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.

 

 

 

 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unting Church 3 and 10 September 2017


 

 



Because I have so many calls on my time at the moment, I need to reflect on the two services in the one blog to get them covered. Also, as I have been trying to do, I am taking a bit of a different approach each week, and this week I am reflecting on particular points of Rev. John’s  services.


Rev. John began the Call to Worship in the September 3 service with:

“Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest, and most difficult, paradoxes of Christianity: to save your life you must first lose it. So, we find ourselves, once again surprised by the limitless and inexplicable nature of God’s love, and we rejoice to stand together on holy ground.”

Some of us have been fortunate enough to have walked hand in hand with God since we were small children. However, some of us have had to face a decision: were we going to follow Jesus or were we going to keep control of our own lives, setting our own standards and limits, and making all our decisions based in our own will?  It seemed quite a dangerous move to hand over total control. What if God asked us to do or to be something that cost us heavily?

So, maybe we tried a compromise. We would make the decisions about which parts of the God story we would attend to and which parts we would ignore.

For anyone who did that I will guarantee that it hasn't turned out well. The internal conflict would be dreadful.

But, for those of us who decided that the path we were following wasn’t making us very happy and made the decision to let God take control of every little thing, the result has been so surprising.

The sense of freedom is amazing! Who would have thought being ruled by another, even if it is God, could be so liberating! And how did that sense of contentment simply settle upon us? By this world’s reckoning it shouldn't happen: it doesn't make sense.

But that's what it is like. So, step out and take that chance that some of us had to take. You'll be amazed too.

This service included the Eucharist which is an experience, which again, is hard to explain. The words are carefully chosen and have been refined over time by the Church. Congregation members conduct themselves very reverently. The service remembers Jesus’ life, lived for us, proclaiming the truth, and given up, rather then deny that truth. That is enough to create the special nature of the time which we share together…but there's

something else; something that I can only attribute to the Spirit settling on us, entering our hearts and minds so that we know that God is with us.

In his sermon, Rev. John warned us about being a stumbling block to others. Is the life we lead a contradiction to the message we preach? Is the message we preach a simplified one that we learned as children in Sunday school, which needs to be looked at afresh now that we are adults?

Are we using bible passages to beat people over the head, rather than show them God’s love? Does God call people, who as a result, visit our church, only to be made feel most unwelcome?

We need to be careful and remember this is God’s church, not ours. God welcomes everyone and Jesus showed us that respectability isn't of much account in his Kingdom.

Think about it.



On Sunday September 10, Rev. John’s Opening Prayer picked up the theme of providing a true witness, saying: “Move us, O God, that we may fulfill the law of love and be a people who radiate your light. Touch our hearts, that we may come to love our neighbour as we come to love ourselves.”

We are well worth loving. God loves us. Something that is said to show kids the truth of this is: ‘God doesn't make junk.” There are  lovelier and more sophisticated ways of saying this, but it comes down to the same thing: we are precious in God’s sight. Once we realise this, we longer need to be in the business of trying to win. What recognition could we win that would be of greater worth than being precious in God’s sight? And if we no longer need to win, we can be gracious to everyone we meet each day. We will be able to see and openly acknowledge publicly, their worth. We will be able to let them know that they are precious in God’s sight. And then……

To continue this theme, Rev. John spoke of the lost sheep. Rev. John asked: Did he (the shepherd)  look at its value and say: “Well, that sheep is not good enough, that sheep doesn't have the right values. I won't bother trying to find it.”?

In fact, when we think about the people Jesus reached out to, it wasn't the ones who seemed would be of advantage to his kingdom. It was the ones who needed him and his kingdom.

So we should be very careful, that when a divine invitation has been given to someone, when they feel drawn to come to church, that we aren't the ones who cause them to turn away in disappointment.

 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 August 2017






Each time I reflect on a service I try to give emphasis to a different part because the restriction in the length means I can't pay proper attention to every part every time.


The Secret

Call to Worship (B. J. Beu, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

Rev. John began by drawing our attention to God’s support for us in everything we do or in which we are involved. Life throws up many obstacles, sometimes one after another, and it is only with God’s help that we can continue.


Hymn TIS 123 “Be still my soul: The Lord is on your side”. With this hymn the theme continued. However, it speaks of keeping our hope in dark times, as though they are a contradiction in a faithful life. But life happens, whether we walk with God or not. But if we keep our hand in God’s hand, the dark times will be easier to live through.


Opening prayer

Gracious God, we come this day, to present our minds and bodies to you as a holy and

living sacrifice.  This was the first sentence of the prayer. But is seems to me that when we

give our lives wholly to God, we get a much better deal than if we try to keep control of all or part of it ourselves.


A Prayer of Confession

 merciful God, wash away the injuries we have inflicted upon one another.

When we have made lives bitter through word or deed, forgive us in your mercy.

When we have ignored the plight of others through ignorance or wilful neglect, reclaim us in your grace. Restore us to your path of love and compassion, that we may bathe in the waters of your compassion and love. Amen.


Declaration of Forgiveness

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of the world would have crushed us by now. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of our lives would have drowned us by now. Thanks be to God who is on our side, and who rescues us from forces that seek our undoing. In Christ Jesus, we are set free and made whole again.

Thanks, be to God!


Having made our peace with God, we offered the sign of peace to each other.


Offering

It always interests me that we label this part of the service “the offering” when many people offer much more to the building of God’s kingdom in other ways than they do through the collection plate. Our all. That's all God is asking for.


Hymn TIS 467:I am the church! You are the church!” It's good to remember this. It prevents that “They should” mentality.


The Service of the Word  
             

Carolyn began this section of the service with readings from Exodus 1:8-2:10; Romans 12:1-8; and Matthew16: 13-20.


Exodus 1:8 The first reading is the well known story of how Moses survived a purge of Hebrew baby boys and came to be treated as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ mother trusted God to protect her and her son.


Romans 12:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your

bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

This first sentence really covered all that followed. Let God steer. It's safer and more sensible.


Matthew 16: 13-20.

 ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Time to show where we stand.


Preaching of the Word


The Secret - Matthew 16: 13-20

I have selected a few sentences out of John’s sermon. Today he delivered a very complex theological message about why Jesus would want to keep his identity a secret,  but I have chosen just one thought that stood out for me.

Peter is the first disciple to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the first to discover that this man he knows so well is the one anointed by God. In this moment Peter stands for the whole church again.

 With the outcome that we too shine as the light of Christ and we will not keep the Messiah a secret. Why! Because the world where we spend our days, still waits for him and that world is dying to meet him – and they will meet him through us.

Remember the thoughts from the beginning of  the service that Life is tough and we can only get through it with God by our side.


Hymn TIS 440: “Christ from whom all blessings flow” The blessings aren't just a way of making it through life. We become more like Christ; We become  part of his body. We become what we were created to be.


Music to lead us to prayer while we thought our own thoughts.


Intercessory Prayers led by Wendy  Wendy addressed Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, asking that our prayers be heard. She called for safety and security everywhere but particularly for those people living in the midst of war. She asked that God change leaders who seek to dominate that they will embrace love; that people everywhere will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and proclaim his gospel. She asked that the Spirit will   lead us in love for God and each other. We joined in the Lord’s Prayer.


Hymn TIS 446: “Glorious things of you are spoken” This hymn summed up all the thoughts we had had so far.


Benediction

Blessed are you who resist the forces of death and destruction. Blessed are you who respond to the cries of the weak and the helpless. Blessed are you who build the kingdom of God with your love and compassion. Blessed are you who seek first what is right and honourable and true. And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen



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


Friday, 18 August 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 August 2017




Gathering God’s People


Call to Worship (I was not able to be present today but reflected on Rev. John’s notes.)

(Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

When God restored the fortunes of Zion, the Israelites wandered home as if in a dream. Let us be a people who wander in our dreams. Wander amongst God’s marvellous creation! Wonder at the amazing things God has done! Do not worry about your life, today or tomorrow. Trust that God values us even more greatly than birds and flowers, no matter how beautiful they may be. Know that God treasures us completely, and gives us all that we will ever need.

Come with hearts overflowing in gratitude. God has done great things for us.

Be glad and rejoice. We rejoice in God’s gifts.

Sing praises of joy. Our mouths are filled with laughter.

Shout with thanksgiving, in sunshine and rain. Praise God for our lives, for harvest and food.


Hymn TIS 560:All my hope on God is founded;” Echoing the words above.


Opening Prayer

As then moving forward with faith in God to deliver the promise:

Giver of life, for sunshine and showers, we give you thanks; for food and drink, we give you praise; for clothing and shelter, we bestow our gratitude. Gather our worries and our burdens this day, and shelter us from fear and despair. Help us rest assured in your arms, knowing that your loving care is enough. It is enough. It is enough. Amen.


A Prayer of Confession

God not only delivers the things of this world but the things of God’s world.

God of abundant love, sprinkle the tears we have sown with your mercy and hope,

that we may reap a harvest of joy; replace our selfish dreams of wealth and prestige, with gratitude for what we have, that we may find contentment in life.

Turn our dreams to you, O Lord. and remind us of the abundance you offer,

for you have done great things for us, turning our tears into shouts of joy.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Through Christ, God’s love has done great things for us. Through Christ, God’s grace restores our life and makes us whole once more.

Thanks, be to God!

The Peace 

Share with one another signs of peace and love. Show Christ to one another, that we may be reminded of the peace that passes all understanding.

 Peace be with you! And also with you!

Today, I have recorded the service almost word for word because in those words there is the expression of the many longings each of us has. We all find it difficult to approach God with the words we need to express what we have to say. And here that is done for us so  beautifully and  so accurately. I hope this is an aid to your expression of your needs to God. In the children’s time, John told the story of the widow offering a few coins, all she had, at the temple. Often we think we have nothing to offer in God’s work. But that all he wants. All of us. And no matter what sort of person we are or how we see our gifts, we all can be used in God’s hands and we are our most effective when we finally offer our all



Offering

John’s Prayer reminded us to be glad and joyful for all the good things we are given.


Hymn TIS 555: “Put all your trust in God” If we put our trust and ourselves, including our plans, in God’s hands and stay alert for his voice, then our path will be true.
                   

The Service of the Word

Readings: Joel 2: 21-27. 1Timothy 2: 1-7. Matthew 6: 25-33 –delivered by Wendy


Preaching of the Word 

Rev. John wrote about various approaches to giving he had encountered or had heard of.

At Marsden Road he said he had encountered great generosity and so have I. Not just generosity with money but generosity with both time and energy.

I would agree with the Rev. John that in the Western World we all have trouble coming to terms with sacrificial giving. Not many of us are able to bring ourselves to the level of sacrifice of Mother Teresa, whom Rev. John refers to.

But many give up much for the benefit of others.
There are many ways of being sacrificial. Some go without sleep for a sick friend or relative. But I would agree with that in the West, our giving normally involves giving up luxuries. Not so many visits to the theatre; not so many holidays away; not so many meals in a restaurant, or whatever it is that is a luxury for us.

But I think it is possible to give sacrificially in another way. We can give our all. Not many are asked to live elsewhere or work within the church administration but we can be God’s nurses and doctors; God’s mechanics and plumbers; God’s architects and engineers; God’s teachers and accountants; God’s drivers, police, firemen, seamstresses. And we can all be hospitable; we can all make sure we are aware of those in need. but we can always look for ways to be better hands in this earth for God. Rev. John said:  “It took Mother Teresa of Calcutta to show us how to live out this parable of Jesus. She literally saw Jesus in those she found dying on the streets of Calcutta and the destitute.”

Even those of us who think we are living simply for the sake of God’s other children or all of God’s creation, can probably “do better.”

It's worth reflecting upon - in Jesus name.


Hymn TIS 589: “Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult” It would be a better place if we could all ignore the trivial and keep our focus on God’s plan for us.


Grahame played while the Congregation reflected privately. This was followed by the 

Intercessory Prayers after which they joined in the


Hymn TIS 143: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only WiseThe only one of whom we can depend.

Benediction Go forth with shouts of joy. Proclaim the greatness of God! Be glad and rejoice in Christ’s care. Trust the promises of God! As you go in Trust may the blessing of that same God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life remain with you always.



Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now,”

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 August 2107




Call to Worship

(Joanne Carlson Brown, The Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

As for me, I shall behold your face. . .. When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

 Why have you come this morning?

We have come to encounter the Holy One.

You know you’ll never be the same if you do.

We have come to wrestle with our faith, our doubts, and even our convictions.

Then come; let us venture into this time of worship and prepare to encounter God face to face.


Hymn TIS 578: “How firm a foundation, you people of God” God is our rock. Everything else and everyone else can fail us but God, we can always depend on. Always.


Opening Prayer:

 O God of night-time visits and daylight assurance, we come to this time of worship to wrestle with who we are, and who you call us to be. Search our hearts and know us thoroughly. We long to meet you face to face, even if the encounter leaves us forever changed. With open ears and ready hearts, touch us with your words and transform us with your presence. Amen.


 A Prayer of Confession

 God who sees, knows, and touches us, we have many things in our lives that we are not proud of.

We are scared to come before you with all that we are. We are frightened that you will judge us and find us wanting. We are afraid of your rejection or abandonment.

Forgive our shortcomings, large and small.

Reassure us that you are always present with us, that you always love us and want only the best for us.

Forgive our fearful reluctance to open ourselves fully to an encounter with your holy presence.

Wrestle with us, touch us, and awaken us to your love— a love that never lets us go. Meet us face to face, that we may be forever changed. Amen.



Declaration of Forgiveness

Dawn comes, and we will see God face to face. We will behold the face of unconditional love. In this meeting, we will understand the depth of God’s reassuring forgiveness. And in this understanding, we will be changed for good.

Thanks, be to God! Amen



The Peace

A flash of brilliant light, a mushroom cloud rises. Nothing will ever be the same.

We dedicate ourselves to work for peace as we boldly proclaim:

“Never again.”

Forgive our inhumanity.

May wars cease as we work to be peacemakers and not merely peace hopers.

Touch us, O God, and we will never be the same. In life and in death we are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

In gratitude for the gift of eternal life, let us greet one another with signs of peace. The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always.



Invitation to the Offering

 Loving God, take our hearts and set them on fire. Take our lives and transform them. Take our church and resurrect it with your life-giving Spirit. Take our gifts and use them for the fulfillment of your vision

of peace and unity. Amen.


Hymn TIS 138: “Eternal Father, strong to save” The theme continues. We can rest in God’s eternal arms, in full security that we will be cared for as none other can care for us.



I have included the service so far, almost as Rev. John delivered it today, because everything that was said and sung touched my heart so poignantly and I thought it would do the same for those who read it. We continued on with the Service of Communion. This never fails to quieten my soul. Whether it be the mighty prayers, the historical events remembered or the reverence of the people celebrating the service, I am stilled. Somehow, there are so many centres to this service. Jesus Christ and his willingness to turn his face to Jerusalem is clearly at the centre of our attention. The effect of that sacrifice on our lives and then as we are offered the bread and the wine, each of us is given the impression that it is just for us. Hallelujah!


The Service of the Word.



The Readings: Genesis 32:22-31. Romans 9: 1-8. Matthew 14: 13-21 brought to us by Lyn.



The first reading about a man wrestling with God no doubt has a traditional meaning and message. However, as one who has wrestled with God, I can say that it leaves a mark like the limp of the man in this reading, that never goes away. No matter how things around me are or how much I would like to sulk in a corner because things aren't as I would like them, I can't say that I don't know my maker. I am stuck.                      

To take Paul's message and place it in a modern context is difficult because there are so many possibilities. I think the message that is coming to me is to let God run his world. Do as we see God guiding us to do and then leave the rest to God.

And the third reading for me says that I (and each of us) have been given resources. Use them to serve others.



Preaching of the Word - God is Good.

Rev. John made these points:

* After a long and exhausting day, Jesus’ disciples come to him and suggest that the crowds be sent away so that they may go into the villages and buy food.

*Jesus answers, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

* The disciples protest. Jesus then tells them to bring him what food they have,

*Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms that it is their job to help feed those who are hungry.

*It’s not someone else’s problem to fix.” The body of Christ is called to help those who are hungry

*Don’t send them away

*Jesus says to us, no matter how meagre our resources “Bring them to me.”

*God can raise up amongst us what we need.

And in those words I heard God’s voice.



Hymn TIS 530: “Now let us from this table rise” The words that leapt out to me were ‘renewed in body, mind and soul’.


Grahame played to provide background for our thoughts and prayers.



Intercessory Prayers

Rev. John prayed to God who is steadfast in love, giving thanks for answered prayer. He continued, bringing before our God, all those affected by war, terrorism, disaster and famine. He prayed for the homeless, the addicted and everyone afflicted in any way, that leaders will see fit to dispense mercy and justice to right wrongs that create the circumstances in which all these terrible evils flourish.

He prayed for those who are close to us and that our gifts will be used for those in need.

He prayed that we will welcome anew all those who come to the table with us, that we will provide the nourishment of fellowship and friendship. We then joined in The Lord’s Prayer.


Hymn TIS 201: “King of glory, King of peace”. To love may never cease. Amen to that.



Benediction

Go forth, knowing that God has heard our cry and will give us the strength to follow God’s call. Go forth to touch the lives of others, as our lives have been touched by God. Go and be the face of God to a world that so desperately needs the loving, affirming face of God. And may the wrestling God be with you always. Amen.


Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now” May God grant you every good thing. Amen.