Saturday, 27 July 2019

Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 21 July 2019

Today, as I have indicated previously, I am focussing on specific parts of the service. 

Much is being said about our First People recently and so I intend to reflect on the
acknowledgement. I also wish to spend more time on the sermon than usual.

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, where we worship, the Wallumedgal,

 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,

May our worship join with the voices of he First Peoples of this Land.”

To think more on these words, we need to
do more than just imagine how the first people have cared for this place we now
call home. Perhaps a little study of factual records would help. It is
difficult to appreciate the thought and effort that was needed on the part of
the people who originally lived here without some hard facts on the
difficulties that they faced.

Call to Worship.(Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)

“The ungodly laugh in their conceit,
plotting the destruction of the righteous with sharp tongues and works of
treachery. They are fools. For the righteous are like green olive trees in the
house of the Lord, and will dwell in God’s steadfast love forever and ever.”

Those of us who have always worshipped
at this church might be quite surprised at what was said and thought about them
by their neighbours. As someone who was on the outside, looking in, I know the
level of contempt still held by those around us for those of us who choose to
follow God’s way.

“Like green olive trees in the house of God,

we come into God’s presence.

Like young saplings in the courtyard of the Lord,

we drink deep from the waters of life.

Like the fruit of God’s vineyard,

we ripen in the light of God.

Come, let us worship the Lord.”

Opening Prayer

 “Loving God, your gift of abundant
life is like a basket of summer fruit — a delight to the eye and a pleasure to
the tongue; your presence in our lives is like a green olive tree— a joy to the
heart and a blessing to the spirit. Speak to us your words of life that we may
sit at your feet and know that we are yours. Amen.”

Prayer of Confession

“Merciful God, buffeted by the winds of life, we have grown weary and yearn for your hand
to hold us.
Pour forth your words of peace, and bring us back to life.

Forgive us when we are heedless to the needs of others.
Correct our ways when we are self-centred and neglect the poor and powerless.

Be our vision when we seek refuge in our wealth and possessions.
Draw us to you, Holy One, and lead us into life. Amen.”
“Declaration of Forgiveness

 Hear the good news: In Christ, we are united
and reconciled with God Rejoice in the knowledge that we receive forgiveness
and abundant life in his name.

Thanks be to God! Amen.”

The Peace

“Peace is a gift
beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us
share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving.
Peace be with you! 

And also, with you!”

The Service of the Word

 The First Reading: Amos 8:1-12Corruption has always existed, and those that practice it
have always ended up badly.

The Gospel Reading:
Luke 10: 38-42I think we have all found this reading difficult. There is always work to be done. Surely we must
all share the load but I think this is saying we should think more about our priorities.

(Readings: Kaye)

Preaching of the
Word – “Crazy Love: The Search for Unquenchable

“We live amidst the reality of economic
instability and religious volatility. Yet, there’s something deep inside all of
us that desires another kind of crazy. It’s a crazy love. Our souls are thirsty
for a love that’s everlasting. And yet, reality shows, political parties, and
public institutions alone cannot quench this thirst. We need something more.”

Rev. John then spoke of observing his
step-sons at play and more professional sportsmen
       playing and...needing to have their thirst quenched. At home parents choose water with all it’s health giving benefits but professionals often choose commercial drinks which claim to have added ingredients to aid recovery from strenuous exercise and which for the most part don’t.

He also spoke of people who expect God
to come to their aid when they are in the position they are in because they
have not been good stewards of God’s gifts or have grasped at God’s gifts and
simply expect more.

Rev. John then guided our thinking
towards choosing spiritual refreshment over any physical or earthly pleasure or

To recap: Martha was right in one way.
Hospitality is a great gift but she wasn’t being hospitable. The way she approached
her work made it seem like Jesus was a burden to her whereas Mary made Jesus
wholly welcome by focussing all her attention on him.

No matter how much we attend to our
physical, social and employment needs, we will still experience that deep
thirst which can only be quenched by continuous replenishment of our spiritual
needs by the only one who can meet those needs...God, the source of all things

As Rev. John said at the end of his sermon:

“ we need to come to Gods table and
drink from the fountain of everlasting love. May our God be our eternal love
and thirst quencher?”

Then after the Prayer of Intercession and the Lord’s Prayer:

Benediction: “Though we may leave God’s house,

 we do not leave God’s presence.

Like green Olive Trees in the house of God, 

our roots go deep in the soil of holy love.

Know that Gods presence goes with us 

as we go forth to share Gods love for all. Amen.

Hymn TIS780: May light come into your eyes. Amen”


Friday, 12 July 2019

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 July 2019

John's Blog
We often make life more difficult than it needs to be. We do the same thing with our faith. Christianity, it seems to me, is simple. I don’t mean anything derogatory by that. I mean that Christianity needs to be simple because it is meant to be lived. I once saw a sign on someone’s office wall: “Nothing is as simple as it seems. That is because nothing is simple, and nothing is as it seems.” I like that because it is an interesting bit of wordplay, and it does seem to have the ring of truth to it. 
We live in a complex world where solutions to most problems are anything but simple. Someone lingers for years with a debilitating illness. There is no simple explanation for a thing like that. Parents who have raised their child without any real thought or plan and worse yet, without consistency, may one day discover that their child has done something beyond the limits of social acceptability. They rush to the counsellor wanting a quick fix—a simple remedy—to a problem that has taken fifteen years to develop. 

There is violence in the world, and crime, and senseless destruction of people and property. There is no simple way to get a handle on these things. Don’t be naive. Simple solutions are few and far between. We also live in a world where few things are as they seem. We go to great lengths to appear to be something we are not. We want to look richer and smarter than we are. The marketing specialists push new products that bear little likeness to the items we cart home from the store. We are masters of disguise. Life is such that when we do stumble onto something that is simple, we are likely to overlook it or dismiss it as ridiculous. 

So, I return to the thought that Christianity is simple. God loves us. God sent his Son to us. God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient. There are complex problems in the world, and to seek simple answers to them is naive. But it is just as foolish to seek complex answers when simple ones will suffice. In Hebrew scripture there is a valuable jewel which answers I believe what our God calls us to be and the way Jesus showed us by practice in his life. The Hebrew Scripture of Micah 6: 8 tells us:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

Let’s “unpack that” (a pretentious little phrase I learned in my studies over the years – it means what I want to pass on about the subject here). Let us take a closer look at what God wants/requires from us. Let’s also look at what is not mentioned. The church doesn’t have a monopoly on justice, mercy, humility, or love. You can have them too—and probably already do. Three things—that’s all God gives us here. God says not to worry about fatted calves, turtle doves and buckets full of oil. These things are meaningless and certainly not “required.”

God wants us to act justly, but not in the worldly sense of justice. You do something bad and you get punished. That’s retributive justice—the flavour of justice that about 99.9 percent of the world is interested in including many who call themselves Christian. This does not interest our God. God is more interested in restorative justice—being redeemed and made whole, putting broken things back together again. This is the kind of acting justly that God wants to see us bring about, and to see happen. How do we not punish, but, rather, fix and make whole again? An interesting question I will leave you to reflect on and comment on sometime in the future.

Then God goes on to remind us that we are to love mercy. Notice that God does not just tell us to do mercy, but to love it. Mercy, compassion, love (words I have often used over the last year which seems to be a theme as we face the world as it is at this time — these are the hallmarks of how we are called to be living our lives and that with which we need to be desperately filling our hearts and minds with. 

And yet, our God calls us to walk humbly with him. I find that I am moved deeply by how the verse tells us to walk with (not in front, not behind, not forcing etc. but with), to be in relationship. For me this is at the core of God’s desire: to be in relationship together. I think walking humbly with God also means that, over time, we find ourselves caring about others more and more and ourselves less and less. We find ourselves willing to be selfless more and more. This is not telling us about thinking less of ourselves but it’s about putting more and more time into the love and care of others.

To come back to simplicity of message let us begin to see the reasonableness of at least giving this style of life a try. Never withhold a word of encouragement. The final turning point is our decision to accept what God offers. Are we able to always accept what God offers? Always do what God suggests. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Not true. The miracles of faith and of a Christian life lived out by the grace of God are certain and available to every one of us. Trust in God. It sounds too simple. Still, trust in God. 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 30 June 2019

Because I have been unable to attend church recently I have not written any blogs for a while but now I’m feeling up to being a bit creative, so I thought I’d try something personal.

At home trying to recover from a raft of various illnesses, I have been doing some reading which has focused on prayer.

I think we are all past our prayers being a shopping list and have at least progressed to thanking God for care shown to us and blessings heaped upon us, but these readings took me even past that.

Prayer is not necessarily a special time set apart. We can be in a prayerful attitude all through our day, responding to God’s outstretched invitation to share our lives as we move through the activities or thoughts of our daily lives.  Prayer is an attitude of life when we seek to walk side by side with our maker, minute by minute, being joined with the One who created us and who offers us so much. So much by way of friendship and guidance, but more that that. God through the Spirit, lifts us up onto another plane of being where we become the person we are meant to be.

However the reading I have covered, points to something more. The purpose of prayer is for us to build a relationship with God.  At first this seemed an amazing thought. But when God was asked who he was the answer was : “I am”. That is, a being, and as a being wants a relationship with other beings. An invitation is extended to each of us to join in fellowship, walking through our daily lives, linked with God.

Another issue covered in the readings is that many of us have built lives as Christians, serving others in God’s name. We see our purpose as spreading the news of God’s love by giving that love to others through service to them. But in doing so our time is absorbed with activities that involve other people. Which is right and should be so, except that we forget that the source of that Love is God and for that Love we spread to be authentic it must flow from God and can only do so if we are in a close relationship with God, absorbing that love daily.

That is the focus of today’s blog. Are we seeking a relationship with God? How much do we value God and the relationship we can have with God? Is God and the relationship we can have with God our first intention? Or do we seek our relationship with God for the love offered to us and the world around us?

Imagine how we would feel if we found out that our partner had sought a relationship with us only for the family which would come of it and the love they could offer. Wouldn’t we be hurt? Don’t we want our partner to seek a relationship with us for the sake of that relationship in the first place?

Of course we should talk with God about the things we think we need, or things we think others need. And of course we should thank God for all our blessings. And a special time should be set aside for prayer only. But none of those is the main purpose of prayer.

And so, are we seeking a relationship with God for the sake of that relationship in the first place or for what flows from it?