~ 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, 13th October 2017
Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
‘I cannot come to the banquet’, said the first people invited to the king’s son’s wedding feast as they made their varied excuses, rejecting the king’s hospitality. With the second round of invitations however there was no hesitation from the ‘bad as well as the good’, who readily accepted and thronged into the hall to enjoy the celebrations.
Do we come up with excuses for rejecting or at least delaying our answer to the invitation to join in God’s kingdom here on earth, or do we joyfully accept and encourage others to share in God’s gift of grace for all? Maybe we find ourselves secretly askance at God’s inclusive generosity. Is our understanding of grace too small? Might we even be tempted to stage a protest by not wearing the appropriate wedding attire, the garments of righteousness, a different form or rejection? What is our response?
After the 9.15 service you are invited to share in a morning tea ‘feast’! All are welcome.
For the week of Friday, 6th October 2017
There are some weeks when the lectionary readings present the preacher with problems. This week is a good example.
The Old Testament reading is the ten commandments. The problem presented for the preacher is what to do with this well-known passage. Is the preacher assuming too much when they assume that the passage is well known? Perhaps it is time for a challenge. Put the newssheet down, pick up pen and paper and try to write down the ten commandments. Now open a bible to Exodus 20 and see how many you got correct.
A well-known passage of scripture presents the following problem, what does the preacher say that has not already been said many times. In the case of the ten commandments how does the preacher do justice to the words without preaching ten sermons?
The New Testament reading presents a different problem. It is a parable which in some ways is difficult to relate with in our 21st Century lifestyle. Look at the reading before Sunday and see what the reading says to you.
Perhaps the secret of dealing with these passages of scripture involves combining them. The ten commandments provide us with guidelines about how we are to live. The Gospel reminds us that there are some people who ignore the guidelines. The challenge for us as individuals is to not take the familiar for granted and start to ignore it.
For the week of Friday, 29th September 2017
Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
As an unusual departure for this preacher, I am this Sunday focusing on the story from the Hebrew Scriptures – water from the rock struck in the desert. The community of faith are on a journey, the Exodus, out of Egypt and into their own given land [which has caused problems ever since, but that’s another story].
We remember and mark events in different ways – a photograph, a story told, even a written record. And we remember differing details – people, places, feelings. Here’s a story marked by memorable place names – ‘Massah’, meaning ‘testing’ and ‘Meribah’, meaning ‘grumbling or complaining’. The faith tradition of Israel would always recall that time when there seemed to be no water and they lost trust. They even asked, “Is the Lord with us or not”?
The story of the water pouring from the rock would be a reminder in future such circumstances. Remember those places – testing and grumbling? You’ve forgotten, haven’t you? The faithfulness of God to us in our past should always be our hope for the present and future. Sing it with me, “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come …”
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 22nd September 2017
Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
The Parable of the ‘Workers in the Vineyard’ again is a story of a then-familiar, real life situation. The scene is one that I have personally witnessed in Israel/Palestine today: at intersection of major road-ways, Palestinian workers stand hoping to be ‘picked up’ as day labourers. They are clearly workers who have no continuing, secure workplace to attend.
A key to unlocking this Parable is the motivation of the land-owner in putting men to work in his fields. I think when we western, managerial types read the story we assume that the land-owner is incompetent and goes to the market place the first time not fully knowing his need of men for the day. Hence, perhaps under the pressure of some dead-line, he keeps returning and adding further to his work-force.
Rather, Kenneth Bailey, who brings wonderful first-hand cultural reflections in his “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes; Cultural Studies in the Gospels”, says otherwise. He argues that the land-owner hires the first group of men “hoping, for their sakes, that the others would soon be engaged by someone else. Three hours later he decided to check to see what had happened … and he found many still waiting … he selected a few (more) and (presumably) offered some word of encouragement to the others that they also would soon be selected. Eventually, the land-owner gives work to as many as he can. Then the twist in the tale – he pays them all a full day’s pay! “How unfair!” the earlier shift cry – and we can but agree.
The focus of Christian faith is rightly upon ‘What kind of God do we serve?’ rather than ‘What must I do to justify myself?’ Its all grace. The gift of God’s goodness. But we want to make it about us. Our howls of unjust protest rely upon assumptions that don’t hold – “I deserve this. I have earnt it”, or “I should get my share’. Are we willing, in the end, to let God be God and decide as ‘the Master’. We were never going to miss out anyway.
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 15th September 2017
Reading: Matthew 18:21-35 [15th after Pentecost – “Ordinary Time”]
Many years ago, I went through an intense period of work, that resulted in a sort of burnout from which it took some time to recover. A major cause of the burden imposed by my work at that time was the lack of support promised by one of my managers. Significant to my eventual recovery was a story told during a sermon on today’s Gospel reading about a woman who had made herself sick because she had become bitter about a wrong done to her. I realised that I, also, still held a grudge against my manager. I didn’t go and say to him “I forgive you”, but I was able to let go of the anger and bitterness I felt. I didn’t forget the event or say that it was OK to behave as he did, but in letting go, I was able to move on.
When we look at today’s Gospel in conjunction with last week’s passage, we can see that this is also about community. A community where people hold grudges and become bitter is a community that does not thrive.
Jesus speaks to the necessity of forgiveness because he knows the effects of “unforgiveness” on individuals and communities.