A message from Gary – 20 May 2018

Today is the day of celebration we know in the Church as Pentecost. The term “Pentecost” means “fiftieth”, and in the Jewish tradition celebrates the day 50 days after Passover, also known as The Feast of Weeks. In the Christian tradition, it comes 49 days (the seventh Sunday) after Easter and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus and other followers of Jesus who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. In the Christian Church it is also the day which many call the birthday of the Church and the start of the Church’s mission to the world. The events of that day are dramatically recounted in the second chapter of the book of Acts. There we find the disciples gathered in one place when there was the sound of a mighty wind and what appeared to be fire resting on the disciples. One result of this was that the disciples began to speak in the languages of other nations. Not surprisingly this caused a bit of a stir among the populous. Some thought they were simply drunk and dismissed them (Acts 2:13, 15). Others, however, wondered, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) It’s a good question. What does it mean, this amazing event? There are many answers that could be given to that question but one of the answers surely is that the Spirit is a life giving Spirit- the Spirit brings life! In the very beginning of the Bible we read that the earth was formless and void, but the Spirit was hovering over the earth and began the process of creation- bringing life. The writer of the Psalms, reflecting on this affirmed, “When you send your Spirit… they are created.” (Psalm 104:30). The prophet Ezekiel is given a dramatic vision at a time when the nation of Israel was going through the most difficult of times, when the nation seemed to have lost its life. In the vision of the valley of the dry bones Ezekiel sees the bones joined together and flesh is put on them, but they are still not living. God says, “I will put my spirit within you… and you will live.” That is why the Church in its creeds proclaims, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.”   Pentecost, the celebration of the Spirit, is a celebration that God is a life giving God. … Continue reading

We are a People of Prayer

At Burnside City you are invited to be involved in both praying & asking for prayer.   Wednesday 7.45  – 8.30 am: Small group Bible study and prayer for those who prefer to start early   Wednesday 9.30 – 10.30am: Small group Bible study and prayer based on the lectio divina method of listening for God’s voice   Sunday 11.30am: Prayer after the Café service, on request for all members   Sunday 12 noon: A group gathers to pray for BCUC and its people   Prayer Chain: A group of anonymous BCUC people will pray individually for your needs in the strictest of confidence   2BY2 prayer: Confidential hands on prayer where and when you prefer with 1 or 2 pray-ers If you would like more information on joining in, or receiving prayers from any of the above please contact one of the ministers or: Jenny Olver, Donald Sarre, Colette Williams or Angela Andrew … Continue reading

A message from Rob – 6 May 2018

Chosen     What a wonderful experience it is to be chosen – to know that we are important to someone, that we are valued, that we are desirable! Being chosen is of great consequence in shaping our self-image, our self-confidence – of understanding who we are! Today, in our gospel (John 15:9-17), we hear that Jesus has chosen his disciples not simply to be his servants, but to be his friends. And we are Jesus’ disciples today. Abraham was the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). In the Book of Wisdom (7:27), Wisdom is said to make us the friends of God.  But this word used by Jesus is really made clearer by a custom which was practised both at the courts of the Roman Emperors and those of the eastern kings. At these courts there was a very select group called ‘the friends of the king’, or ‘the friends of the Emperor’.  At all times they had access to the king: they even had the right to come to his bed chamber at the beginning of the day.  He talked to them before he talked to his generals, his rulers, and his statesmen.  The ‘friends of the king’ were those who had the closest and the most intimate connection with him. As friends, Jesus shares himself with us. He’s faithful to us, even when we do wrong. He does things for us, even when we are not able to do things for him. He treats us as his brothers and sisters before the Father. He forgives us when we ask for forgiveness – and often when we don’t. And he seeks for us the joy that he wants to be ours. Indeed, as our Lord says to his disciples in today’s gospel: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy be full.”   … Continue reading

A Message from Gary – April 29 2018

It’s All About Love   Throughout the centuries and across the world, people have used many and various means to show others they are Christian. For example, there was the sign of the fish which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Others, such as monastics, wear special clothes to not only show they are Christian but also to disclose something of their lifestyle choices. Today the cross is often worn by people as a sign of their faith. Less popular now but once quite common were bumper stickers. All of that is fine in its place. But throughout the NT there is another means by which we who follow Jesus are to show the world that we are Christian. That identifying sign, the better mark that reveals our Christianity is… love. This was the mark, Jesus said, by which we are to be known. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:35) Love is a theme picked up in many places in the New Testament. Perhaps most famously, Paul wrote about it in the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: “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.” (verse 2) And in the short letter of 1 John we read: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) Jesus consistently focused on and drew people back to the centre- love. That’s why he shocked people, especially the religious leaders. He wasn’t about to let people get away with holding on to false and illusory markers as signs of their faith. He just wanted to know one thing; are people moving toward love of God and people or away from it? Because basically, that’s all that matters. Later in life, so the story goes, the apostle John, who wrote so much about love, was asked to give a word to the people who had gathered around him. “Little children, love one another.”  This became too much for one listener who had grown tired of hearing this message, and said, “Why don’t you talk about something else? All you ever talk about is love.”   ”Because,” replied John, “there is nothing but love.” … Continue reading

A Message from Ian – April 22 2018

This is the Sunday before ANZAC day and the reading from John’s Gospel (John 10: 11-18) has a theme which is suited to this day remembering the efforts and sacrifices of previous generations which have resulted in the great lifestyle opportunities that we have today. The theme of the reading is the good shepherd and it starts with Jesus drawing a distinction between the good shepherd and the bad shepherd. The bad shepherd just did the work as a job for a salary which was what motivated him. He had no commitment to his flock. For the good shepherd it was his calling to care for the sheep with which he had formed a relationship and would risk his life to protect them from dangerous wolves or thieves which threatened them. However, there was a further challenge here. It is one thing to be a good shepherd to our friends and neighbours. Jesus was called to be the good shepherd to all, not just those who thought they were exclusively God’s people. Certainly, he needed to win over his own flock first, but the greater goal was to win over wider world. He was to be the one shepherd and a focus for unity in our world. This sets our agenda to play our role as missionaries, spreading the Gospel to the world. The theologian, William Barclay tells the story from the First World War of a young French soldier who was so badly wounded that he needed his arm amputated in order to save his life. The surgeon was so upset that he had to amputate that he sat by the soldier’s bed to give him the news personally. When the young man awoke the surgeon said. “I am sorry to tell you that you lost your arm”.  “Sir,” said the man, “I did not lose it – I gave it for France”. Jesus speaks of laying down his life for his people as God’s will had required. But here it is important to realise that Jesus did not lose his life because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and fell foul of the Romans, he laid down his life voluntarily, of his own free will in order to save his flock from their sins. He did it so they may have life and have it in all its fullness. Against that sacrifice of the good shepherd how could we behave in any other way but by being good shepherds to each other. … Continue reading

A Message from Gary – April 15 2018

The Sign of the Fish   On Easter Day, in the creative spot, I made reference to the origin and meaning of the fish symbol in Christianity. Afterwards someone mentioned that they had never heard what it meant, so if there are others who have not heard about the meaning I offer a brief explanation. The symbol of the fish, without the writing in it, is a long held symbol of the Christian faith. It comes from the Greek word for fish, transliterated into English as ichthus. Ichthus is an acrostic where the letters stand for other words. Iota (i) is the first letter of I?soûs (??????), Greek for “Jesus“. Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (???????), Greek for “anointed” (of the Lord). Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (????), Greek for “God’s” Upsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios (????), Greek for “Son”. Sigma (s) is the first letter of s?t?r (?????), Greek for “Saviour”. Taken together the word ichthus stands for “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour”. The symbol first appeared in the second century and its use became widespread through the third and fourth centuries. It is, of course, connected to the many stories involving fish in the Gospels, including the scene following Christ’s resurrection when Jesus cooked fish to feed the disciples. It is said that the sign itself became a sort of secret code whereby Christians could identify one another at a time when Christians were persecuted. If two people met on the road, for example, one would draw one arch of the symbol and if the other completed it with the second arch, you knew you were in the company of a companion disciple.   … Continue reading

A message from Rob – 8 April 2018

So You May Believe   Once upon a time there was a very special meeting. I can’t tell you when it took place because it was before “when” ever was. But I do know who was at the meeting. God was there in the person of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The meeting went something like this. God, the supreme creator of the universe said, “Let’s make human beings.” God the Holy Spirit, who knows all and sees all said, “If you make human beings, they’re going to sin.” But Jesus, who is the Saviour of us all, stepped forward and said, “If they sin, I’ll join them to model human life for them and redeem humanity from its sins.” And as the Son prepared to leave the glory he had within the Godhead, the Holy Spirit said to Him: “When you get there you better show them some signs if you expect them to believe your message and know who you really are. When you turn water into wine, show them your mastery over quality and that salvation is by your word.  John 2:1-12 When you heal the nobleman’s son, show them your mastery over time and distance and that salvation is by grace.  John 4:44-54 When you heal the paralytic, show them your mastery over long-term infirmity and that salvation is available to all. John 5:1-9 When you feed the 5000, show them your mastery over quantity and that salvation brings satisfaction. John 6:1-15 When you calm the raging storm, show them your power over nature and that salvation brings peace. John 6:16-21 When you heal the blind man, show them your power over darkness and that salvation brings light. John 9:1-12 When you raise Lazarus from the grave, show them your power over death and that salvation brings life. John 11:1-44 Use all of these signs to reveal your deity, that you truly are the divine Son of God. Use these signs so that they might believe and have eternal life through your name.”   … Continue reading

A message from Gary – 1 April 2018

Easter Sunday : The Experience of Easter   Many years ago now, while living in Port Pirie, I was sitting at my desk preparing Easter services when the phone rang. There’s nothing unusual about the phone ringing but this turned out to not be one of the usual callers. The person on the other end of the line identified themselves as a reporter for the local newspaper. They were wondering if I would be able to write something on Easter for inclusion in the issue of the paper due out a couple of days before the weekend. My first question was to ask how long did I have to write it. The answer: 15 minutes! And remember this is before the Internet so I would need to write it and get it to them in quarter of an hour! I eventually negotiated that I could have two hours. Still not much time but a vast improvement on 15 minutes. However, I was still left with the quandary of what to write. What could I say in a couple of hundred words that would mean something to the readers of the paper (assuming any would bother to read it) and that would convey something of the meaning of Easter? It should have been easy, after all, the Easter story is well-known. But that was part of the problem. What could I say that would perhaps enable a fresh look at Easter? As I was pondering the Apostle Paul’s words to the church at Philippi came to mind: “All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection.” (GNB) That became the thrust of the little message in the paper: We may not be able to explain the resurrection but we can experience it. That is what the first disciples found. They were puzzled and in awe at the events that had taken place. They couldn’t explain it, but, they said, they continued to experience the presence of the risen Christ with them. And we too have that same experience. Wherever the path of our daily lives take us, through the times of darkness and light, sadness and happiness, the risen Christ goes with us. May you experience anew the reality of the risen Christ with you.   … Continue reading

A message from Rob – 1 March 2018

Too Good to be True?   When Jesus burst the bonds of death, who would have imagined he would have followers 2000 years later celebrating that incredible event! Even on the day of his resurrection, the women’s story of an empty tomb was met with disbelief by his disciples. It wasn’t until the Risen Lord just appeared in the room in which they were huddled away, fearful of the authorities responsible for his crucifixion, that they rejoiced in the One before them – Jesus, alive and right there with them! Reports of Jesus’ resurrection weren’t met with joy and hope by everyone. His followers were ridiculed – and still are today. Many in the community pack up and head off to celebrate the Easter Holiday Weekend, maybe with just a fleeting thought for the ‘crazy story’ behind their days off. (This year, Easter Day and April Fool’s Day coincide. See the article ‘Easter Fools?’ on the next page for some more food for thought.) Maybe as you chat with non-Christian friends and family this Easter, you will be willing to risk sharing why the Easter story is not just a ‘crazy story’ to you, but the story of the One who is alive in you today.   … Continue reading

A message from Gary – 1 February 2018

Renewal: An Inside Out Job   Is it too late to say, “Happy New Year”? Possibly, but even if it’s too late for the greeting, you may be one of those people who has determined that 2018 is going to be different for you. Facing a new year, with its hopes and challenges, where so much is possible and so much is at stake, is often a time when people resolve to make changes in their lives. According to some surveys resolutions to bring our finances and our health, mostly our weight, under control top the list. That this is the case year after year suggests that we do not do well in staying with our resolutions. Why should it be so? There are, no doubt, lots of reasons, but one I think is that we do not understand that fundamentally change and renewal is something that starts within us. It is an ‘inside out’ job. We’ve all seen those ‘make over’ shows on TV where, for example, people have their diet strictly controlled and exercise is regulated for them. The results can be dramatic, but often, so it seems, the people who make headway in their weight loss goals slip back when the cameras stop filming. Why? Because real change involves an inner change of thinking and outlook, not just a surface change. In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 7:1-23) Jesus is having an argument with some of the religious heavy weights. The issue being debated came about because Jesus didn’t conform to some of the strict rules governing outward behavior. His point was that if real change were to happen, it needs to take place in the heart, for it is from the heart, the inner life of a person that their actions come. If the heart is right, the life will be right. There are other references throughout Scripture which make the same point; renewal begins with the inner life and then reveals itself in our outer life. (see Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:10-11) Wise Elders of our faith remind us of this when they invite us to be attentive to what lies within, to be aware of the depths of the inner life. To be renewed, to be transformed, we need to notice what enhances our well-being as distinct from that which produces or reinforces confusing, destructive thoughts and action. To become deeply aware of that we need to take time to listen to one’s inner life. We don’t find that easy in our busy, noisy world, yet listening to our inner life presumes being in or creating a quiet environment in which we can begin to recognize what is happening internally. Those same Wise Elders offer us spiritual practices that bring us to a place where we can be more open to listening to the Spirit working within. Times of solitude and silence are two of those practices. Another is a simple practice called, The Prayer of Examen, a very simple process whereby we … Continue reading