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.