Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some days are diamonds

... and today was definitely worth quite a few carats.

Because tomorrow is a Sunday off for me, today was a leisurely Saturday, without the pressure of last minute preparations for Sunday worship. It also just so happened that the boys from Suade were in this neck of the woods, leading a community vocal workshop in Yackandandah this morning.

I knew, as I broke out of the grey sky and dreary, foggy mists into blue sky and bright, sparkly sunshine, about half way along the road to Yack, that this was going to be a good day.

The workshop was a lot of fun. I'd never seen Suade perform live before, so it was great to be there as they shared a couple of songs with the group, as well as getting us moving, singing and workshopping our own little song (the documentary evidence of which will eventually find its way onto Suade's YouTube channel).

After a pleasant lunch, and a quick catch up with some of the locals in the main street, I tootled out to Yamaroo (the local aged care hostel) for a theological discussion group. We are currently reading Val Webb's book, Like Catching Water in a Net, and discussing a couple of chapters at a time. Today's discussion covered topics ranging from the spirit of God (incorporating a quick look at trinitarian theology and some of the heresies relating to this), to ways of knowing God (or not) through nature; then we put the kettle on, and got off the book and onto other topics, like the state of Australian politics, various family dramas, interesting TV shows (mostly relating to the recent election coverage), just to name a few.

I love meeting with these three women; together we are quite an eclectic group, so our discussion is never dull or predictable. As we grapple together with questions of meaning and theology, I am reminded of why I loved studying Systematic Theology so much when I was at theological college.

The process of deliberately engaging one's intellect with one's faith is not easy, but is somehow envigorating and exciting, so I left Yack today with a definite spring in my step, and a song in my heart (perhaps left over from this morning's workshop).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I know I've said this before, but...

Sometimes God's sense of timing and making things hang together is truly amazing and unexpected.

Today in worship, I preached on the Gospel passage (Luke 12:49-56), borrowing very heavily from the excellent sermon on Bruce Prewer's site for this week. The main thrust was when Jesus said that he came not to bring peace, but division, it meant that Jesus' followers are therefore not promised an easy life.

Prewer's tack, which I followed, spoke of 'Rosy Christians',

... who are convinced that trusting in Christ results in a charmed life. Rosy Christians claim that believers receive good health, good friends, happy families, popularity and financial prosperity. They will be spared in drought or flood, protected for road accidents, and healed from any diseases. Their church, where the full Gospel is preached, will also be rosy; flourishing and well respected in the community.

... and proceeded to say why this attitude to the faith, (where these Rosy Christians insist that if only one has enough faith, or prays enough, they will be spared from any bad things, or healed from any ill) is not only unhelpful, but is in fact unfaithful to Christ. Because bad things
do happen to good people, even Christians, because being a Christian doesn't give us a 24 hour protection policy against any bad things happening to us; and that God never promises that we won't experience dark valleys in life, but that the promise is that God will be with there with us, supporting and loving us through the hard times.

So, on the day that I preach this message, we have in the congregation, visitors, including:
* a couple visiting from Marysville, who lost their home in the Black Saturday fire,
* a former minister of the congregation, who had to retire early from ministry due to a brain tumour which is now terminal,

and among the regular members of the congregation:
* a local couple who lost their home, and almost lost their lives, on Black Saturday, (and also lost a son to an AIDS-related illness some years ago)
* two women who have survived breast cancer
* a couple whose son was killed in a freak farm accident
... just to name a few.

As I was thinking about all this later today, I couldn't help but wonder how these people heard the words that were spoken, and the Word that was preached, today.

My job is to preach it, and then get out of the way to let the Spirit do with the words what she will.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Further to my rant...

After I penned the rant for the church pew sheet (which BTW has generated a number of positive comments from various people in the congregations. I just hope that if anyone was annoyed or offended by it, they will also tell me, so I can get a realistic idea of where people's sensibilities and sensitivities lie on such matters), I edited it down to a version fit for wider consumption and acceptable length to be a 'Letter to the Editor'.

I sent the Letter to a number of papers, including
The Age, the Border Mail, and the local rag and was delighted to see it published (untouched by sub-editor's red pen) in the Myrtleford Times (and presumably all the other North East Newspapers).

Quite rapt.

(if you click on the pic of the article, it will open in a new window, in a more readable form :-)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

My pew sheet blurb for this week- an election rant

As a minister, I have to be careful not to use the pulpit to push my own agendas inappropriately, but at the same time, I am called (as we all are) to be a prophet, standing up and speaking out for justice.

One of the problems in a ‘majority rules’ democracy is that unfortunately, the majority is not always right. We saw this in Jesus’ time, when he was often a lone voice speaking out against corruption, and what he said was so countercultural that we read a number of times in the gospels that the crowd was so angry at what he said, that they sought to kill him. We saw this phenomenon again in Nazi Germany, and I believe we are seeing it again here in Australia over the issue of asylum seekers.

I have been personally distressed and disgusted by the election campaigns of both major parties, that have included in their main ‘policy platforms’ (insofar as either party actually HAS any real policy), the promise to ‘tighten border security’ or ‘stop the boats’. When I first saw these ads on TV, I was outraged, and started ranting to anyone who stood still long enough, “Where is the compassion and justice in this?!” (and as Christians we all know that the Bible is full of requirements for God’s people to act justly, and to especially care for the vulnerable, like widows, orphans and foreigners, so I feel quite justified in my anger here).

In reading some stats provided by a member of our Synod Justice and International Mission (JIM) Unit: only 0.1% of people entered Australia by boat in the last year; refugee and humanitarian visas make up just 0.03% of all visas granted last year; we have had just over 23,000 come by boat in the past 35 years, it is obvious that we are not exactly being overrun by boat people, and over 90% of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat over the past few years were found to be genuine refugees, so one has to ask, what are we afraid of?

It seems both parties are appealing to what a friend of mine described as, “some very nasty aspects of the Australian psyche - those phobias against almost any ‘not us’ group you can name.” That same friend lamented the fact that churches and religious organisations are not speaking out about this. This prompted me to see what the Uniting Church has been doing in the area, as well as sending an email to our Moderator, Isabel Thomas Dobson, and President Alistair Macrae, encouraging them both to be bold in speaking out on this topic on behalf of the church.

The results of this were a mixed bag. First, I found a great resource prepared by the Assembly to inform UCA people about the hot issues of this election. The info kit is called ‘Building an Economy for Life’, and can be downloaded from the Assembly website at There are also various issues papers that can be downloaded separately.

Both Alistair and Isabel responded to my email (in less than 24 hours!) with equal frustration. It seems the media are not interested in what the church has to say about these issues, they are too busy pandering to the ‘majority view’. Alistair commented, “Easier said than done to get media interest in our perspectives but we try,” and Isabel also sent me the text of a letter to the editor she sent to The Age and the Hobart Mercury, commenting on the election campaign generally, which was not published in either paper.

So what can we do? We can pray that justice will be done; we can write to our local candidates, expressing our concerns; we can become informed, and talk to anyone who will listen about the issues, and how the values of justice, mercy and compassion would have us respond.

Here endeth the rant.