Welcome to the Church
Hymn: Holy holy holy
Call to worship and welcome
To you, O Lord, we lift up our souls.
O God, in you we trust
Make your ways known to us, O Lord;
teach us your paths.
Lead us in your truth, and teach us,
for you are the God of our salvation!
Good morning! Welcome to worship. God is indeed the God of our salvation, the one in whom we put our faith and trust. We come together to listen tforo God’s word, to ask for God’s help, and to offer God our praise.
Prayers of adoration and confession
Let us glorify and adore the one true God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Almighty God the Father,
gracious Lord of all,
whose glory knows no bounds:
we worship and adore you.
Lord Jesus Christ the Son,
eternal Word of God,
whose mercy never ends:
we worship and adore you.
Most good and loving Spirit,
source of power and life,
whose goodness lasts for ever:
we worship and adore you..
How deep is your love and how boundless your mercy, that no matter how grave our problems, how terrible our mistakes, how shameful our secrets, and how often we fall away from your paths, we can come to you for forgiveness, we can find in you our salvation.
And so we confess that sometimes we are lazy: we lie back and let things slide, we neglect what we should care for.
We confess that sometimes we are in bad shape: we give in to harmful urges, we lash out and hurt our loved ones because we are not all right.
We confess that sometimes we are weak; we go for what is meaningless and flashy, we become a little crooked because it is easy.
We confess that sometimes we are greedy; we buy things we do not need, we grab for more of what we have enough of.
We confess that sometimes we are self-righteous: we call others insensitive or uncaring, we deny that we are guilty of the same faults.
And we confess that sometimes we do not put you first in our lives, and we do not follow you.
Forgive us, loving God, for our sins and our shortcomings. May your peace and loving presence occupy our hearts right now, throughout this day that you have made, and always.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Friends: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,
not counting our trespasses against us,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Hear again Christ’s word of grace “Your sins are forgiven”
Thanks be to God
Hymn: Be still my soul
1 In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
2 I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
4 Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you, Lord, are good.
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Sermon: Following God
Today’s reading from the old Testament is a Psalm of David, a prayer for guidance and deliverance, and by the time David wrote these words he had been a follower of God for many years – he had trusted the Lord with his life and his future. But when he wrote this prayer, something had gone terribly wrong in his life. It’s often thought that this Psalm was written when David’s own son, Absalom had rebelled against him. And that fits the facts we know, and the tone of this psalm.
Absalom had been a favourite of David’s and was also popular with the nation of Israel as a whole. We know that he was handsome, charming, and persuasive. But family trouble started when his half-brother, Amnon, raped Absalom’s sister Tamar.
The term “family trouble” doesn’t really cover the magnitude of what happened. In response, though King David ignored what had happened. But as we know, ignoring family problems seldom helps… and unlike his father, Absolom remembered his half-brother’s crime, and two years later Absalom carried out a successful plan to avenge his sister, and Amnon was murdered.
But it wasn’t justice, it was revenge – it was the outworking of his anger, and an escalation of the family troubles. So to avoid punishment Absalom fled into exile, and it was three years before he was allowed to come back to Jerusalem, and two more years passed before he was allowed to speak to his father.
But in all of this Absolom grew more and more resentful – he could justify – to himself at least, if not to his father or anyone else, the murder of Amnon. And over time he began to resent his father more and more… and he convinced himself that he needed to avenge himself. He decided to rebel against his father, and using his charm and persuasion – all his political skill, he was able to gain such a following that David was forced to flee Jerusalem.
But it didn’t go well for Absolom: David raised an army against Absolom’s followers, and the rebel army was utterly defeated in the forests of Ephraim. Twenty thousand men were killed in the first part of the battle, and many more died in the forest that day.
And one of the men who died in the battle was Absalom. He was riding on his mule when his long hair was caught in the branches of a tree. Then, even though David had ordered Absalom to be taken alive, he was killed with three light spears through his heart.
David's heart was broken.
What a horrible chain of events.
Was David at fault? Probably – he’d ignored the crime that started it all. Was Absolom? Yes – he took revenge rather than seeking justice. Was Amnon? Well, yes – his crime started it all.
And in the end, more than twenty thousand killed.
What a mess. Lust, pride, revenge, power, rivalry, war – it would make for a high-rating television series, I’m sure.
But it’s hardly a. unique story. Many conflicts don’t end with the death of 20,000 people in combat, but few conflicts end in peace. It was the story in ancient Israel, and we’ve seen such stories repeated throughout history. Lust, pride, revenge, power, rivalry, war. And as we look across the world today we still see it.
It is sad, but it’s not surprising. Shortly before the first Easter, Jesus was with his disciples on the Mount of Olives and he told them “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines” (Mark 13:7-9a)
Conflicts exist in the world. Conflicts exist in our society. Conflicts exist in our families.
And as we learn and grow we find that we can’t make everything right… we can try – and we should try – and from time to time we can resolve problems… but it seems there’s always more. Always more people to comfort, always more wounds to heal.
Hopefully, our family conflicts won’t include rape and murder, and nor will they end in bloody battles… and we may not be betrayed by our families in the way that David was by Absalom…
But have you ever been betrayed by someone you loved. Or trusted. Have you been let down? Have you witnessed injustices unpunished?
God understands what we go through. In Paul’s account of the last supper (1 Cor 11:23-24), he stresses Jesus’ betrayal by one of his own disciples. “On the same night in which Jesus was betrayed by Judas, he took bread.” Jesus surely understands the pain of being betrayed – he has been there – but he didn’t seek revenge, instead he sought resolution – true and lasting – everlasting – peace.
Terrible things had happened to David, but he had learned to trust in God: if we read forward to verse 20 David prayed again: “Oh, keep my soul, and deliver me; Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.”
Thankfully, most people will never have to go through a horrible escalating tragedy like David did.
But rebellious children can break our hearts. And family troubles always bring heartache.
All of us will go through times of trouble.
How can we make it through? -- We must trust in in God.
As David prays at the opening of this Psalm:
1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
He doesn’t trust in his position as King. He doesn’t trust in the strength of his army. He doesn’t trust in his own political skill, or his intelligence or his wisdom. “O my God, in you I trust”.
But David’s trust isn’t vague, it’s not a blind faith. In verse 4 he says “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”
It was not enough for David to say “God will make it all work out for me”. David knew that he needed to follow God’s ways – he asked God to teach him his paths. And that’s why we meet together here, why we read the scriptures and meditate on them – we all need to know God better, love him more, and more closely follow his ways.
And so David continues his prayer “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (25:6).
David, of course, was not perfect. He was quite a sinner, and he bore the consequences of his past; he bore guilt for his own sins, because he realized that at least part of his trouble was his own fault. Ultimately, all of the world’s sorrows can be traced back to sin – because we all try to live our lives our own ways, instead of God’s ways.
And while much of our suffering isn’t our own fault – it’s someone elses – at least some of the time, just as it was with David, it’s our own fault.
David had lusted after Bathsheba, and he conspired to have Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed, so David could have her for himself.
In 2 Samuel (12:10), the Lord told David that his house would always bear the burden of his sin with Bathsheba. And through His prophet, Nathan, thus said the Lord: “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”
We might think, “Well, I’ve never done anything like that.” But every moment that we spend doing something wrong is a wasted moment when we could have been doing something good.
Every moment we spend not loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength is a moment in sin.
Every moment we spend not loving our neighbours as ourselves is a moment in sin.
When King David wrote these words, He wasn’t just concerned about the treachery of his enemies. He was also concerned about his own transgressions. So in this Psalm, David mentioned his own sins three different times.
In verses 6&7, David cried out to God and said:
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
He says “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” – forgive them.
David had trusted in God to save him. He knew that God could forgive him for all the wrongdoings of his life. By faith, he was looking ahead to the forgiveness that God would provide through the Messiah.
It’s easier for us today to have that trust – because we have the full story of salvation through Jesus the messiah. Jesus who, despite the miserable state of the world, came to put things wright. Jesus who came to pay the price of our sins and the sins of the whole world through his death on the cross, and Jesus who rose from the dead and opened up the gates to everlasting life to all who turn to him.
David had the promise of the coming Messiah: but we have the proof!
John (1 John 1:8-9) tells us:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
But David doesn’t just pray for forgiveness, he writes in verse 9 “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (25:9).
As well as asking for forgiveness, David prays for God to lead him. Not to tell him what to do, but to lead him. So in this, David becomes a follower of God.
And if you are a follower of God, verse 10 tells us that “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”
David had been a follower of God for years, but he was still needed God’s guidance, back in verses 4 and 5 he prayed “Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.”
The scriptures describe the Christian life as a walk. In Romans (6:4) Paul tells us to “walk in newness of life.” In 2 Corinthians ( 5:7) he said “we walk by faith, not by sight.”
We need to ensure that we are walking the walk, and not simply talking the talk.
And we can do that by being like David, and like the faithful followers of God in all the ages. We need to in all things, keep seeking the Lord’s mercy and truth.
Keep seeking the truth of God’s Word. In church. In bible reading. In prayer. In fellowship with other Christians.
So, how has your walk been going lately?
Have you been walking in God’s paths? Or drifting of to the side from time to time? Have you been staggering?
There’s all sorts of distractions as we follow God, but whether our walk with him has been a crawl or a stagger, fast or slow, we can be assured that the God he loves us so much, he was willing to give his only Son to die for us – and to rise again – to lead us through death into everlasting life.
How’s your walk been going lately?
Hymn: To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul
Prayers of intercession
Good morning gracious, loving Lord,
We are very happy to be here offering you our prayers, knowing that we are safe and free to do so in this country.
We give you thanks for the richness of our lives, in every dimension. We ask that when we start to look at what we think we are missing out on, you might turn our gaze just slightly, so that we can see our family and our friends, our community here at church, our safe home and our comfy bed. Our confidence in your love for us confirms that these riches, and more, in one form or another, are as reliable as the sunrise.
Gracious Lord, remind us that not everyone is as blessed as we are. We pray that you will help us to see this time of Lent as an opportunity to develop our discipleship and discipline and, as your Son Jesus showed us how to reject temptation, fill us with grace to be faithful to his example in this Lenten season.
While we all love the reliability of the sunrise, the Greek philosopher Heralclitus was right when we he wrote, in 500BC, “the only constant in life is change”. Indeed the sunrise heralds change – the coming of a glorious new day, darkness giving way to light. Welcoming you, Lord, into our lives brought a change that we love, and keeping you in sight every day Lord, helps us to cope with the changes that inevitably come every day. Some changes are small - “I am running late”; some are larger - “I need to find a new home”; and some seem insurmountable. Lord, hear us when we bring our challenges to you in prayer; help us as we turn to face the strange, to hear you clearly and listen as you direct our thoughts,. Be with us and strengthen us in our actions.
Heavenly Father, we pray for our Church Council and our JNC members as they think and talk and meet and pray, working with Your guidance towards the future of Carlingford Uniting Church. We pray that they will always keep Your promise for the world at the top of their mind, with their ears and hearts and minds wide open to hear your guidance and discern your will.
Merciful Lord, look kindly upon all who are in trouble or suffering, in mind or in body. Reassure them that Your hand is supporting them with love and mercy. Give them patience under their suffering Lord and in Your own good time deliver them from their afflictions, confident they are also supported with our own prayerful love.
It is His, the gentle voice we hear, soft as the breath of evening, that checks each fault, that calms each fear, and speaks of heaven.
We commend to your keeping, Father, ourselves and each other, our families, our neighbours and our friends. Enable us by your Spirit to live in love for one another and for you.
Hear us, Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
We also offer this prayer that our Lord has given us...
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:
whoever contributes, with generosity;
whoever gives help, with enthusiasm;
whoever does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6, 8)
Let us pray:
We praise you, Lord Jesus Christ, for your generosity:
you were rich, yet for our sake you became poor,
so that through your poverty we might become rich.
With our praise, O Lord, accept the gifts we offer,
here and elsewhere,
and use them for the enrichment of others
and for the glory of your name.
May God make his ways known to us
May God teach us his paths
May God lead us in truth and teach us,
For he is the God of our salvation,
Let us wait on God, all day long.
And may you know God’s blessing,
the love of God, the grace of the Lord Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
today and always
Hymn: Guide me thou, thy great redeemer
Readings for next week (Feb 28)
Lectionary: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22:23-31, Romans 4:13-25, Mark 8:31-38
For worship: Mark 8:31-38, Romans 4:13-25
Theme: “A matter of death and life”