ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF COUNTRY
On 10 January 1788 the lead ships of the First Fleet were now east of Yuin country, off Eden.
These ships would arrive at Botany Bay on the Gadigal land of the Eora People on 18 January.
Today we celebrate God as Creator of all that is from the smallest microbe to the furthest galaxy.
We acknowledge too our land’s indigenous peoples continuous relationship with the Creator for over 40,000 years and their continuing stewardship of God’s Creation.
We acknowledge and honour their elders both past and present.
Let us all worship God our Creator, this day. Amen
In the beginning, the Spirit moved over creation.
God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.
After 7 days God saw all that had been created, and it was ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31). (candle is lit)
CALL TO WORSHIP
People of God, before you even knew it, God loved you, whispering:
“You are my child, my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Come let us worship, because God first loves us, and so we love God and one another.
HYMN – TIS 186 vs 1, 3, 4 & 6 Tune TIS 134 ‘Praise my soul the king of heaven’
Stars and planets flung in orbit
Galaxies that swirl through space
Powers hid within the atom
Cells that form an infant’s face:
These, O God, in silence praise you
By your wisdom they are made.
Life in wondrous, wild profusion
Seed and fruit, each flower and tree
Beast and fish and swarming insect
Soaring bird, rejoicing, free:
These, your creatures, join in chorus
Praising you in wordless song.
Humankind, earth’s deepest mystery
Born of dust but touched by grace
Torn apart by tongue and colour
Yet a single, striving race:
We, in whom you trace your image
Add our words to nature’s song.
Christ, the Word before creation
As creation’s final goal
Once you came for earth’s redemption
By your Spirit make earth whole:
Then, O God, the new creation
Will your praise for ever sing. Rev Dr Herman G Stuempfle 1923 - 2007
PRAYER OF ADORATION & THANKSGIVING
Holy Spirit, move among us as you did over the waters of creation.
Jesus Christ, giver of life, may we know that we belong to you.
You give us the water of baptism and the gift of the Spirit
so that we might belong always to you.
May we also hear your calling through song and scripture
through bread and wine, through prayer and silence
through the wisdom of others, and the deep knowing in our souls.
Come and stir us to action, renew us in heart, mind, body and soul.
May we know that we are your beloved children this day.
With gratitude and joyful hearts, we will give thanks this day and all days. Amen.
Genesis 1:1 - 5 (NRSV)
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Mark 1:4 - 11 (NRSV) John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In this is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!
PRAYER OF CONFESSION Pastor Terry C Falla, Rosanna Baptist Church, Melbourne 1976
Almighty God, we have sinned against you and against our neighbours near and far in thought, in word and in deed. In the evil we have done and in the good we have not done.
Through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault, the list can be endless…
We are truly sorry and repent of all that causes us to stumble, to dishonour you, ourselves & others.
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ receive, forgive and set us free that we may serve you in newness of life, to your glory. This we pray in His name. Amen!
HYMN - TIS 270 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plr21ILgFpg
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh
Come then and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings.
Then cleansed be every heart from sin
Make straight the way for God within
Prepare we in our hearts a home
Where such a mighty guest may come.
For you are our salvation, Lord
Our refuge and our great reward
Without your grace we waste away
Like flowers that wither and decay.
To heal the sick stretch out your hand
And bid the fallen sinner stand
Shine forth, and let your light restore
Earth’s own true loveliness once more.
To him who left the throne of heaven
To free us all, let praise be given
And praise be to the Father done
And Holy Spirit, Three in One. Charles Coffin 1676 - 1749
MESSAGE “Change your ways – my Son is here”
Mark, the earliest of the Gospels and the shortest, devotes over 1/3rd of his Gospel (more than the other Gospel writers) to Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. That week is so central to his message.
For Mark there is an urgency about the coming Messiah and his message of the Kingdom of God.
No wondering for Mark about Jesus’ birth or the hidden years of his childhood in Galilee.
Jesus bursts onto the scene next to that larger than life person who came out of the Judean wilderness, John the Baptiser, with his message of ‘repent and believe, be baptised’.
And people came in their thousands, as Jesus did, though in his case, not to absolve his sin but to identify with our hopes and dreams, with our humanity. Jesus takes our place in these cleansing waters and receives the Holy Spirit and a voice said to Jesus and to no one else:
“you are my Son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased”.
In another place, in another Gospel, it is not the heavens that are torn apart, which separate humanity and the earth from God, but a Temple curtain, which is torn in the Holy of Holies (at the death of Jesus) which had previously symbolically separated the sacredness and holiness of God from the rest of the world, where humanity lives and works. Now there is no separation. God is with us!
And O how we long for those same words said to us ‘with you I am well pleased!’
And O how we long for a powerful infilling of the Holy Spirit descending on us like a dove.
Another powerful image, not just of peace, but of the dove sent forth by Noah in search of new life.
Last week I made a brief reference to John Newton’s powerful hymn Amazing Grace, that saved a ‘wretch like me’. The Captain of a slave trading ship who later joined William Wilberforce and John Wesley in seeking to end the slave trade. There is no more powerful verse in that hymn than:
“I once was lost, but now am found, t’was blind, but now I see.”
And while we have sung that hymn many times, I wonder whether we’ve ever been in the depths of such overwhelming grief and painful insight at what our lives have been, that there is found an awakening, to live a very different life going forward! It is this same overwhelming need to be that ‘new creation’ that led thousands to be baptised by John and thousands more to follow Jesus.
If I was to stand in front of my Lord, now, I could only kneel and maybe like some Catholic priests and nuns before their respective Ordination and profession of faith, lie prostrate on the floor, arms out stretched in the shape of a cross. I would feel so overwhelmed, so unworthy, that I could do no other. That Jesus might lift me up and cradle me in his arms as a shepherd does his flock is not my first or even my second thought. Does any of this ring bells for you?
Or am I speaking a foreign language with insights that you rarely have, or just don’t understand about your own life and your need to radically remake that life from the shoelaces up, in God’s image?
Most of us ‘come to faith’ slowly, incrementally, we’re at heart good, law abiding middle class people with reasonable personal relationships, a daily life mostly of moderation, and financially secure. Our desire to serve Christ comes from love and respect, sometimes from duty, and also with it a sense of seeking His justice and compassion for others. Does that ring any bells for you?
This journey of faith is common to many in the Uniting Church, it’s a significant stabilising part of being mainstream, but mainstream denominations by and large are now in serious decline.
There are others often outside the Church who now take up those causes of justice and reconciliation, of sacrifice and service even if the followers of Jesus may have started the cause, not because Jesus is their Lord but because it is ‘the right thing to do’. Justice & compassion have become divorced from the person and call of Christ, a personal relationship with him is no longer necessary. So, I don’t need to be part of the Church or to even know anything about Jesus of Nazareth and his claim on my life.
What I am inviting us to embrace or discover today is the centrality and need of that personal life changing relationship with Christ Jesus that Mark heralds at the beginning of his ‘Good News’ in Chapter 1. An invitation that calls for the total refocusing and renewal of each of our lives.
Mark’s Good News begins with the dramatic baptism of Jesus, his taking the lowest place, identifying with us. It is Jesus’ 1st act in his own stepping out in faith, of his obedience, trust and love for ‘His Father’ as he comes among us, using John’s words from last week ‘full of grace and truth’.
Having received God’s blessing and confirmation as God’s Son, the reader is left to wonder what is next! How will Jesus use his Sonship? Lord it over others, lead them to overthrow the Romans or?
After his baptism, as Jesus ‘passed along the Sea of Galilee’ (so we’re back there and not at the Jordan River many miles to the south) Jesus almost casually and spontaneously calls Simon and Andrew along with the sons of Zebedee James and John to follow him!!
No weekly sermons or previous home visits building relationships.
Jesus knows what is truly in our hearts, he is God’s Son and God made us in God’s image and knows each of us so well and with that the deep, deep longings we all have.
So Jesus just says “come, follow me”. This is the effect the Gospel can and does have on people’s lives, it is life changing if we see the need of it and know the truth of it.
Later in his ministry people will also come to faith from quietly touching the hem of his cloak, from a vantage point up in a tree or when pouring costly oil on his feet. But his Gospel, begins dramatically with humble obedience, humility and solidarity with good news for all those Jesus encounters.
By the love and grace of God, may you embrace this good news this day too. Amen
HYMN – TIS 473 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXBxzs2Ftlk
Community of Christ, who makes the Cross your own
Live out your creed and risk your life, for God alone:
The God who wears your face, to whom all worlds belong
Whose children are of every race, and every song.
Community of Christ, look past the Church’s door
And see the refugee, the hungry and the poor.
Take hands with the oppressed, the jobless in your street
Take towel and water, that you wash, your neighbour’s feet.
Community of Christ, through whom the word must sound
Cry out for justice and for peace, the whole world round:
Disarm the powers that war, and all that can destroy
Turn bombs to bread and tears of anguish, into joy.
When menace melts away, shall God’s will be done
The climate of the world of peace and Christ its Sun;
Our currency be love and kindliness our law
Our food and faith be shared as one, for evermore. Shirley Erena Murray 1931 - 2020
BLESSING – TIS 779 (sung by Rev Paul)
May the feet of God walk with you, and his hand hold you tight.
May the eye of God rest on you, and his ear hear your cry.
May the smile of God be for you, and his breath give you life.
May the Child of God grow in you, and his love bring you home.