Reign of Christ

Brad’s Foote-Notes                                          25th November 2012

Reign of Christ/Christ the King Sunday

Good morning and welcome to worship on this the last Sunday of the Church Year.  Next Sunday is the First Sunday in Advent.  Today, however, is called Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday.  Although there may be some who would question the need for a church calendar and the like, I’ve found it helpful to have some structure and framework that offers a guide through the important seasons of our Christian belief and practices.  Without such a guide pointing to the key markers of our faith, we are left to drift around bobbing from one religious experience to the next, grabbing whatever religious teaching that comes our way.  The Lectionary (Church Calendar) actually highlights every important aspect of the Christian faith, whether we like it or not.  It provides a discipline that moves us away from just emphasizing our favourite passages and themes.

So today on Reign of Christ Sunday, we are invited to remember that the “Kingdom of God” or “Reign of God” — to which Jesus constantly pointed — is as fully available now and always is, as it was 2,000 years ago. The question that remains each Reign of Christ Sunday is whether we will choose to live as if the one who reigns is not Caesar, but God.

The readings for today are as follows:- John 18: 33-37 (Jesus before Pilate); 2 Samuel 23:1-7 King David’s dying/last words), Psalm 132:1-18 one of David’s ‘royal psalms’) and Revelation 1:4b-8 (Jesus is ruler and King of this earth, the Alpha and Omega).

Each of these readings on their own, give a glimpse or facet of the nature and character of God’s reign and realm, but when they are brought together they present a greater display of the paradoxical nature of God’s revelation and plan.

Jesus speaks truth to power about ultimate power in John 18:33-37 where he seems to show Pilate’s grip on truth and power to be not nearly as strong as Pilate would assume.  Pilate represents an empire whose foundation is might, whose reality is power, whose leader is a god.  And yet Jesus offers the vision of a different realm, one that is grounded in seeming powerlessness, whose leader is a servant.  This is the truth to which Jesus gives testimony, he was born to usher in this reign.

Jesus’ realm is not of this world!  At least, not of this world which is seduced by a lust for power, usually at the cost of truth; this world which is so willing to barter truth for the latest political slogan; this world which is willing to give allegiance to those who end up demonstrating absolutely no loyalty towards it; this world which passes more credence in false sincerity, than simple truth telling.  Our Australian political landscape is littered with the casualties of such ‘worldly’ leadership.

Here is a prayer that can guide us through the ‘simple complexities’ of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.

God whose reign is one paradox after another:
Lamb or shepherd, of this world or not of this world, now and not yet…
As people of faith we wonder how best to speak of this kingdom.
As the year once more turns over, give us wisdom and vision.
Help us to see how your Reign is here, is being born, and is just over the horizon
so that we can be people of hope in a world too often given to cynicism and despair.
Amen.

May you experience the dynamic humility of Christ as King in your life …this week

Rev Brad Foote

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Future Hope

Brad’s Foote-Notes                                                         18th November 2012

Future Hope

I’d like to begin by thanking all those who attended our final Vision and Values Workshop last Sunday.  We had 36 people who participated in the session and 11 people made an apology for their inability to attend.  That is a heartening representation of our regular Sunday worshippers – almost 50%.  Andrew Rowland (Church Council Chair) and I met with Jill Gray (our facilitator) this week to discuss the next steps for our 5 year plan, our Future Hope.  Jill will meet with the Church Council to present her assessment of the workshops over these past three months and then a task group will be formed to produce a summary and presentation to a congregational meeting for discussion, ratification and approval.  We hope that this doesn’t take too long and our intention is to begin implementing the Future Hope in the early stages of 2013.

One of the insights or breakthroughs that we made last Sunday was to identify the 3 Big Rocks (3 focus areas) that will guide and direct the focus of the congregation in the next 5 years.  Those three (3) areas in broad terms were identified as:-

  1. Worship
  2. Families and Children
  3. Community Care

The Vision and the Values of the Congregation have not altered to any real degree, but the Faith Goals will probably need to be honed around the ministry focus areas/big rocks.  One important aspect of ministry that will change in the next few years is the need for teams to be developed.  Spirit Led Serving is one of our values.  The Teams that will be formed need to emerge from a seed bed of prayer, immersed in God’s heart of Kingdom values, lived out and shared with/in the world.

The Vision of Ashmore Uniting Church hasn’t changed.  We are committed to being a loving church, focused on the Gospel of Christ:  

  • Reaching out
  • Meeting needs
  • Equipping people for service

Our motto is still:  “reaching out, changing lives”  

What a great expression of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  The hallmarks of our Church’s vision and values are all throughout the Gospel of Mark.  Today is the last of our readings from that book because we are coming to the end of the Liturgical year (next Sunday).  Advent is just around the corner (2nd December).

Mark 13 is a chapter that many contemporary Christians ignore, as it is one of those tricky apocalyptic passages, which emerge in a few different places throughout the Bible.  In some instances there have been “religious” people and churches who use passages such as this to strike ‘the fear of God’ into the lives of people in an attempt to convince them to join the church and get ‘right with God’.  Let’s look at a broader picture of the Gospel as we examine this passage set down for today from Mark 13:1-8.

I hope to buoy you with trust in God rather than battering you with fear.  The reality of earth-quakes, terror, economic crisis are around us, but the readings today remind us of the need for perseverance in the face of our experiences, our times. (See 1 Samuel 1:4-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hebrews 10:11-25)

May you find your Future Hope in the present reality of Jesus Christ in your life…this week

Rev Brad Foote

Called To Give

Brad’s Foote-Notes                                                                11th November 2012

Called to Give 

Welcome to Ashmore Uniting Church where we seek to express our Christian faith through the vision of being a loving church, focused on the Gospel of Christ: by 

  • Reaching out
  • Meeting needs
  • Equipping people for service

We have a motto that says:  “reaching out, changing lives”

Today is the last of our Vision & Values Workshops.  I’d encourage you to stay after the service, from 10.30 – 12 midday.  If you can stay for Lunch, that’d be great too.  This will enable as broad a contribution as possible to be obtained from the worshipping congregation.  Dr Jill Gray will facilitate our time together and I’d like to thank her for the time and effort that she’s given to us in this review process.

Last week’s theme of “Love, Love, Love” – Love God, Love neighbor, love self, struck a chord with quite a number of people and I hope that the faith values that we have as a congregation will be enhanced by what we’ve learned from Mark 12:28-34.  Jesus said to the religious leader in response to their dialogue:- “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”  (Mark 12:34).  May we too live in the reign of God as God’s Spirit works in our lives as a Christian Community.

These are Values:

Welcoming –  friendship
Authentic – worship
Empowering – leadership
Spirit-led –  serving
Creative – outreach
Transforming  –  people

These are our churches Faith Goals:

Welcome people of all ages and backgrounds into a caring Christian community

  1. Invite people into relationship with Jesus Christ and encourage active participation in the life of the church
  2. Support and nurture people to know, understand and become more like Christ
  3. Worship God faithfully through celebration, prayer, and study of the Bible
  4. Teach, encourage and empower people to use their gifts and     resources for ministry
  5. Call, equip and support Christians to be leaders in the church and in the community
  6. Take Christ’s message of hope, acceptance and new life into the community through word and action

What role can you play in bringing God’s Kingdom values into the Church and community that we are part of?

May you find more of God’s vision and values for your life…this week.

Rev Brad Foote

Love Love Love

Brad’s Foote-Notes                                                                             4th November 2012

Love, Love, Love 

Welcome to Ashmore Uniting Church where we seek to express our Christian faith through the vision of being a loving church, focused on the Gospel of Christ: by 

  • Reaching out
  • Meeting needs
  • Equipping people for service

We have a motto that says:  “reaching our, changing lives”

Last week we were encouraged by the theme:- Take Heart.  Our gospel focus was from Mark 10:46-52 where blind Bartimaeus refuses to let Jesus pass him by without calling out for a hearing.  Over the din of the crowd, Jesus hears Bartimaeus’s voice and calls him to come to him.  Jesus then asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want?”  “I want to see” says Bartimaeus.  His faith is rewarded by receiving his sight, but more than that, Bartimaeus follows Jesus along the road….. (Mark 10:52).  The road that Jesus is on is one that in Mark Chapter 11 leads to his crucifixion.  It appears that Bartimaeus is willing to also take that road.  Today as we gather around the communion table we are reminded about that same road and the extent of LOVE that God has for the world in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  So Take Heart, and embrace the life of discipleship that God has called us to follow.

Today we are digging deeper into the Gospel of Mark as the rubber hits the road in Mark 12:28-34.  Discipleship and the Way of Jesus are not words and platitudes or religious ideology.  For Christianity, the instruction to love God and others grows out of the relationship between God and ancient Israel.  Jesus when confronted by the question about ‘the greatest commandment’ quotes the Shema, a Hebrew “creed” from Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  This statement of God, being one, and the commandment for us to love God, was considered central to Judaism.  Jesus also quotes Leviticus 19:18 about how we will love our neighbours.  It is intriguing that he does not include verse 17 which suggests that this love can be confined only to our own community; by leaving this verse out, Jesus suggests that love for neighbor includes everyone – indeed, all of creation.

Beyond that, Jesus reminds us of the need to love ourselves.  We can interpret “love your neighbor as yourself” to mean “as much as” but a closer translation is more “in the same way as.”  It’s very important to find a good balance about this notion of loving ourselves as well as others.  We all probably need to search our hearts to know how to apply that word to our own lives.  Suffice to say that an analogy might help with this explanation.

Whenever you fly in an aircraft you hear the instructions regarding the oxygen masks, and the specific words “if you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, attach your mask first before assisting others”.  The point is clear: if I do not take care of myself, I cannot love others.

Perhaps the stronger image is to imagine the words “God, self, others” as words on separate pieces of a mobile, held in balance and tension.  Jesus, in the way he gives these commandments, implies that none is more or less important than the other – to live a life of faith we need to keep these important aspects of our life in balance.  When we do we may hear Christ say to us, “you are not far from the reign/kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34)

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Make it count as you live into the reign/kingdom of God.

I look forward to sharing our final Vision and Values Workshop next Sunday from 10.30 to midday.  Please complete a “Ashmore Uniting Church – Action Plan to achieve our Faith Goals” survey before leaving today.  We will be using the collated data for next week’s workshop.

May Love, Love, Love …. be your experience this week.                                                           Rev Brad Foote

Take Heart

Brad’s Foote-Notes                                                                                    28th October 2012

Take Heart 

It’s great to be sharing together in worship today.  I’d like to welcome everyone, especially any visitors who are here.  Our Congregation hopes that your experience of worship brings you closer to God and encourages you in your spiritual journey.

This week has been a very busy time for many of us.  On Tuesday night we had the pleasure of hosting 35 people (plus 10 people from own church) from most of the Uniting Churches in the Gold Coast area.  The evening was a regional gathering of one section of our Presbytery.  The gathering was an opportunity for Ashmore Uniting Church to share hospitality, provide worship and for everyone to listen to the incredible ministry of the chaplains who serve in Blue Care across the State.  Our guest speaker was Rev. Heather Den Houghting, who is the new Director of Mission for BlueCare.    Blue Care is another arm of our Uniting Church in Queensland and comes under the umbrella of UnitingCare.  UnitingCare has 12,000 staff and it is the second largest employer behind the Queensland Government.  It’s gamut covers Hospitals, Prisons, disability Services and Aged care.  Where you aware of the size of the church that you are a part of?  It’s amazing when you know how broad and wide the ministry of The Uniting Church is, in Australia.

I’d like to thank all of the members of this congregation who contributed to the success of the Southern Area Gathering on Tuesday night.  I’d like to pay tribute especially to Irene and Steven who took the responsibility of catering for us that night.

Our theme, Take Heart, comes from Mark 10:49 where we find Blind Bartimaeus calling out to Jesus, to have mercy on him.  Those around him tell him to be quiet, but Jesus responds differently and asks him to come near.  Someone close to Bartimaeus says; “Take heart, come on, Jesus is calling you”.  The rest of the story produces a life-transforming outcome for Bartimaeus and then he followed Jesus down the road” (Mark 10:52).

The theme, Take Heart, is an expression of HOPE.  I am aware that the desire to follow a path that leads to justice and freedom runs deep in many hearts.  This is an expression of HOPE.  Sometimes it dwells within the least expected people.  Bartimaeus is one such person.  Not only does he seek to be healed, he is eager to be part of a movement and a purpose.  I’d like to challenge everyone in this congregation to have the same eagerness that is expressed in this gospel message from Mark 10:46-52.

This week we are invited to explore our own longing to follow the Jesus way and to acknowledge what holds us back.  We are challenged to broaden our understanding of who God calls and welcomes.

Please note that we will have our final Vision and Values Workshop on Sunday 11th November from 10.30 to midday, followed by lunch for those who can stay.  This will be your opportunity to make a contribution to the future mission of this congregation as we seek to be reaching out, changing lives.

Take Heart this week …. as Jesus hears your voice in the midst of the crowd.

Rev. Brad Foote