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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 July 2019

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 30 June 2019

July 4, 2019 - 1:43am


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

However the reading I have covered, points to something more. The purpose of prayer is for us to build a relationship with God.  At first this seemed an amazing thought. But when God was asked who he was the answer was : “I am”. That is, a being, and as a being wants a relationship with other beings. An invitation is extended to each of us to join in fellowship, walking through our daily lives, linked with God.
Another issue covered in the readings is that many of us have built lives as Christians, serving others in God’s name. We see our purpose as spreading the news of God’s love by giving that love to others through service to them. But in doing so our time is absorbed with activities that involve other people. Which is right and should be so, except that we forget that the source of that Love is God and for that Love we spread to be authentic it must flow from God and can only do so if we are in a close relationship with God, absorbing that love daily.
That is the focus of today’s blog. Are we seeking a relationship with God? How much do we value God and the relationship we can have with God? Is God and the relationship we can have with God our first intention? Or do we seek our relationship with God for the love offered to us and the world around us?
Imagine how we would feel if we found out that our partner had sought a relationship with us only for the family which would come of it and the love they could offer. Wouldn’t we be hurt? Don’t we want our partner to seek a relationship with us for the sake of that relationship in the first place?
Of course we should talk with God about the things we think we need, or things we think others need. And of course we should thank God for all our blessings. And a special time should be set aside for prayer only. But none of those is the main purpose of prayer.
And so, are we seeking a relationship with God for the sake of that relationship in the first place or for what flows from it?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 June 2019

June 8, 2019 - 12:02am


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

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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 May 2019

May 28, 2019 - 12:10am


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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 May 2018

May 25, 2019 - 11:23am



Gathering of the People

Alan led our service today, beginning with the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Service of the Word

Readings:

Elaine brought the Bible readings to us:

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

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

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

Sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayers of the People

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

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

Sending Forth

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

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

Go in peace to live and serve the world.

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

 


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28 April 2019

May 3, 2019 - 7:06am
 
Gathering God’s People began with Music to set the mood for the time together.
After that we acknowledged the First People who had cared for the land and prayed that those who follow God’s guidance, in turn, guide us. 
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2019)
Out of despair comes hope. Out of fear comes affirmation. Out of threats comes conviction. Out of our hearts comes praise.
This was followed by a responsive affirmation that in the midst of all our uncertainty, we will remain positive in our praise of God and our prayer for a growing faith.
TIS Hymn 256: “The Servant King.” Our king who showed us the way to be.
Opening Prayer
This prayer affirmed  God as life-giving, and life-affirming, asking that we be filled with hope for the new life given by the work of Jesus. It asked that our hearts will be opened to this never-ending, unconditional love during this time of worship and ever in every day.
Prayer of Confession - abridged
 “Forgive us our doubts, our fears, and our reluctance to witness to you and to the Risen Jesus.
We pray for the courage and conviction of those first disciples — disciples who overcame their fear and doubt to become mighty witnesses.
Lord, we believe; help our unbelief. Amen.”

Declaration of Forgiveness
The one who loves us and frees us will not leave us in despair and doubt, but will fill us with all joy and conviction. Let us praise and witness to the Holy One— the one who says I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end; the one who is with us always.
Thanks be to God!
There was then a declaration and a sharing of The Peace.
 Offering
We have been called to be witnesses to our faith. We have been called to do so with joy and praise. With hearts full of thanksgiving for all that we have received, let us commit ourselves and our resources to enable the church to be that fearless witness.
TIS Hymn 407:“Breathe on me, breath of God” To be filled anew with God’s life is the focus of our Christian life.
The Service of the Word
 The First Reading: Acts 5:27-32: the disciples are interrogated by the council but Peter’s response is that they are doing what they have been commanded to do, which is to offer relief from people suffering from their guilt, when forgiveness is freely available.
The Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31. This reading covers the event of Jesus appearing to the  disciples who were hiding behind locked doors from the Jews. Thomas wasn't present so didn't believe but did later when he saw for himself . The words for us are : “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (Christine)

Preaching of the Word – A Risen Christ Makes All the Difference!
Rev. John began:
“The season of Easter allows the church to look intentionally at how the early church understood the Easter story and what difference that experience made as it sought to witness boldly to its truth and power.
 Following the Resurrection, John answers the question as to what difference the resurrection of Christ makes in the lives of those who come to believe it. On the same evening of that first day of the week, the followers of Christ huddled together behind locked doors in fear of the religious authorities.”
This was reflected in the Prayers for the People which was partly written by Caroline and then completed by Wendy as they thanked God for the support that is  given to us in our weakness and times of not reaching out ourselves.


        Rev. John’s words referred to scripture and thanks was given in the P for the P that scripture which is a concrete guide to our living, the realistic playing out of what Rev. John was saying about the difference that living through the Easter Story made to the lives of those who were there then.

 Later Rev. John said:

The church is commissioned by Christ to witness to the power of resurrection living. John wants the church to claim the purpose for which it was created and commissioned. John wants the church to trust the presence of the Holy Spirit as it seeks to lead and guide its ministry to a broken and hurting world. Such is the nature of the church and who Jesus calls it to be.
This too, was reflected in the Prayers, as Wendy and Caroline led us in supporting, not only family and others known to us but people in need of support and comfort all over the world.
Rev. John then covered the story of “doubting Thomas” with which we are familiar. This ended with words which will uphold us to be God’s people doing God’s work: “My Lord and my God!” A risen Christ makes all the difference!
TIS Hymn 516: Here, gracious Lord, we see you face to face
This was the actual place for the prayers followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Familiar words guiding our thoughts
TIS Hymn 228: Crown him with many crowns
Benediction
May God who is Alpha and Omega, who is, and was, and who is to come, fill you with faith and conviction. May the Risen One fill you with peace and joy, that you may affirm your faith. May the Spirit be breathed upon you and give you peace.
And may that same Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life bless you and keep always Amen.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

19th April 2019 - Good Friday 9.30 am We do not know what we are doing.

April 25, 2019 - 2:15pm


Gathering God’s People
Call to Worship          We have gathered this Good Friday to remember the betrayal, humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus. We have gathered to experience anew the events that would change the world.  May we experience all the pathos of that day and may we participate in its meaning together.
Where is the light that shines in the darkness? Where do we turn when all hope is lost?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?We were the hollow echo of hosannas once spoken in love.
Were you in the garden when the disciples fell asleep? We were the betrayal in Judas’s kiss.
Were you in the courtyard when the cock crowed? We were the denial on Peter’s lips.
Were you among the scoffers when Jesus was flogged? We were the whip in the soldier’s hand.
Were you in Pilate’s chamber when he washed his hands of Jesus’ fate? We were the hatred of the crowd and the indifference in Pilate’s heart.
Were you with the powers of this world when the soldiers dressed Jesus as a king? We were the mockery in the crown of thorns.
Were you among the spectators at Golgotha? We were the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord? We were the silence when no bird sang.
Hymn TIS 123: Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your sideAuthor: Katharina von Schlegel; Translator: Jane Borthwick (1855)

1 Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;leave to your God to order and provide;in ev'ry change he faithful will remain.Be still, my soul: your best, your heav'nly Friendthrough thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Shadow of Condemnation
Reading: Luke 23:32-34
Prayer:
Forgiving Christ, when the world condemns us, when wrong is done to us, when we carry the weight of things that are too much to forgive, come along side us in the darkness, and give us the grace to be forgiven and forgiving.
Hymn TIS 347: We sing the praise of him who diedThomas Kelly
We sing the praise of him who died,of him who died upon the cross;the sinners’ hope, though all deride:for this we count the world but loss.
Inscribed upon the cross we seein shining letters, “God is love”;he bears our sins upon the tree;he brings us mercy from above.
Shadow of Separation
Reading: Luke 23:35-43
Prayer:
Reconciling Christ, we are weighed down by sin and separation, a world that is not at peace, people who are not whole. You reached out to the thief, you welcomed him to God’s side. Come alongside us in the darkness, and bring grace and peace to everything that is broken.
Hymn TIS 730: Jesus, Remember Me when you come into your KingdomTaizèCommunity

Shadow of Sorrow
Reading: John 19:25-27
Prayer:
Loving Jesus, we carry the weight of the people we love, concern for their sorrows and suffering. Our care for them is deep, and sometimes there is not much we can do. Come alongside us in the darkness, and cradle the ones we love in your strong hands.
Hymn TIS 357: When his time was over, the palms layRobin MannWhen his time was over the palms lay where they fell.As they ate together he told his friends farewell.Jesus, though you cried out for some other end,Love could only choose a crossWhen our life began again.
Shadow of Despair
Reading: Mark 5:33-34
Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, you know what it is to feel that God is far away. You know what it is to call out for God’s presence. Come alongside us in the darkness, and help us call out for God.
Hymn TIS 342: When I Survey the Wondrous CrossIsaac Watts
1. When I survey the wondrous crosson which the Prince of glory died,my richest gain I count but loss,and pour contempt on all my pride.
4. Were the whole realm of nature mine,that were a present far too small:Love so amazing, so divinedemands my soul, my life, my all.
Shadow of Suffering
Reading: John 19:28-30
Prayer:
Suffering Saviour, in all our thirst, in all our sickness, in all our longing, in all our pain, you are there. Come alongside us in the darkness, and walk with us through all our suffering.
Hymn TIS 345: Were you there when they crucified my LordBased on an African-American Spiritual
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?Were you there when they crucified my Lord?O sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble;were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Shadow of Death
Reading: Luke 23:44-49
Reflection -  Quotes to give us all “Food for thought” from John’s SermonTo hear the words we have heard this morning or even to read them is to step on holy ground… How can one hear this story of stories without fear and trembling?
What great sorrow and shame overcomes us who witness the flogging of our Lord, the spitting and the hitting! The perpetrators were people who a few days before were applauding him. These are the people who followed him to hear his words, to touch his garment, to feel the strength of God that flowed through him. And now, the mob violence has taken over perfect goodness is met with perfect hate and fear. The terror of evil seems to be triumphing…
How the heart aches for those who have ignored this solemn day and night! How can one plumb the depths of His love without allowing the heart and mind to recognise the great suffering that resulted from such love.
In our scriptures, one cannot help but notice the details that could have come only from an eye witness. The fear of Pilate, his struggle to appear in control. His fascination with this man who stands before him battered and bleeding, but thoroughly in control himself; these are before us as they happen. And as a counterpoint, we hear Peter, what are you doing? How can you be so faithful through this? As though in him we recognise ourselves.
It’s frightening to realise that Caiaphas knows that he is dealing with the power of God, and very deliberately he sets out to crush it. Otherwise all his power, and all he has built as a career, will disappear. Power is not easily given up.
And those who have religious power have an even more difficult time relinquishing it. This is what has caused so much bloodshed in the name of God through the ages.
We hear with a poignant simplicity: "There they crucified him and with him two others." Here is a question; do we hear the hammer on the nails? Do we see the flesh being torn, the ligaments sheared, the bones crushed? What a horrible way to die. It defies all our powers of imagination.

On this holiest of days, we don't need words. We need to feel. We need to acknowledge the shadows that hung over Jesus and hang over us. To allow ourselves to feel. To feel his pain, for it was real; to feel his aloneness; to feel the terrible darkness that descended on the earth when the Son of God died.
Out of that death comes life. But first we must walk through that terrible death. Caiaphas made the choice to stay powerful in the eyes of the world and sold his own soul. Pilate made the choice to ignore the stirrings of his conscience. Jesus made the choice to obey God, to enter the darkness of death for our sake.
And we must follow. Otherwise, we will not taste resurrection. Amen.
Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, even in death, you are there. When we mourn, when we are afraid, when we come to our own end, you have been there, too. Come alongside us in the darkness, and carry us through death to life.
Hymn TIS 600: O my Saviour, lifted from the earth for meWilliam Walsham How
Prayer:All you who pass this way
Look and see, the shadow of sin
All you who pass this way
Look and see the weight of the world
All you who pass this way
Look and see, the suffering of our Saviour.
All you who pass this way
Look and see, the sorrow of Jesus Christ
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. 
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name,your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,as we forgive those who sin against us.Save us from the time of trialand deliver us from evil.For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yoursnow and for ever.                                          Amen.
Hymn 341: “My song is love unknown” V 1,2,3,4 and 7 Samuel Crossman
My song is love unknown My Saviour’s love to meLove to the loveless shown That they might lovely beO who am I That for my sakeMy Lord should take Frail flesh and die
Dismissal

Hold fast to hope. Hold fast to one another. For God, who has promised, is faithful.The day of God approaches. Go in peace.               

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 24March 2019

March 28, 2019 - 8:11am

 
The service began with an acknowledgement to the original carers of the land who were grateful to the land and its creator for all it offered them and replayed with care and reverent respect.
The Call to Worshipdeclared that God, knowing our hunger and thirst, provides generously for us so that we will be satisfied and praise God for that.
So in the Opening Prayer we prayed to God that our hunger and thirst will be met in a way that satisfies our whole being.
However in our Confessionwe admitted to seeking to satisfy our hunger and thirst in transitory ways that left us still hungry and thirsty. For this we asked for forgiveness:
Help us abandon our careless ways and self-seeking schemes that we might return to you, our provider and sustainer.
In response Rev. John declared our forgiveness:
God is faithful and will not allow us to be tempted beyond our abilities.
Even in our brokenness, God provides a path to wholeness.
When we confess our shortcomings, God has mercy on us and is generous with forgiveness.
Through Christ Jesus, we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
Then having found our peace we offered that peace to each other.
Offering Prayer
As we enjoy the rich feast you have provided, we know that there are those who want for food and drink. Multiply the offerings we share today, that they may bless those in need. May the spiritual nourishment we receive today strengthen us for continued service in your name.
The Service of the Word.
The First Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9
The Gospel Reading: Luke 13: 1-9- brought to us by Christine.
Preaching of the Word Planting Seeds of Hope
Rev John spoke of living an intentional life as a disciple of Jesus. He began by relating the story of an immigrant to New Zealand from Iran who despite his many regrets at leaving his home and all the difficulties of making a new life in another land and culture, did so because of the danger of remaining in his home country.
And because he intentionally made a new life in New Zealand and made choices for that to come about, he was able to do so successfully and as a result enjoys a new life.
Rev. John then said:
 In much the same way, following Jesus is an intentional act. It is a choice and as Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Following Jesus is an intentional, thought-out decision that leads to a new way of life…
To a certain extent, this means we ought to be deliberate with the choices we make. One of the expectations of discipleship is that we are actively involved in a relationship with God where we are making wise choices to help this relationship grow. Should we choose to be passive in our faith, we are in a sense letting life pass us by without embracing the opportunity to receive the gifts…
 The intentional choices made today are like seeds of hope that will blossom tomorrow
When we think about this we could relate it to the story of the tree the owner ordered to be destroyed. The manager pleaded for another year to fertilize it and care for it. This week someone suggested the tree hadn't borne fruit was that the manager had neglected it up until that point. Perhaps our spiritual lives haven't blossomed and borne fruit because we have neglected them. A point to ponder.
Making a real investment in the faith is an issue in our time, but we are not alone.When Jesus teaches about becoming one of his followers, we must recognise that he is teaching this lesson to his own disciples…
 Jesus is inviting his disciples into a deeper, more serious form of discipleship. Jesus is speaking about commitment and dedication. If you are one of those people attending church who have not invested in the church, then perhaps this scripture is teaching you to get invested. Investing in the faith comes with a price…
So, just “turning up” isn't all that is required. We must intentionally attend to feeding our souls on the nourishment offered by God, however that comes to us.
 We say no to ourselves so that we can say yes to God. I witnessed my friend Bruno make sacrifice after sacrifice for the good of his family and his faith. He might have had a promising career in his homeland because of his college education, but he gave this up so that he and his family might live in freedom… 
Makingthe most of our life in Christ involves sacrifices and intentional choices. Each day we have the opportunity to choose whether or not we will follow the way of Christ. Fortunately, we are helped in this decision by the church, which teaches us to live intentionally. The church encourages our participation in Christian practices like prayer, worship, ministry, and hospitality.
That may mean less time spent in other pursuits but also it certainly does mean more time listening for God’s guidance, in whatever form that may come.
Benediction
Our search for God continues.
Our hunger and thirst will return.
Seek God in all places. Seek God with your whole being.
We will call on God and know that God is near.
And may that same Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life bless you and keep always.
Amen.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs