I wonder what you regard as being essential to your faith. Is it your personal relationship with God, strengthened through practices such as prayer and reflection on Scripture? Is it being part of a worshipping community who gather each week for encouragement? Is it the call to make a difference in the world through loving others and seeking justice?
This week’s readings offer some insights into what Jesus and Paul regarded as some essentials of our faith. The first is that our faith can often feel small and fragile. Jesus compares it to a mustard seed, while Paul notes that we can feel intimidated by those around us if we speak up about our faith. While our faith might be small, we have faith in a powerful God, who delights to work in and through our life through the Spirit.
The second insight is that our faith – thankfully – is built on God’s grace. There is nothing that we can or must do to earn God’s favour. This is a huge blessing and a truly distinctive part of Christian faith. It also means that we can make no demands on God. As Jesus reminds us, we are to regard ourselves as servants, following in his servant footsteps.
How are these insights informing your everyday faith?Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 by Peter Mallen Tags: 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10
This week’s Gospel reading from Luke features a topic that many of us feel uncomfortable talking about in church – namely money. But Jesus clearly thought it was an important topic to talk about as around two thirds of all his parables feature money and our attitudes towards money.
Here Jesus shares a puzzling parable about a rich man (God?) and his less-than-honest manager (Israel?) who is looking after his affairs. The manager is called to account for his stewardship – how he has mistreated the wealth of his master. The manger quickly devises a crafty plan to make new friends for himself – reduce the amount of what the master is owed so that the poor debtors will be grateful and make him welcome.
The intended lesson? Use the resources at your disposal – including money – to make friends with the poor and outcast – because it is the generous and those who welcome the poor who will inherit the blessing of God’s kingdom. The parable asks we rich folk a challenging question – how are we using the resources at our disposal to welcome such people and to share God’s good news with them?Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 by Peter Mallen Tags: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Luke 16:1-13
This week we are remembering and celebrating the work of Frontier Services, the part of the Uniting Church that ministers to people in outback and remote parts of Australia. The vision of Frontier Services:
We dream of an Australia where everyone who lives in our regional and remote areas are cared for and supported, and have a mantle of safety and well-being. Australian people who live out bush experience the tyranny of distance and social isolation. These include indigenous communities, isolated properties, mining communities, and other remotely located communities. And for them, we are the people who knock on the door, take the time to listen, offer a helping hand, and be of service.
Living in outback Australia is always challenging – with regular droughts and floods - and just recently bushfires. Regional communities are doing it tough at the moment and don’t have the same access as city folk to health and other support services. Let us take some time this week to remember and pray for these folk.
For those who are available, there is a Great Outback BBQ happening this Sunday at St Margaret’s Church in Mooroolbark from 12.30 pm with all proceeds raised going to support Frontier Services.Posted: Friday, September 13, 2019 by Peter Mallen Tags: Isaiah 40:28-31, Psalm 46:1-5
The bad news of this week’s Gospel reading is that there is a high cost to following Jesus. He cautions would be followers to sit down and count this cost before becoming a disciple. The cost includes putting trust in Jesus above even close family relationships, the readiness to suffer if need be, and the call to hold lightly onto material possessions. These are hard calls in our individualistic, pain averse and materialistic culture.
The good news of the passage is that God calls us to persevere in the life of discipleship even when our circumstances seem tough. The cost may be high. We may be misunderstood by our families and mocked by others. We may have to let go of things we hold dear. But this week’s psalm (139) reminds us that wherever we go, and whatever we do, God is with us, always.
When we are prepared to pay the cost – and to live a life of loving, serving and caring for the least, the outcast and the unlovely – that’s when the gospel message shouts most loudly from our lives.
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The cost of following Jesus
Offering hospitality to a stranger was and remains an important part of many Eastern cultures. So when we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, it’s not surprising that many of his interactions and much of his teaching happens around the meal table. Who you ate with and who you welcomed to your table were key indications of your social status.
The reading this week from Hebrews 13 suggests that when we show hospitality to strangers we may be entertaining angels without being aware of it, a likely reference to the story in Genesis where Abraham cares for the needs of three passing strangers, as captured in this famous icon originally written by Rublev. In the icon, it is the three persons of the Trinity who offer hospitality to Abraham, symbolized in the chalice of Communion.
Jesus suggests that when we have a luncheon or dinner, we have the opportunity to invite people beyond our circle of friends and family – the poor, crippled and blind – who cannot repay us. In this way we reflect the hospitality and welcome of God, which is offered freely to everybody. How open and inclusive is our hospitality – as individuals, as a community and as a nation? How might we enhance this vital ministry?
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