~ 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, 29th May 2020

The day of Pentecost and the marks of Jesus. Acts 2.

“I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” These were the words of Paul at the end of his letter to the churches in Galatia. Were they physical scars or was Paul speaking metaphorically?

We speak of the church as “the body of Christ”, born on that first Pentecost day by the power of the Holy Spirit. Does the church bear on its body the marks of Jesus? If so what are those marks?

Nationally this week is also declared as reconciliation week. Is reconciliation one of the marks of Jesus and also of the Christian Church? Paul declared that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself and to us he has given the ministry of reconciliation.” Is that both God and people?

Philip Gulley in his book “If the Church were Christian” commenting on reconciliation states; “It seems that we are much better at asking for the forgiveness of a God we can’t see than a person or people we can see.”

It sure makes you stop and think.

Bruce Marriott

For the week of Friday, 22nd May 2020

Read John 17:1-11

Imagine trying to survive under an autocratic leader: be it a Hitler, a Stalin, or an Ayatollah and ask yourself if you would be allowed to hold an independent thought. You might hold it, but you would be more than wary about sharing it. There are too many leaders who will upbraid anyone in their country who would stray from any “party” line. Even in more democratic countries, there are leaders who will bully, insult, manipulate, use legal loopholes or whatever to make sure that everyone feels that they are required to agree with them. Does this mean how “being one” should be practiced? Is this what Jesus meant when he prayed that we will all be one?

I don’t think so. Why would God give us the ability to fall from grace, to have the freedom to sin if all he wanted is for us all to think and speak the same? A better example of one who would want us to be one but able to practice and even celebrate our differences is Nelson Mandela. Mandela celebrated differences while challenging a divided country to be one. He wasn’t looking for agreement, he was looking for consensus. For him, consensus meant travelling down an agreed path, sharing a journey where people are to the forefront and where consensus means being prepared to “stand aside” for the sake of the whole.

Jesus’ prayer that we become “one” is challenging. We can always disagree, but our agreement should be related to our journey, a sharing of our goals, our mission, our destination.

Genuine community requires a shared journey which builds on our differences and our decision making to remain focused. Wow! Take a deep breath, but when you exhale ask yourself if you are on a shared pathway and determined to walk together.

The Rev Dr Adrian Brown

For the week of Friday, 15th May 2020

John 14:15-21

If you love me, you will keep my commandments’? John 14:15  What a challenge for us all! Does that mean our faith is measured by our active observance of Jesus’ commandments? That leads to the obvious question, ‘What are Jesus’ commandments?’

A quick search of surrounding verses finds Jesus giving a new commandment to ‘… love one another….  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’  John 13:34,35   And further on in John 15:12, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’  It seems as though the bottom line is love!

In these challenging times, how are we managing to live out Christ’s love so all will know that we are his disciples?

Lynona Hawkins

For the week of Friday, 1st May 2020

Psalm 23

So many of us, over so many, many years, have turned to this Psalm in times of difficulty and doubt. The words are beautiful, the concepts and images stir us, we sink into the Psalm and find there – what do we find there?

I find the Holy One. You may wonder why I call ‘God’ the Holy One. At college we were encouraged to think of, and use, other names for ‘God’. I started to use Holy One, and it has stuck with me. That is who ‘God’ is, The Holy One of the cosmos.

In this Psalm I immerse myself in the Holy One, and find quiet, peace and love. In this Psalm I rest in the Holy One, the One in whom we all live and move and have our being. During these weeks, maybe months, of social isolation, we keep away from friends and family to keep the infection rate of the corona virus as low as possible. We do not want those we love, or our neighbours, or anyone to get sick. It is the unknowns about this new disease that are really frightening. This Psalm helps me enormously.

I pray that you all stay safe, stay connected with people via phone and computer, and speak the words of this amazing Psalm when you need to. And I pray that the Holy One will be there with you when you do.

Anne Magarey

For the week of Friday, 24th April 2020

The Ordinary things in life

This week we’re focusing on the “everyday”, “ordinary” things in our lives.

We take many items for granted but where do they come from?

  • Butter comes from milk that is provided to us by cows. Cows need to eat grass and hay that comes from the earth to produce milk.
    Dairy farmers provide care for the cows and milk them twice a day. The milk is sent to a butter factory that churns the milk until it become butter.
  • Flour comes from grain. Grain is provided to us by farmers who till the earth, place seeds in the soil, tend the seeds until they have grown into plants ready for harvest. They harvest the seed and transport it to silos, from the silos the seed is sent to millers who turn the seed into flour.

Give thanks and praise to God for the earth that is the beginning point of all things.

Give thanks for all the creatures and all the hands that have gone into the growing and producing of these things.

Give thanks for all the people that are involved in delivering these products into our kitchen.

With thanks to CMLA

For the week of Friday, 17th April 2020

In Australia today, regular worshippers are a small percentage of those who declare themselves as Christian on the census. Of course, during our lockdown we are all irregular worshippers! Three generations back now seems like an “Age of Faith”.  This is more an ‘Age of Doubt’.

This Sunday’s reading introduces’ Doubting Thomas’ (Jn. 20: 19-31). He’s the appropriate apostle for our age.  While other apostles were locked together ‘Behind closed doors’, not unlike us today, Thomas dealt with his grief in aloneness. For him, the dead stayed dead.  His was honest doubt. Tennyson wrote “There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me than in all the creeds”.

There is a difference between belief in creedal statements drawn up by others which many of our children’s generation now find incredible and the trust in the Spirit which makes it possible for an individual , in Martin Luther King’s analogy, to take a step when one cannot see the end of the staircase.  We cannot see the end of our current lockdowns. We can have trust, like Thomas, to be prepared, as, with God, we move into our shared future.

Rev Dr Malcolm McArthur

For the week of Friday, 3rd April 2020

Great expectations…

This Sunday, ‘Palm Sunday,’ we reflect on Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the expectations surrounding him as Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one. We consider these expectations and whether or how they were met, and indeed what our own expectations might be of Jesus. As we consider our own lives, what are our expectations as we go about our lives? How do we respond when our expectations are not met? We will have the opportunity to reflect on the nature of expectation as we engage with this text.

Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 27th March 2020

This week’s Bible reading is the famous Ezekiel passage (Ezekiel 37: 1-14) about the valley of dry bones. The prophet Ezekiel was one of the exiles in Babylon whose lives had been devastated by the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. In this passage, Ezekiel is given a vision of God: a vision of hope out of hopelessness.

At this time of tremendous uncertainty, when the coronavirus pandemic has utterly dominated our consciousness, changing life in previously unimagined ways, what do you hope for?

Do you hope for the speedy development and introduction of a vaccine?
Do you hope for life to return to ‘normal’?
Do you hope simply to be able to visit family and friends with ease?
Do you hope for new and creative possibilities that might arise in these circumstances?

What sustains your hope at this time?
In this week’s message, we will explore this elusive thing called hope.

Stay safe…stay connected!

Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 20th March 2020

John 9:1-41

The story of a man born blind, miraculously healed by Jesus and then having to run the gamut of the religious leaders’ questions, disbelief and condemnation. Their denial of what was before their eyes shows that blindness comes in many forms.  It is so easy to rubbish things that are beyond our comprehension or do not fit in with our beliefs.  The challenge for all of us is to try to see beyond the familiar and comfortable, to learn to see with the eyes of our hearts.

Lord, we must know our blindness
before we can see; we must see
before we can understand.

                                Terry C Falla, Be Our Freedom Lord, P285

Lynona Hawkins

For the week of Friday, 13th March 2020

“The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

In this Sunday’s reading we hear of an encounter at a well between Jesus and an unnamed woman, a resident of Samaria. We hear in the narrative which follows something of the woman’s life, and we may thus be tempted to think that this informs us as to the sort of person she is. How often do we do this in our daily lives? How often do we observe people whom we encounter and form rapid judgements as to the sort of person they are? If we are prone to making such judgements, might not these judgements influence the nature and the quality of our interaction with these people? In this story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, we will examine how Jesus engaged with her, and how this engagement influenced all that followed.

Jesus speaks, during their conversation, of water that flows into a person, but also of ‘water’ that bubbles up from within a person’s core: what he called ‘living water.’ How might we experience this bubbling, fount of life in our interactions with each other?

Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 6th March 2020

This Sunday, our service will include a “covenant renewal” liturgy, based upon John Wesley’s covenant prayer. You have hopefully had time to read and reflect upon this prayer in the lead-up to this Sunday. It is a prayer of deep commitment and surrender. In this service, we will be hearing the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks of God making a new covenant with people, a covenant written not on tablets of stone, but written on human hearts. This describes a movement from the external imposition of law and obligation to the creation of a new inward reality, a reality that God, not us, brings about.

In the gospel reading, we hear Jesus speak to Nicodemus of being born of flesh and of spirit, with the latter being something outside human control, much like the wind, which blows where it will.

How do we participate in what God seeks to do within us?
How willing are we to allow God to continue to transform us into the ‘new creation,’ a creation born of ‘spirit,’ not just ‘flesh’; a new creation whose heart has been transformed?

Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 28th February 2020

This week marks the commencement of Lent, the season of preparation prior to Easter. The Old Testament and Gospel lectionary readings speak of temptation: the temptation of the primordial couple and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. There are so many ‘temptations’ in this life. There are so many examples of people succumbing to temptation in its many forms. Perhaps you yourself have succumbed to temptation? Admittedly, some of these temptations are quite trivial: eating chocolate or other treats that we know aren’t any good for us, but taste so good that they’re hard to resist! Other temptations are less trivial, and how we respond to such temptations on an ongoing basis can influence our lives in profound ways, for the better or for the worse. As we enter this Lent season, we have an opportunity to reflect upon our response to temptation in its many forms.

Michael Dowling

For the week of Friday, 21st February 2020

The lectionary readings from the Old and New Testaments tell the stories of biblical characters in the mountains. In the reading from Exodus we read about Moses being called up onto a mountain where he meets with God. In the reading from Matthew we read the story of the Transfiguration.

The readings this week show a God who is with us when we are disrupted, and a disruptive God. Through the chaos, God is elevated over it all – in the hills, in the clouds, and over mountains. Throughout the Season After the Epiphany, the light of God’s love is revealed in new ways. On this Transfiguration Sunday, the light shines brighter but the moment passes quickly, and we recognize that we do not make our home on the mountains, rather we are sent to continue the journey with Christ and to do the work of God. How does an encounter with Christ transform us?

(Adapted from Seasons of the Spirit, Copyright © Wood Lake Publishing Inc.)

Wes Bray

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