Sunday 10 May 2020

We are pausing to acknowledge and grow in the presence of God in our lives.

We are meeting as part of a church community, albeit a scattered one.

We are stilling ourselves, our fears, our anxieties, and all the distracting things around us, to seek and delight in God’s life with us.

Let us worship God!

Kia ora koutou!

As we join together in our apart-ness, is there anything you have noticed in your space, in your actions, in your routine, that you are finding helpful for this time?

Today, we remember Mothers.

All Mothers,

All Mother figures,

All those who wanted to be but couldn’t;

The superb ones!

The normal ones,

And the ones who could’ve done better.

We remember and hold all these in a sense of grace and blessing.

Later we will join in prayer for all Mothers.

We are called into worship today with words from Psalm 31

Praise the Lord,

who has shown us the wonders of his unfailing love;

and who, for the sake of his name,

leads us and guides us.

In you, O Lord, we put our trust.

You are our God,

and our lives are in your hands.

Lord, let the light of your face shine on us

as we celebrate, held together in your presence.

Our prayer on the Way

May the strength of God pilot us. May the power of God preserve us. May the wisdom of God instruct us. May the hand of God protect us.

May the way of God direct us. May the shield of God defend us.

May the host of God guard us against the snares of evil and the temptations of the world.

May Christ be with us, Christ before us, Christ in us, Christ over us.

May your salvation, O Lord, be always ours this day and forevermore. Amen.

—Patrick of Ireland (c. 389–461)

Bible Reading: John 14:1-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

The way, the truth, and the life

Reflection: Trust. By Dan Spragg

Rev Dr Lynne Baab was the lecturer in Pastoral Theology at Otago University between 2007-2017 and contributed to our studies through Knox from time to time. In 2017 she and Dave, her husband, finished their time in New Zealand and returned to Seattle. Lynne has written recently that Dave has a chronic lung condition and that if he was to contract Covid19 this would most certainly be fatal. With this in mind, they have been ‘sheltering in place’ since early March (If you are interested you can read her ‘spiritual diary of sheltering in place at www.lynnebaab.com).

I kind of like the term ‘sheltering in place.’ It seems a little warmer than ‘maintaining social distance’ or, being in quarantine, or, isolation.

Sheltering in place.

For me, it conjures up imagery of what one does when unexpected wild weather is encountered while camping or tramping. You zip up the tent door and wrap a blanket around you. If you are walking, hopefully, you make it to the hut to hunker down and wait out the storm.

There is an aspect of this in what we have been doing – hunkering down until it is safe to venture out again, not only for ourselves but especially for the vulnerable amongst us.

Like all wild and unexpected situations – whether it be dangerous weather or a pandemic – there are troubling aspects to it!

Here in Aotearoa, we have done exceedingly well. And we are exceedingly lucky that, due in part to our geographical location, we have been able to knock this thing on its head before it got away on us. But still, we have not got away unscathed and there are still plenty of unknowns in our future.

Are you troubled? Do you have things that you are worried about? Where are you at with this unprecedented situation now that we are seven weeks in?

The opening words in John 14 are, ‘Don’t be troubled.’

This is the opening line of what’s known as Jesus’ ‘Farewell Discourse.’

He’s beginning to head towards his troubling end and so he wants to lay a few things out for his followers.

It might be good for us to remember for a moment that leading up to this point a few things have happened which may have given the disciples cause for feeling troubled.

The setting is ‘the last supper’ occurring on the Passover not long before Jesus is arrested.

At this meal Jesus proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet – an act that turned the image of leader, power, status, on its head. He announces to the group that one of them plans to betray him – slightly troubling to say the least!

He commands them to ‘love one another’ – this is to be the identifying mark of his followers. And, he predicts that Peter – when push comes to shove – will deny him.

Jesus knows the path he is on and in all these events, one can feel the urgency and anxiety of the situation rising. But, he goes on to say, ‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare.’

Despite the ensuing chaos and the unsettling nature of events… don’t be troubled…

While the disciples’ situation then and our global pandemic now are different, there are some similarities:

Future plans abruptly interrupted. Normal routines and rhythms upended.

Heightened danger and risk. Which of course leads to, the anxiety.

The emotional and mental strain. The questions of, ‘what next?’ The wondering about, ‘what could be?’

Jesus says, ‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare.’

I wonder, could this be a timely word for us? If you imagine Jesus saying these words directly to you, how does this make you feel?

You may have noticed that I have used a different translation of scripture today. I like the way this translation puts, ‘My Father’s house has room to spare.’ It’s quite an inviting image.

Theologian Robert Jenson picked up on this and wrote of the ‘roominess of God.’ Typically this passage has been interpreted as being about heaven as a ‘place’ but instead of going down this easy and well-worn path, Jenson linked God’s roominess to the idea of time:

“‘What is time?’ My answer is created time is room in God’s own life. If creation is God’s making room in himself, then God must be roomy… this roominess of God should be thought of as his ‘time,’ that God’s eternity is not immunity to time but his having all the time he needs.”

Time is room in God’s own life. God must be ‘roomy’. God has all the time that is needed. Doesn’t this paint an inviting picture?

Personally, this makes me want to jump to make this statement in relation to Jesus’ words: In the household of God there is enough room for everyone and everything. So, don’t be troubled. Trust in God. God has all the time that is needed.

Needed for what? For all to be well and good. In uncertain times. In unsettling times. With an unknown future. With your own doubt that you are up to the task, or have anything to offer for a solution. Even in moments of confidence when we do have something to say. Trust in God because in the household of God there is time for it all. There is time enough for all of you.

There is time enough for all of your doubts and fears as well as all your new and crazy ideas. God has all the time in the world for you! Trust in that.

If you have ever spent time seeking shelter from wild weather in a backcountry hut you will know the time of rest and refuge that this is. To get out of the wind and rain, perhaps being able to light a fire and boil some water for a hot drink – now that we could call an essential service at that moment!

‘Sheltering in place’ there for as long as needed is most definitely a gift of time amongst other things. How often does joy return once a little warmth is felt?!

It seems to me that this is what trusting in God during uncertain times is like.

When time is uncertain – we can trust that God has all the time that is needed.

While speaking with his disciples, Jesus was interrupted by Thomas, who asked,

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

It sounds to me like he was asking, how will we know this to be true?

If we are to trust in God, how will we know that God is with us?

How will we know that we are ‘with God?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’

How do we know during these uncertain and unprecedented times that we are found with God?

To know God, we follow Jesus; ‘the way.’

Follow in the way of Jesus. Live as he lived. Do as he did. Speak as he did. Live it and we will know the ‘roominess’ of God. Live it and you will know refuge and rest as well as empowerment and energy and the wide and open vistas that open out around us, for this is what is meant by truth and life isn’t it?

I wonder, as the unfolding of this pandemic plays out all around us if some of our concerns about what will happen, what we may or may not be able to do after this thing settles down;

I wonder if indeed these words of Jesus are a helpful word to us at this time as we ‘shelter in place.’

What does the future hold?

Well, the way of Jesus is how we will discover God’s sense of time.

It is how we will know the blessing that is the shelter of God through the storm and it is how we will know the vista that opens up when the storm clears.

‘Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare!’

(Come on in, and see for yourself!)

Offering & Prayer for the Road

Collectively now at this moment as we turn our hearts and minds outwards let us be grateful for God’s ongoing gifts, the many different ways we experience the generosity of God, and be grateful that many of us can still give to the ongoing life and work of our church community in various ways and dedicate ourselves to the presence of God in our various lockdown spaces.

A Prayer for Mothers

Lord, on this day set aside to honour and remember mothers,

we give you thanks for our mothers.

We are grateful that you chose to give us life through them,

and that they received the gift of life from your hands, and gave it to us.

Thank you for their giving of themselves, in carrying us and giving us birth.

We thank you for the women who raised us,

who were our mothers in childhood.

Whether birth mum, adopted mum, older sister, aunt, grandmother,

stepmother or someone else,

we thank you for those women who held us and fed us,

who cared for us and kissed away our pain.

We pray that our lives may reflect the love they showed us,

and that they would be pleased to be called our mums.

We pray for older mums whose children are grown,

Grant them joy and satisfaction for a job well done.

We pray for new mums experiencing changes they could not predict,

Grant them rest and peace as they trust you for the future.

We pray for pregnant women who will soon be mums,

Grant them patience and good counsel in the coming months.

We pray for mums who face the demands of single parenthood,

Grant them strength and wisdom.

We pray for mums who enjoy financial abundance,

Grant them time to share with their families.

We pray for mums who are raising their children in poverty,

Grant them relief and justice.

We pray for step-mums,

Grant them patience and understanding and love.

We pray for mums who are separated from their children,

Grant them faith and hope.

We pray for mums in relationships that are in crisis,

Grant them support and insight.

We pray for mums who have lost children,

Grant them comfort in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We pray for mothers who aborted their children,

Grant them healing and peace.

We pray for mums who gave up their children for adoption,

Grant them peace and confidence as they trust in your providence.

We pray for adoptive mothers,

Grant them joy and gratitude for the gift you have provided.

We pray for girls and women who think about being mums,

Grant them wisdom and discernment.

We pray for all women who have assumed the mother’s role in a child’s life,

Grant them joy and the appreciation of others.

We pray for those who are grieving the loss of their mother in the past year,

Grant them comfort and hope in Christ’s resurrection.

Lord, we thank you for the gift of motherhood.

We thank you for the many examples of faithful mothers in scripture,

like Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth.

We are mindful this day of all these women,

and especially Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who had the courage in faith to say “yes” to your calling.

May all the women joining in with our worship today emulate these examples of faith.

And may they model for all the rest of us what it means to be your disciple.

Bless them on this special day; in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Blessing:

Don’t be troubled.

Trust in God.

Trust also in the way, the truth, the life.

Take a step and follow

God has all the time that is needed.

May you be held in the endless sheltering of God.

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