Sermon for Epiphany 3 (25 January 2009)
Jonah 3.1-5, 10
The Book of Jonah is one of the prophetic books of the Bible, and it’s my favourite book of the whole Bible. The main character of the story—Jonah, of course—is called by God to be a prophet. The word ‘prophet’ simply means ‘to speak for’; a prophet doesn’t necessarily foretell the future. A prophet listens to, understands, and proclaims a message that comes from the very heart of God.
You know, if this book were written these days, we wouldn’t call it a prophecy; we’d call it a satirical short story. And as a short story, it’s a rollicking good tale of a very reluctant prophet.
And as a prophecy, the Book of Jonah proclaims this message right from God’s heart: God is a gracious God, a merciful God, a slow-to-anger God.
Note that this is ‘the God of the Old Testament’, which some people think is a different God to the God of the New Testament. The atheist celebrity Richard Dawkins, for example, says that ‘the God of the Old Testament’ is ‘jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak…’ And Dawkins goes on and on—and on—with a list of twelve more insults, the least of which is that God is ‘megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic and a capriciously malevolent bully’. So let’s see what the prophecy of Jonah has to say for God.
President Obama’s people in the White House are ‘miffed’ at the clunky old PCs they have inherited from the previous regime, with six-year old versions of Microsoft and few laptops. Obama’s team are used to working with Macs. Some people are hoping they’ll refurbish the White House’s technology the same way! See here and here.
Sermon for The Baptism of Jesus (11 January 2009)
October 1983 found me down in Adelaide, in a state of confusion. I had gone down for some oral exams on the way to qualifying as a psychiatrist. Everyone expected me to sail through them. I flunked. Badly.
The day after my devastating failure, I looked up some old friends in Adelaide. I was talking to them in their living room, when I felt a physical sensation in my head and realised—God was calling me into the ministry. Now, all this is a little dangerous for a psychiatrically-trained person to admit, but it’s what happened. (It wasn’t the first time I’d felt a call to ministry; I’d been wrestling with it on and off for years. But this was a final confirmation.)
Today’s psalm, Psalm 29, reminded me of that time in my life, when God’s voice came to me over the chaos of my feelings:
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
For the people of ancient Israel, the waters were a place of chaos and danger. They wouldn’t venture out onto the sea unless they absolutely had to. Think of the story of Jonah, who went on a sea voyage across the Mediterranean. He must have been absolutely desperate to get away from God.
But fearful as the waters were, the psalm proclaims this: God’s voice is mightier than the waters, greater than the storms. God’s voice thunders. In Adelaide, I found that to be so. I went down heading for a career in psychiatry, and returned with a vocation to ministry. Continue reading
Karen and I had a great night last night with our friends David and Marcia, out for dinner at Southbank and then the Queensland Pops Orchestra concert. The program ranged from the likes of Puccini, Bizet & Stravinsky to Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (think ABBA). We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Out in time to watch some fireworks, and home. Fabulous.
Here’s what we saw on coming out of the concert at midnight—the ‘Brisbane Eye’. If you look very carefully at this terrible photo, you can see coloured flashes of fireworks in the background.