Friday, 24 November 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unting Church 19 November 2017




Again, I was unable to attend our service but I was helping a student with her study of Shakespeare’s The Tempest which provided a stimulus to think about a number of very human issues.

One reason that Shakespeare is still studied today, apart from being one of the very best of writers of the English speaking world, is that he explores a whole range of human ways of being, meaning that his work has universal appeal, not just across a generation but from one generation to another, over hundreds of years.

The Tempest is no exception, with the characters having to confront aspects of their own character with which until the present time in the play, they have been able to live quite comfortably.


The characters in the play represent various layers of society: fathers and children; rulers and the ruled; masters and servants. At any time in history, certain assumptions are in place concerning the behaviour of one layer of society towards another. In this play, as all of us have experienced in our own lives, these conventions are challenged and can come unstuck.

For example, it was assumed that masters had every right to direct the lives of their servants, without any need to apologise for any wrong caused. Children had to obey their parents, regardless of the wisdom, or lack of it, of the parents. Rulers would continue to rule, whether they were doing so fairly or not.

When all of these assumptions fail, people get hurt. When people get hurt, forgiveness is the only way to right the wrongs.

Learning this lesson can be painful and may take time but once learned, progress can be made and relationships restored. This was achieved between some characters in the play. One sought forgiveness. The other accepted the plea and forgave. Mission accomplished.

But what happens when the hurt is so deep, that regardless of the sincerity of the pleas for forgiveness or the genuineness of the repentance, the hurt party turns away and won't forgive?

The lesson learned concerning such a situations is that the matter must be left with God. There is just so much that we as humans, can do.

But what of rulers and masters? Should they belittle their status and lower themselves to ask forgiveness?

Doesn't such a move threaten the stability of society? Perhaps, but better that, than for them to remain in a state of offending against another person, no matter how lowly. And much better that, than to not seek forgiveness. And so much better that, than not to receive forgiveness and for those offended against to be able to forgive,

The whole asking for and giving of forgiveness cleanses the relationships of all concerned.

This was just one issue explored in The Tempest, but in studying the play we are given the chance to examine ourselves at arm’s length. Does the matter of forgiveness ever cross our minds or do we just bluster our way through our lives day after day?

Many of us are parents. Do our children simply have to bear our mistakes which damage their lives and get on with it? After all, if we apologize or ask forgiveness, isn't our authority in the family brought into question?

Better that, than for our children to see us as frauds.

And if we think of our experiences of being given an apology or being asked for forgiveness, doesn't the other person somehow grow taller in our sight.

Regardless of our social or family status, it is required that we asked forgiveness of those we have offended against and that we should forgive those who repent and ask for our forgiveness.

Thems the rules.

 

 

Monday, 13 November 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 November 2017


 



I was unable to attend the service today, so instead, prepared for the upcoming advent study, The Gospel According to Scrooge.

In the introduction to the study, the focus is stated: “The purpose of this series of small-group sessions is to enable Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol to be a springboard  for our prayers.”

 

My first reflection on the above is that if we are to grow as a result of our experience of the coming Advent period, we need to put effort into creating an authentic and full interaction with God and each other during the approaching time by studying its base and ramifications.

 

If we “play it by ear,” not only will we not get the best out of the time ahead, but we will be revealing the little value that this time in the year has in our lives. This, in itself, cannot lead to the best we can have or be.


 

To experience the most authentic perspective of advent, that we as individuals can have, we need to seek to find our place in the meaning this time holds for our church. The “unabridged version” of this would take years, but a study like the one we intend to undertake, centred on The Christmas Carol, will provide early steps in what can be an ongoing journey over other Advent times in the future, during which our understanding of the season can only grow.

 

This study encourages us to look inward, to examine the deeper things that motivate us. It also encourages us to take an honest look at whether this time is indeed a time of “goodwill to all”. As well, our attempt to provide a happy time for our family and friends, as well for others in the wider community, we can often lose sight of the real meaning of this season. Therefore, the intention that this study is to be a springboard for our prayers at this time, is the very thing to bring our attention to the true and deeper meaning of this time.

 

It was reported that a woman looking through Christmas cards at the newsagent, was heard to mutter: “They’re trying to put religion into everything now.” Could we get any further away from the foundation of this time? By using this study as a stimulus for our conversations with God, we have an opportunity to be sure that this Advent our attention will be where it should be. The basis for our thoughts and actions will be the genuine one, growing from our relationship with God and a clearer appreciation of the significance of this time, and God’s will for us at this time.


 

The stated intention of the study is to act as a springboard for our prayer. Prayer can take many forms, but can I suggest that to start a period of prayer at this time it would be good to sit and just be. Let God use the story and the songs to bring to life a new way of seeing. Let God use that new way of seeing inject into you a new way of being. It has been my experience that by allowing a God to work in this way, our prayers that follow, become the prayers which can build the Kingdom. Those prayers will reflect the will of God for ourselves, our family, our friends and the world around. These prayers will come from a changed us, and in turn, will change us.

 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 November 2017


 

Gathering God’s People.

Today I would like to focus on the readings and Rev. John’s reflection, while attempting to give an idea of the service as a whole.

During The Call to Worship we remembered that we are part of a world-wide church which has come to us through generations of people seeking to relate to their God through worship.


Hymn TIS 455 verses 1, 2, 3, 7 & 8: For All the Saints

During The Opening Prayer we asked God to be with us and to reveal to us through Jesus how to be true followers of God, humble and content, caring and co-operative, givers of goodness, strong in God’s strength, living in peace, according to God’s way.

We then confessed our weaknesses, praising God at the same time for his faithfulness and asking for forgiveness for our failings.

Rev. John then declared our forgiveness: Beloved, we are the children of God. Don't fear failure. It is endemic to our human nature. Learn from your mistakes, and cherish the forgiving grace of God. Give thanks for all you are, and go forward in faith, knowing that God is faithful.

We then exchanged the peace:

The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always.

Following that we offered of our material possessions: 

Holy God, we thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us as we worship. Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace to all your creatures. Thank you for the vision of a world at peace: paradise restored, where no one hungers, no one thirsts, and no one is wanting in any way. You guide us to the source of living water and invite us to drink deeply of your love. Your magnificent generosity evokes our deepest thanks. And so, receive these offerings, that we may join that great cloud of witnesses as we share our gifts with others. Amen.


 Hymn TIS 522: Christ is the heavenly food that gives.”  


There followed the Service of Holy Communion, which always strikes to the core of all of us. Today, the following remained with me:

In this meal, we give you praise and thanks, Creator God,

as we remember all those who have passed on into glory. You came in human form to walk among us, teaching us the way to live as your children. In Jesus Christ, you showed us what holy living looks like, and gave us the sacraments of baptism and Communion to remember and experience anew your presence, encouraging us to live in relationship to you.

And then:

Holy God, we came to this table scarred by regrets and broken dreams, anxious about many things, knowing that we are not immune to evil's lure. And you met us at this table; embracing us in our brokenness, naming us "beloved", claiming us for eternity. We thank you, living, loving God. Amen.


There followed The Service of the Word, beginning with the Scripture Readings: Revelations 7:9-17. Describes a great throng from all nations who have come through to be before the throne of God. This is the promise I heard: They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

 

 


Matthew 5:1-12

These are known to us as the beatitudes delivered during the Sermon in the Mount. I don't think I need to repeat them here and if you would like to read the details Matthew 5 is the reference. The most important message for me is that those who will be the Blessed of our God aren't those that are successful by this world’s standards but those who seek the ways of a servant.


 Preaching of the Word

 Are we Chosen?Revelation 7 and Matthew 5

Rev. John pointed out that our culture seems fascinated with the afterlife as though this life doesn't matter all that much and is just a place where we can win a spot in the good seats in Heaven. He pointed out the Bible hasn't much to tell us about the afterlife or who qualifies.

“All Jesus will say on the matter is that we dont know anything and that our expectations are woefully inadequate.” “First John 3: 2 reminds us we are Gods children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.Even now, we are already chosen, already loved, already called. What we will be . . . well, no one knows about that yet, and it isnt the point anyway”. Some people are so heavenly minded theyre no earthly good(attributed to both D. L. Moody and Oliver Wendell Holmes, but a great line, no matter who said it).”

Rev. John went on, referring to scripture, saying that our chief concern is to live in our relationship with God in the present.

My own experience is that the confidence of knowing that I am a child of God who watches over me, guiding my life, makes any concern about the afterlife something to be left for when I get there. God will be as faithful to me then as now.


Hymn TIS 497: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence

Music to lead us to prayer


 Intercessory Prayers

Grahame led us in prayer for all those God has commissioned us
 to care for worldwide, nationally and locally, including our own congregation and those
close to us needing God’s comforting
hand. After that we joined in The Lord’s
Prayer.


Hymn TIS 456: “Your hand, O God, has guided

 

Benediction

We are renewed and filled with the sweetness of God. Go forth to bless the world with joy in the Spirit of God's redemptive love and sustaining peace.

And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen


Hymn TIS 778:  Shalom to you

 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 October 2017


 



Today’s service was the result of a combined effort of many people of goodwill.

Margaret was unable to deliver the sermon and so Warwick did that for her and he did that very well too and we were very blessed by the outcome. Today I want to pay attention to the prayers and the reflection.

After acknowledging the Barramattagal people, the traditional carers of the land we continued:


The Gathering of the People of God.

Call to Worship

Let us start this service well, by reminding ourselves: That it is not we who chose Christ,

but Christ who chose us,

That we are not here because of our goodness but because of Christ’s grace,

That we are not here to enlighten ourselves, but to allow Christ to enlighten us,

That we have not come to be entertained but to worship God with heart, soul, mind and strength. Amen ~ written by Bruce Prewer


Invocation

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. We thank you that you have enshrined your name in our hearts

That we will always be looking to you and longing for that wholeness That only you can provide. We open ourselves to you, in this place, Lord.

May your Spirit enter into and direct our worship today.

 

Prayer of Adoration and Thanksgiving -Alexis

You, loving God, are the ground of our being and the river of life;

P. You both steady our roots and draw them to seek the living waters.

You are like the sunlight enticing us taller P. And like the breeze rustling our leaves.

You are with us through hard seasons of summer heat,

P. And in the nights when winter’s frost ice the landscape

your love warms and sustains us. P. You are everything to us.

O let our gratitude be great, let our praise be plentiful, let our worship be wonder-full!

Through Christ Jesus your ever-living Son. Amen! — written by Bruce Prewer

 

Prayer of Confession.

Together: O God

We confess the blindness that is not even aware of our offences; The pride that dares not admit that it is wrong; the selfishness that can see nothing but its own will; the self- righteousness that knows no fault; the callousness that has ceased to care;

the defiance that does not regret its own actions; the evasion that always tries to make excuses;  the coldness of heart that is too hardened to repent.

God, we have failed and let you down. Our plea- be merciful to us. Amen.


Words of Assurance.

Through God’s generous mercy your sins are forgiven  Take hold of this forgiveness

And live your life in the power of the Spirit.


Offering

Lord, generosity and kindness are the characteristics of your way of being. We thank you for all the blessings we enjoy and ask that these offerings will be used in your service for the building of your kingdom.


Reflection - Margaret - “The Big Picture” delivered by Warwick.

The reflection began by setting the scene and providing background to the conversation between Jesus and the Sadducees and Pharisees in Matthew. That made it clear that though Jesus had angered the leaders by preaching and living out God’s liberating message, he wasn't going to stop even under threat to his life. In reference to the attitude of the leaders to not being able to answer Jesus’s question:

They really wouldn't have liked that. They were shown to be short of expertise in their own area…in public. This would not be the end of it.

Whenever, I hear a bible story I think about what character in the story I would be.

Where would we fit in these stories?

It could be something touched you early in today's reflection and that's where God is talking to you. It may be that it happened later in the reflection. Or if you are like me, there is something about each character you can identify with.

I have completed more formal education than most Australians, and yet there are times when I am absolutely floored by my own stupidity.

I need the sort of help in life that the law was meant to give to the Jews. Rules guide me. Especially ones like not braking as I'm steering around a corner. That did not come naturally to me. And when my little granddaughters are acting up I have to control my voice and hug them close to find out the cause of the problem. (BTW it's usually that we are late with their food and they are hangry).

And there are times when I worry that I'm being like a Pharisee or Sadducee. I pray that when that appears to be the case, my will may be thwarted and that God’s will may be done.

But there are times when I remember that Jesus is my Way and I try to do what he would do. If there's anything I've learnt in that formal education I spoke about, it's that it's impossible to even imagine how much more there is to know. For that reason, I lean on the only One who does know.

Lord, speak to each heart here today. Show each of us what our next step should be. For the sake of your kingdom. Amen


Prayers of the People (excerpt)

O, Lord, we reach out to grasp your outstretched invitation to be one with you.

We place our will within yours and ask that your wisdom will inform all our actions.

May that wisdom inform the decisions of all leaders worldwide, nationally and locally. We pray for the leadership of your church, especially here at Marsden Road. Bless John and Wendy, our elders and our councils and committees as they seek direction for our congregation here.

O, Lord, we reach out to grasp your outstretched invitation to be one with you.


Words of Mission

Now go into the world with confidence, trusting that Christ is walking with you.

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy  Spirit be with you, now and always. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 and 15 October 2017




Two recent services at MRUC focused, at least in part on the parable of the Two Sons told in Matthew 21.  Rev. John Candy spoke on October 1 and then Rev. Bill Ives spoke on October 15





Near the start of Rev. John’s service was a prayer: “ We gather in your presence, Christ of compassion, thirsting for your living water. Flow through this time of worship with your grace and wisdom. Nourish us with words of truth and challenge.  Strengthen us to go forth in humility and love as your servants working in the world.”

 

This set our hearts and minds upon our purpose at that time, a purpose which directed the lives of all present but having been said, renewed our awareness of our goal as Christians

Rev. John focused on the story of the two brothers in Matthew 21, one who said he would do the father’s bidding but didn't and then the other who refused to do as his father asked but then did it. As far as the application to our lives is concerned, one is no easier to get on with than the other. Rev. John’s point was that the awful part is that sometimes, despite our profession of allegiance to Jesus, we are both.

 

All too often many of us fail to embody in our lives what we say we believe with our lips.”

 

We don't recognize this because all too often, we only let the loyal servant parts of our lives float up into our consciousness. The times when we are not what we profess, stays hidden from our own view.

 

But

The good news is that God loves us anyway.”

That love is what will power us to live the life of God’s servant Sunday through to Sunday with “arms stretched out in love to one another.”

And so we were dismissed with: “May we go forth with the mind of Christ and the love of God…” .

 


Rev. Bill Ives began with the same bible passage but went straight to the reason Jesus was telling the story at that time. He was making the position of the Jewish leaders clear. “He is going to tell them that they have the wrong slant in things.”

Rev. Ives linked this to God’s calling of the People out of Egypt.  God called them out of slavery into freedom but that required the people to say “Yes” to God. Just as the father couldn't build his farm without a “Yes” from his sons, so God needed a “Yes” from his people.

 

We were challenged: “Will you say “Yes” to God and mean it?”

Rev. Bill then threaded his way through the Liturgy, showing how we come to hear God’s word to us and showing us our opportunities to say “Yes”

 

In the Prayers of the People we show how we will put ourselves into our prayers to serve a desperate world, which is realised in the “Sending Forth”.

 

The need for action was illustrated through the words of the chorus from “The Pirates of Penzance” where a frightened police body singing “we go, we go” until it is pointed out that they don’t  actually go.

 

Perhaps they are keeping their inability to act buried deep away from their own sight.

 

Rev Bill admitted that going out may entail sacrifice, spoiling our own comfort, “ But God calls us as he called his son, Jesus.”

 

The message couldn't be clearer.


 



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 October 2017






I was unable to attend this service but was moved by the written message that I received.

Gathering God’s People

 Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)

O Lord, you are God. There is no other God but you.

We renounce all that we have allowed to come between us.

O Lord, we worship you. We praise and honour your name.

We worship you on this, your holy day.

For your love, for your word, for all that you have given:

O Lord, we thank you and praise you. We love you.

 

Hymn TIS 745: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”

 

Opening prayer

Almighty God, your word bursts forth into our lives like a glorious sunrise. You speak, and our hearts rejoice. You command, and our eyes are opened. The sound of your voice brings revival to our souls. Your words are purer than the finest gold. True and righteous one, living Word, light our way. As we listen to your Spirit, may the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be accepted in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

With this short Prayer, I was immediately transported to a different place. How easily we can forget what God means to us and what God does in our lives. This prayer, and ones like it, can draw us back.


A Prayer of Confession

No matter how righteous we imagine ourselves to be, Lord, your perfect word reveals our imperfections all too clearly.

No matter how hard we strive to fulfil the requirements of your law, we always fall short. We have forgotten that righteousness and perfection come not from rules and regulations but from faith.

We have ignored the truth that your righteousness comes from faith.

Open our eyes to see that all we have accomplished is nothing compared to knowing Christ as our Lord. Let us count everything as loss, that we might gain heaven and be found blameless in Christ.

In the name of the Saviour we pray. Amen.

And with this, we rest in God, relying on divine strength to achieve that which is impossible on our own.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Take heart; have faith. The goal is in sight. Press on to take hold of it, as Christ has taken hold of us. Have no fear; leave the past behind. Reach out for what lies ahead, for the prize, for the life to be found in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Thanks, be to God!

And the burden is lifted! And so, having made our peace with our creator, we are able to reach out to others.


The Peace

 Make the joy of God's love & forgiveness complete: share with one another the love that Christ shares with us.

Peace be with you! And also with you!


Offering Prayer

Almighty God, you gave us your commandments and asked us to live according to your holy will.  As part of your design for honourable living, we participate in this simple act of giving.  We dedicate ourselves to living lives of honesty and peace.  Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 641: “This is my will, my one command”

 

The Service of the Word

Readings: Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20. Philippians 3:4b-14. Matthew 21:22-46.

Firstly, Exodus brought to us the Ten Commandments. These are very straightforward and easily applied to our lives, but it is amazing how we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are keeping them, when we so far from doing so.

If we only had this passage for guidance (Philippians) and followed it, I think we would do very well. If it's not in God’s plan, then it's of zero importance to us and while we are not able to live the life we should, we are on the right path.

Matthew brings us a very serious message. Where do we fit into this story? Are we faithfully representing the landowner or are we the tenants who are self-serving and who will have everything taken from them and given to others.

Rev. John’s Reflection (in part)

God does not want the tremendous seed planted in us to fail to bear fruit. God looks for the harvest, both in our hidden depths and in the wide world around us… God does not place on us an expectation we cannot fulfill. God does not simply demand fruitfulness from us, but provides all the conditions by which this can happen. God cares deeply for his vineyard. It is on this basis that he looks for the harvest. This expectation is not a demand it is a longing.
 

 

Hymn TIS 609: “May the mind of Christ my Saviour...”

There followed the Prayers of the People and the The Lord’s Prayer 

 

Hymn TIS 606: “Son of God, eternal Saviour” Tune -  Ode to Joy

 

Benediction                 

Hear the voice of the Creator, the mighty God, the One who built the vault of heaven, who set the sun on its blazing course through the skies! Hear the words of life, declared not by speech or language or voice but written on the heart! Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,”

 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 September 2017




Today I led the service and I think the reflection was the most significant part. So, the blog today is a shortened version of that. I will list the hymns too, because they added to the theme of  Forgiveness”.


Hymns:  TIS 228 “Crown him with Many Crowns”; 655 “O, Let the son of God enfold you.”;129 “Amazing Grace”;136  “There's a widening in God’s Mercy”


Reflection

The subject of today’s Gospel reading is “Forgiveness.”

Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone 7 times was enough. In this, he was being very generous because the Jewish law only required a person to forgive someone 3 times.

Jesus’ reply must have been quite a shock. Depending on which version of the Bible you have,  it was “seventy times seven” or “seventy seven times”.

In either case, Jesus is saying that we should forgive way past the number of times we ever thought we should or ever could forgive.

In the same Bible reading we heard of the king whose slave owed him an unbelievable amount of  money…something about equal to the size of the economy of some small countries.

But the king was a compassionate man and so when the slave pleaded with him, he didn't just give more time for repayment, he forgave the debt.

And so the slave realised what a gift he had been given and was grateful. He also learned a rich lesson on how to treat other people.

Or he should have but he didn't at all.

In this case where the offending person could not make restitution how could justice be reached? As in all similar cases, justice is obtained by a full and frank admission of guilt.


Look at  that from the perspective of one person to another, living today.

But what if we have offended against another in some other way?

They may forgive us out of their own compassion but that forgiveness can't be fully effective unless we acknowledge our offence.

There are times when we would rather pretend that we didn't do anything much.

On the other side of the equation, if we are hurt, even if the offender fails to properly acknowledge the hurt, as Christians we are commanded to forgive them anyway.

I have also heard people say: “I can never forgive them!” Sorry, you, as a follower of Jesus are commanded to do just that, whether you have received an apology or not.

An experience I have had is that I have struggled to bring myself to forgive a person because I wanted justice.

Then I woke up and realised that I wasn't doing myself any good and was able to forgive for my own sake, only to find an enormous burden lifted from my shoulders.

But then an even more amazing change occurred! Suddenly I could see the situation from the perspective of the other person and realized that life is very complicated and that I had been nursing what seemed like a deliberate hurt from someone else for nothing.

But how can such a thing happen?

How can we, as a human, go from seeing someone else as offending us in some way to seeing them as guiltless in that same respect? It seems impossible.

And I think it is….until we hand over the situation to God.

This change of perspective comes when we, as the offended against, ask for God’s help and accept the spirit’s work of grace.

It takes the same work of grace for us to see our real guilt in any matter.

We as the offender can't expect forgiveness until, through grace,  we are able to admit our guilt frankly.

Anything else does not bring about reconciliation….which is the true aim of confession on one side and forgiveness on the other.

But don't leave acting on this message for too long. In the Guardian in 2006,  it was announced that all 306 British World War 1 soldiers who were executed for desertion or cowardice were to be pardoned. 88 years later. Don't wait even one day.