Thursday, 6 August 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship - Wesly 2 - 09 August 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Church



Thoughts Upon God and Slavery

 09th August 2020 - Wesley 2 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)      

As we worship God today, we sense the presence of a great cloud of witnesses around us. We stand in the tradition of Methodists whose faith sent them, like the early Church, to the farthest corners of the earth with the good news of Christ. It is a heritage made up of many cultures, times, and places, drawn together in one body by the one Spirit who is the Giver of life.

We come to hear the story of God’s faithfulness to past generations.

But we also look to the future as well as the past. The God, who was with our ancestors, is with us as well. Then we can go forward in hope. Whatever else fails, God remains faithful. Nothing can separate us from the love of God! Praise be to God!

Hymn TIS 129: Amazing Grace (how sweet the sound)

                  (Tune – Amazing Grace)  

1.  Amazing grace (how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

2.  'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

3.  Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
'tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home. 

4.  The Lord has promised good to me,
his word my hope secures;
he will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.

5.  When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

                     Author: John Newton (1779) Tune: Amazing Grace

 Opening Prayer

      Almighty God, who guided this church through these last 160 plus years, we give you thanks and praise for the many blessings you have bestowed on our congregation. Direct and prosper all that we undertake in accordance with your will and purpose, correct all that may be amiss or imperfect, and by the power of your Holy Spirit inspire and enable every member of your Church in word and deed to proclaim to all people the good news of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who with you and the same Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen. 

A Prayer of Confession

      Almighty God, you have loved us with an everlasting love, but we have broken your holy laws and have left undone what we ought to have done. We are sorry for our sins and turn away from them. For the sake of your Son who died for us, forgive us, cleanse us and change us. By your Holy Spirit, enable us to live for you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

O Lord, we beseech you, absolve your people from their offences; that, through your bountiful goodness, we may be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, loving God, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour.

Thanks, be to God! Amen

The Peace

God has received us, pardoned us and loved us; let us forgive each other in love and share the peace of Christ. 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: Jesus came to heal and forgive.

Object:  A doctor's prescription

We often hear someone say, "That was just what the doctor ordered." What do they mean? They usually mean that something happened which was exactly what they wanted or needed. Do you know where we got that expression? Well, when we are sick, we usually go to the doctor. After checking us over to find out what is making us sick, the doctor takes a piece of paper like this one and writes out a prescription. The prescription tells us what kind of medicine we need to take to make us well. After leaving the doctor's office, we take the prescription to the drug store and the pharmacist fills the prescription with the medicine that the doctor ordered. If we take the medicine as the doctor ordered, we usually get well. That's where we got the expression, "That was just what the doctor ordered." 

When God created us, he wanted us to be happy and well. He didn't intend for us to be unhappy and sick. He never wanted people to be crippled or blind. But sadly, something happened -- and that something was sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they changed life for all of us. But God still loved us and he had a plan to make us well again. Jesus knew God's plan too.

One day Jesus was in Nazareth on the Sabbath so he went to the temple as he always did. When he stood up to read the Scriptures, he was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He looked through the book until he found the part that said, "The Lord's Spirit has come to me and has chosen me to tell the good news to the poor. He has sent me to free the prisoners, give sight to the blind, and to set everyone free from their suffering."

When he had finished reading, he handed the book back to the man who was in charge and sat down. Everyone in the place was looking at Jesus and waiting to see what he would say.

Jesus said to them, "What you have just heard me read has come true today."

What did Jesus mean? He meant that he was the one who came to make us happy and whole the way God intended for us to be. He came to heal the sick and the lame. He came to make the blind to see and to free us from sin. Now if we want to have what Jesus came to give, we must put our trust in him and do what he has told us to do.

Dear Father, we thank you for your love. We thank you for sending your Son to free us from sin so that we can know the joy that you want for us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

 Offering Prayer 

Eternal and loving God, we give thanks to you for your goodness through all the years of worship and witness in this place. May these gifts be blessed in your name. We give thanks for your grace in calling us to be your people, for your love revealed to us in Christ your Son, for your gift of the Spirit and the joy of salvation. Amen 

Hymn TIS 217: Love Divine all Loves excelling

                 (Tune – Hyfrydol) extra verse not in TIS

  Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of heaven to earth come down;

Fix in us thy humble dwelling;

All thy faithful mercies crown!

Jesus, Thou art all compassion,

Pure unbounded love Thou art;

Visit us with Thy salvation;

Enter every trembling heart.


Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,

Into every troubled breast!

Let us all in Thee inherit;

Let us find that second rest.

Take away our bent to sinning;

Alpha and Omega be;

End of faith, as its Beginning,

Set our hearts at liberty.


Come, Almighty to deliver,

Let us all Thy life receive;

Suddenly return and never,

Never more Thy temples leave.

Thee we would be always blessing,

Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,

Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,

Glory in Thy perfect love.


Finish, then, Thy new creation;

Pure and spotless let us be.

Let us see Thy great salvation

Perfectly restored in Thee;

Changed from glory into glory,

Till in heaven we take our place,

Till we cast our crowns before Thee,

Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

                            Author: Charles Wesley.

Tune: Blaenwern composed by W.P. Rowlands

                                      The Service of the Word

 The First Reading:                      Proverbs 22.16-25            

The Gospel Reading:                 Luke 4:16-30                      

Readings: NRSV Translation

Proverbs 22.16-25

16 Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. 17 The words of the wise: Incline your ear and hear my words, and apply your mind to my teaching; 18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. 19 So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today—yes, to you. 20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge, 21 to show you what is right and true, so that you may give a true answer to those who sent you? 22 Do not rob the poor because they are poor or crush the afflicted at the gate; 23 for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them. 24 Make no friends with those given to anger, and do not associate with hotheads, 25 or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Luke 4:16-30 

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Preaching of the Word: Thoughts Upon God and Slavery

From our Study:

“My boss is such a slave driver. He reminds me of Dagwood’s boss in the comics, Mr. What’s-his-name. Always yelling, piling on more work, never showing me any appreciation, making me work on weekends and at night.”

“I’ve been slaving away all day, trying to make things nice for you. And you can’t even say thanks?”

“I’m just a slave to the system. The only way to keep up my house, my cars, my kids’ school and soccer and swimming and dance is to put in longer and longer hours.”

All those people are using “slavery” as an exaggeration for hard work. The reality of slavery is a topic we want to avoid in the Western World. It is the most painful memory in such places as the USA national culture. The forced labour of African slaves was a crime against humanity, and a blot on that nation’s honour. In Australia, the Blackbirding of Kanaka’s for the Queensland cane field work was also a form of slavery.

The USA fought a great war over slavery and, when the slaves were freed, they continued to hold them in economic bondage for nearly another century. The indenture of European servants was a form of slavery, and yet a notch above slavery, because at least those servants saw an end to their indenture. “Sweat shops” were, and are, a form of economic slavery. We’d rather not think about those awful parts of our past—and present, in some cases.

Slavery continues to flourish in our world today. People who are hungry, homeless, or otherwise vulnerable are lured into debt slavery because they are promised a better life. Some of them are forced into prostitution. Some are forced laborers. Some are illegal immigrants who pay large fees to an “agent,” who smuggles them into a nation, and then keeps them in virtual slavery because of the debts run up. Some are children sold as jockeys, as prostitutes, as laborers. Some are farm laborers whose parents passed on debts to them and they will, in turn, pass those debts on their children.

But let’s go back to our roots. Traditional Methodists cannot be surprised by social science data repeatedly linking poverty, health issues, inadequate education, crime and abuse with divorce, cohabitation, illegitimacy, promiscuity, gambling and substance abuse.  An effective and biblically faithful engagement for Methodist politics will have to rediscover Christian anthropology and understand humans as both body and spirit.

Wesley at times lamented that where the gospel was preached, so too did thrift, industry and riches.  He didn’t begrudge increased wealth per se but feared the distractions from faith they offered.  So too should we, while still working to rescue individuals and societies from beliefs and habits that oppress and impoverish.

The greatest riches are spiritual and moral.  And they are produced by a Gospel-enlivened society organically rooted in stable marriages and families, chastity, sobriety, self-denial, thrift, hard work and moral responsibility.  These virtues and practices are rightly encouraged by churches, which are called to redeem the fallen, and governments, which are responsible for public order.

Wesley and his followers of the first 150 years or so did not deploy the institutional church for routine engagement in political specifics.  Instead they produced Christians and citizens who understood they operated under God in a wider social accountability.  Their faithfulness could bring blessings upon their nation, and their sins could contribute to divine judgment and social decay.

In our own time we should recall their example of faithfulness and godly social engagement while constructing a new Methodist political witness that understands that every person is a moral agent bearing the divine image. This understanding led to the Wesley’s engaging in and being vexed by the issue of slavery. In their world that slavery was most obvious in the ownership by Europeans of those of other races such as Africans. Today slavery can take many forms.

It is a commonplace, although one not often examined closely, that John Wesley was a lifelong opponent of slavery. Such claims originate with Wesley himself. 'Ever since I heard of it first', he wrote to Granville Sharp in October 1787, 'I felt a perfect detestation of the horrid Slave Trade'. Whether that is true is impossible to know. What is certain is that Wesley actively opposed the slave trade from the early 1770s onwards. Scholars of both Methodism and of abolitionism have often noted in passing his contributions to the accelerating abolition movement, which have survived in the form of a pamphlet, a group of letters, and a number of Journal entries.

Wesley's main contribution to that movement, was his pamphlet, “Thoughts upon slavery,” written in 1774. We can read it not only as polemic, but also as 'literature' to demonstrate that Wesley's sentimental style is as important as his moral, religious and economic arguments. Indeed, Wesley, despite objecting to sentimental writing in his Journal, is in fact one of the first major writers on slavery to use a sentimental rhetoric to make arguments against it: an important innovation, since much of the ensuing debate was conducted in exactly those sentimental terms.

Although Wesley claimed to have been opposed to slavery from the first time, he heard of it, we have no way of knowing if this is true. Neither can we know with certainty when he first heard of slavery. He might have come into contact with slaves in England. In the early eighteenth century, it was fashionable for aristocratic women to employ black pageboys, and young liveried slaves were not an uncommon sight. Slaves were also brought to England by visiting colonists and by officers in both the Royal Navy and the merchant marine.

In 1736-7, Wesley visited North America including Georgia, which was then a British colony, and there he came into contact with enslaved people. This experience left him with a loathing of slavery but at first, he felt unable to act on this. From 1739 onwards, Wesley and the Methodists were persecuted by clergymen and magistrates. They were attacked in sermons and in print and at times attacked by mobs.

The focus that Wesley needed came when Granville Sharp contested the case of a runaway slave (James Somerset) in the courts. Wesley was moved to study a text by the Philadelphia Quaker, Anthony Benezet. Wesley's journal shows that Benezet's work, and Lord Mansfield's deliberations in the case of Somerset, caused him much disquiet.

Two years later, in 1774, he wrote that tract called "Thoughts on Slavery" that went into four editions in two years. In it, he attacked the Slave Trade and the slave-trader with considerable passion and proposed a boycott of slave-produced sugar and rum. In August 1787, he wrote to the Abolition Committee to express his support.

In 1788, when the abolition campaign was at its height, he preached a sermon in Bristol, one of the foremost slave trading ports. In those days, an anti-slavery sermon could not be preached without considerable personal risk to the preacher and a disturbance broke out.

He maintained an interest in the abolition movement until he died. Wesley also famously said:

"Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you, but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary action. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion. Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do with everyone as you would he should do unto you." 

Now Wesley was, by birth and inclination, a social and political conservative. But his religious convictions turned him into a radical reformer whenever and wherever conservatism interfered with liberty and human progress. He attacked slaveowners, the captains of slave ships, slave merchants, and even the judges who upheld the legal right to own slaves. “Are there any laws as binding as the eternal laws of justice?” he asked in response to court rulings. 

Wesley preached that we needed to be involved in “social holiness.”  He believed we could only grow as Christians in a community, surrounded by people of similar faith and conviction.  In his preface to the 1739 hymnal, he was insistent that “the gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness.”

One wonders, to what extent the economy of the Australia depends on some form of slavery, whether it is debt slavery, sweat shops, or other forms of bondage and injustice? Should we be concerned about child slavery in much of the world, about women forced into prostitution? Or laborers in virtual slavery because of generations of debt? Would Wesley say to us, as he said to Wilberforce, “Go on, in the name of God, and in the power of his might until (every vestige of) slavery” shall vanish away? What does our Christian faith, our understanding of God and salvation in our Wesleyan heritage, suggest to us about opposition to slavery? 

Hymn 629: When I needed a neighbour, were you there,

                  (Tune – Neighbour)

When I needed a neighbour
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a neighbour, were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?

I was hungry and thirsty
Were you there, were you there?
I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?

I was cold, I was naked
Were you there, were you there?
I was cold, I was naked, were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?

When I needed a shelter
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a shelter were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?

When I needed a healer
Were you there, were you there?
When I needed a healer, were you there?
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
Were you there?

Wherever you travel
I'll be there, I'll be there
Wherever you travel, I'll be there
And the creed and the colour
And the name won't matter
I'll be there

Author: Sydney Carter (1965)
Tune: Neighbour

Intercessory Prayers

God of truth and justice, in your Son Jesus Christ, people of all races are adopted as your children. We thank you for Thomas Clarkson, Olaudah Equiano, and William Wilberforce, and all who devoted themselves to the abolition of slavery in the past.

Let me hear of your loving-kindness, O Lord.
For you are my hope and salvation.

Give your Church courage to stand for the dignity of all. Forgive the sins of past prejudice and slowness to recognise evil. Inspire all who proclaim the name of Christ with your wisdom to be agents of transformation and peace. God of truth and justice, in your amazing grace, hearts are turned from indifference to passionate pursuit of liberation.

Let me hear of your loving-kindness, O Lord.
For you are my hope and salvation.

Stir those in power to work for the eradication of all forms of slavery today. Sustain all trafficked and exploited peoples — those who are sold and abused as commodities for others’ gratification. May we hear today the fulfilment of your word. God of truth and justice, you announce good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed.

Let me hear of your loving-kindness, O Lord.
For you are my hope and salvation.

Extend the boundaries of our compassion to include fairness in trading at home and abroad. Give us the will to challenge structures that keep many locked into poverty and deprivation. Make us worthy of your majesty and honour.

God of truth and justice, you hear the cry of all in distress.
Pour out the abundance of your mercy on all weighed down by sufferings of mind or body . . .

Let me hear of your loving-kindness, O Lord.
For you are my hope and salvation.

Break the chains that restrict the spirit, that we may sing songs of praise and hope. God of truth and justice, in your Son we are born to new life, and no one is beyond your reach. Proclaim your favour to all who have entered the shadow of death . . . Give comfort to grieving hearts and bring us to rejoice in your eternity.

Let me hear of your loving-kindness, O Lord.
For you are my hope and salvation.


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 209: And Can it be

                   (Tune - Sagina)

And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain?

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me!

'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine!

'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me!

He left His Father's throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam's helpless race;

'Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me!


Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature's night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free;

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me!


No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, should die for me!

Author: Charles Wesley (1738)
Tune: Sagina



       Faithful God whose Word does not return empty but accomplishes all that you purpose, may your blessings fall like rain to water the earth, nourishing seed for our food, and filling us with the abundance of your love, through Jesus Christ your living Word. Amen.             

Hymn 778: Shalom to you now

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.

May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.

In all your living and through your loving,

Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom

Author: Elise S. Eslinger (1980)
Tune: Somos Del Señor




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