June: Modelling ourselves on God’s community
Jun 7 2020 Trinity Sunday Mt 28:16-20
Trinity Sunday is a celebration of who God is for us: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The concept of the Trinity evokes the theme of community and relationships. It acts as a model for human relationships as a part of God’s reconciling mission in our world.
One God, yet a community of persons, the trinity expresses the notion that the highest form of existence is communal. God is communal, so therefore we should find the true meaning of being as a person in fellowship with other people. Because of this, the church community should reflect God far better than a lone person, no matter how gifted that person may happen to be. By insisting on being individuals over being community, we limit and diminish ourselves. Growth in faith really only takes place when we give to others and receive from others; when we know we need them and they need us. What kind of wonderful creatures might we become if, in the fellowship of the church, we begin to model ourselves not on individualism but on God’s community, as symbolised by the Trinity?
Jun 14 2020 Pent 2 Mt 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Jesus has just described himself as ‘Lord of the harvest’. He then summons his disciples, and prepares to send them out on mission, as the labourers to help with the harvest.
But who are they called to serve? Matthew has a stern prohibition at the beginning of the disciples’ mission. How are we to understand it?
The context strongly suggests that only Israel is envisaged as the mission field, because Israel was the people for whom the Messiah of the Jewish Scriptures had been promised. In this Gospel, Jesus, the shepherd, is sent to turn the ‘lost sheep’ of Israel from following unrighteous and lawless leaders who will lead them astray.
These are challenging words for us as gentile Christians, as Matthew’s Jesus here envisages an exclusively Jewish mission field. But then we find in chapter 25:31-42 that just and righteous Gentiles are also welcome in the kingdom, through acts of kindness and justice. May be this is a timely reminder that there is more than one pathway to God, and Christians cannot claim they have exclusive rights to this road.
Jun 21 2020 Pent 3 Mt 10:24-39
Being a disciple in Matthew is definitely a difficult and costly experience. Like Jesus, they can expect to be rejected and badly treated, even killed, for following his way. The picture painted here of the sufferings of the disciples reflects the events of Jesus’ arrest and trial later in the Gospel. Though the body can be killed, Jesus points out, the soul cannot, and like Jesus, if they persist in adhering to their faith their reward will be resurrection to the kingdom of God.
What are we to make of this, in our relatively comfortable Western churches? Do we trust God enough to risk stepping out in faith, knowing that failure, people rejecting and even scorning us may be the result? Do we have enough faith in God and God’s care for our lives and souls to trust that as we are worth more than sparrows and are beloved by God, God will guide us?
We are challenged here to spread the kingdom of God and the teachings of Jesus, to work for the justice, righteous and equity that characterises the kingdom of heaven and to not fear the consequences of faithfully carrying this out.
Today, more than ever, proclaiming the gospel is an imperative, not an optional extra.
Jun 22 2020 UCA Anniversary John 17:20-26
It is the evening of his betrayal, Jesus is praying. Tomorrow, the mob will scream for his blood…Pilate will wash his hands…and let the soldiers do the dirty work. All this is before him, as he sits at table with his friends.
His prayer – in the face of death – is not for himself, as mine would be, and, I suspect, yours might be too. He prays for these friends he is soon to leave behind:
That prayer of Jesus caught a lot of attention last century –it was central to the Ecumenical Movement that encouraged Christians to reach out to each other across their denominational brand-names to build bridges of fellowship in worship, witness and service together.
And 43 years ago, what had been the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches committed themselves to each other in a new body.
From that prayer of Jesus, they drew their inspiration to become the Uniting Church in Australia, a union that was committed to Christian values and principles, social justice, a flourishing environment and concern for the welfare of all persons. We celebrate our church, remembering that it is by God’s grace that we are the Church in this time and this place.
Jun 28 2020 Mt 10:40-42
It is clear in this chapter that Matthew sees his community as a church that is “sent”, a church that goes out into the wider community to proclaim the good news. Through programs like Mission Shaped Ministry with its growing Fresh Expressions of church, we are beginning to understand that mission is not just a program offered by the church (though these are important); rather it is the defining reason for what actually makes us the church.
What it means to be sent for your congregation? While we are not all sent to be wandering missionaries in the way Matthew describes, that doesn’t mean we should placidly sit and wait in our churches for people to come through our doors. Jesus later commands that all who are baptised are sent into the world, both to tell and embody the good news of Jesus through their words and deeds.
Instead of expecting people to come on through our church doors, what would happen if we took seriously our calling to take the gospel to them? What would it look like if we truly believed that we are the face of Christ to every person we encounter in our neighbourhoods? What would be the result if we saw every encounter as an opportunity to embody the command to love our neighbour?
These Reflections were prepared by by REV. ELIZABETH RAINE
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