Set Free

It’s great to be with you in worship today.  I’d also like to acknowledge those who may be reading these Foote-Notes somewhere else or on another day.  Let me begin by saying that I thought that God’s presence in worship last Sunday was quite palpable.  A number of people experienced the presence of God in ways that they haven’t before.  There was a real experience of COMMUNITY as we gathered around different people and prayed for them and their circumstances.  God seemed to take us DEEPER as Lu Evans suggested a few weeks ago.  It reminds me of that declaration that we’ve shared together in the past:- “God is GOOD … all the time.  All the time … God is GOOD”. 

During the week I’ve conducted the funeral of Graeme Youngson at Burleigh Heads Uniting Church.  Graeme and Margaret transferred their membership to Ashmore Uniting Church from Burleigh Heads UC some time ago when they moved from Burleigh into The Domain.  They had been elders at the Burleigh Church for 12 years before coming to Ashmore.  Graeme & Margaret’s daughter Jan and their son-in-law Austin and their grandson Alex have also been worshipping with us for almost two years now.  As a praying Church, I urge you to uphold this family in your prayers at this time of loss.

God’s Spirit was at work in another aspect of spontaneous ministry this week when a group of ladies gathered on Wednesday, and then the Connecting Men’s group continued to make and complete a ‘prayer blanket’ for Norm (our drummer) who has had a hip operation this last Friday (23/8) in the Gold Coast Hospital.  It’s wonderful to see God’s people growing in love and care for each other as is the expectation of The Uniting Church’s Basis of Union where it speaks about “The local church (council) is to be responsible for the building up of the congregation in faith and love, sustaining its members in hope and leading them into a fuller participation in Christ’s mission in the world” (Paragraph 14(b)).

As we come to worship today, we are focusing on Luke 13:10-17 and Jeremiah 1:4-10.  Through a story of healing, Jesus demonstrates that all people are of value, and worthy of enjoying the wholeness of life.  Whether the woman in Luke 13:10-17 is healed of a physical ailment or not is secondary to the fact that she is SET FREE from a heavy burden that she’s been afflicted with for 18 years. “Woman you are healed of your sickness! Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight.  How she praised and thanked God” (Luke 13:12,13).  There are religious leaders present in this story who see her as a low “priority” (they are indignant that Jesus healed her) and Jesus challenges their attitude.  If we look at the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-10) we hear about a young person responding to God’s call with a severe case of SELF DOUBT.  “I’m too young’” he tells God, only to hear the reply, “don’t say that”.  We see in both of these passages echoes of unworthiness and self-doubt.  God speaking to Jeremiah and Jesus healing the woman demonstrate an affirmation of God’s love for both of them.  It is clear that Jesus reveals God’s mercy in both word and deed.

As Christians we believe that Jesus is the truth, the whole truth about God (John 14:6).  We believe that God is merciful.  We believe that God liberates those in bondage, God SETS US FREE from the bondage of sin through His death and resurrection.  Physical healing is not necessarily the only sign of being ‘set free’.  In our joy and in our pain God in Christ comes to us, sometimes with healing, sometimes with strong words of truth, sometimes with loving embrace, BUT always in mercy TO SET US FREE.

As I said last week…Keep exercising your FAITH muscles …. putting aside everything that hinders and weighs you down….BE SET FREE….this week.

Rev. Brad Foote

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Run the Race with Perseverance

Run the Race with Perseverance – 18 August 2013

Welcome to worship today.

How do you see your Christian life?  Is it like an early morning walk in the park, or is it a more grueling marathon that takes all your energy and concentration to get through?  Long ago people in the church wondered why some of them were having a really hard time.  Others mistreated them because they were followers of Jesus, and horrible things happened to some people.  This week we’ve heard of turmoil in Egypt and the political struggles as leadership is being challenged.  Among the chaos and destruction there are Coptic Christians who’ve suffered for their faith and their churches have been destroyed.  Many of these Churches have been places of worship for centuries.

In the first few decades of the Christian era, most Christians knew that suffering is part of life, and that God does not make it happen.  In the letter to the Hebrews 11:29 -12:2, the author reminds them that God was with them no matter what.  Here is part of that letter in a paraphrased form.  I’ll use this as the springboard for our message today:-

“Long ago, our ancestors in faith did some pretty amazing things.  Long ago, when they were slaves in Egypt God brought them through the Sea of Reeds to the promised land.

Long ago, God was with a woman called Rahab who risked everything to help some of God’s people.

What more can I say?  I don’t have time to tell you of so many others who did amazing things: they believed in God’s way and had faith that God was with them, leading and guiding them.

And we have been strong even when everyone was against us.

We are surrounded by many stories of faithful people (a great cloud of witnesses) and there are many people today who are cheering us on as we learn to live God’s way.

So, let us run the race in front of us.  Let’s throw away all the things that slow us down, and focus on Jesus.  He risked everything, to show God’s love to all.  Thanks be to God!”

As we pick up on he heels of last week’s reading (Hebrews 11:1-16), today’s text reminds us that “by faith” God’s people did some amazing things.  They escaped slavery in Egypt, and they entered the promised land.  Interestingly one other “by faith” example appears in the passage above: Rahab.  What makes this intriguing is that Rahab is both a foreigner and a prostitute yet, through her faith, she is able to live when others perish.  This would suggest that acts of faith are not confined to any single people, but are an option for all of us.  I would like us to be very mindful of the world around us and that’s why I’ve raised the issue of the turmoil in Egypt this week, especially as the Hebrews passage makes mention that “long ago, when they were slaves in Egypt God brought them through….”.

So in summary, we find that many people find life to be unsettling and there’s a tendency to want easy answers that are usually elusive.  We want to understand a world that often defies explanation.  But maybe that’s not the point.  Maybe we would do well to let go of the things that weigh us down, and simply persevere, looking to the example of Jesus who went through suffering and even death to proclaim the message of God’s justice.

How readily can you set things aside and move forward in life’s marathon?

Keep exercising your FAITH muscles …. putting aside everything that hinders and weighs you down…this week….Rev. Brad Foote

 

By Faith

By Faith – 11 August 2013

Good Morning and welcome to worship today.  I can’t believe that it’s already a month since Cheryl & I returned from our holiday in Fiji and we shared with you the Fijian welcome:-  “Bula!!”   The experience in Fiji reminded us of the value of having God as the centre of our lives and of the importance of our families and the need to keep cultivating the soil in our family plot.  My sister celebrated her 50th Birthday this week and we were part of a lovely ‘surprise party’ for her last Sunday.

The opportunity to gather together as a family to celebrate this particular milestone for my sister has caused me to reflect on Jesus teaching from Luke 12:32-40, where Jesus asks us to tone down our fretting and think about what is most important in life; because what we think is most important WILL become most important, and most influential in our lives.  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34) is not just about finances.  It’s about all that you value: your relationships, your time, your work, your play/leisure, and your memories.  How do those things that you value affect how you spend your attention, your time, your money, your effort or your worrying?

Hebrews 11:1-16 reminds us of the role and value of faith in our lives and invites us to consider and celebrate the past, present, and future of our faith story.  “He (Abraham) went without knowing where he was going.  And even when he reached the land God promised him; he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent.  And so did Isaac and Jacob (Abraham’s son and grandson), to whom God gave the same promise.  Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (Hebrews 11:8,9).  So faith is more than mere belief.  It is about trust, and loyalty, and where we dare invest ourselves.  To say we have faith in God is to do more than simply say it – to have faith means to live a radically different way, trusting that tomorrow is taken care of in the hands of God. This can sometimes be a scary place to be, but the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as recounted in Hebrews chapter 11 gives us the assurance that “faith really is the promise of things hoped for and the evidence of things yet unseen [or things to come”] (Hebrews 11:1).

This is not just an ancient story from the pages of the Old Testament written thousands of years ago.  The story of Ash and Anji Barker in the August Journey on pages 10 and 11, Hope on the margins is a current example of a life of faith and trust which expresses a desire to follow the radical call of Jesus, just as Abraham and his family did in Genesis chapters 12 ff.

Trusting that tomorrow is taken care of in the hands of God is what we are called to do as disciples.  If that is so then what does that say about how we live today?  What impact might that have on your daily living?

Ultimately a life of faith is one that needs to be road tested by every person who claims that Jesus Christ is LORD.

May you exercise your FAITH muscles …. this week….Rev. Brad Foote