Monday, 16 February 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15th February 2015

The Call to Worship  Rowena welcomed us warmly; no matter what our circumstances or our frame of mind.  She welcomed us wherever we are on our faith journey and even if we have doubts, or are faltering in our faith.  We felt we could relax and feel accepted and embraced in God’s love and care, knowing that we are all part of the family of God.  Although each of us have had different experiences on our journey this week – some happy, some sad, some lonely, some feeling valued – but all accepted equally as we came together to share our journey and gain strength for the week to come.

Hymn  TiS 596                                   “Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God”

Horatius Bonar was born and educated in Edinburgh and ordained to the ministry, in 1837.  He was a pastor at Kelso and in 1843; he joined the Free Church of Scotland. He was a prolific writer of hymns and religious tracts and the words of this hymn were particularly appropriate for our frame of mind for Worship after the call to worship and welcome.
Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God, in every part with praise,
that my whole being may proclaim thy being and thy ways.
Not for the lip of praise alone, nor e'en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part.

Announcements:  Among a number of other notices, we were reminded about the Bible Study at the Church on Tuesday night and at the Village on Wednesday and the Pancake Morning Tea next Sunday after church.  We were also invited to volunteer for a committee to plan the 150th Anniversary of our Church.

Prayer of Confession/Words of Assurance

Rowena’s prayers with us reminded us that as we readied ourselves to centre ourselves in God, we probably considered we are mostly nice people, although we sometimes struggle in a difficult world.  We don’t lie and cheat; we pray for peace – yet we know that we fall far below the “love standard” set by Jesus – frustrated and undermined by negativity – we become too busy.  We humbly joined in asking for your pardoning Grace and for self honesty and for help to become agents of peace to help others.  Rowena declared; “God knows us and yet loves us still.  You can depend on it – you are forgiven and set free.”  “Thanks be to God.”

Offering / Prayer:  The offering was taken by the stewards and children and the prayer was offered.  “Let us return some of your gifts to the church and to the world.  We are all in this together – accept what we give to help heal the world.” Amen.

Children’s Message  This special message to “children of every age” is obviously one of Rowena’s favourite times in the service.  She had gathered a small number of objects and asked the children what these things might have in common.  There was a small vase of flowers, a pretty card, a colourful book, a beautifully wrapped box and a Bible.  The children agreed they were all things you could give to people as gifts and Rowena nodded and said they were all also things to share.  Then she told the children that God gave himself to us as a gift we can all share with everyone and she offered the children the interesting looking box to take out to Sunday Kids and share with their teachers.  I wonder if they realized that their teachers would be busy sharing God’s love with them as they all enjoyed the chocolates everyone knew were hiding in the wrapped box?

Hymn TiS 685                        “The Power of Your Love”
This modern hymn written by Geoff Bullock – beginning with the words: “Lord, I come to you; let my heart be changed” provided a thoughtful way to approach our Bible Reading and Reflection.

Bible Reading:                     Psalm 147: 1-11 (page 467) & Mark 1:29-39 (page 757)
Our reader today was Mae and this beautiful Psalm, telling of the joy of praising our God and of his care for all things and all people was a comfort to hear.  The passage from Mark described the way Jesus was much in demand with acts of healing and preaching all through Galilee – yet he knew he needed to set aside time for himself – to be alone and to pray. 

Reflection:                               "Let God and let go!”
It was interesting to hear that Rowena had struggled for inspiration on reading the set passages for today.  She admitted the Gospel reading just did not resonate with her until the third reading – when she realized it was not just a nice story of a day in the life of Jesus going about his ministry.  It was, she finally realized, a “meaty” message – “Let God and let go.” 
This ministry was the job that Jesus was sent to do, so he could not allow the business and the excitement of the people he healed and preached to, or the business of each day, to overcome him and impede his progress.  He needed to move on because he came to live among us to call people to repentance and to teach them about how they might live their life to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Rowena highlighted the very important message that Jesus realized that he was suffering from exhaustion and he needed to “escape” the pressures and activities of his schedule to renew himself for God’s work.  A person rested, renewed and inspired can overcome obstacles and solve problems as they face the day refreshed.
Did it seem strange and uncaring at first when Jesus withdrew to a quiet place where he could be alone with his thoughts to pray and renew his physical and mental health so he could move on and begin again refreshed by God?  Perhaps so – after all there were still people waiting and clamoring to be healed and to hear his preaching in that place – but I wondered if this eagerness of Jesus to move on might also be a sign that once we have heard the message of God’s love, we are trusted to share it where we are planted.  Perhaps we don’t have to look for extreme situations to share the message.
However the simple message that we should allow God the opportunity to take control of our lives by letting go and resting and renewing our spirit is a BIG message to accept for most of us.  As we rush around trying to make sure we are fulfilling all our duties, keeping our schedules going and not letting other people down, we are often taking on much more work than is good for us.
The “parable” Rowena related about the person who is standing on one side of a field looking at a huge pile of stones that must be moved to the opposite side of the field amused us – but – if our friend with a huge truck offered to transport our “stones” across the field in one big load would we be able to let go?  Or - would we cling to our own wheelbarrow to keep control and spend hours, running back and forth with our own wheelbarrow, in order to move those stones? 
How much better would our frantic lives be if we relied on our friend God, to load up our stones while we renewed ourselves and clearly sought his guidance to find a better way to live our lives?

Hymn TiS 595                        “O Jesus I have promised”
This well loved old hymn takes us back to our childhood when it was easier to make such promises with confidence, but as adults we grow in experience and learn how easy it is to stray from such good intentions.  However, it is always comforting to renew the promise and try again.

Prayers of the People:  Rowena led these prayers in a different way and invited us to stand and face north in the direction of Indonesia, where the two young Australian men and their families wait for news - Taiwan where the lives of 33 people were cut short by a plane crash and to Papua New Guinea where refugees are seeking asylum.   We faced south as we remembered the God of Ice and Snow and the pristine beauty of Antarctica which is entrusted to us and we turned east as we prayed for women and girls abused in Chile and neighbouring countries. We prayed for equality and the ability to make a difference.  As we turned west we prayed for the huge continent of Africa with Ebola and poor and oppressed people with little hope.  We prayed for Australia and for the people in our special “red books”. Then we shared the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TiS 658                        “Here I am Lord”   
How fitting it felt to sing Daniel L. Schutte’s Hymn where we could offer ourselves to do God’s work - after we had symbolically turned to face the places in the world where we might serve His people.

The Benediction & Blessing    Rowena sent us out with a Blessing that we should trust in God’s mercy for ourselves and allow His Spirit to be the “wind beneath our wings” so we can rise up like an eagle.  Amen.

Retiring hymn:                         “Now unto Him who is able to keep”

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