Sunday 31st January 2010
Ashgrove West Uniting Church
The people of God gather
Call to worship, Psalm 71:1-6 responsive(Uniting in Worship)
Hymn Together in Song 158 God has spoken by his prophets
Prayers of Adoration and Confesssion
As we come to worship
we discover we are poor
in the things we really need.
In our own resources
we have nothing:
no way to come to know
the mystery of You -
no way to overcome our own failure
to live up to Your standards.
We thank You
that poor as we are,
You accept us.
You come to meet us in worship
and You welcome us
You choose to live in relationship with us.
As different from us as you are,
you make yourself known
and knowable to us.
We thank You for Jesus,
the means by which
You make Yourself known to
ordinary human beings.
We thank You for his self-giving love,
which shows us Your love.
We thank You for his death
which is the means of overcoming
opening the way
for us to live in relationship with You.
We thank You for raising him from death,
opening the way for our life with You for ever.
That we make judgements,
based on what the world around us thinks,
and not on facts we gather for ourselves.
That we limit Your grace
by our unwillingness to share the gospel
with people who are different from ourselves.
That we speak, think and act
without first discerning what it is that You want
from our words, thoughts and actions.
That we live lives directed by our own whims
without reference to Your plan for our lives
for our time, for our talents, for our being.
That we are sinful people, living in a world of sinful people,
and as much in need of your forgiveness
as everyone in the world around us.
We ask Your forgiveness
We ask Your grace for ourselves, that our lives may be turned around.
We ask Your guidance ot know your will
We ask Your power and strength to do your will
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Declaration of forgiveness
….our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
We hear the Word of God
Hymn Together in Song - 229 Jesus loves me, this I know
Sermon: What we didn't want to hear
When God called Jeremiah- Jeremiah knew exactly how people would respond to him. He was too young. They'd all say he was too young. Who was he to tell them what they didn't want to hear?
And they really didn't want to hear. In politically volatile times, the last thing they wanted to hear was that God wasn't on their side. So of course, they would use whatever reason possible to justify ignoring what he said. We could imagine people responding with, 展ell, who does he think he is anyway? He's too young to know what he's talking about. He should take advice from his elders. Jeremiah might have been young when he started out but he had something in his favour God had anointed him for the job. What he said and did may have made people uncomfortable but God never promised that our lives would be comfortable.
Jesus got a similar response. Who does he think he is? He grew up here we know he's no-one special.
If Jesus had performed tons of spectacular miracles, Nazareth would have been proud of its favourite son. As he told them what they didn't want to hear they rejected him on meaningless grounds.
It didn't matter that he'd grown up there. It didn't matter that they thought they had some right to see the fulfilment of God's word.
What mattered, what should have mattered to them, was the message Jesus was actually giving them Jesus was challenging them to realise that God's promise of good things was bigger than them. That 堵ood newswasn't just for those who were expecting it, but for those who weren't expecting it. In fact, there might be less for those who believed they had a right to the 堵ood news
God's promised don't come to us by right, or by what we deserve but by grace the goodness of God, the free gift of God. What makes it 堵ood newsis that we don't have a right to, and don't deserve the freedom, the healing, the forgiveness, the fresh start in life that God gives us.
Whether we recognise it or not, we are poor in what we need: we are poor in our ability to be the humanity we were created to be: a combination of flesh and spirit, designed to be in loving relationshiop with God and with others.
We are poor because in our freedom to be who we wish, we choose to make all kinds of things the first priority in our lives, when the first priority in our lives ought always tob e God.
The people of Nazareth, as they waited expectantly to hear what Jesus was going to say, were a part of a nation who believed they had a right to receive God's goodness. They were descendants of Abraham. And as Jesus had begun to say that God's promise was fulfiled, and as they had heard about his miracles, they must have believed that he would do something spectacular in his own home town.
Instead, he gave them examples from the Scriptures of God choosing to show special favour to people who didn't even belong to their nation, let alone their city, while people of the chosen nation missed out. When they believed they had a special claim, a special right, to God's favour, it must have been a terrible shock to be told that God had other priorities.
God's priorities weren't concerned with people's rights. God was concerned with showing love to those who least deserved, but most needed it. Imagine the resentment those people felt as they went out to kill Jesus there and then. That he managed to get away probably didn't help calm them down much.
In a sense, we're no different from those people. We don't like hearing the things which make us uncomfortable. Yet, today, even to be the church means being in an uncomfortable position.
The church is no longer the centre of any community's life it is somewhere out on the edge if it figures in people's understanding of the community at all. For many people, Christianity is something they have rejected, without even taking the effort to understand it. It is harder to be a Christian in western societies today than it has been for centuries.
Yesterday, I parked my car at a shopping centre. When I came back with my groceries, I found someone parked next to me with bumper stickers praising Richard Dawkins, saying anyone who believed in God was stupid, and with the name 泥arwinin a fish symbol. I guess the owner is an athiest. In some other places I have lived, there have been lots of Witches, Satanists and Spiritualists around. While working in the hospital, I worked with lots of people of other faiths, such as Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems.
That era of history, known as Christiandom or the Christian Era, is over. As far as the world around us is concerned, we are just one faith among many and people become offended if we claim that Jesus is unique.
But there is good in that. For centuries, the church has had the same luxury of sharing that same level of comfort as Jesus' listeners in Nazareth. We've been able to sit back and bask in some image of a right to God's favour. Because things were generally going well for Christianity and even through the Reformation, thoguht the church may have divided Christianity was still the centre of society in the west and it seemed as if we had somehow 殿rrived.”
Now, as the Christian faith struggles for a place in society once more, we are able to see ourselves in our poverty in our need of God's grace. We're more able to feel the keen edge of our need. We're less able to act like some club and sit back and do things the way they've always been done just because they've always been done that way.
As we recognise we've been losing ground, we have to hope and pray for the kind of miracles we know we don't deserve: that God would continue to work in and through our churches.
We have to become more dedicated as we meet the challenges of the times. No longer does the church have it all. Now, to be a part of the church means a serious commitment: not just membership on the roll not just the sacrament of baptisma nd the ceremony of confirmation. Now, for the church to work, we all have to be actively working to make it work. And first and foremost we must be seeking to deepen our relationship with God, to discern God's will and to live God's will.
That means a commitment to being a part of the worshipping community of faith. It means a commitment to ongoing Christian Education a commitment to daily prayer time ; always believing that we deserve nothing, but trusting God's grace to provide not what we deserve, but what we need. It means taking time to explore what gifts God has given us, and what opportunities God is giving us to use those gifts.
If we can let go of the comfort of past times, and start to live in the tensions of our times we can reap a great blessing. As we stop trusting in our traditions and the way we've done things in the past to guarantee God's grace we will be free to recognise that we have no guarantees in anything we have done or created for ourselves. Then we will truly be free to enjoy God's grace as the gift of God it always was. And we can make the commitment to live as people under grace in a difficult and alien world.
Hymn Together in Song 439 What shall we offer our good Lord,
We respond to God's Word
Lent event information and video - Lindy
Prayers of the People
We pray for a world which needs to know your love
For those in Haiti who must rebuilt lives and homes
and all those whom you have called to help them
For those who are victims of abuse and exploitation
and all those whom you have called to help them.
For those who live in poverty
and all those whom you have called to help them.
For those who are sick, or lost, or alone, or homeless
and for all of those whom you have called to care for them.
For those who are imprisoned, -
and all those whom you have called to care for them.
For those who have more than they need
that they may hear and respond to your call to share.
For those who are safe and secure
that they may hear your call to protect the weak and vulnerable.
For your church throughout the world
that we may answer your call to be the body of Christ,
whatever the world's response to us.
that we may faithfully answer your call on our lives.
In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
We go out into the world, to live the Word of God.
Hymn All Together Everybody 296 Here I am, Lord