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Everyone belongs – no-one stands alone

15 March 2022

You may like to watch this video first before reading the blog.

He Reached Down

Davina - Good morning – and a warm welcome to you all.

Jesus said - As I have loved you, love one another

Introduction:

 

Davina:  Lent is a journey

The six weeks of Lent are a journey, a journey where we are invited to take a break from our normal routines so that we can refocus our lives on God. It allows us to rehearse the Gospel again as we journey with Jesus to the cross, and ultimately to resurrection. But the season of Lent is often viewed as a confusing time. Many people have obediently observed the season for years without really knowing why it is important. This lack of understanding has led others to regard Lent with scepticism: it can seem like a hollow and bygone ritual that lacks true meaning. For many people, Lent is just a time of giving something up, of choosing to go without. Yet, the season of Lent should represent a potential and valuable time of renewal.

Even as God guides each of us on a personal Lenten journey, we should remember that we travel the journey of Lent together as a church family and as the family of God. We confess and receive forgiveness together. We lift one another up and guide each other toward faithfulness. Together, we walk with Jesus into death so that we can find true life through His resurrection.

Davina:  A witness of Grace

The season of Lent is a vital part of our Christian calendar, because it gives us a specific time to ask, “What are we living for?” Every year, Lent invites us to recognize the ways that we, as individuals and as the Church, have lived for ourselves rather than for God; for this world rather than for God’s Kingdom. 

This Lent let us journey together, let us be speakers and seekers of justice reflecting on the injustices that we see around us and ask what God is calling us to do about them. 

We suggest that our journey through Lent is one in which we seek a different world, a world of people who reflect God’s vision, a vision that all are created equal. 

Rather than ‘giving up’ things for Lent, maybe we should be looking at what we can ‘Give’, what we can work on, and what we can do better!

 

Donalda: An inclusive Community

Today’s service is focussed on one of Iona’s founding principles which is that of ‘connectedness’, of ‘oneness’ – which is about our relationship with God through our relationship with others – not only those who are our friends or family, but those we find difficult, those who are ‘different’ or those who walk a different road. So throughout Lent we can consider injustices, which relate to the big issues, but also injustices at home – how we relate to one another.

Members of the Iona Community commit themselves to many ethical principles but significantly they are dedicated to celebrating human diversity in all its guises and actively work to combat discrimination and injustice on grounds of age, colour, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation or religion. Acceptance of all - It is a totally inclusive community:

 

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Donalda: Reading: Ephesians 4: 1-6 

Donalda: And so, we pray:

Creator God, 

weaver of the world in all its variety, you know our warp and weft: the diverse colours of our opinion, 

the textures of our faith, you feel our quality, you touch our frayed edges, you accept us: you love us, different as we are

 

Christ of the seamless robe, again and again, we strip you and cast lots, arguing over material things,

missing the meaning of ministry, failing to be your body in the world – 

Forgive us.

 

Holy Spirit, networking in the church, forming our loose ends into a fishing net, where the strands hold hands together around the holes, making our daily work a sign of God’s work in the world,

a sign of our connectedness, a sign of our calling: help us to hold together and to draw others into your kingdom- Use us. 

 

Forgive us that we may forgive one another; Heal us that we may be people of healing, and renew us that we also may be makers of peace.

Use us. Amen

 

And so we say together

Our Father (the Lord’s prayer)

 

VIDEO - Jesus as a Homeless Refugee

Donalda: In the time and place in which Jesus ministered, most people lived under the oppression of the Roman Empire and were considered disposable. Elite rulers extracted wealth from all the lands they conquered, pushing people to hunger, homelessness, and to the brink of starvation—and sometimes over the edge into slavery and death. This has it’s counterpart in the current situation in Ukraine. The Bible tells us that Jesus had no place to lay his head, which is another way of saying he was homeless (Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head). Jesus was trained in carpentry—a form of manual labour akin to low-paid work today—and he relied on the hospitality of his friends, many of whom were also poor, to share meals and lodging with him – he was a sofa surfer. Jesus, the disciples, and those to whom they ministered were poor and oppressed. They were insignificant. . . .but we know that this was far from the truth.

 

 

Davina:  The real evidence of our belief is the way we act. Do we treat people today as ‘insignificant’? To treat all those, we encounter as if they are Jesus, is no easy task. What we do for others demonstrates what we really think about Jesus’ words to us - feed the hungry, give the homeless a place to stay, look after the sick. How well do our actions separate us from nonbelievers?

Davina:  Reading: (Matthew 25:35-40 – Good News) Jesus says, “Whatever you do to others, you do to me” 

 

We read in Luke: A Pharisee invited Jesus to a meal: he went to the house and took his place at table. A woman who was living an immoral life in the town had learned that Jesus was a guest in the Pharisee’s house and had brought oil of myrrh in a small flask.

Jesus and PeterDavina:  The importance of others 

Not only are we asked to love our neighbour but it is essential for our well-being to be part of a whole - we cannot survive by ourselves. In Africa recognition of our connectedness is called ubuntu. There are a number of interpretations of this word but Archbishop Desmond Tuto describes it as God’s Dream – I am because you are. Again this speaks to us in regard to the situation in Ukraine.

He says:

It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness: it speaks about compassion; it speaks about justice.

A person with ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong to a greater whole.

They know they are devalued when others are humiliated, devalued when others are oppressed, devalued when others are treated as if they are less than who they are. The quality of ubuntu gives people strength, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanise them.

Justin Welby said something recently that really resonates: 

Justice begins with seeing each person as created by God, they are whole, they are complete, there is nothing missing EXCEPT WHEN WE TAKE IT AWAY FROM THEM.

 

Gathered and Scattered – Lex

‘Love one another’, spoken by Jesus, not as request but as command.

This is the treasure, this is the measure, by which we stumble or which we stand.

 

You are my mother, sister and brother, you are the ones whom I call friends’.                      

             We are the family, Jesus intended to model love that never ends    

                  

‘When I was hungry, under suspicion, and when imprisoned where were you?’

Where people suffer, where the world wearies, justice for all is overdue.

 

We did not call him, but He has called us, to be His body here on earth.

This is our privilege, this our commission, this our delight, and this our worth.

 

Gathered and scattered, together and alone, God made us different and called us into one.

 

Gathered and scattered, together and lone, we are one body in Christ.

 

Corinthians 12: 12 – Jeanne Harrison

 

Davina:  This passage is one of Paul’s most famous passages, and no wonder. It’s a simple yet powerful image and a wonderful portrait of the unity in diversity of God’s people.

The hand needs the foot. The ear needs the eye. The body can only function as it should if all of its members work together in unity. Paul was writing to a specific church. But can’t the same be true of the human race as a whole?

Inequality comes when one person says of another, ‘I don’t need you, you’re nothing and worthless.’ Inequality comes when one race says of another, ‘You’re vile and don’t belong here.’ Inequality comes when one human beats another because of their gender. And inequality leads to poverty.

Equality, justice and dignity comes when we realise that we need each other and to value one another if we are to live a full, worthwhile and rich life. 

This sense of belonging flows from trust: trust is the gradual acceptance of others as they are with their gifts and their limits, each one with the call of Jesus. And this leads to the realisation that the body of community or church is not perfectly whole and cannot be, that this is our human condition. And it is alright for us to be less than perfect. We must not weep over our imperfections. We are not judged for being defective. Our God knows that in so many ways we are lame and half blind. We will never win the Olympics of humanity, racing for perfection, but we can walk together in hope, celebrating that we are loved in our brokenness: helping each other, growing in trust, living in thanksgiving, learning to forgive, opening up to others, welcoming them and striving to bring peace and hope to our world and community. So it is that we come to put our roots in our church and community not because it is perfect and wonderful, but because we believe that Jesus has called us together. It is where we belong and are called to grow and to serve 

To be a community of loving people it is the attitudes underlying the structure of our community that matter: caring for the poor, the disadvantaged and the stranger, not primarily out of duty, but because they are people made in the image of God, loved by God. The laws of scripture keep reinforcing that to do justice, to love our neighbour goes beyond duty: it is a response to God’s love and community extends beyond our immediate surroundings as the response to the situation in Ukraine has shown us.

 

As Christians our responsibility is to be a witness in the world which means a constant witness to Christ through life and example. It also means simply being around, just as Jesus was, to listen and pray with people, to stand alongside them in their brokenness and to help them to wholeness. This unspectacular if intensely demanding and draining ministry of ‘presence’ may well be one of the most important ways in which the church can serve God and his people today when so many other specialist agencies and professional carers are available only by appointment during office hours!

 

Donalda:  Reading: Ephesians 4: 31-32 

Donalda:  Prayer: Loving Father, help us to be a community of loving people. We pray you’ll be the centre of and inspiration for all of our relationships, inside and outside the Church. Help us to live in the reality of your love and forgiveness today by forgiving others who have hurt us. Help us to forgive ourselves, too, as we know in our hearts the power of your forgiveness over us. God of justice and mercy, teach us to live well, to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger, and love our neighbour as ourselves. Amen.

Prayer: Let us pray for our church:

We pray for a church with thin walls and gaping holes

With doors that are open to all

With windows so transparent that

We need not translate the sacred from the commonplace

 

We pray for a church built on a rock

A rock of knowledge and of love

Which knows itself and prays

Let me be less and you be more’

 

We pray for a church

That weeps with those too filled with loss

That does not judge: my cleverness, my social graces or my mental state

We pray that we have enough time for friendships to grow

For forgiveness to come

For us to go deeper

For me to know you

And for you to recognise me 

As an incorrigible child of God

 

We pray for a church where children play and learn and grow

Where those who don’t know how to pray

Find words and peace and calm

Where aching joints and memories

Tell of sainthood and of journeys home

 

We pray for this church

A hotchpotch of people

In a place a touch too full of itself

Trying to do the best we can

In a world we don’t always understand

 

 

Donalda:  We are followers of one who loved the lost and the least, who identified himself with the outcast and the poor. The word of Jesus is that God runs out to the margins to meet us. The light shines from the margins, not the centre.

 

Blessing

Loving God, your love is as close to us as our own hands and feet.

People who need your love are as close to us as the people beside us, behind us and in front of us. Send us now into your world to love each other, sure that you love us.

Show us where we are needed and how we can make a difference so that the world will be a good place for all your people. We know this is what Jesus wanted.

Help us live for Jesus wherever we go. Amen

 

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