Ordinary Sunday 13C & UCA Birthday (26-06-2022)

This service was streamed live from the Ocean Grove church via Zoom on June 26th at 10:30am

Happy 45th birthday!

 Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions.  If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church. 

There  are also links to YouTube files for music and, should you rather listen than read, sound files for some of the text, including the sermon .  [I’m sorry about the commercials that sometimes come with YouTube clips. Be sure to click on the “Skip Ad” box if and when it appears in the lower right of the YouTube clip]   When a YouTube clip has finished, simply click on the ‘back’ button of  your browser to return to this page. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.

-oOo-

For this is holy ground,
your sacred place of love and peace.

 

STEPPING OFF IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

L: Unless the Lord build the house,

R: those who build it labour in vain.

LIGHTING THE CANDLE   

L: We are called by the light.  We are constituted and owned by the source of the light.  Our very bones are knit together, our sinews and muscles woven, and blood poured through our veins.

R: We are called here by the Light; reformed, renewed and reconstituted as the people of God. By the goodness of God we are here today, made new as the body of Christ.  

CALL TO CELEBRATION

L: You are the God who called us together;

R: who gave us the courage to change.

L: You are the Christ who has always walked before us;

R: who take us by the hand along the way.  

L: You are the Holy Spirit who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

R: Let us worship God. 

PRAYER  OF APPROACH

God, help us to listen to our inner spirit; to the inner yearning to belong to something greater than ourselves.  Help us to listen to our inner spirits and find there the presence of your good encouraging spirit.  Amen.

HYMN 59 – All People that on Earth Do Dwell” (click here to listen)

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

     Meditation   “When misfortune threatened” by Elie Wiesel.

When the great Rabbi Israel Shem Tov saw misfortune threatening the Jews, it was his custom to go into a certain part of the forest to meditate.  There he would light a fire, say a special prayer, and the miracle would be accomplished and the misfortune averted.

Later, when his disciple Rabbi Magid, had occasion, for the same reason, to intercede with heaven, he would go to the same place in the forest and say: “Master of the Universe, listen!
“I do not know how to light the fire, but I am still able to say the prayer.” And again the miracle would be accomplished.

Still later, Rabbi Moshe, in order to save his people once more, would go into the forest and say, “I do not know how to light the fire. “I do not know the prayer, but I know the place and this must be sufficient.” It was sufficient and the miracle was accomplished.

Then it fell to Rabbi Abraham to overcome misfortune.  Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands, he spoke to God: “I am unable to light the fire, and I do not know the prayer,
and I cannot even find the place in the forest.  All I can do is tell the story, and this must be sufficient.” And it was sufficient.  God made humanity because God loves stories.

Silence

Let there now be a quiet time among us that we might reflect on our story as a people of God, particularly as a people who have formed, and been formed by, the Uniting Church in Australia over these past 45 years, and most particularly as the people who gather here in this place.  This place still harbours the dusty old story that has helped make, and continues to make us who we are….  (at least 30 seconds silence)

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

The members of the congregation are asked to take their BLUE pieces of paper and write on them two things about our corporate life that causes grief, anger, disappointment or despair.  They may take a couple minutes to share this with a neighbour, and then the papers are collected and taken to the communion table.

L: We are not the people we would like to be, O God.  Take these things, which cause us pain and disappointment.

R: Heal us, forgive us, comforts us, and open our hearts to your love. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS 

L: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Rise up and live, for I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God!

THANKSGIVING

The members of the congregation are asked to take their GREEN pieces of paper and write on them two things about our corporate life that are causes for celebration. They may take a couple minutes to share this with a neighbour, and then the papers are collected and taken to the communion table.

We thank you, Almighty God, for caring for us and all past members of this congregation on our journey together.  We thank you for those who worked and prayed over many years to bring our church and this congregation into being.  We thank you for each other, for the gifts we share, for the hope we bring and the love which lives among us in the power of your spirit.

FROM THE PSALMS  Psalm 100,  a paraphrase by Francis Macnab. 

People of every land, let your whole body burst with joy. You have been given the gift of Life. God gives us these precious moments, within the great span of eternal time. God shows us a caring spirit; Kindness and love are also planted within us.

The soul of the world expands and great songs are waiting for us to sing.  People of every land on Earth, celebrate the joy of life. Be glad to be alive. The God of life has given you a voice to sing.  The God of life gave us life. We are the people of God. We share every day in the goodness he provides. Therefore let us celebrate.

From our own doorway to every doorway of life let us breathe our thanks and praise. The God of life continually shows us goodness. God opens us to the eternal transforming experience of love.  In all the changing aspects of life, we will rejoice that there is something that lasts forever.

HYMN (like 44) – “How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place” (Psalm 84)
(click here to listen) or for a more traditional version of Ps. 84, click here)

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a

19 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 

 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

FROM THE GOSPELS – Luke 9:51-62:

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS

“Journeying with Jesus”
or
“It’s Never Too Late to be a Different Church”

     Part 1

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kgs. 19:13b)

In the reading from Kings, we find old Elijah, hiding out on a mountain top in the desert in the desert, until God tells him to get off his rear end and get back to his task.

It reminds me of the Transfiguration story where, up on the mountain, Peter wants to build booths so he and the other disciples can stay there with Jesus and his mates, Moses and Elijah, but Jesus will have none of it, and leads them back down the mountain to where they are needed.

So often when the church leaders gather to discuss evangelism, the church’s mission, the end result is a list of programs designed to draw people in. Into what is the church inviting people? Well, in the first place it seems the effort goes into inviting them into the building: the thing into which we put so much money, time and effort.  Perhaps the sell includes a great youth program for their kids, or a special summer activities program for all ages.  It may include promoting pastoral counselling, good music in the worship services and, or course, stupendous preaching.  In other words people are told that the church has all these services to meet their needs, to entertain them, to fix what’s wrong in their lives; just come on in. Now you may say, “What’s wrong with that?  Isn’t the church here to meet people’s needs?

At one level, there’s nothing wrong with the church that meets people’s needs AS LONG AS it is based upon the more fundamental call of Jesus, “Take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  Remembering that discipleship starts at this point, how in the world do we call people to Jesus by appealing to their selfishness, their needs, and expect to end up with the kind of discipleship spoken of in today’s gospel?

In today’s gospel story, Jesus is on the way, and you know in which direction he is headed; he is on his way to death.  And on the way, people come up to him saying, “I’ll follow you wherever you go, only first let me give my father a decent burial.  After all, ‘honour your father and mother,’ isn’t that what the Good Book says?”

Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury the dead. You follow me!”

Another says, “ I’ll follow you; just let me get things in order at home.  After all, don’t we believe in family values?”

Jesus replies, “ No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

     Part 2

On this special day, celebrating the 45th anniversary of Union, we come to Jesus seeking to follow him.  And he gives us these tough demanding words.  Are we really ready to follow this guy?

You may remember a film back in the 90s, starring Tom Cruise, entitled Jerry McGuire.  At the beginning of the movie, Jerry is caught up in rat race of a job a sports agent, living off the sporting talent of others.  One night, in a sort of breakdown, Jerry, after tossing and turning in a sleepless night in bed, jumps up, turns on his computer, and writes a long mission statement, in which he criticises what his job has become, and makes some rather radical proposals for reform.  He puts copies of this memo in the mail boxes of all his co-workers.

When he timidly enters the office the next day, he receives a warm, standing ovation for his act of courage and vision.  “Thank God you said it,” says one of his co-workers.  Now I wish I could say that his act of courage led to a real reform  of the business, to a new sense of dedication and integrity.  Alas, in one week, he was fired and tossed out in the street with his goldfish, his life a shambles.

Jerry McGuire ends on a more positive note, but what I liked about the film was the realism, the honesty of the this first scene.  You stand up for what is right, speak up for the truth, and end up paying a high cost.  At least the movie had the courage to avoid romanticising  or sentimentalising the role of the courageous reformer.

We are here this morning because, in one way or another, we are among those who have said to Jesus, “I will follow you.”  Sometimes we have been faithful; sometimes we have not.  Yet maybe the good news is, at least we are trying to follow him.  We are here being instructed by him, examining, then perhaps correcting our lives in submission to his word.

He knows it is not easy.  He has warned us.  Yet, despite the challenges, it is a journey worth taking. He gives us a sense of adventure, and we walk with him, sometimes well, sometimes poorly, but we walk with him, beside him along the way toward God.

The good news is, we journey not alone. 

This morning, it is important to avoid romanticise or sentimentalise the role of disciple of Jesus.  Give the gospel of Luke credit; it does not depict following Jesus in a way that is unreal.  Following Jesus is not easy.  It often involves tough choices.  Choices that sometimes conflict with essential things like love and support of family.

Mainline protestantism has been called by one wag, “the bland leading the bland.”  Perhaps it may lack the outward vibrancy of some of the new forms of Christianity, and it may not always compare with the Greek Orthodox church or even the Roman Catholic church in terms of depth of liturgical symbolism, but where the protestant churches are at their best, they challenge their people – intellectually, spiritually and ethically – to be Christ not just in here (on the mountain top), out there in the world.  In action, they are anything but bland.

HYMN 650 – “Brother, Sister, Let Me Serve You”(click here to listen)

PRAYERS FOR THE WORLD AND THE CHURCH

L: We believe that we can be your people, O God of love:

R: Daring to take our stand for justice and truth.

L: For this is holy ground,  your sacred place of love and peace.

R: Hold us in your hand, O God.

L: We believe that we can live in the costliness of unity, O God who is one;

R: Called to adventures of faith; called to trust each other, living in kindness and understanding.

L: For this is holy ground,  your sacred place of love and peace. 

R: Hold us in your hand, O God.

L: We believe that we are called forth beyond where we thought we could go, O God of the exodus.

R: Open us to your vision for us and the world.

L: Whether we are in the mystery of the desert, the dreaming of the bush, in ordered leafy suburbs or the throbbing heart of a city, this is your holy ground, a sacred space of love and peace.

R: Hold us in your hand, O God, for we are your Uniting people, uniting with each other, with the rest of the church, with the world and with the whole creation.  Through Jesus Christ who taught us to pray, “Our Father….”

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil.  For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.

HYMN   “Faith has Set Us on a Journey”  (Tune 93)  by Shirley Murray

(Click here for accompaniment, but you’ll have to supply the lyrics yourself.  Note: The accompaniment has an extra verse)

Faith has set us on a journey
past the landmarks that we know,
taking risks with no insurance
but the Word that tells us “Go!”
Friend or job or home or lover
we may need to leave behind,
outworn truths and ways of thinking,
baggage to the past consigned.

Some are swags of easy conscience,
who with others hitch a ride,
some are tourist-package Christians,
dollar-safe, with Book and guide.
There are others on this journey –
those who long and pray and search,
heave the stones to free the structures,
love the Christ and leave the Church.

We are this unlikely people
in the Body knit as one,
company of clowns and cripples –
some are wise and some can run.
Prophets are our travel agents,
gospel-makers lay this road:
to the place of peace and promise
faith will take us into God.

WORD OF MISSION

L: Be  assured that God’s presence goes with us.

R: We face the world with renewed faith and hope; God’s word abides with us.

L: Let your hearts burn within you as you dare to trust.

R: God’s love is real and alive in us.

L: Live in gratitude each and every day;

R: We will love sincerely and live confidently.

BENEDICTION

Go out into the world in peace. Live as those who have already passed from death to life.

Give aid and be willing to receive it, trust and be trusted, forgive and be forgiven, give respect and be respected, love and be willing to be loved. In the name of the Holy Trinity I bless you.

Grace mercy and peace be with you always.

An open, virtual door to the world