Showing posts from May, 2019

On prayer. Kirwan Uniting Church pew sheet 25 November 2018

Every time a prayer needs mail lands in my inbox, it occurs to me that it’s easier to pray for someone else than it is to pray for myself. Perhaps you’re the same. What difference does it make? Does it really change God? Surely God does not change. Besides which, does not prayer contradict the most fundamental principle of faith, which is that we are called on to do God’s will rather than ask God to do ours? What really happens when we pray? Prayer has two dimensions, one mysterious, the other not. There are simply too many cases of prayers being answered for us to deny that it makes a difference to our fate. It does. In times of crisis we cry out from the depths of our soul, and something happens. Sometimes we only realise it later, looking back. Prayer makes a difference to the world – but how it does so is mysterious. There is, however, a second dimension which is non-mysterious. Less than prayer changes the world, it changes us. The Hebrew verb lehitpalel, meaning “to pray,

Ascension Day for Kirwan Uniting Church's Keep in Touch pew sheet.

Today as I write this, Thursday just gone as you read it, is Ascension Day.  Read Luke’s account in Acts 1  -  I’d take up both sides of Keep in Touch if I post the whole passage. It happens during one of the Bible’s “In between” times, between Jesus’ resurrection and the Spirit coming to the Church at Pentecost. The disciples, flushed with happiness that Jesus has conquered death and assuming that He will soon conquer the occupying Romans and give  them (the disciples) prestigious positions in the new Kingdom, ask Jesus when that will happen. But Jesus tells them that they will have power, just not the sort of power for which they were hoping.  “Go back to Jerusalem and wait”, says Jesus.  Back to the very place where He had recently been crucified. And the power which they would receive would not be to Lord it over their erstwhile enemies, but rather to witness to them, and to the whole world. The word, “Witness”, would carry foreboding because it has the same meaning as “Martyr”.

For Kirwan Uniting Church's Keep in Touch pew sheet 26 May 2019.

Leisa and I have bought each other early anniversary presents  -  a pair of matching electric toothbrushes. We’re so romantic. Our old toothbrush batteries died within weeks of each other.  The bible mentions teeth loads of times, all except twice in a bad context (think “Gnashing of teeth”).  The two exceptions are in Song of Songs 4 and 6, each time the shepherd lover says to his peasant girlfriend the same, “Your teeth are like a flock of sheep which have come up from the washing; every one bears twins, and none is barren among them.” (This compliment in chapter 4 follows straight on from my chat-up line to Leisa, “Your hair is as a flock of goats cavorting down Mt Gilead”).  Although there is an uncomplimentary Year 7 variant of this, “Your teeth are like stars. They come out at night”, the shepherd’s compliment is genuine, his girlfriend’s teeth are sparkling and complete.  Which you might think is strange from a time without matching electric toothbrushes or fancy toothpaste or

Rambling for Kirwan Uniting Church Keep in Touch pew sheet 19 May

Little Johny hadn’t spoken a word in all his six years of life. Finally, one morning at breakfast, he cried out, “Mum, the toast’s burnt!” His amazed and delighted mother hugged him joyfully and asked, “Johny, why haven’t you spoken before?” “Well”, replied our budding chauvinist, “Everything’s been all right up until now”. Just as there are people (not only little Johny) who wait until there’s something to complain about before they speak, so many folk wait to pray until there’s a crisis which they can’t fix themselves. My Jesuit colleague at The Wesley Hospital described “Submarine Catholics”. You don’t know that they’re Catholic, they sail along undetected beneath life’s waves until illness or bereavement or some other catastrophe strikes, then up pops their periscope while they look around for a priest to pray or perform a fortifying rite of the church. Then, crisis over, their illness cured or loved one anointed and buried, down they go to stay submerged until the next th

Election Special for Kirwan Uniting Church's Keep in Touch

If you took the same sort of cocktail party etiquette tips which I did, you'd have been taught not to discuss politics, sex or religion.   Well religion is sort-of unavoidable in my line of work, so how about the other two? Most of you won’t know this, at least I hope most of you don’t, but the Council and I managed to hold off demands from some outside quarters to discuss a matter concerning sexuality. As you do know at Kirwan, all too well, that sort of discussion promotes division and hurt. So our cocktail party is still on the rails, the weather and the Cowboys are OK topics. But wait … isn’t there an Election coming up?  There is indeed, and Leisa and I posted off our ballot papers some days ago.  I’ll be at Synod on Election Day.  The results start to come in during a guest lecture.  The guest lecturer will comment afterwards, and I think there’ll be a large screen set up for Synod members to gawp at Antony Green  -  although if past experience is a guide, much gawping

For Kirwan Uniting Church's Keep in Touch, 5 May 2019

It’s a hard life for us ministry agents and Presbytery reps, having to spend a weekend at Mission Beach Resort 😊   Presbytery Meeting went well, no controversy, lovely worship, especially on Saturday morning when Aitkenvale’s Graham Huth led and presided, and Garry Hardingham preached.  We had an impromptu concert on Saturday evening.  Kathy Reid can tell you about the stand-up comedian.  You wouldn’t want him as your pastor, dreadful jokes. Having fun, being joyful, is part of the Christian life.  “In your presence is fullness of joy” (Ps 16).  The trouble is, we can think that it’s their own fault when people don’t see fun in situations. “Where’s your joy of the Lord?” we ask. Well, I do, until I catch myself acknowledging that I jolly well wouldn’t be joyful if I were undergoing their circumstances. Just as God blesses and validates fun and laughter, so he sanctifies tears and despair. Just as I, to my shame, sometimes shun folk who I say are “no fun”,  so God is near to t