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
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
Hymn Together in Song 662 I know someone who watches over me
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
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 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.
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.
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