Online Church

Waranga Uniting Churches have made all our Sunday gatherings online, following the closure of all church buildings in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The coronavirus has become a major global health issue, and we have been trying to determine the best response for us as a church family. With the help of technology, we hope to catch the Spirit and at the same time limit the risk of catching COVID-19. While we may have less opportunity to gather physically, we are committed to staying connected in care, prayer and worship.

These are not a slick productions, it is live and with open microphones. It is a real community meeting together for worship; we greet each other, we listen to the Scriptures, pray and sing. They can at times be chaotic, but we are always improving. They probably make poor viewing after the event, but as they say “You had to be there.” At our first online service, we had 57 people on Zoom and another 44 via YouTube streaming. Nice to see the church full! Since then it’s just got bigger and we’ve got better at using the technology to create a live online church experience.

The God within

Sunday 17th May 2020 – Streamed from Murchison UCA

 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands.” Acts 17:24

As our church buildings have been closed, we have had to reaffirm, rediscover and renew the truth that the church is people, not buildings. As the the early church put it, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house” I Peter 2:5

God lives within us. It is a shocking truth that we can easily forget. Broken and as fallible and fault-ridden as we are, God lives within us.

​Our meeting places are closed but we still meet together as the body of Christ and live and act as the church. We care for each other. We phone our neighbours to check on them. We pray alone and together. We seek and find faith, hope, meaning, grace and community. God is with us. God is in us.

In the second century, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, (130–202 A.D.) said that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”

God became human to make us divine!

Irenaeus also wrote, “If the Word became a man, It was so men may become gods.”

God in us transforms us to be like God.

To many modern Christians, words like “meditation,” “mystic,” and “mysticism” bring to mind Eastern religions, not Christianity. Consequently, most of us associate Eastern religions with mysticism but mysticism is a vital part of the Christian heritage as well. In fact, it is actually the core of Christian spirituality. Mysticism simply means the ‘spirituality of the direct experience of God.’

Direct experience of God is a kind of knowing that goes beyond intellectual understanding. It is not a about “belief.” It is not of the mind but of the heart. It is marked by love and joy but it is not just an “emotional experience. It is an experience of the divine that moves us to experience love and joy and consequently, a desire to give back to God.

Jesus proclaimed “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “ I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)

These are mystical words to be enjoyed and celebrated. They remind us that, just as the “Farewell Discourses” in John’s Gospel, that is, the love letters Jesus wrote to the disciples, tell us that God and Jesus are one, they also tell us that we are part of that One. God, Jesus and the Spirit, the divine three, are in us. We are, and we increasingly become part of the divine. Thanks be to God.

Faith in a time of uncertainty

Sunday 19th April 2020 – Streamed from Colbinabbin UCA

We are currently living in a time of uncertainty. I am 67 years old, I grew up when the Cold War was at its height with the Soviet Union and the USA pursuing the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, the Vietnam War raged, the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones voiced the disillusionment and anger of a generation that was alienated from the world my parents knew. We challenged authority. We broke the rules.

I’ve seen the Soviet Union collapse, the Berlin Wall fall down, the Apartheid system overthrown. I’ve learned to live with uncertainty. But I have never experienced or observed the sort of uncertainty that we are currently grappling with: a viral pandemic that is killing tens of thousands, destroying the economies of nations, disturbing our routine, challenging our expectations, and causing us to fear that “normal life” may never return.

We are in isolation. Fearful of every contact with the outside world. What can we depend on? Does anyone know the way out of the situation we are in? This Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 20:19-31) is set in the days immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion with stories circulating that he has risen from the grave. The remaining disciples are self-isolating in fear and Thomas is refusing to accept the reassurances of others. When everything is uncertain, how do we find the inner peace and confidence to move forward?

A word of hope for the unsure, nervous and overwhelmed.

Sunday 10th May 2020 – Streamed from Colbinabbin UCA

A regular message on my TV screen starts by saying “We are unsure, nervous and overwhelmed…”
If we were writing that message, we might include other feelings: fearful, anxious, tense, full of doubt, despairing.
Or we might acknowledge that we are struggling to endure the pandemic, longing for the restraints to be lifted.
‘How much longer, O Lord?’ we may cry.
Joan McRae will be our guest worship leader this Sunday. Joan is a very experienced lay preacher who regularly takes services for the Waranga Uniting Churches. This week Joan responds to the question, ‘In the light of the current world crises, how can it be Easter?’
As Joan explains, “Easter isn’t over? We are only halfway through the Great Fifty Days of Easter – it’s a season, not a day!”
It is Easter, and the joys of Resurrection victory colour the life of the Church. But in Easter 2020, there are two current world crises, as we are overwhelmed by climate change as well as COVID-19. For Australians there is also the crisis of the bushfires aftermath. And so we come to the readings for Easter 5. Perhaps John 14 leaps out, because we know the comforting words so well: ‘Do not let your heart be troubled!’ But, like the Rev’d Dr Jane Hunt, we may well be wondering ‘How can our heart not be troubled in these very troubling times?’
It’s a very good question, needing an answer.
As we consider the readings, we will see that all four are written by or to people in extreme distress, people desperately needing a refuge, needing help now!
So we will explore the readings together, to see how our faith interacts with the crises in our world. We will find Good News!
Join us as we as we explore what it is to embrace an abundance mentality as we seek to follow Jesus.

Does it have a happy ending?

Sunday 26th April 2020 – Streamed from Tatura UCA

My wife hates it if I tell her how a movie ends before she has seen it. She even hates watching the promos for an upcoming TV episode.

Why is it we don’t want to know? How is it that we enjoy the suspense, the uncertainty and fear we experience when watching a movie, when in real life we hate uncertainty? If I am driving, I like to know for sure that the route I have taken will lead me there. If I am buying a house or second-hand car I want to check it out thoroughly to remove the uncertainty and fear we feel about making such purchases. If I have had medical tests because the doctor has said “something’s there”, the uncertainty and anxiety caused by waiting and not knowing can be unbearable.

For millennia clairvoyants, prophets, shamans and now futurists have tapped into our desire to predict what is going to come. To remove the uncertainty that causes fear.

Soren Kierkegaard the Danish philosopher and theologian said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” That is we can only make sense of the events, joys, misfortunes and struggles of our lives as we look back sometimes many years later. In the meantime we must live our lives as best we can.

The resurrection stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples are very much about him helping them “understand it backwards” as they come to terms with very unexpected endings (and new beginnings).

Join us as we as we explore what it is to embrace the uncertainties of life with faith.

​Living the abundant life.

Sunday 3rd May 2020 – Streamed from 

The set bible readings for this coming Sunday (Easter 4) each have something to say about abundance and scarcity. These readings take on new meaning and ask us new questions in the light of our recent experiences of panic buying in response to the spread of Covid-19.

“My cup runneth over” Psalm 23

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2

Abundance mentality says that there is enough for everyone, so someone else’s gain is not your loss. Some people may have everything but they still feel poor. Some other may have less but they feel abundant.

Join us as we as we explore what it is to embrace an abundance mentality as we seek to follow Jesus.

Palm Sunday Service

Our Palm Sunday service started with high hopes. Lots of preparation, but were not prepared for the NBN to drop out just as the service proper began. Lots of patience needed as temporary work-arounds kept us going. Still so much to learn. But we meet. More than the previous week. It’s live. It’s real. It is the church meeting together to pray, sing and share together in this time of the Covid-19 Pandemic.