Messages of Hope

Month: April 2019

Easter Sunday: The highs and lows

Published / by Sandy

Christ is risen. Alleluia!
Our Easter Sunday services began with a sunrise service around a fire in the courtyard, so we could appreciate the gathering light of the new day. We celebrated the risen Christ in our other three morning services – in words, and when we shared the Eucharist, and with stirring and inspiring music. We were glad to celebrate together. These 4 services were followed by the Chinese Church (CSACC) and their Easter Day service. And then Stefan and a team of volunteers prepared and served a meal for the homeless and disadvantaged in the Pilgrim hall. (Expecting 200+).
We began our service with worship, and were sent out to continue our worship with service. And so grateful for freedom to be able to worship without fear.
And then, the news from Sri Lanka on Easter Day. Multiple bombings. Many have been killed, and hundreds suffered injury. Massive destruction. Horrifying.
Ordinary people simply celebrating Easter Sunday. Culturally and linguistically diverse people who are unified together as the body of Christ. ‘There is no them and us, only us’ (Jacinda Adern). The memory of the mosque shootings in New Zealand, with people attending Friday prayers, remain vivid in our hearts and minds.
These words from Rev Radhika Sukumar-White, Minister at Leichhardt Uniting Church, and Sri Lankan by heritage:
“This afternoon, churches in my mother country were blown up by suicide bombers. Many were killed. I don’t know what to say. “Thoughts and prayers” seems so shallow and simplistic. But I pledge to teach those in my pastoral care to practise resurrection – to practise love, grace, forgiveness and compassion over and against the tombs of violence, hate, vitriol and fear”.
Amen, Rhadika. And thank you for your gracious and faith-full leadership.

Statement from Dr Deidre Palmer, President, Uniting Church in Australia

And these words from Jon Humphries (heartfelt thanks for putting into words the unformed prayers of our hearts, Jon).
When will we stop blowing each other up?
When will we stop crucifying those
who challenge our belief or authority?
When will we stop hating others
with our judgement and moralizing?
When will we stop being intentionally ignorant
and deliberately biased to avoid understanding and compassion?
When will we stop procrastinating from taking action for peace?
When will we better walk your way of cross- filled sacrifice?
When will we let you challenge our religion
and stretch our belief?
When will we sacrifice our lives for you and your will
as you sacrificed yours for us?
Christ have mercy
Christ have mercy
Christ have mercy
Christ bring peace
Christ bring grace
Christ bring love. Amen.

More prayers for Sri Lanka here.

More prayers on the Pilgrim worship resources website.

Risen indeed!

Published / by Greg Elsdon

The resurrection of Jesus has always been central for Christian faith and identity.  Belief in God’s resurrection of Jesus is not an optional extra for Christians.  Affirming the central significance of resurrection is one thing.  However, allowing the confession “Christ is Risen” to shape our life is another thing altogether.  Too often Christians have insisted upon doctrinal assent to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection without ever asking the question, ‘What does a risen Jesus mean for the way we live as Christians in the world today?’

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s shout of “YES!” to the way Jesus lived his life and to what he taught about the in-breaking Reign of God.  In other words, the resurrection is God’s approval of the life of Jesus.  At his baptism, a voice from the heavens spoke to Jesus saying “This is my son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).  When God raised Jesus from death God declared that truth and authentic life are to be found in the life and death of this man.  The one despised and rejected by his contemporaries found God’s ultimate approval in his life of faithfulness that ended in death by crucifixion. God’s raising of Jesus from death proclaims unambiguously that God approved of the way Jesus lived.

Christian faith in the resurrection of Jesus was, and is born, nurtured and matured in the context of discipleship and mission.  Those who believe that God is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are called to participate with the risen Jesus in the continuation of his mission to bring God’s grace and peace to all people.

All four Gospels testify in different ways to the inseparability of resurrection faith and participation in the mission of Jesus in the world.  The empty tomb did not transform the lives of Jesus’ frightened followers.  It led to confusion, fear and disbelief (see Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13).  It was when they encountered the risen one for themselves that true resurrection faith was born.  Matthew, Luke and John all tell us that when Jesus appeared to his frightened and bewildered followers he commissioned and empowered them to continue his work in the world (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:44-49 and John 20:19-23).  Even in Mark’s Gospel (which offers no account of the appearance of the risen Jesus) we read how the disciples are instructed by the young man at the empty tomb to return to Galilee.  If the disciples wanted to see the risen Jesus they must return to the place where it all began. They would ‘see’ the risen Jesus only as they joined him in his on-going mission.

Jesus invited men and women to follow him, challenging them to live lives that expressed God’s unrelenting mercy, compassion and justice – regardless of the consequences.  Today, this same Jesus, now the risen Lord of the Church, calls us to the same costly but fulfilling way of life.  He calls us to live our lives in such a way that we become people in whom others experience God’s grace and love.

Easter is a time for celebrating what God has done for us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  Because Jesus lived as he lived, died as he died and was raised by God as affirmation of all he stood for, we too have the opportunity to enjoy the relationship with God for which we were created.  Easter is a time for reassessing our commitment to being people in whom God’s message of love and hope, the message embodied in Jesus, lives on in a conscious and intentional fashion.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Federal budget

Published / by Sandy

Leaders from across multiple religious traditions met last week, following the handing down of the Federal Budget, to convey that the #Budget2019, as a statement of our national priorities, does not adequately address the climate emergency we are facing. 

As well as calling for stronger, more coordinated action on climate change, the leaders believe the Federal Budget also falls short in some other key areas, including provisions for the most vulnerable here in Australia, and our regional neighbours. 

Below are just some of the responses from Uniting agencies and other friends:

The resource prepared in the lead up to the election looks at 7 key areas including climate change and first peoples. Invaluable resource and a great catalyst for informed discussion. Check it out here: Uniting Church in Australia Vision Statement.

Our Vision for a Just Australia

Published / by Greg Elsdon

The Uniting Church in Australia has articulated its vision for a just, compassionate and inclusive nation in a new statement and resource.

In launching the statement, UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church’s vision for Australia was a nation where all people and all creation could flourish.

“We believe that our participation in God’s mission calls us toward the transformation that God desires for us all, marked by reconciliation, love, justice, peace, abundance and flourishing for all people and the whole earth,” said Dr Palmer.

The Uniting Church Vision Statement for a Just Australia is a collaboration of those working in justice across the church, including in Synods, Agencies and the Assembly.

The statement’s release has been timed with the lead up to the Federal election.

“Articulating our vision for Australia at this time is critical,” said Dr Palmer.

“Many of the issues identified in this document will be prominent in public debate as Australians consider the leadership they want for our country.”

She urged people to think deeply and engage in conversations about the kind of nation we want to be and to reflect on where our faith in Jesus is calling us to seek out justice for all.

The Vision Statement is expressed in seven foundational areas. It includes witness from the Bible and statements made by the Uniting Church.

There is a snapshot of the current situation in Australia across the seven foundations and key actions that are needed to move us toward the vision.

The resource is intended to assist people who want to think about the issues in small groups or host public forums with local candidates ahead of the Federal election.

Each section of the Statement includes key questions for reflection or to engage with political candidates.

“I commend this resource to congregations and Uniting Church members, as we seek to live out our Christian discipleship in every aspect of our lives,” said Dr Palmer.

“As followers of Christ, each one of us is called to be a voice for justice and hope in our communities, in Australia and in the world.”

Read and download the statement at https://uniting.church/visionstatement2019/