Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Sept. 30

Dan welcomed us and asked for the announcements, after which he drew our attention to the diversity of people in God's world and how each one of us has been made different. How difficult we find it to accept that those who are different from us are as much God's handiwork as we are ourselves. We really try hard to limit God by our own small-mindedness, but fortunately God always raises up a receptive soul to spread his true intentions.

Equally, God is present everywhere, whatever direction we might take. There is nowhere we can go that God can't find us.

Hymn 188 "Where wide sky rolls down and touches red sand" awakened us to God's hand in the creation of our own country and reminded us that we can find him in our own outback.

Dan then led our confession of our lack of understanding, and gave thanks for the opportunities church gives us to deepen our insight into the mind of Christ and also for the work of hymns in mediating God's presence in us.
 Dan then gave thanks on our behalf, for God's strength that supports us and his compassion that comforts us. He continued to offer, for us, our confession of falling into temptation, rejecting God's counsel and guidance and being distracted from our duties.
Our silent confession followed.

Our forgiveness was then affirmed. Through Christ we are saved and pardoned.

Hymn 56 "Amazing Grace" gave us the words to declare our reliance on God's goodness for all that we are and can be.

Dan then introduced his theme for today: the consideration of the difference between tourist and pilgrim. He pointed out that a tourist comes back with memories and perhaps momentos while a pilgrim comes back with experiences through which it is possible to find out about self, faith and God.

The Readings Hebrews 11: 8 - 16 and Luke 4: 1 - 13 were delivered by Bob. In Hebrews the part that resonated with my own experience was that these travellers had an immoveable faith in God despite little proof that God was actually at work. They had such faith that they did not think of the land they left behind but continued to journey, strong in the faith that God's plan for them was still firm.

Luke writes of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness where he considered his life before him and where he was tempted to seek earthly glory but threw all that aside to do his Father's will. Serious matters require deep and lengthy consideration. Decisions about such should not be made quickly or lightly or relying on our own wisdom
Dan took his cue from this reading for his sermon, "Tourist or Pilgrim" He pointed out that that there are questions we answer with our lips; others with our lives. The question to answer is whether we live as a tourist or pilgrim. To continue the theme begun earlier, he explained how a tourist wants things to be comfortable and familiar, not strange or threatening, (no funny food or weird customs). The tourist wishes for a safe and happy trip with pleasant memories.
However a pilgrim has totally different expectations - something outside of the familiar - a journey into the unknown, in fact, a pilgrim accepts discomfort, even danger, placing themselves in the hands of God.

Dan then outlined the many types of existing pilgrimages but explained that he was really meaning us to consider pilgrimage as a metaphor for how we can live our lives. Are we living as a tourist or a pilgrim?

Jesus intentionally spent those 40 days outside the familiar - (that's where we hear God's voice) - because only then was he prepared for the role he had to take in God's plan.
It's too easy to be part of a church community and only be a tourist. We are asked to be more than that. Jesus also calls us into those strange places and to sometimes enter the unexpected but we are promised that the Holy Spirit will travel with us.

Jesus calls us to live in His Name.

Affirmation of Faith. We affirmed our beliefs as the congregation declared our faith by saying the Uniting Church proclamation of faith aloud.
Hymn 537  "May the mind of Christ my Saviour" echoed the sentiments of both the sermon and proclamation, giving us the opportunity to declare our intentions again, to be open to whatever God has in store for us.

The Prayers of the People  asked for God's blessing on those connected with the congregation, asking him to watch over them and care for them as they faced the challenges of their daily lives.

The Offering was then dedicated to God's work in the wider world.

Hymn 487 "Guide me, O thou great Jehovah" was sung with great enthusiasm, a sign of our faith in God's guiding hand in our lives, to save us from harm and to keep us journeying in the light until we " on Canaan's side"

Dan then prayed that we would be kept strong in faith and hope and love and offered the Blessing of the Father and the love of Jesus and asked that the Holy Spirit would guide us in truth and peace.
To which we answered,

Amen, Amen, Amen.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd. Uniting Church Sept. 23

After the welcome and the notices Helen asked us to put our everyday concerns to one side to praise our God. This we did, singing

Hymn 65 "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty", which we did with much enthusiasm, admitting our inability to comprehend the magnificence of our creator but acknowledging that all that has been created is praise to his name.

The Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession followed with members of the congregation naming the various blessings and happinesses that they had experienced in the previous week, giving substance to our thanks to God.

 A very worthwhile exercise, calling our attention to all we have been given and preventing any sort of general and fleeting thanks, which often does not give proper credit. We were then reminded by way of confession, how quickly we forget our blessings and sink into the negativeness of resentment and maybe a good old sulk.
We prayed for help to let all this go and
Let God be God.

The Words of Assurance comforted us with the promise that
The Spirit of Jesus gathers us up and holds gently the trembling child within, saying,
You are forgiven.

In Sunday Kids Helen recounted some of the wedding service she had attended on the weekend where the minister warned the young couple that they were different people with different gifts and that should not expect their partner to be strong in the same points and should not expect some miraculous change to occur as the result of going through a wedding ceremony.  Probably a message in there for all of us, concerning all those around us, especially as we are never very good at identifying our own weaknesses.

Hymn 531 "When we walk with the Lord" followed, prodding us to 'trust and obey' and prompting us to remember, as we had prayed in the confession, that peace only comes when we let God be God.

Colin delivered the Scripture Reading Proverbs 31: 10 - 31, the Ode to a Capable Wife, an account of an exemplary woman, who efficiently accomplished every task any woman might be expected to complete, but significantly the account ends with "but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates"

Helen's Reflection "Go on God, pull the other leg!"
Helen introduced the book of proverbs, explaining that it was part of the Wisdom literature and was directed at the middle and upper middle class to direct them in the ethics of their everyday life, with the theme that the fear of the Lord was the path to wisdom.  That is, fear in the sense of respecting God and acknowledging His place as King while enjoying a relationship with him.

This last chapter of Proverbs reiterates sections mentioned earlier and shows the liberated side of this woman's life.   She is known in her own right, not just for her domestic talents but for her use of her wide range of gifts and especially for her "fear of the Lord": her relationship with God. God was with her.

Often we see our value in terms of our job or our achievements but what happens when the job goes and the achievements are forgotten? Our value is not diminished one iota because it does not depend on our job or achievements at all: it is based on our being a child of God and as such we can be assured that God is with us every step of the way.

That is where we find purpose and meaning and grace.

The sad part is that for some of us, the job has to go and the achievements have to fade before we find any of those.

The Prayer which followed was a call to God to help us keep our focus on the real meaning behind all that we do, wherever we go, whoever we meet; to see that everything in God's care.

Hymn 562  "All who live and serve your city" continued the same theme of "seek the Lord, who is your life" and was followed by the Freewill Offering.  We asked for blessing on the way we make it and the way we use it, offering with it our lives, body and soul.

Val led the Prayers for Others and the Lord's Prayer focusing on the vulnerable people in our community, the sick and elderly; those in care and those who are alone; the housebound and the rejected, asking for help and support for them.  She also prayed for the safety of family and friends far away and for all travellers, and finally for the world wide church as it spreads the Good News.

Hymn 205 "My eyes have seen the glory" let us burst forth with the confession of God's victory in our lives, remembering that he can only have that victory as we continue to allow him to be God and don't try playing God ourselves.

The Blessing "Go in peace into all that this day brings...and the Spirit be found as wisdom within you" bound us together and then again as we dismissed each other with the prayer that
May the feet of God walk with you
And his hand hold you tight...
May the child of God grow in you,
And his love bring you home.

A simple message, but one that can make a huge difference.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Sept.16

We were warmly welcomed as was our guest minister, Robyn, and the notices given out, after which The Call to Worship reminded us that the magnificence of God's creation needs no words, for it speaks for itself and that just as we harmonise our daily life with the sun's journey across the sky, so we should harmonise our lives in accordance with God's laws which revive the soul and give wisdom and joy.

In preparation for the service ahead we prayed that our words and meditations would be acceptable in God's sight.

Hymn 114  "Thank you for giving me the morning" is a simple hymn but awakened us to the need to be grateful for all the good things that come to us each day, not to take them for granted and to say "thank you" for them.

In The Children's Talk, Robyn talked about the various functions of the tongue, finally emphasising the power of speech and it's capacity for good or damage, reminding us to be careful how we used this gift.

Hymn 70 " All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small," extended our opportunity to appreciate all the gifts of God we have to share - none of them will afford us any status in the world - they belong to us all, but they can enrich our lives in a way no bought item can, especially when we focus on how wonderful each gift is.

Terry delivered The Reading, James 3: 1-12 warning us about the difficulty of controlling our speech and introduced the idea that our speech controls our actions and that if we can control our speech, we can control our lives. From this followed the idea that from some small thing said a huge problem can explode (a moment on the lips...) and that as our words can be for good or evil, we should be careful with our words.

A Prayer of Adoration and Confession followed, led by Robyn, which praised God for the gift of words and our ability to manipulate them, confessed that we didn't always use them to draw people together and prayed that God and His Word would come to us and mould us in a way that when we speak it will be God's word that is heard.

We were then given the Assurance that we are forgiven and can be at peace.

Hymn 430 "Yours words to me are life and health"
                                                        light and truth
                                                        full of joy
                                                        perfected in one yourself the living word.
Not too hard to work out where we should be looking for guidance.

The Message was given by Robyn who reiterated the theme of the reading that speech could be used for good or evil, pointing out that the power of speech is one of the greatest powers that God has given us and yet we take it for granted. She pointed out that James was warning people against becoming teachers and suggested they were impressed with the authority and prestige of the office and had forgotten about the tremendous responsibility and accountability involved: that those who teach the word face stricter judgement.

She added that every Christian must admit that while we stumble in many ways, the sins of the tongue seem to head the list. This means speech, as both the bit and the rudder, must be kept under control, because of the effect it can have on others but that under the control of God, we have safety.

Robyn referred to James' suggestion that all life is connected like a wheel and therefore we cannot keep things from spreading (Facebook and Twitter) not to mention ordinary gossip and legitimate media). Apologies can be made but the damage takes a long time to heal.

Robyn then spoke of the tongue's power to delight and its capacity to give life. Then 12 words were suggested that could make a big difference: "Please and Thank You," "I'm Sorry," "I Love You," and "I'm Praying for You".
Yes the smallest but largest troublemaker in the world is the tongue but it doesn't have to be - God can use our tongues to direct others into the way of life.

In my experience, it is so easy to say the wrong thing if we are not watchful. Some think it's their duty to correct the behaviour of others - that's God's job not ours.

On other occasions, and this is where I have slipped up - intending to make a joke, then using the wrong tone or hitting a sensitive point - it's all so easy. And that's just two for starters. May the words of our mouths...

Hymn 520. "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee." a surrender of all we are and all we have to the Lord. Such relief!

As a token of this commitment we gave our Freewill Offering with the intention of extending God's kingdom and lightening the load of those around us.

Prayers of the People and the Lord's Prayer, followed where we gave thanks for our ability to gather - to catch up - to share - to inspire - to comfort. We prayed for friends in other places and those with special needs, especially those whose loved ones had passed on recently leaving them feeling of great loss and grief. We prayed for travellers and for strength and wisdom for Helen and the other leaders of Marsden Road Church and that we all will have the courage to try new things and follow them through to completion.

The Benediction was a prayer that the wisdom of God be upon us, filling our lives and we
then turned to each other wishing each other to

Go now in peace, go now in Peace
May the love of God surround you
Everywhere, everywhere you may go.

If only we could have the level of goodwill to others, always. What a world it would be!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Sept. 9

Today was the second Sunday of the month and the time to sing of our faith through the hymns that had accompanied us on our spiritual journeys. Along with those we sang new ones, giving us a different perspective on God in our lives.

After Helen welcomed us all and notices were announced the Call to Worship was given:
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds his people, From this time on and forever more.
The majesty of God's creation in which we dwell and which has provided us protection as those mountains did Jerusalem, can be overwhelming but it is but a token when compared with the capacity of God to enfold our entire being and keep it close.

Hymn 10. “All people that on earth do dwell" reminded us of the path of the simple Christian life and the Prayer which followed acknowledged God's acceptance of people from all walks of life and our belief in God's unfathomable presence with us for which we gave praise.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Just good manners really, to acknowledge and say "thank you" to the source of all goodness that flows over us. But so much more, it's something of a celebratory cry for all that we have been given and all that we have been promised.

Sunday Kids. a story of baby birds squarking their demands which was paralleled to the account of the woman who persisted until Jesus healed her daughter.

The Prayer reminded us that in our grasping attempts at resolving situations and how God's strength is sufficient as we step out in trust.

The Scripture Reading.  Mark 7: 24-37 was read by Norma and told again of the woman in the Sunday Kids segment who sought healing. It makes it clear that God's touch is for everyone, whether they appear to a church-going type or not, and that we should embrace their difference.

Hymn 500. “I heard the voice of Jesus say" offers a salve for the injuries to our spirit we suffer in this world and a promise of revival of our soul and light to travel by.

Reflection. Expect a miracle.
Helen reflected on the reading, giving the context of Jesus being in Gentile territory, in an attempt to avoid the crowds who were determined to crown him king, to avoid Herod's anger and probably to also just be with the disciples. Into this private scene barged the desperate mother, who was rebuffed as not being part of Jesus ministry but she persisted and her belief that Jesus was the one to answer her need was rewarded. Helen then related this to a family situation where she had written to a doctor whose name she didn't know at the general address of the AIS to get help for her son. Similarly she had no rights in terms of gaining help from the expertise of this particular doctor but her determination was rewarded and the help received.

The message for us? We are no more acceptable to God than people who might not have our respectful attitude to the church; or might speak of faith in different words; or behave in a way we are not used to or come to belief by a different path. God doesn't care about that stuff-nor should we.

Prayer of Confession.
Was a time to reach out for help, with the confidence that God's love is sufficient and his grace responds to our desperation.  We prayed also to be kept aware of the needs of others and to open our hearts and minds to the boundlessness of God's love, available to everyone, not just those that we may see as deserving. We prayed that we place no hindrance to this love flowing through us to all.

The Words of Assurance.
Was as much an appeal to be open to God's possibilities for us.
For the Spirit of God is with you, and will remain with you to the end.
We then gave thanks for our forgiveness.

Hymn 56.  "Amazing Grace" is an admission of the work of God's Grace on a heart most tangled up in the dark side of life and how far that Grace can take such a soul.

The Freewill Offering was taken up with the prayer that our giving be free and unconditional in Jesus name. It only seems reasonable doesn't it? He gave his all.

Prayers for Others. was introduced with the declaration that the good news of Jesus Christ is good news for the desperate - hope for all - in the powerful, expansive, miraculous love of God in Christ. Helen and the congregation then named people who needed that hope, lighting a candle for each, following with the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn 14. “Now thank we all our God" was sung at Tom's request. That was us thanking our Lord for his all with every part of our being.

Blessing.  The Lord bless you and keep you
                  The Lord make his face to shine upon you
                  and be gracious unto you.
                  The Lord lift up his countenance upon you
                  and give you peace.

I'm trying to makes these notes on the service shorter, but I wouldn't leave out a letter of that blessing.

Amen. Amen. Amen.