Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Sunday, 26 June 2011 and Sunday 3 July 2011.

I have two Sundays off - so no services on this site.

On June 26 the Lovely Lyndal is preaching, and Beautiful Bec is on 3 July.

This week is the anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia - Happy Birthday UCA! Never lose sight of the vision to be more than a denomination, but a movement of the Spirit, working that the church would be one.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

19th June 2011, Year A Trinity Sunday

Sunday 19 June 2011

Trinity Sunday

Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20. White.

Call to Worship Psalm 8 from Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 166 Sing a new Song

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,
Creator and Sustainer of all that is,
we give you thanks for your creation of all the universe
of time and space
and we give you thanks for each new moment of our lives
and for the space in which we live.
God of great and small -
of solar system and atom -
of major events, and everyday moments -
we give you thanks.

We thank you for your work of creation -
We thank you for your work of redemption -
for your presence in the ordinariness of our human lives,
in the person of Jesus.
For your reaching over the gulf which we had created
in the relationship between you and us.
For your overcoming our sinfulness
and making it possible for us to live in relationship with you
and with each other again.

We thank you for your work of creation -
We thank you for your work of redemption -
We thank you for your ongoing presence and work in the world,
in the church, and in our lives
For your dynamic, life-giving Spirit, moving in us and among us
recreating us from within -
helping us to become all that you would have us be.

We confess that there are times,
when we don not strive to be all that you call us to be
there are times when we are not thankful
or even mindful of your gifts.

There have been times when,
through things we have said,
through things we have neglected to say,
through things we have done,
through things we have neglected to do
we have failed failed to live completely as your people.

We are sorry for all of our sins -
those we intended, and those we did not intend.
We ask your forgiveness,
for a chance to begin over again.
And ask your help in turning around,
changing our lives and our way of living.

We pray in and through our saviour, Jesus. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time - Bec

Hymn Together in Song 158 God has spoken by his prophets

Genesis 1:1-2:4a
Matthew 28:16-20
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


There was a retired minister who would avoid going to church, because he didn't believe the ministers of today could preach as well as he could anyway – but he always went on Trinity Sunday because he enjoyed seeing people get themselves tied up in knots.

Well, it's Trinity Sunday, although I think every day should be a celebration of the Trinity, and let's try to not get ourselves tied up in knots.

The doctrine of the Trinity is unique to Christianity. There are monotheistic faiths, such as Judaism and Islam, which believe in one God. There are polytheistic faiths, such as Hinduism, which believe in many gods. Christianity is the only faith which sees God as one God, revealed in three distinct, yet indivisible, persons. This formula came out of the early church's struggle to describe the nature of God as revealed in Scripture, and in the church's experience of an ongoing relationship with God. Agreeing that God was both one God, and three persons, solved one of the biggest debates in Church history – and has sparked endless discussions, disputes, and divisions over exactly how that is to be understood.

The problem is, of course, that we can't fully know God. You can do a doctorate in theology and still not have a complete understanding of God. With my masters in theology, I can probably almost grasp the thin edge of God's shadow – the edge of a mystery – a very partial knowledge, with the hint of something more.

On Trinity Sunday this year, our Bible readings take us back to the very beginning, to seek to understand God, through that story told by our ancestors of the origins of all things.

Studying Biblical Hebrew, we spent endless time on the first three words of the Bible: “bareshit bara elohim.” When beginning, he created, God. (“God” is plural – but plural because of magnitude, bigness, not because there is more than one God).

When beginning – when everything is beginning – when there is nothing at all, God already is. There is no explanation as to where God comes from. God just is. The word for “created” in the Hebrew is a word only ever applied to God's action. This is divine creation – not where we take things that are and make them into other things – but where God takes what is not and makes something.
God is eternal – before time, before space, before anything, God.

The story goes on, and to us who have experienced a relationship with Jesus, it tells things it did not tell its first audience.

God created through God's Word and Spirit. To ancient Israelites, this was not a story about the work of the Trinity. God's Word was simply God's speech, and that speech-act was God's way of creating. God's Spirit/Breath/Wind (ruach) was not another person of the Trinity, as far as the Israelites understood, but God's presence with the created order.

We look at the passage, and see God's Word is Christ, present with God and sharing in the work of creating. Christians also know God's Spirit as a personal being: not an “it” but a “who”. (In Hebrew, a “she”, in later Latin translation a “he”. Always for us, a personal being, a “someone”.)

God creates everything with a balance: day and night, light and dark, water and land. In the Hebrew the passage is a rhythmic poem of praise, not looking at the details of how each thing came to exist, but recognising God as responsible for all existence and praising God. This balanced creation, God declares to be “good”.

And then God says “let's create Adam” (humankind – not ish a man – but a race of people). “ our own image: and made male and female in God's own image.” It is male and female humanity together, therefore a community of more than one person, which is made in the image of God – not just one person alone. Together, they form a community, just as the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) lives as a community. Together, they can take part in making new life, just as God creates new life. We are the image of God, not as individual people, but as people who live in relationship with each other.

And, as made in the image of God, humanity is given almost God-like responsibility: to be stewards of the earth.

And finally, as the ultimate act of creation, God created a day of rest. This could seem to be a strange thing for God to make. In creating day and night, God created time, so therefore must exist outside of it: surely a day of rest (or a day of anything) would be meaningless in the life of God. So why have such a thing? I think the answer lies in that rhythm and balance to all of creation: light and dark, day and night; work and rest. The balance is part of what God considers to be good. God is a God of order, and balance, not of chaos.

What does it mean for us that this is the God we worship?

For a start, it means we must respect all of creation – because this is the work of God. We must especially respect the balance in the natural order – this balance was carefully made, and something whit which God was pleased. We must have the greatest respect for all that God has made.

Not only must we respect creation, but we have a responsibility for stewardship of creation. The earth does not belong to us. It belongs to God. And we must treat it as something that belongs to God. When we're kids we learn it's wrong to break other people's stuff – it's also wrong to break God's stuff.

We need to value and respect the gift of life, because it comes from God. It is not something to take for granted. People talk about a “right to life”. Life isn't a right. It's something far more precious. It's a gift from God.

We need to bear in mind that we are made in the image of a God who exists only as a relationship (three persons, in one being). Therefore we are only made whole through our relationships – our relationship with God and with other people. That's how we were made to be. Everything which damages the relationships among human beings, or between human beings and God takes away a part of our humanity, makes us less than we are supposed to be. The plight of protesters arguing for basic freedoms throughout the Arab world, refugees being transported around the world in unsafe craft, Japanese people forced from their homes because of radiation leaks, all of the people displaced or disadvantaged because of disasters – it's not all just about them over there somewhere. Each of those things affects us. It's humanity as a whole who is made in the image of God. Everything that takes away from one of us, makes us as a whole less than we are meant to be. We must understand that. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves – it's not just a suggestion for something to do when there's nothing good on tv one day – it's about a whole outlook on life that sees that every single human being is vitally important to every one of us.

And finally, we need to recognise the need for balance in our own lives. Just as God created the balance of day and night, of the seasons, our bodies were created to live with a balance of work and rest, we need to be aware of that balance and seek to maintain it in our own lives.

Hymn Together in Song 142 Glory be to God the Father.



Prayers of the People
Loving God
We give you thanks
that your very nature
is to live in loving relationship.
We give you thanks
that your love overflows
from that relationship
and pours out
over all of your creation.

We pray that your world
will learn from your love
that humankind
will learning the loving
way of being which you created us for.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers
between people that lead
to war and violence
And we pray especially for Iraq and Afghanistan
and for the many countries where civil unrest
has led to violent clashes between
ruling powers and protesting citizens.
We pray for all those who flee violence
as refugees.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers
between people that lead
to prejudice and division
to intolerance and violence –
even violence within families.

We pray that you would
break down the barriers between people
which allow people who have
more than they need
to feel comfortable
while others go without the basics.
And we pray for the current moves
to have the world's poorest children
vaccinated against preventable diseases.

We pray for the specific needs and concerns that we are aware of.....
(Newsletter prayer points)

Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 609 May the mind of Christ my Saviour


Threefold amen.

Monday, 13 June 2011

12th June 2011: Pentecost

Worship Service for Sunday 12 June 2011
Year A Pentecost – Red

Call to worship (Based on Psalm 104)
How great are your works, God!
How wonderful the things you have made,
How precious your gift of life
How amazing that your own Spirit continues to sustain all that lives
How great are your works, God!

Hymn Together in Song 474 Gather us in

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God
on the day of Pentecost,
your Spirit rained down on your people
in tongues of fire -
and gave them courage to face
the people who had rejected them and had rejected Jesus.
Your Spirit gave your people the courage
to spread the Good News to enemies and strangers
to make them friends,
to bring them into your church.

With great signs and wonders – Your Spirit
revealed your truth to the world
and many were changed
most of all, the frightened people
who had gathered behind locked doors.

Today we give you thanks for Pentecost -
thanks for your Spirit at work in the world,
in the church, in our own lives.
We give you thanks that
because your Spirit is always with us,
we never have to face life, with all its challenges and difficulties, alone.

We confess today
that we're not satisfied
with the gift of your Spirit with us.
We'd rather Pentecost happened again -
that we could see the great signs,
and witness the miracles for ourselves.
We'd much rather that,
that accept that your Spirit is already with us
already giving us all that we need
to share your word with others.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kid's Time

Numbers 11: 24-30
Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23

Imagine....close your eyes if you like, and imagine... You are part of a religious movement, one which challenges the authority of the religious and political leaders around you. That challenge makes you appear to be a dangerous sect. It's not that what you believe is really so outrageous, but you are a threat to the way things are.

Your movement challenges authority by presenting a new picture of God – a God of love more than rules, a God of mercy more than retribution, a God of justice for all, not just those who are especially deserving. That doesn't seem to be threatening to most people – but those in power do so by setting which rules must be followed, and who is most deserving.

Your leader was taken away and killed by the religious and political authorities. Those responsible for spiritual well-being and those responsible for peace and justice colluded against him.

It is a confusing time, members of your group reported over and over again that they had seen him alive – but then he had announced he had to leave and was gone. No-one saw him any more.

You know that those who killed him want to wipe out the movement he began. There is no-one you can trust, not your friends, not your family, possibly not even the members of your own group – even your leader was betrayed by a member of the group.

And there are crowds growing – people from all over the world are in town for a festival, and the streets are crowded with more and more possible enemies.

So you meet, in a locked room with the rest of the group. You're a strange group: high class, low class, men, women, kids, political zealots, tax collectors, pharisees, fishermen, prostitutes, people who would never choose to be with each other, who don't appear to have anything in common. You are together because of the one thing you share – each of you has in some way found that the group's leader has touched your life.

So you pray together to the God your leader taught you to worship. A God of love, and of mercy. Yet the whole time you are praying, you are listening, listening for a knock at the door – a raised voice among the voices of the crowd outside – any sign they've come for you.

Open your eyes. Be yourself again....

What I've asked you to imagine is the situation Jesus' followers were in, as they met to pray at Pentecost.

Like the Passover Pentecost was an ancient festival, going back to Old Testament times. Pentecost is the Greek term (meaning fifty); you would have also heard of it called in the Old Testament, “The Feast of Weeks”. It was seven weeks and one day, or a “week of weeks” after the Passover.

At Passover, when people had gathered in Jerusalem to worship, Jesus had been betrayed, killed, and had risen again. Since then he had appeared to the disciples several times, and then the ascension had happened, Jesus had left them again.

As the next major Jewish festival brought people back to Jerusalem to worship, and drew the crowds back to Jerusalem, the group of very frightened disciples would have been left wondering what was going to happen to them next.

Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit, another helper or companion or advocate, but they did not know what to expect that would actually mean, and the promise must have seemed a long way away, when they were in hiding and afraid.

It's important to realise just how frightened these people would have been to be able to understand what was so amazing about the Pentecost event.

The dramatic signs of wind and fire might capture our imagination. But there were two much greater miracles of Pentecost.

The first is that, on receiving the Spirit, the disciples were enabled to speak in a wide variety of languages. This wasn't necessary to make themselves understood – in the Roman Empire, Koine Greek (the language the New Testament was written in) was the common language – everyone understood it. But if you think back to the Old Testament, one of the symptoms of people distancing themselves from God 0 the incident with the tower of Babel – was the wide variety of human languages – people distanced from each other, unable to communicate to understand each other.

So, in the event of Pentecost, that whole division was symbolically, undone. People could understand – not just because they knew the common language, but they heard in their own language, their first language. God was, with the help of this group of people, reaching beyond the boundaries between people.

The really big miracle of Pentecost was this: they went out into the crowded streets and preached.

Think back a few weeks to Passover Peter: He followed on Maundy Thursday night to the High Priest's house, to find out what would happen to Jesus – which was pretty brave. But when he was challenged, he denied even knowing Jesus and fled – not quite so brave.

Then there's Pentecost Peter. He starts the day where he left off at Passover – afraid, cowering in the locked room. Then the time comes when he and his friends are challenged, accused of public drunkenness, and he has to either spell out his allegiance or run and hide again. And he stands up. He tells the truth about Jesus to the crowd he's been hiding from.

This is the big Pentecost miracle – suddenly all of these frightened, helpless people, have the courage and strength to go out into those streets, to the people they were most afraid of, and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.

The signs of wind and fire on their own might have been quite spectacular – but they would have been fairly meaningless if that was where it ended. The speaking in strange languages was probably quite spectacular, but that would have been meaningless if that was where it ended...

The amazing thing about Pentecost, was that the Holy Spirit was present with this group of people and so transformed them that they were able to do what they could never have done on their own.. They were able to disregard their fear for their own safety, and work to share the news of Jesus Christ, and to work to build God's reign on earth.

Sometimes we speak and act as if the Holy Spirit had left – as if that same strength and courage those early disciples found, wasn't available to us. Or as if they were somehow special people who had gifts and abilities we don't.

The truth is that they were ordinary people, no different from us. They felt the same fears and anxieties that we do. The had the same worries that we have.

The only thing that made them special was the way God worked through them. God's Spirit, acting in them, allowed them to do extraordinary things.

I was in a Bible Study group in another parish once, when someone asked why we don't go to church each Sunday, expecting God to do new and exciting things... the only answer the group could come up with was that if we did expect it, God probably would.... and we might not be ready for the consequences.

And of course, there are consequences. Many of the people who were in that room on Pentecost day, were killed as a consequence of what they said and did following on from Pentecost.

We're not likely to be killed for our faith but sometimes we act as if we were. Sometimes we're afraid to speak about, to live out, our faith in ways that other people might notice. We lock ourselves away in our own little room, keeping our faith and its importance to our lives hidden. 

We act as if we're afraid.

What the Pentecost event tells us is that there is nothing in this world (or beyond it for that matter) stronger than the Spirit of God living with us.
If we are open to God's Spirit, God can work through us, just the same as those earliest disciples, and we can find in ourselves a strength and a courage which is not possible on our own.

Hymn Together in Song 412 God sends us his Spirit



Prayers of the People
Life-giving God,
Jesus said “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,
and let the one who believes in me drink..
Out of the believer's heart
shall flow rivers of living water.”

We pray for a world -
thirsty and dehydrated
A world in which children die
for lack of food or clean drinking water
A world in which a few people seem to have so much
compared to the many who don't have enough to survive.
We pray for a world
needing the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit.
Quench the thirst of the world with your Spirit, we pray.

We pray for a world -
apathetic and tired
A world which has seen so many needs
and has given up trying to meet them all,
A world which has seen too much violence,
greed, corruption and injustice
and can no longer imagine things being otherwise.
We pray for a world
needing to be fired by the Holy Spirit.
Fire and inspire the world with your Spirit, we pray.

We pray for ourselves
your people, the body of Christ in this world.
We too, have become hardened to the needs around us,
our televisions have brought it all so close,
that nothing shocks or dismays us any more.
Soften the hardness of our hearts
help us once more to see the face of Christ
in the face of the person in need.
Fill us with your Spirit,
that we might be empowered
to be your presence in the world -
that living waters would flow forth from us
to bring peace, hope, and healing to your world.

Prayer points from newsletter....

Service of Holy Communion (Uniting in Worship)

17 HYMN/SONG Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ              Hymn Together in Song 407 Breathe on me breath of God