A Risky Business

Second Sunday in Lent – 24 February 2013

Good morning and welcome to worship on this Second Sunday in Lent.  Last week I mentioned that Lent is about choices. I hope that you have been able to make some choices this week that have affirmed your commitment to live an authentic Christian life.  My progress this week has been quite slow and the desire to draw close to God during this Lenten period has been a bit disappointing for me.  However as I have been examining the readings for this week and focusing on Jesus’ turning towards Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35), and his journey towards the cross, I’m heartened by the knowledge that Jesus never gave up.  To know that my savior made choices to resist temptation and to pass the tests along the way encourages me to be more ‘faith-full’.

I found this reflection by John Barr in The Lent Event, Study Two (A People on the Way) on the Luke 13:31-35 reading to be very inspiring and I’ll use it as a catalyst for my preaching today.

There are two powerful images in Luke 13:31-35 – the fox and the hen.  They are contrasting images.  The fox calls for us to be careful – it’s a treacherous creature that schemes, scrounges and kills for a living.  The fox cannot be trusted.  (Herod is that fox Luke 13:32).  Meanwhile, the hen is quite a different case.  This creature provides nurture and protection – the hen is a gentle creature that puts its life on the line to protect her chicks.  The hen can be trusted.

Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem.  It is here that the real action takes place, for the city of Jerusalem is where the Messiah will appear.  It is the place where the prophets have spoken in the past and it is the place they paid the price for doing so.  Jerusalem, the centre of religious and political power in the region, is the place where Jesus will suffer, die and be raised to life.

On viewing Jerusalem, Jesus pours his heart out.  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you are not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

There is an atmosphere of violence and horror here.  We are told Herod is on a murderous warpath and now Jesus faces his place of crucifixion.  Could it be that it’s inevitable – is the city of Jerusalem a lost cause?

The answer is a definite NO!  God doesn’t give up on Jerusalem – and this commitment is embodied in the beautiful image of the mother hen gathering her chicks.  Here God’s commitment to the people of Jerusalem is one of warm, tender compassion and love.  God doesn’t give up on his people.  There’s always room for God’s grace and mercy!

Note that as the mother hen gathers her chicks, her wings take such a posture that the vital organs are exposed to the predator.  The only shield between the life and death of the hen’s young is her frail body.  Here, many see such a vulnerable, open posture as being consistent with the posture of the crucified Christ.  Jesus’ only defense is his love manifest in a willingness, not to condemn, but to persist.  Jesus’ only refuge is his compassion embodied in a commitment, not to dominate or coerce, but to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sake of others.

The message is clear.  Jesus is the one who comes, not as a mighty warrior or as a powerful leader.  Jesus comes in the form of the most vulnerable, whose love and compassion is at one with those he cherishes.

This is a potent expression of solidarity.  Here Jesus stands alongside those who are most vulnerable.  Here Jesus identifies with those he loves and cares for.  It’s A Risky Business.  Who can we stand alongside?  Who are the vulnerable in our church, in our community, in our city, in our world?  (We focus on Timor-Leste today – see insert)

What choices will you make. …this week to stand alongside the most vulnerable?

Rev. Brad Foote   

A People on The Way

First Sunday in Lent – 17 February, 2013

Good morning and welcome to worship on this First Sunday in Lent.  One of the most important questions for people of faith today is how to live an authentic Christian life, a life that is faithful to Jesus Christ.  In the Christian faith, authentic living has to do with experiencing God’s Spirit and living in God’s grace.  I hope that we will take time over these 40 days of Lent (plus six Sundays) to give some time to really asking God to guide us into some deeper thinking and life practices that will respond to such questions as:- How can we live authentic lives that honour God with the transformational love Jesus showed?  How can we adopt lifestyles that are good for the whole earth? These are practical questions that individual Christians and Christian Communities can address as we take time out in this period of reflection and preparation.  Over these next six weeks we will be reminded of the needs that some of our partner churches around the world encounter on a daily basis.  Today the focus will be our Uniting Church partnership with the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua (see insert).

This first week in Lent is about choices.  In fact the whole season of Lent is about choices.  Today the emphasis though is about “putting down roots” or “continuing to journey”.  This is not just a practical question but a theological one – to push our doctrinal roots into a land and claim who is in and who is out, or to let ourselves wander through the land, knowing that the only one who ultimately owns anything is the God who created all and calls us to journey and travel as foreigners in a new land, trusting the one who guides us and calls us through.  Deuteronomy 26:1-11 has been often read as a story of “possession”, however an alternative reading of the text reminds us that all land we travel across is God’s.  God dwells in the land and the people of Israel who enter it are reminded of this: the land is God’s and God dwells here (Deut 26:1).

Jesus is on a journey too as he enters the “wilderness” for 40 days (Luke 4:1-13) where we see him confronted with choices about who he is going to trust as he begins his ministry of bringing in the reign of God and starts his journey towards the cross.  It is in a place of wilderness and testing where we can choose whom to serve.  It is our choice this Lenten time.   I hope we choose wisely.

Through Lent Event, you are invited to participate in a journey of body, mind and spirit.  If you embrace this experience holistically, Lent Event can bring about personal transformation.  The material sacrifice of the body goes hand in hand with the education of the mind through study and the renewal of the spirit through prayer.  Through taking part in Lent Event, we are invited to participate as ambassadors of Christ in the reconciling of the creation to God.   We are encouraged to intentionally reflect on the place of Christ within our lives, as part of the continual reordering of priorities and values in the likeness of Christ that is the journey of discipleship.

May you choose wisely…..this week….Rev. Brad Foote   

PS.  Please ask me if there are ways that you can make some good choices of Action, Reflection and connection this Lenten season.



Wholly Holy

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – 10 February 2013

Transfiguration Sunday

Last Sunday at Ashmore Uniting Church a new era began as three different congregations worshipped in three different languages, English, Korean and Spanish.  From 8am to 8pm there were people preparing and participating in worship all day in our church.  I had the pleasure of attending all three services.  To God be the Glory.

For those who may not already know, a Korean congregation (Blue Wave Church) led by Pastor Joseph Kim had their service at 12.30 followed by lunch in the Atrium.  At 5pm Pastor Alberto Marroquin led his Spanish congregation.  Both Pastors made significant efforts to include English translation for the benefit of ‘mono-linguists’ like myself.  I would like to encourage everyone to take the opportunity to welcome the members of the other congregations as we share this journey of faith, worship and discovery together.  Sharing our building like this on a Sunday reminds me of the vision that is at the heart of The Uniting Church in Australia.

The Uniting Church enjoys a rich heritage where three denominations – Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian courageously came together in 1977 to form a uniquely Australian Christian expression. From that start it was envisioned that this new Uniting Church in Australia would be a movement, not an institution.  This vision was captured in the foundational document of the Uniting Church, the Basis of Union, which states in Paragraph 3:

“The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come.”

The Korean and Spanish congregations have no formal links or ties to The Uniting Church in Australia, which for some people within our institutionalized world might cause a level of dis-ease.  I came across this thought provoking reflection this week from Richard Rhor, a highly respected Catholic theologian.

In a recent meditation, Ideology can Never be Humble (3/2/13), Rhor said, “a great disappointment in our time is that organized religion itself has become more ideological than transformative.’

I’d like to take all three of those strands of thought above:-

  1. Three different languages groups worshipping on the one day in the same building @ COGS
  2. The Uniting Church being a movement not an institution, being a pilgrim people
  3. Organized religion has become more ideological than transformative

and set them against the backdrop of our Transfiguration theme and readings for today.

The lectionary readings for today are, Luke 9:28-36, Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 and Psalm 99.  Each reading has a beautiful synergy as they link this important historical and theological aspect of our Christian faith.  Remembering Jesus’ Transfiguration and our calling to be reflections of Christ is the climax of the Season after Epiphany.  We pause today to celebrate and hold within us the presence of Something More, which will empower us for the journey into Lent.

Please join me on Wednesday afternoon at 5.30pm at Mary Immaculate Church in Edmund Rice Drive, Ashmore for the Ash Wednesday Service with our local Catholic Church.  Then next Sunday from 2-4pm I’ll be leading a six-week series of Lent Studies from 2-4pm here at the Church.  Please put your name down on the list in the Atrium if you want to participate in those studies.

May you find yourself Wholly Holy…as you radiate Christ….this week.  Rev. Brad Foote

Reaching Out, Changing Lives

Fourth week after the Epiphany – 3 February 2013

Changing the Landscape

 I’d like to welcome everyone to worship today.  Thank you to those who attended the final “Vision and Values” evening on Wednesday evening.  If we add the numbers of those who attended and those who sent apologies we’d have a 30% response of our regular Sunday worship attendance.  That’s a lot better than the general statistic that says, “80% of the work is done by 20% of the congregation.  For that I am grateful.  Let’s continue to pray that we ALL catch the vision and find effective ways of being part of the body of Christ together (1 Corinthians Chapters 12 & 13 – current lectionary readings).

Jill Gray was able to help us identify four key areas or pillars of Ministry that we as a church want to see as the priority for the next phase of our journey.   The four pillars are:-

  1. Worship
  2. Children and Families
  3. People in Need
  4. Good Stewardship and Resources

There were two areas of our “Faith Goals” (Goal 5 and 6) that really need to be strengthened and worked on if we are going to develop these four pillars, above.   I’ve listed the Faith Goals below with the scorecard noted next to each Faith Goal.  (The scorecard is derived from how we perceive that we’ve have performed in the past 5 years.)

Our Faith Goals

1. Welcome people of all ages and backgrounds into a caring Christian community – 6/10                

2.  Invite people into relationship with Jesus Christ & encourage active participation – 5/10      

3.  Support & nurture people to know, understand & become more like Christ in the life of the church   5/10

4.  Worship God faithfully through celebration, prayer, and study of the Bible – 8/10

5.  Teach, encourage & empower people to use their gifts and resources for ministry – 2/10

6.  Call, equip & support Christians to be leaders in the church & in the community – 2/10

7.  Take Christ’s message of hope, acceptance and new life into the community through word and action  5/10

One of the immediate outcomes of our time together on Wednesday evening was a firm commitment to begin to develop Teams that will begin to work together in areas of calling, areas of interest and areas of giftedness.  A strong commitment will be expected by all members of the congregation to be involved in a lifelong journey of spiritual growth and faith formation through the study of the Bible and involvement in small groups.

Cheryl Foote (my wife) will be the convener of our Small Group Ministry this year.  Please talk to her about your willingness to be a leader or host or participant in a small group.  There a number of existing groups that already meet in peoples homes but we will be starting a number of new groups throughout the year.

I will be leading a series of Studies during Lent each Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm, commencing on the 17th February which is the First Sunday in Lent.  Please put your name on the list in the Atrium (on the round table) if you are interested.

I have pondered last week’s theme about “Changing The Landscape” a lot over this past week and I’m convinced that the Christian Church has an incredible responsibility to be a genuine force in the community as advocates for Jesus Christ who, changed the landscape of His day.  We now are His body and are called to that ministry, through the power if His Spirit.

May you hear God’s call …..this week…as He Summons you to be reaching out, changing lives.

Rev. Brad Foote