St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Desperation

Listen!
Psalm 130 | Mark 5:21-43
I can’t remember many sermons from my childhood in Church. In my teenage years I regularly attended the evening service which immediately preceded the youth group I went to, and listened, as far as I can recall, attentively every week (although I do also recall that some Sundays I found myself trying to calculate the number of tiles that made up the Church roof) – I probably went to about two hundred services over four or five years. And I’m sure that I learned a huge amount. But I can only actually remember one small part of one sermon that I heard – and it was a sermon on our gospel reading today.

The curate, Roger, was preaching, I knew him fairly well – he had a son about my age, and a daughter who was a few of years younger. And he started the sermon by saying “Of all the characters in the Bible, Jairus is the one I get most. Because my daughter is twelve. And if she was sick, at the point of death, I would go anywhere, do anything, beg of anyone who I thought might be able to help.”

I don’t remember the rest of the sermon; I just remember thinking about my friend’s annoying little sister, and understanding something of the desperation that might drive a respectable leader of the synagogue to throw himself at the feet of an itinerant preacher, and beg him for help.
Because his daughter was dying.

If there is one word that summarises the gospel reading for today, it is surely this: Desperation.

Jairus was a desperate man. His daughter was sick, to the point of death. The woman who had been suffering from bleeding for twelve years, and had spent all she had on doctors who had failed to help her – and did you notice, by the way, how the woman is not named, and the daughter is not named: Jairus is, but neither of the female characters who are actually healed. But I digress – The woman who had been suffering from bleeding for twelve years, and had spent all she had on doctors who had failed to help her is desperate. Bleeding meant she was unclean; so for twelve years she had been excluded from the religious life of her community, excluded from any significant public event, excluded even from contact with any except those willing to pay the price of becoming unclean by being in contact with her.

Each of them turns, in their own way, to Jesus, desperate.

And he meets them; meets their need; saves them. Because they know they need him to.

Robert Capon has said, “Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You do not have to be smart. You do not have to be good. You do not have to be wise. You do not have to be wonderful. You do not have to be anything…you just have to be dead. That’s it.”

But the striking thing about the juxtaposition of these two stories, for me, is the totally different way that the two supplicants approach Jesus.
The woman – the unclean woman – doesn’t want to be seen. Not even by Jesus. She’s spent so long in rejection, so long in the shadows, that she dare not show her face. Her desperation is expressed in simply reaching out to touch him from behind. And she is healed – as the gospel writer tells the story – she is healed right away. Before Jesus turns to find her, she has already felt in her body that she has been healed.

But Jesus does stop (to Jairus’ despair, no doubt) to find her. Perhaps because he knows that her healing is not yet complete. That the healing of her physical symptoms is not the whole; that he knows she needs something else; she needs to be seen – even if in fear and trembling – she needs to be seen, and to be accepted, publicly, to hear Jesus say “you are well’.

Jairus, on the other hand, is a public figure; totally the opposite of the woman. She was excluded from the synagogue, he was a leader of the synagogue. She was rejected at public events; he was feted, invited, given the place of honour.

But he, in his desperation, in willing to put all that aside, and fall at Jesus’ feet to beg for help.

Two very different people, with very different problems, approaching Jesus in very different ways. But each finding what they need.

The healthy, Jesus said elsewhere, do not need a doctor. It is the sick for whom I have come. But then we need to go back, back to our Psalm, and to the deep truth in those words: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

For if we come to this gospel reading, and hear in it that those who are desperate for God’s help are those who find it, then our next breath ought to be to ask “am I desperate for God’s help? And if not, why not? Do I really believe that I am who I ought to be? Can I look myself in the mirror and say “this is the person I was created to be?”

Or do we read the gospel and say “I don’t have the desperation of Jairus, or of the woman; but I have my own unspoken need. I may come to Jesus in public, I may try to do it in secret, but I need him. I need him to heal me.”

The last thing that we want is to be desperate for help. That’s like the mark of failure, the sign of a life gone wrong.

But “The only qualification for the gift of resurrection is to be dead.”

Last week I spoke about Jesus’ challenge to the disciples to take responsibility – to not just throw their needs on Jesus and expect him to take over. That “God with us” was not an excuse to abdicate responsibility, but an encouragement to believe that with God, we can act, we can make a difference, we can be the ambassadors of the Kingdom of God that we are called to be.

And I completely stand by that. But taken to it’s extreme, that is a recipe for a sort of Christian humanism; for the belief that the teaching of Jesus is enough to enable us to change the world.

Today what we have is the flip side of that; we might have all we need to change the world; but we don’t even have what it takes to change ourselves.

In a sense these two sermons are at loggerheads with each other; pushing us to take responsibility on one hand, and to throw ourselves on the mercy of God on the other.

But I believe that the power of the Christian gospel is that we can not have either of these truths without the other. That we are called to act, to take responsibility for the power and wealth and gifts and ability that we have been given, to act in ways that make the kingdom of God a reality. And that, at the same time, we need to know that we are in desperate need of the healing, empowering, forgiving, accepting, touch of God.
The gospel is a call to arms: a challenge to stand up for justice, for reconciliation, for hope.

And at the same time, it is an offer of healing, of acceptance, of forgiveness.

It’s not one or the other. Without both, it is crippled.

Amen

National Assembly

The Uniting Church’s triennial National Assembly is coming up – on July 12-18th, in Perth. Chris will be attending as a representative of the NSW/ACT Synod, and Sureka will be there in her role as UnitingWorld Associate Secretary. The papers, reports and proposals are all available online. Please feel free to contact Chris if there is anything related to Assembly that you would like to discuss.

Storm

Listen!
Job 38:1-11 | Mark 4:35-41
It’s been a long day. Jesus has been teaching, sitting in the boat on the lake in order to be able to address the great crowds that had gathered to hear him speak. And as evening falls, he asks his friends to take him across the lake to the other side.

A storm blows up, the disciples panic, wake Jesus up, and he stills the storm with a word.

It’s a well known story, right? Partly because it comes up every year in the three year cycle of the lectionary, because it occurs in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

I’ve mentioned this before, so forgive me if it’s a bit dry, but I think it’s worth repeating. Those who study the way the gospels came to be written have shown pretty clearly that Matthew and Luke both had access to Mark’s gospel when they were writing, and, not unreasonably, copied sections, sometimes with a few edits, sometimes word for word.

(John’s gospel, generally reckoned to have been written later as more of a theological reflection, doesn’t seem to lean on material in the other three gospels, so it’s normally studied completely separately.)

And as it’s generally understood, Matthew and Luke were each part of a community of believers which had kept the stories alive in an oral tradition, for the thirty or fifty years between the events of Jesus’ life, and the committing of pen to paper, or quill to parchment, or whatever the technology of the day.
And the story of the stilling of the storm is one of those – and again, forgive me if this seems meaningless, but it’s one of those details which fascinates me – that is in all three of the synoptic gospels, but in different words, with different details.

Which is fascinating (to me, at least) because it says that Matthew and Luke each knew this story, independently of reading Mark’s account. Which is to say, each of these (quite different) communities of early Christians had remembered this story, told it, kept it alive, and given it sufficient prominence in their faith that the writers of the gospels chose to include it in their accounts.

And when that happens, we simply have to ask, why was this story so important to them?

And of course, we don’t know for sure, since we weren’t there – but there seem to be at least three possible reasons for the importance of this story – which makes sense, in a way – the story remained alive because it spoke to different people at different times in different ways…

The first, and perhaps the classic, understanding of this story is simply that it spoke to Jesus’ divinity. The Old Testament is full of descriptions like the one that we had from the book of Job today, in which God speaks of God’s power to control and set boundaries for the natural world – to tell the ocean where to stop, to call upon the winds and give them commands. And there is some reason to believe that storms at sea were understood by the Jews of Jesus’ day to be the work of evil spirits; in which case Jesus’ casual command of the elements speaks to both power over creation and power over the forces the evil.

A second common reading of this story is that of reassurance. The early Church often described itself as a boat afloat in the seas of the world; an oasis of Godly order floating amidst the choas of the world. And in this imagery it’s easy to read this story as an enacted parable: the boat, the people of God, beset by their troubles, battered by the storms of the world around them, in danger of being swept under, cry out to Jesus for help, and he saves them; he drives back the raging anger of the world outside and keeps his people, his Church, safe.

In time of persecution, in times when the Roman empire seemed set on destroying the Church, the story acts as a promise: the storm may rage, but Christ is in the boat with you! Don’t be afraid, he will save you.
Both of these readings have a lot going for them; speaking to those who wonder just who this Jesus is, or speaking to those who follow him but find themselves beset by the troubles of the world.

But perhaps for us in modern Australian a third reading might be most significant. In this reading the emphasis is placed on the words spoken, by the disciples, and by Jesus. And in particular, on Jesus’ rebuke, his challenge to the faith of the disciples.

The disciples woke Jesus up because they wanted him to fix the problem. And he does so; but then rebukes them, as if to say, “You should not have needed to wake me. You should have known that all would be well. Have you still no faith?”

Perhaps he meant that they should, by now, have had the faith to command the waves themselves. Or perhaps that they should have known that with him in the boat, God would not allow them to drown. Or perhaps he is rebuking them for their words to him “Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to drown?”

Or perhaps it’s something that combines all these and more; perhaps the rebuke is more along the lines of “don’t you understand yet – I am with you… but that doesn’t mean that you need to abdicate all responsibility to me. You wouldn’t have drowned, even if you had not woken me… half of you are fishermen! This is your area of expertise! Have faith in God, in me, and also in yourselves, and each other.”

Because the really strange thing about Jesus’ words is this: he rebukes them for lack of faith when they had turned to him, and asked him to save them. Surely this is the very definition of faith; to realise that you are in need, and to cry out to God in the trust that God can and will act?

Is it, ultimately, a lack of faith to turn helplessly to God, if in doing so we simply throw the problem to God and abdicate all responsibility to do something about it ourselves? Is there a side of faith which is actually trusting that God is with us, not to take over, but to empower us; not to take responsibility from us but to give us the courage and the resources and the community that we need to take responsibility for ourselves?

Is the problem that we don’t actually want “God with us” – we want “God taking charge”.

The setting of the parable against a backdrop of Jesus giving commands to the natural world reminded me, in this context, of a recent campaign by UnitingWorld, entitled “Can God fix climate change?” The question raised by the campaign is a very real one to the peopleof our region, including our new partners in Vanuatu. Rev Tafue Lasume, from the Christian Church of Tuvalu said recently: “Climate change represents a spiritual as well as a physical crisis for our people.” Because if you start with the assumption that God is in active control of the seas; that God says “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped”, then the devastation of the islands of the pacific by climate change seems to say “God has abandoned us”.

But that is the theology of God taking charge. Rev. Lasume went on “Climate change is caused by humans and requires a human response.”. That is the theology of God with us, not taking over, but enabling us, challenging us, expecting us to take responsibility, in the confidence of God’s presence alongside us, within us, before us.

And that, indeed, is the spirit of Pope Francis’ Encyclical this week – the call to show our care for one another, and for our common home, by taking action which is within our power, taking responsibility for the impact that our decisions, and our lifestyle have upon the planet and, in particular, upon the poorest of the world, who are most effected by, and least able to escape, the impact of climate change.

In fact, if there was just one thing I would suggest you take away from today’s sermon it would be this: get hold of the encyclical, and read it. It’s really good – not political, at least not in the narrow, party political sense, but a call to recognise that “God with us” is not an invitation to call on God and hand over responsibility, but a challenge to the faith that says “God is in the boat with us – so we can take action, we can make a difference.

Amen

Growing like a weed

Listen!Ezekiel 17:22-24 | Mark 4:26-34
Right back at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel the author gives us a one sentence summary of Jesus’ preaching: “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’”. When you read through Mark’s gospel there’s a sense in which the whole thing is just an exposition of those words: the time is now; the Kingdom is near; repent and believe.

And it’s not just Mark, either – the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven as Matthew, in deference to the sensibilities of his Jewish audience, records it) is at the heart of Jesus’ message, as told by all three of the synoptic gospels.

We’re familiar enough with the words that they have surely lost something. In particular, that they have lost their political, or perhaps prophetic, edge. For in the time of Jesus, in the land of Israel, “Kingdom” meant one of two things. It either referred to the past glories of the nation – the Kingdom of David, and of Solomon – and to the hopes and dreams of the people that they would one day see the like again; or it referred to the Kingdom that was the Roman empire.

To speak of any Kingdom other than Rome was to commit an act of treason; to give fealty to the Kingdom of God was to rebel against Rome; the name Jesus as King was to declare that Caesar was not.

And yet at the same time, in all of Jesus’ preaching, it was clear that the Kingdom that he spoke of was in some way qualitatively different from Rome; opposed to it, certainly, when it was a matter of loyalties, but not a replacement for it. That the Kingdom of God was not just another empire.

It is a kingdom without a language, without an army, with no government, borders, or passports. A kingdom unlike any that the world had known. And so in our gospel reading today, Jesus starts to tell people what the kingdom was really to be like.

And in the style of the day, he doesn’t teach by telling people in plain language what he wants them to hear, much as we might wish he did. Instead, he uses parables, picture stories, into which truths about the kingdom are woven.

Telling stories as a way of expressing profound truths is, of course, a tradition that crosses cultures and ages; great teachers of all times and places have known that a narrative, a story, can communicate much more deeply than simple assertions. As a scientist by training, I grew up placing high value on precision of language, on avoiding ambiguity in expression. In that way of thinking a parable is a terribly inefficient, error-prone way of communicating. I can remember to this day the moment in which I realised why parables were so much more than they appeared, so much more effective than simple statements of truth, when someone said to me “if you want to learn about people, about human nature, read a good novel. You’ll learn more about humanity from Jane Austen than any psychology textbook.”

And its true; stories convey more truth about important, complex, human matters than any number of assertions, doctrines, or statements of fact.

So Jesus taught them in parables. And in today’s reading we had two parables about the kingdom, both parables of growth, parables with an organic theme.

So what is it about the kingdom? Why does Jesus use these images of plants, of wheat and mustard seeds, of sun and rain, seed and soil, growth and harvest?

What you hear in these parables might be different from me – that’s part of the beauty of parables. This is what I hear…

The seed is scattered on the ground, and it grows. Of course, elsewhere Jesus will tell another parable about the sower scattering seeds, and how the seeds on different soils have very different outcomes. But here that’s not the emphasis. Instead, here the emphasis seems to be on the ignorance of the sower as to the mechanism by which his sowing operates. He can’t see, doesn’t understand, germination, or photosynthesis, or all the other incredible, miraculous processes that go into the growth of a mature plant from a tiny seed. He scatters the seed, and it grows, and he doesn’t even know how it happens; it just does.

So often, when you really listen to Jesus’ teaching, you find it runs deeply counter to the assumptions of common life, to the wisdom of the world, even to common sense. Turn the other cheek, do not resist violence, pray for those who persecute you, give to those who ask from you. Love extravagantly, even those who are hard to like. Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile.

And it’s often tempting to write Jesus’ teachings off as naïve and unrealistic, because you can’t see how they might possibly work in the real world. Won’t people just take advantage of you? Won’t you be turned into a doormat?

But the same logic might say to the sower – why throw the seed away onto the ground? Won’t the birds eat it? Won’t it rot? Sowing seed, in truth, is an act of faith – throwing grain away, in the hope that the promise of harvest will come true. Sometime in the future, perhaps after a long wait.

Is that a picture of the Kingdom of God? That we are called to the foolishness of love and forgiveness, of generosity and self giving, not because it makes sense, not because we can justify it, but despite our inability to do so. Because we believe that somewhere down the track there will be a harvest, even if we have no idea how it will work.

And then Jesus moves to another parable – the mustard seed. And, well, this is a bit strange. Why a mustard seed? Whatever the parable might say, it isn’t the smallest of seeds – though it is small – and it definitely doesn’t grow into the biggest tree. Not a tree at all, really, more of a shrub.

But worse than that – in first century Palestine, no-one in their right mind would plant a mustard seed in their field. The mustard shrub was a weed, something a farmer would rip up given the chance, but which spread into a chaotic mess and resisted efforts to remove it. It’s not something you planted; but it was something that grew, unruly, unpredictably, and stayed around however hard you tried to get rid of it.
Which is, when you think about it, an interesting image for Jesus’ kingdom: not a tall, straight oak tree. Instead, the invasive, messy, scraggly weed…

That image really brings us back to where I began, and brings our two parables together – that the Kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of Rome. Rome was the mighty tree – powerful, orderly, monolithic, hierarchical, planned, structured. The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is the weed that just keeps on appearing, no-one quite knows how, however hard the powers of Rome – the powers of the world – try to keep it down. Suppressed, oppressed, or ignored, it still appears in the cracks, forcing its way into the light.

Of course, for a great deal of history – perhaps from Constantine until, well, right up to the living memory of some of us here – the Church has been more like the tree than the weed. It’s been at the centre of life, the heart of the community, standing strong in times of hardship.

But of course, the Kingdom of God, and the Church, are not the same thing. The Church is often a vehicle of the Kingdom, but it is not the Kingdom; sometimes, indeed, the institution of the Church has been a barrier to the work of the Kingdom of God, as it is grown, tree-like, more and more difficult to distinguish from the culture around it, a culture that it has deeply influenced for the good, and yet and the same time, been influenced by.

Which is why, as we live through a time when the size and influence and prominence of the Church seems to be ever falling away, we need to hear again the words of the parables of the Kingdom of God. Of the seed that grows when it is cast aside in the act of faith – the faith that says “I don’t know how it works. I don’t know how the world gets changed, whether the Church will grow or shrink, whether my acts of love will be accepted or rejected. All I know is the promise of God – the seeds God sows, the seeds that I sow in my acts of kindness, generosity, forgiveness, love, justice – those seeds are the work of the kingdom, and like a weed, inexplicably and unpredictably, they will grow, and the birds of the air, the nations of the world, will come and take shelter in what we sow.”

Amen

Gerry Cull’s Funeral

Long time friend of St. John’s Gerry Cull died earlier this week at the Cotswolds retirement home. His memorial service will be held this coming Wednesday, at 11am, in the South Chapel of the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, followed by refreshments back at the Cotswolds.

Concert for Vanuatu

It’s not the specific project that we are supporting, but this Saturday there’s a concert in support of the Paama Seaside Presbyterian Church and School at Wesley Uniting Church, Castle Hill. Tickets are $25 with supper, and can be obtained from the Church office on 9894 8999. Radhika, one of the performers at the concert, is a good friend and an amazing singer, so it ought to be a wonderful concert….

View or download the flyer

Falling

Listen!
Genesis 3:8-15 | Mark 3:20-25
Back before Easter we took the opportunity to walk through the six days of the poem of creation told in Genesis chapter 1. The story ends, of course, with God’s declaration, looking at all that has been made, that it is “very good”.

It is the first, and the central statement of any Christian understanding of creation: God made it, and God made it good.

But of course, this description of the created world lies at odds with much of our experience of the world around us: for though there is much that remains good and beautiful, there is also much that is not – whether in the realm of human wickedness, or of natural dangers or disasters, or of sickness, injury, infirmity, disability.

It’s arguably the biggest problem that faces people of faith: how is it, that if we are loved by an all powerful God, we still face suffering.
And, despite the impression sometimes given by smug atheists who challenge believers with the problem of evil as if it were a brilliant and novel insight, I suspect it is a problem that pretty much every believer has recognised and struggled with; perhaps coming to some understanding that works for them, or perhaps naming it as something they accept, at least for now, to be a mystery.

Certainly the authors of the scriptures were well aware of the problem of evil, and wrestle with it in many different ways, the very first, and perhaps oldest, of which we encounter here in Genesis chapter 3.

And of course, being a piece of ancient Hebrew writing, there is not really any attempt to give a formal reasoned answer to the logic of the problem. Instead what we have is a story; a story which outlines the shape of the classic Hebrew (and Christian) answer to the problem of evil, but which also does more, starting to hint at our part in the problem, and God’s ultimate solution. A story told in six acts.

We don’t have the whole of the story in today’s reading, but I’m sure you all remember how it starts. God tells Adam he is free pretty much to do as he likes, with just one constraint – not to eat the fruit of a particular tree; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And I’m sure I’ve preached before now about the symbolism of the tree, and how the Hebrew understanding of knowledge as experiential gives a different meaning to “knowledge of good and evil” than we might assume.

Act one: there is temptation; a wrong which seems desirable. And the temptation is anthropomorphised in the character of the serpent, who tricks Adam and Eve. The first hint at complication in the story comes in the first words of Genesis chapter 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made – even here, as the serpent is introduced as the villain of the piece, it is also acknowledged that this villain is also part of God’s creation.

Act two, the fall, we also know well: Adam and Eve both fall to the temptation, they take the fruit, and eat it. And immediately they know that something is wrong – in the language of the story “they knew that they were naked”. Innocence lost.

Our reading today starts at the opening of the third act: hiding. For this is more or less the universal first response of anyone who realises they have done wrong: hide. Hide the evidence, hide the facts, hide yourself. Bury the truth, perhaps literally, or perhaps figuratively: bury the truth under an avalanche of misdirection, of sophistry, of noise. Get people talking about something else, anything else. Our politicians, perhaps, are the masters of this game, of shifting the question, obfuscating, delaying, waiting for attention to move on. But let’s not take the easy step of just pointing the finger at others; which of us has covered up our tracks in one way or another, knowing that what we did was wrong, but hoping that perhaps no-on will ever look closely enough to know.

The story, attributed to Conan Doyle, is probably apocryphal – but its popularity testifies to some truth that it exposes. A friend of his had often been told that there is a skeleton in the cupboard of every household, no matter how respectable that household may be; and he determined to put this opinion to a practical test. Selecting for the subject of his experiment a venerable Archdeacon of the Church, against whom the most censorious critic had never breathed a word, he went to the nearest post-office, and dispatched a telegram to the revered gentleman: ‘All is discovered! Fly at once!’ The Archdeacon disappeared, and has never been heard of since.

But of course in the story of Genesis, hiding is no use – for God calls Adam and Eve out, and questions them. And so our play moves to Act four – shifting the blame. In the cross-examination of humanity we have a response that would be farcical if it were not so true: Adam lays the blame on Eve, and Eve points in turn to the serpent – a good choice of scapegoat, for surely God would know the wickedness of the snake. If you’re going to pass the blame, it’s very important to choose a believable villain…

And yet in the shifting of blame there is also just a hint of confession – “the women who you gave to be with me (notice that subtle blaming of God?) gave it to me (and I ate)” “the serpent tricked me (and I ate)”

By the time we get to shifting the blame, we have at least realised that there is, in fact, blame to be shifted.

And that moves us into act five: consequences.

In our reading today, we heard the first of those consequences: the curse of the snake. But we know, knowing the story, that it is not just the snake, the original culprit and the final scapegoat, that carries the downside of what has happened. Both Adam and Eve are also told that they will suffer because of their choice to reject God, to know good and evil, not just as things that God has told them of, but as personal experience. In the story, the suffering of woman in childbirth, and the hardship of man in the toil of work, are both described as the consequences of this wrongdoing – as if the pain of childbirth and the weariness of a hard days work were somehow equivalent. Evidence, if we needed it, that Genesis was written by a man.

But all involved face the consequences. Including God. For God had walked with the man and the woman, but now has to send them away. God’s creation is broken, God’s stewards of creation are fallen. Perhaps God, more than anyone, faces the consequences of what happened.

But even in act five, even in the consequences of sin, we see act six – the end of the story – for act six, is hope.

For as part of the banishment of humanity, we read “the Lord God made garments and clothed them”. Even as God is acting to deal with wrong, God is also acting to protect the wrongdoer, to mitigate the consequences, to offer hope for the future.

And here, it seems to me, is the punchline of the story of the fall: that it is a story, not just of wrongdoing, and of the consequences; not just an explanation for why there is evil in the world; but an offering of hope for those live with the consequences. That at the end of the story is not just suffering, but also possibility.

But… the hope in the story is not found in the hiding, and it is not found in the shifting of blame. It is only found in the final act. And this, I suspect, is really the heart of this story. It’s not, in the end, about the problem of evil – at least not in the abstract. It’s about something much more personal – the problem of our evil. It’s about the way that we try to hide what we’ve done, and try to hide from what we have done. It’s about the way we seek to shift the blame, to make everything someone else’s fault.

And it is about the way that, in the end, hope lies, not in avoiding the consequences of our wrong decisions, our foolish actions, our arrogance, selfish, self indulgent choices; not in hiding or blame shifting; but in act six, when our wrong is laid bare before God, and we discover that there is hope. Despite everything, there is still hope.

Amen.

Burrawang Walk & Cape Baily Track, Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Saturday 20th June, 2015

IMG_0308The Cartophiles’ sixth day walk of the year takes us back to the National Heritage listed Kamay Botany Bay National Park, rich in both Aboriginal and European history to repeat a walk we did last June.

We start and finish at the Kurnell Visitor Centre and cover two walks.  First is the very easy Burrawang Walk which passes several of the area’s historic sites, including Captain Cook’s Landing Place, and includes many interpretive signs outlining the park’s cultural and natural history.

After that we’ll explore the heath and the great views along the moderate-rated Cape Baily Track between the Visitor Center and the Cape Baily Lighthouse. This walk follows a mixture of service trails, bush tracks, rock platforms and sand dunes. Hopefully we’ll once again see some migrating whales offshore.

For more information see 2015 Walk 6 (Burrawang walk & Cape Baily Track) flyer.

To register for the walk, or to get more information, contact Kit Craig at cartophiles@stjohnswahroonga.org or on
0411 507 422.

The Voice of the Lord in the Storm

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders; the LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.” – Psalm 29:3-4

This week at Kids Church we looked at Psalm 29 and talked about the power of our almighty God. We talked about things around us that were powerful – thunderstorms, earthquakes, volcanoes, and dragons (!). And then we thought about different sources of power (electricity, the sun, petrol, food). We thought about what God has done that shows us his great power (eg. created the universe, stopped the sun, raised the dead). We remembered that although God is more powerful than anything else around us, He is not destructive, he is good. And this gives us hope!

We sang a song – “My God is so Big!” and then we made megaphone to remember that the voice of the Lord is indeed powerful (Psalm 29:4).