Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28th December 2014

The Call to Worship  Hugh called us to Worship by reading responsively from the beautiful Psalm 147
Leader:  Praise the Lord! It is good to sing praise to our God;
People:  It is pleasant and right to praise him.
Leader:  He heals the broken-hearted and bandages their wounds.
People:  He has decided the number of the stars and calls each one by name.
Leader:  Great and mighty is our Lord; his wisdom cannot be measured.
People: He raises the humble but crushes the wicked to the ground.
Leader: Sing hymns of praise to the Lord. Play music on the harp to our God.
People: His pleasure is not in strong horses, nor his delight in brave soldiers;
Leader: but he takes pleasure in those who honor him, in those who trust in his constant love.
All: Praise the Lord!  It is good to sing praise to our God.

Hymn  TiS 156 – AHB 91                   “Morning has broken”

This beautiful hymn with words by the English author, Eleanor Farjeon and sung to a traditional Scottish Gaelic tune is often sung at services for children.  As we reached the last verse I thought about what a difference we could make to our lives if we could indeed embrace every day with elation and praise and “own” God’s daily re-creation!  Perhaps a life changing thought for 2015?

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning       Born of the one light, Eden saw play

Praise with elation, praise every morning       God’s recreation of the new day

Announcements:  We were invited to stay for a special farewell morning tea for Hugh and Yoonhee; who we have come to love and appreciate during their time with us at Marsden Road Church.  We have been truly blessed by the ministries of our caring and generous “fill-in” leaders.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession:  “Creative God, breath of all life; all things are created through you.” This beautiful prayer went on to declare that God who walked this earth as a child and lived through laughter and sorrow as we do, sustains us and deserves our Praise and Worship.

Offering / Prayer:  “As God brought his son as a gift to us, so let us bring our own offerings to God.” “O God. You have blessed us beyond measure; bless now these gifts from our hands and hearts; that we might join you in your ministry and be your light to all who sit in darkness.  Amen.”

Men’s Quartet:                                  “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”
Our quartet singers have enjoyed Hugh’s enthusiasm as one of the group and today they sang a Gospel song with suggestions that could also form a worthwhile “habit” for a better 2015.  Will we always remember that “A little talk with Jesus” will make things right, and wash away our “fears and doubts” as our souls are filled with “A little light from heaven”?

Blessing for Ella:  Ella is Susan & Stephen’s one year old granddaughter (child of Sarah), who was born in Wales and will soon return to be baptised there.  This was a beautiful moment for the church family which has loved and nurtured all of Susan and Stephen’s children since their birth.
Hugh reminded us that Jesus said to the disciples, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it."  “Let us therefore ask for God's blessing for Ella, so she will continue to grow in wisdom, age, and grace in the eyes of God and of all who know her.”

Hugh prayed; “When Ella is reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, bring her into your own spiritual family, the Church, there to become a sharer in your kingdom and bless your name for ever.  Lord our Father, Bless Ella and her parents and her grandparents and all her extended family, so she and all others in her family will bring many blessings to many people around them.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Hymn TiS 143                                    “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise”
This hymn was inspired by the words in 1 Timothy - 1:17; “To the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.” The hymn, which is sung to a Welsh melody, was written by Walter Chalmers Smith, who was ordained on Christmas Day 1850.  In 1893 he was elected Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland.

Bible Reading:                                  John 1:1-18   (page 809)
Stephen read the Bible passage – the essence of the message being that God himself came to us in the birth of Jesus Christ, and brought us the opportunity for abundant life and healing. 

Reflection:                                         “The Word became Flesh”
Hugh reminded us that we can always live our life with confidence that; “We will always be known to God through his Son, our friend, Jesus Christ. It gives us an assurance that we will be welcomed and accepted by God always... all because of His Son, our friend, Jesus Christ.”
He asked how we can remember Christ in the rush and bustle of the modern secular Christmas? He reminded us that the Christmas message has come to us in the form of human flesh. God has come to dwell with humanity.   Put quite literally; “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent with us.” And the best part is that is: as His tent is a moveable dwelling place, “God’s presence will always follow us wherever we go or move. … even in the moments of the most shadowy darkness in our life.”
Hugh noted that the Bible reading says in verse 9 that “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”.   He went on: “Friends, please be reminded again that the Word brings light into the darkness, so we can see and know the way.  What a promise! What an assurance!   No longer do we need grope along an uncertain path. No longer do we need flounder in the shadow of the darkness because - the Word became flesh and pitched his tent with us.”
“The true light that gives light to everyone, including you and your families, came into the world.  That was what really happened on the very first Christmas day.”
Having just “lived through” the secular and Christian rituals of yet another Christmas, surrounded by family and friends from all parts of my life, I really appreciated the thoughts Hugh presented about how; “Christians need always to be Christianizing Christmas. Sometimes Santa Claus has loomed so high that he has hidden the manger. In the bars and gambling dens hang “Merry Christmas” signs. In homes, churches and schools Christians need always to be Christianizing Christmas. The tinsel should not be allowed to eclipse the Word of God.”  I think we could all think about that carefully as we approach another year in our lives!
“No matter how extreme are the worldly Christmas celebrations that go on around us, we should never forget that Christmas is all about a heavenly gift, the true, one gift, that God has given to us and to all humanity...!  In Christ, God became clothed in human flesh. People now see God with their eyes. God has put on skin. God is down to earth in Jesus Christ.  In other words, in Christ, God was now available to humans physically.”
Finally Hugh reminded us: “The world's memorable people are not only talented, but down-to-earth and approachable.  In Christ, God has made Himself approachable.  In Christ, God came... down to earth, becoming accessible to all.”  How enlightening it was to spend time after Christmas to consider that; “Christmas is about that gift – a gift God did not give just for fun or celebration.  God sent us the gift because we were people who were struggling in the darkness. Dear friends in Christ.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our friend forever, the true light of the world will continue to show us the way to go, and we will always know that we are going to be alright.   Amen.”

Prayers of the People:  Our prayers were led by Mae who reminded us that even as we move into a new year we have the assurance that we are living always in the presence of God. As Mae addressed the prayers from the church family, she asked for Blessings on Hugh and Yoonhee and expressed our thanks for Hugh’s loving care for us and for his special ministry of music.  
Then we shared the comfort of the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn  TiS 256:                      “From Heaven You came, helpless babe”   
                                                 Grahame Kendrick
As always, this hymn presents an invitation to us all; “To bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.”

The Benediction & Blessing    Hugh invoked the Benediction and Blessing and asked that we carry the light of Peace with us and live within the light of God’s Love in the coming year and work through Him to continue in His Ministry to our last breath.  Amen.

Retiring hymn TiS 720:                     “Hale, hale, hale”

I suspect I was not the only person who shed a tear or two as dear Hugh enthusiastically conducted and clapped us through his favourite retiring hymn for the last time.  

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 14 December 2014

Call to worship

Shout with joy to the Lord

His faithfulness endures forever

Sing with joy to the Lord

We celebrate His promise to set captives free

The Lord our God is faithful

Let us be joyful and give thanks always.

Hymn- TIS 210 O for a thousand tongues to sing The triumphs of his grace are life and health and peace: you would wonder why we hang back and refuse to grasp the promise of such a life. We really are pretty thick sometimes, thinking we have a better way.

Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving. Jan thanked the God of Wisdom for the relief being able to celebrate the reality of his being. A being far beyond us in majesty and whose love surpasses anything that exists. You would wonder at the time and resources we give to other things that look real when we know this.

Prayer of Confession/Words of Assurance Jan confessed for all of us, the times that we fail our Lord and God and the times we fail our own expectations. She thanked God for his unchanging nature and that Jesus came to show us another way. She confessed how we hesitate to act and even though we hear the message of hope and healing: how we live with uncaring attitudes, basing our assessments of others on materialistic values rather than seeing people as being made in God's image. Jan asked for forgiveness, placing our hope in Jesus and message. She asked for healing restoration and blessing. Then she told us to hear Christ's word of Grace. "Our sins are forgiven". Confessing is easy compared with accepting forgiveness but the process isn't complete until we do.

Lighting the Advent candles- Candle of joy was lit by Max. At this time was born: our Mighty Counsellor; our Everlasting Father; the Prince of Peace. Joy to the world.
Sometimes when joy is offered to us, we would rather complain about some insignificant negative than welcome the joy. We are really a weird mob.

Bible words for today for children Oliver read Psalm 18 v.24: This is the day the Lord has made. And every day and every thing!

Offering Oliver and Callie gathered the offering which were offered for God's work with thanks and praise for all the good things we have received. We are so good at thinking we have earned things or that something is just there and don't recognize the wonderful gifts we have been given.

Hymn TIS 447 Lord your almighty word. God's Word, God's Grace. With them comes light but not if we don't  listen; not if we don't humbly bow to change; not if we don't open our hearts and minds to anything God's work in our lives.

Bible Readings- Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. An uplifting word of promise to all of us. In public we can always put in a good show and a brave face but what are we in private (which is never private from God). Are we broken-hearted and mourning because of unfulfilled promise or loss? Have we given up on what we believed could have been? Good news is at hand. It's still ours to believe and act on.

​​​Luke 1:39-55 The words given to Mary "Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed." Why? Because he has filled the hungry with good things, things that satisfy like nothing from this world can.

Sermon- Waiting with expectation and Joy  At the beginning of Jan's sermon a saying was posted in the screen: "The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having someone worth waiting for" Think on that awhile.

Jan began by speaking about the gifts of creation we enjoy in Australia and, as a result of overseas travel, how it is clear to her what security and stability we enjoy here. This led to a reflection on how comforting it would have been for the people of Judah to hear that God was going to provide a way home for them from exile. The effect of the return was freedom and the chance to worship as they had previously and rebuild their nation. So. Rejoice! We, here, are reminded that God is faithful and will bring joy out of pain and suffering and that he also brings unexpected blessings, as he did to Mary and Elizabeth who shared their amazing news with each other.

The stories of Mary and Elizabeth point us to the sorts of attitudes we should have - trusting in God; rejoicing in his plan for us even if it looks as though the way ahead will be difficult.

Jan then challenged us: "What are the things that you are waiting for in life?
Are you waiting with joy and expectation for what God is doing in your life at the present? Is the waiting hard, lonely, faithful or a struggle? It may be risky or costly, but as we are[1]  reminded both in Isaiah and Luke, we keep faith and trust alive and growing." Amen.  It is all very well when we see God's plan unfold before us but when we don't know what is happening or if anything is happening it can be very difficult.

Hymn- TIS 268   Joy to the world, the Lord is come. "Let every heart prepare him room" or it's been for nothing.

Prayers of Intercession- Jan prayed to our loving God as we came with our hearts looking outward to others in the community, that all will experience his healing touch and know his presence and peace. For us, Jan prayed for individuals known to us, that God will be near them, gathering them close, so that they will know his presence. She prayed for those with mental health problems, that they will, with patience, experience acceptance. She prayed for the lonely that they should have a deep sense of God's presence and that the local community will be open to the Good News and be given hope and purpose through God's message. Jan prayed for the church at its various levels, for wisdom and faithfulness in its decision making. She then turned her attention to places of war and strife and to the refugees and asylum seekers who look for new homes as a result of the conflict around the world, asking that world leaders will make wise decisions and instigate prompt processes, respecting the basic human rights of these people. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 272 "Come thou long expected Jesus" Our affirmation that we receive the gifts that Jesus' birth brought to us and our confession that without those gifts we are nought.

Blessing May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his son our Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and amongst you always. Amen

Blessing Song TIS 778 Shalom to you now, shalom my friends


Monday, 8 December 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 December 2014


Call to worship

L. Lord prepare us for your coming

P. And tune our ears to your call.

L. Lord prepare the hearts of your people,

P. For your righteousness goes before us and prepares a way.

L. Lord prepare us to receive and bear witness to your righteousness,

P. Holy Spirit, we welcome you into our lives.

Hymn- TIS 442All praise to our redeeming Lord Praise to the "Other" who by grace, freely given to us, transforms us into people who are motivated by his love for us to work together to grow his love and peace throughout the world.

Prayers of Praise, Thanksgiving and Confession

Jan prayed on our behalf. She gave thanks for God's grace in our lives: for the comfort we receive that grows our trust in him, that inspires us, that gives us hope that our world can be transformed and renews our will to do his work. For us, she confessed the times we fail and the times our unjust words or behaviour are the seeds that lead to the suffering of another or to this beautiful planet in which we live. She then asked that instead, we will seek to proclaim God's presence in Jesus name. Amen.

Words of Assurance

L. In God through Jesus Christ, the harvest always holds love and grace for all people.

We are now forgiven and offered a new beginning. P. Thanks be to Go
Lighting the Advent Candles- Candle of Peace In lighting the candle which was lit last week and in lighting a new candle for today Alexis represented us as we confirmed our hope for the events which are to unfold and the peace which we will seek for the threatened planet, for fractured societies and for suffering souls.

The Bible Words for Today were introduced by Elaine and read by Alexis: Isaiah 41: 10 "Do not be frightened for I am with you." Do not be frightened, anxious, worried, alarmed, apprehensive, distressed, spooked or cowed - just relax into the arms of God and let the Lord of all direct operations.

Offering  Alexis and Alissa gathered the offering which was offered to the work of God for his blessing and use. Just a small part of his infinite blessings to us. Another way God's love can flow through us to this fractured world.

Jan spoke to the children asking them about a number of items used in preparation for Christmas celebrations, such as tinsel, holly and Christmas pudding. Then she directed the attention of the children and the adults to the real significance of Christmas.

Bible Reading Isaiah 40: 1 - 11 and Mark 1:1 - 8 were read to us by Jack. Isaiah: Our God understands our need and a cry for our comfort is sent out. The response is another cry to prepare the way and make straight a highway in the wilderness and in the desert. If anything is a wilderness and a desert in regard to the real, the essential, the meaningful, the uplifting, the enlightening, the healing, the restoring - it is this world we live in and perhaps to a larger or smaller extent - the world that lives inside us. But we are promised that this will all be turned upside down. Read v.11 if you want true comfort. Mark: The fulfillment. John the Baptist comes telling us the time has arrived. Not if we turn our backs or close our ears.

Sermon- Preparing the way for Christ to come" Jan brought us a thought provoking and spirit challenging word but because today's service includes a communion service I am unable to do it justice. However what I can say is that through reference to the readings and their significance in proclaiming the coming of Jesus and the reason for his coming, Jan was able to challenge us as to our approach to the coming weeks.
Rather than running ourselves ragged buying and preparing food and presents (although those things do have a place at Christmas) we should direct our thinking into preparing ourselves for this most important time and perhaps changing our speech and our actions to reflect the purpose of Christmas. Our gifts should be of love and justice to all. "How can we share the gifts of hope, peace, love or joy?

Hymn- TIS 647Comfort, comfort, all my people A retelling of today's message.

Regardless of our state - the way will be made straight to a place of hope and joy.

Prayers of Intercession- Ruth thanked God for our many blessings and ask for God's hand on Jan and all of us at Marsden Road as we work for God's kingdom. Ruth then prayed for all those in need at home and in other countries. She then asked for God's comfort for those in distress because of health problems and for those who work to alleviate those problems. She asked for strength for those looking for jobs and for those known to us with any need. We then joined in the Lord's prayer.

Hymn TIS 514 Be known to us in breaking bread A prayer that God will make himself known to us in the communion service.

Holy Communion - We turned to our neighbours and offered our hand in the sign of peace.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you./And also with you. Lift up you hearts. /We lift them up to the Lord

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

Jan then prayed as Christians have down through the ages and in every place, acknowledging the life and death of Jesus as our path to a new life.

Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, ever praising you and saying:

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.

The Story of the Lords  Supper Jan retold the origin of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup and its significance in remembering Jesus' broken body and spilled blood. The bread we break and the cup we take are gifts of God to us.

The Distribution We shared the bread and wine in memory of the sacrifice made for us.

Hymn TIS 607 Make me a channel of your peace. As Jesus showed us the way and died as a result, so we must show that way to others through our words and the way we live.

Blessing. The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 30 November 2014

Call to Worship

L. The spectacular mercies of the Advent Christ be with you all.

And also with you.

L. That we may be glad whenever the Lord Jesus comes to us;

May Christs own goodness be consolidated in our hearts.

L. That we may honour God together with our sisters and brothers of every race;

May the Lord increase our love for each other and all humanity.

Hymn: TIS 155 How Great Thou Art (v. 1,2,4) Each time I sing this hymn I am reminded of the amazing gifts we have had bestowed upon us and how we take them all so much for granted. Not only do we take for granted the gift of this planet but we lose the sense of the great treasure we have been given in God's love.

Prayer of Adoration 

Bradon prayed on our behalf to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reflecting on our failure to appreciate all that God is to us but acknowledging that we have, however imperfectly, experienced God's glory, truth and forgiving love. And so, we offered our adoration, praise and thanksgiving.

Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon

"Because most of us are slow learners, lukewarm believers, yet effusive excuse-makers, let us pause, take stock, and confess our sins. Let us pray.

Because we have sometimes busied ourselves religiously,

as if the success of Gods kingdom depended solely on us:

            Lord have mercy.

            Lord have mercy.

Because we sometimes opt out, and with a perverse piety

leave everything up to God and the holy angels:

            Christ have mercy.

            Christ have mercy.

Because your mercy is over all your works, and your grace is greater

than our pride, foolishness and weakness:

            Lord have mercy.

            Lord have mercy."

"My Friends, stand up straight, lift up your downcast eyes, your redemption is at hand. In Christ Jesus our sins are forgiven and the final victory is assured.

Thanks be to God."

"May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all people,

that we may be free from shame and holy at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."

I have kept this section almost as Bradon delivered it. Too good to do anything else.

Hymn: TIS 158 - God Has Spoken by His Prophets. God speaks to us in so many ways. One way that humbles me is when he speaks to me through the kindness of other people.

Offering. We returned a little of God's mountain of blessings to us, for the work of his kingdom.

Bible words for today Oliver read from Numbers 6:24 The Lord bless you and keep you. These word evoke confidence and comfort.

The Advent Candles

Bradon explained that in lighting the first of these candles we were remembering that Advent was a reliving of the promise given for all - we are reliving the anticipation of his coming. Hope for us all,

Hymn: TIS 265 O Come, O Come Emmanuel. A plea and invitation to Jesus to do his work amongst us. Are we ready? Are we really sincere in praying those words? We can't pray them and then stand in the middle of the road, blocking Jesus' way.

Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16. The day is coming. If we take that as a personal message if could mean today - now. Think on that. Luke 1:26-38. There is much in this reading. The announcement of the birth of someone who began a new kingdom on Earth. That is mind- blowing enough. But that an insignificant young woman should be the way it would come about is a lesson to everyone hearing these words. Ordinary people like we are have been commissioned to bring the Kingdom of God to the world. There is a thought.

Sermon: Bradon reflected in his life, speaking of the times he spends waiting - as we all do from time to time. He spoke about the time we spend waiting in the Uniting Church, with an example of his recent experience of having a meeting about a meeting. He then related this concept of waiting in the season of Advent when we are reminded of those who waited for the coming of God. The Bible is full of people who were waiting for some great happening. The people waited to leave Egypt.
They waited in the wilderness to enter the Promised Land. They wait for the coming of Israel. But then the word comes to Mary - the waiting was almost over. But after nine months - which can be very fast - or slow, the world had to wait another 30 years. Surely the waiting was over - surely the kingdom was going to be restored. When Easter Saturday arrived the disciples were perplexed - surely this was it! Are we still waiting? Think of all the world's problems. With the help of Dr. Seuss, Bradon reminded us of all the things we wait for.

Is that how it is for us?  Are we just hanging about waiting for God to act? Look again. Jesus came to pronounce the arrival of God's Kingdom. It's here. It's happened - but only partially fulfilled. We have seen the possibility but we're in a type of shadow.

We should think about our waiting a little like waiting on tables - serving. It's a time to work - not a time to have hope but to give hope. A time not to be hanging onto the past but a time to be creating the future for all. Today is our day!

Prayer of the People & Lords Prayer: Bradon prayed for those for whom time goes too swiftly: for those for whom time goes too slowly. He prayed for political prisoners waiting for justice. He prayed for our loved ones - for the sick - for the churches who want to return to past glories that they will focus on new things for the future, Bradon prayed for the bereaved - for those who think their anguish will never end. And then he prayed for the concerns of our own community and we joined together in the Lord's Prayer.

Hymn: TIS 572 O Thou Who Camest From Above. The hymn says if all: Thou who came from above: kindle a flame; trembling to its source return, in humble prayer and fervent praise; stir up thy gift in me; ready for thy perfect will, my acts of faith and love. What people we would be!

Benediction: Bradon prayed to the God of hope that we will all be filled with joy and then sent us out in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Closing 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 breathe give you life.

              May the child of God grow in you,

              and his love bring you home. Amen.




Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 23 November 2014

Today was the last Sunday in the church year, which is called "Christ the King" Sunday. In the Sydney North Presbytery this Sunday has been set aside for a "pulpit swap". Ideally, congregations would visit other churches to experience different ways of worship but it has been judged as easier for the ministers to do the swapping and tell other groups of how their church is doing the work of God. One use Nicholas' church at Eastwood makes of the PP screen is to present some of the words of the service in Korean and Chinese. While this is not our need at the moment, it is one we could keep in mind for the future.

Nicholas began the service with the Call to Worship declaring how the God of All, the God of Creation calls us, gathers us together. He followed this by speaking of the many different reasons we have for responding to that call: some prosaic such as being on the roster for the day: some out of a deeper need: some to listen to how those who have gone before us have experienced times like this.

Nicholas then explained that sometimes his church uses different hymns to express our walk with God in a changing world where a changing theology has developed. We then sang:

Hymn "Blessed are the Poor among you" from Gifts of Love 8. A reflection of the Beatitudes on how blessed are we that hunger for God's goodness in any way because he will respond to our need and how we will be joyful as a result of the blessings we receive. At the same time this hymn is a warning to those who have been given much and who don't
use it to make this world a better place, with the prayer that God will help us to see the world through his eyes.

Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Assurance

A prayer to the God of all that was, that is and that is yet to come that he will rule forever and that today he will draw us to him, showing us how we can be renewed in friendship and community.

For us, Nicholas said that as we marvel at God's love, patience and mercy and  being assured of his love and care, we reaffirmed our relationship to him. Nicholas then asked that in this world that is so divided in so many ways that God would make his alternative clear; his world based on love.

On our behalf Nicholas acknowledged that to create God's world, we need to take risks because it is our way that hinders God's work. So often we claim to belong to Jesus but our lives deny that. Nicholas then prayed that we should be led to be a caring compassionate people full of inspiration and vision of what God's kingdom should be.

Ruth and the kids then brought us God's words for today "The Lord is good and his love  is everlasting" Ps 100 v.5

Nicholas then spoke of the challenge of finding appropriate songs for children and said that there were many DVDs for the young, showing us one called King of the Jungle by Colin Buchanan. Not just the king of the jungle but the king of the sea and the air and of everything!

Reading brought to us by Warwick: Matthew 25: 31-40. A double warning. If we continue to lead a life focussed on ourselves and not on God we will suffer in the end. That is straight forward and understood by most people but the second warning is harder to heed. Focusing on God means focussing on other people. Not those people who can offer us some material profit but those who are in need. Whatever we have been given has been given to us to share.

Sermon Nicholas began with a reference to this being Christ to King Sunday, the last Sunday of the church year. During any year Jesus constantly challenges us: are we living according to the way of God or are we living according to the way of the world. What would the world be like if we lived according to God's way? That's the possibility that Jesus showed us all during his ministry. Nicholas then went on to speak about the year that has passed at Eastwood UC and what they had explored in church. Firstly he referred to "Acts". He said they had looked at the core values of the community and thought about whether those values were appropriate for the church now, given that the context for mission had changed. He identified one core value as sharing our faith and drew an analogy between going fishing and managing an aquarium. We were told to be fishers of men not keepers of an aquarium - there's a challenge.

In Acts people spoke about their faith to others - are we doing that now?

In Acts there was a spirit of generosity: they shared everything. What  if everybody gave to others of their good things that have come from God? What a world it would be!

In Acts there was a spirit of inclusiveness. Everyone was welcome. Acts reveals the diversity of people in the church. Look around - do we have that diversity now?

When the Ethiopian asked to be baptised, Phillip did so - then and there. Phillip didn't wait to fill out forms and make sure the regulations were being adhered to. Respond to the needs of people. Don't hesitate. The people in the early church were empowered - we are too when we respond to the vision God gives us.

The Christian message says the world can work differently. The question is whether or not we are going to let our personal concerns stand in the way of that happening?

Nicholas went on to speak about the rest of the year at Eastwood but I thought it better to recount the first part in detail rather than give a sketchy outline of the whole year (to fit the space I have). But I would like to pass on some important points.

Focus on the little ones - the weak - the deprived - the sick - the vulnerable. Jesus is our model. Discern abilities. Expect grumbling. God sustains us. Be a community that asks questions .Take risks and be productive. Remember- acts of compassion are a sign of God's presence. When you think of how far to extend yourself, think of Jesus ridiculous love and extravagant grace. We are not to conserve what we have - we are to transform it.

Participate with God and each other in bringing about the Kingdom of God.

Hymn the sacred role of ministry "Ministering to Christ" from Sing a New Song 3:78

A song about real ministry: of caring for the broken, the afflicted. Of remembering that Christ is a different type of king. He does not come in splendid robes. He comes as a refugee, as an outcast, as a vagrant. When we support those who have gone astray we minister to Christ.

The quartet sang to us " What a friend we have in Jesus". The men's time and effort that goes into these items speaks to us of their commitment to us and God.

Prayers for the People
Grahame read prayers that had special meaning to him and then  asked for God to breathe on us and gave thanks for God speaking to us in the ordinary situations of life. He asked God to be with us in all our experiences and asked for God's loving arms to hold us when life gets too much.

He asked for special blessing on those with special burdens such as the sick and lonely. He prayed for those in residential care and asked for God's aid as we light our candles to lighten the world.
Offering we returned a little of our many blessings as part of our following the way of Jesus and gave thanks for those whose sacrificial offerings have given us what we have.

Hymn TIS 256 The Servant King (from heaven you came) Chorus: This is our God, the Servant King he calls us now to follow him, to bring our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant King.

Nicholas then pronounced the Benediction and we concluded with a prayer for each other "May the feet of God walk with you". Blessed and blessed.