Worship service for Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Sunday 3 July 2016
Year C Sunday 14
Theme: Jesus and the Compassionate Life
Call to worship
The Kingdom of God has come near
The God of Compassion
Invites us to be compassionate,
To live the life of the Kingdom
Here and now.
Together in Song 217 Love Divine, all loves excelling
Passing the peace:
Prayers of adoration and confession
God of Love,
We thank you for the love and compassion you show to us, accepting us and caring for us, no matter how much we fail to live up to your hopes for us.
We thank you for the gift of Jesus, who came as one of us, to show us your love, and to teach us how to love our neighbours, to show us how to be a part of your Kingdom.
We thank you for the gift of your Spirit who walks with us day by day, never leaving us to face the challenges and choices of life alone, who reminds us of your love, and inspires us to reflect your love in our love for others.
We confess the times we have failed to show compassion,
The times we didn’t even try to forgive those who hurt us,
The times when we saw our neighbour’s need and decided it wasn’t our problem,
The times when we allowed ourselves to be hardened because caring can hurt and can cost too much.
Teach us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength,
and to love one another as you have loved us.
In Jesus’ name we pray,
Declaration of forgiveness
The truth and the promise of the Gospel is this
Jesus came into the world for ordinary, sinful people such as us,
So I have confidence to say to you:
Our sins are forgiven!
Thanks be to God.
Hymn Together in Song 236 Jesus’ hands were kind hands
Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness
Galatians 6: 1-16
Luke 10:1-11 and 16-20
When you go to a group of people and they don’t accept you, just walk away. Don’t post nasty things about them on social media, or try to force them to see the world exactly the same way you do, or set up a lobby group to try to get them kicked out of the country, just leave and let them be. Wipe the dust off your feet and go somewhere else.
When you go to people who will accept you, stay among them. Live in their culture, eat the same food they do. Heal their sick. Care for them. Care particularly for those who are in need. Then proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near.
“The Kingdom of God”, or “The Kingdom of Heaven”; was something Jesus talked about constantly. I know there’s a modern cultural idea that Heaven is where good people go when they die. The way Jesus talked about it, however, you could see, that to him, “The Kingdom of Heaven” is more than just pie in the sky when you die.
In Jesus’ teaching, and in the life he modelled during his time sharing our human life, the Kingdom of Heaven was something concrete, real, as much “here and now” as “eternally”.
You want to see the Reign of God? Don’t wait, become a citizen now.
We are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, when we love our neighbor, when we forgive those who have hurt us, when we pray for people who persecute us, when we heal the sick, feed the hungry, help the poor out of poverty, when we care about people even if their lives are totally different from our own. Basically we are living in the Kingdom of Heaven when we live the life that Jesus spent his earthly ministry teaching us to live: when we show compassion.
As you know, our winter huddles have been huddling over many aspects of the spiritual life Jesus modelled. This week’s topic has been compassion. Compassion means “feeling with” someone. It’s about actually trying to understand things from their perspective, and caring about them. Another term for the same thing could be love.
It breaks my heart when people who claim to represent Christians can then support the mistreatment of people from marginalized groups, when they justify this on the basis of judging other people’s sins, or that they are of the wrong faith. I can’t see how anyone can read the gospels and think that is what Jesus intended for us to do.
Jesus loves sinners. How much of his limited time in earthly ministry did he spend dining with the good Pharisees? How much with the sinners, prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors?
Jesus loves people who are from different cultures, and Jesus loves people who love others. The Centurian who loved his servant enough to belittle himself and seek help from a wandering preacher from a subject people, was met with compassion from Jesus.
Jesus loves people who don’t believe in and don’t like him: on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for those who killed him.
To live in the Kingdom of God doesn’t require us to judge who is in and who is out. Just to determine that we will love, and have compassion on everyone, regardless. There’s no option to decide we won’t care about the needs of the sinners or the needs of the people who have a different culture. If God places us in a position where we have the opportunity to show compassion to another person, then that is what we are to do.
There’s a stark difference between the Kingdom that Jesus sent the 70 (or 72 depending on which ancient manuscript your translation of the Bible used as a source) to proclaim, and the geo-political kingdoms of the world. We’ve just had a two-month election campaign to remind us, in case we forgot.
Earthly, geo-political nations do work on an in or out basis. That’s why we have border protection. They work a lot on selfishness and fear. We limit migration because we don’t want “them” to have what “we” have. That’s why we need our borders protected from people who come to us seeking help.
The Kingdom of Heaven shows compassion, seeks to heal the sick, care for the poor, provide for the needy.
The geo-political nation clamps down on disability pensions because pensioners are a burden on the economy, argues about what will happen with medicare, and wants growth, growth and more growth, because there’s no limit to the greed and the urge to have more and more and more.
The currency of the geo-political nation is money, and people are expected to seek to get more and more and more. The currency of the Kingdom of Heaven is love, and its citizens seek to give more and more and more. (Since money is based on things like work, minerals, and crops; and love is something that comes directly from God, only one of those is actually unlimited, and sustainable for eternity.)
Of course, we can’t opt out of the political system. We all had to vote. And the best any of us can do is vote for whichever party we see at the time as coming closest to our actual values. Any two people might start with the same set of values and vote for two different political parties, because they will all support some of what we believe is right, and some of what we believe is wrong. There’s no party that’s actually cornered the market on compassion. In the heat of an adversarial election campaign, it sometimes seems that no party has any interest in compassion, but hopefully that’s not completely true. It’s just that the values of the world, really are not completely in line with the kingdom, and while we have to live with a foot in both camps, we have to deal with the tension.
And there really is a tension. Think about the wars that Australia’s involved in that no-one wins or loses, they just go on and on and on. Do we as a nation love our enemies? Can we even imagine what that would look like? Do we even love the people fleeing our enemies enough to help them get to safety?
We have to accept that life in the Kingdom of Heaven will sometimes have a sense of dissonance with life in the world around us. When we notice that dissonance, and have to choose one over another, choosing compassion is always the best option. It’s what Jesus would recommend.
Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ
Service of Holy Communion (UIW2 p163ff)
Hymn and offering Together in Song 697 All the sleepy should have a place to sleep
What’s God doing among us?
Prayers of the people
Yesterday, we elected a government,
Some of us may be pleased with the result,
Some of us may be disappointed,
However we feel, we pray that all those elected will carry out their work with wisdom and integrity, and with the utmost compassion for the people affected by their decisions
(from What God’s doing among us…)
We pray in Jesus’ name.
Go out into the world, care for those in need, and show them God’s love and tell them the Kingdom of God has come near.
And grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you always.
Hymn Together in Song 599 Take my life and let it be