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“For it is as if a man …” Matthew 25:14-30

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 20, 2020 - 3:43am

 

First I want to remind myself and others that in reflecting on Sunday’s sermon about the parable of the talents, our Leader Dermot stressed; that the “timid slave” in the story was to be thrown; ‘into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.  He then said; “As a 21stcentury Aussie. (Inevitably, I read into the parable an idea that we are meant to substitute God for the owner.) This doesn’t sound like the God of grace and love I know.”

 

Next I want to go straight to the end of the Reflection so thoughtfully delivered (via Zoom) and suggest that Dermot, like some of the rest of us, is perhaps weary of trying to sort out the deep thoughts of 2,000 years of trying to come to terms, with the true messages of God which were recorded as parables and churned over year after year as we try to follow God’s ways and his thinking.

 

In talking about the parable of the talents Dermot shared his love of sitting quietly away from life’s turmoils and just “being with God” at the place in his life where he is at a particular time.  On this theme he said about Sunday’s Parable of the Talents; “But maybe this parable has a message for us personally and for the church today. Things are changing about us and maybe, in some way, we need to switch off the power which we are using, and glide for a time, trusting that in God’s support we will hear and become aware of new ways of being.


“And in doing that, we might allow the message of the parable to emerge – let us not hold back on the grace and love of God out of fear for what we have.  Let’s not try to protect the church from the world. Let’s take risks.  As Bill Loader (Rev Emeritus Professor William R. G. Loader BA (Auckl) BD (Otago) Dr theol (Mainz, Germany) FAHA, Emeritus Professor at Murdoch University) points towards – lets ‘allow the life of God to flow through us’.Let’s release the Spirit from any ropes and chains which we place upon it by our own expectations.  Let’s rejoice in the possibilities of the future. God is offering the “talents” – we need to have the courage and love to use them.  Amen”

 

I have a special memory of a “girlie” afternoon spent with my mother in front of the Kosi coke burning stove, with her patiently teaching me to knit a pink woollen baby bonnet in the popular feather and fan pattern.   It was only due to my mother’s great patience that I had eventually mastered the art of plain and purl knitting so that I could finish my knitted squares with the same number of stitches on each row as I had started off with; Mum was prepared to sit with me and guide my efforts to make something pretty and useful to be sold at the church fete that was planned for the spring.

 

As I look back at that happy afternoon, I realise that my mother was probably really eager to get back to her own effort for a new church project which was quite innovative and must have been the subject of much vigorous discussion in the St. Andrew’s Strathfield church meetings before the launching of “The Talents Project”. 

 

I was probably about 11 at the time and this idea made quite an impression on me as I heard the ideas and saw the enthusiasm of the people from the church as they took on the responsibility of “looking after” God’s talents and increasing them to be returned with a healthy bonus at the end of the time that had been decided for the church’s chosen project.  I don’t know if everyone started with the same amount of money being ‘given’ by the Parish Council, but I do remember that my mother had an amount of ₤5; which in the 1950s was $10 of today’s money, although the buying power of that amount was considerably greater.  However, I do remember that if you wished you could keep ‘investing’ your profit to become appreciated as a “good and faithful servant/slave”. 

 

Certainly there was no talk of being “thrown into outer darkness or weeping and gnashing of teeth” if your enterprise failed; although I did wonder if some lazy ‘slaves’ took the easy way out and just made a donation at the end so they would not be seen by their peers to have failed. 

 

For many of the church congregation it was an exciting time of sharing their gifts or talents and buying and selling all kinds of products as they contributed to the overall project.  There was much interest in the sweet little 4 or 5 cm ‘baby’ dolls which my mother bought by the dozens and dressed in perfectly scaled baby dresses with ribbons, lace and embroidered rosebuds.  The dolls also had little pink or blue jackets, bootees and bonnets with narrow ribbons and they were very much in demand.  Some of the dolls were dressed in complete miniature knitted layettes and it was good to watch my mother’s pleasure as her “talents” were recognised. 

 

My father was away in the navy at the time so my mother enjoyed “playing” with her lovely little dolls and it was good to see her excitement as her project grew, although I cannot remember the amount of profit she actually made for the chosen project. 

 

The memory of that “girlie” afternoon with mum is still quite vivid so that I can almost feel the warmth and the sensation of safety and protection as my 11- year- old self looked out the window at the wind-blown garden, now being soaked with icy rain.  We were certainly not rich – but it was a comforting feeling to know that we had enough of everything needed for our family – with just a little to share with others who had less.  

 

This was about the time I began to realise that some kids did not have all the advantages that my brothers and I enjoyed.  My brother John had one friend whose father was a cranky drunk who abused his mother - and he had another friend who was one of 13 children.  In his home there was not nearly enough money coming into the house to feed and clothe them all properly and sometimes his friend had to stay home while his pants were washed and he often had bare feet.  So the church project was a timely lesson in the satisfaction of using your gifts to help people in need.


 


Good News!  I am happy to say that Margaret has now come home from hospital and rehabilitation and after three operations and many months of tedious recovery she is beginning to feel much stronger.  On Tuesday, she and her husband were even able to join a group of around twenty Marsden Road Church members for a casual picnic lunch in a local park.  I am so grateful for the way hospitality and friendship has survived and grown during the difficult times for our close church community. 




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - Christ the King - 22 November 2020

 

Marsden Road Uniting Church

Carlingford

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The Star Thrower

Sunday 22nd November 2020

Christ the King in year of Matthew 9.30 am

URL: https://uca-nswact.zoom.us/j/96239994683

               Phone: 80156011 Meeting Number: 962 3999 4683

Gathering God’s People

 Acknowledgement of First Peoples

 We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

Call to Worship- (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)

       Make a joyful noise to the Lord.

Worship God with gladness.

Come into God's presence with singing.

We are God's people, the sheep of God's pasture.

Give thanks to the Lord; bless God's holy name,

for God's steadfast love is present now and endures forever.

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

                  (tune – Shout to the Lord) Sing through twice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGmZcTCXjmM

My Jesus, My Saviour

Lord, there is none like You

All of my days I want to praise

The wonders of Your mighty love


My comfort, my shelter

Tower of refuge and strength

Let every breath, all that I am

Never cease to worship You


Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing

Power and majesty, praise to the King

Mountains bow down

And the seas will roar

At the sound of Your name

 

I sing for joy at the work of Your hands

Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand

Nothing compares to the promise I have in You 

My Jesus My Saviour Words and music Darlene Zschech

© 1993 Darlene Zschech/Hillsongs Australia 

     Opening prayer 

Tender, comforting Shepherd, your steadfast love is present in this place and resides within each of us. But sometimes it is hard, so very hard, to open ourselves to your love. We feel like scattered sheep, frightened and alone. Help us know your loving presence as we live as your gathered community. Enlighten our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we have been called. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession 

Holy One, we are like sheep that stray from your fold. We are the perpetually hungry, ever in spiritual need, and at times in physical want.

We are the naked, with wounds exposed and bleeding. We are the sick, fevered, chilled, and in pain. We are the strangers, separated from others and even from ourselves.

Hear us now as we confess our brokenness and our need. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

Our creator God sees our hunger and gives us food. Christ, the healer, touches our wounds, offering comfort and blessed relief. The Spirit blows through us, cools our fever, and eases our pain. God sees and touches and heals our wounds.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace 

When we were strangers, Christ welcomed us. Let us share the peace of Christ with friends and strangers with words of welcome:

The peace of Christ be with you.

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)  

A Word with the Children/Young People 

Theme: How do you tell a sheep from a goat?

Object:  Need Photos of sheep and goats.  

How many of you think you can tell a sheep from a goat? Wait a minute! It may not be as easy as you think. If you had some pictures it would soon test how well you can tell a sheep from a goat.

It’s not as easy as we think as I remember seeing on the show QI when they put up pictures and asked which were sheep and which were goats. Here are a few hints that might help. The easiest way to tell a goat from a sheep is that a goats tail usually sticks up in the air, but a sheep's tail hangs down. If sheep have horns, they are usually curved. A goat's horns are less curved. Sheep usually have fluffy wool that must be sheared, while goats have flatter hair.

Do you think Jesus can tell the sheep from the goats? Well, that's what our Bible lesson is about today. One day Jesus was speaking to a group of followers about the day when the Son of Man would come in all his glory. (Son of Man was a title Jesus used for himself.) He said, "He will sit on his throne and all of the nations would be gathered before him. He will separate the people like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left." How did he know the sheep from the goats?

Jesus went on to explain, "He will say to those on his right, 'I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

"When did we do that?" the righteous ones will ask.

"And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

"Then he will turn to those on the left and say, 'I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.'

"Then they will ask, 'When did we refuse to help you?'

"He will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'

"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life." 

Offering Prayer 

Holy One, you have given us all that we have and all that we are. Through these gifts and in our lives, help us be the shepherds and healers and lovers that you are calling us to be. Amen. 

Hymn 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining

                 (tune – Shine Jesus shine)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rce9UHYZwl4

Lord, the light of your love is shining

In the midst of the darkness, shining

Jesus, Light of the world, shine upon us

Set us free by the truth you now bring us

Shine on me, shine on me. 

Shine, Jesus, shine

Fill this land with the Father's glory

Blaze, Spirit, blaze

Set our hearts on fire

Flow, river, flow

Flood the nations with grace and mercy

Send forth your word

Lord, and let there be light.

 

Lord, I come to your awesome presence

From the shadows into your radiance

By the blood I may enter your brightness

Search me, try me, consume all my darkness

Shine on me, shine on me 

Shine, Jesus, shine

Fill this land with the Father's glory

Blaze, Spirit, blaze

Set our hearts on fire

Flow, river, flow

Flood the nations with grace and mercy

Send forth your word

Lord, and let there be light.

 

As we gaze on your kingly brightness

So our faces display your likeness

Ever changing from glory to glory

Mirrored here may our lives tell your story

Shine on me, shine on me 

Shine, Jesus, shine

Fill this land with the Father's glory

Blaze, Spirit, blaze

Set our hearts on fire

Flow, river, flow

Flood the nations with grace and mercy

Send forth your word

Lord, and let there be light. 

Author: Graham Kendrick  Tune: Shine, Jesus, Shine 

Composer:   Graham Kendrick

The Service of the Word

The First Reading:                                            Ephesians 1:15-23

The Gospel Reading:                                        Matthew 25:31-46.

 Readings: NRSV Translations 

Ephesians 1:15-23 

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. 

Matthew 25:31-46. 

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’ 

Preaching of the Word - The Star Thrower 

Today is the Sunday of the Christian year that is often called the Feast of Christ the King; it is the last Sunday before Advent. Sunday after Sunday, 52 Sundays of the year, we say out loud and together, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."

What a funny king!

No purple robes. No crown. No legions of soldiers. No great processions and parades. No castle. No place to live -- period.

Instead he claims to be poor, and hungry, and a stranger, and in prison, and sick, and thirsty. He claims to have nowhere to lay his head. He says to us, his disciples, "See all these sisters and brothers of mine who are homeless like me? They are me. I am them. To serve me you must serve them. When I come back, I will see what you are doing and whom you serve."

Then at the end of the whole Gospel he says, "Lo, I am with you to the end of the age."

You see, the problem is we think he’s not here and he can’t see what we’re doing. But he says he is with us always, to the end of the age. We can’t expect to wait until the last minute before his coming and then scramble to do the work he has sent us out to do. We cannot deceive him into thinking we have been doing it all along.

Because he never left.

We can scramble and rearrange the words any way we wish, but it always comes out the same. It is a description of what life is like in his kingdom. To understand our role in his kingdom more clearly, the are many forms in Prayer Books and Confessions that offer us a job description.

It is in various Catechisms we have information to help us. Here is one as an example. They all have a number of questions and answers:

Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The Church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.

Q. Who are the ministers of the Church?
A. The ministers of the Church are lay people, (bishops), priests and deacons.

Notice who comes first -- before priests and deacons: lay people.

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay people is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given to them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.  ...according to the gifts given them …

God equips us with the gifts and not all of us have the same gifts, but all of us have gifts important to God. The life of faith is about finding and using these gifts to carry on Christ's work in the world.

Yet often it seems to be just too much. There are too many hungry and poor and lonely people for us to make any difference.

There is an interesting story told about the scientist and writer called Eisley was in the south of France, on the coast, attending a scientific symposium. He woke early one morning and went for a walk on the beach before sunrise. As he moved through the misty dawn he focused on a faint, far away figure. It was a youth, bending and reaching and flinging his arms, seemingly dancing on the beach. Eisley thought, "No doubt he is dancing in celebration of the new day about to begin."

As he came nearer, he realized the youth was not dancing at all, but rather was bending to sift through the debris left by the night tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then, standing, heaving it back into the sea.

He asked the youth the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach, and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun rises, they will die, and the people come from town to pick them and sell them in the marketplace. I throw them back to the sea so they might live another day."

As the youth explained, Eisley surveyed the vast expanse of beach, stretching in both directions beyond his sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The youth's plan seemed hopeless. "But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference?"

The youth paused to consider his words, then bent to pick up a starfish, whirled around and threw it as far as possible. Turning to the scientist he said simply, "I made a difference to that one," and kept dancing down the beach.

Eisley went back to his room and thought much as it had never occurred to him how important it is for one creature to help another, and how the seemingly natural order of things might be dramatically altered by the simple actions of one person.

The next morning, Eisley awoke, and again went down to the sea before dawn. There he joined the youth in the dance of life, one starfish at a time! Never before had he felt so alive and connected to our Creator God.

Whatever talents or gifts we have each been given, they are more than enough for us to do our part in the dance of life. Each simple action of our lives can make a difference in carrying on Jesus' work of reconciliation in the world.

We are the people who carry out the mission of the church, which is the mission of Jesus, our odd, our unique king. This is called life in his kingdom.

Bending, reaching, flinging our arms, one starfish at a time, we bring ourselves closer to others, closer to God and closer to ourselves. 

Hymn TIS 674: Inspired by love and anger

                  (tune – Salley Gardens)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtYFaFRckKs 

Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain,

Informed of God’s own bias we ask him once again:

How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?

How long dare vain self-interest turn prayer and pity blind?”

 

From those forever victims of heartless human greed,

Their cruel plight composes a litany of need:

“Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?

When is the day when prisoners and dreams find their release?”

 

From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,

The fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry,

“Don’t query our position! Don’t criticise our wealth!

Don’t mention those exploited by politics and stealth!”

 

To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age,

We offer earth’s indifference, its agony and rage:

“When will the wronged be righted? When will the kingdom come?

When will the world be generous to all instead of some?”

 

God asks, “Who will go for me? Who will extend my reach?

And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?

And who, when few bid welcome, will offer all they know?

And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?”

 

Amused in someone’s kitchen, asleep in someone’s boat,

Attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed and wrote,

A Saviour without safety, a tradesman without tools

Has come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools. 

Author: John L. BellAuthor: Graham Maule
Tune: Salley Gardens

Intercessory Prayers       

Jesus Christ, true ruler of the created world, we pray for the peoples of the world: for victims of war, brutality and oppression; for victims of unjust economic and political systems; for the hungry, the homeless and the refugee.

We give thanks for leaders who serve the common good, and for all who work for an increase of justice and peace.

Make us a people whose hearts are ruled by your mercy and compassion, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, true shepherd to all your sheep, we pray for your church: for courage in places of persecution; for renewed zeal in places of apathy; for unity in places of discord and division. We give you thanks and pray for all who are shepherds to your people, for priests and pastors and all who minister in your name. Make us a people whose hearts are ruled by your forgiveness and grace, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, true companion to all who seek you, we pray for those to whom our lives are bound: for our families, our friends and all whom we love; for this parish community; for those with whom we work and play. We give you thanks for all whose love or care or daily work enriches our lives. Make us a people whose hearts are ruled by your reconciliation and love, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, true comforter to all who suffer, we pray for all in special need: those lost in grief or loneliness or hopelessness; those imprisoned by pain or guilt or despair; those sick in heart or mind or spirit; We give you thanks for all who bring healing and hope to those in need. Make us a people whose hearts are ruled by your compassion and hope, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Jesus Christ, true ruler of earth and heaven, we give you thanks and praise for your faithful servants of every age.

Help us follow in the footsteps of your saints that we, like them, may be gathered into your eternal presence, a people after your own heart, the sheep of your own fold. Jesus Christ, in your mercy, hear our prayer. 

THE LORD'S PRAYER 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 256: From heav’n you came, helpless babe

                 (tune -The Servant King)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHmxNBHcUbQ              

From heaven you came helpless babe

Entered our world, your glory veiled

Not to be served but to serve

And give Your life that we might live

This is our God, The Servant King

He calls us now to follow Him

To bring our lives as a daily offering

Of worship to The Servant King

 

There in the garden of tears

My heavy load he chose to bear

His heart with sorrow was torn

'Yet not My will but Yours,' He said 

This is our God, The Servant King

He calls us now to follow Him

To bring our lives as a daily offering

Of worship to The Servant King

 

Come see His hands and His feet

The scars that speak of sacrifice

Hands that flung stars into space

To cruel nails surrendered 

This is our God, The Servant King

He calls us now to follow Him

To bring our lives as a daily offering

Of worship to The Servant King

 

So let us learn how to serve

And in our lives enthrone Him

Each other's needs to prefer

For it is Christ we're serving 

This is our God, The Servant King

He calls us now to follow Him

To bring our lives as a daily offering

Of worship to The Servant King 

Author: Graham Kendrick
Tune: The Servant King 

Benediction 

         Come, you who are blessed! Inherit all that is prepared

        for you!

        We leave this sacred space to claim the riches and

        glorious inheritance that are ours through Christ.

        Go out into the world to share your blessings with all in

        need. Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose

        words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.        

        Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.
         (Tune – Aubrey)

                   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X5FHNGM2HA 

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

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

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

life.

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you

Home.

        Robyn Mann (1949 -)          Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)






 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Call to Action and Service.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 19, 2020 - 9:46pm

There is something terribly sad in this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew, something so easy to miss that it eludes most of us. That’s probably because this is such a tempting story. It is one of the most straightforward of all the New Testament’s accounts of judgment; and one of the most fun.

Here, judgment is connected to actively reaching out to those in need, specifically to “the least of these,” to those who are at the bottom, those who are the most helpless and who have no other champions – to those with no one else to care for them. These are God’s favourites; the ones God sees in a special way.

And it’s really clear that those who are condemned are not condemned for doing bad things, or for acting unjustly or cruelly. Instead, they are condemned for the good they did not do. You can’t sit out the Christian moral life. There’s just no way, by avoiding engagement, to thereby avoid judgment. “Well, I never intentionally hurt anybody” cuts no mustard when before God.

All of which can tempt just about any writer to shout, “So get out there and serve Jesus in your neighbour. Do good and save your soul from the judgment of eternal fire all at the same time.” This also can make a great sermon, and one most church leaders aren’t opposed to preaching from time to time. Good stuff. Can’t hurt.

But I’d like to look at what’s so sad in this story.

Notice that those who have been gathered up at the right hand of the Lord – those who are called blessed of God, the ones we want to be – have only one thing to say to Jesus. They say, “Lord, when?”

“When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?” “When?” That’s it; that’s all they have to say.

This is dreadfully sad because of all the loss, and all the struggle and all the pain that question implies. These people, the sheep, the saved, the good guys if you like, they were right, they did all of the correct things, but they missed the greatest joy of it. They missed seeing the Lord. They overlooked the hidden presence of God in the faces of those they served.

One of the reasons we have this parable from Matthew 25 may be to help us avoid that loss, to remind us what reaching out and caring and serving can be about at the level of greatest depth. Because it’s very clear: No matter how right you are, no matter how much you serve the presence of Christ in others, if you don’t pay special attention, if you simply don’t look for the Lord Jesus in those you serve, then, like the saved people in the parable, you won’t see him. And most of the joy is lost.

Most of the joy of doing good and being right and saving your soul from the judgment of eternal fire all at the same time, most of that joy, is lost. After all, reaching out in love to the presence of Christ in others, especially in both “the least of these” and in those closest to us, this is quite often a great big pain. It takes a lot of time, and there’s almost never any indication that anything of lasting benefit has happened.

What’s more, “the least of these” are usually at least partially responsible for whatever problems and needs make them the least. And most of the time they don’t look or act or smell the way we imagine Jesus should.

Frequently, they aren’t very nice, and worse yet, they seldom seem to appreciate whatever good we do try to do for them. So, doing good, reaching out to feed, clothe, visit, heal and otherwise minister to “the least of these” tends to frustrate us, and we tend to get burned, and to get burned out.

And much the same sort of thing can happen when the ones we reach out to are not some distant “them,” but are, instead, the people we live with and around, the people closest to us.

One would think that actually serving Christ shouldn’t be as hard, and as disheartening, as it often is. But there we are. After all, just because we’re doing something for religious reasons doesn’t mean that all by itself, whatever we’re doing will look or feel religious or that it will affect us in a particularly religious way.

Cleaning the kitchen in the church, or anywhere else for that matter, is still cleaning a kitchen. Being nice to a difficult person because you are convinced that Jesus wants you to, is still being nice to a difficult person. Spending time or money or energy out of Christian conviction still means that you no longer have that time or that money or that energy.

Jesus calls us to serve him, in our neighbours, in our brothers and sisters, in the least of these, and – often the most challenging – in those closest to us. That call is real; there are no excuses. But the Lord also calls us to see him in the face of our neighbours, and of our brother and sister, and – we can’t forget – in the least of these. This is a spiritual call, a call to discernment as much as it is a call to action and to service.

This is what we need in our world right now. This is what we need as we continue to face a Pandemic, Covid-19, that has really stretched our personal beliefs and desires. It has challenged to various degrees, especially with lock downs our resilience, our trust and my goodness our hope for the future. However, we who are Christians are called not only to discernment but as I said to action and service.

There’s not a secret or mysterious way to do this. To try to live the life Christ calls us to live without placing all of that in the middle of some disciplined reflection, prayer and study, this is to risk missing the best part of it all. It is to risk missing the presence and Word of Jesus that can transform a mundane task into an opportunity for insight and for joy – that can make doing the things we are called to do a path deeper into the mystery of God’s life, and of our own.

This story of judgment is more than a call to serve. It’s more than a call to be good, and to do the right thing. Sure, it’s that, but it’s much more.

It’s also a call to look, to notice, to devote our days and our lives in the search for the face of God in all that we do. It’s a call for Christians and hopefully all, above all, to see.


I have been writing for six years producing my reflections on the Sunday Readings from the Three-Year Lectionary. These thoughts have been developed from various writers I have been reading and my own reactions. However, after six years I am going to end this exercise on the Feast of Christ the King for Sunday November 22nd, 2020.

I thank all who have taken the time to read the blog and even at times feedback.

 

Rev John Candy

 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday 8th November 2020 “At that time Jesus said …”

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 13, 2020 - 1:42pm

 The First Reading:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18     

The Gospel Reading & Preaching of the Word: Matthew 25:1-13

On Sunday 8th November, the highlight for me was the Hymn TIS 154: 

Great is your faithfulness”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk

“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 

there is no shadow of turning with thee;

thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; 

as thou hast been thou forever wilt be. 

 

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

All I have needed thy hand hath provided--

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

The history of this hymn is not long, but it brings into our hearts and souls a feeling of comfort in the everlasting and predictable faithfulness of God and the joy of hope with the dawn of each new day - and the faith we can have that everything will continue to “be right with the world” as long as God is in control.

 



It is once again that beautiful time of year when the jacaranda trees splash our streets with riots of purple to be admired against perfect blue skies.  November again! As I stand on my front patio and look out I wonder at the miracle that unfailingly unfolds each year and I cannot believe that another year has gone by already.  I find I measure time differently as I grow older and I take time to enjoy these annual miracles instead of rushing thoughtlessly by.  I was really excited a few years ago when one of our daughters showed me a photo she had taken of a beautiful rose she had seen in the garden of Auguste Rodin in Paris.  “I remembered you told me before I left for my trip to ‘take time to smell the roses’ so this rose reminded me of your advice,” she said.  We often wonder if our children of whatever age take notice of those “throw away” bits of advice on life which we randomly scatter to the wind.




Hymns are like prayers and I think the reason why everything seems to fit together with such complete harmony in “How Great is Thy Faithfulness” is because the writer of this beautiful poem/hymn, Thomas Obediah Chisholm, sent it to his friend, the musician William Bunyan who felt the strength and the joy of the words and prayed for guidance that he might write the perfect tune to help others to experience the same feelings that overcame him when he read his friend’s poem.  William Bunyan first published the hymn in 1923, but strangely, it was not until the Billy Graham Crusades began to travel the world with George Beverly Shea making the hymn “his own” as he and the Crusade choirs introduced the beautiful words and music to “old” and “new” Christians around the world that its popularity grew.  Thomas Chisholm died in 1960 and in his lifetime he wrote 1,200 poems and hymns.

 

Perhaps you have noticed that I have been avoiding moving on to write about the theme of the reflection/sermon on Sunday 8th November.  The Parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids has worried me for many decades now – in fact it has upset me since I was a child. I have read and tried to appreciate and understand the various theologically accepted meanings of the parable – yet it still suppresses my faith and assurance about the love and forgiveness of God.  It is a negative effect all round for me - as are some other rather harsh bible stories; although I must confess I am not a person who spends long periods of time in bible studies.  My faith is strong – but simple.  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4: 8-9

 

Please stop reading now if I have offended you; but if you read on I would like to offer my suggestions and “alternate” thinking about the story which begins with such authority; “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this.”  Then the story is told and the conclusion is; in verses 12 and 13; But he (the Lord) replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.  Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

In my 20th and 21stcentury thinking, I can’t help wondering why any of the bridesmaids wasted their oil by keeping their lamps alight while they were waiting and falling asleep. 

 

It would surely have been a better idea to keep just a few of their lamps burning for safety or to make themselves visible to the bridegroom in the place where they waited.  Then there would have been oil still available to be shared when the bridegroom arrived.  Or alternatively the wise bridesmaids could have taken the arm of their less prepared companions and showed them the way to the bridal feast along with the bridegroom.  I am rather shocked that the wise bridesmaids were selfish and made no attempt to share their light to go and meet God.  I get a little confused when I view this story alongside the one told only in Luke’s Gospel, where servants were sent out twice “to the highways and byways” to bring in strangers to replace those who ungraciously failed to attend or made insulting excuses.  Going back to the story told this week, I am appalled to contemplate that those bridesmaids who had failed to make contingency plans in case the bridegroom was late were to be shut out by God with no chance of forgiveness. 

 

In his sermon, the Rev. John said; “The foolish attendants were unprepared. They ran out of oil and were unable to obtain more. So, when their moment came, they lost the opportunity to help light the way. They were unable to act out their appointed role in the community. They lost the chance even to witness the wedding.

 

I am puzzled by the context of the following thoughts that the Rev. John expressed next; “Over and over again Jesus shows us what God is like. Today, he illustrates the truth that God takes no vacations. God never takes a break from offering love to us graciously. God is always prepared. God never stops forgiving us. God never ceases to watch over us. God never rests from the desire that we follow in his way. God never lets up on loving us, no matter how much we may rebel and stray. God is always ready.”

 

I am not saying that I do not agree with all those positive remarks about God’s love, forgiveness, constant care, presence and Grace – I am just saying that I still have problems with the thought that because we do not know when God will come; isn’t it possible that some good people may not be ready at the exact moment God comes?  I just have difficulties believing that God will shut us out in the cold and the dark and will unequivocally reject us for ever if we are not ready when He comes.

 

In my search for an answer to my questioning of the parables and their interpretations I have read some articles on Jesus' Ministry and Teaching.  If you have a computer and are interested, here is the link from which I will record a couple of short quotes that I found interesting. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/ministry.html#parables

 

John Dominic Crossan: Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies DePaul University.  He has written eighteen books on the historical Jesus and earliest Christianity. 

 

He asked the question: Is this [style of teaching] unique to Jesus?

 

“The parables are unique only in a very limited sense, in that the primary teaching of Jesus is not taking texts out of the Hebrew scriptures and explaining them, blasting them, commenting on them. What he is doing is telling a perfectly ordinary story. And using that as the major teaching. "The Kingdom of God is like this." Now you have to think, well, I hear the story, but how on earth is the Kingdom of God like that? That's your job as the hearer. So it's open to anyone. And that's, I think, the point of the parable.”

 

The next question: So right from the start his teaching depends on interpretation?

 

“If you teach in parables, you give yourself to interpretation. If you really want to tell people what to think you preach them a sermon. If you tell them a parable then you're leaving yourself open, inevitably, to interpretation.”

 

In the same way I worry about having to interpret parables; I question the work of artists whose paintings or sculptures require me to stand in the art gallery and listen to a long recording on a hired electronic device which explains what the artist was trying to express.

 

I think I will play the Youtube recording of Thomas Chisholm’s beautiful hymn once more and “sign off” with the thought: 

 

“Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see:

All I have needed thy hand hath provided--Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Investment in Love.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 13, 2020 - 12:53am

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? You would try something pretty risky, right? After all, if you knew you wouldn’t fail, why try something easy? What risky thing would you do? Would you write the Great Australian Novel or sail around the world? Would you tell someone, “I love you,” or would you find the courage to leave? Would you go back to studies to finish that degree or would you call your mother or father and say, “I’m sorry for the pain I caused you. When can we get together again?”

If failure were not an option, human history would have been marked with more bold attempts at both greatness and villainy. Failure is all too real, and many bold plans have never gotten past the stage of dreams.

There are all kinds of risks and all kinds of rewards, but there is a common reason why we are naturally risk averse and that is fear. Fear is a natural, healthy reaction that can keep you safe. Healthy fear of fire prevents you from getting burned. Unhealthy fear of fire can also keep you from enjoying the simple pleasure of making your own roasted marshmallow’s on a campfire.

There has to be a balance between fear and reward. Those with no fear fill our cemeteries at an early age. At the other extreme, too much fear is unhealthy and paralysing. Fear keeps hope locked in a room of doubt.

Great ships were not built to cling to the coastline. They were created to cross oceans. Few great discoveries were made by playing it safe. There is also no risk-free way to fall in love or to raise children. And there is no risk-free way to mend broken relationships and make amends for past hurts.

In our Gospel reading for this week from Matthew 25, Jesus tells a parable of risk and rewards and the responsibility that comes with great gifts. In the parable, a very wealthy landowner entrusts his servants with vast sums of money. A talent was a measure of gold worth roughly fifteen years’ wages for a day labourer. The life expectancy of the time for common laborers was such that making it to forty was never a sure thing, even though many lived longer. Fifteen years’ wages was more than half of what you might expect to make in a lifetime—maybe all you hoped to make in a lifetime. Each talent in this parable is that kind of wealth.

The master gives one servant five talents, another two, and the last a single talent. Now, this is where the parable gets hard to hear. The problem is that we have a word, “talent,” that means “ability” or “skill”. Singing, for example, is a talent. So, when we hear of a servant given one talent and another given five talents, it sounds like we are talking about abilities or skills, and then the parable immediately sounds different.

What have you done with the talents God entrusted to you?” “Talent” refers to our God-given gifts and abilities. The parable tells of three persons entrusted with great responsibility. Even the one who was given the care of a single talent was entrusted with much. Each of them would have to risk much if they wanted to show a return on investment.

In the parable, the first two servants doubled the master’s money. Each was rewarded with more money. The reward for faithfulness was more responsibility. Then came that fateful last servant. This last servant risked nothing. It was safe. There was little risk in digging a hole and hiding the loot. There was also no potential gain. And for not taking any risk with the money entrusted to him, the servant gets the worst possible punishment as his reward.

Jesus taught that the heart of the Good News is love. Our world was created for love, which means the freedom to do great evil as well as good. There is no other way. God gave us choices and through our choices, we can get hurt and we can hurt others. A universe where real love is an option is a risky place, as pain and suffering are not only possible, but likely. This world is not only a world of pain and suffering, but also a world of generosity, kindness, and self-sacrificial love.

God invested so much love in you through Jesus’ life and ministry, his death and resurrection. You can never repay that love. The good news is that you don’t exactly have to pay Jesus back, as much as pay it forward. God is not looking for a return on investment in quite the same way as the hard landowner in the parable.

At the heart of this parable is really faith and trust that when we step out in faith, God will not leave us alone. Living the Gospel always involves risk. Risk is inherent in saying, “I love you,” or in asking for forgiveness, or in offering to reconcile with someone who hurt you. God has shown you great love and asks only that you share that love with others. When you take the risk to love, it is the grace of God working through you that does the heavy lifting. Living into the love of God happens through concrete actions toward others as we give as we have been given and forgive as we have been forgiven.

How might you share the love of God with someone today? Who do you need to ask for forgiveness? Who do you need to forgive? In whom might you invest the love that God has shown you? What would you risk for love if you knew you couldn’t fail? 


I have been writing for six years producing my reflections on the Sunday Readings from the Three Year Lectionary. These thoughts have been developed from various writers I have been reading and my own reactions. However after six years I am going to end this exercise on the feast of Christ the King for Sunday November 22nd 2020I thank all who have taken the time to read the blog and even at times feed back.
Rev John Candy
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Church - Pentecost 23 - 08 November 2020

  Marsden Road Uniting Church

Carlingford

           ------------------------------------------------


Can You Imagine a Scene...?

Sunday 08th November 2020

Pentecost 23 Sunday year of Matthew 9.30 am

Gathering God’s People 

Acknowledgement of First Peoples 

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

 

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)       

Choose this day to sing with joy.

We give thanks and praise to God!

Choose this day to love and serve.

We rejoice in Christ's call in our lives!

Choose this day to worship God.

We gather to worship and pray.

 

Hymn TIS 154: Great is your faithfulness

                       (tune – Faithfulness)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTKIqmdfHSk 

1 Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

there is no shadow of turning with thee;

thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;

as thou hast been thou forever wilt be. 

Great is thy faithfulness!

Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

all I have needed thy hand hath provided--

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

2 Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

sun, moon, and stars in their courses above

join with all nature in manifold witness

to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. 

Great is thy faithfulness!

Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

all I have needed thy hand hath provided--

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

3 Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! 

Great is thy faithfulness!

Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see:

all I have needed thy hand hath provided--

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Author: Thomas O. Chisholm (1923)
Tune: Faithfulness (Runyan) 

Opening prayer

 

We gather this day to listen for God's ancient truths, stories of wisdom passed down through the ages. We gather this day to listen for Christ's ongoing call, challenging words shared from generation to generation. We gather this day to listen for the Spirit's movement, the wind of change that pushes us into new dimensions of truth and discipleship. Speak to us, O God, that we may hear your truth, both ancient and new. Amen 

A Prayer of Confession 

Holy One, we gather this day with the knowledge that our choice to serve you carries challenges each and every day.

Forgive us when we fail to meet those challenges. When we are unprepared for what we face, strengthen us with new resolve and better abilities to move forward in faith.

When we stray onto paths of danger and betrayal, betrayal, lead us back to your path of truth and love.

Let your words ring true in our lives, that we may love and serve you— loving and serving your world in all that we say and in all that we do. In hope and trust, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

Keep awake! But even when you sleep, know that God is our keeper, Christ is our saviour, and the Spirit is always with us. Rise in hope and joy, my friends. In the name of Christ, we are forgiven and reconciled to God.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace 

As forgiven and reconciled children of God let us be reconciled to one another. Share your oil, trim one another's lamps, serve one another even as we serve God. Come! Let us share signs of love and reconciliation as we pass the peace of Christ.

Peace be with you!

And also with you! 


A Word with the Children/Young People 

Theme: Be prepared to meet Jesus

Object: Some of the items to be included in a survival kit. 

In the past year, we have seen many natural disasters in our world. Things such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and even forest fires. One thing that we are hearing over and over again these days is that it is very important for us to be prepared in case of an emergency. Here are a few of the things we are told that we should do to make sure we are prepared. - BE INFORMED

Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared. - HAVE A PLAN

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so plan how you will contact one another and review what you will do in different situations. - HAVE A SURVIVAL KIT

Your survival kit should include things like water, food, medicine, a first aid kit, blankets, candles and matches, flashlights, and batteries.

These are all good things for us to remember. It is wise to be prepared, isn't it?

Jesus once told a story to teach us the importance of being prepared. In Jesus' story, ten bridesmaids took their oil lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Jesus said that five of them were foolish because they had their lamps, but they didn't bring any extra oil to put in their lamps. When it was time to go out and meet the bridegroom, they were out of oil. The other five were very wise and well-prepared. They had brought plenty of oil for their lamps. When it was time to go out and meet the bridegroom, they were ready.

In this story, the bridegroom is Jesus and you and I are the bridesmaids. The story is teaching us that one day we are going to go to meet Jesus. It teaches us that we must be prepared because we don't know exactly when that time is coming. Do you know what we must do to be prepared? We must invite Jesus to come into our hearts. When we do that, we are ready! 

Offering Prayer 

As we celebrate the many wonders in our lives, we give you thanks and praise, O God. Transform these offerings into gifts of wonder and glorious deeds, that all may see the light of your love, leading us to abundant life. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 161: Tell out, my soul,

                        (tune – Woodlands)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6ji4y9Q-K0 

1.  Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!

Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;

tender to me the promise of his word;

in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

 

2.  Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!

Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;

his mercy sure, from age to age to same;

his holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One.

 

3.  Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!

Powers and dominions lay their glory by.

Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,

the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

 

4.  Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!

Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord

to children's children and for evermore! 

Words: Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926),

Tune: 'Woodlands', Walter Greatorex (1877-1949) 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The Gospel Reading:                            Matthew 25:1-13. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 

9 Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, 11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, 12 so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one. 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

Matthew 25:1-13 

1 ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

Preaching of the Word - Can You Imagine a Scene..., 

Can you imagine a scene in which there are ten contestants, pitted against each other at an international piano competition? Image further that five of them have constantly practiced their entries to perfection and remained ever ready to be called to play. Meanwhile, imagine the other five contestants spending their time watching television and eating pizza and doing everything but practicing. If you can envision this, it won't take much imagination to figure out who would meet the approval of the judges.

This might be an example through which Jesus would approach us in 2020 to make an important point about the way of God. But, of course, Jesus was not aware of piano competitions, so he drew from what he knew. In today's Gospel, we find him telling about some maidens who were called to serve as attendants at a wedding.

In that time, weddings were great moments in the life of a village, with every resident participating. If the bridegroom came from another village, as seems to be the case here, there was no way to know exactly when he would arrive, and therefore it was not certain exactly when the wedding would begin. To compensate for this, maidens kept the bride company, awaiting the arrival of the groom with great anticipation. Of course, when it grew dark on such occasions, lamps were needed to see.

As soon as the bridegroom arrived, a festive welcome was made, and a torchlight procession led the couple to the place of the wedding. When the procession reached the appointed place, all entered, the doors were locked, and the festivities began. No one was admitted late.

Jesus used this setting, quite familiar to his hearers, to present a parable about ten maidens, five who were prepared for the eventualities and five who were not.

The wise ones had prepared. They had enough oil to last until the bridegroom came. They were ready. They knew what was required of them, and they did it. When the time came, they were able to act in a manner that was faithful to their culture.

The foolish attendants were unprepared. They ran out of oil and were unable to obtain more. So, when their moment came, they lost the opportunity to help light the way. They were unable to act out their appointed role in the community. They lost the chance even to witness the wedding.

Over and over again Jesus shows us what God is like. Today, he illustrates the truth that God takes no vacations. God never takes a break from offering love to us graciously. God is always prepared. God never stops forgiving us. God never ceases to watch over us. God never rests from the desire that we follow in his way. God never lets up on loving us, no matter how much we may rebel and stray. God is always ready.

For our part, as we seek to stay on the journey of faith, we live and move by doing and being what Christ is. Imitating God, we take no vacation from being prepared to act in keeping with the values of God. We must therefore imitate the wise maidens, remaining prepared, moving in accordance with our training, when the time comes to act.

And like the maidens in Jesus' parable, we do not know when or how we will be called upon. But if we remain always prepared, we will be able to act in accordance with the values we confess, through the Baptismal Covenant and other tenets of our faith. To be prepared is to practice these values, more perfectly, and with more dedication, than the wise maidens.

Although God's gifts are free, the questions for today are these: Will we be like the wise or the foolish maidens? Will we be prepared to recognize and accept what God offers us? Will we recognize God's love, God's grace, God's forgiveness, God's joy, hope, and the wonders of God's creation? Will we be able to accept these gifts and, in response, will we be able to act toward others as God has acted toward us? Are we prepared? As God presents us daily with challenges and choices, will we be ready? 

Hymn TIS 266: Wake, awake! for night is flying

                        (tune – Wachet Auf)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6V3TVGX7N4 

1 "Wake, awake, for night is flying,"

the watchmen on the heights are crying;

"Awake, Jerusalem, arise!"

Midnight hears the welcome voices

and at the thrilling cry rejoices:

"Where are the virgins pure and wise?

The Bridegroom comes: Awake!

Your lamps with gladness take!

Alleluia!

With bridal care and faith's bold prayer,

to meet the Bridegroom, come, prepare!"

 

2 Zion hears the watchmen singing,

and in her heart new joy is springing.

She wakes, she rises from her gloom.

For her Lord comes down all-glorious

and strong in grace, in truth victorious.

Her star is risen, her light is come!

Now come, O Blessed One,

Lord Jesus, God's own Son.

Sing hosanna!

We answer all in joy your call;

we follow to the wedding hall.

 

3 Lamb of God, the heavens adore you,

the saints and angels sing before you

with harp and cymbals' clearest tone.

Of one pearl each shining portal,

where, joining with the choir immortal,

we gather round your radiant throne.

No eye has seen that light,

no ear the echoed might

of your glory;

yet there shall we in victory

sing shouts of joy eternally! 

Text: Philipp Nicolai, (1556-1608) Tr: Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878) Tune: Wachet Auf By Philipp Nicolai 

Intercessory Prayers   

Ever-loving God, in every generation you have cared for your children, and your mercy is everlasting: hear the prayers we bring for your world and for your church.

We pray for the peoples of every land: for all who suffer the horrors of war, for soldiers, civilians and refugees; for all who endure the effects of famine, disease and natural disasters; for all who govern and those who administer law. We give you thanks for all who work to bring an end to oppression and suffering, remembering especially those who have given their lives that others might live. Loving God, we wait for your coming, for your reign of justice and peace.

In your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for your church throughout the world: for all priests and pastors, teachers and youth workers; for the newly baptised and for those whose faith has grown cold: for all who worship or minister in this parish. We give you thanks for all who bring to others your gospel of salvation, remembering especially those who work in places that are dangerous, remote or unresponsive. Loving God, we wait for your coming, for your reign of righteousness and truth.

In your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the communities in which we live: for those without work and those with too much responsibility; for those who are forgotten, unwanted or abused; for our families, our friends and all  whom  we love. We give you thanks for all whose work enriches this community, remembering especially all who give their time to care for the needy, the elderly and the young. Loving God, we wait for your coming, for your reign of forgiveness and love.

In your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are in trouble or distress: for the destitute and those who despair for the future; for the broken-hearted and all who mourn for loved ones; for those in mental torment, for the sick and for the dying. We pray for and give thanks for continued healing, especially for Marcia, Susan, Kaye, Ruth, Margaret, Von, Kirsten, Gwen, Mae, Joan and Pat. We give thanks for the stable health of Lawrence. We give you thanks for all who bring comfort, hope and relief to your people, remembering especially all medical staff, chaplains and pastoral workers. Loving God, we wait for your coming, for your reign of compassion and healing.

In your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for all who have served you faithfully to their life's end. We remember those who mourn, for Robin and her family and the family of Barbara. Keep us ever watchful and ready for the day of your coming, that we may hear with joy the archangel's call, and, with all who have died in Christ, rise to meet you.

Loving God, we wait for your coming in glory.

In your mercy, hear our prayer. 

THE LORD'S PRAYER 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn 624: Christ be my leader by night as by day
                     (Tune – Slane)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDtMuABB-h4 

Christ be my leader by night as by day;

safe through the darkness for he is the way.

Gladly I follow, my future his care;

darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.

 

Christ be my teacher in age as in youth,

drifting or doubting for he is the truth.

Grant me to trust him; though shifting as sand,

doubt cannot daunt me; in Jesus I stand.

 

Christ be my savior in calm as in strife;

death cannot hold me, for he is the life.

Nor darkness nor doubting nor sin and its stain

can touch my salvation; with Jesus I reign. 

Tune: Irish folk tune, Slane

Text: Timothy Dudley-Smith, b. 1926 

Benediction 

       Keep awake, for darkness is all around!

       May our hearts shine with God's love.

       Keep awake, for the world is in constant need!

       May we see and respond where Christ calls us to

       serve.

       Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose

       words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own

       lives! Amen.        

Hymn 777: May the grace of Christ our Saviour

                     (Tune – Waltham)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq25i6PmCl8 

1.  May the grace of Christ our Saviour

and the Father's boundless love,
with the Holy Spirit's favour,
rest upon us from above. 

2.  Thus, may we abide in union
with each other and the Lord,
and possess, in sweet communion,
joys which earth cannot afford. 

              Author: John Newton (1779)

                   Tune: Waltham

 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

What Are We To Do...,

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 5, 2020 - 9:25pm

What are we to do with Jesus parable of wise and foolish bridesmaids we find in Matthew 25 set for reading this week? It’s not easy to be sympathetic with any of the characters here. The bridegroom sends out invitations but shows up hours late himself and then shuts the door on half of the bridesmaids. Those maidens who get shut out are off trying to buy oil in the middle of the night, when the wedding is about to begin. 

Meanwhile, the bridesmaids who did bring extra oil won’t share it and come off looking selfish and snotty. And what shall we do with a parable that speaks about God closing the door to heaven? That much seems clear at the wedding banquet represents the joy of being in the presence of God. A month ago, we heard another parable about a wedding feast, in which the king sends out invitations to his son’s wedding feast, only to have the invitations refused. Not to be deterred, he invites in whoever is standing at the street corners and has a huge party anyway.

Once again in today’s parable, everyone is invited to the banquet. So why does anyone get shut out? They all do show up; they all do bring their lamps; they all are ready. Could the problem be their lack of watchfulness? True, the bridesmaids do fall asleep while they’re waiting; and Jesus admonishes us at the end of the parable to act. Keep awake and act, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

But let’s be fair asall the bridesmaids fall asleep, the wise and the foolish alike, yet half of them end up enjoying the wedding anyhow. That leaves us with the oil. We are told the wise maidens bring extra oil, and the foolish ones don’t. That sounds simple enough, but we’re on pretty shaky ground if we look for the easy answers, and decide that the oil represents Goodness, or Piety, or Works, or even Faith. If we do, then it starts to sound as though what’s important is the amount of oil we’re carrying around and it’s as though we all ought to be doing extra good deeds, or praying extra hard, or living a perfect life, so that we can store up a spare flask full of midnight oil, ready to burn if the Messiah decides to pull a pop quiz at the end of days.

The pattern of Jesus’ teaching throughout the gospels simply doesn’t support that viewpoint. Instead, in his parables the invitations always go out to everyone, the pay is the same for those who start work early or late, and everyone is considered a faithful servant so long as they don’t bury their gifts. No, it’s not that the foolish bridesmaids are shut out because they don’t have enough oil and after all, their lamps are trimmed and still burning when the bridegroom’s arrival is announced.

They get excluded because they’re so worried their lamps might go out that they run off in search of extra oil, and wind up missing their grand entrance. What they seem to forget is that God hasn’t retired from the miracle business; that in fact, God seems particularly fond of weddings, of making a little go a long way, and of keeping oil burning when it really matters. Jesus turned an ordinary wedding into a foretaste of the banquet to come when he turned water into wine. He defied scarcity with the abundance of the kingdom of God and fed thousands from a small boy’s lunch. 

Mindful of God’s abundance, consider the passage from the book of Wisdom that was offered for this week as an alternate reading in place of the psalm: Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, And one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.

We don’t need to chase after Wisdom as just seeking her is enough. In fact, Wisdom herself is seeking us. Now we can see how the foolish bridesmaids have gone astray. Instead of trusting that they can find Wisdom sitting alongside them at the gate, they run off to the marketplace of ideas in search of illumination. Instead of trusting that Wisdom is radiant and unfading, they worry that their own little lamps won’t be enough for the bridegroom’s party. So, they hurry off, hoping to find someone who can sell them some security, who can take their money and hand them a nicely packaged flask of enlightenment that will be sufficient to please the bridegroom. Perhaps if the foolish bridesmaids had trusted that wisdom is unfading, they would have stayed and greeted the bridegroom and would have been welcomed into the feast.

Perhaps the wise maidens never even needed to open their extra flasks, because the banquet hall itself was so brilliantly lit. You see, God doesn’t only perform miracles with oil and with water or the sorts of miracles that defy the physical laws of nature. God’s greatest miracles are those that defy the laws of human nature, our ingrained expectations of work and reward. We’re used to thinking that doing more gets us more, that by and large we are rewarded in proportion to our effort. But the Bridegroom does not open the door to us because of more work, or even more faith. He opens the door to us so long as we keep our lamps burning for him; so long as our faith allows us wisdom enough or even a gallon of wisdom or one radiant drop is present to answer his gracious invitation and await his arrival at the feast.



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - All Saints - 01 November 2020

                    Marsden Road Uniting Church

Carlingford

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Beatitudes and Barriers

Sunday 1st November 2020

All Saints in the year of Matthew 9.30 am

Gathering God’s People

 Call to Worship (The Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)   

As we gather, we remember that we are not alone!

We gather with the saints, who live in the presence of God, singing praises to the God of our salvation.

From every nation, race, clan, and culture, God's people gather to worship the One-Who-Is-without-Peer!

To God and to the Lamb, all honour, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, strength, and power.

Blessed be God, now and forever! Amen!

Amen! 

HYMN 455 verses 1, 2, 4 6, 7 & 8: For All the Saints

                     (tune - Sine Nomine)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OaBgaMcOvM 

1 For all the saints who from their labors rest,

who thee by faith before the world confessed,

thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

2 Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;

thou, Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;

thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

4 O blest communion, fellowship divine,

we feebly struggle, they in glory shine;

yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

6 The golden evening brightens in the west;

soon, soon to faithful warrior cometh rest;

sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

7 But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;

the saints triumphant rise in bright array;

the King of glory passes on his way.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

8 From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,

through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,

singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

William Waltham How (1823-1897)

Tune Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Opening prayer

 

     Blessed are you, God of our salvation. As we turn to you in prayer, be with us and reveal to us your ways from your self-revelation in Jesus, teach us how to live in ways that honour you: by humbling ourselves; by being content with what we have rather than striving for more; by caring and cooperating, rather than competing in unhealthy ways. Teach us, giver of all goodness, to be strong in your strength for the sake of the gospel. Help us honour your prodigal grace, by living as doers of peace. in this world, you love. Amen.

 

A Prayer of Confession 

Holy God, we so often fail to remember how profoundly you love us.

You bless us even when we are at our wit's end.

You created us, and you love us as we are, even as you inspire our desire to be better through your Holy Spirit. Forgive us when we fail to remember that we are the body of Christ, saints-in-process.

Empower us to begin anew, encouraged by the stories of those who live in your eternal presence.

In the name of Jesus, and for the sake of the gospel, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

Beloved, we are the children of God. Don't fear failure. It is endemic to our human nature. Learn from your mistakes and cherish the forgiving grace of God. Give thanks for all you are, and go forward in faith, knowing that God is faithful.

Thanks, be to God! Amen 

The Peace 

Beloved, we are god’s children now. what we will be has not yet been revealed. what we do now is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. greet one another with the peace of Christ, recognising the presence of Christ in each person you meet.

The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always. 

Offering Prayer 

Holy God, we thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us as we worship. Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace to all your creatures. Thank you for the vision of a world at peace: paradise restored, where no one hungers, no one thirsts, and no one is wanting in any way. You guide us to the source of living water and invite us to drink deeply of your love. Your magnificent generosity evokes our deepest thanks. And so, receive these offerings, that we may join that great cloud of witnesses as we share our gifts with others. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 278: O What a gift

                   (Tune – Canticle of the Gift)

You-tube has two extra verses more than TIS

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVWmNw_hwp0

                                    

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

1 In the stillness of the night

when the world was asleep,

the almighty Word leapt out.

He came to Mary, he came to us

Christ came to the land of Galilee.

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

2. On the night before he died

it was Passover night,

and he gathered his friends together.

He broke the bread, he blessed the wine,

it was the gift of his love and his life.

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

3. We are gathered here to remember that night;

To break the bread and bless the wine.

Open your eyes, your ears and your hearts.

This is his peace and unity:

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

4. On the hill of Calvary

the world held its breath,

for there for the world to see,

God gave his Son, his very own Son

for the love of you and me.

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

5. Early on that morning when the guards were sleeping,

back to life came he!

He conquered death, he conquered sin,

but the victory he gave to you and me!

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

6. "It is the Lord" cried Peter from the boat.

"It is the Lord" cried Magdalen.

"It is the Lord" cried Thomas the doubter.

"It is the Lord" cry we.

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!

 

7. Some day with the saints

we will come before our Father

and then we will shout and dance and sing.

For in our midst for our eyes to see

will be Christ our Lord and our King.

Christ our Lord and our King!

 

O what a gift! What a wonderful gift!

Who can tell the wonders of the Lord?

Let us open our eyes, our ears and our hearts

It is Christ the Lord, it is he!  

                             Pat Uhl (Howard)                                                                         Arr. Betty Pulkingham 

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Revelations 7:9-17

The Gospel Reading:                                        Matthew 5:1-12 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Revelations 7:9-17 

9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’  13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’ 14 I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ 

Matthew 5:1-12 

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

Preaching of the Word - The Beatitudes and Barriers - Matthew 5:1-12 

When we hear Jesus’ beatitudes, what do we think? Maybe, we think, “Wow, these are the most beautiful words I have ever heard.” We may think, “Wow, these are beautiful words, but like so many beautiful words, they’re fanciful, and they can’t really be followed in the real world.” We may think, “Wow, these are beautiful words, and, oh my, they are another reminder of all the ways I fail to live up to the high calling of being a disciple of Christ.”

Well, if you have ever thought any of these, you are not alone. The Beatitudes have been a source of inspiration and challenge throughout the history of the church. Today, I want to mention a few major approaches to them.

During the Middle Ages, many people saw the Beatitudes as “Counsels of Perfection”. That is, they were things that applied to a spiritual elite made up of priests, monks, and nuns, but not to ordinary folks. Monks and nuns took extraordinary vows of poverty and obedience, so these things about blessings of the poor, the meek, the hungry, the merciful were about folks seeking perfection, but for other people, keeping the Ten Commandments and loving God and our neighbour is enough.

This approach recognises the real challenge these sayings put upon believers, but it limits the full force of them by saying that, in this life, they are only for a spiritual elite.

During the Reformation, Martin Luther took issue with the whole notion of a spiritual elite. The idea that there were higher and lower levels of Christians was repugnant to him. Luther famously proclaimed the priesthood of all believers, that is, that we are all on the same level—no higher, no lower—all called to share in the priestly ministries of the Church. So, Luther saw the beatitudes as applying to all Christians, not just to the few.

But Luther also had a pretty interesting take on the Beatitudes. He saw them as commands of God. And for Luther, while commandments were things that were given by God, and, therefore holy and binding on all people, Luther also felt that human beings, given our fallen nature, can never really fulfill the commandments. Rather, what the commandments do for Luther is point out very clearly that there is no way that human beings will ever be able to earn their salvation by perfectly following God’s will. The upshot is that what the commandments end up doing is pointing out our need for the forgiveness and mercy of God and drive us into the arms of Christ. This approach sees the Beatitudes as so challenging that we will never be able to fulfill them on our own. We need to turn to the grace and mercy offered in Christ if we are ever to be made right with God.

Most New Testament scholars these days don’t find these approaches helpful. Rather, they see the Beatitudes—and indeed the whole Sermon on the Mount—as something that Jesus saw as applying to all his disciples, not just an elite few, and he probably thought that they were, in fact, doable. Certainly not easy, after all, he says, blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Still, most scholars think that he probably meant for his followers to live this way. That’s probably why they stress that these were things that need to be lived out in the context of Christian community. These are not things for spiritual superheroes, but for communities to live out.

And that’s probably also why Jesus stressed the need and reality of forgiveness and reconciliation in our communities. These things are going to take practice.

So, one of the reasons why we have this Gospel lesson on All Saints’ Day is because they are practices for all the saints. And by all the saints, we mean everybody who has been baptised into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are practices for all of us ordinary saints of God.

Today, I want to focus on just one beatitude and explore how we might try to live that out in our ordinary lives. We will have other All Saints’ Days to deal with other beatitudes. So, let’s focus on, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” Most of us probably will not be Nobel Peace Prize winners. But that doesn’t mean we are not called in our own ways to be peacemakers. How may we go about this in our lives? Paul Wadell gives us some practical guidance on how we all can be peacemakers. He reminds us that in Ephesians, Paul speaks of Christ and his cross breaking down the walls that divide us, removing all the barriers that keep us apart, and overcoming the hostilities that so often leave us living more in enmity with one another than in peace.

Wadell says, “There is no shortage of barriers that need to be dismantled if God’s dream of peace is to become a reality. We create barriers through our attitudes toward others. We create barriers when we freeze people out or simply ignore them. We create barriers when we refuse to talk to certain people. We create barriers when we refuse to deal with problems that weaken relationships. We create barriers when we refuse to give ourselves to others. We create barriers when we hold on to grudges and refuse to forgive. We create barriers when we nurture cynicism, bitterness, and resentment instead of seeking peace.”

In Ephesians, Paul tells us to get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. Paul says leave all that behind, get away from it, and refuse to be ruled by it, because all those things put walls and barriers between ourselves and others. Instead, Paul says be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ. These are the practices of peace. We nurture peace among ourselves and others when we are people marked by kindness, compassion, healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Happy All Saints’ Day to all you saints of God. The Beatitudes are for you! 

Hymn 448: Blest are the pure in heart

                  (tune – Franconia)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpnU2auc3Rk 

Blest are the pure in heart,

For they shall see our God;

The secret of the Lord is theirs,

Their soul is Christ’s abode.

 

The Lord, who left the heavens

Our life and peace to bring,

To dwell in lowliness with men,

Their Pattern and their King;

 

Still to the lowly soul

He doth himself impart

And for his dwelling and his throne

Chooseth the pure in heart.

 

Lord, we thy presence seek;

May ours this blessing be;

Give us a pure and lowly heart,

A temple meet for thee. 

Words: John Keble [stanzas 1 & 3]; William Hall [stanzas 2 & 4]. Tune: “Franconia 

Intercessory Prayers       

God of all truth, you have chosen as your blessed ones those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. We give thanks for those whose lives have shone with integrity and goodness, for your prophets of old and all today who fight for justice, freedom and truth. Help us to follow their example, that we too ma y be filled with your spirit.

God of truth, for all the saints, we give you thanks and praise.

God of all peace, you have chosen as your blessed ones those who bring peace to a world of strife. We give thanks for negotiators, peacekeepers and all who work for reconciliation, for those who respect and value others and those who listen and give wise counsel. Help us to follow their example, that we too may be called the children of God.

God of peace, for all the saints, we give you thanks and praise.

God of all humility, you have chosen as your blessed ones those whose hearts are simple and pure. We give you thanks for those who do not grasp at material possessions, for those whose good works have been unnoticed and unsung. Help us to follow their example, that we too may come to see your face.

God of humility, for all the saints, we give you thanks and praise

God of all compassion, you have chosen as your blessed ones those who show mercy to others. We give you thanks for those who are filled with generosity and grace, for those whose hearts are forgiving and kind. Help us to follow their example, that we too may receive your mercy.

God of compassion, for all the saints,

we give you thanks and praise.

God of all consolation, you have chosen as your blessed ones those who mourn especially, we remember those from our congregation. We pray for those who weep for what is lost, for all who grieve for those they love, for all whose lives are lonely, desolate and bleak. We pray for and give thanks for continued healing, especially for those in the congregation. Help us to ease all their pain, and in times of trouble may we too be comforted.

God of consolation, for all the saints, we give you thanks and praise.

God of all faithfulness, you have chosen as your blessed ones those who have remained steadfast in the face of danger and persecution. We give thanks for those of this parish who have gone before us, for all whom we hold dear who are now in your eternal presence, and for all who have followed in your way until their life's end.

Help us to follow their example, that we too may rejoice to come into our reward and, with all the saints of heaven, worship you forever.

God of faithfulness, for all the saints, we give you thanks and praise. 

THE LORD'S PRAYER 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn 456: Your hand, O God, has guided

                    (tune – Thornbury)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaI3cRtXqRw 

Thy hand, O God, has guided

Thy flock, from age to age;

The wondrous tale is written,

Full clear, on every page;

Our fathers owned thy goodness,

And we their deeds record;

And both of this bear witness:

One Church, one faith, one Lord.

 

Thy heralds brought glad tidings

To greatest, as to least;

They bade men rise, and hasten

To share the great King's feast;

And this was all their teaching,

In every deed and word,

To all alike proclaiming

One Church, one faith, one Lord

 

Through many a day of darkness,

Through many a scene of strife,

The faithful few fought bravely,

To guard the nation's life.

Their Gospel of redemption,

Sin pardoned, man restored,

Was all in this enfolded:

One Church, one faith, one Lord

 

Thy mercy will not fail us,

Nor leave thy work undone;

With thy right hand to help us,

The victory shall be won;

And then, by men and angels,

Thy name shall be adored,

And this shall be their anthem:

One Church, one faith, one Lord. 

            Author: E. H. Plumptre (1864)
Tune: Thornbury – Basil Harwood 

Benediction       

       We are renewed and filled with the sweetness of God. Go forth to bless the world with joy in the Spirit of God's redemptive love and sustaining peace.

        And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen      

Hymn 778: Shalom to you now

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-WxpmOpN4 

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom 

Author: Elise S. Eslinger (1980)
Tune: Somos Del Señor

 

 

 

 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Newssheet November 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Newsletter - October 30, 2020 - 1:23am

 

                                                                                                      Marsden Road Uniting Church203 Marsden Road Carlingford                                                                     Monthly Newssheet November 2020   
       Our mission: to reflect Christ alive in the Community

Greetings to you out there in your homes. As we worship in our homes in the homelands of the Wallumedegal people. We acknowledge their Elders, past and present.

We hope that you will experience the presence of God in and through the Service, privately or as a Family joining with the people of God who continue to gather in Spirit although not physically.

                                       November Services by Zoom, Web and Delivery

 1     9.30am All Saints Sunday Service Virtual Holy  Communion (Zoom)

8     9.30am Pentecost 23 Sunday Service (Zoom)

10   7.30pm MRUC Church Council Meeting (Zoom)

11   6pm SCC Presbytery Meeting (Zoom)

       7pm MRUC Advent Study

15   9.30am Pentecost 24 Sunday Service (Zoom) Guest Preacher

18   7pm MRUC Advent Study

22   9.30am Christ the King Sunday Service (Zoom)

25   7pm MRUC Advent Study

29    9.30am Advent Sunday Service (Zoom) Guest Preacher

       9.30am Closure of Ministry, Rev Nicholas Fried at  Eastwood Uniting Church

                                                                   CHURCH SERVICES

Worship which is found On-line and Delivered by Hand to people. How you can access these services, Newssheet and Rev John’ and Margaret’s/Joan’s weekly Blog: 

  1. Through Live Zoom on the Internet on Sunday at 9.30am
  2. On Marsden Road Uniting Website: http://www.marsdenroadunitingchurch.org.au/
  3. Receiving as printed Documents in Mailbox.
  4. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MRUCC082016/

Offerings

  • Please consider offering via EFT – Direct Credit See details of Church Bank Account below.
  • By stewardship envelopes - set aside the money in them & bring to Church at the next service at MRUC
  • A/C Name: Marsden Road Uniting Church

BSB: 634 634              A/C: 100049856

 

Marsden Road Prayer Cycle

 

 The October Prayer Cycle has been sent to those for whom we have Email addresses. If you deliver services to those without Internet/Computer, please print these in Landscape and print on both sides flipping on short edge. It folds in three as a pamphlet.

 

Advent Study Groups              We have selected Following Hope - Five Studies for Keeping Hope Alive by Sharonne Price as our Advent study.


Due to a kind donation most of the cost of Study Guides has been covered and therefore will only be $10 each. Books can be obtained through Rev John.

The study titles are: Journeys of Hope, Waiting on God, Making it Real Keeping it Real, From Optimism to Joy Following Hope

Night Group- Wednesday night’s 7.00-8.30pm - 11, 18, 25, November, and 02, 09 December, - Venue: by Zoom                            

Church Council Meeting by Zoom.

Next Meeting 7.30pm Tuesday 10 November 2020 – please send Ruth Reports and any busines for meeting ASAP

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

Most Meetings and Worship will Continue Virtually by Zoom, or other Methods until the Covid-19 Pandemic is Controlled, and it is safe for us to meet again.

 

New Head of Mission Enablement for Synod of NSW & ACT

Rev. Dr Raymond Joso was inducted as the Head of Mission Enablement for the Synod of NSW and the ACT on Friday 16 October.  The induction service took place at United Theological College’s chapel. Due to COVID-19 requirements, only 31 people were allowed in the building, while others watched from Zoom.

Moderator Simon Hansford presided over the service.

 

Climate Action Plan of Assembly

As part of its new Climate Action Plan, the Assembly has begun to measure its carbon footprint. Their goal is to become carbon neutral by 2040 by reducing emissions 5% each year. Their Climate Action Plan calls on all to be accountable to oneself and to the wider Church and to the community. Assembly will continue to share this journey with all and hope to receive feedback from members of the Church.

For people interested, some websites we are finding useful include:

https://co2.myclimate.org/en/offset_further_emissions

https://www.powershop.com.au/carbon-calculator/


Quote


Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. Robert F. Kennedy 

CONTACTS 

Minister of the Word

Rev John Candy 0411 267 639 or 98681658 or whitestarhaven@gmail.com

Church Council Chairperson:         Ruth Henderson 9875 2194

Church Council Secretary:             Susan Halgren 9858 1409

Elders’ Chairperson:                        Alan Craymer 9874 0531

Elders’ Secretary:                            Elaine Forrest 9874 7231

Congregation Meeting Chair:         Warwick Roden 9874 7584

Property bookings/enquiries:         Warwick Roden 9874 7584

Website: www.marsdenroadunitingchurch.org.au

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/MRUCC082016/

Rev Johns’ Weekly Blog: http://whitestarhaven.blogspot.com/

Weekly Blog on the Sunday Service: margaretssundayreflections.blogspot.com

Please send messages & items to share to Rev John by Tuesday night. Phone: 9868 1658 or email: whitestarhaven@gmail.com  

EASTWOOD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY AID

Did you notice the dip in the temperature during the week? Your help is very welcome in building stocks of canned, warming foods which will help those less fortunate than ourselves. Also remember that many lonely people depend on their four-footed or bird friends for company and those need feeding too.

Those who would prefer to make a financial donation to Community Aid (amounts of $2.00 or more are tax deductible) can be made using their website https://ccas.org.au/ or the form sent out last week.




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Are You Seeking Fulfilment as a Saint?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 30, 2020 - 12:23am

Someone has described a saint as an ordinary Christian who does ordinary things extraordinarily well. That’s certainly not the New Testament definition, although it’s not a bad start.  In the secular world we have all sorts of odd ideas about what a saint is.

If you look at the scripture lessons appointed for this week in the Lectionary, we are given a vision of heaven, filled with people wearing white robes praising God. It’s perhaps quite difficult for us to imagine ourselves in such a context. It has the same effect, in a way, as those stained-glass window depictions of people who look very holy and have soup plates behind their heads. It’s difficult to think that perhaps one day, we who follow the Christian way might be depicted in a stained-glass window.

St. Paul the writer of about only seven of the many letters in scripture attributed to him writes in Ephesians in a praising mood for a change. He uses the word “saint” to describe all Christian people and goes to some lengths to describe what a saint is like. But let’s focus on the famous Beatitudes or “Blessed” passages found in Matthew 5. Jesus identifies such experiences as poverty, hunger, grief, and persecution as marks of the blessed, and wealth, plenty, happiness, and being thought well of as marks of those who are not pleasing to God. It is a difficult reading for all of us in our world to hear. 

Of course, we like to hear the Beatitudes just as we like to hear St Paul talking about love. But where do we fit into all this? Well we Christians are often told that in Baptism we become part of the priesthood of the church. The laity is not a group of expectant observers, but fulfilled ministers, each with an active vocation. Humans find it very hard to accept this idea. After all that’s what church and clergy are for.

As Christians we are also called In our Baptisms to be and become saints. If we concentrate on the idea that saints are very, very good people, nearly perfect, then we will miss the point. Many saints have been very bad, while becoming rather good. However positive we may feel about ourselves, however strong our “self-esteem,” few of us think we are good enough to be saints. 

We Christians ask the wrong question and get the wrong answer. We ask whether we are good enough to be saints, when we should be asking whether we are dedicated enough to be saints.  Dedication means single-mindedness, the sort of emphasis we put on our hobbies, our golf game, our Rugby, our business, and even perhaps on our human relationships.  

It is amazing how single minded we can be about our politics, particularly as we look to elections all around us and during this Covid Pandemic the performance of our leaders. This may come out even if we are following the elections for President of the USA or back at the elections in New Zealand.  It is that kind of commitment, dedication, or single-mindedness that marks a realised saint.

In some churches this week, everyone will sing rousingly, “I’ll sing a song of the saints of God,” which contains the line, “And I want to be one too.” Perhaps it should read, “And I want to realise that I am one too.”  

God’s grace, gift, enabling power is there for us to use as we live into our calling to be saints. Like all of God’s gifts, we realize that which we are being given when we actually do something with these gifts. Have you ever thought about the fact that there’s some saintly ministry in the universal church or community just waiting for you, personally, to become saintly about? Everything we attempt in Christ is aided by the prayers and fellowship of all those known and unknown saints who always surround us in love. In this company, we have security to do for Jesus the things we fear to do or even object to doing. 

In Matthew 5:39-48, Jesus tells us to "love your enemies and do good to those who hate you". The passage tells us that even God is kind to the wicked. After what we have endured from people, we deem wicked, this is really too much. But is it? Do you recall an experience when you hated someone continually for a period of time? What did it do for your life? Did it not cause as much pain as anything else? I am reminded of this ancient story oft told:

“A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one." The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?" The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

Saints are courageous because they insist on not letting hatred and evil gain control of their lives. They are faithful because they know without trust in God, they are weak and subject to whatever may befall them. Today the Church exists because they persevered with God, and each of us is invited to join their joyful company.

 



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - Pentecost 21 - 25 October 2020

 Marsden Road Uniting Church

--------------------------------------------------------------

                Do You Love?

Pentecost 21- year of Matthew  

Gathering God’s People  

Acknowledgement of First Peoples  

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

Call to Worship

(Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)       

God welcomes us this day with steadfast love to satisfy our deepest longings.

Praise God who has been our dwelling place in every generation.  

Before the mountains were formed and we were still dust, God loved us into being.

Praise God who created us and renews us still.

May God's favour and grace guide us on paths of love and peace.

We rejoice with gladness this day! 

 

Hymn 047: Our God, our help in ages past

                  (Tune – St Anne)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVy77bGE9Ho  

1.  God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home!

 

2.  Under the shadow of Thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is Thine arm alone,

And our defence is sure.

 

3.  Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting Thou art God,

To endless years the same.

 

4.  A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.

 

5.  Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly, forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.

 

6.  God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Be Thou our guard while life shall last,

And our eternal home. 

Text: Isaac Watts | Tune: St. Anne 

Opening prayer

 

God of ages past and days to come, be with us this day. Shower us with your love and truth. Open our hearts and minds to truly love as you love us and as you call us to love. Grant us the courage to ask the questions that frighten us, that we may courageously live and grow as your disciples on this earth. With the confidence of Christ's grace in our lives, we pray. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession 

God of steadfast love,

turn away your anger and frustration:

when we fall short in your eyes,

when we forget to love,

when we are afraid to love,

when we neglect to love.

Forgive us and transform us with your amazing grace. Fill us with your love so completely that our lives may overflow with love— in heart, mind, and soul. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness      

God's compassion is sufficient for all our needs. In the name of Christ, you are forgiven!

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace 

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Love your neighbour as yourself. Simple words. Profound challenges. Let us acknowledge love and peace with one another.

Peace be with you.    And also, with you!  

A Word with the Children/Young People 

Theme: Love God -- Love Others

Object: A song book with some love songs.

I don't know for sure, but I think that there have probably been more songs written about love than about anything else in the world. Here is a list of some of the favourites: "Love Makes the World Go Round," "Love and Marriage," and "When I Fall in Love," I have thought about.

Oh, I almost forgot one the best love songs ever written. I am sure all of you know this song! It goes like this:

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong;
They are weak but he is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

What a wonderful song about Jesus' for love us. In today's Bible story, Jesus teaches another very important lesson about love.

People were always amazed at the teachings of Jesus. One day a crowd was gathered around Jesus when a man who was an expert in religious law tried to trap him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?"

Jesus answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,' this is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."  In other words, Jesus was saying that if we could keep these two commandments, we would not have any trouble keeping the others.

You know, that reminds me of another love song, "All You Need Is Love." Let's pray and ask God to help us to love as we ought.

Loving God, help us to love you with all of our heart and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 

Offering Prayer 

God of abundant love multiply these gifts to become gifts of abundant love for a world in need. In the name of Christ who first loved us, we pray.  

Hymn 526: Lord Jesus Christ

                  (Tune – Living Lord)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH4-e__BJM0 

1.
Lord Jesus Christ you have come to us
You are one with us, Mary’s Son.
Cleansing our souls from all their sin
pouring Your love and goodness in
Jesus our love for you we sing,
living Lord.
2.
Lord Jesus Christ now and every day
Teach us how to pray, Son of God.
You have commanded us to do
this in remembrance Lord of you
Into our lives your power breaks through,
living Lord.
3.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us
Born as one with us, Mary’s Son.
Led out to die on Calvary,
risen from death to set us free,
living Lord Jesus help us see
You are Lord.
4.
Lord Jesus Christ I would come to you
live my life for you, Son of God.
All your commands I know are true,
your many gifts will make me new,
into my life your power breaks through,
living Lord. 

Patrick Appleford
© 1960 Josef Weinberger Ltd.

             The Service of the Word

 Readings:  

The First Reading:            1 Thessalonians 2:1-8                        

The Gospel Reading:       Matthew 22:34-46

Readings: NRSV Translation  

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

1 You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3 For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6 nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7 though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.  

Matthew 22:34-46

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37 He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:
42 ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son, is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,44 “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’
46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Preaching of the Word – Do You Love?

Do you love God with your whole heart and all of your soul and mind?  Do you love your neighbour in the same way?  These are the tough questions of today’s readings.  Loving God is not measured simply by being baptized, going to church, praying regularly, or by professing to be a Christian.  Loving God completely, wholly, is born out of loving God through our love of all that is God in all of creation.

Loving God just as God loved Moses and the Israelites proved to be a challenge.  God’s love delivered them from oppression.  God made it clear that God never intended any of creation to oppress or to be oppressed.  That is why God gave them so many opportunities to get it right. Moses led the people and saw God in a unique way.  God followed through with the promise made to the Israelites and at the end of Moses’ life they stood together looking out over the summit into the “promised land.” Moses died knowing that they had arrived, and that God had provided them with Torah the first five books of the Bible so that they could continue to live the way God intended.  Moses had spent his life doing God’s work and learning what it meant to love God and everything of God.  

God’s love is also evident in Paul’s earliest record of his ministry.  In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul acknowledges that it takes courage to declare the Gospel in the face of opposition.  Paul does not simply accept his ordination to share the Gospel but to do it with the gentleness of a nursemaid.  How might we respond if someone would tell us that they care for us so deeply that they are determined to share not only the Gospel of God but all of themselves, because you have become very dear to them?

The officials in the Gospel of Matthew are thinking very narrowly when they ask Jesus to identify one of the more than 700 commandments as more important than the others. Their perception of what Torah meant did not include the perspective Jesus gave them.  When they asked Jesus to tell them which commandment most important Jesus was answered with what seems like the broader meaning.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus knit together a pattern for us.  He makes it clear that we must love God with every part of us, and every part of us must love all that loves God.  Jesus modelled that for us in his life.  He loved God even when it meant that he would know suffering and death.  Jesus loved even those persons we might be inclined to judge.  We have to ask ourselves if we could do the same.  We have to ask ourselves if the readings seem unrelated to our lives or if we could see our own lives in them, as we might expect it to be in the people we baptise today. 

The world we live in might, at first glance, seem to be different from the Old or New Testament worlds—but are they really?  We cannot deny the context of the Old Testament story.  We read about the oppression of the Israelites and their journey to freedom, but do we consider who is being oppressed today?  Even more difficult is asking ourselves if we are ourselves oppressors or, more importantly, if we treat every person justly.  How do we love God when we are not acting justly? 

These are difficult questions. And we have to ask ourselves if we are living justly and loving God with our whole heart and soul and mind.  But what does it mean to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and our entire mind?  Since all relationships touch our hearts, soul, or mind, we would have to say that this means that every part of us needs to love God.  And if the second commandment is like the first, we are expected to love all relationships as we love God. 

Jesus is not qualifying these relationships to mean only people or only the people we want to love.  Jesus is describing all things in all of creation.  And, it goes one step further, because Jesus also tells us that we cannot love God if we do not love all that God made in creation.  This is what he meant by “the second is like the first,” and what is most difficult about the Gospel reading today because of the nature of the world in which we live. 

This is the world that is being destroyed by consumerism and greed.  The same world that turns its head as the rainforests burn away and glaciers melt away.  The world where we would rather drive bigger cars, SUV’s and such like (all those 4-wheel drives), that are consuming more of our world’s oil faster than we can produce.  This is the same world that answers the needs for more fuel by destroying more and more of God’s creation.  How do we reconcile our love for God with our whole hearts, souls, and minds with these facts?

How also do we reconcile ourselves to loving God with all that we are when we so willingly go to church and then partake in drinking coffee at our “coffee hours” in Styrofoam cups?  I know it’s convenient and cost efficient but what does it do to the environment. Maybe someone can give me an answer. I don’t know. How does it make sense for us to be more interested in loving the things that we buy with our money while looking away as we pass the person on the street who is asking for help?  How are we loving God with all that we are when we choose to separate ourselves from others using God’s own words as our defence?

Every day God gives us many opportunities to “get right with God”.  Every day when the sun rise’s we can either take it for granted or thank God for another day, acknowledging the miracle of each new day? Every day of our life we are interacting with the world around us.  Do we love our entire world with all that we are—our hearts, our minds, and our souls? 

It is not about proving that we get it and love God.  It is about showing that we love God and get it with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. 

Hymn 201: King of glory, King of peace

                   (Tune – Gwalchmai)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB3rPt0ZqFc  

King of glory, King of peace,

I will love Thee;

and that love may never cease,

I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request,

Thou hast heard me;

Thou didst note my working breast,

Thou hast spared me.

 

Wherefore with my utmost art

I will sing Thee,

and the cream of all my heart

I will bring Thee.

Though my sins against me cried,

Thou alone didst clear me;

and alone, when they replied,

Thou didst hear me.

 

Seven whole days, not one in seven,

I will praise Thee;

in my heart, though not in heaven,

I can raise Thee.

Small it is, in this poor sort

to enrol Thee:

Even eternity’s too short

to extol Thee.  

Text by: George Herbert 1593-1632 Tune: Gwalchmai by: John David Jones 1827-1870

 Intercessory Prayers  

Glorious Creator, Your Sacred Fire sanctifies our faith, transforms our souls, and guides us to find our footing on holy ground in this earthly life. Help us to continually seek Your Strength and Your Face, that we may not be consumed by human things, but set our minds on all that is divine. Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Glorious Creator, enflame Your Spirit within us to persist and prevail upon the leaders of this Country, this Community, and this World, to reject repaying evil with evil, to hold fast to what is good, legislating only for the honour, dignity, and humanity for all Your people everywhere. We pray especially for: ……………………….. 

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Glorious Creator grant us wisdom as listening ears and helping hands to care for those with physical or mental illness or desperate life circumstance, and for those who struggle to meet those needs.  We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need…

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Glorious Creator may our hearts know the joy that celebrates all who have now risen into the Splendour of Eternity, free of misery and tears. We pray especially for: …………………. Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Glorious Creator, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

Glorious Creator, enhance and extend your enduring grace and faith-filled energy for those among us who are anointed to take on Your mantle of ministry on our behalf. We pray especially for:………………………..

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer

O God of Yesterday, Today, and Forever, release us from desire for the superficial milk and honey of this life, the spiritual stumbling blocks of faith. Ignite our passion to Follow, not obstruct, the Way of Christ toward our Salvation. We ask in the name of Jesus, Son of Man, and the Holy Spirit, our Divine Fervour, who reign together with You as One, Living, and Eternal God. 

Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer  

THE LORD'S PRAYER  

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.  

Hymn 452: God of Mercy, God of Grace

                   (Tune – Heathlands)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3PIRShdR8s  

God of mercy, God of grace,

show the brightness of your face.

Shine upon us, Saviour, shine;

fill your world with light divine;

all your saving health extend

unto earth's remotest end. 

 

Let the people praise you, Lord;

be by all that live adored.

Let the nations shout and sing

glory to their gracious King;

at your feet their tribute pay,

and your holy will obey.

 

Let the people praise you, Lord;

earth shall then its fruits afford.

Unto us your blessing give;

we to you devoted live,

all below and all above,

one in joy and light and love.                                   

                             Author: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)

                               Tune: Heathlands – Henry Thomas Smart (1813-79)

Benediction

        Go forth in the knowledge and love of God.

        We go, confident in God's steadfast love.

        Go into the world, loving without limits, caring without boundaries.

         We journey forth to fulfill God's law of love.

        Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.

  Hymn TIS 778: Shalom to you now

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-WxpmOpN4  

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom

Author: Elise S. Eslinger (1980)

Tune: Somos Del Señor

 



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Truth-Tellers Are...

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 22, 2020 - 11:39pm

The story of fake news and the difficulty of knowing what is true is certainly a subject agonising many in our communities. But let me tell you, truth-tellers are uncomfortable people to be around. We proudly show Uncle John and Aunt Pat our church building. We do so with a certain amount of trepidation and particularly because they claim some sort of superior knowledge about church architecture. To make matters worse the Minister bumps into us as we are going into the "worship space" and is very proud of the new Holy Table and rearranged sanctuary. "O dear," groans Uncle John. "Frightful," says Aunt Pat. We pray that the floor will open and swallow us up.

Truth-tellers are uncomfortable people to be around. They comment on our hair, our clothes, our height, our books, our furniture, and delight in making us feel small. There are always a few in every congregation or area of mission and we avoid them like the plague! To them nothing is ever right, except themselves and their opinions.

This week we hear in our lectionary readings from St. Paul in the first letter of Thessalonians. You know St Paul seems to get such bad press nowadays that we are not at all surprised to find him boasting that he just tells the unvarnished truth. In this scripture we find him saying that you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.

We've heard that before. "I just tell it as it is. I don't care what other people think, and after all I am older than you."

But wait a moment. St Paul is full of surprises. He goes on to say to the Christians in Thessalonica (it's a place in much of what we now call Greece): But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us. 

St. Paul has remarked that he had a terrible time when he was in Philippi. If he is referring to the incident recorded in Acts, Paul is remembering being beaten and thrown into jail. He might well have allowed his indignation towards his Jewish compatriots and the gentile authorities to harden and embitter him. Yet in all gentleness he brings the Good News to all the believers.

Sometimes it's difficult to think of Paul as gentle as it is for us to think of Jesus being tough. We have become so used to thinking that Jesus went around thinking, "I am God and I am meek and mild," that we can't see Jesus as being as human as we are, or should we say, Jesus as being as human as we ought to be?

The Gospel writer in our reading from Matthew this week has been recording how those with power and authority sought to trick Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble. Just as in contemporary society, people love to label themselves, or submit to being labelled, so it was during the ministry of Jesus. Today in the church and the nation we have all types and genders with different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Then, when Jesus lived, people identified with this or that and even belonged to groups labelled Pharisee and Sadducee and Herodian, "publican and sinner." The extraordinary thing is that even though they had grave differences, they were united in wanting to get rid of the Truth-Teller, Jesus.

We've all watched news conferences in which reporters seem as keen on tripping someone up as they are to discover truth. So, it was then. Question after question is hurled at Jesus. He avoids each and then a Pharisee, rulebook in hand, asks Jesus which rule is the best. Jesus tells them that the most important rule is not a rule at all, but rather a way of life.

"Love God and love one another," Jesus replies, quoting their own Hebrew Scriptures. And then he counters their claims to authority by stating that it is God's Chosen One, Messiah, Christ, whose authority is established by, with, and in LOVE.

We sometimes sing a song that contains these words: "You will know they are Christians by their love, by their love." Neither Jesus nor St. Paul confuses love with sentimentality-that love that avoids truth-telling. The love of the Gospel is a love that demands that each of us confront the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. And that's the sort of love we avoid.

It's interesting that Jesus avoids all the "nit-picking" questions thrown at him but confronts and silences his accusers by being a truth-teller about God and the purpose for which human beings have been created. The question for us is, how do we treat people who are different?

We find ourselves saying quite dreadful things about those who belong to another " group." There's still a good deal of snobbery among us. We still harbour racial hatred. We dislike foreigners.

Yet the Gospel, the truth to be told, tells us that there is a new kingdom among us, a very earthy kind of God-community, in which there is neither "Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free person." There are no outcasts, no second-class people; and even those who are caught up in evil are to be those whom we are to love gently as we tell the Gospel truth.

This is a very "earthy" message because it is not about our belonging to any particular group. "  It is all about a society whose purpose is to transform the world, most of all by the witness it gives to and in the world. When we divide, use power and authority to subject and push down, think that we are superior, we inevitably dehumanize people, and de-sanctify everything that God made. When we practice sacrificial love, we give back to God that which God has given us in Jesus, and that is the Gospel truth.

Paul and Jesus experienced how risky it is to tell people to live in accepting love, rather than in denouncing authority. When we truth-tell about love, we challenge those who find security in their own righteousness and pretended "control." Yet thousands of years after Jesus and his follower Paul, we meet to celebrate and own a better way, whatever the cost of this discipleship. At worship we Christians will turn and reach out either physically or emotionally to each other and start the "love way." God keep us in that way.



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Render Unto Caesar.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 16, 2020 - 12:39am

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” These words of Jesus from this week’s lectionary readings in Matthew 25:15-23, have become a sort of proverb both in the secular and religious worlds, and those who know little of scripture may still have heard “Render unto Caesar.” Yet, digging beneath the surface of this short encounter helps uncover some of the deeper currents in the exchange.

For me it’s an interesting combination of people that approach Jesus and Matthew tells us that the Pharisees come together with the Herodians. The Pharisees did not want to give money to their pagan oppressors and so were opposed to paying taxes to Rome. On the other hand, King Herod’s position of power came courtesy of the Romans, so even though the taxes were widely considered to be oppressive, the Herodians had a vested interest in keeping the Roman taxes paid. Therefore, the Pharisees and the Herodians each reflected one of the horns of the dilemma in the trap which the question to Jesus set out enmesh him in.


So, we have then the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?” The reference is to Jewish Law, which is also called the Law of Moses. Clearly, it was lawful to pay the tax by Rome’s standards; the question was whether it was proper for the Hebrew people to do so.


On the surface it would seem that Jesus has been presented with a question with no way out. He can’t speak against the tax, for that would anger the Herodians and lead to a charge of treason against Rome. He could not speak in favour of the tax without alienating most of the crowds that followed him. So, what did he do? Well, Jesus asks for one of the coins used in paying the tax. And as he does this, he begins to set up his own trap that will prove at least one of the questioners to be a hypocrite. The coin used for the tax was a silver Denarius with the image of Caesar on one side, and the image of a woman named Pax or personified peace on the other. Now such coins were against Jewish Law, which prohibited graven images being used or touched.


When Jesus asks for a Denarius, one is quickly located and handed to him. Jesus then asks the question that everyone in Israel could have answered without a coin in hand. In our reading for this week the New Revised Standard Version, translation states, “Whose head is this and whose title?” However, it is probably better to use the translation “likeness,” instead of title. When they answer Jesus’ question, saying that the image and likeness are “Caesar’s,” Jesus replies that they are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Give Caesar back those things that are Caesar’s. It is his coin anyway, who cares if you give Caesar back his coin for the tax?


Then Jesus gives the most amazing line of this short encounter when he continues by saying that we are to “give back to God the things that are God’s.” It leaves everyone calculating what exactly is God’s that we are supposed to give back. And in case you were wondering, the clue was the word “icon” or “image” and the word “likeness.”


The principle really is this: Just as the coin has Caesar’s icon on it, so it is Caesar’s, we who believe in  the one God believe we are made in the image and likeness of God, so we are God’s. Jesus affirmed the tax while making it all but irrelevant. He then implies that, though we do owe the state, there are limits to what we owe. Yet, Jesus places no limits regarding what we owe to God. Jesus is very clear that everything you have and everything you are is God’s already.


While this would certainly apply to the money you make, the formula is not that you give 100 percent of your income to God, for God knows you need the money for the necessities of life. The teaching is that once you have given God some of the money you earn, don’t feel that you have bought off an obligation. God wants to share in some of your time and energy, so the 100 percent formula relates to your calendar as well as your wallet.


The point is that you have been made in the image and likeness of God. God loves you. God keeps your picture in the divine wallet and on the heavenly refrigerator. Jesus did not care about the tax, for his real concern was that you live into the image and likeness of the God who lovingly created you.


You begin to live into the image and likeness of God by conforming your life to be more like Jesus’ life.


To live more fully into that image and likeness of God that is in you, give back your heart to God – for it is God’s anyway. In answer to the question, “What are the things that are God’s which we are to give back to God?” the answer is, “You.”

 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday 4th October 2020 “At that time Jesus said …”

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 9, 2020 - 6:44am

 

The First Reading: Galatians 6: 14-18     The Gospel Reading & Preaching of the Word: At That Time, Jesus Said..., - Matthew 11: 15-20

At that time Jesus said, "Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have revealed to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned."



On the closest Sunday to the anniversary of the death of St. Francis of Assisi, the Rev. John’s Reflection/Sermon was focused on him and his life.  But for me - a good quote to begin our own personal review - comes from the summing up at the end of the Sunday Sermon.

“So what are we to make of this famous saint? He has been called "the Other Jesus" by some. He is revered and loved universally, by Christians and non- Christians alike. And yet, he didn't seem to Get it Right.

Perhaps this is what Jesus is talking about when he suggests that the foolish and unlearned may know something that the wise and learned don't know. Perhaps certainty and Being Right are not what Jesus wants from our lives.

Maybe Saint Francis shows us something completely different, something that looks more like perseverance in the face of uncertainty. Maybe the lesson I can learn from Saint Francis is the lesson that faithfulness is more valuable than Being Right; that humility and unknowing are a more appropriate response to God than certainty and knowledge. Perhaps abandoning the pride of self may be the way to begin to understand God. Or, in the words of Saint Francis' famous prayer, that it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

It is interesting to consider that perhaps the most famous prayer often attributed to one of the most famous saints is not included in the official “Prayers of St. Francis” of the Franciscan Order, although the prayer has been recommended by members of the order.  The lavish use of the personal pronouns "I" and "me" and the complete absence of the words "God" and "Jesus" are often used as “proof” of a different author.

It is widely thought to be more like the writing of Giles of Assisi (c.1180 – 1262), one of the close companions of St. Francis and has similarities to his “Golden Sayings of Blessed Giles of Assisi.”

Blessed is he who loves and does not therefore desire to be loved;
Blessed is he who fears and does not therefore desire to be feared;
Blessed is he who serves and does not therefore desire to be served;
Blessed is he who behaves well toward others and does not desire that others behave well toward him;
And because these are great things, the foolish do not rise to them.

St. Francis has been recognised and loved by much of the civilised world going back for many centuries.  He is not just a Roman Catholic saint, but a person with many of the human traits that we can recognise in ordinary people.  His early life was privileged because his father Pietro di Bernardone, was a wealthy and successful cloth merchant who travelled extensively and was in France when Francis was born in 1181/1182.  His was christened Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone, but his father called him Francis and gave him every opportunity to enjoy a carefree “entitled” life with his friends. It seems that young Francis was very popular and seen by his friends to be a happy and carefree person who loved parties.  His first biographer, Thomas of Celano wrote that friends called Francis the “King of Revels”.  He was a great favourite among the young nobles of Assisi and had dreams of becoming a Knight, although he was being encouraged by his father to follow him as a merchant, which was not something he enjoyed.  It is recorded that even as a young man Francis had began to develop an intuitive sympathy with the poor people.

When he was 19 or 20 Francis went off to fight the Perugians in a petty skirmish, but he was taken prisoner and held in captivity more than a year.  After suffering from a fever while captive, he began to turn his thoughts to the emptiness of his life but on recovery he again wanted to have a splendid military career.  So Francis arranged to go with a Knight of Assisi who had agreed to accompany Walter of Brienne, who was known as the “gentle count”, who was supporting the Neapolitan States against the Emperor. The biographers of Francis tell us that the night before he set forth he had a strange dream and heard what he believed to be the voice of God.  In good spirits, Francis started the next day on his journey, but a second illness caused him to stop at Spoleto in Umbria, and in another dream where he said that he heard the same voice tell him to return to Assisi he immediately returned to his home city.

It seems clear that at this point in his life he was touched by the Spirit of God and after a short period of uncertainty, Francis the fun loving “would be” knight turned to serious prayer and sought solitude as he answered his call by giving up his fancy clothes and wasteful ways.  In the reading I have done, a recurring theme developed and Francis began to literally embrace and welcome and even kiss lepers and beggars and give away his clothing and his money.  About this time, he made a pilgrimage to Rome where the horde of beggars at the door of the Basilica caused him to exchange his clothing and stand at the door with the beggars and fast. 

Not long after Francis returned to Assisi, the incident described by the Rev. John in his sermon, when Francis was praying before an ancient crucifix at the forsaken wayside chapel of St. Damien’s below the town of Assisi, took place.  Francis heard God’s voice again and he said; “Go Francis and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin”.  This event was responsible for panic reactions which resulted in a permanent rift between Francis and his father, who did not forgive his son for rushing off to his shop, and, impetuously taking a load of his materials and also his horse which he rode to a market at Foligno and sold to get the money needed to restore the church.  However, the priest refused to accept the money because of the way it was obtained and Francis hid for a month in a cave near the church to avoid his father’s great wrath, which was not abated at all - even when he got back his money which Francis had thrown down at the feet of the priest.

The stories about the total surrender of all comfort and worldly goods are long and amazing, and soon St Francis who was equally kind to people and animals, was no longer considered to be mad as he wandered the countryside preaching God’s word.  Soon he was being joined by some impressive adherents who joined him and followed his way of life - and the Franciscan order began to spread throughout many countries and his selfless love and service to the poor and the sick people of the world is still reflected in this modern age.



I found this summary about Saint Francis and thought I should share it with you; 

St. Francis of Assisi was a unique spiritual personality who gave up a life of wealth and social position to embrace a life of poverty and chastity – With the approval of the Pope, he founded a new Monastic Order, commonly known as the Franciscans. St Francis is considered one of the greatest saints in the Christian tradition and an example of a life lived in imitation of Jesus Christ.

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honour, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.” – St Francis – Canticle of St Francis



In 1982 my husband and I visited Italy and I was thrilled to be able to go to Assisi and visit the place where St. Francis had discovered God’s Grace and devoted his life to God’s work.  I felt I needed to pinch myself as we stood in the famous Basilica above the steep streets of this beautiful hillside town and looked at the famous frescos of Giotto and other artists who had painted them nearly a thousand years ago.  I still remember the intensity of my art teacher at school as he held up his precious art book to show his students the photos of these wonderful paintings.   St Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226 and work on the church was started in 1228, the year of Francis's canonisation, and it was constructed slowly over the next 300 years.  We were very sad when the Basilica was badly damaged by two earthquakes in 1982 and some people died in the Basilica and in the town.



Many times I have tried to understand how St. Francis was able to give up all earthly joy and punish himself for his perceived failings when he led a selfless existence with his every thought devoted to God.  I have to admit that I have often had doubts about God’s expectations and asked myself if God really “requires” us to be miserable.  I think joy is the greatest gift in life we can give and share.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship Pentecost 19 - 11 October 2020

 


Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

 ------------------------------------------------------- 

What Does the Lord Require?

Pentecost 19 Sunday in year of Matthew 9.30 am

Gathering God’s People

 Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

 Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)

          Come, let us put God in the centre of our lives!

We rejoice in God's steadfast love!

Come, let our gentleness be a reflection of God's love.

We give thanks for Christ's enduring grace!

Come, let us lay down our burdens and worries.

       We offer our needs to God in prayer.

Come, let us focus on what is honourable and true.

With hope, we turn now to God's guiding word.

 

Hymn 474: Here in this place new light is streaming

                  (tune – Gather us in)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar0BXa82F9M

 Here in this place new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away,

see in this space our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in the lost and forsaken, gather us in the blind and the lame;

call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.


We are the young-our lives a mystery, we are the old-who yearn for your face,

we have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race.

Gather us in-the rich and the haughty, gather us in-the proud and the strong;

give us a heart so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.


Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth,

here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you;

nourish us well and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

 

Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light-years away,

but here in this place the new light is shining, no is the Kingdom, and now is the day.

Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own;

gather us in-all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

 Gather us in` - Marty Haugen (b. 1950)

Opening prayer

     Most Holy God, we come into worship with thanksgiving and praise, but we also come before you with worries and doubts. As we lay these burdens down, fill us with your Spirit and bless us with peace and joy. Keep our minds in Christ Jesus, that we may remain focused on issues of justice and righteousness, love and grace. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Most Holy God, we have made gods out of gold and clay; we have allowed worries and doubts to cloud our vision and faith.

Do not think on these things, gracious God. Find in us all that is honourable and true, commendable and excellent. Shine in our lives, that we may reflect the just and righteous parts of ourselves. 

Forgive us when we reflect false gods or sinful values.

Guide us back into your holy presence and transform us with your grace, that we may be the gentle and just people you would have us be and become.


Declaration of Forgiveness

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, is ours through Christ Jesus. In Christ, we are forgiven indeed! Amen.

Thanks, be to God!

 The Peace

Let us show one another signs of God's peace, the peace beyond all understanding that is yours and mine to share. The amazing peace of God be with you.

And also, with you!

 

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme: Worship God and him alone.

Object: A small statue

Who can tell me what this is? (Give time for answers.) That’s right, it is a statue. How many of you have statues in your home? Have you ever seen any statues in parks around the city? Perhaps it was a famous baseball player or an artist or author. I once went to a park with statues of characters from books by Dr. Seuss. My favourite was Horton the elephant.

Statues are great unless they become something that we worship other than God. When we do that, the statue becomes an idol that replaces our God.

That is what one our Bible lesson that we won’t read that is set for this morning in Exodus is about. The main characters in the story are God, Moses, and his brother Aaron. As the story begins, Moses is up on a mountain called Mt. Sanai. I am sure that you remember that God had told Moses to go up on the mountain so that God could give him the Ten Commandments for the people to follow. 

Now Moses stayed up on the mountain longer than the people thought he should. They went to Aaron and said to him, "We want you to create gods who will go before us so that we will know what way to go. As for this fellow Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."

Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings you are wearing and bring them to me." So, all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took all the gold they had given to him and made it into an idol in the shape of a calf. The people were very happy with the idol that had been made for them. 

When Aaron saw how happy the people were, he built an altar and placed it in front of the calf. He said, "Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord and you are to rise up early and make a sacrifice burnt offerings before the calf." 

When God saw what the people were doing, he became very angry and told Moses that he was going to destroy the people because of their unfaithfulness. But Moses begged the Lord to remember the promise that he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and the children of Israel. Moses convinced the Lord and he changed his mind and did not do what he said he might do—he did not destroy them. 

What can we learn from this story? We sometimes put other things before God. It may not be an idol made of gold in the shape of a calf, but it may be things. It might be things like money, cars, or sports. Anything that we put ahead of our love for God becomes an idol and that is a big mistake. 

Offering Prayer  

God of steadfast love, we thank you for the abundant gifts in our lives: love and grace, clothing and belongings, friends and family. We thank you for the steadfast signs of your loving presence in our world: wondrous works and awesome deeds. We come before you with our offerings, rejoicing in this opportunity to help bring your realm to this earth. Amen.  

Hymn 430: Your words to me

                  (Tune – Capel)

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=553ynQB2-rY  

1.  Your words to me are life and health;pour strength into my soul;enable, guide, and teach my heartto reach its perfect goal!  

2.  Your words to me are light and truth;from day to day they showtheir wisdom, passing earthly lore,as in their truth I grow.  

3.  Your words to me are full of joy,of beauty, peace, and grace;from them I learn your blessed will,through them I see your face.  

4.  Your words you have fulfilled on earth,yourself, the living Word;within my heart your image printin clearest lines, O Lord.  

Author: G. Currie MartinTune: Capel (English)

The Service of the Word

 Readings:

The First Reading:            Philippians 4:1-9                        

The Gospel Reading:       Matthew 22:1-14

Readings: NRSV Translation

       Philippians 4:1-9                    

4 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Matthew 22:1-14

22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Preaching of the Word - What Does the Lord Require?

Imagine this: “A man flips lazily through the television channels and stops for a few minutes to look at a religious program. He then turns the set off, gets up, and walks into the hall where he encounters his wife. "Will you," he asks her, "be ready when the Bridegroom comes?" "Yes," she responds quickly, "I have my outfit all picked out."

This is, of course, comedy. It works as such because in this context it follows a formula similar to the one used in making puns. It replaces the symbolic, scriptural meaning of "Bridegroom" with the literal meaning of the word. In making light of the parable, the couple block out the light of understanding. Nothing is more corrosive to symbolic understanding than the literal. Do you recall how, during the 1960s, Timothy Leary declared LSD (lysergic acid), with which he was experimenting, to be a "sacrament." Do you remember how corrosive an idea that was, not just to brain cells but to the understanding of some people as to what was really a sacrament? It reduced the idea of "sacrament" to being a mere thing.

Jesus did not do stand-up comedy. Parables are like puzzles, and Jesus, we are told, always spoke in parables. Today's Gospel incorporates one of his best-known parables. He didn't use them to entertain or to perplex his audiences, or to give them games to play. His parables were like pieces of string that had to be rolled up into a ball. Like poetry, they were stories at whose heart was a metaphor. He was not trying to be difficult. He used the language of parable because he was speaking of something that was intangible. He was speaking of something unseen. And like the poet, he had the difficult task of making the unseen, seen.

Often the meanings contained in the parables were left, for the moment, unseen. Even the disciples had difficulty and more than once asked Jesus to explain the parables. Scripture can be difficult. It takes work.

A minister once wrote, "Only the poetic imagination can understand the Bible. Like unsolved puzzles, the meaning of parables can lie hidden in the mind. Hindrances to our understanding abound-like bars on a door or locks on a gate. We do remain curious about what lies on the other side.

We can be barred from entrance through the door of meaning by attempting to interpret the meaning of the parables as though the stories are literal. As with our initial scene, such a response flattens out the meaning, makes it comic or banal. Simply put, then, the meaning of today's Gospel story of the marriage feast might be:

"You had better get your clothes ready if you want to go to the wedding feast or you will be booted out; or, worse, you might be thrown to the dogs!" Would we leave deeper meaning behind and take off for the mall? The better we look when we go into church for the wedding, the more likely we are of being able to pass into heaven.

Is this what we really believe? Do we try and interpret and understand the metaphor or do take things literally? Would there be fewer trip to the mall? There is no section at the mall for symbolic wedding garb, or for symbolic brides. So, let's leave the literal and try doing the work of seeing through different lenses, in a way that will give us a new heart.

Literal interpretations of the parables bring us to a dead end. Symbolic interpretation can open things up for us. In today's Gospel, Jesus is using the image of a wedding feast, a favourite of his, to speak about the Kingdom of God. The bride in the story is not spoken about because she is everywhere, for she can be compared to the entire body of Christ's people. Jesus, I believe was really talking about a sacred marriage between God and humans; between the bridegroom who is the Word and human nature. Jesus himself is the bridegroom and the bride is every one of us. We are being given a picture, Jesus' vision, of the "married land." As in Revelations, the Bridegroom has come. It is heaven where, the divine and human have been united.

And when he comes, will we be ready? Will we be foolish enough to say that as there is a sale this week, we will certainly be able to look our best for the wedding in church? No, the costume in the story is to be understood metaphorically. It is our lives we need to change, the contents of our consciousness, our hearts, and our vision -- not our clothes! These are the intangible garments that concern Jesus. When we wear them -- then he will come, bringing his Kingdom of Heaven. Right here. Right now.

Will we be thrown out where there will be fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Does this fate sound familiar? Similar language is used in other parables recorded by Matthew. It is a harvest metaphor. Literally, it is the weeds that are thrown out from the gathering and the bad fish from the net. And is it a mean God who will throw us out if we show up without the proper gown?

No. The purpose of a parable is to make one point and the point here is to get ready, to stitch together for ourselves the garments of truth, of the Way, so we will be open to God.

There are many people who will remain well armoured against the piercing truths today's parable conveys. They will refuse the challenge. It is easier, like the couple in our opening story, to protect ourselves from the real meaning of the parable by turning it into comedy. It is easier to limit our Vision, to wear a garment of armour. "The kingdom of God is spread on the earth and people don't see it," we read. Jesus' kingdom cannot be stormed. It must descend upon us like light.

In today's parable, Jesus has given us all a key. For God's sake, for Heaven's sake (heaven was used as a synonym for God), we must prepare, make our garments, clothe ourselves in understanding. Only by preparing such a robe are we to gain entrance into his Kingdom. 

Hymn 665: Jesus Christ is waiting

                   (Tune – Noel Nouvelet) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CSzEviUc_o  

1. Jesus Christ is waiting,Waiting in the streets;No one is his neighbour,All alone he eats.Listen, Lord Jesus,I am lonely too.Make me, friend or stranger,Fit to wait on you  

2. Jesus Christ is raging,Raging in the streets,Where injustice spiralsAnd real hope retreats.Listen, Lord Jesus,I am angry too.In the Kingdom’s causesLet me rage with you.  

3. Jesus Christ is healing,Healing in the streets;Curing those who suffer,Touching those he greets.Listen, Lord Jesus,I have pity too.Let my care be active,Healing just like you.  

4. Jesus Christ is dancing,Dancing in the streets,Where each sign of hatredHe, with love, defeats.Listen, Lord Jesus,I should triumph too.On suspicion’s graveyardLet me dance with you.  

5. Jesus Christ is calling,Calling in the streets,”Who will join my journey?I will guide their feet.”Listen, Lord Jesus,Let my fears be few.Walk one step before me;I will follow you.  

Author: John L. BellAuthor: Graham MauleTune: Noel Nouvelet  

Intercessory Prayers 

Remembering God's marvellous works and living in hope, let us pray for the church, the world, and all people according to their needs.

Stir up your church to do the work of evangelism and proclaim the message of the salvation through faith in Christ Jesus to the world. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Enlighten world leaders with new and creative ways to become good stewards of the earth's resources for the sake of future generations. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Watch over all who suffer from injustice, hear and answer their cry, and preserve them from all evil. Lord, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Let us pray for the sick (including) and especially for those with Covid-19 and those who deal with other viruses and illnesses, that God will give health and strengthen their faith. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Inspire our congregation to persistent prayer and steadfast study of the scriptures, so that we will be equipped for every good work. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We give you thanks for the witness of those who have gone before and our examples of faith. Give us persistence of faith until we, with all the saints, may see you face to face. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

God of faithfulness, encircled in your lovingkindness, we lift up to you all in need. Hear our prayers on behalf of others and sustain us as we await the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray.  

THE LORD'S PRAYER  

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.  

Hymn 573: A Charge to keep I Have

                   (Tune – Boylston)  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M-64OwBK1E  

1.A charge to keep I have,

A God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save,

And fit it for the sky. 

 

2.To serve the present age,

My calling to fulfill;

may it all my powers engage

To do my Master’s will!

 

3.Arm me with jealous care

As in Thy sight to live,

And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare

A strict account to give!

 

4.Help me to watch and pray,

And still on Thee rely,

                            let me not my trust betray,

But press to realms on high.  

Author: Charles Wesley (1762)

                        Tune: Boylston

Benediction 

        May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus this day and forevermore. Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.        

Hymn 779: May the feet of God walk with you.         (Tune – Aubrey)  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X5FHNGM2HA  

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

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

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

May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you Home.

        Robyn Mann (1949 -)          Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Expect the Unexpected.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 8, 2020 - 9:24pm

The readings set in the Churches Lectionary this week are from Exodus 32 and Matthew 22 and are about the unexpected.  We live in a world of the unexpected. Just look at events over the last year or so with fire, flood, political incompetence and a Pandemic. Moses has been up on the mountain for a long time and the people are getting worried, even scared.  They don’t really know where Moses has gone, or why—they don’t understand.  Like so many times during their journey, they are confused and scared, and they lose faith which is not surprising.  They ask Aaron to make gods for them and he makes a golden calf which of course God sees. 

God tells Moses to go back down to the people, whom God threatens to destroy.  God’s anger is not so surprising, but Moses begs God to reconsider, and reminds God of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Then comes the surprise, the unexpected:  God changes his mind and relents. 

In Matthew we have the strange story of the king who held a wedding banquet for his son.  The invited guests would not come, so the king sent his slaves out to bring people in from the street. He seems surprised to find a guest who is not dressed “appropriately,” and orders the slaves to bind the man and toss him “into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We might think that this is just a strange, rude, unkind man, full of himself and his power as king.  We might think this is just an odd story, if it weren’t for the opening sentence of this passage: 

“Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: ‘the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.’” “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to….”  We get the part about the kingdom of heaven being like a wedding banquet.  The story starts out in a seemingly normal way, but quickly takes a strange turn when the guests refuse to attend the party.  This is unexpected behaviour.  We can understand the connection between the kingdom of heaven and people being invited in from the streets—this makes sense to us. 

But then there is the unexpected behaviour of the king toward one of the guests who was probably poor and from the streets but isn’t dressed in appropriate wedding clothes. The king has him bound and thrown out into the darkness.  What does this say about the kingdom of heaven? We are shocked and surprised, as were those listening to Jesus because in many cultures, hospitality was very important to people.  It would have been unforgivable for guests or hosts to behave in such a manner.  The listeners would have been shocked and offended, especially when Jesus compared this story to the kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps that was the point as Jesus often made unusual, surprising or uncomfortable comparisons in his parables.  Once again, he challenges the assumptions of those listening, shocking them with a surprising or unexpected story. But why would he tell such a story about the kingdom of heaven?  It was not just for shock value as Jesus wants to expand people’s perceptions.  He was not saying that the kingdom of heaven is like the king or the banquet or the guests.  He is saying that the kingdom of heaven is beyond our expectations, beyond our assumptions, beyond what we can analyse and think through and get our heads around. 

It is saying to us that there is always more than what we can see. God will always surprise us; will always confront us with the unexpected.  We are called to be open to more and not just to rest in the comfortable assumption that we know all about God. The Parables of Jesus make us uncomfortable.  We don’t know what to do with them, these strange, confusing parables. We usually ignore them or try to find some way to explain them away— “well, this is what this really means.”

But there is a way of understanding them, without taking them literally.  Jesus is deliberately provocative and challenges our preconceived ideas about what God and the kingdom of heaven are like.  We all have our favourite ideas of what the kingdom of heaven might be like.  Jesus is telling us that it will be like nothing we can imagine.  In that over-used phrase, Jesus is inviting us to “think outside the box.” Because the truth is that we cannot know for certain. 

This does not mean we are stupid, but we are human, and our knowledge and our understanding are limited.  Even though we contain a spark of the divine, even though we are made in God’s image, we are not God. The most we can hope for in this lifetime are glimpses—through story and scripture, through prayer and meditation, through music and through our experiences.  If we are open to the Spirit, if we listen, if we pay attention, we can catch a glimpse here and there of the kingdom.

These are the glimpses when Paul the writer of Philippians speaks in the Letter to the Philippians. He says,

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

These are all things of the kingdom.  The only things Paul left out of his list might be “whatever is surprising, whatever is unexpected.”  It is often through those things that God speaks to us.

 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - St Francis - 04 October 2020


 Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford

----------------------------------------------------------


At That Time, Jesus Said...,

Sunday 04th October 2020

St Francis Sunday year of Matthew 9.30 am

Gathering God’s People

 Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

 Call to Worship

        For we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.

This is the place, and this is the time; here and now God waits to break into our experience.

To change our minds, to change our lives, to change our ways

To make us see the world and the whole of life in a new light.

To fill us with hope, joy and certainty for the future.

This is the place, as are all places; this is the time, as are all times.

Here and now, let us praise God.

We gather together to worship God. We gather to reflect on our place in the world.

Hymn 446: Glorious things of you are spoken

                  (Tune – Austria (Haydn)) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY93NvyqOm4 

1.  Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
he whose word cannot be broken
formed thee for his own abode;
on the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
thou may'st smile at all thy foes. 

2.  See the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters,
and all fear of want remove;
who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,                   never fails from age to age. 

3.  Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near;
thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which he gives them when they pray. 

4.  Saviour, if of Zion's city
I, thro' grace, a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name;
fading is the worldling's pleasure,
all his boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasure
none but Zion's children know. 

John Newton 1725-1807

Opening prayer

Almighty god, you always delight to reveal yourself to the childlike and lowly of heat: grant that, following the example of the blessed saint, Francis, we may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness and know only Jesus Christ and him crucified; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever Amen.

 

A Prayer of Confession

Let us then open our hearts and confess our sins in penitence and faith.

Forgive us, dear God, when our eyes do not see the world as you see it; when we choose to look away from the results of our lifestyle choices. Forgive us our ignorance, apathy and silence. Open our eyes to see that we are involved in all suffering in the world. Let the demands of your love call us to see, to know, to act and to speak. Deliver us from wealth while much of the world is impoverished, believing that we ‘cannot afford’ worthy causes, even though you call us to simple living. Lead us to a new way of life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Declaration of Forgiveness

Live in freedom and know peace through God, the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer and that same almighty God, will have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and keep you in eternal life.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Let us show one another signs of God's peace, the peace beyond all understanding that is yours and mine to share. The amazing peace of God be with you.

Peace be with you!

And also, with you!

(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)

 Offering Prayer

Lord of grace and forgiveness, you who gave everything and spared nothing to make us your own, we offer back to you what you have so freely given to us. Let all that we say and do, all that we think and plan and consider, be pleasing to you, blessed Creator, Provider, and Saviour, in whose name we pray. Amen. 

Hymn 609: May the mind of Christ my Saviour

(Tune – St Leonards Extra verse to go with YouTube))

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRTLocMzTvs 

1.  May the mind of Christ, my Saviour, 
live in me from day to day, 
by his love and power controlling 
all I do and say.  

2.  May the Word of God dwell richly 
in my heart from hour to hour, 
so that all may see I triumph 
only through his power.  

3.  May the peace of God my Father 
rule my life in everything, 
that I may be calm to comfort 
sick and sorrowing.  

4.  May the love of Jesus fill me 
as the waters fill the sea; 
him exalting, self-abasing: 
this is victory.  

5.  May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go. 

6.  May his beauty rest upon me
as I seek the lost to win,
and may they forget the channel,
seeing only him. 

                             Katie Barclay Wilkinson 1859-1928

   The Service of the Word

 The First Reading:                                            Galatians 6: 14-18

The Gospel Reading:                                        Matthew 11:15-20.

Readings: NRSV translation

Galatians 6: 14-18

14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule--peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. 18 May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen. 

Matthew 11:15-20.

25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 

Preaching of the Word - At That Time, Jesus Said..., - Matthew 11: 15-20

At that time Jesus said, "Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have revealed to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned."

Saint Francis is one of the most "popular" of all the saints. He may be seen in gardens around the world. He is enshrined on bird baths and bird feeders. The prayer that we associate with him, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," is arguably one of the most popular prayers circulated. He is the patron saint of animal lovers, peacemakers, and ecologists. He is associated with cardinal works of mercy to the poor and marginalised.

But these are not the aspects of Saint Francis that I want to speak about today. So often, I think, I have a tendency to view the saints as persons who were superheroes, who were capable of gritting their teeth and doing the Right Thing in the face of total adversity. As such, I find them to be totally unlike me. My problem seems to be not so much that I can't do the Right Thing, but that more often than not, I'm not certain what the Right Thing is!

In this Global Village we live in today, we are assaulted by conflicting values and oppositional demands. The necessity of doing the Right Thing is constantly upon us, even in the simple demands of day to day living: regular or low-fat, recycle or not recycle, welfare or no welfare. Although this might seem simply to require a certain fluidity on my part-- a refraining from deciding, as it were--in actuality I must eventually make a decision. And when I do, how can I know I'm Right?

So, the aspect of Saint Francis that speaks to me most strongly today is this: he was a man who Didn't Get It Right! Throughout the course of his life he steadfastly refused to join the ranks of the wise and learned--of those, who were certain of the Right Thing. He remained a fool for God, and as such, was always open to rethinking the Holy Spirit's inspiration. I'd like to tell some stories that illustrate my point.

When Francis was a very young man--that is, before he really had any inkling of the vocation God had in store for him--he thought he might like very much to be a knight. In fact, we have in the records a dream that Francis had about this time: He is in a large room full of knights' armour and the trappings of chivalry. And Jesus is there with him. Jesus says to Francis, "Francis, I want you to be my knight."

There is evidence that this somewhat idealistic endeavour was fuelled by the popular literature of the day in which knights in shining armour vanquished dragons, rescued fair maidens, and generally did the Right Thing for the sake of good. He conveyed this hope to his father, who was a prosperous cloth merchant in Assisi, and I imagine that his father found this to be a very pleasing scheme. At the time Assisi was engaged in one of its many wars with the neighbouring city of Perugia, and for a middle-class merchant to have his son fighting for the city outfitted as if he were a lord, would have had some appeal to Francis' father. So he brought him the armour, swords, lances, gowns and horse that would be required.

But Francis was already who he was and when the day came to ride off to Perugia, he noticed that among the company there was an impoverished nobleman who had no armour, horse, etc. So, Francis give his entire outfit away, and marched off to Perugia unarmed.

Needless to say, the encounter proved disastrous for Francis, and he was captured and imprisoned. When he was finally ransomed, he was ill with a high fever. If Jesus had wanted him to be a knight, Francis reasoned, something was clearly going wrong. Perhaps, like a fool, he had gotten the message wrong. He continued to search. What could it mean to be Jesus' knightly champion?

Later in his life, after he had renounced his family, and gone off to live the life of a hermit, he had one of the more remarkable experiences in what was to be a most remarkable life. While praying one day before the crucifix in the ruined church of San Damiano, the figure of Jesus came to life and spoke to him saying, "Francis, rebuild my church, which, as you see, is falling down."

Francis looked around him and saw that, indeed, the church of San Damiano was falling down. He immediately began putting stone on stone, rebuilding the church. The people of Assisi thought he was a fool. Slowly, again, he began to understand that he'd gotten it wrong. It wasn't until much later in his life that he understood that Jesus had meant for Francis to rebuild his Church, with a capital "C".

And when he understood that, perhaps he also began to understand what it might be to be Jesus' knightly champion.

Francis was also famous for his bodily austerities. He would throw ashes into his beans so that he couldn't enjoy them too much. He called his Body "Brother Ass" and was known to roll naked in thorns and snow to discipline his body. As he lay dying (while still a young man), he may have had an understanding that, again, he'd been foolish and hadn't Got it Right. He asked "Brother Ass" to forgive him, and perhaps realized that he'd squandered one of God's gifts by not being kinder to himself.

So what are we to make of this famous saint? He has been called "the Other Jesus" by some. He is revered and loved universally, by Christians and non- Christians alike. And yet, he didn't seem to Get it Right.

Perhaps this is what Jesus is talking about when he suggests that the foolish and unlearned may know something that the wise and learned don't know. Perhaps certainty and Being Right are not what Jesus wants from our lives.

Maybe Saint Francis shows us something completely different, something that looks more like perseverance in the face of uncertainty. Maybe the lesson I can learn from Saint Francis is the lesson that faithfulness is more valuable than Being Right; that humility and unknowing are a more appropriate response to God than certainty and knowledge. Perhaps abandoning the pride of self may be the way to begin to understand God. Or, in the words of Saint Francis' famous prayer, that it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. 

Hymn 547: Be Thou My Vision

                   (Tune - Slane)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY54pCBs-1o 

1      Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art--
thou my best thought by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light. 

2      Be thou my wisdom, and thou my true word;
I ever with thee and thou with me, Lord;
thou my great Father, I thy true son;
thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one. 

3      Be thou my battle shield, sword for my fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul's shelter, thou my high tower:
raise thou me heav'n-ward, O Pow'r of my power. 

4      Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always:
thou and thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art. 

5      High King of heaven, my victory won,
may I reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all. 

6      Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
naught be all else to me, save that thou art--
thou my best thought by day or by night,
waking or sleeping, thy presence my light. 

Translator: Mary E. Byrne; Versifier: Eleanor H. Hull
Tune: Slane 

Intercessory Prayers  

Saint Francis Sunday

Where there is money and consumerism,

bring selfless giving, simplicity, eagerness to share the riches of heart and mind...

Where there is selfishness and indifference,

bring openness to others, and hands outstretched in welcome to the outsider and the poor...

Where there are divisions, mistrust, violence and war,

bring pardon, unity and peace...

Where the assembly line has undermined the sense of the human value of work,

restore our appreciation of work well done, and respect for human dignity...

Where teenagers, left to fend for themselves,

have turned to drugs, sex and violence,

restore to them a zest for life and the ideals of the Gospel... 

Where we have hardened our hearts against our neighbour on account of his "unacceptable" religious or political views,

grant to us a human heart, the heart of a brother...

Where there is injustice and exploitation of the poor and the weak,

bring respect and justice...

Where family life has disintegrated and where brothers pass for strangers,

infuse love and brotherhood...

Where people have no time to pray or to marvel,

grant them time so that they may experience what it means to live and to wonder...

 

 

TTogether with Francis, Lord, we give You thanks for the values that shines forth in the lives of so many brothers and sisters including ourselves namely: 

hospitality, joy, universality, ecumenism, availability,

generosity, mercy, a strong and living faith, adaptability...

We ask You to foster those attributes growth in us and all creation to the praise of Your glory. Amen. Alleluia! 

THE LORD'S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen. 

Hymn 607: Make me a channel of your peace

                  (Tune – Channel of Peace)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT8bybL_DqY 

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me bring your love;

Where there is injury your pardon, Lord;

And where there's doubt true faith in you. 

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love with all my soul.

 

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there's despair in life let me bring hope;

Where there is darkness, only light;

And where there's sadness, ever joy. 

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love with all my soul.

 

Make me a channel of your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

In giving to all men that we receive;

And in dying that we're born to eternal life. 

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek

So much to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love with all my soul.

 Author (attributed to): St. Francis of AssisiAdapter: Sebastian Temple

Tune: [Make me a channel of your peace] 

Benediction  

       God give you grace to follow Saint Francis of Assisi and all the saints in faith and hope and love: And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen.        

Hymn 778: Shalom to you now

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-WxpmOpN4

         Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom 

Author: Elise S. Eslinger (1980)
Tune: Somos Del Señor

 




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

What Would We Do?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 1, 2020 - 9:55pm

Any halfway decent real-estate agent or commercial property manager could probably explain this week’s lectionary reading, the gospel parable from Matthew 21, in two seconds flat. It is all about landlords and tenants after all. And there is an entire body of business law devoted to them and their all-too-numerous disputes.

In Jesus’ telling, a vineyard owner contracts with tenants for the use of his land – and then promptly leaves town for another country. At harvest time, the same landowner sends his slaves or agents back to the vineyard to collect the rent – his share of the harvest in this case – from the tenants. But the tenants decide to take matters into their own hands. Apparently hoping to secure the property for themselves, they beat the first slave, kill a second and stone the third. Then they do it all over again, finally even killing off the landowner’s son in the hope of somehow gaining his inheritance.

What are we to make of this graphic tale of greed and mayhem, violence and murder? At the very least, the landowner in question, we might be tempted to think, ought to have done a more thorough background check before renting out his vineyard – the very source of his livelihood – to those scoundrels who end up murdering his slaves and son. Surely even in the ancient world people knew who was trustworthy or not. Word got around, after all, even before the Internet.

And then the obvious question arises. Why did they do it? The tenants had to have been fairly bright guys. Or they would not have gone into agribusiness in the first place – then as now not an easy way to make a living. Did they really think they could get away with it – get away with murder? Well, apparently, they did. Their greed got in the way of their common sense and reason. No doubt not the first time such a thing has ever happened – and not likely to be the last either.

The point of the story seems so obvious to Jesus’ hearers that they leap to it without a moment’s hesitation. The landowner, they declare in moral outrage, “will put those wretches to a miserable death and lease the vineyard to other tenants.” The story must have also resonated with the early church community, for it is one of only a very few of Jesus’ parables recounted in all three of the so-called Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Alas, the news these days is sadly still full of just such parables of greed and corruption. We know them too well. We are even now just exiting one of the worse financial crises in our history – by fairly common consensus the result in large measure of rampant materialism and greed. And millions of people have suffered the consequences. So, yes, some people clearly do still think they can get away with it. And some indeed do. The world has not changed all that much in the time since Jesus told his parable.

We might conclude that it simply does not pay to be an absentee landlord. Better to stay home, lock the back door and mind the store. After all, there is no place like home. Surely, that is where one can feel safe and secure. Maybe so but try telling that to someone whose mortgage is still upside-down or under water and is likely to remain so for some time to come. Let’s face it. Even security at home is sometimes an illusion.

The parable, of course, is about us as much as it is about thieves – about us as much as it is about the “chief priests and the Pharisees” who come to recognise themselves in Jesus’ words. The priests and Pharisees at least deserve begrudging credit, if not for their actions then for their insight into their own motivations. They want to arrest Jesus for his words and be rid of him. They knowingly seek to neutralise his potent message of God’s righteousness and Kingdom. What they do not know – and what we sometimes forget – is that it cannot be done.

No matter where we live or what we have, we are all no more than tenants in God’s Kingdom. Nothing ever truly belongs to us. In the final analysis, everything we have has been lent to us. Everything is borrowed for a time. As the old saying has it, we are living on borrowed time – quite literally. Like the priests and Pharisees of this narrative, we too might wish the world were different, that tenants were owners and servants, masters. But it is not so.

“They will respect my son,” the landowner erroneously concludes as he decides to send his child as emissary after his slaves are beaten and killed. To paraphrase Doctor Phil, television’s favourite pop psychologist, “What was he thinking?” If only the landowner had gone to his minister, he might have been set right. “Do not send your son,” he would have been told in no uncertain terms. “Call the police and report the incident. Begin eviction proceedings. Get back home.”

All good advice to be sure, but it is doubtful the landowner would have followed even his beloved pastor’s counsel. For the landowner’s economy is not that of this world. And perhaps it is just as well. He knows something we tend to overlook, that in the end it is not a matter of land, property rights, wealth, possessions or ownership. For a follower of Christ, it is ultimately not even a question of life and death. It is only the Kingdom that matters, a kingdom most decidedly not of this world.

If we miss that point, we miss the point of Jesus’ parable entirely. We Christians miss the Kingdom at work in our lives. For, the Kingdom is, in fact, ours – but only to the extent that we give in turn to others of all that has been so generously given to us. In God’s Kingdom, finally, that is the only way tenants become landlords.

 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday 27th September 2020 - “Walking the Walk”

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 1, 2020 - 7:18am

 The First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7 The Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32  Hymn TIS 618: What does the Lord require? 

Walking the Walk   On Sunday 27th September, the Rev. John began his Reflection/Sermon by asking those watching him speaking on Zoom, listening via a telephone link, or reading his words which asked us to “Imagine you are watching television and a commercial comes on” and then he went on to describe an idyllic scene which was cleverly orchestrated to convince the viewers that buying their product would deliver “salvation – buy our product and it will save you from your harried, over-scheduled existence and lead you to this “perfect” life”.  

Of course we all know that life is not always perfect, yet each of us must admit that we have sometimes been enticed by clever advertising.  Quite recently, I was convinced by a TV advertisement that a new salted caramel biscuit with a well-loved name and international reputation would be quite delicious – instead I was very disappointed and felt let down and only finished the small but expensive packet of these biscuits to avoid waste.  I suspect the product has not been a great success because, after the initial six to eight weeks of blanket advertising, I have never seen these disappointing biscuits mentioned on TV again.

In the Exodus story mentioned by the Rev. John, the Israelites had no doubt been looking forward to a better and perhaps even “perfect” life as they journeyed out of Egypt, but as we discovered - when things became hard; “The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord ?’   But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’”

As “The Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” – the majority of us have expressed doubts from time to time when things go wrong.  I feel sure that many distressed people have questioned God about the current Covid 19 pandemic and asked how he could have unleashed such illness and struggle upon the world. 

During his sermon, the Rev. John went on to tell us a “modern parable” that described ‘someone’ like we have all seen come to worship at our church and grow in enthusiasm and goodwill, but who gradually found that everything was getting too hard.  Their religious fervour gradually waned, so that they may have slowly drifted away, with us barely noticing that one day they just stopped coming altogether.  The “modern parable”  went on; “He still believed in God and felt love for God but didn’t know how to integrate these pieces into the rest of his life. It all seemed like it was too hard, too much.” 

We should wonder why this person did not keep looking for a closer walk with God in our church community and ask; Do we always “walk the walk as well as talk the talk?” 

The Rev. John said; “Jesus gives a telling example of response to God’s love in his parable today about the two sons being asked to work in the vineyard. The first son tells his father outright that he won’t do it, but then has a change of heart and goes and does it anyway. Whereas the second son tells his father he will and then never does. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it gets the point across. Jesus tells this to the chief priests and elders – who rejected John the Baptist and were rejecting Jesus – in order for them to be caught in their own web of deceit. Jesus asks them, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” and they know they are trapped because the answer, of course, is the first son. He ended up living his life faithfully; he didn’t just talk about it or say things to appease his father.”

We often do similar things in our own lives. “How many of us have told someone we would pray for him or her and then got distracted and didn’t? How many of us have thought or talked a lot about helping the marginalised in our neighbourhood, but haven’t? How many of us have been puzzled when people who were once zealous about their faith faded away, and we intended to contact them but never have?

We all have good intentions. But as Jesus teaches us in our gospel reading today, our intentions don’t really matter. It’s our actions that are grounded in and flow from our relationship with God that count – individually and as a community.”

As Christians; perhaps we should encourage the alternate idiom; “Practice what you preach” as a greater motivation than other versions of “Walk the Walk” which is essentially saying “PROVE IT”.  Other such sayings that have great relevance to the expression of our genuine reactions are, “Actions speak louder than words” and “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”  A different interpretation of that saying is that the difference between what someone intends to do and what they actually do can often be called procrastination.

A few years ago, when my husband and I sorted through some old papers, we unearthed a “to do” list from more than 30 years ago - and the amazing thing was there was absolutely nothing on the long list that still needed to be done, yet not one job had been ticked as completed.  Although we laughed about it and recognised our serious faults of procrastination, we agreed that so called wise quotes are very much like statistics really; you can find one to support almost any argument you wish to make.  I consider myself a reasonably decisive person; however, I can nod my head in agreement with almost all the dozens of quotes on procrastination that I unearthed via Google.  I think the ‘tongue in cheek’ quote; “One of the greatest labour-saving inventions of today is tomorrow”, which is attributed to Vincent T. Foss, perhaps best fits the sad tale of our old unchecked list of jobs.  Although my mother, if she was still with us, would have opted for the often wisely quoted; “Procrastination is the thief of time” theory?  My mother dusted the house and swept the floor each day – it was like a religious ritual.  I have often wondered and imagined how much time would have been saved if she had procrastinated and done it only when her “round tuit” came conveniently to hand.

As we moved our fingers down the lines of writing on our list, we shed tears of laughter as we noted our soft blue British Wolseley didn’t need polishing - there have been around six replacements for that particular car since then.  More good news - the next thing on the list didn’t need doing either – the fuchsia garden that needed weeding and spraying for the black caterpillars that regularly stripped the leaves each time we felt a little smug about how pretty the garden looked, could be crossed off too.  Our daughter’s “new” bedroom was built over that spot some 30 years ago and the rose garden near the back patio didn’t need weeding either.  The sunroom extension was built over that nearly 20 years ago.



Neither did the wrought iron on the front patio need painting because the lounge room extension covered that patio at the same time the fuchsia garden was lost.   Almost doubled up with laughter, we crossed all the remaining jobs off the list with a flourish, feeling really good about all the time we had saved by not doing those jobs either.  Continuing to build rooms onto the house to avoid weeding the garden or painting, may sound a little extreme but it just goes to prove - if you put some things off long enough you never have to do them at all! 

However, the serious, older and hopefully slightly wiser me must now agree with the quote of Edward Young, which my very busy house-proud mother would have approved; “Procrastination is the thief of time; year after year it steals, till all are fled, and to the mercies of a moment leaves the vast concerns of an eternal state. At thirty, man suspects himself a fool; knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; at fifty chides his infamous delay, pushes his prudent purpose to resolve; in all the magnanimity of thought, resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same."

My reality is; I believe all people who achieve the things that are important to them in life, gain personal satisfaction and harbour warm feelings of fulfilment as well as setting a good example.  It is for each of us to live according to our own truth. 

However, I would like to share one final quote that may never make its way into the ‘endless list of quotes on everything’ to be found on the Internet.  It is an often repeated quote from a lady who can always find a reason to procrastinate when there is housework to be done.  If you know me well, you have probably often heard me say: “When I lie on my death bed I will not be saying, I wish I had done more housework!”

Thank you Rev. John for asking us if we are “Walking the walk”; We say we are Christians, but how do we know? How do others know? God has given us the gift of our lives and we are called to respond.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbthcrhrrOU  You may like to click on the link and listen carefully to the words of Hymn 618 TiS.  “What does the Lord Require?” “Do justly; Love mercy; Walk humbly with your God.”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Worship Pentecost 17 - 27 September 2020

 Marsden Road Uniting Church 

Carlingford  

-------------------------------------------------

Walking the Walk

Sunday 27th September 2020

Pentecost 17 Sunday-year of Matthew 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People 

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

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

Call to Worship

(The Abingdon Worship Annual 2011) 

Come, now is the time to worship, to gather and to praise.

We gather to give glory to God!

Come, now is the time to worship, to sing and to pray.

We gather to give glory to God! 

Give ear to God's teaching. Listen to God's words.

We gather to hear stories of old.

Give voice to God's glory. Sing of God's deeds.

We gather to sing praises to God.

Prepare for God's work. Answer Christ's call.

We listen and learn, worship and praise, in order to serve in God's world. 

Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart

                        (Tune – Franconia)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpnU2auc3Rk

1.  Blest are the pure in heart,

For they shall see our God;

The secret of the Lord is theirs,

Their soul is Christ’s abode.

2.  The Lord, who left the heavens

Our life and peace to bring,

To dwell in lowliness with men,

Their Pattern and their King;

3.  Still to the lowly soul

He doth himself impart

And for his dwelling and his throne

Chooseth the pure in heart.

4.  Lord, we thy presence seek;

May ours this blessing be;

Give us a pure and lowly heart,

A temple meet for thee. 

(Words: John Keble [stanzas 1 & 3]; William Hall [stanzas 2 & 4]. Tune: “Franconia”, “Harmonischer Liederschatz”, 1738)

Opening prayer

     We gather in your presence, Christ of compassion, thirsting for your living water. Flow through this time of worship with your grace and wisdom. Nourish us with words of truth and challenge. Strengthen us to go forth in humility and love as your servants working in the world. Amen.

 

A Prayer of Confession 

God of ages past and days to come, when we grumble and groan, we are like children of the Exodus; when we doubt your authority and question your call, we are like priests and elders of old.

Forgive us. Make us new in your grace, and clothe us with your compassion. Open our eyes to your presence and our minds to your guidance, that we may have the very mind of Christ. In Christ's holy name, we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Give ear to Christ's promise: God's realm is open to all— tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners and slackers. When we open our hearts, and give our lives to Christ, God's forgiveness is truly ours. In the name of Christ, we are forgiven!

Thanks, be to God! Amen

The Peace

Make the joy of God's love and forgiveness complete: share with one another the love that Christ shares with us.

The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always.

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme: God is our provider.

Object: The children will play the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. 

How many of you have ever played the game Rock, Paper, Scissors? People all over the world play that game. Not just children either -- even adults play the game. Did you know that there is an international tournament each year and players from all over the world come together to compete in Rock, Paper, Scissors? Yes, Rock, Paper, Scissors is a very popular game.

As you probably know, each player holds one fist in front of him and hits it with his other fist three times. Then, on the fourth time, the player's top hand forms either a rock, paper, or scissors. (Demonstrate each as you say the words.) This is how you know who wins: a rock smashes scissors, paper covers a rock, and scissors cut paper.

Let's play! You can all play against me and you can keep track of how many times you win. Ready? One, two, three, go. Okay, I made a rock. If you made paper, you win. If you made scissors, I win. If you made a rock, we tied. (Play the Rock, Paper, Scissors for a few minutes.)

The great thing about Rock, Paper, Scissors is that any one of them can be a winner. I have a real rock, paper, and scissors this morning. If you are going to write a letter, a rock or scissors wouldn't be much help, but a piece of paper would, wouldn't it? If you wanted to cut a piece of paper, a rock or paper wouldn't help, but a pair of scissors would. If you were really thirsty and needed a drink of water, a piece of paper or a pair of scissors wouldn't be much help, but a rock might be exactly what you need.

What? Some of you are looking at me like you think I'm crazy! Don't you think a rock would help you if you needed a drink of water? Well, in our Bible story today, that is exactly what happened. Our Bible story today is called, "Water from a Rock."

Moses was the leader of the people of Israel. He was leading them from Egypt to a land that God would give to them. They were wandering through the desert and people were thirsty. They began to grumble and complain to Moses. "We are dying," they said, "our children are dying, our cattle are dying. Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die out here in the desert?"

Moses went to his tent and fell on his knees before God. "What should I do?" Moses prayed. "There is no water in the desert. The people are thirsty, and they are ready to kill me."

God answered Moses and said to him, "Take your shepherd's staff and walk ahead of the people. I will meet you by the rock at Mount Sinai. When you come to the rock, strike it with your staff and water will flow from the rock. The people will be having plenty of water to drink."

Moses did exactly what God told him to do and guess what happened? He got water from a rock!

So, what should you and I do when we face an impossible situation? We should ask God for his help, and then trust in him. Sometimes we may not understand the way God is leading, but we just have to trust him. After all, who would have thought you could get water from a rock?

Offering Prayer

Compassionate Christ transform these offerings with your Spirit, that they may accomplish your work in the world. To the thirsty and hungry, may these gifts bring water and food. To the oppressed and the forgotten, may these gifts bring justice and hope. To the sinful and the selfish, may these gifts bring grace and new beginnings. May we, likewise, be your humble servants, accomplishing your work in this world. Amen. 

Hymn 650: Brother, sister let me serve you

                 (Tune – Servant Song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMIMJFgp41U 

1.  Brother, sister let me serve you.

Let me be as Christ to you.

Pray that I might have the grace

To let you be my servant, too. 

2.  We are pilgrims on a journey.

And companions on the road.

We are here to help each other

Walk the mile and bear the load. 

3.  I will hold the Christ-light for you

In the nighttime of your fear.

I will hold my hand out to you;

Speak the peace you long to hear.

4.  I will weep when you are weeping.

When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.

I will share your joy and sorrow

Till we've seen this journey through. 

5.  When we sing to God in heaven,

We shall find such harmony

Born of all we've known together

Of Christ's love and agony. 

6.  Brother, sister let me serve you.

Let me be as Christ to you.

Pray that I might have the grace

To let you be my servant, too.

Tune – Servant Song  Words - Richard Gillard

                                                         The Service of the Word

The First Reading:                                            Exodus 17:1-7

The Gospel Reading:                                        Matthew 21:23-32

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Exodus 17:1-7

1 From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord ?’ 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord , ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ 5 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’  

Matthew 21:23-32

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. 

Preaching of the Word - Walking the Walk - Matthew 21:23-32 

Imagine you are watching television and a commercial comes on. The camera pans out over a tranquil beach scene where a family is enjoying the sun and the water. One parent is helping a smiling child build a sandcastle, while the other child runs in the surf, throwing a stick for a bounding, energetic golden retriever. The other parent is sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella with a picnic basket and a drink, waving to the rest of the family. Finally, at the end, the product is advertised.

But that’s not all, right? What was really advertised was not just a drink or an item of clothing or sunscreen or life insurance – the marketers were cleverer than that. They were advertising salvation – buy our product and it will save you from your harried, over-scheduled existence and lead you to this “perfect” life.

Sometimes, we are so harried, we are so tired, we are so over-scheduled, and perhaps are so short-sighted and feel so self-centred in our everyday existence that we buy into this false salvation. We grumble at our church leaders, “Is the Lord among us or not? We aren’t getting what we want. God’s not leading us to salvation as we imagined it, so maybe we need to look elsewhere.” 

Like the Israelites in Exodus, we are wandering through the wilderness of Sin – both a geographical place and a play on words that reminds us of our imperfection and unfaithfulness.

Yet, God remains faithful. God is still at work in our lives, no matter what we believe, no matter what we do as we move through the wilderness. We made promises to God or had promises made on our behalf during our Baptismal Covenant:

“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” These are the gist of those baptismal promises made and if done on our behalf as children, can be confirmed by us through our Confirmation. 

Always, the answer is, “I will, with God’s help.”

We cannot separate our belief in God from the action it demands. We cannot immerse ourselves in “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” without being stirred to embodying this knowledge and love of God through our actions in the world. Together, they create faith. We can do a whole lot of prayer or a whole lot of serving in a soup kitchen, but an imbalance of one or the other does not exemplify what Jesus is asking. God is faithful in word and deed, and that is the faith that we are called to.

Take this modern parable for example:

There once was a man who came to know Jesus and wanted to be baptised. The whole community supported him and he was baptised along with several others on a Sunday morning. Things seemed to be going smoothly with his newly minted faith. Prayer flowed easily from his lips and heart, he never went by the homeless person who was on the corner of the street where he worked without speaking to him and giving change when he could. He came to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, and went to adult formation classes.

After a while, things started to feel, well, like a suit that was becoming too small, too tight. What he once did with joy was now starting to feel like an obligation. He didn’t know what to do. When someone asked him to pray for them, he said, “Of course!” with enthusiasm and then forgot to. He began to avoid the homeless person by his work by going through another entrance. He attended church and church events less frequently. He considered his life outside of church as separate from his faith, and it was getting busy. He got a promotion at work, started dating someone seriously, and was getting involved in some philanthropic activities through his workplace. He still believed in God and felt love for God but didn’t know how to integrate these pieces into the rest of his life. It all seemed like it was too hard, too much. Eventually, his church community who witnessed his baptism and vowed to do all in their power to support him in his life in Christ never saw him again.

How many of us have told someone we would pray for him or her and then got distracted and didn’t? How many of us have thought or talked a lot about helping the marginalised in our neighbourhood, but haven’t? How many of us have been puzzled when people who were once zealous about their faith faded away, and we intended to contact them but never have?

We all have good intentions. But as Jesus teaches us in our gospel reading today, our intentions don’t really matter. It’s our actions that are grounded in and flow from our relationship with God that count – individually and as a community.

The man in the parable was not the only one who fell short of his promises – the community did, too. All these everyday actions are outward and visible signs of our inward and spiritual grace. These are all acts of love – love that God has for us and that we have for God. They are sacraments with a small “s.”

Jesus preached and taught and touched and healed people. Jesus was doing all this non-stop for a few years and then was crucified, died and was resurrected. But it doesn’t stop there. Over and over again, God’s actions prove God’s love for us. We were given an advocate, the Holy Spirit to come and assist us in continuing God’s work in the world. We get to become part of God’s action.

If we take an honest examination of how God has touched each of our lives, we can be surprised by joy. Think back on your life, the ways that the tapestry of threads have been woven to get you to where you are today. Those times where just the right thing happened, those unexpected moments that changed your life, and the spaces in between, all where God was caring for you. How do we respond to this? 

Jesus gives a telling example of response to God’s love in his parable today about the two sons being asked to work in the vineyard. The first son tells his father outright that he won’t do it, but then has a change of heart and goes and does it anyway. Whereas the second son tells his father he will and then never does. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it gets the point across. Jesus tells this to the chief priests and elders – who rejected John the Baptist and were rejecting Jesus – in order for them to be caught in their own web of deceit. Jesus asks them, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” and they know they are trapped because the answer, of course, is the first son. He ended up living his life faithfully; he didn’t just talk about it or say things to appease his father.

We often do similar things in our own lives. We say we are Christians, but how do we know? How do others know? God has given us the gift of our lives and we are called to respond. We are to be good stewards of our lives, spreading the love of God that we have received, to others.

We aren’t perfect, but we are definitely called to be different. As one American political comedian Stephen Colbert put it, “Either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition; and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”

If we choose not to walk the walk, then we are just as bad as the chief priests and elders Jesus encountered.

But there is hope for us! We can be like the first son and have a change of heart. We can choose to be obedient to God and live in a wide, loving margin of grace.

As we grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus and each other, may there by clarity and fire in God’s call to us, and may we receive the courage to do something about it.

 Hymn TIS 657: God of freedom, God of justice

                 (Tune - Tredegar)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL4TPYF90xQ

             God of freedom, God of justice,

you whose love is strong as death,

you who saw the dark of prison,

you who know the price of faith --

       touch our world of sad oppression

       with your Spirit's healing breath.

 

Rid the earth of torture's terror,

you whose hands were nailed to wood;

hear the cries of pain and protest,

you who shed the tears and blood --

       move in us the power of pity

       restless for the common good.

 

Make in us a captive conscience

quick to hear, to act, to plead;

make us truly sisters, brothers

of whatever race or creed --

       teach us to be fully human,

       open to each other's needs. 

Words: Shirley E Murray, Music: Guthrie Foote (Tredegar).
Words: © 1992 Shirley E Murray,

Intercessory Prayers   

Loving God as we bring our prayers before you before you, give to us honest hearts as we bring you our thanksgiving and confess our needs.

Lord God, the friend of sinners and those in need, your Son Jesus has untied our burdens and healed our spirits. So, we lift before you all those whose hearts are burdened and those who seek healing.

We pray for the nations of the world that justice, truth and mercy would govern the hearts of those who lead, that all people would be led in true peace. Turn the hearts of those who are filled with hate and bring the families of the nations under your just and gentle rule.

We pray for our church leaders, that they may have wisdom and courage to seek to direct your church in right pathways. May your church faithfully serve you and seek always to be faithful your calling to be a light in dark places, bringing about the ways of your kingdom on earth.

God of mercy and healing, you who hear the cries of those in need, receive the petitions of your people that all who are troubled may know peace, comfort, and courage. Lord Jesus you meet us in our suffering and supply our hearts with your strength when we call upon your name. Grant your protection to those in need comfort them and may they know your presence in their affliction. Set your angels charge over them and lead them in your way through the journey before them.

Surround them with your tenderness and support them in your everlasting arms. We pray especially for .......

Gracious God be with all of those who mourn and may they know the tender compassion of your love. May the hope which you supply sustain all those who are troubled by grief, that it may never overwhelm those who call upon you.

THE LORD'S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn TIS 618: What does the Lord require

                 (Tune – Sharpthorne)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbthcrhrrOU

What does the Lord require

for praise and offering?

What sacrifice, desire

or tribute did you bring?

Do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

Rulers of earth, give ear!

Should you not justice know?

Will God your pleading hear

while crime and cruelty grow?

Do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

Still down the ages ring

the prophet's stern commands:

to merchant, worker, king,

he brings God's high commands:

do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

How shall our life fulfill

God's law so hard and high?

Let Christ endue our will

with grace to fortify.

Then justly,

in mercy,

we'll humbly walk with God.

                           Author: Albert F. Bayly (1949)

Tune: Sharpthorne

Benediction    

       May we go forth with the mind of Christ and the love of God to serve in the vineyard of life! Tell of God's works! Think on God's deeds! Give glory and praise to God!

        And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen

 Hymn TIS 778: Shalom to you now

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-WxpmOpN4

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom

 Author: Elise S. Eslinger (1980)  Tune: Somos Del Señor




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