Category Archives: Worship & Music

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 12

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 12

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Spirit God (Gathering)

Genesis 1:2; Exodus 19:18 – 20:1-21; Psalm 78:14; 1 Kings 8:10-11; Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezekiel 43:1-5; Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:9-13; Acts 2:1-4

Spirit God, hovering over a watery world,
ordering creation from primordial chaos,
clothing earth’s nakedness with nature’s abundance,
breathing your spirit life into our humanness;
shelter us under your motherly love,
transform our turmoil into tranquillity,
fill up our emptiness with your wisdom divine,
raise us aloft on the winds of eternity.

Spirit God, dwelling in pillars of cloud and of fire,
alighting on Sinai in flaming splendour,
thundering forth commandments of covenant,
sanctifying holy a nation of slaves;
guide us on journeys through barren wastelands,
help us climb mountains for encounters with you,
speak laws of love into our consciences,
make sacred a church of commonplace folk.

Spirit God, filling with glory Solomon’s temple,
soaring heavenward on chariots of fire,
inspiring your prophets with visions that challenge,
promising the coming of the Davidic Messiah;
form from your people your present day temple,
transport us above our everyday thinking,
show us the ways of heaven on earth,
make of us true disciples of the Anointed One.

Spirit God, as a dove descending,
declaring beloved of the Father his Son,
driving the Christ into the wilderness,
inspiring rebuffs to the tempter’s allures;
fly down upon us the blessing of peacefulness,
proclaim our membership of the family of God,
be there for us in our spiritual barrenness,
grant us release from the enemy’s snares.

Spirit God, on Pentecost coming,
sounding like wind and appearing like fire,
descending upon the hundred and twenty,
bringing to birth the new covenant church;
bless our celebration of time that is holy,
full us with the joy that gives light to our lives,
be in our midst as we gather together,
proclaim in and through us the gospel of God. Amen.

From: Prayers for Southern Seasons: Poems and prayers for Christian worship and devotions. By Joy Kingsbury-Aitken.

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 11

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 11

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Approach 4

God of blessings,
We are thankful that we are not alone,
that we have been placed in community.

We are thankful that we live in your world;
A world skewed towards good and not evil;

a world which rates compassion
higher than complacency;
a world where love is cherished and
creatively expressed.

Confront and stir us from dullness of perception;
forgive our lack of response to your Spirit.
Sharpen our awareness of holy ground;
Prompt us to turn aside and see wonders.

Forgive us if we have made your world less loving
and help us live life as your daughters and sons,
actively engaged in life’s wonders and concerns.
Forgive us for times when we have over-reacted,
and for times when we have lagged in zeal.

Encourage us to speak the truth we know
and to act in love wherever love is needed.
Enable us to live in your strength and power,
liberated for the possibilities of the future. Amen.

From: Lay Preaching Basics by Rosalie Sugrue (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 10

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 10

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

41. Thanksgiving for Winter

God of all seasons,
we give you thanks
for the grey wet mornings,
for the cold southerly days,
for the mist that hovers in the hills,
and the fog that blankets the river valleys,
for the fresh snow on the ranges and mountain tops,
for the clear sharp sunny days
that follow the frosts,
for all that makes winter
a time to dress snugly and keep warm.
We give thanks for the reserves
 of silage and hay and winter feed
to supplement the needs of stock,
for the long acre and the electric fence,
for the pruning of fruit trees
and grape vines,
for the season of rugby, league and football,
for hockey and netball,
for golf, and for pony club,
for dog trials and other sporting and social events,
for raincoats, swanndris and gumboots,
for roaring fires, hot soup and scones
and safe shelter from winter’s chills.

From The Shepherd’s Call – Te Karanga o te Hēpara:
Prayers and liturgies for rural Aotearoa New Zealand
By Bill Bennett (2018)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 9

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 9

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Pentecost

Waiting
wondering – how long Lord?
their hearts yearning
   for the sound of his voice
   the touch of his hand
   the sight of his face
and those eyes,
searching, compelling, loving –
   above all loving.

It had seemed that love was dead
life empty, pointless,
worse for them who had lived
   with the Lord of Life
   living now with stifling grief
   hardly to be borne.

Then, of a sudden – GLORY!
their Lord alive
   breathing
   moving
   loving
unutterable joy
   bursting in Easter light –
glorious excitement
   of never knowing when
   but knowing that he would come –
a warmth, a light, a joy, and a peace
and Jesus in their midst.

Then, finally,
their tear-filled eyes straining
   for one last glimpse in the sky –
   and he was gone.

Again Lord
the agony again?
from heights of happiness
   to be bereft, empty, lonely again?
“But you shall have power,”
he had promised.
When Lord? When?

So they gathered
to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost –
and suddenly –
   rushing
     swirling
        buffeting
the mighty wind of God’s breath,
leaping tongues of living flame
   darting
      flickering
        alighting
empowering each, loosening tongues
hearts aflame
souls outpoured in love and praise,
the gathered world could hear
   and comprehend
   the mighty words of God –
a Presence, a Power, overflowing
the Holy Spirit of God.

And I Lord,
weak, fearful, doubting
even I Lord
   would be filled –
but to be full of you
   is to be empty of me?
So be it.

I wait, with outstretched hands
in awed certainty
   as the promised power floods in
   filling
   warming
   irradiating
   equipping me
to be the face of Jesus
the hands of Jesus
the voice of Jesus
the love of Jesus –
   for a hungry world.

From A Celebration of Life by Meg Hartfield (2016)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 8

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 8

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Sixty-three

River of life flow through me
I’m weary as a traveller can be
I need your water to wash over me

River of life flow through me
I’m weak as a baby can be
I need your power to strengthen me

I was lost in the desert
I was dying of thirst
I would never have found you
if you hadn’t found me first

River of life flow through me
I’m dead as a sinner can be
I need your spirit to revive me

We’re all on this journey
it’s a hot, dusty road
without you to sustain us
we’d never get back home

River of life flow through me
I’m lonely as a pilgrim can be
I need your song to comfort me

Let your water wash over me
River of life, flow through me.

From Redemption Songs by Mark Laurent (2016)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 7

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Psalm 7

O Christ of the poor and the maligned,
the suffering and the weak
we give thanks for your love
that binds us together
in our small congregations
in the broken east.

You know our struggles and our fears
our doubts and our burdens
our deep weariness
you are our constant companion
giving us the strength and inspiration
we need day-to-day.

We never feel like we have enough people
or enough resources
to meet the challenges
or respond to the needs
of this shattered place

But strangers are welcomed
food and drink is offered
someone listens when pain is shared
people are accepted just as they are
help is given in small ways

One day a week we gather
in a circle like a family
in a plain and ordinary place
to celebrate our faith and trust in you
to seek your guidance
restore our energy
keep our hope alive

It’s never easy but
we continue to find our way
through the mess and chaos
the grief and the loss
sustained by your life within us
and the warmth of community

So it hurts and angers us
when we hear that big wealthy churches
in the west of the city
don’t think that we are performing.

They say that we are not up to scratch
we are failing and should be shut down
we don’t match their vision
of what a church looks like.

Give us courage in the face of such judgement
and the laughter and wisdom
to deal with “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Help us not to get caught up in their negativity
but in your grace and joy.

O Christ, we thank you for your loving solidarity
with the widow, the poor, the small and the downtrodden.
In the midst of our struggles we are not alone.

From The In-Between Land: Psalms, Poems and Haiku by Mark Gibson (2015)

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 6

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 6

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

A Season of Transition (Poetry)

Summer is past, winter draws near,
autumn is a season of transition.
A time of preparation.
Epiphany is past, Easter draws near,
Lent is a season of transition.
A time of preparation.

The story is told of Jesus walking southwards
taking fateful steps from Galilee to Judaea.
A time of determination.
The story is told of disciples shocked and rejecting
predictions of death and resurrection.
A time of incomprehension.

Pilgrims excited, Passover coming,
commemorating past, anticipating future deliverance.
A time of celebration.
Chief priests worried, Passover coming,
remembering past, fearing future disturbances.
A time of apprehension.

Soldiers marching, Governor resplendent,
putting on display the might of mighty Rome.
A time of intimidation.
Man on a donkey, crowds shouting, “Save Us,”
waving palm fronds and throwing down their cloaks.
A time of acclamation.

A final supper, bread and wine shared,
words of encouragement followed by despair.
A time of betrayal and desertion.
Man crowned with thorns, hung on a cross,
words of forgiveness and promise spoken.
A time of suffering and sacrifice.

Women confused and afraid,
grave empty, angels present.
A time of hope slowly dawning.
A stranger joins mourners on the road to Emmaus,
his identity discovered in the breaking of bread.
A time of revelation.

From: Prayers for Southern Seasons: Poems and prayers for Christian worship and devotions. By Joy Kingsbury-Aitken.

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Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Prayer / Poem of the Week # 5

Come back each Monday night for a free prayer or poem from one of the books we have published.

Prayer

God of goodness, gaps, and glitches
help us to see each other for what we are.

God of struggles, strengths, and strategies
help us to cope with what we have.

God of difficulties, disabilities, and delights
help us find joy in who we are.

God of individuality and invisibilities,
enable us to understand how life is harder
for some than it is for their peers;
Give us a readiness to ease difficulties,
remove barriers,
and create level playing fields

Bless us with the will to appreciate
the courage, creativity, and skills
required to live with impairment;
along with the discernment to realise
impairment is merely a fragment
of personhood.

Empower us all to live in fullness,
valuing what we have,
and knowing we are loved. Amen.

From: Lay Preaching Basics by Rosalie Sugrue (2018)

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Sermon: Good things come in threes. 11 June 2017 Trinity Sunday

The following sermon was given by lay preacher Philip Garside
at Wesley Methodist Church, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington, NZ
on 11 June 2017 — Trinity Sunday

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You can download an audio re-recording of this sermon by the preacher here:
https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/worshipresourcessermons/Sermon_Wesley_11_June_2017_Trinity_Sunday_Philip_Garside.mp3

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Bible reading:

Matthew 28:16-20 — The Commissioning of the Disciples

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

 Sermon: Good things come in threes…

Let’s pray; May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you O God, our creator, redeemer and enabler. Amen.

Today is Trinity Sunday. It is an opportunity to focus on our understandings of God as being one and yet also being three.

They say that bad luck come in threes… But good things can come in threes too. And that is what I have titled this sermon, “Good things come in Threes…”

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Our gospel reading this morning comes right at the end of the book of Matthew. Jesus is crucified, and rises after three days. He appears to the women and tells the women to instruct the men, to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus again. The eleven remaining disciples go north to Galilee, climb a hill and Jesus appears to them as promised.

Note that Jesus reappears to the women – Mary Magdalene and the other Mary – first. They are the first people to visit the tomb when the Sabbath is over. It is the women who tell the men to go back to Galilee. The women are the messengers. The writer of Matthew’s gospel also gives women prominence in the genealogy at the start of the gospel, that traces the line from Jesus back to David and then back to Abraham. Both women and men have a full part in these stories and in spreading the Good News of God’s love for us.

There are eleven male disciples remaining after Judas has left. For Matthew it isn’t important to make the number back up to twelve, so his gospel has no story about appointing another disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Eleven men, a small group, are enough to set the vision of the kingdom in motion.

Did you note in the reading that the disciples worshipped Jesus when he re-appeared to them, but some doubted. Not just doubting Thomas who we hear about in John’s gospel, but maybe 3 or 4 others too! Don’t be too quick to judge the disciples who weren’t sure that they were seeing Jesus and whether or not they could do the things that he was asking of them. If we were there, that might have been our reaction too. And anyway, I think it is better, healthier, wiser even, to ask questions and be sure in your own mind that you are doing the right thing, before setting out on a new mission.

These men had left their businesses, work, maybe wives and families, and land, to follow Jesus up to now. And that hadn’t worked out very well for them. Jesus hadn’t defeated the Romans, hadn’t overturned the Jewish political and economic authorities and powers that be, and hadn’t made their lives any easier. The disciples and the rest of the un-named people in the group that had followed Jesus, were now at a turning point. They had to make a decision: go back and pick up their old lives as best they could, or persist in working towards Jesus’ vision of a better world for all.

Go back or take a step forward in faith, to a hopeful, but uncertain future.

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The Jewish community in Jesus’ time had many laws and rules and regulations written down in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. Also known as the law of Moses. These laws are summarised in the Ten Commandments, which still provide us with useful guidelines for living today. But for every rule there is always someone who wants to find a loophole, and so the regulators, mainly the priests, had to keep refining and clarifying the laws, down to the last detail. They ended up with many different rules about what sacrifices were required at the Temple and about what activities did and didn’t constitute work on the Sabbath, and so on. I’m not entirely sure whether all Jewish people actually bothered to try to follow all these rules in their day-to-day lives. We know that the Sadducees and Pharisees groups did try to live by the rules. Probably the rest of the Jewish community would follow them as best they could.

But the trouble with such detailed and nit-picking laws is that they become a burden and people lose sight of the intent of the original rules — how to live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities. Jesus was a back to basics sort of guy. He put people before rules. If someone is hungry on the Sabbath, then pluck that corn and feed them now. If he can heal someone with a withered arm now, even though it is the Sabbath, then how dare you make that person wait another day to be healed. How obscene to let his suffering continue another minute, just for the sake of a precious rule.

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What do we think about the Bible now? What is our attitude to it?

Some Christians believe that every word in the Bible is literally true, factual and historically accurate. And furthermore, that if any part of the Bible is not true, then the whole foundation of their faith will be shaken. The Bible then becomes a rigid text, that can be interpreted in only one way. It becomes a weapon to beat those with different ideas into submission.

It will not surprise you to learn that is not my attitude to the Bible, and I don’t recommend that you treat the Bible that way either.

The Bible is full of foundational stories and wisdom, about people relating to God and to each other. We can reach into the depths of this book and pull out treasure for our lives today. The issue is not whether a particular story in the Bible really happened the way it is written down, whether it is true in any absolute sense, but rather what value and encouragement can we take from it today? The Bible is a beautiful and powerful thing, which needs to be treated with respect.

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Let’s get back to those disciples on the mountain in Galilee. What does Jesus say to encourage and persuade them, to help them move through and beyond their doubts?

First: I make the rules now and I give you permission to act. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Don’t look to your law books and scriptures, don’t look to your Kings and priests, ignore the Romans – I, Jesus, have all the power you need. And I’m offering it to you. All you have to do is say, “Yes.”

Second: What do I want you to do? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Let’s break that down. “Go.” Don’t stay here in a pious huddle, take that first step, start your journey.

“Make disciples of all nations.” That means tell everyone you meet on your travels about the good news that God loves us and that there is a better way to live. But what if they already have a good, nurturing religion of their own? (I’ll come back to that!)

“…baptizing them” Baptism was a serious and often dangerous commitment for a follower of Jesus to undertake in the first century. It required training over several months and was often performed at Easter. The Romans persecuted and attacked Christians, so worship was often held in secret, in private houses.

“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew’s gospel was probably written down in the 80s of the first century – about 50 years after Jesus died. My theological reading suggests that the concept of the Trinity – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – probably wasn’t known to Jesus, but was developed later by the early church. Jesus came to be known as Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus the Christ, but I think these are terms that were applied to him by his followers long after his death, as they struggled to come to terms with his crucifixion and started to build a new theology that would serve the developing Christian church. The Council of Nicea in the year 325 was still arguing over the fine points of how Jesus could be both human and also divine. Jesus key vision was always of a just society, where everyone had enough – of the kingdom of heaven, here on earth.

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” What did Jesus command his disciples to do? Actually, his instructions were quite simple: Love God, Love your neighbour, Love yourself. That is the sum total of Jesus’ law. There are no loopholes to sneak out through. Either our lives meet these simple standards or they don’t.

Third: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is harder to interpret. In what way was Jesus with the disciples after he died and rose? How is Jesus with us here today, how do we know? When does the age finish? Does it ever finish?

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I find the usual descriptions of the Trinity, of God being Three in One, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a bit distant. The modern usage of Creator, Redeemer and Enabler is more appealing, but I have come up with my own description.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

Worship God, Follow Jesus, Spirit Filled.

To me this has an implied movement, freedom of action and purpose. It is not a static theory.

We here this morning are worshipping God. (Remember, I’m just up here leading and guiding you, I am not the focus.) If we worship God, we are saved from worshipping possessions or worldly power. And God is found through the week in our everyday lives, in beautiful unexpected sights or interactions with other people. When we keep still and listen, God is with us.

I find it helpful to make a distinction between Jesus the man who was born and lived on this earth and died just like us, and Jesus the Messiah or Christ of faith. We can then focus on what the Bible tells us Jesus the man said and did, and try to do the same. We will fail as often as we succeed, but we need to keep doing and saying the things that Jesus’ example showed us.

I see Spirit as Energy. The Spirit is that flash of inspiration and second wind that we get when we have run dry. Spirit is freedom. Spirit is power. Spirit is light and music. Spirit is the good in you and the good in me.

If we are filled with the Spirit, we also recognise the Spirit at work in other people. Pala explained to me recently that the greeting and action of Namaste [demonstrate] is more than just a polite greeting. It has a deeper spiritual significance and conveys the meaning: The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you. Isn’t that beautiful! Namaste.

Some closing thoughts:

Step out in faith, encouraged by Jesus’ message and example, and recognise the good in others.

Live well, alongside others, in peaceful communities

Good things come in threes.

Amen.

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You can email Philip at books@pgpl.co.nz