Romans 12: 9-21 (indirectly, Matthew 16: 21-28)

Some time ago on social media, I saw a picture of a message board, apparently outside a church, which read: Love your enemies – it messes with their minds. Now, there is a certain amount of both humour and cynicism in this message; but at another level, it actually points us toward not just what some may regard as the counter-intuitive heart of Christian faith, but also Christianity’s movement toward a state of being that is contrary to our nature as humans. Continue reading “Romans 12: 9-21 (indirectly, Matthew 16: 21-28)”

Genesis 18: 1-15

The comedian Mel Brooks once famously – or, depending on your point of view, infamously – said: “Tragedy is when I get a cut my finger; comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” Granted that comedy is highly subjective – afterall, one person’s comedy is another person’s insult – and I experienced this subjectivity as a child: my parents, siblings, and I loved the Irish comedian Dave Allen; but my mother’s father thought he was an apostate who should be excommunicated, or worse. Continue reading “Genesis 18: 1-15”

The 40th Anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia: An Alternate Perspective

Recently, I was accorded the privilege of receiving a copy of a sermon preached by my friend and colleague, Rev. John Bottomley, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia, a union of the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalist traditions in Australia. With John’s kind permission, I reproduce that sermon below. Continue reading “The 40th Anniversary of the Uniting Church in Australia: An Alternate Perspective”

Matthew 28: 16-20

I have, on previous occasions, spoken to you about the art-form known as a triptych: a painting that consists of three panels, each of which depict different scenes, but which, when they come together, form a unified narrative whole. And an example which I have given you in the past is the so-called Sforza Triptych, which was painted around the year 1460 for the Sforza family, who were the rulers of Milan at that time. Continue reading “Matthew 28: 16-20”

Ezekiel 37: 1-14

I’m pretty sure that every person here today has heard some version or another of the song My Way. It is, afterall, Frank Sinatra’s signature tune, the one song he sang at every concert. Moreover, I suspect its popularity derives from the fact that it’s not just a good tune, or that in the hands of an artist of Sinatra’s calibre it takes on extraordinary new dimensions, but because it also speaks to the foundational myth of modernity. This is the myth of the fully autonomous individual who, through the sheer exercise of will, is able to shape the world around them to suit themselves. In other words, the myth of the person who can go through the whole of life doing things “my way”. Continue reading “Ezekiel 37: 1-14”

Genesis 2: 15-17, 3:1-8; Matthew 1-11

I don’t know about anyone else here today, but one of the staples of my childhood was watching Warner Bros. cartoons.  Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat – foghornand my absolute favourite: Foghorn Leghorn, the bombastic, loudmouthed, prank-playing rooster (and I would caution you against making any connections between the nature of his character and the fact that he was my favourite!). Watching these cartoons was a daily event; and for myself and my siblings it was one of the highlights of the day. Continue reading “Genesis 2: 15-17, 3:1-8; Matthew 1-11”

Micah 6: 1-8

In the first week of its existence, the new administration of President Donald Trump has probably received more media coverage, scrutiny, analysis, and commentary than most Presidents receive in a month. At one level, this arises from the understandable novelty of newness: people are naturally curious about the policies any new administration will pursue, and the media tend to feed this curiosity as it senses an opportunity for increased circulation and improved ratings. However, in the case of President Trump, this intense coverage is also the product of his own conduct over the long course of the last presidential election cycle, and both the expectations and the fears which his campaign promises have raised in many parts of American society and the wider global community. Continue reading “Micah 6: 1-8”

Isaiah 42: 1-9

In his book A Grief Observed, C S Lewis talks powerfully about the experience of being forced into the position of onlooker in a situation involving the suffering of another; of what it feels like to be relegated to the sidelines while a tragedy unfolds. And in particular, he describes the particular, impotent rage which the observer in these situation experiences: the desperate desire to be somehow empowered or equipped to intervene, to be able to change the course of events so that the suffering ceases or the tragedy doesn’t occur.  And Lewis also describes the terrible sense of isolation and loneliness which this situation engenders: of how one desperately cries out to God for answers and solutions; and of how, instead, in the midst of our terrible pain, it only feels as though God has slammed the door shut in our faces, and all we can hear are the bolts being driven home on the other side. Continue reading “Isaiah 42: 1-9”

Luke 17: 5-10

In the classic television series Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, the cynical public servant, Sir Humphrey Appleby, was often wont to observe that politicians like busyness and activity, it being their substitute for actual achievement. Of course, this cynicism highlights the fact that busyness and activity can often be a smokescreen for the fact that while we think change is occurring and achievements are taking place, in reality the status quo remains. Continue reading “Luke 17: 5-10”

Luke 21: 5-19

There’s an old story of which I’m fond, and which I’ve shared with you on previous occasions. It’s the story of a man who, every morning, would take his Bible and, with eyes closed, open it at random; whereupon, he would place his finger on the page, open his eyes, and read the passage upon which his finger had alighted. He did so because he believed that this was God’s personal, inspiring message to him each day. Continue reading “Luke 21: 5-19”