Monday, 23 June 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 June 2014

The Call to Worship  was made by Dermot, who led our Worship today. 

Hymn  TiS 155                                   “Yours is the glory, risen, conquering Son”

Edmond Louis Bundry, who wrote this much-loved hymn was a Pastor at Cully and St. Croix for eight years before becoming the Pastor of the Free Church in Vevey, Switzerland for 35 years.   For me, the words of the second verse present us with a second chance at life and an expectation of God’s Love and Grace. Lynelle and Grahame played Handel’s music for us with feeling.  “Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb; Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom; Let the church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing; For her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.”

Sharing of the Notices:  Malcolm told of the Australia wide launch of the “Eat Like a Refugee Challenge” where last Sunday night, thirty people shared a frugal meal in our church hall, listened to two speakers from “Act for Peace” and raised around $1,200 to help the more than 100,000 people who live in nine refugee camps on the border of Thailand and Myanmar.  

Everyone was invited to stay for the Friendship Circle Morning Tea of home made soups and fresh bread rolls and we enjoyed the inviting smells that wafted through the church as the service continued. 

Prayer of Confession  Dermot provoked our thoughts by talking of the nine lives of a cat and asking; “How many lives do we need?”  Although God breathes life into us and gives us every chance to accept and follow him throughout our life, we are sometimes “ridiculous” - and the way we “see ourselves” takes us away from God and our commitment to Him.  Dermot’s prayer invited us to think of our lives as a beautiful green lawn riddled with onion weed, which has grown there because of the way we “use our lives.”  We prayed for God to help us to discover and remove the roots of the weeds.  Any of us who have ever had onion weed in our lawn will understand the depth of this plea!

Offering / Prayer  Pat and Bob were helped with the offering by two of the children and our gifts were blessed.

Children’s Address:  Dermot told a story of two brothers, with the older one being the selfish Duke and the younger one, with no real authority, being a hard worker for the good of his brother’s subjects and the dukedom.  This story presented a thought provoking message on “self imprisonment” that can come about if we make poor choices.  The younger brother simply provided a comfortable home with an abundance of excellent food for his brother, whose weakness and selfishness made him increasingly fat and lazy and soon lost him his dukedom.  His younger brother did not imprison him – he imprisoned himself - and his younger brother became the duke in his stead. 

Hymn 422                                           "Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!"

Fanny Crosby who wrote this much loved hymn, wrote more than 8,000 hymns - probably more than any other hymnist in history.  The gift of offering praise and thanksgiving to God through her hymns made Fanny one of the best known women in America and on her 85th Birthday, the American president Grover Cleveland paid tribute in a letter to Fanny.  “My dear friend, It is more than fifty years ago that our acquaintance and friendship began; and ever since that time I have watched your continuous and interested labour in uplifting humanity, and pointing out the way to an appreciation of God’s goodness and mercy”.  And this morning in our little Australian Church 99 years after her death at 95 years old, we were again uplifted.

“Blessèd assurance, Jesus is mine!  O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,  Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”

Bible Reading:                                  Romans 6:1-11 (page 876)   Read for us by Marcia.

“Have you forgotten that when we were baptized into union with Jesus Christ we were baptized into his death?  By baptism we were buried with him, and lay dead, in order that, as Christ was raised from the dead in the splendour of the Father, so also we might set our feet on the new path of life.”   This affirmative reading is both assuring and challenging and should inspire us to be “Alive to God”.

Reflection:                                         “New Life”

Dermot raised the discussion about our sin and the Grace of God – a discussion which took place in Romans Chapter 5.  Of course, to us, it sounds ludicrous to think that by sinning more we are giving God the opportunity to be more gracious towards us even after reading the part that says; “Where sins multiply, Grace exceeds it.  However Dermot did go on to say that some prominent religious figures, like Rasputin, the Russian “mad monk” have suggested “Salvation may be gained through sin – so if one sins with abandon – one may be on the road to salvation!”  Then he made a suggestion which brought a murmur of assent; “Rasputin did not go on to read Chapter 6.”

“Our shared Faith should lead us to be dead to sin.”  “Holiness is to live the life of Christ.”  This means that we are to abandon sin and live our lives in a way that reflects we are God’s people.  We can do this with the assurance of his promise of eternal life, because he died for our sins - and because he rose again, we can have the gift of His Grace to be a buffer against our imperfections.

Without God’s Grace we too would speak the “Language of Death” – as spoken by the slave Spartacus in the movie about his life as a slave.  Spartacus said; “Death is the only freedom a slave knows – that is why we are not afraid of it.”  But as Christians we have the opportunity to life our lives in freedom through God’s Grace and we have also come to understand that some of the earlier religious protocols were more harsh, because of fear of diminishing the influence of sin.  Dermot cited this as the reason for the earlier unequivocal belief that even a new born baby must be baptized to save the child from dying in sin. 

The message that I heard was; “Baptism is being immersed or overwhelmed in water – baptism is also being immersed or overwhelmed in the spirit – it is being overwhelmed by the love of God – it is being grafted into Christ and being united with Christ.”   I wonder if this was the message other people in the church heard?   Did I hear the complete message?

Dermot did say directly; “The key is for us to desire only that which is in the nature of God.”  And he challenged each one of us about the depth of our commitment.  He also acknowledged that we are human and sometimes experience a struggle to accept the Grace of God because of our interest in self.

Hymn TiS 231                        “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”

Caroline Maria Noel was the daughter of an English Vicar and niece of hymnist Baptist Noel.  In her middle years she suffered a long and serious illness which left her an invalid.  But it was then she began her most productive period of writing and sharing her trust in God’s love and power.  

“In your hearts enthrone Him; there let Him subdue - All that is not holy, all that is not true;

Crown Him as your captain in temptation’s hour; Let His will enfold you in its light and power.”

Prayers of Intercession:  Grahame led our prayers for the people of the World this morning.  He prayed for support for all people throughout the world who work to aid refugees and all people in need.  He also prayed for those people who lack other blessings we have, things like a home, a job, friends, good health and healthcare and an education.  Then we prayed for the people mentioned in our “red” books that had been passed through the congregation before joining together in the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TiS 720                        “Mine eyes have seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord”

This “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is much loved by our enthusiastic Marsden Road Church people who take it as a challenge to be heard above Grahame’s enthusiasm at the organ and we always ensure we “win” the contest.  Grahame’s fervor has helped make us into much better singers than we would otherwise be – thanks to him for more than 45 years of service at the keyboard, helping us in our Worship.

The Benediction & Blessing    We were sent out by Dermot - to “Go with God and discover new life in Christ.”  We sang one of our favourite farewell songs; “Now unto Him, who is able to keep, able to keep you from falling.”  Amen.

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