Sunday, 30 September 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 30 September 2018


Today we were led in our worship by Howard Clark, from UnitingWorld, who had come to raise our awareness of the work of Uniting World and how we could play a part in that work.


While doing that we also became aware of our place among the world’s people and our responsibility to others. Further, Howard’s presentation led us to be aware of the possibilities for service and a change in perspective which could emerge when we listen to the words of Jesus.


Howard began with an acknowledgement of the traditional carers of the land upon which we were worshipping. Europeans came to Australia to civilize the people who were living here as well as exploit any resources. The first resource Australia provided was to be a long way from England and so an excellent gaol.


When we consider both of those intentions in the light of the gospel, the inhumanity of each is appalling. As the scripture which inspired Hymn TIS 686 says, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” God paused after creation and saw “that it was good”. All people are God’s creation. All people are God’s children. We are charged with giving comfort to all God’s children.


But the intention of the European’s move to Australia was to isolate the prisoners and to kill any hope they may have had of returning to family. That was so cruel.

They may have thought they were from a superior culture or as Christians, (even if they weren't exhibiting much Christianity) were superior and therefore had the right to squash 60000 years of culture of  the Aboriginal people. What were they thinking? Did they imagine the Aboriginal people were cut off from God?


God speaks to all souls in creation. How people interpret the voice they hear is different from place to place and not always an accurate representation of God’s voice and message. However nobody has a monopoly on truth. Great caution should be shown.


Certainly the congregation today showed their knowledge of their relationship with God as they sang Hymn TIS 100, “All Creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and sing”. And sing we did…with gusto!… Reflecting our enthusiasm for and knowledge of the life-giving grip of our God upon us - and our gratitude for that new life.


These themes were played out in the stories told and films shown about the lives of two couples. One couple live in Indonesia and the other in Western Papua. Both lived in utterly deprived circumstances. However, because they received assistance from Uniting World, each has been able to create a life where they have shelter and a sustainable source of food and income.  Without outside help this wouldn't be possible. The help is available because there are people in places such as Marsden Road Uniting Church who recognise God in their neighbours and therefore their obligation to provide them with shelter, food, clothing and water among other things as though they were giving those things directly to God.


The result not only brings hope to the people who receive help but the changes it brings in their lives inspires and uplifts the people who provide it. A hymn such as TIS 111 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation, O my soul praise him for he is your health and salvation.” expresses this.


All concerned recognise the source of the goodness resulting from one group of people obeying God’s will, recognizing God in other people and acting towards those others as though those were actually God. The all-pervading goodness uplifts everyone.


The result of doing good to bring hope to others leads to hope for all concerned, as we recognise God in each other.


And so we can sing with generous hearts, Hymn TIS 779:

“May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.

May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.

May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.

May the child of God grow in you, and his love bring you home.”



Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 23 September 2018

Gathering God’s People

 Acknowledgement of First Peoples

 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,

May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.

From breath to song, from step to dance,

May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.

From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)

Blessed are those who meditate on God’s ways, for they are like trees planted by streams of living water, bearing fruit in due season. Happy are those who draw near and grow strong in the Lord.

Draw near to God and grow strong in God’s presence. Seek God’s wisdom and know joy as God draws near.

Live as trees planted by living waters, and Christ will give you peace.

Rest in the shade of the Tree of Life, and Christ will lead you home.

Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.


Hymn TIS 107:  “Sing praise and thanksgiving”


Opening Prayer

 Source of wisdom and understanding, plant us by your streams of living water, that we may bear the fruit of peace and mercy in the seasons of our lives; …Place your wisdom and understanding within us, that we may be far more precious than jewels to those in need of your healing love. Amen.

Prayer of Confession

 We live in a world, O God, that looks for wisdom and understanding in all the wrong places.

You teach us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, yet we strive for these things above the virtues of industry, mercy, gentleness, and service…

Declaration of Forgiveness

When we draw near to God, God draws near to us. God blesses us with humility, gentleness, mercy, wisdom, and understanding. Draw near to God and touch the inexhaustible love of God.

Thanks be to God!

The Peace

When we make peace, we sow the seeds of justice by our peaceful acts. Let us sow the peace of Christ this morning, as we share signs of our commitment to justice and mercy.

Peace be with you!

And also with you



A Word with the Children/Young People

Rev. John told the story of children walking along the street, holding their precious toys. One girl was cuddling her China doll which was knocked from her hands. The result was predictable…the doll smashed, breaking the child’s heart with it. But her friend remained with her, sharing tears of grief. We can rarely mend problems god other people but we can grieve with them. Letting them know that we share their pain and are reaching out to support them.

Invitation to the Offering

 With the wife from Proverbs, who is far more precious than jewels, let us open our hands to the poor and our hearts to the needy. Let us sow peace in our world through the gifts and offerings we collect this day.


 Hymn TIS 650:  Brother sister, let me serve you.”


The Service of the Word

James 3:13 - 4:3

 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  

Mark 9:30-37

  35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’


Preaching of the Word

Can Goodness and Wisdom Coexist? –

Here, I have selected just one of the many points Rev. John covered today and drawn his words on that subject together..

James in his letter tries to show the natural link between goodness and wisdom. The combining of wisdom and goodness is not something we want to restrict. We have a contrast of two kinds of wisdom: heavenly/godly wisdom with earthly/evil wisdom. Like the early church people, we want to know how to gain heavenly/godly wisdom.

This distinction between goodness and wisdom is one that has never occurred to me but when we attached “worldly” to “wisdom” all becomes clear. But the “wisdom” of the Bible’s Sophia fits the bill. That wisdom is God’s wisdom, wisdom coming from God. That sort of wisdom goes hand in hand with goodness and the holy action that follows.


Hymn TIS 609: May the mind of Christ my Saviour” Amen to that. Isn't that the point of listening for God’s voice?




Music to lead us to prayer: This is a time for each of us to draw near to our God. A time of quiet to absorb the words we have heard in the readings and the sermon or to contemplate our own concerns and bring them before God.


Hymn TIS  256: “From heaven you came, helpless babe”. And yet we are so unwilling to become helpless before our Lord and be guided by God’s will. We try so hard to find our own solutions.



 Having drawn near to the God of love, we go forth to bear fruit in due season. Having drawn near to the Spirit of wisdom, we go forth with humility and understanding. Having drawn near to the Presence of mercy and grace, we go forth as children of compassion and peace. Go with God.


Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes



Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16th September 2018

Call to Worship:  
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the earth proclaims God’s handiwork.
How can we not praise and worship this God of Creation – this Lord of our Lives?
Let’s stand and sing with our very heart and soul.

Hymn  TiS 215           “You servants of God”

Charles Wesley (1907 – 1888)

Prayer of Adoration and Confession:  This morning Dermott spoke of the many forms prayer can take and shared with us a prayer of reminiscence he was inspired to write about an event at this time two weeks ago when he; “Enjoyed a sense of wonder about God’s creation, a sense of our own smallness, a sense of grace and an awareness that we share with others our joy in God.”  Dermot invited us to go for a walk with God – along the foreshore at Forster and up to Bennett’s Head.

“The air was clear, the light a softer winter’s sunlight – the wind was strong and clean and chilly.  The pathway meets a bush covered hill and begins climbing.  Periodically “galleries” open to the side – just like alcoves with pictures hanging – on this track the pictures are vistas of sea, coast, lake and hills – with startling colour and depth and width and  ---- as the first “picture” opens before you, your mouth falls open and you gasp and say – unthinkingly, ‘Who did this?’  - It is a stunning display of the heart of creation – and you tear yourself from it to move again.  What could there be next?  - and you begin to move with delicacy for this place has become a holy place – you do not own it – it is God’s garden, a place of wonder and encounter.

Finally you emerge and in silence come to the top of the great sandhill at the north end of One Mile Beach – and you stand immobile in the face of beauty as the ocean below crashes upon the sand and the rocks – what to do? Be still and just be – in humility and wonder, you sit and keep silent.

I sat – and I thought of you here, at worship.  And I wondered, ‘Could I meet God in this place?’ – my head dropped in humiliation as God was there and who was I to wonder.  But I soon was able to lift my head – it was as if a friendly arm came around my shoulders and I lifted my eyes to see a sparkle in the eye of my closest companion – God was present and the eyes were the eyes of the Son – and I understood that I was loved.

·    And I sat and shared in this ageless time – with the cosmic, eternal Creator – the God we seek to know here today
·    And I in the end turned and rose – and discovered that I was not alone – I had been joined by others who had sat quietly also upon that hill – just being – just wondering
·    And so I was not alone, I had shared with a congregation after all – experiencing creation, being healed and being prepared for life.
·    Thanks be to God.   Amen.

Children’s Message:  
Dermot told the children about the excitement in the town of Dubbo last week when it was announced that Prince Harry and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex were soon to be visiting the town.  He said it reminded him of a time, “A long time ago when a small town in a Kingdom whose name has been long forgotten, also heard that their Prince was going to visit them.  But the Mayor wondered how the prince would be recognised because nobody knew what he looked like.”  When the town’s people were speculating about his looks and his horsemanship, his dress and his speech, everyone heard a “quite quiet voice call out; ‘He is nothing like that’”  Then he smiled and thanked his people for their concern about how to welcome him and the people cheered the prince. 

The message for the children was that we should be careful when we make up our mind about what people might be like and that it is really important that we get to know the real Jesus, not just somebody we imagine.  “Jesus is the one who shows us what God is like”.

Offering & Dedication:  Dermot invited us to make our offering with feelings of joy.

Hymn TiS 547                        “Be though my vision, O Lord of my heart”
This is an 8th Century Gaelic Hymn which was translated by Mary Elizabeth Byrne (1880 – 1931)

Bible Reading:          Read by Susan    Mark 8: 27 - 39

 When Jesus asked his disciples; “Who do men say I am” he followed up with a very personal question; “Who do you say I am?”  What must the disciples have felt when Jesus told them to tell nobody about him and went on to describe the grim future he faced?  Then came the difficult message: “Anyone who wishes to be a follower of mine must leave self behind; he must take up his cross and come with me.” 

Reflection:                 “Who is Jesus?”   

Dermot first commented on this Bible reading as being “critical” and  being in fact, the core of the whole Gospel which teaches us that “Jesus is not simply a man – he is not an angel – he is not a mere prophet – he is the Christ..”  He went on to explore the declaration that “Jesus is the Christ.”

Dermot suggests the essence of what this means is; “In Jesus, humanity is able to know just how close God is to humanity – for the nature of Jesus was the nature of God – there was a oneness in essence.  By the life of Jesus, we can know God – and we can also know that we have a divine essence.  Jesus’ life puts us in touch with the nature of God.”

“But let’s not get too carried away with this – for the overarching fact remains that God’s gift to us, as well as life itself, is free will – and it is our free will which keeps us from knowing God fully.”  Dermot went on to speak of the things we want and do that do not reflect the nature of God.  “We want constantly to feed our egos – our desire for power, authority, comfort and pride, - our self-centredness creates the divide from God.  But when we turn and realize who God is and reach for the nature of God – which means we turn self off – then we close the gap and God will always be there, facing us with open arms.  This is what the Jesus story is really all about.”

Dermot spoke with some excitement, of a course he has been studying at the Uniting Theological College over the last few months. “It is called ‘Jesus the Christ’ and explores Christology – the question of who Jesus was – and how ideas were formed and where we are today.”  It seems it sums up 2,000 years of the history and heritage of Faith and explores milestone events and struggles, including splits between Eastern and Western, Catholic and Orthodox, the Reformation and different ways of thinking about Christianity.

However, he says this 2,000 years of debate should not confuse us, because; “Ultimately, Faith in Jesus arises from our encounter personally with the inner truth, with a sense of knowing a God of Love and Grace, who is revealed in the life of Jesus and who we know deeply within, as the Spirit which is always with us.”

“So, who was this man?”  Dermot asked again and he went on to say; “In Him I can see that which has driven Graham Long of the Wayside Chapel; driven Deitrich Bonhoffer who challenged injustice and died for it; motivated Mother Theresa in her work and moved William Wilberforce and others to fight to end slavery; and in Jesus, maybe we can see what we know inside ourselves, a little, as Love and Grace.  For all that is good – all that is Love – is of God.”

Hymn TiS 223:           “How sweet the name of Jesus sounds” This hymn was written by John Newton (1725 – 1807).  John Newton wrote his own epitaph, and he said, "I earnestly desire that no other monument, and no inscription but to this import, may be attempted for me".  "John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preserved, pardoned and appointed to preach the Faith he had long laboured to destroy". 

Prayers of the People:  Dermot led the prayers of Intercession today and after reading the names of those for whom prayers had been requested, he stressed that God knows our thoughts and struggles, fears and hopes and he hears our needs.  We then shared in saying the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TiS 231:           “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow”
This hymn was written by Caroline Maria Noel (1817 – 1877) who was an invalid for the last 25 years of her life.  She wrote the bulk of her hymns after her long illness in middle age began.  Her father was a vicar and also a hymn writer.

Benediction:   “The world we live in might know the name of Jesus, but few actually know Jesus.  So it falls to us to share Jesus with the world.  Let us do so, knowing the presence within and without of the God who is Creator, Son and ever present Spirit.   Amen.

Hymn:             “Now unto Him”

Monday, 10 September 2018

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9th September 2018

The Gathering of God’s People:  
From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth, 
May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.

From breath to song, from step to dance, 
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourable in this place.  

From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

Call to Worship   (Abingdon Worship Annual 2015 and Billabong)

It is here in the sanctuary of our God that we learn to fulfil the royal law of God’s Word: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” May our praise and worship this day, remind us of God’s love, forgiveness, and healing grace.

(From Psalm 125)  
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
they are like Mount Zion which is immovable, abiding for ever. 

Jerusalem has mountains surrounding it, 
and the LORD God surrounds God’s people even now, and for all time. 

God of the unexpected moment, you have gathered us by your Spirit to serve us and renew us, and surround us.  
Break in on our world like hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, speech to the dumb; come in your unexpected hour.  

Bring form to our chaos, light to our darkness, and life to our hearts. 
Fill us with your expectant Spirit: and so transform our gathering to your glory, and perfect our worship for your praise.

Hymn  TiS 567                       “God of all power and truth and grace”

Charles Wesley (1907 – 1888) was a leader of the Methodist movement in England and wrote an amazing number of hymns, totalling more than 6,000.   Although not the most rousing hymn to sing, the words are really worth sitting quietly and thinking about when you have a moment.

Opening Prayer: “Creating, loving, and healing God, we gather together this day, coming from different places and situations in life. In faith, we fall before you in praise and worship, desiring to be fed with your love and healed with your grace. Fill us with wonder, O God, that we may proclaim your good news for all to hear. Open up our ears, our mouths, and our hearts this day. In Christ Jesus’ name, we pray.”  Amen.

After The Prayers of Confession was the Declaration of Forgiveness:

“Mercy overrules judgment, love hatred, and God’s embrace reaches out to all people, spanning all of the mountains and chasms that confront us. Be at peace with yourselves and with others, knowing that God’s mercy endures forever.”  Thanks be to God!

We were invited to Pass the Peace:   “Creating us all as equals, and calling us to be generous in our faith, the Lord invites us to offer gestures of welcome as we share the peace of Christ.”

Children’s Message:  
John challenged the children to listen to the clues and guess who he was describing as he “unfolded” the remarkable story of Mother Teresa.  When the clues were finished and she had been identified by one of the children, John talked of Mother Teresa as a 20th C example/picture of this week's gospel reading. 

Offering & Dedication:

Hymn TiS 587                    “Fold to your heart your Sister and your Brother” This hymn was written by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892) who was an American Quaker.  He was a successful poet and hard working advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States.  Many of his poems were turned into hymns and much of his writing was in support of the abolition of slavery.

Bible Reading:          Read by Wendy    James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17       Mark 7:24-37

The reading from James is important and carefully weighs up our attitudes to the law. And how we think and how we act – and what attitudes do we display by our actions.  But this is all clearly summed up in the last verse; “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  Good food for thought!

The reading from Mark’s Gospel finds Jesus trying to go unnoticed as he healed people – in the modern era with instant communication this seems rather a hopeless wish and of course people always want to share good news.

Reflection:                 “Where you are?”   (James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17)

John began with a quote from Mark Twain who said that it was the things in the Bible that he did understand that disturbed him – not those he did not understand.  John noted that this passage from the letter of James is such a passage; “The first half of our lesson from James is a direct blast against playing favourites on the side of the rich.  In fact, the passage declares God’s bias toward the poor! ‘Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?’”

“There is no prosperity gospel to be found here! The degree of poverty is emphasized by the adjective “dirty”. This passage calls to mind the parable about Lazarus and the rich man. Our temptation is to point knowingly at others who are perceived to be rich by our standards of measurement. This passage from James is directed at us! “

John uses Pogo, a comic strip character’s quote; “We have met the enemy and he is us” to introduce several references of importance, like “kingdom”, “royal law” and the way “faithfulness should be lived out in our actions.“  John also reminds us that; “James takes us immediately to a quote from Leviticus, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Our attention is being called to how Jesus summed up the totality of the Torah or Old Testament Law. This was the central teaching of Jesus.

John then spoke about the importance that those who love God should therefore love their neighbour and pointed out this is not intended as a platitude, “love one another”. He reminded us; that this means “That our walk and our talk are to be one.”

“Think about it. We are watching the news, a scene of violence flashes across the screen, and just for an instant we find ourselves hating the perpetrator. If that is the case, according to James, we have committed a sin and “are convicted by the law as transgressors.” The emphasis is on the whole Law. We have to keep every little bit and nuance. How good is good enough? We have to always, perfectly, in every particular seek to love our neighbour. The passage hammers the point home in an indisputable fashion.”  

John said, ”As hard as I’ve tried, there are many times when I have been judgmental. How about you? Are you good enough? Have you once, just once in your life, harboured a secret hatred or discriminated against someone because of economic status or race or nationality or something else?”

“In other words, have you led a sinless existence? With Jesus, word and deed were one. He lived with perfect integrity. So ,let it be with us, James is reminding us. We are urged to let what we profess we believe and how we act mirror each other— “so speak and so act.”

John introduced us to a Rich Mullins song.

Hymn TiS 608:           Where cross the crowded ways of life” This hymn was written by Frank Mason North (1850 – 1935)
Prayers of the People:  John led the prayers of Intercession today and we shared in saying the Lord’s Prayer.:

Hymn TiS 627:           “Praise and thanksgiving Father we offer”  This hymn was written by Albert Frederick Bayly (1901 – 1984)

Now as you have received, so may you give away. Keep God's words close to your heart. Teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind God's truths as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and may they be written on the doorposts of your homes, your gates, and your lives. Amen.

Hymn: TiS 779         " May the feet of God walk with you"   (Aubrey Podlich  b. 1946)

May the feet of God walk with you, and His hand hold you tight.
May the eye of God rest on you, and His ear hear your cry.
May the smile of God be for you, and His breath give you life.
May the child of God grow in you, and His love bring you home.