St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Messy creation

Sunday afternoon saw us dip our toes for the first time into the world of Messy Church. Around fifty people of all ages came along and celebrated the goodness and variety of God’s creation – painting leaves, making grassy heads, exploring the microscopic world, creating gloop, moving the beat of the African drums, collaging nature. As all these messy activities drew to a close we shared a short time of celebration and prayer, before sitting down at an enormous table to enjoy a ploughman’s supper together.

Next Messy Church will be on August 12th, and feature a lot of light… get the date into your diary!

The people cried out…

Exodus 2:11-25 | Luke 18:1-8

The story of Moses is so rich, so packed with events which pass almost unnoticed and yet are full of meaning, that it seems a pity to only have one week to spend on it. But if we’re going through the whole Bible in twenty weeks, we have to keep moving.

In this week’s reading alone there are three vignettes that I’d really love to preach on.

First, we have Moses’ early days. He’s grown up as an adoptive member of the Pharoah’s family, but nursed by his Hebrew mother he clearly identifies with the Hebrew people; to the extent that when he comes across an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, he takes matters into his own hands, and kills the Egyptian.

Moses, who will be the great law-giver, the one who will carve on a tablet of stone the words “You shall not kill”, starts his days by trying to solve his people’s problems by violence. And as a result he is forced to flee his household, and before long Pharoah is seeking his life. Not, I suspect, simply for murder, but because Moses has chosen sides; has betrayed his adoptive family in favour of the people of his birth.

The Old testament is a violent book, written in, and of, violent times. And there is no escaping the violence in the narrative which is attributed directly to God. But here, within the same tradition, is a story that subverts that narrative, which hints at the deeper revelation of God that will come through history, and especially in the person of Jesus: that violence merely begets violence. Long before Jesus will counter ‘an eye for an eye’ with ‘love your enemy’, the Hebrew tradition carries the same message. In the orchestra playing the tune of a violent and vengeful God, there is another melody, perhaps the second violins, quieter, often almost hidden, but never silenced, saying “but it doesn’t work”. Continue reading

God at Work

Genesis 45:1-8 | Romans 8:28-30

Those who’ve been reading along with the E100 will, if those I’ve spoken with are any guide, have already begun to encounter one of the deep tensions that runs through the Bible. I’m not talking here about matters of interpretation of particular passages – creation v. evolution, or did Abraham really have a child when he was a hundred years old, or any of that. I’m talking about themes which don’t go away, themes that pop up over and again. These are the whack-a-mole issues of theology; the moment you think you’ve got your head around them in one place, they pop up somewhere else.

And what is this deep tension I’m alluding to? It’s hard to exactly put it into words, but the essence of it is this: to what extent does God direct the flow of history, of human activity.

Or, to put it another way, does God act, or react? Does God control and command the actions of some – or all – people, in order to shape things according to some great plan, or continually adapt in the light of human activity. Does God even have a specific plan for the future? If so, are we genuinely free, free enough to muck it up?

Do things happen because God so decrees, or because they just worked out that way? Continue reading

Manly to North Head Walk, Saturday 16th June, 2012

Our June day walk is from Manly Wharf along the Corso and past Manly and Shelly Beaches to Fairfax Lookout on North Head, then back past the former Quarantine station & Manly Cove before returning to Manly wharf.  Hopefully we’ll spot some of the annual humpback whale migration offshore.

The 11km walk is rated moderate and is mostly flat or gentle inclines on paved footpaths and park paths.  It will take about 5 hours.

For more information see 2012 Walk 7 (North Head) .

To register for the walk contact Kit Craig at cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org or on
0411 507 422.

Rabbi Kushner’s prayer

A few people have asked me for the words of the Jewish prayer I used on Sunday…

Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly,
so that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness,
so that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.

Reconciliation?

Genesis 33:1-20 | Matthew 5:21-24

One of my strongest memories from primary school was a moment when, on the soccer pitch at lunchtime, I suddenly wondered what it would be like to be inside someone else’s head – and was struck by the implication of that thought: that everyone around me was an ‘I’, each had their own experience of the world.

I was recently asked to review a book on neuroscience and theology (not my field, but I was interested enough to say yes), in which I discovered that this intuition that other people have their own consciousness, their own internal narrative is known as our “theory of mind”. As far as we know, it’s unique to humans – and it lies at the heart of human interaction, forming the basis of empathy: it creates in us the ability to see others as people in their own right, with their own worlds, their own stories, their own sense of personhood.

Hold “theory of mind” in the back of your head. We’ll come back it to. Continue reading

Messy Church

The Growing Place will be hosting our first Messy Church at St. John’s on June 24th. Messy Church is a place for people of all ages who want to connect with God – or explore whether there is even a God to connect with – but maybe find traditional Church services not quite their thing. It’s an active, interactive, relaxed time of exploring, creating, reflecting and eating together, suitable for the whole family – grandparents, parents, kids and all!

Our Messy Church website

Babel on

The first week of our twenty week wander through the whole of the Bible began with the creation stories, which we kind of talked about last Sunday, and finished with this rather strange tale known as the “Tower of Babel”.

In the story humanity, recovering from the flood, expands once more to fill the lands. And as they do so they decide to build a massive city, with a tower as high as the skies, so that they can make a name for themselves. Sharing a single language they work together, and God is forced to scatter them, confuse their languages, spread them across the face of the earth.

What is this stories here for? It seems clear to me that is isn’t intended to represent a historical account of events; the story simply doesn’t read like a work of history. But it’s there, occupying a fascinating place in the Biblical narrative. In a sense, this is the last of scene of the opening act of the Bible. In Act two, in the very next chapter, the story of the people of God will begin in earnest, with the call of Abraham. The opening eleven chapters of Genesis are about the whole world; from chapte twelve onwards the focus will narrow down to a single people, and to the long process of God calling, again and again, people and nations back into relationship with, and worship of God.

These opening chapters are setting the scene, outlining, as it were, the problem. They seek to pose questions – theological and philosophical, rather than scientific or historical – questions of the central issues of life: why are we here? – the story of creation; why are we hurting ourselves and each other? – the story of the fall; why doesn’t God just fix it? – the story of the flood; and why are the nations set against one another – the story of Babel. Continue reading