Monthly Archives: December 2014

Not/Seeing God’s salvation (Christmas 1B, 28 December 2014)

Luke 2.22–40

Good morning all, and welcome to the Temple. You look like rich travellers with those…er, interesting erm, clothes…and those, what do you call them—iPads?

Forgive me for being rude. My name is Phinehas, and I’ll be your guide today. I’m a Sadducee here in the Temple of Jerusalem. You’ve heard of us Sadducees? Oh…you haven’t? I’m amazed! Your minister can’t have been doing a very good job then, that’s all I can say. You can tell him I said that!

Well, I have a lot of important jobs here at the Temple, I won’t bore you with what they are, but I always have time for rich travellers. The Temple’s coffers are very low in these unfortunate days, so low we’re thinking of introducing a seven shekel copayment for people who need prayer. So if you wanted to give a copayment, or even a large donation, I’d make sure it went to a good home…

No, you don’t like that idea? Ok…so what can I show you? The Temple is such a grand place, it covers over fourteen hectares! You can’t see it all in one day, you’d need a whole week to do it justice.

Now, if you’ll just follow me… Sorry, what’s that?  You want to know who those scruffy two old people over by the gate are? What a strange question. But it’s interesting you should ask…

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Keep Christ in Christmas (25 December, 2014)


Luke 2.1–20

Often at Christmas time, we hear people talk about how Christ is being kept out of Christmas.

What do they mean?

Often, they are objecting to that common abbreviation, Xmas. Perhaps you’ve seen our church sign, which has ‘Xmas Eve’ and ‘Xmas Day’. Have we taken the Christ out of Christmas?

You know, there are people who say, ’We don’t worship X!’ ‘We worship Christ! It’s Christmas, not Xmas!’

You know what the problem is with that? We did it first. We Christians put the ‘X’ there first.

The first Greek letter of Christ looks to us like an X. It’s actually called ‘Chi’. So the letter Chi—‘X’—is a shortening of Christ. And what we pronounce ‘Xmas’ is just a shortening of Christmas.

Why was Chi, ‘X’, used as an abbreviation for Christ in the early days of Christian faith? It’s simple, really. Paper was a rare commodity in those days, so they shortened words so they could fit more words in. They didn’t even use punctuation!

So we can shorten the word Christmas today, where space is scarce—like on our church sign outside.

Writing ‘Xmas’ doesn’t take Christ out of Christmas. Not one bit.

But there is a very simple way to take Christ out of Christmas, and it is this: forget the poor. Continue reading

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Mary—like/unlike us, and the Mother of God (Advent 4B, 21 December 2014)

Luke 1.26–38

Today, I want to share some thoughts about Mary, the mother of the Lord. I’d like us to reflect on several ways she is like us and on ways—one way in particular—she is unlike us.

The story of the ‘Annunciation’, the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, is a wonderful story. Artists have pondered on this and given us much to ponder on in turn. I love this picture of the Annunciation, which is from a Christmas card sent to our family from a wonderful woman who sends an original card to her friends every year. Her name is Teresa Jordan and she lives here in Brisbane. This is her card for  2014:

Bike Annunciation

I love it!

The angel is holding out a lily, Mary’s symbol of purity, to Mary. Mary is riding her bike (yes, I know they didn’t have bikes 2000 years ago, but go along with this…) It’s an ordinary day, an ordinary bike ride, and an angel comes and interrupts it.

What’s a girl to do?

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Remaking the world (Advent 3B, 14 December 2014)

Isaiah 61.1–4, 8–11

Earlier this month, I was in Adelaide at a two-day colloquium that was exploring the way our theological colleges across the Uniting Church teach liturgy and worship. I hope and believe that some very good things will come out of it. While I was there, I was thinking about what we do in worship, and about what the significance of our liturgy is.

Gathering together for worship seems like a simple thing to do. Yet we are doing something very significant every Sunday, week by week, as we come together to worship God as the Church. And that significant thing is this: we are sharing with God in remaking the world.

Does that sound a bit grandiose, a bit self-important? How can l’l ol’ us be remaking the world? Continue reading

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The Beginning of the Good News (Advent 2B, 7 December 2014)

Mark 1.1–8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

That’s how the Gospel According to Mark starts.

Today, I want to look for a while at ‘good news’.

What’s good news? What’s bad news?

G and J were married yesterday in a wonderful service at St Andrews. I think we can agree that this is good news.

B died peacefully in her sleep on Friday. I think we can agree that this is not good news.

It’s news that saddens us. B was an exemplary Christian woman, one whom I had greatly admired for almost twenty years. She’d hate me saying that; but it’s part of why I feel sad right now.

So, it’s sad news that B has died. I certainly can’t say it’s good news. But there remains that wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Continue reading

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The Foundation of the world (Advent 1B, 30 November 2014)

Isaiah 64.1–9
Mark 13.24–37


Today, we start a new Church Year, Year B in our three-year cycle. In Year B, most of the Gospel Readings come from the Gospel According to Mark. As usual, on the first Sunday of a new year we don’t start at the beginning of the story. We start at the End.

By ‘the End’, theologians may mean the ‘Last Things’, the Last Judgement and beyond. But really, more often they are talking about the ultimate things: the end as the ultimate purpose of the world God has made. That is, they are talking about the new world God is bringing into being, the kingdom of God.

When we look at the hope of a new world, the kingdom of God, and when we look at the present reality—Ebola, seemingly perpetual war in the Middle East, climate change, children in indefinite detention—it’s easy to say it’s all too hard, we don’t want to think about it, it’s got nothing to do with my life today. Let me just do my job, enjoy my family, get a nice house and veg in front of the TV. Let the government work it out.

But sometimes, it all gets too much for us. The world is in such a mess that we may cry out with Isaiah in frustration to God:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down…!

But nothing happens. Our cries die in our throats. The heavens stay closed. God remains hidden. The world goes on as it always did. The rich still build bigger barns, the poor still sit on the ground outside the rich man’s gates.

So we shrug our shoulders, we go back to the little bit of life that we know, and try to forget about the rest. Continue reading


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