Monday, 30 May 2011

29th May 2011

29 May 2011
Year A Easter 6

Call to Worship
God has planned
that we should never be alone
never be lost or frightened
in the world.
God's Spirit is here
within us and among us
drawing us into the love
that God holds for us all.
God's Spirit surrounds us
and enfolds us-
giving us help, comfort,
and guiding us with wisdom.
In the Spirit
God meets us in this place.
Let us worship God.

Hymn Together in Song 415 Praise the Spirit in creation

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Gracious God
we give you thanks
for your constant presence with us
for your constant care over us
for your constant love for us.
We thank you that each moment of every day
we are in your care.

We confess the times
we have thought
and spoken
and acted
as if you were absent
as if we were alone in the world.
We make this confession,
aware of Jesus' promise,
that we would never be left alone.

We give you thanks for that promise
and pray that you would
help us live in accord with
your Spirit living among us.
In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids Time

Hymn Together in Song 412 God sends us his Spirit

1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

About 14 years ago, my family went on a camping trip to Lamington National Park. (That was back in the days when I could handle sleeping on the ground.) We'd heard about it and seen promotional brochures, and the highlight of staying there would be the treetop walk. For those who haven't been there, the treetop walk is just what the name says, it's a suspended walking path or very long bridge, going through the rainforest canopy.

I really wanted to do the walk, but I've always been afraid of heights, which slightly complicates walking through the rainforest canopy. It is a bit of a distance from the solid ground. I wanted to do this so much, that I tried.

I started to walk, and about a metre off the ground, froze and decided that was enough adventure for me and I was going back.

A small hand grabbed mine, and Clarissa (about 5 at the time) said, “It's all right Mummy, you can do it. I'm not letting you give up.”

So I was led through the rainforest canopy by a super-confident little girl, who wouldn't let go no matter how sweaty my hand got, and wouldn't hear of stopping or turning back.

I wasn't scared. I was terrified. But I did it. If I'd been alone, I would have given up.

A couple of years after that – I held on to that same hand, only slightly bigger, while Clarissa lay in a hospital bed with a fractured skull.

At night, I slept on a trundle bed beside her her bed, with my arm up in the air – because even when she slept, she gripped tightly to my hand. She wanted to be sure I was there with her – that she wouldn't be alone.

It's a part of the way God made human beings, that we draw strength from each other.

When we are with someone, we can have the courage to face things we never could alone. It doesn't mean we're not afraid, but it means we can have the courage to go on even when we are afraid. Even when the other person can do nothing to change the situation, having someone who cares for us there makes a difference.

Our reading from John's Gospel this morning is part of Jesus' farewell discourse. It's part of the conversation from that dinner at the last supper – the night he instituted holy communion. It was a big event.

There were a lot of very frightening things about to happen. Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, taken for trial, and executed within the next 24 hours. People would be on the lookout for Jesus' disciples, planning to do similar horrible things to them.

Jesus wanted to assure his closest followers that through all that was about to happen, the wouldn't be alone. Jesus would return to them. Not only that, but God would send another helper, and advocate, someone to be with them for ever, to never leave them alone.

We know from subsequent scripture, and church history, that a lot of frightening things did happen to those disciples, and to others who have followed them. Even though they were clearly scared, those early disciples were able to stick to their faith, continue to spread their message, to carry on. They knew they weren't alone.

They weren't alone: neither are we.

Does anyone realise what significant day happened this week? I know there was a football game of some sort, but otherwise? Thursday was National Sorry Day. That was the start of Reconciliation Week.

I know that this event doesn't get as much attention as the State of Origin. I think this is an example of God's Spirit being with us, and working among us – that effort to reconcile the differences between people and groups, especially when there has been a long history of tension, mistreatment and misunderstanding. Human beings clearly messed up the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people in this country. But even through that we were not alone, and the Spirit has inspired people throughout the years to try to reconcile the differences, to learn to share resources, to respect each other.

We see the Spirit at work whenever anyone stands up for justice, for peace, for understanding between people.

We see the Spirit at work whenever someone reaches out to care for a person in need.

We see the Spirit at work whenever we find that strength or courage we just don't think we have, but we absolutely need.

Jesus said the Advocate is to “be with you for ever”. That means today we are still not alone. We do go through difficult, frightening and challenging times personally; the world around us does go through turmoil and changes we don't understand; and we may find ourselves frightened and confused at times. But, we do not face those difficult and challenging times alone.

Hymn Together in Song 407 Breathe on me, breath of God


Elders – Lindy what it means to her to be an elder


Prayers of the People
Loving God
we pray for your world
a world you have never abandoned or left alone
but which sometimes appears to be alone.

We pray for peace
in the middle east
and in all the parts of the world
where peace seems a distant hope
May your Spirit
guide the leaders of our world
and teach them how to create peace.

We pray for people
who must make difficult decisions
in their work lives
and in their home lives.
May your Spirit guide
their thoughts and actions
and grant them wisdom.

We pray for people
who have the needs of others
in their care.
May your Spirit give
them gentle words and actions
and grant them patience and understanding.

We pray for indigenous Australians
especially those from the stolen generations
who struggle to find their identities
May your Spirit give
all Australians a desire to work together
for the good of everyone.

We pray for the needs of those we know
who are in special need at this time.

(Names from prayer list)

Help us know your Spirit with us,
sustaining us and strengthening us.

In Jesus' name.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 687 God gives us a future


Threefold Amen.

Monday, 16 May 2011

15th May 2011

Service for 15 May 2011

Call to worship Psalm 23 (Uniting in Worship – responsive)

Hymn Together in Song 105 Let all the world in every corner sing

Prayer of adoration and confession

Gracious God,
we come before you, aware that you are so different from us,
so far beyond us, that we could never come to you if you had not come to us first.

From nothing you created all that exists, by your Word and your Spirit. And you created human beings, from the same materials as the rest of creation, but special, different. You create us able to know your love,a nd to respond to you.

But time and again, we have failed to respond to your love.

Again and again, we have failed to respect you as creator, and have mis-treated your creation.

Yet you have always given us opportunity to begin again. For our sake, you sent your own son into the world, to live our life, to share our death, and to live again. In him, you show us what it is to be truly human. In him you give us the means to respond to your love.

We thank you for the gift of being able to start over, the promise of forgiveness, and of new life.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

Kid's Time

Hymn Together ins Song 10 The Lord's my Shepherd

1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10


Jesus said he is the shepherd of the sheep: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Jesus said his sheep hear his voice. But sometimes it's very hard to hear the voice of truth against all the conflicting voices we hear in our society.

There's the voice of memories – some going back many generations, things that are past, but still influence life today. Think of the years of animosity in Northern Ireland; or between Israel and the Arab world. These old rivalries, old hatreds are passed on from one generation to the next. The hurt suffered by parents and grandparents become part of the heritage of the next generation. Sometimes the memories are more recent and more personal – the child bullied in the schoolyard, the victim of abuse. The voice of memory can have a powerful influence on people's lives. Look at the reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden – killing one person who's been hidden away for years is not going to make the world a safer place, it's not going to change anything much really. But the voice of memory is so strong, that the symbolic act of revenge of killing the figurehead behind the September 11 attack, was something that many people would have seen as necessary.

When we're listening to the voices of our memories, we can have trouble hearing the voice that tells us to forgive our enemies, to pray for those who have hurt us. But if we don't forgive, we can't get on with our own lives and we end up trapped in prisons of our own making.

There's the voices of politicians. It doesn't matter which side of politics you support, the people who practice politics influence how we think about important issues. If politicians are campaigning on a law-and-order platform, telling us we need to be safer, the chance is that we will feel vulnerable even though all serious crime has been reducing in Australia for years. If we're being told constantly about our politicians that we have to protect our borders from the “boat people”, we could well feel threatened or overwhelmed by them, even though most of our illegal immigrants simply overstay their visas and are rarely seen as the kind of threat that refugees in leaky boats are. If we listen to the voice of our politicians, we can be afraid of all sorts of things – because fear is a good motivator to make us vote in the way politicians want. Listening to the voice of politics, we can panic that no-one is getting any healthcare, literacy and numeracy are dead, crime rates are skyrocketing, and there's any number of other things are out there to be afraid of. Maybe we'll believe it's a good idea to send an army to attack a nation that's stockpiling weapons of mass destruction – even when there's no actual evidence of such weapons. The voice of politics can make it hard to hear the voice that says, “don't be afraid, I am with you.”

There's the voice of consumerism – spoken to us over and over again through advertising. This voice tells us there's always something more to want. That we can't be satisfied with what we have. Worst of all, if we don't provide our loved ones with the biggest, best and most expensive, then we don't really love them. Nothing is ever good enough for the voice of consumerism. Someone else always has something better – and because they have something better, that makes them better. If we listen to the voice of consumerism; it can be hard to hear the voice that tells us to observe the flowers of the field – that God provided them with everything they need – and God will provide us with everything we need.

There's the voice of our own insecurities. This is the voice that tells us we're not good enough, we can't do what God calls us to do or we're not smart enough, or if we try we're going to fail. This voice can remind us of every other time we've messed something up, or every time anyone has criticised us. It's a persistent voice, nagging and sabotaging when we take a risk, or try to change problems in our lives. If we listen to the voice of our insecurities, we might have trouble hearing that we gain our value not from anything we can be or do, but from the love God has for us.

There's the voice of peers: the voice that tells us everyone is watching, and what we do ought to be socially acceptable. It's a voice that tells us to fit in – we have to be like everyone else. Don't do anything different. Don't challenge the way the group does things, and don't hang out with the “wrong” kind of people. If we're listening to this voice, we might miss the voice of Jesus, who was constantly criticised for behaviour and associations that just weren't considered good enough.

There's the voice within each of us which wants things the way it wants them. It's the voice of selfishness: it is easily angered and demands its “rights”, and reacts aggressively when we see our rights infringed. It doesn't matter whether it's the right to keep automatic weapons without a licence, or the right to feel part of the “in” crowd in high school... It's a voice which says “You can't do that to me – I'll show you.” It's a voice that belligerently threatens revenge and violence. It's a loud, angry voice. And it makes it very hard to hear the voice that says, if a soldier orders you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two.

Jesus is the shepherd who calls us. All of the conflicting voices we hear, everyday, calling us to different ways of life, are the voices of thieves, voices which would lead us into disaster. … They are distractions which are very hard to block out, but if we can focus on the voice of the shepherd, and follow only that, we can have hope. We can have stability in a seemingly-unstable world.

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness

Chaplaincy Information (Bec's bringing DVD)
As you might be aware, we're looking for at least one new elder for the congregation. The Church Council gets to decide how many elders the congregation needs, so there's nothing stopping us having more than one new elder. Over the next couple of weeks we'll look at the role of elders in the congregation.

Today, it's a quick look at what the regulations say about elders -what the job is and how we choose. For the next three weeks we're going to ask our three continuing elders to each take a turn at telling us what the ministry of elder means to them.

The idea of this isn't so you can go “wow, that was interesting” - although feel free to do so. It's to give you the basic information you need when you decide if you are nominating yourself or someone else to be an elder. So while we look at this over the next few weeks, please consider prayerfully if you might be called to be an elder in this congregation.

Elders have to make up at least half of the church council. Their role on the council is to keep the church focussed on pastoral care and mission, rather than getting distracted by side-issues (like money, and property, the things that are meant to serve the work of the church).

Elders are also responsible for “spiritual oversight”, which can include: Pastoral visitation, teaching, encouraging congregation members to share in mission, helping the minister lead worship and administer sacraments. Basically, it's the ministry of caring for congregation members.

The term of office for elders is any period from one to five years, to be stipulated by the person being nominated. Elders can be re-elected.

While it's a role of “spiritual oversight”, it doesn't mean you have to be a spiritual giant to nominate. (Not that we're going to reject spiritual giants – just that normal people are fine too.) You do have to be a confirmed member of the church – and you need to be willing to share with others both out of your strengths and out of your weaknesses.

The time commitment to eldership varies from person to person. Preferably, elders attend the church council meeting – and there's four of those each year. Beyond that, there is some responsibility to help with communion and baptisms in worship, to pray with the minister before the service and to go to the door after the service to assist the minister with any pastoral issues that come up at the door. At other times, elders might telephone, visit, or write to people who have particular pastoral needs – to support them and to encourage them in their faith journey.

I know that not everyone feels comfortable offering pastoral support to others – but we can do training, and ongoing supervision if we have new elders who want help to learn the role. So don't let inexperience or not knowing how to do this hold you back if you think God may be calling you to this role in our congregation.


Prayers of the People

Gracious God
we pray for the world you love
the world that you loved so much as to send Jesus to it
a world still shaken by natural disasters,
by ongoing wars
by fears of terrorism – of things that might happen,
a world where wealth and food are shared unevenly
where so many other voices compete with yours for our attention.

Prayer points from notices.

And loving God,
we pray for ourselves, your people
may we hear our shepherd's voice
may we follow where he leads
In Jesus' name.

The Lord's Prayer

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