Monthly Archives: June 2012

UCA Anniversary (24 June 2012)

The Uniting Church celebrated 35 years last Thursday, 22 June. Here is a reflection:

A Basis for a direction

Readings
Ephesians 2.19-22
John 17.1-11

On Saturday 22 June 1977, I was walking along the beach at Caloundra with some friends. Our spirits were buoyed up by the creation of the Uniting Church in Australia that very day.

I wasn’t part of the Uniting Church back then. I wasn’t a Methodist or a Presbyterian. I wasn’t a Congregationalist. I was looking in from the outside and it was all very inspiring to me.

It wasn’t long before I was reading the Basis of Union, the document that the three churches who came into union agreed to. It excited me. (If you don’t think the Basis of Union could excite anyone, may I suggest you take the time to actually read it?)

Since 1977, the Uniting Church has become a source of joy and pain to me and to many. How could it be any other way? If you love something or someone, if you open your heart to them, you become vulnerable. I certainly feel ‘vulnerable’ to the Uniting Church.

Sometimes, though, I can’t quite identify with the ‘pain’ some other people talk about. For example: people have accused the Uniting Church of failing to stand for anything. I joined because the Uniting Church stood for active Christian unity, because it cared about the place of women in the Church and because it was passionate about justice.

But still there are those who have said our Church has no real identity. Sorry, but if a passion for unity and justice aren’t an identity, I don’t know what is.

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Who is my mother? (OT 10, Year B, 10 June 2012)

Who is my mother?

Readings
1 Samuel 8.4-20
Mark 3.20-35

Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

That’s what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11.14. In other words, sometimes it’s hard to tell right from wrong. Paul was talking about ‘false apostles’ who boasted about the great things they did for the Lord. These false apostles seemed to be the real thing. Today, in the Gospel According to Mark, it’s the other way around: we have the Truth in human form who appears to be a false prophet. Or just crazy.

Is Jesus an angel of light, or under the influence of demonic powers? That was the question the religious leaders had been asking themselves. There was one sure way they could tell if someone was ok; they could see if he followed the ancient ways, protected the traditions, upheld family values.

But Jesus failed the test. They thought, He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy! (Apologies to those who don’t know Life of Brian!)

The Gospel of Mark is a story of conflict. And right in the very middle of that conflict is Jesus himself. And it seems to the authorities that he’s the problem.

Let’s refresh our memories of Mark and look at some of the conflict so far:

  1. Jesus threw an ‘unclean spirit’ out of a man on the Sabbath day in Capernaum. You weren’t supposed to do any work at all on the Sabbath, even healing work; (1.21-28)
  2. Jesus touched a leper, which made him unclean according to the laws of Moses; (1.40-45)
  3. He announced to a paralysed man that his sins were forgiven; the scribes accused him of blasphemy. They said, Only God can forgive sins; (2.1-12)
  4. He had a meal at Levi the tax collectors’ house, causing raised eyebrows among ‘the scribes of the Pharisees’; (2.13-17)
  5. People couldn’t understand why he and his disciples didn’t fast—Jesus as much as said, Who can fast while I’m still here? (2.18-20)
  6. The Pharisees criticised his disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath; Jesus said that laws are made to serve the needs of people; (2.23-28)
  7. Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath. By now, the Pharisees and the Herodians were watching him to gather evidence to use against him. The Pharisees and the Herodians didn’t normally see eye to eye; it was a case of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. (3.1-6)

Things were getting dangerous.

And why not? Jesus was a troublemaker. He’s changing things, he’s not following the ancient ways or protecting the traditions of the past. Well, that’s not quite true. Jesus is centred upon the kingdom of God—but he’s not doing things the way people expect. He’s not observing the Sabbath in the expected ways, he’s claiming to forgive sins, he’s keeping bad company. People are worried about him.

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Holy, holy, holy One (Trinity Sunday, Year B, 3 June 2012)

Readings
Isaiah 6.1-8
Romans 8.12-17
John 3.1-17 

 

Holiness, a biblical concept associated with separation from the ordinary or the profane, on the one hand, and connection with God or the divine, on the other. God is supremely or definitively holy and people, things, and actions may be considered holy through association with God. Holiness may also include the ideas of consecration to God and of purity from what is evil or improper.

from ‘Holiness’, in Powell, MA, (ed.), HarperCollins Bible Dictionary

 

In the temple, Isaiah heard the seraphs sing these words:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of God’s glory.

At the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we say these words in the Sanctus:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

And especially since it’s Trinity Sunday, we’ve sung Reginald Heber’s words:

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

When Isaiah experienced that vision in the Jerusalem Temple, he had no idea that over 2500 years later the Gentiles would be quoting his words in their services of worship. Holy, holy, holy!—but what is ‘holiness’?

Holy, holy, holy. God is holy because God is other than what we are. There is a separation between us and God. It has a lot to do with sin; when we are preoccupied with ourselves, we cannot notice God. But God is holy also because we are finite creatures, while God is infinite. We can’t see God. God is way beyond us.

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