Lectionary -- Ordinary 23 Year C

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Jeremiah 18:1-11 The clay in the potter's hand
Psalm 139:1-6,13-18 O Lord, you have searched me and known me
Philemon 1-21 Welcome him as you would welcome me
Luke 14:25-33 Counting the cost of discipleship

Possible Hymns
(Numbers refer to The Australian Hymn Book and its supplement Sing Alleluia)
SA 88 To Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
8 A mighty stronghold is our God
46 O God our help in ages past
153 This, this is the God we adore
252 Alone you went forth O Lord
258 When I survey the wondrous cross
331 Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire
408 Lord in the strength of grace
461 Why should cross and trial grieve me
462 Jesus, thy boundless love to me
480 Forth in thy name O Lord I go
496 `Take up your cross', the Saviour said
520 Take my life and let it be/ consecrated Lord to thee
528 Make me a captive, Lord
531 When we walk with the Lord
556 Creator of the earth and skies
557 Lord of creation to you be all praise!
562 All who love and serve our city

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Sermon summary - Pentecost 16 (Ordinary 23) Year C (Click here for complete sermon)

The Value of Human Life

[Background note: This sermon, based Biblically on the Old Testament reading for this Sunday, was prepared in 1995 when a public campaign was being waged by influential groups to have the law of the State changed to provide for voluntary euthanasia by medical intervention. It was at about the same time that the Northern Territory in Australia brought in the first law passed by any legislature in the world to provide for euthanasia. That law was later overturned by the Australian Federal Parliament. I had previously been engaged in social psychological research which shows that attitudes to the taking of human life are not a simple single factor depending upon a belief such as one that only God has the right to take a life, although such attitudes are clearly influenced by basic beliefs of that kind Much in contemporary social and political life depends upon our beliefs about the sovereignty of God in relation to the rights of individuals and societies. Jeremiah's lesson, in the OT reading for today, about the authority of the potter over the clay is at the centre of Christian and Jewish beliefs about the rights we have over our own lives, particularly in regard to euthanasia. It is now a point at which believers, though still debating particular policies, are taking a different position from secular humanists. Different implications follow from belief in unlimited human sovereignty rather than belief in God.]

Abortion and euthanasia are difficult questions. Most of us in the course of a lifetime will be confronted in our own families with really difficult choices on matters of life and death. So let us do all that we can to encourage and support one another when we face these difficult questions.

Are there any guidelines?
Is it all a matter of individual choice? While people must decide for themselves what they will do, there are at least some goals we should strive for. The pressures to conform to a secular way of life are intense, they become more and more insistent, and more openly anti-Christian. Some sense of the sanctity of life is basic to a Christian understanding. Biblically speaking, a person is "in the image of God", able to relate to God, and to relate to others in the kind of relationship that Jesus enjoyed with God the Father. Here we can learn something from the Old Testament reading for today [Jeremiah 18:1-11] about the lesson that Jeremiah learned watching the potter at work at his wheel. [See also Jeremiah 18:11-12; Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Romans 9:20-21]. There is a given character to life - it is part of our trust in God to accept what is given to us.

Who has a right to commit suicide?
It should be obvious that most societies are very effective in conveying messages of rejection to people who are not wanted. Is a person's subjective assessment of the worthwhileness of their life to be decisive? John Donne could write "No man is an island, entire to itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. .... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

We are not our own. The vessel in which we have our life in this world was made by God for a purpose.
Nor are we on our own. We do not have this life alone as individuals, but in relationship to others.

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Order of Service - Pentecost 14 (Ordinary 23) Year C

The Gathering of the People of God

CALL TO WORSHIP
The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. -- John 4:23-24

HYMN 331 Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire

PRAYER OF ADORATION
Let us acknowledge the greatness and majesty of God as we offer our humble adoration:
Blessed are you, almighty Father, sovereign ruler of all creation:
we glorify and adore you.
Blessed are you, Lord Jesus Christ, loving Saviour of the world:
we glorify and adore you.
Blessed are you, eternal Spirit, gracious source of light and life:
we glorify and adore you.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Lord of endless power and might,
we praise your name for ever and ever.

CONFESSION
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. -- 1 John 1:8
In silence, let us confess our sins; for the Lord is merciful and compassionate to all. [Silence]

DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]
Hear then Christ's word of grace to us: Your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

DOXOLOGY: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

WELCOME AND GREETING EACH OTHER

Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: Accepting the work of the creator.
A word to the children and blessing

OLD TESTAMENT Jeremiah 18:1-11 The clay in the potter's hand
PSALM 139:1-6,(7-12),13-18 O Lord, you have searched me and known me
EPISTLE Philemon 1-21 Welcome him as you would welcome me
GOSPEL Luke 14:25-33 Counting the cost of discipleship

HYMN 8 A mighty stronghold is our God

SERMON

HYMN 528 Make me a captive, Lord

OFFERING AND DEDICATION
SHARING TIME [Notices, celebrations, requests for intercessions]
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.
For all people in their daily life and work;
for our families, friends and neighbours, and for those who are alone.
For this community, our country, and the world;
for all who work for justice, freedom and peace.
For the just and proper use of your creation;
for the victims of hunger, fear, injustice and oppression.
For all who are in danger, sorrow, or any kind of trouble;
for those who minister to the sick, the friendless and the needy.
For the peace and unity of the Church of God;
for all who proclaim the gospel, and for all seek the truth.
For the Uniting Church in Australia, for James President of the Assembly
for ... our Moderator and for ...,
for elders and members of the church council,
and for all who hold office in this congregation;
for all who serve God in the church.
For our own needs, and for others for whom you have called us to pray.
[Silence]
Hear us, Lord
for your mercy is great.
We thank you, Lord, for all the blessings of life.
[Silence
We exalt you, O God our king;
and praise your name for ever and ever.
We give thanks for all those who have died in the peace of Christ, and for the promise of your eternal kingdom.
[Silence]
In Christ you have called us to eternal glory;
to you be praise for ever and ever. Amen.

COLLECT FOR THE DAY
Lord of the ages, you have called your church to keep watch in the life of the world and to discern the signs of the times. Grant us the wisdom which your Spirit bestows, that with courage we may proclaim your prophetic word, and as faithful disciples and witnesses of the cross may finish the work you have given us to do; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE LORD'S PRAYER

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN 153 This, this is the God we adore

WORD OF MISSION
BLESSING
DISMISSAL Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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