Thursday, 27 October 2011

Next two Sundays

Hi All

Just to let you know - I'm not preaching for the next two Sundays.

This Sunday will be Rev Ray Redicliffe - who has graciously stepped in at the last minute because my lupus has been doing some rather bad things to me. Ray is a former Moderator of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church. He has a great deal of wisdom and experience to share.

Next Sunday will be Josh Blake - because he was always on the preaching plan to do next Sunday. Josh is our congregation's youngest lay preacher, and brings Generation Y's perspective to understanding the gospel.

If you want the service from either of these next two Sundays, you actually have to go to church and hear it!

Grace and peace

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Service for Sunday 23 October 2011

Year A Sunday 30

Commissioning of Elders

Celebration of Lay Ministries

Lectionary: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46. Green.

Call to Worship
God Help Us!
God loves us
from before our birth to all eternity.
And God calls us
to love God in return
and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
We gather today to be reminded of the love that we have received
and the love we have been called to give.

Hymn Together in Song 658 I the Lord of sea and sky

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of the past: we thank you and praise you for your work in the past
For your work of creation, which speaks to us of your wisdom and creativity.
For your presence with the humanity you have created through your covenant,
through your word proclaimed by your prophets,
through your word incarnate in Jesus
through your Spirit present with your people.
You have always been faithful to your promise to be our God!

God of the present: we thank you and praise you for the wonder 
that you invite us to meet you here, 
in a place built by human hands
in the words of human beings,
in music composed in human minds.
You call us to be the body of Jesus where we are
and you are present with us still through your Spirit.
You guide and invite and call us,
and you remain faithful to your promise to be our God.

God of the future: we thank you and praise you, 
that your promise goes on for ever.
That knowing you have been faithful in the past and are faithful now
can assure us that you will be faithful in the future
that in a world where everything else changes
one thing always stays the same:
Your promise to be our God, to love us,
never changes, never decays, but goes on for ever.

God of past, present and future:
We confess that while we have learned that you are faithful,
we are a faithless people.
The experience of the past, ought to teach us to rely on you in the present.
Yet, so often, we think, we speak, we act as if you were not here
as if you were in the past, but no longer present with your people.
The experience of the past and present ought to teach us we can rely on you for the future,
yet we are anxious about tomorrow
we worry about whether each new day will bring our daily bread,
we are afraid to take risks because we can't guarantee the results
we think, speak and act, as if tomorrow were our responsibility and not yours.

God of all times and places
forgive us our sinfulness, our unfaithfulness,
turn us around
teach us to know you
and to trust you
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

Kid's Time (2 x stories, because we missed last week.)

Hymn Together in Song 669 Well Jesus is the rock

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Matthew 22:34-46

Forty years of wandering around the desert, of arguing with God on one side and dealing with the moaning, complaining children of Israel on the other side, and then Moses didn't get to go to the Promised Land!

The best he got was to look at it from a distance.

He didn't even want the job in the first place. Back at the burning bush, he might have thought the whole thing with the bush being on fire and not burning up was cool, but he did everything he could to talk his way out of the gig. Surely God could send someone better qualified, someone who could talk better, someone they'd respect, someone who at least knew God's name....

Nope. God chose Moses.

It's a strange thing, ministry. And I'm using “ministry” in the broadest sense here – not just the ordained ministry, but the “ministry of all believers.”

God calls us, and says I'll give you the gifts for the job you're going to do. And we go along, more or less willingly. And half the time, more than half the time, we don't even know if we've achieved anything at all.

In this day and age, we're taught that to be successful, you've got to set goals, they've got to be specific and measurable and timely – you've got to know when you expect to achieve them by, and be able to measure that you've achieved what you set out to do.
By that measure, Moses was a failure. He set out to take people from Egypt to Israel. It wasn't a short walk, but it wasn't 40 years' worth of walking either. What'd they do, take a wrong turn? Go via the South Pole? And after 40 years, he didn't get there. This wasn't timely – and he didn't achieve the goal. By the measures of any of the self-help books about being a success in business or in life – Moses failed.

Moses' life's work still had to be completed when Moses died. Joshua had to take people into Israel, take over the land and settle the people.

Despite his protestations at the burning bush, Moses had come to the job with the right qualifications. He was a Hebrew of the Levite clan – so of the priestly class which should have qualified him as speaking on God's behalf. He'd had has own mother as his nanny – thanks to Miriam's quick thinking when he was a baby, so he knew the Hebrew people. He'd been raised as a prince in the Egyptian Royal family, so he knew something about leadership and diplomacy, and knew his way around the palace and how to get an audience with Pharoah. He was courageous if compulsive, we know that from his killing the Egyptian slave-driver. And he had some compassion, we know that from the way he met his wife, and rescued her from men who were harassing her. He was willing to work hard, despite his privileged upbringing – we know that because he was out in the wilderness taking care of his father-in-law's sheep.

He might not have believed he was the person for the job, but we can, at least in part, see why God thought so.

Has God ever put you in a position you thought you weren't ready for? Maybe given you a task you think someone else could have done better? We're dedicating two new elders today – and neither of them jumped up the instant we called for nominations and said they were sure they were the perfect people for the position. They both took time to think and pray about it after other people approached them. The rest of the community of the church could see the gifts and graces of these two people better than they could see them in themselves.

Moses, was in some sense a failure – he didn't get the people to the promised land. In other ways, he was a great success.

What Moses did help to achieve in that 40 years, was to form the identity of a nation. Instead of a group of escaping slaves, when they arrived at the promised land, they were an organised nation. They were unified by a law code, and by faith in a living God. The people who actually entered the land were children who had grown up wandering in the wilderness, knowing that every day they needed to depend on God to survive. They didn't remember slavery, except in the stories their parents and grandparents had told them. They didn't remember a time before they were given the Law. They knew who they were and whose they were when they arrived at their destination.

They might not have arrived at the destination in a timely manner – but the time was used in a valuable way.

Have you ever wondered about the value of something you've done? Worked and worked and worked at something, and never seen the results? Never known whether what you did made a difference or not? Ever had to leave something incomplete and trust that others can finish what you've started?

That's what our ministry (and again, I mean all of us) is like. We all do our little part. Sometimes we don't know whether our little part makes any difference to anything – and we may never know. Our call is to love God and love our neighbour – and to do that as the central focus of our lives. And we're called to do that and continue to do that – whether or not it seems to make any difference to anything in the world.

Sometimes, it may seem that we have failed at whatever we have set out to do. We have tried to help someone, and not seen any improvement in their situation. We've agitated for social justice – trying show love to people who are in desperate need – but there's always more people in desperate need. We've saved water and electricity and tried to reduce waste to protect God's creation – but worldwide the damage continues. We've given to help with famines, disaster relief, crises of all sorts – and yet so much of the world is still in crisis. We've prayed and prayed and prayed – and there's still so much more to pray for – and we often can't see that our prayers have made any real difference.

Moses wasn't a failure. He did his part, and his part was vitally important. Then he handed on to Joshua, who did his vitally important part.

We are the body of Christ. Not any one of us individually, but all of us, all Christians, throughout the world and throughout time. We are not called to be a success in the way the world around us measures success. We are called to do our part – and trust that with God's help, others will also do their part. We are not called to judge the outcomes of anything we do. That is for God alone. We are called only to love – to love God first and foremost and to love our neighbour.

You can't measure how successful or otherwise you are at fulfilling your call. Maybe like Moses you will be blessed with an opportunity to have a glimpse of what you have been a part of – but that's not guaranteed.

All we can do is love, as God has commanded us, to make whatever gifts and skills we have available to God's use, and trust that whatever we are able to do, it is enough for God to use.

Hymn Together in Song 686 Because we bear your name.

God Help Us!


Commissioning of Elders (From Uniting in Worship II)

Recognition of other Lay Ministries

Could all of the members of the Church Council who are here please stand (stay standing):
Could all of our lay preachers who are here please stand (stay standing):
Could anyone who is involved in leadership in any group in the church please stand (stay standing):
Could anyone who is a member of any group: men's breakfast, adult fellowship, community care, busy bodies, Sunday School, watchya weight, yarn group, Bible study, anyone I've forgotten, please stand (stay standing):
Could anyone who is on any roster to do any work for the church please stand (stay standing):
Could anyone who helps out for working bees, teachers' lunches, or any other time we just need someone to give a hand please stand (stay standing):
Could everyone who tries to live out their faith through the week at work, or school or kindy, or university, or whatever else they do please stand:
That should be everyone by now....

You are all ministers of Jesus Christ. You represent him in your daily life. You are his body, wherever you are whatever you are doing.

I ask you now to reaffirm your commitment to be the Body of Christ:
Will you love and serve your Lord?
Will you endeavour to live your life in such a way that people might see his grace at work in you?

With God's help, we will.

Please be seated.

Prayers of the People

Loving God

We thank you for all of the ways you have given us to serve you.
We thank you in particular for Marella and Julie who we have commissioned as elders today – for their faith, and their graciousness, and their care for others.
We thank you for all of those who love and serve you through caring for this congregation
and for all of those who love and serve you through all that they do outside of the congregation.
Gracious God, be with us all,
may we never be discouraged in our endeavours to love you and our neighbour.

Gracious God,
we pray for this world of yours,
for the war zones
for the disaster zones
for people who are afraid, or hungry, or hurting.
Be with them, and with all those who work to support them.

And we pray for our church
for the Uniting Church
and for all of the Christian Church
may we together truly be the body of Christ.
May we work together for your will in this world of yours.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 569 Guide me O thou great Redeemer


Threefold Amen.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Journey Online

Journey Online:

'via Blog this'

The Uniting Church's Queensland Synod meeting has just finished. Our new Moderator Rev Kaye Ronalds has begun her three-year term.

Journey Online has the highlights of the week-long meeting.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sunday 16 October 2011 (Harvest Thanksgiving)

This Sunday is our Harvest Thanksgiving. Much of it was prepared by other people, and based on the World Day of Prayer's service this year "How Many Loaves Have You", which was written by the women of Chile.

So on the blog this week, I'm only placing the parts of the service I have written.

Harvest Thanksgiving Reflection

The order of service says this is the sermon, actually, it's just a brief reflection.

When we come to bring our gifts in a thanksgiving service like this, or even when we bring our offering in our regular worship service Sunday by Sunday, we recognise that all that we have comes from God. Returning some of what we have been given isn't a statement that “This bit's for God and the rest is for me.” Instead, it is a recognition that there is no “me” in the equation. It all belongs to God. Symbolically we return what belongs to God anyway. What we have, we have been given by God, and we have been given it for a purpose.

Our theme “how many loaves have you?” recalls Jesus' question to his disciples – and the lesson that whatever little bread they had access to, was enough for the task at hand. It was enough, because it belonged to God, and God would make it enough.

So today we think about what God has given us – the things we've symbolically returned to be shared with others – but also all of the other things God has given us in our lives – and recall that all that we have belongs, not to ourselves, but to God.


Think about the home you live in. Whether you own it or rent it, by God's grace you have been given shelter. Just for a moment, I want you to think about what an amazing gift that actually is. There are many people in our world who don't have shelter, and many others who have totally inadequate shelter.

God has given you the gift of a safe and secure place to live.


Think about the clothes you wear. If you own more than two or three sets of clothes, you could be judged incredibly wealthy by the standards of many in this world. You have enough. You have perhaps more than enough. God has given you an abundance. Like the lilies of the field, you are always clothed.

Think about the food you eat. Some of us definitely eat too much. For us, getting food is as easy as going to a supermarket. Even after the “summer of disasters”, there was no chance that in this fruitful country we would experience a famine. Food is so basic, so important, and so easy to take for granted because we have it. Yet every bite we eat is a gift from God.


Think about how you get around this city: whether by car, bus, taxi, train, ferry or bike. There are so many things you can do because you have the means of getting where you are going. Your life would be so limited without these wonders.


Think about the people you share your life with; those who make your life better in many ways – those who sometimes make your life more difficult. Each one of them is a gift from God. Each one belongs to God, and has been placed in your life. Stop and think about the amazing value of all of the people you know – each totally unique, and yet each made in the image of our God.


Think about your own body. Maybe it lets you down at times, or even chronically. But think about how many systems and processes have to take place just for you to sit here in this church. Blood must flow, lungs must work, brains keep ticking over. Thousands of messages dart back and forwards across your nervous system. Every one of those tiny processes is being sustained right at this moment by God. Every breath you take is a miracle, a gift of God's incredible love for you.


In the rush of everyday life, we can forget the things that are really important. We can forget the multitude of wonderful things God has given us. But as we are here to recognise God's goodness to us, let me ask you: “how many loaves have you? How much do you have to be grateful for? How much do you rely on God's goodness every day?”



Using “O Lord hear my prayer” Together in Song 741 as a sung response to prayers.

Voice of Purpose: We come today to give thanks for the harvest -
the harvest from the earth's abundance
the harvest of all that God has done in our lives.
And we recognise that God has brought us to a very rich and fruitful place.

Voice of Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the faithful stewardship of the earth
of Australia's indigenous peoples,
especially the Turrbul people of the Brisbane area.
For their respect and love for all of God's creation.
For all that we are able to learn from their example
of living in harmony with the land as God has made it.

Voice of Confession: We confess that there is a history of mistreatment
of Australia's indigenous peoples.
Many people were taken from their families, and their land
with no regard to how close those ties were.
Many still live and struggle with disadvantage.
We pray forgiveness for the past – and for wisdom to share a
better future together.

Voice of Intercession : Today, our indigenous people still suffer unfairly
still suffer poorer health, education and life expectancy outcomes than other Australians
still are disadvantaged in employment and other opportunities.
God, help us to change.
Help this nation grow a harvest of love, compassion, acceptance and justice.

Response (All): O Lord, hear my prayer ...

Voice of Purpose: We come today to give thanks for the harvest -
the harvest from the earth's abundance
the harvest of all that God has done in our lives.
And we recognise that God has brought us to a very rich and fruitful place.

Voice of Thanksgiving: Our “golden soil and wealth for toil”
has brought people from all of the world to Australia,
looking for hope and peace and security for their families.
And we thank God for the richness all of these cultures
and have brought to our society.
We thank God that so many people, with so many experiences
add so much value to our lives in this nation.

Voice of Confession: We confess that sometimes our welcome is not what it should be.
People who have come here seeking freedom from oppression
have been locked up like criminals, for long periods of time.
Those who are most vulnerable, have been treated most harshly,
Forgive us our failure to love the neighbours you have brought to us in need.

Voice of Intercession: God, we pray for all of those in detention centres,
that you will give them strength to endure the hardships,
that you will guide those who make decisions about them,
and that you will soften the hard hearts in our community
which see victims as a threat.
Help us to see the face of Jesus, in the face of the person most vulnerable.

Response (All): O Lord, hear my prayer ...

Voice of Purpose: We come today to give thanks for the harvest -
the harvest from the earth's abundance
the harvest of all that God has done in our lives.
And we recognise that God has brought us to a very rich and fruitful place.

Voice of Thanksgiving: We thank you for the food you provide for us day by day
For the rich soil, the precious rain, the golden sunlight,
All of the everyday miracles you use to bring crops to life
For the animals which produce our meat, eggs and milk.
For the people who work the land, and raise the animals.
For those who work in food processing and food transport.
For all of the many people who together help to bring our bread to the table.

Voice of Confession: We so often overlook the miracles around us
we take our food for granted,
not thinking of all you have done to bring it to us,
or of all the people involved along the way.
We eat, and are happy that we can,
but we forget how many people in the world have too little to eat.

Voice of Intercession: We pray for the food supplies of this world,
for those who live in places experiencing famine
who find each day a constant struggle to survive.
And we pray for the food producers of this world,
that they would have the daily miracles they need
to bring in the harvest for everyone.

Response (All): O Lord, hear my prayer ...

Voice of Purpose: We come today to give thanks for the harvest -
the harvest from the earth's abundance
the harvest of all that God has done in our lives.
And we recognise that God has brought us to a very rich and fruitful place.
Voice of Thanksgiving: We thank you for the life of our congregation here,
for the love and compassion that is shared among us,
for the way we are able to share our life, and our love of you together.
We thank you for those who have been here many years,
and have years of wisdom to share
And we thank you for those who are younger in faith,
for their energy and their joy at being part of your people

Voice of Confession: We confess that we struggle to see where you are leading us
Our numbers are fewer than we would like,
and we are at a loss to know what more we can do
to engage the community around us

Voice of Intercession: Help us we pray, to discern where you are leading us.
Help us to serve and love the community around us,
and to be your faithful witness in this place.
Help us to have faith that you are able to work in and through us
no matter how many or few we are.

Response (All): O Lord, hear my prayer ...

Voice of Purpose: We bring our prayers in and through our Saviour Jesus.

All: Amen.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Animal Pictures

People who come to Ashgrove West sometimes ask me where they can get those cute animal pictures I use on the powerpoint during the service.

I am pleased to announce I have my own site on the Cheezburger network now, called God Help Us! which I will collect all of these images together into. (At least all of the images I steal from Cheezeburger - which is most of them.)

The new personal sites are a beta test - so I think being offered one means I spend far too much time on Cheezburger.

Sunday 9 October 2011 (Year A Sunday 28)

Service for Ashgrove West Uniting Church
Sunday 9 October, 2011
Holy Communion.

Call to worship Psalm 106:1
Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.

Hymn Together in Song 474 Here in this place new light is streaming.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Gracious God,
we thank you for your promise to be our God
for being faithful to your promise always,
for being with humanity right from the beginning of our existence,
for being with our ancestors, and guiding and caring for them and caring for them.
For being with us, from before the time when we were born,
for always loving us,
for always providing the things we need: day and night, sun and rain, people to love and care for us.
We thank you for each new day, for the possibilities each brings,
for new beginnings, as you sustain us and carry us into the future.

We confess that we are not as faithful to you as you are to us.
We sometimes forget that we have promised to be your people;
we think and speak and act in ways which do not glorify you;
we accept the things you give us, as if they were for ourselves alone
forgetting that you call us to love and that to love means to share what we have been given.

We repent and are sorry for all of our sins: and ask that you help us to begin again;
teach us how to keep our promises to you.
We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time

Hymn All Together Again, 138 The Wedding Banquet 

Exodus 32:1-14
Matthew 22:1-14
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

But you  promised!

Sermon: But you promised!

What do you get when a politician promises to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Three different stories.

How much value has a promise to tell the truth? Or how much value has any promise for that matter? Only as much as we can trust the person who makes the promise.

A person who has proven themselves reliable and trustworthy can be expected to do their best to keep a promise. He or she may not always be able to do so, but we know they will try. A person who has been proven repeatedly to be unreliable, and untrustworthy, is likely to not be trusted when they make a promise.

Sometimes we will try out utmost to keep our promises, and fail because circumstances make keeping our promise impossible. It's like promising to take the kids to be beach at the weekend – but the weekend comes and cyclonic weather unexpectedly arrives.

Sometimes we will intend to keep our promises, but our priorities change. For ministers that usually means that whatever we had planned we can't do because a funeral has come up – most professions have the one thing that everything else is dropped for. When we make a promise to be somewhere or do something, it's always on the proviso that a serious crisis doesn't intervene.

Mostly, we are judged on our ability to keep a promise. When the cyclonic weather arrives and the beach is cancelled – the winds are reaching 100kph outside and the garage flies past the window – the kids stand in the lounge room with their buckets and spades and indignantly whine “but you promised!” And we feel like monsters, because we did promise. We judge ourselves on our ability to keep our promises. And we want to set an example of integrity for our kids – and integrity means doing what you say you'll do.

We also judge our politicians on their keeping their promises. Do the words “carbon tax” mean anything to anyone? What's the big issue? It's not the debate over whether or not a carbon tax will in fact have a positive impact on our planet. It's but the prime minister promised!

In the Exodus reading, a nation of people went back on their promise. They'd been offered a covenant with God – the God who had rescued them from slavery. All they had to do was follow the law that God had given Moses; a law that said basically to respect God and respect each other.

But Moses was gone. He was up the mountain with God, and they were on their own.

They became frightened: what if Moses didn't come back? What if God wasn't going to lead them out of the desert? What if God broke his promise?

Who or what could they believe in? Afraid that God would break his promise to them, they broke their promise to God. They made an alternative god. They built a golden calf and worshipped it.

God judged these people on their lack of ability to keep their promises – their lack of integrity, and planned to destroy them. And Moses stood up, challenging God. They broke their promise, but are you going to break yours? Are you going to have the Egyptians saying you took all these people into the desert just to kill them? Wouldn't the Egyptians have a great laugh at that? Who in the world would ever believe God could be trusted again? Even God's integrity is judged by his keeping his promises. And God didn't destroy the nation, because, as Moses rightly pointed out, God really is trustworthy. Having made a promise to the people, God would keep that promise.

The Gospel story is about promises, too. Invitations to weddings and other major events went out in two parts. Well ahead of time, people were invited to the wedding. Then, when the feast was ready, the servants were sent out with the reminder – everything's

But the King won't let it go to waste. If the people he intended all of this fabulous feast for don't want it, he will find someone who does. And the king sends the servants out to the streets: to pick up the beggars, the disabled, the deranged, the derelicts, the alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes. All the people our society tries to pretend don't exist. And these are the people who come. It's not that they others were invited: they were, indeed they'd apparently indicated a willingness to come until the last minute.

And this is the kingdom of heaven: it's not necessarily full of the people you'd expect. It's not necessarily full of the people you'd like to find yourself sitting next to on a long bus trip. But it's full of the people who will come: not those who make empty promises, but those who are actually willing to come. It's full of people who have heard God's call, in whatever circumstances, and decided to accept that call. It's the people who said, “Whatever good stuff God's giving away we'll take it.” Mostly it's the people who know they have nothing – and are surprised that God's invitation included them.

The parable also has what seems to us a strange story of someone who the bouncers throw out of the banquet. Someone who didn't get dressed for the occasion. In the early church, people would have immediately known what this was about. Very early in the history of the church, when someone was newly-baptised, they were given a new white garment to put on, symbolising putting on Christ. (It's the same symbolism of a minister putting on an alb over our own normal clothes – we are putting on Christ, representing him not ourselves.)

All sorts of people are invited into the kingdom of heaven, but only those who are willing to be a part of it, who are willing to be a part of Jesus Christ can enter. Many are called but not all are chosen. Being chosen is about being prepared, having a relationship with God in Jesus. (Effectively, it's a self-selection process. We are chosen or not on the basis of our own choice.)

So what do we have with two stories about promises. God keeps his promises – even when disappointed with us. We, sometimes, choose not to keep ours, and we could miss out because of that.

God has promised to be our God. We have promised to be God's people. We can rely absolutely on one. The other, is entirely our choice.

  • Could everyone who is, or would like to be involved in the Harvest Thanksgiving Service next week please stay behind after the benediction for five minutes?
  • Community Care is putting together a small recipe book of favourite morning teas. If you have one you would like to add, please give (preferably email) to Iris.
  • Sunday 23 October is our dedication of our new elders Marella and Julie. It's also lay ministry Sunday, and we will celebrate the many ways our congregation members minister to each other and to the wider community.


Prayers of the People

Merciful God,
We pray for your world,
a world in which promises are so often not kept
and people are often let down.

We think of the human failings,
and the human treachery,
which have led to wars in so much of our world.
And we pray for all of those who,
often at great personal risk,
seek to right the wrongs.

We think of the broken promises in families
where abuse and violence are a part of life;
and the promise to love has been forgotten.
And we pray for all of those seeking to
escape domestic violence
and find a place of safety.

We pray for all of the leaders of our world
who are constantly making promises to their people -
that they may promise good things
and be able to keep their promises.

Newsletter prayer points

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

Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ

Service of Holy Communion (Uniting in Worship II p162 ff)

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

Threefold Amen.