Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Dec. 30

Rejoice with Glorious Expectations.

Welcome and Introduction Stephen welcomed Nigel to Marsden Road today and Nigel began with the

Call to Worship: (Based on Psalm 148) The prayer of a full heart, praising God for every good thing. "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will among all people."

Hymn 224. "Joy to the world" An attempt to express the joy of receiving the Lord of all and, however inadequately, to speak of and show appreciation for the wonders of his love.

Prayer of Praise and Adoration A time to stop and marvel at the greatness of God's love for us, a love that each year brings forth from us a response of praise. A response articulated through worship; through loving and hospitable acts.

We praise God for his great gift of love, Jesus Christ, who brings to birth in us love for him and for each other. We look to an unknown future knowing we can embrace it with confidence, because God has blessed our lives.

"For these blessings we offer our praise and thanksgiving in Jesus' name and for his sake. Amen."

Hymn 227 "Hark the herald angels sing", a more measured declaration of the effect of God's entry into history and a song of praise for that. "Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings."

Epistle  Pat read Colossians 3: 12 - 17, where we are enjoined to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient but above all, loving and: "Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts...And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him."

Prayer of Confession. Reflecting the intent of the epistle, asking forgiveness for when we have failed to be what is needed. "Strengthen us with the Holy Spirit so that whatever we do, in word and deed, we do in the name of Jesus, our Lord..."

A period of silent reflection followed.

Assurance of Forgiveness That we follow the commands of the Colossians reading is in gratitude to "the good news that in Jesus Christ we are forgiven."
Thanks be to God.

Gospel: Again Pat read to us, this time from Luke: 2: 41 - 52, the account of Jesus at the age of twelve, not returning with his parents from a journey to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover, but staying on, talking, at an adult level, with the learned men. His parents were beside themselves with panic when he went missing but his reply to them revealed where his core lay, even at that young age, "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" If only we could stay true to our course at all times.

Message:  Rejoicing with Glorious Expectations. Nigel explained that he had chosen his theme as echoing his anticipation of a new job he is starting this year as an ordained deacon in the role of Uniting Church Chaplain under Uniting Care at Westmead Hospital.

To begin with he focused on the event of the adolescent Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem after the Celebration of the Passover and worrying the life out of his parents and making it clear that in his mind he was where he should be-in his father's house.

Despite the fright, Mary recognized Jesus as beginning to mature and "treasures this special moment in her heart"

Nigel also referred to the story of Samuel, another child promised by God who is quoted as growing both in stature and favour with the Lord just as it is written in Luke that "Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour"

Nigel invited us to recall a time when a young person known to us began to emerge into their adult person, accepting the responsibilities of what would become their life's work.

Nigel concluded: "So, today I invite you to remember and hold onto these special moments you have experienced in your life and then to look at and connect with Mary and her journey of seeing her son become the Saviour of the World.

This same Jesus speaks into our lives today and we can join with Jesus through the Spirit, Rejoicing in Glorious Expectations of what God is going to do in and through us in this world with the people God loves." 

Hymn 141  "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." "...he sets the prisoner free..." and as a result we ask for help in proclaiming his name throughout the world, a task that should follow naturally, but it's that weak flesh problem again.

Prayers of the People. Ruth gave thanks for the many blessings of 2012 and the knowledge of God's presence with us at all times throughout the year.
She gave thanks for God carrying us through the hard and difficult times and asked that in the year to come we will be given ears to hear the cares of those around us and look after those who struggle in life, especially those with financial problems who are trying to do the best for their families.
She prayed for the leaders of the world whose decisions affect so many and for our own church community for patience and guidance in dealing with those around us in our daily lives.
Ruth asked for care for the sick among our loved ones and friends and safekeeping for those away from home. Then followed

The Lord's Prayer. A prayer in itself but also a reminder of what prayer is about - and that it isn't a wish list of things to make our lives more comfortable
Offering and Offertory Prayer In gratitude we offer back to God of the bounty he as given us and pray that we will be faithful witnesses like Simeon and Anna.

Hymn 238  " Angels from the realm of glory.." A message that God appears to whomever he pleases, whenever he pleases and that our part is to "...worship Christ the newborn King."

Benediction: "The love of God clothe you and bless you,
                        The peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
                        The Holy Spirit weave new purpose in your lives."

Threefold Amen.

(The full liturgy used in this service on which this reflection is based, remains the property of Moira B Laidlaw and can be found on

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Dec. 25

The grace and peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.
Opening Sentences:
God has joined our living! The gift of the Christ child is among us.
Come in joy to worship our God!
Mary has been faithful! She has given her body in labour and pain
to bring this child into the world.
Come in joy, as faithful humankind shares in the birthing!
This is the day of giving and loving. This is the day when the bud breaks forth
as the blossoming of the life of God in our midst.

This is Christmas Day! Christ is the light of the world.
Into our drab darkness light has dawned.
Let us join the songs of welcome to the infant Jesus Christ!

(as delivered on Christmas Day by Helen)

Carol TIS 313 "Good Christians all, rejoice" All who follow Jesus are bid to rejoice at his birth. His birth that opened Heaven's door. "Jesus Christ was born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain his everlasting hall..."
A Play (based on Cloth for the Candle, Iona) followed the carol with a narrator filling in the background and God wrestling with what to do with this world he had created, that had become so wayward. God was distressed by all the talk of peace, without any real effort to achieve it. God was distressed about people working to profit for themselves, without a thought for the injustice about them. God was distressed about how self-centred people had become. God was distressed about all the faithless worship.
God was fed up! He began to cry and knowing he could not destroy the world, decided to let the world know he loved it.
He tried telepathy; he tried sign language; he tried prophets; he tried emails.
But nobody understood.
So he sent he sent the Word.
" So the Word became flesh: tiny and frail flesh, nappy wet and squirming flesh,
Bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, the son of Joseph and Mary."
Carol TIS 316 "O Little Town of Bethlehem" The little town into which the everlasting light was born, proclaimed by heaven and earth, to impart the blessing of Heaven to human hearts. " O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!"
Prayer of Praise and Confession. (condensed) God of good news, thank you for coming in love and for being a light in the darkness. Forgive us for being fearful, half-alive, unsharing, and convinced that everything is scarce. Forgive our smallness of heart. Bring us to life again, as we receive the gift of love in Jesus Christ.
Assurance and Pardon "The light of love has come into the world, a free gift of grace for ordinary people, a nurturing hope, and a promise of new things!"
Thanks be to God! From the spirit have we all received, grace upon grace.
Scripture Reading: John 1: 1- 14
V14 " The Word was became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
Reflection "Light into Darkness" As you will realise this sheet was printed off before Christmas Day and so Helen's reflection was not available.
Prayer (first and last lines)
Lord Jesus in your nativity among us you came to show us the fulness of God's glory.
We thank you for making your home among mortals like us. Amen

Carol TIS 288 " Not the powerful, not the privileged" A wake-up call that the first to greet the infant Jesus were "no-ones and the needy". His family were a homeless wandering couple. A lesson that God's standards are different from ours, and that our sense of who we are should not grow out of our worldly achievements but out of belonging to God's people.
Prayer of Intercession
We prayed to the "God of love and light" to shine his light on the forgotten people and to remind us where true joy lies: among those who need it most. We asked to be reminded of the people who are left out of the "seasonal cheer and tinsel" and that it is there, through them that God will  change the world.
We then prayed: God of good news, help us find you again in the hidden place.
Then followed The Lord's Prayer.
"Go in peace,
For this is the gift of God to us all.
And may the God who spoke to an ordinary woman, speak in your life,
The God who came as a vulnerable child, touch you in your vulnerability,
and the Spirit join you in songs of joy".
Carol TIS 312 " Once in Royal David's City" Again the emphasis is on Jesus' humble beginnings, his humanity and his humility. Today may be a day to re-order our priorities.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Dec.23

Helen welcomed us all and notices were given out which included Joan wishing everyone well and wishing us all a happy Christmas, after which the

Call to Worship was delivered:
O sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvellous things!
God hears us and remembers us with steadfast love and faithfulness.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, good news for all.

Hymn 241 "Child in the manger, infant of Mary". This child who came into the world with nothing obvious, by worldly standards, to offer and then took upon himself the burden of all our transgressions became our Redeemer and Saviour, conquering every foe. He who was expected for so long now rules, bringing contentment to all who are his.

Together, we said the Prayer of Confession.

"Holy child, born of a singing mother,
Forgive us our monotone lives,
for seeing darkness rather than light,
for hearing bad news rather than rather than magnificent music,
for living with dread rather than delight.
Redeem us, enliven us.
Give us hope in our hearts and a song on our lips. Amen"

These words, given to us to say, allow us to lay the burden of lives falling short of what we know God wants, upon our Lord, which with the assurance to follow, reminds us that we are not in this struggle alone-that we walk hand-in-hand with the Maker himself.

Assurance of Pardon
We can be sure that all we need to do is approach God in hope, believing the good news of the gospel, and we are forgiven. And our hearts can sing in that sure hope.

Lighting the Fourth Candle in the Advent Wreath
The prophets candle-hope; The Bethlehem candle-prepare; The Shepherd's candle-Jesus Christ the good shepherd; The Angel's candle-to honour the angels who told the good news, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will to all."
In honour of all the angels who proclaim the good news.

Helen prayed, giving thanks for God's angel of love that brings us joy and changes us into the people who can give love to others. That's what we are here for! That's what it's all about, isn't it?

Share the Peace
"We are waiting to welcome the Lord, but there is no greater welcome for the Lord in our lives than when our hearts have sought peace with everyone around us:
The peace of the Lord be with you...With this, we left our seats and clasped the hand of each of those around us, wishing peace to all.

Hymn 235 " Angels from the realm of glory", the Christmas story in a nutshell: a song about the key characters of the Christmas drama but concluding with a declaration to us that the Lord shall appear in his temple. If we open ourselves to him that could be his appearance in the temple of our persons-God has come to dwell in us.

Helen followed this hymn with a short play, "The diaries of Joseph and Theodore" taken from "Cloth for the Cradle" to highlight the humanness of Mary and her family.
Colin takes the part of Joseph, Mary's fiance
And Gordon plays Theodore, Mary's father and keen gardener, married to Anna - ordinary people, coping with an extra-ordinary event.

Hymn 225 "Infant Holy infant lowly". The Christmas story from a slightly different perspective, but ending with the same focus, "Christ the babe was born for you."

Scripture Reading Luke 1: 39 - 55 was delivered by Ruth. The account of Mary's visit to Elizabeth and the awareness of each of the women of their destiny, followed by Mary giving glory to God and revealing her insight into the part she was about to play in history, despite her humble beginnings, and  her knowledge of the power of God over all people and events.

Reflection  Helen began by speaking of her most challenging career, that of mother, a position that goes on forever with the role changing with time, with mothers maintaining the passion and love for the child and the position.

Today's reading presents two women, Mary and Elizabeth, who were to become mothers and as a result, their lives would be changed forever. Mary has been described as Christ's first disciple because despite not understanding what was happening, she said 'Yes' when she was called to receive the Saviour.

Helen continued by showing that Mary's life of doing God's will had its highs and lows: from  being misunderstood, through to the flight into Egypt to avoid the death of her child and to other situations when Jesus' behaviour was mystifying and caused anxiety.

When Mary and Joseph lost 12-year-old Jesus and after three days and the panic that would have followed, found him teaching in the Temple courts, his response was not that of a dutiful child. He challenged his parents by asking why they had been searching: didn't they know he had to be in his father's house.

Later when he was an adult and Mary and his brothers, fearing for him, called on him to come to them from within the crowd, his answer was a lot like a slap: he pointed to the crowd and said they were his mother and brothers and sisters. How would Mary have felt!

And then the worst experience for any mother-seeing her child die- and that angel that had spoken to her originally, was never there in these terrible times to assure Mary, she simply had to continue believing. And she did.

Dispute the confusion, the disappointment and hurt, Mary became one of the founders of the church and Jesus' brothers, his disciples
Helen then turned the reflection to us. Our journeys may start with a dramatic moment but discipleship continues, not because we completely understand, or are always faithful but because Jesus keeps walking with us, calling us to follow that narrow path of faith.
Carol "Star-child, earth child" God's go-between. Born for all others who have been born..."for everyone, everyone alive!"

Freewill Offering dedicated "to sustain and strengthen others"

Musical Interlude a time for personal reflection and prayer.

Prayers of the People and The Lord's Prayer Jack prayed for peace in the world, in the home, in the nation and in our hearts and that we will be given a better understanding of other people in their particular circumstances.

Hymn 228 v 1-3,5-6 "O Come All Ye Faithful". An exhortation more than an invitation."...fain we embrace thee with love and awe; who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?"


May life be born within you,
Christ Jesus be seen among you,
and joy surround you like the angels song.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Dec.16

Pat welcomed Lynette who was to take today's service and, Lynette in turn, welcomed all present with the

Call to Worship  based on Isaiah 12: 2 - 6 and written by David Mosser
This call was an acknowledgement of all God has done for us. He is our salvation and from him we will draw all that we need and for this we should praise him.
The congregation responded by affirming that we will trust him and not be afraid, calling on him for all we need, and will remain aware that we should give thanks to the Lord for this and exalt his name throughout the world.

The lighting of the The Third Candle of Advent - The Shepherd's Candle - followed, with Lynette, explaining:
"The candle is offered in honour of the shepherds, whose love and care for their sheep became the example of God's love for us. We remember that shepherds were the first witnesses of our Saviour's birth."

Hymn 228 " O Come all Ye Faithful" was sung with bursting hearts. If only we could respond to Jesus with this fervour at all other times. This was followed by the

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession, led by Lynette. Lynette urged us to "Rejoice in the Lord always/Shout out his name" - for he is all to us. She then prayed for forgiveness for all of us - that God would draw us close to himself, that we would know his ways and be aware of his presence with us, bringing comfort to each of us.

Lynette then made a  Declaration of Forgiveness:
God is love,
Through Christ your sins are forgiven,
Take hold of this forgiveness and live your life
in the power of the Holy Spirit.
To which we answered "Amen. Thanks be to God."

Hymn 193  " O Come, O Come Emmanuel" a prayer to our Lord. The Lord who has been with us forever - " O come, thou dayspring, come and cheer
                             Our spirits by thine advent here: "
A prayer to raise us out of the chaos and confusion of the things of this world.

The Scripture Readings were then delivered by Warwick.

The first, Zephaniah 3: 14 - 20, a song of joy, exulting in the presence of God among his people, putting everything to right and restoring brokenness to wholeness. A message to each person ever born, and one we need to grasp and never let go.

The second, Luke 3: 7 - 18, a warning by John the Baptist that our claim to be a Christian is not enough: we must live the life that we are called to live. Then John hailed the coming of Jesus as the one who would divide people. There would be the true believers and then those who were fakes, who could not claim the inheritance of the authentic followers of the the Lord of Lords.

Something to think upon.

Reflection: Tis the Season of Joy

Lynette introduced her reflection with reference to the Shepherd 's candle and the fact that it is also known as the Candle of Joy and then defined Joy as that "sense of pure delight that starts in the middle of your chest and infects your face."
She then told a number of stories from her work with the elderly in nursing homes, where people who had not experienced joy for a long time, had a chance to be filled with it again, infecting others at the same time.
She then spoke of the many people who find Christmas anything but joyful: those facing uncertain futures, those facing illness or the just plain mean. To all of these, Jesus came.

Matthew 1: 22 - 25 tells us that "Jesus" means "God with us", the only one who can heal this broken and hurting world.
From a story by James W. Moore, " Christmas Gifts that won't Break" we were told of gifts that don't break, such as the Gift of Hope, the Gift of peace, the Gift of Joy and the Gift of Love. These are the real gifts an authentic follower of Jesus can give.
Lynette then pointed out that John's message is one each generation should hear anew.
Instead of the shallow so-called Christmas celebrations, God calls us to concrete acts of compassion. "we are called to travel from the cradle to the cross and in so doing bring the joy of the good news of salvation and with it the joy of encouragement, thoughtfulness, graciousness, compassion and justice.
John was called to prepare the way. What are our preparations as we travel to the manger?

Hymn 200  " Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" our liberator, our strength, our consolation, our King, our only hope. We cannot sing these hymns all through the year, over and over, but we would be happier people if we kept our focus on their meaning.

In the Prayers for the People  Lynette prayed that our prayers would be more real, deeper, and more effective. On our behalf she prayed for the Church at all levels and all who worship with us. She prayed for peace and all those who work to achieve it and those that suffer because they live in a world where it doesn't exist. Lynette then focussed on those in need: the sick, the lonely, the homeless, and refugees. She then prayed especially for those suffering as a result of the cyclone in Samoa and Fiji and for all those families in the United States of America grieving in their terrible loss of their little children.
Our response was:
Lord in you mercy,
Hear our prayer.

The Offering  was then collected with the prayer: " ... Dedicate these gifts to help build the Kingdom that is your vision, not ours. Help us to celebrate this season as Christ would have us celebrate it: in love, kindness, joy, and gratitude. In your Son's holy name, we pray. Amen.

Hymn 224  " Joy to the World" " Joy to the World! The Lord is come; ... He rules the world with truth and grace..." Isn't that what it's all about? That's why we come here on Sundays and strive to be more like Him.

May the spirit of Christmas which is, be yours now and tomorrow.

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. Amen

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Dec. 9

The Welcome and the Notices were followed by
The Call to Worship which was taken from Iona resources, highlighted that Jesus came into this world as any person does, born from the body of his mother. His circumstances were more humble than those of most people we know personally but the Good News is that he came for all of us, in our varying states of need.
The Introit with Malcolm playing and Lynelle leading, was a shout of praise of the coming of Jesus. "Hallelujah, glory hallelujah"
"Today we light the second Advent candle, the Bethlehem candle- (prepare). Our first candle was the prophets' candle- the candle of hope."
"Dear God, who comes to us through Jesus at Bethlehem, enable us to open our hearts so that we might have Christ in us. We give you thanks for the places where we meet the Christ. Amen"
The Singing Group led by Lynelle and Malcolm, who have been preparing for weeks, led the worship in song with the theme of "Have you heard" followed by the prayer:
"Lord, we have heard. Stir up in us a fresh desire-a longing for you.Purify us and transform us into the people you would have us to be. Amen."
Hymn 109 "Tell out my soul the greatness of the Lord" with its strong, political revolutionary sentiments was Mary's response when she met her cousin, Elizabeth.
When I reflect on this, I wonder how I would be in the same position. Even when given a very ordinary challenge, which would be to the glory of God, in the face of taking up such a minor quest, I shrink back.
Scripture Reading Malachi 3: 1-4 . A prophecy of Jesus coming and a warning that his entry into history was not going to make things comfortable for people but that the end result will be that we will be the people we were meant to be. Much like his personal entry into our lives. If we let him in.
The Response to the reading was to remind us that Jesus's entry into the world was to bring about our forgiveness and salvation.
Scripture Reading Luke 3: 1-6. The calling of John the Baptist and his exhortation to prepare the way of the Lord who was coming to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament.
The Response to the Reading was a response to those prophecies. Jesus's coming was to change the world radically, which would, in itself glorify God, and at the same time, fulfill God's promise.
Helen's Reflection followed, firstly pointing out that this reading in Luke signifies that the narrative about the birth and childhood of Jesus is ended and the story of the ministry of Jesus is to begin.
I wasn't present for this service but Helen's notes indicate the direction she meant to take, so I will follow those with my own thoughts on what she provided.
Helen pointed out that all the names listed in the reading are there to set the events in a definite period of history, as planned by God. This person, Jesus Christ, at one time and in one space was to have an impact on ALL people. And he did. Everything that happened after his life in that little country, at that time, has been affected by his having lived.
My own thought is that, on a personal level, nobody who lets Jesus into the space of their life, is ever the same again.
In Helen's words, John the Baptist was a clanging alarm, urgently demanding attention. The people he was preaching to were meant to pay attention. (We are meant to pay attention). But Malachi made it clear that the world and therefore, each of us, individually, are not going to find a place in this kingdom of righteousness without repentance. We have to change direction. This means breaking with our old life and striding forward into this new life with God, without looking back.
But we cannot do this off our own bat but God incarnate is offering us a new start. He offers us grace, the means whereby we can start anew.
In Helen's words, " Jesus is the new Adam. God's justice is not the destruction of sinful people, not punishment for the past, but a new future. A new relationship with God.
Now, is the time to prepare our hearts for Christmas and a new life with God
As Marsden Road community
As individuals.
The Prayer that followed asked for God's protection, that we will seek him diligently, walk with him lovingly, and serve him faithfully and having been ready to do his will in the world, to be eager to meet him in the glory of heaven. Through Christ our Lord.
Hymn 199 "On Jordon's banks the Baptist cry" a reiteration of the call to change direction and follow the Maker who can meet our every need.
The Freewill Offering was taken and dedicated to making us and the world live alongside our maker.
The Musical Interlude, providing a time for quiet, led into a Christmas Intercession during which, Helen confronted us with the possibility of a radical meeting with God at this Christmas. A meeting where God makes us face the reality of this world, so we cannot pretend people are ok, but are made to realise that to be fulfilled means we need to be more like him, open and vulnerable to him as he was to us. And as a result we can become the people who can do his work.
Helen then prayed on our behalf, that our Lord would come into our lives, and that we would open them up and let him do something different with us.
Hymn 193 " O come, O come, Emmanuel" Enough said.
Blessing May we leave this place with the light of hope shining in our darkness, and our hearts a place of welcome for the Christ.
The congregation then sang:
You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace,
and the mountains and hills shall break forth with singing.
There'll be shouts of joy, and the trees of the field
shall clap, shall clap their hands,
and the trees of the field shall clap their hands
and you'll go out with joy.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Nov.25

Helen welcomed us and the notices were given including the outcome of the lamington drive, which was $2300 for Frontier Services (well done all) after which

The Call to Worship offered us grace and peace from the everlasting and ever-present Other and ruler, most high.

Hymn 147 "Rejoice the Lord is King" reminding us that our Lord is King over all and for that, we can be joyful.

Kids Time Out  a story of how Kings once demanded obedience but that God doesn't. His wish is for us to choose to obey.
We would be a bit stupid not to, like the people who don't follow the directions on how to operate an appliance and end up breaking it. I'll leave the rest of that thought to you.

Prayers We praised God for his eternal constancy and confessed our own fickleness.
We acknowledged our Lord as the Sovereign God forever, and looked at our concerns as being within a much bigger plan, confessing our inability to keep our eyes on Him, resulting in our being less than we should. For this we asked forgiveness and prayed to enjoy the fullness of God's love. 

Words of Assurance. God sent Jesus not to judge us but to save us.
                                     God accepts both our courage and fears.
                                     In the name of Christ your sins are forgiven.
                                     Dare to accept the gift of a new beginning.

Which can be quite daunting. Where could it lead? What might be asked of us?

Hymn 81 "The King of love my shepherd is" - I nothing lack if I am His and He is mine forever. Being surrounded by the love of the everlasting doesn't leave any space for a sense of lacking for anything.

Scripture Reading Malcolm delivered the readings this morning :
                                Revelation 1: 4b - 8
                                 John.      18: 33 – 37

I am the Alpha and Omega - who is, who was and who is to come. In such our confidence will never be misplaced.

The reading from John can make us uneasy. Jesus refused to be the king people wanted and refused to fit the known concept of king. We have to be careful to give our allegiance to the king God is and not to some idea of king that would be handy to further our idea of life.

Helen explained that this week, the last week of the church year, has been used to stress the concept of "Christ the King", an idea introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in 1925 as a response to what they saw as the rising challenge of communism.

This idea, taken up by the other denominations as well, was to highlight the point that the power of God is greater than the power of the state. She added that in Australia, church and state are separate and when church causes are government-funded there are usually strings attached and if the church should ever make comment on current issues, there are invariably cries to "butt out".

However this separation of church and state has not always been the case and in Jesus' time the 'church' and state were one. That meant that the temple was a political place as well as a religious one.

We were then challenged to think about our image of Jesus-usually the healer or some other benign image-not really Christ on His Throne.

Helen pointed out that the Christmas story is full of political thrust. The cry of the prophets was that a Messiah would come who would free Israel from the oppressor.
Zachariah, the father of John, saw the coming of one who would provide liberation from foreign rulers.

In another example of a political pronouncement, the Angels declared to the shepherds
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among whom he favours" a direct challenge to the power of Caesar, seen in the similarity to the Imperial Decree of Caesar Augustus, " Glory to the most august Caesar (God in the highest) and peace on earth with whom god Augustus is well pleased."

Helen continued to give examples of the political nature of Christ's birth. The Wise Men went to Herod and asked to be directed to the King of the Jews. Herod's response was to exert his power to prevent any challenge to his position and slaughtered the baby boys.

The wise men were Kings who bowed before Jesus, an overt declaration of His power.
Jesus was killed because he was a threat to the order, stability, authority and power of the state. The question Pilate asked was "Are you the King of the Jews?" but Jesus wouldn’t give a direct answer because His Kingship is not of this world.

Helen challenged us to provide that answer. In the Lord's Prayer we pray "Thy kingdom come" but that can only be if we submit to Christ's rule. Christ is not going to force us to declare him king of our lives and live according to his rule but if we do, we will know a freedom unsurpassed.

"Where is Christ the King in your life?"

Hymn 170 "At the name of Jesus". A song with God's kingship as its focus. "crown him as your Captain in temptation's hour, let his will enfold you in its light and power."

Freewill Offering "
With these gifts, loving God, draw us closer to the reign of Christ, to a time when none go without, and all are clothed in joy."

Musical Interlude A quiet time to think and pray.

Prayers for Others. Joan led us in a prayer acknowledging our inability to live the lives we profess. She prayed on our behalf that we would see our goal to be as kind, loving, caring and generous as God asks of us. Joan prayed for wisdom for all of us to see need with our hearts and to help those who feel lonely, unaccepted or unappreciated to find acceptance and friendship.
A prayer was offered that we will bravely witness to "God the Saviour and Christ the Lord". Joan prayed that we should be given compassion for the victims of disasters and misused power and prayed that each of us would be given the will to encourage harmony.

Joan then named people known to members of the congregation in their particular need, praying for support and comfort for them.

Then together:

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to his people on earth...

Hymn 162 " Crown him with many crowns", a hymn that goes on to list the crowns that God claims.
The sacrificial lamb; the Son of God; the Son of Man; the Lord of love; the Lord of life; the Lord of peace; the Lord of time. The Almighty. The Everlasting. The Beyond anything we can imagine.
To whom we give our total allegiance and obedience.

"To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father
To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.

Amen. Amen. Amen.