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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28 January 2018

February 12, 2018 - 9:14am



 
I was drawn in immediately the service began by the Call to Worship and the parts of the service which followed:
 
Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2009)
By this I have known the presence of the Lord:
in the rising of the sun, in the smile of another’s face,
in the touch of a hand or the sound of a laugh,
in the scent of a flower holding the promise of spring.
By this I have known the power of the Lord:
in the healing of hurts, in the forgiveness of sin,
in the giving of gifts beyond all expectation,
in the shower of love that comes from God’s Son.
Let us give thanks to the Lord with all of our heart!
Let us worship our God, whose presence and power
endures forever!
We see God around us in many ways but fail to see that one way others see God is through ourselves. Are we failing to show God to others?
 
Hymn TIS 52: “Let us sing to the God of salvation” I wonder if we are living out the theme of this hymn? Are we living lives of praise? If we are, we couldn't fail to show God to those around us.
 
Opening prayer
Almighty and most merciful God, we give thanks that you know us and love us. Help us, through the power of your Holy Spirit, grow deeper, wider, and fuller in our knowledge and understanding of your ways. Help us, through the bestowal of your divine Wisdom, bring others closer to you and to your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
And there it is! If we make this our minute by minute attitude to walking with God, I think our church would be a better witness to our God.
 
Rev. John then gave the children’s address (to the adults). He told about the pecking order in a chook yard and made a comparison between that and the functioning of society.
He spoke of the violence and aggression. Sometimes that is not so easy to identify and sometimes we don't believe that we are behaving in such a way because the aggression is quiet, the violence is emotional or intellectual.
 
When Rev. John began his sermon he spoke of experiences anyone of us may have had, where a charismatic leader caught our attention. In my experience that can happen simply because of the personal appeal of the leader. Or it may be that the leader makes their message so relevant to our way of thinking that we think we have found the good oil.
But when Jesus spoke to the people of his time or to people of today through hymns, scripture, preachers, creation or the lives of others, what drew and draws people is a recognition of truth.
Rev. John went on to speak of the ramifications of committing ourselves to that truth. We have to surrender our own personal desires and commit ourselves to the person of the one who is the foundation of all that is. The One who is love and light: the One who gave all that we could live a new life.
This commitment to truth is a very personal thing between each of us and our Lord who is truth.
And we need to commit anew each day. That is because we human beings are just so good at forgetting whose we are and who we need to connect with daily to continue living that truth.
 
This theme was continued in:
 
Hymn TIS 560: “All my hope on God is founded”  If only we could keep that before us each day!

Then the BenedictionWe have to act to share our treasure:
 
Go on; get out of here! God’s prophet, God’s Son, calls
us to teach others of God’s power and might.
From this worshipping fellowship, we go into the
community, seeking to tell others our stories.
Go on; get out of here! Share how God has transformed
you. Invite others to become disciples of this new
teacher.
We will invite others to share our journey, even if it
scares us to death.
Go on, I mean it; get out of here! Share how God has
brought you to knowledge and wisdom of new ways, new
opportunities, new ways of being.
We go with joy. We leave in peace. Amen.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 February 2018

February 12, 2018 - 9:04am





Today I would like to pay particular attention to the prayers and hymns because I am usually not able to say much in the space available.
Both prayers and hymns give us the words to express what we are unable to do on our own.
Rev. John introduced the Call to Worship with these words:
Chariots and horses of fire . . . a prophet taken up into heaven . . . a gospel unveiled . . . Moses, Elijah, and Jesus shining brighter than the sun . . . the time approaches and now is. Watch . . . listen . . . perceive . . . God is with us. Nothing is as it seems.

signalling that something beyond our
understanding is involved when God becomes known to humankind.
Depending on our particular bent, God will
come to us in a way we can understand.
For some of us that is through words, for others through music, for others through
creation itself or through the myriad of ways
 God is with us. However, because of God’s greatness we only glimpse a little at a
time:
 
Call to Worship
 The glory of God is too great for you to bear.
We are not afraid. We will not turn back.
The mystery of God runs too deep for you to fathom.
We are not deterred. We will not turn back.
The fiery chariot of Elijah is not for mortal sight to see. We are blessed with the eyes of faith. We will not turn back.
Come then, and worship our God, who took Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind.
We will worship the Lord, who transfigured Moses, Elijah, and Jesus to shine like the sun
 
Even though God is great beyond anything we can imagine, as expressed in the first hymn: “Jesus shall reign where’re the sun”, we are invited to approach and fellowship with that Divine presence. How good is that!
 
 Opening Prayer
 God of mighty tempest and devouring fire, you come to us shrouded in mystery. Just as Elisha followed Elijah until he was taken up into heaven, we will follow Christ up the mountain to behold his glory. Who are Moses and Elijah that we should not join their ranks among the faithful? What is to prevent us from shining with Christ this very day? Give us eyes and ears of faith, Holy One, that we may see the heavens open and hear your voice, calling us to follow your Son. Amen.
 
Whenever we are touched by God, we know there is so much more to life over and above the daily trivia and dross, which is expressed in the
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
Through the light of the one who was transfigured to show us the power and glory of God, we find a way through the wilderness of our doubt and confusion; we find strength for the journey and courage for the road ahead. Thanks, be to God!
This Light is the subject of the next hymn: “Jesus the light of your love is shining.” Having the effect expressed in the line: “Set us free by the truth You now bring us”
It is that freedom from all that weighs us down that we all long for.
This theme was continued in the
 
Offering Prayer:
Light of Light, when we grow accustomed to dwelling in the shadows and painting with drab colours, you bless us with your radiance and the vitality of your love. Illumine these gifts, Holy One, that the world may see your light shining through our offering. Illumine our very lives, O God, that we may remain restless until we shine like Christ upon the mountain, until we follow Elisha’s footsteps and behold your glory. Amen.
 
In my experience, we are made restless until we reach out to the only source of Light and Love. And if we stray, that restlessness will return until we find the only cure.
And that comes in our own mountain top experiences. As Rev. John said:
 
 “We too have our "mountain tops." Each of us needs places and times set apart for us to take a good spiritual breath.”
 
But even when we are aware of God’s presence the mystery remains, inspiring the words of hymns like:
“Immortal invisible, God Only wise.”
 
The words of the next hymn: “Lord your almighty word” are a guide to finding God and God’s Light and Love to show to the world and thereby commune with God and build God’s Kingdom…now….here.
 
The words of the Benediction drew the service together and sent us on our way:
 
BENEDICTION
 Go forth with the courage to climb the mountain of God.
We will walk in the light and truth of Christ.
Go forth with ears to hear the voice of God.
We will hear the call to follow Jesus.
Go forth to live as people who shine with Christ’s glory. We will leave footprints of light as we walk.
Go forth in expectation and hope, for God goes with you, and may the blessings of that God go with you, Amen.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 21 January 2018

January 23, 2018 - 10:16am





The Rev. John always draws us into our services with such evocative prayers that not only seek out our deepest yearnings, but give us the words to speak which we cannot say ourselves. Because of this I am tempted to reproduce them as they were prayed in the service but space does not permit. So here is some of each:

Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)
The light God shines forth in Jesus Christ changes everything... This is good news indeed.
 Jesus says, “Now is the time!”
Startle us, God, from our busyness and routines. Show us how very close your Kingdom is.
Jesus says, “God’s kingdom is at hand!”
Deliver us, God, from faith in our own strength. Free us from the traps of violence, dishonesty, and greed.
Jesus says, “Receive the good news from God!” Embolden us, God, to trust you anew. For we are as fragile as breath, and draw our strength from your mercy and compassion.

Opening prayer
 Loving God, in this season of Epiphany, your kingdom has drawn close— so close we can almost touch it. Help us see that we already live under your rule of peace. May our worship today draw us closer to you and to one another.

Confession
God, we know that you alone are unshakable. You alone are our stronghold and our refuge. You deliver and glorify us, yet we fail to love and glorify you in return. We live as if we can save ourselves, as if we can be our own stronghold and fortress against the storm. Yet we are fragile as breath. We are consumed by our desires to succeed and dominate. We blindly strive to get our way, and are greedy for all sorts of wealth.
And so, we confess our failings to you and to one another, trusting in your forgiveness and your grace. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Beloved, God repays us according to our deeds, and yet in Jesus Christ, we have nothing to fear. Trusting God with everything, we rest in God’s faithful love. Allowing Christ to change our hearts and our lives, we find God’s strength and hope.
Thanks, be to God!

The Peace
God alone gives us peace, a peace that is trustworthy and sure. Greet one another with the good news of peace in Jesus Christ.
Peace be with you!
In the service that followed we worshipped in practical ways, the announcements giving evidence of our Christianity lived out in our church and out in the world and the offering our worship with our gifts for God’s work around us.


The Readings looked at God's warning to Nineveh in Jonah and Jesus calling of the disciples in Mark:
In both readings the people spoken to responded immediately and wholeheartedly. Of
course in the case of the people of Nineveh the threat of dire consequences motivated their jump to action but even though there was no threat to the fishermen to whom Jesus spoke, in each case the people involved knew they had heard the voice of truth. 
I have always wondered about the response of those fishermen. They were poor enough, making a regular income, so why were they so ready to give that up for no guarantee of income at all? And what about their families? My only conclusion has been that Jesus’ word carried with it such authority and truth that the men had no alternative other than to obey.
When Jesus spoke to those fishermen, he promised that they would fish for more followers. That is Jesus’ word of truth to us, but have we responded as quickly and as wholeheartedly as did the fishermen? Have we risked all for the only thing that matters?
In Rev. John’s talk to the children, he recalled the paperboys calling out from street corners, promising that if we bought their papers, we would be able to “Read all about it!”
When people see us, when people hear us, when people interact with us…are they able to “Read all about it?” Does anyone even know we are followers of Jesus of Nazareth?
And are we so convincing that anyone would ever act with such quickness as the people of Nineveh did?
Of course, God allows for our less than stellar performances. God can speak in other ways to anyone who is seeking the truth, but we do have our part to play. 
Rev. John used a DVD to play a prayer, part of which said:
You have come down to the lakeshore seeking neither the wise nor the wealthy,
But only asking for me to follow. You know full well my possessions.
Neither treasure nor weapons for conquest, just these my fish nets and will for working…
O Jesus, you have looked into my eyes; kindly smiling, you have called out my name. On the sand I have abandoned my small boat, now with you, I will seek other seas.

 Benediction
 Go forth and share the good news from God.
God rewards us and our deeds, not with doom, but with mercy. In circumstances both difficult and joyful, God remains our place of safety.
Go forth and proclaim God’s kingdom.
The world as we know it is passing away. We belong to God’s kingdom, which is coming and now is.
Now is the time to be the good news.
We go forth to tell the world the good news of the strength and mercy of our God.
 
Hymn 779: “May the feet of God walk with you
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday service Marsden Road Uniting Church 14 January 2018

January 17, 2018 - 9:46am





Today I led the service myself, with other people contributing at various places in the service. I chose the hymns to complement the read and spoken word, so more space will be given to them than is usually so.
There are many facets of hymns that influence us.  Of course, good Hymns are written to convey a message of significance to people of faith but the music to which they are sung does more than enhance the message and underpin the emotional impact.
The tune cements the hymn in our memory, for retrieval in times of need. And so when the hymn with its message is called upon it returns, with the tune, contributing to the impact it has upon the heart and mind of the one who knows it.
After acknowledging the original carers of the land and giving thanks for the care they showed for the land, we called on God to open our ears and minds to the presence of the Divine so that we would be sure that what we say, hear, think and do is of God.

Invocation -
O God who is wisdom, light and love.
God who creates and enlivens all that is, or could be.
Our need is great but your gifts are without end.
As we listen for your call, may we be attuned to your voice.

The Call To Worship was based on 1 Samuel 3:1-10. In short this said:
What do we do, when God calls?
What do we do? Wake up. Listen. Act.

Hymn TIS 161 “Tell out my soul, the greatness of my Lord.”  Lyn led us as our hearts swelled and we lifted our voices in this great hymn. I remember reading an article by someone who was reminding us to look and act as though our lives were secure in God’s hand. Let others know.

The Prayer of Adoration and Thanksgiving was based on Psalm 139 (in part)
All: O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
A:   You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. Despite knowing this, we try to hide and pretend and so confession is needed to reconcile ourselves with the Lord:

Prayer of Confession:(in part)
All seeing God, how foolish we are to think we can hide our failings from you. We fail to see our bodies as sanctuaries for your Spirit. We get drunk on the seductions of our society, while daintily sipping at your living water. We doze under the tree of temptation, hoping you won't see us and expect us to get up and follow Jesus. Lord, you call, but we do not always recognize your voice.
As  frail and weak as we are we know forgiveness is assured:
 


Words of Assurance.
For nothing is impossible with God. There is no place you can go, no end of the earth you can run, where God cannot find you. There is nothing on earth or beyond death that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. You are forgiven. You are loved. You are reconciled to God. Go and live with the love of God. Amen
The practice of our Faith was the focus of the announcements and the offering where we rededicated ourselves to God’s service:
O God, open our ears and hearts to hear your call to follow Jesus.  Receive and bless our lives and these gifts - may they be devoted to sharing the love of Christ with all those whom we meet.   Amen

Hymn MHB 848 “Hushed was the evening hymn” This hymn introduced the story of God’s call to Samuel and the accompanying message to Eli that his time of leadership had come to an end…from which the theme of today’s service is drawn,

1 Samuel 3: 1 - 20.    John 1: 43 - 51.  These were about people being called by God. God called Samuel and at the same time delivered a message to Eli that his leadership was coming to a close. In John, Jesus called his disciples. In all of the above, all those involved simply accepted the message, and obeyed.

Reflection - In delivering the reflection the focus was kept on believing that God knows what is best.


Using examples from my own life and the lives of others, plus everyday situations, I reflected on times when our lives take a turn which doesn't seem to be to our advantage but in hindsight, led to greater things and unexpected joy, not just for ourselves but for others. I followed this with a prayer:
Holy and Loving God, when your light shines, nothing is hidden;
and when your light shines on us, there is joy in seeing and discomfort in being seen.
Help us by your love, to bear the light of your truth and your integrity, your
forgiveness and your faithfulness. Bring us out of hiding, that we may become children of light, through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Amen

Hymn TIS 658  “I the Lord of sea and sky” Our affirmation that we accepted the message of the story of Samuel and Eli and the calling of the disciples.

Brief musical interlude for congregation to simply be or privately pray, followed by the Prayers of the People and the Lord’s Prayer

The Sending Forth of the People of God. - we sang asking for God’s guidance:
Hymn TIS 547 “Be thou my vision” and then went out:
Now go into the world with confidence, trusting that Christ is walking with you.
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you, now and always. Amen
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 December 2018

January 9, 2018 - 10:22am

 
This Sunday is the first after the Epiphany. An epiphany is an experience of suddenly becoming aware of new knowledge or, as some would say it, a time of gaining new light.
This was the concept on which Rev. Bill based the following
 
Call to Worship
Arise, shine: for your light has come
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon us.
“From the rising of the sun till its going down, my name shall be great among the gentiles” says the Lord of hosts, “and in every place incense shall be offered to my name and a pure offering
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: those who follow me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
 
That is, Jesus is the source of all knowledge, all understanding. The response to that could be: “Knowledge and understanding of what?” The answer to that is not quite straight toward because while it could be said that it is knowledge and understanding of the important and fundamental issues, that would miss the mark. If we think about the “light” itself instead of any subject, we approach the meaning more closely. Jesus bestows upon us, a state of being in which we perceive ourselves and the way we operate in this world, in a totally new way. A way defying description. A way which only makes sense to those who have opened themselves to its experience.
 
This was reflected in the collect used:
 
Collect (Together)
Almighty God, your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.  May your people, illumined by your word and sacraments, shine with the radiance of his glory, that he may be known, worshipped and obeyed to the ends of the earth; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.  AMEN
 
We can speak about the above in different ways. We may pray that we will act in a God-like way. We may be constrained to show friendship to the friendless and operate from a place of love but whatever we ask for, or pray to be it all comes down to God’s light acting through us.

 
Rev. Bill reminded us of a story that told of a time when three men experienced a new understanding of a natural event; an event that was to change their lives forever:
 
“These men from the East journeyed to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him”.  
You see, they saw an object in creation that revealed something of God, something that made them want to worship.  A created thing led them to worship Christ.”
Their experience brought them joy and when we experience something similar it is very difficult to tell someone else why it has been on a different level from other experiences.
As the Rev. Bill put it: “It is enough to say “Here’s a mystery, a wonder. It’s way beyond me; it’s about something so much bigger than I am.”
Rev. Bill continued to speak about the possibility of other epiphanies, when we know something more than the ordinary and then linked this to the Communion service which was to follow:
 
We approach the Table of the Lord.
We can remember what happened for the wise men – the light, the insight, the epiphany.  It happens, in what we do here at the Communion Table.
1. The Epiphany of the World. From out of the world, God’s created creatures - we take ordinary things – bread and wine but in this sacrament they take on a special meaning – they represent the body and blood of Jesus.
2. The Epiphany of the Word. We take the Word of God  as the authority for what we do.  The words of institution given by St Paul who quoted the very words of Jesus, his very instructions to obey -Take Bread, take wine – do this in remembrance of me.
3. The Wonder of the World, and the Word.  Here we meet with the very same Jesus of Bethlehem and like the Wise men we worship.  As Horatius Bonar, the Scottish minister wrote in his much-loved hymn:
Here O my Lord, I see Thee face to face.
Here would I touch and handle things unseen.
Here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace
And all my weariness upon Thee lean.
Indeed by eating the bread and drinking the wine we get a firmer grip on Jesus. And thus are ready, after the wonder of Worldly creatures, Word and Worship, we are ready for
4. The Way ahead.  We  go from here a new way, because our direction is more clearly set for us, having been with Jesus, who now goes with us into the unknown way, the New Way.
Too soon we rise; the symbols disappear;
The feast, though not the love, is past and gone.
The bread and wine remove; but Thou art here,
Nearer than ever, still my Shield and Sun.
The commonplace, our everyday life, is shot through with the glory of God, And it is right here to bring us into fellowship with our Living Lord.
 
So how is it with us?. Is that our experience, or do we struggle each day to be better Christians?  Is the commonplace shot through with the glory of God? Are we in fellowship with the living God?
Think hard upon those questions.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 31 December 2017

January 3, 2018 - 8:24am





Hymn 268: “Joy to the world”
Hymn 301: “The first Nowell”
Hymn 210: “O for a thousand tongues ...”
Hymn 309: “Angels from the realm of glory”
Hymn 779: “May the feet of God walk with you
Readings:
Isaiah 61: 10 - 62:3;  Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2: 22-40.


 Call to Worship

Joy to the world! Christ has come and Christmas is here! Let all of creation sing praise to our God
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants, you ordain praise and thanksgiving to silence the foe and the avenger.
You make everything beautiful in its own time.
You set eternity in our hearts, yet we cannot fathom what you have done from beginning to end.
What could be better than to be happy and to do good while we live?
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
O God, our God, you are Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
 
 Opening prayer
 We come to you today, God, the Alpha and the Omega, as people blessed by your tender care. Today, we come to seek your guidance, that we may better understand how to follow the teaching of Christ, our Lord and Saviour, in whose name we pray. Amen.
 
I have begun by including the beginning of the service as Rev. John delivered it because it evokes a true and vivid sense of what Jesus of Nazareth did for the world.
 
The world as God created it was a wondrous place but the flawed nature of people means it has been reduced to something not at all like what was intended.



If we look at photos or are fortunate enough to visit places untouched or relatively untouched by humans, we see what could have been for us all.
Not that we should have remained living as nomads necessarily. There are places where the built environment is beautiful because it has been put together to complement the natural environment. In places like that care is taken to maintain the total environment in a healthy state.
The population there see themselves as stewards, who have a responsibility to the natural and built environments to keep both in a healthy state and in a state that supports whole living by people.
Such people also see themselves as being responsible for each other.

There was a “big blow” in the NSW North Coast town of Maclean yesterday. I have an elderly sister-in-law living there and was anxious to contact her but her phone didn't work. The first phone number that worked was for the pub across the road from where she lives. They were able to assure me that she was safe and well because they had gone over to check on her and her house. The church isn't the only place to find loving people who look after their community.
 
Another word about Maclean. There isn’t any litter. When I commented in this, I was met with a question about why there would be any if the residents don't drop any.
Some of us know how to care for what we have that is a good gift from God.
Our relationships need nurturing too. At any given time in our lives we have many different types of relationships of varying levels. Relationships develop in different ways: work, neighbours, church, sport, or a myriad of other interests. Usually the relationship is established before we notice, but then if we value it, we must show care for the other/s involved.
 
Otherwise, in all the above situations, we will find ourselves spoiling something about which we should be shouting the praise that is at the beginning of this blog.
 
But the greatest gift we have been given is the invitation to dwell with the Creator, but we have to say “Yes” to that invitation and we need to care for that relationship on a daily basis.
Otherwise, we will lose the sense of our connection and drift away, and look elsewhere when we need help instead of to the author of Love and Peace.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 24 December 2017

December 26, 2017 - 8:37am

 


Hymns:
Hymn 265: O come, O come, Emmanuel
Hymn 286 All verses: Light one candle for hope
Hymn 302: The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
Hymn 161: Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
Hymn 282:The voice of God goes out…”
Hymn 777: May the grace of Christ our Saviour,
 
Call to Worship
(Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)
Host of Hosts, from sunrise to sunrise, and generation to generation, we are your people.
You have been with us wherever we have gone. You will be with us wherever we may go.
You planted us in a land flowing with milk and honey, then you planted our salvation in Mary's womb.
Jesus, who is the Christ, is planted firmly in each one of us.
Our souls magnify the Holy One.
Our spirits rejoice in God, our Saviour.
 
 
Rev. John spoke to the children about their names and the meaning of their names and some other names. When parents name their children they do so for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the eldest boy takes a name that is passed down from generation to generation. I am named after both my grandmothers. Other names are given in the hope that the child will grow up to be the person of the meaning of the name such as ‘grace” or “courage”.
 
Rev. John told us that in the Bible it says that God gave Mary the name she was to give her child -  “Jesus” - which means “the Lord saves” which indicated the reason that Jesus was to be born.
 
We may not have such a name but God knows each one of us as closely as Mary and Jesus were known. Also, just as Jesus had a reason for being born so do each one of us have a reason for being here. We have our own place in this world and our own task in building God’s kingdom.


 
In the first of the Bible readings from 2 Samuel 7, we hear that the Ark of God had always been in a tent but that a place was to be built to keep the Ark in one place, signifying that God’s people were to stop roaming where they would need to carry The Ark with them. From then on they would be able to stay in one place and The Ark, a sign of God’s presence, would remain with them.
 
God is with us wherever we are. The idea of God being in one place has developed as people realized that God is with all creation, everywhere. Therefore we can be assured that God is with us, anywhere we are. Wherever we are, we can depend on God watching over us and guiding us if we look for that guidance which can come to us in a variety of ways. It can come through other people, through our reading, through listening to other people speaking, through our God-given talents or simply as thoughts appear in our heads.


 
Another way of looking at that story is that we can stop roaming, looking for wholeness and fulfillment, when we settle with God. Then the emptiness stops.
 
The second reading and the one Rev. John spent time with focuses on the very ordinary people God uses to play out the amazing drama of redemption. We may think we are not worthy or talented enough but we only have to be willing.
 
Coming up to Christmas we having been lighting the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and finally, today, Love. These are not the prerogative of the rich, educated, or the “cool crowd”  but are characteristics anyone who opens themselves to God’s handiwork can experience and thereby show God, and all that knowing God offers, to the world.
 






Benediction
Be strengthened according to the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Go, do all that you have in mind, for the Holy One is with you. Nothing is impossible with God.


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.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 17 December 2017

December 20, 2017 - 10:52am



 


The Advent wreath, or Advent crown, is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. It is traditionally a Lutheran practice, although it has spread to many other Christian denominations.
It is usually a horizontal evergreen wreathwith four candles, sometimes with a fifth, white candle in the centre. Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until, by the last Sunday before Christmas, all four candles are lit. Many Advent wreaths include a fifth, Christ candle which is lit at Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The custom is observed both in family settings and at public church services.
At Marsden Road, we have been observing this tradition over past weeks. Lighting first the Candle of Hope, we signalled our hope and expectation that as we celebrate the coming of the Word into the world, so at this Christmas, that Hope will be renewed. The next week we lit the Candle of Peace,  Peace that only our God can bring. This week we lit the Candle of Joy.
Joy is hard to come by. We may be pleased, elated, even happy, but Joy is something else and it was this that Sandra spoke about in the service she led on Sunday.

In her talk to the children, Sandra raised the possibility that that we may be known as the “Peacemaker” or the “Joyful”. This world can only get a hint of what God has in store for us if it is reflected in the people who claim God as their Lord.
I remember someone saying something along the lines of Christians are people who should be making others wonder about why they are hopeful, peacemakers, and joyful. We should be making others curious about our difference from the rest of the world. But are we?
 
Sandra spoke about an experience she had in the course of her working day. She was attending a lunch and found herself at a table of rowdy, noisy, happy, elderly folk who were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Across the room was a table of other elderly folk, who were described to her as the “good people”, the people who went to chapel and bible-study: all looking as though they were witnessing the worst disaster imaginable. No joy there to make people curious about where it was coming from.
Sandra raised the point that if we are the bearers of the Hope and Peace that is the promise of Christmas, and know the Light brought into the world at that Christmas time so long ago, surely we will also know Joy.
Sandra told of experiencing that Joy during walks where she can hear and feel Creation speaking to her. She repeated such an experience with the blooming of the Jacaranda trees.
I know what Sandra is talking about. Jacarandas don't do it for me but there are times when I know God is present, simply through the surrounding created world. Even parts of the world in which some cannot see life, such as mighty cliffs or the beauty of some human creation (the work of a God-given gift) I can sense the divine reaching out to us all. It makes me want to sing (better done within though, with my voice).
Sandra’s message here is to enjoy what we have been given. Don't take anything for granted.
I know many people who look for joy through stuff they can buy at a shop, the stuff that gets old and needs replacing. And all the while they have gifts in abundance which can bring such joy. But we have to do more than just look around. We need to see what we are offered.
An important alert that Sandra gave us is that we are to be witnesses to the Good News. We are not just to be retelling history. There must be something of truth that shines from us that witnesses to what the gift that came on the first Christmas can do in a person’s life. Otherwise, why bother?  There are many good stories but what we have is more than a story, we have an invitation to live anew.
Sandra reminded us of how certain John the Baptist was of the One who was coming and the change that Man would bring. Are we? Do we have that life within us that makes people wonder what has reawakened us to Hope, Peace and Joy? Are we bearers of Hope, Peace and Joy?
Sandra challenged us: Let us be all that we are meant to be at this season and always.
 
Amen
 
 
 
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 December 2017

December 8, 2017 - 12:14pm



These words called us to worship



The day foretold is coming.
When our tired eyes will behold a fire, a blazing star in the eastern sky!
The one foretold is coming.
Whose light will shine through the deepest gloom.
The day is at hand!
Your redemption is drawing near!
 
The service kept close to the idea of an illuminating presence among us. The lighting
of the First Advent Candle gave a visual manifestation of that and the hymns we sang
throughout the service:
“God of mercy, God of grace show the brightness of your face”
 “Light one candle for hope”
 “Father, we give you thanks,”
“There’s a light upon the mountain”
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
 “Shalom to you”
all spoke of God's enlivening power in our lives which brings enlightenment to our hearts and souls.  This enlightenment points to what can be, and carries with it the hope for all that is good…… a salve to a hurting inner being, bringing healing.
With this comes JOY!

But that joy can be compromised because we lack the courage to act according to that enlightenment, and so we call on God to make our confession of failing to live to the full.
 
          Loving Creator, you call us to hope in your salvation, and rejoice in your promise of the birth that is to come, but we are afraid.You invite us into a world where justice and righteousness prevail, but we turn away in fear.

We long for an easy path into your promised world, but you warn us that there is no easy way.
Birth new life within us, Holy Midwife, that we may abide in hope, and in your perfect love — the love that casts out fear.
And because of God’s great mercy, we can be assured of forgiveness and
restoration of our relationship with our Lord.
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
God’s mercy and steadfast love endure, strengthening our hearts and overcoming our fears. God will remove every obstacle that keeps us from being the body of Christ.
Thanks, be to God! Amen
And with assurance comes Peace which we can share with each other.
 
The service of Communion impressed upon us the reason that we are able to call
on God for restoration of our relationship. God’s generosity in sending his message
through Jesus of  Nazareth, who, in the face of death, did not turn aside from God’s
will. We can do nothing to restore ourselves: only God’s merciful action in our lives
can do that.
 
The Rev. John spoke of the hope that we wait for and reminded us of the various
things we wait for, none of which compares with the hope we wait for which came
with the birth of Jesus.
The earthly things we wait for bring passing satisfaction. Sometimes, we realise, that
having waited, we were wasting our emotional energy. But the joy that God can give,
which was embodied in Jesus, brings sure, lasting, peace and joy. That peace and joy
are the result of our being brought into the light out of the darkness we were living in.
Rev. John then alerted us to the task that comes with the coming of the light. We may
not sit passively waiting for something to happen but be alert and embrace the gift
which is offered. Then we must radiate that light into the world.
Rev. John finished with these words:
The sense of darkness and despair leads to ennui, to inaction, to paralysis. The reality of Advent, however, is the admonition to be on guard, be awake, be alert. God has chosen to need us to make God’s love, presence, compassion, and power tangible. We cannot afford to be sleepwalkers. Time is too precious; God’s people are too precious! Our lives are meant to make a difference in God’s world, no matter how small that difference may seem to each of us. Maranatha! The Lord is coming.
 
At Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ coming into this world to spread the message of
enlightenment and the love which accompanies it. We are commissioned to pass on
this message and the promise of the joy it can bring. And so:
 
Benediction
Go into the world awake to the signs of God’s invitations to new life. Know that the reign of Christ draws nearer with each right action we choose.
And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always.  Amen
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 November 2017

November 27, 2017 - 9:19am











Gathering God’s People
Call to Worship  (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)
The Call to Worship said in part:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord. Worship God with gladness.
But is it really like that? How glad are we for all that God is? Or are we  looking too much at what we lack. And is what we lack of any importance at all? How glad are we that God is and holds us close?
 
Hymn TIS 738: “My Jesus, my Saviour” (Shout to the Lord)
Opening Prayer
Tender, comforting Shepherd, your steadfast love is present in this place and resides within each of us. But sometimes it is hard, so very hard, to open ourselves to your love. We feel like scattered sheep, frightened and alone. Help us know your loving presence as we live as your gathered community. Enlighten our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we have been called. Amen. 



Help us; enlighten us. Amen and Amen.
 
A Prayer of Confession
Holy One, we are like sheep that stray from your fold. We are the perpetually hungry, ever in spiritual need, and at times in physical want.
We are the naked, with wounds exposed and bleeding. We are the sick, fevered, chilled, and in pain. We are the strangers, separated from others and even from ourselves.
Hear us now as we confess our brokenness and our need. Amen.
 
We should remember that brokenness can be mended and accept the words that follow, otherwise we cannot be God’s servants.
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
       Our creator God sees our hunger and gives us food. Christ, the healer, touches our wounds, offering comfort and blessed relief. The Spirit blows through us, cools our fever, and eases our pain. God sees and touches and heals our wounds. Thanks, be to God!
The Peace
When we were strangers, Christ welcomed us. Let us share the peace of Christ with friends and strangers with words of welcome:
The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you!
Offering Prayer
Holy One, you have given us all that we have and all that we are. Through these gifts and in our lives, help us be the shepherds and healers and lovers that you are calling us to be. Amen.
 
Hymn TIS 675: Lord, the light of your love is shining” And our offering is one way to allow that to happen. Also, our congregation is older than some others and so many of us are not so well. If would be easy to look around and see other people living more comfortable lives. But if we look at how blessed we are, that will shine through.
The Service of the Word


The Readings delivered by Elaine: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. Ephesians 1:15-23. Matthew 25:31-46.
For the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
The Preaching of the Word


Scattered and Dispersed.
Rev. John’s message today was so clear, so I have copied and then summarised the first main points:
Scattered. Dispersed. People, like boats, can be cast loose from their moorings and drift away. Sheep, preoccupied with grazing, can move from one patch of grass to another until they look up and find they are nowhere near where they began. The same is sometimes true for people.

Calamity! Imagine being one of the Israelites of the Babylonian exile - you would have wondered what would become of your people. Like modern-day refugees from Iraq, Indian subcontinent, Palestine, Afghanistan,… you would have felt lost.
Our part is to think about how we are lost but worse, how we look to the wrong things to mend that lostness. (We are) the sinner whom Jesus seeks to bring back into the fold of a loving and forgiving community.
“I myself will search for my sheep,” says God (34:11). It might seem unlikely or impossible to gather up all the disconnected lives. But God makes it clear that God will accomplish it. “I will seek . . . I will rescue . . . I will bring them . . . I will feed them . . . I will bind up the injured . . . I will strengthen the weak” (34:11- 16)
Hymn TIS 674: Inspired by love and anger”   
Music to lead us to prayer
Intercessory Prayers   -Ruth gave thanks for our many blessings, and asked God to be with the leadership of Marsden Road Uniting Church. She prayed for the ending of wars and unrest and especially for children who have never known peace. She prayed that we will always remember that above all, we are God’s children, regardless of our appearance. She asked for strength and courage for all those who are faced with any obstacles of any kind and for comfort and healing for the sick. She then prayed for our personal concerns after which we joined in The Lord’s Prayer.
Hymn TIS 256: “From heav’n you came, helpless babe” (The Servant King)  Benediction
Come, you who are blessed! Inherit all that is prepare for you!
We leave this sacred space to claim the riches and glorious inheritance that are ours through Christ.
Go out into the world to share your blessings with all in need.
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”


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Sunday Service Marsden Road Unting Church 19 November 2017

November 24, 2017 - 11:09pm



Again, I was unable to attend our service but I was helping a student with her study of Shakespeare’s The Tempest which provided a stimulus to think about a number of very human issues.
One reason that Shakespeare is still studied today, apart from being one of the very best of writers of the English speaking world, is that he explores a whole range of human ways of being, meaning that his work has universal appeal, not just across a generation but from one generation to another, over hundreds of years.
The Tempest is no exception, with the characters having to confront aspects of their own character with which until the present time in the play, they have been able to live quite comfortably.


The characters in the play represent various layers of society: fathers and children; rulers and the ruled; masters and servants. At any time in history, certain assumptions are in place concerning the behaviour of one layer of society towards another. In this play, as all of us have experienced in our own lives, these conventions are challenged and can come unstuck.
For example, it was assumed that masters had every right to direct the lives of their servants, without any need to apologise for any wrong caused. Children had to obey their parents, regardless of the wisdom, or lack of it, of the parents. Rulers would continue to rule, whether they were doing so fairly or not.
When all of these assumptions fail, people get hurt. When people get hurt, forgiveness is the only way to right the wrongs.
Learning this lesson can be painful and may take time but once learned, progress can be made and relationships restored. This was achieved between some characters in the play. One sought forgiveness. The other accepted the plea and forgave. Mission accomplished.
But what happens when the hurt is so deep, that regardless of the sincerity of the pleas for forgiveness or the genuineness of the repentance, the hurt party turns away and won't forgive?
The lesson learned concerning such a situations is that the matter must be left with God. There is just so much that we as humans, can do.
But what of rulers and masters? Should they belittle their status and lower themselves to ask forgiveness?
Doesn't such a move threaten the stability of society? Perhaps, but better that, than for them to remain in a state of offending against another person, no matter how lowly. And much better that, than to not seek forgiveness. And so much better that, than not to receive forgiveness and for those offended against to be able to forgive,
The whole asking for and giving of forgiveness cleanses the relationships of all concerned.
This was just one issue explored in The Tempest, but in studying the play we are given the chance to examine ourselves at arm’s length. Does the matter of forgiveness ever cross our minds or do we just bluster our way through our lives day after day?
Many of us are parents. Do our children simply have to bear our mistakes which damage their lives and get on with it? After all, if we apologize or ask forgiveness, isn't our authority in the family brought into question?
Better that, than for our children to see us as frauds.
And if we think of our experiences of being given an apology or being asked for forgiveness, doesn't the other person somehow grow taller in our sight.
Regardless of our social or family status, it is required that we asked forgiveness of those we have offended against and that we should forgive those who repent and ask for our forgiveness.
Thems the rules.
 
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 November 2017

November 13, 2017 - 10:06pm

 


I was unable to attend the service today, so instead, prepared for the upcoming advent study, The Gospel According to Scrooge.
In the introduction to the study, the focus is stated: “The purpose of this series of small-group sessions is to enable Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol to be a springboard  for our prayers.”
 
My first reflection on the above is that if we are to grow as a result of our experience of the coming Advent period, we need to put effort into creating an authentic and full interaction with God and each other during the approaching time by studying its base and ramifications.
 
If we “play it by ear,” not only will we not get the best out of the time ahead, but we will be revealing the little value that this time in the year has in our lives. This, in itself, cannot lead to the best we can have or be.

 
To experience the most authentic perspective of advent, that we as individuals can have, we need to seek to find our place in the meaning this time holds for our church. The “unabridged version” of this would take years, but a study like the one we intend to undertake, centred on The Christmas Carol, will provide early steps in what can be an ongoing journey over other Advent times in the future, during which our understanding of the season can only grow.
 
This study encourages us to look inward, to examine the deeper things that motivate us. It also encourages us to take an honest look at whether this time is indeed a time of “goodwill to all”. As well, our attempt to provide a happy time for our family and friends, as well for others in the wider community, we can often lose sight of the real meaning of this season. Therefore, the intention that this study is to be a springboard for our prayers at this time, is the very thing to bring our attention to the true and deeper meaning of this time.
 
It was reported that a woman looking through Christmas cards at the newsagent, was heard to mutter: “They’re trying to put religion into everything now.” Could we get any further away from the foundation of this time? By using this study as a stimulus for our conversations with God, we have an opportunity to be sure that this Advent our attention will be where it should be. The basis for our thoughts and actions will be the genuine one, growing from our relationship with God and a clearer appreciation of the significance of this time, and God’s will for us at this time.

 
The stated intention of the study is to act as a springboard for our prayer. Prayer can take many forms, but can I suggest that to start a period of prayer at this time it would be good to sit and just be. Let God use the story and the songs to bring to life a new way of seeing. Let God use that new way of seeing inject into you a new way of being. It has been my experience that by allowing a God to work in this way, our prayers that follow, become the prayers which can build the Kingdom. Those prayers will reflect the will of God for ourselves, our family, our friends and the world around. These prayers will come from a changed us, and in turn, will change us.
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 November 2017

November 8, 2017 - 12:18am

 
Gathering God’s People.
Today I would like to focus on the readings and Rev. John’s reflection, while attempting to give an idea of the service as a whole.
During The Call to Worship we remembered that we are part of a world-wide church which has come to us through generations of people seeking to relate to their God through worship.

Hymn TIS 455verses 1, 2, 3, 7 & 8: For All the Saints
During The Opening Prayer we asked God to be with us and to reveal to us through Jesus how to be true followers of God, humble and content, caring and co-operative, givers of goodness, strong in God’s strength, living in peace, according to God’s way.
We then confessed our weaknesses, praising God at the same time for his faithfulness and asking for forgiveness for our failings.
Rev. John then declared our forgiveness: Beloved, we are the children of God. Don't fear failure. It is endemic to our human nature. Learn from your mistakes, and cherish the forgiving grace of God. Give thanks for all you are, and go forward in faith, knowing that God is faithful.
We then exchanged the peace:
The peace of Christ be with you.
The peace of Christ be with you always.
Following that we offered of our material possessions: 
Holy God, we thank you for the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us as we worship. Their diversity reminds us of your infinite grace to all your creatures. Thank you for the vision of a world at peace: paradise restored, where no one hungers, no one thirsts, and no one is wanting in any way. You guide us to the source of living water and invite us to drink deeply of your love. Your magnificent generosity evokes our deepest thanks. And so, receive these offerings, that we may join that great cloud of witnesses as we share our gifts with others. Amen.

 Hymn TIS 522: “Christ is the heavenly food that gives.”  

There followed the Service of Holy Communion, which always strikes to the core of all of us. Today, the following remained with me:
In this meal, we give you praise and thanks, Creator God,
as we remember all those who have passed on into glory. You came in human form to walk among us, teaching us the way to live as your children. In Jesus Christ, you showed us what holy living looks like, and gave us the sacraments of baptism and Communion to remember and experience anew your presence, encouraging us to live in relationship to you.
And then:
Holy God, we came to this table scarred by regrets and broken dreams, anxious about many things, knowing that we are not immune to evil's lure. And you met us at this table; embracing us in our brokenness, naming us "beloved", claiming us for eternity. We thank you, living, loving God. Amen.

There followed The Service of the Word,beginning with the Scripture Readings: Revelations 7:9-17. Describes a great throng from all nations who have come through to be before the throne of God. This is the promise I heard: They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Matthew 5:1-12
These are known to us as the beatitudes delivered during the Sermon in the Mount. I don't think I need to repeat them here and if you would like to read the details Matthew 5 is the reference. The most important message for me is that those who will be the Blessed of our God aren't those that are successful by this world’s standards but those who seek the ways of a servant.

 Preaching of the Word
 Are we Chosen? – Revelation 7 and Matthew 5
Rev. John pointed out that our culture seems fascinated with the afterlife as though this life doesn't matter all that much and is just a place where we can win a spot in the good seats in Heaven. He pointed out the Bible hasn't much to tell us about the afterlife or who qualifies.
“All Jesus will say on the matter is that we don’t know anything and that our expectations are woefully inadequate.” “First John 3: 2 reminds us “we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” Even now, we are already chosen, already loved, already called. What we will be . . . well, no one knows about that yet, and it isn’t the point anyway”. “Some people are so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good” (attributed to both D. L. Moody and Oliver Wendell Holmes, but a great line, no matter who said it).”
Rev. John went on, referring to scripture, saying that our chief concern is to live in our relationship with God in the present.
My own experience is that the confidence of knowing that I am a child of God who watches over me, guiding my life, makes any concern about the afterlife something to be left for when I get there. God will be as faithful to me then as now.

Hymn TIS 497: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence”
Music to lead us to prayer

 Intercessory Prayers
Grahame led us in prayer for all those God has commissioned us to care for worldwide, nationally and locally, including our own congregation and those close to us needing God’s comforting hand. After that we joined in The Lord’s Prayer.

Hymn TIS 456: “Your hand, O God, has guided”
 
Benediction
We are renewed and filled with the sweetness of God. Go forth to bless the world with joy in the Spirit of God's redemptive love and sustaining peace.
And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen

Hymn TIS 778:  “Shalom to you”
 
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