~ 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, 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.