Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Feb.24

Today's service focused on trusting in God's promise to fulfill the vision he has given us.

After the notices Helen gave the Call to Worship using examples from her experience to illustrate how our vision for the future, our dreams, can come undone.

The tone then changed with a responsive reading which referred to the story of Abraham and that the vision/dream he had didn't work out, with our reply being, "Let us take time for hope." We were then were directed to the times when all the smiles around us   disappear, to which our response was, "Let us take time for joy." Then the possibilities became worse: "When hate, brush-offs, and thanklessness seem to rule." to which we answered, "Let us take time for love."

I find it so difficult, in the face of disappointment or criticism, to turn to God for a proper perspective. It seems that the last word I hear is all that can be heard and if I could just step back, sit down and let God speak, then I'm sure I would save myself a lot of tears, frustration (and sulking).

Hymn TIS 554 "If we trust in God to guide us" A promise that we will never be forsaken and that we should look for the blessings God sends us-(and maybe not dwell on the ones we think he didn't send.)

Helen led the Prayer of Praise during which she confessed to feeling flat, with exciting hopes and possibilities dashed and having nothing to praise God for. However, she said that changed at a prayer retreat where she felt God's spirit fill her and renew her. The congregation were then asked what we had to praise and thank God for and there were varied responses, many involving family.

With hearts then in tune with all that we had to be thankful for, we stood and burst forth, singing the Doxology.

Helen led us in the Prayer of Confession pleading for God, in his compassion and his knowledge of our determination to keep hold of the controls, as well as his knowledge of our doubts and fears, to help us bloom despite being like frozen ground, stifling growth.

Helen also declared an Affirmation of Forgiveness after offering two definitions of forgiveness: in a field hospital, the laughter of a child whose leg has been blown off; the love of God, who offers us the chance to begin again.

Our sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God

Hymn TIS 588 "In heavenly love abiding" a hymn to the constancy of our God.

Bible Reading Genesis 15: 1 - 18 was read by Joan. Abram questions what reward God could give him since he is still childless and God assures him his child will be the beginning of a multitude of descendants, who, despite many setbacks, would finally inherit the land promised to them.

A Few Thoughts...The Gift of Doubt
Helen referred to the beginning of Genesis 15: After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid
                              I am your shield,
                              your very great reward.

"After this"- after what? Abram had just fought, with the help of others, a mighty battle to rescue his nephew Lot. In doing so, he had enraged many enemy leaders and was contemplating what might happen to him when they struck in revenge.
And so God offers him this promise. But Abram is confused. God had made  promises to him before. He had promised, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great." (Gen.12).
Abram has noticed that there wasn't any sign of that happening any time soon and doubts God.
Abram points out that he is childless, so God gives him a sign and shows him the stars and says his descendants will be as numerous as those - and Abram believes that but to believe that the land will be his is just too big a leap of faith.

So God makes a covenant with him in the manner of the time. The thing is that God's promise still didn't happen straight away. It happened over hundreds of years.

So the message for us is that if we have a vision, we are not to lose faith just because things aren't going the way we expected. God does not give up on his promises - he comes in many forms - he holds our hand - he will fulfill his promise.

It seems that doubt is an opportunity to speak with God, to express our confusion, to point out that things don't seem to be turning out and ask God for guidance. It may be that we have to adjust our game plan; perhaps we simply have to wait for other players to receive the same vision and join the team; perhaps the time is not God's time. Or other perhapses.

Then Helen introduced us to Liam and Richard from the Uniting Church Chaplaincy team at Macquarie University. These are two young men with a vision and specific plans as to how they are going to see that vision fulfilled. It was lovely to see such a sense of purpose and direction in the cause of ministering to the students at Macquarie University. May God hold their hands and direct their paths.

Hymn TIS 687 "God gives us a future" a hymn of encouragement to step out with the confidence that God will teach us to see the way to go, will give us the courage and strength to follow that path and will cleanse us to make us fit persons to carry out his work

It doesn't sound as though it will be a very comfortable time ahead for us and in my case I'm inclined to stretch out to pick up the television program to find some distraction from any difficulties I may have to face.
In my better moments I know that's useless. I might want to give up, but God doesn't give up.

The Freewill Offering was received a symbol of our intention to show up in places of need, at just the right time, to be the presence of healing love. This was followed by a time of reflection. We had been given a lot to absorb. Have any of us been given a vision? Do we have the courage to see it through? Can we see the detailed path ahead? How do we know if we will have to wait?
Fortunately, on-the-job training is supplied but that will only be useful if we keep our eyes upon that source of all knowledge.

The Prayers of the People delivered by Marcia was a practical offering of the vision of the church-here and elsewhere in the world.

Hymn TIS 595 "O Jesus I Have Promised" to serve you to the end. There doesn't seem to be any escape clause. There's no note about errors and omissions. I'm stuck!

Commissioning  God is big enough to hold all that we are. Let us remember the great love that is with us and for which we live.

Shared Blessing God be in head and in my understanding;
                             God be in my eyes and in my looking;
                             God be in my mouth and in my speaking;
                             God be in my heart and in my thinking;
                             God be at my end and at my departing.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Feb.10

After the welcome and notices, during which we were reminded of the Friendship Circle Morning Tea following the service and the Bible Studies at the Helen and Graham's home, starting on February 13, we received the

Call To Worship
Helen alerted us to our entering into the presence of God. She directed us to go inside ourselves; to put away all distractions; to look at this Holy place; to be aware of the life in us. "This place is Holy and we are in the presence of God"
Helen then sang the first verse of Hymn MP 50, setting the foundation for what was to follow:

"Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
            The Holy One is here;
Come bow before him now
with reverence and fear:
in Him no sin is found-
we stand on holy ground.
Be still, for the presence of the Lord,
           The Holy One is here."
We continued acknowledging his glory, his Holy fire, his splendour, his radiance, his power, his Grace - moving in this place.

Prayer of Praise and Confession.
In this prayer we gave thanks and praise to God for showing the possibilities for us exemplified in Christ and for God's care and encouragement as we step out towards those possibilities. We acknowledged our times of discouragement and the times when we overreach ourselves and forget who is in charge. We also confessed our lack of vision, despite the very clear example we have been given. And asked forgiveness.

For me, I always have to add the separate confession of being scared stupid. (Ask someone else God, it's too hard for me)

Words of Assurance
"There is no end to the life of grace in Jesus Christ. Have no doubt, we are loved children of God, and we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
Amen. Amen. Amen and Amen to that,

Hymn 85 "To God be the Glory"..."and opened the life-gate that all may go in." Only the giver of Life can do that, and am I glad that happens.

Scripture Reading. Luke 9:28 - 36 The Transfiguration. They saw Jesus as he was and is. 
God the Son.

Reflection Wow! Up here things sure look different.

Helen pointed out that in considering the Transfiguration we are not in the territory of people like Miss Fisher or Inspector Barnaby. There is nothing to offer that people like them can work with. As Christians we take a step into a world we cannot logically explain. Helen then provided the background to the record and the questions it answers:

Who is Jesus?
How is this role carried out?
What does it mean to be a follower?

The Transfiguration tells us that Jesus is greater than Moses or Elijah and when God speaks He tells them (us) "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" I think I will - it would take a bigger ego than mine to want to discuss other options here.

This claim was cemented as Jesus was clothed in Shekinah glory, the light not known on earth.

Helen spoke of this being about Jesus' departure to allow for God's restoration. Jesus' departure was to be a way of suffering and the disciples had already been told that to follow Jesus, they too (and we) would have to suffer with him and take up their (our) cross.

But before we can follow we have to LISTEN.

Down here in the valley our image of things is all murky. On the mountain top the disciples saw clearly, as we will.

We will see God clearly, bathed in the Shekinah Glory.

For now we have to BELIEVE!

Hymn 80 "Immortal, Invisible, God only wise" Beyond our comprehension. Beyond our imagination. Beyond anything we have ever known before. "Most blessed, most glorious".
And we are his children!!!!

Freewill Offering and Prayer for Others
"God of Shekinah Glory,
 God of dazzling light.
 You blow us away."
Prayers for God to hold us, our family, friends and all those in need around the world, in his palm, in the coming week, to make Earth a little more like it should be.

Hymn TIS 675 "Lord the light of your love is shining". A hymn to The Untarnished Light.
The Light unbearable to look upon but vital to our survival as whole people.
I don't dare look but I don't dare move away, I bow my head.


"Let your light shine in love."

MP 411
"Let there be love shared among us,
let there be love in our eyes;
may now Your love sweep this nation,
cause us, O Lord, to arise;
give us a fresh understanding
of brotherly love that is real;
let there be love shared among us,
Let there be love,"

We joined hands and swayed in resonance with each other and with the message we had just soaked up.

Be generous, heap your love upon others. You don't lose any of it - somehow the more you bucket it over others, the more it grows within.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Rd Uniting Church Feb. 3


Welcome and Notices
Next week there will be congregational singing before church and a morning tea for the Friendship Circles after the service.

Helen is back, her welcome took the form of:
Woody Allen has said, "God has put me on earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now, I am so far behind I will never die." I'll leave you to link this with the rest of the service.

The Call to Worship was responsive, finishing with:

From what source does our well of determination spring?
From you, O creating God, within whose awareness we have been since before we were born.

We people who live in time, find this difficult to get our heads around but it makes perfect sense. Looking back, it seems that God has always had hold of me, even when I was looking in the other direction. When I was looking away I called God's voice 'insight'; I called prayer 'wondering about things'; I called a response to God's command a response to 'principles'. Through all my 'heels in: lip out' refusal to acknowledge Him, He was there.

Hymn 148 "Love divine, all loves excelling" Together we opened our hearts and minds to our God, asking him to make us over, to make us as we were meant to be.

The Prayer of Praise and Confession a call for God to show us the core of our person; to sustain us in times of loss of confidence; to show how to be open to Him and to the possibilities raised in our minds through new understanding and new ideas. And then those words we long to hear: "Your sins are forgiven".

Reading  Jeremiah 1: 4 - 10. The young Jeremiah was more than overwhelmed, as we often are but God's response was 'Now I have put my words in your mouth.' End of discussion.

Reflection: Can't: not an option.

We expected and received a message straight from God. Just as God put words in Jeremiah's mouth so he did for Helen in this service.
Through an account of her experience on a cruise where she was determined not to reveal her position as a Minister of the UC and where she was alarmed at the prospect of having any part in the cruise Protestant service, she told us that at the last minute, when during the service it was announced there was no one to conduct the Eucharist, God pushed her forward, without any preparation, to do so.
It was a humbling and blessed experience for her and, if the thanks she received during the week that followed was any indication, it was a blessed time for many others.

Helen went on to remind us of our resorting to "I'm inadequate" to slip away from God's call.
She also reminded us that he summons us, he knows us by name, he has a plan.
God needs us on this Earth. His plans and our plans may be different. That could be inconvenient for us.
In my experience God keeps at us until we give in. The sooner we do that, the sooner we will be at peace, the sooner Gods work will be done.

A Statement of Faith: The One Ministry of Christ followed. This was based on Corinthians 12. Rather than record it here, I suggest you look at the Bible reference.
Through this statement we affirmed our position as members of the church.

Hymn  Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name - The Summons

We've all heard the advice, "Keep it real." This hymn certainly does.

"Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?...Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?...Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen?...Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?"

Will you? Scary stuff.

The Communion
After the invitation and story of Christ's sacrifice we were told:

Taking the bread, Jesus broke it and said,
This is my body, broken for you
Taking the cup, Jesus said,
This is the new covenant, in my blood, poured out for you and many for the forgiveness of sins

Prayer after Communion
"Lord, we can be reluctant followers, rather overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all.
Together, as a community, we have shared in communion, remembering you are within, and around us, empowering us to say, yes, to our summons."

This sort of things stops me in my tracks. To acknowledge that it all seems too much but knowing I have to say "Yes" anyway. Knowing that the only way it works is with Jesus as my focus is asking so much when I'm really more concerned about what I want.

Hymn TIS 658 "I, the Lord of sea and sky" - "Here I am Lord...I will go Lord" I can only make this promise as a vessel of God's spirit. There is no chance of pulling this off on my own.
The Offering This is the easy part. Using it to do God's will and not letting what we want get in the way, is the hard part.

Hymn TIS 531 "Sent forth by God's blessing" - "The supper is ended: may now be extended the fruits of his service in all who believe"

Sunday service isn't just a matter of "A nice time was had by all."  We are to go out and do the job God has set before us.

Commissioning  Go now, empowered by the Spirit to step out in faith.

The Benediction  we said together:

We go in the Spirit of the Triune God.
Father of love,
Mother of Grace,
Spirit in all and through all.

As is said in the film world: "That's a wrap!". We leave, mended souls, to try to keep our hand in God's for another week.