Epiphany4B.28.1.2018

Revd Rex A E Hunt

eMail: rexae@optusnet.com.au  OR  rexae74@gmail.com
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A GATHERING LITURGY FOR THE
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
28 January 2018. Epiphany 4B. (Green).
Celebrating the Jesus Banquet


Acknowledgement of Country/First Peoples
(An act towards reconciliation)

For thousands of years Indigenous people have walked
in this land, on their own country.
Their relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives.

We acknowledge the (NN) People and their stewardship
of this land throughout the ages.


(NN) is a safe place for all people to worship regardless of
race, creed, age, cultural background or sexual orientation


GATHERING

Gathering Music

Rich and Striking Visuals
        “The function of beauty… is to make us aware of a reality which is richer
        and deeper and more marvellous than anything we can dream or conceive.” (Henry N. Wieman)
        Artwork OR Floral/Symbols display (cloths, candles, stones, wood, leaves, flowers, earth, water) OR projection of Film/Slides 

Entry into the Celebration
The gong is sounded three times

We are the sisters and brothers of all that is,
cherishing the earth,
embracing its life.

So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

Lighting of the Community Candle
The Community Candle is lit

As we light our flame today, may it:
remind us of the ongoing process of evolution,
reminding us of the first gasping breath, the first clumsy step,
the first drop of warm milk, the first curious thought…

All these are wonders of the Universe.  (Adapt.JCH. Public domain)

Note: (i) A suggested process for introducing new hymns, called Hymn of the Month, can be found HERE
(ii) Additional Special Purpose Hymns that cover major international events or themes can be found HERE  They include these categories: 1. Bush (Brush) Fire, 2. Tsunami, Storms/Cyclones, 3. Earthquakes, 4. War/Remembrance, 5. Caregiving, 6. God as Mother, 7. Human Trafficking, 8. Disabled, 9. Migration/Refugees, 10. Terrorist Attacks, 11. Science/Cosmology
(iii) PLUS some specific resources on Terrorism HERE

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
God of the Northerlies"  (Tune: ‘Matangi’ 10 10 6 10)    45 HoS
God of the northerlies, giver of grace;
warm and enveloping, fill every place.
Nurture the earth, water the seeds.
God of the northerlies, fulfil our needs.

Christ of the easterlies, life-giving Son;
earthly, renewing, in you we are one.
Hope is reborn, changing our hearts.
Christ of the easterlies, your peace impart.

Spirit of westerlies, gust through our lives;
shaking, disturbing the scheme we devise.
Teach us your truth, gift us your word,
God of the westerlies, faithfulness stirred.

God of the southerlies, polar defined,
crisply and sharply reshaping our minds.
Challenge our ways, strengthen our wills.
God of the southerlies, your love fulfils.

God of the north and the east, south and west,
*Creative Process, by whom we are blest,
breeze through our lives, earnest and strong;
Spirit, keep blowing and lure us along.  (Bill Bennett/*Last verse adapted, RAEH)

OR

"Morning Has Broken”  (Tune: ‘Bunessan’, 55 54D)    156 TiS
Morning has broken
like the first morning;
blackbird has spoken
like the first bird.
Praise for the singing,
praise for the morning,
praise for them, springing
fresh from the word.

Sweet the rain’s new fall
sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall
on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
of the wet garden,
sprung from completeness
where his feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight;
mine is the morning
born of the one light
Eden saw play.
Praise with elation,
praise every morning,
God’s recreation
of the new day.  (Eleanor Farjeon)
Remain standing after hymn

Opening Sentences
God, who sets us on a journey
to discover, dream and grow,
All
stir the spirit, stretch our minds,
grant the vision that we lack.

Exploration brings new insights, changes,
choices we must face;
All give us wisdom in deciding,
give us courage for the journey,
cherish only what's essential,
All
there can be no turning back.  (Adapt./JDine/ffs)

Act of Awareness
If we can see what is happening today,
we will know much about the past and the future.
But if we can see the people with whom we live,
we will know much about humanity.  (Adapt.Kenneth L Patton/sscl)

OR

We pray:
Excite our hearts and minds, Creative Life Source,
to trace new truths,
to catch creation's flair,
and to live within the contexts of compassion and care.
May it be so with us.

Hymn  "Arms Only For Embracing"
My child, I want a world for you
we have not had before
where people build community
and no-one thinks of war,
where people use their arms only for embracing.

My child, I see a world that's just
where all can dwell secure,
a world where need and hunger cease
'cause people help the poor,
and want to use their arms only for embracing.

My child, I wish you could grow up
untouched by greed and hate,
within a world community
that's whole and unafraid,
since people use their arms only for embracing.

My child, I want to rest assured
that after I am gone,
more generations fill the earth
and life continues on,
'cause people use their arms only for embracing...

We ought to use our arms only for embracing.  (Ingrid Rogers)

OR

Where Wide Sky Rolls Down”  (Tune: ‘Hanover’, 55 55 65 65)   188 TiS
Where wide sky rolls down and touches red sand,
where sun turns to gold the grass of the land,
let spinifex, mulga and waterhole tell
their joy in the One who made everything well.

Where rain-forest calm meets reef, tide and storm,
where green things grow lush and oceans are warm,
let every sea-creature and tropical bird
exult in the light of the life-giving Word.

Where red gum and creek cross hillside and plain,
where cool tree-ferns rise to welcome the rain,
let bushland, farm, mountain-top, all of their days
delight in the Spirit who formed them for praise.

Now, people of faith, come gather around
with songs to be shared, for blessings abound!
Australians, whatever your culture or race, 
come, lift up your hearts to the Giver of grace.  
Elizabeth J Smith
People sit

Welcome
In your own words

A warm welcome is extended to all.
Especially those who are here at (NN) for the first time
or who have returned after an absence.

Your presence both enriches us, and this time of celebration together.
Refer to printed liturgy.
Those visiting, please sign our Visitors book.
Fellowship hour following worship.

CENTERING

Reflection
“To God, to the Source, to Yourself”
By Eckhart Tolle. A New Earth.

Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird,
could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself.

When you look at it or hold it and let it be
without imposing a word or mental label on it,
a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within  you.

Its essence silently communicates itself to you
and reflects your own essence back to you.

This is what great artists sense and succeed
in conveying in their art.
Van Gogh didn’t say: “That’s an old chair.”
He looked, and looked, and looked.
He sensed the Beingness of the chair.

Then he sat in front of the canvas and took up the brush.

The chair itself would have sold for the equivalent of a few dollars.
The painting of that same chair today would fetch in excess of $25 million.

Centering Silence
Now, in the quiet of this day and the safety of this place
we take this moment to sit in silence:
to give thanks for another day;
to give thanks for all those in our lives
who have brought us warmth and love;
and to give thanks for the gift of life.
(Silence)

Music of Reflection

EXPLORING

Reading from our Biblical Tradition
A story from one of the early Jesus Movement communities
shall now be told.  Our reader is (NN).

Traditional Gospel:
Mark 1:21-28  (Inclusive Text)

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum and as soon as the sabbath came
Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach.

And the teaching made a deep impression on them
because, unlike the scribes, Jesus taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was someone
possessed with an unclean spirit, and it shouted,
'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are: the Holy One of God.'

But Jesus said sharply, 'Be quiet!  Come out!’
And the unclean spirit threw the person into convulsions
and with a loud cry went out.

The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant.
'Here is a teaching that is new' they said, and
'with authority behind it: this teacher gives orders
even to unclean spirits and they obey.'

And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere,
through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

FYI: Some notes on Capernaum
While we cannot be sure how long his public activity lasted, Capernaum seems to have been the base for Jesus' activities prior to his final trip to Jerusalem.  John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) devote several pages to a discussion of Capernaum in the First Century (pp. 81-97).  The most salient features to note are as follows:

• POPULATION: around 1,000 persons on 25 acres of land

• BUILDINGS: none of the Greco-Roman architecture of a significant urban center: no gates, no defensive fortifications, no civic structures (theater, amphitheater, hippodrome), no public bathhouse, no public latrine, no basilica for civic gatherings or commercial activities, no constructed agora (market) with shops and storage facilities

• STREETS: no sign of planning in layout of streets, no streets appear to have been paved, no channels for running water, sewage disposed on the site, no plaster surfaces, no decorative fresco, no marble of any kind, no ceramic roof tiles (contra Luke 5:19)

• INSCRIPTIONS: none from 1C or earlier have been found

• HOUSES: used local dark basalt, crooked wooden beams, straw, reeds, mud.  Poor quality of construction.  No evidence of skilled craftsmen.  Mostly single storey and with thatched roofs (as implied in Mark's version of Jesus healing a paralyzed man).  Several abutting rooms centered around a courtyard, usually just a single entrance

• BOATS: lakeside location supported a fishing industry, but town shows no evidence of wealth.  The discovery of a 1C fishing boat in 1986 (during a drought that lowered the water level) confirms the impression of a community struggling to survive but with considerable ingenuity in making the most of limited resources

Dr Greg Jenks also writes: In one of his classic turns of phrase, Crossan describes Capernaum as "not a sought-after spot, but a good place to get away from, with easy access across the Sea of Galilee to any side." (p. 81)

Contemporary Exploration

Silence for Personal Reflection

AFFIRMING

Epiphany Litany (Optional)
In response to the word reflected on, let us stand
and share together an Epiphany litany.
The people stand as they are able

v1  There is a song in the air
v2  There is a star in the heavens
v3  There is a lowly stable
All  There is a child to meet.

v1  Let us bring our gifts
v2  Let us honour this child
v3  Let us follow the light coming from where he sleeps
All  Let us seek blessings for our journey 
through the wilderness.

v1  May we be held in the palm of God’s hand
v2  May we keep the light before us
v3  May we know the gift that the Christ Child gives to us
All  May we know the love of the Messiah in our journeying!
(Unknown)

OR

The Canberra Affirmation  (Optional)
In response to the word reflected on, let us stand
and affirm and celebrate some common understandings
which continue to shape our lives, as
expressed in The Canberra Affirmation...
People stand, as they are able

v1 We celebrate that our lives are continually evolving
in a web of relationships:
continuous with historical humans and their societies;
with other forms of life;
and with the ‘creativity’ present at the origins of the universe.
All  Over billions of years this ‘creativity’ –
the coming into being of the new and the novel –
has undergone countless transformations,
and we and all other life forms are its emerging products.

Thus we are called to live in community,
All  respecting all human beings, all life forms,
our planet and universe.

v2 We affirm there is a presentness in the midst of our lives,
sensed as both within and beyond ourselves,
which can transform our experiences of this earth and each other.
All  Various imaginative ideas have been used
to describe this presentness:
‘God’, ‘Sacred’, ‘Love’, ‘Spirit of Life’.

We recognise all attempts at understanding
and attributing meaning are shaped
by prevailing thoughts and culture.
All  Ultimately our response can only be as awe-inspiring mystery
beyond the limits of our ability to understand
our world and ourselves.

v1 We honor the one called Jesus,
a first century Galilean Jewish sage,
nurtured by his religious tradition.
All  A visionary and wisdom teacher, he invited others
through distinctive oral sayings and parables about
integrity, justice, and inclusiveness,
and an open table fellowship,
to adopt and trust a re-imagined vision
of the ‘sacred’, of one’s neighbour, of life.

v1 As we too share in this vision,
All  we affirm the significance of his life and teachings,
while claiming to be ‘followers of Jesus’.

v2 We receive the Hebrew and Christian scriptures
known as the Bible, as a collection of human documents
rich in historical memory and religious interpretation,
All  which describe attempts to address
and respond to the ‘sacred’.
It forms an indispensable part of our tradition
and personal journeys.

v2  We claim the right and responsibility
to question and interpret its texts,
empowered by critical biblical scholarship
as well as from our own life experiences.
All  We accept that other sources - stories, poems and songs -
imaginative pictures of human life both modern and ancient,
can nurture us and others,
in a celebration of the ‘sacred’ in life.

v1  We recognise there are many paths to the ‘sacred’.
All  We respect the diversity and pluralism of truth-claims,
often in the midst of serious disagreement.

v1  In and with this diversity we honor the integrity
and meaning of each religious tradition
and the people who practice them.
All  We reject all attempts to convert others
to any fixed body of belief which they would not come to
through their own open, free,
and considered explorations.

v2  We acknowledge that a transformative path
of inclusion and integrity involves living
responsible and compassionate lives
in community with others.
All  Such a path asks us to adopt values supporting
social equality and connectedness.

v2  It entails non-violent peacemaking and considered forgiveness.
All  It invites passion and action for social justice,
and stewardship of the earth and all its life forms.

v2  It encourages humour, challenge, and acts of generosity.
All  At its centre is an awareness of oneness:
one with the ‘sacred’,
with ourselves,
with others,
with the universe.  
(Hunt & Smith/wwwt)

Sharing 'The Peace'
v1 The Kingdom is not a thing to be observed,
but the experience of God within human activity.
John Shea
v2  May a heart of peace rest with you. (David Galston/q)
All  And also with you.

You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours

Hymn  People stand as they are able, to sing
Great God Of All Creation(Tune: ‘King Lynn’ 76 76D)
Great God of all creation,
bright as the morning sun,
our dawning praise is rising,
our daily work begun.
A quiet blade is growing,
up from the rich, dark earth,
the life that once was hidden
is springing into birth.

The land is always changing,
it bears our human mark,
idyllic scenes are hiding
a life that's hard and stark.
A lack of understanding
of all we do and share,
obscures the deprivation
that's hardly hidden there.

We work within the compass
that nature will allow,
we follow through the seasons,
we harrow, seed or plough.
O holy one of heaven,
as stewards, give us grace,
to care for your creation,
to value country space. © Andrew Pratt

OR

"All-Present, All-Visible, Source of All Life" (Tune: ‘Immortal, Invisible’)
All-present, all-visible, Source of all life,

Within and around us, through joy and through strife.
Most Sacred, Eternal, You move on the earth,

You beckon and call forth new life and new birth.

Enlivened, extravagant, Sower of seeds,

Abundant, abounding, Your mercy exceeds.
Unhindered, unbridled, you shine forth your grace,
That we may do likewise, revealing Your face.



You care for Creation, O Mother of all,

Great mountains, clear waters, and flowers so small.

The earth is Your temple, for all life to share,

So help us be stewards of healing and care.



Transcendent, uncharted, and still close at hand,
Encompassing people from near and far lands.
Within each new moment, throughout life and death,

Your praises are sung out from all that has breath!  
(SKlosterboer/p&f)
People sit

Reflections and Prayers
Care Candle:
We are people of all ages who enter this space
bringing our joys and concerns.
Joys and Celebrations; Griefs and Concerns shared

Focused Thoughts:

Listening Response:
May we today be touched by grace.
May we move beyond viewing this life

only through a frame,

Wm  but touch and be touched by it,
Mn know it and be known by it,

All  Love it, and be loved by it.  (Chinook Psalter/ep)

And so we take this flame and light our special care candle...
The Care Candle is lit

v2  May we find in this day
an awareness of the freedom we are given
to know life unshackled from fear,
v1  and embrace the possibilities of the present,
with every breath we take. (Gretta Vosper/ab)

The 'Abba’ Prayer:  (Optional)
You are invited to pray in the spirit of the Abba/Lords Prayer, in your original language, as appropriate

All  Father, may your name be holy.
May your rule take place.
Give us each day our daily bread.

Pardon our debts, for we ourselves pardon
everyone in debt to us.

And do not bring us to trial
into a trying situation.  (Burton Mack/Q) 

CELEBRATING

THE LITURGY OF THE BANQUET
 2 (Waiting on the Light)
Offerings

Let us bring our offerings and our gifts of bread and wine
…
From each according to ability.
All
To each according to need.  (David Galston/q).

Welcome
Welcome to this banqueting table.
This is a table of hospitality, of sharing, and of celebration.

We break bread and pour wine
because these are the gifts that strengthen
our journey together.

Remembering our Common Humanity
v1 We remember and honour the justice imperative
that is the biblical heritage:
justice is not belief but action,
not silence but voice,
not tolerance but compassion.

v2 A banquet reminds us of our common humanity
and our common need for just relationships.
All  
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you,
what merit is there in that?
An outlaw can do the same thing.

And if you give only to those who give back to you,
do you really expect congratulations?
Rather, love your enemies, do good,
and lend without expecting anything in return.”

Bread and Wine
v1 The call to follow justice is easy to issue,
but the resolve to follow justice is difficult to muster.
Together, let us be a community
that not only issues the word
but follows the dictate.

v2 May our community be one that holds
the strength of compassion and the resolve to act.
May we be a people who unites
our words with our deeds.
All  
For the dignity of life and the hope of humanity, may it be so.

v1 We break bread as an act of solidarity.
We pour wine as an act of sharing.

Welcome to this banquet celebration.
You are invited to participate.  (David Galston/q).
Bread,Wine, and Conversation

SCATTERING

Hymn "I Am That Great and Fiery Force(Tune: ‘Duke St.’ 88 88)     27 (v1-2) SLT
I am that great and fiery force
sparkling in every thing that lives;
in shining of the river's course,
in greening grass that glory gives.

I shine in glitter on the seas,
in burning sun, in moon and stars.
In unseen wind, in verdant trees
I breathe within, both near and far.
Remain standing

Parting Words
The Creativity of God is never confined to this sacred place.
So go and travel with the God
who is found in ordinary and surprising places.
The Community Candle is extinguished

We receive fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity,
brief moments of insight.
All  Let us gather them up 
for the precious gifts that they are and,
renewed by their grace,
move boldly into the unknown.
SCampbell/slt

Words of Blessing
May you be wholly present in your own life
ready to be surprised by the wonder
of each ordinary moment. 
(JMead/bb)
All
Amen. May it be so.

Hymn (Cont)  "I Am That Great and Fiery Force(Tune: ‘Duke St.’ 88 88. 439 TiS)    27 (v3) SLT
And where I breathe there is no death,
and meadows glow with beauties rife.
I am in all, the spirit's breath,
the thundered word, for I am Life. 
Hildegard of Bingen, 12th Cent.
The people sit after the hymn

'This Week' at (NN)
Notices
Birthdays and anniversaries
Significant events
Journey candles

Music

Fellowship
Morning tea is now served.
You are invited to share in this time of fellowship.


You are invited to keep this copy of the liturgy and take it home with you
to share with another member of your family, or with a friend

I recommend the use of
LicenSing - Copyright cleared music for churches


Some of the Resources used in Shaping this Liturgy:
Burgess, R. A Book of Blessings. Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications, 2001.
Faith Forever Singing. Songs for a New Day. Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2000.
(HoS) Hope Is Our Song. New Hymns and Songs from Aotearoa New Zealand. Palmerston North. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2009.
Hunt, R. A. E. & Smith, J. W. H. (ed). Why Weren’t We Told? A Handbook on Progressive Christianity. Salem. Polebridge Press, 2013.
Inclusive Readings. Year B. Brisbane. Inclusive Language Project. In private circulation, 2005.
Mack, B. L. The Lost Gospel. The Book of Q and Christian Origins. New York. HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.
Macnab, F. A Fine Wind is Blowing: Psalms of the Bible in words that blow you away. Richmond. Spectrum Publications, 2006.
Patton, K. 1967. Services and Songs for the Celebration of Life. Boston: Beacon Press.
Roberts, E. & E. Amidon.
Earth Prayers from Around the World. 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth. New York. HarperCollins, 1991.
Shea, J.
Gospel Light. Jesus Stories for Spiritual Consciousness. New York. The Crossroad Publishing Co., 1998.
(SLT) Singing the Living Tradition. Boston. UUA, 1993.
(TiS) Together in Song. Australian Hymn Book 2. Sydney. HarperCollins Religious, 1999.
Tolle, E. A New Earth: Awakening to your life's purpose. London. Penguin, 2008.
Vosper, G. Another Breath. Prayers for celebration and reflection. Brisbane. The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought Brisbane, 2009/2010.


Web Sites/Other:

"All Present All-Visible". S Klosterboer. Process & Faith.  http://processandfaith.org/resources/liturgy/hymn-creation-sunday
"Great God of All Creation". Andrew Pratt. Direct from the author.
"Arms Only For Embracing". Ingrid Rogers. 'UUA World' 1982.
David Galston. Quest Learning Centre for Religious Literacy. http://www.questcentre.ca/

rexae74@gmail.com