Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 April 2017

Easter Day in the year of Matthew

Gathering God’s People


The candle is placed on the table with these words:

 Alleluia! Christ is risen!

         Christ is risen indeed!

This is the day that the Lord has made

        Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Call to Worship - (Abingdon 2013)

Praise the Lord! God has defeated death.

Praise the Lord! Sing the Easter song.

It is the first day of the week. God Almighty is with us.

Peace be with us.

It is the first day of the week. Jesus is here.

Peace be with us.

It is the first day of the week. The Holy Spirit is upon us.

Peace be with us.

Praise God in this sanctuary. Praise God for salvation in days gone by.

Praise God for salvation here today. Praise God’s surpassing greatness with music.

Bless God’s holy name with life and breath.

Hymn TIS 362: “Jesus Christ is risen today”  

Having made these declarations, sung this hymn and shouted in exultation, the theme for today's service was established and we entered into a very special time together.

Opening prayer

Our Lord and our God, like doubting Thomas so long ago,

it is sometimes difficult for us to believe in new life and

Resurrection. We ask you to turn our doubts into vibrant

faith. We have not seen, but help us believe. Amen.

For those of us who know the hand of God upon us, the difficulty isn't in

believing in new life but in the details of the story. We know Jesus lives. We do not doubt that for a second.

A Prayer of Confession 

 God of life and love, we rejoice in our own salvation, but find it hard to forgive those who have hurt us.

You call us to seek the paths of peace and blessing, to be your face to everyone we meet, but it is easier sticking to well-travelled streets of anger and resentment. We yearn to live in ease in heaven, but too often make life hard for people around us.

You call us to spread your word of resurrection, to witness to your love and grace for the world, but our lips remain silent.

Forgive us, Holy One, when we hold on to what we have, rather than share your gifts with the world.

Declaration of Forgiveness

The One whom the prophets foretold, and of whom the Gospels testify, lives among us today. In the love of the Creator; in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen.

Thanks, be to God!

There is so much anger in the world. It is present between countries,

between organizations and between and in families. And it's so hard to let go of the anger and seek justice at the same time.

 The Peace

Rejoicing in Christ’s life among us, let us share signs of peace.

The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always.

In stretching out our hands to each other, the tension eases and we allow humility to kick in, soothing troubled soul

Offering Prayer

 God of love and grace, for the love and life that you give us in Christ, we offer you these signs of our gratitude; for the compassion and mercy that you give us in the Holy Spirit, we offer you our thankfulness and praise. Receive these gifts in your holy name. Amen.

So often we look to what is happening "outside": our gifts of time and energy and goods. But if we offered our inner life to God and through him to others, that inner humility and love, even without words, would make its mark.

Hymn TIS 390: "Alleluia, alleluia, give thanks …"

The Service of the Word

The Readings:  Acts 10: 34-43.  Colossians 3: 1-4.  Matthew 28:1-10.

These readings all focussed on the risen Jesus but the theme that was touching me from the very start was best expressed in Colossians: So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Preaching of the Word

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home. John Stuart Mill

True. I just couldn't believe my friend really knew there was a living God until the day he confronted me. John described many occasions "when you just had to be there" but there's one I share with a few of my friends: the thrill of an elegant solution to an algebra problem. You may wonder what I'm talking about but those of us who have known the experience have been enriched by it.

John explained to us:

It's not too hard to visualize some doubt on the part of a modern-day people. Some things just need to be experienced to be believed. Perhaps it wasn't that Thomas doubted his friends' honesty, or doubted the power that Jesus had. Several Disciples just weren't there. What a tragedy that absence was. A life-shaping moment happened, and some weren’t there to experience it with the tightly-knit band of which he was a part.

In his book A Community of Character, Stanley Hauerwas uses an example of the power of shared experience. He points to the development of a community of rabbits in Richard Adams' popular book, Watership Down. Hauerwas says that, "what we seek is not power, or security, or equality, or even dignity, but a sense of worth gained from participation and contribution to a common sense of adventure." He continues, "Indeed, our dignity derives exactly from our sense of having played a part in such a story."...

In the story of Watership Down, it is the shared adventures of the rabbits which create the bond of community. In the Christian story, it is the experience of being with Jesus that draws his followers together...

 If we expect others to believe us, to eagerly join us on this adventure, we've got to find a way to help them experience the presence of God in our midst. Our worship and our fellowship need to be open in order to experience the full power of God-in-community.

Hymn TIS 380: "Yours be the glory"  

Music to lead us to prayer while we contemplate our inner life.

Intercessory Prayers

John prayed for the church world wide, in Australia and here at Marsden Road. He prayed for all those suffering in any way but particularly those needing new life that they will see it when it is offered to them. After this we joined in The Lord's Prayer

Hymn TIS 755: “You shall go out with joy” With our spirits raised.


With Mary and the disciples and all those who live in Christ, let us rejoice that we have seen our Saviour, who is not dead, but lives. In the love of the Creator; in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the power of the Holy Spirit, let us go forth to love and serve the world.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

         Christ is risen indeed!

This is the day that that the Lord has made

        Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Hymn 778: “Shalom to you”

To you my friend, every good thing.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 April 2107

Today I thought I would do something quite different and instead of reflecting on the service, I would look back at the bible studies, which the people from MRUC have explored during Lent.

Because my health is continuing to misbehave I wasn't in a group for many of them but I have read through and thought upon the matters they raise.

Of course, I cannot talk about many issues but there were a few that caught my attention.

The first thing I noticed was in the prayer in the first study, where we are led to ask for guidance to be the people God wants us to be. Some prayers which people offer are requests for God to help the people concerned to carry out their own plans. How this ever comes about is a mystery because, even without considering the biblical message or Jesus' own words, common sense should bring a person's attention to the flaw in that approach. The world is in the mess it's in because of people following their own plans. It is insanity to continue down the same path.

The next issue that caught my eye was in the same study and that was the issue of self-denial during Lent. The way this is implemented in Western countries really can't be called denial. We may eat more plainly or modify our lifestyle but it can hardly be called denial. So I think that to make this time one of meaning is to focus on the other side of denial.
Let us make it a time when, as it always should be, but unfortunately never is, we keep our eyes upon God and his will for us. Make it a time when we consider why Jesus was prepared to die. Let us think of our own inability to be as unflinchingly committed to the mission we have been given, and see its eternal value, as did Jesus. Let us deny our own selfishness.

Let us think of a time when we have given our all for someone, only for that person to turn on us and treat our gift or effort or time as nought. Jesus came and offered us his eternal love and we killed him for it.

The sharing of our meals(and anything else)was discussed. We sit back and expect what we see as our right. We don't see our many blessings and so we don't realise they are gifts that we need to share.

At Easter we always remember Jesus’ betrayal by Judas. Dreadful man! But what of the betrayal by the disciples, particularly Peter, after the crucifixion. We can easily find distance between ourselves and Judas but how many times (not necessarily by word) have we betrayed Jesus as the disciples did when we dishonour him with our behaviour? When have people seen us behaving in a selfish or cold way and judged Jesus badly because of our professed discipleship.

And what did Jesus do to those disciples who ran out on him? He not only loved  them but trusted his church to them. When we are tempted to be judgemental, this should give us pause.

Real victory doesn't look the way it does in the movies. What happened at Easter certainly didn't look like a victory. Think about that. A lot.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 2 April 2017

Dry Bones and Resurrection

Hymns today : 84; 242; 210; 684

I don't normally include John's heading but this one struck a chord. Life can become dry without warning. Sometimes a life that seems so bright and full of promise simply deflates into mere survival. It's not even that our sense of the presence of our maker disappears. We can be very aware of that, but it just doesn't seem to make very much difference.

And so by way of encouragement - to myself as much as anyone, I will include the words of John's "Call to Worship" - (Mary J Scifres, Abingdon 2016.)

In the midst of life, we are in death. But in the face of death, God’s Spirit comes to bring us life. Can dry bones live? Can life emerge from death? Only God knows. And yet, Christ promises just such a miracle through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

 All who are dwindling and dying . . .

come forth to new life.

All who are lying in darkness and despair . . .

come out into the light.

All who feel separated and alone . . .

come to the presence of God, whose Spirit finds us here

After this John prayed "Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into our lives and our worship. Create new possibilities, in our imaginations and in our dreams. Send the promise of your hope into our depression and our despair. Expand our hearts and our minds, as we enter your presence this day. Amen."

Our responsibility to turn to God for the solution to our dryness was presented in the confession.

Prayer of Confession

God of new life and emerging possibilities, forgive us when death and despair occupy our focus. Embolden our faith when your future feels out of reach. Strengthen our courage, that we might come forth into the light and life of your promises. In hope and trust, we pray. Amen.

And our confidence that, in God, our solution lies, was stated in the declaration of forgiveness.

Declaration of Forgiveness

In God’s love, there is hope. In Christ’s forgiveness, there is peace. In the Spirit’s power, we are renewed and brought forth into life. Thanks, be to God!

The result of being at peace is that we can offer that to each other and open our hearts  to give-in all the ways giving can be done.

The announcements were an indication of the ways people of this congregation give to each other and to the community around us. They often pass as "housekeeping" but they are much more for anyone who is listening closely.

The service of communion followed. I always find this service most uplifting without knowing why. I think there are many reasons. It's a time when the whole congregation focusses on why we join together each week. There is the sense of being one with each other - not just those in the building in which we are celebrating the sacrament but also with all believers worldwide and through time. This is over and above the message that we are loved by our maker. The creator of everything that exists cares about each one of us and the lives we.

The readings, Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:23-45 were delivered by Alan. In Ezekiel we are confronted with sight of a valley of dry bones. The message that jumped out at me was that dryness is all that this world offers. That was followed by the account of the raising of Lazarus. The connection is not difficult to make. A couple of people I know speak of God as that enlivening presence.

In his sermon John had this to say:

...We must walk with Ezekiel all around the valley, because a major part of witnessing the story of God’s redemption is seeing just how much we need it. Those of us who have been staring into the darkness of our souls during the Lenten season know that we really do need God’s resurrection. The second reason for hearing these stories at this point in the Christian calendar has nothing to do with us or our sin...

Purely external to us, it has everything to do with learning that it is God who brings life out of death and that God is the one acting for our redemption...

Part of the story shows us who we are, but the rest shows us who God is...

However, when faced with the reality of taking up our crosses to follow, we quickly realize there is nothing within that equips us to do it. At this point, the Lord gently reminds us that it is not about us. The spiritual work we do during Lent was never intended to be what sustains us and what brings us the new life we need...

 Rather, our spiritual work is meant only to help us clear the path so that we can see God’s work in and for us. It is God who will strengthen us to follow Jesus. It is God who will bring resurrection where there was only death and decay. It is God who can breathe new life into our mortal body.

In the Intercessory Prayers Laurel focussed on the many difficulties facing people near and far: those affected by the floods which have been so destructive, causing so much fear and heartbreak; those in other countries in Africa where there are no resources to meet the needs of the suffering people and those who will benefit from the donations of Lent Event. It's difficult to know why prayer works since God has his eye on those people regardless of whether we pray for them or not. Perhaps it's just that as we join with them in their difficulties, our strength is added to theirs giving them added life and in doing so we are changed.


Let those who were languishing and dying rejoice.

We go forth with the promise of life.

Let those who have lain in the shadows of despair take heart.

We go forth with the promise of light.

Let those who have known the separation of loneliness feel union in life with the Spirit.

We go forth revived by the Spirit to proclaim the glory of God.

Hymn 780: “May light come into your eyes”