Saturday, 29 November 2014

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 30th November, 2014 Advent 1 St Andrews Day

Readings: Mark 13:24-37, John 1: 35-42

Let us pray:  May your word for us, O God, speak into our hearts and minds, challenge us, encourage us and assure us in our faith and our living, in Jesus name.  Amen

I wonder, if we were to strip away our pre knowledge of the advent story goes, would that change the way we approach this season of waiting.  After all what is expectant waiting if you know exactly what you are waiting for.  What is hope-filled anticipation if you can say act by act what happened?  What is spectacularly transforming about this moment if you can rely on it coming round each year like clockwork. 
I ask this question of myself pretty much every year trying to find a new way into the Christmas story, trying to imagine what it must have been like for Mary, trying to strip away not just my familiarity with the story but also the layers of accumulated cultural and historical response and get back to the beginning.  I’ve previously talked of the Christmas card Mary – mainly a legacy of the Victorian era, or the white faced European Mary of religious art or the perfect Mary of the traditions that have deified her.  And yet we do her a disservice - is not her powerful message of trust and obedience to be found in her very humanity, her ordinariness, her faltering innocence and extremely vulnerable social position – the stuff we seem intent on doing away with?

So in many ways our contemporary knowledgeable anticipation of the coming of God’s promised one at Christmas is very different from the experience of those who, back then, awaited the Messiah not knowing the time or the place or the manner of this fearfully anticipated birth. A very different waiting from ours. 
Maybe this is why we have such a challenging Gospel reading at the beginning of Advent – a reading that seems both out of context and out of time: the second coming before the first, the end time when we are supposed to be thinking about the hope of new beginning.

Maybe the lectionary writers wanted to remind us of what it means to wait, knowing neither the time nor the place nor the manner of Christ’s coming, just as did Mary and Joseph all those years ago.
Here is something that might be helpful.  One commentator talks about the difference between passive waiting and active waiting and uses the analogy of someone waiting for the bus (passive – unless its late of course)– as opposed to hearing the sound of the parade and waiting for it to come round the corner – on tip toes, eagerly anticipating, full of expectation.

So does this mean that we are to spend our lives bouncing up and down in excitement, keeping our eyes peeled and our lives on hold?  Absolutely not.  Alternatively, are we to spend our time and energy trying to figure out when this second coming will be so we can be first at the welcoming gate?  Again absolutely not.
‘Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come.’  This is not a call for us to figure out God’s timetable nor is it a time for us to wait alert, eyes peeled doing nothing else.  It is a call to active expectant waiting, anticipating yet engaged with the now.

The two stories together, the nativity and the second coming,  very clearly remind us of the most important of paradoxes in the Gospel – that of living with the truth of Christ among us already and also in anticipation of a full and complete relationship with God in a time yet to come.  The ‘already but not yet’ as we call it.
So our waiting is an active waiting, an alert and awake time of living our lives in the way of the one who has already come and in the hope of the one still to come. In that way we bind the waiting of Advent to that which is yet to come – because by living actively in the now as Jesus taught us, we continually encounter, glimpse, participate in what is yet to come.  In every act of compassion, of service, of justice and grace we are preparing the way for what is to come – is in fact a stepping into what will be.  If you plan to wait passively, alert only to the end, then you not only miss the journey – you also fall asleep.  If you join in the journey then the many wonderful God moments along the way will not only enliven your waiting but will kindle a light for others too.

For that is what the apostle Andrew did, did he not.  It is astonishing to look at the miles he travelled in his waiting, taking the gospel message to places like modern day Poland, Russia and the Ukraine (all of which he is patron saint to) and Greece and Constantinople  and Rome.  He is known to have set out at least four missionary trips through these countries and it was in Patras in Greece that he was crucified!
He wasn’t sitting back waiting – he was living out the call that was placed on his life – getting on with it.  So I can see an immediate exodus from Opoho as you all head of into the hinterlands – ok maybe not.

That was St Andrew’s story of waiting.  What is ours?  How do we live into the God with us and yet remain alert to the God yet to come?  What does our waiting, if that’s what it is, look like? 
I thank you all for your very positive response to the future of full time ministry here in Opoho – and for your trust in our journey together continuing.  Because by doing so you have made a conscious decision to not just sit tight and see out our time but instead to actively seek out ways of being Christ in this community. 

As we raise the level of awareness of our need to be financially sustainable – do you know what I see – increasing stories of acts of generosity inside and outside the church, gifts of money, time, energy to the needy, for the vulnerable in our city.  Did you all see that both the cities’ food banks and the Night Shelter will be scraping the bottom of the barrel this next couple of months?  Can we respond ?  Can we be generous in our giving of food and can we get some money to the Night Shelter – I suspect we can. 

As we continue to engage in hospitality for students, for neighbours, for those on the edges – we become more aware of the need to support each other too – how important is it to be made welcome, to share food around the table, to rest and have a safe place to ask questions.  That is a integral part of our mission in Opoho and we constantly think about how we can encourage and engage as a welcoming community of faith. 

And there is the everyday – remember that tree that we so beautifully decorated a couple of weeks ago – all the things that we do for each other and for the continuing of this, Christ’s presence, here in this place.  And do you know what was an unexpectedly important one for me – those who hold the memory of what has been – for it enabled me to imagine and see more clearly and have an expectant hope in that which was to come?    Does that make sense?

So none of this sounds to me like we are a people who are sleeping while they wait for the second coming.  This sounds to me like a people alert and engaged in the journey that Christ has invited us on, bringing the kingdom of God that is to come very intentionally into the here and now – and for this we say thanks to God -  in Jesus name.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 9th November, 2014 Pentecost 22 Remembrance Sunday

Readings:  Amos 5:18-24,  Matthew 25:1-13

We pray:  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Amos was one angry man, was he not -  furious with the attitude of those around him, aggressively and vigorously provoking them with his ‘no holds barred’ rhetoric.  And he mixes his own rage with the rage of God into a particularly potent explosion of wrath. 
 Why do you do this, why is everything you do all about sitting secure in your rightness, waiting till you can come together on the Lord’s day, to celebrate and sing and offer your wealth and rituals to God.  You can almost hear him saying ‘A pox on you!’  They are stark images he uses as he seeks to hammer the message home (escaping a lion only to run straight into a bear and finding a place of safety only to be bitten by a snake), images deliberately to shock them into at least questioning their attitude towards how they worship their God.   He mocks their solemnity, their celebration, their idea of ritual sacrifice and offering, their idea of preparedness for living as God’s people.  If that is all you do then you are mocking God says Amos.  There is more to your preparedness for the coming of the Lord  - there is the living into ways of justice and righteousness too.

The Gospel reading too is about preparedness.  Some were wise, says the parable, and some foolish and the foolish were defined by their unpreparedness.  They seemed to be doing everything that they were required to do – but it came unstuck when the unexpected happened and the bridegroom was late. 
Both sets of people in these readings today were living in a sacred space separated from the realities of ordinary daily life. 

Amos understood this and threw some brutal words at his people.  He was wanting them to take a reality check – to realise that a God focussed life was not about just sitting and waiting but was also about engaging with the reality of the world as well – life out there was not pretty, in fact it is downright ugly and unfair and sad and we cannot shut ourselves off from that – to use modern day analogies – fleeing from a war torn country to NZ only to be  randomly murdered in your new ‘safe’ country or moving house and family to a new job only to be made redundant after 6 months. 
Likewise the foolish bridesmaids were living in a bit of a cocoon of unreality – expecting life to be as they had ordered it, and who consequently were unprepared for the unexpected reality that is life, left scrambling when the groom eventually came. 
Neither were realising that whilst they might be really good at celebrating together as the people of God, their passive attitude, their concentration on what was coming to the neglect of what was, had no place in a life of engaged faith.

Does this have relevance for us?
I remember as a child (and probably as an adult for a while too) thinking that if we prayed for a situation then it was job done.  If we spoke sympathetically about a downtrodden people, then it was appropriate stance registered.  If we came to church on Sunday then it was week solved, God time accomplished.  There is a book I have on my bookshelf written by Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland called ‘Where’s God on Monday?’[1] which addresses this very issue, suggesting that for many there is very little connection between Sunday and heading off into the week – they are different worlds, disparate places.  And among other things they tackle the issue that we somehow think not only that the spiritual and the secular realms are separate but that that the spiritual realm is important and the secular less so – for some Christians it’s just about treading water on the things like jobs and ordinary weekday stuff until Sunday or church programmes or bible studies come around. 

Now I know that everyone here  is jumping up and down with impatience for all church gatherings – meetings, services, practices, working bees – but seriously what is there to our gathering if it is not followed by our sending out into the week and the world.  Where is the Christ in our lives if he is not part of our relationships at work and exercise group and family time?  What use our celebration and praise and hearing of scripture and story if we do not apply it to our everyday lives, our decisions and our attitudes.
Maybe, just maybe taking Christ with us into each and every moment of our living as well as our worship will be the preparation needed to speak into the unexpected and not always pretty aspects of living where there is desperate need for Christ’s love, grace and mercy to be shared through us.  We are Christ’s people, baptised into living every day in faith, not just Sundays!  Amen.  So be it.

Margaret Garland

Remembrance Day 100 years on from the beginning of the Great War
As Christians we are probably more used than most to putting ourselves into the stories of another time, of trying to imagine how life was once upon a time and why choices were made.  And so on this day, one hundred years on from the beginning of World War 1, I suggest we take a moment to put ourselves into that place at the beginning of a war that decimated humanity on a scale never before seen.  What might it have been like?  An adventure for some, a strong sense of doing what was just and right for others, a culture of doing as you were ordered to do, a sense of helplessness at finding any response other than violence to the threat.  Did anyone really know the horrors ahead – those who ordered and those who obeyed?  I doubt it.  I’m not sure how many of you are Blackadder watchers but in ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ set in the trenches of the western front, that scene in the last episode where, with a sense of the inevitable hopelessness and stupidity of the act, he leads them over the edge is firmly ensconced in my mind as the epitome of the futility of war. 
And the Christian in the midst? Their response?  History can give us the distance to be somewhat disdainful, judgemental of the inadequacy of the faithful to stand up and speak out about the wrongness of war but who of us would be sure of our response given the same circumstances. 
And so we here today remember and honour those who gave their lives in the pursuit of  justice and right and obedience – and we affirm our belief that there are better ways of resolving conflict than war and violence and that Jesus Christ is our guide and our light for that path to peace and reconciliation.
A peace litany:

May God hold them in peace,
For those who were killed in battle,
For those who gave up their lives to save others
For those who came home carrying disturbing scars all their lives
For those who stood against war at great cost
For those who cared for the wounded and broken
For those who stayed home and wept for the loss
For those who spoke out against the horror,
For those who tried to make the peace,
For those who prayed when others had no time to pray
For all humanity, we will pray:
May God hold them in peace and may God’s love flow over all the earth
bringing cleansing and peace to us all.  This day and for always.  Amen

[1] Mackenzie, Alistair and Kirkland, Wayne Where’s God on Monday (Christchurch, NZ: NavPress NZ, 2002)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 5th October 2014 Pentecost 17

Readings: Matthew 21:33-46,  Psalm 19

How do we discern the will of God?  How do we work towards the coming of the kingdom, to fulfilling God’s vision of a just and peace-filled world where all are valued and loved? How do we know when we get it wrong?
At Wednesday night worship this week, Mark led us through thinking about these words in the Lord’s prayer – ‘your kingdom come, your will be done’ and asked just the same question. 
Now is the time I should invite Mark up here to answer those questions for us?
Seriously though, these are also exactly the same questions that the psalmist has.  “I know how you want me to live, O God, your law and your precepts are sure and perfect, but I need your help.  Left to myself, I will get it wrong; I will make errors in my living. Help me to get it right, help me to live in your way. “

And then we come to Gospel reading, the parable of the wicked tenants – an allegorical but very sharp spear thrust that exposes just how badly astray Jesus thinks the leaders of the Jewish nation have gone from living in obedience to God’s law.  This, along with the surrounding parables in Matthew, pull no punches about how Jesus perceives the state of Israel – the wedding where the invited guests cannot be bothered turning up and the table is filled with prostitutes and tax collectors , the contrite debtor whose debt is forgiven but does not show the same mercy to one who is in debt to him, and today’s killing of the slaves and the son in order to take control of the vineyard.  All point to the way in which the Jewish authorities of the time have rejected have failed to see the will of God in the Son. 

And the troubling thing that is common with each of these parables is the seemingly vindictive judgement which pours over those who have got it wrong.  The landowner putting his tenants to miserable death, the wedding host killing and destroying those who had violently rejected his overtures, the unappreciative debtor re-burdened and tortured is like Jesus has done a very human thing and has just got really angry and vindictive  – killing and mayhem all over the place, divine retaliation, ultimate judgement.  It is difficult to imagine this face of Jesus alongside the one we know as grace and love and mercy, seventy time seven, gathering the children to him.

I want to thank PCUSA minister Rick Spalding for his thoughts on this- let me share them with you as a helpful way of understanding this seeming paradox. 
Spalding tells us that an allegory does its literary work obliquely; that its strategy is evocative, not predictive.  The intent is to draw us into the story in such a way as to make it not about the characters but about us, to force us into making compelling ethical choices in our own stories and relationships, to recognise the dangers and harm caused by rejecting Gods laws and precepts.  Spalding uses the analogy of a drill which uses shock as its bit to get through the layers of denial we can put up to reach a heart level of  recognition of right living, one that will bear fruit for the kingdom.

So this is a really uncomfortable challenging space for us, is it not?  For this parable is directed not at those outside of the church but those within; those who have accepted God’s authority in their lives yet who do not recognise the very presence of God, through the man called Jesus; those who need a sharp hard shock to make them even hear the possibilities before them.
And it’s not so much that the Pharisees don’t believe his verbal claim of relationship with God, (anyone can state their claims that way) but that they also completely reject the way Jesus lives out the laws and precepts of God.  Are the church leaders so far removed from living out the vision of God’s kingdom that they reject the very essence of God in the life and teaching of Christ Jesus. 

The frustration would be huge.  Put yourself into the story in Matthews time – the Christian disciples were trying to speak into and position themselves within the Jewish faith – much as the earliest participants in the reformation were seeking to change things within the Roman Catholic church – but Jesus followers were increasingly pushed to the edges by the unbending and often violent acts of rejection by the leadership of the established faith community. 

And so these leaders are to be set aside!   And in their place are put those who will be fruitful– those who will restore the vision of kingdom, those who will reconcile, not reject, be open, not closed to new ways, who will be the effective people of God in their time and place.

And who are these people – well they are you and me, people who, as Mark suggested on Wednesday, seek to carry out God’s will and live in God’s way, to create a better world and nourish and care for God’s people, especially the vulnerable and the dispossessed.  The people who gather in community as church, who pray and listen, who read and discuss and sit quietly, who experience and participate in worship and who go from here having heard God’s vision for this world, renewed in their determination to live it out in actions of kindness, love, compassion, justice and mercy. 

It is for all of the community to care for the vineyard, not just the leaders who can and have over time got it badly wrong.  We are the ones who are to keep the church honest, on a path that is inclusive and caring and, yes, can be angry at injustice and courageous in our speaking out-  but ultimately who seek always to discern and follow the way of Christ in our lives and our community.  And on this World Communion Sunday we especially remember that this same call goes out to all the people of faith throughout the world as they too seek to hear the word of God in Jesus and work to restore wholeness and peace to all people, to together care for God’s vineyard. 

We know that it is not easy, we know that we collectively and individually sometimes get it wrong, and that prayer is one of the ways that we participate in the healing of God’s world - and so today I invite you, in the time of silence after the sermon to write down on the card in your seats your prayer for a community of faith throughout the world, maybe a place you have a special connection with, maybe a people you have read or heard about – when you come forward for communion please place this prayer in/on the basket/table that they might be part of our communion as the people of God around this table.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 28th September, 2014 Pentecost 16

Readings:  Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32

We pray:  May your word for us today, O God, challenge and transform us that we may be one with Christ in our living and our being.  May the words of my mouth and the understandings of our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

On election night – sitting around a table at a wedding reception amongst people whose political bent was unknown– the question that kept popping into my mind was ‘so did you vote for the party/policies that most benefitted you or that might have disadvantaged you but been good for the vulnerable and struggling people of NZ – because to my jaundiced eye those who voted for the current government were putting personal gain first.  Yet hang on – some I knew and they were good people, generous and kind and caring of others- genuinely following their belief of the best way.
On Thursday I caught the very tail end of the Study Group where Bronwen led us through the wonderful experience that is the interfaith community here in Dunedin and further afield.  I read the commitments of people of different faiths to live in respect of each other’s beliefs, to acknowledge that we are all in the pursuit of a better world, to understand that we can be an effective Christian witness without needing to demolish or isolate ourselves from those who have a different understanding of God than through Christ.
On Friday I read of the torture and death of Samira Salih al-Nuaimi, a woman, wife and mother, who was a human rights activist in Iraq, charged with the crime of apostasy – defined by Muslim hardliners as not just conversion to another faith, but also committing actions that are so against the faith that one is considered to have left Islam.  What did she do?  She posted Facebook messages critical of the militant’s destruction of shrines, churches, mosques and cultural sites in Mosul. Sites of spiritual significance for the people of the world.
And on Sunday we gather in freedom and security, allowed to bring our questions and our doubts, our joys and conversations -  to worship God, to pray for ourselves and others, to sing songs and listen to beautiful music, to hear God’s word for us and to be Christ’s gathered community for a while here in this place.

The pervasive love of God in action in every corner of the world, in every act of reconciliation, of kindness, of courage for justice, of worship and gathering, in the hearts and minds of ordinary and vulnerable and needy people, lived out in so many ways beyond our ken.

Yet we are here.  For all the fine words and the global reach, we have come together here in Opoho this morning, part of this community of faith, come from all over this city to share in song and prayer and word, greeting each other in the name of Christ.

So  - what is in our hearts right now I wonder?  What did we bring along with us as our companion to church this morning? 
Well, I brought a bit of gloom still hanging around at the election result – and a bit of pessimism about the future of a party I align with, and a determination that this talk by the government of doing something about the poverty in NZ is just post election bunkum – and a tiny niggle that I might be not being very fair there.
Sometimes it can be guilt that we carry as our boon companion – that we have failed to be loving, kind, have ignored God most of the week, have not liked ourselves or what we have done very much.  And all the words of assurance can’t quite rid us of that feeling.
Other times it can be exhaustion, no space to slow down, to breathe, to really hear any more words or new ideas or difficult challenges.  Peace is all we want.
And we can come angry, with ourselves or the world or God or the unfairness of life, wanting to hit out at something, anything – just like the psalmists do.  Too angry to hear the words of joy and hope, of promise and peace.
And we can come sad – hearts torn, life broken, hope in tatters, alone and in despair.

But we come – we come to share our common story, to be the community of Christ in the presence of God, we come to be still, to realise our humanity and to look beyond ourselves to the world so in need of the love and care and peace that you give us

We come along with people throughout the world:
·         people who might speak personal advantage but who also act in kindness, generosity and love,
·         people of many different paths to God who believe that violence, exploitation, tyranny are not God’s way and work to change it,
·         people who stand up and give their all, their lives, for justice and right living,
·         people who gather in all their vulnerability and humanity throughout time and the world to worship God.
We, here in this faith community, we come because we seek in some way to know the presence of the living God in our lives and to let the mind of Christ be our guide in our living, we come because we choose be a caring and hospitable community to those in need. 
Paul invites us, as he invites the people of Philippi, to make that sense of oneness rather than our differences and worldly distractions our focus, to enter into our commonality of love and encouragement, compassion and sympathy, selflessness and generosity of hand and spirit so that we may, in all our uniqueness and with all our differences, be as Christ who emptied himself, humbled himself, even to the point of death, that others may have life. 
And that has some real challenges.  I remember times of worship (before ordained ministry I might add), where I have refused to let the companion I came to church with leave my side – came in guilty or angry or derisive or feeling inadequate in some way and went home just the same.  I wouldn’t allow the word, the presence to feed me, to bring me peace.
This is a church where all are welcome – no matter where you are from, where you are going all are welcome in this community – but it is a Christ centred community and when we use it for division, injustice, prejudice, self accolade  then Jesus weeps.  When our inspiring words of peace and justice and reconciliation are accompanied by inaction, or acts that do harm to our neighbours, then Jesus weeps.
There are times when we make decisions that might bind us together, are the best for us, but might divide us from others who, in their very differences, teach us the power of the oneness that we find in Christ.
And here is the rub – do you know how Paul finally gets the message home – he uses words that the people of Philippi are very familiar with, the eternal hymn of the church of their time that expressed their deepest beliefs, that tells the story of Jesus emptying himself, humble, one with us, a servant no less, obedient even to the point of death, and his exaltation to new life, one in and with God.  If Christ can humble himself, empty himself for us, how can we not do the same for others.
What is our hymn that will encourage us, in all our differences, to be of one mind with Christ, to share through our lives and our actions the grace and love that binds us as one? Amen.

Margaret Garland

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 14th September Pentecost 14

Readings:  Psalm 103, Romans 14: 1-12 Matthew 18: 21-35

Let us pray:  may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

A reading telling us to stop judging each other and another telling us that forgiveness must never stop......  Now if they are not two of the hardest, most difficult things to do – I don’t know what is.  They are two words that we stumble over often as we grapple with our faith. Judgment and forgiveness.

We will all have experiences similar to my own – a leader in our church in Amberley saying with passion and decisiveness that they would never forgive the Minister of the adjoining Parish as they were judged to have split a church family in half.  I doubt that anything I would have said could have made a difference to their stance.  At the time I remember going ‘um but...’  isn’t that  wrong, the directly opposite view to that which Jesus teaches in his parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

And yet, in a strange way, how well forgiveness and judgement go hand in hand – both in our misuse of them and in our seeking to be Christlike in them.
Let us begin with Paul – and I have to say that it is somewhat ironic that Paul manages to say we are to not judge our brother and our sister and in the same breath talks about those who disagree with him as being weak in the faith  - a touch of judgement there methinks.
Paul was speaking into a situation of serious doctrinal issues, mostly to do with differences between Jewish and Gentile, issues that would potentially divide and exclude.  With great passion he says: ‘Let each have their views, do not despise the other view, hold firm to what you think and express it with conviction – but – and this is vital – in the end it’s not about our various theological or doctrinal positions, it is about the fact that we are all children of God living in God’s grace and therefore our spirit towards each other is to be one of love , especially to those with whom we disagree, those whom we might see as enemies. 
And this is what I mean about judgement and forgiveness going hand in hand.  Too often when we disagree with someone we forget the adage ‘ hate the sin, love the sinner’ and end up somehow unable to separate that which has been done from the person who has done it.  And when you do that it makes it much easier to take a position of judgement, of righteous opposition because you have somehow managed to personify the sin into the sinner.  In the fight against oppression, injustice we end up sweeping up the sin and the sinner into the one basket and treating both as something to be abhorred – and it is another easy step from there to put on the mantle of righteous, not in our love for each other (especially those we do not see eye to eye with)  but in our judgement of those we believe are wrong and our belief that we are in the right. 

There is the story of the stranger who came into Dunedin one day and stood in the Octagon – they had on a rather strange coat – covered in patches of all shapes, sizes and colours.  And so the people gathered around, silent until one curious bystander asked ‘what about those patches?’  ‘They represent the sins, the wrongdoings of different people in the city’, said the stranger and proceeded to explain and denounce each patch before he went on his way.  And as he left they saw on his back the biggest darkest patch of them all – and a voice said from the crowd – ‘and that represents their own sin, for they seem willing to point out the shortcomings of others yet fail to see their own.’ 

So don’t judge each other says Paul – it is a miry pit and pointless, for we are all children of God, we live in God and die in God and it will be to God that we are accountable.  Take issue with the issue –but love the issuer.  Remember that when we lose ourselves to Christ we lose ourselves to justice and to good, not to the moral and doctrinal high ground.  We have our identity in Christ, do we not, and therefore, says Paul, it is not for us to seek to shut others off from having that same access to Christ’s transforming grace.
You can understand why this is so important to Paul, why he  never forgets this and why he strive so passionately to get us to understand this – for he, as Saul, was saved by radical grace from being this person of terrible judgement, of unrighteous oppression, of standing over the coats of those being stoned for their beliefs; he, even in this horror, was  loved by God, and by Stephen and in turn transformed by grace.
So how do we look at this in our church, in our community?  How hard is it for us to, say, disagree with someone’s  stance, but to be able to express and discuss the issue with respect whilst holding firm in the relationship you share in Christ?
How tricky is it to point out an unloving, unjust action to someone without somehow personifying it, without cutting off the person as well as the act?
How difficult is it to hold a place of hope in your heart for someone who consistently chooses the selfish, the greedy, the judgemental path – to remember that they too are a child of God and open to God’s transforming grace.
And here’s the one.  How hard is it to forgive, again and again, when you are battered and bruised, often rejected and never forgetting – how hard is it to release your claim to anger and retribution and to leave that to God?  Very hard, I think most of us would say.
It really is hard to prise apart the two elements we began with – judgement and forgiveness.  In the same way we have trouble separating the act of injustice from the person perpetrating that act, we also get tangled up with the idea that to forgive is to forget, to imagine it has never happened, to somehow exonerate a wrong act, as if holding on to hatred, refusing to forgive is the only way to stop the act from dissolving into nothing.  And that is understandable but is not the way that Christ engages with and forgives our wrongdoings and therefore is not the way that we are to pass on as a way of responding to hurt being done to us.  That is the crux of this parable – the servant was forgiven of an impossibly large debt but in the end he couldn’t get hold of the ‘therefore’ – the passing on of the gift of forgiveness, the releasing him from debt, to another.  He didn’t get that the enormity of peace and relief that he felt at the forgiveness of his debt was his to give to another.  He didn’t get that the lack of forgiveness would bring back to him pain and suffering – that sense that if we hold on to hatred, refuse to forgive it becomes not only a canker in our soul but makes it almost impossible to continue in relationship with that person or that church or that family because we are unable to separate that which they have done or said to hurt us from the our belief that we are all children of God living in God’s transforming grace.  It doesn’t mean that we forget or ignore that which is wrong, nor does it mean that we pretend it never happened and or that things can be what they were – we have to challenge, remember and change those things that are wrong – abuse, exploitation, accusation, sin but we do not have to hold the hatred, the justice, the eventual accountability in our hearts – that is for God to whom all are accountable and in whom all are held in love and grace. 

Margaret Garland

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 7th September 2014 Pentecost 13 Quarterly Communion

Readings:  Psalm 119: 33-40, Romans 13:8-10, Matthew 18: 15-20

Let us pray:  May your word for us, O God, speak into our hearts and minds, challenge us, encourage us and assure us in our faith and our living, in Jesus name.  Amen

Love does no wrong to a neighbour.  Therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

The minimalist in me enjoys it enormously when I find just a few words to encompass and express my understanding of what it is that I believe, how it is that I am called to live as a Christ follower.  After comes the waterfall of words that help explain, understand and play out just what is meant but just for a moment I love to rest in simple revelation.  Love does no wrong to a neighbour. 
Let us begin with some simple expansions:  Love is here is a  behaviour rather than an emotion, something we have to remind ourselves of in a world that uses the word ‘love’ almost totally emotionally.  Our neighbours know that we love them by our actions, by how we treat them – rather than by an assurance of emotive words.
Neighbour – who is our neighbour – everyone – our families, our enemies, our friends, our checkout operator, our colleagues, the petrol-heads next door. Jesus makes that very clear.
‘Does no wrong’ – sometimes it is good and helpful to turn a phrase around – instead of ‘does good’ here we have ‘does no wrong’.  In some funny way in my head that is more challenging because, for me, it cuts off my option of doing nothing.  ‘Doing good’ seems to me to allow me to choose to step out but also to sit in neutral more than I should, ‘doing no wrong’ doesn’t allow me to get away with doing nothing when doing nothing causes harm!  It helps take away the option of being an observer!
Now we move into some deeper meaning.
Love is the fulfilling of the law – what is Paul saying here?  It doesn’t mean that suddenly law is unnecessary and can be done away with, nor can it be seen as an achievement in some evolutionary way, where it is a pinnacle, a perfection reached, an end result.  Rather, says Paul, the law continues to be needed, continues govern our way of living – but law is not longer in charge, law becomes the servant of love, law must carry love’s passion for justice and peace, law in fact is measured by love and (here is the big question) therefore can law be bypassed when it violates the demands of love, when the way of Caesar causes us to violate the love of neighbour. 
Now there is a challenge – words like subversive and chaotic and unsafe immediately spring to mind I suspect.  Law can be bypassed when it violates the demands of love.  And let me say this: this is not about our wisdom suggesting a better way, I am talking about when the voice of Christ shouts in our hearts: ‘This is wrong, this causes harm’. 
 One of the things that has totally intrigued me in my attendance at General Assemblies sits very much in this camp.  And that is the sense of helplessness that takes hold and almost immobilises me (and others I suspect) when a purely legal process of debate and majority voting ends in a resulting decision that is just plain harmful, that every bit of my being which believes so strongly that ‘love does no wrong to my neighbour’ rebels against – and whilst I speak out against the decisions, the real question is, do I abide by a decision that I believe is wrong because a legal process expects me to.  It’s a hugely disturbing question for all of us.  This understanding of love being the fulfilling of the law challenges me to therefore reject law which is unChristlike.  And to be honest the culture of accepting democratic decisions is pretty deeply instilled in us because we fear the alternatives: anarchy, despotism, tyranny.  It’s a neat little box we place ourselves in isn’t it, a place of acceptance of something we feel is wrong because it has gone though what we consider are fair decision making processes.  Same with elections – I can believe that a policy of a party that diminishes the vulnerable is wrong but obviously others don’t so I will do as they say until I use the process to change the law. We have this reluctance to accept a third option – to choose to speak out and act out against any law that violates the demands of love.   Well I reckon Jesus would say that is not good enough.  I reckon Jesus would say that letting the market sort accommodation issues in Christchurch is wrong – it violates the demands of love. I reckon Jesus would say that excluding anyone from leadership in the church because of who they born to be rather than for discerning their call to ministry is equally violating the demands of love.  I reckon that laws that do nothing to remove child poverty or fail to recognise the dire state of the planet or protect the rights of the rich and powerful to the detriment of the vulnerable are laws that need to be challenged.  Doing no harm to neighbours.  Yeah right!
Yet the arguments to work only within the legal processes are compelling.  It is easy to assume that there is a greater collective worldly wisdom  and the arguments of ‘It’s much more complex than that’ and the ‘chaos if everyone did what they thought was right’ are powerful squelchers of our independent thought, our desire to live with love as our measure in all our actions. 
So where do we go from here – how do we stop this just being a slightly edgy sermon and make it into a challenge for living in Christ’s way?
Yesterday I had some extremely interesting conversation about how we as Christians engage with the world and, in particular, political systems.  Do we engage from the edge, being a watcher and occasional engager or do we get ourselves right in there, become part of the system so that we can change things from within – as two Presbyterian Ministers have done - David Clark nationally and Glen Livingstone in Christchurch Council?  Or do we disassociate completely?  Fifty years ago, preaching politics from the pulpit could and did result in removal from ministry – happened in our Methodist Church in Balclutha.  That I suspect is disassociation, living in a bubble of self righteousness.
A group of us began with watching a online clip from a US Chat show – where the presenter, a non Christian, said some pretty hard things to listen to – pointing out the huge gulf between Christ’s teachings of peace, equality, justice, mercy and ‘Christians’ who actively excluded, made war, spoke and acted violently, amassed fortunes on the backs of the broken and downtrodden.
Then we talked about how long a US President or anyone in high places of power might last if they put Christ’s law of love above the law of the land for retribution, riches and political dominance.  Not long – we suspected – but goodness would it speak loudly to the world.
So what to do?
Now I may get myself in real trouble here – but it struck me as I read again the passage from Matthew that here was a teaching that might just suggest to us a way of being love not just within the church but also in the world. 
When a person, or a law, or a process has offended against the demands of love, speak to that fault, you yourself and in the company of others.  If it is still unchanged tell it to the wider church, or to the world, and if love continues to be rejected then walk away from it, holding fast to the way of Christ knowing that in the reconciling power of Christ, love will triumph over hatred, grace over division, mercy over retribution.

And as we come to the table today, can we be reminded of how many times divisions and anger and hatred have been put aside when we have been able to eat at table together, when we share life stories, food, hospitality with each other and with Christ.  Here, in the presence of Christ, we recognise not only our own humanity, but the humanity of our neighbours, whom we are called to do no wrong to.  Amen

Margaret Garland

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 31 August, 2014 Pentecost 12

Readings:  Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28

Let us pray:  may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.
Have you ever been so caught up by your reaction to something that someone has said that you simply don’t hear the rest of the sentence and respond quite inappropriately, only to the piece you hear.  Just as big hearted impulsive Peter did in this Gospel passage.  Did Peter hear only the words ‘great suffering’ and ‘be killed’ and respond with his outburst on that basis?  Could it be that he didn’t hear the words of hope that followed - ‘and on the third day be raised.’
Or maybe he did hear the promise of resurrection but couldn’t quite imagine how that could be or whole image didn’t still fit in with Peter’s understanding of the best way the Messiah could save his people.  It wasn’t to be suffering and ignominy, was it? That wasn’t the plan. 
This becomes even more interesting when you realise that the immediately preceding verses are of Peter’s affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah and in turn being affirmed himself as the rock on which the church will be built. A high point – of understanding and focus and confidence!   And it is in that same confidence that he chides Jesus – and gets it badly wrong. 
Maybe for us today the teaching from this Gospel passage is just that.  All the good intentions in the world are as nothing without the teaching of Christ ringing in our ears and hearts, without our always listening fully and discerningly to the voice of God.  Mature in the faith or not, fully committed or not, we get it wrong.  Every horror in the church, every act of violence or arrogance or injustice that the church has undertaken or turned their back on is when Christ’s voice has been lost and ours has been ascendant, when we have stopped listening properly to the voice of God.
Jesus wants us to listen, to discern and live out right living, Christ living against a powerful current of culture that tugs us, sometimes ever so gently and other times quite abruptly in wrong directions.
The Christian Church – the community of faith and the individuals who are part of the body – is set apart for a distinct mission in the world – to make Jesus Christ known - and to do that we have to understand and articulate the nature of the teachings we choose to live by in Jesus name.  Paul understood this – in his letter to the Romans he first spent time assuring the Roman that God’s justifying grace  is extended to Jews and Gentiles alike and this chapter 12 he comes to the great ‘therefore!’  Therefore: here are the implications of God’s grace for the way we live our lives, as individuals and as communities of faith.  Here are the teachings of Jesus that help us to get it right, to live by Christ’s light, to be Christ’s light in the world.
Do you know that that in this one paragraph we heard today there are, at a quick count, well over twenty imperatives?  Not only that, but Paul manages, as one commentator put it, to pack in elements of Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology and ethics.  That would be ministerial self destruction if I tried to do unpack all of that – so instead today some thoughts about how we live apart from and yet in the world and one of the imperatives that has particular relevance.
We are in constant tension are we not?  Between living the way of faith and living within the dominant culture that surrounds us.  And for us here in NZ that has a particular danger – we can easily identify the obviously wrong, the violence, the mistreatment of the vulnerable members of our society, and a growing gap between rich and poor – but there is the overwhelming sense of ineffectiveness and participation in that which we want to challenge.  Many of the things we could be challenging wear a cloak of benign neutrality when in fact they are quite toxic.  How can we make a difference?  Well there are all our personal choices – one of which is to vote.  I would be reasonably certain that everyone here who is of age would take part in a general election.  And yet it seems to me from conversations and interviews heard that most people vote for what is best for them as individuals or families.  As Christians we would consider the policies that are best first of all for this community and this country – and which might just not benefit us as individuals.  I just love it that, along with the one coming up in Opoho, there have been political forums at First Church, South Dunedin Presbyterian, Knox Church for this election – and I bet hard questions were being asked.

And how does the church sometimes get caught up in listening to the voice of the world rather than the voice of God?
Well there are the times when we confuse worship with entertainment or marketing, when we allow programmes, or buildings, to monopolise our understanding of  who we are as ‘church’, when we measure vitality by growth and success by who comes to church and failure by not having all age worship.  There is not much there that differentiates us from the corporation or club or business that is seeking success is there not?   
What we as a faith community offer, what sets us apart,  is an invitation to join with others who choose to listen to the heartbeat of God, the teachings and life of Jesus and live that calling out in the power of the Spirit in as individuals and within community.
Therefore those who live in the power of the crucified Christ seek to live in a way which promotes life giving relations.  They engage a way of being and acting that embodies genuine love, mutual regard, humility, solidarity, peace and harmony.  It is a way of being that cares not only for members of the faith community but also for the wider society, particularly the strangers in our midst.  The Christian tradition has called this practice ‘hospitality’ and sees it as a distinctive mark of the church. Some would say that it is by the practice of hospitality that the church stands or falls.  Hospitality is not just about welcoming strangers into our midst and doing acts of charity, it is about hospitality as an act of justice.  Eleazar Fernandez[1] suggests that hospitality as charity offers crumbs from the table, hospitality as justice offers a place at the table.  And that in the context of our dominant predatory global market, our self absorbed consumer society, our recourse to violence whenever threatened, hospitality involves transformation of a system that is inhospitable to the great majority of this world.
We are involved in a ministry of radical hospitality!  What might that look like for us today? It is significant that before Paul talks about how it is we are to live in the way of Christ he speaks of the gifts that we are given: of prophecy, of ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, generosity, leadership, diligence, compassion and cheerfulness. [2]
And where we interweave our gifts as the body of Christ with the ways that Jesus teaches us to live within the grace and love of God we have a church rich in hospitality, a church that truly is listening to the voice of God above the voice of the world.  Look around and see the gifts of God in this place, weave through them the threads of teaching as to how we are called to live in the grace and love of God, and we have a community of faith that lives in the heartbeat of God.  And for this we say thanks be to God. Amen.

[1] Feasting on the Word Year A volume 4 p.18
[2] Romans 12:4-8

Service of Worship Sunday 17 August, 2014 Pentecost 10 Youth Sunday


Call to Worship 
We come together today – old folks, young ones, family in the name of God.
We come to praise God, to share in prayer and Word
We come to sing our old favourites and our new songs.
praising the one who brings love and hope to us, who calls us to be the church in this place.
Let us worship God

Hymn please stand as the bible is carried in and for the first hymn
Words Christian Henry Bateman  WOV 162

Come, children, join and sing, alleluia! amen!
loud praise to Christ our king, alleluia! amen!
let all, with heart and voice, before his throne rejoice;
praise is his gracious choice: alleluia! amen!

Come, lift your hearts on high, alleluia! amen!
let praises fill the sky; alleluia! amen!
he is our guide and friend, on him we can depend;
his love shall never end: alleluia! amen!

Sing praises loud and long; alleluia! amen!
life shall not end the song; alleluia! amen!
on heaven's blissful shore his goodness we'll adore,
singing for evermore, alleluia! amen!

Prayer of Confession

Words of Assurance
We sing:  second verse unaccompanied
Words Anna Warner  WOV 166

Jesus loves me! This I know
for the Bible tells me so;
little ones to him belong,
in his love we shall be strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,  the Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
as he loved so long ago
taking children on his knee,
saying, "Let them come to me."

Jesus loves me still today,
walking with me on my way;
wanting as a friend to give
light and love to all who live.

The Peace 
Kia tau tonu te rangimarie o te Ariki ki a koutou;
The Peace of Christ be with you all
A ki a koe ano hoki. And also with you
we exchange a sign of peace with each other

Community Time – welcome, notices, anniversaries

Birthday greetings today.
May God bless you we pray.
Live for Jesus dear [name or friends],
May he guide you always.

Youth and Children Focus

Imagine that this was a great big boat – and that we had to stay on board for forever and had to share it with animals….and it was too wet to go outside and play and run through the grass, in fact you couldn’t see any grass or trees – just water.  That is what happened to the family of Noah. Long long ago there was a terrible flood and the bible tells us that Noah and his family listened to God and built a boat to live in while the land was under water.  And they took with them all kinds of animals and birds – they probably didn’t need to take the fish.  Let’s hear the story.

Bible Readings :
First Reading: Genesis 6 & 7  The story of the Ark
Reader: Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church
People: Thanks be to God

Hymn Arky Arky Noah song  Traditional

The Lord said to Noah: there's gonna be a floody, floody...
Get those children out of the muddy, muddy, children of the Lord

The Lord told Noah to build him an arky, arky....
Build it out of gopher barky, barky, children of the Lord

He called for the animals, they came in by twosies, twosies...
Elephants and kangaroosie, roosies, children of the Lord

It rained and it poured for forty long daysies, daysies....
Almost drove those animals crazy, crazy, children of the Lord

Then Noah he sent out, he sent out a dovey, dovey....
Dovey said "There's clear skies abovey-bovey", children of the Lord

The sun came out and dried up the landy, landy....
Everything was fine and dandy, dandy, children of the Lord

The animals they came off, they came off by threesies, threesies....
Grizzly bears and chimpanzeesies, zeesies, children of the Lord

So, rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory
Rise and shine, ....  Children of the Lord....

Gospel Reading: Mark 7:24-30 and ‘Mine or the whole world’s’ from Present on Earth  p.99
Jesus had just arrived at a new house and was really tired – he had been travelling and teaching.
And we have just been singing about children of the Lord – well all people are children of God but in those days many of the Jews thought God belonged to them and only looked after them.
Jesus and his companions were Jews and they called those who weren’t Jews Gentiles (not of the faith)  The woman who came and asked to see him was a Gentile and probably wouldn’t have been welcome in any Jewish house –

 Narrator –
James –
Woman –
Host –  Mark
Narrator: From there, Jesus went away to the countryside to the region                     of Tyre

Jesus:         I went into a house to get away from the crowds.  I didn’t want anyone to know I was there; but it was impossible.  I couldn’t stay hidden.

Narrator:   A woman who was a Gentile heard where Jesus was.

Woman:     ‘Gentile’ is a posh word for foreigner, and ‘foreigner’ is a posh word for someone who doesn’t belong to their faith.
                   I come from Syria.  No self respecting Jew would have entertained me.  They called people like me names that I could never repeat here.

Host:          She’s telling the truth.  I’m a Jew and I learned all these names for ‘foreigners’.  It was my house Jesus was staying in.  You can imagine how I felt when she came to the door.  But when she told me her story, I felt sorry for her.  So I let her in.

Woman:     I didn’t go for me; for was for my wee girl.  Something had got into her. I don’t know what.  She was going off her head.  It was as if she was possessed or something.

Narrator:   When the woman saw Jesus she called out.

Woman:     Have mercy on me, Son of David.
                   (then addressing the assembly in a different tone)
                   I gave him his proper title, so that nobody could say I wasn’t minding my manners...

Jesus:         I wasn’t pleased to hear her.  I had given strict instructions that I wasn’t to be disturbed.  I was tired and needed a rest.  I asked why she had been let in.

Host:          And I said that it was my house and my decision.

Narrator:   Then she fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to heal her daughter.
                   Jesus didn’t say a word to her, but his disciples came and begged him to send her away, because she had been following them and making a terrible noise.

James:        Well so she had.  She had been going on like a lunatic, and I could feel my face going all red with embarrassment.  I mean, she didn’t belong to us; she wasn’t a Jew.  We had to remember our reputations.

Narrator:   Then the woman cried out,

Woman:     Please help me, sir!

Host:          This was all happening in my living room.  It was the first time I had ever had the likes of her in my house.  I don’t know what ever possessed me to let her in in the first place.

Narrator:   Jesus said,

Jesus:         Let us feed the children first.

James:        I was glad to hear him say that.  After all, we’re the children of Israel, and some of us were hungry,

Host:          ....and I was hoping he might do his trick with the loaves and fishes again.

Jesus:         Let us feed the children first.  It isn’t right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

James:        When I heard that I wanted to shout Hurray!

Host:          When I heard that I said to myself, ‘Thank God’.

Woman:     When I heard that my heart sank....
                   Calling us dogs....
It was just what you’d expect a Jew to say!

Jesus:         That’s why I said it.  It was just what a Jew would be expected to say.  It’s just the kind of nasty thing that anyone else in this place might say.
                   I saw James nodding his head.  I saw the man who owned the house looking relieved.  What they didn’t see but what the woman saw was the wink in my eye.

Woman:     Just in the nick of time I realised he was having me on.  He was using the kind of language the others wanted to hear.  So I played along with him when I saw the twinkle in his eye.
                   He said it wasn’t right to throw the children’s food to the dogs.  So I looked at him with a wee twinkle myself and said, ‘But Jesus, the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.’

Host:          ‘Cheeky midden’ I thought, and I was about to show her the door when I noticed that Jesus was smiling.

James:        I was going to give her a mouthful, but I saw that Jesus wasn’t annoyed.  It was as if he had fed her the punch line and she had delivered it on cue.

Jesus:         It was clear as the light of day to me.  This woman was a good woman, and she was a tough woman, and she wanted the best for her daughter.  Her being a Gentile couldn’t change that.  I admired her for bursting into a house full of Jews, and I was moved by her faith.
                   So I told her...  and all the others... how much I admired her.  And then I said, ‘What you want will be done for you.’
Narrator:   That’s the precise moment when the woman’s daughter recovered.

Host:          And that’s the precise moment when I realised that Jesus someone very different, and not just there for me as  I wanted him to be but for everyone.
Reader: This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ
People:  Praise to Christ the Word

Words and Music Colin Gibson AA 161

With a hoot and a toot on a pipe or a flute
we will praise, we will worship God;
with a hum or a thrum, with a roll on a drum,
we will make him a joyful noise.

Bow a cello that is mellow, sound a trumpet call,
blow a horn and a deep bassoon;
every instrument is playing, with our voices we are saying
we rejoice, we are glad in God.

With a clap of a hand, or the sound of a band,
we will praise, we will worship God;
with a paper and comb, on an old trombone,
we will make him a joyful noise.

With a peal on a bell, with a cheer or a yell,
we will praise, we will worship God;
with a bong on a gong, through the words of this song,
we will make him a joyful noise.

God’s Family
Get one of the children to light candle for each child of God.
I am a child of God
I am a baby.
I need love and nurture.
God gives me the gift of life.
I love my big sister.
So value my potential, because you’ve had the chance to value

I am a child of God.
I am that little girl.
I need safety and security.
God gives me the beauty of innocence.
My big brother’s really great.
Don’t destroy my innocence, for with it you will destroy my life.

I am a child of God.
I am that big brother, a spotty teenager.
I need understanding and patience.
God gives me a questioning mind.
My mum’s just the coolest mum in the street.
Tolerate my rebelliousness, because I can change the world
for you.

I am a child of God.
I am that busy mother.
I need acknowledgement and support.
God gives me a capacity to cope.
It’s great having Grandad around.
Please see me as a whole person, ‘cause I’m much more than
a harassed mother.
I am a child of God.
I am a grandfather, working hard, good at my job.
I need perspective and rest time
God gives me the wisdom of years.
My old mentor still knows more than me.
Keep allowing me to learn and be vulnerable

I am a child of God.
I am that mentor, now a frail old woman.
I need tolerance and time and people to sit quiet with me.
God gives me memories of a full life.
Thank God for my family.
I’m still here, and I’m more than just this frail body you see.

We are all children of God, unique, making a difference, gifting and receiving, all of us a special part of God’s family.   Thanks be to God

Hymn  please remain standing at the end of the hymn for the dedication of the offering.
Words and music Brian M Howard.

This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine.
Oh, this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

All around the neighbourhood, I'm going to let it shine
All around the neighbourhood, I'm going to let it shine
All around the neighbourhood, I'm going to let it shine
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Offertory Prayer of Dedication
Bless these our offerings of money, of our goods and of ourselves so that all might be used to make your light shine in this world.  Amen

We sing our Thanksgiving.
If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings;
if I were a robin in a tree I’d thank you Lord that I could sing,
and if I were fish in the sea I’d wiggle my tail and I’d giggle with glee
but I just thank you Father for making me, me.
For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile,
you gave me Jesus and you made me your child
and I just thank you Jesus for making me, me.

If I were an elephant, I’d thank you Lord by raising my trunk;
if I were a kangaroo, you know I’d hop right up to you;
if I were an octopus, I’d thank you Lord for my fine looks,
but I just thank you Father for making me, me.

If I were a wiggly worm, I’d thank you Lord that I could squirm;
if I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear, I’d thank you Lord for my fuzzy wuzzy hair;
if I were a crocodile, I’d thank you Lord for my great smile,
but I just thank you Father for making me, me.

Prayers of Intercession
Invite people to add to the candles of the children of God, saying who or what they are lighting the candle for.

My Lord, He done done, x3
He done what He said He’d do.
He said he’d give us his Spirit, He done done x3
He done what He said He’d do.

My Lord, He done done, x3
He done what He said He’d do.
He said he’d make us friends, He done done x3
He done what He said He’d do.

My Lord, He done done, x3
He done what He said He’d do.
He said he’d give us his love, He done done x3
He done what He said He’d do.

My Lord, He done done, x3
He done what He said He’d do.
He said he’d make us one, He done done x3
He done what He said He’d do.

Let us go in peace.
We go in the name of Christ.

And may the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and always.   Amen

Blessing Song
CH4 194  V.1 author unknown, V.2  Mark Bevin

This is the day, this is the day
that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.  L
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice,
and be glad in it, and be glad in it.
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.

Now we go out, now we go out
in the light of God, in the light of God;
doing our best, doing our best
to walk your way, to walk your way.
Now we go out, in the light of God
doing our best to walk your way.
Now we go out, now we go out
in the light of God