Thursday, 22 July 2021

Marsden Road Worship for Pentecost 9 - 25 July 2021

 


Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

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 As we are back in Lock Down with no Face to Face Worship there are You Tube adresses for Hymns that can be used with this worship and have lyrics as part of the You Tube
Of Cabbages and Kings.

Sunday 25th July 2021

Pentecost 9 Sunday year of Mark 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People       

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2021)

        Fools say in their hearts: “There is no God.” The faithful prove the foolishness of these words, not with their words, but with their actions.

Why have you come to this place?

We are tired in body and spirit.

Why have you come today?

We have come to follow Jesus.

Come and eat your fill.

But there are only five barley loaves and two fish.

There is plenty for all.

Jesus gathers the fragments of our lives, that nothing may be lost.

Come! Let us worship. 

Hymn 133: O worship the King all glorious above.

                 (Tune – Hanover) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI9cDJMsn14 

     Opening Prayer

     God of steadfast love, fools say in their hearts: “There is no God.” May our words and our very lives prove that we are not foolish. May our faith be as constant as the North Star, and may others know that we are Christians by our love. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

God of our hopes and dreams, we are empty, and long to be filled; we are hungry, and long to be fed; we are lost, and long to be found.

Invite us once more to eat our fill and find our true nourishment in Jesus, the bread of heaven.

Just as Jesus gathered up the fragments of the five loaves and two fish after feeding the five thousand, gather up the pieces of our lives and shelter us in your love. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

As God restored the fortunes of Zion, exiles were like people who dream— people filled with rejoicing and gladness. As God restores our fortunes, let us join their glad song and their rejoicing.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

In response to the love, we have found in Christ—a love that passes all understanding—let us share signs of Christ’s peace.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.) 

Offering

Caretaker of our souls, in your love, nothing is lost. As Jesus gathered the leftover food after feeding the five thousand, gather our offerings into your service. As Jesus gathered the longing of those who looked to him to be their king, gather our longing to do your will. As Jesus gathered the outcasts to your heavenly banquet, gather our fellowship into your host of saints. Bless the gifts we have gathered in your name, that nothing may be lost, and that everything may be gained. Amen. 

Hymn 650: Brother, sister, let me serve you.

                 (Tune – Servant Song)  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JahFRDrSCs              

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            2 Samuel 11:1-15

The Gospel Reading:                                        John 6:1-21

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

2 Samuel 11:1-15

1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ 4 So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’ 6 So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house’, David said to Uriah, ‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?’ 11 Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.’ 12 Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So, Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’ 

John 6:1-21

1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10 Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also, the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’ 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going. 

Preaching of the Word - Of Cabbages and Kings.

The world is a hungry place. People are hungry for food, for jobs, for love, for care, for leadership that cares. The list of our hunger goes on and on. What the Bible knows is what we all know – all of our hunger centres around a spiritual void. We are hungry for God. That hunger is very real, and yet we deceive ourselves into believing we can feed that hunger with other things such as food, money, fancy clothes, fancy cars, more technology, more stuff.

We accumulate so much stuff, stuff that we believe says something about who we are – stuff that we somehow mistaken for who and what we are. We accumulate so much stuff that our homes overflow with stuff, until we have to go beyond the home and rent storage spaces. That is, we have to store the excess amount of our self somewhere else, so that our self becomes fragmented, separated into different places. We become a problem to ourselves – or what we believe is what we are, what defines us: the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the cars we drive and so forth.

This, in all likelihood, is mostly a Western civilisation problem. It is a problem driven by our desire to be like everybody else – especially those who have more than we have. And it is becoming a worldwide problem, as our principal export is a lifestyle based on the accumulation of more and more stuff. The whole world desires to be just like us.

This is all driven by a belief that there is not enough stuff in this world, so we had better stockpile as much as possible for ourselves. This perceived scarcity of stuff leads to trade imbalances, the stealing of resources from other parts of the world, and eventually manifests itself in trade wars that can soon turn into outright warfare. So, then we need to accumulate more resources, more stuff, dedicated to the protection of what we already have. We end up demanding leaders who can assure us that our stuff will remain ours forever and ever.

Into such a world steps Jesus. Rome had conquered Israel and turned it into a client state, exporting all its goods to other parts of the empire, and charging outrageous taxes on those goods at the same time. It was a dangerous time to be a client of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rome demanded full loyalty.

So along comes Jesus. The Jesus in John is declared from the first verse of the fourth gospel as God – the Word, the logos – in the flesh. Indeed, this is the only way to make sense of someone who can take five barley loaves and a couple of fish and feed thousands of people with lots and lots of leftovers! Barley loaves, as opposed to wheat loaves, is the food of the poor. The lesson here is quite simple, and yet one that we refuse to accept: The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. (NZ produces enough food for 40 million people but unable to feed own 4 million at reasonable cost for all)

A mighty big “if.”

Meanwhile, the people try to make him king. That would seem to be appealing. Look at how people in every conceivable human community clamour to become king. Right now, we are looking at two individuals who will marshal millions if not billions of dollars for the right to become or remain “king.” Look around the world where competing individuals and groups of individuals resort to violence to gain and maintain a position that reflects “kingship.”

Then look at Jesus. Nothing doing. As soon as there is a hint that the people might make him the next king, he sneaks off to be alone. Why, might we ask ourselves? It might have saved him having to go to Jerusalem only to be crucified, dead and buried. Why would he turn his back on what others count as the ultimate goal?

Here we may do well to recall that Jesus appears to have studied scripture pretty carefully. At every possible turn of events, he can marshal quotations from every corner of Hebrew scripture. So, no doubt at this juncture he very well may have the eighth chapter of the First Book of Samuel in mind. This is the episode when Israel demanded that the boy prophet Samuel appeal to God to give them a king – because, after all, they reasoned, all the surrounding countries have kings, so they should have one too.

This signalled a lack of trust in the God of the Exodus, who up to this pivotal moment, had raised up judges to pull the tribes together in times of great danger. When the danger passed, so did the judge, and people went back to life in their tribal clans with their diffuse political connections. But at the time of Samuel, with threats from surrounding kingdoms, the people demanded a king to unite them and make them strong. God tried to dissuade Samuel. Samuel tried to dissuade the people in chapter 8 of First Samuel, saying, in effect, “A king will take your sons and make them soldiers and send them to war; and take your daughters and make them his servants; he will take your fields and produce, and tax you on all of it; until you will wish you had never asked for a king, but by then it will be too late.”

But the people persisted, and God gave them Saul, which did not work out particularly well. And then David, and, well, look at what happened to David in this Sunday’s episode in 2 Samuel 11:1-15. After failing to pull off a cover- up of his indiscretion with Bathsheba, he used his authority of the military to have her husband Uriah killed in battle. Under the reign of Solomon, the kind of consolidation of power and goods becomes so acute that the people attempted a social revolution, so unhappy were they with their once-desired king.

Verna Dozier, a wise lay leader in the Episcopal Church, in her book “The Dream of God,” called this demand for a king the “Second Fall” after the episode in the Garden of Eden. The third fall happens early in the life of the church, at the time of Constantine, when the church goes from being an alternative to the Empire and allows itself to become the Empire – the Church becomes king. The impulse is the same in 2 Samuel as it is under Constantine – we want to be like everybody else. And yet, to this day we are still looking for a way out of being an Imperial Church and somehow find our way back to the very beginning.

For as anyone can see, Jesus will have none of it. And yet, we continue to hitch our wagons, our stars, our souls and our very being, to the belief that with just the right “king” all shall be well.

We find ourselves clinging to models of leadership and institutional power that the Bible repeatedly warns us against. And we wonder why it no longer works. Again, read about David and the so-called Wise One, Solomon, and see how quickly it all fell apart even then, approximately 900 years before Jesus.

It is no wonder that God decided the only way to get our attention was to come down himself and be one of us. God in Christ invites us once and for all to give up any notions that being like everybody else has any life-giving sustainability. The accumulation of power and stuff will never fill the spiritual void that keeps us from becoming the people God wants us to be.

Our portion of the gospel today ends with the disciples heading off in a boat across the sea. They run into rough waters and high winds. When all seems about lost, Jesus appears. The text is not entirely clear – it could mean he was walking on the water, but it can also mean he was “on the seashore.” So, we can read this to say there he was, on the shore, to welcome them ashore when after much hard work and treacherous time they approached him and the shore. He simply says, “Be not afraid.” Note, as soon as they see him, as soon as he says this, they are immediately safe ashore!

Can it be that for St. John the meaning is to be found in the peace that pertains once we willingly receive Jesus to be our companion? Companion – literally, one with whom we share bread. He who is the Bread of Life, the Bread from Heaven, the True Bread – our manna, our sustenance, our daily bread. As theologian and former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said, “Christ is the guide of life whom we follow in the strength that He supplies into the way of Peace.”

That’s pretty much it. We can continue to trust in our appointed and elected leaders, and trust in the accumulation of more and more stuff. Or we can trust in Jesus, who withdraws again to the mountain to be alone.

What if we were to withdraw day by day to be alone with Jesus? How might we allow him to be our daily bread? The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. Once we trust in the Lord, we will find ourselves on the other shore, safe and secure from all alarm with nothing to fear. Our deepest and true hunger can and will be satisfied, if only we will continue to use oars and row our way to the other side – his side – to the country that needs no king. 

Hymn 256: The Servant King.

                  (Tune – Servant King) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCAdWs-ZyEk

Intercessory Prayers  

Pentecost 9 Sunday – Year B

God our Creator, we give you thanks that you disclose yourself to us in all the mysteries of your creation.

We pray for your beautiful, broken world: for all who live in places of war, disease, degradation or famine; for leaders of nations and for all who work to alleviate the misery of others.

As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for food, for security, for wisdom, justice and peace. Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Redeemer, we give you thanks that you, come to us in the person of Jesus, feeding us with your body and blood.

We pray for your church: for those who eat at your table and those excluded from your fellowship; for the people of this congregation and for all who minister here in your name.

As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger to know your good news of forgiveness and grace.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Companion, we give you thanks that you come to us in the joy of human relationships.

We pray for all with whom we share our lives: for our families, our friends and those with whom we work and play; for the people of this community, for the homeless, and the unemployed.

As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for dignity, acceptance and love.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Healer, we give you thanks that you come to us in the dark and lonely places of our lives.

We pray for all in trouble or distress: for the friendless and unwanted and those who mourn the loss of loved ones; for those whose bodies ache, whose minds are confused, whose spirits are sad. We pray for the sick and the dying and for all who minister to them. As you fed your people of old, feed today your people, who hunger for hope and healing, comfort and consolation.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God our Lover, we give you thanks that in life and in death you hold us in your embrace.

We give you thanks for all who have loved and followed you.

As you fed your faithful people of old, feed us today, who hunger for your presence, and at our life's end bring us, with all your saints, to eat at your heavenly table.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn 690: Beauty for Brokenness (God of the poor)

                 (Tune – Beauty for Brokenness) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMffJsEjcxE 

          Benediction

        Go to follow Jesus, who gives us the bread of life.

        Go to walk in the ways of Christ, who strengthens us in our inner being through the power of the Holy Spirit.

        Go to serve our living Lord, who gathers the fragments of our lives, that nothing may be lost.

        Go with the love of God our creator, redeemer and giver of life. Amen. 

Hymn 778: Shalom to you now.

                 (Tune – Somos Del Senor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiH_HdkWs74



Thursday, 8 July 2021

Marsden Road Uniting Worship for end of NAIDOC Week - Pentecost 7 HC Sunday 11 July 2021


 Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

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Being Gathered Up,

End of NAIDOC Week

Pentecost 7 Sunday HC - year of Mark 

 Gathering God’s People       

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

 Call to Worship        

Our land is alive with the glory of God;

desert sands hum and gum trees dance.

Brown grasses sing

and mountains breathe their stillness.

All created things add their rhythms of delight

and even stones rap out their praise.

 

Let our voices mingle with those of the earth;

may our hearts join the beat of her joy,

for our triune God is with us:

the source of all being surrounds and upholds us.

Christ Jesus walks beside and before us.

The Spirit moves within and between us.

Blessed be God, our wonder and delight.

                                            By Rev Dr Jenny Tymms.   

Hymn TIS 149: This world belongs to God.

                        (tune – Mercer Street) 

     Opening Prayer

God of Holy Dreaming, Great Creator Spirit, from the dawn of creation you have given your children the good things of Mother Earth. You spoke and the gum tree grew. In the vast desert and dense forest, and in cities at the water's edge, Creation sings your praise. Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our Land. When Jesus hung on the tree you heard the cries of all your people and became one with your wounded ones: the convicts, the hunted, the dispossessed. The sunrise of your Son coloured the earth anew and bathed it in glorious hope. In Jesus we have been reconciled to you, to each other and to your whole creation.  Lead us on, Great Spirit, as we gather from the four corners of the earth; enable us to walk together in trust from the hurt and shame of the past into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ. Amen.

                   By Aunty Rev'd Lenore Parker - used with permission 

Prayer of Confession 

God of relationship, you have given us communities filled with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours, all created in your image.

Yet, too often, we find ourselves taking this gift of companionship for granted.

We criticise those closest to us, and even those we have not met.

We are envious of others’ success.

We find ourselves stuck in an attitude of judgment rather than a posture of praise.

We excel at finding fault and are reluctant to seek common ground.

Forgive us for thinking the worst of others, of ourselves, and some-times even of you.

Increase our faith, so that when we look upon the face of others, we see the face of Christ. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

Our need to be superior has been met by the one who was willing to be misunderstood, dishonoured, criticised, and unfairly condemned. Christ emptied himself for our sake, opening to us the fullness of life with God – reconciled and redeemed.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Called to be an honour to God’s glory, let’s honour one another with signs of peace and with words of love.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.) 

Offering Prayer

Glorious God, we thank you for trusting us to reflect your glory. For claiming us as your own with all of creation, we give you thanks and praise. As you receive these gifts and offerings, receive us also. Blessing all together, that our gifts and our lives might be a blessing that honours and glorifies you. 

Hymn TIS 459: In Christ there is No East or West.                                  

                       (tune – McKee)

                                    The Service of Holy Communion 

The Great Thanksgiving 

The Lord be with you.

And also, with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

Worship and praise belong to you, God our maker. Out of nothing, you called all worlds to be, and still, you draw the universe to its fulfilment. Dawn and evening celebrate your glory till time shall be no more. In Christ, your Son the life of heaven and earth were joined, sealing the promise of a new creation, given, yet still to come. Taught by your Spirit, we who bear your threefold likeness look for the City of Peace in whose light we are transfigured, and the earth transformed. As children of your redeeming purpose who await the coming of your Son, we offer you our praise, with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven singing the hymn of your unending glory:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Holy God, we thank you for these gifts of your creation, this bread and wine, and we pray that we who eat and drink them in obedience to our Saviour Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may be partakers of his body and blood, and be made one with him and with each other in peace and love. On the night he was betrayed Jesus took bread; and when he had given you thanks, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take, eat. This is my body given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' After supper, he took the cup, and again giving you thanks he gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For the love you taught us, the sacrifice you made for us and the hope you give us, we acclaim you, O Christ:

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again!

And now, faithful God, send us your Spirit to feed us with the body and the blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Make us one body in Christ. Send us as your messengers in the world and fill us with energy, courage, and love. Now to you, most holy God, through Christ your Son and in the Spirit’s power, we bring our worship and our songs of praise:

Blessing and honour and glory and power are yours for ever and ever. Amen.    

The Breaking of the Bread

We break this bread and take this cup so that we can all share in the life of Christ. God's gifts for God's people. 

Thanks, be to God. 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

grant us peace. 

Invitation to Communion

As tangible as grain plucked by Jesus and his disciples, as mysterious as the Presence known by our faithful ancestors, so is the meal we are about to share. Let us open our hearts and hands, as we remember and partake together. 

Prayer after Communion

This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from this table, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen. 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            2 Samuel 6:1-5,12b-19

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 6:14-29

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

2 Samuel 6:1-5,12b-19

1 David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. 3 They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart 4 with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. 5 David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. 12 It was told King David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So, David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; 13 and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. 14 David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. 17 They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. 18 When David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, 19 and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes. 

Mark 6:14-29   

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason, these powers are at work in him.’ 15 But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ 17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, ‘Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.’ 23 And he solemnly swore to her, ‘Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.’ 24 She went out and said to her mother, ‘What should I ask for?’ She replied, ‘The head of John the baptizer.’ 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, ‘I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.’ 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Preaching of the Word - Being Gathered Up,

“John, whom I’ve beheaded, has been raised!”

Herod must have been terrified. A man like Herod, who relied on treachery, questionable political moves, the power gained through wealth, is confronted with his worst nightmare. He knew John was dead. He saw his head – yes, through a haze of drunkenness – but he saw the head.

But this Jesus, obviously a man of power himself, is becoming known throughout Herod’s kingdom. Who is he? Could it really be John, raised from the dead? John, the man Herod killed because of a grudge, a grudge he held against him for telling the truth.

How incredibly sad. How very tragic. And yet, because of what we’ve seen in our own lifetimes of the consequence of misused power, political greed and society’s belief that “it’s all about me,” we have to realize Herod has something to teach us.

Herod is an interesting character. What Benedict Arnold is to the word “traitor,” the name Herod has become to the word “evil,” but a sad kind of evil. In Herod we see a man desperate to be king. He killed his own relatives to gain the throne and then surrounded himself with sycophants, men who would use Herod’s favour to garner their own power.

The parties given by the king were as sick and sad as the participants were – days of feasting and uncontrolled drinking, entertainment that was sometimes less than respectable. Into this sad state of the political life of Israel, John the Baptiser dropped the embarrassing and dangerous truth. For this John lost his life because Herod’s character was terribly weak.

So, today’s gospel tells us that this same Herod, who thought he had gotten rid of his adversary John, is now faced with a new adversary, Jesus. Herod had to be frightened. Who is this man he was hearing so much about? Could John have come back from the dead to haunt him, or was this someone new who would challenge his authority?

We know the answer and Herod would soon find out. Jesus was soon known by most as a man who taught with authority, who spoke the truth without fear, and who preached a return to faith by all if they were to be truly children of God. And this Jesus broke the roles and rules made up by weak men who were afraid of losing power.

While today’s gospel passage is mostly a bit of history, we are reminded of the amazing gifts we are given because God loves us. Instead of being afraid that Jesus is John raised from the dead, we find that God’s grace is being lavished on us! None of these things is a worldly gift. These gifts give us a spiritual authority and power that we must use to do good and to spread the Good News among our brothers and sisters.

There’s no comparison between this kind of power and authority and that of people such as Herod and Pilate. Those people built their power on fear and treachery. Our power comes from the deep and abiding love of God. Paul tells us that with all wisdom and insight, God has made known to us the mystery of his will. That will, is simply that God wants to gather up all things in heaven and on earth into Himself. It is our inheritance. The question is, do we want this? Is being gathered up into God’s love enough for us?

We have to ask that question seriously and truthfully. What does it mean to be gathered up into God here on earth? It’s all fine and good to think about that being what happens in heaven, where all is supposed to be perfect love and union with God. But don’t we often find that people still think that in heaven it will be “me and Jesus”? We seem to be fixated, here on earth, with deciding who gets there and who doesn’t.

Let’s be honest about that. We want to be able to judge who gets there and who doesn’t. We too often forget that Jesus constantly talked about the kingdom of God being right here, right now, too. Wait a minute – that means we ought to be living in this abiding love right now, with everyone.

But we are surrounded still with people like Herod and Pilate. People are fighting for power, literally – killing innocent people just to keep control over land and the gifts of the land. We can’t get away from it. The TV and newspapers inundate us with images and blaring headlines that would kill any thought of living in love and peace we might have.

And then, if we’re honest, we, too, want some control. We want to have power; it’s what society tells us is important.

Maybe this gospel about Herod is getting a little too close to home. It’s no longer just a history lesson, it’s a moral lesson, and we may find ourselves coming up short. We must want to be delighted in the thought that God lavishes his grace on us – pours it out joyfully – if only we’d be aware that it’s happening and learn to bathe ourselves in that abundance.

We might ask what the consequence would be if we could do this. It would change our lives. We might see the beauty in all God’s people and be willing to take their hands when solidarity for good is needed. We might see our churches begin to fill again because others would see our witness and want to share what we have. We’d learn to speak about our faith in convincing and inviting ways.

Unlike Herod and others like him, we wouldn’t have to fight and connive and fawn over others so that power would be ours to abuse; we have the power of a loving God supporting us. We have the inheritance of the saints in light. We have the example and teachings of Jesus to show us the way. It’s a much better power.

It’s a much more loving and peace-giving authority. We too can lavish our care on God’s world and on God’s people if we set our minds and hearts to it. Remember, such as St Paul tells us we are marked with seal of the Holy Spirit. We are destined to be God’s people here on earth. We can make no other choice. 

Hymn TIS 668: Touch the Earth Lightly.

                        (tune – Tenderness) 

Intercessory Prayers  

After the words:             In your mercy,

please respond with      hear our prayer. 

Pentecost 7 Sunday – Year B

Loving God, you know our needs and desires before we ask, and all our days are in your hands: hear the prayers we bring to you.

We pray for the world: for those who suffer because of war or civil strife; for those who are imprisoned, displaced, or dispossessed. When we are unmoved by the plight of others, when our greed keeps others poor, shake us from our complacency and restore us to life.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the church: for your priests and prophets and all who lead your people; for all who worship and minister in this place. When we are legalistic and lacking in love, when we are slow to recognise your voice or understand your word,

call us again by name and restore us to life.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our community: for those who have nowhere to live and too little to eat; for those without any work or means of support. When we are judgmental and mean-minded, when we are slow to compassion and swift to condemn,

unlock our hearts and restore us to life.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who suffer for those who do not know the love of family or friends; for the sick and the dying and all who mourn. When hearts are broken and spirits crushed, when bodies are crippled or racked with pain, touch us again with your love, and restore us to life.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died in your love, for all who have heard your voice and answered your call; for all whose yearly remembrance occurs at this time. Help us to follow the example of your faithful people and, when we come to the end of our earthly days, bring us with all your saints from death to everlasting life, that we may continue forever in your presence.

Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 672: Lord of Earth and All Creation.

                       (tune – Bennelong) 

          Benediction

        Brilliant children of light, go now to shine with God’s glory and love.

        We will shine brightly and love freely.

        Honor God with all that you say and do.

        We will make the world a better and a brighter place for all to live.

        Strap on your sandals and hit the road, my friends.

Shake off the dust of your complacency. Walk with a friend,

and travel light. Go, proclaiming Christ’s message of healing,

and hope. Go, declaring that hearts and lives can change!

Keep going, because Christ gives you authority. Go in the

name of Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.                                                                                                                (tune – Aubrey)