Helen welcomed us all and the notices were given. These included a notice of an evening at the Edgerton's home, on May 13th, to share ideas about the future of MRUC. This was followed by the
Call to Worship, reminding us of God's love for all His creation, in which he delights and among which He has no favourites because He doesn't just love all, He is love.
Hymn TIS 232 "O the deep, deep love of Jesus" Deep, vast, boundless, all around us, everlasting. Our haven - Jesus' mighty love for us.
Scripture Reading John 5: 1 - 18. Elaine delivered the story of Jesus visiting the pool, Bethzatha, where there were many invalids, waiting to be healed by being lowered into the water when it started to stir. Jesus approached one man, and after questioning him, told him to, "Stand up, take up your mat and walk" and the man did just that. However it was the Sabbath, so the Jews became angry with Jesus, and began to seek Him out to kill him. Two thoughts occur to me: the importance we can place on certain things and the priorities by which we can order a range of things, is sometimes more in keeping with what makes us feel safe rather than with what God would intend. Secondly, perhaps we hobble along spiritually, because we don't fully believe we will make it when we get the command to stand up and walk (in the spiritual sense). Maybe it's safer for us to remain crippled, because, in that state, we get ask to be served, not serve.
Reflection "Undeserved Grace" Helen directed our attention to the first words of the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." She then went on to say that John spent the rest of the gospel showing how that was so. That is, that Jesus and God are one.
The healing by the pool in today's reading, is one of the focusses John uses to prove what was said in the first lines.
The Bible says different things to different people at different times. The Holy Spirit uses scripture to teach and guide. But then Helen confessed to getting a bit cranky with this reading. Why would Jesus ask the man if he wanted to be healed? The poor man had been waiting by the pool for decades. But then Helen said she had thought about it again. What is the message to us? It was that sometimes we are happy the way we are - it's safe. Change means uncertainty and for this reason we are not quick to change even when it's clear that it is for our own good.
Then the next thing that made Helen cranky was the response of the authorities. Did they rejoice because a cripple was walking? No! All they could think about was that he was healed on the Sabbath, breaking ones of their many, many rules. We do that today. We get bogged down in the trivia of our rules and regulations, instead of rejoicing at a clear sign of God at work. Then to make matters so much worse, those same authorities started to plot to kill Jesus. Hang on. Isn't here a commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" ?
Further, Helen didn't like the healed guy much either. When Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed, you would expect a "Yes" or at least a "No" but he starts on with excuses. He doesn't ask who Jesus is, and goes to the Temple and dobs with no record of his even thanking Jesus.
The Festival that was happening at the time was a device to remind the Jews of what God had done for them. Which is exactly what this story is for us. It is a picture of God at work. The amazing grace of God, shown in Jesus.
"And the Word was God"
Hymn TIS 129 "Amazing Grace (how sweet the sound)". "I once was lost, but now am found," So why do we keep behaving as though we are lost?
Freewill Offering "Generous God, you give us so much, and yet we keep gazing at the empty gap, and not the gift. We have a little that we give to your work, believing, knowing from experience, our little in your hands changes lives. Amen
Time for Quiet Reflection
Prayer for Others and the Lord's Prayer Nerida prayed that, as we from our comfortable lives are unable to comprehend the tragedy and destruction around us, God will support the many aid groups who give help to all without favour, showing His love to the world. She then prayed for our country and our leaders and then for those close to members of the congregation, and also asked that as we shared the bread and wine, that we should be aware of the spirit within.
Someone like me A story by John Harvey from Iona. Fire and Bread p247. Helen told this humbling story of three groups spending two weeks at Iona. There was a group of young men who were prisoners from the gaol, a group who suffered from cerebral palsy and another group of teenagers who were under the care of social workers. The weeks were more than successful and culminated in a communion service, which included the Passing of the Peace. After the service, one of the prisoners was found sobbing. It was thought he was dreading the return to prison but that was not it. He was brought undone because he thought that no one in a church would ever want to shake the hand of someone like him. Then Helen exhorted us to pass to each other that friendship and love that prisoner received, as an echo of God's gift of Grace to us.
Passing the Peace The peace of the Lord be with you
And also with you.
Hymn TIS 655 v1+ chorus Through this hymn we prayed that God "will descend upon (our lives) and make (us) whole"
Prayer of Confession Helen prayed for all of us, asking forgiveness for our lack of care for each other, for our unpleasantness, for our focus on ourselves and our blindness to the God who lives and transforms.
Words of Assurance We were directed to focus on the communion elements.
The body of Christ, broken for you.
The Blood of Christ, poured out for you.
Whatever we are like-however pathetic our behaviour. We are loved and cherished.
Hymn TIS 655 v2 + chorus With this assurance, we acted out our belief and sang with conviction, "O come and sing this song with gladness."
Communion we recalled the actions of Jesus and the events during the Last Supper and then prayed, asking God's blessing on the elements, that we would be reminded of God's grace. We asked for each of us to receive God's Spirit and be challenged by God's presence. Of course, we can look away and make excuses but that would be missing a great opportunity.
Prayer after Communion "We are children and people of God. We give thanks that he is good and God's love is now and forever.
Hymn TIS 531 "Sent forth by God's blessing" "His grace shall invite us, his love shall unite us"- that will only happen when we keep our focus on Him. As soon as we revert to putting ourselves first, it follows that we will lose direction.
Prayer of Departure
Into our streets and homes we go
Living our lives in God's love
Into our joys and sorrows we go
Living our lives in God's love
Blessed with the friendship of God we go
Living our lives in God's love.
It really doesn't work very well any other way.