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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 8 October 2017

October 17, 2017 - 7:05am

I was unable to attend this service but was moved by the written message that I received.
Gathering God’s People
 Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)
O Lord, you are God. There is no other God but you.
We renounce all that we have allowed to come between us.
O Lord, we worship you. We praise and honour your name.
We worship you on this, your holy day.
For your love, for your word, for all that you have given:
O Lord, we thank you and praise you. We love you.
Hymn TIS 745:“Seek ye first the kingdom of God”
Opening prayer
Almighty God, your word bursts forth into our lives like a glorious sunrise. You speak, and our hearts rejoice. You command, and our eyes are opened. The sound of your voice brings revival to our souls. Your words are purer than the finest gold. True and righteous one, living Word, light our way. As we listen to your Spirit, may the words of our mouths and the thoughts of our hearts be accepted in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
With this short Prayer, I was immediately transported to a different place. How easily we can forget what God means to us and what God does in our lives. This prayer, and ones like it, can draw us back.

A Prayer of Confession
No matter how righteous we imagine ourselves to be, Lord, your perfect word reveals our imperfections all too clearly.
No matter how hard we strive to fulfil the requirements of your law, we always fall short. We have forgotten that righteousness and perfection come not from rules and regulations but from faith.
We have ignored the truth that your righteousness comes from faith.
Open our eyes to see that all we have accomplished is nothing compared to knowing Christ as our Lord. Let us count everything as loss, that we might gain heaven and be found blameless in Christ.
In the name of the Saviour we pray. Amen.
And with this, we rest in God, relying on divine strength to achieve that which is impossible on our own.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Take heart; have faith. The goal is in sight. Press on to take hold of it, as Christ has taken hold of us. Have no fear; leave the past behind. Reach out for what lies ahead, for the prize, for the life to be found in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Thanks, be to God!
And the burden is lifted! And so, having made our peace with our creator, we are able to reach out to others.

The Peace
 Make the joy of God's love & forgiveness complete: share with one another the love that Christ shares with us.
Peace be with you! And also with you!

Offering Prayer
Almighty God, you gave us your commandments and asked us to live according to your holy will.  As part of your design for honourable living, we participate in this simple act of giving.  We dedicate ourselves to living lives of honesty and peace.  Amen.
Hymn TIS 641: “This is my will, my one command”
The Service of the Word
Readings: Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20. Philippians 3:4b-14.Matthew 21:22-46.
Firstly, Exodus brought to us the Ten Commandments. These are very straightforward and easily applied to our lives, but it is amazing how we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are keeping them, when we so far from doing so.
If we only had this passage for guidance (Philippians) and followed it, I think we would do very well. If it's not in God’s plan, then it's of zero importance to us and while we are not able to live the life we should, we are on the right path.
Matthew brings us a very serious message. Where do we fit into this story? Are we faithfully representing the landowner or are we the tenants who are self-serving and who will have everything taken from them and given to others.
Rev. John’s Reflection (in part)
God does not want the tremendous seed planted in us to fail to bear fruit. God looks for the harvest, both in our hidden depths and in the wide world around us… God does not place on us an expectation we cannot fulfill. God does not simply demand fruitfulness from us, but provides all the conditions by which this can happen. God cares deeply for his vineyard. It is on this basis that he looks for the harvest. This expectation is not a demand it is a longing.  
Hymn TIS 609: “May the mind of Christ my Saviour...”
There followed the Prayers of the People and the The Lord’s Prayer 
Hymn TIS 606:“Son of God, eternal Saviour” Tune -  Ode to Joy
Hear the voice of the Creator, the mighty God, the One who built the vault of heaven, who set the sun on its blazing course through the skies! Hear the words of life, declared not by speech or language or voice but written on the heart! Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.
Hymn TIS 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,”
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 September 2017

September 17, 2017 - 11:40am

Today I led the service and I think the reflection was the most significant part. So, the blog today is a shortened version of that. I will list the hymns too, because they added to the theme of  “Forgiveness”.

Hymns:  TIS 228 “Crown him with Many Crowns”; 655 “O, Let the son of God enfold you.”;129 “Amazing Grace”;136  “There's a widening in God’s Mercy”

The subject of today’s Gospel reading is “Forgiveness.”
Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone 7 times was enough. In this, he was being very generous because the Jewish law only required a person to forgive someone 3 times.
Jesus’ reply must have been quite a shock. Depending on which version of the Bible you have,  it was “seventy times seven” or “seventy seven times”.
In either case, Jesus is saying that we should forgive way past the number of times we ever thought we should or ever could forgive.
In the same Bible reading we heard of the king whose slave owed him an unbelievable amount of  money…something about equal to the size of the economy of some small countries.
But the king was a compassionate man and so when the slave pleaded with him, he didn't just give more time for repayment, he forgave the debt.
And so the slave realised what a gift he had been given and was grateful. He also learned a rich lesson on how to treat other people.
Or he should have but he didn't at all.
In this case where the offending person could not make restitution how could justice be reached? As in all similar cases, justice is obtained by a full and frank admission of guilt.

Look at  that from the perspective of one person to another, living today.
But what if we have offended against another in some other way?
They may forgive us out of their own compassion but that forgiveness can't be fully effective unless we acknowledge our offence.
There are times when we would rather pretend that we didn't do anything much.
On the other side of the equation, if we are hurt, even if the offender fails to properly acknowledge the hurt, as Christians we are commanded to forgive them anyway.
I have also heard people say: “I can never forgive them!” Sorry, you, as a follower of Jesus are commanded to do just that, whether you have received an apology or not.
An experience I have had is that I have struggled to bring myself to forgive a person because I wanted justice.
Then I woke up and realised that I wasn't doing myself any good and was able to forgive for my own sake, only to find an enormous burden lifted from my shoulders.
But then an even more amazing change occurred! SuddenlyI could see the situation from the perspective of the other personand realized that life is very complicated and that I had been nursing what seemed like a deliberate hurt from someone else for nothing.
But how can such a thing happen?
How can we, as a human, go from seeing someone else as offending us in some way to seeing them as guiltless in that same respect? It seems impossible.
And I think it is….until we hand over the situation to God.
This change of perspective comes when we, as the offended against, ask for God’s help and accept the spirit’s work of grace.
It takes the same work of grace for us to see our real guilt in any matter.
We as the offender can't expect forgiveness until, through grace,  we are able to admit our guilt frankly.
Anything else does not bring about reconciliation….which is the true aim of confession on one side and forgiveness on the other.
But don't leave acting on this message for too long. In the Guardian in 2006,  it was announced that all 306 British World War 1 soldiers who were executed for desertion or cowardice were to be pardoned. 88 years later. Don't wait even one day.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unting Church 3 and 10 September 2017

September 16, 2017 - 6:10am


Because I have so many calls on my time at the moment, I need to reflect on the two services in the one blog to get them covered. Also, as I have been trying to do, I am taking a bit of a different approach each week, and this week I am reflecting on particular points of Rev. John’s  services.

Rev. John began the Call to Worship in the September 3 service with:
“Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest, and most difficult, paradoxes of Christianity: to save your life you must first lose it. So, we find ourselves, once again surprised by the limitless and inexplicable nature of God’s love, and we rejoice to stand together on holy ground.”
Some of us have been fortunate enough to have walked hand in hand with God since we were small children. However, some of us have had to face a decision: were we going to follow Jesus or were we going to keep control of our own lives, setting our own standards and limits, and making all our decisions based in our own will?  It seemed quite a dangerous move to hand over total control. What if God asked us to do or to be something that cost us heavily?
So, maybe we tried a compromise.We would make the decisions about which parts of the God story we would attend to and which parts we would ignore.
For anyone who did that I will guarantee that it hasn't turned out well. The internal conflict would be dreadful.
But, for those of us who decided that the path we were following wasn’t making us very happy and made the decision to let God take control of every little thing, the result has been so surprising.
The sense of freedom is amazing! Who would have thought being ruled by another, even if it is God, could be so liberating! And how did that sense of contentment simply settle upon us? By this world’s reckoning it shouldn't happen: it doesn't make sense.
But that's what it is like. So, step out and take that chance that some of us had to take. You'll be amazed too.
This service included the Eucharist which is an experience, which again, is hard to explain. The words are carefully chosen and have been refined over time by the Church. Congregation members conduct themselves very reverently. The service remembers Jesus’ life, lived for us, proclaiming the truth, and given up, rather then deny that truth. That is enough to create the special nature of the time which we share together…but there's
something else; something that I can only attribute to the Spirit settling on us, entering our hearts and minds so that we know that God is with us.
In his sermon, Rev. John warned us about being a stumbling block to others. Is the life we lead a contradiction to the message we preach? Is the message we preach a simplified one that we learned as children in Sunday school, which needs to be looked at afresh now that we are adults?
Are we using bible passages to beat people over the head, rather than show them God’s love? Does God call people, who as a result, visit our church, only to be made feel most unwelcome?
We need to be careful and remember this is God’s church, not ours. God welcomes everyone and Jesus showed us that respectability isn't of much account in his Kingdom.
Think about it.

On Sunday September 10, Rev. John’s Opening Prayer picked up the theme of providing a true witness, saying: “Move us, O God, that we may fulfill the law of love and be a people who radiate your light. Touch our hearts, that we may come to love our neighbour as we come to love ourselves.”
We are well worth loving. God loves us. Something that is said to show kids the truth of this is: ‘God doesn't make junk.” There are  lovelier and more sophisticated ways of saying this, but it comes down to the same thing: we are precious in God’s sight. Once we realise this, we longer need to be in the business of trying to win. What recognition could we win that would be of greater worth than being precious in God’s sight? And if we no longer need to win, we can be gracious to everyone we meet each day. We will be able to see and openly acknowledge publicly, their worth. We will be able to let them know that they are precious in God’s sight. And then……
To continue this theme, Rev. John spoke of the lost sheep. Rev. John asked: Did he (the shepherd)  look at its value and say: “Well, that sheep is not good enough, that sheep doesn't have the right values. I won't bother trying to find it.”?
In fact, when we think about thepeople Jesus reached out to, it wasn't the ones who seemed would be of advantage to his kingdom. It was the ones who needed him and his kingdom.
So we should be very careful, that when a divine invitation has been given to someone, when they feel drawn to come to church, that we aren't the ones who cause them to turn away in disappointment.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 27 August 2017

August 31, 2017 - 11:50am

Each time I reflect on a service I try to give emphasis to a different part because the restriction in the length means I can't pay proper attention to every part every time.

The Secret
Call to Worship (B. J. Beu, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
Rev. John began by drawing our attention to God’s support for us in everything we do or in which we are involved. Life throws up many obstacles, sometimes one after another, and it is only with God’s help that we can continue.

Hymn TIS 123 “Be still my soul: The Lord is on your side”. With this hymn the theme continued. However, it speaks of keeping our hope in dark times, as though they are a contradiction in a faithful life. But life happens, whether we walk with God or not. But if we keep our hand in God’s hand, the dark times will be easier to live through.

Opening prayer
Gracious God, we come this day, to present our minds and bodies to you as a holy and
living sacrifice.  This was the first sentence of the prayer. But is seems to me that when we
give our lives wholly to God, we get a much better deal than if we try to keep control of all or part of it ourselves.

A Prayer of Confession
 merciful God, wash away the injuries we have inflicted upon one another.
When we have made lives bitter through word or deed, forgive us in your mercy.
When we have ignored the plight of others through ignorance or wilful neglect, reclaim us in your grace. Restore us to your path of love and compassion, that we may bathe in the waters of your compassion and love. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of the world would have crushed us by now. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the weight of our lives would have drowned us by now. Thanks be to God who is on our side, and who rescues us from forces that seek our undoing. In Christ Jesus, we are set free and made whole again.
Thanks, be to God!

Having made our peace with God, we offered the sign of peace to each other.

It always interests me that we label this part of the service “the offering” when many people offer much more to the building of God’s kingdom in other ways than they do through the collection plate. Our all. That's all God is asking for.

Hymn TIS 467: “I am the church! You are the church!” It's good to remember this. It prevents that “They should” mentality.

The Service of the Word               
Carolynbegan this section of the service with readings from Exodus 1:8-2:10; Romans 12:1-8; and Matthew16: 13-20.

Exodus 1:8 The first reading is the well known story of how Moses survived a purge of Hebrew baby boys and came to be treated as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ mother trusted God to protect her and her son.

Romans 12:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your
bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
This first sentence really covered all that followed. Let God steer. It's safer and more sensible.

Matthew 16: 13-20.
 ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Time to show where we stand.

Preaching of the Word

The Secret - Matthew 16: 13-20
I have selected a few sentences out of John’s sermon. Today he delivered a very complex theological message about why Jesus would want to keep his identity a secret,  but I have chosen just one thought that stood out for me.
Peter is the first disciple to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the first to discover that this man he knows so well is the one anointed by God. In this moment Peter stands for the whole church again.
 With the outcome that we too shine as the light of Christ and we will not keep the Messiah a secret. Why! Because the world where we spend our days, still waits for him and that world is dying to meet him – and they will meet him through us.
Remember the thoughts from the beginning of  the service that Life is tough and we can only get through it with God by our side.

Hymn TIS 440: “Christ from whom all blessings flow” The blessings aren't just a way of making it through life. We become more like Christ; We become  part of his body. We become what we were created to be.

Music to lead us to prayer while we thought our own thoughts.

Intercessory Prayers led by Wendy  Wendy addressed Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, asking that our prayers be heard. She called for safety and security everywhere but particularly for those people living in the midst of war. She asked that God change leaders who seek to dominate that they will embrace love; that people everywhere will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and proclaim his gospel. She asked that the Spirit will   lead us in love for God and each other. We joined in the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 446: “Glorious things of you are spoken” This hymn summed up all the thoughts we had had so far.

Blessed are you who resist the forces of death and destruction. Blessed are you who respond to the cries of the weak and the helpless. Blessed are you who build the kingdom of God with your love and compassion. Blessed are you who seek first what is right and honourable and true. And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen

Hymn 779: “May the feet of God walk with you,”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 13 August 2017

August 18, 2017 - 9:39am

Gathering God’s People

Call to Worship (I was not able to be present today but reflected on Rev. John’s notes.)
(Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
When God restored the fortunes of Zion, the Israelites wandered home as if in a dream. Let us be a people who wander in our dreams. Wander amongst God’s marvellous creation! Wonder at the amazing things God has done! Do not worry about your life, today or tomorrow. Trust that God values us even more greatly than birds and flowers, no matter how beautiful they may be. Know that God treasures us completely, and gives us all that we will ever need.
Come with hearts overflowing in gratitude. God has done great things for us.
Be glad and rejoice. We rejoice in God’s gifts.
Sing praises of joy. Our mouths are filled with laughter.
Shout with thanksgiving, in sunshine and rain. Praise God for our lives, for harvest and food.

Hymn TIS 560:All my hope on God is founded;” Echoing the words above.

Opening Prayer
As then moving forward with faith in God to deliver the promise:
Giver of life, for sunshine and showers, we give you thanks; for food and drink, we give you praise; for clothing and shelter, we bestow our gratitude. Gather our worries and our burdens this day, and shelter us from fear and despair. Help us rest assured in your arms, knowing that your loving care is enough. It is enough. It is enough. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession
God not only delivers the things of this world but the things of God’s world.
God of abundant love, sprinkle the tears we have sown with your mercy and hope,
that we may reap a harvest of joy; replace our selfish dreams of wealth and prestige, with gratitude for what we have, that we may find contentment in life.
Turn our dreams to you, O Lord. and remind us of the abundance you offer,
for you have done great things for us, turning our tears into shouts of joy.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Through Christ, God’s love has done great things for us. Through Christ, God’s grace restores our life and makes us whole once more.
Thanks, be to God!
The Peace 
Share with one another signs of peace and love. Show Christ to one another, that we may be reminded of the peace that passes all understanding.
 Peace be with you! And also with you!
Today, I have recorded the service almost word for word because in those words there is the expression of the many longings each of us has. We all find it difficult to approach God with the words we need to express what we have to say. And here that is done for us so  beautifully and  so accurately. I hope this is an aid to your expression of your needs to God. In the children’s time, John told the story of the widow offering a few coins, all she had, at the temple. Often we think we have nothing to offer in God’s work. But that all he wants. All of us. And no matter what sort of person we are or how we see our gifts, we all can be used in God’s hands and we are our most effective when we finally offer our all

John’s Prayer reminded us to be glad and joyful for all the good things we are given.

Hymn TIS 555: “Put all your trust in God” If we put our trust and ourselves, including our plans, in God’s hands and stay alert for his voice, then our path will be true.
The Service of the Word
Readings: Joel 2: 21-27. 1Timothy 2: 1-7. Matthew 6: 25-33 –delivered by Wendy

Preaching of the Word 
Rev. John wrote about various approaches to giving he had encountered or had heard of.
At Marsden Road he said he had encountered great generosity and so have I. Not just generosity with money but generosity with both time and energy.
I would agree with the Rev. John that in the Western World we all have trouble coming to terms with sacrificial giving. Not many of us are able to bring ourselves to the level of sacrifice of Mother Teresa, whom Rev. John refers to.
But many give up much for the benefit of others.
There are many ways of being sacrificial. Some go without sleep for a sick friend or relative. But I would agree with that in the West, our giving normally involves giving up luxuries. Not so many visits to the theatre; not so many holidays away; not so many meals in a restaurant, or whatever it is that is a luxury for us.
But I think it is possible to give sacrificially in another way. We can give our all. Not many are asked to live elsewhere or work within the church administration but we can be God’s nurses and doctors; God’s mechanics and plumbers; God’s architects and engineers; God’s teachers and accountants; God’s drivers, police, firemen, seamstresses. And we can all be hospitable; we can all make sure we are aware of those in need. but we can always look for ways to be better hands in this earth for God. Rev. John said:  “It took Mother Teresa of Calcutta to show us how to live out this parable of Jesus. She literally saw Jesus in those she found dying on the streets of Calcutta and the destitute.”
Even those of us who think we are living simply for the sake of God’s other children or all of God’s creation, can probably “do better.”
It's worth reflecting upon - in Jesus name.

Hymn TIS 589: “Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult” It would be a better place if we could all ignore the trivial and keep our focus on God’s plan for us.

Grahame played while the Congregation reflected privately. This was followed by the 
Intercessory Prayers after which they joined in the

Hymn TIS 143: “Immortal, Invisible, God Only WiseThe only one of whom we can depend.
Benediction Go forth with shouts of joy. Proclaim the greatness of God! Be glad and rejoice in Christ’s care. Trust the promises of God! As you go in Trust may the blessing of that same God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life remain with you always.

Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now,”
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 August 2107

August 16, 2017 - 1:33am

Call to Worship
(Joanne Carlson Brown, The Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
As for me, I shall behold your face. . .. When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
 Why have you come this morning?
We have come to encounter the Holy One.
You know you’ll never be the same if you do.
We have come to wrestle with our faith, our doubts, and even our convictions.
Then come; let us venture into this time of worship and prepare to encounter God face to face.

Hymn TIS 578: “How firm a foundation, you people of God” God is our rock. Everything else and everyone else can fail us but God, we can always depend on. Always.

Opening Prayer:
 O God of night-time visits and daylight assurance, we come to this time of worship to wrestle with who we are, and who you call us to be. Search our hearts and know us thoroughly. We long to meet you face to face, even if the encounter leaves us forever changed. With open ears and ready hearts, touch us with your words and transform us with your presence. Amen.

 A Prayer of Confession
 God who sees, knows, and touches us, we have many things in our lives that we are not proud of.
We are scared to come before you with all that we are. We are frightened that you will judge us and find us wanting. We are afraid of your rejection or abandonment.
Forgive our shortcomings, large and small.
Reassure us that you are always present with us, that you always love us and want only the best for us.
Forgive our fearful reluctance to open ourselves fully to an encounter with your holy presence.
Wrestle with us, touch us, and awaken us to your love— a love that never lets us go. Meet us face to face, that we may be forever changed. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Dawn comes, and we will see God face to face. We will behold the face of unconditional love. In this meeting, we will understand the depth of God’s reassuring forgiveness. And in this understanding, we will be changed for good.
Thanks, be to God! Amen

The Peace
A flash of brilliant light, a mushroom cloud rises. Nothing will ever be the same.
We dedicate ourselves to work for peace as we boldly proclaim:
“Never again.”
Forgive our inhumanity.
May wars cease as we work to be peacemakers and not merely peace hopers.
Touch us, O God, and we will never be the same. In life and in death we are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
In gratitude for the gift of eternal life, let us greet one another with signs of peace. The peace of Christ be with you.
The peace of Christ be with you always.

Invitation to the Offering
 Loving God, take our hearts and set them on fire. Take our lives and transform them. Take our church and resurrect it with your life-giving Spirit. Take our gifts and use them for the fulfillment of your vision
of peace and unity. Amen.

Hymn TIS 138: “Eternal Father, strong to save” The theme continues. We can rest in God’s eternal arms, in full security that we will be cared for as none other can care for us.

I have included the service so far, almost as Rev. John delivered it today, because everything that was said and sung touched my heart so poignantly and I thought it would do the same for those who read it. We continued on with the Service of Communion. This never fails to quieten my soul. Whether it be the mighty prayers, the historical events remembered or the reverence of the people celebrating the service, I am stilled. Somehow, there are so many centres to this service. Jesus Christ and his willingness to turn his face to Jerusalem is clearly at the centre of our attention. The effect of that sacrifice on our lives and then as we are offered the bread and the wine, each of us is given the impression that it is just for us. Hallelujah!

The Service of the Word.

The Readings: Genesis 32:22-31. Romans 9: 1-8. Matthew 14: 13-21 brought to us by Lyn.

The first reading about a man wrestling with God no doubt has a traditional meaning and message. However, as one who has wrestled with God, I can say that it leaves a mark like the limp of the man in this reading, that never goes away. No matter how things around me are or how much I would like to sulk in a corner because things aren't as I would like them, I can't say that I don't know my maker. I am stuck.                      
To take Paul's message and place it in a modern context is difficult because there are so many possibilities. I think the message that is coming to me is to let God run his world. Do as we see God guiding us to do and then leave the rest to God.
And the third reading for me says that I (and each of us) have been given resources. Use them to serve others.

Preaching of the Word - God is Good.
Rev. John made these points:
* After a long and exhausting day, Jesus’ disciples come to him and suggest that the crowds be sent away so that they may go into the villages and buy food.
*Jesus answers, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
* The disciples protest. Jesus then tells them to bring him what food they have,
*Jesus tells them in no uncertain terms that it is their job to help feed those who are hungry.
*It’s not someone else’s problem to fix.” The body of Christ is called to help those who are hungry
*Don’t send them away
*Jesus says to us, no matter how meagre our resources “Bring them to me.”
*God can raise up amongst us what we need.
And in those words I heard God’s voice.

Hymn TIS 530: “Now let us from this table rise” The words that leapt out to me were ‘renewed in body, mind and soul’.

Grahame played to provide background for our thoughts and prayers.

Intercessory Prayers
Rev. John prayed to God who is steadfast in love, giving thanks for answered prayer. He continued, bringing before our God, all those affected by war, terrorism, disaster and famine. He prayed for the homeless, the addicted and everyone afflicted in any way, that leaders will see fit to dispense mercy and justice to right wrongs that create the circumstances in which all these terrible evils flourish.
He prayed for those who are close to us and that our gifts will be used for those in need.
He prayed that we will welcome anew all those who come to the table with us, that we will provide the nourishment of fellowship and friendship. We then joined in The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 201: “King of glory, King of peace”. To love may never cease. Amen to that.

Go forth, knowing that God has heard our cry and will give us the strength to follow God’s call. Go forth to touch the lives of others, as our lives have been touched by God. Go and be the face of God to a world that so desperately needs the loving, affirming face of God. And may the wrestling God be with you always. Amen.

Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now” May God grant you every good thing. Amen.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 30 July 2017

August 2, 2017 - 10:00am

Gathering God’s People
For the last few weeks I have been hampered in my ability to get things done, in any sphere, by a nasty cold which fogged up my brain. However, in the little reading I did get done, there was a discussion about our experience of the worship service being one that should lead us to live a life more like that of Jesus.
But does it? Of course, there are those occasions when we are challenged by the Spirit to examine our lives and in doing that, we have an opportunity to be more like Jesus, but how many of us go to a service with that intention?
Many attend worship services in the hope of being uplifted or inspired to face the week ahead with purpose. A good intention, but possibly not one that should be our first. Others are less self-oriented and go to church to worship, glorify and give thanks to our Maker, the source of all that is good. That is getting close to the best reason for being there but if we could follow through that intention with looking for the effect that worship could have, that is, to be more like Jesus, I think we would have nailed it.
For some, the idea of being more like Jesus might seem so far out of reach, but we have to start somewhere and many of us have been fortunate enough to meet people who, because they started “somewhere” and continued to yield to the working of the Spirit are noticeably more like Jesus now.
This growth is spoken of in the Call to Worship of this week's service:
 (B. J. Beu and Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
“Waiting is seldom easy. Yet, in the process of waiting, we discover new growth. The Spirit moves and breathes, and treasures are sometimes discovered. As we wait this day, may God’s miraculous presence be revealed in us and through us.”
The first hymn reflected the purpose often seen as the highest one in coming to worship.

 Hymn TIS 93: “Praise the Lord, you heavens adore him”

Then the Opening Prayer moved us further along the path, asking to be shown the way (to be like Jesus):
 Holy One, your kingdom always takes us by surprise— like a mustard seed growing into a great shrub where the birds of the air can build their nests; like a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price. May we desire your kingdom more than we value worldly things, through Christ, who shows us the way. Amen.

The Prayer of Confession
Here John asked that our hope be transformed into action: another way of asking for us to be changed. And then as our forgiveness was affirmed we were reminded that:
“Nothing can separate us from the love of God: Not death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come. No power on heaven or under the earth can separate us from the love of Christ: Not height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.” That being the case, then, as we walk with God, we become more like Jesus because that example is constantly by our side.

The offering is a time when we show ourselves to be like Jesus - giving for people: giving for the sake of God and for other people. None of this that we give may come back to us but the giving itself changes us for good - to be more like Jesus.

Hymn TIS 106: “Now thank we all our God” Reminds us that God is with us from the time of our birth, guiding us on our way

The Service of the Word
Readings:  Genesis 29: 15-28. Romans 8.26-39.  Matthew 13: 31-33; 44-52
 All these readings carry a message but the one John focussed on was the one from Romans. John spoke of a recent personal experience where he had to draw deep from within to get through the time and showed how God lifts us up at such times.

Sighs for Help - Romans 8:26-39
My own thought is that some burdens are so heavy that we can only act as Jesus would in those situations if we are lifted up and carried through them by God.
John's perspective was this:
“Romans offers words of comfort and reassurance to those of us who carry heavy burdens. At times, we are all too aware of the brokenness of our world. We know that our lives are marred by sin, and we experience suffering in our daily lives…Paul seems to have addressed these words to people like us. They bear witness to the compassionate heart of a pastor, trying to encourage a community during some of the most devastating trials that life offers.”
(Where) 'God’s grace breaks into our lives most powerfully.
 “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for Words.” What a wonderful gift God has given to us, that even when our words fail, God’s Spirit is present in ways beyond our human understanding.'

Hymn TIS 547: “Be Thou My Vision” The message is clear.
Music to lead us to prayer followed while we all sat in our own silence.

Intercessory Prayers
This is a time when, regardless of the details of the prayer each week, we pray that we and all other people, will act more like Jesus to make this world one of welcome, safety and warmth for everyone.

Hymn TIS 658: “I, the Lord of sea and sky” God hears our plea to be less us and more like Jesus,

Like treasure hidden in a field, Christ offers us the kingdom of God.
All things work together for good for those who love God.
Like a pearl of great price, Christ offers us the kingdom of heaven.
All things work together for good for those who wait for God.
Like a mustard seed that grows into a great shrub, Christ offers us the realm of God’s blessing.
All things work together for good for those who abide in God’s Spirit.
And may the Holy Spirit fill and inspire you with the wonderful knowledge that nothing is able to separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Hymn TIS 780: “May the light come into your eyes”.
Amen to that, and through this may we be made more like Jesus.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 July 2017

July 22, 2017 - 8:21am

Guest blog by Emma Halgren
But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
From small things, wonderful things can grow. This year, Matthew and I welcomed our little baby Charlie into our lives, and we — and those around us — are delighting in watching him grow and change and learn each day.
Charlie will be baptised at Sophia’s Spring, the Uniting Church community in Melbourne that Matt, Charlie and I are part of, in September. But today’s service was an opportunity to have him blessed and named within the Marsden Road community which has been such an important part of my life (and the lives of my parents and siblings), nourishing and instructing me in the Christian faith, and nurturing in me a commitment to social justice which has guided many of the jobs and activities I’ve been involved in so far in my life.
Kaye and Andrew Crook, who worship at Blacktown Uniting Church, led the service and the blessing of Charlie. In their sermon, they reflected on the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23) and what we can learn from it about mission today — about “extravagant generosity” in our sharing of the Gospel with others, about being “a doer of the word and not only a hearer”.
They explained that the actions of the sower in this parable — scattering expensive seed recklessly, some of it on poor soil — would have shocked Jesus’ listeners, and most farmers in our own time, as wasteful behaviour. But Jesus is challenging our tendency to “play it safe” and hold on too tightly to our resources, stifling creativity and energy.
“God has always been prepared to risk wasting love on those whom the world judges to be hopeless cases, in the hope that a few souls in the most unfortunate circumstances might nurture a seed and bring it to harvest,” said Kaye and Andrew.
“If there is any hope for the unproductive soil, it is that the sower keeps sowing generously, extravagantly, even in the least promising places.”
We look forward to having Charlie baptised into the community of people of faith who are doing this generous work. The Basis of Union, the foundational document of the Uniting Church in Australia, says that Baptism “initiates people into Christ's life and mission in the world so that they are united in one fellowship of love, service and joy…”.
As a first step, it meant a lot to have Charlie welcomed into the Marsden Road community, and to have Kaye share words of blessing that captured both the day-to-day reality of parenting, and the unfathomable mystery and miracle that is the birth of a baby. Here is the blessing she shared:
Dear Father God, we pray that you might bless Charlie and may he always walk in the light of your love.
We give thanks for the safe birth of healthy children.
We wonder at tiny hands and smiles and gurgles.
We delight in all the firsts that come with a new child  -

first breath, first bath, first sleep through the night, first steps, first words…

We ask that you bless his mum and dad. Give them strength and wisdom as they lead Charlie through life being a part of your family. May these parents gently nurture their precious son Charlie.
May they enjoy the growth of deep relationships.
May they give thanks every day for the gift of Life

We pray too for the godparents. Help them to support Charlie’s mum and dad, and also show Charlie good ways of living. May they have time to spend with Charlie, playing, learning, sharing their lives and the love of God with him.

We pray for all of us here today Lord. Help us to support this family in whatever way we can, especially in prayer.
So bless this family Lord. Shower them with love and wisdom. In the hard times may they know your presence, in the good times may they rejoice in your grace.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 June 2017

July 15, 2017 - 5:53am

First a note to say that I am in holidays for a couple of weeks and so will not be producing a blog those weeks.
On June 11 the sermon did not take place because time was needed for the commissioning of a new Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church.
That new Lay Preacher is me, the one who brings you this blog most times.

I have been preparing for this for some time. To begin with there were classes in the Living our Faith series on eight weekends in: New Testament, Old Testament, Theology and one focussing on Jesus Christ. Within these courses there was opportunity to develop and practise the skills needed in leading worship. Readings were provided, as were assessment items to allow students to tease out their understanding of each course. In addition I needed to attend classes which examined the foundation and values of the Uniting Church.
I should say immediately that these courses were open to anyone seeking personal development, not just people considering the ministry of Lay Preacher.
But for those who had it in mind that they could serve God and the church as a Lay Preacher, other things needed to be considered. The Church Council of the Congregation to which the person belonged needed to prayerfully consider whether that person was suitable in the role and make a recommendation to that effect, Also, the minister leading the church to which the prospective Lay Preacher belonged, needed to write a recommendation too. Then a committee from Presbytery interviewed the person (twice).
But as well, the members of the church had to make a recommendation. This was done through assessments made by selected people during three services at the prospective Lay Preacher’s church and two services at other churches.
This is a very thorough process and it could be thought that it would take someone committed to be commissioned to undertake such a journey.
However this wasn't how it happened for me. I joined the first weekend without any idea of what was before me and certainly without any idea of becoming a Lay Preacher. Of course I knew many people present had that intention and while I was by no means certain that I had any such calling I completed the course work fully to allow whatever option God put before me to eventuate.
Initially, I was more concerned with attending the weekends to untangle and sort out much of my own thinking and to search for a belief where my mind was as comfortable as my heart. The version of Christian belief I had received in Sunday School and later didn't sit well with my other education and I often felt I was expected to leave my brain at the door when I attended services.

The Living our Faith classes provided the place where I could go that was able to do just that. Within the first two sets of weekends I knew I had found the place I needed to be. But still was I one to be any sort of leader?
The indication that Lay Preacher would seem to be a calling came with the completion of the assessments and the services I needed to lead as part of the course. I am not suggesting that I was wonderful at any if this but I felt I was in a place I belonged and I understood what it was that needed to be done,  and how, with advice, I could develop my ability to do what a Lay Preacher needs to be able to do.
But the most strong indication I had of a calling was that I could see how I could help others to find that place of contentment that I had found through completing the course. Others might not be able to attend the course but I could pass in my learning and my new understanding of the Bible and our Faith to them in church services, bible studies and  general discussions. And so, as each new step of the journey unfolded before me I became  more sure that Lay Preaching was a place I could serve God and his people.
And so, in June 11 the church confirmed that calling with my commissioning and celebrated it after the service with a lovely morning tea.
Can I say that this has been a life giving experience. I know that it is not possible for everyone to attend this course or any other, even for self development. But may I urge anyone reading this, to commit yourself to some reading, or audio or video series to focus your heart and mind and to provide a springboard from which you may fly into a faith life greater than you have now.  

Margaret Johnston.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 July 2017

July 15, 2017 - 5:46am

Today we were very happy to welcome Akosita to our church to lead our Sunday Worship. She drew us into the warmth of her relationship with God, through prayers that evoked heartfelt responses from the members of the congregation, hymns that brought back memories and a sermon that spoke to each of us in our individual situations.

Drawing on Matthew 11, Akosita Called us to Worship
One: God invites us to venture into unknown places. We can do that, for we know that God goes with us.
All: We trust, we dare, we follow.
One: Jesus calls us to take his yoke upon us, and learn from him. We can do that, for Jesus also says, “If you are tired, come to me, and I will refresh you.
All: We trust, we dare, we follow.
One: Let us worship God, who challenges us, and who comforts us.
All: We trust, we dare, we follow.

Hymn TIS 52 “Let us sing to the God of our salvation” The one we can rely on…always.

Opening Prayer:
Akosita opened in praise, allowing each of us to lift our hearts to God:
God of Eternal Promise, we are in awe of your amazing goodness.
We praise and adore you, O God, for doing wondrous things in our lives.
For loving and forgiving us, even when we become distracted by the events of our daily existence.
We are aware of your divine activity in our lives, prompting us to deepen our trust in you.
She then reminded us of the eternal invitation to everyone who lives:
Jesus has invited us to come to him and receive a yoke that fits us well, to lead us and guide us in his ways. Loving God, may we step forward…May we step forward boldly and with trust, assured that you care for us deeply and wonderfully. Amen
With this Akosita drew us all into the circle of God’s everlasting arms, and being in this trusting state we were able to confess freely that we aren't what we should be.

Prayer of Confession and Pardon
One: Sometimes, our lives seem out of control. We know what to do.
All: But we just don't do it.
One: We are torn between doing what is right, and doing what is popular. We know what you do.
All: But we just don't do it.
One: Other times, we hide from doing what is right, hoping God won't notice. So we can rejoice, knowing that God also forgives us and gives us strength to begin over.
All: Thanks be to God.
We could all identify with the words that were spoken to us and the words we read, and as a result we were all aware of burdens lifted and a sense of newness.

Lynell then brought to us the readings from the Bible:
Romans 7: 15-25a
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30

Akosita took the second half of the Matthew reading on which to base her reflection and delivered a measured introduction, drawing attention to the verses she was using…vv 28-30.
Her theme was Come and Rest, and she spoke of these words in Matthew as a soothing balm to the ears for time when we are struggling and overwhelmed.
She said, that for her, it was a beloved passage, given to invite people to discipleship. It was addressed to the people of Israel who were, at that time, weighed down with the do’s and dont’s of legalism. And so the people were given this marvelous invitation….encouraging the people to come to Jesus.

These words had an awakening effect, providing assurance, forgiveness, and renewal, for which we give thanks to God.
We all need rest….from school, from work, from family and friends and the Holy Spirit refreshes us.
Akosita pointed out that God created the universe and then rested. The whole point of creation is to rest in it and that is the whole point of turning your Jesus…to rest in him. Jesus wanted to lift up people but was seen as ineffective by some because he wasn't the saviour who came to liberate the people from the rule of other political powers. But they and people in this time are looking to the wrong sort of liberation.
We have to see that our worth comes from the gift of love from God. We belong to God who  makes everything and every day holy. Amen.
Hymn TIS 590 “What a friend we have in Jesus” An old hymn that comforts us in difficult times.

Prayers of the People
Akosita led us in praying for those that follow Jesus and those that haven't made that decision yet. Again her words were ones of comfort, keeping our focus in the love that is offered to all. We then joined in The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 154 “Great is your faithfulness” another old hymn where we joined to express our praise and our confidence in God for his faithfulness to us in all things.

Sending Out
Go with God who calls you by your name, secure in your relationship with Jesus Christ, and trust in God in so you do. Akosita then pronounced the

Benediction  after which we blessed each other in the words of

Hymn TIS 779 “May the feet of God walk with you’. Our prayer for all.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 2 July 2017

July 6, 2017 - 9:51am

Call to Worship
(Deborah Sokolove, The Abingdon Worship Annual)
God’s love is steadfast, inviting us to rejoice and find eternal life in love of God and others.
The Holy One calls us to trust God’s steadfast love. With our ancestor Abraham, we say: “Here I am.”
The Holy One calls us to be guided by prophets. With the first followers of Jesus, we say: “Here I am.”
The Holy One calls us into eternal life. With the Gospel writers, we say: “Here I am.”
Let us worship the God who calls us. Amen.
My thought about the response above is that my “Here I am.” is not complete. There's much I hold back, even if I'm sincere as I say the words, within a moment I am protecting the part of me I want to keep control over.

Hymn TIS 102: “Praise to the living God”    
Opening prayer
Wellspring of Grace, Teacher of Truth, Breath of Resurrection, you welcome us into your life, and invite us to welcome others with a cup of water, a bite of bread, a moment of conversation. As we drink from the overflowing spring of your endless love, fill our hearts with thanksgiving and joy, that we may become the body of Christ pouring our lives into a world that yearns to be filled. Amen.
 Another chance to lay all on my God but am I ready to let God be my Lord and King?
A Prayer of Confession
 Teacher of Truth, you tell us to welcome prophets and teachers, and to give to those in need.
Yet we want to hug your salvation to ourselves and keep your gifts for our own use.
You call us to be servants of your teaching, and to remember that we are no longer slaves to sin.
Yet we want to continue doing what we have always done before, hanging onto old habits and opinions, even when you show us a better way.
You even offer us eternal life when we surrender to your will.
Forgive us, Holy One, when we mistake our will for your own. Amen.
The very prayer of confession needed for someone like me. Can I make it mine?
Declaration of Forgiveness
God is a wellspring of grace, offering the gift of eternal life to all who do God’s will. In the name of Christ, we are forgiven, loved, and free.
Thanks, be to God! Amen.
Eternal life, in the here and now. An offer of liberty but still we hesitate. Why?
The Peace
 In gratitude for the gift of eternal life, let us greet one another with signs of peace. The peace of Christ be with you.
The peace of Christ be with you always.
At least God’s grace allows us to open our hearts to our neighbours.
Pentecost God, take our hearts and set them on fire. Take our lives and transform them. Take our church and resurrect it with your life-giving Spirit. Take our gifts and use them for the fulfillment of your vision of peace and unity.

Giving of our gifts is so easy compared with the giving of ourselves.
Offering Prayer
 God of grace and truth, you welcome us into your presence and provide refreshment and renewal for our lives in Jesus, your Son, our Lord.  Receive and bless these gifts and our lives which we offer in response to your many gracious gifts to us.  May our hands be always open to welcome people in Jesus’ name.  Amen
Grace enough to acknowledge Gods great gifts to us. But can we take our hands off the wheel of our lives and give God full control.
Hymn TIS 129: “Amazing grace”

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.
It is a right, good, and a joyful thing always and everywhere to give our thanks to you, who saved Abraham from sacrificing his beloved son, Isaac, and has given us the gift of eternal life in Christ. We give you thanks for freedom and friendship, for love and for laughter, for parents and children who travel together in the ways of peace. We give you thanks for new understandings of ancient stories, for happy endings and new beginnings, for cups of cold water on hot, sunny days. And so, with your creatures on earth and all the heavenly chorus, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
 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!And we can say this with the greatest authenticity while still holding back. The service continued:….
Invitation to Communion
Are you hungry for God? Come to the bread of life. Are you in need of forgiveness? Come to the table of grace. Are you empty and alone?
At the deepest level…yes, sometimes.
Come to the feast of love. Come, even when naked and vulnerable, for here we are covered with abundant grace and filled with the goodness of God.
Prayer after Communion
God of compassion, through your son, Jesus Christ, you reconciled your people to yourself. Following his example of prayer and fasting may we obey you with willing hearts and serve one another in holy love. Amen.
Obey with willing hearts. I mean to.
Rev. John referred to the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son at a time when families were willing to do just that to gain favour with lifeless deities.
But in this case, the deity was the Living God and Abraham was shown that such a sacrifice was not asked for or required.
John continued, applying the situation to our own lives: “We can let work drive a knife into the beating heart of a marriage. We can bind our families with cords of anger and addiction that feel like living death. If we are not aware of or sensitive to others, we will kill life’s most precious relationships. The story tells us that God provides a way that leads to life, not death; that sacrifice does not require the death of a child or a spouse. God calls us to worthy dreams and ennobled human values. In the thickets of our, often complicated lives, God has resources offering better ways to live.”
 Hymn TIS 585: “I heard the voice of Jesus say”
Music to lead us to prayer
Intercessory Prayers
Margaret thanked God for the security we are given in the face of all that is unGodlike within us and around us. She asked for God’s direction for all people and gave thanks for the healing and Grace God gives. She asked for God’s protection for all people who serve others in places where they could be exposed to violence and then prayed for those facing the highs and lows of life in sickness and in pain or travelling the roads, the seas or the skies. We then joined in the Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 650: “Brother, sister, let me serve you”
With prophets and teachers, and all who seek to do the will of God— let us go forth to fill the empty cups of all who ask; let us give in the name of the Breath of Resurrection, the Wellspring of Grace, the Teacher of Truth: The One, Triune God, who gives eternal life. Let us share the blessings of Christ’s eternal covenant, and praise God for the Spirit’s call to love and give. Amen.
Hymn TIS 778: “Shalom to you now”
Sung with sincerity to each other, wishing everyone the highest blessing that God offers.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs