St Lucia Service – 8th November 2020

When:
09/11/2020 @ 2:39 am – 3:39 am
2020-11-09T02:39:00+10:00
2020-11-09T03:39:00+10:00

Greeting-

The peace of Christ be with you all.  And also with you.

 

Call to Worship –

Our ancestors have led us here. We are witnesses of their faith. The wisdom of the ages has called us here. We are children of its call. The choice to follow God lies before us. We are heirs of its promise. The Lord of life has called us here. We are here to worship the Lord.

 

Opening Prayer–

Lord of Life, we come this day to follow the ways you set before us. Show us the signs of your coming kingdom, that we may be worthy of our invitation. May we have the wisdom to teach our children your ways and pass on a better world to the generations to come. Amen.

 

HYMN– AHB 535 For the might of your arm  (looking to Remembrance Day 11/11)

 

Scripture Readings-

Joshua 24:1-25; Psalm 78:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

 

Prayer of Confession- 

Patient God, all you desire is that we play our part in the fullness of your mission of reconciliation. Forgive us our complacency and our lack of passion for the work you set before us. Enliven us when we take so much for granted – that others will do tasks we could accomplish, if we put ourselves out a little or planned ahead more carefully. Forgive our impatience with restrictions and suffering now under Covid 19. Help us to wait faithfully, as we prepare to hear and receive, not only your word, but your very presence in our lives and in our world. We long to have the courage to choose you, O God, each and every day. Fill our lamps with your grace, that we might be ready to receive your forgiveness, and celebrate your unity with us. In your holy name, we pray.

 

Words of Assurance

Awake and alert, we are given new life in Christ. Strengthened by God’s grace, forgiven and reconciled by God’s love, we prepare anew for God’s coming reign in our world.  In the name of Christ, I remind you: your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God.

 

Sermon – Don’t run out

Let’s continue with confession time – a short survey on when you buy petrol or diesel or gasoline for your car. Do you fill up when it is cheap, no matter how much is left in the tank? Do you fill up when there is a quarter of a tank left? Or are you likely to wait until you only have 1 bar left on the fuel gauge or less than 50 km to go? I have been in a car when the driver was one of those last minute fill up types and it was very nerve-racking until we reached our destination safely.

Do you remember the beginning of the Covid time in Australia in March when there was panic buying of toilet paper, frozen vegetables, beef mince, masks and hand sanitizer? Did you run out of any of those? Have you ever ‘run out’ of some essential item and had to compromise or substitute? What kind of pantry or store cupboard do you run in your home? I was never sure if it was a result of living through the great Depression of the 1930’s or the fact that in Port Moresby in the 1950’s the boats from Australia brought goods in only every month and so shopping had to be for a month ahead, but my parents seemed always to insist on ‘spares’ of everything – from light bulbs to toothbrushes to powdered milk cans. I caught their ‘Be prepared’ message before I read this gospel story of running out of oil for lamps, but I think Jesus was not just interested in preparation for physical shortages.

 

The parable speaks to us on many levels but one key theme is the need to ensure we do not run out of faith, especially in times when what one hoped for is delayed in arriving. The early church initially expected Jesus to return quite soon to establish the Kingdom of God. I guess their Messiah notions saw all sorts of fulfilments in Jesus so it was “Maranatha Lord, come quickly to save us” from the persecution of Romans and Jewish officials alike. The delay in the second coming of Jesus underlies both our Gospel and our epistle readings.

 

It helps to understand some of the wedding customs in Israel at the time. Often the bridegroom would go to the bride’s parents’ home to be married then they would move to the bridegroom’s parents’ home for feasting – sometimes lasting up to two weeks. Just as today, many times the guests at a wedding have to wait ages for the bridal party to come back after their photograph session, so guests had to wait for the partying to begin when the couple arrived – not just the bridegroom! But of course, we have the imagery of the early church as bride and Jesus as husband, hence the reference to the delay in the bridegroom’s reappearance in his father’s house.

 

In the first letter to the church at Thessalonica, St Paul was dealing with people concerned at the delay in the second coming of Jesus and perhaps that some of their people had already died from persecution, so might miss out on the Kingdom of God. Paul reassures them – and us – with the reminder of our core faith in the resurrection of Jesus and his promise to us that we, too, will be raised to life with Jesus. 2 Corinthians 4:14-16 says it more clearly: “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…. For this reason, we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, our spiritual being is renewed day after day…” That is the hope Christians hold onto – the promise Jesus made to his disciples in John 14: “Do not be worried and upset – believe in God and also in me. There are many rooms in my father’s house and I go to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to myself so that you will be where I am.”

 

How do you keep that TRUST in God, that belief in God’s promises, when the world seems to be falling apart, and chaos and evil appear to be winning? The reading from Joshua 24 challenges us, as it did for the people of Israel in their transition from being wanderers in the wilderness, refugees escaping oppression in Egypt and occupying the land of strangers with God having helped them ‘conquer’ the land promised centuries before by God to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – now becoming settlers living in that land. How then will you live? Are you going to adopt the gods of the people in the culture around you? Or are you going to be faithful to the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt – who saved you from oppression and slavery; who parted the waters to let you walk safely on dry land; who fed you in the wilderness; who fought for you against your enemies who tried to exclude and exterminate you?

 

Joshua says to the people: “Worship the Lord, obey God, always be faithful. Choose now whom you will serve! As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Three times he challenges the people and points out the difficulties of serving God who has high standards – expects obedience, and appears to punish disobedience. The people of Israel declare they will worship and obey only the Lord God who worked miracles to preserve and protect their ancestors and them for so many years. As long as Joshua was alive, they did remain faithful, but then they got lazy, lost focus on God’s ways, forgot the Laws given by God to Moses, and therefore had to suffer the consequences.

 

Psalm 78 tells it clearly – a beautiful summary of the story of the people of Israel in their on/off relationship with God. Read Ps 78: 1-8 again. This is what happens folks, when you run out of faith in God, when you forget what God has done for you and your family. As Joshua and the prophets of old reminded us, our current comfortable life is not the result of our own effort alone – God has been taking care of us through the grace and generosity, and sometimes the suffering, of others. Don’t be so quick to declare ‘we did this ourselves’ now we are ‘independent adults.’ An essential part of your family life and your duty as a community of faith is to pass on that faith to others – especially to your children so that they will not forget God’s laws and be ‘a rebellious and disobedient people whose trust in God was never firm.’ The purpose of this instruction is to give hope in God for the future to combat despair among us which makes us easy targets of other, false hopes being pushed by politicians, or ‘spiritual gurus’ or business leaders.

 

How are you making sure your faith does not run out? The church has advocated disciplined study of the Scriptures, just as the Jewish people were asked to do in synagogues and special schools. Learning God’s laws is not just the ten commandments – but understanding God’s relationship with God’s people over centuries and hearing God’s prophets speak God’s word for the people of their time and ours. Listen to God through the Scriptures – learn how to understand and interpret the beautiful writings in the library of books that is our current Bible. Do you feed on God’s word each day? Would you go hungry for physical food or let your electricity or gas run out or car fuel run down to empty? Do you understand that your faith oil needs to be kept topped up if you hope to get anywhere meaningful and satisfying? Sustaining our faith in times of economic and social upheaval, of physical threats of virus and violence in our community, that is the challenge Jesus sets for us in the gospel parable and Joshua set before our ancestors so long ago.

 

This weekend I am usually in USA or Canada for the annual international Religious Education Association conference of Jewish and Christian professors and practitioners of religious education. Our vision is how can we help our faith communities to be more faithful, more obedient to God, and to serve the community around us with justice so peace can come to the world? This year we are doing it remotely by zoom. The encouragement I receive by meeting with colleagues from around the world has kept me travelling to meet with them for the past 35 years as we wrestle with the indifference of the church to Christian Education or for Jewish folk, for the apathy towards religious study, and for the sense that religion is irrelevant for the problems of our society, so why bother. It is not economically rewarding – it does what for the productivity of the nation? Does it help or hinder business to be pulled back by moral laws derived from spiritual sources?

 

Jesus advised his disciples to be ready – to stay awake and alert, lest we miss the Kingdom’s goals. Let us Listen and Learn to Live God’s way of Love. Amen.

 

HYMN— TIS 636 God has spoken to his people

God has spoken to His people,​ Alleluia!​

And His words are words of wisdom,​ Alleluia!

Open your ears, O Christian people,​

Open your ears, and hear good news.​

Open your hearts, O royal priesthood,​

God has come to you, ​ God has come to you.​

God has spoken to His people,​ Alleluia!​

And His words are words of wisdom,​ Alleluia!

They who have ears to hear His message,​

they who have ears then let them hear.​

They who would learn ​the way of wisdom,​

Let them hear God’s word,​ Let them hear God’s word.​

God has spoken to His people,​ Alleluia!​

And His words are words of wisdom,​ Alleluia!​

​Israel comes to greet the Saviour,​ Judah is glad to see His day.​

From East and West the peoples travel,​ He will show the way,​

He will show the way. ​

God has spoken to His people,​ Alleluia!​

And His words are words of wisdom,​ Alleluia!

 

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) Please mark it “offering” to help the treasurer’s accounting.

 

Prayer for offering –

Loving God, receive these gifts of love, as celebrations of your presence in our lives. Shine through our gifts and our ministry, that others may see light for their journey. Live through our gifts and our ministry, that all may experience and celebrate your loving presence. Thank you for the oil for our lamps, food for our tables, and love for our lives. Help us share the bounty we have received, that no one may be left out alone in the dark.  Amen.

 

 

Prayer for others –

God of power and grace, by your mercy we come with our prayers for others, the work of your church, our own personal needs and the needs of the world.

We pray for all who grieve this day, crying out in despair or hopelessness or hurt or for healing. Merciful God, in many situations only you can make a difference in life.

For all who seek your healing presence, hear our prayer, O God.

God of justice and righteousness, these are hard days for your church.

We seem to be losing the capacity to cut through with your words of lovingkindness. The creation groans and we feel powerless to speak of your justice and expectations.

Strengthen your church, embolden your people and equip us for the work you call us to undertake.

Gracious God, we are grateful that in all things we can turn to you. Hear the prayers of our hearts for our family and friends ….

We pray for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, especially the family and friends of Neroli Whiteman. We pray for those in all parts of the world suffering with Covid 19 or trying to prevent contracting the virus. Grant patience to those in lockdown situations and grant wisdom to the political leaders making difficult decisions.

Comfort your people all around the world, Lord. Let them know your peace.

O God, we know that the world belongs to you and is held in your love.

By your mercy, may we live in peace and justice, hope and wholeness, now and forever. Amen.  Pray The Lord’ Prayer

 

HYMN- AHB 173 TIS 233 I will sing the wondrous story

  1. I will sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

how he left the realms of glory​ for the cross on Calvary.​

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

sing it with his saints in glory,​ gathered by the crystal sea.​

  1. I was lost: but Jesus found me,​ found the sheep that went astray,​

raised me up and gently led me​ back into the narrow way.​

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

sing it with his saints in glory,​ gathered by the crystal sea.​

  1. I was bruised; but Jesus healed me:​ faint was I from many a fall;​

sight was gone, and fears possessed me;​ but he freed me from them all.​

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

sing it with his saints in glory,​ gathered by the crystal sea.​

  1. Days of darkness still come o’er me,​ sorrow’s paths I often tread;​

but the Saviour still is with me,​ by his hand I’m safely led.​

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

sing it with his saints in glory,​ gathered by the crystal sea.​

  1. He will keep me till the river​ rolls its waters at my feet:​

then he’ll bear me safely over,​ where the loved ones I shall meet.​

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story​ of the Christ who died for me,​

sing it with his saints in glory,​ gathered by the crystal sea.​

  

Benediction-

Keep awake! For darkness is all around!

May our hearts shine with God’s love.

Keep your faith resources full, for the world is in constant need!

May we see and respond where Christ calls us to serve.

As light for the world, go forth for God.

We go now to light the way for others!

May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you always. Amen

 

Resources used in this service include Words for Worship year A 8th November 2020 and 9th November 2014 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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