Sermon: Responding to the American Presidential Election

A typically fine post-Trump sermon from Avril Hannah-Jones.

Rev Doc Geek

Sermon for Williamstown

13th of November, 2016

Isaiah 65:17-25

Today I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and talk about party politics from the pulpit. I talk about politics all the time: about the treatment of asylum seekers; and about the way the poor and dispossessed are often ignored by the rich and entitled; and about the need for Christians to oppose all forms of racism and discrimination because every single human being is a beloved child of God. I don’t think there’s any doubt that talking about those sorts of issues is appropriate for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. But what I have never done before is talked about a particular politician. That’s the line I’m crossing today. Today I’m going to talk about the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.

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Catch the vision (Do we lament or do we grumble?) (Year C, 30 October 2016)

 

When Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ place, Luke says (19.7),

All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

Grumbling must be pretty well universal. We read that Israelites grumbled when they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

People grumble about all sorts of things: school or work, asylum seekers, the in-laws, slow internet speeds, the Brisbane Lions, their smart phone freezing, politics, kids. And they also grumble about other people who grumble all the time.

When people grumble to one another, they often feel a bit better. Someone else feels the way they do! They feel that they must be right, after, all their friends agree with them!

But you know, despite all that the bible isn’t too fond of grumbling. For example, James 5.9 says

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!

Grumbling is never helpful in church life. No matter how right we feel, no matter that all our friends agree with us.

I must have been a bit of a grumbler when I was a kid; I have strong memories of mum telling me ‘Stop your moaning!’ It’s easy to grumble when things aren’t going right. Right?

I think I certainly would’ve have grumbled if my parents had named me Habakkuk—but you know, the prophet Habakkuk wasn’t one to grumble.

Your  may think he was a grumbler. After all, he wrote

‘O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?’                          Habakkuk 1.1–2

But when Habakkuk said this, he wasn’t grumbling. It might sound like it, but he wasn’t. He was lamenting. What’s the difference between the two? Lamenting?—grumbling?—it all sounds the same… Continue reading

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Why I Must Oppose Donald Trump: One Priest’s Perspective

A good reflection on voting as a Christian in the US context.

As a citizen of a client state, this is of great importance to me.

Saved Together

I am becoming more convinced that the era of argument is over. Whether in the public sphere, or sadly, even among family and friends, or communities I have witnessed the very swift decline of exchange of ideas, benefit of doubt, and allowance of nuance. I have certainly been guilty of contributing to this decline, perhaps even as I sit down to write this blog post. But I think about this a great deal when I reflect on why I feel such a heavy weight about discourse on issues, on politics, on morality or ethics. Certainly “there is nothing new under the sun” and I have recognized there is a definite hubris in thinking of the current era as being more significant, better or worse, than others. However I must admit that I have felt the weight more acutely of the disconnect, the fog, the fear, in the past few years…

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Peace is no possession (Pentecost, Year C, 29 May 2016)

Reading
John 14.8–27

Jesus says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.’ Peace is his gift to us. Yet many of his people lack peace today.

Why, I wonder?

A sense of peace of mind, peace at heart, brings confidence and abolishes worry. A sense of peace enables us to overcome difficulties. People sense it when they are around a person who is at peace. Such people can radiate peace to others. It’s a great gift, left to us by Jesus himself. So why hasn’t everyone got it? Why would anyone lack peace?

Well, it’s got to do with what Jesus says next.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

We can’t have have peace when we let our hearts be troubled, or afraid.

The trouble is, we’re targets for troubling messages. They zero in on us like heat-seeking missiles. Especially during an election campaign. The messages we receive are worry bombs.

We worry about asylum seekers, who are wrongly called illegal immigrants. We stop the boats to stop the worry, but then we must close our hearts to people whose lives are made unendurable in offshore detention centres.

We worry about climate change, and wonder what we can do.

We worry about tax, about jobs, about our security as we get older.

The more we worry, the more troubled we are, the less peace we have.

Jesus says,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.

What is peace? We say that there is peace when there is no war; but in the scriptures, peace is so much more than the absence of strife.

Peace is wholeness. Peace is wellbeing. Peace is the result of justice and righteousness.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to live in peace with others (Romans 12.18):

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Paul knows we can’t be at peace with everyone, all the time; but he says ‘if it is possible, so far as it depends on you’—be at peace with everyone.

There is no place in the Christian life for a believer to be a troublemaker. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’

Peace is meant to characterise our lives when we belong to Jesus. It’s his gift to us, not something that we can ignore or throw away.

We sense that we have this gift through the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate, our Comforter and Counsellor. Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God; the Spirit intercedes for us from within our spirit.

Jesus is no longer here in the flesh, but he has not left us alone. His Spirit is with us.

It seems to me that life in the Spirit has two dimensions. We receive, so we can give. It’s like breathing in the peace of Jesus Christ, then breathing out peace to others. In, and out. In and out. It is no accident that in Hebrew and Greek, the languages of the Bible, the word for ‘spirit’ and ‘breath’ are exactly the same.

A man told me a while ago that he is a Buddhist because Buddhism is a path that you walk, while Christianity is about what you believe. But that’s a false contrast.

We need to walk a spiritual path if we want to feel the peace of Jesus. We don’t screw our eyes up and believe ourselves into walking the path; we walk the path and find our faith strengthened. Jesus put it this way:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments…They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.  (John 14.15, 21)

What is the path of the Spirit? It is simple: it is receiving so we can give.

We receive Christ’s peace. It’s already ours, it’s a gift. So we receive it. We allow the peace of Christ to be real to us, more real than all the troubling messages that are thrown at us. More real than the very real difficulties we may be facing. We receive what we already have, Christ’s peace.

And we receive so we may give it out to others. The peace of Christ is not ours to hoard up!

The Lord doesn’t want me to have peace in my heart all alone; he wants us to be at peace with one another. He doesn’t want me to keep ‘my’ peace all to myself alone in my room; he wants me to be a peacemaker.

Peace is not a possession, a ‘thing’ that we ‘have’; peace needs to be exercised like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the more we have to give away. In fact, peace is like a river that flows through us to others.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

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The risen crucified One among us

Or, What on earth is the Resurrection?

 

…where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.                             Matthew 18.20

Then I saw…a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered….
Revelation 5.6

The Church preaches Christ the risen crucified One and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
from the Basis of Union, Para.3

 

Today, I want to ask a question I can’t answer, not this Sunday and not even in a month of Sundays. But even so, it’s still a very good question to ask.

The question is this: What is the Resurrection?

It’s a deceptively simple question. Only one word has more than one syllable. But ‘Resurrection’ is a big word.

How can we think about the Resurrection of Jesus?

Is the Resurrection a happy ending to a sad story? It could easily look that way; and the story has been told that way. Everyone was sad on Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday they were happy once more because Jesus was alive again. But the Resurrection is no happy ending. Most of those first witnesses lost their lives because of the Resurrection.

Well, maybe the Resurrection a proof of life after death? Again, the story has been told that way. But that’s not how the Gospels tell it. The risen Jesus doesn’t talk about heaven. He instructs his people to make disciples of all nations, baptise and teach them. He forgives Peter, telling him to feed his sheep. He gives his peace to disciples who had let him down big time. He makes them breakfast. He helps them to be unafraid of death. He points them towards a transformed life here and now on earth.

Well, the empty tomb may be the clue we need. Does the empty tomb prove the Resurrection? No, it does not. I realised this with a big thump the day after my father’s funeral. I had returned to his grave to make a quiet space to pray. It struck me then that had my dad’s grave been empty, I would not have immediately concluded that he had risen from the dead. I would have made the ghastly assumption that someone had stolen his body, and called for the police.

The Easter stories in the Gospels are exactly the same. When the women see the empty tomb, they do not immediately assume that Jesus has been raised from death. They have to be told the news. Told by an Angel of the Lord (Matthew), a young man in white (Mark), two men in dazzling clothes (Luke) or a ‘gardener’ who was Jesus himself (John).

The women didn’t believe that Jesus was risen because the tomb was empty. They believed because they had a life-changing encounter with the Christ who had been crucified and who is now risen.

And there were other encounters.

Remember the two who were joined by a stranger on their miserable way to Emmaus? He made their hearts burn as he opened the scriptures on the way, showing how the Messiah should suffer; and then, at the table they knew him in the breaking of the bread. Today, we may encounter the Lord in the same way, in these means of grace he has given us, the scriptures and the eucharist.

Remember Thomas? Thomas wasn’t convinced that Jesus had been raised from the grave—but he was fully convinced when he saw the wounds that had been inflicted upon Jesus. I too have met people who have responded to the wounds that life has brought by allowing themselves to be transformed into being more Christlike. I have seen the risen crucified Lord in them.

Remember the disciples by the lake? Jesus made them breakfast. There are people who the Lord shines through because they know how to gladly serve others.

The Uniting Church’s Basis of Union calls the Lord ‘the risen crucified One’ (Para.3). When we speak of the risen Lord, we must always remember what the empty tomb does tell us: that it is the crucified One who is risen. The risen Lord hasn’t set the cross aside. He hasn’t put it in a cupboard somewhere. The body of Jesus is not something separate from his living presence. Jesus is the risen crucified One.

Jesus once said ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’. He is here as the risen crucified One.

You may wonder why I’m labouring the point so much.

Jesus is the risen crucified One. Everything that brought Jesus to the Cross is risen with him. Everything that caused him to be crucified is raised with him:

  • his preaching of God’s coming kingdom
  • his healing of the sick and the oppressed, which pointed to the kingdom
  • his parables, that shattered human expectations of God and caused those who could hear to open their hearts to God
  • his compassion for the poor and those on the margins of society
  • his forgiving of sins
  • his opposition to religious hypocrisy
  • his intimate knowledge of God his Father—and now, through him, our Father

All of this is raised in Jesus. It’s not just a happy ending, or the resuscitation of a corpse. It is eternal life itself embodied in the risen crucified Lord Jesus Christ.

That is who is in our midst today, and wherever two or three gather in his name.

And Jesus brings his friends along. Remember the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25? The nations are arrayed before the King. They are judged on one thing: did they act with compassion towards the poor? Did they

  • feed the hungry
  • give water to the thirsty
  • welcome the stranger
  • clothe the the naked
  • take care of the sick
  • visit the prisoner

Because, Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

When Jesus the risen crucified One is in the midst of the two or three who gather in his name, he brings his family along. He brings the poor, the sick, the detained and the starving. He bears their wounds in his risen crucified body and calls his church to share the work.

And he also bears our wounds. We are not yet what we shall be. We still die. In 1 Corinthians (15.25–26), the Apostle Paul says Christ

must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

We still look for the fullness, the completion of Christ’s work. In the meantime, by faith we share in the overcoming of death as we look to God for eternal life.

Some Christians are embarrassed by their wounds, or even put to shame. They think that God will bless them so much that nothing bad should happen to them. That is not right. We know Jesus as the risen crucified One. He bears our wounds in his.

We belong to the risen crucified Lord, and he will complete the work he has begun in us. But right now, we walk with him by faith; we look to him for help and for strength, and as the Funeral Service says, we live

in sure and certain hope
of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died, was buried, and rose again for us.
To God be glory forever.

Amen.

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A longish rant about the changes to the Senate Ballot, because WHAT COULD BE MORE EXCITING???

Andrew P Street on the exciting thing that is Australian politics 😳

Source: A longish rant about the changes to the Senate Ballot, because WHAT COULD BE MORE EXCITING???

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Sermon for Advent 2: Peace

Source: Sermon for Advent 2: Peace

This wonderful sermon has a brilliant beginning, which I wish I’d thought of first. I shall certainly pinch it one day. Read the whole thing; I found it a blessing and you may also.

Thanks, Avril.

 

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