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Thursday, 31 May 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 3rd June, 2012: The Trinity



Last week, I told you about Athanasius, one of my favourite early church theologians.  Let’s carry that on to another of my favourites: Gregory of Naziansus.

                In Gregory’s time, the debate was not about whether Jesus was God or human. It was about whether Father, Son and Holy Spirit were three Gods – or one God appearing in three ways, or whatever.

                The final understanding, the one Christians have been struggling to get our minds around ever since, was that there are three beings or persons, in one essence. Father, Son, and Spirit are separate individuals, but live as one God-ness. 

                Early church theologians used a number of analogies to explain what this meant. For example,  a spring leads to a stream which leads to a river – they’re all the same water, all the same “thing” essentially, but they are all different as well.  There was the roots, trunk and branches – all the same tree, all the same thing, but they have their own unique properties as well.

                My favourite explanation was from Gregory.  I haven’t read this in over a decade, so I can’t give you the exact words, but it was something like this:  What was Adam? A creature made by God. What was Eve? She was Adam’s rib, the same thing as Adam, but she was also another creature made by God.  What was Seth? He was Adam and Eve’s son, he was both of them – the same stuff – but he was also another creature made by God. They were three people, but they were also all the same thing as Adam.

                There’s all sorts of other ways people have tried to explain the Trinity over the years. One from the Greek church which I find quite wonderful is “perichoiesis” - a dance. In this dance, there are three dancers, at different times they each are featured more prominently, but they are all always there, dancing together.             

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Worship Service for Sunday 27th May 2012 (Year B. Pentecost.)



Worship Service for Sunday 27th May 2012
Year B. Pentecost.

Call to worship
We are invited here by God:
who never leaves us on our own
Who comes as near as our breathing
Who moves with the wind
Who burns in our lives as fire.
Let us worship God

Hymn Together in Song 407 Breathe on me, breath of God

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Living God,
When the earth was formed – you spoke your Word over it and breathed your Spirit into it – to give it life.
Every breath we take each day, is a reminder of your life-giving Spirit, breathed into us, enlivening us.
We thank you that you never leave us alone. In all your sadness and despair, along with our joy and hope, you are present with us.
Your Spirit accompanies us one very step of life’s journey.
Even when we turn our backs on you – your Spirit does not leave us, but remains, patiently sustaining our lives and waiting in love to guide us back to you.

We confess that we do turn our backs on you – we fail to love you with all that we are and all that we have. And we fail to love our neighbour as ourselves.
We thank you for your great mercy and love.
Love so great that Jesus would die for us.
Love so great that, even knowing our sinfulness, your Spirit would enable us to come into relationship with you.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus died and rose again so we might be forgiven our sins and raised to new life.
The Spirit has come so that we will never face life on our own.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!

Kid’s Time - Josh

Hymn Together in Song 412 God sends us his Spirit

Scripture - 
Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 409
During this hymn – everyone come out (as ready), light a candle and place on the communion table. 

Sermon
Most of us, by the time we reach adulthood, have experienced grief in some form or another. Some person, or even some pet, we love has died, and left us with that strange empty, despairing feeling – the sense that something is missing and can never be replaced.

Endless books have been written on the psychology of grief. But the best explanation I’ve read was in a book called “Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy, and Sometimes I Let Him Sleep.” The explanation of grief was simple. The good news about grief is that it’s like a game, an arcade game – pinball. The bad news is you’re the ball. That’s grief in a nutshell, you bounce from one emotion to another from highs to lows, back and forwards for no apparent reason.  And it can go on for months and years. Even when grief is “resolved” when you’ve come to terms with your loss, life will never be exactly as it was.

The disciples gathered behind locked doors.  The way the story is told, it’s not just the 12, but the wider group.  This was a group who were still in grief. They were waiting in Jerusalem, as Jesus had told them to do.

In a short space of time – about three years, they’d been gathered together,  around Jesus. They’d travelled with him, eaten with him, learned from him, and seen him perform miracles which confirmed he was no ordinary person. They’d come to believe he really was the Son of God.

Through all of this, they’d seen him argue with the civil and religious leaders of the nation, and make some powerful enemies. He’d defied every human authority; bowing only to the authority of God.

All of this – yet, when the soldiers came – he didn’t argue, didn’t fight back  There was none of the defiance that threw over the tables in the temple. The only point he chose to argue was that his followers should be allowed to go free.

And they did; in fear and confusion, and shock, they went free. They ran away. The whole thing must have seemed so incredibly unreal, a living nightmare.

As stories got out about the trial, and Jesus being passed from one authority to another, the fear and confusion and shock could only have grown. And then, those who had the courage to be there, could only look on helplessly as he was crucified.

Easter Sunday had brought another shock – death was no longer permanent. Even their most basic understandings about existence were challenged over the next 40 days as Jesus talked with them, showed them his scars, at with them, appeared in locked rooms. He did normal and abnormal things – but even normal activity had to be strange with someone they’d seen killed.

At the end of the 40 days, they lost him once more.  Imagine the grief of having lost someone they loved twice over!

So these were the people who’d gathered together – people who’d been on an emotional roller-coaster up and down between joy and hope, depression and despair. They were the last group of people you’d expect to be about to change the world!

But with God, an ending is never just an ending. Despair is never the end of the story, never the last chapter of the book. Death is a doorway into resurrection – the old passes away in order that the new may come.

So it was to a shocked, demoralised, despairing group of people, that God was revealed in a new way – a way that meant they and those who followed them would never be alone again. As God’s Spirit touched each life – people were empowered to go out – to spread the news of Jesus Christ – to change the world!

We may have times when we are despairing. We may have times when there seem to be only losses in our lives. But with God, an end is never just an ending, but always brings the hope of new beginnings. In the hardest times of our lives, when we need God the most, and are able to rely on ourselves the least – those are the times God often chooses to work miracles in and through us.


Hymn Together in Song 417 Loving Spirit, loving Spirit

Notices -

Offering

Prayers of the People
God of all,
We pray for your world
That your Spirit would move over it,
Just as in the time of creation
And bring new life.

We pray for your Church
That your Spirit would come upon it,
Just as on the day of Pentecost
And bring new life.

We pray for ourselves
That you would breath your Spirit into us,
Just as when you first formed us,
And bring new life.

In a time of silence, we pray for those things that are most on our hearts and minds…..

We pray in Jesus’ name and use his words…

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 411 Filled with the Spirit’s Power

Benediction

Threefold Amen


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday, 27th May, 2012: Old Friends


St Athanasius


Good morning,

Earlier this month my children gave me an ebook reader.  It’s excellent when my hands are sore and it’s difficult to hold a full paper book. It’s also excellent because a lot of older books, which are now out of copyright, are either free or incredibly cheap.

It’s meant I’ve been getting reacquainted with some old friends.  My latest friend to catch up with is one of my favourite early church theologians, Athanasius.  I’ve just finished re-reading his “The Incarnation”.

Most of the really important theological works of the early church came out of major disputes – and “The Incarnation” is no exception.  With this Athanasius would (eventually) settle one of the church’s major issues. Along the way he’d be declared a heretic and sent into exile several times. (While studying early church history, I used to imagine Athanasius keeping his suitcase packed beside the door waiting for the next time he was sent into exile.)

The dispute was what we call the “Christological Debate” it was the question of the nature of Jesus.  One extreme (which we call Arianism) said Jesus was God – and had just “put on” a human body – like an actor puts on a costume. This side of the argument said Jesus had never really experienced what it was like to be human, and had never felt any pain at the crucifixion, and hadn’t really died, it had all been an act.

The other extreme (known as Gnosticism, and very closely related to the modern New Age Religion) said Jesus was a very good human, who had achieved some level of divinity that other humans could achieve.

And then there was Athanasius who said both sides were wrong. In “The Incarnation” he said what is now one of the most basic beliefs of Christianity, that Jesus is both fully human and fully God. In his day, it was a radical statement, but it was one he supported from Christian Scripture for Christians, from the Jewish Scripture for Jews, and even from the world of Greek philosophy for the Greeks.

There’s so much in this one book that makes me love it, but it contains one of my favourite statements every by any theologian, and I would like to share that with you:  His body was for Him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that He was both in it and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time – this is the wonder – as Man He was living a human life, and as Word He was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son He was in constant union with the Father.

What an amazing thing God has done in Jesus – and for no other reason than out of love for us!

Grace and peace
Iris

"The Incarnation" - ebook and paper book links.





Friday, 18 May 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 20th May 2012: Doing the Time Warp



Good morning,
ABC News Photo of stand-off between police and protesters.

As some of you may know, I’ve been quite unwell this week.  That probably explains what’s been going on.  Maybe I’ve been hallucinating, or at least I hope I’ve been hallucinating.

You see, part-way through the week, I was convinced I’d fallen through some sort of time warp back to the early 1980s.  There were police out in force breaking up an Aboriginal protest in Musgrave Park.  There was a listener calling in to ABC radio to say he believed in “terra nullius,” that Aboriginal people never owned any part of Australia. There was an Aboriginal activist complaining about the government allowing an expansion of uranium mining on indigenous lands.  There was the chant from the 80s “always was, always will be Aboriginal land”.  Of course, this is the 21st century, and we’ve all learned the lessons of the past. We’ve had sorry days, and a Prime Ministerial apology to the stolen generation. We all understand each other better. None of this could really be happening now. Equally, I must have imagined that our newly-elected premier, in his maiden speech to parliament, would have paid tribute to a previous premier who presided over one of the most intolerant, and corrupt, periods of our state’s history.
ABC News Photo.

Queensland has a very sad history when it comes to loving our neighbour.  It seems that much of the intolerance and resentment has not gone away, just simmered under the surface of society.  It is exactly this kind of intolerance and resentment that Jesus addresses when he tells us not only to love our neighbour but also to love our enemy.

I hope and pray that Queenslanders really do understand love and acceptance, and that this unfortunate week is just an aberration.

Grace and peace
Iris

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Service for Sunday, 13th May 2012. Year B. Easter 6.


godhelpus.cheezburger.com


Call to worship
Psalm 98 Responsive from Uniting in Worship

Hymn Together in Song 217 Love divine, all loves excelling

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Gracious God,
We give you thanks and praise for all your wonderful gifts to us.
We thank you for the rain which refreshes and brings life to the earth.
It provides us with the water we need to survive, and reminds us of the wonderful ways you have used to show yourself to your people throughout time.
You brought the nation of Israel to birth as your people through the waters of the Red Sea. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus showed his solidarity with us by being baptised as a sinner – and was shown by your word and spirit to be your son. In the waters of our baptism you brought us to birth as your children.
We thank you for the sun which shines on the earth – giving warmth and light and life. It reminds us of the warmth and light of your love, and the life you have given us in Jesus.
We thank you for the wind which we can’t see, but which as the power to move things and generate energy, reminding us of your Spirit’s unseen but powerful presence.

And today we thank you for mothers – for those good mothers whose love is a reminder of your love for us.  We thank you for those people who have acted as good mothers towards us in varying stages of our lives, showing us love and care when we have needed it.

We confess that we have not been worthy of your gifts to us.
We are human and share the failings of all humanity.
In creating us, you gave us free will, and we have not always chosen the best use of our will. We have not always loved you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We have not always loved our neighbours as ourselves.

We have no excuse for our failings, and we cannot overcome them for ourselves. We give you thanks that in Jesus, you gave us the means for our failures to be forgiven and our lives to be renewed.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Like a mother bird caring for her chicks, God stretches out his wings to cover us and keep us safe.  Whatever we have done, and wherever we have been, God, in Jesus, calls us home to safety.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!

Kids’ Time

Hymn Together in Song 229 Jesus loves me, this I know

Scripture
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon
I wonder if you’ve ever had trouble trying to find the right word to say what you want to say?  I often do – but that’s called brain fog.  At other times, the problem is that there just doesn’t seem to be a word that exactly covers what I want to say. I think the people who translated the Gospel reading had this problem.  (Not brain fog – the issue of just not finding the exact word.) They’ve used a word in English that just doesn’t say all that the Greek does.

When Jesus says “You are my friends”, the word is actually much stronger than “friends”. What the original word used means is more like “you are the ones I love”. That’s more than a friend – perhaps that’s a best friend (or maybe even better than best friend.)

Today I want us to think about what it is to be best friends with Jesus. There’s a song by New Zealand band The Lads, “My Best Friend’s the Creator of the Universe.” (I don’t know how to get a recording of that on our screen here in church – but if you check the worship services website, I’ll put a link to it on You Tube if you’re interested.)


 Having God as “best friend” seems pretty impressive – but that is exactly what Jesus is inviting us all to in this passage from John’s gospel.

Children usually know what it is to have a “best friend”. I think adults might sometimes lose the importance of that one, best, closest friend.

You can go out and have fun with any of your friends. You can enjoy being with any of your friends. But there are some things you need a best friend for.

A best friend is someone you can confide in – someone who will keep all your secrets and never embarrass you. With a best friend, you’re free to be yourself – warts and all – and you know that you’ll always be accepted. When you’re in trouble, it’s your best friend you go to for help and you know they’ll always find a way to get you the help you need.

Best friends stand by each other, no matter how difficult the going gets. Jesus goes so far to say that a really best friend would be willing to die for his or her friends. Jesus didn’t just say it – he did it. This wasn’t just talk about some ideal. Jesus is the best friend any of us can have.

When you have a best friend, you’re never alone. You’ve always got someone to share the really good times, and the really bad times, and all the in-between times, with. Your friend knows you inside out – and you know your friend inside out – even though you don’t agree with each other all the time, you’re always willing to accept the differences and forgive the mistakes.

A best friend will understand you when no-one else does.

Jesus says, you’re not my servants; you’re my friends, best friends. And he proves his friendship by giving up his life, to cover for our mistakes and misdeeds. He proves his friendship by promising to be with us always, even when every other friend gives up. He is the one who understands us, better than anyone else, who is always there to support us, and will always forgive us. It’s Jesus we can always turn to no matter how bad the mess we get ourselves into.

Jesus says, you’re not my servants; you’re my friends, best friends. And what do we answer? After all, friendship’s a two-way street. It’s our choice. Will we be his best friends for him?

Hymn Together in Song 230 It passeth knowledge that dear love of thine

Notices

Offering

Prayers of the People
Gracious God,
You created the world and called it good, and you affirmed your love by sending your Son into the world. Because this is your world, we pray for it, knowing that you always want the best for your creation.

Too often, human beings have treated this world as if it had come about by some lucky chance, as if it didn’t really belong to anyone and we could do what we liked with it. The consequences of our foolishness are seen in the degradation of the soil, the pollution of the waterways, the smogging of the air. Teach us, and all people to look at creation as a wonderful work of art; to marvel at its detail and depth, to stand amazed at its balance and beauty. Help us all, as we gaze upon the work, to grow in our respect and admiration of the artist who created it.

Too often, human beings have treated each other as if some were less important than others, as if the other person was no so much human as ourselves. Even now, in a supposedly enlightened time, there are wars and acts of terrorism going on in the world. Save us from the sinfulness of seeing any human being as worthless.

Teach us, and all people, to see the face of Christ in the other person. In the face of the person who has no dignity, show us the face of the Christ who gave up a heavenly throne to become a human being.  In the face of the person suffering, show us the face of the Christ who chose torment and torture for our sake. In the face of the person we don’t agree with or don’t understand, show us the face of the Christ who said and did so many things that people didn’t agree with or didn’t understand. In the face of the person who tells us what we don’t want to hear, show us the face of the Christ who so often told people the truth they did not want to hear.

Too often human beings live as if we were independent creators of our own lives: as if we were self-made people. Teach us, and all people, to see that in our times of greatest weakness, our greatest vulnerability, you are our strength. Help us to rely on you, not on our own resources. Set our feet on the path to true greatness.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Passing the peace

Hymn Together in Song 538 Feed us now, Bread of life

Service of Holy Communion

Hymn Together in Song 599 Take my life and let it be

Benediction

Threefold Amen

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday, 13 May 2012: Who Is My Neighbour?

icanhascheezburger.com

Good morning,

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums!

Today may be a great day for florists and chocolate companies, but it’s also a great day to remember the unconditional love a good mother has for her child.  A good mum will love her child no matter what – even if sometimes that requires “tough love”.

That’s the kind of love Jesus set down for us when he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  We’re meant to love unconditionally – which means loving those who are not “like us” as much as we do those who are “like us”.

There are so many groups marginalized in society, simply because they are “different”, and we could talk about any number of them.  Today, I’d like to talk about people with mental health issues.

For some reason, society has developed this idea that having a mental illness is a sign of weakness or a personal failing, a character flaw.  Yet, just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses are simply health issues that can happen to anyone.  Most can be treated with therapy and with medication.  People can be afraid to seek medical help for depression, anxiety, bipolar, or even schizophrenia, because they fear the stigmatization that they could suffer. Yet these diseases, left untreated can be fatal.  Properly treated, people who suffer from these conditions lead happy, productive lives.

So while we’re remembering our mums today, and reflecting on that unconditional love that God shows us, and that good mums show their children, let’s recall that we are also called to love unconditionally – everyone.

Grace and Peace
Iris

Friday, 4 May 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 6 May, 2012: Counting My Blessings



Good morning,

As I write this, it’s my birthday, and I’m reflecting a bit on my life.  I’ve realised I have very much to be thankful for.

I may not be wealthy by Australian standards – but I always have enough to eat, and I have a home, and even my own transport. That makes me wealthier than a huge proportion of the world’s population.

I’m sick – but I’m sick in a country where the government subsidises medical care and medicines.  I’m much better off than many lupus patients even in the USA.

Even when we were in severe drought – I always had access to all the clean drinking water I could possibly need.

I’ve been reminded by the stream of birthday greetings on facebook and by text message that I have a lot of friends. I have wonderful kids, and an amazing church family.
                                                                                                                                
I’m able to write this because I have the benefit of an education, and the computer I’m writing with.

I may not be a Clive Palmer or a Gina Reinhart, but in real terms, I am one of the wealthiest people in the world.  God has given me all that I need.

I wonder if you might take some time this week and consider what amazing things God has given you too?

Grace and Peace
Iris.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Communify Charity Concert 19 May 2012

Communify Charity Concert
Presented by the Scomodo Voce Singers

Saturday 19 May, 7pm
Ashgrove West Uniting Church Hall
(491 Waterworks Road, Ashgrove, 4061)

Tickets: $10 for adults and $5 for children (or a bag of groceries.)
More Information Contact Joshua Blake 0434 865 005 / joshua.blake@uqconnect.edu.au

All proceeds will go towards buying groceries for the Communify Pantry which provides food to the economically disadvantaged.
For more information on the work of Communify go to www.communify.org.au