Saturday, 18 January 2020

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Trinity Ipswich Uniting Church
Sunday 19 January 2020
Year A Epiphany 2

Call to worship (Psalm 40: 1-11 Responsive, from Uniting in Worship)

Psalm 40

1          I waited patiently for the Lord; *
he inclined to me and heard my cry.

2          He brought me out of the roaring pit, out of the mire and clay; *
he set my feet upon a rock and made my footing sure.

3          He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; *
many shall see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

4          Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, *
who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

5          Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God. How great your designs for us! *
There is none that can be compared with you.

6          If I were to proclaim them and tell of them *
they would be more than I am able to express.

7          Sacrifice and offering you do not desire *
but my ears you have opened;

8          Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required; *
then said I: ‘Lo, I come.

9          ‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me that I should do your will, O my God; *
I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’

10         I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; *
behold, I did not restrain my lips, and that, O Lord, you know.

11         Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; *
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth from the great congregation.

12         Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord; *
let your love and your faithfulness always preserve me,

13         For innumerable troubles have come about me; my sins have overtaken me so that I cannot look up; *
they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me.

14         Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; *
O Lord, make haste to help me.

15         Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed who seek after my life to destroy it; *
let them be driven back and put to shame who wish me evil.

16         Let those who heap insults upon me *
be desolate because of their shame.

17         Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; *
let those who love your salvation say always, ‘The Lord is great.’

18         Though I am poor and needy, *
the Lord cares for me.

19         You are my helper and my deliverer; *
O my God, make no delay.

Hymn Together in Song 228 Crown him with many crowns

Prayer of Adoration and thanksgiving

Creator God,

Maker of all that is,
We thank you for your many amazing gifts to us,
This week, especially, we thank you for the gift of rain,
For the sound, sight and smell of water on parched earth,
For the new life that will grow from it.
For the cooling of bushfires,
the opportunity to fight them, 
And the chance of relief.

We thank you for your human gifts,
For the heroes out fighting fires,
For people who raise money to help,
For people who travel great distances to offer support to the firefighters and those who have lost so much.

We thank you for all things we usually take for granted,
But which we are now reminded are so precious,
For homes, for loved ones,
For the amazing flora and fauna of this incredible country.

We thank you that every good thing in this world,
And even the world itself,
Is a gift of your great love.

We thank you and praise you,
In Jesus’ name.

Prayer of Confession

Merciful God,
We confess our failings, our mistakes, and our deliberate misdeeds.
We have not always loved you with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
We have not always considered your will in our day-to-day choices,
We have not always shown respect for your work of creation
We have not always loved our neighbours as ourselves.

In a moment of silence, we offer our individual confessions.

We confess and are sorry for all our wrongs.
We ask your forgiveness, 
And your help to repent, to turn our lives around, 
So that we may live in accordance with your will for us.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

The truth and the promise of the Gospel is this:
Jesus came into the world for the sake of ordinary, sinful people, just like us.
So I have confidence to say to you:
Our sins are forgiven.
            Thanks be to God.

Notices (Elder on roster)

Hymn Together in Song 430 Your words to me are life and health

Bible readings
Isaiah 49:1-7
John 1: 29-42

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


When I was a teenager, my parents started a bushfire.  They didn’t mean to do it.  They were installing a new bore pump, and a welding spark got away into the dry spear grass. If you’ve never seen dried-out spear grass burn, you probably would not believe how fast it spreads.

On that day, no-one died, no houses were lost.  Our neighbour lost his eyebrows trying to save our dog.  The fire was so fast it went straight over the dog, burning all his hair off, but only leaving minor burns to his skin.  (But he smelled like burned dog hair and ointment for moths afterward.)

After the fire, everything was black, until it rained.  Then, overnight, green started coming through the black. In no time everything was green and fresh, and at first glance, it looked as if the fire had never been there. 

But if you looked closer, you would see that some of the fire-blackened trees had not regrown, and some had just fallen over and would be lost from sight amongst the grass again.  One of the rainwater tanks still had scorch marks, showing just how close the flames had come to the house.

In time, everything would come to look normal, but, if you knew where to look, you could still find the evidence of what had happened, the permanent changes caused by a tiny spark.

Let’s look at the Gospel reading for today.  John was with two of his disciples and made his proclamation about Jesus, the lamb of God. Those two disciples immediately left John and went to follow Jesus.  After they’d spent most of the day with Jesus, one of them, Andrew, went out to tell his brother. Andrew brought Simon back with him. Jesus renamed Simon as Cephas, (the Hebrew/Aramaic for Peter.)

Something was beginning. At first it was just that tiny spark.  But those initial three would tell other people about Jesus, and those people would tell others who would tell others.  Eventually, it would reach a point where crowds would come to see him everywhere he went.  He couldn’t even get time alone to pray.  Some of you might remember Beatlemania.  This was Jesusmania.

Then John was beheaded, Jesus was crucified, the crowds dispersed, and everything looked exactly the way it had been. Roman occupied Israel had been disrupted momentarily, but then it just got back on with its normal life.  Everything was the same as it had been, or so it appeared.

In fact, the world had changed, permanently.  If you look you can still see the evidence today.

We are that evidence, we, along with all the other modern disciples of Jesus who meet in so many different places all over the world.

Somewhere along the line, each person here had a John or an Andrew, someone who invited us to come and meet Jesus. It may have been more than one person, it may have been a family or a community.  

At some point, each of us, having met Jesus, has made the decision to follow, to become a disciple. 

And at some point each of us, will have the opportunity to invite others to meet Jesus.  

We are a sign of the change Jesus has made in this world. When people know that about us, they will at look the disciples to see what our teacher is like.

There’s an old rhyme: “Mr Business went to church. He never missed a Sunday. Mr Business went to Hell for what he did on Monday.” 

People notice whether or not our words and actions fit what we say we believe. 

Our discipleship is not a pair of comfortable old slippers, we can relax in. It’s a pair of working boots. We’ve never just “arrived”. Following Jesus is a lifelong pursuit.

It affects all of our relationships: with God, and with creation (because to love God must include showing respect to God’s work of creation); and with all of the people around us.  We follow Jesus in church, at work, in the supermarket, at home, in the polling booth: wherever we are and whatever we do.

This is the challenge of discipleship.  Do our lives say: “Come and meet the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”?  or do they say: “Nothing to see here, it’s just business as usual” ?

Hymn Together in Song 256 From Heaven You came


Prayers of the people

Gracious God
You know the needs of your world

You know the horrors of bushfires,
And the incredible grief at all that has been lost.
Some have lost homes and possessions,
Some have lost people they love
Wildlife have lost habitat and lives.
The scorched earth will take so long to recover.
You already know the desperate need for rain, 
and the risks of spreading pollution that the needed rain will eventually bring.
Merciful God,
You know our horror and our grief.
Walk with this nation as it must rebuild.
Inspire our leaders as they act in response,
Guide and strengthen us, as we seek to do what we are able to help.

You know the needs of this congregation
those spoken and unspoken.
We bring to you these people in their needs
(see list)
We bring to you the needs we are not aware of, but you are.
Be with each person in this place,
And each we know and love,
Bring strength, resilience, peace and hope, in whatever they are facing.

God, in your compassion and mercy,
please look kindly on all these needs.
And inspire us to work alongside you, 
towards meeting the needs of our community and our world.

We pray in Jesus name, and we use his words: 

The Lord’s prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
          as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
          and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.

Hymn Together in Song 571 Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go


Three-fold Amen

(Anyone wanting a copy of the sermon can find it at

Monday, 25 November 2019

Year A Advent 2

Year A Advent 2
Sunday 8 December, 2019
Ipswich Central Uniting Church

Call to Worship
A voice cries out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

The voice calls out to us
across the centuries, without fading:
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

When we're busy with work
and home and all of life
Do we have the time to
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

When the Lord comes, will we have room?
Or will we offer a bed in the hay as the best we have?
Will we
Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Let us make our preparations now
Let us make the space for Christ to enter
Let us worship God

Advent Candles – (? To check if we are having an Advent Candle liturgy/ or lighting Christ Candle)

Passing the Peace:  The peace of the Lord be with you always
          And also with you

Hymn: Together in Song  270 “On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry”

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

God of all times and seasons,
in this season of Advent
we gather to worship
and to prepare the way of the Lord -

The world around us prepares
with the excitement of children
with the music of carols
with snow-covered Christmas cards
with remembering friends
with buying gifts
with preparing food
and we take part in all of those things.

As we take part – help us to remember
that our preparation needs to be more
we need to prepare our hearts and minds
and we need to do what we can to prepare our world
not merely for the mystery that you could
reach out to your world through a helpless, homeless child
but for the promise that child would return
as our judge, and as the source of all our hopes for real peace
for the fulfilling of all that creation could be.

We confess that sometimes we take part in the preparations
as if we were simply going through the motions
as if the preparation were just for a party
or just for one day -
and not a preparation for the possibilities and hopes for eternity.

We confess that in the tinsel and the wrapping paper
we sometimes forget, that the call to prepare the way of the Lord
applies to us just as much as as it applied beside the Jordan river 2000 years ago.

This Advent Season,
and this Christmas, as it approaches,
turn us around
help us to see the vision for eternity,
not just for this month,
help us to truly prepare the way of the Lord.
In his name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness
        ... Our sins are forgiven
       Thanks be to God!

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

Isaiah 11:1-10
Matthew 3:1-12
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God


We all have our own ways of getting ready for Christmas. In our family the Christmas tree is put up and decorated on the first Sunday of Advent. Over the next weeks, presents are wrapped and put under the tree – for the cat to tear open and spread all over the house, so we can rewrap and put them under the tree. We start cooking special treats for Christmas, and eating them, and cooking more to replace what we've eaten so we'll have some for Christmas. We send cards, and if we're really energetic, letters, to family and friends.

Different families have their own traditions. Most have developed over time to suit the people involved, and change as the family grows and changes.

This week's readings look at preparation in a different way. So what are we preparing for? And how are we preparing?

Let's start with Isaiah. What are we preparing for? Our passage from Isaiah is one of the traditional readings for Advent. It shows the ancient Israelite people looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. This follows on well from last week's reading from Isaiah – the swords being turned into ploughshares passage. Today we continue the image of radical peace.

Peace is something that comes as a result of judgement and justice. With righteousness he shall judge the poor – not by what they can afford to pay for. With equity he will judge the meek – even if they don't stand up for themselves.

The result of this just judgement is the radical peace which makes natural enemies into friends. The image here of predators lying down beside their prey, living in peace is a beautiful one, the kind of thing we expect to find in poetry or whimsical artwork.

If we reinterpreted this image into the world we know we would see politicians of all breeds sorting their differences out and searching together for the best solution to problems. We would see wars end, and nations work together to feed and clothe the poorest people in the world. We would see a world in which weapons and even the thought of violence were distant memories moulding in the basements of museums. We would see a world in which children never suffered from hunger, homelessness or abuse. We would see a world in which we just got on with dealing with things like climate change - because we'd all just choose what was right for God's creation and for each other. This is Isaiah's vision of radical peace, of the lion laying down with the lamb.

Such a world, according to Isaiah, begins with justice – with a righteous judgement on what is – and a vision of what could be. True peace never comes without justice. Justice, at its heart, is the movement to make things right and fair. In Isaiah's vision, the coming of the Messiah is the catalyst for this justice – for the peace that grows from it.

Living between the coming of the Messiah, and his return to fulfil all that he has begun, we have the opportunity to be a part of that movement for justice – of promoting justice, which ultimately promotes peace in the world.

Justice can be an important part in our understanding of life. For example, if justice affects the way we watch the television news – we will watch refugees arriving from other countries, not as huge numbers of people and a big problem to be dealt with – but as many individuals with individual personalities and individual needs, many who have been through terrible ordeals, who need to be encouraged, accepted, and above all, shown love. If justice affects the way we watch the television news, we will see war in other countries, not as some distant event, but as a tragic example of humankind's capacity to commit evil – and we will feel the pain as each new battle makes humanity less than what we are created to be, and shows up once more our failure to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. If justice affects the way we relate to other people, we will be listening to their opinions, caring about their feelings, trying to be fair and just in all of our actions.

If justice affects how we shop,  we will try to be aware of where our goods come from, and be concerned about the working conditions of the people who produce those goods.  If justice affects how we live in God's creation, we will seek to care for the world around us, and limit our impact on the planet.

The Matthew reading is also about Justice and Judgement. John leaves his listeners in no doubt about how he feels the Pharisees and Sadducees will be judged. I've sometimes imagined what the response would be like if a modern minister preached this particular sermon. Greeting the congregation with something like: “You brood of vipers!” might be what it takes to get people talking with their friends, neighbours and workmates about what was said in church on Sunday – but I doubt it would make the minister in question very popular!

John doesn't leave them with that, though – he tells them what to do to prepare for Judgement. They need, as much as anyone else, to repent.

Repentance isn't an empty word. It doesn't just mean saying something like “I'm sorry.”

In the New Testament, the word we translate as “repentance” (metanoia) means to turn around. It's the opposite of the New Testament term for sin which means to turn away from God. To repent means to turn back – it's not an empty word, it's a complete change of one's life's direction.

The way to prepare for God's judgement, is to look at our lives, and see ourselves as God sees us – being aware of all that we like to notice, and all that we'd rather not notice – and acting to change – to align ourselves more and more with God's will.

John called out to people to prepare the way, to repent.

Christmas is coming – more importantly, in this Advent Season, we recall that Jesus will return – and John's voice still calls to us through the ages for us to prepare the way.

So this Advent – as we each go through our family's traditions; address cards, wrap presents, spend far too much time and money at the shops and eat too much, let's all take some time out to remember: what we are preparing for, and how we are to prepare.

Hymn Together in Song 697 All the sleepy should have a place to sleep
        with Offering

Dedication of offering


Prayers of the People
God of Justice and Peace
Isaiah showed us a vision of real justice
of your justice
he showed us how a peace we can barely imagine
would grow out of your justice alive in the world.

We pray for a world which knows neither -
in which justice can be more about revenge than making things right;
in which peace is just a temporary cease-fire
while we find more reasons to resume the insanity.

We hand over to you the injustices
The people who go without food or homes or medicine
while others have more than they can ever use;
the people who live with abuse and fear
while others seem able to get away with anything.
We pray for your justice and your peace.

We pray for healing for your world –
especially in this community and in our own lives.
You know the hurts of each person -
you know our deepest needs -
We pray that you reach into all our lives-
and heal those things which are wrong.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 279 The King of Glory comes


Hymn Together in Song 276 There's a light upon the mountains