Christ the King – 26th November 2017

I arrived at the hairdressers a bit early for an appointment just recently and had time for  a coffee and a read of some magazines and I came across an article, the likes of which appear every so often, speculating on a successor for queen Elizabeth 11. Should it be Charles, by right of his birth, or should it be the, seemingly more popular, 2nd in line William? Time will tell and in Australia, possibly the only difference the decision will make in Australia is that there may be more or less of a push towards Australia becoming a republic. Still it seems speculation (in some circles) is rife. Which one (together with wife and family) has the more appeal? Which one is able to connect with the everyday man or woman on the street?

And this brings me to the readings and celebrations in our worship this week.

This is the last week of the Christian Year, as next week we move into Advent. This is also Reign of Christ or Christ the King Sunday. The image of Christ on the throne of his glory and coming with all his angels and all nations gathered before him is a powerful image. But our gospel reading is about seeing and serving Christ in the ordinary, needy people around us.

It is a good time to look back on the past year and think of all the times Christ was present among us – in the face of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick person or the one in prison. Just as the disciples wondered, “What will  it be like when Christ returns again and the Reign of Christ on earth is a reality?” so we too wonder what it will be like.

Have you seen Christ in friend and stranger?
How does your community show God’s love to the friend and the stranger?

Perhaps our Prayer for this week might be “God, in those we meet, and those we teach, may we feel your presence and greet them as we would you. Amen.”

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost – 19th November 2017

It is Thursday morning and the news headlines are focused on two particular events of interest to Australians.

Last night, in Sydney, the Socceroos’ earned the right to compete in the world cup after a win of 3/1 against Honduras. Now I do not profess to being a soccer fan but I acknowledge the effort put in by the team and coach – and I’m proud of this Australian team. I’m proud to be Australian.

I am proud to be Australian also because in the recent plebiscite the majority of Australians chose to complete the non-compulsory survey – and make their voices heard.

On a personal note I am also glad that there was a decisive vote. Australians have made their sentiments heard and the majority said, “YES,” to marriage equality. This may not be the way you wanted the vote to go but I have a number of gay couples that are close friends, who have poured out their pain over the years. For me this was not about my faith so much as what is good and just and fair.

I was deeply saddened by the cruel attacks from people on both sides of the argument – but these were from vocal minorities. The majority of those people I have spoken with have been loving and respectful – giving their point of view without judgment.

For those who feel that this is not the way forward for the church let me reassure you that, at present our canon law will not allow even the Christian blessing of a Same Sex marriage, let alone an actual wedding. It is my understanding that, regardless of changes to Australian law, the various Synods within the Anglican Church will need to vote on the matter before Same Sex marriages will ever take place in our churches. Sadly this means that we face what may be years of vicious arguments and judgments between various stakeholders.

The “Gay” couples I know (some in other countries – are already married) are Christian. In fact two are Anglican Clergy. All are gentle and generous members of their churches and/or communities. I have wonderful Christian friends who oppose same Sex marriage. I love them all! My prayer is simply that discussion and decision-making  within the church can be undertaken without judgment or vilification and perhaps we might agree to disagree while respecting different viewpoints and the right for all to act according to their own conscience – after all, God is the final judge and knows the hearts of all.

23rd Sunday after Pentecost – 12th November 2017

Two weeks ago in the Old Testament reading we stood with Moses at the border of the new land to which the people of Israel have been travelling since fleeing their enslaved lives in Egypt. The writers of Deuteronomy celebrate Moses for his 40 years of God-inspired leadership.

Moses made it to the border but could only look to the future of his people knowing that he would not be part of it. How must that have felt for Moses? Does Moses worry about passing over leadership? Is he reluctant to do so? Does he question the ability of others to take up leadership? Does he find it hard to realize that he will not be able to finish what he started?

These are questions in my own mind as I prepare to retire from full time ministry

But what is it like, as a follower (lay or ordained) of Christ, to take on a leadership role? How does it feel to stop being the leader and offer space for others to take on leadership? Think of times you have had a leadership role or think of leaders you  have known in your life. What made that leadership worthwhile? As each leadership  came to an end what were your feelings?

We remember that there are two great imperatives in the gospel – the first is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Christian leadership is, therefore, a leadership of love.

Pray that all members of our congregation will feel the movement of God’s unfolding story pulsing through hearts, souls, minds, and bodies; embodying their stories into Spirit-centred fulfilment… whatever their role within the community.

All Saints Day – 5th November 2017

In the Gospel reading this week Jesus is telling his followers not to look at what their religious leaders are doing (as a guide) as they do not practice what they preach. Their motive is to be seen and given the place of honour and respect, not to follow the
teachings of Moses.

Jesus says we are all equal – all children of God “for we have one Father – the one in heaven” (v.9) and “The greatest among you will be your servant” (v. 11). This passage and the others for this week show aspects of leadership and demonstrate what good leadership might look like. We are all called to be faithful to God, and to use our God given gifts to serve God and our community.

This All Saints Day we remember all who have gone before us, laying the foundations of faith and community on which we build.

How might we honour everyone’s contribution in assisting the community to grow in faith and humble service?

Do we remember we are all equal in God’s sight? Or do we compare our own
contribution to those of our brothers and sisters within the community feeling more or
less worthy.

Remember – each one is a unique child of God, here with a purpose according to our
gifts and God’s call on our life.

May God, help us to not look to others for validation, but to Jesus for teaching and
guidance.

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost – 29th October 2017

Isidor Isaac Rabi, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, and one of the developers of the atomic bomb, was once asked how he became a scientist. Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but how he conducted himself in his studies. She always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?”

“Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”

In order to ask a good question I think you need to have noble motives behind the question. You have to want to know the truth. The Pharisees, by contrast, already had the answers to their questions. They felt they already knew the truth. How many times have we had it in for someone, asking a question designed to trap
them?

I see it all of the time on television – the way some reporters have already made up their minds about the answer before they even ask the question. It sickens me… I cringe and turn the TV off when it gets to be too much. We even do it to our loved ones. In a moment like this we are not trying to learn; we are trying to injure.

In the gospel, rather than responding cruelly, Jesus carefully cuts through the nuanced layers of the law to give an easily swallowed summation of the whole law

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second
is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
(Matt 22: 37- 40)

Yes, the answer is Love.

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – 22nd October 2017

A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car.

His father said he’d make a deal with his son, “You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.”

The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.

After about six weeks his father said, “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut”.

The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair, and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair”.

Dad’s reply? “Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?”

The point? The purpose of the word of God is not to be twisted or pulled apart merely to support our own particular way of life – the Word is the foundation of our faith. It is not to be bent according to our own purposes but it is to form us and shape us into the image of God … with or without long hair!

I’m not sure where this poem comes from but the words hold true.

You are writing a Gospel
A chapter a day
By the deeds that you do
And the words that you say
People read what you write
If it’s false or it’s true
Now what is the Gospel
According to you?

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 15th October 2017

Few people are so blessed as to never have been hurt by another human being… by unkind words or cruel actions, be they intended or not. The load of hurt can be a crippling burden. I share with you, this week, the wisdom of one who has known far deeper hurt than I.

***When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, he had a question on his mind: “When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela,” the former President said, “I woke my daughter at three o’clock in the morning. I wanted her to see this historic event.” Then President Clinton zeroed in on his question: “As you marched from the cellblock across the yard to the gate of the prison, the camera focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, and even hatred, in any man as was expressed on your face at that time. That’s not the Nelson Mandela I know today,” said Clinton. “What was that about?”

Mandela answered, “I’m surprised that you saw that, and I regret that the cameras caught my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day I thought to myself, ‘They’ve taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they’re releasing you, but there’s nothing left for you out there.’ And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, ‘Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don’t allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'”

You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. I am blessed to have witnessed such forgiveness expressed within this very community. People who have been damaged and broken, reaching out in concern to the perpetrators of the abuse. One person I know has gone over and above what could reasonably be expected – she says this is not out of love but because it is the right thing to do and there is no one else to do what is necessary. I say that is Christian love and forgiveness. And, I give thanks for the witness of this person.
***(As quoted by King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com)

Forgiveness: Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it
forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.
E. H. Chapin

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – 8th October 2017

Where have 11 weeks gone? Lest anyone assume we just settled back with a book let me remind you that life, with all of its ups and downs, goes on. As happens all too often when one stops running, I fell in a heap! Allergies and exhaustion took their toll and driving thousands of kilometres visiting and checking on family members aggravated back issues to the point that I could barely walk.

Maurie only had two weeks off so he continued to face the usual work stressors. We
were impacted by the same tragic news events, and saddened by the vicious sniping of
both “Yes” and “No” voters regarding the plebiscite on Same Sex marriage. And we
have followed, with concern, the stupid egotistical posturing of two world leaders,
seemingly intent on a show of ‘one up man ship’ regardless of the possible dire
consequences for the world. And of course, taking time out does not solve family issues
and concerns.

But hang on, before you think I am looking for the sympathy vote, let me reiterate what I
said in the opening of this reflection – “life goes on”. I love the scents of flowers and
herbs in our garden.

When we first moved to Redland Bay we planted 6 Jasmine plants along the fence.
Chemicals used by concreters killed off 5 that were replaced; the other remained alive
but showed little sign of growing. Finally it is also sending out shoots and we have had a
lovely show of flowers. Hippeastrum, Gardenias and Azaleas, native hibiscus and
grasses are blooming and cherry tomatoes, blue berries and herbs are thriving.

We have had time with our children and grandchildren in Broken Hill, and at home, and
our daughter (Naomi) is now sharing our home. AND, I have found Kelly, an incredible Chiropractor close to home, who has worked miracles! Thanks be to God for her gift of healing.

Birds are flocking to our feeder (and I suspect we could end up with corn growing from
the crevasses in the yucca growing beneath it) and enchant us with their antics. Yes, life
goes on, in its myriad colours.

By not constantly rushing and focusing on worries and what lies ahead, by putting aside
fears and concerns for events which may never occur, and taking time to breathe in the
scents of the moment we can always find gems of wonder and beauty for which to give
thanks to God.

When I feel myself lost in concerns I take a walk, smell the scents, listen to the sounds
and open my eyes to the ever-changing signs of life and hope around us. I am  practicing mindfulness … I invite you to do the same.