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Laying Down the Stones - Liturgy for International Women’s Day

Written by Rev. Pamela Tankersley
March 20, 2013

It is written remembering the brutal gang rape in India on December 16, 2012. A 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 from the massive internal injuries she sustained during the savage bus assault a fortnight earlier, which caused outrage across India and the world.

For this service you will need a beautiful Christ candle, arranged in a central spot, and a basket of stones, one for each participant.

The worship may be led by one or more people, reading the words in lighter print. The words in bold will be spoken by all the worshipping community.

For the Reflection choose three people to play the roles of

  • the husband of the woman brought before Jesus
  • a friend of the woman
  • one of Jesus’ disciples

Please feel free to use songs that are familiar to your faith community.   

Greeting

The peace of Christ be with you all
And also with you

All are invited to share a sign of peace.

Call to worship

The Christ candle is lit

We light this candle to remind us that as we gather, surely, Christ gathers with us.
Jesus, be in our midst today; bring light, love and strength.

O God you brought forth light out of darkness and out of nothing you created the universe.
With awe and trembling we come into your presence.

In Christ you lived among us, you taught and healed and showed your great love by embracing the bitter cross.
With longing and hope we come into the mystery of your presence.

O Holy Spirit, you come to us in the rushing wind and fire, bringing strength and comforting and healing.
With open hearts and minds we come into the mystery of your presence.

Be in our midst today, O God; bring light, love and strength.

Song
(Of your choice)

Prayer of Confession

Keeper and companion of us all, forgive us:
You call us like Eve, to co-create new worlds,
but we turn away and backslide into the comfort of our known reality
You call us like Miriam to dance for freedom,
but we turn away and glory in how far we have come , forgetting how far our sisters have yet to travel
You call us like Deborah, to judge our world, to make decisions and offer counsel,
but we turn away and apologise for our anger and compromise our positions
You call us like Naomi and Ruth to love each other,
But we turn away and compete, making enemies of those most like us
You call us like Mary to be faithful bearers of your word
But we turn away and believe the myths of our inadequacy
You call us like Thecla and Phoebe to begin a new kind of church
but we turn away and accept a place in the system, rationalising things as they are

Women only: As women we do not claim our gifts, we do not face up to your call,
we do not appreciate your partnership in creating a new community and a new world

Men only: As men we continue to believe it is our right and our responsibility to be in charge of the world
we do not appreciate your partnership in creating a new community and a new world

Today we repent,
We turn from our old ways and commit ourselves to new partnerships and to new visions for a different heaven and earth.

Adapted from” Women Included- A book of services and prayers,”

Song

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy
(Please use a Kyrie you are familiar with)

Lament of an Abused Woman

Darkness

There is no light in my darkness,
No spark to break through the void
Into which with crushing swiftness
I am cast without chance to protest.
Oh once I walked in joy and daylight
And laughed at the day and the night,
Delighting in God’s presence and
Skipping in the light the sun!

But now I fall before the sunlight
And sob at the memory of joy,
The laughter that danced before me
Echoes and mocks me from afar.
Where once I walked with powerful stride,
I creep and hide in the shadows,
And where once I boldy gazed,
Now I shade my eyes in shame..

No strength to cry – to sob: Enough!
Unable, even, to whisper.
No more to reach and find firm hold,
Only empty chasms around me.
No more to stand on ground secure,
All, all is swept away!
And I, a naked child in the night,
Lost, bewildered, alone.

No God now to hold me up,
No God to strengthen me.
No Spirit to breathe a touch of life
In this night of desolation.
And the deepest darkest pain of all
Shrieks wildly through my anguish:
The love is gone! The joy is done!
Curl up and die alone.

Edwina Gately  Psalms of a Laywoman

Song
(Of your choice)

Scripture Reading:

John 8:2-11 The woman caught in adultery

Early in the morning Jesus came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (NRSV)

Reflection: Bystanders to a stoning…

The Husband of the Woman brought before Jesus, in the Temple:

She’s only a woman for heaven’s sake, and we all know that like Eve they are set to disturb us and bring us down to their level.  She deserves what she is about to get – how dare she betray my honour and my house.  I gave her father a good dowry and this is how I am paid; I have no doubt that she bewitched that silly man… 

I know she will protest her innocence, like they all do, but if she was out walking in public in a way that attracts attention, then she should pay the price. She has humiliated me, and I want justice to be done! I am glad the Torah has good statutes to deal with situations like this!

But what is this?  Who is this man they are interrogating – it’s that outspoken Rabbi Jesus – let’s see what he has to say!  I’ve head they want to trap him into denying the Torah, well, this will be interesting – will he tell them the Romans don’t allow us to put anyone to death, or will he agree to treat this baggage as she deserves? 

Her friend

Oh my God, oh my God what has she done:  they will stone her, they will kill her as the Torah says they must!  But she is not the one to blame - it was him, he took her by force, he forced himself on her   - they’ve got it all wrong. I saw it happen, but I was too afraid to even move-they would have come for me as well. 

I told her she was playing with fire – she should know if she wore that dress it was asking for trouble – and that she would get the blame…  She looks so terrified; my heart goes out to her. 

And where is that man, anyway? As usual, it’s only the woman that is blamed…

Now they asking that Jesus what he thinks they should do.  He is a man of compassion, I am told. Will he have the courage to stand up for her against this crowd of angry self-righteous men?

But look, he is not answering them, just quietly writing in the sand – can you read what he has spelt out?  I don’t think he is going to play it their way…

A Disciple of Jesus

Oh Jesus, my brother, what are you going to do now?  Will you join with them and condemn her – and break Roman law or will you side with her and break with the Torah?  They have you trapped.  But can you betray all you stand for, can you betray the women in our group, Mary Magdalene, Susanna and Salome and the rest:  you have always treated them as equals with respect and honour, and allowed them to minister to you…

What was that you said to these men?  That the one who is without sin should cast the first stone!  Well that’s giving them pause for thought – in this small town we all know each other and we all know who lusts after whose woman.

Well, how about that!  Off they all go, without a single stone thrown.

And now? How will you deal with her?

Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

A time of silent reflection

Song
(Of your choice)

Laying down of the stones

Sisters and brothers you are invited now to take a stone from the basket and lay it in a circle around the Christ candle, signifying our participation in societies that exploit the vulnerability of women and create systems where violence against women and girls is at worst condoned and at least is tolerated. 

As we lay our stones down, we may choose to remember and pray for a woman known to us who has been violated:  physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Song (repeated)

Affirmation of faith

We believe in light beyond our seeing,
flowing from the flame of life in God
who creates us in her image, in his image.

We believe in healing beyond our knowing,
from the Christ who refuses to let the stones of our struggles be thrown,
but lays them at the foot of the cross;
who is the cornerstone of our hope and our empowerment.

We believe in the grace of God’s Spirit,
as we journey on laughing and weeping in the centre of our pain,
celebrating in the power of our solidarity,
with all who stand for love and hope,
and the victory of right.

Amen

Song:       (Of your choice)

Dismissal and Blessing:

Go in faith as daughters and sons of God
And may God our Mother and Father take you by the hand,
God the Christ lighten your way,
And God the Spirit lead you to all truth.

Amen

Very Rev. Pamela Tankersley  is currently Global Mission Coordinator for Presbyterian Church, Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ) and former Moderator of the PCANZ. Rev. Pamela was also member of the CCA General Committee for the term 2005-2010. She is currently a member of the Program Committee for Faith, Mission and Unity.



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