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Comfort in Our Anxiety.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - December 14, 2018 - 7:56am

We have seen all sorts of really traumatic and difficult things over this past year and it would not be difficult to become anxious and depressed. Yet we have also seen things that encourage and bring hope such as the rescue of the soccer team boys in Thailand. So as the stress and hectic rush leading to Christmas begins to overwhelm us, we are reminded in scripture not to be anxious. The Apostle Paul tells us not to be anxious—not to worry—about anything. But we tend to be people who worry about everything. Some of us plunge into worry quicker and deeper than others.
We worry about what will happen if someone doesn’t show up for the big family Christmas dinner (and also about what might happen if they do!). We worry about getting into the right school or university and about the financial aid package coming through. We worry about the cancer coming back and about our company being bought out. We worry about the security of our jobs and the safety of our children. The congregation I serve has had a difficult year with the death of a number of deeply faithful and involved members who had been part of the fellowship for 30 to 40 years and the distraction of problems with the local City Council over some work done. I would not be surprised if a number of our members were worried about what the future will bring and how long we can last as an entity despite over 150 years of life as a congregation.

With so much to worry about, how is it that St Paul of Tarsus can tell us not to worry and not to be anxious? When Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat in his Nazi prison cell, he penned a poem that included these words to the effect that we fearlessly wait, come what may, because God is with us on every new day. St Paul, writing to the church in Philippi from his own prison cell, says something similar. Why is it that we need not be anxious or afraid? Is it because whatever we are worried about is really “no big deal”? Or because God guarantees that everything will turn out for the best? Or even because God won’t give us any more hardship or pain than we can handle?
No. St Paul says that we need not be anxious or afraid because “the Lord is near.” That is the good news to which everything else in this text is tethered. “The Lord (our God) is near,” even while we wait for God to come in all fullness. In fact, St Paul says, God is as close as a prayer. And when God’s children take their worries and anxieties to their Lord in prayer, God will exchange their anxiety for a peace and calm for their worried hearts filled with love.

The sight of a mother cradling a squirming child in her arms and singing lullabies over him until he finally goes limp may be one of the sweetest and most serene things we can witness in this life. It’s a scene as old as time, and perhaps it is what the prophet Zephaniah had in mind when he wrote one of the final (and most famous!) verses of his book: “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, ............; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). When heard in the context of the other lectionary passages for the Third Sunday of Advent, God’s often anxious and worried children can receive these words as an invitation to climb into the lap of their heavenly parent so that our heavenly parent might sooth them with the songs of love and care.
Then, having heard these songs, they might offer their God one of their own, perhaps borrowing words from the prophet Isaiah: “God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2). While the Apostle Paul seems to be doing everything, he can to free us from anxiety, John the Baptist seems to be doing everything he can to create anxiety in us. John’s words are so full of alarm, he seems so determined to set us on edge. For John the Baptist, the news that “the Lord is near” is not only a promise that ought to comfort the afflicted. It is also a promise that ought to afflict the comfortable!




Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 9 December 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - December 10, 2018 - 9:12am

 This week's blog is by Rev. John Candy
 
Comfort in Our Anxiety.
 
Look around. This place is filled with those who thank God every time they think of you. By the Lord’s grace and compassion, this place is filled with those who hold you in their hearts, those whose prayers for you are filled with joy. Share the peace of Christ Jesus with one another. (From the service today.)


  
We have seen all sorts of really traumatic and difficult things over this past year and it would not be difficult to become anxious and depressed. Yet we have also seen things that encourage and bring hope such as the rescue of the soccer team boys in Thailand. So as the stress and hectic rush leading to Christmas begins to overwhelm us, we are reminded in scripture not to be anxious. The Apostle Paul tells us not to be anxious—not to worry—about anything. But we tend to be people who worry about everything.
 
We worry about what will happen if someone doesn’t show up for the big family Christmas dinner (and also about what might happen if they do!). We worry about getting into the right school or university and about the financial aid package coming through. We worry about the cancer coming back and about our company being bought out. We worry about the security of our jobs and the safety of our kids. The congregation I serve has had a difficult year with the death of a number of deeply faithful and involved members who had been part of the fellowship for 30 to 40 years and the distraction of problems with the local Council. I would not be surprised if a number of our members were worried about what the future will bring and how long we can last as an entity despite over 150 years of life as a congregation.

  
With so much to worry about, how is it that St Paul of Tarsus can tell us not to worry and not to be anxious? When Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat in his Nazi prison cell, he penned a poem that included these words to the effect that we fearlessly wait, come what may, because God is with us on every new day. St Paul, writing to the church in Philippi from his own prison cell, says something similar. Why is it that we need not be anxious or afraid? Is it because whatever we are worried about is really “no big deal”? Or because God guarantees that everything will turn out for the best? Or even because God won’t give us any more hardship or pain than we can handle?


No. St Paul says that we need not be anxious or afraid because “the Lord is near.” That is the good news to which everything else in this text is tethered. “The Lord (our God) is near,” even while we wait for him to come in all his fullness. In fact, St Paul says, he is as close as a prayer. And when God’s children take their worries and anxieties to the Lord in prayer, he will exchange their anxiety for his peace and calm their worried hearts with his love.
 
The sight of a mother cradling a squirming child in her arms and singing lullabies over him until he finally goes limp may be one of the sweetest and most serene things we can witness in this life. It’s a scene as old as time, and perhaps it is what the prophet Zephaniah had in mind when he wrote one of the final (and most famous!) verses of his book: “The LORD your God is in your midst …. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). When heard in the context of the other lectionary passages for the Third Sunday of Advent, God’s often anxious and worried children can receive these words as an invitation to climb into the lap of their heavenly parent so that our heavenly parent might sooth them with the songs of his love and care.

 

Then, having heard these songs, they might offer him one of their own, perhaps borrowing words from the prophet Isaiah: “God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2). While the Apostle Paul seems to be doing everything, he can to free us from anxiety, John the Baptist seems to be doing everything he can to create anxiety in us. John’s words are so full of alarm, he seems so determined to set us on edge. For John, the news that “the Lord is near” is not only a promise that ought to comfort the afflicted. It is also a promise that ought to afflict the comfortable!
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 2 December 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - December 7, 2018 - 9:52pm

  Gathering God’s People
Acknowledgement of First Peoples
From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus.
 
In making this acknowledgement we are declaring our awareness that God has been available to all people throughout all time. The first people knew of God’s intention for Creation long before they heard the word “God” and because of their authentic response to the Voice they heard were able to act in the way God wanted. That's all God asks. We don't need deep theological training. We simply need to be genuine in our seeking and in our response to the Voice wherever we find it.
 
First Sunday of Advent (Promise)
 Advent is here, and the wait for the birth of the Christ has begun
 As we light the first candle, we are reminded of God’s promise of a Saviour.
 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
God’s promise of hope is for all people; together, we anticipate the day of his coming.
Holy God, you have promised to bring salvation and justice to your creation.  As we wait for the arrival of the Saviour, may we live as those who have already been saved by your grace – and may we share that grace with others.  Amen.
 
Hymn: TIS 289 “Christmas is Coming” – Verse 1 In joining in this short liturgy we focused our minds on the coming pivotal event in the History of the world and the Human race. With the birth of Jesus of Nazareth everything changed.
 
Call to Worship - (David N Mosser and other Sources)
 The time is coming and now is when God’s promises will be fulfilled. Rejoice, the time is here.... even if it is not yet fully realised. Into this time, we come—ready to listen, ready to open, ready to love. The time is coming and now is when we will be part of God’s promise fulfilled.
 It’s time to get ready. It’s time to worship. It’s time to get ready. It’s time to be strong.
It’s time to get ready. It’s time to love.
Let’s worship together, that God may strengthen our love this day.
 
The service proceeded as usual: we approached God in prayer. We confessed our sins and asked for forgiveness. And then we worshipped with our offerings, after which we entered into the Communion service. The lines that jumped out and grabbed me were these:
“Because our bread has come from one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.”
 
It is our responsibility to remember that we are one body. We are the Church and whatever we expect of the church, we are asking of ourselves. Not just as we, as an individual want to see things done or events take place but as part of that body, the church. That needs wisdom. Holy wisdom. From God.
 
            Rev. John spoke of: Seasons of Hope: Hoping Against Hope
He conceded that hope seems beyond us if our focus is on all the twisted behaviour of people.
“When we look at the darkness that surrounds us—when we consider all the violence and wars and hatred and disease and poverty and, well, hopelessness that is the canvas upon which God intends to paint—then hope itself seems absurd. We are easily convinced that God simply can’t cover that much darkness.”
However, we are not hoping for the successes of this world, we are seeking the things of the Spirit.
“What we are talking about is a hope that reflects the power of the Resurrection. As Christians, we celebrate everything throughout the year against the backdrop of the Resurrection. At this time of year, when we are contemplating the birth of Christ, we do so with the clear message that this is one who has come to defeat the darkness, to drive back the powers of evil and to bring victory in the face of death.”
 
This was reflected in the Prayers for the People as Caroline prayed “Thank you for Your faithfulness to guide us and see us through times of uncertainty, for lifting us up, and setting us on high.” Caroline also reminded us that scripture is a treasure trove of promises and hope. She then referred to this season of expectation when we prepare to welcome Jesus once again, the author of all hope. And having faith in that hope, Caroline laid out the needs of our friends and family, asking, in that hope, for God’s comfort and support during the difficulties these people are experiencing.
 Benediction
Signs are all around Christ is coming soon.Signs are all around.
Christ has come to earth. Signs are all around.Christmas is almost here.
Signs are all around. Christ’s love is needed now. Signs are all around.
Calling us to love. Signs are all around. Leading us forth with love. Sending us forth in peace.
Go in the name of Christ and Christmas love. Amen
 
Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes.
 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Comfort in Our Anxiety.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - December 7, 2018 - 12:25pm

We have seen all sorts of really traumatic and difficult things over this past year and it would not be difficult to become anxious and depressed. Yet we have also seen things that encourage and bring hope such as the rescue of the soccer team boys in Thailand. So as the stress and hectic rush leading to Christmas begins to overwhelm us, we are reminded in scripture not to be anxious. The Apostle Paul tells us not to be anxious—not to worry—about anything. But we tend to be people who worry about everything.
We worry about what will happen if someone doesn’t show up for the big family Christmas dinner (and also about what might happen if they do!). We worry about getting into the right school or university and about the financial aid package coming through. We worry about the cancer coming back and about our company being bought out. We worry about the security of our jobs and the safety of our kids. The congregation I serve has had a difficult year with the death of a number of deeply faithful and involved members who had been part of the fellowship for 30 to 40 years and the distraction of problems with the local Council. I would not be surprised if a number of our members were worried about what the future will bring and how long we can last as an entity despite over 150 years of life as a congregation.
With so much to worry about, how is it that St Paul of Tarsus can tell us not to worry and not to be anxious? When Dietrich Bonhoeffer sat in his Nazi prison cell, he penned a poem that included these words to the effect that we fearlessly wait, come what may, because God is with us on every new day. St Paul, writing to the church in Philippi from his own prison cell, says something similar. Why is it that we need not be anxious or afraid? Is it because whatever we are worried about is really “no big deal”? Or because God guarantees that everything will turn out for the best? Or even because God won’t give us any more hardship or pain than we can handle?

No. St Paul says that we need not be anxious or afraid because “the Lord is near.” That is the good news to which everything else in this text is tethered. “The Lord (our God) is near,” even while we wait for him to come in all his fullness. In fact, St Paul says, he is as close as a prayer. And when God’s children take their worries and anxieties to the Lord in prayer, he will exchange their anxiety for his peace and calm their worried hearts with his love.
The sight of a mother cradling a squirming child in her arms and singing lullabies over him until he finally goes limp may be one of the sweetest and most serene things we can witness in this life. It’s a scene as old as time, and perhaps it is what the prophet Zephaniah had in mind when he wrote one of the final (and most famous!) verses of his book: “The LORD your God is in your midst …. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). When heard in the context of the other lectionary passages for the Third Sunday of Advent, God’s often anxious and worried children can receive these words as an invitation to climb into the lap of their heavenly parent so that our heavenly parent might sooth them with the songs of his love and care.
Then, having heard these songs, they might offer him one of their own, perhaps borrowing words from the prophet Isaiah: “God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid” (Isaiah 12:2). While the Apostle Paul seems to be doing everything, he can to free us from anxiety, John the Baptist seems to be doing everything he can to create anxiety in us. John’s words are so full of alarm, he seems so determined to set us on edge. For John, the news that “the Lord is near” is not only a promise that ought to comfort the afflicted. It is also a promise that ought to afflict the comfortable!


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Full of Emergency!

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 30, 2018 - 7:03am


Well I am early this week with my blog and I could say I am so excited as we begin the season of Advent on Sunday. A Sunday when we remember to find hope and not to get swamped by a world that seems Full of Emergency! But I have to be honest and say that the excitement of preparing for God's entry into the world hasn't quite gripped me yet and I have still to build up my feelings of hope. I am early simply because I have time and doing the blog now means I will hopefully get rest earlier on a Friday night.


But back to this weeks reading from Luke on this first Sunday of Advent. The events Jesus describes in Luke 21 would be enough to make even the bravest souls run for cover. This chapter is “full of emergency …. it’s a whole drum roll of disaster.”  Seas surge. Planets shake. The earth groans and threatens to come undone. The world Jesus describes is full of events both terrible and terrifying. In other words, the world Jesus describes is not unlike our own. Wars? We’ve got those. Persecutions? Yes. Leaders kowtowing to vested interest of a few? Sure. Leaders who lie and cheat so that those who are poor and struggling become poorer?  Yes, they exist. Greed and Abuse that destroy innocence? We have them.         We’ve got all those and many locally here in Australia. Natural disasters? Yes certainly as we fail to deal with the reality of Climate Change. Why only in the last 2 weeks there has been flooding and storms in both Australia and Aotearoa (NZ) and fire storms in California and Queensland here in Australia. Have you visited News websites lately? Jesus’s predictions seem to be ripped right from the latest headlines. Are these terrible events a sign that the end is indeed near? Are they an indication that Jesus might come, in all his power and glory, next Tuesday afternoon? Perhaps. But perhaps such speculation misses the point. Perhaps the point is that it always feels like the end of the world somewhere. That somewhere might be in a Bola-stricken village in Africa or in the bombed-out streets of the Middle East.
But that somewhere might also be in the heart of the person in the pew who was laid off last week, or who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, or who is facing their first Christmas alone. All these things can feel like the end of the world and can make us want to run for cover, to cower in a corner and quiver with fear. Yet Jesus insists that we need not be afraid. Instead, when things seem to be going from bad to worse to worse again, Jesus invites us to stand tall, to lift up our heads, and to strain our eyes toward the horizon because it is precisely at such desperate moments that he promises to come.

He may not come to us today as he will one day—riding on the clouds, with all his power and glory on full display. But he will be there by his Spirit, he still promises to come. And that is good news for today—even if the world does not end tomorrow! Sometimes we struggle to see this possibility in the depths of the problems of our lives. Often, we find it difficult as humans to believe and find the patience to await and be prepared for the promise to be fulfilled.
Patience may be a virtue. But it is not one most of us want to cultivate. Instead, we download apps on our phones that let us skip the line at the coffee place that is “in” at the moment, pay for subscriptions with on-line companies that entitle us to quick delivery of our latest purchases, and spend our Friday nights watching whatever is available on Netflix Instant. We do not like to wait for coffee or a slow Internet connection. And we do not like to wait for God. We do not want to be patient and I am on that list at times. Like many, I want my phone connection to be working right now, my lunch in five minutes not fifteen. I often have to be reminded or remind myself about patience.

As one Anne Lamott observes, believing in God is easy. It is waiting on God that is hard.  Psalm 25 and Jeremiah 33 come as encouragement to those who are tired of waiting for God and who may be ready to give up. These texts from this week’s scriptures set for reading assure us that the one for whom we wait is faithful. Because he kept the promise he made through the prophet Jeremiah in Christ’s first advent, we can trust that he has not forgotten us, but will remember us according to his unfailing love.
Someone I read but can’t remember the name of once wrote that the greatest challenge for people who believe in Christ’s second coming is to live the sort of life that reflects God’s call and Jesus’ example. It means that people will observe and say, so that’s how people are going to live when Gods call and example in Jesus takes over our world.  God’s people are called to act with love grace and righteousness. We are then assured that all such a life is not ultimately a result of our own striving but is the gift of the one who makes us “blameless in the sort of life that reveals God’s call to us. God would enable us to see a picture of holiness with a promise to “increase and enrich [our] love.” Such behaviour would be a sign to all that we are able to be  lead into paths that are “loving and faithful.”


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 25 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 29, 2018 - 11:17pm


Christ the King Sunday
Today our focus was “Christ the King” which was reflected in the sermon, readings and hymns. The following hymns are all well known and give praise and thanksgiving for the joy Jesus brought to the world.
Hymns:
Hymn 275: Hail to the Lord’s anointed
Hymn 293: Unto us a boy is born! verses 1, 2, 4 & 5
Hymn 216: Rejoice the Lord is King
Hymn 279: The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices
Hymn771: Now to him who loved us
 
I have selected a sentence from each reading which resonated with me:
The First Reading: 2 Samuel 23:1-7.  “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”
The Gospel Reading: John 18:33-37 “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
 
Christ came to be our King. We have come to be Christ’s people.
The King of kings calls us to follow him. We have come to be Christ’s people.
Christ came to be our King. We have come to be Christ’s people.
 
Opening Prayer
Mighty Sovereign, we approach your throne to behold your glory. Open our eyes, that we
might witness your Son coming with the clouds to rule with justice and righteousness. Open
our hearts, that we may rejoice in your covenant, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning. Amen.
 Prayer of Confession
 Almighty God, we are intoxicated by power—
the power to dominate, the power to control, the power to punish, the power to reward, the power to have our own way.
We live in a powerful country with powerful leaders and a powerful military.
Forgive us when we lose sight of what true power is all about. Forgive us when we forget that Jesus is our true and only King.
Help us refasten our gaze on Christ’s kingdom, that we might work to bring this kingdom here on earth.
In the name of the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, we pray. Amen.
 
This is a very strong prayer where we confess that we have tried to usurp Jesus role and have tried to rule the world. No wonder things have come unstuck. We can't even run our own lives without running into trouble. We are such small people. Someone once said to me that there is something wrong with humans. If is only when we face that fact and hand over the reins to the creator that things can go right.
 Declaration of Forgiveness
 The Lord made a covenant with King David, promising faithfulness to his descendants. In Christ, we have a new covenant, assuring us forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace. In Christ, our true king, our lives are made whole.
Thanks be to God!
 
Preaching of the Word - Famous Last Words
“…King David’s final words, as they are remembered by his people and written in scripture are eloquent and worthy of Israel’s great shepherd/poet. The most significant thing is the blessing they carry. The blessing is a useful reminder, even today, of the gifts and blessings available to not only the leaders of God’s people but to all the body of Christ. David’s words also imply that God has expectations of individuals, and those expectations must be taken to heart…
David was not the front-runner to succeed Saul as king, as he was young with no experience or hereditary rights. Most of the neighbours looked at him as that kid who spent most of his time outdoors with the sheep…
But Samuel, after looking over Jesse’s older sons, had David called in from the fields, and this suntanned, rough-clad poet, who probably smelled like the sheep he cared for, was judged by God to be beautiful…
David’s life, then, teaches us not only what it is to be a shepherd of God’s people, but also what it is to be human.
Jesus did not call himself king. He called himself a servant and proceeded to wrap himself in a towel and wash the feet of those who came to dinner with him. He did tell his followers what kind of people made up his kingdom: not the proud and greedy but the children, the poor, the abandoned, the lowly.
This is worth remembering as we attempt to serve a God in the world. We are not promised recognition or status and certainly not wealth. Sometimes we may not even receive thanks. Our reward is in being the hands and mouth of our God.
 
Prayers of the People
In these prayers we turned to God to lift this world up above the mess that prevails. We asked for God’s help and comfort for those suffering in war, drought, illness or because of any evil wrought by selfish people. And we asked that God uplift all those working to alleviate the suffering caused by that selfishness. We prayed for those close to us and then joined in the Lord’s Prayer.
 
Benediction
The mighty one of Jacob sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
The rock of Israel sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
The Alpha and Omega sends us forth.
We go with God’s blessing.
And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life be with you and remain with you always, Amen
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Things Are Not How They Appear.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 23, 2018 - 12:39pm

“Is Jesus really the king?” It was Pilate’s question in John 18. But it is ours too. In a world that seems to be constantly falling apart (despite Psalm 93’s insistence that the King of kings has set it firmly in its place), it can be hard to believe that Jesus is really the king. Yet our faith tells us he is. But as Jesus reminds us in John 18, he is a different kind of king. Sometimes, he chooses to clothe himself in weakness instead of strength. As we read in the Psalms from our scriptures sometimes, he robes himself in meekness instead of majesty. Sometimes, he comes as the king of the cross instead of the king of glory.
Australians it seems are like North Americans in that they seem quick to blame their politicians when things go wrong but slow to give them credit when things go right. Although I must admit in recent times it is harder to find the things that are going right. King David it seems knew better and he uses soaring poetry to celebrate the difference a good king can make and to declare that another king (an even greater king than him!) is coming. David declares that it will happen. And thanks be to God, we Christians have faith that in Jesus Christ, it has.
I read somewhere that some years ago in the USA the company, Allstate Insurance ran a popular advertising campaign featuring a character named “Mayhem.” In each ad, Mayhem takes on a new form (a satellite dish, a texting teenager, or a poorly secured Christmas tree) to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting. After each incident, an ominous voice says, “Mayhem is everywhere. . . are you in good hands?” In a world full of mayhem, those Christians who come into worship this week may be wondering if they are in good hands. We hope that they may leave with the assurance that they are because Jesus is king.
As we think and reflect upon Kings and kingship I am reminded that there is a scene in The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy and her friends have finally gained an audience with the legendary Wizard. Smoke fills the air, his voice booms around them, and the four friends quake with fear—until Dorothy’s little dog Toto slips away, pulls back a curtain, and exposes the real Oz. That is when Dorothy and her friends discover that things are not how they first appeared. The great and powerful Oz is not so great and powerful after all.
Something similar happens in our scripture from Revelation 1 this week. Only this time, when the curtain is pulled back, the situation is reversed. With an oppressive emperor sitting on the throne in Rome and persecution breaking out all around them, John’s congregations may well have wondered if Jesus Christ was so great and powerful after all. It is chaos, not Jesus that appears to rule their world. Yet Revelation 1 insists that things are not how they appear. When the curtain is pulled back, Jesus Christ is not only revealed to be the one who will be the ruler of the kings of the earth.
No. He is spoken of as the one who is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Despite how things may first appear, his power and reign are seen as a present reality. John the writer of Revelation’s drives this point home when he twice insists that the Lord God is the one who is and was and will be (if you read Revelations 1 note how John breaks the expected sequence of past/present/future in order to place the present tense in the emphatic position). The “isness” of God’s presence and Christ’s reign are what the church celebrates on this Christ the King Sunday. Yes, we use the image that someday every eye will see him coming on the clouds. But those who have the eyes of faith can see that God is with us—today. So those of faith then say that Jesus is king—today. So he deserves our worship and allegiance—today.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 18 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 19, 2018 - 10:13am

 
Today's Blog is written by Rev. John Candy.



When we woke up this morning, many of us stepped into a world of expectations. This was not a conscious decision; it's just where we live, in a land where life is so good we have the luxury of taking many things for granted. The air conditioning stayed on, so we could awake to a comfortable room temperature; and if it was dark when we awoke, we reached for a light switch, so the invisible dangers could be revealed. Then we walked into a room with running water inside the house. On a Sunday some of you will be even listening to my voice over the sound system you expected and hoped to work so you could hear me when I turned the switch on. However this Sunday will be different in that we are in Melbourne but the expectations are still there.
 
So many things we expect in life we just take for granted until something doesn't work. The alarm doesn't go off. It's hot in the house. The light switch is non-responsive. We panic for a minute. We get frustrated. Then we think, "This is not how my day is supposed to be. My life is supposed to play out in such a way that I have all that I need to be comfortable. However, this morning, somebody or something flipped the script. And now I have no power when I'm supposed to have power."
 
Most of the rest of our world plays out a very different script; a minor power outage is disappointing. Outside of our country or outside of our neighbourhood there are problems and concerns many of us can't even begin to comprehend. There are illnesses that can't be treated, people dying in need of food, political and civil unrest, and overt exploitation and abuse of humanity and nature. A power outage in most of the world is a good day. Yet many of us see the discomfort and shock of power outages in this country, natural disasters like hurricanes and weather-pattern changes, wars in places where wars have been waged since the beginning of recorded history, and some of us interpret these events as "the sign of the times."
 
Where we live, 'be alert' became more a catch-cry in the 'war against terror' or a tool in the weaponry of road-safety campaigners, than an issue of spiritual 'safety'. What kinds of spheres do we need to be alert in where we live? What do we expect our world to be like in such an environment? One field in which we certainly need to remain spiritually alert and informed about our expectations is in the face of the multitudinous cranks out there, peddling extremist, fundamentalist versions of what Jesus is on about.
 
Not just in what we consider 'extremist' churches, but within mainline ones these days. The recent debates and news about abuse issues and about same gender acknowledgement are some examples. It can happen!
 
It doesn’t just happen out there somewhere but can happen right here amongst one’s own community.  How can we live in our time and God's time at the same time, in the world and in the church as Christ's Body, and do it free from fear? 'Perfect love casts out fear' says John. Persecution of Christians these days in some of our societies is just as likely to come from fundamentalist protestant or catholic factions within churches more than from outside.
 

Those out there in the wide margins can still persecute and the possibility is growing within in some quarters. The places where misguided people try to draw in church margins tightly round fellow Christians. Isn't it ironic that that's the way Jesus' warnings may be fulfilled today? That Jesus speaks of wars, earthquakes, and famines, as 'the beginning of birth-pangs' could be a helpful way of exploring the pains that our world still - as always - labours under. We have become very comfortable with the expectation that all will remain the same or get better. I really wonder where our focus might be. Is it in the expectation of all the comforts being there and available all the time?
 
On the other hand, is it on where God calls us to be and is it on the most important thing of God’s great love for us. What do we really have to bear to bring something worthwhile to birth? Have we even thought about it? Have we thought about what it is we are meant to be doing here and now?  As distinct from theological philosophising, what practical and constructive steps must we take to 'endure to the end'? I will leave you with some more questions to ponder over the next weeks before our focus is taken to shops and parties and gifts and all the other trappings of our western Christmas lifestyle.
 
Are we as Christians or even those outside the faith listening for what we say and working out how we act in love as we face those whom we meet day to day? And what is this end that Jesus talks about? Whom, is the end for and is it important? Is the Christian call to be working to enable God’s kingdom to be here and now in his love the most important thing? Is this scripture passage too close to the bone?
 

 
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Expectations!

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 16, 2018 - 8:44pm

When we woke up this morning, many of us stepped into a world of expectations. This was not a conscious decision; it's just where we live, in a land where life is so good we have the luxury of taking many things for granted. The air conditioning stayed on, so we could awake to a comfortable room temperature; and if it was dark when we awoke, we reached for a light switch, so the invisible dangers could be revealed. Then we walked into a room with running water inside the house. On a Sunday some of you will be even listening to my voice over the sound system you expected and hoped to work so you could hear me when I turned the switch on. However this Sunday will be different in that we are in Melbourne but the expectations are still there.

So many things we expect in life we just take for granted until something doesn't work. The alarm doesn't go off. It's hot in the house. The light switch is non-responsive. We panic for a minute. We get frustrated. Then we think, "This is not how my day is supposed to be. My life is supposed to play out in such a way that I have all that I need to be comfortable. However, this morning, somebody or something flipped the script. And now I have no power when I'm supposed to have power."
Most of the rest of our world plays out a very different script; a minor power outage is disappointing. Outside of our country or outside of our neighbourhood there are problems and concerns many of us can't even begin to comprehend. There are illnesses that can't be treated, people dying in need of food, political and civil unrest, and overt exploitation and abuse of humanity and nature. A power outage in most of the world is a good day. Yet many of us see the discomfort and shock of power outages in this country, natural disasters like hurricanes and weather-pattern changes, wars in places where wars have been waged since the beginning of recorded history, and some of us interpret these events as "the sign of the times."

Where we live, 'be alert' became more a catch-cry in the 'war against terror' or a tool in the weaponry of road-safety campaigners, than an issue of spiritual 'safety'. What kinds of spheres do we need to be alert in where we live? What do we expect our world to be like in such an environment? One field in which we certainly need to remain spiritually alert and informed about our expectations is in the face of the multitudinous cranks out there, peddling extremist, fundamentalist versions of what Jesus is on about.
Not just in what we consider 'extremist' churches, but within mainline ones these days. The recent debates and news about abuse issues and about same gender acknowledgement are some examples. It can happen!
It doesn’t just happen out there somewhere but can happen right here amongst one’s own community.  How can we live in our time and God's time at the same time, in the world and in the church as Christ's Body, and do it free from fear? 'Perfect love casts out fear' says John. Persecution of Christians these days in some of our societies is just as likely to come from fundamentalist protestant or catholic factions within churches more than from outside.

Those out there in the wide margins can still persecute and the possibility is growing within in some quarters. The places where misguided people try to draw in church margins tightly round fellow Christians. Isn't it ironic that that's the way Jesus' warnings may be fulfilled today? That Jesus speaks of wars, earthquakes, and famines, as 'the beginning of birth-pangs' could be a helpful way of exploring the pains that our world still - as always - labours under. We have become very comfortable with the expectation that all will remain the same or get better. I really wonder where our focus might be. Is it in the expectation of all the comforts being there and available all the time?
On the other hand, is it on where God calls us to be and is it on the most important thing of God’s great love for us. What do we really have to bear to bring something worthwhile to birth? Have we even thought about it? Have we thought about what it is we are meant to be doing here and now?  As distinct from theological philosophising, what practical and constructive steps must we take to 'endure to the end'? I will leave you with some more questions to ponder over the next weeks before our focus is taken to shops and parties and gifts and all the other trappings of our western Christmas lifestyle.
Are we as Christians or even those outside the faith listening for what we say and working out how we act in love as we face those whom we meet day to day? And what is this end that Jesus talks about? Whom, is the end for and is it important? Is the Christian call to be working to enable God’s kingdom to be here and now in his love the most important thing? Is this scripture passage too close to the bone?



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 11 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 14, 2018 - 12:14am


Society’s Fringe Dwellers This week's blog is by Rev. John Candy.


Often, something positive eventually comes from a disaster. This does not mean that the disaster was God’s way of achieving the positive. The birth of David results from Ruth’s union with Boaz (encouraged by Naomi), but the biblical events preceding that— Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s incest with his daughters, the famine and death of Naomi’s family— are not God’s preferred method of bringing grace into the world.
 
If we look at Divorce despite it not being ideal and not what God wants for us it is necessary because of our choices and mistakes. The way God calls us to live as shown in the life of Jesus seems so perfect, yet we are forgiven as we struggle to live in a holy way. Out of divorce can come positive things as we evaluate our own mistakes in the relationship and work towards not making them again. Out of the pain can come positive growth that enables the person going through divorce to be much more fully present and available in their following relationships including maybe a new partner.
 
One of the first widow’s I ever understood to be a widow was young. She was someone I had known in the community and her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball. He was twenty-nine. Suddenly, the notion of widowhood became clear to me. It was not that a woman simply outlived her husband, but that there was a blank space at the table, an empty side of the bed, a phone number that goes unanswered, conversations that become one-sided. Widows and widowers of all ages and circumstances frequently surround us. And we forget their status.
 
 
We forget that they are among those considered most vulnerable and most wise in Scripture. We forget that God’s heart is with them. It is critical to remember that her beloved, deceased partner may not have been a saint, but she will still grieve. That the person still living is still thinking of their loved one, even if you are afraid to bring up the subject. That she may grow accustomed to her new state, but never stop missing the ones who rest in light. Being widowed, being left out of partnership, should not mean being left out of community.
 
Let not the community of God forsake those who mourn. It is not enough to say God is with them. We are to be the hands, words, and consolation of the Spirit with widows, orphans, and strangers. Throughout his ministry, Jesus called to attention those on the margins of society, those who had previously gone unnoticed, the poor, the blind, the lame, the beggars, the lepers, military personnel, and widows. It’s a reminder particularly as many of us in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) will be marking Armistice or Remembrance Day which falls this Sunday. These are the same people we find on the margins of our societies today. Those who still are excluded, those whom society looks down on or simply ignores. A widow, living in poverty created by the institution charged with her care. An aged person placed in a Home as there is no one to manage things for them or even visit them.
 

This gospel reading from Mark 12 that continues today doesn’t seem like good news: A widow giving her all to a corrupt institution, an institution that fails to care for her as it is supposed to do. But she gives anyway. And Jesus commends her giving. He commends her and condemns the system. Jesus holds her up as an example of how small but significant acts can break down a cycle of injustice and corruption.
 
In the culture of Jesus, widows were non-people. Without a man to support or validate them in society, they were non-beings. Vulnerable and invalid, it was easy not to see them. It is easy not to see the people on our streets living without shelter, food or clothing. It’s easy not see the desperation of the refugees trying to reach countries where they might be better off. It’s easy to blame the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the disabled and many others who are suffering. Yet, Jesus not only notices widows on many occasions during his ministry, in this week’s text, he actually uses a widow to teach trust and reliance on God.
 


This gospel is not talking to us about a comparative giving table, steering the prosperous to give more. It is encouragement for those who go against the grain, who practice subversion in whatever way they can, even in the face of injustice. Who, by their subversion, make inroads into creating justice and fairness for all God’s people. It doesn’t always take placards and a lot of shouting for trends and policies to be reversed. Persistent, simple subversion also does the trick.

 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Societies Fringe Dwellers.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 9, 2018 - 12:53pm

Often, something positive eventually comes from a disaster. This does not mean that the disaster was God’s way of achieving the positive. The birth of David results from Ruth’s union with Boaz (encouraged by Naomi), but the biblical events preceding that— Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s incest with his daughters, the famine and death of Naomi’s family— are not God’s preferred method of bringing grace into the world.
If we look at Divorce despite it not being ideal and not what God wants for us it is necessary because of our choices and mistakes. The way God calls us to live as shown in the life of Jesus seems so perfect, yet we are forgiven as we struggle to live in a holy way. Out of divorce can come positive things as we evaluate our own mistakes in the relationship and work towards not making them again. Out of the pain can come positive growth that enables the person going through divorce to be much more fully present and available in their following relationships including maybe a new partner.
One of the first widow’s I ever understood to be a widow was young. She was someone I had known in the community and her husband died of a heart attack while playing basketball. He was twenty-nine. Suddenly, the notion of widowhood became clear to me. It was not that a woman simply outlived her husband, but that there was a blank space at the table, an empty side of the bed, a phone number that goes unanswered, conversations that become one-sided. Widows and widowers of all ages and circumstances frequently surround us. And we forget their status.

We forget that they are among those considered most vulnerable and most wise in Scripture. We forget that God’s heart is with them. It is critical to remember that her beloved, deceased partner may not have been a saint, but she will still grieve. That the person still living is still thinking of their loved one, even if you are afraid to bring up the subject. That she may grow accustomed to her new state, but never stop missing the ones who rest in light. Being widowed, being left out of partnership, should not mean being left out of community.
Let not the community of God forsake those who mourn. It is not enough to say God is with them. We are to be the hands, words, and consolation of the Spirit with widows, orphans, and strangers. Throughout his ministry, Jesus called to attention those on the margins of society, those who had previously gone unnoticed, the poor, the blind, the lame, the beggars, the lepers, military personnel, and widows. It’s a reminder particularly as many of us in Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) will be marking Armistice or Remembrance Day which falls this Sunday. These are the same people we find on the margins of our societies today. Those who still are excluded, those whom society looks down on or simply ignores. A widow, living in poverty created by the institution charged with her care. An aged person placed in a Home as there is no one to manage things for them or even visit them.
This gospel reading from Mark 12 that continues today doesn’t seem like good news: A widow giving her all to a corrupt institution, an institution that fails to care for her as it is supposed to do. But she gives anyway. And Jesus commends her giving. He commends her and condemns the system. Jesus holds her up as an example of how small but significant acts can break down a cycle of injustice and corruption.
In the culture of Jesus, widows were non-people. Without a man to support or validate them in society, they were non-beings. Vulnerable and invalid, it was easy not to see them. It is easy not to see the people on our streets living without shelter, food or clothing. It’s easy not see the desperation of the refugees trying to reach countries where they might be better off. It’s easy to blame the poor, the immigrants, the refugees, the disabled and many others who are suffering. Yet, Jesus not only notices widows on many occasions during his ministry, in this week’s text, he actually uses a widow to teach trust and reliance on God.
This gospel is not talking to us about a comparative giving table, steering the prosperous to give more. It is encouragement for those who go against the grain, who practice subversion in whatever way they can, even in the face of injustice. Who, by their subversion, make inroads into creating justice and fairness for all God’s people. It doesn’t always take placards and a lot of shouting for trends and policies to be reversed. Persistent, simple subversion also does the trick.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 4 November 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - November 5, 2018 - 10:13am

MARSDEN ROAD UNITING CHURCH SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER.
 
Call to Worship - (David N Mosser and other Sources)
 
Look to the saints of God for direction. Trust in the saints of God for guidance. Be the saints of God for the world.
 Look, here is our God, the One we have waited for.
Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation.
Come feast on rich food and dine on fine wine.
Enjoy the blessings of the Lord, the vindication from our God.
Come! Let us worship the Lord.
 
Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart”- That is, those who have opened themselves to God’s healing touch, allowing a new beginning. That can happen as often as we allow God into the deepest part of our lives.
 
Opening prayer
God of new beginnings remove the shroud that separates us from one another and from your mighty presence, that we may see you as you are. Wipe away our tears and take away our disgrace, that we may come before your throne with hearts full of song and souls ablaze with joy. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die and enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that whether living or dying, our hearts will always belong to you. Amen.
 
A Prayer of Confession
Wellspring of tears, you know well our grief and our longing to see you face to face.
O how we wish you would come down and save us. In our pain, we have grown impatient. In our sorrow, we have doubted the depth of your love. Forgive us, Patient One, when we forget that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
Renew our faithfulness, Holy One, when like Mary and Martha before us, we despair of tasting the joy of eternal life.
Open our mouths to exclaim with delight: Here is our God for whom we have waited! We need your grace to complete us. We need your love to make us whole. Amen.
 
Today we were thinking about All Saints Day. The Bible readings all, in different ways, turned us to the thought of possible renewal…new beginnings.
Saints are those who seek to live their lives according to God’s will. It's not the same as learning to play better tennis or golf by taking some advice. The only way we can live according to God’s will is by opening ourselves up to being remade in the way God intended in the first place. A bit like a retrofit but there's a more demanding element. Because we are humans we keep undoing the remaking and need to turn back for another work of God in our lives.
I often wonder who this God is and how we can become alloyed with the divine holiness. I have no idea about the form God takes. I think God dwells in Creation somehow. God isn't some person living “out there” but on the other hand, my experience tells me God is available here and now to do that work of renewal as often as it needs doing and as often as we humble ourselves to that divine work.


 
This is what Rev. John had to say:
“Do we accept that when God shows up, healing happens, hope springs forth, and new life emerges? In today’s text from Isaiah, in the midst of Isaiah’s message of judgment, we are reminded of the power of a vision. When God shows up, the text points out, life will change. Pain will be replaced by rejoicing. Death will be no more. God will dry our tears. When God shows up, life will not be difficult; it will not be such a struggle. When God shows up, life will look more like a feast. And, not just any feast, but a feast with the finest foods, vintage wines, and multiple courses, and rich, opulent desserts.”

 
Today was also a day when we celebrated communion.
By doing that we remembered that Jesus, knowing the truth,
 knowing the solution to the perpetually destructive
behaviour of we humans, set his face unto Jerusalem.
He didn't turn aside, knowing what the outcome was
 going to be. He couldn't stop telling the truth, even if it
meant he would die.
 
That's how important the truth is: it's there where renewal is
found and there is only one totally reliable source.
 
Hymn TIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.”  That's what happens when we accept renewal. MARSDEN ROAD UNITING CHURCH SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER.   Call to Worship - (David N Mosser and other Sources)   Look to the saints of God for direction. Trust in the saints of God for guidance. Be the saints of God for the world.  Look, here is our God, the One we have waited for. Let us be glad and rejoice in our salvation. Come feast on rich food and dine on fine wine. Enjoy the blessings of the Lord, the vindication from our God. Come! Let us worship the Lord.   Hymn TIS 448: Blest are the pure in heart”- That is, those who have opened themselves to God’s healing touch, allowing a new beginning. That can happen as often as we allow God into the deepest part of our lives.   Opening prayer God of new beginnings remove the shroud that separates us from one another and from your mighty presence, that we may see you as you are. Wipe away our tears and take away our disgrace, that we may come before your throne with hearts full of song and souls ablaze with joy. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die and enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that whether living or dying, our hearts will always belong to you. Amen.   A Prayer of Confession Wellspring of tears, you know well our grief and our longing to see you face to face. O how we wish you would come down and save us. In our pain, we have grown impatient. In our sorrow, we have doubted the depth of your love. Forgive us, Patient One, when we forget that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Renew our faithfulness, Holy One, when like Mary and Martha before us, we despair of tasting the joy of eternal life. Open our mouths to exclaim with delight: Here is our God for whom we have waited! We need your grace to complete us. We need your love to make us whole. Amen.   Today we were thinking about All Saints Day. The Bible readings all, in different ways, turned us to the thought of possible renewal…new beginnings. Saints are those who seek to live their lives according to God’s will. It's not the same as learning to play better tennis or golf by taking some advice. The only way we can live according to God’s will is by opening ourselves up to being remade in the way God intended in the first place. A bit like a retrofit but there's a more demanding element. Because we are humans we keep undoing the remaking and need to turn back for another work of God in our lives. I often wonder who this God is and how we can become alloyed with the divine holiness. I have no idea about the form God takes. I think God dwells in Creation somehow. God isn't some person living “out there” but on the other hand, my experience tells me God is available here and now to do that work of renewal as often as it needs doing and as often as we humble ourselves to that divine work.   This is what Rev. John had to say: “Do we accept that when God shows up, healing happens, hope springs forth, and new life emerges? In today’s text from Isaiah, in the midst of Isaiah’s message of judgment, we are reminded of the power of a vision. When God shows up, the text points out, life will change. Pain will be replaced by rejoicing. Death will be no more. God will dry our tears. When God shows up, life will not be difficult; it will not be such a struggle. When God shows up, life will look more like a feast. And, not just any feast, but a feast with the finest foods, vintage wines, and multiple courses, and rich, opulent desserts.”   Today was also a day when we celebrated communion. By doing that we remembered that Jesus, knowing the truth, knowing the solution to the perpetually destructive behaviour of we humans, set his face unto Jerusalem. He didn't turn aside, knowing what the outcome was going to be. He couldn't stop telling the truth, even if it meant he would die.   That's how important the truth is: it's there where renewal is found and there is only one totally reliable source.   Hymn TIS 780: “May light come into your eyes.”  That's what happens when we accept renewal.v

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Vain Offerings

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - November 2, 2018 - 10:29am

In this week’s Gospel reading from Mark 12 Jesus has already argued with the Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes to Caesar, and with the Sadducees about the concept of resurrection. Now a scribe, overhearing their arguments and judging Jesus to be a smart cookie, poses his question. It's odd that Jesus gives him a straight answer instead of an object lesson (as when he asked for a coin from the Pharisees) or a counter-question. Perhaps he knows the scribe is asking a genuine question and doesn't have a hidden agenda?
In Matthew's version (22:34-40) and in Luke's version (10:25-28), the questioner is a lawyer who is testing Jesus. Mark's scribe seems to be honest. Mark's story is also unusual in that the scribe congratulates Jesus on giving a good answer, and that Jesus responds by saying, "You are not far from the kingdom of God.". The Pharisees and Sadducees have just been shown up by a lowly scribe! He even gets in a dig at the Sadducees' focus on the temple, "This is much more important than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
There is something touching in this encounter that offers hope to churches today. Despite those who try to control Jesus, to manipulate or discredit him, there is still hope for the few who come to him with genuine questions.

Have you ever thought about, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?... bring no more vain offerings” means for us as those who seek to live as Jesus did. Let’s try another tack. God is lonely for us. God, our Creator, our very help in time of need, longs for us, for our love, for our prayers for help, for prayers of praise and thanksgiving. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul is often quoted.
Have you ever wondered why God, our heavenly parent who formed us in her own image, longs for the companionship that comes during times of silent prayer and meditation; during times when we talk and laugh out loud with God; when we cry out in sorrow and petition; and yes, even, perhaps most especially, at those times when we scream in anger. These are the presents, the gifts that we can bring to our God who desires no material evidence of our love. What can our high spires, our golden chalices, our "burnt offerings" give to God that God does not already have?
Shall we seek to adorn the throne of the One who, according to Revelation, sits on the golden throne surrounded by worshipping creatures crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy?" Shall we expect to augment the One who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? How redundant that would be. No, these are but window dressing, substitutes for what God really wants from us: “...and the second is like unto it you shall love your neighbor as yourself...” As the prophet Micah reminded us, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before your God. 

Martin Smith, SSSE, is Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, MA. His book, Co-Creation with God, provides profound insights into the way we view our relationship with our Creator-Parent. Martin's thesis is that God invites and welcomes our co-equal participation in the unfolding of our lives and future. Posing this provocative question, "God, what are we to make of this?" Martin counsels us to allow a partnership to form in which we jointly create our future according to the will of God.
Carter Heyward, feminist theologian at the Episcopal Divinity School and author of numerous books, says, "In the beginning was the relationship." Thus, relating to and with God enriches us and, Martin suggests, enriches the heart of God, also. How can you say that you love God whom you have not seen, when you hate creation and your neighbour whom you have seen?
Another gift that we can present to God is to mirror the love so freely given to us in our relationships of peace, harmony and justice with others in the world. This gift we can bring before God in thanksgiving and praise for God's love. We can allow that love to be a model for all of our earthly relationships. We can understand that God's will for us is that we should love equality, do justice, love our neighbors, those living anywhere in this global village, and walk in humble thanksgiving for the incredible blessings of God's love.
We are to demonstrate fairness in our business dealings, compassion and justice in our encounters with other human beings, see the face of God in both friend and foe, and invite the holy spirit to be present in all dialogues, discussions, and relationships. This is what is called for by the Prophet Isaiah and it stands as a blueprint for how God wishes us to live.



Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 28 October 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 31, 2018 - 7:27am



Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Songlines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2012 and 2018)
God who restores, who heals, who makes us whole, open our eyes to your work around us. Be in our praying, in our singing, in our proclamation, and in our silence. Open our eyes to see your kingdom coming into the world.
 Jesus has come to town. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us!
He invites us to join him on his journey. Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us!
Come and be healed and see with new eyes. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!
 
And then we sang of our reliance on God. Or, at least, how our highest calling is reliance on God. Why do we think we know better so often?

Hymn TIS 112: “Through all the changing scenes of life”

Opening Prayer
 Triune God, through Jesus Christ, our great and eternal High Priest, we give you praise and consecrate ourselves to follow you. As we worship you and celebrate your glorious resurrection, open our eyes so that we may see – open the eyes of our mind to learning and understanding; open the eyes of our heart, to your love and compassion; open the eyes of our soul, to see our spiritual selves during our time of worship. Amen.
Consecrating ourselves to God is not something to be done flippantly or without deep thought. It means that we turn aside from our own wishes and wants to seek God’s will in all things. It isn't a once-only event. We are called on daily to hand ourselves over to God’s plan for us and The Kingdom.
And to ensure that this continues to be so, and knowing how often we do stray from that commitment and consecration, we need to open ourselves and our failings to God and seek forgiveness.

Prayer of Confession
 Mystical, transcendent God, there is so much of life we simply do not know.
In our arrogance we utter what we do not understand.
Rescue us, O Lord, from our afflictions.
Rescue us, O God from our self-inflicted wounds. Have mercy on us, Son of David, Son of God, and save us by your unending grace. Amen.



 Declaration of Forgiveness
 Cry out to Christ, our great High Priest, for he has saved us. Our faith has made us well, brought us forgiveness and granted us peace. Thanks be to God.

Hymn TIS 547.  “Be thou my vision.” Keeping in track. Asking for the true path.

READINGS: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 : Mark 10: 46-52
Job says to a God: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  3 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 
A good lesson here for all of us. We don't have the knowledge and wisdom we need to do God’s will in God’s kingdom. We need to ask for guidance.
The lesson from Mark leans in the same direction:
Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 49 Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.51 Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ 52 Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Remember, when we read the Bible we are looking for God’s voice and God’s message to us. I think it's clear here: The blind man asked to see and Jesus gave him sight. Usually, it's not physical sight we need, its spiritual sight. It works the same way.
Rev. John shared this with us:
“But when I share, through honest and open prayer, my frivolous or grave or noble or childlike wants with a gentle and loving God, God will use even these to increase my faithfulness, to uncover my hidden wounds, and to affirm my created goodness. Maybe, even, God is doing the wanting in me and through me; and my calling is to discover what the wanting is teaching me about who God is and who I am.”
John also told us of seeking guidance from a friend rather than turning to God. Talking to the friend was a way of avoiding God because he was afraid he would get it all wrong before God. I think this is a common experience. We hide our lack of knowledge and understanding from God, or so we think, but who better to turn to when we are in need?

Hymn TIS 223  “How sweet the name of a Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.” The very hymn to hear and sing at the point to settle our troubled hearts and minds.

Laurel brought us the Prayers of the People. She brought before us and our Lord current concerns. God invites us to say what our needs are. Even if we have looked past our real needs, God will see our true needs. And so it is with confidence we were able to join Laurel in her prayers for those suffering in different ways.

Hymn TIS 160Father all-loving and ruling in majesty.” God is not one to fear. God is in charge and will hold us in the palm of his hand.
 
Benediction
 
Go as the church, as Jesus' entourage, following where he leads. Everywhere he goes he leaves healing and hope in his wake. Go, and listen, and learn, and love. And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life be with you and remain with you always, Amen
 


 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

A Loud Faith

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 26, 2018 - 11:37am

Words are powerful. Words can shape us. Amazingly, words can build us or break us, melt us or meld us. Words sometimes define who we are or prophesy who we will be. Words can demean or insult. “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re just lazy.” They can transform us or bring us to our knees. “You have cancer.” “Will you marry me?” “I love you.” “You’re fired.” “I don’t care.” “You have the right to remain silent.” Sometimes words have power because of their volume. Adjusting the volume can affect the impact of just about any word.
If you have been or ever watched a mother who has learned the power of a whispered, “Come here, right now!” I’ve also learned the importance of raising my voice, “young man, a car!” when I sense the wobbly, bicycling six-year-old is in danger. Of course, our body language, tone, and facial expressions all contribute to the power of our words. In Bartimaeus, the blind beggar’s encounter with Jesus, words matter in Mark 10 from our scriptures this week. Because of his blindness, Bartimaeus has to rely on words a more than others. He doesn’t see Jesus coming his way, he just hears about it from others and then he cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
The response of the crowd is that “many sternly warned him to be quiet. . ..” Sometimes you can sense the power of words by how many “shhhs” trail after those words. Bartimaeus was told to be quiet. Do you know what it’s like to be censored or hushed? Sometimes it happens when you point out an injustice at work or at school or in the church. Sometimes it happens when you finally name the elephant in the room. I’ve seen it happen in committee meetings and Bible studies. I’ve seen it occur in family settings and between married couples.

I remember meeting a person whose sister has a mental disability. In her family, no one talks openly about this reality. I once said to this person, “Why don’t you just bring it up sometime when you are talking to your parents?” They said, “No way, I can’t even imagine saying the words.” This person was silenced by the power of family dynamics before she could even open her mouth.
Where do you feel silenced? At work? Is it on committees such as the parent teacher association or even at church maybe? Is it within your own family? What are the words you can’t even imagine saying? What are the words you can’t even imagine saying above a whisper? Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus and is told by more than one person to be quiet. For most of us that would be all it would take to shut us down. Most of us are quick to read social cues or the emotional climate of our various settings. Most of us will pay attention to facial expressions or watch others to see how to behave.
And, if someone had to actually tell us we were behaving rudely or speaking out inappropriately, they wouldn’t have to tell us more than once before we’d modify our behaviour. If your boss or your teacher or God forbid, even I in my role as a minister told you to be quiet, most of you probably would. Bartimaeus is a little different. He’s a little bolder. Maybe it is the blindness that creates a missed visual cue or two. Maybe it is simply his intense need. Maybe he has matured to the point where he doesn’t care what others think. Whatever it is, when Bartimaeus is silenced, he just turns up the volume and “cried out even more loudly.”
Can you imagine turning up the volume on your faith? Can you imagine turning up the volume when you cry out to God? Can you imagine turning up the volume when others are saying, “Shhh, be quiet?” Can you imagine asking for mercy or sight or healing in the loudest voice you can manage? Bartimaeus turns up the volume because he senses Jesus is near. He cries out and the scripture tells us that Jesus stops in his tracks. “Jesus stood still.” Can you picture that moment with the audio on?

Bartimaeus is told by many to be quiet. He cries out louder and louder until his loud cry of faith causes Jesus to freeze. Then, powerful words are exchanged. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus answers “My teacher, let me see again.” Bartimaeus speaks and because of his loud faith, healing happens. I wonder what would happen if you and I turned up the volume on our faith a bit? What if you and I cried out to God a little louder?
What if we were sure enough about what we wanted from Jesus that we could shout it out at the top of our lungs? What if having Jesus stop in our midst was more important than pleasing our critics or having good manners or doing what others expected of us? Words are powerful. In the right place, at the right time, spoken loudly enough, words can even stop a saviour and bring healing. It then raises the question of each one of us as to how loud our faith is.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 21 October 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 24, 2018 - 6:10am



 Today’s service was led by Wendy Pearce, who welcomed Heather Pinto from Eastwood Christian Community Aid who had come to speak to the  Congregation about the work of CCA.

Acknowledgment of First People
Leader: We acknowledge the Burramattagal people, the first inhabitants of this place, part of God's good creation. We honour them for their custodianship of the land, on which we gather today.
People: You set humanity at the heart of your creation, O God; charging us with stewardship of all you have made. We give thanks for those who have heeded your call.

The Gathering of the People of God.
Call to Worship
In the midst of a world where people hunger and thirst . . .
come worship a God who feeds the hungry.
In the midst of a world where people are abused and oppressed . . .
come worship a God who calls for compassion and justice.
In the midst of a world filled with wars and rumor of war . . .
come worship a God who desires nothing less than peace for the world.
In the midst of a world of spiritual emptiness . . .
come worship a God who gives life meaning.
Come worship a God whose grace and love know no end.






Invocation

With what shall we come before the Holy One,
and bow ourselves before God on high?
God has shown us what is good.
What does the Holy One require of us,
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with our God?
 
The Prayers, hymns and other parts of this service were directed to the theme of serving others and the address given by Heather showed us how we can do this through CCA. As a congregation I see our greatest strength is in our service to others but we are humans and from time to time, we grasp our time, money, energy and possessions to ourselves, turning from the path of service to a path of selfishness.
And so after a prayer and hymn acknowledging and praising God’s goodness and greatness, we confessed to God our lapse from the way we are supposed to follow.




Prayer of Confession
All:
Eternal God, our judge and redeemer, we confess that we have tried to hide from you, for we have done wrong. We have lived for ourselves and apart from you.
We have turned from our neighbors and refused to bear the burdens of others.
We have ignored the pain of the world and passed by the hungry, the poor, and the oppressed. In your great mercy, forgive our sins and free us from selfishness,
that we may choose your will and obey your commandments;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
We then turned to God for assurance of forgiveness.

Prayer of Assurance
—from A Wee Worship Book, pp. 19-20 © 1999, by WGRG The Iona Community (Scotland). Used by permission of GIA Publications, Inc
Leader: Among the poor, among the proud, among the persecuted, among the privileged,  Christ is coming to make all things new: That the kingdom might come, that the world might believe, that the powerful might stumble, that the hidden might be seen: Christ is coming to make all things new. Within us, without us, behind us, before us, in this place, in every place, for this time, for all time. Christ is coming to make all things new. Our sins are forgiven! Thanks be to God.





Offering and Prayer
Generous God, we give you thanks for all the gifts that you give to us – the gifts of life and love, the gifts of your grace coming to us in Jesus Christ. Accept and bless these gifts and our lives as we offer them as our grateful response. Amen
 
The Service of the Word.
Bible readings  Glen Henderson
Isaiah 58 This reading admonishes the people for seeking glory for showy religious behaviours but they are set back on their heels and told that serving the poorest and the lowliest is true service to God.
Luke 10: 25-37 This exchange took place hundreds of years after the utterance of the words in Isaiah but the young man still hasn't understood, like so many in every age. Maybe because showy temple/church actions are easier than true service.

Address
Heather Pinto outlined the various types of help given to people in our district who are having a tough time and added that counselling was given so the that people who needed help have a better chance of making independent decisions for themselves, thereby giving them the gift of dignity along with the gifts of material
things.






The Lectionary reading theme for October has been “All are Welcome” and the questions posed are:
What does a welcoming Christian Community look like?
What are you prepared to give up to follow Jesus?
What is your experience in the ministry of serving others?
When in need of healing, what do you do? How is your faith?
The questions prepare us for being the people who can heal ourselves and then be fit to serve others. We can give people water from an empty bucket.
 
The service was closed in prayer for others…another type of service…and the singing of hymns
The last two hymns were : Hymn TIS 650Brother, sister let me serve you”. and
Hymn TIS 658 “I, the Lord of sea and sky” which tied it all together.
 
 
   
 
 
  
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

The Servant

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 19, 2018 - 1:27pm

Once, in a time long past but remembered in stories and recalled by bits of pottery dug up from mounds of earth that experts say were once towns, there lived a servant. This servant, or so he proclaimed himself, had no visible master. This peculiarity disturbed many people who met him. His job, if you could call it a job, was to do the will of his master, who had sent him to serve those whom he met. Exactly when he had become a servant is not agreed upon in the memory of his friends (who were few), though many people flocked to see him at work, doing his master's will.
People came from far and wide to witness the great things that the servant was doing. He himself took no credit for his work, he was, he always said, only serving his master. His master must have been very poor himself, for the servant lived on the land and from gifts that were given to him by the people to whom he was sent to serve. He had no fine clothes, his accent was coarse, and he was not particularly attractive physically. There was no deceit in his words. He spoke only truth. In his presence the sick were healed, the lame walked, the deaf could hear, the dumb could speak. Before him, all evil fled.

Eventually, the servant drew such crowds that the governor of the region and the police were threatened with his presence. The local ministers and boards of the local church found fault with the way he talked about God. Therefore, the two groups, politicians and religious leaders, conspired to have him arrested on false charges and put to death-for the good of the people, of course. The servant was obviously a dangerous man. A wandering servant with no visible means of support and no verifiable master was dangerous to the wealth and wisdom of the world.
The authorities oppressed him at every turn, forcing him to flee for his life, but the servant did not complain. In fact, eventually he let himself be captured, walked into an ambush when he could have fled. Court convened in the middle of the night. The state's witnesses were brought to speak against him. A mob denounced him. He was despised and rejected. Given over to the guards, he was beaten and bruised, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, the humble servant was taken away to his death. In the end he was alone, his master did not come to defend him from death. He died.
The servant died a death reserved for the unrighteous. A rich man donated a grave site for him, a cave dug from the cliff. Some women and the rich man took the servant's body and placed it in the tomb. Then soldiers rolled a large rock into the entrance of the tomb and stood watch to make sure, there was no disturbance or unrest. His few friends deserted the servant and hid behind closed doors in fear of their lives. This is not a very pleasant story, but it is very plausible. The world is cruel to the goodness and selflessness of servant hood. Everyone wants to be a master. Powerful oppressors fear truth and power that is not theirs to control. Not much, hope for servants, at least not much hope for servants of the invisible master (if there are any still walking the earth, or ever were).
However, this story does not end there, and this is the suspicious part, the part that only certain people accept. However, servants of the invisible master, whoever they are, accept it. The story told among the servants is that on the first day of the week some women friends of the servant went to the cave tomb and found it empty. That's not the end of the story either. His friends, hiding out behind locked doors, say that the servant came and stood in their midst and gave them a gift of new life. Others of his friends say that he appeared to them, but they did not recognise him until they sat down and ate together.

His friends say the servant still lives in the hearts of those who will let him into their hearts. They know this because they see the servant at work in women and men who are also willing to let themselves be servants of the invisible master. The living servants find that, still, truth is not always welcome and that power respects power and not servant hood. But in service of the master they find joyful life everlasting and that is worth all that servant hood brings.Once, the servant said to his friends some great words of truth that came quietly, intimately, as secrets are told among friends. The servant also stated that whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all.
Jesus is the servant. God was his invisible master. We, if we choose to be, are the friends through whom the servant still serves all people: the rich, the poor, the outcast, the popular, the illiterate, and the educated--all people. The invitation is always open to let Jesus be a servant to us and through us for the salvation of the world. Even today, the invitation is always open to receive the servant into our hearts so that he may lead us to eternal life.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Uniting Church 14 October 2018

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - October 18, 2018 - 9:32am

 
 
MARSDEN ROAD UNITING CHURCH SUNDAY 14th October.
Gathering Gods People
 
Today I was unable to attend this service, so for the first section, I have given you the direct words of the service so you can be blessed as were those who were present on the day.
 
 Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourable in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,
 
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2018)
“Still I’m not annihilated by darkness; [God] has hidden deep darkness from me.”
 In times of trouble, in times of joy ...we call upon the name of God.
With steadfast faith, with wavering doubt ... we call upon the name of God.
Basking in God’s presence, aching in God’s absence ... we call upon the name of God.

 HymnTIS 727: In the presence of your people

Opening Prayer
 Holy One, we call upon your name this day. When you seem most absent, we yearn to hear your voice. When you seem most present, we long to follow your teachings. Be with us now. Strengthen and guide us, that we may trust your call and follow your lead. In doubt, in trust, but most of all in hope, we pray. Amen.

 Prayer of Confession
 Mysterious One, we cry out in our times of need—
for hope in times of despair, for faith in times of doubt, for comfort in times of grief, for grace in times of sin, and for love in times of loneliness. Answer our cry.
Be our refuge and our help. Restore our lives.
Revive our hope. Return us to the path of discipleship, where we may walk with you anew in confidence and joy.
In the name of Christ, our rock and our redeemer, we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Draw near to Christ, who is our mercy and our grace, for in Christ, we are restored and made whole. In the name of Christ, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. Thanks be to God!

 The Peace
 Creating us all as equals, and calling us to be generous in our faith, the Lord invites us to offer gestures of welcome as we share the peace of Christ.
Peace be with you! And also with you

HymnTIS589: Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
                  
 
 
The Service of the Word. I have deleted much to concentrate of the following part of the service.

Hebrews 4:12-16
 12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart…16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Mark 10:17-31
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions…
Preaching of the Word

Ask a Simple Question - Mark 10:17-31
A summary of some of Rev. John’s words to the congregation:
Haven’t you ever wished that you could get this one shot? That you could cut through the crowd all around Jesus, go right up to him and ask the one question you’ve always wanted to ask? I can’t count the number of times someone has found out that I am a minister and then blurted out,
“Can I ask you a question? What does the Bible say about . . .?” The character in this passage asks a simple enough question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…
 One problem with this story is that we don’t quite know what to do with Jesus’ answer!… 
If we interpret the passage in this concrete way, however, Jesus’ instructions to the man don’t quite fit with the rest of the passage or with what we know about God’s grace. Surely, we do not pay our way into the kingdom of God, into the Resurrection. Whatever eternal life is about, it is not a financial transaction. Eternal life is a gift from God. Interpreting this passage as a simple pay-as-you-go deal makes God into an extortionist, not a loving parent. We have to keep looking to understand what Jesus means here.
 Perhaps Jesus is pushing us to see that we cannot earn our way into the dominion of God no matter what we do. … This passage is about more than our internal attitude toward money. Jesus really does call us to give, to share, to sacrifice.
My own view of this is that Jesus simply wanted the young man to offer all that he was and had to God. All we are and have is a gift from God and our part is to relinquish our grasp on whatever that is so that God can make use of it in the building of the kingdom.

 Benediction
 Go now in hope. Go now in love. And may the peace that passes all understanding guide you along the way. And may the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life be with you and remain with you always.

HymnTIS  779: May the feet of God walk with you
 
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Can We Let Go?

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 12, 2018 - 12:28pm

We all have heard the saying, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die." Many who are Christian have grown up hearing children's sermons or Sunday school lessons that describe the Christian life as a journey to heaven. It's as if heaven is some place "out there," out of our reach or experience, but if we live good lives and are not bad boys and girls, when we die we will go to heaven. The man in the scripture from Mark 10 is not talking about going to heaven. He's interested in how to experience eternal life in the here-and-now.
Perhaps in exploring his profound question, we can lay to rest the notion that heaven or eternal life, whichever expression we choose, is a "place" or something outside and unreachable through human experience. We are all conditioned by our environment. What have we kept since we were little children? As adults, we bring our histories, circumstances, and experiences with us. Our outlook on life is tied to this conditioning. Parents, teachers, friends, neighbours, work associates, and enemies have all contributed to who we are, what we think, and how we live.
The man in Mark's story (Mark 10:17-31) was also conditioned by such influences. He never murdered anyone, didn't run around on his wife, never stole anything from anybody, never told a lie, had not defrauded anyone, and had honoured his parents. This man could be described as the preeminent community example of integrity. But there was one thing in his life that had taken complete hold of him—his possessions.

I am persuaded that Jesus never talked about "going to heaven." He talked about "experiencing heaven." As he said, "The kingdom of heaven is among [or within] you." He never talked about us being good in this life, so we can get to heaven; he talked about heaven in this life. What the man in the story needs to do is what we all need to do— discern and discover how to allow ourselves to be claimed by the love of God. In doing so, we embark on a lifetime journey (now and eternal) of experiencing the goodness of God, the same goodness that claimed Jesus.
We do know that this man had many possessions and in another of the Gospel’s Luke describes him as a ruler which may be significant. As a ruler, he would know what it was to have power over peoples' lives. Who better than this man to understand the power of possessions over one's own life? I believe this man leads us all to Jesus. We all have something that possesses, or rules, and interferes with us living life on God's terms. The man's question is our question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Let's pause and consider why he used the word inherit.

The word inherit in the text is klironómisi in Greek. One of its shades of meaning is "to share in." The man is essentially asking, "What must I do to share in God's blessings?" Jesus tells him that he needs to come to grips with the one thing that keeps him from sharing life on God's terms, namely, his wealth. It is clear from the man's response that he has much work to do. He realises it will be nearly impossible for him to relinquish what he holds dear. It is his barrier to sharing in the blessings of God.
What must you and I do to share in the promise of God's blessings? What areas of our lives need some work so that we may share in God's life, life that is eternal? Based on Jesus' encounter with the man, God understands that we all have something in our lives that rules us. It is no accident that the writer notes Jesus' encounter is based on his compassion toward the man.  
We Christians follow the teachings of the one who completely understands how difficult—but not impossible—it is to rule over those things that would dominate us or rule over us. The person of Jesus shows us how to live such a life. So, what are our "rulers"? What gets in our way of being followers of Jesus' example? What sends us away shocked and grieving because we think we cannot live without them? Is it wealth, our phone, our position or even a prized possession? Each of us must answer this question for ourselves.


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Deep Connection.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - October 5, 2018 - 2:08pm
"This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," says Adam in the Hebrew Scripture called Genesis. Adam immediately recognises his deep connection to the new human being standing before him, a connection that God has woven deeply into the fabric of their lives. For us in the West today, it's very easy for us to focus only on the individuality of Adam and Eve-the union of a single man and a single woman that the ancient story seems to represent.
And it's easy for us to carry that individualistic notion of marriage into Jesus' teachings about divorce, too. It is still too easy sadly, for us today to take the worst of patriarchy and act as if women were not partners, inferior and of less value than our animals.  This still true often during divorce.  When Jesus talks about the dissolution of marriage in today's Gospel, our cultural and legal perspective tempts us to hear him talking only about a man and woman: two individuals who entered into covenant with each other-and we are tempted to hear that the pain of divorce involves only them, at least for the most part.
But in Jesus' time, marriage and divorce were not just about the man and the woman. They were about two families representing many generations, property, honour, and status. Divorce was not just an individual event; it was a risky break of confidence that could lead to family feuds, shame, and hardship for numerous people. The hardness of heart Jesus speaks of seems not only to point to the potential suffering of the woman, who must return in shame to her family of origin; but it also points to the suffering of two entire families and the greater community.
For those of us today who have lived through the pain of divorce, whether our own or others', this ancient understanding of marriage and divorce seems to ring truer than we might think at first. Even today, marriage and divorce affect many more than just those who sign the forms and enter or dissolve the legal contracts. Eve with the acceptance of same gender relationships and marriage not just one part of the relationship suffers but many of the relationships that are part of the two people’s lives. They often affect parents, friends, and siblings, who sometimes wrestle with the part they played or failed to play in a marriage or relationship that didn't work; and they certainly impact children as their schedules and lives must be forever altered.
Jesus' hard teaching about marriage and divorce, then, isn't just for a man and woman. Likewise, the recognition of Adam when he sees Eve is ultimately is a profound statement about how interconnected the whole human family really is. It is about how divorce, as painfully necessary as it can sometimes be, ultimately tears at the fabric of this human family and affects all of us, and the world around us. And here is where today's teaching about divorce touches our world and our church. Divorce is not just about two people. It's about all of those places where we have become hard of heart and have failed to recognise each other as "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;" places where we tear and unbind, sometimes mercilessly, the ties between us that God made at the foundation of creation.
It's that hardness that we struggle with as we watch the painful realities of conflict in our worlds politics. As we watch people like the US President and our Australian Conservative politicians tear their respective nations apart instead of seeking good for all.  This is important as we reckon with hunger and disease in the world, as wealthy and poor become further divided; as we suffer fear from the cold heartedness that brings war and terrorism to us and to our sisters and brothers abroad; and as we struggle, with abuse that we often heap on the natural world, divorcing ourselves from our deep ties with the natural order and the heritage of a healthy planet we are called by our God to be leaving for our children.
And it is also this hardness that we must be wary of in a time when some in our greater community talk about schism in politics and breaking away. It comes at a time when some in the Uniting Church contemplate divorcing their part of the church as we of the nascent and growing Uniting denomination know it. Of course, the reality is that there will continue to be divorce. And it will be painful. No contract, prenuptial agreement, certificate of dismissal, or any other carefully crafted parting of the ways can get us off that hook.
Jesus holds up that pain to the Pharisees, and to us today as the need and the longing for deep connection that God intends for all of us. It is that hope that we celebrate together when we gather to pray and when we break bread together.  It's a hope that Jesus witnesses to in his life, and that Christ brings to us through the resurrection. And that hope is the good news that runs like a thread through this week’s scripture passages from the three-year lectionary.
We are a family, a community, a people, and a world that suffers from divorce of all kinds. But it is precisely that world that God in Christ enters - and not just with a hope to ultimately end divorce, but with a mission to heal all of us who suffer from it; to heal our hardness of heart, and to help us recognise again that we truly belong to each other, to the world we call home, and we belong ultimately to a God who has, for all eternity, refused to divorce us.
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