We met for worship as the gathered and scattered people of God.
We celebrate Christ Jesus, the light of the world. Thanks be to God!
We also acknowledge that where each of us live is on the land of the Dharawal people.
We acknowledge their 40,000 years of ongoing stewardship of God’s Creation
We pledge to be ambassadors of reconciliation, justice and peace.
You are all welcome, as we worship God this day.
CHRIST CANDLE Darkness is strong, but light is stronger. Christ is the Light of the world and not even death has overcome His light. Praise be to God whose light gives hope to all the world.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us join in worship to celebrate the fruit of God’s reign.
Let us sing our praise and listen for God’s living Word as we seek to serve faithfully.
All glory to God, now and forever. Let us pray…
Come Holy Spirit. Come to remind us that we are Christ’s people, called together as his body.
Speak words of truth and goodness to us, that we may better know you and more fully serve you and our community. Holy Spirit, may we recognise your presence amongst us. Amen
HYMN – Scripture in Song 27 ‘Be still and know’
Be still and know that I am God (repeat twice)
I am the Lord that healeth thee (repeat twice)
In thee O Lord do I put my trust (repeat twice)
PHILIPPIANS 3: 4b – 11 (NRSV) If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ & be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ & the power of his resurrection & the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION (inspired by Philippians 3: 4-14)
God of all righteousness, we know how the apostle Paul counted himself as a righteous person when zealously carrying out the law as a Pharisee. He considered himself to be blameless, but counted all that as loss when he came to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. From that time on, righteousness took on a new meaning. Paul knew that he no longer needed to perform exemplary deeds in order to earn your love. All he had to do was to accept your gracious, unconditional love.
Forgive us, O God, when we believe that righteous behaviour is all that is needed to secure your love. (silent reflection)
We know that we can neither earn nor deserve all that you have done for us.
Help us to surrender our worldly attitudes and values so that, like Paul, we can celebrate anew lives centred in Jesus Christ. (silent reflection)
Paul acknowledges a desire to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ so that he can die and rise also. He urges others to do likewise.
Forgive us, O God, when we lose sight of the goal of our lives as Christians—that of following Jesus; even when that means, and perhaps, especially when that means taking up our cross, and sharing in the suffering and struggle that Jesus shares with us. (silent reflection)
Merciful God, in the agony of the crucifixion, we see the lengths you were prepared to go, to ‘do great things for us’.
Whatever gains we may have experienced in our lives, like Paul may we regard them as loss, compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as our Lord. This we pray in his name.
Words of Assurance
The Lord has indeed done great things for us, as ‘our righteousness is one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.’ (Phil.3: 9)
The good news therefore is this: In Jesus Christ we are accepted, we are loved, we are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!
© Rev Dr Moira Laidlaw, UC Minister, NSW.ACT Synod 1934 – 2013
Hymn AT THE NAME OF JESUS
At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess him, King of Glory now:
‘tis the father’s pleasure, we should call him Lord
Who from the beginning, was the mighty Word.
Humbled for a season, to receive a name
From the lips of sinners, unto whom he came
Faithfully he bore it, spotless to the last
Brought it back victorious, when from death he passed.
Christians, this Lord Jesus shall return again
With the Father’s glory, with his angel train
For all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow
And our hearts confess him, King of Glory now. Caroline Maria Noel 1817 - 1877
GOSPEL READING Matthew 21:33 - 46 (NRSV)
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. In this is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
MESSAGE: Today’s Gospel reading, says that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the chief priests and pharisees, from the religious leaders of Judea and given to those who acknowledge Christ Jesus as God’s Son. A revolution in how people worship God & have access to God is now envisaged!
This brought great empowerment to those who had initially come to faith in those first few years.
After the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 CE this story took on a whole new meaning.
For both today’s Gospel reading and next Sunday’s complied by Matthew in the years after the fall of Jerusalem, are set against that cataclysmic event. It was awful, and was a more thorough job done (they utterly destroyed the whole City) than the Babylonians did 650 years earlier.
Just the ‘wailing wall’ (a section of the outer wall) was deliberately left to remind the Jews of Rome’s power. Over 200,000 of its inhabitants were enslaved, over 30,000 killed. This destruction was seen by many early Christians as proof of God’s judgment on the Jews for rejecting Jesus as God’s Son.
The Walls you see there today were built in the 16th Century by the Ottoman Turks.
Viewing physical or national calamities as God’s judgment, was almost universally accepted in the time of Christ. But if you read the Gospels carefully, they can tell a different story. Jesus is often at pains to say that whatever may happen to you, ‘I am with you, always’. Christ Jesus is with us, in such times, not absent from us as a form of punishment or disapproval.
This belief after 70CE that the Jews were “the God killers” (of Christ) ignores the fact that only the Roman governor could authorise the death penalty by crucifixion, a uniquely Roman form of death for political opponents. The Gospels go to great lengths to paint the Roman Governor Pontus Pilate as a reluctant participant in Holy Week. It’s all about the Jews.
This ‘negative press’ towards Jews produced a legacy of mistrust, suspicion and sometimes hatred as seen in the expulsion of the Jews from countries across Europe in the Middle Ages. It reached its peak in Hitler’s attempt at a Final Solution which began on Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938.
One piece of good-news about today’s passage is that the kingdom of God is now open to all who might believe, wherever they may be found, in any person, whose life shows or bears such fruit.
If this reading is to have any life giving power, TODAY, then it must not just be an historical reflection on 1st C Jewish Christian relations, or about how we respond to disasters or calamities or, where our response is “well we’re the new tenants, we can sit back and relax this story isn’t about us”!
But it is! Where is your harvest? Where is your obedience and stewardship? Where is your fruit?
In this story the tenants kept the produce (the fruit) for themselves.
Is that what we do? Keep ‘in house’ the sharing of faith, just with and to other believers?
Our daughter moved out of her latest rental unit as a tenant, 10 days ago. You know the drill, you pay a 4 week bond, photos are taken of the place so that when you vacate they can compare even the minutest cracks and chips – held accountable - until the owner or their agent comes knocking!
How would you reckon we’d go on such a ‘spiritual audit’ every 6, 12 or 24 months?
When and if you’ve ever been given the opportunity to confess your faith in Christ and you pledged to serve him in your life and in his world, if the Lord came knocking and said ‘now I’ve got these vows you made’ where is your fruit? What might you say or do?
I took Vows at my Ordination & in each of my various Placements; while you took them perhaps at your own Confirmation and at Induction Services for each of your new Ministers, but not for those who have served in Supply ministry. Maybe we should!
In November 2016: Tammy: Will you take Christ the Good Shepherd as your example, caring for his people and serving with them in their witness to the world. Did you hear the last part (in bold). Your witness to the world? What have you done? What hasn’t been done?
If we are to give our ‘all for Jesus’, to be accountable to Him, in this life, for all we have and to worship him as LORD, but we find all that ‘too hard’ then maybe we need to fall in love again with Christ Jesus? To renew our faith and trust in Him, to be re-inspired in His service.
Where to begin? I know my journey of faith began long before I can remember as I absorbed the love of Jesus that my parents & g’parents had for him. By the time I could listen & reason with all my senses, as a teenager of 15 or 16 I was enthralled by his words and deeds. They made sense! For me Jesus was and is the One to follow, there is no other. That he is alive just blows my heart and mind.
All things are possible if He is with me and not just for my life but in and through all I am engaged in, in God’s world. If love is stronger than hatred, if life is stronger than death, if justice is stronger than inequality, then all things are possible no matter the odds or what the world might say ‘is impossible’.
And there is plenty of injustice, hatred and selfishness to engage with!
Living and working as salt & leaven in the world is how we are called to live, in his strength & power.
I depend on him so much, he inspires and encourages me, but above all, he loves me.
He is my Lord and Saviour and the hymn ‘My Song is Love Unknown’ has always stirred me deeply.
But do you see His fruit in what I do? Not just in what I say? If you don’t, then I need you to tell me, so I too, can be a tenant who works, bearing fruit, in the vineyard of the Lord! Amen
My song is love unknown, my Saviour's love to me
Love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take , frail flesh and die?
He came from his blest throne, salvation to bestow
But all made strange, and none the longed for Christ would know.
But O my friend! My friend indeed
Who at my need his life did spend.
Sometimes they strew his way and his sweet praises sing
Resounding all the day, hosannas to their King.
Then ‘Crucify!’ is all their breath
And for his death they thirst and cry.
Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend. Rev Samuel Crossman 1623 – 1683
OFFERING & PRAYER…
We give out of what we have been given, we come to receive having laid all that we are before you.
The peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Friends, this is the table of the Lord and he calls us to this sacred feast.
Come, not because you are strong, but because you are weak.
Come, not because of any goodness of your own, but because you need mercy and help.
Come, because you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more.
Come, because he loves you and gave himself for you.
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
We acclaim you, holy Lord, glorious in power; your mighty works reveal your wisdom and love.
You formed us in your own image, giving the whole world into our care, so that in obedience
To you, our Creator, we might rule and serve all your creatures.
When our disobedience took us far from you, you did not abandon us to the power of death.
In your mercy you came to our help so that in seeking you we might find you. Again and again you called us into covenant with you, as the prophets taught us to hope for salvation. Creator God, you loved the world so much that in the fulness of time you sent your only Son to be our Saviour…and that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose for us, he sent the Holy Spirit his own first gift for those who believe, to complete his work in the world.
INVOCATION & INVITATION
Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
Happy are those who are called to his supper…
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be whole.
O Jesus, blessed Lord, to you
My heartfelt thanks and praise are due
You have so lovingly bestowed
On me your body and your blood.
Break forth, my soul, in joy, and say
‘What wealth has come to me today!
My Saviour dwells within my soul
And makes my wounded spirit whole.’ Bishop Thomas Hansen Kingo 1634 – 1703
His father was a weaver of modest means; In his youth, Kingo wrote a series of poems picturing humorous scenes in village life and a pastoral love poem, Chrysillis. He studied theology at the University of Copenhagen, graduating in 1654, and for some time acted as private tutor. In 1661 he was appointed vicar to the pastor at Kirke Helsinge, and in 1668 he was ordained a minister at his native town, where his poetic activity began.)
BLESSING & BENEDICTION – Shalom to you Now
Shalom to you now, shalom my friends
May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends
In all your living and through your loving
Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom.