Monday, 23 October 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 and 15 October 2017




Two recent services at MRUC focused, at least in part on the parable of the Two Sons told in Matthew 21.  Rev. John Candy spoke on October 1 and then Rev. Bill Ives spoke on October 15





Near the start of Rev. John’s service was a prayer: “ We gather in your presence, Christ of compassion, thirsting for your living water. Flow through this time of worship with your grace and wisdom. Nourish us with words of truth and challenge.  Strengthen us to go forth in humility and love as your servants working in the world.”

 

This set our hearts and minds upon our purpose at that time, a purpose which directed the lives of all present but having been said, renewed our awareness of our goal as Christians

Rev. John focused on the story of the two brothers in Matthew 21, one who said he would do the father’s bidding but didn't and then the other who refused to do as his father asked but then did it. As far as the application to our lives is concerned, one is no easier to get on with than the other. Rev. John’s point was that the awful part is that sometimes, despite our profession of allegiance to Jesus, we are both.

 

All too often many of us fail to embody in our lives what we say we believe with our lips.”

 

We don't recognize this because all too often, we only let the loyal servant parts of our lives float up into our consciousness. The times when we are not what we profess, stays hidden from our own view.

 

But

The good news is that God loves us anyway.”

That love is what will power us to live the life of God’s servant Sunday through to Sunday with “arms stretched out in love to one another.”

And so we were dismissed with: “May we go forth with the mind of Christ and the love of God…” .

 


Rev. Bill Ives began with the same bible passage but went straight to the reason Jesus was telling the story at that time. He was making the position of the Jewish leaders clear. “He is going to tell them that they have the wrong slant in things.”

Rev. Ives linked this to God’s calling of the People out of Egypt.  God called them out of slavery into freedom but that required the people to say “Yes” to God. Just as the father couldn't build his farm without a “Yes” from his sons, so God needed a “Yes” from his people.

 

We were challenged: “Will you say “Yes” to God and mean it?”

Rev. Bill then threaded his way through the Liturgy, showing how we come to hear God’s word to us and showing us our opportunities to say “Yes”

 

In the Prayers of the People we show how we will put ourselves into our prayers to serve a desperate world, which is realised in the “Sending Forth”.

 

The need for action was illustrated through the words of the chorus from “The Pirates of Penzance” where a frightened police body singing “we go, we go” until it is pointed out that they don’t  actually go.

 

Perhaps they are keeping their inability to act buried deep away from their own sight.

 

Rev Bill admitted that going out may entail sacrifice, spoiling our own comfort, “ But God calls us as he called his son, Jesus.”

 

The message couldn't be clearer.


 



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 October 2017






I was unable to attend this service but was moved by the written message that I received.

Gathering God’s People

 Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)

O Lord, you are God. There is no other God but you.

We renounce all that we have allowed to come between us.

O Lord, we worship you. We praise and honour your name.

We worship you on this, your holy day.

For your love, for your word, for all that you have given:

O Lord, we thank you and praise you. We love you.

 

Hymn TIS 745: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”

 

Opening prayer

Almighty God, your word bursts forth into our lives like a glorious sunrise. You speak, and our hearts rejoice. You command, and our eyes are opened. The sound of your voice brings revival to our souls. Your words are purer than the finest gold. True and righteous one, living Word, light our way. As we listen to your Spirit, may the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be accepted in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

With this short Prayer, I was immediately transported to a different place. How easily we can forget what God means to us and what God does in our lives. This prayer, and ones like it, can draw us back.


A Prayer of Confession

No matter how righteous we imagine ourselves to be, Lord, your perfect word reveals our imperfections all too clearly.

No matter how hard we strive to fulfil the requirements of your law, we always fall short. We have forgotten that righteousness and perfection come not from rules and regulations but from faith.

We have ignored the truth that your righteousness comes from faith.

Open our eyes to see that all we have accomplished is nothing compared to knowing Christ as our Lord. Let us count everything as loss, that we might gain heaven and be found blameless in Christ.

In the name of the Saviour we pray. Amen.

And with this, we rest in God, relying on divine strength to achieve that which is impossible on our own.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Take heart; have faith. The goal is in sight. Press on to take hold of it, as Christ has taken hold of us. Have no fear; leave the past behind. Reach out for what lies ahead, for the prize, for the life to be found in Christ Jesus. Amen.


Thanks, be to God!

And the burden is lifted! And so, having made our peace with our creator, we are able to reach out to others.


The Peace

 Make the joy of God's love & forgiveness complete: share with one another the love that Christ shares with us.

Peace be with you! And also with you!


Offering Prayer

Almighty God, you gave us your commandments and asked us to live according to your holy will.  As part of your design for honourable living, we participate in this simple act of giving.  We dedicate ourselves to living lives of honesty and peace.  Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 641: “This is my will, my one command”

 

The Service of the Word

Readings: Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20. Philippians 3:4b-14. Matthew 21:22-46.

Firstly, Exodus brought to us the Ten Commandments. These are very straightforward and easily applied to our lives, but it is amazing how we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are keeping them, when we so far from doing so.

If we only had this passage for guidance (Philippians) and followed it, I think we would do very well. If it's not in God’s plan, then it's of zero importance to us and while we are not able to live the life we should, we are on the right path.

Matthew brings us a very serious message. Where do we fit into this story? Are we faithfully representing the landowner or are we the tenants who are self-serving and who will have everything taken from them and given to others.

Rev. John’s Reflection (in part)

God does not want the tremendous seed planted in us to fail to bear fruit. God looks for the harvest, both in our hidden depths and in the wide world around us… God does not place on us an expectation we cannot fulfill. God does not simply demand fruitfulness from us, but provides all the conditions by which this can happen. God cares deeply for his vineyard. It is on this basis that he looks for the harvest. This expectation is not a demand it is a longing.
 

 

Hymn TIS 609: “May the mind of Christ my Saviour...”

There followed the Prayers of the People and the The Lord’s Prayer 

 

Hymn TIS 606: “Son of God, eternal Saviour” Tune -  Ode to Joy

 

Benediction                 

Hear the voice of the Creator, the mighty God, the One who built the vault of heaven, who set the sun on its blazing course through the skies! Hear the words of life, declared not by speech or language or voice but written on the heart! Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.

 

Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,”

 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 September 2017




Today I led the service and I think the reflection was the most significant part. So, the blog today is a shortened version of that. I will list the hymns too, because they added to the theme of  Forgiveness”.


Hymns:  TIS 228 “Crown him with Many Crowns”; 655 “O, Let the son of God enfold you.”;129 “Amazing Grace”;136  “There's a widening in God’s Mercy”


Reflection

The subject of today’s Gospel reading is “Forgiveness.”

Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone 7 times was enough. In this, he was being very generous because the Jewish law only required a person to forgive someone 3 times.

Jesus’ reply must have been quite a shock. Depending on which version of the Bible you have,  it was “seventy times seven” or “seventy seven times”.

In either case, Jesus is saying that we should forgive way past the number of times we ever thought we should or ever could forgive.

In the same Bible reading we heard of the king whose slave owed him an unbelievable amount of  money…something about equal to the size of the economy of some small countries.

But the king was a compassionate man and so when the slave pleaded with him, he didn't just give more time for repayment, he forgave the debt.

And so the slave realised what a gift he had been given and was grateful. He also learned a rich lesson on how to treat other people.

Or he should have but he didn't at all.

In this case where the offending person could not make restitution how could justice be reached? As in all similar cases, justice is obtained by a full and frank admission of guilt.


Look at  that from the perspective of one person to another, living today.

But what if we have offended against another in some other way?

They may forgive us out of their own compassion but that forgiveness can't be fully effective unless we acknowledge our offence.

There are times when we would rather pretend that we didn't do anything much.

On the other side of the equation, if we are hurt, even if the offender fails to properly acknowledge the hurt, as Christians we are commanded to forgive them anyway.

I have also heard people say: “I can never forgive them!” Sorry, you, as a follower of Jesus are commanded to do just that, whether you have received an apology or not.

An experience I have had is that I have struggled to bring myself to forgive a person because I wanted justice.

Then I woke up and realised that I wasn't doing myself any good and was able to forgive for my own sake, only to find an enormous burden lifted from my shoulders.

But then an even more amazing change occurred! Suddenly I could see the situation from the perspective of the other person and realized that life is very complicated and that I had been nursing what seemed like a deliberate hurt from someone else for nothing.

But how can such a thing happen?

How can we, as a human, go from seeing someone else as offending us in some way to seeing them as guiltless in that same respect? It seems impossible.

And I think it is….until we hand over the situation to God.

This change of perspective comes when we, as the offended against, ask for God’s help and accept the spirit’s work of grace.

It takes the same work of grace for us to see our real guilt in any matter.

We as the offender can't expect forgiveness until, through grace,  we are able to admit our guilt frankly.

Anything else does not bring about reconciliation….which is the true aim of confession on one side and forgiveness on the other.

But don't leave acting on this message for too long. In the Guardian in 2006,  it was announced that all 306 British World War 1 soldiers who were executed for desertion or cowardice were to be pardoned. 88 years later. Don't wait even one day.

 

 

 

 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unting Church 3 and 10 September 2017


 

 



Because I have so many calls on my time at the moment, I need to reflect on the two services in the one blog to get them covered. Also, as I have been trying to do, I am taking a bit of a different approach each week, and this week I am reflecting on particular points of Rev. John’s  services.


Rev. John began the Call to Worship in the September 3 service with:

“Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest, and most difficult, paradoxes of Christianity: to save your life you must first lose it. So, we find ourselves, once again surprised by the limitless and inexplicable nature of God’s love, and we rejoice to stand together on holy ground.”

Some of us have been fortunate enough to have walked hand in hand with God since we were small children. However, some of us have had to face a decision: were we going to follow Jesus or were we going to keep control of our own lives, setting our own standards and limits, and making all our decisions based in our own will?  It seemed quite a dangerous move to hand over total control. What if God asked us to do or to be something that cost us heavily?

So, maybe we tried a compromise. We would make the decisions about which parts of the God story we would attend to and which parts we would ignore.

For anyone who did that I will guarantee that it hasn't turned out well. The internal conflict would be dreadful.

But, for those of us who decided that the path we were following wasn’t making us very happy and made the decision to let God take control of every little thing, the result has been so surprising.

The sense of freedom is amazing! Who would have thought being ruled by another, even if it is God, could be so liberating! And how did that sense of contentment simply settle upon us? By this world’s reckoning it shouldn't happen: it doesn't make sense.

But that's what it is like. So, step out and take that chance that some of us had to take. You'll be amazed too.

This service included the Eucharist which is an experience, which again, is hard to explain. The words are carefully chosen and have been refined over time by the Church. Congregation members conduct themselves very reverently. The service remembers Jesus’ life, lived for us, proclaiming the truth, and given up, rather then deny that truth. That is enough to create the special nature of the time which we share together…but there's

something else; something that I can only attribute to the Spirit settling on us, entering our hearts and minds so that we know that God is with us.

In his sermon, Rev. John warned us about being a stumbling block to others. Is the life we lead a contradiction to the message we preach? Is the message we preach a simplified one that we learned as children in Sunday school, which needs to be looked at afresh now that we are adults?

Are we using bible passages to beat people over the head, rather than show them God’s love? Does God call people, who as a result, visit our church, only to be made feel most unwelcome?

We need to be careful and remember this is God’s church, not ours. God welcomes everyone and Jesus showed us that respectability isn't of much account in his Kingdom.

Think about it.



On Sunday September 10, Rev. John’s Opening Prayer picked up the theme of providing a true witness, saying: “Move us, O God, that we may fulfill the law of love and be a people who radiate your light. Touch our hearts, that we may come to love our neighbour as we come to love ourselves.”

We are well worth loving. God loves us. Something that is said to show kids the truth of this is: ‘God doesn't make junk.” There are  lovelier and more sophisticated ways of saying this, but it comes down to the same thing: we are precious in God’s sight. Once we realise this, we longer need to be in the business of trying to win. What recognition could we win that would be of greater worth than being precious in God’s sight? And if we no longer need to win, we can be gracious to everyone we meet each day. We will be able to see and openly acknowledge publicly, their worth. We will be able to let them know that they are precious in God’s sight. And then……

To continue this theme, Rev. John spoke of the lost sheep. Rev. John asked: Did he (the shepherd)  look at its value and say: “Well, that sheep is not good enough, that sheep doesn't have the right values. I won't bother trying to find it.”?

In fact, when we think about the people Jesus reached out to, it wasn't the ones who seemed would be of advantage to his kingdom. It was the ones who needed him and his kingdom.

So we should be very careful, that when a divine invitation has been given to someone, when they feel drawn to come to church, that we aren't the ones who cause them to turn away in disappointment.

 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 August 2017






Each time I reflect on a service I try to give emphasis to a different part because the restriction in the length means I can't pay proper attention to every part every time.


The Secret

Call to Worship (B. J. Beu, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

Rev. John began by drawing our attention to God’s support for us in everything we do or in which we are involved. Life throws up many obstacles, sometimes one after another, and it is only with God’s help that we can continue.


Hymn TIS 123 “Be still my soul: The Lord is on your side”. With this hymn the theme continued. However, it speaks of keeping our hope in dark times, as though they are a contradiction in a faithful life. But life happens, whether we walk with God or not. But if we keep our hand in God’s hand, the dark times will be easier to live through.


Opening prayer

Gracious God, we come this day, to present our minds and bodies to you as a holy and

living sacrifice.  This was the first sentence of the prayer. But is seems to me that when we

give our lives wholly to God, we get a much better deal than if we try to keep control of all or part of it ourselves.


A Prayer of Confession

 merciful God, wash away the injuries we have inflicted upon one another.

When we have made lives bitter through word or deed, forgive us in your mercy.

When we have ignored the plight of others through ignorance or wilful neglect, reclaim us in your grace. Restore us to your path of love and compassion, that we may bathe in the waters of your compassion and love. Amen.


Declaration of Forgiveness

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of the world would have crushed us by now. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of our lives would have drowned us by now. Thanks be to God who is on our side, and who rescues us from forces that seek our undoing. In Christ Jesus, we are set free and made whole again.

Thanks, be to God!


Having made our peace with God, we offered the sign of peace to each other.


Offering

It always interests me that we label this part of the service “the offering” when many people offer much more to the building of God’s kingdom in other ways than they do through the collection plate. Our all. That's all God is asking for.


Hymn TIS 467:I am the church! You are the church!” It's good to remember this. It prevents that “They should” mentality.


The Service of the Word  
             

Carolyn began this section of the service with readings from Exodus 1:8-2:10; Romans 12:1-8; and Matthew16: 13-20.


Exodus 1:8 The first reading is the well known story of how Moses survived a purge of Hebrew baby boys and came to be treated as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ mother trusted God to protect her and her son.


Romans 12:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your

bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

This first sentence really covered all that followed. Let God steer. It's safer and more sensible.


Matthew 16: 13-20.

 ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Time to show where we stand.


Preaching of the Word


The Secret - Matthew 16: 13-20

I have selected a few sentences out of John’s sermon. Today he delivered a very complex theological message about why Jesus would want to keep his identity a secret,  but I have chosen just one thought that stood out for me.

Peter is the first disciple to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the first to discover that this man he knows so well is the one anointed by God. In this moment Peter stands for the whole church again.

 With the outcome that we too shine as the light of Christ and we will not keep the Messiah a secret. Why! Because the world where we spend our days, still waits for him and that world is dying to meet him – and they will meet him through us.

Remember the thoughts from the beginning of  the service that Life is tough and we can only get through it with God by our side.


Hymn TIS 440: “Christ from whom all blessings flow” The blessings aren't just a way of making it through life. We become more like Christ; We become  part of his body. We become what we were created to be.


Music to lead us to prayer while we thought our own thoughts.


Intercessory Prayers led by Wendy  Wendy addressed Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, asking that our prayers be heard. She called for safety and security everywhere but particularly for those people living in the midst of war. She asked that God change leaders who seek to dominate that they will embrace love; that people everywhere will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and proclaim his gospel. She asked that the Spirit will   lead us in love for God and each other. We joined in the Lord’s Prayer.


Hymn TIS 446: “Glorious things of you are spoken” This hymn summed up all the thoughts we had had so far.


Benediction

Blessed are you who resist the forces of death and destruction. Blessed are you who respond to the cries of the weak and the helpless. Blessed are you who build the kingdom of God with your love and compassion. Blessed are you who seek first what is right and honourable and true. And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen



Hymn 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,”


Friday, 18 August 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 August 2017




Gathering God’s People


Call to Worship (I was not able to be present today but reflected on Rev. John’s notes.)

(Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

When God restored the fortunes of Zion, the Israelites wandered home as if in a dream. Let us be a people who wander in our dreams. Wander amongst God’s marvellous creation! Wonder at the amazing things God has done! Do not worry about your life, today or tomorrow. Trust that God values us even more greatly than birds and flowers, no matter how beautiful they may be. Know that God treasures us completely, and gives us all that we will ever need.

Come with hearts overflowing in gratitude. God has done great things for us.

Be glad and rejoice. We rejoice in God’s gifts.

Sing praises of joy. Our mouths are filled with laughter.

Shout with thanksgiving, in sunshine and rain. Praise God for our lives, for harvest and food.


Hymn TIS 560:All my hope on God is founded;” Echoing the words above.


Opening Prayer

As then moving forward with faith in God to deliver the promise:

Giver of life, for sunshine and showers, we give you thanks; for food and drink, we give you praise; for clothing and shelter, we bestow our gratitude. Gather our worries and our burdens this day, and shelter us from fear and despair. Help us rest assured in your arms, knowing that your loving care is enough. It is enough. It is enough. Amen.


A Prayer of Confession

God not only delivers the things of this world but the things of God’s world.

God of abundant love, sprinkle the tears we have sown with your mercy and hope,

that we may reap a harvest of joy; replace our selfish dreams of wealth and prestige, with gratitude for what we have, that we may find contentment in life.

Turn our dreams to you, O Lord. and remind us of the abundance you offer,

for you have done great things for us, turning our tears into shouts of joy.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Through Christ, God’s love has done great things for us. Through Christ, God’s grace restores our life and makes us whole once more.

Thanks, be to God!

The Peace 

Share with one another signs of peace and love. Show Christ to one another, that we may be reminded of the peace that passes all understanding.

 Peace be with you! And also with you!

Today, I have recorded the service almost word for word because in those words there is the expression of the many longings each of us has. We all find it difficult to approach God with the words we need to express what we have to say. And here that is done for us so  beautifully and  so accurately. I hope this is an aid to your expression of your needs to God. In the children’s time, John told the story of the widow offering a few coins, all she had, at the temple. Often we think we have nothing to offer in God’s work. But that all he wants. All of us. And no matter what sort of person we are or how we see our gifts, we all can be used in God’s hands and we are our most effective when we finally offer our all



Offering

John’s Prayer reminded us to be glad and joyful for all the good things we are given.


Hymn TIS 555: “Put all your trust in God” If we put our trust and ourselves, including our plans, in God’s hands and stay alert for his voice, then our path will be true.
                   

The Service of the Word

Readings: Joel 2: 21-27. 1Timothy 2: 1-7. Matthew 6: 25-33 –delivered by Wendy


Preaching of the Word 

Rev. John wrote about various approaches to giving he had encountered or had heard of.

At Marsden Road he said he had encountered great generosity and so have I. Not just generosity with money but generosity with both time and energy.

I would agree with the Rev. John that in the Western World we all have trouble coming to terms with sacrificial giving. Not many of us are able to bring ourselves to the level of sacrifice of Mother Teresa, whom Rev. John refers to.

But many give up much for the benefit of others.
There are many ways of being sacrificial. Some go without sleep for a sick friend or relative. But I would agree with that in the West, our giving normally involves giving up luxuries. Not so many visits to the theatre; not so many holidays away; not so many meals in a restaurant, or whatever it is that is a luxury for us.

But I think it is possible to give sacrificially in another way. We can give our all. Not many are asked to live elsewhere or work within the church administration but we can be God’s nurses and doctors; God’s mechanics and plumbers; God’s architects and engineers; God’s teachers and accountants; God’s drivers, police, firemen, seamstresses. And we can all be hospitable; we can all make sure we are aware of those in need. but we can always look for ways to be better hands in this earth for God. Rev. John said:  “It took Mother Teresa of Calcutta to show us how to live out this parable of Jesus. She literally saw Jesus in those she found dying on the streets of Calcutta and the destitute.”

Even those of us who think we are living simply for the sake of God’s other children or all of God’s creation, can probably “do better.”

It's worth reflecting upon - in Jesus name.


Hymn TIS 589: “Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult” It would be a better place if we could all ignore the trivial and keep our focus on God’s plan for us.


Grahame played while the Congregation reflected privately. This was followed by the 

Intercessory Prayers after which they joined in the


Hymn TIS 143: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only WiseThe only one of whom we can depend.

Benediction Go forth with shouts of joy. Proclaim the greatness of God! Be glad and rejoice in Christ’s care. Trust the promises of God! As you go in Trust may the blessing of that same God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life remain with you always.



Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now,”