Monday, 27 April 2020

The sun always shines, even on the darkest of days

Because the Rev John, and others from our Marsden Road Church have been eager and worked hard for everyone to be able to have access to a weekly church service, it is now posted in full on the Marsden Road Website, with cross links to Rev John’s weekly blog and Margaret’s “Reflections on Sunday Morning” blog, but even more importantly there is a “team” of people who email, print, post or personally deliver both the church service and the weekly newsletter to anyone who wants to receive it, in the manner most appropriate to their needs or wishes. 

For some weeks now the Rev John and his wife Wendy have invited people to join them for a “virtual” and safe meeting in their home, via the miracles of modern digital technology.  This works well for those people who have a computer or a device with the right program, a camera and a microphone and who have already felt the need to have embraced a technology that the majority of people today consider to be absolutely necessary. However, those who do not need or choose to become involved in this different way of communicating can remain fully involved in life.  We must be careful to remember that people who have not become too engrossed in the “new” way of communicating online are often more observant and careful when making “real” connections with other people.   Personally, I feel it is well worth stopping often and slowing down to listen, share and communicate in the old ways.

Margaret has asked me to “mind” her blog while she is recovering from her operations and I feel that in the present situation when so much effort has already been put into making the Sunday Service available to everyone, I might share some “Random Reflections” and thoughts provoked by the Sunday service with her followers.

There are many people all over the world at the moment who are struggling to cope with the situations they find themselves having to face each day – who among us would have believed that we would be faced with so much change, sadness and worry when we began to think about the dawn of the year 2020?

We will need all our Faith in God to live by that new “Easter Perspective” the Rev John spoke about on Sunday morning and to “Dare” to “love one another deeply from the heart” (1 Peter Chapter 1 verse 22).

Yesterday morning I felt the impact of the Call to Worship very strongly as my husband and I joined the Marsden Road Church Service via ZOOM (a new computer program) as we sat in our pyjamas at the computer in our study.   We don’t have a camera or a microphone on our computer so the little screen that appeared with our name to show that we were present was black & blank and we were unable to contribute to the conversation!   I was aware that, although there were about 20 familiar faces rolling across the top of the computer screen, there were many dear people “missing” as the service was about to begin.  It was a wonderfully comforting thought that in other homes and retirement villages around the local suburbs some of those “missing” people were also able to share in the service when they chose to do so. 

As those of us with ZOOM “gathered” there was, as is usual, a bit of friendly chatting before the Rev John called us to begin the service.  While listening to the chatter we became aware of the friendship and phone calls that had been shared among those of is “at church” and those friends not on our screens, yet in our thoughts and prayers during the previous weeks. That was a really good feeling.

Call to Worship

Walking down the road of life, how often do we meet Christ in a stranger? Chances are good we won’t recognize him, even though our hearts may burn within us. Chances are even better he will move on to bless another unless we offer hospitality to our fellow travellers. Walking down the road of life, look for Christ . . . and be prepared to find him in a stranger.

That has always been a concept that I love and value!  Have you ever felt uncomfortable as you walked past a homeless person on the steps of a grand city church; have you wondered was it God sitting on those steps dressed in rags?  Did God wonder why people went inside to look for Him?  Did he wonder why we walked by without stopping to help?

Have you ever felt that God “used” you when you were able to help a lonely or worried person as you passed by?  I believe God sometimes prods us and raises our awareness to step up and engage with a stranger.  Walking down the opposite side of a wide corridor in a hospital I surprised myself when I saw a lady with her head down and looking close to tears and without even consciously thinking, I found myself stopping and gently asking; “Do you need a hug?”  She held out her arms to me and sobbed.  She told me she had just learned that her mother would not be able to recover and was close to death - I knew that God had given me the mission to comfort her before she went out to her car to begin a lonely and sad drive home. 

In many ways the world has been turned upside down by the overwhelming speed of the continuing development of digital technology.  In many ways it has also become an impediment to actual communication which requires stopping to speak and more importantly to listen to all the people we meet “walking down the road of life”.  

As Rev John stressed this morning, “That is, we must put on our new Easter glasses and live “as if” the world has more love than it does, “as if” there is more hope than people are willing to embrace, “as if” the kingdom of God can reign on the earth today.”   Our Easter glasses also give us the holy boldness to ask, “What if?” What if every child had a warm, safe place to sleep? What if there was enough food for every person on this earth? What if we all lived from a sense of abundance rather than scarcity? What if today all the killing of all the wars stopped?”

The sun always shines, even on the darkest of days

I feel that I am truly blessed that I can always “Look for the Silver Linings” and see they are there somewhere, even on the darkest of days.  For me the sun is always shining someplace.  Sometimes I ask myself why I have been so blessed and why I can hang on during a storm and wake the next day ready to go on.  I understand and care deeply for those who are unable to wake each day with a strong feeling of hope for the day.

It doesn’t seem fair when I see the struggles of others and inexplicably; some who struggle the most, appear on the surface to have “golden” lives.  However, we can never really know about the deepest troubles and the struggles, real or envisioned, that plague the minds and lives of other people - even our closest friends and sadly, sometimes family.  Yet, some people seem to have every reason in life to feel ignored or targeted by an unconcerned society, or feel depressed and marginalized by circumstances not of their own making.  The fortunate ones have a mystifying gift, which I can only think of as optimism. Some alternative words for optimism are hopefulness, cheerfulness, sanguinity, confidence, buoyancy and brightness. 

No wonder this gift allows people to go on and find those silver linings and hopefully share them with those whose joys are lost in dark clouds.  

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 April 2020


I am facing a complicated spinal surgery next week and then another about eight weeks later.

It is a difficult time now for me, anticipating what is to come and it will be even more difficult during the recovery time later.

My daughter sent me a piece of writing by John Donne which outlined his thoughts when he was very ill and which initiated his well known “No man is an iland”. He said As sicknes is the greatest misery, so the greatest misry of sicknes, is solitude.”

And so, at this time I, like Donne, have to face these surgeries alone. No person in my family or my circle of friends can accompany me through or lift any of the burdens I must carry during the time to come.

Or do I? 

I don’t need to face these coming experiences alone. God has promised to be with me at all times.

And sometimes I believe that, like now when I am considering the possibility, and opening my heart and head to the promise that God will be with me at all times.

But then My faith fails me and belief leaves me and I feel so alone.

In Rev. John’s sermon on Sunday he spoke about doubting Thomas and his experience of being utterly overcome with belief as he faced Jesus personally.

He then pointed out that “according to Paul Tillich, doubt isnt the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” He advised us to explore our doubts and let that exploration set us on a path of finding the depths of our faith.

That seems to me to be very good advice: advice I intend to follow. Each time I do anything related to my relationship with God, God is generous in responding to even the weakest of my calls. I am aware of God’s benevolent warmth issuing out upon me. I don’t even need to be reaching out to God or asking for God’s help. Any time my head or heart stirs a little in the area of God-thought there is a response that totally overshadows the effort I am making and I am swept away by God’s willingness to embrace me in response to the slightest flicker of belief.

I don't pretend to understand what Paul Tillich meant or what he intended we should do. I just know that as soon as I “look” in the general direction of God, there is the most magnanimous response and my faith is restored.

That is why it is so important to keep up fellowship with other Christians, keep reading the Bible, keep reading the words of Christian writers and most importantly, keep praying. Not fine-sounding prayers but true, from the heart, honest about our needs, prayers.

As I said, I am facing surgery and I’m not sure when I will be writing next. Until then, God’s peace and blessing be yours.


Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 April 2020

Easter Sunday 12th April 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford



“A Candle can be lit and placed somewhere near where you are worshipping” signifying the light Jesus brought into the world. His unflinching defiance of the powerful and their evil intentions. But also His defiance of the evil we all commit when we cling to our selfish ways and the paths that lead to darkness. The candle signifies the other path to light

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen indeed!

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

Call to Worship

Praise the Lord!

God has defeated death. Praise the Lord!

Peace be with us.

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.

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...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!

The Service of the Word

The First Reading: Acts 10: 34-43 This ends so powerfully: All the prophets testify about him

That everyone who believes in him

The Gospel Reading: Matthew 28:1-10. He is risen!

Preaching of the Word –

Rev. John spoke of the life-giving sacrifice of Jesus. It was not anything like giving up chocolate or even eating like the people of Jesus day and giving the money saved to the work of God. No, it was bone crushing, muscle tearing pain. All because he would not turn aside from speaking the truth. That truth we all meet when we allow ourselves to be given into the hand of God and be remade in his way. That will cost us, but nothing like the price Jesus paid.

“We really dont want to go there on Easter Sunday. We much prefer the shiny golden cross, the trumpets, the happy hymns in major keys, the heavily perfumed Easter lilies. We deserve this after all weve been through. Holy Week nearly drove us off the rails; worship cant get more depressing than Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We need an upper! A shot in the arm! A win for the team!

But if resurrection is really about new life, then it is messy, stressful, and emotional...Of course, there is another side of new life. There are tears of deep joy and surprise, gratitude and wonder. How did this happen? How can this happen? The miracle of life continues to astound and confound us.

Peace be with us.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 April 2020


Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 21: 1-11 and the OT readings is from  Isaiah 50: 4-9.

Perhaps if you read those, you will be prepared for the lessons I learned from the service, particularly the readings and the sermon.

The Gospel reading is one we are all familiar with but there’s one reference I find very puzzling. There is reference to a donkey and a colt. Both are covered so Jesus can ride on them. That wouldn’t be an error but I have no idea what the significance is. Perhaps it’s just not the most despised of creatures but also the lesser colt who are both acceptable to carry the Sovereign King referred to in Isaiah.

In any case we are also familiar with one of the ideas circulating throughout the world of Jesus at that time: that an earthly warrior king would come to release the Jews from the latest of their overbearing rulers from an outside force. The Jews had been overrun by one outside force after another throughout history and longed for the King who would release them in a final victory.

We have been doing this throughout our own short history. If we vote for this party or that party, the country will prosper. It won’t and it will never do so, while our yardstick is an earthly one.

Jesus rode in on a donkey to show His Kingdom was not the one which was expected. His Kingdom is of the Spirit.

As Rev. John says, a political victory was never on a Jesus’ radar. He came to free us from ourselves. He came to raise us out of all those things that mire us down in ways of the rest of the world. The nasty stuff like greed. Greed covers so much, because we can be greedy for so many things.

Isaiah may have been overstating his case but he was on the right track when he claimed obedience to the Sovereign Lord. Short of being obedient to the Lord’s command we fail everything.

And we can remember Jesus’ teaching which tells us that we can call on help to obey the Sovereign Lord. The Spirit has been given to us to guide us so that we can think straight and the Spirit can give us the strength we need to be better than we could ever be on our own.

And for those who think God can’t possibly be calling them to build the Kingdom. Remember the donkey and the colt. Remember the humble fishermen. Remember the Woman at the Well.

Take God’s outstretched hand, which is inviting you, first to be raised up from the things that weigh you down and then for you to reach out to others, demonstrating that freedom and wealth are matters of the spirit, not of any material sort.