Fourth Sunday of Easter

Arise and Live – 21 April 2013

Good morning and welcome to worship today.  Firstly, I’d like to thank Andrew for his leadership of worship last Sunday while Cheryl and I were in Sydney attending my nephew’s wedding.  Isn’t it great to worship together in the presence of the Lord?  God always honours His Word, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst”  (Matt 18:20).  Secondly, today is our annual General Meeting (AGM), and you are all invited to be part of that event from 10.20 to 11.45 this morning.  I hope that you have had an opportunity to read the Annual Reports and are now more informed about the life and witness of Ashmore Uniting Church over the past twelve months.  We are certainly on a journey of growth and discovery and I thank God for the lives that are being changed slowly but surely through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the life and example of Jesus.  All thanks and glory to God for His transforming power in the world and in His Church.

I’m often using the analogy of “The Body” (referred to by Paul in Romans 12:5 and 1 Corinthians 12:12ff) as an example of The Church and whilst we are in the Season of Easter our Bible readings are pointing us to how the early church was establish and some of the challenges that it faced on a daily basis.  The Easter season is a call to get up and live in the power of the risen Christ, which can empower us o overcome those things that have harmed and hindered us and to take a lead in loving service in our communities in which we live.

Today’s reading from Acts 9:36-43 is the personal story of a much loved and much needed woman, Tabitha (Dorcas in Greek) experiencing first hand the resurrection power of Jesus.  The story is also a reminder that the focus of community life, worship, prayer, the working of miracles, and the experience of new life was being celebrated in upper rooms like that of Tabitha, rather than in the old public arena of the temple.  While Jesus saw the temple become a den of thieves, the upper rooms were becoming places to wash feet, eat together, pray together, and do good for those in need.  The locus of the spirit was on the move into people’s lives and homes and the call to get up and live was being heard in such personal stories.  The apostle Peter was following in the example and power of Jesus, as he was the channel of resurrection power.  As the body of Christ we too are called to be channels of this same power.

One of the beautiful aspects of being a minister here at The Church of the Good Shepherd, is the opportunity to hear again and again these unique and individual stories of transformation and change, stories of new lives that have come into relationship with Jesus.  I love seeing God at work in peoples lives and in my life through the ministry of God’s people to me.  This week I received a beautiful text message from a member of this congregation.  It was from Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too.  You will be like a well watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring”.  I was ministered to by that verse but I was equally challenged by the next verse which I now offer to you as “The Church of God” in this community:- it is as follows – “Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.  Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities” (Isaiah 58:12).  Now what a wonderful reputation for a church to have, a “people who rebuild”, a “people who restore back to wholeness”, a people who ARISE AND LIVE, a people who are REACHING OUT AND CHANGING LIVES.     

That’s who we’ve been called to be….and our children are part of that grand vision.

May we have a Grace filled Annual General Meeting today.

Rev. Brad Foote

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Third Sunday of Easter

This weekend, Cheryl and I are in Sydney attending the wedding of one of my nephews.  By the time you read this, my nephew, Taylor will be married to his wife, Tara.  It will be a great time of family gathering and celebration as we witness the next generation taking those giant steps of responsibility, commitment and love for each other and for the future of our society.  It’s a defining moment for me as a parent as I see the next generation taking shape and growing into adulthood around me.

At the other end of the spectrum, Cheryl and I joyfully shared with my parents this week as they celebrated 53 years of marriage together.  They have blessed my sisters and I many times over by the Christian foundation that they established in our lives.  In their many years of ministry they have served God faithfully and introduced hundreds of children, women and men to Jesus Christ.   I give thanks to God for giving me such a wonderful Christian heritage that I have grown up with and now I’m being empowered to share it with those in my care and pastoral oversight.

Family gatherings and celebrations have always been important occasions throughout the Bible.  Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding feast in Cana and he used the Passover Celebration as a catalyst for what we now call Communion or The Eucharist.  Jesus used numerous parables to describe The Kingdom of God to be like a wedding feast, party, or family gathering.  Next Sunday, 21st April, we are having what could be called a “family gathering”.  The technical name of that gathering is ‘The Annual General Meeting” (AGM) [‘Family gathering’ sounds much better don’t you think?]  It will commence at 10.20am and conclude by 11.45 am.  All of the members of the congregation are invited to attend so we can celebrate the milestones, growth and development of the faith and witness of the congregation over the past 12 months.  We will also discuss some of the challenges that lie ahead of us especially if we are going to be faithful witnesses and good stewards of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission He’s called us to exercise in the world.  The Annual Report was distributed last Sunday and further copies are available in the Atrium.  Please read it prior to the meeting next Sunday.

If you are not sure whether you are a member of the Congregation or not, please call me this week (0409 261 337) to discuss what you can do about that aspect of exercising your responsibility at the AGM.  We have a wonderful opportunity ahead of us.  Let’s pray for a deeper experience of God throughout every aspect of our corporate ministry and personal lives.  This week I read the passage from 1 Corinthians 3:6 where Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth”.  WE ALL have our part to play, BUT it is GOD who will bring the growth or harvest.  We need to see what God is doing and ask Him to equip us to serve him according to His plans and purposes.  Each of us has to work together towards a common goal and our Vision and Values that have been outlined in the Annual Report will form the framework for the ‘growth’ of the congregation.

Have a wonderful service of worship today.  Thank you to Andrew Rowland for taking the responsibility to lead the service and for all who will participate.  May God challenge everyone deeply today, may The Holy Spirit fill you with His power, and may the risen Christ be in your midst.

Grace & Peace, Rev. Brad Foote   

Second Sunday of Easter

Speak Out – 7 April 2013

What a wonderful series of Easter Services we have had over the Easter period:- Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday followed by a fellowship meal, Baptisms and Re-affirmations of Baptism in the Currumbin Creek.  A wonderful range of people shared in that joyous occasion on Resurrection Sunday last week.  The front of the bulletin has captured a few moments from the day.  All of us have experienced life differently and so our Easter journey will be unique and different for each of us, however by doing ‘life together’, participating in worship and ‘sharing our struggles’ we find a common bond that unites us in and through Christ and his love for the world.  Let’s commit to finding ways of sharing richly in faith, love and worship.

Traditionally the second Sunday of Easter is also known as Low Sunday as it comes to the end of Easter week, but rather than a Sunday to retire from and fold away the alleluias, it is a Sunday that speaks of bolder confidence and assurance from the disciples.  On Easter Day the disciples are in an upper room afraid and unsure (John 20:19-23).  This week the focus passages Acts 5:27-32 (and John 20:24-31) has them proclaiming confidently of the risen Christ.

Using Acts 5:27-32 is an interesting way to begin the Season of Easter, with Peter and the apostles having been brought to court for breaking the orders on them not to proclaim Jesus Christ risen. Acts 5:27–32 is a short moment in a much longer story of the early church growing, moving out, and continuing in its success in spreading the news of Christ’s resurrection. Yet the author of the gospel of Luke, who also wrote Acts, continues his sleight on the Jewish authorities who never seem to “get it,” and are portrayed as standing in the way of the spread of the gospel.

This story is about Jews speaking to Jews; no one has called anyone “Christian” yet. This is a struggle of one part of a movement against another. What moved for or in the apostles that moved them from the uncertainty of the upper room to the confidence of preaching openly of the resurrection of Christ, against the Sanhedrin’s orders? The whole context of Acts, the steady growth through the retelling of the story of Jesus, may be the reason for their increased confidence. The story is attractive and powerful and as confidence builds through its retelling and growing familiarity the apostles trust it more and more, which leads them to stand against the authorities.

This is a story that is repeated around the world as persecuted believers speak out about their faith.  Although we are currently shielded from persecution for our faith in Australia, we seem to be reluctant to make a stand for Christ in certain areas of life. Let’s be inspired by the witness of Peter and the apostles as they offer a story of real boldness that also speaks into situations of our time: taboo issues, abuse, secrets that authorities have been frightened to name. In many ways it is a story of an ideal where the faithful few find they have a new authority to speak out on the side of truth and faith and justice. For the faith community today, from where does that boldness come? The passage perhaps can be summed up in one phrase: What would you say if the tape came away from your mouth?

Let’s take seriously the challenge to Speak Out this week where the Holy Spirit inspires and empowers us to proclaim the risen Christ to the world.

Rev. Brad Foote   

P.S. Please be prepared to attend the Annual General Meting (AGM) of the Ashmore Uniting Church on Sunday 21st April at 10.20 am to 11.45am.  The Annual Reports are available from today.

Easter Day

Hallelujah, He Is Risen.  He is risen indeed.

This is the cry of surprise and joy that is heard throughout the Christian Church today… and around the world.  This great message is real for us as Christians because we have had an encounter with the risen Christ at some point in our journey of faith.  It means something to us, it encourages us to live life with a fullness and a vigour that influences the people around us as light influences the darkness, as salt influences or seasons meat or a meal.

However there are many in our world for whom this Easter experience is quite meaningless and inconsequential. This week in my grade 7 Religious Instruction class, not a single child had been to church for Palm Sunday last week or had any capacity or intent to attend Church over Easter.  WOW, that was a shock!!

This certainly is not the fault of the children or even the parents for that matter.  There are many reasons for our society and communities to be so unaffected by the Christian message and life.  We as “The Church” probably need to take some responsibility for the indifference towards “the gospel” and the message of Easter.  We have a huge task ahead of us if we are going to be the kind of Easter community that Jesus formed through this death and resurrection.

Leslie Newbigin says in his book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, “Jesus did not write a book but formed a community.  This community has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing of his words and deeds, and the sacraments given by him through which it is enabled both to engraft new members into its life and to renew this life again and again through sharing in his risen life through the body broken and the lifeblood poured out.  It exists in him and for him.  He is the centre of its life.  Its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the characters of its members but by his character.  Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them a framework of understanding, the “lenses” through which they are able to understand and cope with the world.

Now that is a huge quote, but I’d like you to reflect on Newbigin’s intent as we examine the way we represent the Christian faith as an Easter People at Ashmore Uniting Church.  In our weekly worship experiences, through the different ministries of the church, and in our daily lives with our families and in the world at large, we need to ‘remember and rehearse Christs words and actions’.  Christ has to LIVE in us.

Today is ‘resurrection day’ and Leslie Newbigin’s quote reminds us that the sacraments are given to ‘engraft new members into the life of the Christian community’.  We will be doing that this afternoon through the sacrament of baptism and re-affirmation of baptism in the Currumbin Creek.  (See details on next page).  Several adults and young people will be committing themselves to Christ through this sacrament.  Everyone is welcome to join in this celebration of new life and commitment at 12.30pm today.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank everyone who assisted in last Sunday’s (Palm Sunday) Worship experience and in the Magic of Music afternoon.  You blessed many people.  THANK YOU.

Have a great week and live as Easter people all the time.

Hallelujah, He Is Risen.  He is risen indeed……Rev. Brad Foote

Palm Sunday

Humble Service – 24 March 2013

Welcome to our first Family Service (aka Messy Church) for this year.  As it is Palm Sunday we will ALL be participating in the service together from the moment we arrive to the time we continue the journey home along the “purple path to the cross” this Holy Week.

The dramatic reading that we are using is based on the work of Gerry Adam who is a storyteller, camp director, and Christian educator in London, Ontario.  We have adapted it from the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum for our use today.  We will gather in the Atrium together to get a sense of being “in the crowd” and not being in our comfort zone.  What would it have been like to be part of the crowd on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday?  These are two very different kinds of ‘crowd’ experiences.

From the excitement of Palm Sunday, to the sharing of the Last Supper, we begin the hard Holy Week journey through Good Friday to Easter Sunday. And on that journey we encounter humble, ordinary, everyday things like palm branches, a colt, a room, a table, bread, wine, a kiss… all echoing through time, punctuated by the blows of a hammer on rough wood-

This is a story of strong feelings, of a great gathering joy, deep despair, loneliness, but still hope. A series of storytellers and their children and grandchildren take part, each of them carrying a symbol of their part of the story. When their part is told the children will place their symbol on a table and depart from the other storytellers. As the story unfolds and the tellers each leave it is hoped that there will be a real sense of the abandonment that Jesus experienced as he drew closer to his crucifixion. Yet as these tellers join the rest of the community may we all experience the hopefulness in the gathering, the remembering and the cries of praise that could not be contained as even “stones would shout out.”

We have been following Jesus’ journey towards the cross which took a clear directional focus from Luke 9:51 where Jesus turns his face towards Jerusalem.  This journeying dominates the next ten chapters of the gospel because Jerusalem is important to Luke.  The drama presented today is based on the Gospel of Luke starting with the passage from Luke 19:28-40 and concluding at Luke 23:50-56.  I hope that you will enter into the spirit and power of this story, which needs to be told and retold again and again to each generation.

As we journey together through Holy Week, you are invited to gather this Thursday evening at 7pm for a quiet reflective communion service.

Good Friday service will be at 8am next Friday morning.

Sunday 31st March is Easter Sunday and we will celebrate together from 9am – 10am.

Easter Sunday has historically been a day of celebration where the Christian Church baptizes new converts and reaffirms the faith and witness of all Christian believers.  It’s considered to be the “high point” of our faith.  As a response to that history, next Sunday several of the Adults and some of their children have asked to be baptized by full immersion.  The Uniting Church welcomes the opportunity to share in this mode of baptism at any time.  As a result I’d like to invite everyone in the congregation to join in the Baptism of Russane Seoud and Wing Brett as well as the re-affirmation of Baptism of Ellyott in Currumbin Creek at Childers Park on Duringan Street, (where the rusty Pelicans are) Currumbin (a map is enclosed in the bulletin).

We will share a BYO picnic lunch at 12.30pm on Easter Sunday (31st March) followed by the celebration of Baptism in the Currumbin Creek.  Please let me know if you are intending to come so that we can ensure everyone is included on the day.

Have a very HOLY WEEK…this week.  Rev. Brad Foote