The Grace of the Lord Christ, the Love of God and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Call to Worship –
We wait with hope for God’s promises are sure. We wait with patience, for God’s time is a mystery. We will wait upon the Lord together in this time of worship.
Loving God, you know us as we are, with all our funny ways. Gather us into your warm embrace and hold us in your grace. Let there be no place where we go that is away from your Spirit, no place into which we can flee from your presence: not the farthest limits of the sea nor the place of deepest darkness. Hold onto us and assure us that to you, the night is as bright as the brightest day and the darkness will never extinguish your living lights. Amen.
HYMN– AHB 68 Praise my soul (TIS 134)
Scripture Reading- Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
HYMN AHB 90 ‘Lord you have searched me’ or another song based on Ps 139
Song: O God you search me and you know me by Bernadette Farrell (try Youtube for it)
- O God, you search me and you know me. All my thoughts lie open to your gaze. When I walk or lie down you are before me, ever the maker and keeper of my days.
- You know my resting and my rising. You discern my purpose from afar, and with love everlasting you besiege me – in ev’ry moment of life or death, you are.
- Before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you have known its meaning through and through. You are with me beyond my understanding, God of my present, my past and future too.
- Although your Spirit is upon me, still I search for shelter from your light. There is nowhere on earth I can escape you-even the darkness is radiant in your sight.
- For you created me and shaped me, gave me life within my mother’s womb. For the wonder of who I am I praise you. Safe in your hands, all creation is made new.
Scripture Reading- Mathew 13:24-30, 36-43
Prayer of Confession-
Merciful God, before you we can be truly honest.
We acknowledge that we are very protective of our patch, well-settled with what we assume we know. When unexpected things sprout and grow, we get upset and in our upset we can be tempted to rash zealousness, to growl that
“This isn’t right and not how it was nor how it should be.” We are quick to see the weeds that grow in the garden of others, but slow to see them in our ourselves. Too often, we look for a solution that will get rid of pests which disturb our plans. Yet, in truth, as in gardening, we may not be able to tell the difference between a weed and a companion plant. Our reaction to eradicate the problem quickly may cause more harm than good. It might even damage
the whole situation and prevent your future from growing among us. Save us from the hasty use of an instant weed killer and give us the patience to find a non-toxic solution, one that brings benefits for all around. Amen.
Words of Assurance
God promises to walk gently with us through thorny situations; to be light when dark would invade; and to be our peace when we are confounded.
These promises are sure, we are forgiven people. Thanks be to God. Amen
Genesis 28:10-22, Romans 8:12-25.
Sermon – Hoping for the right thing
Many of us spent much of our life HOPING for something to happen – sunshine for our day out to the beach during the holidays; a good mark for our essay or project at school; that our team would win the sports competition; that we’d get the dream job we applied for; that the seeds we sowed would grow into productive plants; that our loved ones would recover from their illnesses; that our chosen politicians would be elected to government; that our efforts would be rewarded and appreciated.
Some of these things we worked hard to have happen – others were totally outside our control. Like love and faith, hope is something we cannot see, yet is essential for humans to thrive emotionally and spiritually. As nurse Nellie Forbush sings in South Pacific “I’m stuck like a dope with a thing called hope and I can’t get it out of my heart, not this heart.” Does God hope? St Paul in his letter to the Romans seems to think so. God hopes for God’s children and all creation that we will be set free from that which causes decay and suffering (Romans 8: 18-23) so that we might enjoy the freedom and glory of being with God as God’s children. At one level, by faith, we are assured by the Holy Spirit that we are God’s children but our present human reality may appear to contradict that as we suffer pain or persecution or temptations.
Prof. William Loader writes that Paul “shows how faith faces struggle. He tells his own story and addresses the story of many others, including those who will hear his letter read to them in Rome.” He encourages Christians to be led by God’s Spirit – be motivated and activated by the Spirit – not giving in to their fears or desires or focussing on their present human conditions. It is like rising above the present to see it God’s way, to feel God’s power in ourselves to serve God and to keep the faith, to trust the promises. Paul knows it depends on hope – which is faith in what we cannot see at present. Earlier he wrote ‘by faith we are saved’ (5:1) and by God’s Son’s life we are saved (5:10) as explained in Chapters 3-6. Our struggles to control ourselves or our futures need to be under God’s direction, with God’s help so that we may become what God intends for us – gloriously free and living in God’s love and peace. “Let go and let God” – turn over your life to God and live with hope in what you cannot know by human certainty now. Keep open the relationship and the communication with God so that life with God becomes a present reality for you.
I believe I hear through the Spirit in today’s Scripture passages, comfort and encouragement for the present reality of Covid 19 and the uncertain future for the congregation at St Lucia. Psalm 139 reminds me that nothing can separate us from God’s love and care. I choose to keep hoping that God’s will and directions will be heeded by all people making decisions and choices of actions. The other lectionary passages have stories of God’s leadership and care even when the people were unaware of God’s presence and blind to God’s ways of operating.
We know Jacob probably was very focussed on escaping justice and Esau’s revenge. The story in Genesis 27 of his deception of Isaac, with help from Rebecca, to cheat his brother once again astounds us. His behaviour is despicable. If he was hoping that he’d get the inheritance Isaac promised (27: 28-29) it was certainly a long-term dream. That God should appear to him the very first night of his flight, is a miracle in itself. God’s promise to him (28: 13-15) – despite his evil behaviour – reflects God’s graciousness and mercy. Jacob wakes from the dream and is fearful of God’s presence. His act of worship next morning (28:18) is less a covenantal promise in response to God’s graciousness than a bargaining, conditional promise “If you go with me and watch over me…if you give me food…and bring me safely back home, you will be my God.” (28:20-22) These hopes were for his own physical welfare and immediate needs – not for the future of his descendants as per Isaac’s blessing. Reform and renewal lie in the future, but God will be at work in his life.
That is what the gospel reading also teaches us – wait for God’s time to fix the problem you see with your fellow humans. We tend to hope for a quick fix – take out the weeds before they get a hold and use up precious resources. God’s patience and mercy can be seen in many biblical stories, so Jesus’ teaching in this parable of the weeds reflects that hope for redemption. Don’t get stuck on the punishment at the end – that is long-term future in God’s time and the human desire for revenge probably taints that story as much as the weeds taint the wheat field. What are you hoping for now as you apply that parable to your life?
Weeds in one place are staple crops or treasured plants in another site. I recall being amazed that lantana plants were being sold in a nursery in Victoria because they are definitely weeds and a curse in Queensland. Similarly, I was amazed that the weeds growing in summer behind the Union Theological Seminary fence on Broadway were being harvested by some Korean students whose limited English could tell me they were “good food – salad greens – keep you healthy!”
Thankfully, we are not asked to judge the worth of others who differ from us, who appear to be apathetic and not pulling their weight for the church, who seem to dominate conversations whenever they get a chance and consume more resources than others. We do not have to attribute evil origins or save the church from diversity in practices in our twenty-first century multicultural, multi-capable, multi-theological, multi-national and multi-age congregations. I’m hoping that God will search our hearts and minds, transform those ideas which are not helpful for the Kingdom of God, and lead us into the practices that bring life and joy, peace and love to the world and glory to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
HYMN- AHB 49 O God of Bethel or TIS 648 Help us accept each other
- Help us accept each other
as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother,
each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
and bring us to believe
we are ourselves accepted
and meant to love and live.
- Teach us, O Lord, your lessons,
as in our daily life
we struggle to be human
and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people,
for all – not just for some,
to love them as we find them
or as they may become.
- Let your acceptance change us,
so that we may be moved
in living situations
to do the truth in love;
to practise your acceptance
until we know by heart
the table* of forgiveness
and laughter’s healing art.
- Lord, for today’s encounters
with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance,
for righteousness and bread,
we need new eyes for seeing,
new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one!
CCLI no 1515081 ©Frederik Herman Kaan 1929- used with permission. CCLI Licence 217268
We are called to be family of all and since not everyone lives within the bounds of our community, our offering becomes a way in which we show our love to those who live far and wide.
- 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)
God of grace and goodness, we are grateful for the blessing you have extended to us, for our church community that nurtures and supports us.
We give these gifts that they might become a blessing to other people in other places, and a sign of our kinship as family together. Amen.
Prayer of Intercession –
Loving God, we bring our concerns and the prayers of our hearts to you.
Who hopes for what is unseen?
We do, and we pray for the things to be different: for hard hearts to be softened; for selfishness to turn into altruism; for what is foolishness in the eyes of the conventional hierarchy to be wisdom; for blind certainty to transform into wide-eyed charity and envy into goodwill.
We pray especially for all who are dealing with the virus Covid 19. It is more than a weed in our world – it is toxic for our health and economy and family relationships and friendships and we fear the effect on our Church. Only you know what needs to be done to get rid of it. Please guide our scientists and researchers, our political leaders and all decision-makers. Please keep safe the medical staff and police and security workers trying to comfort and protect the population. We pray especially for those we know personally …
We pray for ordinary plant weeds to be seen as plants that are just in the wrong place, to understand that they are worth their weight in gold in places that need soil and carbon to be retained. We pray for people who are treated as weeds, unwanted in certain situations because they make others uncomfortable or challenge the power group. Guide the minority groups in all nations to know when and where their protests can be safe and effective.
We pray for justice to become business as usual, and that a person “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.
We pray for hope to be launched like fireworks, sparking joy and delight and a little bit of fear at the noise and excitement of it all. We pray for what is not yet, but may well be, as we embrace hope and live out your good news. We ask all this in the name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer- Pray the Lord’s Prayer.
HYMN- TIS 681 Lord, let me see
- Lord let me see, see more and more,
see the beauty of a person, not the colour of the skin,
see the faces of the homeless with no-one to take them in,
see discouragement because she’ll never win:
see the face of our Lord in the pain: Lord let me see.
- Lord let me hear, hear more and more,
hear the sounds of great rejoicing, hear a person barely sigh;
hear the ring of truth, and hollowness of those who live a lie;
hear the wail of starving people who will die;
hear the voice of our Lord in the cry; Lord let me hear.
- Lord let me care, care more and more,
care for those who feel the loneliness, for those who have no say,
care for friends who have no job and find it hard to face the day,
care for those with whom we sing and work and pray:
and in care Jesus Christ will be found: Lord let me care.
- Lord let me learn, learn more and more,
learn that what I know is just a speck of what there is to know;
learn from listening to my neighbour when I’d rather speak and go;
learn that as we live in faith and trust we grow;
learn to see, hear and care, with our Lord: Lord let me learn.
- Lord let me love, love more and more,
Love the loveless and the fragile, help them be what they can be,
Love the way that I would like them to be looking after me;
For to know you is to love them and be free,
And in love Jesus Christ will be found: Lord let me love.
©Ross Langmead from “On the road 16 songs” used by permission CCLI licence 217268
Go from here encouraged to love generously, emboldened to work for peace, and inspired by the hope and faith of those around you.
May the wisdom of God be in our thinking.
May the love of Christ be in our embracing.
And may guidance of the Spirit lead us and guide us always. Amen.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A Pentecost7 July 19 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 licence CCLI 217268