Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 October 2013


We Gather for Worship

Praise awaits you, O God;

and solemn promises will be fulfilled. To you who listen to our prayer, all may come,

When sinful deeds overcome us, pardon our rebellion.

How fortunate are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts.

Let us be filled with the good things of your house, your holy temple."

From Psalm 65: 1 - 4 and Joel 2: 23 - 32 Jeff Shrowder 2000

A Gathering Prayer (condensed)

"Come: all you in need of hope, who seek faith, who long for peace, in need of comfort, who seek reassurance, who long for love. Come, dwell in the house of The Lord.   Amen."

from Roots

Sometimes we have to realise that the lack we feel is not for material things but for the things of the spirit. And when those needs are fulfilled, the other wants fade away.

Hymn TIS 90 "I'll praise my maker while I've breath" This hymn says out loud, the realization that our praise to our Lord will never cease because the awareness of our unending gratitude will simply grow and grow. Praise to the Lord who supplies all our needs - who meets them in ways that are sometimes quite a surprise to us.

Prayer. A prayer to give thanks to the creator of all that is beautiful and our ability to show appreciation for it. A plea that God's spirit will bring our worship alive, bringing hope for us in that which is eternal. A plea for forgiveness and healing and restoration. A plea for the renewal of our vision - Amen.

We listen for a Word of God.  In the Scriptures

Lyn brought to us 2 Timothy 4: 6 - 8, 16 - 18 and Luke 18: 9 - 14. Paul speaks of giving up his life for others, asking forgiveness for those who did not support him and expressing his confidence in the Lord to rescue him (us) from every attack.

We aren't attacked for our faith in a physical way in this country but friendships are lost and careers and sometimes reputations ruined. But we can't do anything but stand firm. How can we say something we know to be true, isn't,  just for the sake of things of lesser importance, no matter how much we hurt inside.

The reading from Luke is a very well known passage. The Pharisee reminding God of everything he was doing  to keep the law and the tax-collector unable to lift his head.

Reminder here - it's all about God - it's not about us.

Reflection Chris told us how he had unexpectedly begun participating in the City to Surf race and that this year that he had run with his niece, both benefiting from the encouragement of the other. In the reading, Paul who is facing the end of his life, thinks back on the opportunities he had had to encourage others and also about the fact that there had been times when he had been deserted by others. But he says that he has "run the race" in the firm faith that God has been with him.

Chris continued, by reminding us that a loving community can become transforming and that it is up to us to take up the baton and continue running that God-inspired race, making God's presence real to each other.

Chris then turned our attention to the week's destructive bushfires and the lives that are in disarray, as a result. He spoke of God's presence at such a time and how through the loving acts of people, God's presence is often felt if not named. Chris relayed messages from the Moderator and the President of the Assembly, detailing the suffering of people, including members of the church and the service rendered by chaplains and others, finally giving thanks for the witness to Christ during this time.

Chris also told us of a Facebook entry of a Bible College student, Joel Hollier, who lost his home, saying he had never experienced such hospitality, and saw the fires as a time when "the true humanity of people which is hidden beneath a veneer of individuality and materialism", rose up. Property may have been list but humanity has been found.

We begin our response to God's Word

Hymn TIS 604 "May the mind of Christ my Saviour" A prayer that Christ's mind will control our words and actions: that the word of God will dwell in us so that we will give witness to Him: that the peace of God rule us so that we can be a comfort to others: that the love of God will fill us that we will exalt only him: then may we run the race, keeping our focus on Jesus. Again, it's all about God and each of us needs to remember that not one of us has a handle on God's will. We should listen to each other and for God's quiet voice in the many ways it comes to us. How often in a meeting do we earnestly pray for God to guide our thoughts and words and then plough in, guided only by our own sense of importance.


The Grieving "This black cloth reminds us of lives and places that have been blackened by fires over this last week"

Paraphrase: we grieve, supporting each other, particularly those directly affected by the fires and join in building a new future, knowing that Jesus, who had known human pain is here with us. Some places will never be the same and the loss cannot be expressed but we will hold in love all that is gone, gathering its beauty into our memories.

Now let us reach out to God who waits to comfort us.

"O God, as our Loving Parent, we believe that you are with us now." Amen

Prayers for the People

Paraphrase: Disasters like that of last week make us wonder. Hold us close; restore our faith; help us live a life of freedom.

"Send us your Holy Spirit this day with gifts of wisdom, healing, and comfort, we pray.

Show us ways of caring for all those who grieve and suffer, O God, and open our lives to share what we have with those in need. Renew us for the days to come, that we may lift up our heads and begin again in hope. This we pray in faith. Amen"

The Affirmation

"In the power of a loving God, we will survive the future, as we have the past, and in the same spirit with which we face the fires."

It is clear that at least three of these fires were started deliberately or accidentally by human hand. There's a lesson there for us all. God does not force us to obey his natural or spiritual laws. When we break any of those laws, disastrous repercussions are the consequence.

Hymn SANS 199. "Moods"

A cry of protest about natural disasters but an acknowledgement that it is God's Spirit that gets us through these traumas.


"...let us bring to mind what we see among us which carry us forth in faith..."

We shouldn't need a disaster to nudge us into doing this. Day by day, we should be looking about us to see the support God supplies us in His creation, in books, in services, in people, in situations grand and of little moment. Let us learn to discern God's presence with us.

Let us go out.

Paraphrase: just as the bush regenerates, let us go forward with new life springing up in us.


"And may the God who never leaves us or forsakes us, the Christ, who wept for the loss of a friend, walk before us and the Holy Spirit heal us and bring us a new dream. Amen"

Hymn TIS 779 "May the feet of God walk with you," That's all any of us need as long as we acknowledge and respond to His presence.  Resources: Roots, Billabong website Jeff Shrowder, "Starters for Sundays", "In Life in Death" Dr. D MacRae-MacMahon



Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 20 October 2013


Joan kindly and very capably looked after the blog today.

We were called to Worship by Dan this morning after being greeted at the door by Elaine, our official “welcomer” for the day and Phil & Laurel, our stewards.  I was secretly a little pleased to be handed the older Australian Hymn Book, hoping for some rousing old hymns.  We began well with …

Hymn AHB 85   To God be the Glory

To God be the glory, great things He hath done,

So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,

Who yielded His life our redemption to win,

And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

This hymn was written in 1872 by Fanny Crosby, who was blind.  Fanny is quoted as saying; "Darkness may throw a shadow over my outer vision, but there is no cloud that can keep the sunlight of hope from a trustful soul."  It evolved that HOPE was the underlying theme of our service today so Fanny’s quote fits in well.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession:

“God our father, we worship you in wonder and in love.

Our minds cannot contain you, nor our words express you;

yet in Christ we see your glory, hear your word of truth and know your forgiving love.”

On this beautiful Sydney spring morning this prayer was the perfect way to clear our thoughts and open our hearts and minds to hear and accept the messages brought to us by the service today. 
 I couldn’t help thinking this would be a good prayer to say each morning before we face the day.
We reflected on our need for God’s forgiveness.  A moment to be quiet and “take stock” of our week!

Announcements were made and there was an air of excitement among those who had followed the congregation’s “Progressive Dinner” the previous night. 

Hymn AHB 92   God has spoken by his prophets

God has spoken by His prophets,

Spoken His unchanging Word …

Through the rise and fall of nations

One sure faith yet standing fast,

God is King, His Word unchanging,

God the first, and God the last.

This hymn, with words written by George W. Biggs is inspired by Hebrews 1: 1-2

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.

Before the Bible Readings, Dan showed us a map of the Babylonian Empire in 600 BC.  This ancient Empire was shown spreading across to the east from the Persian Gulf as a reddish pink blush of colour.  I am pretty sure I was not the only one who thought about the time of our own childhood when our school atlas depicted the British Empire in that same dramatic way.  It took my mind back to the last verse of the hymn we had just sung.  Through the rise and fall of nations; One sure faith yet standing fast, God is King, His Word unchanging, God the first, and God the last.”

I will probably spend a long time this week, thinking about the rise and fall of many nations and the never ending love of God – thanks Dan.

Our Bible passages today were read by Joyce:  Luke 18 : 1 – 18           

I was struck by the parables in the Gospel readings.  Perhaps we are being directed to be the “dripping tap” of persistence, in demanding justice for those more “invisible” people in our community, by the story about the widow who was “a great nuisance” to the judge.  Perhaps in the second parable about the proud Pharisee and the repentant tax gatherer; comes the reminder to do everything with humility – even our good works.

As Joyce read on, I remembered that warm feeling when as I child, I was assured the “Kingdom of God” was always open to me.  It is good to recall that feeling of acceptance, while being reminded of the obligations we all now have as responsible adults.

Jeremiah 31 : 27 – 34   

Reflection:        God has a new covenant for us today

Dan told us that Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah about 627 to 586 BC.  He confronted the King and the country’s leaders who were “not in tune with God”, but they did not respond.  “So God brought justice on to them through the conquering Babylonian army and the King and his court were taken into exile to Babylon along with many of the skilled and wealthy people.”  

Exile taught the Jewish people that God can be worshipped anywhere.  It is not the building or the country that is important, rather it is learning to keep your Faith and learning to grow in Spirit wherever you are “planted”.  Although they thought that God had abandoned them, they discovered during their 70 year exile that God was still with them if they kept their Faith and were not overcome by the different cultural ideas of the Babylonians. 

Dan reminded us that Jeremiah sent a letter to the Jews exiled in Babylon to implore them to become a part of the community in which they were living.  They were exhorted to; “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage; that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease.  Seek the welfare of any city to which you are exiled and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” 

“Through Jeremiah, God told his people that in God’s time, Israel would be restored and one day the Messiah would come to establish a new covenant with God’s people.”  Hope of a new covenant.  Hope in the future and hope in the place you find yourself.  “Surely a message for all of us today,” said Dan as he challenged us to find these parallels.  We do need to live within the community as part of the community and we need to be part of a mission in bringing about God’s plans for a future with hope.  We need to be an accepting community which shares Grace and we need to be a thriving and motivated community. 
We need to be like the persistent widow in the parable and this persistence should include our prayers, our Faith and our relationships.  We need to be persistent in sharing God’s love with everyone around us.

Dan likened our circumstances in Australia today as Christians, to the situation of the Jews in exile.  We live in a post-Christian materialistic society where only 20% of people regularly go to Church.  Many around us recognise that God exists, without knowledge and experience of God’s Grace.   

We were asked a very personal question; one posed by a Canadian man, Thomas Bandy – a serious question which we should all go away and ponder. “What is it about your experience with Jesus that this community cannot live without?”

Dan finished by reminding us that we can have Hope through our faith in Jesus Christ.  If we put our trust in him and persevere, then we can have a future with hope, and that’s a message worth sharing.  

Hymn AHB 557             Lord of Creation

Lord of creation, to you be all praise!  Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!

You reign in a glory no tongue e'er can tell; you deign in the heart of the humble to dwell.

Offering:   I smiled as I noted the thoughtfulness that Grahame had given to his playing of the organ during the offering.  “Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.  Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!  With God as our Father, brothers all are we.  Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Prayers of the People:  During the prayers we remembered the anxiety and the grief that has come to many through the dreadful bush fires this week and expressed gratitude for the firefighters and all the volunteers in the community.   We prayed for the concerns we had written in the prayer books as they passed through the church during the service.

We also remembered our much loved former Minister, Rev. Les Pearson who died this week.  Les was a man who truly used his life well to do God’s work.  Habitat for Humanity was a great part of that inspirational work. 

Hymn:    Forward Together  -  This new hymn with words by Rev. Dr David Manton, sung to a familiar tune and followed by the Benediction, made a fitting end to thought provoking service.

Forward together, we will go,  Pilgrims of faith, to risk and dare.

Jesus you call us, we’ll go out, Off’ring to others love and care.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 October 2013


We are called to Worship   "Where is God" from "Because Nothing Looks Like God" by Lawrence and Karen Kushner.

God is in the beginning.

God is in the first red ripening tomato, in the first fun day of the vacation, in the tiny hands of a baby.

God is in the end.

God is in the worn, torn baby blanket, in the band-aid fixer, in the morning hugs and goodnight kisses.

God is in the world.

God is in the spider webs and caterpillars.

God is everywhere, if only we look.

God is here with us, this morning.

Hymn TIS 52. "Let us sing to the God of Salvation" Praising God, our Maker; our Saviour; our everlasting King; The Lord of Everything. Praise and prayer together, reminding us that God is God of all, and asking for help in being open to His voice through this service.

Prayer A declaration that we have come to wait on God, acknowledging the ups and downs of our lives, in our attempt to be God's people. A prayer, acknowledging our need of God's presence in our lives to make His love known to the world, and to have the courage to confess our allegiance to Him, and asking for help to overcome the barriers that separate us from each other.

We Listen for a Word from God

In the Scriptures. Jeremiah 29: 1, 4 - 7; 2 Timothy 2: 8 - 15; Luke 17: 11 - 19

The Jeremiah reading is a letter to all the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had taken off to Babylon, telling them to get on with their lives to sustain the Hebrew population, even in exile. Make the best of what you have. Play with the cards you have been dealt.

This famous passage in Timothy with its eternal message is well known but the message that hits me today is probably considered the lesser half of the passage. Don't argue about little things. "Look out!" Says Luke, you who consider yourselves the core of your community (your congregation?). Don't take your position for granted. Jesus isn't about that sort of thing.

As We Reflect. Chris spoke of getting good news and bad news. He spoke about the adventure good news might bring, but the grief that the adventure might cause at having to leave the familiar and comfortable behind.

Jeremiah's news was bad news. The Israelites had thought that God would take them home to Jerusalem from Babylon where they were captive but Jeremiah was saying to settle down and live with the Babylonians. This was something of a shock as the Israelites had always remained a separate people, focusing on God.

For the Israelites, God was in the Temple and was their God but Jeremiah was signalling a change. God is everywhere. God is with you.

The Israelites were very territorial but Jeremiah was saying that God was the God who ruled the whole world.

Jeremiah was telling them to pray for the Babylonians; telling them that God was found in one another and that they should care for each other. This was the same change as  in Jesus' cleansing of the lepers, including the Samaritan.

This was bad news for anyone with a closed mind.

Where are we? What are we being called to adjust to? What may we have to leave behind?

God is with you; He will never leave you.

We Respond to God's  Word

Hymn "Can we get inside this story, try to think as lepers thought?" Theirs lives were rubbish and even though they dared not approach Jesus, He cured them anyway. There's a big lesson for us. Too often we do not give help because we think it's wasted or not appreciated. Our job is to show compassion, leave the rest to God.

The Offering

Prayers for the People. Chris prayed for us, thanking God for this world, the gift of Jesus, His compassion and His inclusion of all.

Chris prayed on our behalf for the empowerment of God's church to follow Jesus' example. He prayed for us, that people who feel excluded because of race or disability and for the isolated in their loneliness. He prayed for all those who are treated unfairly for any reason and gave thanks for those who have accepted us.

With Chris, we prayed for our friends and loved ones, our churches and committees, for those known to us who have special needs at this time and their carers and those who are sad because they are grieving.

"Almighty God whose power is revealed in our weakness, we pray for your grace in the week ahead, keep us hopeful, trusting that you are with us, and give us the confidence to reach out to others and offer hope through Jesus Christ our Lord"

We go out into the World to Love

Hymn TIS 453 "We limit not the truth of God" No one or no church has all the answers. "Send us increase from above." It's a life's work, and even then we will not know but a skerrick of all that is. "The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his word."

We are sent out with a Blessing

"How does God Make things Happen?"

A Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships...

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people...

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war...

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.



"Because nothing looks like God". Lawrence and Karen Kushner

"Starters for Sunday" Church of Scotland website.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 September 2013

We Gather.

We are called to worship. With reference to Jesus' story involving the comparison to a mustard seed, we were called to worship. Speaking of faith, hope and love as small as a mustard seed, the strength of which has been revealed to us through the apostles, prophets and those who have cared for us, we prayed that God would be made known to us through the service.

Hymn TIS 179  "Praise with joy the world's Creator" Praise to the God who is all things to us, celebrating His power to reconcile. At this time of the year, it is easy to rejoice in the blessing of brilliant weather that lifts our spirit, but the storms are just as important to growth.

We Approach God in Prayer  through Chris, we declared our wonder of the Creator, Upholder, In-dweller, Lover of all. We acknowledged the need to be silent in such a presence and to offer thanks and praise. We made a plea for all those innocently suffering in the world, looking within at our complicity in this. "in silence, then, before the mystery both of your presence and of your absence, we wait upon you now."

"Be still and know that I am God"

"Trust, and let the mercy and peace of God embrace you. Trust, put the past behind you and face the future with quiet confidence." Trust, God is faithful and can be absolutely relied upon.

Be assured, your sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God,"

We listen to the Word of God.

As we read the scriptures: Kaye brought us the readings from Lamentations 1: 1- 6;

3: 19 - 26. 2 Timothy 1: 1 - 14. Luke 17: 5 - 10

Lamentations begins, with weeping for the demise of Judah. The author continues in this tone, but then remembers, "The Lord is good to those who wait for him,".

The Timothy reading is a word of encouragement from Paul, who concludes: "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us."

The reading from Luke raises difficulties. Many of us in full faith, feel we have been left wondering, yet in this reading, Jesus says it only takes a minute amount of faith to achieve much. Then, a very culturally bound example, used to remind us that we owe everything to God.

We Reflect. Chris spoke of the many things that have been happening in the world this past week. The tragic, the celebratory, the effects of human greed or fear. The hope generated by the young and their hopes. Chris pointed to the problems and blessings we all experience and said that God makes himself known in both, with reference to the Lamentations passage. However it seems to many that when the events surrounding us are discouraging we have the sense that God has left us, to return when things seem brighter. The truth is that God is always with us, He is never away. He is the God of love, so our lives and God's presence are always intertwined.

The community that Timothy belonged to was under great pressure to turn away from God and this letter was encouragement to them to hang on to their true faith. It was also an instruction to support each other, an instruction that we should take to heart. Am I the one to be here for others: to listen to their needs?

We each have a part to play to assure others that  God's love never ceases and in so doing we have a part to play in building the community of God.

Communion is an expression of that community.

We Begin Our Response

Hymn TIS 691 "Faith will not grow from Words Alone" ..."...our faith must feel its way about". Understanding doesn't come on a platter. We must search it out, believing that we will be spoken to, if we are listening.

The announcements were followed by Prayers for the People. Delma gave thanks for answered prayer. Calling attention to the Naval Celebrations, she prayed for the safe return of all service men and women. She prayed for our brothers and sisters in war torn countries, asking that wars should cease and peace reign, adding a plea that each of us will do our part to bring peace. She prayed for those in need, known to the congregation and then we joined together in the Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 514 "Be known to us in the Breaking of a Bread" A Prayer, asking God to come to us, in this special time. An opportunity to switch off everything else and listen even more intently.


"Welcome to the Table

At this table we give thanks for justice, love, peace and freedom.

At this table we give thanks for friends and strangers together in community in this safe place. At this table we welcome old and young.

A place at the table. All are invited.

Welcome, let us share our meal."

Gathering we declared our God the life within and rejoiced.

Thanksgiving We gave thanks for the elements of life that bring us together, celebrating the mystery that is the origin of us all. We acknowledge  the embodiment of God in each person. Expressed uniquely.

The Story We remembered the story that we were celebrating.

"Together may we re-imagine the world

Together may we work to make all things new.

Together may we celebrate the possibilities and hope

We each have and are called to share."

There followed The Breaking of Bread and the Pouring of Wine: May there be healing of humanity...May we be healed.

Communion "Bread broken, cup full.

To eat and drink together reminds us of the deeper aspects of human fellowship, for from time immemorial the sharing of bread and wine has been the most universal of all symbols of community. So let us share this symbolic meal together."

After Communion We thanked God for gathering with us and for the presence of each other. "May we continue to be truly thankful in all we do and all we become."

The Peace The peace of God is stay

                   Thanks be to God.

We go out to live love in the World

Hymn TIS 414 "There's a spirit in the air" "Praise the love that Christ revealed, living, working in the world" That's the whole point isn't it. If we keep it to ourselves we haven't fulfilled our mission.

We are sent out with a blessing.

We were exhorted to live out the love of God and Chris prayed that we would be guided to grace, mercy and peace.