Thursday, 27 August 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship 30 August 2020 - Wesley 5

          Marsden Road Uniting                              Church Carlingford


Of One Book...,

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

(Scifres, Mary J, The Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)

       Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest, and most difficult, paradoxes of Christianity: to save your life you must first lose it. So, we find ourselves once again surprised by the limitless and inexplicable nature of God's love, and we rejoice to stand together on holy ground.

Give thanks for all the wonderful works of God.

Praise the Lord!

Sing a new song of praise to the God of all peoples. 

Praise the Lord!

Proclaim God's name to all the world.

Praise the Lord!

We are God's chosen people; God is with us always. 

Praise the Lord!

Let our hearts rejoice, for the Lord is God.

Praise the Lord! 

Hymn TIS 211: Jesus, lover of my soul

                  (Tune – Aberystwyth),receive%20my%20soul%20at%20la

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,

While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.

Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, till the storm of life is past;

Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;

Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.

All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;

Cover my defenceless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?

Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;

Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,

Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;

Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.

Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;

False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;

Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.

Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;

Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Words: Charles Wesley

Music: Aberystwyth Joseph Parry


Opening prayer

     Surprising God, you have an uncomfortable habit of showing up where we least expect you: in a burning bush, in the face of an enemy, in a livestock feed trough, on a rough wooden cross. Turn our lives upside down with your radical love. Help us fully embrace your surprises, even as we revel in the joy of being fully embraced by your all-encompassing grace and mercy. We pray in the name of your most amazing surprise of all: your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession

God of Mystery, we are constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of your love.

Over and over again, you turn our expectations inside out and upside down. And still we don't understand the radical nature of your grace.

We play by our own rules of justice, even when it means excluding those we are called to love and defend.

In our darkest moments, we doubt if we are worthy of your trust. God, help us remember that you give us all the tools we need; that through the solid foundation of your love, we find the strength to follow your call as true disciples of Jesus Christ. 

Surprise us again, O God. Surprise us again.

Declaration of Forgiveness

The God who brought our ancestors out of slavery will not desert us. God has promised to be with us throughout all generations. Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice, for God is with us!

Thanks, be to God! Amen

The Peace

Rejoice, for you are standing on holy ground.

The peace of Christ be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you always.

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

A Word with the Children/Young People

There are number of yoke images of yokes I can think of. (need pictures)

A yoke in Jesus’ time  and still is in many parts of the world today is both the wooden collar which fitted around  the necks of a couple of oxen  to join two together for farm work such as ploughing,  or a frame which sat on a person’s shoulders to allow them to carry two buckets. There would be quite a strain on the neck/shoulders of the animal/person wearing the yoke. 

Jesus is saying that by sharing his yoke - he is sharing our lives – giving any weight we may be carrying on our own to him.  By doing this we are sharing his life – being gentle and kind like he is.

I also think of humans taken as slaves being yoked together by their necks as they are moved. Then there is the yoke that is used in constructing various equipment and other items.

Another kind of yoke is the part sewn into the back of a garment which holds all the rest of the shirt or blouse together. The sleeves, collar, front and lower back are all attached to the yoke. When you grow or put on weight, you know you need a bigger garment because the yoke becomes tight across your shoulders and is too uncomfortable to wear any more.  How many people are actually wearing a garment with a yoke in it at that moment. 

Jesus invites us to wear his yoke - one that we need never grow out of and which gives us comfort rather than discomfort.  His yoke helps us to learn from him how to live like him - how to be gentle with ourselves and with other people.  So, just as the yoke in the garments we wear is very visible, so the yoke Jesus offers us is visible, as we care for and love others, especially those who may be sad or who feel that nobody loves them.

 Offering Prayer

Dear God, we offer you now these gifts. Take our money and use it to bring comfort to those in need. Take our service and use it to bring justice to those who are oppressed. Take our witness and use it to bring good news to those who hunger for hope. Take our lives and use them for our very salvation. We pray through Jesus Christ, the one whom we follow even to the cross. Amen.

Hymn TIS 245: We have a Gospel to proclaim

                         (Tune - Fulda)

We have a gospel to proclaim
Good news for men in all the earth; 
The gospel of a Saviour’s name: 
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

Tell of His birth at Bethlehem,
Not in a royal house or hall 
But in a stable dark and dim: 
The Word made flesh, a light for all.

Tell of His death at Calvary,
Hated by those He came to save; 
In lonely suffering on the cross 
For all He loved, His life He gave.

Tell of that glorious Easter morn:
Empty the tomb, for He was free. 
He broke the power of death and hell That we might share His victory.

Now we rejoice to name Him King:
Jesus is Lord of all the earth. 
This gospel message we proclaim: 
We sing His glory, tell His worth.

Author: Edward J. Burns (1968)
Tune: Fulda

                   The Service of the Word

The First Reading:                      2 Timothy 3: 10-17            

The Gospel Reading:                 Matthew 11:25-30              

Readings: NRSV Translation

2 Timothy 3: 10-17 

10 Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions, and my suffering the things that happened to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[a] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. 

Matthew 11:25-30

25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank[a] you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[b] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Preaching of the Word: Of One Book...,

From our Study:

Many Christians know John’s Wesley’s claim that he is man of one book. “Let me be homo unius libri,” says Wesley, with Latin flare. But Wesley was far from being concerned with literally only one book. He read widely and required his ministers to read many other books. Wesley scolded his ministers who claimed to read only the Bible as exhibiting “rank enthusiasm.” That’s like calling someone today a raving religious lunatic!

By homo unius libri, Wesley meant he regards no book comparatively but the Bible. Scripture is the first book of importance, but not the only important book.

Wesley drew upon other sources, including scholarly tools, when reading the Bible. He appreciated textual criticism, says Maddox, but was less warm to historical criticism.

Wesley’s comments about the trustworthiness of the Bible focus on what calls the “rule of Christian faith and practice.” Wesley followed 2 Timothy 3:16–17, in which inspiration of Scripture is related to its usefulness for instructing in Christian belief and training in lives of righteousness. This was our first reading today.

Today, we continue and finish our series of looking at how Wesley approached his faith and some of the ways in which his relationship with God is reflected in his approach to important life issues. Our final is to see how scripture informs our lives as Christians. The scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16, gives us a really important description of what the scripture actually is and how important it is for our lives

In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes this: “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” And off the back of that verse, we are going to be thinking today about what the scripture is and why it is important to us and how we can incorporate what we hear in scripture more usefully into our everyday lives.

And the context in which the writer of Timothy is writing here is so important to us: the person may have written this 2,000 years ago but could have written it yesterday! We seem to live in what is now being called ‘a post-truth age’ in which Fake News receives as much of a credible hearing as Truth itself. We seem to live in a consumer age in which so many leaders across the world are seeking power through populism and will shape their political or spiritual pitches to the public according to what they know will be popular and win them power and influence, often at the expense of what may be more wise, or more truthful, or more helpful.

 These are difficult days to attempt to proclaim Truth - and the voice of the Church is just one more voice amongst a cacophony of competing opinions. Its interesting to read the next chapter in Timothy which says: “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine but having itching ears.” Doesn’t this sound so much like the world we live in today as Fake News and the pursuit of populism underpins so much of how we live today.

As Christians, we want to pursue the truth about our God. We want to know who Jesus is and we want to understand the sort of life we are to live that having a relationship with Jesus calls us to. And we believe that God has given us scripture as an important way of knowing God and coming into a relationship with Jesus.

The key difference between our approach to the scriptures and the populism that has become so rife in our world today is simply this: That, yes, we want to read the Scriptures and be affirmed and comforted, but we also mustn’t be afraid to read the Scriptures and find ourselves being challenged by God and having our views challenged. And we are called not to be afraid to be changed and transformed by God the more we read Scripture. This is the path that John Wesley seems to advocate.

Scripture is not some Populist Manifesto. It is God speaking to us, inspiring us to change and be transformed ever closer into the likeness of Christ. We believe that God was inspiring these people as they wrote and that they were being inspired by their relationship with God but that the words they wrote are very human words. So, scripture is a book of words written by human beings who were being inspired by God as they wrote. It’s for that reason that we take the teachings in scripture seriously and many people view it as being created through the power of God and that what we need to know about God, our relationship with God and how to live this in everyday life can be found there. But, because there is a human element to it, we are not surprised when we find historical errors in it or some contradictions.

So, we can say like Wesley would have us understand, that scripture is inspired by God, written in human words and contains everything we need to know about God to have a relationship with Jesus. But it is a messy book. And it’s messy because it's a really human book as well as an expression of God. Let me tell you the messiness of human life is clearly expressed in scripture.  

There are wars and battles, there’s physical violence and rape and murder, there’s betrayal, there’s human failure and weakness, there are stories about lying to God, running away from God, ignoring God, there are stories about human love and human devotion, there are beautiful stories and ugly stories, there are stories of courage, stories of shame, stories of hope, stories of despair… The whole of human experience is contained in scripture - for good and for bad.

That’s what makes it such a wonderful book, because as we read the words of Scripture we see ourselves mirrored in its pages…our own failures, our own weaknesses, our own beauty and our own ugliness, our own courage and our own shame, our own hope and our own despair. Scripture can be viewed as a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected before God.

Having seen ourselves in this mirror, and also having read some of the incredible stories in scripture we can then inspired to go beyond ourselves; to transcend our limitations and become available to God to be used for God’s extraordinary purposes. As well as seeing our own fallenness in scripture we also see our own potential for what we could be if we submit ourselves to God’s Holy Spirit at work within us.

That means growth and that means change - and we know that both change, and growth can be painful for us. And so, as we read scripture, we feel uncomfortable and challenged by God beyond what we might be either expecting or hoping for.

We are not reading scripture to gain head knowledge, to gather historical data about the growth of a religious movement, or to get information about God. We read scripture mostly so that we can be comforted and challenged. We read scripture so that we can grow in faith and be transformed slowly but surely into the image of Jesus Christ. And that requires God to teach us. That requires God to chastise us when we get it wrong. That requires God to correct us when we are heading off down the wrong path.

As the writer of 2 Timothy says here, is training for righteousness. And it can be painful. As I said this is a counter-cultural experience in a world that panders to populism and Fake News. Scripture does not offer us the easy way. It is not there just to make us feel good about ourselves or to be some sort of Fortune Cookie that will endorse all our life choices. Scripture provides a real challenge to us and can speak deeply into our souls in the most uncomfortable of ways.

A woman once asked the writer Mark Twain, “Don’t you struggle with those bits of the scripture that you don’t understand?” He replied: “No, madam. I struggle with those bits of scripture that I do understand…” And that is so often our own experience if we take seriously God’s Word to us…

A relationship with Jesus is a conversation, a dialogue, a two-way thing. We are particularly good at praying to God, asking him to give us what we want. Let’s make sure that we balance that with a desire to listen to God as he speaks to us through scripture. Hearing God speak to us may well require us to stand on tiptoes and really make the effort to listen. But if we do that, we will be inwardly transformed, and who knows what God will do in you and through you as you draw closer into a loving relationship with Jesus. 

Hymn TIS 570: Soldiers of Christ arise

                       (Tune – Diademata)

Soldiers of Christ, arise

And put your armor on,

Strong in the strength which God supplies

Through His eternal Son;

Strong in the Lord of hosts,

And in His mighty pow’r,

Who in the strength of Jesus trusts

Is more than conqueror.

Stand then in His great might,

With all His strength endued,

And take, to arm you for the fight,

The panoply of God.

From strength to strength go on.

Wrestle and fight and pray;

Tread all the powers of darkness down

And win the well-fought day.

Leave no unguarded place,

No weakness of the soul;

Take every virtue, ev’ry grace,

And fortify the whole.

That having all things done,

And all your conflicts past,

Ye may overcome through Christ alone

And stand complete at last.

Author: Charles Wesley (1952)

Tune: Diademata Composer: Elvey

Intercessory Prayers  

Living, liberating God, we give you thanks that you come to free us from all that binds and restricts us.

We pray for the peoples of the world: we pray for those weighed down by oppression, tyranny and hardship,

for those bent low under the weight of unrelenting daily toil.

Lay your hands on these your children, that they may be freed from their burdens and take their rightful places in the world.

Loving God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Living, liberating God, we give you thanks that you come to free us from the bondage of loveless legalism.

We pray for your church throughout the world: we pray that we may be open to your spirit of truth; that we may be brave to proclaim your gospel.

Lay your hands on us, that we may sing your praise and people rejoice at your wonderful deeds.

Loving God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Living, liberating God, we give you thanks that you set us free to live by the law of love.

We pray for all whom we love and for those we meet in our daily lives: we pray for those exhausted by responsibilities beyond their strength, for those shamed by circumstances beyond their control.

Lay your hands on these your children, that they may be enabled to live complete and fulfilling lives.

Loving God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Living, liberating God, we give you thanks that you come to us bringing compassion and healing for those who suffer.

We pray for all in need of your consolation: we pray for those heavy-hearted with grief and despair, for those crippled by pain and anguish.

Lay your hands on these your children, that they may feel your loving presence and find healing and wholeness.

Loving God, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

Living, liberating God, we give you thanks that you come to us to free us from the bondage of death.

We remember those who have died who now live in your eternal presence: those from this parish who have gone before us, and all whom we have loved.

Lay your hands on us and transform our lives by your touch, that we may come with all your saints to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.

Loving God, in your mercy,

hear our 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 TIS 425: Come, Spirit blest, our hearts inspire

                       (Tune – Richmond)

Come Holy Spirit, our hearts inspire,
let us thine influence prove;
source of the old prophetic fire,
fountain of life and love.

Come, Holy Spirit, for, moved by thee,
thy prophets wrote and spoke:
unlock the truth, thyself the key,
unseal the sacred book.

Expand thy wings, celestial Dove,
brood o'er our nature's night;
on our disordered spirits move,
and let there now be light.

God, through himself, we then shall know,
if thou within us shine;
and sound, with all thy saints below,
the depths of love divine.

Author: Charles Wesley (1740)

Tune: Richmond


       God promised to be with Moses, and we are here to witness to the fulfillment of that promise. From generation to generation, the God of Israel is also the God of Marsden Road Uniting Church and of our area. The God of the burning bush is waiting even now to encounter you, call you, challenge you, and change you. Go out to be sustained and surprised by the love of God. Amen.

Hymn MHB 693: Lord Dismiss us with thy blessing

                     (Tune – Sicilian Mariners) 1 extra verse

       Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing;

Fill our hearts with joy and peace;

Let us each Thy love possessing,

Triumph in redeeming grace.

O refresh us, O refresh us,

Traveling through this wilderness.

Thanks, we give and adoration

For Thy Gospel’s joyful sound;

May the fruits of Thy salvation

In our hearts and lives abound.

Ever faithful, ever faithful,

To the truth may we be found.

So that when Thy love shall call us,

Saviour, from the world away,

Let no fear of death appal us,

Glad Thy summons to obey.

May we ever, may we ever,

Reign with Thee in endless day.

Text by: John Fawcett 1773

Tune: Dismissal. by William Linton Viner 1845


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