Hare Street Uniting Church

In Mark Chapter One, things have been going really well for Jesus. He has answered the call of God. He has weathered the temptations in the wilderness. He has begun to heal people. It's not clear just how much people understand who he is— the demons and the unclean spirits knew, but the people are unsure— but even so, as it says, "his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee." As the disciples say, in another place, "Everyone is searching for you."

Then he met a leper. A leper comes to Jesus, and asks for healing… ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ And it says, "Jesus, moved with compassion, reached out his hand and touched him and healed him."

 At that point, everything changes for Jesus. He crosses a line. Someone, somewhere, who has connections, notices him. Rev Professor Bill Loader says "the life of grace must dodge between the powers." As we receive God's gifts, and bring them to others, we are always at risk of resistance and violence, from the powers opposed to God's vision for humanity. They may strike back, and this is the point where they begin to notice Jesus and push back.... Read on >>>>

In Bible Study on Wednesday I asked people what they think is going on when it says someone is "with an unclean spirit," or "has an an unclean spirit"  as it does in this week's gospel reading.    Irena said something like this:

It's as though someone has been dipped in something which then controls or affects everything that they do.

So the way Irena imagined it, they've been stained or coloured by this thing that changes everything about them. I found this really insightful because,

firstly, in the Greek it literally says the man was in an unclean spirit. It was not in him.
but secondly, Irena used the language of baptism; she said it's as though someone has been dipped.

Do you remember that only a few verses ago in Mark, John the Baptist says, I have baptized you in water; but he— and we find the he is Jesus— will baptize you in  holy spirit.’

John baptises in water, Jesus baptises in holy spirit and, if we use Irena's image, the man is baptised, dipped, in an unclean spirit... Read on >>>>

What makes the world turn, and keeps things going?

In Jesus' time the answer, in one word, was Caesar. Yes there were gods, but when push came to shove, what counted was money and political power. Today we have Trump and Putin, and upstarts like China. Nothing has changed. As now, the rulers of Jesus time used the gods and religion when it suited them.

What really counted was staying on top. And the tragedy is that the bullets used by the tyrants are the same bullets, made by the same companies, used by the good presidents. There is something about us people, some endless cycle of violence from which we can never escape. We think that by using violence we can fix violence.

We may like Obama more than Trump; we may prefer the Queen, but they are all part of the same endless violence and struggle for supremacy which means the ordinary people and the poor suffer just as they did in Jesus' time.

The Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke is "a point by point refutation" of all the propaganda of the Caesars. 
Luke says Jesus is the son of the most high. 
And that Jesus is the saviour of the world. Jesus is Lord.
All these terms are the language that the Caesars like to use for themselves. 
Even gospel— good news— was a term they used to describe their victories over their enemies!

In Luke's story, Jesus' name means God saves
And his kingdom never ends; not like the Roman Empire, which no longer exists; not like the thousand year Reich, or Realm, which lasted only 12 years; not like the United States, which is falling apart inside, despite all its military power.

Really? Jesus Kingdom never ends? Here is where the gospel is completely counter-intuitive; where it turns everything upside down. Because Luke, who tells us all this, over and over again, who tells us Jesus' kingdom will never end, then tells us the story of a man who was dead in three years, or less. Killed by Caesar.... Read on >>>

This is the sermon for December 17. It takes the reading: John 1:6-9, 19-28, and notes  that all the bits of the reading about Jesus in verses 9-18 are cut out by the lectionary. The reading asks us to look at John.

Have you ever noticed something odd about your minister? I have a colleague who sometimes stops in the middle of his sermon, to think, and places his hand on his head… like this…  You can tell me better than I can, what little quirks I have!

But let's imagine the hand on the head stuff is me. You've seen this a hundred times, and one day, I put my hand on my head, and for some reason, it really irritates you. It gets right under your skin and you feel quite grumpy.

Is there something bad about a hand on the head? Why did it bother you this time, when mostly you just smile to yourself— "that's Andrew, hand on his head again… no wonder he's getting a bald spot."

I find… that when things set me off, it's actually not usually the person and what they've done, … but it's something in me. Something about what they did pressed a button, or touched a sore spot in me— nothing to do with them, actually, and I get grumpy.

Now here's the important thing— let's turn this around: if you… remind me… of my sore spot that was hurt long ago, but I get grumpy at you… what does that achieve?

What I need to deal with is the sore spot… maybe the fact that I'm channelling the way I used to feel at school when someone said something hurtful.  If I externalise… my problem, if I project it… onto you, the problem stays unhealed in me, and I visit a violence upon you when I blame you… for something that's about me… for something you didn't do!  Just like our old cat, who used to get into trouble for jumping up on the table, and each time she got into trouble for that, she went and beat up the other cat— every time. That's externalising.   All she needed to do was stay off the table... Read on >>>>

It's one of those run down industrial blocks you see along the main roads of the scrap suburbs, all diesel and dirt, with a few tracks worn between the weeds, and a bit of white metal spread around the sheds. I've barely registered the derelict shipping containers haphazard across the site, until today. Today, I saw more. There is an L shaped conglomeration, consisting of two barely converted containers, and two dishevelling demountables. Out of the wind, in the almost warm sun, wrapped in a winter coat, an old woman was sitting at a plastic table having her morning cup of tea.
 
People live here behind the chain mesh.
 
While the politicians of the rich entertain them with talk of tax cuts, this old woman shows us something about life's simple joys. I noticed on the way home that she has a profusion of geraniums potted into the space between the shipping containers.  Andrew

As Yvonne and I entered the platform at Mawson Lakes, a young woman rushed up to us in a terrified panic, and thrust her phone into my hands crying, "Please talk to my father!" She'd left the temporary bus service from Adelaide to discover she'd been followed across two buses by a man who had been standing far too close.

We escorted her to Salisbury, and things ended as well as something like this can end.

Yvonne and I debriefed each other a little on the way to her station.

"It's good that she had someone to ring," she said.

We talked about how hard it must have been to run up to another unknown man, even though being a man and woman together with pushbikes must have made us look a lot less threatening than other choices.

And then Yvonne said, "The trouble is, some people have no one to ring."

I thought about that as I rode home. Maybe that's what we are supposed to be about as a church. Not doctrine, not getting more bums on seats, and not fitting someone's idea of being successful. We're meant to be the family you can ring when you've got no one else to ring.

And it is a whole family thing, not just the minister. I had swung into action— told the Dad to ring SAPOL, identified the man concerned, tried to talk to her later about making sure she rang the police if she ever saw him again— all that stuff. But Yvonne talked about being scared, and children, and needing a dog to walk in the street. Woman to woman, and gentle and healing. We're meant to be the family you can ring when you've got no one else to ring.

Archived here

 

This is how we approached the reading in Matthew 25, although, to be honest, the minister never stays on script :)

Many years ago we were invited to a 21st birthday party. It was a big, glitzy, good fun occasion. Our almost 3 year old daughter had a fine time racing around, as rug rats do. Until, at around 11.30pm, she came up to me in some distress.

"Daddy, when are we having the birthday party?"

I was a bit confused. "What do you mean, Sweetheart? This is the birthday party!"

She said, "Not it's not. There isn't a birthday cake. The party hasn't started yet!"

So I explained that the party was more than just the cake, and she looked around wide eyed and silent. I could almost see the wheels turning as she worked through this new idea that the party had already started and been going for a long time.... Read on >>>>

Where we're heading this week:

What's happening in this confrontation in the temple?  Well…

if Jesus says it is wrong to pay taxes to Caesar, he can be charged with inciting insurrection— the Pharisees even brought some government stooges along just in case he did! (That's the Herodians.)

But of course if Jesus says you should pay taxes to Caesar… then all the religious folks will be upset because… well, that means he's saying that God is not God, but that Caesar is more important. And then the Pharisees can say (only not when the Herodians are around) that you should only give money to God so, clearly then, you shouldn't listen to this Jesus, because he thinks you should pay taxes to Caesar.

It's a very clever setup. But Jesus outsmarts them. He says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's." So the Herodians can't complain. But then he says, "And give to God what is God's." So, neither can the Pharisees complain, because that's actually what they think, and what they want him to say.

But…  …   have you ever been somewhere when someone tells a joke and then, after a second or two there's a single laugh as it dawns on somebody what the person really said… and then, a couple more laughs, and then… slowly, as people cotton on, everyone starts laughing?

Well, something like that is happening here. Slowly, everyone starts to smile as they get the joke. Everything belongs to God so… what is there to give to Caesar?

And by that time, even if the government agents want to find fault with Jesus, it's too late. The crowd is on Jesus' side.... 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
10am Sundays
GPdI Filadelfia meets at 3.00pm
 
 
 

 

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