St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Dangerous Stories

Exodus 14:21-31, 15:20-21 | Philippians 2:3-8

What story are we living in? What stories define our world?

Our lives are shaped by the stories that we tell and are told, the stories we learn as children, the stories we absorb every day in our news, our advertising, our workplaces, our interactions with our friends and family and neighbours.

Some of those stories are deeply embedded into western middle class consumer society: our parents and teachers tell us over and again the story that a good education is the key to the future; movies tell us stories of head-over-heels romantic love overcoming all relationship difficulties; advertisers tell us that happiness can be paid for on our credit cards. And those stories together combine to tell us that what we have, we deserve, because we’ve earned it.

And we have the stories that are a bit more Australian – the value of the good natured rebel, the battler doing it tough. In popular culture we see a tension between stories of the rugged, heroic individual, and stories of mateship, of communities working through tough times.

These stories shape the world we live in, the way we experience that world. And these stories are not value-neutral. Continue reading

Not Fair

Jonah 3:10-4:11 | Matthew 20:1-16
It’s not fair.

Every parent knows that from not long after they learn to speak, these three words are almost ever present in their children’s mouths.
It’s not fair. How come he can have it but I can’t? Why does she always get to go first? How come I never get what I want?

It’s not fair.

That’s why I love today’s gospel reading so much. Because that’s exactly the reaction of most adults to Jesus’ story. It’s not fair that the slackers who only worked one hour at the end of the day should get paid as much as the workers who put in a whole, hard, hot, day’s work. It’s not fair that the ones who worked ten times as long don’t get anything extra.

But this isn’t the only unfair story we had read today. So let’s start with Jonah…

Jonah is one of those stories that is more or less completely ruined for us by Sunday School. Continue reading

Playjays end of term

The last Playjays of term saw the first day warm enough to have the water table out – so it was a wet and messy morning! And it’s lovely to have morning tea outside, not to mention there being less mess to clear up!

We take three weeks off now, and Playjays will restart on October 14th.

Photos of children are used with parental consent.

Isaac and Ishmael

Genesis 17:15-22 | Matthew 8:5-13
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, one of my all-time favourite TV shows, The West Wing, had a special edition which explored relations between Islam and the west. In the show, the first lady, Abigail Bartlett, was asked where the conflict began. “This goes back a long way,” she replied, “it began with Isaac and Ishmael.”

The story goes back a long, long way. Our story goes back a long way, and, as the very human story it is, there has never been a time when it has been truly free of conflict. So it’s perhaps appropriate today that we go back to one of the stories of a man who is recognised as the father of the nations by all three of the world’s major monotheistic faiths.

Jew, Christian or Moslem, we all look back to the story of Abraham as the story from which the nation of God springs…

I guess if most of us think of Abraham, there are a few stories which come to mind. Perhaps you think of the start of his journeys, when God calls him out of Ur and promises him a land and a great nation. Or maybe you think of how he finally had a son, Isaac, by his ninety year old beloved wife, Sarah, after years of waiting. And thinking of Isaac, you probably also go in your mind to that strange and disturbing story of the sacrifice.

I’m guessing most of us don’t so quickly think of some of the darker parts of Abraham’s story; of how he passed Sarah off as his sister, allowing king Abimelech to take her as his wife. Or of how he gave up on God’s promise for a child, and slept with his maidservant, having a son by her – Isaac’s older half brother, Ishmael. And then laughed in God’s face when God repeated the promise that she would bear a son, and prayed instead that Ishmael might be blessed.

Ishmael, the father, in our story, of the Arab world. Continue reading

Godly Play Experience

Over the past month or two at St. John’s we’ve been starting to use elements of the Godly Play style of Christian Education – you’ll have seen hints of it in Amanda’s children’s talks, and we’ve used it at The Growing Place and at Sunday School. Godly Play is (among other things) a way of telling Biblical stories that encourages all ages to engage with, and wonder about, the Story.

If you’d like to know more about Godly Play, there are some free Godly Play experience sessions being run at UTC, North Parramatta, in October, November, and December. To find out more, talk to Chris, or check the website at http://godlyplay.org.au/

Love Wins – Introduction

Tonight at Nooma we’ll be starting our series of studies on Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”. This week will just be an introduction, so if you can’t make it, and would like to join us for subsequent weeks, please let me know so I can get a copy of the book and the questions we’ll be exploring to you!

Fathers’ day pilgrims

Ephesians 6:1-4 | Matthew 16:21-28
Being a father – a parent – is not unlike a parachute jump. (This is my entry in the worst analogy of all time competition).
Like a parachute jump, being a parent is terrifying, you have no idea what it will be like before you do it, everything happens really quickly, you feel completely out of control.

And it’s a lot of fun.

But the main way that being a parent is like a parachute jump is this: once you’ve started, you have no choice but to go on. You can’t stop halfway. Continue reading