~ 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, 20th April 2018
Like a Candle
I don’t know how your week has been, but mine has been pretty mixed. Last Tuesday was the funeral of a friend in Melbourne in her 40’s who died following complications from heart surgery. Jill was an extraordinary human being. We first met in Tasmania in the 1990s. In her 20’s Jill went to the Philippines as an Intern in Mission. The experience changed her life. She developed a deep passion for social justice and went on to work for the Uniting Church in Victoria in human rights, advocating for refugees, covenanting with First Peoples, and mission partnerships. Jill co-ordinated our national About FACE program for years. She was exuberant, opinionated, passionate, funny and generous.
This week I am thinking of the many young adults whom I know – particularly those who have vibrant faith and a passion for justice. May we all encourage the young adults in our lives to discover and live out their calling. May we model faith for them and learn from their faith.
About 20 years ago, a mutual friend from Tassie, Rachel, died quite young and tragically. Rachel was on the staff of NCYC 1997. In memory of her I wrote the lyric for a song, sung last Tuesday at Jill’s funeral.
Like a candle burning wildly
Raging soft against the night
Spark that leaps to clear the shadows
Sending warm, disturbing light
We are called to live the passion
Hope stands strong against all pain
For it’s only in the burning
that the candle shows its flame.
For the week of Friday, 13th April 2018
We all hear criticism much more loudly than we hear affirmations. I have heard it said that it takes 10 positives to make up for one negative. But the right affirmation can make all the difference to someone’s life.
Ben Hooper grew up in the mountains of Tennessee in the 1870’s. He was mistreated because he was born out of wedlock. People were always examining his facial features and trying to guess who his father was. He used to go to a local church and would slip in just to hear the sermon. Afterward, he would hurry out, knowing that a boy such as himself was not welcome.
One Sunday Ben was unable to make his usual quick exit. When he reached the door he felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and fearfully turned to see the new preacher staring at him. Then the preacher said, “Who are you boy? Whose son are you?” Ben felt his heart sink, expecting to be put down once again. But then the preacher began to smile. “Wait a minute,’ he said, “I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are son of God.”
Ben left church that day a different person because someone recognised him as a child of God. Later in life, Ben Hooper was elected governor of Tennessee twice.
We are God’s children, not because of anything we do, but simply because God loves us and this is enormously powerful and liberating.
If you ever doubt that you are a person of immense worth remember this verse ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!’ 1 John 3:1a (NIV).
You are a loved child of God. Claim your inheritance joyfully.
For the week of Friday, 6th April 2018
Today we look at two resurrection appearances of Jesus. While for us Easter morning was a week away – for these disciples it is the evening of that first Easter. Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the disciples that first Easter evening and when they told him of their encounter with the risen Christ he struggled to believe them.
But there is so much more to Thomas that his questioning or doubting. Nine chapters earlier in the Gospel of John, when Jesus had resolved to go to Lazarus – when it was fairly clear that Jesus’ life was in danger – it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we might die there with you.” So we find that Thomas was a man of courage. A week later Jesus again appeared and, after seeing the risen Christ, Thomas makes one of the greatest and most faithful statements in John’s Gospel, “My Lord and my God!” One who has been forever tagged as the greatest doubter actually became one of the greatest believers. Legend says that Thomas went to India to preach the gospel and became their patron Saint.
Most of us are no different to Thomas. We want to believe – we do believe – but we also question. Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote, “There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”
Jesus did not castigate Thomas for his difficulty in believing and Christ will not castigate us for struggling with doubts and questions. I pray that as we wrestle with issues of faith we will be led into a deep and sustaining relationship with the divine.
Blessings, Rev Judi Hartwig
For the week of Friday, 30th March 2018
Poised over the Nothingness
When the old has been broken open, and we can’t yet see the new, all there is, is a space.
Entering more deeply into the kingdom of God can feel like repeatedly falling down a rabbit hole.
It takes courage and a wild sort of love to continue to take this sort of path.
The sort of love Mary had for Jesus.
She seeks him out even though he is dead and nothing is as she thought it was.
She finds an absence where the body should be.
It is the space where something new, beyond her imagining, is about to happen.
Later Jesus, again crossing boundaries, rises into the waters above the earth.
Leaving a space where he was and where something new is yet to occur.
And so we leave the disciples in the tension of the in-between.
Waiting on the creative action of the spirit of God.
The Anglican Board of Mission App “Deep calls to Deep”
For the week of Friday, 23rd March 2018
Reflections on Lent
Joy and suffering are two equally precious gifts which must both of them be savoured to the full, each one in its purity, without trying to mix them. Through joy, the beauty of the world penetrates our soul. Through suffering it penetrates our body. We could no more become friends of God through joy alone than one becomes a ship’s captain by studying book on navigation.
Waiting on God
The monk faces the worst, and discovers in it the hope of the best. From the abyss there comes, unaccountably, the mysterious gift of the spirit sent by God to make all things new, to transform the created and redemmed world, and to re-establish all things in Christ.
For the week of Friday, 16th March 2018
Reading: Mark 14:12-71
Thursday in Holy Week
There is something quite frightening when the lights go out, eerie even. If you are in a place where you are unfamiliar it is even scarier because you really are unsure of where to go next, to know where safety is to be found. You are subject to bumping into things, risking a bruise or two. You might also be at risk of panicking.
Something similar happens when faced with an uncertain future, particularly when you don’t feel like you are helpless or when you have no choice except to go when and where you are directed.
Jesus had enjoyed a supper with his friends. They remembered when God had called them into the unknown towards the Promised Land. There was comfort and joy in that. But Jesus also noticed that Judas had slipped out and he knew what he was going to do. For Jesus, his fate had all but been sealed.
Now he was in the garden and he was scared. He knew what obedience would demand but he wanted to give God a last opportunity to change the course of history. He would give anything to take a different course but, at the same time, he knew that his helplessness was nothing compared with where God wanted to go. Jesus’ helplessness was God determination.
When we feel unable to take control and have no certainty about the future the only certainty is that God will walk beside us and even carry us if required. In such times we are not alone and even if the outcome is different from the one we would like we can be encouraged by the knowledge that we don’t have to walk alone.
Next Week: Friday and crucifixion
The Rev Dr Adrian Brown
For the week of Friday, 9th March 2018
Reading: Mark 14:1-11
The Need for a Traitor
The Macquarie dictionary defines a traitor as “one who betrays a person, a cause or any trust”.
It is a common story when a teacher asks a class to do a task in small groups. When the work is completed and handed up there is usually one student who lodges a complaint about another student who did not pull their weight. As a result, the work submitted is, in the opinion of the complaining student, not up to the desired standard. Alternatively, there is a statement along the lines of I had to do a lot more work than I wanted to in order to make certain that the piece of work was the highest standard possible.
In this situation are there one or two traitors? Is the student who did not contribute sufficiently to the group a traitor? Is the student who makes the complaint a traitor?
Stories such as these remind us that acts of betrayal are not restricted to the Bible. There are many acts of betrayal committed, sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally, in the world around us. This week as we consider the story of Judas and his act of betrayal during Holy week we need to reflect on the lives we live and the actions we undertake.
For the week of Friday, 2nd March 2018
Reading: Mark 11: 20-13:37
Tuesday in Holy Week
Each one of us finds us in our inner selves to challenge authority. It might be how we cross a road, the speed we travel at, the expectations on us by our neighbours or our family or any number of other things you can think of where you have challenged authority.
Challenging authority was probably at its height when you were growing up. After all, parents never really know best, do they? Challenging authority growing up wasn’t always accompanied by thinking about the consequences and, in any case, they didn’t necessarily matter all that much and were often consequences worth accepting.
As we get older consequences related to challenging authority often carry a greater burden. Sometimes those consequences can cost us friendships, money or reputation. They do not usually cost us our life.
Jesus knew. He knew that if continued to challenge authority the consequences could be dire and likely lead to death. Nonetheless, he persisted because he had no choice. Those whom he challenged had lost sight of the demands of their own faith and often were more concerned for their own personal needs than those whom they were supposed to serve.
Jesus’ challenge to authority is part of the story which leads to Good Friday and, to the chagrin of those whom he challenged, to Easter Day. Each of us need to ask ourselves why it is we challenge authority and do we have our priorities right. Jesus’ example is good and right and so might our challenges be equally good and right and if they are then we are in good company.
Read Mark 11: 20 -13: 37
Next week: Wednesday in Holy Week: The need for a traitor
The Rev Dr Adrian Brown
For the week of Friday, 23rd February 2018
Face Like Flint
From the perspective of the chief priests, scribes, and Jewish leaders, it was one thing for this teacher from the backwaters of Nazareth to share his stories and make his claims and do his miracles with his followers. But now he was inside the Holy City. He had entered the gates like he was the new David or the new Solomon. And now he has the audacity to declare that the Temple in essence belongs to him and his Father? Who is he to suggest that the Jewish system was enabling sin rather than worship? And how dare he argue that the Jewish authorities were ignorant of true godliness and piety?
From this point forward, there would be no turning back. Jesus is not shrinking back. In fact, he is accelerating the sentence of death.
Evening approaches. The sun will set around 7:00pm, beginning the new day according to the Jewish calendar. Jesus and his disciples make their return to Bethany. Tomorrow will be a new day to confound, to turn things upside down, as Jesus continues to fulfil the eternal plan that will take him to Calvary.
Written by Jonathan Parnell
Your Sorrow will Turn to Joy
Morning & Evening Meditations for Holy Week