Monday, 20 August 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 20th August 2018

Call to Worship:   
The theme of the Service today was “The wisdom to do what God Wants.”
Hymn  TiS 107           “Sing Praise & Thanksgiving”
This hymn written by Lutheran Minister, Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) is one that always makes me feel encouraged by the words and the lilt as it builds to a crescendo which is like a beautiful prayer of supplication and praise.
“Lord, frame our desiring to do your requiring, that unto your glory be all that we do; and where we have faltered, give strength and give healing: O praise to the Almighty, sing praise to our God!”

Prayers of Thanks & Confession: 
After these prayers Warwick said; “In Jesus Christ we find the one who forgives us and gives us courage to begin again.”   And we responded; “Thanks be to God.”
Children’s Message:  “Keep praying. God is there. Ask him.”
A childhood memory of praying to God when he was seven years old and had broken his arm, was the way that Warwick introduced the children to the ideas of how and why we pray and for whom we might pray.  He did mention before he began, that his story was intended for all the children under 90 years old; however I am sure even those few people above that age, could also relate to the message. 
Offering & Dedication:
Hymn TiS 168            “For the fruits of all creation, thanks be to God”
Frederick Pratt Green (1903-2000), who wrote this hymn, was an ordained British Methodist Minister who felt there was a need for some hymns to bridge the gap between the older traditional hymns and the very modern ones of more recent times.  I specially like the last few lines for the reminder that we still don’t know everything and we should enjoy God’s wonders and be thankful if we are loved; “Thanks be to God”.
Bible Reading:          Read by Stephen        1 Kings 2: 10-12, 3: 3-14       Ephesians 5:  15–20
In the reading from Kings Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment - God was pleased with that choice.  He granted it - and much more.
The reading from Ephesians elaborates on the importance of wisdom, not just in making daily decisions, but as a tool in following God’s will.     
Reflection:                 “What do we ask for?  - and the wisdom to do what God wants.”
Warwick began by asking; “What have been some of your prayers? Were they answered? Or answered in a different way? Are there some prayers that you are now glad that God didn’t answer?  “What requests have you made of God?”  After showing us a painted mural at Altkoetzchenbroda, Dresden he translated it to say; “God, protect this house against affliction and fire, local government planning - and taxes”.   

He then invited the congregation to “huddle” in small groups and discuss some of their prayer experiences. 

More questions from Warwick followed; “How do we tune out of ourselves and tune into God?       How do we do what God wants, doing it at the right time, in the right way or with the right attitude?”
He then read for us, from the Covenant Service in Uniting in Worship, John Wesley’s writing in 1755, in which he urged Christians to rededicate themselves to Christ:
“Christ has many services to be done: some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests; others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves; in others we cannot please Christ, except by denying ourselves.  Yet the power to do all these things is given us in Christ, who strengthens us.”
Warwick also spoke of the other reading of the day from Psalm 111: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and they who live by it grow in understanding” a good understanding have all those who practice it.”
I found his comments most insightful:
“Wisdom is not just knowledge, but understanding - a fine distinction!“Fear” - not being scared, not something to escape from.  But respect, reverence and obedience.
Respect: Servants’ attitude to their master
Reverence: awe in the presence of greatness and holiness: “reverential affection for God”.
Obedience: doing what God wants, putting that wisdom into practice.”

Warwick admitted what most of us have found to be true; “Discerning God’s will is not always easy.”  He said; “My personal wrestle of faith includes; How do I know that God wants me to do this?  Particularly suspicious if it was something I WANTED to do!”  He went on to say; “Even Christians whom we admire, can make errors of judgment.”
Warwick then introduced the story of Deitrich Bonhoeffer who was a young German Lutheran pastor and theologian, who stood up against Hitler and the Nazi dictatorship and was involved with the German Resistance and Underground activities and was in the end, executed by hanging in April 1945, after being accused in a plot to assassinate Hitler.  Earlier, Bonhoeffer had been disappointed in his own behaviour in April 1933 in relation to a request from his Jewish brother-in-law to conduct a funeral for his father.  The Lutheran Bishop he consulted advised him that he should not “stick his neck out!”  By November he had written to his brother-in-law lamenting his unforgivable behaviour and asking for his forgiveness of his weakness.
It was, as Warwick pointed out, obvious that a person of his standing “A man of God, a modern day saint” ought to have behaved differently.  Then Warwick suggested the question we should ask ourselves when uncertain, is always; “What would Jesus do in these circumstances?
What would Jesus do?”
Hymn TiS 136            “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”
This hymn was written by Frederick William Faber, (1814-1863) and its message is uncomplicated and finishes; “If our love were but more simple we should take him at his word; and our lives would be illumined by the goodness of our Lord.”
Men’s Singing Group:
“It’s me, it’s me oh Lord, Standing in the need of Prayer” was chosen by the group with no prior knowledge of the theme of the service today.  God often surprises us the way he helps us make our worship fit together in such meaningful ways.  I really love it when this happens.
Prayers of the People:  Warwick led the prayers of Intercession today.  He spoke of the importance for him to be able to picture the face and circumstances of the people for whom we pray as he read out the names of the people and the issues that had been mentioned in our prayer sheets.  This is always a special time for our congregation as we pray for people and issues all over the world and close to “home”.  Then we shared together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
Hymn TiS 158            “God has Spoken by His Prophets”   
G. W. (George Wallace) Briggs, (1875-1959) who wrote this hymn was a Canon of Worcester Cathedral and a leading member of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  The words give us great reassurance and hope for the future. “In the world’s despair and turmoil one firm anchor holds us fast: God is king, his throne eternal, God the first, and God the last”.
Blessing:   “The blessing of the God of life be ours, the blessing of the loving Christ be ours, the blessing of the fire of the Holy Spirit be ours, the blessing of God - Father, Son and Spirit, rest upon us now and always.” Amen.

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

May the feet of God walk with you and His hand hold you tight.
May the eye of God rest on you and His ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you and His breath give you life.

May the child of God grow in you and His love bring you home.

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