Welcome to the Church
Welcome and call to worship
We come together to worship God, to listen to God’s word, and to pray for God’s world.
We come together, in spirit and truth.
Even though we are physically apart, we come together as Carlingford Uniting Church, and we come together as the people of God.
Prayers of adoration and confession
Most wonderful God, source of all light and life, you are beyond our sight, above our thought, infinite and eternal,
Yet your goodness shows in all your works; and your grace is revealed to all in Christ.
We love you and adore you.
God of all our days, God of our past, God of our present, God of our future: all glory be yours now and forever.
Let us continue in a prayer of confession…
We confess to you, Lord, that we have failed to live as you would have us live.
We have sought the approval and pleasures of the world,
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves,
And we have not loved you with our whole heart.
Whether we have intended to or not, we have hurt others, put ourselves first, and failed to reflect your grace in our lives.
We ask you to forgive us, and inspire us by your Holy Spirit to follow your ways all the days of our lives.
Assurance of Forgiveness
God sent the Son into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Those who believe in him are not condemned. (John 3:17-18)
Hear then the word of grace and the assurance of pardon:
“Your sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Joyful, joyful
Matthew 16:21-28 (NRSV)
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
The Cross and Self-Denial
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)
Marks of the True Christian
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Living God's way
Today’s New Testament reading comes to us from Paul’s letter to the Romans – the book that is sometimes regarded as ‘the Gospel for the Gentiles’, but the fact is, that at the time – and particularly in Rome - Christians were often a subset of the Jewish believers. Following Jesus’ instruction, the gospel was being preached first to the Jews (in Jerusalem) then to all of Judea and Samaria, then to the gentiles (to the ends of the earth). The first Christians were Jews, and they brought with them not just their Scriptures – what we know as the Old Testament, but the whole of Jewish tradition.
So while Paul dedicates much of his letter to the Romans to an outline of God’s plan for the whole world and beginning in chapter 9 he grounds things in the story of Israel – the story that most of his readers (or hearers) would be familiar with.
By Chapter 12, though, he moves on to focusing on the unity of the church. Talking about how the members of the church can and should relate to each other, rather than why the church is there. Church unity was an issue for the Christians in Rome at the time, as it was for Christians elsewhere, and of course continues as an issue through to the present day.
Last week, I shared on the first 8 verses of Romans 12 – and reflected that, if we are the body of Christ, we will be, effectively, Christ’s body in the world. We will be Christ’s eyes, and see people, we will be his feet and walk to them, we will be his hands and reach out to them, we will be his mouth and we will speak them, and we will be Christ’s heart, and we will love them.
At the start of today’s reading, Paul tells us about that love: Love must be sincere, he says. Love isn’t just saying that you love someone, it is showing that you do. Love isn’t simply a feeling, it is an action. Love is a doing word.
So… can we love someone we don’t like? Or can we love someone who does things that we don’t like? As Paul talks about love – yes, we can, because love isn’t about simply having warm feelings, it’s about caring, practically.
But it’s not just about practical, physical things – it’s also about praying for them. And part of our prayers for people we don’t like might be that God will change them to be more acceptable to us. Or it might be praying that we could be more accepting of them.
It follows that if our love is sincere, we will hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
We need to remember that love isn’t simply an instantaneous thing – it is ongoing: Paul writes “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.”(12:10)
‘outdo one another in showing honour’ or in the NIV translation, ‘Honour one another above yourselves.’
That’s not to say that you are worthless, and that everyone else is more important than you. Instead it’s about being humble, and being considerate of and caring for others.
As always, Paul encourages the Romans – and us – to hold fast to their faith in Jesus. Verse 11 “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
And then he begins verse 12, “Rejoice in hope…” Rejoice! I think we often forget to rejoice.
Of course, as we look around at the world and our lives, there’s a lot going on that no-one’s going to be rejoicing over. People are living in circumstances where they don’t have hope.
As Christians, we always have hope because of what Jesus has done – and we should always have joy too. We do sing of joy, though: Joyful, joyful, we adore thee; Joy to the world, the Lord is come; Rejoice the Lord is king! and so on, but sometimes – often, even – the joy that we sing of isn’t reflected in our lives.
We sing Amazing Grace, but so often we forget how amazing that grace really is. As John Newton wrote: “how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed”.
We get tied up in the routines and rhythms of the world, and for that matter the routines and rhythms of church life, and the sheer wonder – the joy – of God’s grace can get lost in our lives…
What Jesus did for us in his life and death and resurrection, is good news – it is joyous news – and as the psalmist said: this is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24)
Paul tells us to rejoice in hope – and that hope is the sure and certain hope that we have in Jesus and in the offer of eternal life which comes to us because of his death and resurrection.
While Paul tells us to “Rejoice in hope”, he also tells us to persevere through all the things that happen around us, to “be patient in suffering [and] faithful in prayer” (12:12).
He tells us to “live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (12:16-18)
In really, really simple terms he tells us to be nice to each other.
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. As Jesus said in the sermon on the mount “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12a)
But Paul doesn’t stop there: He goes further than simply telling the Roman believers to be nice to each other. He says “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” If that sounds familiar, it should be – go back to earlier in the sermon on the mount - Matthew 5 - “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt 5:44)
In loving others, we need to share in what they feel – Paul spells it out in verse 15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”. So we mustn’t resent other people’s success or happiness, and we mustn’t turn our backs on people who are down, either.
Coming back to the theme of the earlier part of this chapter, we need to work together. “Live in harmony with one another”, Paul says “do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.” (12:16)
I think probably the easiest way to feel better about ourselves is to put others down. Then we can say “At least we’re not like them” – whoever ‘them’ might be.
It goes back to Paul’s earlier point of honouring one another above ourselves.
Of course, if the easiest way to feel better about yourself is to put someone else down, then I think the second easiest is to get even. If someone hurts you, then you hurt them back.
Paul though, says ‘no’ to that: Verse 17 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” He’s again sharing what Jesus’ preached in the sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”. (Matthew 5:38-39)
Paul urges us not only to be good people, but to be seen as good people as well: “take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (12:18b-9) So, we as followers of Christ don’t have to agree to everything, we don’t have to be pushed around – because living at peace with everyone doesn’t trump hating evil and clinging to what is good. But if it is possible and if it is up to us then let’s seek to live in peace.
Paul said ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil’… and that seems not very fair. It seems that people will hurt us, or others, and go unpunished. People generally like the idea of judgement, like the idea of punishment for crimes committed… right up to the point when it’s them or those near to them being judged.
But there is judgement which isn’t up to us, because there will ultimately be judgement from God. Paul picks it up in verse 19: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written [Paul says, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35] , “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.””
Clearly, there were significant issues in the church in Rome that Paul was writing to address. In these twelve verses, you can see the same points being hammered home. Love one another. Live together peacefully. Don’t judge or take revenge. Over and over again.
And again, here at the end of the reading, Paul says it again – firstly with a quote from the book of proverbs “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” (Proverbs 25:21)
And finally he warns us “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
We are the church. We are the body of Christ in the world, and the world is fallen. There is evil in the world. Some Christians have historically thought that all things of the world are evil.
But there is also good in the world – we read in Genesis 1 that “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
And, you know, most of the time it’s pretty easy to tell what is good and what is evil. Not always, perhaps, but most of the time. Sometimes I guess we may be fooled, and sometimes we will fool ourselves.
Paul is clear in his instruction: Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. You know the difference, he says, so simply do it. If we do that, we will be living God’s way.
And if we are really clinging to what is good,
So… how are you doing with all that? Because it is a struggle, isn’t it?
As I said, so often we will get tied up in the routine of it all, of the weekly and monthly and yearly cycles of the church and of our lives. We need to get things done by certain times and dates… and as we do those things, its easy to forget the grace, the love, the zeal, the joy and the hope.
Our reading opened with the words “Love must be sincere”. And no love is greater than the love God has for his creation; John’s gospel reminds us that Jesus said “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
In all things we should be following Jesus’ commandment “to love one another” – and by that people will see us as Jesus’ followers, and they will see his love reflected in our actions and in our lives.
Hate what is evil, cling to what is good, and let your love be sincere…
…to the glory of God.
Hymn: By our love
Prayers Of Intercession
God of compassion, God-with-us, be with us in these times of uncertainty.
Break into our lives, rekindle our hope and breathe love into our communities, that we might find new ways of supporting and upholding one another, bearing witness to your inclusive love of family, friend, neighbour and stranger alike.
We find ourselves at home, feeling confused and anxious. This continues……….
We watch the world shut down around us, opening up slightly and relapsing only to be closed again - We seek your comfort, and your peace.
In our separation, may we find connection, with you and with each other.
Remind us that even when we cannot gather, we are your people, the body of Christ together. May we take up your call to be the church in your world. We are the Church, whether in a building or not.
At this time of upheaval and distress for nations and people across our world, may your love hold us together. May your love be the lens through which we see each other and your world.
God of the wilderness, in the muteness of isolation, your Spirit whispers a gentle presence; In the brokenness of separation, your embrace is hope and life; when all appears is at risk - our community, our life, our future, you are present, bearing us to life again.
You are before us, beside and behind us. We trust in you.
We think of the people of Victoria, Families isolated from families in other states, for the devastation of the winds and terrible storms they have endured this week with loss of precious lives, on top of the severe isolation they are experiencing from the Covid 19.
We think of the people in California, coping with the devastating bushfires. Be with those men and women fighting these fires, and the 55 Fire Fighters going to help from Australia. May they all be kept safe doing their respective roles.
We lift up to you all those responsible for decision-making regarding this pandemic, Premiers, Prime Minister, Governments, Health Departments and those who make decisions. Lead them by your Spirit.
We pray for those who are vulnerable and marginalised; for those whose lives have been profoundly disrupted; that through this crisis, without work, missing Families, feeling depressed. May each one feel your loving, calming arms surrounding them.
We pray for those who are grieving the loss of people they loved; times have been hard to Farewell loved ones in the appropriate manner, but we know Lord you have them in your safe keeping.
We pray for those who have spent time in hospital and we ask you Lord for their continued recovery - give their Families strength to look after them.
We pray for all our church members who are in care. We remember Audrey, Luke, May, Pat and Sheila. Surround them with your love and your healing hands. We also pray for those who care for them. Give them the strength while they provide care and comfort.
We are grateful and thankful for Richie as he leads us in worship each week, and for his involvement in mainly music. We pray for his family and the support they give him at this time.
We pray for the JNC that they may have conversations about our future way here at Carlingford.
We are at an important crossroads as a Church. With the COVID- 19 crisis, Church is being presented in a very different way, we have been given this opportunity moment for the Church to rethink who it is, and who we engage with as a community. We are either going to seize the opportunity or we are going to go back into our shell.
Let’s not retreat, but re-frame how the Church can operate in our society and the world. Let's be the community that God wants us to be”. Refresh and equip us, O God, to be your faithful and obedient people.
Accept all these prayers that we offer to you today through Jesus Christ our Lord – AMEN.
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.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever.
Hymn: The kingdom of God is justice and joy
receive and bless the offering of our worship
and so consecrate our bodies, minds and spirits
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may give ourselves to you, a living sacrifice,
dedicated and fit for your acceptance;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ,
Looking Out: For Suffering
Psalm 149 or Psalm 119:33-40
Exodus 12:1-14 or Ezekiel 33:7-11
Theme: “Love and the law.”