Please click on the link, watch the video and consider the justice of our governments’ refugee policies.
What should we be doing to Give Hope to Asylum Seekers?
Please click on the link, watch the video and consider the justice of our governments’ refugee policies.
What should we be doing to Give Hope to Asylum Seekers?
My son, Jordan, is studying creative writing at Uni at the moment, and from time to time I look at some of his text books to see how a particualr genre is described. Presently, he is doing a contemplative essay, where you develop a metaphor from everyday life, reflect upon it and draw out its meaning. In the process of having an ‘ah ha’ moment the writer poses a question to reader that invites them to journey with along the meandering path of their thoughts. In this self-revealing process, the writers revelations become the catalyst for others to engage in similar reflections.
This contemplative process is very similar to how the gospels describe Jesus talking in parables…In Luke 15 Jesus told three parables about lost things; a lost sheep; a lost coin and a lost son. This trilogy of lostness reminds us about the character of God who is like:
1. The shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep safely in the fold for the night to go and find the one that was lost.
2. The woman who loses one of her precious wedding coins (like losing your wedding ring) and turns the house upside down and does not give up until the precious items is recovered.
3. A father who patiently waits for his rebellious son to return home after wastefully spending his inheritance in a foreign land.
Now, there is much more that could be said about these parables, especially the forgiving response of the father who keeps a lookout for his son’s return and runs to greet him and restore him – even though he didn’t deserve it; or the embittered response of his brother…But the point is that each of these stories talks about our relationship with God and God’s response to our lostness.
The other day I was watching the droplets of water run down a pane of glass after a shower of rain and I noticed how each droplet would stick to the glass for a time and then at random moments the effects of gravity would take control sending the droplet on a downward but random path towards the pool of water at the bottom of the pane. This started me thinking and I remembered a similar sense of randomness, yet control, that I experienced one night in November 2001, watching the effects of the Leonid meteor shower in the early morning sky on a farm just out of Werris Creek in NSW.
You may remember that night, where hundreds even thousands of ‘shooting stars’ blazed across the sky in the early hours on the morning. I was staying that night on a farm and got the children up, wrapped them in blankets and went outside in the total blackness and lay on the ground and just looked at the sky. For about three hours I watched and counted several hundred meteor trails streaking across the starlit sky, not wanting to turn away in case I missed something that I might never see again. There was no regular sequence to the events, just a random flow that sometimes was a trickle and others a torrent of light. However, the speed that it occurred impressed upon me that I was laying on a very large rock that hurtling through space at incredible speeds. How we didn’t just get flung off can be explained by science, but reminded me that there were much bigger things going on than I could fully understand or took notice of in my day to day existence.
The sense that God was in control even though things seemed to occur randomly was a revelation in that moment that I will always remember. Even when things seem out of control, even when I feel lost or overwhelmed, I have found that God searches me out, rescues me, forgives and restores me. When I am feeling abandoned or powerless, I have found that it is not God who is lost,; God’s always there and desires for me to open my eyes, ears and heart to what he is doing and saying.
The sense of being out of control is something that we all experience in life because many things that happen to us on a daily basis have an element of randomness about them. In times like these we often focus on what we have lost, rather than what we have found. When we do this, our conversations can get very negative. However, when we remember the character of God; the ‘good news’ of the coming of Jesus Christ and God’s purpose for his people to particpate in sharing this ‘good news’, our conversations and reflections are drawn towards a more positive and hopeful future.
What are you reflecting upon today? Are you focused on what you have lost, or what on you have found? God continues to go out of his way to draw you back to the fold, restore you and give you hope and an inheritance that was always meant to be yours. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, ‘you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with your whole heart’ (NIV).
Are you looking? Are you seeking ? I hope that in the process of looking and reflecting you too will have an ‘ah ha’ moment.
On Sunday 15th September 5 members of the Weston Creek Uniting Church travelled to Murrumbateman to run a service for the Murrumbateman Uniting Church. Murrumbateman UC is a small community church set in beautiful surroundings on the Yass Hwy, in the middle of Murrumbateman. As they are small, they not have a regular minister, so they often invite people from outside thier community to lead their services. One of their young people (Matthias) is a regular member of the Chain Reaction group that is run out of Weston Creek UC, he organised for Dr Tim to come and preach and Tim decided that it would be good if others from WCUC came too.
The small team ( Margaret, Charles, David & Jason) led music, prayers and readings, while Tim preached and talked to the children. Overall it was a great morning and encouragement to all. We look forward to future connections with the church at Murrumbateman and other opportunities where we can support other congregations who may be struggling. Thanks Matthias for inviting us!
(Click on the link)
Fan or Follower ( Some thoughts on Luke 14: 25-33)
At a time of the year when various football codes explode into finals, we get a glimpse at the fan behaviour that has been part of our human society for thousands of years. Across the centuries people have come out to cheer on conquering heroes: kings & queens; elected officials; actors & musicians; sporting stars and the like. It says something about who we are, that we get caught up in the emotion of the moment and are drawn along to cheer or just to look. Sometimes that fan behaviour leads to misbehaviour, but sometimes it encourages us to rise above the ordinary and to do something special. The problem with fan behaviour is that you can look on from a distance and not be significantly changed by the experience.
Jesus knew all about the whims of those who followed him. In an era before mass communication, the word was passed around that a new type of teacher was out in the hills. People had been amazed that he didn’t talk like the other Rabbis (religious teachers) – he spoke with authority and he backed it up with miracles! What a show!! Before computer animation and photoshop, Jesus was doing the miracles without sleight of hand, he was doing it with the power of God – and his was the biggest attraction around. Little wonder thousands of people came out from their towns and villages to hear him, see him and touch him.
For two years Jesus was the most popular figure around Judea and Galilee. But then people wanted him to be more than who he was. They wanted him to be the conquering hero, riding on the white horse, leading the people in revolt against the Roman overlords. But Jesus would have nothing of it. It wasn’t God’s reason for entering into the world. Sure he was the Messiah, but not the type of Messiah that the people expected. So when Jesus challenged them about their sincerity and their commitment to follow him, the people fell away. The fan base diminished in his final year of ministry and those who were left were his true followers.
Jesus said (verses 26-7) if anyone is to follow me they must hate father, mother, brother, sister, family…even their whole life…they must take up their cross and give it their all. Now, that’s a pretty hard word. No wonder he fell out of favour with his fans. The image of carrying a cross to your own crucifixion was something very familiar to the Jews. They had seen thousands of their countrymen die that way at the hands of the Romans. Crucifixion was a ruthless and bloodthirsty method of capital punishment designed by the Romans to make a public statement to the local population across the Roman Empire. Jesus used this image that was well known to describe the sort of commitment it takes to be more than a fan – to be a true follower of God.
God requires us to give it all up, to die to ourselves – but the reward is life. This life is a hope for eternal life for the future, that empowers us with new life and purpose for the present. Being a follower of Christ is not meant to be easy. Those who think that it is easy will be disappointed and will drop away, but those who are committed to giving everything to God will discover that every aspect of life takes on a new and renewed perspective when seen through God’s eyes. That’s what it means to ‘hate’ in this context. Either we make other things our first priority or we make God our focus. When we focus ourselves on God, everything else finds its proper place – because God loves family, God loves communities, God loves people….God loves us and enjoys us using all our talents creatively – but God doesn’t want us to make these things our ‘gods’…but with Jesus as the focus all these things can be enjoyed and developed the way God always intended.
So what are your priorities? Are you just a fan of Jesus – or are you a committed follower?
Some food for thought.
On Sunday, we celebrated the baptism of Melody Heycox, daughter of Rodney and Dessy who have been coming to our church for bout 3 years. It has been wonderful to see little Melody grow and we look forward to supporting them in their parenting over the coming years. We had a few hiccups with lost family members on Sunday, but were flexible enough with the service to have them join us just in time for the baptism. All in all, it was a great time. Special thanks to Robyn for being the congregation’s representative!
In Australian society there are still over two-thirds of the population who believe in a God figure in one form or another. Yet, for the vast majority church has become superfluous to their every day lives. So why don’t people go to church? According to research done in the Australian Community Survey (1999), 42% of people said they don’t go to church because it is too boring or unfulfilling. Now, some might say that there is more to church than entertainment, but if we unpack that comment there is a critique on the way churches operate and present themselves that we would be wise to investigate.
At the same time that some churches are diminishing in size and influence, there has been a proliferation of worship experiences that are technologically and musically professional; aimed at the aged groups (under 50’s) that are traditionally missing from Australia’s big three dominations (Roman Catholic, Anglican and Uniting). Often the style of worship becomes the dividing line between age groups. What one group finds meaningful and fulfilling, the other finds either boring or superficial. It then becomes a struggle to cater for the needs of the large group of older church members, while at the same time creating a contemporary worship experience that connects with a younger demographic (which is essential to the longevity of the church).
Yet, even for those people who attend church, only 7% attend church on a weekly basis and 20% on a regular (e.g. monthly basis). Why is it that we struggle with having a regular commitment to a church community? I know that it is harder today with the wide variety of other commitments to fit in an every Sunday commitment, when sleeping in, having time with family or having time to do other jobs around the house falls to a Sunday because it is the only day left for rest and recreation amidst or busy week. We live in such a physically wealthy society, but we all seem to be time poor! We all have so many good things that we can do, that we all are faced with the problem of how to prioritise our time and, frankly, taking a few minutes a day for prayer and reflection or a few hours out for church on Sunday loses out.
Having spent the best part of the last 10 years studying, I know how easy it is to be weighed down by deadlines and stresses; the harder you push towards completion, the further away the finish line seems to get. My problem was when I did not take time to step back and gain a different perspective on my problems, the harder I pushed, the less I achieved. Now, this sounds like study techniques 101, but it is true about life as well.
Jesus had more stress on him than most of us realise. As a popular figure, he was sought after by so many people who had ulterior motives. Even his best friends were more concerned about what they could get than what they could give. So, Jesus had to take time to get away. He often went off by himself, even in the early hours of the morning, to pray and get refreshed from God. It seems a bit hard to imagine that God with skin on (the incarnate Jesus) would need to have time out. Yet Jesus needed time to be refreshed, to get God’s perspective on the day that had passed and the day that was to come. Jesus as a member of the Trinity needed to stay connected with the Father and the Spirit, he needed the relationship…he knew that this ultimate state of community was essential for his everyday life.
Like Jesus, we are made for relationships. Community is something that we all strive for. That’s why younger people today are so connected to their smart phones. It is through texting, facebook, twitter, skype, instagram and the like, that they can stay connected to their friends and peers. However, my concern with the proliferation of electronic gadgets and the busyness of our modern society, is that we are losing the face-to-face contact that most of us desire. This brings us back to the question of our priorities. We need to work to pay the bills and the mortgage, but the time commitment and stress commitment often has detrimental impacts on other areas of our lives. For those of us with families, then there is the wide variety of activities that we desire our children to be involved with, things like sport, music, dancing, scouts, play groups…not to mention the after hour commitments to school related activities. Our lives are so full that half the time we are rushing from one activity to the other, while the other half we are just too tired to do much more than just survive.
Then there is church. What is a church? It’s not a building, it’s not an organisation, it’s a community. Communities can form around special interests and the special interest for ‘churchie’ people – is Jesus. People who belong to a church community, of one form or another, have this in common – they believe in Jesus and have committed to following his example in word and action in the wide variety of activities and interests that make up their lives. One of the key concepts of church comes from the Greek word ekklesia which describes a community of people who are called out for a purpose. What greater purpose than to follow the example of Jesus?
Jesus took time out to spend time alone with God each day. He needed to be refreshed and to constantly regain God’s perspective. If it was good enough for Jesus, then for those who profess to be his followers, it should be good enough for us too! Jesus was also committed to his community (but not just his band of followers). He genuinely cared about the lack of wine at a wedding; the grieving parents with a dead child; the social outcast; the sick, the hungry and the dispossessed. Most importantly he saw no separation between the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of his society. His message of God’s love, forgiveness and reconciliation is good news for us – especially in the busyness of the 21st century.
To be a follower of Jesus challenges us to get a different perspective on life. To do this we need to follow through with our beliefs, to follow the example of Jesus and be committed to being a ‘Jesus’ type example in all the communities where we live our lives. However, this is impossible to do if we are disconnected from regular time with God and regular support and encouragement from others who are part of the church too. So, rather than become an optional extra in the list of many competing activities, being committed to having this ‘God time’ should be the focal point, that helps us keep every other thing in perspective and energises us to overcome all the challenges that our busy schedule throws our way.
It’s a challenging thought! But one that should not be dismissed lightly. Jesus shows the way…are you willing to follow his example?