Service for Sunday 15th November 2020, – Rev Louis van Laar

Servicing the Bald Hills and nearby Communities

Service for Sunday 15th November 2020, – Rev Louis van Laar


Lighting the Candle (John 12:46,47). –

Jesus said: 46 I have come as light into the world,

so that everyone who believes in me

should not remain in the darkness. 

47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words

and does not keep them,

for I came not to judge the world,

but to save the world.

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     PSALM 123

To you I lift up my eyes,
As the eyes of servants
    look to the hand of their master,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    until he has mercy upon us.




(second verse differs from TIS…)

Prayer (15.1-7)

O holy God of steadfastness and encouragement,

we come with one voice

to worship you with awe, adoration and praise!

Your ways remain to us a mystery,

except that in Jesus Christ you show us

a compassion and care which overwhelms

and envelops us;

We direct our focus on you during this worship time,

desiring to live in harmony with your will

and also with each other,

that we may build each other up

to the glory of your name,

and as a witness to your kingdom,

therefore we 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


Prayer for Illumination










Scripture ROMANS 14:19-15:13

19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; 21 it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 22 The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. 23 But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. 15:1  We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. 3 For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
    and sing praises to your name’;

10 and again he says,

‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;

11 and again,

‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples praise him’;

12 and again Isaiah says,

‘The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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

MATTHEW 25:14-30

14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,[a] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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

Prayer of Confession

Holy God of steadfastness and encouragement,

we come confessing

how often we doubt your self-revelation in Jesus Christ

as the compassionate and merciful One

Lord have mercy  LORD HAVE MERCY

Holy God of steadfastness and encouragement,

we come confessing

how often we simply take for granted Christ’s welcoming of us,

in as much as we refuse to welcome ‘the other’…

Christ have mercy   CHRIST HAVE MERCY

Holy God of steadfastness and encouragement,

we come confessing

how often we are blind to that hope found within your scriptures

and empowered by your Holy Spirit,

Lord have mercy  LORD HAVE MERCY

Declaration of Reconciliation

Our God is revealed as the God of steadfastness and encouragement,

who has reconciled us with God,

that we Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy

and sing praises to God’s name;

in Christ all is forgiven us,

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.


Contemporary Word  


The assignment seemed straightforward.

‘Compare Calvin’s earliest edition

of the Institutes of the Christian Religion

with his latest version’…

something like that the topic assigned to me for a tutorial group

studying Reformation History stated.

I was not impressed; I was not enamoured with Calvin,

influenced by the harsh expression of Calvinism within Nederland.

Not that my parents or myself were believers then and there,

and what I knew about Calvinism was more a reflection of my parents’ criticisms and critiques than my own observations,

after all, I was only 10 when we left Nederland.

Erasmus was, and remains, my favourite person of the Reformation era.

Nevertheless, and assignment is an assignment

to be pursued and concluded to the best of one’s ability,

especially as I had set myself a high mark to achieve

throughout my Church History major.

It proved to be a fascinating exercise!

I do not recall the details,

and funny enough it is a paper I have lost!

but I remember well how surprised I was to notice Calvin’s shifts

in theological thinking…

His Institutes were not yet fixed dogma,

but more, in today’s terms, 

a journal of developing Christian thought,

with adjustments made reflecting his study and ministry experience.

Of course they were his definitive thinking

at each time of publication,

intended to guide congregations and pastors,

but he was astute enough to realise theological thinking

seldom remains fixed, rather is in a constant state of flux…

Something Charles Wesley appreciated in an entirely different context,

the writing of hymns to have people learn theology through singing!

He constantly revised his hymns, to adjust a nuance,

to clarify a thought…

I suggest Paul likewise adjusted his theological thinking over time.

Much as we all do over time,

our life experiences reshape us as teens and adults,

parenting and grandparenting, scientific and technological advances,

insights from Biblical scholarship, these all impact on us,

and influence how we reread the same scriptures in a fresh way,

under the influence of the Holy Spirit…

Romans, as we have discovered,

is believed to be Paul’s last writing which is available to us.

I find it rather intriguing that many commentators

uncritically link it with Galatians,

which is, as far as scholarship can decide these things,

the first letter Paul wrote available to us;

in fact, it may well be the earliest bit

of Christian writing we have,

predating the Gospels as we have them in their current form!

Many of us just take the words of Paul in Galatians,

and transpose them to Paul’s arguments in Romans,

without even thinking of Paul’s maturing in the faith

and his apostolic life experiences.

In Galatians Paul defends his newfound convictions

in the strongest possible terms!

Hence there is some parallel

between his discourse in Galatians and that of Romans!

The key issue of course,

concerns what is required of Gentiles to be truly disciples

of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jew, the Messiah,

or the Christ in the Greek language…

what place have circumcision, Sabbath keeping,

Torah’s dietary laws, including what animals one may eat,

and the manner of slaughtering animals for consumption…?

Commentators do pick up the more developed arguments

within Romans as Paul explains and defends

the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand

through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 

the gospel concerning his Son, (1:1-3)

A number use the measured tone to argue that we have here

a Paul’s at his theological peak,

the definitive statement of his thinking!

This overlooks the very specific audience and situation of Romans,

rather different than the context of Galatians.

I don’t want to list here merely any similarity or difference in thought.

I want to focus instead on the difference in tone!

In Galatians Paul uses very strong language against those

who advocate the necessity of circumcision for following Jesus…

e.g. Galatians 5:11,12:

11 But my friends, why am I still being persecuted

if I am still preaching circumcision?

In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. 

12 I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!

His tone in Romans, however, 

echoes his instructions to the Roman Christians

19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace

and for mutual edification  14:19.

His argumentation concerning circumcision is more measured,

within Romans, revisit chapters 3 and 4;

it is void of the rancour within Galatians…

Paul is practising the harmony and peace he preaches in Romans!

Paul may have had some of his rough edges smoothed out

during the intervening years between Galatians and Romans!

He seems to focus more on:

17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink

but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

A theme continued with (15:5-7)

 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement

 grant you to live in harmony with one another,

in accordance with Christ Jesus, 

so that together you may with one voice

glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Welcome one another, therefore,

 just as Christ has welcomed you,

for the glory of God.

Paul, one would think, would be very aware

of the radical stance he was taking.

Following the earlier conflicts about these issues,

the Jerusalem leadership of the early Christian movement met

and decided on the following communication to be sent (Acts 15:28,29)

For it has seemed right to the Holy Spirit and to us

to lay no further burden upon you

except what is absolutely essential, namely,

that you avoid what has been sacrificed to idols,

tasting blood,

eating the meat of whatever has been strangled

and sexual immorality.

Keep yourselves clear of these things

and you will make good progress. Farewell.”

It appears Paul has been quietly subverting those instructions,

not only in his writing to the Roman believers,

but also, for example, in his writing to the Corinthian Christians…

 In this matter, then, of eating meat which has been offered to idols, knowledge tells us that no idol has any real existence,

and that there is no God but one.(1 Cor 8:4,5)

Mind you, in Corinthians, as in Romans,

Paul urges that love for the community trumps any rights!

we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big,

it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature.

So whilst he theologically urges

an expanded understanding of God’s grace,

and therefore a corresponding minimizing of matters

such as circumcision, meat eating, special days… 

in practice he advocates abstention for the sake of others…

15:1  We who are strong

ought to put up with the failings of the weak,

and not to please ourselves. 

2 Each of us must please our neighbour

for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. 

3 For Christ did not please himself…

He is walking a fairly thin tight rope…

One wonders what James and Peter, for example,

thought of that approach…

how they reacted to being labelled ‘weak in the faith’…

Paul’s fund raising campaign for the starving Jerusalem believers

might well be a balm for perhaps a festering sore,

as well as real relief for the believers… (15:30,31)

 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, 

by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit,

to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, 

31 that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea,

and that my ministry of financial relief

to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy… 

More importantly, he may have learned for himself the meaning of:

Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another?

It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.

And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

10 Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? 

Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? 

For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. 

11 For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Paul points out, since we all will be judged

by how we have conducted ourselves as Christians,

we ought to have enough to worry about

in respect to our own conduct

without taking on the additional burden

of shaping in minute detail the lives of other Christians!

That all will be judged—even Christians, even faithful Christians—

is a regular emphasis of Paul (see 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:8–15; 2 Cor. 5:10).

It points to the fact that along with being reconciled with God in Christ,

and the recalibration of our lives,

there come responsibilities as well,

the obedience of faith!

The follower of Christ had better take those responsibilities

with utmost seriousness,

since God also takes them seriously.

That is the point of Paul’s emphasis on the judgment facing Christians.

It is not a judgment by which one is deemed worthy of salvation or not.

Such a judgment would contradict everything Paul had said

about God’s grace to undeserving, sinful creatures.

It would undermine the assurance that nothing on the earth

or beyond the earth

can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…

a concept reframed with his words in this morning’s reading,

And they will be upheld,

for the Lord is able to make them stand (15.4)

The judgment being described, is an assessment, if you like, 

about the quality and responsibility of one’s Christian life,

and as such it emphasizes the need for responsible action

on the part of Christians.[1]

Paul has spelled out the general principles

of what it means to live ‘in the obedience of faith’,

what it means ‘to offer oneself as a living sacrifice’… 

He refocusses our attention constantly on serving Jesus,

who has called us,

with whom we are joined through baptism…

serving Jesus through practical, caring expressions of love,

living the non-retributive life style,

overcoming evil with good!

focussing on community building,

rather than insisting on theological correctness;

Welcoming each other because Christ has welcomed us!

Last Sunday was All Saints’ day.

The oldest Christian tradition,

(which of course is the Roman Catholic church),

celebrates All Souls’ Day on the day following All Saints’ day.

In Brazil, All Souls’ day is a public holiday.

People use it to pray for their dead,

and to tend their graves…

The praying for the dead is meant to assist them

to move along into heaven,

if they have been delayed in Purgatory..

The medieval doctrine of purgatory can be outlined as follows,

(this is how Tom Wright explains it…

please note, Tom Wright does not accept this Medieval teaching,

he merely explains it):

Most Christians at death are still, to some degree, sinful.

They therefore need two things: more cleansing and more punishment. They must complete what the Council of Lyons (1274)

called ‘full satisfaction for their sins’.

After death, if they are indeed genuine Christians,

they will long for the full delights of the beatific vision,

of seeing God face to face,

and yet they will know instinctively that they are unfitted for it.

They must therefore enter a longer or shorter period of pain,

with the element of punishment as a central feature,

though it is a pain they willingly embrace

because they know it will lead to bliss.

And, crucially, they can be helped to get through this

all the quicker through the prayers, and particularly the masses,

said for them by those still in this mortal life.

Masses and prayers for those in purgatory

became a major feature of medieval piety.

This practice was open to flagrant abuse,

and it was the sale of ‘indulgences’—official dispensation,

by church authorities, allowing people time off purgatory

if their friends or relatives paid for it—

that gave focus to the reforming zeal of Martin Luther.

It is only fair to add that many Roman Catholics

then and since have agreed that such secondary practices

were at best unwarranted and at worst a shocking abuse.[2]

Of course, theology flows with the times… so…

When Pope Benedict XVI was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,

interpreting 1 Corinthians 3. 9 ff,

 9 For we are God’s servants, working together;

you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss;

the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Ratzinger argued that the Lord himself is the fire of judgment

which transforms us as he conforms us to his glorious, resurrected body.

This happens, not during a long-drawn-out process,

but in the actual moment of final judgment.

By linking purgatory to Jesus Christ himself as the eschatological fire, Ratzinger separates the doctrine of purgatory

from the idea of an intermediate state,

and thus snaps the link that, in the Middle Ages,

gave rise to the idea of indulgences.

One of the greatest contemporary Protestant theologians,

Wolfhart Pannenberg, says that in Ratzinger’s argument,

‘The doctrine of purgatory is brought back

into the Christian expectation of final judgment by the returning Christ’—

in other words, Ratzinger has brought the idea closer to a biblical model[3].

This approximates Protestant thinking, where such thinking exists,

concerning the coalescing of All Saints’ day, and All Souls’ day.

However, the truth remains,

irrespective how we attempt to include it within our theology,

that we cannot ignore the idea of some assessment,

as I interpret the meaning of judgment,

by Jesus as Lord of the church.

My simple understanding of the reason for such an assessment

is best hinted at by the words of Jesus himself, (Luke 15:10,11)

10 ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much;

and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 

11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, 

who will entrust to you the true riches?

Our Lord’s assessment of our obedience of faith

determines what will be entrusted to us as true riches…

which I take to include tasks and responsibilities

within the Kingdom of God…

Paul, when urging us to avoid judging others

because it is God who will assess everyone of us,

is not undermining his earlier statements about

God’s reconciliation with humanity and creation.

Paul is urging us to be faithful in our obedience

to the demands of the Gospel…

to live the welcoming, non-retributive and loving life

modelled by Jesus

because an exciting unknown awaits us!



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


our help in the past

and our hope for the future,

on this Sunday following Remembrance Day,

we remember all those

who have given their lives in war,

and those who still live and struggle

for health and peace.  

We remember especially

those who still bear the scars of war

in their bodies and minds. 

We remember their families

and friends who still grieve their loss.


God of the living and the dead,

console and encourage those

for whom this time is one of profound significance.

Be with the widows,

the women who never married

because their man did not return,

and orphans

who together with the dear and honoured dead

have sacrificed so much.


God of love and liberty,

we bring our thanks today

for the peace and security we enjoy,

   As we remember those who in time of war

     faithfully served their country;

   As we pray for their families,

     and for ourselves whose freedom was won at such a cost;


God of the nations,

Your sovereign rule brings justice and peace,

have mercy on our broken and divided world.

Shed abroad your peace

in the hearts of all

and banish from them and us

the spirit that makes for war,

that all races and peoples may learn to live

     as members of one family

     and in obedience to your law …


Lord God, we pray simply for peace on earth. 

we also honour those in our armed services,

and others sent overseas by our government ,

who today seek to maintain peace in our world,

and stand up against violence and hatred.

May we see the peace of the risen Christ

reign within our world. 

Come and touch our lives now,

so that we may be instruments of that peace.

Lead us from death to life,

from falsehood to truth.

Lead us from despair to hope, 

from fear to trust.

Lead us from hate to love, 

from war to peace.

Let peace fill our hearts,

our world, our universe.

Let us dream together, 

pray together,

work together,

to build one world of peace and justice for all.

May it be so.   Lord hear us LORD HEAR OUR PRAYER

In the name of the Prince of Peace,

the God who lives with us in Jesus Christ,

and who died that we might have life

in all its fullness and joy. AMEN..

(adapted from prayers by Ken Booth, Bev Fabb, Bruce Prewer



Sending Out and Blessing

They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old;

age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun

and in the morning,

we will remember them.


Ever-living God we remember those

whom you have gathered

from the horror of war

into the peace of your presence;

may that same peace calm our fears,

bring justice to all peoples

and establish harmony among the nations,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Offer to God those fears in us

that have not yet been cast out by love:

accept the hope God has placed

in the hearts of all people,

And live lives of justice, courage and mercy;

through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.

May the God of hope fill you

with all joy and peace in believing,

so that you may abound in hope

[1] Achtemeier, P. J. (1985). Romans (p. 217). Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press.

[2] Wright, N. T. (2003). For All the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed (pp. 6–7). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

[3] Wright, N. T. (2003). For All the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed (pp. 10–11). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.