Uniting Church Hopkins Region Devotions for 14 June 2020
Here are some devotions you might like to spend some time reading, praying and reflecting on; especially if you can’t access the-
-Hopkins Region YouTube service. In YouTube, search for Uniting Church Hopkins Region, or you can go directly to it from the Warrnambool Uniting Church website: warrnambooluntingchurch.org.au/services or at
-Or free_key.com on Zoom at 9am Sunday. Meeting ID: 927 2549 3229 Password: 631065
What we do in free_key will have a lot in common with this.
Grace and peace be with you!
As is our custom and what we want to do, we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of our land, honour their care for the land, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. We acknowledge we have what we have because of their dispossession. So we commit ourselves to reconciliation and justice as First and Second Peoples together.
Dear God, another week has gone by in these unusual circumstances. There have been good and bad things about it. I’m ready for another time when I focus on you for strength and purpose; and to express the gratitude that is necessary for happiness and a good perspective. So here we go together- me sharing with you and listening for your Spirit’s inner voice within me to speak your love and grace and your next steps for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Reflective Prayer Slowly do this prayer exercise
Tell God something- anything- that comes to mind from:
Last Sunday . . . Monday . . . Tuesday . . . Wednesday . . . Thursday . . . Friday . . . Saturday . . .
Go back over those things and choose what is God saying to you from this list:
Following our pattern of working our way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount today our Reading is:
Matthew 5: 33-37
33 “You have also heard that people were told in the past, ‘Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.’ 34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 Just say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’—anything else you say comes from the Evil One.
If you were playing ‘Truth or Dare’ which would you choose?
OK, who has disproved Jesus by putting colour in your hair?
Who has ever tried to make a bargain with God along the lines of ‘If you get me out of this I will do . . . . ?’
Remember in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is not just giving tougher new rules. While presented as instructions, it’s about what you’d be doing if you were caught up in the Spirit of Love. This is what living in love looks like.
Be a straight talker.
The passage connects to the 10 Commandments- the 3rd is ‘You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.’ (Exodus 20:7)
And also the 9th ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’ (Exodus 20:16)
And more specifically: Deuteronomy 23: 21 ‘If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not postpone fulfilling it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and you would incur guilt.’
This is invoking God’s name to back up what you’re saying, trying to be more convincing because you’ve called on God. But it runs deeper than that: Using God for our selfish-purposes. A big example was Donald Trump holding up the bible in front of the church the other week, after having had the pastor cleared out of the way.
I put a post on Facebook last week: Here’s a bible study idea. What if that black bible Donald Trump was holding up had flopped open at a verse God wanted him to read, what would it be?
I got some predictable comments from friends who agree with me- then the former UCA Moderator and cousin of Lou Hollis and Jenny Grenfell, Sharon Hollis, popped my bubble with ‘Or maybe ask myself the same question because I can’t change Donald Trump but I can change my own response to injustice’.
Fair enough. Jesus said ‘Don’t judge.’ As a minister there’s a BIG responsibility to not be using God for my purposes.
There was an article by Robyn Whittaker from Pilgrim Theological College in The Conversation that said:
While Christian outrage at Trump’s hypocrisy is genuine, we need to ask ourselves: did Trump do anything new? Has he done anything that powerful “Christian” leaders haven’t done for centuries? The answer is no. Co-opting Christianity in the service of power is almost as old as Christianity itself.
In the early fourth century, Flavius Valerius Constantine would defeat his brother-in-law, Maxentius, in a battle for control of the Roman Empire. His victory would solidify him as emperor of a vast western empire. The legend goes that Constantine had a vision before the battle on Milvian Bridge: he saw a cross of light in the sky and heard a voice that said, “In this sign, conquer”. The next morning, Constantine ordered his soldiers to paint crosses on their shields. They marched into battle as the first cross-bearing “Christian” soldiers. When Constantine won, he would attribute his victory to the God of the Christians. The new emperor’s adoption of the cross transformed a persecuted, minority sect into a legitimate religion and, eventually, the official state religion.
We have been left with a legacy in Western Christianity of powerful rulers claiming God for their cause. The Crusaders rode out to fight Muslims with chests and shields adorned with the sign of the cross, popes would wield more power than kings, and God’s name would be invoked in war after war.
Eventually, Christianity became so synonymous with colonial power and whiteness that the two can be hard to distinguish. The Bible arrived on the shores of Australia in the hands of those who would colonise this land through violence and domination. The Bible was, at least superficially, synonymous with white culture and power. It would be (mis)used to justify colonisation in Australia.
The co-option of Christian symbols by Western Christian empires has meant its core symbols have often been inverted in meaning. The great irony is that the cross worn as a symbol of power and victory by imperial soldiers was first the symbol of the unjust death of Jesus, a brown-skinned Jew killed by the Roman State. It was a shameful symbol in that culture, an image for a humiliating public death.
Had Trump read the text he held, he would have found a story of liberation for slaves, a divine preference for the poor, a demand of justice for the marginalised, a cry of lament from those who grieve, and a damning critique of any empire that oppressed its people.’
Some people have taken this passage to mean you shouldn’t take an oath in court- and in good conscience have made such a stand. I believe as a Christian there is a limit to an oath of allegiance to your nation, for example.
I think the last verse gives the clue to the meaning: ‘Let your Yes be Yes, or your No be No’- is a way of saying, ‘Be a person of such reliability in what you say that people will have confidence in what you say- that you’re telling the truth or that you’ll do what you say you’ll do.’
That doesn’t mean you have to be deadly serious and can’t joke around with language- with body language, a twinkle in your eye and all that goes into it. Or that circumstances can change so that you can’t keep a promise- and you might have to ask for or give forgiveness and grace.
Truth-telling is seen to be an important part of First and Second People Reconciliation in Australia which we’ve been talking about a bit lately.
There’s a good business principle to ‘Under-promise and Over-deliver.’
But what do you think? There’s another common saying ‘It’s better to be kind than right.’
While the principle is be truthful, when might it be the really loving thing to either- withhold the truth or tell a lie?
What about these case studies:
Husband is looking in the mirror and asks: ‘Does my bald spot look like it’s getting bigger?’
Partner after dinner asks: ‘How did you like my new recipe?’
Storm-trooper demands: ‘Where are your children?’
Police drug squad member asks ‘Have you noticed an unusual number of cars coming and going to that house next door?’
Prayers of the people
Dear God, we continue to pray for the world with this Covid-19. We pray for all who have the disease, those at risk from their work or from poverty, those working in research and policy-making, those with difficult decisions to make, those who have been left without work, the bereaved, the lonely and those for whom this has set off mental health issues. Give goodwill and wisdom to all leaders.
We pray for an end to racism and for better treatment of our Aboriginal people, including those for whom dispossession and disadvantage has led to crime and anti-social behaviour. We pray for refugees and asylum seekers. Give goodwill and wisdom to our leaders.
We pray for a better response to climate change and a deeper love for the earth.
We pray for the gospel to be heard and understood and received by more and more people. Lead us all into the remade world of your ‘Kingdom’ and help us hear your individual call to us.
We pray for the needs of our loved ones . . . . and ourselves . . .
Thanks for listening. We will look for your answers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
May you be blessed with love and tact and courage to tell the truth. May you be given the strength to say no to things that ask too much. May you be blessed with ability to do all that you need to do. And may you be so caught up in the Spirit of love that all this isn’t hard work, but your natural, joyful disposition.
In the name of Christ. Amen