This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NIV)
The secret is out – God loves us! We know this because God sent Jesus to live with us. This is what we are celebrating all through the season of Advent and at Christmas. And the celebrations of God’s love continue through the year because God’s love is eternal – it never stops.
Did you know that we need to keep this secret? What would happen if everyone truly knew that God loved them enough to send Jesus into the world? Imagine if every single person you met every single day, was filled with the assurance of God’s great love for them? Perhaps people would smile more? Perhaps people would be more generous, because they would know that the God who created the world and all that is in it loves them and cares for their every need. Perhaps there would be no fear, because people would know the love and protection of God and they would know that every other person in the world was also filled with that love from God. There is no fear in love. But God’s perfect love drives out fear. Perhaps your imagination can take this thought and continue to dream of what our world would be like if everyone truly knew that God loved them?
This is not a secret! We can tell it to the world. Let that little spark of faith that burns inside your heart continue to grow to the point that you can share it with others without the fear of it being snuffed out by a rebuke or critical question that you cannot answer off the cuff. Imagine the newborn baby Jesus, so fragile and vulnerable in the manger – God put everything on the line by sending him into the world and hoping that he would survive to manhood to be the Saviour of us all. God is faithfully protecting that little spark of faith in you too.
The challenge of last week was to think of and to invite someone to one of our Christmas Services so that they too can hear the good news that Jesus Christ has come into the world to bring us joy.
How did you go? Have you invited someone? Did they say yes?
In the Gospel according to Luke we are given an example to follow.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (Luke 2:8-18 NIV)
The Good News of the birth of Jesus is still cause for great joy for all people and all who hear this good news will be amazed. Before you invite anyone else to come and share this great joy, I ask you to stop and think – am I taking this good news for granted in my own life? Do I really understand that this good news has turned my life upside-down? Do I believe that Jesus still has the power to
miraculously change lives today?
The shepherds heard the Good News, they experienced it for themselves and then they spread the word. We are compelled to do the same.
Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news,
lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9 NRSV)
These are the words of the Prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel some 700 years before the birth of Jesus the Christ. I wonder how we can respond to these words today.
At our school ministry this week, as we have been telling the story of the first Christmas, one little girl asked, “Why is it called Christmas?” My answer to her was that the first part “Christ” is the name for Jesus who came to the world to save us and that the second part “mas” is the word for worship and so Christmas is about showing our love for Jesus who came to save us.
I pray that in this Christmas season you will also find ways to say to the world, “Here is your God!”
In recent months, through the generosity of an individual donor, we have given away over 200 Bibles in the foyer of our church. More than 50 of these have been children’s Bibles. Each gift has ensured that the message “Here is your God!” has been received. I have heard stories of grandchildren reading their Bibles and asking wonderful questions of their grandparents as they read. These precious moments are the moments when these children are discovering their God.
We have special Christmas services here at church in the coming weeks to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Saviour. This Sunday at the 10.30am Classic Service we are celebrating the truth of God with us in the Lessons and Carols. Next Sunday, December 17th the
Junior Church will lead us at 9am to celebrate the joy of God with us in dramatic form as the children dress up and act out the story of the first Christmas.
On Sunday December 24th our worship will focus on celebrating the coming of our
Saviour as we worship together at times that are a bit different than our usual Sunday practice.
Classic will be at 10.30am,
Contemporary will be at 5pm and Café will be at 11.30pm.
That’s right – Café Worship at 11.30pm!
Then on Christmas Day we will worship together at 9.30am.
Each of these times of worship will be an opportunity to get yourself up on a high
mountain and say “Here is your God!”
This information is available on our Christmas postcards that have been delivered to 5,000 homes in the Burnside area and are at the reception desk for you to take home.
Here is a challenge for you. Think of someone you can invite to one of our Christmas
services so that they too can hear the good news that Jesus the Christ has come to us to bring us joy.
Next week we will be presenting the Christmas Play in our local Primary Schools. We have a team of dedicated actors from our local churches who have been rehearsing the play in November. The 30 minute play simply tells the story of the first Christmas by involving the children on stage. We will have
shepherds, angels and wise-men joining Mary and Joseph on stage as the story is told. The children are invited to dress up in costume and participate in the story with us.
Please pray for each of the four schools we will visit as they welcome us into their school communities and engage in the message of Christmas.
On Monday December 4th we will spend the day at Linden Park Primary School. On Wednesday we will be at Burnside Primary School for the day and on Thursday we will perform in the morning at Marryatville Primary School and go to Rose Park Primary School for a lunch time performance. Prayers are requested for the actors (Glenyss, Gerald, Mark, David & Jessica) as they take time off from work or study to dedicate themselves to this wonderful ministry.
Thank you also to our Pastoral Care Workers for their support of this work in their schools.
This year the message of Christmas will be on the big screen in the new
animated movie called “The Star”. I am hoping that through our efforts in the schools when we encourage the children to learn more about the Christmas message by inviting them to church events, we will also be able to suggest that they see this movie. This may also be a great family outing for our
children and grandchildren. It will certainly give us an opportunity to talk about the birth of Jesus our Saviour.
Today we come to the last day of the year!
Well, it’s the last day of the Christian year anyway. It’s the day that ends the season of Pentecost and precedes the season of Advent which begins next week.
As such it is a special day, a festival day: the Festival of Christ the King or The Reign of Christ.
As a festival of the Church, however, it is a relatively new and recent celebration. It was proposed by Pope Pius IX in 1925, so it is less than 100 years old. While the Church has always celebrated images of Christ the King, Pius felt at this stage of world history this image of Christ needed a special focus.
To understand his reasoning we need to think of what was happening in the world at that time. WW1 was only just over, Nazism and Fascism were on the rise and the Great Depression was just around the corner. Pius felt that the world was in this turmoil
because, “the people of the day had thrust Jesus Christ… out of their lives and these had no place in public affairs or politics.” Pius felt that as long as people found no place for Jesus in their lives or world affairs there could be no lasting peace among the nations and no peace in lives. So he proposed a feast to encourage people to refocus on Jesus, to reaffirm Christ’s reign, to imagine and live out what the world would be like if Christ we in charge.
In our readings today we see an image of what such a world would be like. As we
celebrate Christ the king, we do so not as the kind of king or ruler who seeks power or prestige or position, but a king who is in solidarity with the ‘little ones’ of this world: the hungry, the poor, the homeless and the landless.
He is indeed, the servant king who calls us to serve with him the forgotten ones of this world.
The reading form Ezekiel (34:11-16, 20-24) also takes up the theme of compassion to those considered the least. The prophet reminds us that even when human
companions fail the little and the least, our Divine companion never does, always
acting for their well-being and inviting us to do the same.
Let us worship our Servant King!
Gary Stuckey (Rev)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
On Wednesday, the results from the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey were published on the ABS website. 61 per cent of the votes were ‘Yes’ in the same-sex marriage postal vote. In the lead up to this announcement, the
Uniting Church President and the Moderators of each Synod prepared the
pastoral statement. I encourage you to read this statement (attached) and pray for wisdom, courage and discernment for the Uniting Church and the wider community throughout this season.
Here at Burnside City we are called to continue to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ as people of faith.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment
greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31New King James Version (NKJV)
As we consider our path from here, I think that we must, in the interests of
wisdom and peace, acknowledge the laws of our nation and the authority of the parliament.
How we behave now is going to be a profound witness to the people in our community and the world. This is the time for the church to demonstrate the love of God for all to see. The conversations that we have in this time of change will shape the future of our church for years to come. I want us to be known as people who love passionately, for this is the message of the Gospel.
Grace and peace,
Rev Matthew Bond
You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:37)
Last Saturday 24 people from Burnside City gathered for the day to continue the
process of discerning God’s loving desire for the church through the next few years. Building on information drawn from the National Church Life Survey, the Spiritual Gifts identification process, the Vision and Mission Day in August, and responses from the Sunday prayer gathering, those gathered sought to discern threads which may open us to the future direction in which God desires to take Burnside City.
It was my privilege to be asked to facilitate the day. In doing so, I structured the day around the story of the feeding of the 5,000 form Mark’s Gospel. What has that got to do with discerning the future for BCUC? Well, I think, plenty.
In the story Jesus is seeking some time away from the crowds and the pressure of
ministry for himself and the disciples. They depart by boat seeking a deserted place to be by themselves. However, it was not to be. The crowds saw where they were headed and arrived there before Jesus and the disciples. Although desiring solitude and rest, Jesus had compassion on the crowds and continued to teach them.
Late in the day the disciples suggested to Jesus that it might be time to send the crowds away to find some food. But then Jesus did an amazing thing. He put the
matter back onto the disciples: “You give them something to eat.” The disciples
immediately respond by pointing out to Jesus that they didn’t have the resources to do that. But Jesus asks them: “How many loaves have you?” Although there were only five (and two fish) they found that when you take what little you have and offer it to Jesus, amazing things can happen.
And that is what we focused on last Saturday- what are the loaves Burnside City has, what are the hungers people have and how can we bring the two together?
As the day progressed we, like the disciples, sensed the hungers were great and we wondered about our resources to respond to them. We recognized that we cannot address all the hungers people have, but we have been blessed with some amazing resources in people, facilities, finances and more, and that when given to Jesus many can be fed.
What are the loaves you bring to be used to feed people? What are the hungers that we see in people? And how can what God has blessed us with at BCUC be used to
satisfy the many hungers people have?
Gary Stuckey (Rev)
On my desk recently was this little cameo of a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. As they held hands across the table a little ‘Tinkerbell’ like creature
appeared and said…”I have been sent to give you the desire of your heart’..
Immediately the wife said….’My desire is to travel the world’…. and ‘zap’ there were 2 around the world cruise tickets in her hand. The husband thinking this may be his one and only opportunity to get the desire of his heart, thought long and hard, and then turning to his wife, he said ‘You may not like what I have to say, but my desire is to be married to someone 30 years younger than me’….and ‘zap’, he was a 92 year old man.
We may laugh, and make jokes about married love, but being happily married is the desire of the heart for most of us. Remembering this message comes from the
Christian Ministers Association, and focuses on a culture founded on the love of God, may I encourage us to be thoughtful, prayerful about this ‘SEASON OF THE
PLEBISCITE’, What is it we are really asked to vote upon?
The Word of God in Ephesians 5 speaks about the Christian life, and Christian
marriage. St Paul personally addresses husbands and wives about a love that is
eternal, personal and abundant. A love that the Greeks call AGAPE LOVE, God’s
divine, healing, forgiving love that permeates all our love relationships, it flows through to our EROS LOVE, married love, and to our PHILIA LOVE, brotherly, family community love….
It is a love that is gift love through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. This AGAPE love, can be new every morning, just for the asking, because of the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to all people. When I think about my family, my children and grandchildren, and future children yet to come, my thoughts, my desire is that they may be happy, fulfilled, loved and loving. That they may know the power, the presence and the peace of AGAPE LOVE, not only know it but share it in every relationship that they
encounter……and that they may be aware of God’s love in every possible adventure and commitment they experience…..
I feel that we are about to make history because of this plebiscite, and I am reminded that the Nobel Peace Prize winner of l964 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. famously said… “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” King challenged many laws dealing with equality. His life and love for God changed the nation of the USA, and shaped the progressive world we live in today.
May I leave you with this very memorable quote of MARTIN LUTHER KING JR….
‘I HAVE HAD MANY THINGS IN MY HAND AND I HAVE LOST THEM ALL, BUT WHATEVER I PLACED IN GOD’S HANDS THAT I STILL POSSESS’. May we be wise and place this important Plebiscite season in the hands of our God, may our decision making and voting choices bring honour and glory to our Creator and Redeemer.
SHALOM ROZ BOND
(Reprinted from the “Norfolk Islander” local newspaper with permission)
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”
(Proverbs 29:18a KJV)
These are dramatic words.
They are words that get my attention.
They are ancient words of wisdom from the scriptures.
On Saturday September 23rd the people of Burnside City Uniting Church are invited to gather for a Vision and Mission Retreat Workshop. This will begin at 10am and will include lunch. Please provide an ‘expression of interest’ to the Church Council
Secretary, Gill Cibich by Thursday 21st of September for catering and preparation
purposes. We will conclude the day at 4pm.
Over recent months we have all participated in the “Gifts of the Spirit” series and have learned that we all have Spiritual Gifts that are to be used in the service of God through our church.
Last year we filled in the National Church Life Survey and these results are now
available for us to better understand our church and the situation for all churches in Australia.
We have valuable ideas from the Vision and Mission afternoon held here on the 20th of August.
Many people have been praying regularly and seeking to hear from God about what God has planned for our church in the future.
From this information we will be asked on September 23 as Gary Stuckey leads us in this retreat workshop to discern where God is leading us as a church community.
We have gathered a lot of information and we will respect the privacy of the people who have shared from their hearts.
This is another step along the way as we faithfully seek to be the church that God has called us to be.
Please make every effort to be here on the 23rd of September.
Resolving our differences
The theme for services at BCUC during September is “Relationships.” That is hardly surprising. The pages of the Bible often address the relationships amongst the people of God and exhort us to engage in supportive, encouraging and loving
relationships. The way we relate to and with one another is a part of our witness to those around us.
However, we know that even in the best relationships differences and conflict will arise. And so it sometimes is in the life of the church. There will be times when those alongside whom we work and worship in Christian community will see things
differently from the way we do. Sometimes these will be small differences, easily
resolved. On other occasions the differences will be over more substantial matters.
I’ve heard it said on occasions, as I’m sure you have, that as a Christian community we shouldn’t experience differences, let alone conflict. A common criticism of churches is, “Look, they can’t even get on together.” But this misses the point.
The text from Matthew’s Gospel this morning is about resolving conflicts that arose within the church. That Matthew even wrote about this at least shows us that this is nothing new! There have always been differences when people get together, even as the church. When you look around at those with whom we are in Christian community and consider how different we are, sometimes it is surprising that we can agree on anything at all.
As Jesus addresses the matter of handling differences, he starts by assuming that they will arise. What makes the difference is not whether or not we fight or disagree or wound one another, but how we go about addressing these issues. We are not to yell, slander, gossip about or humiliate those with whom we disagree, but neither are we to pretend that conflict does not exist. The invitation is to seek reconciliation, and Jesus provides a way to move in that direction. Firstly, we go to the one with whom we
disagree privately. If that fails, involve one or two wise, trusted people to help towards reconciliation. If the matter is still not resolved, it is then given a public airing in the church. But always the aim and desire is for reconciliation.
Could we do any less when we worship a God who is reconciling all things to himself?