You are here

Syndicated Blogs

Drive Them Crazy with Love.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 16, 2019 - 8:11am

This week I have decided to wander off from following the lectionary and would like to reflect on the passage of scripture - Matthew 20:1-16a. This scriptural lesson is hard for those of us who are concerned about fairness. It seems to tell us that God is not fair. The story is simple: Jesus describes a hiring process. Some workers are hired early, some at mid-day, some in the afternoon, and some just before quitting time. At the end of the day, they were all paid the same wage. Those who had worked all day felt that they should be paid more than those who had worked only part of the day. But the employer said, "You all agreed to the wage before it was paid;" and more significantly, "it's my money and if I want to pay everyone the same thing, I can."

From this do we learn that God is not fair? Is it not rather than being fair, God is lavish. One priest, in commenting on this text, said, "I am so glad that God is not fair. If God were fair and gave me what I truly deserve, I would be tortured slowly before being consigned to hell for ever." But fairness is the highest ethical stance of many in our culture. Some would even choose fairness over lavish love. Children see fairness as the standard. They are especially keen on fairness if they believe that they have been treated unfairly. All who are parents are familiar with the cry of outrage, "That's not fair!" This may be accompanied by that other great ethical benchmark of children, "But all the other kids get to..." All good parents have a set of responses to these statements that they heard from their parents.
Children seldom raise the issue of fairness when they are being favoured. In fact, almost no one raises the issue of fairness when they are favoured or privileged. There have been some first class church fights grounded in unfairness. We have the recent and current debates over acceptance and inclusiveness, free speech and vilification of groups in our community despite the call and example of Jesus to live compassionately and lovingly as our God does.
Even sometimes it comes within the Church and it is a group of spiritually aware folk trying to guide the life of a congregation in a more "holy" way. And they are not treated fairly in the decision making. Sometimes it is a group of long time church members who have laboured long for the sake of the congregation and they are excluded from decisions about congregational life by a newer group of members. Sometimes there is even conflict between the clergy and laity. Frequently all of these problems are identified as "fairness" problems. And they are. There is a lot of unfairness in churches, in our community and in our society. There is a lot of unfairness in life. Anyone who wants to fill their heart and life with resentment will have ample opportunity to do so.
Jesus invites us to move beyond fairness and into boundless love. The kind of love Jesus calls us to, is grounded in, and is in his own sacrificial love. This love was won on the cross. Suffering preceded Jesus' death. Jesus' death was unjust. We might see it as a cosmically unfair event. But that awful death became the door to Resurrection for Jesus. In Jesus' Resurrection we see the meaning of suffering, the meaning of injustice, and the meaning of death transformed by God's power into our experience and knowledge of God's limitless love. Even in the process of death, Jesus was transforming meaning. He said to the thief on the cross, who admitted that his death sentence was fair, "Today you shall be with me in paradise."
Jesus said to God about those who were killing him, "Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing." Both of Jesus' statements were cosmically unfair. Both of Jesus' statements are signs of God's lavish love for us. Jesus' Ascension may have been the most extreme example of God's lavish love. In the Ascension Jesus left a particular time, place, and group of people to be present for all time and in all places and with all people. This act insures that we, even 2,000 years later, thousands of kilometres away, and without any personal knowledge of Jesus' disciples can know that lavish love in the deepest and most personal ways.
So, when you think you are being treated unfairly, rejoice because it reminds you that God loves you lavishly. Also it’s interesting to check out whether what we perceive as unfairness is actually that and not our own greed etc. Once you think you are being treated unfairly do something to make those who you think are treating you unfairly feel really crazy -- forgive them and share with them the love you have received. Not easy I know but that is what we are called to.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Summoning Love toward Life.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 9, 2019 - 6:09am

I’ve had in my life a few friends and people I have been pastorally responsible for who, when they were dying, immersed themselves in deep gratitude. Gratitude—not that they were dying of course—but grateful that dying awakened them to life. They lived at the last knowing the preciousness of every moment. They also lived with the hope of knowing they would be with their God which bought them great comfort. Friendships developed with those I was to be with during this period at the end of their lives for which I have been greatly appreciative. They also began to appreciate their relationships and friendships.
Then there is the shedding of bad relationships and habits that I observed in these friends. Not so much ambitiously “making the most” of the remaining time, but summoning love toward life through each moment they had left. Not so much checking things off an extravagant bucket list, as admiring the symmetry of the bucket itself. Even in diminishment, enlarging the capacity to love. I don’t mean to glamourise dying. More often, that kind of heightened consciousness is impossible through trauma and pain. I’m inspired nevertheless by these friends and fellow Christians during the end of their life journey.
I’m reminded of Saint Benedict’s admonition to “keep death always before you” for the very practice of daily waking and reawakening to life against death. Anchorites took a scoop out of their graves every day for the same reason, or stitched their shrouds so that they might remember the “one thing necessary”—that they might love the gift of life. Being rich toward God seems to me to be more about consciousness than about bustling around the church managing God’s business.
Noticing the scent of lavender and earth and early morning and still being grateful for it at the end of the day. Noticing the other: taking risks in love for Love disguised as the unlovable. Should I ever be too sick to love, I hope I can remember these comforting words from Teresa of Avila. “Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love.”
You know, when it comes to how we as humans face the end of our life on this planet fear seems to be the key emotion. That fear drives us to all sorts of odd behaviour and increase our pain towards the end. It is, however, also possible for fear to drive us to rather bizarre extremes in all sorts of areas of our life. For instance, if the fear of heights makes us stay in one place, or to never leave the house because we might encounter a tall building. Or if we can't go camping because someone might start a campfire to cook; this is a bit extreme, and it now is driving us to live life in an untenable way. 
And if our fear of scarcity rules us, makes us believe we can't do things; we are now driven by a reality that is only a perception.  You see, this could well lead us to agree with those that say, they are tired of churches saying what they cannot do.  If you look deep enough, what we are fearful of admitting is that we are only limited by our choices.  In other words, it is not that we can't, it is that we choose not to.  And so, an almost non-existent threat now rules our lives.
This is how fear rules us.  When Jesus says, "do not be afraid," it is likely that he was plenty smart enough to know we would be.  He also was plenty smart enough to know that to rule something out of your life; you must know you have it in your life in the first place.  We are convicted by the reality of our fear of scarcity every time we hear those words: "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."   We are so afraid of this that we don't even want to look at it, or we reinterpret it in some really creative and self-serving ways, ways that make common sense, because, we are about common sense. 
We are common sense people. Abundance does not seem plausible, so we are afraid.  We've been trained that way. But, what are we afraid of?  If we would really delve into that question, really look at it, more often as individuals and especially as a people, we would serve ourselves well. Because, sometimes our fears actually teach us something, make the scales fall from our eyes as we see the things we idolise; our health, our wealth, our status, and by so doing helps us to find life and experience life as never before, and in a richer way than ever before. 

That is the trust, the faith that is described in Hebrews and in Luke today.  It really gets at what we fear about Scripture, about this man named Jesus. Because one fear we have, a real one, is that the Gospel is usually bad news before it is good news.  We have to travel through both realities. The things we fear can teach us. But, as in all things, we can't live life in its fullness or get well, until we know and admit our affliction.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Sunday Service Marsden Road Unitng Church 28 July 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - August 2, 2019 - 8:58am

Gathering God’s People
 Acknowledgement of First Peoples
 From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth,
May the First People who have cared for this Land,
where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.
From breath to song, from step to dance,
May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place.
From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.
Call to Worship (Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)
Rev. John referenced the shooting of new life in a forest to try to explain the visions of God’s Grace as it suddenly comes to us:
the warm embrace of God’s limitless love—a love that is all-forgiving, all-encompassing, all-embracing.
and then to us who rail against the world’s injustices:
Come in, angry people!
This is a safe place to vent your fury.
Come in, hurting ones!
Here you will find compassion and grace to heal your wounds.
Come in, all who are in need of love and peace.
Here, we gather as children of the living God.
Hymn TIS 555:  Put all your trust in God
 Opening Prayer
 We pray to God for what we want and we are given what we need. We are still clueless despite years of looking for the way.
Prayer of Confession
Dear God, you have every right to be angry with us. We have such good intentions, but we continue to mess up. Forgive us, God.
We joyfully sing of your love on Sunday morning, but by Monday, we’re feeling lost and unlovable.
Forgive us, God.
We preach tolerance and compassion, but we find ourselves raging at the guy who cuts us off in traffic. Forgive us, God.
Declaration of Forgiveness
Then you forgive our sins, and once more show us how to forgive others. You offer us a vision of truth and love meeting together, and you invite us into their warm embrace.
Thank you, God.
As your forgiven people, beloved children of your promise, you renew us in holy love.
Thank you, God. Amen.
The Peace
 Peace is a gift beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving! Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
Loving God, you nourish our famished souls by listening to our humble prayers.  We come asking, seeking, and knocking with the full knowledge that you are ready to respond to our supplications.  You deliver us from evil by nourishing our hearts with forgiveness and our minds with understanding.  You prepare a heavenly table for all who believe in the mighty acts of your Holy Son.  Bless these gifts so that your children will feast at the banquet which awaits in your eternal home.  Amen
 Hymn TIS 162: Thank you for giving me the morning
 The Service of the Word
The blog so far has been more a summary than a reflection and that is because I would like to reflect on the Bible Readings myself.

Colossians 2:6-15
6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. 9 
The reading continued from here but space does not allow reflection on all of it.
The first thought  which occurred to me was that we need to continue to live our lives in God. Day by day we need to look at our lives and recommit each part of it to Christ. It is so easy to sink back into little actions of selfishness. Initially it could be because we are tired or ill that we act in what we think are our own interests but we don’t need to stay there. We need to turn around and reach out to the one who shows us the true way. That is the way that builds us, not only into the people God wants us to be, but into the people we can be so happy with ourselves.
Then the second thought that occurred to me was to do with not being taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit. When we read the bible it is so easy to take an interpretation handed to us by someone else. We need to ask who the words were written for; we need to ask why those words were written and when those words were written. The answers to all those questions will have bearing on how the words can be interpreted. We need to work hard at finding the answers to all those questions to find out the real message of God and not what someone else wants to push upon you.
I had intended to reflect on both readings but I’ve run out of space
Hymn TIS 550: Our Father, God in heaven
Intercessory Prayers were followed by The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn TIS 414: There’s a spirit in the air
Go in peace, knowing that you are forgiven people. Go in faith, knowing that God hears your prayers and understands your needs. Go in love, knowing that God
invites you into the holy embrace of truth and righteousness. Go now as children of the living God to serve others in Christ’s name. Amen.
 Hymn TIS 780: May light come into your eyes
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Living Without Trainer Wheels.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - August 2, 2019 - 6:52am

Do you remember how your legs felt when your legs grew too long to ride your tricycle? Did your parents buy you a bicycle, or as our fellow primary school classmates might have called it—a “two-wheeler.” Only, for many it was really a “four-wheeler” because there were two little wheels attached at the rear tire. Did you ride your two-wheeler up and down the sidewalk in front of your family’s home until you were accustomed to riding upright? And then one day, your parent would have removed the training wheels so that you could ride without them.
Did you fall a few times before your parent jogged alongside you, holding the seat to keep you balanced? After a few laps, riding the two-wheeler it does become a little easier. Often when you made the U-turn at the end of the imaginary finish line, you’d be shocked to see your parent at the other end, watching you with arms folded and a proud grin on their face. When I was going through this I was so focused on avoiding another fall, I had no idea how long I had been pedalling without my parent. But I did it!

I remember feeling I was now one of the big kids. I could ride a bike all by myself, without training wheels or my parent’s or brother’s assistance. Once I achieved this new sense of independence, any memory of my little red tricycle, the number of times I fell, or my parent’s help vanished. It was as though I did it all on my own, but that as we all know this is not the truth.
When the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness, God cared for them, raised them the way a loving father raises his child. After his own presence in their lives, the greatest gift their heavenly parent gave to Israel was their freedom from their slavery to the Egyptians. But when Israel was liberated and empowered to build new lives for themselves, they forgot the one who fed them, kept them safe, healed them, and led them into their new life.
So much so that they preferred instant gratification and the profits from injustice to the longsuffering, patient God who gave them new life. Then we hear in Hosea 11 that although Israel’s disobedience provoked great anger in God, to the point where God is ready to destroy his living creation, his overtaking compassion prevents him from bringing destruction. Like any good parent, our God will still chastise his children. Yet God is always ready to joyfully welcome us into his good graces when we run to him asking forgiveness, ready to conform to his image, and filled with gratitude.
The readings from Luke 12 and Colossians 3 take us further in our understanding of the possible relationship with God and with each other. In Luke 12 Jesus shares a parable about a rich fool, warning against greed and being self-centred. The relentless pursuit of material possessions is a powerful distraction from growing an intimate relationship with Jesus. When we become self-absorbed, we neglect to pray, study God’s word, and prepare for Jesus’s return. Nothing that may be accumulated on earth is as valuable as the eternal riches we have in God’s kingdom.
Never one to miss a good opening, Jesus seizes the opportunity to talk about much more than getting our share of the goods of life—and, thus, the “rich man” who thinks that he deserves his fate in life, and will simply “eat, drink, and be merry” to the end of his self-satisfied days! What is really important in life? It’s a tired old saw, but still pretty effective: if you knew for certain that this was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What would you be doing that, perhaps, you are not doing now? Well, what are you waiting for?

At some stage in history what is called a new myth appeared. This was that wealth needs to be shared. Work requires just and equitable share in its fruits. The strong have an obligation to care for the weak. This new myth birthed education, unionisation, nationalised health programs, community projects, and for centuries the church stood at the heart of reform, telling the new story. Sadly it is so no longer. The myths of dominance, control, and consumption have displaced the Christ myth, and the church itself has forgotten how to tell the story of prophetic justice.
The Apostle Paul reminds us that “Christ is our life” (Col 3:4). When we become followers of Jesus Christ, our nature is renewed. We become hidden in the risen Christ in that our values and lifestyles are aligned with his teachings and nature. As we conform our lives to Christ, our behaviour changes. Over time, our lives are no longer in step with that of popular culture, but in obedience to God. Submission to the way of the Lord places us in his favour, out of the way of his wrath.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Marsden Road Uniting Church Sunday Service 21 July 2019

Margaret's Sunday Reflections - July 27, 2019 - 11:50pm

Today, as I have indicated previously, I am focussing on specific parts of the service. Much is being said about our First People recently and so I intend to reflect on the
acknowledgement. I also wish to spend more time on the sermon than usual.

Gathering God’s People

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

“From river to ocean, from campfire to hearth, May the First People who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal, be blessed.

From breath to song, from step to dance,

May those who follow Your Song lines guide us on the journey of living honourably in this place. From greeting to Amen, from silence to chorus,

May our worship join with the voices of he First Peoples of this Land.”

To think more on these words, we need to
do more than just imagine how the first people have cared for this place we now
call home. Perhaps a little study of factual records would help. It is
difficult to appreciate the thought and effort that was needed on the part of
the people who originally lived here without some hard facts on the
difficulties that they faced.

Call to Worship.(Abingdon Worship Annual 2016)

“The ungodly laugh in their conceit,
plotting the destruction of the righteous with sharp tongues and works of
treachery. They are fools. For the righteous are like green olive trees in the
house of the Lord, and will dwell in God’s steadfast love forever and ever.”

Those of us who have always worshipped
at this church might be quite surprised at what was said and thought about them
by their neighbours. As someone who was on the outside, looking in, I know the
level of contempt still held by those around us for those of us who choose to
follow God’s way.

“Like green olive trees in the house of God,we come into God’s presence.

Like young saplings in the courtyard of the Lord,we drink deep from the waters of life.

Like the fruit of God’s vineyard,we ripen in the light of God.

Come, let us worship the Lord.”

Opening Prayer

 “Loving God, your gift of abundant
life is like a basket of summer fruit — a delight to the eye and a pleasure to
the tongue; your presence in our lives is like a green olive tree— a joy to the
heart and a blessing to the spirit. Speak to us your words of life that we may
sit at your feet and know that we are yours. Amen.”

Prayer of Confession

“Merciful God, buffeted by the winds of life, we have grown weary and yearn for your handto hold us.
Pour forth your words of peace, and bring us back to life.

Forgive us when we are heedless to the needs of others.Correct our ways when we are self-centred and neglect the poor and powerless.

Be our vision when we seek refuge in our wealth and possessions.Draw us to you, Holy One, and lead us into life. Amen.” “Declaration of Forgiveness

 Hear the good news: In Christ, we are united
and reconciled with God Rejoice in the knowledge that we receive forgiveness
and abundant life in his name.

Thanks be to God! Amen.”

The Peace

“Peace is a gift
beyond price. In Christ, we find peace as we are reconciled to God. Let us
share this precious gift with one another in joy and thanksgiving.
Peace be with you!

And also, with you!”

The Service of the Word

 The First Reading: Amos 8:1-12Corruption has always existed, and those that practice it
have always ended up badly.

The Gospel Reading:
Luke 10: 38-42
I think we have all found this reading difficult. There is always work to be done. Surely we must
all share the load but I think this is saying we should think more about our priorities.

(Readings: Kaye)

Preaching of the
Word – “Crazy Love: The Search for

“We live amidst the reality of economic
instability and religious volatility. Yet, there’s something deep inside all of
us that desires another kind of crazy. It’s a crazy love. Our souls are thirsty
for a love that’s everlasting. And yet, reality shows, political parties, and
public institutions alone cannot quench this thirst. We need something more.”

Rev. John then spoke of observing his
step-sons at play and more professional sportsmen       playing and...needing to have their thirst quenched. At home parents choose water with all it’s health giving benefits but professionals often choose commercial drinks which claim to have added ingredients to aid recovery from strenuous exercise and which for the most part don’t.

He also spoke of people who expect God
to come to their aid when they are in the position they are in because they
have not been good stewards of God’s gifts or have grasped at God’s gifts and
simply expect more.

Rev. John then guided our thinking
towards choosing spiritual refreshment over any physical or earthly pleasure or

To recap: Martha was right in one way.
Hospitality is a great gift but she wasn’t being hospitable. The way she approached
her work made it seem like Jesus was a burden to her whereas Mary made Jesus
wholly welcome by focussing all her attention on him.

No matter how much we attend to our
physical, social and employment needs, we will still experience that deep
thirst which can only be quenched by continuous replenishment of our spiritual
needs by the only one who can meet those needs...God, the source of all things
As Rev. John said at the end of his sermon:
“ we need to come to Gods table and
drink from the fountain of everlasting love. May our God be our eternal love
and thirst quencher?”

Then after the Prayer of Intercession and the Lord’s Prayer:

Benediction: “Though we may leave God’s house,

we do not leave God’s presence.

Like green Olive Trees in the house of God,

our roots go deep in the soil of holy love.

Know that Gods presence goes with us

as we go forth to share Gods love for all. Amen.

Hymn TIS780: May light come into your eyes. Amen”


Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Take a Break, Have a KitKat.

Whitestarhaven's Ramblings - July 26, 2019 - 7:10am

Last week’s I reflected about keeping Sabbath time as individuals. But there is another aspect to Sabbath rest that is just as important. God doesn’t only tell individuals to rest. God tells communities to keep Sabbath time. God commands Israel to let their fields have a Sabbath, to let their animals and servants have a Sabbath, and once every few years, to let the whole economic system have a Sabbath. The world needs a vacation. Lord knows, the earth needs a rest. We have been extracting her minerals, damming her rivers, pumping toxins into her atmosphere, tearing holes in her ground, and stuffing her with our trash.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a floating island made of our plastic garbage has grown to the size of a continent, reaching out long tendrils of six-pack rings and shopping bags to trap, kill, and devour fish and birds. We feel the earth reeling, staggering under its burden of our human societies. We call her Mother Earth, but we have treated her like a slave, working the world to exhaustion. The world needs a Sabbath. The world’s people need a Sabbath too. The resources we extract from the earth go to factories staffed by eight-year-olds sewing the soles onto sneakers in steaming sweatshops, working eleven- and twelve-hour days, forbidden from taking a break even to use the bathroom.
Oh, sure, it’s tough to do anything about those problems on the other side of the world; especially when Christmas rolls around and we really need to buy our children toys made by other children on the opposite side of the planet. I know people need to buy things. Money makes the world go round. People who are dirt poor cannot afford a Sabbath. But perhaps that’s the problem because the world’s people—especially the half that lives on less than a dollar a day—desperately need a Sabbath.
God declares a Sabbath for all creation. God tells us to give the world a break. God gives Moses instructions in Exodus for a radical holiday, telling him that not only should the community take a break from work for a day out of every week, but every seven years they should give the land a Sabbath. Although they may eat whatever perennials grow in their fields by themselves, they may not plant or harvest. The land itself gets a break and then God declares yet another Sabbath. Once every fifty years, the economic system gets reset. All indentured servants will be released, all debts will be forgiven, and all land will revert to the original families who owned it. They call it the jubilee year; a Sabbath for all creation.

While it is unclear if they ever actually carried it out or not, it is an idea that crops up again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures. Release for the captives, letting the debt prisoners go free. Isaiah and Jesus called it “the year of the Lord’s favour,” and it was to them a little glimpse of that final time when God is to judge the world and set it to rights. God declares a Sabbath for all creation.
Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue? Imagine going to your mailbox and tearing open your mortgage statement and reading, “Total balance due: $0.” Imagine hordes of children leaving the sweatshops to go on their first summer vacation, splashing in the river, riding squeaking bicycles down the road, playing soccer in an abandoned lot. Imagine the panic on Wall Street or at the ASX as tractor-trailer trucks stand abandoned on the freeways, their cargos of iPods and $150 distressed-denim jeans sitting idle, inventories in retail stores across the nation gathering dust. The economy would collapse!

But you’d also have no more car payments, no more student loan debt. Not only that, but the redistribution of property back to its original owners? That’sscary language. Imagine Australian First peoples, Canadian First Nations or   First Nation American peoples leaving their camps, their reservations and home areas and staking claim to George Sydney or the Sydney Opera House or maybe even Manhattan, Wall Street. It’s absurd! Our gods, the gods of the market and conquest, would never allow it. This kind of language scares us,makes us think of socialism or terrorism or communism or some other “ism.” Just imagine the chaos that would ensue.
But nobody ever said God was practical. God stubbornly insists on aSabbath for all creation. However, it’s only a short step from ignoring the Sabbath yourself to imposing your work, your agenda, and your interests on the land and its people. As written in Isaiah 58:13, we tend to put the pursuit of our own interests above everything else, setting up our own businesses as petty gods that we serve and worship. We sacrifice our relationships, our children, and our health on the altar of busyness. We sacrifice justice for the poor on the altar of economic practicality. And let me tell you, I get caught up in this to as I love my comforts and my technology.
Yet could we not see our Sabbath as a kind of nonviolent resistance to the creeping tyranny of wealth and power. Nehemiah says that even if everyone around them is buying and selling on the Sabbath, God’s people will not.  God calls them to be a different kind of community. Imagine a Sabbath for the world. Picture a break for God’s creation and all God’s people. Sure, it may seem impractical, but God calls us to be a different kind of community, a people set apart, and a royal priesthood.
God has a better vision of life for us and our world, a life that includes rest and enjoyment and even time for deep prayer which we call contemplation these days. Talk of prayer does connect us to the readings from the three-year lectionary for this week. But this is not the prayer of demand and asking that we have come to use most of the time. Well before I get carried away, that’s another story for another day.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs


Subscribe to Marsden Road Uniting Church aggregator - Syndicated Blogs