Monthly Archives: August 2011

Standing on holy ground (Sunday 22, Year A, 28 August 2011)

Standing on holy ground

Exodus 3.1-15
Matthew 16.21-28 

According to William Shakespeare, names aren’t that important. As Juliet says to Romeo,

What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.

But they end up dead, all because their surnames are Montague and Capulet.

Names often do have meanings. Captain Cook found some dangerous shoals as he was exploring the east coast over two hundred years ago, so he named a nearby landmark ‘Mt Warning’. As a warning to other seafarers. The first people, the Bundjalung people, had previously named it ‘Wollumbin’. In their dreaming stories, Wollumbin was said to be Warrior Chief of the mountain. The spirits of the mountains were warriors. The wounds they received in battles can be seen as landslides on the side of the mountain and thunder and lightning were the effects of their battles.

The story you tell, the name you speak, depends on the place on which you stand.

Moses stood before a burning bush. But he came from somewhere. He was an Israelite baby, saved from death and raised in Pharaoh’s palace. He’d killed an Egyptian for mistreating an Israelite—yet the Israelites didn’t trust him. Moses was lying low in the middle of nowhere herding sheep.

How might Moses be named? What name would suit him? Again, it depends where you stand. An Egyptian might name him ‘murderer’. An Israelite could call him ‘distrusted’, or ‘one of “them”’. Either way, he was ‘unwanted’.

Maybe that’s why Moses said to God at the bush, ‘Who am I?’, for he had no idea who he really was. Yet God had given him new names: ‘leader’, ‘saviour’, ‘prophet’, ‘deliverer’. We can understand why Moses said,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

Moses sees things that we don’t see. We see that he was brought up in a palace, that he could have a different iPad for each day of the week if he wanted it. But Moses sees very little in himself. He doesn’t belong, he has a speech impediment, no one will listen to him. But God sees ‘something more’ in Moses. Something more than the privileged upbringing, the awkwardness inside. God sees a heart for the poor. God can use that heart. God shares that heart.

God sees more in you and me as well. What is that ‘something more’ that God sees in you and wants to grow more of? You may find yourself standing on holy ground one day, and find out. You’ll find out that you are a work in progress, that you’re still becoming fully human. Continue reading

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Knowing the poor by name

I didn’t preach on Sunday; I shared the services with a remarkable band called Remember Seven, and Katie Wallis preached. I’ve written about Katie before here. And here. Oh, and here too. It’s great to hear a capable preacher (I’m including you in that, kt!!).

The Old Testament reading concerned the Hebrew midwives, and Katie drew inspiration from them and their  refusal to conform (Romans 12) to the edict of Pharaoh. She spoke of knowing the poor by name, as people. It struck me that we know the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah.

How many women don’t we know by name in the scriptures? It seems women didn’t count too much… Yet we do know the midwives’ names. They were and are women of consequence.

Get to know some other people—Angie, Daniel, Grace, yourself— by reading these excerpts from Katie’s journal (thanks, kt!). Oh, and look out for her book, it’s coming!

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The faith of outsiders (20th Sunday, Year A 14 August 2011)

Romans 11.1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15.10-28 

Make no mistake: the story of the encounter of Jesus with the Canaanite woman is one of the most troubling in all the Gospels—and yet it’s one of the most rewarding.

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus meets a woman and implies that because she is a Canaanite person, she can be called a dog. It’s what we would call these days a ‘racial slur’; the Canaanites were ancient and bitter enemies of Israel, whose ancestors had led Israel away to worship idols. If this were the only story of Jesus that we knew, would he be an attractive figure?

This story is an embarrassment, it always has been. People have tried to get around it in various ways. They note that Jesus said ‘puppy’, not ‘dog’; but puppies are just as religiously ‘unclean’ as grown-up dogs.

They say that Jesus was testing the faith of this woman who was only trying to get help for her daughter. They are trying to ‘protect’ Jesus, but they are unconvincing. Again, think: if this were the only story about Jesus we had, what opinion would you have of him? Actually, I hope you’d still end up with a pretty good opinion of Jesus. I’d hope that if this was all we knew about Jesus, we’d think highly of him.

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Sunday 19, 7 August 2011: c/- Avril at Romsey

I’m just starting to emerge from a bout of viral labyrinthitis, which is no fun by anyone’s standards. So no sermon today, but if I’d preched one I hope it would engage with the text as well as Avril Hannah-Jones’s today. Go to Avril at Romsey and check it out.

I wrote a post last week called I am/not a Progressive Christian. Avril’s recent post on The Messy Middle that is the Uniting Church covers similar territory. Again, it will repay you to read it.

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Filed under Church & world, church year, family & friends, RCL, reflection, sermon, Uniting Church in Australia