Friday, 8 December 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 December 2017




These words called us to worship




The day foretold is coming.

When our tired eyes will behold a fire, a blazing star in the eastern sky!

The one foretold is coming.

Whose light will shine through the deepest gloom.

The day is at hand!

Your redemption is drawing near!

 

The service kept close to the idea of an illuminating presence among us. The lighting

of the First Advent Candle gave a visual manifestation of that and the hymns we sang

throughout the service:

“God of mercy, God of grace show the brightness of your face”
 “Light one candle for hope”

 “Father, we give you thanks,”

“There’s a light upon the mountain”

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 “Shalom to you”

all spoke of God's enlivening power in our lives which brings enlightenment to our hearts and souls.  This enlightenment points to what can be, and carries with it the hope for all that is good…… a salve to a hurting inner being, bringing healing.

With this comes JOY!


But that joy can be compromised because we lack the courage to act according to that enlightenment, and so we call on God to make our confession of failing to live to the full.

 

          Loving Creator, you call us to hope in your salvation, and rejoice in your promise of the birth that is to come, but we are afraid.
You invite us into a world where justice and righteousness prevail, but we turn away in fear.

We long for an easy path into your promised world, but you warn us that there is no easy way.

Birth new life within us, Holy Midwife, that we may abide in hope, and in your perfect love — the love that casts out fear.

And because of God’s great mercy, we can be assured of forgiveness and

restoration of our relationship with our Lord.

 

Declaration of Forgiveness

God’s mercy and steadfast love endure, strengthening our hearts and overcoming our fears. God will remove every obstacle that keeps us from being the body of Christ.

Thanks, be to God! Amen

And with assurance comes Peace which we can share with each other.

 

The service of Communion impressed upon us the reason that we are able to call

on God for restoration of our relationship. God’s generosity in sending his message

through Jesus of  Nazareth, who, in the face of death, did not turn aside from God’s

will. We can do nothing to restore ourselves: only God’s merciful action in our lives

can do that.

 

The Rev. John spoke of the hope that we wait for and reminded us of the various

things we wait for, none of which compares with the hope we wait for which came

with the birth of Jesus.

The earthly things we wait for bring passing satisfaction. Sometimes, we realise, that

having waited, we were wasting our emotional energy. But the joy that God can give,

which was embodied in Jesus, brings sure, lasting, peace and joy. That peace and joy

are the result of our being brought into the light out of the darkness we were living in.

Rev. John then alerted us to the task that comes with the coming of the light. We may

not sit passively waiting for something to happen but be alert and embrace the gift

which is offered. Then we must radiate that light into the world.

Rev. John finished with these words:

The sense of darkness and despair leads to ennui, to inaction, to paralysis. The reality of Advent, however, is the admonition to be on guard, be awake, be alert. God has chosen to need us to make God’s love, presence, compassion, and power tangible. We cannot afford to be sleepwalkers. Time is too precious; God’s people are too precious! Our lives are meant to make a difference in God’s world, no matter how small that difference may seem to each of us. Maranatha! The Lord is coming.

 

At Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ coming into this world to spread the message of

enlightenment and the love which accompanies it. We are commissioned to pass on

this message and the promise of the joy it can bring. And so:

 

Benediction

Go into the world awake to the signs of God’s invitations to new life. Know that the reign of Christ draws nearer with each right action we choose.

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

Monday, 27 November 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 November 2017












Gathering God’s People

Call to Worship  (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)

The Call to Worship said in part:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Worship God with gladness.

But is it really like that? How glad are we for all that God is? Or are we  looking too much at what we lack. And is what we lack of any importance at all? How glad are we that God is and holds us close?

 

Hymn TIS 738: “My Jesus, my Saviour” (Shout to the Lord)

Opening Prayer

Tender, comforting Shepherd, your steadfast love is present in this place and resides within each of us. But sometimes it is hard, so very hard, to open ourselves to your love. We feel like scattered sheep, frightened and alone. Help us know your loving presence as we live as your gathered community. Enlighten our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we have been called. Amen.
 



Help us; enlighten us. Amen and Amen.

 

A Prayer of Confession

Holy One, we are like sheep that stray from your fold. We are the perpetually hungry, ever in spiritual need, and at times in physical want.

We are the naked, with wounds exposed and bleeding. We are the sick, fevered, chilled, and in pain. We are the strangers, separated from others and even from ourselves.

Hear us now as we confess our brokenness and our need. Amen.

 

We should remember that brokenness can be mended and accept the words that follow, otherwise we cannot be God’s servants.

 

Declaration of Forgiveness

       Our creator God sees our hunger and gives us food. Christ, the healer, touches our wounds, offering comfort and blessed relief. The Spirit blows through us, cools our fever, and eases our pain. God sees and touches and heals our wounds. Thanks, be to God!

The Peace

When we were strangers, Christ welcomed us. Let us share the peace of Christ with friends and strangers with words of welcome:

The peace of Christ be with you.

And also with you!

Offering Prayer

Holy One, you have given us all that we have and all that we are. Through these gifts and in our lives, help us be the shepherds and healers and lovers that you are calling us to be. Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining” And our offering is one way to allow that to happen. Also, our congregation is older than some others and so many of us are not so well. If would be easy to look around and see other people living more comfortable lives. But if we look at how blessed we are, that will shine through.

The Service of the Word


The Readings delivered by Elaine: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. Ephesians 1:15-23. Matthew 25:31-46.

For the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

The Preaching of the Word



Rev. John’s message today was so clear, so I have copied and then summarised the first main points:

Scattered. Dispersed. People, like boats, can be cast loose from their moorings and drift away. Sheep, preoccupied with grazing, can move from one patch of grass to another until they look up and find they are nowhere near where they began. The same is sometimes true for people.


Calamity! Imagine being one of the Israelites of the Babylonian exile - you would have wondered what would become of your people. Like modern-day refugees from Iraq, Indian subcontinent, Palestine, Afghanistan,… you would have felt lost.

Our part is to think about how we are lost but worse, how we look to the wrong things to mend that lostness. (We are) the sinner whom Jesus seeks to bring back into the fold of a loving and forgiving community.

“I myself will search for my sheep,” says God (34:11). It might seem unlikely or impossible to gather up all the disconnected lives. But God makes it clear that God will accomplish it. “I will seek . . . I will rescue . . . I will bring them . . . I will feed them . . . I will bind up the injured . . . I will strengthen the weak” (34:11- 16)

Hymn TIS 674: Inspired by love and anger”  
 
Music to lead us to prayer

Intercessory Prayers   -Ruth gave thanks for our many blessings, and asked God to be with the leadership of Marsden Road Uniting Church. She prayed for the ending of wars and unrest and especially for children who have never known peace. She prayed that we will always remember that above all, we are God’s children, regardless of our appearance. She asked for strength and courage for all those who are faced with any obstacles of any kind and for comfort and healing for the sick. She then prayed for our personal concerns after which we joined in The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 256: “From heav’n you came, helpless babe” (The Servant King)  Benediction

Come, you who are blessed! Inherit all that is prepare for you!

We leave this sacred space to claim the riches and glorious inheritance that are ours through Christ.

Go out into the world to share your blessings with all in need.

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”



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