Easter Resources and Conference 2015

For our Diocese of Auckland LSMUs: We have secured Grafton Hall for our Conference 2015. The dates will be Friday 27 November to Sunday 29 November. These dates late in the month will mean most students will have already departed. Further information will be sent to units shortly.

Easter resources have been updated. Please note that the Music pages and Jane Williams Reflections pages are now marked Year B, Pt.2 from Easter Day onwards. I would like to acknowledge once again the resourcing provided by Chris Harris, and Natalie Sims comprehensive site, from both of which I seek to provide a digest of the best of old and new, including my own recommendations.

Easter blessings,


All-age ideas for Easter 6C: Revelation 22

Anglicans don’t often focus on the Book of Revelation, but the ultimate vision in Chapter 22 certainly merits consideration as a focus for the day. The ideas below are inspired by the Link of the Week on Textweek.com.

The writer (Michael R Lomax) focuses on Healing and notes the difference between “healing” and “cure” – which could be a useful subject for adult reflection. This would provide an opportunity to offer anointing for healing at your service, especially if it hasn’t been offered for a while. Sometimes this is done at the conclusion of the service after others have left, but it can be quite profound to have a minister available in the sanctuary during communion. Those who wish to be anointed remain at the altar rail while communion proceeds. In this way of offering anointing, there is no conversation about what healing is being sought. The minister simply anoints with an appropriate short prayer (there is an example) in NZPB on page 743. Sometimes people receive anointing on behalf of someone else they wish to pray for, and in such cases it is appropriate for them to mention the Christian name (if they wish) before anointing. Note that offering this option to the congregation tends to eliminate any embarrassment about receiving anointing for oneself, since others won’t know why you are seeking anointing. It is helpful if the congregation have some meditative singing (healing or communion focus) while this is proceeding. This should take very little longer than the normal administration of communion.

The Link of the Week also provides the inspiration for celebrating the 5 senses with its description of John’s vision: You could have a small fruit tree in a pot, a clear jug of water, and 12 different kinds of fruit on display (fruit could be cut up and shared, especially with children). Each of the fruits could have an arbitrary “life” value associated with them, and children could be invited to decide how to label each fruit (no wrong answers!) – see Galatians 6.22f for 9 ideas!

A learning point for children could be around God wanting us all to feel better when we are sad or hurt or afraid. Which fruit do they think would make them feel stronger and happier?

There is a colouring page and puzzles for this reading here. It is a downloadable pdf file you can print out.

Each member of the congregation could receive a fragrant leaf (Eucalyptus would be ideal) to crush and smell during the prayers, which should include “the healing of the nations”.

A question the congregation could discuss in the sermon slot would be What would healing for nations look like today? What kinds of healing are most pressing? Have you lived somewhere where there was much hurt or hatred?

The leader/preacher could help people to understand that “The healing of nations” is corporate, and not merely private or individual.

Music for the day could be focused on song directed to the praise of God (rather than objectively “about God” as so much older hymnody is). See the links at the bottom of this blog for hymn and song suggestions.

One contemporary text (available in Together In Song) is Brian Wren’s hymn “Let All Creation Dance (in energies sublime)” which is set to the familiar DARWALL tune. Google the title in inverted commas to find instances of the full text.

All-age and preaching ideas for Easter 5

The pivotal reading this week may be Peter’s justification of the inclusion of Gentiles before the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem – and of course it is pivotal to us Gentile Christians,  as Peter recalls the “Gentile Pentecost” at the house of Cornelius.

Focusing on this reading provides for an all-age idea: Have a large sheet available, and a supply of stuffed toy animals to put in it. Have children choose animals to put in and talk about whether they would eat them or not. Explain that Jewish people weren’t supposed to eat some kinds of animal (see Leviticus 11), but now God is telling Peter something surprising and different.

Click on this picture for a larger version which you can print out:

Peter's vision

Peter's Vision

In talking to adults, we can stress that the meaning of the vision is about breaking down the purity barrier and the fulfilment of the inclusion of gentiles in God’s purposes. (See preaching starters below).

In terms of preaching application, we all need to be challenged about whom we still regard as unclean. Adults could volunteer to stand in the sheet to represent such persons – or the preacher could stand in the sheet and suggest whom they might be.

The three readings also have some obvious links: The commandment of Jesus to “love one another” as a testimony to the world; praise offered up by all creation in Psalm 148; making all things new in Rev. 21

You could sing as a Gradual (or during Communion) the old Scripture in Song chorus “A new commandment” in this version:

The new commandment that I give to you
is to love one another as I have loved you,
is to love one another as I have loved you.
By this all people will know you’re my disciples:
if you have love one for another.
By this all people will know you’re my disciples:
if you have love one for another.

It’s short enough to print in your bulletin! (There’s no copyright on this text.)

Here are some preaching starters:

Bill Loader: One way or other, both Paul and Luke reach the conclusion that no discrimination, no matter how biblically based, can stand in the way of God’s outreaching love. Of course, Jews and Christian Jews who remained strict adherents of biblical law also affirmed such love for all, seeing circumcision and other provisions as God’s gift of guidelines to sustain and protect the special relationship. Luke is close to them, needing divine interventions from heaven to contemplate change, but Paul goes all the way in arguing that one needs to recognise the unintended consequences of some biblical laws, which stand in tension with what should be seen as its heart and promise. Making love so central that it gives us freedom to set aside even biblical laws where new cultural contexts make them inappropriate was the insight which Paul brought. It is still at the heart of the much conflict about use of scripture today.

Walter Brueggemann: The trance reported by Peter places Peter (and his church) exactly “in between” (a) the old purity requirements and (b) God’s new verdict on what is “clean.” Were I preaching this text, I might read at some length the purity rules of Leviticus 11:2-28 and Deuteronomy 14:3-20 in order to get the trance in context. I would do so not to trivialize the notion of purity but to invite the congregation to consider quickly its own list of what or who is unclean and abhorrent. We might consider our contemporary “purity codes” that find “impure” all those unlike us. In dominant culture that could include Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, illegal immigrants, gays and lesbians, poor people, aging people—all those who do not meet our expectations of “productivity.” Peter lingers over the “codes,” but must hurry to catch up with a new verdict rendered in the trance.

Dan Clendenin: I’ve found it a humbling exercise to ask what categories of people I sanctimoniously spurn as impure, unclean, dirty, contaminated, and, in my mind, as far from God. If Peter had his Cornelius, what is my modern equivalent? Maybe Rudy Giuliani and his wife who between them have been married six times? Or greedy executives, lazy welfare recipients, Republicans who lied us into a catastrophic war… ? How have I distorted the self-sacrificing, egalitarian love of God into self-serving, exclusionary elitism? What boundaries do I wrongly build or might I bravely shatter? I pray to follow Peter’s obedience and experience what Borg calls a “community shaped not by the ethos and politics of purity, but by the ethos and politics of compassion.”

For further reflection:

* Are there special categories of people you are tempted to exclude as “impure?” … (and there are some more useful questions here – Ed.)

Jon M. Walton: If Golgotha was the day of reckoning for our salvation, then the day that Peter dreamed of innumerable unclean creatures made clean in God’s estimation was the day salvation actually came to our house, to you and to me. Before that moment, Christianity was not available to those who were not born and ritually inducted into Judaism. But ever since the early church was opened to gentiles, Christians have struggled to be as open in other times and places, and as willing to embrace those we thought were unclean but whom God has declared clean.

with acknowledgement to http://www.textweek.com