St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga


It feels a bit self-indulgent, but I’ve often been asked if it’s possible to record the sermon on Sunday mornings. So over the past few weeks I’ve been experimenting with doing so.

If you want to listen to, rather than read, the Sunday sermon, there are now three ways you can do so:

  1. When the sermon is posted on the website, you’ll see a ‘listen’ link at the top. Clicking on it should make it play through your web browser. You can also right-click to save the mp3 file to your computer.
  2. You can subscribe to the sermons as a podcast in iTunes using the link to the right.
  3. About once a month I’ll create a CD of the past 4 or 5 sermons and make it available for borrowing from Church.

Please let me know if you find this useful…

Inspired words

Psalm 119:97-106 | 2 Timothy 3:14-17
All scripture is inspired by God.

How often have I heard those words in a theological discussion with my more theologically conservative friends when I argue that the way the story is told in the Biblical narrative – Old Testament or New – might not be exactly the way things happened, from a literal, historical, analytic perspective.

All scripture is inspired by God. God-breathed.

I know that I am not alone in finding, or being reminded, while reading the E100 series, that there are many passages of the scriptures which really don’t seem inspired or inspiring. Passages which portray God as acting, or directing others to act, in a way that seems unjust, unnecessarily violent, inconsistent with the gospel of the Kingdom of God that we find in the words of Jesus.

Hardening the heart of the pharaoh, in order to be able to bring more curses on Egypt.

Commanding the slaughter of every inhabitant – man, woman and child, in the land that was to be given to the people of Israel.

Raising up and casting down kings and empires as if they were mere puppets.

All these, and more, are to be found in our scriptures, our sacred writings, our story.

All scripture is inspired by God? Continue reading

The Overland Track, Tasmania

The Gathering
Today the Cartophiles gather in Launceston to get ready to walk. While waiting for James & Annie to arrive in Tassie Sue, Michael & Kit lunched.


Cartophiles Are Go!
Day 1 of the trek. Breakfast together, then the bus to Cradle Mountain at ten to eight. Started walking from Ronnie’s Creek at ten to eleven.


We’re now at the highest point of the track, with CradleMountain behind us.

Soon after that photo we hit our first snow.


Day 2: Came the rain

Spent the night in Waterfall Valley hut & saw Bennett’s wallabies & our first Tassie Native Hen. Cold & misty morning with the enormous Barn Bluff appearing for brief moments through the fog. By lunch the rain had truly set in with a cold wind across the moor.
Warmth welcome in the Windermere hut – it was too wet today for photos.

Day 3: The Longest Day

This is the last day with mobile coverage so no more updates until we finish. Really cold today. Forecast is rain & possible snow. This update is from Pine Tree Moor. It’s the last of the open space – from here on we’re in forest.

We’ll do nearly 17km today. Everyone is fit & well.


Day 4 – Snow Day

A couple of inches of snow overnight & intermittent snow during the day. Plus some sleet.

The team split in two. Sue & Kit went ahead to climb Mt Ossa, Tassie’s highest mountain, while Annie, James & Michael pushed through to Kia Ora hut.

Kit & Sue didn’t make it to the top – too much snow high up.

Kit is pointing to the summit of Mt Ossa, obscured by cloud.

Day 5 – Sun Day (& Sunday)

A warm front came through overnight & we awoke to sunshine & bright blue skies! It’s now cool, not cold, although this just speeds up the snow melt and makes thing wetter.

Sue & Kit again off on a side trip to look at waterfalls. They had lunch at D’Alton Falls.


It was a beautiful day walking through myrtle beech forests to the newest hut on the trail, Bert Nicholls Hut. The afternoon sun was so nice everyone took advantage of the sun deck.


Day 6 – The Final Day

We’ve made it! This post is from Narcissus Hut at the end of the Overland Track. All have arrived fit & well.

An easy walk today through sun dappled forest and chuckling streams.


Spent the evening sitting on the jetty at Lake St Clair watching a platypus forage.


Day 7 – Back to Launceston

We’re back in our hotel showering and getting ready to celebrate with red wine and red meat. We caught the ferry over Lake St Clair this morning: beats walking by some degree!


With us were friends we’ve made along the way: Loik, Christian & Helene from France, Sebastian & Tina from Germany, Andy from Brisbane & Frannie from Germany, and Dave & Mac from Melbourne. It’s been a great trek and I’m sure the Cartophiles will return to the Overland Track one day.

The next updates will be the Cartophiles on the Freycinet Circuit starting on Friday.


Philippians 4:4-9 | Colossians 1:3-14
Reading through some of the epistles again, as part of the E100 series, I’ve been stuck by something that I think I’d not really noticed in the past.

In the early days of my Christian life, I read the epistles avidly, seeking in them for understanding, for explaination, for a sort of intellectually coherent laying out of the Christian faith. I didn’t read the gospels for those things; the gospels were inspirational reading, but for rigorous, consistent, thought-out and joined-up exposisition of the faith, the epistles were the thing. The gospels, if you like, were narrative; the epistles were interpretive. They were theology.

So when I read the epistles, I would hone in on the bits which read like propositional statements; bite sized declarations of theological fact that you could take hold of and use to build the temple of your own understanding. Which meant that I tended to skip over the beginnings and the ends of the letters, sections which tend to be more personal, less theological, more specific to the time and place and particular people and relationships, and less like universal truth. Bits, in fact, which read more like parts of a story than like a didactic text.

If there is one thing that has changed, more than anything else, in the way that I approach understanding the world, it is this: that I have come to distrust nuggets of universal truth, and to believe in stories. I can’t remember who said it to me, but I’ve never forgotten the saying: if you want to know what people are like, you’d do better reading Jane Austen than a psychology textbook.

It’s not that I don’t believe in universal truth. I do. I’m not a relativist. I don’t accept that each person’s truth is good enough for them. It’s more that, outside of the realms of hard science, truth is not something you can take apart and look at in isolated nuggets, factual propositions – not if you want to get it. Continue reading

Christmas kMotion 2012

Bigger and better than last year, featuring the return of Horace the horse, Christmas kMotion is back. This year on the Thursday and Friday before Christmas (December 20-12) from 9-3 each day, Christmas kMotion is for kids who have been in years K-6 this year. Fun, Games, Cooking, Craft, Stories, Challenges, Singing, all built around the Christmas story. For more details, or to book on line, visit

Sharp disagreement

Acts 15:36-40 | Colossians 4:10-18
In our last E100 service we followed the story of the incredible transition that took place within the fledgling Christian Church, as it took the dramatic first steps out under the wings on the Jewish faith and into a universal movement. And as you read through Luke’s account of events, from Peter’s vision declaring all foods – and all peoples – clean, through the council at Jerusalem where his testimony was heard and accepted by the Church, to the shift in emphasis from Peter and Jerusalem to Paul and the gentile world, you get a picture of a transition taking place more or less smoothly, guided by wise believers attentive to the leading of the spirit of God.

But as we’ve so often found as we’ve read through the scriptures, there is another story going on as well, a story which breaks through from time to time in vignettes which don’t seem to fit into the almost-too-clean narrative.

In today’s reading from the book of Acts we have one of those moments – the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. On the surface it reads as a simple disagreement as to who is best suited to the missionary journey; with Paul arguing that John Mark had not stayed the distance before and was therefore an unreliable partner.

And it’s possible that such an argument could become so intense that Paul and Barnabas, long time co-workers, would be unable to continue together. But when we start to pick through the other things we know about the characters involved, a different – and rather more human – picture starts to emerge. Continue reading


Psalm 8 | Luke 19:28-40
I wonder if it ever occurred to you that what you are doing, here, today, is representing a rock? If you were silent, the stones would shout out.
This Sunday we’re taking a short breather from the E100 series of readings – next week we’ll start down the final straight, reading the story of the teaching and development of the early Church. But today we’re taking a brief excursus – to explore one aspect of what it means to worship.

Those of you who have listened to me week in and week out over the past few years will have heard me say things like “Sunday worship is the pit-stop, not the race”, you’ll have heard me make the case that what we do when we gather together on Sundays is to do with recharging our hearts and souls and minds in order that we might live as worshipping people throughout the week, beyond these walls, in our work and families and communities. That the work of the Church, the work of the people of God, does not occur on Sunday morning, but throughout the rest of life: that as a people redeemed by God, restored in relationship with God and creation and one another, we are be living agents of that restoration, that reconciliation, out in the world.

And I do believe that is true: that this time of coming together for Christian worship is essentially something that is for us. Something that we need. Something that gives us what we need to live Christian lives. The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

I believe that is true. But it’s not the whole of the story. Continue reading