Worship Online Sunday 3rd October 2021

Jesus’ blessing of the children – a radical act.

Welcome and notices

Grace and peace be with you.

Welcome to a video from St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton. I’m Paul Stephens, the ordained minister in placement.

Today we will be hearing two short passages of scripture which involve children, Jesus and Jesus’ followers. And frankly they are quite challenging!

Don’t forget that to contact us or find out what is on at St Luke’s go to our website: “stlukesuca.org.au” for all the information you need. Please let us know what you think of our videos, we value your feedback.

Light Christ candle

Opening Prayer

Let us come aside for a few moments in quiet prayer. I will shortly lead a prayer adapted from material from Uniting in Worship 2 and the writings of Bruce Prewer …

Try to put aside anything that might distract you.

Take a moment or two to take stock of how things are for you … maybe a need for encouragement, a need for some words of hope or for strength to face difficult matters … a need for assurance or forgiveness …

Then hold onto the good news that the living God who has come amongst us in Jesus, is close …

God, source and home of all things,

in the beginning you sang creation into being

and formed this rich red land;

you are worthy of all praise.

Lord Jesus, brother and healer,

Word of God and one-with-us,

your love for the world took you to the cross;

you make us whole.

Spirit of God, within and among us,

midwife of a world transformed,

and bringer of new life;

you inspire us to live in hope.

God of grace:

Spirit, Son, Father,

whose love never ends,

whose mercy is beyond telling,

whose faithfulness continues to surprise;

May we place you and your way at the centre of our lives …

May we never take your love for us and all things for granted …

May we be honest with ourselves and with you about our flawed nature and our need for forgiveness …

Have mercy upon us, according to your grace in Christ Jesus:  uncover our self-deceits, forgive our sins and deal with the heavy burden of guilt.

Restore us to your way, re invigorate our faith and hope.

Stretch our love so that we may be able to forgive others just as you forgive us.

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen!


Introduction and readings

Both texts you are about to hear involve Jesus trying to shake up the mindset of his followers.

In the first short passage you will hear how those followers were arguing about their ranking … who had the highest status in the group. Who was Jesus’ best friend?

The second passage begins with the followers of Jesus basically treating children as a nuisance; and trying to shoo them away.  They think that Jesus has better things to do than spend time with children.

Bible readings

From The International Children’s Bible

Mark 9:33-37

Who Is the Greatest?

33 Jesus and his followers went to                                                                                                                                 Capernaum and went into a house there. Then Jesus said to them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But the followers did not answer, because their argument on the road was about which one of them was the greatest.

35 Jesus sat down and called the 12 apostles to him. He said, “If anyone wants to be the most important, then he must be last of all and servant of all.”

36 Then Jesus took a small child and had him stand among them. He took the child in his arms and said, 37 “If anyone accepts children like these in my name, then he is also accepting me. And if he accepts me, then he is also accepting the One who sent me.”

Mark 10:13-16

Jesus Accepts Children

13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children. 15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed them.

Another telling:

Sermon: “Jesus’ blessing of children … a radical act.”

Jesus’ words and actions described in these two short passages would have been quite mind-blowing for those who were present.

And if we can dust away some of our own preconceived ideas about what is going on here, we too might find that Jesus has something a bit challenging to say to us.

In Jesus’ day, children were, of course, considered very precious by their families,[1]but beyond their family children had no social or legal status at all.  If a child was Jewish, they also had no place in the life of the local synagogue. It was not until a boy was aged 13 that he could be involved in synagogue after he had had his bar mitzvah. In a sense then a child was a non-entity.[2]  Like women, lepers, tax collectors and so many others, children were amongst the least and the lowly.

It was like children were to be neither seen nor heard.

In the first passage that we heard Jesus disciples are arguing about who in their small group was the greatest.

I am not sure how they tried to measure this.  As I said earlier, maybe they tried to work out who amongst them Jesus considered his best friend.

In 2021, in terms of measuring who is the greatest, I guess we could talk in terms of the number of followers someone has on a social media site, the amount of money someone has amassed, the fact that someone is called a celebrity …

In the groups or organisations or businesses you are associated with or have been associated with, how does or did the pecking order work?

Jesus undercuts all this by bringing children into the picture … and remember what we have just said about the place of children in Israel in those days.

He tells his follows that God’s way involves not fighting for status but serving others … not shooing children away but bringing them into the centre of things … it involves welcoming the least and the lowly.

And in the second passage Jesus commends the approach of children to matters of faith …

We are to receive the good news that Jesus offers with that kind of wide openness and joy that little children can display …

Jesus knew that children can teach us so much.

So, let me conclude with three take away messages from these two passages about Jesus and children.

The first message is that Jesus challenges all worldly ideas about who is the greatest.

The second message is Jesus’ slightly uncomfortable challenge to us and all concerning who we welcome and who we might be inclined to shoo away.

And the third is the good news, that receiving the blessing of Jesus … knowing you are loved and valued by God … is not complicated … it is not about all the stuff you have or have not done … it is about receiving God’s way with the wide-eyed joy and openness that little children display.

Prayerful Affirmation:

Lord Jesus,

preaching good tidings to the people,

proclaiming release to captives,

setting at liberty those who are bound:

we adore you.

Lord Jesus,

friend of the outcast and the poor,

feeder of the hungry,

healer of the sick:

we adore you.

Lord Jesus,

denouncing the oppressor,

exposing the hypocrite,

overcoming evil with good:

we adore you.

Lord Jesus,

pattern of gentleness,

teacher of holiness,

prophet of the kingdom of heaven:

we adore you.

Lord Jesus,

dying to save us from our sin,

rising to give us eternal life,

ascending to prepare our heavenly home:

we adore you. Amen.

From UIW2

Prayers of intercession

Compassionate God,

Through Jesus, you invite us to bring to you all our concerns and the matters that lie heavy on our hearts …

We remember all those … and especially children … who today have no safe place to call home … who today experience fear, poverty and all sorts of trials …

We remember all those … especially children … who are feeling despairing … who struggle to find hope in the world …

We remember all those … and especially children … who we know who are ill, who are impacted by COVID, who are grieving, who are close to death …

In the quiet of our hearts, we name before you are own needs … our own struggles … our own worries …

We pray for the church and all those who seek to reflect the way of your kingdom of faith, hope and love … all those who seek to walk the way of Jesus and bring good news to the poor and liberty to the oppressed …

We offer these and all our prayers in the name of Jesus who taught us to pray and say:

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

now and forever.  Amen.


Being sent to share in God’s Mission


Word of mission

Go forth into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the faint-hearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted;

honour all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.



Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005.  And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.

[1] Brendan Byrne, A costly freedom: a theological reading of Mark’s Gospel,  Strathfield: St Pauls Publications, 2008, pp.151-153, 160-161,

[2] M. Eugene Boring, Mark: a commentary, Louisville: Westminster John Know Press, 2006, pp. 280-281, 289-290


Uniting Barwon Emergency Food Room – Food items required

As you may be aware, demand for emergency food supplies are increasing in the Barwon region.  Uniting runs emergency food pantries in Norlane and Grovedale, and St Luke’s is a designated drop off location for food items.

Currently the emergency pantries are in need of:

  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • Tomato sauce or BBQ sauce
  • Peanut Butter
  • Vegetable Cooking Oil
  • Corn Kernels
  • Cup of Soup – chicken
  • Coco Pops
  • Cornflakes
  • Rice Bubbles
  • Oats – traditional or quick oats
  • Self Raising Flour
  • Shampoo/Conditioner

Smaller packets /jars are more useful than large packets/jars.

You can drop items into St Luke’s on Tuesdays and Friday mornings between 10 and 12 noon.

There are many other ways to be involved in the food for families program – see here: https://foodforfamilies.org.au/get-involved-individuals-families/

Worship Online Sunday 26th September 2021

The Blessing of Animals

During this time of COVID-19 many people have benefited from having companion animals at home …or in our case our daughter’s dog, Alfie.

In so many ways animals, great and small, are a blessing.

In this video we thought we celebrate this … the blessing of animals.  On the day this is video is released it will be just over a week till the feast day of the Christian leader who is renowned for his connection with the care of all creation, St Francis of Assisi.  His feast day is October 4th

Opening Prayer

O God, our God, how great you are.

We praise you for your creation and all that is in it … including we humans.

We are in awe at the complexity and beauty of all that is

Thank you for the light which wakes us

morning by morning,

and for the greater light which shines in Jesus Christ.

You are always more ready to reach out to us than we are to reach out you.

Enable us to search our souls and be honest about our need … our need for the hope you offer through Christ … our need for the forgiveness and healing you offer in Christ …

Enable us to receive your love and grace and empower us by your Spirit to live more fully in the way of Christ … loving you, our neighbours and ourselves … and caring for the good gift of your creation.

We pray in the name of Christ, Amen.

Introduction to the theme and reading

Have you heard the quote attributed to St Francis of Assisi to the effect that Christians should preach the Gospel at all times and only when necessary use words?  Well, sorry to be a spoil sport but there is no evidence that he ever said this and besides he was well known for preaching with words … apparently, he danced on one occasion when preaching a sermon to a congregation that included the Pope of the day.[1]

That said Francis (who was born in 1182 and died in 1226), and the community of followers that gathered around his leadership, was all about living out the gospel in deed as well as word. His life was marked by shunning of worldly goods, prayer, humility and service of the poor.[2]

As a young man Francis experienced a conversion: he gave up the prospect of a life of power and riches to share in a radical living out of the way of the cross of Christ.

[1] Did Francis really say, Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words? – FOCUS (focusequip.org)

[2] Michael W. Blastic, “Franciscans” in William H. Willimon and Richard Lischer (eds.) Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching, Louisville Westminster, John Know Press, 1995, p. 158

Bible reading

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

In “Together in Song” there is a brilliant hymn by William Henry Draper based on the Canticle of the Sun which is a prayer attributed directly to Francis.

Prayer of thanksgiving

God, our Creator,

We give thanks for the blessing of companion animals … and we think of those creatures special to us.

Thank you for the joy, playfulness and sometimes the surprising humour they display. Thank you for their company in lonely hours and the healing their presence can bring. Thank you for the pure beauty of every animal…

Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call them his brothers and sisters. Help us to care for the animals entrusted to us.

In the name of Christ, Amen.[1]

Prayers of intercession 

There is a wonderful prayer which comes probably from the 19th century but reflects the spirit of the ministry of Francis and is associated with him. Let’s make this prayer our prayer …

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is discord, union;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

for your mercy and truth’s sake.

O divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.


The Lord’s Prayer


Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Save us from the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

now and forever.  Amen.


Word of mission

Go forth into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the faint-hearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted;

honour all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.





The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious unto you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,

and give you peace. Amen.



Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005.  And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.

[1] Adapted from prayers found at https://www.humanesociety.org/sites/default/files/archive/assets/pdfs/faith/blessing-of-the-animals.pdf

Foster Care week – Could you become a Foster Carer?

This week just gone has been Foster Care week.

Barwon Child Youth and Family works with Foster carers in Geelong to ensure that children in need of care find safe and nurturing homes to stay in when life turns upside down.

Could you become a Foster Carer?

To celebrate Foster Care Week, BCYF is launching a new video to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer. This animation is a creative introduction to foster care that will help not only spread the message about the need for more carers, but also explain more about what foster care is and the process involved.

Find out more information online about becoming a foster carer.



Worship Online Sunday 19th of September

Caring for Creation

Dear friends, Grace and peace be with you.

These days of COVID 19 are difficult … many are feeling very isolated …

Now I don’t want to try to paper over the reality of how many of us are feeling … but at least we are in the season of Spring … with signs of new life all around us.

If you are like me and suffer from hay fever there can be some negatives about all the pollen in the air … but wow isn’t it amazing to see what a few weeks ago was a bare branch suddenly now covered in bright blossom.

Today we celebrate God’s gift of creation and we will be showcasing some of the ways that local people are going about caring for it.

By the way next week  .. September 26th … given it is close to the feast day of St Francis of Assisi … we will be giving thanks to God for the blessing of animals. And we are inviting you to send us pictures of animals that have been a blessing to you.  Simply email your pictures to linda.salamy@stlukesuca.org.au and let us know that you’re happy for these to be used in the video and on social media.

Opening Prayer

The prayers for today’s service are adapted from resources on the Church of Scotland website.

Holy Creator God,
Whose knowledge is too wonderful for us,
Who created the world and all that it contains,
Who knows each blade of grass and hair upon our head,
We are grateful for the part we play in Your vision for creation
And we offer You praise for Your infinite love for us and our world.

Merciful God,
we confess that we think we know what is best.
We go our own way instead of Yours.
We fill our needs before the needs of others.
Forgive us for relying on our own wisdom instead of Yours.
Forgive us for the ways in which we place ourselves at the centre of Your creation
instead of part of it.

Amend what we are,
direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in Your wisdom
and walk in Your ways,
To the glory of Your holy name.

We pray all of this in your name,

One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

September 19th | The Church of Scotland

 Introduction to the reading

Listen now, to some selected verses from a wonderful Psalm which celebrates the creative activity of God, Psalm 104.

The Psalm is quite long and so I would encourage you to get out your Bibles and read it in its entirety. There are so many wonderful images in this Psalm.

What is clear from this Psalm is that the creative activity of God lies behind all the wonders of the world around us.

Francis Collins is currently the head of the National Institute of Health in the USA and has a key role in that country’s response to COVID-19.

Collins is a Christian, actually a member of the United Methodist Church. In a recent interview he spoke humbly about the role of a scientist.

“You get a chance once in a while as a scientist, to discover something that no human knew before, but God knew it. … It’s a little glimpse of God’s mind. In a way that’s what science is doing. It’s glimpsing God’s mind and being in awe of it.” [1]

Psalm 104: 1-4, 10-15, 24-26, 33.

Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.

You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
they flow between the hills,
giving drink to every wild animal;
the wild asses quench their thirst.
By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

Prayers of intercession

God of heaven and earth,
through Jesus Christ You promise to hear us when we pray to You in His name.
Confident in Your love and mercy
we offer our prayer.

Empower the church throughout the world in its life and witness.

Guide the rulers of the nations.
Inspire them to strive for peace and justice,
that all Your children may dwell secure,
free of war and injustice.

May the world’s poor and suffering have their rightful share of food, medical care, and shelter,
and so have the necessities of a life of dignity.

Give us respect and profound care for all you have created, so your whole creation may resound in an anthem of praise to Your glorious name.

Sustain and comfort all you suffer … all who need your healing touch.
Make the sick whole,
Give hope to the dying
Comfort those who mourn

Uphold all who suffer in body or mind,
not only those we know and love
but also those known only to You,
that they may know the peace and joy of Your supporting care.

O God,
in Your loving purpose
answer our prayers and fulfil our hopes.
In all things for which we pray,
give us the will to seek to bring them about,
for the sake of Jesus Christ Amen.

September 19th | The Church of Scotland

 The Lord’s Prayer

Thanks to Michelle

Today we want to recognise and thank Michelle Walker for many things … but particularly given our theme … her amazing leadership as part of the St Luke’s environment group and the Repair Café.  You can read more about this in a story featured in Humans in Geelong:

Repair Cafe, Michelle

Blessings Michelle as you return to Queensland – it was great to have you in the neighbourhood!



Word of mission

Go forth into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the faint-hearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted;

honour all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.





The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious unto you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,

and give you peace. Amen.



Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005.  And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.

[1] “Francis Collins: Science ‘a glimpse of God’s mind, ’From Faith and leadership, Publication of Duke Divinity School, 30/8/2021 https://faithandleadership.com/francis-collins-science-glimpse-gods-mind?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Read%20more&utm_campaign=fl_newsletter

[2] Joint Statement on the Environment.pdf (archbishopofcanterbury.org)

Worship Online Sunday 12th September 2021

In recent weeks we have been looking at the resources we can draw on to keep afloat in these times.  This week our attention turns to the value of “wisdom.”

Given the maximum number of people who can attend in-person worship is 20 it looks like the next few weeks we will be continuing with online videos like this one.

Next week we will be celebrating local endeavours to care for God’s good gift of creation; and on September 26th … given it is close to the feast day of St Francis of Assisi … we will be giving thanks to God for the blessing of animals. And we are inviting you to send us pictures of animals that have been a blessing to you.

Opening Prayer

Loving God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We praise you for the wonders and mystery of your creation of which we are a part.

We praise you for the amazing tapestry of the stars and planets in the clear night sky;

We praise you for the all the unfolding life of this season of spring … fresh green shoots, the joy of the dawn chorus of birdsongs, and the vibrant colour and scents of blossom,

Enable us to be truly thankful for the blessing of this universe in which we have a home.

Help us to discern your presence in the midst of all the things that make up our daily lives.

And enable us, right now, to be open to you … to listen for your word of wisdom for us …

Forgive us when we fail to seek your guidance, when we convince ourselves that our way is always the best way and that we can do it all by ourselves.

Open us to the transformation and renewal that your Spirit can truly make to us and our lives.

May we grasp hold of your forgiveness, your grace and your life poured out in Christ Jesus.

Give us the courage and strength to walk Jesus way … the way of the cross and the empty tomb.

And we pray in the name of Jesus. the way, the truth and the life.


Today’s Readings:

Proverbs 1:20-27,33

Mark 8:27-31

For a deeper dive into Proverbs:

If you would like to sing along with the hymn Paul mentioned, here’s a version you can join in with:

Prayers of intercession

Gracious God,

Help us to follow in the way of Jesus, to walk his way of wisdom;

Empower us to be ambassadors of the path of abundant life that he offers.

We pray for our world that is broken and in pain.
For those who are in sorrow and need.
For the hungry, poor, and lonely.
For the sick and bereaved.
Be their rock and constant companion through difficult and dark days.

We pray for all who are struggling to find truth and wisdom in the world…

We hold before you those known to us with deep and often unnamed needs … the anxious, the lonely, the unloved, the sick the dying and the grieving …

We also remember before you those who are genuinely putting themselves at risk for the sake of others … medical staff, emergency service personnel, teachers, children’s workers, carers, public transport drivers …

Draw near to all in need and grant the peace of Your presence,
the healing of Your touch and Your guidance
and assurance of love
so that all who are weak and weary
may walk in hope and faith.
In the name of Christ, Amen

Elements of this prayer are by Rev Chris Blackshaw, Ayr Farming Support Minister, September 12th, 16th Sunday after Pentecost | The Church of Scotland

Word of mission

Go forth into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast that which is good;

render to no one evil for evil;

strengthen the faint-hearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted;

honour all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Worship Online Sunday 5th September

Staying Afloat – Finding Sanctuary

Welcome to a video from St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton. I’m Paul Stephens, the minster in placement.

In the last video we looked at how prayer is literarily a life-giving gift.  This week our focus is on the value of finding sanctuary in our lives.

Don’t forget that to contact us or find out what is on at St Luke’s (or in the current situation “not on”), … go to our website: stlukesuca.org.au for all the information you need.

Opening Prayer

Faithful God, you draw near to us

in our joy and in our grief,

in our hope and in our despair.

When we are bowed down, you raise us anew.

We turn to you now in search of your healing touch.

In you is found true sanctuary.

God of compassion and love,

Open our eyes, dispel our fears,

… show us the real life you offer through

the Risen crucified One, Jesus Christ.

Based on a prayer posted on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways website. http://www.ucc.org/worship/worship-ways/

Merciful God,
You deal with us,
according to your unwavering love;
according to your abundant mercy
help us to name our need of you …

help us to be honest about the sin and the guilt we have carried for so long…

Write in the deepest recesses of our beings the good news of your forgiveness and grace …
Free us to live the abundant lives you desire for each of us … lives marked by love of you, neighbour and self.

Create in us clean hearts,
Renew your spirit within us.
Restore to us the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in us a willing spirit.

We offer these our prayers in the name of Christ. Amen.

Based on Psalm 51 and a prayer written by Rev. Abi, and posted on Rev. Abi’s Long and Winding Road blog

Scripture reading:

Lamentations 3: 19-24

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

 Matthew 11: 25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Prayers of intercession

This prayer is based on a prayer by the late Rev. Bruce Prewer.

Holy God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

You embrace all time and eternity in your love,

but through Jesus we know you are concerned for each one of us, hear our prayers for our brothers and sisters in the human family who this day are enduring hard times.

 Bless those near us or far away whose very being is torn by grief. Come to them through the arms and words of others, that they may be embraced with your comfort.

Bless those near to us or far away who are suffering from injury or disease … especially those with COVID-19. May they receive both medical care and the inner resources to regain their health.

Bless those near us or far away who are finding the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and livelihoods just so hard.  We pray you might bless leaders, medical authorities and practitioners, scientists … all who seek to bring an end to this pandemic.

Bless those near or far away who are unjustly treated; socially or politically, at work or at home, free or captive. Bring justice and rehabilitation, we pray.

Bless those near us or far away, who flee oppression and violence. We pray that they might find genuine sanctuary … and we think at this time particularly of the people of Afghanistan.

Bless those near us or far away, who are seeking something to put their faith in.  May they find the abundant life found in Jesus Christ.

Bless those known to us with needs, whether they be near or far away … Help us to uphold each person in prayer and to offer the appropriate support.

Holy God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

please assist us to turn our good intentions into deeds and to carry our prayers over into all the coming and going of this week ahead of us. Through Christ our model and our enabler.




Word of mission

Go in peace, and remember:

goodness is stronger than evil;

love is stronger than hate;

light is stronger than darkness;

life is stronger than death;

victory is ours

through Christ who loved us.




Unless otherwise stated prayers are either by the author or based on resources from Uniting in Worship 2 © Uniting Church Press, Sydney, 2005.  And images are from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public domain.


Call to Worship:

A Place of Sanctuary

From the corners of worry and fear,
from the shadows where we huddle with our doubts,
God calls us to this place of sanctuary
where we can draw from Love’s deep wells.

In every moment where we look for strength to continue,
in every time wonder if faith is worth it,
Jesus calls us to this time 
where we can welcome the peace given to us.

In every person who embraces us with acceptance,
in every touch that offers healing and hope,
the Spirit calls us to see those around us
as God’s beloved, our sisters and brothers of grace.


~ written by Thom Schuman, and posted on Lectionary Liturgies. http://lectionaryliturgies.blogspot.ca/


[1] Faith and Theology: Karl Barth: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (faith-theology.com)

Worship online Sunday 29th August 2021

Staying afloat in the Pandemic – The Gift of Prayer

Our theme in this video again builds on a theme that I have been following for some weeks: “Staying afloat … in today’s world.”   And today our focus will be on something that people of faith deeply value: “the gift that is prayer.”

Scripture Reading

Scripture reading: Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.


Prayers from today’s service

Opening Prayer

When Christians gather for worship we begin with acknowledging that we are in the presence of God. The God who is creator the cosmos, yet who has come amongst us in the person of Jesus, and indeed who knows you and me better than we know ourselves.

The following opening prayer includes elements of a prayer by John Harvey from the Church of Scotland.

Be still now … try to put to one side anything that might distract you … to pause and give space for God …

Let us pray:

Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

You embrace all time and eternity in your care,

Yet you are right here with each of us in this present moment …

As we pause in prayer, enable us to still our rushing, swirling thoughts … so we might concentrate on you … our life and our hope.

Open our hearts and souls to your peace and your healing …

Compassionate God who knows us intimately and unconditionally look in mercy on us and deal with those aspects of our living and our thinking that do not equate with or indeed distort the way of Jesus.

Help us to come clean with ourselves and with you about our deep and often hidden needs …

Challenge us and forgive us;

speak your word for us …

Show us how to search for you

in the midst of life;

help us to believe and trust

that no wrong we have done,

and no good we have failed to do,

is too great for you to pardon,

through Jesus Christ the Son, Amen.

Elements of this prayer are by Rev. John Harvey, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.


Prayers of praise and intercession

 Let us continue in prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving and intercession with elements from a prayer by Iain MacDonald again from the Church of Scotland.

Prayers of the People

Ever faithful Father,

Ever giving Son,

Ever present Spirit,

Holy Three and Holy One,

For the many gifts you grant us

and the opportunity to enjoy these things;

For your daily provision

and for the constant signs of your healing love;

For hope amidst despair

and the light which always shines;

For all these things we are, however, inadequately “thankful.’

May our thanks and praise, our deep gratitude, flow out into our words, thoughts and actions.

When the opportunities come our way,

may we serve you by serving others,

enable us to be healers,


and ambassadors of the Gospel of hope … the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Compassionate God,

In silence we bring before you those people and issues that are closest to us and that occupy our minds at this time …

God who in Jesus has made clear that you love the whole world and its peoples,

we bring before you people and issues from around our planet …

we think of people impacted by the pandemic,

by despondency and a lack of hope,

by fear,

by hate,

by oppressive and violent regimes,

by disasters (natural or otherwise),

by hunger and thirst,

by grief and the nearness of death …

God of hope and healing,

May we in some way be a part of the answer to these the prayers of our hearts …

We offer these prayers in the name of Jesus Christ the one who is the way, the truth and the life,


Elements of this prayer are based on prayer by Rev Iain MacDonald.  Posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website. http://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/

A hymn for today:


Let’s Yarn about our Multicultural Church

The Assembly Resourcing Unit is inviting people who are inspired to talk about what it looks like to live faith and life cross-culturally to come together on Thursday 29 July for an online conversation.

  • What does it look like to embrace unity-in-diversity in our Church?
  • What deeper forms or models of shared life might God be calling us to?
  • Where might new opportunities lie for collaboration?
  • Where can you see intercultural creativity and imagination?

Intercultural is one of four pillars in the most recent Strategic Plan of the Assembly describing centres of future work and development needed to enable the Church to move boldly and confidently into the future. In our life and worship we seek to be a community of faith sharing faith across boundaries, in which the rich diversity of God’s people is seen and celebrated.

We would love to hear what our intercultural church looks like from where you stand, and yarn some more about the possibilities to come.

You can join Let’s Yarn About Our Intercultural Church on Thursday 29 July, 7.30pm AEST via Zoom with the following link or by putting in the meeting I.D. and passcode below.

Join the meeting

Meeting ID: 936 4281 6151
Passcode: 479873

More information here:

Let’s Yarn About Our Intercultural Church

Worship Online Sunday 25th of June – Staying afloat: You be you

Welcome to this Sunday’s worship time. I’m Lloyd Walker, one of the Lay Preachers at St Luke’s Uniting Church here in Highton. Paul, St Luke’s Highton Ordained Minister, will be back next week.

Today I’m continuing the theme Paul started a couple of weeks ago – Remaining Afloat in Challenging times.  My focus is going to be supporting each other – particularly those with little experience of faith and the younger members of our family and community.



Psalm 34:1-8 – stay close to God

1 John 3:11-24 – love one another

Background: https://faith.yale.edu/media/you-do-you

Ethics of authenticity in Disney’s Frozen & Moana


Reflection as we come to worship.

Out of my depth in your love – by Noel Richards & Horley (SCE255)

Acknowledgement of Country and welcome

This land is God’s land and God’s Spirit dwells here. We acknowledge the Wadawurrung people, traditional custodians of this land under God.  We recognise that they have walked and cared for this land, respecting the Creator Spirit’s tender care for all around us. May we draw together in our humanity and kinship as children of God in this great South Land

 Opening prayer

God, like David before us, we find our comfort and our hope in you. We celebrate your generosity to us – a land of contrasts, with space, clean air and such diversity of climate, plants and animals. In recent centuries our human diversity has added to this colour and community.

And over these years you have continued to speak into our community and our lives – calling us to care and protect:

  • each other, and particularly the vulnerable
  • this land in which we live – and the natural world that we share it with
  • truth and justice, looking always to you for guidance.

Forgive us God that we are stiff necked people.

That we do not embrace the generosity and self-sacrifice that your Son modelled – we focus too often on ourselves

That we are stubborn and turn deaf ears to your still small voice, or even the clanging alarm, when you call us to repent of destructive and evil ways

When we claim we are too busy or avoid going out of our way, to pick up after ourselves, lend a hand to others in need, or even to listen to our sisters and brothers, even our children, crying out for help and care.

Today open our ears and our hearts to listen and learn from you, the lessons from your Son Jesus, and the guidance and courage offered by your Holy Spirit.  Inspire and challenge us to join with your saints as your hands and feet, your physical presence to those who feel alone, lost and struggling to stay afloat.


Family of God, God is always present, even in the darkest of times and when our actions (or inaction) shake us to our core. There is enough mercy to cover all your sins, and not yours only, but those of the whole world. Therefore put the past and its errors behind you, vowing to live as Christ called you to serve in the world.

Live as forgiven people, for in Christ, such you truly are!

Thanks be to God! Amen.

Today I want to draw from a podcast that provoked me to rethink about a song (or a couple of songs) that played over and over in our house around 2013.

The Podcast was from the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture called “You do You”


One of the speakers leads a 7 week course called “Life Worth Living”. https://gracefarms.org/life-worth-living/

And as part of that course, they reflect on some of the Movies and other popular culture that we connect with. As promised the two movies I want to look at today are Disney’s Frozen and Moana.  They both struck a cord with my tweenage daughters; and each had heroine characters.

Frozen is a rewriting of Hans Christian Andersons ‘The Snow Queen’ story, like a number of recent movies and musicals it upends the simplistic good vs evil character (think for example “Wicked” the musical – a different take on Wizard of Oz).

The hit song from Frozen is ‘Let it Go’ by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Here the teenage young Queen Elsa – cursed that everything she touches turns to ice –  runs away, in her mind to protect her sister Anna. These young women have been orphaned for several years after their parents were lost at sea. Elsa has high expectations on her shoulders.

The song starts in a minor key to match Elsa’s mood. And her words are a reflection, not just of her feelings, but the pain of years trying to live up to expectations:

Clip 1 – Wind is howling…

Many in our world today, and particularly our young people, are struggling with expectations. Play fair, work hard, study to get a good qualification and job…. And so it goes. “Be the good girl/boy to make us proud” whether said or unsaid is there.  And for some it doesn’t stop as they look for a partner, have children, seek job, a house….

In our mostly capitalist society, jumping off or going feral is rarely an option for most except the well off.

Now Elsa decides to cut herself off, and ‘break free’ – but listen to her new expectations… now in a Major key so full of hope.

Clip 2 – It’s time to see what I can do

You can see why she’s excited, so much potential, she can do anything.

And some get away with living their lives this way, ‘test the limits of what I can do’

But in the same breath are the compromises –  “no right, no wrong, no rules for me.”

In recent years we’ve seen corporate giants, politicians, world leaders all with the same view point – the rules don’t apply to me – I don’t accept there is ‘right or wrong’…. It’s my way or the highway!

And you’ll find this conundrum in the boy’s movies too – Captain America and Thor (the good guys) seem to operate on their own rules at times as if things like torture is OK if you are a good guy.

Frozen unpacks what this all leads to: a bit winter, pain and suffering for all (including Elsa), and eventually a willingness to seek forgiveness.

Spoiler alert – And ‘true love’ that breaks the spell – isn’t in a lover’s kiss – it is a gift of self-sacrifice her younger sister offers to save her beloved Elsa.

I’m sure you can see plenty of parallels in the reading from 1 John today –  v16 & 17: We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other. If we have all we need and see one of our own people in need, we must have pity on that person, or else we cannot say we love God.

Let’s look at Moana – set in our Pacific Region, drawing on First People mythology.

Moana is the daughter of the Chief of the island Tribe and this enlightened community recognises the authority of women and men to lead, so Moana is in line to become Chief after her father.

It is a generally happy community, everyone seems to know their place and all is well. Except that Moana can’t understand why she is drawn to the ocean – something strictly out of bounds to go beyond the protected bay.  In this story though is a grandparent figure – the wise and somewhat mischievous Gramma Tala.

When their food supplies start to go bad, Moana follows her heart and the stories of the past from her Gramma to seek the solution – to right an ancient wrong. Here though there is uncertainty.  And the presence of her beloved Gramma comes to her.

Moana – Clip 1.

You can see similar pains to Elsa’s being reflected in the words of Gramma Tala as she supports Moana. But the solution isn’t cutting yourself off.

To give her courage to keep going, a further reflection of what growing up, learning but also something else…

Moana – Clip 2.

Wise counsel indeed. That ‘voice inside you’ for those of us who follow Christ (and even those who don’t yet) is often the ‘still small voice of God.’ This is the counsel needed for those who stand with Christ against oppression, injustice or evil – yes learn from family, friends, and history, but don’t ignore that voice calling you to be true to who you are!

Here is a story of someone who is supported by wise elders, a person who truly believes in them and wants to take up their God given role true to their calling – not constrained by the accepted norms of the world.  We should remember that Jesus family came to ‘take him home’ because the crowds were saying he was mad because he spoke out against the Pharisees and Saducees. It was only because Jesus remained in conversation with his Father God – through at least daily prayer – that he stayed the course.

This is the love that has seen Greta Thunberg’s parents support her to speak out about climate change, Archbishop Desmond Tutu to follow a calling not to power and control, but to transformation of a whole society through a deep love and sense of the love of God for all.

Moana – Clip 3

May we too know the way for our lives as we follow Jesus’ lead, and support others – young and old – and they try to understand God’s voice to them and that ‘you do you’ authentically.

MOVIE CLIPS FROM: Frozen ©2013 Walt Disney Animation Studios “Let it Go” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez.  Performed by: Idina Menzel

And Moana ©2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios  “I am Moana”

Sung by Auli’i Cravalho and Rachel House;  Composer: Mark Mancina Lyrics: Lin-manuel Miranda, Opetaia Tavita Foa’i

We respond

Christ Jesus, source of my healing and joy of my desiring,

I believe in you.

I believe in you more than the boasts of the arrogant,

more than the duplicity of the cunning,

more than the cynicism of the embittered.

Holy Spirit, breath of my hoping and fire of my loving,

I believe in you.

I believe in you more than the myopia of the clever,

more than the evasions of the cowardly,

more than the apathy of the negligent.

Holy God, you are far too big for our minds yet humble enough

to reside with the meek and the poor

and to craft beauty out of disasters.

I believe in you! Live and guide me – today and forever.

Prayers of the People (from Dr Diedre Palmer – past President of the UCA )

Gracious and loving God,

You call us to love you with our whole being, and to love our neighbours as ourselves.

At this time of upheaval and distress for nations and people across our world, may your love hold us together.

May your love be the lens through which we see each other and your world.

Lord Jesus Christ, you are present with us, as one who knows our suffering, bring comfort and peace to all those who are grieving the loss of loved ones, work, connection and hope for the future.

May we embody your compassion – responding to the suffering of our neighbours, our families, our friends, and strangers with generosity.

Life-giving Spirit, you weave us together as the Body of Christ, strengthen our life together, even though we are physically separated. Nurture us in faith and discipleship, that we may bear witness through our living, to your abundant grace and liberating hope for all people, and the whole creation.

Through Christ our Life and Hope, we pray. Amen..



(Lords prayer)

Our Father who is in heaven

Hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come, your will be done

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us

Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us

For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory

Now and forever

. Amen.


Will you take the time to listen for the cry of one seeking answers in this complex world?

Will you always seek to discover the humanity and child of God in all you meet – and help them find God’s words for them.

When others try to shut down or supress your prophets and servants, call out to hear more of God’s message, even if it hurts and is uncomfortable.

And rest assured, that nothing can separate you from the love of God – NOTHING, not even your own self-doubt!


And the empowering grace of Christ Jesus,

the overflowing love of God,

and the embrace of the Spirit,

rest with you now and always,




Youtube song

Lord I come to You – Geoff Bullock ©1992