you are never uncaring, outwitted or exhausted. 

Please use us and all those other servants of yours who attempt, to the best of their ability, to share your grace with this tumultuous world. Bless your contemporary prophets and reformers, pastors and peacemakers, evangelists and healers, comforters and encouragers.
May your light shine in the darkest places, your reconciling love break down all barriers, your compassion enfold all the broken and abused, your patience persist with the impetuous and impatient, and your mercy overcome the most obdurate hearts. 

Help your church to so care for its own members with respect for each and all, that they may be empowered to the body of Christ, gladly loving those around them, without counting the cost or seeking reward. Let no one in our midst grieve without consolation, sin without mercy, suffer without loving care, live without respect, hunger without food, or die without being tended with love and surrounded by prayer. 

Holy Friend, bless our gifts, use our skills, overcome our inhibitions, and when it suits you, even use our weaknesses to your greater glory. Through Jesus, our Shepherd, who taught to pray…. 

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
and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us in the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory
are yours now and forever. Amen. 

HYMN 407 – “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” (click here to listen)

WORD OF MISSION 

L: For the blessings we each bestow on one another with our energy, compassion, and prayer, we give thanks. 

R: For the blessings we become to others in need, we give thanks and remember that we are not alone. 

BENEDICTION 

Go in hope to discover the fragile
and strong hopes that lie around you.
May the Spirit of God dance in your path,
the Creator rise in life in surprising places,
and every turn in the road bring new possibilities. Amen. 

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