Sunday 17th 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!

We are called into worship today with words from Psalm 66

Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

Prayer on the Way

Creator God, our ground of being, you sing and the universe comes to life;

Breath of life, you blow and all things are animated from within;

Divine Word, you speak and creation is sustained;

Word become flesh, you are born among us;

Ever dancing Spirit, you fill all that has been formed;

Eternal life, you are the heartbeat of all that is.

In delight and awe, in wonder and celebration we come to know;

In you, all things live and move and have their being,

And as part of this, we choose again to join our lives, living in this fully;

As much as we are able, joining in with the eternal dance of your life.

Your life.

Life itself offered freely to all the world.

In the times when we mistake this life,

Being only for ourselves, forgive us.

May we know again and anew, the vastness of your love, all-encompassing.

We bless you this day.

With Christ, we journey, Amen.

Bible Reading: Acts 17:22-31

Reflection: Anne Stewart

The setting

Paul is on his second trip to the outlying areas to support the new Christians and the churches as they begin to find their way. In this instance, he is standing on an area known as Mars Hill and he is addressing a crowd of Gentiles. The Areopagus is a hill near the Acropolis where the Athenian Council met. It is a place where the council would deliver its judgements, but it is also a place where Greek philosophers would gather to debate, and where crowds would gather to enjoy the intellectual jousting. The word Areopagus is used to refer to the council as well as the hill. When Luke says that Paul stood in front of the Areopagus, he probably means that he stood before the council.

What is striking about this context is that Paul went to where the people and the powers that be were, and he spoke in the language they understood; in this case, the language of philosophy. His speech was sophisticated, and shows he was alert to his context. But he did this without losing anything of his solid theological Christians beliefs. This way of relating, immersed among the people, speaking in words they could relate to, was to become a hallmark of Paul’s ministry. He adapted his speech so as to be accessible to his audience, and sought to address them in terms that were familiar to them.

Worshipping the unknown god. The first thing that struck me was the idea of worshipping something ‘unknown’. I find that thought quite troubling. To worship something unknown, to me, feels like it could, all too easily, become the worship of a ‘good idea’. I think I would find it difficult to worship, or indeed to submit to any ‘way’, ‘thing’ or ‘one’ that I did not know well. Although I can accept that it is in the act of worshipping that we may well come to know God more fully. Some of us need to take a leap of faith and ‘fake it till we make it’ so to speak. From my own experience, and from what we know of God through the witness of scripture, doesn’t the God we worship constantly seek to engage with us relationally? I can find no evidence of God hiding from us, avoiding us, or being unknowable. God is known and knowable.

Do we find God, or does God find us?

However, God making Godself known to us is not always a popular way to see things these days. Such thoughts are often dismissed as overly ‘supernatural’ or ‘unreal’. Instead, we like to be the starting point, and we tend to struggle with the tension between what we can’t see and what we can. If we can’t see it, some of us say, then it can’t exist. Seeing something confirms for us that it is real. So, if we can’t see God, as such, can’t we just redesign the idea of God according to how we would like God to be? Taking that a bit further, it follows that if we can create our own God then isn’t God simply a figment of our imaginations? God then becomes a creation of something whose existence cannot be proved and is therefore easily dismissed.

But this is not the experience recorded in scripture, and nor is it the experience that many of us are familiar with. To know God at all, we have to be prepared to let God reveal who God is. We have to be open to how and when God comes to us in order to know more of God.

How can we know an unseen God?

So how does God go about making Godself known to us? The classic response is through Creation and, Jesus, Scripture and Tradition. We see the hand of God in the created order that is often beyond our own ability to understand, or describe. In scripture we read in many places that we can and do know God through who Jesus is. For me, it’s a merry old mix of all of these things, often presenting themselves to me as an ‘aha’ moment. A ‘knowing’ that I often find quite challenging to articulate; but a knowing that feeds me deeply, nevertheless.

Can we keep God in a building? The second thing that stood out for me is Paul’s statement that, “The God who made the world and everything in it, [God] who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands…”

We know, don’t we, that God is not contained in the walls of any building even if it is designed and built for the purpose of worship! It is the worship that makes the building sacred not the other way around. It’s the people who do the worshipping who are the church, not the building. We talked a lot about this after the earthquakes shook our old assumptions about what church was.

Yet we also know that where we meet for worship is important to us. These places that we set aside for the purpose of worship take on new significance for us because of those experiences. Because these buildings are important to us, we have, over the centuries, enlisted the help of our best architects and artisans to help us create these purposeful spaces. But even if it the most beautiful of spaces, we still know that God is not contained in it. God is not to be contained! The life of God is in and around us – and free.

The church where Martin ministered in in Dunedin had a sign that greets you as you leave the building. It always intrigued me. It read, ‘You are now entering the mission field.’ While I have to say that the mission field is also within the building, I like the sentiment. It says to me, go out from this building and take the God you have met and known inside the building into the world where God may not be so well known. Whatever the building represents, it does not exist to contain, define or constrain. Instead, don’t we look for signs of God’s presence in every corner and in every part of God’s creation?

Does God call us to worship to fulfil God’s needs, or ours?

The third thing that caught my attention was this, “…nor is [God] served by human hands, as though [God] needed anything, since [God] gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” Which brings me back to the idea of worship. We are ‘called’ to worship, yet, says Paul this is not something that God needs. God is not served by human hands, as though God needs anything we can offer, since God is the One who gives to us all life and breath and all things, including our hands. So, if we are not called to worship to satisfy God’s needs then whose needs are being attended to here?

I want to suggest that the call to worship is to satisfy our need, even if we are not aware that we have such a need. In worship we are re-established in our rightful place before God. We are re-formed and re-membered as children of God, as part of the Body of Christ, refitted into the community of saints, and reminded again of our call to serve God by serving one another. But most importantly, we are re-established as being something ‘other’ than God. We are not God. We are not in control! We are not able to contain God and we are certainly not safe when we try to do this. We are God’s – not the other way around!

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.

Prayers for the Road

[including an adaptation of a prayer by Ted Loder’s book Guerrillas of Grace]

In the quiet, we ponder what response we will make to what we have been reflecting on.

Usually at this time in the service of worship, when we are face-to-face, we make an offering prayer as a sign of our Yes to the life of God unfolding among us. It is an act of re-commitment. We can so that sitting where we are, and we can do that anywhere and anytime where we are.

We do that again today as we ponder the road ahead and the way God journeys with us on it.

Teach us your ways, Lord,

that we may be open to the same Spirit who moved

over the face of the waters in the first day of creation

and moves also over the chaos of this time to fashion a day like this,

a world like ours, a life like mine, a kingdom like leaven in bread,

like a treasure buried in the fields of the daily lives we lead;

and make us aware of the miracles of life, of warm and cold,

of starkness and order, of screaming wind and impenetrable silences,

and of the unfathomable mystery of the amazing grace in which we are kept.

Teach us your ways, Lord

that we may praise you for all the surprising, ingenious ways you bless us,

and for all the wondrous gifts you give us through artists and poets and dreamers

who introduce us to the beauty of holiness,

who usher us into awesome worlds of understanding and seeing,

and help us as we negotiate our lives with their joys, sorrows, triumphs and struggles.

Before you, we quietly name the concerns and cares that come to mind.

Teach us your ways, Lord, that we may accept our own talents for what they are

and partner with you in being a blessing in the lives of the people about us.

Teach us your ways, Lord, that we may live and love with courage and conviction,

and kindness and compassion, and so bear your light in every corner that we come across.

Teach us your ways, Lord, that your name is known, and your life among us, and for us,

is at the heart of our desire and our motivation.

Teach us your ways, Lord, that the fire of your light will continue to illuminate

and inspire this world you have brought into being and loved so wholeheartedly,

as we make our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

A Blessing:

As you go about your week, look for Jesus!

Seek him as a treasure in this great wide world.

Seek him in the eyes of your loved ones

and in the eyes of strangers.

May your heart burn within you

as the Lord draws close to you this week.

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

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.

Sunday 3 May 2020

Kia ora! Good morning!

We join together in our apart-ness again

We join as the Church global to celebrate the risen Christ.

Before we begin, take a moment to relax, to ‘arrive’ to our worship.

Be still and silent for a moment. 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!

Our words to focus this time of worship are based on Psalm 23

Day by day, God leads us: to the deep, deep pools of peace, to the green, lush lawns of grace.

Day by day, Jesus calls us: to pour out ourselves in service, to anoint the stranger with hope.

Day by day, the Holy Spirit shows us: the community we could be,

the family we are called to become.

Our prayer on the Way

God of all good, you are life and salvation to all— faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust, devoted and indifferent, passionate and dispassionate, holy and worldly, wise and simple, healthy and sick, young and old.

May your bigness inspire us,

When at times we feel low, flat, or slow;

May your bigness inspire us, when at times we choose to move in opposite ways to you.

Choosing not Goodness, but instead, choosing some imposter promising more than it ever can deliver.

In your mercy, meet us with grace.

Make us faithful and wise in your worship and service,

day by day and step by step adding fire to fire, fervour to fervour,

zeal to zeal, and love to love; in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Inspired by John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (c. 600)

Bible Reading: Exodus 33:1-23

Reflection: Betwixt & Between by Martin Stewart

Do you feel like I do that everything is kind of poised? That we are on the edge of something. The old is passing and the new is almost upon us. I figure that the next 100 years of telling the story of the world will probably reference these recent months as being cataclysmic. A new reference point, in the way that the Great Depression and World Wars I & II were markers of significant change. Like, pre-war vs post-war, it will be pre-pandemic vs post-pandemic. It is all quite dramatic! What will we make of this moment and opportunity? Have you been thinking about what the next season of your life will be like? In this time of pausing, have you resolved to do anything in particular?

The Franciscan writer Richard Rohr makes an interesting observation about the particular time we are in. He uses the concept of liminal space. Here’s how he talks about it: ‘Liminal space, is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next. We usually enter liminal space when our former way of being is challenged or changed—perhaps when we lose a job or a loved one, during illness, at the birth of a child, or a major relocation. It is a graced time, but often does not feel “graced” in any way. In such space, we are not certain or in control. This global pandemic we now face is an example of an immense, collective liminal space.’ [ Richard Rohr, Between Two Worlds Sunday, April 26, 2020]

Can you think of some particular moments in your life that could be described as liminal spaces? What opportunities came to you because you took notice of what was happening and acted? Today’s reading from Exodus is an account of one of these liminal spaces in the Bible (an obvious other one is the resurrection of Jesus). Moses is on Mount Horeb; he is now an old and worn-out man. The Promised Land is visible in the distance. But the people still remain restless after forty years of wandering and being shaped in a life of faithfulness to the God who has led them out of Egypt. There are as many signs as ever, that they are still an uncooperative bunch – the word for it is ‘stiff-necked.’ Everything is poised. Something is about to happen. But Moses, despairingly wonders if anything will come of it – what would be the point of their deliverance if God doesn’t come with them? He asks the Lord for one last clear sign of God’s presence: ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ Just let me see you. Give me just one look, and I will be satisfied.

To see God is the great human desire isn’t it? The sceptic is always demanding such a sign, ‘I will only believe if I can see God face to face.’ Have you ever made such a demand? But it turns out that that seeing God would be too much. Moses is warned that the only view of God that is safe is the view of where God has gone by – from behind – after… … otherwise he would be totally overwhelmed. I’m interested in that because if we are indeed in a liminal space – poised on the brink of something new breaking through – the thing we might need the most at the moment is foresight – the ability to see ahead to what is happening so that we can seize it. Wouldn’t it be good to see what God is up to right now! But alas, the ability to see ahead might still rely mostly on hindsight. We can only safely see God’s coming by attending to where God has been. That, of course, is what faith is. Faith is based on what has been revealed, even though we are to take it forward into whatever we are doing. ‘Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.’ – Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855]

I find myself in a conundrum. In this Covid-19 season I am doing a lot of wondering about change and possibility – part of that, obviously, is because I am moving on into a new position. But I also wonder about how we will do and be church will be changed by what is happening. Should we perpetuate the same-old? Have you also been wondering? Have you found your ears pricking up when people talk about the good things that can come out of this pausing and taking stock? Do we want the same-old again, or is this time for a new thing? I believe that God continually makes new things out of the old, ‘ever old and ever new,’ goes the Sydney Carter song, ‘keep me travelling along with you.’ And I want to stretch forward and make the most of the opportunities that this great pause in the human enterprise is offering.

But… But I feel somewhat thwarted, because it is incredibly tricky for us to spot what God is up to ahead of us, it is tricky to foretell it, or prepare for it, and thereby it is hard to welcome it and embrace it. How long are we to wait? And, if we wait, will we have missed the moment? Will we forever be playing ‘catch-up? I’m a bit like Moses. I want to see ahead! Now! Is this a feature of humanity, always wanting to know what’s next? I remember, as a child, asking my mother what was for tea. The answer was usually, ‘wait and see.’ I also recall that the best Christmas presents were always the surprises. Knowing what I was getting took a lot of the fun out of it! If God did reveal something too far ahead, would it deflate us, or loosen us, and possibly make us unstable?

If I am to be a bit cautious about looking too far in front, I’m beginning to wonder if this liminal space we find ourselves in, is an invitation to something we are meant to recover from behind? A period that is offering some kind of clarity. A clearing of our vision. Like, having a procedure to have the cataracts/scales removed from our eyes! Apparently, people living in the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Pakistan can see the distant mountains for the first time in years. The pollution has reduced so dramatically. They must feel like they are on the edge of something possible that they had become resigned to never seeing again. In what ways has this global shutdown of the human operation cleared the way for our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hands to reach out and touch? Can we dare to hope for a better way? Can we change our ways? In my view there is no going back. We aren’t to seek out the good old days and relive them, rather, we are to make these next days the good old days.

Recovering is not going back, it might involve taking stock, and settling back, and pausing, and recalibrating, and readying ourselves for what is next. This could be the most wonderful thing for us. Rohr again: ‘The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen. We are empty and receptive—erased tablets waiting for new words. Liminal space is where we are most teachable…’ What kinds of things should we be looking for and putting energy into recovering? Are we thinking nostalgically or prophetically? Can we see the big difference between these? What are you hoping for? What has come to you in hindsight that is now offering you a measure of insight and even foresight?

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” I wonder what that mercy and compassion looks like. How might we give expression to it in this parish?

Offering & Prayer for the Road

In this part of the service, we dedicate these gifts and indeed our entire lives once again to the service of God in the week ahead. We do this all, in response to the ongoing generosity of God of which we are all receivers and to remind ourselves that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’ (Psalm 24:1).

Collectively now at this moment as we turn our hearts and minds outwards.

Let us be grateful for God’s ongoing gifts, grateful that many of us can still give to the ongoing life and work of  St Martins and dedicate ourselves to the presence of God in our ‘bubbles’, in our phone conversations and in our waving across the street.

We pray:

Holy God; you call us to be made holy, to be made in your image.

We trust in your generosity, and so are free to be generous ourselves, opening our hearts and using our gifts freely, for your purposes in our world.

Bless these gifts and us to your service,

God who sees all spaces, you see the space between what we need and what we get, the space between the hunger and the nourishment provided, the space between our hopes and what actually happens.

You see the cracks in our lives out of which tears flow.

Help us live into and through these spaces with courage in the face of emptiness,

laying our hearts open to your mercy.

God who in is all spaces pouring your love and goodness in filling us to overflowing help us this week to take this love into all we do all we say, and all we are

In Jesus name we pray, Amen

We close reading, praying or singing the hymn: The Summons

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?

Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?

Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,

will you let my life be grown, in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?

Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?

Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?

Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?

Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?

Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,

And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?

Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?

Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around,

Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when you but call my name.

Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.

In your company I’ll go where your love and footsteps show.

Thus, I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me. Graham Maule & John L Bell

A Blessing: May you go into your week with your ears pitched to the sound of God’s voice calling your name; with your eyes peeled for the face of Jesus in unexpected places; with your soul poised to receive the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Peace.

Third Sunday after Easter

Sunday 26th April 2020 – with thanks to The Village Church

 Kia ora! Good morning!

We join together in our apart-ness again on this third Sunday after Easter

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!

Our words to focus this time of worship are some verses from Psalm 116, maybe appropriately titled, ‘Thanksgiving for recovery from illness’

I love the LORD, because he has heard

my voice and my supplications.

Because he inclined his ear to me,

therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me;

I suffered distress and anguish.

Then I called on the name of the LORD:

“O LORD, I pray, save my life!”

What shall I return to the LORD

for all his bounty to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the LORD,

I will pay my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

O LORD, I am your servant;

You have loosed my bonds.

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice

and call on the name of the LORD.

I will pay my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

in the courts of the house of the LORD,

in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD!

Our prayer on the way

Loving God

Looking back, we recall a week where there was nowhere to go for coffee and chats,

no way to sneak a cuddle or even a handshake, with anyone who lives outside our bubbles,

no way to catch up, even from a distance, with anyone who lives outside our neighbourhoods,

no way to pop into a shop, other than the supermarket or pharmacy,

no way to walk on a beach, or hike over a hill.

BUT looking back, there was also:

that daily walk down Hamilton Ave, lined with Liquidambars in full Autumn colour,

warm sunlight to soak in and dry clothes on the line,

time to get lost in a book, jigsaw, knitting or Netflix,

a quiet so intense we could hear birds, occasionally a child laughing, a dog barking,

a world still enough to notice the piwakawakas flitting about so full of joy.

Looking back, we see now that it was a good week, God,

one where less people have been overtaken by the virus,

one where many more have recovered,

and it looks like through working together we are getting the better of this thing.

It was a week full of hope.

It was a week too where we remember that once two men walking down a dusty road were joined by a man they didn’t recognise.

They didn’t recognise him because their thinking couldn’t allow for the possibility that this could be the same man whose loss they were still mourning.

How easily we dismiss what we can’t understand,

how easily we miss what we are not open to

In this time now we hand over to you, the things that blind us,

the things that weigh us down and stop us being open to possibility,

the things that make us too weary to engage imagination,

the things that reveal our lack of faith.

These things are yours now Lord, yours to transform and make new in us.

We trust this to you because we have seen you transform

our sense of loss into gratitude for what we have,

our fear into peace,

our uncertainty into hope,

our swords into ploughshares,

the hungry into the fed,

the homeless into the sheltered.

May we learn to be agents of your work,

servants of one another in making this world a kinder fairer place for all.

In Jesus’ name we pray Amen

I think of the disciples locked up in the upper room, deflated and despairing, with fear and anxiety paralysing them. It was Jesus breaking into the room and breathing his Spirit on them that gave them propulsion. Similarly, on the road to Emmaus, it was the unfolding of the big story and the simple breaking of the bread that jolted belief and life back into them, and the boat, that we now know as the church, was able to get moving.

As we sit out this period of waiting and worldwide calamity, and wonder what ‘what next?’ looks like, we look for the breath and Spirit of Jesus to come upon us and provide us with the delight and oars to propel us forwards to where God’s kingdom coming meets us.

Bible Reading: Luke 24:13-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Today’s gospel reading is about a walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Although this walk was one of just seven miles (approximately 11km) it was one with profound significance for those who were present (Cleopas and his companion). The account of this walk has continued to provide great encouragement to Christians throughout the past 2000 years, and it is quite possible that Luke 24:13-35 may be a favourite Scripture passage for some of you.  

It is certainly a passage that I have, over the years, enjoyed reading slowly, imagining myself walking alongside those discouraged disciples who met that wonderful stranger on the road.

Confusion to clarity; discouragement to hope

It is the third day after Jesus’ death. The tomb is open and Jesus’ body is missing. His followers are bewildered and distraught. They had hoped that Jesus – this man who “was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did” would “be the one who was going to set Israel free.” But things haven’t turned out the way they had hoped. They have already left Jerusalem. They are confused and deeply discouraged.

As many of us will have learned from painful experience, confusion and discouragement can be catalysts for growth in faith. An awareness of our own inadequate understanding can lead us to seek answers and be genuinely open to new insights. Discouragement can make us aware of our own limitations and prompt us to pray. It can stimulate us to strengthen the foundations of our relationship with God. But confusion and discouragement can also cause us to go round and round in circles in our thinking – which seems to be what was happening for these disciples in the early stages of their walk to Emmaus.

Jesus joins them but they do not recognise him. They continue to thrash out their concerns and their doubts about the validity of the women’s report of a vision of angels who had told them that Jesus was alive. As they walk, Jesus responds to their confusion and discouragement with great patience. He explains what is said about himself in all the Scriptures “beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets”. Deepening (though partial) clarity supplants the disciples’ confusion; hope displaces discouragement.

When Jesus breaks bread with the disciples, praying for God’s blessing, they finally understand and believe that he has risen from the dead. It is through a familiar action that “their eyes are opened” and they recognise Jesus. This marks the beginning of another journey – both literally (the disciples immediately return to Jerusalem) and figuratively (as they begin to learn what it means be disciples of the risen Lord). Can you imagine how different their conversation must have been on the walk back?!

  • Do any of the images included in today’s service reflect your experience at the moment? Do you feel that you are at a border or crossroads? Do you find yourself in a place of refuge? Are you struggling because of external factors over which you have no control? Why not talk with God about these things?
  • Can you think of a time in the past when you felt confused or discouraged about your faith? What helped you to find hope or greater clarity? How might recalling that experience be helpful to you at the moment?
  • Perhaps you are feeling discouraged or have doubts about your faith right now. If so, it may help to remember that even the disciples who were closest to Jesus had their moments. Hang in there. If it is helpful, perhaps you might phone and talk to someone who may offer you a fresh perspective?
  • After recognising that Jesus had risen from the dead Cleopas and his companion immediately walked 11 kilometres back to Jerusalem (presumably at night) to share the good news with the other disciples. How might you share the good news about Jesus that others have shared with you?

Offering & Prayer for the Road

In this part of the service, we dedicate these gifts and indeed our entire lives once again to the service of God in the week ahead. We do this all, in response to the ongoing Generosity of God of which we are all receivers and to remind ourselves that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’ (Psalm 24:1).

Collectively now at this moment as we turn our hearts and minds outwards let us be grateful for God’s ongoing gifts, grateful that many of us can still give to the ongoing life and work of this parish and dedicate ourselves to the presence of God in our ‘bubbles’, in our phone conversations and in our waving across the street.

We pray

Like the disciples at Emmaus, we offer what we have.

They offered their company, their table, their bread.

We sense you are with us, Jesus, as we offer you our love,

our devotion, our gifts.

May our eyes be opened to your holy presence among us,

now and always.

As we gather while apart, we remember all churches across the world,

Who today are meeting as we are:

Walking this unknown road of pandemic uncertainty.

Open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts,

To see you as the one who walks this road beside us.

We think of our leaders, local and national,

And don’t envy their positions at this time!

Our prayer is that they remember their call to the common good.

And serve with resilience, wisdom, and kindness.

We notice our planet,

In many places breathing a sigh of relief,

As our assault on it is subdued.

We pray that as the earth speaks at this moment,

We collectively would listen,

And not simply take up arms against our global home once again, as soon as we are able.

We bring to mind those who are almost always forgotten.

Yes, we are in lockdown but we are also privileged surrounded by our comforts of home.

We think of the poor, the refugee, the victims of domestic violence;

And in gratitude for where we find ourselves,

We ask, God, may your grace and mercy lift up and hold those who struggle at this time.

And as we begin to slowly emerge from lockdown over the coming months,

May we know how and when we can offer hospitality of all kinds to those in need.

We hold too at this moment,

Those who are wracked with fear, anxiety and worry,

Those for whom their imaginations turn to unhelpful places.

We pray for your peace, your deep peace, to make its way into their minds and hearts,

Becoming for them an endless resource of calm and of capacity to live, freely.

You, God, are the beginning and end of all creation,

In this we trust,

For you are good,

And your love never fails,

Despite all uncertainty and adversity.

In your Spirit,

Lifted with Christ we pray,


As we “stay home and save lives” during this time of global pandemic we are all restricted in our physical movements, but we are still “pilgrim people.” The lectionary readings for today place our gospel reading alongside Psalm 116. This Psalm includes the following lovely words: “And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth.” (Ps 116:9) Let us remember these words of encouragement and give thanks for the presence of God with us today.

Easter Day 12 April 2020

Welcome to this Easter day service, albeit in extraordinary circumstances.
We could never have envisaged Easter separated from one another or wider family.
However, celebrate we will, wherever we are and however small “our community” this day.


Jesus lives! He lives in the hearts
and minds of all who love him.
On this day called Easter, we celebrate
the indestructible love and wisdom that
Jesus showed to the world.
We remember Jesus as we follow The Way:
We will remember him as we forgive,
and not hold on to hurts.
We will remember him as we give
until it makes a difference.
We will remember him as we resist violence
and all forms of abuse.
We remember him as we feed the hungry,
shelter the homeless and befriend the lonely..
We will remember his faith in a God
who loves, forgives and restores our hope.
We remember Jesus as we follow The Way.
We will remember his example of living
and loving.
(2012 Easter Liturgy, PCNVic – adapted)

Lighting an Easter Candle

We light this candle aware that the power of resurrection
has forever changed who we are,
and given us the courage
to boldly proclaim a living faith.
Today we celebrate:
new life,
new joy,
new possibilities.
We give thanks for the Spirit of Life visible in Jesus,
visible in us, visible in people in all walks of life.

HYMN: Christ is Alive and the Universe Must Celebrate

Christ is alive, and the universe must celebrate,
and the stars and the suns shout on this Easter Day!
Christ is alive, and his family must celebrate
in a great alleluia,
a great alleluia
to praise the power that made the stone roll away.
Here is our hope: in the mystery of suffering
is the heartbeat of Love, Love that will not let go,
here is our hope, that in God we are not separate,
and we sing alleluia,
we sing alleluia
to praise the power that made the stone roll away.
Christ Spirit, dance through the dullness of humanity to the music of God, God who has set us free!
You are the pulse of the new creation’s
with a great alleluia,
a great alleluia we praise the power that made the stone roll away.
© Shirley Murray (AA)

This morning’s readings are the well known summons to praise in Psalm 100, along with the earliest gospel account of the Resurrection – Mark 16: 1-8. Both readings are from the New Revised Standard Version.

Psalm 100
All Lands Summoned to Praise God
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Mark 16: 1-8
The Resurrection of Jesus

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen,
they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another,
‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’
When they looked up, they saw that the stone,
which was very large, had already been rolled back.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe,
sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth,
who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee;
there you will see him, just as he told you.’
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them;
and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

HYMN: Was it the Shaking Ground (Tune: Fulda WOV 137)
Was it the shaking ground that moved
the stone, that freed the resting Word,
that called the Christ to life again:
God’s Spirit, breathing, moved and stirred?
The world still spinning, recollects
that God survived all human scorn;

that lives were changed for ever more
in meeting love alive, re-born.
This is the Voice that turns us round,
that calmly offers grace to cope;
that gives us strength to live again, that gives us cause to sing our hope.
©Andrew Pratt


The candle lit this morning symbolises new life and new hope.
Our prayer is that there be new possibilities for people and situations.
God of the universe.
All life comes from you and all nations are held in your loving embrace.
The pandemic that now holds us hostage threatens the well being and stability of the whole world.
With the dawning of this new day we place our trust in you.
Gather us under your protecting wings that we might encourage one another and work together to bring health, safety and peace.
Self-isolation signals a cut-off from many usual and normal contacts. Social distancing affects every community – family, school, church, town, city, our entire nation, and our world.
This is a frightening global phenomenon. However, perhaps we will look back and be able to see
that it also brought blessings, that we came to realise the important things – what makes life so precious along with those things we have taken for granted, or never really appreciated.
Today as we reflect on how the lock down affects us, we also consider the tragedy of isolation that so many people experience all the time: refugees, social outcasts, the elderly on their own, solo parents, the sick kept in isolation, people nobody wants anything to do with, those who are imprisoned.
And in the quiet we hold in our hearts those whom we love and are separated from; those in our parish and community and world we are concerned for.

And now in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer we say [The Casa del Sol, John Philip Newell]
Ground of all being, Mother of life,
Father of the universe,
your name is sacred, beyond speaking.
May we know your presence.
May your longings be
our longings in heart and in action.
May there be food for the whole human family today
and for the whole earth community.
Forgive us the falseness of what we have done
as we forgive those who are untrue to us.
Do not forsake us in our time of conflict
but lead us into new beginnings.
For the light of life, the vitality of life,
and the glory of life are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Celebration of Communion (as a community) is not possible on this Easter day.
However, let us experience whatever food and drink we have as sacrament.

You may wish to prepare morning tea. As we enjoy eating and drinking, whether with others, or on our own, let it be as if in eating and drinking, we are eating and drinking with our St Martins’ community of faith.

HYMN: We Are Called to Tell the Story (Tune: Regent Square, WOV 84)
We are called to tell the story,
passing words of life along,
then to blend our voice with others
as we sing the sacred song.
Christ be known in all our singing,
filling all with songs of love.
We are called to teach the rhythm
of the dance that never ends,
then to move within the circle,
hand in hand with strangers, friends
Christ be known in all our dancing,
touching all with hands of love.
We are called to set the table,
blessing bread as Jesus blessed,
then to come with thirst and hunger,
needing care like all the rest,
Christ be known in all our sharing,
feeding all with signs of love.
May the One whose love is broader
than the measure of all space
give us words to sing the story,
move among us in this place.
Christ be known in all our living,
filling all with gifts of love. © Ruth Duck (DITU)

May our living rooms be sacred space this day;
lifting us into the awesome mystery that is life.
In our sacred space we give words
to our inner sense of gratitude and hope.
We pause in gratitude for all that has been given;
in hope for all that is yet will be.
And so we will take gifts of food and drink,
such ordinary things of life, but blessed by God,
God’s to lift us into the mystery of grace.
God, we celebrate the life that is ours
for we know we are precious in your sight.
We celebrate Jesus’ life that became the pattern of reality for us:
life that is love revealed
love given and received
love in action.
Therefore, with all who have loved you throughout the ages
we praise you saying:
Holy, holy, holy, resurrection God,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is the one who comes in your name.
Hosanna in the highest.
Food and drink today remind us that the Communion bread and wine tell a very special story.
Bread has its beginnings in the earth: it is gathered, ground and kneaded by loving hands, tired backs, by sweat of toil.
Bread from field and mill and store.
Bread to break, to give and eat, shared from hand to hand.
Bread that must be broken open, to be used, to feed.
Bread broken to fill emptiness.
Likewise, the wine is of the earth, bitter and sweet.
From vine to glass, given and shared, of people’s labour.
Wine of joy and pain, grief and gladness.
Wine to be spilled to slake thirst and enliven the heart.
(Ruth Duck. Adapted by Nancy L Steeves)

Today, with food and drink we are also invited
to see, hear, smell, feel and taste the mystery of grace.

We give thanks for our life and the courage we are given to live it.
May our gratitude for life be expressed in our generosity.
May our faith be expressed through love in action.
May our belief in the future find full expression
in our daily attitude to life, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

HYMN: We Are An Easter People
We are an Easter people,
ours is an Easter faith,
the yeast is rising in our hearts,
our wine has vintage taste.
Christ is risen,
Christ is risen,
risen in our lives.
We are an Easter people,
ours is an Easter faith,
our tears are freed to flow and heal
our shattered hopes and hearts.
We are an Easter people,
ours is an Easter faith,
our fears have died, we rise to dream,
to love, to dance, to live. © William L Wallace (AA 146)

May God the star maker cradle and circle you.
May God the storyteller beckon and encourage you.
May God the life-changer challenge you and cherish you.
May you walk in the light of God’s love and laughter
all the moments of your nights and days.