May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you Grace and Peace.
Call to Worship –
Holy Spirit of grace, when we are tardy, Come find us in our idling.
When we are troubled, sit with us in our worry.
When we are happy, come and dance with us.
Through all our days, be our constant companion.
We come to worship the living God.
God of good things, we give thanks for your eternal kindness to us.
We praise you for the love and compassion you extend to us throughout our lives. You have been with us from before our birth and journey with us until we return to dust. There has never been a time when you have not been for us. We give thanks for your gift of the earth, the mothering planet that nourishes and sustains us, the beauty and wonder that is ours to behold.
We rejoice in the ever-changing sky, the reliable cycle of the sun and moon, the forests and coastlines, diverse animals and birds, rivers and coral seas. We are in awe of all of this. You are beyond our imagination and worthy of all praise, thanksgiving and adoration. But we have to confess that we as humans are degrading the earth – depleting the forests and changing the environment causing catastrophic climate change and losses of animal and bird species. Even as we celebrate the beauty of the earth you created, we see the problems we have created around us. Forgive us, Gracious God, and grant us your wisdom to begin to change our behaviours to love our planet as you do. We ask in the name of Jesus our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Words of Assurance
God is generous. Scriptures for today remind us that no one comes too late to receive God’s mercy. God does not withhold forgiveness – but freely gives to all, in spite of our complaints and ingratitude. Let this knowledge lift us from all our wrongdoings and transform our lives. Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
HYMN– TIS 154 Great is your faithfulness
Great is your faithfulness, O God my Father,
in you no shadow of turning we see;
you never fail and your love is unchanging:
as you have been you for ever will be.
Great is your faithfulness.
great is your faithfulness,
morning by morning new mercies we see;
all we have needed your hand has provided:
great is your faithfulness, Lord God, to me.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in unspoken witness
to your great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that’s enduring,
your living presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow —
these are the blessings your love will provide.
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm 1866-1960; © Hope Publishing used by permission CCLI licence #217251/ 5089011
Scripture Readings- Exodus 16:2-15; and Matthew 20:1-16
Sermon – Complaints, Compulsion or Compassion
It seems to me that our whole world has been in ‘complaint’ mode for the past few years. Whether it was Brexit, or the Arab Spring, or Climate Change reform or Love makes a Way / refugees ‘bring them here’, or Hong Kong independence, or Black Lives Matter, or ‘open the borders’ /stop the Lockdown – people have been demonstrating often with unacceptable violence and lately no concern for the health of others with Covid restrictions in cities around the world. Sometimes it seemed they were just getting on the popular bandwagon, charged by their testosterone or enjoying their hit of adrenaline.
Complaints seem to go beyond expressing disagreement with a decision, to accusation of the person who made the decision or stands representing those who did. They seem to want to ‘hold accountable’ or hold hostage the person in power until s/he will ‘give in’ to their demands. They seem to resent the ‘compulsion’ under which they are limited to break free for themselves to live as they prefer.
Our Scripture readings for today reflect such frustration against a leader or employer, and ultimately against God. “We were better off in Egypt… Why did you bring us into this wilderness to kill us?” the Israelites ask again when just a few days before they had experienced God’s salvation from their slavery in Egypt and praised and worshipped God (14: 31). God, the Compassionate One, hears their complaints and reassures them they shall have bread to eat each morning and meat at night. Manna, ‘what is it?’ in Hebrew, appears each morning and they are told to gather just enough for one day except on the sixth day when they must gather enough for the Sabbath. Those who disobeyed and tried to hoard it, found it became worm infested.
Each evening, a flock of quails would come to the camp to be captured and eaten for meat.
For forty years, God fed the people in the desert, despite their continued disobedience and ingratitude for God’s care. Compulsion or compassion? When do we see the rules as limits to our freedom or boundaries to keep us safe? Do we perceive God’s care in the decisions of politicians or parents or Presbytery? How do we react to the instructions given by doctors, teachers and clergy? The gospel parable has complaints of a different kind.
When you have agreed to work for the fair set wage, do you have the right to challenge the employer’s generosity towards others? God’s compassion for all and special concern for the poor, seems unfair to those who work hardest, for long hours, with superior qualifications. Do we truly love our neighbours as ourselves? Do we truly love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength acknowledging all God’s compassion towards us – or do we see God as a hard taskmaster, setting such high standards we never seem to reach? What do the complaints of the characters in the bible teach us about our relationship with God and our neighbours here on earth?
HYMN- TIS 607 :- Make me a channel of your peace
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, your pardon Lord;
and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Refrain: O Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love with all my soul…..
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, let me bring your light;
and where there’s sadness, ever joy. Refrain
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
- A) Cheques to be made out to ‘St Lucia UCA Parish account’ and posted to 7 Hawken Dr, St Lucia Qld. 4067, please. OR
- B) direct deposit to ‘St Lucia Uniting Church’ BSB: 334 040 acct#: 553 842 259 (St George Bank)
As we remember your wonderful works, we are grateful for your many blessings, and are honoured to return these gifts to you.
As we return our gifts to you, bless them and send them forth, that others may be showered with your love and your grace. In faithful trust, we pray. Amen.
Prayer of Intercession –
Christ of grace and goodness, we have received your peace and hope in our lives, so we choose to live in such a way as to bring good news to our world.
We begin our prayers thinking of those who are suffering now – people who are grieving the loss of loved ones, especially Annette Watson and (name those you know). We pray for all who are fighting Covid 19 – victims and medical staff, researchers and politicians and their advisors. Comfort and strengthen them all, dear Lord.
With the guidance of your Spirit, may we courageously live with our present difficulties and yet speak out against all wrongs that can be corrected:
The destruction of the earth, the propagation of war and conflict, the enslavement of workers, the imprisonment of children, the stealing of land and the poisoning of people and water.
Help us work towards a better future:
For the restoration of wastelands, economies of shared wealth, clean water and air, the elimination of disease, and the steady supply of nutritious food.
May we create a community where no one is excluded, one where gifts are acknowledged no matter who holds them, and where wisdom is recognised, no matter who speaks. Amen. The Lord’s Prayer – Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
HYMN- AHB 537 May the mind of Christ
Our world is in need of people of goodwill doing acts of kindness.
As we have been the beneficiaries of God’s grace today, so we are called to be people of goodwill to all.
May God go with us in wisdom and grace. May the example of Jesus shape our days. May the Holy Spirit hold us in faith and justice.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 20th September 2020 by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and The Abingdon Worship Annual 2020 edited by Mary Scifres and B.J. Beu, Abingdon Press, Nashville USA (owned by EN); gathering Pentecost Year A 2020, United Church of Canada (EN subscription); and Uniting in Worship People’s Book by Uniting Church Press (JBCE) 1988 Melbourne and The Australian Hymn Book multiple copies owned by the St Lucia Uniting Church congregation. Copyright license 217268.