Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Nov. 4

The Call to Worship was a commitment to praise God all our lives, for his goodness to all people.

Hymn 573  "Praise God from whom all blessings flow" - an opportunity to act on that commitment in full voice, an expression of our wholehearted and sincere thanks.

Helen pointed out that it was All Saints Day. The question is "Who is a saint?" All those focussing their entire being on Jesus.
Personally, I hope lapses of attention are allowed. I find it so hard to be consistent: to turn to God first, instead of when 'all else fails'.

Then we heard about some ordinary, run-of-the-mill saints, to whose memory stained glass windows had been dedicated, in honour of their devotion to the church. Colin told us about his father-in-law and wife, while Ruth spoke of the Walkers, all people, whose lives were lived, doing God's work.

Reading  Mark 12: 30,31 As Helen paraphrased it:

Love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy, and love others as well as you love yourself.

The reference to 'others' doesn't just mean family and friends. It means asylum seekers, the homeless, people suffering from addiction, the mentally ill, people in gaol, people who are unattractive in appearance or behaviour, even those who bear us ill-will.

Lynelle then sang Hymn 456 "God be in my Head"  God be in my head and understanding; in my eyes and looking; in my mouth and speaking; in my heart and thinking - at my end and departing. Jesus gave his all. We can do no less.

Hymn 455 "Be thou my vision" the same theme from a slightly different perspective.
"Thy presence my Light"

The Nicene Creed was then recited. The words of our mind. Our rational declaration of our belief. "I believe..."

Reading  Ruth 1:1-18. Delivered by Colin, is the story of a family who goes into a foreign land to live and whose sons marry women from that land.
The father of the family and the sons die, leaving the mother and the two daughters-in-law together.
The mother points out to the younger women that there is no chance of her providing them with new husbands and that they should return to the families of their birth.
After some convincing, one does go, but the other, Ruth, stays expressing her loyalty in the most moving declaration of fidelity.

"Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die--
    there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
   and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!"

God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary work.

This reflection on the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, began with an explanation of the word 'hesed' as meaning love, devotion, respect, fidelity and its application in that story as being the type of relationship between the two women and between them and God.

Helen gave us the historical background as being the time of the Judges when the Holy City was to be rebuilt and this story was a device to challenge the rule that said that foreign gods and foreigners within the family (including spouses) were to be put aside.

It was to provide a challenge: what right did the Jews have to reject a non-Jew who had 'hesed' and who was acceptable to God.
There's a lesson in there for all of us, I think.

In the story Naomi has nothing-no man to support her but she has 'hesed' and wants to return to the land of her people but knows she has nothing to offer.

One daughter-in-law does the sensible and acceptable thing and returns to her own family for support but the other, Ruth, has such 'hesed' for Naomi she stays with her.

The story ends well but neither woman could know that when Ruth made her decision-a decision of faith. An ordinary person doing extra-ordinary things. A saint.

Helen followed this with a Prayer, acknowledging for us, our ordinariness and our inability to carry out anything more than ordinary work.
Through her words, we confessed that our religious life is not one of drama but rather that of everyday Christian experiences. Even so, we confidently asked for God's help to carry out His extraordinary work.

Hymn 148 "Love Divine, all loves excelling"  /Joy of heaven to earth come down,/Fix in us thy humble dwelling"

This is how we can come to do God's extraordinary work, by God working through us.

Offering  in a responsive prayer, we offered our lives and our gifts to God.

Prayers of the People Bill spoke of our being in a privileged time, knowing God is always there and gave thanks for that. We then prayed quietly for those we know and then Bill prayed on our behalf for those in the community close at hand, or in the wider world, needing help.

Helen then compared Naomi and Ruth with our own experience in this church; in these pews; leading us to see that we could meet God where we were.

"Now the word was made flesh and dwells among us, Made flesh, our flesh"

Prayer of Confession

This began with a moment where we thought about who we were, before the Holy God.
Lord have mercy.

We then confessed that God's will is not yet done in us; that we fall short, in many ways, of  the life that God, and even we, intend for us.

For this we asked forgiveness.

Helen then washed her hands, asking that our Lord would forgive our sins and remove our iniquities.

Assurance of Forgiveness.

Knowing our prayers were answered, we sang with confidence, of the transformation God can and does, effect in our lives.

Our sins are forgiven. God uses and blesses the ordinary.

Communion Hymn 433 "Let us break bread together" We sang our intention of sharing this communion meal with each other.

Helen then prayed for God's blessing on the elements, that they would become for us Jesus' body-healing and forgiving, that we might become God, loving and caring n the world.

We were then reminded that Jesus said,
“This is my body, it is broken for you" and then later,
"This is the new relationship with God, made possible because of my death. Take this-all of you-to remember me."

The elements were then Distributed  
after which we listened as Helen spoke of

God's Peace, not easy, but not insignificant and not half-hearted, being with us and then we shared the peace with each other.

Hymn TIS 455  A jubilant song about the saints. "O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine, all yours, all joined in unity divine.

Closing Responses
The affirmation of our intention to share in Christ's mission, repeating the last lines,

"the darkness, God shall perish it",

with Helen reminding us to hang onto that and sometimes, that's the reminder we need.

Sometimes the darkness of this world threatens to overwhelm us and all our plans for good, and we need to remember that it's God who overcomes.

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