Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday – 26 May 2013

Thank you to everyone who shared in the Pentecost Family Service last week.  There really seemed to be a wonderful Spirit of unity and love emanating throughout the morning.  It was wonderful to Baptise Elizabeth Turner and to have her children and grandchildren present and willing to participate in the experience.  Those who were confirmed and became members and members-in-association have made a public commitment to God and to this congregation about their allegiance to Christ and their participation in God’s community here at Ashmore Uniting Church.  Their testimony encourages us and strengthens our commitment to service as we seek to be “reaching out, changing lives”.

Today, we begin a new season in the church calendar; just as we have begun a new season of “winter” in our climate.  It’s the ‘Season after Pentecost’ and it begins each year on Trinity Sunday.  This is meant to be the ‘season of growth’ and over the next six months I’m looking forward to seeing our congregation developing the growth of our “Four Pillars” that were identified in our Vision and Values review last year.  Our four pillars are 1) Worship; 2) Children & Families, 3) People in Need and 4) Stewardship of resources.  In the coming months we will work together to find strategic ways of growing these areas of ministry.  My personal prayer for each member of the congregation is that you will be growing in your daily relationship with Jesus through prayer, worship and action.  As Jill Gray leads us in worship, may you find yourself making that deeper commitment to God today?

I am away for a few days at the Queensland Synod Meeting of the Uniting Church at Alexandra Headland on The Sunshine Coast (24th May to 28th May).  The Synod meeting, or the Synod in Session, is a gathering of around 400 members of the Uniting Church in Queensland and happens every 18 months.

The Synod in Session has responsibility for the general oversight, direction and administration of the Church’s worship, witness and service in the region allocated to it with such powers and authorities as may from time to time be determined by the Assembly. (Basis of Union Paragraph 15)

But it is not all hard work. In our Synod meeting we celebrate the grace of God in Jesus Christ and we worship God together. It is a time when we can share with one another our experience of the work of God and share hopes and disappointments. We hear of the ways in which God is inspiring, guiding, shaping and empowering other parts of the church, and we commit ourselves to continue together on the way, enriched through our renewed fellowship in Christ and the commitments we are challenged and inspired to make through our own informal decisions and our formal resolutions.

I will be returning on Monday to conduct the Memorial Service for Emily Williams (Linda Walpole’s mum) at 10am here in this Church.  Emily was 99yrs of age and we will be celebrating her long life along with Linda and her family.

I’d like to thank Jill and Marty Gray for taking the responsibility for leading today’s service and for presiding at the Thanksgiving for the gift from God that Marlee Savage is to her family.  Marlee’s parents Jacqui and Grant want to Thank God for their daughter and we are privileged to share in that expression of faith and love.  Their other daughter, Tamaya was baptized in Peru in 2010.  We also welcome Grant’s brother and sister who have travelled interstate to be here today.

Look for the expressions of the Trinity:- God the Father, Jesus the Son and The Holy Spirit …in surprising places…this week.

Rev. Brad Foote

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Pentecost Sunday

Surprised by the Holy Spirit – 19 May 2013

Did you know that all over the world today, millions and millions of Christians are celebrating a surprise birthday party that began almost two thousand years ago?  Today is Pentecost, the day that is associated with the Birth of the Christian Chuch and the pouring out of God’s Spirit on ALL people.

So brothers and sisters in Christ – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Jerusalem from many different places and regions to celebrate one of the Jewish pilgrimage feasts, The Feast of Weeks, (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:15-21, Deuteronomy 16:9-12) fifty (“pente”) days after Passover.  The crowd gathered for the festival is listed in Acts 2:9-11 by geographical order, proceeding from east to west.  It also includes some groups that no longer exist today.  This week I will be attenmding our Queensland Synod meeting at Alexandra Headland.  Leaders and laity will be coming from all sorts of geographical areas of Queensland, from north, south, east and west.  We wll be celebrating and worshipping God, much akin to that first Pentecost experience so long ago.  Can you please pray for us as we attend to the ‘business of the Synod’ and pray for God’s wisdom and leading into the next phase of ministry.  The Uniting Church in Queensland is a huge ‘organisation’ and we need to constantly be ‘reformed by God’s Spirit’ so that we don’t get bogged down in peripheral distractions along the way.

Today, here in Ashmore, we too are gathering to meet God and celebrate the joy of Christ’s love for the world.  We also are a diverse group made up of people from many places around the world, like on that first Pentecost.  My prayer is that all who gather to worship God together today in this ‘family service’, will again be Surprised by God’s Holy Spirit and we will hear God speaking to us in our ‘own language’.

Pentecost reveals us to be the gathered and scattered people of God’s Spirit.  God gathers individuals into community.  Think about that sentence.  We come as individuals … but surprise, surprise … in Christ, we forgo our selfish individuality and through the Acts of the Spirit of God … we become ONE .. we become the Body of Christ.

On Friday night in this church we experienced something of that community as individual churches gathered together to pray with ONE HEART for the City of the Gold Coast.  There were many churches, many cultures and much diversity all focused on God’s Glory being expressed here in our City.  We sang in Korean, Spanish and English.  We prayed in other languages as the Spirit led us and the Good News of God was shared.  In Acts 2:1-21 the many different people heard “in their own languages about the wonderful things God has done” What a wonderful surprise this was for those gathered on that first Pentecost.

Today I hope that each person will hear the GOOD NEWS OF GOD in your ‘own language’:- whether you are young or old, male or female, whether you’ve come from a Conservative background or a Pentecostal background, I pray that God speaks to us as the Body of Christ in Community (common-unity), helping us to celebrate our differences and bringing us closer together in worship.

However the next step in The Acts of the Apostles once we’ve gathered as community is for us to be scattered into the world to continue the share in God’s mission….not on our own, but in God’s power and strength.  So we are being called to action.  Scott Bessenecker from Servants to Asia’s Poor said it this way:- “Pentecost was God’s occupy movement”.  How do you like that challenge?

Grace filled Speaking AND Listening in the Spirit … this week.

Rev. Brad Foote

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Liberating Love  (Mothers Day) – 12 May 2013

On Thursday this week, millions of Christians around the world were probably unaware of lesser-celebrated event in the Christian calendar, the ‘ascension of Jesus’.  In some countries like Holland, Germany, France and Indonesia there was even a public holiday to mark the day.  However, here in Australia the day came and went without much ado. The earliest observance to the Ascension dates back to the year 68AD, which is quite remarkable when you think that it was just over 30 years after Christ’s death and resurrection.  In the 40 days after the resurrection Jesus met with his disciples and instructed them on how to carry out his teachings.  On Ascension Day, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives where they watched him ascend to heaven.  Luke puts it this way, “Yes it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again on the third day.  With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’  You are witnesses to all these things.  And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised.  But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” Then Jesus led them to Bethany and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them.  While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.  They worshipped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy.  And they spent all their time in the Temple, praising God” (Luke 24:46-53)

This experience above is the precursor to our family service next Sunday, which is Pentecost.  The disciples were told to “wait here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven”.  Ten days after the ascension, there was the Jewish observance of Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after the Passover ceremonies (see Leviticus 23:16).

Next Sunday will be Pentecost Sunday where we celebrate the ‘birthday of the Christian Church’ and the ‘coming of the Holy Spirit’.  It will be a great opportunity for you to invite friends or family to share in this celebration of Pentecost in an open and joyful manner.  After the service there will be a beautiful morning tea (Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea) where we hope to raise some money for Cancer research.  (Please bring a contribution).  Then, for those wishing to sing some great hymns of the season, there is the Hymn-a-long at 11am.

Today however is Mothers Day and my attention was caught up by the situation in Ohio (USA) where the lives of three women and a young girl have been set free from a terrible ordeal that has spanned the last ten years as they were kidnapped and held captive until their escape this week.  The families of these women, especially the mothers of these ladies, are experiencing the overwhelming surprise and joy of having their daughters back in their care and family.  It’s as if they were dead and now they are alive.  Despite the horrific nature of this situation, I can see some connections with our own Gospel message today.  In Acts 16:16-34 we have a story of Liberating Love and New Life being experienced in a range of people’s lives and circumstances.

How can you share God’s Liberating Love with your family and friends this week?  I look forward to hearing the stories of God’s Holy Spirit at work in worship, next week.

Rev. Brad Foote

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Bearers of Good News – 5 May 2013

Since Easter Sunday just five weeks ago, we’ve been having a feast on The Word of God in the Book of Acts.  In the light of the resurrection of Jesus, we’ve been presented with a transformed group of disciples who have had their fears replaced by boldness and conviction, so much so that people’s lives were being transformed in the process.  Peter and Paul have been featured over these past few weeks as we’ve seen them being confronted by a God who is ushering in a new framework of belief and action.  Today in Acts 16: 9-15 we find Paul and Silas being led by the Holy Spirit to refrain from going to certain places (Acts 16:6-8) because God had already prepared the heart (and household) of a woman by the name of Lydia in Philippi to receive God’s Good News.  “Paul had a vision.  He saw a man from Macedonia in Northern Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us” (Acts 16:10).  So Paul & Silas obey the Holy Spirit and leave Asia Minor and head over to Macedonia, a region of the Balkan Peninsula in Europe.

When they arrived there they met a woman in Philippi called Lydia, who came from the city of Thyatira (today, Akhisar) in Asia Minor.  Lydia was a “dealer in purple cloth”, and the head of her household.  She was also a “worshiper of God” (v.14).  “As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted [the Good News] what Paul was saying” (v.14).  “She was baptized along with the other members of her household” (v.15).

So the first convert to the early church in Europe is an Asian woman.  Can you see the radical shift that is taking place in this experience?  A move of God that is no longer constrained geographically to Israel.  Gender distinctions and socio-economic boundaries are being altered (Lydia, a female is a merchant).  Conversion and baptism is being effected in families and communities (v.15).  The Holy Spirit is being poured out on Jews AND Gentiles (Acts 10:44,45), which indicates that cultural and religious distinctions are being abolished.   Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, John Mark and the other apostles are willing to put their lives on the line.    The Gospel/Good News is being preached in accordance to Jesus’ great commission “Go into ALL the world, making disciples of ALL peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit, teaching them to do everything I have commanded you to do.  I will be with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matt 28:18).

The Holy Spirit who is spoken about by Jesus in John 14:23-29 becomes a natural part of the apostles lives and ministry.  Holy Spirit as Counselor is leading the believers into all truth (John 14:17).  Just as Paul and Silas have been led by the Spirit to Philippi to be bearers of The Good News, we are to be led by God’s Holy Spirit in every endeavor of mission for the ‘great commission’ (Matt 28:18).  Hence our vision at Ashmore Uniting Church is “Reaching out, Changing Lives”.

The Holy Spirit was a catalyst for change in the early Church.  Remarkably the first church in Europe was a home church (Acts 16:15) that began by a group of women who were meeting on a riverbank (Acts 16:13) for prayer.  Paul and Silas (and Luke – Acts 16:10) began to grasp that God has no preference for male or female in Christian community in terms of inclusion and opportunities for service and spiritual leadership.  Lydia and her household and community become bearers of Good News.

How might you be led by The Holy Spirit to be a bearer of Good News ….. this week.

Rev. Brad Foote

Fifth Sunday of Easter

What’s Your Legacy?  –  28 April 2013

Anzac Day is quite a ‘big deal’ for us Aussies isn’t it?  It’s a Public Holiday, for heavens sake, so it must be important!!  The attendance at Anzac Services across Australia this year were considered very good.  The numbers were UP so I was told.  I attended the Anzac Service at the School that my children attend and I was very impressed with the presentation, respect shown and the content of the service.  Over 1600 students seemed to pay attention and listen to the messages that were being passed on to the ‘next generation’ of Australians, who are further and further removed from the original experience and conflict in World War 1.  New layers of experience and emphasis are being added to the original concept of those first Anzacs who landed at Gallipoli 98 years ago.  The original ‘eye witnesses’ are gone and the documents, photos, oral stories and memories are the means of passing on that history.  Today we will remember one of those aussie soldiers who gave his life for others.

As we hear the notes of The Last Post and Reveille still echoing in our ears, I thought that we might ask ourselves the question about the Legacy that we will leave when we are gone.  My mother-in-law, Joyce, is ageing quite quickly now and we are trying to maximize the time that we are spending with her.  As her family, we are asking many questions about her life and her family and we are taking photos and recording stories on video as part of our efforts in remembering and respecting her life and her journey.  It’s a particular time in history, isn’t it?  We took her to Burleigh Heads on Thursday afternoon and she asked me what I’d be preaching about this Sunday.  I said that I was going to focus on ‘our legacy’.  She said, “What if you don’t have any children to leave a legacy to?”  I said that she’d made a very good point and that our legacy is far more than leaving a ‘stash of cash’ for our kids when we die…. it’s more about who we are as a person and how we treat the people around us and the legacy of our imprint on the world in which we live.  It’s about honouring who we are as God’s creations, made in God’s image.  Handing on a financial inheritance is one way of viewing a Legacy, but a “Living Legacy” seems to have an influence about it that ‘out of this world’ and far more rewarding.

Our lectionary readings from Acts 11:1-18 and John 13:31-35 are both passages that indicate the kind of Legacy that God has commanded us to pass on to the world around us.  In Acts 11, Peter is surprised, even shocked to find himself eating with Gentiles and seeing the Spirit of God given to those who he once would have excluded.  God is showing Peter that ‘inclusion’ into God’s family is not about distinctions about colour and race, gender and ability.  God, through Jesus, has commanded that a new legacy of ‘loving one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:31-35) is the kind of “living” that represents the kingdom of God.  Jesus’s love cost him his life.

Today we have the pleasure of sharing in worship with the current YWAM (Youth With A Mission) students doing their DTS (Discipleship Training School).  They are preparing to go to North and South India for two months of ‘outreach’, putting into practice the things that God has been teaching them over the past three months and throughout their lives.  They are going to find themselves in situations where God’s message of inclusion and acceptance will be the living legacy that they will leave behind them.

Jesus has commanded us to ‘love one another without restriction and without condition for this is the way in which people will know the disciples of Jesus.

May that be your legacy….this week…and the next…and the next… and into eternity.

Rev. Brad Foote