A Series of Thanks

25 Jul 2021 by Trish Rooney in: Sermons

Welcome to the Church

Welcome to all who are reading or listening online this morning. We may be physically separated but we are spiritually connected. We are together apart.

Let us worship our God.

Call to Worship

Family of God,
Come hear these words:
We are welcomed and loved by God.
Open your hearts!
Let the Spirit murmur in your being
and the Son guide you in your living.
Come, let us gather again,
Singing songs of praise, listening to the Word
and pray deeply with our Listening God.

Hymn: To God be the glory

Prayer of Invocation, praise and thanksgiving

Light and Shadow are present in our days.
Yet, with you, O God of Love,
we are able to see the light even in the darkest space.
Brightly it shines, and guides us through
so that we see a way forward in every step.
We come to worship your abundant love,
Today, we come with hope and in peace
To share together the wonder of our God.
Within our hearts and deep in our souls,
We long to draw near to you, O Sustainer of Life. 

Generous God, who offers an unexpected feast in surprising ways,
We welcome your care and love!
In wonder and hope, we worship you,
for you continually surprise us.
At the very times when we tire in our faith
and hunger for new answers,
You raise before us a spiritual feast,
where every ‘course’ that comes before us each day,
conjoins with the next delight of unfolding of wisdom.
Our soul fills with wonder and our heart with love.
You clear our thinking and direct our doing
so that we can live with a fullness of life.
You offer so much more than we ask for
and so much more than we can know.
Praise indeed to you, Our God of Abundant Love.
In Christ’s name we prayer, Amen.

Hymn: The Servant King

Prayer of Confession and Words of Assurance

Prayer of Confession

Prepare us, O Listening One, as we share honestly with you.
This last week has been full and flown past.
From busyness to boredom, we are unsettled.
In success and delight, we celebrate.
So much comes before us, in both small and significant ways.
Our thoughts pile high and cover our worries.
We meet abundant problems, and miss the simple solutions.
We focus on what is not, rather than what is.

In this space, let us lay our worries before our Listening God.

Silent prayer

We are so sorry that we miss your abundant care,
your wisdom that is present in our days,
your guidance through unexpected people,
your answers that echo in your natural world surrounding us.

Words of Assurance

God hears and watches and knows each of us,
and in abundant love, sees so much more than we can see,
offers so much more than we ask for
and heals our woundedness with a depth and breadth beyond our imagining.
Jesus says,
“Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid”

Hymn: Deeper in Love

Bible Readings: John 6:1-21, Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

6 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going

Ephesians 3:14-21

........Because of the overwhelming goodness of all God has done for us in Christ, I fall on my knees in gratitude. I pour out prayers of thanks and praise to the God who conceived us, to this God in whom every people of every place find their life and their true identity.
........I offer up prayers for you too. God overflows with rich and vibrant life, and I’m praying that through God’s Spirit this overflow will be channelled into you, to put new steel into every fibre of your being. I pray that through your trust in Christ, he may put down roots in your heart, and that you may put down roots in his love. You can’t have your feet on any firmer ground than that!
........I’m also praying that you and all God’s beloved people might somehow be able to fathom the astonishing extent of the mysteries God has opened to us, even though they stretch from the depths of the earth to the outer reaches of the galaxy, from horizon to horizon, and from here to eternity! And finally I’m praying that you will be intimately acquainted with the love of Christ — a love that goes far beyond anything we can get our heads around. For it is that love that will pump you full of life, the rich and vibrant life of God.
........So now, credit where credit’s due — all glory to God. It is God whose Spirit, working powerfully within us and through us, is capable of things beyond our wildest dreaming — things so extraordinary we’d have never even thought to ask for them. So all the accolades belong to God.

In the church, glory to God!
In the messiah, Jesus, glory to God!
In every generation, glory to God!
In every age, from now to forever, glory to God!
And so say all of us!

Sermon: A Series of Thanks

During the week Gail sent us an email encouraging us if we were out walking to take a photo of a thing of beauty that brought you joy and brightened your day. My husband and I have taken to walking in the middle of the day as a way of breaking up the long day at home. We are creatures of habit and haven’t ventured far from home and we take the same route each day. On one part of the walk there are many large beautiful gum trees with its branches reaching high in the sky. I found myself looking at the numerous leaves on trees trying to count how many different shades of green I could count and it was just impossible to do. As I reflected further on the beauty contained just in this one tree and thought of the generosity of our Creator who deemed it necessary to create more than one shade of green and every other colour for that matter just for our enjoyment, I paused in awe, in wonder and in thanks to our generous God and creator.

It is such a familiar story, feeding the 5000. So familiar that we are at risk of missing some significant details in John’s description of events. All four Gospels have Eucharistic overtones as they tell this story. Matthew, Mark and Luke all describe Jesus as blessing the bread before breaking the bread. If we look carefully at John’s Gospel we read Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks….” The Greek word that was used here is eucharisteo, ‘to give thanks’. Jesus just didn’t take the bread; Jesus gave thanks for it.

We know this story so well and what I love about John’s version is the little boy standing in the centre of the story with his two barley loaves and five little fish.  We know very little about this boy. We don’t know who he is with or why he is there. Is he alone or with others? What we do know is this. Barley loaves were the food of the poor, so they are a clear sign that his family are among the poor of Israel.  Yet the boy offers them to Jesus to be used on behalf of the needs of the crowd.  And his offering is magnified in Jesus’ hands. 

I can picture the small boy with his dark scruffy hair, wide brown eyes and dusty bare feet. A tiny speck amongst the large crowd. Yet something about this boy made Andrew notice him. I wonder if the young boy had seen and heard so much about this man called Jesus, that like Zacchaeus he had to get closer to Jesus. Or had the boy experienced something in Jesus that with faith he knew what small amount of food he had to give would be multiplied in Christ’s hands?

I like to think both were true. The young boy was eager to know more about Jesus and his faith in Christ was so strong.

This beautiful image of the small boy giving what he had and seeing it miraculously magnified surely has a message for us.  However small our contribution is, when it is offered in faith miraculous things can and do happen.

When I worked with the Westmead congregation of Parramatta Mission, myself and several other people commenced a drop in café for people visiting the hospital and medical centres of Westmead. It was called ‘Time Out Café’. We did not have any funds to commence the café and didn’t want to charge people who called in for coffee and cake any money. Our first donation came from a man who visited our congregation once a month. He donated money he received from selling the honey from his bees. This initial donation allowed us to buy the necessary equipment to commence the café. In the first couple of weeks, people who attended would leave money on the table even after we had said there was no charge. Week after week people left money in thanks for the generous hospitality they had received. It is fair to say we feed the 5000 from 5 barely loaves and 2 fish.

If we really are to experience the truth contained in this story we must be like the small boy and put our resources in Christ’s hands.

The equivalent of the boy’s five barely loaves and two fishes feeding a large crowd, still happens. Time after time it takes place in the experience of those who are prepared to give all that they have and are to Jesus, the only Son of God.

Dare to believe and trust in Christ. Just as the boy did. In doing so we can become more than we ever were and grow personally in ways we never dreamed.

I titled today’s sermon ‘A series of thanks’ because of the actions of the unnamed and unknown small boy.

I am thankful he didn’t respond differently and decide he wasn’t old enough or wealthy enough to make a difference. After all, in his life, children in many ways were simply not recognised.

I am thankful that he decided what little he had was enough and wasn’t afraid to be judged by this.

I am thankful that the boy didn’t question why he was handing over his lunch but gave it willingly.

I am thankful for the small boy’s message to us: We don’t just give to others, when we give, we give to God and when we give the gift is miraculously multiplied. One small lunch becomes a catered picnic for 5000.

I am thankful that the apostle John saw the significance in this boy’s actions that he deemed in necessary to record it so this story could be told thousands of times over and in doing so how many more people get to experience the abundance of God’s grace.

I am thankful the young boy had the courage to handover what little he had for in doing so his gift to God burst forth in such an unexpected way.

As we reflect on the completion of the Word for today, let us look at our hands and imagine what we might hold here, either as a congregation or an individual, that would ‘feed’ the people of our day.

If you could hold someone’s hand today in a gesture of thanks, whose would it be? As you go about your week and your eyes full upon your hands, pause and hold that person in prayer.

Remember we are together apart.

Hymn: Give thanks

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God, as we draw aside and turn our attention to the world and the situation we see around us at this time, we pray that we will be guided by your Holy Spirit as we draw close to you.

God, we pray for the gift of place – that space where we might experience your presence; that space where we might attend to the needs of others and ourselves; that space where we may rest; that space where we may serve.  Remind us that it is in these places that we find life and hope, now and always.

So, open our hearts Dear God, so that we might perceive your presence and respond in joy.  In this time of the Corona virus and lockdowns, we remember that our faith in Jesus cannot be compromised by this virus.

We ask that you will give strength, courage and hope:

  • To our doctors, nurses, aged care workers and all front-line medical and emergency staff;
  • To our Chief Medical Officer, and her associated teams, the Premier, the health minister and all the public servants associated with managing this crisis;
  • To those at risk, whatever age they may be, and for those who are fearful;
  • To those in ministry irrespective of whether they are Uniting staff in aged care, the staff of Parish Missions such as Parramatta Mission or our church school communities;
  • To the communities to which we belong, thinking in particular, of our congregations; and
  • To our Synod and Presbytery leadership at this time and, here at Carlingford, we name Gail and Trish, our interim worship and pastoral leaders.

Whilst the Covid pandemic is front of mind at this time, we also want to raise up before you our Congregation, and in particular, the Church Council, as it addresses the future of our Congregation.  Numerous meetings of the Church Council in recent weeks have sought to identify who we are, what are we here for and how do we be your ambassadors in this area in the years ahead.  As the Church Council addresses the future of ministry and mission direction for Carlingford Church, we pray for wisdom amongst members and prompting from your Holy Spirit as the Council discerns the way ahead. 

We give thanks for the “Out-of-the-Box Conference” held over Friday night and yesterday.  We pray that the principles enunciated, the ideas shared and the enthusiasm engendered by the conference will lead to renewal of thought and decision making not only here at Carlingford but elsewhere across our Synod.

Many hard decisions lay ahead of us as a congregation and we open ourselves to your leading.  Assist the Church Council in using its combined wisdom when addressing these foundational questions of ministry and missional direction in the years ahead.

We give you thanks that we have been largely virus-free in this area and ask that your gracious hand continues to bless us.

And we offer this prayer in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who taught us when we pray, to say:

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 forever.             Amen.

Offertory Prayer

Offertory Sentence

We are offered abundant gifts. May we exercise generosity and open hands for God’s mission in the world.

Offertory Prayer

Take these simple offerings, Abundant One, as we offer them in humility.

Take our week and let it be used in your work of love and care, sustaining society with hope and better ways of living and being, just as you, Jesus, fed a crowd of unknowns as if they were a united family. May we create a picnic of hope and welcoming love with all whom we meet this week. 

Hymn: In Christ Alone


Fill your heart with Christ’s love.
Let your soul sing with the Spirit of heaven and earth.
God offers a feast to address the hunger of an empty life.
So, join in this family of unexpected strangers and find belonging and purpose.
Let God do so much more than we can ever ask for
By believing, belonging and being God’s family.
Go in peace, restored by love and strengthened by faith.

Next Week: 1 August 2021
Reading: John 6:24-35, Ephesians 4:1-16
Lectionary Readings:
2 Sam 11:26-12:13a, Ps 51:1-12,
Eph 4: 1-16, John 6:24-35