Hare Street Uniting Church

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 >>>

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 >>>>

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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

Muslim group calls for rethink on unisex toilets after family enters private showers

- - 18-01-2019

A lack of female-only showers at a popular Sunshine Coast beach prompts a Muslim organisation to call for councils to consider religious beliefs when designing infrastructure after a family used private amenities without permission.

Millions dip into icy cold rivers for Indian Kumbh Mela festival

- - 15-01-2019

A colourful procession of musicians and religious leaders parade to the riverbanks for a bathing ritual dating back to medieval times.

US judge blocks Trump's rules allowing businesses to deny women contraceptives in health insurance

- - 15-01-2019

Employers in the US will still have to provide health insurance covering women's birth control, after a federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules allowing employers to obtain exemptions from the Obamacare requirement.

'McJesus' exhibit featuring crucified Ronald McDonald sparks violent protests

- - 15-01-2019

A sculpture of Ronald McDonald nailed to a cross — a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the crucifixion of Jesus — sparks violent protests in Israel, with rioters calling for the "disrespectful" artwork's removal.

Detention of Melbourne-based refugee in Thailand 'a major screw up' says rights defender

- - 10-01-2019 Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia, tells The World the events leading to the detention of Melbourne-based refugee Hakeem AlAraibi in Thailand was "a major screw-up" and those responsible should be "removed from their position".

Saudi women are controlled by male relatives — here's how the guardianship system works

- - 10-01-2019

The case of Rahaf Alqunun, which has exploded on social media and made headlines around the world, has drawn attention to Saudi Arabia's strict guardianship system. This is how it works.

Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy on the asylum case of Saudi teen

- - 09-01-2019 The plight of Rahaf Alqunun is a microcosm of the guardianship system and "gender apartheid" in Saudi Arabia, Ms Eltahawy says.


 

ABC Religion and Ethics Report

Is Liberalism dead?

- - 16-01-2019 In his latest book author Patrick J. Deneen writes that of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. In an in-depth interview, presenter Andrew West asks the author of the provocative book ‘Why Liberalism Failed’, whether liberalism supplanted religion as the organising principle of the West.  What then were the consequences?

What could replace religion in the West?

- - 09-01-2019 As religion withers in the liberal west, what takes its place? The provocative Canadian writer Jordan Peterson confronts this question.

An extraordinary life  

- - 26-12-2018 A special program about the martyrdom of civil rights leader and Baptist preacher Dr Martin Luther King. He always tried to reach across the colour line, comforting whites who feared black empowerment. But King also had a message about the poverty and violence that propped up racism, and that made the powerful very uncomfortable.

The history of the Bible in Australia

- - 19-12-2018 Author Meredith Lake on why an understanding of the Bible is incredibly important in understanding Australian history and identity.

Labor challenges, the AMLO factor in Mexico, and how to deal with an anxious Australia

- - 12-12-2018 How can the Labor Party keep socially conservative blue-collar voters onside while embracing liberal policies on sexuality and identity? And how Mexico’s new leftist president built a religious coalition that swept him into power. Also, Australia’s leading social researcher takes on the biggest question in public life today. How do we get along with people who distrust and even dislike us?

Defamation laws, violation of human rights, and the white Christian vote in the US

- - 05-12-2018 As major media companies push to liberalise Australia’s defamation laws, what are the ethical problems in running stories that can damage the reputations of innocent people? And, 70 years after the world’s leading powers signed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, why are almost every one of its rules violated somewhere every day? Also, the white Christian vote is the key to Donald Trump’s survival. But with some fancy footwork by the Left, could this vote be up for grabs in 2020?