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Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 15 July 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 16, 2018 - 9:46am



 
This week the reading I focused on was from Ephesians 1: 3-14 where Paul was trying to assure the gentile community of their place in the Kingdom.
He tells the people there that God has called them from before the beginning of time, despite what anyone else may have been saying to them.
Much has been made of these verses over the years and there has been discussion about how it clashes with the notion of free will. Further, if some are predestined to belong, the corollary is that some are predestined not to belong which is at odds with all that Jesus preached.
So, my interpretation is that in an effort to cement in the minds of the Ephesians that they were valid members of the kingdom in a way which could not be undermined later, Paul used extreme language to make his point.
Of course, some people have not accepted the invitation to be redeemed, which is clear, because of all the evil in the world.
I added to this by making the point that we should be very careful about judging others because some so-called “sins” we see in them or suffer guilt about ourselves could simply be breaks in cultural norms.
Therefore our assumption should always be that others are children of God, whether they know it or not.
And whether a person has accepted the redemption offered or not, our task is to continue showing them the love of God.
As an application of this, I shared details about the work done by our local Christian Community Aid. It should be noted that most of the people helped by CCA are people who are isolated for one reason or other and more than anything need gathering into the community.
The message was timely because on the previous day our National Assembly released the decision made about whether the Uniting Church in Australia would marry same-gender couples.
A decision was carried by more than two-thirds majority was:
“that the most profitable way forward was to offer two different definitions of marriage, essentially one between ‘a man and a woman’ and the other between ‘two people.’” and then that both ministers and church councils should decide separately as to whether they could, in good conscience marry or not marry same-gender couples.
It was noted that for some this was a more radical change than they were comfortable with, while for others it did not go far enough.
The implication is that there are now people in the Uniting Church in Australia who are grieving over this matter. Our prayer is that they will find a way to experience solidarity with those who are in favour of the change as they find previously.
Division was never sought. Those seeking change wanted it in the name of offering people of any sexual orientation the same gift of marriage as heterosexual people enjoyed.
However, as in any disagreement, our concern for each other can hold us together. One of our ministers wrote most eloquently:
 
The Uniting Church has a courageous heritage. This Assembly has seen us live this out in a range of bold, wonderful, and painful decisions. We are all God’s people, so may we now focus on what unites us and be about God’s business - reconciliation and renewal.
 
To that I can only say AMEN! v
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

'This Man is Disarmed and Dangerous.'

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 13, 2018 - 11:11pm

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. When Herod heard of Jesus and his works, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised."
In the early 1920s, Gandhi and India's National Congress Party began moving more and more towards civil disobedience as a political strategy to achieve independence from British colonial rule. In spite of violent setbacks to the cause and regular clashes with British authorities, which frequently landed him in jail, the founder of modern India never gave up his vision as he continued to walk his way throughout the country preaching the gospel of non-violent resistance.
As he did so, his reputation began to spread such that both Hindu and Muslim villagers would come from long distances on foot, with their bedding on their heads and shoulders, on bullock carts, and on horseback just to catch a glimpse of him. Never before, it seemed, had any political or perhaps religious leader, while still alive stirred the masses to their very depths throughout the country and received the homage of so many people.
Even the civil authorities had to sit up and take notice. Although they resented deeply what Gandhi was attempting to do, they could also not help but admire what he had come to represent. Eventually, the sceptical British Governor of Madras, who lost no love on Gandhi, was forced to declare that British Home Rule was now dealing with an entirely new political phenomenon. And this new phenomenon would bring fear because that this love is the kind of threat that the rulers of this world fear most.
In our reading from scripture Mark 6 this week we are taken into the world of Real Politick. Jesus has just finished giving instructions to his disciples about how they are to embody God's love in the world. Expect opposition and trouble, he tells them, but the only thing you need to take with you is the gospel and a confident faith. And then, Mark, as if to "slam dunk" his point reminds us of the story of John the Baptist; and he does it in a very deliberate way. He does it by reminding us of the fear of King Herod who is not the Herod the Great from the birth story, but his son who was called Herod Antipas.
Herod was despised both by his Roman masters and his Jewish subjects. He was the kind of ruler who thumbed his nose at Israel's religious laws. The particular political controversy that really stuck in John the Baptist's craw was Herod's marriage to Herodias and John publicly accused them of "living in sin".  Apparently, Herod feared John almost as much as he feared his wife. He knew John’s popularity and at least in prison he could keep an eye on him, as well as keep the peace in his own house.
The portrait painted of Herod is of a man who is transfixed with the very thing he fears and despises. Unfortunately, this fascination was not enough to convince him to change his life.  Although Herod apparently didn't know Jesus, he knew that something equally as powerful as John was stirring out there among the people. This reading is not just to remind us of the dangers of preaching the truth. It is to remind us of the delusions of the powerful.
What people then and today would have had doubts about was the effectiveness of truth-telling. Just listen to our politicians and those who lead our huge business’s.  Truth-telling is something they don’t seem to understand or be able to do. Would following Jesus and speaking the truth to loveless power ever make any difference in the end? Mark reminds us that even defenceless, unarmed, decapitated, dead men, like John the Baptist, come back to haunt the powerful of this world. They do, and recent Royal Commissions in Australia show us this.

One of the things that kept such moral and religious giants like Gandhi going in the face of such overwhelming odds was the profound conviction not just that love would eventually conquer, but that evil would defeat itself.  "When I despair," he said, "I remember that throughout history tyrants and dictators have always failed in the end. Think of it. Christians are part of what the prophets called a "saving remnant", that is to say, those who are called and do cast our lots with the courageous victims of this world.
If we then only do so, from the point of view of human survival, it seems that this is something better to do than allow wrong. The very nature of the predators of this world that must, by force, disturb the balance of nature in order to survive, eventually becomes too big to survive. They fall on account of their own monstrous weight. Resurrection, therefore, belongs to those who want it badly enough. So, does extinction.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 July 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 12, 2018 - 10:45pm



This was a service which I led myself and there were two themes but the one I wish to focus on in my reflection is the issue of pride and our need for status and recognition. The reading came from Corinthians and face the account of Paul speaking about his vision.
Paul isn't known for his meekness and as a Pharisee he proudly persecuted the people who followed the teachings of Jesus.
He was so sure that he was doing the work of God in ridding the place of these people who were polluting the Jewish people.
God brought him undone and through a vision that was at the same time a revelation, God blasted Paul with the truth. I think we are all familiar with the account.
Paul could have acted with great pride and  started telling people of his exalted status in God’s kingdom in being given such a vision but he says that he was given a thorn in the flesh to remind him of his lowly status, so he isn't going to boast about being given such an experience but that he will boast in the exceptional character of the revelation.
I should say at this point that I don't believe that God ever does bad things to any of creation. However, there are consequences, so, for example, if Paul fell down and injured himself around the time of having that vision, I can see how he would attribute that to God’s action. There are many possibilities.
It would appear that this “thorn” is quite debilitating to the point that Paul asked God to take it from him no less than three times. But Paul tells us that instead of doing that God let him know that His grace was sufficient to carry Paul through any suffering caused by the affliction and still do God's work effectively.
We really want people around us to see us in our successes but the times that I have thought the most highly of people is when I have witnessed them struggling with some difficulty and clearly calling on God’s grace to get them through.
We visited one of our very elderly friends and despite having to lean on every piece of furniture on her way around her house, she insisted on providing afternoon tea.
The cups clattered onto the saucers from her unsteady hands and the water didn't quite all make it into the cups but she did it all with a smile you couldn't beat, all the while saying how pleased she was that we were there.
Her wounds were always getting better. She didn't fall over, just lost her balance for a bit. And as far a she was concerned everyone did everything so well…it was all so lovely!
My 94 year old brother-in-law is another one…he is always doing what he can for the old people. Until quite recently he would cook rice puddings and deliver them to “the old people” who were probably younger than he is.
These are angels walking the earth.
What would the world be like if we could all be like them!
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 6, 2018 - 12:49pm

In the reading from the gospel of set for this week from Mark 6 we have the story of Jesus's rejection in his own town is a classic one - it is a story that most of us can identify with because it is a story that has happened to most of us. Often our families, our childhood companions, our husbands, or our wives, fail to listen to the wisdom and accept the words of grace and love and encouragement we offer - because they are too familiar with us. The people of our home town know us too well, and therefore they simply cannot accept, at times anyway.
Maybe we were that the boy who used to leave his dirty socks sitting on the kitchen table, or the girl who used to skip school and go hanging around the mallcan be for them God's appointed instrument. However how can we be the agent of God's healing and saving grace or how can they be that for us. I wonder if that is partly for this reason that the royal family of England strives very hard to prevent too much detail about the private lives of the royals from becoming public. I wonder if they fear that the more that is known about them, the less effective they will be able to be as the representatives of the nations of theCommonwealth.
Queen Elizabeth calls the royal quest for privacy "not letting too muchsunlight into the magic". Consider the grumbling of the people in Jesus' home town when he spoke to them: "what is this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren't his sisters here with us?" And the scriptures go on to say that they took offense at him, and that as result Jesus was not able to do any miracles there, expect lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
Yes, Jesus was rejected by his own and all because his own thought that they knew him, and it is often for the same reason that we are rejected, - too much sunlight has been let into the magic. But there is more to this story of rejection,for the story of Jesus' rejection by his villagers, is also a story about how we ignore and reject God. We do reject because the call to a positive, loving and compassionate way of life may be too much for us to accept.
It is also a story about our unwillingness to be helped by God, or by anybody else;an unwillingness which comes out of our own certainties our own knowledge, our own strength. For the people who lived in Jesus' home town, their knowledge of him as a youth prevented them from seeing God's power in him as an adult. But for most others the grace of God is shut out, not because they know Christ so well, but because they think they know what is best for themselves, and because they refuse to accept that perhaps they need help, that perhaps their understanding, and their own strength is getting in their way.
The road to spiritual wholeness is not travelled by exercising our own human powers, but rather by acknowledging our human weaknesses, and then, in that weakness, allowing God to exercise his power in us. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous probably understand the gospel better than most theologians - and indeed than most regular church goers. They will tell you that the key to turning their lives around was admitting their weakness, admitting that they were, are, and always will be powerless, powerless over alcohol.
Until we admit our weakness, until we stop being afraid of it, until we stop denying it, we can't find the help we need. There is nothing wrong with being out of control -  as a matter of fact it is good - for now there is room for God to    control you - room for God to help you - and room for us to show you that we love you too." After such a time a change can come.  We may not become perfect.But we can become a little more sensitive to the needs of others. A confession of weakness became the occasion where God's grace, God's strength, finally could get a grip on our lives. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
To the world this is nonsense. Power and strength are worshipped by most people, and weakness is despised above all things. Sadly, the world teaches us to conceal our vulnerability, lest we be hurt, and it teaches us to hide our weakness, lest we be taken advantage of. The world teaches us to camouflage our inadequacies with self-confidence, self-reliance and self-assurance, so that we can build a heaven for ourselves here on earth.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 July 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 4, 2018 - 10:33am



Today I thought I would focus on the Prayer of Intercession and the hymns.
Before she led us in prayer, Joan directed our attention to some of the verses of TIS 690:
Beauty for brokenness. Hope for despair
Lord, in your suffering. This is our prayer
Bread for the children. Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset. Your kingdom increase!
                  Shelter for fragile lives. Cures for their ills
                  Work for the craftsman. Trade for their skills
                  Land for the dispossessed. Rights for the weak
                  Voices to plead the cause. Of those who can't speak
God of the poor. Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray. Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain. Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame…
 
Some people seem to live broken lives and the above words bring hope to anyone in such a situation. But all of us have times when we experience brokenness, despair and suffering. Whether such times are limited or prolonged, the belief cradled in the words above can lift us out of our desperate state.
 
Not just lift us above our poverty but sweep us up into a place of joy.


 
The source of all this was reflected in the first line of Joan’s Prayer of Affirmation:
“God of everlasting love, who provides everything.”
 
The Prayer continued, raising our awareness that in everything we are dependent on God and that the transformation from despair to joy can only work as we surrender all we are, as individuals and as a congregation, into God’s keeping.
 
As Joan continued we were opened to an understanding of how suffering can take so many forms and how we as Christians must look to God so that we can alleviate the suffering of others.
 
It is easy to think we are not qualified or that we may be intruding but a hand outstretched in love allows another person in need to be aware of our offer to give any help we can, even if all we can do is sit and be with the suffering one.
 
Joan prayed for God’s guidance through the Spirit and that each of us, as Christians will seek to show God’s love to the world. If we try to carry out some plan of goodwill founded on our own ideas, we are sure to fail, because we cannot know what another needs, but God does.
 
This intention to follow God’s will was the idea in line one of the first hymn:
TIS 474, “Here in this place, new light streaming” with the same idea continuing until “make us your own” rounded off the ending.
And for those who think they are not good enough, the old favourite TIS 693 “Come as you are” gave the assurance that the invitation to be God’s child and to do God’s work is for everyone.
But we can't sit still hugging ourselves with our self satisfaction. TIS 531 “Sent forth by God’s blessing,” calls us to action so that others will benefit from God’s love through us.
But TIS 778 says it all: “Shalom to you now…shalom my friends”. In this we wish the very best of everything to all, again a reflection of the Prayer of Intercession, binding the service and our participation in it, together.




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Becoming Holy.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 29, 2018 - 11:19pm

Sitting here after sun rise on Halong Bay having seen a number of temples over the last two weeks I wondered how many of us halongHhhhhhhhhhalongHHave ever thought about holy temples? A temple is usually understood to be a place where religious services are held. The Christian Bible is full of references to the temple in Jerusalem. Most of us know of synagogues today that are called temples. Some Protestant churches are occasionally called temples. The Mormons use the term temple for their place of worship. So, we know about temples.
Holy is a word we use to describe sacred places and things. Holy things are things set apart for God. A holy place is one set apart for God. Therefore, a holy temple is a sacred place set apart for God where often-times we worship God. So, the church we are in on a Sunday or at some point in our lives is holy.
We, at times, talk about people we know as being holy. Sometimes it is saints and martyrs who we refer to as being holy. Other times it is people in our own times, people we know, whom we refer to as holy, since we believe they are truly people of God; people in whom Jesus is present. At times Christians pray that they may be made a holy temple acceptable to God. Have you ever thought what that means? Have you ever thought about yourself as being a holy temple of God? Do you ever think about whether you are acceptable to God? Do you ponder if you have a right relationship with God or not? Do you ever wonder if God will find you to be a holy person?
All of us would like to be found acceptable to God. Maybe that is why many of us keep some connection to the church. We know we are on a journey. We are striving to find a right relationship with the word and maybe to God. Many go to church, to worship God in hope that God will answer their prayers and help to find answers to our questions; to help us grow into a right relationship with each other and with God.
Many of us would like to think that God would make us into a holy temple. But many of us may struggle to figure out what we need to do to bring it about. In the Hebrew Scripture from Deuteronomy set for this Sunday, we hear Moses tell the people they are to open their hand to the poor and needy people of the land, giving willingly, liberally and ungrudgingly. When we give in that way, Moses tells us, we will be blessed. Moses is saying the prosperous have a responsibility to lend to the poor without limit, even if this might result in a loss of capital due to the imminence of the year of release.
There were other rules about lending in Israelite law. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy, we can read that no interest was to be charged to fellow Israelites. The rich were not to increase their wealth at the expense of those less fortunate than themselves. This seems like a radical law for us in our times. But these laws illustrate a fundamental principal of ancient Israelite law: the needs of people override the rights of property. These laws stem from the belief that all wealth is the gift of God.
If one really believes all wealth is a gift of God, then people have no absolute claim over it. Are we in this world prepared to live in such a way. Yet, we Christians believe the gift is God's, and God has absolute claim over it. We are called to enjoy all the gifts God gives to us, the gift of land, the gift of property, the gift of material wealth, as stewards. We are to care for the gifts as steward’s care for what ultimately belongs to the Master. I wonder how the politicians of the world could enact this as it would change our approach to sharing and care and compassion towards each other.
What I am suggesting is that one of the keys to becoming a holy temple acceptable to God is to live into the belief that what we have tended to call ours is really God's. We've all heard the expression that we receive by giving. We hear that the Lord our God will bless us as we give liberally to those of God's children who are poor and in need. In other words, God's blessing will flow to those who give generously to those in need.
God has given us the gift of life. What can we give to God in return for life? What can we give God for all the many, wonderful gifts God has given and is giving us? We can reach out to those in need through our offerings. As we do that, we can help to bring about the state that those who have much do not have too much, and those who have little do not have too little. By sharing from our abundance, we can indeed bring life to those with little. By sharing what we have we are being good stewards. And by being good stewards, perhaps we become holy temples of God.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 24 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 25, 2018 - 10:57am




I try to vary the form the blog takes and today I thought that the hymns were very uplifting, so I intend to focus on them.
 
Having said that, Lynette began with verses from Psalm 9 that I think are worth noting:
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
 
These verses framed our mental and spiritual approach for the next hour, focusing our attention on the One who is the reason for our being, not just our attendance at this service. It is easy to lose sight of our centre and think the things we have or the things which are happening are random or “natural” if they are good and bad luck if they are not. God is the author of all good but if we or others mess with His plan there are consequences.
 
“Make me a Channel of Your Peace.” How many of us pray to God hoping that our plans or wishes will be fulfilled? We are the servants of God, not the other way around. And God is not there to fight our battles like some sort of big brother. God's plan may not coincide with ours (who would have thought?) and it is the words of this hymn that give us an idea of how we are to carry out that plan as difficult as it might be for us, being humans who are basically fairly selfish.
 
“May the Mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from Day to Day.” I was sitting at the back of the church and could see so many people swaying in time with the music as they sang. Their whole bodies were absorbing the music with the intent of the words. What if we meant these words 100%? What a world it would be! What if we opened ourselves to be changed to be like Jesus? But I think we all secretly keep at least a little back to cover our own wants.
 
“Marching, Marching, in the Light of God.” Whether we are marching in the light of God, or living in the light of God, or moving in the light of God, or doing anything at all in the light of God we would be guaranteed to do God’s will and stop messing up in the way we all do so often. That's not to say that we always mess up but if we keep living in God’s light all the time instead of when it's easy, everything would be so different.
 
“May the feet of God walk with you.” Sometimes I think this is the best part of the service when the prayers and reflection have brought God’s voice to us and have  done their work in us and we are at our very best in terms of our intent to our fellow humans. Here we have the evidence of what has been said above. If we were like this always. Wow! What a World!
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 24, 2018 - 5:02am

Why are we afraid?
The early Christians adopted a simple drawing of a boat with a cross for a mast as the symbol of the church. In an age of persecutions from the outside and controversy and conflict on the inside, in their experience, the emerging church must have seemed like a boat on a storm-tossed sea. Recalling the story of Jesus' calming of the sea, like those first disciples in the boat, the early Christians must have joined in their desperate prayer, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
 
Little has changed in the intervening years. The winds of change and the waters of chaos continue to beat hard on the worldwide church and the people of faith. Christians are still being martyred in shocking numbers in tribal, ethnic, and religious wars around the world. At home, the church is fiercely divided around issues of authority, liturgy, sexuality, and cultural diversity, so that members to each successive leadership body such as Synods and Assemblies must arrive with feelings of foreboding as they look to the business before them with suspicious eyes, preparing to build alliances of power to bolster their respective sides. Today, the prayer of many in the church is: "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
 
Our private lives are not spared stress and storm as our individual little boats are tossed about by the waves of economic uncertainty and change, war, divorce, sickness, and death. Hardly a week goes by that we do not face the fearsome realities of these events, either impacting us personally or our neighbours or our friends in the church, and nightly the troublesome images of television news intrude into our homes from the larger world. "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"

 
In Mark 4 the gospel reading for this week, Jesus calms the wind and the waves and says to the tense disciples, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" He surely intended the link between faith and fear. The opposite of faith is not doubt or unbelief; those tend to be doctrinal differences. No, the opposite of faith more often as not is fear.
 
We fear the unknown. We fear the undiagnosed lump in the breast, or the persistent cough. We fear Swine Flu, Ross River Fever or Dengue Fever. We fear losing control of our bodies and our health because of aging. We worry about how changes in politics, technology, or the economy will influence our jobs and the income from our savings and retirement funds. Fear is like waves ever seeking to knock us off our footing -- our faith footing.
 
When facing fear, a priest once told people about how he could be so calm during such times. He explained that in his childhood he had very little supervision from his parents, so he spent many hours each day at the beach. Sometimes a huge breaking wave would catch him by surprise and thrust him under the water, rolling him in the sand. But he said that he learned just to relax and see the thousands of air bubbles as the fingers of God catching him up and lifting him to the surface. Now, whenever he found himself in trouble, he just relaxed and waited for the fingers of God to reach under him and lift him up."
 
Faith is a stance toward life. Back in the Cold War, when we were all living with the possibility of nuclear holocaust, some researchers interviewed children to see how worried they were. What they discovered was that the children with the least fear were those whose parents were active in nuclear disarmament, or who regularly attended church, or who were deeply involved in the social issues of their communities.

 
These parents did not feel hopeless in the face of tremendous challenges. They invested themselves in actions to change the world around them and remained optimistic that what they could contribute would make a difference. As a result, the attitudes of the parents infected the emotional and intellectual stance of their children. These children did not feel helpless as they saw parents and others doing something toward resolving problems.
 
"Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" In these rather impatient words directed to his disciples, our God through Jesus brings into focus the polarities of faith and fear. Faith is a stance of how we stand up to those things that would threaten us and how we manage our fears, and this makes all the difference. In the midst of troubles, try reaching up your hand to God and saying, "Help!" And when you reach your hand out to others around you and say, "Help!" the fingers of God will never fail to reach down and lift you into new and reassuring experiences of God's grace.
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Why are you afraid?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 22, 2018 - 10:33am

The early Christians adopted a simple drawing of a boat with a cross for a mast as the symbol of the church. In an age of persecutions from the outside and controversy and conflict on the inside, in their experience, the emerging church must have seemed like a boat on a storm-tossed sea. Recalling the story of Jesus' calming of the sea, like those first disciples in the boat, the early Christians must have joined in their desperate prayer, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
Little has changed in the intervening years. The winds of change and the waters of chaos continue to beat hard on the worldwide church and the people of faith. Christians are still being martyred in shocking numbers in tribal, ethnic, and religious wars around the world. At home, the church is fiercely divided around issues of authority, liturgy, sexuality, and cultural diversity, so that members to each successive leadership body such as Synods and Assemblies must arrive with feelings of foreboding as they look to the business before them with suspicious eyes, preparing to build alliances of power to bolster their respective sides. Today, the prayer of many in the church is: "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
Our private lives are not spared stress and storm as our individual little boats are tossed about by the waves of economic uncertainty and change, war, divorce, sickness, and death. Hardly a week goes by that we do not face the fearsome realities of these events, either impacting us personally or our neighbours or our friends in the church, and nightly the troublesome images of television news intrude into our homes from the larger world. "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
In Mark 4 the gospel reading for this week, Jesus calms the wind and the waves and says to the tense disciples, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" He surely intended the link between faith and fear. The opposite of faith is not doubt or unbelief; those tend to be doctrinal differences. No, the opposite of faith more often as not is fear.
We fear the unknown. We fear the undiagnosed lump in the breast, or the persistent cough. We fear Swine Flu, Ross River Fever or Dengue Fever. We fear losing control of our bodies and our health because of aging. We worry about how changes in politics, technology, or the economy will influence our jobs and the income from our savings and retirement funds. Fear is like waves ever seeking to knock us off our footing -- our faith footing.
When facing fear, a priest once told people about how he could be so calm during such times. He explained that in his childhood he had very little supervision from his parents, so he spent many hours each day at the beach. Sometimes a huge breaking wave would catch him by surprise and thrust him under the water, rolling him in the sand. But he said that he learned just to relax and see the thousands of air bubbles as the fingers of God catching him up and lifting him to the surface. Now, whenever he found himself in trouble, he just relaxed and waited for the fingers of God to reach under him and lift him up."
Faith is a stance toward life. Back in the Cold War, when we were all living with the possibility of nuclear holocaust, some researchers interviewed children to see how worried they were. What they discovered was that the children with the least fear were those whose parents were active in nuclear disarmament, or who regularly attended church, or who were deeply involved in the social issues of their communities.
These parents did not feel hopeless in the face of tremendous challenges. They invested themselves in actions to change the world around them and remained optimistic that what they could contribute would make a difference. As a result, the attitudes of the parents infected the emotional and intellectual stance of their children. These children did not feel helpless as they saw parents and others doing something toward resolving problems.
"Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" In these rather impatient words directed to his disciples, our God through Jesus brings into focus the polarities of faith and fear. Faith is a stance of how we stand up to those things that would threaten us and how we manage our fears, and this makes all the difference. In the midst of troubles, try reaching up your hand to God and saying, "Help!" And when you reach your hand out to others around you and say, "Help!" the fingers of God will never fail to reach down and lift you into new and reassuring experiences of God's grace.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 10 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 16, 2018 - 10:57am



Gathering God’s People
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2015)
Come! Here you will find a family of faith where you will always belong. Come! Here you will find friends who will love you as a child of God. Come! Here you will worship a King who rules with equity. Whoever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
 All who need a place to belong . .               Come join the family of God.
All who seek spiritual brothers and sisters . Come join the family of God.
All who strive to grow in faith and love . . . Come join the family of God.
All who are unsure and feel unworthy . . .   Come join the family of God

Hymn TIS 693: “Come as you are”

Opening Prayer
Loving Mother, Caring Father, in the midst of our brokenness, knit us together as your family. Heal our wounded hearts, that we may welcome the strangers into our midst and treat them as beloved sisters and brothers. 

Prayer of Confession
Sovereign God, we so often lose our way.
You seek to be our King— to lead us on right paths; to teach us the ways of truth and life; to shelter us from our foes, yet we look to the rulers of this earth for leadership, wisdom, and strength.
You seek to be our comforter— to love us as our Father; to nurture us as our Mother; to shelter us as our Brother; to assure us as our Sister, yet we look elsewhere for love, compassion, and hope.
When our government fails us, and our families disappoint us, you alone remain faithful and true. Open your arms to us once more, O God. We will be your people, and you will be our God and King.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Christ looks to each of us and says: “Here are my mother and my brothers. Here are my father and my sisters. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, mother, father.” As the family of God, as brothers and sisters of Christ, we are loved and forgiven by our gracious God. Thanks, be to God!

The Peace
As the family of God, let us share signs of familial love and compassion, acceptance and forgiveness, as we pass the peace of Christ.
Peace be with you! And also with you!

Hymn TIS 738: ‘My Jesus my Saviour’ (Shout to the Lord)

The Service of the Word
The First Reading: 1 Samuel 8:4-20
The Israelites wanted to be like everyone else and have a king. They told Samuel that his sons weren't following him so they wanted their own king. God told Samuel that that's the way they were. They had rejected him from the beginning so God directed Samuel to warn the people what kings did which was take the sons and daughters to carry out his commands and take the slaves to work for him as well as  takeover land and raise taxes. Anyone in their right mind would have woken up to the pitfalls of such a situation but the people demanded their king anyway,
 
The Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Jesus’ family were not impressed with his performance nor were they happy about all the attention he was getting. They decided that he had lost his sanity and went to take him away. The teachers said he was using the power of the devil to do his works but Jesus set them right by pointing out that it wasn't possible for Satan to drive out Satan. He went on to speak in parables along the same line but the radical move came when he was told that his family were outside wanting him and he reached out to those around him and said that they were his family.

Preaching of the Word
Who Really is the Strong Person?
The following is a shortened form of Rev. John’s sermon.
So, who do you think was the strongest man in the Bible? Are you thinking of the book of Judges and the guy with long hair who could kill a lion with his bare hands? …Leadership has often been decided on physical strength over history and the true strengths often needed for leadership were ignored. This must have been on Samuel’s mind in this morning’s reading (concerning the people wanting a king)
After hundreds of years of crying out to God, this people seemed to have forgotten the one who not only answered their prayers, but the only king who has the supernatural power to answer them. The elders wanted a human king like all the other nations..
Like many of us today, however, the Israelites were not willing to be led by God while they waited for the King of kings whom God promised. Through the miracles, signs, and wonders that God had shown them throughout their liberation from multigenerational oppression, the Lord more than proved that he had all the attributes they were seeking in a leader.
 The term power is a constant in everyday language. We talk about power in the contexts of business, government, even the church. As the Gospel of Mark reminds us, however, only Jesus Christ has true power. Through Jesus, we have the gift of forgiveness of sins. When Jesus died on the cross, it would seem as if He had been defeated. But on Easter Sunday morning the rest of the message was received. Jesus defeated the enemy! And we can rejoice today. The World’s Strongest Man has defeated our enemy!

Hymn TIS 609 'May the mind of Christ my Saviour'

Intercessory Prayers
We prayed for the needs or those around us in the world, followed by the

Hymn TIS 613: ‘Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy’

Benediction
With God as our King,
we go forth to build God’s kingdom.
With our inner nature renewed,
we go forth to proclaim God’s glory.
With our sisters and brothers in Christ, our mothers and fathers in the faith,
we go forth to be Christ’s family.
Go with God.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

What Grows?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 15, 2018 - 12:28pm

As we prepare to visit Vietnam for a couple of weeks and I am unsure if I will be able to put up a blog I began to think about agriculture, Jesus and parables instead of our reliance on technology etc. Maybe it had something to do with the importance of wherever you go of food production and how that every day life relates to our inner life. It is often from images of creation that we get insights to strengthen our inner journey and put us in touch with our spiritual journey.
Jesus taught the crowds using parables. In our parables for this week from Mark 4, we see that Jesus used every day agricultural language to talk about God. In the first parable, he speaks of someone scattering seeds and watching them begin to grow. If you have ever planted a vegetable garden, you know how amazing it is to watch how the seeds come up, begin to grow, and eventually produce a harvest. It is something I had the joy of when younger and my father set aside part of our quarter acre section for each of us to plant and grow.
We don't know exactly why it grows or how it grows, but somehow the earth produces the harvest, and we are able to reap what was sown. In the second parable, Jesus speaks of a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds on earth, and so some might expect that the harvest from the smallest seed would be very small as well. However, Jesus says that from the smallest seed, the mustard bush becomes one of the greatest of all shrubs. It puts forth large branches and all of the birds of the air make nests from its shade.
We also her that Jesus explained in private. If we could have access to the private explanations Jesus gave to the disciples, surely there would be less confusion and more understanding. If we could just have a private tutoring session with Jesus, wouldn't we understand God's hopes and dreams for us just a little better? Since we don't have access to the private meetings where Jesus "explained everything," we simply do our best with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost suggests to us that the Holy Spirit is present and active in our world. God does not abandon God's people, and the Holy Spirit is always available to us. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit gives us power to do ministry in Jesus' name and to speak the truth about God's love. In these two seed parables, we learn about that which seems to have been the most important topic for Jesus, the kingdom of God.
First, we learn that there is mystery to the kingdom. Some of us do not like mystery in our lives. We want order and structure, and we want to be in control. However, we are reminded that God is sovereign and works in God's own way and timing. While we may see in other teachings that God desires for humanity to join in God's efforts, this particular parable suggests that even if humanity is oblivious to what's going on around them, God is still at work.
A second thing we can learn about the kingdom of God is that God's workings may appear to be small and insignificant, but like a mustard seed, the kingdom will grow in significant ways. When we sing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," we affirm that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God. God's kingdom will reign supreme, and we will experience life as God intends.
Finally, we also learn that Jesus doesn't force feed us. Instead, he gives us as much as we can understand at this point in our lives. That is good news for humans, who are not perfect and who often are slow to understand. God gives us just what we need for each day and situation. Though we may not get the full picture or the deepest understandings that day, we catch glimpses of God's kingdom and that is enough.
Just like the Israelites had to learn that lesson over and over as they wandered in the wilderness we seem to need the same. God will provide for our daily needs. We just have to trust and be open to receiving that blessing. Internally, we may also see that God grants us things beyond our physical needs—like grace, comfort, and peace. How thankful we are for a God who provides just what we need through kingdom seeds!


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Let's Begin Here.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 8, 2018 - 12:54pm

It is often difficult to be patient while we wait for a change in circumstance to come when our minds are focused on what is right in front of us. Waiting on and with God can be difficult for believers especially while enduring challenges with family members, health problems, or simply the day-to-day business of navigating life. One of the helpful things to remember in such situations is to remember what St Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. He wrote that it is beneficial for Christ followers to daily and intentionally remind themselves all things are for our benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.
Remembering that the acts of grace that God extends to each one of us every day increases our gratitude toward our God. Facing a dilemma while recalling that God either got us out of a similar situation or kept us sane while he brought us through a worse situation brings peace and, eventually, patience. Practicing being grateful makes the waiting with God easier to bear. Have you ever come through a difficult situation and wonder how? Similarly, when we face problems or loss our God still walks beside us supporting us to face such difficulties.
This is difficult for us to accept as we like to be in control, we like to think it is from our own resources we survive or overcome. Spend a few moments in a book store or online at Amazon or other Book agencies and scan the titles in the sections on "religion," "spirituality," or "new age." What do you see? On any given day, you will see a wide variety of titles on prosperity gospels, praying your way to health, contacting spirits, "secrets" to success, encounters with angels, encounters with demons, "Christian" reincarnation, earth spirituality—you get the picture.
One thousand and one options, from the ridiculous to the sublime, all aimed at a culture that says it is "spiritual, but not religious." The strong man of organised religion may very well be tied to its own ecclesial throne, while pretenders pillage and plunder the spiritually hungry and seeking. We may be bound, but we're certainly not gagged. Part of our problem is that we are engaged in never-ending disagreements about who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is evil, who is righteous and who is sinful.
We don’t as a society seem to want to seek unity, harmony, reconciliation, or justice. We are merely adopting the secular culture's passion for competition and winning at any cost. We only have to listen to the twitter comments and speeches of politicians all over the world to see where we have moved to as a society. Sadly, what their message seems to be is to forget grace and forgiveness, ignore love and mercy, disregard patience and tolerance, and label justice and generosity as socialism and communism to put "those people" in their places. If we continue to allow religion to turn from life-affirming, joy-producing, divine blessing into legalistic, authoritarian, proof-texting moralising then no one needs to break in and bind us—we'll do it ourselves.
Listen to the leaders in our Australian Parliament where often they sadly reflect these negative attitudes especially to the wider secular community. This comes about because one of the risks of serving a human leader is the possibility of control. Human flaws create the opening for leaders to be controlled and manipulated by those whom they serve and vice versa. It is for this reason that it is critically important that we as Christians to serve under the governance of Jesus Christ, whether leader or follower.

The term power is a constant in everyday language. We talk about power in the contexts of business, government, even the church. As the Gospel of Mark reminds us, however, only Jesus Christ has true power. Through Jesus, we have the ultimate gift of forgiveness. Sadly, even today, we see the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians unable to see the that gift of forgiveness and what it might bring. Instead they want an eye for an eye and a tooth for a death and to destroy each other. An attitude encouraged by such leaders in our world as those in the USA, Philippines and China. This is not of God or what his Son sought to teach us.
The time has come to set aside differences and focus instead on what we share in common. Jesus says in Mark 3, "But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first binding the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered." Let's begin here. Let's acknowledge that we believe different things and value different things and seek different things, but at our heart and core we are all one family, children of God, and brothers and sisters of the Christ. It won't change anything overnight, but one thing is certain. If we're all on the same side, there won't be any of "those people" left to dislike.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 5, 2018 - 8:01am




Rev. John began by bringing to our attention God’s knowing everything about us, even before it happens, before we do it or before we say it.
 
This brought to mind other thoughts: Why do we try to run our own lives when God is the author of everything and even knows when we are going to depart from his ways… and the consequences of such actions? This in turn jogged my memory about: “When all else fails, follow the instructions.” The maker knows best how creation, including us, should operate.
 
I was also reminded of jokes such as ones about people trying to push the “pull” door and getting nowhere, all leading to a total lack of effective result. But we still continue doing the wrong thing, no matter how often the result of such action ends badly.
 
Then there is our almost laughable habit of trying to hide our sins, silliness, and mistakes from God.Really! This is so silly, firstly because God knows everything about us and secondly, because God loves us fiercely anyway because God is love and can do no other.
 

Almost immediately another thought sprang up. Not only does God know everything about me and loves me but God knows everything about everyone and fiercely loves them too. Even people I don't like. Even people I disapprove of. Even people who I would judge are breaking God’s laws. The corollary to this is that if God loves these people then I should too. They may irritate me. I might irritate them. But we need to love one another. And not just because God demands that we do, but because the world works best that way.
 
It is said that we are the children of God. Think about how we love the children we know. We love them despite their errors and mistakes. That's how God loves us, only times a million trillion.
 
We are to love others…not because of anything about them but because all people are worthy of love as demonstrated by Jesus’ attitude and actions to people during his earthly ministry.
 
That not only makes a better and happier world but it makes a better and happier  life for the people we love and not so amazingly, it makes a better and happier us. 
 
All those thoughts came to me because of Rev. John’s introduction but then when we sang, a further aspect was added: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”. God’s mercy, his forgiving love for us is not just wide but beyond “the measures of the mind”. Our minds are capable of imagining or inventing anything and everything but God’s merciful love is beyond even that; beyond any limit.
 
That merciful love was demonstrated when Jesus, setting his face to Jerusalem and facing certain death, continued to spread the message of God’s kingdom. In some parts of the world ordinary Christians can be in the same position.
 
In Australia, we are not likely to be killed for continuing to spread the Word of God, althoughif in doing so we offend desperate people we could lose our lives, as some have. But for most of us the worst that is likely to happen is that we may be judged fools or miss out on a promotion because we are unwilling “to play the game”.
 
However, regardless of the cost of following the command of our God, we cannot do anything else. We can hardly deny the truth we know because it lands us in a difficult position. When torture and death have been the outcome of staying true, many have denied their faith and we all understand the dreadful fear they experienced, but on the other hand we also know that under the surface they knew the truth is still the truth.
 
Jesus and others did not turn away and it was Jesus’ love for us that motivated his courageous strength. It was that love which was celebrated in the part of our service that followed. It was that love we remembered and celebrated as we broke the bread and drank the wine…a ceremony that strengthens the bonds between us and our Lord and between each other, building the church and in doing so, God’s kingdom.
 
As Rev. John said after the Communion: “This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from this table, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen”
 
Rev. John’s sermon was about the value of the Sabbath and how it isn't something about which to make difficult-to-follow rules but a day like all others when we are to do good. It is a time, like all others, when our actions are to lead to healing not to harm. As Rev. John said:
 
“Our gracious God values life and has set apart a day each week for doing that which “saves life.” I hope we can come to know what this means for us and our life. I hope and pray we are able to learn how to think about the Sabbath as a day for saving life, to come to know how we might faithfully honour the purpose of the Sabbath, without falling into a legalism that extinguishes the very life of the Sabbath. May we be someone who “saves life,” not just in special times, but in all times. May we be a channel of our God’s healing power in every aspect of life.  Amen.”
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sabbath Rest?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 1, 2018 - 1:16pm

Some of you might enjoy this story I found during my browsing this week. The wife of a man who died assumed they had plenty of money, so she gave him a very nice funeral and a fancy tombstone that said, “Rest in Peace.” However, when the estate was settled she learned he had wasted all their money on gambling and bad investments. This made her so angry she took the little money she had and added three words to the tombstone. The new tombstone said: “Rest in Peace … Until I Come!”
What I was thinking about at the time was what it is we really need if we are going to find peace. It came out of a discussion with my wife over where we wanted to be buried and what sort of funeral we wanted. A bit morbid some might say but important for a spouse to know. The reflection of my wife was that it did not matter as we knew and had the hope where we were going after we leave this life. As someone once said, you don’t need a tombstone to rest in peace; you only need Jesus.

The Hebrew word for rest is Shabbat. There are no vowels in the Hebrew language, so the word Shabbat is comprised of three Hebrew letters: Shin, Beit, and Tav. In this week’s reading from Mark 2-3 we are able to discern what Jesus taught about the Sabbath Day. Sabbath is one of the most misunderstood topics in scripture. There are two questions that trouble many people and they are: (1) Why don’t we obey the Fourth Commandment that says, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy?” The other question is: (2) When did we change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday?
You know, I have heard it said that there were a group of religious whiners who followed Jesus around criticising everything He did and said. In this passage, they whine about how Jesus didn’t observe the Sabbath the way they thought it ought to be observed. But we also can say that Christians are not required to follow the Jewish Sabbath rules. This is where it gets tricky as there are a number of ideas that have arisen without looking at the history of the development of what we call a day of rest on the Sunday.
Some of the Pharisees confronted Jesus about this hoping to put a wedge between him and the people who followed him. But Jesus made it clear that God saw the necessity of satisfying human hunger even on the Sabbath. He even pointed out that David had acted on that basis when he as a refugee and those fleeing with him ate sacred bread. Then Jesus said, “God created the Sabbath for people not people for the Sabbath.” In other words, God considered keeping people more important than keeping the Sabbath.

As some will know, there are some groups who follow Jesus, but meet on Saturday, and even follow the Old Testament dietary rules. They don’t eat pork or catfish. Some of them judge those of us who worship on Sunday. They say we’re wrong, and that Sunday worship is actually the mark of the beast. Interesting isn’t it.
What is important is that time is set aside as holy – for divine purpose. From my reading and reflection, I believe that God set aside times other than Sundays for people. Christians need to take those times for worship and spiritual renewal.But all this talk of working on Sunday is skirting the real issue: “Is Jesus Lord of your Sabbath – your time of peace – your time with God?” What do you do on Sunday? What are the rules that may be barriers to you for recharging and finding peace?  
Sadly, this tragedy of what is the Sabbath or what is Sunday remains today. I know we as Christians want people to attend services every Sunday. However, there are some who cannot enjoy worshipping the Lord because they are so consumed with meeting the demands and expectations of others. Some can’t focus on the Lord because they are so busy “policing” the behaviour of others. I am personally thankful for Sundays, and I believe every believer needs to look forward to being in a place of gathering to worship. However, if our demands and expectations regarding Sunday cloud our view of the Saviour, then we have missed the purpose for Sunday all together!

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 May 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 29, 2018 - 7:52am

 


I always like to include these first prayers. I think the people who can't attend church gain great benefit from these words which are shared during the service.
 
Readings:
The First Reading: Romans 8:12-17
The Gospel Reading: John 3:1-17
 
Gathering Gods People
Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2015)
Greetings, divine beings! Give glory and power to the Lord!
Let heaven bow down to the Lord’s holy splendour.
Greetings, human beings! Give glory and power to the Lord!
Let earth bow down to the Lord’s holy splendour.
The Lord will give strength to God’s people.
The Lord will bless Gods people with peace!
 The voice of God created the universe. The voice of God calls us to worship, and we cry:
Glory!
The voice of Christ names us as sisters and brothers. The voice of Christ calls us to worship, and we cry: Glory! Glory!
The voice of the Spirit claims us as children of God. The voice of the Spirit calls us to worship, and we cry:
Glory! Glory! Glory!
 
Opening Prayer
 Holy and awesome God, you are too amazing for us to comprehend! We thank you for the majesty, the power, and the glory of your divine presence. We are grateful that you came to us in the person of a tiny, human baby. You sent your own Son to enter fully into our lives. Our connection with Christ continues through the power of your Holy Spirit— the life-giving Spirit that transforms us into brothers and sisters of Christ, full partners in the glory of your divine love. With hearts overflowing, we thank you! Amen and amen.
 
 
Prayer of Confession
God, you come to us in a blaze of glory, but feeling unworthy of your presence, we cower and hide.
You invite us to become one with Christ, but in our fear of the demand to take up our cross, we pull back from you.
You offer us the gift of new life, but we roll our eyes, convinced of our knowledge of human biology and the impossibility of resurrection.
You manifest yourself to us in so many ways, but we have become experts at dodging, avoiding, and rationalising our refusal to follow your ways. Forgive us, Holy One.
Come to us once again, we pray. Open our eyes to your glory. Open our hearts to your love. Open our minds to your divine presence in our lives. Amen.
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
God’s own child was born on earth, in our midst, as a sign of God’s deep and abiding love for each one of us. Through the witness of the Holy Spirit, we claim this love for our own. We are the forgiven and loved children of God.
Thanks, be to God.
 
Rev. John talked today about whether we, as a church, function as an organization or an organism. He introduced this idea by referring to the individualistic way Australians operate, even to the extent of  local congregations not being able to think of themselves as part of a worldwide “organism”.
 
He went on to say that many people take on or are given jobs in the church which reflect their daily occupations.
 
This leads to people fulfilling “functions” rather than building the kingdom. We fail to open ourselves to welcome all into the kingdom because we stay in our little “world”.


 
This has been something I have been considering for some time. The Christian Church is unbelievably diverse in its expression. If we travelled from country to country, especially outside the European world, we would see churches which seem unrecognizable to us as a church, that is because our idea of what a church is, is so culturally bound.
 

That's not such a problem if we are only confining ourselves to think about Christians from different lands but if we look into that type of “classifying” more closely, we would resound that we exclude certain people from those we would consider being part of our congregation because of trivial differences. What does it matter what a person wears? What does it matter whether a person speaks grammatically (or softly or loudly). What does it matter whether someone is a bit gauche and bursts out at inappropriate times.
 
Jesus opened his arms to us all. When we are thinking that someone is not quite right for our congregation, put Jesus in our place and think what he would do.
 
I really worry that in our attempts to be “Christian” sometimes we are being most unChristlike.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - May 25, 2018 - 1:27pm

Well it seems to me that is a matter of opinion as to what qualifies as holiness. To some people it is going to church; to some it might mean avoiding certain bad habits or adopting certain outward religious practices. Some think clergy are, by default, some kind of holy person. Trust me, when I say that this idea is patently false! Growing up, I knew people who adhered to so called “holiness traditions.” They willingly and consistently lived the mundane, everyday aspects of their lives according to a strict interpretation of Christian Scripture. It was a willing setting aside of any aspects of humanity in order to be more like what the scriptures called for in a follower of Jesus.
In the Hebrew Scripture Isaiah 6 we find that the prophet finds himself utterly, inescapably human in the presence of his vision of God. The death of the king is no mere historical marker, but a sign that things are about to change in Judah. Although Uzziah, in his fifty-two years of reign brought Judah to new heights in terms of prosperity, influence, and power, he forgot that he was an earthly king and not a divine one. In the writer of first Isaiah’s experience of soaking in the presence of absolute holiness he was given a powerful reminder of his own humanity.
It’s as if he looked around at the angels and the smoke and the trembling temple and the songs and the tongs and concluded, “One of these things is not like the others.” And even though he was made guiltless, cleansed and a flaming, searing coal of mercy and forgiveness blotted out his sin, the whole episode is an object lesson. It was an object lesson in a one unavoidable, undeniable truth: God is holy and we are not. We are human. Or as we like to say, “We’re only human.”
So how do we understand our humanity, how do we understand our triune God – the Trinity. Since earliest days, humans have tried to know the nature of God and the nature of themselves. An impossible task, we know, to put the ocean into a paper cup. But we are human. We are curious and passionate, and we desire this God-ness, this goodness, because we want to go beyond who and where we are. It’s hard to talk about the Trinity without falling into something the church has declared heresy.
A doctrine of the Trinity may not be in Christian scripture, but the authors of scripture give testimony to the Trinity in the life of the faithful. We start with the “God is one” confession of our Jewish ancestors. Yet this God has been known in different ways, from the awesome God of nature who led the people Israel, through to the humble servant Jesus the reconciler, to the powerful wind of the Spirit that breathes new life into the world. Knowing God in a triune way gives gifts for spiritual and community life. Father, Son, Holy Spirit are distinct, yet undivided.
There are many images used to try and help one understand the Trinity and I will leave you to find the one that helps your understanding. I like the image of the Trinity as a Dance myself, but I would like to take as an example a sports team for this piece of writing. The players have a common purpose and work together to achieve a goal and a victory. Maybe it’s easier to consider the image of a marriage, where two are joined as one, hopefully in love, and hopefully working throughout their lives to form a more perfect union. So much more is God imaged in this way, a union of three persons who fit so completely together that they are One.
The metaphors, though, carry us only so far. The community of faith has consistently turned to praise as the most suitable response to encounters with this God. “Holy, Holy, Holy!” cry the six-winged seraphim. Whatever tales theologians tell about life in the Trinity, our experience is rooted more in awe, in wonder, in holy Mystery than in understanding. In the Lord’s temple, all say “Glory!” Or for me I desire to participate in the dance that is the Trinity.





Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 20, 2018 - 1:19am

Gifts for the Family.  In Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour, much is made of thank-you notes, especially thank-you notes for wedding presents. One of her sample letters reads as follows: Dear Aunt Patience:Rhino and I are thrilled with the magnificent silver sugar shaker you sent us. It adds not only beauty and dignity to our table, but amusement, too, as some of our friends who are both ignorant and daring have not waited for the berries to be served but have shaken it over their meat. "This could only have come from your Aunt Patience," said one, and we were proud to say that it had. Rhino joins me in thanking you for your kindness. We look forward to having you in our new home.Love,Daffodil Most of us have gotten gifts that we weren't quite sure how to use. We smile politely, say "thank you very much," but think to ourselves, "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" With any luck, the giver will notice a look of perplexity on our faces and give us some clue as to the intended purpose of the item. But, just as often, we are left to figure it out for ourselves. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't, and there are times that we just never find out how this beautiful but strange gift is supposed to be used. I would bet that it wasn't too different for Jesus' disciples in this week’s scripture from the gospel of John. Pentecost Sunday is a day when Christians give thanks for God’s many blessings, for the Church in which we are nurtured and through baptism are made members. Christians believe we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit -- and the question is asked. "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" Nobody had ever received that gift before. There was no helpful lady at the registry at Myers or David Jones to tell them just why they should have this particular item and how to use it. And so, when Jesus breathes on his followers and gives them this amazing and perplexing gift, he tells them right away how to use it -- to forgive sins and to be bearers of peace. When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is not ours to keep tucked away for our private use. The Holy Spirit is a gift that is to be shared generously and lavishly. Like the fine china and beautiful linens, we give and receive as wedding presents, the Holy Spirit is given as a token of the day on which we take vows to live in unity with Christ. And, like those beautiful dishes and tablecloths, the Holy Spirit is a sign that our lives with the Lord will be lived not in isolation, but in gracious and loving service to other people. You know Marriage legally forms earthly and visible families within communities, groups of people who promise to be together in good times and bad, to balance each other's talents and abilities, so that in sharing and giving of what they have and who they are, they will live a life that is fuller and more satisfying than any life they could possibly imagine having alone. Graciously with the very best of what we have and the various talents of each person we are called to make the whole thing work. This doesn't happen in isolation, but in consciously living in the wider community of family and for Christians this is God's family. We bring the beautiful and precious gifts of our baptism to the banquet table of God's family. Each of us has something different and distinctive to bring to this table. Each of us has something to give thanks for and we are called to share those blessings that we have received. At God's table, every colour, shape and texture of dinnerware -- from the finest gold-banded china to hand-thrown pottery, and even paper plates -- is needed, wanted and welcome. Until everyone has a place setting at the table, a place specially designed for that person, there is something missing at the feast. We are to offer the gifts that we have as a welcome addition to the life of the family of God, and to rejoice that it makes our life together fuller and richer than any we could possibly imagine if it were absent. Pentecost seems to be the season in which we celebrate such things. We look to the desire that all our lives will be richer and fuller than it was before and that we are also enriched by each one’s presence and gifts among us.
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Gifts for the Family.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - May 18, 2018 - 2:12pm

In Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour, much is made of thank-you notes, especially thank-you notes for wedding presents. One of her sample letters reads as follows:
Dear Aunt Patience: Rhino and I are thrilled with the magnificent silver sugar shaker you sent us. It adds not only beauty and dignity to our table, but amusement, too, as some of our friends who are both ignorant and daring have not waited for the berries to be served but have shaken it over their meat. "This could only have come from your Aunt Patience," said one, and we were proud to say that it had. Rhino joins me in thanking you for your kindness. We look forward to having you in our new home. Love, Daffodil
Most of us have gotten gifts that we weren't quite sure how to use. We smile politely, say "thank you very much," but think to ourselves, "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" With any luck, the giver will notice a look of perplexity on our faces and give us some clue as to the intended purpose of the item. But, just as often, we are left to figure it out for ourselves. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't, and there are times that we just never find out how this beautiful but strange gift is supposed to be used.
I would bet that it wasn't too different for Jesus' disciples in this week’s scripture from the gospel of John. Pentecost Sunday is a day when Christians give thanks for God’s many blessings, for the Church in which we are nurtured and through baptism are made members. Christians believe we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit -- and the question is asked. "What on earth am I supposed to do with this?" Nobody had ever received that gift before. There was no helpful lady at the registry at Myers or David Jones to tell them just why they should have this particular item and how to use it. And so, when Jesus breathes on his followers and gives them this amazing and perplexing gift, he tells them right away how to use it -- to forgive sins and to be bearers of peace.
When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is not ours to keep tucked away for our private use. The Holy Spirit is a gift that is to be shared generously and lavishly. Like the fine china and beautiful linens, we give and receive as wedding presents, the Holy Spirit is given as a token of the day on which we take vows to live in unity with Christ. And, like those beautiful dishes and tablecloths, the Holy Spirit is a sign that our lives with the Lord will be lived not in isolation, but in gracious and loving service to other people.
You know Marriage legally forms earthly and visible families within communities, groups of people who promise to be together in good times and bad, to balance each other's talents and abilities, so that in sharing and giving of what they have and who they are, they will live a life that is fuller and more satisfying than any life they could possibly imagine having alone. Graciously with the very best of what we have and the various talents of each person we are called to make the whole thing work. This doesn't happen in isolation, but in consciously living in the wider community of family and for Christians this is God's family.
We bring the beautiful and precious gifts of our baptism to the banquet table of God's family. Each of us has something different and distinctive to bring to this table. Each of us has something to give thanks for and we are called to share those blessings that we have received. At God's table, every colour, shape and texture of dinnerware -- from the finest gold-banded china to hand-thrown pottery, and even paper plates -- is needed, wanted and welcome. Until everyone has a place setting at the table, a place specially designed for that person, there is something missing at the feast.
We are to offer the gifts that we have as a welcome addition to the life of the family of God, and to rejoice that it makes our life together fuller and richer than any we could possibly imagine if it were absent. Pentecost seems to be the season in which we celebrate such things. We look to the desire that all our lives will be richer and fuller than it was before and that we are also enriched by each one’s presence and gifts among us.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 15, 2018 - 12:28pm




Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)
We want to celebrate Mothers as a wonderful gift from God, but we want to be certain that we recognise mothers – and likewise, families in general – as a gift from the God who has created all things. So today, as we are called to worship by the scriptures, we’re called to worship a God who loves us and welcomes us into his family.
Clap your hands and shout to God with loud songs of joy.
Sing praises to God, who fills the world with forgiveness and grace.
Christ is alive. He is risen from the dead.
The Holy One calls us to worship and praise.
Baptised with the power of the Holy Spirit,
we live with Christ in our hearts.
Clap your hands and shout to God with loud songs of joy.
Sing praises to God, who fills the world with forgiveness and grace.
 
Hymn TIS 106: "Now thank we all our God" I have noticed that when I keep looking for my blessings and thanking God for them, the impact is far greater than if I accept them as a given.

Opening Prayer
 God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ lived in a family in Nazareth: Grant that in our families on earth we may so learn to love and to live together that we may rejoice as one family in your heavenly home; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Holy One has set.”
Yet we keep searching for signs and omens, trying to predict the future instead of living fully each day.
Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Yet we are more concerned with following the proper procedures, than with opening our hearts to those around us.
Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
Forgive us, Holy One, when we try to shape the world according to our desires, instead of asking for the power to do your will.

 
Declaration of Forgiveness
The Holy One enlightens the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we are alled. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks, be to God!

 
The Peace
 In the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ, let us share signs of peace with one another. Peace be with you! And also with you.
 
Hymn TIS 457: "The Church’s one foundation" An article I read recently stressed the centrality of God in our church. The point made in that article was that too often God gets forgotten and the church itself becomes the centre. That is no more or less than idolatry.
                  
The Service of the Word
As it was Mothers’ Day Rev. John spoke on the topic of families and family relationships. No family is perfect and there is friction from time to time in any group of people living together. (My nephew who was serving in the military overseas made this point at one time, saying that he was having trouble with his constant companion…..his pistol.) In fact there are times when we become so irritated with a family member we can hardly put up with their breathing heavily. A friend told me of a family car trip where her son became quite angry because his brother was looking out of “his window.”  Sometimes these times of friction come down to personal preferences but at other times someone has done something very wrong.
The Rev. John had this to say about that:
We do not fail or even sin that grace may abound. But when we fail to live by God’s call we can start again, and we can be sure that grace abounds as we repent. Seemliness is no closer to godliness than cleanliness, and it is a comfort to know that no failure, no sin, no wound can separate us from the love or purposes of God. Even the holy family—Mary, Jesus, and Joseph—were beset by intrigue and rumour. Mary and Joseph were not yet married when she became pregnant. That is not to suggest that, as I heard one preacher say, unwed pregnancy is "OK," only that in and of itself unwed pregnancy does not disqualify us from serving God.
 
Hymn TIS 137: “For the Beauty of the Earth” For everything that brings joy - every good thing- thanks be to God.
Grahame led us into prayer with music and there followed the Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer. This is such an important time for us when we can each draw close to the One who loves us so much.
 
Hymn TIS 526: Lord Jesus Christ" Focussing our hearts and minds on the centre of all things.
 
Benediction
May the Lord who brought us to birth by his Spirit,
strengthen us for the Christian life.
May the Lord who provides for all our needs
sustain us day by day.
May the Lord whose steadfast love is constant as a
mother's care,
send us out to live and work for others.
And the blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always. Amen
 
HymnTIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,” And with this we blessed each other as we parted.
 
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 May 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 13, 2018 - 9:53am


Call to Worship - (Abingdon 2013 and Dorothy McRae-McMahon)
Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!
God has worked miracles! Jesus is our joy!
Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!
God’s love for us lasts forever. Jesus makes us into friends.
Sing joyful songs to God! Alleluia! We are Easter people!
Alleluia! Even the ends of the earth see the saving power of our God.
The sea roars with joy, and the floods clap their hands. Trumpets sound and horns celebrate with song!
Alleluia! The Holy Spirit falls upon all who hear the word of God.
When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?
Alleluia! Jesus has extended to all people the friendship of our God.
We were strangers and then servants, but now we are God’s friends.
 
Hymn TIS 168: “Sing a new song, sing a new song...”  A new song denoting a new life, starting now.
 
Opening prayer
Holy God, you make us Easter people— a people transformed by the resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Your first and final word to us is Love. You reach out to us, offering joy and wholeness. Yet we often greet your resurrection by grieving at the tomb, doubting the good news we hear, or quaking in fear as we hide in our upper rooms. Still, you call us deeper into Easter, answering our resistance with your loving presence. You claim us as your friends. As we gather now to worship, teach us once more to abide in your love, that our joy may be complete. Amen.
 A Prayer of Confession
 Lord Jesus Christ, you reach across every boundary, even death itself, and draw us into loving intimacy with you.
Forgive us for resisting your love. You call us your friends, yet we act like minor acquaintances or even strangers. You send us into the world to proclaim your love, yet we gape in astonishment when you include all people in your love.
The light of your resurrection conquers the darkness in our lives, yet we act as if your love is a burden.
Give us Easter lives, we pray, for you alone have the power to save us. Amen.
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus promises, “You did not choose me. I chose you.” We know that we are God’s children, raised to new life with Christ. Abide in the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Thanks, be to God!  We then exchanged the sign of the peace.



 
Hymn TIS 236: “Jesus’ hands were kind hands”
Rev. John was focusing on Jesus’ view of his
disciples and us as his friends. Kindness makes
friends.
There followed the Communion, the intent of
which was summed up in these word. This has
been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which
we have been fed and nourished with the life of
Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go
from this table, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen



























 The Service of the Word
Preaching on the reading John 15: 9-17, Rev. John focussed on our friendship with Jesus.

This friendship was expressed in the hymns and in the Communion meal. Rev. John
reminded us that Jesus said to his disciples and therefore to us: "I do not call you servant
any longer . . . I have called you friends."
We are servants and apostles but we are friends. Meals are share by friends. In meals we
offer hospitality to each other - we extend care to each other. However the Communion
meal fed and nourished us in a way quite different from our daily meals.
The men’s group had sung “Amen” sealing in voice the experience we all have in the
Communion but also in fellowship with each other and in prayer with God.
After such experiences whether physical or spiritual we feel refreshed to start anew. This is
what we can do for each other in friendship.
Rev. John pointed out that in calling his disciples friends, Jesus was doing something quite
revolutionary by way of imagining our relationship God. Friends care for each other and
show love to each other in all its forms and if we don't we aren’t being obedient to Jesus’
teaching. Rev. John went on to say that sometimes we want to take control and modify that
command.
Think of the times when we think someone does not deserve our love or isn't one of us. As
Rev. John said, Jesus said “you are all my friends”.
We might make mistakes but we are drawn back. So when others offend us, we must
remember that God accepts them and so must we. We must look on others as Jesus does.
For myself, I know that I can be a pain in the neck but God draws me back and so do my
friends.
Rev. John told us that we are to love others in their best bits and their not so good bits. It's
not how we feel about each other. It's a matter of following Jesus Christ. We are defined by
our behaviour in obedience to Jesus.
As we live our lives must point to the one who leads us.
It has been said that we should walk a mile in another person’s shoes. We are all living the
same life. Think of the mistakes we all make. This of the times we unwittingly give offence.
Think of the times we lash out because we are hurt or feel threatened. Our friends take us
back. God welcomes us with open arms.
That's the way we must live
Space remaining does not allow all the hymns or prayers.
 
Benediction
The whole creation celebrates God’s victory of love. Live lives of victorious faith.
When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?
Jesus abides in the love of God. Abide in God’s love every day of your lives.
When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love?
Jesus calls you his friends. Carry the friendship of God to everyone you meet.
When God shows such generosity, how can we withhold our love? Amen.
 
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