Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Oct.28th

Helen welcomed everyone to this service to which younger adults had been especially invited.
The notices were given out and we found that the Operation Christmas Child appeal was finalised at 66 boxes - what an effort!
Helen gave notice of a Bible Study for the new year and we voted on the options.

Then Helen Called us to Worship, encouraging everyone to see the Christian Life, no so much as a destination as a journey and to see true worship as being found in sharing the moments when we sense God's presence.

We began the day's worship in song: Andrew on Piano, Roger and Alice on vocals, backed by Roger on guitar and Oliver on "descant" guitar providing leadership for a bracket of vibrant hymns that had many a pair of toes tapping and I do believe I saw more than the odd swaying of the hips. The young people enjoyed it as well.

The first hymn was praise to the conquerer of darkness, praying that we could be used to shine that light out into the world.
The second was a hymn of thanks, calling God, "Blessed" in acknowledgement of the lives of "plenty" we live and by analogy calling on God to be as bountiful when we find ourselves in a spiritual desert.
The last hymn "Amazing Grace" harked back to that last thought, thanking God, humbly, for His Grace that saves us from the people we would be otherwise.

This time of sharing was followed by the Prayer of Invocation where we declared our consciousness of God's compassion and readiness to receive us at any time, with all our shortcomings.
We asked for help to live our lives, to face possible ridicule and failure and to remain alert to the needs of those around us.
We prayed for hope, courage, focus and joy as we refuse to be dead in the midst of life.

Kids Time Out   Graham led this, setting a series of relays for two young volunteers, increasing the difficulty, each time, with Helen making the point that sometimes we try to fit too much into the finite time we have with the result that we never feel as though we do anything well.

Hymn MP 936  "Teach me to dance to the beat of Your heart,
                                           to move in the power of Your Spirit,
                                           to walk in the light of Your Presence,
                                           to dance to the beat of Your Heart.
                                           to love with Your heart of compassion,
                                           to trust in the word of Your promise,
                                           to hope in the day of Your coming,
                                           to dance to the beat of Your Heart."

We are all usually very determined to do as we see best, and although we pray for God's guidance in making decisions and taking action, this hymn puts us in a state of allowing God to have us live as he would, in every conceivable aspect of our existence.

Scripture Reading Sylvia delivered the words of Mark 10: 46 - 52. The account of Jesus healing Bartimaeus of his physical blindness. When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, Jesus asked him "What do you want me to do for you?" There's a question! What do we really want?

Reflection Helen described the background of Mark as being the earliest and shortest of the gospels and pointed out that everything that is written there is written there for a purpose.
Jesus is represented as homeless, unmarried, unemployed and in a hurry

In this incident the beggars are lined up along the way and Bartimaeus calls out because, although he is physically blind he is not spiritually so. " Son of David, have mercy on me!" Bartimaeus knew who he was calling out to and asked to be able to see again.

Jesus' answer shows how easy it is if we truly believe - " Go; your faith has made you well." the energy in this healing and the focus of this beggar are in contrast to the behaviour of the disciples who have just been fighting over who is the most important.

Also the openness of this healing is in contrast to the secretiveness of the healing in chapter 8, showing a growth in faith. A growth from being quiet about the ministry to being openly triumphant about what is possible in God's name - a challenge to the people Mark is writing for.
Helen pointed out that we are all on a path and on that path we will meet Jesus.

Our God is different to those others believe in. Our God comes to us. Jesus is God on the move and wherever we are, God will come to us - What do we want Jesus to do for us?

We were then given the opportunity - the challenge, to write out what we wanted Jesus to do for us and these written requests were offered up.

Helen then prayed on our behalf, thanking God for meeting us where we are, in the nitty gritty, embarrassed and awkward as we pray for our desires.

Hymn TIS 609 "May the mind of Christ my Saviour" The same prayer as we sang in the previous hymn. May God enter into and guide every aspect of our lives. What people we would be if we really opened ourselves to such a possibility! What a church we would be!

Freewill Offering We dedicate our lives and all that we have to the work of life, of love, of peace. Receive our gifts and lead us in wisdom and courage.

Prayers of the People and The Lord's Prayer  Noelene led us, giving thanks that we could worship together and experience the church as family, asking for blessing on all present, the regulars and those who had come for the special service.
Prayer was offered for those in the distress of war or famine around the word and we asked that our eyes be opened to what we can do to help.
We prayed for those made redundant, that they should be given guidance as to how they should cope with the future; for family and friends; for travellers; for the Uniting Church in Australia and, at Marsden Road for Helen and Graham and all our leaders.

Blessing May the God of all time give you space and rain on you with his blessings.

Hymn TIS 569 "Guide me O thou great Redeemer" This morning the bar has been set high and our only prospect of achieving such heights is with God steering our lives.

Hold me Lord

Hold me in your arms, Lord
Bless me with your love.
Whisper in the quietness, Lord
Bless me with your word.
Lead me through the darkness Lord
Bless me with your light.
Touch me where I hurt Lord
Bless me with you healing.
And through your blessings, Lord
may we grow and learn
to know your presence
always walking with us.  Amen

Go in Peace.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Oct. 21st

We began the service with a Welcome and the Announcements which included information about the service on October 28 to which we are encouraging younger people to come and an invitation for anyone over 10 to join an Advent choir. Also Pat announced the success of our Operation Christmas Child project, which had drawn in 60 boxes, half of which were due to the efforts of Kim. Andrew, who was our minister today, gave the

Call to Worship, which took the form of excerpts from Psalm 104, such as:

  O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
  Wrapped in light as with a garment.

Read it, it's more than worth your time and attention. It's not just an acknowledgement of God's greatness but also a guide for anyone trying to gain insight into the nature of our Lord God.

Hymn 80 "Immortal, invisible, God only wise." another chance for us to consider other facets of the Other, the "most glorious".

The Prayers of Invocation and Confession followed, asking God to enter into our midst, and to lay aside all that would divide us, pouring out His spirit upon us.
We offered up our knowledge that we can never deserve God's salvation and that it is only through God's Grace that we can hope at all.
We confessed our pride and ambition and our unwillingness to share our fellowship with all, clinging to our friends.
We confessed wanting to be supported rather than to support; to want to organize things our way rather than to  be a servant.
We asked to be moulded to God's will and purpose, confessing our weakness.
Having done this we were assured that we should "Go in peace, restored in the life of Christ our Saviour."
That assurance is always good to hear.

The Young People's Talk focussed on a building of blocks and those blocks which were the most important to the structure. Having identified the important ones as the cornerstones, Andrew explained that God was the cornerstone of our lives and then prayed, giving thanks for young people and praying for blessing on them and their families in the coming week.

Hymn 569 "Praise and thanksgiving, Father, we offer, for all things living you have made good" Thanking God for his provision for our needs and our acknowledgement of our need for commitment to look to the needs of others.

Job 38: 1 - 7, 34 - 41;Hebrews 5: 1 - 10; Mark 10: 35 – 45

All these readings taken from vastly different contexts, spoke of the glory and power of God, beside whom man is nothing and of whom we no right to make demands. Rather we should look for God's will in the midst of all that is happening around us.

Andrew then delivered the Homily focussing on the reality of God, drawing from each of the three readings.
His background illustration was The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, a group of Roman Soldiers from different backgrounds who refused to make a sacrifice because they were Christians.

When threatened with terrible punishment and even when that punishment was metred out to them they continued to refuse to make the sacrifice with the result that they were finally killed. There is more to the story than that, but that is enough to make the point. Why would they accept such suffering!

By way of explanation, Andrew pointed out that much has been said about the reality of God in recent years but today's scripture readings tell us three things:

God is the cornerstone of our existence. 
God (through Christ) is the source of our salvation.
God's kingdom is prepared for us in our daily lives by Christ through the image and role of servanthood.

Andrew pointed out that that was why the martyrs accepted their suffering - for something something far more valuable.

As C. S. Lewis said, " If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, that does not prove the universe is a fraud - probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it but only to suggest the real thing. I must keep keep alive in myself the desire for my true country which I shall not find until after death."

That's what the martyrs knew.
They knew that trust in God would bring everlasting peace.
They knew that God through Christ is the source of eternal salvation.
They knew that service to God is the faithful path of a Christian.

Hymn 40 "I sing the almighty power of God," once again looking at more of the infinite aspects of God that it is possible to discern in our search for the truth about our Maker.

Offering and Prayer. Acknowledging our responsibility to share God's goodness to us with others.
This was followed by the Prayers of the People  during which we asked or support for those in the community around us, especially those known to us personally.

Hymn 514 "O Jesus I have promised" reminding us that we have made the same commitment as those soldiers did, so long ago. Would we have the courage they had?
We were then sent out to live our Christian lives,

Benediction. May the blessing of God the Eternal Creator,
                      The peace of Christ, Incarnate Word
                      And the strength of the Spirit, our constant companion,
                      be with us now and evermore.   Amen.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Oct.14

Elaine led the usual singing that introduces our service on the second Sunday of the month, with the congregation choosing hymns that have been integral to their faith journey.

Rowena, who was taking the service for us, welcomed everybody and the announcements were given.

There followed the Call to Worship given, again by Rowena, acknowledging the differences between each of us, which include our varying awareness of God's presence.
Rowena assured us that regardless of our feelings regarding his presence, that God is faithful and since he promises to be with us, we could be sure he was with us in the service.

Prayer of Adoration  Here we praised God as the beginning and end of all things: the creator of all, who despite his greatness, accepts each one of us as precious. This theme was continued in

Hymn 154 (TiS) "Great is thy faithfulness", sung in praise of God's unending and unchanging constancy, evident in both creation and in the restoration of our souls.

Prayer of Confession We were prepared for this confession with an invitation to consider our possessions, first the simply unnecessary purchases, then those ostentatious purchases meant to mark our status.
We were then asked to consider losing all of these and then replacing them in our imagination with things of deeper meaning such as family, our community of faith and our own talents.
With this stimulus awakening our awareness, we prayed for forgiveness for the times our possessions had got in the way of our serving God.

Words of Affirmation With our focus directed to the things that matter, Rowena spoke of God's love embracing us and freeing us to share our real treasure with those most in need.

Hymn 693 (TiS) "Come as you are" a warm and open invitation to be loved just as we are.

Readings: Hebrews 4: 12 - 16; Mark 10: 17 - 31 were delivered by Alan.

The message to the Hebrews was that nothing is hidden from the work of God's word but - we have One who has been tested just as we are, who therefore understands us, and for that reason we can ask for mercy and find grace without fear.

Mark's message tells of a man asking the way to enter the kingdom of God. When told that he had to give up everything, he couldn't accept that cost and left. Then Jesus started speaking to his disciples about the same problem and they couldn't see how anyone could enter the kingdom under those conditions. But Jesus pointed out that anything is possible with God's help and that any perceived sacrifice will be rewarded many times over.

Sermon: "Those to whom much has been given, of them much is expected"  Rowena began by describing the young man in the reading who had always lived a good life, attending to all his responsibilities and showing compassion and generosity to those in need.
 A lot like ourselves.
Surely that should be enough. Unfortunately Jesus disagreed, so we are left asking, with the disciples "Who then can be saved?" Jesus' answer, the answer to all our puzzles, was "...for God all things are possible"

As with the young man in the story, simplifying our lives is not easy but ultimately our Christian faith requires us to let go of those attachments. We need to open our lives and be prepared to trust more deeply in God's power and possibilities.

If we take this one step further and reflect on our communities of faith we might think about our reluctance to change, as we hold desperately onto the "it's always been done."

Looking at this from another perspective, we can consider the necessity to plan for the future in terms of supporting ourselves financially. However in doing this we can become distracted from things of greater importance but nothing should come between us and God

- it's God's will that we should receive everything for an abundant life - but material blessings are for sharing. Those to whom much has been given, of them much is expected.

Hymn 342 (TiS) "When I survey the wondrous cross" "My richest gains I count but loss" and even if I had all of creation to offer as a gift it would not be enough. Such love demands "my soul, my life, my all"- again the message of giving up everything for the love of God.

Offering Prayer We offer these gifts from our abundance as a sign of our commitment to the hard work of living the gospel and our sincere desire for justice, equality and peace for all. Amen. How often we just don't recognise that we, in fact, have an abundance. But it's easy enough - just look at those that have nothing and our overflowing riches become obvious.

Prayers of Intercession  Rowena led us in prayer to keep our hearts open to the needs of others, even those we do not like or who may have called their suffering upon themselves.
We prayed also for those who suffer because of the wilfulness of others and those on the front line, dealing with the distress of so many - for them to receive ongoing strength.
We asked for support for all those working within the church and for all those, especially people known to us, who may be burdened or distressed in any way.

Hymn 547 (TiS) "Be thou my vision" A commitment to follow the path laid out for us by the wisdom of the Lord of all. A path where we commit all we are and have, to His service.

Commission and Benediction  

And may God come close to you and keep you safe;
May Christ Jesus reward your faithfulness a hundredfold;
and may the Holy Spirit be your help in time of need.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Closing Song "Now unto Him" From Jude a blessing of great fulness. Blessing each other with every good thing that our Lord has to give us.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church Oct. 7

After the welcome and notices, Helen Called us to Worship, declaring God had made us a little lower than the angels. An amazing gift that gives us the ability to sense and respond to the Other, even when we are a long way off. But being in that privileged position brings with it responsibilities. We are God's hands on this planet and as God cares for us, so we must care for the rest of his creation.

Helen then offered us the peace of God and we responded, after which we were given the opportunity to pass that peace to those around us, reaching out, sharing through our clasped hands.

Hymn 159 "All hail the power of Jesus name," which is where it starts and finishes, and which heralded the

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Confession.
As we live out each day it is so easy to let time pass without giving due thanks or being quiet so that we can acknowledge our failings fully and openly, and pray for forgiveness and restoration.

So this prayer is so important, as we prepare for the celebration of our redemption by thanking God for his love for us that seeps through us,

moving towards our need...unconditionally accepting and gracious...participating in our pain and grief...releasing us towards new life...never leaving us alone...forgiving and recreating.

Before this most gracious God we humbly confessed - just as we are - and asked forgiveness.

Words of Assurance
It is Jesus Christ who grants us mercy and the boldness to begin again. We know this is from compassion growing out of his being tested, just as we are.
For this we gave thanks, following with the Lord's Prayer, reiterating our acknowledgement of God's holiness, our failures and our need for forgiveness and to forgive.

Reading: Job 1:1, 2: 1-10  This passage, read by Elaine, told of a virtuous man, Job, whose devotion to God was questioned by one of God's angels, "The Accuser". He predicted that Job's devotion would disappear if the good life was taken from him and the tide turned against him.
So God allowed Job to be tested.

Reflection: God's problem.
Helen introduced her homily with a story of a woman suffering, and in pain, complaining to the doctor, "What have I done to deserve this?" His answer was brief - that she had be born.
We are all the same in this respect: we are born and enjoy life's many blessings but with them comes suffering.
No one escapes.
Helen then pointed out that anyone looking for an answer to suffering in Job was going to be disappointed-suffering is a mystery. Helen then took us back to the time when "Job" was written when, as at the time of Jesus and even, in some cases, now, suffering was thought to be caused by a person's wrongdoing.

However, Jesus himself set us straight on that matter..."Whose fault was it that the man was born blind?" It wasn't anyone's fault. As Helen had already pointed out, as had the doctor to the complaining woman, it's part of being alive.

Back to Job: " The Accuser" could not believe that Job could love God without reward: that Job could love him just because God is God: just for the relationship.
God is God on the good days and bad days: suffering is a part of the way we are made. We do not have the right to expect God to behave in a certain way.

God wants a relationship with the people he has made and, God who is love, in Jesus, suffered for no personal gain but for the love of us.

Nothing stops us having that pure relationship with God.

Prayer A plea for help to see God as he is, rather than as we would have him be. To realise that he is there in all circumstances and to ask for the ability to love him in all of them whether we see them as good or bad. To focus on our many blessings and feel as deeply for others in their circumstances, as we do for ourselves in our own.

Hymn 266 " I cannot tell why He whom angels worship" A call to focus on what we can understand rather than on what we do not.
There is so much that is beyond us, but we do know that we have been touched by God (in my case, taken by the scruff of the neck and shaken), which gives us the confidence to continue, knowing that
"At last the king."

Prayers of the People Delma led us in a prayer for peace in a world which is being torn apart by war and famine. She prayed for the pilgrim people of the Uniting Church in  Australia, for God's guidance on our journey and those close to us who need special care.

Our Offering was gathered and with the Communion Elements was Dedicated so that their ordinariness would become special in God's service.

The communion elders, Alan and Ruth joined Helen and we were told that

Christ is the host in the city and all who will come are guests at the feast  

That's the only proviso - "all who will come."

For this we gave the Great Thanksgiving.

Christ be with you/ And also with you
Lift up your hearts/ We lift them to our God
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God/ It is right to give our thanks and praise.

On our behalf Helen gave thanks to God, the beginning and the end of all things. The one that sustains life in the wild of the bush, in the other sort of wildness of the city, in the imposing cragginess of the mountains and the cultivated, life-sustaining countryside.
We gave thanks for Jesus who never turned aside from anyone and who calls us.
For this we praised God with the faithful of every time and place, joining with the whole creation:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Institution and Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Helen reminded us of that first time when Jesus offered bread saying, "This is my body, broken for you" and then offered wine, "This is my blood, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins".

Helen then prayed for the Holy Spirit to make the common sacred and to envelope us all as we came to the table, remembering and giving thanks.

And then in preparation for leading us into sacred time: "Jesus, I believe, forgive and remove my unbelief and sin."

Then together,
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us thy peace.

The elements were then distributed and we gave thanks that we had been guests at God's table, praying that we would carry his hospitality into the life of the community.

Hymn 172 " It passeth knowledge"...that dear love of thine...which brings a rebel sinner, such as me, nigh unto God.

Blessing and Dismissal
We were sent out in peace to carry the sacrament into life, praying that we might experience the presence of the living God.

Which we affirmed with great conviction,

Amen. Amen. Amen.