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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 August 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - August 19, 2019 - 10:18am


“Gracious Lord, you have promised to always be with us wherever we live and work, in times of drought and flooding rains, in times when we are gathered with those we love and in times when we are isolated and alone. Hear the praises we bring you as we gather to celebrate your presence within the congregations, we are part of, at home and in the places where our Bush Chaplains and volunteers engage with the people of remote Australia.”
 From the rising of the sun . . .
God speaks, calling out to the earth.
At the beginning of each new day . . .
God speaks, calling us to life and service.
Even with the setting sun . . .
God speaks, reminding us that we are not alone.
As we gather for worship this day
God speaks, inviting us to love freely and to become true treasure on earth.

Despite God’s faithfulness and absolute constancy we look to idols. We may not realize that we have, but instead of worshipping God, we worship the church music, or the minister, or some Godly person, or even the Bible itself. None of these are God, even though they may bring us God’s message or even God’s love. Look to God, the only One.
Opening Prayer
May the Creator Spirit continue to hover over this land of many contrasts, cultures and peoples.
May Christ walk alongside us as we move in His presence. May the cool wind of the Spirit refresh, replenish and restore our souls.
And may the land speak to us in such a way that

we may see, feel and hear God the Creator, God the Spirit and God the Son in the cool evening murmur of the breeze.
Praise be to God.
 And may we seek God and only God, not representations that bring God to us.
The Peace
 Let us share the treasure of love and mercy with one another as we offer the peace of Christ. Peace be with you! And also, with you!
 Announcements
 Launch Quiet Church for this Friday. These are opportunities, among other things, to sit quietly and seek God, and God alone without any distractions.
Offering Prayer
As we offer these earthly treasures back to you, transform these gifts into love and mercy by the power of your Holy Spirit and the gift of your miraculous love. Turn these earthly treasures of human currency into heavenly treasures of love and justice to bring your realm here on earth. Amen
And may these offerings motivate people to seek your outstretched hand and accept your invitation for an eternal friendship.
 The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
The Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 32-40
These readings brought to us by Grahame, tell us of people who had a relationship with God. May we not look to them but to the Author, not matter how much that may scare us. Remember, God is ... Love.
 Preaching of the WordDo Not be Afraid (the words in quotes are Rev. John’s the others are mine.)
" ‘Don't be afraid. I will give you the Kingdom. Use your stuff so that you have permanent benefit from it. You will be happy if you are ready for my return.’ Or, to paraphrase it in the simplest way, don't be afraid, enjoy your stuff forever and be happy.
 This sounds wonderful. Our problem is that none of us can do this. Most of our lives are spent in a never-ending journey, searching for something that we hope will give meaning to our lives. Most of us are like the characters in the Wizard of Oz. We look like lions; except we are afraid. We are bright and shiny on the outside, but don't have any of the internal characteristics that help to bring fulfilment. We are tin woodsmen. Or, we are most agile but really don't have wisdom, like the Scarecrow. And some of us, much like Dorothy, are just lost and trying to find a way home.”
Most of the people who are reading this have professed some level of following Jesus for some time, if not all our lives. I think now is the time to step up and look God in the eyes, face to face. It is that that scares us silly, not sacrificing anything of this earthly life, but having a mature relationship with our Maker.
 " ‘Don't be afraid.’" A bold person shared a reflection about the cross. The person said ‘I came to understand that the cross is a test for us. We had God right here with us, in the person of Jesus. God was here to lead and love us out of this mess we are in. And what did we do? We killed him.’
 I wonder if why I struggle not to be one of those yelling out is that there is something in me that can't stand absolute love and goodness, even though I crave it. Yet, God’s answer to my failure is love, forgiveness and presence in my life forever. When I reflect on my failure in the cross, and God's answer, then I can know that I need never be afraid of any failure ever again. I have already failed completely, and God loves me and is present with me, it would be silly and a waste of time to be afraid.”
Think about these words: we are afraid, but God has shown us nothing but love. God has been nothing but amazingly patient with everyone of us. It’s time to look at that squarely and act upon it, stretching out to take the hand of God who has done nothing but love and love us for all our lives.
 “As we grow in love, we grow less and less fearful. As we grow in love, we discover
ourselves focused more and more on eternal relationships. Perhaps, it is scary to think about living this way, but remember the first thing the angels say, "don't be afraid."”
  Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes. Amen to that!
 
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Drive Them Crazy with Love.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 16, 2019 - 8:11am

This week I have decided to wander off from following the lectionary and would like to reflect on the passage of scripture - Matthew 20:1-16a. This scriptural lesson is hard for those of us who are concerned about fairness. It seems to tell us that God is not fair. The story is simple: Jesus describes a hiring process. Some workers are hired early, some at mid-day, some in the afternoon, and some just before quitting time. At the end of the day, they were all paid the same wage. Those who had worked all day felt that they should be paid more than those who had worked only part of the day. But the employer said, "You all agreed to the wage before it was paid;" and more significantly, "it's my money and if I want to pay everyone the same thing, I can."

From this do we learn that God is not fair? Is it not rather than being fair, God is lavish. One priest, in commenting on this text, said, "I am so glad that God is not fair. If God were fair and gave me what I truly deserve, I would be tortured slowly before being consigned to hell for ever." But fairness is the highest ethical stance of many in our culture. Some would even choose fairness over lavish love. Children see fairness as the standard. They are especially keen on fairness if they believe that they have been treated unfairly. All who are parents are familiar with the cry of outrage, "That's not fair!" This may be accompanied by that other great ethical benchmark of children, "But all the other kids get to..." All good parents have a set of responses to these statements that they heard from their parents.
Children seldom raise the issue of fairness when they are being favoured. In fact, almost no one raises the issue of fairness when they are favoured or privileged. There have been some first class church fights grounded in unfairness. We have the recent and current debates over acceptance and inclusiveness, free speech and vilification of groups in our community despite the call and example of Jesus to live compassionately and lovingly as our God does.
Even sometimes it comes within the Church and it is a group of spiritually aware folk trying to guide the life of a congregation in a more "holy" way. And they are not treated fairly in the decision making. Sometimes it is a group of long time church members who have laboured long for the sake of the congregation and they are excluded from decisions about congregational life by a newer group of members. Sometimes there is even conflict between the clergy and laity. Frequently all of these problems are identified as "fairness" problems. And they are. There is a lot of unfairness in churches, in our community and in our society. There is a lot of unfairness in life. Anyone who wants to fill their heart and life with resentment will have ample opportunity to do so.
Jesus invites us to move beyond fairness and into boundless love. The kind of love Jesus calls us to, is grounded in, and is in his own sacrificial love. This love was won on the cross. Suffering preceded Jesus' death. Jesus' death was unjust. We might see it as a cosmically unfair event. But that awful death became the door to Resurrection for Jesus. In Jesus' Resurrection we see the meaning of suffering, the meaning of injustice, and the meaning of death transformed by God's power into our experience and knowledge of God's limitless love. Even in the process of death, Jesus was transforming meaning. He said to the thief on the cross, who admitted that his death sentence was fair, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."
Jesus said to God about those who were killing him, "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing." Both of Jesus' statements were cosmically unfair. Both of Jesus' statements are signs of God's lavish love for us. Jesus' Ascension may have been the most extreme example of God's lavish love. In the Ascension Jesus left a particular time, place, and group of people to be present for all time and in all places and with all people. This act insures that we, even 2,000 years later, thousands of kilometres away, and without any personal knowledge of Jesus' disciples can know that lavish love in the deepest and most personal ways.
So, when you think you are being treated unfairly, rejoice because it reminds you that God loves you lavishly. Also it’s interesting to check out whether what we perceive as unfairness is actually that and not our own greed etc. Once you think you are being treated unfairly do something to make those who you think are treating you unfairly feel really crazy -- forgive them and share with them the love you have received. Not easy I know but that is what we are called to.


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Summoning Love toward Life.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 9, 2019 - 6:09am

I’ve had in my life a few friends and people I have been pastorally responsible for who, when they were dying, immersed themselves in deep gratitude. Gratitude—not that they were dying of course—but grateful that dying awakened them to life. They lived at the last knowing the preciousness of every moment. They also lived with the hope of knowing they would be with their God which bought them great comfort. Friendships developed with those I was to be with during this period at the end of their lives for which I have been greatly appreciative. They also began to appreciate their relationships and friendships.
Then there is the shedding of bad relationships and habits that I observed in these friends. Not so much ambitiously “making the most” of the remaining time, but summoning love toward life through each moment they had left. Not so much checking things off an extravagant bucket list, as admiring the symmetry of the bucket itself. Even in diminishment, enlarging the capacity to love. I don’t mean to glamourise dying. More often, that kind of heightened consciousness is impossible through trauma and pain. I’m inspired nevertheless by these friends and fellow Christians during the end of their life journey.
I’m reminded of Saint Benedict’s admonition to “keep death always before you” for the very practice of daily waking and reawakening to life against death. Anchorites took a scoop out of their graves every day for the same reason, or stitched their shrouds so that they might remember the “one thing necessary”—that they might love the gift of life. Being rich toward God seems to me to be more about consciousness than about bustling around the church managing God’s business.
Noticing the scent of lavender and earth and early morning and still being grateful for it at the end of the day. Noticing the other: taking risks in love for Love disguised as the unlovable. Should I ever be too sick to love, I hope I can remember these comforting words from Teresa of Avila. “Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”
You know, when it comes to how we as humans face the end of our life on this planet fear seems to be the key emotion. That fear drives us to all sorts of odd behaviour and increase our pain towards the end. It is, however, also possible for fear to drive us to rather bizarre extremes in all sorts of areas of our life. For instance, if the fear of heights makes us stay in one place, or to never leave the house because we might encounter a tall building. Or if we can't go camping because someone might start a campfire to cook; this is a bit extreme, and it now is driving us to live life in an untenable way. 
And if our fear of scarcity rules us, makes us believe we can't do things; we are now driven by a reality that is only a perception.  You see, this could well lead us to agree with those that say, they are tired of churches saying what they cannot do.  If you look deep enough, what we are fearful of admitting is that we are only limited by our choices.  In other words, it is not that we can't, it is that we choose not to.  And so, an almost non-existent threat now rules our lives.
This is how fear rules us.  When Jesus says, "do not be afraid," it is likely that he was plenty smart enough to know we would be.  He also was plenty smart enough to know that to rule something out of your life; you must know you have it in your life in the first place.  We are convicted by the reality of our fear of scarcity every time we hear those words: "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."   We are so afraid of this that we don't even want to look at it, or we reinterpret it in some really creative and self-serving ways, ways that make common sense, because, we are about common sense. 
We are common sense people. Abundance does not seem plausible, so we are afraid.  We've been trained that way. But, what are we afraid of?  If we would really delve into that question, really look at it, more often as individuals and especially as a people, we would serve ourselves well. Because, sometimes our fears actually teach us something, make the scales fall from our eyes as we see the things we idolise; our health, our wealth, our status, and by so doing helps us to find life and experience life as never before, and in a richer way than ever before. 

That is the trust, the faith that is described in Hebrews and in Luke today.  It really gets at what we fear about Scripture, about this man named Jesus. Because one fear we have, a real one, is that the Gospel is usually bad news before it is good news.  We have to travel through both realities. The things we fear can teach us. But, as in all things, we can't live life in its fullness or get well, until we know and admit our affliction.


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Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 28 July 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - August 2, 2019 - 8:58am


Gathering God’s People
 Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land,
where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)
Rev. John referenced the shooting of new life in a forest to try to explain the visions of God’s Grace as it suddenly comes to us:
the warm embrace of God’s limitless love—a love that is all-forgiving, all-encompassing, all-embracing.
and then to us who rail against the world’s injustices:
Come in, angry people!
This is a safe place to vent your fury.
Come in, hurting ones!
Here you will find compassion and grace to heal your wounds.
Come in, all who are in need of love and peace.
Here, we gather as children of the living God.
Hymn TIS 555:  Put all your trust in God
 Opening Prayer
 We pray to God for what we want and we are given what we need. We are still clueless despite years of looking for the way.
Prayer of Confession
Dear God, you have every right to be angry with us. We have such good intentions, but we continue to mess up. Forgive us, God.
We joyfully sing of your love on Sunday morning, but by Monday, we’re feeling lost and unlovable.
Forgive us, God.
We preach tolerance and compassion, but we find ourselves raging at the guy who cuts us off in traffic. Forgive us, God.
(Silence)
Declaration of Forgiveness
Then you forgive our sins, and once more show us how to forgive others. You offer us a vision of truth and love meeting together, and you invite us into their warm embrace.
Thank you, God.
As your forgiven people, beloved children of your promise, you renew us in holy love.
Thank you, God. Amen.
The Peace
 Peace is a gift beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving! Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
 
Offering
Loving God, you nourish our famished souls by listening to our humble prayers.  We come asking, seeking, and knocking with the full knowledge that you are ready to respond to our supplications.  You deliver us from evil by nourishing our hearts with forgiveness and our minds with understanding.  You prepare a heavenly table for all who believe in the mighty acts of your Holy Son.  Bless these gifts so that your children will feast at the banquet which awaits in your eternal home.  Amen
 Hymn TIS 162: Thank you for giving me the morning
 The Service of the Word
The blog so far has been more a summary than a reflection and that is because I would like to reflect on the Bible Readings myself.

Colossians 2:6-15
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 
The reading continued from here but space does not allow reflection on all of it.
The first thought  which occurred to me was that we need to continue to live our lives in God. Day by day we need to look at our lives and recommit each part of it to Christ. It is so easy to sink back into little actions of selfishness. Initially it could be because we are tired or ill that we act in what we think are our own interests but we don’t need to stay there. We need to turn around and reach out to the one who shows us the true way. That is the way that builds us, not only into the people God wants us to be, but into the people we can be so happy with ourselves.
Then the second thought that occurred to me was to do with not being taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit. When we read the bible it is so easy to take an interpretation handed to us by someone else. We need to ask who the words were written for; we need to ask why those words were written and when those words were written. The answers to all those questions will have bearing on how the words can be interpreted. We need to work hard at finding the answers to all those questions to find out the real message of God and not what someone else wants to push upon you.
I had intended to reflect on both readings but I’ve run out of space
Hymn TIS 550: Our Father, God in heaven
Intercessory Prayers were followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn TIS 414: There’s a spirit in the air
Benediction
Go in peace, knowing that you are forgiven people. Go in faith, knowing that God hears your prayers and understands your needs. Go in love, knowing that God
invites you into the holy embrace of truth and righteousness. Go now as children of the living God to serve others in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes
 
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Living Without Trainer Wheels.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 2, 2019 - 6:52am

Do you remember how your legs felt when your legs grew too long to ride your tricycle? Did your parents buy you a bicycle, or as our fellow primary school classmates might have called it—a “two-wheeler.” Only, for many it was really a “four-wheeler” because there were two little wheels attached at the rear tire. Did you ride your two-wheeler up and down the sidewalk in front of your family’s home until you were accustomed to riding upright? And then one day, your parent would have removed the training wheels so that you could ride without them.
Did you fall a few times before your parent jogged alongside you, holding the seat to keep you balanced? After a few laps, riding the two-wheeler it does become a little easier. Often when you made the U-turn at the end of the imaginary finish line, you’d be shocked to see your parent at the other end, watching you with arms folded and a proud grin on their face. When I was going through this I was so focused on avoiding another fall, I had no idea how long I had been pedalling without my parent. But I did it!

I remember feeling I was now one of the big kids. I could ride a bike all by myself, without training wheels or my parent’s or brother’s assistance. Once I achieved this new sense of independence, any memory of my little red tricycle, the number of times I fell, or my parent’s help vanished. It was as though I did it all on my own, but that as we all know this is not the truth.
When the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, God cared for them, raised them the way a loving father raises his child. After his own presence in their lives, the greatest gift their heavenly parent gave to Israel was their freedom from their slavery to the Egyptians. But when Israel was liberated and empowered to build new lives for themselves, they forgot the one who fed them, kept them safe, healed them, and led them into their new life.
So much so that they preferred instant gratification and the profits from injustice to the longsuffering, patient God who gave them new life. Then we hear in Hosea 11 that although Israel’s disobedience provoked great anger in God, to the point where God is ready to destroy his living creation, his overtaking compassion prevents him from bringing destruction. Like any good parent, our God will still chastise his children. Yet God is always ready to joyfully welcome us into his good graces when we run to him asking forgiveness, ready to conform to his image, and filled with gratitude.
The readings from Luke 12 and Colossians 3 take us further in our understanding of the possible relationship with God and with each other. In Luke 12 Jesus shares a parable about a rich fool, warning against greed and being self-centred. The relentless pursuit of material possessions is a powerful distraction from growing an intimate relationship with Jesus. When we become self-absorbed, we neglect to pray, study God’s word, and prepare for Jesus’s return. Nothing that may be accumulated on earth is as valuable as the eternal riches we have in God’s kingdom.
Never one to miss a good opening, Jesus seizes the opportunity to talk about much more than getting our share of the goods of life—and, thus, the “rich man” who thinks that he deserves his fate in life, and will simply “eat, drink, and be merry” to the end of his self-satisfied days! What is really important in life? It’s a tired old saw, but still pretty effective: if you knew for certain that this was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What would you be doing that, perhaps, you are not doing now? Well, what are you waiting for?

At some stage in history what is called a new myth appeared. This was that wealth needs to be shared. Work requires just and equitable share in its fruits. The strong have an obligation to care for the weak. This new myth birthed education, unionisation, nationalised health programs, community projects, and for centuries the church stood at the heart of reform, telling the new story. Sadly it is so no longer. The myths of dominance, control, and consumption have displaced the Christ myth, and the church itself has forgotten how to tell the story of prophetic justice.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that “Christ is our life” (Col 3:4). When we become followers of Jesus Christ, our nature is renewed. We become hidden in the risen Christ in that our values and lifestyles are aligned with his teachings and nature. As we conform our lives to Christ, our behaviour changes. Over time, our lives are no longer in step with that of popular culture, but in obedience to God. Submission to the way of the Lord places us in his favour, out of the way of his wrath.


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Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 21 July 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 27, 2019 - 11:50pm


Today, as I have indicated previously, I am focussing on specific parts of the service. Much is being said about our First People recently and so I intend to reflect on the
acknowledgement. I also wish to spend more time on the sermon than usual.

Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

“From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth, May the First People who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.

From breath to song, from step to dance,

May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place. From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

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

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

Call to Worship.(Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)

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

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

“Like green olive trees in the house of God,we come into God’s presence.

Like young saplings in the courtyard of the Lord,we drink deep from the waters of life.

Like the fruit of God’s vineyard,we ripen in the light of God.

Come, let us worship the Lord.”

Opening Prayer

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

Prayer of Confession

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

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

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

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


Thanks be to God! Amen.”

The Peace

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



And also, with you!”


The Service of the Word

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

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

(Readings: Kaye)

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

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



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

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

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

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

No matter how much we attend to our
physical, social and employment needs, we will still experience that deep
thirst which can only be quenched by continuous replenishment of our spiritual
needs by the only one who can meet those needs...God, the source of all things
good.
As Rev. John said at the end of his sermon:
“ we need to come to Gods table and
drink from the fountain of everlasting love. May our God be our eternal love
and thirst quencher?”

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

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

we do not leave God’s presence.

Like green Olive Trees in the house of God,

our roots go deep in the soil of holy love.

Know that Gods presence goes with us

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

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

 







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Take a Break, Have a KitKat.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 26, 2019 - 7:10am

Last week’s I reflected about keeping Sabbath time as individuals. But there is another aspect to Sabbath rest that is just as important. God doesn’t only tell individuals to rest. God tells communities to keep Sabbath time. God commands Israel to let their fields have a Sabbath, to let their animals and servants have a Sabbath, and once every few years, to let the whole economic system have a Sabbath. The world needs a vacation. Lord knows, the earth needs a rest. We have been extracting her minerals, damming her rivers, pumping toxins into her atmosphere, tearing holes in her ground, and stuffing her with our trash.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a floating island made of our plastic garbage has grown to the size of a continent, reaching out long tendrils of six-pack rings and shopping bags to trap, kill, and devour fish and birds. We feel the earth reeling, staggering under its burden of our human societies. We call her Mother Earth, but we have treated her like a slave, working the world to exhaustion. The world needs a Sabbath. The world’s people need a Sabbath too. The resources we extract from the earth go to factories staffed by eight-year-olds sewing the soles onto sneakers in steaming sweatshops, working eleven- and twelve-hour days, forbidden from taking a break even to use the bathroom.
Oh, sure, it’s tough to do anything about those problems on the other side of the world; especially when Christmas rolls around and we really need to buy our children toys made by other children on the opposite side of the planet. I know people need to buy things. Money makes the world go round. People who are dirt poor cannot afford a Sabbath. But perhaps that’s the problem because the world’s people—especially the half that lives on less than a dollar a day—desperately need a Sabbath.
God declares a Sabbath for all creation. God tells us to give the world a break. God gives Moses instructions in Exodus for a radical holiday, telling him that not only should the community take a break from work for a day out of every week, but every seven years they should give the land a Sabbath. Although they may eat whatever perennials grow in their fields by themselves, they may not plant or harvest. The land itself gets a break and then God declares yet another Sabbath. Once every fifty years, the economic system gets reset. All indentured servants will be released, all debts will be forgiven, and all land will revert to the original families who owned it. They call it the jubilee year; a Sabbath for all creation.

While it is unclear if they ever actually carried it out or not, it is an idea that crops up again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures. Release for the captives, letting the debt prisoners go free. Isaiah and Jesus called it “the year of the Lord’s favour,” and it was to them a little glimpse of that final time when God is to judge the world and set it to rights. God declares a Sabbath for all creation.
Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? Imagine going to your mailbox and tearing open your mortgage statement and reading, “Total balance due: $0.” Imagine hordes of children leaving the sweatshops to go on their first summer vacation, splashing in the river, riding squeaking bicycles down the road, playing soccer in an abandoned lot. Imagine the panic on Wall Street or at the ASX as tractor-trailer trucks stand abandoned on the freeways, their cargos of iPods and $150 distressed-denim jeans sitting idle, inventories in retail stores across the nation gathering dust. The economy would collapse!

But you’d also have no more car payments, no more student loan debt. Not only that, but the redistribution of property back to its original owners? That’sscary language. Imagine Australian First peoples, Canadian First Nations or   First Nation American peoples leaving their camps, their reservations and home areas and staking claim to George Sydney or the Sydney Opera House or maybe even Manhattan, Wall Street. It’s absurd! Our gods, the gods of the market and conquest, would never allow it. This kind of language scares us,makes us think of socialism or terrorism or communism or some other “ism.” Just imagine the chaos that would ensue.
But nobody ever said God was practical. God stubbornly insists on aSabbath for all creation. However, it’s only a short step from ignoring the Sabbath yourself to imposing your work, your agenda, and your interests on the land and its people. As written in Isaiah 58:13, we tend to put the pursuit of our own interests above everything else, setting up our own businesses as petty gods that we serve and worship. We sacrifice our relationships, our children, and our health on the altar of busyness. We sacrifice justice for the poor on the altar of economic practicality. And let me tell you, I get caught up in this to as I love my comforts and my technology.
Yet could we not see our Sabbath as a kind of nonviolent resistance to the creeping tyranny of wealth and power. Nehemiah says that even if everyone around them is buying and selling on the Sabbath, God’s people will not.  God calls them to be a different kind of community. Imagine a Sabbath for the world. Picture a break for God’s creation and all God’s people. Sure, it may seem impractical, but God calls us to be a different kind of community, a people set apart, and a royal priesthood.
God has a better vision of life for us and our world, a life that includes rest and enjoyment and even time for deep prayer which we call contemplation these days. Talk of prayer does connect us to the readings from the three-year lectionary for this week. But this is not the prayer of demand and asking that we have come to use most of the time. Well before I get carried away, that’s another story for another day.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Take a Break.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 19, 2019 - 9:50am

I’d like to wander away from the readings from the Lectionary today and reflect on a subject that I often wrestle with. The message that often comes to us from the world and the way it operates is that rest seems like a waste of time. Most of us have a difficult time imagining a day devoted to rest. We admire people who work hard and play hard. We have weekend or day off projects, maintaining home or yard or garden. We travel or watch television. We have ball games and family obligations and hobbies. There is too much to do and too little time, and anyway, idle hands are the devil’s workshop, right?
As the old saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked, and the righteous don’t need any. So to many of us, rest seems like a waste of time. Sure, sometimes we feel the stress of busyness. We know we need a break, and we say that we should stop and smell the roses. But there never seems to be enough time for rest. We try to budget our time, stuffing time into envelopes and rationing it the way we budget money. We make distinctions between regular time and “quality time.”
We know the consequences of such stress: high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and broken relationships, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and so on. Yet, even knowing these things, hearing that we “ought” or “should” try to take a break simply gives us one more thing to squeeze into our calendars between the doctor’s appointment and the deadline. Unfortunately, church doesn’t help much, with our programs and studies and mission projects, all of which are so important to our spiritual growth. How can we rest? We’re doing the Lord’s work! So although we may know we need a break, we don’t feel that we have time to rest.
We fear death. That’s really the problem, isn’t it? We fear squandering the little time we have. “I’ll rest when I’m dead,” we say, and we cling to our finite number of seconds the way a miser pinches pennies. Rest bears too much resemblance to that final rest below the soil, so that we fear rest and the passage of time because it makes us conscious of our own mortality.
Yet God rested. How strange! A God who never sleeps, who is all powerful and ever-present, decides to take the day off. We can hardly imagine it. What does God do on God’s off day? Bake cookies? Do a little gardening? And because God rested, God directs God’s people to rest. The word Sabbath actually comes from the Hebrew verb for “he rested.” God instructs his people to keep the Sabbath holy as a perpetual sign of the covenant between God and Israel. In fact, God takes the day of rest so seriously that the community should put to death “everyone who profanes” the Sabbath.
While it is unlikely this happened often, apparently rest is a serious business! Serious enough that God rested. The truth is we all die, regardless of how we spend our time. When we die we will leave behind unfolded laundry, unchecked items on our to-do lists, and unkept appointments on our calendars. Our business will not be finished. Staring at our datebooks, we realise our entire schedules should be written in pencil, because it all depends on the second-by-second beating of our hearts, tentative, subject to change at a moment’s notice.

A Sabbath rest gives us a chance to become conscious of the eternity in our time, to live mindful of the presence of God. Our time here is too precious not to take a Sabbath rest. Keeping the Sabbath is like tithing our time to God. We give to God the first moments of the day, or the first day of our week. Because we are made in the image of God, we imitate God’s rest after a busy week of doing and creating. Doing so reminds us that all time is God’s time. We make time for a little slice of eternity, and give that time as an offering to God in the same way that we put money into the offering plate.
People who keep a sabbath, whether it is Saturday, Sunday, or some other regular day of rest and reflection, often say that it helps them value their time during the week even more. There’s a paradox at work in the spiritual discipline of keeping a Sabbath. Just as people who give generously never seem to run out of money, people who make a habit of carving out time for sabbath rest never seem to run out of time. Actually, we have more than enough time. Although time is finite, God somehow gives us minutes as fast as we spend them. Look! You’ve just received another one.
God is generous with God’s time. We have more than enough time, so we are called to tithe that time back to God. Imagine your life with a regular Sabbath rest. What do you do with those twenty-four hours if God forbids work? Nap in a hammock. Swing on a porch swing, sipping lemonade. Talk with friends. The Bible tells us that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the kingdom of God, where children play in the streets and everyone sits in the shade of their own vineyard. Imagine: God wants such a life for us! An endless summer afternoon, spent in the company of people we love. God says, why wait for heaven? Start doing it now.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 July 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 13, 2019 - 2:32am
John's Blog We often make life more difficult than it needs to be. We do the same thing with our faith. Christianity, it seems to me, is simple. I don’t mean anything derogatory by that. I mean that Christianity needs to be simple because it is meant to be lived. I once saw a sign on someone’s office wall: “Nothing is as simple as it seems. That is because nothing is simple, and nothing is as it seems.” I like that because it is an interesting bit of wordplay, and it does seem to have the ring of truth to it.  We live in a complex world where solutions to most problems are anything but simple. Someone lingers for years with a debilitating illness. There is no simple explanation for a thing like that. Parents who have raised their child without any real thought or plan and worse yet, without consistency, may one day discover that their child has done something beyond the limits of social acceptability. They rush to the counsellor wanting a quick fix—a simple remedy—to a problem that has taken fifteen years to develop. 
There is violence in the world, and crime, and senseless destruction of people and property. There is no simple way to get a handle on these things. Don’t be naive. Simple solutions are few and far between. We also live in a world where few things are as they seem. We go to great lengths to appear to be something we are not. We want to look richer and smarter than we are. The marketing specialists push new products that bear little likeness to the items we cart home from the store. We are masters of disguise. Life is such that when we do stumble onto something that is simple, we are likely to overlook it or dismiss it as ridiculous. 
So, I return to the thought that Christianity is simple. God loves us. God sent his Son to us. God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient. There are complex problems in the world, and to seek simple answers to them is naive. But it is just as foolish to seek complex answers when simple ones will suffice. In Hebrew scripture there is a valuable jewel which answers I believe what our God calls us to be and the way Jesus showed us by practice in his life. The Hebrew Scripture of Micah 6: 8 tells us:“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 
Let’s “unpack that” (a pretentious little phrase I learned in my studies over the years – it means what I want to pass on about the subject here). Let us take a closer look at what God wants/requires from us. Let’s also look at what is not mentioned. The church doesn’t have a monopoly on justice, mercy, humility, or love. You can have them too—and probably already do. Three things—that’s all God gives us here. God says not to worry about fatted calves, turtle doves and buckets full of oil. These things are meaningless and certainly not “required.”
God wants us to act justly, but not in the worldly sense of justice. You do something bad and you get punished. That’s retributive justice—the flavour of justice that about 99.9 percent of the world is interested in including many who call themselves Christian. This does not interest our God. God is more interested in restorative justice—being redeemed and made whole, putting broken things back together again. This is the kind of acting justly that God wants to see us bring about, and to see happen. How do we not punish, but, rather, fix and make whole again? An interesting question I will leave you to reflect on and comment on sometime in the future.
Then God goes on to remind us that we are to love mercy. Notice that God does not just tell us to do mercy, but to love it. Mercy, compassion, love (words I have often used over the last year which seems to be a theme as we face the world as it is at this time — these are the hallmarks of how we are called to be living our lives and that with which we need to be desperately filling our hearts and minds with. 
And yet, our God calls us to walk humbly with him. I find that I am moved deeply by how the verse tells us to walk with (not in front, not behind, not forcing etc. but with), to be in relationship. For me this is at the core of God’s desire: to be in relationship together. I think walking humbly with God also means that, over time, we find ourselves caring about others more and more and ourselves less and less. We find ourselves willing to be selfless more and more. This is not telling us about thinking less of ourselves but it’s about putting more and more time into the love and care of others.
To come back to simplicity of message let us begin to see the reasonableness of at least giving this style of life a try. Never withhold a word of encouragement. The final turning point is our decision to accept what God offers. Are we able to always accept what God offers? Always do what God suggests. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Not true. The miracles of faith and of a Christian life lived out by the grace of God are certain and available to every one of us. Trust in God. It sounds too simple. Still, trust in God. 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Bound Together and to God.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 12, 2019 - 12:59pm

If you have ever stripped wallpaper, you know that it is a tedious and thankless job. I have known people, who before they were even unpacked in their new house get to work on wallpapering as one of the first things they do. Many still live in these houses. As one person whom I knew was working around a room, they pulled down a particular sheet of paper and saw the line on the wall where the paperhangers had put the plumb line—and I remarked to the family, “Well, now at least we know where they started when they put this ugly paper up.” They had a starting point right there in bright chalk-line blue.

The person restruck a line over the old one, because they believed you can never be too sure about the previous owner’s sense of perpendicular. Putting new paper over the crooked line would be a disaster. The plumb line that we find mentioned in Amos 7, which is set in the Lectionary for this week, is seeking to use the image to warn Israel. However the image seems to me to really be about the place where our identity begins. For the audience of Amos’ writing, it is a warning for Israel to return to the ways that God had provided.
Israel had become corrupt; the original identity of the ones chosen by God was to be their starting point, their source of identity. All the other ways that Israel had tried to had left it lost. Our identity is the starting point from which all the other details of our lives will either be aligned or skewed. Who are we? What is that thing we know so intimately about ourselves on a visceral level that prompts us to worship the living God or not? Through God’s gift of grace, we are able to inescapably become God’s own daughters and sons. However with such an identity comes responsibility.

Having been through an election and watched parties spruke visions that didn’t seem plumb, let us renounce that bigotry and party zeal which would contract our hearts into an insensibility for all the human race. Let us honour the first nations of this land we inhabit as other colonised countries have. Let us not harden our hearts with greed and desire for power against those who are different. Let us despite our leaders misguided focus seek to bring love and compassion into our world, especially for those who seem different and alien to our context.
Yet sometimes sadly we are unable to move outside our context as God calls us to and a small number whose sentiments and practices are so much our own becomes a love to them which is can be the start for self-love reflected. With an honest openness of mind let us always remember that kindred between people, and cultivate that happy instinct whereby, in the original constitution of our nature, God has strongly bound us to each other.
Having expressed that thought it leads me to comment on this week’s reading from Luke about the Good Samaritan. What strikes me about this familiar story is not that the Samaritan helped the Jew but rather the extent to which the Samaritan helped him. Our Samaritan exemplar was not only willing to pull over, see what had really happened, and then engage. He went well beyond that. He took the person in trouble to a nearby inn and gave the innkeeper what amounted to a blank check to do whatever made sense for the person’s healing. “The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’”

The Samaritan could have ended his involvement there but committed to returning after fulfilling another commitment. This Samaritan was a man who knew the blessing of grounding one’s life in faithful loving kindness to others. The lawyer whose original question prompted Jesus to tell this story could not have missed this. The issue for our lawyer was not to understand the limit of his responsibility but rather the extent of his opportunity. So it is for us. Where do my gifts, vocation, and past-times create opportunities to bless the lives of others with the steadfast loving kindness of the gospel of the kingdom of God?
If I am part of the Church, where does my church’s time, talent, and treasure offer corporate opportunities for the same? Where these answers lead is where we can validate God’s steadfast love to us by extending it to others. If we read further in our stories of Jesus from the Gospels we can see that he says to his disciples to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. He never answers that question the same way in any of his encounters but encourages us to have love and compassion for all of God’s creation. And he never does it with a shout, or a punch. But sometimes he does leave us with a story about mercy and an encouragement. “Go and do likewise,” he says.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Living God’s Simplicity.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 5, 2019 - 12:43pm

We often make life more difficult than it needs to be. We do the same thing with our faith. Christianity, it seems to me, is simple. I don’t mean anything derogatory by that. I mean that Christianity needs to be simple because it is meant to be lived. I once saw a sign on someone’s office wall: “Nothing is as simple as it seems. That is because nothing is simple, and nothing is as it seems.” I like that because it is an interesting bit of wordplay, and it does seem to have the ring of truth to it.
We live in a complex world where solutions to most problems are anything but simple. Someone lingers for years with a debilitating illness. There is no simple explanation for a thing like that. Parents who have raised their child without any real thought or plan and worse yet, without consistency, may one day discover that their child has done something beyond the limits of social acceptability. They rush to the counsellor wanting a quick fix—a simple remedy—to a problem that has taken fifteen years to develop.
There is violence in the world, and crime, and senseless destruction of people and property. There is no simple way to get a handle on these things. Don’t be naive. Simple solutions are few and far between. We also live in a world where few things are as they seem. We go to great lengths to appear to be something we are not. We want to look richer and smarter than we are. The marketing specialists push new products that bear little likeness to the items we cart home from the store. We are masters of disguise. Life is such that when we do stumble onto something that is simple, we are likely to overlook it or dismiss it as ridiculous.
So, I return to the thought that Christianity is simple. God loves us. God sent his Son to us. God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ is sufficient. There are complex problems in the world, and to seek simple answers to them is naive. But it is just as foolish to seek complex answers when simple ones will suffice. In Hebrew scripture there is a valuable jewel which answers I believe what our God calls us to be and the way Jesus showed us by practice in his life. The Hebrew Scripture of Micah 6: 8 tells us:“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Let’s “unpack that” (a pretentious little phrase I learned in my studies over the years – it means what I want to pass on about the subject here). Let us take a closer look at what God wants/requires from us. Let’s also look at what is not mentioned. The church doesn’t have a monopoly on justice, mercy, humility, or love. You can have them too—and probably already do. Three things—that’s all God gives us here. God says not to worry about fatted calves, turtle doves and buckets full of oil. These things are meaningless and certainly not “required.”
God wants us to act justly, but not in the worldly sense of justice. You do something bad and you get punished. That’s retributive justice—the flavour of justice that about 99.9 percent of the world is interested in including many who call themselves Christian. This does not interest our God. God is more interested in restorative justice—being redeemed and made whole, putting broken things back together again. This is the kind of acting justly that God wants to see us bring about, and to see happen. How do we not punish, but, rather, fix and make whole again? An interesting question I will leave you to reflect on and comment on sometime in the future.
Then God goes on to remind us that we are to love mercy. Notice that God does not just tell us to do mercy, but to love it. Mercy, compassion, love (words I have often used over the last year which seems to be a theme as we face the world as it is at this time — these are the hallmarks of how we are called to be living our lives and that with which we need to be desperately filling our hearts and minds with.
And yet, our God calls us to walk humbly with him. I find that I am moved deeply by how the verse tells us to walk with (not in front, not behind, not forcing etc. but with), to be in relationship. For me this is at the core of God’s desire: to be in relationship together. I think walking humbly with God also means that, over time, we find ourselves caring about others more and more and ourselves less and less. We find ourselves willing to be selfless more and more. This is not telling us about thinking less of ourselves but it’s about putting more and more time into the love and care of others.
To come back to simplicity of message let us begin to see the reasonableness of at least giving this style of life a try. Never withhold a word of encouragement. The final turning point is our decision to accept what God offers. Are we able to always accept what God offers? Always do what God suggests. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Not true. The miracles of faith and of a Christian life lived out by the grace of God are certain and available to every one of us. Trust in God. It sounds too simple. Still, trust in God.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 30 June 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 4, 2019 - 1:43am


Because I have been unable to attend church recently I have not written any blogs for a while but now I’m feeling up to being a bit creative, so I thought I’d try something personal.
At home trying to recover from a raft of various illnesses, I have been doing some reading which has focused on prayer.
I think we are all past our prayers being a shopping list and have at least progressed to thanking God for care shown to us and blessings heaped upon us, but these readings took me even past that.
Prayer is not necessarily a special time set apart. We can be in a prayerful attitude all through our day, responding to God’s outstretched invitation to share our lives as we move through the activities or thoughts of our daily lives.  Prayer is an attitude of life when we seek to walk side by side with our maker, minute by minute, being joined with the One who created us and who offers us so much. So much by way of friendship and guidance, but more that that. God through the Spirit, lifts us up onto another plane of being where we become the person we are meant to be.

However the reading I have covered, points to something more. The purpose of prayer is for us to build a relationship with God.  At first this seemed an amazing thought. But when God was asked who he was the answer was : “I am”. That is, a being, and as a being wants a relationship with other beings. An invitation is extended to each of us to join in fellowship, walking through our daily lives, linked with God.
Another issue covered in the readings is that many of us have built lives as Christians, serving others in God’s name. We see our purpose as spreading the news of God’s love by giving that love to others through service to them. But in doing so our time is absorbed with activities that involve other people. Which is right and should be so, except that we forget that the source of that Love is God and for that Love we spread to be authentic it must flow from God and can only do so if we are in a close relationship with God, absorbing that love daily.
That is the focus of today’s blog. Are we seeking a relationship with God? How much do we value God and the relationship we can have with God? Is God and the relationship we can have with God our first intention? Or do we seek our relationship with God for the love offered to us and the world around us?
Imagine how we would feel if we found out that our partner had sought a relationship with us only for the family which would come of it and the love they could offer. Wouldn’t we be hurt? Don’t we want our partner to seek a relationship with us for the sake of that relationship in the first place?
Of course we should talk with God about the things we think we need, or things we think others need. And of course we should thank God for all our blessings. And a special time should be set aside for prayer only. But none of those is the main purpose of prayer.
And so, are we seeking a relationship with God for the sake of that relationship in the first place or for what flows from it?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Another Perspective on Life.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 28, 2019 - 1:10pm

No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.  What kind of harsh statement is this?  And it seems at face value to be very exclusive, too.  How about unrealistic?  Undoable?  Ridiculous?  OK, maybe now we are getting carried away.  But when you read this, do you have a nagging question in the back of your mind?  The question for me is: "Then, who is ever fit for the Kingdom of God?" 
 Even in this multitasking world we live in, with every possible organisational gadget we can possibly manufacture, most people metaphorically, "Put their hands to the plough" and then look back, or leave the plough all together!!  If what this means is a never failing faith, without doubt or regret, ever, then there might well be a new word for us all—denial.  
However, as is always the case, we would do well to try to read the whole story, from Luke 9 for this week, as well as the whole story of the Gospel as it teaches us to journey on the way rather than believe in a set of rules that some human wishes to use to set their comfort zones. When we do both of those things we can see that the picture is bigger, as it almost always is.  As in so many things in this life, we like to make this an either/or scenario.  It's got to be one or the other.  Can you say—Perspective?
But take a closer look at this text: instead of an “either/or,” Jesus is really positing a “both/and.”  Notice that both of the poor souls that ask to go take care of other business are exclusive in their request as well.  “Sure, I will follow you Lord, but first, let me go bury my father." And then another, "well sure I'll follow you Lord, would love to, but first let me go tell them good bye at home; I mean they are expecting me for dinner; it would be rude to just not show up!" But Jesus is about inclusion, our God is about inclusion.
In both cases, and in many cases in this world as well, and the church is not excluded, the answer is, "Yes, Lord, I will follow, I will pray, I will give, I will work, I will whatever, BUT FIRST, I need to pay off my boat; I need to find a job; I need to get my taxes done; I need to get the clothes washed. It is the "But First" that seems to be key here.  Or we could say but at first I have to vilify those I disagree with and make money in doing so. But first I need to allow my greeg for material possessions and power be realised before I truly be with God and share the compassion Jesus taught us about.
Those who come to God and wish to follow the way Jesus lived probaly mean well. Those who wanted to follow Jesus seem to be telling Jesus, “to get on your train, I have to get off mine.”  In a sense that is true, but this thinking makes it seem like two different journeys.  It seems unlikely that we could live on the Christian journey at all if this were the truth. 
The whole notion of setting one’s face to Jerusalemseems to be a journey motif, harkening back to Elijah, with many prophetic references.  Setting your face toward Jerusalem is to be on a journey.  But is it one you must start only after all else in your life is finished?  One would hope not, or else we would never get started on it. You might well wonder, what if these people had responded to Jesus, "I will follow you AND I will go bury my father.”  “I will follow you AND I will go and tell those I love at home, about the journey I am going on as well.” 
In some ways we are meant to expect no other response. Jesus tells us and shows us: loud and clear: “You can't compartmentalise following me, you can't do it when you get time, when you clear some space on your Google calendar, after the clothes are washed. This is a way of life, which means yes, the clothes must get washed, and the bills must get paid, and the kids must get fed, and the taxes must get paid, and you most likely have to keep those appointments in your IPhone or Android Phone.”
“BUT, follow me anyway; follow me while doing those things; follow me in a way that makes you do those things in a new way. Follow me forever: no ‘BUT First’s;’ no ‘instead;’ no ‘YES AND’—not ‘either/or.’ Instead:   ‘both/and.’” To do the ordinary extraordinarily well while making all of life a prayer.  It is mysteriously in that sense when we understand that all of our concentration and focus, that which we lavish on details that really don’t matter, on so many specifics that we forget why we do in the first place, all of those distractions help us avoid the greater conversation that rises above all of that. 

It's not about what you are doing or not doing; it is instead about what and who you are being.  It is about what we finally put our hope and trust in every day, and all days.  Following Jesus is something that we do every minute of the day. It doesn't mean not doing everything else, it means doing everything else, with your heart invested in God, through the power and witness of Jesus Christ.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

What are the Demons Today?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 21, 2019 - 6:16am

No one promised this loving God and God’s creation – being a follower - thing was going to be easy. Just ask Elijah! This man of God and ordinary human being was no stranger to the rollercoaster ride of being a prophetic voice to God’s stiff-necked, yet beloved people. The work of the Hebrew Scripture prophet seems never to be done: reviving a widow’s only son, saving them both from starving during a time of famine, calling again and again for God’s people to repent and turn, and in this passage running for his life from Queen Jezebel.
Granted, he may have gone just a tad bit too far in his zeal for God; after winning a dramatic showdown against the prophets of Baal, he has them all be slaughtered. In return, Jezebel vows to do the same to him. The ups and downs of ministry — for both the everyday Christian and those called to vocational ministry — remain much the same today (although our slaughtering tends to be more metaphorical). Although the face of ministry has changed, the counterpoint feelings of elation and despair still follow a familiar tune. Elijah is so distressed that he runs for his life into the wilderness.
Elijah is ready to pack it all in and die, but our God had other plans. The Lord of the Universe meets this sinner/saint at his place of need with bread for the journey and water to quench a weary soul. He even speaks to Elijah in a still, small, and surprising voice. God speaks to us today and meets us at our point of need. Even when we make monumental messes and fail fabulously, God is still there guiding, coaching, and putting us back into faithful play in new and exciting ways. The call is to listen.

An important piece of a healthy faith is an honest humility about what we don’t know; that is to say, what we don’t know about God and about what God can or cannot do. Many who come to the faith through an event seem to believe that it is a once only happening. They seem to think at that moment they have all the truth that is our God and know God’s mind despite any other evidence. Often they rely on knowledge from flawed interpretation of the scriptures we use as our guiding light. Scriptures that were written down by humans, written with a particular context or cultural avenue to push and been altered deliberately in places over time.
But back to the strangeness of this story in Luke 8 this week that reminds us of the very important fact that, to put it in the modern vernacular: “that was then and this is now.” For the church, the mission stays the same. Methods change with the times. We are the body of Christ in the world, and we are called to continue Christ’s ministry of healing, care, loving and compassion. But — and this thankfully, perhaps — we are not limited to following his methods. Of course we are to pray for healing, love and compassion. But we also are to take action, from the simplest acts of visiting and being with those who are suffering to vigorously supporting efforts to relieve sickness and hunger and suffering around the world. 
Jesus’ bizarre act of casting the demons into the swine reminds us of our calling to fight to overcome the world’s demons of illness and division and hunger—to stand against exploitation and war and, and, and . . . the list goes on and on.

Here’s another thought. Have you ever thought about the way Jesus communicates through parables, stories, aphorism (I’ll leave you to look that one up) and often deeply obscure riddles. An example of the last is: Many are called but few are chosen. Please note that this methodology is not pleasing to systematic thinkers, a style or way my teachers of theology tried to instil in me. If I had truly communicated as Jesus did when I was training then what I wrote would have been open to misunderstanding, false interpretations and even possibly heresy – somewhat like the teachings of Jesus really. Maybe that is why I struggled to produce the academic papers that were required by my trainers as it was more natural for me to use story, parable etc. to help communicate the person of Jesus.
In Luke there was an occasion when Jesus was addressing a crowd and what he said sounds to me like some Zen-master but very apt when we approach the things of God. In response to the crowd’s question; “when will the Kingdom of God come,” Jesus tells them that ultimate reality is not here and not there which takes away from us our typical attachment to time. The ultimate reality is within you. Don’t forget it is always now and here where God acts and we are called to leave the naked now of our desires and demons for our God.

The world is full of demons/events and behaviours that possess and oppress God’s beloved children. It is our calling to follow the Christ into the world and into the field of pain and difficulty, thus supporting and seeking to deliver our brothers and sisters from the pains and sufferings, afflictions and evil forces that keep them separated from us, from God, and from each other. Note that love and compassion used inclusively are the key.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Open Love from the Spirit’s Presence.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 14, 2019 - 1:26pm

Today I write around the simple yet complicated paradox in our Christian faith – the Trinity. Thomas Berry, the theologian, environmentalist, and author of The Dream of the Earth, once said, “The universe is not a collection of objects, but a communion of subjects.” The greatest minds of Christendom have applied philosophical rigour to understanding and interpreting the church’s experience of the “father/parent” “son” and “holy spirit” or the Trinity which is the feast or celebration day for this Sunday  But in the end, knowing God and knowing fully God’s truth and love is as elusive as predicting a firefly’s trajectory over a field of hay after dusk, as futile as keeping track of a drop of rain fallen into the ocean in a storm, as blinding as gazing directly at the sun.
Yet contemplating Trinity offers lessons in the dynamism of creation, incarnation, delight, genesis, the interrelationship of being, of nothing, of everything, of darkness, of light. Image. Silence. And, again, nothing. Ah the return to those words from early study for me and words which are a technical language or theology for those outside. And yet, you and I, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit, are invited to co-create, to enter into the imaginative diversity of the unfolding of time.
Once trained in the Trinity, it’s not a great leap to consider the God of multiple dimensions, multi-universes, string theory (to give a nod to the character  of Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory TV show), and hyperspace. Opening to new perceptions of God’s self-revelation is as natural as contemplating innovations in theoretical physics. As I learn and grow, I can be open to God’s Reality more fully, if ever more humbly. Awe deepens. And yet . . . when I pray, it seems Love surfaces from the deep place where the soul touches the universe.

Is that right? Does the soul touch the universe? If that love comes not from something outside ourselves but from something deep within ourselves only, then we are simply made for love. Whether God exists or not, love lies at the heart and meaning of human life—dynamic, relational, intimate, challenging, open Love.
But rather than wander too far let us now look at one of the members of the Christian Trinity – the Holy Spirit. You know there is a whole language in the land of text speak that I and many older people have no idea about: LOL—Laugh out loud. BTW—By the way. TBH—to be honest. TMI—too much information. It’s this last one, too much information, that Jesus seems to be trying to avoid when he began to say farewell to the disciples. Jesus didn’t want to overload the disciples with information. They had more than enough to digest. He knew they simply could not process any more. Jesus also knew that they would have the rest of their lives to work things out, to measure and weigh things in the light of all that he had taught them and shown them.

With the perspective of hindsight. But, more than that, Jesus knew that they wouldn’t have to wrestle with it all on their own. And so he kept it light. Too much information is not good for any of us. We do not and cannot know everything. But Jesus could reassure his disciples that they would not be left to their own devices. That they would have the gift of the Spirit to help them in their discernment.
So as Christians we hold that still, today, the Spirit is our guide. Sadly, we often drown out the soft whisper of the Spirit. We fail to hear her prompting and make the wrong choices. Jesus intentionally did not overload us with too much information. His intention was that we should listen carefully for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And so, as our world changes, and as we are faced with more and more perplexing choices, the example of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit leads us to make loving choices. Choices that reflect the loving nature of God. Choices that enable us to find a way through the information overload that assails us today. TBTG (Thanks be to God)!
So for the disciples and for us it becomes a question of what to say and when? Important in any relationship. Thus, the significance of the presence of the Spirit here and now for the disciples and for us. Recognising why the Spirit is front and centre in the reading from John 16 this week at this point may provide a perspective of the Spirit that is less explored in our Christian faith. That is, the Spirit is the one who comes to our aid so as to fill in the gaps Jesus left behind.
As Jesus bids the disciples farewell, the Spirit enters into the space of Jesus’ absence. The Spirit will have a good sense of timing as well—guiding the disciples and us, sharing that which should be known about Jesus, telling them what is to come only when they are able to bear the part of the truth that will support them then. There is something touching, poignant, in this role for the Spirit. The Spirit is not only our Advocate or helper. The Spirit is the Companion that connects one breath to the next, the compassionate one.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 June 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 8, 2019 - 12:02am


Today is a little different. Rev. John took most of the service with Christine delivering the sermon and assisting in the distribution of  communion.
It was a lovely setting with both ministers dressed for the communion service, evoking a serious and deep response to the said and sung words of the service and the floral decorations enhancing the depth and warmth of the emotion felt by the congregation.
I want to focus on certain parts of the service which I often have to skim over to allow other parts to have my attention.
The call to worship provided words we perhaps couldn’t find for ourselves:
 
Mystery of God, draw us near.
Fill our minds with awe!
Wisdom of God, surprise us.
Encourage us with hope!
Glory of God, shine through our lives.
Reveal your power and your glory!
In the mystery, the wisdom, the glory of God,
Let us worship!
 
And then the opening prayer reflected the uncertainty many of us feel from time to time and in its plea, reminded us that in our own times of doubt and apprehension we should call on the only One who can possibly give us comfort.
 Unknowable God, on this most unsettling day, you drew Jesus to your side— promising his companions Spirit, power, mission, and purpose; calling his disciples to trust a future that they could not yet see. As we look to Jesus this day, give us the same hope of Spirit, power, mission and purpose, and call to trust a future that we too are yet unable to see. Guide us into your depths, that we may glimpse the Spirit already at work in our lives— revealing your truth and empowering us to bear witness to the risen Christ. We pray this in the name of Jesus, your Mystery, your Wisdom and your Glory.
However the thing that prevents our perfect communion with God is our ongoing inability to be the people we should be and so there is the need to ask for forgiveness for that:
 A Prayer of ConfessionThe story of Ascension Day challenges us to seek the presence of the risen Christ in the here and now; in our lives, our community, and our world. Let us pray. When we “look up to heaven” for our answers, and so fail to seek the Spirit at work in our midst.

Lord, have mercy.
When we forget to repent of our wrong doings; when we fail to forgive others for mistakes of their own, and so fail to give witness to the risen Christ.
Christ, have mercy.
When we doubt the power of your Spirit, which is at work changing hearts and opening minds, and so fail to embrace relationships of righteousness and peace. Lord have mercy.

Declaration of ForgivenessFriends, the love of God revealed in Jesus forgives us, heals us, and sets us free to witness to his love in the world.

Thanks be to God!
 
Christine spoke of the difficulty of believing the impossible things, referencing the conversation Between the White Queen and Alice in “Alice through the Looking Glass”, where the Queen declares that she has had the experience of believing “as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Christine used that analogy to talk about the ascension of Jesus, for which many people throughout history have tried to provide an explanation, some less believable than the ascension itself.
Christine’s point was that “that something fantastic took
 place that day,” and that it “was so overwhelming that they couldn’t put it not words” but “It changed them
forever.”  Christine gave a very strong reason for Jesus
leaving and trusting the leadership to his followers.
 As a single human person he could not take the “good
news of God’s love...to all the nations of the world.”
But by leaving the confines of this earth and being “freed
 of time and space” and he was able to promise “to send
 the power of the Holy Spirit”
Christine then explained the real reason we are celebrating the Ascension...“that we (are) going to receive power from God.” and, more importantly, to remind us that we have no power of our own and must rely on the Spirit.
At this point I leave Christine’s sermon and turn to Joan’s prayer which is possible because of what happened at the Ascension. Joan’s plea “Be with us all, Lord: in all our daily struggles as we seek to follow you” encapsulates the reason and result of Jesus’ leaving and sending the Spirit of comfort and guidance.
That Spirit can give the comfort that Joan prayed to be given to those suffering in any way. That guidance can be given to us and others so that we can better understand the real plight of others who are less fortunate in terms of resources, be they financial or personal resources. That Spirit can lift us to a place of Joy in the midst of all the distress we may suffer ourselves or which surrounds us.
However we experience God’s presence, it is the “Amazing Grace” of John Newton’s hymn and written about by Ron in our latest “Marsden Missive.” Ron tells us of Newton’s journey as a Christian during which time he acted as Jesus would. An example for us all to follow...with God’s ‘Amazing Grace” mediated to us by the Spirit.
Benediction
The disciples looked up to heaven, and then looked around at each other. Slowly, understanding dawned upon them as they began to recognize the presence of their beloved Jesus in their midst. With their minds enlightened, and their hearts set free, they went forth rejoicing, singing and praying, and waiting for the Spirit’s coming. Let us, too, go forth confident in God. Let us rejoice in one another, as we wait in prayer for the surprise of the Spirit.
Amen.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Grace through Diversity.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 7, 2019 - 12:50pm

“We just don’t speak the same language,” I hear myself saying. What I mean to convey is that the other person and I cannot seem to find a way to communicate. Perhaps, beyond the possibility of communicating with the other, I am more disappointed or frustrated that the other person does not hold the same values that I hold. She sees the world and God and people differently than I do. Ultimately, I am wondering if she and I will be able to work together; or if, in fact, we will work against each other. Because my base concern is to get my agenda accomplished, will she be the one to help me?

A unified language promotes a unified agenda. The question at the story of the Tower of Babel becomes a question about intent. What purpose does the one language serve? So now, I ask, “What purpose does the unified language of the church serve? Whose agenda is at stake and to what end do we use these words: sin, holiness, salvation, resurrection?” The answer matters. Our answer will clearly determine God’s response.
Also, when I look at one of the scriptures for this week, namely Genesis 11, I have to wonder if we maybe need to understand God’s actions at the tower of Babel as actions of judgment or grace. The people in this story used their common language to “make a name for themselves,” and perhaps even to avoid God’s original command to humanity to fill the earth. It’s almost as if God is intimidated by the power of a people united in language and purpose (“nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”), and so God scatters them by confusing their language.
They were doing something wrong, and God stopped them by doing two things: confusing and scattering. These hardly seem like actions of grace. This story gives an account of the diversity that we encounter, and it seems at first that this diversity is a punishment. Language is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. But have we not come to understand diversity as a gift? Who laments the rich diversity of languages spoken across the world? Who laments the rich diversity of experiences and traditions that these languages communicate?
Yet it seems that when it’s left up to us, we congregate near the people who are most like us, who speak the same language, have the same Christmas traditions, and drive the same minivans or utes. So perhaps we might come to understand God’s actions at the tower of Babel as a kind of grace. There is confusion at first, certainly, but God’s good intentions for humanity unmistakably include diversity despite our best efforts to stick with those most like us. How appropriate, then, that the actions of God on Pentecost affirm God’s resolve to promote diversity of language and experience. The spirit of God does not belong to one language group, social class, gender, or age group. Through the lens of Pentecost we can come to understand that God’s acts at Babel are not the antithesis to grace, but perhaps finally a means of grace.
The Holy Spirit that came at Pentecost and the Church celebrates this week does not erase differences among language groups, social classes, genders, races, or age groups—the image of a melting pot won’t work here!—yet there is a sense of unity between these diverse groups because of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables each group to hear and speak of the mighty acts of God (Acts 2:11). The Holy Spirit is a companion, or advocate, to all believers who constantly reminds us of Jesus’s words (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit unifies all believers as the one who brings about our adoption into the family of God and then testifies to our own spirits that we really do belong (Rom 8:14-17).
These works of the Holy Spirit make unity in diversity a possibility. It is easy and natural to be dismissive when people begin acting in unexpected ways, perhaps even more so when God seems to act in unexpected ways. The Pentecost event that amazed some left others with a dismissive look of haughty disdain on their faces: “They’re full of new wine,” or in other words, “They must be drunk” (Acts 2:13). This same response is alive and well in the church, let alone in our societies throughout the world. Exclusive Slogans like, “Make America or Australia Great” or “Whites Only”, come to mind and challenge us to speak out. Such statements and such thinking seems to be seeking to deny what God intended for his creation.

Wherever marginalised voices are quickly dismissed for being too libertine, too feminist, too inclusive, and too politically correct and so on we deny our means of grace. Being dismissive of challenging views is certainly easier than engaging them, but this dismissal comes with a great risk as well. The risk of dismissing and silencing such voices is that we would miss the prophecy, visions, and dreams that the Holy Spirit has given to sons and daughters, young and old, of all races and social classes.








Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Whisper of Hope not Damnation!

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - May 31, 2019 - 8:32am

The Ascension tide remembrance seems an appropriate time for me to take a risk and reflect on some of the happenings in our society over the last few months. I will leave the reader to look up what the Ascension was and why Christians remember it. However, I want to reflect on the sadness that I have felt over our societies reactions to religion and religious issues as I have watched the Elections here in Australia, the debate raging unlovingly over the freedom of expression of one’s religion – if we have one - and freedom of speech. With all these things and with the way we practice them comes responsibilities and consequences.
Unfortunately the voice that is becoming most strident is the voice that seems not to understand the way of life Jesus lived and spoke about. There's a certain brand of Christianity that many in Australasia will be familiar with. They are anchored to names like Israel Folau and Sydney Anglicans here in Australia and in Aotearoa (NZ) people like the Destiny Church of the Tamaki’s and those wanting us to hate and destroy Moslem believers. We have hear them on issues such as prostitution reform, civil unions, recognition of LGBTI people as humans created in God’s image and abortion reform. These men are, and yes mostly men, who seem to follow a Jesus that seems to come from a very different place of the Jesus of compassion and love that I know and follow.

It would seem that they have a belief system built in the 312AD values of Constantine, a Roman emperor who declared Christianity a state religion. When heading into battle, Constantine claims he saw a gleaming white cross in the sky with an almighty voice saying "by this you will conquer." It is this view – of the cross as the means by which we subdue the world into our vision of utopia – which as someone I read recently rightly said has been so prevalent in the headlines.
Followers of Jesus and the followers of all religions have always been at their best when their influence comes from a place of humbly bearing the weight of a broken world together. In the end, I don’t believe in the place of hell that is espoused by some of those calling themselves Christians but do believe in the hell that we create as human beings for ourselves and for the world we live in. As I have often stated, the God I believe in is a God of compassion and love. The God I believe in is love, and eternal violence against his creation isn’t in that God’s nature.
Love will always win against vengeance. Christians are called simply to love God, love their neighbours and love themselves. For my understanding, this means that the whole of creation bears the face of God whom I am to love. Yet, as those who know me, I’m not great at doing that and sometimes it sucks as some of those I meet are hard to love. Also it’s important to note that to do otherwise is to live by fear, guilt and hate. There is a wonderful quote by a person called Wes Angelozzi: “Go and love someone exactly as they are. And watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”
Have you ever considered the fact that what we see of people’s lives is just the tip of the iceberg and that makes me realise that we simply can’t be so quick to judge. Often people seem like less of a donkey once you understand what they are going through. It's the relentless tide of Christians such as Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr and William Wilberforce who broke the bows of slavery and poverty and demonstrate the love of God for us. Their credibility was passionate lives laid down for those who had no voice. Their credibility was the moral authority of surrendering their own lives to those who had nothing. I will grant you, this is hard, but a journey we are called to be continually on. As stated before there are some people I don’t want to “get”—people I don’t want to “understand.” However, our God calls us to this vocation.

Understanding and loving others takes more time, more energy, and more compassion. Yet, again I must say that’s what we who call ourselves Christians are called to do—to love one another. When we think back to Jesus, he was nailed to a cross and tortured within an inch of his life. He was hung on a cross, nailed in place by metal spikes driven through his hands and feet. Yet his words speak to our hearts; “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” How many Christians get that and actually practice it themselves?
Exercising compassion and understanding the other person’s story changes us at a core level—and reduces our hugely over-inflated ego. And couldn’t we all act like jackasses, because, of our deluded state. Maybe we need to act less so. Sadly many of the strident voices heard lately come from those who have accumulated wealth, power and position from which they seem to want to practice violence towards others. I sometimes wonder who has hurt them in their lives that they have to lash out at others in such a manner.
And yet, there is one whose approval we don’t need to seek, one we don’t have to “do better for,” one we don’t have to hustle for our worth. We can stop hustling for our worthiness comes from God. While the world and our colleagues and spouses and friends and family might need us to be better, God loves us right here, right now. Not because we are wondrous. . . but because God is wondrous. That’s really the nub of who our God is and how our God operates.
Rarely is anything free. Except grace. Jesus’ whole role as he lived his life while he was here, was to remind people that they were loved and that they were worthy right where they were. God would love them right there, regardless of their tithe, their Sunday attendance, the number of times they taught Sunday school, or the numerous ways in which they turned their face from God. Yet those who describe themselves as church, the institution’s requirements always seem to be higher than Jesus’ own.
I’ll leave you with a final thought from Jerry Hership in his book Rogue Saints: “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less. Don’t be annoying and conduct oneself inappropriately. The Christian voice was always meant to be at the outlying edges, and not the centre, of society. The message Jesus brought was good news for the voiceless, and so is always suited best to gentle whispers of hope rather than brazen declarations of damnation.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 May 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 28, 2019 - 12:10am


My apologies for the length of this today but I couldn’t leave anything else out.
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land,
where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourable in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus.
Call to Worship(Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)
Rev. John challenged us to think upon the following:
What would your life be like if you made a home for the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind? What would our worship life be like if we made a home for the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind of our congregation? What would our world be like if the love and justice of God ruled in every nation? Let us imagine such a life and such a world as we worship the God who lives in us today.
Having done that there followed a responsive prayer asking for exactly that to be done.
Do we carry that invitation into our daily lives? Do we open up a personal invitation to the Spirit on a minute by minute basis? What a difference that would make.
 Hymn TIS 452:“God of mercy, God of grace.” Both an invitation and a word of praise.
 Opening Prayer (abridged)
...We have heard of the mighty acts of those who received the gift of your promised Holy Spirit, and we are amazed. We dare to invite this same Holy Spirit into our lives, to teach us and to guide us that we too may learn of God’s love and justice. By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, may your word make a home in us today. Amen.
 Prayer of Confession
 Rev. John acknowledged on our behalf that God had made his living word known to us. After which, in a responsive prayer which went to the depths of our hearts we confessed personally:
Without your mercy, we have no hope, no future, O God.
You have shown us the way of peace, but we have chosen paths of greed, exploitation, and hostility between peoples and nations.
Without your mercy, we have no hope, no future, O God.
You have shown us the way of salvation, but we have embraced practices that lead to death: Lying, idolatry, faithlessness, cowardice, sexual immorality, murder, drug abuse . . .
Without your mercy, we have no hope, no future, O God.
Have mercy on us, according to your loving-kindness. Forgive our sins and restore us by your grace, that we may resist the powers of evil, live in your light, and keep your word. Amen.
 Declaration of Forgiveness
Then we were assured and comforted with these words:
 With justice and equity, God forgives everyone who earnestly repents of their sin. May God’s face shine upon us and save us from our sin.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
The Peace
Jesus said, “Live in me and I will live in you.” As we greet one another with the peace of Christ, rejoice that Jesus Christ lives in each one of us.Peace be with you!
And also, with you
Invitation to the Offering
 When Lydia became a believer and was baptised in the faith, she invited Paul and his companions to stay in her home. Generous giving naturally follows believing! May our giving joyfully reflect our believing.

To offer is the thing. To have to be asked takes so much
 away from any gift and reveals a  lack of generous spirit.
Offering Prayer
Gracious God, we thank you for the abundant blessings
 you bestow upon the earth. As we offer these gifts, in thanksgiving and praise, we pray that they will be a blessing to others. Through our gifts, may the word
 of your goodness spread to the ends of the earth that all
people may know of your love and make a home for you
in their hearts. Amen.
Hymn TIS 408: “O breath of God, breathe on us now”
 It seems to me that the Spirit is the God I know: the God
that refuses to let go and demands that I keep to this path,
 no matter how imperfectly.
The Service of the Word.                  
Readings: Lyn Colless
The First Reading: Acts 16:9-15. Some people talk about his as our imagination opening up the Truth to us. If we look back through history it seems God has pointed men and women to the Truth this way whether they have been loyal followers or not.
The Gospel Reading: John 14:23-29. Following what I have said above and my own imperfect loyalty, I wonder if in God’s amazing generosity, truth is given for the benefit of all, to people who don’t merit its revelation because they have the resources to use it for the rest of God’s creation.
Preaching the Word – No Longer an Orphan - John 14:23-29
Rev. John spoke about wondering how he will feel when his mother is no longer living. He related that a person he had read about who as a child was really quite frightened of such a prospect. When the death of that person’s parents did take place he wasn’t scared but was certainly lonely and he turned to scripture for comfort.
“He read the passage that I have preached from many times during funerals and many of you have heard regularly. John 14:1-6.
 In this particular passage, Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure. Later in the passage that is used in funerals we have our scripture for today. Jesus is leaving them and they will feel alone— “orphaned”—having lost their Master, their Lord. Jesus is acutely aware of their pending experience of grief, loss, and sense of abandonment. It is then that Jesus offers them assurance that God will not forget them and will bless them, by telling them, But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not   let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (14:26-27).” One of the great promises from God to humans is that God will be with us.
 ...Sometimes we forget to continue reading the chapter 14 as it continues to offer words of comfort. The man I had been reading talking about earlier did. The sharp sense of feeling alone for him diminished and for many of us diminishes. We can feel peace in our hearts. This man went on to say that as he kept praying and reading these two verses, he experienced the Holy Spirit gently soothing his spirit. For this man it was more than a wonderful feeling; he experienced the Holy Spirit flowing into my being like fresh, soothing water.”

Rev. John related a story of a person finding peace through such a reading and through community with friends at church. We know many such stories.
 “The good news of Jesus Christ is that in God’s kingdom there are no orphans, no lonely people, no abandoned children, no forgotten elderly, and no rejected individuals. In God’s kingdom, we have a caring Parent who never forgets us and never abandons us. Praise be to God!”
Hymn TIS 451: “Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us” This hymn soothes and calms.
Intercessory Prayers
Ruth Henderson, relying on the promises of today’s readings and sermon, prayed for the people of God’s creation, worldwide: for their guidance, their healing and their comfort.
We then joined in THE LORD'S PRAYER
Hymn TIS 607: “Make me a channel of your peace” God’s way of being assurance and comfort to the world.
Benediction
May your heart be a home for Christ. May your home be a place where God’s love abounds. May your heart and your home so abide in God’s love that everyone who knows you will say, “Look! God lives here!”
And may that same Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life bless you and keep always Amen.
Hymn TIS 780: “May light come into your eyes”
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 May 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - May 25, 2019 - 11:23am



Gathering of the People

Alan led our service today, beginning with the

Call to Worship, which were
Jesus’ words to us that we should love each other. It is a short exhortation
but greatly challenging. It’s one thing to say that we should love each other,
but to do it as Jesus has loved us, is on a different level. Often we can quote
such words without realizing their weight.

Hymn TIS 137 “For the beauty of the Earth” A song
of praise, reminding us of all the gifts we have been given.

Prayers of Adoration and Praise.Psalm 148, said responsively, drawing in the congregation and raising the evocative
plane of this prayer as it resonated with each person.

Alan continued
to lead us as we became more aware of our inability to meet God’s standard and
praised God for forgiveness freely offered.
Sometimes as we make our way through our lives, we
fail to acknowledge that we have not loved our neighbour as Jesus loved us. We
think we are as good as the next person but fail to acknowledge that we are
simply broken people and are failing that sacrificial standard set by Jesus.

As we acknowledged our transgressions, Alan, on our behalf, asked for forgiveness.

Declaration of Forgiveness.We were reminded that God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. We humbly accepted that release with: “Thanks be to God”

We then shared that peace we had received with each other.

Hymn TIS 428 “Help us Lord, to learn” Not only
from the Service of the Word to follow but of our own brokenness and need for
healing and for forgiveness.

The Service of the Word

Readings:

Elaine brought the Bible readings to us:

Acts 11: 1-18
Peter explains the vision he had which revealed that all are acceptable at the Lord’s Table.

John 13: 31-35 I
give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved
you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are
my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Hymn TIS 217 “Love divine, all loves excelling” Another reminder that every time we start congratulating ourselves on how wonderful we are, God wants us to open ourselves to be more than we can ever be through our own strength. 

Sermon

I’d like to use the translation of Alan’s heading “By this shall all men know” as it is in the NRSV. “By this everyone will know”.         

However, what will be “known” is the most important part: “that you
are my disciples”. Does everyone know that we are his disciples?

Alan recounted an interesting experience he had in England, of
climbing into a “priest’s hole”, a small place used to hide priests from
persecution by Protestants in Tudor times. The recount was made even more
interesting by Alan’s account of the arrival of a Cardinal while he  was there, who would have not survived during the persecution because he was a little on the tubby side and wouldn’t have fitted into the space.

Alan further reminded us of the many persecutions of one group of Christians
against another that went on for years at enormous cost to the world and its
population.

I knew much hatred was spilled out, one group against another, but I
had no idea of the cost to the world. (And we can believe all Alan has to tell
us because when I knew him years ago he was a history teacher.)

If we weren’t humbled by the prayer for forgiveness earlier in the
service, this was enough to make us crumble, asking for forgiveness that humans
could be so horrible to each other. (And we can’t take refuge in “it wasn’t
us”. If we had been there, it would have been us.)

As Alan said: “we have not done well in hearing the words of Jesus”.
In fact it would seem that we haven’t heard them at all.

Later in his sermon, Alan said we use and misuse the word “love” so
carelessly and thoughtlessly that it can become almost meaningless and went on
to cite Martin Luther King Jr in saying that in loving others as Jesus loved
them does not mean we have to like them.

That is so, and something I have learned is that loving someone is not
a matter of finding that person attractive in some way, but simply a matter of
will. We can simply decide that we will love another person to serve them as
Jesus served others.

Alan had much more to say but space means I need to close here.
Today’s message is vital. Take notice and act upon it.

Hymn TIS 699 “A new Commandment I give unto you” This hymn allowed us to
let the words of the sermon sink in.

Prayers of the People

Alan prayed that the Government will, whatever the results of the
election, govern and work for the good of all Australians. He prayed for all
those who care for people and the people of our country regardless of culture
and country of origin. 

He asked for God’s blessing on John and Wendy and our whole
congregation as well as the needs of those known to us, finishing with the
Lord’s Prayer

Sending Forth

Hymn TIS 416 “Great God, Your Spirit is like the Wind” emphasizing God’s
influence in all things.

Blessing and Dismissal
Christ gave his followers a new commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you.
So go to be the people of God, and may all know that you are Christ’s disciplesby the love that you show for each other.

Go in peace to live and serve the world.

Hymn TIS 779 “May the feet of God walk with you.” An expression of our
intention.

 


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