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.’”

 

 

 

Rector Alstonville
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.”

Rector Alstonville
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.

 

 

Rector Alstonville
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.

 

 

Rector Alstonville
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.’

 

 

 

Rector Alstonville
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.

 

Rector Alstonville
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.

 

Rector Alstonville
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.

 

 

 

 

Rector Alstonville
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?

 

Rector Alstonville