Friday, 17 January 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 January 2020




Because I am unable to attend church tomorrow I cannot write the blog,
so have sent John’s blog. Margaret
How would your life be different if you were A Christian or for that matter not a Christian? For some of us who have lived surrounded by Christian people, its hard to imagine, but what if you had no interest in God? So, I am going to explore the question from the perspective of a Christian reflecting on how different my world would be without my faith. How would your life be less or more or just the same? What would you miss about church? I would probably resist singing out loud in public were it not for church on Sunday.
Which of your friends would not be your friends? If you had never met the people you have met in Sunday school, how great a loss would that be? How would your family change? How would you spend your time differently? Would you be at home reading the Australian? What do you do because you are a Christian that makes you happy? Which religious activities could you do without? What would be easier if you werent a Christian?  Do you feel good about the time you spend helping strangers? Do you wish you still had all the money youve given away? Have there been experiences you would hate to have missed—hope-filled books you are glad you read, experiences of Gods grace in worship, times youve cared for hurting people?

 If you were not a Christian, would your life be less interesting? Every once in a while, the disciples thought about how different their lives would have been if they had never met Jesus. It started so quietly. John the Baptist is standing with two of his students when Jesus walks by. John says, Thats the one. You know how cocky I can be, but Im not worthy to tie his sandals.” The two disciples are understandably curious. They start following Jesus. He turns and asks, What are you looking for?” They answer nervously, We thought we would see where youre staying.” In other words, We dont have anything better to do, so were wondering what youre doing.”
 
Jesus offers the invitation that will change their lives: Come and see.” They stay with Jesus all day because hes interesting. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They dont know that they will end up leaving behind their nets, boats, homes, friends, work, and retirements. They will end up changing their ideas about almost everything. Andrew goes to get his brother. You have to come and see this guy,” he says. Simon is dragged along, going more so that his brother will leave him alone than out of any great faith. When Jesus meets Simon, he says, Your name is going to be Rock.” The often-confused Simon is anything but a rock, but everything is starting to change.
Most of the time, we move toward God in small steps taken as much out of curiosity as out of faith. So, what are we looking for? What are we looking for in our world today, in the actions and life of the Church? Why do some join Church and worship in a church? Some of those attending worship are in Church because their parents didnt give them a choice. For some, their mothers voice told them to go to church and somehow this has lodged in their minds, and they cant get rid of it.

Some are in church because its easier to come than to argue with their spouse about it. Most of us didnt attend with great expectations. The religious reasons we have for being here are mixed at best. Were interested in thinking about how we could live better lives, but only up to a point. If were in worship today for no good reason, thats okay. Lots of people find their way by accident.
Jesus says, Come and see.” The disciples stumble along, following without knowing where they are going, discovering well after the fact that they have wandered onto a path that leads to grace. Come and see,” Jesus says. In Johns Gospel the disciples soon taste water turned into wine, watch in horror as Jesus clears the temple, and listen with amazement to Jesuswords to Nicodemus, that the spirit of God blows wherever it wills. They stumble onto a way of life they have never imagined.
So, what are we looking for? Deep in our souls, are we looking for something to believe in and hold on to, something important enough to live for, and something big enough to claim our passions. Are we looking for challenge and purpose? Are we looking for God? What begins with curiosity becomes a step toward grace. The emptiness we feel from time to time is God calling us to the paths that lead to meaning. God lets us know that we can look beyond our computers and coffee cups into the enchanted possibilities of grace. God is the one who makes us long for something that lasts. God draws us toward life even when we dont recognise whats happening.
Come and see” is how the disciplesstory begins. Its a wonderful line and a great way to start a story. Come and see” is the invitation to explore, discover, and travel without knowing exactly where we are going, but to know that if we catch a glimpse of God, we will also catch a glimpse of who we can be. Come and see. Come and look for places where we've never been. Come and see what it means to hope, believe, and follow.
By being in church we open ourselves to God, who will lead us to new places. The people who follow Jesus end up doing the things Jesus did. They care for the hurting, listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, pray for the broken hearted, bandage those who are wounded, do more than is expected. They look for God and find extraordinary lives. The spirit of adventure is what calls Christians to worship.
Christians are seeking the meaning of life, joining with people on the journey, and asking God to help them see where grace invites them. We are there to look at the gifts weve been given and the needs of the world. We come to worship together to discover the possibilities. If we worship God, if we share our lives with other people looking for God, we will see beyond what we have assumed. If we look for God, we will find that God is looking for us, offering life.

 
 
 

 

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 January 2020



Today I was rostered to take the service and I wrote both the liturgy and the sermon around the theme presented in the Bible readings as set down in the Uniting Church in Australia Lectionary.

In Acts 10 there is an account of Peter having a vision or dream, if you like, of a sheet being let down, held up by its four corners. In the sheet there were all sorts of animals, some of which would have been considered by the Jews at that time as being unclean and therefore unsuitable for consumption.

But a voice told Peter to kill and eat. Peter, recognising the voice as that of God, refused, saying he had never let anything profane pass his lips. That was understandable, given the Jewish purity laws. But the voice of God persisted, telling Peter that nothing God had created was unclean and therefore, unfit for eating.

Peter, in the context of another event, realised that God was telling him that the old law had passed away and that a new law had been installed. That new law meant that Jews could then mix freely with Gentiles and that God loved all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

I then gave accounts of congregations quite different from ours who were loved by God and who all professed to love God. And in those congregations people conducted themselves in vastly different ways, despite being committed Christians.

I also challenged the congregation to include all people with whom they have contact, under the commandment to care for each other.

Knowing that some would need to step out of their comfort zone to do that, I outlined reasons why people could come to have quite different views on how to live out their Christian commitment or different views of which faith to which they should choose to belong (or not belong). I also pointed out that Jesus had commissioned us to do “great things” and that if we needed to step out of our comfort zone, the Holy Spirit would be with us.

I thought that it should be clarified what deeds might be considered “great things”. For some, waving to a neighbour is very difficult if they had never done so in the first 70 years of their life.

But God has given us a command and we should be prepared to prayerfully, take a deep breath, and step out.

I remember a woman who led brilliant leadership programmes saying that “bluff” could impress upon a group that that person leading them at the time was competent and in charge of their material. We can be very unsure of ourselves but if we go forward boldly and believe Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit presence supporting us, it will appear to listeners that we are on top of our game. And with the Holy Spirit working through us, that will be true.

 


Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 January 2020


 

The Rev. Bruce Roy led our service today which included a Communion Service.

He conducted the service in a warm, inviting manner, so we felt we were all part of the service. The Communion Service was conducted, as is fitting, with dignity, but the quietness and stillness of it sometimes makes some people feel a little unsure of their place in it.

However the Communion Service is a deeply spiritual experience and the members of the congregation were aware of a great bond, one with the other, throughout, because of that.

Despite the deep importance of the Communion Service, the part of the service I am going to concentrate on is the reflection, which, I’m sure brought clarity and in some cases, comfort to individuals listening.

Bruce spoke about the meaning of scripture, which causes some people to bridle when it comes to the description of events we haven’t witnessed in our lifetime. How could these things be? And if the Bible includes impossible stories, how can we rely on it?


The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give accounts of the birth of Jesus but it isn’t mentioned in Mark or Matthew.

Mark begins with a declaration about John the Baptist followed by the baptism of Jesus as an adult. John is quite different again, speaking in a more spiritual style but again introducing Jesus as an adult being baptised by John the Baptist.

On the surface it does seem a bit odd that such gospel accounts do not quite mesh. Matthew says Jesus was born in a house in Bethlehem then sometime afterwards is taken to Egypt to escape Herod. After a period of time his family decides to return to Bethlehem, but soon change their mind and travel to Nazareth instead.


According to Luke, however, Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. They travel to Bethlehem because a census requires them to do so. While they are there Jesus is born in a manger. After his birth they wait for Mary to go through ritual purification, following which they travel to Jerusalem to sacrifice two birds at the temple. When the sacrifice had been made they go home to Nazareth.

In addition there are accounts of angels speaking to people, instructing them about what to do: people speak of visions adding further uneasiness for some readers. When have any of us spoken to Angels or had visions? And if the visions were what we call dreams, how many of us have acted them, believing they came from God? 

For people who have been taught that the Bible is the Word of God and who have been taught to believe every word as it is written, all of the above can cause deep insecurity and confusion. Some, unable to make any sense of it, thrown out “the baby with the bath water” and desert their beliefs and the church.

However, Bruce explained that the truth of the Bible is to be found in the message of the accounts and that the “facts” were simply a method of producing that message. We are to look for the truth behind the account.

This is easier to accept if we are told of other accounts. During the first a Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was accused of telling lies about statistics of losses suffered on Iraq’s side and other ‘factual information’. However, the King of Jordon stepped in and explained that the people of the Middle East think in terms of the truth of Passion, whereas the people of the West think in terms of the truth of facts. This is the same disparity between western thinking about the Bible that exist for us.

When we read anything in the Bible, we should not concern ourselves about the facts. We should look for the underlying truth of the message. The account may be “true” as in Western thinking or it may not. That isn’t important. There is a far more important truth just below the surface.

Truths about relying on God. Truths about doing what God says. Truths about seeking out God’s way. Truths about courage. Truths that are true no matter what the age.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 29 December 2019




This morning Lyn led our worship, telling the Christmas story from the perspectives of people, involved in a event  all following the directions given to them  by God or God’s messenger.

An idea which emerged for me was that of relying on God’s guidance rather than just charging ahead without any thought about consequences.

 God’s message came to people in different ways. Sometimes an angel appeared, sometimes someone had a dream, sometimes someone heard of something going on through the grapevine.

Today it is the same. Sometimes we hear God’s voice through a Bible reading, sometimes through a hymn, sometimes through a homily, sometimes through the words of a friend or even through our reflection while we are sitting quietly in a place where we are comfortable and ready to hear the voice of God coming to us in non-verbal ways, such as the waves of the surf, the landforms or even through the beautiful structure of plants.

The important thing is to allow God’s voice to come and not imagine what we want to hear. Then we must obey as the various people in Lyn’s homily did. We may be mistaken but from my experience that will become clear to us and we can start again.

Then Lyn went on to talk about how people today fill the Christmas season with everything except the celebration of Christ’s birth, giving  examples of the amazing materialism and greed that is attached to Christmas by so many people today. When children grow up with all of that around them, no wonder they have no idea what it is meant to be about.

 Lyn reminded us that many today are so glad when Christmas is over because of the pressure they are under to provide the various “wants” of family and others at this time. Christmas is supposed to be a time of happy celebration of Jesus’ birth and the joy that he brings to us when we follow him.
 Lyn, by alluding to the candles of Peace, Joy, Love and Hope that we light in the Sundays coming up to Christmas, told us of the true meaning of the season and that we are meant to take that message into the year ahead.
Lyn reminded us that in all Joseph and Mary did they followed the voice of God. Today we can do that by following the words and example of Jesus but do we? Or do we stray from time to time, following our own way?
 
Lyn said in reference to the terrible times people in Australia are having in the drought and fires:
“Christmas brings people together, but it’s greatest joy is that it brings people together with God.” She then challenged us:
“Why not let Christmas bring you together with Jesus, our Immanuel, who promises you will never be alone - even in the toughest of times.”
 
 Why not - we have every reason to do so.