Welcome to the Church, Mother’s day introduction
A special welcome to all the women in church today. When we consider the qualities of a good mother, and remember our own mother let us also consider the ways in which God is like the perfect mother. I will be calling God our Holy Mother in today’s sermon, so watch out for that.
Acknowledgment of country
Before white settlement, before the concept of land ownership, the land we worship on today was the home of the Wallumedegal people of the Eora tribe. The Eora people knew that country and land was sacred and today we honour their custodianship of God’s creation.
Call to Worship
O sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
Our God has won for us a might victory
because God’s for us love is steadfast and true.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth,
break into joyous song and praises.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy.
Based on Psalm 98.
Hymn: Tis 156 Morning has Broken
Prayer of Adoration
We now come to the time in the service when we adore and praise God in prayer. Before we do that here are a few thoughts on what it means to adore God. I wonder if adoring God is more of an attitude than a feeling. When we feel adoration for a person or even a thing it is much easier to identify, to actually feel something compared to a lofty prayer to our Mighty God.
So, this morning before we adore, and praise God consider this:
When we ask questions like, ‘what will happen to me when I die’ or ‘will there ever be peace on earth’ or ‘will everything be okay in the end’ as a Christian we can answer with a resounding YES! Everything will be alright in the end. There is nothing to fear.
God has indeed won a great victory for us through the life, death, and resurrection of our saviour Jesus Christ.
With that in mind…
Let us pray, (Prayer based on the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)
Awesome God, Holy Parent and Creator,
at the break of day we give thanks to you for you
have preserved us through the dark night.
Victorious God, Holy Son and Saviour
we praise you for conquering death
and coming to dwell amongst us.
Gracious God, Holy Spirit we adore you;
for pouring the bright gleam of God’s word
into our hearts,
and for driving away the darkness.
Prayer of Confession and Declaration of Forgiveness
With open hearts and in the assurance of our faith
let us confess our sins in this time of silence to our almighty God.
Lord we confess we have failed to uphold your greatest commandment,
we struggle to love others as you have loved us.
We too easily turn our attention to our own needs,
and allow our own opinions to guide our judgement.
We confess we often find it easier to only love those we deem worthy, loveable, and likeable.
We confess we often fail to heed the promptings of your guiding Spirit,
and consider ourselves wise and in control.
Merciful God, we repent, and our sorry for all our sins.
Father, forgive us.
Strengthen us to love and obey you in the newness of live;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
God is love.
Through Christ your sins are forgiven.
Take hold of this forgiveness
And live your life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God.
Hymn: Jesu, Jesu fill us with your love.
Bible Readings: Acts 10:44-48 and John 15:9-17
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
I would like to begin today by telling you a true story about a couple I will call Nigel and Beverly, for privacy’s sake. Nigel and Beverly were long term members of a small congregation and they ran several of the church’s programmes and held positions on church council. In their retirement they also dedicated themselves to paying pastoral visits to all those in the congregation who were ill or hospitalised. They were well respected and admired by everyone in the congregation however beneath the surface there were tensions.
The small congregation had seen its glory days and it had never fully recovered from a very divisive issue. Over the years the differences of opinion meant that people left, unable to come to terms with the diversity of thought. Everyone on church council knew where Nigel stood on a fairly recent synod Proposal to allow gay couples to get married in church. There were some nasty church council meetings in which Nigel became red faced and agitated, angrily declaring that what had been proposed was not Biblical. Sadly, those who backed the proposal also became a little hot under the collar.
Then something strange and miraculous happened. A gay couple, I will call them Will and Joseph, began to regularly attend worship. They had been in the congregation for about a year and half when sadly Joseph received a shock cancer diagnosis. Many months of treatment followed along with a few stints in hospital. Nigel and Beverly responded as always, regularly phoning them to see how things were going and visiting Joseph each time he needed to be hospitalised. Will and Joseph were held up in prayer by the congregation and in time Joseph made a full recovery. Joseph was heard to say, that the love and care Nigel and Beverly had shown him helped him get through some very dark times and he was forever grateful, he had felt truly loved.
The kind of love Nigel and Beverly expressed for their brother in Christ, Joseph is the kind of love Jesus speaks about in today’s passage from John. It is a love that flows like spiritual sap, from God, the vine grower to Jesus the true vine, though to us the branches, and it find its full expression when it reaches out beyond us to each and every leaf on the vine. In Nigel and Beverly’s case it can be described as a deep love that overcomes prejudice, overrides our own personal agendas, and conquers our desire to be right and win every argument.
Let’s dig into the text now to see how Jesus describes this deep love and hear again his command.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
In the verse that follows Jesus presents us with the most extreme example of self-sacrificial love,
“ No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “
This verse clearly points forward to Jesus laying down his life as a sacrifice for all humanity on the cross. It is highly unlikely however that we would ever need to go to such an extreme on behalf of each other. Instead of hearing Jesus description as over whelming and improbable, let’s consider the ways in which we can express the love of Jesus to others in everyday life. First though, we need to clarify that, the love Jesus speaks about is entirely different from the ‘love’ of chocolate, or classical music or our favourite television programmes or favourite restaurant. The love Jesus commands us to bear towards others is a costly love and a love expressed through actions not feelings.
Like Nigel we may need to put aside our feelings in order to act in love, in a way this is a form of self-sacrifice. We may need to change and grow as disciples and allow the Spirit to transform us. When this happens we can let go of our opinions and our judgement of others, others that we may label as strange, different, difficult, foreign or unlikeable, even unlovable. If we are truly honest with ourselves we do this all the time, label people, we do it without even thinking. When we allow the love of Jesus to dwell in us we are empowered by God’s Spirit to overcome our unloving tendencies.
Let’s pause for a moment to sum what it means to express Jesus love to others? First, this love is costly, and it is expressed in action. Secondly, it requires us to stretch and grow as disciples and may involve a change of heart. And lastly and most importantly the love Jesus commands us to express to others is only made possible through the empowerment of God.
There’s no way around it, Jesus command to love others requires practice, it is certainly not easy. There is however one little gem of assurance in today’s reading from John that should fire us up, encourage us and help us to keep on practicing costly love. Jesus says in verse 9.
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you”.
Wow, Jesus loves us in the same way God loves him. I would like you to consider doing a little exercise next time you are praying in private or quietly meditating and reflecting on God’s word. Imagine this, as you pray think about what it would be like to be looking into the eyes of Jesus. He looks back at you as if you are the only person on earth. You sense that everything you say is precious to him and he listens deeply, without judgement; his presence is only focused on you and your needs. Becoming aware of the deep love of Jesus, the same love that he experiences in God enables us to be the same kind of loving presence to others. Yes, it is sometimes a hard thing to love others as Jesus commands but the breadth and depth of Jesus’ and our Heavenly Mother’s great love for us makes all the difference.
Hymn: Tis 533 I come with joy to meet my Lord.
Prayers of Intercession
Heavenly Father we pray for people around the world struggling with Covid 19.Please prosper the work of those administering the vaccines for the virus, please strengthen those who are treating the sick, please comfort those who are mourning loss of loved ones or living in fear of this disease.
Please give to governments all over the world the wisdom they need in management of this worldwide catastrophe, and give to your people now your PEACE which goes beyond human understanding. Also please give your people generous and wise hearts and a renewed trust in your power and ability to intervene in the hearts of lives of ordinary human beings.
Turn the hearts of many now experiencing fear and anxiety that they may find peace within.
Lord of Heaven and earth, give wisdom to those in authority in every land and especially those who govern India, especially President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime minister Narendra Modi. For all the states and union territories, may wise counsel be given, that the leaders will respond with calm and generosity.
You are the loving God of all the nations and peoples of this earth. Please look with mercy and compassion on all you have created. Bring an end to this crisis.
Please protect with your loving care those we love- our families, friends and neighbours, those who are near and those who are far away. And for ourselves, please guide the minds of our leaders here in Australia. Lead them to at wisely, carefully and in the best interests of all Australians. Please shine your light on the path ahead.
Please draw close to those who now face great financial stress- protect them and their families from long term economic damage.
Please plant into the hearts of every Australian the spirit to love our neighbours as ourselves, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in caring for those around us and we ask all these things, for our world and for our country, in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen
We will now say the Lord’s Prayer together…….
Lord and giver of every good thing,
we bring to you our lives and gifts
to make way for the healing of the broken and the lost,
through your grace and love
made known to us in Jesus Christ your only Son.
Hymn: They will know we are Christians by our love.
(The Blessing of the Holy Trinity of love be upon you):
God who is love, fill your hearts.
Christ Jesus, who is new life, inspire your hopes.
The Holy Spirit, who is lifegiver,
spur you to deeds of compassion.