11th October 2020
The Golden Calf – Damien Hirst
`Free for all?`
Rev Fiona Winn
Welcome and Grace
`I was a stranger and you invited me in` Matthew 25: 35
1 Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
by whose grace your people grow;
Christ whose nature now we share,
work in us, your body here.
2 Send your Spirit from above
and unite us in your love;
still for more to you we call
with your fulness fill us all.
3 Move and motivate and guide,
varying gifts for each provide;
placed according to your will,
let us all our work fulfil.
4 Gladly may we all agree,
bound in one community;
kindly for each other care
all our joys and sorrows share.
5 Love has all our strife destroyed,
rendered all divisions void;
sects and names and parties fall:
you, O Christ, are all in all.
Jubilate Hymns version of 'Christ, from whom all blessings flow'
© Jubilate Hymns Ltd
Loving God, inviting God
You continually call us into communion with You
and with each other, to walk the road together,
to bear each other`s burdens, to care and support each other.
In Jesus Christ, You have come among us, as one of us,
and, by Your Spirit, You are always with us,
alongside, walking with us, helping and caring for us.
In times of stress and strain, times like these,
when we are confronted by,
perhaps even overcome by, things we can`t control,
things which threaten our peace of mind
and which challenge our faith,
turn our minds towards Your unerring truth
and Your everlasting covenant love.
Your ways are clear. Your Word is light and life.
Your will is our healing, our wholeness, our wellbeing…
Fill our hearts with wonder as we consider Your ways, Your Word, Your will for us and for all creation, which is always, no matter what, for good, growth and grace.
Forgive the fearfulness and faithlessness which makes idolaters of us all. Change our hearts O God. Lord have mercy
Forgive the arrogance and pride which make us think
we know better than You, the One who made us,
how to live the best possible life. Humble our hearts O God.
Christ have mercy…
Forgive our unwillingness and inability
to follow and obey the greatest commandment –
to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Touch our hearts O God
with the generosity of Your loving invitation to us and all people.
Lord have mercy…
`Therefore since we have a great High Priest…Jesus, the Son of God,
let us then approach God`s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us
in our time of need.` Hebrews 4: 14, 16
So we come…and hear again Christ`s words of grace to each of us -
`Your sins are forgiven.` Thanks be to God. Amen
Exodus 32: 1-14 The Golden Calf
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Ps. 106: 1-6, 19-23 A Confession of Israel’s Sins
1 Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
3 Happy are those who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times.
4 Remember me, O Lord, when you show favour to your people;
help me when you deliver them;
5 that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory in your heritage.
6 Both we and our ancestors have sinned;
we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly.
19They made a calf at Horeb
and worshipped a cast image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Matthew 22: 1-14 The Parable of the Wedding Banquet
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
O for a closer walk with God
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and his word?
Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made thee mourn,
and drove thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
whate'er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne,
and worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.
Reflection and Q and A
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day the beginning of Mental Health Week. Given the struggles we are all dealing with in this time of pandemic - and we are all involved however indirectly as we watch the news, witness the suffering of many throughout the world, or listen to politicians and public health officials - there is a need for us all to take care, to take care of ourselves and each other.
None of us is invulnerable to worries and concerns – if not worries and concerns for ourselves, then for those whom we love.
There is a need to be gentle and measured in our thinking, in what we do and in how we go about things.
What are you doing to manage the uncertainty of this time?
The people of Israel are highly anxious. Their leader, Moses, has been gone from among them for a long time. They feel abandoned, insecure and worried about the future. (Ring any bells?)
And so left to their own devices, they decide to take things into their own hands and make something visible, something concrete, something they can put their hope and trust in.
I guess it`s understandable – but it`s not right and it`s not helpful.
And it is expressly against what God has been telling them…
God has been telling them they are not to worship like the other peoples of the regions around them worship. That is, they are not to make gods, graven images, sculptures, idols – but that`s exactly what they do.
What do you make of Damien Hirst`s work `The Golden Calf`?
(His work is featured on the cover of the order of service. As a matter of interest, it sold in September 2008 for 10.35 million pounds or $23 million.)
What do you think he is saying?
Aaron – who should have known better – gets involved, gives the people what they are crying out for and sets up festivities. There`s going to be a big party!
God is not pleased by this turn of events. This is not what God wants. God is so displeased He decides He is going to start again – with Moses – and Moses, on hearing this and not thinking it such a good idea, has to remind God, who God is, what God has promised, and what God entered into in making an everlasting covenant.
Is this God under pressure?
Is this Moses coming into himself, engaging robustly with God?
Life is not a `free-for-all`. We don`t get to make up the rules – well not as many as we like to think we do. Covid-19 has shown us that any thought that we are ultimately in control is a mistake; possibly a fatal mistake.
There are rules. There are restrictions – not usually as many as we are experiencing at the moment – but to disregard them is to head for a day of reckoning.
God does not will that so. God`s will is for mercy and wholeness and wellbeing – not false gods and untruth, not empty religion and fake news.
God`s loving will is not for wild partying and reckless revelry – but for celebration and shared fellowship around a table – where all are invited.
And - there are rules for that too. It is not a `free-for-all`. In the Gospel reading, when those first invited to the banquet refuse and others are brought in – there is still a dress code. We don`t get to make the rules. Rules are already there for us – for our wellbeing, for our health, every kind of health…
How healthy are we?
How healthy is the Church, the world?
When everything is unsettled and unsettling rules can help us, hold us, keep us steady and enable us to continue on. We are free then to celebrate.
In Mental Health Week, these words from Paul`s letter to the new Christians at Philippi, set for us today are worth contemplating as we look to continue on in faith, hope and love today celebrating together as we welcome five new members into fellowship of Armadale congregation of the Uniting Church in Australia.
4 Always be filled with joy in the Lord. I will say it again.
Be filled with joy. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.
7 And because you belong to Christ Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings.
His peace can do this far better than our human minds.
8 Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.
9 And do what you learned and received from me—what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.
Philippians 4: 4-9 (ESV – Easy-to-read-version)
As we read and take in these words, consider the biblical stories,
and in these trying times,
may it be so.
Welcome into membership
Joys and concerns
Prayer and the Lord`s Prayer
God of no thing, God of the Cosmos, God within me – eternal, infinite, indescribable, undefinable, omnipresent God, our relationship with you transcends all notions of space and time – before time began you were there, when time ends you will be there. In the conscious biological phase of our existence, like the Israelites in the wilderness, we too have known Your love, and experienced Your care and provision. Your faithful love never fails—not even when we turn away from You: when we ignore Your invitation, or desert You for gods of our own making. Even then You do not abandon us, but reach out—again and again— inviting us back into relationship once more. You invite us to extend that love to the world around us—to care for others as deeply as we care for ourselves. And so we bring the needs of our world before You now.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We note that today is the beginning of Mental Health Week and so we pray for the many who experience mental health conditions from a wide range of causes. We pray for those who are the frontline carers, and that we as a community see fit to devote a larger proportion of our resources and wealth to their care and support. We pray for the Prahran Mission and its mental health initiatives and for our tenants ArrowHealth.
Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer
We pray for our planet Earth and the people who share it with us: We are distressed and sad because we see a world that chooses conflict, guns and violence over cooperation, negotiation and peace; anger over love; a world where influence and decision making is biased by gender, age, colour and wealth; A world that chooses greed over generosity
We agonise because of the direction our world is heading and we seek a peace that recognises value in all life; that challenges oppression; that seeks rest from violence and conflict; a cease to the culture wars that divide society and damage the environment; peace that comes from an equitable sharing of resources to support those suffering health and economic problems due to the coronavirus pandemic; and those whose homes and livelihoods have been threatened by natural disaster and terrorism.
We know we need to change the way we do things in our world. We need to seek change that means all people are valued; that understands that disability does not mean lack of ability. that cherishes this planet and provides sustainable stewardship of its resources; where our political, judicial, business and law enforcement agencies act with wisdom, insight, integrity and compassion.
We know that the peace we seek and the change we need will only come from a harmonious connectedness with you and your creation, and from compassion, gratitude, forgiveness and respect for each other. Fix our hearts and minds on what is true and honourable and right.
Lord in your mercy – Hear our prayer
In our local community we pray for employers and employees, for young and old, for those who are unemployed, and those whose businesses are in danger of collapse, for those in prison, We pray for the many who do not have enough food to eat, or shelter to keep warm; enough employment, or money to pay their bills; enough medicine or medical care. for those who are alone and afraid, those struggling with disrupted schooling; for all our neighbours, both known and unknown to us, We also pray for those who have more than enough, but who still struggle to find meaning and purpose in life; who indulge in dangerous or self-serving activities to dull their pain or loneliness.
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We pray for our congregation in Armadale—our brothers and sisters in Christ, for those who are ill. or whose loved ones are ill, for those who are anxious about the future, for those struggling with their faith, for those who are unable to use technology to maintain a worshipping connection with us. We pray for our minister Fiona and those who minister among us, for all Your people in this place,
Lord, hear our prayer.
TIS 215 `You servants of God`
Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful Name;
The Name all victorious of Jesus extol,
His kingdom is glorious and rules over all.
The waves of the sea have lift up their voice,
Sore troubled that we in Jesus rejoice;
The floods they are roaring, but Jesus is here;
While we are adoring, He always is near.
When devils engage, the billows arise,
And horribly rage, and threaten the skies:
Their fury shall never our steadfastness shock,
The weakest believer is built on a rock.
God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
And still He is nigh, His presence we have;
The great congregation His triumph shall sing,
Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King.
"Salvation to God who sits on the throne!"
Let all cry aloud and honour the Son;
The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim,
Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb.
Then let us adore and give Him His right,
All glory and power, all wisdom and might;
All honour and blessing with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing and infinite love.
May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Spirit,
make you whole hearted in love, whole hearted for Christ,
open hearted and open minded to hear and respond
to Christ`s invitation to life in all its fulness.
And in response may we be generous in inviting others –
today, always. Amen