Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CHRISTMAS DAY - The Power of Powerlessness

On Monday evening I participated in a subversive action under the watchful eye of the Australian Federal Police, the Western Australian Police Service and a Security Service Provider.

We arranged to meet around the corner from our planned action but the police tracked us down and came to give us all the once over.

Then when we gathered outside the Immigration Department Building to say prayers and sing Carols, the police took copies of our liturgies to see if there was anything subversive in them – yes they read them through very carefully.

In this day and age when the message of so many seeks to sow despair, the Christmas Story seeks to sow some hope in the hearts of people.  We have become so used to a political background of conflict and war that when the Christmas Story calls us into a peace which passes all understanding most people don’t get it – even some Christians.  Where so many want spread a message of hatred towards those who are different, the Christmas Story proclaims God’s love to all humanity.

It is in this sense that many aspects of the Christmas Story is a subversive one.  It is calling people into what is so often the opposite reaction to their instinctive reactions to the world around them.

A couple of weeks ago I asked you to put on your “Peace-Maker Glasses” so that you might be able to understand the sub-text of the story we had read about the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry in Luke 3.

We need those same glasses on to make sense of the beginning of Luke 2 as well.  Matthew and Luke have relied on different traditions in the development of their birth stories.  Matthew’s is very much a Royal tradition – he makes much of Mary and Joseph living in Bethlehem – the Home Town of the hero-king David – and he tells the stories of the wise men coming from far away to meet this new King of Israel.

Luke’s is a People of God tradition.  In the same way that he anchors his story with the names of all those people who were symbols of the domination and oppression of the People of God – Caesar Augustus, Quirinius etc. – he uses sheep and shepherds as code language for the people of God in God’s care.

With angels as the proclaimers of the people’s liberation Luke creates a picture that stands in stark contrast to their everyday reality under the Romans and in stark contrast to everyone’s typical expectations of the actions of a God.

Last Sunday the choir I sang in did a little concert and play in which in part we sang words from a poem by Elizabeth Jennings in which she said:

          “Put memory away and watch a world
           Grown almost still because a baby can
           Convince us that he is born God and Man.”

We have come to call him sometimes “Son of Man” and sometimes “Son of God” – either is right.

When most people think of God breaking into the affairs of the world, they think of God doing so with great power and might, breaking the laws of nature so that bad things don’t happen any more.

The story Luke tells and which we celebrate today is the complete opposite – and in some ways it is subversive, too. 

The miracle of the Christmas Story was not that a man was born who was also God – embodying the omniscience, and the omnipotence we associate with God-ness. 

The real miracle is that our God put those things aside and assumed our humanity, coming as a feeble little child into a very difficult time and place – like one of the millions of children born this year into war zones. 

It is the paradox of all this that gives us the ability to turn the world upside down – to overthrow the powers of the Principalities and Powers with love, offering a peace that is not born out of force but out of love freely given.  God came among us to show us the way – and Jesus is truly the Way to God.

Friday, December 11, 2015

ADVENT 3C - God's Song of Joy

If my name was recorded in the north African or Arabic way my name would be John Eric William Zephaniah.  My Great Grandfather was born in the south of England at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria and his father, William Henry Wesley, named him after that rather insignificant Old Testament prophet Zephaniah. 

Because of this link I have always had a certain curiosity about this old prophet.  But every time I try to read him it seems all too awful.  He is ranting about the people of Judah/Israel.  He is ranting about the neighbouring nations.  The people of God have abandoned their first love of God.  The nations around Judah have ridiculed and abused the People of God.   In fact, these verses sound very much like the God that Richard Dawkins and others refuse to believe in – a grumpy old divine who is going to wreak destruction on humanity because we have all be so naughty.

As a result I would generally give up reading Zephaniah before I got to chapter 3 – and I should not have.

In our Good News Bibles, the section we read today (3:14-20) is headed – Song of Joy.  It is actually two songs.

The first song is in the voice of Zephaniah and he is calling the people to rejoice because “there is now no reason to be afraid.”  God has withdrawn his punishment of them, and has removed their enemies.  Zephaniah says: “In his love he will give you new life.”

After all the terrible things he had railed against this seems to be an amazing change of fortune.

Many Christians have a little saying that helps them understand how and why Jesus would ultimately die.  They say “Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins.”  In the context of the sacrificial system in Israel this seems a plausible rule.

Yet here, and it is by no means the only example on the Old Testament, God’s relents from all his threats of pain and destruction.  Dawn Weaks, in a sermon on this text, says:

“Something changes.  God relents.  Zephaniah ceases words of destruction and gives birth to new hope with words of comfort.  Maybe God remembers that we humans cannot restore ourselves on our own; perhaps God’s parental heart breaks at the thought of continuing to punish these precious children.  Regardless, Zephaniah stops telling the people what they’ve done wrong and starts telling them what God is doing right.”

And words like that can only be addressed in song – hence the poetic form in our Bibles.  But it is not enough for the voice of Zephaniah to tell us this.  Half way through he says “even God will sing you a song.”

In this second song, the voice of God says “I have ended the threat of doom and taken away your disgrace.  …  I will rescue the lame and bring the exiles home.  I will turn your shame into honour and all the world will praise them.”

God here sings a love song.  And this song is for the entire world.  It turns out the God longs for joy, too, and here God steps in and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves so that we can live in joy.

Here is a source of Joy for Christmas that is not based in the sentimentality of an innocent and helpless baby born in abject circumstances.  This Joy is totally focussed on God’s gracious action in putting aside our failures so that we can know him fully as he wants to know us fully.

But wait!  There’s more.  The remaining three selections from Scripture today (Isaiah 12:2-6 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 and Luke 3:7-18) seem also to be a call to joy – life may seem tough with many things stacked against us, but we are called to remember always that God will bring us peace and hope and love and joy.

It is very easy for us to forget God has given us all that we need to be able to rejoice in him.  But we are not overcome by fear or sadness.  We should never lose heart.  Clarissa Estes says:

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you.  It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here.  The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours.  They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.”  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

PEACE - Advent 2C

We all dream of peace.

We have become so used to a world in which violence is a “normal” part of the landscape that even our dream of peace has become almost a forlorn hope – I mean, we hope for it, but we know it is unlikely, at least in our lifetime.

The days into which John the Baptist was born were so similar to our time that the people of Jesus’ day could be forgiven for losing hope of ever seeing peace again – real peace.

In the beginning of our Gospel reading we have references to a whole lot of people – and we think of them as simply geographical time-markers that enable us to know when in history this story happened.  But let me offer you some peace-maker glasses – just like the 3-D ones you can get at the cinema - through which to view these people so that you can make a new kind of sense of them.

Emperor Tiberius – Among his many titles the Emperor was called “Son of God” and “Prince of Peace” and historians came to refer to the Pax Romana as the signal feature of this time.  But this peace was not true peace.  It was peace established and maintained by military force.  What a Jewish person in the Roman Province of Judaea would think of when faced with this name is the oppressive domination of their land by the Romans.  The emperor was the symbol of that domination and therefore the cause of their lack of freedom.

Pontius Pilate – As Roman Governor, he held all the powers of the Emperor in this local setting.  So, he, too, was a symbol of the oppressive Roman regime that denied them their freedom.

Herod, Philip and Lysanius – Vassal Kings of different regions within Judaea.  These men from the political aristocracy of Israel were given their power by Rome so long as they supported the domination and oppression of the people.  They too, were symbols of the lack of freedom the nation felt.

Annas and Caiaphus – These High Priests were from the religious aristocracy of Israel but they were appointed by the Governor and only held office so long as they kept the people from rebellion.  The average tenure of a High Priest during the period of Roman Occupation was about 2 years – some even shorter than that.  They, too, were symbols of the oppressive regime of Roman occupation that denied the people their true freedom.

These people then, were the antithesis of peace-makers in their time.  They supported the Roman occupation and thus were a focus of any forms of resistance.

Then came John the Baptist.  He was the son of Zechariah and he exercised his ministry in the area we now call “The West Bank” – wandering around these arid places calling people to undertake a baptism of repentance. 

In addition to this John had a message that was perfect for times such as those days.  “Get the road ready for the real LORD” he says.  “He is going to show everyone the SALVATION of GOD.”

When we hear that word SALVATION we associate it with the word SAVE.  It seems to fit in with other things that we understand about God’s saving grace.  But being SAVED is a really hard thing to describe.

Someone made a joke once about that picture of Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts.  It is in the form of what we call a “Knock, knock” joke.  It goes like this:

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?


What do you want?

I want to SAVE you.

From what?

From what I am going to do to you if you don’t open the door to me.

Liberation is at the heart of the idea behind this word SALVATION and to the Jewish mind of John and Jesus’ day liberation meant real PEACE.

What I think is easy to overlook is the significance of that very last phrase that is quoted from Isaiah:

          The whole human race will see God’s Salvation!

We now understand that this liberating PEACE is brought by Jesus.  It is a gift that God is offering to all people – no-one is excluded from the offer.

Every year during this ADVENT Season, we are given an opportunity to get our hearts ready to understand something new about this story we all know so well – this story of God relinquishing all his heavenly powers to become a helpless little baby human being limited by time and space just as we all are.  And God’s powerlessness continues right through the story of Jesus even in his execution by the Roman authorities even though he had done nothing wrong.  But that, of course is not the end of the story.  If it were, it would just be a tragedy.  The resurrection was a declaration by God that our true liberation can only be found in his way of powerlessness that is totally reliant on God’s grace.  It is only in him that we find liberty and peace. 

The MIGHT of Rome could not overcome this.

The MIGHT of the Principalities and Powers could not overcome this.

The MIGHT of Materialism could not overcome this.

In this story the whole human race can see the SALVATION God offers us all.

Friday, November 6, 2015


Have you ever been made a scapegoat for others some time in your life?  Most of us understand the term scapegoat and perhaps we are familiar with the origins of the term, but our modern understanding of this phenomena in human society is unavoidably shaped by the thinking of a French Christian thinker, RenĂ© Girard who died this week aged in his 90s.

Girard made the observation that human beings have an almost unavoidable tendency towards violence against others, often directing that violence towards a single person or a particular group of people.  Very often this tendency towards violence was a subconscious response to our own sense of failure, so rather than allow others to see our failure or weaknesses we pick on someone else – often whom we perceive as having weakness – and we even incite others to participate in that violence.  Their willingness of others to collaborate in the violence makes our own sense of personal guilt or failure even less.

So, scapegoating is fundamentally about transferring our own sense of guilt for sin onto another so that they will take it away from me.

The selection of Scripture from Hebrews today (9:23-28) takes us straight into the annual ritual for the Jewish High Priest on the day they call Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.  In this day various animals are sacrificed and prayers said confessing the sins of the nation over the past year and in a final ritual act of passing on those sins, the High Priest prays over a goat, transferring the sins of the nation to it and then it is chased off into the wilderness.  Once the temple was built the practice was actually to chase the goat over a cliff to its death – so that it could not bring the sins back.  Thus the nations had a fresh start – its sins were carried away.

The writer to the Hebrews and probably other early Christians recognised some similarity between that scapegoat and Jesus and he uses the imagery of the High Priestly rituals on the Day of Atonement to try and explain the early Christian conviction that this annual violence against the animals was no longer necessary – that God no longer held our sin as a barrier between us because Jesus’ death had put an end to it.

Girard goes so far as to say that Christianity is the only exit way from these violent tendencies among humans.  He has a sociological way of speaking about it.  We have a theological way of speaking about it.  But at the heart of both explanations is the death of Jesus which does away with the need for further death.

What we understand about sin is that in and of ourselves we have no way of getting rid of it – indeed of its very essence it seems to keep us sinning even more.  The Jewish Law and Sacrificial System provided ways for the temporary alleviation of our guilt and shame – but it did not free us from sin.

The reason we so often react with fear and violence to others – perhaps who seem different from us – is a failure to apprehend deep in our being that our sin has been dealt with.  So we harbour this fear that the OTHER might show us up to be as bad as we feel we are.  That leads us to do things that will lead others to see them as far worse persons than we are – then we can relax.

The early Christians, looking at what Jesus did, saw in him an extraordinary scapegoat.  The religious leaders feared him and his message because they could see that he had a clearer and firmer relationship to God the Father than they thought they had – but they were the religious leaders.  So they harassed him – ultimately to his death.  The Roman authorities feared him because he seemed to make himself an alternative Lord to the Emperor. 

So they harassed him to his death.

Others would have fought back, perpetuating the cycle of violence, but Jesus did not.  And we stand with those early Christians in affirming that in this death – once for all – the cycle of guilt and sin and violence has come to an end.

Can you see how it works?  Jesus the scapegoat has taken away the sin of the world – once and for all.  We no longer carry the stain of sin and guilt in our lives, so when we stand alongside or in front of another fellow human being we don’t secretly think “They are better than me; I had better throw some mud at them to make me look good.”  We stand proudly alongside them saying “I know we are both less than perfect – but in Christ we have both been cleansed of the stain of sin.”  Thus the cycle of violence is broken.  Thus humankind can be freed from its greatest scourge.

The letter to the Hebrews give us a whole suite of theological imagery to explain this and perhaps we are more familiar with that imagery and language.  But at the heart of it all is this fundamental truth that in the death of Jesus, we are freed from the cycle of sin and violence that once imprisoned us, and that we are freed from it once and for all.  That is the good news we call the Gospel of Christ.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Let those who have eyes see.

The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus Mark 10:46-52.

A sermon by theological student in our parish, Oliver Yengi

This passage is in the central part of Marks gospels, it begins with the section where Jesus healed the blind man and predicted his crucifixion that he mentioned three times to the disciples but they could not believe or understand his teaching. In this same section there was a big confusion among the disciples in regards to who is going to be the greatest also the people who gathered there to listen to Jesus teaching were confused too.  Most of them could not understand what he was talking about but Jesus reinforced his teachings by explaining and clarifying the issues.

This section alone involved healing, deep teaching which covered a range of issues such as “who the disciple think who he was?”, divorce, the blessing of the children, the rich man plus the request by John and James to sit one on the right and the other on the left in his kingdom. In the first event Jesus restored the sight of the blind man in two stages, (Mk 8:22-26) while in the second part he gives sight to the blind Bartimaeus, (Mk10:46-52), which to me is the conclusion of this section.

Jesus performed many things in this section, and Mark structured it well.  It is interesting that he started the section with Jesus healing a blind man and concluded the section also with the healing of the blind Bartimaeus. In my opinion, I could suggest that the healing of the first man possibly reflects the progress of the disciples from blindness to having half sight to full sight afterwards; this could also be reflected in our spiritual journey, thus  we grow gradually grow in faith and  begin to see things differently . Therefore, our faith make us to change on step by step basis but not just once.

Bartimaeus the blind beggar seems to be well known in that area and he said to be the son of a blind man named Timeus.  That is like father like son all blind and made the case worse. When he was sited begging, he heard the crown following Jesus and he cried out in a loud voice to Jesus Christ for mercy; “Have mercy on me O Lord Son of David.”  He believed in him and have trust that Jesus will heal him and give him sight that will relieve him from the miserable life.
In coming to Christ for help and healing, we should have an eye on him as promised Messiah, the trustee of mercy and Grace.

Jesus encourages him to hope that he should find mercy: for he stood still and commanded him to be called.

The poor man hereupon made the best of his way to Christ “He cast away his loose upper garment and came to Jesus” and cast away everything that might be in danger of throwing him down or in any way hinder him from coming to Christ or retard his motion.

We as Christians need to throw away things that hinder our way, things that might throw us down. Those who would come to Jesus should cast away garment of their sufficiency.

The particular favor he begged was that his eyes might be opened so that he might be able to work for his living and might no longer be a burdensome to brothers. It is a desirable thing to be in a capacity to earn your our bread. Begging is a shameful thing to do.

Jesus ask him what do you want me to do for you?  He answered:  My “Teacher Let me see again”

Bartimaeus received his sight because he believed and have faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Said to him “Go your faith has made you well” when he received his sight he followed Jesus by the way: able to do thing without helper. It is not enough to come to Christ for spiritual healing and when we are done and walk away, we should continue to follow him so that we may do honour to him and receive instruction from him.

That is why we are all here every Sunday, weekdays for bible study, choir practice, and op shop and so on all working together serving God here in Holy Cross.

Those that have spiritual eye-sight see that beauty of Christ that effectually draw them to run after him. Praise be to God that we all included.

How do we together in Holy Cross show that beauty of Christ to others who are out there being, our neighbours, friends at school, work place and so on?

The healing of Bartimaeus could serve as a reminder that many who come in contact with Jesus could ‘see’ but were blind in their hearts; Bartimaeus on the other hand could see through his heart even though he was blinded through eyesight. Jesus ask him what do you want me to do for you. Today Jesus is asking us what we want here in Holy Cross. What will be our Answer?

May his word live in us and bear much fruits to his glory! Amen

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Live Simply - Live in Peace

Last year, when we celebrated this day I recalled for you a little of the story of St Francis – when he lived, where he lived and what values he placed at the heart of what was to become the Franciscan Orders of Friars, Nuns and Tertiaries.

There is something about St Francis that resonates wonderfully with people today – I am sure that is why Pope Francis, who seems to be trying to embody the same values, is such a hit with people compared with his predecessor.

I think the two big issues of our time that are causing great angst for people is the environment and war/conflict.  And on these two issues I think St Francis has a lot to say. 

It is interesting when you consider the huge disconnect in humans in their consideration of Creatures and Creation.

On the one hand we marvel with David Attenborough in his nature documentaries at the extraordinary creatures of our world, and at least those of us in the wealthy first world heap adoration on our pets of various kinds – sometimes to an obscene extent in the face of poverty in the rest of the world, or even just a few suburbs away.

We love our animals.  Many of us love growing food in our gardens.  On one level creation is tops.

But on the other hand we have plundered creation with scant regard for the consequences for future generations.  Global trade these days means, for example, that Chinese traditional medicines – which many of us think are marvellous compared with the chemically engineered trugs we get from a Pharmacist – could be responsible for the extinction of a large number of exotic creatures because they kill a whole rhino just to get its horns, they kill a whole tiger just to get their genitals, and more.

The combination of our capitalist economy which seeks to drive demand beyond the capacity of earth’s resources to meet in the quest for always and ever increasing returns to shareholders, and the Military Industrial complex which rapes one part of the environment for resources and then destroys another part of environment in the cause of exerting political power and influence has meant that in almost every corner of the world the habitats of beautiful animals has been depleted to such an extent that we have an ever-growing register of endangered species.

St Francis offers two key insights into how we might remedy this.  He loved creatures and creation because they were each the handiwork of God, just as we are, and to not care for them is to not care for ourselves.  He also demonstrated a humility in his relationship with creatures.  Rather than seeing himself as superior to them – the pinnacle of Creation, made just a little lower than the angels – and lauding his power over the creatures, he prefers to adopt a stance of equality with animals.  We stand together.  We live in solidarity with each other.  We serve the least – as Jesus said so clearly to James and John in our Gospel today. 

The Gospel Way always seems to be radically different from the way of the world.   What amazes me about St Francis is that in his own way in the small part of the world he lived in he could see the Gospel challenge to the powers that be and the wisdom of the world.

The other great gift he made in this area was taking seriously the call to simplicity.  Today we would say “Live simply, so that all may simply live.”  And there are powerful counter-cultural movements working towards simplicity in our western world today – many working without a religious framework.  The Edible Garden Movement.  Recycling Movement.  The Tiny House Movement.  All the movements towards renewable energy.

But Francis was onto that long ago.  He required his monks to live simply.  They took a vow of poverty.  They could not be caught up in anything like the consumerism we worship in our day.  They took seriously Jesus’ aphorism about not worrying today about what you will do tomorrow – because God will give you all you need.  We should live with this much more in our mind than we do – and thus make our life on this planet capsule more sustainable.

When he was making his farewell speech as President of the United State, General Eisenhower said:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment.  Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.  The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government.  

We recognize the imperative need for this development.  Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.  

Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.  In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.  

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.  We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.  We should take nothing for granted.  Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It’s a bit longer than one of Jesus aphorisms, but I thought in its entirety it gives an insight into why we live in such a troubled world.

The military/industrial complex has hijacked public policy in the fields of foreign and national affairs.  Arms manufacturers and their financiers make a lot of money out of war – just consider how much it is worth to them to keep alive the conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence” the President said, yet almost every year since his departure from office the American military has been deployed in places as an expression of the desire of subsequent presidents to secure unwarranted influence in affairs they should leave to others to settle.

And look at the place now.  Huge areas of South East Asia a desolation from degrading defoliants and land mines.  The Middle East awash with misguided religionists wanting to impose their power and influence in places they have no right to.

In St Francis’ day there was conflict between Muslims and Christians.  Paul Moses, in his 2009 book “The Saint and the Sultan,” says:

In 1219, in the midst of disastrous Fifth Crusade, Francis crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with al-Kamil, the sultan of Egypt and a nephew of the great Muslim warrior Saladin, in his camp on the banks of the Nile.  Francis, who opposed the warfare, hoped to bring about peace by converting the sultan to Christianity.  He didn’t succeed, but came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims. 

There are Muslims today who share that vision – indeed live it out where they live.  I know that many Christians struggle with the idea of living harmoniously together rather than seeking conversion.  It is also especially hard for Christians who have suffered at the hands of Muslim oppressors because of their Christianity – like our Nuba friends.  But the truth is, there are many grounds by which Jesus is honoured within Islam, and friendship with Christians is commended in the Quran, despite the things claimed by those who have distorted Islam for their own purposes.

So, I am not proposing any answers to life’s problems or solutions for global calamities.  I am simply saying how interesting it is that one of the Saints of God who lived 700 years ago in a far less complex world than we do had some insights about life, inspired by the teachings of Jesus that could show us all how to live better in this place.

The Lord Be With You!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

In the Past God Spoke to our Ancestors

After listening to the Gospel reading this morning you are expecting a sermon about divorce and remarriage, but I am going to preach mainly  on the epistle reading.

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many various ways through angels , prophets, but in these last days he spoke to by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things through him he also created the world.  

So today we celebrate
  • Jesus the Reflection of God’s glory
  • What the power of the Holy Spirit still does today
  • The Jesus who considered family unity to be important to us
  • Jesus that welcomes little children to his arms
  • Jesus that took time to bless everyone, no matter who they were and how other people looked at them

It is important to note that,
  • Jesus is our Saviour and lord
  • Jesus is the promised one of God
  • Jesus is the son of God and yet a man like us
  • Jesus is a man who struggles to be faithful to God a man who was called to love his neighbours as himself
  • A man who suffered as we suffer

The letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus in exalted terms.  Calling him “The radiance of God’s Glory” and “the exact representation of God’s being”.  Thus I belief is true, as our whole faith speaks of it.  It is also interesting to me because a week ago our bible study with the youth groups was based on faith.  

The letter to the Hebrews reminded us of something else that our whole faith speaks of.  It reminds us that;
  • On earth Jesus was made like us, a little lower than the angels
  • That Jesus was one of us born of a woman
  • Born as out brother to walk as we walk through his life

The signs before us today, the bread and wine. They remind us of how he came to be our Saviour, they remind us of what his love and his faithfulness cost him

There have been two main, heretical threats to the Christian faith throughout history, the first being that, Jesus was not divine in some essential sense, the second being that, he was not completely human. The author of Hebrews, whoever, it might have been, wants us to know that Jesus was one of us, that he shared our humanity in every sense, especially in the way that he suffered. Indeed, it is precisely because of his willingness to suffer with and for us that God honoured him above all.

  1. On balance, how has the church encouraged you to think about Jesus - as being more like God in human form?
  2. Which way of thinking about Jesus makes you feel closer to him?


On the night of his betrayal, Jesus took bread and broke it, he also took wine and blessed it and gave it to his disciples

The next day out of his love for the world he died.  

The scripture tells us that Jesus died because of our sin that he looked upon himself.  The penalty for sin doing so that we might live and be one with him and one another, before God our creator, the one with the highest power.

Through his death he united us those who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one father, for this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

Therefore the two sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist makes us closer to Jesus and feels his presence.

May his Word live in us and bear much fruits to his glory! Amen. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Heavens Declare the Glory of the Lord

Sky Sunday - Season of Creation

I could never claim to be an astrophysicist, or even claim to understand much about these things.  But I have subscribed to the kind of magazines that tell stories about these things for many years and there is something that amazes me about the sky.

With our telescopes, we have gathered visible and invisible light and radio-wave information to create images of stars, galaxies and constellations that are further away from us here on earth than we can imagine.  Indeed the light which we have used to create the images has been travelling towards us for millions of years so what we say we are seeing now is really what was there those millions of years ago – maybe it has all changed.

I suppose you are like most people, feeling more comfortable thinking about rather more solid things much closer to home – like the chair you are sitting on, or the building that we are worshipping in.

In the mid to late 16th century, as scientists were experimenting with glass lenses, Zacharias Jensen invented the first microscope and since then we have been one a quest to look at smaller and smaller things.  The electron microscope took us close enough to see the particles of atoms, and now we can even see sub-atomic particles.

What we have discovered about the world of atoms that make up solid matter in our world is that actually they are far from solid.  In fact, I hear recently that if an atom was seen on the scale of our solar system, the electrons flying around the nucleus of neutrons and protons would be as far away from the nucleus as Saturn or Jupiter are from our sun.  That seems to me to be an awful lot of space within the atoms that make up solid things.  Yet they still hold us up when we stand on them or sit on them.

When I think of our world in these two directions, I think I get in touch with the kind of awe that the Bible speaks of when it refers to our response to the Glory of the Lord.

The Psalm we read today is most eloquent about this:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God:
and the firmament proclaims
               his handiwork;

The Psalmist did not understand the heavens In the way we do today.  As best we can tell, the cosmology of the Psalmists day was based on an image of the earth as a flat disc covered over by a hemispherical dome – the heavens.  The earth we stood on and the space between earth and the dome had a specific function – to keep the water back.

If you dig deep enough into the earth, everyone knew that you would find water, so the earth is clearly keeping that water at bay.  And the rain and hail and snow that falls is obvious let in by God, through the shutters in the heavens, to water the earth so that plants could grow and we had water to drink.

That was cause enough for the Psalmist to say these heavens declared the glory of God.  Given what we know today, how much more cause have we to marvel at the glory of the Lord.

But there is something else in this Psalm that has tantalized thinking believers for thousands of years.

3 There is no speech or language:
nor are their voices heard;
4 Yet their sound has gone out
through all the world:
and their words to the ends of the earth.

Because the whole basis of our social existence relies on words spoken or read, the claim in this Psalm challenges us.  Yet in some ways we understand it when we say that “actions speak louder than words.”

But it does kind of boggle my mind thinking about how these inanimate objects we have become familiar with in our universe “speak” or “declare” something to anyone.  Let me explore this a little to see if you can get in touch with it.

How would you respond if you were sitting on a beach like Cable Beach in Broome, watching the sky over the ocean gradually turn various shades of golden / orange and fading into deep amber before giving way to a bluey-green twilight that preceded the darkness of the night and the gradual brightening of the starry pinpoints of light.  Or watching a full moon rise over Roebuck Bay creating the reflections they call a "Stairway to Heaven".

A typical human response to that would be awe.  The same typical human response as when we consider God our Creator.

The ability of the created order to arouse this sense of awe in us is what I think the Psalmist is getting at with these words – that the Heavens do communicate to us without words or voices that this is all an expression of the glory of God.  And so we join with the Heavens in praising God, in declaring his glory, in responding in awe.

Thanks be to God.  Amen

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Created to Serve

Most mothers, these days work very hard to bring up their children with the best of modern theories in mind.

One such mother thought it was important for her only boy to have his friends over for socializing so she would ask his friends over from time to time – to have “little boy’s time” for them all.

They had been playing outside very well for a while when her son comes in with a concerned expression on his face and asks:  “Mummy.  Where did I come from?”

Again, concerned to respond to her son’s questions with the best of modern theories on child development in mind, she proceeded to illuminate him, quite appropriately, about what we sometimes call “The Birds and the Bee.”  In short, a brief journey from conception to childbirth.

When she had finished her little boy sat quietly – which made her wonder, so she asked:  “Honey, what did you want to know all that for?”  To which he replied:

“Well, Yanni Papodopoulos says he came from Greece, and I wondered where I came from.”

Today we are celebrating Humanity Sunday in the Season of Creation, and the scriptures chosen to guide us in this celebration are rather interesting.

In Genesis we start with the creation of all living things in the first chapter, and then skip into the second chapter for the story of how God formed the first man bodily out of the earth and breathed his own spirit/breath into it to give him life.

The Psalm tries to unpack a sense of our place among all created things – a delicate web of inter-dependency.

Philippians explores what it meant for God, in Christ, to take on our humanity, and finally, the Gospel has a very clear emphasis that the earth owes us nothing.  Rather we were created in order to serve one another.

Our liturgy will use words that gather us with all people in praising God for this created world we enjoy so much, so I thought I might just explore these texts a little to get an idea of how we arrived at the views expressed in the Gospel.

The story we read in the Gospel is only part of the story.  James and John had quietly asked Jesus if they could have those places of special honour, sitting on the left and right of Jesus when his Kingdom comes in.  These men really understood the ways of the world in which the most important and powerful  lauded their power over people and had people serving them – meeting their every need.

Jesus very quickly makes it clear that this is not the way things will be in God’s Kingdom.  He says that the pathway to greatness in this Kingdom involves service to others.

Let me offer you three suggestions that are brought to mind by these readings.

Firstly, our understanding of the Creation Story is that we were given a responsibility to look after all created things – to look after the earth so that the earth could look after us.  So service is hinted at in that story.

Secondly, if we are to correctly understand what the Psalmist getting at, it seems to me that we understand ourselves as being at the pinnacle of the created order – just a little lower than the angels or gods as our translation has it – and if we were to unpack the Hebrew behind the words “dominion” and “subjection” we would come up with a much greater sense of mutual responsibility, of healthy husbandry of the animals and land, so that both the land and creatures are served and looked after.

The third glimpse at God’s purpose comes from the glorious description of the significance of the incarnation in Philippians 2.  One of the principal meanings we derive from our understanding of the incarnation is that in Jesus we see all that is possible to see of the character of God in human form.  So in this person Jesus, God has put aside his goodness, and what we see is a servant – humble and obedient.  I take from this the sense that when we take on that same role of serving others and the whole creation, we are giving human expression to this aspect of the character of God.  This is how God wants us to be.

So on this Humanity Sunday of the Season of Creation we are encouraged to see the complex inter-dependency we share with all other humans and the rest of creation.  The well-being of others and the created order is our responsibility, and in caring for them we will find ourselves served and looked after by the rest of creation.

Let us all praise God for his love and wisdom in making thing thus that we should serve one another has he came to serve us.  Amen.