Messages of Hope

Month: September 2017

A meditation on daylight saving

Published / by Sandy

God who was and is and is to come,
It must seem so silly for us to whine and carry on about time.
We have such a short span here in this life, 
and yet we make such a fuss
over when this or that is to happen,
how long that takes,
how early we must rise,
how late we’ve stayed up…
How long, O Lord, will I make you wait?
Wait for thankfulness. 
Wait for praise.
Wait for an open heart: the sort that causes the mouth to close,
the mind to rest and the ears to tingle as we listen.
No more waiting… at least not for today!
Thank you….
For the strength you provide when I am too tired to go on.
I praise you…
For the wonder of your creation,
for the mystery of your love for me and for the world.
And I wait…
For the Spirit to breathe new life in me.
For the love of Christ to fill me anew.
For the grace of God to be so real in me
that others are drawn to God’s presence.
I wait for you.
You save me from my short-sighted understanding of 
today, tomorrow and the future.

Postal vote

Published / by Sandy

The postal vote is dominating the airwaves, and so many conversations in homes and workplaces, and in places where people gather. The person installing the NBN (finally!) in our home this week said he thinks he’ll vote no just ‘to show them’ (inferred hostility evident towards those who identify as LGBTQI).  Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for my postal vote papers to arrive!

The Moderator of the Uniting Church in South Australia, Rev Sue Ellis, has prepared a pastoral note to go out to congregations:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As papers begin to arrive for the Marriage Law Postal Survey, many members of our Uniting Church congregations and faith communities will be engaging in conversations about marriage – within our families, our circles of friends, our churches, and in the wider community.

While we have these discussions, I encourage each of you to remember that, as Christians, we are called to be salt and light in the community. We are to be instruments of the Holy Spirit and model how people should relate to one another in every arena of life.

As Moderator, I want to honour all people in the life of the Uniting Church. I echo the sentiments of Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan, who has urged church members to listen to one another and maintain respectful conversations on the topic of same-sex marriage, particularly where cultural understandings differ. (Read Stuart’s latest statement here and previous statement here.)

As a civil matter, the plebiscite provides an opportunity for every member across the breadth of the Uniting Church to place a vote based on personal reflections and convictions. The upcoming Presbytery & Synod meeting in November and the 15th Assembly meeting in 2018 will allow space to engage in conversations about marriage as the body of the Church. Whether or not the Marriage Act is changed, the Uniting Church will continue to anchor these conversations in grace, respect and love.

I encourage Uniting Church members, the people of God, to look to Jesus throughout this process.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:5-6

Rev Dr Amelia Koh-Butler has prepared some prayers in this season of the postal vote that may be helpful including this one (the prayers are posted on Amelia’s blogsite):

We pray especially for those who are confused or confounded.
We pray for those who do not know how to behave well or find their reference.
We pray for Wisdom to touch people’s hearts and souls.
We pray for clarity of thinking, of speech and of your mercy.
We pray your blessing on those who are struggling most.
Come – Holy Spirit – Come!

Making space for grace

Published / by Sandy

Romans 13: 8-14
Paul exhorts the believers to owe no debt to anyone except the ongoing debt of love, and encourages the believers to live pure lives, free from the dark deeds to which they may be tempted.
Matthew 18:15-20
Jesus teaches his followers a gracious process for making right with those who have hurt them – going first to the individual, then, if necessary, taking along a couple of witnesses, and finally, taking the matter to the church. Then he encourages his followers to agree, for in doing so, they find power in prayer and Christ’s presence in their gathering. (Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)

Relationships in churches are complex because people’s lived experiences are complex – hurt and harm, sorrow, disappointment, anger, dashed hopes, broken relationships, as well as joy, love, undiminished hope and all the things that sustain us. Mistakes, misunderstandings and mountain top experiences all co-exist in an awkward and often inconvenient way.

Writing about this in an article on Patheos, Benjamin Corey suggests 5 things wounded Christians should probably avoid. He writes:

Life brings wounds. The Christian life sadly, is no different. While Christian community ought be the safest place for one to run and hide, it’s often a place where we experience some of the most painful wounds. Sometimes we’re wounded and pushed to the margins. Other times, we’re the ones who do the wounding. We’re human. We hurt. We injure.

I’ve singled out 5 things that might be good for a wounded Christian to avoid.

1. Speaking before we’re actually ready.

When we speak before we’re ready what we say and how we say it often is a reflection of our woundedness – but rarely comes across as that. Instead, it comes across in all the ways we don’t actually want it to. Speaking from a place of pain too soon will usually accomplish something other than what we want it to. Instead, take some time, take some space, and give yourself freedom to find the right voice at the right time.

2. Making hasty life decisions that will have long term impact.

One of the crossroads we often come to as wounded Christians is being faced with some critical life choices that will have long term impact on ourselves and others. As with when and how we use our voices, so too can we get into problems – not just when we speak from a place of pain too soon – but when we make life decisions from a place of pain too soon. Sometimes we crave major change in the midst of pain because we’re desperate for something to give, but so often the choices we make from that place of hurt aren’t actually good for us in the long run. It’s a good idea to put off some of these choices until the dust settles and we can think a bit more clearly.

3. Using our wounded hearts to inflict pain on others.

There’s an old saying that “wounded people wound people” and I don’t know of anything more true. It’s just soooo hard not to. It often reminds me of an old German Shepard we had a few years back- she’d let you pat her, but if your hand got too close to the bottom of her spine and the source of her arthritis, she’d bite you. I think what grieves me about much of Christian woundedness is that often it’s caused by other wounded people who are typically kind but will bite you if your hand gets too close to the source of their hurt. If you’re one of these folks with wounds, let me encourage you to opt out of the cycle of passing our woundeness down the line. It’s hard, but I think if we develop some self awareness, it can be done.

4. Blaming God for whatever happened.

I don’t know what it was, but I do know it wasn’t God. Maybe it was someone who claimed to speak for God, an abusive leader in a quest for power, a fickle friend, or too many years in an oppressive theological system– but whatever it was, it wasn’t God. We must resist the urge to walk away from faith in God because of wounds suffered at the hands of other humans.

5. Letting go of hope that things could be better.

There’s plenty of things we can live without, but one can’t live without hope. As hard as it is, we’ve got to keep hope that new life can be breathed into those broken or seemingly dead areas inside of us. Sometimes we don’t know how, sometimes we don’t know when, but we’ve got to maintain hope that it can. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found towards the very end, and is a vision of God who “makes all things new.” The one thing I hold onto is the hope that one day God can and will make things new – that God will bring beauty from ashes, bind up what is broken, and water seeds of new life. It is this hope that keeps me going when nothing else does.

The call for all ages

Published / by Sandy

A sermon by Rev Vikki Waller, Pilgrim UCA
Sunday 3 September 2017
Readings: Exodus 3: 1-15   Rom 12: 9-21 Matt 16: 21 -28

Did you see the article by Rev Dr Mike Frost in the August/September New Times? It is on page 16/17. The title is “Are you willing to be sent where few can see you?”

After a service where he had preached on God’s call, an elderly lady in a lavender cardigan bailed him up and told her story. Her husband has advanced Alzheimer’s and is a shell of the man she had loved for most of her life. She said that she used to be angry and yell at God for letting him just lie there and not die. Then it dawned on her that this is God’s calling to her. She looked around and saw others in the same situation and she began praying for them and then speaking with them. Now she is like a pastor to them as well as her husband. These are the people to whom she has been sent.

Moses was wandering around in the wilderness, minding his own business with his sheep, which he had done for many years. Suddenly something breaks into his day – fire in a dry land. He turns aside to check things out. Then he realises that it is not what he thought.  In fact, this fire is different – the fire is not burning the bush. Real fear of the unknown now takes hold of Moses. Then a voice speaks to him and tells him to take off his sandals as he is on holy ground. He has entered a sacred space – a place where God is. God has now got Moses’ attention.  God now tells him what he wants him to do. God says that he has seen the plight of the Israelites in Egypt, that he has heard their cries and has remembered his promise to their ancestors and now he is sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring the people out of Egypt to a new land.  Just like that.   Now this was not exactly the activity that Moses had planned for his old age!

So he thinks up reasons why he should not do this. Who am I to do this? I’m a nobody!
God says, “I will be with you”.
If I do this, the Israelites will ask me what your name is?
God says, “My name is I Am who I Am – tell them that “I Am”.
If we go beyond today’s lectionary to cChapter 4 we find Moses is still trying to evade God’s call. He says, ”The people will not believe me. I can’t talk, I am a hopeless public speaker.”
God says, “I will give you the words to say.”
God – please don’t send me!

At this, God gets mad and says, ‘you can take Aaron, your brother, I know he can speak well‘. Finally Moses accepts God’s call and starts on the road back to Egypt. Moses’ call changed his life and the course of the history for his people forever.

The Bible is full of stories about God’s call.  One story is of Jesus calling to ignorant fisherman and the other to an educated, upper class young man. Jesus’ call comes to them all. Like Moses, they understood what it meant but they did not all respond the same way. The rich young man turned his back on the way of freedom and “trudged back to the bondage of the past” but the fisherman left all and followed Jesus into a future that was to change their lives forever. Little did they know what would happen and where the journey would lead when they took that first step.

God’s call may come when we least expect it, often when we are not looking for it, and at any age.  Samuel’s call was when he was very young but Moses call came when he was almost 80 – so that covers us all. The churches call may well be different for every generation or the vision the same but the expression different

So what for us as a church?  Is it the same as for individuals?   I suspect that churches too can live the life of an ‘uncalled community” when they get caught up in things that are only for themselves.  For the church as for individuals also God’s call will make sense of what we do, will hold us fast through tough times, will send us out on mission made possible by God. But this may well be counter cultural – and may well also be counter cultural within the church community

At Pilgrim we commit ourselves to responding to God’s call to live like Jesus, to be ambassadors for the one who walked the way of the cross and so to represent his values of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. To heal the broken, feed the hungry, stand up for the oppressed. And we also acknowledge that the call to non-conformity with the ways of the world includes a call to resist the legitimising of greed, selfishness, infidelity, violence, and exploitation. But it is precisely that refusal to legitimise the very things on which our society is founded which, if really followed through faithfully, will provoke an angry backlash against us.

Romans 12: 2 says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you in to its mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and move towards the goal of true maturity”.

This is no easy call. It may sound okay as a religious theory, but to live by it when we are really under threat is as difficult. We have to work at this. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to train us in a new way, in a way that goes against our basic instincts and scandalises and offends our natural sense of justice and decency.

 

The full sermon can be downloaded here, Pilgrim sermon 3 Sept 17.VW