First reading: Acts 7:55-60
Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Second reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Gospel: John 14:1-14
Believe and Trust
In the ancient world a person's last words were always very special. Biographers would take great care to ensure they contained the most important things which future generations should learn.
Jesus' last words here, remind us that He and the Father are one, and in Him we too have a place in that relationship, which is eternal and will never end.
The disciples were confused by this but the response of Jesus is wonderfully simple:
“Believe in God, believe also in me”.
On Today’s Gospel Reading: John 14:1-14
In this passage Jesus affirms that “I am the way”(14:5). This is a verse that has been used in a strident aggressive manner to lay claim to the Gospel as absolute truth – allowing no possibility that other religious expressions are valid. Before we adopt that literal reading, however, we need to consider the context in which it appears. The passage is not a debate about beliefs: rather, it is part of a theme running through John’s Gospel, about being intimately connected with God (14:6-7). This Gospel, moreover, as written in a context of disputation and polemic; there were pitched battles between the followers of Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees who taught in the synagogues. This claim must be understood in that context. For John, Jesus is “the way” in contrast with the ways being taught and lived by others in Jewish society at the time. That’s the context of the argument. Yet in that context, the offer to the disciples is an assurance that, by continuing along “the way” Jesus has already set out for them, they will come to deeper intimacy with God. That’s the pastoral hope. There is so much aggressive argumentation in our world; let’s avoid that, and hear the reassuring message of hope in these words of Jesus.
Revd Dr John Squires “With Love to the World” 9 May 2020
Pastoral Letter from Rev Andrew Smith, Presbytery Minister: Congregation Futures
Surprising and Questionable Lives
How the Uniting Church has adapted to the restrictions surrounding COVID-19 is surprising and not surprising at the same time.
For some in ministry leadership, it has been a surprise to see what has been achieved in such a short time in taking worship online, and having copies emailed or hand delivered. It has been a surprise that some of our people have mastered getting connected when previously they may have thought it was too hard or they were too old to connect for online worship. So, it has been surprising.
At the same time, there has been a fair bit of pressure to take worship services online because that is what other churches were doing. In fact, that is what many parts of our community have been doing. It seems that many have responded by taking their services online. So, it is not surprising that the Uniting Church has also adapted to offer its services online.
Our response to COVID-19 is surprising and not surprising at the same time.
Michael Frost in his handy little book “Surprise the World!” is urging the church to surprise the world. His five habits of highly missional people are habits to which we are called as faithful followers of Christ and are also habits that will lead us to living surprising “questionable lives”.
Frost coins the phrase “questionable lives” from his understanding of a biblical model for evangelistic mission seen in Colossians 4:2-6 and 1 Peter 3:15-16. It is a twofold approach to evangelism that includes 1) Gifted Evangelists and 2) Evangelistic Believers. Many of us feel like we are not the gifted evangelists who can proclaim boldly the Good News of Jesus, but that does not get us off the evangelism hook. Rather, all believers are called to live questionable lives – the kinds of lives that evoke questions from their friends giving rise to opportunities for faith sharing.
Living questionable lives is important for surprising the world because there is an old communication theory that goes like this: “When predictability is high, impact is low. In other words, when the audience thinks they know what you are going to say, and you go ahead and say it, it makes very little impact. On the other hand, when an audience is surprised or intrigued, they will think long and hard about what they’ve heard”.
Frost contends that living the five missional habits will take us along the way to living surprising questionable lives – generous, hospitable, Spirit-led, Christlike lives. As such, we will become “a godly, intriguing, socially adventurous, joyous presence in the lives of others” that evokes questions.
In many ways we have surprised ourselves with how we as church have responded to the COVID-19 restrictions on gathering. While we are on this good run of surprising ourselves, let us milk it for all its worth by going on to live “questionable lives” that will surprise not only us, but also surprise the world.