Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Sunday 4 December 2011 (Year B, Advent 2)

Sunday, December 4, 2011 (Year B, Advent 2)

Call to worship
Christ is coming to meet you.
Dress in clothes of compassion:
Pack faithfulness and hope in your bag
Have prayer on your speed-dial
Carry God's word as a map
Have a compass that points to God
And turn back, turn back to God
today, tomorrow, every day.
Somewhere on the road he will meet you.
Be ready.

Hymn Together in Song 647 “Comfort, Comfort, all my people.”

Prayers of Adoration and confession
Loving God,
Today we hear again John's call to prepare the way of the Lord,
and we thank you for all the many voices you have sent to us-
voices in the wilderness -
voices in the church -
voices in cities and markets -
voices in the past -
voices today -
voices of comfort -
voices of warning -
voices of people you have sent to carry your messages to your people.
We give you thanks for all of these voices -
and for the truth to which all of these voices point: That you are constantly aware of your creation – of its needs and wants; of its faith and lack of faith.
You constantly care about us,
about our lives as they are
about what we, in your love, have the potential to be.
All the voices you send to us,
remind us of your eternal love for us -
of your constant faithfulness to your promise to be our God
and your invitation to us to be your people.

We confess that we have turned away from you -
and day by day, we continue to turn away from you -

We turn away from you
in the things we think
in the things we say,
in the things we do.

We turn away from you
in the things we ought to think, but don't
in the things we ought to say but don't
in the things we ought to do but don't.

We act as if, when Jesus said “follow me”
he meant someone else, not us.

Turn us around to face you again -
give us the will and the ability
to hear Jesus' call again,
and to follow.
In his name we pray, Amen.

Kids' time

Remember what our candy cane reminded us about last week? (Shepherds)
There's another candy cane this week. I'm thinking if you hold it up like this it looks like a letter. Does some big prep kid want to tell me what letter this looks like? (J)
What name starts with “J” that we're thinking about at Christmas? (Jesus) You're right. Christmas is Jesus' birthday!
Guess what? This candy cane's got something written on it! Isn't that a surprise? Who can read it out?

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

(Does Bec have a present under the tree today? How does that help remind us about Jesus at Christmas?)

Advent Candle lighting liturgy (Young Adults)
1st reader: We have grown up in a world that's known continual wars.
2nd reader: From time to time, the place has changed, and the reason has changed, but fighting continues.
1st reader: Even within communities and homes, people don't seem to be able to live in peace.
2nd reader: Yet Jesus comes as Prince of Peace – as the one who can help us do what we just can't on our own.
All young adults: We look for Jesus to bring peace this Christmas.
(Relight first purple candle from last week, and pink candle for repentance this week.)

Hymn Together in Song 286 “Light One Candle” Verses 1 & 2 (Kids give out candy canes.)

Isaiah 40:1-11
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.


Last Sunday we heard words of hope – hope based in God's action of coming to us in Jesus.

Today as we progress through to the second week of Lent, we hear words of comfort, or peace, – but comfort which comes with a call for us to respond.

It is comfort mixed with something else. Let's start with Isaiah, very briefly. In Isaiah, God declares “comfort” for the nation of Israel because they've served their sentence – they've been punished enough. Israel may have been suffering, but not suffering innocently. The word for “comfort” can mean “be comforted or consoled” or it can mean “repent or be sorry”. Both meanings are very closely linked. We cannot be comfortable in our relationship with God, if we are not living in a right relationship with God. Repentance, which literally is “turning back” to God, is the way for us to approach God to come into that relationship.

Now let's look ahead to the gospel reading:

It's interesting to note here, that Mark introduces his gospel, not with a story of Jesus, but with the story of the appearance of John.

When we look at John's message, we need to see something of his character. John lived the message he brought – which is a good way to know if you can trust any leader.

John's birth was a miracle – his parents were already in old age and unable to have children. His birth had also been announced by the angel Gabrie, who gave instructions as to how he was to be raised – from birth he was dedicated to God in terms of the Nazirite vow – which included all sorts of rules of holiness. (Think of Samson – also bound by a Nazirite vow for life so not allowed to cut his hair.) Nazirite vows were usually taken on for a period of time, such as we might take on an extra spiritual discipline during lent. For John, it was his life, right from birth. That's why we hear about his clothes and diet – he's not taking on any luxuries of life, because he is totally dedicated to God.

John appeared out of the wilderness as a prophet – just as many prophets before him spent time in the wilderness. This is important, because in Jesus' day, people were expecting the prophet Elijah to return, and come ahead of the Messiah. John's appearance from the wilderness helped to put him in line with that heritage of prophets.

Many came out, expecting John to be the Messiah. At this time of history, with the Roman army occupying Israel, there were lots of “messiahs” wanting to bring a military or political salvation for the nation.

John was quick to dispel that belief. He made it very clear that his role was one of preparation – to get people ready for the coming of the Messiah they had been expecting for generations.

He called out to people to prepare through repentance. That's what John's baptism was about. It was a cleansing ceremony. That was something well known in his time – wealthy Jewish houses had baptisteries and cisterns for just such a purification ritual, which was done over and over again. It was not the same as Christian baptism which is a once-and-for-all-time incorporation into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

John's baptism was a declaration of an intent to turn back to God, to wash away the things that were wrong in life and start again fresh.

Let's have a quick look at the 2 Peter reading: in which people are also called to repentance, as a preparation for God to act. The reason Christ hasn't returned yet is because God has given us time to prepare, time to repent.

So in each of these three time periods: Old Testament, in Jesus' day, and in the post-resurrection life of the very early church, our hope that God will act is accompanied by a call to prepare through repentance.

The Biblical concept of Sin is about turning away from God. Conversely, the Biblical concept of repentance is turning around – to turn back to God.

We have a hope that God will act. We can rely on that, as our readings last week assured us. But in the meantime, we are called on to act in response to that hope and the assurance that comes with it. We must act by turning our lives to face toward God – to strive to be at peace with God. Again we see a link between peace or comfort and repentance.

The reason that the world has not ended before now – that Jesus has not yet returned, is not that God has forgotten and we should give up hope. Instead, it is because God is patient with us, and wants to give us all the opportunity to repent, to turn back to align our lives with God's will.

We are all given the opportunity to remember our origins – that we are creatures, made by God's hand – to turn back and live the lives we were created to live: at peace with our maker and with each other.

Hymn Together in Song 270 On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's cry



Prayers of the People

Merciful God,
Two millennia after John came out of the wilderness -
we hear his call to us today-
Repent, and prepare the way of the Lord.

You know the things we need to repent of:
things in the life of our world
things in the life of our nation
things in the life of our city and community
things in the lives of our families
things in our own lives.

Help us to face the things which are wrong, we pray
to accept that sin has been a part of our lives
and to let go of it.
Help us to turn around
to live lives in accord with your will
so that we may truly
prepare the way of the Lord.

God of peace – we pray for peace
we pray not just for the absence of war -
but for the peace of your Kingdom at work in the world.
We pray for wisdom among world leaders that leads to respect and understanding.
We pray for gentleness and respect and compassion among individuals.
In defiance of the way things are – we trust in your power and pray for what could be.
We pray for a world which takes seriously the Christmas promise of peace on earth and goodwill to all -
And we pray that you use us as you will, to help to bring this about wherever we are.
In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 264 Hark! A herald voice is calling


Threefold Amen.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Newsletter reflection: 4 December 2011

Advent Candle Liturgy Week 2 – Peace -Young Adults

1st reader: We have grown up in a world that's known continual wars.
2nd reader: From time to time, the place has changed, and the reason has changed, but fighting continues.
1st reader: Even within communities and homes, people don't seem to be able to live in peace.
2nd reader: Yet Jesus comes as Prince of Peace – as the one who can help us do what we just can't on our own.
All young adults: We look for Jesus to bring peace this Christmas.

Good morning

As we progress through our Advent readings, today Isaiah speaks to us of comfort and John calls us to repent.

We live in a world of turmoil, and often it seems our individual lives are in constant turmoil as well. What would it be like to be comforted, to actually be at peace? What would it take to achieve this – John's answer would be to repent – to turn back to God.

Sunday School children know the “right answer” to just about every question is “Jesus”. The same is true in the adult world – although nothing seems quite so simple from our point of view. What we want when we seek comfort in the turmoil of our lives is to be taken out of the turmoil – we want to be rescued. What God offers is usually something different.

When we repent – when we turn to face God – what we are doing is focussing on a different point. The turmoil is background, it's placed in perspective. We're not rescued from the trauma – we're shown that it is not as important as we thought it was. If we focus on the goodness of God, how important can any evil or pain in this world actually be? There is no comparison.

That's not to say we should not act, when we are able, to change things that are wrong with this world. In fact the prophets call down to us throughout the ages, that we must act for justice wherever God gives us the ability to do so – we must care for the widow and orphan, the homeless, the poor. Turning to face God will always inspire us to do better, to seek good not just for ourselves, but for all people and especially those least able to help themselves.

Today, as we journey through Advent, let's take the time to repent, to turn to focus our lives once again on God, and to get everything into perspective.

Grace and peace

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Service for Sunday 27 November 2011

Service for Sunday 27 November 2011
Year B. Advent 1.

Call to worship:
Happy New Year Everyone!

As Thom said last week – last Sunday was the final Sunday of the church year. Today, we begin the year again – with the first Sunday of Advent – our time of looking forward to the coming of Jesus – as the baby of Bethlehem, and as ruler and judge of the world.

As we look forward to the coming of Jesus, let us worship God:
Hymn Together in Song 276 There's a light upon the mountains

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Gracious God,
We come before you with hope
hope that your promises always will be fulfilled
just as they always have been.
Hope that things that are wrong with this world
will eventually be put right
hope that your in your love
all things really are possible.

We confess that at times
we look back to the past
and see you were at work there
we prepare for Christmas
as if it was only history and a time to party
as if the hope was gone.

We confess our fear, and anxiety
at the way the world is going
we read the news,
we hear and see the worst people can do
and we act as if you were powerless
as if all you could do has already been done.

Help us to trust you with the present and the future,
not just to see you as a part of the past.
And this Advent, help us to look
not just for the baby in the manger
But for Your Spirit at work in the world
and in our lives today -
and for Jesus' return in the future.

In his name, we pray.

Declaration of Forgiveness

What do these tinselly things on the pulpit today look like? Sort of like walking sticks? (Candy canes!)

Yum. Who likes candy canes?

Let's have a look at it.... You guys have been talking in Sunday School about when Jesus was born, right?

Well, this candy can sort of reminds me of someone who was there. There were some people who would have used sticks with bendy ends like this in their work. They would have used them to help pull sheep out of trouble, and keep them together. Who were they? (Shepherds)

How did they fit into the story of Jesus being born, can anyone tell me? (Let kids tell the story.)

Did I see one of you put a present under the Christmas tree just now? Can I open it? (It's a sheep!) Wow. Let's keep the sheep up here under the Christmas tree right up until Christmas to remind us about the story.

Now – I have some candy canes here with something written on them. Who can read it? (When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Child lying in the manger. Luke 2:16-17)

Who'd like one of these candy canes? Do you think we should share them with the adults? I've got a job for you to do right now – you guys are doing the advent candle this week – and then we're singing a hymn. While we're singing, you can give the candy canes out.

Advent Candle Week 1 – Hope – Kids

1st reader: Christmas is coming there's lots to hope for.
2nd reader: Presents, and lollies, and cakes, and a visit from Santa.
1st reader: Hope is young, it looks forward to what is coming...
2nd reader: Hope waits with excitement.
All kids: We hope for Jesus this Christmas.

Light first candle.

Hymn: Together in Song 276 Light One Candle – verse 1.

Isaiah 64:1-9
Mark 13:24-37

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

Today is the beginning of Advent. It's time we all started thinking about getting ready for Christmas. For a couple of weeks, maybe longer, the shops have had their Christmas decorations up and urged you to buy lots of things to prepare for Christmas.

Today my family will do things we have a long-standing tradition of doing on the first day of Advent – we'll put up our Christmas tree and nativity scene and decorate the house. Presents will start appearing under the tree over the next week or so.

In one sense that's all very appropriate – we are preparing for Christmas. In another we're a bit premature. We put out all of our nativity scene. Some families, and some churches, are a little more patient, and a little more in line with the events of Advent and Christmas. They begin with Mary and Joseph, adding baby Jesus and the shepherds on Christmas eve night, and then bringing in the wise men at Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas – the 6th of January.)

Putting the pieces in place as we remember them in the church calendar is perhaps more symbolic of what the season of Advent is about. It is a time of waiting, and it's a time of waiting for more than our celebrations of Christmas.

Advent is about waiting for Christ to come as the messiah – the baby of Bethlehem, which has already happened; but more than that, it is about waiting for him to return as judge and ruler of the world. So our readings for the four Sundays of Advent will take us through the ancient prophecies about the coming Messiah, the New Testament promise of the birth of Jesus; and also strange prophecies about the end of the world. Advent ties all of this together.

The Church is really an Advent people. We live in the time of already-but-not-yet. Christ has come, yet we wait for his coming, just as the people of Isaiah's time waited.

In the meantime, we live with the problems of the world around us. In Isaiah's time, the people of Israel were exiled, waiting for a leader who would take them home. They cried out to God for help, and the prophet brought them God's words of hope, using God's faithfulness in the past as evidence that could be relied on for trusting God in the future.

The earliest information we have about the Gospel writer Mark is that he was a disciple of Peter, and wrote down Peter's stories of Jesus. When Mark was writing, Christians had seen the fall of Jerusalem, the temple torn down. They had escaped the Holy City in time, but had become scattered. They had been persecuted firstly by Jews, and were beginning to be persecuted by Romans. Like Israel in exile, the church had become a people isolated from their spiritual home and not free to worship openly. Everything seemed to have been taken away from them.

And Mark found a message for hope for the Church in Peter's recollection that Jesus had said lots of bad stuff was going to happen, but that there was hope in the midst of the bad stuff. At some time, a time that no-one could predict (even though people will persist in trying), the son of Man would return, coming in the clouds. It was a reflection of what the prophet Daniel had said in Old Testament times.

In some of the passages we have read in the past few weeks, “keep awake” or “be prepared” has been a warning. Now it's a sign of hope. No matter how tough things get, don't lose hope; hold on, keep waiting and don't give up. Christ will come. No matter what happens, his promise can be relied upon – even if heaven and earth cease to exist – Christ's word will still hold true.

Her we are, in the 21st century since Jesus, and he still hasn't returned. We have been through the period of Christendom, when the church held sway over temporal as well as spiritual powers; when the church, in effect ruled much of the world. We've been through the Reformation, when we discovered that the church could become just as corrupt as any political power and does at times need to be challenged, and reformed. We've been through a time when Western nations considered themselves to be Christian nations, and the only division was between Christian denominations.

Now, we've reached a time when people are free to choose what faith they will have, if any. There's no longer any social expectation that people will be Christian. We've also reached a time where the popular perception of Christianity has been watered down enough that people can call themselves “Christian” without really knowing what that means, or practising the Christian faith in any way.

I was amazed a few years back, when census results showed that the small town of Kin Kin in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland had 100 Uniting Church members – I was amazed because Kin Kin was one of the congregations I was minister for at the time, and we had four people and one horse attending worship. (The horse was named Crystal, and she used to stick her head in the door and pay rapt attention to the service.) Our membership roll included four names (the horse hadn't been baptised or confirmed.) Attending worship is pretty much the most basic of the Christian disciplines. Yet people who clearly weren't doing that still felt free to call themselves Christian.

We're also seeing a rise of other faiths in our society: world religions, astrology, witchcraft, cults of all sorts, paganism, spiritualism, ancient gnosticism in its latest guise as New Age religion.

The world we live in is resembling more and more the world faced by the early church. Our problem is that we have been through the time of Christendom, when Christianity was seen as “normal” - and we've lost that understanding of what it is to be a community of faith, in a world that doesn't necessarily share that faith. And so people in our day and age throw up their hands in horror and exclaim it is hopeless, the church is declining, it's dying.

The truth is, time is moving, and we can't turn it back to some ideal past. (And if we could, we would probably discover that past wasn't so ideal, after all.) The church is not dying. It may have to change, but it's changed endless times before, and probably will endless times again. It may need to find different ways of doing things; but it is Christ's body in this world – and it will not die.

The world we live in is in many ways like the world of Mark's day. Christianity is one choice among many for people to believe in. Any sense of privilege that attached to being Christian has long gone. In fact, for many people, being Christian is seen with negative connotations. (And it was in Mark's day too.)

In Australia, we don't live under any particular persecution, although Christians in some countries really do. But there are times when sticking to our faith may make us seem different or strange.

The Mark reading is directed at a church which is in a lot of ways like us. They're not the centre of society (for them they never have been.) Sometimes they're considered with the suspicion (to say the very least) by their neighbours.

And Mark reminds this church – this is all OK. It's all OK because Jesus said all this kind of stuff will happen – but that doesn't mean it's the end. The problems we see (in their case the fall of Jerusalem, in our case a slow decline in the number of practising Christians in our country) are only a part of a much bigger picture. In the bigger picture – these things don't matter that much compared to the promise that Jesus will come back, and make everything right.

This is the future orientation of the advent season, indeed of the whole life of the church. At some time, Jesus will come back. This isn't the kind of hope for the future that involves doing as some groups which anticipate the end of the world do and go into bunkers or arm themselves to the teeth for some great battle. It's a hope – and it's based in God – not a fear based in some expectation of the evil human beings can do to each other. There is no point in going into hiding, or storing up food or doing anything to change the pattern of our days. There is no point, because we don't know when Jesus will return. (The church has been waiting more than 2000 years, so obviously a bit of patience is required with this.)

So if we don't prepare the way the radical groups and cults do, how do we prepare for Jesus' coming?

One clue is that the angels are sent out throughout the world to gather in the elect. Obviously, God's people are meant to be out in the world. We need to be in worship – but that's meant to be the fuel we use for life in the world. Our being an active part of the world is not supposed to change as long as this world exists. We are warned to keep awake, to be prepared at all times.

If we are to be out in the world doing what it is God wants at any time, we need to go back to the basics and ask so what is it God wants of us? Jesus summarised it in two simple-sounding instructions: Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.

They may sound simple – but they are difficult to sustain in the long-term. To always act in a way which shows infinite respect for God, others, and ourselves, is a tough call. It sounds easy – and it can be easy for a short time. But in human beings there is a tendency to want the best for ourselves – even if it costs others. (Or for some people to go to the other extreme and take so little care of themselves they are of no use to anyone else.) That's what makes it difficult long term, to put God first, and to measure our actions by what is loving towards God, and our neighbours as ourselves.

So in Advent, we are reminded to focus again on a question that has been with the Christian Church right from its birth – if Jesus were to return today, how would he feel about what he found us all doing?

And we look forward in hope, that despite all the things human beings have managed to do wrong in the world – Jesus will return – and all things will be put right for eternity.

Hymn: Together in Song 265 O come, O come, Emmanuel



Prayers of the People:
We pray for this world of yours
A world which is beginning to prepare for Christmas
A world planning to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace
while declared and undeclared wars rage around the planet
while people are still looking out for terrorists
while people in so many places are starving
while some of your people are in places where they are banned from celebrating Christmas at all.

Help us to
hear again this year,
the message given to the shepherds
of peace and goodwill from heaven to earth.
The promise that beyond the reality we know
is another reality – a reality which can give us peace in the midst of turmoil.
Help this world to have hope for the coming of Jesus -
and to learn to live his peace.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn: Together in Song 272 Come, thou long-expected Jesus


Threefold Amen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 27 November

Newsletter reflection for 27 November 2011

Our Advent Candle liturgy for today:
(Read by the Kids.)
1st reader: Christmas is coming there's lots to hope for.
2nd reader: Presents, and lollies, and cakes, and a visit from Santa.
1st reader: Hope is young, it looks forward to what is coming...
2nd reader: Hope waits with excitement.
All kids: We hope for Jesus this Christmas.

Good morning,

Nobody knows how to hope like a kid in Advent. There's just so many exciting things to look forward to, school holidays, presents, celebrations.

But our hope of advent is more than just a hope for all the good things we can have and do in our celebrations. Advent is about looking two different ways in history – we look back and anticipate Jesus coming to us as the baby of Bethlehem – but we also look forward and anticipate Jesus coming again as ruler and judge of the world.

We don't talk about judgement much any more. It's not seen as good publicity for the church. But it truly is a part of our advent hope. Jesus will come as judge – and the basis on which he will judge is the quality of our love. Each person we encounter in our daily life is Jesus coming to us in another form. How will we love them?

The world that Jesus judges – the one he puts right according to the way he wants things done – is a world of love. And so we have much to hope for through advent – as we hope for Jesus' return, and a future where his love is the most important thing there is.

Grace and Peace

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Everything In Common – The Gift Catalogue « UnitingWorld

Everything In Common – The Gift Catalogue « UnitingWorld:

'via Blog this'

Another option to give a gift that will make a real difference this Christmas - the Uniting World Catalogue.

After worship, once or twice during Advent, Lindy will organise a stall after church where you may buy Uniting World gifts. (ie you buy a card that tells the person you give it to that you gave a chicken or whatever on their behalf.)

Sunday 20th November 2011

Thom is preaching this Sunday, so I won't have a service on the blog. Come to church if you want to know what's going on!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Newsletter Reflection for 20 November 2011: What can we do?

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 20 November 2011.

Good morning,

As most of you know I do a blog about lupus. At the moment, I'm taking part in “Health Blogging Month” - a challenge where I'm given a topic to write on every day for a month.

One of the topics that I've been asked to think about is a “little red engine” blog – to write ten to fifteen things starting with “I think I can....”, and then write five that begin with “I know I can.....”

Of course, in the blogging challenge, this relates to living with lupus. But I wonder what a list like that would look like if it was done for our church? When we look around on Sunday morning and see the people sitting beside us. When we are together as Christ's body – and when we go out separately to do our daily activities – what do we think we can do? What do we know we can do? When we realise that we are never alone, but that the Spirit of God works along with us, what do we know we can do?

Today is Christ the King, or Reign of Christ Sunday in the church calendar – the last day of the church year. ( We begin again next Sunday with the first day of Advent.) Today we recall that Jesus is king, and that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. And we recall those things he has told us about judgment: that “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” What can we do? When even the things that seem small to us, can turn out to be a lot – then even a small congregation like ours can surely do incredible things!

Grace and peace

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Newsletter Reflection 13 November 2011 - Don't judge a book by its cover

Good morning,

I've been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about that old saying “you don't judge a book by its cover.” I've been thinking about it, because I've bought a new pain control device that's actually really helpful, and has even allowed me to reduce the amount of pain controlling drugs I take.

What's remarkable is that I've seen ads for this device for years, and dismissed it as “junk” because the ads looked like something incredibly dodgy. Despite the ads, however, the machine turns out to be a TENS machine, the same as my physiotherapist uses. It uses electrical currents to disrupt the pain messages from nerves to the brain. For me it works. I can have physiotherapy while sitting at my desk.

It reminds me of the story of Samuel going off to anoint a new king. He goes to Jesse's family and each of the sons come out in turn. Some look big and strong, and Samuel thinks they'd make impressive-looking kings, and God says no. Eventually, there's only one son left – the youngest, the kid who looks after the sheep. He's not big and strong. He's not expecting to inherit the family fortune. No-one's grooming him to be a success at anything more than watching the sheep. And God says – this is the one. Samuel can't see why, but he anoints the kid anyway. King David would be a legend, an example, and a reminder of glory, throughout the history of Israel.

Nobody but God saw what was inside the kid who looked after the sheep. Nobody but God saw who he could be.

Only God really knows the truth of any of us.

Grace and peace

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sunday, 13 November, 2011 [Year A, Sunday 33]

Worship Service for Sunday 13 November 2011
Year A Sunday 33

Call to Worship
God who is above all, and beyond all
chose to be one with us in Jesus,
and chooses to meet us here today in the Holy Spirit.
Let us worship God!

Hymn Together in Song 215 You servants of God.

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Creator God,
we give you thanks for the many wonderful works of your creation.
For sea and land; light and dark; earth and sky; sun and moon.
We give you thanks for the gift of life- the gift of our lives.
We give thanks for the precious gift of human life:
for the life in the womb, coming from Your creative power,
for the life of children, making us glad with their freshness and promise,
for the life of young people, hoping for a better world,
for the life of the handicapped and disabled, teaching us humility,
for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom.
We give you thanks for your creation of our human lives
and for your constant care and love of your creation even in times when we have turned our backs on you.

We thank you for the gift of Jesus,
who shared our lives as human beings -
who came to make it possible for us to live
in relationship with you.

We confess that we take your gifts too lightly,
we are tired and have become cynical,
we have lost our sense of horror at the waste of human life.
We have listened to news reports of wars, and mass deaths,
in faraway places, and our hearts have been too hard to grieve the losses.

We confess we take our own lives for granted.
Day by day, we fail to make the most of what you have given us.
Day by day, we fail to dedicate our lives to you.
Day by day, we treat the lives you gave us
as if they have no point, no purpose.

We are sorry for our ingratitude -
and ask that you help us to change -
that you help us to see the truth of all life,
and of our lives.
In the name of Jesus, who is Truth and Life,
we pray, Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids' time

Hymn Together in Song 662 I know someone who watches over me

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30
I guess we've all heard this parable before.

Let's recap anyway, and try to take into account actual values as we would understand them – because we're dealing with huge amounts here.

A businessman decided to go establish a new business in another country. He'd be away a fair while, because he was developing a totally new market. He had his business-class plane ticket booked, and his suits and laptop computer packed. He just needed to leave someone responsible for looking after his local financial interests while he was out of the country.

He got his lawyer to draw up the papers, then called in three of his employees to tell them what they were going to be doing.

To the first one he gave a power of attorney over five million dollars. (Yes, that's about the modern equivalent of the amount of money Jesus talked about.) The employee gulped, shuffled his feet, and said, “Sure boss, I'll do my best.”

The second employee, he gave power of attorney over two million dollars, and said take care of it. The second employee said, “OK Boss, I'll do my best.”

The third employee, he gave power of attorney over one million dollars. (This must have been the new guy.) He said, “Don't worry, Boss, it will be safe and sound when you get back.”

The three workers were in a strange situation. They apparently weren't accountants, or anyone at all used to dealing with this kind of money.

The first employee, with his five million decided that he was going to invest in a new business on the boss' behalf. He established a high-end interior decorating business and won contracts to refurbish Parliament House and the Sydney Opera House. Business was booming, in fact, he doubled the money.

The employee with the two million decided to try investing – he put some money in term deposits, some in some risky high-return investments, and some in some less risky lower-return investments. He was very careful with his investments, and eventually, he too, doubled his money.

The third employee, the new guy, had a bright idea. He saw the ventures the other two had gone into and realised that both had some risks involved. So he did something that he believed was perfectly safe. He put the money in a safe. It didn't increase. It didn't decrease. It didn't do anything. But it was safe, in the safe. He added a fence with razor wire at the top, forgot security code for his ultra-sensitive burglar alarm and had to stay very still inside until someone rescued him.

After a couple of years away, the businessman returned to see how things were going at home.

The first employee was a bit apologetic. A politician had reneged on a major contract when the media discovered that she was putting a $50 toilet roll holder in her office as a paper-weight. But he had ten million to hand over, having started with five. The boss was impressed, and told employee number one to hang on to the ten million and keep up the good work.

The second employee was also a bit apologetic. He'd lost a bit on the global financial crisis, but things had started coming good again. He had four million to hand over after having started with two. The boss was impressed, and told employee number two to hang on to the four million and keep up the good work.

Then came the third employee. He handed over the original million dollars and explained that he really hadn't wanted to take a risk with the money. The boss wasn't happy. Even bank interest would have been some profit! The boss sacked employee three on the spot – and told employee one to take charge of that million as well and do something worthwhile with it.

Nowadays, employee one is winning design awards left, right and centre. There's a tv series and a magazine on how to copy his style in your own home.

God Help Us!
Employee two's got a reputation for buying up failing businesses and making them profitable. Newspaper columnists watch his every move, because any company he's interested in will turn to gold.

Employee three's still looking for work that will suit his talents.

Well, that's a fairly amusing way to look at the parable. Now let's get serious.

Let's put ourselves in the story. Jesus is the businessman, who has gone away, leaving us the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, for the building up of God's reign. We all have sets of resources entrusted to our care. Will we use the resources, stretch them, take risks with them? Or will we safely hide them away? At some time Jesus will return and say “What did you do with the things I gave you?”

So what resources have we?

We all have bodies. Some have bodies that are more able than others. What do we do with our bodies, our hands, our feet, our eyes, our ears, and mouths, to further the reign of God where we are? What places do we physically go? What things do we physically do? How could those be used to carry out God's work?

We all have things we're good at. Some people might be good at sewing. Some people might be good at cooking. Some people might be good at arts and crafts. Some people might be good at gardening. Some people might be good at organising things. Some people might be good at typing. Some might be good at book-keeping. Some people are good at praying. Some are good at visiting others. Some people in this congregation are good at leading worship. Each of us is good at at least one thing. Many of us would be good at more than one thing.

Like the workers in the parable, we all have different gifts to work with. And like the workers, we all have different capacities to put those gifts to use. The difference between employees one and two and employee three is that one and two took the risk of actually using what they were given. They had a go. They could have failed abysmally, but they took the risk any way.

Employee Three, however, kept what was good to himself. He made sure his gifts were never in danger. He made sure, in fact, that no-one ever even saw that he had gifts. He failed, not because he didn't look after his gifts well, but because he missed the point of having them. The Bible tells us the reason the Holy Spirit gives us gifts is for the building up of the community of faith. It's not about personal development, or personal spirituality. Whatever we have is meant to be shared. We each have different gifts to benefit all of us.

How can we use the things we're good at to further the reign of God. Usually, when I ask questions like that I leave it to you to think about quietly. Today, I'm going to ask you to tell someone near you, one gift you have, and how you intend to use it. Tell someone near you, and hear what gift they have and how they plan to use it. But don't leave it at that. Some time in the future, when you see that person, ask them how they're going at what they planned to do.

(Discussion time)


Present Certificates of Eldership


Prayers of the People

God of all things
we bring you the needs of your world
needs which you know intimately,
but which we are barely aware of.

We bring you the needs of people in faraway places
The Horn of Africa
The people living in Japan, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster
The people of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Places we know by name,
because terrible things have happened there.
We bring you brothers and sisters we have not met
but who we know need you to act on their behalf.

We bring you the needs of your church
throughout the world,
throughout our nation,
in our own community
and in communities like our own.
People with different gifts and skills
People with different strengths and weaknesses
Brought together as the body of Christ in this world.
We pray that in every place, your people will be
gifted with all that we need
to carry the Good News
to the ends of the earth.

The Peace

Hymn Together in Song 535 I am the bread of life

Holy Communion Uniting in Worship II, page 162 &ff.

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


Threefold Amen.