Monthly Archives: April 2015

“We know love by this, that Christ laid down his life for us” (Easter 4B / 100th Anniversary of ANZAC Day, 26 April 2015)

1 John 3.16–24
John 10.11–18

I hate militarism. I loathe nationalism. But I honour those who serve.

Sam Neill

How do we speak on a day like this? At this very time one hundred years ago, the Anzac forces—and, let’s face it, the Turkish soldiers too—were going through hell.

Soon we’ll sing the 23rd Psalm; some of the Anzacs will have been reminding themselves of the words of that psalm. Later we’ll say the Lord’s Prayer; many will have been saying that prayer too. They must have been praying above all for it to stop, so they could go home to their sweethearts and wives. After all it was General Douglas MacArthur who said:

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

We know of course that these scars are not just  obvious ones such as lost limbs. They are post-traumatic stress disorders, they are alcohol and drug problems, they are chronic depression, broken marriages and chronic unemployment.

You may have heard that Australia became a nation on 25 April 1915. Of course, that’s not literally true. We became a nation on 1 January, 1901.

What actually happened on that day at Anzac Cove was that we suffered our first great disaster as a nation. Over 620 men died on that one day. All together, Gallipoli cost the Allies 141000 casualties, of whom more than 44000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders. More than 85000 Turks died.

As a nation, we had to make some sense of it for ourselves. So—apart from that last part, apart from the casualties the Turks suffered—Gallipoli has become our founding myth. Like so many myths, parts of it are true. But only parts.

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Still growing, still changing, still becoming (Easter 3B, 19 April 2015)

Acts 3.12–19
Luke 24.36b–48

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. 1 Corinthians 5.19a

The way the religious authorities in Jerusalem saw things, it must have been an unfolding disaster, an accident happening in slow motion. They must have been tearing their hair out. And if the Romans got to hear, all hell could break loose…

They thought they’d succeeded in getting rid of that troublemaker Jesus of Nazareth for good. He’d been crucified by the Romans, but now his followers were blabbering that he had be raised from the dead! It didn’t help that no one knew where the body was. Heaven knows how they stole it.

(They must have stolen it! How else could the tomb be empty?)

The problem was, the people were believing their ridiculous story about Jesus being alive.

So they did what authoritarian people have always done: they squashed dissent wherever they saw it.

That was the way the authorities saw it.

The disciples saw it very differently.

Jesus had appeared to them. Not in a dream. He had appeared as a human but as a human beyond death. He wasn’t a ghost. Or a zombie, or a ghoul or a vampire. He had died, but he had beaten death. God had raised him.

The disciples had to make sense of how someone condemned by the law of God and condemned to the horrors of crucifixion could now be—as Peter proclaims in today’s reading from the Book of Acts—‘the Author of life’.  Continue reading

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Christ is risen! Hristos voskrese! ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ!

Getting There... 2 steps forward, 1 back

Hristos voskrese, Christ is risen!

An Orthodox Easter song from Serbia, and a lovely video.

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The mind of Christ (Easter 2B, 12 April 2015)

Acts 4.32–35
Psalm 133
John 20.19–31

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!            Psalm 133.1

This is a true story.

A young boy aged four I suppose, went to preschool for the first time. When he came out in the afternoon to greet his father, he had a huge smile and his eyes were shining. He was bursting excitedly with his news: ‘I made two enemies today!’

I’m not sure he knew what an enemy was, and since then this particular lad has gone on to make good friends and to be a good friend.

But isn’t that just like life? Aren’t we being told all the time who our enemies are? Our enemies are Muslims and asylum seekers, they are environmental greenies and gays who want to be married.

It’s important to know who your enemies are.

Isn’t it?

Sadly, sometimes it is necessary for us to know who our enemy is. There are circumstances where we must pay attention to this. But it’s not a way of life. It cannot be a way of life for the Christian who follows the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

And in 1 John 4.18 we read:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

Our way of life is love, not fear. Continue reading

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Repairing the ‘hole in the fabric of things’  (Easter Sunday, Year B, 5 April 2015)

Mark 16.1–8

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30.5)

The novelist and psychotherapist Salley Vickers opens her first novel, Miss Garnet’s Angel, with these words:

Death is outside life but it alters it: it leaves a hole in the fabric of things which those who are left behind try to repair.

When someone we love dies, there is a hole left in our life that often fills quite quickly with sadness, tears, fears, regrets and guilt.

It was just the same for those who loved Jesus.

The women returned to the tomb on the Sunday. Jesus had been crucified on Friday, but Saturday was the Sabbath, when no work could be done. They still had the task of anointing the body of Jesus. They had to finish the job. They couldn’t live with themselves if they just left him there. They had to repair the hole left by Jesus’ death.

Perhaps it was because they were still a bit numb, but they hadn’t thought it through. On the way, they wonder how they can roll away the stone so they might carry out their melancholy duty. But when they arrive, the stone has already been rolled away.

They go in—hearts a-thumping, I should imagine—not knowing what they might find.

In the Gospel According to Mark, they are met by a young man. He says:

Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.

Mark leaves the women fearful and mute, running from the tomb. The mysterious young man was offering them a new future, a future no longer preoccupied with fears of death, but they couldn’t accept it right away.

In the Gospel According to Mark, the women had stood at a distance watching while Jesus was crucified. They knew where the tomb was. But the men had cut and run. They had shown themselves as cowards—and the leader, Peter, was worse than most. Peter had a big hole to repair, big enough for him to fall into, and he didn’t know how to repair it.

Since the young man had named him specifically, let’s turn to the Apostle Peter.

Just a few days earlier, on the Thursday evening, Peter had denied knowing Jesus while warming himself beside the fire in the high priest’s courtyard. Three times. He had tried to be there, but in reality he had turned his back on Jesus in his hour of need.

Yet now Jesus is reaching out to Peter in love, in forgiveness. Jesus has no wish to punish, no desire for revenge.

Salley Vickers says that after a death, those who are left behind must try to repair the hole that is left; the risen Lord Jesus is seeking to do that work of repair in Peter’s soul. It’s what we call grace. It’s a gift, for us to receive. It brings to us hope for a new life, for a future that isn’t defined by the sins and mistakes of the past.

Peter had denied Jesus, but that didn’t define his future. The hole can be repaired. When Jesus pours his new life into Peter, Peter is set free for a new future, an open future.

Jesus is risen. Now. Present tense. He offers new life to all so that our future need not be defined by what we’ve done and who we’ve been.

The hole in the fabric of things is being repaired. It has been repaired by Jesus.

It doesn’t matter who we are, where we’re from, what we’ve done or what has been done to us. Jesus offers new life, risen life, life without end. And it starts now.

The women received it, in the end. Peter and the other disciples received it. Can you receive it?

The love, forgiveness, grace, mercy and peace of the risen Lord are a gift for us. Let us receive it today. Let us receive him today.

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It’s all Jesus’ fault (Easter Vigil, Year B, 4 April 2015)

Exodus 14.10-31; 15.20-21
Responsive Reading: Exodus 15.1b-6, 11-13, 17-18 (Canticle of Miriam and Moses)
Mark 16.1–8

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ― Anne Lamott

It’s all Jesus’ fault.

I can’t read the bible the way I used to, and it’s all Jesus’ fault.

Let me give you an example. One of our readings tonight was from Exodus 15. This reading is always included in an Easter Vigil. It’s a great reading, particularly if you like God utterly crushing his enemies in absolutely spectacular ways.

Horse and rider
are thrown into the sea!

True to the name ‘Lord’,
our God leads in battle,
hurls Pharaoh’s chariots
and army into the sea!

When I was a boy, I could believe in a god who punished his people’s enemies, a god who expected his people to rejoice at the deaths of their enemies.

Not any more.

Not since I realised that Jesus died as an enemy of God’s people. As our enemy. The priests, the crowd saw in Jesus a danger to public safety that needed to be eliminated. Having him put to the grisly death of crucifixion was the surest way to restore public order.

Jesus died as an outlaw, as someone rejected by God, as public enemy number one—but God vindicated him. Any rejoicing at the death of Jesus was short-lived.

The death of Jesus was the crucifixion of God’s incarnate Son. God the Father wept as God the Son suffered, and God the Father still weeps with everyone who suffers.

Jesus calls for his Father to forgive those who are crucifying him. Risen from the grave, he speaks words of peace to disciples who had deserted him.

If Jesus is the Son of God, then God does not throw people into the sea. Perhaps the people of Israel interpreted their victory as the victory of God, as indeed our own countries did at least up until World War One.

But I can’t see it that way anymore, and it’s all Jesus’ fault. Oh, and I blame some of Jesus’ followers too. In particular, today—4 April—I blame Rev Dr Martin Luther King.

Today, 4 April, gives us another reason to remember that God’s ways are peace and non-violence, and to stand with those who suffer. Today is the day the Church remembers Martin Luther King. It was on this day in 1968 that he was shot dead in Memphis, and entered into the peace of his Lord. If you want to gain a little more insight into this disciple of Jesus, I suggest that you see the film Selma when it comes out on DVD if you haven’t seen it yet.

Martin Luther King practised a way of non-violence that has done more to advance the cause of God’s kingdom than any number of acts of violence or terrorism or retaliation against these things. King found the joy of God as he walked this way.

And God’s joy is now for all people too. When prophets like Zephaniah cry,

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!,

God intends all people on earth to hear it whoever and wherever they are. God says

I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.

Not just the outcasts of Israel, but the outcasts of all nations! Everyone is included, and that’s why we can’t read the Exodus story or any other part of the Bible as a simple tale of goodies and baddies. Not any more.

The Exodus story does act as a kind of historical parable of how God deals with the sin and evil in the world, how completely and utterly God deals with it. It is dead and buried. And God says, Step away from evil. Stop your fascination with sin. Join my way.

The Christ of the cross identifies with the suffering and the outcast and the sinner, and calls me and you to join him in doing that. The joy of the risen Christ is for all people on earth, whoever and wherever they are.

I can’t read the bible the way I used to, and it’s all Jesus’ fault.

Thanks be to God.

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Were you there? A meditation for Good Friday 2015

Were you there?

We sometimes sing, ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’

Were you there?

Pilate was there, trying to work out what to do to keep the crowd quiet. They say that politics is the art of the possible. Pilate merely looked for the way of least resistance.

Barabbas was there, who had been arrested during an uprising. He was on death row, but that day he couldn’t believe his luck. They were letting him go and getting rid of someone else.

Were you there?

Simon of Cyrene was there, a passer by from the place we call Libya, possibly a black man. He was made to carry Jesus’ cross; Jesus was too weak after his flogging.

Other passers by taunted him, along with those who were crucified with him. Even the priests joined in. Jesus was the scum of the earth.

Were you there?

A centurion was there, who would have supervised the operation. When he saw how this worm of a man died, this prisoner who had not even defended himself died, he said

Truly this man was God’s Son!

Were you there?

And there were women there, standing at a distance. These were women including Mary Magdalene who had followed him and provided for him when he was in Galilee. There were other women too, who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

The men had gone. Peter had denied him, Judas had betrayed him, the rest were in hiding.

Were you there?

There is room for all of us there, even if we weren’t born at the right time to be ‘there’. We are there represented by the politically expedient, the onlooker dragged in, or by those who jeer and mock.

Or perhaps we identify more with the women, who watched from a distance. Or the men, who were cowards or much worse.

Maybe we see ourselves in the centurion, who saw the truth too late but could also begin to make sense of what he had seen.

Were you there? Are you there? There’s room for you there because God is there. God is in the Saviour who died for you, and invites you to find in Jesus the love, the forgiveness, the grace and the peace of God.

Let us sing: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

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