Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford
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 - (Abingdon Worship Annual 2011)
Come, let us put God in the centre of our lives!
We rejoice in God's steadfast love!
Come, let our gentleness be a reflection of God's love.
We give thanks for Christ's enduring grace!
Come, let us lay down our burdens and worries.
We offer our needs to God in prayer.
Come, let us focus on what is honourable and true.
With hope, we turn now to God's guiding word.
Hymn 474: Here in this place new light is streaming
(tune – Gather us in)
Here in this place new light is streaming, now is the darkness vanished away,
see in this space our fears and our dreamings, brought here to you in the light of this day.
Gather us in the lost and forsaken, gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken, we shall arise at the sound of our name.
We are the young-our lives a mystery, we are the old-who yearn for your face,
we have been sung throughout all of history, called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in-the rich and the haughty, gather us in-the proud and the strong;
give us a heart so meek and so lowly, give us the courage to enter the song.
Here we will take the wine and the water, here we will take the bread of new birth,
here you shall call your sons and your daughters, call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion, give us to eat the bread that is you;
nourish us well and teach us to fashion lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven, light-years away,
but here in this place the new light is shining, no is the Kingdom, and now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever, gather us in and make us your own;
gather us in-all peoples together, fire of love in our flesh and our bone.
Gather us in` - Marty Haugen (b. 1950)
Most Holy God, we come into worship with thanksgiving and praise, but we also come before you with worries and doubts. As we lay these burdens down, fill us with your Spirit and bless us with peace and joy. Keep our minds in Christ Jesus, that we may remain focused on issues of justice and righteousness, love and grace. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
Most Holy God, we have made gods out of gold and clay; we have allowed worries and doubts to cloud our vision and faith.
Do not think on these things, gracious God. Find in us all that is honourable and true, commendable and excellent. Shine in our lives, that we may reflect the just and righteous parts of ourselves.
Forgive us when we reflect false gods or sinful values.
Guide us back into your holy presence and transform us with your grace, that we may be the gentle and just people you would have us be and become.
Declaration of Forgiveness
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, is ours through Christ Jesus. In Christ, we are forgiven indeed! Amen.
Thanks, be to God!
Let us show one another signs of God's peace, the peace beyond all understanding that is yours and mine to share. The amazing peace of God be with you.
And also, with you!
A Word with the Children/Young People
Theme: Worship God and him alone.
Object: A small statue
Who can tell me what this is? (Give time for answers.) That’s right, it is a statue. How many of you have statues in your home? Have you ever seen any statues in parks around the city? Perhaps it was a famous baseball player or an artist or author. I once went to a park with statues of characters from books by Dr. Seuss. My favourite was Horton the elephant.
Statues are great unless they become something that we worship other than God. When we do that, the statue becomes an idol that replaces our God.
That is what one our Bible lesson that we won’t read that is set for this morning in Exodus is about. The main characters in the story are God, Moses, and his brother Aaron. As the story begins, Moses is up on a mountain called Mt. Sanai. I am sure that you remember that God had told Moses to go up on the mountain so that God could give him the Ten Commandments for the people to follow.
Now Moses stayed up on the mountain longer than the people thought he should. They went to Aaron and said to him, "We want you to create gods who will go before us so that we will know what way to go. As for this fellow Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings you are wearing and bring them to me." So, all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took all the gold they had given to him and made it into an idol in the shape of a calf. The people were very happy with the idol that had been made for them.
When Aaron saw how happy the people were, he built an altar and placed it in front of the calf. He said, "Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord and you are to rise up early and make a sacrifice burnt offerings before the calf."
When God saw what the people were doing, he became very angry and told Moses that he was going to destroy the people because of their unfaithfulness. But Moses begged the Lord to remember the promise that he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and the children of Israel. Moses convinced the Lord and he changed his mind and did not do what he said he might do—he did not destroy them.
What can we learn from this story? We sometimes put other things before God. It may not be an idol made of gold in the shape of a calf, but it may be things. It might be things like money, cars, or sports. Anything that we put ahead of our love for God becomes an idol and that is a big mistake.
God of steadfast love, we thank you for the abundant gifts in our lives: love and grace, clothing and belongings, friends and family. We thank you for the steadfast signs of your loving presence in our world: wondrous works and awesome deeds. We come before you with our offerings, rejoicing in this opportunity to help bring your realm to this earth. Amen.
Hymn 430: Your words to me
(Tune – Capel)
The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Philippians 4:1-9
The Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
Readings: NRSV Translation
4 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. 2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Preaching of the Word - What Does the Lord Require?
Imagine this: “A man flips lazily through the television channels and stops for a few minutes to look at a religious program. He then turns the set off, gets up, and walks into the hall where he encounters his wife. "Will you," he asks her, "be ready when the Bridegroom comes?" "Yes," she responds quickly, "I have my outfit all picked out."
This is, of course, comedy. It works as such because in this context it follows a formula similar to the one used in making puns. It replaces the symbolic, scriptural meaning of "Bridegroom" with the literal meaning of the word. In making light of the parable, the couple block out the light of understanding. Nothing is more corrosive to symbolic understanding than the literal. Do you recall how, during the 1960s, Timothy Leary declared LSD (lysergic acid), with which he was experimenting, to be a "sacrament." Do you remember how corrosive an idea that was, not just to brain cells but to the understanding of some people as to what was really a sacrament? It reduced the idea of "sacrament" to being a mere thing.
Jesus did not do stand-up comedy. Parables are like puzzles, and Jesus, we are told, always spoke in parables. Today's Gospel incorporates one of his best-known parables. He didn't use them to entertain or to perplex his audiences, or to give them games to play. His parables were like pieces of string that had to be rolled up into a ball. Like poetry, they were stories at whose heart was a metaphor. He was not trying to be difficult. He used the language of parable because he was speaking of something that was intangible. He was speaking of something unseen. And like the poet, he had the difficult task of making the unseen, seen.
Often the meanings contained in the parables were left, for the moment, unseen. Even the disciples had difficulty and more than once asked Jesus to explain the parables. Scripture can be difficult. It takes work.
A minister once wrote, "Only the poetic imagination can understand the Bible. Like unsolved puzzles, the meaning of parables can lie hidden in the mind. Hindrances to our understanding abound-like bars on a door or locks on a gate. We do remain curious about what lies on the other side.
We can be barred from entrance through the door of meaning by attempting to interpret the meaning of the parables as though the stories are literal. As with our initial scene, such a response flattens out the meaning, makes it comic or banal. Simply put, then, the meaning of today's Gospel story of the marriage feast might be:
"You had better get your clothes ready if you want to go to the wedding feast or you will be booted out; or, worse, you might be thrown to the dogs!" Would we leave deeper meaning behind and take off for the mall? The better we look when we go into church for the wedding, the more likely we are of being able to pass into heaven.
Is this what we really believe? Do we try and interpret and understand the metaphor or do take things literally? Would there be fewer trip to the mall? There is no section at the mall for symbolic wedding garb, or for symbolic brides. So, let's leave the literal and try doing the work of seeing through different lenses, in a way that will give us a new heart.
Literal interpretations of the parables bring us to a dead end. Symbolic interpretation can open things up for us. In today's Gospel, Jesus is using the image of a wedding feast, a favourite of his, to speak about the Kingdom of God. The bride in the story is not spoken about because she is everywhere, for she can be compared to the entire body of Christ's people. Jesus, I believe was really talking about a sacred marriage between God and humans; between the bridegroom who is the Word and human nature. Jesus himself is the bridegroom and the bride is every one of us. We are being given a picture, Jesus' vision, of the "married land." As in Revelations, the Bridegroom has come. It is heaven where, the divine and human have been united.
And when he comes, will we be ready? Will we be foolish enough to say that as there is a sale this week, we will certainly be able to look our best for the wedding in church? No, the costume in the story is to be understood metaphorically. It is our lives we need to change, the contents of our consciousness, our hearts, and our vision -- not our clothes! These are the intangible garments that concern Jesus. When we wear them -- then he will come, bringing his Kingdom of Heaven. Right here. Right now.
Will we be thrown out where there will be fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Does this fate sound familiar? Similar language is used in other parables recorded by Matthew. It is a harvest metaphor. Literally, it is the weeds that are thrown out from the gathering and the bad fish from the net. And is it a mean God who will throw us out if we show up without the proper gown?
No. The purpose of a parable is to make one point and the point here is to get ready, to stitch together for ourselves the garments of truth, of the Way, so we will be open to God.
There are many people who will remain well armoured against the piercing truths today's parable conveys. They will refuse the challenge. It is easier, like the couple in our opening story, to protect ourselves from the real meaning of the parable by turning it into comedy. It is easier to limit our Vision, to wear a garment of armour. "The kingdom of God is spread on the earth and people don't see it," we read. Jesus' kingdom cannot be stormed. It must descend upon us like light.
In today's parable, Jesus has given us all a key. For God's sake, for Heaven's sake (heaven was used as a synonym for God), we must prepare, make our garments, clothe ourselves in understanding. Only by preparing such a robe are we to gain entrance into his Kingdom.
Hymn 665: Jesus Christ is waiting
(Tune – Noel Nouvelet)
Remembering God's marvellous works and living in hope, let us pray for the church, the world, and all people according to their needs.
Stir up your church to do the work of evangelism and proclaim the message of the salvation through faith in Christ Jesus to the world. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.
Enlighten world leaders with new and creative ways to become good stewards of the earth's resources for the sake of future generations. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Watch over all who suffer from injustice, hear and answer their cry, and preserve them from all evil. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Let us pray for the sick (including) and especially for those with Covid-19 and those who deal with other viruses and illnesses, that God will give health and strengthen their faith. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Inspire our congregation to persistent prayer and steadfast study of the scriptures, so that we will be equipped for every good work. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We give you thanks for the witness of those who have gone before and our examples of faith. Give us persistence of faith until we, with all the saints, may see you face to face. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of faithfulness, encircled in your lovingkindness, we lift up to you all in need. Hear our prayers on behalf of others and sustain us as we await the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray.
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 573: A Charge to keep I Have
(Tune – Boylston)
1. A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
2. To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
3. Arm me with jealous care
As in Thy sight to live,
And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
4. Help me to watch and pray,
And still on Thee rely,
let me not my trust betray,
But press to realms on high.
Author: Charles Wesley (1762)
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus this day and forevermore. Go forth in the name of the living Word, the One whose words bring forth the fruit of the kingdom in your own lives! Amen.
May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.
May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.
May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.
May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you Home.
Robyn Mann (1949 -) Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)