Genesis 22: 1-14

One of my favourite quotes comes from the ancient Greek poet and playwright Aeschylus, who wrote:

He who would learn must suffer. Even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart; and in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the terrible grace of God.

Continue reading “Genesis 22: 1-14”

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Genesis 21: 8-21

About a year or so ago, I recall an occasion in which I was listlessly channel surfing on the TV, when I stumbled across a chat show consisting of a host and a panel of people I assumed were either celebrities of some description, or members of that strange fraternity known as “media commentators”. I no longer recall the name of the show or its participants; and, indeed, I would have continued my search for something decent to watch, had not my attention not been grabbed by the fact that the panellists were talking about a phenomenon within pop-culture known as the “rubbish Dad”. This refers to the depiction, especially on television and in film, of fathers who are not just incompetent or lazy, but are a positively bad influence on their family and wider society. Homer Simpson is, of course, the archetypal example; but other examples include Peter Griffins from the animated series Family Guy, or Frank Gallagher from the controversial British series Shameless. These are all characters who are “role models” in the worst possible sense of the term, by varying degrees narcissistic, anti-social, and self-involved. A far cry from the type of authoritative father figure who used to be portrayed in shows such as Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons! Continue reading “Genesis 21: 8-21”

Sermon for Service of Lament with Asylum Seekers (Ruth 2: 3-12)

PRESCRIPT: As part of our involvement in Refugee Week, on the evening of the 19th June 2014, Mountview Uniting Church, the congregation where I am presently the Minister in placement, hosted a Service of Lament with Asylum Seekers, to lament the appalling position taken both of Australia’s major political parties (supported by widespread public opinion) toward those who come to this country seeking safety and dignity.  This is the second such service it has been my privilege to participate in, the first having been held last year at Williamstown (Elektra Street) Uniting Church; and at this most recent service I was accorded the signal honour of preaching.  I only hope my words lived up to the occasion. 

It being the age of Google, it will come as no surprise to anyone that it only takes a very quick, very superficial online search of the Bible to uncover any number of passages that instruct the people of Israel in how they are to deal with foreigners and treat the non-Jews who live among them. Indeed, my own quick and superficial search uncovered at least 265 passages in which the words “foreigner”, “stranger”, or “alien” are mentioned. And while it is true that some of these passages emphasise the separation of the Hebrews from others, or give voice to ancient enmities, by far the vast majority of these passages exhort the people of Israel to the neighbourly, hospitable and just treatment of the foreigners who live among them. Exodus 22:21 and 23:9; Leviticus 19:10 and 19:34; Numbers 15:26 and 35:15; Deuteronomy 24:14 – and on and on and on. Time and again, the people of Israel are commanded by both the Mosaic Law and by the prophetic tradition to deal justly and compassionately with their neighbours and with the resident aliens living among them. Continue reading “Sermon for Service of Lament with Asylum Seekers (Ruth 2: 3-12)”

Matthew 28: 16-20 (Trinity Sunday)

The Hungarian author and dissident Arthur Koestler once said that the more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards[1]. In a similar vein, the English priest and theologian Ronald Knox said that a paradox was merely a statement of the obvious constructed so as to sound untrue[2]. In both cases, these quotes draw our attention to the fact that the obvious is rarely that. “Obvious” discoveries only seem so because it’s the discovery itself that points us to the truth about which we had all remained ignorant; and it is the nature of the obvious that it so often challenges our preconceptions and assumptions that we dismiss it as too counter-intuitive to actually be true. Continue reading “Matthew 28: 16-20 (Trinity Sunday)”