Call to worship
God has never rested, never stopped, never given up on creation.
God is always creating, making and doing new things in this world.
Let us celebrate the God who takes us by surprise,
And leads us to places we don’t expect.
Hymn Together in Song 442 All praise to our redeeming Lord
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
We thank you that you have never left this world of yours, or these people of yours alone.
Thank you that you show yourself to your world, in ways that we can recognise.
Thank you that in Jesus you revealed your own character, and invited us to come to know you, and to love you.
We thank you that the character you have shown us is one of love, love that is patient and forgiving enough to deal with all of our failings.
We sometimes act as if this world, and the people in it, did not belong to you –
As if we could do what we liked without consequence –
As if our failure to love you,
Our failure to respect your creation
Our failure to love our neighbour
Was of no consequence whatsoever
We recognise once more, that these things matter deeply to you, and we ask your help to turn back from this sin. To try again, to be your people, as you are always our God.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus has shown us that it is God’s nature to love, to forgive, to offer new chances at life.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!
Hymn Together in Song 717 Give thanks
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!
In other places, Jesus taught with authority, amazed people, and then worked miracles. Back in his home town, he taught with authority, amazed people, and then everyone said, “Who does he think he is anyway? We saw him growing up. We know he climbed trees, and skinned his knees when he was a boy, and got pimples when he was a teenager. We know his brothers and sisters – they’re just normal people. There’s nothing special about any of them.”
And he wasn’t able to do anything with them.
His own neighbourhood, the people he’d grown up with, couldn’t see past the normal kid from a normal family, couldn’t have faith that God was doing something extraordinary in front of them.
In a sense, it’s not surprising. A few weeks ago, we read that Jesus mum and brothers had thought he’d gone insane and were trying to take him home to look after him. Jesus had denied his birth family and declared that his real family were those who would obey his Father. (It wouldn’t always be like that – we know that at least some of Jesus’ family had faith in him later. By the time Paul was writing, Jesus’ brother James was a leader in the church in Jerusalem.)
So here we see the same lack of faith, not just from his family, but from his whole home town. The people who knew Jesus best, could not see past what they thought was obvious.
Their lack of willingness to believe in Jesus, left him unable to do anything with them.
Just as we saw earlier the contrast between the family who thought he’d gone mad, and the followers he said were his true family, we see now a contrast between the people of his hometown who had so little faith that he couldn’t work miracles with them, and the twelve who have so much faith that he can send them out and they can work miracles without him being physically present.
So what was the problem with Jesus’ hometown? They were so sure of what they thought they knew, that they couldn’t see what was actually going on. God was doing something completely new and different, but they could only accept what they already knew. Their minds were completely closed.
Oh, I believe in a healthy degree of scepticism. Having minds too open could let our brains fall out. There were lots of false prophets and messiahs in Jesus’ day. Lots of them led people astray. There’s been plenty of false prophets in our own day – the world was going to end a couple of months ago according to one of them. We can’t just believe everything everyone tells us.
On the other hand, a totally closed mind refuses to accept that the God who created everything, can keep being creative and doing new things. A completely closed mind never learns, never grows, never sees the wonder of what is right in front of it. Nothing of any use can go in or out of a locked door.
So what’s the clue that Jesus’ listeners should have known to trust him?
When Jesus preached, he spoke with authority. That same thing is said about his preaching both in the towns where people believed in him and where they didn’t believe in him. Something about his preaching set what he said apart from the other rabbis and the false prophets and messiahs. There was something that listeners could recognise as authentically coming from God. It was identifiable.
If God is always creative, always doing new and different things, the way we recognise what God is doing, is by recognising God first as the one who is doing it. For us, the most clear image of God we have is in Jesus. When social change is happening, the way to know whether or not it is being driven by God is to look how it fits with the character of God we see in Jesus.
So, when something is happening that seems to exclude any group of people, or treat them as less valuable than other people, for whatever reason, we look to the character of Jesus. He chose to associate with the sinners of his day. The people who weren’t good enough were always good enough for him. He went to their homes, shared in their celebrations. With his own presence, he gave dignity to people who were not socially acceptable. He wouldn’t cut anyone off from God’s grace – although some people like the rich young man who couldn’t give his money up to follow, cut themselves off. Any social or political movement that says a group of people should be treated the same as everyone else – is much more in line with the character of God displayed in Jesus.
When we look at issues about things like whether healthcare should be available to everyone, we look to Jesus, who healed people without concern as to whether they could afford it, or deserved it. When we look at issues about feeding the hungry, we recall Jesus feeding thousands of people, who could have been sent off to the next town to try to find their own food, but who he chose to care for.
When we look at issues where people are labelled as “sinners”, as “not good enough”, as “not as good as us”, or “outsiders” for any reason, we look to Jesus who knows all our hearts and souls and asks if we really dare to throw the first stone. Jesus knows the truth of who we are – sinners who are justified not by our actions, but by his. Even knowing the truth, he loves us, and he wants us to love other sinners, who are really just the same as we are.
God is constantly doing new things – creating and re-creating the life of the world. What doesn’t change, what we can recognise, is God’s character. The God we see in Jesus, is the same, then, now, and into the future.
Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness
Prayers of the People
Sung response Hymn 741 Chorus (O Lord hear my prayer)
We pray for this world of your creation.
We pray for the future of our planet, with all of its fragility, and with all of the harm that has been caused to it. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for people in need – for refugees, who flee the intolerable, risking everything to go into the unknown. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for people in need – for people who have no safe and healthy place to live, who have no security and no comfort. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for people in need – for people who are lost or alone, who need understanding and love. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for people in need – for those who are sick or in pain, physically or mentally, who need to be healed. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for the leaders of your church, the Uniting Church, and the whole Christian church throughout the world. May they discern what you are doing in the world, so that they may help all Christians to follow your lead. Lord, hear us. response
We pray for all of the world’s political leaders, may you inspire them to love, compassion, justice and peace. Lord, hear us. response
We pray all these things, in and through your Son Jesus, who came and showed us your face. Amen.
Passing the Peace
Hymn Together in Song 707 Bread is blessed and broken
Service of Holy Communion (from Uniting in Worship II)
Hymn Together in Song 530 Now let us from this table rise