SUNDAY 9

 

29 May - 4th June

 

Matthew 7: 21-29                                 (Sermon 1: “Disappearing Houses”)

Romans 1: 16-17, 3:21-31

Genesis 6: 9-22. 7:24. 8:14-19              

  Psalm 46

 

PREPARATION

 

Be still and know that God is God,

exalted high among nations,

exalted in all the earth.

The Lord of hosts is with us,

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

 

Every one who hears Christ’s words and builds on them

will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

God is our refuge and strength,

and very present help in trouble.

 

OR

            (for the deviant OT reading and sermon)

 

We set before you this day good news and bad news:

            The good news: a blessing will be upon you if you obey the commandments

            of the Lord your God...

            The bad news: a curse will be upon you if you disobey God and chase after

            the popular gods of the world.

 

These are the commandments:

            You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.

 

There will always be God and the cunning Deceiver,

and the human soul fluttering in between like a butterfly,

drawn between lofty heights and low-lying, quick satisfaction,

and the choice rests with each small soul on the wing.

 

PRAYER OF APPROACH

 

Holy Friend, beneath the din of the shouting world, enable us to hear your still small voice of calm. Help us to shake free of the clamorous voices, and to chose you before all else, above all else, ahead of all else. Help us to rest our weariness in the Divine bedrock which is more basic than the universe, and to lift up our hearts towards that supreme Beauty before whom saints and angels fall down in wonder, love and praise. Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION/PETITION AND ASSURANCE

 

Sometimes, the things we ask for in prayer contain within them an unspoken yet acknowledged sense of repentance.

 

Let us pray

 

God of Jesus and our God, like outback children standing among a vast carpet of wild flowers, Christ has brought us to stand among the wealth of your love.

 

Do not allow us to be blind to its beauty, or permit familiarity to dull its wonder, or fail to notice how shabby we are when surrounded by so much pristine love.

 

Bring us to recognise our spiritual beggary in the midst of so much generosity; to admit our mistakes, to accept responsibility, to want to change, and to open our souls to your Breath of forgiveness and transformation.

 

Coax us further into the expanses of your love, that we may changed into the likeness of our divine surroundings, and reflect some of the beauty of your holy love, in our thoughts and words and deeds. Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen!

 

FORGIVENESS

 

By love we are saved, my friends. This is the good news which supersedes all other. The love we speak of, is not ours. It is a gift of God, and flowers in the ministry of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, and is brought near to us today by his Spirit. Lift up your heads, you are a forgiven and healed and precious people.

Thanks be to God!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

Dear God, 

when I see pictures of Uluru

at the centre of Australia,

help me to close my eyes

and dream about you.

 

For although I can’t feel you under my feet,

nor take photos of you,

your love is more secure than any rock.

You will be around long after

wind and rain and sunshine

have turned Uluru into dust.

 

Help me to build my life

on your reliable love.

Amen.

 

PSALM 46

 

God is our refuge and our strength,

a proven help in times of trouble.

Though our whole world shakes

we shall not be in a panic.

Though seas boil and mountains fall

we shall not be in despair.

 

There is a river of life and joy

which supplies the city of God;

the place where God chooses to live,

the home of the Most High.

With God present, the city shall not fall,

at each daybreak, God will be there for us.

 

The nations may be in turmoil,

terrorists may strike and coups happen;

but God only has to speak

and arrogant empires melt away.

The Lord of hosts is with us!

The God of Jacob is our refuge!

 

Just look and see what God has done,

how human pride has become desolation.

God makes wars to cease around the world,

bombers are grounded and warships scuttled,

the long range missiles are scrapped

and army tanks rust in the desert.

 

Be still, and realise that I am God,

greater than the super powers,

greater than the whole universe!

The Lord of hosts is with us!

The God of Jacob is our refuge!

                                                                                                         Ó B D Prewer 2001

 

            OUR FOUNDATIONS

           

            Matthew 7:24-30          

 

Everyone has a creed

            on which they build life

knowingly or blindly-

            love, beauty or greed,

            sport or arcane belief.

 

Deep beneath one’s home

            whether spacious or small

lies such underpinning

            which decrees the outcome

            of tears or serene smile.

 

With some it’s boldly professed

            with others hide it in guile

until the storm and flood.

            By creeds we’re cursed or blessed,

            On them we stand or fall...

                                                                           Ó B D Prewer 1995

 

COLLECT

 

God our most holy Friend, when all else fails, you are there for us. When works of love and justice triumph, you with us in our joy. Give us the love to let go of our pretensions and excuses, and to ground our lives solely on the rock of your love. Through our Saviour, Christ Jesus.

Amen!

 

            OR

 

Loving God, without you we are unable to chose wisely and live courageously. Speak to us this day, that your Word may open up new possibilities, and your Spirit enable us to both embrace the best options and fulfil the same. Through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen!

 

 

SERMON 1: DISAPPEARING HOUSES

 

Matthew 7:24-25

 

“Build on the rock.” We first sang these words as small children, accompanied by vigorous hand movements.

 

Every one who hears these words of mine, and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock. The rain pelted down, the wind blew a gale, and the floods rose, and beat upon that house, but it did not fall.” 

 

 

Yet we may have missed one key point. Building on the rock in this mini parable of Jesus means putting ones faith into action. It is actually doing what Jesus has taught us. It is building not squatting.

 

It is not about piously setting up a deck chair, or a church pew, on the good rock, admiring the view and like Little Jack Horner crying out for all to hear, “What a good boy am I.”

 

“Everyone who hears my words and does them will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock.”

 

The doing is the key in Jesus’ words.

 

Our house, our place in life, is to be constructed on this firm rock. And the materials will be found as we fulfil both the word and the way of Christ. Moreover, we are called to fulfil Christ’s life style, not slavishly and pedantically (like a new Christian tribe of Scribes and Pharisees) but in the very Spirit of Christ. As always in this world, the Spirit gives life, the letter kills.

 

THE BEDROCK IS STILL AVAILABLE

 

The materials are at hand. The bedrock is waiting. Be assured, it has not moved. God has not gone away. God has not been eroded by the winds of change, nor shattered by the jack hammers of modern technology.

 

We may lose sight of God, but God does not lose sight of us. We may shift but God does not.

 

I recall happy days with my wife Marie, and our then young family, when we lived in beautiful Tasmania. On what used to be the highway from Hobart to Launceston, there was one section where we would say: “You kids stop your squabbling in the back seat. Get ready for the disappearing house.”

 

Disappearing house? Just north of Campbell Town there was a place where an old house came into view, only to the seemingly sink down into the ground and disappear. It was a fascinating spectacle! It was not true, of course that the house sank down into the ground. It was us. The road almost imperceptibly descended for a while creating the illusion.

 

Many people around us live with the illusion that the “Rock of Ages” has disappeared. They are deluded with the notion that somehow the contemporary science and technology has dissolved the whole idea of God. It is no longer possible to believe in God. Nor, they imagine, it is any longer sophisticated to build your life on that rock.

 

If you are been infected with that contemporary hubris, I say this to you. It is not the rock that has disappeared; it is you who have moved ground into blind territory. You have lost sight of it. You have gone down hill without hardly realising it and have been duped into thinking God has evaporated.

 

The rock remains. Without the consistency which the rock provides, science and technology would not be able to function. More than that! Without the rock the whole universe would collapse more thoroughly than pack of cards. Without the rock all would be void, time and space would be no more.

 

OUR BRAIN-WASHED CULTURE

 

I truly believe that our present western culture has brain washed many into a practical atheism.

 

Many of our contemporaries, maybe most, have not actually thought things through and settled for a reasoned atheism. On census forms, some may even tick a religion to which they claim to belong. Yet in daily practice, they act like atheists. They live as of there was no divine rock on which to build their lives, and do not take upon the specific building materials that Christ has made available.

 

Even among those who may give a respectful nod towards Jesus of Nazareth  (“Great man. Original thinker. Creative trail blazer”) are those who have no intention of building on the rock by actually doing what he taught. Instead, they put their trust in the shifting sands, the changing goals and fashions of a society built on the worship of that old and shifty god Mammon- money and possessions.

 

I mean it. Our society is grossly materialistic. Even among those folk who pick up practices from Eastern religions, take up yoga, meditation or tai chi, often only do so for the purpose of focussing the mind for making more money, building flashier houses, taking more expensive trips. There are “spiritual” (yuk!) workshops run for entrepreneurs with this specific purpose: to help people accumulate wealth.

 

No wonder suicide is at the highest level ever known in our land, especially among males. Those who work hard yet by circumstances beyond their control (for example, burnt out and made redundant at the age of 40) miss out on the promised “goodies,” can end up bitter and desperate. Those who attain the “goodies” but find that wealth does not in fact satisfy hunger within the human soul, and the young who look ahead and fear that they will be permanently locked out of the goodies; these are among the despairing souls who sadly take their own lives.

 

Many people have been fooled. We have been brainwashed into a path which leads to despair, or at least to a profound, aching emptiness in the core of one’s being.

 

MANY LABOUR IN VAIN

 

Thousands of years ago, a Psalm write knew about this:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.”

 

Without the rock of God, and the new age bricks and mortar provided by Christ, nothing we try to build will be truly beautiful, nor will it stand in the day of testing.

 

Said Jesus: “Any person who hears these words of mine, and does not do them, will be like a man who built his house upon the sand. The rain beat down, the floods came, and the winds blew a gale and beat upon that house, and it fell. And great was the fall of it.”

 

I would back these words of Jesus against any the glittering promises the contemporary world can throw up. His grim warning finds its exemplar in the deeply dissatisfied and empty lives around us. In the ruined relationships and the pathetic army of young drug addicts.

 

CODA

 

There are far too many disappearing houses. Houses that really do disappear. Lives that were build on the shifting sands.

 

The eternal rock that is God, remains is the only secure foundation in the whole universe. And the teaching and ways of Jesus, summed up by the primacy of love, are the only materials for the construction for a life which will never crack, splinter, rot, or get blown away in the storm.

 

How secure is the house you are building?

 

“Everyone who hears my words and does them, will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain pelted own, the floods rose, the wind blew a gale and beat upon that house, but it did not fall; because it had been built on the rock.”.”

 

 

 

 SERMON 2: A PERSONAL TESTIMONY—

 

WILL THE ROCK STAND --- FOR ME?

 

 

What about the person who hears my words, and acts upon them? He is like a man who had the brains to build his house on rock. Then rains tumble down, the foods rise, and the gales blow, but the house does not fall. Its foundations are on rock.”

 

 

 

How will I react when “the chips are down”? When my body can no longer cope and decay and death threaten? Will faith, the rock on which I have tried to build my life, support me?

 

Twice I have been forced to look deeply at that question, not as a cerebral exercise with the immediacy of raw experience.

 

                                                            ******************************************

The first time was in midlife when I work up at 1.30 a.m. with “an elephant sitting on my chest” and was soon taking an unexpected ride in an ambulance. As the ambulance rushed through the night I remember thinking: much worse and I am gone. To my own surprise, there was no panic. Just a calm sense of lying in arms of an rock-solid, loving, eternal “okay-ness.” The one thing that did concern me was how would my soul-mate, Marie, and my three teenage kids would cope? It too seemed abated as I realised they too, were and always had and would be, in the hands of the this same “okay-ness.” 

 

                                                            ******************************************

 

The second confrontation with “ when the chips are down, how will I react?” began just prior to Christmas 2007. A blood disorder I had lived with for some years got out of control and the chemo seemed ineffective. Neither Marie nor I thought I would make it far into 2008.

 

I found this confrontation harder to deal with than the sudden heart seizure.  More time to consider things, a monumental weariness and increased weakness, left me more vulnerable.

 

Did the rock still stand for me?

 

The question is best answered by mentioning a request that came for a musician in our congregation. About February 2008 Malcolm asked whether I could write some words to some music he had composed, which he named “Keeper of My Soul”. He did not have manuscript score, just his improvisations on a CD.  This lack of a written score made it a bit harder than it otherwise might have been.

 

I worked on it very slowly, and tenaciously, over a couple of weeks. The result was as if quarried from beneath the depths of my being.

 

                                                ************************************************

 

KEEPER OF MY SOUL  

 

I will stand upon the Bedrock

for faith is freehold here.

I will rest upon this Bedrock

when my load’s hard to bear:

    the sweet news and sour,

   friends or those who scorn,

   the fears that mock at midnight,

   the light that comes at dawn.

 

I will live upon the Bedrock

for hope upholds me here,

I’ll serve others on this Bedrock

for giving is true prayer:

   kiss of peace or thorn of pain,

   my strength, all my shame,

   vows nurtured through the tempest,

   each step when I am lame.

 

I will love upon the Bedrock

for Love enfolds me here,

I’ll lie down upon this Bedrock

trusting as God’s own heir:

   sound asleep or restless,

   the distant stars above,

   clutching life,  wanting death,

   there always is this Love.

 

I’ll grow old upon the Bedrock

for Grace strong-holds me here,

I will die upon this Bedrock

and death shall be no more;  

   with all I have and all I am,

   each triumph, every flaw,

   I come to my Holy Friend

   to worship and adore!

 

                        © Bruce Prewer  March 2008

 

                                                                                    *******************************

        

My bodily state has stabilised a little since 2008. The blood disorder in under some control. But the increasing toll of Parkinson’s Disease has been a blessed nuisance, affecting my voice, handwriting, and the ability to use a keyboard much.

 

I just noticed that I named the Parkinson’s a blessed nuisance.   A Freudian slip? I hope so. You see, I do see the PD as a blessing, whereby the Holy Friend is loosening my grip on unessentials and exposing with crystal clarity the few things that ultimately matter.

 

What about the person who hears my words, and acts upon them? He is like a man who had the brains to build his house on rock. Then rains tumble down, the foods rise, and the gales blow, but the house does not fall. Its foundations are on rock.”

 

 

 

I BELIEVE

 

I believe that in the act of believing I tap the Holy Resource from which sprang earth and sky

            and everything that moves within them.

 

I believe we are loved by the Resource who is more personal than we are personal,

            and who is jealous for the good health and development of every person in the world.

 

I believe in the wisdom of the Resource from whom Christ Jesus came, ‘trailing clouds of

            glory’ and fulfilling the teaching of the law and the prophets.

 

I believe in the Resource who enables me to make choices which will not only be good for

            me but also for loved ones, neighbours and even enemies

 

I believe in the Holy Breath of the Resource, filling us repeatedly with limitless life

            and love and holy joy.

 

Lord I believe; fill up my unbelief with greater belief. Amen.

 

 

DECISIONS: A PRAYER OF PETITION

 

Let us pray for God’s guidance.

 

Decisions, decisions, decisions! Creator God, help us, Spirit of Truth guide us, Jesus Christ save us!

 

Although we find ourselves excited by the brilliant achievements of this new age, we become exhausted by its ethical challenges and confusions. There are moments, Lord, when we hanker for the simpler days of our great-grandparents, for whom the path of morality was simply defined by church authority. But now it seems as if our technological cleverness constantly outruns our ideas of goodness and we cannot catch up.

 

Be with us, loving God, with all your compassion and wisdom. Be with us as we make decisions about genetic engineering or virtual reality, body transplants or brain enhancing drugs, space exploration or the adventures of cyberspace, the artificial maintenance of life or the quality of life and euthanasia. Through all the changing scenes of life, enable us to seek first your kingdom and its true-goodness.

 

Jesus Christ, make us clever as serpents and gentle as doves.

Spirit of Truth, keep us sharp witted and love-directed.

Father of all mercies, help us to so trust you that all things

may work together for good to those who love you.

For your love’s sake. Amen!

                                                                                                                        From “Jesus our Future: Prayers for the Twenty-first Century”

                                                                                                                        Page 120. Ó B D Prewer and Ó Open Book Publishers

 

 

SENDING OUT

 

As we prepare for that part of our worship which belongs

in the busyness of the wider world, let us pray for each other.

 

Lord of encouragement,

give us the love to do well

   those things to which Christ calls us

   throughout this new week.

 

Give us the will to do carefully

   the things that are complex and difficult.

Give us the patience to do conscientiously

   the many things that seem boring.

Give us the wisdom to do cheerfully

   the things that go against our grain.

 

Let nothing come between us

   that we may reflect your glory

    without being aware of it.

           

The blessing of God almighty...........................