Whether it is the achievements of our children or ourselves, hearing the national anthem or Steve Waugh’s final innings at the SCG, life throws us plenty of opportunities to feel proud. Pride, we are told is the most serious sin, it accounted for Lucifer after all. So what are we to do? The problem for me lies in our use of the word, the Greeks have a better one, Hubris, meaning arrogance, a complete lack of humility. This is the sin we are to watch for. The idea that we are more important, higher than even God and as such deserve things. How much easier our lives would be if we were humble like Jesus. Imagine the King of the Universe washing feet! Let’s feel pride at good things but not at the expense of remembering we are subjects of God. We are the created and all we have is a gift of grace from a loving God. As C.S.Lewis wrote, the proud man is always looking down, he will therefore never see what is above him.
It’s week 2 of the Isaiah readings and we turn from how we worship to how we live. It really is two parts to our complete whole. God has laboured hard to prepare us for a fruitful life and I think there is an expectation that we will produce good fruit, gentleness, patience, kindness, peace, joy etc. We have to be careful we are not advocating works but rather stressing that if we truly love God we will have a desire to please God and that includes living as God wants us to. We will be fruitful not because we want a reward but because it is part of our new transformed selves.
Over the next two weeks I’m going to be looking at the Isaiah readings in the lectionary. They complement each other as this week we are looking at integrity in worship. Essentially the point Isaiah is raising this week is “How can you expect God to listen to your worship if it does not reflect how you live?” This is a hard message, difficult to hear. I know in my own life the way I live Mon-Sat doesn’t always match up to God’s standards. Thankfully Jesus bridges this gap for us. But even so, we must keep trying to worship God in our lives every day. Wesley famously said, “Preach the gospel, and use words if necessary”.
Sometimes it can seem we only turn to God when we are in need. Our prayers are only those asking for things, needs to be met. Once those needs are met we can find that God has slipped down our list of priorities. Indeed, once we become comfortable, we find our attention to God can become almost negligible. The parable of the rich fool illustrates our need to remain focussed on God, to realise God is the source of our sustenance, not ourselves. May we never lose sight of our need to rely on the goodness of God.
To God’s holy people, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
When writing a pastoral letter, it seems appropriate to begin by borrowing from the Apostle Paul. I admire his heart for the mission and his love for the people God has placed in his care. I am called to provide that same care for the people of Burnside through my ministry here.
We are a growing church. Every day God blesses us by bringing new people our way and many of them are joyfully making Burnside City Uniting Church their spiritual home. All of us are growing in our faith, in our service and into the image of Jesus Christ as we follow Jesus together. Continue reading →
I met an old friend yesterday. Not long after we met at 9 years old we got into a fight and gave each other our first black eyes. I’m sure our parents thought it odd that we each got a black eye in the same lunchtime football game. We haven’t seen each other in 10 years, but our memories of childhood together remain clear. God’s memory of us must be even stronger. If it has been 5 minutes or 5 years since we last prayed, God knows us and continues to hold us in His heart. “You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43) God has created each and every human being to be in relationship with Him. Since the beginning of creation and through Jesus on the cross, God seeks each of us every day to be in this wonderful relationship He offers. All we need to do is to respond.
While walking back to church after lunch this week I had a wonderful opportunity to help a young woman. She was out walking her beautiful St Bernard dog, but the dog was tired and had given up. I came across them on the very edge of busy Greenhill Road. The dog was huge and the woman did not have the strength to drag the dog home. I suggested that I hold the dog’s lead and that the woman start walking. She had not gone more than a few steps and the tired dog jumped up and followed her home.
God’s love and grace are so freely given that we are inclined to forget that following Jesus can be tiring and at times we may like to give up. Remember who you serve. Jesus will never give up on you. “Love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Today we are blessed to hear from Scott & Rachael Litchfield as they share their experiences of ministry in Cambodia. Their stories of doing God’s work in far-away places are especially close to my heart as I remember my own years of ministry in Africa and India. Responding to the call of God to take the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people in other lands is indeed a high calling. God calls you and me to respond to a call that is no less challenging – the call to live for Jesus in our own neighbourhood. Every day we are called to show the love of God through our words and actions to each and every person we meet. Let us give generously to the work that is being done overseas, pray for those who are sent and remember that we are also called to serve.
This week the lectionary reading sees Jesus sending out the 72 on an evangelical mission (Lk 10:1-11, 16-20). He does not send them out without guidance and issues instructions on what to say and do. What is interesting is that He also prepares them for failure.
When we try and carry out some evangelical programme and don’t see results it is all too easy to worry that we have done something wrong. If this is God’s work surely it would succeed? Not so, says Jesus. There will be some who refuse to listen to us at this time. We should not worry about this but move on. Maybe the next person will make the breakthrough and we have softened their hearts a little as preparation? Evangelism is a long term project, not a quick fix; the work is too important to give up easily.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
Today we witness the baptism of 4 people who have decided to publicly confess their faith and declare that they want to “keep in step with the Spirit”. It is a good time to recall our own baptisms or the time when we were so excited about Jesus that nothing could stop us declaring our love for him. Being a Christian is not always about these exciting times. There are times when it is hard work. I remember learning about the “Faith, Facts & Feelings Train” – faith is the engine that drives the train; the facts in the Bible give us the fuel for our faith and the feelings follow along behind. When we “keep in step with the Spirit” we know that God is with us through the ups & downs even if we don’t feel it.