St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Christ the King

Listen!
Psalm 93 | John 18:33-37
It’s rare that I find myself quibbling with a particular translation of the Bible. I’m generally speaking a follower of the idea that the best Bible translation is the one that you actually read, and that in a world where most Bibles gather dust on bookshelves – or more and more, aren’t even to be found in the house – arguments over the details of translation amount to little more than the proverbial rearranging of deckchairs on the Titanic.

So it’s unusual that today I’m going to take issue with the translation we’ve heard read to us. Because for once, it really matters. We hear today a dialog between Pilate and Jesus, a dialog about Jesus as King. Jesus has, essentially, been accused of treason, of setting himself up as a king against the rule of the emperor. Pilate asks him if this is so, if Jesus is indeed the king of the Jews. And, after a bit of to and fro, Jesus makes a profound declaration about the nature of his Kingdom. And lets not forget, this kingdom has been at the heart of all of Jesus’ preaching: his opening words of ministry “the Kingdom of God is at hand”; in the Lord’s prayer “your kingdom come”; in parable upon parable “the kingdom of God is like…”.

And now that Kingdom that he has been speaking of has come into direct conflict with the kingdom of Rome, so what Jesus says about his Kingdom at the heart of that conflict is surely going to be of the utmost importance to our understanding of the complex relationship between faith and secular authority, Church and State, our duty as citizens of God’s kingdom and our duty as members of human society. Continue reading

The Great Story

Jeremiah 31:31-34 | John 20:19-23
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Over the past six months, we’ve travelled together through the E100 series of Bible readings, taking us week by week through the whole sweep of the Biblical story. And I’ve been amazed and delighted by the number of people who’ve come and told me how much they’ve enjoyed the process; how many passages of scripture they’ve discovered or rediscovered; how much more sense things have made in the broader context; how much they’ve been challenged or disturbed by the things they’ve read.

One advantage of E100 that might not have occurred to you is that for twenty Sundays I haven’t had to spend a lot of time deciding what I was going to preach about! Of course in each week’s set of readings there was always than one option, but I think I can honestly say that each week, by the time I’d read the five passages, I knew, at least in outline, what I’d be saying on Sunday.

So it came as a bit of a shock this week to realise that I was starting with a blank slate. I was thinking I might do some sort of summary of the whole broad sweep of what we’ve read, drawing out broad themes running through the scriptures. But that just seems to go against so much of what we’ve learnt in these past six months: for if there is one thing that stands out for me from the whole process it is that there is no one thing that stands out. That the Bible is glorious mess of different themes intertwined; sometimes coming together in harmony, at other times seeming to drown one another out.

To try to say “the theme of the Bible is basically this” is like saying “Beethoven’s fifth symphony is basically ‘da da da dum’”. You know, there’s more to Beethoven than that. Continue reading

Hope

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Revelation 21:1-8 | Revelation 22:1-7
And so, after close on half a year making our way through the broad sweep of the Bible, we come to the closing act, the book of Revelation.

A book which is, let’s face it, a little bit on the odd side. Over the years people have tied themselves in knots over the right interpretation of different passages: Churches, even denominations have divided over pre-, post- or a-millenial readings of the end times prophecies; different figures in the book have been identified with individuals, movements, nations; highly confident predictions have been made about the date and even time of the end of the world.

All of which has led many to wonder whether this book really does more harm to our understanding of the faith than good. Thomas Jefferson referred to it as “merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams”. Indeed, from the very earliest days when the New Testament canon was taking shape the book of Revelation was one of very few matters of controversy.

And a great deal of our trouble with Revelation is that it represents a form of literature that really doesn’t exist in the English language. Apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation and the second half of the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, is a form of prophetic writing in which surreal symbolism is used sometimes to illustrate, sometimes to deliberately confound understanding. Nothing in apocalyptic writing is quite what it seems on the surface, every image echoes aspects of the culture and history out of which it is written, and yet the whole comes together to convey a meaning – or perhaps, a sense of meaning – that is somehow not just the sum of it’s parts. Continue reading

Growing bush

This Sunday @ The Growing Place, we’re going to do a little bushwalking and then have our time of sharing in the National Park. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on God’s creation and enjoy a bit of the great outdoors.

We’re meeting at the start of the Gibberagong Track, at the north end of Grosvenor St, North Wahroonga. Park anywhere on the street.

Click here for link to map.

Pack a picnic dinner for your kids and bring along some wine and nibbles for the grown ups. Please wear comfy shoes and bring a picnic rug.
We know everyone has young kids, so we’ll only walk a very short way and then find a clearing to sit together.

As it is the last TGP that the Inkson family will attend, we will also be farewelling them in prayer. If you have an anecdote or a story about the Inksons which you’d like to share, please come prepared to do so! 🙂

(Wet weather plan is to meet at the church, so please check your emails in the afternoon if it looks like rain).

Please let us know whether to expect you so we can wait for you at the start of the track.

Judgement

2 Corinthians 5:6-21 | 1 John 4:7-21
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I imagine that most of us find the idea of judgement a bit difficult. Difficult to get our heads around, difficult to accept, difficult to believe.

It seems so hard to fit with the image we have painted for us of Jesus – of his unconditional acceptance, his unswerving love, his willingness to go the extra mile, and more, for us. By grace we have been saved, we hear, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, we read, but then suddenly we hit these bumps in the road, these references to judgement.

…all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ… Continue reading