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Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch Newsletter 10 October 2021

I confess to a little conceit, which is invisible to all but Leisa. For most of my adult life, my handkerchiefs (for any pedants out there, handkerchieves as the plural is archaic) have borne the monogram, R. In the days when I wore suit jackets, I would sometimes sport a breast pocket handkerchief, coloured or patterned, to match my tie, but the monogram would be artfully hidden. What brought this to mind is that one of those very old handkerchiefs died during the week. It predates Leisa, is riddled with holes from overseas hotel laundry staple-tags, and is threadbare. It’s the first one which I have brought myself to throw away, though (reverently disposed is the preferred term).   There is an instance in the Bible of a handkerchief being associated with resurrection, new life, not  decay. The familiar story of Lazarus in John 11, you know it well: His sisters tell Jesus that if He had been there, their brother wouldn’t have died. And then when Jesus orders the stone to be rolled awa

Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch newsletter 3 October 2021

We haven’t had many COVID mask mandates in Townsville, but whenever one is promulgated (I wholeheartedly approve, by the way), three things happen. First, I forget that the measure is in force, walk masklessly up to Coles front door,  see a masked shopper emerging, utter an unpastoral imprecation - sotto voce, I hope - go back to the car and retrieve my mask. Second, when I try to scan the Queensland check in QR code, my phone won’t unlock because it doesn’t recognise my face with a mask. So I rummage through my ageing memory for the phone’s PIN. Third, when it’s time to pay, I can’t use Apple Pay because, you’ve guessed it, my face isn’t recognised. There are instances in the Bible of masks - or veils, same thing - being worn.  Exactly as in the Middle East today, women wore them for reasons of modesty and to indicate that only a husband or close male relative may see their unveiled face. I’m glad that Leisa wasn’t wearing a veil when I beheld her for the first time in a London church

Ramble for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet 26 September 2021

Harold Kushner is a Jewish rabbi who wrote When Bad Things Happen To Good People (Anchor paperback 2004). His 3yo son had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease which meant that he wouldn’t live beyond his early teens. It’s a go-to book for hospital chaplains, for anyone really who asks themselves why do bad things happen to good people? Which is all of us, I guess, asking that question. Kushner no more comes up with an answer which settles the question than anyone else has in the history of thought. But his book is still worth reading. He wrote from a Jewish perspective. Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Ch 53) is the archetype of a blameless person suffering undeservedly. We interpret the chapter to allude to Christ, God’s sinless Son. The Jewish Wisdom story of Job shows us another archetype of undeserved suffering. Neither of these accounts gives us that elusive answer to the question, I’m afraid, but they do show us a God who suffers with us and who weeps with us. God’s pain, like o

Thoughts expressed at Kirwan Uniting Church Council of Ministry Meeting, 13 September 2021.

Bishop John “Jack” Shelby Spong died yesterday. May he rest in peace and rise in timeless glory. You will have heard and read about his supposed heterodoxy. He was not the antichrist of conservative fundamentalist infamy, nor the hero prophet of the new age, fĂȘted and beloved by “progressives” (usually not-so-bright-or-celebrated as Spong, who fastened onto his iconoclastic coat-tails in hope that they would be thought so. The Uniting Church has its fair share of these wannabes). If you like, he was neither the Messiah nor a very naughty boy. Much of the stuff for which he was vilified by fundamentalists was really a rehashing of late 19thC biblical criticism, with a dash of his mid 20thC mentor, John Robinson. I don’t agree with many of his positions, but it’s a good thing to be challenged, to be made to   “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3. However, he has a very good point to make about Jonah.  “Jonah’s “

Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet 12 September 2021

If you frequent social media, for example Facebook or Twitter, you’ll probably “follow” fellow posters, and they might “follow” you back. That is, you are notified whenever someone whom you’re following posts something, or their “feed” - their posts - appear first on your “timeline” or your own feed. People with lots of followers are said to be “Influencers”. Society deems influencers to be of more worth than followers. It’s much the same, I’m sad to say, in some trendy church movements. “Christian Leadership Summits” are all the rage. Influencers are leaders, followers are losers. Interestingly enough, this week’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-38) has Jesus telling his followers that very thing, that they’re losers.  “ If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” I don’t know about you, but that’s the

Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch pew sheet 5 September 2021

If you have studied sociology, anthropology, social anthropology, or sociology of religion, you’ll have encountered the work of Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978). Much of her reputation-establishing research was conducted in our own back yard, in the Samoan Islands and PNG. “Coming of Age in Samoa” is perhaps her most well-known work. Not without controversy, she is still the foremost social anthropologist of the 20thC. So you might expect that she was something of an expert on early signs of civilisation in a culture. And those signs? Fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones? No, said Mead, the first sign of civilisation in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. She explains that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. A broken femur that has healed is evidence

Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keeping in Touch newsletter 8 August 2021

You know that feeling after a lovely holiday away, your body is back home but half of your mind is still at the place where you’ve just spent two restful weeks … ? Leisa and I wondered why I slept so well. The holiday cottage bed was comfortable, but so is ours. There was no night-time noise in Speewah, except for scrabbling possums. Even with my hearing aids out, there is always intrusive sound on Greenwood and Thuringowa Drives. And of course Kirwan has ambient artificial light on all sides, while our cottage grounds were bathed only in moonlight filtered by rainforest. That lack of light, such an aid to sleep, posed its own problems when we took Yannie for her pre-bedtime walk. Leisa sported a headband torch, but how could we be sure that an indistinct shape looming up through the gloom wasn’t a cassowary or wild pig, endemic in the area? It can truly be said of them, that you don’t want to meet them on a dark night. In literature, sacred and secular, the dark has always hinted at u