This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on July 3rd at 10:30am
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.
“It is by the goodness of God that, in our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to practice either of them.”
CALL TO CELEBRATION
R: We will rejoice and be glad in it.
L: The grace, joy and peace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.
R: And also with you.
L: As a workman gathers his tools, as a poet gathers her images, as a musician gathers his band, as a scholar gathers her arguments, as a writer gathers his stories, as a preacher gathers her texts…
R: So God gathers people for service.
PRAYER OF AWARENESS
Living Lord, you pour out your life for us, you pour out your life in us, you pour out your life through us. Help us to pass it on. Amen.
HYMN 443 – “Come, Dearest Lord, Descend and Dwell”
(click here to listen)
JOURNEY INTO SILENCE
Reflection “The spirit of God” by Napoleon Lovely
The spirit of God is wonderful to us;
It is revealed in all the ways of creation:
in the ordered course of the stars
and in the unpredictable ways of living things,
In the heat of blazing suns
and in the warmth of human affections.
God’s will is revealed in the majesty of abiding law,
in judgments that are just, and in the mercy
which redeems the penitent and upholds the humble of heart.
For God’s abode is not only in the heavens;
God dwells in the human heart.
The highways of history are God’s:
but by the humble path of service we enter into God’s kingdom.
God surprises us in homely tasks,
God walks with us on lonely tracks.
God’s beauty is in our lives,
and God’s spirit defines our righteousness.
Let us take a moment to settle into the silence. (Pause for 5 seconds) In these brief moments of silence and meditation may we find strength. May our lives be rich in affection, deep in understanding and sympathy for each other. May the blessings of life be known to all. (Maintain silence for at least 30 seconds)
L: Merciful God, we think of the freedom which Paul speaks about and too often we accept it as the freedom to do what we like, rather than being obedient to you and serious about reflecting your character into the world. We confess with shame that whenever we “bite and devour one another” such things as discord and factions exist – even within our faith communities.
R: Forgive us when we use our freedom to be self-indulgent, instead of serving one another in love. (silent confession)
L: We confess that we fail miserably when we try on our own to live lives shaped by love, joy and peace; patience, kindness and goodness; faithfulness gentleness and self-control.
R: Forgive us when we fail to be led and guided by the Holy Spirit who enables our lives to produce such fruit – fruit which enrich and enhance our lives, and through us, the lives of others. (silent confession)
L: Merciful God, we confess also our failure to seek the empowerment of your Spirit when we are confronted daily with the challenges of following Jesus.When we look at the cost which Jesus sets on discipleship, we confess that so often we fail to meet that cost.
R: Forgive us when we fail to take Jesus’ demands on our lives seriously enough, forgetting that out of love for us, he has already walked the hard road – the way of the cross.
L: Gracious and loving God, in and through Jesus Christ, you have given us the freedom and the power to live by the Spirit, and be guided by the Spirit. May our acceptance of these gifts be visible as we bear profusely the fruit of the Spirit, and as we faithfully follow Jesus on the challenging road of discipleship. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen
ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
L: “…Your way, O God, is holy. You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people…” (Psalm 77 vv13,14 NRSV) And that redemption was given a human face… “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8b NRSV), Friends, believe the gospel: in Jesus Christ we are free, and so I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM THE EPISTLES – Galations 5:1,13-25
5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes” (Mahatma Ghandi)
FROM THE GOSPELS – Luke 9:51-56
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS “A View From the Top of the Desk”
The film, The Dead Poet’s Society, tells the story of a remarkable teacher’s influence on his students in a prestigious boarding school. Here is a short clip from the film. The teacher, Mr Keating, played by Robin Williams, invites the boys “to jump up and stand on his desk as he has done in his teaching, so they can see things from a different perspective, a wider view… a different horizon – then seize it”.
It’s a film about a teacher who invited his students to view the world differently. This film theme resonates with the theme of our story from Luke today and our reading from Galations. It is about incarnating in our own lives the new perspective that Jesus of Nazareth, and subsequently, Paul, asks us to take in; or as the late biologist and theologian Charles Birch, suggested: “The way that Jesus offered was one of being open to surprise and new perceptions, not clinging to established guidelines and inherited patterns.”
So let me offer a couple of comments on adopting a ‘different horizon.’ Today’s church finds itself in a whole new world. Despite all those who nostalgically seem to long for church to be like it was in the 1950s or 1960s or even the 1980s, that can never be.
For one thing, church is now only one of several institutions or organisations offering a view of the world and a purpose for living. We are in, if you like, in a supermarket situation, in which many people feel no need to buy the products of the church at all, because there is such a variety from which to choose. The major challenge for the church, according to those who do the research on these matters, is in being able to identify and name the presence of God or the sacred in our often fragmented life-worlds.
Others beyond the church are attempting just that, and they are often coming up with different and competing answers, which can cause some of us to be a bit shocked, because church no longer has, if it ever did, a monopoly on things spiritual or sacred or God stuff.
One who has written on this subject, Australian David Tacey, says: “What has been brewing inside the Australian soul is a new spirituality that will surprise both the secular establishment and the official religious tradition… The miracle is that the secular keeps giving birth to the sacred, often against its will and in spite of its own judgement” (Tacey 2000: 252,253).
As you have probably picked up over the last three years, I have what might be called a ‘high’ view or a view from the top of the desk, about the place of change, and being open to new perceptions, and not clinging to established or inherited ways of thinking about things, especially not clinging to a theology that does not fit our 21st century understanding… or 20th or 19th century understandings for that matter.
The church now needs to ensure it frees people to go on the journey that Jesus charted, rather than to worship the journey of Jesus. And that’s as radical a change as the one Jesus advocated in his time!
So back to our Gospel story…
In this particular story, the tradition is not clear concerning Jesus’ intentions as he approached the Samaritan village. Whatever they were, he was not able to carry them out. The village folk denied hospitality to him and his friends. Many scholars have speculated on why they acted this way: theological reasons, cultural reasons. But maybe it was just that they had heard about his Cynic-like attitude.
Willie Marxsen, one of the New Testament theologians I studied as a student, always seemed to be pointing out that not everyone who met or heard Jesus had positive reactions! Some said: ‘This guy’s a nut!’ Others said: ‘This is good teaching. Admirable. Interesting.’ Still others said: ‘In this person’s words and deeds I have experienced God’s very own presence in my life.’
According to the various biblical storytellers, Jesus encountered opposition to his particular perception of reality from the authorities of the day, but just how hostile this opposition was, is a matter of speculation. On the other hand, so those same storytellers say, many ordinary people were attached to him and his re-imagined worldview.
But the people didn’t go to the synagogue to meet with, or listen to, him. They met him on the hills and by the lake, or while they were hanging about in the marketplace, or while they were mending their fishing nets. They ate with him and held parties for him. They invited him into their homes. There’s no indication whatsoever in the gospel stories that the synagogues ever had any more worshippers because of Jesus.
And while not wanting to fall into the ‘literalist’ trap, nevertheless, those who chose to listen and take on board his comments, experienced what he said as ‘good news’. What they learned from Jesus and experienced in his presence was not just a good teaching or way of life, i.e. an ethic; rather, it was an expression of who they would claim God to be. It was then up to them whether or not they felt free enough to go on the journey he was charting.
This morning I want to invite you to do two things. I want you to take with radical seriousness the implication of Charles Birch’s suggestion: “The way Jesus offered was one of being open to surprise and new perceptions, not clinging to established guidelines and inherited patterns.” That’s my first invitation to you all.
The second is to follow me up onto the desks and chairs… in true Keating/Robin Williams style, metaphorically speaking, of course; to jump up and stand on desks and chairs and table tops and ladders, so we all can see things from a different perspective, a wider view, a different horizon. And then seize that opportunity to be different. If we can do that together, we will be in for an exciting and different journey!
BE OUR FREEDOM LORD
L: Creator God, you are maker of heaven and earth,
R: Be our freedom, Lord!
L: God the Son, you redeem us all,
R: Be our freedom, Lord!!
L: God, Holy Spirit, comforter and disturber,
R: Be our freedom,Lord!!
For people who are afraid of dying,
and those who are afraid of living.
For sufferers who wait to be admitted to hospital,
and those who long to be discharged.
For children who are blithe and carefree,
and those who are timid and anxious.
For folk who care deeply about others,
and those who think only of themselves.
For the wronged who show mercy
and forgiveness and those who plot a fierce revenge.
For seekers who are keen to find faith,
and the proud who wish to avoid it.
For the churches where we feel at home,
and others that seem strange or off-putting.
For dear friends in this congregation,
and those who often rub us the wrong way.
For ourselves: Loving God, we do not ask for special favours, but that you will help us delight in, and share generously, the favours you have already given. In gratitude and trust we commit ourselves and all that we have into you hands, and as Jesus taught us, we 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.
WORD OF MISSION
R: But Jesus has set us free
L: The call of freedom has been sounded.
R: Lord, may we respond as the community of the free; and the gift of your freedom break the spell of our fears, to send us away from here as obedient rebels, lovers of life’s depths, and your disciples forever. Amen.
The creative power of God go with us.
The compassionate love of Jesus go with us.
The driving force of the Spirit go with us,
as we follow our calling to link God to all people.