Hare Street Uniting Church

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 >>>

Andrew: My colleague Carolyn has written a sermon for today, which I've exchanged with her. She's written the first part, and I've written the last part. Carolyn says:

         As someone who just preached last Sunday about God taking our transgressions, our sins, and casting them into the deepest part of the ocean, I’m struggling with what God will do, will say to the man who, later that evening, fired hundreds of rounds into a crowd at a concert in Las Vegas, killing some 59 people and wounding nearly 600 more.

         Corrie ten Boom forgave the guard from her death camp, but the man had repented and asked her forgiveness. What about the shooter? Just before he killed himself, did he regret what he had just done? If so, perhaps, just barely, we might be able to accept that God forgave him.

         But what if he didn’t? And, of course, we will never know.

•••

         So what if he didn’t? Did God … could God … would God, looking down on the devastation, on the bloodied bodies scattered in the crowd, the terrified survivors huddling behind whatever protection they could find, what would God feel? 

Certainly, the pain of the people below. 
Certainly, a great sorrow at such loss of life and ability and future. 
Certainly, the tragedy of the moment must overwhelm even God. 
Certainly, God’s tears mingled with those below.

         But then God is called into the judgment chamber, and the man who appears before him is the very man who committed those atrocities.

         According to the news, he was not a religious man. No ties to any particular religion. In our scenario, we’ve already determined that he is not repentant. Standing before the judge, he shows no remorse, even though his lawyer suggests that to show some such feeling might make his sentence lighter. No, he simply stands there, no pleading for mercy, no phony tears of regret. He just stands there, waiting for the verdict.... Read on >>>>

Here's where the sermon is going this week...

To really hear what's going on in Matthew Chapter 20, we need to back up to the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus, in Chapter 19, "What good deed must I do to have eternal life?"

Eternal life is not about getting to some place called 'heaven' when we die. Eternal life is life in the presence of God… now.  It is life listening to God… now, and seeking to follow God… now.  It's a life which pays attention to God. And we either pay attention to God… or we don't— we may not even have noticed God. Or, like the rich young man, we may find something is blocking our relationship… that something is missing, despite all our riches.

Dying makes no difference! Where we are now, is where we will be then. Dying is not the end; it's just a biological marker which does not change our relationship with God.

So the man was not asking Jesus how to get to heaven. He was asking Jesus, "What good deed must I do to be alive with God— relating with God— now."

Jesus said to the young man, "If you want to be complete— to find life coming together— that's what the word "perfect" implies, then sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.

Get rid of your possessions— the things that are stopping you following me—  be free of them, and you will enter the life of the kingdom, the life that lives with God, which we call Eternal Life."

When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions which he didn't want to give up. So at that moment, he chose not to enter into eternal life, but to continue a life separated from God....

The sermon does get to the vineyard... :-)

Here's the thing: Like the landowner, God has given me what is right, and what is just. But the landowner was not God. The landowner could have paid more to the men who worked harder and longer! Why doesn't God do this?

It's because God gives "to each of us the whole of what there is to give." (Michael Hardin) There is no more that God can give us than giving us relationship with God.  All of us will sit at the right hand of God, at the table, because that is what salvation is. That is all God can give us, for relationship with God is everything.... Read on >>>>  (Not that we'll necessarily end up just in the same place as the sermon draft!.)

I learned in Council this week that Needle and Thread Group, during June and July, made 15 skirts, 66 tops and t-shirts, 14 pairs of shorts, 13 bags, 9 rugs and 8 dresses. They also knitted 16 Beanies, 5 scarves, 3 set of slippers and a poncho.. awesome work!

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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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