Welcome to worship with the
Barwon Heads & Ocean Grove congregations
This service was streamed live via Zoom on November 14th at 10:30am
Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use. Even though public worship is once again available in the church buildings, the service continues to be streamed live for people who cannot be at church. 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.
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A public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden to enter the church. He took his woes to God:
“They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.”“What are you complaining about?” said God. “They won’t let me in either.”
from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony de Mello, S.J.
CALL TO CELEBRATION
Come in. Come into this place, which we make special by our presence. Together we make it a holy place with our every act of celebration and worship. So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.
L: Among us the spirit of Creativity God conceives new life
R: And we feel the life within us.
L: In our history Jesus the Sage makes gentle entry
R: And we see the light before us.
L: Within our dreams the truth of our God is revealed
R: We await the hope of the world.
ACT OF AWARENESS
Gathered here, we sense the Sacred in this place, may we be awakened again to the mysteries that humble us, the realities that orient us, the beauty that informs us, the fellowship that sustains us, and the creativity that heightens and deepens our living, that we may give ourselves in honesty and openness to the larger life before us.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Reflection “Meeting the Sacred” by Norman Habel
When a mystery rises from the depths of nature,
my mind seeks wisdom.
I meet the sacred, discern the spiritual, and wonder.
When a mystery reveals its presence in nature,
my spirit is startled.
I meet the sacred, celebrate the spiritual, and wonder.
In this time of silence may we move from busyness to quietness. God of life, God of peace, God of wonders that will not cease, be present with us now. (30 seconds of silence)
WE REFLECT ON OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
L: Holy Friend, help us to make this prayer of confession authentic. Perhaps some of us are feeling particularly guilty over wrongs done or good deeds left undone.
L: Maybe many of us come honestly thinking that we have done the best we could do in the circumstances. Yet we are also aware that our ignorance and clumsiness has added to the corporate muddle of life. In the tangled web of community, we see good intentions and efforts often get squashed while selfish ones appear to flourish. This discourages us, and often causes us to give up trying as much as before.
R: Please grant to us an honest repentance where it is needed, forgiveness where appropriate, a healthy humility to undergird our achievements, and an optimism for your ability to work all things together for good. We ask this in the name of the Messiah who came not to condemn but to save.
L: Lord, we cannot make ourselves right, by ourselves. And so we pray, take us where we are, as we are, and make us as you would have us be. Remove from us all pretension, posturing, or vain attempts to make ourselves acceptable to you. Give to us that right relationship with you by which our gaze is wrenched off ourselves and our efforts, and steadily focussed upon you and your love for us. Amen.
L: Sisters and brothers of the living Christ, shake off your negative thoughts and take on the liberty of your Redeemer. Look to the future with the faith that God will one day complete in you the good work which has begun. This is your inheritance, and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us;
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE EPISTLES – Hebrews 10:11-14;19-25
Christ is depicted as the great mediator between humanity and God, the great high priest who sits at God’s right hand. There is a tendency for some to want to literalise this image, or ask just how a blood sacrifice gained our forgiveness. Instead or trying to understand a first century image that no longer speaks clearly to 20th century minds, it may be better to simply listen to the message it brings: WE ARE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD. (FULL STOP!) It doesn’t matter how or why, but it is the reality that matters. No one has to to earn, nor can one, the status of righteousness, nor can one do anything to lose that status. It is a given. There is no category of sinner or sinless; only of God’s children.
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified…
…19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
FROM THE GOSPELS – Mark 13:1-8
Jesus’ disciples admire the temple, yet Jesus foretells a time of great disruption and change; a time when even the temple shall fall. In the context of today’s the me perhaps the temple may represent to us human religion.
13 As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!”
3-4 Later, as he was sitting on Mount Olives in full view of the Temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew got him off by himself and asked, “Tell us, when is this going to happen? What sign will we get that things are coming to a head?”
5-8 Jesus began, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, ‘I’m the One.’ They will deceive a lot of people. When you hear of wars and rumored wars, keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history, and no sign of the end. Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. But these things are nothing compared to what’s coming.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “The End of Religion”
“Every priest stands day after day… offering again and again the same sacrifice… But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down.” (Heb.10:11-12).
A Guru promised a scholar a revelation of greater consequence than anything contained in the scriptures. When the scholar eagerly asked for it, the Guru said, “Go out into the rain and raise your arms heavenward. That will bring you the first revelation.”
The next day the scholar came to report: “I followed your advice and water flowed down my neck. And I felt like a perfect fool.”
“Well,” said the Guru, “for the first day, that’s quite a revelation, isn’t it?”
from The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony de Mello, S.J.
This is exam time for VCE and university students so it seems appropriate to start with a little quiz: just one multiple choice question, so listen carefully. Which of the following is not a religion?
Congratulations, if you picked “c”, the Christian Faith, for “c” is the correct answer. For those of you who got the answer wrong, listen to the definition of religion:
Religion is the attempt by human beings to establish a right relationship between themselves and something beyond themselves which they think to be of life-giving significance.
“Religion,” according to this definition, is the human attempt to get a handle on the key to life, to plug into the power, to find the program that leads to happiness, meaning, self-esteem, or whatever it is that gives a person life. The program may be about God, the good life, good sex, or whatever else a person thinks will give life significance, but it’s still religion.
The person that gulps down great quantities of cereal containing sawdust in order to hedge bets on good health (and I have to admit to being one of them), the anxious observer of the all-ordinaries index, and the fervent Cats supporter all can be said to be religious in a way that the true Christian is not.
Robert Capon in his book, Health, Money and Love, notes all religions have certain things in common First, they have creeds: formulae for thinking about whatever it is outside ourselves that is said to tune us into the power. Creeds are intellectual recipes which, if you get them right, the religions tell you you’ll have a ‘leg-up’ to whatever it is outside yourself that will give you life.
Religions also have cults : practices evoked by their creeds. I didn’t study for a profession because it was fun. I don’t exercise for the enjoyment of it. And, heck, nobody eats oat bran because it tastes good, for heaven’s sake. We do those things for our own sake and that something beyond ourselves: a low cholesterol count, a comfortable retirement, the envy of our neighbours.
In addition to creeds and cults, religions have conduct: prescribed and proscribed behaviour which, if you get it right, lands you in Nirvana or parliament or Surfers, or wherever you think life ought to land in order to home free. Creed, Cult ,Conduct: , the three Cs that are the common elements of religion.
Needless to say, along with those C-words, religions have some F-words, too. As a by-product, most religions have;
Failure = .
Because each religion insists that you’ve got to do the whole thing right, we are forever flunking. And of course, the pre-reformation church made a huge business out of cultivating fear of the repercussions of this failure which is still around today.
There are uptight, terribly difficult religions, like golf. Those who play need no further elaboration. There are seeming relaxing religions like psychotherapy, telling you that all you’ve got to do is relax, let go and free associate about your relationship with your mother. But in every religion there is always creed, cult and conduct, things that simply must be got right if you are going to find life, and inevitably we fail to get them 100% right.
In other words, the relationship to that ‘something beyond ourselves’ that would give us life is always, according to religion, up to us and, because we are human, we always fail to get it right. No matter how much we watch what we eat, e.g. eating only mono-unsaturated margarines to keep our cholesterol down, there comes along an article in Women’s Weekly which tells us that margarine gives us bowel cancer. So, sorry folks, no relationship with the source of ultimate meaning for you. Religion is a one-way ticket to failure. The harder you try and the more conscious you become, the more often you are impressed with how badly you get it wrong.
Religion will tell you that it loves the ‘something beyond ourselves’ with which it is trying to establish a relationship. In fact, it is not love that motivates religion; it is appeasement, self-protection and control that is its goal. Bean sprouts and oat bran, I love you? Forget it. It’s called hard work which must be got right, but hardly ever is. We can eat broccoli and brown rice every day of the week, only to be clobbered by an asteroid.
To make matters worse, we are all born religious. That is, we come into this world desperate to find the key to establishing the right relationship between ourselves and the ‘something outside ourselves’ which will give us life. But, try as we might, we can never get it right.
Jesus’ goal was to put an end to religion. Religion, as something that human beings must get right in order to have a correct relationship with God, interested Jesus less than…than… golf. Unfortunately, once Jesus had left the scene, his disciples went about creating another religion in his name, which the church has been propagating ever since.
What God says to you through Jesus is: “ I accept you as you are.” (Full stop) This is the message Jesus lived and spoke. But how does that compare with what you have heard from churches in the past?
You all know of forms of Christianity that relay a message quite different from the one Jesus taught. They say things like: “Good news! If you are very good, God will love you.” Or, “Good news! If you are very, very sorry for not having been very, very good, God will love you.” Or, most insidious of all, “Good news! God loves you. Now get back in line before God’s mind changes.”
They may sound like good news for contented churchgoers; those respectable, pious people who feel that they are already pretty much what God wants people to be, but they’re not good news for ordinary human beings; people who know they are far from perfect, at least by the standards of the respectable, pious people of their world.
Interestingly, Jesus preferred the company of just such ordinary human beings. He ate with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and presumably, they liked his company, too, since they seem to have invited him back. It looks, then, as if the good news was originally good news for the ordinary people, people not particularly pious nor particularly respectable. To them God said in Jesus, “I accept you as you are.”
Now I will grant that religion has its place. In its various forms it contains some good, practical wisdom for living: eat plenty of fibre, don’t borrow more than you can pay back, treat others as you would have them treat you. And we need to pay attention to that wisdom because our relationships in this world and with this world are not always the best. We are not good lovers, good parents, good livers or good doers. But none of that has anything to do with our relationship with that ultimate source of life beyond ourselves.
The Christian church has adopted the forms of religion. It has specified creeds, cults and conduct, and we see much of that here today, but you’re in trouble if you take any of that seriously. There is nothing in this service that can establish a right relationship with God. All of this is here as a kind of a jokes-on-you reminder that your relationship with God is a given. Prayer is not a con job to get God to be gracious. We don’t baptise or break the communion bread or read scripture in order beg God to show up. God is here, in you. God has been in you, and you have been in God, before you ever did anything, and despite what you’ve done since. That’s why, in the Hebrews reading, Jesus is said to be sitting. While all the priests are standing, offering sacrifices hither and thither, and trying to save themselves and the world, Jesus sits, because there is nothing more to be done.
That’s why we call it gospel – good news. If it were religion, it would be the bad news that there is still some secret to be unlocked, some ritual to be gotten right, some little sin to be purged. But there is nothing for us to do to be right with God. We are born right with God and we die right, whether we are good Christians, indifferent Buddhists, or bad atheists; whether we are saints, petty sinners or child molesters. We are God’s, and the door to life in all its fullness is open to us, has always been open to us and will always be open to us. And that is good news!
A CELEBRATION OF FAITH
L:Christ our life, you are alive
R: in the beauty of the earth, in the rhythm of the seasons, in the mystery of time and space. Alleluia!
R: in the tenderness of touch, in the heartbeat of intimacy, in the insights of solitude. Alleluia!
L: Christ our life, you are alive
R: in the creative possibility of the dullest conversation, the dreariest task, the most threatening event. Alleluia!
L: Christ our life, you are alive
R: to offer re-creation, to every unhealed hurt, to every deadened place, to every damaged heart. Alleluia!
L: You set before us a great choice. Therefore we choose life. The dance of resurrection soars and surges through the whole creation. It sets gifts of peace and joy in our hearts.
R: This is grace, dying we live. So let us live.
WE OFFER OUR JOYS AND CONCERNS TO GOD
Because your wisdom is immensely greater than ours, and because your love is infinitely deeper than ours, we bring to you, Loving God, our prayers for our needier sisters and brothers the world over.
We bring those maimed by land mines or terrorist bombs, injured in industrial accidents, and the many who because of road trauma or sporting injury must find a new and painstaking way of living each day. Bless each of these and those skilled people who nurse and encourage them.
We bring to you family or workmates, friends, neighbours or strangers, who are fighting a battle against diseases like aids, tuberculous, cancer, hepatitis, malaria or meninjococcal infection. Bless every afflicted child, woman or man, and those GP’s and specialists, surgeons and therapists, whom you use for healing.
We bring to you the social outcastes in our society; the street kids and call girls, drug users and suppliers, the alcoholics and those in prison. Bless and help each of these children of yours, and give wisdom and courage to social workers , police officers, warders, chaplains, probation officers and drug counsellors.
We bring to you the children of new immigrants who are starting school, the kids who are victims of schoolyard bullies, the slow learners who are derided by other students, the child who is abused at home, and the many children in foster care. Bless and guide the teachers, and carers, foster parents and student counsellors.
We bring to you employers and employees, the unemployed and the unemployable, the staff of job centres, those administering social welfare benefits, and the host of people who must work at jobs they find distasteful or degrading. Bless each person who this week will make decisions that will affect the dignity and poverty of others.
Most holy God, you are physician, teacher, counsellor, parent, judge, nurse, therapist and mediator. Use us whenever you can for your work, whether it come easily to us or hard, and don’t let us get our noses out of joint when you choose others to do the tasks we would prefer to do. Through Christ Jesus our Servant-Lord, who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”
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 and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen
L: As we depart one from another, let our hearts be secure through every human season.
R: Let our hearts be secure in seasons of anguish as in seasons of joy, in seasons of failure as in seasons of success, in seasons of uncertainty as in seasons of security.
R: and we are worthy providers of love and support others cannot earn.
L: Let our hearts be secure,
R: for hearts know and understand and will respond if invited in.
Fall in love with living, wrestling with the chaos and the pain within ourself and within the world; join the celebration of life, dancing with the angels and the clowns; and may the God of peace and joy, who is continually making all things new, embrace you as a partner in the divine creating.
A sergeant was asking a group of recruits why walnut was used for the butt of a rifle.
“Because it is harder than other woods,” said one man.
“Wrong,” said the sergeant.
“Because it is more elastic,” said another.
“Because it has a better shine,” ventured another.
“You boys certainly have a lot to learn. Walnut is used for the simple reason that it is laid down in the Regulations!”
from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony de Mello, S.J.
A Sufi saint, on pilgrimage to Mecca, was delighted to see that there were barely any pilgrims at the holy shrine when he got there, so he was able to perform his devotions at leisure.
Having completed the prescribed religious practices, he knelt down and touched his forehead to the ground and said, “Allah! I have only one desire in life. Give me the grace of never offending you again.”
When the All-Merciful heard this he laughed aloud and said, “That’s what they all ask for. But if I granted everyone this grace, tell me, whom would I forgive?”
When the sinner was asked about the fearless way he walked into the temple, he replied: “There is no single person that the sky does not cover; there is no single person that the earth does not sustain – and God, is he not earth and sky to everyone?”
from The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony de Mello, S.J.