This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on May 1st at 10:30am
Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use for those who are not able to attend public gatherings. 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.
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“It’s not what is achieved that is important,
but what is set in motion.” (H.D. Wells)
ENTRY INTO CELEBRATION
Let there be joy in our coming together this morning. Let there be truth heard in the words we speak and the songs we sing. Let there be help and healing for our disharmony and despair. Let there be silence for the voice within us and beyond us. Let there be joy in our coming together. Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God.
L: Through this time of celebration, we leave for a time the daily sequence of events, to examine life in its eternal dimensions and consequences:
R: asking questions about our values our directions, our goals, and our relationships.
L: Let us spend this time in the presentness of the Sacred One, God.
R: Praise be for this gathered community in this sacred place, for all people.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
God, help us to listen to our inner spirits: to the inner yearning to belong to something greater than ourselves. Help us to listen to our inner spirits and find there the presence of your good encouraging spirit. Amen.
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Meditation: “Christian toleration?” by Sue Brown.
Toleration is often exalted as a virtue. I am not so sure.
I know I do not yearn to be ‘tolerated’.
Did the father barely tolerate the prodigal?
Does the father merely tolerate us all?
I tolerate, without much thought, the motorway at dawn,
stale air in city streets, siren and motor horn.
I tolerate an icy wind,
I tolerate the daily grind.
I tolerate the miscellany of pulsating humankind.
Do I tolerate my brothers and my sisters?
I know I do not long to be tolerated.
I long to be loved, understood, welcomed.
We come into the silence of this time with gratitude for this day. We come with our needs. And we come because we have gifts to share. In our coming and in our going may we be strengthened in our bonds of love and peace.
(Maintain silence for at least 30 seconds)
REFLECTING ON OUR RELATIONSHIPS
L: With confidence in Christ’s work for the healing and liberation of humanity, let us open our hearts to his inflowing grace. Loving God, Saviour of the weak and the foolish, and also the Saviour of the strong and the sophisticated, we confess that we have, without exception, fallen short of the glory of Christ Jesus.
R: We have rushed in where we should have gone gently, we have stood back on the sidelines when we should have got involved. For our successes we have looked for too much praise, and in our failures we have accepted too little responsibility. We have grabbed for shallow happiness at the expense of others, and have clamped down on those generous impulses which would have cost us much yet fostered profound happiness. We who should be best friends with ourselves, are often our own worse enemies. Now we turn to you for understanding, forgiveness, correction and courage. Please have mercy upon us. Amen.
L: Children of God, the Gospel has not offered you more anxiety and shame, but grace, peace, and joy. Accept the gifts of God, and live with the freedom and resilience of those who are destined for the highest service, so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE GOSPELS – John 21:1-19
21 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS
Read Acts 9:1-6.
9 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Ask one side of church to get into shoes of Paul, and the other side, Ananias as the reading continues.
Read Acts 9:7-20
7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
- How was Saul feeling at the beginning of the story?
- How was Ananias feeling when God first spoke to him?
- Why did Ananias hesitate to do what he was told?
- Why did he finally obey God?
- How did he feel as he entered the house where Saul was?
- How did Saul feel when he heard someone coming in?
- What might he be thinking?
- How did he feel when Ananias put his hands on him and call him “brother?”
- How did Ananias feel at that moment?
- How did they both feel at the end of the story?
- What might have happened if Ananias had refused to go to Saul?
- if he had gone grudgingly?
- What did Ananias do that was important?
- What does this story tell us about how to respond to Jesus’ command, “Feed my sheep?”
Read about Joggi,”The Porcupine Whose Name Didn’t Matter,” in Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell.
Joggi stood before the mystery of his own life much as any other porcupine might have. That is to say, he was exceedingly cautious in the face of it. I do not mean to imply that it was difficult for Joggi to acknowledge the mystery. On the contrary, he had no trouble whatsoever recognising the ebb and flow of his own limitations and the infinite variety and possibility within his universe.
Joggi knew about the ongoing beat of life. The daily, the humdrum, the having-one-day-showed-up-and-now-like-it-or-not, but finding oneself here in the midst of existence, virtually crushed by the environment, called upon to create the entire world; the bittersweet commingling of all this with an inner insistence to go on, and on, until . . . . Until what?
Joggi knew something about the ongoing beat of life. It throbbed somewhere deep within him. Beneath the prickly spines. In the center of his tiny body. A thumping. Steady. Insistent. Unrelenting. The mystery. Totally aware, more lucid perhaps than he desired to be, Joggi lived and loved, laughed and cried – tentatively. One might say that anger, frustration and tenderness had been so delicately woven into the fabric of his person as to make difficult our perceiving any of them.
Joggi was cautious in the face of the mystery. So cautious, in fact, that almost nobody knew his name. Most of the animals in the forest had seen the nearsighted porcupine moving slowly about, poking his pointed black nose into the vegetation, bristling and puffing, squinting and stumbling. Few had spoken to him. Now and then someone would say hello, and ask after his health: an attempt to strike up a conversation of sorts. This never really led to anything, however, because Joggi would not – no, that isn’t fair – Joggi could not risk such a head-on collision.
Joggi’s decisional hesitancy usually expressed itself this way. When asked what his name was, he would answer, “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter what my name is! Can’t you see? What difference does it make? I won’t tell you what my name is, because it doesn’t matter!”
That would be the reply. And, more often than not, that would be the end of the conversation. Joggi could not embrace another, he would not tell anyone his name, and the result was almost always the same: the other animals avoided him. One significant exception to this was Gamiel, the raccoon. Gamiel did not mind Joggi’s reticence at all. It did not bother him when the prickly little porcupine was silent for hours at a time, and he never even thought to ask about Joggi’s name.
Gamiel can remember very little before the accident, and much of what happened since was blurred somewhere in the recesses of his brain, all but lost to memory. Raccoons are generally alert and resourceful creatures with keen perceptions and excellent memories. But all of this had changed for Gamiel. Ironically, he wasn’t even certain why. There had been a flash of light, and then something hard ripped into the side of his head. His whole body convulsed with pain; white-hot, wet, thrashing, God-when-will-it-stop pain that pitched him bleeding from the tree into the underbrush and drove him forward without his left side pulling any weight at all, by instinct only; screaming pain that shrieked behind his eyes, and then, as suddenly as it had come, was gone.
Gamiel had only to look at himself in the quiet waters of the forest pond to recognise why no one would come near him anymore. Everything had changed. He did not even look like a raccoon. The whole left side of his head was missing, he had no fur at all around his eyes where once the elegant mask had been, and he could barely pull himself along with his right front leg. Gamiel had only to look at himself in the forest pond to realise why everyone hurried past when he called out to them.
But the crippled raccoon would never again look at his reflection in the quiet waters. Not because he wasn’t willing to see his disfigured image, but because he wasn’t able to see anything at all. Ever since the accident, Gamiel had been totally blind.
Joggi found Gamiel about two days after the pain has stopped, and approximately three hours after the raccoon had given up all hope. There was a sound close by. Gamiel trembled.
“Is someone there?” he whispered.
At first Joggi didn’t say anything. He looked at Gamiel and noted that his left side was paralysed. Then, after a moment, he realized that the animal was blind. The nearsighted porcupine moved closer.
“You’re a raccoon,” he said out loud.
“Oh, yes, indeed I am!” Gamiel stuttered. “Only I think something awful has happened to me. I cannot see anything at all, and I can barely move. Please, tell me what is happened to me! Am I going to die? Why won’t anyone stop when I cry out? Why can’t I see? What has happened? Please, I’m afraid . . . .” And in Gamiel’s searching, empty, sightless eyes tears began to form.
Joggi sniffed. In the center of his body the beat of life. Faster now. Answer him. Don’t just stand there with your spines bristling and your heart pounding. Answer him!
Joggi spoke with a steady and quiet voice. “I believe you have been shot. I cannot be certain, of course, but that is my opinion. Are you in a great deal of pain?”
“No. At first there was pain. But I can’t feel anything now. In fact, my whole left side is numb. No. No more pain. Just, well . . . Nothing.” Gamiel’s eyes opened and closed aimlessly.
Gamiel spoke in a hoarse voice, “Are you still there?”
Joggi’s heart beat faster. “Yes, I’m here. I was just wondering what to do now.”
“Oh, you don’t have to do anything! Honestly, I mean that! You don’t have to do anything at all. Just stay with me for a little while. Just be there. Just don’t go away. Please. You don’t have to do anything! Just stay with me. I’m afraid! You won’t go away, will you?”
Joggi swallowed hard. “No,” he said deliberately and with as much conviction as he could muster, “no, I won’t go away.”
“Thank you,” Gamiel said quietly.
And then the wounded raccoon fell asleep.
Joggi stood beside Gamiel all that day. Then when evening came, a cool breeze made his spines whistle slightly. The sound woke the raccoon.
“Are you there?”
“Yes. I told you I wouldn’t go away.”
“I thought you probably would be,” Joggi replied. “Can you move at all?”
Gamiel stretched his right leg forward and pulled himself along the ground.
“Good for you!” said Joggi. “That will do nicely. I can bring you food, but you will need to maneuver for yourself in order to get water. I believe you have enough strength to reach the pond; it isn’t very far, and I can guide you directly to it. Come on. Let’s see how it goes.”
That was how it began. An unusual partnership, perhaps. Certainly the rest of the animals in the forest were surprised to see the pair of them moving slowly about, managing to live from one day to the next without really doing much of anything. Occasionally Joggi would describe something for Gamiel, or answer a question, or direct the crippled raccoon toward a tasty morsel of food. Gamiel, for his part, chattered happily, basked in the sun, and generally enjoyed his friend’s company.
They made a home for one another, Joggi and Gamiel. Not a regular home exactly; not a place. More like a shelter from the excessive pain that each of them had known. The coming together of two lonely and frightened creatures. A bond of trust that asked no questions, expected nothing at all except the merciful being together that made waking up tomorrow possible. Gamiel didn’t mind when Joggi was silent for hours at a time. He could sense the beat. Thumping, ongoing, steady. There. It was enough.
Joggi was with Gamiel for one full year before the injured raccoon finally died. It was a quiet event, almost a surprise but that Joggi had been expecting it for so long. Gamiel’s strength just finally gave out, and the mystery enveloped him completely.
“You know, I’ve been expecting this for quite some time now,” Joggi said to the raccoon who lay there on the ground, no longer able to hear him. “I am surprised that you managed to stay alive as long as you did. I knew the day that I found you it couldn’t last. Not for long. You’d been hurt too badly. I never expected you to live this long. And yet . . . well, I had hoped that it might have been a little longer. Do you know what I mean? “You see, I never knew anybody very well before. Not that we ever talked much, or anything like that. But I felt like I knew you anyway. Even without talking.
I have a really hard time talking to anybody, or getting to know anybody. And nobody ever wants to get very close to me because of all these spines that I have sticking out of me.
“I don’t suppose you ever knew that I had spines sticking out all over me, did you? They’re sort of like needles and they’re sharp. I guess they scare everybody a bit. I hope you don’t mind my talking so much. I really don’t know why I’m talking to you now. I suppose it’s just that I had a little more to tell you before you died; I have been wanting to say this for almost a year and never quite found the right time to do it. It’s too late now, I realise, but I’ve been wanting to tell you that it has been an honor to meet you, and you are indeed a very handsome raccoon, and that I would like to consider you my friend.”
The porcupine cleared his throat. A tear dropped onto his nose. In the centre of his body the ongoing beat of life. Beneath the prickly spines. Wildly thumping. Tell him! Don’t just stand there with your spines bristling and your heart pounding. Tell him!
“Oh, and by the way, I’d like to tell you what my name is. It’s a funny name, I suppose. But I’d like you to know what it is.”
A moment’s hesitation, and then, “It’s Joggi.”
Without another word, the tiny porcupine turned away from Gamiel’s lifeless form and began to cry. What he did not see was a great silver wolf standing, statue – like in the shadows, fiery eyes smoldering
CELEBRATION OF FAITH
L: In response to the word reflected on, let us stand and share together an affirmation of faith. We experience the holiness of God
R: in wonder of creation; in endless sky and sea; in breathless beauty and quiet bush; in acts of courage and silent heart.
L: We know Jesus as a gateway into God
R: in gifts of healing and liberations of life; in recognitions of love and callings to serve; in sufferings for others and glimpses of grace.
L: We live from God’s Spirit
R: in moments of faith, in dreams beyond hoping and in rhythms of new energy.
L: We name the God who is our centre.
R: We claim the goodness that is ours in God. We announce the truth that lies at the heart of the gospel. We believe we are not alone in our struggle to be the church.
PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
We pray for courageous political figures who maintain their early ideals, and those who have surrendered them in a thousand compromises.
We pray for patient church members, who work unflustered towards long term goals, and for the impetuous souls who want more instant success than Jesus had.
We pray for experienced believers who have served Christ from childhood to old age, and for recent converts who are now in danger of slipping backwards into indifference.
We pray for handicapped and sick people whose experience deepens their compassion, and for lucky people with perfect health who may tend to be thoughtless and impatient.
We pray for the bereaved who are courageously trying to put their lives together again, and for those who have never known sorrow yet expect the sad to get over it quickly.
Most loving God, to journey with Christ is to warmly live, to fall away is to grow cold and slowly die, help us who have prayed for other people, to recognise our own weaknesses and to trust your Spirit to supply the kind of help which we most aptly need. For your purpose and praise. Through Jesus the Christ 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, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
L: Worship need not cease.
R: It can echo in our lives, in our words, in our deeds, in our moods, in our dreams.
L: Carry worship with you wherever you may go. Be a blessing in your going out and your coming in.