Alan led our service today, beginning with the
Call to Worship, which were Jesus’ words to us that we should love each other. It is a short exhortation but greatly challenging. It’s one thing to say that we should love each other, but to do it as Jesus has loved us, is on a different level. Often we can quote such words without realizing their weight.
Hymn TIS 137 “For the beauty of the Earth” A song of praise, reminding us of all the gifts we have been given.
Prayers of Adoration and Praise.
Psalm 148, said responsively, drawing in the congregation and raising the evocative plane of this prayer as it resonated with each person.
Alan continued to lead us as we became more aware of our inability to meet God’s
standard and praised God for forgiveness freely offered. Sometimes as we make our way through our lives, we fail to acknowledge that we have not loved our neighbour as Jesus loved us. We think we are as good as the next person but fail to acknowledge that we are simply broken people and are failing that sacrificial standard set by Jesus.
As we acknowledged our transgressions, Alan, on our behalf, asked for forgiveness.
Declaration of Forgiveness.
We were reminded that God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him. We humbly accepted that release with:
“Thanks be to God”
We then shared that peace we had received with each other.
Hymn TIS 428 “Help us Lord, to learn” Not only from the Service of the Word to follow but
of our own brokenness and need for healing and for forgiveness.
The Service of the Word
Elaine brought the Bible readings to us:
Acts 11: 1-18 Peter explains the vision he had which revealed that all are acceptable at the Lord’s Table.
John 13: 31-35 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Hymn TIS 217 “Love divine, all loves
reminder that every time we start congratulating ourselves on how wonderful we are, God wants us to open ourselves to be more than we can ever be through our own strength.
I’d like to use the translation of Alan’s heading
“By this shall all men know” as it is in the NRSV. “By this everyone will know”.
However, what will be “known” is the most important part: “that you are my disciples”. Does everyone know that we are his disciples?
Alan recounted an interesting experience he had in England, of climbing into a “priest’s hole”, a small place used to hide priests from persecution by Protestants in Tudor times. The recount was made even more interesting by Alan’s account of the arrival of a Cardinal while he was there,
who would have not survived during the persecution because he was a little
on the tubby side and wouldn’t have fitted into the space.
Alan further reminded us of the many persecutions of one group of Christians against another that went on for years at enormous cost to the world and its population.
I knew much hatred was spilled out, one group against another, but I had no idea of the cost to the world. (And we can believe all Alan has to tell us because when I knew him years ago he was a history teacher.)
If we weren’t humbled by the prayer for forgiveness earlier in the service, this was enough to make us crumble, asking for forgiveness that humans could be so horrible to each other. (And we can’t take refuge in “it wasn’t us”. If we had been there, it would have been us.)
As Alan said: “we have not done well in hearing the words of Jesus”. In fact it would seem that we haven’t heard them at all.
Later in his sermon, Alan said we use and misuse the word “love” so carelessly and thoughtlessly that it can become almost meaningless and went on to cite Martin Luther King Jr in saying that in loving others as Jesus loved them does not mean we have to like them.
That is so, and something I have learned is that loving someone is not a matter of finding that person attractive in some way, but simply a matter of will. We can simply decide that we will love another person to serve them as Jesus served others.
Alan had much more to say but space means I need to close here. Today’s message is vital. Take notice and act upon it.
Hymn TIS 699 “A new Commandment I give unto you” This hymn allowed us to let the words of the sermon sink in.
Prayers of the People
Alan prayed that the Government will, whatever the results of the election, govern and work for the good of all Australians. He prayed for all those who care for people and the people of our country regardless of culture and country of origin.
He asked for God’s blessing on John and Wendy and our whole congregation as well as the needs of those known to us, finishing with the Lord’s Prayer
Hymn TIS 416 “Great God, Your Spirit is like the Wind” emphasizing God’s influence in all things.
Blessing and Dismissal
Christ gave his followers a new commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you.
So go to be the people of God, and may all know that you are Christ’s disciples
by the love that you show for each other.
Go in peace to live and serve the world.
Hymn TIS 779 “May the feet of God walk with you.” An expression of our intention.