Monthly Archives: May 2008

The Wild Goose—Kate Rusby

Some more from Kate Rusby—this time, The Wild Goose, which is normally sung a little more raucously than the lovely version Kate has here…

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It’s Church Council tonight!!

From the ever-wonderful Dave Walker!!

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What? Me worry?

Sermon for 25 May ’08

Matthew 6.24-34

A young lad once said to me he wanted to be a Uniting Church minister when he grows up. I was delighted, and asked him why—he said that Uniting Church ministers get to go on planes all the time, and he wanted to do that too, just like me.

In the interests of honesty and transparency, I had to tell him that most ministers don’t get to fly too often.

I’ve flown a bit as a minister, though not as much now as I used to. Some years ago though, I found myself sitting on the tarmac in Sydney, waiting to come home after a meeting. I was used to flying. But suddenly, I felt very, very anxious. I started to feel panicky about flying.

I decided to pray. I cried out to God from the depths, Help me! Stop me from feeling this way! It didn’t work. I felt just as anxious. I berated myself, telling myself very sensibly that I’d flown dozens of times before and survived. I felt just as anxious. Continue reading

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The strong name of the Trinity

I found this great version of the Breastplate of St Patrick on the very interesting Seven whole days blog. It’s a very moving video; I wish I knew about it before Trinity Sunday this year!

Never mind, it’s never too late to praise the triune God:

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The heart’s centre

I’m reading a wonderful little book by Mark Galli called Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy.

At one point Galli talks about how the liturgy helps us to know God—not an intellectual knowledge alone, not just a knowledge of the heart, but a knowledge that excites imagination. He quotes St Paul (1 Corinthians 2.11-12, here from NRSV):

For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.

He then says,

Oxford scholar Stratford Caldecott aptly called [the knowledge of God] sobria ebrietas (“drunken” sobriety)—both “ecstatic, rapturous” and at the same time “measured, ordered, dignified. It is an encounter with the Other which takes the heart out of itself and places it in another centre.”

In other words, this is the knowledge the Bible usually talks about, deeply personal, so deep it is mysterious, so personal that it manifests love.

This is a really evocative passage for me. Galli has nailed love here—it is the heart’s centre being placed in another, and their heart’s centre being placed in us. It applies to human love, and to the love God has for us and we return to God. The centre of our heart is placed in God, and—amazingly!—the centre of God’s heart, the Spirit, is placed in us.

Drunken sobriety, indeed.


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In the Name

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Matthew 28.16-20

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You hear a loud knock-knock-knock on your door. A loud voice cries: “Open up in the name of the law!”

What do you do? Would you open up?

Or, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You hear a loud knock-knock-knock on your door. A loud voice cries: “Open up in the name of God!”

What do you do? Would you open up?

Or, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. You hear a loud knock-knock-knock on your door. A loud voice cries: “Open up in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!”

What do you do? Would you open up?

If someone knocked on my door in the name of the law, I’d open it and peer around. Very nervously. I wouldn’t want to run foul of the law’s authority.

If someone knocked on my door in the name of God, I’d assume they were in dire straits. I’d open the door expecting to meet someone in great need.

If someone knocked on my door in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I’d wonder what on earth was going on. I’d wonder it was a cross between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Vicar of Dibley outside. I’d sneak a look around the curtains before I opened my door. (Or maybe I’d send my wife out…!)

It’s a strange name, “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” It sounds like it should be three names, but it’s not. It’s just the one name—the Father, Son and Spirit have one name between them. Continue reading

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Ey oop an’ away

If Yorkshire Airlines existed, this is just how I imagine it would be! Hilarious!! 

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The Spirit Season

Sermon for Pentecost

John 7.37-39; Acts 2.1-21

There are a few more people here this week! Last week, some of our number were at the annual tent camp at Bigriggen, just down the road from Rathdowney. (And turn right, and then a left, and continue down the road, and if you’re lucky, it’s just… Well, you get the idea.)

The Jewish people have an annual tent camp too. It’s called the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths. It’s a harvest festival, and Jewish people are meant to live in a tent or a hut for the week of the festival. It’s not that easy sometimes to pitch a tent!—I read a fabulous book by AJ Jacobs earlier this year called The Year of Living Biblically. The author is a New Yorker who says that the book is

about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible—as literally as possible. I obey the famous ones:

• The Ten Commandments
• Love thy neighbor
• Be fruitful and multiply

But also, the hundreds of oft-ignored ones.

• Do not wear clothes of mixed fibers.
• Do not shave your beard
• Stone adulterers

When it came to October, time for the Feast of Tabernacles, Jacobs was in a fix. Where could he erect a tent to live in for a week in New York City? On the roof of his building? Central Park? Neither place seemed like a good idea. In the end, he set up a pup tent in the living room of his apartment, and at bedtime he tried to get as much of his body as he could into it.

It was the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7, and Jesus was in Jerusalem. During this week-long festival, the high priest would pour out bowls of water at the altar. So it comes as no surprise that Jesus uses the image of water:

‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’

What are these flowing, sparkling, living rivers of water? They are the Holy Spirit… Continue reading

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Desert Fathers and Mothers 10

The kids of today…

An old man said, ‘The prophets wrote books, then came our Fathers who put them into practice. Those who came after them learnt them by heart. Then came the present generation, who have written them out and put them into their window seats without using them.’

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Which Pentecostal Bird for Oz?

It’s Pentecost on Sunday, and I’m distracting myself from the uncomfortable feeling that I don’t know what to preach about, given the rices of what’s available. I’m doing that by wondering which Aussie bird would make a good symbol for the Holy Spirit. I have an idea—the cockatoo—but it’s for the most superficial of reasons.

When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit came upon him “like a dove” (Matthew, Mark) or “in bodily form like a dove” (Luke). The dove is the standard biblical bird-image of the Spirit, and of course for us has connotations of peace.

Dove at Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

Dove at Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

The ancient Celtic Christians fastened on a wilder image for the Holy Spirit in the goose. The wild goose is uncontrollable and unpredictable. A terrifically evocative image for God’s untamed Spirit, who leads us to places we never thought we’d go!

Greylag geese

Greylag Geese


What about Australia? An obvious candidate would be the kookaburra, wild, with that fabulous laugh that both annoys and lifts the spirits. Perhaps it should be the kookaburra. But I favour the cockatoo because of the scene in closing minutes of the 2001 satire The Man who sued God where you see the ‘dove’ flying high above, but then realise as the bird reveals its comb that this Holy Spirit image is no dove, but a sulphur-crested cockatoo! There’s something of the larrikin in this that suits the Aussie temperament, I think! (I told you my reasons were superficial…)

Sulphur crested cockatoos

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos


What do you think the Aussie image could be, if it were other than the dove?

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