First reading: Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 13
Second reading: Romans 6:12-23
Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42
Matthew 10:40-42 is part of a much larger conversation between Jesus and his disciples in which Jesus authorises his disciples to carry his message of the kingdom (as apostles) to the neighbouring towns and villages...
Christian hospitality is often conveyed as a willingness to receive “others”... but it is more than passive receptivity.
It embraces a willingness to humbly (and respectfully) approach others with the message of Jesus... to go to others and to offer oneself as a witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ...
Welcoming a stranger in the pew is a good thing, but Christian hospitality asks more of us…
We must go beyond the pew into the dark places of our world, the forgotten places, the broken places and offer ourselves in the name of Jesus as a witness to the grace, mercy, and love of God!!!
Pastoral Letter from Rev Andrew Smith - Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures
Stories of blessing from Eurobodalla
In this series of articles, we have been looking at five habits of highly missional people from Mike Frost’s handy little book “Surprise the World”. The first of those habits is: “I will bless three people this week – at least one of whom is not a member of our church”.
The word “bless” can conjure up images of priests or ministers placing their hands on a person’s head and giving them a blessing. If that is the kind of image that comes to your mind when you think about this first habit, then it’s not surprising if you feel reluctant to take on the habit of blessing three people this week – especially people who are not members of your church.
You may be relieved to know that this is not what Mike Frost envisages for the habit of blessing people. Rather, he thinks of blessing in terms of “adding strength to another’s arm”. In this respect, Frost points out that “to bless others is to build them up, to fill them with encouragement for them to increase in strength and prosperity”.
Maybe this form of blessing is something more doable in your eyes.
It is something the folk of Eurobodalla UC have been doing over the last few months as part of the Uniting Church’s bushfire response. Eurobodalla UC received funding for gift cards and emergency supplies from a Target appeal grant through Uniting to bring relief to those affected by the fires. Here are some stories about the congregation folk blessing (adding strength to arms of) people in their local community.
Yvonne tells this story: "I will call her Beth. I became aware of her plight through a friend. She is an older woman who lives alone in an isolated old home in the Nelligen area. She could not hold insurance because of the high fire risk. She was unwilling to leave the family home as four generations had lived and worked there. Because she has difficulties communicating, a friend took her for an interview to the Fire Recovery Centre. She was informed because her house was not destroyed by the fire, she was not eligible for assistance. Her losses included all her fences, gates, horse trough, garden sheds, tools, grass cutting tractor, chain saw, two water tanks and all the water, the pipes and the pump. The septic system and power Generator, the paddock and garden were all burnt. We decided to give her a well-stocked first aid box, as she lived out of town, and a Bunnings shopping voucher to assist her to replace some of her tools etc. Upon receiving her gift she was overcome with emotion that strangers acknowledged her loss and that she had not been forgotten. That was a big part of the gift."
Christine tells these stories: "The clean-up is still continuing. This week (last week in May) the Rev. Duncan McDiarmid and I have been handing out K-mart gift cards to primary school children who lost their homes. Tears well in the parent’s eyes and some children's as they were overwhelmed that others were still thinking of them. It was very moving. I wanted to hug them but of course with Covid, we can't. The congregation received grants so we have been busy finding people to help. Part of the grant was limited to what we could use it for, so 40 first aid boxes were purchased. These were given out with Bunnings cards and the recipients so far have been very thankful of the thought and care they have received. They are truly amazed at peoples' generosity. At Mogo there was one 5-year-old girl that wrapped her arms around me and then Duncan and he was standing there with his arms out saying "I don't think we're allowed to hug". One year 2 boy sang "Thank you, thank you, thank you" in a sing-songy voice. The school office assistant who was under-insured and lost her shed and outbuildings was extremely grateful for her debit card of $250.00 and first aid kit. One of the boys at Sunshine Bay Primary School, who has high functioning autism and anxiety, asked his mum if he could open the envelope. She said yes and then he wanted to know if they could go straight to
K-mart now. Everyone has been overwhelmed and thankful for the care shown."
Julie tells these stories: "Glenn and I have been in support with the community but 9 households in particular. Since the start of the fires we've been able to immediately assist two families the day after token donations and Pivot Point already set up for this practical support. All have been very thankful for the support being ongoing and felt comfortable accepting the gifts as it was part of ongoing connections and not just out of the blue. The Aboriginal Boomerang Centre in Mogo became the hub for emergency deliveries of many trucks, trailers and food vans, as well as the gathering place for the local community where all sorts of assistance, including counselling, was available.
When we would visit, we would be met with hugs, stories and needs to be attended to. People were very comforted to see people they knew just arrive; sit and chat; help unpack a load....
It's now early June and one woman's property was only cleared last week. Another family are still awaiting clearing to be advised in the next few weeks, as while clearing rubble from their property the husband suffered a medical emergency. AWESOME - has been the response too - it's the little things - I go to do something and realise I don't have a hammer - or the rake is gone - or one woman who lost her office ordering supplies including staples - to realise she no longer had a stapler - office basics were quickly shared. Local Aboriginal artists were also supported with art supplies, canvases, paints etc. Advocacy for those resourced with computers, etc. has been important. It's been the ongoing relationships that have made the difference - with Covid now moving our chats to verandas and outdoors."
How might you add strength to the arm of another?
Pastoral Letter from Rev Dr John Squires - Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing-
More useful resources
There are fine resources appearing online, assisting us as we think our way forward and seek to be the most appropriate form of church for these changing times. You may wish to explore some of these links:
Karen Paul (in ministry at Lane Cove in Sydney) explores the question, “do I miss going to church on Sunday?"
Nicole Mumford (in Ministry at St Leonard’s in Melbourne) has developed an excellent faith formation resource for young people during this period
A group of people in ministry as “mission catalysts” in Aotearoa New Zealand muse about “imaging in the new normal”
The Congregational Consulting Group in the USA offers these “ten questions to ask now” as we consider the next steps
Here’s my own recent blog post about “going back to church”
And here’s the link to the workshop we held two weeks ago, exploring the Synod COVID19 Sade Pathways website