Monday, 14 December 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13th December, 2015

Call to Worship  
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The king of Israel, the Lord is in your midst.
You shall fear disaster no more.
The Lord, your God is in your midst,
He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love.
(Based on Zephaniah 3: 14-17)

Hymn  TiS 210                       “O for a thousand tongues to sing”
When one of Charles Wesley’s 6,500 hymns appears on the Hymn Board and on the screen, we all stand a little taller and draw in a deeper breath before we begin to sing.  With Andrew’s encouragement from the organ we did our best to sound like a choir of 1,000 singing God’s praise.
Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving:  Jan told us that because God is in our midst, we should use his strength, trust him without fear or worry about anything; be filled with expectation and hope and let our gentleness - given through God’s strength be known to everyone.
Prayers of Confession & Words of Assurance:  Jan prayed and asked our forgiving God to hear our confessions of our failure to love and trust and follow His way to peace - as we seek forgiveness for fighting and worrying because Love is our true calling and birthright.    We heard with thanks that our sins are forgiven.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Advent Candlelighting: May and Joan relit the candles of Expectation and Hope and then told us about the candle of Joy as they lit today’s third Advent candle.


Children’s Message:  Jan followed the theme of the last three weeks in using a globe of the world to take us to a place where the Christmas Bowl donations will be used to provide basic needs to those in peril.  We “travelled” to Burma and heard about young children being taken from their families and trained as soldiers or being put in goal.  We also watched a short video about the important work that will be done through our gifts of money.  Jan reminded us it is not really about the money – it is the people that matter and the Christmas Bowl helps us to support God’s work.  

Offering / Prayer:  Carolyn and Colin helped the children with the offering and Jan’s prayer noted our thanks and gratitude for all the good things we have in our lives.

Hymn TiS 303                        “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”
It’s always a good day when we can song two Charles Wesley hymns and it really begins to feel like Christmas when we sing this Christmas Carol in the church service.
Bible Reading:                      Isaiah 12: 1-5   Page 513        Luke 3: 7-18   Page 780
Dan read the Bible passages from Isaiah and Luke this morning.  The passage from Isaiah is about praise and joy and thanks for refuge and deliverance.  “And so you shall draw water with joy from the springs of deliverance.” The words from Luke were more harsh and insisted on proof of repentance and a “price to pay” for their baptism by John.   

Reflection:                             “Be transformed from the well of God’s salvation”
Jan began her reflection by painting a word picture of her own Australian garden where native birds visit to drink and splash in a bird bath installed many years ago.  She went on to wonder how hard it is for these birds and the possums, rabbits and visiting bandicoots to find reliable life-giving water every day.  We were reminded that, as city dwellers, we can sometimes take water for granted, but for our Australian farmers it is a constant struggle to water the crops and animals that are ultimately what we rely upon for our sustenance. 
Jan told us that reading about the wells of salvation in Isaiah during the week had reminded her of the strength and commitment of the women in 3rd world countries like Tanzania, where she was a teacher many years ago.  These women walk many kilometres every day with large bowls of water balanced on their heads.  They bring this life-giving water from wells, so they can care for their families. 
“The image of water is used in many places in the Bible because it is so essential to life.  In Isaiah 12 in today’s reading, we hear of God’s salvation as being like a well, which we draw from deep down in the ground, to give us water which is life giving.”  Like Jan, I had not really thought much about salvation as being like a well so I really appreciated her thoughts when she said; “What a beautiful image of clean fresh water, deep down being drawn on for life and vitality, to quench thirst, to clean, to cook with and to renew life.”  “Water from the well can revive us again and again throughout the day.”  Perhaps this is a bit like drawing in a deep breath, smiling and renewing your resolve when things get tough.
Isaiah 12: verse 2: “Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.”  After reading this verse, Jan went on; “This will make us thankful even when things may get difficult, for we know God had done great things for us and promises to be with us at all times.  As water transforms a dry dusty area to one that is full of plant life, growth and fruit, so God’s Spirit brings about true joy and hope as we allow God’s salvation to impact on our inner being.  Like the well in the centre of the city, so God is in our lives and seeks to be in the communities in which we live, as we share and remind them that God is real.”  Sometimes we withdraw and choose not to enter the centre of the city and share our joy and our love and our possessions.  Then it is time to take a draught from the well of salvation!

Jan reinforced the “water theme” in her reflections on the preaching of John the Baptist and presented the idea of being fully renewed and cleaned with the baptism washing away the old life to bring new lives of sharing, giving and holiness. Jan reminded us; “John’s message to us today is to be transformed by the work of God within us, that the wells of God’s salvation which would come most fully in Jesus, are always there for us to draw on and create renewal and life for us in powerful ways that bring hope and joy.  John came to point us to Jesus Christ, who would come to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire, one who is more powerful than himself.  It is through the power of Jesus in us that we can draw on the deep wells of love, grace and forgiveness which God’s salvation brings.  We can be transformed from within, to be the people who God wants us to be, as we accept Jesus’ power into our life.  It is only as we come to drink again and again that we find new life in God.  May we find the joy that wells up within us for life and communion with our Saviour and Lord.  At this Advent time, may we praise him for the love and joy his life in our midst brings us.”  Amen.
Hymn TiS 270                        “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry”
Charles Coffin was born at Buzaney in France in 1676 and died 1749.  He was principal of the college at Beauvais in 1712 and was rector of the University of Paris in 1718. Many of his Latin poems were translated and became much loved hymns. The words of this hymn are a joyful heralding of the coming of Jesus and what this will represent.  I sang and watched the candles of expectation, hope and joy as they flickered these special messages to take home with us today. 
Prayers of the People:  These prayers were led by Jan for people and situations throughout the world.  She prayed for people whose situations we understand and for God to give us an understanding of ways we can help in situations as yet beyond our personal comprehension.  We prayed for the people we know and for those who are sad this Christmas and for safe travel for those taking a journey at Christmas time. We shared the Lord’s Prayer.
Hymn TiS 52                          “Let us sing to the God of Salvation”   
Richard Thomas Bewes was born in Kenya and lived there as the son of parents who served as missionaries.  His secondary education in England was completed at Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge.  After his retirement as Rector of All Souls, London, his services to the Church of England brought him the recognition of the Queen when he was awarded an OBE in 2005.  This particular hymn is just full of joyful praise, worship and thanksgiving and is based on Psalm 95.
Blessing    Jan sent us out into the new week with “Our strong and gentle God to go with us” and to “Share freely all that we have and to be instruments of peace in a frightened world” Amen.

Blessing Song: TiS 781       “Father Bless us as we go” 

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