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.

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