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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 10 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 16, 2018 - 10:57am

Gathering God’s People
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2015)
Come! Here you will find a family of faith where you will always belong. Come! Here you will find friends who will love you as a child of God. Come! Here you will worship a King who rules with equity. Whoever you are, and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.
 All who need a place to belong . .               Come join the family of God.
All who seek spiritual brothers and sisters . Come join the family of God.
All who strive to grow in faith and love . . . Come join the family of God.
All who are unsure and feel unworthy . . .   Come join the family of God

Hymn TIS 693: “Come as you are”

Opening Prayer
Loving Mother, Caring Father, in the midst of our brokenness, knit us together as your family. Heal our wounded hearts, that we may welcome the strangers into our midst and treat them as beloved sisters and brothers. 

Prayer of Confession
Sovereign God, we so often lose our way.
You seek to be our King— to lead us on right paths; to teach us the ways of truth and life; to shelter us from our foes, yet we look to the rulers of this earth for leadership, wisdom, and strength.
You seek to be our comforter— to love us as our Father; to nurture us as our Mother; to shelter us as our Brother; to assure us as our Sister, yet we look elsewhere for love, compassion, and hope.
When our government fails us, and our families disappoint us, you alone remain faithful and true. Open your arms to us once more, O God. We will be your people, and you will be our God and King.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Christ looks to each of us and says: “Here are my mother and my brothers. Here are my father and my sisters. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, mother, father.” As the family of God, as brothers and sisters of Christ, we are loved and forgiven by our gracious God. Thanks, be to God!

The Peace
As the family of God, let us share signs of familial love and compassion, acceptance and forgiveness, as we pass the peace of Christ.
Peace be with you! And also with you!

Hymn TIS 738: ‘My Jesus my Saviour’ (Shout to the Lord)

The Service of the Word
The First Reading: 1 Samuel 8:4-20
The Israelites wanted to be like everyone else and have a king. They told Samuel that his sons weren't following him so they wanted their own king. God told Samuel that that's the way they were. They had rejected him from the beginning so God directed Samuel to warn the people what kings did which was take the sons and daughters to carry out his commands and take the slaves to work for him as well as  takeover land and raise taxes. Anyone in their right mind would have woken up to the pitfalls of such a situation but the people demanded their king anyway,
The Gospel Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Jesus’ family were not impressed with his performance nor were they happy about all the attention he was getting. They decided that he had lost his sanity and went to take him away. The teachers said he was using the power of the devil to do his works but Jesus set them right by pointing out that it wasn't possible for Satan to drive out Satan. He went on to speak in parables along the same line but the radical move came when he was told that his family were outside wanting him and he reached out to those around him and said that they were his family.

Preaching of the Word
Who Really is the Strong Person?
The following is a shortened form of Rev. John’s sermon.
So, who do you think was the strongest man in the Bible? Are you thinking of the book of Judges and the guy with long hair who could kill a lion with his bare hands? …Leadership has often been decided on physical strength over history and the true strengths often needed for leadership were ignored. This must have been on Samuel’s mind in this morning’s reading (concerning the people wanting a king)
After hundreds of years of crying out to God, this people seemed to have forgotten the one who not only answered their prayers, but the only king who has the supernatural power to answer them. The elders wanted a human king like all the other nations..
Like many of us today, however, the Israelites were not willing to be led by God while they waited for the King of kings whom God promised. Through the miracles, signs, and wonders that God had shown them throughout their liberation from multigenerational oppression, the Lord more than proved that he had all the attributes they were seeking in a leader.
 The term power is a constant in everyday language. We talk about power in the contexts of business, government, even the church. As the Gospel of Mark reminds us, however, only Jesus Christ has true power. Through Jesus, we have the gift of forgiveness of sins. When Jesus died on the cross, it would seem as if He had been defeated. But on Easter Sunday morning the rest of the message was received. Jesus defeated the enemy! And we can rejoice today. The World’s Strongest Man has defeated our enemy!

Hymn TIS 609 'May the mind of Christ my Saviour'

Intercessory Prayers
We prayed for the needs or those around us in the world, followed by the

Hymn TIS 613: ‘Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy’

With God as our King,
we go forth to build God’s kingdom.
With our inner nature renewed,
we go forth to proclaim God’s glory.
With our sisters and brothers in Christ, our mothers and fathers in the faith,
we go forth to be Christ’s family.
Go with God.
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What Grows?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 15, 2018 - 12:28pm

As we prepare to visit Vietnam for a couple of weeks and I am unsure if I will be able to put up a blog I began to think about agriculture, Jesus and parables instead of our reliance on technology etc. Maybe it had something to do with the importance of wherever you go of food production and how that every day life relates to our inner life. It is often from images of creation that we get insights to strengthen our inner journey and put us in touch with our spiritual journey.
Jesus taught the crowds using parables. In our parables for this week from Mark 4, we see that Jesus used every day agricultural language to talk about God. In the first parable, he speaks of someone scattering seeds and watching them begin to grow. If you have ever planted a vegetable garden, you know how amazing it is to watch how the seeds come up, begin to grow, and eventually produce a harvest. It is something I had the joy of when younger and my father set aside part of our quarter acre section for each of us to plant and grow.
We don't know exactly why it grows or how it grows, but somehow the earth produces the harvest, and we are able to reap what was sown. In the second parable, Jesus speaks of a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds on earth, and so some might expect that the harvest from the smallest seed would be very small as well. However, Jesus says that from the smallest seed, the mustard bush becomes one of the greatest of all shrubs. It puts forth large branches and all of the birds of the air make nests from its shade.
We also her that Jesus explained in private. If we could have access to the private explanations Jesus gave to the disciples, surely there would be less confusion and more understanding. If we could just have a private tutoring session with Jesus, wouldn't we understand God's hopes and dreams for us just a little better? Since we don't have access to the private meetings where Jesus "explained everything," we simply do our best with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost suggests to us that the Holy Spirit is present and active in our world. God does not abandon God's people, and the Holy Spirit is always available to us. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit gives us power to do ministry in Jesus' name and to speak the truth about God's love. In these two seed parables, we learn about that which seems to have been the most important topic for Jesus, the kingdom of God.
First, we learn that there is mystery to the kingdom. Some of us do not like mystery in our lives. We want order and structure, and we want to be in control. However, we are reminded that God is sovereign and works in God's own way and timing. While we may see in other teachings that God desires for humanity to join in God's efforts, this particular parable suggests that even if humanity is oblivious to what's going on around them, God is still at work.
A second thing we can learn about the kingdom of God is that God's workings may appear to be small and insignificant, but like a mustard seed, the kingdom will grow in significant ways. When we sing Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," we affirm that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God. God's kingdom will reign supreme, and we will experience life as God intends.
Finally, we also learn that Jesus doesn't force feed us. Instead, he gives us as much as we can understand at this point in our lives. That is good news for humans, who are not perfect and who often are slow to understand. God gives us just what we need for each day and situation. Though we may not get the full picture or the deepest understandings that day, we catch glimpses of God's kingdom and that is enough.
Just like the Israelites had to learn that lesson over and over as they wandered in the wilderness we seem to need the same. God will provide for our daily needs. We just have to trust and be open to receiving that blessing. Internally, we may also see that God grants us things beyond our physical needs—like grace, comfort, and peace. How thankful we are for a God who provides just what we need through kingdom seeds!

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Let's Begin Here.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - June 8, 2018 - 12:54pm

It is often difficult to be patient while we wait for a change in circumstance to come when our minds are focused on what is right in front of us. Waiting on and with God can be difficult for believers especially while enduring challenges with family members, health problems, or simply the day-to-day business of navigating life. One of the helpful things to remember in such situations is to remember what St Paul wrote to the church at Corinth. He wrote that it is beneficial for Christ followers to daily and intentionally remind themselves all things are for our benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.
Remembering that the acts of grace that God extends to each one of us every day increases our gratitude toward our God. Facing a dilemma while recalling that God either got us out of a similar situation or kept us sane while he brought us through a worse situation brings peace and, eventually, patience. Practicing being grateful makes the waiting with God easier to bear. Have you ever come through a difficult situation and wonder how? Similarly, when we face problems or loss our God still walks beside us supporting us to face such difficulties.
This is difficult for us to accept as we like to be in control, we like to think it is from our own resources we survive or overcome. Spend a few moments in a book store or online at Amazon or other Book agencies and scan the titles in the sections on "religion," "spirituality," or "new age." What do you see? On any given day, you will see a wide variety of titles on prosperity gospels, praying your way to health, contacting spirits, "secrets" to success, encounters with angels, encounters with demons, "Christian" reincarnation, earth spirituality—you get the picture.
One thousand and one options, from the ridiculous to the sublime, all aimed at a culture that says it is "spiritual, but not religious." The strong man of organised religion may very well be tied to its own ecclesial throne, while pretenders pillage and plunder the spiritually hungry and seeking. We may be bound, but we're certainly not gagged. Part of our problem is that we are engaged in never-ending disagreements about who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is evil, who is righteous and who is sinful.
We don’t as a society seem to want to seek unity, harmony, reconciliation, or justice. We are merely adopting the secular culture's passion for competition and winning at any cost. We only have to listen to the twitter comments and speeches of politicians all over the world to see where we have moved to as a society. Sadly, what their message seems to be is to forget grace and forgiveness, ignore love and mercy, disregard patience and tolerance, and label justice and generosity as socialism and communism to put "those people" in their places. If we continue to allow religion to turn from life-affirming, joy-producing, divine blessing into legalistic, authoritarian, proof-texting moralising then no one needs to break in and bind us—we'll do it ourselves.
Listen to the leaders in our Australian Parliament where often they sadly reflect these negative attitudes especially to the wider secular community. This comes about because one of the risks of serving a human leader is the possibility of control. Human flaws create the opening for leaders to be controlled and manipulated by those whom they serve and vice versa. It is for this reason that it is critically important that we as Christians to serve under the governance of Jesus Christ, whether leader or follower.

The term power is a constant in everyday language. We talk about power in the contexts of business, government, even the church. As the Gospel of Mark reminds us, however, only Jesus Christ has true power. Through Jesus, we have the ultimate gift of forgiveness. Sadly, even today, we see the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians unable to see the that gift of forgiveness and what it might bring. Instead they want an eye for an eye and a tooth for a death and to destroy each other. An attitude encouraged by such leaders in our world as those in the USA, Philippines and China. This is not of God or what his Son sought to teach us.
The time has come to set aside differences and focus instead on what we share in common. Jesus says in Mark 3, "But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first binding the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered." Let's begin here. Let's acknowledge that we believe different things and value different things and seek different things, but at our heart and core we are all one family, children of God, and brothers and sisters of the Christ. It won't change anything overnight, but one thing is certain. If we're all on the same side, there won't be any of "those people" left to dislike.

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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 3 June 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - June 5, 2018 - 8:01am

Rev. John began by bringing to our attention God’s knowing everything about us, even before it happens, before we do it or before we say it.
This brought to mind other thoughts: Why do we try to run our own lives when God is the author of everything and even knows when we are going to depart from his ways… and the consequences of such actions? This in turn jogged my memory about: “When all else fails, follow the instructions.” The maker knows best how creation, including us, should operate.
I was also reminded of jokes such as ones about people trying to push the “pull” door and getting nowhere, all leading to a total lack of effective result. But we still continue doing the wrong thing, no matter how often the result of such action ends badly.
Then there is our almost laughable habit of trying to hide our sins, silliness, and mistakes from God.Really! This is so silly, firstly because God knows everything about us and secondly, because God loves us fiercely anyway because God is love and can do no other.

Almost immediately another thought sprang up. Not only does God know everything about me and loves me but God knows everything about everyone and fiercely loves them too. Even people I don't like. Even people I disapprove of. Even people who I would judge are breaking God’s laws. The corollary to this is that if God loves these people then I should too. They may irritate me. I might irritate them. But we need to love one another. And not just because God demands that we do, but because the world works best that way.
It is said that we are the children of God. Think about how we love the children we know. We love them despite their errors and mistakes. That's how God loves us, only times a million trillion.
We are to love others…not because of anything about them but because all people are worthy of love as demonstrated by Jesus’ attitude and actions to people during his earthly ministry.
That not only makes a better and happier world but it makes a better and happier  life for the people we love and not so amazingly, it makes a better and happier us. 
All those thoughts came to me because of Rev. John’s introduction but then when we sang, a further aspect was added: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”. God’s mercy, his forgiving love for us is not just wide but beyond “the measures of the mind”. Our minds are capable of imagining or inventing anything and everything but God’s merciful love is beyond even that; beyond any limit.
That merciful love was demonstrated when Jesus, setting his face to Jerusalem and facing certain death, continued to spread the message of God’s kingdom. In some parts of the world ordinary Christians can be in the same position.
In Australia, we are not likely to be killed for continuing to spread the Word of God, althoughif in doing so we offend desperate people we could lose our lives, as some have. But for most of us the worst that is likely to happen is that we may be judged fools or miss out on a promotion because we are unwilling “to play the game”.
However, regardless of the cost of following the command of our God, we cannot do anything else. We can hardly deny the truth we know because it lands us in a difficult position. When torture and death have been the outcome of staying true, many have denied their faith and we all understand the dreadful fear they experienced, but on the other hand we also know that under the surface they knew the truth is still the truth.
Jesus and others did not turn away and it was Jesus’ love for us that motivated his courageous strength. It was that love which was celebrated in the part of our service that followed. It was that love we remembered and celebrated as we broke the bread and drank the wine…a ceremony that strengthens the bonds between us and our Lord and between each other, building the church and in doing so, God’s kingdom.
As Rev. John said after the Communion: “This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from this table, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen”
Rev. John’s sermon was about the value of the Sabbath and how it isn't something about which to make difficult-to-follow rules but a day like all others when we are to do good. It is a time, like all others, when our actions are to lead to healing not to harm. As Rev. John said:
“Our gracious God values life and has set apart a day each week for doing that which “saves life.” I hope we can come to know what this means for us and our life. I hope and pray we are able to learn how to think about the Sabbath as a day for saving life, to come to know how we might faithfully honour the purpose of the Sabbath, without falling into a legalism that extinguishes the very life of the Sabbath. May we be someone who “saves life,” not just in special times, but in all times. May we be a channel of our God’s healing power in every aspect of life.  Amen.”
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