After the welcome and notices, which included the Lamington Drive and the bowls challenge and which also called attention to the availability of large print TIS hymn books for those who need them during the service, the Call to Worship followed, as a conversation between Helen and the Congregation, affirming our life as a community, with our stories, food, wisdom, hope, laughter and pain shared as we travel the way of justice and truth, living a life of discovery as we journey home to God. (In my own case, with more than one or two hiccups along the way.) There's nothing like a church service to remind us of where we should be and how we have been losing our way in the previous week.
Prayer A plea to be moulded by the source of our life into a holy community which will reveal the face of Christ.
Hymn TIS 217 A prayer that the source of all love should dwell within us, and save us from our flawed, failing selves. A declaration that we know we can only be whole when God restores us. For this we are ever wondering and praising, overwhelmed by this unending blessing. When we sit back and think about our own behaviour, not to mention that of those who live lives deliberately causing carnage, I wonder why God persists loving us. But He does. Amazing!
Prayer of Confession Acknowledging God's patience, and confessing our own neglect of seeking for God in the depth of our lives, because of our rush to get through the day, Helen prayed for us that God would teach us to trust Him so that we can learn to wait. I find that this can be frustrating, but answers come at the most unexpected times - often when we are focussing on the needs of others rather than on our own perceived needs.
Words of Assurance "To all who turn to him, Christ says, 'Your sins are forgiven.' He also says, 'Come, follow me.' An amazing gift and invitation. I can never understand why I am distracted by trivialities from the wealth offered here.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Scripture Reading Acts 11: 1 - 8
Revelation 21: 1 - 6 Delivered by Malcolm and well worth reading again, privately. The message is clear: all things are made new. The rules have changed. In fact it seems the rules are not so important now. "To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life." AS A GIFT.
Hymn Songs for a Hopeful Church 24 "John, in the Spirit, saw the First and the Last"
John, in the Spirit, saw........so much. "O God, as you gave John the eyes to see...open our eyes and ears and hearts to know your wisdom, honour, glory, blessing, might." And forgive me for sometimes being so thick.
Reflection God gives a vision. Helen recounted her experiences with her grandchildren during the previous few weeks and passed on to us the children's unwillingness for her to dwell on a question or to leave any uncertainty as answer. Their advice was, "Google it!" Early Christians didn't have Google, but did have dreams and visions. These dreams and visions were the result of their thinking about the questions that arose in their lives and of God intervening via the dreams and visions to provide them with solutions.
These people didn't have any easy time. There was no freedom of worship. They were persecuted. Helen then proposed that, even so, they may have been better off than we are.
We are so comfortable. There is no pressure on us to grapple with the depth of things. We have information in our heads but not in our hearts. We recite beliefs and repeat insights we have heard others put forward without grabbing hold of the substance of it all. We do not, because we don't have to, open our minds to the challenge and extent of our faith. The early church had to or they would not have held together. In the vision of Peter in the reading, God tells him to eat of any food but Peter initially refuses until God points out that everything He has created is acceptable. From this Peter learnt that God loves all people and was able to answer the criticism directed at him by the Jewish Christians in regard to his fraternizing with Gentiles and baptizing them.
God is inclusive; He wants a relationship with all people.
Demonstrating their willingness to open themselves to God's guiding hand the Jewish Christians saw the truth of Peter's explanation and praised God. They saw the bigger vision. They didn't know how it was going to work but they said, "Yes." to God's direction. In the second reading there is the vision of The New Jerusalem, the completion of creation. The relationship broken by the disobedience of people will be restored.
This gives us hope. This will be the future.
Helen then returned to the theme of our reciting our lives by rote and referred to a book of prayer she has been using. In this book people from all walks of life speak about the prayers that have given their lives impetus. In the book, the Rev. Marta Benavides from El Salvador, who was involved in humanitarian work during the civil war there, and who has set up refugee centres, nominated the Lord's Prayer as her most important and symbolic prayer. She calls it "Our Father and Mother Prayer" and recites it, not as a wish or request, but in recognition of all that has already been given to us by the Great Spirit.
She prays: “Our Father-Mother who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Your kingdom is. Your will is done, on earth as it is in heaven,
You give us each day our daily bread and I work to make sure we all enjoy it.
You have forgiven us from the beginning.
We have never had any debts, so no one owes me anything.
You never lead us into temptation, but you give us a life that challenges us to grow in wisdom and grace, thus you do not have to deliver us from evil, for you are my and our light, if I so choose it, thus no evil is in my path and life.
For, I am in you as you are in me. And so it is.”
This is Marta's driving force. What are we grabbing onto? Where is our vision? Where is our energy? What can I do to bring about "Thy Kingdom Come"?
Prayer God is all that is good and yet He is at home in us. Just as we have been loved, so that our old life is ended because God is making us new, we must love each other. That is what we are here for. We are to love each other, not just the people we like.
Hymn TIS 432 "Christ is made the sure foundation" Christ is the cornerstone binding the church together and we are His hands, feet and heart in the task of making that happen.
Freewill Offering "Loving God, we offer you these gifts, our money time and prayers, and place them in your hands. May they make a new world."
Prayers for Others and The Lord's Prayer We were given a quiet space to consider our prayer and then Grahame, for us, prayed to God, our Holy Father and Mother, The Alpha and Omega, giving thanks for life's riches and then turned our attention to the people mourning all over the word because of the loss of life, not just in warfare but in incidents such as in the Boston bombing and the collapse of the workplace building in Dhaka. He prayed for forgiveness for our lack of progress to accept refugees or to attend to the needy. He asked that we should be shown our vision for MRUC and for blessings on our leaders. We then prayed The Lord's Prayer with new perception.
Hymn TIS 224 "All hail the Power of Jesus' name" In every place, among every people, under every condition: "Crown Him Lord of all!"
Sending Out ..." Go now into this day knowing that all around you are signs of the new world coming - and within you are the resources for the new world building - and among you is the reality of God's renewed world.”
Doxology to the tune of the old hundredth
Praise God, from whom all grace flows forth!
Praise Life, all creatures here on earth!
Praise Light who guides us on our way!
Praise Love who forms us day by day! Amen.