St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Farewelling Gregor

With Christmas over, Gregor’s time with us as youth worker is drawing rapidly to an end. We’ll be marking his moving on during our morning service on January 9th. I know it’s a holiday time of year, but it would be great to see as many people there as possible to say “Thank You” to Gregor and to send him on his way with our prayers and good wishes…

Christmas Baubles

Isaiah 52:7-10 | Luke 2:1-16

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, these last couple of weeks, but everywhere you look, you see Christmas. Shop windows, TV shows, even the songs playing in the shopping centres. The crowds, the decorations, the way fat men dressed in red seem to appear at any social event. Even the business pages of the newspapers are filled with analysis of the Christmas season.

Christmas is all around us. And so it should be. Christmas is supposed to be everywhere. But… not in the way it is. Not trees, and santas and 24/7 advertising, where the nearest we get to the Christmas story is sentimental songs about a baby and nativity scenes with beautifully dressed parents in a very hygienic stable.

Nonetheless, Christmas should be everywhere, needs to be everywhere. In fact, the last place we should look for Christmas is in Church. Christmas didn’t happen in Church. Jesus wasn’t born in a church!, and though he did teach in the synagogue he also talked and worked and healed and lived outside – at weddings and dinner parties, in the fields, in the streets, in the homes of his friends. Amongst the intelligentsia and alongside farm workers, with priests and teachers, sinners and outcasts.

The Jesus story was never hidden away inside a building, never available only to a self-selecting few. In the story of his birth he was visited by shepherds and sages, locals and foreigners. In the story of his life he went to where people were; to the homes of outsiders, the villages of Samaritans, the temple and the marketplace. Even in the story of his death he spoke with Jew and Roman, judge and criminal.

For that was his message, the good news he brought: that whoever we are, whatever we have done, wherever we come from, we are invited to be part of the Kingdom of God. Continue reading

Love isn’t a new idea to God

Isaiah 7:10-16 | Matthew 1:18-25

There’s something so matter-of-fact about the way Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus: no angel choirs (just one angel, and that in a dream), no long trip by donkey, no “no room at the inn”, no manger, no shepherds.

Not to mention, of course, no reindeer, no tinsel, no trees, and no fat jolly men dressed in red and white fur.

It’s just a simple, straight account: “the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way”; almost as if he just wanted to get the story started, and quickly get past the birth, and leap straight into Jesus’ life and ministry.

In fact, Mark’s gospel does just that – if you look for the story of Jesus’ birth in Mark, you’ll be disappointed – the narrative begins with John the Baptist preaching by the Jordan. So while the author of Matthew didn’t say a lot about the birth of Jesus, what he does choose to include must have seemed important to him and to the people he was writing for.

So what is it that Matthew, writing his gospel, really wanted to communicate about Jesus in his narrative? Well, he really gives it away in the opening words of today’s reading:
“The birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way”. Continue reading

Christmas Services at St. John’s

As Christmas draws nearer, it’s time to put these dates and times in your diary…

Sunday 19th at 7:00pm Hear and sing the Christmas story with music from around the world led by St. John’s choir
Friday 24th at 6:30pm Traditional carols in a family atmosphere
Saturday 25th at 8:00am A short service to celebrate the birth of Jesus
Sunday 26th at 9:30am A simple reflective Sunday morning celebration

Prayer chain

Due to the difficulty of finding a time that works for everyone who is keen to pray for the life of St. John’s, we’ve decided to move to a ‘prayer chain’, where requests for prayer can be circulated by phone. If you would like to join the chain, or have prayer requests, please contact Chris or email prayer@stjohnswahroonga.org.

Ordination and Induction

Another date for your diary – on Friday February 4th, in the evening (7pm for 7:30pm) I’ll be getting ordained at St. John’s. This marks the end of my intern year, and the start of my time at St. John’s as a fully qualified minister!

Telling Mary’s Story

Isaiah 35:1-10 | Luke 1:46-55

Mary has been something of a controversial figure in the history of the Christian Church, and that’s really a bit of a shame. Because in a Bible written by men, and mostly about men, this young woman, this pregnant teenager, stands out as one of the great figures of the Christmas story – indeed, one of the great figures of the Bible.

A lot is often made of the way Mary responds to Gabriel, that when she is told she is going to have a child, and that the child will sit on the throne of David for ever, she is confused, and doesn’t understand, but responds with humility: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”; she accepts what she doesn’t understand, and gives herself sacrificially to the will of God.

And that’s all true, and all well and good. But there is a problem with that reading, that telling of the story. Told like that, according to the culture of the time, and, sadly, most cultures of most times, Mary has just done what she ought to do as a young woman. She’s been a good girl, not worrying her little head too much about big important things, instead just humbly submitting herself to the wishes of her betters. Indeed, if you follow the account in Matthew’s gospel, Gabriel doesn’t even bother to speak to Mary at all – he just tells Joseph what’s happening, because he’s the one who actually gets to make decisions. Not her.

That story of Mary, the girl who’s great contribution to the coming of the Kingdom of God is passivity; that’s not the story of Mary that I want my daughter to grow up hearing. It’s not the story of Mary I want my son to grow up with. Continue reading

Love alongside

Isaiah 11:1-9 | Matthew 3:1-12

I find John the Baptist a very hard character to talk about.

First of all, there’s the whole camel’s hair, locusts and wild honey thing. Now you realise that I’m not a big one for dressing formally, but even so, camel’s hair is, well, a bit odd for my taste. And living in the desert, eating locusts – it makes him seem a figure of fun, someone you might well go to see, and talk about, but not someone to be taken seriously. Not someone that changes anyone’s life. Something of a religious nut. Continue reading

Site management committee

As part of our new relationship with WPS, we are forming a site management committee (SMC) with representatives from both Church and School. The SMC will work alongside the Church property committee to help to oversee the use, maintenance and development of the parts of the property that are used by both School and Church. We are therefore looking for three people from the congregation to serve on this committee. If you’re interested in how we share the site, and willing to spend a bit of time helping out, please consider putting your name forward.