St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Too easy

What was Jesus’ problem? These people wanted to follow him. They were asking to follow him. They had sought him out so that they could follow him. And he went out of his way to put them off.

“Follow me? Sure! But you won’t have a roof over your head.”
“You want to bury your father first? Where’s your sense of priorities?”
“You want to say goodbye before you leave? What sort of kingdom do you think this is?”

Didn’t Jesus want followers? Hadn’t he been listening in ‘evangelism 101’? Wasn’t he supposed to make it easy for people to follow him? Isn’t it one of the wonderful truths about the gospel, about Jesus – that he welcomes anyone and everyone: little children, traitors and collaborators, Jew, Gentile and foreigner – whoever you are and whatever you have done and whatever anyone else thinks of you, Jesus will welcome you, invite you to be part of his family, his people, his kingdom? Isn’t that the good news? Isn’t that what it’s all about? Continue reading

Honoured

From the Queen’s birthday honours list…

MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION

Dr Jill Mary FORREST, Wahroonga, NSW For service to medicine as an academic, researcher and educator, and to music as a composer and carillon recitalist.

Congratulations, Jill!

Ode on a Grecian Icon

We had a great evening at Jazz Café Church last night – it was great to welcome visitors from far afield, as well as the St. John’s contingent. Thanks to Rob for a fascinating reflection, and for the moving poem he closed our evening with…

Ignorant superstition!
shrieks the skeptic
ablaze with irreligious fervour
hell bent on saving us
from the divine mystery of religion;
but the little wrinkled peasant lady
bowed bent from years of child bearing, family raising,
planting, weeding, tending fields more rock than soil
knows not one of his self-righteous angry words


Her furrowed face reflects the gold of the blessed icon
shadowed now as trembling lips bestow a sacred kiss
and age worn knees struggle to maintain her dignity
but she is lost in the ecstasy of the encounter
the holy mother and child
serene in succour of the humble soul
raise her up
and for one brief moment she is one with the angels
and she carries the love away
at work in her heart.

Taking it for granted

The human mind is an amazingly flexible and adaptive thing. A child born anywhere in the world, anytime in history, starts with basically the same brain, but within a few years that child will be hugely different, depending upon where and when they are. They will have learned a language, a lost the ability to distinguish between sounds not used in their mother tongue. Depending upon their culture they may have learned to swim like a fish, or to track or hunt, or to ride a bike or a horse, to find food in the desert or jungle, or use an ipod and a laptop. They will have developed skills, abilities and attitudes shaped by their environment, by their culture. This flexibility, pretty much unique in the animal kingdom, is what has allowed a single species to flourish in the arctic circle and the deserts of Africa, in small nomadic societies and international cities.

But this flexibility comes at cost: the cost of thinking that our experiences are ordinary; that life the way we experience it is the normal way for life to be. Our minds are flexible: they adapt to our experiences, and use them to define what the world is like. Whatever consistently is, to the human mind, is normal.

Or, in simpler terms: we have a very strong tendency to take life as we experience it for granted. Continue reading

Messy paint at Playjays

A cold winter day didn’t stop this morning being our biggest Playjays yet! Twenty kids from baby to four-year-olds – including half-a-dozen new faces – came along with grown-ups in tow. Lots of messy painting and play-doh this week, plus the perennial favourite cars and baby toys. Hot tea and coffee were especially appreciated by the adults!

All photos of children are used with parental permission

The ambiguity of death

The Christian Church has an ambiguous relationship with death.

We speak of death as the last enemy, and as a defeated enemy; but it still haunts us. The desire for life, and the fear of death remains strong – for most of us, most of the time – even as our faith assures us that death is the end only of one chapter of our story.

And while our grief for those who have been taken from us is coloured by our knowledge that they are now with God: no longer suffering, no longer sorrowing, no longer bound by their failing mortal body, that grief remains.

And of course we have stories in both Old and New Testaments of the dead being brought back: but they are scattered and seemingly arbitrary; there are many more who die than who are healed or raised.

But there’s more to this ambiguity than all that: life itself depends upon death. Whether it’s the death inherent in the natural selection process through God worked to fashion life, or the death of plant and animal to provide food for grazer and predator, or simply the fact that in a world of limited resources there cannot be birth without death – we would simply run out of space – life is dependant upon death. Continue reading

A celebration of life

I think we more or less filled the Church to celebrate Ruth Keir’s life, and to say goodbye. For me the tributes by John, Virginia, Luke, James, Thomas, Phoebe and Isabelle were the highlights; they managed in just a short space of time to give those of us who did not have the privilege of knowing Ruth for long a taste of what we had missed.

A big thank you to all who helped out with the service: especially to the choir, which was such a big part of Ruth’s life. And thank you too to all those who provided for, helped setup, and served the amazing afternoon tea that we enjoyed after the memorial.

Until we meet again…

Nooma – windy bridges

Nooma’s first meeting drew fourteen of us into discussion and prayer loosely based on a Pentecost theme, and even more loosely based on this video. We ended up identifying 19 aspects of our community life which we felt had real potential to be bridges over the walls we build between the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the Church…

Next week, something completely different. Probably.