This week I have been challenged to think about what really matters in our lives as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed more than 10,000 people in the central Philippines. We dig into our pockets to donate and we offer up a prayer. Perhaps we are grateful it didn’t happen to anyone we know and we struggle to comprehend what more we could possibly do. Rather than push these concerns from our minds, I encourage you to continue to pray and donate as you are able. Do not let the passage of time or distance dilute your compassion for the many people who are grieving the loss of loved ones and are now without homes, jobs or the other basics of life. I am convinced that what really matters is seen in time of crisis, disaster or frustration. That is when our true character is most visible. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6. If you wish to donate visit www.unitingworld.org.au or call 1800 998 122.
The Annual General Meeting of our Presbytery/Synod took place last week for three days. Burnside City Uniting Church was represented by Doug, Rex and I. More information can be found on the UCSA website. The highlights for me were; the installation of the new moderator – Dr Deidre Palmer, recognising the excellent work of the retiring moderator – our very own Rev Rob Williams and the healthy discussion about the relationship between Uniting Church congregations and our ministry agencies – Uniting Care, Resthaven & schools. Several members put forward the view that the church is made up of congregations and the various agencies. They added that we should do everything possible to continue to maintain a healthy relationship that presents the Uniting Church to the wider community as a church that is actively engaged in ministry and education. I love to see the UCA logo with the cross and the red dove all around the community. I am sure you do too.
A few weeks ago I preached on gratitude and so it is appropriate that we, as a family, thank you for the way you received us into your congregation, the way you made our time with you so enjoyable and the wonderful farewell we received last week. It was not an easy decision to leave this church as we felt truly at home here however I believe strongly that God has called me elsewhere. The difficulty I faced over this decision is due to the way I felt ministering to you here. Ministry is not always easy, and ministry in a hard place is nigh impossible. It was a joy to minister here and I had a truly blessed time amongst you. More than the building, more than the facilities, a church is the people that make it up. Burnside is a wonderful church for this reason. I pray you always remain faithful and hospitable, a welcome place for anyone seeking to serve and worship God.
By contrasting the two different prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus shows how we need to stop relying on ourselves and start relying on God. The attitude of a child is used. If we think of a child, their utter dependency on an adult for day to day life we start to get the picture. I don’t think this stifles us in our efforts to pursue the big questions, after all, a child’s favourite question is “Why?” I think it refers to our attitude, not our knowledge. Do we see God as someone we need to cling to in order to survive life, or do we think we know enough about everything to get by ourselves?
Last week 5 members of Burnside City Uniting Church attended the 2 day Global Leadership Summit in Adelaide. This event happens every year in many cities around the world. We heard from a variety of speakers and had lively discussions with people from other churches about their ministries. One point from a Pastor from Nairobi, Kenya stands out for me. ‘Jesus said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. Rather than madly rushing around trying to gather in the harvest alone, each leader needs to focus on having more harvesters’. I am grateful to the many people here at BCUC who are “harvesters – labouring in the fields” for Jesus and I am especially grateful for those who came with me to this leadership training this year. We are all called to share the Good News of Jesus with our neighbours.
The fact that only one of the lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus for healing is interesting. It was the “foreign” one, the one who perhaps assumed he was not “entitled” to be healed unlike the Jewish lepers. This belief of being entitled to something erodes our ability to say “thanks”; when we receive something we believe it is ours by right. I wonder if… we sometimes take God for granted? Is it our right to be blessed, to have good health, homes, cars, money and we only complain to God when we lack them? Perhaps we should be grateful for anything we receive. We deserve nothing yet get everything, that’s grace, and it’s something to be thankful for every second of the day
“If only I had more faith….” Jesus told His disciples even a little bit of faith is enough to do great things. “If only” is a common excuse for doing nothing. We have all the faith we need. Our faith comes from God who out of nothing created everything. God has the power to do wonderful things with our little bit of faith. God will work through us when we are willing to step up to the challenge.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus should make us stop and think. It is too easy to make this about simply giving to charity. We should pause and remember that the original target of the parable were the Pharisees who claimed to be concerned about the Kingdom of God yet ignored its very herald in their midst; just as the rich man ignored Lazarus. God presents us with opportunities all the time to be Christ to each other. I think we need to take care we don’t ignore what God has laid at our feet.
This week, Jesus tells two stories illustrating the lengths God will go to in order to find the lost. This week is also National Suicide Prevention Awareness week. Sometimes it is easy to find the lost, they are obvious in shelters, in prisons. Sometimes though the lost are hard to find. They might be your neighbour, your friend, your child or parent. If they are struggling with difficulties they may well hide them behind a fake smile, a glib “I’m fine”. Take the time to ask someone how they are feeling with genuine concern for their welfare. Go for lunch or a coffee or a walk together and listen to the person. If we don’t look hard enough we’ll never find the lost amongst us.
Hebrews 13:1 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Does that mean punching, kicking & screaming? You may remember loving your brothers or sisters like that? We still love one another. However, when we have disagreements at church, the conclusion may be that we do not love that person. Love is more than a nice feeling, it is consistent action. Love is shown as we work together in mission as we did on Election Day. Our community will know us by our love & they will know our love by our actions. See John 13.