The complexity and simplicity of Christian faith

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Dr Elizabeth McWhae

Pentecost + 3B  13-6-21: 1 Sam 15.34-16.13, Ps 2, 2 Cor 5.6-10, 14-17, Mk 4.26-34

INTRODUCTION:

As I get older I am more and more aware of the complexity and yet simplicity of our Christian faith. I hope to unpack this idea of complexity and simplicity by starting with these verses from Paul. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything else has become new!

POINT 1:

Understanding the death of Jesus is just as important as understanding his life and resurrection. His death is the pivotal connection between his life and resurrection and our lives. So what is Paul trying to say in these versus. Firstly, he is saying that the death of Jesus was a cosmic event. It was for all humanity, not just those who see themselves as Christians. ….we are convinced that one (Christ) has died for all. This means for all people of all generations and faiths and lack of faiths over all time. So salvation is not an individual event or experience, but something that is communal and universal.

Jesus did not die just for you and me but for everyone. For all people, over all time. I suspect our Western worldview has caused us to see his death through the lens of the individual, but that is not the way Paul saw things. And so he writes therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

This is where things become complex, because we all know that people in our world, and this includes us, often do not live as though they are no longer living for themselves. In fact our whole culture is pretty much averse to this sort of thinking. We are instead told to look after number one, to stand up for ourselves, to get what we deserve, or need, or  want, or what is ours. We should be aware that sometimes what we want is not about living for Christ but living for ourselves. It can be very difficult to discern what it means to live for Christ.

Paul is very clear that if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  Essentially he is saying that we are new creations, whether we realise it or not. And it was Jesus’ death that issued in this new life. It was not possible any other way. So death is the starting point for new life in Christ. The complexity here is that death may be physical or emotional, or relate to some loss. There are all sorts of deaths in our lives that are not literal.

POINT 2:

So how do we learn to live for Christ, instead of ourselves? And how do we remember that we and all people are new creations in Christ? Now do you understand why I mentioned complexity? These are really difficult concepts to apply to our lives. They sound good, but they are not easy to achieve. Just ask anyone who is suffering from depression or a catastrophic health problem or whose business is facing closure due to covid restrictions, and so on.

This is where our readings from Mark’s Gospel may be able to help. Both of the parables we heard this morning concern the kingdom of God, which I am going to call a new kingdom in Christ. Both of these parables have to do with growth of a seed. In the first parable it is a seed of grain. In the other it is a seed of mustard. Jesus says that the seed of grain mysteriously grows he does not know how. And when the grain is ripe it is harvested by God. So this parable of the grain is about the mysterious growth of the kingdom that happens because God makes it happen. Not the seed or the person, but God. And God is responsible for the harvest, nobody else. The kingdom of God grows mysteriously by the power of God and God is the harvester.

The second parable of the mustard seed, focuses upon a tiny seed which becomes a huge mustard tree. Or as Paul Kelly writes, from little things, big things grow. Jesus’ point is that the kingdom may start small but it ends up huge so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.The kingdom of God may look small, but it is far-reaching and always growing.

Both of these parables remind us that to live no longer for ourselves, but for Christ, we need to remember that this is a mysterious process that God is directing and it is a process that may appear small but is always growing and expanding.

POINT 3:

How do we practise being the new creations that Paul wants us to become and how do we see the kingdom of God at work in our world? Well, it is not always easy. But if we live by faith that we are a new creation in Christ, and so is everyone we come across, then it does deeply impact the way we see the world and our place in it and what God is up to.

How we view ourselves and how we view others determines how we live our lives, what we consider to be important, what our values are, and what sort of contribution we will make to our world.

CONCLUSION:

Paul reminds the Corinthians that they are new creations in Christ. In doing this he is also reminding us that we too are new creations in Christ. We live in a mysterious kingdom that is constantly growing and expanding by the power of God. Or as that annoying bird in the Bank SA add says: LET’S DO THIS. Let’s see ourselves as new creations in Christ, so that we can live the life God in Christ wants us to. Or as the Psalmist says Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses: but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.                   Amen.

Speaking out as sisters and brothers of Christ

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Pentecost + 2B  6-6-21 : 1 Sam 8, Ps 138, 1 Cor 4, Mk 3.20-35

Today’s Bible readings get us to think about good leadership. They help us explore the way we receive God’s leadership, and to think about what sort of people should, be leaders among us. We get a strong hint from the Psalmist: 6though the Lord is exalted, he looks upon the lowly and he comprehends the proud from afar. In other words, God comes close to the little people, but keeps the proud at a distance.

Today’s Gospel specifically warns us about bad leaders. Jesus’ family know the sort of leaders they have, and they fear for Jesus’ safety. His ministry has directly defied the authority of these leaders. His family are hearing others say that Jesus must have gone mad; and you can understand why. Vested religious and political interests are very dangerous. These people bite; witness Jesus’ arrest and execution.

Jesus’ family come and try to call him away, but too late. The scribes have already arrived from Jerusalem and taken matters into their own hands. These religious leaders hear people saying he’s out of his mind, and choose to build on that. Their tactic is slander: they publicly announce that Jesus has an unclean spirit.

Slander is utterly forbidden among God’s people. The ninth commandment says, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. The religious leaders from Jerusalem abuse their position of authority to misrepresent Jesus’ care for the sick and needy as the devil’s work; it’s malicious, lying slander. That’s bad leadership. We know slander remains a tactic that leaders still use against people who threaten their power. And it poisons any who accept them as legitimate and follow their lead.

Jesus responds very effectively to their slander with his parables of the house divided and robbers binding the strong man. His parables deftly expose the falsity of their slander.

But then his next words are terrifying. 28 ‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’30for [the scribes] had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

The scribes saw Jesus heal people and exorcise demons from them by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet they called this work of the Holy Spirit satanic. Jesus says what they have done is an eternal sin – the unforgiveable sin. I remember being terrified as a teenager that I might do this accidentally. [The story of the Methodist lay-preacher’s snowman.] But actually, committing the unforgiveable sin is not something you do by mistake. It means seeing a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, and fully in your right mind, denouncing it as evil – calling it a work of Satan. Few people will sink so far.

But when a leader is known to resort to malicious, lying slander – particularly when they recast the work of the Spirit as the work of Satan, they can poison the spirit of their community. Then someone must warn their community: name the evil and warn them; protect them from following this lead.

And that’s where we come in. We are Jesus’ family – we are sisters and brothers and mothers of Jesus. We are called to name slander for the lie it is, and protect those whom it might harm. Jesus identifies his true family as those who do the will of God, like him. That’s a call to us to be leaders like him – servant leaders. And the calling of servant leaders – from what we’ve read in the Scriptures this morning – is to heal the sick, and to deliver the weakest and most vulnerable from whatever evil oppresses them, and to do this work without fear or favour, and without expecting anything in return.

Deliver the weakest and most vulnerable from whatever oppresses them. We know who they are – they are people often slandered by false leaders: disproportionately imprisoned Aboriginal people whom our justice systems fail; victims of abuse and violation – women and children who cry out for justice, yet are slandered by those who say they were asking for it, and find themselves disbelieved by the authorities.

Others habitually slandered are refugees; the unemployed; the homeless; even the mentally ill and abandoned victims of disaster; all of them so often falsely accused – just as Jesus was. And in this week of the Tiananmen Square anniversary, yesterday’s World Environment Day, and with Reconciliation Week so recent, we see clearly on just what scale slander and denial are prepared to operate.

By naming and resisting such evil, we serve the poor and the weak. We must always remember what Jesus said, and be strengthened and convicted to speak out and to act, … “Truly I tell you, just as you [cared for / stood up for] one of the least of these … you did it to me.” Mt 25.40

By speaking out as Jesus did, by serving those he served, the Church must offer the world the type of leadership which alone heals and makes whole. This is our calling as the royal priesthood of all the baptised.                                                 Amen.

God the Most Holy Trinity – three persons yet one God

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Trinity Sunday 30-5-2021 Isa 6 1-8 Ps 29 Rom 8 12-17 Jn 3 1-17

Sisters and brothers…you didn’t receive a spirit of slavery…you’ve received a spirit of adoption. 16… that very Spirit [bears] witness with our spirit that we are children of God…joint heirs with Christ.

Paul packs a lot into a tight space, doesn’t he! Let’s unpack it slowly, and see what Paul might want to tell us on this Trinity Sunday.

There seem to me to be two layers of meaning. Firstly, there’s us on the receiving end of God’s kindness, and the implications that has for our human relationships. Then there’s God’s outreach to us which we experience as three co-operating forces acting in perfect harmony: encouragement, adoption, and incorporation into the family of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So to the first layer of meaning: the human level. Paul calls the people he’s writing to sisters and brothers. (We can safely assume he means us too.) He says their and our status in the household of faith is not that of slaves but, as the Spirit bears witness to our spirits, we are God’s children.

Just as he experiences his membership of the body of Christ, Paul is saying that the Roman Christians (and we) are free, full members of God’s household; children – siblings – in our own home. So he says we have the astonishing privilege of being joint heirs with Christ. This is about close relationship; not insiders and outsiders – no lower or upper caste; no hierarchy, but shared, intimate, equal family life.

From his own personal experience as a former persecutor of Christians, Paul knows just how astounding it is that we Christians may be described this way: as siblings, as God’s children, and as joint heirs with Christ – no matter what our background. And that adds to the wonder of what he’s saying because the Roman church was profoundly split along ethnic and social lines.

The other layer of meaning in this passage is found in the three ways God offers us this privilege of belonging in the family.

Firstly, the words ‘we are children of God’ mean God has chosen to relate to us as our parent. Our tradition has responded; we call God our Father – or our Parent – Source of our Being. Before, we related to God more as our maker and our judge. But being invited to call him Father says this Maker is more than an artisan at work; and this judge is on our side. All this transforms our relationship, both with God and with each other, to family. This is the will of the Source of our Being.

Secondly, we are named as joint heirs with Christ. Jesus is the true heir of the Father! This teaching acknowledges Christ as equal with the Father. Just as any human child shares the human nature of their parents, Christ shares fully the divine nature of the Father. And he has taught us to pray and call God our Father too. How astonishing is this privilege for us?! And there’s that family connection again – with God and with each other – through Christ. He called us by his life and ministry, his death and resurrection and ascension into this relationship.

And thirdly, the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God … joint heirs with Christ. Again, I have to say this is an astounding honour. And there it is again too – the connection is a family relationship – which Paul affirms by calling us siblings, both to himself and to each other. It’s a family relationship which he has now told us has the threefold stamp of encouragement adoption and incorporation into the family of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This has a special poignancy when we remember that Paul was writing to a divided church in Rome. As I’ve said, the Christians there were divided along ethnic and social lines, like many modern churches are. But he called them all siblings – siblings to him, to Christ, and by logical extension, siblings to each other. And he did so by asserting that this relationship was one deliberately established by God the Holy Trinity, as we’ve just seen.

Who would have imagined that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity had anything in it about breaking down ethnic and social barriers? Who would have thought that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity meant anything about our identity – about our relationships with each other – about us? But it does. Whatever our race or social standing, we’re siblings. Paul most famously spelt this out in his letter to the Galatian church 3.28 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

That rather knocks the stuffing out of racial and social prejudices, doesn’t it. Racists and snobs and misogynists are right out of touch with this ultimate reality about the way God sees us all. And it goes right back. In Genesis 1.26, we read: 26aGod said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.

Today, with our focus on God the Most Holy Trinity – three persons, yet one God – God in community, Paul teaches us that being in God’s image, after God’s likeness means being community, and so rejects forces of disunity. And it doesn’t mean a choice for slavish uniformity; it means seeking harmony in diversity.

Perhaps our musicians can demonstrate that with the notes E,G and C. Until we hear the three notes together, we don’t know what key signature we’re dealing with. Without knowing God as Trinity, we’re missing out on who God is, and who we are called to be.

Paul has just given us a lesson about God in community calling diversity into harmony. God whom we worship, God in whose image and likeness we are made – God is a community. And we discover our true selves as the image and likeness of God – in our family connection with God and with each other – in a choice to be community; family to each other.

And here we are; a community of people who are mostly not related to each other, and who probably wouldn’t know each other if it weren’t that God has adopted us all into this family. And somehow, together, we are the image and likeness of God. Our pilgrimage – our journey of faith – is to discover that, and to live it – discover who we are, why we’ve been called, and importantly, to ask What now?

Paul gives us a picture of the community of love that is God at work. We see it most clearly as an example to us in the ministry of Jesus – who is himself God. Reaching out to ex-communicated people, Jesus gathers these to himself. He incorporates them into a new family, if necessary, staring down ex-communication himself from a society which sets itself apart and keeps all the belonging to itself.

The community of love that Jesus models – and that is our calling too – is outgoing – active – notices these ex-communicated ones and includes them.

Such is our lesson this Trinity Sunday. Amen

Opening the Kingdom of God to everyone

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Pentecost  Year B – Ezek 37 Ps 104 Acts 2 John 15-16

Spirit and New Creation When you take away our breath, we die. When you send forth your Spirit, we are created, and you renew the face of the Earth. Ps 104.32 APBA

Today, as at every Whitsunday, we’re presented with a vision of the first Pentecost – new Spirit-life being poured out into our existing life; new life poured out to renew us and make this life even more abundant, more inclusive, more diverse.

Acts 2, tells us how crowds of Jews from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot – the Jewish feast we Christians call Pentecost. In the Jewish faith, Shavuot is the Spring festival, celebrating God’s gifts of the Law and the wheat harvest. It’s a celebration of God’s on-going provision to those who live in the secure haven of God’s Law. (Deut 7:12-13) It celebrates the ever-new gift of abundant life. So the crowds gathered in Jerusalem were already there to celebrate God’s abundant providence, but suddenly, even more life was poured out on them.

The immediate miracles of this story are the disciples’ sudden burst of courage and the diversity of languages. Newly leaderless fishers and farmers from the backwater of Galilee suddenly burst into the crowd proclaiming God’s deeds of power. And they do so in all the tongues of the known world, all at the same time. The crowds of faithful Jewish people had gathered from all the home-countries of those languages. That day, they were all invited to take new hold of their birthright; to embody the commissioning of Abraham and join God’s mission to bless all families of the Earth.

Before the Holy Land and its people ever existed, God had promised Abraham that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed – that Abraham and Sarah’s descendants would become the people through whom God would bless all families of the Earth with abundant, ever-new life.

Isaiah spelled out this destiny of Israel in an oracle from God: 42: 6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations … and today, here it was all happening in their sight and hearing.

The crowds listening to this multi-language sermon – the mighty deeds of God proclaimed in all their languages at the same time – all these people were being commissioned. They should each carry this gift home with them to every country they’d come from. The Jews’ time for being set apart was over. From this moment on, the Good News of God was officially launched to all families of the Earth.

The blessing is handed over, and it’s marked with fire, just as it was many centuries earlier with the burning bush Ex 3 and the pillar of fire. Ex 13 Our Paschal candle has proclaimed this for the through the Easter season. And with this blessing of holy fire came a gift of prophecy, another sign of the Spirit’s presence. Num 11.24ff Fire marked out each disciple as Spirit-filled, and the prophetic words they spoke in the tongues of every nation staked out God’s claim on the whole Earth.

That Pentecost, that Shavuot, that day, it sounds as if God cranked the amplifier and converted a solemn religious ceremony into a birthday party. The followers of Jesus became something like living, speaking birthday candles – like the burning bush, ablaze, but not consumed – speaking the very words of God to a crowd who’d never dreamt they’d hear such words spoken directly to them.

Birthday party? My dear old mentor, Brother Gilbert, used to scoff at preachers who called Pentecost the birthday of the Church. ‘Rubbish!’ he’d roar. ‘The birthday of our faith is the call of Abraham’.

He was right, of course. He always was. But I might just defy him for a moment longer. If I dared to call Pentecost a birthday, I’d have to say that Pentecost is like our twenty-first birthday – our coming of age. We were given a key that day – a key to open the Kingdom of God, but to others – to everyone.

And it’s vital that we do. All families of the Earth do know life, but do we all know it in the abundance God wants for us? What’s the Psalmist telling us? ‘God sends forth the Spirit…and the face of the Earth is renewed” 104.32 We join today with the whole Earth calling on the Spirit to come and renew the face of the Earth!  Amen.

The Ascension of our Lord

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Year B – Easter 7 – Acts 1 1-11 Ps 93 Eph 1 15-23 Mk 16 15-20

The Ascension of our Lord is one of the five great festivals in the Christian calendar. Yet it often goes almost unnoticed. It falls on a Thursday, so there’s a tendency in some traditions simply to overlook it; a sort of poor cousin, left high and dry between our celebrations of Easter and Pentecost.

In traditions which do focus on the Ascension, you’ll often see it represented in art that’s based on this morning’s reading from the book of Acts. It often shows sad-looking disciples looking up at a cloud that has a pair of feet protruding from its base. Maybe that cloud is meant to represent the one in Exodus which shrouded God by day, leading the people from Egypt. If so, it’s a powerful connection; it then makes the Ascension pictures about God leading us from slavery to freedom. But for many people, the seeming farewell focus of Ascension art seems to emphasise losing Jesus; like our extinguishing the Easter candle just now seems to as well.

That’s where I find the painting (on our service booklet) by the late Indonesian choreographer and painter Bagong Kussudiardja to be so powerful as an exposition of Christ’s Ascension. He shows with explosive energy the incarnation of God in human form taking that human form into the divine. And, according to the image our epistle and Gospel readings give us, that human form now sits at God’s right hand. So we have a human voice representing us at the throne of grace. And that also means in some mysterious way that we have divinity represented in every child of God on Earth too. We have a voice interceding for us at the throne of grace.

At this point in our nation’s history, this image, where one of us speaks on our behalf in the throne-room, is echoed for me in the Uluru Statement from the Heart; the declaration that the original custodians of this continent presented to our government in 2017. It called for an Aboriginal voice enshrined in the constitution; a voice that would speak for first peoples to our parliament.

No wonder it felt so prophetic; it was calling on our government to follow in God’s footsteps and, like Christ’s Ascension, give an oppressed, alienated people a voice in the throne-room.

The connection I see between the Statement from the Heart and the Ascension is this; Christ’s Ascension to the throne of grace where he intercedes for us signifies the arrival of the Kingdom of God for us in the form of full citizenship with all its rights and privileges. Finally, full representation, full citizenship in the here and now. And that’s what the Statement from the Heart proposes for the first-nations people of this continent – finally, full citizenship in the here and now.

I find this practical, here-and-now link with the Ascension is one which helps to broaden my understanding of our faith. And that’s a good reason for insisting on marking the feast of the Ascension today. If we’d just left it to pass silently by apart from a handful of us on Thursday – the poor cousin to Easter and Pentecost – we’d miss the perspective it gives us on the wider plan of Christ our King.

Easter speaks to us of resurrection, reconciliation, new life, and triumph over sin and death. And Pentecost speaks of our participation in the power and life of the Spirit. And they’re all central to our faith. But with these, our focus can be unwisely confined simply to the effect on us – us at the centre of everything.

Ascension widens our focus to direct our eyes to Christ and see in him our risen, ascended, glorified King. And Ascension opens our eyes to the nature of the Kingdom – to what Jesus called the weightier matters of justice, mercy and faith. Mt 23.23 Certainly, Easter and Pentecost are front and centre, but without the wider, Kingdom perspective which Ascension gives, our understanding of them is diminished.

This Kingdom perspective helps us live in the paradox of Jesus’ absence and Jesus’ presence, God’s absence and God’s presence. Jesus is no longer among us, and yet we affirm that he is with us. We can’t touch him or see him, yet we meet him physically and spiritually in each other, and in the experience of the broken bread and wine poured out. Everyday yet extraordinary – God is totally beyond us, and yet through the Ascension, more intimately connected with us than ever. That is a wider perspective, and so somehow more freeing and inviting – calling us beyond our perspectives. For me this is summed up amazingly in the prayer of the week from APBA p. 519.

O God,
you withdraw from our sight
that you may be known by our love:
help us to enter the cloud where you are hidden,
and to surrender all our certainty
to the darkness of faith
in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let’s rejoice in the Ascension. And at Pentecost, filled with the Spirit, may we feel the warmth of God’s presence, comforting and strengthening us as we live in the paradox of separation from God, us with God, and God with us. Amen.

You didn’t choose me but I chose you

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Easter 6 b  – Jn 15 9-17 Acts 10 44-48

Jesus said, You didn’t choose me but I chose you. Jn 15.16 It’s easy to lose sight of that – I/you didn’t choose him; he chose me/you. It’s quite confronting. I understand it to mean that Jesus acted to take hold of you and me before we even knew about him. It’s disconcerting enough to have our children flexing their independence and doing things without permission; it’s positively unnerving to have our God doing it too! Say goodbye to a comfortable, domesticated God!

This means that our faith is about choosing to respond to God – getting on board with initiatives that God calls us to; accepting the outstretched hand of God. It also means that if we walk out on the Church, it won’t make Jesus give up on you or me. Remember, he chose us! What we might do for Jesus won’t cause him to respond to us in love; he loves us anyway. Whatever we do, to please him or to cross him, his love for us is there. It never wavers. It’s just there; and that’s the force which can nourish and grow you and me into a people who are a blessing for the world.

Today’s reading from the book of Acts shows the earliest Church discovering that Jesus chooses people they never expected. They’re amazed; people who aren’t Jewish are given the Holy Spirit. You didn’t choose me; I chose you. We don’t often think about Jesus calling the shots; even less that he does it in such dramatic ways. We’re not used to dreams and visions and angels being part of our decision-making processes. We tend to make fun of that – to say it’s how fundamentalists think. We tend not to trust people who claim a special relationship with God.

Such misgivings can colour how we read scripture. If you take some today’s Gospel verses (10,14 & 16) out of context and read them literally, you might see a protection racket; Jesus saying something like ‘10 Do what I say, and you’ll be okay; 14 I’ll like you if you play by my rules; 16 Hang around with me, and I’ll see you do well out of it.’ Looks pretty worrying, doesn’t it. Someone who knew nothing else about Jesus, flipping open the Bible at this page, would probably balk at it. But they needn’t.

How would you help someone understand this Gospel passage? How would you open it up as good news for them? We’ve each been charged with doing just that. Personally, I usually start by looking at context. It always explains a lot.

The immediate context of this passage is the verses we read last week – I am the true vine. We’re reading through Jesus’ farewell to his disciples before he’s crucified. He’s giving them a message of a choice for love and friendship. When he talks of commandments, his command is to love like he does. And his master-servant relationship with his disciples, it’s laid aside, as he offers us his friendship.

He’s telling us about building a community of love, where the only measure of a relationship is the law of love. Keeping that law builds community that’s safe for all who belong to it, and any newcomer. We think only Jesus can create something so wonderful, yet today we hear him asking us to embody his creativity and trustworthiness. So when Jesus talks about us asking something in his name, v.16 c he trusts that we’ll ask what he’d ask – that we’ll be loving like he’s loving.

This looks back to last week when we heard Jesus tell us he’s the vine and we’re the branches. As his branches, it’s natural that we’ll genuinely express his care – particularly for the frail, the frightened and the needy. He’s chosen them. And we are his representatives, called to express his care for them.

As Christ’s branches, we are to reach out and provide hope and shelter and sweet refreshment in their season. Just as he reached out to us and grafted us onto him, we are to offer this belonging to others too – to offer without condition a connection, through Christ the vine – offer them connection with the true source their being, with a true reason for being. But like any branch, we can only draw the strength to do all of that from the vine; Jesus, the true vine.

That’s quite a bit of context, but it all helps to build bridges of unbreakable, free belonging. It helps us and all who hear this Gospel to know that his call to us, his way of love, his kindness and understanding can bring to a broken world the healing and peace of faith, hope and love – new life; true life.  Amen

I am the vine and you are the branches

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Easter 5b  I am the true vine – John 15 1-8

In John’s Gospel, when Jesus says I am the true vine, or I am the Good Shepherd, or I am the way, the truth and the life, or any of the other I am sayings, the I am part is especially significant. It’s a deliberate echo of God’s revelation of the divine Name to Moses at the burning bush Exodus 3.14I am who I am – tell the Israelites that I am has sent you. You might remember in the Good Friday Passion Gospel when soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Jesus asked them who they were looking for. When they said Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus replied literally I am, and everyone fell to the ground. The I am sayings in John’s Gospel tell us that the whole majesty and glory and love of God is present physically in this human being called Jesus.

Often, the I am sayings also make a connection between Jesus’ body and the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus referred to own body as ‘this Temple’ – a place where God is present John 2.19-22 – which was what the Temple of Jerusalem was for the Jewish people. Jesus called his followers to shift their gaze away from the Temple building, and instead turn to him.

Today’s I am statement, I am the true vine, is for us an obscure Temple reference. What does a vine have to do with the Temple? The archæological architect, Leen Ritmeyer is a world authority on the Temple of Jesus’ time. On the basis of his research, he and a colleague designed and built a scale model of the second Temple Jesus knew. Supporting its porch are four columns. Wreathed up these columns and over the porch is a huge vine, wrought out of gold; the Golden Vine of the Temple.

This vine represented Israel whom God had planted in the Holy Land. Ps 80; Hos 5; Jer 2. It graced the doorway into the Holy of Holies. And pilgrims would bring offerings of golden leaves and clusters of golden grapes to add to the Temple vine’s splendour. In the Mishnah, we read whosoever gave a leaf, or a berry, or a cluster as a freewill-offering…brought it and [the priests] hung it there”. (Middot 3.8) So to return to this morning’s Gospel reading, when Jesus said I am the true vine, he was declaring that he superseded all this in his own person. He was effectively saying, By me, by this doorway, you enter God’s presence. I am the way.

Vines have a mind of their own. Watch them grow and you see creation at work before your eyes. Little tendrils stretch out quickly, looking for the next thing to grab onto. They set the direction of growth for the rest of the vine towards the light. Plants adapt to their environments like that. They adapt and belong – they give fruit, shade, beauty, variety, oxygen – they give life. So I find it a fascinating picture Jesus gives us of ourselves, the church, as the branches. It’s an image which speaks of amazing variety; an image of life-giving providence.

The vine growing in the soil is a picture of Jesus connecting us with the source of our being. It’s an organic, reciprocal image of a church community who can grow and spread where we’re needed in order to provide nourishment, refreshment, shade and beauty. There’s a wonderful purpose to it. Christ as the vine and we as the branches says that we are called to provide for anyone who needs our fruit.

Plants can be utterly different from each other – each specially adapted to its own particular environment. So how does this speak to us – St John’s, a branch of the true vine? In Adelaide terms, we’re an ancient parish – the second oldest – and we’ve seeded other parishes in our time – parishes, a school, St John’s Youth Services, our community store. And we’ve seen significant prunings too. The world around us has changed and we’ve adapted. And Jesus still calls us to bear much fruit. We’re the latest season of branches of the true vine, called to bear much fruit.

The golden vine of the Jerusalem Temple was a sign of God’s provision, and at the same time, an emblem of the people’s gratitude. It’s a very helpful image, this link between gratitude and generosity. It characterises people who know we are loved and blessed, and feel moved to respond with love and gratitude.

But how to respond to such a gift? In my weekly, I wrote about the work of St John’s Youth Services, which is a beautiful fruit of this branch of the vine. I also wrote about some related services that serve the poorest and most vulnerable in our community – homeless people; people escaping the poison of coercive control and violence; Aboriginal people in need – all on our doorstep, many with no safe place.

It’s time to ask if the fruit we’ve been producing until now is adapted to current needs. Are we bearing enough fruit – the right variety? Are we alive to specific needs; are we willing to be pruned; to have other branches grafted in with us, or to be grafted in different places ourselves? Are we called to something new? These are things we can only discern together through prayer and listening – openly and courageously. Do we increase the ministries we’re doing to meet increased need, or add something quite new? We in Parish Council await your suggestions. Amen.

The Good Shepherd

image_pdfimage_print

Bishop Greg Thompson

The Lord is my Shepherd Psalm 23/John 10

Kriol translation of Psalm 23 and then back-translated into English.

Psalm 23 – Saam 23.

Yawei, yu jis laik det brabli gudwan stakmen. Yu oldie maindimbat mi, en ai garram ebrijing brom yu. Ai kaan wandim mowa.

Yahweh, you just like that good stockman who’s everyday thinking about me, and I get everything from you. I can’t want more.

Yu lukaftumbat mi jis laik det stakmen weya im deigim im ship olabat blanga abum spel langa kwaitwan pleis garram bigmob gras en springwoda.

You look after me just like that stockman who takes his sheep to have a break in a quiet place with lots of grass and spring water.

Ebridei yu meigim mi jidan strongbala. Yu shoum mi det raitwei blanga bulurrum, dumaji ai trastim yu neim blanga dum wanim yubin pramis.

Everyday you make me strong. You show me the right way to follow. I can trust in your name because you do what you promise.

Nomeda if ai go thru langa brabli dakbala pleis weya enijing gin meigim mi dai, bat stil ai kaan bradin dumaji yu iya garram mi olataim. Yu garram yu spiya en yu longwan stik blanga lukaftumbat mi.

No matter if I go through a really dark place where things can make me die. But still I can’t be frightened because you’re here with me all the time. You’ve got your spear and long stick with you to look after me.

Yu meigm det padi redibala blanga mi, weya main enami olabat garra luk yu welkam mi en meigim mi jidan haibala, en yu filimap main kap til im randan.

You make a party ready for me where my enemies have to watch you welcome me and sit me in the highest place and fill my cup til it runs down.

Ai sabi yu na oldie gudbala langa mi, en yu laigim mi brabliwei ebridei weya mi jidan laibala. En ai sabi ai garra jidan langa yu haus garram yu olagijawan.

I know you want good things for me and you’ll love me like that everyday I’m alive. And I know I’m going to live in your house with you forever.

 

Sermon.

As a prayer, the Psalm helps us to consider the elements of our spiritual life. A Prayer that could motivate us to be walking with Jesus as our shepherd. A prayer that attends to the challenges of our lives and the invitation to trust God.

We have used the Kriol translation – a language spoken by over 50,000 speakers in Northern Australian. The youngest language in the world as it emerged in the 20th century in Arnhem land NT flowing from the dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land. Kriol is the first Aboriginal language that has been used to translate the complete Bible in 2006 and it took over 50 years.

I wish to reflect on both the Aboriginal text and the back translation so that we may have some new perspectives within this beautiful passage. As well as gain insight in how we may read the text in our context, especially as we mark ANZAC day.

The Psalm echoes the sacred memory of God loving, calling and leading his people as the Shepherd/stockman. – it recalls all the history of God leading Moses and God’s people out of slavery, through the wilderness and into the promised. Once they were no people, now they were God’s people. God had been a shepherd to them. Jesus draws on this wonderful loving image in John 10 I am the good shepherd. The devotion, care and sacrifice of the shepherd is an intimate picture.

Kriol translators draw on the experience of their country and of the many language groups of Australian indigenous people as well as the influence of early settlers language. There are no sheep or shepherds in Arnhem land ,so they translated the Ps 23 this way ;

Yawei, yu jis laik det brabli gudwan stakmen. Yu oldie maindimbat mi, en ai garram ebrijing brom yu. Ai kaan wandim mowa.

Yahweh, you just like that good stockman who’s everyday thinking about me, and I get everything from you. I can’t want more.

Yu lukaftumbat mi jis laik det stakmen weya im deigim im ship olabat blanga abum spel langa kwaitwan pleis garram bigmob gras en springwoda.

You look after me just like that stockman who takes his sheep to have a break in a quiet place with lots of grass and spring water.

We have an invitation through this prayer to ask God to walk with us as the shepherd  stockman. The Kriol translation assists us in seeing the three places that the Good Shepherd walks with us ‘at the billabong (kwaitwan pleis )– along the track (in the darkbala pleis)- with the feast (haibala plais)’.

Kwaitwan pleis. repeated in the psalms as refuge. The place of retreat and renewal. The place where we may focus on the spirit and meaning for our lives. In the Top End it is the place for food and nourishment. We need to make space and time for such a place. Setting aside space in our church or in our homes or in our work place to pray. We see this in the pattern of Jesus. And we see this through the trauma of war.

The Top End was a battlefield from the air during WW2. After the regular bombing far and wide across the north over 250,000 troops were stationed to provide support to the islands north and to prepare for invasion.

Among the military personnel were the 31 Squadron Beaufighters based 110 km south of Darwin at Coomalie creek. The runway is still there with a number of buildings rebuilt in commemoration of the bravery and trials of this squadron.

I have led Anglican services there in the rebuilt open-sided Chapel following the original design. The original chapel was built and paid for during the war from the 31 Squadron. I had recounted to me that the squadron had raised money for a mess but because of the attacks by Japanese bombers and the danger they faced in each mission, they gave it to the Padre to erect a chapel. ANZAC Day reminds us of the need for personal and community sanctuary while we face either danger or despair.

The Psalm moves from kwaitwan pleis to darkbala pleis.

Ebridei yu meigim mi jidan strongbala. Yu shoum mi det raitwei blanga bulurrum, dumaji ai trastim yu neim blanga dum wanim yubin pramis.

Everyday you make me strong. You show me the right way to follow. I can trust in your name because you do what you promise.

Nomeda if ai go thru langa brabli dakbala pleis weya enijing gin meigim mi dai, bat stil ai kaan bradin dumaji yu iya garram mi olataim. Yu garram yu spiya en yu longwan stik blanga lukaftumbat mi.

No matter if I go through a really dark place where things can make me die. But still I can’t be frightened because you’re here with me all the time. You’ve got your spear and long stick with you to look after me.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; your rod and your staff  – they comfort me.

The shepherd stockman leads us on a track through a valley. We need the sanctuary and refuge of the spirit, and we need the track for walking with God.

In the New Testament, God sends Jesus to walk with us and to show us how to walk with God. Walking with Jesus was the school of faith. Unlike his rabbinical peers, his classroom for disciples is on the road – learning by listening, doing, reflecting and experiencing both rejection and welcome.

Our missional journey as Anglicans and your personal journey are bound up with the great journey of Jesus. And we have a history of walking through the darkbala pleis In 1908 in response to the atrocities heard during an Anglican conference in Melbourne, Bishops commissioned ABM and CMS to send a ship and a team to the Gulf. Aboriginal Christians James and Angelina Noble and Horace Reid arrived at Roper and were sent out to contact the scattered Aboriginal tribes. One of the translators of the Kriol NT was Rev Dr Joy Sandefur who pointed out to me a gorge in the hills where men would lie in wait to kill Aboriginal people as they made their way to the Roper Mission in the 1900’s. She said local elders were still calling it the ‘darkbaka pleis’ in the 1970’s.

Barnabas Roberts came into Roper mission as a little boy soon after the sanctuary of Roper Mission was established in 1908. Like many others, he and his family experienced the horrible times of family being hunted off their country. Like many other families, his was badly affected by leprosy, which claimed his first wife, Norah.

Barnabas held on to the best of his traditions, including helping to preserve the Alawa language. For many years, Barnabas worked as a stockman, and walked with a limp after an accident with a horse. This did not stop him walking long distances to tell people the good news of Jesus, something he did right up until his death. He set the pattern of going out to people in isolated camps and encouraging them to follow the ways of the Lord.

We walk in the company of these Aboriginal saints and we are invited to join the great journey in Christ.

The track through the darkbala pleis is where we learn to trust in God, to grow in faith, to move towards the destiny Christ has won for us.

As the kwaitwan pleis needs the track through the darkbala pleis, so the track leads to the haibala pleis. The place of hospitality and community and of welcome rather than judgement.

Yu meigm det padi redibala blanga mi, weya main enami olabat garra luk yu welkam mi en meigim mi jidan haibala, en yu filimap main kap til im randan.

You make a party ready for me where my enemies have to watch you welcome me and sit me in the highest place and fill my cup til it runs down.

Ai sabi yu na oldie gudbala langa mi, en yu laigim mi brabliwei ebridei weya mi jidan laibala. En ai sabi ai garra jidan langa yu haus garram yu olagijawan.

I know you want good things for me and you’ll love me like that everyday I’m alive. And I know I’m going to live in your house with you forever.

Ps 23 carries a vision of community not only of the individual and the personal bond with God. It is a catholic faith we share in, bigger than the boundaries of our personal faith, affiliations and experiences and it brings us into relationships, often not of our own choosing. It is an open community in his name that transcends culture, language, gender and status – an economy of love where the intimate bond between shepherd and sheep, between Christ and church is reflected in the relationships of a faith community.

Such bonds of love were tested when two policemen were outside St Johns Canberra church as a service proceeded in 1950, and it wasn’t for a dignitary that they were there for, but for a preacher. Before the day he preached, there were various groups bitterly opposed to what the church was doing. It was in the newspapers, letters to the Rector and Bishop and a deep concern fell on the congregation. Rallies were held in the local community to oppose the church’s action. The Rector had embarked on a public controversy and the local community was divided. The service went ahead.

The Rector was Archdeacon of Canberra the Ven Robert Davies. He had welcomed the Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in Japan, Bishop Michael Yashiro – the first Japanese to be granted an Australian visa after the Second World War to preach at St John’s at Evensong on Friday, 9 June 1950. In a spirit of contrition and repentance, before his visit to Australia, he had sent several bamboo crosses to churches associated with the martyrs. The Bishop was to go on a pilgrimage to the various parishes in Australia, particularly the home parishes of ‘the New Guinea martyrs’ – Sister May Hayman was one of those martyrs whose window is in the St John’s sanctuary. During the service Padre F. Bashford of Duntroon took part. He was a former prisoner of the Japanese. Several of Sister Hayman’s relatives were present. The bishop dedicated the small bamboo cross bearing in Japanese characters the words ‘Reconciliation and Repentance’. This service was a moving occasion with profound significance but many of the community whose members had only too recently personal experience of the horrors of the Second World War found the timing too much. In this setting, it was thought unsafe to leave the little cross in the church and it was put in Davies’ care. (from ‘Firm Still you Stand’ Alf Body). It took more than 41 years to find its place in the church in what has been called the Reconciliation and Repentance Chapel.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows

I think of this bamboo cross story between bitter enemies and of how Christ’s love and courage through individuals began a healing journey at the Shepherd’s table.

Kwaitwan pleis, the track through the darkbala pleis and the community of the haibala pleis invite us to pray Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd will walk with us and when we are too weak carry us home.

 

God is vitally engaged with us

image_pdfimage_print

Rev’d Peter Balabanski

Easter 3b  – Luke 24.36-48

You have given my heart more gladness than they have when their corn, wine and oil increase. Ps 4.7

Vicky and I have some very old cook-books and we find it a delight to browse in them during holidays. How else are you going to find out how to roast larks the Dunstable way? Or, for that matter, with today’s Gospel in mind, how are we going to broil fish? It sounds so worryingly like boiled. But, thanks to Warne’s Model Cookery of 1879, we know it’s more like ‘barbequed’, which sounds much tastier. Luke’s Gospel is full of food and drink and I find it makes its stories very memorable. Some of the most memorable sermons I’ve heard were about food.

So as you might expect there’s important food teaching for us to ponder in today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel. What we just heard happened late on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. It’s the day when two of his followers were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and they were joined by a stranger they didn’t recognise. The stranger walked with them; talked with them. But it wasn’t until this stranger broke bread with them that evening that they realised it was Jesus. Then he vanished.

These two returned immediately to Jerusalem where they found ‘the eleven’ and all the others in a state of astonishment. The risen Jesus had just appeared to Peter! “The Lord has risen indeed,” they said. The two travellers then told everyone about their experience of Jesus breaking bread with them on the road to Emmaus.

That’s where we came into the story today. And now, while they’re all talking, Jesus himself stands among them and says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them the wounds of his crucifixion and offers to let them touch him. And then, despite his having recently eaten with the two travellers, he asks them if they’ve got something to eat. Food again. They give him some grilled fish – and some of the ancient manuscripts say they also gave him a piece of honeycomb. Judg 14? Just like at Emmaus where he broke bread, here he eats with his disciples again. And by doing this, they experience Jesus as truly physically resurrected.

This is the joy we give thanks for every time we share Holy Communion together: more than an intellectual or emotional experience, this physical sharing in the broken bread and wine poured out is our experience together of Jesus physically resurrected and alive in and through us today.

It’s full of mystery, this food and the risen Jesus phenomenon in the Gospels. At first, his closest friends don’t recognise him, but then their eyes are opened when he eats with them. He’s the same person, yet somehow very different; he’s physically there, but somehow differently. In John’s gospel, we’re told that the risen Jesus gets past locked doors. And in John, as we’ve seen in Luke, he eats with his friends. Jn 21.9-10, 13 In both Gospels, at first, he’s not recognised, then suddenly he is.

Central to the Gospel message is this claim that Jesus rose from the dead physically – not as a ghost who can’t offer you wounds to touch, who can’t eat or drink with you. Jesus rose from the dead physically as a living, breathing, eating, drinking person.

It’s an enormously confronting claim; so confronting that people have tried to dilute it with theories about mass hypnosis and the gullibility of the simple Mediterranean peasant mind. They forget that Jesus’ early followers came from all walks of life, and had plenty of practical experience of the physical realities of life and death. All four gospels record that the disciples refused to believe it at first. So when Luke the physician records the conclusion of those gathered people that “the Lord has risen indeed,” it’s perfectly clear how momentous is the claim he is making.

The resurrection narrative reminds us that God always was, and still is, vitally engaged with us – the physical creation; vitally committed to our nurture and our restoration. That has serious implications for the way we treat each other and Earth. It’s something we engage with together each year now in the Season of Creation.

I’m reminded of the famous charge from St Teresa of Avila …

Christ has no body now on earth but ours,

no hands but ours, no feet but ours,

ours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth,

ours are the feet by which Christ is to go about doing good

and ours are the hands by which Christ is to bless others now.

Anyway, given today’s readings, perhaps a good start is to invite others to eat with us. It’s an option that virus closed off for a while. But why not try now – what does that Psalm say – taste and see that the Lord is good. 34.8a Let’s give it a try. You never know who we might find at the table with us.        Amen

Witnesses to the Resurrection

image_pdfimage_print

 Rev’d Susan Straub

Easter 2 Year B – Acts 4:32-37, Psalm 133, 1 John 1 1-2, 2, John 20:19-31

Children’s Talk

 When I was Priest in a country parish by the sea, there was a little boy called Selwyn.  He was bright and quick on his feet (his daddy was a national-level soccer-player).  One Sunday morning, Selwyn came confidently as usual to the altar-rail for his blessing.  He was dressed a little differently than usual, though still in his best:  he wore his Spiderman costume.   And we loved him for it!

Now Selwyn is not an uncommon name in some Pacific Islands. Many people are still thankful to the man who brought them the good news that God in Jesus is not only alive but with us; right where we are.  Not only that, but He loves us and always will. All you have to do, the man said, is believe it. It’s the Truth.  The life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Son, were evidence of the Truth of God’s love for the world, for  each one of us;  and for you.  The name of the man sent by his Church was George Selwyn, and he was the first bishop of New Zealand. (1809-1878).

Sermon

On Saturday, Easter Eve, I went for swim, instead of going as usual on   Sunday before church.  Jim, not his real name was sitting in the morning sun with a pleasant-faced Asian woman.  She could have been a recent immigrant as she didn’t seem confident about speaking English, but seemed to understand.  Jim had had orthopaedic surgery the previous week, was happy with his recovery so far, and grateful. That led to the wonders of living in Adelaide. Together we extolled its delights: from d medical science, to the space-agency, opera and high culture, sports, and our new Oval overseen by the Cathedral.  At that, Jim asked if I was taking Easter services, and as a quick aside to the woman, said, ‘Susan’s a priest’.  He then suggested my sermon should be about being thankful: for living in safety, when elsewhere in the world was suffering hugely, especially from the pandemic. Our exchange then centred on suffering and the person of Christ.  He made statements that allowed me to say that Jesus was a victim who didn’t behave like a victim;  that he didn’t repay evil with evil, but in the agony of the brutal, intentional cruelty, and humiliation of crucifixion, he said: ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’ and the evil done to him was cut off, it couldn’t continue to circulate and damage others.  The woman was looking at me intently.

John 20:19-31

Christ’s appearances and what they meant to the disciples.

Easter Day, that first Sunday after the crucifixion, John wrote that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.  In the evening of that day, Jesus came and stood among the disciples as they were together in a locked room.  He greeted them, and showed them his hands and his side.  From the marks that the disciples saw on him, there was no doubt for them that this was truly their crucified Rabbi, and if this was their crucified Rabbi standing there among them, then he had to be master over death.

So as to understand what that really meant to these disciples, we need to know how they understood the cosmos. It was heaven, earth and sheol.  Sheol was the place of the dead.  There was no concept of heaven as dwelling forever with God.  The concept of forever dwelling with God, of nothing being able to separate us from the love of God was given to us by those earliest disciples.  For one thing it meant that all that Jesus had taught them could be lived out, as Jesus himself had lived, because it was true, it was genuine, it was a way where God walked too, God walked with them.

In other words, and this is an important theme in John’s gospel, Jesus is the Truth.  God’s Word, Jesus, is the Truth.  A couple of years ago, there was an article in the Easter edition of the Weekend Australian.   Written by Brian Rayment, QC Advocate for the Newcastle Diocese, the article explored the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (the court of justice of Jesus’ people), and the trial before Pilate, the Roman governor.  The conclusion Rayment drew is that the charge brought against Jesus was probably not that of blasphemy, but of being a false prophet, a fraud, a charlatan, one about whom no-one could testify to any evidence that what he had taught and said was in any way true or subsequently borne out. This would explain, for example, why the chief priests wanted to change the inscription on the cross from:  ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ to: ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews’.  Under the first title, the King of the Jews is being crucified, under the second title, a fraud, a false prophet, a trouble-maker, is being crucified.

So when Jesus appeared to his disciples alive with the marks of crucifixion, there could be no greater testimony to the truth that God had spoken in the person and work of this man.  The disciples saw and believed this truth, Thomas touched and believed, and John wrote these things so that we may believe. What we believe is that the way of God is the way of Jesus, the Christ;  that as members of his body we live his risen life; and that in living Christ’s risen life nothing can separate us from God.  You know as well as I do, that we all share the joys and the sorrows of human life.  We have our achievements and our failures, as did the one we call Lord, but we, who believe, who have faith, even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed in a sea of doubt, have the power of life and peace, and the power to give life and peace to others.  In fact, ou faith is made complete in loving giving.

At each eucharist, we celebrate the presence of the risen Christ in our midst with the greeting of peace, the broken Christ distributed among us, with Christ alive within us, God sends us out.  Like those disciples long ago, we too leave the security of the church, the building and each other to go out into the world with the message of hope conveyed in ordinary words and actions:  Christ is risen. He walks with us. Talks with us. Shall we face welcome, hostility or indifference? Like the disciples, we learn not to be fazed by the reactions of others one way or another, some are ready or receptive and some not (God knows!).  We know that we are called and sent to show our love for God and our neighbour: to show it in the way we live, and when opportunity arises, telling the truth.  Christ is risen! There’s nothing to fear. Love is stronger than fear – the fear of being judged by someone who tells you what Christians believe and that’s why they’re not, but they’re ‘spiritual’, whatever that means! Love is stronger than fear – the fear of being condemned, whether ‘trolled’ or ‘blocked’, or our faith overlooked to make us acceptable and socially appropriate to acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours.  Love is stronger even than death, so that nothing can separate us from God’s love.  That’s the truth

You see, in the person and work of Christ, our faith deals effectively with the problem of evil, of sin both committed and suffered.  We know that it was by people of faith in Jesus Christ that Adelaide was founded and developed.  As I left Jim and the woman on Easter Eve, ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’d speak of thankfulness!’

So here’s to thankfulness for the risen life we share in Christ.  Thanks for the way of life we share in Adelaide, in Australia;  thanks for the life and work of George Augustus Selwyn, first bishop of New Zealand; and thanks for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who loved faithfully and steadfastly in war and peace, his country, our country, our commonwealth of nations, and our Queen.  May he rest in the love and peace of Christ.