A Message from Rev Rob Williams – December 22 2019

Everywhere we look, we see signs: street signs, advertising signs, signs on the roadway, signs telling us how long we can park or whether we can park there at all. If we take notice of them most assist us, some confuse us – but we need to see them and follow what they say.

The Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle of the Christian Year is full of signs. The prophet Isaiah announces a sign to king Ahaz that ‘a young woman will conceive and bear a son and shall call his name ‘Emmanuel” – God with us.” Matthew builds on this as he tells the story of the birth of Jesus: “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet – ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son ….’

The angels were busy. They surprise the shepherds with the announcement of the birth of Jesus – Messiah – by telling them: “This will be sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” So they go to Bethlehem and it’s just as the angels had told them. They told everyone they met what they had seen.

One of the more obvious signs comes with Epiphany – the visit of the Magi from the east to the young child Jesus. They followed a star to a house in Bethlehem, presented their gifts and worshipped him.

I hope you have allowed yourself to fully enter into the love, joy, hope and peace celebrated in our times of worship throughout Advent, this time of looking forward to celebrating again the birth of Jesus, Messiah, and anticipating his coming again as King of kings and Lord of Lords.

Love, joy, hope and peace are not only gifts Jesus brings to us but gifts we are called as Christians to share within our families, with our friends and with all we meet. These are signs of Jesus’ presence in us. Let’s make sure they are seen.

A Message from Rev Benji Callen – December 15 2019

Do you like waiting in lines?

Queuing up at shop counters, waiting for several difficult customer to finish being served while you only need to pay $2.50 for a newspaper?

Waiting in traffic? Waiting to find a park? Waiting in line to speak to a real person on the phone?

When it comes to these things I’m pretty impatient and usually find other things to do instead of waiting, only to miss out on whatever it was I was waiting for.

Jesus said, the prophets predicted, and all the New Testament writers wrote about Jesus coming back in glory to once and for all establish fully the Kingdom of God, the new heaven and the new earth. Trumpets will sound and Jesus will appear. So in the mean time we wait… but with patient hope. 

It’s a little challenging to get our heads and hearts around. We think, ‘well Jesus said this and the early disciples believed this nearly 2000 years ago. It obviously hasn’t happened yet. So lets just ignore this and get on with living a Christian life in the here and now rather than concerning ourselves about the not yet and the seemingly never’. It’s like me getting bored in a queue, ducking the queue and missing out.

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” James 4:7-8

My first date with my now wife Nicole was going to the movies during the December uni. holidays at Marion Shopping centre. It was busy, very horribly busy. I couldn’t find a park. I drove slowly and with ever increasing frustration around the whole car park three times. I could not find a park. I was getting close to giving up, but in the days before mobile phone use, I realised I could be patient and wait for the park to appear or drive on and miss out on the date with Nicole, possibly forever.  I waited and found a park. Thankfully Nicole had waited at the cinemas for me too. We could’ve got bored, given up and missed out on each other. Instead we have since then barely been apart. Jesus is coming. We can get bored with waiting and miss out. Or wait patiently for Jesus to come in glory and make all things new.

A Message from Rev Benji Callen – December 8 2019

Advent is the season of waiting and preparing. You, like me, may have been confused about what we’re waiting for. Often we think its about preparing Christmas, the time when God chose to become like us… Emmanuel (which means God with us). The Christmas carols we sing, the trees, the advent calendars, the parades, the Christmas parties, the decorations in shops and offices all seem to reinforce the same message: Jesus is coming/has come to us as a baby at Christmas, let’s celebrate. If you do some research into the church calendar and what’s called the Revised Common Lectionary (set Sunday bible readings for each year on a 3-year rotation used by many mainline denominations worldwide since its revision in 1994); you discover that advent is waiting and preparing not for Father Christmas or Christ coming as a baby. That happened over 2000 years ago. Rather, it is Christ’s coming again in glory. The ’second coming’. Some writers and commentators who enjoy a strict adherence to the church’s liturgical year get quite upset about what they see as “the Christmas creep” of advent. Christmas carols and decorations are for Christmas and the period after, not before. As a result, Christmas for them should come in sudden flurry! At BCUC were mixing it together a bit. We can see both Christmas coming and elements of preparing for the time Jesus comes again. Up the front of the church we add each Sunday a golden trumpet. As Jesus described his return: “he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Matthew 24:31.The flags have a letter of the four traditional advent themes: Love, Joy, Hope, Peace. Their colour is purple: the usual colour of advent that represents both royalty (the sovereignty of God) and penitent preparation. The black background represents the pre-dawn. As Christians we live in the time between Jesus death and resurrection and his return, the darkness is nearly over. As we progress through the weeks we will see more light and life (including in the flowers). The bible in front of the cross symbolises the primary revelation of Jesus (come along at Christmas and you will see the word made flesh). It’s not the bright tinsel and trees that you get at Burnside Village, its about showing Jesus return. We hope these visuals will enhance the message and your worship experience as we ask ourselves: are we prepared for Jesus to return?

A Message from Rev Benji Callen – December 1 2019

 It’s the first Sunday of Advent! Maybe you have kids like mine who woke up this morning and opened their cardboard windows to find a Christmas themed sliver of cheap European chocolate to eat. A sure sign that Christmas is coming, Jesus is near, the countdown begins. However, the church season of advent has not been just about counting down to Christmas Day. The lectionary readings are often focused on the theme of Jesus is coming… again. Scholars like to call it the apocalyptic texts. Things such as:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Today’s reading says: Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42-44

This line of Christian thought has historically attracted the attention of the religious fringe. With all sorts of speculation about exactly how and when the second coming, the great tribulation, the rapture or the apocalypse will occur. For example recent history tells of a group of people who sold everything they owned and built a makeshift grandstand to watch Jesus come walking in through the heads of Sydney Harbour, which must have been rather embarrassing for them when he didn’t show up.

You may be like me and have observed this kind of behaviour and talk then wanted to distance yourself from it. Our loss is that we ignore and even dismiss a vital understanding of the Christian faith. Over the next few weeks we will address this gap. Keep in mind the condensed understanding of the second coming of Jesus that Dean Brooks recently explained to me.

  1. Jesus promised he will return. Human history is linear. There is an alpha and omega, a beginning and an end with Jesus in control of both.
  2. We don’t know when it will happen. Even Jesus on earth didn’t know. There will be signs like windows in an advent calendar, but we don’t know how many windows there are. Just trust and wait.
  3. Live your life now as if it is imminent. As the bumper sticker says: “Look busy, Jesus is coming”. Be reconciled to the people around you, sort it out, get a clean slate now with God and with others, don’t wait, just be ready and follow the Scout Motto “Be Prepared”.

(In keeping with this theme the Christmas decorations this advent will be minimal compared to those you find in shopping malls. We will emphasise the coming of Christ like the darkness of the earth giving birth to a new day. Look out for decorations highlighting the trumpet call of God.)

A Message from Rev Rob Williams – November 24 2019

Who/What is the Centre of your universe? I’m not asking that question in any planetary sense but very personally.

There are many people and/or things around which our lives revolve.

Youth today plunge into deep anxiety when parents ban the use of electronic gadgets for misdemeanours.  The confiscation of their mobile phone is second only to death!

Adults are not immune from placing things and people in the centre of our lives. Various forms of media, people and fashions compete for our devotion under the guise of being a friend, or an aide to life. They promise home, body, spiritual, retail and technological renovation. Who or what truly deserves our devotion? Who/What is the centre of our universe? This is St. Paul’s basic question in our reading from Colossians today. And his answer is – Christ alone

He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.           Colossians 1:18

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in the Christian Year – the Festival of Christ the King through which we affirm that Jesus is the One who is at the very centre of our lives – our universe.

The Lord God, through the prophet Jeremiah proclaims

The days are coming, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.                Jeremiah 23:5-6

I was surprised to discover that there are some 43 or 44 countries in our world today that have monarchies. There are many images that came into my mind when thinking about this – vast palaces, pomp and ceremony, wealth beyond imagining.

However, we need to know that Jesus is not a far-removed king on high but one who bends himself to our brokenness so that we might be saved. He displays his kingship in service to others and his death on the cross. In this servanthood and life-giving love, Christ reigns. His presence is to be found in the difficult, struggling and painful places of our world.

This King deserves my love, my allegiance, my service in this world with him in the places he is and calls me to be.

King Jesus is worthy to be the Centre of our universe.

A Message from Rev Benji Callen – November 17 2019

Wow a lot happened last Sunday at church.  To hear the unique stories of the life-changing difference a relationship with Jesus makes reminds me of the joy of ministry. Thank you Graham, Jaime and Greg for your courage and honesty.

Thanks to all those involved last Sunday from the details of the service including the Church Council with the launch of our vision and three year direction “Raising Children of God”, to those involved in the re-affirmation of baptism to the music, the membership and the behind the scenes office work required to get over 200 personal certificates printed (please pick yours up if you haven’t yet) and then finally the generous hospitality of the international lunch to follow. It was a wonderful preview of the great heavenly banquet Jesus talked about. Thanks Joy for the vision of the international lunch and all the many people who pitched in to help with providing food, serving, setting up, the kids who served others and those who cleaned up. It was a great team effort which created a family buzz of Christian fellowship for over 200 people. Thank you.

This Sunday Colette and I will talk about the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13

It’s a list that Paul gives in a general letter about church. There is debate as to whether this is an exhaustive list of the ministries in the church or not and since writing in the first century there are now broad ways of understanding how this can apply to our church today. The apostle is like the church planter or entrepreneur who begins lasting church movements, the prophet listens to the voice of the spirit and responds, this can be calling out injustice or being able to see God’s plan for others, the evangelist shares the message of the gospel to encourage faith, the shepherd is those who pastorally care for the flock and finally the teacher is the one who explains Jesus to others. Some argue that everyone is one of these five, others would argue it’s a specific list. 

There are a number of online “five-fold ministry test” to see who you are. 

Mike Breen from ‘Building a Discipling Culture” talks about having a “base” ministry, which is our natural default. The one we find easiest. We might go through phases of each of the others to help deepen our base.  The final focus is that each of the ministries need to work together as the body of Christ, not independently. Their purpose is not to lift  and build up the ego of the believer but rather to humbly equip others in ministry and build the wider church up. So may the Holy Spirit help us to equip the saints for ministry as we raise children of God.

BCUC’s Vision for its Future

Jesus left Earth and his disciples with a vision: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Then he gave them the action plan “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, (local) and in all Judea and Samaria, (regional) and to the ends of the earth (global).” Acts 1:8.

This year we have been asking the question “why does BCUC exist? What is our purpose?”. Following discussions at our Church Council retreat, getting a ‘feel’ for the place, after much discussion, prayer and observation about the great strengths, aspirations, hopes and prayers for BCUC, plus based on survey results and the open prayer time, we kept coming around to the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”, it takes a church community to raise a child of God. We settled on our mission and vision statement, our primary purpose as a church being: “raising Children of God”.  

Raising: this is the work of discipling, it is the main work of the church with the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit.

Children of God: a New Testament term for those who are loved, known and know Jesus. This is our primary, eternal identity which can never be taken away. We become brothers and sisters in Christ. By being called “children” there is humility and loving obedience to God. We are all still growing like children in our faith. 

For the next three years at BCUC what does this look like? What is our action plan?

  1. “I Can’t Wait Worship” Develop worship times and services that best match what God is doing in and through BCUC to provide passionate/engaging/meaningful/God honouring worship for ALL the children of God at BCUC and those yet to come. Includes creativity, engaging all-ages and intercultural worship.
  2. Raising Disciples With significant impactful small group ministry, regular alpha groups, loving prayerful pastoral care, healing ministry, raising leaders (gift development), development of a teaching school (e.g. apologetics/ preaching) and beyond ourselves ministry (local, national, international) including focusing our mission funding on large Uniting Church national and international projects.
  3. Preparing the ground Developing BCUC values as a whole congregation. Having clear and simple pathways for membership and service with clear and simple decision-making structures and integrating modernised online systems (Elvanto, worship, finance). 
  4. Raising local’s With the challenging aim of having a congregation that matches the demographics of the community “the children of God= the people of Burnside”. Currently youth and young adults are our biggest gap. To help us we aim to employ youth/young adults pastor 0.4 from 2020 and then a families pastor 0.4 from 2021.

 

A Message from Rev Benji Callen – November 3 2019

Scrolling notices 3 November 2019It began as Jesus left the disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit to give them the power to love each other, their neighbor and God in revolutionary ways while spreading the good news of Jesus, growing the church and enduring great suffering.

The perfect picture we have is in Acts 2 where people devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship (community), breaking of bread and prayer. As it grew, the early church writers tried to find images and metaphors that could describe this new group of people. They talked about the church as a building with a solid foundation, a temple of the Holy Spirit built of living stones, a vine, a bride and flock of Christ.

The body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4) has been one of the most enduring metaphors. It helps understand the ideal of the church universal, the Uniting Church and the local congregation, e.g. BCUC. Reading it in Corinthians, this was an image given to a church in conflict, full of jealousy and ‘us and them’. The image was given to help it stay united in Christ.

At its basic level, we’re all knitted together with Jesus as the head. Expand on this image and things get interesting.

  1. A human body is dynamic, growing, changing, moving, resting, organic, eating, excreting, full of amazing potential to build gardens, run marathons, construct airplanes, heal others, wrap people up in love, create and destroy, love and hurt, do much or do very little. But a body is not a fixed building or a monument. That’s a statue. The bible doesn’t say the church is a statue. It is the same way with our church.
  2. We all have different roles. Encourage each other, don’t envy or look over your shoulder or get annoyed at the other. Very different bits and organs of body work together not separately. Celebrate your uniqueness and that of others.
  3. When one bit hurts we all hurt. When all bits work well things can really move.
  4. We can increase the fitness, strength and health of a body.
  5. Jesus is the head. More specifically, the brain and the central nervous system. Giving electrical impulses to the rest of the body in a feedback loop.

At its best the local congregation is a beautiful expression of the body of Christ. Healthy, dynamic, creative, healing and bringing light to a broken world. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to knit us together at BCUC to be a great example of the body of Christ. —Your brother in Christ,  Benji

BCUC Membership – Why does it matter?

On Sunday November 10th at 10:00am, we are having a single service at BCUC to celebrate membership. This is an opportunity to publicly and formally declare your commitment to the work of God through the life of BCUC.

I am loving being a part of BCUC. Not only is this where God has called my family and me to worship and serve, it’s the place where I can follow Jesus in loving God with everything and love others as I love myself. It’s where I am being raised as a Child of God. Formalising my membership according to church regulations won’t really affect that. You won’t even find formalising membership in the bible. So why are we encouraging you to formalise your membership with us? Well it’s really useful for a range of reasons:

  • The Bible calls us to worship in an orderly way (1 Cor 14:40) and membership is an expression of good order.
  • It helps the leaders lead. The elders have responsibility in Christ to shepherd the flock. It’s really helpful for us to know who the flock actually are (1 Peter 5:2).
  • It’s a way of publically confirming your belonging with us. It’s saying “yes” to serving Jesus, and being part of the mission of God through BCUC. Like other public covenant acts (baptism, marriage) membership can give you hope to hang in there when things go rough and is a symbol of God’s promise to lead us through together. And that’s a great witness to the gospel (John 13:34-35).
  • You can help us make decisions. By becoming a member of BCUC you are saying publically “I get what BCUC is about and I want to help us get to where God is calling us”. According to the current ordering of the church, you won’t be able to vote on decisions if you’re not a formal member (e.g. on Church Council or at Meetings of the Congregation).

Yes, it can seem like a rigid formality. But part of my joyful submission to Jesus is my submission to the people whom he calls to serve me (Romans 13:1-3). That can be scary because they are flawed like me, but as Jesus is the one who builds and governs his church it’s OK for me to submit to the human structures he puts in place (Hebrews 13:17).

Blessings

Benji Callen

(adapted from Simon Dent at CoroUniting)

A Message from Rev Rob Williams – October 20 2019

Today in worship we begin a 3 week series on Membership. The focus today is ‘I believe in the Church’, an understanding of the nature of the universal church of Jesus Christ. This will be followed by a look at the Uniting Church and the Biblical Vision for the future, touching on our church’s Basis of Union. The 3rd Sunday looks at who we are and what we are doing as Burnside City Uniting Church.

This series will bring us to November 10th when, in a single service, we will share in a Celebration of Membership and launch the church’s new vision and direction. This will be followed by a shared International Lunch acknowledging the nature of our congregation as one growing in its international diversity.

This afternoon our Pastoral Contacts will gather for a time of fellowship and learning together. Benji will lead a time focusing on ‘Confident Caring’. We have 67 of our congregation providing a pastoral contact with all those who have a sense of belonging to BCUC. Some of these are spread across almost 20 aged care facilities.  Pastoral Care needs are growing across our congregation. Our Pastoral Contacts and Ministers respond to all the age groups represented at BCUC and their pastoral needs. These may include hospitalisation, immediate family crisis, death of a spouse or other family members, loss of a job or the need to work through the implications of an impending transfer in one’s job, support for those caring for a wider family member in a particular time of crisis or simply letting someone know that they are valued for what they are doing to enhance our life together at BCUC.

Being the Church of Jesus Christ links those who are the church (membership) with those in need (pastoral care). Jesus calls us to love one another as he loves us. This is a great privilege –  encouraging and building up one another in love through caring for one another.