Monthly Archives: May 2010

Trinity Sunday

The Trinity: I just can’t help myself

Romans 5.1-5
John 16.12-15

Before I came to Australia, I had two terms in an English grammar school. The kind where some teachers still went around in academic dress. The kind where Religion was a subject on the same basis as Maths or English or Latin. Then I came to Australia and my education came to a…

I love this story which comes from that old-style kind of school environment. The day before the big exam, the religion teacher says to the student,

Teacher: Now you’re sure you’ve got the Catechism all buttoned up, Hopkinson?

Hopkinson: I’m still a bit hazy about the Trinity, sir.

Teacher: Three in one, one in three. Perfectly straightforward. And if you have any more doubts about that—talk to your maths teacher!

But the Trinity is not a mathematical puzzle. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a mathematical nonsense. The doctrine of the Trinity is this: it is the best language we have to name God as love. Continue reading


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The Feast of Pentecost

Children of God

Romans 8.14-17
John 14.8-17, 25-27

I love chapter 8 of St Paul’s letter to the Romans. There’s so much in it—for example, verses 15 & 16. Here, St Paul writes:

When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…

We have sung ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ today. We have prayed, ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’ When the Spirit comes, she assures us that we are God’s children. I want to talk about two things today that stop us realising within our spirits that we really are children of God. Those things are (1) listening to accusing voices; and (2) pain.

Listening to accusing voices:

What voice do you listen to? Remember when Jesus is baptised, the Spirit comes upon him and the voice from heaven says,

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

God says, Jesus, you are my Son. And God’s Spirit witnesses to this great truth by coming upon Jesus.

Then what happens? Jesus is immediately led by the Spirit into the wilderness. We might think he should have a really long mountain-top experience; but no, God’s way is to lead him into the wastelands of Judaea. In actual fact, it’s more like God drives Jesus out there.

It’s not a good place out in the Judaean sticks. It’s inhospitable, and the great Accuser is there. Satan says to Jesus,

If you are the Son of God…

God says at his baptism, ‘You are the Son of God.’ Satan says, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ ‘If’ is such a little word, just the two letters; but ‘if’ makes the world of difference. Who does Jesus listen to? Who do we listen to?

You see, God also calls us by name and says to us, You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.

Many of our problems in life come because we listen to the accusing voice and not to God’s voice. How could I possibly be a child of God, we ask ourselves!

  • Nothing I do will ever be good enough
  • I’ve made too many mistakes
  • My life’s a mess
  • It’s all my fault
  • It’s too late for me
  • They’d be better off without me—

But you know, these accusing voices do not come from God.

God calls us by name and says, You are my beloved daughter. You are my beloved son.

Many of us need to hear a dozen affirming voices for every accusing voice. You know how it is—people tell you you’re looking well, what a good job you’ve done, what a good friend you are… Then one person comes along and makes it clear they don’t appreciate you, and your day is ruined. Isn’t it so? Continue reading

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The Hand of Dog

England is making a bid to host the 2018 Soccer World Cup, and thankfully, Wallace and Gromit are getting in on the act.

English fans still haven’t got over Diego Maradonna’s ‘Hand of God’ goal back in 1986; if you don’t know what that is, have a look here:

Wallace and Gromit have their own version: the Hand of Dog. Love it!!

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I, Robot, take you…

…and if we ever get into Japanese weddings at Centenary, I’m getting one of these!

Here’s the scoop:

To her creators she is a high-tech symphony of semiconductors and solenoids, the pinnacle of Japanese robotic engineering. But you can call her the nuptialiser.

Yesterday, under the soft morning sun in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park, Japan’s obsession with robots took another giant leap into the absurd as a mechanised priestess joined two people in matrimony. It was both a romantic and static affair, possibly the first wedding where the official had self-illuminating eyeballs and required a supply of 100V DC to stay upright.

Conducting the ceremony in a white breastplate, plastic pigtails and floral tiara, I-Fairy charmed her way through proceedings with a voice somewhere between Minnie Mouse and the extermination-threat of a Dalek.

Clasping bride and groom in her steely paws, and controlled remotely from behind a velvet curtain, the diminutive I-Fairy worked her way through the traditional questions and culminated in the proclamation: “You may lift the bride’s veil.”The event highlighted the oddity of Japanese weddings, where the ceremony carries no legal weight — by the time they get to the altar most couples have been married for months and the “priest” is often an English teacher in a cassock.

The choice of marriage official by Satoko Inoue, 36, and Tomohiro Shibata, 42, was not entirely coincidental. The latter is a professor of robotics at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, while his bride is an employee of Kokoro, the company that builds and markets the 6.3 million yen (£47,000) I-Fairy.

h/t Mark Sayers


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Seventh Sunday of Easter (The Ascension of Jesus)

Karen and I had the weekend off up the coast, and Rev Dr David Rankin, Director of Church Studies at Trinity Theological College, kindly preached. David is taking up  a placement in a circuit in the British Methodist Church soon, and we shall miss him.

Here is the sermon from yesterday:

Luke 24.44-53

While it is true that in the Church tradition in which we stand not much has normally been made of the Feast of the Ascension – at least as compared to Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, for example – the event of the Ascension (the lifting up of the Risen Christ to heaven and to a the place of honour and authority at the right hand side of the Father) is a crucial link in the chain which leads from the Incarnation of God in the person of his Son to the salvation of the creature, to our salvation, to our life-restoring reconciliation with God.

At Christmas we celebrate the Incarnation of God, God taking our flesh, God entering as God, in the form of us, as representing us, into our lives and our experience. This entering of God into the life of his creatures is crucial in God’s purposes for the saving and reconciling of us.

In Holy Week prior to Easter we celebrate the Crucifixion of God in the person of the Son. This taking by God of our sinfulness upon himself, as representing us on the Cross, is crucial in God’s purposes for the saving and reconciling of us.

At Easter itself we celebrate the Resurrection of God in the person of the Son. This raising of God himself in the person of the Son from death – from our death which is properly ours alone and not natural to God himself – is crucial in God’s purposes for the saving and reconciling of us.

(For while the Resurrection of Jesus does not spell the end of death as a part of our living – for we all clearly still die – it does spell the end of the reign of death over life; it does mean that death no more shapes or gives ultimate meaning to life. It does not itself, however, draw us into the life and fellowship of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It simply but importantly opens up the possibility of our being drawn into the life and fellowship of God.]

This making real of the possibility of sharing fellowship is what the Ascension is about….. Continue reading

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Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter 6)

Being prepared for the New Jerusalem

Revelation 21.10, 22 to 22.5

The Go-Betweens were a great Brisbane band, and their name will grace the Go Between Bridge over the Brisbane River when it’s opened this year. And ‘Streets of Your Town’ is their song about Brisbane. I love the catchy chorus:

Round and round, up and down
Through the streets of your town
Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town.

Have you ever caught the other lyrics though?

Don’t the sun look good today?
But the rain is on its way
Watch the butcher shine his knives
And this town is full of battered wives.

So it’s perhaps with a sense of relief that we’re taken straight back to the chorus with its great hook:

Round and round, up and down
Through the streets of your town
Everyday I make my way
Through the streets of your town
Everyday I play it my way
Through the streets of your town.

Where is ‘your town’? Where do you live? As Brisbanites, we’re justifiably pleased with the climate and its live-ability. But what about its underside? The battered wives the Go-Betweens speak of? What about the homeless kids? The alcoholics and the drug addicted? The mentally ill? The disabled?

Where is our town? What is our town? Is it a sun-drenched—sometimes rain-drenched—sub-tropical paradise? Or is it a place with a hidden story, a story of pain and tears?

Or is it both at the same time?

Sometimes, we live in sunny Brisbane and sometimes we live in a sad Brisbane. I think Brisbanites tend to look more at the sunny side of life here. But then we run the risk of not seeing the people in need that Jesus brings across our paths.

Where do you live? Where did the people of the New Testament live?

Continue reading


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Fifth Sunday of Easter (Easter 5)

Love one another

John 13.31-35

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says,

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

The ‘new commandment’ is ‘Love one another.’ That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s really lovely.

But let’s set the scene. Jesus and the disciples are gathered together, but not at any old time; it’s the night before the crucifixion. I say, ‘Jesus and the disciples’ are there, but there is one who is missing. Judas. He has gone out. What we read is this:

Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor.

We know why Judas has gone out. But let’s imagine we’re hearing this story for the first time. Sometimes, we can learn new things that way. Continue reading

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