Tag Archives: Queensland floods

Second Sunday in Lent (Year A, 20 March 2011)

Today, we return to our series on the Beatitudes as we look at the story of Nicodemus.


Blessed are those who hunger for justice

Readings
Romans 4.1-5, 13-17
John 3.1-17

Lament

Many of the psalms are psalms of lament. People cry out to God in their distress, and God hears them.
Let us join in a prayer of lament:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness:
they will be filled.

People suffer, struggle, there seems no end in sight:
where are you, Lord?

Earthquakes and tsunamis rage, radiation levels rise:
where are you, Lord?

Help us find you
in the faces and lives
of the helpless and destitute.

Help us find you
and be ready to welcome you,
whatever your disguise.

And give us compassion
that we might open our hearts to those in need;
and in serving them, be served;
in loving them, find love;
and in knowing them, know you. Amen.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice:
they will be filled.

The Proclamation of the Word

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will be filled.

Or, we could say:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. They will be filled.

It’s the same thing. If you are righteous, you are just in your dealings with others. If you are righteous, you want justice for others. So I like the way the Revised English Bible translates this saying:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail; they shall be satisfied.

When you hunger and thirst, you’re thinking about one thing. How to satisfy that need. You’ll eat just about anything; you’ll not care that the water you’ve been given is room temperature, or that the bread is a bit dry. You’ll think of little else until that need is satisfied. I’d suggest it’s the same with hungering and thirsting to see right prevail.

Today, we heard the story of Nicodemus. Was Nicodemus a seeker of righteousness? Did he ‘hunger and thirst’ for the righteousness Jesus talked about? Remember, he said: ‘unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’? I doubt that Nicodemus hungered or thirsted.

He came to Jesus by night; perhaps he was putting himself at risk visiting Jesus. He was after all a member of the ruling council, the Sanhedrin; he had a position to protect. So he came in secret. For a conversation.

I’ve enjoyed thinking of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus as a game of tennis.

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First Sunday in Lent (Year A, 13 March 2011)

I was at a family camp (fab time!!) this weekend. The service at Centenary UC was led by Rev Mary Haire. I thank Mary, and thank her for this copy of her sermon:

 

Readings

Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4: 1-11

Away with you Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’

These words of Jesus in the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 4, Verse 10, sum up Jesus’ decision when faced with temptations and choices after he fasted for 40 days in the bush.

I don’t need to remind you about the number of choices and dilemmas we all have every day—the little things and the big things in our lives.

We have personal ethical dilemmas and choices; as a child, whether to own up to an accident or misdeed; as an adult whether to earn more money for our family or to devote this time to voluntary work for our neighbour. Whether to enter into the carbon tax debate?

At the times of the recent devastating floods in Queensland and the bushfires in Victoria a couple of years ago,  many made choices which put actions to save others above concerns for personal safety and property. No doubt after the terrible earthquakes and tsunamis which have just happened in Japan we shall see similar choices made both by trained rescuers and by ordinary people. Then there are the complicated ethical debates which cross boundaries of legal stability, national relations and social justice. The Law Report on ABC radio recently described the Vulture funds which buy up debts of desperately poor countries for a pittance and seek to have them enforced in countries around the world, creating ethical dilemmas for legal systems and international business relationships.

There are even life and death choices for individuals. I remember as a member of a committee for organ and tissue donation and transplantation needing to debate the issue of whether a prisoner who had been convicted of a very serious crime should allowed to be put on the waiting list for an organ transplant, when there were many others who were waiting.

In the story of the temptation of Jesus it is definitely not the small personal choices within this world which are the main subject.  It is not even the larger choices and ethical dilemmas—but the whole calling, and vocation of Jesus, the type of mission which God has for him. It is a story about the greatest choice which there has ever been in anyone’s life, whether or not to accept the way of the cross, the one which Jesus made on our behalf. Put in its starkest form: it is a life and death choice for all humankind—for all of us.

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Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A, 23 January 2011)

Near occasions of grace

Readings
1 Corinthians 1.10-18
Matthew 4.12-23

There’s a strand of Christian belief and practice that talks a lot about ‘near occasions of sin’. For example, the Baltimore Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says this (Question 207):

What do you mean by the near occasions of sin?

Answer: By the near occasions of sin I mean all the persons, places, and things that may easily lead us into sin.

This teaches us to avoid situations that lead us into temptation. It ranges from the obvious: I don’t go to brothels in order to give pastoral care. (I found out the whereabouts of the local brothel at a recent ministers’ fraternal meeting, of all places. Everyone else seemed to know.) But avoiding near occasions of sin may also lead to things that are less black and white than that: should I as a minister go to the local bottle shop? Some would say that’s a non-question, why worry about that, while others would tell me I just shouldn’t go there.

We can see that what for one person is a near occasion of sin is nothing for another. Personally, I find entering a book shop can be a near occasion of sin, in that I’m often tempted to spend way too much money. You might enter the same bookshop and be totally bored.

Avoiding near occasions of sin is a good teaching; why should we put ourselves in harm’s way morally, ethically or spiritually? I am happy to say that we should avoid near occasions of sin.

But if all we do is avoid sin, we’re missing out on a lot of living. If all we do is avoid sin, we may do no good. If all we do is avoid sin, we may miss God.

The spiritual writer Richard Rohr is someone I listen to closely. He writes about ‘near occasions of grace’, rather than near occasions of sin. He says:

We want to plant ourselves in near occasions of grace, yet we spend all our life avoiding near occasions of sin. Can there be situations that we allow ourselves to enter which will force us to reevaluate everything?

So a near occasion of grace may be where there are persons, places, and things that may easily lead us into further grace.

Near occasions of grace are often places and times in which we are confronted with something beyond us, perhaps way out of our control. In that place and that time we may find God’s grace waiting for us, loitering with intent, just around the corner. An ordinary day may be the time when God’s unexpected grace reveals itself to us.

Grace often surprises us, and it may not look like grace. When the fishermen Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John set out for a day’s work one morning, it probably seemed like any other. The sun might have been shining, or it may have clouded over, but my guess is that it started as an ordinary day.

Then Jesus came along.

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Brisbane, 2011 Flood: a personal view

It seems the floods that hit Queensland and Brisbane have hit the headlines all over the world… It’s been a bit hard for us to tell because we’ve been without power for several days. We got it last night—ah, that hot shower this morning!!

The picture below is of our stretch of the Brisbane River. Our house is arrowed; we were spared inundation, thank God. The house is normally a fair bit above the river, I’d say about 10 metres below the road. The river got within 2 metres in the end, and was closer than it is in this photo (original here). We were a tad nervous. You can see the width of the river here; I’m sure that helped to save us too. In the end, the river was probably a metre below 1974 levels.

Again, this is NOT the flood at its height! I’ve circled the part of the road that was under; we were cut off by road, but we could walk to higher ground to stay a night with friends.

Here is A Collect of the Morning, from An Australian Prayer Book:

Lord our heavenly Father,
almighty and everlasting God,
we thank you for bringing us safely to this day.
Keep us by your mighty power,
and grant that today we fall into no sin,
neither run into any kind of danger,
but lead and govern us in all things,
that we may always do what is righteous in your sight;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 16 January 2011)

Whoever I am, O God, I am yours!

Readings
Psalm 40.1-11
1 Corinthians 1.1-9

Floods. In Queensland generally and in Brisbane itself, we are in the highly unusual position of being able to say we’ve had enough rain, thank you very much. We’ve been through a trial this week, with a devastating flood comparable to those of 1974 and 1893. Some of us have suffered flood damage, some have given help to others, some of us have been spared damage to our house and property. Not one of us is unaffected. The Courier-Mail says that 927 houses have been flooded in the Centenary, Sinnamon Park and Seventeen Mile Rocks areas. Our suffering has been small compared to the people of the Lockyer Valley, where lives have been lost.

Our own house is by the river at Riverhills, and is—normally!—quite high above the river. We weren’t so high above it the other day…! We lost power like everyone else, and we were cut off by road. We were able to walk out through a laneway, which is how we had shelter at Brenda’s place, but cars couldn’t get away. People who wanted to leave did have another option; the local rowing club ferried people across to the other side. They were absolutely wonderful!

We had a street bbq on Thursday night to use up food that was unable to be kept because of the lack of power. We’ve got to know our neighbours better—and we’ve had to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers alike to get through these last few days. We are very thankful indeed.

I want to speak a little personally today—I seem to do that from time to time. You may find something of yourself in my reflections.

I’ve found that I’ve been a little disappointed in my own reactions in these few days. I’ve been irritable, especially with my nearest and dearest. I haven’t listened particularly well, especially to my nearest and dearest. I’ve been feeling stunned at times, unable to act.

And yet I’ve also been receiving phone calls, making phone calls, offering pastoral care, ‘being’ the minister and ‘doing’ what a minister does.

All this has reminded me of a poem called Who am I?, which was written in 1943 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who was hanged on Hitler’s direct orders only a few days before the end of World War 2.

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