Monthly Archives: March 2012

Which procession will you go to? (Passion/Palm Sunday, Year B, 1 April 2012)

Which procession will you go to?

Isaiah 50.4-9a
Philippians 2.5-11
Mark 11.1-11


It’s a very special day today. Of course, I’m talking about April Fool’s Day. We don’t know much about the origins of April Fool’s Day, but we all know about it. Perhaps some of you have been fooled already.

This year, Palm Sunday and April Fool’s Day come together. And the way Jesus entered Jerusalem does look a little foolish, when you compare it to the other parade happening that day.

This other parade came into Jerusalem through the western gate of the city. This parade was the entrance of the governor, Pontius Pilate. He was accompanied by row upon row of armed soldiers in their leather armour. There were horses and battle standards and shiny brass. It was an impressive show.

Every time there was a major feast in the Jewish calendar, Pilate came in from the place he lived in, Caesarea Maritima, and he stayed in Jerusalem. Just in case of trouble. The population of Jerusalem was normally around 40 000, but there could be an extra 200 000 in pilgrims and visitors at Passover. So Pilate made sure there was a show of Roman might, just to deter troublemakers.

The Gospels have nothing at all to say about this parade, the parade everyone in Jerusalem knew about. The Gospels tell of another parade that entered from the north side of the city, a ragtag affair with no weapons, no armour, nothing splendid at all. It must have looked pretty foolish. Yet while most people were coming to Jerusalem as pilgrims, Jesus was riding into the lion’s den. (For any Lord of the Rings fans, it’s like he’s riding straight into Mordor.)

So on one side of the city is glitz, glamour and naked power; on another is Jesus. But Jesus isn’t playing some April Fool trick. There’s a message, and the people would have got it.

They would remember a great hero of Israel, the warrior Simon Maccabeus, who had liberated Jerusalem from oppression over 250 years before the days of Jesus. Listen to this account of the entry of the Jews into the city after their victory, and hear how familiar it is (1 Maccabees 13.51):

…the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.

People remembered Simon proudly. He was a hero more like Robin Hood than Ned Kelly. Yet now, they had another conquering power with its foot on their throat. Rome was invincible. Here comes Jesus, mounting a counter-entry to Pilate, so they wave their palms and shout their praise. But Jesus is bringing not the way of the sword but the way of peace.

When Jesus comes the people shout,

Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom
of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Soon, we shall say,

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

These words that we say at our Communion services are taken straight from the story of Palm Sunday. Jesus is coming to town, to us, to our hearts, to stay. Something is happening here. But we know how the week ends. It ends on Friday, with a darkened sky. It ends with Jesus crying

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

It seems to be a foolish dream.

Which parade would you go to? The one with the swords and the spears and the power, or the one with a man on a donkey who was riding to his death?

You know which one to go to.


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Timothy Noah: When Did ‘Christian’ Become A Synonym For ‘Conservative Evangelical’? | The New Republic

I saw this today (h/t @edrescherphd). While it’s from a US-centric perspective, there are places where things are becoming pretty similar here in Australia. ‘Christian’ is in danger of becoming a franchise rather than a way of describing a way of being a disciple of the Risen One.

Timothy Noah: When Did ‘Christian’ Become A Synonym For ‘Conservative Evangelical’? | The New Republic.

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‘We would see Jesus’ (Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B, 25 March 2012)

‘We would see Jesus’

Jeremiah 31.31-34
John 12.20-33

Way back in 1939, Winston Churchill said this of Russia: it is

a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

I feel the same way about today’s Gospel story. It’s a riddle. It’s a mystery. It’s an enigma.

Some ‘Greeks’ come to Philip and say, ‘Sir, we would see Jesus.’

Fair enough… But when Jesus hears about it, he seems to go off at a tangent. He says:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

You’d think he’d sit down with these visitors from far away, or at least give them a number and tell them to wait in line. But his reply is a riddle. A mystery. An enigma. The hour has come…

Jesus has talked before about ‘the hour’. At Cana, when Mary asked him to fix the alcohol shortage, he said (John 2.4),

My hour has not yet come…

And he said (5.25),

Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

The course of Jesus’ life was heading to a climax, but not until the right time. Nothing could happen until ‘the hour’ had come (cf. 7.30, 8.20).

And with the Greeks, the hour had indeed come. What’s that about? The Greeks were the ‘other sheep’ that Jesus had spoken about (10.15-16):

I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

It was now time to bring all people together as one flock. It was time for the shepherd to lay down his life.

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Conversations with Rowan Williams – Eureka Street

Another thoughtful contribution to what I expect will be a growing list of reflectionsdon Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury. It is vital for us in the Uniting Church to keep hearing its focus on conversation as ecclesial practice.

Conversations with Rowan Williams – Eureka Street.

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ABC to retire

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has just announced his resignation effective from the end of this year. Who’ll be next to take this poisoned chalice?

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Standing on the ground of grace (Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B, 18 March 2012)

Standing on the ground of grace

Ephesians 2.1-10
John 3.14-21


It’s a word we hear in church often. We hear it outside of church too—we speak of a dancer who dances with a certain grace, a certain beauty and delicacy. People say grace before a meal. If someone offends another, they may have the grace to apologise. You may receive a year’s grace before you must pay a debt—but if you don’t pay, you’ll fall from grace. And if Kate Middleton were ever to come here, she’d want you to call her ‘Your Grace’. It’s a very positive word!

Yet grace has another kind of positive meaning when St Paul says,

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…

Here, the word ‘grace’ means something greater and grander than any of the other ways we use it.

Grace is a great word, one of the greatest in the whole of the scriptures. We read in John’s Gospel chapter one that ‘grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’:

the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

And Paul says in Romans,

since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand…

Jesus Christ has brought us grace upon grace; grace is the very ground on which we stand.

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Eureka Street comes of age – Eureka Street

A thoughtful reflection from Andy Hamilton of Eureka St about the ways online publishing influence public conversation.

Eureka Street comes of age – Eureka Street.

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