Monthly Archives: June 2009

Lord, teach us to walk your way

Sermon for 28 June 2009

As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
Jesus, hope of the hopeless,
give us abundant confidence in you
that we may find comfort at all times,
relief from our burdens,
and healing where it is your will;
until that day when we see you face to face,
and know you as you are for ever and ever. Amen.

READING
Mark 5.21-43

Last week,
we were with Jesus and the disciples
on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Remember?
There was a storm that threatened
to swamp the boat.
Our clothes were sodden;
our eyes were stinging
from the rain being propelled horizontally
by the wind;
our hands had rope burns
from trying to furl the sail.

Remember the mission Jesus was on?
He was crossing
from the Jewish side of Galilee,
his home,
to the Gentile side,
a place where they kept pigs—
which were unclean to Jews.
They were about to meet a terrifying man—
the Gerasene Demoniac—
who cut himself and lived in the cemetery.

So Jesus is on mission
in both Jewish and Gentile places.
Today, he’s back on Jewish turf.

And there’s another surprise for the disciples.
Two people. Two healings.
One a woman,
one a young girl.
The woman had been sick for twelve years;
the girl was twelve years old.

The woman’s illness—
a ‘woman’s problem’—
has made her unclean,
and she is isolated from the community:
on the edges,
ignored,
and unable to worship God with the others.

The other is a young girl,
who dad was a leader of the synagogue—
a church elder.
She was sick,
but she wasn’t on the edges,
no one would isolate her.
Her place in society was in no doubt.

One was from an important family,
the other a nobody.
But both were in need.

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Does this pastor even know what the gospel is?

Ken Pagano, the pastor of New Bethel Church (an Assembly of God congregation in Kentucky) is having a bring-your-gun-to-church day. As he puts it,

God and guns were part of the foundation of this country.

Sheriff’s deputies will check that unconcealed firearms aren’t loaded. But no one will be searched for concealed weapons. Mr Pagano’s comment? ‘That’s the whole point of concealed.’ Duh.

He also says,

When someone from within the church tells me that being a Christian and having firearms are contradictions, that they’re incompatible with the Gospel — baloney. As soon as you start saying that it’s not something that Christians do, well, guns are just the foil. The issue now is the Gospel. So in a sense, it does become a crusade. Now the Gospel is at stake.

I’m sorry. This bloke is on the kind of crusade we can do without. The gospel is about the love of God reaching out to sinners, and including the broken. The crazy thing is so many people fall for it.

Read the whole sorry thing here.

By the way—you won’t see any pictures. They’re not allowing cameras in church!

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From the known to the unknown

Sermon for 21 June 2009

As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
Maker and Sustainer of creation,
you bring order out of chaos
and calm in the discord of our lives;
help us to trust in you,
even when all around seems to be giving way;
this we ask in our Saviour’s name. Amen.

Mark 4.35-41

Let me remind you of a beautiful prayer
that was on the slide before our service began—
a prayer used by fishers from Brittany, in north-western France:

Dear God, be good to me;
the sea is so wide,
and my boat is so small.

This prayer was on the lips of men
who routinely risked their lives
on the rough seas of the English Channel,
men who didn’t know
whether they’d come home
whenever they set out.

NCCA logo

The image on your screen
is from the logo of
the National Council of Churches of Australia.
It shows the Church as a boat,
going through the waters,
carried by the oceans of the Spirit,
the cross of Jesus as the mast
and the Southern Cross showing us the way.
Remember how sometimes
we talk about our congregation
as the SS Centenary?

Old-fashioned church buildings were built
in the style of boats.
The long part of the church,
where people sit in their pews,
is like a boat
in which everyone is facing the same direction.
It’s called a ‘nave’,
which comes from the same root word as ‘navy’.
And think about the ceilings
of old church buildings—
they look like a ship’s hull.
(Our building isn’t quite like that;
maybe it’s more like a Welsh coracle!)

Being out on the water can be dangerous. Continue reading

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Australian Consultation on Liturgy 2009

This time last week I was sitting in historic Trinity College in balmy Melbourne (not!) at the 2009 meeting of ACOL, the Australian Consultation on Liturgy ACOL was inaugurated in 1976 and exists to help member churches to deepen their understanding of their own and other churches’ worship. Among other things, it also monitors the use in Australia of the Revised Common Lectionary (1992) and the common worship texts in Praying Together (1988). ACOL is the local chapter of the English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC), which has international oversight of the Revised Common Lectionary.

More churches were represented than in any previous meeting of ACOL: Anglican, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and Uniting. Apologies were received from the Churches of Christ.

We heard about work on prayers concerning the environment from the Anglican Church, services in house churches, translation issues, the way the Salvation Army is more looking at the Lectionary and the Christian year, and our Short Guide for Daily Prayer and our new ordination services. Meetings such as ACOL give the churches venues to share and understand one another better, and so further the mission of God.

After that, I met up with friends old and new and then went to Romsey, where I shared the next day with Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, also preaching at Lancefield Uniting Church. A very good weekend!

Liturgical websites of member churches of ACOL (national groups in bold):
Anglican Church: Commission on Liturgy
Baptist Church: Laughingbird Resources
Greek Orthodox: St Andrews Orthodox Press (a download file)
Lutheran Church: Commission on Worship
Roman Catholic Church: Liturgy Commission
Presbyterian Church of Australia: Public Worship and Aids to Devotion
Salvation Army: Worship
Uniting Church: The Working Group on Worship

Enjoy browsing!

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Txt 10

If God texted the Ten Commandments, what would we have?

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg’s

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok – ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf’s m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

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Jesus, Christianity’s burning bush

I looked up a book review on The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany here.

Surprisingly, it began with these remarkable words, which I am going to be dwelling on for a while:

Jesus is Christianity’s burning bush. His presence beckons to his followers in each generation, calling them to stand before him fully present and attentive to the rule and realm of God brought near in each encounter with the neighbor.

Like the summoning bush of Moses, Jesus’ searing presence calls forth without being consumed by the transcending nature of the call. He declares with that presence, “Here I am. Where are you?” He remains who he is, Jesus of Nazareth, even as he manifests to subsequent generations the fullness of the One who calls us out of ourselves into full and responsible engagement with every other.

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God gives the growth

Sermon for 14 June 2009

Preached at Lancefield Uniting Church, Victoria, where I was the guest of Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones and the congregation meeting there.

Mark 4.26-34

Let us pray:
Jesus, weaver of story, sower of seed;
show us the new creation in small beginnings,
and teach us to look
for the coming of that perfect day,
when all things shall be reconciled in you,
the bringer of God’s realm of grace
now and for ever. Amen.

As an older woman entered a country church, the usher asked her where she’d like to sit. When she indicated that she’d like to sit in the front row, the usher said she shouldn’t sit there, because they were having an extremely boring guest preacher that morning.

The woman, bristling at that response, asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’ When the usher said, ‘No’, she exclaimed, ‘I am the preacher’s mother!’

The usher asked her if she knew who he was, to which she replied, ‘No’.

‘Good,’ the usher said.

Friends, my mother is not here today.

[Jesus] said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

Listen to a similar story, another Jewish story:

All their lives two brothers had lived in the city behind great stone walls and neither saw field nor meadow. But one day they decided to pay a visit to the country.

As they went walking along the road they saw a farmer ploughing. They watched him and were puzzled.

‘What on earth is he doing that for!’ they wondered. ‘He turns up the earth and leaves deep furrows in it. Why should someone take a smooth piece of land covered with nice green grass and dig it up?’

Later they watched the farmer sowing grains of wheat along the furrows.

‘That man must be crazy!’ they exclaimed. ‘He takes good wheat and throws it into the dirt.’

‘I don’t like the country!’ said one in disgust. ‘Only crazy people live here.’

So he returned to the city.

His brother who remained in the country saw a change take place only several weeks later. The ploughed field began to sprout tender green shoots, even more beautiful and fresher than before. This discovery excited him very much. So he wrote to his brother in the city to come at once and see for himself the wonderful change.

His brother came and was delighted with what he saw. As time passed they watched the sprouts grow into golden heads of wheat. Now they both understood the purpose of the farmer’s work.

When the wheat became ripe the farmer brought his sickle and began to cut it down. At this the impatient one of the two brothers exclaimed: ‘The farmer is crazy! He’s insane! How hard he worked all these months to produce this lovely wheat, and now with his own hands he is cutting it down! I’m disgusted with such an idiot and I’m going back to the city!’

His brother, the patient one, held his peace and stayed in the country. He watched the farmer gather the wheat into his granary. He saw him skilfully separate the grain from the chaff. He was filled with wonder when he found that the farmer had harvested a hundred times the seed that he had sown. Then he understood that there was a reason for everything the farmer had done.

The point of the story is this: Mortals see only the beginning of any of God’s works. Therefore they cannot understand the nature and the end of creation.

We are here for a short time, and see very little. It’s the same with the mission of God.

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Two short sermons for Trinity Sunday

Ok Gary & Lynn, two sermons!

Isaiah 6.1-8

John 3.1-17

MORNING SERMON

God is Love

O Father, our hope;
O Son, our refuge;
O Holy Spirit, our protection;
O Holy Trinity, glory to you. Amen.
Adapted from the Prayer of St Ioannikios, c. 762-846

Soon, we’ll baptise D and L. It’s a great day!

In our baptism service, we’ll hear these words:

God is love;
we love, because God first loved us.

God is love. Pure, unadulterated, overflowing, eternal love for us.

Why are the M and V families here to see D and L baptised today? One word: Love. They love D and L. Where else would they be? And what better reason could they have?

Two people are in a relationship. How do you tell if they love each other? You see it by their actions. Actions speak louder than words. Someone may say they feel love for another, but treat them badly. Is that real love? You be the judge.

It’s the same with God. How might we tell if God is loving?—we tell it by God’s actions in loving others. God loves the world; as it says in John 3.16,

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

God showed his love to us. How? The Son became a human being and gave himself for us. The Christian faith is truly a faith of love.

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Holy! Holy! Holy!

Today, we celebrate a great truth: God is one, as Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The early church leader Irenaeus once said, ‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive.’ God’s glory is indeed seen most clearly in the lives of women and men open to the Spirit, and no more clearly than in the life and death of Jesus Christ.

The Resurrection of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that flowed from that great event, has made in impossible for Christian people to speak of God separately from Jesus the Son. So, for example, when the Old Testament says, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1.1), the New Testament responds, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1.1).

The entire history of the Church may be seen as the way Christian people have grappled with the realisation that God became human for the sake of the human race, and sends the Spirit among us to transform us in the true image of God, the image of Christ.

Christ has become the yardstick by which we measure what God is like. As one-time Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsay once said, ‘God is Christlike, and in God there is no unchristlikeness at all.’

And in God’s temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ (Psalm 29.9)

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