Thursday, 2 April 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 April 2020


 

Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 21: 1-11 and the OT readings is from  Isaiah 50: 4-9.

Perhaps if you read those, you will be prepared for the lessons I learned from the service, particularly the readings and the sermon.

 
The Gospel reading is one we are all familiar with but there’s one reference I find very puzzling. There is reference to a donkey and a colt. Both are covered so Jesus can ride on them. That wouldn’t be an error but I have no idea what the significance is. Perhaps it’s just not the most despised of creatures but also the lesser colt who are both acceptable to carry the Sovereign King referred to in Isaiah.

In any case we are also familiar with one of the ideas circulating throughout the world of Jesus at that time: that an earthly warrior king would come to release the Jews from the latest of their overbearing rulers from an outside force. The Jews had been overrun by one outside force after another throughout history and longed for the King who would release them in a final victory.

We have been doing this throughout our own short history. If we vote for this party or that party, the country will prosper. It won’t and it will never do so, while our yardstick is an earthly one.

Jesus rode in on a donkey to show His Kingdom was not the one which was expected. His Kingdom is of the Spirit.

As Rev. John says, a political victory was never on a Jesus’ radar. He came to free us from ourselves. He came to raise us out of all those things that mire us down in ways of the rest of the world. The nasty stuff like greed. Greed covers so much, because we can be greedy for so many things.

Isaiah may have been overstating his case but he was on the right track when he claimed obedience to the Sovereign Lord. Short of being obedient to the Lord’s command we fail everything.

And we can remember Jesus’ teaching which tells us that we can call on help to obey the Sovereign Lord. The Spirit has been given to us to guide us so that we can think straight and the Spirit can give us the strength we need to be better than we could ever be on our own.

And for those who think God can’t possibly be calling them to build the Kingdom. Remember the donkey and the colt. Remember the humble fishermen. Remember the Woman at the Well.

Take God’s outstretched hand, which is inviting you, first to be raised up from the things that weigh you down and then for you to reach out to others, demonstrating that freedom and wealth are matters of the spirit, not of any material sort.

 

 

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 March 2020


Gathering Gods People

 
Call to Worship - (Mary J Scifres, Abingdon 2016)

In the midst of life, we are in death. But in the face of death, Gods Spirit comes to bring us life. Can dry bones live? Can life emerge from death? Only God knows. And yet, Christ promises just such a miracle through the power of Gods Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

All who are dwindling and dying . . .come forth to new life.

All who are lying in darkness and despair . . .come out into the light.

All who feel separated and alone . . .come to the presence of God, whose Spirit finds us here.

This echos the situation we are in here in Australia. COVID 19 is threatening the health and well being of all Australians and even threatening us with death,  but out of that threat is growing our need and the will to stretch out to each other and offer aid. Of course there are always examples of selfish and self-centered and even quite mentally unbalanced behaviour but around me I see many offering help who would never have thought of doing it before.

Hymn TIS 84: “Give to our God immortal praise” Daily, in our every move and word in every situation.

Opening Prayer

Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into our lives and our worship. Create new possibilities, in our imaginations and in our dreams. Send the promise of your hope into our depression and our despair. Expand our hearts and our minds, as we enter your presence this day. Amen.

Which is the very thing we need in these times of such danger to the very fabric of our society.

We need every effort of our imaginations, guided by God’s Spirit to find our way out of the most dangerous situation we are in.

A Prayer of Confession

God of new life and emerging possibilities forgive us when death and despair occupy our focus. Embolden our faith when your future feels out of reach. Strengthen our courage, that we might come forth into the light and life of your promises. In hope and trust, we pray. Amen.

 

It  is the responsibility of every soul to look at themselves and see their own lapses from God’s way and ask God’s guidance back to the right path.

Declaration of Forgiveness

In Gods love, there is hope. In Christs forgiveness, there is peace. In the Spirits power, we are renewed and brought forth into life!

Thanks, be to God!

Hymn TIS  242: Lord of the dance.” When we are aware of God working in us, we feel the dance within us.

The Service of the Word

The First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”

Such is the power of God that even the most flat and exhausted of us can be lifted up to be a force for good.

Second Reading John 11:23-45

“Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise.”  And he did.

No matter how dead we may think we are inwardly, the Spirit can bring us to life. Any of us!

Preaching of the Word

“It's Hard Getting God..., – John 11: 23-45

It's hard getting God to obey us. After all we're the ones on the scene. We know what we need, or our congregation needs, or what we need as individuals. God should listen to us and take our advice. If God would only be here when needed, there would be no tragedy in our lives. Thats very true for us now as we face a major upheaval in our lives with the out fall from Covid-19. We want God to sort this out quick time and we know what God needs to do.”

Some of us, at least are guilty of thinking these thoughts

“Moments of grief may well produce the same partnership between faith and reproach in us...

We want to ensure our survival through this current Pandemic that is isolating many of us from the community which gives us strength. We want to stop our friends and loved ones from dying. We constantly say to God, "If you had been here on time, you could have stopped this happening."

The fact is that we have no idea how this creation works and how we have caused it to break down or how we have interfered with its harmonious running. That is in God’s hands and  it is only when we open ourselves utterly and totally to God’s will that a glimmer of light seeps through.

The root problem is that we have not been let in on the whole story. Before Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, he said, as an aside: "Loving parent, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me."...

So in our prayers today let us ask God to give us the gift of loving God's purposes and promises, that our wills may be fixed on the essential and eternal Good which is always there, even when the world around us seems to be coming unglued.”

Hymn TIS 210: “O for a thousand tongues to sing.”

If only all creation would not only give praise but acknowledge God’s plan as the only one.

Hymn TIS 684:“Love will be our Lenten calling.” That is what is going to get us through.

Benediction

Let those who were languishing and dying rejoice.

Hymn TIS 777: May the Grace of Christ our Saviour”

May the grace of Christ our Saviour and the Father's boundless love, with the Holy Spirit's favour, rest upon us from above...Amen. Amen. Amen.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 March 2020



Acknowledgement of First Peoples

 We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship - (James Dollins, Abingdon 2016)

Show me your way, O God, my Shepherd. Open a right path and let me hear your call to follow. Show me your way, O Christ, my Healer. Open my eyes to the needs of my world...

Hymn TIS 10: “The Lords my shepherd” (Tune - Crimond)Probably as well known as any hymn could be world-wide. And with good reason because of the comfort it brings.

Opening prayer

Visionary creator; give us your vision. Show us our hearts,

our homes, our communities, and our world through your eyes. 

A Prayer of Confession 

Divine God, our Guide, give us the clarity to wake to our short-sightedness and stay woke.

Give us the courage to wake to our shortcomings and stay woke.

Give us the compassion to wake to our hurtful acts and stay woke.

Give us wisdom to face our fears, receive your grace, wake to your call and stay woke.

Hear our silent prayer, as we sit in awareness of our need.


Declaration of Forgiveness

Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ
will shine on you.”

Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ
will shine on you.”

Thanks, be to God!

The Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children
of God. We meet in the name of Christ and share his peace.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

All of the above are a means of reaching out and making any wrongs right before we consider moving forward. It always needs to be done.

Offering

God of grace and truth; in Jesus, Light of the world, you have fulfilled your promise to be with us when we walk through the darkest valley.  May our gratitude for this evidence of your love for the world be made visible in these our offerings that we take up now.  


This is a timely message and I think many of us will grasp it close to our hearts.
 
Hymn TIS 256: From heaven you came, helpless babe    (Tune Servant King)



    The Service of the Word

 The Gospel Reading:    John 9:1-41NEB page 819

 (Maybe you have your own favourite version of the Bible from which God’s voice comes to you.)

Thanks be to God.

Preaching of the Word - Clay Vessels of Beauty

Rev. John began with an important warning:

Lent has often been seen as a time of intense self-reflection. But self-reflection without understanding the power that God holds to make something beautiful of our clay vessels, our little lives, is to defy the power of the God of Love. 

Then Rev. John made two points:

According to the book of Samuel, God picks David, a young child, to fight Goliath and to be king of all Israel. And through that kingship, which has its times of horror and times of victory, God makes David the king Israel needed for the moment.

In addition, in the Gospel of John, the blind man suffers consistently throughout his life because people look at him as deficient, as sinful, as someone not worthy.

So God can use very ordinary and unlikely people to reveal his enlivening power in amazing ways.
 
Rev. John goes on to remind us - and we all know from our experience - that self reflection can bring us to times of despair. However we all know from our experience that out of that despair, something beautiful can grow. This growth can remind us, not only what God’s power can do with ordinary souls such as we all are, but also reminds us that God is always ready to draw us closer.

We are all very swift to look at all our weaknesses and think that we could not possibly be of any use to lead anyone else to light but it is that very change which can cause others to wonder what turned us around .

And God says, Its in our vulnerabilities that we find the grace” and that finding grace and mercy is the ultimate goal of human existence within the Christian faith.

At this time we are very wary of the Covid19 virus. This should remind  us of being judgmental of others now or in ordinary times in regard to their behaviour. There are so many auto-immune-response diseases in the community at any time going undiagnosed which affect the ability of people to even get out of bed. Let’s be kind to each other - always. Amen

 
Hymn TIS 129: Amazing grace
 
Intercessory Prayers

THE LORD'S PRAYER

Hymn TIS 681:Lord, let me see
 
Benediction

Go forth, woke to the call of God, your creator. Go forth, true to the path lit by Christ, your redeemer. Go forth, woke to the conscience of the Holy Spirit, your helper and guide. Amen.

 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 March 2020


 
We began the service by acknowledging the original carers of the land on which our church is built.

It is always good for our souls to remember all those who have gone before us and made the way easier for us, whether it applies as this does to our physical environment or to our spiritual lives. So many have suffered or simply put in long hours thinking and praying their way through what has come to be our beliefs.

Come, let us sing to the Lord.

Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into Gods presence with thanksgiving.

Let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise!

Similarly, we need to, minute by minute, praise God for the light that comes into our lives - as a simple gift for those who reach out.

Opening Prayer

We do come with hearts full of thanksgiving to praise you, O God. In time of old you satisfied your peoples thirst with water in the arid wilderness. You still satisfy our thirst, but in ways which have a far lasting effect than mere refreshment...  Amen

 A Prayer of Confession 

 We confess, O God, that we find it difficult to cope with change and there are times when we, like those wanderers in the wilderness, choose to exercise selective memories about the past - remembering only the good things and forgetting the bad...

Thanks, be to God!

 A Word with The Young People

I don’t normally include this section but it is so relevant. Here is a summary. A sponge which is dried out is hard and inflexible but a sponge filled with water is soft and flexible. That is what happens when we are filled with God’s  Spirit. We lose our brittleness and God is able to change us to be like Jesus, and able to help build the Kingdom of God.

So in keeping with that idea we sang the hymn “Be Still for the presence of the Lord”  it is only then that we can be changed into the image of God.

This began with the readings Exodus 17:1-17 and John 4:5-42.
The first reading was about Moses being
told to strike a rock which then produced a
spring to quench the thirst of the Israelites
who were complying of thirst in the desert.
God quenches our thirst but for a spiritual
thirst and is the only one who can do such a
thing. People try to do it in a plethora of other
ways and fail, fail, fail.




The second reading was about the woman at the well questioning Jesus as to why he  would ask her
           to provide him with water and then he answered
           in such a way of which we all should take note.
           He and he alone can quench that terrible thirst
           we all have and then never need be given any
           other way of quenching it. Of course Jesus was speaking of our spiritual thirst to be healed of 
            our brokenness.

Preaching of the Word - Willing Conversation

 Rev. John spent some time talking about the poor view of women as read about in the Bible but later focused of “The Woman at the Well” in a way in which I heard the voice of God coming through.

 “This is the longest conversation recorded in the New Testament between Jesus and anybody. There has to be something in this story more important than how many men she had known.

Consider the story. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. She expresses her astonishment that he would talk to her. He says to her that if she only knew who he was, shed be asking him for a drink – of living water. She says, Okay. May I have a drink of this water?” He says, Go. Call your husband!” Now, to this point, shes talking about plain old well water. And while thats the drink that Jesus asked from her, it is not the water he offers to her.

 So, still with well water in mind, she engages the conversation and doesnt call anyone...

 Her understanding may have been incomplete; He cant be the Messiah, can he?” But it was enough to hook people, to pique their curiosity, to invite them in. Many Samaritans in that city believed in him because of the womans testimony.”

This woman, who is often remembered badly in church history for her sexual relationships, who would not have been considered a credible witness, was an early disciple.

 This woman, whose witness and testimony were only as strong as: He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” brought many to faith.

 Now think: How will history remember you? Will it be for your behaviour? Or for your testimony?

The next hymn was  “I heard the voice of Jesus say” - what have you hear the voice of Jesus say?

 

Monday, 2 March 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 February 2020



 Warwick took today’s service and spoke about how we come to be the people we are...

 
A Faith for Everyone

“Have you ever traced your family history ? Or watched TV series, “Who do you think you are?” You see that person, occasion, relationship, discovery, intervention or chain of events and think, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that person or occurrence”.

The Acts of the Apostles is full of occurrences. Exciting reading of early days of the Christian Church: freshness, vigour, vibrancy as we see the boldness of Peter and John when arrested, and they defiantly proclaim, “we cannot possibly give up speaking of the things we have seen and heard”.

Then Warwick spoke about significant events which led to Christianity existing: 

The attempt by the authorities to crush the new movement comes after a string of significant events:

a. The choosing of Matthias as a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot

b. The gift of the Holy Spirit, which is often described as “the birth of the Church”

c. The persecution of the disciples, leading to the stoning of Stephen. Deacon, who waited on tables and checked the equal division of food. A person of strong faith, who came to the attention of the authorities. So they stoned him for blasphemy. “then he fell on his knees and cried aloud, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”, and died.

d. And the account goes on to say, “and Saul (who later became Paul) was among those who approved of his murder”. As  St. Augustine was to say almost 400 years later, “if Stephen hadn’t prayed, the church wouldn’t have had Paul”, because it led to Paul’s complete change.”

And without Paul we wouldn’t have been gathering in MRUC on this a Sunday in 2020. And without Paul. We wouldn’t be singing hymns like: “May the mind of Christ my saviour live in me from day to day.”
 
We are Christians today for a variety of reasons: some of us are brought up in Christian families and know God from a early age. Others have been sent to Sunday School or Scripture because it was  “the thing to do.” Others have been impressed by the witness of someone we know.

My brother-in-law watched a Salvation Army Chaplain as he went about giving strength and comfort to the troops during WWII and decided that was the type of man he wanted to be. When my sister married him, she went to church because he did and as a result became a Christian.



I was challenged by the possible mess I would be in during a series of natural disasters around the world in the years about 2008 to 2010. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope if I had been present when they happened and realised my helplessness. After about three months struggle with God, reading a book given to me by a  Christian friend and remembering prayers and hymns from my youth when I thought I was a Christian, I gave up and let God take me in hand and make me his own.

What a difference it has made to my life! And when we read the personal stories of so many people, we know what a difference it can make to the life of anyone.

It’s not a matter of just going to church or even teaching Sunday school or scripture. When we are taken by God and made God’s own, our lives are not our own from then on. We may stray but we know we have to return to the path assigned to us and live a life of love and service in God’s name.

It may not sound an attractive way to live, not being able to choose our own way, but all those who do make the decision to respond to a God’s call and invite God into their lives will tell a story of newfound freedom.

Once you step out into such a life, you will never regret it.

 

 

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 March 2020



 Today was our Communion service which is always treated with great seriousness and reverence by our Congregation.

Anyone visiting for the first time would not detect anything different when they arrived as people greeted each other before the service.

Each person attending offered others present a warm smile and a hug, kiss or handshake, depending on the relationship between the individuals involved.

But as the service proper began, the mood quickly shifted as we entered into the felt holiness of the experience.

Firstly we did what was only right and proper by acknowledging the ownership and care by the first people of the place we were standing on and praying that our voices would join with theirs in worship.

Rev. John then prayed that we would let our vulnerabilities be seen by God.

When I pray I always  try to not hide away from God, but allow my every fault and flaw and sin be exposed, as I allow my God to begin the cleansing and healing process.

Rev. John then prayed as we all intended:

In the wilderness of life, we are not alone.

God is with us, even in the midst of our loneliness.

On the treacherous paths, Gods guidance is ours.

We will walk in Gods ways of wisdom and truth.

Come to hear. Come to learn. Come to the hiding place of God.

Here we find grace. Here we find love. Here we will worship and pray.

In our flawed state, others cannot stand-in for us. We must ask God for forgiveness personally and face our brokenness honestly and openly. Only God can show us how to be what we are intended to be.
 
Hymn TIS 119: “I sing the almighty power of God”

Opening prayer

Faithful God strengthen us for the journey ahead. Guide us with your knowledge and your love. Send your Spirit to drive us and guide us where we need to go— ever-closer to you and to your ways through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

We followed this with a prayer of confession. We need to name our sins as well as acknowledge our flawed nature before God can heal us.
 
A Prayer of Confession

God of mercy and grace cover our nakedness and strengthen our vulnerabilities. Forgive us in our sinfulness, and surround us with your faithful love, that we may know true happiness through your mercy and grace. This we ask in Jesus name. Amen

Declaration of Forgiveness

Faithful love surrounds you. Forgiveness is yours, through the grace of Christ. Rejoice and be glad!

Thanks, be to God!

We know that God is ready and willing to forgive but it’s good to hear that said aloud after which it is only right that we share the peace that brings with each other.

Hymn TIS 412:“God sends us his Spirit” Without God’s spirit guiding us we will lose our way.

Then we entered into a time when we were conscious of not only our relationship with God but our relationship with other Christians, especially those with us in the service.

                  The Service of Holy Communion

The Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you. And also, with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

All glory and honour be yours always and everywhere, mighty Creator, ever living God. We give you thanks and praise for your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who by the power of your Holy Spirit was born of Mary and lived as one of us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet he did not sin. By his death on the cross and rising to new life, he offered the one true sacrifice for sin and obtained an eternal deliverance for his people. By his grace we are able to triumph over every evil, and to walk in the way of his love. So, we praise you, holy God, with angels and archangels and all your faithful people:

 
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and
might, Heaven and earth are full of your
glory. Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name
of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Having begun by acknowledging the holiness
of God, we continued the service and our
lives afterwards, always affected by the
cleansing and healing power of God, and
given Jesus’ life as the example of a life of sacrifice and service. AMEN.

 

 

 

 

Friday, 14 February 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 February 2020


Because I can’t include the whole service each week, I need to reflect on different aspects of the service where that is possible. This week, after sharing with you the introduction to the service, I have decided to reflect on the prayers, hymns and bible readings.

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship - (Laura Jaquith Bartlett, Abingdon 2016)

Wanted: Light-Shiners.Application Deadline: Always Open

Job Description: Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, free the

oppressed. Salary& Benefits: Living in Gods light....

Then our light will break forth like the dawn!

You are the light of the world. Shine Gods light in your good works.

Then our light will shine forth for all people to see!

That says it all!

Hymn TIS 447: Lord, your almighty word”. All it took was for the worst of all, that is: “chaos and darkness” to hear God’s Word and they took off. The prayer continues asking that wherever God’s life-giving message does not penetrate, that God’s light does so now. Isn’t that that our daily prayer?

Opening prayer

 God of justice, you call us to shine the light of your abundance into our world. Equip us, we pray, to feed those who hunger for bread and thirst for love. God of Compassion, you call us to shine the light of your grace into our world.

We are to be the conductors of God’s light. Not necessarily by wise words or courageous actions but perhaps simply by a kind word of a friendly thought conveyed through a note or card.

 A Prayer of Confession

 Dear God, over and over again, you have taught us how to walk in your light.

But we have sought to hide under a bushel,...Sometimes we don’t want to appear to be interfering or in some cases, soppy, but it’s amazing what a small gift of something nice to eat or a friendly invitation to share an activity does for someone who needs light to be shone into their lives.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Hear these words of comfort and assurance from the prophet Isaiah: The Lord will guide you continually and provide for you, even in parched places. [The Lord] will rescue your bones. You will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water that wont run dry.”

Thanks be to God!

Sometimes we run dry and can’t summons the ability to rise above our own needs to tend to others. But by God’s grace we can be the person we couldn’t imagine that we would be, and bring that Light into the lives of others and thereby Light our own lives.

Mens Group SingingThe Old Rugged Cross”. For many, these familiar words give comfort in a time of trial.

Hymn TIS 474: Here in this place new light is streaming.” A new light that makes the our world change, immediately.                     

The Service of the Word. Reader: Alan Craymer

Isaiah 58: 1-12

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways.

Of course there was more, but the meaning was the same and isn’t that how our lives work.

Matthew 5:13-20

 ...You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 

Today, it was the same message over and over but we can’t hear it too often...as encouragement as much as anything else.

Music to lead us to prayer

The rhythmic affect on our senses calms and brings us to be in touch with things spiritual.

Mens Group- Just A Little Talk with Jesus” It sounds a little childish but its message is true. Just a few words puts us in touch with the source of our light...our light which we can show to others.

Intercessory Prayers

A time when we bring our personal, congregation and community needs to the only one who can meet them, followed by the Lord’s Prayer: we pray this together as one.

Hymn TIS 473:“Community of Christ.” Here we spoke to ourselves about how showing the light of Jesus works in the world. We don’t literally hold up lamps but simply raise those around us up from the burdens that are weighing them down by whatever practical means fits the occasion.

Benediction

 You are the light of the world! Now take that light into all the places that need the light and love of God. Take that light into all the places that need the light and grace of Jesus Christ. Take that light into all the places that need the light and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Go and be the light of the world!

Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you.” How could we pray for anything else for each other?