Thursday, April 27, 2006

temporary lull

There is much to say in this Easter season but I am having a bit of trouble with phone and internet so I am having an enforced 'lull'.
Be back soon........I hope

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Son of encouragement

Easter 2: Acts 4:32-37, Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31

How well do you present yourself as a Christian at work, at school, in your clubs?
Most of us prefer to ignore this question
because we are not very good at it .
We want to be good at it, but there is much at stake
and we are not always sure the best way to go about it
Often this dynamic rather paralyses us.

Son of Encouragement
Most of the early disciples we encounter in the gospels
are known by their nicknames
rather than their formal names.
So Peter is actually a play on words
and on the Greek word Rock or stone
(We know this because Jesus actually points this out
You are Peter and on this Rock I will build my church)
Like all nicknames they have a basis in something or other
and so we read today
about the Easter behaviour of one of our favourite Saints
Barnabas...this name is actually a nickname…
and it means Son of Encouragement
What a nickname!

Our Call
Like all the saints, Barnabas,
sets before us examples of the risen life
and we are invited to follow after that example.
Just as last week we promised to renew our baptismal commitment
and we looked at how our actions might reflect that
So this week, we are being shown
one aspect of Christian life
which is worth noting.
We are easily tempted to be knockers!
It is perhaps harder for Australians,
because we have such a culture of knocking.

Barnabas, we are told, encourages the early apostles
by generously supporting their work
How they were encouraged!
There is another incident, too, when we see him
taking this to the point
where it is uncomfortable
and difficult for him.
We read how Paul gets cross and tired with John Mark,
a young man who has travelled with them
but who proves to be a burden and a trial.
Paul decided they would separate.
Barnabas, though he has been with Paul for a long time, and through exciting and difficult experiences with him
In fact he went with Paul when others were a bit dubious
wants to support John Mark (also dubious)
who we are told is young (and foolish)
In what must have been a difficult decision
Barnabas leaves his beloved companion.

If we see Barnabas as setting a practical example of encouragement
we see some good characteristics:
using personal wealth and good fortune to advance the gospel rather than for selfish pursuit
understanding the weaknesses of others, and not dismissing them out of hand
making decisions which will help people to go strong and to learn from their mistakes.

We see also in Jesus’ encounter with Thomas that there is much encouragement in dealing with the process of doubting.
So easily a negative process (as we often make it) it becomes a touchstone for growth and hope.
There is much more that could be said.
As we see the disciples experiencing a change of heart
because of the Resurrection
we can also see the challenge to ourselves
to be Sons and Daughters of encouragement.
Parts of it are easy, and simply require will power and a desire to do God’s will
Other parts are hard
and will confront our deepest emotional ties
and our strongest relationships
Can we be,
Sons and Daughters of encouragement?
I hope so!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Easter poems

In the quietness of Friday

we experience death

Not nice death

whereby Granny leaves all her jewels

to knowing grandkids

Nor heroic death

when facing all odds

the young resistance fighter

looks into the distance

and shouts

words that will always be remembered

Viva! Viva!

And not the carefully medicated death

where, machine switched off,

I float into oblivion

and don’t come back.

But holy death

which sets apart

the whole world as holy to God


In the quietness of Sunday morning

coming to a place of death

we are surprised

to find there

only rags and stones.

Rags and stones.

Do my eyes deceive me?

Would there were

a voice there

to tell me

what to do and where to go.

So lost, uncertain

I can only leave

death’s place

and wander life’s garden.

It is only vaguely

(perhaps I’m wrong)

that I see that man over there

but I don’t know him

or understand his voice.

He speaks of something

that I don’t fathom well

a life that is new.

And I wonder what was wrong with the old life

But he speaks of this

New life

which sets apart

the whole world as holy to God

if using this poem please acknowledghe authorship as Stephen Clark, Blackwood, South Ausdtralia 2006

Holy Week- Audio

Audio links for Holy Week are listed below:

  • * Easter Day
  • * Easter Vigil
  • * Good Friday
  • * Maundy Thursday
  • * Palm Sunday

  • And the texts are in the entries below.
    Shabbat Shalom!

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    New Beginnings

    Easter Day 2006, April 16. For a selection of readings see here Isaiah 25:6-9;Acts 10:34-43;Psalm 118:1-2,14-24; 1 Cor 15:1-11; John 20:1-18; Mark 16:1-8

    Today, as every Easter Day, we are given the opportunity
    to reaffirm our Christian commitment.
    We are asked:
    Do you turn to Christ? and we will gladly reply
    I turn to Christ.

    But this is not enough
    because following Jesus, turning to Christ,
    is not some weird magical incantation
    we are asked also three questions
    about what we will do
    to put this into practice
    Do you repent of your sins?
    Let's be blunt
    each one of us has sinned.
    We have all decided that we would hurt other people
    and hurt them
    We have all told lies and cheated.
    We have all chosen to not love when we had the choice to love.
    To repent of our sins means we now choose
    today to not do that.
    We choose to admit our past failing
    and today, on this day of new beginning,
    Easter Day
    we promise to live our life differently.

    Do you reject selfish living?
    We live in a world of incredible selfishness.
    At the very least and at the most obvious
    we in Australia live in total luxury
    while in parts of Africa
    thousands of people are starving.
    We also make many decisions
    day by day
    when we effectively say
    I choose to prefer myself
    at the expense of another person.
    I am not here talking about the fact
    that we have a degree of good fortune
    thanks be to God
    But that sometimes, even often,
    we choose to neglect the needs of the most desperate
    and look only after ourselves.
    And we name that as OK.

    When we reject selfishness
    we must find ways to be kind, to be generous, to share
    We cannot combat selfishness and not share.

    Finally we are asked a serious question
    Do you reject evil?
    We might ask ourselves: but what is evil?
    And it is not an easy question.
    But it revolves around the way we view other people.
    Each one of us is made in the image of God,
    and therefore we should treat all other people
    with equal dignity and respect,
    but do we do that?
    When we see people as commodities rather than individuals,
    when we think only of people as sexual objects
    when we see anyone as disposable
    we are assenting to evil in the profoundest way.

    When we see our government treating people
    as though they have no individual worth
    or with carelessness
    and are quiet
    or even agree that that is how they should be treated
    are we not assenting to evil?

    When we are silent, when we should speak out,
    or when we trivialise the lives of others
    and say that they, their problems, their aspirations
    are not worthwhile
    we diminish ourselves, and each other.

    Evil is hard to pin down.
    Evil is dangerous because it is slippery.
    Evil will and nail the loving Christ to the Cross.

    The message of Easter is that Christ can and does
    put an end to evil.
    Never allow yourself to believe otherwise.

    Can you turn to Christ, today?
    Will you turn to Christ, today?
    Do you turn to Christ?

    Because Christ turns himself to you.

    Waiting for the Light

    There are many readings for the Easter Vigil a selection is here. A particular reading for this year is Matthew 28:1-10

    The great Vigil of Easter happens in the dark before Easter day breaks.
    So it may be the night before, or increasingly it is held at dawn on Easter Day. So much of the language which speaks about the light breaking through the darkness is reinforced (hopefully) by the rising Sun.
    It is almost pagan in some its dimensions, but like many Christian things, it takes the natural phenomena and Christianises them.
    So we consecrate the dawn by linking this wonderful daily gift (I never fail to be wowed by a good sunrise) to the rising Christ.
    Each day as we experience the rising Sun
    so our hearts and minds are drawn
    to the rising Son.

    Like most Vigil services
    the focus is on the Bible
    so take time to read the readings.
    There are perhaps ten or more
    climaxing with one of the accounts of the resurrection.

    The readings start at the very beginning
    (that's a very good place to start)
    so we hear the account of God's Creation of the world, and God's new covenant after Noah's flood.
    We then move on to the sacrifice of Isaac and the great story of the delivery of the people from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea.
    There are no end of prophetic insights we could share in this salvation story but we hear how God will take his people back
    and make them new.
    There is much to be said.

    Amidst all this the Easter candle shines
    with its curious markings
    Alpha and Omega (the beginning and the end of the Greek Alphabet)
    The sign of the Cross that connects us irrevocably to God
    and the numbers of the year.
    We say "Christ the beginning and the end, the same this day as he was in the past and will be in the future."

    What we are being drawn into here is God's eternal story. The God who always was and is, draws me and you into this new life.
    It is what God has always wanted to do, and has done,
    and will do.
    So we renew our commitment made at Baptism
    that says "Yes"
    This is what I choose to do.
    I turn to Christ.

    It were a present far too small

    Reflection for Good Friday, April 14 2006. Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

    The great hymn of Isaac Watts often sung on Good Friday, When I survey the wondrous cross says in its final verse
    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    that were a present far too small;
    love so amazing, so divine,
    demands my soul, my life, my all.

    I am often struck how some "religiously correct" versions change the original word
    present to the more religiously correct word
    The two words don't mean the same thing, do they?
    An offering is something that is required of us
    it is our duty, our reponsibility
    A present is an expression of love
    and is given rather than exacted as a tribute.

    Watts, I suspect, deliberately used the word present
    and we should not use the word "offering" any more.

    What this points us to
    is that the story of the life and death of Jesus Christ
    is not a remote religious tale
    it is about the way we live our life.
    It is in the world of 'presents' rather than 'offerings'

    It is about how we live outside church
    not inside
    It is about present rather than offering

    So Watts continues not with religious sentiment
    but rather with the total commitment of life

    love so amazing, so divine,
    demands my soul, my life, my all

    thus all the things we know about Good Friday
    and all the challenge that it extends to you and me
    is not about what we do here
    in this holy building
    it is about what we do at work.
    The forgiveness that we seek
    is about the sins we have committed in our job.
    It is about how we live in our families.
    The amazing love that we are called to exercise
    is to our wives and husbands, our sons and daughters,
    our brothers and sisters.

    Being religious is a good way of distancing ourselves
    from the realities of our life.
    It is an offerng rather than a present.

    This year, let us go beyond that narrow formal duty...the offering
    and instead be a present to God
    committed in our life, where we are, where we live.

    Love, so amazing so divine, demands nothing less.

    The mystery of this sacrament

    Reflections for Maundy Thursday, April 13 2006 See: Exod 12:1-4, (5-10) 11-14; Psalm 116, 1 Cor 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31-35

    Things come together on this day.
    in the liturgy for this evening
    we perform ritual washing as a reminder to be a servant,
    and we celebrate with care the Holy Eucharist
    remembering that this was the night when Jesus gave it to his disciples.
    We then reserve some of the sacrament as a sign of the presence of Christ
    and remove the ornaments from the church.
    This is a symbolical reenactment of Jesus being taken out into the garden of Gethsemane, where he is ultimately arrested, stripped and beaten.
    Things come together in the Eucharist.

    The Command
    We don't often think of it like this but the Eucharist (The Lord's Supper, the Mass...or however you call it) is a command
    This is where the word Maundy comes from...the Latin "mandatum" meaning a command.... we still use words like mandate and mandatory which have the same root}
    Jesus tells us to break bread and drink wine, and remember him. We are to do this when we get together
    And so Christians have done this for 2000 years.
    Our experience is that as we fulfill Jesus' s command
    so we experience Jesus amongst us.
    The early Christians coined this phrase:
    The disciples knew Jesus in the breaking of the bread.
    As we fulfill the command we experience Jesus.

    Tonight, we also read of another command
    "Love one another as I have loved you."
    And as Jesus says this he washes his disciple's feet.
    When Peter protests he is told that this is the way we experience the fulness of life.
    and Peter (over the top as ever) says: then wash me completely.
    Jesus's command is that we should do what he has done
    that we should serve others.

    We are meant to make the connection between the two commands.
    Eucharist is not just about ritual observance
    it is about how we live our life.
    Worship services are not what we are on about
    they are rather an expression
    of how we are called to live our life.
    They are not the end in itself.

    Our obedience to Chris't command to share the Eucharist
    also commits us to obedience to service.

    As Jesus goes out into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane
    we are reminded that his call to follow him
    will not be without its uncertainty and danger.
    But in the end
    we who know the truth of Christ
    understand this invitation
    to be a command that we embrace.
    Each time we share the eucharist we are always
    called to remember that we also called to serve
    "I 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.’"

    Chrism Mass

    This is not a preaching so much as a brief account of what our Archbishop said at today's Chrism Mass, or at least what I heard him say!

    What is a Chrism Mass?
    Each year in Holy Week the Bishop meets with his clergy
    and together they reaffirm their vows of ordination.
    He also blesses the Oil of Unction for anointing Sick people
    and the Oil of Chrism which is used for anointing the newly baptised.

    We have just met for this important litugy, and our Bishop took as his theme for the homily
    "Home is not a safe place!"
    He talked of Nazareth & Jerusalem, both places which were for Jesus "home" and were ultimately unsafe places. Nazareth because although he grew up there, they rejected his teaching and threatened to stone him. Jerusalem, the mother of all cities, ultimately took away his life.
    He reminded us how he has found out, first-hand in this his first six months of ministry with us, that for many the church that should be home has not been a safe place.
    His plea to us at this time of reaffirmation: to make the Church a safe place.
    He then moved us on, in the spirit of the Luke-Acts story to other places which also represented challenge.
    Samaria just outside the bounds of the people of Judah which represented the unsafe places we are called to go...where dwell people in cardboard boxes, the socially unacceptable, the ostracised.
    Antioch, the third largest city in the known world. Where surprising new opportunity offered itself to Barnabas and Paul.
    Rome, where Paul was taken, and which amidst the deep corruption of political power and the seduction of worldly fame and fortune presents opportunity and challenge .
    He asked us to commit ourselves to ministry in Samaria, in Antioch and in Rome.

    Straightforward and stretching stuff, I find, which is quite helpful

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Passionate love

    Reflections and Readings for Palm Sunday, 9th April 2006, Isaiah 50:4-9,Psalm 118, Philippians 2:5-11,Mark 11:1-11

    I have a sort of childhood resentment to Palm Sunday being called "Passion" Sunday
    Traditionally (meaning when I was young) this referred to last Sunday [the 5th in Lent]
    when the mood in Lent changed from penitence and discipline
    towards the Cross and Passion.
    However I need to let that slide!!
    There is much in my life at this time
    that reveals the insight I have consistentlyhad about Passiontide
    and that is
    That Passion is about love and that passion is abotu suffering
    This is not particularly profound.
    though not immediately obvious
    though the truth is
    thgat if I want to love better
    then I need to be able to embrace suffering.
    There will not be love without suffering.
    As we look at the cross at the truest example of what love might mean
    nothing could be more obvious
    Love means suffering.
    Let us not make the mistake
    that in order to love more
    then we need to engender suffering.
    There is enough suffering already!!

    But we do need
    to not avoid the reality that true relationships
    will not just be plain sailing.
    They will have their fair share of suffering.
    Most of us implicitly understand that.
    Christ suffers in our humanity
    we grown in God's humility.

    There is much about this that is msyterious.
    but let us not try to create a love that is pain-free
    but rather to recognise that suffering is its own opportrunity
    to garner God's love.