Saturday, 19 May 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

Gifts for the Family.
In Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour, much is made of thank-you notes, especially thank-you notes for wedding presents. One of her sample letters reads as follows:
Dear Aunt Patience:
Rhino and I are thrilled with the magnificent silver sugar shaker you sent us. It adds not only beauty and dignity to our table, but amusement, too, as some of our friends who are both ignorant and daring have not waited for the berries to be served but have shaken it over their meat. "This could only have come from your Aunt Patience," said one, and we were proud to say that it had. Rhino joins me in thanking you for your kindness. We look forward to having you in our new home.
Most of us have gotten gifts that we weren't quite sure how to use. We smile politely, say "thank you very much," but think to ourselves, "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" With any luck, the giver will notice a look of perplexity on our faces and give us some clue as to the intended purpose of the item. But, just as often, we are left to figure it out for ourselves. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't, and there are times that we just never find out how this beautiful but strange gift is supposed to be used.
I would bet that it wasn't too different for Jesus' disciples in this week’s scripture from the gospel of John. Pentecost Sunday is a day when Christians give thanks for God’s many blessings, for the Church in which we are nurtured and through baptism are made members. Christians believe we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit -- and the question is asked. "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" Nobody had ever received that gift before. There was no helpful lady at the registry at Myers or David Jones to tell them just why they should have this particular item and how to use it. And so, when Jesus breathes on his followers and gives them this amazing and perplexing gift, he tells them right away how to use it -- to forgive sins and to be bearers of peace.
When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is not ours to keep tucked away for our private use. The Holy Spirit is a gift that is to be shared generously and lavishly. Like the fine china and beautiful linens, we give and receive as wedding presents, the Holy Spirit is given as a token of the day on which we take vows to live in unity with Christ. And, like those beautiful dishes and tablecloths, the Holy Spirit is a sign that our lives with the Lord will be lived not in isolation, but in gracious and loving service to other people.
You know Marriage legally forms earthly and visible families within communities, groups of people who promise to be together in good times and bad, to balance each other's talents and abilities, so that in sharing and giving of what they have and who they are, they will live a life that is fuller and more satisfying than any life they could possibly imagine having alone. Graciously with the very best of what we have and the various talents of each person we are called to make the whole thing work. This doesn't happen in isolation, but in consciously living in the wider community of family and for Christians this is God's family.
We bring the beautiful and precious gifts of our baptism to the banquet table of God's family. Each of us has something different and distinctive to bring to this table. Each of us has something to give thanks for and we are called to share those blessings that we have received. At God's table, every colour, shape and texture of dinnerware -- from the finest gold-banded china to hand-thrown pottery, and even paper plates -- is needed, wanted and welcome. Until everyone has a place setting at the table, a place specially designed for that person, there is something missing at the feast.
We are to offer the gifts that we have as a welcome addition to the life of the family of God, and to rejoice that it makes our life together fuller and richer than any we could possibly imagine if it were absent. Pentecost seems to be the season in which we celebrate such things. We look to the desire that all our lives will be richer and fuller than it was before and that we are also enriched by each one’s presence and gifts among us.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)

We want to celebrate Mothers as a wonderful gift from God, but we want to be certain that we recognise mothers – and likewise, families in general – as a gift from the God who has created all things. So today, as we are called to worship by the scriptures, we’re called to worship a God who loves us and welcomes us into his family.

Clap your hands and shout to God with loud songs of joy.

Sing praises to God, who fills the world with forgiveness and grace.

Christ is alive. He is risen from the dead.

The Holy One calls us to worship and praise.

Baptised with the power of the Holy Spirit,

we live with Christ in our hearts.

Clap your hands and shout to God with loud songs of joy.

Sing praises to God, who fills the world with forgiveness and grace.


Hymn TIS 106: "Now thank we all our God" I have noticed that when I keep looking for my blessings and thanking God for them, the impact is far greater than if I accept them as a given.

Opening Prayer

 God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ lived in a family in Nazareth: Grant that in our families on earth we may so learn to love and to live together that we may rejoice as one family in your heavenly home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Holy One has set.”

Yet we keep searching for signs and omens, trying to predict the future instead of living fully each day.

Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Yet we are more concerned with following the proper procedures, than with opening our hearts to those around us.

Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

Forgive us, Holy One, when we try to shape the world according to our desires, instead of asking for the power to do your will.


Declaration of Forgiveness

The Holy One enlightens the eyes of our hearts,
 that we may know the hope to which we are
alled. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks, be to God!


The Peace

 In the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ, let us share signs of peace with one
another. Peace be with you! And also with you.


Hymn TIS 457: "The Church’s one foundation" An article I read recently stressed the centrality of God in our church. The point made in that article was that too often God gets forgotten and the church itself becomes the centre. That is no more or less than idolatry.


The Service of the Word

As it was Mothers’ Day Rev. John spoke on the topic of families and family relationships. No family is perfect and there is friction from time to time in any group of people living together. (My nephew who was serving in the military overseas made this point at one time, saying that he was having trouble with his constant companion…..his pistol.) In fact there are times when we become so irritated with a family member we can hardly put up with their breathing heavily. A friend told me of a family car trip where her son became quite angry because his brother was looking out of “his window.”  Sometimes these times of friction come down to personal preferences but at other times someone has done something very wrong.

The Rev. John had this to say about that:

We do not fail or even sin that grace may abound. But when we fail to live by God’s call we can start again, and we can be sure that grace abounds as we repent. Seemliness is no closer to godliness than cleanliness, and it is a comfort to know that no failure, no sin, no wound can separate us from the love or purposes of God. Even the holy family—Mary, Jesus, and Joseph—were beset by intrigue and rumour. Mary and Joseph were not yet married when she became pregnant. That is not to suggest that, as I heard one preacher say, unwed pregnancy is "OK," only that in and of itself unwed pregnancy does not disqualify us from serving God.


Hymn TIS 137: “For the Beauty of the Earth” For everything that brings joy - every good thing- thanks be to God.

Grahame led us into prayer with music and there followed the Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer. This is such an important time for us when we can each draw close to the One who loves us so much.


Hymn TIS 526: Lord Jesus Christ" Focussing our hearts and minds on the centre of all things.



May the Lord who brought us to birth by his Spirit,

strengthen us for the Christian life.

May the Lord who provides for all our needs

sustain us day by day.

May the Lord whose steadfast love is constant as a

mother's care,

send us out to live and work for others.

And the blessing of God Almighty.

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be with you and remain with you always. Amen


Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,” And with this we blessed each other as we parted.



Sunday, 13 May 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 May 2018

Call to Worship - (Abingdon 2013 and Dorothy McRae-McMahon)

Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!

God has worked miracles! Jesus is our joy!

Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!

God’s love for us lasts forever. Jesus makes us into friends.

Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!

Alleluia! Even the ends of the earth see the saving power of our God.

The sea roars with joy, and the floods clap their hands. Trumpets sound and horns celebrate with song!

Alleluia! The Holy Spirit falls upon all who hear the word of God.

When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?

Alleluia! Jesus has extended to all people the friendship of our God.

We were strangers and then servants, but now we are God’s friends.


Hymn TIS 168: “Sing a new song, sing a new song...”  A new song denoting a new life, starting now.


Opening prayer

Holy God, you make us Easter people— a people transformed by the resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Your first and final word to us is Love. You reach out to us, offering joy and wholeness. Yet we often greet your resurrection by grieving at the tomb, doubting the good news we hear, or quaking in fear as we hide in our upper rooms. Still, you call us deeper into Easter, answering our resistance with your loving presence. You claim us as your friends. As we gather now to worship, teach us once more to abide in your love, that our joy may be complete. Amen.

 A Prayer of Confession

 Lord Jesus Christ, you reach across every boundary, even death itself, and draw us into loving intimacy with you.

Forgive us for resisting your love. You call us your friends, yet we act like minor acquaintances or even strangers. You send us into the world to proclaim your love, yet we gape in astonishment when you include all people in your love.

The light of your resurrection conquers the darkness in our lives, yet we act as if your love is a burden.

Give us Easter lives, we pray, for you alone have the power to save us. Amen.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Jesus promises, “You did not choose me. I chose you.” We know that we are God’s children, raised to new life with Christ. Abide in the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Thanks, be to God!  We then exchanged the sign of the peace.


Hymn TIS 236: “Jesus’ hands were kind hands”
Rev. John was focusing on Jesus’ view of his
disciples and us as his friends. Kindness makes

There followed the Communion, the intent of
which was summed up in these word. This has
been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which
we have been fed and nourished with the life of
Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go
from this table, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen

 The Service of the Word
Preaching on the reading John 15: 9-17, Rev. John focussed on our friendship with Jesus.

This friendship was expressed in the hymns and in the Communion meal. Rev. John

reminded us that Jesus said to his disciples and therefore to us: "I do not call you servant

any longer . . . I have called you friends."

We are servants and apostles but we are friends. Meals are share by friends. In meals we

offer hospitality to each other - we extend care to each other. However the Communion

meal fed and nourished us in a way quite different from our daily meals.

The men’s group had sung “Amen” sealing in voice the experience we all have in the

Communion but also in fellowship with each other and in prayer with God.

After such experiences whether physical or spiritual we feel refreshed to start anew. This is

what we can do for each other in friendship.

Rev. John pointed out that in calling his disciples friends, Jesus was doing something quite

revolutionary by way of imagining our relationship God. Friends care for each other and

show love to each other in all its forms and if we don't we aren’t being obedient to Jesus’

teaching. Rev. John went on to say that sometimes we want to take control and modify that


Think of the times when we think someone does not deserve our love or isn't one of us. As

Rev. John said, Jesus said “you are all my friends”.

We might make mistakes but we are drawn back. So when others offend us, we must

remember that God accepts them and so must we. We must look on others as Jesus does.

For myself, I know that I can be a pain in the neck but God draws me back and so do my


Rev. John told us that we are to love others in their best bits and their not so good bits. It's

not how we feel about each other. It's a matter of following Jesus Christ. We are defined by

our behaviour in obedience to Jesus.

As we live our lives must point to the one who leads us.

It has been said that we should walk a mile in another person’s shoes. We are all living the

same life. Think of the mistakes we all make. This of the times we unwittingly give offence.

Think of the times we lash out because we are hurt or feel threatened. Our friends take us

back. God welcomes us with open arms.

That's the way we must live

Space remaining does not allow all the hymns or prayers.



The whole creation celebrates God’s victory of love. Live lives of victorious faith.

When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?

Jesus abides in the love of God. Abide in God’s love every day of your lives.

When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?

Jesus calls you his friends. Carry the friendship of God to everyone you meet.

When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love? Amen.


Friday, 4 May 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 April 2018


Because I was working in another area of the church I was unable to attend the service at Marsden Road UC, so I read a number of reflective pieces from different sources.

One was written by Fr. Michael Whelan who shared his thoughts on John 15:1-8.

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples.

Michael spoke of this being a story of love. I have never seen that as its primary message but if you are like me look again.


We are told how a God in his love has done such good things in us and for us. God is reaching out to love us and to create people who are part of the True Vine and who will bear fruit as a result of that.

Our new life will be a sign of that fruit to come and as new beings we will show God’s love to the world.

Imagine what a difference it would make to our behaviour if we kept at the front of our mind that the Everlasting God seeks to love us with unending love.

The passage says that those that don't bear fruit will wither and die. I have always seen that as a punishment. But what would happen to our physical bodies if we ceased to take in nourishment? Cut off the source of life and death is the natural consequence.

And why would we do that when our Creator is reaching out with a free invitation to abundant life? Jesus said “I am the vine.” But there were many other “I am” statements. The Word is our all. Grasp the invitation to be loved and given new life.


“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love

in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings,

How you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know,

what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love, stay in Love, and it will decide everything.”


(“The Treasure of our Heart”, Pedro Arrupe SJ (d 1991).

© Copyright Aquinas Academy 2013  |  t: +61 (2) 9247 4651  |  f: +61 (2) 9252 2476  | 

Friday, 27 April 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 April 2018

Gathering God’s People

We all have doubts about many theories and events presented as facts and we would be remiss not to have such doubts. We must not accept anything passed onto us by another person just because they say so. Given that the Bible is written about people who are no longer with us and events that are well and truly in the past, what can we believe?

Well, to start with, some of what is written in the Bible is there for the message it carries and the possible factual or historic content isn't the chief concern of the reader. The biblical writers had a variety of styles of writing and not all of them were a recount of historical events. So, in the case of Thomas, was he right in doubting? Were his doubts justified? How did he resolve the conflict between what he thought was possible and the events in which he found himself ? Is that event represented correctly?

The Rev. John led us through the problem faced by John; one faced by many of us today.

“This is the day to walk in the light.

This is the day to share signs of peace.

This is the day to believe where we have not seen.

This is the day to embrace what we cannot touch. Come! Let us worship the Lord of life.”


Hymn TIS 382: “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain”. The focus of this hymn, for me, is that love cannot be defeated. Love will rise above.

Opening Prayer

“God of manifold blessing, come to us this day. Come and bless us. Come and lead us into the light. For we come to you to find peace. We come to rediscover joy. We come to believe where we have not seen. We come to touch the glory of everlasting life, through the power of your Son. We come to truly live. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

 “Heart of all hearts, Joy of all joys, teach us how to live as one.

You offer us your abundant grace, and yet we still long to find rest and peace.

You have shown us the light of our salvation, yet we often lurk in the shadows.

You promise us the glory of everlasting life, yet we settle for the tarnished glow of selfish pursuits.

Forgive us.

Help us believe where we have not seen; help us walk bravely in the midst of our fear, that we may truly know your peace each and every day. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

 In Christ, God has forgiven not only our sins,
 but the sins of the whole world. Rejoice in the light and peace of the Holy One. Rejoice in the blessings of our God.

Thanks, be to God!

Hymn TIS 649: “These things did Thomas
 count as real” I think Thomas is being sold
short in this hymn. After all that time with
Jesus I think that he was well aware of the
very real things that we cannot see or touch.
 But this story would have been more than very difficult for anyone to accept.

 The Service of the Word

Moving from Doubt (A summary)

“After illustrating his point, Rev. John said:

 Isn’t it natural for humans to want to give the right answer?…Most often, we don’t want to doubt or challenge leaders or stand in the way of accepted norms. So, when we have our doubts, we tend to keep them to ourselves. That is the safe way.

Today’s Gospel reveals to us St. Thomas—who was the one who had not seen the risen Jesus when he first appeared to the disciples. The others told him they had seen the Lord, but he was skeptical. He doubted. Still, Thomas must have wanted to fit in. He might have said, “Look, friends, I know the answer is supposed to be that. I acknowledge that you saw Jesus, but it sure sounds like a ghost. But the story of Thomas’ honesty and forthrightness gives us hope and empowers us in our moments of doubt. We don’t have to accept mindlessly whatever seems the expected or accepted answer or view.

 Across the Uniting Church, let alone the Church, there are sharp divisions over decisions made at recent Assemblies, Synods and other meetings. Few congregations or Presbyteries are free from controversy, leaving many in doubt about where God stands in all this. Since doubt and fear are bound to come upon us, we do well by facing the truth of these feelings, like Thomas of old. Let us remember that he was in a good and safe place to question and then to see and learn.

 We are here because this is a place where we can encounter the risen Christ, patiently and lovingly leading us into all truth, just as he led St. Thomas. If we are willing to work through our fear and our doubts, we will find the other side of today’s Gospel that teaches us also about faith. If we are honest in our relationships with one another, we can experience mutual support in learning to believe what we cannot easily see…”

 Hymn AOV 63: “We walk by faith” We may not touch his hands and side, nor follow where he trod, yet in his promise we rejoice, and cry “My Lord and God!”

It's a problem that faces each person of each new generation. Only the Spirit’s work in our lives allows us to step away from worrying over the facts to being sure of the outcome.

Intercessory Prayers

Rev. John led us, lifting up all those in need. We prayed for those close to us; for those known to us through the media; for those who face the same spiritual problems we all face; for those in physical needs of any type and for comfort for them. We then drew together all our prayers in the THE LORD'S PRAYER


Hymn TIS 376: "I know that my Redeemer lives" Those of us who have humbled ourselves before a God know this full well, regardless of any historical details.


 Walk in the light of God.

We will live in the light of God and we will bask in the light of God.

May the Light of all lights transform your doubts into faith, and your sorrows into joy.

       We go with the peace of God.

Go with the blessings of almighty God.


Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,” Could we wish anything better for each other? Could we wish a greater treasure as a gift to each other?