Hare Street Uniting Church

This is a sermon which deals with violence. It speaks about sexual assault, and all the other violent exclusions we commit against sisters and brothers. I wonder if I have any right to speak about these things, but maybe a male voice is needed; we don't listen to the women.

The text starts with Jesus and a leader of the synagogue… Sometimes it's called the Healing of Jairus' Daughter, but if we look carefully we can see the story uses his name only once… and keeps calling him the leader of the synagogue.  I think it might be called The Enlightening of the Leader of the Synagogue, because it just so happens that the leader of the synagogue is called Jairus: Jairus means enlightened one. Do you see it?—at the end of the story he really is an enlightened one.

Jairus' daughter is an unnamed little girl, but the daughter of a leader of the synagogue is also… the community of faith… This is a story about the death and resurrection of a faith community; it could be our spiritual leader— John— coming to Jesus and saying about us, "My little daughter— my little congregation— is at the point of death."

The story of the little daughter has another story in the middle of it, and that's the story of an unnamed woman who has been ill for 12 years. She has been bleeding life for 12 years. She is slowly dying, too. ... Read on >>>>

There are two ways to look at this story of Jesus calming the storm on the lake. Since the story was first told, there have been people who believe it is literally true: He commanded an actual physical gale to stop and it did.  And since the story was first told, there have been people who understand the story to be about a deeper truth than the mere calming of a physical storm; true in another, perhaps even deeper, way. They see that Jesus will take us safely through all the storms of life when we are about to be drowned. He will empower us to live in the eye of the storm, to live well, despite evil, destruction, and death, raging around us. We will be able to live in a way which is good for us and in a way which God desires— which is the same thing, even though it seems impossible and too hard....Read on >>>>

Imagine being in Paris in May in 1944. Paris, the French capital, is occupied by the German army. Imagine if a man came into Paris in a Jeep, dressed in a British army uniform, and started crying out that the battle would soon be won, that God would soon be in charge, a great victory is at hand.

What do you think the Germans running Paris would have done at that point? ….. …. ….

I think they would have thought the man was crazy! Really!? You're going to overthrow the Third Reich— you!!?

But crazy didn't matter. If someone had started crying out about another kingdom instead of The Thousand Year Reich, the Nazis would have rubbed them out, on the spot. Just like the Romans crushed any talk against the Empire of Caesar. 

Actually, what the Romans would do was kill that sort of person really, really slowly and painfully, to make an example of them, and to act as a deterrent. That's what crucifixion was about. It was a slow inefficient way to kill people… but it made people afraid. In Paris, the Nazis threatened that if you killed a German soldier they would retaliate by killing a hundred civilians; it was the same sort of thing.

But what if that person had come into Paris with a donkey and a little cart, and begun handing out loaves of bread to the hungry citizens, and even to the German soldiers, and had said a great victory had been won. And that the city would soon be returned to what it should be. What kind of victory would that be? And how crazy would that person be?... Read on >>>

This is the first draft. Come along Sunday, because it's bound to be different!

"If there is a God," wrote Simone Weil — a secular Jew who converted to Christianity, "it is not an insignificant fact, but something that requires a radical rethinking of every little thing. Your knowledge of God can't be considered as one fact among many. You have to bring all the other facts into line with the fact of God.” (quoted by Rev James Eaton, who directed me here.) 

In a similar vein, Walter Wink said,

It is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness—which is to say, we are capable of becoming human. (Quoted here)...

Given this, perhaps it's not so surprising that Jesus said about following him,

if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 

Because if we are "only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human…" if we but "see glimpses of our humanness," then our ideas of what the Messiah will likely be equally broken.... Read on >>>

ow we do our Church Music

We have no hymn books.
Our musicians, a brilliant pianist, and an excellent organist, are both old and in less than stellar health.
How do we sing, as a small congregation, yet also give them a break, and let them stay home at short notice if it is not sensible to push themselves to church?

We have

  1. One License. It it's not covered by One License, and we have no over cover for the song, we don't sing it.
  2. We use the music of Clyde McLennan from smallchurchmusic.com where possible, (free) and as a Uniting Church, we can buy most of the other tunes from MyMidi.com at 25cents per tune. (Thanks Wayne McHugh) It costs you 50cents otherwise.
  3. We use the piano versions of the music. These are excellent, and we have learned to sing to the piano tunes much more easily than to the organ renditions.
  4. We mostly use Together in Song hymns, but add plenty of other stuff if we can purchase music.

How do we make this work?  Read on >>>

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 >>>

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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
 
 
 

 

ABC Religion News

Men disguised as hunters kill at least 134 Muslim farmers in Mali

- - 24-03-2019

Pregnant women, children and the elderly were killed in one of the deadliest attacks of of its kind in a region reeling from worsening ethnic and jihadist violence.

Abby Stein studied to be a rabbi before she came out as a woman

- - 24-03-2019

Growing up as a boy in an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn community, Abby Stein had no access to the internet and barely spoke English. It's a world away from the life she's now living as a transgender activist.

Seven changes the Catholic Church must make now

- - 24-03-2019

As a Catholic, the Pell verdict has shocked me deeply but these are the steps forward, writes Francis Sullivan.

'I was a spoiled brat': The girl who led 25 relatives to move to Syria to join Islamic State

- - 23-03-2019

At just 15 years old, Nur Dhania told her family she was going to Syria to live in the caliphate. They quit their jobs and followed her. Then they realised they'd made a huge mistake.

What it's like to work on legal cases against Pell and the Catholic Church

- - 23-03-2019

As the head of a large legal firm's abuse department acting for about 1,000 survivors, Lisa Flynn knows what it's like to work on a challenging case.

A single police officer in the Bias Crime Unit is monitoring hate crime across NSW

- - 22-03-2019

The unit was never properly resourced to deal with hate crime, according to a lawyer and community advocate, and a NSW Police officer says it would take a significant violent attack before policing hate crime is prioritised.


 

ABC Religion and Ethics Report

Angry language, religion and violence

- - 20-03-2019 Can we still talk about religion, identity, immigration, extremism – without it ending in bloodshed? And, the massive attempt by churches and other faiths to recognise the scale of the Christchurch tragedy. Also, the Israeli human rights lawyer who had a racist candidate thrown off the ballot for next month’s Israel elections.

Wrestling with George Pell's legacy

- - 13-03-2019 George Pell goes from cardinal to convict -- jailed for the sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s. We look at how he came to dominate the Australian Catholic church and his legacy today. Also, how tribalism – religious, political and cultural – sets citizen against citizen and how we can repair the division.

International Women's Day and western assumptions

- - 06-03-2019 This week Kumi Taguchi hosts a special edition of the Religion and Ethics Report. She asks Noha Aboueldahab if Movements like these fail to account for the diverse grievances, needs, and expectations of women in various contexts. Also, how are the ripples of the Me Too and Nuns Too movements being felt by women religious in Australia? And, how you can hold the church in the palm of your hand.

The fallout from the George Pell saga

- - 27-02-2019 Cardinal George Pell has been convicted on five counts of child sexual abuse. A psychologist who advised the royal commission into institutional sex abuse will explain the impact the verdict is having on the broader community. And, the brave priest who first warned the Catholic church about the abuse crisis – 35 years ago says the Pell conviction must trigger a radical shift in power across the Catholic world. Also, the Islamic State group is defeated on the ground but will its ideology survive?

A just war, the 'closet' in the Vatican and a historic child sex-abuse summit

- - 20-02-2019 Two major events have rocked the Vatican - the defrocking of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for sexual offences, and the bombshell book claiming 80 per cent of clergy who work in the Vatican are gay. Also, could robots be programmed to fight wars according to a moral code? And what do reform-minded Catholics in the pews expect from this week’s Vatican summit on sexual abuse?

An emergency sex-abuse summit, why Donald Trump’s election was an act of divine providence, and why ex-evangelicals have united under the label “ex-vangelicals”

- - 13-02-2019 Pope Francis will host a sex abuse prevention summit next week - but will the summit deliver? Also, the late Billy Graham was the most prominent preacher of the 20th century, speaking directly to an estimated 200 million people during his life. But is his evangelist son Franklin Graham more politician than preacher – cheering on Donald Trump and his views on immigration and Islam? And what exactly does “ex-vangelicals”mean?

Banks, greed and profit, a landmark papal visit, and Northern Ireland’s Brexit dilemma

- - 06-02-2019 When does reasonable profit turn into greed? That’s one of the big ethical challenges revealed by the banking royal commission. And if the UK crashes out of the European Union seven weeks from now, the boom gates will go back up along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic. But could the sectarian violence – Catholic versus Protestant – that scarred Northern Ireland for 30 years also return? Also, are autocratic governments in the Arabian Gulf using this week’s papal visit to Abu Dhabi to mask their poor human rights records?