Monday, 16 February 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15th February 2015

The Call to Worship  Rowena welcomed us warmly; no matter what our circumstances or our frame of mind.  She welcomed us wherever we are on our faith journey and even if we have doubts, or are faltering in our faith.  We felt we could relax and feel accepted and embraced in God’s love and care, knowing that we are all part of the family of God.  Although each of us have had different experiences on our journey this week – some happy, some sad, some lonely, some feeling valued – but all accepted equally as we came together to share our journey and gain strength for the week to come.

Hymn  TiS 596                                   “Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God”

Horatius Bonar was born and educated in Edinburgh and ordained to the ministry, in 1837.  He was a pastor at Kelso and in 1843; he joined the Free Church of Scotland. He was a prolific writer of hymns and religious tracts and the words of this hymn were particularly appropriate for our frame of mind for Worship after the call to worship and welcome.
Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God, in every part with praise,
that my whole being may proclaim thy being and thy ways.
Not for the lip of praise alone, nor e'en the praising heart
I ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part.

Announcements:  Among a number of other notices, we were reminded about the Bible Study at the Church on Tuesday night and at the Village on Wednesday and the Pancake Morning Tea next Sunday after church.  We were also invited to volunteer for a committee to plan the 150th Anniversary of our Church.

Prayer of Confession/Words of Assurance

Rowena’s prayers with us reminded us that as we readied ourselves to centre ourselves in God, we probably considered we are mostly nice people, although we sometimes struggle in a difficult world.  We don’t lie and cheat; we pray for peace – yet we know that we fall far below the “love standard” set by Jesus – frustrated and undermined by negativity – we become too busy.  We humbly joined in asking for your pardoning Grace and for self honesty and for help to become agents of peace to help others.  Rowena declared; “God knows us and yet loves us still.  You can depend on it – you are forgiven and set free.”  “Thanks be to God.”

Offering / Prayer:  The offering was taken by the stewards and children and the prayer was offered.  “Let us return some of your gifts to the church and to the world.  We are all in this together – accept what we give to help heal the world.” Amen.

Children’s Message  This special message to “children of every age” is obviously one of Rowena’s favourite times in the service.  She had gathered a small number of objects and asked the children what these things might have in common.  There was a small vase of flowers, a pretty card, a colourful book, a beautifully wrapped box and a Bible.  The children agreed they were all things you could give to people as gifts and Rowena nodded and said they were all also things to share.  Then she told the children that God gave himself to us as a gift we can all share with everyone and she offered the children the interesting looking box to take out to Sunday Kids and share with their teachers.  I wonder if they realized that their teachers would be busy sharing God’s love with them as they all enjoyed the chocolates everyone knew were hiding in the wrapped box?

Hymn TiS 685                        “The Power of Your Love”
This modern hymn written by Geoff Bullock – beginning with the words: “Lord, I come to you; let my heart be changed” provided a thoughtful way to approach our Bible Reading and Reflection.

Bible Reading:                     Psalm 147: 1-11 (page 467) & Mark 1:29-39 (page 757)
Our reader today was Mae and this beautiful Psalm, telling of the joy of praising our God and of his care for all things and all people was a comfort to hear.  The passage from Mark described the way Jesus was much in demand with acts of healing and preaching all through Galilee – yet he knew he needed to set aside time for himself – to be alone and to pray. 

Reflection:                               "Let God and let go!”
It was interesting to hear that Rowena had struggled for inspiration on reading the set passages for today.  She admitted the Gospel reading just did not resonate with her until the third reading – when she realized it was not just a nice story of a day in the life of Jesus going about his ministry.  It was, she finally realized, a “meaty” message – “Let God and let go.” 
This ministry was the job that Jesus was sent to do, so he could not allow the business and the excitement of the people he healed and preached to, or the business of each day, to overcome him and impede his progress.  He needed to move on because he came to live among us to call people to repentance and to teach them about how they might live their life to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Rowena highlighted the very important message that Jesus realized that he was suffering from exhaustion and he needed to “escape” the pressures and activities of his schedule to renew himself for God’s work.  A person rested, renewed and inspired can overcome obstacles and solve problems as they face the day refreshed.
Did it seem strange and uncaring at first when Jesus withdrew to a quiet place where he could be alone with his thoughts to pray and renew his physical and mental health so he could move on and begin again refreshed by God?  Perhaps so – after all there were still people waiting and clamoring to be healed and to hear his preaching in that place – but I wondered if this eagerness of Jesus to move on might also be a sign that once we have heard the message of God’s love, we are trusted to share it where we are planted.  Perhaps we don’t have to look for extreme situations to share the message.
However the simple message that we should allow God the opportunity to take control of our lives by letting go and resting and renewing our spirit is a BIG message to accept for most of us.  As we rush around trying to make sure we are fulfilling all our duties, keeping our schedules going and not letting other people down, we are often taking on much more work than is good for us.
The “parable” Rowena related about the person who is standing on one side of a field looking at a huge pile of stones that must be moved to the opposite side of the field amused us – but – if our friend with a huge truck offered to transport our “stones” across the field in one big load would we be able to let go?  Or - would we cling to our own wheelbarrow to keep control and spend hours, running back and forth with our own wheelbarrow, in order to move those stones? 
How much better would our frantic lives be if we relied on our friend God, to load up our stones while we renewed ourselves and clearly sought his guidance to find a better way to live our lives?

Hymn TiS 595                        “O Jesus I have promised”
This well loved old hymn takes us back to our childhood when it was easier to make such promises with confidence, but as adults we grow in experience and learn how easy it is to stray from such good intentions.  However, it is always comforting to renew the promise and try again.

Prayers of the People:  Rowena led these prayers in a different way and invited us to stand and face north in the direction of Indonesia, where the two young Australian men and their families wait for news - Taiwan where the lives of 33 people were cut short by a plane crash and to Papua New Guinea where refugees are seeking asylum.   We faced south as we remembered the God of Ice and Snow and the pristine beauty of Antarctica which is entrusted to us and we turned east as we prayed for women and girls abused in Chile and neighbouring countries. We prayed for equality and the ability to make a difference.  As we turned west we prayed for the huge continent of Africa with Ebola and poor and oppressed people with little hope.  We prayed for Australia and for the people in our special “red books”. Then we shared the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TiS 658                        “Here I am Lord”   
How fitting it felt to sing Daniel L. Schutte’s Hymn where we could offer ourselves to do God’s work - after we had symbolically turned to face the places in the world where we might serve His people.

The Benediction & Blessing    Rowena sent us out with a Blessing that we should trust in God’s mercy for ourselves and allow His Spirit to be the “wind beneath our wings” so we can rise up like an eagle.  Amen.

Retiring hymn:                         “Now unto Him who is able to keep”

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 February 2015


Theme: Why do I do it?

Call to Worship

Dermot declared that we had gathered in the Holy place of the church to meet God the Creator, who knows each one of us by name and urged us to respond to the call by joining in the following hymn.

Hymn TIS 745 "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"

We seem to need constant reminding to seek the most important things first and this hymn imparts that message very clearly

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Dermot began by speaking of God who created us with the capacity to choose; with the capacity to alter; with the capacity to protect or destroy the creation we have been given; made in God's image. He then raised the problem of how we have made ourselves the most important thing, not sharing ourselves or our gifts but protecting our controlled and ordered lives. Dermot praised God who has created the vast universe but then confessed that we often choose to use it for ourselves, risking humanity's future. He then appealed to God, the source of all life, the God of all, to breathe life into us; to walk and talk with us, that we will be the people we should be, for the sake of the gospel. Dermot appealed to God to help us lose ourselves in him, so as to carry out his will in this world.


Dermot accepted the offerings, praying that they be used to share the church and the gospel.

Hymn TIS 276 Theres a light upon the mountain and the day is at the spring

A message of hope. When this will happen worldwide is not in our hands but it can happen in our lives in a minute.

Bible Reading Kaye read to us first from 1 Corinthians 9:16 - 23 and then from

Mark 1: 29 - 39.

In Corinthians Paul makes it clear that his preaching of the gospel is not his choice and is not for any reward. He has to do it because that is the command we have been given and he follows on by saying he is prepared to accommodate anyone in any way to facilitate the passing on of the good news. The Mark reading covers a time at the very start of Jesus' ministry when he cured many people of their various illnesses. But then he went out into the villages to spread the word. That was his purpose - that everyone should know the message of redemption.

Message. Dermot.

Jesus lived his life in service for others but is there any instance of him asking "Why"? No, because he knew that is the purpose of life. We may speak about it as a command from God because in the sense of that being the way he should live that was part of his thinking.

But he was human and needed support to carry on, so prayer was an integral part of his life. The service he gave took its toll on him and ultimately he suffered death because he did not shy away from the purpose he saw before him. But that suffering is why we can relate to him. It's why we know to turn to God for the strength to continue.

Jesus did not do good to others for a reward: he did it out of love. That is the template for our lives. We should not even be looking for God's approval much less the approval of others.

When Paul spoke about the reason for his preaching it was the same. He preached because he had to. Not for any other reason and he, as Jesus did, was willing to lose all of self in doing it.

Paul speaks of bring free, which meant much in a world where so many were slaves. But being free, he willingly gave all of self in service to others. As Luther said. "Here I stand. I can do no other". Dietrich Bonhoeffer had to risk all for Christ's sake and died for it.

When we risk ourselves for others, we are sharing in the presence of God. That is God's call to us: to lose ourselves for others.

Hymn TIS 223 How sweet the name of Jesus sounds

The old message for those who feel the burdens are too heavy and the hurdles too high - the only help.

Prayers of the people and Lords Prayer

Dermot prayed to the God of compassion and grace, reminding us that like any other service, we do not seek reward but pray out of love. We pray in compassion and from our concerns for those around us, trusting in God's abiding love to care for his children. After praying for those known to the congregation, we joined in the Lord's Prayer

Hymn TIS 572 O Thou who camest from above, the pure celestial fire to impart

The pure celestial light has pierced the darkness for all who have sought it. Harking back to the first hymn: that's our priority


Dermot blessed us and announced the final hymn, saying that those should be the words we took with us.

Going out Hymn  Now unto him

Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling,

And present you faultless before the presence of his glory

With exceeding joy.

To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty,

Dominion and power, both now and forever.



Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 February 2015

We gathered together expecting to experience fellowship together; to learn of God's healing and redeeming grace; and to experience it anew, so as we left at the end of the service we would be fit and encouraged to serve him in the world.

However today, those things seemed to happen in a larger, deeper way. At least it did for me.

The use of Psalm 111:1 as a Call to Worship emphasized that our relationship with God is 100%..."I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart"... and that we can only achieve that within the congregation of his people.

TIS Hymn 165 "Praise our God, the great creator" continued this praise, acknowledging God's hand in every sphere of our existence.

This whole and holy adoration of God extended into the Prayers as we acknowledged the God who is love, from whom all creation springs forth and who sustains all that creation in love. Such love that he was prepared to become poor for our sakes. Who was shown to us in Jesus Christ, doing good and preaching the gospel in obedience, thereby opening the kingdom of heaven to us all. Before this God we confessed our shame, knowing he would have mercy on us and forgive us.

The Commissioning of all those who serve in MRUC in any way followed, continuing to name God as the source of all gifts, whose purposes are achieved by the holy use of those gifts in each of us. In keeping with this, each of us pledged that with God's help and relying on his grace we would carry out the tasks to which we had committed ourselves. This part of the service was drawn together with the Covenant Prayer, which began, "I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will..." laying ourselves open to God's purpose.

Immediately this pledge to obedience found a sliver of fulfillment in the offering of some of our goods to God's service in the community, (including our offering of food to CCA) as an expression of our love, to spread God's blessing to our neighbours.

In the Bible Readings brought to us by Lyn, we saw the source of today's reflective service. Psalm 111 from which our Call to Worship was taken, spoke of God as the absolute spring of all that is good, while Mark 1:21 - 28 demonstrated this spring of goodness (and power) in the everyday life of the Jews in Capernaum.

In her Sermon Jan focused on the need for our obedience, if God's creative and loving power is to be fully effective in the world. After alluding to the ambivalent attitude of Australians to authority (we despise the corrupt people in authority, are skeptical and mistrusting of bad management and corporate greed but appreciate the people kept alive by our drink driving rules).

Even so, many are reluctant to acknowledge that Right and Wrong exist.(could it be that the drink-drive laws work so well because breaking them can lead to a person's life being seriously inconvenienced, other than any acknowledgement of  the right thing to do). However campaigns like this show that authority can be good.

Jan related this to God's discipline of his people which was not meant to cause suffering but to show care.

When Jesus arrived on the scene, he soon established his authority and power, through his significant teaching and healing ministry, revealing his great compassion. Compassion that can liberate and restore. He brought brand new life to the man in the synagogue in Capernaum and we are called to share that ministry of God's loving, challenging, provocative power.

Jesus brought God's presence into reality and continues to do...through him we can become new people.

In TIS Hymn 638 "O Christ the healer, we have come" we reflected on Jesus the Healer, but with more emphasis on his ability to restore our inner wholeness rather than our physical ailments.

Chris prayed on our behalf the Prayers for the People acknowledging God's gracious and loving care, asking him to hear our joys and cares. He brought before God the planet and  asked for the release of this world from the tyranny of greed. He prayed for those who are oppressed, those who have endured loss and conflict, that they will have confidence in God to intervene and sustain all people in time of need and bring the gospel of love to all. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer

TIS Hymn 533 "I come to meet my Lord" This hymn stresses the unity in Christ of all Christians and the forgiveness and liberty offered to all by God.


To begin this service with Jan, Mae and Elaine, we offered The Peace to those around us.

With that, Jan invited us to claim our place around the table, announcing that the table of bread and wine had been made ready, explaining that it was a table in company with Jesus and those who love him. Then we, who have faith, and we who would like more, we who celebrated the sacrament often and we who had not been for a long time; we who have been able to follow Jesus and we who have failed; were invited to come.

And then we were invited to take the ordinary things through which we will be blessed. And as Jesus thanked God for the gifts of the earth we also celebrated God's goodness.

Jan then recounted the first communion service where Jesus declared of the bread: "This is my body which is given for you" and of the wine: "This cup is the new relationship with God, sealed with my blood." God then commanded: "Take this and share it."

Following this we shared the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. In this prayer we acknowledged the many times throughout the ages when God has sustained his people, leading us to praise him for his faithfulness.

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.

Jan then blessed the bread and wine asking that God's spirit would revitalize us through them, making us like God, living and caring for the world.

After the distribution we prayed a final prayer: As this broken bread was scattered through fields and hills before being gathered to become one, so may we and all people be gathered from the ends of the earth into Christ's kingdom.

TIS Hymn 468 "We are your people, Spirit of Grace." This hymn speaks of the practical business of being a Christian - being neighbours, being a community, open to strangers, clashing and forgiving, showing justice and care. Sometimes it's hard for we mere humans but the outcome makes it worth the effort.

Jan then pronounced the blessing: May the blessing of God Almighty, The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be amongst you and remain with you always. This, in itself, brings a sense of peace, which we passed on to each other through the blessing:

Hymn TIS 778 "Shalom to you now" ...shalom my friends. This prayer to each other, without further detail, expressing our wish for all other people.