Welcome to the Church
Acknowledgment of country
Before white settlement …the Holy Spirit was already in this land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony. The same love and grace that was finally and fully revealed in Jesus Christ sustained the First Peoples and gave them particular insights into God’s ways. With respect and gratitude, we acknowledge the Wallumedegal people of the Eora tribe.
Call to Worship
Let us worship God.
Loving God, we come together today to praise you
and give you thanks.
In you and only you we find the source of truth and meaning.
In your promises we see the possibility of a world set free from injustice and suffering.
In your Word we hear the assurance that all who seek you shall find you and live with you forever.
Hymn: The Heavens shall Declare. Geoff Bullock
Prayer of Adoration, Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
Your loving presence is all around us,
in the green and growing things, in the rising of the sun,
and in the beauty of the night sky.
We adore you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ,
the one who reveals your loving presence to us,
in word and deed and Spirit.
We did not earn or seek your love, yet through Jesus,
you come to abide in us, to live as close to us as our own breath.
God your name is Love and in that love we rejoice.
In the light of your great Love we become aware
of the times when we have failed to love others.
We confess it is easier to stick to the rules of religion
instead of practicing your radical love.
We confess we would prefer to stay safe and avoid risk
instead of being your co-worker’s in your risky mission of love.
We confess we try to take over the steering wheel of your mission,
instead of relying on you and only you.
Yet your Word to us remains.
Through Jesus we know and believe in the love you have for us.
And in that love, we stand before you with nothing to fear.
For all those who seek perfect love are set free from judgement.
In Christ our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Tis 232 O the deep, deep, love of Jesus.
Bible Readings: John 15: 1-8 and I John 4:7-21.
John 15: 1-8
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
I John 4:7-21
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
When I was about five or six I asked my grandmother a very tricky, deep, and meaningful question. The type of question that generally stumps every adult in the room, the type of question that only a child in their innocent wisdom can ask.
“Why do people die?” My grandmother took me outside to look at the hedge beneath her bedroom window. She pointed out the green and growing shoots. They had glossy leaves and they could bend without breaking. Then she pointed out some of the branches that were bare and brown and brittle. “See how the life has gone out of them”, she said as she snapped one in half, “they are just sticks now”. Nowadays with my horticulturalist hat on I can explain the dead branches in terms of the fact that there was no longer a connection between the branch and the roots of the plant, or as today’s Scripture explains it, between the branch and vine. The life force of the plant, a fluid we call sap was no longer reaching the branches.
When we abide in Jesus, when we remain connected to him as the source of all life, we realise that he alone is our life force, our ‘spiritual sap’. The word abide, which we can rephrase as “remain in” is mentioned over and over again in today’s text. That means it is important. Today’s texts also repeats the phrase “to bear fruit” six times in just eight verses. Before we look at what “bearing fruit’ might mean we need to hear the words of assurance, in verse 3; Jesus says, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you”. Jesus’ word, the word of life means that right here and right now we can live a flourishing, fruitful, and abundant eternal life. Jesus word confirms that God, the Mighty One, loves absolutely and unconditionally.
If we do not hear this assurance of God’s love we could get a little anxious about Jesus describing the pruning of the branches in verse 2 or the way in which brittle and lifeless branches are thrown away to be burned in verse 6. We may even be tempted to wonder whether or not we are producing the right kind of fruit or enough of it. Perhaps like me you are not even sure what “bearing fruit’ in our lives actually means. Over the past week I spent some researching Jesus meaning and I discovered that there are a few ways to think about bearing fruit. Some theologians connect this text to the ‘fruits the Holy Spirit’, …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 humility, and self-control.
Good News Translation
Others point to the ‘fruits’ as acts of love and service and others suggest it means bearing witness, telling others the good news about God’s overflowing and abundant love. These are all good descriptions, and I don’t think we have to choose just one because in a way they are almost all saying the same thing. Our way of being, our acts of service and our desire to tell others about Jesus, all result from being immersed in the love of God. So instead of defining the fruit we bear as Jesus’ followers today’s text highlights the ‘how we bear fruit not the what’ and in this text the how is made perfectly clear; the most important thing is to remain in and rely upon Jesus and Jesus only.
Jesus intimate and divine connection to God as the Mighty One’s only son, meant that in his earthly life, Jesus never once had to stop and think to himself, now “What Would Jesus Do?”. Do you remember when this was a trendy saying amongst Christians? When we remain in Jesus we too shouldn’t need to stop and think WWJD? The fruit we bear should happen naturally, organically, as an expression of who we are at our deepest level of being, as the beloved children of God. And right about now, you might be saying to yourself well all that sound’s lovely but is it realistic, is that what should actually happen if we are willing to stretch and grow as Jesus disciples?
The answer is in another amazing and reassuring promise within the text. Jesus says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”.
So what do you think about that? Today, so many churches are experiencing a decline in numbers and an absence of new members and the reasons for this are varied and complex, yet there are no conditions on Jesus promise, “ask and it will be done for you”. He doesn’t say, but only if you have more than two hundred regular members, or only if you have a contemporary music team, or only if you have a healthy budget, or only if you have a flourishing youth programme. The only condition is simply to remain in him.
So what should we as the church in this particular time and location, be asking God for?
Today’s text introduces the vine and its fruit by declaring that God is the vine grower, therefore it is not our mission we are called to participate in, it is God’s. One of the commentaries I read last week summed this up perfectly by reminding us that we are not the “creators,” nor the architects of “our own lives and ministries. We do not own or control the successes and failures. We are not responsible for knowing how everything is going to work out in the end. We are called first and last, simply to abide”.
Listen to the way the prophet Jeremiah describes abiding :
“… blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Today as Christ’s church we face the heat of a rapidly changing society, we face a drought in terms of membership, and as we physically age we may no longer feel like we are green leaves, fresh and flexible, yet God’s word today tells us that there is only one thing required, simply to abide.
Hymn: Will you come and follow me/ The summons. Iona
Prayers of Intercession and The Lord’s Prayer
We thank you for your generous love, which is greater than we an comprehend, and we thank you that your mercy and grace have been shown to each one of us.
We pray for peace in the world and freedom from terrorism; we remember Myanmar, Mozambique and Nigeria.
We pray for the world leaders to have integrity and wisdom and we pray for countries where Covid-19 seems out of control, especially India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. May they receive enough resources and a quick rollout of the vaccine. We ask for comfort for those who are grieving.
We pray for people affected by the recent cyclones. May they receive urgent aid and good support in this time of loss. We remember east Timor, parts of Indonesia and parts of Western Australia. We pray for generous giving to UnitingWorld to support our church partners in these places.
We give thanks that many are receiving their first copies of the Bible and we pray that their lives will be transformed as they engage with your Word.
In Australia, we pray for the government at federal and state levels as they deal with issues of climate change, vaccine rollout, domestic violence and other issues relating to women and indigenous deaths in custody. We pray for the farmers who have experienced drought, fire, floods and a mice plague. We pray for generous support for Frontier Services and their bush chaplains. We pray for Gail Hinton as she ministers with us in coming weeks and as she completes her studies. We ask for clear guidance for ongoing discussions about the future of our congregation. Empower us by your Holy Spirit in the Church Council, Women on Wednesdays and Mainly Music. We pray that we will be led to choose suitable elders for our congregation.
We pray for comfort and healing for those who are grieving, those who are sick, those having treatment and those dealing with stresses. We pray for your blessing on those in care or shut in; Audrey, Luke, Pat and Sheila.
Loving God, fill our hearts with love for all people.
In Jesus’ name
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.
May the strength of God sustain us; may the power of God preserve us; may the hands of God protect us; may the way of God direct us; may the love of God go with us this day and forever.
Hymn: Tis 687 God gives us a future
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.