Monthly Archives: October 2008

How do we witness?

Sermon for 26 October 2008

1 Thessalonians 2.1-8
Matthew 22.34-46

Rev Michelle Cook is a deacon and the minister of St Luke’s Weipa, a cooperative congregation of the Uniting and Anglican Churches. She is also the patrol padre of the Cape York Patrol of Frontier Services, and it is this she spoke to us about:

As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals whether from you or from others…

No, we never did and we never do – why, because people in the bush have a very good bs detectors. They can see right through you. 

My name is Michelle Cook – and I am a patrol minister up in Cape York.

To confuse people I usually say that I live on the West Coast of Queensland. Most people just look at me funny and say ‘wha?’. 

That’s right, there is a west coast of Queensland – and I live near the top of it. 

I live in Weipa – a mining town of about 3000 people – 10 hours drive from Cairns across Cape York.

You may notice that on the screen there will be some photos – this is just to give you a taste for the area that I travel around and the people that I meet.

So while you look at some photos you might be asking yourselves – what is a patrol minister? And how can I get a job that involves driving around some of the most beautiful country in the whole world.

Well I think I have been asking myself that since I was about 10 when I stuck a Frontier Services sticker on my bookcase at home. I don’t think I really knew what Frontier Services was then – but I liked the idea of travelling around the back of beyond helping people who lived without electricity, running water and television – of course I had a romantic view of these things imagining life was like “We of the never, never”. But in my three years in the Cape York Patrol I have found out what a patrol minister is…

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I often agree with atheists…

…though not necessarily in a way they seem to expect.

In a campaign started by the British Humanist Association, London’s buses will soon carry a slogan proclaiming There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

I agree.

They are right—there’s no God whose very presence sets us to worrying and stops us enjoying life. But the god they are protesting against doesn’t exist. The God and Father of Jesus sets people free, and brings new life into being. This God welcomes prodigals home and throws a party. There is a God who saves us from worrying and frees us to enjoy life.

Why do atheists protest against such a dreary god? What a sorry waste of time!

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Liturgical thought of the day (6)

I googled <“pearly gates joke” liturgist> and got this response:

Your search – “pearly gates joke” liturgist – did not match any documents.

Is this a warning to us liturgists?

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In whose image?



Sermon for 19 October ’08

Matthew 22.15-22


Image is everything! 

Ever heard that? Remember last week, we talked about hyperreality? We have to think image is everything if we’re going to fall for the message that we have to envy and emulate air-brushed models and sports stars on cocaine.

Image is everything! Some years ago, there was a whole series of ads for Canon cameras featuring the former tennis great Andre Agassi with that as the theme. You can see them on YouTube, a virtual graveyard for such things.

On the internet, I found an ‘Image is Everything’ workshop. This is the advertising blurb:

This powerful workshop will teach participants how to master the art of image! Sessions include: Personal Presentation, Building Rapport, Image Quadrants, Non-Verbal Power and more! This workshop is designed to help individuals discover the power of image and their ability to control it! [italics mine]

Image is important these days so that we can have power and control. So: what’s your image? 

If you want to improve your image, you could also go to the web page of a company called Your Image Solutions (perhaps you didn’t know you had a problem?)—Putting Your Image In Focus! Look great, sound assured & create a positive first impression!

Or you could go to another website called 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Look—Do you dress like a boss-to-be or a permanent underling?

Or you could find a plastic surgeon.

Or you could look at this:

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Bread and circuses

14 October: Delta Goodrem rings the bell for the New York Stock Exchange.

Is it a case of Mistaken Identity? It just happened Out Of The Blue! Is it A Little Too Late? Or can we Believe Again?


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Liturgical thought of the day (5)

Seen on a T-shirt:


Never seen on a T-shirt (yet!):


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Thinkers Anonymous

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone—”to relax,” I told myself—but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, “What is it exactly we are doing here?”

Things weren’t going so great at home either. One evening I had turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother’s.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Skippy, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking on the job, you’ll have to find another job.” This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Honey,” I confessed, “I’ve been thinking…”

“I know you’ve been thinking,” she said, “and I want a divorce!”

“But honey, surely it’s not that serious.”

“It is serious,” she said, lower lip aquiver. “You think as much as college professors, and college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep on thinking we won’t have any money!”

“That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently, and she began to cry. I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library,” I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with a PBS station on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors…they didn’t open. The library was closed!

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. “Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?” it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker’s Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was “Dumb and Dumber”. Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed…easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

From Mikey’s Funnies

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Don’t ever go to church in Midsomer…

…or if you do, go Methodist, not C of E!

The vicars there are unhinged! Bonkers! Barmy nutters! One was the serial killer (there are more per square metre there than anywhere else in the known universe!). Others are immoral, overly preoccupied with evil spirits, misogynists or just plain bad.

I blame the bishop for putting them there. Who is it? Is it Bishop Alan Wilson? What’s he got against Midsomer?


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Joy in a hyperreal time

Sermon for 12 October ’08

Philippians 4.1-9
Matthew 22.1-14

It was 1985. I was in my first year of theological college. I spent two weeks in a live-in seminar on evangelism that year, which was run by the World Methodist Council. People were there from North America, the Pacific and Asia as well as from other parts of Australia.

I met two men from the Philippines, who were ministers of our partner church there, the United Church of Christ of the Philippines. It was back in the days of the oppressive regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. Remember him? (Things haven’t changed much since then!)

These two men had spoken out on behalf of people who were suffering. Because of this, they had come to the attention of the government of the Philippines, and they didn’t know what awaited them on their return. It could have been arrest. It may have even been death. The thing that struck me about these men, uncertain of whether they had long to live, was their serenity and joy. They were unsure of earthly life, but they were sure of their Lord! 

I had less than half the vitality they had. My future was as secure as it could be. Karen had only three months before given birth to our first child, our daughter Erin; I had everything going for me, but I didn’t share their joy.

They remind me of the Apostle Paul. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always,’ he says. While he’s sitting in jail! When he doesn’t know if he will live or die! Yet his heart knows joy.

Joy seems to be a deep emotional state. It’s not just happiness. Joy can be there even in the direst circumstances. I’ve seen it on the faces of cancer patients in hospital. I’ve seen it on the faces of dying people.

What keeps us from knowing joy?

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Dialogue in the Church: can we do it?

From the editorial in the Christian Century of 7 October:


I served briefly as an elected officer of my denomination and spent a lot of time trying to encourage dialogue between liberal and conservative factions. I observed that liberals don’t like to fight, but instead are always trying to accommodate people, to be inclusive even of those who are trying to exclude them. And I concluded that the first thing on the minds of my conservative brothers and sisters when they get out of bed in the morning is fighting liberals, whereas liberals get out of bed trying to figure out how to live with conservatives.

This is so true, and so sad. Two different visions of what it means to live out the Christian vision. As for me, I choose the liberal one—our Lord did pray that ‘they might all be one…so that the world may believe’. What a witness it is when God’s people live in unity, despite differing on issues that—while important—are not central.

Read the whole article here. It also quotes Walter Brueggemann as saying we in the ‘mainline’ churches are in a kind of exile. This can be a good thing, in that we are free to say and do things we couldn’t otherwise say or do; but I wonder if it has given some people a peculiar sense of anxiety, and the need to blame those close at hand?

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