Ordinary Sunday 16C (17-07-2022)

This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on July 17th 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 .  [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.

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CALL TO CELEBRATION

L: The joy of the Lord be with you all.

R: And also with you.

L: We have come here to sit at the feet of Christ
and learn from him.

R: I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.

L: He has convened this assembly, and by his Spirit is among us.

R: I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

L: By Christ’s grace we gladly worship the God whose glory will always stretch far beyond our comprehension yet whose love is as simple and available as the air we breathe.

R: I will trust the steadfast love of God forever and ever.

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Let us acknowledge the awesome mystery
embodied in every person.

R: Through us God comes to unique and personal expression. 

L: Let us give thanks for the abundance of life on this earth.

R: Through it we and all people may be nourished.

PRAYER OF  AWARENESS

Abiding God, grant us the joy of feeling ourselves a part of your vast magnificence, your all-encompassing love.  Amen

HYMN 444 – “Dear Shepherd of Your People, Hear”
(click here to listen)

JOURNEY TO SILENCE

Amid all the noise in our lives,
we take this moment to sit in silence:
to give thanks for another day;
to give thanks for all those in our lives
who have brought us warmth and love;
to give thanks for the gift of life.
Let us open ourselves to the process of becoming more whole:
of living more fully; of giving and forgiving more freely;
of understanding more completely
the meaning of our lives here on this earth.  

(AT LEAST 30 SECONDS OF SILENCE)

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

L: It is time to confront ourselves.  It is time, as we do near the beginning of every service, to make a good confession. Let us pray. Because at times, we feel neither awe in the vicinity of your love nor shame in the presence of your light, Lord have mercy.

R: Lord have mercy.

L: Because it is not in your nature to let us get away with self-deceit, or allow us to drift in the shallows of triviality and indifference, Christ have mercy.

R: Christ have mercy.

L: Because we are neither as good as we publicly pretend, or as hopeless as we privately feel when we are down in the dump, Lord have mercy.

R: Lord have mercy.

L: Holy Friend and Saviour, meet with us beneath the currents and eddies of our inner lives; beneath the strata of either our shame or our excuses.

R: Meet us with your mercy that forgives and redeems at measureless cost, wanting nothing more than our health and happiness.

L: Meet us that we may know that even when we have fallen badly, there is more than enough grace to put things right and create a better future, through the way of Jesus, our brother and friend.

ASSURANCE (Colossians 1:19,20) 

In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Jesus all things, whether on earth or in heaven,  have been reconciled to God. Friends, believe the gospel: in Jesus Christ the door to life has been opened to us./  Thanks be to God!

FROM THE EPISTLES – Colossians 1:15-28

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organises and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

21-23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.

24-25 I want you to know how glad I am that it’s me sitting here in this jail and not you. There’s a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church’s part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth.

26-29 This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.  

FROM THE GOSPELS – Luke 10:38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, 42 but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

HYMN 646 – “God is Our Song” (click here to listen)

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS     

     Part 1

A Christ statue, with its hands missing but otherwise still intact, was found amidst the rubble after the WWII firebombing of Dresden, Germany.  To this day one can see this statue -minus its hands – in Dresden, and attached to it is a sign that reads: “You are the hands of Christ.”

You might say that a statue without hands is a statue of limitations (Perhaps it takes a lawyer to see the pun).  But I say that not simply in an attempt to get a laugh, but to make a point:  Christ is alive today in the sense that he lives in people who live by his spirit, thus allowing their hands to be Christ’s, their goals to be Christ’s, and so forth.  And I believe that the statue expresses the reality of our relationship with Christ: that Christ is limited in this world; that he is in the world through those who live by his spirit, and without those people he is not in the world and cannot act in the world.  The author of the Book of James reminds us that faith without works is dead;  we cannot be disciples of Christ without doing what Christ would have us do.  However, today I am focussing on the other side of the relationship.  Today I am speaking to the doers, of which, I am pleased to say, there are many in this church.

The other side of the relationship comes through the scripture readings today with Paul’s notion of “Christ in you.”  In the gospel we read of Mary and Martha, a story which reminds us that, as workers for Christ, we are dependent upon being with Christ.  We are talking here of the basic and essential power of the Christian life; as essential for us as is an engine in your automobile.

People often read the Mary and Martha story and see there a criticism of Martha.  But how could there be??  He has just told the “Good Samaritan” story, and Martha is living out the service role which that story illustrates. She is being the hands of Christ.  But there is a problem.  In the oldest versions of this story, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are troubled.”  Indeed, she is troubled – something is awry within her because she has lost sight of the goal; she has forgotten for the moment what her work is for, and where the motivation and energy for that work come from.

There is nothing wrong with Martha’s work.  She is just the sort of person you would want working for you. You know the work will be done and done well.  But Martha is only half the team; she is on her own and, what is more, she is feeling it. “Tell Mary to come lend a hand,” she asks Jesus; how much harder it is to work alone.

A few days after the disastrous earthquake in Mexico City in 1985, the Los Angeles Times told of a little Japanese boy going door-to-door selling picture post cards and giving the profits to earthquake relief.  One man who answered his knock agreed to buy four cards and asked how much the boy hoped to raise.  The boy quickly responded, “One million dollars!”  The man chuckled: “One million dollars?  Do you expect to raise it all by yourself?”  “Oh, no,” the boy replied. “There’s another boy helping me.”

The most daunting tasks – things that no one would ever dare to tackle – are much less daunting if you are not alone.  Martha was alone in her work.  Martha thought she was alone because Mary was not helping her.  In fact, it wasn’t that Mary was not helping her.  She was alone because, like so many crusaders for a cause, she had lost sight of the cause, and lost contact with her source of energy.

Mary was a bit more perceptive at this moment.  She decided that normal hospitality could wait, because the kingdom was the most important task. The gentle rebuke of Jesus to Martha was not over her form of ministry, it was just a caution for her not to let ordinary dinners spoil her appetite for the real dinner – the spiritual banquet.  As I said before, I am speaking to the doers of the church, and the question which all doers must ask themselves concerns the amount of time spent attending to matters of spirit.  Is my work mixed with prayer and meditation, Bible study, theological reflection; with growing my faith and looking at my soul through the eyes of another spiritually-mature person?

     Part 2

One of the reasons for the Time of Sabbath back in the late 80s during Lent(perhaps the 10th anniversary of union) was an opportunity to stop doing so much so that we could have the time to sit with Jesus: to stop being Martha for a while and be Mary.  The hope was, at the end of that time of sabbath, we could all resume our work with a new focus and a new strength.  I don’t know how you folks observed this time of rest, but I do know that my congregations at the time did not really take the opportunity it provided, which probably says something important about dour perception of the value – or lack value – of time spent on spiritual matters.

Without that time to sit with Jesus and seek God’s kingdom, we are in danger of losing something essential; whether we are talking about our church and community service work or our work as parents and grandparents or even our hobbies.  

In the first place we may lose direction.  The question always need to be asked:  “But what purpose is there to our ministry?”  It is quite easy to get into a service rut, doing the “God’s work” day after day, week after week, year after year, forgetting what it is all for, identifying oneself as a servant but not knowing why, or for whom, one is serving.  The illustrious Japanese Christian, Kagawa, once pondered that question for himself when he said, “I read in a book where a man named Jesus went about doing good.  It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about doing.”  Of course, that is the danger when out actions have become separate from the source of good.  It is a case of following God on a particular course of action, but so intent on the job and keeping our nose to the grindstone, that we don’t see God change direction up ahead.  If God should change tack, we would miss it and keep on going the way we were.

Secondly, we may lose energy… because we are out of touch with its source.  Like Martha we face burnout because we feel as though we are working alone on a never-ending task.  Remember the Gossamer Albatross?  It was an ultra-light airplane, built almost entirely of plastic and powered by muscle power. Just a little over 16 years ago it took off from England and flew over the English channel toward France, aiming to be the first muscle-powered flight across the channel and win a prize of 100,000 pounds.

The pilot, Bryan Allen, was a glider expert who had trained for the flight by riding his bicycle for three hours a day for months.  He headed out over the water at a breath-taking speed of 11 miles per hour, often only a few inches above the waves.  It was hotter than expected and Bryan soon finished the water he had taken along, and heat drained his energy.  When 8 miles from the French coast, he was ready to give up.  He waved for the rescue boat to get into position, but then, from somewhere within, he seemed to receive new burst of energy, so he kept pedalling.  

The flight took much longer than expected, and Allen developed cramps in his legs.  Yet again he found new strength within and forced himself to go on.  He spotted the coast ahead, and though the prize seemed within reach, he thought he might not make it. Again his strength revived and he landed on the beach at the edge of the water.

Each time he thought that he was finished, there came a mysterious source of power that got him across.  Here we have a parable which tells the story of thousands of lives, who despite obstacles, keep going by connecting to the source of power within them.

Finally we may lose quality.  Often our motivation to do good is simply our own: perhaps it arises from gratitude or a sense of responsibility, wanting to repay a debt; or from guilt, trying to make amends; or from pride; wanting to build our self-esteem or make a good impression on someone.  One could argue that good works are still good, whatever the motive, but there is something missing when we are working from our own motives rather than God’s.

A French artisan some years ago, meticulously constructed a model of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  It was an exact model to scale, inside and out, that took the patient craftsman years to complete.  In spite of the painstaking work, it did not attract much attention, and gathered dust in the workman’s shop until he sold it to a small Parish shopkeeper who thought it might attract attention in his shop window and bring in customers.  But even in the shop window on a busy street, the cathedral model received little attention… until the day the shopkeeper got the idea of placing a light inside the model.  It’s gleams, shining through the beautiful stained glass windows, attracted the attention of almost all who passed by and they stopped to admire the beauty of the model.  The change that was wrought by the light within was marvellous and brought the whole cathedral to life.  It is our task, not to do good works, but to let God’s light shine through the way we live.

Indeed we are the hands of Christ and essential to his work in this world, but to do God’s work, we first must be in touch with that divine presence within us – Christ within, as Paul termed it – the spirit of God – the resource which gives us direction, energises us and manifests the quality of life of the kingdom through us to the world.             (A time of silent reflection)

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH

L: In response to the word reflected on, let us share together an affirmation of faith.  We believe that horizons of hope are never fixed.

R: They always move beyond, in the creativity of God.

L: We believe that powers of evil can not kill God.

R: God walks on free and leaps ahead of us in the risen Christ of faith.

L: We believe that the Spirit can never be confined.

R: She dances forth in the world and is found in surprising places, leading us on until the end of time.  

HYMN  470 – “Rejoice in God’s Saints” (click here to listen)

WE OFFER OUR CONCERNS TO GOD

Most loving God, ‘to turn from you is to fall, to turn to you is to rise, to stand with you is to stay firm forever,’ grant us the faith to turn, to rise, and to stand with you, both in our praying and in our working.

May all of your children discover the secret of Christ, and be enabled to rise above all that would discourage, ensnare, oppress or destroy them

Assist your church to rise above things that are second-rate, selfish, petty or misguided. May it continue to be a community where small souls meet a very large Saviour.

Loving God, we pray for this world with its many successes but innumerable failures. Save it from the greed, arrogance and injustice which foster crime, terrorism and war,

By your Holy Spirit, be near those close by , and those far off, who are confused, diseased, injured, abused, emotionally disturbed, sorrowful, or despairing. May they receive compassion, encouragement and healing.

Holy Friend, as we have prayed for others, we now pray for ourselves. Help us in the wide world to live out the text of our prayers. Through Christ Jesus our 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, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN 691 – “Faith Will Not Grow From Words  Alone”
(
click here to listen)

SENDING OUT

L: Companion God, from the depths of our hearts, to the heights of our minds,

R: You are the enclosing hands, and the encircling arms. May we see, touch, hear, taste, and smell your presence in every moment.

BENEDICTION

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.  Amen.

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