Uniting Church Hopkins Region Devotions for 7 June 2020
Here are some devotions you might like to spend some time reading, praying and reflecting on; especially if you can’t access the-
-Hopkins Region YouTube service. In YouTube, search for Uniting Church Hopkins Region, or you can go directly to it from the Warrnambool Uniting Church website: warrnambooluntingchurch.org.au/services or at
-Or free_key.com on Zoom at 9am Sunday. Meeting ID: 952 7479 6364 and Password: 157920
What we do in free_key will have a lot in common with this.
Grace and peace be with you!
As is our custom and what we want to do, we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of our land, honour their care for the land, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. We acknowledge we have what we have because of their dispossession. So we commit ourselves to reconciliation and justice as First and Second Peoples together.
Dear God, I give thanks for my connection to you, and to our Christian community. As I spent this time in devotions, draw me closer to your heart, to appreciate more the intimate place in which I’m held in your love. May that love send a tingle all through me, that I may glow with your love for those I already love and for your world. In the name of Jesus. Amen
Reflective Prayer Spend a moment seeing what arises in your heart with these prompts. Don’t judge the thoughts, feelings or memories but boldly hold them before God as part of you.
There are things that I know are good in how I live . . .
There are things that I know are not good . . .
There are many things that are in a messy, unsure, middle . . .
And things I’m caught up and stuck in . . .
Free me from regrets that wrap around me . . . for things done . . . and for opportunities missed . . .
Free me from hurts that still haunt me . . .
Guide me in these questions I have . . .
Make clear for me these situations where I’m in two minds (or three or four) . . .
And give me some time to lose all these in gratitude for the huge range of blessings you give . . .
For the gift of life, for your love, for your grace, for your strength, for your peace, for the inner voice of your Spirit, I praise you. Amen
We’re continuing this series on Jesus’ Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount. In today’s reading we see again that Jesus toughens up the Jewish Law, which was about actions, to include attitudes. But he’s not just making it even more impossible to fully obey. He’s saying what happens within you if you get caught up in living in a Spirit of love. Whereas once I would pray submitting myself to obey God’s will, in my morning ‘waking-up’ prayer each day I now eagerly ask to fully participate in God’s True Life Flow which is love. It’s this change of attitude- wanting to be part of God’s action, rather than reluctantly obeying God’s rules.
Reading: Matthew 5: 27-31
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also.
The 7th of the 10 Commandments was that brief- ‘Do not commit adultery’. How does that allow for the complications of modern life? Yet Jesus says ‘Don’t even be lustful.’ And when the Jewish Law said ‘give a written notice (which may have been a bigger deal in a largely illiterate society) to divorce your wife’; Jesus says- well it’s interesting- it’s not just ‘Don’t get divorced.’ You might like to look up what Jesus says recorded in Matthew 19:9, Mark 10: 11-12 and Luke 16:18. There are some differences. I think Jesus is saying don’t be looking for loopholes. We make a mistake if we try to make what Jesus says into legalism. If we seek to live in the Spirit of Love, people are most likely to be faithful. But when that doesn’t work out we are held in grace, and we are given new starts.
What Jesus says about looking lustfully, is not about attraction, even day-dreaming, but possessing- where the woman becomes an object- when its what you want, regardless of what she might want. That is denying the full humanity of someone. At the same time, when you are attracted, it’s not making that person an idol, again it’s recognising their full humanness. When Jesus speaks about cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye that’s not meant to be taken literally, but taken seriously: avoid the things that can lead to lust. It can mean don’t look at porn for example.
Now, note what Jesus says is all directed to men. So women can do whatever they like! Yeah? Rather than it being primarily about gender, it’s directed to those who are powerful in a situation. With power goes responsibility to not oppress or exploit those with less power. In terms of what-not-to-do, this is what the Law is all about. But if you’re caught up in the Spirit of Love you’re not going to do that anyway. Reading the gospels as a whole, within the given patriarchy, Jesus was always tipping the balance towards equality.
Reading: John 8: 1-11
8 Then everyone went home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early the next morning he went back to the Temple. All the people gathered around him, and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery, and they made her stand before them all. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 In our Law Moses commanded that such a woman must be stoned to death. Now, what do you say?” 6 They said this to trap Jesus, so that they could accuse him. But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger. 7 As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.” 8 Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she answered. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
I love how in the story Jesus wrote in the dirt. There have been many guesses at what he wrote, but I think it was just doodling to divert the angry attention away from the woman.
In this reading, in John 4 with the Samaritan woman, and in Luke 7 with the ‘sinful’ woman who anointed him, Jesus always has grace for the woman, the less powerful person, who gets caught up in wrongdoing- whatever her (lesser) share of blame. But still he calls the person to a new, better way.
Questions to ponder.
Who holds power in our world, our communities, our church, our homes?
What does Jesus say to people who make mistakes because they are longing for love?
What does Jesus say to people who exploit others because they hold power?
Where do you see real grace happening?
Where do you see cheap grace happening (where a blind eye is turned)?
Where do you see inappropriate (not Jesus’ style) judgment?
Where do you see appropriate judgment happening?
Create a clean heart within me Lord, where loving goodness is my desire;
and a clean mind, where I see clearly through murky deals to what is right.
I pray for our world that seems to be descending into more chaos.
But I give thanks for all the calling out of racism, corruption, greed, sleaze, and plain rudeness.
Bless all the protests, and help them to be both peaceful and effective.
I pray for all the situations around the Covid 19 virus- those who have it, those in quarantine, those who work in care, those who have lost work and have no support, those whose poverty makes them very vulnerable, those who are bereaved, those in research. I pray for all leaders for goodwill and wisdom.
I pray for those facing loss of crops and famine in Africa and across to India from a locust plague.
I pray for all those sexually exploited, those who face sexual harassment, or are at risk of violence in their relationships. I pray for all people finding their way through the trickiness of sexuality. Help us see it as a blessing and a joy. I pray for all those deserted and all those lonely and longing for love.
I pray for movement forward in Reconciliation, in abating climate change and our treatment of refugees.
I pray for healing for those I know of who are unwell and for others in need . . .
And for myself . . .
Loving Creator, we honour you, and we honour all that you have made.
Renew the whole world in the image of your love.
Give us what we need for today, and a hunger to see the whole world fed.
Strengthen us for what lies ahead; heal us from the hurts of the past;
give us courage to follow your call in this moment.
For your love is the only power,
the only home, the only honour we need,
in this world and in the world to come. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer paraphrased by Sarah Dylan Breuer
Yes life is complicated, and we all carry baggage from our choices and those of others.
So please, always know you are held in the loving grace of God,
who understands us thoroughly and loves us as we are.
May that love give you freedom from whatever holds you back from living life fully,
and hold you back from using whatever power you have to harm others.
May your life be so tuned to Love that you are a blessing all around you.
In the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen