‘Teacher, what is darkness?’ ‘Darkness my child is when we cannot see our neighbour’s face’.
Christ Jesus, came as Light that all may know they are cherished by God and made in God’s image.
Darkness cannot exist when there is light. So let us light a candle and celebrate Christ’s presence.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF COUNTRY
Long before the memory of our birth, the Dharawal people walked this land of the Creator.
They were one with it, part of the land’s very being. We acknowledge their stewardship of God’s creation, their search for justice & reconciliation. We honour their elders past, present and emerging.
CALL TO WORSHIP
We are a living, growing cooperative network and community, one with the vine, intwined with the all the other branches. We are in the hands of the Vine Grower, the one to whom we belong, who tends and cares for us, for the purposes of justice, joy and love. Let us Pray:
Come to us now, God, take us into your tender care, that our worship might be gracious, our hearts and minds open to your kindness, and that we may grow in your ways of love and light. Amen
HYMN TIS 382 Now the Green blade rises
All people are made in the image of God. If you know what it is to love and to be loved, you are welcome. If you have spent your whole life searching for such love, acceptance and healing peace you are welcome. I am welcome. We are all welcome to this place where Jesus is acknowledged as LORD.
Acts 8: 26 – 39 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
John 15:1 – 8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.
In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Lord, you are the source and example of life and love, the One that provides all we need.
Lord, we have not loved ourselves well. We look to our own life experience to understand how love is received and given. Remind us that our true identity is found in your agape love.
God, you are the vine and we are your branches. We are grafted to you and to each other, this is your precious and extravagant gift in and of community. We are grafted to the Vine of New Life.
Lord, we live as if there is no vine, as if there are no branches, as if we are a single potted plant in soil not of your tender and transforming care. Independent to and of each other and of you, where division and segregation produces misunderstanding and conflict.
We ask your mercy: Receive our lives and hear our prayers.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE
God loves us in our brokenness, but we need not stay broken. When we are in right relationship with God, God’s love is perfected in us and we are made whole. Thanks be to God!
HYMN TIS 417
MESSAGE ‘Being with Jesus’
Last month we travelled to Melbourne via the Great Alpine Way through Bright and Omeo in the High Country of Victoria. In many places we saw isolated gum trees in large paddocks given over to cattle grazing or cereal crops. But in some places we could see evidence of more recent thought on how to care for the land, of trees gathered together in small groves or clusters.
Horticulturists tells us that such groupings of vegetation thrive & survive better than when alone.
And if you watch any gardening shows on TV or better still you have a green thumb, then you’ll know that planting a range of species which beneficial insects and bees are attracted to is a good idea for keeping pests at bay and also for pollination.
But before we explore more of that horticultural journey, let’s look at this reading from Acts Ch 8 about Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. A high official of the Ethiopian Queen entrusted with her treasury, but as regards the riches contained within the Scriptures, it seems he was but a pauper.
He couldn’t make sense of this part of Isaiah 53. Was he a Jew from the diaspora?
Or just had a philosophical interest? Clearly the passage hadn’t yet ‘spoken’ to him personally.
Philip to the rescue: he shares his knowledge of the passage, he invites the Ethiopian to deepen his own understanding to then make a commitment and to be baptised. A sign of his new life in Jesus.
This passage shows us one way we can share the ‘good news of Jesus’ and invites you and I to always be open to similar Spirit led occasions. Left to our own human devises, we wouldn’t get out of our own comfort zone! We’d let the chariot rider pass on by. But not Philip, when led by the Holy Spirit!
During my years as a NSW Police chaplain, I had the occasion to talk with an Officer who’d done something stupid, his job was now dependent upon ‘the Police Commissioners confidence’. The officer blamed himself for his stupidity and had worked himself into such a state that he saw no hope, no future. As he shared I asked ‘have you heard the story of the prodigal son in the Bible?’
‘No. What’s the prodigal son?’ So I told him the story of the son ending up in a pigsty, down on his luck and full of shame. This metaphorically was where the Police officer was. I mentioned that the 1st ‘miracle’ in this story is the phrase ‘and he came to his senses’ (Luke 15:17) and decided to make the long journey home. The 2nd is Dad waiting at the farm gate. I encouraged him to leave his pigsty.
In our post Christendom world, where the ‘Good Book’ is not so well known, people are just waiting for the right encounter, for us to share such a story as I did all those years ago. To do so, we need to be willing to engage with and be prepared to walk with people in good times and rough. We need to have a caring enough heart and just enough knowledge of the Gospels in particular to be able to choose the right story for that moment in their life. This is being ‘open to’ and being ‘led by the Spirit’.
May you be like Philip this coming week or, as honest and open as the Ethiopian to ask that question!
But back to our horticultural story.
If nature thrives when in company, the image of Jesus as the Vine and the vinedresser shares a similar truth, if we would but abide in Jesus. That particular Greek word abide occurs 114 times in the NT and can mean ≡ remain/stay/live/endure/belong/spend time with/dwell. While the Vine which is Jesus grafting us onto himself is also His gift and initiative. He grafts. He prunes. He abides. But will we?
All so that we might enrich the lives of all whom we encounter →to bear fruit! A channel of His Peace.
And while the image of the Church as a human body with its many different parts, all working together, is more well known, in this story of the Vine, we hear that to be separated from the Vine, is to lose our fruitfulness. If we want Christ to be part of our life, we have to be part of His.
This is all but impossible done in isolation. No plant in a single tub ‘doing its own thing’ we are branches, part of a vine. We live in community, dependent upon Christ and upon each other.
That’s where the very best can be brought out in us. That’s where the very best fruit is found!
The fruit which are the sign of being grafted to His Vine are the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are all relational. They are not like the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which people may receive 1, 2 or more of. With the fruit, ALL must be evident in our relationships and you can’t be in relationship unless you are in community. In community ‘bearing fruit’ is where and how we live and work and grow and have our being!
Today we gather in community, seeking to live out being grafted to this Vine, of abiding in Christ.
Being with Jesus is not just about a physical or prayerful state but requires our whole being in body, mind, spirit and heart to be engaged in him, with him and he in us. That is being grafted to the Vine!
And this ‘being with’ requires commitment, time and trust in Jesus and in each other. Just as it does with any loving relationship that seeks to endure and thrive. Fruit bearing ‘takes time’ both chronos (physical time) and kyros (God’s time) to grow and mature. So be patient and be expectant!
When such abiding happens, then all things are possible. Thanks be to God. Amen
HYMN Alltogether Whatever 475 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czRLWLOoqj8
1John 4:7 - 12 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
The Lord be with you
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
HYMN TIS 727
The Celebration Song
BLESSING & BENEDICTION
Be of good cheer, be of good courage. The Lord is an everlasting God and has promised to never leave nor to forsake you. So go in gentleness and Peace. Expect to see him in all you meet and to share him with all whom you encounter. And the blessing of God Father, Son & Holy Spirit walk with and delight in you, always. Amen