Sunday, 3 March 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church March 3

Call to Worship
Isaiah 55:6-9 " Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;
                         let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts;
                         let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
                         and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
                         For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,
                         says the Lord.
                         For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher
                         than your ways
                         and my thoughts than your thoughts." NRSV.

Stephen then sang part of hymn TIS 464. "Seek, O seek the Lord"
                         " Seek, O seek the Lord, while he is near;
                           trust him, speak to him in prayer,
                           and he will hear." (chorus)

Through this reading and hymn we were able to focus on our purpose and prepare our hearts and minds to enter into the worship that had begun and which would follow.
Helen then led us in prayer to open ourselves to possibilities, waiting on God's presence.

Hymn TIS 547 "Be thou my vision" In humility, we offered ourselves to God and his will for us.
Scripture Reading: Luke 13: 1-9. I find this reading very difficult. Firstly, people have died gruesome deaths but Jesus declares they were no worse than others (who might have died quietly in their sleep). But then he says that without repentance we all will perish as they did and then appears to take, if not an about-turn, then a different direction, suggesting God's patience is long. I think I will sit with this.

Reflection "God Gives us Time" Helen led us into the reading by providing background  to the first words of the reading "At that very time" - What time?
Looking back to Chapter 12, Helen referred to verse 50 in which Jesus speaks of being under stress because he knows what is ahead of him and knows his time is limited. Therefore in Chapter 13 he is telling his followers that they must be prepared too.

Going back to Chapter 12 in verse 56 Jesus expresses frustration with the people present, who can interpret the weather conditions in detail but can't interpret the time they live in.

Then, the message which appears only in Luke, is 'repent or perish'. This message is mediated through the account of people who died terrible deaths despite being no worse than other people, but then Jesus introduces a story about a non-fruit bearing tree which a farmer wants to uproot because it is using valuable resources.
However, the gardener wins a reprieve for the tree, saying he will care for it, convincing the farmer to give the tree a little longer.

Helen then reminded us of the vision of God as the God of Justice, to whom will have to give an account of ourselves but then turned our attention to him as the God of Grace.

We live in a time of Grace with Jesus pleading on our behalf. We have been given the gift of Grace. We have been given the gift of Time. We are not to waste these gifts.
A reminder like this one today, is always timely. On days like today, I find myself looking inward to seek out the parts of my life that are drifting off-course.

Hymn TIS 129 "Amazing Grace". God's grace - our only hope and a hope that leads us where we cannot imagine.

Freewill Offering We give as God gives - without holding back.

Time of Confession  We were given time to confess our sins and shortcomings - to look within to see what God sees.
"Your sins are forgiven"
"Thanks be to God"

Communion Hymn TIS 685 "Lord I come to you". A plea for God's renewal in our lives, not just to experience cleansing but also wholeness that we will know peace with him.

A Prayer of Thanksgiving led us into the Eucharist, praising God for his presence and our ability to know his touch. We praised him for the many ways God has provided for us to be led to him.
We gave praise for Jesus' selfless sacrifice of his life and his victory which continues to work its saving power within us and in the world, and looked to him for the things to come, which are beyond our dreams.
With this preparation, we stood to sing the Sanctus, aware of the import of the words.

Thanks was given for the sharing of the Holy meal, signifying unity with Jesus and with each other.

Theology flies out the window here, the symbols are so strong.

This is my body.
This is my blood.
They are given for you.
Eat and drink in remembrance for me.
Jesus is the Lord!

We were then enjoined to claim the blessings offered to us through the sacrifice we were celebrating.
"Glory to the Lord God Almighty!
Who gives us life and lives in us.
Glory to the Lord!

The gifts of God for the people of God.

Though we are many, we are one body,
for we share together this bread and wine.

The Distribution of the Communion.

Prayers of Departure.
"We are the end of the the end of the age.
...on the road to freedom...a community of grace...we travel lightly...together...our mission is love...we travel with authority...opponents of evil...heralds of hope...we travel with humility...the cross is our is our sign.

When the way is uncertain, shadows are sinister, and dangers threaten, we'll not be afraid, but take heart."

Behold I am with you to the end of the age.

May the Road Rise to Meet You. An ancient Celtic prayer using images of nature to show how God interacts with his people. For me, I see God's hand all around me and never cease to wonder at the beauty and elegance of it all.

We were sent out encouraged to do God's will and work with lightness of heart: dancing, singing, creating, risking, exploring, discovering, loving, believing, hoping, struggling and remembering.

To this we replied, "We go with the assurance of your love, O God."

Who else can we totally rely on 100% of the time?

Thanks be to God.

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