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