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Includes readings from Thinking About God
by Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003),
liberation and eco-feminist theologian.

Holy Thursday, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
April 17, 2014

The Gathering of the People of God

Jesus said:
If I then your Teacher and Sovereign have washed your feet,
you should wash each other’s feet.
I have given you an example,
that you should do as I have done to you.

The grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the friendship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all!
And also with you.

Today we begin the Great Three Days of Jesus’ suffering,
his death and resurrection;
the journey from the supper table to the cross,
from the cross to Easter dawn.
We are followers in his way,
receiving his truth,
encountering his life.

We give ourselves freely to the demands of these Three Days,
confident that those who die with Christ
will surely live with him.

“Faith is not primarily a comfort in an ordinary and often lousy life, but another way of living, hoping, acting. It means a revolution in the human heart ... Christ does not just comfort us but changes our lives ... The basis of faith is not that it was Christ who spoke with divine authority; the basis of faith is the praxis of the poor man from Nazareth who shared his bread with the hungry, made the blind see, and lived and died for justice. Obedience to authority does not get us any further; praxis does” (pp. 18-19).

“[T]hose addressed by the word of God and thus the deepest concern of theology are, then as now, the poor, the landless masses in Palestine, the wanderers, who have no heritage, no portion of land, no profession, no chance, whom Jesus gathered into his movement: poor who went with him through the land, including a striking number of women. We must really imagine the biblical context in terms of the present-day ‘Third World’” (p. 39).

“The sharpest criticism which must be directed at liberal theology on the matter of creation is that it did not respect and press for the sacrality of the created world ... The various trends in liberation theology are agreed that the existing world order is hostile to creation, indeed that in its various forms of oppression by class rule, racism, sexism and imperialism over nature it represents an attack on creation ... The liturgy is not an adornment to life but a place for lament, for the expression of grief. Without compassion for dying seals and the woods that are wasting away we cannot learn love for creation. And without this immanence of God in our earth we lose the transcendence of God” (pp. 49,52).

“The male conception of the person who rebels against God by affirming himself, by acting proudly, arrogantly and without constraints, is not a woman’s concern. Rather, we women are in danger of not developing any pride, of never becoming independent, of constantly remaining within all too narrow boundaries” (p. 67).

“Work in the liberation movements for peace and reconciliation with creation have made me more hungry for a good use of the tradition ... If we want to do feminist liberation theology, we must find criteria for identifying the point at which the bible ‘urges Christ’ [Martin Luther] ... Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza has called for a critical examination and evaluation of biblical texts in terms of whether or not they ‘contribute to the biblical sense of salvation and wholeness’ ...

“From the perspective of liberation theology the collaboration of those who are to be freed is indispensable; indeed, one has to say that God’s action without us is a misunderstanding. God wants us to be involved in God’s activity, which is more than merely distributing grace. Becoming involved means allowing participation, and God would still be conceived of as an autocratic authority if he kept his power to himself. The mutuality of giving and taking, needing and being needed, is necessary for love ...” (p. 85).

“In great dedication I enter an obligation, a commitment, which changes my real life, my body. I know what I am living for. In that case the place where I live will look different, the time which I devote to certain things will change, my priorities can no longer be dictated by ‘this’ world. I no longer spend my money, consume, in the same way. To be ‘in Christ’ means to practise this surrender, to which Christ calls us in grace” (p. 94).

“To my understanding of sin and grace, the word ‘sinsick’ speaks volumes. Sin is disgusting, and one has to vomit if one lives in it without grace. It is a disease, like an addiction; but there is balm in Gilead, and even the sick can be made ‘whole’” (p. 101).

The Liturgy of the Word

Prepare our hearts, O God,
to receive your word.

“What is there special about this man from Galilee who was tortured to death? Why could he not be done away with? Why is he still present and effective ...?

“... The intrinsic difficulty of Christian doctrine consists in remembering that Jesus was a real human being like everyone else, who talked, sweated, was hungry, was anxious - and of whom at the same time we say that he gives life, shows the way and lives the truth (John 14:6) ... [O]nly by stressing that he was as we are can we say in what respect he was not as we are: in respect of sin. In fact we do not live for others but exploit others; we live for ourselves. But that does not distinguish us in a physical or metaphysical sense from Christ, but in an existential sense ...” (p. 117).

GOSPEL John 13:1-15 (Glynn)

The Wisdom of God;
God’s word made new.

“Sharing in his dream, I call myself a Christian. My understanding of reality is shaped by the Jewish Christian tradition. In it life means involvement, living in relationships, living by and for relationships. I could even say that the more the relationship, the more the reality; the less the relationship, the more death there is. This character of life as relationship also means that we always already live with, by and under ‘images’, former pictures of life or pictures handed on to us by others. We hear stories; we identify ourselves: each person has a world of pictures, and it is inconceivable that we could be human without images, pictures, forms and voices which speak to us. There is no life without images; we are always already in relationships which make demands on us; we always already live with and under images which comfort us and promise us meaning. The question is really only what comfort, what promise, these pictures offer us. The photograph of a beautiful young woman in a swimming pool in the springtime garden of a luxury villa is also an ‘image’ in this shaping, educating, attractive sense: I can make it my goal, my life’s dream. However, from a Christian perspective this picture is an idol which promises human beings hope and meaning and life, and for which they offer great sacrifices. The images of our advertising are icons of the religion of consumerism. The image of Christ is also an icon, but of quite a different life” (117-118).

Participation is voluntary.

Friends in Christ, I invite you to come forward,
that we may recall whose servants we are
and remember Christ’s teaching,
that what is done for us is also to be done for others.

“The criterion for what the church is remains the kingdom of God; the church arises out of its proclamation, and organizes itself in its direction. Participation in the historical liberation of the people of God by God is and remains the criterion by which we can distinguish the church from a mere apparatus of power” (p. 137).

God of grace, hear our prayer. ...
Faithful God,
these are the prayers of your Church.
We offer them, trusting and hoping in you.
Hear and help us, challenge and change us,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

“Christians in the Nazi period conformed with the Nazis, and Christians today are economic conformists, even if this conformity involves the destruction of God’s creation” (p. 147).

“Many women base-theologians in the Third World, also sometimes called ‘barefoot theologians’, see their task more in looking after the water supply for their community than in writing sermons or articles. They organize the poorest, identify their needs, and visit the city authorities to get material ... Base communities gather around concrete tasks and needs, and from the communities, attempts develop to live the new life credibly in another life-style” (p. 152).


It was at this time
when everything came to a head.
One whole life, offered for others,
amid fractious disciples,
power struggles,
jockeying for position.

On this day
we too take bread and wine,
and receive the gift of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Come then,
whether you are strong or weak.
Come, because you love God a little
and would like to love God more.
Come, because God loved you
and gave the Christ for you.






It was on this day, when everything came to a head;
a life offered for others;
a ministry of healing and teaching,
of witness to the reign of God.

It was on this day that Christ gave us these gifts:
the breaking of bread, his body;
the pouring of wine, his blood;
the washing of feet, our feet,
and the feet of others.

In this is the call to love one another,
as Christ has loved us.

In this holy meal is the Good News
that there will always be a new dawn, a Third Day,
no matter how many Good Fridays there are.

“I think that one danger in our lives is that we often confuse the meaning of life with success. In this way we remain at the spiritual level of capitalism, which regards success as the supreme value. It is also conceivable to the believer that the enemies of God will succeed in destroying this creation. In that case the truth of Jesus would end in tragedy. But would it be destroyed as truth? In that case God would sit over the ruins of this radioactive planet, weeping. Faith does not mean living without anxiety. If we are serious about understanding God’s being in social terms, thinking of God as the power at the beginning, the power of relationship, then the continuation of creation depends on the strength of love among human beings. Whether or not the nuclear winter comes depends on how many people rise from the death of unrelatedness and are converted. God lures anew each day, to repent” (p. 195).

The Sending Forth of the People of God

GOSPEL John 18:1-12

No Blessing is given here; it waits until the end of the Easter Vigil
(dawn on Easter Day).

Christ was obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Go in peace. Amen.

We depart in silence.

‘A service for Holy Thursday’ in Uniting in Worship 2,
Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005.
Icon by Monsignor Anthony LaFemina, a canonist,
theologian and iconographer, on the staff of the Diocese of Charleston.
Readings from Dorothee Soelle, Thinking About God: An Introduction to
Theology, SCM Press, London, 1990.