Marsden Road Uniting Church Carlingford
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.
Following Christ takes courage and commitment to a life of prayer as we seek God’s ways.
The Scripture readings today encourage us to have courage in our living, to face the things which impede our life of faith, and to bring all things to God in prayer. We each experience
good times and challenges in our lives, and our faith enables us to face all of these knowing the presence of a loving, gracious God with us.
Call to Worship - (Abingdon Worship 2015 and Billabong)
We are gathered today as a community of peace and love. Is anyone here today suffering?
We will pray with you.
Is anyone here today rejoicing?
We will rejoice with you.
Is anyone here today longing for healing?
We will anoint you with oil.
One: You are welcome to this house of peace and love.
We come as we are, joyful and hurting. We come to you, Healer, Life-giver.
Hymn TIS 111: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
(Tune – Lobe Den Herren)
Jesus, Brother and Saviour, we are grateful to find our way back to you. We have carried out another week’s worth of responsibilities. We have watched another week’s worth of news programs and have listened to another week’s worth of predictions. Sometimes we have slept well; sometimes not. But here we are, before you once again, open to your presence. Revive us with your love and power. Fulfill your kingdom promises in our lives, in our church, and in our world. In the name of God who created us and the Spirit who breathes new life in us, we pray. Amen.
A Prayer of Confession
Brother Jesus, Teacher of the Way, we come from a busy week of tasks and obligations. In this quiet time, we have a chance to reflect on how we have lived our lives this week. We have an opportunity to explore the hopes that you have — hopes for compassion for the weak; justice for the mistreated, and love for friends and strangers. We thank and praise you for your love and power.
We rejoice that you have helped us to be like you; and we regret when we have not been like you.
Pick us up where we have fallen. Touch us with your renewing grace, Healer on the Way. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus forgives us when we wander. He raises us up with courage and hope and love. Praise be to our Brother and Saviour!
Thanks be to God.
We are the gathered, much loved, and loving community of Christ. Let us bid one another peace in Christs name.
Peace be with you!
And, also with you!
Distribute these offerings in your wisdom and your understanding, that they may sow seeds of peace, mercy, and justice this day. Draw near to us, O God, that our very lives may be offerings of your love and grace. Amen.
Hymn TIS 629: When I needed a neighbour.
(Tune – Neighbour)
The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
The Gospel Reading: Mark 9:38-50
Readings: NRSV Translation
1So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, ‘What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ 3Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have won your favour, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. 4For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’ 5Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?’ 6Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. 9Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, ‘Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.’ And the king said, ‘Hang him on that.’ 10So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.
20 Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, 21enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, 22as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.
38 John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ 39 But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 42 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck, and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. , 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 49 ‘For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’
Preaching of the Word - Risks We Can Take
The theme of God’s people struggling to survive in a sophisticated, alien culture appears throughout our scriptures, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures/the Old Testament. This theme is central to the Book of Esther, which supplies today’s first reading. Today is the only Sunday in our three-year cycle of readings when we hear from this book. Thus, I draw your attention now to a key verse in Esther, even though it is not part of the passage we just heard.
The verse I have in mind comes from the fourth chapter. Mordecai, a Jew living in the Persian capital of Susa, is addressing his kinswoman Esther, who has become queen. He sends this message to her: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
“Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” I offer this verse for your consideration, not simply because it is a key to the story of Esther, but because it is a key to the story of each of us and to the story of every one of the people of God.
The Book of Esther is brief, only ten chapters, and is lively, engaging, even comic literature. Read it for yourself, and you will delight in its twists and turns. Very briefly the plot is this:
Mordecai, a Jew at the court of King Ahasuerus, exposes a plot to kill the king but is left unrewarded. The king must choose a new queen, and Mordecai arranges to have his young kinswoman Esther selected. She becomes the king’s favorite. Esther learns of a plot to destroy all the Jews in the empire. It is the work of Haman, the prime minister, who bears a genocidal grudge against Mordecai.
One night, the king, who consistently appears passive and dimwitted, remembers that he has done nothing to honor Mordecai for saving his life. He asks Haman what should be done for the man the king wishes to honor. Haman, who is supremely self-centered, assumes that the king wishes to honor him. So, he proposes lavish compensation but is deeply humiliated when Mordecai receives the honors.
Meanwhile, Esther reveals to the king that Haman has already issued a decree in the king’s name for the slaughter of the Jews. Haman pleads for his life with Queen Esther, falling down on her couch. The enraged king assumes that Haman is attacking his queen. So, he orders Haman hanged on the outrageously huge scaffold that Haman had prepared for Mordecai.
Esther then obtains a royal decree, allowing the Jews to defend themselves. They do so, and Mordecai and Esther proclaim that day as a great festival for their people. This story serves as the basis for the Jewish feast of Purim, where the defeat of Haman is often presented as a play amid a joyous carnival atmosphere.
So where, you may ask, does that key verse fit in, where Mordecai tells Esther, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such as time as this”? Let me tell you.
Esther has just found out about Haman’s decree for genocide against the Jews and consequently the need for her to implore the king on behalf of her people. The tension in the story rises sharply when we learn that Esther, even though she is the queen, is still subject to a law that prohibits anyone from approaching the king without being summoned. Anyone who comes into the royal presence without permission is to be put to death.
Mordecai’s response to Esther amounts to a challenge. “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
What we have here is an old story. Moreover, it cannot be understood as historically accurate. But the Book of Esther is scripture. It is the story of how God dealt with his people and somehow, we seek to understand such a story is to be applied to our lives today. How do we do this and what is being said here?
The truth is, fantastic though it sounds, each one of us has come to royal dignity. Esther came to hers by marriage to King Ahasuerus of Persia. Each one of us came to our royal dignity through our Baptism, by which we became God’s child and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. So, each of us can arrive at a moment, perhaps many moments, when we face some threatening decision that requires holy courage on our part, a decision that will make a world of difference not only to us but to people around us.
I have another story for you, far more recent than that of Esther and completely historical, but one that involves a woman who, like Esther, was called upon to exercise holy courage at a critical moment and thus save a vast number of lives. G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber tell this story in their book, A Year with American Saints.
In 1909, Lillian Trasher broke off her engagement to a man she loved so that she could answer a call to serve as a missionary. She opened her Bible and came upon a verse mentioning Egypt. On that basis, she went there, settling in a village near the Nile.
Shortly after her arrival, she was summoned to the bedside of a dying mother who asked her to care for her malnourished baby. Lillian took the child home, but because of the baby’s incessant crying through twelve days and nights, her supervisor told her to take the child elsewhere. There was no other place. So, Lillian left with the baby. She managed to get just enough to live on by begging for food and clothes.
Over time, the scorn and ridicule of local people turned into admiration for her persistence and stamina. Gradually, support came from a variety of directions. Children kept arriving, too. By 1915, there were fifty children. By the time of her death in 1961, she counted herself blessed to look into the faces of twelve hundred children. The Lillian Trasher Orphanage continues. To date, it has cared for more than twenty thousand children.
It was to help that first baby and all the thousands of subsequent orphans to whom she devoted her life that Lillian Trasher had come to royal dignity as a child of God.
Now we probably could think of others, even Australians who have shown that courage and taken that risk in answering their call from God. Each of us has our opportunities. They appear at home, at work, at church, in community service and public citizenship, and through every field of endeavor. Each of us has our opportunities. None of us is overlooked. Each moment of opportunity is lodged somehow in the thick fabric of our distinct lives, our unique sets of circumstances.
There are risks we can take. By the grace of God, we take them. These risks threaten us with death in one form or another – but they promise the world an unexpected resurrection.
Hymn TIS 110: Sing praise to God who reigns above.
(Tune – TIS 479 Mit Freuden Zart)
After the words: Word of God,
please respond with hear our prayer.
Pentecost 18 Sunday – Year B
0 God, you have taught your people to pray to you in times of sorrow and in times of joy: hear our prayers for your world and for your church.
We pray for creation, the heavens and the earth that you have made; for the unique and wonderful treasures of this ancient land; for all creatures endangered by human cruelty and greed; for all who work for the preservation of the earth.
0 God, our help, teach us to live in harmony with the created world, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for all people, for our sisters and brothers of
every land; for those without food, water, shelter or livelihood; for those stolen from their homes, their families, their land; for leaders of tribes and nations and all who work for justice. 0 God, our help, teach us to live in peace with one another, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for your holy, catholic church, for all who bear the name of Christ; for those with whom we worship in this congregation; for evangelists, teachers and all who preach your good news; for leaders of churches and all who minister in your name. 0 God, our help, teach us to live in unity with all Christians, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for this community, for those with whom we share our lives; for all whom we love, our families and our friends; for those without work and those without rest; for all voluntary workers, service clubs and welfare agencies. 0 God, our help, teach us to value all members of our community, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for those in need, for the sick and for the suffering; for those who are in pain, confusion, fear or despair; for the broken-hearted and all who mourn; for all who bring comfort and hope to others. 0 God, our help, teach us to care tenderly for one another, and, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
We remember all who have died, your faithful servants of every age; those whom we have loved and all who, by their lives, have led others to believe in you. 0 God, our help, teach us to follow in your ways, forgive us when we fail, and at our death raise us up with all your saints. 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 245: We have a gospel to proclaim.
(Tune – Fulda)
fruit in due season. Having drawn near to the Spirit of
wisdom, we go forth with humility and understanding.
Having drawn near to the Presence of mercy and grace, we go
forth as children of compassion and peace. Go with God.
Hymn TIS 778: Shalom to you now.
(Tune – Somos del Senor)