Elaine led the usual singing that introduces our service on the second Sunday of the month, with the congregation choosing hymns that have been integral to their faith journey.
Rowena, who was taking the service for us, welcomed everybody and the announcements were given.
There followed the Call to Worship given, again by Rowena, acknowledging the differences between each of us, which include our varying awareness of God's presence.
Rowena assured us that regardless of our feelings regarding his presence, that God is faithful and since he promises to be with us, we could be sure he was with us in the service.
Prayer of Adoration Here we praised God as the beginning and end of all things: the creator of all, who despite his greatness, accepts each one of us as precious. This theme was continued in
Hymn 154 (TiS) "Great is thy faithfulness", sung in praise of God's unending and unchanging constancy, evident in both creation and in the restoration of our souls.
Prayer of Confession We were prepared for this confession with an invitation to consider our possessions, first the simply unnecessary purchases, then those ostentatious purchases meant to mark our status.
We were then asked to consider losing all of these and then replacing them in our imagination with things of deeper meaning such as family, our community of faith and our own talents.
With this stimulus awakening our awareness, we prayed for forgiveness for the times our possessions had got in the way of our serving God.
Words of Affirmation With our focus directed to the things that matter, Rowena spoke of God's love embracing us and freeing us to share our real treasure with those most in need.
Hymn 693 (TiS) "Come as you are" a warm and open invitation to be loved just as we are.
The message to the Hebrews was that nothing is hidden from the work of God's word but - we have One who has been tested just as we are, who therefore understands us, and for that reason we can ask for mercy and find grace without fear.
Mark's message tells of a man asking the way to enter the
. When told that he had to give up everything, he couldn't accept that cost and left. Then Jesus started speaking to his disciples about the same problem and they couldn't see how anyone could enter the kingdom under those conditions. But Jesus pointed out that anything is possible with God's help and that any perceived sacrifice will be rewarded many times over. kingdom of God
Sermon: "Those to whom much has been given, of them much is expected" Rowena began by describing the young man in the reading who had always lived a good life, attending to all his responsibilities and showing compassion and generosity to those in need.
A lot like ourselves.
Surely that should be enough. Unfortunately Jesus disagreed, so we are left asking, with the disciples "Who then can be saved?" Jesus' answer, the answer to all our puzzles, was "...for God all things are possible"
As with the young man in the story, simplifying our lives is not easy but ultimately our Christian faith requires us to let go of those attachments. We need to open our lives and be prepared to trust more deeply in God's power and possibilities.
If we take this one step further and reflect on our communities of faith we might think about our reluctance to change, as we hold desperately onto the "it's always been done."
Looking at this from another perspective, we can consider the necessity to plan for the future in terms of supporting ourselves financially. However in doing this we can become distracted from things of greater importance but nothing should come between us and God
- it's God's will that we should receive everything for an abundant life - but material blessings are for sharing. Those to whom much has been given, of them much is expected.
Hymn 342 (TiS) "When I survey the wondrous cross" "My richest gains I count but loss" and even if I had all of creation to offer as a gift it would not be enough. Such love demands "my soul, my life, my all"- again the message of giving up everything for the love of God.
Offering Prayer We offer these gifts from our abundance as a sign of our commitment to the hard work of living the gospel and our sincere desire for justice, equality and peace for all. Amen. How often we just don't recognise that we, in fact, have an abundance. But it's easy enough - just look at those that have nothing and our overflowing riches become obvious.
Prayers of Intercession Rowena led us in prayer to keep our hearts open to the needs of others, even those we do not like or who may have called their suffering upon themselves.
We prayed also for those who suffer because of the wilfulness of others and those on the front line, dealing with the distress of so many - for them to receive ongoing strength.
We asked for support for all those working within the church and for all those, especially people known to us, who may be burdened or distressed in any way.
Hymn 547 (TiS) "Be thou my vision" A commitment to follow the path laid out for us by the wisdom of the Lord of all. A path where we commit all we are and have, to His service.
Commission and Benediction
And may God come close to you and keep you safe;
May Christ Jesus reward your faithfulness a hundredfold;
and may the Holy Spirit be your help in time of need.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Closing Song "Now unto Him" From Jude a blessing of great fulness. Blessing each other with every good thing that our Lord has to give us.