St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

People’s Climate March

On Sunday November 29th, in the run up to the Paris climate talks, people from from all over Sydney will be joining the worldwide People’s climate march. The Uniting Church, along with many other denominations and faiths, is joining in this march, which will be taking place in hundreds of cities around the world, to encourage world leaders meeting in Paris to take seriously our shared responsibility for the future generations and the future of the planet.

Join us, from 1pm, in the Domain, to be part of the Syndey march.

What can I do for you?

Listen!
Psalm 34:1-8 | Mark 10:46-52
Once again, a story unfolds just as Jesus is about to leave. He and his disciples have been making their way south from the region of Galilee, where most of his ministry has taken place, heading towards Jerusalem and Jesus’ final showdown with the political and religious power of his day.

The route they would almost certainly have travelled was known as the “pilgrim’s way”; following the river system through the heart of Israel, it was a path mostly travelled by those who were making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the road Jesus would have travelled with Mary and Joseph as a child when they attended the Passover festival (you remember the story, when Jesus got left behind because he was too busy asking questions of the priests to realise his party had left town).

Jericho, famous, of course, as the site of Joshua’s great victory over the inhabitants of the land when the people of Israel first moved into what was then Canaan, was a major town or small city, one of the larger centres outside of Jerusalem. It wasn’t on the pilgrim’s way, but a short side trip; a trip Jesus clearly felt worthwhile for the opportunity to share his message with the large population of Jericho.

And though we are told nothing of his time there, by the time he was leaving, it was he, and his disciples, and a large crowd – he had clearly made something of an impact in his time there. Enough, at least, that the blind beggar who sat beside the road had heard about him, and realised that here was at least the possibility of a change.

So he calls to Jesus as he is leaving Jericho – “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And as so often seems to be the case, there are those who think he should just remain quiet, that he is not important enough to bother Jesus, that he should accept his lot; but Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He stops, and he waits for Bartimaeus to come to him, and then he asks him a very strange question.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Really Jesus?

There’s this blind man, who spends his life begging beside the road, and he’s called out “have mercy on me”. To Jesus, who is, let’s face it, famous for his healing miracles.

You’d think that Jesus might be able to figure out what Bartimaeus might be after. But he asks. “What is it that you want?”

Many years ago, when I was a PhD student in Oxford, I remember and evening when I’d gone into the town to meet up with some friends. I was early, and as I waited a guy who was obviously living rough approached me and started to tell me his story. It was the classic sob story – he’d been saving up the little cash he got from benefits and occasional casual work to afford the train fare to another town where he had friends, but without an address he couldn’t get a bank account, so had to keep cash, and his savings had been stolen and he was starting again from nothing, and so on… As he told his story I saw the friends I was meeting had arrived, and were sort of lurking, waiting for me to finish.

So, as politely as I could, I interrupted his story, and said something like “look, I don’t have a lot of cash on me, but I can give you a few quid to help out”.
I’ll never forget his reply, as, for the first time in the conversation he looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t want you to give me money. I just wanted you to hear my story.”

I thought I knew what he wanted. I thought his whole story was at best embellished, at worst entirely created to elicit my sympathy. I figured I could discharge my duty as I saw it by giving him a few pounds from my limited, but honestly, more than adequate, student income.

It never even occurred to me that I might ask the question that Jesus asked Bartimaeus: “what do you want me to do for you?”

I just assumed I knew.

And here’s the thing – Jesus was a better judge of character than I am (file that under “great understatements of our time”). But however obvious it might have been what Bartimaeus wanted – or needed – Jesus refused to assume.

Because what I did for that man on the street, when I concluded that I knew what he wanted, what he needed, was to declare his opinions, his thoughts, irrelevant. To assume that I knew better than he did what was good for him. To declare that our relative statuses – my relative wealth and independence, his relative poverty and dependence – gave me the ability – the right – to make decisions for him.

Whereas Jesus, even though I am certain he knew what Bartimaeus was going to ask, refused to make that assumption. He gave Bartimaeus the respect of asking him, not telling him, what he needed.

Over the years I believe that the Church – especially in it’s missionary endeavours – and the wealthy communities of the western world – especially in their charitable work – have often been guilty, with the best possible intentions, of making the same mistake as I made with that man on the street in Oxford: assuming that our position of wealth – whether it be the spiritual wealth of having become inheritors of the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, or the more literal financial wealth of being a developed nation, or a wealthy community – gives us the wisdom, the knowledge, the understanding, to know what other people, other communities want or need.

We see it in the history of the stolen generations; where of course many, many Europeans acted with the best of intentions, and of course, there were stories that ended well; but the whole endeavour was poisoned by the European assumption that we, advanced white people, knew what they needed.

And sadly the attitude persists today in programs such as income control, which can be powerfully effective when chosen by the community as part of a solution to their own problems, but are almost universally destructive when imposed by governments of all political stripes who think they know best. Because whatever good might be in them is overwhelmed by the negative of disempowerment, of assuming that we know what “they” want or need.

And of course a great deal of international development has suffered from the same failing; western experts exporting western solutions to “those poor natives”.

Today we’ve taken up a collection for our work with the Vanuatu Literacy project. And one of the reasons that we’ve chosen to support this project, and the work of UnitingWorld in general is their policy, arising from both good modern development practice and from the wisdom of the gospel, of working exclusively through local indigenous partners. Not telling those partners what they need to do – offering support and training, yes, but insisting that the direction and aims of the project arise from the local community; from their needs, their knowledge of their context, their understanding of what will make a difference.

Greeting the blind man not with the “hey, I know what I can do for you!” which immediately places them in the position of disempowered recipient of the benevolence of their patron, but with the question “what is it that you would like me to do for you?” Words which inspired the faith to ask, and in turn, made everything different.

Amen

Freedom – resources

Here are some ways to follow up on today’s sermon for Freedom Sunday:

Here are some more suggested by Rob Ferguson

Freedom

Listen!
Psalm 82:1-4 | Luke 10:25-37
The Holy Man meditating in his cave opened his eyes to discover an unexpected visitor sitting there before him – the Abbot of a well-known monastery. “What is it you seek?” asked the Holy Man.

The Abbot recounted his tale. At one time his monastery had been famous throughout the western world. But hard times had come on the monastery. There were only a handful of monks left and these went about their duties with heavy hearts.

“Is this because of some sin of ours?” questioned the Abbot.

“Yes,” said the Holy Man. “A sin of ignorance. One of your number is the Messiah in disguise and you have failed to recognize him.” Having said that the Holy Man closed his eyes and returned to his meditation.

The Abbot thought about this on his return to the monastery. The Messiah – the Messiah himself – had returned to earth. How was it he had failed to recognize him? And who could it be? Brother Cook? Brother Treasurer? Brother Prior? No, not he; he had too many defects. But then, the Holy Man had said he was in disguise. Could those defects be one of his disguises? And one of them had to be the Messiah!

Back in the monastery, he assembled the monks and told them what he had discovered. They looked at one another in disbelief. The Messiah? Here? Incredible! But he was supposed to be here in disguise. One thing was certain – if the Messiah was there in disguise, they would not recognize him.

So they took to treating everyone with respect and consideration. “You never know,” they said to themselves when they dealt with one another, “maybe this is the one.” The result of this was that the atmosphere in the monastery became vibrant with joy and kindness. Soon dozens of aspirants were seeking admission to the order – and once again the church echoed with the holy and joyful chant of monks who were aglow with the spirit of love.

In our series of Lenten movies last year, we watch “Amazing Grace”, the story of William Wilberforce and his lifelong campaign, inspired by his faith, to bring an end to the evil of slavery – a campaign which ended with the abolition of the slave trade, and eventually the outlawing of slavery in the British Empire. Slavery is now illegal in every country in the world.

But for all the successes of Wilberforce and his allies, there are more people living in slavery today than at any time in history – estimates range from 20 to 30 million people, three quarters of them female, half of them children.
And this isn’t slavery by some woolly liberal definition; these are the estimates of the United Nations, the CIA, British foreign office. Somewhere between 20 and 30 million people who have no freedom of movement, no choice in their work, no income from their work, treated as a resource to be exploited. Around 5 million women and girls living in forced prostitution; a similar number of children sold into domestic labour or as workers in cocoa or cotton industries; or forced into service as child soldiers in one of the many conflicts around the world.

And while the majority of those in slavery live in the poorer nations of the world, slavery exists even in wealthy democracies – the British Home Office estimates that at least 10,000 people live in forced labour or forced prostitution in the UK. And while good estimates for Australia are hard to come by, there is no reason to assume that we are free of the problem.

And the trade in people – human trafficking, the buying and selling of people (mostly women and girls) is now the second biggest illegal trade in the world – smaller only than the trade in illicit drug trades, bigger than the illegal arms trade – around $40 billion dollars a year is spent buying and selling people.

it’s hard to imagine that there is any trade more unambiguously contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This weekend is being marked by Churches, Mosques and Synagogues around the world as “Freedom Sunday” – a day of raising awareness and encouraging people of faith to take action in the face of this worldwide evil. Our reading from Luke today reminds us – as if we really needed to be reminded – of the gospel imperative to treat others as neighbours even if, as was the case for the Jewish victim and his Samaritan helper, you come from different cultures, different faiths, different countries.

Earlier this year I told the story of the Good Samaritan to the scripture classes at WPS. And one of the things I then asked the children to wonder about is how the story would look if all the people involved were children. And I don’t know it happened, but with, I think it was year three, suddenly the students had changed the story into one set in the playground – a story of bullying, and of people deciding whether, as bystanders, they would have the courage, the conviction, and the compassion, to get involved, to stand up for the child being bullied.

It was an amazing discussion, because it captured the truth at the core of the story of the Good Samaritan; that it is a story about the bystanders. The real villains of the piece, in a sense, are the robbers – but that’s not where the focus, the contrast lies. Because Jesus wasn’t speaking to teach people “don’t rob travellers” – he was teaching “don’t walk by on the other side of the road”.

Of course, the trouble with modern slavery is that, for most of us, it is invisible to. We don’t walk by on the other side of the road, because we don’t walk the same roads as the victims. But we are still bystanders – we are still neighbours, by the only definition that matters.

But there is nothing more depressing – or for that matter, disempowering – than to hear about a problem and have no idea what can be done about it. When most of us will never meet a young girl forced into prostitution, a boy working all hours in the cocoa plantations denied an education, a women serving in indentured labour in a garment factory.
Of course we can support those charities and NGOs that work to rescue victims of slavery and prevent people from falling victim in the first place – the Not for Sale campaign, International Justice Mission, or our own UnitingWorld (I’ll make a list of some of the organisations, tools, and websites I mention available in the next week or two). And we can use our voices in a democracy to make our national response a higher priority to all parties (and let me give a shout out to our local member Paul Fletcher here, who has always responded positively to issues that I’ve raised with him, even if we may not entirely agree on our politics).

But perhaps the most powerful thing we can do is to use our power as consumers. There are two major industries in Australia where we can make a difference.

One is clothing – to buy from labels and shops that ensure the workforce who make our clothes pay a fair wage and meet minimum working conditions. It’s not also easy to know – but the “Shop Ethical” consumer guide, website and smartphone app are rich sources of information. Again, details to follow!

And the other is the cash crops – tea, coffee, and perhaps most of all, chocolate. Forced labour, especially child labour, in plantations is one of the largest forms of slavery outside the sex industry. And fortunately there are now plenty of fair trade options available – look out for the blue and green fairtrade mark, which is well administered and a reliable indication that a brand meets internationally recognised standards.

Most of us here today would go to great lengths to help a friend, a neighbour, even a member of our wider community – indeed, many of us here today do so, in a wide range of ways.

Perhaps the challenge for us in the gospel today is to seek ways that we can work for the good of those of our neighbours that we will never meet.

And fortunately, at least to make a start, it’s not so hard to make a difference.

Amen.

Annual General Meeting

The congregational AGM will be on Sunday November 22nd, after Church. If you are responsible for an activity at St. John’s, please try to let Sandra have a report by November 8th!

Congregational Advent Lunch

For the third year – so now it’s a tradition – on the first Sunday in advent we’ll be having a congregational lunch after Church. So put November 29th in your diary!

(Update – this event has been postponed to the new year…)

Melchizedek

Listen!
Hebrews 5:1-10 | Mark 10:35-45
Good old Melchizedek. Don’t you just love him.

His name occurs ten times in the Bible – eight of them in the book of Hebrews, of which we had the first two in today’s reading. Then there is one reference in the book of Psalms (which is where the quote used the Hebrews passage comes from), and one verse in the book of Genesis. Basically, if the author of the letter to the Hebrews hadn’t decided that he was important, he would have remained one of the most obscure figures in the whole of the Bible, a walk on part in a story that none of us ever read, known only to those who specialise in really obscure Biblical trivia. Generally only preached about by ministers who have lost a bet.

So who was he? Anyone? Let me tell you the story…

Back in the days of Abram (who would become Abraham, but this was much earlier in his life than that), Abram’s nephew Lot, who lived in the city of Sodom, had been taken captive in one of those battles between minor kings that seemed to define the social structure of the period. Abram had taken all his men – three hundred of them – and given chase, routed the other mob, and reclaimed all the people and goods stolen.

Returning whence he came, the King of Sodom came out to meet him, and when they met, they were joined by King Melchizedek of Salem, who was “priest of God most high”. And Melchizedek blessed Abram; and Abram gave him a tithe – one tenth of all that he had taken, before returning the rest (refusing even a reward) to the King of Sodom.

And that’s it.

That is the whole of the story of Melchizedek.

So how is it that he somehow takes on new life in the writing of the book of Hebrews? Why does the author describe Jesus as being “a high Priest of the order of Melchizedek”?

I guess there are three things about Melchizedek (apart from the fact that his name is just really fun to say) – they’re there in the story, but maybe not totally obvious.

The first, is that he is there as a priest of the most high God before there is any such thing. God hasn’t called a people yet – just Abram and Sarai. There’s no religious system, certainly no Temple. Moses and Aaron and the priesthood lie hundreds of years in the future. But here he is: Priest of the most high God. A priest existing outside of, beyond, perhaps, religious structures and ecclesiastical hierarchies; a priest who even the father of the nations gives tribute to.

Perhaps that’s a hint at why Melchizedek is seen as a type, an echo in advance, of Jesus.

Priest, and King. Another oddity, in a culture in which formal political and religious leadership have always been kept apart in an ancient version of the separation of powers; in the Kingdom of Israel the priests of God not only were not political leaders, they couldn’t even own their own land – they were not even kings of their own back yard. But King Melchizedek is the Priest of the most high God.

Priest and King, in the story of the people of God, will not come together again until Jesus is given those names in the early Church – indeed, in this letter to the Hebrews.

And just one more thing about Melchizedek; he is the king of Salem. “Salem”, as in “Jerusalem”. Salem, in Hebrew, means, simply, “peace”. In more modern Hebrew, you would say “Shalom” – or in Arabic “Salaam”. Melchizedek is, literally, “King of Peace and Priest of the Most High God”. Perhaps the echoes of Jesus become clearer still.

Oh, and if you were wondering “Jeru”, as in “Jerusalem”, means “teaching of” – so Jerusalem means “the teaching of peace”. Ironic, really, given the history of the place…

So this obscure figure, who enters into the narrative of the people of God only for a moment, nonetheless manages to take on an importance far beyond that of many who might have seemed, on the surface, far more influential, far more involved, far more committed.

In the economy of God it’s not always the most obvious people that are the most important.

A point that seems to have eluded James and John. They also seem to have failed to grasp another key truth, identified by the author of the letter to the Hebrews: “one does not presume to take honour, but takes it only when called by God”. James and John are fairly sure that there is honour due to them (for they were, after all, amongst the first of Jesus’ disciples, and they were very much in the inner circle, along with Peter). And they know that there is a kingdom coming; Jesus speaks of little else. And where there is a Kingdom, and a King, there are positions of authority and honour and power to be filled – surely, positions that will be filled by those who have been loyal and close followers of Jesus throughout.

We often portray the disciples as well meaning, well intentioned, often slow to learn, but always listening, a little, well, bumbling at times. With the exception of Judas (and maybe sometimes Peter) I think we also probably tend to think of them as a whole, as a group, as if they just went around together like a happy family.

But what we see in this story is a much more human image: James and John as men with ambition, manoeuvring for positions in the cabinet; the rest of the disciples angry when they find that this has been happening behind their backs.

But, Jesus tells them, that is not the way of his Kingdom. That, he suggests, with cutting sarcasm, that is the way Gentiles behave. The way people who know no better act. The way people who are not the people of God order their lives.

But it is not so among you. Not even “it shouldn’t be like that”. Jesus’ declaration is absolute. It is not like that among you.

Those who are great are not the ones who lord it over others. That might make them feel great, might make them look great, might even make people think that they are great. But they are not great.

The ones who are great are the ones who don’t think they are. The ones who serve. The ones who follow the example of Jesus, and give themselves for others. They might be also happen to be people with authority, with influence; they might also happen to be famous; they might also happen to be powerful.

But equally – or perhaps more – likely, they won’t. In his allegory of Heaven and Hell, The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis describes seeing a woman in heaven so obviously important and valued and recognised that he assumes it to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. But when he asks “is that… is it… her?” his guide replies “It’s someone ye’ll never of heard of. Her name was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green”

“She seems to be… well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.”

So if those who are great are those who serve, I wonder who are the great ones in your life, in your experience. And I wonder when you are at your greatest…

Amen.

The Rich Man and Jesus

Listen!
Hebrews 4:12-16 | Mark 10:17-31
King David was a billionaire by today’s standards, and his son Solomon richer still. Abraham’s faithfulness to God was marked by great wealth, and even the story of Job ends with his loyalty being rewarded by giving him double – 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels. The Temple was built from the finest of materials, the most expensive woods and cut stone and gems and silver and gold. While there were exceptions, of course, the basic rule was that wealth was a sign of God’s approval.

So the rich man who runs up to Jesus just as he is about to leave on a journey (and I wonder if that itself isn’t interesting – the man has waited until Jesus is just about to leave before approaching him – was he too busy with his business to find time for Jesus until he realised the chance was about to pass?) was a man who could clearly be seen to be blessed by God. He would be welcomed at Synagogue and Temple alike, invited to all the best parties, listened to with respect. Everything and everyone around him would have reinforced the message – “you are one of the good ones. God has given you much”.

But as Jesus is about to leave he overcomes whatever it was that held him back and ran to fall at his feet. A rich man, at the feet of an itinerant preacher with no wealth, no resources, no home even except what others shared with him. Perhaps it took the idea that Jesus would be gone to make the man realise there was something he needed to know, a question he needed to ask.

Because whatever anyone else said to him, he knew that there had to be something more. He had everything that everyone said mattered, but there was something missing.

“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“You know the commandments,” Jesus replies, and then lists them for him.

Except that he doesn’t.

There are a couple of strange things about the list of commandments that Jesus offers in his response. The first, and perhaps most striking is that of the ten commandments – the Decalogue – that formed the heart of the Jewish law, he Jesus only names six. He leaves out the first four – the ones which are primarily about God – worship no other Gods, make no idols, do not take my name in vain, honour the Sabbath.

Perhaps because these commands were really reflected in the religious life of the community more than in the lives of individuals.

Or perhaps because Jesus knew that these more religious commands were not going to present a problem to a respectable, upstanding member of society.

Or perhaps because Jesus wanted to make a point: that though the man came asking a question that was ostensibly about God, the answer lay not in his relationship with God, but in the way that he dealt with those around him.

For whatever reason, Jesus named the six other commandments, the ones more explicitly about how we treat one another.

Except, again, he didn’t.

I don’t know if you noticed, but five of the six commandments that Jesus recites are basically taken straight from the Decalogue. But one is changed. The tenth commandment – “you shall not covet what belongs to your neighbour”” is replaced with “you shall not cheat your neighbour”.

Now I don’t believe for a moment that Jesus didn’t know the commandments, or made a mistake reciting them. It seems as if instead he has subtly twisted the commandment in the same way that the rich man had reinterpreted it within his own life. As if to say – these are the commandments that you are living by – can you see what is wrong?

By the end of the story we know that the rich man not only has wealth, but that he is very attached to it. He is attracted to wealth, he seeks it, he has acquired it, he wishes to hold on to it. This being so, there is no way that he could ever truly say that he had kept the commandment never to covet that which belongs to someone else; for covet he has.

No, he has done what we so easily do – he has reinterpreted the commandments, replaced the one that would convict him with one that he can obey. He has been honest. He has not cheated, not defrauded. His wealth is fairly gained, through the hard work of his hands and his mind, and no doubt a fair slice of good fortune.

He is probably someone we would respect – someone we would welcome as a member of the St. John’s community. Not at all like that tax collector, Zacchaeus, for instance…

Perhaps there is a hint of puzzlement in the man’s voice as he replies to Jesus – “I’ve always kept those commands”. Was he looking for Jesus to validate him, to tell him “in that case, you’re fine”? Or was there a genuine seeking here – as if to say “but it feels like there ought to be something more. I might seem to have everything, but something is missing”

For Jesus looks at him, and loves him, and continues.

It’s a strange little phrase, thrown in there “Jesus looked at him with love”. Isn’t that something we kind of just assume about Jesus – that his dealings with them are motivated by love? Perhaps Mark includes it here to remind his reader that whatever it looks like, what Jesus is about to do, to say, is an act of love.

“There is one thing…. sell your stuff. Give to the poor. And follow me.”

The love that told the rich man what he needed to hear, and not what he wanted to hear.

In our reading from the letter to the Hebrews we read “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are”. I don’t think I realised quite as clearly what that means until I read it in the context of the story of the rich man, and Jesus’ words to him.

That Jesus can speak hard words to the rich man as an act of love because he knows what it is like.

C.S. Lewis once said that he felt he had no right to comment on the sin of another when that sin was one to which he felt no temptation; Jesus can speak to the rich man words which are both challenge and love because he does understand what it is like.

And understanding what it is like, he also knows what is needed. It’s like the recovering alcoholic who can speak to someone drinking their life away and tell them what to do with an authority that those of us who have never felt the visceral lure of substance abuse cannot have.

Jesus can speak these words to the rich man because he understands that his addiction, his weakness, is his wealth; he can name the problem, push the man to accept that there is a problem, a show him the way forwards. The way back to real life – eternal life, where eternal is not so much about quantity as it is about quality.

This was the big thing for this man. This was the commandment that he had rephrased, to allow him to justify himself. This was the barrier that needed to be breached. And Jesus loved him enough to tell him what he had to do.

And the man was shocked and went away grieving. What did he do next, though? We don’t get told. Did he grieve his wealth as he gave it away, or did he grieve his life as he continued to hold on to the thing that held on to him? We don’t know. Because in the end this isn’t a story about this man. It is a story about everyone.

Wealth, and the lure of wealth, was his thing. It may be yours, or mine. Or it may not. But I suspect that each of us have things in our lives where we know that somehow, subtly, we have changed the rules, the standards, to accommodate the behaviour that we want to be allowed to live by.

And Jesus looks at us and loves us, and challenges us to take the first step of solving any problem: the step of admitting that the problem exists.

He looks and loves us and speaks words which, in the wise saying of an old friend of mine, don’t make you feel bad, but make you feel as if you could be good.

And often those words, if we are ready to hear them, shock us and grieve us, for they tell us that we must be ready to give up something that we think we love, think we want, think we need, but know somewhere deep within is really hurting us.

I wonder, if you or I fell at Jesus’ feet and asked him what was in our way, what would he say?

I suspect you know, for yourself. And if you don’t, I suggest you ask.

Amen.

President’s Syrian Appeal

Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church, recently circulated the letter below to congregations. I’ve also received an update from UnitingCare in which they expressed their thanks to all who have offered temporary accommodation. Due to the particular needs of those who have recently escaped a war zone, however, those arriving from Syria will be provided with appropriate accommodation and specialist services, some of which the Uniting Church will be providing through UnitingCare.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Like all of you I have been shocked and moved in recent weeks by the plight of those fleeing Syria and Iraq.

The personal tragedies and struggles we see in the nightly news are heart breaking. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. The scale of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring is truly overwhelming.

Every day thousands of people are seeking refuge with little other than the clothes on their backs.

They join more than four million who’ve fled this conflict in the last four years.

As we observe from a distance, we must remember that God values every human life. We mourn every life lost and pray for those who are suffering.

Along with your prayers I ask that you do what you can to support. As Australians we are blessed to live in a prosperous country relatively free of armed conflict.

If you are able, please share of God’s abundance by giving generously to the Uniting Church Syrian Refugee Appeal.

Donations can be made online at www.shareappeal.org.au or over the telephone 1800 668 426