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Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sunday 26 November 2017

Worship service for Sunday 26 November
Ipswich Central Uniting Church

Year A Christ the King


Light the Christ Candle

Call to Worship  
O be joyful in the Lord all the earth;
serve the lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.

Know that the Lord is God;
it is he that has made us and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the Lord is gracious; his steadfast love is everlasting
and his faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

 (Psalm 100)

Hymn Together in Song 216 Rejoice, the Lord is King

Passing the Peace

Prayer of adoration and confession 
Loving God,
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation
We thank you for the wonder of all your works
For your goodness reflected in all that you have made
we thank you that in Jesus you have come to us to share our lives
to bridge the gap between us, and bring us into closer relationship with you. 
We thank you for your Spirit present with us,
Giving us your strength and peace and hope, day by day
and guiding us in the life you would have us live.

Merciful God,
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation
we confess our failure to live in line with your will for us
we have not loved you completely
we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves
we are sorry for our failings. 
Help us to turn back to you
help us to start again
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

…our sins are forgiven
Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 230 It passes knowledge

Scripture Readings
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Hymn Together in Song  629 When I needed a neighbour

Sermon
Today in the church calendar is the festival of Christ the King. It’s the last day of the church year, so in a sense, it’s what our whole year builds up to.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had readings warning us to be ready. Today, we hear the story which gives us a picture of Jesus’ return as both king and judge. Unlike the parables we’ve heard for the past few weeks - this is not a story of everyday events given extra meaning. Instead this story begins in an other-worldly setting; and in it people suddenly discover the real importance of everyday things they have done.

And what is the importance of what they’ve done? The previous parables focussed on waiting and being ready for Jesus to return.  Suddenly, we are surprised to discover that Jesus hasn’t been that fa away. In fact, he’s come to us over and over again, in and through other people. Jesus was already there, in the poor, the sick, the disabled, the imprisoned.  

No-one realised he was there. Not the guilty (or they might have behaved differently), nor even the righteous. 

The righteous haven’t thought they were trying to pass a test. They were simply living by the rule of life Jesus has given. Jesus’ rule of life is much simpler than a lot of teachers’ rules of life, at least to say, but it’s not all that simple to live.  His rule of life is to love; love God with everything we are and everything we have; and love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

To love in this sense isn’t about an emotion or a romantic ideal.  Love is an action. Those who have truly loved have acted in love, not just (or necessarily) felt it.  And acting, really acting, in love means not expecting anything in return. So of course there are those who have done so are surprised at their reward.



The most vulnerable people in the world are those who cannot help themselves, for whatever reason. Jesus says, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”

The Bible leaves us in do doubt that we will all have to face Jesus one day, not only as our shepherd and saviour, but as our judge.  It also tells us the criteria by which we will be judged.  (We can’t say we didn’t know.)  

Jesus will accept or reject us by whether we accept or reject him - we are told throughout the New Testament.  But it is spelled out in today’s passage that Jesus comes to us as the person in need. How we react to him as we find him when he comes to us in need, affects how he reacts to us when he sits in judgment.

The single mother who can’t feed her family - is Jesus.

The middle aged woman at risk of homelessness - is Jesus.

The young person who can’t get a job - is Jesus. 

The gay person who’s been abused because of who he is - is Jesus.

The displaced person, fleeing war, or violence, including those on Manus Island - is Jesus.

The homeless person - is Jesus.

The estranged member of the family - is Jesus.

The Muslim woman abused for wearing a hijab - is Jesus.

The alcoholic and the drug addict - are Jesus.

The person who has hurt us in the past, and now needs our help - is also Jesus.

The person who seems most unlike Jesus as we can imagine - is Jesus when he or she comes to us in need.

Each of these people is Jesus, to us. Each offers us the opportunity to love and to serve him.

They may not look like Jesus.  They may not act like Jesus. They may not speak like Jesus. But whatever we do to “the least of these” we do to him.

Some of them might be easy to feel love or compassion for.  Some of them will be very difficult to feel love or compassion for.  But we’re not judged by how we feel about these individuals, but how we behave towards them.

Love isn’t always easy. But if you or I knew the hungry person beside us really was Jesus, we’d share our food even if we weren’t sure we had enough.

One day each of us will face Jesus.  And what he will see when he looks at us is how we have loved, or failed to love.

Offering and Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness

What’s God doing among us? / Notices

Prayers of the People
Gracious God,
Creator, Ruler and Judge of all creation,
we thank you for the gift of our neighbour
for the people through whom we encounter Jesus day by day.

We pray for the needs of our neighbours,
for those who are weak and need strength,
for those who are frightened and need courage,
for those who are facing difficult decisions and need wisdom
for those who are dealing with major crises and need hope
for those who are in pain and need comfort.

We pray for the needs of our neighbours throughout the world
We pray for the huge numbers of people displaced through war and disaster, particularly for those on Manus Island at the moment.
We pray for those who need practical help, 
and those who need to know that someone cares and they are not alone.

We pray for the needs of our neighbours 
and we pray that you will use us to help meet the needs we encounter day by day.

The Lord’s Prayer

Benediction

Hymn Together in Song 665 Jesus Christ is waiting


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

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Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Service for Sunday 19 March 2017

Service for Sunday March 19, 2017
Year A Lent 3

Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42. Purple.

Call to worship – Psalm 95:1-7 – Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 52 Let us sing to the God of salvation

Prayers of Adoration and Confession

Loving God,
we give you thanks for the gift of each new day
for the new opportunities each day brings
We give you thanks for the gift of life
for all of the challenges, hopes, opportunities, this life brings,
We thank you most of all for the gift of Jesus
for his life, death, and resurrection for us
for the new life he offers to us.

We confess the times we live as if
the gift of Jesus didn't matter
the times we say, do, and think things that aren't worthy of your people
the times we fail to say, do and think things that are worthy of your people
Forgive us our failings, we pray.
Help us to begin anew.
In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Hymn Together in Song 162 Thank you for giving me the morning

Scripture
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Sermon

Jesus stops in his journey from Judea to Galilee to speak with a Samaritan woman at a well... and that doesn't seem strange to us.

In his own day – some things were very wrong with this picture:

Firstly, what's he doing at the well anyway? It would have been the work of women in their group to go collect water from the well, not a man, and certainly not their teacher.

Secondly, he spoke with a strange woman. Again, it doesn't seem odd to us – but a Jewish teacher would not be speaking to a strange woman – any strange woman – because of fear of contamination. There was a risk the woman might not be ritually clean, and her uncleanness could be contagious...

But it gets worse, because thirdly, this strange woman was a Samaritan. This wasn't just a rivalry like the one between Queensland and that other state south of the border. This was like cold war USA and USSR. When John says “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans” it's the understatement of the first century. These two groups of people, even though they shared a common ancestry, did not like each other in the least. Each thought the other had corrupted the true faith – and could not be trusted in any way.

So there was Jesus, by himself, apparently, by a well in Samaria. It was a place where sooner or later a Samaritan woman would show up. But again, it would not just be any woman. He wasn't there at the time all the women came together to get their water – a woman coming on her own would be an outcast in her own community – someone the other women wouldn't want to associate with.

If you had a suspicious mind, you might think that this wasn't a chance meeting at all, that Jesus had gone out of his way intending to meet someone just like this particular unnamed woman. If you had a suspicious mind, you might think he'd chosen her, or at least someone like her – who would be as far as possible from the kind of person he “should” be speaking with. John tells us that if the disciples harboured such suspicions, they didn't dare say so – they didn't ask him why he was speaking with her.

When we first meet this woman in John's Gospel, she's remarkable for all the wrong reasons: she's a Samaritan woman, and she's at the well without all the other women which tells us a lot about how she's seen in her own community.

As the story goes on, she becomes remarkable for other reasons.

This is the longest recorded dialogue of Jesus with anyone. Jesus not only talked with her – he talked with her seriously, at great depth, and with exactly the same respect as he showed Jewish teachers such as Nicodemus.

He revealed a great deal about himself in this conversation, openly declaring himself to be the messiah, and showed that he knew enough about her to convince her he was a prophet. (Even in an era with a high mortality rate and where a man could divorce his wife by simply saying “I divorce you”, a woman having been married five times would be unusual. That the man whose household she was now living in was not her husband – but some relative or other man who had some responsibility for her would not be quite so unusual, but it was still remarkable that Jesus knew this.

So, to some extent, it was Jesus who made this encounter with the woman something extraordinary.

But the woman's response also made the encounter extraordinary. She could have gone away and kept what she knew to herself. She could have thought about it for a while, maybe told one or two close friends.

Instead, a woman who was so unpopular that she had to go to the well alone, went on a missionary journey to the town she lived in. In this town, that really didn't accept her that well, she told everyone about her encounter with Jesus so convincingly that they all wanted to meet him too.

Then she brought them to him, so they could meet him, and could then believe because they saw for themselves.

It's sad that we don't even know this woman's name, because she's a great example for the church. She had clearly been very unfortunate or very unwanted – she had experienced a very difficult life. Being widowed or divorced five times, in a world where there was no social security and family provided everything, would have meant she had more than her fair share of insecurity, poverty, loss. Being an unmarried woman in a society where a woman's value was measured by the children she could produce, meant she didn't matter much to anyone. Like the lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors Jesus associated with, this was a woman no-one wanted to know.

To Jesus she mattered. Jesus showed her that she mattered to him as much as anyone else. From her meeting with Jesus she gained a sense of worth and dignity – and the confidence to go to the town and preach the good news that the messiah had come to visit them. And she had the confidence to preach in a way that people who would normally overlook her, believed what she said.

And then she brought them, the townspeople, the people who had not valued her, to Jesus, so they could discover the truth for themselves. The “living water” she had found, the truth that would never leave her needing more – she shared.

This is the truth of the church – who we are meant to be. We find our value, our worth and dignity in our relationship with Jesus. That is what defines who we are – not what we've done, not how we feel about ourselves or how other people feel about us. Because of Jesus, we all have great value. We are important, not because of anything we can do or anything we have – we are important because we are important to Jesus.

Finding our value, the truth of who we are, in Jesus, we then must choose how we respond.

If we follow the example of the Samaritan woman, we respond by gaining confidence from recognising that we have such a value to Jesus – and we use that confidence to go to share what we have discovered with others. If we are excited by what we have found in relationship with Jesus, we will want to bring others to him as well.

When we look at mission opportunities for the church, we are seeking to find ways to share our encounter with Jesus with the people around us. It's one thing to find ways to share our meeting with Jesus with people who are like us – quite another to, as with the woman at the well – to go to people we might not have a lot in common with to share what we have discovered in Jesus. This is a process of inviting people.

And she brought them to Jesus – so that after first believing because of what she told them – they came to believe in him because they knew him personally. And that's our ultimate goal in mission or outreach – that people would come to know for themselves what we have discovered in Jesus. We could see this as incorporating people into the life of the Christian faith – helping them to find their place where they know Jesus personally, and know how much he values them.

Jesus is the “Living Water” the one thing we really need, but we are meant to share him with others, not keep him to ourselves.



Hymn Together in Song 129 Amazing Grace

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People

Loving God
We pray for this world you love
So many people are suffering so much
From natural disasters to human-orchestrated violence
there seems to be no end to the suffering.
God, this is your world, the world you love
These are people made in your own image
People Jesus lived, died and rose again for.
God, be with the people of your world
especially those who are suffering the most,
and help your people, guide us to do what we can to help.


We pray for our congregation here
Guide to find those people in our community who most need to know your love.
Give us to ways to tell them that whoever they are, whatever they have done, their true value is in you – that your love makes them precious.
Help us to bring them to you – so that they can discover your love for themselves, not just because of what we say about you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 684 Love will be our Lenten Calling

Benediction

Threefold Amen.