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
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
Hymn Together ins Song 10 The Lord's my Shepherd
1 Peter 2:19-25
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
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