Easter 4C/Mothers’ Day (08-05-2022)

This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on May 8th 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. 

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.


“The taboo against identifying with nature
has been lifted.

Star-time, earth-time speak through us; 
we are their soul, sound and tongue –
the universe’s strange attractors” (David Toolan)



Come to this time of worship!  Our ‘virtual congregation is ready for you to fill this sacred space, to create its spirit, to generate its warmth, to kindle its light.   Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God.


L: In our gathering here together, let us
open our minds to the challenge of reason,
open our hearts to the healing of love,
open our lives to the comfort of joy.

R: Astonished by the miracle of life, grateful for the gift of fellowship, confident in the power of living faith, we are here gathered.


We give thanks for the opportunity we have to worship at this sacred time this day.  May we be surrounded with a very real sense of the presentness of the Source of our Living, as we spend this time together. Amen.

HYMN  378 – “The Head that Once was Crowned with Thorns”
(click here to listen)


     Meditation -“A Celebration of Women”(w/ symbolic candle lighting)

L: As we ease into the quiet of this place and take into ourselves, let us celebrate the role of women in our biblical tradition,  in society and in role of those who call forth life in all its rich dimensions. The colour purple is God’s gift to us all. Purple for the dignity of women; of biblical women, of women in history. We stand up for and commit ourselves to the dignity of women.

R: We light this purple candle for the dignity of women.  

L: The colour pink is God’s gift to us all. Pink for the single-mindedness of women; of contemporary women in the community, in parliament, in the church.  We stand up for and commit ourselves to the single-mindedness of women.

R: We light this pink candle for the single-mindedness of women.

L: The colour white is God’s gift to us all. White for the hope of the women’s movement; biblical women and women in history who dared to stand tall. We stand up for and commit ourselves to the hope of the women’s movement.

R: We light this white candle for the hope of all women. 


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.     (silence  for at least 30 seconds)


L: Friends, Jesus our Shepherd has asked us to love each other with his kind of love. Sometimes we have gone close to doing just that, but usually our love has been selective and veined with self-interest. Let us seek forgiveness and renewal.

When our compassion dries up, and our feelings become as arid as the Stony Desert, Lord Jesus, rebuke us and have mercy on us.

R: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.

 L: When we harbour resentments, and our words are as sharp as a wild prickly pear; Lord Jesus, rebuke us and have mercy on us.

R: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.

L: When we slide from worship into apathy, and our prayers are like an empty water hole; Lord Jesus, rebuke us and have mercy on us.

R: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.

 L: Loving God, please renovate our feelings,  re-order our thoughts,  and re-condition our world-weary wills. May hope enlarge our goals, faith enliven our prayers,  and love endow our relationships and deeds.  Through Christ our companion.  Amen!


L: No matter what, God loves us. In God we know we can expect a second chance at life; so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God!

A contemporary paraphrasing by Francis Macnab. 

Generous Giver of all things: in your presence my inner spirit is fully satisfied. I know I share in the abundance of life. I can lie down without fear. I can sit beside the stillness of the river. I find my soul is strengthened.  I know there are right paths.  My God will guide me to them.  I know I must face the shadows of life and meet my death.  I will do so with courage.  I know there is an unseen presence with me that gives me comfort and strength.  Generous Giver, along with all the uncertainties and threats of life, you provide me with good gifts.  When I have enough, you pour into my life something more. Indeed: my cup overflows.  May I find and give goodness and kindness every day of my life. Let my life be a constant expression of my desire to reflect your good presence wherever I am, wherever I go. Wherever. Forever!

ntroduced with HYMN 106, v.1)

L: Today is Mother’s Day The story of the modern celebration of Mother’s Day goes back to Ann Marie Jarvis who, in America, founded a group called ‘Mother’s Day Work Clubs’ after their civil war. The group worked to bring healing to all. In the spirit of that care and healing let us share this special Litany for Women:
Mother God, Spirit-filled Woman, Source of all living things

R: it was you who breathed life into us. In your likeness we were formed. The darkness of your sacred womb enwraps us in the silence of the Holy One.

L: Your creative energy pulsates through every fibre of my being.

Wm: You birth forth life within me. Your abundant breasts continue to sustain my very being. You carry me close to your heart and sing your song of love to me.

L: You hold me close to your heart and sing your song of love to me.

Wm: You hold me close to you and comfort me. Cradled in your arms, I am at peace.

L: You bathe me with life-giving waters of your giftedness.

Wm: Reflected in your eyes is my dignity as woman. You nurture me and guide me to proclaim my sacredness as woman of God.

L: You call me forth to image your compassion, love and joy to a broken world.

Mn: Together we dance life’s passionate song   

FROM THE GOSPELS  John 10: 22-24, 27-30  (Scholars Version)

It was the Festival of Lights in Jerusalem and it was wintertime.
Jesus was walking around in the temple area, in Solomon’s Colonnade. Judeans surrounded him, asking “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Anointed, just say so.”

Jesus replied…”The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I provide them with real life. They will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.

“The One who sent me, who gave them to me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Holy One. The One who sent me, and I, are one.”

HYMN 10 – “The Lord’s My Shepherd” (click here to listen)


     Part 1

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil,” (Ps.23:4) 

I read a story recently of a man who tired to run away from support payments to his ex-wife, from his taxes and from the police.  When he found a room, he thought he had found a refuge from his fear of capture.  But he soon realised that he was as trapped as he would have been in a prison.  It wasn’t long before they all caught up with him and he ended up in a real prison.  But even when we haven’t done anything we deserve to be arrested for, we all have times in our lives when we look for a refuge.  Where do we go when the bottom drops out of our lives?  Where can the storm victims find a shelter?  Where can we hide from our fears and feel protected?

When I was in the United States a few years ago, one of the fastest growing occupations was security guard.  Why?  Because the society has been becoming more and more a two-tiered society of the rich and poor, with no middle class, and the affluent try to protect their wealth and lifestyle from the depredations of the poor by engaging private security firms.  Even today, in the public sector, the most job vacancies are in security.  It’s the sort of statistic that makes Australians sigh with relief that they don’t live in the U.S.   But here, also, the gap between rich and poor is widening at an alarming rate.  In fact the gap is widening faster here than in the United States, and although we started in a much better situation, we are fast catching up.  These American statistics are omens of a fearful future for Australia as society seeks to secure itself.

The protective need is expressed in popular form in one of the characters created by Charles Schulz in his comic strip, Peanuts, Linus. Linus has a security blanket which is his dearest possession.  In one of the episodes, Snoopy (the dog) snatches the blanket from Linus and flies through the door into the cold midwinter with Linus suspended in mid-air holding onto the blanket for dear life.  Most parents know how difficult it is to part children from their security blankets.   Outside a battle ensues.  At last Linus wins, clutching his blanket, and stands exhausted at the front door.  His sister, Lucy, admonishes him, “Are you crazy?  it is cold outside!  You could catch pneumonia rolling around out there in the snow.”  Linus replies, “The struggle for security knows no season!”

And it doesn’t!  Much of our daily effort is is directed toward making and keeping ourselves secure, providing security blankets for ourselves.  In one sense this is good.  We do need to feel secure, and much – perhaps all – of our progress as a civilisation has arisen from the drive for security.  But, like in everything else, the drive for security can be harmful if overdone, particularly if we remain like Linus.  The friends of Linus seek to remove his security blanket because it indicates an unwillingness on his part to face up to the demands of life.  They want Linus to grow up and be able to manage his life successfully.  This means that the security blanket must go.  A transfer must be made from the material (security blanket) to another source of security.

A child, just on turning 13 and reflecting on the transition from childhood to adolescence, wrote an essay on the assigned topic, “Security.”  Here is part of it:

Security is sleeping in the back seat of the car when you’re a little kid, and you’ve been somewhere and it’s night.  You’re riding in the car, and you can sleep in the back seat.  You don’t have to worry about anything.  You mum and dad are in the front seat, and they’re doing all the worrying.  They take care of everything.  But it doesn’t last.  Suddenly you’re grown up.  and it can never be that way again.  Suddenly it’s over, and you’ll never get to sleep in the back seat again.  Never!

     Part 2

Sadly it’s true; all must grow up and take their place in the front seat.  But there is security there, too, and I’m not speaking of seat belts and air bags.  The writer of  the 23rd Psalm knew that.  He was speaking of another presence, a source of hope outside ourselves that leads us beside still waters; restores our souls.

In the gospel, Jesus echoes the psalmist’s central thoughts and affirms its promise of secure refuge: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me…and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The real trick in life is to be able to appropriate the security which is promised here.  It is too easy to settle for less security simply because it is more tangible, and as long as you rely on something else for security you will not know the security of the shepherd.  As long as one clutches a security blanket there are no hands free to received the security offered by God.

In our culture money is the most common form of security.  Material security is a substitute for divine security, and money, therefore, is the real god of this world.  But you all know this, and you have to wrestle with the implications for your life on your own.  You’ve heard it before, so I will deal with the more subtle forms of security blankets.

If you think about that which makes you feel secure, in addition to your material wealth, I suspect that, high on the list, there will be certain people, especially those who love you and whom you love.   You may even rightly say that you meet God in these  relationships.  These special people help you to feel a sense of protection, and you may not even doubt that certain people would give their lives for you and you for them.  All that can be true, but ultimately all such relationships are human and finite, hence the security they provide is also finite and subject to human failings.  You probably know this only too well, for when you lose one of these people through death or estrangement, suddenly the future becomes untenable, and you may wonder how you will be able to go on.  The security that once seemed so solid has gone and you are left direction-less and floundering.

An even more subtle form of security is religion which is mistaken for real faith in God.  As with those secure relationships, this form of security may work very well until its beliefs are challenged, and challenged with incontrovertible evidence.   Probably the most well-known example was the 19th century challenge to the biblical view of creation by scientists such as Charles Darwin.  To those who understand the nature of the creations story in Genesis, there was never a clash between science and theology, but for those who based their faith on a particular literal translation of the Bible, this was a disaster.  The belief, which had once been thought of as faith, was dismantled to reveal the fear which it had been covering.  In the face of abundant evidence to the contrary there are still those who cling to the security blanket of particular religious beliefs, an this prevents them from finding security in God.

Interestingly, insecurity is the result of trying to be secure, whether through the accumulation of wealth, the energy put into relationships and the adoption of religious beliefs.  Contrariwise, salvation consists in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.  

Where does our security lie?  It is not a new question; it is asked more than once in the Bible:  “From where is my help to come?” asks Psalm 121.  The psalmist answers, “My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  In today’s psalm the question is again answered; “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and he confidently states, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I fear no evil, for thou art with me.”  This is faith, my friends, and no other security than faith is either needed or will ultimately work to enable us to live successfully, fruitfully with fear.

A LITANY – “Choose Life”

L: In response to the word reflected on, let us share litany affirming our faith in life. We say to ourselves:

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.

L: We say to friends:

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.

L: We say to the world:

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.

L: The earth is our source of survival. Deplete her resources, poison her waters, and you will cultivate death.

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.

L: The universe is our sacred canopy. Clutter its space with the hardware of war, and the stars and the planets will die.

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.

L: Life is a fragile environment. Upset the balance, and everything, everyone, everywhere will disappear.

R: Choose life, that you and your children may live.  

HYMN 15 – “God is My Strong Salvation” (click here to listen)


Loving Father, who gives life to all, we entrust to your keeping those who have died in the service of this country.  We pray for all who suffer from the effects of war; grant them your peace and healing strength; and for those who in sadness recall lives lost; grant them comfort in the hope of resurrection. May we be inspired by the determination of those who have served in the fight for justice and peace. Have mercy on our broken and divided world. Give your Spirit of peace to all people and remove from them the spirit that makes for war, that all may live as members of your family.

We pray for your blessing on those who are physically or mentally handicapped, yet who live a full and creative life. We pray for the salvation of those who appear sound in body and mind yet are handicapped by a selfish, cramped, and boring outlook.

We pray your blessing on those who extend the boundaries of love, forgiving and liberating, and we pray, too, for the salvation of those who lose the zest for life under the sour influence of anger, jealousy, resentment and bitterness.

We pray your blessing on those who know Christ as a great happiness to be shared by deed and word through all the common scenes of life, and we pray for the salvation of those who have fallen into pious exclusiveness, becoming  self righteous and judgmental.

We pray your blessing on those who in grave illness still believe in providence, and through deep sorrow continue to believe in life.  We pray for the salvation of those who, when ill or injured are in fear, and when in sorrow, are in despair.

We pray your blessing on those politicians who, when in government, sincerely pray to be led by your Spirit of truth. We pray for the salvation of those who, wanting to rule others, sell their souls for power and prestige and grow shameless in hiding the truth.

We pray your blessing on devoted Christians around us in this congregation for whom  abundant life has long been a reality . We pray for the salvation of those who for reasons they cannot understand, are haunted by doubts and anxieties that inhibit the life of faith.

To you, great Source of eternal life, to your gracious wisdom we bring these meagre but sincere prayers through Jesus the Christ 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, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 588 – “In Heavenly Love Abiding” (click here to listen)


L: Remembering that the universe is much larger than our ability to comprehend,

R: let us go from this time together with the resolve to allow wonder – that sense of what is sacred – to find space to open up our minds and illumine our lives.


The blessing of the God of Sarah and Hagar, and of Abraham;
the blessing of the Son, born of the woman Mary,
the blessing of the Holy Spirit who broods over us, her children, as a mother, be with you all.

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