Hare Street Uniting Church

Sermon:  (February 10)

I'd like to draw a contrast between how Mark and Luke tell the early part of Jesus' story. It will help us see something Luke is saying to us.

In Mark, Jesus comes almost out of nowhere; he comes to Galilee, meets Simon and the others on the sea shore and calls them as disciples. It's all very dramatic, and often makes us feel a bit inadequate as disciples. And then, after that,  there is teaching and healing, including Peter's mother-in-law being healed by Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is "in a hurry" from the first moment; This is important, cries Mark.

Luke is a little calmer.

Luke imagines something different from his encounter with the same traditions and stories about Jesus. Luke tells us Jesus already knows these blokes. They've seen him at work, preaching, and healing. He even heals Simon's mother in law.

So Simon knows Jesus is becoming quite famous, and he understands why: after all, Jesus healed his mother in law.

One day, when there's hardly any room left on the beach, Jesus asks Simon if he can borrow the boat to teach. I reckon Simon is probably listening while he's cleaning his nets.... Read on >>>

If you follow the way that this man Jesus shows you, you will find a life which is sublime. Not famous, not rich, perhaps not even successful in the eyes of the world... but sublime. You will know, and you will rejoice, because you will find you have been led into a life worth having and into a life worth living. God will come to you in your humiliation and affliction and lift you up so that all folk will see you are blessed. What I’m saying is that Jesus guides each of us into a life worth living no matter what has been done to us, not matter what we have suffered. We get... to really live.

So how does this relate to the Christmas story-- after all, it’s Christmas Eve? To understand what that story is about, it might help to remember things like this:

Have you seen this sort of thing on the Internet?

Not everything you read on the Internet is true.  Albert Einstein.

Well, that's true... but he never said it, of course. Albert Einstein died in 1955, well before the Internet was thought of. Yet all over Facebook and the internet you will find that Albert Einstein said this... and Morgan Freeman said that... 

We have a habit of placing something we think is really important into the mouths of important people. It’s a way we try to get people to take notice.

In Jesus’ time, people did the same thing; the Christmas story was a way of getting people to take notice.... Read on >>>>

The people of Jesus' time understood they had been driven from the land God gave their father Abraham by famine, and they knew the place where they took refuge, which was Egypt, had turned into a place of captivity and exile. (We see that in the stories of Joseph and Moses.)

In the time of Moses God led them out of Egypt, and they were formed as a nation, and they met God, in the wilderness. And then, with Joshua as leader, they entered the Promised Land by crossing the River Jordan.

But eventually, Israel was taken in exile in Babylon for some 70 years about 600 years before the birth of Jesus. The leaders of the country who had survived the destruction of Jerusalem were taken back to Babylon and its surrounding cities.

Even then, God was faithful, and brought them home. The book of the Prophet Isaiah charts this remarkable return from Exile in Chapters 40-55, and the quotation in the gospel reading is from the beginning of that section of Isaiah which begins with "The voice of one crying in the wilderness...

But exile happens all over again!! ... Read on >>>>

Sermon

According to some recent news reports, the worst year to be alive was the year 536.

Not 1349, when the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. Not 1918, when the flu killed 50 ... to 100 million people, mostly young adults. But 536. ... A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months.

"For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year," wrote Byzantine historian Procopius.

Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved. The Irish chronicles record "a failure of bread from the years 536–539."

Then, in 541, bubonic plague struck the Roman port of Pelusium, in Egypt. What came to be called the Plague of Justinian spread rapidly, wiping out one-third to one-half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire and hastening its collapse...

[Following the analysis of ice cores from glaciers, a] team of scientists [has] reported that a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed ash across the Northern Hemisphere early in 536. Two other massive eruptions followed, in 540 and 547. (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/why-536-was-worst-year-be-alive I have edited this, especially in the layout.)

But of course the worst year to be alive is the year everything goes wrong for us. In Luke's time, signs in the sun, moon, and stars were matched by all the other worries of this life: sickness and dying, wars, persecution, betrayal by family, poverty and starvation under the empire...

Perhaps Luke is telling us that the year 536, or the year 1939, or the year 1962 when we missed a nuclear war simply because Vasili Arkhipov refused to allow the launch of nuclear weapons from Russian a submarine attacked in international waters by the Americans, and saved the world from thermonuclear war— we could say each and any of these years  were simply the normality for human life on this turbulent planet. 

And Jesus says "when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."... Read on at Andrew's page

You can walk away... and you may not notice...
In Chapter 8 of Mark, Peter finally gets it: You are the Messiah!

And from then on, Jesus is teaching the disciples what it means to be Messiah, and what it means to follow the Messiah into the kingdom of God.

In the teaching of last week's reading, he took a child in his arms, as a symbol of God's love for all of us. The child epitomises the weak, the powerless, and the defenceless. And what Jesus said to the disciples, who were all about who was the greatest; who was in charge; who understood God— what he said was that, in God's eyes, to be great, to be a leader, to be like God and to welcome God… is to welcome the child and protect the child—and any person who is in the place of the child— above all others.

If the way we are living our lives as Christians is not doing this, then we are not great. We are not living as Christ called us to live. God forgives all things, but that does not change the fact that when we do not welcome the child, and put the child first, we are not living the life of the kingdom. Instead, we... are separating ourselves from God.

Now this week, Jesus really doubles down on this; he emphasises it all over again. It's the same conversation, and the child is still there in his arms, for he talks about "one of these little ones." 

But look how the little ones are caused to stumble by the disciples!  The disciples saw someone healing just like Jesus did, and they told them to stop because they were not "following us." It's as if I said Elliot and the church up the street should stop being church because they don't belong to us! Or one of you saying that Rod's congregation should stop doing what they are doing because they don't belong to the Uniting Church... Read on >>>>

The funeral service for our brother Max will be held on Wednesday August 8, at the church, beginning at 10.30. Max will be buried at Echunga Cemetry. The burial service will begin at approximately 1.00pm.

The people of Jesus time expected that God would send another prophet like Moses. Indeed, Moses himself had once said, " The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet... I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command..." (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18)

And the people at the Feeding of 5,000 understood this. It says that "When the people saw the sign that [Jesus] had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’" (John 6:14)

And yet the part of that crowd which came across the lake in the boats from Tiberias seem curiously blind. They have seen the feeding, they have eaten, and they want more food. And like Jesus, they know what God has said: "one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." (Deut 8:3)He's quoting the Old Testament, after all; Deuteronomy Chapter 8. And we expect they knew the tradition, the midrash on scripture, that said  "As was the first redeemer so was the final redeemer; as the first redeemer caused the manna to fall from heaven, even so shall the second redeemer cause the manna to fall." (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1.9)

So how could they not see that Jesus had done something even greater than Moses!?? In the old stories of Moses, the manna would decay if you took more than you needed. In the sign that Jesus had done, the bread was collected up in baskets so that nothing would be lost. It did not spoil and, what's more, there were twelve baskets, a sign that the broken 12 tribes of Israel— only two were left— would be restored!

How could these people who had been there, who had eaten— how could they not see!? What was making them so blind?... Read on >>>>

There is a long tradition in the synagogue and the church  that when Moses saw the burning bush, there were other people with him who did not see anything! In fact, the bush was always burning; (eg Jeremiah Whitaker C16th) it is a symbol of God who simply Is, without beginning or end. The only question— always— is whether people will see, whether we will perceive that which is before us and around us, or whether we will walk, un-noticing, past the holiness that always burns, and which gives the universe warmth, and light, and being.

God is. God loves. But what we will see will depend upon our perspective.

In the Gospel of Mark, the author has shown us two feasts; two stories of life. Last week the Lectionary directed us to The Feast of Herod the King, a luxury feast in a palace. This week, we have arrived at the other feast, The Feast of Jesus, out in a desert place... Read on >>>>

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Going Deeper...
Some UCA Resources

One Man's Web
Rev Andrew Prior
Old Testament Lectionary
Rev Dr Anna Grant-Henderson
Lectionary Resources
Rev Dr. Bill Loader
Sarah Tells Stories
Rev Sarah Agnew
The Billabong
Rev Jeff Shrowder
Stepping Stones
Rev John Maynard

 

A place where we try to live the life lessons of
Jesus of Nazareth

with food
Sausages on the barbecue

and new friends
and love
Woman preparing communion
Join us
Church Building
 Sundays
Hare St. UCA 10.30am 
Liberty Baptist 12.00pm
GPdI Filadelfia 3.00pm
 
 
 

 

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ABC Religion and Ethics Report

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