Friday, 7 June 2019

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 June 2019




It was a lovely setting with both ministers dressed for the communion service, evoking a serious and deep response to the said and sung words of the service and the floral decorations enhancing the depth and warmth of the emotion felt by the congregation.

I want to focus on certain parts of the service which I often have to skim over to allow other parts to have my attention.

The call to worship provided words we perhaps couldn’t find for ourselves:

 

Mystery of God, draw us near.

Fill our minds with awe!

Wisdom of God, surprise us.

Encourage us with hope!

Glory of God, shine through our lives.

Reveal your power and your glory!

In the mystery, the wisdom, the glory of God,

Let us worship!

 

And then the opening prayer reflected the uncertainty many of us feel from time to time and in its plea, reminded us that in our own times of doubt and apprehension we should call on the only One who can possibly give us comfort.

 Unknowable God, on this most unsettling day, you drew Jesus to your side— promising his companions Spirit, power, mission, and purpose; calling his disciples to trust a future that they could not yet see. As we look to Jesus this day, give us the same hope of Spirit, power, mission and purpose, and call to trust a future that we too are yet unable to see. Guide us into your depths, that we may glimpse the Spirit already at work in our lives— revealing your truth and empowering us to bear witness to the risen Christ. We pray this in the name of Jesus, your Mystery, your Wisdom and your Glory.

However the thing that prevents our perfect communion with God is our ongoing inability to be the people we should be and so there is the need to ask for forgiveness for that:

 A Prayer of Confession
The story of Ascension Day challenges us to seek the presence of the risen Christ in the here and now; in our lives, our community, and our world. Let us pray. When we “look up to heaven” for our answers, and so fail to seek the Spirit at work in our midst.

Lord, have mercy.

When we forget to repent of our wrong doings; when we fail to forgive others for mistakes of their own, and so fail to give witness to the risen Christ.

Christ, have mercy.

When we doubt the power of your Spirit, which is at work changing hearts and opening minds, and so fail to embrace relationships of righteousness and peace. Lord have mercy.


Declaration of Forgiveness
Friends, the love of God revealed in Jesus forgives us, heals us, and sets us free to witness to his love in the world.

Thanks be to God!

 

Christine spoke of the difficulty of believing the impossible things, referencing the conversation Between the White Queen and Alice in “Alice through the Looking Glass”, where the Queen declares that she has had the experience of believing “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Christine used that analogy to talk about the ascension of Jesus, for which many people throughout history have tried to provide an explanation, some less believable than the ascension itself.

Christine’s point was that “that something fantastic took
 place that day,” and that it “was so overwhelming that they couldn’t put it not words” but “It changed them
forever.”  Christine gave a very strong reason for Jesus
leaving and trusting the leadership to his followers.
 As a single human person he could not take the “good
news of God’s love...to all the nations of the world.”
But by leaving the confines of this earth and being “freed
 of time and space” and he was able to promise “to send
 the power of the Holy Spirit”

Christine then explained the real reason we are celebrating the Ascension...“that we (are) going to receive power from God.” and, more importantly, to remind us that we have no power of our own and must rely on the Spirit.

At this point I leave Christine’s sermon and turn to Joan’s prayer which is possible because of what happened at the Ascension. Joan’s plea “Be with us all, Lord: in all our daily struggles as we seek to follow you” encapsulates the reason and result of Jesus’ leaving and sending the Spirit of comfort and guidance.

That Spirit can give the comfort that Joan prayed to be given to those suffering in any way. That guidance can be given to us and others so that we can better understand the real plight of others who are less fortunate in terms of resources, be they financial or personal resources. That Spirit can lift us to a place of Joy in the midst of all the distress we may suffer ourselves or which surrounds us.

However we experience God’s presence, it is the “Amazing Grace” of John Newton’s hymn and written about by Ron in our latest “Marsden Missive.” Ron tells us of Newton’s journey as a Christian during which time he acted as Jesus would. An example for us all to follow...with God’s ‘Amazing Grace” mediated to us by the Spirit.

Benediction

The disciples looked up to heaven, and then looked around at each other. Slowly, understanding dawned upon them as they began to recognize the presence of their beloved Jesus in their midst. With their minds enlightened, and their hearts set free, they went forth rejoicing, singing and praying, and waiting for the Spirit’s coming. Let us, too, go forth confident in God. Let us rejoice in one another, as we wait in prayer for the surprise of the Spirit.

Amen.

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