We gathered together expecting to experience fellowship together; to learn of God's healing and redeeming grace; and to experience it anew, so as we left at the end of the service we would be fit and encouraged to serve him in the world.
However today, those things seemed to happen in a larger, deeper way. At least it did for me.
The use of Psalm 111:1 as a Call to Worship emphasized that our relationship with God is 100%..."I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart"... and that we can only achieve that within the congregation of his people.
TIS Hymn 165 "Praise our God, the great creator" continued this praise, acknowledging God's hand in every sphere of our existence.
This whole and holy adoration of God extended into the Prayers as we acknowledged the God who is love, from whom all creation springs forth and who sustains all that creation in love. Such love that he was prepared to become poor for our sakes. Who was shown to us in Jesus Christ, doing good and preaching the gospel in obedience, thereby opening the kingdom of heaven to us all. Before this God we confessed our shame, knowing he would have mercy on us and forgive us.
The Commissioning of all those who serve in MRUC in any way followed, continuing to name God as the source of all gifts, whose purposes are achieved by the holy use of those gifts in each of us. In keeping with this, each of us pledged that with God's help and relying on his grace we would carry out the tasks to which we had committed ourselves. This part of the service was drawn together with the Covenant Prayer, which began, "I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will..." laying ourselves open to God's purpose.
Immediately this pledge to obedience found a sliver of fulfillment in the offering of some of our goods to God's service in the community, (including our offering of food to CCA) as an expression of our love, to spread God's blessing to our neighbours.
In the Bible Readings brought to us by Lyn, we saw the source of today's reflective service. Psalm 111 from which our Call to Worship was taken, spoke of God as the absolute spring of all that is good, while Mark 1:21 - 28 demonstrated this spring of goodness (and power) in the everyday life of the Jews in Capernaum.
In her Sermon Jan focused on the need for our obedience, if God's creative and loving power is to be fully effective in the world. After alluding to the ambivalent attitude of Australians to authority (we despise the corrupt people in authority, are skeptical and mistrusting of bad management and corporate greed but appreciate the people kept alive by our drink driving rules).
Even so, many are reluctant to acknowledge that Right and Wrong exist.(could it be that the drink-drive laws work so well because breaking them can lead to a person's life being seriously inconvenienced, other than any acknowledgement of the right thing to do). However campaigns like this show that authority can be good.
Jan related this to God's discipline of his people which was not meant to cause suffering but to show care.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, he soon established his authority and power, through his significant teaching and healing ministry, revealing his great compassion. Compassion that can liberate and restore. He brought brand new life to the man in the synagogue in Capernaum and we are called to share that ministry of God's loving, challenging, provocative power.
Jesus brought God's presence into reality and continues to do...through him we can become new people.
In TIS Hymn 638 "O Christ the healer, we have come" we reflected on Jesus the Healer, but with more emphasis on his ability to restore our inner wholeness rather than our physical ailments.
Chris prayed on our behalf the Prayers for the People acknowledging God's gracious and loving care, asking him to hear our joys and cares. He brought before God the planet and asked for the release of this world from the tyranny of greed. He prayed for those who are oppressed, those who have endured loss and conflict, that they will have confidence in God to intervene and sustain all people in time of need and bring the gospel of love to all. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer
TIS Hymn 533 "I come to meet my Lord" This hymn stresses the unity in Christ of all Christians and the forgiveness and liberty offered to all by God.
To begin this service with Jan, Mae and Elaine, we offered The Peace to those around us.
With that, Jan invited us to claim our place around the table, announcing that the table of bread and wine had been made ready, explaining that it was a table in company with Jesus and those who love him. Then we, who have faith, and we who would like more, we who celebrated the sacrament often and we who had not been for a long time; we who have been able to follow Jesus and we who have failed; were invited to come.
And then we were invited to take the ordinary things through which we will be blessed. And as Jesus thanked God for the gifts of the earth we also celebrated God's goodness.
Jan then recounted the first communion service where Jesus declared of the bread: "This is my body which is given for you" and of the wine: "This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood." God then commanded: "Take this and share it."
Following this we shared the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. In this prayer we acknowledged the many times throughout the ages when God has sustained his people, leading us to praise him for his faithfulness.
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Jan then blessed the bread and wine asking that God's spirit would revitalize us through them, making us like God, living and caring for the world.
After the distribution we prayed a final prayer: As this broken bread was scattered through fields and hills before being gathered to become one, so may we and all people be gathered from the ends of the earth into Christ's kingdom.
TIS Hymn 468 "We are your people, Spirit of Grace." This hymn speaks of the practical business of being a Christian - being neighbours, being a community, open to strangers, clashing and forgiving, showing justice and care. Sometimes it's hard for we mere humans but the outcome makes it worth the effort.
Jan then pronounced the blessing: May the blessing of God Almighty, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be amongst you and remain with you always. This, in itself, brings a sense of peace, which we passed on to each other through the blessing:
Hymn TIS 778 "Shalom to you now" ...shalom my friends. This prayer to each other, without further detail, expressing our wish for all other people.