We Gather for Worship
Praise awaits you, O God;
and solemn promises will be fulfilled. To you who listen to our prayer, all may come,
When sinful deeds overcome us, pardon our rebellion.
How fortunate are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts.
Let us be filled with the good things of your house, your holy temple."
From Psalm 65: 1 - 4 and Joel 2: 23 - 32 Jeff Shrowder 2000
A Gathering Prayer (condensed)
"Come: all you in need of hope, who seek faith, who long for peace, in need of comfort, who seek reassurance, who long for love. Come, dwell in the house of The Lord. Amen."
Sometimes we have to realise that the lack we feel is not for material things but for the things of the spirit. And when those needs are fulfilled, the other wants fade away.
Hymn TIS 90 "I'll praise my maker while I've breath" This hymn says out loud, the realization that our praise to our Lord will never cease because the awareness of our unending gratitude will simply grow and grow. Praise to the Lord who supplies all our needs - who meets them in ways that are sometimes quite a surprise to us.
Prayer. A prayer to give thanks to the creator of all that is beautiful and our ability to show appreciation for it. A plea that God's spirit will bring our worship alive, bringing hope for us in that which is eternal. A plea for forgiveness and healing and restoration. A plea for the renewal of our vision - Amen.
We listen for a Word of God. In the Scriptures
Lyn brought to us 2 Timothy 4: 6 - 8, 16 - 18 and Luke 18: 9 - 14. Paul speaks of giving up his life for others, asking forgiveness for those who did not support him and expressing his confidence in the Lord to rescue him (us) from every attack.
We aren't attacked for our faith in a physical way in this country but friendships are lost and careers and sometimes reputations ruined. But we can't do anything but stand firm. How can we say something we know to be true, isn't, just for the sake of things of lesser importance, no matter how much we hurt inside.
The reading from Luke is a very well known passage. The Pharisee reminding God of everything he was doing to keep the law and the tax-collector unable to lift his head.
Reminder here - it's all about God - it's not about us.
Reflection Chris told us how he had unexpectedly begun participating in the City to Surf race and that this year that he had run with his niece, both benefiting from the encouragement of the other. In the reading, Paul who is facing the end of his life, thinks back on the opportunities he had had to encourage others and also about the fact that there had been times when he had been deserted by others. But he says that he has "run the race" in the firm faith that God has been with him.
Chris continued, by reminding us that a loving community can become transforming and that it is up to us to take up the baton and continue running that God-inspired race, making God's presence real to each other.
Chris then turned our attention to the week's destructive bushfires and the lives that are in disarray, as a result. He spoke of God's presence at such a time and how through the loving acts of people, God's presence is often felt if not named. Chris relayed messages from the Moderator and the President of the Assembly, detailing the suffering of people, including members of the church and the service rendered by chaplains and others, finally giving thanks for the witness to Christ during this time.
Chris also told us of a Facebook entry of a Bible College student, Joel Hollier, who lost his home, saying he had never experienced such hospitality, and saw the fires as a time when "the true humanity of people which is hidden beneath a veneer of individuality and materialism", rose up. Property may have been list but humanity has been found.
We begin our response to God's Word
Hymn TIS 604 "May the mind of Christ my Saviour" A prayer that Christ's mind will control our words and actions: that the word of God will dwell in us so that we will give witness to Him: that the peace of God rule us so that we can be a comfort to others: that the love of God will fill us that we will exalt only him: then may we run the race, keeping our focus on Jesus. Again, it's all about God and each of us needs to remember that not one of us has a handle on God's will. We should listen to each other and for God's quiet voice in the many ways it comes to us. How often in a meeting do we earnestly pray for God to guide our thoughts and words and then plough in, guided only by our own sense of importance.
The Grieving "This black cloth reminds us of lives and places that have been blackened by fires over this last week"
Paraphrase: we grieve, supporting each other, particularly those directly affected by the fires and join in building a new future, knowing that Jesus, who had known human pain is here with us. Some places will never be the same and the loss cannot be expressed but we will hold in love all that is gone, gathering its beauty into our memories.
Now let us reach out to God who waits to comfort us.
"O God, as our Loving Parent, we believe that you are with us now." Amen
Prayers for the People
Paraphrase: Disasters like that of last week make us wonder. Hold us close; restore our faith; help us live a life of freedom.
"Send us your Holy Spirit this day with gifts of wisdom, healing, and comfort, we pray.
Show us ways of caring for all those who grieve and suffer, O God, and open our lives to share what we have with those in need. Renew us for the days to come, that we may lift up our heads and begin again in hope. This we pray in faith. Amen"
"In the power of a loving God, we will survive the future, as we have the past, and in the same spirit with which we face the fires."
It is clear that at least three of these fires were started deliberately or accidentally by human hand. There's a lesson there for us all. God does not force us to obey his natural or spiritual laws. When we break any of those laws, disastrous repercussions are the consequence.
Hymn SANS 199. "Moods"
A cry of protest about natural disasters but an acknowledgement that it is God's Spirit that gets us through these traumas.
"...let us bring to mind what we see among us which carry us forth in faith..."
We shouldn't need a disaster to nudge us into doing this. Day by day, we should be looking about us to see the support God supplies us in His creation, in books, in services, in people, in situations grand and of little moment. Let us learn to discern God's presence with us.
Let us go out.
Paraphrase: just as the bush regenerates, let us go forward with new life springing up in us.
"And may the God who never leaves us or forsakes us, the Christ, who wept for the loss of a friend, walk before us and the Holy Spirit heal us and bring us a new dream. Amen"
Hymn TIS 779 "May the feet of God walk with you," That's all any of us need as long as we acknowledge and respond to His presence. Resources: Roots, Billabong website Jeff Shrowder, "Starters for Sundays", "In Life in Death" Dr. D MacRae-MacMahon