Fauna

The scriptures begin with God’s affirmation that all of creation is “very good,” and as the stewards of God’s creation, we are called to protect its goodness. (Genesis 1:30, Genesis 1:28, Jeremiah 29:5-7) Every species, indeed every being of every species, is precious because it is made by God. All reflect an aspect of God. “How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
(Psalm 104:24) 

 We lament that God’s creatures are disappearing from the Earth at a rate we can scarcely comprehend. From humble insects to majestic mammals, from microscopic plankton to towering trees, creatures from across God’s dominion are becoming extinct, and may never be seen again. 

The second Sunday in the season of creation acknowledges Fauna. Fauna refers to the all the living species on planet Earth—in the wild, in our lives and in our soils.  In Genesis One, all living species emerge from Earth who is their common mother.  In Genesis Two, the first human and all animals are created from clay and the breath of God.  In Job 39, the kingdom of the wild is God’s special concern, no matter how remote or mysterious. 

 Luke 12:22-31

22 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Oceans

 

Every September churches around the world pray for creation in what is now known as the Season of Creation. The Season of Creation is urgent in ways that it has never been before. The UN Climate Chief has warned that we have 12 years left to avoid catastrophic climate damage that will impossible or extremely difficult to reverse. The focus in the first week of the season of creation is the ocean with a focus on the damage that we do:

We celebrate and love the ocean, so why is the ocean a victim of our pollution and damage? What are the reasons for our disregard for the warnings about climate damage?

I suggest that the problem is a spiritual one. Humankind places itself at the centre of creation, separate from it. In truth we are part of creation, one link joined with aspects of creation in a circle of unity. The conversation that is required is a reframing of identity, the idea that we are at the centre must die. Instead we identify ourselves as a part of creation.

An image that may illustrate the point being made is the song-game nursery school children sing and play: here we go around the mulberry bush. The simple game involves holding hands with other children and moving in a circle around a (pretend) mulberry bush. For too long humans have considered that they are the mulberry bush that creation is to go around. We must awaken to the fact that we are to join hands with other dimensions of our cosmos, the fauna and flora, galaxies and microbes, and be a part of the circle.

In poetic language this is the point being made in Ephesians 1v10: “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

God’s plan is to unite all things in heaven and on earth into Christ our head (Ephesians 1:10). Christ is all, in all, uniting all. God with us, God in us, God for us, uniting us to each other, uniting us to the earth and uniting us to God. What this means is that absolutely everything finds itself in God. God is all, in all, uniting all. Nothing is excluded. Everything belongs. It is the undoing of separation. Nothing is alienated. That is God’s plan for salvation. The verse is a celebration, a song of unity, every part of creation participates in the love life of God, and it is a cosmic fellowship. In sum: God’s plan is this: salvation means this: everything belongs. The presence of God is in all things uniting all things together.

Here are two stories that deeply evoke our unity with the ocean.

A salt doll journeyed for thousand of miles and stopped at the edge of the sea. It was fascinated by this moving liquid mass, so unlike anything it had seen before. "What are you" asked the salt doll. "Come in and see" replied the sea with a smile. So the salt doll waded in. The further it went, the more it dissolved till there was only a pinch of it left. Before the last bit dissolved the doll exclaimed in wonder, "Now I know what I am ". [1]

salt doll 2.jpg

 A man was walking on the beach one day, carrying his shoes in his hand. He sat down beside a tidal pool and looked at the shells and seaweed left in it. Then he noticed, just above the water line, what looked like a pile of salt. But the salt seemed to have the form of a woman. Then she opened her eyes, smiled, and sat up.

"Are you our salt doll who disappeared into the ocean?" he asked. "But she dissolved in the sea. Are you really the ocean itself?"

"I am both," said the salt doll. "I always was."

"How could you have come back from the sea?" the man asked.

"My purpose brought me back," she said. "I came back to tell you about the ocean. And to tell all you people something you don't seem to know about yourselves. I am no different from you. You are all salt dolls."

The man looked down at his bare foot, and for a moment it looked like it was made of salt.

 


[1]               From Anthony de Mello (1985:98) in  The Song of the Bird (Doubleday Image)

Alstonville Anglicans
St Bartholomew Pentecost 11

Wounded hero: St Bartholomew and the virtue of vulnerability

Bartholomew was One of the twelve apostles mentioned sixth in the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts. Bartholomew is not mentioned in John’s Gospel although Nathaniel is. Many people therefore identify Nathaniel with Bartholomew.

Bartholomew is not mentioned in church literature before 260CE Pentanes, Head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria preached in India. Pantaenus was told that Bartholomew had ministered in India and had gifted his converts with the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew.

It is not exactly known how Bartholomew died. Some sources say that he was beheaded. Other sources indicate that Bartholomew was skinned alive. In art, Bartholomew is often depicted holding his flayed skin; an image that evokes deep vulnerability. Vulnerability is not often considered a virtue, yet vulnerability is the core of being human. How do we come to terms with our vulnerability? As a wounded hero, Bartholomew is an icon for us in exploring the virtues of vulnerability for individuals, community and society. Where are the safe places that you can remove your skin and be vulnerable with another? When and where is vulnerability inherent for you? In what ways can your vulnerability be a virtue?

 Luke 13:10-17

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Vineyards Pentecost 10

Sinéad O'Connor writes the following song where Jerusalem refers to Israel and Judah refers to Palestine. It is a moving prayer based on our readings for this week; Isaiah 5:1-7 describing the promising vineyard that gives only wild grapes and God's frustration. Psalm 80 parallels Isaiah but asks for God’s intervention: “Restore us, O Lord of hosts. Let your face shine, that we may be saved”.

If you had a vineyard
On a fruitful hill
And you fenced it and cleared it
Of all stones yountil
You planted it
With the choicest of vine
And you even built a tower
And a press to make wine
And you looked that it would bring forth sweet grapes
And it gave only wild grapes
What would you say
Jerusalem and Judah
You be the judges I pray
Between me and my vineyard
This is what God says

 What more could I have done in it
That I did not do in it
Why when I ask it for sweetness
It brings only bitterness

 For the vineyard of the lord of hosts
Is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah
His pleasant plant

 And he looks for justice but beholds oppression
And he hopes for equality but hears a cry
Jerusalem and Judah
This is god's reply

 Sadness will come
To those who build house to house
And lay field to field 'til there's room
For none but you to dwell in the land
Oh in the land

 And sadness will come
To those who call evil good
And good evil who present
Darkness as light
And light as darkness
Who present as sweetness
Only the things which are
bitterness
For the vineyard of the lord of hosts
Is the house of Israel
And the men of Judah his pleasant plant
Oh oh his pleasant plant

 Oh that my eyes were a fountain of tears
That I might weep for my poor people

 For every boot stamped with fierceness
For every cloak rolled in blood
Jerusalem and Judah
I'd cry if I could
Songwriters: Sinead Marie Bernarde O'connor
If You Had a Vineyard lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amcos

 Luke 12:49-59

49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

 

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Service to the Outsiders

Jesus always said: “Follow me!”. Not once did Jesus ever say: “ Worship me!” For some people, religion can be the best way to avoid the trauma of being transformed by Christ. Said another way, worshipping Jesus is the best way to avoid following Jesus. Similarly, Isaiah condemned a religion that comforts the rich not the poor and disturbs the underprivileged not the affluent: 1:10 “Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 1:16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow”. Worship is worship insofar as it transforms us into caregivers, activists, justice seekers, fighters for justice and channels of love. May our religion never protect us from the true call to worship – service to the outsiders.

 Luke 12:32-40

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Faith Pentecost 8

Hebrews 11 gives an eloquent confident poem about faith: faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God.

Such a rousing hymn of faith is inspiring yet may be of little comfort when we embrace doubt as an aspect of growth in faith. In times like these, I take comfort in the prayers of the saints, such as Thomas Merton who prayed:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

Issue Title:  Seize the Day: Vocation, Calling, Work Issue Year: 2012

 

 Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Our Daily Bread Pentecost 7

People sometimes ask what influenced the wisdom of Jesus. Jesus had the Hebrew Scriptures. He had the psalms, the proverbs, and the prophets. Jesus used the tradition that influenced him. The Lord’s Prayer is one such example. Proverbs 30.7-9 is this prayer:

7 Two things I ask of you;
   do not deny them to me before I die: 
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
   give me neither poverty nor riches;
   feed me with the food that I need,
9 or I shall be full, and deny you,
   and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
or I shall be poor, and steal,
   and profane the name of my God.

“Give us today our daily bread” is clearly a summary of “Do not make me rich and do not make me poor, feed me with the food that I need.” To pray this proverb is counterculture: we are not praying for immense wealth, we are standing against poverty and we are exposing our vulnerability in asking for our needs to be met, our daily bread. The living out of this prayer is the salvation of society, the end to violence and the healing of all the struggles our sin has created. 

Luke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Cosmic Christ Pentecost 6

Colossian 1 begins with a great Hymn to the Cosmic Christ: … The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

Who or what is the Cosmic Christ? The term Cosmic Christ is the faith that the risen Christ is presence at the heart of the tiniest piece of matter – at the centre of tiniest atom,  and Christ’s presence radiates into the largest universe. As Iron is plunged into fire and it burns and transforms in the presence of that fire, so too creation is plunged into the Divine presence of God and radiates that heat.

What does the Cosmic Christ mean for me? In the incarnation we have the perfect marriage of matter and Spirit – God takes flesh and dwells among us. (John 1). Thus, Christ is whenever and wherever the material and the Divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere and in all things. Thus:

1) We experience a healing of opposites: For Teilhard, all polarities --
science and religion, matter and spirit, body and soul, prayer and work -- are reconciled in the Cosmic Christ.

 2) Christ is literally in all things; therefore, we find God moment by
moment in all things, in the Magnificent Mundane.

3) Evolution is holy, we have an evolutionary spirituality, an evolutionary consciousness. Chardin’s vision of evolution embraces the whole of the cosmos, the whole of creation, the whole of humanity and the whole human person – matter, mind and spirit. For Chardin, humanity is not a passive holder of evolutionary processes, but an active participant in evolution. Gradually we are evolving forward and upward into a greater consciousness, deeper into God, deeper into unity.

 Luke 10:38-42

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
NAIDOC 2019

Uluru embodies journey towards a shared future.  Charmaine Mumbulla, a proud Kaurna and Narungga woman, is this year’s winner of the prestigious National NAIDOC Poster Competition. Ms Mumbulla’s artwork depicts an early dawn light rising over Uluru, symbolising continued spiritual and
unbroken connection to the land.
The circles at the base of Uluru represent the historic gathering in May 2017 of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, who adopted the Uluru Statement from the Heart.   Arising out of the 2017 national gathering of First Nations representatives, the Uluru Statement represented the unified position and specifically sequenced a set of reforms: first, a First Nations voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution and second, a Makarrata Commission to supervise treaty processes and truth-telling.

Ms Mumbulla said that she hoped her artwork plays an important part in a national discussion towards the proper recognition of Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander people in this country. “I’m really pleased about this year’s NAIDOC theme and hope that it continues our national discussion on a treaty - I feel honoured to become a small part of NAIDOC history,” she said.
Ms Mumbulla has a background as a lawyer as well as in education and graphic design. She runs a creative agency called Mumbulla Creative.
Accessed from: https://www.naidoc.org.au/news/2019-naidoc-week-poster-winner

Luke 10:25-37

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

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Alstonville Anglicans
NAIDOC 2019

What is NAIDOC Week?

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

What does NAIDOC stand for?
NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

What is the theme of NAIDOC Week 2019?
Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future.

What do the NAIDOC Week themes mean?
There is always a theme to celebrate NAIDOC Week and it is carefully chosen by the National NAIDOC committee. The theme is often based around celebrating our First Nations people, or highlighting important topics surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that need to be discussed on a national scale.

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” 17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

 

 

 

Pentecost 3

2 Kings 2:6-14 offers a story of two great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, that is comparable to the great movies of our time such as ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Black Panther’, ‘Captain America’ and ‘The Avengers’: Here are some verses that offer a magical imagery: … Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”  As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

These cosmic and ecstatic images of chariots of fire, whirlwinds and Elijah being wrapped in a cloud and taken to heaven are symbols for the presence of God. The central image in the text is the mantle carried by
Elijah and inherited by Elisha. The mantle passing from one to another is a symbol of how the legacy of faith is carried through the generations.

The disciples who gathered around Elijah recognise Elisha as their new leader.
What we have in our congregation are Elijahs, faithful guides, advisors, teachers and wisdom keepers – mentors and potential mentors. We can be imaginative and experimental in our mentoring of Elishas who are to come. A great example of Elijah’s passing on the mantle to Elishas is Puccini. Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot was finished by his students whom he had mentored – he died of cancer before the opera could be finished. It is a good example of passing on the mantle and the need to do so in community.

 Luke 9:51-62

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Pentecost 2

Refugee Week is an incredible opportunity for the whole nation to celebrate the contribution refugees make to our society, while raising awareness, remembering and honouring the often perilous journey that refugees have taken to reach Australia.
Through storytelling we have the chance to educate the Australian community to better understand the courage and contribution that refugees make in our society. Given that there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide as of June 2018, the need to draw attention to the challenges facing refugees is incredibly urgent. 

Luke 8:26-39

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

 

 

Alstonville Anglicans
Trinity Sunday

In the past few weeks I have been reflecting on Godly Play. I have explained how our fundamental belief is that children are mystics, that they, like all humans, already experience unity with God. What we aim to do is to invite them to reflect on their experience of God, to be more fully in God’s presence, and to empower them with language and ritual in their spiritual practice. I have also explained that the heart of Godly play is the creating or re-creating of sacred space, part of this you can see in our church architecture.
Alstonville Anglicans are invited to deeply respect this space as a sacred place where faith is nourished. Like the Spirit at Pentecost, Godly Play as a spiritual practice is concerned with the building of relationships and community.
In this reflection I want to pay attention to play. Godly Play is an invitation. No one can make you play – play does not work that way. For play to be play, there has to be freedom. What is play? Catherine Garvey in “Play!” says that:
Play is fun.
Play has no extrinsic goals, we play for the sake of play.
Play is voluntary, it has to be characterised by a lack of compulsion.
Authentic play involves deep engagement on the part of the players.
In Godly play our invitation is not general play, but to play with the language of God’s people: our stories, parables and even our silences. Through the community of players, we hear a deeper invitation:
to play with God.

John 16:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

 
 

Alstonville Anglicans
Pentecost Sunday

Sunday 9th June is Pentecost. Pentecost is the celebration of the Spirit’s presence on all believers, about 50 days after Easter (pente means 50). Who or what is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the way people experience the presence of Christ and the presence of Creator God. The role of the Spirit is to unite Creator God to Christ in love and to give us a share in that unity. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity who unites us to God and each other in love and transforms us through that uniting love. The primary work of the Holy Spirit is the creating of transforming community. The Holy Spirit moves through Godly Play in a similar way. The heartbeat of Godly Play is the process of creating and building relationships and community. The spiritual guidance Godly Play offers is the process of openness and discovery in celebrating our relationships with one another. In Godly Play we respect and enjoy each other as our faith is nurtured through wondering and play.

Acts 2:1-21

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

 

 

Easter 7

One of the main features of our church life is the Godly Play philosophy in sharing faith with others. Many of you ask what is Godly play? Last week I shared that Godly play is a discovery method using story to communicate. Godly Play is not knowing about God; it is about knowing God: the difference is extreme. If our aim is to help people know about God, we might view them as empty vessels that we fill with the correct information about God. If our invitation is for people to know God for themselves, we have already decided that they are mystics and wisdom bearers.

The heart of Godly play is creating or recreating sacred space. Each aspect of our liturgical set up is deliberately staged with meaning. The sacred space in which story is experienced allows the learning of religious language and allows space for using religious language and ritual to make meaning. Thus Godly play is less a curriculum and more a spiritual practice; a spiritual practice where God invites us and pursues us in the midst of scripture, authentic ritual and life experience.

 John 17: 20-26

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

 

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