Sunday, 29 March 2015

Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 March 2015

Call to Worship (from back of the church)

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud. O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your King comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9 (Minister and children enter with palm branches and place them at the front of the church while the congregation sings)

Hymn TIS 724 ​“Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest! Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest! Lord, we lift up your name with hearts full of praise. Be exalted, O Lord my God! Hosanna in the highest! Glory, glory, glory to the King of Kings! Glory, glory, glory to the King of Kings! Lord, we lift up your name with hearts full of praise. Be exalted, O Lord my God. Glory to the King of Kings!

Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving Jan joined us with all of creation as we thanked God for Christ's commitment to this world. She prayed that our words, expressing our hope, would be heard even though we find it hard to believe God trusts us to be his hands and voice in this world. Jan addressed God as our Blessed Hosanna, who saved us with his love, asking that we would be drawn near.

Prayer of Confession Jan, confessed, for us that we find it so difficult to be the reflection of God's love; to stand firm in times of unloveliness and struggle; to be the people of shalom, making room for all in God's kingdom.

Words of Assurance Jesus hears us when we fail and acknowledge our human stumbling. We are forgiven. Thanks be to God!

Hymn TIS 333 All glory, praise and honour A declaration with praise that Jesus Christ is our redeemer King. We suffer needlessly when we forget that. This service and this hymn give us time to focus our attention on the centre of all life.

Bible Readings- Val read to us from Isaiah 50:4-9 - God has made us for peace with our neighbour and service to them.  ​​​​Mark 11:1-11​​ Jesus rides on a colt into Jerusalem. Not the usual conquering hero. How it could all change so quickly seems impossible but it was this exuberant reception which threatened the existing rulers and brought their wrath down upon him. Sometimes all of this happens within us - we hear the call and respond with such enthusiasm but then some other part of us resists: our autonomy is threatened and we pull back.

​​​Sermon- Bless the one who comes in Gods name Jan invited us to remember parades we had experienced and what we had remembered about them, comparing them with this very different type of parade we were thinking about today. Triumphal entries like Jesus' ride into Jerusalem were usually reserved for war heroes. This was different. He was a prophet, teacher, worker of miracles and he came, not on a steed, but on a donkey.
On his journey, he was accompanied, not only by his disciples but by many who had been witness to his miracles and teaching, both of which inspired hundreds of people. What an event.

Some recognized him as the Messiah but most were still trying to understand who he was. He came humbly and in peace, as the Servant King. This was not what was expected, either by the people or their leaders. Acclaimed as prophet, a week later the population would be calling for his crucifixion.

Jesus knew what he was doing and where it would lead but he deliberately kept going and that is what is celebrated on Palm Sunday.

Jesus still challenges our ideas about power. It's not according to the way of the world- it's by serving others. The forgiveness of sins and the release from the forces opposed to God came through the self giving love of Christ. (From Jan's sermon).

 May this Holy Week be a time of spiritual significance as you journey with Jesus.

Hymn- TIS 348 Ride on, ride on in majesty  The pairing of the words "lowly pomp" remind us that Jesus came to turn the world on its ear, showing us that the world's values are all wrong and lead nowhere.

Prayers of Intercession- Noelene prayed, praising Jesus for his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, knowing the end was near. She prayed that when we are facing hard times that we will look to God, learning to rest in him. Noelene directed our thoughts to the people in the recent plane crash, at the same time praying for others hurt or killed in accidents. Noelene then turned our attention to those suffering in war-torn countries and refugees trying to find a new place to live. She asked for wisdom for those in authority that they will deal more compassionately with refugees.

She prayed for our government leaders and the leaders of the Uniting Church that God will guide them in all they do.

She then prayed for the needs of our congregation and family and friends in need, focusing particularly Jan as she leads us through the coming Holy time. We then prayed The Lord's Prayer together.

Hymn TIS 665 Jesus Christ is waiting A strong message to remember the Jesus didn't come to those who think they are safe but to those who are lost. He didn't come to speak only in churches but to all who are in any need. That is where  our ministry should lead us.

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.

Blessing Song TIS 778 Shalom. If only this could be our prayer to all those around us minute by minute. What a world it would be!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 March 2015

Carolyn welcomed us all and led the Call to Worship:

The days are surely coming, says God, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah.

This is the time to begin anew.

I will put my law within them, says God, and will write it on their hearts.

This is the time to begin anew.

God says, I will seek you with my whole heart.

Come let us worship God.

Hymn TIS 155 "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder" A song of praise, sung from the heart. Thanks for this magnificent world and thanks for sending Jesus to show us the way.

Prayer of Adoration and Thanksgiving

A prayer to our living and generous God who has from the beginning of time sustained, renewed and restored us as he has held all things together; who has spoken to us through the prophets and priests. Carolyn, on our behalf, gave thanks for the Spirit at the heart of our community that teaches, comforts and guides us. For this we gave thanks and praise.

Prayer of Confession

We are sorry for all the things we have done and have not done that have

caused others pain and which, in turn, have hurt you.

Create in us a new heart and loving spirit.

Forgive us when we miss the beauty around us.

Create in us a new heart and loving spirit.

Forgive us when we stop caring about others and ourselves.

Create in us a new heart and loving spirit.

Forgive us when we ignore the little things in life.

Create in us a new heart and loving spirit.

Declaration of Forgiveness Carolyn reminded us that Christ is the One who offers salvation to anyone who wishes to have freedom. She then declared: Your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God.

Hymn TIS 684 "Love will be our Lenten calling" "Peace will be our Lenten living" and "Truth will be our Lenten learning". Love, peace and truth, the foundations of our lives when "God alone is all in all."

Readings Malcolm read to us from Scripture: Psalm 51:1-12 and John: 12:20-33. The Psalm was a prayer of David. He had been visited by the prophet Nathan after he had visited Bathsheba. This is an earnest and urgent plea for forgiveness as David lays open all his sins before the Lord. Are we able to do this?

The reading from John recounts the visit of Greeks for the Passover. They were very keen to hear Jesus. It's worth reading the passage again. My sympathy is with the crowd. How can an ordinary local be making such claims? And what is he talking about?

Years ago I decided I would hold off from committing my life to God until I had found out answers to some very hard questions. I had to give up. I had to commit without answers and now, there are even more questions.

Reflection Carolyn's prayer focused our hearts and minds on the purpose of the time ahead: Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. In the name of Christ. Amen.

Carolyn began by referring to the times when we don't understand each other in conversation. When those listening cannot fit together what is being said.

She linked this to a situation in which she had been involved. An infant with a mysterious illness for which answers didn't seem available. The available mountain of facts and theories surrounding the illness were overwhelming.

She then linked this to the Gospel reading, where Greeks came seeking answers from Jesus. Through Andrew and Phillip an arrangement was made and so they were able to speak with Jesus. Jesus told them: "It is time for the Son of Man to be glorified." and told them that unless a grain of wheat falls to earth and dies, it remains a single grain but if it dies, it bears much fruit. This left the Greeks more puzzled, still trying to hold together the ambiguity of Jesus words. He followed this by telling them that a person who loves their life is motivated by selfishness but the person who has "spent" his life will regain it.

Carolyn then referred to William Barclay's words: only in death comes life, only by spending life do we retain life and only by service comes greatness.

Jesus' ministry was for all...Jesus was to die for the whole world.

We have to cope with not having all the answers. We live in a world where the ability to test things objectively is regarded as a good and those things that can be quantitatively texted are valued.

However, even in the scientific world the Quantum theory has upset that view. Not all knowledge can be observed objectively.

People were puzzled by Jesus words and Jesus encouraged them to be part of the ambiguity.

Experiences lead us in different directions. Referring back to the sick child, Carolyn raised the question of what would pull that family through the hard times ahead. We can't have all the answers. We have to hold on in faith. But not having answers does not stop us focusing on God.

Carolyn then prayed, saying that as we are all on a pilgrimage with questions, may we be enabled through Christ. God is a mystery. As we pilgrim may we be supported as a community through Faith in Christ, being held by God. Amen

Hymn TIS 633 "Lord, we are blind; the world of sight is as a shadow in the dark." A hymn acknowledging our need for God to open our eyes to the truth.

During the Offering the Men's Quartet lifted our spirits with and encouraged us to join in "The Gospel Train" giving us a different way to encourage each other in our faith.

Prayers for the People Von thanked God that we can bring our prayers for those we love and care for. She asked for God to be with the people of Vanuatu, to comfort and strengthen them in their distress. Von asked for God's care for our loved ones living far away or travelling, to keep them safe. She asked God, the Good Shepherd, to help all those in need: healing the sick; inspiring those broken in faith; comforting the lonely and rejected - those who have lost hope. Von asked for God's blessing in the church worldwide and the special needs of our own congregation, especially Jan and all who lead. We then joined in the Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 465 "Loving creator, grant to thy children mercy and blessings." A prayer to ask God in different ways to guide us in our search for oneness with him.

Blessing May God, who created you, sustain you. May God, who came in Christ, set you free. May God, who is as near as the breath you breathe, grant you peace. Amen.




Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 March 2015

After the service I was speaking with Kaye and we were of the same mind. We found Sunday services uplifting because when we, as a community, gathered together we laid aside all other concerns and focused as one on worshipping the God of all. The resultant peace mended many of the week's wounds and strengthened us for the week ahead.

Jan welcomed us and read Psalm 107: 1-3 as a Call to Worship

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

We then joined in a simpler version of the same sentiment: TIS Hymn 106 "Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices: that is, with our all.

Jan led us in the Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving addressing the loving God who heals and frees and nourishes us, thanking him for his love and care and asking that our response of praise and thanksgiving be acceptable. She thanked God that we do not have to bear the weight of our frailties which was lifted from us by the sacrifice of the life of God's son, Jesus Christ.

We then confessed our transgressions in our own voices in the song:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God and renew a right spirit within me.

Create in me a clean heart, oh God and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me

Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and renew a right spirit within me.

Keith Green music: words Psalm 51

And Jan announced the Words of Grace: "Our sins are forgiven"...Thanks be to God.

We watched a video which impressed upon us how much good can be done with just a little gift from us during Lent. I was going to call it a sacrifice and for some of us it could mean giving up that one little treat we normally brighten our lives with or perhaps eating more plainly during lent. But how many of us truly go without something we actually need? I haven't - not once in my entire life have I gone to bed hungry or been without clothes or shelter or medical care when I needed it.

We gave our Offering and Jane prayed that it would be used to further God's kingdom.

As we sang Hymn TIS 598 we asked that God would transform our lives into what we should rightly be. The last line "O still small voice of calm" alerts us to the need to listen. We can shout above it that we know better and lose our chance for peace.

The Bible Readings: Joan read to us Numbers 21: 4 - 9 and John 3: 14 - 21 which are linked and in a way also linked back to the call to give to others, at this time, especially. Whatever things we think we need, our only true needs can be met by God. Numbers speaks of the time in the desert when the people had begun complaining and being impatient. The Bible says that God sent serpents among them but then ordered Moses to make a serpent on a pole and lift it up that everyone who looked at it would be saved from the venom of the snakes. (And their own venomous thoughts?). The NT reading refers back to that time and relates it to Christ's sacrifice on the Cross - that whosoever believes in him should have eternal life.

Sermon "God's love for us no matter what."

Jan began by relating to us that during her training she spent time experiencing the sort of situations she might have to minister to after ordination, among them the wards at Westmead Hospital. There she saw the wonderful things that could be done to restore people to wholeness and related that to the medical insignia of a serpent on a pole harking back to the healing effects of that sign in the wilderness, so long ago.

Despite God's provision for them all through their journey, the people were impatient and turned to complaining. Jan made the point that it was more likely that the snakes just happened to be there but the people would have interpreted that as God's action. So the people asked Moses to take away the snakes. (Notice that he didn't do that but constructed a serpent on a pole which the people had to look up at to gain protection - God's answer doesn't always coincide with our idea). Jan drew our attention to the fact that the people were asked to look at what they feared. (Sometimes the thing we fear to look at is ourselves - we don't want to see what's there).

Jan drew our attention to God's unending patience with the people (Fortunately that patience extends to us, here today, this minute.) and just as the people had to look to the serpent to be healed, so we must look to Jesus for wholeness.

To quote Jan "Believing in him not only head but heart, is essential for the message to bring life and hope for us. It is not a message of condemnation but of compassion. God's love is so generous and encompassing, that anyone and everyone, can find a place within it."

And again "Let us look to Jesus who brings hope and wholeness to a lost world. Let us make that grace our own, and pray for others to open their lives to him. Let us renew our conviction, to share that love with others around us, that they will come to believe that forgiveness is possible, and life can begin anew, no matter what!! Amen.

This theme was continues in the next Hymn "The great love of God" TIS 164 as it told us of God's love being "yours, it is ours, O how lavishly giv'n! It's for each one of us - no matter what!

During the musical interlude provided by Grahame we thought on those things we needed to offer to God for his care, after which Jan led us in the Prayers for the People. She offered our love joined with God's, reaching out, shining God's light to the world. With her we prayed for those close to us and those in the community around us. We particularly prayed for all those involved in the Royal Commission: the victims that they will find healing and peace, and the perpetrators that they will face their crimes and seek forgiveness in the power of the Spirit. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn TIS 147 "To God be the glory, great things he has done." We sang with full voice and full hearts, thanking God and praising him for him amazing goodness which comes to us in so many ways.

Jan Blessed us and then we offered our blessing to each other, singing Hymn TIS 779 "May the feet of God walk with you"





Monday, 9 March 2015

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 8 March 2015

For those who follow this blog and those who receive the hard copy, I'm sorry that I have not been able to deliver it as regularly as I was doing in previous times. This irregularity will probably continue as my personal resources are not matching the number of demands on my time and energy.

However, I hope that when I can write up the service in some way, it will be a help to those who look to it to keep in touch with our church and use the blog in their own way.

This week Dan led our service and because I did not take any notes I can only give you my own version of his theme. He raised the issue of Wisdom and Foolishness. He pointed out that Wisdom was God's voice to us and that in not listening to that voice we were exposing our own foolishness.

The bible readings for the day included Psalm 19; 1Corinthians 1:18 - 25 and John 2:13 - 22.

In the reading from John we are told of Jesus anger at the Temple being used for unholy purposes and his declaration of his power. Later in John we  hear that God sent his Son into the world so that each of us can have eternal life. And later in the same reading we are told that "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world should be saved through him." Jesus is the focus, we are to look to him. This is made clear earlier in the same chapter in John, "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.." we are to keep our attention on him. In him is our salvation, our release from the things that weigh on us and prevent us from being all we should be. This is why Jesus was so angry in the Temple. The focus was everywhere but where but where it should have been. When we look to Jesus and trust in his teachings, we are surely transformed, eternal life begins.

In Corinthians, Paul warns us that this message is foolishness to those who haven't experienced its redeeming quality, so don't expect congratulations from everybody for following that way. In fact, those who are wise by this world's standards will probably think you are a bit slow.

I remember the father of a young minister offering the minister's young bride a new house if only she would dissuade her new husband from throwing his life away, going to the mission field. But they had experienced the saving grace of Jesus and all the new houses in the world couldn't compete with that.

God reaches out to us, drawing us to him anew each day. Even before we open our bibles or sit in contemplative prayer, God is speaking to us from the world around us and the people in it. Psalm 19 tells us that "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork...their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the earth." 

We only have to look just once on God's handiwork around us to realise that our God is good and everything that comes from him is good. Just as he creates beauty around us, he can transform our lives into things of beauty.

Many of us have been fortunate in so far as during dark patches in our lives, we have been put in touch with someone whose transformed life gives us hope. May we be transformed in such a way that we pass on that hope to others.

Charles Wesley's hymn "And can it be that I should gain" shouts the results of such a huge change and his great gratitude to God who is the source of all such transformations. "Tis mercy all, immense and free: for O my God it found out me." Don't hang back. Whether it is an initial step of trust or another step along the way, it's immense and free mercy. Go for it because as Charles Wesley says later in the hymn " My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth, and followed thee. No "ifs" or "buts". Wesley is clearly sure of the work of God's great love in his life.