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Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Earth Belongs to God

Psalm 24:1-2

Good morning,

During the week you might have heard in the news that the United Nations Climate Change Panel is now 95% certain that climate change is caused by humans (up from 90% in its previous report.)

Climate change is a big issue for politicians and businesses. We've seen the carbon tax introduced, dramatically reduce Australia's carbon emissions and now about to be axed and replaced with a different scheme, which will hopefully have as much of an effect. This is an issue world leaders need to work on at a global level.

It's also an issue for us, in our own homes and community, in how we exercise our faith daily. Human beings are breaking the earth, and it's not ours to break. It's God's. Human beings have the task of caring for the earth. But the earth is God's handiwork and God's possession.

There are some simple things we can do to minimise our carbon impact: we can turn off standby power on products (turn things off at the wall when we are not using them); turn off lights when we're leaving the room (if there's no-one else using them); change to lower energy consuming lights and products; use public transport where we can; try to organise tasks so as to do as many as possible in one car journey; to try to buy food and other items that haven't travelled huge distances to get to us.
For those who are able, switching to solar power and cars that use less fossil fuels are also ways to help protect this planet.

It's a matter of using what we need, without waste: being thankful for, and respectful of, what God has provided.
Grace and peace,
Iris



Friday, 20 September 2013

Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 19
Good morning,
This week I saw a silent film, only a few minutes long, which in a couple of minutes told a horrible story about some of the effects first world wealth are having on the third world.
The film was called “Sodom and Gomorrah.”
You'll recall the Biblical story: the residents of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah were so evil that God decided to destroy them both. Abraham asked for God to save his nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom. As the story goes on we discover that Lot's just as bad as his neighbours. Two angels visit Lot to warn him to take his family and leave town. The men of Sodom demand Lot hand the guests over to be gang raped, Lot offers his daughters instead. (Lot really wasn't any better than the other Sodomites.) The people of Sodom failed to respect, let alone love, their neighbours.

So on to the film.
Have you ever wondered what happens to computers, and other electronic waste discarded by the first world?
Well, a lot of it gets dumped, either legally or illegally, in impoverished towns in the third world.
The very short film Sodom and Gomorrah, shows the people working in one of these dumping grounds. They have no protective equipment as they burn plastics, etc, to recover small amounts of valuable metals.

Their town is covered in the remains of burned electronic equipment, toxic smoke, and mountains of the western world's rubbish. Because everything is burned, and of the poisonous smoke, the town is known as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Only this time, the town wasn't destroyed by the residents' lack of love for their neighbour. This time it was destroyed by the first world's lack of respect or love for our poorer neighbours, and for the environment God created.
Grace and peace
Iris


If you want to see the film for yourself, the link is: http://www.upworthy.com/want-to-see-how-big-first-world-problems-can-get-2?c=ufb1

Friday, 13 September 2013

Reflection: Asylum Seekers

Matthew 25:31-46
Good morning,

Jesus himself comes to us in the form of the person in need. In our time in history, asylum seekers, displaced persons who have to flee their homes, and leave behind everything to try to find a safe place to live, are surely an excellent example of the person in need.

Our outgoing government had recently begun to inflict harsh punishment on asylum seekers who came here by boat, in an attempt to discourage the dangerous ocean crossing, but had at the same time planned to increase our humanitarian migrant intake.  Our incoming government has not indicated any better welcome for people who have come by boat, and has promised to reduce our humanitarian intake.

At the same time, the devastating civil war in Syria is dramatically increasing the number of desperate, displaced people in the world, who need somewhere safe to live. A huge numbers of these people have fled their homes in fear of their lives. A proportion of those have sold everything they own and borrowed all that they can to pay people smugglers to get them to a safe place, and are willing to risk their lives to do so.

When we live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, with one of the best economies, it is clear that these people who have lost everything really are “the least of these”.

As a nation, we are not showing love and compassion.  But we still have some choices. We are free to tell, and continue to tell, our politicians that this response is just not good enough.  As a community of faith, and as individuals of faith, we can look for ways we can respond. Most importantly, we can ensure we are not hardened against seeing the face of Christ whenever we see an asylum seeker in need.

Grace and peace,
Iris

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Sunday 14th April 2013


Service for Sunday 14th April 2013
godhelpus.cheezburger.com

Year C Easter 3

Call to Worship Psalm 30 (responsive) from Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 147 To God be the Glory

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,
You have always loved this world you made, and have always loved us, the creatures of your world. You loved this world so much as to give it the gift of Your Son.
He came into this world, and gave us one command: to love. Because he loved us, we were asked to show his love, to reflect it in every aspect of our lives and our dealings. He commanded us to love you, to love each other, even to love the unlovely, even to love those who have hated and mistreated us.
Sometimes it is hard to love. It is hard to love our enemy. It is hard to love those who persecute us.
To love means to forgive, and there are so many kinds of wounds to forgive. There are the wounds which everyone can see. The physical scars which tell their own story, which are open and honest and visible. Your Son knows the pain of these kinds of wounds, the wounds of the nails in his hands and feet. They are the wounds which are often easiest to cure. They can be seen, investigated, and treated. Many physical wounds will heal and leave only a scar as a sign of where the hurt has been.
There are the wounds which on-one sees. The wounds which are kept secret in the quietest, darkest parts of our lives. There are wounded memories, wounded emotions, wounded relationships, wounded consciences. Your Son also knows about these wounds: the wounds of being betrayed with a kiss, being abandoned by friends, being denied by a loved one.  These are injuries which can hurt the most and do the most damage, unseen.
Yet, for all their pain, we tend to cling to our hurts. Instead of opening them to the air and letting them heal, we hide them away and let them continue to fester. We hold tight to our hurts and we do not know how to let them go. And so we become trapped, held in the prison of past things, and suffering under the power of past persecutors. Your Son showed us the way to escape this prison, praying forgiveness on those who had hurt him.
Gracious God, send the breath of your Spirit into our lives. Release us from the unnecessary burdens of pain and hurt which we carry. Heal those parts of our lives which keep us trapped.  Help us to truly forgive so we can truly love.  And when we truly love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we will know that we are free, and that we are healed.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus not only teach us to forgive those who have harmed us, but he shows us how it is done, by forgiving us all that we have done.
So I have confidence to say to you: Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!

Kids’ time

Hymn Together in Song 209 And can it be

Scripture
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19
Reader: This is the Word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God

Sermon
“I’m going fishing,” Peter said.  I heard it used once as an example to show that Christians suffer stress as much as anyone else.

Peter definitely had something to be stressed about.

Try putting yourself in his place for a while.

Jesus had said to him, “You’ll deny me three times.”

At the dinner table, sharing in a celebration and surrounded by friends, the idea must have seemed absurd. Of course he would never deny Jesus.

 In the safety of that room, Peter said exactly what he was thinking, “No, I wouldn’t deny you, even if I have to die with you.”

But later that night, when it wasn’t so safe, when many of the people around him weren’t friends, when there really was a risk he might with Jesus; he did deny him, three times, just as Jesus said.

There’s a huge difference between being theoretically willing to give up one’s life, and actually coming forward when the risk is real.

Peter had done what very many people would have done in the same situation. And really, his speaking up at that time would probably not have made any real difference to what was to come. But having made that choice, he was left with the guilt of having done it.

Have you ever done something you were sure you would never do? Something for your own self-protection or self-benefit, that harms someone else?

When we do things for our own self-protection, knowing that we have let someone down, we are often left feeling guilty. Sometimes we deserve the guilt. Sometimes, we don’t. But the feeling is the same, whether or not we have really earned it.

In Peter’s case, his denial ensured he stayed alive. He would not have been able to save Jesus, and there would have been no purpose served by his death anyway.  Perhaps Jesus already knew this when he predicted Peter’s denial.

When Jesus took Peter aside and asked three times, whether Peter loved him, it wasn’t some sort of test.

Peter had denied Jesus, and had done so three times. He was carrying the guilt of doing that, and the hurt associated with his feelings of guilt. Peter was never going to be effective in carrying the message of the resurrection while he was carrying his own personal burden of guilt.  He was more likely to give up and just go back to fishing.

In asking three times for Peter to affirm his love, Jesus might have upset Peter, but he also gave him the opportunity to bring that guilt out into the open and deal with it. Each of those times Peter had denied Jesus was now compensated for with an affirmation of his love.

Through having the wounds of guilt which Peter carried opened, and healed, he was able to do exactly what Jesus was sending him to do , to care for the sheep, those who Jesus himself cared for.

It hurts to have what we’ve done wrong brought out into the light. But usually we have to face up to what we’ve done wrong if we ever want to be part of putting it right. We can’t accept forgiveness without admitting that we need it.

There would come a time when Peter would again be called on to risk his life in claiming his allegiance to Jesus, and in this future time, a much stronger and more mature Peter would sacrifice his life for that allegiance.

When we’ve faced up to the things we have done wrong, and have known God’s love and forgiveness, it helps us learn and to grow, and it can make us stronger people for the next time we’re in a difficult situation.


Hymn Together in Song 393 Christ is alive, with joy we sing

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People
Gracious God,
you know the needs of this world,
you know where there are nuclear missiles
you know where there are incurable diseases
you know where there are lives that could be saved by clean water
you know where people are living in fear
you know where people are starving
you know where people are homeless
you know where children are not being educated.
God you know it all.
You know the needs of this world,
and you know all of the needs we have,
and the people we are concerned about.
And so we come to you in prayer,
knowing that you already know it all,
knowing that your love is greater than all of our needs,
and we pray for your healing, peace, and love to change what is wrong in this world
and we offer ourselves to help be part of that change, wherever you would have us be.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Passing of the peace

Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ

Service of Holy Communion

Hymn All Together OK 413 The Summons

Benediction

Threefold Amen

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Reflection: Christmas Condescension

Philippians 2:5-8
godhelpus.cheezburger.com

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend who could not understand how I could accept that the theory of evolution was probably right, and still maintain my faith.

My point had been that human beings can't limit God - who are we to say whether or not God might choose to work through evolution or any other means?

Yes, the first of the two creation stories in the Bible say the world was created in seven days - but that is not written as history, but as a wonderful hymn in praise of God's creativity. (The Bible contains many different kinds of literary forms - narrative, poetry, hymns, laments, history, etc. The form of the first chapter of Genesis is a poem or hymn of praise, so it makes perfect sense that it contains the same kind of figurative language that other poems or hymns will contain.)  It was written by human beings who were not there when the world was created (think of God challenging Job - "where were you when I created....?") And really, it's not about the details of how, but about praising the who - the God who made all things happen. That's a digression, so let's get on with the point.

My friend's concern was that we are made in the image of God - if we evolved from pond scum, how can pond scum be the image of God?

Human beings are made in the image of God in that we are spiritual beings, as God is.  We're also physical beings which God is not. We are bound by the limitations of our bodies - young and old, male and female, age and youth, life and death.  By nature, God does not have any of these limitations. God is wholly Spirit.

In the scale of things, there is a much greater difference between God and human beings, than there is between human beings and pond scum.

One of the most remarkable things about Christmas is that God has condescended to be what God is not.  God, in Jesus, chose to share our physical nature, our limitations, our pain and suffering. In Philippians we are told Jesus "emptied himself" - he gave up his own nature as God - to spend a human lifetime, albeit a brief one, experiencing the life of a part of creation. We often look at what the pain of Easter cost Jesus, and cost the whole of the Trinity.  We don't often stop to think of the cost of Christmas.

For our sake, Jesus left the perfection of Heaven, for a world corrupted by human evil. For our sake, he experienced the limits of a human body - which was totally alien to his God-nature. For our sake, he experienced the poverty of homelessness - being placed in a manger at birth because there was no appropriate place available. For our sake, he was a refugee, fleeing persecution from an evil dictator when he was still an infant. For our sake, he experienced living under foreign military rule, being persecuted and rejected, being tortured and killed.

To my friend who says pond scum could not be the image of God, I would suggest that pond scum has never perpetrated the evils that human beings have.

Human beings are the only thing in creation that intentionally harm each other, and intentionally harm the rest of God's creation. Other creatures may kill for food, but we kill our own species to gain power. And yet, Jesus condescended to be one of us. While we are spiritual beings made in the image of God, in our actions and our treatment of each other, we are the least God-like creatures imaginable. What a painful thing it must have been for Jesus to become one of us!

This year, when we celebrate, and share our gifts and food and all of the things that we enjoy, may we remember that the most costly gift of all was the gift of Jesus, who being one with God, emptied himself of his own nature, to be one with us.