Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Jan.27

When I began this project it was meant to be my reflections on the Sunday service at Marsden Road UC but very quickly became a record of the service with reflections added and sometimes, only the odd comment.

I have decided to return to the reflection style of writing and hope that is acceptable to the members of MRUC who are unable to attend service and use the reflection as a way of staying in touch.

Dan began the service by reminding us that we were God's guests at a celebration to which all are invited and to which we are invited just as we are.

I see two messages here. For each of us, within or outside the church: there is no need to be "good enough" or a "church-going type" to join Christian worship. We don't have to wait until we think we have passed some "Christian" test. Just come.

For these of us who do attend. It's God's celebration, and we have no monopoly on it. God welcomes all and so should we and that's not just before and after church.

Today, the hymns, readings and the sermon were a flow of thought, each complementing the other.

The first hymn (AHB 25) was a song of praise, sung with light hearts, thanking God for freeing us from darkness and asking for his guidance in living our lives as he requires.

For myself, I find the times when I notice I am not living up to God's requirements, follow times when I have wandered off on my own way, without checking with the "GPS". As, at any time, it's always worthwhile to follow the maker's instructions.

After this Dan led us in prayers, first a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, followed by a prayer of confession. I always find this a helpful time. As we run along in life it is easy to ignore the need to constantly acknowledge God's due place in creation and the need to daily turn to him for direction and to pray for the Holy Spirit to show us the way we should conduct ourselves. A time like this focuses our mind and spirit.

In the confession Dan, on our behalf, asked for forgiveness for those good things we have neglected to do and those bad things we have done. Nothing new here folks!  Why do we keep getting into this position? No answer needed. We all know why.

Fortunately, as Dan pointed out, God is willing to make us whole and restore us to a state of proper being. Give thanks for that.

Hymn AHB 176  Singing of our belief in a man who was just like us in so many ways but because of his unwavering focus and obedience, lived a life that we would like to live but fail to. But maybe, if we commit ourselves to a life hand in hand with our maker, and keep looking to him, even with our predictable lapses, we may live a life something like that man did.

The Readings delivered by Jack were from Luke 4:14-21 and 1 Peter1:3-16.

Luke speaks of Jesus reading in the temple of the prophesy of his place in history. We can look at this as a confirmation that Jesus is the appointed one and that we are following the right path or we could look at it another way, showing our confidence in God's transforming power and apply v 18 to our own lives. We are not here to toddle along from week to week. We are here to extend God's kingdom on Earth.

The passage from Peter is an eloquent, confident and forceful piece of writing, leaving us in no doubt as to the direction we should take. Read it. It is not an easy word but will bring comfort in its sureness.

The Sermon followed, with Dan referring to a saying from the Danish thinker, Soren Aabye Kierkegaard - "Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards". Dan suggested that in some way that's how Jesus was living his life in the Luke reference, looking to the present and future but valuing the lessons of the past.
Dan pointed out that through our knowledge of the past we can know we are involved in the faith community; we are part of God's kingdom, but that we can also live in hope for the future.
The Kingdom has come and is coming. The Kingdom is here but not in its fullness.
Another spin on the quotation that occurred to me, is that, as people, we not only don't learn from the past mistakes of others in past years, we don't earn from our own mistakes.

How often do we try to fix things by doing more of the same? We need to change and there is only one way we can do that so that it has a good outcome. And we all know what that way is. And we all know that we may not like the change that is required. Worse, we may not be able to even imagine the nature of the change that is required. Only one way through that one too.

And for anyone still wondering about that, the next hymn makes it plain.

Hymn AHB 537
May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day...sorted.

The notices were then given and one particularly worth remembering is that of the Friendship Circle morning tea on March 10.

In the Prayers for the People, Pat focused on the timely issue of Australia Day and all we have to thank God for in this country and on the disasters that are making life hard at the moment for some of us. She gave thanks for the volunteers who soften the blow in these disasters and who, in some cases, save lives and livelihoods. Pat then asked for God's hand on the teachers and students returning to school: on his church and on the members of this congregation and their loved ones. 

Hymn TIS 687, sung with confidence, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into the possibilities of the future.

Let us embrace all that God has in store for us - not fear it or shrink from it.

Dan then offered the Blessing and Benediction,  sending us out to look forward with joy, celebrating all that we have received.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd. Uniting Church Jan. 13

May welcomed Jonathan as a loved and treasured friend and thanked him for leading the worship.

Jonathan:  The Lord be with you.
Response: And also with you.

Jonathan: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Hymn 86 "Holy God, we praise Thy name" Praise to God, proclaiming his sovereignty over all that exists and our acknowledgement of his kingship over each of our lives.

Prayer of Praise Jonathan, for us all, praised God as the author of every good thing and asked that he would keep our focus on Him and grow in us a deep longing for truth and a warm desire for more love, that we might know Him, embrace Him and worship him.

Prayer of Thanksgiving  we were led in thanking God for loving us from the beginning of time and for watching over us in times of trouble.                    Your mercy endures forever
We thanked God for our redemption.                                       Your mercy endures forever
We thanked God for the comfort and guidance of the spirit.    Your mercy endures forever
We thanked God for the many blessings showered on us and turned our thoughts to those suffering in the Australian bushfires.(a summary)

Psalm 29  Jack read this psalm, ascribing to God dominion over all creation and asking for  his strength to live out our lives.

Prayer of Confession
"O God,
we confess the blindness that is not even aware of sinning;
the pride that dares not not admit it is wrong;
the selfishness that can see nothing but its own will;
the righteousness that knows no fault;
the callousness that has ceased to care;
the defiance that does not regret its own sins;
the evasion that always tries to make excuses;
the coldness of heart that is too hardened to repent.

God, we are sinners, be merciful to us...
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.     1John 1: 5, 7-9

Hear then Christ's word of grace to us: Our sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God."

I was so grateful for Jonathan's words that allowed me to express so fully how I feel but for which I cannot find my own words.

Hymn 488 " O for a closer walk with God" Jonathan recommended the thoughts of this hymn as New Year Resolutions. A believer expressing his longing for a closer, truer walk with God. Don't we all? And it's only our own human tendency to keep our focus on ourselves instead of on God that is stopping us.

Readings  Also brought to us by Jack.

Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22. John the Baptist's declaration that he was not the Messiah but when the Messiah came He would baptize with the Spirit and would be a force unknown before. And then when Jesus did step forward and was baptized it was clear that God's hand was upon him.

John 1: 29-51 The same story but with the introduction to Jesus' ministry, as the disciples began to gather round him with his promise to them of the things to come.

Sermon "John the Baptist." Jonathan introduced John the Baptist, giving a little of his background and explaining that his task was to "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord. Remove the Obstacles to the Coming of the Prince of Peace. Repent for Your Sins"

John the Baptist came to prepare the ground for Jesus, to acknowledge Him as the chosen one and to direct people to follow him.

"We don't need to change our clothing to a camel's hair coat and leather belt, and to change our diet" but we are to take on the work of pointing people to Jesus.

But notice that  it wasn't by hectoring that people came to Jesus, it was when they were taken by others.

"Perhaps we need to go back to the desert. To experience its trials and problems. To rediscover the reality of God and our motivation and impetus for our lives as Christians. So  that we can experience for ourselves the message that we can then share with others.

We need, as John the Baptist did, to consistently divert attention away from ourselves to the be a voice raised in the wilderness of a world of lost people, to call them to repentance and faith in a loving and just God." Amen.

Hymn 136 "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run" A song looking forward to the time when every knee shall bow to, and every voice be raised in praise to Jesus with the result of people experiencing freedom and rest

The Offering was taken up for God's work around us and the Notices given out.

Prayers of the People led by Jonathan asked for minds to know, hearts to love and voices to sing praise to God. The prayer was that we should be filled with His spirit and that the Church should be strengthened to stay true to its mission. Jonathan prayed that the Nations would be inspired to seek justice and peace. He directed our thoughts to those without hope and joy, that their eyes may be lifted up and that we will look to their needs and seek God's blessing for them. Jonathan then prayed for us and those whose names we had put forward for prayer support.
This was followed by a time of silent prayer and the Lord's Prayer.

Hymn 532  "Where cross the crowded ways of life" A word that God's voice is to be heard amid even the most difficult, dark and unlikely places and that even the simplest kindness done in God's name speaks of his love.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord: and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always.  Amen.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Jan. 6

Helen was absent from today's service because of ill health, so Warwick rounded up members of the congregation to produce the service, the liturgy of which was prepared by Helen, resulting in an extremely thoughtful effort.

Warwick welcomed us all, reminding us that today is the first Sunday in Epiphany, which in the tradition of the Methodist Church, from which many of our members originated, was a time for individuals to renew their covenant with God.

Then notices were given out, keeping members in touch with the life of our group.
Call to Worship

"The Magi came from many places, following a star.
We come to worship, and the star sheds light on our lives.
The Magi brought gifts to offer the Child.
We too bring gifts - ourselves, our hopes, our dreams.
Shepherds and Magi - the meek and the mighty - all were welcome in Bethlehem.
We too come to Bethlehem and then return to our homes rejoicing.

Hymn MP 740 "We three kings of Orient are".  The three kings with their gifts, symbols of what was to be, followed a star to guide them "to the perfect light." The message is clear - we need to look for that guiding light in our lives that leads us to our "King and God"

Prayer of Praise and Confession was led by Lyn.
Firstly, an acknowledgement of all that God is: the light of all people; friend to the most lowly; hope to the oppressed. "Glory be to you O God!
Then we asked forgiveness for the times we look away from that light and go our own selfish way, hurting others in the process. "Shine the light of Christ, in and through us. Amen"

Assurance and Pardon
"The Father of all mercies has  cleansed...restored us in his image...through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

The Peace
"The peace of the Lord be always with you
and also with you
And then we turned to each other to offer the sign of peace, a lovely expression of our shared faith.

Hymn 234  "Brightest and best of the sons.." a message referring to both the guiding star that pointed to the babe Jesus and to Jesus Himself as our light and guide. No matter what gifts we may offer him, none matter like the gift of ourselves.

Eucharistic Prayer
"The Lord be with you
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
A declaration that all honour and praise is due to the Almighty and that at this time of the year we remember that His Glory was made plain to all the world through the Magi who witnessed His presence in our midst. Therefore we " sing our joyful hymn of praise:"

"Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the Highest."

For us, Warwick prayed, praising God, and asking that the Holy Spirit would make the bread and wine, for us, the body and blood of Jesus, proclaiming his death.
Then we were reminded of the institution of the meal.

"Praise to you, Lord Jesus:
Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life: Lord Jesus, come in glory.
Warwick then prayed that we will work together until that day when we are together.
"Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
All honour and glory are yours, O loving Father, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Breaking of the Bread.

"The bread we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
Sustain us, by your grace, O Lord.

The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ.
By your mercy we are made whole.

Warwick invited all to share, reminding us, that we were at the table of the Lord, not the table of the Uniting Church and everyone was welcome.

Prayer after Communion
Warwick prayed that we may discern God's presence and we answered, thanking God for the spiritual food we were given and offered ourselves to be sent out in his name.

Liturgy of the Word

Scripture Reading Matthew 2: 1 - 12 the story of the Magi following the star to find the new king was read by May. As soon as Herod heard that this birth had been prophesied he acted against Jesus. Those in power today act swiftly when it looks as though their "kingdom" is threatened. Often we look away when we sense that our control over our own lives is being questioned by God.

Reflection Warwick spoke about commitment, illustrated using a number of examples; one from the pen of Rudyard Kipling. Eddi the Priest of St. Wilfred laboured to convert the Saxons and he decided that a mass be offered on Christmas Eve for all who cared to attend.
The Saxons did not, but Eddi continued. A great storm blew up and an ass and an ox pushed into the church for shelter and Eddi resolved to continue so that he should serve that congregation.
So Eddi, the Ass and the Ox worshipped together.
Warwick suggested that Kipling understood the isolation of Eddi's battle and related this to the position of Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus and then spoke of the commitment all of these people had. How committed are we to spread the message of the meaning of Christmas?

Hymn TIS 675  "Lord, the light of your love is shining" A prayer for God's transforming light to shine upon us to set us free.

Freewill Offering "...May our gifts be a sign, as were the gifts for those travellers of old, that wisdom is marked by an offering of self and to you. Amen"

A Time of Reflection led onto The Prayers of the People led by Nerida,who prayed that 2013 would be a year when we would trust God and follow the star. She then gave thanks for all those men and women who followed their star and shared their faith.

This was followed by the Lord's Prayer, one of the most important expressions of our faith.

Affirmation of Faith. "Though he was divine, he did not cling to equality with God,
but made himself nothing.
Taking the form of a slave, he was born in human likeness.
He humbled himself and was obedient to death, even the death of he cross.
Therefore God has raised him on high, and given him the name above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every voice proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen"

Hymn 221 "The First Nowell" The Christmas story always leads to the same conclusion:
"Now let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord, who brought forth heaven and earth from nought, and with his blood mankind has bought."

The Blessing
Go forth in the light of God's star, committed to the Journey in 2013 of faith and courage.

Amen. Amen. Amen.