Thursday, 14 May 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Order of Worship 17 May 2020

Sunday 17th May 2020
Marsden Road Uniting Church

Once a Young Man...,
Sunday 17th May 2020
Easter 6 Sunday in the year of Matthew
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
(Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2020)
The Spirit of truth dwells among us. Bask in this awareness. In the Lord, we live and breathe and have our being. Rest in this presence.

God made the world and everyone in it.
Our life and breath come from God.
God made all nations under heaven.
We are all God’s offspring.
Search for God in our time of worship.
When we search, we find God near.

Hymn 134: Praise, my soul, the King of heaven
                  (Tune – Praise my Soul)

1.  Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to His feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
who like thee His praise should sing?
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King.

2.  Praise Him for His grace and favour
to our fathers, in distress;
Praise Him still the same for ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Glorious in His faithfulness.

3.  Father-like He tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame He knows;
In His hands He gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Widely as His mercy flows.

4.  Angels help us to adore Him;
ye behold Him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before Him;
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Words: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847)
Music: Lauda anima John Goss (1800-1880)
Public Domain

Opening prayer

     Hear our prayers, O God, as we come to sing your praises. Bless us with your steadfast love, in times of peace and in times of trial. Make your presence known to us this day, for we seek to know you better. Enliven us with your Spirit of truth, and increase our faith, even as we place our hope and trust in you. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Sometimes, O God, your ways are a mystery to us. When we cry out in desperation, we don’t really expect you to hear our prayers. When we suffer for doing the right thing, it just seems like par for the course. When we deny or doubt your presence, forgive us, O God. Make your presence known to us, and receive our prayers and praise, as those who long to feel your presence. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
The Spirit of truth abides with you and will be with you. Because the Lord lives, you also will live. Love God and receive God’s abiding love.

Thanks, be to God!

The Peace

As we are forgiven and reconciled to God through Christ Jesus, let us be reconciled to each other. The peace of the Lord be with you all.

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

Amy and Jill were friends - both ten years old, they lived in the same street and were in the same class at school.  While Amy had lots of friends, she often felt that she was Jill’s only friend.  So Amy was surprised when Jill invited her to come to her house after school one day to meet her friends.

 After school, Amy walked to the other end of her street to where Jill lived and rang the bell.  Jill opened the door, invited Amy in and took her down the hall to her bedroom.  Amy looked in amazement at the number of bears and dolls that filled every corner of the room.  Jill saw her expression and said, “These are my friends” and she began to introduce Amy to every doll and bear by name.   

Amy was stunned by the way Jill treated the dolls as though they were real people, but then Jill said, “Now come and meet my Mum’s friends”.  She led Amy to a room at the back of the house and said proudly “These are my Mum’s special friends”.  On shelves and in cabinets around the room were blonde-wigged dolls dressed in every possible outfit you could imagine.  Again, Jill began to introduce them all by name and to explain what activity their style of dress suggested. 

Amy had a couple of these dolls herself and enjoyed playing with them, but she realised that this was different.  She interrupted Jill “They’re lovely but how can you and your Mum call them your friends when they’re only dolls!”  “But they are our friends, we love them” replied Jill. “But they are only make-believe friends - they can’t love you back” said Amy. Looking away from Amy, Jill said “They’re the only friends we have.” “Come on” said Amy “am I not your friend?  I like you and I care about you.  Do these dolls care about you?” Jill shook her head and hugged Amy “Tell me more” she said.

When the Apostle Paul visited Athens and saw all the statues of their gods, he said “Let me tell you about the God who made the world and loved it.  This God came in person to show us that love and how we can share it.”  Let’s hope that each person who heard him said the same as Jill
“Tell me more.”


Invitation to the Offering

As the people of God, let us bring our offerings and gifts, so that others may know the loving foundation we have found in Christ Jesus.

Offering Prayer

God of love, you are present in all things. Be present to a hurting world in these gifts. Help us use this offering to create a community of love and a place of belonging for all people. Help us reach those who seek, and those who doubt. Use these gifts to help people know the blessings of being your beloved children. Amen

Hymn 567: God of all power, and truth, and grace

1 GOD of all power, and truth, and grace,
   Which shall from age to age endure,
   Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
   Remains and stands for ever sure;

2 That I your mercy may proclaim,
   That all the world your truth may see,
    Hallow your great and glorious name,
    And perfect holiness in me.

3 Purge me from every sinful blot;
   My idols all be cast aside;
   Cleanse me from every sinful thought,
   From all the stain of self and pride.

4 Give me a new, a perfect heart,
   From doubt, and fear, and sorrow free;
   The mind which was in Christ impart,
   And let my spirit cleave to thee.

5 O that I now, from sin released,
   Thy word may to the utmost prove,
   Enter into the promised rest,
   The Canaan of thy perfect love!

Author: Charles Wesley
Tune Ombersley - William Henry Gladstone

                                              The Service of the Word

The First Reading:                                            Acts 17: 22-31
The Gospel Reading:                                        John 14: 15-21

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord
Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God.


Acts 17: 22-31

22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.” 29 Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’

John 14: 15-21

15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’

Preaching of the Word - Once a Young Man..., Acts 17: 22-31

Once a young man mentioned to his pastor that he had a love of poetry but that he noticed poetry was never mentioned at church. "Would it be possible," he asked the minister, "to introduce poetry sometime into the service?" The following week the pastor obligingly produced a poem. After explaining to the congregation why she was doing it, she read the poem. No comment; just the poem. Quickly returning to the usual order of the Sunday liturgy, it was evident that she had taken care of another of those little duties that are expected of ministers. A poem had been read in church.

After the service, thinking she might have given the young man short shrift, the pastor asked him to take part in a discussion group -- on the Bible and poetry. The young man jumped at the opportunity and found himself with friends in the wonderful garden of biblical metaphor. This minister had reached out. She had, in effect, built a bridge. What are St. Paul's words in Acts this morning? "They would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him...."

Exactly. That is what this young man was doing. In bringing his interest in poetry to the minister, he was bringing himself to church. He wanted to be received. Trying to link poetry with the Bible, he was clearly looking for ways to link himself with the scriptures. His searching could have been ignored, and it nearly was. But the minister built a bridge -- a bridge over troubled waters, to use words from an old song. With this bridge, the minister was able to bring the young man into the Waters of Life.

Building bridges is hard work. The process inevitably results in confronting the ever-present bridge toll (or troll, if you remember the old children's story about the "three billy goats gruff.") We can almost hear the voices in our heads: "It'll take time and money to get this thing started;" or "It isn't worth it;" or "They won't listen;" or "A lot of wasted effort!" But this kind of bridge building is well worth it, and it isn't wasted effort. And it isn't only the business of ministers you know, but that of parents and congregation members as well. Christians are all, or should all be, disciples. Bearing witness and spreading the Word is the business of every Christian and finding bridges between the teaching of scripture and the outside culture is necessary to aid that process.

In the reading from Acts that we have heard this morning, St. Paul gives us a good example of the productive process of bridge building. He finds himself in the rather hostile environment of Athens. It is a university city and there are many people there to challenge his words. He is clearly an alien among them. He is not one of them. There is actually a 10th century illumination that shows Paul being mocked by his audience. The name the people call him, after he begins to speak, is often translated as, " babbler." But in fact the Greek word of derision was really closer to the old English expression, "cocksparrow," meaning a person who picks up scraps of what he finds around him much as a male sparrow picks up the odds and ends of straw and twigs he finds to build a nest for his mate.

And it is clear that St. Paul was doing just that. He had not come to speak about the well-formulated philosophy of the Athenians. In fact, he was picking up what he could, struggling to give body to his ideas, and in doing so, he was indeed making use of the materials he found around him, of what was at hand. Although St. Paul was "speaking in prose," his was truly a poet's craft.

And just as there was little of the Sophist's philosophy with which Paul could identify, there were also few elements of Greek religion or Greek poetry with which he could feel comfortable. But in speaking to the Athenians he did not choose to denounce or ridicule their beliefs or values. He did not attempt to criticise Greek philosophy or Greek poetry. Rather he confronted the people of Athens with elements of their culture and religion with which he could form a bridge.

How did he do this? He mentioned a famous Greek inscription "to an unknown god" and he cited two Greek poems, one by Epimenides and one by Aratus of Soli. From these points in their culture he formed a bridge in order to develop the image of God he was trying to convey to them.

Although there is much made of the poetry of the Old Testament -- the poetry of the Psalms and in the book of Job, for instance -- we don't hear much about the poetry of Jesus. This is perhaps because we have chosen a very restrictive definition of poetry -- as that which is arranged in verses, or which rhymes, or both. When we accept this restrictive definition of poetry, we are ignoring the use of figurative language, the use of metaphor. Poetry, understood properly in this light, is everywhere in the words of our Lord.

Jesus uses poetry, metaphorical language, to link us to worlds unseen, especially unseen in the culture that surrounds us. In fact, there was no other language that Jesus could have used. "Poetry," one famous poet said, "makes the unseen seen." Wasn't Jesus trying to make us see things we couldn't otherwise see by telling us stories about things we could see? As we read in John, "I have said these things to you in figures of speech." (John 16:25)

Again, we need not go far from today's readings to discover examples of powerful and poetic metaphor. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the symbol of the vine in an effort to express the relationship that exists between him and others. He is the vine and we are the branches. "Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me." Here, the metaphor is about incorporation; the incorporation of all of us in the Body of Christ.

But who are the agents of this incorporation? We are. We must act ourselves as disciples so that others are brought into the words of our Saviour. These are seeds that must be watered. Blanketing them with a hostile blast of snow is hindering and fruitless. In place of a sarcastic cultural critique, how about a little sun, a little water Then the taproots of such powerful images will go deep into our minds.

There may be much to dislike in the culture that surrounds us. It is true there is often more interest in the swimsuit issue of a popular magazine than in the figures in poetry. And often the imagery in a certain amount of modern poetry and song merely seems to meander through the materialistic malls of our country, bereft of any transcendence. But this is not always the case. No one is won through denunciation or dismissal. Just as Jesus formed a bridge between the branches and the vine and our life in him and in God, we must learn to form bridges to the secular culture that surrounds us.

The seeds of understanding and belief must be watered as in a reading from Isaiah:
When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them. I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water....

It is often said that scripture is irrelevant to today's people. How can a book so filled with universal imagery be called irrelevant? Rather, it is made irrelevant by those who burn all the bridges between the culture and the words of the scripture. This is done more often by blame and denunciation. Ironically, then, those called to preach the Word are hindering its being spread by their exclusionary attitude towards the culture that surrounds them. The blamed simply withdraw, protective of what is theirs, cutting themselves off from the Vine itself.

There are, of course, materials for this kind of bridge building everywhere. It need not be done only with poetry. But as it was with the minister in this story and with Paul, poetry may be a fine place to start.

In an age in which the Bible is under fire, poetry might serve as a good place to build a helpful bridge from the Bible to the surrounding culture. The minister in this story moved quickly from using poetry to satisfy a young man's request, to using it as a bridge, recognising its great potential for proclamation. The materials for such bridge building are everywhere around us. We need only to stop and pick some of them up and set to work. By doing this, we are doing our part to help others forge a link to the Kingdom of God.

Hymn 408: O breath of God, breathe on us now
                 (Tune – Galilee)

1 O breath of God, breathe on us now
   and move within us while we pray;
   you are the spring of our new life,
   the very light of our new day.

2 How strangely you are with us, Lord,
   neither in height nor depth to seek:
   in nearness shall your voice be heard;
   spirit to spirit you will speak.

3 Christ is our advocate on high;
   you are our advocate within:
   O plead the truth and make reply
   to every argument of sin.

4 But what a faithless heart of mine:
   the way I know, I know my guide:
   forgive me, O my friend divine,
   that I so often turn aside.  
5 Be with me when no other friend
   the mystery of my heart can share;
   be always known, when fears descend,
   by your best name of Comforter.

Author: Alfred H. Vine
Composer: Philip Armes

Intercessory Prayers  
Ever loving God, in the long years since the world has seen you, we come together in prayer in the hope and assurance of your commitment to us, and the life of this world.
We pray for ourselves, that we might be filled with your Holy Spirit, that we will be agents for peace, in a world where destruction seems insurmountable, that we will be confident in your commandment to go forth in love for you and each other.
We pray for our church, as it continues to change, to evolve, to seek out the best way to follow you, that it will be a conduit for your promise to the world, that it will work for your purpose, not its own concerns of bricks and mortar,
arbitrary numbers, or the dreams of past glories.
We pray for all those on the margins of our societies, our communities, and our interests.
We pray for those who are cast aside by a world obsessed by monetary wealth, the eternal goal of so-called growth, while those with the most continue to gain, and those with the least continue to lose.
We pray for our world, torn apart by fighting, by greed, by disregard for the environment.
In particular we pray for all your children who have been ravaged by the sin of war, for families destroyed, lives lost,
dreams shattered and liberty denied, for all those orphaned by this evil, that they will know your love, and through your people peace might become a reality. In your love,
in your spirit, in your life, we pray these things. Amen.


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. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen

Hymn 398: Come down, O Love divine
                     (Tune – Down Ampney)


         Come down, O Love divine,
 seek thou this soul of mine,
 and visit it with thine own ardour glowing;
 O Comforter, draw near,
 within my heart appear,
 and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

        O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming. 

             Let holy charity
        my outward garment be,
and lowliness become my inner clothing;
True lowliness of heart,
        which takes the humbler part,
and for its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.

        And so, the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

          Author: Bianco da Siena

        Go in the name of God, the one who created all the nations of the earth. Go in the name of Christ, the one who abides in love and abides in you. Go in the name of the Spirit of truth, the one who advocates for you and guides you. Amen.

Hymn 779: May the feet of God walk with you.
         (Tune – Aubrey)

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
May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you
May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you

       Robyn Mann (1949 -)
         Aubrey Podlick (1946 -)

No comments:

Post a Comment