Greeting and Acknowledgement of Country-
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
We acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera people, the first inhabitants of this place, part of God’s good creation.
We honour them for their custodianship of the land on which we gather today and we promise to live in covenantal partnership with their descendants.
Call to Worship –
Today we come with thanksgiving in our hearts for God’s love is steadfast and ever constant in our lives. Here we will hear once again of the grace and mercy that is given to us. We will consider our calling as people on God’s way and be comforted for the struggles we face. Let us worship with joy and gratitude.
Loving God, some of us come to this place full of anticipation and joy, others come weary and tired. And some of us come here today wondering why we are even here. Renew us by your Holy Spirit. Remind us that your steadfast love follows us wherever we go. Increase our faith, that we may not lose heart or become burdened by the challenges of life. Help us hear again the words of Christ: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
We are yours, O God. Thank you for claiming us as your own.
In the name of Christ, your Son and our saviour, we pray. Amen.
HYMN- TIS 474 here in this place (Marty Haugen. Words © GIA Publications. Used with permission ONE LICENSE #A-622726
1. Here in this place, new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away. See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day. Gather us in – the lost and forsaken, gather us in – the blind and the lame. Call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.
2. We are the young, our lives are a mystery, we are the old who yearn for your face. We have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race. Gather us in – the rich and the haughty, gather us in – the proud and the strong. Give us a heart so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.
3. Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth. Here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth. Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you. Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
4. Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light years away, but here in this place, the new light is shining; now is the Kingdom, now is the day.
Gather us in – and hold us forever, gather us in – and make us your own. Gather us in – all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.
Scripture Readings – 1 Samuel 8: 1-20; 2 Corinthians 4: 13 to 5:1; Mark 3: 20-35
Prayer of Confession-
Gracious God, we often forget that you are the ruler of our lives. Instead, we turn our attention elsewhere. We want what others have. We allow the concerns of the world to weigh us down. We become distracted by the activities around us. We forget to keep our focus on you.
Forgive us. Strengthen our faith, that we may see your presence in our lives. Remind us again that you are the Lord of our lives – the One who loves us completely; the One who offers us abundant forgiveness; the One who never leaves our side. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Words of Assurance Brothers and sisters, the hand of God stretches far and wide to forgive us, bringing us newness of life. In the name of God, whose love endures forever, you are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
Sermon – Questioning Authorities
Be careful what you wish for – you might receive it and regret it! Have you ever wished for something, then when you received it finally, you discovered it was not what you really wanted after all? That was my experience sometimes in asking for special things for my birthday or Christmas presents – they never really lived up to the advertising hype or pretty picture on the cover. Our Hebrew Scriptures reading comes a couple of centuries after Moses died and led by Joshua, the Israelites had invaded the land of the Canaanites, ancestors of today’s Palestinians. The Israelites had been semi-nomadic and the twelve tribes were organised by a series of judges and prophets, the last of whom was Samuel. He had replaced Eli and had tried to keep the people faithful to the God who delivered them in freedom from slavery in Egypt; led them safely and miraculously through the Sea of Reeds to escape the Egyptians; guided and fed them as they wandered through the wilderness; and made a special Covenant with them at Mt Sinai where they pledged to be God’s people – special and set apart to act under God’s authority according to God’s laws.
Now they were settled and afraid of neighbouring groups who wanted to take over their land – a never-ending cycle in that part of the world as we know from our news in recent weeks. Instead of trusting God and the leadership of Samuel, they allowed their fears to tempt them into behaving like their neighbours.
They complain to Samuel: “You are getting too old. Your sons are corrupt.
Give us a King! We want a king! We want to be like other nations. We want a human someone to lead us in battle so we’ll look like other nations. We need to get with the times.”
When do we get mesmerised by advertising campaigns that twist the truth and lead us into disaster? Can you recall times when democracy fell into mob rule and ignorance was allowed to extinguish wisdom? Recently in USA on 6th January but also with the rise of Hitler in Germany. Who will make a stand against what it seems everyone one else has or wants? In today’s Scripture, Samuel retains his reason and sees through the Israelites’ short-term quick fixes. Samuel is hurt and disappointed by their demands. It isn’t just his leadership that is questioned, the people are deep down refusing to trust God’s leadership – and disaster will and does follow. God allows the change but tells Samuel to warn them of the consequences: your sons will be drafted into the army and forced to fight and be killed, they will become forced labourers and pay taxes, money will be demanded for weapons of war, your daughters will become domestic servants of the king – and worse! Ringing in my mind now is Bob Dylan’s lament “Where have all the flowers/ young men gone?” that was popular in my teenage years. “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?” goes the refrain. How true still is this story of Samuel’s warning about what kings/ presidents/ prime ministers and premiers can do when they get so much power they abuse their people. Can we question leadership legitimately, if we see it misleading people?
Yes, our Scripture readings inform us, but be ready for the backlash. People do not give up power easily – in nations, in churches, in community groups, in families. The gospel tells of what happened to Jesus when he seemed to be acting with strange power and Jerusalem scribes claimed he was led by demonic forces. He was actually so popular and so successful, the Pharisees and Scribes were jealous of his powers from God and wanted to discredit him.
Best way was to claim he was evil. In so-doing they were insulting God – telling lies about Jesus – calling good actions, evil. Unforgivable! In our times, leaders have claimed others are evil – Trump, Putin, Moon, and back to Hitler and Stalin. Many nations claimed God was on their side in war.
Who is working for God and who is working for or with the devil? Fascism and Communism, Capitalism and Democracy – have been used as labels to discredit other people’s dreams of leading the world to THEIR own individual version of ‘the good life’. Today our Parliament Houses are divided into political parties who compete for negative advertising ‘lowest points’ of mud-slinging, downright falsehoods and manipulating the truth for their own benefit, instead of working for the justice and benefit of all citizens.
In Mark’s story, Jesus skillfully overcomes the criticism this time and widens the traditional prejudice and small-mindedness about who is valued and who has the right to control others in a family. “Who are my mother, brothers, sisters?” – Jesus answers: ALL people here who do the will of God are my family. Individual family power is expanded to explosion point. God’s family is the ultimate family folks, not your local small tribe. Treat all people as you would your own family members. Love them!
Give us a King! The people of Israel requested centuries before. Here is your king! Performing miracles of healing; teaching radical new understandings of God’s love and forgiveness and acceptance of people; calling people back to trusting and serving God’s way – and what do they do to this king? They crucify him – lift him up on a cross instead of a throne – but as we heard last Sunday from John 3, Jesus still draws all people to him and offers them ‘the good life’ – Eternal life.
Yet Eternal life comes with suffering, especially for the followers of Jesus like St Paul and the apostles. 2 Corinthians chapters 4 & 5 sum up so much of the Christian life for me. We began it from verse 1 because that gives the context and perspective of Paul’s teaching. “We have this work to do by God’s appointment – so we do not give up or lose heart. Vs 5 “we don’t proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord – it is his glory we want folks to see because he is the very image of God. God’s light has shone in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
“Yet we are like common clay pots. This glorious treasure of the truth of the Gospel belongs to God, and not to us – it does not come from us and our very imperfect lives reveal this truth almost as a metaphor.
We are often troubled, criticized, abused – but not crushed.
Sometimes in doubt, perplexed – but never in despair.
We are persecuted, there are many enemies – but we are never abandoned, never left without a friend;
And though badly hurt at times – we are not destroyed.
At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus so that his life might also be seen in our bodies.”
St Paul’s glorious paradox in prose rises to even greater heights as he challenges the very domination of our fears of decay and death in vs 13-18.
“We know that God who raised the Lord Jesus to life, will raise us up with Jesus and take us, together with you, into his presence. All this is for YOUR sake, and as God’s grace reaches more and more people they will offer to the glory of God, more prayers of thanksgiving. For this reason, we never become discouraged – we don’t give up for our spiritual being is renewed day after day. We fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but those unseen which will last forever. And when this tent we live in is torn down – decays – and is no use to us anymore, God will have a home for us in heaven.”
We are encouraged to question the wisdom of the world – to challenge those authorities who offer ephemeral ‘good times now’, safety, economic security, popularity, status. Real life comes through death to selfishness, pride, and individualised self-sufficiency. Friends, don’t be like the Israelites led astray by the apparent success of neighbours, but choose to be like Jesus, ‘who though he had the nature of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”
It is his death and resurrection we proclaim – his victory far beyond that of any earthly king – for he is the One who is able to bring us to life now and forevermore. Let us live by faith in God. Amen.
HYMN- TIS 619 Have faith in God (Words © Mrs Olwen Scott, Bryn Austin Rees 911-83alt.)
1. Have faith in God, my heart – trust and be unafraid;
God will fulfil in every part each promise he has made
2. Have faith in God, my mind, though oft your light burns low;
God’s mercy holds a wiser plan than you can fully know.
3. Have faith in God, my soul, his cross for ever stands;
and neither life nor death can pluck his children from his hands
4. Lord Jesus, make me whole; grant me no resting place until
I rest, heart, mind and soul, the captive of your grace.
O Lord God, the offerings we make here are tokens; they represent our love for you. We thank you for your Spirit’s gifts to us, so mysterious, bountiful, and astounding. They are blessings upon blessings which reveal your presence among us as the merciful, holy, and loving one. Amen.
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Prayer for others –
We pray for and give thanks for those who sustain and strengthen us on our journey of faith:
Community members who concern themselves with our welfare and look out for our wellbeing.
Teachers, preachers and prophets who study God’s word and seek to shine light on it, so our understanding of God’s will for us, and the world, increases in clarity and depth.
Peace makers and those who stand up and speak out when they see oppression and injustice.
Those who pray and calmly seek relationship with God in contemplation.
Those who create music so we have songs of praise to sing, those who find words describe God’s goodness so we have prayers to pray and can voice our gratitude to God in our worship.
Those who remind us of the joy of life and the beauty of creation.
Those who remain faithful and model to us the value of longstanding devotion.
Good God, be with us as we pray and work for your kingdom. Amen.
HYMN- TIS 526 Lord Jesus Christ (Patrick Robert Norman Appleford 1925-, © 1960 Josef Weinberger Ltd Used by permission CCLI licence 217251)
1. Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us, you are one with us, Mary’s son;
cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in,
Jesus, our love for you we sing, living Lord.
2. Lord Jesus Christ, now and every day teach us how to pray, Son of God.
You have commanded us to do this in remembrance, Lord, of you:
into our lives your power Breaks through, living Lord.
Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another. Be present, risen Lord Jesus, as you were with your disciples, and make yourself known to us
in the breaking of the bread; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Lord be with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
With all we are, we give you glory, Trinity of love, the one and Holy God, sovereign of all time and space. We bless you for this wide, red land; for its rugged beauty, its changing seasons; for its diverse people, and for all that lives upon this fragile earth. You have called us to be the Church in this place, to give voice to every creature under heaven. We rejoice with all that you have made, as we join the company of heaven in their song, saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!
Again and again, you raised up men and women to speak your word, to guide, to challenge and convert. At the last, Father, you sent Jesus Christ, child of your love – God with us. Born as one of us, he lived our life and died our death, offering us, both now and forever, eternal life with you. Through him, in him and because of him, we affirm the Church’s faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
On the night in which Jesus gave himself up to death, he took bread, gave you thanks,
broke it and said: This is my body which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.
When the meal was ended, he lifted the cup, and again giving you thanks, gave it to his friends and said: This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, for the remembrance of me.
And so, in remembrance of all you have done for us, we take this bread and this cup,
and offer ourselves as a holy and living sacrifice, made worthy by the perfect offering of Christ our great high priest. By your Word and Holy Spirit, bless these gifts that we may truly share Christ’s body and blood, and become, by grace, his body given for the sake of the world as we pray together:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is 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 for ever. Amen
The bread we break is a sharing in the Body of Christ.
The cup we take is a sharing in the blood of Christ. God’s gifts for God’s people.
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us. Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us your peace.
Eat and drink your HC elements now
This has been no ordinary meal. It has been one in which we have been fed and nourished with the life of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. May we go from here, refreshed and eager, to share that life with others for whom we pray now… In Jesus’ name, Amen.
HYMN: TIS 598 Dear Father, Lord (John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-92 alt. Public Domain)
1. Dear Father, Lord of humankind, forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind: in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise. in deeper reverence, praise.
2. Drop thy still dews of quietness, till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace, the beauty of thy peace.
3. Breathe through the heats of our desire thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire, O still small voice of calm, O still small voice of calm.
We leave this place renewed and restored,
reassured of the grace of God that never rests
and remains with us all our lives.
Let the songs of praise we have sung guide your way
and the prayers we have prayed strengthen you in the days to come. And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit guide and bless you now and evermore. Amen.
Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year B June 6 2021 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) 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.