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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 and 8 September 2019

September 12, 2019 - 11:10am
 I have not been able to keep writing my blogs as usual for some time and this week I am going to combine Rev. John’s sermons from the 1st and 8th of September as the basis for today’s reflection.

In his sermon on the 1st September, Rev. John began by reminding us what the writer to the Hebrews said about our lives as Christians and how they should be spent emulating the life of Jesus.
Rev. John also reminded us that so often people and Christian communities turn inward and becomes concerned about the things of self, forgetting Jesus’ message to love one another regardless of our fears of and judgment about others. Sometimes it has been out of misplaced concern for purity, forgetting that Jesus was more concerned about showing compassion for the rejected of society than rejecting them.  When we look at people who, in our eyes, are breaking God’s commandments, we would do well to think about what has brought them to the place where they are, and how they are suffering in their hearts as a result. 
 Then Rev. John pointed to other concerns individual Christians and churches should keep before them:
“In addition to the call for hospitality and social concern, the writer of Hebrews here takes the occasion to remind the community of various other matters that can easily fracture individual and community life. Then there is frugality, which can cross over the line into an unhealthy and spiritually deadly love of money.”
Of course we should not squander God’s gifts but equally, we should not cling to them so that they cannot be used to build The Kingdom.
 “This is a powerful set of concerns.” As Rev. John pointed out hospitality and concern for those less well off had been foundation principles of the Jew’s religion and weren’t invented by Jesus, but then and now people needed to be reminded of what their God expected of them. 
Rev. John’s next words are very true:
 “There seems to be a growing intensity in the fear of strangers in this generation. We have become preoccupied with the risk of opening our borders, churches, homes, and lives to the stranger. We speak of the stranger as an “alien,” which has become a pejorative term.
 Truth is, except for the Aboriginal tribes and the Torres Strait Island peoples, all our forebears were aliens. Hospitality for the stranger, the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed is a virtue proclaimed by the Australian people.“
But when push comes to shove, how do we act? With true hospitality! Or out of misplaced fear of anything a bit different such as the colour of the top millimeter of a persons’s skin or the food they have learned to eat as a matter of availability?
Time to think deep and hard.
   
Rev. John’s sermon on 8th September was quite complex but the words that jumped out and grabbed me concerned my behaviour as a disciple of Jesus.
For starters, God comes first, before Mother, Father, Husband or Wife. It’s not that we are not to care for those people or love them but when there’s a conflict between the requirements of God and the requirements of anyone else, God’s requirements are those that we fulfill.
Then there’s our behaviour towards others:
Rev.John, speaking about the reading for the day said: “During his time in prison, St Paul wrote a letter to the worshipping community who met at Philemon's house. He describes a new family member in Christ named Onesimus, a runaway slave. Paul claimed him as an adopted son and is asking Philemon and the community to receive Onesimus not as a slave, but as an equal partner in the community of Christ. St Paul calls all Disciples of Christ to a higher standard of love, one of forgiveness...”
Once we are disciples of Jesus, we are motivated by something quite different from the rules of secular society. God IS Love, and that love, which is graciously flooded over us, should motivate all that we do. But that will only happen if we keep our focus on God.
Rev. John spelled this out:
“We are the earthly vessels for God to use as witnesses to God's continuous acts of love. Disciples are responsible for preaching, teaching and manifesting the word of God and loving all people regardless of race, creed, colour, class, social status...”
And our acts of love are not going to be effortless and maybe empty words. As Rev. John said:
 “As disciples we accept the costly grace of God, where we are called to act. We cannot stand by idly and not protest at the social ills of our communities. We cannot be bystanders as homeless, uneducated and abused children grow into illiterate, unemployed adults. We cannot stand by silently and accept institutional racism, social economic injustice and constitutional changes that serve the privileged few. We, the disciples of God, cannot stand by and quietly accept the deviant, hateful, political slurs against such as the poor, women and ethnic people.
 We cannot accept the political structural corruption that erodes our neighbourhoods, destroys our families and endangers the future of social security for the elderly. As disciples, we are called to experience costly grace by being God's prophetic voice in a world unplugged to God's love. We are called to scream from the rooftops for equality and justice for all people in the love of Jesus Christ!”
As I said initially, Rev. John’s sermon was quite complex, but just this much has left us with enough to keep us challenged to live authentic lives as true disciples of Jesus. Living out God’s love as we are loved. We may not think others do not deserve our love and effort but think again about Almighty God’s graciousness to each of us.
 
 
 
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 18 August 2019

August 24, 2019 - 3:37am

 Lynette Graham led our service today and spoke about her confronting experiences when she visited her son and his family in Kenya, where he works with the Kenyan Anglo/Catholic Community, ministering to people there who are suffering from severe disadvantage. 
Lynette said one of the disturbing and unavoidable experiences was the smell, revealing a community without the privileges we enjoy in our community. The Governor started a clean up programme of the river, which when completed would provide clean water, edible fish and all the other benefits that go with a healthy river.
One of the most horrifying aspects of the river clean-up was the number of discarded bodies retrieved from the river: people of all ages including babies. This was just one of the many types of rejection of people witnessed in Nairobi. Old people were rejected as were babies and children: simply because the family had no way of supporting them.
However, hope was provided by the Mission Community who cleaned up the area around which they lived; who helped people gain skills to use in finding jobs; who did maintenance work in the children’s homes; fed local young people who came on a daily basis; who ran Bible studies to give people  hope for their spiritual selves. All of these gifts to people especially the young ones give them a start with which they can possibly go out and live independently.
As well, the Mission helps and maintains the Imani Children’s homes which has 7 rescue and rehabilitation centres which cater for all the children who have no one to care for them.
There can be no worse start in life than to grow up  knowing that you have been rejected by the ones who brought you into the world. I can’t begin to imagine the extent of the damage to the inner selves of these children done by their feeling utterly rejected and alone in the world.
Fortunately there are those who have heard the a Gospel message that in as much as we feed, visit, comfort, clothe, house, those that are rejected, we do it to Jesus himself. And furthermore, they have acted upon that message, rejecting none, and welcoming all.
This is not just a story of hope given to those that have none. There is a challenge here for us. We may not find a way to support the Kenyan Anglo/Catholic Community or the Imani Children’s Homes, or a group I haven’t written about, The Little Sisters of the Poor who run a Nursing Home but it is our responsibility to respond to Jesus’ message that whatever we do to nurture someone (or reject them) we do it to him. It is that serious. We must respond in whatever way we can.
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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 August 2019

August 19, 2019 - 10:18am


“Gracious Lord, you have promised to always be with us wherever we live and work, in times of drought and flooding rains, in times when we are gathered with those we love and in times when we are isolated and alone. Hear the praises we bring you as we gather to celebrate your presence within the congregations, we are part of, at home and in the places where our Bush Chaplains and volunteers engage with the people of remote Australia.”
 From the rising of the sun . . .
God speaks, calling out to the earth.
At the beginning of each new day . . .
God speaks, calling us to life and service.
Even with the setting sun . . .
God speaks, reminding us that we are not alone.
As we gather for worship this day
God speaks, inviting us to love freely and to become true treasure on earth.

Despite God’s faithfulness and absolute constancy we look to idols. We may not realize that we have, but instead of worshipping God, we worship the church music, or the minister, or some Godly person, or even the Bible itself. None of these are God, even though they may bring us God’s message or even God’s love. Look to God, the only One.
Opening Prayer
May the Creator Spirit continue to hover over this land of many contrasts, cultures and peoples.
May Christ walk alongside us as we move in His presence. May the cool wind of the Spirit refresh, replenish and restore our souls.
And may the land speak to us in such a way that

we may see, feel and hear God the Creator, God the Spirit and God the Son in the cool evening murmur of the breeze.
Praise be to God.
 And may we seek God and only God, not representations that bring God to us.
The Peace
 Let us share the treasure of love and mercy with one another as we offer the peace of Christ. Peace be with you! And also, with you!
 Announcements
 Launch Quiet Church for this Friday. These are opportunities, among other things, to sit quietly and seek God, and God alone without any distractions.
Offering Prayer
As we offer these earthly treasures back to you, transform these gifts into love and mercy by the power of your Holy Spirit and the gift of your miraculous love. Turn these earthly treasures of human currency into heavenly treasures of love and justice to bring your realm here on earth. Amen
And may these offerings motivate people to seek your outstretched hand and accept your invitation for an eternal friendship.
 The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
The Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 32-40
These readings brought to us by Grahame, tell us of people who had a relationship with God. May we not look to them but to the Author, not matter how much that may scare us. Remember, God is ... Love.
 Preaching of the WordDo Not be Afraid (the words in quotes are Rev. John’s the others are mine.)
" ‘Don't be afraid. I will give you the Kingdom. Use your stuff so that you have permanent benefit from it. You will be happy if you are ready for my return.’ Or, to paraphrase it in the simplest way, don't be afraid, enjoy your stuff forever and be happy.
 This sounds wonderful. Our problem is that none of us can do this. Most of our lives are spent in a never-ending journey, searching for something that we hope will give meaning to our lives. Most of us are like the characters in the Wizard of Oz. We look like lions; except we are afraid. We are bright and shiny on the outside, but don't have any of the internal characteristics that help to bring fulfilment. We are tin woodsmen. Or, we are most agile but really don't have wisdom, like the Scarecrow. And some of us, much like Dorothy, are just lost and trying to find a way home.”
Most of the people who are reading this have professed some level of following Jesus for some time, if not all our lives. I think now is the time to step up and look God in the eyes, face to face. It is that that scares us silly, not sacrificing anything of this earthly life, but having a mature relationship with our Maker.
 " ‘Don't be afraid.’" A bold person shared a reflection about the cross. The person said ‘I came to understand that the cross is a test for us. We had God right here with us, in the person of Jesus. God was here to lead and love us out of this mess we are in. And what did we do? We killed him.’
 I wonder if why I struggle not to be one of those yelling out is that there is something in me that can't stand absolute love and goodness, even though I crave it. Yet, God’s answer to my failure is love, forgiveness and presence in my life forever. When I reflect on my failure in the cross, and God's answer, then I can know that I need never be afraid of any failure ever again. I have already failed completely, and God loves me and is present with me, it would be silly and a waste of time to be afraid.”
Think about these words: we are afraid, but God has shown us nothing but love. God has been nothing but amazingly patient with everyone of us. It’s time to look at that squarely and act upon it, stretching out to take the hand of God who has done nothing but love and love us for all our lives.
 “As we grow in love, we grow less and less fearful. As we grow in love, we discover
ourselves focused more and more on eternal relationships. Perhaps, it is scary to think about living this way, but remember the first thing the angels say, "don't be afraid."”
  Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes. Amen to that!
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 28 July 2019

August 2, 2019 - 8:58am


Gathering God’s People
 Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land,
where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)
Rev. John referenced the shooting of new life in a forest to try to explain the visions of God’s Grace as it suddenly comes to us:
the warm embrace of God’s limitless love—a love that is all-forgiving, all-encompassing, all-embracing.
and then to us who rail against the world’s injustices:
Come in, angry people!
This is a safe place to vent your fury.
Come in, hurting ones!
Here you will find compassion and grace to heal your wounds.
Come in, all who are in need of love and peace.
Here, we gather as children of the living God.
Hymn TIS 555:  Put all your trust in God
 Opening Prayer
 We pray to God for what we want and we are given what we need. We are still clueless despite years of looking for the way.
Prayer of Confession
Dear God, you have every right to be angry with us. We have such good intentions, but we continue to mess up. Forgive us, God.
We joyfully sing of your love on Sunday morning, but by Monday, we’re feeling lost and unlovable.
Forgive us, God.
We preach tolerance and compassion, but we find ourselves raging at the guy who cuts us off in traffic. Forgive us, God.
(Silence)
Declaration of Forgiveness
Then you forgive our sins, and once more show us how to forgive others. You offer us a vision of truth and love meeting together, and you invite us into their warm embrace.
Thank you, God.
As your forgiven people, beloved children of your promise, you renew us in holy love.
Thank you, God. Amen.
The Peace
 Peace is a gift beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving! Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
 
Offering
Loving God, you nourish our famished souls by listening to our humble prayers.  We come asking, seeking, and knocking with the full knowledge that you are ready to respond to our supplications.  You deliver us from evil by nourishing our hearts with forgiveness and our minds with understanding.  You prepare a heavenly table for all who believe in the mighty acts of your Holy Son.  Bless these gifts so that your children will feast at the banquet which awaits in your eternal home.  Amen
 Hymn TIS 162: Thank you for giving me the morning
 The Service of the Word
The blog so far has been more a summary than a reflection and that is because I would like to reflect on the Bible Readings myself.

Colossians 2:6-15
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 
The reading continued from here but space does not allow reflection on all of it.
The first thought  which occurred to me was that we need to continue to live our lives in God. Day by day we need to look at our lives and recommit each part of it to Christ. It is so easy to sink back into little actions of selfishness. Initially it could be because we are tired or ill that we act in what we think are our own interests but we don’t need to stay there. We need to turn around and reach out to the one who shows us the true way. That is the way that builds us, not only into the people God wants us to be, but into the people we can be so happy with ourselves.
Then the second thought that occurred to me was to do with not being taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit. When we read the bible it is so easy to take an interpretation handed to us by someone else. We need to ask who the words were written for; we need to ask why those words were written and when those words were written. The answers to all those questions will have bearing on how the words can be interpreted. We need to work hard at finding the answers to all those questions to find out the real message of God and not what someone else wants to push upon you.
I had intended to reflect on both readings but I’ve run out of space
Hymn TIS 550: Our Father, God in heaven
Intercessory Prayers were followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn TIS 414: There’s a spirit in the air
Benediction
Go in peace, knowing that you are forgiven people. Go in faith, knowing that God hears your prayers and understands your needs. Go in love, knowing that God
invites you into the holy embrace of truth and righteousness. Go now as children of the living God to serve others in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 21 July 2019

July 27, 2019 - 11:50pm


Today, as I have indicated previously, I am focussing on specific parts of the service. Much is being said about our First People recently and so I intend to reflect on the
acknowledgement. I also wish to spend more time on the sermon than usual.

Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

“From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth, May the First People who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.

From breath to song, from step to dance,

May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place. From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

May our worship join with the voices of he First Peoples of this Land.”

To think more on these words, we need to
do more than just imagine how the first people have cared for this place we now
call home. Perhaps a little study of factual records would help. It is
difficult to appreciate the thought and effort that was needed on the part of
the people who originally lived here without some hard facts on the
difficulties that they faced.

Call to Worship.(Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)

“The ungodly laugh in their conceit,
plotting the destruction of the righteous with sharp tongues and works of
treachery. They are fools. For the righteous are like green olive trees in the
house of the Lord, and will dwell in God’s steadfast love forever and ever.”

Those of us who have always worshipped
at this church might be quite surprised at what was said and thought about them
by their neighbours. As someone who was on the outside, looking in, I know the
level of contempt still held by those around us for those of us who choose to
follow God’s way.

“Like green olive trees in the house of God,we come into God’s presence.

Like young saplings in the courtyard of the Lord,we drink deep from the waters of life.

Like the fruit of God’s vineyard,we ripen in the light of God.

Come, let us worship the Lord.”

Opening Prayer

 “Loving God, your gift of abundant
life is like a basket of summer fruit — a delight to the eye and a pleasure to
the tongue; your presence in our lives is like a green olive tree— a joy to the
heart and a blessing to the spirit. Speak to us your words of life that we may
sit at your feet and know that we are yours. Amen.”

Prayer of Confession

“Merciful God, buffeted by the winds of life, we have grown weary and yearn for your handto hold us.
Pour forth your words of peace, and bring us back to life.

Forgive us when we are heedless to the needs of others.Correct our ways when we are self-centred and neglect the poor and powerless.

Be our vision when we seek refuge in our wealth and possessions.Draw us to you, Holy One, and lead us into life. Amen.” “Declaration of Forgiveness

 Hear the good news: In Christ, we are united
and reconciled with God Rejoice in the knowledge that we receive forgiveness
and abundant life in his name.


Thanks be to God! Amen.”

The Peace

“Peace is a gift
beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us
share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving.
Peace be with you!



And also, with you!”


The Service of the Word

 The First Reading: Amos 8:1-12Corruption has always existed, and those that practice it
have always ended up badly.

The Gospel Reading:
Luke 10: 38-42
I think we have all found this reading difficult. There is always work to be done. Surely we must
all share the load but I think this is saying we should think more about our priorities.

(Readings: Kaye)

Preaching of the
Word – “Crazy Love: The Search for
Unquenchable

“We live amidst the reality of economic
instability and religious volatility. Yet, there’s something deep inside all of
us that desires another kind of crazy. It’s a crazy love. Our souls are thirsty
for a love that’s everlasting. And yet, reality shows, political parties, and
public institutions alone cannot quench this thirst. We need something more.”



Rev. John then spoke of observing his
step-sons at play and more professional sportsmen       playing and...needing to have their thirst quenched. At home parents choose water with all it’s health giving benefits but professionals often choose commercial drinks which claim to have added ingredients to aid recovery from strenuous exercise and which for the most part don’t.

He also spoke of people who expect God
to come to their aid when they are in the position they are in because they
have not been good stewards of God’s gifts or have grasped at God’s gifts and
simply expect more.

Rev. John then guided our thinking
towards choosing spiritual refreshment over any physical or earthly pleasure or
reward.

To recap: Martha was right in one way.
Hospitality is a great gift but she wasn’t being hospitable. The way she approached
her work made it seem like Jesus was a burden to her whereas Mary made Jesus
wholly welcome by focussing all her attention on him.

No matter how much we attend to our
physical, social and employment needs, we will still experience that deep
thirst which can only be quenched by continuous replenishment of our spiritual
needs by the only one who can meet those needs...God, the source of all things
good.
As Rev. John said at the end of his sermon:
“ we need to come to Gods table and
drink from the fountain of everlasting love. May our God be our eternal love
and thirst quencher?”

Then after the Prayer of Intercession and the Lord’s Prayer:

Benediction: “Though we may leave God’s house,

we do not leave God’s presence.

Like green Olive Trees in the house of God,

our roots go deep in the soil of holy love.

Know that Gods presence goes with us

as we go forth to share Gods love for all. Amen.

Hymn TIS780: May light come into your eyes. Amen”

 







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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 7 July 2019

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

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 30 June 2019

July 4, 2019 - 1:43am


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

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

June 8, 2019 - 12:02am


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

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

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

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

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 26 May 2019

May 28, 2019 - 12:10am


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

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

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