Walking the Walk
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 2011)
Come, now is the time to worship, to gather and to praise.
We gather to give glory to God!
Come, now is the time to worship, to sing and to pray.
We gather to give glory to God!
Give ear to God's teaching. Listen to God's words.
We gather to hear stories of old.
Give voice to God's glory. Sing of God's deeds.
We gather to sing praises to God.
Prepare for God's work. Answer Christ's call.
We listen and learn, worship and praise, in order to serve in God's world.
Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart
(Tune – Franconia)
1. Blest are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God;
The secret of the Lord is theirs,
Their soul is Christ’s abode.
2. The Lord, who left the heavens
Our life and peace to bring,
To dwell in lowliness with men,
Their Pattern and their King;
3. Still to the lowly soul
He doth himself impart
And for his dwelling and his throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.
4. Lord, we thy presence seek;
May ours this blessing be;
Give us a pure and lowly heart,
A temple meet for thee.
(Words: John Keble [stanzas 1 & 3]; William Hall
[stanzas 2 & 4]. Tune: “Franconia”, “Harmonischer Liederschatz”, 1738)
We gather in your presence, Christ of compassion, thirsting for your living water. Flow through this time of worship with your grace and wisdom. Nourish us with words of truth and challenge. Strengthen us to go forth in humility and love as your servants working in the world. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
God of ages past and days to come, when we grumble and groan, we are like children of the Exodus; when we doubt your authority and question your call, we are like priests and elders of old.
Forgive us. Make us new in your grace, and clothe us with your compassion. Open our eyes to your presence and our minds to your guidance, that we may have the very mind of Christ. In Christ's holy name, we pray. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Give ear to Christ's promise: God's realm is open to all— tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners and slackers. When we open our hearts, and give our lives to Christ, God's forgiveness is truly ours. In the name of Christ, we are forgiven!
Thanks, be to God! Amen
Make the joy of God's love and forgiveness complete: share with one another the love that Christ shares with us.
The peace of Christ be with you.
The peace of Christ be with you always.
A Word with the Children/Young People
Theme: God is our provider.
Object: The children will play the game Rock, Paper, Scissors.
How many of you have ever played the game Rock, Paper, Scissors? People all over the world play that game. Not just children either -- even adults play the game. Did you know that there is an international tournament each year and players from all over the world come together to compete in Rock, Paper, Scissors? Yes, Rock, Paper, Scissors is a very popular game.
As you probably know, each player holds one fist in front of him and hits it with his other fist three times. Then, on the fourth time, the player's top hand forms either a rock, paper, or scissors. (Demonstrate each as you say the words.) This is how you know who wins: a rock smashes scissors, paper covers a rock, and scissors cut paper.
Let's play! You can all play against me and you can keep track of how many times you win. Ready? One, two, three, go. Okay, I made a rock. If you made paper, you win. If you made scissors, I win. If you made a rock, we tied. (Play the Rock, Paper, Scissors for a few minutes.)
The great thing about Rock, Paper, Scissors is that any one of them can be a winner. I have a real rock, paper, and scissors this morning. If you are going to write a letter, a rock or scissors wouldn't be much help, but a piece of paper would, wouldn't it? If you wanted to cut a piece of paper, a rock or paper wouldn't help, but a pair of scissors would. If you were really thirsty and needed a drink of water, a piece of paper or a pair of scissors wouldn't be much help, but a rock might be exactly what you need.
What? Some of you are looking at me like you think I'm crazy! Don't you think a rock would help you if you needed a drink of water? Well, in our Bible story today, that is exactly what happened. Our Bible story today is called, "Water from a Rock."
Moses was the leader of the people of Israel. He was leading them from Egypt to a land that God would give to them. They were wandering through the desert and people were thirsty. They began to grumble and complain to Moses. "We are dying," they said, "our children are dying, our cattle are dying. Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die out here in the desert?"
Moses went to his tent and fell on his knees before God. "What should I do?" Moses prayed. "There is no water in the desert. The people are thirsty, and they are ready to kill me."
God answered Moses and said to him, "Take your shepherd's staff and walk ahead of the people. I will meet you by the rock at Mount Sinai. When you come to the rock, strike it with your staff and water will flow from the rock. The people will be having plenty of water to drink."
Moses did exactly what God told him to do and guess what happened? He got water from a rock!
So, what should you and I do when we face an impossible situation? We should ask God for his help, and then trust in him. Sometimes we may not understand the way God is leading, but we just have to trust him. After all, who would have thought you could get water from a rock?
Compassionate Christ transform these offerings with your Spirit, that they may accomplish your work in the world. To the thirsty and hungry, may these gifts bring water and food. To the oppressed and the forgotten, may these gifts bring justice and hope. To the sinful and the selfish, may these gifts bring grace and new beginnings. May we, likewise, be your humble servants, accomplishing your work in this world. Amen.
Hymn 650: Brother, sister let me serve you
(Tune – Servant Song)
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
2. We are pilgrims on a journey.
And companions on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
3. I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the nighttime of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.
4. I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.
5. When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.
6. Brother, sister let me serve you.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
Tune – Servant Song Words - Richard Gillard
The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
The Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32
Readings: NRSV Translation
1 From the
wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages,
as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for
the people to drink. 2 The people quarrelled with Moses, and said,
‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why
do you test the Lord ?’ 3 But the people thirsted there for
water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us
out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with
thirst?’ 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord , ‘What shall I do
with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ 5 The
Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the
elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck
the Nile, and go. 6 I will be standing there in front of you on the
rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the
people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of
Israel. 7 He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the
Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us
23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ 24 Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” 26 But if we say, “Of human origin”, we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ 27 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29 He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
Imagine you are watching television and a commercial comes on. The camera pans out over a tranquil beach scene where a family is enjoying the sun and the water. One parent is helping a smiling child build a sandcastle, while the other child runs in the surf, throwing a stick for a bounding, energetic golden retriever. The other parent is sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella with a picnic basket and a drink, waving to the rest of the family. Finally, at the end, the product is advertised.
But that’s not all, right? What was really advertised was not just a drink or an item of clothing or sunscreen or life insurance – the marketers were cleverer than that. They were advertising salvation – buy our product and it will save you from your harried, over-scheduled existence and lead you to this “perfect” life.
Sometimes, we are so harried, we are so tired, we are so over-scheduled, and perhaps are so short-sighted and feel so self-centred in our everyday existence that we buy into this false salvation. We grumble at our church leaders, “Is the Lord among us or not? We aren’t getting what we want. God’s not leading us to salvation as we imagined it, so maybe we need to look elsewhere.”
Like the Israelites in Exodus, we are wandering through the wilderness of Sin – both a geographical place and a play on words that reminds us of our imperfection and unfaithfulness.
Yet, God remains faithful. God is still at work in our lives, no matter what we believe, no matter what we do as we move through the wilderness. We made promises to God or had promises made on our behalf during our Baptismal Covenant:
“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” These are the gist of those baptismal promises made and if done on our behalf as children, can be confirmed by us through our Confirmation.
Always, the answer is, “I will, with God’s help.”
We cannot separate our belief in God from the action it demands. We cannot immerse ourselves in “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” without being stirred to embodying this knowledge and love of God through our actions in the world. Together, they create faith. We can do a whole lot of prayer or a whole lot of serving in a soup kitchen, but an imbalance of one or the other does not exemplify what Jesus is asking. God is faithful in word and deed, and that is the faith that we are called to.
Take this modern parable for example:
There once was a man who came to know Jesus and wanted to be baptised. The whole community supported him and he was baptised along with several others on a Sunday morning. Things seemed to be going smoothly with his newly minted faith. Prayer flowed easily from his lips and heart, he never went by the homeless person who was on the corner of the street where he worked without speaking to him and giving change when he could. He came to church every Sunday, sang in the choir, and went to adult formation classes.
After a while, things started to feel, well, like a suit that was becoming too small, too tight. What he once did with joy was now starting to feel like an obligation. He didn’t know what to do. When someone asked him to pray for them, he said, “Of course!” with enthusiasm and then forgot to. He began to avoid the homeless person by his work by going through another entrance. He attended church and church events less frequently. He considered his life outside of church as separate from his faith, and it was getting busy. He got a promotion at work, started dating someone seriously, and was getting involved in some philanthropic activities through his workplace. He still believed in God and felt love for God but didn’t know how to integrate these pieces into the rest of his life. It all seemed like it was too hard, too much. Eventually, his church community who witnessed his baptism and vowed to do all in their power to support him in his life in Christ never saw him again.
How many of us have told someone we would pray for him or her and then got distracted and didn’t? How many of us have thought or talked a lot about helping the marginalised in our neighbourhood, but haven’t? How many of us have been puzzled when people who were once zealous about their faith faded away, and we intended to contact them but never have?
We all have good intentions. But as Jesus teaches us in our gospel reading today, our intentions don’t really matter. It’s our actions that are grounded in and flow from our relationship with God that count – individually and as a community.
The man in the parable was not the only one who fell short of his promises – the community did, too. All these everyday actions are outward and visible signs of our inward and spiritual grace. These are all acts of love – love that God has for us and that we have for God. They are sacraments with a small “s.”
Jesus preached and taught and touched and healed people. Jesus was doing all this non-stop for a few years and then was crucified, died and was resurrected. But it doesn’t stop there. Over and over again, God’s actions prove God’s love for us. We were given an advocate, the Holy Spirit to come and assist us in continuing God’s work in the world. We get to become part of God’s action.
If we take an honest examination of how God has touched each of our lives, we can be surprised by joy. Think back on your life, the ways that the tapestry of threads have been woven to get you to where you are today. Those times where just the right thing happened, those unexpected moments that changed your life, and the spaces in between, all where God was caring for you. How do we respond to this?
Jesus gives a telling example of response to God’s love in his parable today about the two sons being asked to work in the vineyard. The first son tells his father outright that he won’t do it, but then has a change of heart and goes and does it anyway. Whereas the second son tells his father he will and then never does. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it gets the point across. Jesus tells this to the chief priests and elders – who rejected John the Baptist and were rejecting Jesus – in order for them to be caught in their own web of deceit. Jesus asks them, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” and they know they are trapped because the answer, of course, is the first son. He ended up living his life faithfully; he didn’t just talk about it or say things to appease his father.
We often do similar things in our own lives. We say we are Christians, but how do we know? How do others know? God has given us the gift of our lives and we are called to respond. We are to be good stewards of our lives, spreading the love of God that we have received, to others.
We aren’t perfect, but we are definitely called to be different. As one American political comedian Stephen Colbert put it, “Either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition; and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
If we choose not to walk the walk, then we are just as bad as the chief priests and elders Jesus encountered.
But there is hope for us! We can be like the first son and have a change of heart. We can choose to be obedient to God and live in a wide, loving margin of grace.
As we grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus and each other, may there by clarity and fire in God’s call to us, and may we receive the courage to do something about it.
(Tune - Tredegar)
you whose love is strong as death,
you who saw the dark of prison,
you who know 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.
Words: Shirley E
Murray, Music: Guthrie Foote (Tredegar).
Words: © 1992 Shirley E Murray,
Loving God as we bring our prayers before you before you, give to us honest hearts as we bring you our thanksgiving and confess our needs.
Lord God, the friend of sinners and those in need, your Son Jesus has untied our burdens and healed our spirits. So, we lift before you all those whose hearts are burdened and those who seek healing.
We pray for the nations of the world that justice, truth and mercy would govern the hearts of those who lead, that all people would be led in true peace. Turn the hearts of those who are filled with hate and bring the families of the nations under your just and gentle rule.
We pray for our church leaders, that they may have wisdom and courage to seek to direct your church in right pathways. May your church faithfully serve you and seek always to be faithful your calling to be a light in dark places, bringing about the ways of your kingdom on earth.
God of mercy and healing, you who hear the cries of those in need, receive the petitions of your people that all who are troubled may know peace, comfort, and courage. Lord Jesus you meet us in our suffering and supply our hearts with your strength when we call upon your name. Grant your protection to those in need comfort them and may they know your presence in their affliction. Set your angels charge over them and lead them in your way through the journey before them.
Surround them with your tenderness and support them in your everlasting arms. We pray especially for .......
Gracious God be with all of those who mourn and may they know the tender compassion of your love. May the hope which you supply sustain all those who are troubled by grief, that it may never overwhelm those who call upon you.
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 618: What does the Lord require
(Tune – Sharpthorne)
What does the Lord require
for praise and offering?
What sacrifice, desire
or tribute did you bring?
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?
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:
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.
we'll humbly walk with God.
And the blessing of God almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of life be with you always Amen
(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