Welcome to the Church
Call to worship and welcome
The Lord be with you
And also with you.
This is the day that the Lord has made
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness
Let the whole earth tremble before God.
Welcome! As we meet together, in person or on-line, let us open the scriptures to seek God’s word, pray for the world and its people, and glorify God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Prayers of adoration and confession
Let us pray
Most wonderful God,
you are beyond our sight, above our thought,
infinite, eternal, and unsearchable:
your wisdom shines in all your works;
your glory is shown in your goodness to all people;
your grace and truth are revealed in Christ, the light of the world.
We love you and adore you.
God of all our days,
all glory be yours
now and forever;
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Amen
The scriptures tell us “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).
And so we continue in prayer
We come to you weary of the world, with the burdens of our lives upon our shoulders.
Forgive us the words we should not have said,
and the words we should have said, but did not say.
Forgive us the things we should not have done,
and the things we should have done, but did not do.
Forgive us, cleanse us, and change us,
By the power of your Holy Spirit.
Assurance of Forgiveness
In Paul’s letter to the Romans we read:
(Romans 3: 10 –12)
As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away, they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one."
But we, as your people take heart through this, for Paul goes on to tell us that although all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [we] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3: 23-24)
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Hear Christ’s word of grace to us: “Your sins are forgiven”
Thanks be to God
Hymn: Holy, holy, holy!
Psalm 1 The Two Ways
1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night.
3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
This is the word of the Lord, Thanks be to God
The right way
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.
That’s how the book of Psalms begins; the songbook of ancient Israel starts with this amazingly sound piece of advice: Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.
Or, if you like things more poetically, I can give you the King James translation: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly”.
The book of Psalms contains 148 psalms – songs – which cover all aspects of life. There are psalms of praise, psalms of lament, psalms of joy, psalms of sorrow and they contain some of the best known parts of our scripture.
But it all starts here in Psalm 1, Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.
And the psalmist expands his advice: Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers.
So this first verse of Psalm 1 gives us three profound points: Don’t follow bad advice. Don’t follow bad people, and don’t scoff at the people who are doing the right thing.
So I wonder, how are we going as individuals, as a church and as a society going in those three things?
Do we not follow bad advice?
Do we not follow bad people?
Do we refrain from scoffing at people doing the right thing?
It’d be nice to think that we were doing really well with those three things, but, but once we start trying to put those things into practice it gets a bit tricky. Because sometimes it’s easier to cut the odd corner, and after all it doesn’t really matter if we do something a bit dodgy because after all, everyone else is doing it too, and sometimes it’s amusing to make fun of those that are trying to do the right thing. And sooner or later we might find ourselves saying
“No no. There’s nothing wrong with my life. I’m generally a good person. There’s nothing I need to be forgiven for”.
So what should we do?
Well, the psalmist continues “but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night”
Rather than do what other people tell us to do, and rather than do what other people are doing, the psalmist is telling us we need to do what God wants us to do – following – delighting in – the law of the Lord.
The law of the Lord isn’t like human laws. It’s not like the tax act, or Australian consumer law, or the road traffic act. It’s not a weighty document filled with clauses and requirements and penalties and all the rest of it. I’ve known some lawyers who have been really enthusiastic about the law – or at least parts of it, but I don’t think anyone really delights in human laws.
But God’s law is different from human laws. Look at Psalm 19, it says that “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul, the decrees of the Lord are sure…the commandment of the Lord is clear…the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, sweeter are they than honey.”
So the psalmist says that the happy person, the blessed person, the fortunate person, delights in God’s law and meditates on it day and night. I think here that meditation isn’t sitting crosslegged on the floor and repeating the scriptures over and over again, rather I think meditation here is about keeping God’s law – what God wants – at the forefront of our minds. So that God’s law, God’s love, God’s desire will influence every important decision we make (whether we know the decision is important, or not!)
The minister and writer Tim Keller puts it like this: “If God is not at the centre of your life, something else is”.
That’s such a simple statement, and in a way it should be obvious to us. But it is so insightful “If God is not at the centre of your life, something else is”.
We can all come up with things that we might think as being at the centre of other people’s lives – wealth, prestige, security or whatever – but the more difficult thing is to recognise what might be the centre of our own lives.
We all need God at the centre of all our lives, and we need to focus on God.
And the result of that, the result of focusing on what God wants from us, is that we flourish. “They are like the trees planted by streams of water,” says the Psalmist, “which yield their leaves and do not wither. In all they do, they prosper”.
I think that’s a really, really nice image of what it means for a follower of God to prosper. It’s not prospering in the world’s terms, with of lots of money and a mansion to live in and a flashy car.
Rather, we’re the healthy, fruitful, tree, growing beside the source of life.
That is the right way to live. And that’s we way that we, as followers of Jesus are hopefully living, with God at the centre of our lives, and always remembering what God wants us to be doing.
But as well as telling us about the right way, Psalm 1 confirms that there’s also a wrong way.
In contrast to the happy, blessed person, who’s following God, thinking on what God desires, and is flourishing in a healthy, fruitful way, the psalmist tells us about the others:
The wicked aren’t like that, he says. Compared to the healthy, fruitful tree of the faithful person, the wicked are like dried up, broken grass. They’re not healthy, they’re not fruitful, and they don’t last – they are like the chaff that the wind drives away.
The wicked – those that don’t follow the ways of God – have no place in God’s kingdom. There will be no sinners in the congregation of the righteous, as the psalmist tells us.
Which is hard. Because God’s kingdom is welcoming and inclusive isn’t it?
Do you remember that old ad on TV where a group of people were having a barbeque, and someone said something like “So, David, what do you do for a living”, and poor David replied “I’m a banker”, and the gathering went quiet.
Fortunately for David, the bank he worked for was perhaps not quite as bad the others. Although I don’t know what the banking royal commission had to say about him. But when he told them which bank he worked for, they started talking to him again.
David wasn’t too bad his bank wasn’t too bad. I think we’re all like that – we do the wrong thing from time to time, but in our hearts we hope we’re not too bad. We hope we’re acceptable to others. Perhaps we even hope we’re acceptable to God?
David was better than those other bankers. David’s bank was better than those other banks. And just like that, hopefully we’re better than those others, whoever those others might be.
We often hope that we’re good enough for God.
But we never are. As we were reminded in our prayer of confession earlier, John’s first letter tells us “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).
In his goodness and mercy though, God has provided us with the way to make us fit to take our place in his kingdom, even though we’re not ‘good enough’.
We are brought into the Kingdom of God, not by anything that we do, not because we’re ‘good enough’ but by what Jesus has done. Jesus who is good enough for us all. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…so that whoever believes in him shall not perish (like the wicked) but have eternal life.
We often think of this idea of God’s forgiveness is something that is only present in the New Testament, but the idea that God offers forgiveness to those who turn to him in faith is present throughout the scriptures. We see it especially in the book of Psalms.
Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin. (Psalm 25:17)
Happy the one whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Happy the one to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (Psalm 32:1-2)
Purge me from sin, and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed. (Psalm 51:7)
‘As far as the east is from the west, far has God removed our sins from us.’ (Psalm 103:13)
We see that God’s forgiveness is given freely, through Jesus, but it requires us to consciously turn away from the ways of the world and turn to God – to turn away from following the advice of the wicked and following the path that the ungodly tread, from saying “No no. There’s nothing wrong with my life. I’m generally a good person. There’s nothing I need to be forgiven for”. We need to turn away from all that and turn to God, to receive the grace and forgiveness that Jesus brings, to embrace God’s commands – to walk in the way of the righteous, to delight in the law of the Lord.
And when we do that, the psalmist tells in the last verse of psalm 1 that the Lord will watch over us, and ultimately, that the way of the wicked will perish.
So we know that we shouldn’t be following the advice of bad people, or following what bad people do, and instead we should be delighting in what God wants us to do, and if we do that we will prosper – maybe not as the world views prosperity – but certainly prosper in the kingdom of God.
We have been reminded in our reading from Matthew’s gospel today of the greatest commandments…
[Jesus said], “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-50)
And that is what the effect of delighting in and meditating on God’s law is: Loving God, and loving one another.
Jesus said “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – and if you think about all that God calls us to do, if all fits into those two commandments.
If you look at the ten commandments, they’re all about loving God, or about loving each other.
If you’re not loving God and not loving each other, who are you loving? Well, there’s really only one person left, and that’s yourself. You’re putting yourself first.
It’s pretty easy to do. Just do things for yourself – and maybe those close to you, because, well, they’ll be able to do things for you in return.
If God is not at the centre of your life, something else is.
And if something else is in the centre of our lives, we’re on the wrong way.
We need to get on to the right way.
We need to examine our hearts and our lives. Are we delighting in and meditating on God’s law? Is what God wants at the forefront of our minds? Are we laying down our lives for each other and loving others as ourselves? Is God at the centre of our lives, or is something else?
Are we fruitful members of God’s kingdom?
A few years ago, lots of people said “No no. There’s nothing wrong with the banking system. It’s working well. There’s no need for a royal commission”.
But look what happened.
And so many people continue to say “No no. There’s nothing wrong with my life. I’m generally a good person. There’s nothing I need to be forgiven for”.
As John tells us in his first letter, “Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist.” (1 John 2:4)
Following the advice of the wicked is easy, taking the path that generations of people have trodden before us is quick.
Our challenge is to not walk in the path of the ungodly, but to choose the right way.
And ultimately, as the psalmist concludes, we can take heart because “the Lord watches over the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish”.
Hymn: Blessed is the man
Prayers of Intercession
Let us bring before you Our Prayers of Intercession
Lord, we are your people.
God In this time and place, you have called us to pray for those in need.
God of all people and nations, God who loves all without distinction of colour or feature, hear our prayers for the people and churches of the world, that stand firm in the face of injustice and, with imagination and determination, share a spirit of adventure which can lead to miracles.
Loving God, you challenge us to be a place of welcome, a Church without walls, offering your love, care and compassion to those who need it most.
We have witnessed devastating bushfires and then, so quickly afterwards, the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s all we hear on the news now: Social distancing, washing hands, testing clinics, economic stimulus packages. Allowances of crowd numbers up and down, we have uncovered more anxiety, more selfishness, and more people to blame. Spirit of Jesus, help us to sit with these fears, to learn again about love. Loving God, stir up your church.
We, too, are suffering; our places of worship are restricted in numbers. How can we continue, and maintain our precious church community, our family of faith?
Lord, help us to be people of courage, that our Church may be a witness to your vision of how we should live together. Lord we pray for our Church Council and the JNC, as we grapple with the future of our church here in Carlingford, and the calling of a new minister. We are extremely grateful for the extension of Richie’s contract till end of April, 2021.
God, we praise you for the beauty, the diversity on earth , and for all the ways this planet keeps us strong ,but when life itself is threatened as we recklessly consume, and the climate question haunts us day by day, How long will we allow it, God, how long?
God, our hearts need a revival, our vision needs to change, and the Gospel needs to capture us again. We need you to renew in us the passion and the praise that make us live as Jesus – here, today.
We bring to mind our times of discouragement and disconnection…
those known to us in need of comfort, peace or healing…..
situations where we see injustice…..
those concerns and cares we hold in our hearts and minds…..
Please keep our prayers for those we know and love, those suffering from illnesses beyond their control. Give them strength and courage to keep their faith and trust in you, we pray for their families, and those closest to them, for Drs as they minister to them. We pray for those uncertain about their future, having lost jobs and income. We pray for their families as they search for answers about their future.
God, God who is Love, God who is Christ, God who is Spirit,
Help us be your prayer of love in the world.
We pray in the name of Jesus 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.
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: Be thou my vision
Gracious and generous God, we are your people and your servants. In you, we live and move and have our being. We offer you our thanksgiving. We love you, Lord, for you hear us and respond in graciousness and compassion and righteousness. You deliver our souls from death, our feet from stumbling, and our eyes from tears. Now we ask you to receive the offerings of our work and our lives, given here and elsewhere. Lord, multiply them so that your work and word can go forth.
In Jesus name we pray
Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers,
But their delight is in the law of the Lord…
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
So go to walk in the way of the righteous, and go with the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Next week (1 November 2020):
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Joshua 3: 7-17, Matthew 23: 1-12
Theme: “Humbly standing on dry land, with God”
Preacher – Heewon Chang