St Lucia – Order of Service 28th June 2020

When:
28/06/2020 @ 9:00 am
2020-06-28T09:00:00+10:00
2020-06-28T09:15:00+10:00

Greeting-

The Peace of Christ be with you all.

 

Call to Worship –

If we come to worship focussing on our needs, we will go away feeling let down.

If we come wanting a God reflective of our own likeness, we will be disappointed.

If we come rigid in our own ideas and set in our ways, we will leave as barren as we arrived.

If we put God first, and keep our focus on God, we will never worship in vain. Hear Moses’ call to the people of God, echoed by Jesus: The Lord your God is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 and Matthew 22: 37-40)

 

Prayer  –

God of life ancient, yet eternally present, we come now to you, deliberately turning away from our preoccupations and prejudices, our wants and self-centredness. We come responding to your invitation and welcome, remembering you reassured us we are God’s beloved children, forgiven and set free by your grace. Unite us now through your Holy Spirit, even though we are so separate. Refresh our minds and renew our commitments as we hear your holy word for us, for we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

HYMN– Let us build a house (in Glory to God – The Presbyterian hymnal USA #301)

  1. Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live

A place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace

Here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

  1. Let us build a house where prophets speak and words are strong and true

Where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness and symbol of God’s grace

Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

  1. Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone

To heal and strengthen, serve and teach and live the Word they’ve known.

Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face

Let us bring an end to fear and danger:

all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

  1. Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard

And loved and treasured taught and claimed as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace

Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

© Marty Haugen 1994 GIA publications inc.

 

Scripture Readings-  Genesis 22: 1-14 and Psalm 13;

 

Prayer of Confession- 

Please read prayerfully Romans 6: 12-14, pausing between verses or shorter phrases in personal confession and thankfulness.

 

Words of Assurance-

Now read Romans 6: 17-23 with assurance:

In Christ, through Christ, we are loved and forgiven. Thanks be to God.

Scripture Reading:   Matthew 10: 40-42

Sermon:  Welcoming God

The lectionary this week deals with humanity’s identity in relationship with God. Some of us might say that is always what the Bible deals with but these readings are particularly challenging as well as comforting for the pain we experience as humans – spiritual and emotional, not just physical.

We have been reading the saga of Abraham and Sarah and their extended family in recent weeks. ‘Father’ Abraham is seen as the ancestor of all Jewish and Islamic and Christian people in faith, if not genetic heritage. Abraham is lauded for his faith in God, yet he uses his human brain to create his own solutions when he thinks God is not delivering the outcomes he desires. This often gets him into trouble, e.g. he tells both the king of Egypt (chp 12)  and Abimelech (chp 20) that Sarah is his sister and almost gets both into trouble. He appears to favour Lot and excuses his questionable behaviour. Abraham’s treatment of his slaves and servants – Hagar and Eliezer – is self-serving, fulfilling his desires rather than being generous or providing justice, giving Sarah the responsibility to fix a problem instead of discerning the solution with God. It is God’s mercy and compassion that saves Hagar and her son Ishmael.

The story in Chapter 22 caps off Abraham’s attitude of individualism – his sense that his relationship with God is the ONLY thing that matters – not the wider family’s relationship with God. Our 21st century sensibilities are outraged. In the mid-to late 1950’s this story was part of the Sunday School curriculum and I vividly remember the pictures of Abraham with his knife raised and Isaac bound on the altar with a sheep caught in the bushes to the side. My teachers emphasized “God provides” always and Isaac was safe and dutifully trusting his dad. By the late 1970’s, I was beginning to question both the meaning and the application of the story and the adulation of ‘father’ Abraham’s faith in both Jewish and Christian scriptures, especially Hebrews. I wondered if Abraham had told Sarah what he believed God was asking of him in the trip to ‘worship’ God. Why was Sarah left home? Why did he fudge answering Isaac’s question on the journey? Was this just heightened drama like much of the saga? Why does the Koran tell the same story about Ishmael instead of Isaac as the sacrifice?

What kind of God does Israel worship? What does obedience to God look like? Is faith to be blind? How much ‘testing’ does God require? St Paul’s answer in 1 Corinthians 10: 13 is reassuring and encouraging, but is it really God who does this testing? The book of Job in the Old Testament, drama as it is, gives a better answer, although not totally convincing.

In the 21st century, this story is definitely OUT of the curriculum for children. In fact, it is banned from RI classes in Australia by secular State Government Departments of Education. It is not just political correctness but an awareness of how subliminal messages through stories can influence children and adults and make them more vulnerable to abuse.

With some good Old Testament scholarship, firstly under Dr Edgar Conrad then at Union Theological Seminary in New York, I came to put this story into a wider narrative and theological context. The psychological effects still prevent my use of it on educational grounds for children, but I can feel more comfortable with scholarship that suggests this is a teaching story for Israelites to believe that God abhors child sacrifice as later writings in Leviticus 18: 21 and Deuteronomy 12: 31 and 18: 10 attest. In fact, probably by the time the story was gathered into the book of Genesis, the Israelites knew that the practice of child sacrifice done by many of their neighbours was NOT to be part of their worship of God.

This behaviour towards children is always against God’s intention and will. Children are not to satisfy their parents’ needs or desires but are God’s beloved people in their own right. Parents have no right to use their children as gifts to other adults, let alone for some payment. By extension, all adults and siblings of children are to respect the life and minds and bodies of each child as a sovereign ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ made in God’s image and representative of Christ himself as in Matthew 10: 40. Children, like all people are to be respected and honoured and loved as God has loved us in Christ.

Parents and adults in the Christian church have responsibilities to educate children in God’s ways, knowing God’s laws and expectations of how we are to live in God’s kingdom. That means teaching them Jesus’ way of understanding God and Jesus’ way of love and forgiveness. Matthew 18: 2-5 reminds us of Jesus welcoming children and seeing them as examples of how to act and trust in God’s kingdom. God’s commitment to mercy and compassion and justice for the whole community rather than individual revenge or profit, is integral to our Christian faith – much more than a justification of punishment or sacrifice for sin. Our theology of God who is LOVE and shows it always, is more productive for our life as a Church and more faithful to Jesus’ teaching, I believe.

To equate this story of the potential sacrifice of Isaac with the death of Jesus on the cross as God’s sacrifice of his Son is pure blasphemy in my understanding of God’s ways. I would go further and declare it heresy, but I am neither qualified nor asked to pass such judgment on the limited understanding of theologians or readers of scripture in past eras. I am just thankful that God’s Holy Spirit continues to reveal more truth and light to scientists and scholars, teachers and preachers today as the hymn by George Rawson teaches (AHB 335 – We limit not the truth of God.) We are not bound by what Jewish and Christian church leaders of the past believed to be God’s intentions, but asked to study God’s word and listen for the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live in our present circumstances and situations.

So let us turn to the Gospel passage for today – a very short one with a very direct message – welcome God’s messengers! Of course, firstly Jesus was speaking of himself as John 1: 1-18 reminds us of the consequences of accepting Jesus as God’s Son and supreme revelation of God. Jesus also infers we ought to welcome the prophets of the past and preachers of the future in the persons of his disciples who are ‘sent’ by Jesus and God to reveal God’s ways to others. We are to be hospitable to them – to welcome them and care for them in the way that Middle Eastern hospitality requires the taking care of strangers because they may be ‘angels’ – messengers from God as Hebrews 13:2 admonishes us. St Paul’s letters to Gentile churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Thessalonica and Philippi reinforce this hospitality and welcoming of God’s messengers as well as caring for God’s people locally and in places of need, e.g. 2 Corinthians chapters 8 &9.

How real is our love, as St Paul puts it? How far do we extend the early church’s practices in Acts chapters 2 & 4? As we approach the EOFY, are we as conscious of our charitable giving as we are on buying the items on sale at this time of year? The requests for help and temptations to consume come almost daily in our mailbox or on TV. How do we determine who receives our extra love in monetary form? Is it habit or deliberate action to bless God’s messengers that guides us? While we are not yet opening the church for worship, how will we demonstrate our welcome to new people in COVID 19 restrictions? No shaking hands or morning tea chats. What do you think welcoming God’s messengers as if they are Christ himself, will look like for us in 2020?

HYMN- AHB 335 We limit not the truth of God (TIS 453)      

Offering-

  1. A) Cheques to be made out to ‘St Lucia UCA Parish account’ and posted to 7 Hawken Dr, St Lucia Qld. 4067, please. OR
  2. B) direct deposit to ‘St Lucia Uniting Church’ BSB: 334 040 acct#: 553 842 259 (St George Bank)

Prayer for offering

Gracious God, receive the gifts offered in response to your call on our lives and the needs of your people in the world. May these gifts help to bring hope and healing, love and grace, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession:  Our intercessions today mostly were prepared by Rev Bruce Prewer.

 

Holy Friend, for that small community we call our church, with its strengths that nurture or its faults that hurt and inhibit its unity, we ask for a special blessing: join together your separated children.

Holy Friend, for that community we call the church universal, with its many loves and its numerous failures and even its scandals, we ask for a special blessing: join together your separated children.

Holy Friend, for that community we call our circle of friends, with its times of harmony and mutual joy and its incidents of misunderstanding or neglect, we ask a special blessing: join together your separated children.

Holy Friend, for those communities we call health centres, and hospitals and hospices for the dying, with their skill and compassion, yet sometimes inadequate resources, we ask a special blessing: grant them wisdom and compassion

Holy Lord, for all who are suffering from COVID 19, and for all who care for them or have to make decisions about opening up our community, we ask a special blessing: grant them patience and wisdom, courage and compassion.

Holy Friend, for those communities we call schools and universities, where much knowledge is imparted but love is not on the syllabus, we ask your special blessing: realign their values and practices.

Holy Friend, for that multi-ethnic community called our nation, with virtues that make us proud to be patriots, yet also with its prejudices and hurtful ways, we ask a special blessing: bring us back to serving your Kingdom before we prioritise our own national interests. 

Holy Friend, for that teeming community we call the world, rich with achievements for the good of all, yet riven by greed, hatred, intolerance, injustice, arrogance, and war, we ask a special blessing: draw together your separated children.

Holy Father, thank you for sending your true Child Jesus to reconcile all things. By your Holy Spirit incite all people of faith and goodwill to strive untiringly for that communal harmony where the value of no one is denigrated, and where the gifts and successes of each person are celebrated with unstinted gratitude and joy. For your name’s sake. Amen!

The Lord’s Prayer-   Pray the Lord’s Prayer.

HYMN- AHB 464 Put all your trust in God (TIS 555)

Benediction-

This week, may we be prophets of a living hope.

May the word of Christ be in our speaking; the grace of God be in our loving; and the power of the Holy Spirit be in our thinking and our acting.

Amen.

Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 28th June 2020 by MediaCom (subscription of Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan) and Rev Bruce Prewer’s worship services. “Glory to God” The Presbyterian Hymnal (USA). 2013 Westminster John Knox press. Copyright license # 217268.

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