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“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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Filed under ANZAC Day, church year, RCL, sermon

‘All for transformation’ (Transfiguration of Jesus, Year A, 2 March 2014)

Exodus 24.12–18
Matthew 17.1–9

‘All for transformation’: The Offering of bread and wine in the light of the Transfiguration

Karen and I are very fortunate in that we live by the river. Every day, as I leave the house I see it. We live on a bend in the river, and we see the gentle flow of the water, and often there are pelicans on the river.

Quite often, I get surprised that I live in such a lovely spot. I seem to forget after a night’s sleep. So I might step out of the house, and I am once more amazed by the river’s beauty.

Sometimes, I it moves me so much that I am transfixed. I have to stand still and gaze, or walk over the road so I can be closer to the river. Being transfixed is not the same as being to transformed, even transfigured; but I think it may be the first step.

Beauty can do that to you.

On other days, I just leave the house, get in my car and drive without a second glance. What makes the difference? Is there something different about the river—perhaps the light plays on it in a way that catches my attention? Or is there something different about me on the days I pause, maybe I’m in a mood to be amazed?

Or possibly it may be both the river and me? Perhaps sometimes it is.

When Jesus takes the disciples up the mountain, they see a vision of him transfigured and they are afraid. At least that’s what happened there and then. But I wonder what happens deeper in someone’s heart and soul when this happens? I wonder if the disciples were now taking baby steps on the road to their own transfiguration?

Because that’s what the Transfiguration is ultimately all about: the disciples being transfigured. ‘Transfiguration’ is about our transformation into the people God made us to be. Our transfiguration into being God’s children, bearing the image of Jesus Christ.

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At the cross

A meditation by Revd Rod Horsfield, from Journey


ONE OF THE traditional ways of presenting the death of Jesus is to describe it as a sacrifice. That is problematical for many people in contemporary society.

The church’s great theologians through the centuries proposed various theories to explain how the death of Jesus saves us.

Some of these old theories survive today and are still used to test a person’s orthodoxy.

For myself, I find those old atonement theories brave in trying to explain the mystery of the cross. But I find none of them completely satisfying.

The fault in most of them is that they drive a wedge between God and Jesus.

They make it sound as if a ruthless God had to be bought off by the sacrificial death of Jesus.

As if God made the demand that “someone’s got to pay for the sins of the world”.

They make it appear that God then let his Son pay the full price God demanded to “save people from their sins.”

I find that offensive.

Any wedge between God and Jesus does not help my understanding, nor is it faithful to the whole witness of Scripture.

So what are we left with? We are left with Jesus on the cross.

We are left with a man in whom God was fully present, dying as a result of our shared human evil and the feral ways that flow from our alienation from the Creator of life.

On the cross, I believe that God is fully present in Jesus Christ to the bitter end.

On the cross I see God in a man who experiences not only physical agony but spiritual desolation.

Therefore I am left with a God who will die for us. A God who, in loving us, will bridge the gulf of alienation at all cost.

After many decades of faith, and professional theological study, I still do not understand the “mechanics” of God “reconciling the world to himself”.

I have no neat theory to replace the old ones, though people like Jürgen Moltmann, James Allison and other contemporary theologians are attempting new “theories of the atonement”.

At the cross I am forced to live with a wonder I cannot explain.

Many of our old hymns have atonement theories that less than adequate. However Brian Wren’s graphic hymn, ‘Here hangs a man discarded’ (Together in Song 356) is worth contemplating.

Can such a clown of sorrows
Still bring a useful word
Where faith and hope seem phantoms
And every hope absurd?

Life emptied of all meaning,
Drained out in deep distress,
Can share in broken silence
My deepest emptiness;

And love that freely entered
The pit of life’s despair
Can name our hidden darkness
And suffer with us there.

God with us and for us. A gulf bridged, a world saved. I cannot comprehend it or explain it, but I dare to believe that much.

Thanks be to God.

Rev Rod Horsfield is a minister in the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. This article first appeared in Crosslight, the newspaper of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

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