~ 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 of April 2024

The scripture from Luke entitled the Road to Emmaus tells us so very much about the human situation. It shows us some of the false assumptions we have about what God should do for us, as well as showing God’s patience and mercy with us. It could well have been you and I on that road. Many of us would have acted as Cleopas and the other disciple did when they talked with Jesus without knowing who he was.

The disciples had glimpsed Christ’s purpose but did not yet understand. They were confused in their understanding of what God and Jesus meant by redemption. They had expectations after seeing his mighty deeds and miracles. Their hopes sadly centred on the restoration of Israel as a nation to which all the scattered Jews could return.

Yet the disciples felt that their hopes were destroyed with the journey of events from Lent through to Good Friday that led to the death of Jesus. How many families have had their hopes destroyed with sudden loss, maybe of a child or home or all they have. Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumph a few days before and with his death came sudden despair. God’s promises seem to lose their meaning for us when calamity strikes close to us. It would be easy to get down and depressed and panic about the changes that might be required of us through the loving gift of the Resurrection

Jesus shared with those on the road and revived their confidence and helped them see who and what he really was. Not only the Jesus who was dead and crucified and seeming to be defeated but also the Lord and Christ – resurrected, alive and totally in control. For us the encounter is relevant because this is the power that can fill our lives with peace, quiet and joy. Jesus’ resurrection rests as a seal upon our faith in God, that God’s forgiveness of our sin is real and neither death nor trouble nor uncertainty need have any power over us. Therefore we are supported and strengthened to go into the future with hope and confidence in an atmosphere of love.

John Candy

 


For the week of Friday, 5th of April 2024

Who Christ is for us today? This question seems to be a relevant question for us all today and one which vexes each generation and its theologians. So, we too need to seek the answer for ourselves to underpin our faith journey. One of my friends expressed this clearly for me when he told me that he felt that each generation needed to find Christ and what Christ has and is doing, for themselves.  We can be there to support, but we are unable to connect them with Christ. They need to do that for themselves.

If we observe what is happening in our community and our nation, we could become very confused as to whom Christ really is. Even within the Church, there are denominations and groups clamouring to tell us that they know who Christ is and no one else does. They would wish us to believe that they and only they hold the key to the truth of God. In the wider community, we would be led to believe that Christ is irrelevant. It is not surprising that many are left confused and bewildered. We seem to get hung up on should’s.

As we journey in our own encounter with Christ, we need to express our encounter or lose forever what we as Christians believe to be an ultimate truth. Namely, that through the person of Jesus of Nazareth, somehow the reality of God has become an experience in human history that is universally available. That experience was love, a love that would not be confined or limited. All were transformed by that love. No barriers can be erected around the love of God that was seen in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Men and women, over the centuries have shared with us their experience of Christ as love and, we to can be part of that sharing. Through that love we to can be blessed so deeply.

 John Candy


For the week of Friday, 29th of March 2024

On the seventh day of Creation, the story tells us that God finished creating and took a break – he rested. It was all good and clearly God stepped back, looked and was proud. After that, he did two things. He handed dominion over to us so that we might care for the creation and then allowed the creation to continue its creative way as it changed and developed.

We have been brought up to think of ourselves as being at the top of the tree when, as I read the story, we are the ones charged with caring for the Creation. We haven’t been too good at doing that. Ants, for example, are just as important as us, even if there are countless millions of them and they appear totally insignificant.

Our indigenous friends have shown us how to care for the Creation and we can learn from them what dominion really means.

It is Easter, and it is a good time to become aware that its meaning is the opportunity for us to get God’s message and get on with what us required as Easter is really the sign of the need for re-creation as God’s creatures charged with dominion so that, once again, God can ‘rest’ and feel pleased.

Read Genesis 2:1-3 and John 20:1-18

Adrian Brown    

 

For the week of Friday, 22nd of March 2024

We all have turning points in our lives: those times we can look back on and see where our life has changed and taken a different direction. Sometimes we are conscious of them as they occur, but often we are only aware of them as we look back in later life.

I can look back now and realise that a couple of times, when I took up what I thought of at the time as a new hobby, have had profound impacts on the rest of my life. I have made other decisions where I was more aware of the implications for the future.

On Palm Sunday we commemorate a particular turning point in Jesus’ life when he chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, affirming the decision that he had made earlier when he set his face towards Jerusalem and the events which followed. This was a public demonstration of his private decision, setting in motion the events which followed and from which there was little chance of turning back.

In the Lenten study which some have been following, Aunty Dr Rose Elu says:

“We believe that God is leading the Church to a turning point in its history and that the full partnership of Indigenous peoples internationally is essential if we are to leave a lasting legacy for all of our children and grandchildren. This turning point includes how we address damage to the climate. Indigenous peoples know how to care for the boeradhar (land), malu (sea) and dapar (sky) – we have been doing so for millennia, as intended by the Creator.”

Neville Pope


For the week of Friday, 17th of March 2024

Reflection on my five years as minister at BUC

This Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent, is my Close of Ministry service, with me ending my ministry at Blackwood Uniting Church, as well as retiring as a Uniting Church minister.

It will be a bit different to our normal services. Our visiting preacher for the day will be my supervisor, mentor and friend, Rev. Dr. Les Underwood, who’ll be working with our worship leader Heather Lee. At the end of the service, our Presbytery Chair, Rev. Peter McDonald, our Church Council Chair, Rev. Dr. Adrian Brown, and our Church Council Secretary Bec English will be involved in me “handing back” the ministerial responsibilities I have had for the five years of my placement. It is only fitting, then, to offer this, my final reflection as minister.

I came to Blackwood Uniting Church in March 2019, four months after the death of my darling wife Joy. Blackwood has been my first, and indeed my only congregational placement, with me having previously worked as a chaplain in aged care. So, my first thought is to wonder aloud, “How lucky am I that my one and only congregational placement happened to be at…Blackwood Uniting Church!

Prior to my appointment, and during my conversation with the Joint Nominating Committee, I was informed that BUC had been looking for a minister for some 16 months, and yet, as I listened, I heard of the many programs and activities that had continued on, regardless of this fact. I realized, there and then, a powerful truth: the life of Blackwood Uniting Church is not in its minister, but in its people. Since the day I began at BUC, and every day of the five years since, I have experienced the truth of this. It has been wonderful working with so many dedicated, passionate, gifted people, in the various areas of the church’s life. In many ways, my job has been made extraordinarily easy by virtue of this place being what it is. Oftentimes, one or more of our members has developed a passion for a particular project, and it has simply been a case of me jumping on board! Often, I’ve just been along for the ride, and what a wonderful ride it’s been!

If I was to describe BUC in a single word, that word would have to be openness.

Openness to others.

Openness to diversity.

Openness to new ideas and challenge.

(e.g. openness to the ideas explored in Questioning Our Grip on the Cross, without burning its creator at the nearest stake)

Actually, that’s wrong.

As well as openness, there’s another word that also most describes BUC: connectedness.

This is the most connected place!

A community of people deeply connected to each other!

A community of people deeply connected to our wider community, and humming with community life!

For me, this was most beautifully expressed in the recent memorial service of Tony Otworowski. Every contribution to this service was, quite simply, an act of love. The people in this community came together, in the most moving way, as we expressed our sorrow at Tony’s untimely death, and our love and support for Jackie and her family. After the service, a woman whom I’d not met, spoke to me, expressing a certain puzzlement. She hadn’t been near a church for many years, but there was, she said, something about this place.

She said she could actually feel the love flowing around this place during our celebration of Tony’s life.

That’s why I have come to love this place and to love the people in it: it is a place of openness and connection, where love simply flows.

I have learned perspective in my time at BUC. I have learned there are members who have been here their whole life, in some cases over 70 or 80 years. Over these many years, there have been many, many ministers. Ministers come, and ministers go. But the pulsating life of this place goes on. I am so honoured to have been one of the many ministers at BUC and, for these past five years, to share in its pulsating life.

Thank you for that privilege. Thank you for accepting me, with my many quirks and deficiencies.

I will never forget this place. Even when I’m old and grey, I’ll look back on that time I spent at Blackwood Uniting Church and think, gee that was such an amazing place, and…

Hang on a minute.

I just remembered.

I’m leaving as minister, but I’m not going anywhere.

Because I had the decency to marry into the place!

Not only did I come to this most magnificent community…

Not only did I get accepted by this community…

Not only did I come to deeply know and to love so many in this community…

Not only did I get to ride on the coat-tails of many passionate people in this community…

But also…wondrously, amazingly, I met, fell in love with, and married the magnificent Karen Collins, who has utterly transformed my life!

And so, yes, since Karen was a member, I have indeed, officially, married into the place!

I do wish to make something quite clear, however, given that it’s unusual for the departing minister to “hang around.” I will be adopting a low profile after my departure as minister, so as to not impede the work of the supply ministers and whomever is ultimately appointed as minister. And, if I seek role models for how a retired minister should behave in relation to the minister of the day, I need only look to BUC’s wonderful, retired ministers, who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging to me.

Once again, thank you, with all my heart, for having me as minister at Blackwood Uniting Church. It will count as one of my life’s great honors.

Michael Dowling

Minister

(for just a little bit longer)


For the week of Friday, 8th of March 2024

God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness.

(Genesis 1:16)

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.

(John 3:19)

We continue the season of Lent and our exploration of the days of creation. This week, the Old and New Testament texts speak of light and darkness, with our theme for the day, taken from the Lenten Study God’s Own Country, being “The Illuminating exercise of walking backwards.”

The illuminating exercise of walking backwards???!!!

Whoever came up with a title like that clearly has no future in politics!

Michael Dowling

 


For the week of Friday, 1st of March 2024

What is Humanity’s place and role in creation?

This week, we continue the Lenten theme of the mythological days of creation in Genesis. The reading this Sunday is about the separating of the waters from the dry land:

“Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.”

The appearance of dry land led then to the creation of the land-based plants on which the animals of the land, which followed, would be dependent. Then, a bit “later” in the six-day creation framework, we hear of the creation of strange bipedal creatures, apparently “made in the image of God,” called humans. Yes, it’s us lot!

This week we contemplate humanity’s place and role in creation: how it has traditionally been conceived; how we might think about it now; what our possible future may be; and whether God, right about now, may be having second thoughts about the whole humanity project.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 16th February 2024

Something to Think About…

Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:9-15

In the Beginning!  Very familiar words and appropriate not only to start Genesis but also as we move into the Season of Lent.

Life is full of beginnings, from when we are born and continuing on through each new age and stage of our lives.  As we learn

and grow in faith we might find ourselves feeling alone, bewildered, challenged and lost. Sometimes our discoveries might come

from unexpected sources and different cultures, causing us to wonder whether or not we are on the right track.  Yet, from these

wilderness times can come new discoveries, fresh insights, deeper understanding and renewed love and compassion for all of

God’s creation.

When we open our hearts and minds to God’s Spirit, who knows where our life’s journey will take us?

Lynona Hawkins


For the week of Friday, 11th February 2024

On this last Sunday of Epiphany, as we anticipate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, in Mark 9:2-9 we encounter a remarkable story – the Transfiguration of Jesus. A mountain top experience, dazzling garments, a visit from Moses & Elijah, God’s voice from a cloud, befuddled disciples – what more could we ask for? Clearly, something important happened. So how do we make sense of this amazing story? What does it tell us about Jesus – and what message does it have for us today? Are there ways in which we too can see Jesus – and God – in a new light?

Michael Bull


For the week of Friday, 2nd February 2024

Competence and Compassion

Power and Love

This Sunday’s gospel reading is a story about Jesus healing many people in need.

It seems that Jesus possessed both competency and compassion; Jesus exercised both power and love.

When we think of Jesus, who he was, and what he did…

When we think of the nature of God, the characteristics of God…

…are we drawn primarily to power?

Or…are we drawn to love and compassion?

Might power and compassion/love ever come into conflict?

We shall consider this and other aspects on Sunday.

Michael Dowling

 


For the week of Friday, 21st December 2023

We consider the life of one born some 2,000 years ago…

 Biographies are typically written about people because their lives are deemed, by some, to have had some significance, in some way. Biographies often document the beginnings, and the young lives of the persons under consideration, even though, most of the time, their beginnings and their young lives are not typically the reason the biography was written. For example, the many biographies written about John Fitzgerald Kennedy include accounts of his birth and youth, accounts that would have interested no-one other than his family, had it not been for the fact that the baby born on 29 May 1917, and who went through his early and teen years, later became the 35th President of the United States, a president tragically assassinated whilst in office on 22 November 1963.

Typically, we become interested in a person’s early life only because of the impact of their later life. Such is the case with Jesus of Nazareth. If he had not become the man he did, if he did not share the message he did, if he was not unjustly and unfairly executed by the Roman authorities, if his followers did not come to believe certain things about him after his death, no-one would have any interest in the details of his birth whatsoever. We would be entirely Nativity-less. It is the deep significance of Jesus’s later life which is responsible for the enduring religious interest in his birth. This is helpful for us to remember as we approach Christmas, with its rather over-the-top focus, both religious and commercial, in the birth of Jesus.

This Christmas, as we contemplate the bare, unadorned fact that, some 2,000 years ago, this person, Jesus of Nazareth, was born, what significance to each of us had his later life and message?

Why is my life different because this baby, born some 2,000 years ago, grew to adulthood?

Why is your life different because this baby, born some 2,000 years ago, grew to adulthood?

I wish you and your family a time of rich and meaningful connection this Christmas.

 Michael Dowling

 


For the week of Friday, 15th December 2023

Mary…a simple peasant girl

Mary…the Virgin Mother of God

Mary…who gave birth in humble circumstances

Mary…who gave birth surrounded by choirs of angels and who was visited by wise men

Mary…who gave birth to a man who lived simply, and who preached a simple message

Mary…who gave birth to the King of Kings, who sits at the right hand of God the Father

Mary…a woman of contrasts.

We shall explore some of these contrasts on Sunday.

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 8th December 2023

“Please explain!”

Pauline Hanson famously asked this question in response to being asked whether she was xenophobic. Xenophobia describes fear or dislike of people from other countries or other “races.” The tendency to xenophobia is powerfully embedded within the human psyche, stemming from our evolutionary history as a social species: we find safety within “our tribe” over against other tribes, whom we tend to regard as “other.”

Whilst the tendency to xenophobia is ruthlessly exploited by modern-day political leaders, it is by no means merely a modern phenomenon. Xenophobia was alive and well, for example, in the ancient Middle East, which brings us to Sunday’s reading from the book of Ruth. Ruth was from the land of Moab, a people utterly despised by the Israelites as “other.” The story in Ruth is a subversive story, in the same way that the Good Samaritan story of the gospel is a subversive story. In each case, a particular person from a despised race (Samaritan in the one case, Moabitess in the other) is lauded as a model for how to live. The Book of Ruth and the person of Ruth challenges the xenophobic bigotry of its day. On Sunday, we will explore this story, as we reflect on the human tendency to xenophobia, a tendency which has such awful staying power.

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 30th November 2023

Lying is wrong…but in certain specific situations, lying can be morally justified.

 Prostitution is viewed by many as wrong…but some women have few other options to survive.

 Treason against one’s country is wrong…but what if one’s country is in the wrong?

 Mass murder of civilians is wrong…but…actually there is no “but” to this one.

Moral decision-making is not always straightforward. Sometimes it’s less a choice between “good” and “bad” than between “bad” and “bad but not quite so bad.” There are yet other situations where two different people, or two different groups of people, will assess the same situation quite differently. History, cultural differences, life experience and personal biases can all combine to make it anything but clear what the correct course of action is? And, while we’re at it, correct for whom?

In this Sunday’s Joshua reading, we hear of Rahab the prostitute “aiding the abetting” the enemy, in the form of two Israelites sent to Jericho, spying out the city prior to its utter destruction by the Israelite army, with the death of every man, woman, child and animal within the city. In doing what she did, did Rahab “do the right thing”? We shall explore this question on Sunday.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 17th November 2023

Matthew 25:14–30, NRSV

 I was talking about the “parable” of the Talents with a friend a few weeks back, and was told how back in childhood, a minister had preached somewhat stridently about the cost of failure – being cast into outer darkness.  At the close of worship, each child was given a 10/- (shilling) note with a challenge to use their abilities to double it over the next six months and bring back the bounty to a special service.  The memory of the trauma brought tears to the eyes of my friend.

“I was only about eight or nine years old,” said my friend, “and badly treated at home.  I did not think I had talents and abilities.  I had never held so much money (10/-) in my life before.  I knew I could not double it – ever. I was a failure and now I knew I was going to hell.”  Tears were trickling down the face of my friend as the memory and the fears were refreshed.

Is that what Matthew intended?  Is that Jesus’ intended outcome?  I think not!  To properly interpret this parable we need to leave the old covenant of Law in exchange for an approach based on a change of heart, foreseen by Jeremiah and initiated by Jesus.

I marvel that so many Christians focus on the Old 10 law Covenant (which failed) and fail to look within for the three dimensions of love declared by Jesus (Luke 10:27) as the pathway to life.  It is time to think again!

Dean Pearce


For the week of Friday, 10th November 2023

On Mortality

 Mortality is about death and is something that faces us all sooner or later.

In the 11 am service this Sunday I explore this important subject using my lived experience and research into managing wellbeing, in which I am involved.

It is not just about dying nor spirituality but our role in supporting people socially as they face the challenges of getting older, or other personal issues.

Are we as individuals and a church doing all we can, or should, in supporting not just our own people, but the community as part of our ministry?

This fits nicely with the Journeying series.

With Malcolm McArthur’s support, I will explore some of the issues and approaches we might take.

It is something which concerns us all and I extend a special invitation to both congregations to attend.

Geoff Thomas


For the week of Friday, 3rd November 2023

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘saint’?

 

Quite often we think of saints in the same way we may think of angels or, at the very least, only the very, very well-known people from the past such as Saint Francis or Mother Teresa.

But in the Bible, a saint is simply a follower of Jesus Christ.

The people described as saints in the Bible were still very much human.

They were called, they were holy, and they were extremely dedicated, but they were still real people, far from perfect.

They were fishers, farmers, tent makers, doctors, teachers, carpenters, former prostitutes, extortionists, outcastes, robbers–you name it!!!

They weren’t infallible, and sometimes they disagreed with one another.

They weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

They were on a journey…

…the journey of following Jesus…

…the journey of learning to be more and more like Jesus…

…which means, becoming more and more loving, less and less judgmental, more and more accepting of others, and less and less condemning of others.

 

And who are the people that are or have been seen by you as saints? Our answers might surprise us.

 

All Saints Day? Read Matthew 5: 1-12

Rev Dr Adrian Brown


For the week of Friday, 29th October 2023

Five hundred and six years ago a brave man who had become disenchanted with the authorities made his way to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany and went public. He nailed 95 theses, or beliefs, to that door and set off a revolution that echoed around the known world.

Why? He did it because he felt that his centre had been hijacked and replaced by greed, selfishness, and power trips. His name was matin Luther and his centre was Jesus. He saw things differently and wanted his church to focus on what mattered to anyone who read the Bible. The trouble was, very few could read, let alone read the Bible in their own language. Believers were told what to believe and told what they had to accept as too many of those in power took what they wanted from the Bible and abused their position. Martin Luther’s actions changed that. His actions meant that many were able to choose a new path for their journey, a new future.

Jesus did the same when he walked the earth. When asked what was at the centre of the commandments, he summed them up as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and mind” and “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. He took a simple and effective path right to the centre of living and faith, towards love.

Each of us face times when we need to regroup and ask ourselves where is our centre? What does it mean to make love the centre? How does it reposition our lives, our actions? Are you prepared to take a different turn? What is it that will guide you into the future?

How you answer these questions is for you to decide, but it seems that if we take our clues from Jesus and from the Martin Luther’s of history then what we do in our community today could change or, perhaps, reinforce the direction we are already taking.

Read Matthew 22: 34-46

Rev Dr Adrian Brown


For the week of Friday, 20th October 2023

Australians have a fairly healthy cynicism towards governments. We expect them to do the right by us and we, on the other hand, will begrudgingly do the right thing by them. We don’t feel the same level of patriotism as is the case with people who live in a range of other countries. If we need to ‘step for our country’ we do that only too willingly, but we do feel that it is a mutual obligation.

One place where the rulers expected total loyalty was in ancient Israel which was under Roman rule at the time. This did not go down well with the local Jewish leaders who looked at coins with the head of the Roman emperor with disdain, particularly because the emperor was treated as a god.

Into this complexity stepped Jesus and people opposed to his presence. To them, Jesus represented a threat to their position and to their understanding of their faith. They did, as was often the case, work hard at trying to trap him into making him look like an enemy of the faith.

They asked Jesus “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” In response Jesus said, 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 What belonged to Caesar? This coin, clearly, maybe the soldiers marching around, maybe the tax collectors… and maybe even you religious people, sell-outs that you’ve become. But what belongs to God? Jesus. You, the other person, actually also the soldiers, the tax collectors, even the emperor. Not to mention the trees, the ground and sky. It’s all God’s. Sure, the emperor claimed to be God, but he was a charlatan, not merely lying but also utterly unable to be God, to deliver on the bogus title.

Jesus’ wisdom was met with stunned silence!

While we have an obligation to the State, we have a higher obligation to the one who is Creator. No State is godlike or absolute. Its existence depends on our willingness to give it authority, but Jesus reminds us that we are called upon to a higher loyalty that keeps us and the State in tension and context.

Read Matthew 22: 15-22

Rev Dr Adrian Brown


For the week of Friday, 13th October 2023

Most of us (unless we are on a strict diet) enjoy special meals from time to time  – special birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, etc. etc.

We also enjoy meals with family and friends. When I go to our son’s family for a meal I am often asked what would I like to eat on my next visit. Usually I don’t have any suggestions;  I am very grateful to accept their hospitality (which often includes an ice-cream for dessert).

Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22 1-14) is the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. The king had everything ready and the invited guests were summoned to attend. In Matthew’s account two offered excuses – one invited guest went to his farm, another to  his business. In Luke’s parallel account (14: 15-24)  one had to see some land recently purchased, another had to try out the 5 yoke of oxen he had bought, and the third was just married and couldn’t come.

The king then had the wedding hall half filled with guests gathered from the streets. Matthew records that a guest not dressed correctly is thrown out, and that Jesus makes the point (v.14) “For many are called, but few are chosen”.

To  ponder:

What excuses have I made/do I make in serving  in God’s Kingdom?
What is God’s call to me today?

Thank You for your support over the last 6 weeks.
God’s Blessings on all at Blackwood Uniting Church.

Doug Hosking


For the week of Friday, 8th October 2023

Commentators remind us that in interpreting a parable it is normally a first principle that every parable has only one point, and that that point has to be seized, and the details not to be stressed. Eg the parable of the Good Samaritan: Who is my neighbour? “The one who needs my help now”.

However, the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21: 33-46) can be understood as an allegory – the details have a meaning and the hearers (the chief priests and the Pharisees) knew that Jesus was aiming the parable at them.

The vineyard  is the nation of Israel, the owner of the vineyard is God, the tenants are the religious leaders, the messengers are the prophets sent by Gold who were so often rejected and killed.

The son is Jesus himself – who knew, that in obedience to God, he would be crucified and raised to life.

To ponder: are we worthy tenants who return to God what is His due?

Are we willing messengers of the Good News of Jesus?

Do we truly identify with Jesus in our daily living?

Doug Hosking


For the week of Friday, 29th September 2023

This week we have two readings: Romans 8:18-25 and Alistair Blake’s ‘A meditation on our place in the world’ inspired by Psalm 8.

Ruth Harvey, Leader of the Iona Community will bring the message.

In 2021, when Ruth took on the role of she wrote:

“Nick and I met at the Iona Community’s Camas Adventure Centre on Mull – and fell in love while cleaning the kayaks! We have a shared passion for the wild outdoors and live on the edge of the English Lake District which is stunningly beautiful. Nick works for the Outward Bound Trust as a Learning and Adventure Manager (hence our location). Our three girls are all wonderful advocates for youth today – full of life, big questions and deep compassion”.

 “I’m trying, with help, to practise the art of living for and in the present moment – noticing what is around me, giving thanks for what is, and in humble gratitude for all on whose shoulders I stand. If I can enjoy the wild outdoors more, swim in the lakes and the sea, and continue conversations about faith, hope, love and doubt I’ll be doing just fine! And if in the process the world can be a bit more just and fair, and faith-filled – I’ll be delighted!” 

Ruth Harvey / Lynona Hawkins


For the week of Friday, 22nd September 2023

Are you a fan of the television program Letters and Numbers? Fans of the show may enjoy the show because they are fascinated to hear the derivation of new words in the latest dictionary.  Words from other countries which have now become commonplace, previous slang words now in everyday use, many words which historically have been nouns but are now in daily use as verbs and so on.

It made me curious to see what might be in the dictionary under “manna”.  The expected definition was there: “food miraculously supplied to the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness” but there was another entry “a usually sudden and unexpected source of gratification, pleasure, or gain”.  (https://www.merriam-webster.com)

The Israelites, on their journey to freedom, have been looking back at what they had left behind.  They may have been slaves, but at least in Egypt they “ate their fill of bread”.  (Exodus 16:3)

Their stomachs grumbling with hunger, they look back with rose-colored glasses believing that they would have been better to have died as well-fed slaves than killed by hunger in the wilderness.  Then they certainly receive a welcome surprise.  Food in the shape of manna and quail appears to satisfy their hunger.  Both of these foods are familiar phenomena in the area where the Israelites were travelling.  The manna being the sweet sticky substance produced by insects which themselves feed on the Tamarisk bushes.  This ‘honeydew excretion falls to the ground and the hot desert air dries it making it eminently edible.  The quails migrate over this region in spring, and when exhausted are easily caught.

To these fatigued and hungry people this ‘welcome surprise’ was evidence of God’s compassionate care and love for them, even when they have doubts about God’s faithfulness towards them.

(Adapted from Liturgies On-line, Moira Laidlaw)

 Wes Bray


For the week of Friday, 15th September 2023

The distressed family were shouting: “We can never forgive . . . (persons) for what they have done to us”. So TV News reported a few weeks ago, as a family left a courthouse.

 The disciple Peter thought he was doing well when he said, “Forgive seven times”. (That is more than double what was taught by the law).

Jesus reprimanded Peter, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven”, that is, when there is true repentance, go on forgiving.

 Forgiveness is, of course, conditional upon repentance – a change of mind and intention. Its result is a restoration of the original relationship of good favour.

 In the Old Testament we read of sacrificial offerings of animals. This was relevant to that time. However, today, Micah 6: 8 is often brought to our attention.

 “What does the LORD require but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”

 A Prayer: “Forgiving God, inspire us to live with the grace to forgive and the humility to discern our own need of forgiveness”.

Doug Hosking


For the week of Friday, 8th September 2023

Wow! This week’s Gospel lectionary reading, Matthew 18: 15-20, is indeed difficult. Most commentators believe that Matthew is writing concerning the life of the church at the time he wrote – probably 70 -80 CE. Church discipline was necessary then – and now.

Whether these verses are Jesus’ original teaching, or the teaching of the early Church, the message is clear. If (when) there is a disagreement first seek to sort it out on a one-to-one basis. If that fails, seek one or two well respected, mature members of the congregation to endeavour to bring harmony. Only if that fails

bring it before the congregation, and if that fails, separation from the congregation may be necessary.

In all this, Jesus is seeking the restoration of the sinner(s).

Give us faith to be more faithful,

give us hope to be more true,

give us love to go on learning:

God! Encourage and renew!

(F. H. Kaan. TIS 683 v.5.)

Doug Hosking


For the week of Friday, 25th August 2023

Who am I?
Jesus poses this question to his disciples in this Sunday’s gospel reading.
Lots of identity labels have been attributed to Jesus:
Son of God
God the Son
Son of Man
Messiah
Christ
Saviour
These identity labels have different meanings for different people.
Who is Jesus for you?
What identity label would best convey who you are, at your core?

Does our identity remain static, or does it change during our life?
This Sunday, we shall explore the perennial question of Christian identity: Who is Jesus?
Who am I?

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 11th August 2023

“Do not be afraid.”

There are so many instances in the Bible where God is depicted as saying these words, in one form or another. It would appear that it is considered something of a divine imperative.

Why are we afraid, anyway?

Lots of reasons.

Good reasons.

Silly reasons.

Snakes, spiders, heights.

Interest rates.

Having our opinions threatened.

A health diagnosis.

Our own mortality.

Fear of missing out (aka FOMO)

What do we make of the divine imperative to “not be afraid,” offered, in so many different contexts, to us mortals who live in this plane of existence for such a short time? What exactly is fear? Should we banish all fear? Or is it only some things which we should fear? We shall explore such things this Sunday.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 4th August 2023

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled.

The Sunday readings speak of “blessing.”

People of faith use the word blessing quite a lot, and sometimes its use is expected, or even demanded. I remember being in an online Zoom break-out room with some other ministers, and we did quick introductions, where we shared something about ourselves and our lives. I shared that my darling wife Joy had died after many years of ill-health, that I had remarried to my wonderful Karen, was part of a loving faith community at BUC, and that I felt very lucky.

“Don’t you mean blessed?” was the response from one of the other ministers.

“No, I mean lucky. If I say that I am blessed, what about those other poor buggers who are in awful circumstances through no fault of their own? If I’m blessed, are they cursed by God in comparison? If that’s how a theology of blessing works, I’d prefer a theology of luck.”

My interlocuter, it is fair to say, was less than impressed by my theology of luck, and proceeded to take me to task for feeling lucky in life. Gratefully his tirade was cut short by the Zoom break-out room session coming to an abrupt end.

Who gets “blessed”?

Who doesn’t get “blessed”?

How widely are God’s “blessings” bestowed?

We shall explore such questions this Sunday.

                                                Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 28th July 2023

In the foreword to the first volume of his trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, J R R  Tolkien says, “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” So much can be open to the reader’s interpretation, especially if (the author’s) context is not familiar to the reader.

When I look at the parable of the mustard seed, it is very clear that there is room for all sorts of interpretations. For a start, which sort of mustard plant is Jesus discussing? The mustard plant that is used for the seed we commonly known (in a jar seeded mustard) is not what I would call the “smallest of all seeds”, nor does it grow into a tree, but with its yellow flowers, more closely resembles the canola crops which we now admire in many farms across the Australian landscape. Jesus’ audience would have been more familiar with his agricultural references and understood his parable much more easily than we do.

This Sunday, we will look at the ways in which the parable of the mustard seed might shape our ideas of the Kingdom of Heaven and how it might function.

                                                Neville Pope

 


For the week of Friday, 21st July 2023

Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-12. 23,24

Stones and Dreams

Have any of you spent a night in the outback under the stars?  If you have I wonder if you used a stone for a pillow!  That is what Jacob laid his head on as he slept, exhausted after fleeing from his brother Esau.  Amazingly Jacob fell into a deep sleep in spite of the discomfort – and he dreamed.  And what a dream!  A ladder spanning the gap between earth and heaven, with God’s messengers going up and down, followed by Holy One reassuring him that he was not alone. Wow!  The stone pillow, reoriented as an altar, became a stepping stone for his continuing journey.

What are the dreams, that come to us while sleeping?  Do we seek to interpret our dreams or dismiss them as unimportant?  And what about the conscious dreams of our lives, the hopes, fears, struggles and yearnings we carry?

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit up and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

O Lord, you know it completely…Ps 139:1-4

We are never beyond the loving embrace of Holy One

Lynona Hawkins


For the week of Friday, 14th July 2023

 “Sex, sex, sex, that’s awlllll he ever thinks about!”

Paul, that is.

Well, not quite.

Flesh.

You know…sins of the flesh?

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!

The apostle Paul did like to bang on about flesh, in a rather negative way: the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law–indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Paul contrasts flesh, whatever that is, with spirit, whatever that is.

But, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus is the word become flesh. Since Jesus was a pretty good bloke, maybe flesh isn’t so bad, after all? This Sunday, we will puzzle over the Puzzling Paul and his preoccupation with things of the flesh and things of the spirit.

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 7th July 2023

I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…

I suspect that the Apostle Paul wasn’t a very chilled, laid-back kind of dude. You could probably have found lighter dinner companionship, circa 50-60 CE, than the Apostle Paul. Reading his letters, he is tough on others and tough on himself. Before his conversion to the Christian faith, a faith he once persecuted, he was a zealous adherent to Jewish law: he was very devoted to making sure he ticked off all of God’s commandments on his daily to-do list. And yet, even Paul, it would seem, had trouble “doing the right thing.” I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. This is quite an admission from the former Pharisee, a man of rigid self-discipline. If Paul, I’m-an-anal-retentive-stickler-for-doing-the-right-thing, the Apostle can’t get it right, what hope have the rest of us?! This Sunday, we shall explore why we do what we do in the moments of our lives, and why it is sometimes so terribly difficult just to do what we decide to do.

  Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 30th June 2023

What do we do when things make us uncomfortable?

There are several time-honoured strategies.

One is to distract ourselves with other things.

Another is to rationalise away the discomfort.

A third is to acknowledge the discomfort, to sit with it, to reflect on what precisely it is that is discomforting us, and what implications can be drawn from it.

This Sunday, we hear the discomforting story of Abraham being called by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

In this, the fourth week of “Extraordinary Time,” as we reflect upon our discomfort with this story, we shall do so with time as the backdrop: a very, very long time.

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 23rd June 2023

“Do not be afraid…”

Of all the divine exhortations in the Bible, “do not be afraid” must be the most common. God is continually reminding people, in many and varied contexts, not to be afraid. It is said that the opposite of love is not actually hate, but rather fear. Love is an expansive feeling; it flows over. Fear is a contractive feeling; it draws us into ourselves. In this Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus says to his disciples, “do not be afraid,” and so, as a modern-day disciple of Jesus, I intend to intend to take his advice to heart. I will remain in the expansive feeling of love. I will not enter into that contracting feeling of fear…even though, at this stage, I have no idea whatsoever what I’ll be sharing in this Sunday’s message. 😊

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 16th June 2023

Time: is it real?

 Einstein said that time is a delusion. How come we do almost everything by the clock? How would we cope, even think, without the concept of time? Is it something we’ve invented to account for the changes we see around us, within us, and in the world, and even in the cosmos? In the reading from Matthew, we see a busy, busy, busy Jesus, who seems very short on time.

I took a break from pondering this service and what I would say about time, to read an article by Virginia Trioli. on ABC online. As I read it, and took in what she was saying about the concept of getting the most out of every minute of your life, I followed a link to an article about slowing down, enjoying life quietly, slowly. Then there was a link to an excerpt from a book by Tyson Yunkaporta, a man belonging to the Apalech clan from Western Cape York, a speaker of Wik Mungkan, who is also a senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University. Then I bought his book from which the excerpt came, and I was totally absorbed.  Hence the title: Time: is it real?

 Anne Magarey


For the week of Friday, 9th June 2023

On his way to somewhere, Jesus did…something else…before continuing on his way to somewhere.

There are a number of instances in the gospels (especially the Gospel of Mark) where one story begins, gets interrupted with another story, and then continues. In the Gospel of Mark, scholars call this literary technique a “Markan Intercalation” where one story inserts or intercalates between two parts of another. It is the interruption of the “main story” by another.

Jesus, it would seem, got interrupted a lot. People were always approaching him for help, in one way or another, and we see this in this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus is heading off to help someone and, on the way, gets interrupted by a woman in need.

What do we do with interruptions?

How gracefully do we deal with such intrusions on our schedule?

How open are we to seeing “interruptions” to our schedule as “potentially special moments in time”?

This Sunday, as we begin our first Sunday in Extraordinary Time, we shall reflect on these and other questions.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 2nd June 2023

Trinity Sunday…

…the day that we reflect on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

It’s a puzzling doctrine, no doubt about it.

  • There is one and only one God
  • There are three persons who comprise this one God
  • The three persons: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit

If you’re confused, don’t worry.

To employ a line from the movie The Devil’s Own, where an Irishman played by Brad Pitt is trying to explain “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland to his Irish-American host, a New York police officer played by Harrison Ford: “You know what they say…if you’re not confused, you really don’t know what’s going’ on!”

In order to know whats goin’ on with the Trinity, we need to embrace confusion, logical incoherence and incredulity. And yet, as we will explore on Sunday, perhaps the major issue with the Trinity is not that it’s too crazy, but that it’s not crazy enough…

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 26th May 2023

2 Corinthians 5:11-22

If the fundamental ingredient of all is the love of Christ, that should be the glue – with Christ and with one another.  This one has died for all so that we all might live for Him, who died and was raised for them.  We no longer need to deny death or the undeniable pain and struggles of life, because we know that Christ’s love is stronger than death.  If this is so, why do we continue to deny the First Peoples of Australia their rightful place in this land?  We will never reach our full potential if the First Peoples are not given their rightful place.

Ken Sumner


For the week of Friday, 19th May 2023

“…so that they may be one” is a well-known phrase in the John reading for this week (Jn 17: 1-11). There are a multitude of important points in Jesus’ prayer, but this is the one that stood out for me after the last two weeks of Michael’s messages.

If we assume that we are included in the evangelist’s “they”, who are we one with – or, if you prefer, with whom are we one? There are other times when Jesus talks about being one with God, or to use Michael’s term, “in a right relationship with God”, but here he is referring clearly to his disciples. So with whom are we to be one?

Should we be one with the other Christian denominations? Think back to Michael’s message two weeks ago if you were there. What about other religions? “But we disagree on so many points”, you might say.

I’d like to look at this in a different way. How are the musicians in an orchestra “one”? Do they all play the same tune at the same time? No! Yet they work together in harmony to produce something which none of them can produce on their own.

Neville Pope


For the week of Friday, 12th May 2023

 Knowing an Unknown God

Have you ever tried wrapping your head around a complex subject? The intricacies of certain topics is seemingly endless and a deep-dive on such topics can end up going down a rabbit-hole that is very deep indeed. Science abounds in subject areas that seek to peel back the underlying nature of life and reality: the marvels of the immune system, the paradoxical wonders of the subatomic realm as described by quantum mechanics, cosmological exploration of the large-scale structure of the universe. Scientists will readily admit that whilst so much is known about the workings of the universe, a staggering and indeterminate amount remains unknown, some of which may indeed be unknowable.

If we struggle to understand these “mere things of the world” what chance have we of truly understanding the very Source and Creator of reality that we call God? What can our Christian faith tell us about the “Unknown God” to which Paul refers in this Sunday’s reading? This is the question we shall examine.

                                        Michael Dowling

 


For the week of Friday, 5th May 2023

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

That all sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

Just go to Jesus, just follow Jesus, and all will be tickedy-boo.

And indeed the only way for things to be tickedy-boo…is to go to Jesus, and follow Jesus.

This should, on the surface, make things very simple, shouldn’t it?

And yet, in practice, “going to Jesus” and “following Jesus” have been fraught with difficulty, given that “going to Jesus” and “following Jesus” as the “way, the truth, the life” have been rather open to interpretation, as the many thousands of Christian denominations can testify!

Given this level of disagreement within the Christian faith over what “following Jesus” means, perhaps it is a good thing that “in my Father’s house are many rooms.” An open-plan house likely would not make for good house-mates….

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 27th April 2023

I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly…

Folks, I’m here to talk about living your best life, a life that’s abundant. What does that even mean? It means having more than enough of everything you need, like food, clothing, and shelter. But it’s not just about what you get in life, it’s also about what you give back to the world. Are you making a positive impact on others? Are you contributing to society in a meaningful way? That’s what abundant life is all about, folks.

And let me tell you, the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John really speak to me. He’s the good shepherd, the lamb of God, the gate for the sheep. And he offers us this idea of abundant life. It’s something we should all strive for. So go out there, live your best life, and make a difference in the world. Thank you, folks.

If that didn’t sound much like me, there’s a reason.

I wasn’t very happy with my reflection this week, so I decided it needed some work.

I asked the Chat GPT artificial intelligence program, available free on the internet, to re-write my text in the way that Donald Trump might, if he was writing it. I actually think the Donald Trump version is better than mine. He sounds quite positive and upbeat. I’m tempted to vote for him. Having said that, as we explore the reading this Sunday about a shepherd, sheep, and a gate, perhaps I should, at least for the moment, resist the temptation to be a sheep.

                                        Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 21st April 2023

On the road again.

The story of the mysterious stranger joining despairing pilgrims as they fled the ugliness of the ’ Holy City’ has  long been a favourite.  It is ordinary yet extra-ordinary, perhaps, better understood through poetry or art than by fact checking on Google.

  T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land reflects despair at the destruction of a devastating world war.He who is living is now deadhe writes. Those two quitting Jerusalem for home, share the same despair and yet:-  “Who is the third who walks beside you?,   When I count ,there are only you and I together,  But when I look ahead up the white road, There is always another one walking beside you.”

The Emmaeus story gets me reflecting: ‘Have there been others, during my life’s journey  who have given me glimpses of Jesus?’   I am grateful for so many: -Ordinary people, not stylised saints, just folk like those Caravaggio used as he painted ‘The Supper at Emmaeus.  I tried my own short list.

Eyes closed; can you picture someone whose life gave you a passing image of Jesus?  Would you be able to tell a neighbour who and why?  Sydney Carter gave me a lasting imagery of God’s Spirit:-as like a dance.  ‘I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me.. I am the Lord of the dance said he.”

                                         Rev. Dr Malcolm McArthur


For the week of Friday, 14th April 2023

The Doubting Thomas

What role does doubt play in our lives?

Is doubt a negative, a positive, or both?

Some time ago, Penny Harper did a terrific study entitled “A Question of Doubt” in which she explored aspects of doubt and faith. I’d highly recommend having a read if you haven’t already (see: https://blackwooduc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/PCS-006-A-Question-of-Doubt-Penny-Harper.pdf)

This Sunday, the lectionary reading is the famous story of the “Doubting Thomas” – the one who refused to believe in the risen Jesus unless he could see and feel the wounds in Jesus’ body. What are we to make of his insistence, and sometimes our insistence, of having all the information, of being fully informed?

                                     Michael Dowling

 


For the week of Friday, 7th April 2023

Easter reflection

How to distil down the Christian message to a soundbite which could be displayed on a church billboard? I’ve been thinking about that question the last few days.

Jesus’ ethical teaching, so beautifully expounded in his Sermon on the Mount, occupies three full chapters of the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5-7) which, sadly, would necessitate a very small billboard font size!

Jesus’ distillation of the Jewish law as being: to love God will all your heart, strength, soul and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself, might be a good candidate for the billboard. But this concise saying, which would fit on the billboard, or on a T-shirt for that matter, seems to be so rarely achieved, including among Christians.

Elaborate theologies, including, as we approach Easter, theologies relating to the meaning of Jesus death and resurrection fail to resonate with many, making them questionable billboard candidates too.

Perhaps, as we look at our rather troubled world, and as we look at the ambivalence, at times, of our own behaviour, we need a message to give us hope in the possibility of a different way of being. Jesus demonstrated, in his living, that different way of being; a way of being that included those who were excluded, that lifted up the powerless and brought low the powerful. This Easter, more than 2,000 years after his death on the cross, the counter-cultural message of Jesus continues, against all expectations, to echo around the world. It is a message of hope and possibility:

How the world has always been

Isn’t how the world must always be

Transformation of our world is possible

Let us be the transformation we seek

Wishing everyone a peaceful and a hopeful Easter.

All the Best,

                                 

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 31st March 2023

For the last 5 weeks we’ve been looking through Alison’s wonderful and intriguing windows at some aspects of Holy One’s kingdom. The question remains: what is the kingdom?

We read and hear that the kingdom is here. We also read and hear that the kingdom is coming. Can it be both? Does the Hebrew Bible tell us anything about the kingdom? And if so, what? Jesus lived in Israel; he grew up steeped in the books of the Hebrew Bible. Was his view of the kingdom the same as that found there? What does all this mean, for us?

I’m hoping to make some sense of this kingdom for you, of Holy One’s kingdom. I’m hoping….                              

Anne Magarey


For the week of Friday, 24th March 2023

  Seeing the Big Picture…

This Sunday, as we draw ever nearer to Easter, we continue our Lenten theme of Windows to the Kingdom of God. We have, during Lent, sought to obtain glimpses into this impossible-to-define reality which Jesus spoke of so frequently, using metaphor upon metaphor: the Kingdom of God…is like a mustard seed…is like a merchant in search of fine pearls…is within you, etc. We now move beyond individual glimpses, individual windows to this Kingdom of God, to the Big Picture: what connects the glimpses; what connects the windows. As we do, we explore the lectionary texts of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones and Jesus’ raising of Lazarus and see what they might have to say about God’s Big Picture reality of the Kingdom of God.                            

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 17th March 2023

One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see (John 9:25)

 I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see (Amazing Grace)

I love metaphors! “Something” that isn’t the “something” being referred to, but is instead some other “something”!

The phrase “He’s so blind!” generally has nothing to do with the person’s visual acuity, but rather their inability to metaphorically “see” something. It’s interesting how an inability to “see” in this metaphorical sense in exclusively the problem of others, never ourselves! Why can’t other people see things the right way?! Why can’t other people see things how I see them?! Because, of course, I see the world as it is. It is the others who are foolish, deluded. It is the others who are biased.

Modern psychology has identified over a hundred different biases to which we humans – yes, all of us! – are prone. The most profound bias at the centre of our thinking is something given the label “naïve realism.” Naïve realism is the often unstated and generally unquestioned belief held by us that we see the world as it is – that we see the real world – and therefore, if other disagree with us, they are clearly idiots, deluded or biased. Our blindness to our own blindness (biases) is the source of much of our world’s misery.

In the gospel reading this Sunday, we hear of Jesus’ healing of a man who was born blind.

If the gospel accounts are to be believed, it would appear that Jesus had the ability to heal literal, physical blindness. What about metaphorical blindness – the unawareness of our own metaphorical blind spots? How can we be healed from such debilitating blindness if we cannot even see that we are so afflicted?

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 10th March 2023

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

As we continue our journey through Lent, exploring “Windows to the Kingdom of God,” we come this week to an encounter at a well. Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman and the conversation centres around water. Jesus is thirsty and desires water from the woman but, as they converse, he speaks of a different kind of “water” – something he calls living water.

As we consider this encounter, and the flow of conversation between Jesus and the woman, and the flow of “water” between them, we will endeavour to pay attention both to what is revealed and to what is hidden in this story. In so doing, perhaps we can open, if only a little, a window to the Kingdom of God.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 3rd March 2023

Genesis 12:1-4a: John 3:1-17

The wilderness theme crops up in various guises during Lent.  Today we hear of Abram, later to become Abraham, called to leave his home, family and livelihood to head off into the unknown.  Short on detail but with a vital promise:

‘I will bless you… I will bless those who bless those who bless you… and in you all the families on earth shall be blessed.

Then to the visit undercover of night by Nicodemus to question Jesus.  Nicodemus who as a Pharisee supposedly had the answers in the Law, but found those answers weren’t enough.  His was a wilderness of doubt, of searching and wanting more.  And he got more that he expected, being told that to see the kingdom of God he needed to be born again – by the Spirit!

We all find ourselves in ‘wildernesses’ from time to time, feeling lost or unsatisfied, asking questions, feeling as though we are in the dark.  And during those times, how do we count our blessings and how can we be a blessing to others?

Lynona Hawkins


 

For the week of Friday, 24th February 2023

Windows to the Kingdom of God

We approach the first Sunday in Lent and, as we do, we consider the selected Lenten theme “Windows to the Kingdom of God.” Acknowledgement and thanks go to Anne Magarey for her excellent suggestion to focus upon the Kingdom of God, and to Alison Sutcliffe for her trademark creativity in what she will be offering us, during the Lenten season, as visual “windows” to the Kingdom.

Jesus spoke endlessly about something called the Kingdom of God, without ever saying exactly what it was. The Kingdom of God was “like a mustard seed” and was “like a merchant in search of fine pearls, and was “like” any number of other metaphors. How odd that something so seemingly important could not be put into concrete terms by Jesus! I strongly suspect that this wasn’t just Jesus being deliberately difficult, but instead reflects the enigmatic nature of this Kingdom of Heaven reality. This Lent, we’ll have an opportunity to examine some windows into this enigmatic Kingdom, starting Sunday.

Michael Dowling


 

For the week of Friday, 17th February 2023

“There on the mountain Jesus was transfigured before them”.

The original Greek word which is translated “transfigured” in this passage can just as accurately be translated into English as “transformed”.

This Sunday we will explore that transformation seen in Jesus and the transformation in the disciples and ourselves. We all have our mountain top experiences. Are they the moments that transform us? Is there a danger in trying to stay on a mountain top? Does God speak to us in the valleys of life as well?

Just to bring us down to earth we will also dedicate a lectern that has been transformed from two trees as an ornate and practical item for the church at Oodnadatta.

Bruce Marriott


For the week of Friday, 10th February 2023

“You have heard that it was said…but I tell you…”

This Sunday we explore Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount.”

In it, Jesus challenges his listeners to go beyond the “righteousness” of the Pharisees.

More righteous than even the Pharisees, who sought to diligently keep all 613 of the Jewish Laws?! Was Jesus adding further layers of difficulty, above and beyond what the “Law” required, or was he pointing to something beyond mere law, beyond mere good behaviour?

We shall explore these questions on Sunday.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 3rd February 2023

Salt is essential to life as it allows for the proper function of the human body along with other forms of life on Earth.  We think of salt as a seasoning, but it also serves as a preservative and disinfectant.  Salt is a common substance.  In Jesus’ day it was highly valued, even serving as a unit of exchange.

This week the gospel reading from the lectionary (Matthew 5:13 – 20) challenges us to consider how we are the salt of the Earth and how we shine a light into the world.  The underlying theme of the passage, and the other lectionary passages, is that of purpose.  How are we called to fulfil God’s purpose as disciples?

Wes Bray


For the week of Friday, 23rd December 2022

Christmas Services 2022

Blue Christmas Service

22nd Dec, 7.30pm

Blackwood Church of Christ

Christmas Eve

BUC 24th Dec, 5.30pm for Carols

6pm for Christmas story

Christmas Day

BUC 25th Dec, 9am


For the week of Friday, 9th December 2022

Something to think about

What would happen if you dialled into your car’s GPS and gave it an unknown destination? How patient would you be? How frustrated?

We don’t like going into the unknown, into the unexpected depths of life, but that is what is promised in our readings for today. Isaiah seems to promise paradise and our cynical minds say, “Not for me” and John the Baptist must have gone crazy when Jesus promised a bright future in the midst of a failed world.

“A Holy Way”, a highway into a different future is the message from the prophet but how much are we prepared to trust that a world can be reborn, remade, repurposed?

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that when we were younger, we had no idea what lay ahead in the future, but it didn’t stop us travelling into it. Most of us would say that while we would like to forget certain aspects of our past, we probably wouldn’t change our life. What Advent does is ask us to trust in an unknown future where life can and will be different. A big ask, and are you up for it?

Read Isaiah 35: 1-10 and Matthew 11: 2-11

Rev Dr Adrian Brown


For the week of Friday, 25th of November 2022

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more…

This Sunday’s reading from Isaiah sounds mighty hopeful, doesn’t it? Especially so in light of our human penchant for a bit of the old ultraviolence. As a species, will we ever kick the habit of waging war and killing each other? We shall examine this thorny conundrum on Sunday as we begin Advent, with our theme “A World Reborn.”

Michael Dowling

Jesus’ prayer to his mother.   

Cover me, shroud me with straw;

Waft sweet incense to cleanse me,

Animal breath to warm me,

Shepherds’ lanterns to light my crib

And angels to keep watch.

 

Give me a mother,

Star struck;

Give me a father,

Down on his luck;

Give me a home

Of shavings and joints,

Of carvings and planes and tools.

 

Give me a song

Spun of warmest fleece.

Tell me a story

Of a world at peace.

Hold my hand

Against the storm,

Shelter me now against the pain.

Ashleigh Lower (Worship Leader 27th November 2022)


For the week of Friday, 18th of November 2022

Luke 23:33-43

 The 20th November is ‘Christ the King’ or the ‘Reign of Christ’ Sunday, finishing off the Lectionary Year C before we enter the Season of Advent. What does this mean?  We tend to think of royalty – kings and queens – as rulers, yet of course the British monarchy is now more ceremonial.  We might wonder just what King Charles the 3rd will make of the royal role.

 In thinking of Christ as King, how did he fit within the idea of a king on a throne, ruling with power and authority?  Well actually he didn’t.  Jesus’ kingship was powerful, but in a subversive way.  He challenged the powerbrokers of the day and valued and affirmed those on the bottom rungs of society, a very different king indeed.  How might this challenge us as followers of Christ?

Lynona Hawkins


 

For the week of Friday, 11th of November 2022

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind…

New heavens and a new earth, eh?

A new earth sounds terrific! We have rather messed up the existing one, haven’t we?

But…new heaven as well?! I would have thought, even though this earthly realm is sub-optimal, that the heavenly realm would be tickedy-boo?! Why do the heavens need to be replaced?

This Sunday’s theme will be something of a prequel to Advent which begins on November 27, and which has as its selected theme “A World Reborn.” The writer Eckhardt Tolle speaks of the “new heaven” referred to in Isaiah not as a new place, but rather as a new level of consciousness. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” How true. We need a new level of thinking to solve the many problems of our world which we have created through certain habitual ways of thinking.

If we could, somehow, acquire a new level of consciousness, a new way of seeing and understanding the world, what kind of “new Earth” might result?

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 3rd of November 2022

“Mr. Death, is there an afterlife?!”

In the Monty Python film, The Meaning of Life, a gathering of dinner party guests in a rural cottage have rather a gloom cast over their evening by the arrival of The Grim Reaper, equipped with menacing scythe, and who announces that they are all dead! “How could this be?” demands the incredulous English host. His wife is forced to admit, with dreadful embarrassment, that she has, shock-horror, used canned salmon to create the salmon mousse, thus leading to their untimely demise. Coming to terms with this dinner party ruining reality, one of the guests wonders if there’s indeed anything still to come: “Mr. Death, is there an afterlife?!”

In this Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus gets into one of these sorts of conversations with one of his religious opponents, who challenges the reality of an afterlife, and uses a thought experiment in an effort to make belief in an afterlife look ridiculous.

Jesus responds in a very Jesus-like way, putting his interlocuter in his place, but what about us? Do we think there is an afterlife, or not? Are we certain, one way or the other, or do we have doubts? If we do think there’s an afterlife, what form do we think it might take? Whether we believe in an afterlife or not, what do we feel about that reality of which there is no doubt, and which, one day, will come to each one of us; what do we feel about death?

This Sunday, we shall ponder some aspects of this question.

In the meantime, here is A SHAMELESS PLUG for our workshop on 15 November: Death Makes Life Possible, followed by a Life and Death Conversation!!! Register now!!!

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 28th of October 2022

What exactly does God require of us, in this life?

 An attempt to answer this question has been made by all the religions of the world, including the Christian religion. Within the Christian faith, and within the Bible that informs the Christian faith, there have been many and varied answers to the question.

This Sunday, we shall explore some of them and how the life of Jesus of Nazareth informs these answers.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 21st of October 2022

Jesus speaks about pride and vulnerability, what does that mean for our relationship with each other, and the Divine?

Danny Mills


For the week of Friday, 14th of October 2022

The need to pray always and not to lose heart…

What is prayer?

Can prayer be reduced to us asking an all-powerful divine being to intervene in human affairs and make it all better?

Interestingly, when Jesus tells a parable about the importance of praying always, he doesn’t offer an image of someone kneeling in their room, cloistered away from the world, and praying to God for deliverance. Instead, he offers an image of a determined, persistent widow who goes out into the world and constantly strives to correct an injustice. She acts in the world, without quitting, and without losing heart.

How might human determination and prayer go together?

We shall explore this and other questions as we examine Jesus’ parable of the widow and the unjust judge.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 7th of October 2022

Us and them…

We humans have so many ways of “othering” each other.

We have so many ways of distinguishing ourselves from others, who are not like us.

We do it based on how people speak.

We do it based on how people dress.

We do it based on how much people own.

We do it based on what people believe.

We do it based on where people live.

We do it based on the colour of skin.

Our creativity in segmenting people into us and them knows no bounds!

This Sunday, we explore “us and them” and how Jesus approached this subject, as seen in his encounter with ten men who has been “othered” by the world of Jesus’s day.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 30th September 2022

What is FAITH ( What we grew up with?)

 

What is TRUST?  (How we keep going.)

 

and BELIEF?  (What shapes our life now!)

 

FAITH—We’ve paid final tributes to Elizabeth Defender of the faith.’ We learn that Charles wanted to be titled’- Defender of Faiths’ reflecting changes in our lifetime.  You may, in childhood have seen yourself as defined by a faith which was also your culture.  For me it was mixed Cornish/Welsh Methodism with Scots dissenting independence.  I was proud of ancestors who had built the local chapel, of my ‘Missionary martyr’ father, and of world-wide Methodism which, in 19th century USA was ‘building two churches a day’.

TRUST—War, the decline of ‘The Empire on which the sun never sets”, the arrival of other faiths, modern technology and affluence and travel have combined to undermine our earlier cultural faith. For my mother, three and a half years of stories of POW camp atrocities and no word from her  husband tested the ”Faith of our fathers living still in spite of dungeon…” etc. broke old  certitudes.  Daily she sang “ Simply trusting every day, trusting through a stormy way, even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus that is all”. Many of us have been in a similar place.

BELIEF–  The greatest preacher I have known spoke of Faith as “the thrust of the soul into a future always hidden”. Our grown-up faith, tempered by change and informed by trust , enables us, like those first century apostles  to pray” “ Increase our belief Lord, that we may recognise that with you, all things are possible … and move mountains in order to bring good or as the song.  As the modern song says: ‘ From little things big things grow’.

Rev. Dr Michael McArthur


For the week of Friday, 23rd September 2022

The grand and the petty.

The majestic and the miserly.

In the “Season of Creation” liturgical series, this coming Sunday is designated as Cosmos Sunday. Cosmos. The universe. The whole shebang. That’s pretty grand, isn’t it?! We humans are embedded in the natural world that is the cosmos, happily or unhappily resident on a rocky planet, orbiting a run-of-the-mill star, in a galaxy that is one of billions in that cosmos. We humans are actors on a very large stage indeed.

How readily do we acknowledge the grandness of creation?

How often do we stand in awe at the magnificence of which we form part?

How often do we truly realise our relationship to and dependence on the natural world?

How well do we live out our responsibility to care for our small part of creation?

This Sunday, we will place side-by-side the ofttimes human tendency to live disconnected and “small” lives, instead of living into the interconnected grandness of creation.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 16th September 2022

…there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus…

“I think we might have to go our separate ways.”

“What’s the matter?”

“We just aren’t communicating! I talk to him constantly, and it’s as if he doesn’t hear me. It’s the silence that’s the worst thing! I just don’t know what he’s thinking, or what he expects from me! I’ve tried reading the trusted sources on how I should behave and what I might reasonably expect from him in the relationship, but I really don’t know any more. I just wish he would tell me, straight to my face, what he expects from me, and what I should expect from him in our relationship!”

“It sounds like you need a mediator.”

“A mediator…that’s a brilliant idea!”

“It’s really important, though, that you choose the right mediator. How long have you and your husband been having trouble communicating?”

“It’s not my husband I’m having trouble communicating with; it’s my God!”

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 9th September 2022

I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

I want you (I want you)

I need you (I need you)

There ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you

Now don’t be sad (don’t be sad ’cause)

‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

Now don’t be sad (’cause)

‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

If Meatloaf was right, and two out of three ain’t bad, then surely 99 out of 100 ain’t bad either! So where does Jesus get off with his perfectionist obsession at getting 100 out of 100 (sheep) or 10 out of 10 (coins)?!

Why does Jesus bang on about the importance of…the one lost sheep…the one lost coin…the one lost brother?!

We shall explore Jesus’s acute focus on “the one” this Sunday.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 2nd  September 2022

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end[a]—I am still with you.

Anne Magarey


 

For the week of Friday, 26th August 2022

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doing the best that I can

Willie Nelson is a man who clearly struggles, at least in a whimsical sense, to be humble. Perhaps most of us do, to some extent. And what of the person who is really good at being humble? Does it make any sense to say, “I am a truly humble person!” Such an assertion is either said in jest or else by someone with vanishingly small self-awareness. Indeed, the truly humble person is often sublimely unaware of their own humility because, in the words of C.S. Lewis:

 “Humility is not thinking more of yourself, or thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less.”

The truly humble tend not to think of themselves, so focussed are they on connecting with those around them, or so focussed are they on the task at hand. As for the rest of us, Jesus has some practical words of advice in this week’s gospel reading: don’t take the best seat but leave it for others; don’t just do good to those who can repay you, but rather do good to those who cannot repay you. This Sunday we will explore Jesus’ advice for those who, like Willie Nelson, find it hard to be humble.

 Michael Dowling


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.

Wes Bray


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?

Lynona Hawkins


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.

 Michael Dowling


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!

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Anne Magarey


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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?

Michael Dowling


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?

Lynona Hawkins


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?

Heather Lee


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Neville Pope


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. 

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 27th March 2022

Theos: God
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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 4th March 2022

Luke 4:1-13

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.

Lynona Hawkins


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.

Transfiguration:

  • A change in form or appearance
  • Metamorphosis
  • 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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Danny Mills


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

Adrian Brown


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?

Anne Magarey


For the week of Friday, 28th January 2022

Love is…

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.
Etc, etc.

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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

                                                                                           Ashleigh Lower


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 22nd October 2021

Mark 10:46-52

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?

Michael Dowling


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?

Wes Bray


For the week of Friday, 1st October 2021

Theodicy:

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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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 !

Lynona Hawkins


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.

(long sigh…continue)

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”?

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Malcolm McArthur


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?

 Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Heaven…and Earth
Delight…and Agony
Wonder…and Weakness

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.

Michael Dowling


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.

 Wes Bray
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.

Neville Pope


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                           

Malcolm McArthur


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.

Read the full article here


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.

Michael Dowling


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.”

 Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 23rd April 2021

John 10:11-18

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’ ?

  Lynona Hawkins


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…

…Joe Blogs
…A former teacher, now retired
…The father of three children
…A husband
…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.

Michael Dowling


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

                                                                             Malcolm McArthur


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?

Michael Dowling


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

(Paul Simon)

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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Anne Magarey


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.

Prayer (Noun):

  • 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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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?

Neville Pope


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


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.

Michael Dowling


For the week of Friday, 6th November 2020

Guest preacher: Rev. Dr. Les Underwood, minister, UnitingCare Port Adelaide.

9.15am Worship
Bible text: Psalm 78:1-7
Theme: How we learn to participate in the life of the community through the stories we tell

11.00am Worship
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!

Michael Dowling


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.

Anne Magarey