Beth commenced the service with a Prayer to God who opens the new day and the new year before us, asking that we should know that we are enfolded in His love.
HYMN AHB 44 "I'll praise my maker while I've breath" Praise for our maker - when do we stop and give thanks for our very existence? When do we stop to appreciate the people God has put in our way or His creation that speaks of Him and uplifts and enriches us by its mere appearance? And then the God who mends and soothes and comforts -when do we stop with gratitude and turn to the One who provides it all?
Prayer Beth led us and, dispensing with all formality and speaking as a friend, knowing that we would be heard and receive full response, approached the God who became one with the "trash and treasure of humanity". She gave thanks for this time of the year and asked for His aid in helping us to put aside our hurts and asked for forgiveness for the times we forget Him and each other, knowing He understands our humanity, and knows age makes it hard to read and to do. Beth added that it was often age and not will that caused us to forget and asked again that we should know that we are loved and in the everlasting arms and that our sins are forgiven.
Hymn AHB 552 " Have Faith in God" A little gentle self talk, reminding each aspect of our being that God is the answer to any failing that we have.
Scripture Readings Isaiah 63: 7 - 9 A pledge to remember, acknowledge and praise God for His graciousness and mercy to us. Amen.
Matthew 2: 13 - 23 The story of the flight to Egypt to escape the evil wrath of Herod. Even when Herod died and Joseph and Mary thought it safe to return, they found that Herod's son, Archelaus, was then the ruler and given his reputation of being a nasty piece of work, they withdrew and settled in Nazareth.
Reflection Beth used a series of stories from her life to illustrate the lessons she had learned about God and thought to pass on to the congregation. These stories told of how in our lack of wisdom, we so often tangle ourselves up and create a lack of balance in our lives. She then showed that through the love shown to her by other people to help her balance her life again, she realised that it was God working through them and understood that by looking to God, we can retain something like a balance. We are not perfect and being a Christian doesn't make us so, therefore there will be times when we take our eyes off God and try to steer our own ship but He is full of love. Also, we are not guaranteed immunity from grief and hurt but God can relieve our hurt and soothe us. Beth then told a story of a Chinese woman who had, with her load of washing been given a lift by a rickshaw driver. Embarrassed at causing physical distress to the man she got out at the bottom of a hill to relieve him of the burden but he turned to her and told her to climb back in with her burden, saying, "I am strong enough" (the application of that story is left to you). She then told another story of a lady who was in greater distress than she was, but gave her comfort.
Beth, then referring to the ladies in all the stories told, said they realised they were in the sunlight side of the Cross. Before the Cross - nothing. After the Cross - hope. We were then entreated to become part of the team that, in God's strength, carries others. It's a brand new year - get on with things.
Hymn TIS 658 "I, The Lord of the sea and sky" God: Whom shall I send? Only one answer to that. Us: Here I am Lord...I will go Lord if you will lead me I will hold your people in my heart. However imperfectly, there are only us poor humans to do God's work.
Offering Our chance to return of our worldly wealth to God's work. In this congregation, my observation has been that greater contributions are given in human care and energy and Amen to that.
Prayers for the People Chris reminded us that 2013 is almost over and that it is time to thank God for His steadfast love and mercies and answer to prayers, whether we have been aware or not of God's hand in things. He asked that the gospel should be brought to completion in our becoming Christlike and gave thanks for the privilege of prayer. He prayed for those who have suffered in Australia and abroad from disasters, natural and man-made and asked for guidance for our leaders and then the special concerns of the congregation, ending with The Lord's Prayer.
Hymn Gracegift - Beth Howard, tune Lara's Theme "
Giver of Grace, Your love has come to me. True wealth is mine, faith holds reality.
I didn't know that there could be such love. Each waking day holds a new treasure trove.
This day, I offer you my love, this day, I celebrate with You
I am set free, broken, the chains of sin.
Praise you, My Lord, giver of peace within. I offer you all that I hope to be.
I pledge my live for eternity. (Repeat)
A presentation was then made by Warwick to Beth to thank her for all her ministry during December.
Benediction from TIS 685,,
Lord, I come to you-let my heart be changed, renewed, flowing from the grace that I found in you. And Lord, I've come to know the weaknesses I see in me will be stripped away by the power of your love.
Hold me close, let your love surround me; bring me near, draw me to your side and as I wait I'll rise up like the eagle and I'll soar with you: your Spirit leads me on in the power of your love. The problem and the solution. Amen.