Monthly Archives: January 2008
Like many Aussies, I’ve been watching the fracas between the Australian and Indian teams with horrified interest. Harbhajan Singh was accused and found guilty of racial vilification against Andrew Symonds. On appeal, that charge was dropped in favour of a charge of non-racial verbal abuse. This resulted in a three-match ban being lifted, and Harbhajan forced to hand over half his match takings of $3 000, a much lesser penalty.
As usual, Eureka St magazine has provided us with some great reflections, in an article by Andrew Hamilton. (You could do worse than bookmarking Eureka St.) Here is some of it; click here for the rest:
If you want to reflect on the conflict between the Indian and Australian teams, for example, you could do worse than detour past the Tower of Babel. It is one of a cycle of stories that tell how God’s love always intervenes to rescue humanity from the destructive consequences of its bloody-mindedness.
The Tower of Babel is an image of the capacity of technology to disturb deep human values. In the story the discovery of bricks and mortar has made possible the construction of towers and the shaping of cities. New technology and a shared language inspire a concerted effort to build a tower that will reach to heaven—God’s world. God responds to this vaulting ambition by confusing the people’s languages.
At first sight, this story seems to say that a controlling God punishes human beings for their cheeky pride in technology and human progress. But in context it is more subtle. Although these early stories in the Book of Genesis represent God as intervening from outside, their deeper concern is to show the inner dynamics of human action. God is about relationships, and the stories return human beings to relationships.
The point of this story is that new technology focuses human beings narrowly on domination and on power. They see human fulfilment in these terms. The new technologies and the consequent change in economic relationships inspire great concerted projects. But the narrow focus on domination and technical expertise destroys the conditions that allow people to cooperate. They need to rediscover the priority of relationships, and particularly the relationship with God that relativises instrumental goals…
On the bright side, this has given us a new collective noun for cricket players: a babel of cricketers!
Sermon for the Third Sunday after Epiphany
1 Corinthians 1.10-18
Let me tell you about an experience during the week. I was looking in a song book for songs about unity, and so I looked up the index in the book. There in the index, under the heading Unity, what did it say? It said: see The Church. Is that where you look first?
I spent part of Australia Day at a meeting between the Uniting Church Queensland Synod’s Ecumenical Relations Committee (ERC) and representatives of the Mosque at Kuraby. There were 20 of us; 13 Christians, 7 Moslems. I must say I met some wonderful, articulate Moslem men today. I am looking forward to further contact.
The first meeting our groups held (which I couldn’t attend) was at Friday prayers at the mosque, where member of the ERC observed the prayers and then talked with out Moslem friends about the experience. They then retired to a barbecue!
It was our turn today. We met at the Broadwater Rd Uniting Church for a service of Holy Communion, observed by the Moslem members of the group, after which they asked questions and then we had lunch together. This was followed by a challenging film called The Imam and the Pastor, about two men in Nigeria who suffered under violence inflicted by Christians and Moslems upon one another, and then found the grace to forgive each other. They now have an interfaith work for peace in Nigeria.
It was my privilege to preach a short sermon today at the Eucharist. Here it is:
I was not able to be at the last meeting of our two groups, but I would like again on behalf of the Ecumenical Relations Committee of the Uniting Church to welcome members of the Kuraby Mosque here today, and to return your recent hospitality to us. And I’d like to briefly speak about hospitality. I want to touch on the hospitality we have received from God; from the indigenous people of Australia; and how we Christians receive hospitality from our Lord Jesus Christ…
In the Church catholic, today is the Conversion of St Paul. (Oh, and also my mum’s 81st birthday—Hi, Mum!) We don’t do the Conversion of St Paul in the Uniting Church, we have enough to do what with this and that and the other thing.
Gerard Hughes, author of wonderful books like God of Surprises, has produced this reflection for the day. Read it, you know it’s good for you.
(For those who hoped this blog would be about the conversion of Paul Walton, sorry. Keep praying…)
Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 42.1-7 & 49.1-9
‘Ich dien.’ This is the motto of the Prince of Wales, currently of course, Prince Charles—Ich dien, ‘I serve’. I worked some years ago now at the Prince Charles Hospital; its motto is taken from the Prince of Wales: it is, ‘We serve’.
I remember a conversation with a member of staff way back then, over 25 years ago now. He said he hated the hospital’s motto. ‘I am no one’s servant!’ he said. I was taken aback by the violent tone of his words, spoken as they were over a cup of tea and a biscuit in the morning tea room.
Though I have often failed to put it into practice, I loved the motto. I’m sure that it was inspired by the words of Jesus: ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant’ (Matthew 20.26).
Who wants to be a servant? Not I, not in myself—it’s not something I would ever have thought up for myself. As a child, when I wondered about what I’d do when I was grown up, ‘servant’ was not at the top of the list. I can understand where that man was coming from, the one who hated the motto of the Prince Charles Hospital, We serve. And yet now I am a minister—and ‘minister’ simply means ‘servant’. A ‘minister of the Word’ is a servant of Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh.
Yet it’s not just me. That call to serve is extended to all Christians. To each and every one. Our very baptism is a sign of our being ‘in Christ’, in the one whose life and death was characterised and stamped by service to others and to God. Jesus Christ was the servant of God. We follow the Servant.