Ordinary Sunday 22 (30-08-2020)

WELCOME TO WORSHIP WITH THE BARWON HEADS & OCEAN GROVE CONGREGATIONS

This service was streamed live via Zoom on August 30th at 10am

Below is the entire text for a service of worship for home use while public worship is not available in the church buildings   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 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-

“Wonder is the basis of worship”
(Thomas Carlyle)

CALL TO CELEBRATION

May our lives and our world be reawakened, as together we come alive to the wonder and surprise of this day. So let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life in the presentness of God..

HYMN 125 “God of Abraham Praise”(click here to listen)   

OPENING SENTENCES

L: Among us, Creativity God conceives new life

R: And we feel the life within us.

L: In our history this nurturing makes gentle entry

R: And we see the light before us.

L: Within our universe this energy is revealed

R: We await the hope of the world.

ACT OF AWARENESS

What actions are most excellent?
To gladden the heart of a human being.
To feed the hungry.
To help the afflicted.
To lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful.
To remove the wrongs of the injured.
That person is the most beloved of God

JOURNEY INTO SILENCE

     Meditation  “Be with those who Explore” by Michael Leunig.

God be with those who explore in the cause of understanding;
whose search takes them far from what is familiar and comfortable and leads them into danger or terrifying loneliness.

Let us try to understand their sometimes strange or difficult ways; their confronting or unusual language; the uncommon life of their emotions, for they have been affected and shaped and changed  by their struggle at the frontiers of a wild darkness, just as we may be affected, shaped and changed by the insights they bring back to us.
Bless them with strength and peace.

     Silence

In this quiet hour may our spirits be renewed. In this gathering of old and new friends, albeit a virtual one, may we be ready to extend ourselves to those in need, and with trust to receive the hand that is offered.  In this time of celebration, may our minds be open to new truth, and our hearts be receptive to love, as we give thanks for this life we are blessed to share.          (30 seconds of silence)

WE REFLECT UPON OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Holy God, we don’t always admit it, but we are creatures who need help. We are pleased with the good we have done, the loyalty we have displayed, the love we have shared. But that is only one side of the story. In many situations we have fallen short of the target which Jesus has placed before us, and we have spoilt or neglected the happiness of others.

Please continue to heal us, loving God. Save us from the temptations that rush upon us like a blast of loud music, and from those temptations that arrive with false modesty, hiding behind the skirts of good intentions.

Save us from the sins that brazenly corrupt and disgrace us, and from those that surreptitiously eat away like termites, and undermine our values and good resolves.

Save us from the guilt that shouts at us and condemns us, and from the cunning guilt which slides sideways into excuses which soon sound plausible to the soul willing to listen to the folly and lies of our human ego.

Merciful God, you forgive us and mend our fractured nature. Grounded in Christ, may we rediscover that eternal springtime where all things are made new. In your grace may we be renewed, and in your service may we be fulfilled. In the name of your holy Son, our Saviour. Amen!

THE ASSURANCE

L:Hear the Good News!It is written: “By grace you are saved through faith; and even your faith is not your achievement but is a gift from God.” Take up this precious gift of salvation, and live boldly as the children of God, for I declare to you, the door to life has been opened to us.

R: Thanks be to God!

FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – Exodus 3:1-15  (NKJV)

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

FROM THE GOSPELS – Matthew 16:21-27  (Inclusive Text)

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, God forbid it!  This must never happen to you.’

But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me;
for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?  For the Promised One is to come with angels
in the glory of the Most High, and will repay everyone for what has been done.

HYMN 583 “Take Up Your Cross” (click here to listen)       

A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS   “When God Knocks”      

   Part 1

”But I will be with you…” (Ex.3:12)

Whoever this Yahweh, “I AM WHO I AM,”  God is, one thing is certain:  this God calls people.  Our story from Exodus this morning invites reflection upon the way God works.  You will note, as you read the Bible, that a primary way God gets God’s business done is through people.  Presumably, God could work through thunderbolts, miracles, weird occurrences, and if you know the rest of the Exodus story, there is a bit of that, but not much.  Mostly the story of how the Israelites got out of slavery is a story of people, people like Moses, whose lives were commandeered by God to participate in the work of God: the God who works through people.

Another thing about the way God works:  God not only works through people, but through some rather ordinary people.  We know Moses as an extraordinary leader, but that was later.  For now, Moses is a shepherd of someone else’s flock, a criminal hiding out there in the wilderness, because earlier, in a fit of rage, he killed an Egyptian.  He is not good at public speaking.  He has an obviously low opinion of himself and his abilities. 

So why would God choose Moses rather than someone else?  We can’t answer that question, of course, but we note that throughout the Bible, God does seem to have an odd habit of choosing some rather ordinary, not overtly talented people do divine business.  Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Mary, Matthew, Paul: the list of those who are called is both long and odd.  God manages to choose people to help him whom we might judge to be ill-equipped to do God’s work.  But then, God seems to judge a great many matters differently from the way we judge things. 

Perhaps something God said to Moses helps to explain God’s willingness to put trust in someone like Moses to help God liberate Israel.  When Moses first objected to the call of God, God promised Moses,  “I will be with you…”

Moses may not, at this point in the story, have all that he needs to be an eloquent spokesperson for God.  Moses may not  know the first thing about organising and leading a whole nation out of slavery toward freedom.  But none of that matters if God is faithful to the promise, “I will be with you.”

And if you know the rest of the story of the Exodus, then you know that God was indeed faithful.  God stuck with Moses, through thick and thin.  God is with those whom God calls.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young pastor in Montgomery, Alabama in the late 1950’s.  He loved to read and to write; saw himself as a scholar rather than a public leader, a pastor with a definite inclination for the books.  A group of leaders of the black community came to Martin Luther King, asking him to help them boycott white-owned businesses that discriminated against blacks.  King tried to beg out of their request.  But they persisted and King agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.  God really does seem to be those whom God calls.

When Joy’s husband left her, she was a woman well into middle age.  She had never worked outside the home, having raised three children who were now grown.  Joy had left university as a young woman in order to marry her husband.  She had no marketable skills, as she saw it.  What was to become of her now?

One of Joy’s friends, who had been through a similar experience, told her, “Joy, I believe God can use even this lousy situation in order to bring some good out of it.  You keep open to the call of God.”

Her words seemed to Joy as a bit of pious nonsense.  How on earth could God use her?  What on earth could she contribute to the betterment of the world?  Only a few days after her conversation with the friend, Joy received a phone call from a person she hardly even knew, asking her to try to organise a volunteer centre in their town to coordinate volunteer work among the various community organisations.  She protested that she had no experience in such matters.  The person reminded her of all the volunteer work Joy had done over the years.  Joy finally said yes, and the rest is history.  

From nothing, learning as she worked, Joy built up an outstanding community clearing house which placed, trained, and supervised a wide range of volunteer programs in the town.  I know a story, a very old story, which suggests to me that Joy received a call from God.  Not completely understood by Joy at that time, God was about to move in that community.  God had heard and seen the cries of people in need and required someone to help to do God’s work.  God called Joy.  Joy protested, said she was the wrong person, somebody else would be better, she lacked the experience, etc.  We’ve heard it before many times in the Bible.  But God persisted. 

     Part 2

Today’s Bible story about the call of Moses is not told simply to record a bit of history three or four thousand years ago; rather it is recounted here as a story of on-going history.  It is a history repeated in the lives of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, and Paul and later in Martin Luther King and our friend Joy, and continues today in the lives of those today.  As you listened to God’s call to Moses, you may have heard once again the voice that you perhaps have tried to ignore, or to which you have respond with excuses: I’m retired now; I deserve a rest; or I’m too old and not as fit as I used to be; or I have family to think of or all my time is taken up with bowls or garden club, or I don’t have the knowledge or skills.

Each of us is called to something, to some form of ministry, and one of the church’s primary reasons for being is to help discern, and to provide the opportunity to exercise, the ministries to which its members are called. 

Commonly people see these ministries as jobs to be done out of their responsibilities as church members.  You might consider them to be more or less onerous tasks that, if you are lucky, will be done by someone else so you can spend your time on other, more enjoyable, things.  

But this misses the point.  God doesn’t call people to do tasks for which they were not created, nor does God create tasks in order to burden people.  On the contrary, God calls people to vocations in which they will discover themselves and find wholeness, fulfilment.  When God tells Moses that God will be with him, it has a dual meaning.  First, it means that Moses will have all the resources he needs for the task, for God is there as the ultimate resource but, second, it means that God is to be found where Moses’ ministry is.  This is the part commonly overlooked when we think of being called to a ministry.  The task is not only ours to do; it is also where we meet God.  This is where we get a glimpse of the Kingdom.

It has been said, “The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.”  Thomas Carlyle said, “Blessed is he who has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness.”  I discovered this personally when I responded to the call to ministry of the Word. I gave up a high-paying career with prestige and material comforts. My friends thought I was a bit crazy, but the change was like walking into the warm sunlight after having been wandering fearfully in the chilling dark.  The world was lifted from my shoulders, and ever since, my role in life has never felt like work; rather it is where I find life.

There are many opportunities for ministry in this congregation, and at least as many potential ministers.  Some of you have discovered already the life that comes from following your calling, but many of you haven’t.  As a result, much of the church’s work is left undone, and even more unfortunately, there are people who are missing out on the chance for the extra dimension – the joy and fulfilment – that comes from meeting God in the vocation to which they are being called.

German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, summed up the Gospel well when he wrote, “Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life that springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.”  It is never too late to learn this lesson.  

I hope that I have delivered this message without stirring the least bit of guilt over things left undone: of calls not heard or ignored, of excuses offered.  I don’t worry much about ministries left wanting, but I do grieve for those who miss out on the life that their ministries have the potential to bring.  I hope I leave you with whetted anticipation for the next time God knocks on your door.  When the call comes, jump at it. Choose life!

Remember! God promised Moses and Martin and Joy, “I will be with you…”  And God was.   And God will be again.

HYMN 691 “Faith Will Not Grow From Words Alone”
(click here to listen)  

A LITANY OF THANKS AND PRAISE

L: We are awakened from a week of work and worry
to a morning of fresh beginnings and new horizons.

R: For this day of rest we give thanks and praise.

L: We are awakened from a night of tossing and turning
to a day of surprises and sanctuary.

R: For this day of peace we give thanks and praise.

L: We are awakened from the mundane and ordinary
by an invitation for search and celebration.

R: For this time of celebration we give thanks and praise.

L:This is the day that we are given.

R: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! This is a day like no other!

L: For senses awakened we give thanks and praise.

R: Blessed be!

WE OFFER OUR CONCERNS

Loving Friend, prayerfully we bring our patchy love for a few people, and link it with your seamless love for all people.

For those on whose work we depend:

We pray for those who each day do monotonous jobs for us. Supermarket workers, mail sorters, men who fill potholes, women who do the laundry, those who deliver news papers or who weed public gardens, cleaners in offices and hospitals, factory workers, cooks and waiters and parking attendants.

We pray for those who do exacting work, where every detail is important. Nurses, buss drivers,  tool makers and pharmacists, pilots and pathology technicians, cabinet makers, psychiatrists, tailors, and lawyers, accountants and opticians.

We pray for those whose work is always under critical observation. Councillors and politicians, doctors and social workers, teachers and school principals, students and police officers, secretaries and shop assistants, bricklayers and all who cook family meals.

For those who today are in crisis:

We pray, loving God, for those who for whom  life has become unexpectedly difficult. The victims of road accidents and their stunned loved ones. People who discover that they have contracted a serious illness, or whose loved one is dying or has died.

We pray for once-loving relationships that are falling apart, and for parents who are distressed for their runaway children; for single parents and parentless children, and the victims of domestic abuse whose cries for help have gone unnoticed by family or friends.

We pray for any who have just lost their jobs, or have been long unemployed; those who continue on in most stressful work situations; those who suffer racist or sexual discrimination, and the many whose desperate need for employment has been exploited by ruthless greed.

For the Church:

We pray, loving God for the church in its many denominations, and with its numerous parishes in city and country.

Bless those faithful and active members who are the backbone of each congregation, those lay leaders who carry uneven loads, the elderly members who regret that they can no longer serve the church as they once did, and the young folk who are keen for some responsibility.

Give your grace to all ministers and priests. Renew within them the gifts of enthusiasm and patience. Help them to recognise their deficiencies and to exercise their particular gifts with grateful joy. Remind them often that they are servants of the servants of God.

Give wisdom and humility to governing bodies, and those elected to high office in the church. Enable them to be willing students in the school of Christ, and to know that those under their care have much to teach them of your ways.

God of all things seen and unseen, friend of all people, please receive our prayers and set them to work for the greater glory of  the commonwealth of Christ Jesus. In whose name we 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 and the power and glory are yours now and forever. Amen

HYMN 658  “I the Lord of Sea and Sky” (click here to listen) 

PARTING WORDS

L: The God we worship is never confined to this holy time and place. So go and travel with the God who is found in ordinary and surprising places. Walk together as we move out from our security. May God motivate us to take risks like Jesus., and reassure and recommit us to a life of service

R: with no strings attached, where we will live for justice and peace.

BENEDICTION

May this God bless us, embrace us, and send us forth renewed, refreshed, and revitalised.
May we live each day in the name of Love, and include all in the circle of Love, and treat all with a spirit of Love.  Amen.

An open, virtual door to the world