~ Ideas shared in our Sunday morning messages ~
Have you ever suddenly come across a word or a phrase that makes an indelible imprint on your mind? One word which springs to mind is Spirituality – Spirit-uality. This means living each day by the power of God’s Holy Spirit, reading the Word, praying, listening for the still small voice of the Spirit or giving praise and thanks to God.
Something to think about…
Each week we have a small devotion to contemplate for the days following the service on Sunday. These are included in the BUC newsletter for the congregation but they are also provided for you below to read at your own leisure. You can click on the links to read the verses automatically.
For the week of Friday, 15th February 2019
Happy Valentine’s Day
The story of Saint Valentine is about love, but not simply in the way that the flower, chocolate and greeting card industries would suggest. Valentine lived in the 3rd century. He was a priest and physician in Rome. Reports about his life are varied. He is said to have performed healing miracles and been zealous in seeking to convert people to Christian faith.
Under the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, Christianity was a forbidden religion. Despite this. Valentine constantly shared his faith and gave assistance to Christians who were being persecuted. He also provided a Christian marriage to those who so wished. Apparently, marriage was forbidden for young people because male soldiers were in short supply, and unmarried soldiers would be more likely to be bold in battle. Some sources suggest that couples sought a Christian marriage because of Christians’ claims of the sacredness of marriage and fidelity in marriage. It is also said that Valentine tried to convert the Emperor himself to Christianity. He was beaten and beheaded in about 270 AD.
What do we make of such a story on a day of buying presents for partners and going out for dinner? A day to celebrate love is fine! Do it more often! Whatever kernels of history are embedded in Valentine’s story, the legend points to deeper love than “Married at First Sight” and a deep faithfulness to God – both seem counter-cultural today as they were in 3rd century.
For the week of Friday, 8th February 2019
John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer was first used at a worship gathering of about 1800 people in 1755. The prayer and its accompanying charge became significant in the Methodist movement, particularly as an annual renewal of faith and allegiance to God. Many churches around the world, including the Uniting Church, still hold Covenant Services as reaffirmations of faith. This coming Sunday we will be including part of the Covenant Service in our morning worship. The words are included here for you to consider and reflect upon. Obviously, saying the words is a matter of personal choice. The language certainly comes from another era, yet in my view still holds a challenge for us.
Christ has many services to be done:
some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests;
others are contrary to both.
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves;
in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.
Yet the power to do all these things is given us in Christ, who strengthens us.
Therefore let us make this covenant with God our own,
trusting in the God’s constant love:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you or laid aside for you;
exalted for you or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours,
to the glory and praise of your name.
For the week of Friday, 21st December 2018
Joy is a strange thing – it is more than happiness – one can have joy even when life is tough.
Mary knew that God had chosen her for a great work, but God had not made it easy. She chose to visit her relative Elizabeth – possibly to escape from the whispers of the people of Nazareth. When Mary met Elizabeth, she began to sing what has become known as the Magnificat.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49
Mary had experienced the presence of God. She knew that God was blessing the world through her. Even though she was a peasant girl, God had anointed her with a special gift. God might not always make her life easy, but would always be with her and bless her.
Mary’s life was no bed of roses – the pregnancy, journeying to Bethlehem when she was ready to give birth, the flight to Egypt, the death of her husband Joseph, and as Jesus began his public ministry and moved toward the cross her heart was pierced. But God enabled Mary to find joy even in the midst of adversity.
For some Christmas can be a time of fun and partying. For others Christmas can be a difficult time through family conflicts, the absence of a loved one, isolation or loneliness. Whatever your circumstances I pray that during this Christmas season you will find joy – the joy of knowing that God is with you. This is the most important message that I can give you – you are known and loved by God – today and always.
For the week of Friday, 16th December 2018
Both the Isaiah reading and the reading from Matthew’s Gospel speak about a child called Immanuel, which means God with us which, if we really think about it can be a difficult concept to accept.
Think about it this way – if you were God, how would you communicate with human beings without overpowering them and violating the principle of human freedom? God’s plan was to live among us and be revealed to a small group of common people who would tell others what God had done in their lives. Then they would tell others what they had experienced, and as the story of God’s coming is told over and over again humanity would realise the depth of God’s love. God didn’t persuade humanity with dramatic signs that would leave people unable to resist, but with gentle love – in the person of Jesus. God revealed Godself – incarnate in human flesh.
The following story from an unknown source helps us get our heads around this.
‘One Christmas Eve, a man was invited by his wife and child to go to the Christmas Eve service at their church. He refused to go saying, “I don’t understand how a God who is supposed to be loving and kind can let humanity suffer so much. Why would He decide to become a man and be born as a baby in a manger, no less? (cont.) There is no logic in such an idea and I just can’t accept it.” So his wife and child went to church without him.
While they were gone, a storm blew in. So the man put some more wood in the fireplace, pulled up his favourite chair, grabbed his newspaper, and sat down to enjoy a nice quite evening alone. Suddenly, he heard a thumping noise and rose to investigate.
As he looked out his living room window into what was now a fierce blizzard, he saw a flock of birds flying into his window again and again, trying to get into the light and warmth of his house.
Even though the man did not believe in God, he was a good and compassionate man and felt sorry for the birds. “What can I do to help them,” he thought. “I know! I’ll open the barn doors. Then, when they see the open barn, they’ll fly right in”
So he pulled on his coat and boots and trudged out to the barn to open the doors. When he opened the doors and turned on the light, he turned to watch the birds fly into his barn. But the birds just kept flying against his window trying to get in.
“How can I get them to come in?” he asked himself. “How can I get their attention and get them to fly in here. I know! I’ll put out bird food all the way from the house to the barn, then they’ll follow the trail right into the barn.” So that’s what he did. But still the birds just flew against the window trying to get into the warmth.
By now the man was becoming very anxious for the safety of the birds. “I have to help them – but how? They haven’t noticed anything I’ve done so far. What can I do that will get their attention.
I have it! This time I’ll get in front of them and wave my arms and yell and chase them into the barn!” So that’s what the man did. He went up to the window where they were and started to yell and wave his arms to drive them into the barn. But instead of driving them into the barn, he succeeded in driving them out into the storm because they were afraid of him.
The man was distraught He knew he had tried everything he could to get the birds into his barn and safety but nothing had worked. “If only I could become a bird like they are. Then I could communicate so they would understand me and follow me into the barn and be safe.”
Suddenly, he realised. That’s exactly what Jesus did for us! He came as a baby and grew up into a man so He could show us how to find safety in His ‘barn’.’
For the week of Friday, 7th December 2018
I have a minister friend who is a university academic. He says that often when people find out that he is a minister, they will say something like “I’m not religious, but…” and then describe some kind of numinous or mystical experience. Of course, spiritual experiences are by no means confined to people of Christian faith. The Spirit blows where she will.
During Advent we are hearing stories involving angels. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen or heard God speaking that vividly. However there have been plenty of times when I feel some kind of prompt or nudge that turns out to have been worth following. And other times when there was an almost out-of-body God-moment that took me by surprise. Sometimes I was genuinely hoping for guidance, other times I was simply overwhelmed by a sense of God’s grace or goodness.
I doubt that such experiences can or should be sought. Yet I think that becoming more open to the Spirit’s presence and prompting is part of our faith journey. It has sometimes puzzled me that some people of a more ‘conservative’ faith have a stronger expectation of the Spirit working than those who are more ‘liberal’, despite the latter being more open to the possibility that God is not confined by a particular religious tradition. The story of young Mary reminds us that God speaks to those who might least expect it.
I wonder what the Spirit might be blowing our way this Advent?