~ 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.

For the week of Friday, 14th February 2020

Hello All!

If you were at worship on Sunday 9th February you would have heard that I plan to make the message interactive next Sunday 16th February.

I am terming it loosely “Heckle Sunday” but, if you prefer, you can think of it as Participatory Preaching!

I would like you to read and reflect on the Bible texts prior to the day and come prepared to share your thoughts. The theme I have discerned from the texts is “What might a Mature Faith look like?”

Don’t worry! I have no intention of putting anyone “on the spot” (it will be entirely safe, therefore, to sit in the front row!).

However, what I would love is…

if you have thoughts you’d like to share

if you see things I have missed

if you think I’m talking rubbish

…then I’d be delighted if you interject and break the flow of what I’m saying!

We will have a couple of “roving microphones” because we will all want to hear what you have to share.

And remember…this will be a safe space to share.

Here are the texts for the day:-

2020-02-16 Epiphany 6A Bible Readings

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Matthew 5:21-37

“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I look forward very much to engaging this text with you!

[BTW…I feel very confident you will let me know, after this experience, whether it should ever be repeated!]

All the best,
Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 7th February 2020

You are the salt of the earth!
You are the light of the world!

What is it with Jesus and metaphors?!

Couldn’t the man just tell it to us straight?!

Jesus is, to say the least, fond of metaphor. Trying looking for references in the gospel to this enigmatic thing Jesus called “The Kingdom of Heaven.” Not once does he say outright what it is, but instead offers a plethora of metaphors. Metaphor can be helpful in seeking to bridge our understanding between something that lies within our understanding and something that lies outside it: “The kingdom of heaven (which you don’t understand) is like…<INSERT METAPHOR HERE>…(something you do understand).”

So too in this reading, Jesus gives us a hint of who we are, as individuals, and as a community of followers of the Way of Jesus. We are…salt…and we are light. One of the delightful aspects of metaphor is that they are frequently so open to interpretation. This Sunday, let us playfully consider these metaphors of the Master, as we consider who we are, in Christ.

 Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 31st January 2020

“Blessed are the…”

The ‘beatitudes’ are a familiar part of the gospel of Matthew. The word beatitude comes from the Latin translation of the original Greek word (makarios) and means blessing. The NIB Commentary series asserts that whilst the original Greek word makarios can mean happy, the more valid meaning in this context is ‘blessed.’ The distinction is drawn between being subjectively ‘happy’ with one’s circumstances and being objectively ‘blessed’ by God: the beatitudes are about being objectively blessed by God. There is, however, a darker side to being objectively blessed, or favoured by God, and this dark side pertains to those who are not blessed by God. Such people are, presumably, not merely (subjectively) unhappy, but instead (objectively) cursed by God.

Most religions, including our own Christian faith, tend toward exclusivity, where the adherents of the religion view themselves as ‘insiders,’ as opposed to unbelievers, who remain, by virtue of their unbelief, ‘outsiders.’ When circumstances go our way, do we see ourselves as especially ‘blessed’ or ‘favoured’ by God? What of those that we might view as outsiders? If their circumstances are challenging, are they as outsiders disfavoured or cursed by God?

In the beatitudes, Jesus challenges the designations of insider and outsider.
In the beatitudes, Jesus challenges what we typically understand as ‘blessed.’
In the beatitudes, Jesus challenges…us.

 Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 24th January 2020

Invasion Day. Australia Day. Survival Day

Here we go again. Some celebrate. Some grieve. But many of us feel uncomfortable on this day. We know that we took the land of the First Peoples as our own. We know that we have been here for the blink of an eye, while they were here for millenia. We know that, in a short space of time, we have damaged the land with mining, and with agricultural methods, animals and crops which are not necessarily suited to this environment.

In the reading from Matthew for this week (Matthew 4: 12-23) Jesus calls on people to repent. Repent is not meant to be ‘sorry, God, I’ll stop doing that bad thing’ but is a complete change of the direction of one’s life, a move towards living as Jesus tells us to live. We are living through the worst bushfires since we first came here and these are causing devastation to us as second peoples, as well as to our First Peoples. Isn’t it time to change what we are doing, be guided by the knowledge of these First Peoples? Jesus’ calling of disciples reminds us that we have been called as disciples as well. In the current situation, this is a timely reminder of our calling and what that means.

 Anne Magarey

For the week of Friday, 20th December 2019

This is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent. The previous weeks have explored the themes of hope, peace and joy, with this final week to focus upon love. The Isaiah and Matthew readings touch on the name Immanuel, which means God-with-us, and which is frequently associated with Jesus. As Christmas draws ever nearer, we reflection on that aspect of God-with-us represented by the incarnation of Jesus the Christ.

How do we engage with the Christmas story? How do we engage with the birth narratives of Jesus? Do we see the entry into the world of Jesus of Nazareth as a one-off, historical event? Or might the incarnation have significance for us, here and now?

  Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 13th December 2019

The theme of the third week of this Advent season is joy. What do we mean when we speak of “joy”? Does the word merely describe an exuberant high? Is it a feeling that elevates us, at least temporarily, from the baseline level of normal experience? There are many things in life that offer us transient pleasure. The operative word though is transient. In the words of a poem about the fleeting nature of lived experience: “Pleasures come, but not to stay; even this shall pass away.”

Is there something beyond the invariably brief experiences of pleasure in this life, something richer and more enduring, and which truly deserves the label “joy”? We will be exploring this and more this Sunday.

  Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 6th December 2019

What a prosaic lot we are!  When we read “ Lions will eat straw like cattle do” (Is. 11, 8)  we can easily dismiss that Isaiah book of collected prophecies of two and a half millennia back as a nonsense vegan dream.

Isaiah 35, 1-9  uses similar poetic language “The desert will sing and dance for joy”… no lions will be there … those whom the Lord has rescued will travel home by that road”. …

Isaiah  reflects the yearnings of a people for whom “the end of the age had not yet come and who lived by hope.”(James Smart)  They had hoped that kings descended from David would protect them but all had failed.  Isaiah 11,1  offers hope: “ Just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise ….  Unlike his predecessors “ He will rule his people with justice and integrity… Calves and lion cubs will feed together. (Is 11,6).            This is a ‘peaceable kingdom.      Our evening news bulletins remind us that still, in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, peace seems far off..  We may be worried by climate changes, political inertia, an increasing rich-poor divide.  Our leaders still seem to be failing us.    Strange, isn’t it, that we can find hope for peace ,because :- ‘ An infant hand, parts the darkness, to lead the poor of the earth”.  ( Hugh Sharpe)

Rev Dr Malcolm McArthur