St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Advent – waiting

Jeremiah 33:14-16 | Luke 1:26-38
Today we mark the start of advent, a traditional time of waiting; waiting for Christmas, waiting for the first great celebration of the Christian year, waiting for Christmas, and all that that means to us. And on this Sunday we remember those who patiently – or impatiently – have waited, through the years, for God.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote around six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, in the last days of the kingdom of Judah, the last years before the destruction of the first great Temple. The nation had turned to worship idols, to pagan ways, turned away from the worship and service and obedience to the one true God which had defined them as a people. But while Jeremiah prophesied the destruction and judgment that he is famous for, he also spoke words of hope for the future.

Words for waiting to. Continue reading

Six Foot Track Three Day Bushwalk, Friday/Saturday/Sunday 2nd/3rd/4th December, 2011

The next multi-day walk for the Cartophiles bushwalking club is on the weekend 2nd/3rd/4th December.  We’ll take the classic Blue Mountains hike along the Six Foot Track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

This 42km walk is rated hard and involves some very steep climbs along fire trails.  It also involves bush camping in two excellent campsites (with toilets!) at Cox’s River and Black Mountain.

For more information see Six Foot Track 2011.

For a good understanding of the walk, see this report of the last Cartophiles walk along it in 2010: The Six Foot Track

You must register for this walk by Monday 28th November.  Email cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org or telephone Kit Craig on 0411 507 422.

Harbour Circle Walk: Circular Quay to Greenwich, Sat 10th Dec

For our last walk of the year we’ll celebrate Sydney’s summer with part of the Harbour Circle Walk.  We’ll do day one of this magnificent four day walk that focusses on our wonderful Harbour itself – the water, the bridges, islands, urban bushland and city skyline. The route winds along parts of the foreshore, into bays and on to headlands, through bush, along historic streets and over grand bridges.

This 11km walk starts at Circular Quay, crosses the  Harbour Bridge,  then tracks the foreshore past McMahon’s Point, Balls Head & Berry Island before finishing at Greenwich Wharf.  We’ll stop for lunch along the way.

For more information see Harbour Circle Walk, Circular Quay to Greenwich.

Detailed directions for the walk are here.  The excellent brochure by the Walking Volunteers is here.

Please register for the walk by emailing cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org.

In exile: critique

Daniel 5:1-6, 23-28 | Amos 8:4-8

In the last few weeks we’ve been looking at the story of Daniel, and thinking about what that story might have to say to us as we seek to live faithfully as God’s people in a society which doesn’t always share our faith or values.

We’ve talked about the simple decision that lay at the heart of Daniel’s life – the decision that, though he could no longer live in the land God had given his people, or even live amongst his own people, he would remain faithful, he would remain a Jew, even in the minority. The same decision that has to lie at the core of our faithfulness – that even if the world around us does not live in obedience to God, we will.

And we’ve talked about how Daniel and his friends kept alive the history that shaped them, reminding themselves of the story of the God who had rescued God’s people in the past, the dangerous story which declared that despite the overthrow of the nation and the sacking of the Temple, God remained the final word, the ultimate power. And we reflected that in the same way, we must keep alive, immerse ourselves in our stories, the stories of Jesus Christ.

And then last week we looked at how the prophet Jeremiah counselled the people not to remain aloof in exile, but to seek the welfare of the city to which they had been taken; to be a blessing to those aspects of the empire that would good and noble. As we too, in seeking to make more real the kingdom of God in our culture and context, will find many things, both within and beyond the Church, which we can throw our lives and energy into.

In every culture, every society, there is much that positively reflects the things of the kingdom of God. There are groups and organisations, laws and customs, ways of life which are creative and life-giving, which empower those who would otherwise be powerless, bring justice to those who would be denied it, hope to those who would lack it, community to those who would be alone. And we, as the people of God, unashamedly take hold of these things, naming them as foretastes of the Kingdom of God in which these faint and distant echoes will be replaced by the real symphony.

But every society, culture, subculture, also has a shadow side. Continue reading

In exile: blessing

Jeremiah 29:1-7 | Romans 12:9-21

If you were expecting another instalment of Daniel, you might have been surprised to see that the Old Testament reading this week was from the prophet Jeremiah. But I hope you noticed the link. Jeremiah and Daniel were contemporaries: Daniel was taken into exile, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah has warned the people over and again that the forces of Babylon would overcome them, that the nation would be overthrown, but his words had been ignored. And then it had happened. And suddenly, unsurprisingly, people wanted to know what he thought. And so Jeremiah wrote to the elders in exile: he wrote to people like Daniel. And his advice forms the second part of the exile strategy we’re exploring in this series of Sundays. Continue reading

Galston Gorge to Crosslands Reserve Bushwalk, Saturday 19th November, 2011

Five walkers had a glorious time on Saturday following the Benowie Walking Track along Berowra Creek from Galston Gorge to the picnic area at the Crosslands Reserve.  Regular Cartophiles Annie, Sue, James and Kit were joined by Sharon from Pennsylvania.

L-R Annie, James, Sue & Sharon - we'd just spotted a young goanna in a tree

We met in the car park at Crosslands Reserve and left Sue’s car there while while we all ferried around to the start point at the Galston Gorge track head in James’ car.  Our early start had has scrabbling to find shops that were open for the necessities of the picnic we planned when we finished.  It’s so hard to find an early opening bottle shop!

The warm weather and humidity tested us as we climbed from the gorge to the ridgeline above Berowra Creek, but we were regularly relieved by the cool of the side creeks and the shade of the trees.  The four Cartophiles delighted in pointing out native plants, birds and animals to our American visitor, and the Aussie bush didn’t disappoint.  Two young goannas put in an appearance, and the bush flowers provided a show.

The 7km walk took us just over 2½ hours, and then we settled into a lovely picnic of salad, chicken rolls, barbecue chops and a white wine or two in one of the many picnic shelters spread around the Crosslands Reserve.  Sharon is a keen bird watcher, so the kookaburras and magpies diving for bits of chop tail added greatly to the excitement of her first walk in the Australian bush.  Afterwards we retired to the Craigs’ for a swim in the pool and a barbecue dinner.

The next Cartophiles walks are a three day trek along the Six Foot Track in December and our final day walk for the year, the section of the Harbour Circle Walk from Circular Quay to Greenwich.

In exile: remembering

Daniel 2:17-28a | Matthew 16:13-20

Two weeks ago we started to look at the story of Daniel, and I spoke about the central dilemma, the central decision that shaped his life. A young man, a member of the Jewish nobility, he had been taken into exile when the Babylonian empire sacked Jerusalem, and offered a new life there – given the chance to train in the Babylonian civil service, to become part of the empire, and advisor to King Nebuchadnezzar.

This was how the empire of Babylon worked – the best and brightest of the conquered nations were co-opted into the empire, taught the language, laws and customs, given opportunity to rise high: the Babylonian king took the future leaders of the defeated enemy and made them Babylonian. And I suggested that the central decision of Daniel’s life – long before story of the lion’s den – was simply this: that while he would live in Babylon, and learn their ways, and even serve their empire, he would remain a Jew. And as token of that decision, he chose the food laws, as one part of the faith that he could unobjectionably but very visibly, keep.

I hope you’ll see the parallels with the challenges that face us today. Daniel is of interest to us because living in a culture which did not respect his faith, in which his God was seen as defeated or even destroyed, he found ways to retain integrity; ways to continue to live the story that had shaped him and his people; ways to live in an ungodly nation, and even to be a servant of that nation, without losing touch with his God. Continue reading

Family Picnic

On November 20th, at lunchtime, we’ll be having a family picnic over in Wahroonga Park. Bring yourselves, your families, a picnic rug and some food – Kit and Sue will organise some games, and we’ll (hopefully) enjoy the spring weather together!

The Dish on Tuesdays

It is now over six years that The Dish of St. John’s has been serving, from the back of a Van, a meal to folk at Hornsby who come for the food and the company each week. This month marks a wonderful new step forward in outreach to the needy of Hornsby as the Van now goes out each Tuesday evening, thanks to a collaboration amongst the local schools of Wahroonga.

This initiative, going out on another evening, was led by Phil Ledlin of Prouille School Wahroonga. Each Tuesday a different primary school in Wahroonga sends volunteers from their school – staff and/ or parents – to prepare and serve the three course meal. Numbers are increasing and certainly the extra evening has been most welcomed by those who share the meal. The participating schools are Prouille, St. Leo’s, Wahroonga Preparatory School, St. Lucy’s, Abbotsleigh and St. Edmund’s. Knox Preparatory has already been providing food for serving throughout the school terms this year.

This service from the Primary School Community of Wahroonga is a fabulous way in which the children of each school see how their teachers and parents are helping others in the wider community, by cooking and serving meals to those who might otherwise do without. There is a friendship and spirit of community fostered throughout the group – both with the volunteer helpers and those who come each week.

We have the support of the St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army as well as the Police as we proceed with this service. It is most fulfilling for all those involved.

Quite a day in the park

Last Thursday Wahroonga park was filled with preschool kids, parents and grandparents, as we celebrated national Children’s Week with ‘A Day in the Park’. Somewhere between two and three hundred kids came through, enjoying the animal petting zoo, bubble fairy, stories, songs, gingerbread men, fruit sticks, play-doh, face painting, knox junior bands, crafts and drawing and sausage sizzle. The event was jointly hosted by the Uniting and Baptist Churches, and not even a bit of rain could put the dampers on the enthusiasm of the kids.

Big thanks to all those from St. John’s who got involved, especially Ted (BBQ), Amanda (bubble fairy) and Sureka (face painting). We’re already planning to do it again next year!

Abbox

Each year the Abbotsleigh and Knox school communities run a four day (three night) ‘Abbox’ holiday camp for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. This year the camp runds from 10th to 13th December. St. John’s contribute to this fantastic initiative by helping out with catering. If you can help, please talk to Cecile Ferguson or Laurena Potter. You can find out more about Abbox on the Abbotsleigh website.

Live Justly

Micah 3:5-12 | Matthew 23:1-12 (Bob Potter)
As Chris and Sureka are enjoying a childfree weekend away we will take a break from the saga of Daniel he began last Sunday and go back in time roughly 150 years from Daniel to the prophet Micah who started to prophesy about 730 BCE. Micah delivered his prophetic message to Israel and Judah before the Babylonian conquest had taken place and the people led off into exile. Continue reading