Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 29 July 2012: The Temple of the Holy Spirit

Good morning,

Early in the past week, I heard on the radio a long discussion about alcohol-fuelled violence.  One person who called in was a nutritionist, who explained a link between poor diet and alcohol abuse – rats fed healthy food would choose to drink water over alcohol, and rats fed fruit and vegetables would choose to drink water over alcohol. The rats which chose alcohol fought, and abused their own children.

The nutritionist went on to say that the most popular item sold in Australian supermarkets was 2 litre cola drinks. The second most popular item sold was 1.5 litre cola drinks.  According to the last census, the average Australian household spent more on alcohol than fruit and vegetables.

Obesity is becoming a world-wide problem.  Even in places like China and India, the advent of western fast food brought with it the western problem of the growing diabesity epidemic.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  Genesis tells us we were made in God’s image. However we look at it, to mistreat our bodies is very disrespectful toward God.  We are not souls which just happen to be residing in bodies – God made us as an integrated whole. Our physical health is tied to our mental and spiritual health. 

A few months ago, our church council made the decision to always have healthy options available for times when we are serving food (eg morning tea after church.)  We also have established the Thursday evening Watchya Weight group to encourage healthy lifestyles.  Caring for our bodies is a spiritual discipline, just as Bible study, prayer and worship are.

Grace and Peace

Friday, 13 July 2012

Service for Sunday 15th July 2012: Year B Sunday 15


Call to worship
All of creation is made by God and for God
Creation’s whole purpose is to celebrate God and glorify God.
And we, the people of God, come to share in this great purpose,
We open the gates of our hearts, minds and souls,
And invite God to come in.
(Based on Psalm 24)

Hymn Together in Song 233 I will sing the wondrous story

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Loving God,
We thank you for the wonder of creation – your hand at work in the design of everything we see and hear, and touch and smell and taste.
We thank you for the privilege of being a part of this creation; that we are designed to reflect your glory and praise.

We confess that sometimes we forget the meaning and purpose of our existence.
Instead of glorifying you, we live as if you were not the most important thing in our lives.
We become caught up in the worries of everyday life – our own needs and wants.
And we lose sight of what’s most important – you.

Forgive us our accidental mistakes and our intentional misdeeds and help us to start again.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he has lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:7-8a)
I have confidence to say to you: our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!

Kids’ time – Lindy

Hymn Together in Song 431 Thanks to God whose Word was spoken

Scripture - Erica
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 635 Forgive our sins

Who knows what an “ohnosecond” is?

The ohnosecond is an official unit of time.  It’s that very brief moment that it takes to realise you’ve made a really BIG mistake.  It takes its name from the common exclamation of “oh no!” used at such times.  (It could have taken its name from a number of other expressions, but they would have been far less appropriately used in church.)

Some people seem to cruise through life with just the occasional ohnosecond here and there. Some of us seem be able measure our entire lives in ohnoseconds – being able to chronicle how we got through our days from mistake to mistake. Whether many or few, we all have them.

Some mistakes don’t matter much, or can be easily fixed. For example if you mess up baking a cake, the simple solution is to decide that what you really wanted to make was trifle. (I am convinced the person who invented trifle was trying to work out what to do with a cake that had fallen to pieces as they tipped it out of the baking pan.)

Sometimes the mistakes we make bring consequences we just can’t avoid! As a lupus patient I know that I can sometimes push myself to do more than I should. It’s possible, sometimes even easy to do. But if I do it, the natural consequence will be several days of pain and exhaustion. It gives me plenty of time to reflect on how I might have handled things differently.

So some mistakes we can turn around – bring something good out of what went wrong. And there’s others we just have to live with the consequences of. And then there’s the ones  we really should avoid because the consequences are just too awful to face.

Let’s look at Herod’s run of mistakes –

First, he had John arrested and imprisoned, because he and his wife felt uncomfortable about what John was saying. It wasn’t that John said anything that was untrue, or that everyone didn’t already know – it was just that John had the hide to say out loud what everyone else whispered. Herod knew what he was doing was wrong. He was already afraid of the consequences – he knew John was a righteous and holy man – and protected him from Herodias while he was imprisoned.

Second, and no parent in their right mind would be this stupid, he told his daughter she could have anything she wanted – without setting a sensible limit. (If you don’t know why that’s a serious mistake, take a teenaged girl to a clothes shop and tell her she can have anything she wants – but be prepared to take out a long-term loan to pay for it.) A smarter man than Herod, might have told her she could have a new necklace or bracelet, or, if he was a really generous king might have said, you can choose a town out of up to 20,000 people. He should have imposed some limit.

Third, he then didn’t use the word every parent has to learn to use: “No.” He’d made a promise in front of everyone, so he felt compelled to stick to it. Someone with a little more backbone would have said: “That’s ridiculous, come back when you’ve thought of something sensible to ask for.” Instead, Herod gave the order to have John executed.

Perhaps the kindest thing that could be said of Herod Antipas as he appears in this passage of Scripture is that he suffered from gross stupidity. He clearly failed to think through the consequences of his decisions and actions.

I don’t know if you’ve ever bought a cup of coffee at McDonald’s – if you do, you might notice a warning on the lid “caution-contents hot.” People like me look at that and say, “Well, it ought to be hot – who wants their coffee to be at room temperature?” But I understand the warning is there because someone burned themselves with a cup of coffee and sued McDonald’s.

Apparently, people have the right to be told their coffee is hot – and be warned not to burn themselves. (For later, when you come over to the hall for morning tea, let me warn you now that the tea and coffee are hot and you really shouldn’t pour them in your lap or anyone else’s for that matter.) For some reason, people are not expected to work out for themselves: “I’ve got coffee, coffee is usually hot, I should be careful not to scald myself.”  Simple thinking through the consequences of our actions seems to be an unusual idea. Herod’s problem is alive and well in our society.

Ultimately, we have open to us three ways to deal with our mistakes: Creativity (to do work to change what we’ve done wrong into something good), Accountability (to acknowledge what we’ve done wrong and accept the consequences), or Responsibility (to think through things before we act and avoid making mistakes in the first place.)

Herod, thought accountability had come to call when he heard about Jesus and was afraid John had come back from the dead.  That was his ohnosecond – the time he realised that what he’d done was an incredibly big mistake. 

Our mistakes might not be as big as cutting off a prophet’s head (or anyone else’s) as a reward for a teenager doing a dance.  But we do all have our mistakes.  And we all have those moments when we suddenly realise that something we did was a mistake.

When we have those moments, we have the option to try to deal with it on our own, or to deal with it in collaboration with God.

If we go over to the Ephesians reading, we find: In him  when you have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

We are God’s people – and God does have an interest in our redemption – which includes dealing with our mistakes and our misdeeds.  In all of our lives, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, to help us live lives which bring glory to God.

So whichever way we are confronted with our mistakes –serious mistakes, or otherwise – we are able to draw strength, wisdom, and support from God’s Holy Spirit. And we are able to count on God’s forgiveness and the opportunity to try to do better.

Notices – Erica


Prayers of the People
Creator God,
We pray for this world of your creation.

A world in which you have provided for all that we need
But in which some have taken more than they need,
And some have been left without the basics to survive.

A world to which your son has come as Prince of Peace
But which is devastated by wars
And threatened with so many potential wars.

In a time of silence, we pray for those people and situations most on our hearts and minds…….

The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 687 God gives us a future


Threefold Amen

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Newsletter Reflection for Sunday 15th July 2012: The Cost of Money


Good morning,

Listening to ABC radio this week, I heard an interview with a police officer who was researching an alarming development in the sex industry in Queensland mining towns. He said there was an increasing number of young women from overseas who were working in prostitution – but not necessarily willingly.

The women were controlled, sometimes physically, but more often through other forms of pressure (such of threats to family at home.) The police officer explained that these victims were reluctant to seek police help, because in their home countries, police were often a part of the problem.

We tend to think of slavery as something that happened in the past or might happen in other places. But slavery is simply forcing someone to work against their will, to benefit other people.  The exploitation seems to happen anywhere there are some people with lots of power or money, and people who have little power or money.  In the current mining boom, there’s lots of people with money, which has attracted the kind of predators who will exploit people, in order to get some of that money. It’s an evil that is alive and well in our world, and even in our state.

It’s a sad statement on our society that, as advanced as we often like to think that we are, money is still valued far more highly than the needs of human beings. 

Jesus’ teaching about loving our neighbour is still a radical way to see the world.

Grace and peace

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Service for Sunday 8th July 2012: Year B Sunday 14

Call to worship
God has never rested, never stopped, never given up on creation.
God is always creating, making and doing new things in this world.
Let us celebrate the God who takes us by surprise,
And leads us to places we don’t expect.

Hymn Together in Song 442 All praise to our redeeming Lord

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Loving God,
We thank you that you have never left this world of yours, or these people of yours alone.
Thank you that you show yourself to your world, in ways that we can recognise.
Thank you that in Jesus you revealed your own character, and invited us to come to know you, and to love you.
We thank you that the character you have shown us is one of love, love that is patient and forgiving enough to deal with all of our failings.

We confess
We sometimes act as if this world, and the people in it, did not belong to you –
As if we could do what we liked without consequence –
As if our failure to love you,
Our failure to respect your creation
Our failure to love our neighbour
Was of no consequence whatsoever
We recognise once more, that these things matter deeply to you, and we ask your help to turn back from this sin. To try again, to be your people, as you are always our God.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Jesus has shown us that it is God’s nature to love, to forgive, to offer new chances at life.
So I have confidence to say to you: “Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!

Kids’ time

Hymn Together in Song 717 Give thanks

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Mark 6:1-13
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God!

In other places, Jesus taught with authority, amazed people, and then worked miracles. Back in his home town, he taught with authority, amazed people, and then everyone said, “Who does he think he is anyway? We saw him growing up.  We know he climbed trees, and skinned his knees when he was a boy, and got pimples when he was a teenager. We know his brothers and sisters – they’re just normal people.  There’s nothing special about any of them.”

And he wasn’t able to do anything with them.

His own neighbourhood, the people he’d grown up with, couldn’t see past the normal kid from a normal family, couldn’t have faith that God was doing something extraordinary in front of them. 
In a sense, it’s not surprising. A few weeks ago, we read that Jesus mum and brothers had thought he’d gone insane and were trying to take him home to look after him.  Jesus had denied his birth family and declared that his real family were those who would obey his Father.  (It wouldn’t always be like that – we know that at least some of Jesus’ family had faith in him later. By the time Paul was writing, Jesus’ brother James was a leader in the church in Jerusalem.)

So here we see the same lack of faith, not just from his family, but from his whole home town. The people who knew Jesus best, could not see past what they thought was obvious.

 Their lack of willingness to believe in Jesus, left him unable to do anything with them.

Just as we saw earlier the contrast between the family who thought he’d gone mad, and the followers he said were his true family, we see now a contrast between the people of his hometown who had so little faith that he couldn’t work miracles with them, and the twelve who have so much faith that he can send them out and they can work miracles without him being physically present.

So what was the problem with Jesus’ hometown? They were so sure of what they thought they knew, that they couldn’t see what was actually going on. God was doing something completely new and different, but they could only accept what they already knew. Their minds were completely closed.

Oh, I believe in a healthy degree of scepticism.  Having minds too open could let our brains fall out. There were lots of false prophets and messiahs in Jesus’ day.  Lots of them led people astray.  There’s been plenty of false prophets in our own day – the world was going to end a couple of months ago according to one of them. We can’t just believe everything everyone tells us.

On the other hand, a totally closed mind refuses to accept that the God who created everything, can keep being creative and doing new things. A completely closed mind never learns, never grows, never sees the wonder of what is right in front of it. Nothing of any use can go in or out of a locked door.

So what’s the clue that Jesus’ listeners should have known to trust him?

When Jesus preached, he spoke with authority. That same thing is said about his preaching both in the towns where people believed in him and where they didn’t believe in him. Something about his preaching set what he said apart from the other rabbis and the false prophets and messiahs. There was something that listeners could recognise as authentically coming from God.  It was identifiable.

If God is always creative, always doing new and different things, the way we recognise what God is doing, is by recognising God first as the one who is doing it. For us, the most clear image of God we have is in Jesus.  When social change is happening, the way to know whether or not it is being driven by God is to look how it fits with the character of God we see in Jesus.

So, when something is happening that seems to exclude any group of people, or treat them as less valuable than other people, for whatever reason, we look to the character of Jesus. He chose to associate with the sinners of his day. The people who weren’t good enough were always good enough for him. He went to their homes, shared in their celebrations. With his own presence, he gave dignity to people who were not socially acceptable. He wouldn’t cut anyone off from God’s grace – although some people like the rich young man who couldn’t give his money up to follow, cut themselves off. Any social or political movement that says a group of people should be treated the same as everyone else – is much more in line with the character of God displayed in Jesus.

When we look at issues about things like whether healthcare should be available to everyone, we look to Jesus, who healed people without concern as to whether they could afford it, or deserved it.  When we look at issues about feeding the hungry, we recall Jesus feeding thousands of people, who could have been sent off to the next town to try to find their own food, but who he chose to care for.

When we look at issues where people are labelled as “sinners”, as “not good enough”, as “not as good as us”, or “outsiders” for any reason, we look to Jesus who knows all our hearts and souls and asks if we really dare to throw the first stone.  Jesus knows the truth of who we are – sinners who are justified not by our actions, but by his. Even knowing the truth, he loves us, and he wants us to love other sinners, who are really just the same as we are.

God is constantly doing new things – creating and re-creating the life of the world.  What doesn’t change, what we can recognise, is God’s character.  The God we see in Jesus, is the same, then, now, and into the future.

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness



Prayers of the People
Sung response Hymn 741 Chorus (O Lord hear my prayer)

Creator God,
We pray for this world of your creation.
We pray for the future of our planet, with all of its fragility, and with all of the harm that has been caused to it. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for people in need – for refugees, who flee the intolerable, risking everything to go into the unknown. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for people in need – for people who have no safe and healthy place to live, who have no security and no comfort. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for people in need – for people who are lost or alone, who need understanding and love. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for people in need – for those who are sick or in pain, physically or mentally, who need to be healed. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for the leaders of your church, the Uniting Church, and the whole Christian church throughout the world. May they discern what you are doing in the world, so that they may help all Christians to follow your lead. Lord, hear us. response

We pray for all of the world’s political leaders, may you inspire them to love, compassion, justice and peace. Lord, hear us. response

We pray all these things, in and through your Son Jesus, who came and showed us your face. Amen.

Passing the Peace

Hymn Together in Song 707 Bread is blessed and broken

Service of Holy Communion (from Uniting in Worship II)

Hymn Together in Song 530 Now let us from this table rise


Threefold Amen