Letters to the editor – September 2018

Creative approach

Evolution is anathema to some Christians, but it doesn’t rule out creation. It’s obvious that many species have evolved over millennia for we have archaeological evidence to prove it; but it doesn’t disprove creation.

Creation is not finished; creation is an ongoing process – it didn’t all happen in six days and then remain static thereafter.

Proof of this can be seen in ice-ages coming and going, sea levels fluctuating (the Mediterranean Sea basin being dry in some ages), coastlines changing, and continental drift that has seen the continents moving away from Gondwanaland.

All this is obviously part of God’s plan for the progression of his marvellous creation.

Melva Stott
Anglesea, Vic

With respect

I was distressed to read the letter from Alexander Drysdale (August) in response to Greg James’s July letter, for two reasons.

First, to say that “Mr James has no right to attempt to postpone Assembly decisions” ignores the Uniting Church understanding that faithful Christians do have the right to engage with the councils of the church and their processes.  

I am the minister in Mr James’s church, and fully supportive of his desire to express his concerns and convictions. I believe he did so appropriately. He and I have different views on this issue, as well as a great deal of respect for each other as brothers in Christ.

Alexander Drysdale’s letter reads to me like: If you don’t like it, leave”, or “get over it”, or sentiments along those lines, which I’m really sad to read in a letter to a Uniting Church publication.

As a member of Assembly, one of the most inspiring things for me was the way in which we held in grace and respect people who were expressing different convictions from our own, recognising their faithful discipleship of Christ alongside our own. I believe we heeded the command of Jesus for whenever two or more of us gather: “I am in your midst – so act like it!” (Matthew 18:20). I hope to see that same approach reflected in the ways we talk to each other in all aspects of the church’s life, including the letters we write.

Rod Peppiatt
Launceston, Tas

Service review

“Evangelism is a bit of a dirty word these days in the Uniting Church,” Rev Dr Robyn Whitaker is quoted as saying in the July issue of Crosslight.

 “Religion of any kind is deeply important to people’s lives, cultures and communities,” she adds.

Most people equate religion with its public face as seen in church services each Sunday morning in every suburb and town. What then do the public observe which reflects the importance of religion? Many in the community say they are spiritual but not religious and certainly see no need to celebrate in any communal gathering.

Do we in the Uniting Church need to revisit the traditional format of Sunday services to better reflect our mission?

I would like to see the columns of Crosslight addressing this issue with examples of what congregations throughout the synod are doing to engage with their communities. The “Synod Snaps” page gives a hint of this with its photos of messy church, the icon school, creative religious artworks or intergenerational ministry.

As Dr Whitaker states: “We need to listen to the experiences of each other.”

Alan Ray
Mont Albert, Vic

Right confession

Can I tell Kim Searle (Crosslight, August) a story?

A man came to Jesus and accepted him as his saviour. He tried his best, but he was having trouble with one particular sin and he asked for forgiveness every time he prayed. After one particular prayer session he heard a voice saying, “What sin?”

We believe, in fact we know, that we are sinners. But Jesus came to us and lived a perfect life so that when he died he could take on the full burden of our sin. The Scripture confirms this in so many places when we all acknowledge that he is our saviour. He died for us so that we could be free.

That does not give us carte blanche to continue to sin and do what we like, as Paul so eloquently teaches us.

The point is that we are forgiven anyway! Confession on a Sunday (or at any time) should be renamed ‘A Sinner’s Acknowledgement’. If we can come to God, who has already forgiven us, to acknowledge our sins, it brings this to the front of our minds and shows that we are aware of our errors and, in so doing, acknowledge that we have a reason, a motive, to do better. To try and live as Jesus lived. If we are going to carry around our burden and not leave it to him to lift then we are the failures by not understanding and, therefore, the most miserable.

I don’t rejoice in being a sinner. I rejoice that in Jesus, who lives in me, I have found a saviour and a friend. He listens to me as I recall my failings and guides and strengthens me as to how I can do better with never any suggestion that I am a disappointment in his eyes.

That is my comfort and I rejoice every day that I live in trying to do my best for him. What other reason is there for being here?

Alexander Drysdale
Lyndhurst, VIC

A thought in response to Mrs Searle’s comment on the prayer of confession in August Crosslight.

The main problem with prayers of confession is that they typically invite us to self-examination. If the prayer lists a number of things I might have done, I can nod or shake my head as they’re mentioned. If I don’t recognise a problem, I conclude that there isn’t one. If I do, I confess it and imagine myself justified before God.

Confession, however, is best when it catches us by surprise – when I find God convicting me of something I hadn’t considered to be a problem. This might even be something I considered a good thing, attributed to God as a gift or a right I can enjoy. Such conviction will almost never happen when the confession is the first or second prayer in a service. This is typically because God hasn’t said anything yet – it’s just the worship leader speaking, or me inside my head – so we can scarcely have had the surprise God brings.

There is, then, very good sense in praying the prayer of confession after the readings and sermon, because their work is to bring good news in contrast to our bad news. The good news in the sermon will be an offered release from some bad thing I couldn’t imagine was a thing from which I could be, or needed to be, released.

When the prayer of confession reflects the concrete word of God proclaimed, it might actually touch the hearts of those praying it because God – in the readings, the sermon, etc. – has already laid the ground for praying such things.

If the confession prayer does not touch us in this way, it may not be the prayer which is the problem.

Craig Thompson (Rev Dr)
Congregation of Mark the Evangelist,
North Melbourne, Vic

In response to Mrs Searle, and with complete respect to her, God made man in his image and not the other way around, as she suggests when she states that the church needs to, “portray an understanding of God suitable for our time”. God doesn’t change.

Attending church is not just a practice we do, it is supposed to further our relationship with him. This is why we present ourselves as an offering to hear his words and see ourselves in his light, not our own. Otherwise why go?

As she has written, “God’s love that makes us feel of worth” is not based on our love to him, but his love for us. The Bible puts it in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith. And this is not of yourselves, but is the gift of God.”

Throughout the letters of John, the emphasis that we are not made right by our own righteousness but God’s is clearly shown. That is the way we know we are born of God and have our minds fixed on him and his ways.

How can we love God without acknowledging our sin first as in 1 John 1: 6, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness (of sin), we lie and the truth is not in us.”?

And going to church reminds us of this; we can then love others properly and unselfishly as Ms Searle believes. This happens when the truth of the Bible is delivered and God is at the centre of our hearts. If the Bible is not a book of facts or truth, how can it or anything a Christian believes be accurately worth sharing because we are only fooling ourselves and no one should believe? But this is not the Gospel.

The creeds and confessions are like communion, we don’t have it because we are crucifying Jesus every time but, as the Bible states, we do it to remember Jesus’s sacrifice and thank Him for what He has done and then live accordingly. Our sins are already forgiven, but how can we know that they are forgiven if we don’t look to God for it first?

Joseph Adams
Skye, Vic

Good read

I am touched by the diversity and depth of stories Crosslight shares with us about people finding, searching and sharing God’s love in the ordinary world around them. From the Kids Hope mentoring work that changes life for despairing children, to the families’ reunion in Uganda that showed hope and kindness despite years of war, to the warm feedback from international guests about the UCA Assembly consensus process. Thank you also for Katharine Massam’s incredibly insightful article about the (selective) stories we create and then live within (for better or worse!), and lastly the beautiful and touching story of Sharon Hollis as she forged on into a new chapter of her life as Moderator, not even knowing if she could be put back together after losing her husband – just trusting the giftedness and belovedness we see in others (and they see in us). In that openness, of course, we find love and the fullness of life.

I’m blessed to read this enlightening, inspiring journal every month!

Ray Thomas
Euroa, Vic

Well done

The Uniting Church in Australia sees the dawning of a most brilliant progressive all-inclusiveness in acceptance and cultural values, in this, Australia’s new age of same gender-marriage.

How proud am I to be a part of our Uniting Christian community that invites new idealism, opening the doors towards marital unification for all.

This surely sets a transformative tone to invite new members with developing hope in Christian faith to step forward, joining the ranks of our all-inclusive Uniting Church; standing alongside our loving and compassionate brothers and sisters.

How amazing is the evolution of faith; broadening the scope and strengthening the support for lessons in authentic unbiased love. This extends the opportunities to teach and be taught Christ-like qualities regarding tolerance, compassion, community and love.

The power the new validation has will be to unify those who have felt unheard, unnoticed, unappreciated and voiceless. They can now find a champion and leader in the Uniting Church’s progressive faith.  This exemplifies the same teachings of love, compassion and inclusivity that Christ had for all.

Russell Hawkins
Frankston, Vic 

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