~ 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, 12th August 2022
I bring you welcome from the Presbytery – it is a pleasure to be preaching this coming Sunday at Blackwood. Our Luke text ends with a very clear challenge to religious leaders. Stay connected and take seriously the world in which we live! I hope that my many roles give me a running chance of reaching up to Luke’s standard. As well as chair of the Presbytery I have worked in advocacy and social justice at Uniting Communities for over 15 years. So, I have been exposed and worked alongside professionals in a range of social issues. And I have thought deeply and worked with theories of change. And this year I have been given the opportunity to do some research at Flinders University on the use and impact of data sets on disadvantaged peoples. I look forward to meeting you and hope that together we might discern God’s call on our lives together.
Rev. Peter McDonald, Chairperson Presbytery Southern SA.
For the week of Friday, 5th August 2022
This Sunday we celebrate lay preachers Sunday.
In the introduction of the commissioning service for a lay preacher the following words are spoken:
“The Uniting Church provides for the exercise by men and women of the gifts God bestows upon them for the building up of the Church. The office of lay preacher is a ministry in which persons may participate in the proclamation of the gospel.
The Church seeks to recognise those who are called by God to the work of preaching and who have the gifts of the Spirit for this ministry. The Church provides for their training and accreditation.
In the act of commissioning, lay preachers of the Uniting Church in Australia are authorised to lead worship and preach in the congregation in which they hold membership, and in other congregations to which they may be invited.”
Lay preachers are important in the life of the Uniting Church. There are many worship centres, particularly in the country areas, where regular worship is conducted by a lay preacher as there is no minister available to lead worship.
This Sunday, let us give thanks for the men and women who are exercising their gifts and who have answered the call to lead worship.
This Sunday let us pause and consider what gifts we have been given by God and how we are using them.
For the week of Friday, 29th July 2022
Something to think about
“The day the babies crawled away” is a children’s picture book which tells the story of some babies who escaped a pie eating lunch and went about having a wonderful time, chasing butterflies, chasing bees, frogs, bats, and other things but they were followed by someone who cared and who rescued the babies when they got in trouble. The babies didn’t care as they went about doing their own thing, ignoring the one who cared and brought them home and saving the day.
This story is an analogous to the story of the prophet Hosea whose wife ignored the care and love of her husband so that she could do her own thing. Hosea learns, through his own experience just how much God cares for Israel and its people, in spite of their wayward ways.
God cares, even if we don’t. He is always there to reach out and save the day, even if we don’t notice.
Read Hosea 11:1-11
Rev Dr Adrian Brown
For the week of Friday, 22nd July 2022
Luke 11:1-13 ‘Lord, teach us how to pray’.
What an important request!
Prayer enables us to communicate with God, to be in relationship with Holy One. So Jesus tells a story of an unexpected visitor, a would be host without any bread & a sleepy neighbour, then finishes by telling us to ask, seek, knock & then we will receive. As easy & as difficult as that.
Can we recognise ourselves in this story?
Where is Holy One revealed?
How might this help us to pray?
For the week of Friday, 15th July 2022
“Worried and distracted by many things?! Who? Me?!”
This Sunday we hear the famous story of the sisters Mary and Martha, those seemingly polar opposites, who respond so differently to Jesus’ arrival in their home. Martha is occupied with the obligations of hospitality. Mary, in marked contrast, seems to ignore her obligations as host, narking her sister off no end, and instead sits at the feet of Jesus, who rubs salt into Martha’s wound by suggesting that Mary, not Martha, has chosen the better path. I would love to have been a fly on the wall after Jesus and the disciples had gone on their way!
This Sunday we will examine this story, seeking to drawn out what it may have to tell us about “The One Thing” of which there is need.
For the week of Friday, 8th July 2022
Luke 10: 25-37 is one of Jesus’ key stories and much loved.
Those who first heard this story may well have thought: ‘He thinks even the old Samaritan can be OK even though they are our enemies to the North, the one’s in ‘black hats’.
It must have been a surprise for Jesus to portray a Samaritan as the one in a ‘white hat’ while law-abiding, highly respected scholars and religious could be uncaring, self-satisfied. Were they a ‘black hatted’ pair?
His message: Love calls us to help. Love replaces legalisms.
I wonder who are Samaritans for us today? Have we too often offered only ‘Thoughts and Prayers’?
Rev. Dr Malcolm McArthur
For the week of Friday, 1st July 2022
This Sunday we acknowledge NAIDOC Week.
NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.
Its origins can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920′s which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year (Sunday to Sunday), to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.
As we reflect on our own participation in the ongoing journey of reconciliation between first and second peoples, we consider this year’s NAIDOC theme:
Get up! Stand up! Show up!
For the week of Friday, 24th June 2022
Presence and absence.
How often are we present, and how often are we absent?
This sounds like a silly question.
If we’re physically somewhere, then surely, we’re present wherever that somewhere is!
But how often are we physically present, but mentally absent?
Our modern world is one of tremendous distraction. We have TV, Smartphones, email, YouTube, Facebook. We have a hundred different calls on our time every moment of the day. Is it any wonder that when we arrive physically, when we stop, when we sit down, when we look like we are present, that we are, in reality, mentally off with the fairies? Despite our physical presence, mentally we are absent, still thinking about…tasks undone, events that lie in the past, events yet to come, worries that may never materialize. Ours is an anxiety-inducing culture, and anxious, restless thoughts are not conducive to being truly present: to others, to life, to God, to our deepest selves.
Being truly present to another person in difficulty can be a great gift to them. We have probably all experienced the comforting presence of someone who was truly present to us in our pain and distress.
What of the presence of God in our lives?
What of the absence of God in our lives?
This Sunday we will explore the experience of God’s presence and God’s absence as described by the writers of the psalms.
For the week of Friday, 10th June 2022
Three in One – the Trinity
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, the celebration of a Christian doctrine, which is unusual. But what does it mean? How did it come about? Is it relevant to us, today? Is it possible to explain the concept of the Trinity?
The Trinity is included in the Apostles’ Creed. During the
Lenten Study, Michael introduced participants to a revision of this, which he wrote. If you get a chance, and you haven’t seen it, please read it. It’s on the BUC website https://blackwooduc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Lenten-Study-2022-Study-7.pdf and both Creeds, ancient and modern, are on page 20 of the study.
For the week of Friday, 3rd June 2022
This Sunday, we acknowledge the pivotal event in the development of the Christian faith referred to as Pentecost. Although Pentecost subsequently acquired a specifically Christian meaning, it had traditionally been a Jewish harvest festival, occurring 50 days after Passover, also known as the Feast of Weeks. In this week’s Bible reading, we hear of how Jesus’ disciples after his death were transformed through this strange event on the day of Pentecost, through this “giving of the Spirit.” The Greek work for spirit is pneumatos, from which we derive the English word pneumatic: there is an aspect of the spirit that is akin to wind, breath, air; a wind that blows where it will. Like a storm’s powerful winds, the Spirit can bring with it disruption.
Whereas the disciples had previously been fearful and in hiding, they were now transformed into bold proclaimers of the gospel, bold prophets who carried this good news into the world. Like the prophets who came before them, their message was a disruptive message, one that challenged the status quo of their times.
What is the message of Pentecost for us today?
Who are the prophets in our midst today?
What disruptions do we experience today?
We shall explore such questions on Sunday.
For the week of Friday, 27th May 2022
This Sunday 29th May is Reconciliation Sunday and we are thrilled to have Tarlee Leonardis, Covenanting Officer at Synod, as our guest preacher. We look forward, very much, to what Tarlee will share about our call and commitment to the journey of reconciliation between first and second peoples. After the service, at 11.30am, we will join the Reconciliation Walk to Colebrook Reserve. Please join us on this special day.
For the week of Friday, 22nd May 2022
And in the spirit, he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven…
This Sunday, we engage with the last and most enigmatic book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. If you like fantastical imagery, this is your go-to book! Dragons, beasts, lakes of fire, the antichrist. It’s got everything, leaving Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings green with envy. The reading this week speaks of a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, a new Jerusalem of stunning proportions and appearance. Indeed, the wider passage speaks of “A New Heaven and a New Earth.” Like with the other fantastical images in Revelation, the images of this New Jerusalem, this New Heaven and New Earth, point to something beyond the literal images; they point to something amazing. In this depiction of the culmination of all things, what exactly might God be up to with creation? Fantastical images aside, what might a New Heaven and a New Earth look like…for real?
For the week of Friday, 13th May 2022
This weeks message will be a reflection on loneliness in our society , and how it affects people and how we can be more aware of its impacts, and support those who struggle with it.
Peter McDonald, Guest Preacher, Uniting Communities
For the week of Friday, 6th May 2022
We will look at the story of the disciple Tabitha, loved for her charitable works, who is brought back to life after the Apostle Peter prayed for her, much to the delight of the recipients of her practical & generous gifts. It is a story containing grief, despair, faith, love, hope, relief, gratitude and joy. And to top it off there is resurrection, a new beginning!
How might we use our variety of gifts & talents both personally and as a community to bring hope & new life to others?
For the week of Friday, 29th April 2022
“All of Us”
Have you ever experienced an almost physical “clunk” as your mind reorients itself? Suddenly you know where you are, or something makes sense, or a new context adds meaning. In one of our readings for this week, Saul’s understanding of things is challenged suddenly and powerfully, leading to a transformation.
Often of course, our re-orientation to a reality, or an expanding awareness, comes more slowly as we wonder, listen, imagine, and connect.
How might we expand our thinking? How might we see ourselves – all of us – in a new way? How might we be transformed?
For the week of Friday, 22nd April 2022
Last November, we acknowledged the 100th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the church, and that was indeed a joyous day of celebration and thanksgiving.
This Sunday we celebrate 100 years since the opening of the building. Sunday won’t be a grand affair like the November centenary, but rather an opportunity to quietly reflect on the 100 years of faithful Christian witness in this place.
In this physical “house” we will reflect on the kind of spiritual “house” that God has built in this place, and which God continues to build, with our active involvement.
For the week of Friday, 15th April 2022
Finally…we draw near to the cross of Good Friday.
Finally…we draw near to the resurrection of Easter.
We have explored, during this Lenten season, our theme Questioning Our Grip on the Cross. We have questioned how tightly we cling to the cross and why, and also how much we grasp or understand about the cross. We have examined and subjected to critique the traditional Christian understanding of the cross.
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
Did Jesus’ death on the cross serve some purpose?
We have explored our own personal understanding of the cross.
Who is Jesus for you?
What does the cross mean for you?
We ask now, what of resurrection?
As we ask what meaning is there in a Crucified Messiah?
We now ask what meaning is there in a Resurrected Messiah?
What meaning is there, for us as individuals, and for our world?
On Good Friday and on Easter Sunday we will conclude our exploration.
For the week of Friday, 8th April 2022
There are many ways of looking at the story of Jesus and his crucifixion. Over the last few weeks with Michael, we have examined some of the theological approaches adopted over the centuries. Each of us also brings our own life experience to interpret and understand the story in a way that makes sense to us. There are variations ranging from fact to myth (not just a story, but one that adds to our understanding of God in a way that facts don’t). Over the centuries, others have expressed their faith through modern mythic tales, through poetry, and through song.
Palm Sunday is one of those occasions where we celebrate a procession, an event, with a known consequence, but the question we need to answer whether through the approach of myth, poetry or some cause-and-effect methodology is why Jesus took the road that led to the cross. We may not all agree on the theology, but, in the final analysis, we can say that Jesus’ journey to the cross was an act of love for all humankind.
For the week of Friday, 1st April 2022
What exactly did Jesus’ death on the cross “do”?
We continue our Lenten theme Questioning Our Grip on the Cross. A major strand of Christian belief has traditionally asserted that Jesus “had to die on the cross.” In past weeks, we have examined and critiqued the argument for this assertion, exploring the sacrificial imagery of the New Testament writers and the Fall-Salvation theology that later theologians developed.
This week, setting aside our critique of these arguments, we ask the question: “Okay, if Jesus had to die on the cross, what exactly did his death on the cross do?” We will look for evidence of the effects of Jesus’ death on the cross in the real-world, not only in a collective sense, but also in a very personal sense, in our own life.
For the week of Friday, 27th March 2022
Logos: meaning, reason
Theology: giving an account or an explanation of God
In our Lenten study series Questioning Our Grip on the Cross, as we approach the cross of Good Friday, we continue to examine our grasp or understanding of the cross.
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
What purpose, if any, did Jesus’ death serve?
Last week, we examined how the New Testament writers sought to make sense of Jesus-as-Messiah getting crucified. What could such apparent nonsense mean? To answer this question, and out of their own sacrificial culture, these writers enthusiastically mined the Old Testament scriptures for “evidence” that Jesus was some form of sacrifice to God. Their writings include abundant sacrificial images, but nothing resembling a systematic theological explanation for why Jesus “had to die” on the cross.
This week, we will examine how later theologians took these New Testament images and, over a period of hundreds of years, developed a particular type of theology, Fall-Salvation theology, which aimed to do just that. We will examine the logic and the implications of this theology, as we continue to seek understanding of the cross of Jesus.
For the week of Friday, 13th March 2022
Our Lenten theme is entitled Questioning Our Grip on the Cross. The Lenten study series of the same name as well as the messages during Lent will explore this theme.
How much do we cling to the cross of Jesus, and why?
How well do we grasp or understand the cross of Jesus?
During this season we will have an opportunity to explore these and other questions as we journey toward the cross of Good Friday and the resurrection of Easter. Accompanying us on the journey will be images in the form of the wonderful artwork created by Alison Sutcliffe. As these images change and transform during the Lenten period, we too have the opportunity to explore and ask questions that may lead to change within us, including changes relating to how we view the cross.
For the week of Friday, 4th March 2022
On this first Sunday in Lent we traditionally enter the ‘wilderness’ as we join Jesus in a time of testing. During our lives we might experience many forms of wilderness, from the physical wilderness of our large country’s outback to the desolation of loneliness, illness, grief or Covid quarantine. Then there are those who find themselves in the wilderness of homelessness or detention or as the result of conflict and war…
Generally we don’t want to be in these places without being able to control where and for how long we are there. Yet if we are open to the Spirit’s presence and leading we might find richness and blessing, even in the most unlikely of places.
For the week of Friday, 25th February 2022
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.
This Sunday we reflect on the event known as the transfiguration.
- A change in form or appearance
- An exalting, glorifying, or spiritual change
What did the disciples see on that mountain?
Did Jesus really “change” or did the disciples simply see him for whom he truly was?
Might Jesus have remained the same, with something changing within the disciples, allowing them to see things anew?
We will explore the idea of change and changelessness, both in Jesus and in us, this Sunday.
For the week of Friday, 18th February 2022
“Love your Enemies”
Be prepared to have a journey from 1914 to today,
to look at the historical and the personal,
in order to follow the teachings of Jesus.
For the week of Friday, 11th February 2022
The beatitudes in Luke are a bit of a nightmare. If God blesses the people who do it rough in this world and curses those who get a good run, then we are in trouble. If we are honest, most of us have had a pretty good run. So, is God the God of rough times? Is he the God who redresses balances; a little here gets a lot there, while a lot here gets little there?
The nightmare can be eased because we know, from experience, that God is not such a God. Our God is the one who brought his people out of slavery, out of not having an identity to having an identity, a people who became his people. Our God is a gracious God, and that’s what the beatitudes, the blessings, are all about. As Moses descended from the mountain and declared the gift of God’s love (“you are my people”), so Jesus descends from the mountain and declares a similar blessing to his disciples – “blessed are you”.
It is good time to be reminded of the traditional prayer of humble access that has been said so often over the years. It is a prayer which puts these beatitudes in a proper place and ourselves with it.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, so that we may truly love You and worthily praise Your holy name; through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Read Psalm 1 and Luke 6:17-26
For the week of Friday, 4th February 2022
Call, Calling: This prominent biblical term is used with particular theological significance in three ways: in connection with worship, with election, and with vocation. (From Bible Study Tools, Quick Reference Dictionary)
I always think of ‘call’ as being called to do something, to be something. Here we have Jesus ‘calling’ disciples. Those who have been fishing, and caught nothing, and are cleaning the nets prior to packing up, for some reason go out again, and catch so many fish they think the boat will capsize. Jesus shows them he knows where the fish are, lots of fish. A miracle, and one of massive proportions. A leader worth following? These fishers must have thought so, for that is what they do, immediately.
Do we follow a call immediately, intuitively, or do we think about it? Does it seem strange, out of the blue, or does it come upon us slowly? And when we look back on it, what do we remember, and what has responding or not responding done in our lives?
For the week of Friday, 28th January 2022
Hmmm…how do we define the reality that is love?
Love is…a many-splendored thing?
Love is…letting go of fear?
Love is…really good, and there should be more of it?
Love is…hey, what is this thing called love?!
There are so many cliches that come to mind when the word love is mentioned.
A particular scripture passage about love has itself almost become a cliche, so often has that passage been quoted, and at so many weddings. I speak, of course, about Paul’s famous passage on love from 1st Corinthians chapter 13.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
In a way, it is sad that this text on love has become so popular! We’ve heard it so often that the words can lose their significance. This Sunday, we will engage with this famous passage, trying, as we do, to get to the essence of this enigmatic thing called love.
For the week of Friday, 17th December 2021
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Christmas approaches and we hear stories of the birth of the infant Jesus. We hear of shepherds, wise men, stars that travel and then stop over the place of his birth. We hear of the experiences of Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and we read accounts of the miraculous conception of Jesus. It all seems very special.
The earliest writer in the New Testament, the apostle Paul, seemed to know nothing of the specialness of Jesus’ conception and birth. As far as Paul was concerned, Jesus was “born of a woman,” nothing more, nothing less. The author of the first gospel to acquire written form (the gospel of Mark) likewise seems to have known nothing about the specialness of Jesus’ conception and birth. Nor did the author of the gospel of John (who had other fish to fry; but that’s another story). Instead, it is the so-called “infant narratives” of the gospels of Matthew and Luke that dominate our Christmas experience.
In today’s reading, we hear of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, a visit that has acquired musical shape in the form of the Magnificat, based upon Mary’s exclamation “My soul magnifies the Lord!”
This Sunday, we will explore the magnificent magnification of Mary.
For the week of Friday, 10th December 2021
Although the work is urgent, Jesus’ call for us to walk hopefully with him into an unjust world, is patient, as patient as enduring the derision of the Romans, as patient as submitting to the cross, as patient as forgiving his enemies.
This is a long game, righting oppression, and it requires courage, commitment and humility. It requires closing the door against self interest and opening ourselves to something greater.
This investment will take a lifetime and it will be our inheritance. Indeed, it is not what we leave others when our life is over, it is what we leave in them. And that takes time.
For the week of Friday, 3rd December 2021
Leaving home can be a challenge. It can be a road into the unknown, into a wilderness fraught with dangers. But wilderness can turn into something else as we travel the various roads, tracks or paths that wend their way through the wilderness. Travelling through the wilderness can become a turning point that leads to new ways of understanding, new ways of living.
Of course, we don’t have to leave home in order to find ourselves in the wilderness. We can readily find our lives taking unexpected twists and turns that make us despair which can also become times of growth and opportunity, hope and challenge.
John the Baptist ventured into a wilderness and when he emerged, he must have been a frightening sight – all unkempt and surviving on what he could find off the land. But his image was deceiving, because he came with a challenge to any who would listen and even to those who did not.
John was the one preparing the way, the One who was sent by God with the “real” challenge to stand up and look beyond the wilderness, to look towards the future and to opportunities to reconnect with themselves and with God.
This story, this challenge, is a way of having us look towards Christmas and the meaning attached to it. In that sense, we are going home.
Sometimes we must leave home in order to go home. That is what John does, that is what we can also do.
Read Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6 The Rev Dr Adrian Brown
For the week of Friday, 26th November 2021
Our Advent theme this year is that of leaving home. We know the story, of course, of Mary and Joseph leaving home, and journeying together to an unknown future, a future that would include a special child, Jesus. Leaving home necessitates the opening and closing of doors: the door to one’s past closes, and a door to the future opens.
This first Sunday of Advent we will reflect on the various “leaving home” events in our lives, both as individuals and collectively as a community. Last Sunday, we joyfully celebrated 100 years of Christian community here in this place. In a sense, the door to those 100 years is now closed. As we look back on those 100 years with gratitude, we face the door to our future, with hope and anticipation.
For the week of Friday, 19th November 2021
100 Years: Looking back, looking ahead
This Sunday, we celebrate our 100th anniversary! Our worship will indeed celebrate this milestone in the life of our faith community, as we reflect on the rich history of this place and its people. We are delighted to have, as our guest preacher, much-loved former minister of Blackwood, Rev. David Houston, who will also share with us some reflections on life and ministry at Blackwood from some 50 years ago. During the service, others will also share their thoughts and memories of life at BUC, as we give thanks for God’s ongoing faithfulness to this community over 100 years.
Lest we think the day is all about “looking back,” let us remind ourselves that we have, as a community, been intentionally looking ahead to our future. What is it we need to be doing now, what decisions do we need to take now, in order that our community may continue to be a blessing to our wider community, and to be blessed by our wider community, in the decades to come?
So…come along Sunday!
Come along and celebrate at our 100th anniversary worship service!
Come along and share lunch together!
Come along and delight in the concert that will follow!
Come along and reflect on 100 years of community life at Blackwood Uniting Church! And…come along as, with anticipation and hope, we look to the future and where Christ may be leading us.
For the week of Friday, 12th November 2021
This week’s Gospel reading is from Mark 13, sometimes referred to as the “Mini Apocalypse.” In this chapter, Jesus speaks of calamities to come, including the destruction of the Jewish temple, wonders in the skies above, and the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. Apocalyptic writing often employs bizarre and fantastical imagery to arrest the reader’s attention. If you want examples of such imagery, try reading the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse (aka Revelation) of John sometime! Whilst apocalyptic literature points to “the end of all things” it is also grounded in the here and now. The apocalyptic writer is pointing to things that need to change, and change right now. Interestingly, in this apocalyptic passage, Jesus speaks of “the beginning of birth pangs,” as if new life was somehow emerging from the chaos and calamity. What needs to change in our world? What needs to change in our lives as individuals? What new life is God seeking to bring forth out of disorder and chaos? We shall explore such questions this Sunday.
For the week of Friday, 5th November 2021
Social Influencers are not a new phenomenon. Even Jesus outed ‘Influencers’ in his time, even the ‘teachers of the Law’. There are people who have a positive influence in our community, and people whose influence causes distress, hurt, and even long-lasting grief. Passive-aggressive, power-over, manipulative and denigrating people, still exist today within our churches, unfortunately. They may seek to lead worship, singing or prayers, or seek power through election to leadership, Church Council or as an Elder. They create a small band of supporters, being able to meet a person’s emotional need, to develop loyalty and ‘friendship’. This is called grooming. Then the ‘Influencer’ systematically takes advantage of those positions and relationships, to influence others to follow their lead through innuendo and persuasive means. Their subtle denigration and progressive demeaning of others through sly comments, non-inclusivity, re-storying truth to create a negative reality, or using another’s way of being, disability or incapacity, as a ‘funny story’, a joke to cajole others to laugh with the Influencer at the victim’s expense. In today’s world, this is named as bullying, intimidation, and harassment. At worst, it becomes mental, physical or sexual abuse. It is a destructive pattern that is often hard to identify before it exacerbates such devastating consequences on the victim (ill health, grief, damaged self-esteem, anxiety or victimization).
Jesus identifies the negative ‘Influencers’. Nowhere in our biblical teachings is there support for such behaviour. This is not the Way of Jesus, nor loving your neighbour.
Jesus calls us to follow God’s Way to bring influence through completely different ways of being and living. We, who have a wealth of good relationships need to give all of ourselves like the widow, to create the treasury of God’s just and peace-filled love.
Let us look to our Churches, our practices and our lack of naming these behaviours, our fear of confronting the bully because they are ‘Church people’, or have power and influence; or we participate with the ‘Influencer’ and their subtle, destructive behaviour.
As we celebrate All Saints Day (All Hallows/Halloween), and grieve with many on All Souls Day, we recall with joy those who have been shining lights of Christianity who have given all that they had in faith filled lives, thus, our sorrowing is a mingling of bittersweet.
© Rev Anne Hewitt 03/11/2021
For the week of Friday, 29th October 2021
By whom will we be blessed?
This Sunday’s Bible reading is the story of Ruth. Ruth is a foreigner, from the land of Moab. Moabites, such as Ruth, were despised by the people of Judah and yet, in this subversive story, she is elevated and becomes a blessing to many (think of Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan” to get a flavour for the way this story turns things upside-down).
How often do we make prejudgements about people? How often do we judge people based on their membership of a certain group? We may not judge people by the colour of their skin, or their professed religion, or their sexuality, but what about other characteristics? I don’t like/don’t trust/don’t feel comfortable with/don’t like spending time with: (you fill in the blank) people with tattoos or piercings; “dole bludgers”; conservative voters; Greens voters; or your-particular-pet-hate.
Martin Luther King Jnr had a dream that one day his four little children would live in a world where they would be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. This magnificent dream is still only a dream in our world, not just when it comes to the colour of one’s skin, but so many other characteristics that can get in the way of us being willing to truly engage with someone for who they are, as the unique individual they are.
What might happen if we can move beyond our semi-automatic “category labelling”?
Might we discover that the one we are tempted to judge negatively may in fact be a blessing to us, in ways that may surprise or astound us?
This Sunday, we consider such questions as we engage with the famous story of Ruth.
For the week of Friday, 22nd October 2021
They came to Jericho, and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!”
Can you imagine the noise and the crush as excited people tried to meet this megastar of his day? Ostracised and alone, sitting on the side of the road, how would Bartimaeus have known where Jesus was. Not being able to visually locate Jesus, and being jostled by the large crowd, the noise would have overridden the footsteps of sandaled feet. Anxious not to miss Jesus, Bartimaeus calls out. Judging and with disregard, the others tried to silence him. So he calls out louder, with courage, intent and passion.
And Jesus heard.
In the midst of confusion, and the bustling and babbling of life around me, I, too, have cried out in anxiety, then courage, seeking direction, connection, and help. And Jesus heard. My fear, disquiet, confusion, lack of insight and procrastination were resolved. I had to admit when I could not see, nor understand, nor think clearly, nor know what to do.
And Jesus heard.
© Rev Anne Hewitt 20/10/2021
For the week of Friday, 15th October 2021
What do we make of Jesus?
What do we make of our world?
The lectionary reading from Hebrews focusses on Jesus as our Great High Priest. There are many images of Jesus, aren’t there? Jesus as…
…the Son of God
…the Lamb of God
…the Good Shepherd
…the Gate for the sheep
…the Way, the Truth and the Life
…the Light of the world
…the Resurrection and the Life
…and the list goes on.
Which image of Jesus resonates most with you?
What do you make of Jesus?
This Sunday 17th October is the Global Day of Climate Action. Is it a day where people of faith, and no faith, both here in Australia and around the world, call upon our respective governments for immediate and dramatic action in response to climate change. You will see that a banner, hand-crafted by members of our faith community, is outside our church, visible from the roundabout as people drive by; a visible sign that the Blackwood Uniting Church calls for action on the part of our government in the lead-up to a critical climate summit in Glasgow, “COP26” in early November.
As you look at our world, a world which we humans – now nearly 8 billion in population – have so significantly impacted, what do you make of our world?
Perhaps on this Sunday, as we reflect upon the Hebrews reading and reflect upon the climate day of action, perhaps some alternative questions may be:
What would Jesus make of us?
What does our world make of us?
For the week of Friday, 8th October 2021
There are times when the lectionary has some interesting combinations of readings. This week is one of them.
The Old Testament reading is from Job 23. In the words of John Gibson, the author of a commentary on this book in the bible, “the author inserts a long series of confrontations between Job and his friends, and between Job and God, where the message is anything but uncomplicated”.
The Psalm for this Sunday is Psalm 22. “When read immediately after the text from Job, we might wonder if Psalm 22:1–15 comes from the same hand.” (Seasons of the Spirit). This can be seen clearly from the opening verses “God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere? Doubled up with pain, I call to God all day long. No answer. Nothing”.
The gospel story from Mark 10 is familiar to most of us. A man comes to Jesus and asks what he needs to do to gain eternal life. The answer “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10 v 21) is not the reply which the man wishes to hear.
We live in a complex world. How do we react to what is happening around us? Do we get angry with God, complaining that we feel lonely and deserted? Do we hear God telling us the part that he wishes us to play in the world, but we do not like what we are hearing?
For the week of Friday, 1st October 2021
An attempt to reconcile 3 mutually incompatible elements:
- The notion that God is all-powerful
- The notion that God is all-loving
- The observation that evil exists in the world
Theologians like to wrestle with various ideas from time to time. Theodicy represents one such wrestling match. If God is all-powerful and all-loving, then why is it that God has created a world that appears to have so much evil embedded in it? If we set aside the notion of God outsourcing evil to a third party (e.g. Satan, human free will, the forces of nature), but instead accept God as the ultimate source of all there is – both good and evil – then tell me, God, what’s with all the evil in the world?!
Is there evil in the world because God isn’t actually all-powerful, and some things, including evil, are simply beyond God’s power to control? Or is there evil in the world not because God is limited in power, but rather because God isn’t all-loving? Or, are we simply wrong about the existence of evil in the world? Perhaps evil is an illusion or at least represents a misconception on our part?
The book of Job explores some of these questions in a very pointed way: why is it that terrible things sometimes happen to innocent people. This Sunday, we will engage with this ancient story of human suffering.
For the week of Friday, 24th September 2021
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The psalmist speaks in awe of God’s glory, as displayed in the natural world.
The psalmist speaks in awe of God’s glory, as displayed in ‘The Law’ or ‘Torah.’
There is no qualification to this praise.
There is no ambiguity.
There is no ambivalence.
When we look at all aspects of the natural world, aspects not infrequently depicted on the nightly news, are we always in awe and delight at the wonders of nature?
When we look honestly at all aspects of ‘The Law’ of God as depicted in the Bible, are we always awed by the love of God?
Or…is there ambiguity in what we see, both in nature and in ‘The Law’?
We shall explore this question on Sunday.
For the week of Friday, 17th September 2021
“I am the greatest!”
Boxer Mohammed Ali, no shrinking violet, was a great showman and self-promotor (the “greatest!”). He was also, arguably, the greatest boxer of all time. He spoke loudly, but his sublime boxing skills spoke louder still.
We have all observed those with great ability in certain fields of endeavour and, from time to time, those who can reasonably be described as “the greatest.”
Jesus’ disciples, as recorded in the gospel, argued about which of them was “the greatest,” which begs the question, “the greatest what?” The greatest disciple, or the greatest self-promotor? Either way, Jesus redirects them away from their desire to be “great,” telling them that the path to greatness, the path to being first, was through a willingness to be last, and the servant of all.
This Sunday we will explore what true greatness might actually mean.
For the week of Friday, 10th September 2021
Mark 8:27-38 NRSV
Questions! Our lives are full of questions, expressed in a variety of ways. Sometimes we use questions because we are genuinely curious, while at other times we use questions to deflect attention away from our own actions or inadequacies. Generally though, while we might answer one question that simply leads to another & another…
In today’s reading Jesus asked his disciples two searching questions:
“Who do people say that I am?” followed by “But who do you say that I am?”
Might we be present to hear Jesus asking us those same questions? And how might our answers affect the way we live our lives in answer to those questions? A couple more questions to ponder !
For the week of Friday, 3rd September 2021
Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
The great reformer Martin Luthor called the Epistle of James an “epistle of straw.” He took exception to its emphasis on “good works” as opposed to “faith.” James is a very practical New Testament text, not overly concerned about niceties of theology and doctrine. James is more focussed on how you live, with the implication being that how one lives is what matters, being perhaps even more important than this thing called faith. Such a view runs smack into one of the great Reformation slogans: sola fide, or by faith alone we are saved, not by our good works.
This raises the question, of course, what exactly is meant by salvation? What precisely are we being saved from, or being saved for? The traditional answer to this question is less than satisfying: that we’re being saved from hell and damnation. This raises, of course, the further question: why were we damned and going to hell? As we drill down further, the answers become less and less satisfying: that we are damned and going to hell because we are all stained and corrupted by the Original Sin that resulted from the first humans taking the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
There has been a long and time-honoured tradition within the church of individuals obsessing about their own personal “salvation.” What might happen if we let go not only of archaic notions of damnation and salvation, but also if we let go of our focus on ourselves as individuals? Might we discover that there is something precious which can only be found on the other side of individualism? Something that might even merit the label “salvation”?
For the week of Friday, 27th August 2021
Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest of them all?
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing.
What do we see when we look in the mirror?
What we “see” can be somewhat deceptive, whether we refer to seeing our reflected appearance optically or seeing it metaphorically.
Sometimes we don’t really see what is there…for all the world to see.
How might our deceptive “seeing” contribute to our “doing” in the world?
This Sunday, we will explore this question as we examine the lectionary reading from the Letter of James.
For the week of Friday, 20th August 2021
“Love each other, as I have loved you.”
Yep. Good advice. Thanks, Jesus.
“Love God with all your heart, strength, soul and mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.”
I guess that’s pretty much it, in a nutshell, isn’t it, Jesus?
“Whoever lives in love, lives in God.”
Yeah…that’s deep. I like it, Jesus.
“Cast first the log out of your own eye before seeking to remove the speck from your neighbour’s eye.”
Ouch! That hurts! But I guess I need to hear it, don’t I, Jesus?
Some of Jesus’ sayings are…
…good common sense
…profound distillations of wisdom
…inspiring aphorisms to live by
…challenges to how we see ourselves
And then…there are other sayings of Jesus, like this one:
“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Because we love a challenge, we’ll be looking at this one, this week.
For the week of Friday, 13th August 2021
There were times when people felt that our society “ every day, in every way, was getting better and better”.
I doubt that this is such a time, partly because of the inconveniences of lockdowns. But isn’t there a deeper rooted malaise; in trust in governments, in confidence in democracy, in apparent blindness to the implications of climatic changes, an “encircling gloom? ‘The days can seem evil!’
Maybe the young Christians of the port city of Ephesus felt that way. Paul says “ you yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord’s people, you are in the light— “ Since you are God’s children you must try to be like him’ or as Baillie translates Eph. 5: 1 “ Be ‘imitators of God.’ He continues ”Those ancient people knew all about the striving, the longing, the dreaming for identity with their God, for the bliss of taking their God into themselves – they would know something of that ineffable experience of union, closer than any earthly union, this language that the ancient world could understand, and so can we.” There is a wow factor to seeing ourselves that way, as being like Christ!
Those challenging concepts are also implicit in the metaphors of the John 6 passage set for today.
For the week of Friday, 6th August 2021
If we allow ourselves to listen to the way that our political leaders “carry on” about each other it is a wonder that any governing gets done. We even refer to the alternative government as “the opposition” and we have become so used to their negativities towards each other that we turn off and become negative ourselves to them all, be they government or opposition. It becomes very difficult to say nice things about each other and, at election time, when an interviewer asks leaders to say one thing that is a great quality about their opponent, they either smile weakly or offer platitudes when they each really know that the other has many good qualities.
We sometimes struggle to find a role model that we can publicly own even if we have own them privately. All of this occurs in the context of discovering who we are, what our identity is when, right in front of our eyes, there is one whose actions can lead us along a more productive path as we look for the good rather than the bad, the successes rather than the failures.
For the apostle Paul, the answer is obvious as he sees both identity, purpose, and a role model in the one who gave of himself for others. All a bit of a challenge for each of us, but, in the long run it probably makes for a more satisfactory life that throwing negatives at each other, the ‘opposition’ or, even at ourselves.
Read Ephesians 4:29-5:2
The Rev Dr Adrian Brown
For the week of Friday, 30th July 2021
A tale of two “kings…
This Sunday, we consider the event in the life of King David considered to be the major blemish on his kingship, namely the episode of Bathsheba and Uriah. David abuses his position of power, with flagrant disregard for the rights of others, taking a married woman into his bed and then killing off her husband. David is a tarnished king.
We will also consider another “tarnished king” – but a rather more contemporary one – who also abused his power.
These “kings” – both the ancient and the contemporary – are challenged by “prophets” who took them to task for their abuse of power and, it would seem, that with both there was admission of wrongdoing.
This Sunday, we will examine the various aspects of these events: wrongdoing, guilt, repentance and forgiveness.
How might they apply to us?
For the week of Friday, 23rd July 2021
“It was a miracle!”
It was miracle, that is, that we were able, so quickly, to pre-record the worship service on Tuesday afternoon before the mandated 6pm lockdown necessitated us being out of the church building! Okay, perhaps “miracle” is an overstatement to describe what was a pretty hurried effort to do what we could in the circumstances, and to complete it in the short amount of available time. Actually, even the word “complete” is an overstatement since once Jan, Ros and me completed our videoing and pre-recorded song selections, Tim still needed to pull everything together into a final video that could be viewed this coming Sunday on YouTube. Yes, Tim is a miracle-worker!
We use, and perhaps over-use, the word “miracle” to describe events that are fortuitous but which seem hard to explain or which seem, with the benefit of hindsight, highly unlikely to have occurred. What do we make of those events in the gospels that seem, with more justification, to truly warrant the label “miraculous”? What are the miracles depicted in the gospels seeking to convey to the reader? What is their purpose? In the gospel of John, which acquired written form perhaps 50-60 years after the death of Jesus, the miracles performed by Jesus are referred to, not as “miracles” but rather as “signs.”
A sign points beyond itself, to something else. In this Sunday’s message, we will explore what the signs/miracles of Jesus might point to: that enigmatic reality which he called the Kingdom of God.
For the week of Friday, 16th July 2021
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want…
…The LORD…restores my soul…
…I shall fear no evil…
…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…
This week, we explore that most familiar of psalms, psalm 23, with its beautiful words of rest and comfort. It begins with a dual affirmation: it expresses whom the psalmist regards as his protector (i.e. the LORD); and also expresses an absence of need.
This absence of need is rather striking in our world of great need, where people can struggle even to meet their daily needs for sustenance. This absence of need is also rather striking where we consider how our “needs” – in our modern and affluent Western world – seem to be ever-increasing. How do we understand this affirmation, in the psalm, of a lack of need, as well as a restoration of “soul”?
This Sunday, we shall engage with this most famous psalm.
For the week of Friday, 9th July 2021
When all else fails, avert the gaze!
Are we prepared to look at things that are difficult to look at?
Some things can be quite painful to look at and to reconsider, especially if they involve core aspects of how we see ourselves and the world. Psychologists refer to the phenomenon of “confirmation bias,” where we have a tendency to more readily accept viewpoints that are in alignment with our own, but to subject to far greater scrutiny viewpoints that are at odds with what we believe. When the view being presented is very at odds with something that is quite jugular to our sense of self, or to how we understand the world works, or even to our image of God, we can engage in the time-honoured practice of averting our gaze: if we don’t look at it, then it’s not there! This Sunday, we examine David’s recovery of the ark of the covenant, and we may discover in this story some interesting examples of averting the gaze that may give us insight into our understanding of God.
For the week of Friday, 2nd July 2021
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.
The readings this Sunday are a study in contrasts. First, we have the apostle Paul speaking, on the one hand, of a transcendent spiritual experience and, on the other hand, speaking of the weaknesses with which he is beset in his normal, mundane existence.
In the gospel reading, we have Jesus, the one and only Son of God, experiencing frustration and failure when he visits his hometown, and where he is rejected by those he knows so well.
What are we to make of these highs and lows in the lives of Paul and Jesus?
What are we to make of the highs and lows in our own lived experience?
This Sunday, we will explore the contrasts of life and faith: the highs, and the lows.
For the week of Friday, 25th June 2021
People of all ages have experienced reaching out for compassion or help, for themselves or others.
This week, the author of the gospel of Mark celebrates healing to the lowest, the smallest and the outcast, in the form of the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus’ daughter. But most importantly, both women are healed in the context of their community. The hemorrhaging woman – an outcast because of her illness and gender – is restored to health and the life of her community. Jairus’ daughter – whose age and death have removed her from her community – is brought to life and restored to her family.
Healings do not exist in a vacuum. The community of faith contributes, and healing is not complete until the individual is restored to the community.
How might you create a sacred space of healing?
Seasons of the Spirit
For the week of Friday, 18th June 2021
During the Season after Pentecost, we are reminded of God’s deep desire for wholeness, justice, and peace in all creation. Pursuing these goals sometimes requires the ability to imagine new possibilities, and the courage to act.
The lectionary readings for this week are a call for and encouragement to provide authentic leadership. A psalmist puts trust in God, praising God for standing with and on behalf of the oppressed. Paul teaches us to persevere in faith even through times of trial and difficulty, Jesus brings calm to a storm with words of peace, and David discards Saul’s armour and stands before Goliath as his authentic self.
In the days since the authors of these words put pen to paper much has changed in the world. The challenge for us is to consider how the words apply to us today.
adapted from Seasons of the Spirit, copyright Wood Lake Publishing
For the week of Friday, 11th June 2021
Who wants to be a king?
Saul was a failure as king and God sent Samuel off to anoint his successor. The attributes that Samuel was looking for in a king obviously weren’t the same attributes that God was looking for and so the youngest son was anointed. Have you ever wondered how David felt about the whole thing at the time? How did the rest of the family treat him? I can just imagine his “big brothers” making a joke out of the whole thing. How confident did he feel about the situation as the youngest (and presumably one of the smallest) of the family, when he wasn’t even invited to the feast to be considered?
Sometimes we end up with a role to play that seems quite beyond our capabilities. One of the more wonderful things I’ve seen happen in church communities is watching someone take on a role and, with the support of the church community, grow into the role. This can be life-changing growth for some people.
The gospel reading for this week talks about the grain growing in God’s time and also about the mustard seed growing into a “large” bush. So we, as individuals, can grow in the Kingdom of God to fulfil the potential that God sees in us.
For the week of Friday, 4th June 2021
(Isaiah 11: 5-9 & Mark 3: 28-35)
I love that passage about the lion lying down with the lamb but it seems as improbable as political leaders no longer putting their own re-election and the economy first.
It is 49 years since the United Nations proclaimed June 5 as World Environment Day, fifty nine year since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring warned how the delicate balances of nature were being destroyed, 47 years since Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful spelled out how our pursuit of profit and progress, is leading to environmental degradation and human powerlessness.
We have been assailed by graphs and scientific reports showing the degradation of earth, sky and sea. The danger is that all this leaves us feeling fatalistic That we give up.
In 1989 the Bishop’s of Sweden spelled out four pillars of the Christian understanding of God’s creation. Isaiah gives us the vision. Jesus reminds us that, to do God’s will is to be brother, sister, mother to Jesus
For the week of Friday, 28th May 2021
More than a Word
In the lead up to National Reconciliation Week we reflect on this year’s theme ‘More Than a Word — Reconciliation Takes Action’ which can truly connect the need for authentic approaches to reconciliation rather than tokenistic ones. We are confident a good start is Dadirri – learning to deeply listen.
UC e-News 25 May 2021
For the week of Friday, 14th May 2021
This Sunday, we consider the selection by the apostles of a twelfth member to their ranks, a selection that replaced the departed Judas. They had two possible candidates, Justus and Matthias, and selected Matthias to replace Judas. How might things have gone for the subsequent development of the Christian faith if they had selected, instead, Justus? We will never know whether the choice was consequential and, if so, just how consequential it was.
What about our own choices? In the moments that comprise our life, we are presented with choice points. Should we choose alternative A or alternative B? When we choose alternative A, our lives begin to track down the particular path that started with that alternative. What would have happened had we chosen alternative B? We can think we understand the likely outcome, but we really don’t know, and what’s more, we can’t re-run the experiment to check out where alternative B would have led us. We are left only with the outcomes of our choices.
If we consider the origin of these many choice points in our lives, the situation becomes even more complex and uncertain. How many of the choice points in our lives come about not through our own planning and decision-making, but are simply presented to us “out of the blue” or by “chance.” I use this word “chance” in inverted commas, because we use it quite loosely in everyday speech. We see “chance” as something that happens entirely at random, but is that what it truly is? And, furthermore, how do the choices we make, faced with these seemingly “chance” events go into creating the reality we experience? We will explore some of these questions.
For the week of Friday, 30th April 2021
I am the vine, you are the branches….
Jesus was a master of metaphor.
He constantly used images from everyday life to make his point. When he spoke of this enigmatic thing called the kingdom of God, he used image after image to point his listeners in its direction, without ever actually telling them, in so many words, what it was.
So too, in the gospel of John, Jesus uses a variety of images to explain who he is. In this week’s reading from the gospel of John, we hear Jesus describe himself, using another image from daily life, as the vine, and his followers as the branches. This Sunday we will explore this metaphor, as we “branches” seek to remain in the life-giving “vine.”
For the week of Friday, 23rd April 2021
This is such a well known passage, that of the Good Shepherd willing to lay down his life for his precious sheep.
He knows his flock personally and watches over them with loving care. We might find it hard to relate to this sort of shepherding here in Australia where that personal relationship with sheep isn’t possible on our vast outback sheep stations. Yet there are plenty of ways in which we fulfil ‘pastoring’ roles in our daily lives as we connect not only with our family, friends and community but with all of creation.
How can we live as ‘good shepherds’ ?
For the week of Friday, 16th April 2021
Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
Who am I?
The answer to that question depends a lot on the context in which the question is asked.
The possible answers might include…
…A former teacher, now retired
…The father of three children
…An resident of Adelaide
…A child of God
This Sunday’s passage from the first letter of John speaks of two simultaneous aspects of identity: of us, yes, already being children of God; but where our identity has not yet being fully revealed.
How do we define our identity? Is it defined in terms of the various roles we play, or by what we do? Is it defined by our intrinsic qualities? Do we define ourselves by how others see us?
This Sunday we will explore identity: who we are to each other, and who we are, in our deepest selves, to God.
For the week of Friday, 26th March 2021
Reflections on Mark 11: 1-11
We celebrate Palm Sunday, that day when a Jerusalem mob chanted
“Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming Kingdom of our Father David! Hosanna in the heavens” Hosanna ,in the Hebrew tradition was a cry for help “ SAVE ME!” “LORD DELIVER US”.
The mob must have been disillusioned by nightfall when Jesus had not saved them politically. He’d disappeared but Herod and Pilate were still there.
Jesus was a realist about political power. Said Luccock of this story:- “Jesus is emerging as the sternest realist who ever injected hard truth into a world ruled by illusion.” Changing rulers won’t save us. Abandoning self-centred ness just might!
Luccock again : Jesus offers make-over, speaks to: “The deep needs of the human soul… the deep borderlands where our reach exceeds our grasp, his revelation of the great other in whom our fragments are complete”.
T.S. Eliot helps us face reality—“There shall always be the church and the world and the heart of man shivering and fluttering between them, choosing and chosen. Valiant, ignoble, dark, and full of light Swinging between Hell Gate and Heaven Gate, And the gates of hell shall not prevail
Darkness now. Then ,Light” Easter Day
For the week of Friday, 19th March 2021
We are approaching the end of Lent; Easter draws ever closer. Our theme for Lent has been that of “A Vision of a World Resurrected.” In our worship, we have been travelling toward the cross of Good Friday: Jesus has been journeying down the western wall of the chapel, on the various turning points in his brief ministry; we have been journeying down the eastern wall of the chapel, asking “what must we die to?” if we are truly to join Christ at the cross as anything more than merely passive observers.
We have explored the sub-theme of disillusionment: how we humans can operate out of illusions that get in the way of our relationships with others and with God.
We have explored the notion of our perceived individual identity: who are we, truly, at our core?
We have explored the illusions of permanence and separateness: how we can so easily forget that we are on this Earth for such a short time; how we can so easily forget our interdependence upon each other, believing that we make our own way in the world.
As we approach the end of Lent, we ask the question, if we were prepared to die to old ways of being, to die to the illusions that captivate us, what might “rising to newness of life” look like?
This Sunday, as we anticipate the coming (Palm) Sunday, as we anticipate Jesus’ fateful arrival into Jerusalem, and as we anticipate the death and resurrection which would follow, we contemplate not merely our own willingness to “be crucified with Christ” but also…what would rising to newness of life actually look like?
For the week of Friday, 12th March 2021
I am shielded in my armour
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries
This Sunday, we continue our Lent/Easter theme of “A Vision of a World Resurrected.” The sub-theme will be the illusion of separateness. The well known saying, in gender-non-inclusive language, asserts that “no man is an island” – a strong counterpoint to Paul Simon’s poignant words above. And yet, we can all so easily fall into the illusion of separateness. All too easily, we can adopt ways of being in which we do feel separated from or alienated from others. We can, all too easily, assert our individual selves over against the collective needs of others. The individual ‘self’ can have quite a hold upon us, blinding us to something greater, that transcends the self. This Sunday, we will explore separateness, and we will explore connection.
For the week of Friday, 26th February 2021
This week we look at another new covenant: the Holy One’s covenant with Abraham and Sarah. We are introduced to the sign of this covenant, circumcision. Don’t forget that Abraham falls over laughing when he’s told that he and Sarah will have a son through whom they will be the father and mother of nations, I think I would too if I was told I was going to have a baby at 90 (Sarah) or 100 (Abraham). Laughter tinged with horror, in my case.
The section of Psalm 22 is full of trust in and praise to the Holy One. The reading from Mark is the centre point of his gospel, and it is central to his theology. Here we learn that the disciples’ idea of a saving Anointed One is quite different from reality; Jesus says he has come to serve, not to be powerful, and that he will die. Personal identities are in crisis as Jesus says this. Denial and confusion result.
The reading from Romans takes us back to the covenant with Abraham. For Abraham there was no law, only faith in Holy One. Paul’s argument is that law means failure (you can’t help breaking it), but there is no failure in faith. There may be limited faith, but there is still faith. This is completely different from breaking the law, which results in punishment. Paul says that Abraham and his descendants inherit the world through the ‘righteousness of faith’. This is faith which leads to a change in how one lives, not simply ‘faith’ on its own.
For the week of Friday, 19th February 2021
Every so often, when you’re out in nature, you look up and notice something. Something that may have been there before, but your eyes have been focussed elsewhere and your mind is distracted — jumping ahead to something else. All of a sudden you look up and see something remarkable.
To read more, follow this link UCA SA – Reflection of the Week – 16 February 2021
From UC E-News Reflection of the week
For the week of Friday, 12th February 2021
Happy New Year to our Chinese Community!
For the week of Friday, 5th February 2021
What is prayer?
Here are a few dictionary attempts at answering that question.
- a devout petition to God or an object of worship.
- a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession.
- the act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship.
- a formula or sequence of words used in or appointed for praying:
- the Lord’s Prayer.
- prayers, a religious observance, either public or private, consisting wholly or mainly of prayer.
- that which is prayed for.
It would appear, from reading the gospels, that Jesus prayed a lot. But how exactly did he pray? Once, when his disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he famously taught them the prayer now known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Is this what Jesus prayed, repetitively, over and over, like a mantra? Or did Jesus instead simply speak to the One he called Abba (Daddy), as his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane suggests? More broadly, what is the purpose of prayer? In speaking to people about their understanding of prayer, it would seem that there are many possible purposes of prayer. One view of prayer seems to see it as an attempt, through pleading, to change God’s mind in our favour: asking God to give us something that God would not otherwise give us without the pleading. Another view of prayer sees its purpose as building our relationship with God, echoing our experience with the building of human relationships, which occurs through spending time together. Another view of prayer, contemplative prayer, might see the purpose of prayer, ultimately, as bringing about, over time, a deep union with God. This Sunday, we will explore some of these questions around prayer. We will explore why Jesus prayed and what this understanding might mean for us.
For the week of Friday, 18th December 2020
Continuity and discontinuity…
During Advent we have been exploring the theme of “Turning Points,” both in the lives of Mary and Joseph, and in our own lives, with a number of people sharing stories of turning point. It can be hard to recognise certain events as turning points, without the wisdom of hindsight. We can, from a distance, sometimes look back and discern certain events as significant points in our life, significant points where our life changed direction in some way. In such moments of revelation, we may be able to discern a thread connecting this pivotal event to both the past and the present: we can “connect the dots” so to speak; there seems to be a logical continuity involved.
There are other times in our lives, however, where there seems to be no such continuity. The change can be so marked that it represents a discontinuity – a gap – between what was and what now is. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we approach ever closer to Christmas, and contemplate the coming of Christ into the world. An event where, according to traditional Christian theology, the human and the divine became one in the person of Jesus Christ; when the discontinuity between the human and the divine was so more.
This Sunday, we will explore gaps of disconnection, as well as threads of continuity and connection, and how each may relate to our experience of life, and our understanding of God in Christ.
For the week of Friday, 11th December 2020
“What is truth?”
This question, posed by Pilate to Jesus, is a very relevant one in these days of “fake news.” How do we discern truth from falsehood? One need only look at the political landscape in the United States to observe that competing truth claims abound. Everyone, it seems, has their own “truth.” What do we do when “truth” has become so individualised, with so many individuals and groups, religious and non-religious, claiming the possession of absolute truth? Do we simply “join the club” and likewise stake our claim to absolute truth? Or do we reject all such claims as false? Might there be another approach that might prove more helpful and life-giving? We shall consider these questions on this third Sunday in Advent.
For the week of Friday, 4th December 2020
For many of us, marriage is a significant change or turning point in our lives. Two people coming together from different backgrounds. Even those from similar backgrounds will have different upbringings and different experiences. Sometimes there are different expectations as two people enter into marriage and a degree of trust is required.
We can imagine how Joseph, hearing that Mary was pregnant and not by him, might have felt that his trust had been betrayed. Even with the intervention of an angel, perhaps he wondered until he saw Jesus growing up and what he became. Even if he was totally convinced by the visit of the angel, his life and Mary’s were not going to be what he had expected for quite a few years – a journey to Bethlehem and a flight into Egypt. Given that we meld the different glimpses of this period from two different gospels, we’re not quite sure how things happened, but we do know that Joseph and Mary didn’t have a family wedding and settle comfortably into a new home or even into life in one of the parents’ households. Somehow I don’t think visits by shepherds and wise men were anywhere in Joseph’s planning.
How open are you to changes of direction, different expectations? How do you react when your life is “threatened” with a change of direction?
For the week of Friday, 27th November 2020
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
This Sunday we begin the new church year, with the first Sunday in Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas. This Advent we will be exploring the theme of “Turning Points” by exploring the various turning points in the life of Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus.
Do we ever look back on the various turning points in our own lives? It requires, in most cases, a look in the rear-vision mirror, in order to recognise these turning points as such. The saying by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard generally applies: “Life must be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards.” Some turning points are, of course, so dramatic that even while living through them we can perceive their significance to the direction of our lives: leaving home, marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a close loved one. Some turning points are more subtle. We slow down. We are unsure of our direction. We puzzle over the present circumstances. We remember what has brought us to this point. We ponder the future. The significance of the change of direction we choose may elude us at the time, only to be realised much later, if at all.
This Advent and Christmas, we will have an opportunity, as we explore the significance of the turning points in the life of Mary and Joseph, to reflect on those turning points in our lives and their significance.
For the week of Friday, 20th November 2020
This is the last Sunday of the church liturgical year – Christ the King Sunday – and sadly we will not be spending it together in face-to-face worship. The ever-changing COVID landscape has once again forced our state government, and the people of South Australia, to respond in a new lockdown measure; and respond we must. Our worship will be online, brought to you Home-Delivery style, over the internet.
Jesus the Christ has many titles: Son of God, Son of Man, Saviour, the Lamb of God, and the Prince of Peace, to name just a few, and of course…King of Kings. The title “king” brings with it images of grandness, majesty, pomp, and even pompousness. Pompous, however, is not an adjective that can easily be attributed to the Jesus described in the gospels. The Jesus described in the gospels is remarkably down-to-earth and humble. He associates with the down-and-outs, those rejected by the religiously pompous. In his life and ministry, Jesus turns nearly everything on its head. He preaches about the first being last, and the last first; about the great needing to be the servant of all. And in his own death, this “king” is crowned not with a golden crown but with a crown of thorns.
In this last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Sunday we celebrate Christ as “King of Kings,” we reflect on the essence of his message. In his story of the “Sheep and the Goats” we explore what precisely this King-like-no-other expects of his subjects.
For the week of Friday, 13th November 2020
Explain to us the parable!
Are you so dull? If you do not understand this parable, how then will you understand any parable?!
I suspect I would have felt quite at home with Jesus’ “dull” disciples! I suspect that I too would have struggled to grasp what Jesus was saying at times. Jesus used parables in his teaching. The English word parable comes from a Greek word (parabole) itself formed by throwing together two other Greek words (para and ballein). This is highly appropriate in the case of the word parabole, as it actually means throwing things together! Parabole refers to the process of throwing things together, or placing them side-by-side, in order to compare them.
Some of Jesus’ parabolic efforts at throwing images and concepts together can be confusing and disorienting. We can struggle to make sense of exactly Jesus was seeking to convey. Is there just a single meaning to each of Jesus’ parables, or does he leave it to the listener to explore different possibilities in his parabolic throwing together?
This Sunday, we have the well-known “parable of the talents.” The word talent referred to the weight of something. It was also used to refer to a weight of precious metal, whether that be silver or gold. If one was given a single ‘talent’ (of precious metal) it was worth a vast sum of money, perhaps 10-20 years wages for a labourer. In the parable, three servants (slaves) are each entrusted with various numbers of ‘talents’ – vast sums of money – while the master goes away for a long time. When he returns, the use of these talents by each of the servants is reviewed by the master. The traditional metaphorical meaning seems to be clear: we must use the gifts and talents that God (‘The Master’) has given us, or we’ll regret it, with weeping and gnashing of teeth!
However, there are aspects of the parable that don’t seem to sit quite right with an understanding of “The Master” as representing God. For instance, the third servant (the one who buries his talent in the ground) states that he knows the master to be a harsh man, gathering where he did not scatter and reaping where he did not sew. This description of the master doesn’t sound a lot like God, does it? Nor does the master object to or correct the servant’s analysis of him as a harsh man. Also, what’s the deal about being cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?! That doesn’t sound like the action of a loving God/Master, does it?
Perhaps there are other dimensions to this parable, dimensions we can explore this Sunday.
For the week of Friday, 6th November 2020
Guest preacher: Rev. Dr. Les Underwood, minister, UnitingCare Port Adelaide.
Bible text: Psalm 78:1-7
Theme: How we learn to participate in the life of the community through the stories we tell
Bible texts: Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20; Matthew 25:1-13
Theme: How we effectively and responsibility live within the Kingdom of God
This Sunday we have a special treat! The wonderful Les Underwood, minister at UnitingCare Port Adelaide, will be our guest preacher at both services, sharing a different focus and theme at each. Whilst I don’t know precisely what Les intends to share with us, I am extremely confident…that it will be worth listening to!
For the week of Friday, 30th October 2020
All Saints Day:
If you have been in shops lately you’ll have noticed a lot of orange and of ghostly masks. For Hallowe’en the Eve of all saints’. Rather a shame ALL SAINTS DAY has been thus submerged!
All Saints (or All Hallows Day) has been celebrated since at least the eighth century. There may be other special days for celebrated saints like Peter or Mary but this is a celebration of all who have walked The Way of Jesus.
Appropriate then, that today’s reading is the psalm like “Beatitudes” which, in three sections, celebrates the paradox of Christ like people who have faced hardship yet discover happiness on the Road to the Kingdom. We celebrate their humility, their mercy towards others, their capacity to see God in the world around them when others are blind. We are grateful for people like that whose lives have touched ours.
Rev Dr Malcolm McArthur
For the week of Friday, 23rd October 2020
Here we are, in the midst (wishing it was the end) of a pandemic, with the world in a constant state of crisis. Some governments are coping well; some muddling along; some are failing. It is the ordinary people who are bearing the brunt of government decisions, and lack of decisions. There is so much blame about. Who is responsible for this, who for that, who can we blame for these deaths….. it goes on.
How often do we have major pandemics like this? Once every 100 or so years? Who really knows what’s going to happen? Two things we do know now is that small government does not work so well in a crisis, and that governments should not have stopped being prepared for such an eventuality. I remember when there were meetings to plan for what to do in case of a pandemic or a natural disaster. Be prepared.
It is our response to the pandemic that’s important; the way we cope with it and the way we continue to care for others. And we do continue to care for others, even if those ways are restricted. As Nathan Nettleton says, “we shall love” – we shall continue to love and serve no matter what.