Tuesday, 11 April 2017

You've probably noticed the Patreon link appearing on the end of each post.  If you haven't encountered it before, Patreon is a system for people to support writers and other artists.  It's kind of like a continuing kickstarter or gofundme.

Patrons pay creators of blogs, art, music, etc, a set amount per post or per month.

So why would you become a patron of my writing? Here's a few reasons:
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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Service for Sunday 19 March 2017

Service for Sunday March 19, 2017
Year A Lent 3

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Purple.

Call to worship – Psalm 95:1-7 – Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 52 Let us sing to the God of salvation

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Loving God,
we give you thanks for the gift of each new day
for the new opportunities each day brings
We give you thanks for the gift of life
for all of the challenges, hopes, opportunities, this life brings,
We thank you most of all for the gift of Jesus
for his life, death, and resurrection for us
for the new life he offers to us.

We confess the times we live as if
the gift of Jesus didn't matter
the times we say, do, and think things that aren't worthy of your people
the times we fail to say, do and think things that are worthy of your people
Forgive us our failings, we pray.
Help us to begin anew.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Hymn Together in Song 162 Thank you for giving me the morning

Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.


Jesus stops in his journey from Judea to Galilee to speak with a Samaritan woman at a well... and that doesn't seem strange to us.

In his own day – some things were very wrong with this picture:

Firstly, what's he doing at the well anyway? It would have been the work of women in their group to go collect water from the well, not a man, and certainly not their teacher.

Secondly, he spoke with a strange woman. Again, it doesn't seem odd to us – but a Jewish teacher would not be speaking to a strange woman – any strange woman – because of fear of contamination. There was a risk the woman might not be ritually clean, and her uncleanness could be contagious...

But it gets worse, because thirdly, this strange woman was a Samaritan. This wasn't just a rivalry like the one between Queensland and that other state south of the border. This was like cold war USA and USSR. When John says “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans” it's the understatement of the first century. These two groups of people, even though they shared a common ancestry, did not like each other in the least. Each thought the other had corrupted the true faith – and could not be trusted in any way.

So there was Jesus, by himself, apparently, by a well in Samaria. It was a place where sooner or later a Samaritan woman would show up. But again, it would not just be any woman. He wasn't there at the time all the women came together to get their water – a woman coming on her own would be an outcast in her own community – someone the other women wouldn't want to associate with.

If you had a suspicious mind, you might think that this wasn't a chance meeting at all, that Jesus had gone out of his way intending to meet someone just like this particular unnamed woman. If you had a suspicious mind, you might think he'd chosen her, or at least someone like her – who would be as far as possible from the kind of person he “should” be speaking with. John tells us that if the disciples harboured such suspicions, they didn't dare say so – they didn't ask him why he was speaking with her.

When we first meet this woman in John's Gospel, she's remarkable for all the wrong reasons: she's a Samaritan woman, and she's at the well without all the other women which tells us a lot about how she's seen in her own community.

As the story goes on, she becomes remarkable for other reasons.

This is the longest recorded dialogue of Jesus with anyone. Jesus not only talked with her – he talked with her seriously, at great depth, and with exactly the same respect as he showed Jewish teachers such as Nicodemus.

He revealed a great deal about himself in this conversation, openly declaring himself to be the messiah, and showed that he knew enough about her to convince her he was a prophet. (Even in an era with a high mortality rate and where a man could divorce his wife by simply saying “I divorce you”, a woman having been married five times would be unusual. That the man whose household she was now living in was not her husband – but some relative or other man who had some responsibility for her would not be quite so unusual, but it was still remarkable that Jesus knew this.

So, to some extent, it was Jesus who made this encounter with the woman something extraordinary.

But the woman's response also made the encounter extraordinary. She could have gone away and kept what she knew to herself. She could have thought about it for a while, maybe told one or two close friends.

Instead, a woman who was so unpopular that she had to go to the well alone, went on a missionary journey to the town she lived in. In this town, that really didn't accept her that well, she told everyone about her encounter with Jesus so convincingly that they all wanted to meet him too.

Then she brought them to him, so they could meet him, and could then believe because they saw for themselves.

It's sad that we don't even know this woman's name, because she's a great example for the church. She had clearly been very unfortunate or very unwanted – she had experienced a very difficult life. Being widowed or divorced five times, in a world where there was no social security and family provided everything, would have meant she had more than her fair share of insecurity, poverty, loss. Being an unmarried woman in a society where a woman's value was measured by the children she could produce, meant she didn't matter much to anyone. Like the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors Jesus associated with, this was a woman no-one wanted to know.

To Jesus she mattered. Jesus showed her that she mattered to him as much as anyone else. From her meeting with Jesus she gained a sense of worth and dignity – and the confidence to go to the town and preach the good news that the messiah had come to visit them. And she had the confidence to preach in a way that people who would normally overlook her, believed what she said.

And then she brought them, the townspeople, the people who had not valued her, to Jesus, so they could discover the truth for themselves. The “living water” she had found, the truth that would never leave her needing more – she shared.

This is the truth of the church – who we are meant to be. We find our value, our worth and dignity in our relationship with Jesus. That is what defines who we are – not what we've done, not how we feel about ourselves or how other people feel about us. Because of Jesus, we all have great value. We are important, not because of anything we can do or anything we have – we are important because we are important to Jesus.

Finding our value, the truth of who we are, in Jesus, we then must choose how we respond.

If we follow the example of the Samaritan woman, we respond by gaining confidence from recognising that we have such a value to Jesus – and we use that confidence to go to share what we have discovered with others. If we are excited by what we have found in relationship with Jesus, we will want to bring others to him as well.

When we look at mission opportunities for the church, we are seeking to find ways to share our encounter with Jesus with the people around us. It's one thing to find ways to share our meeting with Jesus with people who are like us – quite another to, as with the woman at the well – to go to people we might not have a lot in common with to share what we have discovered in Jesus. This is a process of inviting people.

And she brought them to Jesus – so that after first believing because of what she told them – they came to believe in him because they knew him personally. And that's our ultimate goal in mission or outreach – that people would come to know for themselves what we have discovered in Jesus. We could see this as incorporating people into the life of the Christian faith – helping them to find their place where they know Jesus personally, and know how much he values them.

Jesus is the “Living Water” the one thing we really need, but we are meant to share him with others, not keep him to ourselves.

Hymn Together in Song 129 Amazing Grace



Prayers of the People

Loving God
We pray for this world you love
So many people are suffering so much
From natural disasters to human-orchestrated violence
there seems to be no end to the suffering.
God, this is your world, the world you love
These are people made in your own image
People Jesus lived, died and rose again for.
God, be with the people of your world
especially those who are suffering the most,
and help your people, guide us to do what we can to help.

We pray for our congregation here
Guide to find those people in our community who most need to know your love.
Give us to ways to tell them that whoever they are, whatever they have done, their true value is in you – that your love makes them precious.
Help us to bring them to you – so that they can discover your love for themselves, not just because of what we say about you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 684 Love will be our Lenten Calling


Threefold Amen.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Service for Sunday 8 January, 2017

Service for Sunday 8 January, 2017
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Year A Baptism of Jesus

Call to Worship  - Psalm 29:1-12
Ascribe to the LORD, o heavenly beings,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour. 

Hymn Together in Song 675 Lord, the light of your love is shining

Lighting the Christ Candle

Passing the peace

Hymn Together in song 256 From Heaven you Came

Prayers of adoration and confession
Holy God,
with the heavenly beings
and with all of creation
we do ascribe glory to you
and seek to worship you.

Along with the largest mountain
along with the smallest atom
we exist to bring glory to your name. 

We praise you and give you thanks for the wonder 
of your creation
for the magnitude of your achievements
for the immeasurability 
of your love for us.

We confess the times 
when we don’t bring glory
to you or even to ourselves.
We confess our shame
and our guilt - 
our open and honest mistakes
and our darkest hidden secrets.
We confess what you already know and pray your forgiveness - 
In Jesus’ name,

Declaration of forgiveness

Hymn: Together in Song 270 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Scripture: Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Sermon: When we ask “why?” 


It’s the question most people want an answer for - and the question there’s most often no answer to.  We begin to ask “why” in childhood.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the conversation that goes like this:

“Eat your dinner.”


“Because it’s good for you.”


“Because it’s got nutrients that your body needs to be healthy”


“Because that’s the way God designed you.”


“because that’s the way God wanted to do it.”


“Just eat your dinner.”

The problem with the question why, is that whenever we get an answer, there’s always another “why” to ask.  If we keep asking we reach a point where we have no answer or no answer that we can understand.

Of course when we grow up, we stop asking why we have to eat dinner.  We have grown-up versions of the question “why?”

“Why is this happening to me?” “Why did this happen to someone I care about?”  “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do Christians suffer the same as everyone else?”  “Why does crime so often pay?”  “Why was that person elected?”

Sometimes, these questions have actual answers.  Sometimes, they are the natural consequences of our own or others’ actions. However, that’s not always true. Sometimes things like that just are.

Sometimes, in the face of things we don’t understand, God helps us to find things of value, even in the pain of the experience. But whatever positive value God helps us find in the events of our lives aren’t necessarily the reason we endure that suffering.  They are signs that under the influence of God’s creativity, blessings can grow in the midst of hardship.

So what is God’s answer to our “why?”

It’s not to give us reasons why. Perhaps reasons are really more than we are able to cope with or understand.  

Instead, God responds to us in Jesus.  In the story of Jesus’ baptism, we see that response.

Jesus was baptised by John, received the Holy Spirit, and heard God’s words of approval. He didn’t need to do that for himself.

Jesus was one with God, one with the Holy Spirit, for eternity.  So he didn’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, and he didn’t need God’s word of approval.  

He certainly didn’t need to be baptised by John, as John himself was quick to point out. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins - and Jesus had no sins to forgive.

Jesus was baptised to stand with people who did need forgiveness - with us.  He was declaring himself to be one with us, not because he had to, but because he chose to; not to benefit him, but to benefit us. Jesus, one with God for eternity, was baptised to identify as one with us.

As a result of this, Christian baptism is about far more than the forgiveness of sins - just as Jesus in baptism claimed to be one with us, then in our baptism, we are made one with him.  We have become incorporated into his body, the church.

God’s answer to “why?” isn’t to say “because…” it’s not to give us reasons.  God’s answer is to give us Jesus.  God’s answer is “I care, I understand, and I won’t let you go through it alone, I’m going to share your life with you.”

God, in Jesus, became one with us: not to end suffering - not yet; not to give us all the explanations we want; but to share the burden with us.

Through our hardest times, when we are weakest, we can rely on God’s strength and become stronger.

Through the times when we are most alone, God provides us with companionship and understanding.

Through the times when we face illness and even death, God gives us new life.

Offering and Hymn Together in Song 674 Inspired by love and anger

Dedication of offering.

Notices/What’s God doing among us?

Prayers of the people

Merciful God
We look at the pain in our world and we ask “why?”
Why must the innocent suffer - and the guilty go unpunished?
Why must we have wars and famine, disease and drought?
Why must people be in danger, in the homes where they should feel most safe?

We have so many questions
and only you know the answers.

Give us the faith to trust your wisdom, 
when our own wisdom is insufficient.
Give us hope to work for good 
and to believe that good is possible - 
even when it seems hard to achieve.
Give us the grace to reach out in love and 
help to bear one another’s burdens.
Give us the discernment to know 
you walking the journey with us, 
guiding us through the hardest of times.

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hymn Together in Song 693 Come as you are

Service of holy communion


Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness, 

Monday, 7 November 2016

Service for Sunday 6 November 2016

Worship service for Ipswich Central Uniting Church
6 November 2016
Year C Sunday 32 (Pentecost 23)

Call to worship
As we gather together in Jesus’ name,
He is with us.
When we go out into the world in Jesus’ name,
He is with us.
When we are in doubt and things seem hopeless
Christ is with us.
No matter what happens,
Christ is with us.
With thanks,
We gather in his name to worship God.

Hymn Together in song Together in Song 442 All praise to our redeeming Lord

Lighting Christ Candle

Prayers of adoration and confession

Holy God,
All of creation exists to praise you,
The grandeur of mountains
The quietness of still waters
The music of birdsong
The mystery of whale song
The power of storms.
We come before you,
Seeking to join in the praise
Offered by all of creation.

We come before you
With all of the ups and downs of life
With joys and disappointments
With hopes and fears
With needs and wants
With success and failure.

We bring the chaos of our lives,
And dedicate all of it to your praise.

In this coming week, we will stop to remember the end of World War I
We confess, that we have remembered, without learning the lesson that comes with remembering,
Our world is still at war in so many places, for so many reasons,
Even where we are not actually at war,
Human beings have failed to learn to live in peace and love,

Declaration of forgiveness.

Passing the Peace

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Luke 20:27-38


Both of today’s Scripture readings are messages of hope.

In the Haggai reading, after returning from exile, God promised that the destruction and devastation of all the nation had been through was not the end, the temple would be rebuilt, things would be the same, or even better, than they were before the exile.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus is confronted by Sadducees.  We don’t know much about the Sadducees, except that they didn’t believe in resurrection.  (The child’s way of remembering what the group was called: they didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see.)

The Sadducees give an extreme example, based on the tradition of levirate marriage, which was part of the Old Testament law, but may possibly not have actually happened in real life.

Jesus explains that resurrection life won’t be the same as life here and now – people won’t die, so all the need to produce children (the motivation for levirate marriage) would not exist.

Resurrection life would be different, but it would happen.  It’s a message of hope.  Whatever problems or issues we see, God’s got it under control.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this week I really need to be reminded that God’s got it all under control.

This week will include Remembrance Day – a time to remember the end of World War I.  Remembering isn’t about just recalling just how horrible war is, it’s supposed to remind us that we don’t want to do that again.  Except that we are doing it again.  We’ve got wars going on, refugees fleeing for their lives, people’s homes being destroyed.

Sometimes it seems as if human beings are incapable of learning our lesson, as if we have no hope of ever living together in peace.

The American presidential election is dominating our news, and the possible fallout from the two different choices. Even though it’s not our country, not our vote or our responsibility, we know there will be economic, diplomatic and possibly military consequences will affect the whole world.

Here in Australia, our own politicians seem to be becoming more divisive, less able to work together. We have an increasing divide between rich and poor, and between generations, with young people effectively locked out of the housing market.

The damaging effects of climate change are starting to be visible. And while we look in horror at a dying reef, our nearby Pacific neighbours are afraid of their island homes being swallowed by the ocean.

People are afraid, and looking for someone to blame: immigrants, Moslems, Moslem immigrants.

And all of this makes me think of the Israelites back from exile, looking at the remains of the temple and seeing something that looks totally hopeless.

And the prophet says, God’s got this under control.  So work together, build something worthwhile, and know that the job’s not too big because God’s in charge of the whole project.

We don’t have a temple to build.

We have a community to build, neighbours to love, peace and understanding to create, justice to promote, politicians to hold to account, and the planet God created to protect.

That sounds like a lot.  It is a lot.  I’m going to say it again.
We have:
a community to build,
neighbours to love,
peace and understanding to create,
justice to promote
politicians to hold to account,
and the planet God created to protect.

Like the former exiles, our job seems big, but it’s not too big, because, we’re working together, and because God’s in charge of the whole project.

Hymn and Offering Together in Song 473 Community of Christ

Offering Prayer

Hymn Together in song 542 Far beyond our mind’s grasp

Service of holy communion

Notices: What’s God doing among us.

Prayers of the People

Holy God,
On this Sunday between All Saints Day and Remembrance Day, we remember:
We remember all of those who have gone before us in faith, and showed us your love by their example.
We remember all of those who have risked everything for what they thought was right.
We remember, and give you thanks for their legacy.

We pray for our world: for those affected by war, for those fleeing harm, for those fighting for what they believe is right.

We pray for Americans as they go to vote, when politics has divided people so very much.

Issues from notices:

We pray all of these things through our saviour Jesus. Amen.


Hymn Together in Song 595 O Jesus I have promised

Friday, 2 September 2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016
Worship Service for 4 September 2016
Year C Sunday 23
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Holy Communion

Call to worship 
We are called to this place,
As the family of God,
To celebrate God’s love for us,
And to recommit ourselves to love for God,
So we may live out that love in the world around us.

Hymn Together in Song 217 Love divine, all loves excelling

Lighting the Christ Candle

Passing the peace
The peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Prayers of adoration and thanksgiving:

Dear God,
Thank you that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, you are nearby
Thank you for each day, made fresh and new.
Thank you for people who love us,

We thank you for families,
Thank you for kids and mothers but especially on Fathers Day we thank you for fathers, and for people who fill the role of fathers in our lives.
Thank you for fathers who work and for fathers who don’t.
Thank you for fathers who are always busy, and fathers who have time to play,
Thank you for fathers who throw balls, and fathers who tickle kids,
Thank you for fathers who dig gardens, and push swings,
Thank you for fathers who read story books,
Thank you for the fathers who wonder where all the time went,
Thank you for the fathers who try use you as a model for what fatherhood really is.
Thank you God, for fathers.

We thank you for families,
Thank you for uncles, aunts, cousins and grandmas, but especially on Fathers Day we thank you for grand-dads, and those who fill the role of grandfathers in our lives.
Thank you for grandfathers who go fishing,
Thank you for grandfathers who tell stories about the old days
Thank you for grandfathers who remember everything
Thank you for grandfathers who forget where they left their reading glasses and their teeth.
Thank you God, for grandfathers.

Thank you God, for our bigger family, the church,
Thank you that you are the father of this family, and where human fathers may fail, you are always the father we need
Thank you that we are all your children, whether we are children or grown-ups.

Thank you God, for families

Prayer of confession: 

Loving God, you created all things, including us, and said that they were good.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
But sometimes our thoughts, words and actions are not good.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
We fail to love you with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and we fail to love others as ourselves.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
Remake us, God, into people who reflect your goodness in all we do.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.

Declaration of forgiveness
Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness.

                Jeremiah 18:1-11
Luke 14: 25-33

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple.”

Well, that’s a great passage to read on Father’s Day isn’t it?

If you thought it might give you permission to become a misanthrope and hate everyone, however, you’re sadly mistaken.

This is a figure of speech.  It’s hyperbole.  It’s not really a love/hate dichotomy, and if you’ve read any of Jesus’ other teachings you know it’s not (and the people originally listening knew it wasn’t.)  It’s an extreme way of saying you have to love Jesus more than anything and anyone else.

On his way to picking up his own cross, Jesus wasn’t impressed with the crowds who’d come out because he was the flavour of the moment.  He was making it clear that there were no part-time disciples.  If you were in, then you were completely in.

There’s still no part-time positions as disciple offered. If you’re in, you’re in, and it’s going to cost everything.

“Take up your cross,” Jesus said.  That should have revolted his listeners.  To them crucifixion was real.  They were living under Pilate’s rule – and he was a bloodthirsty tyrant who loved nothing better than a crucifixion.  Jesus’ original listeners were familiar with the sight of dead and dying people on crosses at the side of the road. Adding to the horror of that reality was the belief than anyone crucified was under God’s curse.

Despite that, some still followed him, and of those, many did literally pick up their cross.

So what is the cost of discipleship today?  What kind of cross might we be expected to carry?

It all depends.  It depends on circumstances and what we would be willing to do if it was demanded of us.

Some people will consider all the problems in their lives, health problems, family issues, practically anything, as “their cross to bear”.  That’s not what Jesus was talking about.  That’s just stuff that happens and you have to find a way to live with it.  It’s not the cost of faith, it’s just part of being human.

The cost of faith comes in when we voluntarily do something that will cost us something because we belong to Jesus.

For example, if you’re broke because you’re no good at managing money, that’s not your cross, that’s you messing up.  If you’re broke because you gave all your money to help someone because you believed Jesus would want you to help them, that’s your cross.  It’s not what you suffer, it’s why you suffer that makes it the cost Jesus was talking about.

Putting God first in everything, and loving our neighbour as ourselves, does cost.  It costs in our time, when God requires us to go and so something that benefits someone else, even though we’d rather have spent the time doing something for ourselves.

It costs in our money, when God shows us a need that is more important than our own at the time.

It costs in how people see us, when God demands that we stand up for justice and mercy, when everyone else wants to exclude or ignore some person or group of people.  It costs when people judge us, for refusing to judge others. Sometimes, it’s just unAustralian to be Christian.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to love someone who will never appreciate that love, and will not even give us respect or good manners in return. Loving the unloveable person is one of the most costly, and emotionally exhausting things anyone can ever do.  Giving to someone who never gives back hurts.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to be stewards of God’s creation, and it’s just so much easier to waste resources than it is to protect and preserve them.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to be a light to the world, to show who Jesus is through the way we live.  It would be so much easier just to tell people about Jesus, and live any way we feel like.

Not many of us will be called on to be physically tortured or die for our faith.  But there are places in the world, where Christianity is illegal, and people really do physically suffer for their faith. For some of our Christian family “take up your cross” is still a literal command – which is something to remember when we face whatever cross God gives us.

Just this week, seven Christian leaders found that their cross was to be removed from the Prime Minister’s office, by police. They were in the office praying, and reading the leaked documents about incidents at the Nauru asylum centre. This combined prayer and protest was what they were called to do, in being called to love their neighbour.

What is the cost of faith? Our minds and bodies, our hearts and souls, our lives, our time and our skills, everything we are and everything we have.  That’s the cost of following Jesus.

When we follow Jesus we are no longer the centre of our own lives, Jesus is.

To follow him means to invite God to command and control us, to shape us, to break us and remake us, in whatever way necessary to bring glory to God.

Hymn & Offering Together in Song 583 Take up your cross

Offering prayer

Hymn Together in Song 538 Feed us now

Service of Holy Communion


Hymn Together in Song 599 Take my life and let it be