St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

And now the nappies

little lamb bamboo white1 Sam 2:18-20; 26 | Col. 3:12-17

Bob Potter

The baby is born. The joy of holding the new life in your arms for the first time is past. The cigars and champagne have celebrated the birth. We have come back down to daily life: the exhausting routine of feeding every four hours, colic, constant tiredness, and dirty nappies. Welcome to parenthood and normal life.

I know it dates me but I remember one of our friends who was left to look after his infant when his wife had to unexpectedly return to New Zealand because of a family crisis. He rang up Laurena and asked, ‘What do you do with dirty nappies?’ This was the era before disposable ones. She facetiously replied, ‘You put them in the garbage.’ ‘I’ve been doing that,’ he replied, ‘but I’m running out.’ Laurena then explained to him the routine for dealing with the dirty, smelly, unpleasant aspects of parenthood.

Christmas is over for another year. We have celebrated Christ’s birth, God coming to dwell among us, in carols and gospel stories of shepherds and magi. The world’s unreal, frenetic commercial frenzy is behind us and now we have to confront the realities, the ‘dirty nappies’ of our Christian life. Continue reading

Christmas Pageant

IMG_2189
Listen!
The Christmas story is a great story for telling with kids. It’s got all the elements – a baby, animals, mysterious visitors from afar, long journeys, signs in the sky, supernatural beings – the lot.

And of course, it’s all tied in with all the excitement of Christmas as well – school holidays, summer, travelling, visiting relatives, eating loads of food we normally aren’t allowed. And, of course, presents.

The Christmas story is a great story for kids. I love to tell it, you can have so much fun.

The problem comes if we think that’s all it is. If we keep on hearing the Christmas story the way we heard it as children. If we never go beyond the surface elements, never look past the manger and angels, cows, sheep, angels and donkeys. Because the Christmas story is a great story to tell to kids – but it’s also a very grown up story. A story which touches a lot more of life than you might notice at first glance. Continue reading

Shepherds

sheep-resizedListen!
Isaiah 62:6-12 | Luke 2:8-20

A man who has one watch knows what the time is. A man with two watches is never sure.

One of the greatest strengths of the New Testament telling of the life and teaching of Jesus, and at the same time, one of the biggest sources of confusion, is that we have four gospels. Four writers, each of whom drew on different traditions and sources, and on each other, each of whom wrote for a different audience and (especially in the case of John) at a different time, and each of whom had particular perspectives and facets of the life of Jesus that they wanted to communicate – different agendas motivating the way they told the story.

The existance of four different tellings of the central story of our faith gives that faith just enough room to flex, to move, to adapt. Each of us, with our different perspectives, insights, life experience, prejudices, politics, and the rest will find, as it were, a theological friend in one of the gospel writers; someone who sees the world a little bit like we do. And, if we are honest enough, we will also find, in the other gospels, a theological challenge, insights from those who see the world very differently from us.

If nothing else, the fact that we recognise four gospel tellings in our canon ought to discourage us from thinking that there is every likely to be one, simple, clear answer to anything. As Tozer put it: the truth is not found in “it is written” but in “it is written; and it is also written”. It is in our struggles between perspectives, not in any one, that we are most likely to find truth.

The man with one watch may be sure he knows the time. But the man with two is aware of uncertainty. If he is wise, less arrogant, less likely to insist that his time is right, and someone else’s is wrong… Continue reading

Talkin’ bout a revolution

Listen!
Luke 1:46-56 | Luke 2:1-7
Mary’s was not the only miraculous pregnancy in the Christmas story.

Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were much older than Mary – old enough that Elizabeth’s pregnancy was itself considered a miracle. It was to this older couple that Mary ‘went with haste’ soon after she received the visit of the angel Gabriel, and they provided a place of refuge for their unmarried, pregnant relative, away from the sneers and disapproving looks of those who knew her. Perhaps Mary’s parents arranged for her to spend some time in the country ‘for her health’ – perhaps there was even some thought of raising her own child and Mary’s as twins. In a society in which honour and shame where currency more valuable than coin, such things were surely not unheard of.

But if that was the plan, it is not the way things worked out. For during her three months in the hill country with Zechariah and Elizabeth, something remarkable happens to Mary.

Of course, we’ve already gathered that Mary was a fairly remarkable young woman. When an angel came to her and spoke words of greatness, of the kingdom of David, of unending rule, she questioned him, and then gave, as it were, her consent – “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be as you have said”.

But here, in the magnificat, Mary shows that far from being a humble, faithful, submissive servant of God – from being a stereotypical woman of faith – she has far more in her of the prophet.

In the magnificat the gentle, respectable Mary who quietly accepts her lot takes it, to coin a phrase, up to eleven.

He has scattered the proud… brought down the powerful from their thrones… sent the rich away hungry…

Talking about a revolution. Continue reading

Old Guys Rule! Spit to Manly, 1st December, 2012

OK, I admit I stole the title line from a T-shirt I bought in Warragul, but it still fits the Cartophiles’ last walk for 2012.  While all around them cringed from the heat, three Cartophiles braved the walk from the Spit Bridge to Manly last Saturday.  Tim, Doug & Kit travelled the iconic Manly Scenic Walkway, sadly diminished on its signs to MSW, despite high temperatures, high humidity and high tides.

The sea breeze and light rain in the morning was very pleasant as we set off at 10.00am from Ellery’s Punt Reserve at the north end of Spit Bridge.  The high overcast kept us comfortably cool for the first half of the walk, but when the sun broke through we all became a little pink around the edges.

Doug & Tim near Grotto Point

The NPWS has done a lot of work on the track: the new steps are great and the solid flat footing let us scoot along.  We completed the nine kilometres in just over 2½ hours without pushing ourselves at all.  We took time to look at the fascinating Aboriginal carvings at Grotto Point and to climb to Arabanoo
Lookout to admire the views.  Sadly Mr Whippy was missing from the Tania Park sports ground at Dobroyd Head, although we looked carefully to make sure.

From Spit Bridge the walk follows the Harbour’s edge to Clontarf, then climbs past beautiful houses to the wonderful lookout over Crater Cove and its collection of tiny huts. The huts were built during The Depression and in the 70s and 80s were home to a hippy commune; they form a wonderful counterpoint to the expensive ocean view homes of Clontarf and Balgowlah.

The tide was in at Clontarf Beach, but we boldly walked through the water rather than go around via the road.  Well, except for Tim, who climbed on a fence rather than either wade or go around!

The steep descent to Reef Beach has also been improved with well formed steps, and at the beach itself we watched a father and his three little girls frolic in the sea to escape the heat.  The sea baths at Forty Baskets Beach were also busy, as was Fairlight Beach and its sea baths.  Quite apart for the people walking or running the track there were plenty of people out enjoying the warm weather and our lovely beaches.

The final walk back through the Fair Trade fair on The C0rso was a strangely metro finish to a walk that had involved bush, beaches, Aboriginal artifacts and wide open ocean views.

We finished with one of our traditional debrief sessions, this time at the Hotel Steyne. It was a great end to what had become a big boys’ day out.

The Cartophiles’ last walk for 2012 was voted a success and we’re all looking forward to the new walk schedule for 2013.  Anyone with requests or suggestions for walks in 2013 are invited to email cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org.

Preparing for the Mystery

Listen!
Jeremiah 33:14-16 | Malachi 3:1-4
This time last year, on the first Sunday in advent, I took a sense of waiting as my theme. And I argued that the waiting that seems to characterise the people of God for so much of their history: waiting in Egypt, waiting in the wilderness, waiting for a king, waiting in exile; was not the waiting of passivity, as we tend to think of the word, but an active waiting, a working for the things of God’s kingdom while we wait for it to be fully and gloriously revealed.

Waiting is a traditional advent theme. It’s there in the reading from Jeremiah – “The days are surely coming when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel”. Waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises is a theme that has resonated with Christians throughout history, especially those who have found themselves powerless and persecuted, with no hope for the future except the trust that God would come through for them.

But waiting is not the whole of the advent story. And in a sense, it’s an idea that is too easily misheard, misused. For as we come close to Christmas in modern Australia, the sense of waiting is focussed on all the wrong things. We are waiting, depending on our stage in life, for presents, or for school holidays, or for some time off work, or for family get-togethers, or for overseas holidays. And if we try to tell ourselves, or each other, that this is a time of waiting for the birth of Jesus – well, it doesn’t really make sense. We aren’t waiting for Jesus to be born. We live in the time after. We are not the people of Israel, waiting for their promised king. We are people of the promised Kingdom.

We aren’t waiting for Jesus. In fact, it’s probably often truer to say that Jesus is waiting for us. Waiting for us to put his words into practice, to find out what it really means to love your enemy, to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Continue reading