Sunday, 17 March 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church March 17

Rowena asked for any announcements, an important one relating to the Good Friday service. The bus will not be used, but car transport is availablefor anyone who needs it.

Also for the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, condensed versions of the services have been printed for people who cannot attend. Contact Elaine if you need help with any of these.

Rowena then gave the Call to Worship, which was taken from 'Congregations' by retired UCA minister, Bruce Prewer.
"They live by faith; congregations of common people." We were called as people brought to life by Jesus' message; people living by hope and love and grace.

Hymn TIS 473 "Community of Christ". " out your creed and risk your life for God alone...look past the Church's door and see the refugee, the hungry, and the poor." We can hardly do otherwise and still claim to belong to Christ.

Prayer of Confession Rowena led us in a prayer to ask God to look on us as we really are, to go past the shell we present to those around us and give us courage to face ourselves with self-honesty, to repent and ask forgiveness. Forgiveness for sins we recognize and those we haven't recognized.

Declaration of Forgiveness  Rowena followed by assuring us of God's ability to heal and free us, reminding us that He is always available to forgive. Thanks be to God.

Hymn TIS 342 "When I survey the wondrous cross" To continue the idea from the last hymn - " so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all." It would be a bit odd, if in the face of the Lord of all emptying himself for us, that we, in response, handed over only a fraction of ourselves - like some sort of tax. This would be a strange response to the gift of such love.

Scripture Reading Psalm 126
                                John 12: 1 - 8
Both readings are stories of great extravagant gifts. How extravagant are we in our gift of ourselves to others? I heard someone once describe a gift they were to give as 'adequate'. I think if the intended recipient had heard that said, they might have preferred to have received nothing at all.

Reflection "Extravagant Love" In speaking to us, Rowena referred to the reading in John where Jesus was at the home of Lazarus' sister for respite from the weight of his work and before he faced the agony of Good Friday and the triumph to follow.
It is here that Mary anoints Jesus' feet with costly, perfumed, nard. A protest goes up that the nard could have been sold and the money given the the poor. However Jesus defends her, leaving us with a lesson about the extravagance of the gift - there was no holding back - there was no sense of making a merely appropriate gesture.
Our lives should be given, as Jesus gave His, without any holding back, with generosity -  not counting the cost but appreciating the value to all.
The aroma of the perfume would not only have filled the room but has come down through the years challenging us to live lives of extravagant love, reflecting the love of God.
Hymn TIS 687 "God gives us a future" "Fear and doubt and habit must not hold us back: God gives us hope, and insight, and the strength we lack." An extravagance of enthusiasm, which is what we need so often, when we are feeling exhausted and flat.

Offering and Prayer The prayer was that our offerings would be used by the church - wisely, extravagantly, generously.

Prayers of Intercession and the Lord's Prayer. On our behalf, Rowena prayed that, as we waited and listened for God's voice, we would think of those who have loved us with extravagant love, people who gave their all on our behalf. We asked for God's blessing on those without basic living requirements, for those needing healing, hope, justice and mercy.
We prayed for those we know and those unknown to us that God would look upon them in their particular need.

Hymn AHB 363 "Heart and heart unite together" ..."Hallelujah! O what riches, O what height and depth of grace" God's riches overflowing in his gift of grace to us, freely given!

Commissioning and Benediction
Go now, and press on in the path to which God has called you-new things-opportunities-
extravagant love-life giving waters.
In the name of Christ.

"Now unto him who is able to keep,
                Able to keep you from falling
                And to present you faultless
                Before the presence of his glory
                With exceeding joy.
                To the wise God our Saviour,
                Be glory and majesty,
                Dominion and power,
                Both now and ever.


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