God Approaches: How? (17 Jan 2021)

17 Jan 2021 by Sue McK (service), Bruce Prewer (message) in: Worship Services: 2021

Welcome and Announcements

Welcome to Engadine Uniting Church. We are working towards making this a safe place for all people to worship regardless of race, creed, age, cultural background or sexual orientation. A warm welcome is extended to all. Your presence both enriches us and this time of celebration together.



Acknowledgement of country

Let us begin our service today by acknowledging our need to continue to build meaningful relationships with each other and with the First Peoples of this land we now call Australia.


We acknowledge their continuous presence here for over 40,000 years, their deep and abiding relationship and identity with and of the land; and their continuing stewardship of God’s Creation.


We acknowledge that where we gather is also Dharawal land and we acknowledge, with respect, their elders both past and present. Let us all worship God our Covenant Creator, this day. Amen


Lighting of the Christ Candle

It was dark at the beginning of creation and God said ‘let there be light’

The Prophet Isaiah said ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’

John, came ‘as a witness to testify to the light, the true light which enlightens everyone’

We believe Christ Jesus is that Light. Praise be to God. (candle is lit)


Call to worship

We slumbered because we were exhausted.

Now we know we must rise and join our neighbours who

refuse to give up. We will stumble humbly forward and join the movement

inspired by God’s calling.


Come, let us worship.We are gathered here not because we have seen fit to choose Christ, but because he has looked upon us, and called us to be his own.

The joy of those who hear the call of Christ be with you all.

And also with you.


Prayer Of Invocation/Welcome

Gratefully and gladly, we come into this house of praises, most loving God. We come to join our voices with all those who have welcomed the call of Christ.


With people from every nation and tongue, a wave of joy linking earth and heaven in one congregation, we take our place with thanksgiving.


Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful are you, Creator, Redeemer and Counsellor! Heaven and earth are full of your glory! Glory be to you, O God most high!




Hymn/Song: ‘Search Me, O God’, by Leigh Newton. Based on Psalm 139. https://vimeo.com/181006287



Prayer of adoration and confession

God who calls,

we have been asleep.

We have been greedy and forgetful.

We have acted as though we do not believe we are loved or

can love.

We want to wake up, to share, to remember,

and we look to you and to each other to hear our confession

and hold us accountable. Amen.


Words of Assurance/Affirmation

Today we remember that we must remind one another of

the forgiveness that flows freely from God and through us

to one another. Thank you God.





Let us pray: God, please open our ears and minds and hearts so that as we hear the words of the Bible, you will speak to us and bring us new life.


Psalm 139 explains that God is the kind of deity that wants

to know and be known. This poetic treatment of God’s character plays out in narrative when Jesus and Nathanael meet in John 1:43–51.

(Read Psalm 139, perhaps in a paraphrase version such as Laughing Bird or The Living Bible)


Second reading: John 1:43–51

Reader: May these words bring Life to all who hear them.


Hymn: Hymn of Promise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RHek8k5WoY&ab_channel=JenniWright



Sermon/Reflection (A sermon on this set of lectionary readings, last published online in 2018. The late Rev Bruce Prewer served in the Uniting Church in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, and published a number of books of poems, prayers and psalms with an Australian setting. Several (or maybe all?) of these books are owned by our congregation and their contents often used in our services.)


“SERMON: FOUR WAYS THAT GOD APPROACHES US (Using thoughts inspired by all 4 Lectionary Readings)


I was about to call this sermon “Four Approaches to God.” But Gospel reality cut in and I said to myself: “Don’t be presumptuous! It is God who approaches us”. So the title immediately became “Four Ways in which God Approaches us”.




The first way is in the reading from the Book of Samuel. Here we have the God who comes to us in the silences.


“Silence is golden” goes the old saying. If that is true, then most of us live in extreme poverty, desperately short of the golden silence. There is very little silence in our hectic lives. It is all noise, noise and more noise!


Maybe that is one of the reasons why contemporary people seem to have lost the awareness of the Presence of God in daily life. Ever since the industrial revolution, and more since the electronic revolution, the air is thick with noise. Motor cars, trains, planes, busses, trams, loudspeakers in shopping centres, ‘muzak’ while we are ‘on hold’ on the telephone.


All the space around us seems clogged with multiple sounds. Even at home the almighty radio, TV, DVD, and CD player rule our waking hours. While trekking in remote wilderness, I have actually come across other hikers with “walkman’ clamped over their ears. Noise is not only an affliction, for many it is an addiction.


Little Samuel had no such problem. Samuel was the child-servant of the priest Eli, or apprentice priest if you prefer that, living and working in the ancient temple at Shiloh, in what was later known as Samaria.

At evening, when the markets outside had closed, the daily services ended, the worshippers all gone home, there was plentiful silence. Adequate silence in which to hear a Holy Word speaking within the soul. That’s how it was for Samuel. In the silence of deep night, God called to the child “Samuel, Samuel.” After first mistaking the voice for Eli, Samuel was able to answer: “Speak Lord, for you servant is listening.”


I strongly put it to you: Silence is one of the ways in which God can approach us, address us, soothe us, stir us, call us, and renovate us.  In the silence the Word can speak. Because silence does not come readily in our noisy, frenetic world, it takes self-discipline to create space and silence in our lives. If we are not inclined towards self-discipline, then let us not complain about the apparent absence of God.  Silence cannot be found without some effort on our part.




Psalm 139 is near the apex of Old Testament faith. The sections set for today’s reading concentrate on God’s intimate knowledge of us. Here is a picture of a God who approaches us continually. Our path, our words, our thoughts, are all searched by the Living God. From the time of conception in our mother’s womb, God is with us, coming with precious thoughts for our welfare; thoughts more numerous than the sand of desert or sea shore.


The sections not set for today, especially verses 7-12, complete the picture. This approach by God is not limited to set locations; not just at sacred sites, holy temples, or in the hours set for public worship. With full poetic flight, the Psalm writer sings of the God who comes to us no matter where we are.


 Even at the most remote fringes of the oceans, God will be there. In deep darkness, God is with us. If we fly up among the stars, God will be there for us. If we are laid to rest in the grave and exist in that shadowy underworld the Jews called Sheol. God will approach us there.


Psalm 139 does not argue the case. It celebrates it. It is like a grand creed of delight in God’s willingness to seek us out everywhere. Whether we recognise it or not, God will always be with us. Nowhere is too far, no place is too humble, no situation too dark, no circumstance too secular.  God approaches us everywhere.




Paul suggests another place where God comes to us: within our own being. “You body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” Now that is bold!


Whether the apostle is referring to our individual bodies, or to the church as the body, as some scholars propose, I am not certain. But given the whole tenor of this particular passage in Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, I favour the idea that he is referring to their individual bodies. Each of them is a temple where God is prepared to reside.


The Jews believed that God chose to reside in the central, sacred enclosure at the core of the vast temple complex on Mt Zion. They called this space the ‘Holy of Holies”. God was believed to reside on earth at that spot. With debonair audacity Paul says that we, our bodies, are the temples where God’s Presence choses to reside.


Never underestimate your body. There has been a twisted mentality in some sections of Christianity which has despised the body, and thought it good to mistreat it in the search for holiness. God does not scorn our human flesh and blood.  God approaches us through our bodily lives, chooses to reside there. Treat bodies charitably, with respect and love. If we want to find where God approaches, take a look within that personal temple where light and darkness wrestle for supremacy, and where light refuses to give up.




However, the prime approach, the most sublime approach, comes through Jesus of Nazareth.

The Gospel reading from John for this Sunday, follows on from that moment when John the Baptiser points to Jesus and says: “Behold the Lamb of God.” From that time on disciples are drawn to Jesus. We read about the calling of Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathaniel, and others not named as yet.


For Christians, God’s incomparable approach is through Jesus. Nothing equals this. Nothing is more certain, or more reliable. The words and deeds, and the unique person of Jesus, have been for many generations a veritable highway for the coming of God into human experience.


This approach by God is the measuring stick for all other spiritual experiences. If at any time we think God has approached us and called us to do something not compatible with Jesus, then we know we were sadly misled.


Silence? What God seems to say to us in the silences; in the quiet spaces we make for prayer and meditation, must be checked out by what God says in Christ. If it fits, trust it. If it does not, reject it. I stress this point: whatever divine melody appears to come to us from the wider realms of life, must be assessed in the music of Christ Jesus. If it’s in tune with Jesus, sing it. Off key, repudiate it.


Inside us? If we look within, and try to explore the temple that is my bodily being, for the truth of God, let us be wary. It is easy to wander off into pretty half-truths, sentimental quarter truths, downright self deceit, and even forms of insanity. The one utterly reliable approach of God is through the one who is truly the Son of God. If our inner truths resonate with Christ’s truth, then let’s celebrate. But if not, do not entertain it but expel it!


God does approach us, in many ways. Many more than I have touched on today. You and I are most fortunate people, we can be open to these divine approaches without caution, for we have Christ to audit our experience; to help us grasp the authentic and abjure the false hopes and unworthy fears. Trust him and all will be well.”

Bruce Prewer




Prayer, Creed or other response (If desired)

God of good gifts,

Help us to discover our potential.

Guide us as we live and learn.

Show us the way to find the good things that you have laid before us.

Give us courage to explore new things.

Teach us how to know and name our gifts and talents.

Inspire us with the incentive to use them in the loving service of others and the common good.

Just as Jesus called people on a journey of growth and development,

Call us to walk in your way

That we may find meaning and purpose in being all the good that we can be.

May we never give up learning and growing

May we never tire of finding the gifts within us and each other.

Help us to always encourage and support all who we live and work with in being the best that we can be.

May this always be so.


(c) Jon Humphries


Hymn/Song:I, the Lord of sea and sky” by Daniel Schutte. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF3v0YlL14o&ab_channel=Squirrel24



Generous God, we bring our diverse gifts.

Let your Holy Spirit breathe life into our serving,

so that all that we do may bring glory to your name. Amen


Prayers of the people

Speaker: I will not be free until all God’s children are free. We name aloud political prisoners in captivity. Allow silence so that the gathered community may fill it with their prayers.

Speaker: I will not know healing until all God’s children can know healing. We name aloud those who suffer an illness, addiction, abuse, and suffering. Allow silence so that the gathered community may fill it with their prayers.

Speaker: I will serve alongside you because my well-being is wrapped up in yours. Your concerns are mine and mine are yours. We name aloud the burdens so heavy that we cannot carry them alone. Allow silence so that the gathered community may fill it with their prayers.

God who knows us inside and out. You created us to have different experiences of you and taught us to respond to you with gratitude. We have worked to collect and

recollect abundance. We have toiled and felt the weight of the unknown future. But we come now in earnest hope and faith to offer what we have, do what we can, and let go of the outcome.




Don’t you know that you are temples of the Holy Spirit?

Go and glorify God in your bodies, which is a most reasonable worship.

With the grace of Christ Jesus, I bless you.

With the love of God, I bless you.

With the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, I bless you.