~ 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, 18th August 2017

Reading:  Matthew 15: (10 – 20) 21 – 28 [Eleventh after Pentecost]

Jesus’ encounter with the Syro-Phoenician (Gentile) woman up the coast in Tyre and Sidon (today’s modern Lebanon) presents those seeking to understand and interpret scripture with one of their greatest challenges. Middle Eastern scholar Kenneth Bailey in his “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes” comments that “this story is often viewed as a troubling embarrassment. A sincere foreign woman seeks help from Jesus. At first he ignores her. He then appears to exhibit racism and insensitivity to her suffering as he insults her in public … Why, the reader inevitably asks, is this poor woman ‘put through the wringer’ before Jesus accepts to exorcise the demon from her daughter?” [page217].

Ours is not to rescue or redeem the Gospel stories, squeezing it to conform with our expectations (though many do!). Their incongruence and contradictions are a worthwhile and living challenge to the reader.   I rather think that in this story some things are sacrificed in the telling for the sake of other purposes, overlooking things that remain to strike alarm in the modern reader.

The previous ten verses of Matthew’s account engage Jesus and the religious leaders over purity rules and uncleanliness requirements. Taken in context as illustrative of the rest of the chapter’s issue of what makes for holiness, the woman’s example supplies the answer.   Faith. Trusting faith.   That’s all that is needed. Not our own piety or practices – though they may follow.

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 11th August 2017

Reading:  Matthew 14: 22-33 [Tenth (10) after Pentecost]

There are many approaches to Gospel stories but we might generalise that the feeding of the 5000 can either be read asking, “How did he do that?” [to which we would need to add, “What did he do? (do we know?)] or, ‘What is this story saying to us and our faith?” In other words we might take a right brain or left brain approach, a rational or poetic/imaginative one.

When we place this story in its historical/religious context it can be seen as sitting between the story of faith of the people of Israel in the ‘wilderness’, in their ‘hunger’ and doubting and God’s leadership of them, brining ‘manna from heaven’ (then as now) and the early church’s practice of sharing in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. Note Jesus has the crowds (who he feels for) ‘sit down’, he ‘takes the loaves and two fish’, ‘’looked up to heaven’, ‘blessed and broke it’ and then gave it to them.

Sounds to me like a poetic remembrance of the people’s desert experience. Or even a foretaste of the church’s special meal of remembrance. What cannot be missed – however it happened – is that God knows, feels for and attends to the needs of God’s people. That’s worth a re-enactment, however small the elements be!

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 4th August 2017

Reading:  Matthew 14: 13 – 21 [Ninth (9) after Pentecost]

There are many approaches to Gospel stories but we might generalise that the feeding of the 5000 can either be read asking, “How did he do that?” [to which we would need to add, “What did he do? (do we know?)] or, ‘What is this story saying to us and our faith?” In other words we might take a right brain or left brain approach, a rational or poetic/imaginative one.

When we place this story in its historical/religious context it can be seen as sitting between the story of faith of the people of Israel in the ‘wilderness’, in their ‘hunger’ and doubting and God’s leadership of them, brining ‘manna from heaven’ (then as now) and the early church’s practice of sharing in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. Note Jesus has the crowds (who he feels for) ‘sit down’, he ‘takes the loaves and two fish’, ‘’looked up to heaven’, ‘blessed and broke it’ and then gave it to them.

Sounds to me like a poetic remembrance of the people’s desert experience. Or even a foretaste of the church’s special meal of remembrance. What cannot be missed – however it happened – is that God knows, feels for and attends to the needs of God’s people. That’s worth a re-enactment, however small the elements be!

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 28th July 2017

Reading: Matthew 13: 31 – 33, 44 – 52 [Pentecost 8]

So if you haven’t got it yet, here are five (5) more parables to describe the Kingdom: mustard seeds, yeast, treasures, a net. The Kingdom Jesus describes in parables, and which faith in God brings are seen here through ordinary, insignificant, even easily-overlooked things, as simple as a household item, rather than the ‘always-winning’, and ‘successful’ images after which our culture hankers.

And the interesting thing about the Kingdom in each of these is what it DOES, its impact in people and how they respond. Read them again and instead of the images to the left [that is, before] the ‘which’, read to the right [“which grows to become the largest of trees, … which , when he finds it, a man sells everything for,.. which works its way through the dough” …].

These, then are parables of effect, of achievement, of unexpected outcome. The Kingdom is to be marked and celebrated for what it brings in the lives of its bearers. Faith in God, (whatever picture of it we might have), which brings peace, hope, comfort and love.

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 21st July 2017

Reading: Matthew 13: 24 – 30 [Seventh after Pentecost]

In October 1970, country singer Lynn Anderson graced our airwaves singing, “I beg your pardon I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there’s gotta be a little rain sometime.” Likely this was the voice of relationship asking for reasonable expectations, but I wonder if she was echoing the sentiments of Today’s reading?

The parable of the weeds growing amongst the wheat, the second in a series of Parables of the Kingdom, gives voice to two universally human responses to the problem of evil or when things go ‘wrong’. First, the slaves question the master, “Did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then did these weeds come from?” [verse 27] A question commonly asked by people in times of suffering is, “Why, God? Where has this come from?” (even by people normally without faith in God). Then, there is the second response, “Let us weed them out.” In other words, “I/we can fix this!

In this context, the parable encourages hearers through to accept that, like weeds and wheat, good and evil exist side-by-side. Its in the nature of things. Faith is assumedly therefore not about what happens, whether we escape life’s realities, but about how we respond in the face of them.

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 14th July 2017

Reading: Matthew 13: 1 – 9 [Sixth after Pentecost]

The Gospel of Matthew begins a three-week focus on Parables of the Kingdom in its chapter 13 collection. The title which American writer gave to his collection of poetry might well apply to these: “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. Here Jesus as story-teller is inviting us to ‘think outside the square’, to see God’s goodness in picture language, to take the ordinary of our lives and let it become extraordinary.

Do you remember Guy Fawke’s night and its celebration with ‘crackers’? The penny bangers? Thin sticks of balsa lamely headed skywards as “Skyrockets’? But the loveliest of them all was the Catherine Wheel, which for maximum effect was levered vertically off a table edge, sending shards of white sparkling light off in all directions.

The Parables are Gospel equivalents of the Catherine wheel, with meanings firing off every which way. The Kingdom of God is like …

Rev Phil Hoffmann


For the week of Friday, 7th July 2017

What have we got in the readings for this week? The reading from Paul looks like a lament at Paul’s inability to do what he wants to do. It looks like he’s blaming the Jewish law for this; the sort of argument that goes “If you hadn’t told me not to do it, I would never have thought of doing it”. The reading from Genesis is about Rachel leaving her family to be Isaac’s wife. This is a story of trust and its reward. The readings from Psalms and the Song of Solomon are about the delights of human love, and we can’t argue about that.

The reading from Matthew brings in people behaving like argumentative children, the differences between John the Baptist and Jesus, the importance of innocent trustfulness for followers of Jesus, and it ends with the beautiful lines: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is “light”. I think there is a word that describes all of these readings and that word is “trust”. Remember that “trust” and “faith” (and belief, confidence, fidelity, faithfulness) are all meanings of the Biblical Greek word “pistis”. We are being urged to have that simple trust and faith that relieves us of our worries, our concerns and our sense of failure.

Anne Magarey