St Lucia – Service 15th November 2020

12/11/2020 @ 1:56 am – 2:56 am

Greeting & 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. And also with you.

Call to Worship –
People of God, what shall we offer this day for all God’s goodness?
Let us offer the love of our hearts, the service of our hands, and the openness of our minds to Christ’s will.

Opening Prayer–
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on each of us gathered here to worship.
Speak to us words of truth – words for our church, words for our world, and quiet whisperings meant only for each of us.
We are ready to hear you. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Amen.

HYMN- AHB 367 (TIS 442) All praise to our redeeming Lord
1.All praise to our redeeming Lord, who joins us by his grace
And bids us, each to each restored, together seek his face.
2.He bids us build each other up, and gathered into one,
to our high calling’s glorious hope we hand in hand go on.

3.The gift which he on one bestows, we all delight to prove;
The grace through every vessel flows in purest streams of love.

4.Even now we think the same and cordially agree;
Concentred all, through Jesus’ name, in perfect harmony.

5.We all partake the joy of one, the common peace we feel;
A peace to sensual minds unknown, a joy unspeakable.

6.And if our fellowship below in Jesus be so sweet,
what heights of rapture shall we know when round his throne we meet.

Scripture Readings-
Judges 4:1-16; 1Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Prayer of Confession-
God of abundance, you shower us with extraordinary gifts, enough for every situation and need. We know there is enough for every need upon the face of the earth and we have the responsibility to share with others.
How often though, we live out a sense of scarcity, afraid of whatever tomorrow might bring, so we hoard our wealth and leave others in poverty.
We remain silent when a word of compassion might bring hope. We fail to act when injustice confronts us. We cower in anxiety when called upon to step up in the face of prejudice, bigotry or intolerance.
Dear God, forgiveness is not enough. We need to be renewed by your Spirit to become your people of power and truth. You offer us the gift of eternal life. May we respond to your offer this day and be transformed. Amen.

Words of Assurance
God does not fail us. When we risk all, even our lives, God sustains and empowers. Through Christ because of God’s love, we are forgiven and free to serve God and our neighbours without restraint. Thanks be to God

Sermon – Using our Talents
This week I went to see the new movie “Radioactive” about the life of Madame Marie Curie and her husband and daughter. I did not know of the daughter, Irene, also receiving the Nobel Prize with her husband, nor of the innovative portable Xray machines used in the field ambulances by these two women to help reduce amputations in WW1. Two strong and very gifted women having to struggle in an era dominated by male prejudice. It reminded me of our Hebrew scripture lesson for today.

The lesson is unusual in some ways, but very typical in others. The heroine is Deborah, a prophet and judge in ancient Israel in the years following the death of Joshua. The pattern we heard about last week from Psalm 78 has happened. Instead of always obeying God and trusting God, as Joshua and Moses had taught them, the people of Israel forget God and so ‘sin’. This leads to a pattern of God allowing ‘foreigners’ to conquer them and then the people calling out to God for mercy. God sends a deliverer (leader) to help them.

The Israelites are now settled in the land of Canaan among the existing inhabitants there and sometimes the local kings capture and oppress them. In the north of Israel, the Canaanite King Jabin and his army general Sisera, have been wreaking havoc on the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun for twenty years. Deborah is the fourth of 12 judges of Israel before the people demanded a king resulting in Saul then David being appointed. She is the only female judge, but she is also one of the few female prophets in the heritage of Miriam (Moses’ sister), Huldah (Isaiah’s wife) and Anna in Jesus’ time. In Judges chapter 4: 17-24, we also meet Jael, who manages to kill Sisera as he sleeps in her tent.

Deborah, who is a married woman living in the central part of Israel near Bethel, is renowned for being wise and the people come from all over Israel for her legal judgements and to hear her speak God’s word or directions for them. She summoned Barak, from the north to come to see her, and under God’s direction, commissioned him to fight King Jabin’s army. Deborah relayed the message from God to Barak assuring him that God would have control over Sisera and his army and that Barak’s army would prevail, inferior though it might be compared with Sisera’s 900 iron chariots and huge army.

Barak is afraid and wants Deborah to accompany his army and give the lead. She warns him that it would mean that a woman defeats Sisera and he would get no credit for it. And so it happened – Deborah using her gifts to listen for God’s directions and to encourage Barak; the battle won by the Israelites; and in the later verses we did not hear, another woman, Jael, kills Sisera. Deborah is honoured for her courage and character – listening for and speaking God’s word to the people. Women’s leadership is there in the story of Israel – God uses both men and women for God’s purposes at different times. Both need to be willing and available to God. While it may read to us as triumphalism of Israel, the emphasis in the book of Judges is on God’s forgiveness and mercy, God’s continuing care and love for God’s people despite their fearful and rebellious ways.

In a different time, centuries later with new tyrants oppressing Israel, Jesus’ parable told in Matthew’s gospel chapter 25: 14-30 can be interpreted as reflecting the values and actions of the oppressive world of the conquerors. The contrast of courage and fear, of risk-taking investment and cautious security in hiding for the sake of safety, dominates the story. Of course, the parable is not to advise on economic matters, but rather to encourage the early Christians to be risk-taking in their discipleship – to be willing to go into the public areas and spread the gospel, not hide it from their society because of the persecution the church was enduring as it waited for the return of Jesus.

The view of the character of the Master by each of the servants is significant. Fear and criticism of the ways the Master appeared to operate, led the third servant to preserve himself from the Master’s potential displeasure by hiding the capital and returning it in full. Fear leads to paralysis and exclusion of oneself from others. The third servant not only lost his place as a servant and the responsibility it offered, but also missed out on the joy of being in the presence of the Master which was the major reward for the other two.

Love involves taking risks for the sake of the other person(s). The willingness to risk investing in the other person’s projects or interests reflects the love we have for our friends, family or church community. The time parents and children, grandparents and cousins offer to one another reflects their love for the others and brings the intrinsic reward of joy at being in one another’s company. Fear of the other and criticism, engenders resentment and distancing to the extreme of exclusion. Using our talents or the gifts God has given to us individually and to the church community, is taking a risk for the sake of others and being vulnerable to potential criticism, but that should not be how the Christian community operates anymore than how a family should be towards one another.

The parable reminds us of how a Christian community should relate to one another and God, as well as being a commentary on waiting for the second coming of Christ by being active in our witness to the gospel. St Paul’s advice in 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 underlines the same message of being active in encouraging and helping one another and allowing our faith to shine for others and be a shield of hope for the future. We are people of the LIGHT. Our faith is in the God who doesn’t intend to punish us but bring us closer in relationship because Jesus Christ died for us so that we might live with him – be always aware of his presence in this life and confident that we will be with him and God in the life to come. Let us live as people of the Light, courageously following God’s directions and using the gifts or talents we have.

HYMN – TIS 276 (AHB 207) There’s a light upon the mountains
1.There’s a light upon the mountains, and the day is at the spring
when our eyes shall see the beauty and the glory of the King;
weary was our heart with waiting, and the night-watch seemed so long,
but his triumph day is breaking, and we hail it with a song.

2.There’s a hush of expectation, and a quiet in the air,
and the breath of God is moving in the fervent breath of prayer:
for the suffering, dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne,
and the travail of our spirit is the travail of his own.

3.He is breaking down the barriers, he is casting up the way,
he is calling for his angels to build up the gates of day:
but his angels here are human, not the shining hosts above;
for the drum-beats of his army are the heart-beats of our love.

4.Hark, we hear a distant music, and it comes with fuller swell —
the great triumph song of Jesus, of our King, Immanuel:
Zion, go you forth to meet him; and, my soul, be swift to bring
all your finest and your dearest for the triumph of our King!

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) please mark it OFFERING.

Offering Prayer –
Receive the gifts we offer, O God. Multiply them with your grace and mercy that they may bring healing and hope beyond measure for those in need.

Prayers of Intercession –
Loving God, as we bring before you our prayers, may your Spirit give us words to pray and open hearts of compassion for all others.
We pray for the world in which we live. We pray for children growing up in terror, poverty and despair…
We pray for peace in lands torn apart by violence…
We pray for the creation, groaning under pollution…
O God, we pray for the world.
We pray for one another and your church. Increase in us the gifts that are needed to extend your realm and proclaim your truth…
We pray for ourselves. We offer the yearnings of our hearts, our fears and hopes, seeking your wholeness in our lives. In all things, we pray, hear our prayers and answer them according to your will. Amen. Pray the Lord’s Prayer

HYMN – TIS 687 God give us a future
1.God gives us a future, daring us to go
into dreams and dangers on a path unknown.
We will face tomorrow in the Spirit’s power,
we will let God change us, for new life starts now.

2.We must leave behind us sins of yesterday,
for God’s new beginning is a better way.
Fear and doubt and habit must not hold us back:
God gives hope, and insight, and the strength we lack.

3.Holy Spirit, teach us how to read the signs,
how to meet the challenge of our troubled times.
Love us into action, stir us into prayer,
till we choose God’s life, and find our future there.

God called us here. God has forgiven and renewed us. Many are the gifts we have been given. Let us go to serve, in the name of Christ.
May God be honoured by our loving service. May Christ guide us on the way ad keep us true, and may the gifting of the Holy Spirit multiply our capacity to live faithfully and well. Amen.

Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 15th November 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.

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