Life Together

26 Sep 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

If the God of love had not been on our side,
where would we be now? 

Let all the people of God say:
If the God of love had not been on our side,
we would have been swallowed alive
by the enemies of faith, joy and peace. 

But God was in Christ
reconciling the world unto himself.
God has not surrendered us like prey,
we are liberated like birds from a cage. 

Therefore we will sing,
yes in the congregation of God’s people
we will sing praises of love and joy!

Hymn: Morning has broken

Prayer of praise, thanksgiving and confession

Blessed are you, O God, the spring of the universe!
Most wonderful are you, Christ our Redeemer-Friend, in you is abundant life and joy.
Blessed are you, O God, the salvation of the universe!
Most Wonderful are you, Holy Spirit, our True-Friend, in you we are young again.
Blessed are you, O God, the joy of the universe!

Loving God, we admit to you and to each other that we are a mixture of light and darkness. Something much wiser than human know-how is needed to sort us out and make us whole again.

Some days we do well, soaring like eagles over the ranges of the Great Divide. Yet on other days we are like cockroaches scurrying in dark places.
Sometimes we are like surfers at Coolangatta; truly enjoy riding life’s rough waters. But there are occasions when we just sit in the shallows and complain, allowing the surf to break over us, infiltrating our souls with the grit of self-pity.
There are special moments in worship or in private prayer when we beg you to take us hiking among the highlands of the Spirit. But these may be followed by pessimistic moods when our bleating prayers seem no higher than ant hills.

Merciful God, you search us and truly know us. You understand the strange mixture that hides behind our public faces. Please take us in hand. Be to us not the God we think we want but the God we really need for our salvation. In the name of Christ Jesus, our Saviour.

Words of Assurance

Here is the Good News: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Grace, mercy and peace are yours for the taking. Accept God’s gift and be free.

The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you!

Hymn: How great thou art

Bible Readings

Psalm 124

A song of ascents. Of David.

If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
    would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.


James 5:13-20

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Sermon: Life Together

Life Together - James 5:13-20

Today I would like to introduce you to five people from very different walks in life. The first person gave me the theme name for today’s sermon; ‘Life Together’. I have borrowed the name from a book of the same title written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian and was martyred at the hands of the Gestapo when he was 39 years old.

Bonhoeffer was a prolific writer and his ideas have continued to live through many of his books. Life Together is one such book. It is an inspiring account of unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years in Germany. Life Together gives practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained by families and groups. The book has been described as bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship. The book talks about simple things like singing together, living together, reading and worshiping together.

As I was growing up, my family didn’t attend a church regularly so the idea of a Christian community was very foreign to me when I started to attend church at 16. What appealed to me most about attending church was the community atmosphere and spirit. It wasn’t long before all my social activities were an extension of worshipping on a Sunday. The people I prayed and sung with on a Sunday were the same people I partied with on a Friday and Saturday night. I embraced this new found lifestyle and flourished. As a new Christian and new to the scriptures, it was how I imaged Jesus intended us to live. To be in community was the very essence of the Christian faith. What a church community does week by week is the heart of God’s plan for the world.

The church and who we are as the church is what life is all about.

Sadly, not everyone believes the Christian life involves going to church.

Let me introduce you to Samuel. Samuel is 68 years of age. Samuel is always seen wearing his much loved and worn dusty RM William’s. He runs his family’s cattle farm. His family comes to church, his son is a pastor, and his wife is actively involved in the women’s craft group and other social activities of the church. But Samuel never goes to church.  He had accepted Christ as his personal Saviour back when he was a kid. And if he knew one thing about the Bible, it was that you don’t have to go to church to be saved. Other people could go so they could earn a better reward in heaven, but he was satisfied. He wasn’t looking for stars in his crown. He didn’t want a big mansion in heaven. He just wanted to get there, and since he had that taken care of that he didn’t think he would bother with the church. Samuel finally came to church… for his funeral. Six strong men carried him through the front doors.

Let me introduce you to Betty. Betty didn’t come to church because she loved her TV preacher. She was fed on a steady diet of his bible teaching. Over the years she has contributed thousands of dollars to his TV ministry. Betty had once been an active member of a church until she discovered her TV preacher and told her friends she would probably go back to church if the service was not at the same time as the Sunday morning broadcast. Betty knew all about her TV preacher, knew all about his family, and knew all about his trips to the Holy land and bible study cruises. But her TV preacher did not know her. He did not know when Betty was sick, did not visit her when she was in hospital or rejoice with her when she became a grandmother.

Let me introduce you to John. John loved fishing even more than he loved his Jeep. He worked five days a week in the steel works. When the weekends came he felt he had the right to fish. John believed God is everywhere and he could worship God by the water just as well as others could on a pew in their Sunday best.

Samuel, Betty and John were not totally devoid of faith but coming to church and been actively involved in the life of the church was not high on their priority list. How much more enriched would their faith be if they participated fully?

Church is not just about the hour of worship on Sunday, it is about living together. It is about sharing all aspects of our lives together under the graceful care of God.

Let me introduce you to James. He is a brother of Jesus, possibly the oldest and is a leader of the Jerusalem Council. At first James did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him and misunderstood his mission. Later James became very prominent in the church. As leader of the Jerusalem church, James wrote as pastor to instruct and encourage his dispersed people in the face of their difficulties. James was a practical man and his letter to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations" has a consistent focus on the practical action of a life of faith. James encourages God’s people to act like God’s people. The book of James is filled with commands to pursue a life of holiness. For James a faith that does not produce real life change is a faith that is worthless.

I believe what James is giving us in this passage is a very practical way of how to live together in a typical church. It’s about praying, singing praises, sickness, sin and confession.

“Is any among you sick?” James asks. Then he responds, “Let them call for the elders.” This does not mean the prayers of the minister or elder are more powerful or righteous than anyone else’s. It is about us reaching out to those we live with and asking them to care for us. We include them on the prayer roster and uphold them in prayer. We cook a meal, lend a helping hand. We share in their illness, their hurts, and their pain. It is this sense of community that Christianity is all about. It is this sense of community that living together as church is all about.

James asks. “Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.” Let’s celebrate the happy moments together, the milestones in life. Church newsletters are full of happy anecdotes or snippets of people’s lives. It is not about boasting, it is about rejoicing when another rejoices.

James says, “Confess your offenses to one another”. This is not about the church keeping a tallying of your wrongs, it is about taking responsibility for your actions and saying “Sorry I wronged you and my actions caused you harm.”

James is addressing our everyday needs in this passage. James pictures a community that prayers together when someone is suffering. James pictures a community that rejoices together in songs of praise. James pictures a community that pauses in prayer when someone becomes sick. James pictures a community that forgives when someone sins.

James pictures a church, a community of faith that live life together in all it beauty and ugliness.

I mentioned earlier my first experience of church community was when I was 16. I met the man I would go onto to marry at that church at one of the many social events held at the church. The church community rejoiced and sung praises when we got engaged and rallied around us in so many practical ways to show us how to live as a married couple. They also cried with us when we experienced tough times. What I recall most from these earlier days of life together in a church community was the importance of being there for one another and how important this was not just for my own spiritual health but for the spiritual health of the church.

I know we can’t gather together and socialise in the same way at present due to this never ending lockdown, but that does not stop us from still experiencing life together. When can and do still prayer for one another, rejoice with one another and confess our sins. We can and do still enjoy life together.

Life together is a mixture of people from all walks of life, coming together to share in the life that God has given them through Christ. Take any one of these people apart from the community of faith and their life would be so much less. The biggest blessing of church is it is life lived in community.

The theologian Robert McAfee Brown has said, “I believe that we are placed here to be companions – a wonderful word that comes from cum panis (with bread). We are here to share bread with one another so that everyone has enough.” We are here to live life together.

I invite you now to read aloud with me the following words. They are based on Psalm 124 and James 5

If it had not been God who was on our side,
the troubles of our world would have swallowed us whole.
If it had not been God who was on our side,
the sorrows of our times would have swept us away.
Are any among us suffering?
Come and pray.
Are any among us cheerful?
Come sing songs of praise.
Are any among us sick?
Come and ask for healing.
Our help is in our God,
the One who made heaven and earth.
Call upon God, creator and rescuer.
God is on our side.


Hymn: May our lives and our prayer be one

Prayers of Intercession

Loving God,

We thank you that you are our refuge and strength and that you are with us in the troubles of life.

We bring our prayers to you for the world.

We pray for those who are working to provide safety and support for refugees and displaced people, especially those from Afghanistan. We pray that our government will be able to take in more refugees and give permanent protection visas to those already here. We pray for peace and justice in the world and especially in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and West Papua.

We pray for the work of the Bible Society as they bring hope and love by offering trauma healing using the Bible in Israel, Slovenia and Syria and literacy projects in Cameroon, Lebanon, Myanmar and South Sudan.

We pray for all those affected by Covid-19: those who are grieving, those who are very sick, those with mental health issues, healthcare workers who are burnt out and those who have lost their jobs. We pray for wisdom for the leaders of the world and especially in Australia. May the churches get the support they need to continue giving love and care to those suffering hardship.

We pray for the Uniting Church as it discerns its future in a far reaching conversation across the church. We pray that our leaders at Carlingford will help us discern the future witness and mission activity that you are leading us to, and we pray for guidance in the discussions between the Carlingford and West Epping representatives.

We pray for Gail and Trish as they minister with us and we pray that you will bless them in their future ministry. We pray for everyone in our congregation to be blessed and we pray for healing for those who are sick or recovering from treatment. We ask for Audrey, Luke, Pat and Sheila to be uplifted as they feel your presence with them.

We pray that you will lead the world from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from despair to hope, from fear to trust, from hate to love and from war to peace.

We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ who taught us to pray:

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.


Offering Prayer

Offertory Sentence

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

Offertory Prayer

Bless these gifts, O God, for we offer them and our lives to be used to proclaim the good news of Jesus in ways that empower people’s lives. May our faith be so evident through our deeds and our words that others are brought to faith and lives are transformed. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Hymn: I the Lord of sea and sky


Go in peace to enjoy and employ your gift of faith.
Our help is in the name of God who made heaven and earth.

Fear neither outward foe no inner temptation.
Our help is in the name of God who made heaven and earth

Rejoice in your blessings and smile in your adversities.
Our help is in the name of God who made heaven and earth.

The inexhaustible grace of Christ crucified, the tireless, eternal love of God,
and the live-in Guest who fills households of faith with many gifts,
will be with you this day and for evermore.

Next Week: 3 October, 2021
Theme: ‘Getting Your Feet Wet, Taking a Risk on God’
Readings: Matthew 14:22-32 & Psalm 26
Lectionary Readings: JB 1:1; 2:1-10;
Ps 26; Heb 1:1-4, 2:5-12; Mk 10:2-16