Dan welcomed us and asked for the announcements, after which he drew our attention to the diversity of people in God's world and how each one of us has been made different. How difficult we find it to accept that those who are different from us are as much God's handiwork as we are ourselves. We really try hard to limit God by our own small-mindedness, but fortunately God always raises up a receptive soul to spread his true intentions.
Equally, God is present everywhere, whatever direction we might take. There is nowhere we can go that God can't find us.
Hymn 188 "Where wide sky rolls down and touches red sand" awakened us to God's hand in the creation of our own country and reminded us that we can find him in our own outback.
Dan then led our confession of our lack of understanding, and gave thanks for the opportunities church gives us to deepen our insight into the mind of Christ and also for the work of hymns in mediating God's presence in us.
Dan then gave thanks on our behalf, for God's strength that supports us and his compassion that comforts us. He continued to offer, for us, our confession of falling into temptation, rejecting God's counsel and guidance and being distracted from our duties.
Our silent confession followed.
Our forgiveness was then affirmed. Through Christ we are saved and pardoned.
Hymn 56 "Amazing Grace" gave us the words to declare our reliance on God's goodness for all that we are and can be.
Dan then introduced his theme for today: the consideration of the difference between tourist and pilgrim. He pointed out that a tourist comes back with memories and perhaps momentos while a pilgrim comes back with experiences through which it is possible to find out about self, faith and God.
Hebrews 11: 8 - 16 and Luke 4: 1 - 13 were delivered by Bob. In Hebrews the part that resonated with my own experience was that these travellers had an immoveable faith in God despite little proof that God was actually at work. They had such faith that they did not think of the land they left behind but continued to journey, strong in the faith that God's plan for them was still firm. Readings
Luke writes of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness where he considered his life before him and where he was tempted to seek earthly glory but threw all that aside to do his Father's will. Serious matters require deep and lengthy consideration. Decisions about such should not be made quickly or lightly or relying on our own wisdom
Dan took his cue from this reading for his sermon, "Tourist or Pilgrim" He pointed out that that there are questions we answer with our lips; others with our lives. The question to answer is whether we live as a tourist or pilgrim. To continue the theme begun earlier, he explained how a tourist wants things to be comfortable and familiar, not strange or threatening, (no funny food or weird customs). The tourist wishes for a safe and happy trip with pleasant memories.
However a pilgrim has totally different expectations - something outside of the familiar - a journey into the unknown, in fact, a pilgrim accepts discomfort, even danger, placing themselves in the hands of God.
Jesus intentionally spent those 40 days outside the familiar - (that's where we hear God's voice) - because only then was he prepared for the role he had to take in God's plan.
It's too easy to be part of a church community and only be a tourist. We are asked to be more than that. Jesus also calls us into those strange places and to sometimes enter the unexpected but we are promised that the Holy Spirit will travel with us.
Jesus calls us to live in His Name.
Affirmation of Faith. We affirmed our beliefs as the congregation declared our faith by saying the
proclamation of faith aloud. Uniting Church
Hymn 537 "May the mind of Christ my Saviour" echoed the sentiments of both the sermon and proclamation, giving us the opportunity to declare our intentions again, to be open to whatever God has in store for us.
The Prayers of the People asked for God's blessing on those connected with the congregation, asking him to watch over them and care for them as they faced the challenges of their daily lives.
The Offering was then dedicated to God's work in the wider world.
Hymn 487 "Guide me, O thou great Jehovah" was sung with great enthusiasm, a sign of our faith in God's guiding hand in our lives, to save us from harm and to keep us journeying in the light until we "land...safe on Canaan's side"
Dan then prayed that we would be kept strong in faith and hope and love and offered the Blessing of the Father and the love of Jesus and asked that the Holy Spirit would guide us in truth and peace.
To which we answered,
Amen, Amen, Amen.