St. John's Uniting Church Wahroonga

Worship

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Psalm 8 | Luke 19:28-40
I wonder if it ever occurred to you that what you are doing, here, today, is representing a rock? If you were silent, the stones would shout out.
This Sunday we’re taking a short breather from the E100 series of readings – next week we’ll start down the final straight, reading the story of the teaching and development of the early Church. But today we’re taking a brief excursus – to explore one aspect of what it means to worship.

Those of you who have listened to me week in and week out over the past few years will have heard me say things like “Sunday worship is the pit-stop, not the race”, you’ll have heard me make the case that what we do when we gather together on Sundays is to do with recharging our hearts and souls and minds in order that we might live as worshipping people throughout the week, beyond these walls, in our work and families and communities. That the work of the Church, the work of the people of God, does not occur on Sunday morning, but throughout the rest of life: that as a people redeemed by God, restored in relationship with God and creation and one another, we are be living agents of that restoration, that reconciliation, out in the world.

And I do believe that is true: that this time of coming together for Christian worship is essentially something that is for us. Something that we need. Something that gives us what we need to live Christian lives. The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

I believe that is true. But it’s not the whole of the story. Continue reading

Oetapo Casserole Dinner

Our main annual fundraiser for Oetapo school is coming up – the casserole dinner will be on 22nd September. This is always a fun evening of food and friendship for a fantastic cause (gotta love alliteration). 7pm in the upper hall, get your tickets from Annie Loxton!

Year of the Lord’s Favour

Isaiah 61:1-4 | Luke 1:46-55A couple of Sundays ago, the first Sunday of advent, we talked about waiting; about how the history of the people of God seems to have featured a great deal of waiting for some promise that God had made.

And of course, advent is traditionally a time of waiting. But perhaps we might take a step back and ask – waiting for what?

Our reading from Isaiah today is one we often hear at Christmas. It’s perhaps best known because it is the passage that Jesus read in Nazareth, on the Sabbath, in the Synagogue, near the start of his ministry. If you remember that story, from Luke Chapter 4, you’ll recall that Jesus read the opening words of Isaiah 61, and then declared “today this scripture has been fulfilled”, claiming it for himself and for the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. That’s got to be good, right? Continue reading

Too small a calling

Isaiah 49:5-7 | John 1:35-42

Looked at the right way, John the Baptist had been something of a success. I’m not sure that there is a formal performance review for the role of ‘slightly eccentric prophet’, but if there were I’m guessing that the key performance indicators would include things like clarity of message (‘repent and be baptised’ – pretty good), geographical scope of appeal (excellent; the people came from all over Judea), short term impact (lots of baptisms), long term impact (maybe a bit early to tell whether lives were being changed, but initial signs are good), and of course, team building (tricky, when the job involves living in the wilderness and eating locusts, but none the less, he’d managed to recruit at least a few disciples.)

If you picture John as a Church, we’d have to say he was doing pretty well. Lots of attendees, crowds listening to him preach, and loads of people responding to his message and getting baptised. If he’d taken up a collection I’m sure he’d have found he had plenty of resources to pay for the building upkeep, employ the youth worker, cover administrative expenses. Continue reading

Write it down

And now for something completely different.

Most weeks, when I get up to speak, I come seeking to do what preachers throughout the generations have done; to take the words of scripture and find in and through them words of God for today; words of inspiration, words of comfort; words of the Kingdom. I come with the hope that what I have to say will be relevant to us, here in Wahroonga in 2010, in a different way each week; but the question I try to answer is always the same – what does this part of our story say to us?

This week, that’s not happening. My words today are not an attempt to make any sort of sense or relevance out of the passages of scripture we have heard read. They are inspired by a few words in the text, but no more than that.

Call it an aberration, or an indulgence; normal service will be resumed next week. Probably.

But as I pondered the Old testament reading, one phrase, six words, stood out for me: “write the vision, make it plain”. Continue reading

Wise investment

Hebrews 13:1-6 | Luke 14:1,7-14

When I first visited Australia, a little over twenty years ago, a good friend took me aside to explain to me how the idea of class worked differently in the various Australian state capitals. She summed it up for me like this: in Adelaide, what matters is what Church you go to – and which pew you sit in. In Melbourne, it’s who your parents were, who you’re related to. In Sydney, she said, it’s how much money you make.

Now I don’t know how true that was, or is – but I do know that every human society (and for that matter, many animal groups) has ways of establishing rank, of determining the pecking order.

“Pecking order” indeed – for of course food and drink often play significant parts in the social processes by which we establish and recognize status. What and where you eat matters; but most important of all is who you eat with. Sureka and I remember all too well, in the run up to our wedding, the hours we spent wrestling with the seating plan; trying to work out who could sit with whom, who would be offended if someone else was closer to the top table than them, whether a second cousin outranked a close family friend… and I still wince at the one or two terrible misjudgments we made. Continue reading

Oetapó Casserole Dinner

On Saturday September 11th there will be casserole dinner at St. John’s to raise funds for the Oetapó school in East Timor. Bring friends to make up a table of 8, or buy a ticket to join a Church Family Table. Tickets are $30 for a selection of casseroles, desert and tea/coffee. Contact Annie Loxton or Patricia Daly or email oetapo@stjohnswahroonga.org for more information or to buy a ticket.

Taking it for granted

The human mind is an amazingly flexible and adaptive thing. A child born anywhere in the world, anytime in history, starts with basically the same brain, but within a few years that child will be hugely different, depending upon where and when they are. They will have learned a language, a lost the ability to distinguish between sounds not used in their mother tongue. Depending upon their culture they may have learned to swim like a fish, or to track or hunt, or to ride a bike or a horse, to find food in the desert or jungle, or use an ipod and a laptop. They will have developed skills, abilities and attitudes shaped by their environment, by their culture. This flexibility, pretty much unique in the animal kingdom, is what has allowed a single species to flourish in the arctic circle and the deserts of Africa, in small nomadic societies and international cities.

But this flexibility comes at cost: the cost of thinking that our experiences are ordinary; that life the way we experience it is the normal way for life to be. Our minds are flexible: they adapt to our experiences, and use them to define what the world is like. Whatever consistently is, to the human mind, is normal.

Or, in simpler terms: we have a very strong tendency to take life as we experience it for granted. Continue reading