Thursday, 19 May 2016

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 May 2016

Rowena led us today on a journey of reflection about service. She began with a story of an old, old, man, cold and grey and wracked by coughing, having to cross a gorge. For anyone it would have been a difficult task, but for such an old man it was so much harder. But he succeeded.

Now, you would have thought such an old man would have been happy to have made it across, but no, although he had used so much energy and effort already, he set about building a bridge.

People were amazed and asked him why he was going to so much effort. His answer was that because it was so much effort for him, he wanted to make the journey easier for others. I knew then the message we were to receive today would not be a comfortable one.

Hymn: TIS  572(i)  O Thou who camest from above the pure celestial fire to impart, kindle a flame of sacred love on the mean altar of my heart." Just when I thought I might be able to relax, there came this message. Rather than being able to take the easy path, here we were asking God to "kindle a flame of sacred love" in us. Such a flame would demand honest and brave action.

Prayers of Approach and Prayer of confession:  (a paraphrase)

For us, Rowena praised God who calls us and waits on us. She praised the God who is the real substance of life and who fills us with the Holy Spirit like winds filling the sails of a windmill.

She asked that the fire of God's spirit will fill us, so that we will be living the life He would have us live.

Rowena then confessed that although God has sent his spirit of love freely, that we have put conditions on our love; that God has sent His spirit of peace and patience but that we worry if we don't see instant results.
In the same manner, we have not grasped the gifts that God has sent us. Therefore, Rowena asked that God's spirit would fill us so that we can experience life to the full.

We have responded to God's gift of kindness with neglect; to His gift of faithfulness by lacking credibility; to His gift of gentleness with aggression.

To his gift of self-control we have reacted by hurting others. Then with a full heart, Rowena prayed for us all that our Gracious God will refresh and renew us so we will be fruitful and vital servants, walking together in the spirit of peace.

As we confessed our great lack, Rowena Declared the forgiveness of our sins.

Time with the Children and with the grown-ups too Rowena showed a beautifully wrapped gift to the children and then placed it on the table, asking them if that's what we do with gifts. They all knew better.

No! Of course not! We unwrap gifts. Of course we do, and that's exactly what we should do with the gifts God gives us.

We aren't given gifts to keep them hidden, that is false modesty. That set me thinking.There's the analogy in the Bible about not hiding our light under a bushel.

We are meant to use the gifts.

Sometimes these gifts can be used straight away but sometimes we have to work on them first. If we are given a Leggo set, or a kit to build an aeroplane or car or maybe a tapestry set, we have to develop them into some sort of finished product.

Interestingly the development not only makes the gift more useful but develops us as well.

And then we are to use the gifts for the benefit, not only of ourselves, but for others; there's hardly any point in having musical gifts unless they are used to help other people enjoy life, to express themselves or even to draw closer to God. Any gift is the same. It's not for us to grasp to ourselves. It's a gift to use in God's service of love to the world.

Hymn: TIS 409 "O Breath of Life Rowena's choice of hymns continued the message today of being the sort of Christians who will allow God to work through us to revive His church. The sort of Christians who will open ourselves to God's renewing Spirit to be a renewed church. Amen to that.

Scripture Readings:Exodus 35: 20-29 The people brought their gifts to build the Tabernacle. Not just any gifts or something that they could spare but their richest gifts.

​​Acts 2: 1-21 The Holy Spirit came and rested in them and changed them so much that the people looking on thought that they were drunk. It also changed them so much that they stopped hiding and went out to tell the Gospel story regardless of the consequences. Is that us?

1 Corinthians 12: 3-13 We all have a gift, if we are lucky, more than one. Not only are we meant to use it, but we are meant to appreciate the gifts that others have. Liberate God's gifts in others.

Reflection: The message of the hymns and readings and of the kid's address continued. We are to use our gifts in God's service, not just the gifts that we can use easily but those that we may have to develop and work on.

I won't repeat the message of the kid's address but remember we are to offer our best gifts. Rowena had handed out cards with an image of a flame on one side to represent the spirit and when were told to turn them over there was a word written on the other side.

Those words described gifts we might have. If we thought that word did not describe our gift, we were directed to think about what our gift might be and if we just didn't know, then we should ask someone at morning tea.

I wrote a note to a gentleman sitting near me. I think one of his many gifts is graciousness, so I told him.

The word written on the back of my card was "Giving". That is very interesting since I have been helping  some teenagers with their schoolwork and said to their mother that instead of paying me, that she should give the fee to a couple of Christian causes that I would like to support more than my present income allows.

And I can write. But I didn't wait until I was the best writer around before I started writing this blog. But I'm good enough to share the Sunday service with those that can't get to church.

Rowena, I heard God's' voice through your words.

Hymn: TIS 413 "Holy Spirit, come confirm us Our prayer for the Holy Spirit to make us all that we need to be to serve God truly.

Offering:  Our first opportunity to act out the message of the day.

Hymn: TIS 442  "All Praise to our Redeeming Lord  And finally we praised Him who is the author of all that is good and all that can transform us into the people of a renewed church.

Benediction Rowena blessed us as we left to be the renewed people of God.

Closing:​​ Now Unto Him who is able to keep.

               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. Amen,

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 May 2016

Welcome Ruth welcomed Raymond to our service and, he, in turn, welcomed us to worship.

Call to worship

God is the beating heart;

Of everything that was, is and ever shall be.

God is the energy in us and around us.

God is the power that makes everything live!

Let us worship God

Hymn TIS 72 From all who dwell below the skies A song that speaks of the magnitude of God's blessings and the infinite nature of the range of those blessings. So often we are focused on ourselves and perhaps our own burdens or in some cases, minor irritations that side-track us from appreciating all that God offers.

Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving Raymond began his praise of God through annunciating the sacrifices Jesus made to become one of us: being obedient to the end to open the Gates of Heaven to all who believe. He acknowledged God as life, wisdom, power and spirit who draws us together as His family.

Prayer of Confession Raymond confessed that even though God has set forth our intended way of life in Jesus, we, to our shame, have not always followed that way. Have mercy on us.

Words of Assurance God is light. There is no darkness in Him. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.

Hear God's words of Grace: Your sins are forgiven.

Thanks be to God.

Announcements Firstly, the resounding success of the activity day for children on the pupil-free day was announced but then we were saddened to hear of Rev. Jan's illness which is going to keep her from us for a while, so that she can recover.

Offering  Thanking God for His immense generosity, Raymond asked God to help us use His gifts to change lives and so bring about a transformed world.

Hymn TIS 538 Feed us now, bread of life A prayer, confessing our yearning for God's hand upon us, and giving thanks for the Eucharist to follow, and the blessing it mysteriously brings.

Holy Communion  Iona liturgy  Raymond reminded us that this table was not his, not that of the elders, not that of the congregation, but God's and when we approach the table it is in response to the invitation of Christ Jesus.

This communion service has been recorded in past months but today I paid greater attention, first to the words spoken but also to the bread and cup as they were raised up for our attention, reminding us of Jesus' sacrifice..

But then the image of bread and wine and various vessels on the screen at the front of the church, with its richness of colour and overall unity, somehow impressed upon me how Jesus' whole life was lived, in its great richness, for the sole purpose of our redemption.

Prayer after Communion Raymond prayed that our ears would hear God's voice, that our eyes would see God's blessings and that our tongues will tell the story of God's love. He then gave Glory to God for His inexpressible gift.

HymnTIS 526 Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us The melody runs like that of a lilting love song. And that's just what it is. God's love for us and our love for him. Amen.

Bible Readings  these readings were brought to us by Carolyn: Acts 16:16-24 This passage is worth reading in full. It shows what happens when people of good will stand between other people and their money. And we can all recognize the characters as this story as played out in our own world today. Greediness is invariably accompanied by bullying.

Revelation 21: 22 22:5 The promise of life which is not diminished in any way - shining brightly.

Sermon  God's Hospitality Room for everyone at the table Raymond reminded us that, not only are we all welcome at the Lord's table, but we all have a role to play in bringing about God's kingdom. We have the joy of our Christian Faith and the joy of belonging to the community of the Uniting Church in Australia. As such, we are assured that we are not forgotten or lost. He stressed that even as we look about and see a senior congregation, we are still in the game. The promise of what is to come in the message in Revelation is for us but it is our responsibility to spread the good news of that message to all. That is the message of Shalom which has been passed down through so many generations. The message of everything that is good. And we are part of the game of passing on of that message of everything that is good to all. Raymond told us of his visit to Malawi as part of a push to eliminate government corruption which was resulting in funds meant for medicine for the people being sidetracked to the purses of people in power. Corruption is everywhere and we are part of the game to stand up to such corruption. On the other side of that same coin we are part of the game of spreading the news of God's love to all.

Musical interlude before prayers A time to sit and speak to God and listen for his voice.

Prayers of Intercession  Joan led us in prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Some of us are feeling world-weary when we look around your world and this beautiful country and hear and see so much anger, discontent, depression, intolerance, violence greed and negativity.

God give us a passion for joy and teach us tolerance. 

We shout at each other and make loud noises to fill the silence so we dont have to listen to what is really going on around us. 

God open our ears to hear you and teach us to love.

We choose to stare at electronic screens so we dont have to see the loneliness of people or look into their faces and risk having to become involved.

God open our eyes and teach us compassion and caring. 

We surround ourselves with more possessions than we need, but dont always pause to see the desperate needs of others.

Lord, open our hearts to the needs of your people everywhere. 

We pray for generosity of spirit, for the ability to listen to each other and speak on any matter without being overbearing or insensitive.  We ask for your wisdom to see and sense the insecurity of people who are trying to protect themselves by hiding their true feelings. 

We must learn to accept that others, yes - even in this building today have diverse opinions. 

They are not wrong and we are not right! 

We are all different.  We are all people who have come to your house this morning through different paths and varied life experiences.

Only you can see the harm we sometimes cause to others when we question the validity of their feelings or their actions.  It is only you who can see into our human hearts and minds.  Help us to be gentle and kind in all things, so we can be a living example of your love and your generous forgiveness towards us; specially when we fall short of the example of Jesus who was willing to die for our sins. 

We pray for the grace to share your gifts of kindness, love, generosity, peace and understanding, with all your people.  We pray for unselfish and tolerant leadership that seeks the common good for the leaders of all nations and all people.  Father we pray that we may be part of your plan to break down the barriers and misunderstandings that cause conflict in our families, our community, our country and your world. 

We ask for your blessing on all who mourn and all who are sick in mind or body - and we ask for your blessing on those people who care for the sick and dying.

We have all been affected by stories we have heard or seen on the news in this past week, or we know of someone who is sick, or in trouble, or out of work, or disappointed.  We lift all these situations and people up to you dear Father - and offer a silent prayer for them all. Amen           

Hymn TIS 611 God of grace and God of glory A prayer that God will guide us and give us His power to do his work. A prayer that God will save us from our petty squabbles and save us from retreating when the going gets hard. A prayer that we all can effectively be part of the game.

Blessing Eternal God, from whom all holy desires, all good purposes, and all just works come; Give to us that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments, and also that by you, we, being defended from all fear, may pass our time in peace; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

And now may the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you, Always.  Amen.

Blessing Song  TIS 778 Shalom was the only choice possible.

Shalom to you now, Shalom, my friends. May God's full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving, Christ be your Shalom, Christ be your Shalom.