Welcome to worship this morning.
Claire led us: "As a visitor in this place, I pause to acknowledge the Barramattagul people of the Dharug nation. I honour them for their loving custodianship of the land on which we gather." Claire then introduced the theme of love, saying that it is never easy but if we follow Christ, "we cannot avoid the privilege and responsibility we have to be people of love."
Not only did those words privilege and responsibility hit me, but so did others Claire used in the same welcome: scandalously inclusive. Jesus gave his life gathering in ALL lost, broken and fallen people in his work of love and commissioned us all to do the same.
"'I am the light of the world’, said Jesus to his followers. ‘You are the light of the world’, said Jesus to his followers.'"
Call to worship
The work of the Creator is visible. Let us respond with praise.
The example of Jesus is apparent. Let us respond with obedience.
The wind of the Spirit is blowing. Let us respond with joy.
The Word of God is calling. Let us worship in spirit and in truth.
SongTIS 477 "Jesus calls us here to meet him" This song reminded us of Jesus' promises and of our part in his plan, which constrains us to praise him and to tell his story to others, remembering that Jesus saw none of the differences between people that we might see. As we grow more like Him, we will become blind to minor things that cause some of us to use the word "stranger" when Jesus knew no such idea.
Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.Today's prayer took the form of a video: John Rutter ‘Look at the world’. As I watched this video of the Earth's magnificent structures, the never-ending Cosmos, the variety of living types and the representation of the cycle of decay and emerging growth, God's vivifying presence sank into my awareness.
Praise to thee, O God, for all creation, Give us thankful hearts, that we may see,
All the gifts we share and all the blessings, All things come from thee. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Claire prayed on our behalf, acknowledging that we are fully aware of the contrast between our own meanness and God's extravagant love and kindness. She went on to confess our consciousness of the barriers we place between ourselves and God. She confessed our need to be forgiven and to forgive, to receive hope to live graciously and prayed that we be taught how to live lives of grace, generosity and love.
Words of assurance"Hear now the cry of the apostle John: ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. For so we are.’ (1 John 3:1). Brothers and sisters, know and be assured that by the grace of God, through the love of Christ, in the power of the Spirit, you are forgiven and free, accepted and loved.Thanks be to God. Amen."
SongTIS 229 "Jesus loves me, this I know" A simple song communicating everything we need to know: that God reaches out to each of us in love.
Children’s talkLove puts everything back together. Claire demonstrated, through the use of a not-so-magic, magic trick that it's love that holds us together.
SongTIS 153 God is love! As we sang together, I became more and more aware of the love that holds this congregation together. The same love that was there before the universe began and created every last atom of creation. That love which shines from the genius of each structure, living and non-living.
Bible ReadingsRuth read to us Paul's letter to the Corinthians, reminding them, because they had lost track of the point of their faith, that actually, it's all about love and any other gifts or talents they may have had were of no worth without it. And that we couldn't understand these things clearly now but that when we joined God we would see clearly.(1 Corinthians 13:1-13). She then read the gospel account of the people beginning to reject Jesus and of their running him out of town. After all wasn't he Joseph's son? What would he know? (Luke 4:21-30)
Sermon Love ActuallyClaire's reflection began with a comment on how popular the 1Corinthians 13 reading is at weddings because it has "no awkward references to God or Jesus to dampen the mood." But then that led on to her raising a most important point that I have never thought upon - the context. As a stand-alone passage this reading is a good lesson in Christian living but when we consider the context, it becomes something much more powerful.
The Corinthians were behaving in a most un-Christlike manner. As in any congregation, the gifts varied from person to person but instead of being grateful for any gift each had, contributing to the whole, there was rivalry about whose gift was the most important. Claire pointed out that we are "one body." We are all needed, and none is more important than the other. But the bigger lesson was, and is, that whatever gifts we have they count for nothing without love. When Claire emailed her sermon to me, she sent the whole document including sections which she had omitted because of time. I was so taken with one of those sections I thought it was worth including in full. We don't take each other to court over perceived grievances the way the Corinthians did, but we do nurse hurts and grudges.
"Let’s hear again what Paul says love demands. I’d like you to close your eyes and whenever you hear the word ‘Love’, silently say your own name. ‘Love… is patient and kind and envies no-one. Love... is never boastful or conceited or rude. Love… is never selfish. Love… is never quick to take offence or hold a grudge. Love... doesn’t enjoy being proved right or being better than others. Love… hangs in there with people through thick and thin.’ … Friends, I don’t know if I could say all that of myself, all the time. Could you?"
Another point that hit home was that about who we are to love: 'God's love is to the alien - and enemy". When the people realized that, they killed Jesus.
Can we pray with all our hearts for the well being of ISIS, or Vladimir Putin or a child molester. What miracles might be wrought if we could.
SongTIS 648, vv 1, 2 and 4. A prayer that we may understand how we are all part of Jesus' kingdom of loved children, regardless of any superficial differences. A prayer that we be taught to see the fallen humanity we all share and the needs we all have and can only meet by caring for each other.
Prayers of Intercession and Lord’s PrayerPat prayed for our leaders nationally and of the church, especially Jan, as she ministers to us here at MRUC. She prayed for all those suffering and grieving, especially those known to us. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer.
SongTiS 152 Joyful, joyful we adore you Joyful, joyful we adore you, God of glory, God of love; Hearts unfold like flowers before you Opening to the sun above...Fill us with the light of day. That's a wrap!
Blessing and word of mission
Blessing song TIS 778 Shalom to you now, shalom my friends. May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends. In all your living, and through your loving, Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom.