Monthly Archives: September 2008

Humility 101

Sermon for 28 September ’08

Philippians 2.1-13

Though he was in the form of God, [Christ] did not regard equality with God  as something to be exploited…

These are the opening words of a song. I don’t mean a song that was based on the scriptural text. Bible scholars tell us that these words begin a song, well-known to the Philippian believers, that goes from chapter 2 verse 6 to verse 11. The song is the biblical text. Paul was quoting it to the Philippians, reminding them of its words. The song describes the one who let go of all his privilege and, humbling himself, becoming one with us; and going even further still: dying the death of a criminal. For this, he is Lord of all. He has the authority and the name of God. You may have heard that a Uniting Church minister from Melbourne has recently said that this kind of thing is unbelievable these days. Well, it is believed and therefore it is believable, and the Uniting Church teaches it. As the song we sang at the start of the service proclaims:

He left his Father’s throne above (so free, so infinite his grace!), emptied himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race.

Paul isn’t just celebrating the great love of Christ in emptying himself for our sakes. He is offering Christ as a pattern for our lives, and for our life together. Before he quotes that song, he says why he’s quoting it. He wants the Christians in Philippi to:

be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.’ Take this to heart, that he humbled himself, he took the form of a servant, he even went to the cross for us. So, how can we look more like Jesus? How can we grow to be more like Jesus? I want to suggest that we could engage in ‘spiritual practices’. Continue reading

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Class of ’88



This is the Class of 88 — those who graduated from Trinity Theological College nearly 20 years ago. Those of us who were ordained that year had dinner the other night at Ciao Baby, an Italian Restaurant. A terrific bunch and a terrific night!

Most of us are still in placement as ordained ministers, and all of us are still in serving roles: one in the Church Triumphant; and a very active retiree, a carer at L’Arche, a hospital chaplain, a child safety officer, two lecturers, the secretary of synod, and me. A mere congregational minister. (But there may be one more soon. Watch this space!)

I may have some photos from the night soon.

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The “money quotes”

Regarding the global financial crisis and the USA’s impending bailout of financial institutions: From Bishop Alan’s blog, we are seeing

a new form of “socialism” that, having privatised the profits is now socialising the losses.

And from Bono:

It’s extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can’t find $25 billion dollars to saved 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.

The voices of the churches seem extraordinarily muted on this.

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Filed under Church & world, Lord have mercy

Progress in Christ

Sermon for 21 September ’08

Philippians 1.21-30

I remember playing snakes and ladders when I was a kid. Perhaps you played it too? I remember being young enough to enjoy snakes and ladders, to thrill when my counter landed at the foot of a ladder, and to know the indignation of landing at the head of a snake just as I was nearing the final square. I remember the sweet taste of victory when I beat my sister, and the bitter taste of defeat when she got to the end first. (Karen won’t play board games with me. I don’t know why…)

Maybe I learned some lessons for life playing snakes and ladders. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Be a good loser. Don’t gloat when you win. (Hmm, did I learn that one?)

Maybe I learned some lessons that I’ve had to unlearn. Like this one: going up the ladder is always good. Sliding down the snake is always bad. I’ve found things aren’t as simple as that. I’ve found that when I climb a ladder, the ladder morphs into a cross, challenging me. And when I slide down a snake, it too becomes a cross, rescuing me.

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Liturgical thought of the day (3)

In times when there is no persecution, God gives to the Church liturgists, that it may know hardship.


(Source unknown—but I wish I knew!)

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Beauty in the back yard

The Waltons went whale watching yesterday. Just a 45 minute trip to Redcliffe, where we missed Tanya Richards’ ordination to the diaconate. On board a catamaran, and off through Moreton Bay and to the other side of Moreton Island.

It was wonderful to be where the humpback whales are, less than an hour from Redcliffe, on a pause in their southern migration. They were curious, and enthralled us just by coming up for breath, let alone lifting their tails, ‘waving’ with their pectoral fin etc.

Sometimes, we think we have to go to the other side of the earth to see beautiful things. We forget the beauty in our own back yard.

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Contemplating a Change @ CUCA


CD cover

CD cover


No sermon from me today. Katie Wallis and the band led us in worship, as a wind up for their marathon 15-week, 24-service promotion of Contemplating a Change, the CD that Katie & Matt Green co-wrote. All proceeds are going to Mwandi; that meant approx. $12600 at the start of the morning, and another ~$500 by the end. Well done, guys!

If you want to hear the CD, go here. If you want to buy one of the few unsold copies in existence, get in touch with us.

Katie goes overseas for 6 months in a few days time via Mwandi and other places in Africa; the others join her in a few months time. Good on you!

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Doing the right thing is not enough

Sermon for 7 September ’08

Romans 13.8-14

Matthew 18.15-20


See how these Christians love one another!

These are the words of Tertullian, a North African theologian of the second century, in his work The Apology, 39.7. Actually, what he said was more like

‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).

But distilled, it’s simply

See how these Christians love one another!

It’s great when people can say that about Christians today. Let’s be more specific: it’s great when people can say that about the people of the Uniting Church. Let’s be more specific still: it’s great when people can say that of the members of the Centenary Uniting Church: See how they love one another!

St Paul wrote,

the one who loves another fulfils the law…love is the fulfilling of the law.

Or, as St Paul McCartney and The Beatles sang,

All you need is love.

Someone who loves another will do no wrong to them. More positively: if you love another, you will seek to do the right thing.

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Liturgical thought of the day (2)

To be consumed with worry over making a liturgical mistake is the greatest mistake of all. Reverence is a virtue, not a neurosis, and God can take care of himself.

(Aidan Kavanagh, Elements of Rite, p 31)

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Liturgical thought of the day (1)

As chair of the Uniting Church’s Working Group on Worship—and therefore a kind of practical liturgical theologian—I think I’m qualified to know something of the truth of this (and I plan occasional Liturgical Thoughts of the Day; some will even be straight):

The most paranoid people I know are liturgical scholars and denominational worship executives.

From the late James White, liturgical scholar (from “Liturgical Scholars: A new outspokenness”, in Christian Century, Feb. 4-11, 1981

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