Service for Sunday 12th July 2020 – Rev Louis van Laar:

Servicing the Bald Hills and nearby Communities

Service for Sunday 12th July 2020 – Rev Louis van Laar:


Lighting the Candle:

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness

but will have the light of life.’

Let us be mindful of each other as we engage in worship,

those who worship at home

and those who worship in the chapel:


The Lord be with you AND ALSO WITH YOU

We Focus on God    (suggested by Romans 3:3-5)

We come now in worship,

not because we believe in God,

but because God believes in us.

We live only through such trust,

utter trust, which begins and ends

with the faithfulness of God towards us.



Faithful and righteous God,

we pause the hurriedness of our life

to acknowledge you as LORD

the one who made all that is,

who sustains all who are,

and who guarantees us a future

even when time shall be more…

This comforts us even as it fills us with awe;

We entrust ourselves totally to your mercy and grace

as we praise you for how you have shown yourself

through Christ Jesus

and how you enliven us through your gifted Spirit.

May your word take root in our heart, mind and will

that we may bear much fruit for your kingdom.

we also pray as our Lord taught us to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done, on earth as it is 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



Psalm 119:105-112

Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light to my path.
I am severely afflicted;
    give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
I hold my life in my hand continually,
    but I do not forget your law.
Your decrees are my heritage for ever;
    they are the joy of my heart.

ROMANS 2:25 – 3:20

ROMANS 2:25-3:20

(2) 25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

(3) 1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written,

‘So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.’

5 But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not say (as some people slander us by saying that we say), ‘Let us do evil so that good may come’? Their condemnation is deserved!

9 What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, 10 as it is written:

‘There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who has understanding,
        there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside, together they have become worthless;
    there is no one who shows kindness,
        there is not even one.’
13 ‘Their throats are opened graves;
    they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of vipers is under their lips.’
14     ‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’
15 ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery are in their paths,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.’
18     ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For ‘no human being will be justified in his sight’ by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

In this is the Word of the Lord   WE HEAR AND REPENT, O LORD

MATTHEW 13: 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears[a] listen!’

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.[c] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’

This is the Gospel of our Lord  PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST

Prayer of Confession

We come LORD                    (Romans 3:10-18)

acknowledging the truth of your word,

that there is no one who is righteous…

each and all live within the shadow of your wrath;

we pray, do not give us up, O Lord

Lord have mercy  LORD HAVE MERCY

We come LORD

conscious of the evidence all around us

of how we refuse kindness,

especially to those from overseas searching for it here

as asylum seekers or refugees;

how we utter bitter assessments of others,

labelling as lazy those who do not work because there is none to find;

how we use falsehoods  and pious phrases to deceive,

redefining what is unjust as just;

how we thus poison any sense of a common good

which still, however poorly, images your kingdom…

Christ have mercy CHRIST HAVE MERCY

We come LORD                    (Matt 13:18-23)

as a people exposed to your word:

  • at times simply not bothering to grasp what you want us to hear,

and we have taken away what might have been life for us;

  • at times enthusiastically welcoming an insight

only to let it go

when the cost of allowing it to permeate our life becomes obvious;

  • at times appropriating a message

then giving in to cultural expectations

which squash its life giving potential…

Lord have mercy  LORD HAVE MERCY

Jesus Christ our Lord,

who died for us,

forgive us all that is past;

and grant that we may serve you

in newness of life

bearing fruit a hundredfold,

to the glory of your name.

Christ have mercy CHRIST HAVE MERCY

Declaration of Reconciliation

God remains faithful, even if all prove faithless;

God remains true, even if all prove false;

God remains righteous, even if all prove sinners…

God proves his love for us

in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us,

we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son

so we say with joy in our hearts THANKS BE TO GOD

Passing the Peace.. as we raise our hands in blessing to those unseen…
The peace of the Risen Lord be with you all  AND ALSO WITH YOU.


I noted ‘dead’ instead of ‘deed’ in text…

Contemporary Word   THE HUMAN CONDITION

The USA government is investing just over an additional two billion dollars in a potential vaccine and treatment of the Covid-19 virus.

The USA on Tuesday announced it was providing $1.6 billion in funding

for the development and manufacture of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate produced by biotech firm Novavax… 

Novavax agrees to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine,

potentially by the end of the year.

Separately, the US also said it was providing $450 million to Regeneron

for its experimental COVID-19 treatment and prophylaxis,

a combination of two antibodies.

Earlier in the year, the USA had provided 1.2 billion dollars

to the Oxford University vaccine

that is being developed by AstraZeneca.

Huge amounts of money spent to find a biological fix

to counter the global pandemic…

science will fix it!

or technology will be the global warming messiah…

We’ll just keep on doing what we are doing

and hope some technological fix will sort out climate change…

We have such incredible self-confidence!

Paul persists in introducing the Christians in Rome

to a universal pandemic which infects each and all!

This pandemic pathogen did not find its way

from a species of plant or animal to infect humanity, rather the reverse. Humanity infected the rest of creation! (see Romans 5).

Paul persists in emphasizing that nothing any person individually,

or all people collectively, can do, offers a fix for this pandemic.

The name of this virus is mentioned

in the last verse of this morning’s Romans text: SIN.

That is Paul’s diagnosis based on the evidence of its symptoms

within humanity. Paul offers two lists of these symptoms,

the first in chapter one:

he mentions abhorrent sexual practices vv. 24-28

and then says:

29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness,

evil, greed and depravity.

They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.

They are gossips, 30 slanderers,

God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful;

they invent ways of doing evil;

they disobey their parents; 

31 they have no understanding,

no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

This is Paul’s description of a sick humanity,

inclusive of Gentile and Jew, Greek and Barbarian, wise and foolish… 

As we have learned,

Paul attributes these behaviours to people refusing to give God

proper due and recognition…

the primary symptom of the sin virus!

Last Sunday we were reminded that those who do acknowledge God,

in Paul’s time the Jews, in our time we ourselves,

have to tread cautiously if we are tempted

to join in Paul’s finger pointing at those who ignore or deny God.

Paul goes on to insist that we commit the same wrongs!

21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 

22 You who say that people should not commit adultery,

do you commit adultery?

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 

23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 

Paul, having put any person

who thinks they are uninfected,

back in the sick category, into lock-down,

re-iterates the global symptoms of the sin virus:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This argument builds up to his ultimate declaration

concerning the human condition: (3:22f)

 There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

One should not be surprised that the reformer Calvin

and his disciples, reading texts like this,

developed a theological understanding of humanity

as being totally depraved.

Unable to generate from within itself any good.

Heidi Haverkamp, an Episcopalian (Anglican) priest in the U.S.A.

writes of her Dutch Reformed heritage.

Her great-grandfather was a Dominie of some influence.

The Calvinist tradition of Total Depravity was perpetuated

by the Dutch Reformed church.

Heidi though mentions that she was brought up differently.

In the university neighborhood where I grew up,

it was well-established orthodoxy that people are basically good

and that the best sort of life is lived

trying to make the world a better place.

The motto of our neighborhood churches could’ve been

that familiar phrase,

“The question is not why God allows evil to exist in the world,

but why human beings do.[1]

However Heidi like us, recognises the evil in our world;

and like us gets overwhelmed at times at the suffering it causes!

Also, like us, she fears for the worst when she observes national

and international leadership fail to act,

when she realises that yet again,

human self-interest trumps the well-being of others.

Then she rediscovered the theological concept of Total Depravity:

Total depravity frames humans

not as good people who sometimes mess up

but as messed-up people who, with God’s help,

can do some good things—

but nothing completely free of selfishness or error.

We are unable to make a choice that is unquestionably,

entirely good.

None of our actions, loves, or thoughts can be truly without sin.[2]

She claims this insight frees her

from her sense of personal and collective human failure

Total depravity speaks to sin in our personal lives.

More importantly for me,

it also gives theological definition to corporate and societal sins.

It’s not just that I am unable to love everyone I meet

or to live a life that is plastics-free.

I have also found it impossible to untangle my individual life

from systems of injustice—institutionalized racism,

pollution of the air and land and water,

cheap clothing and food supplies that depend

on the exploitation of laborers,

banks and corporations that bend the economy toward their profit.

A contemporary Episcopal prayer of confession includes this line:

“We repent of . . . the evil we have done,

and the evil done on our behalf.”

There is a lot of suffering and a lot of evil in this world,

and I find I cannot consider myself entirely innocent of it.[3]

I have no idea of how Paul would react to such strong convictions

based on what he wrote to the Roman Christians

(and other scripture, it has to be acknowledged).

I suspect he would empathise,

after all, he had his share of suffering,

but would still add more to this conviction:

the more I make the salvation of the world a rational,

solvable problem, the deeper I seem to sink into futility.

But when unreasonable, unremitting human sin is something I expect, then I can face the headwinds of evil without despair.

When I believe that human life—including my own—

will never be without sin and suffering,

I have a greater ability to tolerate pain and horror

and to keep on doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.[4]

I think he would add a word

which would move our expectation for better things

from merely human rationality to the power of God!

Including the power of God through human response to divine call.

(see 2 Corinthians 4:5-18; 11:16-31)

I suspect, based on what he wrote following his description

of the sin virus’s symptoms,

and its diagnosis,

as its prognosis, that is treatment and future,

he might inject a little more optimism into that theology.

Let us not forget,

that his pastoral objective

was to remind the disparate house church groups in Rome

that not one of them,

could claim that somehow they were more favoured by God

because of ethnicity, culture, knowledge, morality etc.

Paul reminds them all that each of us comes before God

exactly the same,

only because of God’s grace and mercy.

Total Depravity seems a bit like the theological equivalent

of always, pessimistically, expecting the worst…

then if whatever happens, is not the worst,

it is an unexpected, pleasant surprise!

I am sure though,

that the theological concept is more nuanced

than the way I presented it.

However, it does echo Paul’s conviction that all have sinned

and fallen short of the glory of God;

that there is no one righteous, not even one

Except of course, there is One righteous…

the One who forms the foundation of the gospel of God,

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 

and who through the Spirit of holiness

was appointed the Son of God in power 

by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (1:3,4)

This brings an optimism into the equation;

not a false hope, but an assured confidence

in the God who self-reveals not only through creation,

but also in the one faithful human being

Jesus Christ our Lord.(Rom. 5)

This clinches that righteousness will triumph

because God in Christ has remained faithful

to creation and humanity,

and equally important, to Godself!

It is right to point out that in the Hebrew Scriptures,

what we call the Old Testament,

the association of righteousness with salvation

is four times more common

than the association of God’s righteousness with judgment,

which tells us something about the emphasis in the Hebrew Scriptures

on God’s mercy and forgiveness

even when God continues to be righteous and just.[5]

This knowledge about God was entrusted to the Jews,

Paul argues

For… the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God (3:2).

This awareness of God’s will included

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth

Isaiah 49:6, though Isaiah 49:9 suggests that instead of living as light,

the people lived in darkness… [6]

build up of course, on the call to Abraham,

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you… Gen 12:3

Some argue that instead of understanding itself

to be entrusted with the oracles for the sake of the nations,

Israel understood the oracles to be its own possession.[7]

It is not that Israel failed to take seriously the oracles entrusted to it,

but its concern for maintaining identity

deflected attention from the task of healing the world[8].

Hence Paul can proclaim,

What if some were unfaithful? 

Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? 

Not at all!

Let God be true, and every human being a liar.

There is a comfort in that positive assertion

surrounded as it is by so much doom and gloom

that God can be depended upon

to remain true and faithful

even when humanity has failed and proved false;

even when the people called to be

a light to the nations, failed in their calling!

Human thinking may insist that it takes two to tango,

but divine determination informs us

that if necessary, God will dance alone…

Nevertheless God keeps searching for dance partners;

and Paul will inform us

that God in fact will teach us the dance,

which will not be, most likely the Tango,

an intense dance limited to two persons together

absorbed only in each other,

but more likely the Samba,

a joyful rhythmic mass movement

in which one can be acutely aware of one and everyone

for all are invited to join in!




Comfort, comfort all my people
with the comfort of my Word.
Speak it tender to my people:
all your sins are taken away.

  1. Though your tears be rivers running,
    though your tears be an ocean full,
    though you cry with the hurt of living:
    comfort, comfort.
    Every valley shall be lifted,
    every mountain shall be low,
    every rough place will be smoother:
    comfort, comfort.
  2. Though your eyes see only darkness,
    though your eyes can see no light,
    though your eyes see pain and sorrow:
    comfort, comfort.
    Every night will have its morning,
    every pain will have an end,
    every burden will be lightened:
    comfort, comfort.

Robin Mann 1949–
inspired by Isaiah 40

Words and music © R. Mann

We Bring Our offering to God

setting aside our gifts to support the local and wider work of the church

and bless our gifts in an act of praise…

We Share Our Community Life 

Prayers of the People

God of grace and mercy,

we approach you very conscious of how different life would be

if you had not reached out with reconciliation towards humanity;

We ask for your ongoing mercy towards your creation

and all who are part of this gift entrusted to us;

guide us in appropriate care and use of your generosity.


God of grace and mercy,

we ask for wisdom and compassion for the leaders of nations

and directors of global organisations

whose actions can result in good or ill for whole populations,


God of grace and mercy,

we ask for discernment and tolerance for the leaders

of the numerous religions which claim peoples’ devotion and loyalty;

May peoples’ desire for a greater good beyond themselves

result in a common good and good will for all

which reflects your own good will towards humanity and our world.


God of grace and mercy,

we are mindful of those dear to us

who have to deal with ill health in a variety of manifestations,

who struggle with the demands of day to day existence:

we name them…  silently or aloud….

Grant them encouragement and peace,

guide us in how we might answer our prayers for them


God of grace and mercy

we thank you for ongoing blessings,

open our minds to recognize them

even as the cares and worries of life,

the desire for security in these uncertain times

threatens to choke our awareness of your goodness to us;


in the name of Christ we pray AMEN



  1. Faith will not grow from words alone,
    from proofs provided, scripture known;
    our faith must feel its way about,
    and live with question-marks and doubt.
  2. The pattern Jesus showed, we share:
    life comes through death, hope through despair.
    God is made known in brokenness,
    and faith feeds on God’s emptiness.
  3. The church still tells how Jesus came
    through death to glorious life again —
    the strangest story! Yet, maybe,
    our faith will thrive on mystery.
  4. Faith takes the little that we know,
    and calls for hope, and tells us: Go!
    Love and take courage, come what may;
    Christ will be with us on the way.

Elizabeth J. Smith

Words © E. J. Smith
Music by permission Faber Music, London

Sending Out

Go as a people

who know the worst about ourselves as humanity,

faithless and false,

but to whom God has entrusted

the message of reconciliation

to one and all

with the God who remains true and faithful

to creation and us.


Grace and peace to you from God our Father

and from the Lord Jesus Christ

and the companionship of the Holy Spirit

guide and sustain you all the days of your life and beyond.  

[1] CHRISTIAN CENTURY October 2, 2019

[2] CHRISTIAN CENTURY October 2, 2019


[4] CHRISTIAN CENTURY October 2, 2019

[5] Witherington, B., III, & Hyatt, D. (2004). Paul’s letter to the Romans: a socio-rhetorical commentary (p. 107). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[6] Grieb, A. Katherine. The Story of Romans (p. 19). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition

[7] Eisenbaum, Pamela (2009) Paul was not a Christian  (pp99-115)argues that much proselytising was in fact going on.

This issue will be re-examined when we look at chapters 9-11

[8] Lancaster, S. H. (2015). Romans. (A. P. Pauw & W. C. Placher, Eds.) (First edition, p. 54). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.