Call to Worship
Dan prayed to our God, the God of Abraham and Sarah, who sent them on a journey of faith, who also sent his Son, Jesus, to live among us. Jesus, who died but now lives within us, opening the way to a new life.
Hymn AHB 3 "All creatures of our God and King" A song of praise prompting all corners of creation who owe God thanks, and those who have even the most remote hint of appreciation of all that flows from him, to praise him for it- not simply politely, but in full voice.
Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving
Dan led us again in a prayer to our Eternal God, who sent Jesus to show us his true nature, through whom we came to see a new reality, who mended our broken selves, who set free those in bondage to sin and who included the previously excluded. Dan prayed that we would know the touch of God in our lives and see that Jesus showed us that there is no limit to God's love.
Prayer of Confession
Dan made the point that the world's standards are not God's standards and that while we live in this world, we will constantly fall short of God's standards. For this he asked forgiveness - for our contributing to the insanity of the world and for thinking that we can deal with it by ourselves. Dan then prayed that we be kept holy to be a powerful witness to God's Word.
Assurance of Forgiveness
As it says in John, whoever has the Son has life, and those who believe in him are not condemned.
The offering was taken up and dedicated to the work of God at Marsden Road Uniting Church and to the work of God in the wider world, with thanks for God's many blessings.
Hymn AHB 176 "A man there lived in Galilee" This is Jesus, the one who provided the template for what we should want to be, but can't be, no matter how hard we try. But if we hand ourselves into his care and ask for his guidance, we may at least start along the path.
Elaine brought the readings from: Genesis 12: 1 - 7 The Lord said the Abraham "Go" and Abraham "Went" not knowing anything about what was in store for him. That's faith. If only we could keep it that simple.
John 3: 1 - 17 We must be born anew. Not just a polish, not just a bit of 'work' done, not just a change of the rules we follow - born anew.
Sermon Living by faith involves trusting God and taking risks, but there is an upside -
Dan began by describing Nicodemus as being used by John as a sort of straight man for Jesus - the man who asks the questions so the protagonist can deliver the information to the audience. This whole incident of Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night is written as a narrative about a man well versed in the Law; someone who knew the Torah by heart and was used to debating theological matters at length: a man, well educated as he was, who could still not get his head around Jesus' message, but could not be seen to be seeking explanations from this itinerant preacher, so came under the cover of darkness.
The message was straightforward but still difficult for anyone who has not stepped out in faith to claim it: you must be born again - not physically but of the spirit.
Then Dan returned to the Old Testament reading. Abraham and Sarah were told to leave the place where they were settled, to go to a place they didn't know and to be the beginning of a great nation. How could that be when they hadn't any family. But they believed God and went. They took a big risk but it all happened.
So, how do we become born anew - not by our own effort anymore than being born physically was by our own effort. Nor by being born to Christian parents or by keeping the rules or by doing good - but by allowing God to renew us - breathe unto us a new spirit.
"God wants us to know that there is a new life to be had and a whole new world that is coming that we can help create, as we live by faith in Christ. As it was with Abraham and Sarah, there is a whole new land out there for us and all we have to do is trust in God and keep walking where he wants us to go."
Hymn AHB 56 "Amazing Grace" The song of someone who believed and is amazed by the difference. Not just an improvement. New from the inside, out. Safe in the knowledge of being where they should be.
Prayers of the People
Dan prayed to God on our behalf, speaking of the many things on our minds today that bring fear: the conflict in the Middle East and Chechnya; and the conflict in the Ukraine concerning the Crimea and Russian interference along with the conflict in the Sudan. For us, he prayed for a peaceful resolution to all of those situations and for God's will to be done. He then turned to the concerns of the members of the congregation and prayed for the family and friends experiencing illness and difficult times along with the homeless and all experiencing any illness, especially those battling depression and its invisible consequences. For us, he prayed for the future of Marsden Road Uniting Church and the calling of our new minister - in Jesus' name. Amen
Hymn TIS 658 "I The Lord of the Sea and Sky" A question about how will God work his will in the world. And the answer: "Here I am Lord"
Blessing and Benediction
May the protection of God surround you.
May the joy of Jesus infill you.
May the harmony of the Holy Spirit resound in and through your life.
Now go to live and serve the Lord.