Helen welcomed us to Fathers' Day and the notices were given, including one that we were gathering in the hall after the service to say the last part of our farewell to Helen and Graham.
Helen: "When we arrived this morning, this Fathers' Day, we entered into the normal bustle of a Sunday morning.
Friends greeted each other, children brought their enthusiasm.
Now that we are sitting together in the pews I invite you to close your eyes...and consider the word sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a place set aside for sacred things. It is a place of protection.
This space, this church, is a sanctuary. You too are a sanctuary. There is inside you a place for sacred things. A place where God abides."
Call to Worship. Proverbs 20:24
Since The Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way?
Hymn TIS 569 "Guide me, O my great Redeemer" A prayer for God's guidance and strength as we follow the path before us. A plea that God will swamp us with the life of His Spirit till our life's end and into the next.
Scripture Reading Genesis 12: 1 - 4, delivered by Max, is the record of God commanding Abram to take all his family to a land that will be shown to him and of God promising to make of him a great nation and make him a great blessing. No details. Now that is a journey that would require extraordinary faith. And Abram had such faith. Do we?
Play. A Leap of Faith Helen, finishing her ministry as she has always conducted it, did the unpredictable and appeared from the back of the church in swimming gear and a huge inflatable tyre. Graham played the part of her swimming instructor, encouraging her to shed her inflatable tyre, which protected her from sinking and leap into the "water" where he was holding a kickboard for her. Helen took some convincing and many tries to have the confidence, firstly to shed the floating aid, and then to leap. But finally she did, and "swam" strongly up the aisle. The point: we need to make that leap of faith.
Hymn TIS 691 "Faith will not grow from words alone" ...."our faith must feel its way about".
My own experience is that as we step out in faith into our lives, we find a little truth here and a speck of insight there, all contributing to a much bigger sense of God working in our lives.
Reflection "A God who Leads" Helen began by telling of her family holidays as a child in a small caravan at Palm Beach. The pool there was an ocean pool and it was there Helen had her swimming lessons. The instructor was clear in what was required but Helen said she was paralyzed by the "what ifs". What if the instructor didn't catch her? What if a big wave carried her out to sea? Helen confessed to being a control freak and having to work on that aspect of her character. She told of how God had challenged her on that issue. Helen told of a time when, as the result of a bible study, both she and Graham realised that God wanted them to leave their newly built home and travel, like Abram, to a place that He would show them.
As a result, they moved to Bellingen, even though that move did not seem wise from several points of view. Then, once again, God spoke and they returned to Sydney for Helen to study for the ministry. And now, Helen sees God has said it is time to leave the ministry for whatever lies ahead.
Abraham was not promised that everything would be clear sailing, but he was promised that God would be with him. So Abram went even though he had no concrete proof that anything he was doing was right.
But Abram did have faith and Helen said that she is at a point where she is stepping out in faith.
Helen then made the point that, we as a congregation, are at a point where we have to step out in faith too. God is with us, and we must trust Him. The first step is the hardest but if we step out, God will bless us.
"Go from your country and your kindred...to the land that I will show you."
Introduction to Communion An invitation to share in The Lord's supper, whatever our spiritual state: to come as a worshipping group and as individuals, in faith, no matter how faltering our steps.
Hymn 2 “Songs for a Hopeful Church”, words Elizabeth J. Smith. "All the hungry and the thirsty" Whatever our need..."Here's a door that's always open, here a table spread for all...here your heart can heed God's call." It's for all, the joyful, the struggling, the gifted, those in pain, those in grief. When we join together our "burdens lighten, joys increase". Praise the Holy One.
Prayer of Confession Let us in silence remember our own faults and failings. Then, Helen confessed, "In the community of Christ's Church and in the presence of all God's people, I confess to God that I have sinned..."
The congregation responded:
"May God forgive you, Christ befriend you, and the Spirit renew and change your life."
Then the congregation confessed in the same prayer, together, and Helen responded as we had for her.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
Hymn 546 vv. 1,3,4 sung by Men's group. v. 5 sing together. A plea to the Lord to think on each one of us to cleanse us; to think on each one of us in all those dark places of our lives, so that, "I may share your joy at last."
Then we joined together in the Lord's Prayer
Communion Carolyn read the story of how the sacrament began, reminding us that Jesus said:
"This is my body. It is broken for you. Do this to remember me."
"This cup is God's new covenant, sealed with my blood. Drink from it, all of you, to remember me."
"So now, following Jesus' example and command, we take this bread and wine, the ordinary things of the world which Christ makes special."
Prayer Helen prayed, acknowledging for us all, that God has taken us from our nothingness and welcomed us back: that God offered Himself for us.
"...Send down your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts of bread and wine, that they may become for us your body, healing, forgiving and making us whole."
"...This is my body, it is broken for you."
"...This is the new relationship with God, made possible because of my death. Take this- all of you - to remember me." The Distribution followed.
Prayer after Communion "Lord Jesus Christ, take us, renew us and remake us. What we have been is past, what we shall be, through You, still awaits us.
Lead us on. Take us with you.
Hymn 599 "Take my life and let it be" The logical conclusion to our worshipping God in this service of renewal. A reconsecration of ourselves to God and His service.
Offering Prayer A consecration of ourselves and our possessions to "bring glory to your name"
Prayers for the People Noeline led us in praying for those people in parts of the world suffering conflict; the boat people and people without enough to eat. She prayed for those elected next week and for the church in Australia, particularly the Joint Nominating Committee of our church and the Advisory Committee on Ministerial Placements that they will seek God's guidance. Her other prayer was for Helen and Graham, giving thanks for their ministry and asking that they will be richly blessed in this new phase of their lives.
Graham joined Helen and Helen said to the congregation, "Graham and I, in our current roles, bid you farewell.
May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever. Amen"
Blessing TIS 779 "May the feet of God walk with you" A gentle, loving and kindly prayer for each other
Go in peace to love and serve The Lord.
In the name of Christ.