All posts by Judy

Clearly reflect God’s grace and Christ’s self-giving love.

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Transfiguration – Last Sunday after Epiphany – Ex 34, Ps 99, 2 Cor 3, Lk 9

Imagine looking into a mirror and seeing an image of yourself that’s much lovelier than you expect. You look more whole; more alive; more at peace; more joyful; more kind. The mirror shows you the person you know you can be. And then imagine, that, as you watch, you start to change – you start to become like that wonderful person you see in the mirror. We heard Paul describe this today as something quite real. 2 Cor 3.18 we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become more like God. The Message

Transfigured – we saw it happen today to Moses, his face alight, shining with God’s reflected glory. And far more wonderfully, we saw it in Jesus today – but his light wasn’t reflected: Jesus’ light came from within him. The Gospels are all about Jesus. But they’re also given to change us.

Jesus’ transfiguration is meant to show us what God intends for us too: we are to be transfigured. Day by day, we are to become clearer mirrors of God’s love and joy and peace and beauty. We’ll learn more about that progression between now and Pentecost. The great light we see revealed in Jesus’ transfiguration will become the incandescent fire inspiring the disciples at Pentecost. So it’s meant for us too.

But it’s a daunting journey from Transfiguration to Pentecost. Good Friday, Easter, and Christ’s Ascension are inescapable way-points. What encouragement can I offer, that we might willingly travel this road together with our Lord? Thomas Traherne, a seventeenth-century spiritual writer wrote this: … as a mirror returneth the very self-same beams it receiveth from the Sun, so the Soul returneth those beams of love that shine upon it from God. For as a looking-glass is nothing in comparison of the world, yet containeth all the world in it, and seems a real fountain of those beams which flow from it, so the Soul is nothing in respect of God, yet all Eternity is contained in it, and it is the real fountain of that Love that proceedeth from it. Centuries of Meditations C4.84

This Wednesday, we will enter the season of Lent – the season of preparation. We are called to risk it: to voluntarily embark on this journey of transfiguration: called to look in a mirror, see in it the person of Christ. We are the community called to clearly reflect God’s grace and Christ’s self-giving love. That’s the call, and by God’s grace and because of Jesus, we will! Amen

A Prayer for Ukraine


Father God, King of all nations, we cry out to you now for the people of Ukraine. We ask you to rescue those who are vulnerable from the hands of their enemies that they may live without fear before you all their days [Luke 1:74-75].

Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Lord of lords and Prince of peace, our politicians are predicting the biggest war in Europe since 1945, and we simply cry out to you urgently to write another story in our time. Thwart the dark machinations of evil people. Give wisdom beyond human wisdom to peacemakers seeking an equitable and less violent way. May politicians exercise the wisdom from above, which is peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, and full of mercy [James 3:17].

Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.


Holy Spirit, we pray for the church in Ukraine, a nation in which 70% of the population call themselves Christian. Give our many brothers and sisters in that nation courage in this crisis that they may proclaim the good news of your kingdom, bind up broken hearts, and bring comfort to all who mourn. [Isaiah 61:1-2].

Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

You Lord, make wars cease to the end of the earth; you break bows, shatter spears, and burn shields with fire [Psalm 46:9]. And so we ask you now to save the lives of many people in Ukraine. Make a peace that is strong and not weak. De-escalate this crisis. We hear of wars and rumours of wars (Matt. 24:6], but you Lord are our rock, our fortress and our deliverer. Our hope is in you. And so we address the nations now. In the name of Jesus we say: “Be still and know God! He is exalted among the nations; he shall be exalted in the earth [Psalm 46:10].

Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Meet wrong with grace, and respond to injury with forgiveness

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Epiphany + 7C – Gen 45 3-15, Ps 37 1-11, 1st Cor 15 35-50, Lk 6 27-38

Forgiveness – mercy: we’ve seen a life-giving example of this in the past week. A young driver was in court this week for driving through a give-way sign and hitting another car with a young family in it. One of her passengers – a teenage only child – was killed, and the driver of the other car is unable to face driving any more.

But mercy, not blame, was offered by the mother of the dead young woman. After saying how her family had been mentally destroyed by the death of their daughter, the mother told the woman on trial something quite amazing: I want you to overcome what has happened and to grow and achieve as I know that’s what our daughter would want you to do. And she was also offered forgiveness by the driver of the other car. He gave a moving victim impact statement, and then turning to her, said: I can’t imagine your position, but I can extend our forgiveness. Some choices in life have severe consequences, but nothing is too great for forgiveness. The people she’d hurt so dreadfully, to whom she was so shockingly in debt, chose to set her free; to give her a new chance at life. What might she make of such a gift?

In today’s scriptures, we see this mercy at work too. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery years earlier. Today we see him in a position of total power over them, yet rather than seeking the satisfaction of revenge, he chooses to forgive them. He chooses to give them a new chance at life – and through them, a faith-life-trajectory is set in train that we can trace directly to our gathering here.

I think it’s only with stories like these in mind – that remind us we are a community of the forgiven – reconnected to life over and over again by the free gift of mercy and forgiveness – only with this in mind can we receive the astonishing challenge of today’s gospel. We are to make the move from being the ones who have been given a new chance at life through Jesus – to make the move to become people who can choose to give this new chance at life to others who are in desperate need of it.

We can be like that mother, like the driver of that other car – we can be like Joseph. If we are deeply injured and wronged by others – even by those who are supposed to be our closest family – even so we are challenged to see God’s purpose to set other sinners free, to reconnect the lost to the community – to the family – and to collaborate with God in that great liberation project which we call salvation history.

Where we have the power to do so, we are called to meet wrong with grace, to respond to injury with forgiveness – with the gift of a new chance at life. Doing this sets the perpetrator of the wrong free – if they choose to accept that freedom. But it sets us free too; it undoes the bonds of injury which bind them to us. God’s will is always to offer a new chance at life. Can we join in that great work?    Amen

Good, transformational behaviour starts with us all

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Epiphany + 6C – Jer 17 5-10 Ps 1 Lk 6 17-26

I had an important conversation this week with a friend who laments the way we want to have good behaviour legislated rather than simply expecting it of ourselves and each other. This desire for legislation seems to arise from an us-and-them mentality – that we need laws to make them more decent. But today’s scriptures make it clear that an us-and-them perspective is not helpful. As my friend put it, they teach that good, transformational behaviour starts with us – all of us.

In today’s gospel Jesus doesn’t just talk to one type of person and ignore the others. There’s no us-and-them; no goodies and baddies. There’re just different sides of the same people; all of us. Jesus’ blessing sayings are addressed to you and me, but so are all his corresponding woe sayings. It’s not as though the crowd listening to him changes from one saying to the next. We’re told that Jesus looked up at his disciples and said the blessing sayings and the woe sayings to them. We hear them as his words to us. Jesus is talking to us; people who are sometimes blessed, but who sometimes need challenging; the same sort of disciples we’ve always been; a mixed bunch of people who get the message one minute, but we’re deaf the next.

Jeremiah and the psalmist sing from the same song-sheet as Jesus. And there’s a pair of images each of them sets beside their blessing and woe statements. It’s the image of us by a stream of living water which strengthens and protects us as we seek God’s way, but finds us lost in a hot dry desert when we go it alone.

Our way has been modelled by Jesus – like him, we are to imitate God; to be kind, honest, humble, welcoming, accepting, compassionate, generous. When we follow this way, then Jeremiah and the Psalmist would say our community is like a stream of living water – poured out to refresh all of us, and all whose lives we touch.

Jesus went out to people – regardless of ethnicity, gender, propriety, religion or social standing – caring first, and dealing with explanations later. That’s the model he’s given us, and now it’s our turn. Now we are the bearers of his Gospel of new life in the clear stream of God’s love for all. We are the channel through whom the stream of living water flows. May God give us grace to open up unreservedly to the gift of this new life, and to hand it on authentically to coming generations. Amen.

When God calls, say yes and step forward

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Epiphany + 5 – Isa 6, Ps 138, 1 Cor 15, Lk 5

Would a divine experience scare you, or would you feel uplifted and transformed – that now you can do extraordinary things. Ps138.3 At a time when I called to you, you gave me answer: and put new strength within my soul. I hope you would feel uplifted, because a divine encounter often amounts to a tap on the shoulder. … Like Isaiah and Simon Peter, you’re called – you particularly, and not so much to a particular task as to a completely new life.

Today, we heard about God’s call to Isaiah, and Jesus’ call to Simon Peter. Both felt completely unsuited to their call: Isaiah – I’m ‘a man of unclean lips’, and Simon; ‘leave me for I’m a sinner’. Each has a vision of God, and each feels scared, inadequate and unworthy. But as Paul says in 1 Cor 15, self-reliance is not a true measuring stick. 10I worked harder than any … though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

So we’ve just seen Isaiah called to the life of a prophet, and Simon Peter sent out to the life of an evangelist. They’re callings which come both from within them, and from without; they were the ones singled out; specifically they the called.

Neither Isaiah nor Peter ended up having a life you’d call a party, but a life filled with purpose, challenge, seeing lives transformed, and the world turned upside down – I doubt they’d have swapped it for anything.

When we know this universe has a loving, enabling God, life is different; we don’t judge ourselves the same way. Isaiah and Peter found themselves in the presence of the divine and automatically thought of themselves as unworthy. But that wasn’t God’s view of Isaiah – or Jesus’ view of Peter; and ultimately, learning on the job, their understanding changed too. God is more broad-minded that we imagine.

So does God want something from you and me? I think the answer is yes. God wants us to see ourselves differently; positively.

An experience of the divine – a clear call – is for many people and congregations unique. Or maybe there’ll be two moments in life when we are offered ourselves; offered a new way of seeing who we are and who we’re called to be. The thing we learn from today’s scriptures is that, in a choice between our own self-judgement and God’s love for us, God is right. So when God calls, we must remember that. Say yes, and step forward into the adventure that only this lifetime can know. Amen.

Handing over the light of faith

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Lk 2.22-40

The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple. … But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? The Lord that Simeon and Anna were waiting for sounds frightening. Who’d have thought it would just be a baby; a child that humble parents brought to present to God in the Temple?

Candlemas, forty days after the Church celebrates Christmas, is when we hear Luke remind us of two Jewish customs. First, for forty days after a Hebrew woman gave birth to a boy, she was viewed as being ritually unclean. After that time, Jewish Law (Lev 12) required her to present an offering for her purification.

The other custom looked back to the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt. In Exodus 13, it says that all the firstborn of the Hebrews were to be especially dedicated to God. But as ‘ordained’ service came to be something only tribe of Levi did, the law was relaxed so parents of other tribes could ‘redeem’ their children. They went to the Temple to make an offering which ritually bought back their firstborn from God.

So today, Luke shows the Holy Family coming to the temple for purification and for a type of ritual hand-over. And it’s this theme of hand-over that I want us to think about this morning. It becomes very poignant in our story as two very old people, Simeon and Anna come on stage. They came for a hand-over of their own.

Simeon and the prophet Anna had lived very long lives of faithful service to God. As prophets do, they sensed what God was doing. God was handing over the Glory that had dwelt in the temple, and entrusting it to a six-week old baby; Jesus, who would shine with that glory for all the world to see.

For Simeon and for Anna, this was at once a moment of exultation and of release. They could let go; they could die in peace; somebody else could carry the load now. The Song of Simeon’s is called the night-prayer of his life and remains the Church’s night-prayer of handing over to God the troubles of each day. So we sang the evening hymn – Hail gladdening light – to herald the Gospel today. We also recite the Song of Simeon at the end funerals, over the graves of our loved ones. It’s a song of loving hope.

Our own church embodies everything we read in this story. We have faithful seers and servants who have been holding on to faith here for a very long time. You have received the faith from your forebears, and by God’s grace, have borne the light aloft in the Church for many years. The younger ones who now share the burden with you faithful mothers and fathers of our church must hold the light aloft in a different world. Today, they pray Simeon’s song together with you. We all make it a prayer for ourselves – a thanksgiving for God’s fulfilled promises to us, and a prayer which asks that when we hand over the light of faith to those who come after us, we might hand it over to people who’ve been enabled to hold it; people enabled, by God’s grace, to hold aloft the light of faith in a world where deep shadows still threaten. This is our Candlemas prayer. Amen

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!  

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent 3 – Zeph 3 Isa 12 Phil 4 Luke 3

We’ve just heard Zephaniah preaching to a people who faced imminent disaster. Soon, their city would be destroyed and almost everyone carted off into slavery far away. Yet Zephaniah’s message is one of rejoicing; of rescue – particularly for the disabled and for refugees. Their day will come in God’s good providence. We also heard Paul write from prison to a community that was struggling with envy, rivalry and selfish ambition; yet his message is to rejoice! And I preach under the combined shadows of pandemic and ecological threat. Rejoice? Yes!

Today is Gaudete Sunday – Rejoicing Sunday. Advent 3 always has readings about rejoicing, and they’re always ambiguous, like today. We’re at the half-way mark in a season of penitence and preparation, and in its wisdom, the Church has decided that we need encouragement, not rebuke. And come to think of it, I doubt that we’d move forward well as a parish if I got up like John the Baptist this morning and called us all a brood of vipers.

No; our readings tell me to proclaim that God’s purpose is to rescue all who suffer. Zephaniah proclaims God’s preferential option for the disabled and the refugee. John the Baptist proclaims God’s advocacy for the hungry and naked, and for anyone who’s been cheated or bullied. And that is Good News for most of the world; that is the Missio Dei – God’s charge to us to work together in a movement that strives to end the dominance of greed – to end the culture of only looking after number one. The Good News on this Rejoicing Sunday is that acts of kindness and love are inspired by God who came to dwell among us as the Christ-child; Christ who dwells within us and who’s coming again. Our kindness and compassion are signs that God is with us; God is within us and amongst us.

By God’s grace, our small acts of gentleness – a tiny gift of hope, a cheering song of joy have the power of the butterfly effect. We can unleash a transforming storm of joy and courage and hope through the grace and love of God working with our little offerings. What a difference God’s grace can make; what a cause for joy. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!    Amen.

God’s hand draws us back through life-giving water to healing hope and wholeness.

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent 2 C – Malachi 3 1-4, Luke 1 68-79, 3 1-6

Advent is our season of getting ready for Jesus to come to us; Jesus the child of Bethlehem; Jesus universal judge and Saviour, coming at the day of reckoning; the day of Jesus Christ. The Hebrew prophets said it’s a day we’d have to prepare for if there was going to be anything left of us afterwards; we’d be like metal in a refiner’s crucible being purified; and as the planet heats up, we can’t but suspect that Malachi was somewhat on the money. But did Malachi expect what did happen? There wasn’t fire; there was water.

Malachi said God would send a messenger to prepare us for that fearful day. We believe John the Baptist was that messenger. He came to prepare people to meet Jesus. People went out to John to be purified; to receive his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of their sins. John exercised this ministry in a very significant place. He called people down into a most hostile wilderness – the region around the Jordan River; a searing desert where it seldom rains. Its desiccation and lifelessness was a picture of the spiritual state of their lives, and called them to do something about it.

John called people down to the Jordan. They couldn’t miss the fact that they were going in the opposite direction to their ancestors who’d crossed the Jordan into a new life in the Promised Land. John called people back down to remember the vows sealed between God and their forbears – promises they’d betrayed time and again. In this special place, and filled with those associations, John recalled the people to their truth and washed their lies away. Then he turned/repented them; or as his father Zechariah sang, he gave God’s people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

They discovered the tender compassion of our God. That’s something I think of when I recall the choice of the Jordan as the place of John’s ministry. Down there, the Jordan is the only source of life. Like the Jordan in the desert, God comes to us in the low, dry places of our lives. God flows down to be with us in these places. John’s baptism was one of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But the forgiveness was already there. The call was to turn around and bathe in it not fire, but water. It was and always is there and waiting.

God offers us healing of our depression and dryness – offers to drown it for us in a river that brings life and hope. God sends it to flow down into our desert. God’s hand is already stretched out to rescue us from that deep dry place; God’s hand is held out to draw everyone back through life-giving water to healing hope and wholeness. And in this season of Advent, the question is, Will we take this hand?     Amen.

Love / joy/ peace is flowing like a river, flowing out through you and me, flowing out into the desert, setting all God’s children free.

Prepare to stand before Jesus and meet his gaze

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Advent Sunday C – Jrm 33 14-16, Ps 25 1-10, 1 Thess 3 9-13, Lk 21 25-38

A brief homily.

I can hardly think of an Advent Sunday where the Gospel cry for justice and grace has spoken more plainly to this world. Those apocalyptic images from the Gospel – 25…on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People…fainting from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world – it seems no exaggeration to imagine that this time is upon us. You may disagree.

But people hear this message quite differently from each other. Think of how these Gospel images have been heard in Pacific island churches earlier this morning; or how Jeremiah’s promise of justice and righteousness is heard among peoples excluded from our rich-nations club. The islanders are living the environmental apocalypse right now. And they and others in the ‘developing world’ are living the Covid apocalypse without access to enough vaccine for their people while we muse about booster shots.

The islanders bore the prophetic cry for justice to COP-26, but they were met with obdurate rejection by our nation and many others. Can we hear the cry to God from today’s Psalm as they would have heard it a few hours ago; 2 God, let none who wait for you be put to shame: but let those that break faith be confounded and gain nothing. They must place their trust in the one who is coming, because the world has broken faith with them. And we are part of that world which has broken faith.

Advent Sunday begins the season when we get ourselves ready for Jesus to come; get ourselves fit to stand before Jesus and meet his gaze. Are we ready? This is not about individual, personal piety or anything so banal. The readiness in question means making sure that we as a church are hearing the Gospel, living it and in a voice that won’t be ignored, proclaiming to power the Gospel cry for justice and grace for the least of Christ’s children.

I get letters from charities which ask me to direct the church’s charity to oppressed Christians in other countries. I feel uneasy that Christians are singled out as the only ones we should be helping. Jesus made no such faith distinctions. It seems to me that we as a church – a rich church in a rich economy – that we should be very obviously doing the Gospel work of living and proclaiming good news to the poor, bringing release to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and setting the oppressed free. Lk 4.18

It’s a huge task, but whether we make big inroads or small steps on this journey, that is most definitely the road we must be travelling when he comes to meet us.  Amen

Welcome the Reign of Christ here and in our own hearts.

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Christ the King / Reign of Christ B – 2 Sam 23 1-7, Ps 132 1-12, Rev 1 4B-8, Jn 18 33-37

If you haven’t read the Harry Potter books yet, you’re missing out on one of the great English-language Christian epics of the past century. The central setting in the stories is the British boarding school for witchcraft and wizardry, Hogwarts. The Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, has a particular gift for making his school one where the most unlikely people can have a place to call home. There are several incompetent staff and some very unpleasant members of the community, some quite psychotic. Yet they all remain unquestionably part of the community. Dumbledore resists all efforts by people to have any of these troubled ones ejected from the community. In time, their true gifts and qualities are revealed, and Dumbledore’s bewildering loyalty to them is vindicated.

It’s an image of the Reign of Christ as it might be on Earth. The reign of Christ is not a democracy, but it’s a community where every individual is accorded the courtesy and presumption of belonging; a community where lasting judgement is suspended in favour of patience and mercy. It’s no utopia; humans are human; people get hurt; people are ill-treated and misunderstood by one another. But no-one is outside as far as Jesus is concerned; and anyone who tries to give that impression doesn’t understand the way things work in the Realm of Christ.

It’s very appropriate that we’ll hold the annual general meeting of St John’s Youth Services on this Christ the King Sunday. St John’s Youth Services is an organisation whose reason for existing is to proclaim by word and deed that every young person is worth believing in, and to see that every young person might safely call somewhere home. It’s an ethos that springs directly from the values of the Reign of Christ. Jesus has a very special care for young people; a particular concern that they should never stumble into a barrier that suggests they don’t have a place of their own; a particular concern that they encounter his care for them as a gateway to abundant life.

St John’s Youth Services sprang from this parish – its basic ethos expresses the values that the people of this parish share with the whole Christian community. We seek to embody the Reign of Christ by asserting that everyone belongs under the protection of Jesus. We try to do this because Jesus wants us to go out of our way to make sure everyone does belong.

A lot of us people have trouble belonging in the wider world because of where we come from – what race or country or educational background we come from, what emotional baggage we bring with us.

But in Christian communities, living under the reign of Jesus, we seek to live the fundamental truth that he wants us all to know we belong. We might have trouble belonging in the wider world, because of our age, or because we’re too sick, or we’re a bit different. But in this and in any Christian community, we seek to live the truth that Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus is King here; Jesus is in charge – and he’s not someone who’s influenced by bigotry or jealousy or ambition or rivalry or selfishness or concern with prestige. He calls his communities to be places where everyone is safe from those poisons.

It’s something that’s learned slowly – this belonging; something that has to be passed down the generations; something that has to become quite natural. We need to pray that anyone who encounters this belonging among the community of Christ will be protected from our sharp edges – they’ll always be there – sharp edges caused by our own frailties and insecurities. But then Jesus experienced them from us too. Today’s gospel reading has him on trial precisely because of those insecurities and frailties in his community.

I believe we’ve been offered a vision today which can help us welcome the Reign of Christ in this place and in our own hearts. Everyone has an image of the effect a true leader can have. God gave King David just such a vision on his death bed; a true, Godly leader – One who rules over people justly, ruling in reverence for God, 4 is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land. 2 Sam 23.3-4

Can people in this community experience such contentment – as though we arrive to the light of morning, … the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land .

On this Christ the King Sunday, I pray for a communal vision that we and all who come to this, or any Christian community, are always greeted by Christ’s blessing, and always feel at home and at one in this place of frailty, contentment, struggle and love.   Amen