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And we 2000 plus years later and we still have a long way to go.

The everything board / Sermon for Easter 5C at Wellington this morning
« on: April 24, 2016, 02:54:36 PM »
Psalm 148, Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6
Gospel John 13:31-35

(Wearing T shirt with Uniting Church logo + ‘Uniting for the Common Good’)
Before I start—2 things—
Firstly; You may have noticed this shirt I am wearing during the Family talk. —I tried to get a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) or an ‘Ask me about Jesus’ type T shirt but couldn’t in Orange op shops on Wednesday—in the Christian bookshop I was told that Jesus T shirts are long gone out of fashion. —this one comes close and as we said—This shirt identifies me as a Uniting Church Person.
I’ll come back to this later.
So the family are driving along in the car—it’s a long journey and somewhere along the way one of the kids asks that fatal eternal question. “Are we there yet?”
Of course Dad’s answer is pleasant “it’s a while yet—just be patient”
Five whole minutes pass and a voice from the back seat asks again “Are we there yet?”
“It’s a long way—you’ll have to wait like the rest of us”
Of course you all know where this is going—pretty soon it is a chorus “are we there yet, are we there yet…”
Dad looks angrily at mum as if it is her fault.

He slows the car, pulls off the tar and stops.
 He turns round in his seat?
Who hasn’t heard this reading of the riot act?
“Right—I have had it. It is a long way—I am not putting up with you asking ‘Are we there yet’ every ten seconds. We won’t be there till dark. If one more person asks ‘are we there yet’ I will stop the car and put you all out and you can walk. You got that?”
They drive along for something like 15 minutes in total awkward silence.
Then a thin little voice comes from behind “Is it dark yet?”
I’ll come back to this too.
I used part of Psalm 148 this morning as our call to worship.
God commanded, our Psalmist says in the first half of the Psalm, and the sun, moon, stars, heavens … were created. At God’s Word they were put in their place and they all cry out in praise.
The psalm goes on to describe the more earthly parts of creation.
Verses 7 to 10
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
    sea monsters and all ocean depths;
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    strong winds that obey his command.
9 Praise him, hills and mountains,
    fruit trees and forests;
10 all animals, tame and wild,
    reptiles and birds.

Good and bad, wild and tame—and I note reptiles in there—I’d go so far as to say Unclean and Clean—all things praise him.
11 Praise him, kings and all peoples,
    princes and all other rulers;
12 young women and young men,
    old people and children too.

All people, from the top to the bottom of the pecking order.
13 Let them all praise the name of the Lord!
And then God’s own people unite in praise too.
14 He made his nation strong,
    so that all his people praise him—
    the people of Israel, so dear to him.
Praise the Lord!

The message is there for Peter to see but he doesn’t get it. Well, not right away at least.
Peter is so wrapped in tradition that he forgets the words of the Psalm—all these things are God’s and praise God, but when commanded to take and eat; Peter proudly, defiantly, says. ‘No way God! Nothing profane has ever touched my lips.’
One, two three times Peter denies the possibility (There seems to be a Peter pattern here with the three times thing)
I reckon Peter may have been able to remain stuck there but for God’s intervention.
11At that very moment …

11At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.
Of course all this is in the past tense—Right now Peter was trying justify his change of prejudice—from the very same position he had held. Prejudice about food, prejudice about race, Prejudice about who could be God’s disciples… and he’s being seriously questioned, read attacked,  by a group of high minded church folk who accused him pretty much of fraternizing with the enemy—‘I mean these people were the Gentiles and you are not just speaking with them but <shock—horror> you are talking about eating their food’.
And guess what: These officious questioners were not the Jewish hierarchy—these were the good New Testament Christian Church people in Jerusalem——seems the church has always had them.
So they heard Peter’s story and I’d infer from the reading that he had another six brother witnesses along—They heard his revelation that the Holy Spirit had come upon the Gentiles in exactly the same way as their own experience.
We heard his impassioned plea—and for Peter it must have been a great turning point.
17If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”
Now a new relationship of kinship in the family of Christ suddenly becomes possible.
18When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
This is a ‘Wow!’ moment in Christendom. I believe it is the same realization of family which started the dismantling and eventual abolition of slavery.
That this person is a creation of God just like me, worthy of God’s love,  saved and adopted into Gods kingdom just like me—a Brother or sister follower of Jesus—well it was and it is a world changing revelation.
Let’s skip ahead to the Revelation reading—to the time described by John when the New Jerusalem, the New Heaven and the New Earth are created—something else is new—a far closer relationship between God and Us—when God again dwells amongst his people as he did in Jesus—but a whole lot better.
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
Sounds heavenly doesn’t it—We pray for it to be so often, and we will again in our prayers of the people, We pray, perhaps not realizing the magnificence and wonder of what we ask.
Your Kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

And perhaps not realizing the implication (because it isn’t quite spelt out) that working at this is our daily bread as much as the physical food we eat.
Jesus said to the disciples after the Last Supper;
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Well, was it actually a New Commandment at all—In Matthew 22, When a lawyer asked Jesus a question to test Him, 36"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
I seem to remember Jesus reply;
38"This is the great and foremost commandment.

What then was different to make it a NEW commandment?
Jesus added something:
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
As we know from this Easter season, this was a great love—not just love as we love ourselves but love beyond self—self sacrificing Love. It was love—not to the Letter of the Law but Love taking the spirit of the Law as far as humanly possible and beyond.
Matthew 5, Jesus speaking:
40"If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41"Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 
Jesus love went so much further even than that—all the way to the cross.
And now here is the kicker—Jesus says:
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He did not say:
have lots of meetings, by this shall the world know you are my disciples.
Neither did he say: keep records of each other’s wrongs or; focus on the differences you have; or grumble about each other. People will know you follow me if you do these things.
He didn’t say we’d be identified as Christians if we wear a T shirt with What Would Jesus Do written on it—or one which has the Uniting Church symbol showing—nor did he say that a church needs a 10 000 watt amplifier system with a 22 channel microphone mixer and a lighting system with a direct connection to Bunnerong Power station to show how properly we worship him.
Instead he said to keep his commandments:
Love one another.
Be patient with each other.
Do your best to listen and understand.
Be merciful and work for peace.
By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Paul talked about love as the most important gift God gives—he writes in 1 Corinthians 13 (NRSVA)
The Gift of Love
13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

And he goes on to describe how love works.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
And Jesus says:
34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Well I said I’d come back to my initial story— I want to leave you with the same question those kids kept asking in the car:
Are we there yet?


The everything board / Re: 2 sermons
« on: April 11, 2016, 09:21:44 PM »
I agree about the refugee - in these days there is a need to check. I heard on radio one day a person saying 'if a person knocks on my door and asks for help I will do my utmost to help them but if they climb over my back fence then I would be questioning their motives.'

I realise many do not have a choice and have to leave everything and flee for their lives but at the same time there are others who do not. Difficult decisions in every way.

WWJD - I think he would be far more open than us.

This morning at Orana Gardens Aged care and retirement village.
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
I Corinthians 15:19-26
Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
and Acts 10:34-43 read during the sermon.
This is their only Easter service.

SERMON: Nothing will ever be the same
In the last few months Kerrie and I have got Netflix—it is way to watch TV on demand by combining Internet and Television—the wonderful thing is that besides being very reasonably priced—it also keeps track of where you are up to—you can watch part of an episode of something and then later on when you have another break you can take up exactly where you left off. (oops – sounds like a free plug for a commercial company but please bear with me)

We have been enjoying some of the series of British murder mysteries. Complex stories which unravel over several seasons—but we could watch the whole thing in one marathon sitting if we wanted. (not that there is time)

I have been amazed at the brilliance of the writers, actors camera teams and directors and the way they capture real life. The crime isn’t just a victim and a perpetrator—nor are their sins isolated—people are complex—there are ripples of hurt and distrust spreading out—whole communities are disrupted and lives turned upside down. It will never be the same again—and, possibly because of what builds to allow someone to do the dreadful—things were never what they seemed in the first place.

On our side of the screen, in real life, the same thing happens—a disaster, a missing child, a traffic accident, a murder, a bushfire or flood … and again the pain ripples out. I am sure you could bring to mind right now some of these things you have watched unfold. Some which have touched you deeply and profoundly and others where you catch the edge as you see the pain in others.

And as the news tries to get the picture, the footage into your TV, tries to grab a different angle—get inside the heads of those involved … and we get more and more of it as they feed off the tragedy. Then suddenly a new  happening and as they say ‘Todays headlines—tomorrows birdcage liner’ The media lions rush on to prey at their next feeding frenzy.

But you and I know the consequences, the anguish, the pain for the survivors don’t go away. Their world is not the same ever again.

In our Corinthians reading Paul talks of the way the sin of one man “Adam” has rippled through time such that all humankind stands condemned. That one act of rebellion had all mankind kicked out of paradise from then on.

Paul also states that if we’d hoped in Christ only in this life then we’d have nothing because …

... well because he died.

But … because of the resurrection of this one man “Jesus Christ” ALL will be made alive.

Because of the resurrection Jesus is now placed in authority over every ruler and power—even Death is destroyed.

Not just a hope but a certainty—remember what the men in dazzling white (I guess we would call them Angels) at the Tomb said “He is not here, but has risen” "Remember that he told you this would happen".

There is a certainty—these people saw it happen—And the world truly was never the same again.

Peter went and looked—He was there.

Now Peter who speaks in our Acts reading, through some divine intervention, is summoned from Joppa where he’d been staying, to the home of Cornelius, a devout believing centurion, in Caesarea. Looking at the map—it’s about a hundred miles or a bit more. Say from here to Orange.

Before he’d left, Peter had had 3 disturbing visions and each time a voice had said  “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

And now here he is, some three days later, meeting with Gentiles in a Gentile house—and this of course was against Jewish Law. But Cornelius was persuasive. He said:
“Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

Acts 10:34-43
34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

That message has rippled through time and to the ends of the earth—even to Australia and to us right here in Orana Gardens in Dubbo

“EVERYONE who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

and nothing will ever be the same again.


Then I sang "The Holy City" for them.

The everything board / Re: 2 sermons
« on: March 03, 2016, 11:52:36 PM »
Molong SERMON 2:
You all know of the story of Job—perhaps the oldest book of the bible.
He is a prosperous and devout man and suddenly his family, his wealth, his health are all taken from him.
Poor Job is reduced to sitting on the rubbish tip scraping at his sores with a bit of broken pottery—outcast from society because of his unclean skin disease and once the top of society he is now lower than low.
His three friends decide to visit him and he is in such a bad state they tear their clothes and sit silently with him for seven days and seven nights.
Finally his friend Eliphas summons up some words and says/blurts “God doesn’t punish the innocent—You must have done something really bad”

It was a basic tenet of life—if you be good God will reward you—if you be bad God will punish you. God’s lecture to the ‘friends’ in Job’s story refutes this whole way of reasoning and yet some 1800 years later, in Jesus time, they still hadn’t ‘got’ the message. Almost 4000 years on and you still can hear this prosperity doctrine on your TV or shouted and spouted from pulpits—your health and wealth depends on your piety.

The alternate is also heard—if you do not prosper it means that you are not in step with God.

There is a man born blind (you can read about this in John Chapter 9) and the disciples ask ‘Who sinned that this might happen?’
Jesus reply -’No-one sinned’

And yet we have probably even heard these words escape from our own lips during some time of trauma. “What did I do to deserve this?”

We love to cast God (or Karma or whatever) in the smiting role—looking down and punishing our misdemeanours… or even hoping that the transgressions of others will be generously rewarded.

Putting self inflicted consequences aside—I would say that we all know of cases where innocent people cop terrible things.

A child is born disabled, an earthquake or a Tsunami or a fire takes thousands of lives.
Who sinned that this might happen?’
Jesus reply -’No-one sinned’

So while Jesus is teaching, some people come to him and tell him of Pilate’s actions in sending soldiers, invading the temple and killing worshippers such that their blood is mixed with the blood of the sacrifices on the temple floor.

Now remember that the religious establishment is looking to trap Jesus in his words and there could be political ramifications—the temple in question was not ‘the’ temple in Jerusalem—perhaps these Galileans were part of some sub group—perhaps subversive—perhaps they’d deserved what they got.

Jesus turned the question into a teaching opportunity. He asked them,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”

Jesus now grabs another recent event—one which doesn’t seem to be recorded elsewhere but well known to his audience.
4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Both times he emphasises the fact that they were no different / no worse than any other folk. Then he seems to contradict his words—and this is ammunition for every fire and brimstone preacher who ever was—both times he adds—this is verses 3 and 5—”No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Perhaps it would be good to look at this word repent—it is a Latin word we use in place of the Greek. The Greek Luke uses here is: μετανοέω
Phonetic Spelling: (met-an-o-eh'-o)

You would be already familiar with a Greek word with the prefix "meta".  
That word is "metamorphosis". 

"Meta" means "change", and "morphosis" means "form or structure". 

3340 metanoéō (from 3326 /metá, "changed after being with" and 3539 /noiéō, "think") – properly, "think differently after," "after a change of mind"; to repent (literally, "think differently afterwards").

Repenting, not the Latin word which seems to have been reused slightly differently to it’s original meaning, but for us, should mean a change of heart regarding sin—not so much turning away from sin but agreeing with God about the nature of it. Strong’s Greek says Luke uses μετανοέω in saying “change one's mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins: ”

In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent (Acts 2:38).

Repent from what? 

Well you see—it isn’t ‘from’ - it is ‘to’.

Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus (Acts 2:36) to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is indeed “Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him as both Messiah and Saviour.

It is crucially important that we understand repentance is not a work we do to earn salvation. It’s an attitude in which we accept salvation.

So here speaking to the crowd Jesus is following on from the previous chapter when he told them the parable of the rich fool:
“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

He is saying then and here that “Unless you re-think what you are about—you will perish” without having done anything, without a thought about God.

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; …

I’m pretty sure if you are looking for the God figure in this parable it won’t be the landowner—I see it is God the original gardener. Looking for ways to get the best for and from every person—not writing off, but slow to anger and quick to give another chance.

It seems so easy to lose this message of God’s love in a world of knee-jerk reaction, hard nosed political high handedness at the top and self seeking, fulfilment deserving me me me advertising 20 minutes of each hour in our living rooms.

It seems too easy to forget the church’s mission to ‘feed my sheep’ when ‘protect the Church’ screams so loudly.

I look at the words of our Psalm and Isaiah speaking of God’s love and providence, Gods ever present help and protection—and the acceptance of those who turn to God.

How is it that we still hunger after that which does not satisfy?

And I cannot help but wonder if Paul really has it right as he writes to the Corinthian Church? He is speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness:
“God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down…6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did.”

Sexual immorality “and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day”
“9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. ”

Sounds like a smiting God right there.

Sometimes I see stuff sincerely done in the name of Christ and wonder if he/she/they are reading the same gospel as I do—Paul seems a bit like that here.

And yet, as we read we see the Gardener, caring and looking for ways to bring out our best. Verse 13
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

I see the words but I will admit I haven’t got understanding them all together.

But I think I do understand the words from Isaiah though.
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;7 let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

Seems to grab those loose ends and give them direction—that God loves us and will abundantly pardon our muddled thinking.

Jesus said he came that we might have life in all it’s abundance—abundant pardon and abundant life—that might just be what really does satisfy.

Not just worth a thought but worth a re-think.


The everything board / Re: 2 sermons
« on: March 03, 2016, 11:50:07 PM »
Yeoval SERMON 1:
Luke introduces us to this Herod back in Luke 9:7-9. At that point, Jesus had sent out the twelve to practice their ministry. This had further spread Jesus' reputation - right up to the King's ears. …
Chapter 9 of Luke then continues with the feeding of 5,000 men plus women and children; the declaration by Peter that the disciples say he, Jesus, is the Messiah; Jesus saying they are now headed to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will undergo great suffering, be killed, and on the third day be raised; and the story of the Transfiguration, Luke 9:28-36; etc. The following chapters continue to heighten the tension between Jesus and the religious authorities.
David Ewart,
This morning we read
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”
Did you wonder as that was read ‘why the Pharisees? Weren’t they so often out to trap Jesus and bring his teaching undone?’
How come they do this?
Turns out that as far as the Pharisees are concerned anyone who is an enemy of my enemy is a friend. That is, the Pharisees are also opposed to Herod - though for different reasons and using different tactics. But in the world of "Who's side are you on?" the Pharisees regard Jesus as on their side as far as Herod goes.

32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.”

From Kerrie’s sermon:
As the Holy Spirit led the inspired authors of the Bible to write, they were also led to fill the pages of the Bible with vibrant images drawn from the culture, natural history, and landscape around them.

Using such vivid imagery as looms, donkeys, water cisterns, grapes, sackcloth, and shepherds, makes what they say both more beautiful and more memorable.

These images stimulate our imagination, animate our interest, and make the abstract clearer.

In short, the biblical authors used the reality around them to enhance the rhetorical impact of what they wrote.

Unfortunately the full impact of this imagery can be lost on modern readers.
Just as the ancients knew nothing of iPhones and aeroplanes, modern readers are likely to know next to nothing about threshing sledges and desert locusts.

What is more, we are in the dark about the connotations that attend such cultural images.

What habits of the fox distinguished it from other predators? ...

The biblical authors knew the answers to such questions and presumed their readers did as well.

To the degree that we have lost touch with the culture, natural history, and landscape of Bible times and we will some of what God wishes to share with us in this word.

.. At times the connotation of a familiar image may solicit exactly the opposite response
from us than it did for the ancients..
( if you take time)…
to learn about ancient culture, you will learn why Jesus called Herod a fox.....

OK - So we’re taking the time.

We find: There were two Hebraic meanings for the word fox:

The first: the implication of “fox” as a crafty animal.

The second, and more important for our understanding of Jesus’ words: ‘A very common use of “fox” in Hebrew is that:  Lions and foxes can be contrasted with each other to represent the difference between great men and inferior men.

The great men are called “lions,” and the lesser men are called “foxes.” ‘

The word “fox” can also have moral connotations, as a saying demonstrates: “Be a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes.”

This saying could be paraphrased, “It is better to be someone of low rank among those who are morally and spiritually your superiors than someone of high rank among scoundrels.”

The phrase, “And infants will rule over them,” from the list of curses in Isaiah 3:1-7 to be visited upon Jerusalem and Judah, is interpreted by the Babylonian Talmud
as follows: “[Infants means] foxes, sons of foxes.”[7]

In this interpretation, “fox” not only assumes the nuance of moral depravity, but also, through the verb “rule,” is linked to kingly reign

 Thus, “foxes, sons of foxes” means “worthless, degenerate rulers who are the descendants of worthless, degenerate rulers.”

Jesus called Herod a fox.
Jesus’ response challenged any plans by Herod of killing him: “Tell Herod I’ve got work to do first.”

Jesus was not implying that Herod was sly, rather he was commenting on Herod’s ineptitude, or inability, to carry out his threat.

Jesus questioned Herod’s pedigree, moral stature and leadership, and put the tetrarch “in his place.”

This exactly fits the second rabbinic usage of “fox.”

When Jesus labelled Herod a fox, Jesus implied that Herod was not a lion.

Herod considered himself a lion, but Jesus pointed out that Herod was the opposite of a lion.

Watching Jesus from the transfiguration of we cannot help but admire the steadfast courage that He displays in moving forward to Jerusalem and the cross on behalf of the world God loves so much.

What strikes us, is the absolutely critical role that vulnerability plays in this kind of courage.

Anticipating the challenge and suffering and not looking away Jesus is making himself vulnerable for the sake of others. And that, I think, is important to note.

Because as a culture, we don’t often equate vulnerability with courage and strength. With care, love, and concern, perhaps yes, but not often with courage and strength.

At our worst, we see vulnerability as a sign of weakness, something to be avoided at all costs. Hence political candidates not only avoid any level of profound candour, let alone vulnerability, but increasingly seem to be rewarded by behaviour we would label blustering and bullying. I see the contrast so well exemplified by the ongoing stoush between Donald Trump and Pope Francis.

At our best, we recognize the need to be vulnerable to those we care about most deeply. But we don’t often see vulnerability as essential to living a courageous life.

And yet in this passage I think that Jesus demonstrates that vulnerability is essential to courage, stands at the core of the Christian life, and invites us to discover the peculiar strength of being open to the needs of those around us.

Adapted from ‘In the Meantime’ - David
In this passage, Jesus chooses the image of a hen gathering her brood of chicks to her for protection and safety to illustrate his love and concern for God’s people. Beyond the provocative feminine imagery that invites re-imagining some of our views of God it’s also an image of unparalleled vulnerability.

What hope does a hen have – what hope do the chickens have? And yet the chicken’s only hope is the hen.

Jesus’ choice of this image helps us realize that it is our vulnerability that spurs our courage and nourishes our strength simply because you can and will do things for those you love that you simply would not or could not do for yourself. And so Jesus continues on to Jerusalem not to prove himself fearless or a hero, not to make a sacrifice for sin to a judgemental God, not even to combat death and the devil. Rather, Jesus marches to Jerusalem and embraces the cross that awaits him there out of profound love for the people around him, like a mother’s fierce love that will stop at nothing to protect her children.

This brings me to the other pictures on the sheets this morning.

There are people, Uniting Church people, who are putting the church on the line while acting for the vulnerable – Now I am not sure how you feel about that – I really have trouble with how I feel too.

The gospel is not only about the cup of water given in the name of the Lord or binding up the wounds of the fallen; it is also about conquest over the powers of this world. There are battles to be won and in the end Christ will be seen to be the victor. Those who, like the editorial writers for some of our leading newspapers, would relegate the church to the role of the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff when a fence needs to be built at the top are taking the side of the enemies of the cross of Christ. Wherever there is injustice, proclamation of the Gospel will inevitably bring Christians into conflict with the powers that be.

I cannot preach – I’d go so far as to say I am not showing that profound candour so desperately lacking in political candidates, but I’d like to briefly explore some of the reasoning that some of those who I respect and count as friends will cite as they take part in civil disobedience or act in defiance of the Law in the name of the Uniting Church. Whether it is concern for the environment, refugees, political prisoners, war, slavery, wage justice, ethical trading and … it is a long list.

Firstly; WWJD – What would Jesus do?

Second; They say ‘If we don’t who will?’

Third; they see this as critically important both in the short term for those downtrodden, abused, degraded, abandoned and forgotten and in the long term for the future of all mankind.

Forth; For evil to exist it is only necessary for good people to do nothing.

Well it could be a long list as well.

Personally – I cannot do these things – I’m more the ‘everything in order and decorum’ we see as we unpack Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for instance – I inwardly groan when I see things which may make people think less of the Uniting Church – but at the same time I have a great respect for those who stand up to the foxes of the world.

What can we do in Yeoval –
Do we march in protest against amalgamation?
Do we head to parliament house in Sydney and occupy a politician’s office to stop the sell off of … whatever is on the auction block?
Could we quietly correct someone when they say loudly that refugees/immigrants should go back where they came from – telling them that perhaps where they came from isn’t there any more – it has been bombed out of existence? Could we remember that Jesus was a refugee too?

What if the Coal seam gas company wanted to mine in Yeoval? Who would stand up? WWJD?

The word Courage comes from the Latin cor – “heart” – and defines courage as living from the heart.

Christian courage, then, might be the kind of whole-hearted living that comes from believing that as God’s children we are sufficient for the task and that those around us are also God’s beloved children and therefore deserve our love, empathy, and respect.

Jesus invites us to be who we are called to be for the sake of those around us? 

What sort of community could be built on such a foundation?

And just a reminder; As we heard from Paul: (Philippians 3:21)- Jesus wields 
“the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.


Regular Funwriters may see that part of this was written by Kerrie (another sermon on the same readings for the same day - we are busy sometimes)

The everything board / 2 sermons
« on: March 03, 2016, 11:47:46 PM »
The first was for the small congregation in Yeoval on the 21st of February and the second a week later for another small congregation in Molong. They referred to the lectionary readings for Lent 2C and 3C respectively.

The everything board / A New Year awaits
« on: January 01, 2016, 08:44:57 AM »
Ian has made sure somehow that this forum remains.
Let us commence 2016 with a challenge to write something.

The topic is broad - "New Year"
A poem, an observation, an essay, a short story or even a novel.
Over to you Fun Writers.

To be able to help anyone at all the Church needs both big and tiny givers but it should never treat one as more important and neither should anyone expect special treatment because of the size of their gift.

Reading OT:1 Kings 17:8-16
8Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
38As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

We have this afternoon two stories of widows—and this is a subject many of you know first hand.

And yet how much harder would it have been in the days of the Old Testament or in Jesus day:

The was no Centrelink then.

No unemployment relief money.

No social security. 

No pension.

Actually we don’t have to go back  all the way to biblical times—this is a time within living memory—hard times many, or dare I say, most, of you would have known.

In fact—in Old Testament times the Law made provisions for the poor, the handicapped and Widows;

The fields were left every third year for the support of the poor and every seventh year one tenth of income was set aside to look after poor and widows.

It was each persons duty to God to look after those less fortunate than themselves. From the top of society to the poorest and most helpless.

In many ways people in Jewish community who had no way of supporting themselves were probably better off than they would have been in 1930s Australia.

The widow in our 1st Kings 17 scripture was unfortunately not living in any Jewish community—she lived in Phoenician territory and things were harsh. So harsh in fact that as we heard—she was going home to make a last meal for herself and her son and then she expected that there would be no more and they would die.

What she gave to this stranger Elijah was not just everything she had -  it was her life.

It is interesting that the biblical word ‘chera’ we read as widow was a term which meant ‘robbed’ Her husband was gone—her livelihood had been stolen from her.

As I said—this Old Testament woman lived  in Phoenicia but in Jerusalem it should have been different.

Widows should have been looked after.

Jesus came and saw that these pumped up upstarts of scribes were, as he puts it ‘devouring widows homes’, abrogating their responsibilities, treating those who should be honoured so callously and all the while putting on such a show of piety.

He not only gave them a serve—he then went and sat right by the temple treasury where he knew what was going to happen—it wouldn’t have been just one widow but possibly a number of them had this in common—they had been robbed and now the very ones who should help were robbing them again.

So our widow comes and furtively puts in two tiny coins—two mites. Two halfpennys—a total of a penny I guess you could say. It was all the money she had.

Giving into the temple was to support the priests AND the poor and widows. This woman was supporting the very institution which should have been supporting her.

How could they allow such a travesty—those who should be looked after are being robbed over and over and the very ones who should be helping are instead devouring.

Righteousness and justice in the bible are interchangeable terms—it is about setting things in the proper order—putting right what is not right. These scribes strutted their righteousness but didn’t do justice.

This was important stuff—and the lesson was applied by the Christian Church right from its earliest days.

So much so that the early church set up deacons whose job it was to oversee help to widows, the handicapped and the sick.

William Temple said “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

If our church sat an exam, I wonder how our report card would look?


And thank you for your kind words.

I did this sermon again this morning in Dubbo - it isn't every day you see the preacher waving a toilet brush in the air. :)

Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air for the Roman Catholic Church - I would love to see many more Church leaders following his example.

I have brought something for show and tell but I won’t be telling so much as letting the bible reading and the sermon do the work. (Put Toilet Brush in view)

READING: Mark 10:35-45
35James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”


When travelling home from my grandparent’s farm in the Zephyr car—As kid’s we’d yell ’front seat’. We wanted the front seat because the front seat was the best seat.

Riding up front beside the driver in the bus or coach on tours was where I wanted to sit.

Nowdays it is ‘Calling Shotgun’
“The rules of ‘shotgun’ are very simple. The first persons to call ‘shotgun’ when in sight of the vehicle gets to sit in the front seat.”
Michael Scott from “The Office”

Perhaps it harks back to the stagecoach days—I don’t know.

So these two Brothers James and John call shotgun—they want the best seats in heaven.

Don’t you love the way they approach Jesus—
“we want you to do for us whatever we ask”
What parent hasn’t heard that type of question.

Of course Jesus says “Yes boys—sure!”

No! - Jesus quietly asks what the request is.

Then he tells them they do not know what they ask.

They have yet to understand the full extent of who Jesus is or what he has yet to endure - and yet they do have already that Jesus is/will be a heavenly king in glory.

He asks them if they can drink the same cup which he will drink—that is his suffering and death and they say ‘Yes. Yes’.

It is interesting that although we see them as making the promise rashly and in ignorance if you look up their lives you will see that they certainly did follow in Jesus footsteps.

James was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in around 44AD.

John possibly lived to old age.  It is said that although he did not die a martyr's death, he did live a martyr's life. He was exiled to the Island of Patmos under the Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ.

Finally Jesus tells them gently that such a request in not his to grant—it is for those for whom it is already prepared.

But of course it isn’t finally at all. Now the other disciples start to grumble about James and John’s request.

Are they grumbling because of the audacity of the request?—to our Aussie ears—as people brought up not to put ourselves forward—it seems that way, but it is entirely possible that they wanted the same spots for themselves.

As he often does—Jesus uses their grumbling as a teaching opportunity—about heaven and his work and about their own place.

42So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.

As one commentary says: “One wonders if Galilean folk like Jesus saw this description as how Rome operated, with Caesars being killed, Generals vying for the title, Senators asserting themselves, local kings like Herod marrying a brother’s wife, etc. For Jesus’ followers, one of the awful effects of living under the Empire is the temptation to imitate them.”

Politics aside and without saying it straight out he certainly is alluding to what they are grumbling about.

43But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,

This is greatness—to be a servant—and greater still—to be number one great he says:

44and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.

Then in a foretaste of the washing of the disciples feet and his own later complete sacrifice on our behalf he basically says, this is my path—this is God’s way:

45For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

“For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”

(Hold up Toilet Brush) and I am thinking the person who does this job is just as much God at work in the world as the greatest preacher or missionary who ever lived.

So who is yelling Shotgun for the toilet brush?


The everything board / Re: The noise escelated
« on: September 06, 2015, 08:50:07 AM »
I have sent you a message Brett.

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