Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 January 2014

Hugh welcomed us to worship and pray together, reminding us of the power of community praise and prayer.

Call to Worship

"Leader: Come, we gather to meet our God this day.

 All:       Even when we might be home reading the paper...

              Even when our work beckons us...

              Even when our bodies ache with pain...

              Even when things around us don't seem promising...

              We come to meet you today, God.

 Leader: Come, as we make God the focus of our lives.

              Come, as we open the Scripture for guidance.

              Come, as we pray, praise, repent, and forgive.

              Dear friends in Christ. Let us have worship together.

              The Grace of the Lord be with you.

 All:       And also with you.

Hymn TIS 693 "Come as you are" An invitation to all, no matter what. However undeserving we feel, we are loved and welcomed.

Prayer of Adoration Hugh prayed on our behalf, addressing God as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the most beautiful and most powerful one, who despite His greatness is prepared to listen to us. Hugh then prayed that God would help us truly worship Him.

Prayer of Confession Appropriately, we said this confession together. We may think some are worse sinners than others but in God's eyes we are all flawed and all need to ask forgiveness. The sins Hugh had written into this confession were the ordinary old garden variety ones...that cause God as much grief as those we humans judge much worse. We are not OK. We all need God's cleansing power.

"Forgive us, Abiding Love. We think we are so wise with the choices we make, only to end up with all that keeps us from you. Your Word has come, to fill our speech with grace, with hope, with peace. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Assurance and Pardon

Leader: Day to day, God offers mercy and hope. Moment to moment, we are surrounded by God's never-ending love. Friends in Christ,  trust the Good News for you this morning: "Our sins are forgiven."

People: Thanks be to God, we are forgiven. Amen.

Hymn TIS 614 "O God of love" vv. 1&3  A prayer that we will live as though we are in God's presence, so that everyone in every nation will follow His will, living as neighbours to bring about universal friendship. I have often thought that all this needs is an act of will. All we need to do is to say we will get on with each other. Forget the argy bargy. Forget the so-called negotiating. We just need to do it.

Bible Readings Trudy brought us Corinthians 1: 10 - 18 and Matthew 4: 12 23.  The reading from Matthew covers the calling of Simon and Andrew and James and John, who responded and followed him immediately. What did this man have that they did this? In Corinthians, Paul's directives imply that there had been much division in the group and his instruction was to stop such silliness because it could undo the whole purpose of the mission Jesus had given him and others.

I think we should think on that for a long time.

Reflection Hugh began with an account of an event that occurred in 1977. Arthur Burns, the then U.S. Ambassador to West Germany and an advisor to presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan was asked to close a prayer breakfast in prayer. People were interested in how he would respond, given that he was Jewish. He took the prayer saying, ""Lord, I pray that Jews will get to know Christ, I pray that Muslims will get to know Christ. Finally, Lord, I pray that all Christians in the world will get to know Jesus Christ. Amen." Calling yourself a Christian is not enough, you must get to know Jesus Christ - and live like Him.

Hugh then spoke about a man who did know Christ and did live like Him: William Wilberforce, who considered leaving politics for the ministry because he wasn't sure how a Christian could live out in the secular world but was advised to stay and exercise a Christian influence in that position. We all know the result - the abolition of Slavery in most of the British Empire.

Then Hugh turned to the calling of the disciples as in the readings and then posed the question of how many people are defined by their jobs. Some people are so keen to "keep up with the Joneses" that they have no leisure time. Could it be that work is not meant to be the centre of our lives? Are we as wise as the four disciples who figured that out?

Most Westerners know about God in some way. Many profess to be Christians although they never attend church. That is, they have never encountered Christ. The New Testament is witness to what can happen when we encounter Christ. But meeting is not enough, a relationship must develop and we must follow Him regardless of the outcome.

"Lord, we pray that Jews will get to know Christ. We pray that Muslims will get to know Christ. Finally, Lord we pray that all the Christians in the world and in this land and in this church will truly and truthfully know Jesus Christ. Amen."

Hymn TIS 647 "Comfort, comfort all my people" A promise and an offer that God can and will comfort all our hurts.

Offering Our attempt to return but a little of God's rich blessings upon us, and our prayer that our offering be used to further God's work.

Prayers of the People Margaret prayed: "Dear loving God whose grace brings light to our darkened world, we would listen for your voice, but find it so difficult to be receptive to its sound. Open our ears, make our hearts and minds such that we will absorb and perceive your will for each of us.

Today we remember our fellow creatures in need and look for what we can do to be your voice and hands to meet their needs. We celebrate the work of (the various Australians of the year). May their leadership in 2014 provide not only the impetus for greater things but widen their own perspective on their areas of passion, and provide an example to others. Margaret prayed for the perpetrators of the violence we hear of in Sydney each weekend, asking that God will speak to the hearts of these young men, showing them a different way of being men.

She added that all of us will see that honour is in loving kindness, forgiveness of others and ourselves, and in bringing healing through God's power.

She prayed for the victims of the greed of others and prayed that God would speak to the hearts of the greedy, to rid the world of the terrible things that greed causes.

She then prayed for our church, ourselves and those known to us who are suffering and then we joined in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 468 "We are your People" A declaration on our part that we will dedicate ourselves to working together, using all the talents each of us has to offer to show that God is alive in the world.

Benediction Hugh prayed that God would bless us and take care of us. That He would look upon us with kindness and graciousness; that He show us favour and grant us peace.

Then, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you and your family and friends and those in need on this planet, this day and forever. Amen

We then sang: May the feet of God walk with you, and His hands hold 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.








Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 January 2014

Joyce welcomed Christopher to our service and then he gave the

Call to Worship A prayer that we should open our hearts and minds to God's voice this morning, approaching Him with humility. That we should think of God's greatness and think on how badly we have fallen short of what He intended for us. That we should clear our minds of all inconsequential thoughts and be open to God's transforming spirit.

Hymn AHB 166 "Jesus loves me" We think of this as a children's hymn but a line like "wanting as a friend to give light and life to all that live" applies to anybody of any age. And if only we accept that "light and life" we will be relieved from the weight of the darkness that stops us from being the people we are intended to be.

Announcements Significant was a letter from Benny explaining why he is unable to continue attending MRUC. The letter told how his stay in Sydney has been tarnished by his landlord doubling his rent in a period of two months, his employer not paying the agreed rate of pay and the attempted robbery of his wallet. However it also told of his gratitude to the people of MRUC for the warmth and kindness shown to him. There's a lesson there for all of us.

Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Thankfulness

Christopher prayed on our behalf to God, saying that we were approaching Him, our Father and Mother, as children. He asked that God would protect, guide and provide for us. Christopher prayed that God would give each of us His whole love, not just a shared fraction, a magical feat performed by all parents everywhere.

Christopher acknowledged that anything that is lovely, pure, beautiful or just is a reflection of those qualities in God and when we look at our own reflection we are embarrassed because our own reflection in our "pitted mirrors" is distorted. On our behalf, Christopher confessed that we can be rude and short tempered and asked forgiveness for this. He confessed that we can be lazy and insensitive and asked for forgiveness for this too. Christopher thanked God for the gifts of time, money, health and our minds and then asked forgiveness for putting these gifts to unworthy pursuits or not giving them proper care. He prayed for those whom we live with and asked forgiveness for our anger and meanness, our unwillingness to pull our weight, our sarcasm and gossiping that makes living with us difficult.

He prayed for those we meet socially or casually and who suffer from our poor behaviour and then thanked God for the opportunities we have to show love.

Hymn AHB 239 "As with gladness" A reference to the Magi and their journey but it could apply to each and every person ever born. My we willingly let God's light lead us to Him.

Bible Reading Bob read from Matt 18: 1 - 7; 19: 13 - 15 and 1Corinthians 13: 1 - 13. The Matthew reading begins with the disciples asking Jesus about who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus answered them by saying that unless they (we) became humble like small children they would never enter the kingdom of heaven and that whoever welcomed a small child welcomed him.

Then came a heavy warning, " If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened round your neck..."

I often wonder about this last part. What if our conduct, or the way we operate the church, or the way we present what we believe to be the gospel, is keeping people away from God?

Then 1Corinthians 13. Despite any gift we might have, if we have not love...we are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal...we are nothing...we gain bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all never ends. And a new thought, or an answer to a following question- Now I know only in part; then I will know fully...

I suppose one thought could be that if we are developing some sort of pride about any achievement or if we think we can be more effective spreading of the gospel with some talent we have than by simpler means, this message from Corinthians says otherwise.

Reflection Christopher spoke to us today of the necessity of returning to the outlook of a small child if we are to enter unto the spiritual realm of God.

He introduced his reflection with a reference to Pope Francis' welcome to small children and babies as members of his congregation, saying their little baby noises brought him closer to God than even the wonderful music of the anthem that had been played. Christopher then told of the VIPs(Three Wise Men) who visited the VUP (Jesus). Very unimportant in the world's eyes, that is.

Christopher added the point that the Christian faith is the religion of the young which you would never suspect, visiting a Uniting Church congregation. But in Matthew 18 we hear, "I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven"

Christ expects us to become spiritually like children. So what do children know, that adults have forgotten? As well as the physical skills that babies and toddlers have without being taught, there are spiritual skills that, as adults, we could do well to emulate.

Children aren't concerned with status, they are humble beings. They are instinctively trusting - we should learn to be open and trusting with God. Children still see the wonder in simple things and are curious about their world and are very imaginative. They are open to possibilities.

But the most important thing that babies and children know about is love. We must be prepared to leave behind our hates, prejudices, resentments, irritations and just love our fellow beings.

We have to start again to build a different person. Impossible? Of course it is but if we hand ourselves over to God and let Him steer our lives, surprising things happen.

We are often unwilling to let go of the reins and hand them to God. We can do it in some areas of our lives but keep a firm grasp on them in other areas. It's not even logical to do that. God knows what He is doing - in every sphere. We often try to let ourselves off the hook by saying, "it's understandable"  or "it's only human" . That's true but that doesn't mean we should keep doing whatever it is we are trying to excuse ourselves for. Hand that over too.

Hymn AHB 526 "Jesus friend of little children" Our confession should be: "Never leave me or forsake me, ever be my friend, for I need thee from life's dawning to its end."

The Offering Our attempt to return a little of God's goodness to us was collected by our little children, Kalliope and Oliver, both serving the Lord in their own little way.

Prayers for the People Christopher prayed that we should feel secure in God's love and for families all over the world, especially those with desperate needs such as families in detention.

He prayed that we may look beyond legalities, and look with compassion on the situation of human  people with human needs. He, for us, also prayed for the volunteers who support the detainees. He prayed for the families in our own community; the parents of disabled children who never get a good night's sleep or a holiday because of their children's needs. Christopher also prayed for divided families; for our own families and all with young children and then we joined together in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn AHB 138 "And can it be that I should gain" A hymn of one in pain, knowing what pain he (and all of us) have caused and the mystery that even God was prepared to make such a sacrifice.

This hymn works like a heat-seeking missile: "'Tis mercy all, immense and free; for, O my God It found out me"

Benediction Now may God our King, Jesus Christ our friend and the Holy Spirit our constant companion, be with us forever.





Sunday, 12 January 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 January 2014

Call to Worship

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Let us come to the Lord with thanksgiving. Amen.

This is a call I would do well to listen to each day, to focus on all that I have to be joyful for and to remember that God knows what He is doing

Hymn: "Be still, for the presence of the Lord, the holy one here" (David Evans). We are told that God is our friend so it is good that songs like this remind us that God is not like other friends. God is Holy. We should sit still and listen. We should stop all the asking and telling.  We should stop all the busyness. We should listen and open ourselves to His work.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession Hugh expressed our intention to come before God to pray to and adore Him, knowing that even though God is mighty, he is still concerned for the smallest and weakest of all. Hugh asked that God's great wisdom should lead and guide us, shepherding us until we are home with Him, the author of love so deep and boundless. Hugh confessed for us, our constant stepping aside from God's plan for us and the bad condition in which that leaves us. He confessed, for us, our many human sins such as when we criticize others for faults which we have ourselves, wandering in darkness. Hugh asked that we be forgiven and, in confidence, declared that God had done so.

Hymn TIS 229 "Jesus loves me, this I know" This hymn was included for the children but it can give comfort and assurance at any age, knowing that God is with us in every step we take.

Bible Readings Isaiah 42: 1 - 9 In the light of the present events worldwide and even in our own country and state, we would be forgiven for thinking that God has given up on the people of this planet. For those of us who have started thinking this way, the reading from Isaiah is the antidote. "He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth;" but here is the scary part: " I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,...I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind." That's us!

Matthew 3: 13 - 17  This is the one! Listen to Him!

Reflection - Hugh began with reference to New Year Resolutions which many people make, hoping to take a better direction in life. Because they regret their actions, or lack of them, in the previous year, people resolve to live in a better way but because of the failure rate of sticking to these resolves, many people avoid the custom.

As a group, we could see this time as a time for change, a time for new beginnings. This could be the time for the church to try a new approach, a new way of being church. We need to decide the type of change: gradual or sudden but remembering that with change, comes hope of development.

The reading from Matthew described baptism and in Colossians baptism is spoken of as dying and coming to life again - raised with Christ.

On a day to day basis, we can apply this promise - we may fail one day, and rise again the next to continue living according to the true path. There is always hope. With baptism comes the hope of a new life, but we are not capable of making that happen by ourselves.
Some people have suggested positive thinking as a way to a better life but this does not bring about fundamental change in us. We need God for that. Change is powerful but true change cannot come about without God.

Today, sixty percent of Christendom are considering this reading, and when we read that God declared, "This is my son..." we should remember that it is also the case that we are His children through baptism and that God will continue to call us His dear children.

Hymn TIS 687 "God gives us a future" Hmm. In case any of us were thinking that we could start drifting off message, diluting the lesson we had received so far, here is a song that swings us right back on track.

Offering It is only right that in gratitude for all our many blessings we should return a portion for the work of the church.

Prayers of the People and The Lord's Prayer Hugh led this prayer, asking for God's blessing on the Marsden Road congregation, the Uniting Church in Australia and all other churches, asking that God would grant wisdom to the leaders so that we may share the good news to more people in a new way. Hugh prayed for peace in this troubled world with conflicts and differences of opinion causing pain for so many. He asked that these people be blessed with better lives and that the leaders of warring sides be reminded of God's presence. Hugh prayed on our behalf for the hungry and suffering, especially little children, asking that God would keep them in His arms. He concluded by praying for those known to us suffering the everyday difficulties of life, asking that we will be a blessing in their lives. This time of prayer was concluded with The Lord's Prayer

Hymn: TIS 465 "Father in Heaven, grant to your children". A prayer for us to be made into the sort of people who can respond faithfully to today's message. We are not alone in this mission. God has not given the command and set us asail. He is not just our guide and counsellor, He is the one who makes us into the people who can do the work.


Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

Amen. Amen. Amen.




Monday, 6 January 2014

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 January 2014


Marcia introduced Hugh who will be our minister for the next three months.  How blessed we have been to have our services led each week by such a variety of people willing to share with us as we continue the process of calling a new minister.  Hugh called us to share in Worship together.


Hymn  TiS 156                                                Morning has broken

Morning has broken like the first morning; blackbird has spoken like the first bird.

Eleanor Farjeon: (1881 – 1965) wrote this beautiful song inspired by several Bible verses.  Lamentations 3 : 22-26 “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”  For our first Sunday Service in a brand new year – I was struck by the opportunity God gives us, not only with a brand new year, but with each new day.

Prayers of Praise & Confession        

Loving God maker of heaven and earth we join together this morning to praise you;

We enter your gates with thanksgiving and into your courts with praise

After we confessed our sins, we were reminded of the faithfulness and forgiveness of God.  We prayed we may be filled afresh this New Year, to follow God more closely and share His love and worship Him with gladness.

Hymn TiS 643                                    I want to walk as a child of the light

I want to walk as a child of the light, I want to follow Jesus.

God set the stars to give light to the world: the star of my life is Jesus.

More looking forward to so many things - with such joy and expectation - as we sang this hymn!

Bible readings                                     Psalm 84 - Page 441    &    Luke 2: 41–52 - Page 780

Our Bible passages this morning were read for us by Jack who took a few moments to welcome our dear friend Bill whose devotion as the carer of his precious wife of 64 years prevents him from joining us very often these days.  For me this reflected the way the people in our church and their relationships are the “glue that keeps us together”, encouraged in our love of God and our love and care for each other.   Psalm 84: Verse 4: Happy are those that dwell in thy house; they never cease from praising thee.  Happy the men whose refuge is in thee, whose hearts are set on the pilgrim way!  The interesting thing about this positive Psalm Jack told us – is that it follows a series of “doom and gloom” Psalms.

The reading from Luke presents the familiar story of Jesus at a very young age asking his parents who had been worried about him; “Did you not know that I was bound to be in my Father’s house?”

Reflection:                                                    “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will catch people.”

Hugh began his sermon: “On this first Sunday of this new year, I hope and pray that many churches across the world, including us, will go beyond their church walls out to the world as a community of faith, doing everything possible to let the world know that God is real and He is love.”  The word HOPE stood out like a beacon for me!


With happy memories of his childhood, when he loved to watch magicians perform, Hugh told us he and his son have booked tickets to watch world-class magicians perform at the Sydney Opera House this month.  He wonders if these professional magicians will be able to amaze him now he is “fully grown-up” and now that he is used to the “magic” which is common place due to, “All sorts of state-of-the-art computer graphics.” 


He certainly struck a chord here with me as I have often thought with regret that children today cannot experience the pure wonder and amazement we enjoyed as kids.

Hugh told us he had done some Bible research on passages where people were “amazed or astonished” and he discovered more than 40 events in the Gospels alone where words like ‘amazed, astonished and surprised’ are used to describe people’s responses to Jesus.  As most of us quickly began to search our memories, Hugh reminded us of the miracles of the water turned into wine at the wedding,
the healing of the sick and handicapped, getting Lazarus back to life and feeding 5,000 people with five small loaves of bread and two small fish.  That was certainly a pretty impressive start!  Another amazing event that left everyone astonished was the huge haul of fish Peter and his friends caught when they cast their nets where Jesus told them to cast

“But I think, what’s so amazing about the Bible is not just the stories themselves that took place two thousand years ago, but the stories that will take place through you and your lives, and our church in this new year,” Hugh told us.  If we stop being amazed by Jesus, sharing the Gospel, considering others and their pains, remembering God outside the church and become comfortable and self-centered; “People around us will stop being amazed by our Christian Faith.” Living as Jesus’ follower in this secularized society is a very risky job from the start,” he said. I think it is well worth going back and re-reading Luke 2: 41–52.  I think I failed to see all the amazement and astonishment when I heard this story prior to today – I had always thought Jesus showed lack of consideration to his parents.

“In the Gospels the biggest thing that amazes me is not the numbers of people that Jesus touched, healed and blessed. The biggest challenge, the biggest amazement that I see in the bible is how people lived after the Gospel touched their lives. This seems to be the biggest amazement we can share among ourselves in this New Year.  And Jesus still calls to you:  “Don’t be afraid, my friend. From now on you will catch people.”   Amen.”

Hymn  TiS 640                                                Kneels at the feet of his friends

Loving puts us on our knees, silently washing their feet, this is the way we should live with you.

            Yesu, Yesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.

Thomas Stevenson Colvin, (1925-2000) was a Church of Scotland missionary in Malawi and Ghana, who encouraged community development in Africa by Christians. He used the African musical heritage to write hymns arising from the African context for worship and this lovely hymn certainly embraces this idea.

Offering / Prayer  Chris and Chrysanthi took Oliver and Caliope with them to carry the offering plates.  Everyone enjoyed the children’s pleasure in helping and Hugh involved them in the offering prayer.  We were all reminded of the joy and privilege of being able to give something to others.

Prayers for Others  Pat began the Prayers of Intercession with thanks for all the blessings of the year just finished - before praying for the year just beginning and the special needs of the church and the people we know who are in need.  It is always a blessing for us to remember that these prayer needs are passed on to our Insomniacs Prayer Group and brought to God many times during the week.

We said the Lord’s Prayer together and shared the Communion Meal before “Passing the Peace” and silently joining in a prayer of thanks for the tradition of Communion through the centuries and we proclaimed our Faith.  “Christ has died:  Christ is risen:   Christ will come again.”

Hymn TiS 409                                       O breath of life, come sweeping through us

O breath of life, come sweeping through us, revive your church with life and power;

O breath of life, come cleanse, renew us, and fit your church to meet this hour.

This was certainly a motivating hymn to send us on our way to think some more about the ways we might work to make God’s church, (our Marsden Road Church) a place to meet the needs of people during the coming year.

The Benediction & Blessing              Hugh urged us to go with God into the New Year.

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.