St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Wise investment

Hebrews 13:1-6 | Luke 14:1,7-14

When I first visited Australia, a little over twenty years ago, a good friend took me aside to explain to me how the idea of class worked differently in the various Australian state capitals. She summed it up for me like this: in Adelaide, what matters is what Church you go to – and which pew you sit in. In Melbourne, it’s who your parents were, who you’re related to. In Sydney, she said, it’s how much money you make.

Now I don’t know how true that was, or is – but I do know that every human society (and for that matter, many animal groups) has ways of establishing rank, of determining the pecking order.

“Pecking order” indeed – for of course food and drink often play significant parts in the social processes by which we establish and recognize status. What and where you eat matters; but most important of all is who you eat with. Sureka and I remember all too well, in the run up to our wedding, the hours we spent wrestling with the seating plan; trying to work out who could sit with whom, who would be offended if someone else was closer to the top table than them, whether a second cousin outranked a close family friend… and I still wince at the one or two terrible misjudgments we made. Continue reading

Open Door launch

Open Door Launch! Open Door is the new name for our four evening celebrations – Sacred Space, Jazz Cafe, Bring and Share and Alt. Worship. On the evening of Sunday September 26th, from 6:30pm – 8:00pm. we’ll be having a launch, in which you can get a taster of all four – listen to some quality jazz, wander through sacred space, share a meal together with a speaker, and explore an alternative approach to worship.

We’d love to see as many of the St. John’s community there as possible – and it’s a great chance to bring some friends to share good music, good food, good conversation, with a healthy dash of spirituality for good measure.

Freedom

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 13:10-17

Today we have celebrated an everyday miracle. We’ve joined with Michelle and Edward, and Kimberley and Duncan to delight in their children Archie and Maya, to be with them as they mark their joy at the miracle of new life.

For life itself is a miracle; not in the supernatural sense, that God interferes with the laws of nature in order to create each new child; but in a sense both deeper and more mundane: that this physical universe is so formed as to contain the promise and potential of life.

For surely there is no-one who can look at a newborn baby, and not be filled with at very least a sense of wonder that such a thing is possible; or to imagine the same child weeks, months, years later, and not be amazed at the potential that is there in every baby, every child.

We celebrate that miracle today; the miracle of life; of birth; of growth; of change.

But if today were just a celebration of life, we need not have gathered around the baptismal font; we need not have made profound promises and declarations of faith; we need not have entered into this sacrament, this spiritual rite-of-passage. Continue reading

A warmer day at Playjays

Today Playjays were delighted to be the first at St. John’s to enjoy the new heaters in the lower hall. Of course, it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, but still, it was a chilly morning, so it was lovely to enjoy a nice warm room as well as hot coffee!

Oh, and the kids all seemed to have a good time too!

Oetapó Casserole Dinner

On Saturday September 11th there will be casserole dinner at St. John’s to raise funds for the Oetapó school in East Timor. Bring friends to make up a table of 8, or buy a ticket to join a Church Family Table. Tickets are $30 for a selection of casseroles, desert and tea/coffee. Contact Annie Loxton or Patricia Daly or email oetapo@stjohnswahroonga.org for more information or to buy a ticket.

Poking the possum

I’m sure that you, like me, have a few favourite sayings of Jesus. Those amazing phrases which seem to sum up all that is good and powerful and meaningful in the gospel. “Let the children come, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them”. The parable of the prodigal son. “For God so loved the world…”.

And then, at the other end of the scale, there are those passages from the gospel which fall into the ‘I wish Jesus hadn’t said that’ bucket. “I came to bring fire to the earth…. not peace, but division… father against son… daughter against mother…”

It’s enough to send a preacher scurrying to the Old Testament lectionary reading. And what do we find there? “Let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard… I will remove its hedge, I will break down its wall, I will make it a waste.”

Oh dear. It might be that this is a side to our scriptures that we need to deal with. It might not be the part of our story that we most like to talk about, but it’s part of our story nonetheless, and if we are to faithfully keep that story alive, as is our calling, we need to tell the whole of it, not just the bits we like or find easy.

The Bible – both Old Testament and New, portrays a God who gets angry. A God who is not shy of conflict. A God who causes division.

Because there are things that are worth getting angry about. Continue reading

Resident aliens

Over the last fifty years or so a change has taken place; not just in Australia, but in almost all of the developed world. Its roots go further back, perhaps to the enlightenment, but it really took off in the middle of the twentieth century. A change that has impacted every part of modern life so significantly that it isn’t overstating things to call it the end of an era. The end of the Christian era.

I never lived in the Christian era; but many of you here will remember a time when it was normal to go to Church; not everyone did, of course, but it was, basically, what you did on a Sunday. Even those who didn’t go at least knew which Church they ought to be at; pretty much every child would be baptised, every wedding a Church wedding, every funeral a Christian funeral.

So Churches were full, and Sunday Schools thrived, and to be a minister was to hold a respected position in society. It made sense, in those days, to speak of Australia, or England, or Scotland, as a Christian nation. A place where adherence to at least the forms of the Christian faith was the norm, where Christianity was the default.

Clearly it is no longer so. Continue reading

Focus!

What do you think about in the shower?

Technology writer Paul Graham recently wrote an essay entitled “The top idea in your mind” in which he suggested that it is very hard to work productively on anything other than the one thing that naturally rises to your mind when you aren’t thinking about anything in particular. It might not be what you want to be focusing on, and you may not even realize that you’re spending so much effort on it; but when your mind relaxes it’s what you find yourself thinking about.

If you’ve ever gone to bed thinking about a problem, only to wake up with the solution, you’ve experienced the same thing: that you mind is always quietly working away.

Since this ‘top idea’ is the thing you can work on most productively, you want to do everything you can to make it something you care about. And to keep your focus away from what Graham calls ‘attention sinks’ – ideas or subjects or problems which seem to have an almost infinite ability to soak up our attention, to become the top idea in our minds.

And top of his list of attention sinks? Money. Continue reading