Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Newsletter reflection: God's gift

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 2 October 2011

Good morning,

As you read this on Sunday morning, I'm away at Noosa for the weekend. How do I manage this amazing feat? (OK some people manage a weekend away without any help at all – they're quite heroic. I need help.)

I can do it because someone else is driving (so I don't need to use that much energy), and helping pay the cost; and yet another amazing person is at my place watching over the house, my offspring, and the multitudinous menagerie of manic animals.

So I can be away confident that I can get there and back without having to find the energy to drive, and no-one at home will starve while I'm gone.

Last Sunday, for the children's talk, I read Tom Kerr's “Parable of the Pinkie”. It's about the nature of living as part of the church. Every one of us has value. Every one of us has gifts and skills to help the others. And every one of us needs the others.

That's true of everyone, but those of us who've been sick have had to become very aware of it. When we're at our weakest, is when we most see the amazing gift God has given us in each other. When we're struggling and know others are praying for us, it makes a difference. When someone just does some amazing thing to help us out (someone from the church – I won't mention names for fear of embarassing them – came and gave my house a thorough clean up a couple of weekends ago when I was in lots of pain) it makes a difference. Knowing someone is praying, or them actually cleaning my house or doing something else wonderful for me may not stop the physical pain – but it helps me feel stronger despite the pain. It reminds me I'm not alone, that God is with me, and so are God's people.

Other people tell me it's the same for them. Just knowing the church is with them, praying for them, or being available to help in practical ways when needed, makes getting through a hard time easier. If you cook a meal or run an errand for someone you know is having a hard time, it might not seem a big deal to you, but it could be a miracle for them.

That's what it is to be a part of the church. Every single one of us makes a huge difference, not just to the church as a whole, but to every other person. Every one of us is God's gift to the others.

In a few weeks' time, we're going to commission our new elders! I'm suggesting we commission the elders on Lay Ministry Sunday and use it as a day, not only to commission Julie and Marella, but also celebrate the gifts and ministries of all of the people in our congregation.

Grace and Peace

Next few Sundays:
9 October: Holy Communion
16 October: Harvest Festival
23 October: Lay Ministry Sunday/ Commissioning of Elders.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Sunday 2 October 2011 - I'm away

I'm away next Sunday 2 October, 2011.
Bec will be leading worship. It won't be on the blog, so if you want to be a part of it, be there.

Sunday 25 September, 2011 (Year A, Sunday 26)

Worship Service for Sunday 25 September 2011

Year A Sunday 26

Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32; Green.

Call to Worship

Wherever we have been
whatever we have done
whatever has led us to be here
God welcomes us into worship
God welcomes us into relationship
God accepts us and loves us
and wants us to stay.

Hymn Together in Song 217 Love divine, all loves excelling,

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

we come to meet you in worship,
amazed at the depths of your love,
astounded at your accepting us so freely,
awed by the wonder of being invited into your presence.
We thank you that you come to meet us -
accepting that we aren't perfect
lovingus despite our faults
wanting the best for us, no matter how we arrange things for ourselves.

We confess that we do have faults
and we do arrange our lives badly
We confess the past
the mistakes
the deliberate misdeeds
the things we wish we'd done differently
the things we thought we were getting right – but turned out all wrong.
Forgive us all of it we pray.
Help us to start again
Guide us through the present
and into the future
in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time “The Parable of the Pinkie” from Wriggle:Tracing around an invisible, wriggling God, by Tom Kerr, Brisbane: Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, Youth and Children's Ministry Unit, 2001.

Hymn Together in Song 662 He's the children's saviour

Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

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

Sermon: Better late than never

The temple officials weren't making casual conversation with Jesus, when he came to teach in the temple, in their territory...

Asking “By what authority” Jesus was acting wasn't just a matter of who said he could do it – acting under someone's authority meant acting as their agent representative. It meant people had to treat him in the same was as whoever he was representing. If he was God's a, they would have to treat him like God.

That was never going to happen, but maybe they could trip him up into saying he was God's agent, and they could shout “blasphemy” at him, and kick him out of the temple.

Jesus turned this around on them, by answering their question with a question that could get them into trouble. (Remember, they might have had the authority of the temple behind them, but Jesus had public opinion with him on this one – the crowds around him had all supported John – he'd been seen as the latest in a very long line of prophets who had been rejected by people in authority.) Jesus asked what authority John had used. Yes, evading the question and asking something even more awkward in response isn't just a tactic of 21st century politicians.

And, of course, they could evade the question just as well as Jesus could. “We don't know,” they said.

It wasn't the “I don't know” of a genuine struggle with issues of faith. It was the cynical “I don't know” that meant “I don't want to give my opinion if it's going to put me in a tight corner.” Whatever they said, they would be in trouble. (The same as if Jesus had answered their question, whatever he'd said, he'd be in trouble.)

So, Jesus said, we're even. You're not going to answer me and I'm not going to answer you.

At this stage, it looked as if both sides were pretty smart – neither was going to get themselves into trouble. No-one lost face in front of the crowd. No-one got kicked out of the temple.

Then Jesus went on. He told the parable of the man with his two sons.

It's straight from real life. All the parents here know what it's like. You tell both kids to clean their rooms. One says, “I'll get right on it.” But then she goes out with her friends and her room's still a pigsty at dinnertime.

The other says, “Can't do it today I've got a boss fight in a dungeon on WOW, and the whole guild's relying on me.” But after the guild wins the boss fight, he picks up his dirty clothes and tidies his room, and fixes the problem you've been having with the DVD player for three weeks.

Then Jesus asked his audience, “Which kid did what Dad wanted?”

The guys who'd been smart enough to evade the question before, were a bit slow on the uptake here. They gave the obvious answer. “The kid who said 'no' but then did the right thing.”

OK,” said Jesus, “now you've answered your own question about authority from before and you've condemned yourselves.”

While they were trying to work out what he meant, he told them what they'd missed.

The “sinners” prostitutes, tax collectors, pretty much everyone who wasn't a temple official, were getting into heaven first. They'd done the right thing.

They'd said “no” to God by some of the choices they'd made in their lives. But when it came down to the crunch, they had done what God had really wanted. They had accepted Jesus – and accepting the messenger or agent was the same as accepting the one who'd sent them. In accepting Jesus, and John preparing the way for him, they had accepted God.

The “good people” - that is the temple officials, were going to get there last. They'd made a big show of saying “yes” to God. But they had rejected God's agents – they had said “no” when it came to actually responding to God among them.

Jesus did not exclude the possibility that the “good people” would get to heaven. Let's face it, parents, you may shake your head and grumble about the kid whose room is a toxic wasteland – but you love the kid anyway. And you desperately hope they'll get themselves sorted out.

In the New Testament the condition for entering heaven is accepting Jesus – so they're not ruled out, but they've got a way to go before they get there.

So what's the message for us today – apart from that Jesus would have made an excellent politician?

It takes more than being a “good” person to be acceptable to God. In fact you don't have to have a perfect or even particularly “good” history.

What matters to God, is whether or not we accept God as he comes to us in Jesus, and whether we act in accordance with that.

We don't have to be perfect – because God knows we're human.

We don't have to be strong – because God knows our weaknesses.

We don't have to be socially acceptable or part of the “in crowd” - Jesus chose the misfits over the social elite.

And we don't have to be “religious” in terms of living by lots of rules and formalities. (Although we do need to be “religious” in the sense of having a relationship with God.)

For many years, through the historical period of Christendom, people equated being a “good Christian” with being a “good citizen”. Sometimes the two coincide. Sometimes they don't. You can follow all of the laws of our society and never have a relationship with Jesus. You can have a relationship with Jesus that leads to civil disobedience (and it has done for people more than once in history.)

If you think about it, what Jesus said was an incredible insult to the priests and elders who'd tried all their lives to be “good enough”.

And it can be just as offensive to people today who try and try to be “good enough.” To have enough faith (as in “if you have enough faith, you'll be healed, be rich, be......”) To give the right amount. To sacrifice enough. To put themselves last. To do enough work. To get caught in the problem Martin Luther had, that helped lead to the reformation, of not knowing when he'd “repented enough”. This is the problem. If you're relying on being good – no-one's that good. If the measure is God, the absolute best of people aren't good enough.

God's not concerned about how good we are, or how hard we work at it.

God's concerned with why we want to try to be good in the first place. If our motivation is that we are trying to show our love for Jesus (not because we're trying to fulfil a set of rules) – what God sees is that love. Yeah, we'll mess up. But if we truly love Jesus, we'll keep trying to get things right – not for any reward for our own goodness, but because if we love Jesus we'll want to show that love.

If the why of what we're doing is Jesus – then whether we succeed or fail – at least we're trying for the right thing. (That's not an excuse for persecuting non-Christians, or excluding people who think differently. In the Gospels, Jesus' reaction to people of other cultures and faiths was to treat them with respect and love.)

And one last thought: In saying that the “unacceptable” people were getting into heaven ahead of the “good” people – he didn't say they couldn't make it. It is never too late for anyone.

God didn't write them off – and still today doesn't write any one of us off. Whatever we've done, wherever we've been, God never gives up hope for any one of us.

Hymn Together in Song 677 Christ's is the world in which we move

Congregational meeting this morning – election of elders. Nominations are Julie Hultgren and Marella Jenkins.


Prayers of the People

Loving God we pray for our world, with all of its pains, fears, needs and hurts.


Lord, Hear us,
Lord, Hear our prayer.

We pray for your church in all the many places it gathers


Lord, hear us
Lord, hear our prayer

We pray for our own congregation, and for the business of our congregational meeting today


Lord, hear us
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all of the needs that weigh on our hearts and minds at the moment


Lord, hear us
Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for ourselves, that we may truly love you, and share that love with the community you have placed us in.


Lord, hear us,
Lord, hear our prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

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


World Vision International - The Best Start

World Vision International - The Best Start:

'via Blog this'

The Every Woman, Every Child, campaign of the United Nations aims to overcome two of the major causes of death worldwide - death of women in childbirth and death of children from malnutrition.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Newsletter Reflection: Everyday Miracles

Everyday Miracles

Newsletter reflection for September 2011

Good morning,

I'd like to share with you this wonderful quote from St Augustine, I read during the week.

Our Lord's miracle in turning water into wine comes as no surprise to those who know that it is God who did it. At the wedding that day he made wine in the six waterpots he had filled with water; but he does the same thing every year in the vines. The servants put the water in the jugs, and he turned it into wine. In just the same way the Lord turns into wine the water that the clouds drop. Only that does not amaze us, because it happens every year.

We see the miracle of turning water in jugs to wine – but not of turning water from the rain into juice in the grapes into wine.

God provides us with miracles day after day, but because we see them every day, we lose our sense of wonder.

It's interesting to think of what miracles we would notice if we were truly looking.

Here's a few that come to mind for me just quickly:

  • Strawberries ripening in pots on my patio.
  • Rain falls, sunlight shines, and things grow. (Even after years of drought when so little grew.)
  • Laughter.
  • All of the complex forces involved in just holding a single atom together.
  • Gravity.
  • A cool breeze on a warm day.
  • The human body.
  • The intricate tracery of a spider's web.
  • Wildflowers.

We are sourrounded by miracles every day.

How amazing it would be to actually notice all of them!

Grace and peace

Friday, 16 September 2011

The Ten Happiest Jobs - Forbes

The Ten Happiest Jobs - Forbes:

'via Blog this'

It's interesting to note the ten "happiest" jobs seem to all make far less money than the ten "worst" jobs. Top of the "happiest" list is clergy. Maybe the key to being happy is to find out what God wants for your life, and do it!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Newsletter reflection: The Help

Good morning,

On Tuesday, I went to the movies. (A tip for those who don't know – movie theatres have cheaper tickets on Tuesdays.) I saw “The Help”.

This is an amazing film set in Jackson, Mississippi during the time of the civil rights movement. African Americans had “progressed” from being negro slaves, to the coloured “help”.

The story of “The Help” is about a beginning journalist who noted the strange value system that allowed “coloured” women to raise white babies, but not use the toilets in their employer's houses.

Against a background of the Ku Klux Klan killing civil rights activists, and with the knowledge that what they were doing was illegal, the writer and a group of maids put together a book, telling the stories of the maids from their point-of-view.

The movie was shocking in parts, hilarious in parts, and just great to watch. It was also a tribute to the courage of people who actually did take the risk of telling the stories of people who were overlooked in that time and place.

It made me wonder about the people whose stories we don't hear in our society. What is life like for the people who are in refugee detention centres? What was life like for them in their home countries, that they chose to come here knowing about the detention centres? What is life like for an indigenous person living on the fringes of society in our western towns? What is life like for a homeless person? What is life like for a person with an intellectual disability?

There are so many people overlooked in society. So many have stories to tell. I wonder if anyone will ever have the courage to tell them all?

Grace and Peace

Oxfam launches Pakistan flood appeal - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Oxfam launches Pakistan flood appeal - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):

'via Blog this'

Monday, 12 September 2011

Sunday 18 September

I'm not doing the service this Sunday. It's Thom's turn. If you want to know what is happening, you have to be there!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sunday 11 September 2011 (Year A Sunday 24)

Sunday, 11 September, 2011

Year A Sunday 24. Exodus 14:10-31, Psalm 114 or Ex 15:1b-11, 20-21; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20; Green.

Call to Worship

Give thanks to God
who guides in difficult times
who gives strength when we are weak
who gives hope when we despair
who gives meaning when we don't understand
who gives peace when we are troubled
who gives courage when we are frightened
who gives wisdom when we are confused.
Give thanks to God!

Hymn 474 Here in this place new light is streaming.

Prayers of Adoration and Confession.

We do give you thanks, God,
for all of the good things you give us.
We give you thanks for your love for each one of us.
For love great enough to willingly
share our lives in Jesus.
For love great enough to pay the price
of all that we have done wrong.
For love great enough
to give Jesus
so that we might be forgiven.

Merciful God,
We confess that we have not always loved you
with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
We confess that we have not always loved others as ourselves.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us
We confess that we have sought your forgiveness, but been unwilling to forgive.
Forgive us our sins and teach us to forgive those who sin against us
In Jesus' name we pray

Kids' Time

Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Hymn Together in Song 607 Make me a channel of your peace.

Sermon: Forgiveness isn't easy

The parable is a story about forgiveness, and about what the royal reign of God is like.

Let's start as the parable does, with the King and the first servant.

A debt this big was probably from mismanaging the king's funds. It was absolutely impossible that a servant was going to run up a personal debt of this amount.

The amount Jesus quoteed, 10 000 talents, was not a credit card that had got out of hand. The annual tax income of Herod the Great's territories was only 900 talents. This servant owed the king something like America's national debt. He was never going to repay it. There were only two options: jail or forgiveness (declaring bankruptcy.)

The king opted for forgiveness. If we left it there. What this story would tell us about God's royal reign, is that it's God's nature to forgive, no matter how big the mess we make of things. That is a comforting thing, and it does tell us exactly what God achieved in Jesus – to wipe the slate clean, clear our debts and let us start again.

All would have been well, except the first servant then went and saw the second servant.

Servant 2 owed Servant 1 a hundred denarii. A denarius was a day's wage for the average worker – so a hundred denarii was about two-fifths of his annual income. It was a substantial amount, and would take a while to repay, but it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that if Servant 1 was willing to wait, he could get his money back.

You might expect that, given what Servant 1 had just been through, he might be willing to be a little gracious and exercise some patience at least. But it was still quite a lot of money. (So much, that the mind could wander to the possibility that maybe it came out of the money Servant 1 had lost the king through his mismanagement.) Servant 1 was anxious to get the momey back, and he was legally entitled to redress for an unpaid debt. Instead of waiting for payment, or even forgiving the debt as he had been forgiven, Servant 1 had Servant 2 jailed.

And now on to Act Three.

The rest of the King's staff were unhappy, and someone went to complain.

The King was more than mildly annoyed. Servant 1 had failed to follow the King's example. Given the choice between being gracious as his King had been gracious, Servant 1 had chosen to be selfish. The King's response was to act in exactly the way Servant 1 had acted – jail the debtor until his debt was paid. We know the debt could never be repaid, so Servant 1 was in jail for life.

Now it's a bit shocking tho think that this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Would God withdraw forgiveness? I wonder, if we don't forgive others, have we actually received the forgiveness God has tried to give us? If we haven't been changed by it; if we don't feel a great need to respond; have we really accepted anything at all?

The King willingly forgave this unimaginable debt. Think about it: if you owed an amount of 10 or 11 times Australia's annual tax revenue, and earned just the average wage, how would you feel about being forgiven the whole amount? The King really was incredibly compassionate and forgiving.

But, he still had certain expectations of his servants. He expected that they would treat others the way they had been treated. What the King was not willing to forgive was Servant 1's failure to even try to be gracious.

It is actually tough to forgive. We may well be aware of God's forgiveness, but we may also be very well aware of what others owe us. Remember the debt Servant 2 owed to Servant 1 was a considerable abount. To be patient and wait for payment, or to go all the way and forgive the debt, would have been a difficult choice to make.

There is no denying or downplaying that people do horrible things. Today is the 10th anniversary of the 11th September attacks in the USA. That memory is a reminder to the whole world of the depths to which human beings can sink – the harm we can do each other.

So how should we as individuals, and we as part of a society, respond to those who harm us?

Forgiveness is the ideal that we must always aim for.

Forgiveness, however, doesn't come instantly or easily. It is a part of a very long process of coming to terms with what has happened.

Forgiveness doesn't invite the other to reoffend. The King was not at all impressed that Servant 1 went straight out and did something else horrible after he was forgiven. Just because you forgive, doesn't mean you are weak or that you are going to accept being walked over. It's not permission to do the same things all over again.

Forgiveness comes from a position of power. To say “I forgive you”, means, “I have it in my power to do something other than forgive you – I could condemn you – I could take some justified action against you – I use the power I have to choose to forgive you.”

Forgiveness frees the person who is giving forgiveness. When you forgive someone, you choose to stop carrying the burden of what they have done to you. You give it back to them. When a survivor of child abuse goes back to the perpetrator of the abuse looks them in the eye and says: “I'm not a frightened child any more. I'm an adult I'm in control of my life, and I've chosen to forgive what you have done to me.” That puts the responsibility for what has happened back were it belongs – with the person who has done the wrong thing. Far too often victims of abuse don't forgive, because they think they are the ones to blame. They carry the burden, the guilt, that belongs with the perpetrator. Forgiveness is about freeing oneself from the burden, and placing the responsibility back where it belongs. The person who has been forgiven, then has the choice about what they will do with it.

The alternative to forgiveness is to carry a grudge – to stew in one's own anger – to relive the hurt perpetually. A grudge doesn't hurt the person you haven't forgiven. It just eats away at the person who won't forgive.

In the real world, the transition from hurt to forgiveness is incredibly complex.

When we are hurt, we are in danger of reacting in anger – of seeking revenge, instead of justice. There is a huge gulf between revenge and justice. Revenge excalates the hurt – each side trying to get the other back.

So we need to handle the first shock of a hurt with care. Even when we're still too hurt or angry to forgive, we need to try to use wisdom. We need to aim for justice – for putting things right – not for getting even.

We need to see that we are more than the situation – we are not just “victims” - we are whole people to whom something bad has happened in this area of our lives. Just because something bad has happened to us, does not mean that we are any less than what we have always been – whole human beings created in the image of God, and worthy of love and respect because we are loved by God. The other person is a whole person – not just the bad thing they have done. They too, have been created in the image of God and designed to be loved by God.

We need to rely on God for strength and wisdom to get through the time between when we are hurt and when we reach the point where we are able to forgive.

Let's get back to Jesus' story.

If Servant 1 hadn't just reacted, but thought out the situation, he would have realised that revenge (putting Servant 2 in jail) wasn't going to fix anything.

To be able to pay the debt back, Servant 2 needed to be able to earn money, needed to be free to work.

Even if Servant 1 was still to hurt or angry to forgive, taking a step back, he might have been able to work towards a more fair and just solution. Justice would have hand the money restored.

Forgiveness is never as easy as it sounds when we read the parable, or when we say “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” The worse the thing that's been done to us, the harder it's going to be to forgive.

It's a goal, something to aim for in itself. A point where we can let go of the hurt and pain, live our lives free from what has been done to us.

It's something that we have to work towards. And working towards it may require seeking some sort of justice – some means of having the harm put right (but never of revenge – to meet evil with evil will only ever increase evil.)

No matter how hard the going gets, we need to always leave the door open to the possibility of forgiveness.

I wonder what would have happened if Servant 1 had gone to the King and asked for advice or help with his situation. We can always go to God for help and strength.



Prayers of the People

Merciful God
We thank you for the love and forgiveness
you freely offer to us and to all people

We pray fo all the people of the world
who have experienced things that are hard to forgive.

Today, we especially pray for those people
whose lives were changed by the tragic events in the United States
ten years ago -
and for those whose lives have been changed in Afghanistan and Iraq
following on from that.

These things are hard to understand,
hard to accept,
and incredibly hard to forgive.
We pray you give strength
to everyone who has suffered loss:
give them your support,
and give them hope -
so that one day they might be free from the pain
of all that they have suffered.

Be with the leaders of this world
may they always work for justice, not retribution.
Protect us from nations meeting evil with evil
and compounding the evil in this world.

In a time of silence, we pray for the needs we are most aware of.....

We pray all these things,
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Passing the Peace

Hymn Together in Song 584 Just as I am, without one plea

Service of Holy Communion

Hymn Together in Song 530 Now let us from this table rise


Threefold Amen.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Newsletter reflection: Remembering 11 September

Good morning,

Right now, the world is remembering the 11 September , 2001, attacks on the United States. (Well, the world except my family – 11 September is my daughter's birthday, so that's what we're remembering.)

Something changed on that day 10 years ago. Before that, we'd all heard of terrorism, and seen terrorist attacks in the news, but nothing so big. Amid all the confusion that followed – before it was even announced that anyone had any idea where the attacks had come from, the USA was attacking Afghanistan and Australia and other countries followed.

Even with that war waging, we started hearing that Iraq was building a stock pile of weapons of mass destruction. Although the UN inspectors who were sent to look for such weapons publicly stated over and over again they'd never seen any evidence of them, national leaders announced the invasion to destroy the weapons. We now know that the UN inspectors were right, and intellience services wrong, all along – there were no WMDs. Aside from that, another long-running war was begun.

For the past ten years, the word “terrorism” has come with just one visual image – planes flying into tall buildings. Buildings bombed, aircraft destroyed like the Lokerbie bombing, etc, nothing captured the public mind like the destruction involved in that one day of terrorist attacks.

And the acts had achieved their function – people were terrorised. Fear was shown in the way airline security was stepped up, the “be informed not alarmed” fridge magnets gave us numbers to dob in a terrorist, and we became used to hearing about high, medium or low alerts.

The other thing, a spectacular act of terrorism and ten years of wars in Arab countries have done, is to heighten awareness of the difference between “us” and “them”.

Suddenly Arab people are all seen as Moslem (even though they're not necessarily), and all Moslems are seen as radical religious terrorists (even though the vast majority of Moslems are “normal” people – not at all radical, and certainly not terrorists.)

Now, we have debates in the media about whether women should be allowed to wear Islamic headdress in public – when before the September 11 attacks, most Australians would have been interested in a “fair go” for everyone. We would have been outraged at the idea of discriminating against people on the grounds of religion.

Now, we have people branding refugees as “terrorists” because they come from Arab countries, even though the September 11 terrorists arrived in the USA through normal chanels. If you were running a terrorist organisation, you'd get your people into the country where they were going to attack in a way that didn't draw attention. Refugees get a lot more scrutiny than any normal migant or tourist.

Our world has changed, and not for the better. Fear has made us distrust our neighbours.

The answer to this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

We can't change history. We can't end wars. What we can do as individuals is choose how we will respond to others around us. Will we choose to be afraid just because someone is different to us? Or will we choose to see all other people as people loved by God, and love them as well.

Grace and Peace

World Vision Australia - East Africa Emergency

World Vision Australia - East Africa Emergency:

'via Blog this'

If you're interested in the crisis in East Africa, and what options are available to help out, this link from World Vision will give you the latest.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Sunday 4 September, 2011 (Year A, Sunday 23)

Service for 4 September 2011

Year A Sunday 23
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20. Green.

Call to Worship (Psalm 149:1-4 – Responsive - from Uniting in Worship)

Hymn Together in Song 147 To God be the Glory

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
God, our Saviour,
You created us, and all things, to your glory.
You could have created us and left us on our own
But, instead, you have watched over us constantly
Again and again you have saved your people and promised your love.
You saved Noah and his family from the waters of the flood
and you gave the rainbow as a sign of your covenant to sustain all life in the future:
You saved the Israelites from Egypt
and gave the Passover meal
as a sign of your covenant of salvation for your people.
You saved us from sin and death in Jesus
and gave us the sacraments of baptism and communion
as the signs of your covenant with us.
Over and over again; you have re-told us your promise:
that you will be our God
you will never abandon us
you will love us always.

Over and over again; you have invited us
to be your people
to accept your love
to stay with you always.

Merciful God,
You are faithful to the covenant you have made with us
but we are unfaithful.
You are always our God as you have promised
we are not always your people
We think, speak and act which do not honour you
We turn our backs on you and on your covenant
on your call to us to be your people
not slaves, but your own family, your friends.
We are sorry for our sins,
and once again return to hear your covenant promise.
Knowing that you will always be our God,
we seek your help in being your faithful people.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

Kid's time

Hymn Together in Song 622 I know someone who watches over me

Exodus 12:1-14
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

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


Take off your sandals,” the voice from the bush told Moses, “for you are on holy ground.”

Today, we are on holy ground. We have gathered in the name of Jesus Christ, to worship the God he worshipped as Father. And Jesus has promised that as we gather in his name, he is here among us. So this is a holy place, and we are a holy people – just as the people of Israel were a holy nation.

Holy” means “set apart”. The people of Israel were set apart from the nations around them by the covenant they had with God. The covenent was an agreement or contract, more binding than any modern legal document. We, too, are set apart through a covenant with God.

The covenant came in the words of God: “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

Each new generation of Israelites joined the covenant at seven days of age,w ith special ceremonies to celebrate that they were set apart as part of God's holy people. Offerings were given to thank God for the new child; and baby boys were circumcised. The child didn't have to be old enough to understand what was happening, and didn't have to respond. The covenant was always a part of God's promise, it was a gift that did not have to be earned.

But the covenant did not end there. There were things people were asked to do in response to God's promise. Those responses, taken together, were known as the Law. The Law was made up of the first five books of our Bible, but could be summarised in the ten commandments. It had a special place in the life of the nation of Israel – this was the means by which they were put right with God. If they obeyed the law, they were reassured they “belonged”.

The covenant also came with a ceremonial meal, which wasn't just a dinner, but a way of remembering, of telling the story and acting it out, of God's salvation of the people. Each year, at Passover, they would put themselves in the place of their ancestors escaping slavery in Egypt.

It wasn't a way of remembering just for the adults – but a vital way of passing the faith on to children. Children always took full part in the Passover meal, indeed the youngest child had one of the most important parts of the ceremony – asking the set questions which prompted the telling of the story of the rescue of the slaves from Egypt.

It was a meal of belonging. Every member of the Israelite community took part. Rich or poor, young or old, they were involved. If they couldn't afford a lamb for one family, they shared with their neighbours. Not just a simple remembrance of the flight from Egypt, each person present claimed God's salvation as their own. So they say “I was a wandering Aramean.....” It's not just history – it's a living covenant affecting life throughout all time.

We are a part of the Holy People as well. We are set apart from the rest of the world through the New Covenant in Jesus. Our covenant comes in God's promise that all who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life.

Just as each new generation of Israelites joined the Old Testament covenant through circmcision – so each new generation of Christians joins this covenant through a symbolic ceremony. We join the covenant through Baptism, sometimes as infants, sometimes at a later age. Just as the circumcision of infants was a sign that the covenant applied because of God's action, without any conscious response from the person being initiated into it – so infant baptism particularly reminds us that the covenant God forges with us is also based on God's action, not on ours. The person being baptised doesn't have to be old enough to understand what's happening, and doesn't have to be able to respond. The covenant is a gift of God's promise. It is not something we can ever earn.

Our covenant calls for a response, just as the ancient covenant called for a response. It's God's initiative to be our God. But we are asked to respond by being God's people. Our response is given to us in fewer words than the ancient law – but with much the same intent – that we love God above all else, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

And the new covenant has its ceremonial meal as well. As with the Passover, when we come to Holy Communion, we hear the story, we act it out and we put ourselves there. When we gather around the Communion Table, we are the disciples who gathered with Jesus on the night when he was betrayed, we are part of the story. Jesus will die, not just for them, but for us. This is our salvation being worked out for us.

With the bread and the wine, we recall the Passover story – it was a Passover meal Jesus was sharing with his disciples.

But we also recall the part of the story that was especially for us – the new meaning Jesus gave to the bread and the wine.

So, just as the Israelites sharing in the Passover meal, were taken back to that night before the angel of death passed over Egypt; when we share in Holy Communion we are taken to the night before Jesus died. We celebrate that, for us, God brought life out of death.

Holy Communion isn't just a way for us to remember this central story of our faith. It's also an important way for us to pass this precious story on to the children in our church, to help them learn their place in the story, just the same as the Israelite children were included in the Passover.

Holy Communion is a meal of belonging. Every baptised Christian, whatever age or denomination, is invited to take part, just as everyone initiated into the Jewish faith is invited to take part in Passover. Sharing in our part in the story, is part of what makes us the Christian community.

So we are a holy people: people of the New Covenant. This is not something that just fell out of the sky on us – it has strong links with the Covenant of the Old Testament. And like the Old Covenant, it begins with God, it has an intitiation point, and a response that is expected of us, and a ceremonial meal helps to place us in the history of the covenant.

All of the New Covenant, not only reflects the old, but ties us into the history of the Israelite people. It reminds us that we are part of God's action, not just through the past 2000 years, but throughout all of history.

When we share the sacraments of baptism and communion, we celebrate that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We are a part the promise that goes thoroughout all of history: that God will be our God, and we will be God's people.

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness



Prayers of the People

Gracious God,

We pray for all of your people in this world
that  we who've begin the journey of faith in baptism,
that we may all learn the wonder of all that your promise means.

For we who regularly recall your promise through Holy Communion that your promise will constantly remind us who you are, and who we are. That we will see ourselves as part of a whole – all of your people, beyond the constraints of geography or time or culture or race. That we would be one.

For we who try, not always successfully, to respond to your promise in our lives – that you would give us wisdom, grace, and courage, to love you ahead of all things, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

Prayer points from notices

We pray all these things, in Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 650 Brother, sister let me serve you,


Threefold Amen.