Messages of Hope

Month: January 2020

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God

Published / by Sandy

In the prophecy of Micah, which is one of the Lectionary readings for the first Sunday in February, the prophet asks what God requires of God’s people. Then he answers his own question: “…to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 CEB).
If we wish to know what justice, faithful love and walking with God look like, the Sermon on the Mount gives a pretty good picture. Situated near the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, the famous Sermon is the first of five important teaching sessions of Jesus, and it offers summary of Jesus’ message, a manifesto for his ministry.
The first part of the Sermon, known as the Beatitudes, is the Gospel reading for today.
Along with Micah’s prophecy, the Beatitudes show us the kind of life that “God blesses”. This doesn’t mean that we earn God’s blessing by making the Beatitudes as a new law. Rather, these Scriptures invite us into the blessing of God that is already ours because of God’s grace. Everyone is blessed!
But, not everyone experiences the blessing because we may have shut ourselves off to the qualities and values that open us to abundant life. We may not live as justly as we could, and we may not embrace faithful love for God and others – in which case we have chosen ways that bring pain to others and, ultimately, to ourselves. But, when we open ourselves to God’s values and purposes, our hearts begin to change and we begin to live the kind of life that brings blessing and justice. God’s grace enables us to live this way, but if we refuse to allow God’s grace to do its work, we separate ourselves from God’s “blessings”.
This week we explore what it means to live a life of justice, faithful love and walking humbly with God.
(Source: John van de Laar, Sacredise)
At Pilgrim this Sunday, February 2nd, we will explore what it means to live of life of justice, faithful love and to walk humbly with God. As part of the Covenant Service, we will use the following covenant prayer by Rev Helen Alexander, a former Minister at Pilgrim UC and recently retired from the Church of Scotland.
God of pilgrim faith, as you call us together to be your people, we will seek to live by the values and hope of Christ Jesus whom we follow. We will honour one another, and seek to be an inclusive community in which each one is given justice, dignity and love.
As your Spirit prompts us, we will seek to discern your will for us and act on your call in our lives.
We shall be open to discovering your purposes for us in all aspects of our personal and corporate life.
We commit ourselves to a deepening of our knowledge and love of you: in relationship and solidarity with one another, through worship together and shared reflection, through faithful action in the wider community, and in honest fellowship.
We commit ourselves in this our Pilgrim congregation; for by your love it is here that you have called us to serve.
And we commit ourselves to live in faith beyond this building and this body: for we believe we are partners with you in the ministry of reconciliation in your world. Amen.

UCA Pastoral Statement – Bushfire crisis

Published / by Sandy

Shared Pastoral Statement from UCA President and Moderators – Australian Bushfire Crisis

God’s grace and peace be with you.
The bushfire emergency that has unfolded across our nation in these past weeks is unprecedented in its scale and the devastation caused.
As President and Moderators of the Uniting Church in Australia, we offer this Pastoral Letter to our Uniting Church members and communities across our nation as an expression of our shared grief, our deep gratitude to those involved in the incredible emergency response and our commitment to be part of the long-term recovery in communities.
At this time, we join as Uniting Church members across Australia, in offering our deepest sympathy to those mourning loved ones, friends and community members who have died protecting lives and property.
We pray for those who have lost property and for those who remain in fire zones or evacuation centres.
We acknowledge that many have endured weeks of stress, anxiety and continued smoke inhalation. The sheer scale of this disaster has been traumatising for many people, the effects of which will linger for many months to come.
We pay tribute to the extraordinary effort of our emergency services on the frontline, particularly firefighters in various services across the country.
We give thanks to the many who have given their time and resources to provide practical and pastoral support in evacuation centres and at relief points, including many Uniting Church chaplains working around the clock to be there when needed.
For all in the Uniting Church who are involved in the response, we thank you. We give thanks for the ways you are bearers of Christ’s hope and compassion in disaster recovery ministry across the nation, and in opening your doors, as congregations, to provide shelter, food and a safe place.
We give thanks for the stories of amazing courage and goodwill in the community, and for all who have pitched in to support the displaced and the responders.
Amid the most tragic of circumstances, incredible kindness has been demonstrated in small acts and large-scale fundraising efforts.
We lament that God’s beloved creation, is hurting. The toll on our wildlife, biodiversity and our natural heritage is incalculable.
It is our Christian belief, that amid such suffering, God is with us. We ask Uniting Church members across the country to join in prayer for all those suffering, to know God’s love, grace and comfort.
In the very long road to recovery ahead, the Uniting Church will continue to provide support to recovering communities through pastoral care and other relief projects in the months to come.
We encourage you to do what you can to practically and pastorally support those who are rebuilding their lives and communities.
If you would like to support bush fire communities with a donation, below are the various Synod and Assembly appeals and funds which will provide long-term support to communities as they recover.

SA Synod Bushfire Relief

Target and UnitingCare Australia Bushfire Appeal

Frontier Services Bushfire Relief Appeal

Yours in Christ,

Dr Deidre Palmer
President Uniting Church in Australia
Rev Simon Hansford 
Moderator, NSW / ACT Synod
Rev Denise Liersch 
Moderator, VIC / TAS Synod
Rev David Baker 
Moderator, QLD Synod
Rev Steve Francis 
Moderator, WA Synod
Rev Thresi Mauboy 
Moderator, Northern Synod
Mr Bronte Wilson 
Moderator, SA Synod

Sandy’s sermon on 12th January (Baptism of Jesus) outlining some of the ways the UCA has been involved in supporting those impacted by the bushfires.

Blessed are you – East Gippsland

Published / by Sandy

The fires in Australia have been devastating, and the fires in southern NSW and Gippsland are so shocking. This reflection was written by Jennie Gordon and may be a prompt for prayer and action.

blessed are you
who walk the scorching beaches
and shelter in the ocean
brushing burning embers
God beside you
blessed are you
who weep with grief and sorrow
and bear an ashen image
of a life of green and growing
God beside you
blessed are you
who face the firestorm’s fury
and volunteer for danger
companions in the battle
God beside you
blessed are you
who work to bring together
the rallied deeds of angels
and shape a place of respite
God beside you
blessed are you
who set a bowl of water
in the wilderness of burning
to care for little creatures
God beside you
blessed are you
who wait with calm and coping
engage in patient listening
approach with wine and welcome
cook for crowds of strangers
clothe and house your neighbours
pray for rest and rainfall
God beside you
01/01/2020     Jennie Gordon

Shirley Murray wrote this hymn on 12 February 2009, in response to the Victorian bushfire disaster and chose the theme and tune of “Now thank we all our God” because Martin Rinkart wrote his much-loved hymn after ministering to people dying from the plague in Saxony in the 17th century, and after conducting funerals for about 5000 plague victims, including his wife. Shirley gives free permission for its use throughout Australia.

Now thank we all our God
for lives beloved and cherished,
the brave who faced the flames,
the young and old who perished,
for those who fight the fires that sear our country’s soul,
for all who give relief to comfort and make whole.

No tears can stem this grief
through outback, town or city,
yet as disaster strikes,
we share a common pity,
where hearts and hands can help to build or recreate,
our nation stands as one
to mourn our people’s fate.

Our lives are held in trust,
O God of our believing,
and we who still are spared,
owe duty to the grieving,
for everyone is kin when all can feel this pain,
as families are gone
and shattered ones remain.

Now thank we all our God
for courage meeting danger,
when selfless spirits fight
for mate or helpless stranger,
when wind and bushfire flare and terror grips our faith,
compassion keeps us strong,
through tragedy and death.

TUNE: Nun Danket Alle Gott; words: © Shirley Erena Murray