Thursday, 11 March 2021

MRUC Worship Service 14 March 2021 - Lent 4

 Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford


For God So Loved.

Sunday 14th March 2021

Lent 4 Sunday year of Mark 9.30am 

Gathering God’s People       

Call to Worship  (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)

        When we were lost in our wrongdoing and as good as dead, God sent the Human One into the world to bring us eternal life. God’s will is not to condemn, but to save.

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.

God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Let those redeemed by the Lord say:

God’s steadfast love endures forever.

When we cried out to God in our distress,

God saved us in our hour of need.

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good.

God’s steadfast love endures forever. 

Hymn TIS 154: Great is your faithfulness.

                        (tune – Faithfulness) 

Opening Prayer

     God of light and love shine upon your people this day. Meet us in our brokenness and heal our errant ways. Take from us our spirit of disobedience and save us with your grace. Lead us into your truth, that we may live as children of light, and act as children of the “Most High.” Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

God of poisonous snakes and deadly crosses, your ways can be terrible to behold.

When we complain about what we lack, rather than celebrating your sustaining gifts, forgive us.

When we see only the bad in our lives, and fail to see the good, heal our vision.

When we act as disobedient children, and turn away from your light, save us with your unfailing grace.

In Christ’s holy name, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

God sent the Human One into the world, not to condemn it, but to save it. The One who brings us light saves us from our destructive ways and leads us into life.

Thanks, be to God! 

The Peace

Share the joy of salvation and the assurance of love with one another by offering signs of peace and reconciliation.

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, brought light into the world.

Object: A night light and a flashlight or lantern

Are you afraid of the dark? It is not unusual for children to be afraid of the dark. Some of you may have a night light in your bedroom. You shouldn't be embarrassed. In fact, it might be a wise thing to do. Suppose you wake up in the night and need a drink of water. If you get up in the dark to go get a drink, you might stub your toe or bump your shin. Ouch! That hurts.

If you go for a walk at night, it is a good idea to carry a flashlight or lantern. Even if you are not afraid of the dark, you might step in a hole and sprain your ankle. A flashlight or lantern will help you avoid those things that could harm you. If you have the choice of walking in the dark or walking in the light, which would you choose? I know which one I would choose!

In our Bible readings today, Jesus talks about light and darkness. Jesus said, "Light has come into the world." Do you know what the Light is that Jesus was talking about? He was talking about himself. In another place, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk-in darkness but will have the light of life."

You might be surprised to know that some people choose to walk in darkness rather than in the light. Can you imagine that? Why would they do that? Jesus tells us, "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their evil deeds will be exposed."

Every day we make choices. If we live by truth, we walk in the light so that it may be plainly seen. As Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." What choice will you make? Will you walk in the light or in the darkness? 

Offering Prayer

God of light and love shine through our offerings this day. May they bring light to the darkness and help lead others from death into life. Transform these gifts into your glory, that they may reflect the joy of your saving grace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Hymn TIS 147: To God be the glory.

                        (tune – To God be the Glory)   

The Service of the Word 

The First Reading:                                            Numbers 21:4-9

The Gospel Reading:                                        John 3:14-21

After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord

Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God. 

Readings: NRSV Translation 

Numbers 21:4-9

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.’ 6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So, Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ 9 So Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. 

John 3:14-21

14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’ 

Preaching of the Word - Quick, What Is Another …….

Quick, what is another name for today, the Fourth Sunday in Lent?

Give up? Actually, there are several possible answers to this question, all of them correct, and all of them originating in ecclesiastical history and liturgical practice.

In some quarters, especially among our Roman Catholic friends and neighbours, the Fourth Sunday in Lent is known as Laetare [pronounced, (lay-TAH-rayâ] Sunday, from the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” It may at first seem odd to speak of rejoicing in the middle of Lent, a season of penitence and sacrifice. After all, we have put away our alleluias and festive faces for the duration. Yet, in ancient times, the special, or proper, parts of the service on this day began with the single word “rejoice,.” reminding worshippers that the Church is more than halfway through its Lenten discipline and well on the way to Easter joy.

So, lighten up a little, the Church seems to have been saying. For much the same reason, in some Denomination circles this day has become known as Refreshment Sunday.

As if that were not enough, in the United Kingdom this day has been celebrated at least since late medieval times as, of all things, Mothering Sunday, the equivalent of Mother’s Day in North America. No one quite knows why mothers have come to be honoured in the middle of Lent. But some scholars speculate that the original Scripture lessons, or readings, on this day referred to Mary, the Mother of God and the mother of the Church. In any event, if you have British friends, be sure to wish them well today.

There you have it. No matter how you name it, the Fourth Sunday of Lent more or less the middle point of the season is special.

Life itself, of course, is made up of middle points and transitions to which we attribute unique and special importance. It is human nature to mark time, to take note of milestones and halfway points. We may remember being halfway through high school or Uni; halfway through a transition between Ministers at Church; or halfway through a project at work. And mothers will certainly remember being halfway through pregnancy, eager for the birth of their child.

Whatever the effort, being halfway through something is special. It can bring either anxiety or a foretaste of accomplishment. Or both.

In our first reading today, we find the ancient Israelites on their journey out of Egypt becoming downright anxious and impatient on the way. Their passage or transition has been long and arduous, and it is far from over. Why, they challenge Moses, I don’t know? They say, have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? As if that had been Moses purpose all along. They even complain of the food and drink. We detest this miserable food, they grumble like spoiled children. Did they perhaps expect gourmet fare in the desert?

The Israelites have forgotten that they are on their way home to the Promised Land. They have lost sight of the purpose and meaning of their journey. The desert and its hardships have robbed them not only of patience, but of perspective and hope as well. Only when the Lord punishes them with a multitude of poisonous serpents do the people come to their senses and repent. Only when those bitten by the serpents look upon the serpent of bronze raised by Moses do they once again come to live. The journey of the Israelites is not over, but it has gained new significance and purpose.

We find ourselves today as a nation in the midst of transformation and crisis. Our economy is struggling after the problems of Covid-19. Our industries are staggering, and many industries are disappearing and others arising. People are losing their jobs at record rates and many are being employed in different ways. No one knows if the government’s remedies will work. And our minds are filled with anxious questions: Where do we stand? Will all the problems bought by the Covid-19 pandemic end soon? Or has it just begun?

It would be easy for us to lose hope and to despair, as did the ancient Israelites. Indeed, today, as in ancient times, there seems to be no end of complaint and blame. Some fault the greed of finance people and business leaders for our problems. Others cite irresponsible politicians and world leaders. Yet few are willing to look in the mirror. We all feel the bite of our anxieties. Perhaps we too need a bronze serpent to gaze upon. Perhaps we too need to face our fears and learn once again to live.

We may well ask: Is there anything left for us to rejoice about on Laetare Sunday, halfway through this discontented Lenten season?

The season itself suggests that there is.

Lent is, after all, a time of reflection, repentance, and prayer; a time to allow the Lord to turn us around in faith so that we may at last be regenerated in the risen life of Easter. And that has little to do with business cycles or the size of our pay packet.

Jesus himself, in our gospel reading today, gives us the best reason of all for rejoicing.  That famous passage from John 3, “God so loved the world,” he tells us, “that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

That is the kind of economy we can all believe in the economy of salvation. So, yes: there is still plenty of room for hope and even joy.

Decades ago, an irreverent wit once observed, God protects fools, children, and the United States of America or maybe even Australia. The truth of the matter is that God protects us all fools as well as the wise; children as well as mothers and fathers; Australians, ancient Israelites, and people of every land and creed. In spite of our fears, complaints, and foolishness, God loves us all without bounds. We need only look to his Son to understand this truth and live.

And that is reason enough to rejoice even today even in the middle of Lent. 

Hymn TIS 155: How great thou art.

                        (tune – O Store Gud) 

Intercessory Prayers       

Lent 4 Sunday – Year B –

We give you thanks, 0 God, that you gather your people from north and south, from east and west: hear our prayers for all the peoples of the world. We pray for all who are victims of hatred, oppression or war, for those whose greed, apathy or lust for power destroys the lives of others. When we choose the ways of evil and reject your light, let us turn to you that we might live.

God of love and goodness, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We give you thanks, 0 God, that you sent your Son into the world to bring salvation to your people: hear our prayers for your holy, catholic church. We pray for your clergy and ministers, for all who worship in this place, for all who preach the gospel and seek to bring your people into fullness of life. When we find the bonds of slavery safer than the risks of freedom, let us turn to you that we might live.

God of love and goodness, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We give you thanks, 0 God, that your love for your people is from everlasting to everlasting: hear our prayers for all in this community. We pray for those who are excluded, undervalued or forgotten in our society, for those with whom we work, for our families, our friends and for ourselves.

When we are preoccupied with our own needs and overlook the concerns of others, let us turn to you that we might live.

God of love and goodness, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We give you thanks, 0 God, that you bring healing to the sick and relief to those in distress: hear our prayers for all who suffer in body, mind or spirit. We pray for all who are without purpose or hope, for all who struggle with addictions,

for the friendless and those who mourn, for the sick and for the dying. When we are overwhelmed by grief, loneliness, despair or pain, let us turn to you that we might live.

God of love and goodness, in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

We give you thanks, 0 God, that in Christ you bring your people from death to everlasting life: hear our prayers for all who have died in your love. We pray for those we love who rest in your presence, for those of this parish whose yearly remembrance occurs at this time. Now, and when we draw near the gate of death, let us look on you and believe, that we, with all your saints, might know the joy of eternal life.

God of love and goodness, in your mercy,

hear our prayer. 

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 TIS 217: Love divine all loves excelling...

                         (tune – Hyfrydol)


        Leave the shadows of your lives behind and go forth into the glorious light of God.

         We will walk in the light of Christ.

        Leave your brokenness of disobedience behind and rest in God’s compassion and grace.

         We will abide in Christ’s tender mercies.

        Go with the blessings of almighty God. 

Hymn TIS 779: May the feet of God walk with you.

                       (tune – Aubrey)

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