St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga


Isaiah 65:17-20 | John 20:1-18
The fact that you are here this morning tells me that I don’t need to start at the beginning. I don’t need to tell you that Easter isn’t about chocolate eggs, or magic bunnies, or, for that matter, talking horses. I don’t need to convince you that it’s more than a convenient and very welcome four day weekend.

The fact that you’re here, and not having a lie-in, or down at Bunnings for the traditional long weekend Australian DIY bonanza tells me that you know that there is more to this day than many – most – of our friends and neighbours are yet to see.

But I wonder just what it is that you have come to celebrate?

Part of the answer is surely clear – it’s Easter Sunday, we are here to celebrate the day of resurrection. The day when the women went to Jesus’ tomb and found that he was not there, when they heard the words of the angel asking “why are you looking for the living amongst the dead?”; the day Mary heard with amazement the voice she thought she had lost forever speaking her name.

After the darkness of Good Friday – the final and ultimate of all possible wrongs – love overthrown, innocence condemned, God rejected. A day on which everything that is wrong with humanity – greed, prejudice, betrayal, cowardice, manipulation, realpolitik, spiritual blindness – was compressed into a few hours; and after the hopelessness of Saturday, the day after the death, the day when it seemed everything had failed, all hope was gone, all purpose rendered meaningless, finally we reach Sunday morning to find that in the face of Jesus’ unfailing love, life has turned back death, love has conquered hate, and hope has been re-established.

Isn’t that something to celebrate? When good overthrows evil, when right turns out to be stronger than might, don’t we all want to cheers along?

Of course we do. And that is the celebration of Easter. But let’s not stop there… Continue reading

Palm Celebration?

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 | Luke 19:28-40
Palm Sunday, the day that marks what is often called Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We know the story. We’ve all acted it out – marched around waving our palm branches and singing our hosannas, recreating the joyful celebration as Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem and it seemed as if everyone was ready to welcome him as their king.

And if you’re a signed up member of the preacher’s union (ok, not really) then you’re obliged at this point to note how quickly the crowd would turn against Jesus, so that within the week they would call for his crucifixion. You’ll then work your political and theological leanings into that observation; I’ve certainly found in this story a neo-marxist critique of the way an entrenched elite can sway the masses so as to protect the privilege of the powerful, before finishing with a challenge to your listeners not to be so weak, so easily swayed, so inconsistent, but to cry hosanna, and then see it through. I’ve preached that sermon before now.

But I wonder if in our rush to read the changeability of the crowd we might be getting very much the wrong end of the stick. If it wasn’t so much that the crowd changed their minds about what they wanted, or backed down when the going got tough, or were bought or bullied or frightened into dropping Jesus like a hot potato, but more a case of them knowing exactly what they wanted, and discovering, in the days of holy week, that Jesus wasn’t it. Continue reading

Nooma end of term dinner

The Lent studies on “The Lion’s World” have finished, and so Nooma is taking a break until after Easter. But we’ll be having our traditional end of term dinner on Tuesday April 9th, at 7pm – just bring a plate of something to share!

Meadowbank to Cabarita, Saturday 16th March, 2013

Sandra & Sue at start of walk

Sandra & Sue at start of walk: our ferry and the 1886 Ryde railway bridge (our route) in the background

A VERY select group of Cartophiles undertook this surprising and delightful walk.  Despite their problems finding the ferry wharf at Cabarita, Sandra, Sue and Kit caught the ferry to Meadowbank on time.

Sandra & Sue at Kokoda Track Memorial

Sandra & Sue at Kokoda Track Memorial

The navigational problems continued with finding the route from the Meadowbank Ferry Wharf onto pedestrian way across the old Ryde rail bridge.  From there we followed the lovely Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway to morning tea at the walkway cafe.  It was lovely for Sue & Kit to relate the walkway stations with the places they’d been to on the Kokoda Track.

After the walkway the walk passed the Concord Hospital, and we ventured slightly off the track to see the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital, now the Rivendell Child, Adolescent and Family Unit specialising in the treatment of young people with problems. The hospital was built in 1893 and in the early 1900s Henry Lawson was several times a patient there.

Sandra returns to the track

Making our way through the electric fence was not dignified

As we walked through the hospital grounds we again became slightly navigationally embarrassed, until directed onto the track by a friendly local.  That involved squeezing through an electric fence, which was not as shocking as we first feared.

We followed the rack around Concord bay to the Dame Eadith Walker Convalescent Hospital, formerly the Walker family home, in the lovely Victorian mansion, Yaralla.  We explored the grotto below the mansion while Sandra told us stories of coming to the site as a child.

At Majors Bay we stopped for lunch at the Concord RSL & Community Club before continuing on through the park to the old AGL gas works site, now a major housing development, and back through Cabarita Park to the cars.

With our several diversions the walk turned into a 12km romp along Parramatta River.  It’s a beautiful walk and one that may return to the Cartophiles’ agenda some time in the future.


St Johns Cartophiles Complete Wild Endurance!

The team starts the second leg after 27km

The team starts the second leg after 27km

We made it!  At 2:36pm on Sunday 5th May the Cartophiles team crossed the finish line for WildEndurance, completing the 100km course through the Blue Mountains
in 30 hours and 6 minutes.

The team of four (Kayla, Owen, Sue and Kit) started at 8:30am on Saturday and walked through the night.  Sadly Kayla hurt her foot and had to withdraw at the halfway mark.

The team as wonderfully supported by the Cartophiles.  Mary generously lent us her family’s house in Blackheath to use as a base. This gave the walking team somewhere comfortable to sleep before, and more importantly after, the event as well as giving the support crew beds and a kitchen.  The support crew, Michael and Adam, met the walkers at each checkpoint with hot food, clean clothes, water replenishment and  wonderful encouragement.

Raymond couldn’t make it after surgery the day before the event, but acted as communication coordinator to keep the St Johns community informed about the team’s progress.  Even The Dish played its part, lending the team the Wonder Pot to help the crew keep meals hot until the walkers arrived.

It was a tough event and your team arrived in good form.  Thanks to all the helpers and supporters, and thanks especially for the prayers that bore us along in beautiful weather.

Suuny days at Playjays

The beautiful weather this morning saw our biggest Playjays of the year, with 24 kids from 0-3 coming along to join us for a play. This year we’ve been joined by half a dozen new families, and almost as many new baby brothers and sisters! Next Friday is Good Friday, so there’ll be no playgroup, but we look forward to seeing you all the following week!

Golden Crowns

Philippians 3:4-14 | John 12:1-8
I wonder, when you meet someone for the first time, or when you’re starting to get to know someone, what are the things that you want them to know about you? I mean, there are a million and one facts about you, about me, that you might want someone to know – but which do you choose? What things do you try to work the conversation around to, what aspects of your life, your achievements, your interests, your relationships, your skills, your hobbies, are you keenest to let people know?

Of course, it depends on the context. But I bet there are some facts, some truths, about yourself that you generally want to get into the conversation. For instance, it would be rare for anyone to have any sort of conversation with me without me working into the discussion the fact that I’m a father – it seems like that’s just something I want people who are getting to know me to know. I like to find a chance to tell them that I’m scientifically trained, and, probably, that I’m a Church minister.

There are things we want people to know about ourselves. And it’s probably safe to say that they are mostly things that show us in a good light, encourage others to like us, take us seriously, respect us, perhaps even defer to us. Our education, our profession, our family, our skills, our experiences, our reputation, our connections. Merit badges, if you like, showing ourselves in the best possible light. Continue reading


belongingThose who remember the Inkson family will appreciate a Facebook post from Davinia yesterday. This picture shows what Finn, their second boy had written in his school writing book on the subject of ‘Belonging’. Davinia discovered it during the school parents’ evening and writes “I thought it was lovely that St Johns was the place he thought of”.

Click the image for a full size picture

Two Sons

two_sons_davis_collection-resizedLuke 15:11-32
The parable of the prodigal son is one of the most famous and discussed stories of Jesus, seccond only, perhaps, to the story of the Good Samaritan. The father welcoming his wayward son back has become an iconic image of forgiveness and of God’s love for each one of us. In response to the narrow minded grumbling of the scribes and Pharisees who complain “This fellow welcomes sinner and eats with them”, Jesus tells this story of the mercy of God, and smashes apart hardhearted and narrow ideas of righteousness, drawing all of us, despite our faults and failing to his embrace, calling us to true conversion of life.

It’s a story about many things – which is, perhaps, part of the reason it is so well known and loved. It is, of course, a story of sin, of rebellion; the cold and arrogant presumption of the younger son who literally can’t wait for his father to die in order to get his hands on the inheritance. He wants all the benefits of being the father’s son, with none of the responsibilities; he wants the wealth without the work.

And it’s also a story of the conequences of sin; of the capricious nature of the sorts of pleasures that money can buy – our theme from last week – and of the brokenness of one who exchanged the priceless gifts of love and relationship and meaning for things with a price tag which would not, could not, last.

It’s a story of repentance – not so much of confession, though we often confuse the two. Repentance includes, often, confession, but it is so much more. Here we have true repentance, the son who decides to point his life in a new direction, to accept the consequences of his actions, and ask of his father some small fraction of what he used to have by right of birth.

Of course, famously, it’s a story of forgiveness, and of reconciliation, of the father who runs out to greet his son, refusing even to hear his confession in his joy at his return, his repentance.

And it’s a story of pride and ungraciousness, in the older brother who can’t see past the unfairness of grace, and will not join the joyful celebration.
Continue reading

Existentialism in year one

question-resizedThis week at the Bushschool scripture I told the story of the Good Shepherd to the kindy class and to year one. Towards the end of the wondering time I asked “I wonder where this place might really be?”. The kindy kids, of course, are all very concrete – “I think it might be on a farm” “I think it might be in India”. The year ones began the same, and then one of the kids suggested it might be “heaven, you know, up in the sky”. A few other suggested the same, before a girl who’d hardly said a word put her hand up and suggested “I think the whole thing might be a journey…”

A lovely God

Amanda, our Children & Youth Pastor, teaches Scripture (“special religious education”) at the Bush School, our local state primary. This is a vignette from her day last week:

In scripture this morning I had a Year 1 group. Some were familiar with Godly Play, being in my Kindy class last year, some were new. I was doing the Parable of the Good Shepherd and everyone was really getting into the story…

Me: “and when the lost sheep is found I would put it on my back, even if it was heavy, and carry it back safely to the sheepfold.”

Newbie Girl whispers to her friend: “Oh that’s lovely”

Her friend who has experienced Godly Play whispers back: “Oh yes, that’s God…he’s always lovely.”


dryIsaiah 55:1-9 | Psalm 63:1-8
For the first Sunday in Lent, a few weeks ago, the Growing Place congregation did a “water walk”. A water walk is a way of reflecting on the importance of water in our world, the great good fortune that we have to live in a country in which clean drinking water is – quite literally – on tap, and to show solidarity with our sisters and brothers (mostly sisters, since this is a job that in much of the world falls to women and girls) who have to walk, in some cases many kilometres, to fetch water at the start of each day. We didn’t walk far – just across the park to Ted’s house, where we borrowed his outside tap to fill the buckets and bottles we had brought with us, and then we carried them back with us to the Church. On the way back we talked about what we would do if this one load of water had to last us the whole day.

On the way out, we were encouraged to talk about times when we had been thirsty. And this turned out to be really hard to do. Of course we could all think of times when we really needed a nice cold glass of water, after a hot day running around or working outside, but real thirst, the thirst when we simply do not have the water we need, was not an experience many of us could easily relate to.

Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters
Continue reading