Resources for a service of worship
Call to worship
Liberating God, you call us from darkness to light, you call us from blindness to sight, you call us to life, to fullness and to the joy of generosity.
Deep calls to deep; our souls hear and so we draw near,
we are eager for your healing touch, your calming presence and your encouraging word. So we slow down our hurry; we lay down our busyness; we let down our guard and we come to worship.
Scripture reading: Matthew 7: 1-5
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.
Reflections and Questions to Consider
Jesus tells the crowds a number of times that it is important to stop judging. Stop making comparisons. Stop competing. Stop measuring others and yourself against a standard that you cannot maintain. But it’s important to notice that he does not say stop caring about others. Stop reaching out. Stop listening to others and loving your neighbour as yourself. He never says stop aiming for compassion, generosity and kindness.
Stop judging does not mean ‘have no standards, have no ideals, make no effort to grow beyond yourself or to reach outside yourself.’
When it comes to family violence, you may be absolutely certain that there is no log – or even a speck – in your own eye. But in Jesus’ illustration, the one with the log in their eye is also utterly unaware of it. So the text invites us, you could even say it provokes us, to check in and ask: what might I not be seeing?
Most of us think of family violence as a physical act. But there is a disingenuous sliding scale at work here. Violence isn’t just physical, it’s also emotional, psychological and even spiritual. There are many ways that our sense of safety can be compromised by threatening words, put downs, shaming, simmering silence, ‘the look’, avoidance…intimidation can be very subtle. Our judging may not even be voiced, but it is still a palpable presence creating an atmosphere of fear and foreboding.
This teaching about judging and being clear eyed is part of a long and rich collection of Jesus’ teachings that Matthew’s account of the gospel gives us as the sermon on the mount. Earlier in chapter 5, Jesus has taken laws from the Hebrew Scriptures and offered a new, broader perspective on their interpretation. Included in those is this re-contextualisation of the sixth commandment:
21 ‘You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire.
Jesus is taking anger very seriously here, and Paul also has cautionary words to say about how we recognise the cause and how we regulate our expression of anger:
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,Ephesians 4:26
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ….now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.Colossians 3:2-3; 8
So if you took a clear eyed look at your own house first, consider these questions:
- What level of anger is normal in your household ?
- How is anger expressed? Is it a flash of temper when crossed to exert control or is it resentment hidden in passive resistance or quiet defiance to undermine authority?
- If it’s normal, does that really make it ok and you don’t have to work to change it – does that mean there’s no negative impact on how safe people feel or how deeply they are free to grow and flourish?
Anger at home that is normalised means there is no reason the same level of anger isn’t also normal in your community, even in a church community.
- How is anger managed in your homes and in your community? Is it different?
- What are the stories you tell about relationships that have disturbed the peace of the community and how has respect, listening and healing been brought about?
As you think about this, you might also want to consider the tools you use to change unwanted behaviours in your family or community.
- Is shaming the way you try to motivate a change in behaviour?
- Is blaming one of your go to habits?
Many of us grew up with experiences of being shamed for doing something wrong or making a mistake. Shame tells us we are bad and wrong at our very core. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’ll always be ‘not good enough’ no matter how hard we try…so why try?
Equally, blaming allows us to wriggle out of what we are responsible for even if we are only partly responsible. Blaming shifts the focus from whatever speck/log is in our own eye to the speck/log in someone else’s eye.
What are the better tools in your toolbox for taking stock, recognising what you are accountable for and working to change? Jesus assures us that, once you have done your own work, you’ll be wiser and more clear sighted to help others – we all need help to learn new things…perhaps there are wise ones in your community or family who can help?
A story of connection – you matter
This powerful story was told by Rachel Naomi Remen at a conference to chaplains in 2007. In it she speaks of a web of belonging and connection that enables us to bless each other unaware, to support change and growth because we all matter and none of us is alone. The web is there even when we don’t see it and even when we don’t believe we deserve it, love reaches out to touch and bless.
Prayers of the people
These prayers use the words of a Taize chant as a spoken call and response, but you could also sing the chant as the call and response, before prayer or in between each petitionary phrase. There is also space for you to enlarge on these prayers with more specifics depending on your context and what you are aware of holding in your heart and mind to bring to prayerful attention.
After the words: The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
We respond: Come, Lord, and open in us the gate of your Kingdom.
Where there is fear, hunger and thirst, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Where there is violence, anger and shame, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Where there is suffering, sorrow and grief, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Where there is distrust, anxiety and greed, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Where there is faith, hope and openness, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Where there is courage, integrity and humility, may your love and light be made manifest in your people. The Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
May God who is Three in One,
teach you to be receptive to the Word,
attentive to each other
and aware of yourself.
May you go from this place with renewed hope
and with deeper commitment to the work of love
in you and through you.
May you find yourself moved
by the infectious joy of God’s kingdom of justice and peace,
and so discover your place and part
in God’s healing, restoring activity in all creation.
How able are you to respond to Jesus’ teachings about anger as violence and the call to attend to your own house, bring clarity to your own seeing before you judge others for their poor choices or lack of standards?
What kind of response might clear sighted, non-judgemental compassion stir in you?
How might you kindly, patiently and sensitively make a difference for good?
Share the love
You can download and print copies of this tear-off tab poster and use them to encourage others, to spark conversation, to provoke thoughtful reflection or engage more deeply in prayer…
If you aren’t sure about how to promote awareness around family violence or start conversations that build trust and avoid shaming, blaming or angry confrontation, then this might be a way for you to begin.
Craftivism is gentle activism to promote reflective conversations. You can learn more about it here. And if you do choose to be crafty in response to white ribbon day, please post photos and share links.