Questions

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: God who becomes small

Whom have we, Lord, like you –

the Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,

the Pure One who was baptised, the Living One who died,

the King who abased himself to ensure honour for all.

Blessed is your honour!

It is right that we should acknowledge your divinity,

it is right for heavenly beings to worship your humanity.

The heavenly beings were amazed to see how small you became,

and earthly ones to see how exalted. Amen.

St Ephrem the Syrian, c. 306-373

(Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Luke 24:13-32. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

On the Road to Emmaus

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19 “What things?” he asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

(Lk 24:13-32 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

“What would you ask God when you get to heaven?” This is a well-known question by people (including me) who are confused by things that happen in this world. The question becomes less adversarial when we imagine ourselves going for a walk with God and asking an honest question as we go. There is a sense of warmth surrounding going for a walk together. What question you would ask God in these circumstances?

The Luke passage appears to be just like this except for one detail; it is the newly risen Jesus who asks the question of his two companions on the road to Emmaus not the other way around. So let us re-imagine our earlier walk with God. What do you think God might ask of you in your friendly walk along the path?

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Easter Sunday

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: The Shield of God

May the strength of God pilot us.

May the power of God preserve us.

May the wisdom of God instruct us.

May the hand of God protect us.

May the way of God direct us.

May the shield of God defend us.

May the host of God

guard us against the snares of evil

and the temptations of the world.

May Christ be with us,

Christ before us,

Christ in us,

Christ over us.

May your salvation, O Lord, be always ours,

this day and for evermore. Amen.

Part of the ‘Breastplate’ of St Patrick, 389-461

(Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Matthew 28:1-10, 15-20. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:1-10, 15-20 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

Galilee? In all the excitement it may have been overlooked that the disciples kept receiving directions to go to Galilee. Is there some significance to Galilee? Why not Jerusalem? Isn’t that where all the big events happen in God’s plan?

Galilee is important in a symbolic way. Galilee was where Jesus did nearly all his ministry of bringing in the new Kingdom of God. When they are told to Galilee, Jesus is really telling them that he is going back to work. Easter means that the work continues because the King of the Kingdom of God is not dead but is alive. The disciples were unemployed for 3 days but it is back to work with the risen Jesus in the lead.

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Easter Saturday

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: The workshop of the Carpenter

O Christ, the Master Carpenter,

who at the last through wood and nails

purchased our whole salvation;

wield well your tools in the workshop of your world,

so that we, who come rough-hewn to your bench,

may here be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand.

We ask this in your name and for your sake. Amen.

A prayer of the Iona Community, Scotland

(Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Matthew 27:55-61. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. …

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

(Matthew 27:55-61 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

Jesus’ male followers had fled in the face of overwhelming force. But the women disciples of Jesus were overlooked by the men of power and influence among the Jews and the Romans. Women were considered to be no threat at all to their power. Yet it is these women’s testimony of their personal witness to Jesus’ death and his resurrection that eventually overthrew the Roman Empire and outlasted the Jewish nation of the time.

Easter is a time that turns all social expectations upside down. Do you have any assumptions about yourself or others that may need to be turned upside down in light of God’s ways of doing things?

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Good Friday

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: Jesus, Redeemer and Brother

Praise be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits

you have won for me,

for all the pains and insults

you have borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer,

friend and brother,

may I know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day. Amen.

St Richard of Chichester 1197-1253

(Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Matthew 23:37-39. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

37 “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

(Matthew 23:37-39NIV)

Thought for the Day:

This thought concludes a long angry speech by Jesus directed at the religious leaders of his day. Jesus understands that his life will be ended by these same people the very next day. He is angry but he is not filled with hate. Even now he offers them a way to be reconciled with God. He quotes the very Psalm that people were singing at his entry into Jerusalem a few days earlier; Psalm 119 “Hosanna … blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” . If they change their hearts and acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, they will “see me again”. No-one is ever beyond the love of God.

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Gethsemane

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: Seeking the Lord

O gracious and holy God,

give us diligence to seek you,

wisdom to perceive you,

and patience to wait for you.

Grant us, O God,

a mind to meditate on you;

eyes to behold you;

ears to listen for your word;

a heart to love you;

and a life to proclaim you;

through the power of the Spirit

of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St Benedict, 480-543 (

Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Matthew 26:36-39. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

(Mt 36:36-39 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

In 1996 a Disney Movie came out that depicted a dark time in the life of the Church. Ambitious powerful men had become bishops and justice was not a theme in the halls of church power. Disney takes great delight in demonising the Church of that time including the many people who came to the cathedral to pray each day that God would hear their prayers for money, wealth, health and security. But in one highlight cuts through this dark litany of selfishness, one woman is heard to pray not for herself but for others. Underpinning this is her delight and thankfulness to the Creator for her life and that she is so loved by God. Her prayer is like Christ’s in the Garden.

Can you find this gratitude in your heart that enables you to let go and say, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”? Can we be more than spectators in the Garden of Gethsemane?

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Love

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: For the graces of the Holy Spirit

O merciful God,

fill our hearts with the graces of the Holy Spirit,

with love, joy, peace,

patience, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Teach us to love those who hate us,

to bless those who curse us,

and to pray for those who abuse us,

that we may be the children of our Father:

who makes the sun shine on the evil and the good,

and sends rain on the just and unjust.

In adversity grant us grace to be patient;

in prosperity keep us humble;

may we guard the door of our lips;

may we lightly regard the pleasures of this world,

and thirst only after heavenly things;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St Anselm, 1033-1109

(Sourced from A Treasury of Prayers in Uniting in Worship, copyright 1988 Uniting Church in Australia)

Read:

Matthew 22:34-40. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

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

(Mt 22:33-40 NIV)

Thought for the Day:

It is not hard during the many days at home to lose track of time and our sense of self. Jesus addresses this very question in his time when it seems his people have lost their way and wonder what God requires of them. Jesus reply showed it is really very simple to understand when you strip back the detailed requirements of God to what underpins it all.

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Psalm 23 (NRSV) – An Affirmation of Faith As We Shelter at Home

(by Jenny Gordon Gippsland UCA Minister )

23:1a The LORD is my shepherd,

You are my loving shepherd, and I celebrate my place in your flock,

even while we are sitting apart from each other

you gather us together in love, you know us and call us by name.

23:1b I shall not want.

While around me I see panic about not having enough,

I am reminded that you provide what I need;

through the memory of your goodness,

through the kindness of my neighbours,

through your living word enfolding me.

23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

In this time of sheltering at home,

I can enjoy the blessing of rest and the delight of immersing in stillness

knowing that I am not alone,

your gentle encouragement fills me, I drink deeply, until I sleep.

23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

You refresh me with wonder, and I notice small mercies;

soft textures, rich words, melodic laughter, sweet sounds.

You direct my thinking and walking, my working and talking

so that I might bring a blessing in your name.

23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.

Even when I am afraid and lonely, at the end of my coping, you are with me,

steadying my breathing, bringing me back, reminding me of your strength beside me.

23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

You lay out a feast of goodness when I open my eyes to see it,

dismissing the doubters with your abundance.

You bless me with generous, gurgling grace and I can’t hold it all within me.

It spills out, flowing to others, drenching them in delight.

23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long

Bless whatever happens in my shadow, each day, while I keep my face to the light.

Living in your household I am recognised, loved, and held, each moment and for ever. Amen

Jennie Gordon, March 2020 – permission granted to use freely.

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Daily Bread

Prayer:

O, loving God,

To turn away from you is to fall,

to turn toward you is to rise,

and to stand before you is to live for ever. Amen (Prayer by Augustine of Hippo)

Read:

Matthew 4:1-11. Read this 3 times, each time asking God’s help and thinking about those words or phrases that leap out at you.

Thought for the Day:

We all find ourselves spending more time in our own home than we normally would. Some of us don’t mind a little down time after lots of busy-ness but it doesn’t take long for that to wear off. For others who don’t get out much, even those small outings have been taken away.

So how will we survive if this goes on for the next 6 months? This is both a psychological problem (which I will talk about in Sunday’s livestream worship) and a spiritual problem. What sustains us in life? What is our daily bread?

Jesus addressed this issue when the devil tempted him with several misleading temptations:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

(Mt 4:1-4 NIV)

A humorous version of this reading has the devil eagerly asking Jesus to turn the stones into toilet paper. Strangely, the reading still works because it is comparing what we desperately fight to possess compared with our true need; wisdom.

To be wise in life protects us against poor choices and temptation. To be wise in life helps us to be a blessing to those around us. To be wise is to find meaning all around us even when we are confined to our homes to keep the vulnerable safe.

Jesus points you to what will give you life right now; “every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

So take this rare opportunity to spend more time dwelling in the Scriptures. There is wisdom there for you. Do it daily and then it will be “your daily bread”. 2020 may be your time to grow closer to God and richer in life.

Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins,

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours

now and for ever. Amen.

( Look for more devotions on our website over the weeks ahead)

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Living Life in the Storm

(Devotion by Graeme Harrison)

Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of our heart that we may see you clearly and praise you, and that we may see ourselves through your eyes and be thankful.

Our reading picks up a theme from Jesus’ preaching that is repeated over and over again in the Gospel According to Matthew. A theme that will help us navigate the time we now live in. Can you pick it?

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus (Mt 7 NIV)

The house is you. It is where you live including our body. In life this ‘house’ can be a home filled with peace that brings blessing to others. But if this house is allowed to run down then you won’t have another one to move in to. Jesus continually warns people against poor decisions in life “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mt 16:26

Does Jesus tell us what will help us keep our house/self in good shape. He does. The one who “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice”. Jesus words bring about well-being in ourselves and in others. It is precisely in the difficult time of testing “the storm” that we must decide whether to live out the words of Jesus or abandon them in anxiety and panic.

We are in the midst of one of these storms right now. Will we be loving as Jesus commanded or look at everyone with the eyes of suspicion? It is right to cut ourselves off from all physical contact and to keep social distancing. If this is an act of love for the sake of others we maintain our house/self and our sense of integrity- of being true to ourselves and our God. If we do the same action merely out of fear and anxiety then we damage our house/self. Jesus’ words bring life and light into all our interactions in this strange environment we now live in. Trust in him

In a time of social distancing, I have never been so proud of our church as everyone has rallied together over the last week to make sure our church family will be cared for now and into the future. People are realising that we will still now to worship and receive spiritual encouragement even if worship services are closed. Pastoral carers are committing to maintain phone contact in the months ahead. We are going to work on livestreaming worship and developing online ways of meeting. In every case love has been the motivation. The “storm” is battering at the house but it will stand because of those who “hear these words of mine and puts them into practice”.

May your foundations go down deep into the “rock” Jesus Christ. May you find life in this strange time. May Christ keep your ‘house’/self a place of peace and blessing to others.

Prayer: Thank you God that we have your words to sustain us and to guide us. We pray for all those who struggle not just with social distancing but with social isolation. May you be present there. May you open our eyes and help us to be the voice and love of Christ where we can. Amen

(Look for more devotions on our website over the weeks ahead)

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