Church Blog

A Message from Rev Trevor Klar – October 21

Becoming Mature Disciples  

One goal for Christians is to become mature disciples. To become more like Jesus or to live as Paul describes it “in Christ” is a rich and fulfilling outcome. The reality is that for most of us we have barely begun on that journey.

There are many parts of our lives that do not come under the Lordship of Christ, and for many of these we are either unaware or in denial about this. The areas we are unaware of are something we can afford to be patient about. If we continue to commit to growing as disciples, then these will come into awareness, and though it may be painful to deal with them, we can grow them, and with the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, see this time as a significant and positive part of our Christian journey.

The areas we are in denial about are where the real issues arise. Often we are in denial for a long time and so our justifications are well developed and our “quieting” of the voice of our conscience is well practiced. Many of these are areas that we believe are “ours”. It may be our use of power, or our command of our emotions, or our sexuality, or our family relationships or . . . or . . .

These areas are often the major blockages to our maturity. Like the rich young ruler we may seem to have everything but know there is something lacking. And like the rich young ruler when we are confronted by Jesus, we can find we have constructed our own prison for, like him, we may find that those things we thought were under our control have in fact come to control us.

One area of our lives that we seldom think of as needing to be under Christ’s Lordship is our emotions. We believe these are ours alone and yet they are very much part of our createdness. God knows and understands we are emotional beings. If we look at Psalm 22 we see the psalmist is emotionally all over the place, and yet he seeks to bring even his dark emotional place under the hand of God. To grow into Christian maturity we too need to bring our emotions under God’s control. This does not mean we shut them down, rather it means we know our emotions, hear what they are telling us about where we are, and then bring this before God to find God’s wisdom about how to act in an appropriate way.

Then we will grow more and more in the imitation of Christ.

A Message from Rev Rob Williams – October 14

Mark 10:17-31   

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. But sometimes the good news of Jesus sounds like bad news. Jesus is a teacher who tells us the truth and sometimes the truth hurts before it can heal. Fortunately for us, Jesus, the good teacher, continues to teach us, continues to make possible that even for people like us, faithful discipleship is possible.

The question, put to Jesus by this man in Mark 10, is about a big, grand, difficult subject – “eternal life.”  Rather surprisingly, Jesus, the good teacher, demands that the man give up his great possessions and follow him. Jesus is inviting someone to be his disciple. But unlike the earlier call stories in Mark, this one ends with the recipient of the call turning away and rejecting Jesus.

It is the only story Mark tells about somebody who refuses to follow Jesus; and for that reason alone we should sit up and take notice because it means that the reason this man used to excuse himself  may be the same reason that some of us do.

Yet we note that the story doesn’t really end with the man’s grief and his rejection of Jesus’ call to follow him. It ends with Jesus’ affirmation of his disciples, those who have indeed left all and followed him.

As we see throughout Mark’s gospel, the disciples are rarely portrayed positively. Today may be one of those rare moments when the disciples finally get Jesus’ point.  The story ends in affirmation and rejoicing.  Discipleship – following Jesus – is difficult and demanding. That’s the bad news. Yet the good news is that with God “all things are possible.” And therein is our hope.

A Message from Ian Olver

When I looked up the lectionary a few weeks ago and found that Mark 10: 2-16, the passage about divorce, was the Gospel reading, the irony was not lost on me given the current same sex marriage debate. Divorce was a hot topic of the day but rather than seek his counsel the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus into speaking against the teaching of Moses that they held as sacred; and Jesus did not disappoint them. Moses had said in Deuteronomy 24:1 that if a wife fell out of favour you could write a Bill of Divorce. In Mark, Jesus indicates that in effect Moses was trying to protect women who were regarded as just possessions against being easily discarded by men for any reason. He was introducing structure in that time, not issuing a permanently method for divorce. Jesus wanted those of his day to understand the context of Moses statement, that the joining in marriage was meant to be a lifelong bond and not something to be taken trivially. He goes further back to Genesis where the bond between husband and wife is to be stronger than between parents and children. In Mark’s time divorce, predominantly still only available to the man, could still be on trivial grounds. Jesus was restoring marriage by showing that God meant it to be a permanent bond which could not be broken by man’s laws and regulations.  There were no exceptions. But here again, in an object lesson those who just pluck versus out of the Bible out of context without interpreting them, Jesus had to explain Moses’ statement Furthermore, if you refer to the same story in Matthew 19: 3-9 Jesus does make an exception for adultery, since that has broken the bond and divorce is simply a consequence. This version is considered more accurate than the version in Mark.

My focus is on “what God has joined together let no-one separate”

Why would God join us together in marriage? It is not just for procreation but fulfils a universal human need to belong, as part of living life to the full. In attachment theory intimate relationships between human beings are what life revolves around and if denied anxiety and depression result.

So, how do we know what God has joined together? We have all seen marriages which end in divorce where it seemed there was a mismatch right from the start. It seems convenient to suggest that it was not a marriage where God joined the couple together. However, we often making decisions without trying to discern God’s guidance.

How do we approach deciding what God has joined together? Jesus gives us a clue in the second part of the reading where he puts the emphasis on children. Children are usually non-judgemental of others but simply trust people, they have humility and they show obedience.

We are facing 2 important questions about “what God has joined together”. One is around same gender couples and the other is around the Uniting Church itself.

A Message from Rev Trevor Klar, September 30

Discerning the Spirit of God is a lifelong journey for us followers of Jesus.

Did I hear that right or was I only projecting my desires onto God?

Was I really paying attention?

Did I let an opportunity pass by?

Was I so caught up in life that God couldn’t be heard above the noise?

There are many similar questions and we often feel guilty and then doing whatever anyone asks in a desire to not miss hearing God.

So, firstly, we will always miss God’s voice on occasion. That is not a sin. What is a sin is when we do not listen for God to speak. To be listening and not hear is a disappointment, but our heart is right so God will not condemn.

Discerning the Spirit is important but only the first step. When God speaks and we hear there is always a next step, and it usually entails action. A real struggle that many of us have is that when God speaks we are often unsure and do not act. We do not do what God is asking. I have missed the cues many times and so now I have come up with a new commitment. If I even suspect that God has spoken to me I will do what I think God is asking (assuming of course that it is loving and consistent with Scripture). I find that when I respond to the whispers of God’s spirit, I am in the midst of amazing things that God is doing. Maybe it is when I speak to someone and the conversation goes to unexpected places, or when I see the love of Jesus in the most unlikely of people, or I discover someone who is wanting to reach out to God but doesn’t know how.

When we respond to the word of God there is blessing and very seldom rejection. The gospel is surprising and asks even more surprising things of us.

A Message from Peter Shackleford – July 23 2018

Reflections on the Gospel for Today – Mark 9:30-37   

If anyone thinks that in-fighting and jostling for privilege and power is a recent thing, or something that only happens in Canberra, they’d be mistaken. 

In today’s reading from Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ disciples doing just that – arguing over which one of them was the greatest.

Like many of Jesus’ stories, this one contains good news, and bad news. 

First the good news. Though the disciples were too embarrassed to admit to their behaviour, in the end they did.  Jesus didn’t berate them.  Instead he gathered them together and explained to them that true greatness isn’t measured by status or power, but by humble service to others. 

Jesus wasn’t saying that aspiration to leadership is bad in and of itself, but he was distinguishing between ambition that is egotistical and self-aggrandising, and aspiration that is motivated by a desire to serve others.

The bad news is that we humans, throughout the ages, appear to have not heard what Jesus had to say, or have heard it but too often chosen to ignore it, preferring instead to indulge our “primal instincts” to seek power and status as if therein lies meaning and lasting satisfaction.

But listen to Jesus.

He calls a child, the archetype of powerlessness, vulnerability, trust and dependence.

He holds the child in His arms, and explains that when His followers put aside their quest for power and welcome the vulnerable and powerless in His Name, they will find they have welcomed God.

He’s saying that when we welcome the vulnerable and powerless in Jesus’ Name, we too encounter God.

A Message from Rev Rob Williams

Some people are natural leaders and others are quite good at following. Some who are good at following do so if what or who they follow doesn’t demand too much of them. As today’s reading from Mark’s gospel illustrates (Mark 8:27-38), following Jesus is more than simply stating that you are one of his disciples. Following Jesus is a demanding yet fulfilling journey that not everyone is willing to make.

Christian discipleship isn’t an easy journey and with many recent social changes overseas and within Australia it’s not getting easier.

Martin Luther wrote this in the early 16th century about being a disciple of Jesus: A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.

In the first half of the 20th century a German pastor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, authored a classic book entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Within it he wrote these words:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The idea here is being “all in” for Jesus. It means that we don’t just make a one-time decision to say “yes” to him and then just move on. If we are “all-in” for Jesus, we will develop some practices in our life like prayer and meditation on the Scriptures that will enable us to grow in our relationship with Jesus – to know him better and therefore become able to walk with him in a consistent manner that reflects his lifestyle. And this has its cost.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Mark 8:34b

A Message from Rev Trevor Klar

Our cat is quirky. At night if it is outside it scratches to come in and then trots to the laundry where it expects you to shut it in for the rest of the night. It likes feeling safe from those other pesky animals and would never just go into the laundry of its own volition.

Humans like to feel safe. People like doors that lock and we like regular routines for our life. We feel safe when we put the toast in the toaster at 7.30am, and we like the same faces on our television news (will SBS be the same without Lee Lin Chin?). We like to know what we will be doing each day in the coming week.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the wildness of the gospel – it challenges our safety focussed lives. The wildness of the gospel was an issue in Jesus day. Jesus knew that it could/would explode in the Judaic community. In Marks gospel – and we see clear examples in this week’s gospel reading – he tries to order people into silence, but fails. The exciting change the gospel has brought into their lives just has to be shared. In John’s gospel there are similar issues, but there the better description is that the story goes wild. Think of the Blind Man or the woman at the well. Each of them is calling all to come see, to hear what has happened to them. The story has overtaken their reserve and they will not be silent.

In our lives it seldom feels there is a wild gospel seeking to force us out. Have we tamed the gospel, finding ways to “avoid extremes” or not go to the risky places where we feel ill-equipped. We have settled for a quiet Christian life. CS Lewis in the Narnia Chronicles insists over and again that the Lion (Aslan) is not tame and that being in his presence is dangerous.

I know that if we come close to God we will be called to risky faith, faith that challenges us and demands our all. I remember a delightful lady called Jess who at 76 set off to England to be a house mother for the children of missionaries. She was blessed enormously, but many did not understand her journey.

So let us go with the risky gospel, to be like the Pevensey children always looking for Aslan to appear in their story and transform the world around them; and transform them.

A Message from Peter Morris – Focus on Frontier Services

The Parable of the Sower, one of the best known of Jesus’ stories, uses the unpredictability and hardships of farming life to ask its hearers to reflect on life in general, but for Christians it reminds them of their mission to spread the Gospel through service and witness. The story seems to be dominated by the ways in which the spreading of the Word can be frustrated and it is easy to overlook the message of encouragement that ends the story.  ….they bear fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, even a hundredfold. Mark 4:20

In recent weeks it has been almost impossible to be unaware and unmoved by the plight of the many farmers across Australia suffering the effects of prolonged drought and others the results of hundreds of bush fires. It has been heartening to see and hear the massive response to their hardship. Frontier Services of the UCA is supporting outback communities and isolated families in good times as well as difficult ones. The Outback Padres mission is constant and in continuation of the long and honoured heritage of Rev John Flynn. They are respected and welcomed throughout the outback because they listen, care and understand. They endure the rocky patches, push through the weeds and scare away the predatory birds as they touch the lives of the lonely and isolated.

We can support this work in many ways. The article in the current edition of CHATS mentions the hosting of a fund-raising Outback BBQ and the support of the Red Dove Café at the Show. (Funds from the Café have helped re-establish a part time Padre based in Ceduna). Please keep Frontier Services, the padres and their families, and the other agencies working in the outback to support families who even in the good times do it tough.

 

An Introduction to Rev Trevor Klar

As a minister for around 35 years I have had a rich and varied ministry. I have ministered in rural Port Lincoln) and remote (Kangaroo Island) settings; I have been involved in suburban ministry (Semaphore, Woodville, Seacombe); I have ministered in Urban fringe communities (Meadows and Mount Barker) and I have been involved in both workplace chaplaincy and school chaplaincy (PAC).

This has given me a rich and broad experience of ministry and has honed my skills. My areas of passion include working with people beyond the fringe of the church, particularly through chaplaincy, but I love the opportunity to speak of faith with those who either have no faith or are searching and exploring faith. I am also passionate about worship being “of the people”. We are all called to worship, not just watch it being done for us. This can include the arts, but also intensive prayer with those in need, and opportunities for individual response.

I also am passionate about small groups in the life of the church and will seek to encourage this area of ministry during my time at BCUC, particularly working alongside small group leaders to encourage them. I believe some programs are planned already so I look forward to supporting those.

One of my other passions is Disaster and Recovery Ministries. I have served in a variety of ways in this ministry, and in my last congregation we agreed that I would be released to be one of the early responders. I expect to continue this involvement in years to come.

I enjoy leading and participating in worship as it is a communal opportunity for us to hear and respond to the voice of God through Jesus and the Spirit, and I enjoy sharing about faith and helping people to deeply consider how they might grow in faith.

On a personal level – I am married (since Aug 1981 to Sue) have two grown daughters (Amy and Jessica) and two grandsons. I delight in Patrick (3 1?2) and Owen (12 months). I play golf (badly) and have kept Finches – although at the moment I am refurbishing my aviary so have none.

Of course, any bio sheet like this will barely tell any of the important “stuff” so please talk to me so we can discover each other.

A Message from Gary – 26 August 2018

Living Life to the Full  

One of the major themes of John’s Gospel is life. John introduces this theme in the first few verses of his Gospel: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life.” And it comes near the end when John tells us why he wrote his Gospel: “…These are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

All through the Gospel the theme of life emerges. Perhaps the best known reference is John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The word used there for abundant means,  ‘over and above’… ‘more than necessary’ … ‘superadded’ … ‘supreme’.

Yet many people do not experience life in this way. Perhaps they experience life more like it seems Philip Adams does: “To me the universe is meaningless. There is no destiny, no author of creation. To me life is just a brief flash in infinite darkness.”

Perhaps part of the problem is with the word life itself. What is one word in English is at least three words in the Greek (the language of the New Testament). The first word is bios from which we derive our word biology. It is to do with the mechanics of life: eating, resting , reproducing. The second word is psyche from which we get psychology. It refers to the life of the mind and the emotions. Both of these are seen in the Christian tradition as good and necessary. But they are not enough for the fullness of life. So we have a third word zoe. It doesn’t translate into any common English word. But it is the word used when Jesus talks about life abundant or the fullness of life. It is a word which suggests the very life of God lived in and through us. To ignore this dimension is to live a diminished life.

We might call this deeper dimension of life the life of the soul or the spirit. So says John in his Gospel, open yourself to the deeper dimensions of life, allow the very life of God to come alive in you, for therein is the fullness of life. Or as the saint of old, Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself and our souls are restless until they rest in You.”