Ordinary Sunday 29B (17-10-2021)


This service was streamed live via Zoom on October 17th at 10:30am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while public worship is not available in the church buildings   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 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.


An affluent industrialist said to the Master, “What do you do for a profession?”
“Nothing,” said the Master.
The industrialist laughed scornfully.  “Isn’t that laziness?”
“Heavens, no.  Laziness is mostly the vice of very active people,” replied the Master.
Later the Master said to his disciples.  “Do nothing and all things will be done through you.  Doing nothing really takes a lot of doing – try it!”
           from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony de Mello, S.J.



Jesus calls all to an inclusive community, yet he promises no greatness and no soft beds. His call is simply to follow. In these times and in this place, let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.


OPENING SENTENCES  (Psalm 126:5-6)

L: Those who went sowing in tears

R: now sing as they reap.

L: They went away, went away weeping, carrying the seed;

R:  they come back, come back singing, carrying their sheaves.


God, Source of Life, fulfil your promise and bless us as we gather in your presentness. Each day may we be transformed so we become more human, more friendly towards our neighbour and all of creation. May it be so.

HYMN 459 – “In Christ There is No East or West” (click here to listen)


     Meditation – “We Celebrate…” by Ian Lawton. 

Do not take life or yourselves too seriously.  Live now.
In each moment expect a miracle.  Enjoy creation.
Look around you and see the beauty and wonder of this day and in this gathering!Look around you and see the joy, the possibilities of this day to live and love.
We refuse to die before we die and rather live life to the fullest as best we can!
We celebrate the whole of life!


Our tradition says God calls us to renew ourselves and our life’s purpose as we gather with others who are searching. So let us be in silence together.        (30 Seconds Silence)


(Prayer to mark the national apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse)

L: We pause this day to acknowledge the failure of the church to protect so many children in its care, to say how sorry we are, to pray for those who have been abused and those who support them.   (Hold a time of silence) 

L: Gracious and loving God, we confess that our congregations, agencies and schools have not always been safe places for children and that abuse occurred where care and nurture should have been expected. 

R: We are sorry. 

L: We confess that we failed to listen to the voices of children when they told us of their abuse. 

R: We are sorry. We confess our failure. Christ Jesus, Reform our life. 

L: We pray for survivors of child abuse, we pray for justice, for strength and healing. 

R: God hear our prayer. 

L: We pray for family and friends of child abuse survivors, and all who provide care and support.  We pray for wisdom, courage and resilience. 

R: God hear our prayer. 

L: We pray for those whose family member or friend has died as a result of their abuse.  We pray for comfort, kindness and peace. 

R: God hear our prayer. 

L: We acknowledge with gratitude those who have supported survivors of child abuse to find healing and strength. 

R: We give thanks. 

L: We acknowledge with gratitude the work of the Royal Commission who enabled survivors to speak of their suffering, showed us our sin and called us to mend our ways. 

R: We give thanks. 

L: We acknowledge with gratitude, advocates who exposed the truth about institutional child abuse and who campaigned for truth-telling and justice. 

R: We give thanks. 

L: We acknowledge our need to change as a Church. Strengthen us to act with justice towards survivors, to listen to our children and to implement policies which create safer communities. 

R: Reform us God. 

L: We commit ourselves as your Church to being places of safety, free of abuse and exploitation.  We commit ourselves as your Church to be communities, where people can flourish in life-giving ways of trust and love. 

R: Reform us God.  Through Christ we pray, Amen.


L:  My fellow pilgrims on the road to the promised land, by amazing grace we are set free from both self-justification and burdensome guilt. The Spirit God gives us does not lead us back into a life of religious slavery, but into liberty in which all things are possible. You are children of God and joint-heirs with Christ, and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened for us.

R:  Thanks be to God!


This is the fourth of the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah.  As to the identity of the suffering servant, there is no consensus among Old Testament scholars, but for those of the Christian faith there is an obvious association with the fate of Jesus.  How far Jesus applied this passage to his understanding of his own mission is difficult to say, but he certainly  understood his mission  generally in terms of the servant of Isaiah.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.

FROM THE GOSPELS Mark 10:35-45

The request by James and John seems to be a completely self-centred, self-serving and ambitious request that is based on the assumption that Jesus will, in the future, prove to be some kind of Messiah.  Jesus does not refuse the request, however.  He asks for content, and also asks if they have what it takes, i.e. are they able to face the suffering.  (We wonder if they know what they are saying when they reply that they can.)  Jesus affirms that they will, but that he is powerless to grant their request; thus making a clear distinction between his human activity and the realm of the divine which has its own laws.  For Mark, this story counters the dangers in his church’s fascination with Jesus as the “divine man”.

Jesus deals with the indignation on the part of the other disciples by drawing a contrast between service in the secular arena and Jesus’ kind of service.  Here, true service is not seen as a way to become great, but is, if one follows Jesus’ way to life by losing life, one of the outcomes of that new life.

35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”

36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”

39-40 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?”

Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

41-45 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

HYMN 640 – “Kneels at the Feet of His Friends”(click here to listen)


     Part 1

“That is not the way with you; among you, whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be the willing slave of all.”  (Mk 10:44)

There is a story of a rabbi and a cantor and a humble synagogue cleaner who were preparing themselves to meet God in the Feast of the Atonement.

The rabbi beat his breast and said, “I am nothing, I am nothing.”  The cantor beat his breast and said, “I am nothing, I am nothing.”  Then the cleaner beat his breast and said, “I am nothing, I am nothing.”

At this point the rabbi turned to the cantor, “So look who thinks he’s nothing.”

We try our best to be humble and not look for the best seats, but all too often our true selves show through.

Let’s have a look at how this story of disciples jockeying for a prime position in the kingdom fits into the overall story told by the author of Mark.  We are approaching the end of the section of Mark’s gospel (8:27-10:52) that expresses the open revelation of Jesus and the meaning of discipleship.  It leads up to the final section in which the ultimate understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry is found in the cross.

Three times in this section Jesus announces his inevitable suffering and death, first in 8:31; and the response of the disciples comes as Peter rebukes Jesus.  Then in 9:30, after which the disciples argue over who is the greatest.  Finally in 10:32 we read again of Jesus announcement of suffering and death and the response is James and John arguing over the best seats.

Doesn’t your heart bleed for Jesus?  Every time he wants to talk about the most significant things in his life and his faith journey, the disciples, in effect, run away.  Peter shouts, “No!  You can’t suffer and die.  We want you to lead us to glory and peace.”

The other disciples don’t even seem to hear Jesus.  They argue over who will be the greatest and who will have the best seats.

It is very easy to be critical of the disciples, but do we comprehend or obey any better?  How hard it is to really believe that the last shall be first, that to be great we must be slaves of all, to live we must die, ….and to live according to those beliefs.  What is this strange relationship implied between suffering and service?

It is a difficult concept to grasp, and almost impossible to explain, but perhaps some examples may help. There are a lot of people in this congregation are retired.  Many retirees are happy about it, but not all.  Too often such people want to say to themselves, or we want to say to them, “Don’t feel bad.  Retirement is great.  Think of all the good things.”

Retirement can be great and there are a lot of good things about it, but why shouldn’t retirees feel bad, and why shouldn’t we allow them to feel bad?  They are leaving behind a very large and very important part of their lives.  They are saying good-bye to, and facing a death of, an important part of themselves.  They must grieve.  

They must face the sadness and the disappointment, and deal with it before they can move on and get the most out of the good new life that can be found in retirement.  In other words suffering must be faced and endured, rather that repressed and smoothed over, before new life can be had in its fullness.

Weddings are another area in which grief is over-shadowed and covered over by the joy of the occasion, and everyone encourages that to happen.  Yet failure to recognise and deal with the sadness of leaving home, saying good-bye to childhood or giving up a single, independent life-style may have future repercussions upon the marriage.

Even at funerals grief is often stifled.  I conducted a funeral at which one woman burst into loud, hysterical crying at the graveside.  Instantly, several women rushed to her, and literally pulled her away from the grave, trying to hush her up as they went.  Too often we don’t allow other people to express sadness, because it makes us uncomfortable.

This reluctance to face grief and sorrow, this reluctance to embrace suffering, is what Mark is trying to demonstrate in his gospel.  And we have Jesus saying that facing suffering is part of the way to life.  It seems paradoxical, but pain is part of life and can never, ever be removed.  To ignore it is to ignore life, and furthermore, to fail to address suffering means that one chooses not to pass through it; the only path to the life lying on the other side. 

This paradox ties in with Jesus’ other great paradox:  you have to lose life in order have life.  It is the ego that suffers, but there is a place where the ego ceases; where it has been given up, and hence is beyond suffering.

     Part 2

Not many ever find that place. Why? Because we run away from suffering.  Even collectively, we run away from this path to life in our churches.  What do we talk about most in our meetings?  What do we talk about after church?  What do we spend most of our time, energy and money on?  Too often we escape into either non-issues or those that are relatively easy to grapple with: property, money, new membership, or flower rosters.  These are concrete issues we can discuss and tasks that we can easily do, and it helps us avoid having to probe too deeply into ourselves.

I remember noticeable discomfort felt when the Moderator spoke my Rosebud congregation a few years ago and suggested that the church as we know it may have to die in order for the faith to go on, and the church of the future may bear little resemblance to the church as we know it.  But despite the discomfort felt, there was little talk about it later.

Remember back when the movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ” was released?  There was a lot of fuss in the media and in churches. Looking back, it all seem so unwarranted, but it also was an expression of the fear of facing suffering; in this case, the fear of having beliefs challenged, and maybe being forced to let go of some tenuously held bit of security; or perhaps some feared facing some aspect of themselves that is so painful, they repressed it and refused to deal with it.

Are you beginning to understand the disciples’ and the world’s confusion and fear?  Jesus was challenging and even contradicting the very foundations of their hopes and the belief structures upon which their security rested.  Practical logic and religious teaching seemed no longer valid in the face of the revelation from Jesus.  Can you blame them for turning away and wanting to go back to where they felt comfortable and secure?  Can you blame the world for wanting to crucify him?

Sure the disciples wanted to follow Jesus.  They wanted to help bring in the kingdom of God which Jesus announced.  But they didn’t want to give up what had to be given up to let that happen.  So whenever Jesus raised the question of death and suffering they found a diversion.

Today’s passage deals particularly with service.  What prevents us from being true servants – indeed, slaves – of all?  I suggest that James and John give us the answer to that question.  Their own fear of, and inability to face, death and suffering led them to try to find an easier way.  In a typically human way, their particular concern was to seek status, thus indulging in one of the many ways in which people attempt to give meaning to their own lives, or, in a sense, confer a type of immortality upon themselves.

Even when we seem willing to face others’ pain and serve them, it is usually in the context of trying to remove or prevent suffering.  We confuse comforting with serving.  In fact, servanthood begins in shared pain, and that means suffering ourselves.

The only way to enter into the life that Jesus described as the kingdom of God, and where one can be a true servant, is to be able to take oneself, one’s beliefs, one’s needs and everything which is used to provide meaning and security and put them all aside for the good of the world and the kingdom; i.e. to squarely face nothingness and embrace it.

I doubt that I have made this complex theme any more intelligible, so I’ll try ending with a story of a man who has obviously found the life beyond nothingness, and maybe it will give provide for you a path to understanding:

A girl in the fishing village became an unwed mother, and after several beatings, finally revealed who the father of the child was:  the monk who meditated all day in the church outside the village.

The parents of the girl and a large group of villagers marched upon the church, rudely disturbing the monk’s meditation, abused him for his hypocrisy and told him that, as he was the father of the child, he should now bear the burden of bringing it up.  All the monk said in reply was, “Very well. Very well.”

He picked the baby up from the floor when the crowd had left, and made arrangements for a woman from the village to feed, clothe and look after it at his expense.

The monk’s name was ruined.  No one came to him for prayer or confession or instruction any more.

When this had gone on for three years, the girl who had borne the child could stand her guilt no longer and finally confessed that she had lied.  The father of the child was the boy next door.

The parents and all the villagers were most contrite.  They prostrated themselves at the feet of the monk to beg his pardon and to ask for the child back.  The monk returned the child.  And all he said was, “Very well.  Very well.”

HYMN 650 “Brother, Sister, Let Me Serve You”(click here to listen)

CELEBRATION OF FAITH   “We Believe in a Sacred Power”

L: We believe in a sacred power within and around us.  A divine spirit that we call by many names and experience in many ways, that empowers and heals, that calls us forth.

R: We believe in our creativity.

L: Making and transforming beauty out of words and notes, images and colours, lines and pictures…and silence.

R: We believe in doing justice.

L: Justice that compels and empowers us to risk whatever we must risk to create a climate in which all people can be who they are.

R: We believe in our dreams.

L: We experience the world as it is, in both its ugliness and beauty, and we see what it can become.

R: We believe in making peace.

L: A peace that is based on openness, honesty and compassion.

R: We believe in hope.

L: We expect change to continue to occur in our world. We rely on our courage to continue to bring about these changes.

R: We believe in love.

L: A passionate love within and around us that laughs and cries, challenges and comforts, a healing love that perseveres.

R: We believe in potential.

L: We know who we are, painful as that can be at times, yet we continue to call each other to become more of who we are.

R: We believe in celebrating.

L: We remember and we commemorate. We create rituals. We play and dance, and sing and love well.

R: We believe in our diversity.

L: We affirm our many shapes and sizes, colours and traditions, emotions and thoughts, differences and similarities.

R: We believe in life.

L: Life that wells up within and flows out of us like a streaming fountain.

R: We believe we are good and holy, a sacred part of all creation. 


That by the stimulus of Christ, we may continue through all our days to grow in the knowledge and love of all that is true and gracious, we pray to the God of light and love. Loving God, hear our prayer and strengthen our compassion.

That in the power of the Spirit the people of the church may cherish the faith, share the Gospel, and live together in respect, trust and peace;

That if temptations set upon us we may stand firm, and if they afflict or break others, we may be agents of your truth and saving mercy;

That when others are hungry, sick or sad,  misjudged, downtrodden or abused, they may find comfort, healing, justice, dignity and joy;

That by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, parliaments and heads of state may lead people away from things that corrupt and dismay;

That with malice towards none, a with commitment to well being of all, we may be stretched to our full potential in Christ’s free service.

Now unto the One Holy God who is able to do much more than we can achieve or even conceive, be glory in the church through Christ Jesus, who taught us to pray, “Our Father….”


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 and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen

SONG -“With a Little Help from My Friends” (click here to listen)


As we prepare to leave this sacred time when we have gathered together (albeit virtually), let us return to our homes, our work and our school enlivened and renewed; remembering that the universe is much larger than our ability to comprehend, let us go from this time together with the resolve to allow wonder, to find space to open up our minds  and illumine our lives. 

May you always stand tall as a tree.
Be as strong as the rock Uluru.
As gentle and still as the morning mist.
Hold the warmth of the campfire in your heart.
And may the Creator Spirit always walk with you.
Go in Peace.



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