PREPARING FOR SERVICES OF WORSHIP EACH SUNDAY

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CALL TO WORSHIP

Prayer of Approach - Hymns - Prayer of Adoration and Praise - Readings from Old Testament - Epistle - Gospel - A Word with the Young - Prayer of Confession - Sermon - Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession - Offertory Prayer - Benediction


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YEAR C - LENT

Genesis 15:1-12,17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35


CALL TO WORSHIP: Read Psalm 27 responsively or use the following

Let us worship God who is our light, our strength, and our salvation. When our confidence is in God of whom shall we be afraid?


CHOIR OR SOLO: The refrain from TIS 16: “Do not be afraid...” or
TIS 747: “The Lord is my light, my light and my salvation”


One thing we ask of God, one thing we seek - to live in the house of God all the days of our lives. That we may behold the beauty of God in creation and in one another.

CHOIR OR SOLO: The refrain from TIS 16: “Do not be afraid...”or
TIS 747: “The Lord is my light, my light and my salvation”


One thing we ask of God , one thing we seek - to trust the ways of God. That we may know God’s goodness and strength all the days of our lives…..


PRAYER OF APPROACH

We come to worship you, O God, seeking signs of your presence to strengthen us in our journey through life. We wonder how prepared we are to journey, like Abraham, into the unknown of your future. He looked for signs of your presence and journeyed on in hope, confident that your presence was there to protect and guide him. How much more fortunate are we, blessed as we are with your presence with us in Jesus. He undertook his journey towards the cross with a heavy heart, and in dying, revealed his undying love for all - blessing lives forever with his life and your love. We approach you, O God, with hearts filled with awe over such undeserved gifts and we pray that this time of worship will reveal the depth of our gratitude and praise. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen


INTRODUCTION TO THE PRAYER OF CONFESSION

The apostle Paul says: “Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” Is it possible to claim these words as our own and repeat them as our words? Let’s have a time of silence where we think about these words and their relevance for our lives as followers of Jesus Christ.

You could perhaps have a time when people respond with extempore prayers or use the following...

Let us pray:
Merciful God, we hear these words of Paul, and know that his life was spent living and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ not only to the people of his day, but to people in every age since. He could invite people not only to do as he said, but to do as he did.

When we are happy to tell others to do as we say, but want the freedom to do as we choose, even if that means surrendering some of our christian values; Forgive us, O God.
When we strive to imitate the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and ignore the plight of those who are poor and powerless;
Forgive us, O God.
When we look to other than Jesus Christ as the source of our standards;
Forgive us, O God.
When Jesus weeps over our behaviour even as he wept over Jerusalem;
Forgive us, O God.
God of grace and truth, we remember Jesus’ commitment to travel towards the cross to give true and everlasting meaning to the depth of divine love.
Empower us with the Holy Spirit to deepen our commitment to follow Jesus, even when that means being ridiculed or persecuted, or sharing in the struggles and sufferings of others. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen


ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS.

Hear the good news: Those who are in Christ are a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God to whom we have been reconciled through Christ. And so I declare to you, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!


SERMON

One of the programmes on television where the repeats are as enjoyable as the first is called 'Waiting for God'. It is about the activities of two senior citizens in a retirement centre in England. In one of the episodes the man decided that life just wasn't worth living and, determined to end it all, he gave away his treasured possessions. Of course by the end of the programme he'd changed his mind and wanted all his things back. It's a very funny programme, but it has a lot of truth in it. You couldn't help but sympathise with the elderly hero when he contemplates all the awful things about the world and says despairingly - what's the point of it all.

What is the point of it all? What makes the difference between reading the newspaper or watching the news on TV and becoming depressed or cynical about the direction that so many lives seem to be taking and wanting to do something about it?.

What made the difference all these centuries ago to Abram, when he up and took off from his home at the age of 75 to journey who knows where?

What made the difference to Jesus when he resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem and journeyed towards certain death?

The difference appears to be the dynamic of faith in the God who promises to journey with us…..

We are a pilgrim people always on our way, hoping to make a difference on our journey through life. What makes the difference in life - or rather who makes the difference? As christians, we believe that the God revealed by Jesus Christ makes the difference.

Abram didn't have that advantage but he still had enough faith in this God who addressed him and promised to be with him. Faith is a willingness to journey forth, just as Abraham did, not knowing exactly what the destination might be.

Journeying forth doesn't necessarily mean making a physical journey - often the journey is a spiritual one. A growth in understanding, maybe even a change in direction in one's thinking, an acceptance that faith in God, in Jesus Christ, is not just something we can read about in the bible, or hear about in church, but that it can be a living and transforming experience…..

This is the challenge and the discomfort of Lent; we must face squarely the radical risk of journeying into the future on the basis of nothing but God's promise - "Do not be afraid, I am with you." We are headed towards the cross - yes, but also towards Easter. On our daily journey through life, we know that we are surrounded by God's love, drawn forward by God's life-giving power. Our longings and our laments, our dreaming, our prayers and our pain, are not simply swallowed up by nothingness. They are met head-on by the words of Paul “stand firm in the Lord”.

And so we do journey with Jesus in the end..…


OFFERTORY PRAYER

We offer these gifts and the service of our lives to you, O God, as signs of our gratitude for all you have done and are doing for us. Without your love as we know it in Jesus, our lives would lack meaning and purpose. We pray that these gifts and our witness may help others to discover in Jesus new meaning and purpose for their lives. Amen


BENEDICTION

Journey into this week and beyond
blessed with the presence and guidance of God
filled with the perseverance and compassion of Jesus Christ
strengthened with the power and vitality of the Holy Spirit.

1. John E. Burkhart, Worship (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982) p.69





HOLY WEEK... EASTER

Acts 9:36-43 ; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30

Additional resources for Easter 4C: Picture of sheep; AUSTRALIAN PRAYERS, Bruce D. Prewer, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1983 .


CALL TO WORSHIP: based on Revelation 7 verses 9,10,15 -17.

There was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation; from all tribes, nations and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!” They worship God day and night and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

TIS 233/AHB 176: “I will sing the wondrous story”
TIS 10/AHB 16: “The Lord’s my shepherd.”
TIS 108/AHB 26: “You holy angels bright”
TIS 659: “The Lord is my shepherd and I want to follow”


PRAYER OF ADORATION AND CONFESSION

We praise you, O God, for giving shape and meaning to the ancient image of yourself as shepherd through the person of Jesus Christ. In him, your compassion has been eternally revealed, giving your rod and staff the human face of love. Through Jesus’ persistence-even to death - in seeking and saving the lost, your goodness and mercy has been abundantly experienced. His ongoing life continues to guide and lead us in paths of righteousness. How can we do other than praise and adore you, O God, for such depth of care for us and how can we do other than listen to Jesus’ voice as he calls us to follow him. And yet, we confess that there are times when we fail to hear and obey his call because our lives are so filled with noise and self-centred activities. Forgive us, O God, for the times when we put our own comfort first and fail to reach out and accompany those who are going through difficult times - those who feel imprisoned in a valley of shadows and find themselves overwhelmed by life. Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us. The call to reveal your love, compassion and comfort wherever you need us to bind up the wounds of the victims of today’s society.

(silent confession)

Forgive us, O God, for ignoring the plight of those deprived of the basic necessities of life - food and shelter.
Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us.
The call to reveal in tangible and authentic ways, your passion for those who feel powerless to make any changes for good in their lives.

(silent confession)

Forgive us, O God, for enjoying the benefits of your goodness and mercy in our lives while exercising judgmental or unmerciful attitudes towards other people. Jesus, good shepherd, help us to take the time and make the space to hear your call to us.
The call to empty ourselves of all that is contrary to your life within us so that your goodness and mercies are enjoyed not as rewards to be hoarded but as gifts to be shared. In your name, we pray. Amen


ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS :

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins we might live for righteousness; by his wounds we have been healed. For we were going astray like sheep, but now have been returned to the shepherd and guardian of our souls. (based on 1 Peter 2:24 NRSV) So, hear the good news: In Jesus Christ we are sought, we are found, we are forgiven. Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honour, power and might, be to our God forever and ever! Amen!


A WORD WITH THE CHILDREN/YOUNG PEOPLE

The breed of sheep called merino – it has the finest wool – see the thickness of it in the photo. Ask the children/young people if they have had any experience of looking after or working with sheep. Can they tell anything at all about sheep’s characteristics? Hopefully some might say that sheep are stubborn, obstinate, headstrong creatures. In other words, sheep like to have their own way and don’t like following commands issued by farmers/shepherds and carried out by sheepdogs.

The sheep designated in the film ‘Babe’ – ask if anyone saw it. If so, they may remember the sheepdog’s opinion of sheep - that they are stupid and need to be treated out of that understanding - even if it means being cruel to them. The sheepdogs were shown a different way, when Babe – the pig - spoke to the sheep with respect and kindly invited them to be obedient and follow the farmer’s commands. ….

and through our prayers and the songs and hymns we sing. We sing about God’s love and Jesus’ love in hymns such as:

TIS 145/AHB 81: “The king of love my shepherd is”
TIS 253: “O Lord Jesus Marrkapmirr”
AHB 119: “Like a father watching over me”

ACTS 9:36-43;REVELATION 7:9-17; GOSPEL: John 10:22-30


SERMON

When John wrote the material which was to become the Book of Revelation - Christians were being persecuted by the Romans. The Roman emperor demanded that he be worshipped as a god - and that Christians refused to do - so some of them endured terrible deaths - thrown to the lions, crucified upside down - all kinds of dreadful tortures were used to try and make the Christians worship caesar. And so, all through revelation, John is encouraging his readers to stand fast, to worship the one true God and to be faithful to Jesus Christ. And John is telling those who remain faithful that, no matter what they endure, the glory that they will experience when they meet with God will be worth all the suffering. They will appear before God, not battered and weary and wounded, but conquering and victorious.

In the reading from Acts, we have the only account of an apostle raising someone from the dead - and a woman at that. This miracle took place in a town called Joppa (nowadays – Tel Aviv) and became widely known, leading to many conversions. The reading concerns the older woman, Tabitha, sometimes called Dorcas, the only woman in the whole New Testament to merit the feminine form of the word "disciple". The story could possibly stop there, because that fact in itself is surprising enough. But what happens to Tabitha is more surprising than that. She had been caring for those whom no one else would care for and making them clothes. Luke tells us that her discipleship is in her charitable works. ….

The story opens with death. But death does not have the final word. The story moves on to a fresh affirmation of divine power. Peter's "Tabitha, get up" reminds us of the way Jesus raised Jairus' daughter, which Peter had witnessed. Jesus' disciples have therefore the same power over death that Jesus did. Into regions of death, where people grieve, a word is spoken by Peter, a word of life. If you thought that Easter happened back on a particular day, think again. The Easter power continues.

Do you believe it? There are powerful forces at work against the possibility of your believing this story. They tell us that things like this don't happen, that a dead woman stays dead, that death always has the final say, particularly over the lives of the poor and dispossessed.

Perhaps it is not just that we believe it impossible for someone to rise from the dead. The problem with this story for us may not be that we doubt Peter could raise this dear old woman to life, but rather that we are unsure we could be raised to life…..

Let me tell you a story a bit more contemporary than Tabitha's, where, to some extent, death was defeated. The people in the story were not raised to life again in the same way as Tabitha, but death did not have the last word.

There were two women who had been friends for about thirty years - they were young marrieds in a beachside suburb of Sydney - they did lots of things together and their children grew up with a lot of interests in common. Mainly, sun and surf in the summer and snow and skiing in the winter. One of the women, Meg, had two sons, the other, Nonie, two daughters.

Two significant things happened in the life of the younger daughter when she was nineteen - she became Australian ski champion - and - she contracted multiple sclerosis. After seven long years fighting the disease, Sally died.

The younger son of the other woman was also a keen skier but his first love was the surf and he was a member of the local lifesaving team. He became a beach inspector - but the sun that contributes so much to life, unfortunately can also contribute to death - because Brett died after a two and a half year struggle with cancer -melanoma - caused by the sun - two weeks after his friend Sally.

Most of the young mourners at Brett's funeral had been at Sally's two weeks before and a majority of the people after the service for Brett were immobilised with grief, but the two mothers - even closer now through their shared tragedies, had organised tea and sandwiches at the church and they helped serve them to their children's devastated friends.

In a strange, but deeply meaningful way, through the compassion and the actions of these two mothers, death did not have the last word.

I remember speaking to a number of those young people over that cup of tea and they were questioning the reality of their lives, the reality of life itself. How does one live life to the full in the midst of all its fragility, and how does our faith inform our living and indeed our dying?

Today's readings spell out for us the marvellous truth that faith in God raises us up into hope, into significance, into freedom, into the future...sometimes against all odds.

Because I live, says Jesus, you also will live. His life - in us.

TIS 409/ AHB 322: “O breath of life, come sweeping through us”
TIS 210/AHB 141: “O for a thousand tongues to sing”
TIS 656: “Jesus, my Lord, let me be”
TIS 681: Lord, let me see...”


BENEDICTION

Go, blessed with
the goodness and mercy of God,
the comfort and love of Jesus Christ,
the insight and guidance of the Holy Spirit



Click here to play COMING HOME - A short video recorded of Moira telling her story of faith and her journey through a divine encounter into full time ministry.



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