Lay Convocation 2001

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Convocation of Laity

Greeting and Call to Worship

The Lord is with you!

And with you also!

Letís begin our worship this morning with a responsive reading of Psalm 146:

 

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

 

Song

 

Ascribe Greatness to our God the Rock.

(Peter West, Mary Kirkbride, Mary Lou Locke,

Songs of the Nation #461)

 

Prayer of Adoration

 

Let us join together now in a Prayer of Adoration to our God:

 

O God, we praise You for who You are: arrayed in splendour beyond our imagining, wisdom beyond our understanding, love beyond our worth, and power beyond our control. You supply our purest longings; and Your grace redeems our deepest failures.

 

We praise You for Your love, changing our attitudes and releasing hope and courage; for making us certain of forgiveness, and providing strength through discouragement and disappointment; for supplying life for Your church while surrounded by an atmosphere of death.

 

You alone are the faithful lover of Your people, the friend of outcasts and the maligned.

 

In Your Son Jesusí death and resurrection we are embraced by healing love, inspired by eternal purpose, sustained by infinite generosity and empowered by Your awesome presence.

 

Here Ė today Ė with Your people in every place and through all time, we worship and serve You in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Welcome

 

Welcome to all of you! Welcome to this first Convocation of Laity to be held at a Queensland Synod.

 

You may be wondering Why a Convocation? Let me tell you ... Our previous Moderator, Revd Dr David Pitman, believed it was important for members of the clergy from all around the state to gather together from time to time - firstly, to share experience in ministry; secondly, to reflect together on issues of theological or topical interest. And so the opportunity was offered immediately prior to the opening of each of the last two Synods. This year, the Synod Theology and Worship Committee, which has responsibility for planning Convocation, felt it was important to offer a similar opportunity to the laity - and so the Convocation was moved to a timeslot within the Synod program.

 

My nameís ... Iím from ... Iíd like to introduce you to the other members of the team who have been involved in preparing, and today will facilitate, the program for this Convocation ............

 

Old Testament Reading (Psalm 13)

& Reflection on the Place of Lament in our Worship

 

The topic for our reflection and sharing today is Through Hurt to Hope and Healing: The Lamenting Process Within the Life of the Church. We will explore this topic in a context of worship.

 

Weíll begin by reading from the Old Testament Psalm 13.

 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

 

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed";

my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

 

But I trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord,

because he has dealt bountifully with me.

 

A friend of mine recently attended the funeral of a fine 50-year-old Christian gentleman named Paul, a sensitive, co-operative, dedicated carer working for Family and Community Support. Paul was drowned when the car in which he was a passenger drove into water over a flooded road. His death was premature and devastating.

 

During the singing of the first hymn in church on that sad Sunday morning, when Paulís death was coming home to my friend, he found it hard to sing Godís praise. He wasnít about to give up on God, but he was asking some of the difficult questions. Who is this God we believe in? How could he let this happen to a man like Paul? Why drowning, when Paul couldnít swim and was afraid of water?

 

But then, at the funeral the following Wednesday, almost nothing was said about the tragedy of it all. There were a lot of wonderful words about Paul, but little acknowledgement of the pain of the way his death happened, no reference to the difficulty for the driver who survived. Paulís young married daughter spoke of her birthday celebration that was to happen the day he died and expressed her disappointment that her children, yet to be born, would not have a grandfather - but only in these few words was voice given to the lament of those left behind.

 

None of us comes through life without the experience of suffering. We experience pain in our relationships and in our circumstances, in the family and in the workplace, and sadly, though we might expect things to be different there, also in the church. Suffering is part of our human condition, an inevitable outcome of our fallen nature. Despite our best intentions we still often hurt one another. And so, no matter how good and sweet life may seem to us, no matter what cause we may have for joy and celebration, we must acknowledge that grief and loss, pain and hurt, doubt, frustration, disappointment, rejection, are also facts of life in this world. As Christians, how are we to deal with this? Is there any place for our pain in worship?

 

In the church, we have not always been good at allowing people to bring their pain into worship, to name it before God. Many in mainline churches today grew up with the understanding that we wore our best clothes to church. This kind of training probably had good intentions - it was a reminder that God deserved our best - but one consequence was that we did not always understand worship as a place where we could also share our worst with God. Many came to believe that only good people were welcome in Godís presence, that our worldly cares were a distraction from true worship. When weíve been weighed down with worry, filled with doubt, struggling with anger, weíve often felt guilty - we donít have enough faith, weíre not "walking in victory", God couldnít possibly love us any more. So, like many of the mourners at Paulís funeral, we hide our grief and our struggles and try to look on the bright side.

 

But the story of our faith is the story of the "Word made flesh". In Jesus Christ, God came down to embrace our human life in its totality - not only our joys, but also our sorrows, not only our highs, but also our lows! On the cross, Christ knew agonising physical pain, and the pain of alienation from God. In his cry of abandonment - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - he named his pain to God.

 

The people of God throughout history have named their pain to God. Job and his friends struggled with the issue Why do bad things happen to good people? The writers of many of the psalms, including Psalm 13, complained to God. Neither Job nor the psalmists were slow to confront God with their agony and his responsibility. In Johnís Gospel, both Mary and Martha, following the death of their brother Lazarus, declare their disappointment to Jesus: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Was there a note of blame in their voices as they thought of the two days Jesus had delayed in coming?

 

But God in Scripture is presented as One who is more than big enough to face our questions, more than gracious enough to endure our protests. The One who walked in flesh upon the earth, incarnate in Jesus Christ, who suffered cruel death on the cross, understands our human weakness and is patient with us. We can bring to him not only our best, but also our worst. At the same time, the basic promise of the Christian faith is not, "Come to Jesus and all your problems will disappear". Rather, it is that the Lord will never leave us: we will not have to face our struggles alone. Many Christians will share that it is in the rough going that they have learned what faith and trust are all about.

 

Christians who believe that they can not share their pain and suffering, their struggles and failures with God in worship are, in fact, denying Godís Lordship over a part of their lives. Walter Brueggemann makes the point that the use in worship of the psalms of lament - those psalms in which the psalmist pours out the full range of his emotions before God - the use in worship of these psalms is an act of bold faith. Bold because it insists that life must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way. Bold because it insists that all our experiences of dis-order are a proper subject of discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. To withhold part of our life from our conversation with God is to withhold part of our life from his sovereignty. The psalms of lament are, in fact, acts of relentless hope that believes no situation falls outside Godís responsibility; no situation falls outside Godís capacity for transformation.

 

In recent decades, part of the story of renewal in the church has been a recovery of praise as a central facet of our worship, and this has no doubt been a good thing. Itís good, too, that at funerals we can celebrate life. Sadly, however, there has often been a loss of balance - weíve left little room to share our pain, our lament, with God. Don Saliers writes that praise and thanksgiving grow empty when the whole truth about the human condition is not uttered, that Christian liturgy without the full range of human experience becomes anorexic, starving for honest, emotional range. In a similar way, Marva Dawn writes, "At least itís clear that a church that goes on singing Ďhappy songsí in the face of raw reality is doing something different from what the Bible itself does".

 

On the other hand, when we acknowledge our wilderness experiences, then we may be able to learn from them. In the darkness of our wrestling with God, we may grow in our understanding of him and of ourselves - and, like Jacob at Peniel, be blessed. The desert expanses of our lives are Godís discipleship training school! Our praise is made richer, deeper, more honest, when it is combined with lament. Praise without lament stunts the spiritual life by deception. True praise of the God who is revealed in Jesus, the crucified Christ - the one who suffers with us - enables us to embrace the darkness and give voice to the deepest cries of our hearts. And often, in the depths of the darkness, we are surprised by joy! We find resurrection hope in the healing love of a faithful God.

 

We need to learn not only to praise together but also to lament together!

 

The Lamenting Process modelled on Psalm 13

 

This morning we are going to enter into a process of lament.

 

While itís possible for us to reflect upon a wide variety of positive, uplifting, creative and encouraging experiences in our life with Godís people in the church, we donít have to move too far in Christian circles before we become aware of dysfunctional or divided congregations, paralysed or burnt-out ministers, bruised and beaten elders and leaders, and members who are either passive and despairing or angry and disruptive. This is not limited to Uniting Church experience, but seems to be common across the broad spectrum of institutional Christianity. Few of us here would be untouched by just such a situation in one way or another.

 

Today we are going to take the opportunity to acknowledge - and to own - some of the negative, as well as the positive, aspects of our faith journey and our life in the church - in the context of a worship experience. In doing this, we believe we are being true both to the worship of God and to the living reality of a healing process in lament.

 

Psalm 13 offers us a framework for this process. In Psalm 13, the psalmist moves through three stages in his lament. He begins by pouring out to God all the pain and sorrow in his heart, naming the reality of his experience. He moves on to give expression to his hopes for the future, that God will hear and answer him, and give "light to his eyes". Finally, as he remembers Godís steadfast love towards him, his heart begins to rejoice again, and his voice is lifted up in joyful praise.

 

Stage 1 of the Lamenting Process:

Naming the Reality of our Present Experience

 

Soon, we will break up into small groups to move into the first stage of this lamenting process, represented by verses 1&2 of Psalm 13: How long, O Lord? .... How long? ..... How long must I bear pain in my soul? .....

 

At this point, I need to give some instructions, and so ask that you listen carefully.

 

Iím going to ask you to form yourselves into groups of three or four. In our groups, we will seek to name the reality of some of the negative aspects of our present experience of life in the church. In naming the negative aspects, we are not being negative - this is not a whinge session, not an opportunity to criticise other people nor to betray confidences - we are simply being honest before God, facing the reality of our pain, our disappointment, our frustration, our anger, whatever it is that we struggle with. If you have brought with you a concrete/ visual symbol of brokenness, you may like to share with your group its meaning for you. But try to maintain this focus - thereíll be time later to share some of the positives, to move a little further along the journey from hurt to hope and healing.

 

In our groups, we will need to be sensitive to one anotherís needs, to exercise appropriate pastoral care, and to treat with absolute confidentiality anything which is shared with us - remembering we are all free to choose whatever level of sharing we are comfortable with. For those of you who feel the need to speak with one of our Convocation "chaplains", there are four of them here, freely available to spend time with you - (Introduce by name).

 

When we break into our groups, some can stay here, some will need to move to ........ Please, move quickly - donít go too far! - and take with you the worksheet which you found on your seat when you came in. When you hear the bell ring for the first time, please bring your discussion to an end and take five minutes, in silence, to write on your worksheet a prayer in the lament mode - that is, a prayer in the form "How long, Lord ....", "Why, Lord ......", "I donít understand, Lord ......." - a prayer which expresses the cry of your heart to God at this time. When you hear the bell for the second time, please move promptly back into the auditorium - and please, move in silence, to prepare yourself for the next part of our worship.

 

Thank you. You may form your groups and move now.

 

Group Discussion and Sharing

 

Prayers of Lament

 

On return:

Letís spend a few moments now in silent prayer as we bring to God the prayers we have just written.

Solo during prayers:

(Sing first verse at beginning of prayer time, play verse softly twice, sing second verse to conclude prayer time.)

 

O Lord, Hear my Prayer.

(Taize. With One Voice #17)

 

New Testament Reading (Luke 8: 27-30, 33, 35, 37-39)

& Reflection on the story of Legion

 

Weíll read now from Godís Word in the New Testament, LUKE 8:27-30; 33; 35; 37-39.

 

27-30: As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before Him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me" Ė for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. The demons begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

 

33: Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

 

35: Then the people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

 

37-39: Then all the people of the surrounding country asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

 

Letís take a look at the story of Legion as it reflects the stages of the Lamenting process.

 

Stage 1 is "Naming our experience", acknowledging our hurt and pain and giving voice to, or telling, our story of hurt.

 

Letís recap the story of Legionís pain and hurt ...

 

Reality for this poor wretch was living naked in the tombs, driven out of his mind and driven out of human society. He was tormented by so many demons that he had lost his own identity and become known as Legion. He was chained and kept under guard because the people feared him. He was powerless and had no voice.

 

Did legion get a chance to name his experience? Did he cry out "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Here among the tombs?" No! But God did not forget Legion.

 

Jesus came into the area where the man lived in his wilderness, in his pain and in his suffering. And the man Legion came to meet Jesus and fell at his feet, and Jesus heard him cry out.

 

Legion names his experience Ė Legion gives voice to his hurt and pain, because Jesus takes time to talk with him and show that He cares. No more burying his pain in the tombs! If you remember, Jesus didnít bury his pain either. Remember his cries Ė "Lord take this cup from me!" and "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

 

Stage 2 of the Lament is "Declaring the vision we had, or were hoping for." Itís called "From Hope to Healing".

 

Back to Legion! The demons immediately recognize the greater power and authority of Jesus and call Him by name - "Jesus, Son of the Most High God." Legion discovers hope, as he experiences the sudden, ultimate, miraculous healing in his encounter with God. A hope for a new future now shines bright before him - God goes before him. However, healing does not always come instantly for us, but God certainly goes before us, to guide us through the stages of healing.

 

Stage 3 of the Lament Ė "Why am I persisting in the face of the struggles? What keeps me going? What beliefs sustain me? Where does my energy and motivation come from?"

 

The man, from whom the demons had left, begged to go with Jesus but Jesus sent him away saying, "Go and tell how much God has done for you." So the man told all over the region how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. We can probably assume that when Legion encountered the tough times in the years that lay ahead, his encounter with Christ and his knowledge of Godís care and concern for him would have sustained him.

 

I want to tell you about a young man I met just recently in the course of my work, who can not name his pain, has no hope, and therefore cannot say "What beliefs sustain me?" He and his brother lived on the streets in a South American city, no home, no knowledge of parents, and cast out by human society. At the age of 12, he and his brother were "rescued" and adopted by a family in a foreign country. Legion were their experiences of pain - lack of cultural assimilation, racial discrimination, language barriers and taunting at school. No one understood, and he buried his pain in the tomb of his very being, let down by human society - only to have it fester as anger, aggression, retaliation. Eventually he landed in jail, still angry and hurt, and powerless once again, with no voice.

 

This young manís story is not much different from that of Legion. They were both in the wilderness of their pain, angry, aggressive, powerless and without hope, but the outcomes, so far, are different. For Legion was able to see a future in the presence of Jesus. This young man has not been able to name his pain, and still needs to tell his story to someone who cares and who has faith in him, so he too can begin the healing process, to hope for a brighter future.

 

I only know this Ė that once we have given a name to our pain and given voice to our experience, and experienced the authentic healing power of God, then through hope and a vision for the future we can be the face and ears of Jesus for people such as that young man still without a future.

 

Prayer of Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness

 

I invite you now to pray with me a prayer of confession based on Psalm 130:

 

Leader:

Almighty and merciful God, the fountain of all goodness, search us and know our hearts.

 

All: Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!

 

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

 

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits.

And in his word I hope;

My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning

More than those who watch for the morning.

 

Leader: O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

And with him is great power to redeem.

It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Amen.

 

Morning Tea

 

Song

 

Sometimes a Healing Word

(Heather Moen-Boyd,

Together in Song #692, tune #554)

 

 

Stage 2 of the Lamenting Process:

Sharing and Reflecting upon our hopes, dreams, visions

 

This morning, weíve joined together in praise, named the reality of our present experience of church, listened to the gospel and reflected upon it, confessed our sin before God and heard reassuring words of his forgiveness. Now we move into the second stage of the lamenting process, which is represented by verses 3&4 of Psalm 13: Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes .....

 

The psalmist had a vision of a time when he would again be engaged with God, in conversation with God, when God would again reveal Godís self to him. Behind our negative experiences of church, there is always an idea of how we would have liked things to be - and this idea gives the clue to our hopes and dreams and visions for the church.

 

We are going to hear now from ... about his hopes and dreams for the church, and then weíll spend a few moments in quiet reflection, each of us writing down on our worksheet some of our own hopes and dreams and visions ...

 

Sharing

 

I have been asked to share with you some of my experiences of my 40 plus years as a Christian, on this subject that we are looking at today, Through Hurt to Hope and Healing.

I gave my life to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney in 1958, at the tender age of seventeen. I became an Elder in the Presbyterian Church in Gunnedah in 1964, moving to Emerald in Queensland in 1967. I continued in that role of Elder and am presently an Elder in the Church Council of the Emerald Parish.

 

I have been a farmer all my life, and could bore you to tears with stories of droughts and floods and grasshopper plagues. I remember when I was privileged to be asked to be the Lay Director at an Emmaus Walk and had to do a talk on Perseverance. I thought that was an easy subject for me - if I hadnít learnt a little about Perseverance in forty years as a farmer - Iíd never learn anything.

 

I would not be able to tell you how many times I felt God had deserted me in that time. Sometimes, I would look at our crops, in desperate need of rain, and say "Please, God, canít you send a little rain to save this crop; we need it so desperately to keep the bank off our doorstep." At other times, I would have a crop ready to harvest, and find myself praying to God to stop the rain so that we could gather our crop in!

 

I realise now that my faith was lacking terribly, and that those things were only superficial problems, which God already had in hand. I never missed any of my needs, but my wants were often lacking.

 

Looking back - and hindsight is a great help - it seems that I had been wandering in the desert for forty years or more. I knew of God, and had given my life to him, but I never really knew Him.

 

My life was becoming a shambles. I was heavily in debt, struggling with a bank manager who didnít want to help, nearly losing my family because of my pride and my sense of failure, and trying to convince myself that God was leading me away from my worries because of my sinful desires. I felt totally alienated from the church because I didnít feel that I could share my hurting with any of my church family, mainly because of my feeling of guilt, although I was trying to justify that it was what God wanted me to do. The power of sin is a very real power, which is very sneaky and can be very deceptive.

 

But God, in fact, was leading me in a different direction. Late in 1991, in the same mail, my wife and I received an application form to attend an Emmaus Walk and a letter from long-time friends who had moved to a distant town and who had just been to Emmaus, telling us what a wonderful experience it had been, and encouraging us to attend a Walk if ever we had the opportunity. It was too much of a co-incidence! We knew God was speaking to us.

 

Through that Emmaus weekend I experienced more of Godís love and the power of his forgiveness, than I had ever felt before. I understood for the first time that God loved me warts and all - I didnít have to be perfect, I never would be. He helped me to give back my life to him, and to understand that life can be hard, we do hurt, and sin will try to drag us down, but Godís strength is sufficient.

 

Another lesson that I learnt was that Godís timing is perfect. Four months after that walk I started to develop angina, and after two attempts to balloon the arteries, I ended up with a triple bypass. Knowing God was with me, I went through those procedures without anywhere near the amount of fear that I know I would have felt twelve months before.

 

Please donít think that I am advocating that an Emmaus walk will solve your problems. I believe it is one of Godís many tools that He uses. For me it was like a pathway out of the desert.

 

Since the experience of my surgery I have been able to reassure many people who have had that same operation. I do believe that, as Christians, we have to experience pain and suffering if we are going to be able to be any encouragement to others.

 

Sometimes, when I am feeling hurt or think God is not hearing my prayers, I stop and think of the suffering that is going on around me, in this country and around the world. We ask continually, "Why, God, why are these things happening? Why is there is there so much suffering?" but surely the suffering that we have to endure is nothing like the humiliation and the pain Jesus had to suffer for us.

 

Out of my experience have come my hopes, dreams, and visions for our church. These can be described in four words: patience, appreciation, acceptance, and generosity.

 

Firstly, PATIENCE. I believe that we need to understand that God does not always answer our prayers at the same hectic rate that we try to live our lives. I believe that God has a plan, and often we donít realise that he is working that plan for our advantage till much later. The Bible tells us in Zechariah 13:9 that gold and silver are purified by fire. We need that purification; we need to be able to appreciate the great pain and suffering that God endured when he put his Son through that agonising death on the Cross. I donít believe that God particularly targets individuals, but life is often very cruel, and we can feel that God is unfair to us. If I feel like that, and I sometimes do, I only have to listen to the news, or read the paper to realise that Iím not so badly off after all.

 

Secondly, APPRECIATION. I believe that we have to stop and take note of all that God does for us. First and foremost we have to be truly thankful for the wonderful country we live in, the freedom we enjoy, the relative safety we have, when compared to so many other places where life seems so cheap. We need to thank God for our wonderful church family who, in times of crisis, are there to help and support us. Unfortunately, too often we donít take advantage of this support. Too often we put on a brave face because we donít feel comfortable sharing our pain with other people. Too often, there doesnít seem an appropriate place in our worship that we can share our deepest hurts. We need to appreciate the loving support that is available from our church family members, and how happy they are to help people in time of need.

 

Thirdly, ACCEPTANCE. A hope that I have for the church is that we may all learn to accept one another into the church family - remembering that we are all sinners in the eyes of God, that God loves each one of us warts and all, and God can use each one of us, no matter how sinful we have been. I believe that for too long we, as the church, have been too judgmental: we are too anxious to try to remove the splinter out of our brother or sisterís eye while we still have a great log in our own. A lot of Christians seem to think God has scale of sin from one to ten, that things like greed and jealousy rate a one, while things like murder and adultery are right up on the ten. And yet God has used those types of sinners all through the Bible to be the leaders of nations.

 

Lastly, GENEROSITY helps describe my vision. Generosity is one of the most important gifts I believe we can have. If we could share the wonderful gifts that God gives us, I believe we would all be much happier. It saddens me when I hear of how much money some parishes have stashed away in case they need it, when other parishes are struggling to survive and continue to spread Godís message. I believe that our Parish of Emerald - Fernlees has been richly blessed because of our level of commitment to the wider Church, and I know from a personal point of view that both my wife and I have received many, many blessings when we share what God gives us.

 

So to conclude let me remind you of those four words that I hold as my hope, dream, and vision for our Church: Patience, Appreciation, Acceptance and Generosity. Please, God, help each one of us be more patient, and wait on your perfect timing. Help us to appreciate the wonderful blessings that we have. Help us all to be more accepting of our brothers and sisters, and realise that we are all sinners, and please, Lord, help us to share our silver and gold with those less fortunate than we are.

Please take some quiet time now, to reflect on your own hopes, dreams and visions for the church. You are invited to write these in the appropriate space on your worksheet.

 

Personal Reflection

 

The Lordís Prayer

 

Letís join together now in the prayer Jesus gave us. Notice that this is not just a prayer for our life here and now, but a prayer for the future.

 

Our Father in Heaven,

hallowed be your name;

your kingdom come;

your will be done on earth as it is 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 forever. Amen.

 

Stage 3 of the Lamenting Process:

Affirming our Faith

 

Weíve named our present experience of the church and jotted down some of our hopes for the future. There is one more step! The third stage of the lamenting process is represented by verses 5&6 of Psalm 13: But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. In this third stage, we ask ourselves "If the reality doesnít always match up to the vision, why do I keep hanging in? Why do I persist in the face of the struggles? What keeps me going? What beliefs, values, passions, experiences, sustain me?"

 

Weíll share our answers to these questions in our small groups again. Again, if youíve brought with you a concrete/ visual symbol of hope, you may want to share with your group its meaning for you.

 

Please move as you did before and return promptly when you hear the bell.

 

Group Discussion and Sharing

 

Songs

 

Let us continue to remember Godís steadfast love for us by singing two songs that express some of the reasons I keep "hanging in". Perhaps you can relate to these also. My soul longs to be in relationship with God and I remember the times when I have cried out to God in my pain and found that God has been my strength and my shield. I remember how wonderful it is to be enfolded in Godís love and accepted in grace. This encourages me to return to God in whatever situation I find myself.

 

Please stand, if you able, to sing "As the Deer", and remain standing to continue singing "The Power of Your Love".

 

As the Deer

(Martin Nystrom,

Mission Praise #37, 3 verses; Songs of the Nation #460, 1 verse; Together in Song #703, 1 verse)

 

Lord, I Come to You (The Power of Your Love)

(Geoff Bullock,

Together in Song #682; Praise and Worship #621)

 

Creed

 

Weíve shared in our groups and in our songs some of the things which sustain us in our faith journey. Letís affirm our faith together now in the words of this creed from the United Church of Canada.

 

See Uniting in Worship, Peopleís Book, p.131.

 

Prayers of the People:

Prayers of Intercession for the Church and the World

 

Having affirmed our faith in God-with-us, let us bring to him our prayers of intercession for the church and the world. When you hear me say the words "God our healer", please respond with "Hear our prayer".

 

From Let Us Pray, by Janet Nelson.

(Publisher Harper Collins Religious, 1999.

ISBN ml 86371 767 6)

 

Words of Summary and Encouragement

Today we have acknowledged the pain that is a part of all our lives. We have rediscovered that Christ identifies with our pain. His resurrection from death offers the hope of transformation and new life in spite of pain and suffering.

We have been reminded that God loves and accepts us and that we have a relationship with God through Christ that enables us to come and express the pain we experience honestly and boldly to God - crying out for an explanation or for some relief.

We have discovered that rather than damaging our relationship with God, this honesty reveals our vulnerability, making it possible for God to continue working in and through us so that we may point others to Christ.

We have shared in a process that enables us to work through our individual laments and find it possible to move through the pain to a place where we can once again rejoice in Godís goodness and care. We have noted that this may be a slow process where we will need to sit with God in our pain and continue to ask, "How long?"

Perhaps you have found a safe place here to begin your lament. I encourage you to continue through the process. You may need the support of a trusted friend, your minister, or a professional counsellor. You may want to speak with one of our Convocation "chaplains" or with one of us.

In closing, let us sing the words of a Leigh Newton song that affirms once again the transforming power of the God who journeys with us. I will sing the first verse. I invite you to repeat it with me and then continue singing with me for the remainder of the song.

Letís stand and sing:

Song

Turn our Sadness Upside Down

(Leigh Newton,

UCA Assembly 2000 Song Book;

Altogether Whatever songbook and CD, Open Book Publishers)

Copyright Leigh Newton.

http://www.leighnewton.com

Reprinted here with the permission of the author.

TURN OUR SADNESS UPSIDE DOWN.

1. Turn our sadness upside down

Take our tears and turn Ďem round,

Touch us, heal us, lift us up when we fall down.

Turn our sadness upside down.

2. Rescue us from our despair,

Comfort us when we are scared,

Hold us, calm us, tell us of your love and care.

Rescue us from our despair.

3. Give us hope for days to come,

Give us strength to carry on,

Reconnect us, resurrect us with your song.

Give us hope for days to come.

4. Jesus help us on our way,

Heal these broken hearts we pray,

Mend us, tend us, set us on your road each day.

Jesus help us on our way.

Sending out

God is our hope, our trust, our rock. May the strength of God go with you. May you be blessed with Godís kindness and peace as you wait for the new things God will do in your life. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.