Canberra City
Uniting Church


Contact Webmaster

© 2018

Minister's Desk
Canberra City UCA >  Minister's Desk

We are pleased to have Rev Dr Paul Chalson and Rev Miriam Parker-Lacey providing ministry with us.
 If you require assistance please use the contact details below.

                   Phone: (02) 6257 4600

From time to time we publish a reflection and/or sermon notes. 
                The reflections are shown below and the
                sermon notes are on the Sermon Notes sub page


18 June 2017

Abraham’s Terebinths

Our Old Testament reading today sets the scene of Abraham’s tent placed near “the terebinths of Mamre” (Genesis 18: 1).  Here, at midday, Abraham, while seated at the tent opening, communicated with three men, acknowledged in early translations as ‘angels of the Lord’.  As a welcome, Abraham and Sarah displayed all the courtesies of good hospitality by offering the visitors water to bathe their feet and by providing food as freshly-cooked cakes, milk and meat, while they rested in the shade of a terebinth grove.

During my research to find out what a ‘terebinth’ was, I discovered that the botanical name, Pistachia terebinthus, describes an evergreen shrub of the cashew family that yields turpentine (a term derived as a corruption from ‘terebinth’).  However, early translations of the Septuagint (the Greek source of the Old Testament and the Jewish Torah) refer not to terebinths but much more imposing oak trees.  The Palestinian or Sindian oak (Quercus pseudococcifera) shares with the terebinth the qualities of longevity, strength and durability - but it is a massive tree.

I researched further about the site of Mamre.  For millennia, Mamre has been a venerated site – long before Abraham set up his tent.  Archaeologists have found shards of bronze age pottery, dating back to 2600-2000 BCE, and the location marks an overland transport junction near an ancient well.  Writing in Antiquities of the Jews (CE 94), the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records that Abraham set up a permanent encampment of many tents at Mamre, choosing a site frequently used for animal sacrifices by Jews and pagans near a shady oak tree apparently immune to fires.  Centuries later, Herod constructed a stone wall 2 m. thick to protect this sacred tree.  However, the wall was destroyed during a Jewish war of rebellion against Roman rule (CE 132) and then rebuilt by Hadrian’s army.  Hadrian also revived market fairs at Mamre, but these were shunned by Jews as idolatrous.  Under Constantine (302-337), the Mamre fairs became inter-denominational but these scandalised Eutropia, mother-in-law to Constantine who then destroyed pagan idols, consecrated the enclosure, and built a Christian basilica dedicated to Saint George.

Despite such activities, the ancient oak survived.  From the third century, Christian pilgrims began to visit ‘the Oak of Abraham’, but by the seventh century this had been reduced to a stump as sacred slivers were removed by souvenir seekers. A stump was still visible to the Russian pilgrim, Abbot Daniel, when he visited in 1106.

this week’s reflection prepared by Terry Birtles

21 May 2017

It is People

Recently Margaret and I went back to New Zealand for one week. We had not been back to Dunedin since arriving from New Zealand some three years ago. It is a lovely wee city but we weren’t there for a holiday. A number of friends were sick, some critically ill. We thought we had better go and see some while we were able.

I suppose we anticipated that it would be a hard time visiting people knowing we might not see them again.

Instead we felt very blessed. We stayed in two different homes and our hosts couldn’t have been more welcoming and kind. Another friend had offered the use of a car for the week -  little did I know I would be driving a large Mercedes – VERY carefully I might add!!

Difficult visits were made “easy” by the courage and good nature our friends displayed. They were appreciative of the effort we had made to come and see them, they were interested to hear about our new life in Canberra. We spoke about grandchildren and about the good people we had met, principally here at City Uniting Church.

We came away feeling that it was them that had ministered to us. We didn’t talk about our  faith but perhaps by showing love we were acting out part of our gospel reading today – “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15), and the commandment to  “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12: 31).

We were pleased to have made the effort. And by their courage and dignity and good humour in spite of their circumstances we have learned and gained much. This story is not just about us. Margaret and I are very cognisant of the fact that we are part of a congregation in which we see so much love and care, acts of kindness and love that are truly Christ-like.

I think I have mentioned once before a proverb from New Zealand Maori:

      He aha te mea nui,
      He tangata
      He tangata
      He tangata

What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

this week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

14 May 2017

Psalm 31

Psalm 31 is important in the lectionary, as it contains words that Jesus said from the cross in Luke’s version of the crucifixion. Luke uses it again, though more subtly, in the book of Acts when Stephen utters his last words after being stoned. It is for this latter reason that it is included in the readings for this Sunday.

Psalm 31 is also important for other reasons. It is one of the psalms that refers to God as both rock and refuge, and it talks about the steadfast love of God and salvation for the God’s people. It also has something important to say about the life of people of faith.  It describes times of where God seems to be missing and times when God’s presence can be felt. A psalm of lament, it nevertheless has at its heart the notion of trusting in God, no matter what might be crashing down around you.

Not only does the psalmist express abandonment, there is the fear that the psalmist is surrounded by those who would do him harm. As the psalmist describes his physical and emotional torment, it is clear he experiences others’ rejection and fear as an assault, and feels both abandoned and besieged by hostile forces.

This psalm is important as it reminds us that being Christian offers no protection from life’s tragedies. To suggest otherwise is neither true to the biblical record, nor to the human experience. The joy of which the Bible speaks is not found in isolation from the bad things is life. What Psalm 31 does offer is the confidence that no matter what is happening, the God who is present in the darkness, who supports and comforts us during times of adversity, holds us in God’s hands. 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

7 May 2017

Walking in both the Light and the Dark

We are well into the season of Easter now, and have travelled with the lectionary from the darkness of Good Friday into the light of the resurrection.

But the psalm this week, despite the images of sheep and good shepherds, reminds us that in our lives we will walk in both light and dark places.

The world around us tries to convince us that darkness and sadness are bad things.  We prefer the light of resurrection to despair of Good Friday. Frequently we have grown up with an antipathy to darkness, a result of bogeyman stories and the fear of what might lurk within the shadows. We forget that our human lives contain both light and darkness, in a literal and metaphorical sense, and that is normal, and also biblical.

Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we cannot see where we are going, and when it seems no one will answer when we call, there is still a divine presence with us that transcends all of our ideas about lightness and darkness. In a favourite book of mine, Learning to walk in the dark, the author Barbara Brown Taylor notes that “to be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting the other half away where it will not interfere with one's bright fantasies of the way things ought to be.”

The Easter journey, along with Psalm 23, invites us to walk on a less travelled road, a darkened road where there is pain and doubt and suffering, a road that invites questions and encourages us to search for God in the dark places of our world, as well as the light.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

23 April 2017

Growing Into Faith

I think that we often make the mistake of assuming that for the disciples the Resurrection and Pentecost experiences were so profound, they were instantly transformed from a group of frightened and disillusioned people  into a fired-up bunch of fearless witnesses.  But this, I think, is wrong, and today’s reading seems to emphasise that the process of becoming less fearful and less doubtful took some time.  In the reading Jesus appears to them twice.   On the second occasion, which happened a week after the first, not much has changed for they are still behind locked doors, still fearful and  even Jesus’ words of ‘Peace be with you.’ hadn’t got them out from that room.

In many respects those first disciples were just like us.  Even though quite a few of us could name the time and place when we first experienced the life giving presence of Christ, others of us can’t, and none of us would be able to say that everything about our life was utterly transformed on the spot:  that we were totally released from our doubts, our fears, our apathy, our lack of love.   I know I look back on my first conversion experience as a turning point rather than the moment when I was miraculously changed into a perfect model of discipleship. For me, it was a turning point from which faith and hope and love began to take root and grow.   

Those first disciples were not much different – their faith journeys were a gradual process which changed them from being huddled behind the locked doors of fear and doubt to carrying the gospel to the ends of the known earth. 

Conversion to a faith which conquers the powers of death and despair often, but not always, has a sudden and memorable beginning.  But whether it does or not, it is always, always, an ongoing process

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

16 April 2017

What are we to make of this day?

On one level, the answer is obvious – Jesus was killed, and now he is resurrected. This is a Christian gathering, and the answer is simple. Easter is all about celebrating the resurrection. It assures us we will have life after we die. But is this the only thing of importance?
What are we to make of this day, a day when the graves are opened and the dead awaken? If we ask this as post-enlightenment people, we will assert that Jesus' resurrection was a myth created by the early church to maintain and grow a new movement, and that the resurrection was a metaphor of how our sins are dead and buried with Jesus' death and burial, and how we can start afresh to be better people. But is it this straightforward? Or this individualistic?

What are we to make of this day, a day when life refused to be contained, but burst forth in the most strange and unexpected way? Who was truly freed by the experience of resurrection?
What are we to make of a day where nothing is impossible, where hope cannot be extinguished and where love cannot be conquered?

Embracing resurrection means embracing new possibilities, new realities, and new ways of being. Instead of being limited by our fears and prejudices, we can open our minds to believe that unbelievable grace is possible. Instead of being limited by wanting to control things, we can release the hold fear has on our minds, and open our hearts to unbelievable hope. Instead of being limited by death and despair, we can open our lives to live and to love, in the light of Christ’s liberating life.
The resurrection teaches us that nothing is impossible. The resurrection shows us that hope need not be extinguished, and that love is never conquered.

As you come among us now, Jesus, in your resurrected glory;
May we feel the power of your life;
May we turn away from those things which destroy life;
May resurrection happen again in us today.
And may we become agents of resurrection, where ever we find ourselves.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

9 April 2017

Passion Sunday

If Palm Sunday publicly announces that Jesus is king, Passion Sunday reminds us that the Messiah who is the king is the suffering Messiah, the one who is crucified. His kingly rule is exercised through suffering and rejection. Jesus was the victim of the religion and politics of his time. The authorities and powers of his day crushed him because his teachings and actions went against their vested interests.

Was Jesus the only victim of the inhumanity of fellow human beings, of religion and politics? No! There were thousands of people at the time of Jesus, and millions of people today who were and are crushed and destroyed by those who hold power and authority. Thousands and thousands of crosses of innocent women, children and men, old and young, are raised every day all over the world – the crosses of the exploited, oppressed, tortured and destroyed. 

Jesus still cries ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’  In that cry of dereliction we hear the cries of all God’s children everywhere. Jesus has recapitulated in his passion, the passion of all his people of all times. To speak of Passion Sunday is to speak of a God who has come to be part of the passion of his people. The cross of Jesus is the cross of God.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

2 April 2017

Some Thoughts on Today’s Psalm

Psalm 130 is about hope – about hanging on, even in the depths of despair. The psalmist asks for God to be attentive and says, that even in the midst of despair, he will hang on to the hope that God offers.
Down through the centuries people have cried out to God from their places of need. I have done it and I have no doubt you have as well. There are people throughout the world today who, in their places fear, doubt and despair, cry out for help

Further in the psalm, the psalmist speaks of waiting like one who watches for the morning. How many of us have experienced that night time fear – desperation that is magnified somehow by the darkness? From the watchers in the tower, keeping vigil until the daylight brings a sense of safety, to those who tonight, will sit and stare and pray for the dawn.

Finally, it is important to unpack the understanding that the voices cry out because they hope someone will listen. God does not wave some magic wand to answer people’s cries. God works through people like you and me. Will we listen and respond to those who cry out for connection or care? Will we be the hope they need in the morning?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

26 March 2017

Christian Students Uniting : CSU-ACT (An update)

CSU is the name given to our “student body” here at City Uniting Church. However, attendance at Sunday worship is not compulsory and we have other students who are members through attending our fortnightly Bible Study. We also organise social outings and trips.

The new Executive for 2017 is Pesta Sibarani (President), Kelvin Lee (Secretary) and Rui Shen (Treasurer). These three met with me and came up with a “manifesto” or “raison d’etre” that encapsulated what were the special features of CSU. Kelvin will outline them in the service this morning along with the advantages CSU has as an affiliated group within ANU. Together with members of the Student Ministry Support Group we need to work on a strategy to further advance the very important outreach that is inherent in our support of CSU.

Our basic message to ANU students is that we are the LOCAL church (only minutes walk from Uni Lodge), we are MAINSTREAM Protestant, and for international students we offer a “home away from home” – a caring church family with pastoral support and ENGAGEMENT with the local Canberra community.

We have set up a Facebook page called CSU-ACT Alumni. We did this so as to keep in contact with past members of CSU who have returned home. I try and post something every week on church or CSU activities. If you would like to view it just send a “friend request” and I promise to approve it!
Our students value the hospitality of City Church folk. They are a long way away from family and the first year especially can be a difficult time as they adjust to student life here in Canberra.

This Week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

19 March 2017

How Long To The Promised Land

When things are going OK it is pretty easy to trust God. When a crisis comes, however, the reality of our faith is often exposed. The Children of Israel’s faith was tested time and again on their journey through the wilderness and almost never did they rise to the occasion. The crisis recorded in today’s reading was serious, and potentially lifethreatening. They had travelled and arrived at camp but there was no
water, which is not a good thing - particularly in the desert. All too easily the great events of their deliverance were consigned to history and their original prejudice against Moses resurfaced. The mood
turned ugly and mob rule was not far below the surface.

Whilst being without water was a practical issue and there was an urgent need for it to be resolved, fundamentally it was a spiritual issue, reflecting their lack of trust in God. Moses acted decisively by first
bringing the matter to God in blunt terms. Then he obeyed the Lord’s clear directions which involved bringing the leadership on side with him. His act was to be simple yet spectacular. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. The need was met but the underlying problem remained.

We might ask ourselves: If our default position is to doubt, and to express that in grumbling and disunity, how long will it take us to get to the Promised Land?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

12 March 2017

How Long To The Promised Land

When things are going OK it is pretty easy to trust God. When a crisis comes, however, the reality of our faith is often exposed. The Children of Israel’s faith was tested time and again on their journey through the wilderness and almost never did they rise to the occasion. The crisis recorded in today’s reading was serious, and potentially life-threatening. They had travelled and arrived at camp but there was no water, which is not a good thing - particularly in the desert. All too easily the great events of their deliverance were consigned to history and their original prejudice against Moses resurfaced. The mood turned ugly and mob rule was not far below the surface.

Whilst being without water was a practical issue and there was an urgent need for it to be resolved, fundamentally it was a spiritual issue, reflecting their lack of trust in God. Moses acted decisively by first bringing the matter to God in blunt terms. Then he obeyed the Lord’s clear directions which involved bringing the leadership on side with him. His act was to be simple yet spectacular. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. The need was met but the underlying problem remained.

We might ask ourselves: If our default position is to doubt, and to express that in grumbling and disunity, how long will it take us to get to the Promised Land? 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

5 March 2017

The Cunningness of Temptation

The lectionary reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of how Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, and were led astray. The story is a vehicle for helping us understand what happens when we decide to go our own way, rather than listen to God. It also makes it very clear how easily we can be tricked into doing what we know is wrong.

There has been much speculation on the symbolic meaning of ‘the tree of knowledge’, usually translated as ‘knowing good and evil’. The literal meaning is anything but simple, but may indicate that when we disobey God, we discover what it is to be sinners, and innocence dies. Because we disobey God we experience what it is to have a fallen nature. Eve’s encounter with the serpent shows us how temptation can come at us sideways.

The snake starts with a question in order to get Eve thinking about fruit. She responds with a correct reply. Then the snake suggests that God was perhaps not as kindly as Eve had assumed, and was warning her off this fruit because it would give her power God did not want her to have. Eve saw the beauty of the tree, thought about becoming wise, and decided that she would take the serpent’s advice and eat the fruit – also giving some to Adam. All this shows how humans fail to trust the goodness of God, and the wisdom of what God says. The pair does get understanding, but it includes the knowledge of what it is to be exposed in shame before God and one another.

As a response to this story, let’s think about the times in our lives when temptation can come at us sideways and how we might be better prepared to say ‘No!’

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud
Adapted from an article by Rev Jock Stein of The Church of Scotland

26 February 2017

Blurred Edges

In our Gospel reading for today, Peter, James and John have an experience. They see Jesus transformed before their eyes and hear God’s voice naming him as ‘My beloved Son.’  It would have been a pretty unreal experience and, I imagine, they would have had difficulty coming back to reality.  But Jesus tells them that they can’t stay on top of that mountain forever and they need to go back and face the everyday world.  For them all, but more particularly Jesus, that meant journeying onwards to Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there.

As I was thinking about this reading I reflected on the difference between mountain-top experiences and the realities of everyday living, and I wondered whether there are blurred edges around both.  Can we divorce our mountain-top experiences from the everyday?  I would argue that we can’t. 

Firstly: unless our mountain-top experiences inform our daily living then there is not much point to them.
Secondly: I believe that it is in the ordinary, everyday events of our lives that transfiguration and transcendence occur.  God is always in those places where people interact with people.  His transforming presence is not just limited to the mountain-top, but is found everywhere – even in the most unlikely places and people.  If only we would open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to recognise it.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

19 February 2017

Guidelines for how to become a positive social epidemic.

The readings could be understood as asking God's people to spread grace and compassion-filled social epidemics throughout our neighbourhoods and our world. In particular, Leviticus and the gospel of Matthew are envisaging God's people as a model for a healthy alternative community.

Leviticus is too often dismissed by Christians as a ‘book of rules’. But Leviticus is much more than this. Known as the Holiness Code, God instructs his people to "be holy, for I am holy". Such holiness involves some counter-intuitive actions and motivations. "Don't be like the other nations, and stoop to slander, hatred, and revenge”, says Leviticus 19. Rather, remember the poor, the alien, the aged, the deaf, and the blind. Love your neighbour as yourself. In summary, your actions and life should reflect the character of God who is perfect love and goodness.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus appears to have adopted the Levitical code as part of his mission. He further suggests we deepen our love of God by attending to our motivations and inner feelings, as well as just refraining from doing wrong. "Don't be like tax collectors or Gentiles," Jesus says. “Learn to love even your enemies. Share your possessions and money. Be compassionate”.

Take a moment and imagine a community where people didn't need to steal, because everyone shared liberally with others in need. Or a community where everyone was treated fairly, and no groups were exploited or oppressed on the basis of status, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. Or a world where women and girls were honoured as equal to men, and where the alien was treated as one of the family?

When we live like this, we, the people of God, reflect the character of God. Our lives could not help but to spread a positive social epidemic of love, compassion, goodness, gratitude, civility, respect and justice, that would not only build a healthy community, but would build the kingdom of God, here and now, on earth.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

12 February 2017

You have heard it said ….. but I say to you …

Matthew has Jesus speaking these words in our Gospel reading for today as he challenges his hearers to move from the demands of the old covenant made between God and God’s people, to the new covenant embodied in Jesus.  The demands are the same – obedience, obligation, loyalty – but in Jesus they go beyond simply observing laws and statutes.  For Jesus, living out the new covenant is not about an intellectual agreement, but transformation of heart and mind.  In other words, going deeper as we think what it really means to follow the way of Jesus.

In the passage, Jesus gives practical examples of how to live out life in this new covenant.  At first hearing we might be shocked with what he is saying. There are words about being ‘liable to hell’, being ‘thrown into prison’ and tearing an eye out if it causes us to sin.  But we need to remember that Jesus was quite fond of shocking his listeners with over the top statements in order to make them think beyond the square. 

The examples Jesus gives have, at their root, themes of reconciliation, forgiveness and truthfulness. Through them Jesus points, not just to a new way of obedience, but to a new way of being human.

Being in a covenant relationship with God is not an easy option.  It’s fairly easy to follow rules, but perhaps what we should be doing is challenging ourselves to go beyond simply observing the ‘rules’ of Christian discipleship to understanding at a deeper level, what it is that God requires of us? 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

5 February 2017

How can we be salt and light in a chaotic and fearful world?

In the world of the first century, light and salt were extremely important. In a power-free and fossil fuel-free world, the preservative salt and the oil lamp were as important to the ancients as electricity and cars are to us. This saying of Jesus is really a very simple concept, using light and salt as symbols for discipleship. Let your actions be seen, says Jesus. Let your worth be known through what you do.

In a world where hate is being encouraged by political leaders and extremists, it is important not to mistake being a good citizen for being a good Christian. John Pavlovitz suggests that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out what he expects of his followers very clearly. He calls this ‘radical extremism’, and describes it thus:

"Radical extremism is the essence of The Cross and the life of Jesus; a confounding, expectation-defying, hate-rattling decision to love defiantly in the face of violent intolerance. It's the greatest thing a Christian can aspire to; not might or force or payback or revenge. It is in cultivating a heart which spends itself on behalf of the hurting, the forgotten, the silenced, the wounded in the most audacious manner, even to the point of its breaking."

Living such ‘radical extremism’ is a daunting task. It is much easier to subscribe to an ‘escapist’ faith, to disengage from the pain of the world, keep our heads down and noses clean, and practice our faith in a way that requires little sacrifice or work, and that changes little around us. Isaiah criticises such a faith most harshly in the reading today. But an engaged faith pays attention to the injustice around us, calls out corruption and exploitation, and holds ourselves and our leaders accountable for how our decisions impact on the oppressed and vulnerable. "Radical extremism” means finding ourselves in uncomfortable places, upsetting the peace, and being labelled as ‘troublemakers’ “or ‘unchristian’. Christian ‘troublemakers’ are needed more than ever today. Can we find the courage to be the salt and light that Jesus expects us to be?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

29 January 2017

The Season of Epiphany

We are now well into the Season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a Greek word meaning “appearance” or coming into light”. Greeks used it for the dawning of a new day and especially to refer to the visible manifestation of a usually invisible deity. Christians early on applied it both to Jesus’ first coming and to his second coming.

By the second century Epiphany came to be the name for the commemoration of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan as well as his birth at Bethlehem.  Over the years, the celebration of Christ’s birth was moved to 25th December and Epiphany then came to focus on the visit of the magi [wise men], the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana.

In time, the wedding at Cana fell into the background, and the baptism of Jesus came to be celebrated in the week after Epiphany. So January 6 in the western church has been celebrated as the feast of the magi, representing the coming of light to the Gentles.

The entire Epiphany season is one of light. It begins with the star of the magi and ends with Jesus’ transfiguration into light.

Epiphany reminds us that into all of life’s uncertainties, God speaks to us. While much is hidden, much is revealed. Above all, God’s self-disclosure is located in the Christ event.  Epiphany comes to us not because we have earned it, but because we are loved.

So today we hear Micah’s summons to walk in newness of light, Paul’s confession that the message of the cross defies human wisdom, and Jesus’ teaching in Matthew about the surprising character of God’s blessing. 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Ian Diamond

22 January 2017

From Darkness to the Light

Our Bible readings in recent weeks are about a people who were in the darkness, now being bathed in the light. Today’s readings from the Psalms, from Isaiah and Matthew all attest to this. In today’s parlance we would talk of the “Holy Spirit”. We talk of “receiving the Holy Spirit” as a way of describing how the force, power and gift of God may be personally encountered. No one can “possess” the Spirit but everyone can pray over and over again for the Spirit.

I will be referring to the hymn “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote about the year 1200 and which describes the variety of the effects of the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ

O Holy Ghost, come down from heaven’s height,
Give us thy light.
O Father of the poor, all gifts to men are Thine
Within us shine.
O Comforter beyond man’s comforting,
O stranger sweet
Our hearts await Thy feet.
In passion Thou art peace,
Rest for our labouring, our cooling spring.
O solace of our tears,
Upon the secrets of our sins and fears,
Pour Thy great light.
Apart from Thee, man has no truth unfeigned,
No good unstained.
Our hearts are dry.
O River, flow Thou through the parched ground,
Quicken those near to die.
Our hearts are hard,
O bend them to Thy will, Eternal Lord, to go Thy way.
Thy sevenfold power give to Thy faithful folk
who bear Thy yoke.
Give strength to endure,
And then to die in peace
And live forever in Thy blessedness.

To place our trust on this Spirit means we can confidently say even now: “Credo in Spiritum Sanctum “. This poem and some thoughts taken from “Does God Exist?” by theologian Hans Kung.

this week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

15 January 2017

A Touch of History

We recently visited Europe to catch up with daughters and family in Lutry (Switzerland) and Liverpool (England).  Our sightseeing included historic buildings dating eight or more centuries, including Chester where the cathedral includes some hewn blocks retained from Roman occupation. 

I had an interest in Liverpool where my grandfather was born and we made a point of visiting the Saint Nicholas church where two forebears were christened during the seventeenth century.  This church dates from 1356 as the chapel of Liverpool, to become Anglican under the authority of Henry VIII. After Liverpool became a major port (1680), Saint Nicholas served as ‘the sailors chapel’ – closest to the quayside.  As the industrial revolution proceeded and wealth grew, churches began to spring up with city expansion, including almost every variety of Nonconformist chapel after 1770 and several chapels for orphan asylums and Welsh-speaking Methodist or Baptist immigrants. Meeting-places were also established for Sandemanians (Glassites), the United Free Gospel Church, Moravians, Quakers, Calvinistic Methodists, the Berean Universalist Church, Christadelphians, Swedenborgians, and the Bethel Union.  For a time, Catholicism was rigidly suppressed as Liverpool became a decidedly Protestant town in the face of a large Irish immigrant labour infusion (driven by the famine of 1846).

Repeated recession and the huge loss of males during two world wars have since changed Liverpool. Many churches have closed (some were blitzed) and religious tolerance has extended to the mutual support for construction of an Anglican and a Catholic Cathedral (each located in Hope Street). 

My return to Australia has reminded me of how relatively untouched we are by human history and architecture.  At the same time, I can marvel at the persistence of the messages of Christ’s gospel and its many interpretations.

this week’s reflection prepared by Terry Birtles

8 January 2017

The Family of God

Recently, during a conversation with some Hindu friends, the question of the significance of the cross to Christians came up. Our friends were particularly interested in what it means when people crossed themselves. Their guru had shared his thoughts on this with them: the horizontal movement to symbolise a relationship with God, and the vertical movement for the relationship with one another.

We told them that, as Protestants, crossing ourselves is not a normal practice for us, but we understand that when Catholics cross themselves they are also acknowledging that they belong to the God of Jesus Christ.  And we went on to say that, although not visible, every Christian sees themselves as ‘marked with the sign of the cross’. This is publicly acknowledged in our baptism with words such as: “From this day on the sign of the cross is upon you…. Always remember you are baptised, and be thankful… By the power of the Holy Spirit, be a faithful witness to Christ all the days of your life.”

Today, is the first Sunday in the period called ‘After Epiphany’, which begins with the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. Coming weeks will focus on the manifestation of Christ to all people, culminating in the Transfiguration of Jesus, the final Sunday in this season.

In his baptism, Jesus identified with the people: the people coming to hear John’s message, the people who would become his followers during his ministry, and the people of all time who would choose to be baptised and thereby be marked with the sign of the cross.

May we always remember that, through our baptism, we are part of the family of God, and rejoice!

this week’s reflection prepared by Narelle Sellar

18 December 2016

The Season Of Advent

We are now into the 4th week of the season of Advent, a time when Christians in our tradition expectantly wait and prepare for the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The term Advent is a version of the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming”, and is the translation of the Greek word “parousia” commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.

So this means that the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from three perspectives: one, in the flesh at Bethlehem, two, in our hearts daily, and three, in glory at the end of time. Advent is a season with a long history, and was certainly in existence from about 480CE. 

Whilst violet is the traditional liturgical colour for the Advent season [signifying penitence and also royalty], in recent years, blue [a colour representing hope], has been used.

A common observance of Advent in and outside the church has been in the keeping of an advent calendar and/or candles. Interestingly, the varieties of advent calendars now sold in supermarkets rarely reflect the deeper meaning of the season.

Our advent candles are lit in accordance with a gradual movement towards the climax at Christmas. On the first Sunday, the readings remind us of the Old Testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors. On the second Sunday, the readings point to prophecies concerning Christ’s birth in a manger. On the third Sunday the readings relate to John the Baptist and a rose candle is lit, representing joy, the joy of the shepherds. Then on the fourth Sunday the readings relate to the annunciation of Christ’s birth.

So all in all, this season has a profound impact on us all as we make our way towards the celebration of Christmas as it reminds us of the coming of Christ among us, in every way.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Ian Diamond

11 December 2016

maria_magnificatThis week we light the third Advent candle, which symbolises joy in the Advent tradition. This candle is traditionally pink or rose in colour, and marks a shift from the more solemn tone of the first two Sundays of Advent towards the more joyous themes anticipation and expectancy.  This candle is also seen as symbolising Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she anticipates the birth of her child. For this reason, we have the opportunity to replace the traditional psalm this Sunday. With Mary’s song, the Magnificat.

The Magnificat is a song that prophesises the overturning of the entire social order, by proclaiming that the lowly will be lifted up, that the powerful will be brought down from their thrones, and stating that the rich will be turned away empty while the hungry are filled. To all intents and purposes, Mary is singing a song of sedition.

Mary’s song also tells us that God’s actions are already breaking into the world. The boundaries of heaven and earth become blurred in the stories of Advent. Angels appear with strange pronouncements, foreign seers follow ephemeral stars, and ordinary people open themselves to the purposes of God, showing that it is through people that God works on this earth. It should be clear from reading the Magnificat what the new world order is supposed to look like, and it doesn’t look like what the world currently looks like.

Mary is clearly obedient to what she understands the will of God to mean. And the will of God appears to mean supporting a total reordering of society and our churches. Such things tend to make us fearful as they threaten our way of life. But if this upside down reality really is the kingdom of God, then this is a fear that will redeem us as we work for its establishment. What we fear most, could well be our salvation.

Advent should draw our eyes towards the new as we watch and wait for the Christ who comes to us in human form. Advent invites us to enter more intentionally into the present, where the kingdom of God is at work among us already. Suffused with expectation, Advent calls to us to work in the here and now, in company with the Christ who is already about the work of heaven in our midst. So, like Mary, let us pray this week for the Spirit of God to possess us, to inspire us, and to move us forward. Let us pray for the courage to work for a kingdom of justice. Let us share the good news with our friends and our communities of what can happen when the world is turned upside down. And let us dare to follow the way proclaimed by Mary’s song, a way that leads to new life, and to the hope, peace, joy and love that characterizes this season.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

4 December 2016

Dream Maker

Our Advent bible study this year is using the resource “Living the Dream” by John van de Laar. Below is an excerpt from the study on the theme that we can change our little corner of the world for the better, and inspire others to do likewise.

“Sometimes all it takes is a few words. Sometimes we just need to be witnesses to the affect one person has on another. However they may happen, such moments leave a lasting mark on our souls. The inspiration we receive from these experiences, and the people who bring them into being, can make dreams become a reality. Few of us can claim that our best achievements and abilities have not been birthed or nurtured through the influence of mentors, coaches, teachers, or respected elders. These people are the Dream Makers of our lives, and their simple belief and encouragement can sustain us through the most difficult, hopeless, or doubt-filled seasons.

In times of crisis we need those who will lead us to hope and who will call our best abilities and qualities out of us. But, in the absence of such leadership, we easily fall into despair and cynical fatalism. In Isaiah’s time, this was the reality. The leaders of Israel had lost faith, and were scrambling to find security in unwise alliances. The once glorious monarchy of David had become a shadow of its formal self.

But, Isaiah saw a different reality. He knew that God, who would never abandon God’s people, would raise a true leader out of this broken dynasty. He saw the impact such a leader could have on the nation and on the world, he began to dream of the new world that would be birthed under his rule - a world of shalom.

We may feel that we are in a similar crisis of leadership in our world today. But, in Jesus, God has given us a Dream Maker who can lead us to hope. No matter how bad things may appear, God always inspires leaders to stand up and work for justice and peace. Our task is to stay faithful in following Jesus and his dream, and to continue to pray, to hope and to support the good leaders around us. On a personal level, the same principles apply as we open ourselves to the inspirational influence of the leaders - formal and informal – in our lives. “(John van de Laar, Living the Dream, p.34 2013)

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

27 November 2016

A New Year – we begin the Season of Advent

We begin the season of advent by lighting the first candle, the candle of hope. The season has a mixed history. In the early church advent was a season in preparation for the baptism of new Christians. There were 40 days of penance, fasting and prayer leading to the January Feast of Epiphany. There was little connection between advent and Christmas.

By the sixth century however Roman Christians had tied advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming as the baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the advent season was linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. So today we do both. The first two Sundays of advent focus on Christ coming in judgement. The second two Sundays are about Christ’s first coming.

Here we are in the 21st Century and today there are probably only a few who think in terms of a sudden expectation of the end. They are often associated with those on the fringe of mainstream Christianity – people keen to set dates and then explain why their timetable was not met. A preacher from New Zealand attributing the recent earthquake there to punishment from God, another on the internet convinced that the end time is near writes to his followers about the tsunami soon to be unleashed, as in the times of Noah. Moral corruption and decay are seen as the signs that this is imminent.

For me the season of advent and talk about the second coming of Christ is the chance to bring together past, present and future. As we stand in the present we can look back to a creative God to whom we owe the very gift of life. We look back to the life and teachings of Jesus as a pointer to the coming of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom we can begin to participate in by following Christ’s example. And to dare to hope that in some way Jesus will come again is to proclaim that God’s people have a future. That we will never be abandoned by God. God’s future coming is both still to come and yet already here.

We know that Christmas is coming- with the potential distractions of shopping, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards and preparing food. But so too is Christ coming, and on this first Sunday of advent we focus on the promises and hopes yet to be fulfilled in a future guided by the past. The big picture. Praise be to God!

 this week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

20 November 2016

Christ the King Sunday

Today is the last Sunday in the church year and it became identified as Christ the King Sunday in relatively recent times.  Within the Roman Catholic Church it was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a Feast Day on the final Sunday of October. In 1970 the Catholic observance moved it to the last Sunday of Ordinary time.

The Anglican, Lutheran and other Protestant Churches [including our pre-union denominations] adopted it along with the Revised Common Lectionary.

As we would expect, the nature of kingly power is expressed within each of the lections we read today.
From Jeremiah, we find him criticising shepherds [leaders] who used their power to scatter the flock rather than protecting it. Then there is the promise that God will send a “righteous branch” whose kingship will be characterised by wisdom, justice and safety.

From Colossians we hear a passage praising the cosmic dimensions of Christ. Whilst the exaltation of Christ is not an end in itself, the task of Christ is one of reconciliation.

From Luke the goal of Christ’s kingship moves to centre stage. Despite the taunts of others around him who demand that he uses his power to save himself, Jesus sees it differently. For him, a king is not one who saves himself but one who saves others.

The lections today explore answers to an important question Jesus asked of his disciples, a question we all must answer:      “Who do you say I am?”.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Ian Diamond

13 November 2016

Seeds of hope

The scene presented in the Gospel of Luke this week is a dire one. With the benefit of hindsight, Luke writes about the destruction of the Second Temple, putting words into Jesus’ mouth.  Jesus predicts that the end times are indeed upon them, with “wars and insurrections,” with “Nation [rising] against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”; with “great earthquakes”, and “famines and plagues” and the threat of intense persecution for those of the faith. It is indeed a grim picture, and no doubt was an accurate reflection in many ways of the thorough Roman crushing of the Judean revolt around 70 CE. Thought of as Jews by the Romans, Christians also found themselves swept up in the carnage.

Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, writes of this time:
On all sides was carnage and flight. Most of the slain were civilians, weak and unarmed people, each butchered where he was caught. Around the altar a pile of corpses was accumulating; down the steps of the sanctuary flowed a stream of blood and the bodies of the victims killed above went sliding to the bottom. (259) Book VI. Josephus 37-c100, The Jewish War (descriptions of the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.)

One might expect such a crushing defeat and suppression of both Christian and Jewish people, and their resultant banishment from Judea, might have resulted in their throwing their hands in the air, giving in, and just assimilating into the new cultures in which they found themselves.

But we know this was not the case. Beaten, diminished and persecuted, nevertheless these people of faith found the strength and courage to live on, trusting in God. Perhaps something of Isaiah’s vision found its way into their psyches and kept hope alive: “I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.”

In my many years of being involved in the Jewish-Christian dialogue, I learnt that Jews indeed have great capacity to step back and take the long view. They know that for all of us, as individuals, we can only accomplish in our lifetime a small amount of the work that is required to establish the vast enterprise that is God's kingdom.

By doing our small part, we plant seeds of hope. We help water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that allow others to build on them.  By realising we cannot do everything, it enables us to do something, and to do it well, thereby bringing the kingdom that tiny bit closer to realisation.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

6 November 2016

Haggai - an Encourager

Many of us will look a bit bemused if we’re asked to find the book of Haggai in the Bible. Who? And we then have to check the index to find the page number and discover that Haggai’s two chapters are squeezed between Zephaniah and Zechariah.

Haggai is one of the least known prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. Only once in our three-year cycle of Bible readings do we read from Haggai. He and his colleague Zechariah were active in Jerusalem for a decade or two after the return of the people of Israel from their exile in Babylon. The date is around 520-510BC, after the Persians had conquered Babylon and allowed the Israeli exiles to return home.

What they returned to of course was a city still largely in ruins, following its conquest and destruction by the Babylonians in 587BC. The task of rebuilding was daunting, with few resources, and with harassment from neighbouring groups of people who didn’t exactly welcome the exiles home. Most of those returning focussed on trying to rebuild their homes and on eking out a livelihood when everything had to be started from scratch.

Haggai told the people they had their priorities wrong. He reminded them of their faith in God, conveyed to them God’s promises of support, blessing and success, and insisted that as well as rebuilding their homes they needed also to rebuild the temple, so they could again fully practise their faith. The book of Ezra twice reports that Haggai and Zechariah were key players in encouraging the rebuilding of the city and the temple (Ezra 5:1 and 6:14).

An encourager. Haggai was definitely an encourager, one who stood with the people as they faced significant challenges and who encouraged them with reminders of God’s presence and care for them, with affirmation of their efforts in rebuilding and with support for their leaders.

Those who have the gift of encouragement of others are a blessing. We all need encouragement at times, reminders that we are not alone, that we are cared for, that God is there for us, and that practical assistance is available to us.

I want today to encourage everyone at City Church to come and participate in our vital Planning Workshop on Saturday 3rd December. We are reaching a key moment in the intentional interim ministry process, and decisions about our future will flow from our hard work in the Workshop. Come, and encourage others to come too.

Blessed be the encouragers, people of faith like Haggai

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Gregor Henderson

30 October 2016

All Saints Day

I wonder if anyone remembers Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? It was first published in 1563, and detailed the lives, sufferings and triumphant deaths of the early Christian and the Protestant Martyrs. A kind of Sunday School text book for saints in the Presbyterian church, it highlighted that almost anyone, under the right persecution, could be a saint.

Saints are in some ways the spiritual superheroes of the church. Stories of both their human fallibility combined with their glorious deeds were meant to inspire us young ones to similar faith and commitment to the church.

It tended though, to have the opposite effect. At the age of 14, I thought holiness was simultaneously undesirable and unattainable. If you really wanted to be holy as a woman, you had either to be a nun, or a martyred virgin heroine. Both, to me, seemed unlikely futures to aspire to. If you managed to avoid being burnt at a stake, the life on offer appeared filled with silence, prayers, and lots of hymn singing, along with selflessly giving to the poor. Strangely, this looked completely unattractive to me. True holiness was clearly beyond my reach.

Through the years of my theological study and practice, I have come to understand this was a rather narrow definition of sainthood. Enter the anniversary of All Saints, where the ordinary and often unnamed men and women of God are honoured as saints across the church. Every year on November 1, the Church asks us to remember the example, witness, and prayer of holy women and men who have served the church as its saints. These people were not necessarily martyrs or monks, but ordinary people who went about the work of the kingdom. They served others with a love that gave freely of itself, and put their own personal interests and priorities aside to work for others.

So being a saint does not mean spending all our time in the church or at prayer. It doesn’t mean dying a grisly death, or foregoing human relationships. Rather, it means doing daily, ordinary things for others with extraordinary love.

Being a saint is possible for every baptized person, regardless of how holy ordinary they regard themselves as. Being a saint is about fulfilling our true potential as people of faith, and becoming who God truly destined us to be.

this weeks reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

23 October  2016

Inequality And The Power Of Imagining A Different World (a summary)

Excessive inequality is unjust and not good for the wellbeing of societies – not only is it bad for the country, affecting economic growth and stalling our shared prosperity, it’s bad for communities and people, concentrating power in the already rich, and negatively affecting people’s health and wellbeing.

A statement adopted by the 12th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia in 2009, An Economy of Life: Reimagining Human Progress for a Flourishing World, was the Church’s response to recognising that in a globalised world, the many sufferings of humankind and the planet are all connected, and that while we can try to treat some of the symptoms separately, the deep and abiding problems of violence and injustice will continue unless we make some radical changes to the systems that determine how we live together and relate to the planet.

It is true that through industrialisation, technological development and the globalisation of the free market economy, millions of people around the world now experience greater levels of health and prosperity than their ancestors could have imagined. But somewhere along the way, the world was hijacked by neoliberal economic theory and now we have an extreme market fundamentalism driving not only our financial systems and structures, but our political and social systems as well. Inequality and climate change are just two indicators that suggest a system that is out of control and wreaking injustice and violence on people and the planet.

The theme of a just economy runs strongly through the Bible which is full of stories warning about the dangers of greed and prioritising wealth and possessions ahead of relationships and the doing of justice. The challenge before us is to imagine a different story for the world: a decent market-based economy that is built on measuring human progress in terms of wellbeing rather than the capacity to consume; that encourages, even rewards, co-operation, social responsibility, and generosity; that upholds the values of simplicity and hospitality, addresses the needs of the most vulnerable as a priority, and supports the cause of peacemaking not the business of war.

Once we can imagine a different story, we can hold on to the power of love, justice and peace to transform our world, and we can begin to open up opportunities and spaces for bold, peaceful, creative, hope-filled, inspiring and transformative resistance. It is time for us to find the courage and the will to interrupt the systems those in power keep telling us cannot be changed.

Rev. Elenie Poulos, Director, UnitingJustice

The full version can be found at accessed 19 October, 2016

.summary prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

16 October 2016

Pray Always And Don’t Lose Heart

Today we hear a reading from Luke 18,1-8.  It is Jesus’ parable of the widow who continually came to the judge seeking justice and through this he encourages us not to lose heart.  We are summoned to pray and be persistent in the life of faith and on behalf of the justice God intends.

God is pictured in contrast to the unjust judge who doesn’t care at all about justice but certainly cares about his own peace of mind!  God, on the other hand, has no peace of mind without justice.  If we identify with the widow in this parable, then few of us have her stamina in the hard exhausting work of seeking justice on behalf of the powerless.

Maybe this is the reason Jesus asks the closing question of the parable:  “..when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Will he find faith in us – persistent, tireless faith seeking justice?  Maybe the widow represents not only our need to pray relentlessly, but also signifies the power of the Holy Spirit at work.  Prayer is much more than a humanly inspired activity.  It is the fruit of the Spirit who works earnestly and unrelentingly encouraging us to pray and live in the spirit of Jesus.

Yesterday, the people of our Territory elected a new team of Parliamentary Members.  As we look to the future, our prayer surely is that they will be motivated by a vision of justice for all people and make decisions which bring that vision into being.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Ian Diamond

9 October 2016

Make Outsiders Insiders

It is easy to get distracted in this week’s gospel reading by the thankful leper, and see the story in terms of gratitude and ingratitude. But there is much more to it than this. For starters, the reading highlights that Jesus is including ‘outsiders’ in God’s grace and among God’s people, especially when he heals a despised Samaritan, whose inclusion is emphasised when he is the only one to return to give thanks. Jesus embodies the all-encompassing love and grace of God, and we are invited to live out this radical inclusivity in our churches today.

We live today in a world where fear of the ‘other’ seems to be growing daily. Religious conflict in the Middle East not only threatens the peace and survival of many, the actions of terrorists in support of a radical Islam feed that fear and engender hatred. This has been demonstrated in political ways, with countries refusing to accept refugees fleeing Syria, and by would-be politicians threatening to deport people of particular religious faith. In the midst of this chaos we are challenged by a Jesus who was incredibly and scandalously inclusive, and who crossed borders and lines and ancient enmity in order to draw everyone in. In a world where people not only define themselves according to race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status, but use these things to justify killing, exploitation, stereotyping, and exclusion – we desperately need Christians who will follow Jesus’ example, and make outsiders insiders.

We can no longer allow words like ‘Muslim’ to be seen as an insult. We can no longer allow our faith to enable us to be complacent. We need to become indiscriminate about who we are prepared to serve, love, and include. We must refuse to judge others on the basis of false distinctions.

If the Church is to reclaim its prophetic voice in our current era, it must relearn the radical inclusivity of Christ, and open its arms to everyone. Such radical discipleship could potentially be a life and world changing commitment, with economic, political, and environmental consequences for the good of all.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

2 October 2016

Increase Our Faith!

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.' (Luke 17:5-6)

Jesus’ definition of faith might strike us as rather unusual. After all, trees are not in the habit of uprooting themselves and moving into the sea in the natural world. So what did Jesus mean by this? The word 'faith' (pistis) in the Greek has as part of its meaning the concept that belief can make things transform.  Too often we think of faith as something that resembles an intellectual assent to a belief, such as the statement “I believe in God”.  The idea then of "increasing our faith" seems a bit ridiculous, as how does one increase an intellectual assent?

But faith is not about intellectual assent, it is about transformation. Firstly, faith is a relationship, one of trust and allegiance to a living God. Secondly, when Jesus talks about ‘faith’, he's not talking about what we agree to in our heads, he is talking about what we do with our hearts, hands and feet, with our wallets and our privilege, our power and our time. Faith in Jesus is not about saying or thinking things about him, but by following him, and being disciples that live out that discipleship in words and deeds.

The transformation that is wrought by faith, whether in ourselves or others, initially may lay dormant as a tiny seed of faith. The immense trees we see around us with large canopies and branches were once seeds.  Many beautiful flowers emerge from tiny, almost invisible seeds. That mulberry seed infuriatingly stuck between your teeth may one day root itself and grow into a large tree.

Increase our faith, said the disciples. We need to recognise that we already have the faith we need. If we do no more than simple deeds that change the lives of others for the better, and by doing so transform ourselves, then that seed will grow and bear the fruit of a living, active faith. The miracle lies inherent in recognising opportunities for transformation and growth in the ordinariness of our lives.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

25 September 2016

Back To Basics

Today’s Bible readings take us back to basics.

The faith life and ethics of the Hebrew Prophets was built on the foundational conviction that God had had mercy on their ancestors when they had become enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaohs, and had sent Moses to lead them out of slavery and into a land full of possibility.

The prophets based their social ethics on this foundation. If God has acted with this compassion and justice towards us, then we are duty-bound to act with the same compassion and justice towards our fellows.

So in drafting their laws in the Book of Deuteronomy, they made it obligatory for faithful Jews to bring a tenth of their harvest and present it to the priests for distribution to the widows, the orphans and the asylum seekers living among them. “You have received generously – give generously in return!”

By his preaching of this kind of compassion and justice, Jeremiah fell foul of the authorities, and was imprisoned. He foresaw the impending end of the State, but did not give up his faith in the mercy and justice of God.

It is this same compassion and justice which Jesus reaffirmed in his story of the rich man and Lazarus.
For us, trying to live out our faith in Canberra today, we are impelled by the same conviction of the generosity, compassion and justice of God, and its implications for us to practise the same compassion and justice in our context now.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev John Brown

18 September 2016

A prayer from Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah

(Michel Sabbah was the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land from 1997 to 2008. He was born in Nazareth in 1933, and was the first non-Italian to be the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in more than 500 years.)
This prayer was written for the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel 2016

“Dismantling barriers and dividing walls”

So many wise men have said: humanity needs bridges not walls. But war leaders in our holy land have responded by building the separation wall, plus check-points dividing the country in more than one place, and creating more separation and more hatred in the hearts.

Lord, we come to you. You are our Father; you care for every one of us, for the Israeli and the Palestinian

You see the rampant wall through the beautiful land you have chosen to be holy, to be the place of your staying among men, the place of reconciliation of humans with yourself and among themselves.
Lord, you see the many check points, you see the many soldiers, with their guns, ready to defend themselves, ready to kill. The barriers you have created in your beautiful earth are beautiful high mountains and fertile deep valleys, which are places for life, where nature and people reflect your goodness and your splendour.

Lord, you see our walls harming the beauty of your land. God, you see the walls demolishing our olive trees and your beautiful creation. Lord, you see the checkpoints and the guns harming the beauty of your image in your sons and daughters. And deeper inside, you see the separation within the souls of your sons and daughters, Israelis and Palestinians.
Lord you see our oppression, our sufferings.

"Take pity on me, God, take pity on me
For in you I take refuge
I call to God the Most High
To God who has done everything for me" (Ps 57: 1-2)
"God, hear my cry, listen to my prayer" (Ps 61:1)

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Gregor Henderson

11 September 2016

Season Of Creation

We are now in the alternative time of the Season of Creation. While this has not been routinely followed at City Church, it is nonetheless worth spending one Sunday to ponder what our place is in creation. Our world is in bad shape. We are treating it like it has endless resources instead of finite ones. According to our scriptures, we are meant to be good stewards of it. It is clear from the first chapter of Genesis that God created a world that God described as “good”. God also saw to it that there were plants, trees and animals that would provide food for human beings, who are placed as stewards of God’s good creation. This is particularly clear in Genesis, where God notes that the creation of the earth is good several times. In the 21st century in our Western, highly technological culture, we don’t tend to think as much as we should about how God might view our treatment or use of his creation.

Inducements to consume are everywhere, and convenience is probably the most highly prized asset of the Western world. Last weekend, all those big corporations that stock stuff were out to convince me that if I really love my father, I will get him a new set of electric tools. If I really love my partner, then I’ll buy him a jeep. Or at least a brand new set of clothes, probably made from cotton picked by children in Uzbekistan, woven by desperately poor women in India, and assembled into garments by children and poorly paid workers in atrocious conditions in Bangladesh or China. As for my children and grandchildren, the plethora of gadgets and lifestyle appliances they own, along with acres of toys that walk, talk and flash are enough to make my head spin.

It is hard to accept that the things that have propped up our lifestyles – the free market, Western democracy, exploitation of resources – are the very things that have caused the problems we now face, such as an increasingly warming world. If we are to be good stewards of God’s good creation, we need to rethink some of our lifestyle habits, and challenge ourselves to consume less, adopt greener practices, and let our leaders know that it is time to reduce our countries carbon emissions and move to cleaner forms of energy. We need to recognise that we depend on the life in the biological systems around us, and allowing pollution, deforestation, the extinction of species and the degradation of habitat will not serve us well in the long run.

The Uniting Church believes we are called into a special relationship with the creation – a relationship of mutuality and interdependence. We believe that God’s will for the earth is renewal and reconciliation, not destruction by human beings. As recipients of this gift we have a responsibility to care for the planet and ensure that all can share in what it provides.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

4 September 2016

Isn’t It Wonderful? [Psalm 139:1-4]

Isn’t it wonderful to have a Lord that examines and knows “everything” about you? Of course, YES!
Then why are we worried? Why do we look lost?
The Lord knows when you sit or stand; knows your thoughts and paths; and where to stop and rest.
He also knows your moments and your words. WOW …. !
Surprisingly, my journey has a new direction, to Bowen in North Queensland.
If you are surprised … please don’t be … why? the Lord already knows!
Trust in the Lord to show you the way, and let him lead you, and guide you.

this weeks reflection prepared by Rev Tevita Mone