Call to Worship: This morning Jan’s call to Worship came from Psalm 30: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Hymn TiS 477: Jesus calls us here to meet Him.
This hymn is written by John L. Bell and Graham Maule who are members of the Iona Community Resource Group who have collaborated on a number of songs. John Bell is a Church of Scotland minister, a broadcaster, and former student activist who is concerned with the renewal of congregational worship at the grass roots level. Graham Maule who studied architecture, became a youth worker and developed an interest in worship renewal, including lay involvement in worship.
Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving: Jan began by acknowledgement of our great trust of the Gospel and the new hope which comes with every new day. Also she prayed about our thanks for the risen Lord and the hospitality of love and forgiveness in our lives. The prayer continued, asking for forgiveness for retreating in the face of adversity and for living our lives as if they were small. We asked God for the courage to step into the abundant lives He has planned for us.
Bible Readings: John 21: 1-19 Page 833 Revelation 5: 6-11 Page 963
Elaine delivered our Bible readings this morning. Once again the reading from John is a familiar story about Simon Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times and was asked three times by the resurrected Jesus; “Do you love me?” This surely invites us to tell God through prayer and our actions - that we do indeed love Him and that we are also willing to follow Him.
I find the Book of Revelation challenging as it takes such cautious thought to even try to untangle the imagery - and in the end, as so many have tried before me to unravel the meanings and nobody can really agree, it is comforting to simply take away the message that “God is in control!” Revelation was written as a letter to be circulated among the Christian churches at seven important cities in Asia Minor where there had been several waves of persecutions of Christians by Roman authorities. The vision John received offered encouragement and assurance to persecuted Christians about God’s overarching hand being in control with a vision that God would eventually completely destroy the forces of evil (the Roman Empire). I like this idea and it helps me to understand the reason for reading from the Book of Revelation at funeral services - when we like to trust that our loved ones will not have suffered in vain.
Sermon: “Christ in the Passover”
This morning we welcomed a missionary from the Jews for Jesus Australia organisation, which is part of an international organisation of Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour of the world.
Rahel is an Israeli woman who greeted us; “Shalom – Peace be with you”. She told us that like many Jews she loves to travel although she does not wish to be like those Jews who travelled through the desert for 40 years!
She explained many of the mysteries and traditions of the Jewish Faith and her Jewish Heritage and laid out a table with all the traditional elements of the Passover Meal for us to see. The passion for the Jews for Jesus is to banish the Jewish notion that “Jesus is for everyone else.” The question they ask is; “If Gentiles can stay Gentiles and believe in Jesus and be saved from their sins and Jesus was Jewish, why can’t Jews also share in the gift of ‘the words of life’ and see that God is into details. He is God of everything and he cares about us and every detail of our life.” Rahel read to us from Luke 22: Verses 7, 8 and 13 Page 804 which describes the preparations for the Passover for which Jesus gave detailed instructions to Peter and John.
Rahel showed humour as she told of the frenzy of cleaning that prepares the family home for the Passover meal and the kindness of the wives, who hide a small amount of leaven in an easy to find place each year, for the husband to find it for the final cleansing of the house for the seven day feast of unleavened bread. He does this with a wooden spoon and a feather and burns the remaining leaven in a fire. The belief is that this ingredient puffs up the bread – like people are puffed up with sin.
We were interested to learn about the Passover Seder table which had been set out at the front of the church, showing the traditional arrangement of six symbolic foods on the Sedar plate. These were two bitter herbs, horseradish and romaine lettuce to make you cry as a symbol that life is bitter without redemption; a sweet brown pebbly paste of fruits and nuts that were made into a mortar by for building (by the enslaved Jews) as a symbol to show that hard labour makes life sweeter; and a vegetable like parsley, celery or potato to be dipped in salt water to indicate that life is dipped in tears. There was also an onion, symbolic of the root of life and an egg to be roasted over a candle and dipped in water before eating, to represent new life; and a shank of lamb to remind the family that sacrifices are no longer offered.
Rahel also told us about the special striped and pierced bread and the role of the children to ask questions and search for the hidden bread taken from the middle layer in the cloth on the table. We learned of the four cups of wine, being the Kiddush, (sanctification) the Maggid, (joy) Birkat Hamazon (redemption) and the fourth for Hallel (Praise the Lord!)
It was challenging to keep up with the stories of the history of this Jewish celebration and the enthusiasm of our speaker. However, I understood that the main message of the day was that God never changes – he is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow and although God doesn’t need us it is exciting to remember that he chooses to work with us and we should work to encourage everyone to accept Jesus.
Hymn TiS 72: Come let us join our cheerful songs
Come, let us join our cheerful songs with angels round the throne;
ten thousand thousand are their tongues, but all their joys are one.
'Worthy the Lamb that died,' they cry, 'to be exalted thus';
'Worthy the Lamb,' our lips reply, 'for he was slain for us.'
Isaac Watts was born in 1674. He showed great promise as a writer and went to London at 16 to study in the Academy of the Rev. Thomas Rowe, an Independent minister. In 1698, he became assistant minister of the Independent Church, Berry St., London and four years later became pastor. The published hymns of Isaac Watts are much loved and number more than eight hundred. He died in November 1748, and was buried at Bunhill Fields, London.
Offering: The offering was taken by Nerida and Alan with help from Oliver and a prayer was said by Jan.
Prayers for the People: After a short musical interlude played by Grahame and the quiet reflection time to consider our own special needs and concerns for others, Jan prayed for all who have not experienced God’s love and grace in their lives, for those who are sick or in need, and specially for the people in Fiji and Vanuatu at this difficult time. She prayed for all those people who as yet have not encountered Jesus or grown to love Him.
Blessing Song: Shalom to you now
We all know and have sung this song written by Elise S. Eslinger many times, however after our reflection about the religious traditions of Jewish people, the call of;
Shalom to you now Shalom my friends … In all your living and through your loving …
had us leaving the church with thoughts of Rahel’s greeting of “Peace be with you”.