Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 23 November 2014

Today was the last Sunday in the church year, which is called "Christ the King" Sunday. In the Sydney North Presbytery this Sunday has been set aside for a "pulpit swap". Ideally, congregations would visit other churches to experience different ways of worship but it has been judged as easier for the ministers to do the swapping and tell other groups of how their church is doing the work of God. One use Nicholas' church at Eastwood makes of the PP screen is to present some of the words of the service in Korean and Chinese. While this is not our need at the moment, it is one we could keep in mind for the future.

Nicholas began the service with the Call to Worship declaring how the God of All, the God of Creation calls us, gathers us together. He followed this by speaking of the many different reasons we have for responding to that call: some prosaic such as being on the roster for the day: some out of a deeper need: some to listen to how those who have gone before us have experienced times like this.

Nicholas then explained that sometimes his church uses different hymns to express our walk with God in a changing world where a changing theology has developed. We then sang:

Hymn "Blessed are the Poor among you" from Gifts of Love 8. A reflection of the Beatitudes on how blessed are we that hunger for God's goodness in any way because he will respond to our need and how we will be joyful as a result of the blessings we receive. At the same time this hymn is a warning to those who have been given much and who don't
use it to make this world a better place, with the prayer that God will help us to see the world through his eyes.

Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Assurance

A prayer to the God of all that was, that is and that is yet to come that he will rule forever and that today he will draw us to him, showing us how we can be renewed in friendship and community.

For us, Nicholas said that as we marvel at God's love, patience and mercy and  being assured of his love and care, we reaffirmed our relationship to him. Nicholas then asked that in this world that is so divided in so many ways that God would make his alternative clear; his world based on love.

On our behalf Nicholas acknowledged that to create God's world, we need to take risks because it is our way that hinders God's work. So often we claim to belong to Jesus but our lives deny that. Nicholas then prayed that we should be led to be a caring compassionate people full of inspiration and vision of what God's kingdom should be.

Ruth and the kids then brought us God's words for today "The Lord is good and his love  is everlasting" Ps 100 v.5

Nicholas then spoke of the challenge of finding appropriate songs for children and said that there were many DVDs for the young, showing us one called King of the Jungle by Colin Buchanan. Not just the king of the jungle but the king of the sea and the air and of everything!

Reading brought to us by Warwick: Matthew 25: 31-40. A double warning. If we continue to lead a life focussed on ourselves and not on God we will suffer in the end. That is straight forward and understood by most people but the second warning is harder to heed. Focusing on God means focussing on other people. Not those people who can offer us some material profit but those who are in need. Whatever we have been given has been given to us to share.

Sermon Nicholas began with a reference to this being Christ to King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. During any year Jesus constantly challenges us: are we living according to the way of God or are we living according to the way of the world. What would the world be like if we lived according to God's way? That's the possibility that Jesus showed us all during his ministry. Nicholas then went on to speak about the year that has passed at Eastwood UC and what they had explored in church. Firstly he referred to "Acts". He said they had looked at the core values of the community and thought about whether those values were appropriate for the church now, given that the context for mission had changed. He identified one core value as sharing our faith and drew an analogy between going fishing and managing an aquarium. We were told to be fishers of men not keepers of an aquarium - there's a challenge.

In Acts people spoke about their faith to others - are we doing that now?

In Acts there was a spirit of generosity: they shared everything. What  if everybody gave to others of their good things that have come from God? What a world it would be!

In Acts there was a spirit of inclusiveness. Everyone was welcome. Acts reveals the diversity of people in the church. Look around - do we have that diversity now?

When the Ethiopian asked to be baptised, Phillip did so - then and there. Phillip didn't wait to fill out forms and make sure the regulations were being adhered to. Respond to the needs of people. Don't hesitate. The people in the early church were empowered - we are too when we respond to the vision God gives us.

The Christian message says the world can work differently. The question is whether or not we are going to let our personal concerns stand in the way of that happening?

Nicholas went on to speak about the rest of the year at Eastwood but I thought it better to recount the first part in detail rather than give a sketchy outline of the whole year (to fit the space I have). But I would like to pass on some important points.

Focus on the little ones - the weak - the deprived - the sick - the vulnerable. Jesus is our model. Discern abilities. Expect grumbling. God sustains us. Be a community that asks questions .Take risks and be productive. Remember- acts of compassion are a sign of God's presence. When you think of how far to extend yourself, think of Jesus ridiculous love and extravagant grace. We are not to conserve what we have - we are to transform it.

Participate with God and each other in bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Hymn the sacred role of ministry "Ministering to Christ" from Sing a New Song 3:78

A song about real ministry: of caring for the broken, the afflicted. Of remembering that Christ is a different type of king. He does not come in splendid robes. He comes as a refugee, as an outcast, as a vagrant. When we support those who have gone astray we minister to Christ.

The quartet sang to us " What a friend we have in Jesus". The men's time and effort that goes into these items speaks to us of their commitment to us and God.

Prayers for the People
Grahame read prayers that had special meaning to him and then  asked for God to breathe on us and gave thanks for God speaking to us in the ordinary situations of life. He asked God to be with us in all our experiences and asked for God's loving arms to hold us when life gets too much.

He asked for special blessing on those with special burdens such as the sick and lonely. He prayed for those in residential care and asked for God's aid as we light our candles to lighten the world.
Offering we returned a little of our many blessings as part of our following the way of Jesus and gave thanks for those whose sacrificial offerings have given us what we have.

Hymn TIS 256 The Servant King (from heaven you came) Chorus: This is our God, the Servant King he calls us now to follow him, to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.

Nicholas then pronounced the Benediction and we concluded with a prayer for each other "May the feet of God walk with you". Blessed and blessed.





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