Welcome and Call to Worship
Welcome to yet another lock down service. May God’s Holy Spirit inspire us and unite even though we are physically separated. I hope you enjoy today’s worship and if you have the time and the inclination think about colouring in the attachment I mention in the sermon. When we can meet again perhaps, we can bring along our artwork for a mini art exhibition in the church!
This morning’s Call to Worship is based on Psalm 89.
Call to Worship
God will remain with those God has chosen forever.
God is faithful and will keep every promise.
God’s love is steadfast and enduring.
God is our holy parent, our rock of salvation.
Let us worship our God with joy and thanksgiving.
Hymn: Tis 154 Great is your faithfulness
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Lord, you are a mystery,
so, we give you many names; God, Creator, Spirit,
Mother, Father, Rock of salvation,
None of them capture your essence.
We just cannot get our heads around you.
You are so beyond the reach of our thoughts,
even our imaginations fail to perceive you.
Yet, we do know Love.
The poets tell us that love is all around us,
that love is in the air, that love makes the world go ‘round,
so, we give love many names, and look for it in many places.
confusing it with lesser things, distractions, and daydreams.
Yet your Word breaks through our muddled ideas
and your Prophets’ speak love’s true name.
Love becomes for us an action,
a way of seeing and treating others as your beloved children;
a way fully revealed in the life, death, and resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and fully expressed as a selfless, unconditional love with no limits.
In this great love we become one, diverse yet unified,
a holy temple in which your Spirit dwells.
O Lord, we ask that you search us
and lead us to a new awareness of our shortcomings.
May your searching Spirit bring to light
the things we fail to notice about ourselves
and help us to see the errors, in our thinking,
and in our behaviour.
speak to us your gentle words of correction.
Save us from judging others or dismissing them because of differences.
Free us from our own self-doubts so that we see ourselves as more than worthy, and in turn see the worth and beauty of others.
Make us one with you and one with each other,
O Lord, our rock of Salvation
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.
Hear then Christ’s word of grace to us:
‘Your sins are forgiven”
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Tis 459 In Christ there is no east or west
Bible Readings (Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, Ephesians 2:2-11)
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, he began teaching them many things.
53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)
Sermon: All Access Pass
You may recall that last week I said that I would briefly speak about the horrific story in which John the Baptist loses his head, literally, so before I move onto Ephesians here is a little bit about what is going on in that section of Mark’s gospel. The story about John the Baptist death is placed abruptly right in the middle of another story in which Jesus tells his disciples to go out in teams of two to proclaim the good news and heal the sick. Before we hear about the disciples return Mark inserts the story about Herod and Herodias and the beheading of John. This story foreshadows the death of Jesus and stands as a warning to all his future followers, who will speak truth to power. For the people of the first century this story also corrects any rumours about Jesus, the man of miracles being John the Baptist resurrected after his beheading. Mark concludes the story about John by telling us that John’s disciples came and took the body and buried it; end of story, now in Mark, the story of Jesus journey towards the cross begins.
Within the next few chapters of Mark, we will see Jesus perform many miracles, he will feed over 5000 people with only two fish and five loaves, he will walk on water and calm a storm and he will heal many people, even those who simply reach out to touch the hem of his garment. Anyone reading Mark’s gospel at this point in the action may well ask, “who is this man Jesus?” In the middle of September, we will hear a reading from Marks Gospel in which Jesus asks his disciples this very question, “who do you say I am.” (Mark 8:29) Last week I asked you to consider the difference Jesus makes to your life. Over the next few weeks continue to reflect on this and think about your answer to Jesus’ question, “who do you think Jesus is?”
In the reading we heard today from Ephesians, we find out who Jesus is in the big picture in fact I could call it the biggest picture imaginable, we see Jesus as the centre of everything that ever was and ever will be, we see Jesus as the universal, cosmological reason for and key player in, Gods great plan. Jesus is the focal point, the foundation, and the cornerstone of everything. There can’t be anything bigger than that.
For those of you on the church membership role you will have received via email an adult colouring page that describes the difference Jesus makes in the big picture. This colouring page is inspired by today’s reading and states that “Through Jesus Christ and the Spirit he gives to you, you now have an All-access Pass to God! Feel right at home.” If you do not have the colouring page, I will gladly email it you, please contact me via the hyperlink, “Get in touch,” at the top of the home page and choose minister on the drop -down menu.
Now I need to explain to you what I mean by an All-access Pass. I could have described this as a backstage pass which means a person attending an event like a sporting match or a conference has permission to go behind-the-scenes, it’s a bit like when we’re watching the footy on TV and we get to see what’s going on in the change room. We get to see behind the main event as if we are insiders or part of the team. You wouldn’t want to try just wandering in there in person though, I am sure you would be very quickly escorted away by burly security guards unless of course you have an all- access pass. You would probably be wearing this pass around your neck attached to a lanyard. Now, I tied to make the colouring page look like a behind the scenes pass but my technological drawing skills couldn’t quite mange it, so please use your imaginations.
In Ephesians we hear that all people regardless of their background, race, gender, and culture become one, united in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Because of this Paul tells us we have complete access to God. In the first century Paul’s readers would have understood this in terms of a free approach to the presence of a great King. This free approach stands in stark contrast to the reading we heard last week in 2 Samuel. In the Old Testament we hear that the Ark of the Covenant, a box that represented the dwelling place of God, had a powerful and sometimes deadly presence. It was so dangerous that it had to be separated from God’s people within a special sanctuary. If you were not Jewish, well look out! the presence of God was so lethal you had to stay behind a wall in the outer temple grounds.
With this as a bit of background, we can see what a big deal it was for Jews and Gentiles, (anyone who is not of Jewish descent) to come together as one, each graced and granted full and equal access to God through Jesus Christ. Although this particular divide between Jews and non -Jews has little relevance for us today I am sure we can all think of times when differences of opinion have torn the church apart. Here at Carlingford though I notice you are united people, despite the differences in ages and cultural backgrounds. I have been so delighted to see how well you work together as a multicultural congregation, and I think the author of Ephesians would be very proud of you.
When we all grasp hold of our unity in Christ, we realise that our differences no longer matter and that we come before God as equals. God claims us and names us as beloved children not because of anything we have done, not because we are so great at this or that, not because we are such a good Christians, our all-access pass to God’s presence is through and in Christ alone. This is really good news because when we fully accept how loved we are as individuals we no longer have to hold anyone else in judgement or compare ourselves to others, we can relax. So let out a deep breathe right here, right now, brothers and sisters stop trying so hard, because in Christ, you are more than worthy, no matter who you are, what you have done or haven’t done, or how much you know.
When we truly believe this, we also become a better witness for Jesus because we can speak to others about the difference Jesus makes to our lives with authenticity, honesty, and enthusiasm.
Here at Carlingford, I know you are seeking and discerning God’s will for how this church can be involved in for God’s great plan to bring all humanity into one people, a diverse yet unified family. Today’s reading finishes with an amazing statement that clarifies the purpose of the church and if you grasp hold of this statement, it will help you immensely to discern the future of Carlingford Uniting Church.
The author of Ephesians explains that because we have an all- access pass to God through Christ, our Lord Jesus is able to join us all together, and get this, grow us into a holy temple where God dwells. Because of Jesus we, the people, are being spiritually built into a dwelling place for God, this is the purpose and the true nature of the church.
May God your holy parent embrace you, may Jesus show you the way and may the Holy Spirit continue to build you up here at Carlingford into the dwelling place of God.
Hymn: In Christ alone
Prayers of Intercession
You have always shown us the way from darkness into the light. For those struggling now to see the light, we ask that you shine it a bit brighter in our world. Grant us all the grace to see a way forward through the present darkness.
We pray for wisdom and guidance for the leaders of the world as they cope with the pandemic and we pray for them to take appropriate action to save the planet from continuing disasters from climate change.
We pray for all countries, including Australia, to receive adequate Covid-19 advice, provision and rollout of vaccines and mental health support in this difficult time. And we pray for comfort for those mourning, and those who have not been able to be near loved ones who were sick and dying. We remember especially Indonesia, India, Vietnam and South Korea.
We remember the countries of eastern Africa also experiencing violence, drought, famine and locust plagues. May World Vision be able to meet the challenge to help them. We pray for the terrorists in Mozambique to stop killing the people and driving them from their homes.
We pray for the churches, locally and globally, as they lovingly care for people in need and we ask for good financial support for our own missions: Wayside Chapel, Wesley Mission, Bill Crews’ church and Parramatta Mission.
We pray for the future of our congregation. May your Holy Spirit guide the JNC, the Church Council and the Presbytery as they discern your will for us. We pray for our student ministers Gail and Trish, for our elders and pastoral partners, and for each member of our congregation. May they all be blessed.
We pray for healing for those known to us who are recovering from surgery or illness and we pray for those who are in care or shut in: Audrey, Luke, Pat and Sheila.
In difficult times, Lord, help us to remember your steadfast love for us and in all situations help us to live in a way that is consistent with your presence in our lives.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.
We bring our gifts to you, Lord God,
in gratitude and hope.
In dedicating them, we dedicate ourselves again
to be your people in the world,
in the strength and enabling power
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn: Jesus what a beautiful name
May the Lord Jesus Christ fill us with spiritual joy,
may his Spirit give us strength and endurance,
and may we cling tightly to his truth and his promises.
May the blessing of the Lord be upon us,
at work and at rest, through each night and each day.
Next Week: 25 July 2021
Theme: 'A Series of Thanks'
Reading: John 6:1-21, Ephesians 3:14-21
2 Sam 7:1-14a, Ps 89 20-37,
Eph 2: 2-11, Mk 6:30-34, 53-56