Friday, 29 June 2012

Prayer for Memorial Garden: Saturday 30th June 2012

1 Corinthinas 13:1-2
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

Holy God,
We thank you for the gift of love, the greatest of your gifts to us. Love is precious and beautiful. It is the most important thing in our lives, and the sign that we are truly made in your image.
But this gift of love comes at a price. The more we love the more it hurts us to be separated from those we love.
Today we remember those we have loved and have lost.  Assure us that they are safe in your care, that this parting is for now, not for ever.
Be with each person here who is grieving. Help each one through the pain, to the point where the memories are of the love and not of the pain of letting go.
We pray in Jesus’ name,

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 1st July 2012 Finding a Balance

Photos from Uniting Church Birthday Party last Sunday

Good morning,

I’ve just been reading our Scripture passages set for today, and a few verses from Corinthians stayed in my mind. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.

I wonder what a real balance between having too much and having too little would look like? Could we even imagine it?  The aim of those who manage our economy is that it should be always growing – that we should have more and more money moving, and people consuming more and more to make that money move.

What would happen if we all just stopped consuming? What would it look like if everyone said “enough is enough” and decided not to have more than they need.  I’ve heard reports of some economists who believe the constant growth in an economy is unsustainable – and that what we ought to be aiming for is a stable economy – one that neither grows nor shrinks.  

For that to happen, we’d all have to be satisfied with less, or at least with no more.  I wonder if we are even capable of doing that? For generations, we’ve been conditioned to want the latest and the best of everything.  Some technology is even designed to be redundant in a set time-frame. It would take a radical re-think of everything.  Businesses that now aim for continuously increasing profits would have to aim at keeping the same profit year after year.

While we in Australia keep seeking wealth, to have more and more, there are people in the world living on less and less.  I wonder how big the gap between wealth and poverty must become, before the wealthy become interested in seeking a balance.

Grace and peace

Friday, 22 June 2012

Service for Sunday 24th June 2012: Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Uniting Church

Call to worship
It’s our birthday!
The Uniting Church turned 35 years old on Friday.
In 1977, three churches joined together, in response to Jesus’ prayer “that they be one”, with the aim of becoming not just another denomination, but at being a dynamic movement for a symbol of wider Christian unity.

Hymn Together in Song 215 You servants of God, your Master proclaim

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

God of the church,
We thank you for your constant faithfulness to the church you called into being,
your promise to be our God,
As you invite us to be your people.

We confess
That we have not always been your faithful people
We have at times lost track of your call to love you first and foremost,
To love our neighbours as ourselves,
We repent and are sorry
For our failings,
And for our deliberate misdeeds
Forgive us our past, and guide us in our future,
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness

Kids’ Time – Ruth

Hymn Together in Song 670 Jesus put this song into our hearts

Scripture - Emma
Ephesians 2:19-22
John 17:1- 11
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!
My first memory of the Uniting Church is from when I was 11 years old. The Sunday school teacher asked who had been at our Sunday school before. I, along with all the other kids, put up my hand. And we were told we were wrong. It was an entirely new Sunday School, because it was an entirely new church.

As of Friday, that entirely new church is 35 years old.  Birthdays are a great time for reflecting on our past and looking forward to our future.  So we’re going to start that with a message from the Rev Alistair Macrae, the President of the Assembly.

Assembly video 35 years together

Sticky papers and pens left in the pews -  please write your favourite memories, your hopes for the future of the church – bring your papers forward and stick on the wrapping paper.

Hymn Together in Song 686  Lord Jesus, we belong to you

Notices - Emma


Prayers of the People
God of the church,
We pray for your church, especially that part of your church in which we live our lives.
We pray for the Assembly of the Uniting Church, and its President Rev Alistair Macrae,
We pray for our Synod and its Moderator Rev Kaye Ronalds, and for all of the other synods,
We pray for the life of our Moreton Rivers Presbytery, and all of the other presbyteries,
We pray for our congregation, and all of the other congregations.

Gracious God,
May we always faithfully be your son’s body in this world.
May we always show love for you in all that we do
May we always show love for our neighbour
May we always be the prophetic voice that calls for justice for the widows and orphans – those who are most vulnerable in our day and age.

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 687 God gives us a future


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 24 June 2012: 35 Years of the UCA

Good morning,

On Friday, the Uniting Church in Australia turned 35 years old.  This week, I’ve been re-reading Baptism of Fire, John Harrison’s book about the first decade of the life of our church.

I came across these wonderful quotes, from the year after the church’s formation:

The Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, said today many Christians were deeply disturbed at trends in the Uniting Church in Queensland. He said they were concerned at the way the church was being manipulated into supporting left wing causes. Dwindling congregations showed the church was losing what moral influence it had left. The church was also closely associated with causes being promoted by the Communist Party, atheists and humanists.  – Qld Premier’s Department news release 1978.
We who are nourished in the brilliant insight of the Bible, who are the heritors of Calvin, Knox, Cromwell and Wesley, need no political parties, socialist or otherwise, to form our minds on the proper liberties of Christian subjects. – Qld UCA Moderator Rev Rollie Busch, 1978.

The issue under debate at the time,  was the handing over of church mission stations to state control.  The church wanted the indigenous residents of those communities involved in decisions regarding how their communities would be run – the government simply wanted to take over without reference to anyone. At stake was the continuing access to the natural resources (bauxite, etc) which the government had been selling to mining companies, without returning anything to the communities.

Our origins as a church were embroiled in controversy.  Even the inauguration and induction of the first president was met with protest by an anti-ecumenical group.

Throughout the last 35 UCA has throughout the years risked controversy in its struggle to do what faith and theology have told us was right. Through that time, lots of people have echoed Sir Joh Bejlke-Petersen in predicting the decline and end of the church.  Comments like “last one out, turn off the lights,” have been made again and again. Yet, we’re still here.  And we will still stand up for what faith, informed with sound theology, will tell us is right.

Happy Birthday, to a courageous, faithful, and daring church.

Grace and peace

Reference: HARRISON, John. Baptism of Fire: The First Ten Year of the Uniting Church in Australia. Melbourne: Uniting Church Press, 1986.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Newsletter Reflection For Sunday 17th June 2012: What is Marriage?

Good morning,

This week the state premier announced a change to civil unions – they would go on being registered, but there would no longer be a ceremony to celebrate them so as to avoid offending Christians.

Leaving aside the question of how weak a person’s faith must be if it is damaged by someone else’s commitment to a lifelong relationship, this raises the whole question of what marriage actually is, anyway.

Marriage, as we know it, is not the way marriage has always been, or has always been celebrated.

In Biblical times, it wasn’t celebrated as a religious ceremony, but as a civil and legal matter – a property transaction.  Remember the story of Jacob, working for Laban for seven years for his wife – and then being cheated into taking the wrong sister, and having to work another seven years for Rachael. A woman was a piece of property. She was owned by her father until sold to her husband. There was no need for her to consent or to be involved in the negotiations in any way.

The church became involved in marriages when couples began going to seek a blessing for their marriage on the steps of the church – over time a blessing on the steps became a blessing inside the building.  But marriage was still always a civil and legal matter – the church’s involvement was only to bless what had been done through civil channels.

In much of the world, this separation is still very clear – people gain their marriage licence from civil authorities and then go to the church for a blessing on what has already been done.  It gets lost a little in Australia, because clergy who conduct the wedding (a service to bless a marriage) also do the civil and legal paperwork on behalf of the State.

Currently, the debate is raging about civil unions and the possibility of Gay marriage in some future time.  And people are anxious because that would require a huge revolution in our understanding  of what marriage is.

I would suggest we had an even bigger revolution in our understanding of marriage a couple of decades ago, and hardly anyone objected or noticed. Until a couple of decades ago, Christian wedding services still acknowledged marriage as property transaction, the question was still asked: “Who gives this woman to be taken by this man?”

 The change in the understanding of marriage to the point where today both parties are counted equally as human beings (not one as a piece of property) is  a much bigger change in thinking than anything the government may be considering now.

So what is “Christian marriage”? What is “Christian” anything?  What makes an institution Christian or otherwise is not the set of rules around it, but the faith of the people in it.  In that sense, many marriages that have been celebrated in the church are not “Christian” marriages, and quite possibly many that have been celebrated outside the church have become “Christian.”

Grace and peace

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sunday 10th June 2012: Year B Sunday 10

Adopted Family

Orlando Choir

Call to worship                                                                      
We are the children of God,
Not by birth, but by adoption,
We gather here in our family home,
To celebrate the love our father has for us
Let us worship God.
Hymn Together in Song 219 Jesus comes with all his grace
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Holy God,
We thank you for the wonder that you call us,
Not to be merely servants,
Nor simply worshippers
But to be your own children.
You not only created us,
But you also bought us with Jesus
Invited us into your home
And made us your family.

We confess,
Sometimes, we’re not the part of the family tree you’d boast about.
Sometimes, through our lack of care, our lack of love,
We do embarrass the family name – your name.
Teach us to be children you could be proud of,
Help us to learn from our mistakes,
To grow to be more like you,
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Kids time
Hymn Together in Song 650 Brother, sister, let me serve you
Mark 3:20-35
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God
It’s only a brief reflection today – I wanted to leave the most possible time to enjoy our guests’ singing.
So there’s two things I want us to notice in this passage.
The first is that human families aren’t perfect. 
We’ve just read about Jesus human family turning up, while he’s in the midst of his ministry work, thinking he’s gone crazy and wanting to take him home by force.  And Jesus’ response is to disown them – “if you’re going to carry on like that, you’re not my family.” It’s not that he doesn’t love them. On the cross, he asks one of his disciples to take the responsibility of a son and help care for his mother.

It’s not that he doesn’t love them. But he is very upfront about telling them they’ve got it all wrong. They may have had his best interests at heart, wanting to take him safely home to Nazareth, not really understanding what he was doing.

Human families are like that. Sometimes we do some really hurtful things, while trying to be caring.  Sometimes we just don’t understand each other. Sometimes we argue. And in some families the hurt is so bad that the breach can never be mended. It’s sad, but sometimes that’s just how it is.

We’re not personally failures if our families aren’t perfect. Jesus’ human family wasn’t perfect.

The other thing we note in this passage is that we are not only part of our human family.

Jesus claims us for his brothers and sisters if we live according to God’s will. OK we’re human, we don’t do that perfectly.  But the interesting thing about this family, is that a part of it is perfect.

When we use the image of “father” for God, or “mother” for the Holy Spirit (as in being born of the spirit), of Jesus as our brother (because he claims us as his brothers and sisters) some people have a problem with that. Their experience of human parents, of human family is one that just isn’t good.

But this is the difference.  Even Jesus’ human family messed up.  God doesn’t mess up. When we’re part of God’s family, we’re always loved, always welcome, always forgiven, always allowed to have another try at getting things right.

We can’t judge our place in God’s family in accordance with the human family we are part of. Instead, God’s family gives us a model for our human families to aspire to.

Orlando Choir
Prayers of the People
Loving, Father,
In a time of silence we, your adopted children, pray for our family and our world.

Loving God,
You know our thoughts, and wants, our hopes and desires. You know our greatest needs, and the needs of all your children.
Be with this world of yours, and all your children we pray, In the name of Jesus who makes ups part of your family, Amen.

Passing the Peace
Hymn Together in Song 514 Be known to us in breaking bread
Service of Holy Communion
Hymn Together in Song 531 Sent forth by God’s blessing
Threefold Amen.
Orlando Choir

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 10th June 2012: The Welcoming Church

Good morning,

In the past week I’ve been asked by two people, for entirely different reasons, if we are a “gay-friendly” church.

It’s a question I find strange.  Our church is people-friendly (even pet-friendly when the pets are suitably restrained). When new people come to church, we welcome them, we don’t try to categorise them or judge them.

In the 21st Century, we’re used to be “fine print” on contracts, the “end user licence agreements” for anything on the computer.  We’re used to there being exceptions to every rule.

But when Jesus gave us the “love your neighbour” rule, there wasn’t any fine print added.  There was no subclause saying “unless….” In fact when someone asked for clarification, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan – the story illustrating that the person we have the least in common with is still our neighbour.  More than that, just in case anyone wasn’t completely clear on the point, Jesus also told us to “love your enemies.”

So I find the idea of whether or not we are friendly to a particular sub-group of people to be strange.  If we are going to be who we are called to be, surely we must be “friendly” to everyone we encounter!

Grace and peace