Monthly Archives: August 2010

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 29 August 2010)

With glad and generous hearts

A Sermon on Stewardship


Readings
Hebrews 13.1-8, 15-16
Luke 14.1, 7-14

We’ve reached the final week of our series on Mission and Stewardship. In our series, we’ve heard that the Church is here for the benefit of those outside, not for the benefit of its members. But we’ve also said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

We’ve also heard that the life of discipleship opens us up to the abundant life that Jesus promises.

We’re talking about stewardship today. Perhaps you haven’t realised it, but we’ve been talking about stewardship already. Stewardship is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Disciples of Jesus are good stewards of their time, talents and treasure. And by doing that, they live the abundant life that Jesus promises.

A minister had served a church for a few months in an interim position. During the last Sunday service that he was to spend at the church, his hat was passed around for a freewill offering.

When it returned to the minister, it was empty. He didn’t flinch or hesitate. He raised his hat to heaven and said, ‘I thank you, Lord, that I got my hat back from this congregation.’

Were the people in this story good stewards? Maybe they were. But I’d guess they were terrible stewards. Why might I think they weren’t good stewards? I think it’s because they hung onto things instead of sharing them.

Stewardship is about generosity, it’s about being a generous disciple. Stewardship is about using our time, talents and money generously, abundantly. A good steward is not afraid to give of themselves in sacrificial ways. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Church & world, church year, RCL, sermon

Oz election, Taiwan style

Amazing Taiwanese take on the Australian election today. Spot on!!

It is ironic that the video credits Rudd’s failure to implement the emission trading scheme as one reason for his plummeting popularity. But it’s highly unlikely we’ll get one out of this election…

Leave a comment

Filed under Church & world, humour, offbeat

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C: 22 August 2010)

Living God’s Mission


Readings
Jeremiah 1.4-10
Luke 13.10-17

We’ve heard a fair bit the last couple of weeks about the Church being here not for the benefit of its members, but for the benefit of those outside. And we’ve said that the Church is here to benefit us in one way: that is to meet our truest need, the need to become disciples of Jesus, the need we have to be made more like him.

I’ve been asked, ‘What about the abundant life that Jesus promises? Isn’t the Church here to help deliver that?’ And I’m very glad indeed to get questions like that, because they help me to shape what I need to say.

Jesus does promise us abundant life. So shouldn’t the Church be there to give us that abundant life? No. And yes.

No, because the Church isn’t there to give us the abundant life directly. The Church is there to form us as disciples. But: the abundant life comes to us as we commit ourselves to Jesus as his disciples. Look at the woman in today’s Gospel story. She was bent over. Perhaps we are too. She stood straight when Jesus laid his hands on her. She was healed—and like her, we are not truly healed unless we give ourselves to Jesus in love and trust.

Look at Jeremiah: he gains confidence in God as he allows the word of the Lord to enter his very being:

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you.

Remember, our vision statement is

Living God’s mission
as disciples of Jesus
united in the Spirit

Being disciples is central! But never forget that first line: We are on about ‘living God’s mission’.

We don’t have a mission. God has a mission, and God invites us to join him in that mission. God’s mission is about setting people free (including us). God’s mission is about bringing purpose into people’s lives (including ours). God’s mission is about creating peace and harmony among people (including among us). God’s mission is about preserving the earth (so that all people can live and thrive, including us).

God’s mission is big. Seriously big. It’s bigger than the Church. It includes the whole creation. The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church says that God’s mission concerns the

coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation.

God’s mission is so big, it includes people of good will all over the place. Some of them don’t know they’re sharing in God’s mission. Some of them don’t even believe in the God with whom they are cooperating.

But notice: we are living God’s mission. God’s mission brings life. And when we are on about God’s mission, we bring life to people. Including to ourselves.

Sometimes, that life comes in the midst of death. Life is a bummer. Things are not going right; in fact, they are just wrong. But God is there, with abundant warmth and acceptance and compassionate love. Sometimes, that’s all we can know of the abundant life; but it’s there in abundance for those who live God’s mission.

Do you want the abundant life? Then see how you can share in God’s mission—through the congregation, and in your daily life. You’ll find the abundant life that Jesus promises through obedience to God.

So the Church isn’t here to give us that abundant life. It’s here to make us disciples. But: disciples are sharing in God’s mission, and that gives them the abundant life.

So the Church is here to bring that abundant life after all!… But the abundant life is a ‘side effect’ of sharing in what God is doing. If we seek the abundant life without sharing in God’s mission, without living God’s mission, then we’ll only have a counterfeit kind of so-called ‘abundant’ life. That counterfeit life will go once real difficulties come our way. That counterfeit life will go sour one day, and we’ll wonder where the joy and the peace went.

Living God’s mission. That’s the way to the abundant life that Jesus promises. It’s the way to true inner peace and joy and freedom.

2 Comments

Filed under church year, RCL, reflection, sermon

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (15 August 2010)

Disciples are…

Readings
Hebrews 11.29 to 12.2
Luke 12.49-56

Today is the second of our August series on Mission and Stewardship. Last week, I shared a quotation with you from William Temple, who among other things was Archbishop of Canterbury during the early part of the Second World War. I said that I hope you will remember this quotation always:

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

I said that it’s a great thought, but not a consoling thought. It’s an unsettling thought.

Some of you suggested after the service that the Church must exist in some way for the benefit of its members. If you think that, I’ll concede that you are indeed quite correct. There is one way (and one way only) that the Church exists for the sake of its members:

The Church exists to make its members disciples of Jesus; the Church exists so that we may be formed into the image of Jesus.

In other words, the Church exists for our true benefit. The thing is, becoming a disciple of Jesus is a bumpy journey of repentance, not a journey of calm repose. We just need to read the Gospels to see that. Being formed and re-formed into the image of Jesus can be a painful process. But: it’s all for our benefit. Our true benefit.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under church year, RCL, sermon

Al Macrae on our need for prophets

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Al Macrae, has written in the ABC’s Religion and Ethics page that we need prophetic political leadership. He is so right! Read the whole thing, but here is a sampler:

Biblical wisdom tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” If this aspect of leadership is neglected then leaders will inevitably seek lowest common denominator approaches which, in time, diminish any community.

From within the Jewish and Christian traditions there are many examples of courageous visionary leaders – Moses, Esther, King David, St Paul and, of course, Jesus himself. I’m sure we can all remember leaders in national and local political life who called us, often in the face of strong opposition, to the higher values of justice, peace and compassion.

But what seems to be happening in the current election is something different. The candidates seem a little too willing to capitulate to our less generous, more self-centred selves.

Australians like to think of themselves as generous-hearted people, predisposed to giving people a “fair go.” So why would leaders not appeal to these values?

The debate about asylum seekers is a perfect example. The policies of both major parties assume that most of us are fearful and mean-spirited, incapable of empathising with the plight of people seeking sanctuary in this land of abundance.

Jews know the biblical admonition to care for the stranger and the sojourner. Christians likewise will recall that Jesus himself was a refugee. Our leaders could remind us that the vast majority of our forebears arrived here seeking new life and opportunity, fleeing famine or war.

They could remind us that, at both solemn and proud civic occasions, we sing our national anthem which proclaims “we’ve boundless plains to share.”

They could call us to be who and what we claim to be.

.
While you’re on the site, bookmark it. Brisbane-based theologian Scott Stephens edits this page, and he’s doing a great job.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church & world, Uniting Church in Australia

Kate Rusby: The Elfin Knight

The lovely Kate Rusby is my favourite folk singer, singing as she does with her South Yorkshire twang. The Elfin Knight is a great showpiece for her voice… I’ve tried to embed the code, but it doesn’t seem to be working, so go to YouTube to listen:

Leave a comment

Filed under music, Yorkshire

“Christianity has to be disappointing…”

I’m reading a very good book at the moment: The Nearness of God: Parish ministry as spiritual practice, by Julia Gatta. She writes from an Anglican (actually, US Episcopal) perspective, and writes:

I will be looking at characteristically priestly ministries to see just how grace might show up, to notice how Christ might be at work in us and through us.

How we are formed as persons through ministry is of great interest to me. But ‘formation’ involves times that feel more like ‘de-formation’. So I was gabbed by a quotation Gatta takes from Simon Tugwell, Ways of Imperfection:

Christianity has to be disappointing, precisely because it is not a mechanism for accomplishing all our human ambitions and aspirations, it is a mechanism for subjecting all things to the will of God….Christianity necessarily involves a remaking of our hopes. And our disappointments are an unavoidable part of the process.

I think this is close to saying that the Church does not exist to meet our needs. Except for one: The need to become a disciple, to grow in Christ, to be more conformed to the image of Christ. That difficult process, that birthing of Christ within us, involves times of pain. And disappointment with ourselves, and others. We just can’t get around it.

1 Comment

Filed under ministry, Personal, reflection