About AshmoreUC

Ashmore Uniting Church (Kath Hilber)

Tale of Three Sons

A tale of 3 sons

This is a story loosely related to the parable of the prodigal son that we read in Luke 15. It goes like this: ‘In the beginning Father God had three sons – two of them were sons of the earth – children of his creation – the third was begotten from God’s eternal nature – very much God!! The younger son on earth forgot about his true home and through the pride and selfishness sank into shame….and the older son of the earth – although aware of something eternal in his nature, began to despise his brother, and so he grew hard and judgmental in his heart because of his self-righteous pride…

Then there was the son in heaven – who had spent eternity in his father’s joy – but they were saddened when they thought of the children of earth. One day the father said, “I will send my eternal son to seek them”, and the son said, “I will go to find my brothers and bring them home…so my father will no longer be grieving over them.” So, the eternal son became a human and walked the roads of earth – eventually he found the younger prodigal, ate his husks, and shared his shame; but the prodigal was deaf. “You’re no brother of mine”, he said, and “God is only a name!” So, God’s eternal son went and searched out the elder brother. He had become a prominent person in the church; but he was also hard hearted. “Why are you looking for my younger brother?” He demanded bitterly. “He always wastes everything he’s given – and you aren’t any better!”

Then something terrible happened… The two prodigals – although conflicting – took God’s eternal son and killed him – for his life and light caused them pain. In the hate that a hunger and desire for something better can sometimes bring, the two prodigal brothers killed the son of eternity on a cross. But even as they tortured their brother, he forgave them and prayed for them as he died.

The younger prodigal was touched by what he had seen, and said, “I would have returned to Father God if I had not killed his eternal son…what will I do now?” In a similar way the older prodigal said, “I never knew how special I really was until I saw how much he loved…but now I have killed him…what will I do?” But as they pondered their guilt…and the depths to which they had fallen…something stirred – something deep beyond their understanding – for God’s eternal son broke the shackles of sin and death and rose from the dead. The grave could not imprison his great love – and both of his brothers knew that no matter what life would bring, he was with them.’

This story echoes Jesus’ words and reminds us that the parable of the prodigal has two responses:

  1. The repentant sinner, who left behind self-will and self-loathing and remembered the way back home. He found forgiveness, restoration and hope.
  2. The older son, whose choices never lead him physically away from God. But responded in self-pity, self-righteousness, legalism and judgment.

Pride is death, and the older prodigal was a prodigal in his heart, yet still the father gently offers him love, value and community. But what the son does with it remains a mystery. Both sons acted badly towards the father and needed to repent. But the parable of the prodigal sons in not a full theology – because it doesn’t contain an understanding of sacrifice or the atoning act of Jesus death to restore the prodigals back to relationship with God. But by inserting the cross – and the role that the sons of the earth had in putting Christ to death…the story takes a different perspective – because neither prodigal is innocent in this story…their sin is to reject such a great love that God offers through Jesus…

But death could not onto hold Jesus, justice had been served. But because of his innocence; his love: his light and life – death was rendered impotent. It was powerless to hold him and he burst free and disarmed the enemy! By doing this he gives us back all that we have lost – our identity as sons and daughters of God; our hope – both now and for ever…our purpose…but what we do with that gift is our choice…it’s part of the story that is yet to be written…

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Inside Out

Inside Out

How do you know someone’s story is true? By what standards do we judge a person’s evidence. This is a question that has plagued the judicial system for thousands of years. The Bible standard is seen in Deuteronomy 19:15, which says that the testimony of one witness was not enough to convict a person of a crime, but their evidence must be corroborated by others (a minimum of 2-3 witnesses). In the same way, the stories about Jesus hold more validity because there are many witnesses.

Just look at the gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. A synopsis is a general overview – and the 3 synoptic gospels all give an overview of Jesus life and ministry. It’s remarkable how similar they are and even though they were written for different audiences at different times in the first half century after Jesus’ resurrection they confirm many of the key aspects of Jesus’ ministry.

One such account is the today’s reading which we call the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). All three gospels place Jesus with three of his disciples on a mountain side. What we read demonstrated to three witnesses (Peter, James and John) who Jesus claimed to be. These men were human witnesses to the glory of God that was revealed in Christ. For a moment they saw Jesus for who he really was, as the glory of the God radiated from the inside out. But there were also three heavenly witnesses present at this event: Moses, Elijah and the voice of God from heaven. Therefore, the Old Testament law that required 3 witnesses to attest to a fact, was satisfied both on earth and in heaven.

The word ‘transfigured; comes from the Greek, “metamorpho” which means to transform (meta – change; morphe – form). The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. Up until then, Jesus’ divine nature was “veiled” (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the presence of God, dwelling with people through presence of his incarnate son.

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. The Apostle Paul’s wrote,

 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

We are encouraged to be like Jesus. To be transformed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 says that transformation changes the way we think and act and as we follow the example of Jesus, we too can reflect something of God’s glory to those around us.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Inside Out

Inside Out

How do you know someone’s story is true? By what standards do we judge a person’s evidence. This is a question that has plagued the judicial system for thousands of years. The Bible standard is seen in Deuteronomy 19:15, which says that the testimony of one witness was not enough to convict a person of a crime, but their evidence must be corroborated by others (a minimum of 2-3 witnesses). In the same way, the stories about Jesus hold more validity because there are many witnesses.

Just look at the gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. A synopsis is a general overview – and the 3 synoptic gospels all give an overview of Jesus life and ministry. It’s remarkable how similar they are and even though they were written for different audiences at different times in the first half century after Jesus’ resurrection they confirm many of the key aspects of Jesus’ ministry.

One such account is the today’s reading which we call the transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36). All three gospels place Jesus with three of his disciples on a mountain side. What we read demonstrated to three witnesses (Peter, James and John) who Jesus claimed to be. These men were human witnesses to the glory of God that was revealed in Christ. For a moment they saw Jesus for who he really was, as the glory of the God radiated from the inside out. But there were also three heavenly witnesses present at this event: Moses, Elijah and the voice of God from heaven. Therefore, the Old Testament law that required 3 witnesses to attest to a fact, was satisfied both on earth and in heaven.

The word ‘transfigured; comes from the Greek, “metamorpho” which means to transform (meta – change; morphe – form). The word is a verb that means to change into another form. It also means to change the outside to match the inside. Up until then, Jesus’ divine nature was “veiled” (Hebrews 10:20) in human form and the transfiguration was a glimpse of that glory. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus Christ displayed the presence of God, dwelling with people through presence of his incarnate son.

The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a unique display of His divine character and a glimpse of the glory, which Jesus had before He came to earth in human form. The Apostle Paul’s wrote,

 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form (morphe) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form (morphe) of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

We are encouraged to be like Jesus. To be transformed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 says that transformation changes the way we think and act and as we follow the example of Jesus, we too can reflect something of God’s glory to those around us.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Measure Up

Measure Up

When I was a boy, I used to fight with my younger brother over who would get the biggest piece of cake or pie. This used to annoy my parents and then one day during one of these squabbles my father, in his wisdom, said to me… “You cut the cake in half, but your brother gets to have the first pick!” I remember the stunned silence as I realised that I would never again get the biggest piece, but that my only chance of parity was to cut the cake in two exact halves. So, with much approximation and a steady hand I proceeded to cut so that I had the best chance of getting the full measure. For as Luke 6:38 says, “the measure you give is the measure you get!”

My father knew me. He knew my propensity to want to receive my fair share. He also knew that I was mathematical and calculating and motivated by food! My brother had the easy part – he just had to choose first – but I knew that if wanted to get a fair return I had to be fair in the first place. The problem is, that to be fair towards others you must put some of our natural human tendencies to the side. So, when Jesus says, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you, pray for those who mistreat you’ (Luke 6:27-28), it runs contrary to our natural inclination to protect our interest and look after ourselves first.

In recent times there has been a phrase coined that says to, ‘pay things forward’. This term simply means, rather than ‘pay back’ people for things have hurt you – do good deeds for others, with the only expectation that they would do the same for others. Sounds like a good theory and many of us have been blessed by the good deeds of others. But when Jesus says do good to others, it’s because God has done good for us. Jesus says, love your enemies because in our fallen state, we act as enemies to God and God still loves us; so, in response to God’s love for us – love everyone without prejudice. Do good to others, because God has done good for us – he has continued to offer blessing to humanity when all we could do was curse him.

What Jesus said was a radical way of living and many found it too hard. Our natural tendency is to give back what we received – to fight fire with fire. But Jesus’ way was to do the opposite. Instead of anger choose kindness and prayer – instead of retribution choose mercy and love. This is the measure that God has given to us. We deserve judgement and condemnation but receive forgiveness and grace.

So, how do you measure up? I know that I sometimes forget that, without the love, compassion and grace of God, I am miserable sinner – I demand what I think I deserve – I still want my fair share. But when I stop and reflect on that Jesus has done – all that the Holy Spirit is doing in my life and all that God has promise in the future; I am reminded that Jesus example is the only way that leads to life and I will get my just reward in God’s time and God’s measure.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

A Heavenly Reward Program

A heavenly reward program

How many rewards programs do you belong to? Coles, Woollies, frequent flyers…coffee cards. Sandra has so many coffee cards from different shops that she almost needs a whole wallet just to put the cards in. The question is do we really get the rewards that we are expecting through these loyalty programs or are they just another ploy to get you to spend more? But then, when you get money off your bill or a free coffee there is a sense of satisfaction that your commitment has finally paid off.

As a Christian I am also looking at a rewards program. In our modern western society, we have been encouraged to look for an instant gratification and deal with the consequences later. Very few of us save up for a house, or a car or a holiday – instead we put it on credit or borrow money. The consequences of this instant lifestyle are the pains of making repayments with interest. I am not criticising you for borrowing money, I am just saying that is human nature to look for rewards in the present rather than saving them up for a later time.

Luke 6:17-26 talks about blessings and woes. It’s the gospel of Luke’s version of the beatitudes in what is called ‘the sermon on the plain’. There are several similarities between this sermon and the one recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 and reflects that this message was at the core of what Jesus taught and probably was spoken out on several occasions. One key difference is that in Matthews version, when Jesus says blessed are the poor and the hungry – he goes much deeper than material poverty and physical hunger. In Matthews version Jesus speaks of poverty ‘in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3) and a hunger ‘for righteousness’ (Matthew 5:6).

The message of the gospel is good news for the poor; the hungry; the distressed and the persecuted. Why? Because it starts in the heart of God who is loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving. God’s love is not measured out according to social standing, wealth, reputation or physical attributes. God’s love is the same for everyone, whether we are young or old; sinner or saint; rich or poor. It’s just that not everyone acknowledges their need for God and because of their level of wealth, comfort or education may never recognise what God has to offer.

That’s not to say that we don’t want more than we already have. Most people would say that if they had more money, they would be more comfortable. By world standards our church community is wealthy. And the wealthy always have trouble making room for God. If you are comfortable with your life and your purpose then there is no room, need or desire for what Jesus is offering. The poor and the rejected, on the other hand, have nowhere else to look but up and in looking up, discover that God’s rewards program is better and more enduring than anything the world can offer.

So, it’s good news for the poor (in spirit), and when we accept this as good news it is hard not to tell others about it. When we discover the grace of God it becomes the motivation for how we live each day. The problem is, the world has always rejected the gospel because it shines light on people’s sinfulness. Christ’s goodness shining through your life makes other’s badness obvious and that makes them uncomfortable, so they push back, reject and ridicule, so that they can go on turning a blind eye to cycle of sin that they have perpetuated in my life. It’s easy to take such rejection personally, but in reality, it’s God they are rejecting. So, Jesus says, you’re blessed if people reject and persecute for his name sake (Luke 6:22) and that you will not only have great rewards in heaven (Luke 6:23), but you will know the presence and the comfort of God each day.

God bless,

Tim Winslade