Changing the Landscape

Third week after the Epiphany – 27 January 2013

Breaking up Fallow Ground

It was wonderful to come back from holidays last Sunday to find that some things had changed around here at Ashmore Uniting Church!!  I’m usually the person who moves things around in the Church and when I walked in last Sunday to find that all the Christmas Decorations had been packed away and the pews had been changed around and the drums, keyboard and grand Piano were in different places I had a reaction. In fact, I had several reactions, mostly good ones, but I also found that the changing of the landscape of our Church interior presented a beautiful metaphor, which fitted into the theme of last Sunday that centered on Jesus changing the water into wine at a wedding he attended in Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-11).  I decided to add my bit of change as well.  We upset our Uniting Church ‘tradition’ by sharing communion on a Sunday other than the ‘first Sunday of the month’.  Can we use this as a symbol of the hope that our congregation is ready for change?

It seems that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about transformation of our interior lives so that the landscape of the world can also be changed.  The process that we engage in as those changes take place is different for all of us and is and should be a varied experience for every one of us.  It seems to me that the journey of discipleship is one of change and continual transformation for us as individuals who are baptised into a community that is called ‘the body of Christ’ or the church.

Our Gospel reading from Luke 4:14-21 is again introducing us to a changing landscape. Jesus reads the scriptures in his home church/synagogue and proclaims the good news of a changing landscape.  It seems to be Jesus’ own mission statement:-

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.” (Luke 4:18,19)

  • Release
  • Recovery
  • Liberation

These are key words that seem to emerge from Jesus’s personal mission statement.  If we as the church are called to be the good news in the example of Jesus’ teaching and acts of ministry, how does our own church mission statement reflect and compare to the mission statement of Jesus?

This question should assist us as we meet this Wednesday night (30th January) from 7-9pm to finalise our Vision and Values journey with Jill Gray.  The Church Council and I extend an invitation to everyone who worships at Ashmore Uniting Church to come and be a part of Changing the Landscape of Ashmore Uniting Church and the world in which we live.  We will share in a time of supper afterwards.

On a personal note, Cheryl and I would like to thank everyone for your expressions of sympathy and love as we’ve experienced the death of Cheryl’s dad, Travis, this week.  The funeral will be held on Tuesday in Ipswich.  Please continue to pray for Cheryl and her extended family at this time.

May you let God transform your landscape, this week.                             Rev Brad Foote

Signs of Celebration

Second Sunday after Epiphany – 20 January 2013

Water into Wine

Welcome to Worship today on this the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.  Strange you may say…what is Epiphany?  The word “epiphany” means to reveal or make known.  Two weeks ago the Biblical focus was on the visit of the Magi who had their “epiphany” when the Christ-Child was ‘revealed’ to them in an unexpected way.  They had made their long and arduous journey following a star by night for many months, possibly two years.  They thought that they would be worshiping a king in a palace (newborn king of the Jews. Matt 2: 2).  Their ‘epiphany came when they discovered that God had led them to a young child in a house in Bethlehem (Matt 2:9-11), this was not what they expected.  Hence the term ‘epiphany’ which comes from the Greek – meaning to “appear, reveal, shine, give light”.  The star, the journey, the gifts, the revelation, and the experience of these ‘wise ones from the east” all combine to give us an understanding of this extraordinary act of God.  God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Ah…huh!  Epiphany!  The light comes on!  I get it!!

 So this is the season when we are invited to turn on the lights, to open up our minds to ‘new ways of seeing God revealed in the world’.  We also need to open ourselves to insights and new perspectives.

So, a New Year is always a great opportunity to do that kind of thing: some reflecting on our previous year and fixing our sights on the year ahead of us.  I don’t know about you but the New Year seems always pregnant with possibilities, opportunities and fresh challenges.  There’s something about the calendar flipping from December 31 to January 1 that inspires us to think ahead and look to the future, a bit like the beginning of a new chapter in a book.  Where will the story go next?  What will God reveal or make known to me/us/the community/world this year?  What new adventures will unfold in our lives over the next 12 months?  Our choices will shape the pace and direction of our life-story and the history of the world.  Ashmore Uniting Church resolves to be reaching out, changing lives in 2013.

With each New Year many of us resolve to change some aspect of our lives – to choose a different course.  We may resolve to lose weight, save more, spend less, make time for the kids or grandkids, maybe enroll for that course, spend more time with God – the list of potential New Year resolutions is endless.  As a congregation, what does God want to change so that we are fulfilling the call that has been placed on us as the body of Christ in this community?

Before the moment is lost, I’d like to invite you to come to an ‘Epiphany Evening’ where we will wrap up the Vision and Values reflection and reviewing from last year.  We will then prayerfully ask God to ‘appear, reveal, shine, give light’ to some New Years resolutions for the life and witness of this congregation for 2013.  We will make these resolutions achievable and realistic in the knowledge that God is a God of signs and miracles and with our faith being exercised, “he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.  May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen (Ephesians 3:20,21)

Please come to the church on Wednesday 30th January at 7-9pm.  If you can bring something for supper, that would be great.

Until then, please pray for our hearts and minds to be as receptive as the wise ones from the East who accepted the changes to their preconceived ideas about where they were heading and what they would find as they followed the light/star to worship the King.

May you be surprised by God’s Epiphany this week.                                  Rev Brad Foote