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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 25 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 29, 2018 - 11:17pm


Christ the King Sunday
Today our focus was “Christ the King” which was reflected in the sermon, readings and hymns. The following hymns are all well known and give praise and thanksgiving for the joy Jesus brought to the world.
Hymns:
Hymn 275: Hail to the Lord’s anointed
Hymn 293: Unto us a boy is born! verses 1, 2, 4 & 5
Hymn 216: Rejoice the Lord is King
Hymn 279: The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices
Hymn771: Now to him who loved us
 
I have selected a sentence from each reading which resonated with me:
The First Reading: 2 Samuel 23:1-7.  “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”
The Gospel Reading: John 18:33-37 “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
 
Christ came to be our King. We have come to be Christ’s people.
The King of kings calls us to follow him. We have come to be Christ’s people.
Christ came to be our King. We have come to be Christ’s people.
 
Opening Prayer
Mighty Sovereign, we approach your throne to behold your glory. Open our eyes, that we
might witness your Son coming with the clouds to rule with justice and righteousness. Open
our hearts, that we may rejoice in your covenant, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning. Amen.
 Prayer of Confession
 Almighty God, we are intoxicated by power—
the power to dominate, the power to control, the power to punish, the power to reward, the power to have our own way.
We live in a powerful country with powerful leaders and a powerful military.
Forgive us when we lose sight of what true power is all about. Forgive us when we forget that Jesus is our true and only King.
Help us refasten our gaze on Christ’s kingdom, that we might work to bring this kingdom here on earth.
In the name of the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, we pray. Amen.
 
This is a very strong prayer where we confess that we have tried to usurp Jesus role and have tried to rule the world. No wonder things have come unstuck. We can't even run our own lives without running into trouble. We are such small people. Someone once said to me that there is something wrong with humans. If is only when we face that fact and hand over the reins to the creator that things can go right.
 Declaration of Forgiveness
 The Lord made a covenant with King David, promising faithfulness to his descendants. In Christ, we have a new covenant, assuring us forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace. In Christ, our true king, our lives are made whole.
Thanks be to God!
 
Preaching of the Word - Famous Last Words
“…King David’s final words, as they are remembered by his people and written in scripture are eloquent and worthy of Israel’s great shepherd/poet. The most significant thing is the blessing they carry. The blessing is a useful reminder, even today, of the gifts and blessings available to not only the leaders of God’s people but to all the body of Christ. David’s words also imply that God has expectations of individuals, and those expectations must be taken to heart…
David was not the front-runner to succeed Saul as king, as he was young with no experience or hereditary rights. Most of the neighbours looked at him as that kid who spent most of his time outdoors with the sheep…
But Samuel, after looking over Jesse’s older sons, had David called in from the fields, and this suntanned, rough-clad poet, who probably smelled like the sheep he cared for, was judged by God to be beautiful…
David’s life, then, teaches us not only what it is to be a shepherd of God’s people, but also what it is to be human.
Jesus did not call himself king. He called himself a servant and proceeded to wrap himself in a towel and wash the feet of those who came to dinner with him. He did tell his followers what kind of people made up his kingdom: not the proud and greedy but the children, the poor, the abandoned, the lowly.
This is worth remembering as we attempt to serve a God in the world. We are not promised recognition or status and certainly not wealth. Sometimes we may not even receive thanks. Our reward is in being the hands and mouth of our God.
 
Prayers of the People
In these prayers we turned to God to lift this world up above the mess that prevails. We asked for God’s help and comfort for those suffering in war, drought, illness or because of any evil wrought by selfish people. And we asked that God uplift all those working to alleviate the suffering caused by that selfishness. We prayed for those close to us and then joined in the Lord’s Prayer.
 
Benediction
The mighty one of Jacob sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
The rock of Israel sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
The Alpha and Omega sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life be with you and remain with you always, Amen
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Things Are Not How They Appear.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 23, 2018 - 12:39pm

“Is Jesus really the king?” It was Pilate’s question in John 18. But it is ours too. In a world that seems to be constantly falling apart (despite Psalm 93’s insistence that the King of kings has set it firmly in its place), it can be hard to believe that Jesus is really the king. Yet our faith tells us he is. But as Jesus reminds us in John 18, he is a different kind of king. Sometimes, he chooses to clothe himself in weakness instead of strength. As we read in the Psalms from our scriptures sometimes, he robes himself in meekness instead of majesty. Sometimes, he comes as the king of the cross instead of the king of glory.
Australians it seems are like North Americans in that they seem quick to blame their politicians when things go wrong but slow to give them credit when things go right. Although I must admit in recent times it is harder to find the things that are going right. King David it seems knew better and he uses soaring poetry to celebrate the difference a good king can make and to declare that another king (an even greater king than him!) is coming. David declares that it will happen. And thanks be to God, we Christians have faith that in Jesus Christ, it has.
I read somewhere that some years ago in the USA the company, Allstate Insurance ran a popular advertising campaign featuring a character named “Mayhem.” In each ad, Mayhem takes on a new form (a satellite dish, a texting teenager, or a poorly secured Christmas tree) to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting. After each incident, an ominous voice says, “Mayhem is everywhere. . . are you in good hands?” In a world full of mayhem, those Christians who come into worship this week may be wondering if they are in good hands. We hope that they may leave with the assurance that they are because Jesus is king.
As we think and reflect upon Kings and kingship I am reminded that there is a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her friends have finally gained an audience with the legendary Wizard. Smoke fills the air, his voice booms around them, and the four friends quake with fear—until Dorothy’s little dog Toto slips away, pulls back a curtain, and exposes the real Oz. That is when Dorothy and her friends discover that things are not how they first appeared. The great and powerful Oz is not so great and powerful after all.
Something similar happens in our scripture from Revelation 1 this week. Only this time, when the curtain is pulled back, the situation is reversed. With an oppressive emperor sitting on the throne in Rome and persecution breaking out all around them, John’s congregations may well have wondered if Jesus Christ was so great and powerful after all. It is chaos, not Jesus that appears to rule their world. Yet Revelation 1 insists that things are not how they appear. When the curtain is pulled back, Jesus Christ is not only revealed to be the one who will be the ruler of the kings of the earth.
No. He is spoken of as the one who is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Despite how things may first appear, his power and reign are seen as a present reality. John the writer of Revelation’s drives this point home when he twice insists that the Lord God is the one who is and was and will be (if you read Revelations 1 note how John breaks the expected sequence of past/present/future in order to place the present tense in the emphatic position). The “isness” of God’s presence and Christ’s reign are what the church celebrates on this Christ the King Sunday. Yes, we use the image that someday every eye will see him coming on the clouds. But those who have the eyes of faith can see that God is with us—today. So those of faith then say that Jesus is king—today. So he deserves our worship and allegiance—today.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 18 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 19, 2018 - 10:13am

 
Today's Blog is written by Rev. John Candy.



When we woke up this morning, many of us stepped into a world of expectations. This was not a conscious decision; it's just where we live, in a land where life is so good we have the luxury of taking many things for granted. The air conditioning stayed on, so we could awake to a comfortable room temperature; and if it was dark when we awoke, we reached for a light switch, so the invisible dangers could be revealed. Then we walked into a room with running water inside the house. On a Sunday some of you will be even listening to my voice over the sound system you expected and hoped to work so you could hear me when I turned the switch on. However this Sunday will be different in that we are in Melbourne but the expectations are still there.
 
So many things we expect in life we just take for granted until something doesn't work. The alarm doesn't go off. It's hot in the house. The light switch is non-responsive. We panic for a minute. We get frustrated. Then we think, "This is not how my day is supposed to be. My life is supposed to play out in such a way that I have all that I need to be comfortable. However, this morning, somebody or something flipped the script. And now I have no power when I'm supposed to have power."
 
Most of the rest of our world plays out a very different script; a minor power outage is disappointing. Outside of our country or outside of our neighbourhood there are problems and concerns many of us can't even begin to comprehend. There are illnesses that can't be treated, people dying in need of food, political and civil unrest, and overt exploitation and abuse of humanity and nature. A power outage in most of the world is a good day. Yet many of us see the discomfort and shock of power outages in this country, natural disasters like hurricanes and weather-pattern changes, wars in places where wars have been waged since the beginning of recorded history, and some of us interpret these events as "the sign of the times."
 
Where we live, 'be alert' became more a catch-cry in the 'war against terror' or a tool in the weaponry of road-safety campaigners, than an issue of spiritual 'safety'. What kinds of spheres do we need to be alert in where we live? What do we expect our world to be like in such an environment? One field in which we certainly need to remain spiritually alert and informed about our expectations is in the face of the multitudinous cranks out there, peddling extremist, fundamentalist versions of what Jesus is on about.
 
Not just in what we consider 'extremist' churches, but within mainline ones these days. The recent debates and news about abuse issues and about same gender acknowledgement are some examples. It can happen!
 
It doesn’t just happen out there somewhere but can happen right here amongst one’s own community.  How can we live in our time and God's time at the same time, in the world and in the church as Christ's Body, and do it free from fear? 'Perfect love casts out fear' says John. Persecution of Christians these days in some of our societies is just as likely to come from fundamentalist protestant or catholic factions within churches more than from outside.
 

Those out there in the wide margins can still persecute and the possibility is growing within in some quarters. The places where misguided people try to draw in church margins tightly round fellow Christians. Isn't it ironic that that's the way Jesus' warnings may be fulfilled today? That Jesus speaks of wars, earthquakes, and famines, as 'the beginning of birth-pangs' could be a helpful way of exploring the pains that our world still - as always - labours under. We have become very comfortable with the expectation that all will remain the same or get better. I really wonder where our focus might be. Is it in the expectation of all the comforts being there and available all the time?
 
On the other hand, is it on where God calls us to be and is it on the most important thing of God’s great love for us. What do we really have to bear to bring something worthwhile to birth? Have we even thought about it? Have we thought about what it is we are meant to be doing here and now?  As distinct from theological philosophising, what practical and constructive steps must we take to 'endure to the end'? I will leave you with some more questions to ponder over the next weeks before our focus is taken to shops and parties and gifts and all the other trappings of our western Christmas lifestyle.
 
Are we as Christians or even those outside the faith listening for what we say and working out how we act in love as we face those whom we meet day to day? And what is this end that Jesus talks about? Whom, is the end for and is it important? Is the Christian call to be working to enable God’s kingdom to be here and now in his love the most important thing? Is this scripture passage too close to the bone?
 

 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Expectations!

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 16, 2018 - 8:44pm

When we woke up this morning, many of us stepped into a world of expectations. This was not a conscious decision; it's just where we live, in a land where life is so good we have the luxury of taking many things for granted. The air conditioning stayed on, so we could awake to a comfortable room temperature; and if it was dark when we awoke, we reached for a light switch, so the invisible dangers could be revealed. Then we walked into a room with running water inside the house. On a Sunday some of you will be even listening to my voice over the sound system you expected and hoped to work so you could hear me when I turned the switch on. However this Sunday will be different in that we are in Melbourne but the expectations are still there.

So many things we expect in life we just take for granted until something doesn't work. The alarm doesn't go off. It's hot in the house. The light switch is non-responsive. We panic for a minute. We get frustrated. Then we think, "This is not how my day is supposed to be. My life is supposed to play out in such a way that I have all that I need to be comfortable. However, this morning, somebody or something flipped the script. And now I have no power when I'm supposed to have power."
Most of the rest of our world plays out a very different script; a minor power outage is disappointing. Outside of our country or outside of our neighbourhood there are problems and concerns many of us can't even begin to comprehend. There are illnesses that can't be treated, people dying in need of food, political and civil unrest, and overt exploitation and abuse of humanity and nature. A power outage in most of the world is a good day. Yet many of us see the discomfort and shock of power outages in this country, natural disasters like hurricanes and weather-pattern changes, wars in places where wars have been waged since the beginning of recorded history, and some of us interpret these events as "the sign of the times."

Where we live, 'be alert' became more a catch-cry in the 'war against terror' or a tool in the weaponry of road-safety campaigners, than an issue of spiritual 'safety'. What kinds of spheres do we need to be alert in where we live? What do we expect our world to be like in such an environment? One field in which we certainly need to remain spiritually alert and informed about our expectations is in the face of the multitudinous cranks out there, peddling extremist, fundamentalist versions of what Jesus is on about.
Not just in what we consider 'extremist' churches, but within mainline ones these days. The recent debates and news about abuse issues and about same gender acknowledgement are some examples. It can happen!
It doesn’t just happen out there somewhere but can happen right here amongst one’s own community.  How can we live in our time and God's time at the same time, in the world and in the church as Christ's Body, and do it free from fear? 'Perfect love casts out fear' says John. Persecution of Christians these days in some of our societies is just as likely to come from fundamentalist protestant or catholic factions within churches more than from outside.

Those out there in the wide margins can still persecute and the possibility is growing within in some quarters. The places where misguided people try to draw in church margins tightly round fellow Christians. Isn't it ironic that that's the way Jesus' warnings may be fulfilled today? That Jesus speaks of wars, earthquakes, and famines, as 'the beginning of birth-pangs' could be a helpful way of exploring the pains that our world still - as always - labours under. We have become very comfortable with the expectation that all will remain the same or get better. I really wonder where our focus might be. Is it in the expectation of all the comforts being there and available all the time?
On the other hand, is it on where God calls us to be and is it on the most important thing of God’s great love for us. What do we really have to bear to bring something worthwhile to birth? Have we even thought about it? Have we thought about what it is we are meant to be doing here and now?  As distinct from theological philosophising, what practical and constructive steps must we take to 'endure to the end'? I will leave you with some more questions to ponder over the next weeks before our focus is taken to shops and parties and gifts and all the other trappings of our western Christmas lifestyle.
Are we as Christians or even those outside the faith listening for what we say and working out how we act in love as we face those whom we meet day to day? And what is this end that Jesus talks about? Whom, is the end for and is it important? Is the Christian call to be working to enable God’s kingdom to be here and now in his love the most important thing? Is this scripture passage too close to the bone?



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 14, 2018 - 12:14am


Society’s Fringe Dwellers This week's blog is by Rev. John Candy.


Often, something positive eventually comes from a disaster. This does not mean that the disaster was God’s way of achieving the positive. The birth of David results from Ruth’s union with Boaz (encouraged by Naomi), but the biblical events preceding that— Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s incest with his daughters, the famine and death of Naomi’s family— are not God’s preferred method of bringing grace into the world.
 
If we look at Divorce despite it not being ideal and not what God wants for us it is necessary because of our choices and mistakes. The way God calls us to live as shown in the life of Jesus seems so perfect, yet we are forgiven as we struggle to live in a holy way. Out of divorce can come positive things as we evaluate our own mistakes in the relationship and work towards not making them again. Out of the pain can come positive growth that enables the person going through divorce to be much more fully present and available in their following relationships including maybe a new partner.
 
One of the first widow’s I ever understood to be a widow was young. She was someone I had known in the community and her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball. He was twenty-nine. Suddenly, the notion of widowhood became clear to me. It was not that a woman simply outlived her husband, but that there was a blank space at the table, an empty side of the bed, a phone number that goes unanswered, conversations that become one-sided. Widows and widowers of all ages and circumstances frequently surround us. And we forget their status.
 
 
We forget that they are among those considered most vulnerable and most wise in Scripture. We forget that God’s heart is with them. It is critical to remember that her beloved, deceased partner may not have been a saint, but she will still grieve. That the person still living is still thinking of their loved one, even if you are afraid to bring up the subject. That she may grow accustomed to her new state, but never stop missing the ones who rest in light. Being widowed, being left out of partnership, should not mean being left out of community.
 
Let not the community of God forsake those who mourn. It is not enough to say God is with them. We are to be the hands, words, and consolation of the Spirit with widows, orphans, and strangers. Throughout his ministry, Jesus called to attention those on the margins of society, those who had previously gone unnoticed, the poor, the blind, the lame, the beggars, the lepers, military personnel, and widows. It’s a reminder particularly as many of us in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) will be marking Armistice or Remembrance Day which falls this Sunday. These are the same people we find on the margins of our societies today. Those who still are excluded, those whom society looks down on or simply ignores. A widow, living in poverty created by the institution charged with her care. An aged person placed in a Home as there is no one to manage things for them or even visit them.
 

This gospel reading from Mark 12 that continues today doesn’t seem like good news: A widow giving her all to a corrupt institution, an institution that fails to care for her as it is supposed to do. But she gives anyway. And Jesus commends her giving. He commends her and condemns the system. Jesus holds her up as an example of how small but significant acts can break down a cycle of injustice and corruption.
 
In the culture of Jesus, widows were non-people. Without a man to support or validate them in society, they were non-beings. Vulnerable and invalid, it was easy not to see them. It is easy not to see the people on our streets living without shelter, food or clothing. It’s easy not see the desperation of the refugees trying to reach countries where they might be better off. It’s easy to blame the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the disabled and many others who are suffering. Yet, Jesus not only notices widows on many occasions during his ministry, in this week’s text, he actually uses a widow to teach trust and reliance on God.
 


This gospel is not talking to us about a comparative giving table, steering the prosperous to give more. It is encouragement for those who go against the grain, who practice subversion in whatever way they can, even in the face of injustice. Who, by their subversion, make inroads into creating justice and fairness for all God’s people. It doesn’t always take placards and a lot of shouting for trends and policies to be reversed. Persistent, simple subversion also does the trick.

 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Societies Fringe Dwellers.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 9, 2018 - 12:53pm

Often, something positive eventually comes from a disaster. This does not mean that the disaster was God’s way of achieving the positive. The birth of David results from Ruth’s union with Boaz (encouraged by Naomi), but the biblical events preceding that— Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s incest with his daughters, the famine and death of Naomi’s family— are not God’s preferred method of bringing grace into the world.
If we look at Divorce despite it not being ideal and not what God wants for us it is necessary because of our choices and mistakes. The way God calls us to live as shown in the life of Jesus seems so perfect, yet we are forgiven as we struggle to live in a holy way. Out of divorce can come positive things as we evaluate our own mistakes in the relationship and work towards not making them again. Out of the pain can come positive growth that enables the person going through divorce to be much more fully present and available in their following relationships including maybe a new partner.
One of the first widow’s I ever understood to be a widow was young. She was someone I had known in the community and her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball. He was twenty-nine. Suddenly, the notion of widowhood became clear to me. It was not that a woman simply outlived her husband, but that there was a blank space at the table, an empty side of the bed, a phone number that goes unanswered, conversations that become one-sided. Widows and widowers of all ages and circumstances frequently surround us. And we forget their status.

We forget that they are among those considered most vulnerable and most wise in Scripture. We forget that God’s heart is with them. It is critical to remember that her beloved, deceased partner may not have been a saint, but she will still grieve. That the person still living is still thinking of their loved one, even if you are afraid to bring up the subject. That she may grow accustomed to her new state, but never stop missing the ones who rest in light. Being widowed, being left out of partnership, should not mean being left out of community.
Let not the community of God forsake those who mourn. It is not enough to say God is with them. We are to be the hands, words, and consolation of the Spirit with widows, orphans, and strangers. Throughout his ministry, Jesus called to attention those on the margins of society, those who had previously gone unnoticed, the poor, the blind, the lame, the beggars, the lepers, military personnel, and widows. It’s a reminder particularly as many of us in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) will be marking Armistice or Remembrance Day which falls this Sunday. These are the same people we find on the margins of our societies today. Those who still are excluded, those whom society looks down on or simply ignores. A widow, living in poverty created by the institution charged with her care. An aged person placed in a Home as there is no one to manage things for them or even visit them.
This gospel reading from Mark 12 that continues today doesn’t seem like good news: A widow giving her all to a corrupt institution, an institution that fails to care for her as it is supposed to do. But she gives anyway. And Jesus commends her giving. He commends her and condemns the system. Jesus holds her up as an example of how small but significant acts can break down a cycle of injustice and corruption.
In the culture of Jesus, widows were non-people. Without a man to support or validate them in society, they were non-beings. Vulnerable and invalid, it was easy not to see them. It is easy not to see the people on our streets living without shelter, food or clothing. It’s easy not see the desperation of the refugees trying to reach countries where they might be better off. It’s easy to blame the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the disabled and many others who are suffering. Yet, Jesus not only notices widows on many occasions during his ministry, in this week’s text, he actually uses a widow to teach trust and reliance on God.
This gospel is not talking to us about a comparative giving table, steering the prosperous to give more. It is encouragement for those who go against the grain, who practice subversion in whatever way they can, even in the face of injustice. Who, by their subversion, make inroads into creating justice and fairness for all God’s people. It doesn’t always take placards and a lot of shouting for trends and policies to be reversed. Persistent, simple subversion also does the trick.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 4 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 5, 2018 - 10:13am

MARSDEN ROAD UNITING CHURCH SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER.
 
Call to Worship - (David N Mosser and other Sources)
 
Look to the saints of God for direction. Trust in the saints of God for guidance. Be the saints of God for the world.
 Look, here is our God, the One we have waited for.
Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation.
Come feast on rich food and dine on fine wine.
Enjoy the blessings of the Lord, the vindication from our God.
Come! Let us worship the Lord.
 
Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart”- That is, those who have opened themselves to God’s healing touch, allowing a new beginning. That can happen as often as we allow God into the deepest part of our lives.
 
Opening prayer
God of new beginnings remove the shroud that separates us from one another and from your mighty presence, that we may see you as you are. Wipe away our tears and take away our disgrace, that we may come before your throne with hearts full of song and souls ablaze with joy. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die and enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that whether living or dying, our hearts will always belong to you. Amen.
 
A Prayer of Confession
Wellspring of tears, you know well our grief and our longing to see you face to face.
O how we wish you would come down and save us. In our pain, we have grown impatient. In our sorrow, we have doubted the depth of your love. Forgive us, Patient One, when we forget that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
Renew our faithfulness, Holy One, when like Mary and Martha before us, we despair of tasting the joy of eternal life.
Open our mouths to exclaim with delight: Here is our God for whom we have waited! We need your grace to complete us. We need your love to make us whole. Amen.
 
Today we were thinking about All Saints Day. The Bible readings all, in different ways, turned us to the thought of possible renewal…new beginnings.
Saints are those who seek to live their lives according to God’s will. It's not the same as learning to play better tennis or golf by taking some advice. The only way we can live according to God’s will is by opening ourselves up to being remade in the way God intended in the first place. A bit like a retrofit but there's a more demanding element. Because we are humans we keep undoing the remaking and need to turn back for another work of God in our lives.
I often wonder who this God is and how we can become alloyed with the divine holiness. I have no idea about the form God takes. I think God dwells in Creation somehow. God isn't some person living “out there” but on the other hand, my experience tells me God is available here and now to do that work of renewal as often as it needs doing and as often as we humble ourselves to that divine work.


 
This is what Rev. John had to say:
“Do we accept that when God shows up, healing happens, hope springs forth, and new life emerges? In today’s text from Isaiah, in the midst of Isaiah’s message of judgment, we are reminded of the power of a vision. When God shows up, the text points out, life will change. Pain will be replaced by rejoicing. Death will be no more. God will dry our tears. When God shows up, life will not be difficult; it will not be such a struggle. When God shows up, life will look more like a feast. And, not just any feast, but a feast with the finest foods, vintage wines, and multiple courses, and rich, opulent desserts.”

 
Today was also a day when we celebrated communion.
By doing that we remembered that Jesus, knowing the truth,
 knowing the solution to the perpetually destructive
behaviour of we humans, set his face unto Jerusalem.
He didn't turn aside, knowing what the outcome was
 going to be. He couldn't stop telling the truth, even if it
meant he would die.
 
That's how important the truth is: it's there where renewal is
found and there is only one totally reliable source.
 
Hymn TIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.”  That's what happens when we accept renewal. MARSDEN ROAD UNITING CHURCH SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER.   Call to Worship - (David N Mosser and other Sources)   Look to the saints of God for direction. Trust in the saints of God for guidance. Be the saints of God for the world.  Look, here is our God, the One we have waited for. Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation. Come feast on rich food and dine on fine wine. Enjoy the blessings of the Lord, the vindication from our God. Come! Let us worship the Lord.   Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart”- That is, those who have opened themselves to God’s healing touch, allowing a new beginning. That can happen as often as we allow God into the deepest part of our lives.   Opening prayer God of new beginnings remove the shroud that separates us from one another and from your mighty presence, that we may see you as you are. Wipe away our tears and take away our disgrace, that we may come before your throne with hearts full of song and souls ablaze with joy. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die and enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that whether living or dying, our hearts will always belong to you. Amen.   A Prayer of Confession Wellspring of tears, you know well our grief and our longing to see you face to face. O how we wish you would come down and save us. In our pain, we have grown impatient. In our sorrow, we have doubted the depth of your love. Forgive us, Patient One, when we forget that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Renew our faithfulness, Holy One, when like Mary and Martha before us, we despair of tasting the joy of eternal life. Open our mouths to exclaim with delight: Here is our God for whom we have waited! We need your grace to complete us. We need your love to make us whole. Amen.   Today we were thinking about All Saints Day. The Bible readings all, in different ways, turned us to the thought of possible renewal…new beginnings. Saints are those who seek to live their lives according to God’s will. It's not the same as learning to play better tennis or golf by taking some advice. The only way we can live according to God’s will is by opening ourselves up to being remade in the way God intended in the first place. A bit like a retrofit but there's a more demanding element. Because we are humans we keep undoing the remaking and need to turn back for another work of God in our lives. I often wonder who this God is and how we can become alloyed with the divine holiness. I have no idea about the form God takes. I think God dwells in Creation somehow. God isn't some person living “out there” but on the other hand, my experience tells me God is available here and now to do that work of renewal as often as it needs doing and as often as we humble ourselves to that divine work.   This is what Rev. John had to say: “Do we accept that when God shows up, healing happens, hope springs forth, and new life emerges? In today’s text from Isaiah, in the midst of Isaiah’s message of judgment, we are reminded of the power of a vision. When God shows up, the text points out, life will change. Pain will be replaced by rejoicing. Death will be no more. God will dry our tears. When God shows up, life will not be difficult; it will not be such a struggle. When God shows up, life will look more like a feast. And, not just any feast, but a feast with the finest foods, vintage wines, and multiple courses, and rich, opulent desserts.”   Today was also a day when we celebrated communion. By doing that we remembered that Jesus, knowing the truth, knowing the solution to the perpetually destructive behaviour of we humans, set his face unto Jerusalem. He didn't turn aside, knowing what the outcome was going to be. He couldn't stop telling the truth, even if it meant he would die.   That's how important the truth is: it's there where renewal is found and there is only one totally reliable source.   Hymn TIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.”  That's what happens when we accept renewal.v

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Vain Offerings

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 2, 2018 - 10:29am

In this week’s Gospel reading from Mark 12 Jesus has already argued with the Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes to Caesar, and with the Sadducees about the concept of resurrection. Now a scribe, overhearing their arguments and judging Jesus to be a smart cookie, poses his question. It's odd that Jesus gives him a straight answer instead of an object lesson (as when he asked for a coin from the Pharisees) or a counter-question. Perhaps he knows the scribe is asking a genuine question and doesn't have a hidden agenda?
In Matthew's version (22:34-40) and in Luke's version (10:25-28), the questioner is a lawyer who is testing Jesus. Mark's scribe seems to be honest. Mark's story is also unusual in that the scribe congratulates Jesus on giving a good answer, and that Jesus responds by saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God.". The Pharisees and Sadducees have just been shown up by a lowly scribe! He even gets in a dig at the Sadducees' focus on the temple, "This is much more important than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
There is something touching in this encounter that offers hope to churches today. Despite those who try to control Jesus, to manipulate or discredit him, there is still hope for the few who come to him with genuine questions.

Have you ever thought about, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?... bring no more vain offerings” means for us as those who seek to live as Jesus did. Let’s try another tack. God is lonely for us. God, our Creator, our very help in time of need, longs for us, for our love, for our prayers for help, for prayers of praise and thanksgiving. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul is often quoted.
Have you ever wondered why God, our heavenly parent who formed us in her own image, longs for the companionship that comes during times of silent prayer and meditation; during times when we talk and laugh out loud with God; when we cry out in sorrow and petition; and yes, even, perhaps most especially, at those times when we scream in anger. These are the presents, the gifts that we can bring to our God who desires no material evidence of our love. What can our high spires, our golden chalices, our "burnt offerings" give to God that God does not already have?
Shall we seek to adorn the throne of the One who, according to Revelation, sits on the golden throne surrounded by worshipping creatures crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy?" Shall we expect to augment the One who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? How redundant that would be. No, these are but window dressing, substitutes for what God really wants from us: “...and the second is like unto it you shall love your neighbor as yourself...” As the prophet Micah reminded us, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God. 

Martin Smith, SSSE, is Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. His book, Co-Creation with God, provides profound insights into the way we view our relationship with our Creator-Parent. Martin's thesis is that God invites and welcomes our co-equal participation in the unfolding of our lives and future. Posing this provocative question, "God, what are we to make of this?" Martin counsels us to allow a partnership to form in which we jointly create our future according to the will of God.
Carter Heyward, feminist theologian at the Episcopal Divinity School and author of numerous books, says, "In the beginning was the relationship." Thus, relating to and with God enriches us and, Martin suggests, enriches the heart of God, also. How can you say that you love God whom you have not seen, when you hate creation and your neighbour whom you have seen?
Another gift that we can present to God is to mirror the love so freely given to us in our relationships of peace, harmony and justice with others in the world. This gift we can bring before God in thanksgiving and praise for God's love. We can allow that love to be a model for all of our earthly relationships. We can understand that God's will for us is that we should love equality, do justice, love our neighbors, those living anywhere in this global village, and walk in humble thanksgiving for the incredible blessings of God's love.
We are to demonstrate fairness in our business dealings, compassion and justice in our encounters with other human beings, see the face of God in both friend and foe, and invite the holy spirit to be present in all dialogues, discussions, and relationships. This is what is called for by the Prophet Isaiah and it stands as a blueprint for how God wishes us to live.



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28 October 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 31, 2018 - 7:27am



Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Songlines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2012 and 2018)
God who restores, who heals, who makes us whole, open our eyes to your work around us. Be in our praying, in our singing, in our proclamation, and in our silence. Open our eyes to see your kingdom coming into the world.
 Jesus has come to town. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us!
He invites us to join him on his journey. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us!
Come and be healed and see with new eyes. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!
 
And then we sang of our reliance on God. Or, at least, how our highest calling is reliance on God. Why do we think we know better so often?

Hymn TIS 112: “Through all the changing scenes of life”

Opening Prayer
 Triune God, through Jesus Christ, our great and eternal High Priest, we give you praise and consecrate ourselves to follow you. As we worship you and celebrate your glorious resurrection, open our eyes so that we may see – open the eyes of our mind to learning and understanding; open the eyes of our heart, to your love and compassion; open the eyes of our soul, to see our spiritual selves during our time of worship. Amen.
Consecrating ourselves to God is not something to be done flippantly or without deep thought. It means that we turn aside from our own wishes and wants to seek God’s will in all things. It isn't a once-only event. We are called on daily to hand ourselves over to God’s plan for us and The Kingdom.
And to ensure that this continues to be so, and knowing how often we do stray from that commitment and consecration, we need to open ourselves and our failings to God and seek forgiveness.

Prayer of Confession
 Mystical, transcendent God, there is so much of life we simply do not know.
In our arrogance we utter what we do not understand.
Rescue us, O Lord, from our afflictions.
Rescue us, O God from our self-inflicted wounds. Have mercy on us, Son of David, Son of God, and save us by your unending grace. Amen.



 Declaration of Forgiveness
 Cry out to Christ, our great High Priest, for he has saved us. Our faith has made us well, brought us forgiveness and granted us peace. Thanks be to God.

Hymn TIS 547.  “Be thou my vision.” Keeping in track. Asking for the true path.

READINGS: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 : Mark 10: 46-52
Job says to a God: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  3 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 
A good lesson here for all of us. We don't have the knowledge and wisdom we need to do God’s will in God’s kingdom. We need to ask for guidance.
The lesson from Mark leans in the same direction:
Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49 Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.51 Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ 52 Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Remember, when we read the Bible we are looking for God’s voice and God’s message to us. I think it's clear here: The blind man asked to see and Jesus gave him sight. Usually, it's not physical sight we need, its spiritual sight. It works the same way.
Rev. John shared this with us:
“But when I share, through honest and open prayer, my frivolous or grave or noble or childlike wants with a gentle and loving God, God will use even these to increase my faithfulness, to uncover my hidden wounds, and to affirm my created goodness. Maybe, even, God is doing the wanting in me and through me; and my calling is to discover what the wanting is teaching me about who God is and who I am.”
John also told us of seeking guidance from a friend rather than turning to God. Talking to the friend was a way of avoiding God because he was afraid he would get it all wrong before God. I think this is a common experience. We hide our lack of knowledge and understanding from God, or so we think, but who better to turn to when we are in need?

Hymn TIS 223  “How sweet the name of a Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.” The very hymn to hear and sing at the point to settle our troubled hearts and minds.

Laurel brought us the Prayers of the People. She brought before us and our Lord current concerns. God invites us to say what our needs are. Even if we have looked past our real needs, God will see our true needs. And so it is with confidence we were able to join Laurel in her prayers for those suffering in different ways.

Hymn TIS 160Father all-loving and ruling in majesty.” God is not one to fear. God is in charge and will hold us in the palm of his hand.
 
Benediction
 
Go as the church, as Jesus' entourage, following where he leads. Everywhere he goes he leaves healing and hope in his wake. Go, and listen, and learn, and love. And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life be with you and remain with you always, Amen
 


 

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