Monthly Archives: March 2008

Episcopal visit to Centenary UC!

It’s not every day—indeed, not every decade—that a bishop of the Church of England preaches in a suburban Uniting Church congregation. But such was the case at Centenary UC yesterday!  

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is here to deliver the 2008 Rollie Busch lecture, entitled “Conviction and Conflict: Islam, Christianity and World Order”, and to dialogue with Mohamad Abdalla, of the Kuraby Mosque tomorrow at Griffith University.He is Bishop of Rochester, in Kent, and showed himself to be a gentleman and a gentle man when he visited us.

He preached an Easter message of real hope, and encouraged us as an Easter people in living and witnessing in continuity with the life and message of the first apostles. His sermon was not without humour—he wondered what it meant to come to a Uniting Church as a bishop of the C of E, and likened it to a recent invitation to the Tower of London. Two of his predecessors went to the Tower in times past, and did not emerge alive!

However, Bishop Michael did emerge alive from among us (none the worse for wear, thankfully!), and we are looking forward to his lecture tonight.

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Research discovers a new element

Can’t remember when and where from, but I found this some time ago. It’s still good!

A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. This new element has been tentatively named Administratium.

Administratium has no protons or electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0. However, it does have 1 neutron, 125 assistant neutrons, 75 vice neutrons, and 111 assistant vice neutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by a force called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Administratium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every action and reaction with which it comes into contact.

A minute amount of Administratium causes one reaction to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Administratium has a normal half-life of 3 years; it does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Administratium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization causes some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Administratium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration.  This hypothetical quantity is referred to as ‘Critical Mass’.

 

You will know it when you see it… 

 

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A modest proposal for growing the church

Let’s get a dog to lead the prayers. It seems to work here:  

 

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Attendance at a Buddhist temple in Japan has increased since the temple’s pet, a two-year-old dog, has joined in the daily prayers.

 

Conan, a Chihuahua, sits on his hind legs, raises his paws and puts them together at the tip of his nose. “He may be showing his thanks for treats and walks,” says a priest at Jigenin temple on Okinawa island. 

 

Priest Joei Yoshikuni would like Conan to meditate, but “it’s not like we can make him cross his legs”, he says. “Basically, I am just trying to get him to sit still while I meditate,” he told Associated Press news agency. 

 

Mr Yoshikuni said it only took Conan a few days to imitate the motions of praying. “I think he saw me doing it all the time and got the idea to do it too,” he said. 

 

Jigenin temple now gets 30% more visitors than it did before Conan joined in the prayers, Mr Yoshikuni said.   

 

 

What are we waiting for? Let’s train a chihuahua now!! 

 

  

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Batteries not included

There’s apparently an Orthodox tradition that on Easter Sunday afternoon, priests sit around, get drunk and tell jokes—because the victory has been won by Jesus Christ! They’re not going to be able to do that till 27 April, so for now, here’s a cartoon from the Wittenburg Door:   

 213d.gif

 

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Risen in us

Sermon for Easter Sunday

 

Matthew 28.1-10
 
In Matthew’s take on the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, as the women leave the tomb, they are met by the risen Lord Jesus with what must be the most understated greeting in all human history: “Greetings!”
 
Greetings? Greetings? Excuse me! Jesus had died. Dead. The women had gone to see the tomb where his body lay. An angel had rolled away the stone that covered the entrance. They left ‘with fear and great joy’—very mixed emotions—and suddenly, there is Jesus, risen and glorified in front of them. And all he can say is “Greetings”. You’d think he’d have a better line worked out.
 
Remember The Da Vinci Code, and its claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married? If you want any proof that they weren’t married, it’s here. If they were married, she would have shrieked, “How could you do this to me! How could you put me through all this worry? First you’re crucified, and I spend all Sabbath crying, and now you’re back, larger than life! And all you can say is ‘Greetings’?”
 
Mary doesn’t say any of these things. Therefore, they weren’t married.
 
But that’s not what I want to talk about today…

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Ah, but what about when the sun comes out?

 

Sermon for the Easter Vigil


 

Matthew 28.1-10
The Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon is a well-known minister in the Uniting Church, and someone I count as a friend. When she was the minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in the heart of Sydney, she wrote these words in her typical warm style:
 
Max is an old Aboriginal man and he lives in a pensioner’s hostel just down the street from us in Chippendale. Every day he is standing outside the door of the hostel as I walk past on my way to Redfern station. We always greet each other and exchange a few words. This day I was feeling rather tired and when Max said to me, “How are you, mate?”, I said, “I’m ok thanks Max, but it’s a bit wet today, isn’t it?” He smiled a beautiful smile, standing there in his bare feet and old clothes and he said, “Ah, but what about when the sun comes out?” I marvelled at the depth of his hope and his ministry to me.
 

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Poem from a Normandy crucifix of 1632

I found this wonderful poem on Bishop Alan’s Blog. It’s a wonderful meditation for Good Friday and Easter Saturday: 
 
I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain but you will not obey.
 
I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.
 
I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
I am your lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.
 
I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.
 
Charles Causley
From a Normandy crucifix of 1632
 

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New eyes, new tears

This is a story that has been around the traps for a while. I’ve given it a twist in the tail to make it explicitly a story of redemption, of how the cross works

 

Sermon for Good Friday


John 18.1—19.42  

At the end of time, billions of people stood together on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them, cringing with shame. But some groups near the front talked heatedly, with belligerence in their voices. 
 
“How can God judge us? How can God know about suffering?,” snapped a young woman. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beatings … torture … death!”
 
In another group a young black man lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being the wrong colour!”
 
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he had permitted in his world.
 
How lucky God was to live in heaven, where all was sweetness and light. Where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that people had been forced to endure in this world? God leads a sheltered life, they said.
 
So each of these groups sent forth their leaders, chosen because they had suffered the most. A Jew, a black man, a woman from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child, an AIDS victim. In the centre of the vast plain, they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case.
 
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a human being.
 
“Let him be born into a despised race. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a calling so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind.
 
“Let him be betrayed and deserted by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.
 
“At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die so there can be no doubt he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.”
 
As each leader announced his or her portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. When the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered a word. No one moved.
 
For suddenly, all knew that God had already served the sentence. And they looked again at God—this time with new eyes, sorrowful eyes that brimmed with tears, and—for the first time, but certainly not the last—they knelt in worship and gave themselves wholeheartedly to God.
 
 

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The Challenges and Opportunities of Islam in the West 2

When we hear about Islam in today’s world, it’s often articles like this one: Global outcry at death of Iraqi archbishop. We should all absolutely condemn this outrage, which has been attributed to al-Qaeda by Iraq’s prime minister.

Recently, I’ve seen another side of Islam at a 3-day symposium called Challenges and Opportunities of Islam in the West: The Case of Australia. There, we heard a keynote address by Tariq Ramadan in which he discussed three areas: Culture, Identity and Loyalty. This is my take on what he said:

Culture is not to be equated with religion. A religion exists in a culture, but culture is much wider. A Muslim is not defined by religion (just as a Christian is not).

Identity is not a single reality. A person is a child, parent, friend, Aussie, Liberal voter, Muslim … As in the case of culture, a person’s identity can not be reduced to a religious identity. All Muslims are not the same (just as all Christians are not).

Loyalty is something dear to Muslims, who see themselves as part of the umma, the world-wide fellowship of Moslem people. Yet loyalty to the umma should not be uncritical. If part of the umma is acting wrongly—e.g., in carrying out terrorist acts—others in the umma have a duty to speak out against it (just as Christians have a duty to speak out against offensive words spoken and acts done in the name of Christ).
 
Irfan Yusuf, another speaker at the symposium, and one with the skills of a stand-up comic, is one Moslem who is speaking out. I was interested in an article by Irfan the other day in the Sydney Morning Herald: Australian Islam needs an Aussie accent. If we’re looking for peace in the world, then I’d like to hear more of Irfan’s quest.

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Glory and shame

 

Sermon for Passion/Palm Sunday


Matthew 21.1-11; 27.11-54

 

Remember Michael Parkinson, the Yorkshire-born retired talk show host? In his younger years, he was a cricketer, and thought about making a living playing cricket for Yorkshire—every Yorkshire lad’s dream. He was turned down, and the rest is as they say, history. Parkinson’s dad was a coal miner, and Parkie talked about his dad’s attitude to his work on TV. His dad said to him,

  “Tha’s med some right good brass in that job o’ thine, lad.”

    —“Yes, dad, I make a lot of money,” said Michael.

  “An’ yeh nivver even ’ave teh brek a sweat.”

    —“No, dad, I don’t break a drop of sweat.”

  “It’s a right grand job, int it?”

    —“Yes, thanks dad, it is.”

  “But it’s no’ a patch on playin’ fo’ Yorkshire, is it lad?”

    —“No dad, it’s not.”

I suspect that when Michael Parkinson looks at what journalists do to sports figures, he’s not sorry he didn’t became a cricketer. Take the way Andrew Symonds has been in the news that past few weeks. He used to be reminded constantly that he was born in Birmingham, England, that England A wanted him to play for them, and his loyalty to Australia was suspect. We’ve long forgotten that. More recently, he’s a good guy, defending his right not to be racially vilified; then he’s criticised for for his on-field attitude and for shouldering a streaker. 

Successful sports figures live under a media microscope. One week, they’re the public’s heroes; the next, they’re stabbed in the back.

Now, Jesus didn’t play for Yorkshire, more’s the pity. He didn’t even play for Nazareth. But he knew both adulation and rejection, he went from hero to zero, and in the space of less than a week. 

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