Thursday, 13 August 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship 16 August 2020 - Wesley 3

 

Marsden Road Uniting Church

Carlingford

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Faith and Politics

 16th August 2020 Wesley 3 Sunday 9.30 am

Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 

May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship   

(The Abingdon Worship Annual 2020)

When all seems to be lost, God is most near to us. 

When quarrels estrange us from one another,

Christ’s light shows us the way to reconciliation.

When we feel excluded and left out,

The Spirit’s peace eases our pain.

When all hope of fellowship seems lost,

God’s grace restores our hope.

Come! Let us worship God, who makes us one. 

Hymn 657: God of freedom, God of justice 

                 (Tune – Picardy)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FzZfk_A2G8  or

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw6hHZAWINw

      God of freedom, God of justice,

you whose love is strong as death,

you who saw the dark of prison,

you who knew the price of faith --

       touch our world of sad oppression

       with your Spirit's healing breath.


Rid the earth of torture's terror,

you whose hands were nailed to wood;

hear the cries of pain and protest,

you who shed the tears and blood --

       move in us the power of pity

       restless for the common good.

 

Make in us a captive conscience

quick to hear, to act, to plead;

make us truly sisters, brothers

of whatever race or creed --

       teach us to be fully human,

       open to each other's needs. 

Tune: Picardy

 Opening prayer

      Eternal God, part the veil that blinds us to our unity as your beloved children. When those we love, hurt, and betray us, help us let go of our pain and find the balm of forgiveness. When we feel abandoned by those we trust, help us seek your peace and reconciliation. When our hearts are pierced with anguish, help us find those who will bring us solace, through your loving Spirit. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Merciful God, we yearn to be like the Joseph who wept with forgiveness on the necks of those who sold him into slavery.

But we fear that our anger and resentment would lead us to take retribution on those who have wronged us.

We long to see in the Canaanite woman a child of God worthy of mercy and compassion.

But we fear that our deep-seated prejudices might lead us to dismiss her out of hand, as Jesus’s disciples did before us.

We want to open our hearts, O God, to those who are different from ourselves.

But we fear to expect too much of ourselves. Help us know the joy of living in peace and harmony, even with those we would rather live without.

Declaration of Forgiveness   

The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Rejoice in the knowledge of God’s saving love.

Thanks, be to God! Amen

 The Peace

 Lord Jesus Christ, you know our faults and have heard our prayers. You have ripped apart the barriers that separate us from God and opened us to the grace of God through your sacrifice of love on a cross, and your resurrection from the dead. Promise of God, fill your people and give us peace.

Peace be with you.
And also, with you.

 (You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)

A Word with the Children/Young People

Theme: What do we owe to God? We owe Him our all!

Object: A five dollar note or a coin with the image of the 

             Queen imprinted on it.

Have you ever heard your parents or other adults complaining about having to pay taxes? You probably have. Most people are not too fond of having to pay taxes. Do any of you pay taxes? Well, it might surprise you to learn that kids pay taxes, too!

How many of you receive an allowance from your parents? Have any of you ever received some money as a birthday gift from your grandparents? How many of you have ever earned some money for doing some chores around the house? How many of you have ever bought anything with your very own money?

If you answered, "Yes" to any of these questions, you have probably paid some taxes. Did you know that every time you buy something, you pay a sales tax? In our state, that tax is about eight cents for every dollar you spend. I wonder what Jesus would say if we asked him whether kids should pay taxes? That is a tough question. If he answered, "Yes," all the kids would probably get mad at him. If he answered, "No," the politicians who make our laws would probably get mad at him because the state needs that money to operate. It seems that someone would get mad at him no matter which way he answered! It looks like a no-win situation, doesn't it?

Did you know that something like that actually happened? In Jesus' day, the people were required to pay a poll tax. It was not a very popular tax with the people. One day some religious leaders came to Jesus and asked him if he thought the people should pay the poll tax. They were actually trying to trick Jesus, because they knew if he said, "Yes," the people would be angry. But if he said, "No," he would get into trouble with the authorities.

Jesus saw right through their plan and he did a very wise thing. He asked them for a coin, then he said, "Whose picture is on this coin?"

They answered, "It is Caesar." Caesar was the Roman ruler and all taxes had to be paid to him.

Jesus then said to them, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."

Look at this dollar. Whose picture is on it? It is a picture of George Washington, our first president. What does it say right above his picture? It says, "The United States of America." Well, I guess that means that this dollar belongs to "George" and we will have to pay our taxes.

But what about God? Jesus also said, "Give to God what belongs to God." The Bible says that we were created by God and that we were created in the image of God. If we are created by God, and we were created in His image, we must belong to Him. That means we must give ourselves to Him!

Dear Father, you created us in your image, and we belong to you. Because of that, we give our hearts and lives to you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Offering Prayer

Bountiful God, when famine threatened the world, you blessed Joseph with dreams that saved children of every nation. Faithful One, when hunger threatens our world, you bless us with dreams that we can save the children of our day Bless this offering, that your dreams for a world without want may bless the lives of your children. Accept these gifts, as tokens of our dreams and our commitment to make all people one in your holy name. Amen.

Hymn 210: O for a thousand tongues to sing

                  (Tune – Lyngham)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T-i3COsefM

O for a thousand tongues to sing

my great Redeemer's praise,

the glories of my God and King,

the triumphs of his grace!

 

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,

that bids our sorrows cease,

'tis music in the sinner's ears,

'tis life and health and peace.

 

                     See all your sins on Jesus laid;

The Lamb of God was slain; 

His soul was once an offering made

For every soul of man.

 

He breaks the power of cancelled sin,

he sets the prisoner free;

his blood can make the foulest clean;

his blood availed for me.


He speaks, - and, listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice; 

The humble poor believe.

 

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb 

Your loosened tongues employ 

Ye blind, behold your Saviour come 

And leap, ye lame, for joy

 

My gracious Master and my God,

assist me to proclaim,

to spread through' all the earth abroad

the honors of your name.

                               Author: Charles Wesley

Tune : Lyngham Composer: Thomas Jarman (C. 1803)

 

                                     The Service of the Word

 The First Reading:                      Romans 13:1-7             NEB page 882

The Gospel Reading:                 Matthew 22:15-22         NEB page 747

 Readings: NRSV Translation

 Romans 13:1-7       

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority[a] does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. 

Matthew 22:15-22        

         15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in         what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along         with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you            are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with         truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not                regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you            think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or                     not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are         you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me            the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a                    denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this,            and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.”                Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the           things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that         are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed;            and they left him and went away.

Preaching of the Word: Faith and Politics

 The bad boys were trying to trap Jesus. Actually, in the eyes of the society, they were supposed to be the good guys. They were the brightest and best. The Pharisees were people who observed all of the traditional standards and rituals of Judaism. They tithed. They were compassionate. They were moral. They were at the heart of virtue in the culture. The Herodians were politically powerful. Had there been an institution such as the "Presidential Prayer Breakfast" in those days, the Pharisees and the Herodians would have been present. They were the brightest and the best. They were trying to trap Jesus. Politics was in play. 

The trap was simple but brilliant. If Jesus answers the questions, "Is it right to pay taxes, to render tribute to Caesar?" with ayes, then the Pharisees had him for committing blasphemy. The ritual priority or holiness laws of the Pharisees forbade a Jew from touching Roman money. Roman coins had the image of Caesar on them. The Romans regarded Caesar as a god. So, if Jesus paid tribute or taxes to Caesar, then he would be guilty of both idolatry and blasphemy.

If, on the other hand, Jesus said, "No, don't render tribute, pay taxes, to Caesar," then the Herodians could turn him in to the Romans authorities as a revolutionary. In short, they thought they had him.

Jesus answered by asking for a coin and turning the question around and asking them, "whose image is on the coin?" They answered, "Caesar's." He said, "Render that which is Caesar's to Caesar and to God that which is God's." 

Christians have been trying to figure out how to do that ever since. 

A conservative man said," I believe it is my duty to God to help protect this nation from the Labour Party and the Greens. 

A liberal Christian man said, "I just can't see how a Christian can be a Liberal, One Nation or anything like that. Oh, I know that it is possible. I even have a Liberal Party friend who is a Christian, but I just don't understand how it can be that way." 

A Christian woman said, "I don't vote. I think about it and can't see how voting can honour God. So, I just don't vote." 

Another Christian said," I believe it is my Christian responsibility to vote. I try to vote as intelligently as I can. Frequently it means choosing between the lesser of two evils. One humourist described voting as choosing 'the evil of two lessers.' I think that is funny, but it still hurts. I believe God wants us to do the best we can in an imperfect reality." 

Most of us are somewhere in the middle, trying to honour God and trying to be good citizens of our country. 

But Jesus is saying something deeper. He ends his response with "render to God what is God's." This suggests to us that there are some ultimate citizenship issues. In the scriptures Jesus makes many references to the "Kingdom of God." We all say that we believe it. In the Creeds we use the phrase "whose kingdom will have no end." We have never seen this kingdom. Many contemporary theologians don't even like the image of kingdom. They feel that it doesn't speak to us since most of us don't live in monarchies. Some of them like the phrase, "Commonwealth of God;" others like the phrase "Realm of God." But whatever term we prefer, there is a sense in us that somehow our ultimate citizenship is not in this world. 

“How Far Is It the Duty of a Christian Minister to Preach Politics?” One would think this would be a clear definition of the situation and solve the question of Wesley’s political involvement forever. Unfortunately, he confines the preaching of politics to defending the King, and the King’s ministers, against slanders and lies. 

Three times in this short essay, he says that the chief business of the clergy is to preach Christ, and Christ crucified. That seems to sum up Wesley’s attitude toward the political system. That attitude is almost a hands-off one. Don’t bother with politics, except to set the record straight when people lie about the King or the King’s ministers. 

Wesley did advise Methodist voters about voting. He told them they should vote morally, that is, they should not accept bribes or other favours in return for their votes. In addition, he said, they should vote for the candidate that “loves God”. If there were no candidate who loves God, then they should vote for the one who supports King George. That’s a pretty direct statement, in terms of telling people how to vote! 

The first part, about voting for the candidate who loves God, raises more problems than it solves. How does one determine which candidate loves God? How much weight should campaign rhetoric bear in answering that question? How does one determine the relative weight of words and deeds? 

All through his life, Wesley leaned on the biblical idea of obedience to the powers that be. See Romans 13 for an expression of this idea. Wesley would also warn us to be humble about confusing our own political opinions with the will of God. And, incredibly important for a time when only a small majority of eligible voters actually do vote, Wesley would urge us to get to the polls! 

Wesley would return us to Jesus. The same Jesus who calls us to our true, ultimate, and permanent citizenship. He makes that possible for us through his life, teaching, death, resurrection, and continuing presence with us. Our true citizenship will be at the heavenly banquet. The seating arrangements at the heavenly banquet are going to be interesting. 

The ticket into the heavenly banquet is salvation, by grace, through faith. It is not connected to our works, either good or bad. It is a free gift from God. The passport to heaven is not something of this world. We receive it when we surrender to the love of God and claim Jesus as Saviour. 

When it comes to voting, you are on your own. Do the best you can for the best reasons you can summon up from the political debates, speeches, and televised sound bites. 

But when it comes to heaven -- be with God! We know that this is true; we know that this is where we really belong.

Hymn 122: What shall I do my God to love

                  (Tune – Wiltshire)

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB0SDJH-Iew

             What shall I do my God to love,

my loving God to praise?

the length, and breadth, and height to prove,

and depth of sovereign grace?

 

Your sovereign grace to all extends,

immense and unconfined;

from age to age it never ends,

to reach all humankind.

 

Throughout the world its breadth is known,

wide as infinity;

so wide it never passed by one,

or it had passed by me.

 

My trespass was grown up to heav'n;

but far above the skies,

in Christ abundantly forgiven,

I see your mercies rise.

 

The depth of all-redeeming love,

what angel tongue can tell?

O may I to the utmost prove

the gift unspeakable.

 

Come quickly, gracious Lord, and take

possession of your own;

my longing heart be pleased to make

your everlasting throne. 

Author: Charles Wesley Tune: Jerusalem (Grosvenor)

Intercessory Prayers    

Give us, O God, leaders whose hearts are large enough to match the breadth of our own souls and give us souls strong enough to follow leaders of vision and wisdom.

In seeking a leader, let us seek more than development for ourselves — though development we hope for — more than security for our own land — though security we need — more than satisfaction for our wants — though many things we desire.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Give us the hearts to choose the leader who will work with other leaders to bring safety to the whole world. Give us leaders who lead this nation to virtue without seeking to impose our kind of virtue on the virtue of others.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Give us a government that provides for the advancement of this country without taking resources from others to achieve it. Give us insight enough ourselves to choose as leaders those who can tell strength from power, growth from greed, leadership from dominance, and real greatness from the trappings of grandiosity.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We trust you, Great God, to open our hearts to learn from those to whom you speak in different tongues and to respect the life and words of those to whom you entrusted the good of other parts of this globe.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

We beg you, Great God, give us the vision as a people to know where global leadership truly lies, to pursue it diligently, to require it to protect human rights for everyone everywhere. We ask these things, Great God, with minds open to your word and hearts that trust in your eternal care.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

In every generation you have spoken through your prophets, and you call us today to be 'a people of compassion. We pray for those in need, that they may find comfort and relief; for those without work and those without rest; for the lonely and those who mourn; for the sick and those who will die this day. We thank you for all who bring to others your compassion and care.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

Loving God, in every generation people of faith have heard your voice and responded to your call. We give you thanks for all your faithful servants. May we, following their example, welcome you into our hearts and homes, sit in your presence and seek to understand your word, that we may come to share with all your saints in the joy of your eternal life.

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.

 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. 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.

Hymn 618: What does the Lord require

                 (Tune – Sharpthorne)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbthcrhrrOU

             What does the Lord require

for praise and offering?

What sacrifice, desire

or tribute did you bring?

Do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

Rulers of earth, give ear!

Should you not justice know?

Will God your pleading hear

while crime and cruelty grow?

Do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

Still down the ages ring

the prophet's stern commands:

to merchant, worker, king,

he brings God's high commands:

do justly,

love mercy,

walk humbly with your God.

 

How shall our life fulfill

God's law so hard and high?

Let Christ endue our will

with grace to fortify.

Then justly,

in mercy,

we'll humbly walk with God.

Author: Albert F. Bayly (1949)

Benediction

       The God of dreams has brought us together.

        The God of dreams sends us forth to love one another well.

The God of love has knit us together in unity.

The God of love sends us forth to heal our

divisions.

The God of hope sends us forth together.

The God of peace sends us forth to bring the world

home.

Hymn 483: Lord in the strength of grace

                 (Tune – St Michael)

Lord, in the strength of grace,
with a glad heart and true,
myself, my residue of days,
I consecrate to you.           

Your ransomed servant, I
restore to you your own;
and from this moment, live or die
to serve my God alone.

Tune:  St. Michael (Genevan) Composer: Louis Bourgeois

 

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