Rowena led us today on a journey of reflection about service. She began with a story of an old, old, man, cold and grey and wracked by coughing, having to cross a gorge. For anyone it would have been a difficult task, but for such an old man it was so much harder. But he succeeded.
Now, you would have thought such an old man would have been happy to have made it across, but no, although he had used so much energy and effort already, he set about building a bridge.
People were amazed and asked him why he was going to so much effort. His answer was that because it was so much effort for him, he wanted to make the journey easier for others. I knew then the message we were to receive today would not be a comfortable one.
Hymn: TIS 572(i) O Thou who camest from above the pure celestial fire to impart, kindle a flame of sacred love on the mean altar of my heart." Just when I thought I might be able to relax, there came this message. Rather than being able to take the easy path, here we were asking God to "kindle a flame of sacred love" in us. Such a flame would demand honest and brave action.
Prayers of Approach and Prayer of confession: (a paraphrase)
For us, Rowena praised God who calls us and waits on us. She praised the God who is the real substance of life and who fills us with the Holy Spirit like winds filling the sails of a windmill.
She asked that the fire of God's spirit will fill us, so that we will be living the life He would have us live.Rowena then confessed that although God has sent his spirit of love freely, that we have put conditions on our love; that God has sent His spirit of peace and patience but that we worry if we don't see instant results. In the same manner, we have not grasped the gifts that God has sent us. Therefore, Rowena asked that God's spirit would fill us so that we can experience life to the full.
We have responded to God's gift of kindness with neglect; to His gift of faithfulness by lacking credibility; to His gift of gentleness with aggression.
To his gift of self-control we have reacted by hurting others. Then with a full heart, Rowena prayed for us all that our Gracious God will refresh and renew us so we will be fruitful and vital servants, walking together in the spirit of peace.
As we confessed our great lack, Rowena Declared the forgiveness of our sins.
Time with the Children and with the grown-ups too Rowena showed a beautifully wrapped gift to the children and then placed it on the table, asking them if that's what we do with gifts. They all knew better.
No! Of course not! We unwrap gifts. Of course we do, and that's exactly what we should do with the gifts God gives us.
We aren't given gifts to keep them hidden, that is false modesty. That set me thinking.There's the analogy in the Bible about not hiding our light under a bushel.
We are meant to use the gifts.
Sometimes these gifts can be used straight away but sometimes we have to work on them first. If we are given a Leggo set, or a kit to build an aeroplane or car or maybe a tapestry set, we have to develop them into some sort of finished product.
Interestingly the development not only makes the gift more useful but develops us as well.
And then we are to use the gifts for the benefit, not only of ourselves, but for others; there's hardly any point in having musical gifts unless they are used to help other people enjoy life, to express themselves or even to draw closer to God. Any gift is the same. It's not for us to grasp to ourselves. It's a gift to use in God's service of love to the world.
Hymn: TIS 409 "O Breath of Life” Rowena's choice of hymns continued the message today of being the sort of Christians who will allow God to work through us to revive His church. The sort of Christians who will open ourselves to God's renewing Spirit to be a renewed church. Amen to that.
Scripture Readings:Exodus 35: 20-29 The people brought their gifts to build the Tabernacle. Not just any gifts or something that they could spare but their richest gifts.
Acts 2: 1-21 The Holy Spirit came and rested in them and changed them so much that the people looking on thought that they were drunk. It also changed them so much that they stopped hiding and went out to tell the Gospel story regardless of the consequences. Is that us?
1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 We all have a gift, if we are lucky, more than one. Not only are we meant to use it, but we are meant to appreciate the gifts that others have. Liberate God's gifts in others.
Reflection: The message of the hymns and readings and of the kid's address continued. We are to use our gifts in God's service, not just the gifts that we can use easily but those that we may have to develop and work on.
I won't repeat the message of the kid's address but remember we are to offer our best gifts. Rowena had handed out cards with an image of a flame on one side to represent the spirit and when were told to turn them over there was a word written on the other side.
Those words described gifts we might have. If we thought that word did not describe our gift, we were directed to think about what our gift might be and if we just didn't know, then we should ask someone at morning tea.
I wrote a note to a gentleman sitting near me. I think one of his many gifts is graciousness, so I told him.
The word written on the back of my card was "Giving". That is very interesting since I have been helping some teenagers with their schoolwork and said to their mother that instead of paying me, that she should give the fee to a couple of Christian causes that I would like to support more than my present income allows.
And I can write. But I didn't wait until I was the best writer around before I started writing this blog. But I'm good enough to share the Sunday service with those that can't get to church.
Rowena, I heard God's' voice through your words.
Hymn: TIS 413 "Holy Spirit, come confirm us” Our prayer for the Holy Spirit to make us all that we need to be to serve God truly.
Offering: Our first opportunity to act out the message of the day.
Hymn: TIS 442 "All Praise to our Redeeming Lord” And finally we praised Him who is the author of all that is good and all that can transform us into the people of a renewed church.
Benediction Rowena blessed us as we left to be the renewed people of God.
Closing: Now Unto Him who is able to keep.
Able to keep you from falling.
And present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory
With exceeding joy.
To the only wise God our Saviour,
Be glory and Majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever. Amen,