Thursday, 2 September 2021

Marsden Road Uniting Pentecost 15 HC - 05 September 2021

 Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford


Tradition and Traditionalism.

Sunday 05th September 2021

Pentecost 15 Sunday year of Mark 9.30am 

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. 

Theme Focus

We are called to love generously, without distinction, and with justice and compassion as our guide. We live out our faith by our words and our deeds.

Today’s Scripture readings call us to love generously, without distinction, and with justice and compassion as our guide. We are reminded that we are all welcome here, part of this

community of faith. We are also reminded to live out our faith by our words and our deeds, in all we do and all we say.

Today is also Father’s Day in Australia, and many of us are celebrating the role that our fathers and other special men have played in our lives. It is important to acknowledge that this day can be difficult for some, for a variety of reasons.

Not everyone has been blessed with the presence of a loving father, and for some the relationship is complicated. I pray that your experience of our generous God, source of all love, who offers welcome and care for each of us, is helpful for you. However, this is a day to give thanks for those fathers and men who have been significant and had a positive influence in our lives. 

Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship 2015 and Billabong)

It is here in the sanctuary of our God that we learn to fulfil the royal law of God’s Word: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” May our praise and worship this day, remind us of God’s love, forgiveness, and healing grace.

(From Psalm 125)

Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
they are like Mount Zion which is immovable, abiding for ever.
Jerusalem has mountains surrounding it,
and the LORD God surrounds God’s people even now, and for all time.
God of the unexpected moment,
you have gathered us by your Spirit
to serve us and renew us, and surround us.
Break in on our world like hearing to the deaf,
sight to the blind, speech to the dumb;
come in your unexpected hour.
Bring form to our chaos, light to our darkness,
and life to our hearts.
Fill us with your expectant Spirit:
and so transform our gathering to your glory,
and perfect our worship for your praise. Amen

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

                 (tune – Ombersley) 

Opening Prayer

Creating, loving, and healing God, we gather together this day, coming from different places and situations in life. In faith, we fall before you in praise and worship, desiring to be fed with your love and healed with your grace. Fill us with wonder, O God, that we may proclaim your good news for all to hear. Open up our ears, our mouths, and our hearts this day. In Christ Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Prayer of Confession

God of mercy and justice, you call us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to speak and act with mercy and grace.

Instead, we have been judgmental, played favourites, and turned away from the poor and needy. We have failed to be impartial and have abused our power.

Reframe and redirect our actions, Lord, that beauty, truth, and justice may prevail throughout your creation. Help each one of us, Lord, to be rich in faith, love, and generosity. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

Declaration of Forgiveness

Mercy overrules judgment, love hatred, and God’s embrace reaches out to all people, spanning all of the mountains and chasms that confront us. Be at peace with yourselves and with others, knowing that God’s mercy endures forever.

Thanks be to God! 

The Peace

Creating us all as equals, and calling us to be generous in our faith, the Lord invites us to offer gestures of welcome as we 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.) 

Offering Prayer

Healing One, we are reminded so often in Biblical narration that you are capable of miraculous actions.  But, your miracles are not limited to these ancient times.  People still experience miracles in these ordinary, everyday times.  We recall those many miracles that have touched people within our own congregation.  We are astounded by those miracles that we witness each day.  We are so thankful!  Today, we offer you this money as a sacred gesture of our gratitude.  All praise and honour be given to you!  Amen.  

Hymn 587: Fold to your heart your sister and your     

                 brother.      (tune – Intercessor) 

The Service of Holy Communion 

The Great Thanksgiving

The Lord be with you.

And also, with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

With boundless joy, we give thanks to you, O God of our Creation. From that first spark of life and Spirit: you set the cosmos in motion, you breathed life into humanity, you brought light into the world. Your love amazes us, for even when our love turns to doubt or fear, your love is constant and sure. You delivered our ancestors in faith from captivity, and you deliver us daily from the bonds that prevent us from living as people created in your image. You freed your people and made a covenant to be present always. You have spoken to us through prophets, and you speak truth to us through one another. And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn, saying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!

Nurturing God, your greatest gift to us is the grace we know through Jesus Christ. Your Spirit descended on him and was manifest in his ministry. Through his teachings and example, you showed us how to be with the poor, how to release those heavy laden from burdens, how to free the souls of the weary and anxious, and how to proclaim the good news of grace and peace and abundant love. In an act of unimaginable love, you delivered us from hopelessness, and made a new covenant with us through water and the Spirit.

When Jesus died and rose again into eternity, he promised to abide with us in your Word and Holy Spirit. On the night in which he surrendered himself, Jesus took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to the disciples, saying: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” When the meal had ended, Jesus took the cup, offered thanks, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “Drink from this, all of you; this cup of renewed covenant, which is poured out for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again!

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body of Christ, that we may be the body of Christ for all the world. To You, O Creator of love and life, through Christ Jesus who makes all life new, in communion with your Holy Spirit who breathes new life into all, we honour and praise you for your everlasting love. Amen.

Blessing and honour and glory and power are yours for ever and ever. Amen.     

The Breaking of the Bread

Because our bread has come from one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.

The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

Thanks be to God. 

Lamb of God

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world,

grant us peace. 

Invitation to Communion

As tangible as grain plucked by Jesus and his disciples, as mysterious as the Presence known by our faithful ancestors, so is the meal we are about to share. Let us open our hearts and hands, as we remember and partake together. 

Prayer after Communion

Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Grant that we may go into the world in the strength of your Spirit, to give ourselves for others, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                  

The Service of the Word


The First Reading:                                            James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

The Gospel Reading:                                        Mark 7:24-37

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 

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in,3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please’, while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there’, or, ‘Sit at my feet’, 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 8 You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.11 For the one who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement. 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 

Mark 7:24-37

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28 But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29 Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. 31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue.34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’ 

Preaching of the Word - Tradition and Traditionalism

Sometimes when we hear the Bible in our own language, it’s helpful to translate it yet again into our time and place. Let’s do that today.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The conversation we heard about in the Gospel that was just read with its references to religious hand washing and dish washing may seem, well, a little remote from our concerns here on this first Sunday in September 2021. But let’s hear the story in a different way: how it might happen in our time.

One day, in a small Australian city, a group of God-fearing, Bible-believing people came up to Jesus to ask him something. “We’ve noticed, they said, “that when your disciples go to NRL, AFL or RU football games, they don’t take part when a lot of us spontaneously say the Lord’s Prayer. They don’t even mumble it. What gives?”

Jesus replied, “It’s attitudes like that that make me think I should have copyrighted that prayer. You just don’t get it! First of all, if you plan to do something then it’s not well really, it’s not spontaneous. That’s an abuse of language. But that’s not the only abuse that’s going on. I know you can pray anywhere: in church, at home, in your car, even at a football game. Believe me, I know. You should hear some of those prayers from the coaches and players!”

“But I suspect that some of you like to boom forth the prayer I gave you, not so much because you want to talk to the our loving Parent, God, but because you want to look good in your own eyes. That’s what I was getting at when I gave some of the Pharisees a hard time for praying on street corners. It wasn’t the location. Street corner, football field, cathedral — it’s all the same. The problem is with your attitude.”

“Also, I didn’t give you the Lord’s Prayer for you to shout it at some public event and maybe just think you’re better than the people of other religions or those of no religion who feel shut out of a school sports game that is public because you want to show that there are Christians in attendance.”

“Careful! You’re skating on thin ice! It may just be that some of those people of other religions and of no religion will end up leading the parade into the kingdom of God, together with the prostitutes and tax collectors I talked about two thousand years ago, with people like you bringing up the rear, if you make it at all. Grace works in mighty strange ways.”

Maybe that’s what Jesus would say if today’s Gospel took place now rather than back then. Certainly, the question underlying the story is as alive as ever. Like the Jews in the time of Jesus, Christians today are a people with a rich traditions of spiritual practice. When it comes to this tradition, how can we keep from “majoring in the minors?” How can we keep the main thing the main thing? How can we live the good news of Jesus so that it remains good news for us and for people around us, whether or not they are Christians? How can devotion remain beautiful rather than turning into ugly ideology? How indeed?

Jesus criticised a portion of his own community for paying God lip service, exalting human precepts, abandoning divine commandments. Like a beam of laser light, he cut through to the real issue: their hearts are far from God.

Rather than practicing a spirituality that changed them through grace, this segment tried to impose an ideology that made other people conform to their hard-and-fast principles. Their concern was not heaven’s purposes, but their own power and control.

Such misuse of religion remains forever a possibility. We only have to look at our church history for examples of imposing an ideology of our faith than the rue faith that God calls us to. A faith of love. Think back on all the persecutions that have taken place in God’s name. And so we must consider the true purpose of Christian devotion. Here’s one possibility of a faithful answer to this question.

The entire apparatus of Christian devotion — the Lord’s Prayer and the Great Litany, rosaries and revivals, Prayer Book and Hymnal, icons and incense, Bible study and Sunday school, silent retreats and Cursillo reunions, Gospel music and Gregorian chant, public liturgy and private prayer, sacraments and sermons, holy water and holy rolling, giving thanks at a birth and praying at a death — the entire apparatus of Christian devotion, in its diversity and complexity, serves one great, overarching purpose that scripture and tradition explain in their frequent references to the heart, the core of the human person.

Christian devotion is meant to help gain and maintain a new heart, a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone, a heart that is alive not dead, a heart that is compassionate not selfish, a heart that is large, not small, a heart that is hospitable not judgmental. Christian devotion in its myriad forms is all about softening the heart, preventing it from becoming hard, keeping it tender. It’s about, in a spiritual sense, having a healthy heart.

It is of such a heart that St. Isaac the Syrian speaks in a passage that has become popular in our time, thirteen centuries after he wrote it:
When someone with such a heart as this thinks of the creatures and looks at them, his eyes are filled with tears because of the overwhelming compassion that presses on his heart. The heart of such a one grows tender, and he cannot endure to hear of or to look upon any injury, even the smallest suffering, inflicted upon anything in creation. Therefore, this person never ceases to pray with tears even for the animals, even for the enemies of truth and for all who do harm to it, asking that they may be guarded and receive God’s mercy. And for the reptiles also he prays with a great compassion, which rises up endlessly in his heart after the example of God.

The heart of which St. Isaac speaks is compassionate, hospitable, vast, able to welcome even cold-blooded animals, even enemies of truth. The purpose of Christian devotion is to invite God to create and maintain such a heart in each one of us. Therefore, when we assess, as we must, the use of some element of Christian tradition in a particular circumstance, the question to ask is: Does this practice, in this circumstance, contribute to a living, healthy, compassionate heart, or does it not?

This central question takes precedence over other questions we may prefer to answer, such as: Is this practice ancient? Is it contemporary? Do I like it? Will it increase church attendance? Does it make me feel in control? No, the real question has to do with whether or not hearts are made and kept compassionate.

Here is an insight from the Lutheran scholar Jaroslav Pelikan that may prove helpful. Pelikan distinguishes between tradition and traditionalism in this way: Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition is the living faith of the dead.

Like some of the contemporaries of Jesus, we are mired in traditionalism when our spiritual inheritance is not used to open our hearts to becoming more compassionate. This is the dead faith of the living. But when we use that wonderful spiritual inheritance left to us by preceding generations for its true purpose, then tradition lives and flows and opens us to greater life. Our hearts become larger; more compassionate. This is the living faith of the dead, or, rather, the living faith of those who have died and now live forever because their hearts have come to resemble the heart of God.

Let us pray.

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. 

Hymn 608: Where cross the crowded ways of life

                  (tune Fulda) 

Intercessory Prayers  

      After the words:            In your mercy,

      please respond with      hear our prayer.

Pentecost 15 Sunday – Year B

God of earth and heaven, we bring to you our prayers for your world and for your church.

We pray for the peoples of the world: for those who share little of the earth's resources the hungry and homeless; for those who enjoy little freedom, the imprisoned and oppressed. God of the Jew and the Gentile, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the peoples of this land: for those who are strangers in a new country; for those who are outcasts in their own ancient country. God of the friend and the stranger, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for your church: for those who feel rejected or marginalised; for those who are not made welcome at your table or to leadership of your church. God of the saint and the sinner, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our community: for those pushed to the fringes by poverty, unemployment, age or disability; for those discriminated against because of race, gender, sexuality or creed. God of the voiceless and the articulate, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all in need: for social outcasts, for those suffering from various virus diseases, the mentally ill; for the friendless, the sick and all who mourn. God of the vulnerable and the strong, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember all who have died in your love: those who have died violently, those who have died by their own hand; those whose death has been unnoticed or unlamented. God of the living and the dead, in your loving heart there are no outsiders;

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 627: Praise and thanksgiving Father we offer.

                 (tune – Bunessan) 


Now as you have received, so may you give away. Keep God's words close to your heart. Teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind God's truths as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and may they be written on the doorposts of your homes, your gates, and your lives. Amen. 

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

                 (tune – Aubrey)   

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