18th Sunday after Pentecost – The Certainties of Life

Heart and MindIn his great work, “Heart and Mind: The Four-Gospel Journey for Radical Transformation”, Alexander Shaia draws our attention to the idea that Mark, in writing to the Christians in Rome, had a singular message for them – that Jesus could show them how to find their way through suffering.  With this as a lens through which to read each of the episodes in Mark’s Gospel, new insights can be gained.
In Mark 9 the story of Jesus’ transfiguration is followed immediately by a miracle story – a boy has an evil spirit cast out from him – and then Jesus speaks to his disciples about the inevitable suffering that is waiting for him in Jerusalem.  It was natural for his disciples, after seeing Jesus demonstrate powers that could heal and evict demons, to think that he could avoid these sufferings by the use of some divine power.  But Jesus says there can be no turning away from these things.
There are times in our lives when sufferings come our way.  It seems impossible to avoid them and although we might pray to God that there be another way ahead, the sufferings come.  Mark has a message of hope for us in the middle of this.  The hope lies in the fact that God never leaves us alone in the suffering.  Indeed, we can look to the experience of Jesus and see that we have him as our understanding companion through the suffering.  It doesn’t take the pain away, or the grief.  It doesn’t diminish the sense of betrayal that might be part of the story we weave about it.  But it does mean we are not alone.
Please join us for worship this week at 9am and 11am.  
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16th Sunday after Pentecost – Doing Justice

Most of us carry around within our heads the idea that life should be morally explainable – i.e. the good succeed and the wicked are punished.  We find these sentiments over and over in our Biblical texts.  It is a sad fact of our contemporary life that most people view life this way – and from this, we get the idea of the “undeserving poor”; the marginalised in our society who have not prospered and whom we assume have suffered in this way as a result of bad choices they have made, thus disqualifying them from our charity.

Yet, when we give this little assumption even a small amount of thought we realise that life is not like that – bad things happen to good people and the wicked seem so often to prosper.

So, how are we to make sense of all this?

Doing JusticeThe selected readings for this Sunday implicitly urge us to be more concerned with the doing of good that lamenting the prosperity of the wicked.  No matter what might happen to us, if we focus our attention on doing good to others then we will be doing as God desires irrespective of the degree to which our life manifests the rewards people regard as signs of success.

And the doing of good is something that should be offered to all, not just to those in our own circles or society whom we regard as like us.  The gospel selection from Mark 7 makes that clear as Jesus takes the blessings of good outside the boundaries of Israel to a Syrophoenician Woman and a man from the region of the Decapolis.

Please join us this Sunday, 9th September at 9am or 11am as we share in worship and consider these things.

9th Sunday after Pentecost – Jesus, the Face of God

As we wind up this chapter about Interpreting the Old Testament in Hardin’s book “The Jesus Driven Life” we are invited to carefully consider how Jesus and the early Christian writers saw God in their interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures or what we call The Old Testament.
Janus 2This becomes a key for us in our time with which to decide how to interpret the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.  There can be no doubt that if you try to find out what God is like by just reading those texts you will end up with a two-faced God; a Janus-type God who is contradictory – loving and vindictive; shepherd of the sheep and violent judge.  This is because the Hebrew writers of these texts were unwittingly influenced by the pagan world around them.  They interpreted the signs of God in terms of the world as they knew it.
It would be misleading if we used the revelation of God in the Hebrew Scriptures as the starting point for a discussion of what Jesus shows us about God.  Rather, we must look at these things from the other direction.  Jesus, as God’s revelation of God’s self to humanity, shows us what we need to understand about God and so when we read those Hebrew stories we need to see how they line up alongside the God revealed in Jesus.
Jesus himself and early Christian writers picked up on three key themes in such a way that Hardin concludes this chapter by saying: “Jesus is the human personification of God’s Wisdom, God’s Instruction, God’s Message.  The apostolic church certainly thought it so as we saw in the Christ hymns of the New Testament.”
Out starting point for understanding what God is like is and must always be Jesus.
Please join us this Sunday, 22nd July at 9am and 11am to explore this theme.

PLEASE NOTE

Through August the editor of this page is unavailable to keep it up to date for you.  Services through that month will continue according to our usual schedule.  On Sunday, August 5th we will meet at 10am only and will be blessed by the ministry of the Rev’d Jeni Goring, a chaplain with Amana Living, through the rest of August we will meet at 9am and 11am on Sundays with a special guest Deputationist, David Greef on Sunday 19th August who will speak to us about the work of the Church Missionary Society.

8th Sunday after Pentecost – Old Ways, New Ways

Old ways selfieI saw a photo the other day of a woman holding up a landline telephone handpiece as if she was taking a “selfie” of herself and her daughter.  Technology has taken us places so quickly that it is a bit of a shock to be reminded of what it was like when we only had the OLD WAYS of doing things.  Even Facebook is less than 12 years old – and I can remember what life was like without it.
Some of the changes we have noticed in our lifetimes have been detrimental – making life more stressful or complex – but many of the changes have been for the better.
In our Christian tradition, we have a single word to declare that the whole world has changed for the better – the GOSPEL.  A strange word, yes, because it is meaningless in itself, but its translated meaning is GOOD NEWS.  The coming of Jesus is Good News because it has changed everything once and for all.
Under the OLD WAYS, our relationship with God, our ability to be accepted by God has been totally dependent on what we do.  This developed into a system of rules and regulations, laws and by-laws that needed to be kept in order to maintain a clean record – which no-one was ever able to do.
In Jesus, God said enough was enough.  God realised that we were doomed if our acceptance by God was dependant on what we did to keep the law.  God also realised that we were so precious to God that he could not conceive a future in which we were not accepted by him.  This would only be possible if God chose to forgive us our failures – which the teaching of Jesus says that God chose to do.  Thus, under the NEW WAYS, our relationship with God is totally dependant on what God chooses to do.  This is truly GOOD NEWS.
This Sunday, 15th July our regular preachers are away on a retreat but please come and enjoy our services led by the Rev’d Elizabeth Pemberton, chaplain at John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School.  Usual services are at 9am and 11am.

7th Sunday after Pentecost – Mountain Tops

In this third section of Old Testament Scriptures to reflect on Michael Hardin suggests that Isaiah 53 represents a mountain-top experience for both Israel and our Study of the Jesus-Driven Life.
Nuba MountainsThe words of the prophet were born out of the Exile experience of the People of Israel through which they learned some very important things about their God.  They learned that their identity as God’s People was no longer dependent on the Temple nor on the nation-state represented by the Monarchy.  There very real experience in Babylon demonstrated beyond all doubt that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was able to be with them wherever they were.
What they also discovered was that this very real experience of God was born out of the most hopeless situation they had ever experienced.  They as a people had suffered every hardship possible for a people to experience – and still, they could claim that their God would save them.
It is not surprising that the early Christians, and the later ones, would see in this chapter images that lined up with their understanding of the experience of Jesus and indeed themselves in their early days as a Christian community.  These radical images turn the religious world upside down – because God is with us here at the bottom of the heap of human experience.
Join us this Sunday 8th July at 9am and 11am.

6th Sunday after Pentecost – Persistent Faith

Our Gospel reading this week has two stories interwoven in a way that only Mark does – a story about a religious leader asking Jesus to heal his daughter and a story about a woman too ashamed to ask by nevertheless trusting that even just touching Jesus’ cloak would heal her.
As with all good stories, there are many layers of meaning that we can take away from reading them.  Let me draw your attention to just a few that cannot be overlooked.
Jesus-healer
Jairus was a religious leader who, remarkably, did not see Jesus as an enemy.  His approach to Jesus in this public way might have shocked some – but he is certain that Jesus can help him – heal his daughter of her illness – and Jesus does even more than he could have hoped for.
The unnamed woman is also worthy of remark.  Her illness meant she was always ritually unclean and as such she was untouchable.  Yet Jesus reaches out to her, not in condemnation after she touches him, but in grace and hope.
By telling these stories as he does, Mark is reminding us that the marginalised have a conspicuous place in the realisation of God’s Reign
We meet only at 10am this Sunday, 1st July.  The meeting will be followed by our Annual General Meeting of parishioners.

5th Sunday after Pentecost – The Psalms

Apart from our liturgical reading of the Psalms as selected for us by the Lectionary each week many of us rarely read the Psalms as we might other parts of the Bible.
The Psalms
As we consider these texts this week, we will be looking for the different voices.  There are Psalms in the Voice of King David or the people in adoration of the King.  There are Psalms that lift the voices of the people in praise of God and give high and mighty praise for the Torah and the Law.  And there are Psalms that reflect the wisdom traditions of the Ancients.
But there is a group of nearly 20 Psalms that offer us a different voice – the voice of a victim.  Some call them Laments, others call them Imprecatory Psalms.  In these Psalms, we read again and again of the injustice inflicted upon the victim and of them crying for justice in return, sometimes even fierce retribution – how often have you looked away yourself when you run up against the final words of Psalm 137?
This week we will consider how we can make sense of these Psalms by looking at how Jesus made sense of certain Psalms he is recorded as referring to.  Join us for worship this Sunday, 24th June at 9am or 11am.