Monthly Archives: November 2010

Advent fail.

The Porsche Design Group and Harrods have combined to produce an Advent calendar. A $1,000,000 Advent Calendar. The ‘Jesus’ referred to below bears no resemblance to any other Jesus, living or dead.

If you have decided to impress that Millionaire boss of yours or a Christian acquaintance and convert that long on-hold agreement into a final deal then here is ready bait for them. We can sense the Jesus fragrance around us already and post 5-days from now i.e.  28 November officially marks the beginning of Advent this year.

It looks like it was designed by Dr Who:


This is a hint NOT to buy me one.


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First Sunday in Advent (Year A, 28 November 2010)

Hope in all things

Isaiah 2.1-5
Matthew 24.36-44

It’s Advent. I’ve already heard Christmas carols while shopping—just next door in Coles, of all places.

‘Advent’ simply means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. The Season of Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation for the ‘arrival’ of Jesus. But it’s not just preparation and anticipation for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

We are also directed by the Lectionary readings to prepare for and anticipate what the arrival of Jesus meant—that is, the coming of a King who would bring God’s justice and peace to the people.

So we’re also being reminded to get ready for the arrival of Jesus on that day when the prayer of Jesus (and our prayer) is finally realised—‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven’. We are reminded today to hope for a day when the future that God dreams of, the future of God’s shalom, of peace and wellbeing for all people, when that future is finally here. Do you, do I, trust that it will come?

The music we heard before the service is called Spem in Alium, which is Latin for Hope in all Things. It was written by Thomas Tallis around 1570 for Elizabeth I. I love it—I want it at my funeral. But do I still hope now, wile I’m still drawing breath, for that day when God’s justice will come?

What are you hoping for? It seems to me that we often limit ourselves to small hopes. Little, safe hopes that won’t rock our world too much if they come true, and won’t change our world that much if they don’t. As Christmas nears, we might hope for an iPad, a special DVD, or someone else to cook the turkey this time. We might hope for Uncle Joe not to snore all Christmas afternoon like he did last year.

These are manageable hopes, reasonable hopes, safe hopes. These are hopes that delight us if they happen, but if they don’t we’ll cope.

Christian hope is of a very different order. It is a big hope. It’s even bigger than the Barmy Army’s hope that England might retain the Ashes. Christian hope is our hope that God is good, that God comes good on his promises. It’s hope that the world isn’t here for no purpose, it’s hope that our lives have a purpose. And it’s hope that God will finally reveal that purpose, that the kingdom of God will be fully here. It’s already here—we catch glimpses of it when people are fed, clothed, or set free. Can we hope seriously ‘big’—can we hope that God’s kingdom will be fully here one day?

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Christmas starts with Christ

This is the poster for the 2010 Christmas campaign for, a UK charity. It’s called, appropriately, Baby Scan Jesus. I like it!


Baby Scan Jesus


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Christ the King/The Reign of Christ (Year C, 21 November 2010)

Your sins are forgiven

Luke 1.68-79
Colossians 1.11-20
Luke 23.33-43

Last week, I began by talking about a phone call I received while I was in placement in Biloela. That wasn’t the only phone call I had while I was there. One Monday, an elder rang me to ask if she and another elder could arrange a time to speak with me. They didn’t say why. Did I do something wrong in the service yesterday? I wondered.

The next day, they came to see me, two ladies in their sixties, me then in my thirties. Two ladies who had been active in the church all their lives. I was a little daunted by them back then. (I wouldn’t be daunted now!)

This is why they wanted to see me: they wanted to tell me in person of a wonderful discovery they had made. It was this: for the first time ever, they had realised their sins were forgiven.

Remember, they had been part of the life of the church as long as they could remember. But the message of forgiveness had never sunk in. Why had they grasped it now?

It was simple, really. Every week now they were hearing these four words:

Your sins are forgiven.

And they were responding with these four words:

Thanks be to God.

And the penny had dropped. They were among the forgiven. Has the penny dropped for you? Have you realised that you are forgiven?

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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, 31 October 2010)

This was my first Sunday back from annual leave, and we had a guest preacher. Rev Michelle Cook is a very good friend of mine and of this congregation, a deacon in placement at St Luke’s Weipa (a cooperative placement with the Anglican Church of Australia) and patrol minister in Cape York for Frontier Services.

Michelle preached a fine sermon, taking Luke 19.1-10 as her text:

When I come down to Brisbane I usually spend a lot of time eating meals with family and old friends. I used to spend a lot of time rushing around trying to visit everyone I used to know but now someone organises one event where lots of people come – so then I can actually have a holiday rather than a series of meetings one after the other.

These get togethers are surrounded imbued and facilitated by food. Sometimes we eat out at a restaurant – old favourites and new ones on the scene.

More often now we meet at someone’s home – most restaurants don’t like being inundated with children under 10. I felt especially sorry for a restaurant we went to last week where Zaney decided the chopsticks were, alternatively, drumsticks, wings for a plane (that happened to be in his sandals) or stirring sticks for drinks.

So we eat a meal together and talk about new things that are happening, things that used to happen – and what things we would like to happen.

Hospitality abounds – food, wine, conversation. Sometimes it is a foretaste of that welcome and hospitality that I know heaven will look like – a foretaste of what the reign of God will be. Conviviality, love, laughter – joy –a meal that goes on forever without indigestion.

Meals are important. They are an overlap between a public and private space – sharing meals can be an intimate expression of care and love for those at the table.

But it gets me thinking about who I actually eat with. Who do I share this care and love with? How do I express hospitality to those around me?

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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, 14 November 2010)

The wells of salvation

Isaiah 65.17-25
Luke 21.5-19

The phone call came in the early evening one day in October 1990. We were living in Biloela, Central Queensland, about six hours’ drive away. My dad was ringing to tell me he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer.

In a sense, it wasn’t surprising. He’d been a heavy smoker since he was fourteen. He was an asthmatic child; when my grandmother found out he was smoking, she took him to the doctor to find out if it was a good idea. The doctor told my gran that smoking would strengthen his lungs.

Dad was only diagnosed because he had secondaries. Things were pretty advanced by the time he found that he had cancer.

We were thrown into a spin. We were a long way away, and didn’t know how to help. We brought the kids down, and spent some time staying at a motel near mum and dad’s place. It was hard, and harder still going back to Central Queensland.

Another phone call came in late January. Dad wasn’t expected to make it. I arranged a flight early the next day. I arrived too late to see him alive.

It was a difficult time over the next few months, partly because we weren’t close enough to be of much help to my mum. Most of the people in the church were lovely. Not all, though—one woman asked me how I was going after my dad’s death. I was pleased that she asked, because she’d previously made it clear that she didn’t rate me as a minister. I told her I was doing ok. ‘I should think so!’ she retorted. It seems that in her universe ministers are made of sterner stuff than ordinary mortals. Let me assure you that this is not the case.

I found a Brisbane placement for 1992 to be closer to mum. Continue reading


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Sermon for All Saints’ Day Year C

Receiving the Kingdom

Luke 6.20-31

I’m not poor. I’m fine with that. I don’t want to be poor. But then I read that Jesus says:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.

And I also read that the Lord says,

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.

And I begin to wonder. I want Jesus to tell me that I am part of the kingdom of God. I don’t want to hear him say, ‘Woe to you, Paul—the writing’s on the wall for you!’

How can I listen to Jesus and be fine with not being poor?

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