St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

March Bring and Share

Bring and Share restarts for 2011 in March; this year we’ll be meeting on the second Sunday of the month, so that’s March 13th at 6:30pm. John and Maureen will be speaking about their work with the infirm and with dementia patients at Uniting Care. Come along and hear about the important, though unglamorous, work that the Uniting Church carries out amongst some of the most needy members of our community.

An amazing evening of music

On Saturday evening about 150 of us were treated to an amazing evening of organ music, with Peter Kneeshaw giving a wonderful demonstration of the capabilities of our organ, ably assisted by Erszi Marosszeky’s Kappela choir, and Melvin Ling’s solo trumpet. Looking forward now to the next concert in our series, on April 16th!

Relational

Genesis 1:26-31 | Matthew 25:31-40

I remember a discussion I had in a Church years ago – I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but obviously we had different opinions, because I will never forget my friends final words: OK, You do it your way, and I’ll do it God’s way.

It is, I suspect, a general characteristic of youth, to believe that there is one right way to do anything. One right way to put up a shelf, one right way to organise your desk at work, one right way to study. As we grow, most of us, at least, come to recognise that sometimes different people just find different things work for them – never again will I get into an argument about whether one should mow the lawn in straight lines or round and round in a spiral (that’s an hour of my life I want back).

And I think – I hope – that most of us in the Church also manage to come to the same conclusion about our spirituality: that there is more than one way to express our faith in Jesus Christ, more than one way to worship God, more than way to experience the presence of God with us. More than one way to be Christian. Continue reading

Hospitality Lunch

On Sunday March 27th, a number of members of the St. John’s community will be opening their homes for a hospitality lunch. Everyone is invited to come – all you need to do is let Marjorie Howden or Cecile Ferguson know that you’d like to come!
If you’d like to host a group, that would be wonderful – lunch can be as simple or involved as you like. Again, just let Cecile or Marjorie know and they’ll take it from there.

March council meeting

The church council meets this coming Wednesday, March 2nd, at 7:30 for 7:45 at the manse. Any member of the congregation is welcome to attend, or to raise any matter for discussion by mentioning it to an elder or councillor, or by writing to Ted Metcalf, the council secretary.

The Dish Kitchen

Last year our ‘more than a soup van’, The Dish, was fortunate to receive a grant from the Community Grants Scheme. These funds have been used to equip an area under the stage to house basic kitchen and storage facilities. This means that there is now a central area from which we can dispense food for the meals and the goods that we store before we give them out to the folk in need of them. Thanks to the NSW State Government for their support, and to Judy Hopwood and Barry O’Farrell who encouraged us to make the application and have taken a personal interest in the work of The Dish.

Fred Taylor’s Funeral

As most members of the St. John’s community are probably aware, Fred Taylor died peacefully early on Friday morning, after a long illness. The funeral will be at 2pm this Thursday (24th) at the Church, with an afternoon tea in the hall afterwards.

Culture and Context in Splatt

Splatt for 2011, Term One is here!

In Splatt we will be discussing the ways that we can use culture  and context to explore aspects of God. We will be developing tools we can use to help integrate the world that we live in with some core truths of the Christian faith; and have fun while doing it!

Its all about understanding WHY we believe what we believe and HOW we use that knowledge in order to enjoy what the world offers, while doing what Jesus asks of us; to follow him.

This term, Splatt will meet in the Den on Sunday nights at 5:30pm.

Hope to see you there!

Beyond fair

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-14 | Matthew 5:38-48

The book of Leviticus isn’t, I suspect, the most read book in our Bibles. It lacks the grand narratives of the Old Testament histories, the poetry of the psalms and wisdom literature, the passion of the prophets. It doesn’t have the stories of Jesus from the gospels, or the hard core theology of the Pauline epistles. It doesn’t even have the wild hallucinogenic imagery of Revelation. What it has, mostly, is laws. Lots and lots of laws. Very detailed laws. Laws for a culture more or less entirely unlike ours.

I understand that there are 613 laws in the Old Testament – I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet more than half of them are in this one book. And that most of those seem completely irrelevant to 21st century life in Australia. So reading through Leviticus seems mostly to be a useful exercise if you suffer from insomnia.

And then, as you read on, suddenly you stumble across what has become one of my favourite verses. It’s easily missed, looking at first glance like just another detailed law. But stop, pick it up, polish it up. Because it’s well worth the trouble. Continue reading

Choose

Sirach 15:15-20 | Matthew 5:21-26

I don’t quite remember how the conversation took this particular turn, but last week I was sitting at the kitchen table talking about original sin. I expect that when you imagine life in the manse you assume that discussions of Christian beliefs occur at the drop of the proverbial hat, but please believe me when I say that if our kitchen table could talk, it would report that discussions of shopping lists, packed lunches, lost school hats, and the like far outnumber any sort of doctrine debate.

But I digress. The point is, there we were talking about original sin. And I realised I had two main problems with the doctrine. The first, and perhaps the most profound, is that I don’t really know what ‘original sin’ means, anyway. And the second is that as far as I do understand it, I don’t believe it. I can’t see how justice allows that we be considered sinful before we have the power to act; how we can be held morally in the wrong simply by virtue of being part of the fallen human race. To say “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is easy – even obvious. You see it confirmed a thousand times a day. But to say “all are born tainted by the sin of Adam” – that makes no sense to me.

And worse – it seems to deny another central tenant of our faith: that what God creates, God creates good. We may mar the image of God in us every day, but that is not to deny that we are created in God’s image. Continue reading

Pipe Dreams February Recital

The first of our series of Organ Recitals is on the evening of 26th February, starting at 7:30pm. Peter Kneeshaw AM and the Knox Gallery Choir will be performing a mixed repertoire, with all proceeds going to support the future renovation needs of our unique 50-year-old Pels & Son organ (the only one of its kind in Australia).

Tickets are $20 ($15 concessions) at the door. For more information, call 9489 0355.

1st 2011 Walk: Hunters Hill to Magdala Park, Saturday 19th February

What do you get if you combine five ambulances, a red bellied black snake, a Sydney Water truck and the Woolwich Pier Hotel?  Add a 35º day and throw in eleven Cartophiles ranging in age from 6 to 72, and you have our first walk for 2011.

The Cartophiles view Woolwich Dock

We planned a leisurely exploration of the 10km first section of the Great North Walk from Woolwich Ferry Wharf to the Epping Road Bridge over the Lane Cove River.  This is a fantastic walk with scenery that varies from the industrial to the wildly native.  It starts at the Woolwich Ferry Wharf, and follows through the streets and back lanes of Woolwich and Hunters Hill past beautiful houses old and new before entering the Lane Cove National Park and following the river northward.  It includes views of the extraordinary Woolwich dock, built between 1898 and 1901 by making a 30 metre wide cutting 175 metres directly into the sandstone point.  It passes through Kelly’s Bush, site of the world’s first Green Ban in 1971 when 13 housewives from Hunters Hill joined with the NSW Builders Labourer’s Federation to oppose development of urban bushland.  It follows a bush track across sandstone outcrops and ancient aboriginal shell middens alongside the river, and includes a wonderful boardwalk through mangrove wetlands.  Along the way it includes three urban parks and picnic grounds.

After pre-positioning two cars at the end of the walk, we set off at ten on a warm, but not unpleasant, morning.  From previous Cartophiles walks we had Sue, Mary, Desh, James and Annie, plus Michael and his six year old son Gabriel.  Kit – still recuperating from surgery on both feet last November – joined for the beginning just to see how far he could manage.  Three first-time Cartophiles also started: Jessica, Pip and Robyn.

Gabriel setting the pace through the national park

After the first ‘arduous’ two kilometres we stopped for coffee at Ricciotti Café in Hunters Hill (a Paddle Pop for Gabriel) and little window shopping.  There’s no point in being fanatical.  Another three kilometres took us to Boronia Park, where we left the streets and followed the bushtrack into the national park.  Kit’s feet were mostly holding up, so after a couple of pain killers he decided to stick with the group and finish the walk.

Things became a little less predictable two or three kilometres later.  The heat and harder going brought one of our number to a halt at the foot of the exit track to Barons Crescent, Hunters Hill. Jessica stayed for company while Pip and Sue ran ahead to get a car and drive to the Barons Cres track head.

The other seven Cartophiles kept walking.  While buying Mr Whippy ice creams at the Buffalo Creek picnic area they received a phone call to say that Pip and Sue had reached the cars and were on their way to collect the others.  It was only much later that we heard that Pip, running lithely ahead, had surprised a sunning black snake and given herself a fright (neither Pip nor the snake were harmed).

Mary during a relaxing break by the river

As the main group reached the boardwalk through the mangrove wetlands they received an update that the rescuers were faced with a locked gate at the track head. The track was also very steep so they’d decided to call an ambulance which would, presumably, have a key.

The main group, on finishing the walk, faced a dilemma.  Because Kit had not turned back and with Pip’s car off on a rescue mission only one five-seat car remained for seven tired people.  The ladies generously volunteered to wait while all the men, including six year old Gabriel, piled into the car and returned to the ferry wharf to collect the other cars.  Poor Gabriel, who had walked further than he’d ever walked before, fell asleep on the 15 minute trip and Michael took him home.  Desh also left in his car.  James took his car back to collect the ladies and Kit went to meet the others at the track head.

Kit arrived to find a crowd of local residents peering down their quiet 20m residential street at five ambulances and a Sydney Water Truck!  Had there’d been a mass murder? When told it was just one over-tired hiker they dispersed, disconsolate at not being witness to a major drama.

The first ambulance had arrived to discover that its keys didn’t unlock the Sydney Water gate.  The two women paramedics, one of whom was extremely pregnant, called for a 4WD Rescue Ambulance to negotiate the steep track.

The 4WD ambulance arrived, but its keys wouldn’t unlock the gate so they began clearing brush to drive around the gate.

Four on the street, one on the track - and they still can't unlock the gate!

With two units deployed, the area supervisor for the ambulance service arrived in a third vehicle, calling Sydney Water to unlock the gate and for any other vehicle with keys.

A fourth and fifth ambulance, both with large bunches of keys, also failed to unlock the gate.

Meanwhile the 4WD ambulance having driven through around the gate had successfully brought the patient – embarrassed at all the fuss – up the hill.  The Sydney Water truck arrived with keys too late to help out.  The paramedics assured us that beer was a great treatment for the patient.

Accordingly we retired to the Woolwich Pier Hotel where, with 15 minutes to spare, we ordered a very late lunch and refreshed ourselves.   All agreed it was a day of great fun and adventure, and we’re looking forward to the next walk on 12th February, when we will cover the next 10km stretch of the Great North Walk.

As a postscript, our pooped walker is planning to return and complete the walk on a cooler day so that honour, finally, will be satisfied.

Young Family Worship

This coming Sunday afternoon will be the first meeting of our new Young Families Church* service – at 4pm, in the upper hall. We’ll have a shortish time of worship, and then have supper together, so please bring a plate of food to share.

*Still searching for a good name….

Salt and Light

Isaiah 58:1-9a | Matthew 5:13-20

It’s a sad truth – but the Bible doesn’t always say what we want it to say, what we think it ought to say, what it would say if we wrote it. With the Old Testament law being, as it seems, an ad-hoc mixture of the most profound, fundamental wisdom: “I am the Lord your God, and you shall have no other God’s before me”, the most specific detail “anything upon which an unclean creature falls when it is dead shall be dipped into water, and it shall be unclean until the evening, and then it shall be clean”, and the most unpleasant rituals of sacrifice: “The sin-offering shall be slaughtered before the Lord; it is most holy”, surely it would not have been too much to ask that Jesus make it abundantly clear what aspects of the law apply to us, and which do not?

Which is why Jesus’ words about the law in today’s gospel reading are difficult for us. They start well enough: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it”. If only he’d stopped there, it would have been easy enough to make sense of. But the quote continues: “until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law… whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”. Continue reading

Ordination and Induction

A personal thank you to everyone who braved the unreasonably hot evening last night to be at my ordination and induction. It was a wonderful evening, and I’m most grateful to everyone who helped make it happen. It’s a great privilege to be the minister here at St. John’s, and I’m looking forward to an amazing 2011….