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There Is a Scene ………

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 27, 2020 - 12:22am

There is a scene in the movie Return of the King, based on the third volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga The Lord of the Rings, where Aragorn gives dead soldiers who deserted their king a chance to regain their honour and be restored to peace if they will help to defend the City of Kings which is under attack by evil powers. He enters a cave through a small crevice in the mountain. It is dark and the sound effects make it clear that this is not a pleasant place. He steps over piles of dry bones heaped up against the walls of the cave and it appears that these are nothing but dry skeleton bones. 
Suddenly, in the centre of a large room, these skeletal creatures begin to threaten, but they are not really alive. Aragorn offers them a chance to redeem themselves by making good on their pledge to defend good against evil, and to be a part of a community that will restore the kingdom.
The prophet Ezekiel has had a similar experience in this week’s Hebrew Scripture well known reading (Ezekiel 37:1-14. In a vision or dream, he is with God in a valley of dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to instruct the bones to listen to the Lord. Then God tells the bones that God will restore their bodies with muscle and flesh and give them breath, resurrecting them to life and knowledge that God is the Lord. God calls upon the four winds to bring life back into the bones and they are alive again. This powerful image of God’s Spirit being breathed into the bodies so that they may live brings us back to the creation story in Genesis.
God communicates with Ezekiel through a vision or dream. God needs Ezekiel to tell this story to the people of Israel. They have lost hope and are feeling disconnected from their relationship with God. God wants them to know that only God gives life and has the power to restore the community to fullness. It has a semblance of applying to our world today as we face the requirements asked of us to stop the spread of Covid-19. God wants Israel to know that feeling powerless and hopeless is a form of death that sucks the life out of them, creating despair. Ah and this is what we too meed to hold on to; But they can be restored if they will just be faithful. This vision of hope for the revival of their nation as the children of God comes from God’s word and Spirit alone.
Both of these stories are about restoration, not of individuals but of communities being redeemed. They both have a prophet who is the messenger to the people. They both reject death and trust the stunning freedom and power found when the whole community is restored to their call to action and faithfulness.
As we near the end of Lent, we are being reminded that God’s Spirit is the source of our life as a community. We are not only being prepared for Christ’s resurrection but our own. As we read the Gospel, we have to look beyond the obvious. This account of the resurrection of Lazarus seems strikingly similar to the account we will hear of Jesus resurrection in a few weeks. In fact, it is this story that precipitates the plot against Jesus and leads to his death and resurrection. Jesus acts, not on his own, but from God’s guidance and not at the urging of others. It is another account of life coming from God and no one else.
Jesus is told that his friend Lazarus in Bethany is ill. But Jesus does not go there for two more days and not until after the disciples remind him that Bethany is the place where the people wanted to stone him just a short time ago. Jesus takes the opportunity to tell the disciples that he will go there so that they might believe. He is the prophet in this story, and it is up to him to bring God’s message of life.I will leave you to read what actually happens but as a part of our Lenten journey we are given yet another opportunity to walk a path toward restoration with Jesus. But we must walk that path as a community so that there may be a resurrection into new life. We are reminded that only God gives life. These stories give us hope that God will continue to give life even over death. Even in these times of pandemic that promise, and that hope is still valid.
We are living in a new time but first we must experience Easter. We can make some choices about how we get to Easter. We can choose not to focus on the things of the world that distract us and drain our life from us. We can choose to resist loving or accepting some more than others because they are different or think differently. We can deny those things that satisfy a sense of artificial power based on material things. We can choose to nurture a sense that we are individually more important than who we are together, as a family.
Or we can be restored by allowing the Spirit of God to give us life. We can choose to live as Jesus lived. We can live into our call to be a community of faith focused on the strength of our unity. We can give ourselves over to be restored by letting those things that separate us from God and each other die and be resurrected in Spirit to life as faithful believers.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Newssheet 29th March 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Newsletter - March 26, 2020 - 11:40pm

Marsden Road Uniting Church203 Marsden Road Carlingford
Sunday 29th March 2020


Our mission: to reflect Christ alive in the CommunityGreetings to you out there in your homes. These Sundays.we worship together in our homes in the homelands of the Wallumedegal people. We acknowledge their Elders, past and present.We hope that you will experience the presence of God in and through the Service sent out, privately or as a Family joining with the people of God who continue to gather in Spirit although not physically.
LECTIONARY BIBLE READINGS
Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45
PRAYER Life-giving God, your Son came into the worldto free us all from sin and death:breathe upon us with the power of your Spirit,that we may be raised to new life in Christ,and serve you in holiness and righteousness all our days;through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen.                                                             WORSHIP SERVICES          Rev John is currently preparing worship which is found On-line and Delivered by Hand to people. The following is how you can access these services.
A.   On Marsden Road Uniting Website:
1.   Go to http://www.marsdenroadunitingchurch.org.au/ 2.   Left-hand side of Home Page has List of Blogs3.   Click on Order of Service for …. Marsden Road Uniting (date will change each week) 4.   Hymn tunes can be accessed on YouTube by right clicking on the address.
B.   On Rev John’s Service Blogsite:1.   Go to http://whitestarhavent.blogspot.com/2.   Information on content and hymns in A. applies here.
C.   On Marsden Road Facebook Page:1.   Go to https://www.facebook.com/MRUCC082016/2.   Information on content and hymns in A. applies here.
D.  Receiving Service as a PDF Attachment by Email:1.   Either download to your own computer and use as above or just open and use as above.
E.   Receiving Service as a printed Document in Letter                 box

As we navigate this new and challenging time, our Synod is seeking to address concerns as they arise. Many our congregations have been asking about how weddings and funerals can happen during the coronavirus pandemic. The answer is that in all situations, the Government restrictions must be followed. Currently, this has seen the closure of all non-essential services, which includes places of worship. Our Synod has put out a set of guidelines - https://nswact.uca.org.au/ to cover this.


CONTACTSMinister of the WordRev John Candy 0411 267 639 or 98681658.or whitestarhaven@gmail.com
Church Council Chairperson:         Ruth Henderson 9875 2194Church Council Secretary:             Susan Halgren 9858 1409Elders’ Chairperson:                        Alan Craymer 9874 0531Elders’ Secretary:                            Elaine Forrest 9874 7231Congregation Meeting Chair:         Warwick Roden 9874 7584Property bookings/enquiries:         Warwick Roden 9874 7584
Website: www.marsdenroadunitingchurch.org.auFacebook:https://www.facebook.com/MRUCC082016/Rev Johns’ Weekly Blog: http://whitestarhaven.blogspot.com/Weekly Blog on the Sunday Service:                        margaretssundayreflections.blogspot.com

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Order of Service for March 29th 2020 - Marsden Road Uniting


Sunday 29th March 2020Marsden Road Uniting ChurchCarlingford

                               It's Hard Getting God...,
Sunday 29th March 2020Lent 5 Sunday in the year of Matthew 9.30 am
HymnsHymn 84: Give to our God immortal praise                   (Tune - Lasst Uns Erfreuen) Hymn 242: Lord of the dance                  (Tune – Lord of the Dance)Hymn 210: O for a thousand tongues to sing                   (Tune – Lyngham) Hymn 684: Love will be our Lenten calling                   (Tune - Picardy)Hymn 777: May the Grace of Christ our Saviour                  (Tune – Benjamin M Culli)
Readings:The First Reading:                 Ezekiel 37:1-14             NEB page 647The Gospel Reading:            John 11:23-45.             NEB page 822
Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples
We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship - (Mary J Scifres, Abingdon 2016)             In the midst of life, we are in death. But in the face of death, God’s Spirit comes to bring us life. Can dry bones live? Can life emerge from death? Only God knows. And yet, Christ promises just such a miracle through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come.
     All who are dwindling and dying . . .     come forth to new life.      All who are lying in darkness and despair . . .      come out into the light.      All who feel separated and alone . . .      come to the presence of God, whose Spirit finds us here.
Hymn 84: Give to our God immortal praise                   (Tune - Lasst Uns Erfreuen)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jaua_rOb6z0
1 Give to our God immortal praise;
   mercy and truth are all his ways:
   wonders of grace to God belong;
   repeat his mercies in your song.
2 Give to the Lord of lords renown;
   the King of kings with glory crown:
   his mercies ever shall endure,
   when lords and kings are known no more.
3 He built the earth, he spread the sky,
   and fixed the starry lights on high:
   wonders of grace to God belong;
   repeat his mercies in your song.
4 He fills the sun with morning light;
   he bids the moon direct the night:
   his mercies ever shall endure,
   when suns and moons shall shine no more.
5 He sent his Son with pow'r to save
   from guilt and darkness and the grave:
   wonders of grace to God belong;
   repeat his mercies in your song.
6 Through this vain world he guides our feet,
   and leads us to his heavenly seat:
   his mercies ever shall endure,
   when this vain world shall be no more.
Give to Our God Immortal Praise Isaac Watts, 1719. Ralph Harrison, 1784
Opening prayer
     Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into our lives and our worship. Create new possibilities, in our imaginations and in our dreams. Send the promise of your hope into our depression and our despair. Expand our hearts and our minds, as we enter your presence this day. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
God of new life and emerging possibilities forgive us when death and despair occupy our focus. Embolden our faith when your future feels out of reach. Strengthen our courage, that we might come forth into the light and life of your promises. In hope and trust, we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness 
In God’s love, there is hope. In Christ’s forgiveness, there is peace. In the Spirit’s power, we are renewed and brought forth into life!Thanks, be to God!
The Peace
Come out of your seats to share signs of new life and hope. Join one another in sharing signs of Christ’s peace.Peace be with you! And also, with you!
A Word with The Young People –
Has anyone ever had to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation – If you have been a member of the local Ambulance, St John’s Ambulance person a lifesaver   etc. you may have practiced this but never had to use it.  If you have, think about your experience - especially how you felt when the person began to breathe on their own and you knew that the person being resuscitated was going to live.
In all my years in Ambulance and the Medical area I have never had to myself, but I am told it is like a miracle when the person begins to breathe.
When people are physically saved by receiving a person’s breath or oxygen into their lungs, they are restored to be an active human person again.  Our reading today from the Old Testament tells us how God can breathe ‘new’ life into even dry bones so that they have life.  It’s a story that says that God can bring to life what appears to be totally life-less.  The Spirit of God dwells in us and so we are alive in a very special way - in ways that help us be more loving, more caring, more like Jesus. 
When we are alive in that special way - our hearts dance with joy - our next hymn tells how Jesus is Lord of that dance and how he gives us a life that’ll never, never die.
Offering Prayer
With these gifts, mighty God, bring forth new life and renewed hope. Work in us and through, that our lives and our gifts may become signs of life and hope for all to see. Amen
Hymn 242: Lord of the dance                  (Tune – Lord of the Dance)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xkk0YodJqH8
I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
at Bethlehem I had my birth.

Refrain:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.


I danced for the scribe and the pharisee,
but they would not dance and they wouldn't follow me.
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John -
they came with me and the dance went on.

Refrain:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.


I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame;
the holy people said it was a shame.
they whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high,
and they left me there on a Cross to die.

Refrain:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.


I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black;
it's hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They buried my body and they thought I'd gone,
but I am the Dance, and I still go on.

Refrain:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.


They cut me down and I leapt up high;
I am the life that'll never, never die;
I'll live in you if you'll live in me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.

Refrain:
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

Words © 1963 by Stainer & Bell Ltd. (admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188).
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

                                                  The Service of the Word
The First Reading:                 Ezekiel 37:1-14             NEB page 647The Gospel Reading:            John 11:23-45.             NEB page 822     
Readings from NRSV Translation:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ 4 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord .’7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus, says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 11 Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.
John 11:23-45

23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27 ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’ 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.39 ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’ 40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. For the Word of the Lord:Thanks be to God
Preaching of the Word
It's Hard Getting God..., – John 11: 23-45
        It's hard getting God to obey us. After all we're the ones on the scene. We know what we need, or our congregation needs, or what we need as individuals. God should listen to us and take our advice. If God would only be here when needed, there would be no tragedy in our lives. That’s very true for us now as we face a major upheaval in our lives with the out fall from Covid-19. We want God to sort this out quick time and we know what God needs to do.
        I heard once of a popular doctor who was told that his best friend is dying. The doctor had a wonderful reputation for his healing skills. But he delays going to see his friend, and the friend dies. When the doctor arrives to console the relatives, his friend's practical and blunt sister says, "Where on earth were you when we needed you? You could have saved his life, but you had better things to do!"
        Our Gospel reading for today gives us a glimpse into our Lord's private life. Jesus made friends with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Word came that Lazarus had died. For reasons we can only guess, Jesus delayed going to see Mary and Martha. When he finally arrived, Lazarus has been dead for some while. Martha, the ever-practical sister, said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
        Martha was on the scene. She knew what could have been done. That simple statement contained both faith and reproach. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." The statement reminds us that Martha believed Jesus could and would have healed his friend Lazarus. Because she believed she could also complain about Jesus' tardiness.
        Moments of grief may well produce the same partnership between faith and reproach in us. Someone we love dies. Surely our Lord would have done something to stop this tragedy? Where was he? It's not that we doubt. Either we don't understand, or we try to understand by grasping at unsatisfactory answers. "It was her time," we say, as if God sits around leisurely selecting at random those to die. If God is really like that, one wouldn't really like to have God as a friend!
        It's always good to ask a simple question when we say that God does something or other: "If a human did that sort of thing could she or he be admired?"
        Living in a congregation where only the faithful few attend worship can also be a grief experience. When a congregation member dies, or leaves the area, we try to make sense of our dilemma. "Why doesn't God do something about this situation?" we pray as we attend the quarterly Church Council meeting at which we discuss the fact that fewer people have to manage all the jobs, and funds dwindle while prices rise.
        In the first lesson today, we hear the familiar story of "Them dry bones. O hear the word of the Lord," as the old folk song puts it. Just before the verses we read this day, Ezekiel expresses confidence that Israel will come back into its own one day. Now that offers us hope at this time in our history. We too are promised that Gods beloved will come back into its own.
        Faced with the dichotomy between belief in God and confusion about why God didn't seem to do much to help the people, Ezekiel still believes. He is given a vision. He finds himself in a valley of dry bones. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy and to bid the wind blow life into the bones. God says, "Mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for ever.'" Then Ezekiel speaks for God and says: "O my people, I will open your graves and bring you up from them and restore you to the land of Israel."
        Now for the final thread to weave together what the lessons have to say to us on this fifth Sunday in Lent. St. Paul in Romans 8:1-11 (which I haven’t written out in the readings for this service, but we can look at in our own Bibles) alludes to a dreadful institution: slavery. Slavery was widely practiced in the Roman Empire. We sometimes forget that it was practiced in this country not many years ago. While there are no slaves today, men and women of all ethnic backgrounds still find themselves tied to badly paying jobs, to hopeless relationships, to squalid living conditions because they lack the economic resources and the education, or "know-how," to break free. It is terrible to have no options.
        Slaves belonged to their owners and were to be obedient. As many slaves became Christians in Apostolic times, and some of them became deacons, priests, and bishops, slavery was a familiar institution to the early Christians. St. Paul points out that a slave must be obedient to something or other. Christians, like slaves, can be obedient to the things that bring life, or to the things that kill.
        Those people today who struggle with the power of addiction know the truth of this. It's not enough, for most, to walk away from addiction. Loving and supporting friends, groups like AA, and above all God's healing grace are constantly and always needed. It's so much easier to be enslaved even if we know that we may well kill ourselves in the process.
        We want to do something about those who are enslaved. We want to do something about churches and missions that seem to be dying. We want to ensure our survival through this current Pandemic that is isolating many of us from the community which gives us strength. We want to stop our friends and loved ones from dying. We constantly say to God, "If you had been here on time, you could have stopped this happening." We want to give God the answers. We are full of wonderful suggestions and if we are lucky, we get another committee formed, another pressure group recognised, and even some more legislation adopted by our human committees!
        The root problem is that we have not been let in on the whole story. Before Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, he said, as an aside: "Loving parent, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." Out of the tragedy and sorrow of a friend's death comes good. It was not good that Lazarus died. Lazarus didn't die so that people might believe in Jesus. Death and life, evil and good, darkness and light are not each a separate thing. Good is merely evil put back on its feet again. Life is the positive end of death.
        Before we rush into situations blaming God for not turning up on time, we have to realize that we don't ever quite get the whole story. Instead of blaming God or suggesting that God has been absent, we need to believe that God and God's purpose are always at work. God does not will evil or tragedy. Yet God's love works good even at moments of personal or institutional despair.
        Asking for a vision may seem counter-cultural to us, but it is when we accept that God is at work and then seek to become part of God's solution, rather than part of our own problem, that miracles occur. Despite the destruction of Israel, Ezekiel hands things over to God and is given a vision of a restored, renewed, and living Israel. For all her grumbling, Martha handed over to Jesus and Lazarus came out of the tomb. When we are "enslaved to God," that is when we hand ourselves over to God's love and forgiveness, we find holiness and life.
        So in our prayers today let us ask God to give us the gift of loving God's purposes and promises, that our wills may be fixed on the essential and eternal Good which is always there, even when the world around us seems to be coming unglued.
Hymn 210: O for a thousand tongues to sing                   (Tune – Lyngham)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu9YgZZm29w 
1.  Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and king,
The triumphs of His grace!
2.  Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease—
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.
3.  He breaks the power of cancelled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
4.  He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.
5.  Hear Him, you deaf; His praise, you dumb,Your loosened tongues employ;You blind, behold your Saviour come,And leap, you lame, for joy
6.  My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad,
The honours of your name.
Thomas Jarman 1776 -1861Charles Wesley 1707 - 1788
Intercessory Prayers  
(A suggested Intercession with your own petitions is below from “Prayers for All Seasons: Based on the RCL Year A. Wood Lake Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition. However, if you so desire you can use your own.)
God of light, we give thanks for the physical light and warmth that brighten our lives: the sun that rises and sets and offers us day and night; the moon that waxes and wanes and notes the passage of time; the stars that illuminate the sky and by which we measure space and mark the seasons. Thank you for the gift of seeing, for the beauty we sense with our eyes; for the insights we perceive as we listen and learn; for the ability to reason and think ahead.God of darkness, we give thanks for times and places where rest and growth can happen: the night time when we can sleep and be refreshed; the earth where seeds lie dormant and animals hibernate undisturbed; the womb where new life can grow in safety. God of darkness and light, we confess that: We have sometimes ignored the insights we should have heeded or used our perspective for selfish gains. We have tried to force growth when we should have respected the darkness or chosen to stay in a comfortable place when we could have exposed our lives to the gentle scrutiny of your love. We own that sometimes life has seemed like a deep ravine and we could not find your presence near us. We seek assurance of your goodness and mercy, wherever we may be on life’s journey.For while we do see good and hopeful change, we also witness violence and dysfunction whereby the most innocent and vulnerable continue to be forgotten, abused, or treated as of no account. In your goodness and mercy, hear the prayers of our hearts: Change us, O God. Create within the desire and capacity for a love that can gently hold yet let go, that encounters all others with deep respect, and is concerned with others’ well-being above personal interest. In your goodness and mercy, hear the prayers of our hearts: we are alive to your imaginings for a new world and ready to make a creative difference.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn 684: Love will be our Lenten calling                   (Tune - Picardy)
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/199115
1.  Love will be our Lenten calling,
love to shake and shatter sin,
waking every closed, cold spirit,
stirring new life deep within,
till the quickened heart remembers
what our Easter birth can mean.
2.  Peace will be our Lenten living
as we turn for home again,
longing for the words of pardon,
stripping off old grief and pain,
till we stand, restored and joyful,
with the Church on Easter day.
3.  Truth will be our Lenten learning:
hear the Crucified One call!
Shadowed by the Saviour’s passion,
images and idols fall,
and, in Easter’s holy splendour,
God alone is all in all.
Benediction
        Let those who were languishing and dying rejoice.        We go forth with the promise of life.         Let those who have lain in the shadows of despair take heart.         We go forth with the promise of light.         Let those who have known the separation of loneliness feel union in life with the Spirit.         We go forth revived by the Spirit to proclaim the glory of God.
        May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Hymn 777: May the Grace of Christ our Saviour                  (Tune – Benjamin M Culli)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yq25i6PmCl8

1 May the grace of Christ our Saviour
   and the Father's boundless love,
   with the Holy Spirit's favour,
   rest upon us from above.
2 Thus may we abide in union
   with each other and the Lord,
   and possess, in sweet communion,
   joys which earth cannot afford.
John Newton 1725-1807


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 March 2020

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 23, 2020 - 7:12am


Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship - (James Dollins, Abingdon 2016)
Show me your way, O God, my Shepherd. Open a right path and let me hear your call to follow. Show me your way, O Christ, my Healer. Open my eyes to the needs of my world...
Hymn TIS 10: “The Lord’s my shepherd” (Tune - Crimond). Probably as well known as any hymn could be world-wide. And with good reason because of the comfort it brings.
Opening prayer
Visionary creator; give us your vision. Show us our hearts,
our homes, our communities, and our world through your eyes. 
A Prayer of Confession 
Divine God, our Guide, give us the clarity to wake to our short-sightedness and stay woke.
Give us the courage to wake to our shortcomings and stay woke.
Give us the compassion to wake to our hurtful acts and stay woke.
Give us wisdom to face our fears, receive your grace, wake to your call and stay woke.
Hear our silent prayer, as we sit in awareness of our need.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ
will shine on you.”
Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ
will shine on you.”
Thanks, be to God!
The Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children
of God. We meet in the name of Christ and share his peace.
Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
All of the above are a means of reaching out and making any wrongs right before we consider moving forward. It always needs to be done.
Offering
God of grace and truth; in Jesus, Light of the world, you have fulfilled your promise to be with us when we walk through the darkest valley.  May our gratitude for this evidence of your love for the world be made visible in these our offerings that we take up now.  

This is a timely message and I think many of us will grasp it close to our hearts. Hymn TIS 256: From heaven you came, helpless babe    (Tune Servant King)



    The Service of the Word
 The Gospel Reading:    John 9:1-41NEB page 819
 (Maybe you have your own favourite version of the Bible from which God’s voice comes to you.)
Thanks be to God.
Preaching of the Word - Clay Vessels of Beauty
Rev. John began with an important warning:
Lent has often been seen as a time of intense self-reflection. But self-reflection without understanding the power that God holds to make something beautiful of our clay vessels, our little lives, is to defy the power of the God of Love. 
Then Rev. John made two points:
According to the book of Samuel, God picks David, a young child, to fight Goliath and to be king of all Israel. And through that kingship, which has its times of horror and times of victory, God makes David the king Israel needed for the moment.
In addition, in the Gospel of John, the blind man suffers consistently throughout his life because people look at him as deficient, as sinful, as someone not worthy.
So God can use very ordinary and unlikely people to reveal his enlivening power in amazing ways. Rev. John goes on to remind us - and we all know from our experience - that self reflection can bring us to times of despair. However we all know from our experience that out of that despair, something beautiful can grow. This growth can remind us, not only what God’s power can do with ordinary souls such as we all are, but also reminds us that God is always ready to draw us closer.

We are all very swift to look at all our weaknesses and think that we could not possibly be of any use to lead anyone else to light but it is that very change which can cause others to wonder what turned us around .
And God says, “It’s in our vulnerabilities that we find the grace” and that finding grace and mercy is the ultimate goal of human existence within the Christian faith.
At this time we are very wary of the Covid19 virus. This should remind  us of being judgmental of others now or in ordinary times in regard to their behaviour. There are so many auto-immune-response diseases in the community at any time going undiagnosed which affect the ability of people to even get out of bed. Let’s be kind to each other - always. Amen
 Hymn TIS 129: Amazing grace Intercessory Prayers

THE LORD'S PRAYER
Hymn TIS 681:Lord, let me see Benediction

Go forth, woke to the call of God, your creator. Go forth, true to the path lit by Christ, your redeemer. Go forth, woke to the conscience of the Holy Spirit, your helper and guide. Amen.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Refreshed by Grace.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 20, 2020 - 2:58am

Over the years for Christians, even those on the fringe of Christianity, Lent has often been seen as a time of intense self-reflection. But self-reflection without understanding the power that God holds to make something beautiful of our clay vessels, our little lives, is to defy the power of the God of Love. According to the psalmist, in Psalm 23 set for this week, the valley of the shadow of death is where God is. It is in the presence of our enemies that a table is set, and, deep in our own muck, we are led beside the still waters.
According to the book of Samuel, again one of the scriptures for this week in our lectionary, God picks David, a young child, to fight Goliath and to be king of all Israel. And through that kingship, which has its times of horror and times of victory, God makes David the king Israel needed for the moment. In addition, in the Gospel of John, the blind man suffers consistently throughout his life because people look at him as deficient, as sinful, as someone not worthy. Self-reflection in all these cases would bring us to a place of despair, but in the hands of a good and merciful God? Something beautiful happens.

As human beings, we look at vulnerabilities as weaknesses, as those places that need to be thrown out or erased, denied, or refused. But it’s in our weakness and vulnerabilities that God reveals God’s self. It was in the choice of the smallest and youngest son that God revealed the king. It was in the valley of the shadow of death and in the presence of enemies that the poet knew that his God anointed him with the most fragrant oil and his cup ran over. And it was in the man’s blindness that the Holy One’s spit and a little mud helped him see in John 9.
But we live in a world where the expectation is that we are always and forever at the top of our game or we are punished. We live in a world where admitting our weakness is to admit defeat and to encourage harassment. We are in a world where we hide our hurt or we will be further damaged. We live in a world where panic and greed control which we have seen in the hoarding as people panic about the Covid-19 sickness the world is facing. And yet our God says, “It’s in our vulnerabilities that we find the grace” and that finding grace and mercy is the ultimate goal of human existence within the Christian faith.
John Wesley hoped we would become perfected but being perfected meant perfected in receiving and showing mercy, not in our perfection in a particular moral code or a sense of our own “doing it right.” That is the transformative power of the Christian faith. The ability to receive and swim through the muddy and spit-filled complexity of life with a merciful, loving creator.
And now a comment on the reading from John 9. The blind man could have been a “seeing” man—it is not the healing of the man’s blindness that is the ultimate experience Jesus hoped to address. The ultimate experience is God making us whole; God’s work is in making us whole. The one who was blind from birth was surprised by grace (there’s that word again), surprised by Jesus, shockingly loved and chosen, and his vulnerability became the place where the good news that he, too, was deeply loved was made manifest. To God, we are all the beloved. Each one of us is both beloved by God and the beloved to each other. It’s just sometimes we don’t recognise this or choose not to recognise this.
The real injury in the blind man’s life was the criticism from society, the damning from the religious leaders, and the selling out of his parents.  The ultimate holy experience, and one that is throughout scripture, is to experience God as one who does not see as mortals see—who does not see us in all the ways others have judged us, raced us, held us down, and been aggressively jealous or arrogant toward us. Yet it is facing those judgments, oppressions, imprisonments, jealousies, and arrogances, and reflecting and focusing on God’s love, grace, and mercy that will heal us.
The ultimate is that we are all yet beautiful, full, alive, living this life with the Spirit of God deep in our hearts. The ultimate is that God chose to birth us from love and mercy, continues to love and give us mercy every day of our lives, and, at the end of our life, will receive us into arms of love and mercy. The love of God is the grace given to us as we are created before we were born and continues with us throughout our lives.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Order of Service for March 22nd 2020 - Marsden Road Uniting



Sunday 22nd March 2020

Marsden Road Uniting ChurchCarlingford---------------------------------------------------------------------------------




Clay Vessels of Beauty Sunday 22nd March 2020Refreshment and Mothering Sunday in the year of Matthew9.30 am
HymnsHymn 10: The Lord’s my shepherd                  (Tune - Crimond)Hymn 256: From heaven you came, helpless babe                              (Tune – Servant King)
Hymn 129: Amazing grace                  (Tune – Amazing Grace)Hymn 681: Lord, let me see                                           (Tune – Lord let me see)
Hymn 778: Shalom to you                 (Tune – Somos del Senor)
Readings:The First Reading:                 1 Samuel 16: 1-13       NEB page 205The Gospel Reading:            John 9:1-41                  NEB page 817
Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples
We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship - (James Dollins, Abingdon 2016)        Show me your way, O God, my Shepherd. Open a right path and let me hear your call to follow. Show me your way, O Christ, my Healer. Open my eyes to the needs of my world.
Shepherd us, O God. Open our ears to hear your calling. Shepherd us, O God. Open our eyes to see your care.Shepherd us, O God. Shear our fascination with the ways of the world. Shepherd us, O God. Prepare us to follow you.
Hymn 10: The Lord’s my shepherd                  (Tune - Crimond)
YouTube – Click on link below to take you to Hymn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3USOwbb-byk
                                        i.    The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want;
he makes me down to lie
in pastures green; he leadeth me
the quiet waters by.
                                      ii.    My soul he doth restore again,
and me to walk doth make
within the paths of righteousness,
e'en for his own name's sake.
                                    iii.    Yea, though I walk through death's dark vale,
yet will I fear none ill,
for thou art with me; and thy rod
and staff me comfort still.
                                    iv.    My table thou hast furnished
in presence of my foes;
my head thou dost with oil anoint,
and my cup overflows.
                                      v.    Goodness and mercy all my lifeshall surely follow me;and in God's house forevermoremy dwelling place shall be.
Opening prayer
     Visionary creator; give us your vision. Show us our hearts,our homes, our communities, and our world through youreyes. Wash away our blind spots, and help us to see wherewe do not see. Allow us to see creation as you see it now,and as you envision it to become. Help us realize yourvision, and walk the road of life— the way and path ofJesus. Amen
 A Prayer of Confession
Divine God, our Guide, give us the clarity to wake to our short-sightedness and stay woke. Give us the courage to wake to our shortcomings and stay woke. Give us the compassion to wake to our hurtful acts and stay woke. Give us wisdom to face our fears, receive your grace, wake to your call and stay woke. Hear our silent prayer, as we sit in awareness of our need.
(Pause in silent prayer)
Help us wake to this awareness and stay woke. As we receive your grace, we wake to your whispers and direction, yearning to stay woke. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness       “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”Thanks, be to God!
The Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children of God. We meet in the name of Christ and share his peace.Peace be with you! And also, with you! (You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)
A Word with The Young People –
Theme: Humanity looks on outward appearances, God looks              at the inside.
Object: An x-ray
Some of you have probably seen an X-Ray before. Yes, an X-ray. Many times, when we go to the doctor, he cannot tell if we have something wrong just by looking at us. We may look just fine on the outside, but there might be something wrong on the inside. To see what is on the inside, the doctor takes an x-ray. By looking at the x-ray, the doctor can see what's on the inside and helps us to get well. You can't always tell by looking at the outside. 
The Bible tells us that humans look at outward appearance, but God looks on the inside. You can't always tell what a person is really like by looking at the outside. Some people may be beautiful on the outside, but they may be very mean, selfish, and hateful on the inside. Some people may not be very beautiful to look at, but on the inside, they are loving, gentle, and kind.
We spend a lot of time making sure we look good on the outside, but what are we doing to make sure we look good on the inside? (Read 1 Peter 3: 3-4) When we look at people, we need to remember that we can only see what's on the outside, but God can see what's on the inside - and it's what's inside that counts.
Lord, help us to be more concerned with our own inner beauty than with our outward appearance and help us not to judge other people by what we see on the outside. Amen.
Offering
 Your offering can be given electronically – please talk to the Treasurer.
God of our waking receive our gifts, that they may bring the goodness of our ministry to your world. Receive also the gifts of our transformed lives, as we open our hearts to perceive our short-sightedness. Give us the vision to offer our lives in service of you. Light our paths, and shine through our lives, as we follow you. Amen.
Hymn 256: From heaven you came, helpless babe                               (Tune – Servant King)
YouTube – Click on link below to take you to Hymn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOnidzZusJA                    
From Heaven You Came, Helpless Babe,
Entered Our World, Your Glory Veiled;
Not to Be Served but To Serve,
And Give Your Life That We Might Live.
This Is Our God, The Servant King,
He Calls Us Now to Follow Him,
To Bring Our Lives as A Daily Offering
Of Worship to The Servant King.

There in The Garden of Tears,
My Heavy Load He Chose to Bear;
His Heart with Sorrow Was Torn,
‘Yet Not My Will but Yours,’ He Said.
This Is Our God, The Servant King,
He Calls Us Now to Follow Him,
To Bring Our Lives as A Daily Offering
Of Worship to The Servant King.

Come, See His Hands and His Feet,
The Scars That Speak of Sacrifice,
Hands That Flung Stars into Space
To Cruel Nails Surrendered.
This Is Our God, The Servant King,
He Calls Us Now to Follow Him,
To Bring Our Lives as A Daily Offering
Of Worship to The Servant King.

So, Let Us Learn How to Serve,
And in Our Lives Enthrone Him;
Each Other’s Needs To Prefer,
For It Is Christ We’re Serving.
This Is Our God, The Servant King,
He Calls Us Now to Follow Him,
To Bring Our Lives as A Daily Offering
Of Worship to The Servant King.

The Service of the Word
The Gospel Reading:            John 9:1-41                  NEB page 819
Please respond by saying             Thanks be to God.

John 9:1-41 from NRSV   
1 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ 3 Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, ‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’ 9 Some were saying, ‘It is he.’ Others were saying, ‘No, but it is someone like him.’ He kept saying, ‘I am the man.’ 10 But they kept asking him, ‘Then how were your eyes opened?’ 11 He answered, ‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’ 12 They said to him, ‘Where is he?’ He said, ‘I do not know.’ 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, ‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’ 16 Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’ And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, ‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’ He said, ‘He is a prophet.’ 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, ‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ 20 His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’ 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, ‘He is of age; ask him.’ 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, ‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’ 25 He answered, ‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ 26 They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ 27 He answered them, ‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’ 28 Then they reviled him, saying, ‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’ 30 The man answered, ‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ 34 They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’ And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ 36 He answered, ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ 38 He said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshipped him. 39 Jesus said, ‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’ 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, ‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’ 41 Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
Preaching of the Word - Clay Vessels of Beauty
Lent has often been seen as a time of intense self-reflection. But self-reflection without understanding the power that God holds to make something beautiful of our clay vessels, our little lives, is to defy the power of the God of Love. According to the psalmist, the valley of the shadow of death is where God is. It is in the presence of our enemies that a table is set, and, deep in our own muck, we are led beside the still waters.
According to the book of Samuel, God picks David, a young child, to fight Goliath and to be king of all Israel. And through that kingship, which has its times of horror and times of victory, God makes David the king Israel needed for the moment. In addition, in the Gospel of John, the blind man suffers consistently throughout his life because people look at him as deficient, as sinful, as someone not worthy.
Self-reflection in all these cases would bring us to a place of despair, but in the hands of a good and merciful God? Something beautiful happens. As human beings, we look at vulnerabilities as weaknesses, as those places that need to be thrown out or erased, denied, or refused .... But it’s in our weakness and vulnerabilities that God reveals God’s self. It was in the choice of the smallest and youngest son that God revealed the king. It was in the valley of the shadow of death and in the presence of enemies that the poet knew that his God anointed him with the most fragrant oil and his cup ran over.
And it was in the man’s blindness that the Holy One’s spit and a little mud helped him see. But we live in a world where the expectation is that we are always and forever at the top of our game or we are punished. We live in a world where admitting our weakness is to admit defeat and to encourage harassment. We are in a world where we hide our hurt or we will be further damaged. And God says, “It’s in our vulnerabilities that we find the grace” and that finding grace and mercy is the ultimate goal of human existence within the Christian faith.
John Wesley hoped we would become perfected but being perfected meant perfected in receiving and showing mercy, not in our perfection in a particular moral code or a sense of our own “doing it right.” That is the transformative power of the Christian faith. The ability to receive and swim through the muddy and spit-filled complexity of life with a merciful loving creator.
The blind man could have been a “seeing” man—it is not the healing of the man’s blindness that is the ultimate experience Jesus hoped to address. The ultimate experience is God making us whole; God’s work is in making us whole. The one who was blind from birth was surprised by grace, surprised by Jesus, shockingly loved and chosen, and his vulnerability became the place where the good news that he, too, was deeply loved was made manifest.
The real injury in the blind man’s life was the criticism from society, the damning from the religious leaders, and the selling out of his parents. The ultimate holy experience, and one that is throughout scripture, is to experience God as one who does not see as mortals see—who does not see us in all the ways others have judged us, raced us, held us down, and been aggressively jealous or arrogant toward us.
Yet it is facing those judgments, oppressions, imprisonments, jealousies, and arrogances, and reflecting and focusing on God’s love, grace, and mercy that will heal us. The ultimate is that we are all yet beautiful, full, alive, living this life with the Spirit of God deep in our hearts. The ultimate is that God chose to birth us from love and mercy, continues to love and give us mercy every day of our lives, and, at the end of our life, will receive us into arms of love and mercy.
Hymn 129: Amazing grace                  (Tune – Amazing Grace)
YouTube – Click on link below to take you to Hymn

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDdvReNKKuk
Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
'tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.
Intercessory Prayers  - Pray for those in need, our world etc.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn 681: Lord, let me see                                           (Tune – Lord let me see)
YouTube – Click on link below to take you to Hymn
http://rosslangmead.50webs.com/rl/Downloads/SongsMP3/LordLetMeSee.mp3
       Lord, let me see, see more and more:        See the beauty of a person, not the colour of the skin,       See the faces of the homeless with no-one to take them       in,        See discouragement because she'll never win,        See the face of our Lord in the pain. Lord, let me see.
        Lord, let me hear, hear more and more:         Hear the sounds of great rejoicing, hear a person barely sigh,         Hear the ring of truth, and hollowness of those who live a lie,         Hear the wail of starving people who will die,         Hear the voice of our Lord in the cry. Lord, let me hear.
        Lord, let me care, care more and more:         Care for those who feel the loneliness, for those who have no say,         Care for friends who have no job and find it hard to face the day,         Care for those with whom we sing and work and pray; And in care, Jesus Christ will be found.        Lord, let me care.                 Lord, let me learn, learn more and more:         Learn that what I know is just a speck of what there is to know,         Learn from listening to my neighbour when I'd rather speak and go,         Learn that as we live in faith and trust we grow;         Learn to see, hear and care, with our Lord.         Lord, let me learn.
        Lord, let me love, love more and more:         Love the loveless and the fragile, help them be what they can be,         Love the way that I would like them to be looking after me,         For to know you is to love them and be free;         And in love Jesus Christ will be found.         Lord, let me love.
Benediction                Let us in the daily life we currently live, be awake to the call of God, our creator. May we go forth, true to the path lit by Christ, our redeemer. May we go forth, awake to the conscience of the Holy Spirit, our helper and guide. Amen.
  Hymn 778: Shalom to you

YouTube – Click on link below to take you to Hymn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u-WxpmOpN4
Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends. May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends. In all your living and through your loving, Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 March 2020

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 19, 2020 - 6:24am

 We began the service by acknowledging the original carers of the land on which our church is built.
It is always good for our souls to remember all those who have gone before us and made the way easier for us, whether it applies as this does to our physical environment or to our spiritual lives. So many have suffered or simply put in long hours thinking and praying their way through what has come to be our beliefs.
Come, let us sing to the Lord.
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving.
Let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise!
Similarly, we need to, minute by minute, praise God for the light that comes into our lives - as a simple gift for those who reach out.
Opening Prayer
We do come with hearts full of thanksgiving to praise you, O God. In time of old you satisfied your people’s thirst with water in the arid wilderness. You still satisfy our thirst, but in ways which have a far lasting effect than mere refreshment...  Amen
 A Prayer of Confession 
 We confess, O God, that we find it difficult to cope with change and there are times when we, like those wanderers in the wilderness, choose to exercise selective memories about the past - remembering only the good things and forgetting the bad...
Thanks, be to God!
 A Word with The Young People
I don’t normally include this section but it is so relevant. Here is a summary. A sponge which is dried out is hard and inflexible but a sponge filled with water is soft and flexible. That is what happens when we are filled with God’s  Spirit. We lose our brittleness and God is able to change us to be like Jesus, and able to help build the Kingdom of God.
So in keeping with that idea we sang the hymn “Be Still for the presence of the Lord”  it is only then that we can be changed into the image of God.
The Service of the Word
This began with the readings Exodus 17:1-17 and John 4:5-42. The first reading was about Moses being told to strike a rock which then produced a spring to quench the thirst of the Israelites who were complying of thirst in the desert. God quenches our thirst but for a spiritual thirst and is the only one who can do such a thing. People try to do it in a plethora of other ways and fail, fail, fail.
The second reading was about the woman at the well questioning Jesus as to why he  would ask her to provide him with water and then he answered in such a way of which we all should take note. He and he alone can quench that terrible thirst we all have and then never need be given any other way of quenching it. Of course Jesus was speaking of our spiritual thirst to be healed of our brokenness.
Preaching of the Word - Willing Conversation
 Rev. John spent some time talking about the poor view of women as read about in the Bible but later focused of “The Woman at the Well” in a way in which I heard the voice of God coming through.
 “This is the longest conversation recorded in the New Testament between Jesus and anybody. There has to be something in this story more important than how many men she had known.
Consider the story. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. She expresses her astonishment that he would talk to her. He says to her that if she only knew who he was, she’d be asking him for a drink – of living water. She says, “Okay. May I have a drink of this water?” He says, “Go. Call your husband!” Now, to this point, she’s talking about plain old well water. And while that’s the drink that Jesus asked from her, it is not the water he offers to her.
 So, still with well water in mind, she engages the conversation and doesn’t call anyone...
 Her understanding may have been incomplete; “He can’t be the Messiah, can he?” But it was enough to hook people, to pique their curiosity, to invite them in. “Many Samaritans in that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”
This woman, who is often remembered badly in church history for her sexual relationships, who would not have been considered a credible witness, was an early disciple.
 This woman, whose witness and testimony were only as strong as: “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” brought many to faith.
 Now think: How will history remember you? Will it be for your behaviour? Or for your testimony?
The next hymn was  “I heard the voice of Jesus say” - what have you hear the voice of Jesus say?
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Assumptions out of context.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 13, 2020 - 3:40am

There are usual suspects that possibly come first to our minds when reading this pericope in John 4 from the readings set for this week. Over the years, I’ve heard them all: the woman with five husbands, Jesus and the Samaritan, the adulterer turned evangelist and so on. None of these are bad but, frankly, they’re unoriginal, and over the years I have wondered if woman dread the references. It is difficult as a man but over recent years the growing societal non-acceptance of the treatment of woman within our society has caused me to think and I have begun to wonder how these portrayals were used in keeping woman from taking the role God calls them to in our communities and culture. But what if instead of looking at this passage as an indictment of this woman’s sexual lifestyle, we focus on the things not said.
I read about a great theologian, sister, who was mentor to many woman, Dr. Loida Martell-Otero, who said to someone once, “You have to learn to read scripture against the grain and discover the things that are not on the surface but below it.” In her former life, she was a veterinarian who dealt with large animals in Puerto Rico. She reminded those taught by her that when examining animals, veterinarians always run their hands against the grain of the animal’s skin and coat, slowly and methodically to see if they discover bumps and bruises that can’t be seen on the surface. What if we did the same here?!
If the woman’s reputation is so bad, that she has to come out to get water at a certain time of day, then how is it that instead of turning away from the conversation with Jesus, a man who is not a Samaritan, she instead engages with him in deep theological conversation as though she had every right to be there, defending her well and defending her way of worship? She never backs down from Jesus’s conversation and instead allows him to enter into her space so that he can discover things about her own life.
Another thing that I have pondered along with many is whether she indeed had such a bad standing with the community. How is it that upon her encounter with Jesus, she runs and tells the entire village and they follow her to come and see this man who has told her everything about herself? Sometimes we read a lot of our own biases into scriptural texts; there really is nothing in there that can confirm that she was an immoral woman, and it’s really not hard to do, given how we have been shaped to believe about women in general, especially in scripture. The harder task is to go against the grain and see her not through our eyes, but perhaps through Jesus’s. Do you know how incredible it feels when someone sees who you really are and recognises the value that you bring to this world? So, I wonder how that would be for woman. I think it would be as refreshing as a drink of living water.
In the current debate on violence against woman and our failure to protect and support woman in such situations it is certainly something to ponder. I have been concerned that continually parts of the church try to use scripture, sometimes subtly to hold power over woman. This path that leads to abuse and violence thus negates the way Jesus has shown and called us to in dealing lovingly and compassionately with each other, especially I our diversity.

 Just like Jesus, Moses finds himself in need of provision for the people who are in the middle of the wilderness called Sin (how’s that for a theme?). Water as an overall theme is an important spiritual symbol. Water is creative, and water is restorative. Water is destructive and can demolish, as we have seen in floods here in Australia and other places around the world. A lack of water to feed and nourish has also been part of our lives over this summer in Australia.
Water can also be a symbol of justice and righteousness, and the renewing peace of God that restores the strength of all people who are thirsty and seeking a way out of their own wilderness experience. If we are talking about the life-giving water that God can provide, we can be sure that with it comes change. Clearly the people who are arguing and fussing with Moses aren’t ready for the change, even though they had found themselves in the midst of slavery and oppression, but Moses hasn’t given up on them and neither has God.
I wonder if that’s why it is that they call it life-giving water. Is it because grace never runs dry? During this season of Lent, the challenge will be whether or not we allow this life-giving stream to transform and create in us a new heart and a new life. I would also like the leaders of the world including Australia to take note and take drastic measures to deal with climate change. Without water there is no nourishment and there is fire and death. A poignant reminder of the stewardship of creation we are called to by our loving God.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Primal Symbols that Call.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - March 6, 2020 - 3:56am

John’s Gospel begins with the primal symbols of darkness and light, and these are interwoven into descriptions of the physical settings of Jesus’s ministry as well as spiritual conditions. There is a difference between night and day, and John’s Jesus insists that the reader, the hearer, the believer must choose. There are no shades of grey in this test of discipleship or in this familiar text from John 3. “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil.”  
William Temple wrote: “Don’t wait till you know the source of the wind before you let it refresh you, or its destination before you spread sail to it. It offers what you need; trust yourself to it.” Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, perhaps so that he won’t be seen by his highly critical Pharisee brothers, but perhaps also in a state of intellectual or emotional obscurity. Cautious, concrete, literal-minded, entrenched in his beliefs and practices, Nicodemus is genuinely curious and humble in light of Jesus’ signs.
In his encounters with people, Jesus finds the weak spot as the locus of transformation. For Paul it is the mysterious “thorn” in his side. Paul begs God to remove it, but hears instead in 2 Corinthians 12, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” For Peter, it is his threefold denial. After the Resurrection, Jesus will ask three times, “Do you love me?” (John 21). For Nicodemus, it is his knowledge: “How can?” “But?” Jesus meets the Pharisee’s literal-mindedness with a frustratingly wild metaphor. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus, a respected leader and teacher, comes under the cover of darkness to ask the hard question: “Is it possible that everything I know is wrong?” He clearly recognizes the signs of God in Jesus; he knows wisdom when he hears it, but that wisdom is making a fool of him. He’s an old teacher who is still hungry to learn, but he doesn’t expect to be demoted to preschool. Jesus doesn’t make it easy. He uses the one word for “birth,” anothen, that has two different meanings: “born again” or “reborn” and “born from above.” Nicodemus goes for the literal, turning the Spirit’s work into a laborious affair.
John’s Jesus is a code talker, using symbolic language to distinguish between those who are children of light and those who have chosen the shadowland. If we draw back from this dramatic staging between this teacher of the law and the One who is Wisdom, we can also hear the post-Easter community of John speaking to the religious authorities who were colluding with Rome to ostracise converts to Christianity. “I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony.”
Leaders like Nicodemus may be the spiritual guardians of the holy of holies, but they resemble the Romans trying to guard an empty tomb. “God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” It seems that Nicodemus doesn’t appreciates the lesson or the question. He simply slips away into the night, disappears from the Gospel scene.
But in the darkest moment for the followers of Jesus, Nicodemus shows up again. It is Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who anoint and wash Jesus’s body and prepare it with spices for burial. It’s an intimate and courageous witness. Near the Gospel’s end, Nicodemus steps out of the shadows into the public square of Rome’s empire and choses the Light.
The images of pilgrimage and the language of the Spirit’s new birth are linked in these scriptural texts in the season of Lent. Both present the reader/hearer/believer a choice. Do you trust the One who is the Way? Will you begin a pilgrimage of faith, filled with assurance of the God who guards and shelters? Have you been born by water and the Spirit?

Both scripture passages offer the believer life filled with assurance and the power of the Spirit. This theme of assurance connects this Lenten gospel and this psalm. Fanny Crosby’s hymn “Blessed Assurance” would provide the musical affirmation of faith in a trustworthy God and Jesus, the Christ. This is story filled with assurance of the God who guards like a mother and shelters like a father. This is the song of a child of God, an “heir of salvation” in and through Christ. We are “born of his spirit” and this is our story and our song.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 February 2020

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 3, 2020 - 4:06am


 Warwick took today’s service and spoke about how we come to be the people we are...
 A Faith for Everyone
“Have you ever traced your family history ? Or watched TV series, “Who do you think you are?” You see that person, occasion, relationship, discovery, intervention or chain of events and think, “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that person or occurrence”.
The Acts of the Apostles is full of occurrences. Exciting reading of early days of the Christian Church: freshness, vigour, vibrancy as we see the boldness of Peter and John when arrested, and they defiantly proclaim, “we cannot possibly give up speaking of the things we have seen and heard”.
Then Warwick spoke about significant events which led to Christianity existing: 
The attempt by the authorities to crush the new movement comes after a string of significant events:
a. The choosing of Matthias as a replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot
b. The gift of the Holy Spirit, which is often described as “the birth of the Church”
c. The persecution of the disciples, leading to the stoning of Stephen. Deacon, who waited on tables and checked the equal division of food. A person of strong faith, who came to the attention of the authorities. So they stoned him for blasphemy. “then he fell on his knees and cried aloud, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”, and died.
d. And the account goes on to say, “and Saul (who later became Paul) was among those who approved of his murder”.As  St. Augustine was to say almost 400 years later, “if Stephen hadn’t prayed, the church wouldn’t have had Paul”, because it led to Paul’s complete change.”
And without Paul we wouldn’t have been gathering in MRUC on this a Sunday in 2020. And without Paul. We wouldn’t be singing hymns like: “May the mind of Christ my saviour live in me from day to day.”  We are Christians today for a variety of reasons: some of us are brought up in Christian families and know God from a early age. Others have been sent to Sunday School or Scripture because it was  “the thing to do.” Others have been impressed by the witness of someone we know.
My brother-in-law watched a Salvation Army Chaplain as he went about giving strength and comfort to the troops during WWII and decided that was the type of man he wanted to be. When my sister married him, she went to church because he did and as a result became a Christian.



I was challenged by the possible mess I would be in during a series of natural disasters around the world in the years about 2008 to 2010. I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope if I had been present when they happened and realised my helplessness. After about three months struggle with God, reading a book given to me by a  Christian friend and remembering prayers and hymns from my youth when I thought I was a Christian, I gave up and let God take me in hand and make me his own.

What a difference it has made to my life!And when we read the personal stories of so many people, we know what a difference it can make to the life of anyone.
It’s not a matter of just going to church or even teaching Sunday school or scripture. When we are taken by God and made God’s own, our lives are not our own from then on. We may stray but we know we have to return to the path assigned to us and live a life of love and service in God’s name.
It may not sound an attractive way to live, not being able to choose our own way, but all those who do make the decision to respond to a God’s call and invite God into their lives will tell a story of newfound freedom.
Once you step out into such a life, you will never regret it.
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 March 2020

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - March 3, 2020 - 3:55am


 Today was our Communion service which is always treated with great seriousness and reverence by our Congregation.
Anyone visiting for the first time would not detect anything different when they arrived as people greeted each other before the service.
Each person attending offered others present a warm smile and a hug, kiss or handshake, depending on the relationship between the individuals involved.
But as the service proper began, the mood quickly shifted as we entered into the felt holiness of the experience.
Firstly we did what was only right and proper by acknowledging the ownership and care by the first people of the place we were standing on and praying that our voices would join with theirs in worship.
Rev. John then prayed that we would let our vulnerabilities be seen by God.
When I pray I always  try to not hide away from God, but allow my every fault and flaw and sin be exposed, as I allow my God to begin the cleansing and healing process.
Rev. John then prayed as we all intended:
In the wilderness of life, we are not alone.
God is with us, even in the midst of our loneliness.
On the treacherous paths, God’s guidance is ours.
We will walk in Gods ways of wisdom and truth.
Come to hear. Come to learn. Come to the hiding place of God.
Here we find grace. Here we find love. Here we will worship and pray.
In our flawed state, others cannot stand-in for us. We must ask God for forgiveness personally and face our brokenness honestly and openly. Only God can show us how to be what we are intended to be.  Hymn TIS 119: “I sing the almighty power of God”

Opening prayer
Faithful God strengthen us for the journey ahead. Guide us with your knowledge and your love. Send your Spirit to drive us and guide us where we need to go— ever-closer to you and to your ways through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.
We followed this with a prayer of confession. We need to name our sins as well as acknowledge our flawed nature before God can heal us.  A Prayer of Confession

God of mercy and grace cover our nakedness and strengthen our vulnerabilities. Forgive us in our sinfulness, and surround us with your faithful love, that we may know true happiness through your mercy and grace. This we ask in Jesus’name. Amen
Declaration of Forgiveness
Faithful love surrounds you. Forgiveness is yours, through the grace of Christ. Rejoice and be glad!
Thanks, be to God!
We know that God is ready and willing to forgive but it’s good to hear that said aloud after which it is only right that we share the peace that brings with each other.
Hymn TIS 412:“God sends us his Spirit” Without God’s spirit guiding us we will lose our way.
Then we entered into a time when we were conscious of not only our relationship with God but our relationship with other Christians, especially those with us in the service.
                  The Service of Holy Communion
The Great Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you. And also, with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
All glory and honour be yours always and everywhere, mighty Creator, ever living God. We give you thanks and praise for your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, who by the power of your Holy Spirit was born of Mary and lived as one of us. He was tempted in every way as we are, yet he did not sin. By his death on the cross and rising to new life, he offered the one true sacrifice for sin and obtained an eternal deliverance for his people. By his grace we are able to triumph over every evil, and to walk in the way of his love. So, we praise you, holy God, with angels and archangels and all your faithful people:

 Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and
might, Heaven and earth are full of your
glory. Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name
of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
Having begun by acknowledging the holiness
of God, we continued the service and our
lives afterwards, always affected by the
cleansing and healing power of God, and
given Jesus’ life as the example of a life of sacrifice and service. AMEN.
 
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Seek to be a Means of Grace.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - February 28, 2020 - 6:51am

The book of Genesis offers deep metaphors for the season of Lent, a season of reflection, repentance, and renewal. These passages teach a timeless lesson on God’s provision and desire for deep communion with humanity. These verses also shine a light on the destructive consequences of egotism and selfishness.
One of those metaphors’ states; that when God breathed God’s pneuma into dust and placed those souls in the garden, a full and perfect relationship of love, communion, and trust was created. Through the gifts of collaboration and community, they were empowered to be in relationship with creation, to tend and enhance creation. The equilibrium and sacredness of the garden was interrupted when humanity succumbed to the temptation of self-aggrandizement over against complete trust in and reliance on God.
A forest of shame borne of the seed of selfishness then separated humanity from full communion with their creator. What selfish motivations are wreaking havoc in our personal lives, churches, and communities? Where have we given sway to egotism over an abiding communion with God? How might our lives be more peaceful and fruitful if we resisted destructive temptations?
In our postmodern Christian discernment, there is often a tension between whether sin or love is the overarching message of our faith. Genesis offers a both or and response. God is love, and yet the depth and breadth of God’s love cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the presence of sin. Perhaps our disdain for acknowledging sin rests in the failure to tell the rest of the story. After acknowledging their actions, God does not respond with consequences alone; rather, God also continues to offer provision. How can we fully explore the message of Genesis without the overworked either/or analysis?
Lent offers a precious opportunity for Christians and non-Christians to reexamine what is creation and/or God’s intent for creation, to earnestly repent of our sins and failures and renew our covenant. As we journey these forty days and nights, the beloved community has the opportunity to become the church God envisioned. Those who are the beloved, that is all of creation is enabled to seek God’s vision for the world. As we do, the church then becomes the place where others who are broken can find wholeness. Those seeking deliverance, healing, hope, and love can experience the transformative inertia of the church’s blessing.
The themes of temptation, trust, and humility are highlighted in this week’s reading from Matthew 4. In juxtaposition to the actions and attitude in the garden, the writer of Matthew illustrates the faithfulness of Christ as he humbly relied upon God and God’s word and revelation. Even in his starvation, Christ demonstrates the strength inherent in feasting upon every word of God rather than the empty words of humanity. Another prescient theme to be explored is the problem of half-truths. How did knowing the fullness of God’s word enable Jesus to withstand temptation? What strength can be drawn from the humility of relying on God’s word as we wrestle with the demons in our lives?

I’d like to share the following from a recently written article by a friend Andrew Semple. He wrote:
“The early church was a movement that had diversity both in organisation and practice; unique on the one hand, but a mixture of influences principally from Judaism, but also from Greek philosophy, Greco-Roman paganism, and a number of ‘mystery’ religions on the other. It did not have a singular form, nor was there an ideal structure upon which each community was based - that structure emerged later along with the statements of faith. Baptism, however, was the sign of becoming part of the church and a way of being welcomed into God’s family. While the Eucharist became the sign of participation in the life of the church and the exercise of personal membership of it.
Diversity within the church resonates with St Paul’s ‘body image’ in 1 Corinthians. It also sits comfortably within the ‘mixed economy’ model of church presented by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, (‘Making the mixed economy work’ - 6 May 11). Diversity is good for the church because it allows many people to participate in it and belong to it.
The church is meant to ‘be’ the body of Christ in the world, acting in Christ’s name to ‘do’ those things that bring justice and righteousness. Sadly, ‘being’ and ‘doing’ often end in conflict if one dominates the other. Rather, we are meant to be a little bit of both – the church is meant to both ‘be’ and ‘do’; one cannot exist without the other.”

He goes on to remind us of the transformational community the Church is to be.     ‘…to be a transformational community built on the love of God and worked out in the ministries of word, sacrament and incarnation’.
“The church is also meant to be prayerful (that is, be in communication with God), while pursuing those things about which it prays. In other words, we should not pray for the poor if we are not going to be generous, we should not pray for peace if we are not going to condemn conflict and violence, we should not pray for refugees if we are not going to show hospitality to them, and so on. We should therefore not claim to be ‘the church’ if we are not going to bea means of bringing God’s grace and salvation into the lives of others. Telling people to leave the church mitigates against this position.”
I will leave you with these thoughts for Lent’s beginning as we all work out our response to the love of God and the work the Church is called to.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

The Smudge of Change.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - February 25, 2020 - 2:51am

For many years, I questioned in my mind the practice of donning ashes at the start of Lent as it seemed, to me, to be at odds with Jesus’ exhortation to perform our spiritual disciplines in secret. For many, that will be the only time of the year when we make a public spectacle of our repentance, perhaps even our faith. As I grew up, it wasn’t a discipline observed in my particular Anglican upbringing. However, the first time I did participate in this ritual, having ashes placed on my forehead by a beloved Anglican mentor, I was so moved by the experience that I vowed to seek the opportunity to participate in or make this observance accessible wherever I ministered.
There is something in the donning of ashes that speaks of change for us and the world around us—a symbol of change that needs to be publicly displayed and not hidden away behind locked doors. The dark smudge on my forehead feels dry and grainy. Felt cool and damp as it was placed there. Already it has changed. I found the following from a service written in an article by Jenee Woodard that helps state what it means.
Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.Dry, sobering words. God forbid that any should forget their humble beginnings or equally humble, inevitable end summed up in a smudge of ash! Sobering if that were all: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. But, there’s more. In those ashes lies not just a salutary reminder but an exhortation — a call to turn from sin and live out the gospel, an affirmation that, from those humble beginnings, we are called to great things.Turn from sin and live out the gospel transforming the dirty smudge on my forehead into an aspiration of service changing its weight and import into a sign of hope that this ancient holy day ritual still has import. In a world rushing on to the next thing ashes become symbols of love carrying all the potential to spread love as the gospel is lived out in ordinary peoplein humble people who don ashes to change the world.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Light of Experience.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - February 21, 2020 - 3:31am

When thinking about the Gospel reading for the Transfiguration from Matthew 17, I began to think about mountain experiences. Things happen on mountains. When I was younger growing up in Aotearoa (New Zealand) I spent a lot of time in the mountains and hills with family or friends. Sometimes we would be out for up to a week. When you go into the hills and mountains in Aotearoa you need to be careful and prepared for all types of weather and condition. You also have to trust, build fellowship and care about those with you. Sometimes I went with just one person and sometimes with a good number.
One trip we were hiking from Glenorchy at the top of Lake Wakatipu. We set out from Glenorchy and walked into the start of the Routeburn Track.  The next day albeit overcast we walked to the Harris Saddle expecting to camp out somewhere near there. As we got there though and rested for a crashing storm tracked its way across the mountains until it arrived at the Saddle where we were with brilliant lightning, booming thunder, slashing rain and then snow. Initially we huddled in fear and awe at the power and for me of our God made manifest in this display of creation.
That was a singular weather event in all my years on the mountains We then quickly made our way despite a minor injury to my walking partner to the next shelter/hut at Lake McKenzie. Boy was I glad of the companionship and support of my friend despite his injury. We pushed hard through the rain that had set in and arrived at Lake McKenzie before dusk. There were a couple of people already in the hut. We were delighted to find others there as we were concerned about getting support if things with my friend got worse. We expressed our gratitude at arriving at a nice warm hut, a cuppa and then we all prepared a nice warm meal.  
Before eating, in the quiet of our surroundings I expressed my thanks and gratitude to myself for the experience together we had and our safety despite the conditions. While in those mountains I was reminded of the story of transfiguration — of the notions of being changed from the inside out and prayers that this glow, this obvious work of the Spirit, this being kept safe despite the experience would transfer back to where we had come from. I was reminded that coming out of the normal often allows for these “mountaintop experiences.”
The transfiguration of Jesus is seen as a divine light that emanated from his body that revealed to the disciple’s truths, they had not understood through Jesus’s words alone. Jesus knew they would not be able to comprehend the resurrection, so they were provided with the unforgettable visual teaching method. The hardest lessons that we learn in life stay with us because we witness them with our eyes. As humans, we believe what we see and not what others see for us. Jesus knew that the coming events of his suffering, death, and resurrection would become the “good news” throughout eternity if told through the eyes and memory of the disciples.
So, the question I reflect on these days is, “How does this sense of belonging, this bond of acceptance, this trusting of each other, this trusting of God, this unconditional love and non-judgment become the norm in our lives every single day, no matter where we are?” Our prayer always was, “How do we become the bearers of goodness, mercy, and love that transfigures each and every space we enter?” This is a critical message for our bodies of Christ gathering to hear a rallying cry in our houses of worship. Transfigured through mountaintop experiences, we go to shine in a world of dimness.
Exodus 24 the Hebrew Scripture set for the Transfiguration Feast talks of how rules affect our lives. In a world of ambiguity and vague language, how do we translate rules written in stone for our daily lives? Ethical decision-making with a lens that sees and considers the broader impact of what we say and do is much needed in our world. Can our churches be places that not only encourage this but teach and demonstrate it? In what ways are the Ten Commandments a guide or a hindrance to decision-making in this day and age?

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 Febrauary 2020

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - February 14, 2020 - 8:40am

Because I can’t include the whole service each week, I need to reflect on different aspects of the service where that is possible. This week, after sharing with you the introduction to the service, I have decided to reflect on the prayers, hymns and bible readings.
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal.  
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship - (Laura Jaquith Bartlett, Abingdon 2016)
Wanted: Light-Shiners.Application Deadline: Always Open
Job Description: Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, free the
oppressed. Salary& Benefits: Living in Gods light....
Then our light will break forth like the dawn!
You are the light of the world. Shine God’s light in your good works.
Then our light will shine forth for all people to see!
That says it all!
Hymn TIS 447: Lord, your almighty word”. All it took was for the worst of all, that is: “chaos and darkness” to hear God’s Word and they took off. The prayer continues asking that wherever God’s life-giving message does not penetrate, that God’s light does so now. Isn’t that that our daily prayer?
Opening prayer
 God of justice, you call us to shine the light of your abundance into our world. Equip us, we pray, to feed those who hunger for bread and thirst for love. God of Compassion, you call us to shine the light of your grace into our world.
We are to be the conductors of God’s light. Not necessarily by wise words or courageous actions but perhaps simply by a kind word of a friendly thought conveyed through a note or card.
 A Prayer of Confession
 Dear God, over and over again, you have taught us how to walk in your light.
But we have sought to hide under a bushel,...Sometimes we don’t want to appear to be interfering or in some cases, soppy, but it’s amazing what a small gift of something nice to eat or a friendly invitation to share an activity does for someone who needs light to be shone into their lives.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Hear these words of comfort and assurance from the prophet Isaiah: “The Lord will guide you continually and provide for you, even in parched places. [The Lord] will rescue your bones. You will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water that won’t run dry.”
Thanks be to God!
Sometimes we run dry and can’t summons the ability to rise above our own needs to tend to others. But by God’s grace we can be the person we couldn’t imagine that we would be, and bring that Light into the lives of others and thereby Light our own lives.
Mens Group SingingThe Old Rugged Cross”. For many, these familiar words give comfort in a time of trial.
Hymn TIS 474: Here in this place new light is streaming.” A new light that makes the our world change, immediately.                     
The Service of the Word. Reader: Alan Craymer
Isaiah 58: 1-12
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways.
Of course there was more, but the meaning was the same and isn’t that how our lives work.
Matthew 5:13-20
 ...‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 
Today, it was the same message over and over but we can’t hear it too often...as encouragement as much as anything else.
Music to lead us to prayer
The rhythmic affect on our senses calms and brings us to be in touch with things spiritual.
Mens Group- Just A Little Talk with Jesus” It sounds a little childish but its message is true. Just a few words puts us in touch with the source of our light...our light which we can show to others.
Intercessory Prayers
A time when we bring our personal, congregation and community needs to the only one who can meet them, followed by the Lord’s Prayer: we pray this together as one.
Hymn TIS 473:“Community of Christ.” Here we spoke to ourselves about how showing the light of Jesus works in the world. We don’t literally hold up lamps but simply raise those around us up from the burdens that are weighing them down by whatever practical means fits the occasion.
Benediction
 You are the light of the world! Now take that light into all the places that need the light and love of God. Take that light into all the places that need the light and grace of Jesus Christ. Take that light into all the places that need the light and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Go and be the light of the world!
Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you.” How could we pray for anything else for each other?
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Watering with Love.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - February 14, 2020 - 6:21am

According to one of the readings set for this week Deuteronomy 30, everyday life and death, blessing and curse are set before us. It tells us that Blessing is waiting for us if we would love the Lord, walk in his ways, and keep his commandments. Conversely, if our hearts turn away and refuse to listen and obey, it will mean death for us. What will we choose? From that we can draw from this reading is an understanding that God’s commands are for our well-being.
Following God’s commands brings happiness and wholeness to our bodies. But the blessing God desires for us goes deeper than that. God desires that our hearts be at rest and whole. Yet in another of the readings set for this week, Matthew 5, Jesus makes it clear that he takes God’s commands to another level: “You have heard that it was said . . ., Don’t commit murder. . .. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with their brother or sister will be in danger of judgment. . .. If they say, ‘You fool,’ they will be in danger of fiery hell.”
It is not simply about refraining from killing someone else. It is about being careful to care for their hearts and to take care that anger and malice are not in control of our own hearts. Every day we choose. Every moment we choose. Will we choose life or death? Will we disobey God and reap the destructive consequences in our minds, bodies, hearts, and relationships? Or will we obey God’s commands and receive the blessing he offers? God desires to bless us. God desires that we would not merely survive, but that we would thrive.

Yet, we hear many purporting to follow Jesus and his teachings advocating exclusion, advocating violence, advocating their own power and position. It would seem that our world has chosen to follow such leaders both in Church and Secular government. In the Church by seeking a literalism that advocates violence against those we believe are different or who might be seeking a fuller understanding of their relationship with their God and how to live out the life that Jesus demonstrated. The heart and compassion are key to our understanding of following our God’s commandments.
In Matthew 5 is one of those places where Jesus poses traditional law versus God’s law of Love that he came to fulfill. Human beings desire according to the desiring of others, which leads to reaching for the same objects of desire, and thus sow the seeds to human conflict. A second involves the sacrificial logic that founds and shapes human culture: attempting to substitute a lesser or sanctioned violence for the unwanted violence arising from our desire. The violence ensuing from our desire threatens to unravel human community; sacrificial violence is what we trust to cohere human community.
Jesus fully understands this, and it can be unpacked for modern ears such that we can make use of it in more fully understanding the antitheses between traditional human law and the fulfillment of God’s law in love. A deeper understanding of the Ten Commandments can also assist with understanding these antitheses. Human beings are always at jeopardy of breaking the commandments due to the desires over our neighbour, because we are hard-wired for these desires. The rivalry generated by desires results in increasing envy, resentment, lust, and anger (and ultimately violence).

So, we read that Jesus poses that the anger caused by rivalry (coveting) as on a continuum with slandering our neighbour and even murdering our neighbour. Likewise, lust is akin to the breaking of the seventh commandment on adultery. The problem of human violence must be addressed at its root. The ultimate solution is the Greatest Commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.
Otherwise, we are left to continue our sacrificial solutions of human law based on human councils of judgment and on sacrificial solutions. Any solution less than following the complete love of God coming into the world through the Son is from the “evil one.” These lesser solutions characterise all of our lives if not for the “complete” love of the parent of Jesus Christ that graciously rescues us.
Each one of us has a role given to us by the Lord. Some plant, some water. We don’t get to decide what our role is. There is blessing for us if we will gladly accept the role that God gives us. There is joy for us when we stop comparing ourselves to others and wishing we could do what someone else does. It is up to the wisdom of our God. In scripture we are told that some plant, some water, but God makes growth happen. We do our jobs, but truly, apart from God’s working, our best efforts are worthless.

 We don’t have to make everything happen. It is not our job. We must release ourselves from that kind of pressure. We must be faithful to do what God has given us to do. We will receive our own reward for our own labour. And, we can delight in the reality that the almighty God of the universe allows each of us to play a unique part in his work.


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