Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 19 March 2017

Call to Worship:  A Woman of no Distinction

This was a moving passage which highlighted the need of the woman at the well, and of all of us, to be seen as the people we are and valued for that. It is only the creator who can do that fully, but as people who have given ourselves to the service of others, we should do everything we can to let people know that they are valued - just as they are. This passage highlighted the need to share the love that has made us closer to what we should be, with others.

Hymn: "I heard the voice of Jesus say  -  TiS 585

"lay down, O weary one, lay down your head upon my breast."  What an invitation! - but sometimes we are just far too independent and proud to take it up. Show a little humility and admit you need help.

Prayer of Confession: Rowena confessed for us our doubts and fears: our inability to let go: our inability to take our troubles and fears to the Source of all Wisdom. We don't know how that works, so we turn to the world's wisdom. As a result we hurt others: we show contempt for people who we don't understand. Rowena asked that that rock-like facade we show the world be broken open and that we should offer ourselves to be forgiven. Amen

Declaration of Forgiveness:

The source of living, life-giving water offers forgiveness. All we need is to humbly accept it. Accepting forgiveness can be very difficult.

Offering Prayer:

We have been loved in overwhelming abundance and so we respond in kind. We complain about our lack or about how much people keep asking of us. Come on! Look at all you have.

Time with the Children:

Rowena use this time to show how we judge others and reject them for the most superfluous reasons. Look past the superfluous- see the real people. Guess what! We are all just people.

Hymn: Just as I am  -  TiS 584  verses 1, 2, 4, 5. The words of someone who has been able to humble themselves and admit their need.

Scripture Readings:                                                                                                                          Psalm 95. John 4: 5-42. John is all about finding ourselves to be of worth in the eyes of the only one who really knows us. The Psalm is exuberant praise from someone who can see all they have been blessed with.


Rowena spoke to us about Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan women at the well. Jesus often spoke to the multitudes but at other times to individuals and this conversation is the longest recorded on a one-to-one basis. The Jews despised the Samaritans and avoided them. This woman was avoided by her own community but here is Jesus, a Jew, talking with her - at length - about very personal issues. He was ready to ignore the rules to offer grace. (Notice, he didn't say she had to become a Jew, he simply offered her living water as a free gift.)
And in speaking to her, he revealed more of himself and her understanding of him increased. A lesson for us all: the more we spend time with that enlivening presence, the more we will understand him and the gift we are offered.

And the practical message: are we willing to be hospitable, in any way we can, to the lonely, the rejected, the people who are different from us?

Hymn: Come as you are  -  TiS 693

An invitation that is hard to resist. A thought that occurred to me was about  the "facade" Rowena referred to earlier. We really spend a lot of time pretending to the world about what "top" people we are. But why do we try to do that with God? Especially since he calls us - just as we are!

Prayers of Intercession:

Rowena prayed that having been refreshed by the Living Word, we should turn our attention to the world around us: we should be sensitive to the needs of those who hunger and thirst spiritually or physically. She prayed for those with health issues, naming people in our own community, and for anyone in crisis, including those whose crisis is a joyful one. She prayed for those who are looking for that living water but don't know where to find it, that they will know God's presence and through that, their sense of purpose. We then joined in The Lord's Prayer.

Hymn: I will sing the wondrous story  -  TiS 233

Do we?


We're sent forth to offer that living water to the world.

Closing Vesper:                                                                                                                       

Now unto him who is able to keep,

Able to keep you from falling. And to present you faultless

Before the presence of his glory With exceeding joy,

To the only wise a God our Saviour, Be glory and majesty,

Dominion and power, Both now and ever. Amen


Friday, 17 March 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 12 March 2017

 We Know. . . nothing.

Call to Worship - (James Dollins, Abingdon 2016)

​​We are blessed to be a blessing.

​We are called to go to places that we don’t know.

We look to the hills for our strength.

​Our strength is in God, who always goes with us.

We walk in faith.

Come, let us worship the God who calls us and who walks beside us throughout the journey.

HYMN TIS 76:  "I to the hills will lift up my eyes:" Taking my cue from the theme John offered us, I thought about this hymn in the context of our knowing nothing. If we assume that we can solve all our own problems, we run into a lot of problems. For anything of real value, the answer is not around us but beyond.

Opening prayer

Our ever-present strength and help, we come this morning in response to a call we have felt in the marrow of our bones. We may not be sure; we may even be full of doubts and not fully understand how we got here, but we are here. Help us listen with new ears and open hearts. Touch us during this time of worship, that we may know your unconditional love— not just for the world as a whole, but for us individually. It is for this that we long and for which we search. Amen. The words that struck me here are "Help us listen with NEW ears and OPEN hearts."  We shouldn't assume we know it all but be open to grow.

A Prayer of Confession

Loving and ever-present God, we confess that we are not always sure of you.

Our doubts overwhelm us at times.

But we continue to search and to yearn for reassurance of your presence with us, no matter what is going on in our lives.

In times of joy and in times of sorrows and challenges, help us feel your presence with us.

Give us a faith that looks to the hills, where we will find you, steadfast and sure.

Be with us on our journey, the journey to which you call us, that we may walk in your ways with you beside us. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

God so loved the world— God so loved us— that God goes with us every step of the way. In this we are blessed. Know that God hears, answers, and loves us— and in this loving, understands and forgives us. Amen.

Thanks, be to God! Our total absence of wisdom about things eternal, can be relieved by God's generous willingness to lead us.

The Peace

Choose life, and you will find peace. Choose unity, and you will discover that our differences make us stronger, not weaker. In unity and holy love, choose life this day, as you share the peace of Christ with one another.

Invitation to the Offering

Dear God, Source of light and love, all things belong to you. You generously share with us the blessings of home, food, friends, and life itself. May we offer a portion of what you have given us in our morning’s offering. May our gifts and joyful service strengthen your church, that we may share good news and compassion with those in need. "Of course, our Faith counts for nothing unless it makes a difference. Relieving the daily burden of others is an outplaying of God's love around us.

We have been blessed to be a blessing to the world. May the gifts we dedicate and offer you this day, bless a world in need, not only with our material resources, but with our very selves. Amen.

Hymn TIS 242:  “I danced in the morning when the world was begun” All about following the lead of the One who understands the melody.

Readings: ​​​Genesis 12: 1-4a. Romans 4:1-5,13-17. John 3:1-17

The Genesis reading provided the base story of Abram having the faith to follow God's instruction. It was a matter of believing that God had a plan, which while being part of God's greater plan was also for the good of Abram and his family. Romans and John both speak about that faith or utter belief that God's plans are to bring us a life that is just not new but on a different level. Look up Jeremiah 29:11 for an explicit statement of that intent.

Preaching of the Word - We Know. . . Nothing - John 3:1-17

John spoke about the reading from John. He made many cogent points but something that resonated with me related to Nicodemus' statement : "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God..." which I had always seen as a sign of the man's insight but what he was really saying was that past that introduction, Jesus mystified him. Rev. John reminded us - and most of us are of advanced years and have been thinking over these issues all that time -  if we find ourselves thinking we have it all under control and we know what it's all about, we should stop right there.

My spin on that is that we should open ourselves to hear the melody of the creator: we should open ourselves to bring remade, even at this stage of our lives: we should be willing to trust utterly in the path that is opened before us.

Hymn TIS 155: “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder” God's authority to guide us through an authentic existence stands right before us in his creation.

Intercessory Prayers

​Rev. John prayed for all the created world which was made in an act of love and which we have willfully destroyed and misused. This world where we have failed to show care or creative thinking. Where we have failed to share with all people. He prayed for all who are in terrible circumstances; all those who lack the necessities of life: people with psychiatric illness or an addiction, that each would find God. John prayed for peace between nations and that all will turn to the Source of everything for Salvation. John asked for healing for the sick, friendship for the lonely, and comfort for the dying and that we will learn to love each other as we ought. After that we joined in the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 658: “I the Lord of sea and sky,” God has only us to carry out his work here where we live so hands up for the job ahead.


​​​Go now in the sure knowledge that God goes with you every step of your journey. Go to be a blessing to everyone you meet. Go, surrounded by the steadfast and strengthening love of God. Go in faith to love and to serve God’s people wherever you go. Amen.

Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you” To everyone who exists, I wish the very best of all that our Lord has to offer. Amen.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 March 2107

I was unable to attend today's service but was fortunate to have John's notes, so I could enjoy the service at home and think on it.

Call to Worship - (Mary J Scifres, Abingdon 2016)

​​Vulnerable and naked, we came into this world. Vulnerable and naked, God came to us on that long-ago Christmas morn. Let us come into God’s presence, vulnerable and naked in spirit, knowing that we are safe and secure here.

​In the wilderness of life, we are not alone.

​God is with us, even in the midst of our loneliness.

​On the treacherous paths, God’s guidance is ours.

​We will walk in God’s ways of wisdom and truth.

​Come to hear. Come to learn. Come to the hiding place of God.

​Here we find grace. Here we find love. Here we will worship and pray.

I have copied The Call to Worship in full because I think it encapsulates much of our situation before God.

I'm also very aware of the details of the crucifixion at this time. God has always reached out in love to us but our response has often been unbelievably ungrateful and unappreciative. Sometimes we reject his offer outright and at other times we think that we can improve upon it. But when Jesus offered his whole life, to teach, to heal, to guide, to be an example to us in how to live a whole life: when he set us free from the shackles of "should" and "ought" into a life of freedom and liberty our response was not only unbelievable but also monstrous. We killed him! And if he came again today we would do it again. We are so blind and weak!

Hymn 119: “I sing the almighty power of God” stresses the almighty creative power, obvious in the environment around us: the same creative power which can transform us and lead us on a straight, steady path but instead of admitting our vulnerability and opening ourselves to the life-giving work of the Creator of everything, we become defensive, close down and prevent grace from entering in to heal and nurture.

John's Opening Prayer

"​Faithful God, strengthen us for the journey ahead. Guide us with your knowledge and your love. Send your Spirit to drive us and guide us where we need to go— ever-closer to you and to your ways through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord Amen."

Goes to the essence: 'closer to you'. That's where we find that peace that we search everywhere else for.

And what a world it would be if everyone who lived could admit their vulnerability, open themselves to be healed and draw close to one who is Light and Love, so that we could all say, every minute of every day:

As we have been loved faithfully, let us share this love with one another.

Peace be with you!

And also with you!        What  a world it would be!

Hymn 412: “God sends us his Spirit” speaks of the way we become aware of God with us. Through the Comforter. Stay still and quiet and you will know the presence which gives assurance that you are loved and cared for. And when it happens, the world changes.

These words in the Communion Service: "Are you hungry for God? Come to the bread of life. Are you in need of forgiveness? Come to the table of grace. Are you empty and alone? Come to the feast of love. Come, even when naked and vulnerable, for here we are covered with abundant grace and filled with the goodness of God." are an invitation that is not only true for the table to which all are invited but to the grace which is offered freely at all times to all people.

We don't have to beg. God is generously offering all this and more. The readings:  ​​​Genesis 2: 15-17; 3:1-7:​​​ Romans 5: 12-21 and Matthew 4:1-11. All focus on sin, its introduction into the world, and Jesus dealing with it.

​I think about this a lot. Firstly, many so called sins are really a breach of some cultural rule about which God is not concerned. My thought is that God is not like we are - offended at the slightest thing - but saddened at the space that is put between us and that Love he is, by our attitudes that shape our behaviour. We don't seek forgiveness to avoid some penalty, we are asking to come back to that closeness with God that is our true place and which we forego through seeking our own selfish way.

In his sermon, John spoke clearly about this:

"This is the matter of our spiritual nature, of our soul, which is the essence of life. It is to this aspect of our human nature, which marks our relationship with our Creator, the Eternal One, that we honour and strive to keep alive. But there will be many occasions when body and soul make a journey into the wilderness.  From birth to the time of our return to God, we will have ample opportunities to experience a journey that will lead us into and, hopefully, out of life's wilderness.

We are called to view our journeys into the wilderness, or wilderness wanderings, as times of testing, as times in which God prepares us for a task. We may also view the wilderness as a place where the spiritual strength and stamina of our souls is refined and strengthened. Life’s wilderness experiences do test our faith. We are exhorted to resist temptation from the power of sin and evil forces that seek to dominate our lives.

More to the point, our faith is tested to see if we are anchored in God's authority and ultimate power. And as Christians, in the wilderness, we recognize the triumph of Jesus Christ over the power of sin and death-Jesus Christ who in human form experienced times of testing and temptation just like we do.

And later: "How do we find our way out of the wilderness? Jesus' experience in the wilderness is the key. Our Lord's experience demonstrates that there are spiritual tools available to us as we go through the wilderness. These tools are prayer, fasting, and scripture."

The last hymns : Hymn 569: “Guide me, O my great Redeemer" and Hymn 779: “May the feet of God walk with you” and the benediction all focused on the way to tread a true path: by staying close to that which is Love, Light and Peace.