~ 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, 23rd June 2017
Reading: Matthew 10: 24 – 39 [Third after Pentecost]
We have begun on the long road of discipleship, which is a theme of Matthew’s Gospel. Here we find radical, even harsh words, just the sort of teaching that our world is suffering from (and with): “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace, but a sword … anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy”. These belong to their specific cultural and historical context in the first century. As times move and change and we hear them today, the challenge for us is to consider, ’What would Jesus be calling us to in our day and age?’ Probably exactly the opposite, to belonging, co-operation and peace.
The remainder of this section rests upon first century concept of ‘hospitality’; who is ‘received’ as guest and who is not. Hospitality was a key social virtue and important in community relationships, so much so that people thought in a ‘group identity’ [rather than personal].
Our task is to relate these to our living today, and perhaps, specifically, on this day to the marking of the Uniting church’s formation forty (40) years ago this week. What is the ‘flavour’ of our discipleship in the Uniting Church today? Where and how are we hospitable? Contrary to the seeming direction of this text, in its original context of division, a better question would be, “Where are we (still) Uniting?”
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 16th June 2017
Reading: Matthew 9:35 to 10:8
Two weeks ago, approximately fifty members of the Blackwood community gathered at the Church on a Friday night to watch the film “Motorkite Dreaming”. This is the story of Aiden, Daryl and their fiancées Lexi and Elsie travelling across Australia using microlights and four-wheel drive vehicles. The epic journey concludes with the four adventurers flying the microlights along an isolated beach in North West Western Australia. As they prepare to land one of the couples reflect on the trip. “It started out being your trip but it ended up being both of ours.” The reply “It’s more than that too, it’s been a trip for a lot of people”
The Gospel Reading, Matthew 9:35 to 10:8, tells the story of Jesus calling a group of twelve people to follow him. This is followed by a set of instructions, some of which may seem strange as we look at them through twenty first century eyes.
We are challenged to make a journey and follow in the footsteps of the first disciples. As with the adventurers in Motorkite Dreaming sometimes the journey will be easy, sometimes the journey will be difficult. But as Aiden, Daryl, Lexi and Elsie found, the journey is not an individual experience, it is a journey which involves a lot of people.
For the week of Friday, 9th June 2017
This is the Sunday when the Early Church doctrine of the Trinity is celebrated. This doctrine was often used as a test of theological correctness. That would still be so among the orthodox. Yet the concept is anathema to Unitarians and maybe blasphemous to monotheist Muslims and Jews.
Many of us, as children, sung of God “Above the bright blue sky”. For others, that made God, in Studdart Kennedy’s words: “High and remote from human hopes and fears!” After Jesus’ death and resurrection his followers, having met one who was selfless, caring, just, yet vulnerable, one who was as open to the outsider as to the ‘God-botherer’. They were forming a fresh understanding of God.
After the empty grave, the quiet Emmaus Road experience and the new sense of freedom felt at Pentecost they began to expect Jesus’ Spirit still to be among them. They were re-discovering God in their midst, not just ‘immortal, invisible….. in light inaccessible hid from their eyes”.
It was like being a part of a Greek drama where the one actor made appearances in three different roles, (persona). God was not a mathematical impossibility but God; “who fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. (Tennyson) There are at least three ways in which we can experience God in our midst!
Rev Dr Malcolm McArthur
For the week of Friday, 2nd June 2017
Reading: John 20: 19 – 23 [Pentecost]
John provides a straight-forward, succinct account of the giving of the Holy Spirit, without the drama of ‘fire’ and ‘rushing wind’ as Luke tells – themselves ‘echoes’ of Jewish stories about Sinai. Remember that this same Gospel (John) has Jesus promise the Holy Spirit in his final prayer for the disciples [16:8]. Now is the moment of fulfilment.
By removing this story from immediate post-Easter appearances and having it ‘set’ for our sharing on the day of Pentecost the Lectionary itself provides its own clues. The Spirit, the ‘breath’ of God was present in creation. Now that same Spirit is given afresh. God is with the early church, not for its comfort or ease, but that it might be the vehicle of carrying forward all that Jesus has come to achieve. And the first effect in the life of a bunch of frightened disciples is the giving of a sense of peace.
This speaks to whatever we face as we encounter the breath of the Spirit. For the Gospel of John, the gift of ‘God’s Spirit’ is the invitation to, not moral superiority or some higher ‘piety’, but to life!
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 26th May 2017
Reading: John 17: 1 – 11 [Easter 7]
In celebrating “Reconciliation Sunday” are we joining in a cause outside of the Church’s mission and purpose? Not at all. The Letter to the early Church in Corinth describes the ministry of the church in these words: “We have been given this ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). This thought was picked up by the Uniting Church’s foundational document, the Basis of Union (40 years ago): God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. Amongst all our programs and activities we are called to be peace-makers, bringing people together. Its church ‘core business’.
The reading for this Sunday is another section of Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples from the so-called “Farewell Discourse”. In this prayer all is ‘given’; God has given Jesus work to do, given disciples into Jesus care, Jesus has given the disciples God’s word, God has given Jesus glory.
We don’t chose reconciliation. It is given to us. We either chose to do it or we don’t.
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 19th May 2017
Reading: John 14: 15 – 21 [Easter 6]
This Sunday with a meeting of the community to follow worship, we are reflecting on our life together – our worship and service, particularly our family ministries as church council undertakes a review and considers future purposes and strategies.
And the set reading of the day is an early portion of the long “Farewell Discourse” in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ ‘final instructions’. This text operates as a handing-over to the disciples before Jesus must leave them. Think of the context for them: anxiety, loss, confusion and fear for their future. Not so long ago in the story these are the ones who abandoned quiet lives fishing by the Sea of Galilee to come to tension-riddled Jerusalem in the security of following this Rabbi and his teaching of love, now being told “you’re going to have to continue this mission without me”.
In a world where all is changing and the church no longer occupies the prominent place in society it once held, do we face the future in fear or in hope? With all institutions in an apparent struggle for survival, life ahead is going to be different (as it was for the band of Jesus’ followers). But different doesn’t mean ‘bad’. The ‘bigger picture’ is that the goodness of God remains. The change is only in how we celebrate and share that.
Rev Phil Hoffmann
For the week of Friday, 12th May 2017
Reading: John 14: 1-14
This is a well known passage, often read at funerals, with the assurance that when we move from this earthly life to whatever comes next we will be well provided for. Yet there is a lot more to it than that. Jesus knew that the world of the disciples as they knew it was going to change dramatically, and when John wrote his gospel, it had indeed become a frightening place, as the early Christians struggled for identity and faced persecution and alienation from Judaism.
The disciples were understandably confused, anxious and nervous. and Jesus wanted to reassure them that they were not going to be cast adrift and forgotten. What Jesus was encouraging them to do first and foremost was to keep on trusting him. In offering himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus is inviting the disciples, and us, into a close relationship with him. When we choose to put our trust in him, to identify ourselves with him, we are accepting Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.