Easter 6

One of our goals as Alstonville Anglicans is ministry to families with a focus on children, youth, and young adults. To this end we have developed Messy Church, a fresh
expression of worship that creates a safe space for people who haven’t grown up in church to experience faith. Messy Church is a great entry point into a life of faith, but how do we further develop our discipleship of the young? Among many other tools, I have found that “Godly Play” is a wonderful gift to deepen faith. Our sacred space
embodies this Godly play. Over the coming weeks, I share some thoughts and experiences about how Godly Play is used in many of our worship services.
Foremost, our approach is that children, youth, and families already have an experience of the Divine.  What they may lack is the language to describe and deepen these experiences. Thus, our approach is not about filling them with information about God, but to experience God and reflect on that experience themselves. Story is a foundational way to experience God. Story is the most elemental way of knowing. In Godly Play, we enter into story with as much presence and attention as we can, and discover something new.
Godly play is centred on story and in entering story we play with the hide-and-seek God, a God whose presence is always accessible, but also always
elusive. Stories cannot be caught, they catch us. I invite you to enter into our sacred space and prayerfully gaze on and play with our Godly Play
equipment, which is now a rich aspect of our liturgical life as
Alstonville Anglicans.

 John 14: 23-29
23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

 

Easter 5

Judith Mason, a contemporary African
artist, exhibited a major retrospective at the Johannesburg art museum in about 2008, before her death in 2016. I have a distinct memory of how her art changed me, turning me inside out, leaving me dizzy and nauseous. Her works haunted by dreams for weeks afterwards, while a new and emerging consciousness was painfully shedding the skin of the old. Have you ever wandered through an art exhibition where what you saw truly changed the way you view the world? Art can do that, in picture and in words. The book of Revelation is a highly symbolic work of art. Through the word symbols one’s imagination can be transformed so listeners
respond to the world in a new way.  In Revelation 21, the invitation is to begin reordering our lives, and our world, and our minds, and families, and our time, so that it begins to resemble the New Jerusalem. For
example,  the new Jerusalem has no temple because God is everywhere, how am I living in the world in such a way that I acknowledge the
presence of God in everything around me, in the people I meet, in the
creation I encounter? In the New Jerusalem there are leaves for the
healing of the nations, how am I an agent of  healing and transformation?

John 13: 31-35
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

 

 

Easter 4

Some of you may have met by dog Bella, a Bichon Frise. While we lived in Albany WA, Bella and I would often go for a run along the esplanade. On one occasion I reached the end of the esplanade and realised she wasn’t with me. Bella often draws attention due to her fluffy grooming; I spotted her quite a distance away enjoying affection and treats from coffee shop customers. I whistled for Bella, her ears pricked up, then ignoring the offers of food or friendliness, she ran the famous Bichon dash until she reached me.
I often think of this experience when I read John 10.22-30: “My sheep
listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Like Bella who knows my whistle and can hear it from far away and ignore other distractions, we too instinctively know Creator God’s voice. I am the true home for Bella, not the coffee shop customers who are enticed by her powder puff fluffiness. Creator God is our true source of living the Good Life, ignoring the clutter of voices that shout for attention we too respond to the whistle of our Good Shepherd and come bounding home to the true source of our identity.

 John 10: 22-30

22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.30 The Father and I are one.”

 

Easter 3

Often when the Gospel of John is heard two themes are emphasised: the question Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?” and the task to “Feed God’s Sheep.”

There is an important theme that must not be overlooked: the image of Jesus cooking breakfast for his disciples on the beach.  Before God sends us, God feeds us, nourishes us and loves us into loving.

How do we, our families and our communities live the Resurrection dream?  We are fed into it!  We are loved into loving!


Jesus is on the beach preparing a meal.  We are loved and graced into being Christ for others.  Allowing God to meet us at our point of need and allowing God’s grace to meet our families at our point of need is the Good News.

May God’s grace nourish you at your point of deepest need.

May God’s love, love you into loving.

 John 21:1–19 (NRSV)

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. 9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Easter 2

We gather with the disciples in an upper room, behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews. The fear of the Jews pervades the
Gospel of John. The Resurrection has been seen moments ago. Yet the followers of God are not yet Easter people. That moment will come, but it is not yet. Jesus appears among them, breathes on them and says receives the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the first born of the new creation, is so filled with the Holy Spirit, the presence of Love, God’s presence, that Jesus becomes a source of God’s presence for others. Jesus then breathes on us his
followers, filling us with holy breath, and sends us out as apostles, to live as Resurrection People, Easter people, who are so filled with the presence of God that we become a source of that presence for others.

It is a relief to know that the disciples are given the gift of God’s presence while behind locked doors, while it is evening and while fear of the Jews is the atmosphere. There is no ordered-ness about their lives; there is no deep manifestation of faith, just darkness, fear and locked doors. Jesus
appears within their place of fear and breathes on them the holy spirit and commissions them as apostles.

 John 20:19-31

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
The Holy Thursday Revolution

I want to talk tonight about the Holy Thursday Revolution that Alstonville Anglicans experienced moments ago.

This is what John 13 is about, revolution.

It is a very difficult revolution to achieve because what is undone is our very selves, our view of the world. The world and its events do not change. It is who we that fundamentally changes, it is who we are that changes, that shifts.

A phrase that describes this is called a paradigm shift. Here is a simple explanation. Each of us whether we are aware of it or not relates to the world through a set of eyeglasses. Some are not even aware that these eye glasses are even on their face. But how we experience the world, how we relate to people is through this set of eye- glasses.

What we realise tonight is that we have the glasses in the first place and allow Jesus to give us new ones.

The paradigm shift

The paradigm shift is really about allowing Jesus to change us from an old order to a new order. The old order is the world of rulers and masters where people are isolated, separated, lonely. The new world order is the language of love and all that that costs: trust, faith, care, dying to self. 

The Holy Thursday Revolution

More and more I am learning to see that Jesus and his message are basically apocalyptic; that we are given a choice between two worlds. Do you want to follow the way of the world or the way of the cross? Here again on Maundy Thursday we are faced with a similar choice; do you want to be part of the old order, the world of rulers and servants, a world of isolation where we are separate from each other. Or are you prepared to allow Jesus to give you a new way of living? Are you willing to be part of a new world order, a new heaven and a new earth where we are intimately related, where we are a part of each other, where I am who I am because you are who you are, where who I am and who I am becoming are intimately related to who you are and who you are becoming, where we understand that I am in you and you are in me and that we are in Christ. 

 

The important thing is that the paradigm shift is done to us. It is not something that we achieve. It is something that God does to us.  In the foot washing ceremony Jesus does the washing it is not something we do to ourselves.

 

As I reflect on tonight’s experience of foot washing and stripping of the altar I realise how much Jesus is kneading this new paradigm into me. I know how uncomfortable it makes me, terrified even, terrified especially at the level of trust and faith I am being asked to live at.

 

The foot washing ceremony

The foot washing ceremony is where Jesus undoes the old world order and instates the new.  Our simple ritual of re-enacting of this event undoes me.

While it is easy for me to reflect at an intellectual level about Jesus and his new world order, the actual experience of this is frightening.

The experience of foot-washing which is meant to reflect Jesus action is confronting. In the actual moment of washing someone else’s feet, I am undone by the sheer intimacy, vulnerability and trust that the moment provokes. Drying between the toes of another feels almost invasive as if I am being allowed in to the most sacred parts of another human’s life. This is not something I think I have ever done with my husband. And in the experience of foot washing as I journey through discomfort, through confrontation to intimacy, vulnerability, physical touch and care, I often feel close to tears when I think about how much I actually love  the people whose feet I am washing. I am close to tears because I am so keenly aware that this is a love that God pours in me because it is beyond my own human capacity and resources.  I am struck by the holiness of the moment as I begin to relate to people in a different way, beyond the transaction of “can you do this for me” or “can I do this for you”. I sense through the intimacy and vulnerability and sensuality of the touch a different way of relating that is beyond treating them or having them treat me as objects. It is subject to subject relating.

 

The symbols of tonight speak profoundly of the community we are called to be:

·         A community that is truly the body of Christ.

·         A community that relates to each as subject to subject.

·         A community that understands and experiences unity in such a way that we just know deeply that our lives are caught up with each other, that the pain and joy of one is shared by all.

·         A community prepared to embrace intimacy, trust, faith, vulnerability, exposure as the marks of a truly mature spirituality.

·         A community that can say clearly this experience: I am in you, you are in me and together we are in Christ and Christ is in us.

Thank you for trusting me to share this journey with you.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Easter Sunday

Following the risen Christ is a vocation – a
calling. To follow Christ is to share the fate of Christ for the life of the world. This is not an
enviable position. Sharing the fate of Christ is about accepting the crucifixion that happens when opposites coincide: Jesus was crucified
between a “good” thief and a “bad”, at the place where heaven and earth meet, a male saviour, yet saviour to women.  Following the risen Christ has little to do with
saying the right things, believing the correct things about God and little to do with knowing the creeds off by heart.  It is about loving what Christ loves in the way that Christ loves. Loving what Christ loves in the way that Christ loves is so generous and inclusive, so kind and tolerant, that
crucifixion is a given.

Sharing the fate of Christ is about sharing the crucifixion, but also about sharing the Resurrection, which is sometimes the harder journey – as it may require more faith. The cross and resurrection together demonstrate what it takes to be used by God. It does not mean that you ‘get to heaven and others don’t’. It means you are already in heaven with everyone else and can see in a new and healing way.

 John 20:1-8

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Palm Sunday

A brief reflection on Palm Sunday

This day about 6 years ago Julius Malema the chair of the ANC youth league marches into the city of Johannesburg surrounded by six body guards dressed in black suits and red ties, armed with semi automatic N17 guns. He was on his way to court. The legality of this action is
questionable under the South African fire arms act. It is not about security. It is more about insecurity. It is about
intimidation. It is a public demonstration of where his faith is, in violence, in weapons, in death, in fear and in destruction.  Such a parade of force is a common theme in world history. After every victorious conquest the
Roman Emperors and the Roman Generals would parade through the streets of Rome and other areas showing the signs of their victory. These Victory Marches were called Triumphs. 

British imperialism also had a similar show of force. One of the ways of insuring its dominance in India was through parades and theatre. For example the great durbar of 1902-3, organised by the Viceroy Lord
Curzon, was a celebration of British rule in India and a commemoration of the Coronation of Edward VII.

 Photographers gathered from all over India to record the
processions and ceremonies which took place in a specially designed
amphitheatre during the first week of 1903.  However, this durbar was
designed to make clear that the British were in charge.

These “Victory Marches” are a reminder of what happened
centuries ago in Palestine in the days when Pontius Pilate was ruler.
Scholars explain that at every Passover, Pontius Pilate would prove a show of force with chariots, horses and soldiers. Why? At Passover Jews remember that they were saved from Egypt. They remember that God saved them. If God saved them from Egypt, God would save them from Rome too. To quell any potential resistance to Roman oppression, Pontius Pilate would parade through the streets of Palestine displaying the might of the Roman power through force, theatre, and drama to intimidate the Jews into subservience.

Jesus “mocks” Pilate’s show of force and offers an alternative march on Palm Sunday. Instead of intimidation, Jesus rides on the colt of a donkey. While Julius Malema, Julius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and Queen Victoria put their faith in weapons, violence, superiority, wealth; Jesus shows that his faith is in truth, in justice, in mercy, in love. Those who follow the processions of the world will not understand a procession of palms on a colt of a donkey. Jesus will end paying the ultimate price for this alternative march of peace. 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Lent 5

What words do you use to describe a prophet?

Confident speaker?

Loud proclamation?

Forth-teller of God’s dream for the world?

 

And what examples would you offer as prophets?

Isaiah - that we heard today?

Desmond Tutu?

Gandhi?

 

I offer you Mary as a prophet, a different type of prophet, a sensual prophet who speaks without saying a word. The response of those around her is not unusual. We are
uncomfortable with prophets. We are often uncomfortable with our
bodies, uncomfortable with sensuality and sexuality in the realm of the holy. This sensual image of a woman anointing and massaging the feet of Jesus with her hair is poetic in its genuine response to Christ; it is sensitive, tender and gentle.

 Our response to the gospel today must be one of shock, scandal. Why the scandal?
By anointing Jesus Mary takes on the role of prophet. Since prophets anointed kings, her action would have been understood immediately as a prophetic recognition of Jesus as king.

There is more, Mary understands the vision of the kingdom as suffering love and service, not kingly rule and glory. She anoints his body for death. The gospel reader is alert to this and can sense that it is a tense atmosphere; Jesus is about two miles out of Jerusalem and the leaders are plotting to kill him.

The shock and scandal against Mary the prophet is also because of the extravagance of her gift. Jesus rejects the reactions against her anointing of him and thus provides as a model of discipleship, a disciple and discipler.

John 12:1-8

1 Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2 There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6 (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Lent 4

The parables of chapter fifteen are justly regarded as the high point in Luke's Gospel. Frank Maloney
suggests that the journey narrative is composed in just three parts: the lead-up to this chapter, chapter fifteen itself, and the lead-down from it. For Frank, these three parables embody the kernel of Jesus’ teaching on the way to Jerusalem. Together with the Parable of the Great Dinner, they tell us that
Jesus passionately believes God wishes ALL to be saved and struggles desperately to save all, but also, that struggle as God might, God may very well not succeed. The obstacles are not at all according to the will of God, for
example the elder boy’s reasons for refusing to enter the feast are entirely perverse, while the father’s reaction is extraordinarily patient. ‘Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ The warning of  an  absolute obstacle remains however: presumption of entitlement coupled with contempt for others, be they ever so lowly, may very well end by defeating even the all-embracing love of God.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable:

“There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Lent 2

Jesus weeps therefore we weep

On the anniversary of the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians in 587 AD the Jewish temple was burnt again, this time by the Roman army in 70 AD. The last to fall was Masada where the
defenders chose suicide over surrender. The writer of Luke laments this violence through the tears of Jesus; knowing that had the people learnt the things that made for peace, this destruction would not have happened. Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Jesus still weeps over Jerusalem and is heard wailing near the Gaza strip where
conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians still dominate. Jesus weeps over us too.

Jesus weeps over our injustice to the earth, and weeps over how we are destroying ourselves by destroying the environment. Isaiah says: “Ho he who thirsts come to the waters.” Yet 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water (WHO/UNICEF). The United Nations have warned that by the year 2025, if present trends continue, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress.
Jesus weeps over us and our destruction of the earth, this burden weighs heavily on Australians whose emissions are only surpassed by that of China and the US yet we are only a small percentage of the world
population.

By weeping Jesus aligns himself with the Lamenting women, who are prophets and who stand in a long tradition of professional mourning women. Jeremiah for example says: “Call for the mourning women to come. Send for the skilled women. Let them quickly raise a lament over us. Let them cry for us so that our eyes may run down with tears and our eyelids overflow with water. Let them teach us to cry, to lament, to mourn, to weep in response to devastation.” By lamenting Jesus places himself in solidarity with the prophets which include this professional class of women.

Luke 13:31-35

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a
prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
New Zealand terror attacks at Christchurch mosques

The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday in Lent according to a Prayer Book for Australia is Luke 13:1-9

1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Talk of recent killings of pilgrims by Pilate at the temple gives Jesus a chance to say something about the situation in Palestine that was current for him and the first audiences of Luke’s Gospel. Jesus makes the point that these catastrophes were not punishment for bad behaviour. Jesus enforces that all inhabitants of Palestine contributed to the political hatred that saw only some murdered. Jesus points out that the animosity towards Rome, left unchecked, leads to death: “You will all perish just as they did.

The parable that follows echoes the sermon of the Baptist: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." The fruits of repentance, remember, were sharing, honesty, and mutual respect. Unless the barren tree repents of injustice, prejudice and poisonous hatred, it will be cut down.

 

In the light of the recent massacre in New Zealand where a far-right, white supremacist murdered 49 Muslims at prayer in two mosques, I wonder how Jesus’ comments in Sunday’s lectionary would relate to us? 

The innocent are clearly the victims who lost their lives in the attack.

Whilst none of us pulled the trigger that was fatal to our religious cousins, any of our own thoughts, attitudes, comments, or jokes that reflect Islamophobic, anti-immigrant tendencies make us culpable of the massacre we mourn. Unless we repent of any of our own prejudices, bigotry, intolerance, racism, or hatred, we will be cut down like a barren tree that bears no fruit (Luke 13.7).

Bishop Murray, in a letter to clergy, writes that our baptismal and confirmation liturgy reminds us to “defend the weak and seek peace and justice”. Bishop Murray says that this reminds

“… all of us of our call as Christians to care for the vulnerable members of our society and do all we can to create communities where all can live in dignity and peace. Let’s hope that politicians and media can see the consequences of rhetoric, especially surrounding immigration, that normalises a fear of difference and that makes racial hatred seem acceptable. I hope this incident challenges a government that seems to be increasingly complacent about, and even tolerant of, right wing extremism.”

Alstonville Anglicans
Lent 1

Today we begin our Lenten Journey to
Jerusalem.

As we travel alongside Jesus over these weeks we will reflect upon our own communities of today.  On this first Sunday of Lent we go with Jesus into the wilderness as he reflects on his
ministry.

What is God calling him to do and be?

What kind of Messiah is he?

These stones remind us of the stones Jesus was tempted to turn into bread. Feeding the hungry is such a worthy cause yet Jesus rejected the way of sensationalism. Instead He took the downward path of walking alongside and
sharing with the needy and challenging those who promoted the status quo.  Let us reflect on the journey of our faith into our communities. What is God calling us to do? Is it enough simply to feed the hungry? What might we do to challenge the causes of hunger and poverty today?  What must change in our society for all to know
fullness of life?  Jesus turned his back on the easy life he was tempted to follow to take the path of self-sacrificial love.

 Luke 4:1-15

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’ ” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” 9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. 14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by
everyone.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Transfiguration

God’s dream, God’s purpose is carried out by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love. Who or what is the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is the Bond of Love whose very identity is to be the Love-Bond uniting all and transforming and transfiguring all that it unites. The Transformation that love brings about is God’s dream for the world.

 

Our transfiguration calling is to be so filled with God’s presence, the Holy Spirit, that we become a source of the Presence of Love for others. The very Presence of Love in our lives transfigures us so that we shine out with love.

 

The transformation that love brings about is God’s dream, but it is also our dream. Our
deepest desire is for our lives and our world to be transformed by love. War, pain, darkness and disease are not God’s dream, but it is not our dream either. With God we long for a world transfigured by love. It is written into our DNA: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with
ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord“.  (2 Corinthians 3)

Luke 9:28-36

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Love

We are called to love. We must love even those who oppress us, responding with goodness to
hatred, and with blessings to curses. This love is to be without any limit at all: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from
anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Thus you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” The bottom line is not a general call to perfection but a very precise call to compassion: Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

The stringent warning is against the principle enemy of love.
I wonder what that could be…hmmmm…?

It is of course judgementalism, the besetting sin of religious
people everywhere, especially for those who take rules too
seriously with its insistence on dividing the world into light and shadow, clean and unclean, insider and outsider.

Luke 6:27-38

27 ‘But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If
anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to
everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even
sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be
condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Call

Isaiah

The meaning of the texts today is
summarised with the word CALL. The prophet says: Here am I Lord Send me.  We have been breathed into being by the Creator of the
Universe. We are mandated by God to share this “God presence” with the world, with those around us, with creation. Each of us will give a
different shape and form to how we share God’s presence with the world. Some in the parish are called to teach, others to be parents, others to be artists and musicians,
others to pray for others. This is their unique way of sharing God’s spirit with the world. When they do so, they bring nourishment to their souls and to the souls of those around them. Jesus said it is my food and drink to do my Lover’s will (if you don’t like that name for God use ABBA or Father).

 Luke 5:1-11

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Lost

Lost and Found  Luke 2:41-52

Panic that causes suffocating anxiety is the loss of a child. Children are seldom “lost” though – parents are rarely so careless as to “misplace” a child. It’s more like malevolent magic – one
second a beloved child is holding your hand and in the split second of blinking one’s eyes they have disappeared –‘poof’. Thus, understanding the obvious terror of Mary and Joseph is not difficult for any adult who has had responsibility for a younger person. There is a deeper loss that the Gospel is preparing us for. Parents’
expectation often clash with the dreams of their children – Jesus
argues with his parents: "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them.

Since the call to follow Jesus overrides every other call, a normal family
tension is often exacerbated in the sphere of discipleship.  Jesus says it very bluntly: "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.” No would-be disciple can avoid the pain of this, for it goes to the centre of what God in Christ has come to do for us: to raise us to a level where absolute love holds absolute sway.

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Children as sacraments

Jesus Christ is the centre of our faith;  the child Jesus is the centre of the mystery of Christmas we have just celebrated.

 

When Jesus grows up, he will teach “let the children come to me for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” and “unless you
become like a child you will not inherit the kingdom.”

Alstonville Anglicans take Jesus seriously. We regard children as a sacrament – an outward sign of invisible grace. Why? Because Christ became a child. Why? Because Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to children.

 

Here are some important things to remember about sacraments.

1. Sacraments ‘work’; they  communicate God’s love and presence.

Sacraments work because God is good; not because the giver or receiver is good. Children are sacraments, pointers to the kingdom of God, because God is good, not because children are good, pandered to, put forward,
entertained or made into entertainment. It is enough for children to
merely be a part of us.

2. We create spaces around our sacraments- we have an altar for the Eucharist and a font for baptism. Likewise, Alstonville Anglicans
create a worship space that indicates that children are welcome.
We achieve this by:

 

a. Inviting children to the front of the church where there are comfortable cushions to welcome them.

b. The Godly Play models inside and around the altar
communicate the sacred story of God’s work with God’s people.

c. The Godly Play models are lovingly made by the saints and ministers in our church family. They are not clutter, but holy things for holy people achieving a worshipful atmosphere.

 

3. Sacraments ‘work’ when they are received. Bread and wine
remain bread and wine until they are given and received as the body and blood of Christ.

Likewise, Alstonville Anglicans explore wise and sensitive ways to ‘receive’ children.

To this end I offer my gratitude to all of you for

working with me as fellow ministers in receiving

children as sacraments.

 

I am especially grateful to those who have offered
self-emptying love in creating Godly Play models (holy things for holy people) and working with children and families in Messy Church and other projects.

 

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Before...

Jeremiah 1:4–10 (NRSV)

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

There is a commonly held conviction that “calling” applies to pastors only. I would like to break that definition. The truth of the matter is quite
different. Every human being has a vocation, has a “calling”. By baptism you have already accepted the invitation to carry out your vocation, to
carry out your “calling”. Every Christ follower is a called person. Listen to the words of Jeremiah, they apply to each of you: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I called you”. One of the chief tasks of an ordained person is to help people uncover and develop their calling. What is a calling? Calling is a Biblical word to describe how each person has something beautiful to do for God. Each of us has an
assignment to do that has our name written on the tag. Each of us has a song to sing, a message to deliver, a special gift of love to offer that no one else can offer. This is what Jeremiah could mean when he says that “even while I was in my mother’s womb you formed me, you called me.”

 

You have something beautiful to do for God, I wonder what it could be?

 

Alstonville Anglicans