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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 April 2020

April 2, 2020 - 11:39pm

Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 21: 1-11 and the OT readings is from  Isaiah 50: 4-9.
Perhaps if you read those, you will be prepared for the lessons I learned from the service, particularly the readings and the sermon.
 The Gospel reading is one we are all familiar with but there’s one reference I find very puzzling. There is reference to a donkey and a colt. Both are covered so Jesus can ride on them. That wouldn’t be an error but I have no idea what the significance is. Perhaps it’s just not the most despised of creatures but also the lesser colt who are both acceptable to carry the Sovereign King referred to in Isaiah.
In any case we are also familiar with one of the ideas circulating throughout the world of Jesus at that time: that an earthly warrior king would come to release the Jews from the latest of their overbearing rulers from an outside force. The Jews had been overrun by one outside force after another throughout history and longed for the King who would release them in a final victory.
We have been doing this throughout our own short history. If we vote for this party or that party, the country will prosper. It won’t and it will never do so, while our yardstick is an earthly one.
Jesus rode in on a donkey to show His Kingdom was not the one which was expected. His Kingdom is of the Spirit.
As Rev. John says, a political victory was never on a Jesus’ radar. He came to free us from ourselves. He came to raise us out of all those things that mire us down in ways of the rest of the world. The nasty stuff like greed. Greed covers so much, because we can be greedy for so many things.
Isaiah may have been overstating his case but he was on the right track when he claimed obedience to the Sovereign Lord. Short of being obedient to the Lord’s command we fail everything.
And we can remember Jesus’ teaching which tells us that we can call on help to obey the Sovereign Lord. The Spirit has been given to us to guide us so that we can think straight and the Spirit can give us the strength we need to be better than we could ever be on our own.
And for those who think God can’t possibly be calling them to build the Kingdom. Remember the donkey and the colt. Remember the humble fishermen. Remember the Woman at the Well.
Take God’s outstretched hand, which is inviting you, first to be raised up from the things that weigh you down and then for you to reach out to others, demonstrating that freedom and wealth are matters of the spirit, not of any material sort.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 March 2020

March 29, 2020 - 12:14pm

Gathering Gods People
 Call to Worship - (Mary J Scifres, Abingdon 2016)
In the midst of life, we are in death. But in the face of death, God’s Spirit comes to bring us life. Can dry bones live? Can life emerge from death? Only God knows. And yet, Christ promises just such a miracle through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come.
All who are dwindling and dying . . .come forth to new life.
All who are lying in darkness and despair . . .come out into the light.
All who feel separated and alone . . .come to the presence of God, whose Spirit finds us here.
This echos the situation we are in here in Australia. COVID 19 is threatening the health and well being of all Australians and even threatening us with death,  but out of that threat is growing our need and the will to stretch out to each other and offer aid. Of course there are always examples of selfish and self-centered and even quite mentally unbalanced behaviour but around me I see many offering help who would never have thought of doing it before.
Hymn TIS 84: “Give to our God immortal praise” Daily, in our every move and word in every situation.
Opening Prayer
Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into our lives and our worship. Create new possibilities, in our imaginations and in our dreams. Send the promise of your hope into our depression and our despair. Expand our hearts and our minds, as we enter your presence this day. Amen.
Which is the very thing we need in these times of such danger to the very fabric of our society.
We need every effort of our imaginations, guided by God’s Spirit to find our way out of the most dangerous situation we are in.
A Prayer of Confession
God of new life and emerging possibilities forgive us when death and despair occupy our focus. Embolden our faith when your future feels out of reach. Strengthen our courage, that we might come forth into the light and life of your promises. In hope and trust, we pray. Amen.
It  is the responsibility of every soul to look at themselves and see their own lapses from God’s way and ask God’s guidance back to the right path.
Declaration of Forgiveness
In God’s love, there is hope. In Christ’s forgiveness, there is peace. In the Spirit’s power, we are renewed and brought forth into life!
Thanks, be to God!
Hymn TIS  242: Lord of the dance.” When we are aware of God working in us, we feel the dance within us.
The Service of the Word

The First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”
Such is the power of Godthat even the most flat and exhausted of us can be lifted up to be a force for good.
Second Reading John 11:23-45
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.”  And he did.
No matter how dead we may think we are inwardly, the Spirit can bring us to life. Any of us!
Preaching of the Word
“It's Hard Getting God..., – John 11: 23-45
It's hard getting God to obey us. After all we're the ones on the scene. We know what we need, or our congregation needs, or what we need as individuals. God should listen to us and take our advice. If God would only be here when needed, there would be no tragedy in our lives. That’s very true for us now as we face a major upheaval in our lives with the out fall from Covid-19. We want God to sort this out quick time and we know what God needs to do.”
Some of us, at least are guilty of thinking these thoughts
“Moments of grief may well produce the same partnership between faith and reproach in us...
We want to ensure our survival through this current Pandemic that is isolating many of us from the community which gives us strength. We want to stop our friends and loved ones from dying. We constantly say to God, "If you had been here on time, you could have stopped this happening."
The fact is that we have no idea how this creation works and how we have caused it to break down or how we have interfered with its harmonious running. That is in God’s hands and  it is only when we open ourselves utterly and totally to God’s will that a glimmer of light seeps through.
The root problem is that we have not been let in on the whole story. Before Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb, he said, as an aside: "Loving parent, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me."...
So in our prayers today let us ask God to give us the gift of loving God's purposes and promises, that our wills may be fixed on the essential and eternal Good which is always there, even when the world around us seems to be coming unglued.”
Hymn TIS 210: “O for a thousand tongues to sing.”
If only all creation would not only give praise but acknowledge God’s plan as the only one.
Hymn TIS 684:“Love will be our Lenten calling.” That is what is going to get us through.
Let those who were languishing and dying rejoice.
Hymn TIS 777: May the Grace of Christ our Saviour”
May the grace of Christ our Saviour and the Father's boundless love, with the Holy Spirit's favour, rest upon us from above...Amen. Amen. Amen.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 March 2020

March 23, 2020 - 7:12am

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

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

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

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

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

Hymn TIS 681:Lord, let me see Benediction

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 March 2020

March 19, 2020 - 6:24am

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 16 February 2020

March 3, 2020 - 4:06am

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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 March 2020

March 3, 2020 - 3:55am

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 Febrauary 2020

February 14, 2020 - 8:40am

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 January 2020

January 29, 2020 - 11:57am

Rev. John’s service began today with an acknowledgement of the First Peoples and the debt we owe them - past, present and future. It is only fitting that we acknowledge the care they gave the land we now call home. Gratitude is always a reflection of our attitude towards God and the gifts we are given which is invariably through other people.
Today was Australia Day and while the sermon did not specifically address that, references were made through other parts of the service. We must learn how to care for the precious gift we have in this country, which with its people has suffered so dreadfully from drought, fires and flood over the last months.

These events have brought to mind the preciousness of our environment and our responsibility to show care, looking at its special needs which are quite different from those of the many countries from which we or our ancestors have come. We are wrong to make assumptions and must think carefully about our stewardship of this marvellous gift, our home.

We may wonder where we can acquire the wisdom needed to change track. Rev. John’s words about the light conferred upon anyone who seeks it from the Spirit of God who is the author of all creation will guide us and illuminate our thinking as we look for ways and means to deal with the environmental issues which beset our home at this time. As Rev. John alluded to, these solutions will probably not be found in a church or any religious setting, after all Jesus spent most of his time out and about dealing with the ills, physical or spiritual, wherever they occurred. The disciples were never in a religious setting when they were called and so, it is most likely that we will find the solutions we need to address the brokenness of our land out where they are occurring.

Rev. John also spoke of being “fishers of people”. It is highly unlikely that anyone seeking healing for their bodies, minds or souls will come to church out of the blue to find it. They are far more likely to look at the people around them who seem to them to be living as though they are healed or being healed.

It could be that the deep yearning or spiritual hunger someone feels will motivate them to seek answers from a person who appears to be finding their hunger and yearning met but not by means of a large house or car or other conspicuous means. We have been commissioned to be fishers of people. Not for our benefit but to share the news of that enlivening spirit that has brought new meaning to our lives.
Which can bring new meaning and new life to all.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 19 January 2020

January 18, 2020 - 3:58am

Because I am unable to attend church tomorrow I cannot write the blog,

so have sent John’s blog. Margaret

How would your life be different if you were A Christian or for that matter not a Christian? For some of us who have lived surrounded by Christian people, it’s hard to imagine, but what if you had no interest in God? So, I am going to explore the question from the perspective of a Christian reflecting on how different my world would be without my faith. How would your life be less or more or just the same? What would you miss about church? I would probably resist singing out loud in public were it not for church on Sunday. Which of your friends would not be your friends? If you had never met the people you have met in Sunday school, how great a loss would that be? How would your family change? How would you spend your time differently? Would you be at home reading the Australian? What do you do because you are a Christian that makes you happy? Which religious activities could you do without? What would be easier if you weren’t a Christian?  Do you feel good about the time you spend helping strangers? Do you wish you still had all the money you’ve given away? Have there been experiences you would hate to have missed—hope-filled books you are glad you read, experiences of God’s grace in worship, times you’ve cared for hurting people?

 If you were not a Christian, would your life be less interesting? Every once in a while, the disciples thought about how different their lives would have been if they had never met Jesus. It started so quietly. John the Baptist is standing with two of his students when Jesus walks by. John says, “That’s the one. You know how cocky I can be, but I’m not worthy to tie his sandals.” The two disciples are understandably curious. They start following Jesus. He turns and asks, “What are you looking for?” They answer nervously, “We thought we would see where you’re staying.” In other words, “We don’t have anything better to do, so we’re wondering what you’re doing.”  Jesus offers the invitation that will change their lives: “Come and see.” They stay with Jesus all day because he’s interesting. They have no idea what they are getting themselves into. They don’t know that they will end up leaving behind their nets, boats, homes, friends, work, and retirements. They will end up changing their ideas about almost everything. Andrew goes to get his brother. “You have to come and see this guy,” he says. Simon is dragged along, going more so that his brother will leave him alone than out of any great faith. When Jesus meets Simon, he says, “Your name is going to be Rock.” The often-confused Simon is anything but a rock, but everything is starting to change. Most of the time, we move toward God in small steps taken as much out of curiosity as out of faith. So, what are we looking for? What are we looking for in our world today, in the actions and life of the Church? Why do some join Church and worship in a church? Some of those attending worship are in Church because their parents didn’t give them a choice. For some, their mother’s voice told them to go to church and somehow this has lodged in their minds, and they can’t get rid of it.
Some are in church because it’s easier to come than to argue with their spouse about it. Most of us didn’t attend with great expectations. The religious reasons we have for being here are mixed at best. We’re interested in thinking about how we could live better lives, but only up to a point. If we’re in worship today for no good reason, that’s okay. Lots of people find their way by accident. Jesus says, “Come and see.” The disciples stumble along, following without knowing where they are going, discovering well after the fact that they have wandered onto a path that leads to grace. “Come and see,” Jesus says. In John’s Gospel the disciples soon taste water turned into wine, watch in horror as Jesus clears the temple, and listen with amazement to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, that the spirit of God blows wherever it wills. They stumble onto a way of life they have never imagined. So, what are we looking for? Deep in our souls, are we looking for something to believe in and hold on to, something important enough to live for, and something big enough to claim our passions. Are we looking for challenge and purpose? Are we looking for God? What begins with curiosity becomes a step toward grace. The emptiness we feel from time to time is God calling us to the paths that lead to meaning. God lets us know that we can look beyond our computers and coffee cups into the enchanted possibilities of grace. God is the one who makes us long for something that lasts. God draws us toward life even when we don’t recognise what’s happening. Come and see” is how the disciples’ story begins. It’s a wonderful line and a great way to start a story. “Come and see” is the invitation to explore, discover, and travel without knowing exactly where we are going, but to know that if we catch a glimpse of God, we will also catch a glimpse of who we can be. Come and see. Come and look for places where we've never been. Come and see what it means to hope, believe, and follow. By being in church we open ourselves to God, who will lead us to new places. The people who follow Jesus end up doing the things Jesus did. They care for the hurting, listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, pray for the broken hearted, bandage those who are wounded, do more than is expected. They look for God and find extraordinary lives. The spirit of adventure is what calls Christians to worship. Christians are seeking the meaning of life, joining with people on the journey, and asking God to help them see where grace invites them. We are there to look at the gifts we’ve been given and the needs of the world. We come to worship together to discover the possibilities. If we worship God, if we share our lives with other people looking for God, we will see beyond what we have assumed. If we look for God, we will find that God is looking for us, offering life.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 12 January 2020

January 18, 2020 - 3:31am

Today I was rostered to take the service and I wrote both the liturgy and the sermon around the theme presented in the Bible readings as set down in the Uniting Church in Australia Lectionary.
In Acts 10 there is an account of Peter having a vision or dream, if you like, of a sheet being let down, held up by its four corners. In the sheet there were all sorts of animals, some of which would have been considered by the Jews at that time as being unclean and therefore unsuitable for consumption.
But a voice told Peter to kill and eat. Peter, recognising the voice as that of God, refused, saying he had never let anything profane pass his lips. That was understandable, given the Jewish purity laws. But the voice of God persisted, telling Peter that nothing God had created was unclean and therefore, unfit for eating.
Peter, in the context of another event, realised that God was telling him that the old law had passed away and that a new law had been installed. That new law meant that Jews could then mix freely with Gentiles and that God loved all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.
I then gave accounts of congregations quite different from ours who were loved by God and who all professed to love God. And in those congregations people conducted themselves in vastly different ways, despite being committed Christians.
I also challenged the congregation to include all people with whom they have contact, under the commandment to care for each other.
Knowing that some would need to step out of their comfort zone to do that, I outlined reasons why people could come to have quite different views on how to live out their Christian commitment or different views of which faith to which they should choose to belong (or not belong). I also pointed out that Jesus had commissioned us to do “great things” and that if we needed to step out of our comfort zone, the Holy Spirit would be with us.
I thought that it should be clarified what deeds might be considered “great things”. For some, waving to a neighbour is very difficult if they had never done so in the first 70 years of their life.
But God has given us a command and we should be prepared to prayerfully, take a deep breath, and step out.
I remember a woman who led brilliant leadership programmes saying that “bluff” could impress upon a group that that person leading them at the time was competent and in charge of their material. We can be very unsure of ourselves but if we go forward boldly and believe Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit presence supporting us, it will appear to listeners that we are on top of our game. And with the Holy Spirit working through us, that will be true.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 5 January 2020

January 9, 2020 - 4:01am

The Rev. Bruce Roy led our service today which included a Communion Service.
He conducted the service in a warm, inviting manner, so we felt we were all part of the service. The Communion Service was conducted, as is fitting, with dignity, but the quietness and stillness of it sometimes makes some people feel a little unsure of their place in it.
However the Communion Service is a deeply spiritual experience and the members of the congregation were aware of a great bond, one with the other, throughout, because of that.
Despite the deep importance of the Communion Service, the part of the service I am going to concentrate on is the reflection, which, I’m sure brought clarity and in some cases, comfort to individuals listening.
Bruce spoke about the meaning of scripture, which causes some people to bridle when it comes to the description of events we haven’t witnessed in our lifetime. How could these things be? And if the Bible includes impossible stories, how can we rely on it?
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give accounts of the birth of Jesus but it isn’t mentioned in Mark or Matthew.
Mark begins with a declaration about John the Baptist followed by the baptism of Jesus as an adult. John is quite different again, speaking in a more spiritual style but again introducing Jesus as an adult being baptised by John the Baptist.
On the surface it does seem a bit odd that such gospel accounts do not quite mesh. Matthew says Jesus was born in a house in Bethlehemthen sometime afterwards is taken to Egypt to escape Herod. After a period of time his family decides to return to Bethlehem, but soon change their mind and travel to Nazareth instead.
According to Luke, however, Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. They travel to Bethlehem because a censusrequires them to do so. While they are there Jesus is born in a manger. After his birth they wait for Mary to go through ritual purification, following which they travel to Jerusalem to sacrifice two birds at the temple. When the sacrifice had been made they go home to Nazareth.
In addition there are accounts of angels speaking to people, instructing them about what to do: people speak of visions adding further uneasiness for some readers. When have any of us spoken to Angels or had visions? And if the visions were what we call dreams, how many of us have acted them, believing they came from God? 
For people who have been taught that the Bible is the Word of God and who have been taught to believe every word as it is written, all of the above can cause deep insecurity and confusion. Some, unable to make any sense of it, thrown out “the baby with the bath water” and desert their beliefs and the church.
However, Bruce explained that the truth of the Bible is to be found in the message of the accounts and that the “facts” were simply a method of producing that message. We are to look for the truth behind the account.
This is easier to accept if we are told of other accounts. During the first a Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was accused of telling lies about statistics of losses suffered on Iraq’s side and other ‘factual information’. However, the King of Jordon stepped in and explained that the people of the Middle East think in terms of the truth of Passion, whereas the people of the West think in terms of the truth of facts. This is the same disparity between western thinking about the Bible that exist for us.
When we read anything in the Bible, we should not concern ourselves about the facts. We should look for the underlying truth of the message. The account may be “true” as in Western thinking or it may not. That isn’t important. There is a far more important truth just below the surface.
Truths about relying on God. Truths about doing what God says. Truths about seeking out God’s way. Truths about courage. Truths that are true no matter what the age.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 29 December 2019

January 2, 2020 - 2:15am

This morning Lyn led our worship, telling the Christmas story from the perspectives of people, involved in a event  all following the directions given to them  by God or God’s messenger.

An idea which emerged for me was that of relying on God’s guidance rather than just charging ahead without any thought about consequences.

 God’s message came to people in different ways. Sometimes an angel appeared, sometimes someone had a dream, sometimes someone heard of something going on through the grapevine.

Today it is the same. Sometimes we hear God’s voice through a Bible reading, sometimes through a hymn, sometimes through a homily, sometimes through the words of a friend or even through our reflection while we are sitting quietly in a place where we are comfortable and ready to hear the voice of God coming to us in non-verbal ways, such as the waves of the surf, the landforms or even through the beautiful structure of plants.
The important thing is to allow God’s voice to comeand not imagine what we want to hear. Then we must obey as the various people in Lyn’s homily did. We may be mistaken but from my experience that will become clear to us and we can start again.

Then Lyn went on to talk about how people today fill the Christmas season with everything except the celebration of Christ’s birth, giving  examples of the amazing materialism and greed that is attached to Christmas by so many people today. When children grow up with all of that around them, no wonder they have no idea what it is meant to be about.

 Lyn reminded us that many today are so glad when Christmas is over because of the pressure they are under to provide the various “wants” of family and others at this time. Christmas is supposed to be a time of happy celebration of Jesus’ birth and the joy that he brings to us when we follow him.
 Lyn, by alluding to the candles of Peace, Joy, Love and Hope that we light in the Sundays coming up to Christmas, told us of the true meaning of the season and that we are meant to take that message into the year ahead.
Lyn reminded us that in all Joseph and Mary did they followed the voice of God. Today we can do that by following the words and example of Jesus but do we? Or do we stray from time to time, following our own way?  Lyn said in reference to the terrible times people in Australia are having in the drought and fires:
“Christmas brings people together, but it’s greatest joy is that it brings people together with God.” She then challenged us: “Why not let Christmas bring you together with Jesus, our Immanuel, who promises you will never be alone - even in the toughest of times.”
   Why not - we have every reason to do so.
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 15 December 2019

December 17, 2019 - 8:01am

Alan led our worship this morning and challenged us to think about the focus of our Christmas celebrations.
He introduced the topic thus:

“Christmas is a funny time. In western countries, at any rate, we have concocted a peculiar and complex web of different traditions, which we cherish as ‘Christmas’”.
He then listed the types of features that pass as part of the Christmas celebrations of many in the Western World:
“gifts under a tree – which is often made of plastic, for goodness’ sake!; there’s a big meal, with a hot fruit pudding – and often much over-indulgence;”
My own family was no different for many years except we did not indulge in expense gifts, choosing instead to guarantee those less well off than ourselves were able to enjoy a pleasant Christmas Day.
Not all my family, then (or now), saw Christmas as the day when we celebrate the hope that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth brought to the world.
However, ironically, as my children grew into adults, without any religious profession, they rejected the over-indulgence in food and gift-giving. So, for many years now, our Christmas Day has been a day for our family to meet and affirm our love and support for each other.
It is quite a simple meal of food which is chosen to see that each of us has something we like and perhaps wouldn’t eat every week. Then a gift for each adult and some little things for the granddaughters . We all take leave of each other still feeling healthy and knowing we are still “glued” together by the love and goodwill shown throughout the day. And all the money saved goes to those who are doing it “tough”.
This year, my husband and I sent a cheque to a country town where people are in deep debt because of the drought and the cheque is being split between the pharmacist and the dentist to help pay for treatment of people who have no means of paying for medical treatment anymore. The thought that a burden is lifted from someone who can’t pay for some essential treatment is the best Christmas present I can think off. And gives hope to those who perhaps thought they been forgotten. I think Jesus would see that as obeying the commandment he gave us to love one another.
I have told the details of our Christmas Day to make the point that most of my family do not profess to be even religious, much less, Christian. But they live in a society which has been influenced and was initially built on Christian principles. They also read and watch the media where Christian ideas are sometimes spread and they have been raised to think of others.
So if a Christian, now or at some other time hadn’t let their light shine, perhaps the society  we live in would not have influenced my family to think the way they do. Perhaps the parents of my granddaughters wouldn’t know that to raise children, parents almost without exception need to sacrifice some or many of their own needs, thereby setting the template for the thinking of those little girls in relation to other people. The words of Jesus of Nazareth is still alive in unexpected places.
Alan went on:
“Amidst it all, as Christians, most of us find time to go to church, either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning, or even both. Worship reminds us, in a way that the plastic nativity scene just doesn’t, that Christmas is actually about Jesus. It’s actually about the coming into the world of the saviour, Jesus Christ...Some Christian families seek to remind themselves that the festival is all about Jesus, by setting an empty place at their table. The empty chair is for Jesus...But who is the Jesus we invite to join us at our table... are we ready to meet the real Jesus? Are we ready to welcome him at our table.
 ...We have all had times of doubt and uncertainty. Perhaps those times too were occasioned by dashed expectations and disappointment.” Jesus’s reply (to John the Baptist) is interesting.
“Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

(Alan went on to develop his sermon further, but I cannot follow that in the space of this small blog.)
Jesus is not walking around the earth as he was at that time. But all of us who profess to be obeying his commandment are doing the work of his word in some way. The result of obeying Jesus commandments may not be miracles in the conventional sense. However,  the changes that have been wrought in us so that we obey, and as a result people that we have never met are freed from burdens that we know nothing about, are indeed miracles.

Whether Jesus is able to reach out to his children during the Christmas season  largely depends on those of us who know of his enlivening power; those of us who have already responded in whatever human way we can, to the amazingly generous and totally incomprehensible invitation given to us. The thing is, do we recognize miracles when they are happening before our eyes. Do we recognize Jesus acting through his children ....or anyone or anything he chooses?

Categories: Syndicated Blogs