Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28 July

Joan has again generously written up the service for us.

Call to Worship – Psalm 85:7-11  “Oh Lord, show us thy true love and grant us thy deliverance.” This was an optimistic start to our service as we responsively read these few verses with Andrew leading us.
Hymn TIS 56“O sing a new song to the Lord, for wonders he hath done” more optimism here!
Prayers of Praise, Thanksgiving – Yes it was worth getting out of our warm bed for this!
Confession and Assurance – Through Andrew, we asked - among other things for the ability to forgive others.  We asked God to allow us to be Ambassadors of Healing.
And the Assurance – God loves without reserve – our sins are forgiven.
Children’s Address – It was a challenge for Andrew to get across the concept of the kind of prayer we should pray to such young children; even when he talked of praying for a fine day so that their outdoor Birthday Party may be a success – but Mum’s nodding of her head showed that she understood the temptation to pray for a fine day for the party without considering that a nearby farmer might need rain to save his crops.  The children’s address was certainly relevant to the adults.

Hymn TIS 648“Help us accept each other, as Christ accepted us

                            Teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace”

Scripture Reading – Luke 11:1-13   Ruth read the scripture passage which is headed; “About Prayer” in the New English Bible.  “… ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened.”  An optimistic end to the scripture reading lead into Andrew’s Reflection.

Reflection – “Teach us to Pray” – Andrew began with a true story about an encounter with a customer at the Wentworthville Opp Shop where he was volunteering.  She was a devout Catholic woman who complained there was never a Priest available to hear her confession at 9.15 each morning after she dropped her children at school.  Was that a reasonable expectation?

William Barclay’s writings were of help as Andrew explained the three distinct parts of the prayer that Jesus taught his Disciples to pray.  Luke’s version of these events is quite short but there is praise and thanksgiving in the first part with, “Father thy name be hallowed; thy kingdom come.”  The second part, “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins” speaks of supplication and petition and the third part, “For we too forgive all who have done us wrong, and do not bring us to the test” - speaks of confessions and forgiveness and the concern we should have for others.

Andrew told us he is currently lecturing on the Reformation at the Centre for Ministry and that Martin Luther, who was a monk, really knew the importance of prayer.  He said; “I have so much to do each day I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”   This comment of Martin Luther stopped me in my tracks.  As the daughter of an Anglican Priest I often questioned the need or even the wisdom of my father’s long and inflexible twice daily devotion ritual.  To my young mind it seemed odd that even when he was running late and had much to do and a deadline to meet, the bedroom door was still shut fast and the time was found for his personal devotions no matter what.  So this comment attributed to Martin Luther really made me think that it is a hard to discipline ourselves and many of us fall short and short-change God and ourselves in prayer. 

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” was another Martin Luther quote mentioned – and yes!  I believe that I would too!  If we lose hope and optimism we must surely also lose faith. 

Andrew returned to William Barclay’s “Plain man’s book of prayer” to discuss the three “laws” of prayer.  We must first be honest.  Secondly, we must be definite in prayer and name the gifts and the sins we are seeking to pray about.  Finally, we must be prepared to engage in self examination.

“When we pray we must accept that God will not do for us; that which we can do ourselves”, Andrew said.  I am sure I was not the only person who silently echoed that old adage; “The Lord helps those who help themselves.”  We can’t expect to pass our exams if we don’t study!  If we have studied it is reasonable to pray for calm thinking and good memory retention under the stress of the exam.

The final thoughts were powerful and encouraging. “Prayer is the co-operation of our effort with the Grace of God” and “Prayer brings power and endurance”.  Here we were encouraged to think that although when Jesus prayed to be spared the ordeal of the cross this prayer was not answered – he was given the strength and endurance to bear the pain of all our sins.  And we must also accept that we don’t always get the answer we want.  We were directed to consider Proverbs 30 Verse 8 which says; “Put fraud and lying far from me; give me neither poverty or wealth, provide me only with the food I need.”  Here we were invited to think about the differences between wants and needs and also about our spiritual sustenance. 
Hymn TIS 464 – “Seek O seek the Lord, while He is near,

                             Trust him, speak to Him in prayer and He will hear.”

 How reassuring are these words written by the Australian poet James McAuley.  Thanks Grahame for telling us about him during the announcements.

Announcements – As often happens this became a time of sharing when we were asked to pray about the nomination and election of three new elders and the upcoming AGM for the Congregation.   We also learned that the final figure raised by the “Simply Sharing” Tea was $450 for the “Uniting World Project – Transforming Lives through Leadership”.

Offering and Dedication

Prayers of the People – These Prayers were lead by Chris who began with Praise, effused Faith and called us to grow to reflect Christ and to yield to God and take everything to him in prayer.  He referred to the “red books” where we list our prayer requests and carried these requests to God for us.

Hymn TIS 104 – “While morning still is breaking and day replaces night …

your Spirit pour within us, and let the gifts of grace - to those good actions win us that best may show your praise. 

Blessing and Benediction – The service finished with the singing of:

Now unto Him, who is able to keep

Able to keep you from falling

And present you faultless

Before the presence of His glory

With exceeding joy

To the only wise God our Saviour

Be glory and majesty

Dominion and power

Both now and forever


Monday, 22 July 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church July 21

I did not expect to be posting a blog this week because I have had a few days in  hospital but Joan has kindly written up this service which was a lovely gift to return to.

Call to worship                                                by Noelene

Hymn  TiS  100                                               All creatures of our God and king

We sang all seven verses with great gusto – with Roger playing the organ as loudly as Grahame would have done – AND with little Oliver standing up blocking his ears with his tiny hands – Priceless!  

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Confession & The Lords Prayer

Children’s address      Backpack and carrying stuff – one by one Noelene pulled items from her back pack and asked the kids if Jesus would have approved of the things she had carried for just one day as a volunteer – when he told the disciples they must go out with nothing.  She held up little Calliope who was dressed in a tulle ballet skirt and had a little conversation with her about one of the things in the bag (but I can’t remember what it was).  I suppose I was too busy enjoying the moment!


Hymn TiS 182                                                 Bring many names      

Bible reading                                                   Luke 10: 1 – 11, 16 – 20 

Sermon                                                           Sending out the 72

Noelene delivered a sermon which challenged us to take “new and risky paths” - a theme being promoted by the Uniting Church Moderator.  She did this with a gentle and caring approach.  To set the scene in an unintimidating way she began with an amusing story of door to door missionaries. 

In speaking about the 72 followers sent out by Jesus and referred to in the Bible reading, Noelene stressed they were told to take nothing with them and instructed to go into towns and villages, ahead of where he was planning to go.  If any town offered no hospitality they were told to move on, “wiping the dust from their shoes.”  By carrying “No stick, no beggar’s bag, no food, no money, not even an extra shirt” these missionaries, who were sent to discover the places which would be receptive to the message of Jesus, were seen to have come in peace and with no threat to the people they approached for hospitality. 

Jesus said, “I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  Noelene told us that this was a warning that wolves eat lambs for dinner.  By following the instruction not to stop and talk along the road, these 72 disciples were being encouraged to talk to large groups of people and this they did as they gathered crowds and healed the sick and paved the way for Jesus to follow.

We reflected together on the different ways the church has tried to reach people with its message of the Good News of Jesus.  The door to door missionary approach is just not working today and although travelling the world and holding great crusades like those of Billy Graham in the nineteen fifties and sixties influenced and converted many people this approach is not the way to go today either.  Noelene pointed to the similarities in the way local churches prepared the ground for the arrival of Billy Graham to the preparation made by the 72 for the arrival of Jesus.

“Our challenge today is to get the message of Jesus Christ across to people who don’t care and don’t want to know” and “Everywhere, where membership numbers are dropping, churches are asking questions about how to attract new people to the church.” Noelene told us.  She challenged us to explore our hearts about what is the reality in society today about the good news of Jesus Christ and encouraged us to face the fact it may not always be a message people want to hear.  “We could talk about seeking justice for refugees and asylum seekers. Not the most popular topic in Australian society at the moment.  But didn’t Jesus say he was sending his followers out like lambs amongst the wolves?”

Back to the Moderator’s theme of New and Risky Paths which Noelene told us had both her support and encouragement.  She asked the question – “How can we catch that vision?”  Earlier during the service she had referred to Fair Trading Products and the 25 year passion she and her husband have had for promoting them; so this made her comments in the sermon more important and underlined them for her listeners.  We were told of a Fair Trade Fair held in November last year and how a “risky” invitation to the Moderator to attend had been readily accepted.  The last meeting of Synod passed a resolution that churches use Fair Trade tea and coffee.

“So what are your new and risky paths? What is your mission and how do you find new ways to do mission?  You’ve probably already worked out things you do. I pray you will be open to others.  Because sometimes it just happens.” 

Noelene certainly threw out a serious challenge for us to try and answer some of those questions and yet her challenge was gentle - so much so that when the poignant story of the baptism of the stillborn child was told – she could barely speak and had to stop a couple of times to gather her composure.  Not knowing how to face this situation the Canadian hospital Chaplain took a tissue and wiped his tears and the tears of the parents and with these tears he baptized the child and brought her into Christ’s kingdom.

The message here was surely to trust our instincts and to be always open to God’s message in whatever form it comes to us.

Hymn (Tune TiS 679)                                     The Summons

Offering / prayer                                            

Prayers for Others                                                                 

Hymn TiS 609                                                 May the mind of Christ my saviour 

The words of the final verse rang out as a challenge: 

His beauty rest upon me

As I seek the lost to win,

And may they forget the channel,

Seeing only Him.

Dismissal and Benediction                              BOFL p 236 

As we sang the final blessing we felt the encouragement we needed to go out and walk our new and risky paths:

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.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 14 July 2013

We were welcomed and called to worship by Jonathan: Welcome to this holy place as we meet to worship God, to sing His praises and to pray and share fellowship with each other.

Hymn TIS 142 "Glory be to God the Father" To The Lord to whom we owe all!  The Eternal  King: The one who heals us and makes us whole: Glory, blessing, praise eternal.

Psalm 82  An appeal for justice for those who lack the ability to defend themselves against the greedy: an appeal for help for those lacking the knowledge and understanding to find their own way.

Talk about George Matheson writer of the next two hymn. Jonathan told us about this man who became blind at the age of eighteen but still completed his university studies and theological degree and was ordained in 1866. He was awarded an honorary DD by Edinburgh University, in the locality of which, he had a reputation for very effective preaching and evocative prayers. His fiancé ended their engagement citing his blindness as her reason, which gave the inspiration for Hymn TIS 602. He said it was though the words were being dictated to him and flowed off his pen.

Hymn TIS 602 "O Love that wilt not let me go" Each verse with the same theme: surrendering ourselves to He who is Love, Light and Joy.

Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving and Confession Led by Jonathan we prayed to our most wonderful God: A prayer acknowledging God as the source of all that is good about human behaviour, asking that, during worship we should be kept free from wanderings of mind and coldness of heart and that we be given a deep longing for truth..."may know you, embrace you, and worship you in the incarnate life of our Saviour, Jesus Christ."

Jonathan then led us in thanksgiving  to God who has loved us forever and whose love will continue forever. We gave thanks for God's mercy, which endures forever, evidenced by Jesus' sacrifice for us and the work of comfort and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Following Jonathan, we confessed our blindness, our pride, our selfishness, our self righteousness, our callousness, our defiance, our evasion and our coldness that prevent the steps towards repentance. God be merciful to us.

Jonathan then proclaimed the Good News that God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Our sins are forgiven.

Hymn TIS 604 "Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free". An appeal for God to take control of our lives to free us from our many weaknesses.

Readings: Colossians 1: 1 - 14. A letter thanking (Him) who has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. Giving praise for God's work amongst the Colossians (us?) and the fruit their (our) lives were (are) bearing in the world.

Luke 10: 25 - 37. An account of an unlikely saviour. The very person we would expect to pass the injured man by, was the very one to give aid. And those who professed to follow the rule God, did nothing and pretended not to notice. Hmmm. Could this be something we professing Christians should be listening to?

SERMON: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jonathan began by explaining the geography of the road. A drop of 3600 feet in the 20 miles from Jerusalem down to Jericho. Imagine the twists and turns. A happy hunting grounds for robbers. Jonathan then told the story of the God Samaritan, explaining first the hierarchy of the Temple, starting with the High Priest then the Chief Priests (200) and then the Ordinary Priests (7000). These were exclusive, hereditary positions - these were elite people. The Ordinary Priests mostly lived outside Jerusalem, which explained their presence on this road. So after the man was attacked, robbed and left by the robbers a priest and a Levi (a priestly tribe) both walked past without helping, afraid to get involved but then the Samaritan came and stopped and  helped. The Samaritans were regarded as unclean by the Jews and were outcasts. A Samaritan could not expect help from a Jew, but knowing this, this Samaritan stopped and gave aid. This story was told in answer to a question that was meant to challenge Jesus. Who is my neighbour? The man of the law that asked this question was then asked who the neighbour in this story was and he correctly identified the Samaritan.

This leaves us no excuses. Everyone is our neighbour, regardless of nationality, class or religion. And our help should not just be good wishes, we should act.

Hymn TIS 629 "When I needed a neighbour, were you there" The message may have not been so clear up until now but now it's as clear as crystal. We were challenged to be a good neighbour to all, earlier but now the message has become one we can't turn from. It seems that by giving help to a neighbour we are helping The Lord. And by neglecting our neighbour, we are neglecting The Lord. No further comment needed.

Offerings  were given as a token of our commitment and our loyalty to God's cause.

Prayers of the People Jonathan led us in prayers for those in need, for humility to accept the ups and downs of life, and the fortitude to endure those things that come our way. He prayed for the broken and divided world; for peace and for obedience to God's law. Jonathan prayed that the Spirit of love will rule our lives and that God will guide us. We then joined together in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 233 "I will sing the wondrous story" I was lost; faint; in darkness; distressed.

But He has "raised me up and gently led me back into the narrow way"


"May the Spirit of truth lead us into all truth, give us grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and to proclaim the word and works of God.

And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be on us and remain with us always.

Amen. Amen. Amen.

I will be away for one week, perhaps two, but look forward to writing again after that.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church July 7

Helen welcomed us all and the notices were given out, including one for the "Simply Sharing" meal on July 14 at 5.30 pm, aimed at supporting a project to create scholarships for theological study places for women throughout the Pacific.

Call to Worship  Sing praises to the Lord, all you, his faithful ones.

                            Weeping may linger for the night, but the joy comes with the morning.

                                                                                                                     Psalm 30:v.4

Hymn TIS 134 "Praise my soul the king of heaven"..."ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven". Really, you couldn't knock back an offer like that, could you?...praise the everlasting King!

Prayer A prayer to the creator God, marvelling that the one who sustains the entire universe; restores, forgives, supports and strengthens us. He who knows and understands our every weakness, is quick to bless. "God of grace, we humbly offer you our praise and thanks. Amen. 

Scripture Reading 2 Kings 5: 1 - 14 was brought to us by Ruth. This is a reading of many details and you would be well advised to read it in full, but the section in the bible is headed "The Healing of Naaman". Two aspects of this story caught my attention: firstly Naaman sought physical healing but ended up with belief in God's power to heal. The second aspect that came home was that when Elisha didn't make any sort of ceremony of the healing but sent a messenger to tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, Naaman  became angry and refused to do anything so simple and had to be convinced. It sometimes seems so hard to humble ourselves and simply ask for forgiveness. But then it also seems equally difficult sometimes to accept something so freely given. But that's the way it is. We can do nothing to earn or "work off" our cleansing and healing.

Reflection  Helen focussed on the story of Naaman, first setting the scene in the north kingdom where 10 of the 12 tribes had settled.

Naaman was a leader in the adjoining kingdom of Aram, who could be relied upon to win battles and was well thought of in his country and by his king. Israel and Aram were not at full scale war but there were regular border skirmishes and during these, people were regularly taken captive to be work as slaves. It was by this way that an Israelite girl came to be Naaman's wife's servant.

This turned out well for Naaman who was suffering from an incurable skin disease when the girl told Naaman's wife he could be cured if he went to Israel's prophet. Naaman took the idea to his king who saw it as an excellent way of protecting a loyal and good man, and so sent him off with generous gifts and a letter to the King of Israel.

The Israelites were in a period of worshipping no one or anyone but when the King received the letter he was furious because he, at least, still recognized healing as a God-given talent which he knew he didn't have. He put the request down to a war-mongering effort on Naaman's king's part and so tore his clothes.

However, Elisha heard of it and sent a message to calm the King and to tell Naaman to go to him. What happened there is described above in the bible reading section.

Helen showed us how this was a message to the Israelites who were ignoring God. God wants a relationship with each person; he wants us to love him. Naaman wasn't one of his people but he sought healing and as a result, believed.

God loves us all. When He looks at Australia what does He see? Where are our hearts?

Are we trying to love God and each other? Does God see division or are we 'one' together?

How do we show our love for God at church? By simple things like praying and singing.

We have to remember: Love The Lord your God with all your hearts and your neighbour as yourself.

Prayer  An acknowledgement of our own limitations and wonder at being chosen to do God's extraordinary work. Helen continued, asking God to give us faith in ourselves and asking for forgiveness when we are held back by fear. "Lord you have called us. Give us the courage to step out in faith." Amen.

Hymn TIS 595 "O Jesus I have promised" A hymn that resonates with all of us. We so much want to carry out God's plan but are so easily distracted or frightened off. "Speak to reassure me"..."O guide me, call me, draw me,"

Communion  Introduction: Helen began by reminding us that a purpose of sharing in the communion is to remember that we are called also to share our faith with others. She also reminded us that however inadequate we feel, God provides and it is His strength we rely on.

"Let us lift our hearts.    We lift them to The Lord

 Let us give thanks to The Lord our God.    It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We are the body of Christ. Around the table, we enact our faith. The body broken is restored to wholeness: lifeblood poured out brings healing to our world."

A time of Silence

Passing the Peace  Helen explained that at the table we receive God's peace made flesh and that we would then share that.  "The peace of the Lord be with you...And also with you" We then reached out in peace to each other.

There followed a special time brought to us by Helen and Ruth, both speaking of our being transformed so that we will take our place more fully as God's people, reviving our vision of community.

The Words of Institution

These were read from Mark 14:16 - 25 by Colin ..."he took the bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, Take, this is my body. Then  he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them,...This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’”

Prayer over the Elements

"Lord, like us, there is nothing special about the elements before me. Everyday bread and grape juice. We ask now for your life giving, transforming Holy Spirit to enter each person here today, transforming the everyday and ordinary into the sacred. Together, as we share the elements, may we remember Christ's sacrificial love for each one of us."

The Distribution The people were served in the pews.

Hymn TIS 530 "Now let us from this table rise" Having been renewed we should "choose again the pilgrim way." We have been here today with a purpose. Let us not short circuit that purpose by reverting to previous behaviours.

Prayers of the People and The Lord's Prayer Pat asked that we should keep in mind the less fortunate and gave thanks for those who help the needy. She gave thanks for the beautiful weather we have been enjoying.

She asked for God's blessing on the Church worldwide and on own congregation as we seek out a new minister. Pat asked for God's hand on Helen and Graham as they move into a new phase of their lives.

 She then held up the health concerns of people known to the congregation and then led us in the Lord's Prayer.

 "Your will be done" are the words that echo in my heads continually. They can be quite off putting when I would rather it was my will. 

Helen then bound the sections of the service together moving onto The Freewill Offering.

"We respond to Your generosity to us, with these gifts and our lives...accept and use our offerings for your glory"

Hymn TIS  188 v. 1 - 3  "Where the wide sky rolls down" The God I love blessing the country I love.

Blessing "...May we go forth from this place open to the grace that calls us, surrounds us, and surprises us.

Hymn 188 v. 4 "Now people faith, come gather round"...." Australians, whatever your culture or race, come, lift up your hearts to the Giver of grace"