Because Margaret was taking the service today Joan again generously volunteered to write the blog.
The service began with a Welcome, followed by the Notices for the coming week, before we heard the
Call to Worship: Margaret called us as fellow children of God - those who despair about the meaning of life, cling to anger or who are lonely or full of self-pity. And also those who came to this house of prayer which is filled with the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, feeling contented and thankful for many blessings.
Andrew very carefully chose the hymns for the service and played the organ, while Malcolm played the piano and Lyn introduced our hymns for us today.
Hymn TiS 28: “God is our strength and refuge”
Margaret offered the Prayer of Praise, Adoration and Thanksgiving which ended with the words: “God most wonderful, we worship and adore you. Amen
Hymn Tis 232: “O the deep, deep love of Jesus”:
With quiet music to sooth our thoughts - we each took a few moments for silent personal Confession before being led by Margaret in a further prayer of Confession before hearing the news that our Merciful God is prepared to let His forgiviness flood over us as we were offered Words of Assurance – for which we thanked God.
The Bible Readings were read for us by Alan.
Psalm 91: 1-6 and 14-16; Luke 16: 19-31; Timothy 6: 6-16
Reflection: Margaret began her reflection by saying she would include thoughts on all three readings, with the main focus on the reading from Luke. She touched on some of the historical thoughts and opinions on the meanings of the story of Lazarus, but urged us to “look for God's message for us” in the three readings and in her Reflection.
“I can only tell you the message I hear. What God means you to hear is between Him and you,” she told us and asked us to pause and silently ask for God's help in opening our ears and hearts to His voice. We were reminded the reading from Psalms evokes the greatest sense of confidence and tells us we can depend on God to look after us. The reading from Timothy reminds us to be content with what we need and warms us not to pursue wealth.
Margaret hears a twofold message from Luke. There is the sobering story of the self-indulgent rich man whose sins towards Lazarus were sins of ommission as he continued to ignore him until it was too late. The second part of the message is; that neither can we plead ignorance for not “getting on board the programme” - because the message has also been given to us loud and clear.
Rather than go on with a littany of things we might do to to avoid “facing the chasm” like the rich man, Margaret acknowledged that most of those in church this morning had probably already heard that message and been acting responsibly for many decades. So she suggested the word “stocktake” for us to consider when measuring ourselves to see if we could indeed do more. We were told that there is nothing "adequate" or "enough" about God. “God's blessings come in an avalanche. We should be paying those blessings on.”
We were encouraged to recal our own reaction when someone has bothered to call or show hospitality and to then consider, in contrast, how bleak it must be for people who are without much by way of personal resources, family or friends.
Margaret then generously shared several personal experiences about her own faith journey and told us of several times she had been able to offer help and comfort to young people through her job as a teacher. However, she acknowledged that in each case she had found the task of supporting the kids an enormous burden and wished in each case that it would all just go away!
Those situations would never have been easy but she shared with us in humility this morning, her certain knowledge that if she had asked to be a channel of God's love and had asked for God's strength, it would have been many times less exhausting. Knowing that, she told us that as the Psalm reading tells us; God is there for us...always and he will help us through heavy times.
Margaret gently reminded us of small things we can all do within our abilities and resources. I liked the suggestion of a smile – “Not a polite smile - a beaming smile that says I'm delighted to see you.” Another anecdote I liked was the nine year old boy from next door who rang up Margaret’s husband to tell him he had put out the green bin and it was recycling week. Another small thing that meant a great deal to Margaret, was the offer of a member of this church to pray for her as she prepared for the service today. She could not have offered her anything better. “No matter how small – help makes a difference.”
We were reminded that we are in the top 6% in the world when it comes to those assets that make life easy and good for us and we have spiritual support in this building and that all this gives us a richness we can let overflow to others.
Margaret finished by inviting us all to live our life as if we are always dancing the last verse of the “hokey pokey”. We should put our whole self in.
“We should give whatever we give, no matter how tiny, with a full and generous heart. That's the thing that people will notice and that will help them experience God's love. That's your job done. The rest is up to God. Listen for God’s voice and respond to His prodding.”
A Prayer at the end of the Reflection was followed by
Hymn TiS 658: “Here I am Lord”
Our Freewill Offering was taken by the Stewards, Nerida and Alan and a
Prayer of Dedication was offered by Chris.
Prayers for the People were led by Joan who included the Uniting Church’s statement about the ideals and aspirations of the Church for Social Justice, on this Social Justice Sunday.
Hymn TiS 547: “Be Thou my vision”
Sending Out and Blessing:
We are loved by a God who calls us to spread love wherever the poor are neglected, justice wherever the meek are humiliated, hope wherever the merciful are despised, peace wherever the church is divided and Grace wherever the lost seek mercy.
As we prepared to leave the church Andrew played the “Hokey Pokey” which sent us out with joy and enthusiasm for “Putting our whole selves in” for a God who gives us “An avalanche of Blessings”.