Refocusing and Renewing (3 Jan 2021)

3 Jan 2021 by Rev Paul Bartlett in: Worship Services: 2021


On 1 January 1788 the First Fleet entered what we now call Bass Strait travelling at 8.5 knots.

The first of their 11 ships would arrive at what we now call Botany Bay on 18 January.


Today on the first Sunday of this New Year we are invited to renew our Covenant relationship with our Lord. As part of that renewal, we acknowledge 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



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 inspired by Jeremiah 31: 6 – 13 (the OT Reading for today)         

Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God. Let us Pray:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people.
With weeping we shall come & God will lead us, by brooks of water, in a straight path on which we shall not stumble. For the Lord has ransomed Jacob & redeemed us from hands too strong for us to endure. We shall come & sing aloud of God’s Glory, our lives shall become like a watered garden. God has turned our mourning into joy & given us community instead of separation. Amen


HYMN –  TIS 477

Jesus calls us here to meet him

As, through word and song and prayer

We affirm God’s promised presence

Where his people live and care.

Praise the God who keeps his promise

Praise the Son who calls us friends

Praise the Spirit who, among us

To our hopes and fears attends.


Jesus calls us to confess him

Word of Life and Lord of All

Sharer of our flesh and frailness

Saving all who fail or fall.

Tell his holy human story

Tell his tales that all may hear

Tell the world that Christ in glory

Came to earth to meet us here.


Jesus calls us to each other

Found in him are no divides.

Race and class and sex and language

Such are barriers he derides.

Join the hand of friend and stranger

Join the hands of age and youth

Join the faithful and the doubter

In their common search for truth.                              John L Bell 1949 – and Graham Maule 1958 –





Loving God, sometimes, like your people of old, we wish the path ahead was easy and clear.
After an unprecedented 2020, which still casts its shadow, which brought anxiety and suffering, death and illness in body, spirit and in mind, we long for this new year to bring relief and renewal.
We know you are present with us in this suffering. We know you are the light in the darkness, yet too often we forget your promises and prefer our self-centered darkness.

In this new year, centre us in your hope for the path ahead.

Renew our faith that we may know revelations of your love, no matter the journey.

In this new year, grant us courage, should the journey require us to take a new path.

Help us to pause at the opening of this new year, to encounter you through the Christ Child, to wonder at the gifts you offer, and listen for your guiding voice. Hear these words of assurance:

Lay down your apprehension and rest in the goodness and grace of God. Thanks be to God! Amen


GOSPEL READING: John 1:1, 10 – 18 (NIV)    Bruce / Judy Hanna

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

May these words bring Life to all who hear them.


HYMN TIS 145 vs 1, 2, 5 & 6   

The king of love my shepherd is

Whose goodness faileth never

I nothing lack if I am his

And he is mine for ever.


When streams of living water flow

My ransomed soul he leadeth

And where the verdant pasture grow

With food celestial feedeth.


Thou spread’st a table in my sight

Thy unction grace bestoweth

And O what transport of delight

From thy pure chalice floweth!


And so through all the length of days

Thy goodness faileth never:

Good Shepherd may I sing thy praise

Within thy house for ever.                                         Henry William Baker 1821 - 1877


MESSAGE                    “Refocusing and Renewing – who is the One who offers Life?”

A New Year has always been an opportunity for people to step back, to have a good look at what the past year has been, how it has affected them, and what they might do differently this year!

That this occasion is usually accompanied with celebration and serious partying often makes such reflection difficult if not impossible. But even that partying brings with it grains of truth and insight. At the very least we have survived another year! Always within such celebrations is another grain of truth, that we are not perfect human beings, nor do we sail through life unaffected by all that happens to us, within us and around us. There is always much to learn!


So what have we learnt from 2020?

That as a community of faith, while not having been able to worship together as has been our past experience and practice, we have managed to stay in touch with nearly all of those who call Engadine UC their spiritual home. That as a community of faith, we have honed new resources for leading worship, preaching, pastoral care and in IT. Especially in IT! That it is still difficult and painful, this prolonged separation from the intimacy we previously took for granted.

And that has been and is still is so clearly evident amongst our own family and friends networks.

Cut off from physical touch and sight, at times, so terribly alone and isolated.

And all of this has occurred against the backdrop of high unemployment, an economy in a level of disarray not seen since the 1930’s, State and International borders closed and a death toll that continues to claim thousands of lives each day across the world. And perhaps the most alarming development throughout 2020 has been the continued rise of people setting themselves up as the sole arbiter when it comes to experiencing trust, discerning truth and the worth of others.


When people no longer take for granted all the pillars of their life that sustained their sense of identity and confidence for the future, many are reviewing their attachment to the material, to their work-life balance, to where they live and how to engage more deeply with those they love.

Life is precious and not to be taken for granted. And that is what John was in part saying at the beginning of his Gospel. God has come and dwelt amongst us “full of grace and truth”.


Grace, because though we are frail and fragile human beings, God has not dealt with us as we may have deserved. God has not come like an avenging angel with death and destruction, but in humility, in love, born in a manger heralding a new way of seeing into the very heart of God.

We are welcomed and received by grace. According to God’s mercy and love not according to how we perceive or have experienced acceptance and worth. And for 99% of us that is Good News because our experiences of life can eat away at our sense of self-worth, we are not perfect human beings. To discover One who calls us by name and welcomes us as if we are the only child of the universe is still profound. That God welcomes and values every person like that is mind blowing and makes us want and need to share that Good News with all whom we meet.


Truth, the truth about who we are. Full of too much pride, hurt, anger, resentment, fear, selfishness and greed. Seeing ourselves however subtly, better, more blessed, than others.

The truth of our lives is not always pretty, it can remain hidden, buried deep or glossed over.

The truth that even the ‘worthless wretch’ of Amazing Grace is not worthless or a wretch, but deeply loved, of immense value and worth. Worth living for and worth dying for.

Truth, the truth that in Jesus the Christ we see the very heart and face of God, God’s Son.

The One alone who has conquered death, who alone can set people free, in whom a relationship with not even death can destroy. That truth gives me courage and hope. That I might by His Grace stand before the presence of Jesus along with all who call him Lord is just overwhelming.

That truth, changes forever how I’m to see my life and share it with others, so that our whole world – all that God made and said was ‘good’ from planet Earth to all living creatures, is worth fighting for, sustaining and preserving. As God made it all, so we are to be good stewards of it all.


Jesus the Christ full of grace and truth calls us into a new relationship, a new covenant, with him.

With expectations, promises and resources, anticipated and freely given. The gift of the Holy Spirit to keep us in touch with Christ, the fruit of the Holy Spirit guiding and transforming all our relationships, God’s promise to be with us always and the gift, by grace, of a faith filled community where talents and gifts are given to every member of the body of Christ for the benefit of all.


Today, this new covenant will first be celebrated in holy communion, a sacrament of grace.

Bread and wine given by Christ, freely, if we can but accept, food for daily life and a promise of life to come. Then when that meal has been shared, you will be invited to share in a Service of Covenant renewal begun by John Wesley 250 years ago to be celebrated in each New Year.

To God’s name be praise and glory, for Christ Jesus has come amongst us full of grace & truth!


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.


Gracious, covenantal God, you have called us to be the Church in this place, to give voice to every creature under heaven. To Adam and Eve, children of dust, you gave the world and its wonders, but we misused your gift of freedom: we reached out with rebel hands to be like you.

We bless you for your mercy, for you never cease to call our restless hearts until they find their rest in you. Again and again you raised up men and women to speak your word, to guide, to challenge and convert. At last Lord, you sent your Son Jesus Christ, child of your love, God with us.

Born as one of us, he lived our life and died our death, offering us, both now and forever, eternal life with you. Through him, in him and because of him we share in the prayer he gave us:


With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love now and forever. Amen.




Today, we meet, as generations before us have met, to renew the covenant that binds us to God. Let us make this covenant of God our own individually and as a community of faith.

Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants. Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.
Christ has many services to be done. Some are more easy and honorable, others are more difficult and some are disliked. Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests, others are contrary to both. In some we may please Christ and please ourselves. And there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

Let us, having now been fed through and by this sacrament of grace, renew or make for the first time, our covenant with Christ, saying together -

Lord let me be your servant, under your command.
I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands:
put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart give it all to your pleasure and purpose. Amen.


PRAYERS FOR OUR WORLD & EACH OTHER             Bruce / Judy Hanna

HYMN – TIS 217

Love divine, all loves excelling

Joy of heaven, to earth come down

Fix in us thy humble dwelling

All thy faithful mercies crown:

Jesus, thou art all compassion

Pure unbounded love thou art

Visit us with thy salvation

Enter every trembling heart.


Come, almighty to deliver

Let us all thy life receive

Suddenly return, and never

Never more thy temples leave:

Thee we would be always blessing

Serve the  as thy hosts above

Pray, and praise thee, without ceasing

Glory in thy perfect love.


Finish then thy new creation

Pure and spotless let us be

Let us see thy great salvation

Perfectly restored in thee:

Changed from glory into glory

Till in heaven we take our place

Till we cast our crowns before thee

Lost in wonder love and praise.                     Charles Wesley 1707 – 1788 Public Domain



We are your people, Spirit of grace, you dare to make us to all our neighbours, Christ’s living voice, hands and face. Joined in community, treasured and fed, may we discover gifts in each other, willing to lead and be led. Christ, as we serve you, help us to live, in all life’s changing

where you are leading, meeting your love with our praise. And the Blessing of God…