Today's service focused on trusting in God's promise to fulfill the vision he has given us.
After the notices Helen gave the Call to Worship using examples from her experience to illustrate how our vision for the future, our dreams, can come undone.
The tone then changed with a responsive reading which referred to the story of Abraham and that the vision/dream he had didn't work out, with our reply being, "Let us take time for hope." We were then were directed to the times when all the smiles around us disappear, to which our response was, "Let us take time for joy." Then the possibilities became worse: "When hate, brush-offs, and thanklessness seem to rule." to which we answered, "Let us take time for love."
I find it so difficult, in the face of disappointment or criticism, to turn to God for a proper perspective. It seems that the last word I hear is all that can be heard and if I could just step back, sit down and let God speak, then I'm sure I would save myself a lot of tears, frustration (and sulking).
Hymn TIS 554 "If we trust in God to guide us" A promise that we will never be forsaken and that we should look for the blessings God sends us-(and maybe not dwell on the ones we think he didn't send.)
Helen led the Prayer of Praise during which she confessed to feeling flat, with exciting hopes and possibilities dashed and having nothing to praise God for. However, she said that changed at a prayer retreat where she felt God's spirit fill her and renew her. The congregation were then asked what we had to praise and thank God for and there were varied responses, many involving family.
With hearts then in tune with all that we had to be thankful for, we stood and burst forth, singing the Doxology.
Helen led us in the Prayer of Confession pleading for God, in his compassion and his knowledge of our determination to keep hold of the controls, as well as his knowledge of our doubts and fears, to help us bloom despite being like frozen ground, stifling growth.
Helen also declared an Affirmation of Forgiveness after offering two definitions of forgiveness: in a field hospital, the laughter of a child whose leg has been blown off; the love of God, who offers us the chance to begin again.
Our sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God
Hymn TIS 588 "In heavenly love abiding" a hymn to the constancy of our God.
Bible Reading Genesis 15: 1 - 18 was read by Joan. Abram questions what reward God could give him since he is still childless and God assures him his child will be the beginning of a multitude of descendants, who, despite many setbacks, would finally inherit the land promised to them.
A Few Thoughts...The Gift of Doubt
Helen referred to the beginning of Genesis 15: After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid
I am your shield,
your very great reward.
"After this"- after what? Abram had just fought, with the help of others, a mighty battle to rescue his nephew Lot. In doing so, he had enraged many enemy leaders and was contemplating what might happen to him when they struck in revenge.
And so God offers him this promise. But Abram is confused. God had made promises to him before. He had promised, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great." (Gen.12).
Abram has noticed that there wasn't any sign of that happening any time soon and doubts God.
Abram points out that he is childless, so God gives him a sign and shows him the stars and says his descendants will be as numerous as those - and Abram believes that but to believe that the land will be his is just too big a leap of faith.
So God makes a covenant with him in the manner of the time. The thing is that God's promise still didn't happen straight away. It happened over hundreds of years.
So the message for us is that if we have a vision, we are not to lose faith just because things aren't going the way we expected. God does not give up on his promises - he comes in many forms - he holds our hand - he will fulfill his promise.
It seems that doubt is an opportunity to speak with God, to express our confusion, to point out that things don't seem to be turning out and ask God for guidance. It may be that we have to adjust our game plan; perhaps we simply have to wait for other players to receive the same vision and join the team; perhaps the time is not God's time. Or other perhapses.
Then Helen introduced us to Liam and Richard from the Uniting Church Chaplaincy team at Macquarie University. These are two young men with a vision and specific plans as to how they are going to see that vision fulfilled. It was lovely to see such a sense of purpose and direction in the cause of ministering to the students at Macquarie University. May God hold their hands and direct their paths.
Hymn TIS 687 "God gives us a future" a hymn of encouragement to step out with the confidence that God will teach us to see the way to go, will give us the courage and strength to follow that path and will cleanse us to make us fit persons to carry out his work
It doesn't sound as though it will be a very comfortable time ahead for us and in my case I'm inclined to stretch out to pick up the television program to find some distraction from any difficulties I may have to face.
In my better moments I know that's useless. I might want to give up, but God doesn't give up.
The Freewill Offering was received a symbol of our intention to show up in places of need, at just the right time, to be the presence of healing love. This was followed by a time of reflection. We had been given a lot to absorb. Have any of us been given a vision? Do we have the courage to see it through? Can we see the detailed path ahead? How do we know if we will have to wait?
Fortunately, on-the-job training is supplied but that will only be useful if we keep our eyes upon that source of all knowledge.
The Prayers of the People delivered by Marcia was a practical offering of the vision of the church-here and elsewhere in the world.
Hymn TIS 595 "O Jesus I Have Promised" to serve you to the end. There doesn't seem to be any escape clause. There's no note about errors and omissions. I'm stuck!
Commissioning God is big enough to hold all that we are. Let us remember the great love that is with us and for which we live.
Shared Blessing God be in head and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes and in my looking;
God be in my mouth and in my speaking;
God be in my heart and in my thinking;
God be at my end and at my departing.