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Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 20 September 2019

October 23, 2019 - 10:08am

MRUC Rev. John’s Blog 20 September 2019
 
We love to count and rank events, people, athletes, books, and so on. It seems that just about any time I turn on the Sports Channels or wait in line at the supermarket; I am bombarded with rankings and comparisons. Countless bookstore shelves and Internet pages are filled with sundry “Top Ten” lists. It’s not all that different when we come to our Christian Scriptures. Many of us probably have a verse that stands out and influences much of what we do, and that’s okay.
 
I think if we read the Christian Scriptures carefully, we find that there are certain stories or characters that just stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance or impact. This is not to diminish the lesser known, more minor elements, but there is no denying that certain parts of the biblical story give meaning to the rest and inform how the subsequent narratives are read. We would certainly argue for Jesus as number one on our list of “Top Ten Bible Characters.”
 
However, without previous events and figures (for example, creation, Abraham, the Exodus, and David), the narratives surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus wouldn’t be nearly as rich or meaningful. In fact, the four Gospels ooze complexity and meaning primarily because of that history.
Jesus’ own self-understanding was greatly influenced by his understanding of his own religious heritage.


Another event that should probably be in our top ten, is the Exile. It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Babylonian exile for the people of Israel, for their theology, and for their future. The fall of Jerusalem fundamentally challenged the predominant view of the Promised Land and Israel’s place in it. The destruction of the temple led prophets and priests to think in new ways about how God is present with the people and what authentic worship of the Lord looks like. This has become an ongoing need and concern for Christians also.
 
 
The tragic failure of the Davidic royal line prompted the people of God to lament their circumstances and vehemently protest their situation. They looked inward, outward, and upward for explanations and answers to painful questions about the nature of suffering, hope, and divine presence. We remember from my blog two weeks ago that part of this painful search for meaning and truth includes authentic lament and truth-telling.
 
 
 
As devastating and traumatic as exile is, there is still a word of hope. This hopeful expectation looks to the future by understanding the past and the present. The odd thing about hope is that it never ignores the past or present; rather, hope pays close attention to life in honest and open ways. Hope doesn’t need to be kindled on bright days, but on stormy days and during dark nights. In fact, hope is a truthful commentary on the here and now, a prophetic thought that looks to a new dawn, but it is no sugar coated, fuzzy notion.
 
We may take this to heart when we hear the statement from Jeremiah 31:27-34 the remarks concerning the people’s current status? He says: “I have actively watched over you, my people, but not in ways you might have hoped or thought.” Now that sounds good. I like the sound of that as a follower of God. This spiritual path I’m on isn’t always easy, but it’s good to know that God is watching out for me. But God wasn’t done: “I have watched over [you] to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil.”
What kind of watchman does that? That’s not the kind of shepherd we want—certainly not the kind we think we need. The promised “coming days” are just around the corner, but they don’t erase a difficult past. Looking to the future means understanding how we arrived. Hopeful expectation means admitting that our present condition needs redeeming and that we are powerless to make it happen
 
This knowledge is an indispensable ingredient of life in exile; this is a part of living away from one’s true home. But God isn’t finished with hope as we hear the powerful verbal images to describe the “coming days”: sow, build, plant, and forgive. These are all anticipatory verbs pointing to a new beginning, a new chapter. Hopeful expectation understands that the future begins with the digging of a hole for a seed or with words like “I forgive you.” Yet hope, and all the expectation and anticipation it carries, never really gets ahead of itself. Strong trees don’t grow up in a year; troubled relationships don’t heal fully overnight; new habits are not formed in a day.
 
That’s probably just how most of our top ten biblical stories begin. If we see nothing else here, we see that hopeful expectation never lets go of the possibility that salvation can come to us in the most unexpected ways: on an ark, in a basket floating in the reeds, in exile, in a stable, on a cross, out of a tomb, or in a small but committed community of people who dare to bear the name Christian.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 September 2019

October 15, 2019 - 9:45am


Much has been said in the various media about climate change and the possibility of  global warming destroying our home. For that reason Rev. John’s message today is most timely since many believe that we, God’s reflection, are responsible for much of climate change.
Therefore for today’s blog I have concentrated on Rev. John’s message. Conservation of Creation (italics mine)

 “Conservationist, Aldo Leopold, once said that in order to save a place, you must first love it!  What places do you love!  What places have nurtured you during your lifetime?  Perhaps, your special place was a beloved tree in your backyard as a child. You would climb up on a limb of that tree and sit and dream dreams.  Was that tree a gum or an oak?  Whatever kind it was, I presume you loved that tree!”
This introduction struck home. During my primary school years, we used to congregate at the local park.. I could give you a minute by minute account of our time there, but the times I remember best were when we climbed, via a park bench, into the lower limbs of one particular tree. There was a core group of 5 and sometimes a few others joined us. We talked and talked. I don’t remember our exact exchanges but we were practising serious adult conversations, airing our “informed” views of the world.
Despite none of us actually knowing anything at all, we showed serious respect for the “opinions” of others. It is that deep listening I remember that tied us together, held together by the supportive branches of the tree. We could rely on the arms of that tree. No one ever fell. The branches grew out from the central trunk in such a way so as to cradle us while we got on with the business of growing up. Who knows? Someone may have uttered an informed statement at some time before we decided that we were too old to hang about in a tree.
But because of that time, in some ways that tree was as much a part of my upbringing as my family or school.
 All of us have places in nature that we love.  And we would be filled with grief, say if that tree was unnecessarily cut down, or that beach suffered an oil spill, or that trout stream became polluted.  Yet as Christians, we are called to love so much more!  More than just the places we have known and loved.  We are called to love the whole earth that God created and called good!  We are called to love places we will never see or know.  We are called to advocate for the restoration of places that are no longer pristine and pretty because of human decisions. 
 We are called to remember the words of scripture and the words of prophets down through the ages, who have spoken of the interconnectedness of all creation.  We are called to remember the words of one of the American First Nations Chiefs, Seattle, who said, “We did not create the web of life.  We are only a strand in it.  And whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” 
 Since the start of the industrial revolution, we, human beings, have often forgotten or ignored the call of our various religious traditions to care for creation.  We have fallen asleep.  But today, prompted by worldwide concerns for climate change, (no matter how we believe it has occurred) we are waking up!  We are waking up to the ancient truths of indigenous peoples and the modern truths of scientists, who say, we are all interconnected. 
For some of us, that takes a long time. Some of us think it is only other humans who are our responsibility. Some will extend that to all sentient beings but exclude ants and crabs and worms AND PLANTS.
It takes quite a while for us to realize that all living things are within our circle of care, including the ones that irritate us. Every living thing including bacteria, viruses and flies have their place in the web of life. Our job as God’s stewards is to see that all are given their proper places to live.
Even fruit bats. They have a bad press for dirtying our cars or taking over parks. The way to avoid this happening is to see that their habitat is protected so that they don’t look for other places to live. As far as flies and ants and other “annoying pests” are concerned, we shouldn’t leave food around to attract them.
There is a place in the web of life for all of God’s creation. It is our job to preserve those places.
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 September 2019

October 2, 2019 - 8:42pm


Prior to this parable in the second part of Luke 16 in the three-year lectionary, we have heard a lot of talk about wealth and poverty. Having heard or read these scriptures do we get the point yet? No? Backtrack to last week, where in the first half of Luke 16 we met a financial manager who was similarly caught up in the things of this world. This man saw his own economic stability fading because he squandered the wealth of one of his clients, and only upon finding out that he was about to lose it all did he become an imaginative and energetic financial whiz. This was due primarily to the fact that, like the man for whom he worked, he had made wealth his master.
This week we meet a rich man and a poor man. These two, along with Abraham, have taken up residence in the afterlife. Abraham was the consummate waiter, a man who was promised some land and some descendants, and then waited, and waited, and waited. After the long-awaited arrival of his son Isaac, Abraham was later willing to give up his own flesh at the behest of God. It seems, then, that Abraham is the perfect figure to mediate between the rich man and Lazarus.
 
Famously rich himself, Abraham’s willingness to part with Isaac makes it seem as though any other material thing would have also been sacrificed had God asked him for it. At any rate, he is clearly in a favourable position in the afterlife, and a man who was previously a beggar in his earthly life finds some comfort right next to this famously wealthy Old Testament figure. Meanwhile, the man who was rich in the earthly life can’t find any relief.
 
Do you find some comfort in the rich man’s eternal torment, in this reversal of roles from one life to the next? Do you, like me, even want to hear Lazarus taunt the rich man from the safety of where he is? The rich man, after all, ignored the hunger of others while having plenty of leftovers at home in the fridge. Well, the exchange seems just right to me. However, I would have to ask you not to confront me with the fact that I should be able to see that I too am among the wealthy (you, after all, are probably right there with me).
 

It might seem refreshing—this word about justice—coming from this man Jesus who is always preaching about grace. But most important, all of our passages from this series make the point that following God is not simply about intellectual belief. In spite of what many have said, belief in the right God or doctrine is only part of what it means to be a person of faith as it is depicted in Scripture. Jesus presupposes that there will be solidarity.
 
The faith presented to us by other Gospels and epistles talk of this. Paul implies in Romans that the renewal of our minds will lead to the transformation of our character. James emphasizes that “faith without works is . . . dead.” Or remember Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats. You know, the one in which he boldly teaches that in as much as you have helped or harmed “the least of these,” the poor among us, you have helped or harmed God and will be judged accordingly?
 
Christianity is a belief in the sense that you are so attached to a truth that it causes you to go out and do something. As James put it, you are to become a doer of the Word. Even in Jesus’ time, this understanding of following God was not new. Jesus could immediately envision Abraham saying to the rich man who wanted to “go back” and warn his relatives, “Listen, they have Moses and the prophets . . . you had Moses and the prophets.” I imagine Jesus himself saying later to a few of the disciples, “Look, some of this is old stuff, it is tried and true. I’ve just come to fulfil this.”
 
He knew that Deuteronomy 15 emphasized that the rich have a moral responsibility to help the poor, that Amos’s God is relentless in his criticism of the people when they do not care for the poor. Amos even proclaims that of such unthinking persons, the Lord says, “I will crush you.” All of Scripture, then, tells us that our faith doesn’t stop at intellectual belief, and that piety cannot end at our front gates. Justice and righteous as given to us by God and shown to us through his Son Jesus Christ don’t stop before it’s our turn to act. It doesn’t stop before it gets to our hearts. We are the bearers of justice and righteous for all God’s creation here and now.
 
Lazarus in his earthly life slipped right through the cracks, kind of like that old lost coin from our Gospel reading two weeks ago. Lazarus too is found by the great Searcher, but the Gospel for this week is just as tough: whereas we have found Lazarus, we meet a rich man who is utterly lost himself, and we must wonder whether he will ever be found. Not because of his wealth— again, Abraham better than anyone knew wealth—but because he was blinded by it instead of using it for good. Is this just? Is this love? May God use these difficult words to give us a heart for the lost—the poor and rich alike.
 

 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 SEptember 2019

September 29, 2019 - 11:32pm

 
We acknowledged our first people and their care for this land high is sacred because it was created by the God of all.
Call to Worship
Whoever is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much; and whoever is unfaithful with a very little is also unfaithful in much. May we, who are asked to give an accounting of our lives, be found faithful...
Hymn TIS 90: I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath. A declaration of a life long devotion to our creator. Singing this on a Sunday is reasonably easy to do, but living it day by day needs attention to our focus on the Spirit’s urgings and action in keeping with those.
Opening Prayer
With reference to scripture, we called out to God for healing because there is none other that can provide that sort of healing anywhere in Creation.
Prayer of Confession
We acknowledged God’s ways as being unfathomable to us and beyond us in degree. We then confessed how hard it is to pray for the people we find hard to love but how we yearned to be faithful stewards. We then asked forgiveness for missing the mark. Day by day we need to do this. We intend to be faithful stewards but just can’t seem to keep focussed.
“Heal our brokenness and our self-centred ways, for you alone are our one true physician, and you alone can make us well. Amen.”
Sometimes I’m surprised by how how self- centered I am.
 Declaration of Forgiveness
 “The author of our salvation, the one who weeps for us and for our world, is the God of compassion. God meets us in our need and heals our many failing. Rejoice and be glad. Thanks be to God! Amen.”
The Peace
 When we offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving for others, we discover a peace that passes all understanding. Let us share signs of this peace as we pass the peace of Christ. Peace be with you!And also, with you

The children’s talk began with reference to the balm of Gilead. This was a reference to a God being the final balm to heal those inner wounds and hurts when all other soothers fail. We may try to fill that inner emptiness in a thousand ways but we will still feel empty and at a loss until we respond to God’s invitation of healing.
Offering Prayer
God of manifold blessings, you provide for our every need, and call us to be good stewards of your many gifts. May we be found faithful in a little, that we may also be faithful in a lot…
Hymn TIS 665: “Jesus Christ is waiting” It is so easy to say the words but so much more difficult to see Jesus in the ordinary daily situations where we are called on to act with God’s love.
The Service of the Word
 The First Reading: Jeremiah 8.18 - 9.1We may well cry in our national and international situations: “Hark, the cry of my poor people.” and “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician here?”
The Gospel Reading: Luke 16.1-13 This reading is mostly a mystery to me but the final declaration is quite clear: Nobody can serve two masters.
 
Preaching the WordLost Again - Luke 16:1-13
The following is an abridged version of  Rev. John’s words:
This is a difficult parable—if not for first-century ears then at the very least for moderns. How could the master praise the manager when he had lost so much?..Is Jesus endorsing the behaviour of the manager, suggesting that his followers secure the future for themselves by dishonest means?...However: “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth” means that the manager has now, and has always had, a choice: he could have used the wealth—either his master’s or his own— for the good of his master, himself, and most of all for God and creation (which includes debtors). The manager, however, let the wealth become the master instead of making it a means to the master, or to the “Master.”
Hence, Jesus points out that “no slave can serve two masters,” that no person can “serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). In the light of Jesus’ call to first-century people and to us to serve God rather than our wealth, what shall we do? Most of us have money, and
perhaps all the listeners and readers of this passage and my musing have lots of “stuff.”
Do we ALL sell our homes and CARS. If we do (and stretch that to mean all our possessions.) who will provide for the poor? Who will offer hospitality? Who will transport the elderly? ......
Hymn TIS 534:“Love is his word, love is his way” In fact, God is pure, undiminished, love.
Intercessory Prayers
Often these prayers reveal the deepest fear of loss of those who have added their prayer requests to the prayer sheet. This is when we are most aware that God is our only “balm”.
Hymn TIS 672:“Lord of earth and all creation.” Another call for God to direct the daily decisions of those who run the organizations of our lands.
Benediction
Go forth and be faithful in a little that you may also be found faithful in much. Go to be faithful in much that you may be entrusted with the wealth and welfare of others. Go to be faithful with the wealth of this generation, that you may be given the true riches that come from above. Go to be faithful children of light, that you may know the grace, hope, and peace of the one who is truly faithful, in the name of Jesus Amen.
 
HymnTIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.” … signaling that we have, at last opened our minds to God’s teaching.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 15 September 2019

September 20, 2019 - 10:29am

Dermot called our attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, making our church a Holy Space where we have gathered to meet our God. Following that we sang
Hymn AHB 28 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”, that being the purpose of our gathering.
We then prayed a Prayer of Praise and Adoration and Confession which began with the words:
“God of Creation - who abides over and in all that has been made
God in whose image we are made
And in your image we are given minds that wander and hearts that desire
And there is freedom - freedom to think and wonder and want...”
The prayer continued, but what Dermot was making clear was that we are free to seek in all directions in this Cosmos that God has created, to satisfy that yearning inside of us, and it is our choice to make the God of all the One to satisfy all our yearnings.
Dermot completed his prayer thus:
“God, who has gifted us and cursed us with freedom, you have not abandoned us to that freedom but have revealed in Jesus the nature which can be ours - no-one need be left out of the grace of Christ, except by their own foolishness...”
Hymn AHB 10 “ All People who on Earth do Dwell.” God’s love is for all and all are meant to respond.
Bible Reading
1Timothy 1: 12-17 The words of a repentant man, acknowledging God’s mercy.
Luke 15: 1-10 The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. God is not satisfied until each and everyone of us have turned back to a life of full joy.
Message
Dermot spoke, comparing the idea of God represented in the various lectionary readings for the day. “The Lectionary readings suggested for today make a fascinating collection - I had to resist not including them all - they seem to almost represent two different worlds, and maybe they do as they straddle a long time and arguably pivot on the life of Jesus.”
Dermot spoke of Jeremiah where God is supposed to have described us as “foolish” and “stupid children” and then a few verses later God is said to be fiercely angry and to have “laid in ruins” cities seemingly because the neglect of the people had made the fruitful land a desert.
Also in Psalm 14 God is said to look “down” to see if anyone is wise but has found all have gone astray and are perverse.
There are many places in the Old Testament where God is said to be angry with humankind and to be set on punishing us.
As Dermot says: “All this stuff about sin and God (sic) punishment. Mind you, we will also see God’s forgiveness - somehow humanity has been allowed to continue.”
But in today’s readings from Timothy and Luke speak of God’s mercy to a blasphemous persecutor and God’s grace to all, even those seen as living against God’s laws such as tax collectors and “sinners
We could think that the Old Testament speaks of an angry, punishing God and that the New Testament speaks of a God of love.
But from the first times, the concept of God is built from the God ‘over there on the mountain’ to the transcendent God who is faithful and is known as Abba/Father.
Dermot leads us to the God whose aim is to bring us to repentance as represented by the Timothy reading of an image of a man on his knees “tearfully acknowledging the forgiveness of God.”
There are descriptions in the Old Testament of God telling his representatives to destroy an enemy but I, like Dermot cannot think of the God, who is love, inflicting any sort of “punishment” on anyone.
 Actions bear consequences and as humans who know very little, we often create disasters of our own making. Then there are natural disasters which occur because that is the way the geology and meteorology of this planet acts. Illnesses are caused in many ways, some of which may be our own fault but some a matter of being in the wrong place, such as being on a bus where someone else is sick or living near a place that is unknowingly polluted. Or for many other reasons. None of these are punishments sent by God. 
God simply is reaching out to us, wanting us to repent and turn back to enjoy a happy relationship with him. (Or her or whatever form God takes because a God is above the restrictions of humans.)
Hymn AHB 399 “Father in Heaven” Asking for God’s blessing (which is promised to us).
Then in the Prayers of the People Dermot addressed the concerns of the church Nation- wide and those of our own Congregation.
Hymn AHB 480 “Forth in Thy Name go.” Our every act should be with God’s purposes in mind.
Benediction
As we walk from this Holy Place, this Holy gathering,
Let us all walk with Christ as we share the love and grace which we
know is the mark of God present in and about us, in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
Blessing Hymn “Now unto him”
Now unto Him Who is able to keep, Able to keep you from falling. And present you faultless Before the presence of His glory With exceeding joy. To the only wise God our saviour Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

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.
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

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.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

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”

 







Categories: Syndicated Blogs