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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

You've probably noticed the Patreon link appearing on the end of each post.  If you haven't encountered it before, Patreon is a system for people to support writers and other artists.  It's kind of like a continuing kickstarter or gofundme.

Patrons pay creators of blogs, art, music, etc, a set amount per post or per month.

So why would you become a patron of my writing? Here's a few reasons:
  • You love to read one or more of my blogs, and you think $1 or even more per month is good value for the information or entertainment you get out of them.
  • You want the rewards: for $1 per month, you will receive a copy of the electronic version of each new novel I write.  
  • More rewards: for $10 per month, you can be a Beta reader - you can read early drafts, and have the opportunity to give feedback and comments, as well as the $1 reward.  
  • Even more rewards: For $100 per month, you get to be a Gold Star Patron, and will be acknowledged on my blogs, and in future novels (as well as the $1 and $10 rewards).
  • You just think it would be cool to be able to call yourself a patron of the arts.
  • You can spare $1 or so a month, and think my writing is as good as anything to spend it on.
  • You adore the mrbumpycat.com animals, and would like to help fund their adventures.
  • You have lupus and sometimesitislupus.com helps you feel less isolated.
  • You enjoy short fiction, and like to read storiesontherun.com.
  • You find worship-services.blogspot.com is of value to you.
  • You really want to be the first to read my next novel.

For whatever reason.  If you want to sign up as a patron of my work, you can do so here: www.patreon.com/IrisCarden.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Service for Sunday 19 March 2017

Service for Sunday March 19, 2017
Year A Lent 3

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Purple.

Call to worship – Psalm 95:1-7 – Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 52 Let us sing to the God of salvation

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Loving God,
we give you thanks for the gift of each new day
for the new opportunities each day brings
We give you thanks for the gift of life
for all of the challenges, hopes, opportunities, this life brings,
We thank you most of all for the gift of Jesus
for his life, death, and resurrection for us
for the new life he offers to us.

We confess the times we live as if
the gift of Jesus didn't matter
the times we say, do, and think things that aren't worthy of your people
the times we fail to say, do and think things that are worthy of your people
Forgive us our failings, we pray.
Help us to begin anew.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Hymn Together in Song 162 Thank you for giving me the morning

Scripture
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

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

Sermon

Jesus stops in his journey from Judea to Galilee to speak with a Samaritan woman at a well... and that doesn't seem strange to us.

In his own day – some things were very wrong with this picture:

Firstly, what's he doing at the well anyway? It would have been the work of women in their group to go collect water from the well, not a man, and certainly not their teacher.

Secondly, he spoke with a strange woman. Again, it doesn't seem odd to us – but a Jewish teacher would not be speaking to a strange woman – any strange woman – because of fear of contamination. There was a risk the woman might not be ritually clean, and her uncleanness could be contagious...

But it gets worse, because thirdly, this strange woman was a Samaritan. This wasn't just a rivalry like the one between Queensland and that other state south of the border. This was like cold war USA and USSR. When John says “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans” it's the understatement of the first century. These two groups of people, even though they shared a common ancestry, did not like each other in the least. Each thought the other had corrupted the true faith – and could not be trusted in any way.

So there was Jesus, by himself, apparently, by a well in Samaria. It was a place where sooner or later a Samaritan woman would show up. But again, it would not just be any woman. He wasn't there at the time all the women came together to get their water – a woman coming on her own would be an outcast in her own community – someone the other women wouldn't want to associate with.

If you had a suspicious mind, you might think that this wasn't a chance meeting at all, that Jesus had gone out of his way intending to meet someone just like this particular unnamed woman. If you had a suspicious mind, you might think he'd chosen her, or at least someone like her – who would be as far as possible from the kind of person he “should” be speaking with. John tells us that if the disciples harboured such suspicions, they didn't dare say so – they didn't ask him why he was speaking with her.

When we first meet this woman in John's Gospel, she's remarkable for all the wrong reasons: she's a Samaritan woman, and she's at the well without all the other women which tells us a lot about how she's seen in her own community.

As the story goes on, she becomes remarkable for other reasons.

This is the longest recorded dialogue of Jesus with anyone. Jesus not only talked with her – he talked with her seriously, at great depth, and with exactly the same respect as he showed Jewish teachers such as Nicodemus.

He revealed a great deal about himself in this conversation, openly declaring himself to be the messiah, and showed that he knew enough about her to convince her he was a prophet. (Even in an era with a high mortality rate and where a man could divorce his wife by simply saying “I divorce you”, a woman having been married five times would be unusual. That the man whose household she was now living in was not her husband – but some relative or other man who had some responsibility for her would not be quite so unusual, but it was still remarkable that Jesus knew this.

So, to some extent, it was Jesus who made this encounter with the woman something extraordinary.

But the woman's response also made the encounter extraordinary. She could have gone away and kept what she knew to herself. She could have thought about it for a while, maybe told one or two close friends.

Instead, a woman who was so unpopular that she had to go to the well alone, went on a missionary journey to the town she lived in. In this town, that really didn't accept her that well, she told everyone about her encounter with Jesus so convincingly that they all wanted to meet him too.

Then she brought them to him, so they could meet him, and could then believe because they saw for themselves.

It's sad that we don't even know this woman's name, because she's a great example for the church. She had clearly been very unfortunate or very unwanted – she had experienced a very difficult life. Being widowed or divorced five times, in a world where there was no social security and family provided everything, would have meant she had more than her fair share of insecurity, poverty, loss. Being an unmarried woman in a society where a woman's value was measured by the children she could produce, meant she didn't matter much to anyone. Like the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors Jesus associated with, this was a woman no-one wanted to know.

To Jesus she mattered. Jesus showed her that she mattered to him as much as anyone else. From her meeting with Jesus she gained a sense of worth and dignity – and the confidence to go to the town and preach the good news that the messiah had come to visit them. And she had the confidence to preach in a way that people who would normally overlook her, believed what she said.

And then she brought them, the townspeople, the people who had not valued her, to Jesus, so they could discover the truth for themselves. The “living water” she had found, the truth that would never leave her needing more – she shared.

This is the truth of the church – who we are meant to be. We find our value, our worth and dignity in our relationship with Jesus. That is what defines who we are – not what we've done, not how we feel about ourselves or how other people feel about us. Because of Jesus, we all have great value. We are important, not because of anything we can do or anything we have – we are important because we are important to Jesus.

Finding our value, the truth of who we are, in Jesus, we then must choose how we respond.

If we follow the example of the Samaritan woman, we respond by gaining confidence from recognising that we have such a value to Jesus – and we use that confidence to go to share what we have discovered with others. If we are excited by what we have found in relationship with Jesus, we will want to bring others to him as well.

When we look at mission opportunities for the church, we are seeking to find ways to share our encounter with Jesus with the people around us. It's one thing to find ways to share our meeting with Jesus with people who are like us – quite another to, as with the woman at the well – to go to people we might not have a lot in common with to share what we have discovered in Jesus. This is a process of inviting people.

And she brought them to Jesus – so that after first believing because of what she told them – they came to believe in him because they knew him personally. And that's our ultimate goal in mission or outreach – that people would come to know for themselves what we have discovered in Jesus. We could see this as incorporating people into the life of the Christian faith – helping them to find their place where they know Jesus personally, and know how much he values them.

Jesus is the “Living Water” the one thing we really need, but we are meant to share him with others, not keep him to ourselves.



Hymn Together in Song 129 Amazing Grace

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People

Loving God
We pray for this world you love
So many people are suffering so much
From natural disasters to human-orchestrated violence
there seems to be no end to the suffering.
God, this is your world, the world you love
These are people made in your own image
People Jesus lived, died and rose again for.
God, be with the people of your world
especially those who are suffering the most,
and help your people, guide us to do what we can to help.


We pray for our congregation here
Guide to find those people in our community who most need to know your love.
Give us to ways to tell them that whoever they are, whatever they have done, their true value is in you – that your love makes them precious.
Help us to bring them to you – so that they can discover your love for themselves, not just because of what we say about you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 684 Love will be our Lenten Calling

Benediction

Threefold Amen.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Service for Sunday 8 January, 2017

Service for Sunday 8 January, 2017
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Year A Baptism of Jesus

Call to Worship  - Psalm 29:1-12
Ascribe to the LORD, o heavenly beings,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the Lord in holy splendour. 

Hymn Together in Song 675 Lord, the light of your love is shining

Lighting the Christ Candle

Passing the peace

Hymn Together in song 256 From Heaven you Came

Prayers of adoration and confession
Holy God,
with the heavenly beings
and with all of creation
we do ascribe glory to you
and seek to worship you.

Along with the largest mountain
along with the smallest atom
we exist to bring glory to your name. 

We praise you and give you thanks for the wonder 
of your creation
for the magnitude of your achievements
for the immeasurability 
of your love for us.

We confess the times 
when we don’t bring glory
to you or even to ourselves.
We confess our shame
and our guilt - 
our open and honest mistakes
and our darkest hidden secrets.
We confess what you already know and pray your forgiveness - 
In Jesus’ name,
Amen

Declaration of forgiveness

Hymn: Together in Song 270 On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Scripture: Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17


Sermon: When we ask “why?” 

Why?

It’s the question most people want an answer for - and the question there’s most often no answer to.  We begin to ask “why” in childhood.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the conversation that goes like this:

“Eat your dinner.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s good for you.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s got nutrients that your body needs to be healthy”

“Why?”

“Because that’s the way God designed you.”

“Why?”

“because that’s the way God wanted to do it.”

“Why?”

“Just eat your dinner.”

The problem with the question why, is that whenever we get an answer, there’s always another “why” to ask.  If we keep asking we reach a point where we have no answer or no answer that we can understand.

Of course when we grow up, we stop asking why we have to eat dinner.  We have grown-up versions of the question “why?”

“Why is this happening to me?” “Why did this happen to someone I care about?”  “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do Christians suffer the same as everyone else?”  “Why does crime so often pay?”  “Why was that person elected?”

Sometimes, these questions have actual answers.  Sometimes, they are the natural consequences of our own or others’ actions. However, that’s not always true. Sometimes things like that just are.

Sometimes, in the face of things we don’t understand, God helps us to find things of value, even in the pain of the experience. But whatever positive value God helps us find in the events of our lives aren’t necessarily the reason we endure that suffering.  They are signs that under the influence of God’s creativity, blessings can grow in the midst of hardship.

So what is God’s answer to our “why?”

It’s not to give us reasons why. Perhaps reasons are really more than we are able to cope with or understand.  

Instead, God responds to us in Jesus.  In the story of Jesus’ baptism, we see that response.

Jesus was baptised by John, received the Holy Spirit, and heard God’s words of approval. He didn’t need to do that for himself.

Jesus was one with God, one with the Holy Spirit, for eternity.  So he didn’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, and he didn’t need God’s word of approval.  

He certainly didn’t need to be baptised by John, as John himself was quick to point out. John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins - and Jesus had no sins to forgive.

Jesus was baptised to stand with people who did need forgiveness - with us.  He was declaring himself to be one with us, not because he had to, but because he chose to; not to benefit him, but to benefit us. Jesus, one with God for eternity, was baptised to identify as one with us.

As a result of this, Christian baptism is about far more than the forgiveness of sins - just as Jesus in baptism claimed to be one with us, then in our baptism, we are made one with him.  We have become incorporated into his body, the church.

God’s answer to “why?” isn’t to say “because…” it’s not to give us reasons.  God’s answer is to give us Jesus.  God’s answer is “I care, I understand, and I won’t let you go through it alone, I’m going to share your life with you.”

God, in Jesus, became one with us: not to end suffering - not yet; not to give us all the explanations we want; but to share the burden with us.

Through our hardest times, when we are weakest, we can rely on God’s strength and become stronger.

Through the times when we are most alone, God provides us with companionship and understanding.

Through the times when we face illness and even death, God gives us new life.







Offering and Hymn Together in Song 674 Inspired by love and anger

Dedication of offering.

Notices/What’s God doing among us?

Prayers of the people

Merciful God
We look at the pain in our world and we ask “why?”
Why must the innocent suffer - and the guilty go unpunished?
Why must we have wars and famine, disease and drought?
Why must people be in danger, in the homes where they should feel most safe?

We have so many questions
and only you know the answers.

Give us the faith to trust your wisdom, 
when our own wisdom is insufficient.
Give us hope to work for good 
and to believe that good is possible - 
even when it seems hard to achieve.
Give us the grace to reach out in love and 
help to bear one another’s burdens.
Give us the discernment to know 
you walking the journey with us, 
guiding us through the hardest of times.

We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hymn Together in Song 693 Come as you are

Service of holy communion

Benediction

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness,