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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 June 2018

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

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

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

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

Why are you afraid?

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

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


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 10 June 2018

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



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

Hymn TIS 693: “Come as you are”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Grows?

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

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


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Let's Begin Here.

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

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

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 June 2018

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




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

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

Sabbath Rest?

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

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

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

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 May 2018

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

 


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


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

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

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others.

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

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





Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

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

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

Gifts for the Family.

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

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 May 2018

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




Call to Worship

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 May 2018

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


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



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



























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

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

All Things Common

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - May 11, 2018 - 10:27pm
As we reflect this Sunday on Mother’s Day and think about family, whatever our experience, it is interesting to look at what made those first Christian communities.  The paradoxical need in our overcrowded world is for community: we long to know that we belong and that we matter to those around us. The proliferation of gangs, political parties (those with specific negative agendas) and radical militant groups are just some examples of the possible negative results of that need. Common enemies, ritual practices, or a cause of some sort form a sense of power and meaning for destructive ends. Another emerging and rapidly growing community builder is blogging and tweets. Facebook, Twitter and Blog-sites, join people together from all over the world.

But whether it is the counterfeit brother- and sisterhood of gangs and militants or the virtual communities of the Internet, there is a sense in which these communities fall short of what people truly need. The picture of community we find in scripture in Acts 2 is dynamic and radical. The dynamism is best described when St Luke writes that they were a people of signs and wonders. As much as churches talk about how caring and friendly they are, the most important point of commonality is the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the power of the Holy Spirit that made the people of faith into a dynamic, multipliable force.
The authentic church is still being characterised by signs and wonders: changed hearts; healed bodies, minds, and relationships; witness and social action in the world. It is sad that signs and wonders is a description that people often only apply to charismatic denominational and nondenominational churches. At its heart, the church is not about what people do, but rather about what the Holy Spirit does through openhearted, open-minded people
Providing good parking, communicating in the vernacular style of the people, and having well-organised welcoming strategies is good, but they cannot substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Church. I wonder what it is in the other organisations that supplies the direction and knitting together of the group? The Acts 2 picture of community is deeply radical to many people and even too many Christians. Luke writes that they “had all things in common.” For a slave community with little or no property or assets, this kind of sharing makes sense. As the church grew, however, this model became rare.
 But the clear picture is that the church was bound, economically as well as spiritually. “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Most church goers today would be hard-pressed to name their areas of need, economically or otherwise. In fact, we work hard at presenting the image that, because God has blessed us, we are not needy. We love to help the needy, but we don’t want to be like them. We secretly believe that needy people are deficient and inferior to us, put there by God to make us feel grateful and guilty for being more blessed.
Could it be that one of the reasons that our sense of community is often artificial because there is very little holding us together? Down deep in our fallen selves, we really do want to believe that we don’t need each other. The Acts 2 picture also includes the investment of time that community requires. People don’t “go to church”—they are the church. Early Christians were community at work, home, worship, fellowship, and witness. Parents and family’s day by day, as they spent much time together in worship, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.”
How different this is from the characterisation of the twenty-first-century communities we live in or the Church we may belong to. Our situation might be described this way: “And since they were very busy people, they spent as little time with each other as they could get away with, eating on the run and never feeling satisfied, competing and scrapping over worship, and having the mistrust and criticism of the majority of the people.” The opportunity to be a dynamic and radical community of faith has been given to many.
So, how do we respond to a family experiencing a death where a wife and children are left behind. Have we as a community learnt the what it is to be the body of Christ. Have we surrounded youth in our community as they face difficulties with love and care? Common grief can become a source of common commitment and purpose. Through tragedies, we can learn better than ever who, and whose, we are: the people of God, dynamically and radically bound in spirit, in goods, and in shared time. And with it there have been and there will be more signs and wonders.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Living Up to Your Appointed Position

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - May 4, 2018 - 10:52pm

With every senate, parliament, student body, or school board election, there are appointments to positions of authority. As seems true for every elected official who has the authority to appoint, the special positions go to those who were most supportive during the election. History has shown that sometimes the process is successful, but it is more likely that the people in new positions are mediocre at best. Success is dependent on how closely the appointee matches the requirements of the job and has little to do with one’s performance during campaigning.
One only has to look at Trumps appointments to positions, let alone the way our parliaments appoint those to lead Ministries. Do we appoint people to lead health who have a background in health and know something of what is needed? Or does this have problems?  I remember reading about someone who was appointed to agriculture in the USA who had a background in farming and appeared to be a natural fit for the appointed position. His credibility was severely affected when he discussed the invasion of fire ants into the United States.
On national television, he sincerely talked about the problem and was apparently doing an adequate job of sharing information. If any of you have ever been the recipient of a swarm of fire ants, you know that you will do everything in your power to avoid the pain associated with their anger. The secretary had what appeared to be a glass aquarium sitting on a table before him as he spoke. During the presentation, he removed the top and continued to discuss the severity of the sting from the tiny creatures. He casually dipped his hands into the mound of loose dirt inside the aquarium. What he found was not the sweet nibbles of tiny fish, but the anguishing fire of hundreds of tiny ant’s intent on protecting their place in the world.
As programmed by nature, the ants did just as they are expected to do. There was chaos on the stage as the Secretary and his aides quickly began brushing the tiny insects from the target of their wrath. Even when a person is perfectly appointed to a position, there is a risk of failing or exposing ourselves to pain from our actions to fulfil the obligation. In John 15:16-17, Jesus makes a crucial appointment. He appoints his disciples—people who love and follow him—and, more important, you and me, to the highest appointed position in Christendom. Jesus said, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that God as parent will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
Jesus said these words just after he had assured his listeners that they are his friends. He rejects the word servant because the servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead, he calls them friends because he had already shared with them everything that he had learned from God. Jesus’ admonition that he had chosen them and considered them friends was a natural lead into their appointment to live a life of good works. I find it interesting that Jesus appoints followers to love others and to do good works toward others.
It seems to me that Jesus was encouraging the appointed to find joy in themselves and to love their own mind, body, and soul so that they might love others. Most of us can find much pride in our accomplishments and in our gifts to the church and community. The nature of human beings is often to tell God why we cannot fulfil the requirements of our appointment. People who continually say they cannot meet the expectations of the job will surely fail.
We are called to accept any appointment with a can-do attitude followed by gratitude and when we accept our appointment with the attitude of gratitude and maintain complete faith in God, we will be successful in our appointed role. I believe that Jesus expects us to be sensible in our approach to the appointment—to first love ourselves so that we can love others, never putting ourselves or those we serve in harm’s way. We must know the signs that we have caused pain and suffering to others and to ourselves. We are expected to avoid dipping our hands into the fiery stings of failing to serve. Now, if only all our leaders, particularly our politicians could follow such a call.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 April 2018

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

 
Because I was working in another area of the church I was unable to attend the service at Marsden Road UC, so I read a number of reflective pieces from different sources.
One was written by Fr. Michael Whelan who shared his thoughts on John 15:1-8.
Jesus the True Vine
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples.
 
Michaelspoke of this being a story of love. I have never seen that as its primary message but if you are like me look again.
 
We are told how a God in his love has done such good things in us and for us. God is reaching out to love us and to create people who are part of the True Vine and who will bear fruit as a result of that.
Our new life will be a sign of that fruit to come and as new beings we will show God’s love to the world.
Imagine what a difference it would make to our behaviour if we kept at the front of our mind that the Everlasting God seeks to love us with unending love.
The passage says that those that don't bear fruit will wither and die. I have always seen that as a punishment. But what would happen to our physical bodies if we ceased to take in nourishment? Cut off the source of life and death is the natural consequence.
And why would we do that when our Creator is reaching out with a free invitation to abundant life? Jesus said “I am the vine.” But there were many other “I am” statements. The Word is our all. Grasp the invitation to be loved and given new life.
 
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings,
How you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in Love, and it will decide everything.”
 
(“The Treasure of our Heart”, Pedro Arrupe SJ (d 1991).
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 April 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - April 28, 2018 - 2:13am

Gathering God’s People

We all have doubts about many theories and events presented as facts and we would be remiss not to have such doubts. We must not accept anything passed onto us by another person just because they say so. Given that the Bible is written about people who are no longer with us and events that are well and truly in the past, what can we believe?
Well, to start with, some of what is written in the Bible is there for the message it carries and the possible factual or historic content isn't the chief concern of the reader. The biblical writers had a variety of styles of writing and not all of them were a recount of historical events. So, in the case of Thomas, was he right in doubting? Were his doubts justified? How did he resolve the conflict between what he thought was possible and the events in which he found himself ? Is that event represented correctly?
The Rev. John led us through the problem faced by John; one faced by many of us today.
“This is the day to walk in the light.
This is the day to share signs of peace.
This is the day to believe where we have not seen.
This is the day to embrace what we cannot touch. Come! Let us worship the Lord of life.”
 
Hymn TIS 382: “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain”. The focus of this hymn, for me, is that love cannot be defeated. Love will rise above.

Opening Prayer
“God of manifold blessing, come to us this day. Come and bless us. Come and lead us into the light. For we come to you to find peace. We come to rediscover joy. We come to believe where we have not seen. We come to touch the glory of everlasting life, through the power of your Son. We come to truly live. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession
 “Heart of all hearts, Joy of all joys, teach us how to live as one.
You offer us your abundant grace, and yet we still long to find rest and peace.
You have shown us the light of our salvation, yet we often lurk in the shadows.
You promise us the glory of everlasting life, yet we settle for the tarnished glow of selfish pursuits.
Forgive us.
Help us believe where we have not seen; help us walk bravely in the midst of our fear, that we may truly know your peace each and every day. Amen.



Declaration of Forgiveness
 In Christ, God has forgiven not only our sins,
 but the sins of the whole world. Rejoice in the light and peace of the Holy One. Rejoice in the blessings of our God.
Thanks, be to God!

Hymn TIS 649: “These things did Thomas
 count as real” I think Thomas is being sold
short in this hymn. After all that time with
Jesus I think that he was well aware of the
very real things that we cannot see or touch.
 But this story would have been more than very difficult for anyone to accept.


 The Service of the Word
Moving from Doubt (A summary)
“After illustrating his point, Rev. John said:
 Isn’t it natural for humans to want to give the right answer?…Most often, we don’t want to doubt or challenge leaders or stand in the way of accepted norms. So, when we have our doubts, we tend to keep them to ourselves. That is the safe way.
Today’s Gospel reveals to us St. Thomas—who was the one who had not seen the risen Jesus when he first appeared to the disciples. The others told him they had seen the Lord, but he was skeptical. He doubted. Still, Thomas must have wanted to fit in. He might have said, “Look, friends, I know the answer is supposed to be that. I acknowledge that you saw Jesus, but it sure sounds like a ghost. But the story of Thomas’ honesty and forthrightness gives us hope and empowers us in our moments of doubt. We don’t have to accept mindlessly whatever seems the expected or accepted answer or view.
 Across the Uniting Church, let alone the Church, there are sharp divisions over decisions made at recent Assemblies, Synods and other meetings. Few congregations or Presbyteries are free from controversy, leaving many in doubt about where God stands in all this. Since doubt and fear are bound to come upon us, we do well by facing the truth of these feelings, like Thomas of old. Let us remember that he was in a good and safe place to question and then to see and learn.
 We are here because this is a place where we can encounter the risen Christ, patiently and lovingly leading us into all truth, just as he led St. Thomas. If we are willing to work through our fear and our doubts, we will find the other side of today’s Gospel that teaches us also about faith. If we are honest in our relationships with one another, we can experience mutual support in learning to believe what we cannot easily see…”

 Hymn AOV 63: “We walk by faith” We may not touch his hands and side, nor follow where he trod, yet in his promise we rejoice, and cry “My Lord and God!”
It's a problem that faces each person of each new generation. Only the Spirit’s work in our lives allows us to step away from worrying over the facts to being sure of the outcome. 
Intercessory Prayers
Rev. John led us, lifting up all those in need. We prayed for those close to us; for those known to us through the media; for those who face the same spiritual problems we all face; for those in physical needs of any type and for comfort for them. We then drew together all our prayers in the THE LORD'S PRAYER
 
Hymn TIS 376: "I know that my Redeemer lives" Those of us who have humbled ourselves before a God know this full well, regardless of any historical details.

Benediction
 Walk in the light of God.
We will live in the light of God and we will bask in the light of God.
May the Light of all lights transform your doubts into faith, and your sorrows into joy.
       We go with the peace of God.
Go with the blessings of almighty God.
 
HymnTIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,” Could we wish anything better for each other? Could we wish a greater treasure as a gift to each other?
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 April 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - April 28, 2018 - 2:12am

Being a Good Cat-herd.
 
 

Have you ever been out on a walk through your neighbourhood and heard the plaintive miaowing of a kitten? What would you do? My thoughts in such a situation would be to look all around for where the cry was coming from. I’ll tell you a story of one experience I heard about. Well the first thing is that you probably won’t find the source of the cries until you looked up—way up—into the pine tree in your neighbour’s yard. But, there you see a new kitten, crying for all it was worth. As kittens frequently do, it had gone exploring and was now afraid or unsure of how to come down. You stand under the tree, calling “Here, kitty, kitty,” trying your best to persuade the kitten to come back down.
 
I wonder if you would go home and borrow some treats from your own cats – if you have them - to lure the kitten down the tree. However, nothing works! If it was me I might give up at this point. So, your neighbour comes home and hopefully as she comes over to say hello, she will hear the kitten’s cries. Hopefully, quickly, she would begin calling the cat by name. It would be quieted once it heard her voice, and would even take a few steps down the branch, but then like cats do, maybe it would lay down and refuse to come any further.
 

 
To continue, after several attempts, the neighbour, not an especially young woman, pulls a garden bench over to the tree and begins climbing. One could suggest that we call someone else to help, but this is refused by the neighbour who wanted to get her kitten down right away because it might fall. By this stage I think I would be standing underneath holding my breath as the neighbour began to climb up, branch by branch. I wouldn’t feel confident to climb. Finally, she would get to be level with the kitten. I imagine she would tuck it lovingly into her jacket and slowly back down the tree, saying soothing words all the while.
 
This type of story helps me think about this week’s reading from John 10. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” That cat was not at all tempted by pleas to come down to safety; it had no idea who this person that found it was. The neighbour used the same words and tone of voice in her calls to the kitten, but the results were different. Why? She knew the cat by name, and it knew her voice. Just knowing that she was close seemed to calm the kitten, even though it still could not bring itself to climb down to safety.
 
I would have been very reluctant to risk a broken limb by climbing the tree, but the neighbour did not think twice. She was much more concerned about the risk to her kitten than the risk to herself. On that day, and I am sure many others, she was a good “cat-herd.” The image of the good shepherd is one that is used for God many times throughout Scripture. It evokes feelings of tender care in us even today, despite our unfamiliarity with sheep and shepherds.

 
Those who heard Jesus speak these words would have had a far deeper understanding of sheep and those who cared for them. Owners often kept sheep for years and years as providers of wool rather than as meat. Shepherds stayed with their flock by day and by night, protecting them from both human and animal predators, as well as from their own silly tendencies to wander away. Because the shepherd spent almost all his time with his sheep, he learned their individual qualities. He knew who was prone to wander, who hogged the grassiest parts of the pasture, and who was most often cut out of the flock.
 
The sheep also knew him. If another person called out to them, they would not answer. If the shepherd called, however, the flock would move toward him. As he walked ahead, calling their names, they would follow. Some of the sheep may have been more endearing than others; certainly, some followed more closely. But good shepherds showed the same care for the more recalcitrant members of their flock as for all the others. How blessed we are that we, too, have a good shepherd in Jesus Christ! He promises to care for us, and he showed the extent of that love on the cross, where he gave his life willingly for us. Like sheep, there is nothing that we do to earn such great love; it is given to us freely, often in spite of ourselves.
 

 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Time and Stewardship

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - April 27, 2018 - 1:12pm

Christians believe all time is a gift from God.  So often, we talk and function as if time belongs to us and yet we are called to be wise and just stewards of time. These days, one can do so many seminars, courses and read so much on time management. We often can hear people talking and making comments such as “He/she is good at wasting her/his time; they are hopeless, never on time and they waste so much time!” I heard of someone in a family referring to their brother as “Uncle Not Today”; because every time they suggested they do something his reply, often, was “not today!”
I remember someone saying something along these lines, “The more labour saving devices we have the busier we become, and time just seems to fly.” We live in an “instant” age. These days, many people expect things to happen right now. We seem to be at the beck and call of mobiles phones, tablets; we can have instant photographs when we want them. With DVD, the Internet, Netflix, live streaming, Foxtel or Austar we can have movies on demand. There are also instant meals which may or may not be okay for our nutrition. This raises the question of whether we are becoming a society of impatient people who are missing the joy of allowing things to take place over time.
However, there are some things that just take time. If we think about pregnancy, it is a time of waiting for about nine months. Children generally meet the “milestones” of life over a period of time. Maybe we need to hear the words of Ecclesiastes several times to remind us about time – a time for this and a time for that. In scripture the word time is used 900 times. In John 7, we read that Jesus said the right time had not come. Jesus understood the importance of time in regard to his earthly life.

So, for Christians the call is that we need to be a wise steward of time. Prayer takes time.  People say that God does not speak to them, but when reflecting on that, the question arises as to whether it is because we are giving God the time to speak to us. It is important that we allow ourselves time to listen to God. Discerning the will of God is not always easy, but our experience as Christians tells us that if we wait on God over time then God will lead.
Time is important as we only have it once. If we don’t use time when we have it, we won’t have it again. So, while timing is important, making the most of the opportunities we have is just as important. Time is opportunity and a gift to be used to the full at the instant. Time, we need time to pray. Time, we need time to read and study the scriptures. Time is not only a gift but a blessing such as the right use of the Sabbath. Time is God’s gift and we are called to be wise stewards of the gift of time.

How do we react to people who believe waste time? Have we ever pondered why we react in particular ways? Do we actually see time as a gift and a blessing? A blessing from God so that we use our time to effectively? For those of us who are Christian we need to recapture that meaning of the Sabbath and understand our own response.  
The book of Ecclesiastes makes it clear that there are special times for certain events in life. This can be expressed as making the most of each opportunity that comes our way and it is important for us to take those opportunities and celebrate life. For Christians our Gospels tell us that Jesus said that his time had not come. Timing is important and there are benefits of waiting on God. It is important for us as Christians to reflect on those benefits of waiting on God and the challenges that will bring for us.

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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 April 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - April 21, 2018 - 4:25am



Spirituality and us. (Abridged)
There has been a request from a number of directions that as a congregation we should look into the topic of spirituality. So, I volunteered to conduct a service today around the concept. Firstly, may I remind you that hundreds of thousands of words have been written on this subject so that when I finish today most of them still remain to be explored.
However, I think this congregation knows more about spirituality than they realize. I think what I'm doing today, is revealing to you what you know already but didn't know it was called spirituality.
Some of us may think that spirituality is confined to what I would call “pious” people. And there’s a good reason for that. Initially, it was the pious, the people who withdrew from the world and spent their time in contemplation and prayer who were regarded as spiritual.
However, it is intended that all Christians live a spiritual life ….
That's what being Christian is.
What I want to speak about is the meaning of Christian spirituality as revealed in our readings this morning and during the sung prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving (Magnificat). In the latter we can hear the woman’s heart bursting with joy at the work of God in her life. The people of those readings didn't bother about terminology, they were concerned with one thing: their relationship with God and his work in their lives
 Psalm 66:
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
    sing the glory of his name;
    give to him glorious praise.


This person is so sure that God is to be relied upon, and so is stretching out to God, exuberant in gratitude, knowing that God is the only source of the goodness they have experienced.
And then the reading from Galatians 5 under  the heading “Life by the Spirit”
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
This reading reveals another perspective on living a spiritual life - service. Service can take many forms and every time we make someone feel a little better about themselves and their situation, we are serving them.
And then for complete clarity, the Sermon on the Mount: (refer Matthew 5 - Blessed are the ….)
In this reading the presence of God in a person’s life isn't indicated in the way that the Psalmist thought. The Psalmist thought success and victory spoke of God and it’s true that all good things do come from God but goodness can take many forms and the Beatitudes spell that out. The words of this sermon point to a deeper view of spirituality. A view of our needing to throw away the values of the material world and seek an inner richness. But as average Australians living average Australian lives, how often do we recognize that we are serving others? Where or to whom do we look for relief from the things that distress usand cause us suffering? Do we feel blessed by God? Life can be difficult, so where does the strength come from to get us through it? Where do those time of great joy come from? And how good are we at acknowledging God’s work. “Look at that lovely rose!” “Yeah, good.”
Think about the last few weeks. Think about any time when you have felt as ease; relaxed, maybe rested. When did you notice a smile coming to your lips or when have you had a good laugh?  Perhaps you have learnt something newand had the thought “Hey, isn't that something!”
Another possibility is that someone acknowledged you in some way or showed you respect.  Or you may have had a chance to enjoy yourself.  And then what about what you have been able to do for someone else? How have you been able to make someone else feel that life is actually ok.
I'm not talking about monumental experiences although you may have been fortunate to have had one of those. One of the readings I consulted makes this point: there is no immediate seeing of God’s actuality.” And then goes onto say that we establish bonds with the divine as it happens in the world. Our spiritual life happens in the world.


And while all of  those experiences are spiritual, there is a need of something more: our acknowledgement of God’s hand in all that is good in our lives and our thanks for it.
Somehow the experience isn't complete until we praise God for his gift.
I know there is one more thing. For those people in each of the readings today it was a way of life.
So we don't leave our spirituality at home when we go to the shops and need to queue; we don't forget to grasp it when the computer won't co-operate; we remember we are creatures of the spirit when we are disagreeing with other people; we keep our spiritual life at the fore in traffic. Another reading I consulted reminds us that “Faith is a fresh act as new obedience.” It's day by day stuff. I know it's hard when the garbage truck wakes us up at 4am in the morning but it's our task that we remember that we are people of God’s spirit always.
Always. Amen
 
 
Acknowledgements:
The Brill Dictionary of Religion 2006 “Spirituality” Brill.
A New Dictionary of Religion ed. John R. Hinnells 1995 Blackwell. “Spirituality”
Theological Hermeneutics Alexander S. Jensen. 2007 SCM pp124,125
Sacred Attunement - A Jewish Theology M. Fishbane Uni of a Chicago Press. pp54,55
 
 
 
 
 
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