Easter 5/Mother’s Day (10-05-2020)

WELCOME TO WORSHIP WITH THE OCEAN GROVE/BARWON HEADS CONGREGATIONS

This service was streamed live via Zoom on May 10th at 10am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while the ban on public worship is in place.  Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate 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 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 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.

HYMN 387 – Christ is Alive! Let Christians Sing” (click here to listen) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fD8pxDgTZZU

C ALL TO CELEBRATION

L: For our community gathered here, for the spirit that called us together and drew us to this place:

R: Let us give thanks.

L: For moments we have shared with others; for times when we have reached out across barriers of distance and fear; for times when others have reached out to us:

R: Let us again give thanks.

L: For our weaving together out of many separate selves
this hour of celebration and reflection:

R: We give thanks this day.

ACT OF AWARENESS

We have gathered in this sacred place, again. May we continue to create here a circle of love, ever expanding, ever growing. A place of wisdom. A place of connection. A place of hope.

We pray: The Spirit of Creativity is all around us. We are grateful for the possibility of being ever more aware, human and alive.
Our world touches us in so many ways. May we consider all that is: the beautiful, and that which we don’t want to read of and think about. May the joys and the concerns of this present day move and jolt us to our greater selves and our greater thoughts.   May it be so.

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

    Meditation   “To my Mother” by Akbar Ahmed

When I walk at night alone
in the deep wadis of her sobs

or when I know that each time I drive fast
or laze the reply to her letters;

when I know that at midnight
she sits up praying to her God
to keep me warm and whole,

when I know that she will still bless me though I give her eyes cause to tears,

when I know that all my warts and ways
will turn to gold at her simple touch,

then I see through her the God she sits rotating her
beads to and then I know that her God
will always be there for me to reach out and touch.

      Silence

Allow the silence to recall memories of mothering and God revealed therein. Let us be still.  (at least 30 seconds of silence)

READINGS FROM OUR RELIGIOUS TRADITION

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES: Ez. 1: 28b + selected verses

The glory of God was around me. And I heard the voice of someone speaking. ‘O Human One, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you’.

And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, ‘Human One, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me… and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whether they hear or refuse to hear… they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

FROM THE NON-CANONICAL GOSPELS   Mary 4: 1 – 5:9

When the Blessed One had finished teaching, he greeted them all, saying, “Peace be with you! Bear my peace within yourselves! Beware that no one lead you astray saying, ‘Look over here!’  or ‘Look over there!’ For the Child of Humanity is within you! Follow it! “Those who seek it will find it. Go then and proclaim the good news of the realm. “Do not lay down any rules beyond what I determined for you, nor give a law like the lawgiver, lest you be confined by it.” When he had said this, he departed.

But they were pained. They wept greatly saying, “How shall we go to the nations
and proclaim the good news of the Child of Humanity? If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?”

Then Mary stood up. She greeted them all, and said to her brothers and sisters, “Do not weep and be pained, nor doubt, for all his grace will be with you and shelter you. But rather let us praise his greatness, for he has prepared us and made us Humans.”

When Mary said this, she turned their heart to the Good, and they began to discuss the words of the Saviour.

FROM THE TRADITIONAL GOSPELS John 14:1-7

Jesus said to the disciples: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house, if there were not, I should have told you. ‘I am now going to prepare a place for you and after I have gone to prepare you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am, there may you be too. ‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said to him, “We do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody can come to the One who sent me except through me. If you know me, you know the One who sent me.’

HYMN 226 – “Thou Art the Way: By Thee Alone” (click here to listen) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3tgmFUmOkY

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Nobody can come to the One who sent me except through me.”

O, the blood that has flowed from this text!! All too often, adherents of Christianity have taken this verse to support a claim of exclusivity, i.e. if you don’t believe in Jesus, then there is no hope for you, because Jesus is the only way to salvation!  Get on board before it’s too late! And at times this claim of exclusivity has been taken to the extremes of hatred and violence.

Even those who should have known better have succumbed to the rather arrogant position that only we Christians are bearers of the way to salvation.  In 2000, the then Pope of the Roman Catholic Church issued a papal statement, Dominus Iesus, which set off alarm bells in most other Christian communities, as well as giving offence to the adherents of every other religion on the face of the planet.

So I ask this question: What was the storyteller John on about with today’s gospel story?

While the John story seems to have been set within the context of a debate over differences, the differences in question seem to have been between those who were Jewish followers of the Jesus the Nazarene (called ‘revisionists’), and those who were Jewish followers of Jewish orthodoxy, i.e. the debate was between two groups of Jews that viewed matters differently.

From our position in a multi-cultural, multi-faith world, how can we find truth and usefulness in this apparent statement of exclusivity. From all that I have read, Jesus resisted questions about his personal identity, so it is highly unlikely that this statement, written down some 4 or 5 generations after Jesus, came from his lips.

In the gospel record, when Jesus was pressed as to his identity, he deflected the questions toward the central motifs of his teaching:

– the presence of God’s kingdom, and

– the radical demands this made on human living.

When the words ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ have been used by some, they can make Jesus sound like a heavenly bouncer, keeping people away from God; especially those without faith, those with not enough faith, and those who express their faith differently.

Religious groups of every age and creed have often exercised their religion in two ways:

– as a weapon against others, and
– by protecting God from others.

History seems full of such examples of a weaponised religion: The Crusades.  The Inquisition.  Sudan. Middle East.  Indonesia.  Northern Ireland.

And the gospel stories are littered with ‘protecting’ stories: 

– People who brought their children to Jesus, but…
– Women who touched, ate with, plead with Jesus, but…

That which we call ‘ethnic cleansing’ is just a more extreme form of this same motivation. So what can we do with these words that adds something positive to our role as bearers of the way to life?

Since scholars tell us it is highly probable that Jesus never made this claim, and that the words were put into his mouth by the John, how can we hear hear them differently so as to not repeat the arrogant claims of exclusivity made by others.

Rather than describing a content of dogma to be believed, try understanding these these words as saying something about our own relationship with God.  Then they can be an invitation to us to set out on the journey which Jesus chartered.

This Jesus provides a way of passage from one place to another: becoming and exploring and doubting, rather than condemning or belting us over the head with dogma.

Regarding ‘the way, the truth and the life,” I suggest to you:

• Jesus is not the way in the sense of a moral guide or a model of leadership. His way is the pathway into the depths of the God-self-neighbour relationship; the way into the mystery of our common existence.

• Jesus demonstrates in word and deed the truth about that common existence. He uncovers what is hidden, and brings to light the last dimension of human existence.

• Jesus is life because his is the way and truth by which God, self, and neighbour, break their isolation and flow into each other.

As storyteller John Shea puts it:
“Jesus of Nazareth was the triggering centre of an event which restructured the God-self-neighbour relationship.  This event was not only healing and transforming but mysterious and overwhelming’  (Shea 1978:118).

As Jesus challenged the dominant system of his day, so these words, “the way, the truth and the life” contend with the powers and principalities of our day. In the person of Jesus, we see a concern for the marginalised and the vulnerable (which included both the poor and the wealthy), and a rejection of the belief that high-ranking people of power are the favoured ones of God.

The good news in this statement is not about Jesus, but about God and us in the spirit of Jesus. Or as Bill Loader puts it in his comments on this story:
“Trust that God is the way Jesus told us and demonstrated to us.  That means two things: we can trust in the God of compassion in which there’s a place for us, and we can know that the meaning of life is to share that compassion in the world. There’s a place for all!”  And when Loader says “all,’ he isn’t just referring to all Christians; he means everyone.

But then he adds this important suggestion: “We can join that compassion wherever we recognise its ‘Jesus shape’, acknowledging it as life and truth and the only way.”.     

(Silence for Personal Reflection)

LITANY FOR WOMEN’S VOICES     (A woman should be leader)

L: Mother God, Spirit-filled Woman, Source of all living things, it was you who breathed life into me. In your likeness I was formed. The darkness of your sacred womb enwraps me in the silence of the Holy One. Your creative energy pulsates through every fibre of my being. You birth 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.

You hold me close to your heart and sing your song of love to me. You hold me close to you and comfort me. Cradled in your arms, I am at peace.

You bathe me with life-giving waters of your giftedness. Reflected in your eyes is my dignity as woman. You nurture me and guide me

To proclaim my sacredness as woman of God, you call me forth to image your compassion, love and joy to a broken world.

R: Together we dance life’s passionate song. 

HYMN 223 – “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” (click here to listen)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhVmGPm6L4s

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

There is no audio file for this section; rather, it can only be a personal prayer, for it makes use of space for your own prayers, which will vary from person to person. Use the response provided to conclude each section of the prayers.

L: Let us pray for those who are confused by life, and fear there is no Spirit of truth anywhere.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

L: Let us pray for those who are too cocksure, who think they hold the truth without error.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

L: Let us pray for those cowered by oppression & suffering, who fear that despair is the truth.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

L: Let us pray for the severely handicapped, who are angry with whatever truth is responsible.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

L; Let us pray for the very healthy and proud, who imagine that all the truth favours the strong.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

L: Let us pray for the dying and those who love them, who fear that death is the ultimate truth.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love. 

L: Let us pray for those who nurse  the new born, who today intuitively know that truth is love.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love. 

L: Let us pray for those who today find faith in Christ, and eagerly want to be led into all truth.

R: (Add your prayers) Spirit of truth lead us into the fullness of Christ’s love.

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD’S PRAYER

O Birther!  Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
Focus your light within us – make it useful:
Create your reign of unity now.
Your one desire then acts with ours,
as in all light, so in all forms.
Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Loose the cords of mistakes binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ guilt.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back.
From you is born all ruling will,
the power and the life to do,
the song that beautifies all, from age to age it renews.
Truly – power to these statements –
may they be the ground from which all
my actions grow. Amen.

HYMN 552 – “Come My Way, My Truth, My Life”  (click here to listen) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiATlKPCa7w

BENEDICTION

May God the heart of life be deep within us,  God the Christ be present in our history, and God the Spirit empower us to sing and dance and celebrate.

 

An open, virtual door to the world