Sermon for 31 August ’08
I thought I’d talk a little about two things today—something from the presbytery retreat Jenny T and I went to last week; and Moses.
One of the things we talked about on the retreat was transitions. That is, going through transitions, or through ‘in-between’ times and spaces.
Ancient explorers knew about in-between spaces. They’d have a map, and at its edge, the place in-between the known and the unknown, would be the words, Here be Dragons. Or the hero would have to cross a bridge—a clear in-between space—but guarding the bridge would be a guard to fight, or a wizard who would ask three riddles. You know, If you would pass by me, first you must answer these riddles three. If the hero were lucky, there’d merely be a three-headed dog or a fire-breathing dragon to slay.
Once you’ve stepped into this in-between space, the normal ways of operating no longer work; in fact, they are counter-productive. But you haven’t got to the new place yet. You don’t know what the house rules are in the new place, you only know you’ve left the old behind. And it can be scary.
Sermon for 24 August ’08
We all have dreams for our children. Little things like, oh, health, happiness, success in their chosen field and finding a good life partner all stand pretty high on the list of what we want for them.
To put it another way, we don’t want them to suffer, we don’t want them to be unemployed, we don’t want them to be in danger. Yet we can’t ensure that. We can’t keep them out of harm’s way for ever.
I’m sure the ancient Hebrews were just like us, in that they wanted the best for their children. It may have been a spare chisel, a nicely-swept dirt floor in their one-room house, a spare tunic—but they wanted the best they could do.
It wasn’t enough, of course—a new king of Egypt, a new pharaoh, came to power who had forgotten the good things the people of Israel had done in the past for Egypt. He enslaved them, and put them to forced labour. He persecuted them, and ordered that their newborn boys should be killed. It’s hard to look at James, just-baptised today, and know that this was the fate of other babies just as innocent.
Sermon for 10 August ’08
Let me tell you a story. It was January 1991, the first Gulf War, remember that? My daughter Erin was five going on six going on twenty six. The TV news was showing the late Saddam Hussein at prayer, kneeling and bowing low to the ground on his prayer mat.
“What’s that man doing, daddy?” asked Erin.
“He’s praying,” I said, “that’s how they pray where he comes from.”
“Does he want the war to end?” asked Erin.
“No,” I replied, “he wants it to continue.”
“Then why is he praying?” was Erin’s reply, which astounded me then and astounds me still.
Sermon for 3 August ’08
Remember the Enid Blyton books? As a boy I used to read the Famous Five books while looking out of the lounge room window at a cold, dismal, grey, wet, windy, miserable Yorkshire summer day, wishing I could join the Five in the perpetual sunshine on one of their smashing picnics, which always had thick-cut ham and turkey sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, with simply super currant buns with thick freshly-churned butter and strawberry jam, and lashings and absolute lashings of ginger beer.
It very nearly didn’t happen that day when Jesus was surrounded by well over 5000 hungry people. There was nothing, not even a sausage, let alone lashings of ginger beer. Yet the people were fed, when five loaves and two fish fed the multitude.