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Easy to Mock.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 8, 2019 - 5:35am

As is fairly typical, in the story from Luke 20 this week, Jesus replies to a conundrum with a conundrum. He’s given a sort of riddle about a woman who marries seven times – and just not seven times, but seven brothers, in succession. Each brother dies, leaving her a widow. After all, marriage vows are only valid while both partners are alive, right? “Until death us do part,” as we used to say, or “until we are parted by death.” And the Sadducees, who are among Jesus’ critics, want to know: “In the resurrection, whose wife will the woman be?”
They don’t believe in the resurrection, you see, and so they are trying to mock him, to show how silly and unworkable an idea eternal life is. They are trying to demonstrate that the things we hold dear in this life, including the bond and covenant of marriage, will make no sense in the next life. And they are trying to depict Jesus as a kind of oddball faith healer and snake handler, whose fundamental claims just don’t make any sense. And, of course, they are right.
Jesus is very easy to mock. Eternal life is a silly and unworkable idea. And the fundamental claims of Christianity really do not make any sense – especially when compared with the values of the secular world. This was true in Jesus’ time, and it is still very true in our day.
Let’s start with the most striking of the implicit assertions made by the Sadducees: The fundamental claims of Christianity just do not make any sense.Let’s see – love God and love your neighbour. That’s fundamental, right? But most of our world is obsessed with power, prestige, wealth and control. If we but admit to the existence of God, then we have to acknowledge that the things we have are simply lent to us. We are stewards of our possessions, including our earthly bodies. All that we have is a gift from God, and only of value while we are alive on this earth.
But the culture we live in says this is my home, my money, my whatever. And I can do with it whatever I want. But when we acknowledge the existence of God, we also acknowledge that we are not in control, not the ultimate judge, not the great power of the universe – or even the family. But the world says otherwise. Our society is full of people who insist on their own way, on their own individual authority. It happens at the simplest levels of human interaction, and it happens at the highest levels of government and industry.
And those two points – not owning things and not being in ultimate control – they are just the first two steps toward acknowledging that God exists. It’s still a long, long way before one can love God. And what about loving our neighbour? Our society doesn’t always uphold this, does it? So, loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself – these two great commandments to those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians: They are not the values of our country, of our society or of our world.
Then there’s the idea of eternal life – a silly and unworkable idea. The Sadducees have shown us that. When we think of eternity like this, we are failing to use our imagination. The problem is that they – and we – have failed to imagine it as something we will actually like. And yet we are promised ineffable joys, never-failing care, the strength of God’s presence, rejoicing in eternal glory, being received into the arms of mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and being reunited with those who have gone before in the paradise of God.
When you talk about those things, on that kind of scale, then wasting a lot of energy on whether we will live forever, or to whom we may be married, or whatever – well, it seems a whole lot more like another manifestation of that power and control thing, doesn’t it? “I demand to know, and I can afford to pay for the knowledge” or something like that. Yet, the fullness of God’s love and truth is not known to any of us – not yet. And that’s exactly why Jesus is so easy to mock.
We don’t know everything. As St. Paul says it, “Now we see in a mirror, dimly.” Remember, that in the first century, a mirror was not likely to be one of today’s manufactured, perfectly smooth and clear glasses. Looking into a mirror was like looking into a brook or stream, or into a highly polished rock. Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but when the end comes, “we will see face to face. Now, I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
So, we have a call to live the way of truth, the way of hope, the way of love. The journey of faith is not a life lived without doubt or questions, the life of a Christian is not one without trial or travail, and the earthly pilgrimage is not about control and power. It’s about truth, hope, and above all, love. And all of this begins not with “I insist” or “I own” or “I want” – but with the simple, elegant and hopeful proclamation, “I believe.”  


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

When the Saints.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 1, 2019 - 6:14am

“Oh, when the saints go marching in, Lord, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.” Many of us have sung this old gospel hymn with such joy and gusto and our Men’s Group, I believe will be singing it again this year. But really when you reflect on it, sainthood is not a fun-filled path. I would suggest that you look up the verses to this popular song about saints, and you’ll find words that are not nearly as joyous as the refrain. The verses remind us that the path toward God is not usually an easy one.
In this week’s readings from Daniel 7, Daniel’s spirit is troubled, and he has a vision of kings arising like beasts from the earth. Yet God promises that the holy ones will inherit the earth. And in Luke 6 the writer offers future blessings to the poor, the hungry, and the righteous of God. However, the timing of all this blessing is unknown. Luke cries “woe” upon the successful and satisfied of this world, but his promises of later laughter for the saintly are not all that comforting when one is racked with grief.
I’m not sure I do want to be in that number with the saints as they go marching toward God. They march with burdens of martyrdom. They march with the weight of the world. They march with suffering for the needs of others. They march with a willingness to carry earth’s deep sorrows on their back. They march all the way to the cross. They march with persistence and perseverance against all odds, working for God’s realm to come to this earth. Okay, well honestly, maybe I do want to march with them. But does the cost have to be so high?!
I read somewhere and reflected on this thought and was challenged deeply. It goes: “Woe to me, for yearning for an easy path, for I am destined for a bumpy road toward God.” I don’t know about you, but the road toward God being a bumpy has certainly seemed to be my life pattern
Anyone can love when life is good, when the path is easy, but can I love when it is risk-filled, when I will not get a fair return? If we look at his life, Jesus does not back off in proclaiming woes to the rich and self-satisfied in Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, and most of us would be happy if he stopped there. In the next breath he calls us to love those whom he has just denounced, that we are to be merciful as our God is merciful. Loving my enemies is the hardest part of the gospel. Jesus is naming the reality that if you want to bring the Beloved Community—you will upset a lot of people.
Have you ever thought about the fact that most of what we admire about Jesus made someone angry? “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” has been Jesus’s bumper sticker since before there were bumpers, and we all love our nice neighbours. But what about those Samaritans? Or Muslims, or Gang Members, or immigrants, rednecks, socialists, Trump followers—you name them—are they the neighbours I must love? When Jesus said he came not to bring peace but a sword, he is not saying pick up your sword; he is acknowledging that if you want to follow him in the way of love, then expect conflict.
Despite the Beatles claim that “All you need is love,” humanity doesn’t always want to love. We are often a greedy, selfish, suspicious species. Jesus did not say, don’t make enemies. Sometimes you can’t help having them; clearly Jesus did. The point is to not let your heart be consumed with hatred, for that dehumanises you and the other. Don’t destroy yourself by fighting battles you cannot win, and don’t destroy yourself from within by giving in to hate. Continue to bless, even if your neighbour has earned woe.
So, the call of Jesus is that God wants us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The amazing thing is that if you live this way, people will be shocked. You maybe even be declared a saint. Some of what you do will seem to go unnoticed, but there are those who will never forget. Your actions will be remembered. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is exactly what it says. It’s not really a golden rule.
It’s a sweaty, frustrated, teeth-gritted, trying-not-to-be-resentful effort toward acting in the right way toward your neighbours, your co-workers, your family. It makes a nice platitude, except that you know that’s exactly what Jesus did not mean for it to be. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This does not mean be a doormat. It is not an excuse to accept abuse or poor treatment. It is a creed for all who believe their worth has been determined by God—that they are valued and beloved. Thus, you treat others with the respect they may not give themselves.
You remove yourself from harm, from danger, from trial. You do not allow others to grieve their hearts by hurting you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This does not a saint make. Instead it is the motto of our adopted family—the family that has received us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This is the work of our family and the family who will help us to live out this verse. Sainthood will be for those who do this and never see it as work.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Persistent Justice

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 24, 2019 - 9:40pm

The parable of Jesus found in Luke 18 is commonly called the story of the unjust judge and the widow. It is a troubling parable. It ends with the promise that "justice will come quickly." If you are satisfied that justice has come, then you are excused from listening. Please pray, while not listening, for those of us who have some doubt that justice will come quickly. The parable also gives the impression that we can "wear God down" by praying. There is no easy resolution of the difficulty in today's Gospel lesson. So, what is the good news in it? Also the parable that follows it raises questions about how we see ourselves and the the way we view our status.
Here are two stories, both true. They do not resolve any questions, but they point to the truth in the Gospel. The first is a prayer story. A congregation had an old, tiny, historic church that was falling into serious disrepair. It could be Marsden Road Church where I serve. As much as they loved it, and they did love it, they prayerfully decided that God wanted them to move to a new place and build a new church that would enable them to minister and grow. They had few members and little money. There wasn't any way in this world that the dream could be realized. They prayed.
The Minister prayed every morning about this for 5 years. One day, a wealthy member of the congregation summoned the Minister. The question asked the Minister was, "How much money can I give to this project?" A year later the congregation moved into and consecrated a beautiful, spacious new church facility on 9 acres of well-located land. And, it was all paid for the day they walked in it. Somehow the prayer and God and the generosity of the wealthy person are connected. But this can't be turned into a formula. Five years of daily prayer equals a miracle. If miracles could be predicted they wouldn't be miracles, they would be science.
Now, let us look at a real justice story. Two very different people, one the Captain of a Slave Ship and the other the son of a rich and powerful English family who were heavily involved in politics were brought together by God to bring justice to those who were slaves. Now, that justice is not fully here. But there is more of it now than 200 years ago and it is coming.
The Slaver was John Newton. Off the coast of Africa, in a slave ship, he experienced conversion. God seems to have a sense of timing and placement that is beyond logic. Newtonbecame an Anglican Priest and, among other things, the author of the much loved "Amazing Grace."
John Newton was serving as Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London when Wilberforce, the rich young man, came to him. Wilberforce experienced conversion while reading and discussing the New Testament on a stagecoach, going across France to the Riviera for a holiday. After that experience, he came to Newton seeking guidance. Newton told him to go into politics. He did. His cause was the end of slavery. A brief time after his death the British Parliament passed legislation that outlawed the Slave trade for British Citizens and gave the mission of enforcing that to the British Navy. That fed the Abolitionist Movement in the United States of America, which led to a great war to end slavery in the United States. Legal slavery ended in the 19th century when Brazil became the final nation to act.
Only God could achieve this by entering lives that were unconnected and joining them for holy purposes. But what if people had not prayed for years for a new church? Or what if Newtonhad rejected Jesus in favour of the money to be made in the slave trade? Or what if Wilberforce had rejected Jesus and decided to live as an idle, rich gentleman? Or, what if he had accepted the Lord and then entered the ministry rather than politics? Or what if he had yielded to the temptations of political power? How many of these holy plots to bring justice has God launched? How many were derailed because someone responded rationally, rather than faithfully? We can't know.
However, there is good news in this text from Luke 18. It is displayed by the good news in the two stories. The good news is that we can pray a lot and respond faithfully to God's call to us to join him in bringing justice quickly. We don't have to. That is the kind of freedom God gives us. God has such abhorrence of slavery that we will never be forced to do Gods will. God has such respect for our freedom that it will not be transgressed, even for the holiest of reasons.
That is troubling news. We don't always choose the right way and live in prayer. One only has to read/watch the News or listen to it to see the number of different forms of slavery still being practiced in our world. The way some employees of franchise groups and other industries are treated and paid is one example. The best news is that we can respond to God, pray a lot and live faithfully and work to removing the stain of these forms of slavery. God is helping us. So, where do I fit in this? What is the part I am to play in healing the injustices of this world? I will leave you to ponder those for yourselves.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 20 September 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 23, 2019 - 10:08am

MRUC Rev. John’s Blog 20 September 2019
 
We love to count and rank events, people, athletes, books, and so on. It seems that just about any time I turn on the Sports Channels or wait in line at the supermarket; I am bombarded with rankings and comparisons. Countless bookstore shelves and Internet pages are filled with sundry “Top Ten” lists. It’s not all that different when we come to our Christian Scriptures. Many of us probably have a verse that stands out and influences much of what we do, and that’s okay.
 
I think if we read the Christian Scriptures carefully, we find that there are certain stories or characters that just stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance or impact. This is not to diminish the lesser known, more minor elements, but there is no denying that certain parts of the biblical story give meaning to the rest and inform how the subsequent narratives are read. We would certainly argue for Jesus as number one on our list of “Top Ten Bible Characters.”
 
However, without previous events and figures (for example, creation, Abraham, the Exodus, and David), the narratives surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus wouldn’t be nearly as rich or meaningful. In fact, the four Gospels ooze complexity and meaning primarily because of that history.
Jesus’ own self-understanding was greatly influenced by his understanding of his own religious heritage.


Another event that should probably be in our top ten, is the Exile. It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Babylonian exile for the people of Israel, for their theology, and for their future. The fall of Jerusalem fundamentally challenged the predominant view of the Promised Land and Israel’s place in it. The destruction of the temple led prophets and priests to think in new ways about how God is present with the people and what authentic worship of the Lord looks like. This has become an ongoing need and concern for Christians also.
 
 
The tragic failure of the Davidic royal line prompted the people of God to lament their circumstances and vehemently protest their situation. They looked inward, outward, and upward for explanations and answers to painful questions about the nature of suffering, hope, and divine presence. We remember from my blog two weeks ago that part of this painful search for meaning and truth includes authentic lament and truth-telling.
 
 
 
As devastating and traumatic as exile is, there is still a word of hope. This hopeful expectation looks to the future by understanding the past and the present. The odd thing about hope is that it never ignores the past or present; rather, hope pays close attention to life in honest and open ways. Hope doesn’t need to be kindled on bright days, but on stormy days and during dark nights. In fact, hope is a truthful commentary on the here and now, a prophetic thought that looks to a new dawn, but it is no sugar coated, fuzzy notion.
 
We may take this to heart when we hear the statement from Jeremiah 31:27-34 the remarks concerning the people’s current status? He says: “I have actively watched over you, my people, but not in ways you might have hoped or thought.” Now that sounds good. I like the sound of that as a follower of God. This spiritual path I’m on isn’t always easy, but it’s good to know that God is watching out for me. But God wasn’t done: “I have watched over [you] to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil.”
What kind of watchman does that? That’s not the kind of shepherd we want—certainly not the kind we think we need. The promised “coming days” are just around the corner, but they don’t erase a difficult past. Looking to the future means understanding how we arrived. Hopeful expectation means admitting that our present condition needs redeeming and that we are powerless to make it happen
 
This knowledge is an indispensable ingredient of life in exile; this is a part of living away from one’s true home. But God isn’t finished with hope as we hear the powerful verbal images to describe the “coming days”: sow, build, plant, and forgive. These are all anticipatory verbs pointing to a new beginning, a new chapter. Hopeful expectation understands that the future begins with the digging of a hole for a seed or with words like “I forgive you.” Yet hope, and all the expectation and anticipation it carries, never really gets ahead of itself. Strong trees don’t grow up in a year; troubled relationships don’t heal fully overnight; new habits are not formed in a day.
 
That’s probably just how most of our top ten biblical stories begin. If we see nothing else here, we see that hopeful expectation never lets go of the possibility that salvation can come to us in the most unexpected ways: on an ark, in a basket floating in the reeds, in exile, in a stable, on a cross, out of a tomb, or in a small but committed community of people who dare to bear the name Christian.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Hopeful Expectation

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 18, 2019 - 6:32am

We love to count and rank events, people, athletes, books, and so on. It seems that just about any time I turn on then Sports Channels or wait in line at the supermarket; I am bombarded with rankings and comparisons. Countless bookstore shelves and Internet pages are filled with sundry “Top Ten” lists. It’s not all that different when we come to our Christian Scriptures. Many of us probably have a verse that stands out and influences much of what we do, and that’s okay.
I think if we read the Christian Scriptures carefully, we find that there are certain stories or characters that just stand head and shoulders above the rest in terms of importance or impact. This is not to diminish the lesser known, more minor elements, but there is no denying that certain parts of the biblical story give meaning to the rest and inform how the subsequent narratives are read. We would certainly argue for Jesus as number one on our list of “Top Ten Bible Characters.”
However, without previous events and figures (for example, creation, Abraham, the Exodus, and David), the narratives surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus wouldn’t be nearly as rich or meaningful. In fact, the four Gospels ooze complexity and meaning primarily because of that history.Jesus’ own self-understanding was greatly influenced by his understanding of his own religious heritage.

Another event that should probably be in our top ten, is the Exile. It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Babylonian exile for the people of Israel, for their theology, and for their future. The fall of Jerusalemfundamentally challenged the predominant view of the Promised Land and Israel’s place in it. The destruction of the temple led prophets and priests to think in new ways about how God is present with the people and what authentic worship of the Lord looks like. This has become an ongoing need and concern for Christians also.
The tragic failure of the Davidic royal line prompted the people of God to lament their circumstances and vehemently protest their situation. They looked inward, outward, and upward for explanations and answers to painful questions about the nature of suffering, hope, and divine presence. We remember from my blog two weeks ago that part of this painful search for meaning and truth includes authentic lament and truth-telling.
As devastating and traumatic as exile is, there is still a word of hope. This hopeful expectation looks to the future by understanding the past and the present. The odd thing about hope is that it never ignores the past or present; rather, hope pays close attention to life in honest and open ways. Hope doesn’t need to be kindled on bright days, but on stormy days and during dark nights. In fact, hope is a truthful commentary on the here and now, a prophetic thought that looks to a new dawn, but it is no sugar coated, fuzzy notion.
We may take this to heart when we hear the statement from Jeremiah 31:27-34 the remarks concerning the people’s current status? He says: “I have actively watched over you, my people, but not in ways you might have hoped or thought.” Now that sounds good. I like the sound of that as a follower of God. This spiritual path I’m on isn’t always easy, but it’s good to know that God is watching out for me. But God wasn’t done: “I have watched over [you] to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil.”

What kind of watchman does that? That’s not the kind of shepherd we want—certainly not the kind we think we need. The promised “coming days” are just around the corner, but they don’t erase a difficult past. Looking to the future means understanding how we arrived. Hopeful expectation means admitting that our present condition needs redeeming and that we are powerless to make it happen
This knowledge is an indispensable ingredient of life in exile; this is a part of living away from one’s true home. But God isn’t finished with hope as we hear the powerful verbal images to describe the “coming days”: sow, build, plant, and forgive. These are all anticipatory verbs pointing to a new beginning, a new chapter. Hopeful expectation understands that the future begins with the digging of a hole for a seed or with words like “I forgive you.” Yet hope, and all the expectation and anticipation it carries, never really gets ahead of itself. Strong trees don’t grow up in a year; troubled relationships don’t heal fully overnight; new habits are not formed in a day.
That’s probably just how most of our top ten biblical stories begin. If we see nothing else here, we see that hopeful expectation never lets go of the possibility that salvation can come to us in the most unexpected ways: on an ark, in a basket floating in the reeds, in exile, in a stable, on a cross, out of a tomb, or in a small but committed community of people who dare to bear the name Christian.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 6 September 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 15, 2019 - 9:45am


Much has been said in the various media about climate change and the possibility of  global warming destroying our home. For that reason Rev. John’s message today is most timely since many believe that we, God’s reflection, are responsible for much of climate change.
Therefore for today’s blog I have concentrated on Rev. John’s message. Conservation of Creation (italics mine)

 “Conservationist, Aldo Leopold, once said that in order to save a place, you must first love it!  What places do you love!  What places have nurtured you during your lifetime?  Perhaps, your special place was a beloved tree in your backyard as a child. You would climb up on a limb of that tree and sit and dream dreams.  Was that tree a gum or an oak?  Whatever kind it was, I presume you loved that tree!”
This introduction struck home. During my primary school years, we used to congregate at the local park.. I could give you a minute by minute account of our time there, but the times I remember best were when we climbed, via a park bench, into the lower limbs of one particular tree. There was a core group of 5 and sometimes a few others joined us. We talked and talked. I don’t remember our exact exchanges but we were practising serious adult conversations, airing our “informed” views of the world.
Despite none of us actually knowing anything at all, we showed serious respect for the “opinions” of others. It is that deep listening I remember that tied us together, held together by the supportive branches of the tree. We could rely on the arms of that tree. No one ever fell. The branches grew out from the central trunk in such a way so as to cradle us while we got on with the business of growing up. Who knows? Someone may have uttered an informed statement at some time before we decided that we were too old to hang about in a tree.
But because of that time, in some ways that tree was as much a part of my upbringing as my family or school.
 All of us have places in nature that we love.  And we would be filled with grief, say if that tree was unnecessarily cut down, or that beach suffered an oil spill, or that trout stream became polluted.  Yet as Christians, we are called to love so much more!  More than just the places we have known and loved.  We are called to love the whole earth that God created and called good!  We are called to love places we will never see or know.  We are called to advocate for the restoration of places that are no longer pristine and pretty because of human decisions. 
 We are called to remember the words of scripture and the words of prophets down through the ages, who have spoken of the interconnectedness of all creation.  We are called to remember the words of one of the American First Nations Chiefs, Seattle, who said, “We did not create the web of life.  We are only a strand in it.  And whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.” 
 Since the start of the industrial revolution, we, human beings, have often forgotten or ignored the call of our various religious traditions to care for creation.  We have fallen asleep.  But today, prompted by worldwide concerns for climate change, (no matter how we believe it has occurred) we are waking up!  We are waking up to the ancient truths of indigenous peoples and the modern truths of scientists, who say, we are all interconnected. 
For some of us, that takes a long time. Some of us think it is only other humans who are our responsibility. Some will extend that to all sentient beings but exclude ants and crabs and worms AND PLANTS.
It takes quite a while for us to realize that all living things are within our circle of care, including the ones that irritate us. Every living thing including bacteria, viruses and flies have their place in the web of life. Our job as God’s stewards is to see that all are given their proper places to live.
Even fruit bats. They have a bad press for dirtying our cars or taking over parks. The way to avoid this happening is to see that their habitat is protected so that they don’t look for other places to live. As far as flies and ants and other “annoying pests” are concerned, we shouldn’t leave food around to attract them.
There is a place in the web of life for all of God’s creation. It is our job to preserve those places.
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Gratitude.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 11, 2019 - 5:38am

This week I have been reflecting on how we respond to those who have treated us with care, loving and grace as we journey through life. Having lamented what, we have done to creation last week my thoughts turned to gratitude for the gift we have in creation and comes from reading Luke 17:11-19 from this week’s lectionary. Then I was reminded of the following little story I once heard and was struck by:
Her name was Edna Miller and she was about as plain as her name implied except when she was inside the walls of a classroom with chalk in hand. She stood barely five-foot tall yet could look eyeball to eyeball with the biggest bully in the school and stare him into repentant submission. And could she teach. Man, could she teach! She began teaching in 1922 and taught until she was compelled to turn in her chalk at the age of 65. She taught through the Depression, making fullness in the emptiness around her. She taught through World War II and was with the children as the telegrams, "we are sorry to inform you," began to arrive with the notice of their brothers' or fathers' death.

Through the years a middle aged woman with a parade of children and a husband would stop by her frame house and say, "you don't remember me, but you taught me in 7th grade and I just want to thank you for the difference you made in my life." Letters would appear around Christmas - "you probably don't remember me but you taught me in high school and believed in me until I could believe in myself....I have a good job now and a loving family and I just want to thank you." At the 50th class reunion of 1945, there was a huge celebration in her honour. And shortly after that, at the age of 95, Miss Edna Miller quietly slipped into the arms of God. But she died with joy. She had been thanked and remembered with gratitude.
As I reflected on this I was also reminded of a teacher I knew in Townsville that finally retired in her 70’s and I wondered what all those students who began their schooling with her over the years would say about the loving grounding in life she sought to give them which was based on her Christian faith. It also reminds me that we need to ask the question: Do we remember God, do we thank our God, and do we turn back with joy and gratitude? Do we remember that "we are the Lord's and not we ourselves" and pause to remember that it is God who protects us, feeds us with honey from the rock, cares for and nourishes us?
Returning to Luke’s story for this week we have with the returning grateful healed leper even more blessing because of his attitude of gratitude. Jesus said to the leper, "Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well." There is healing within the act of thanksgiving. The medieval Flemish mystic, John Ruysbroeck, says, "Those who do not praise God here on earth remain silent in eternity." Praise affects us - forever.
We live in a materialistic, individualistic, opulent society. And we forget the one to whom we owe all that we have - the God in whom we live and move and have our being. All too easily we think we did it all ourselves and glory in our rugged individualism. We cast in gold the bootstraps by which we believe we pulled ourselves up. Those who do not need God cannot know God. Dependency and thanksgiving hold hands when we acknowledge with gratitude the gifts of ourCreator.
One of those with the disease leprosy that had been cured turned back - and fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. We are called to allow these proud hearts of ours to declare at the feet of Jesus that we love our God, need our God and thank our God. Praise and thanksgiving come from the same word in Hebrew. They can be interchanged, one word for the other. When we thank God, we are praising God. And when we praise God, we are thanking God. The word "yadaw" in Hebrew for praise and thanksgiving means literally "to hold out one's hands." It is both a physical attitude of supplication and of receptive thanksgiving.

It is the posture we see on Sunday’s when the celebrant celebrates Eucharist with us, hands lifted as the prayers are said.  At the liturgy we pray, "Lift up your hearts...we lift them to the Lord." And at these words I can’t help but lift my hands in thanks which some of my congregation may find a bit puzzling. Then there are the words, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God... It is right to give him thanks and praise." And indeed, it is right and good that we should praise and thank our God with our hearts, our lives, our very being.
Eucharist means literally "thanksgiving". Thanksgiving is the central act of worship, through the Eucharist, for gathered Christians. It is the heart of our worship together. God gives to us all that we are and to God we return it with thankful hearts. Thankfulness is the key to all true spirituality. Above all Christian’s remember the love Jesus Christ had for us one Friday afternoon upon a cross. "Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice."


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

In a Cryin’ Mood

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 4, 2019 - 5:44am

I’m as blue as anyone can be. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I’m in a cryin’ mood.             (Ella Fitzgerald, “Cryin’ Mood”)
Most of us obviously can’t sing those words like Ella Fitzgerald, but some of us certainly identify with the mood they convey. No doubt many of us have been in a cryin’ mood at some point in our lives. When one looks at some the events around our world leaders it’s hard not to be in a cryin mood. Various events— whether they were good or bad—move some of us to tears rather easily. Others of us (me, for example) have not been accustomed to crying. Sure, there is the occasional shed tear, but weeping has been foreign to us, particularly in our early lives. Our culture writes songs about weeping and produces movies that cause us to cry, but do we really talk about crying or shedding tears?
And, if we do cry, we may even try to do so in private or conceal evidence of the tears that have rolled down our cheeks. Yet this week’s readings from the Old Testament (Psalm 137 and Lamentations 1:1-6) will not let us turn our heads from those who weep or shy away from those things that demand tears. Indeed, these passages bring weeping to notice and may even call us to be in a cryin’ mood. Some of us might be tempted to wonder what there is for the Israelites to cry about.
The readings are set to a background where many people have survived the Babylonian invasion. Many families of lower social standing have been left in Palestine to farm and raise cattle. Granted, the upper echelons of society have been taken into exile in Babylon, but they’re alive and well. In fact, they might even prosper. Life is not perfect, but it could be a lot worse. For the prophet, however, what’s not to cry about? Jerusalem is empty. Zion is lonely. Majesty is gone. Princes have fled. Judah departed a slave. Priests groan.
The psalmist includes weeping as an appropriate response to the devastation of Zion. Zion is only a memory. Harps are hung on willows (listen to the song, “By the Rivers of Babylon sung by Boney M). Captors taunt and torment. Edomites are to blame. Neither of these passages’ recoils from the horrors of exile; both are brutally honest about the most pressing issues of the day: religious backsliding, military failure, and incapable political leadership. The prophet and the psalmist express the concerns, worries, fears, and thoughts while also giving voice to a communal consciousness of lament. Just as we have our young feeling so desperate, that they openly march and lament what previous generations and us the current elders still alive have done to creation – the earth we have to live on and in.
Lament may not be a practice incorporated into most contemporary Christian worship, but for followers of Yahweh in the ancient Near East, lamenting was a familiar and necessary practice. Somewhere along the way, I’m afraid we’ve lost our ability, or possibly the willingness, to lament. Maybe this has something to do with the rugged individualism and optimism that can be traced to the early Australian and Kiwi experience. Or could it be a rampant identification of the gospel with particular political parties or patriotic concerns? Whatever it is, we don’t know how to do it—and we don’t know how to be around those who do.
We are hesitant to pay attention to our world and the suffering and injustice that inhabit its many dark corners. We refuse to name inequality or admit our culpability. We refuse to accept or want to see the trashing of God’s creation for which we have been appointed stewards for. In our striving for things, riches and our desire for all consuming growth without considering the consequences of our actions. We are hesitant to lament the widespread greed practised and espoused in our communities along with the desire for power to lord it over others.

We somehow lack the will (whether it be spiritual, moral, or political) to be brutally honest with ourselves in private or in public. We don’t lament; I doubt we even want to know how. We’ve forgotten what it means to weep over devastation and injustice. And in the process, I fear we’ve come to settle for explanations and justifications of the status quo, a status quo that overwhelmingly favours a few and ignores the plight of the vast majority. We’ve come to settle for explanations and justifications of a gospel that is more obsessed with personal blessing than universal justice and the exercise of compassion that Jesus demonstrated to us.
We’ve (and I include myself in this) have settled for explanations and justifications of a gospel that falls short of acknowledging our own shortcomings and blames only the sins of others. Our politicians cannot see a wider good for all humanity somehow. I’m afraid we’re ignoring the raw nature of passages like Lamentations and Psalm 137. Or, maybe the church is just not in a cryin’ mood and it’s utterly annoyed by those who are. Now, just as weeping and tears are powerless to change the past, bear in mind that neither of our readings implies that such honesty directed toward God effects an immediate reversal of undesirable circumstances.
It is commonly assumed that a good cry can be quite healthy, whereas rigid avoidance of tears is unhealthy, which gives me hope that we are capable of recovering the practice of lament as seen in today’s readings. Individual and communal laments are voiced for us and by us, but they are ultimately directed toward God. God alone is the ultimate recipient of our honesty, anger, rage, discontent, and lament. So, come sit by the river with me and hang your harp next to mine; we’ve a song to sing of Zion, and I’m in a cryin’ mood. I’m in a cryin mood as I sit writing and reflecting on today’s world gifted to us by God and our failure to steward it wisely.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 29 September 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 2, 2019 - 8:42pm


Prior to this parable in the second part of Luke 16 in the three-year lectionary, we have heard a lot of talk about wealth and poverty. Having heard or read these scriptures do we get the point yet? No? Backtrack to last week, where in the first half of Luke 16 we met a financial manager who was similarly caught up in the things of this world. This man saw his own economic stability fading because he squandered the wealth of one of his clients, and only upon finding out that he was about to lose it all did he become an imaginative and energetic financial whiz. This was due primarily to the fact that, like the man for whom he worked, he had made wealth his master.
This week we meet a rich man and a poor man. These two, along with Abraham, have taken up residence in the afterlife. Abraham was the consummate waiter, a man who was promised some land and some descendants, and then waited, and waited, and waited. After the long-awaited arrival of his son Isaac, Abraham was later willing to give up his own flesh at the behest of God. It seems, then, that Abraham is the perfect figure to mediate between the rich man and Lazarus.
 
Famously rich himself, Abraham’s willingness to part with Isaac makes it seem as though any other material thing would have also been sacrificed had God asked him for it. At any rate, he is clearly in a favourable position in the afterlife, and a man who was previously a beggar in his earthly life finds some comfort right next to this famously wealthy Old Testament figure. Meanwhile, the man who was rich in the earthly life can’t find any relief.
 
Do you find some comfort in the rich man’s eternal torment, in this reversal of roles from one life to the next? Do you, like me, even want to hear Lazarus taunt the rich man from the safety of where he is? The rich man, after all, ignored the hunger of others while having plenty of leftovers at home in the fridge. Well, the exchange seems just right to me. However, I would have to ask you not to confront me with the fact that I should be able to see that I too am among the wealthy (you, after all, are probably right there with me).
 

It might seem refreshing—this word about justice—coming from this man Jesus who is always preaching about grace. But most important, all of our passages from this series make the point that following God is not simply about intellectual belief. In spite of what many have said, belief in the right God or doctrine is only part of what it means to be a person of faith as it is depicted in Scripture. Jesus presupposes that there will be solidarity.
 
The faith presented to us by other Gospels and epistles talk of this. Paul implies in Romans that the renewal of our minds will lead to the transformation of our character. James emphasizes that “faith without works is . . . dead.” Or remember Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats. You know, the one in which he boldly teaches that in as much as you have helped or harmed “the least of these,” the poor among us, you have helped or harmed God and will be judged accordingly?
 
Christianity is a belief in the sense that you are so attached to a truth that it causes you to go out and do something. As James put it, you are to become a doer of the Word. Even in Jesus’ time, this understanding of following God was not new. Jesus could immediately envision Abraham saying to the rich man who wanted to “go back” and warn his relatives, “Listen, they have Moses and the prophets . . . you had Moses and the prophets.” I imagine Jesus himself saying later to a few of the disciples, “Look, some of this is old stuff, it is tried and true. I’ve just come to fulfil this.”
 
He knew that Deuteronomy 15 emphasized that the rich have a moral responsibility to help the poor, that Amos’s God is relentless in his criticism of the people when they do not care for the poor. Amos even proclaims that of such unthinking persons, the Lord says, “I will crush you.” All of Scripture, then, tells us that our faith doesn’t stop at intellectual belief, and that piety cannot end at our front gates. Justice and righteous as given to us by God and shown to us through his Son Jesus Christ don’t stop before it’s our turn to act. It doesn’t stop before it gets to our hearts. We are the bearers of justice and righteous for all God’s creation here and now.
 
Lazarus in his earthly life slipped right through the cracks, kind of like that old lost coin from our Gospel reading two weeks ago. Lazarus too is found by the great Searcher, but the Gospel for this week is just as tough: whereas we have found Lazarus, we meet a rich man who is utterly lost himself, and we must wonder whether he will ever be found. Not because of his wealth— again, Abraham better than anyone knew wealth—but because he was blinded by it instead of using it for good. Is this just? Is this love? May God use these difficult words to give us a heart for the lost—the poor and rich alike.
 

 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 22 SEptember 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - September 29, 2019 - 11:32pm

 
We acknowledged our first people and their care for this land high is sacred because it was created by the God of all.
Call to Worship
Whoever is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much; and whoever is unfaithful with a very little is also unfaithful in much. May we, who are asked to give an accounting of our lives, be found faithful...
Hymn TIS 90: I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath. A declaration of a life long devotion to our creator. Singing this on a Sunday is reasonably easy to do, but living it day by day needs attention to our focus on the Spirit’s urgings and action in keeping with those.
Opening Prayer
With reference to scripture, we called out to God for healing because there is none other that can provide that sort of healing anywhere in Creation.
Prayer of Confession
We acknowledged God’s ways as being unfathomable to us and beyond us in degree. We then confessed how hard it is to pray for the people we find hard to love but how we yearned to be faithful stewards. We then asked forgiveness for missing the mark. Day by day we need to do this. We intend to be faithful stewards but just can’t seem to keep focussed.
“Heal our brokenness and our self-centred ways, for you alone are our one true physician, and you alone can make us well. Amen.”
Sometimes I’m surprised by how how self- centered I am.
 Declaration of Forgiveness
 “The author of our salvation, the one who weeps for us and for our world, is the God of compassion. God meets us in our need and heals our many failing. Rejoice and be glad. Thanks be to God! Amen.”
The Peace
 When we offer supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving for others, we discover a peace that passes all understanding. Let us share signs of this peace as we pass the peace of Christ. Peace be with you!And also, with you

The children’s talk began with reference to the balm of Gilead. This was a reference to a God being the final balm to heal those inner wounds and hurts when all other soothers fail. We may try to fill that inner emptiness in a thousand ways but we will still feel empty and at a loss until we respond to God’s invitation of healing.
Offering Prayer
God of manifold blessings, you provide for our every need, and call us to be good stewards of your many gifts. May we be found faithful in a little, that we may also be faithful in a lot…
Hymn TIS 665: “Jesus Christ is waiting” It is so easy to say the words but so much more difficult to see Jesus in the ordinary daily situations where we are called on to act with God’s love.
The Service of the Word
 The First Reading: Jeremiah 8.18 - 9.1We may well cry in our national and international situations: “Hark, the cry of my poor people.” and “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician here?”
The Gospel Reading: Luke 16.1-13 This reading is mostly a mystery to me but the final declaration is quite clear: Nobody can serve two masters.
 
Preaching the WordLost Again - Luke 16:1-13
The following is an abridged version of  Rev. John’s words:
This is a difficult parable—if not for first-century ears then at the very least for moderns. How could the master praise the manager when he had lost so much?..Is Jesus endorsing the behaviour of the manager, suggesting that his followers secure the future for themselves by dishonest means?...However: “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth” means that the manager has now, and has always had, a choice: he could have used the wealth—either his master’s or his own— for the good of his master, himself, and most of all for God and creation (which includes debtors). The manager, however, let the wealth become the master instead of making it a means to the master, or to the “Master.”
Hence, Jesus points out that “no slave can serve two masters,” that no person can “serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:13). In the light of Jesus’ call to first-century people and to us to serve God rather than our wealth, what shall we do? Most of us have money, and
perhaps all the listeners and readers of this passage and my musing have lots of “stuff.”
Do we ALL sell our homes and CARS. If we do (and stretch that to mean all our possessions.) who will provide for the poor? Who will offer hospitality? Who will transport the elderly? ......
Hymn TIS 534:“Love is his word, love is his way” In fact, God is pure, undiminished, love.
Intercessory Prayers
Often these prayers reveal the deepest fear of loss of those who have added their prayer requests to the prayer sheet. This is when we are most aware that God is our only “balm”.
Hymn TIS 672:“Lord of earth and all creation.” Another call for God to direct the daily decisions of those who run the organizations of our lands.
Benediction
Go forth and be faithful in a little that you may also be found faithful in much. Go to be faithful in much that you may be entrusted with the wealth and welfare of others. Go to be faithful with the wealth of this generation, that you may be given the true riches that come from above. Go to be faithful children of light, that you may know the grace, hope, and peace of the one who is truly faithful, in the name of Jesus Amen.
 
HymnTIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.” … signaling that we have, at last opened our minds to God’s teaching.
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Do We Get the Point?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - September 27, 2019 - 1:33pm

Prior to this parable in the second part of Luke 16 in the three-year lectionary, we have heard a lot of talk about wealth and poverty. Having heard or read these scriptures do we get the point yet? No? Backtrack to last week, where in the first half of Luke 16 we met a financial manager who was similarly caught up in the things of this world. This man saw his own economic stability fading because he squandered the wealth of one of his clients, and only upon finding out that he was about to lose it all did he become an imaginative and energetic financial whiz. This was due primarily to the fact that, like the man for whom he worked, he had made wealth his master.

This week we meet a rich man and a poor man. These two, along with Abraham, have taken up residence in the afterlife. Abraham was the consummate waiter, a man who was promised some land and some descendants, and then waited, and waited, and waited. After the long-awaited arrival of his son Isaac, Abraham was later willing to give up his own flesh at the behest of God. It seems, then, that Abraham is the perfect figure to mediate between the rich man and Lazarus.
Famously rich himself, Abraham’s willingness to part with Isaac makes it seem as though any other material thing would have also been sacrificed had God asked him for it. At any rate, he is clearly in a favourable position in the afterlife, and a man who was previously a beggar in his earthly life finds some comfort right next to this famously wealthy Old Testament figure. Meanwhile, the man who was rich in the earthly life can’t find any relief.
Do you find some comfort in the rich man’s eternal torment, in this reversal of roles from one life to the next? Do you, like me, even want to hear Lazarus taunt the rich man from the safety of where he is? The rich man, after all, ignored the hunger of others while having plenty of leftovers at home in the fridge. Well, the exchange seems just right to me. However, I would have to ask you not to confront me with the fact that I should be able to see that I too am among the wealthy (you, after all, are probably right there with me).
It might seem refreshing—this word about justice—coming from this man Jesus who is always preaching about grace. But most important, all of our passages from this series make the point that following God is not simply about intellectual belief. In spite of what many have said, belief in the right God or doctrine is only part of what it means to be a person of faith as it is depicted in Scripture. Jesus presupposes that there will be solidarity.
The faith presented to us by other Gospels and epistles talk of this. Paul implies in Romans that the renewal of our minds will lead to the transformation of our character. James emphasizes that “faith without works is . . . dead.” Or remember Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats. You know, the one in which he boldly teaches that in as much as you have helped or harmed “the least of these,” the poor among us, you have helped or harmed God and will be judged accordingly?
Christianity is a belief in the sense that you are so attached to a truth that it causes you to go out and do something. As James put it, you are to become a doer of the Word. Even in Jesus’ time, this understanding of following God was not new. Jesus could immediately envision Abraham saying to the rich man who wanted to “go back” and warn his relatives, “Listen, they have Moses and the prophets . . . you had Moses and the prophets.” I imagine Jesus himself saying later to a few of the disciples, “Look, some of this is old stuff, it is tried and true. I’ve just come to fulfil this.”
He knew that Deuteronomy 15 emphasized that the rich have a moral responsibility to help the poor, that Amos’s God is relentless in his criticism of the people when they do not care for the poor. Amos even proclaims that of such unthinking persons, the Lord says, “I will crush you.” All of Scripture, then, tells us that our faith doesn’t stop at intellectual belief, and that piety cannot end at our front gates. Justice and righteous as given to us by God and shown to us through his Son Jesus Christ don’t stop before it’s our turn to act. It doesn’t stop before it gets to our hearts. We are the bearers of justice and righteous for all God’s creation here and now.
Lazarus in his earthly life slipped right through the cracks, kind of like that old lost coin from our Gospel reading two weeks ago. Lazarus too is found by the great Searcher, but the Gospel for this week is just as tough: whereas we have found Lazarus, we meet a rich man who is utterly lost himself, and we must wonder whether he will ever be found. Not because of his wealth— again, Abraham better than anyone knew wealth—but because he was blinded by it instead of using it for good. Is this just? Is this love? May God use these difficult words to give us a heart for the lost—the poor and rich alike.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 15 September 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - September 20, 2019 - 10:29am

Dermot called our attention to the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, making our church a Holy Space where we have gathered to meet our God. Following that we sang
Hymn AHB 28 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”, that being the purpose of our gathering.
We then prayed a Prayer of Praise and Adoration and Confession which began with the words:
“God of Creation - who abides over and in all that has been made
God in whose image we are made
And in your image we are given minds that wander and hearts that desire
And there is freedom - freedom to think and wonder and want...”
The prayer continued, but what Dermot was making clear was that we are free to seek in all directions in this Cosmos that God has created, to satisfy that yearning inside of us, and it is our choice to make the God of all the One to satisfy all our yearnings.
Dermot completed his prayer thus:
“God, who has gifted us and cursed us with freedom, you have not abandoned us to that freedom but have revealed in Jesus the nature which can be ours - no-one need be left out of the grace of Christ, except by their own foolishness...”
Hymn AHB 10 “ All People who on Earth do Dwell.” God’s love is for all and all are meant to respond.
Bible Reading
1Timothy 1: 12-17 The words of a repentant man, acknowledging God’s mercy.
Luke 15: 1-10 The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. God is not satisfied until each and everyone of us have turned back to a life of full joy.
Message
Dermot spoke, comparing the idea of God represented in the various lectionary readings for the day. “The Lectionary readings suggested for today make a fascinating collection - I had to resist not including them all - they seem to almost represent two different worlds, and maybe they do as they straddle a long time and arguably pivot on the life of Jesus.”
Dermot spoke of Jeremiah where God is supposed to have described us as “foolish” and “stupid children” and then a few verses later God is said to be fiercely angry and to have “laid in ruins” cities seemingly because the neglect of the people had made the fruitful land a desert.
Also in Psalm 14 God is said to look “down” to see if anyone is wise but has found all have gone astray and are perverse.
There are many places in the Old Testament where God is said to be angry with humankind and to be set on punishing us.
As Dermot says: “All this stuff about sin and God (sic) punishment. Mind you, we will also see God’s forgiveness - somehow humanity has been allowed to continue.”
But in today’s readings from Timothy and Luke speak of God’s mercy to a blasphemous persecutor and God’s grace to all, even those seen as living against God’s laws such as tax collectors and “sinners
We could think that the Old Testament speaks of an angry, punishing God and that the New Testament speaks of a God of love.
But from the first times, the concept of God is built from the God ‘over there on the mountain’ to the transcendent God who is faithful and is known as Abba/Father.
Dermot leads us to the God whose aim is to bring us to repentance as represented by the Timothy reading of an image of a man on his knees “tearfully acknowledging the forgiveness of God.”
There are descriptions in the Old Testament of God telling his representatives to destroy an enemy but I, like Dermot cannot think of the God, who is love, inflicting any sort of “punishment” on anyone.
 Actions bear consequences and as humans who know very little, we often create disasters of our own making. Then there are natural disasters which occur because that is the way the geology and meteorology of this planet acts. Illnesses are caused in many ways, some of which may be our own fault but some a matter of being in the wrong place, such as being on a bus where someone else is sick or living near a place that is unknowingly polluted. Or for many other reasons. None of these are punishments sent by God. 
God simply is reaching out to us, wanting us to repent and turn back to enjoy a happy relationship with him. (Or her or whatever form God takes because a God is above the restrictions of humans.)
Hymn AHB 399 “Father in Heaven” Asking for God’s blessing (which is promised to us).
Then in the Prayers of the People Dermot addressed the concerns of the church Nation- wide and those of our own Congregation.
Hymn AHB 480 “Forth in Thy Name go.” Our every act should be with God’s purposes in mind.
Benediction
As we walk from this Holy Place, this Holy gathering,
Let us all walk with Christ as we share the love and grace which we
know is the mark of God present in and about us, in Jesus’ name.
Amen.
Blessing Hymn “Now unto him”
Now unto Him Who is able to keep, Able to keep you from falling. And present you faultless Before the presence of His glory With exceeding joy. To the only wise God our saviour Be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Walk Away From the World’s Idea of Security.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - September 20, 2019 - 7:48am
Born in 1496, John Colet was an English priest on the cusp of the English Reformation, the son of the Lord Mayor of London. Colet became Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1505. In 1515, His most famous sermon was one he delivered to the clergy of England in 1512, in which he soundly denounced the church for its corruption and abuses. Colet is best remembered, however, for what was in his time a radically new way of teaching. When he returned from study in Italy to Oxford, he began translating the letters of Paul from Greek into English, and delivered lectures based primarily on the texts themselves. 


As the dean of St. Paul’s, he continued his teaching habits. Though his primary impact on the church as we know it today was not in the political aspect of the Reformation, Colet had tremendous influence. Translating scripture into English for his Oxford students was an action strictly forbidden by the church. He carried that one step further in his tenure as Dean by actually having scripture read in English, instead of the authorised Latin, which few could understand.


Colet’s approach to scripture, beginning with the text, is a valuable part of our l heritage. The assumption that words spoken thousands of years ago can shape joyful, productive lives today is vital to our spiritual practice. In the light of that tradition, let us see continually seek to see what scripture has to say to us today.

In Deuteronomy, Moses is speaking to people who have known only a nomadic life. Their 40 years in the desert have seen the aging and death of those who walked to freedom between the parted waters of the Red Sea. They have come to depend on God’s daily bread, the manna that they find on the ground each morning, and they have drunk water that poured forth from rocks in a dry place. There has been nothing “virtual” about their reality. The journey of escape and wandering are over but a decision confronts them.
The choice is clear: life and prosperity or death and adversity. God stands ready to deliver the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The question is whether this nation, gathered along the Jordan, will claim it with their faithfulness to God’s invitation. Our imaginations tempt us to think this choice must be simple. So many of the stories of the Bible are stories of God’s efforts to encourage his human creation to claim the full promise of the abundant life made possible by God’s covenant.

Move forward several centuries and, as Jesus speaks to his followers, we can hear the faint echo of the aging Moses. The language is somewhat different, more specific this time. The audience is not the nation on the verge of claiming power. Instead it is people subject to Rome, a nation whose power is far greater than theirs. Those gathered around Jesus are again a captive people, citizens of a fairly insignificant corner of the Roman Empire. The promise is not nearly as attractive. Jesus calls them to walk away from family, all that holds their place in society and provides security. 
Instead he actually expects them to carry a burden for life. Further, he proclaims that unless they give up their possessions, they cannot be his disciples. Since Moses spoke to his followers, we have moved from the promise of prosperity and power to an offering that looks very different. Yet, it can be argued that the promise is the same; it is the context that has changed. And the context has changed, and the covenant offered, largely as a result of the actions of the people themselves over the hundreds of intervening decades.

Thanks to Colet and others, we have long been able to read scripture for ourselves and to decide what we hear it saying to us. It seems painfully clear. Consider what it sounds like when we hear it today. Citizens of the Australia and New Zealand have more possessions than any people that we know of in the history of humanity. Well maybe not us much as those of USA.  The intriguing thing is that along with more money in our pockets than any previous generations, we also owe more money than ever before. More “stuff” is still not enough stuff.

Here’s a thought. Why do we think we need bigger houses? We need someplace to put the stuff. More stuff is even a selling point. An August ad for a national retail chain proclaimed in bold type, “Never enough stuff.” So in the light of this, what is Jesus calling me to do?  Christ offers to deliver us from greed and commercial addictions. Jesus invites us to become, as we hear in the Epistles to be prisoners, but prisoners of an enduring, life-liberating love. This day, may our prayers for ourselves and for each other be to find ourselves walking in love as Christ loved us, and, thereby, discovering the true fulfilment of God’s eternal promise.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

The Disturbing Quality.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - September 12, 2019 - 10:40pm

Fifty years ago, many of us were fascinated by a set of images or words coming from our media that became part of who we were. Images of the far away moon and representatives of humanity walking there have become part of who we are. Eighteen years ago, a set of images became part of our culture. The collective consciousness of the world expanded to include images of buildings and people falling, images of planes crashing and exploding, images of exhausted first responders. Alongside those images are sets of mental pictures, where we were and who was with us on September 11, 2001.
In the days of the exodus, a set of images became part of Israelite history. God’s chosen people amassed images of their escape, of the destruction Yahweh brought down in plague after plague, of an angry pharaoh chasing after his slave labour as they fled into the desert. The exodus created images of walls of water piling up for the weary nation to cross a riverbed; and in the journey to their freedom, the people of God gathered up images of pharaoh’s great army swallowed up in an unforgiving sea.
Yet in Exodus 32, we struggle to understand a people who conspired together to form a more concrete image of a god, one they could create and touch, one they could understand and control, one they could move and manipulate. The images of past deliverance were not sufficient for their faith. They sought more than the image of a past experience. They pursued an image of God’s presence; but like many of us searching for certainty, they shaped an image of God’s absence. The disturbing, living quality of Yahweh, God is that no image can hold God’s full presence.

And, while images of our life and world will replay around us, we are challenged to see God somewhere in all of them— in that first step onto a far celestial body by humanity, in the first responder’s courage, in the trembling wall of water on either side, in the idea that sometimes we need to change our minds. But as we come back to earth and focus on what is important what are we asked to do by our God.
As we pick up on the reading from Luke 15, we are given a challenge to our focus in life. What do I owe the ninety-nine? I wander far, slipping heedlessly over sliding gravel, jumping doe-like over crevices, relying upon my own grace. Maybe not so much wandering as running away. Panic obscures my memory and my motives. I descend through the canyons until I’m immobilised by abysses that stretch too wide to cross, rock buttresses too narrow to squeeze through. Weakened, I can’t retrace my steps. Just as I surrender to despair, there you are. You sought me and found me and carried me home. Our God has been with us and supported us as we have taken this journey to seek those who are lost.
Here’s my question and a challenging question for us all. What do I now owe the other ninety-nine? The ones waiting patiently, staying obediently with the flock? Did you see their looks of envy and reproach? How do you get to nuzzle against his shoulder, carried on his sweet back? You don’t deserve it! We were faithful, we stayed with the flock and look at you carried shoulder high like a triumphant athlete, laurel leaves for your lies and selfishness!

Like the prodigal’s older brother, they refuse to come to the angelic party given in my honour. What do I owe them? I’d drink to their happiness—if I hadn’t given up drinking. They reject the gift of my gratitude. The ninety-nine banish me to the solitude I sought in the first place. They turn me into a fool. A fool for love. And wiser than I was. Our world can gape in awe at events both positive and challenging in our history, but they pale in the eyes of our God and yet again the question comes of how we acknowledge our God’s presence.
In these scripture readings Jesus and the writers tell us that there is a God who comes to save the lost. God knows us, knows our hiding places and the little nooks and crannies that we slip into from time to time, and he comes to save us. Salvation always looks different than we expect it to—sometimes pleasantly different, and sometimes it looks like rehab, marriage counselling, a job you wouldn’t ordinarily want—but a job is a job is a job.  
We should also never forget that God has a body, the church, and that sometimes God retrieves us through this body. Pastor is Latin for “shepherd,” and in a sense, we are all called to be pastors, shepherds— gatherers of lost people—through our comings and goings, our liturgies, our various gifts. As Christians we ask that our God may give us the diligence to search for the lost and the wisdom to know what to do after we find them.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 1 and 8 September 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - September 12, 2019 - 11:10am
 I have not been able to keep writing my blogs as usual for some time and this week I am going to combine Rev. John’s sermons from the 1st and 8th of September as the basis for today’s reflection.

In his sermon on the 1st September, Rev. John began by reminding us what the writer to the Hebrews said about our lives as Christians and how they should be spent emulating the life of Jesus.
Rev. John also reminded us that so often people and Christian communities turn inward and becomes concerned about the things of self, forgetting Jesus’ message to love one another regardless of our fears of and judgment about others. Sometimes it has been out of misplaced concern for purity, forgetting that Jesus was more concerned about showing compassion for the rejected of society than rejecting them.  When we look at people who, in our eyes, are breaking God’s commandments, we would do well to think about what has brought them to the place where they are, and how they are suffering in their hearts as a result. 
 Then Rev. John pointed to other concerns individual Christians and churches should keep before them:
“In addition to the call for hospitality and social concern, the writer of Hebrews here takes the occasion to remind the community of various other matters that can easily fracture individual and community life. Then there is frugality, which can cross over the line into an unhealthy and spiritually deadly love of money.”
Of course we should not squander God’s gifts but equally, we should not cling to them so that they cannot be used to build The Kingdom.
 “This is a powerful set of concerns.” As Rev. John pointed out hospitality and concern for those less well off had been foundation principles of the Jew’s religion and weren’t invented by Jesus, but then and now people needed to be reminded of what their God expected of them. 
Rev. John’s next words are very true:
 “There seems to be a growing intensity in the fear of strangers in this generation. We have become preoccupied with the risk of opening our borders, churches, homes, and lives to the stranger. We speak of the stranger as an “alien,” which has become a pejorative term.
 Truth is, except for the Aboriginal tribes and the Torres Strait Island peoples, all our forebears were aliens. Hospitality for the stranger, the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed is a virtue proclaimed by the Australian people.“
But when push comes to shove, how do we act? With true hospitality! Or out of misplaced fear of anything a bit different such as the colour of the top millimeter of a persons’s skin or the food they have learned to eat as a matter of availability?
Time to think deep and hard.
   
Rev. John’s sermon on 8th September was quite complex but the words that jumped out and grabbed me concerned my behaviour as a disciple of Jesus.
For starters, God comes first, before Mother, Father, Husband or Wife. It’s not that we are not to care for those people or love them but when there’s a conflict between the requirements of God and the requirements of anyone else, God’s requirements are those that we fulfill.
Then there’s our behaviour towards others:
Rev.John, speaking about the reading for the day said: “During his time in prison, St Paul wrote a letter to the worshipping community who met at Philemon's house. He describes a new family member in Christ named Onesimus, a runaway slave. Paul claimed him as an adopted son and is asking Philemon and the community to receive Onesimus not as a slave, but as an equal partner in the community of Christ. St Paul calls all Disciples of Christ to a higher standard of love, one of forgiveness...”
Once we are disciples of Jesus, we are motivated by something quite different from the rules of secular society. God IS Love, and that love, which is graciously flooded over us, should motivate all that we do. But that will only happen if we keep our focus on God.
Rev. John spelled this out:
“We are the earthly vessels for God to use as witnesses to God's continuous acts of love. Disciples are responsible for preaching, teaching and manifesting the word of God and loving all people regardless of race, creed, colour, class, social status...”
And our acts of love are not going to be effortless and maybe empty words. As Rev. John said:
 “As disciples we accept the costly grace of God, where we are called to act. We cannot stand by idly and not protest at the social ills of our communities. We cannot be bystanders as homeless, uneducated and abused children grow into illiterate, unemployed adults. We cannot stand by silently and accept institutional racism, social economic injustice and constitutional changes that serve the privileged few. We, the disciples of God, cannot stand by and quietly accept the deviant, hateful, political slurs against such as the poor, women and ethnic people.
 We cannot accept the political structural corruption that erodes our neighbourhoods, destroys our families and endangers the future of social security for the elderly. As disciples, we are called to experience costly grace by being God's prophetic voice in a world unplugged to God's love. We are called to scream from the rooftops for equality and justice for all people in the love of Jesus Christ!”
As I said initially, Rev. John’s sermon was quite complex, but just this much has left us with enough to keep us challenged to live authentic lives as true disciples of Jesus. Living out God’s love as we are loved. We may not think others do not deserve our love and effort but think again about Almighty God’s graciousness to each of us.
 
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Walk Away From the World’s Idea of Security.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - September 6, 2019 - 5:46am

Born in 1496, John Colet was an English priest on the cusp of the English Reformation, the son of the Lord Mayor of London. Colet became Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1505. In 1515, His most famous sermon was one he delivered to the clergy of England, in which he soundly denounced the church for its corruption and abuses. Colet is best remembered, however, for what was in his time a radically new way of teaching. When he returned from study in Italy to Oxford, he began translating the letters of Paul from Greek into English, and delivered lectures based primarily on the texts themselves.

At that time, the medieval style of interpretation of scripture had concentrated on identifying an element of church doctrine, enumerating it point by point, and developing a supporting argument through the use of selected biblical texts and quotes from Church Fathers. In contrast, Colet began with the biblical text and developed a direct interpretation of it. He focused on the writer of the text and its context, rather than focusing on doctrine and tradition.

Colet felt that the teachings of scripture could be taught in such a way as to be easily understood by almost anyone. His approach was to read a whole unit of text, as opposed to an isolated passage. Then he tried to discover what the original writer had tried to say.  In Colet’s hands, the Epistles of Paul were not a string of riddles but the letters of a real people. Colet wanted to understand for himself, and to help others understand, what the writers intended.

As the Dean of St. Paul’s, he continued his teaching habits. Though, his primary impact on the church as we know it today was not in the political aspect of the Reformation, Colet had tremendous influence. Translating scripture into English for his Oxford students was an action strictly forbidden by the church. He carried that one step further in his tenure as Dean by actually having scripture read in English, instead of the authorised Latin, which few could understand.

Colet’s approach to scripture, beginning with the text, is a valuable part of our l heritage. The assumption that words spoken thousands of years ago can shape joyful, productive lives today is vital to our spiritual practice. In the light of that tradition, let us continually seek to see what scripture has to say to us today.

In the book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), Moses is speaking to people who have known only a nomadic life. Their 40 years in the desert have seen the aging and death of those who walked to freedom between the parted waters of the Red Sea. They have come to depend on God’s daily bread, the manna that they find on the ground each morning, and they have drunk water that poured forth from rocks in a dry place. There has been nothing “virtual” about their reality. The journey of escape and wandering are over but a decision confronts them.

The choice is clear: life and prosperity or death and adversity. God stands ready to deliver the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The question is whether this nation, gathered along the Jordan, will claim it with their faithfulness to God’s invitation. Our imaginations tempt us to think this choice must be simple. So many of the stories of the Bible are stories of God’s efforts to encourage his human creation to claim the full promise of the abundant life made possible by God’s covenant.

Move forward several centuries and, as Jesus speaks to his followers, we can hear the faint echo of the aging Moses. The language is somewhat different, more specific this time. The audience is not the nation on the verge of claiming power. Instead it is people subject to Rome, a nation whose power is far greater than theirs. Those gathered around Jesus are again a captive people, citizens of a fairly insignificant corner of the Roman Empire. The promise is not nearly as attractive. Jesus calls them to walk away from family, all that holds their place in society and provides security. 
Instead he actually expects them to carry a burden for life. Further, he proclaims that unless they give up their possessions, they cannot be his disciples. Since Moses spoke to his followers, we have moved from the promise of prosperity and power to an offering that looks very different. Yet, it can be argued that the promise is the same; it is the context that has changed. And the context has changed, and the covenant offered, largely as a result of the actions of the people themselves over the hundreds of intervening decades.

Thanks to Colet and others, we have long been able to read scripture for ourselves and to decide what we hear it saying to us. It seems painfully clear. Consider what it sounds like when we hear it today. Generally citizens of Australia and New Zealand have more possessions than any people that we know of in the history of humanity. Well maybe not us much as those of USA.  The intriguing thing is that along with more money in our pockets than any previous generations, we also owe more money than ever before. It seems that more “stuff” is still not enough stuff.

Here’s a thought. Why do we think we need bigger houses? We need someplace to put
the stuff. More stuff is even a selling point. An August ad for a national retail chain proclaimed in bold type, “Never enough stuff.” So in the light of this, what is Jesus calling me to do?  Christ offers to deliver us from greed and commercial addictions. Jesus invites us to become, as we hear in the Epistles to be prisoners, but prisoners of an enduring, life-liberating love. I wish that this day our prayers for ourselves and for each other be prayers of seeking to find ourselves walking in love as Christ loved us. This would then enable us to discover the true fulfilment of God’s eternal promise.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

A Rocky Dinner Party.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 30, 2019 - 7:47am

For those who follow the three year scripture cycle for Sunday reading todays reading from Luke 14 suggest we leave out five verses. It’s almost as if when a parent forbids a child to look at a certain chapter in a book on the living room shelf, so we just have to take a peek to see what is in those forbidden verses. We need the full context here. Luke 14:1 tells us that Jesus had been invited for a dinner party at the house of a “prominent Pharisee.” But why was Jesus invited? He was not a real popular person among the Pharisees, after all.
I like many suspect he was not invited out of love. In fact, it looks like they were setting Jesus up as many Priests and Ministers will have experienced themselves. As such, it is neither accidental nor coincidental that Jesus immediately encounters a man with dropsy. Dropsy was what today we would call oedema (Fluid gathering in the wrong places particularly at the extremities, which likely meant his breathing was laboured, and also his face, legs, feet, and hands were swollen because of a cardio-pulmonary problem that caused fluid to build up throughout his body. Likely he looked pathetic.
As his devious hosts suspected, Jesus cannot resist the urge to help. “Would it be all right by you if I healed this man? Is that a lawful thing to do on the Sabbath?” Silence. The dinner party is off to a really rocky start! But it gets worse when in reaction to people’s jockeying for the more important seats at the dining table Jesus begins to urge a bit of humility rather than brashly trying to get the best seat in the house. Did the people blush? Probably. But Jesus is not done. He has more to say and it is not what you’d call Emily Post etiquette or here in Australia June Dally-Watkins etiquette to say what Jesus does at this party.
Ultimately Jesus tells us a parable that was a direct rebuke to his own host or not caring more about the last, least, lost, and the lonely of the world the way God wants us to. Luke doesn’t tell us how that Sabbath-day dinner party ended. But you get the feeling that when Jesus left his hosts were not smiling and saying to Jesus, come again. When we next see Jesus at a dinner a chapter on in Luke we see that Jesus is dining with sinners. In this dining experience while Jesus is dining with the so called sinners the Pharisees are on the outside looking in. Looking in and sneering at Jesus in judgement.
You know, the Pharisees, as often with leadership that has got stuck and rigid didn’t get it. They didn’t get it ever and I wonder how many of us could easily or do easily slip into this sort of judgement. We hear clearly who Jesus’s kind of people were. The question we need to be asking ourselves and of each other is whether Jesus’s kind of people are our kind of people.
The writer Dallas Willard in his book, “The Divine Conspiracy,” noted that we that is humanity, not just those professing to be Christians, often forget what the goal of our life is, our discipleship, and our vocation. The goal is to live like Jesus, follow the way he engaged with people and exhibit great compassion and love for creation. This is not a metaphor or some overblown aspiration but is to be a bright centre for our lives. I have to add that this may also involve us in suffering and sacrifice of various kinds.
There is always a danger, like anything good humans get their hands on, it can be diverted and corrupted. The danger is that the attempt to live like Jesus can be turned to tempting us into acting and believing that it is our obedience that gets us the reward and a free trip to heaven (whatever we believe that to be).  Sadly we seek to look for a system to make sure that God will love me again this week – we look to hear and preach as I heard it once described, “Shouldy sermons.”  We are to go with Jesus to the outside and recognise it’s not about us and that it’s all about grace and for which we continually give thanks.
In Hebrews 13 we have these parting words:
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.

“Also an anonymous soul has expressed it well:
Love is the spark that kindles the fires of compassion.
Compassion is the fire that flames the candle of service.
Service is the candle that ignites the torch of hope. Hope is the torch that lights the beacon of faith.
Faith is the beacon that reflects the power of God.
God is the power that creates the miracle of love.




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 18 August 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - August 24, 2019 - 3:37am

 Lynette Graham led our service today and spoke about her confronting experiences when she visited her son and his family in Kenya, where he works with the Kenyan Anglo/Catholic Community, ministering to people there who are suffering from severe disadvantage. 
Lynette said one of the disturbing and unavoidable experiences was the smell, revealing a community without the privileges we enjoy in our community. The Governor started a clean up programme of the river, which when completed would provide clean water, edible fish and all the other benefits that go with a healthy river.
One of the most horrifying aspects of the river clean-up was the number of discarded bodies retrieved from the river: people of all ages including babies. This was just one of the many types of rejection of people witnessed in Nairobi. Old people were rejected as were babies and children: simply because the family had no way of supporting them.
However, hope was provided by the Mission Community who cleaned up the area around which they lived; who helped people gain skills to use in finding jobs; who did maintenance work in the children’s homes; fed local young people who came on a daily basis; who ran Bible studies to give people  hope for their spiritual selves. All of these gifts to people especially the young ones give them a start with which they can possibly go out and live independently.
As well, the Mission helps and maintains the Imani Children’s homes which has 7 rescue and rehabilitation centres which cater for all the children who have no one to care for them.
There can be no worse start in life than to grow up  knowing that you have been rejected by the ones who brought you into the world. I can’t begin to imagine the extent of the damage to the inner selves of these children done by their feeling utterly rejected and alone in the world.
Fortunately there are those who have heard the a Gospel message that in as much as we feed, visit, comfort, clothe, house, those that are rejected, we do it to Jesus himself. And furthermore, they have acted upon that message, rejecting none, and welcoming all.
This is not just a story of hope given to those that have none. There is a challenge here for us. We may not find a way to support the Kenyan Anglo/Catholic Community or the Imani Children’s Homes, or a group I haven’t written about, The Little Sisters of the Poor who run a Nursing Home but it is our responsibility to respond to Jesus’ message that whatever we do to nurture someone (or reject them) we do it to him. It is that serious. We must respond in whatever way we can.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Who is First, the Person or the System?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 23, 2019 - 7:45am

Have you ever reflected on this question? I often have as I have come to realise that yes we need systems to enable the fairness and inclusion of all I touched on in last week’s Blog. However as Jesus often demonstrated in his engagement with people the compassion and inclusion he practiced worked counter to where the system had gone. Sadly, like many things, systems can start out to help those least able to help themselves than in our society but end up being manipulated by those desiring riches and power to beat others with to bring them into their way which is not what God is calling us to be.
I love the following story that has helped me at times in dealing with whether I beat the person who seems to have failed or love them instead: “A daughter complained to her father about how hard things were for her.” As soon as I solve one problem," she said, "another one comes up. I’m tired of struggling." Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots; in the second, eggs; and in the last, ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After a while, he went over and turned off the burners. He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He poured the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her he asked, "Darling, what do you see?" "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavour. She asked, "What does it mean, Father?" He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
The egg was fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. By being in the boiling water, they changed the water. He asked his daughter, "When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?"” The woman who had been bent over for eighteen years had experienced eighteen years of adversity. Perhaps the woman who had been bent over for eighteen years started out with the sternness of a carrot, only to find that she had been softened by time with the fading hope of a solution to her problem.
Better still, perhaps she was like the uncooked egg representing a character quality that resembles meekness only to end up over the course of those eighteen years in her heart like the character of the boiled egg---hardened. In any event, she needed someone to come along and help her fix her problem---someone who would change the atmosphere much like coffee changed the water.
Jesus changed people everywhere He went. He always reached out to those on the outside and loved them. We are the keepers of our brothers and sisters. We are accountable for how we treat those whom we come in contact with. By our actions we can bring changes for better or worse. To condemn and vilify because we might interpret something written in a particular way is nor what we are called to be. So, are we like the carrot or an egg?
By our actions we can change the hearts of the hard-hearted and make them soft or the soft-hearted or just the opposite, we can make the meek hardened in heart and attitude. Like Jesus we need to change the atmosphere around us by being the salt of the earth and the light of the world so that those standing on the outside can find a haven---a refuge.
Does it show love to keep people in need standing on the outside?  “Government and the religious establishment are too often in collusion when violence against the poor occurs. How can people love only those who are just like them? How can we honestly say we honour the mandate of scripture to “love our neighbour as we love ourselves” if we are passing by “on the other side” of their pain? Are we showing love by keeping people who are in need standing on the outside? Jesus included everyone in His mission.

Jesus included those who were considered sinners and outcasts. But if the truth be told, we are all sinners who hunger for the love that God so freely offers to everyone. Yet, not everyone accepts God’s offer of unconditional love and forgiveness. We are called to be and need to be more like Jesus, in our actions as well as in our words. We need to love like Jesus. What good does it do for us to love only those that are just like us?
“An anonymous soul has expressed it well:
Love is the spark that kindles the fires of compassion.
Compassion is the fire that flames the candle of service.
Service is the candle that ignites the torch of hope. Hope is the torch that lights the beacon of faith.
Faith is the beacon that reflects the power of God.
God is the power that creates the miracle of love. 



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 August 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - August 19, 2019 - 10:18am


“Gracious Lord, you have promised to always be with us wherever we live and work, in times of drought and flooding rains, in times when we are gathered with those we love and in times when we are isolated and alone. Hear the praises we bring you as we gather to celebrate your presence within the congregations, we are part of, at home and in the places where our Bush Chaplains and volunteers engage with the people of remote Australia.”
 From the rising of the sun . . .
God speaks, calling out to the earth.
At the beginning of each new day . . .
God speaks, calling us to life and service.
Even with the setting sun . . .
God speaks, reminding us that we are not alone.
As we gather for worship this day
God speaks, inviting us to love freely and to become true treasure on earth.

Despite God’s faithfulness and absolute constancy we look to idols. We may not realize that we have, but instead of worshipping God, we worship the church music, or the minister, or some Godly person, or even the Bible itself. None of these are God, even though they may bring us God’s message or even God’s love. Look to God, the only One.
Opening Prayer
May the Creator Spirit continue to hover over this land of many contrasts, cultures and peoples.
May Christ walk alongside us as we move in His presence. May the cool wind of the Spirit refresh, replenish and restore our souls.
And may the land speak to us in such a way that

we may see, feel and hear God the Creator, God the Spirit and God the Son in the cool evening murmur of the breeze.
Praise be to God.
 And may we seek God and only God, not representations that bring God to us.
The Peace
 Let us share the treasure of love and mercy with one another as we offer the peace of Christ. Peace be with you! And also, with you!
 Announcements
 Launch Quiet Church for this Friday. These are opportunities, among other things, to sit quietly and seek God, and God alone without any distractions.
Offering Prayer
As we offer these earthly treasures back to you, transform these gifts into love and mercy by the power of your Holy Spirit and the gift of your miraculous love. Turn these earthly treasures of human currency into heavenly treasures of love and justice to bring your realm here on earth. Amen
And may these offerings motivate people to seek your outstretched hand and accept your invitation for an eternal friendship.
 The Service of the Word
The First Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
The Gospel Reading: Luke 12: 32-40
These readings brought to us by Grahame, tell us of people who had a relationship with God. May we not look to them but to the Author, not matter how much that may scare us. Remember, God is ... Love.
 Preaching of the WordDo Not be Afraid (the words in quotes are Rev. John’s the others are mine.)
" ‘Don't be afraid. I will give you the Kingdom. Use your stuff so that you have permanent benefit from it. You will be happy if you are ready for my return.’ Or, to paraphrase it in the simplest way, don't be afraid, enjoy your stuff forever and be happy.
 This sounds wonderful. Our problem is that none of us can do this. Most of our lives are spent in a never-ending journey, searching for something that we hope will give meaning to our lives. Most of us are like the characters in the Wizard of Oz. We look like lions; except we are afraid. We are bright and shiny on the outside, but don't have any of the internal characteristics that help to bring fulfilment. We are tin woodsmen. Or, we are most agile but really don't have wisdom, like the Scarecrow. And some of us, much like Dorothy, are just lost and trying to find a way home.”
Most of the people who are reading this have professed some level of following Jesus for some time, if not all our lives. I think now is the time to step up and look God in the eyes, face to face. It is that that scares us silly, not sacrificing anything of this earthly life, but having a mature relationship with our Maker.
 " ‘Don't be afraid.’" A bold person shared a reflection about the cross. The person said ‘I came to understand that the cross is a test for us. We had God right here with us, in the person of Jesus. God was here to lead and love us out of this mess we are in. And what did we do? We killed him.’
 I wonder if why I struggle not to be one of those yelling out is that there is something in me that can't stand absolute love and goodness, even though I crave it. Yet, God’s answer to my failure is love, forgiveness and presence in my life forever. When I reflect on my failure in the cross, and God's answer, then I can know that I need never be afraid of any failure ever again. I have already failed completely, and God loves me and is present with me, it would be silly and a waste of time to be afraid.”
Think about these words: we are afraid, but God has shown us nothing but love. God has been nothing but amazingly patient with everyone of us. It’s time to look at that squarely and act upon it, stretching out to take the hand of God who has done nothing but love and love us for all our lives.
 “As we grow in love, we grow less and less fearful. As we grow in love, we discover
ourselves focused more and more on eternal relationships. Perhaps, it is scary to think about living this way, but remember the first thing the angels say, "don't be afraid."”
  Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes. Amen to that!
 
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