Growing

Mark 4:3-9 | Colossians 1:1-12 When Amanda told me that she was going to use Webster the Preacher duck this morning, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Mostly, I couldn’t figure out who it was having a go at! Is this a dig at congregations, who listen and respond enthusiastically, but forget all they have heard by the time they get to the door, or is it mocking preachers who believe that the power of their words and oratory really matters? In either case, surely no relevance to us here at St. John’s, right? But under the humour of the story lies the same truth as is to be found in both our Bible readings today – a truth which underlies our word for this week. If you’re not growing, if you’re not changing, you’re probably not alive. To live is to grow and change, and that goes for the spiritual life just as much as for the physical. Read More

Church

John 13:31-35 | Ephesians 2:11-22 The anniversary of the formation of the Uniting Church, that we mark this week, gives us good reason to pause, and consider a question which might seem simple on the outside, but which seems to be strangely difficult to pin down. What is this thing we call Church? What is it? What is it for? Why does it exist? What is this thing that today we welcomed three small new members into? Is the Church a place for likeminded people to gather, sharing their common desire to worship God? A spiritual version of the bowling club, where those with a common interest (in this case, God) meet to practice and learn more about that thing that unites them? Is it a group that gathers with the desire to do good, to improve the world around them, a group like Rotary but with a more explicit dimension of faith layered on top? Is it social gathering of those from a particular cultural and ethnic tradition, in which something of our shared heritage unites us? Is it a self help group, where we come together to help and encourage one another to live better lives, to be better citizens? Read More

Inside, Outside

Genesis 1:1-2 | John 14:15-27 Last week was Ascension Sunday, a moment in the Church year which I suggested was about hope: the hope that Jesus left his friends with; hope that their lives had a purpose, a mission, and hope that beyond this life they were held eternally safe with Jesus, in the presence of God. But there was one other aspect of hope in the story of the ascension that I deliberately omitted, because it fits better this week. For in Jesus’ parting words he reiterated a promise he had made to the disciples in the farewell discourse, a part of which we heard in our gospel reading today: the promise that though he was leaving, he would not leave his friends alone. The promise of the Holy Spirit. Read More

Bring and Share Special

Don’t forget, this coming Sunday evening, our Bring and Share special, ‘Television news – behind the camera and in the studio’. Steven Curtis and Susannah Loxton will be showing some fabulous news footage of major events, much taken from the news helicopter, and telling us how the images mysteriously get from the cameras into our lounge rooms.… Read More... Read More

Hope

Matthew 28:16-20 | Acts 1:6-11 The story of the resurrected Jesus had to end sometime. After the incredible miracle of Easter, after Jesus had gone through the terrible pain of betrayal, abandonment, crucifixion, and come out the other side of death in the triumph of resurrection, after he had appeared again and again to his friends to assure them that this was no dream, that he had conquered death, conquered evil, conquered sin; after all of that, his time on earth comes to an end. And though, as I’ve said before, I find the ascension story a little uncomfortable and, let’s face it, weird, you have to wonder what the alternative was. Can you imagine the conspiracy theories if Jesus had just quietly disappeared? And he couldn’t exactly die again. And so instead we have the ascension. Like so many key moments in the story of the people of God, it takes place on a mountain top – remember Moses on Mount Sinai, Elijah hearing the still small voice, Jesus in the transfiguration. It’s away from the bustle of life, for the noise and distractions of the city, from the priorities and needs of the everyday, that Jesus meets for the final time with his friends. And in our two readings, from Matthew and Acts, we have two accounts of those final words of Jesus; two accounts which capture different details, but which share the same basic, central message: Now it’s your turn. Read More