Friday, 2 September 2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016
Worship Service for 4 September 2016
Year C Sunday 23
Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Holy Communion

Call to worship 
We are called to this place,
As the family of God,
To celebrate God’s love for us,
And to recommit ourselves to love for God,
So we may live out that love in the world around us.

Hymn Together in Song 217 Love divine, all loves excelling

Lighting the Christ Candle

Passing the peace
The peace of the Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Prayers of adoration and thanksgiving:

Dear God,
Thank you that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, you are nearby
Thank you for each day, made fresh and new.
Thank you for people who love us,

We thank you for families,
Thank you for kids and mothers but especially on Fathers Day we thank you for fathers, and for people who fill the role of fathers in our lives.
Thank you for fathers who work and for fathers who don’t.
Thank you for fathers who are always busy, and fathers who have time to play,
Thank you for fathers who throw balls, and fathers who tickle kids,
Thank you for fathers who dig gardens, and push swings,
Thank you for fathers who read story books,
Thank you for the fathers who wonder where all the time went,
Thank you for the fathers who try use you as a model for what fatherhood really is.
Thank you God, for fathers.

We thank you for families,
Thank you for uncles, aunts, cousins and grandmas, but especially on Fathers Day we thank you for grand-dads, and those who fill the role of grandfathers in our lives.
Thank you for grandfathers who go fishing,
Thank you for grandfathers who tell stories about the old days
Thank you for grandfathers who remember everything
Thank you for grandfathers who forget where they left their reading glasses and their teeth.
Thank you God, for grandfathers.

Thank you God, for our bigger family, the church,
Thank you that you are the father of this family, and where human fathers may fail, you are always the father we need
Thank you that we are all your children, whether we are children or grown-ups.

Thank you God, for families

Prayer of confession: 

Loving God, you created all things, including us, and said that they were good.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
But sometimes our thoughts, words and actions are not good.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
We fail to love you with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and we fail to love others as ourselves.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.
Remake us, God, into people who reflect your goodness in all we do.
Shape us, O God, and make us new.

Declaration of forgiveness
Our sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God!

Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for brokenness.

                Jeremiah 18:1-11
Luke 14: 25-33

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple.”

Well, that’s a great passage to read on Father’s Day isn’t it?

If you thought it might give you permission to become a misanthrope and hate everyone, however, you’re sadly mistaken.

This is a figure of speech.  It’s hyperbole.  It’s not really a love/hate dichotomy, and if you’ve read any of Jesus’ other teachings you know it’s not (and the people originally listening knew it wasn’t.)  It’s an extreme way of saying you have to love Jesus more than anything and anyone else.

On his way to picking up his own cross, Jesus wasn’t impressed with the crowds who’d come out because he was the flavour of the moment.  He was making it clear that there were no part-time disciples.  If you were in, then you were completely in.

There’s still no part-time positions as disciple offered. If you’re in, you’re in, and it’s going to cost everything.

“Take up your cross,” Jesus said.  That should have revolted his listeners.  To them crucifixion was real.  They were living under Pilate’s rule – and he was a bloodthirsty tyrant who loved nothing better than a crucifixion.  Jesus’ original listeners were familiar with the sight of dead and dying people on crosses at the side of the road. Adding to the horror of that reality was the belief than anyone crucified was under God’s curse.

Despite that, some still followed him, and of those, many did literally pick up their cross.

So what is the cost of discipleship today?  What kind of cross might we be expected to carry?

It all depends.  It depends on circumstances and what we would be willing to do if it was demanded of us.

Some people will consider all the problems in their lives, health problems, family issues, practically anything, as “their cross to bear”.  That’s not what Jesus was talking about.  That’s just stuff that happens and you have to find a way to live with it.  It’s not the cost of faith, it’s just part of being human.

The cost of faith comes in when we voluntarily do something that will cost us something because we belong to Jesus.

For example, if you’re broke because you’re no good at managing money, that’s not your cross, that’s you messing up.  If you’re broke because you gave all your money to help someone because you believed Jesus would want you to help them, that’s your cross.  It’s not what you suffer, it’s why you suffer that makes it the cost Jesus was talking about.

Putting God first in everything, and loving our neighbour as ourselves, does cost.  It costs in our time, when God requires us to go and so something that benefits someone else, even though we’d rather have spent the time doing something for ourselves.

It costs in our money, when God shows us a need that is more important than our own at the time.

It costs in how people see us, when God demands that we stand up for justice and mercy, when everyone else wants to exclude or ignore some person or group of people.  It costs when people judge us, for refusing to judge others. Sometimes, it’s just unAustralian to be Christian.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to love someone who will never appreciate that love, and will not even give us respect or good manners in return. Loving the unloveable person is one of the most costly, and emotionally exhausting things anyone can ever do.  Giving to someone who never gives back hurts.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to be stewards of God’s creation, and it’s just so much easier to waste resources than it is to protect and preserve them.

It costs, when Jesus calls us to be a light to the world, to show who Jesus is through the way we live.  It would be so much easier just to tell people about Jesus, and live any way we feel like.

Not many of us will be called on to be physically tortured or die for our faith.  But there are places in the world, where Christianity is illegal, and people really do physically suffer for their faith. For some of our Christian family “take up your cross” is still a literal command – which is something to remember when we face whatever cross God gives us.

Just this week, seven Christian leaders found that their cross was to be removed from the Prime Minister’s office, by police. They were in the office praying, and reading the leaked documents about incidents at the Nauru asylum centre. This combined prayer and protest was what they were called to do, in being called to love their neighbour.

What is the cost of faith? Our minds and bodies, our hearts and souls, our lives, our time and our skills, everything we are and everything we have.  That’s the cost of following Jesus.

When we follow Jesus we are no longer the centre of our own lives, Jesus is.

To follow him means to invite God to command and control us, to shape us, to break us and remake us, in whatever way necessary to bring glory to God.

Hymn & Offering Together in Song 583 Take up your cross

Offering prayer

Hymn Together in Song 538 Feed us now

Service of Holy Communion


Hymn Together in Song 599 Take my life and let it be

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion

Settle in for story time.

This is me reading "Spring Cleaning" one of the short stories in my new book Patchwork.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Sunday, 3 July 2016
Worship service for Ipswich Central Uniting Church
Sunday 3 July 2016
Year C Sunday 14

Theme: Jesus and the Compassionate Life

Call to worship

The Kingdom of God has come near
The God of Compassion
Invites us to be compassionate,
To live the life of the Kingdom
Here and now.

Together in Song 217 Love Divine, all loves excelling

Passing the peace:

Prayers of adoration and confession

God of Love,
We thank you for the love and compassion you show to us, accepting us and caring for us, no matter how much we fail to live up to your hopes for us.

We thank you for the gift of Jesus, who came as one of us, to show us your love, and to teach us how to love our neighbours, to show us how to be a part of your Kingdom.

We thank you for the gift of your Spirit who walks with us day by day, never leaving us to face the challenges and choices of life alone, who reminds us of your love, and inspires us to reflect your love in our love for others.

We confess the times we have failed to show compassion,
The times we didn’t even try to forgive those who hurt us,
The times when we saw our neighbour’s need and decided it wasn’t our problem,
The times when we allowed ourselves to be hardened because caring can hurt and can cost too much.

Teach us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength,
and to love one another as you have loved us.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Declaration of forgiveness

The truth and the promise of the Gospel is this
Jesus came into the world for ordinary, sinful people such as us,
So I have confidence to say to you:
Our sins are forgiven!
Thanks be to God.

Hymn Together in Song 236 Jesus’ hands were kind hands
Hymn Together in Song 690 Beauty for Brokenness

            Galatians 6: 1-16
            Luke 10:1-11 and 16-20


When you go to a group of people and they don’t accept you, just walk away.  Don’t post nasty things about them on social media, or try to force them to see the world exactly the same way you do, or set up a lobby group to try to get them kicked out of the country, just leave and let them be.  Wipe the dust off your feet and go somewhere else.

When you go to people who will accept you, stay among them. Live in their culture, eat the same food they do. Heal their sick. Care for them. Care particularly for those who are in need. Then proclaim the Kingdom of God has come near.

“The Kingdom of God”, or “The Kingdom of Heaven”; was something Jesus talked about constantly.  I know there’s a modern cultural idea that Heaven is where good people go when they die.  The way Jesus talked about it, however, you could see, that to him, “The Kingdom of Heaven” is more than just pie in the sky when you die.

In Jesus’ teaching, and in the life he modelled during his time sharing our human life, the Kingdom of Heaven was something concrete, real, as much “here and now” as “eternally”. 

You want to see the Reign of God?  Don’t wait, become a citizen now.

We are a part of the Kingdom of Heaven, when we love our neighbor, when we forgive those who have hurt us, when we pray for people who persecute us, when we heal the sick, feed the hungry, help the poor out of poverty, when we care about people even if their lives are totally different from our own. Basically we are living in the Kingdom of Heaven when we live the life that Jesus spent his earthly ministry teaching us to live: when we show compassion.

As you know, our winter huddles have been huddling over many aspects of the spiritual life Jesus modelled.  This week’s topic has been compassion.  Compassion means “feeling with” someone.  It’s about actually trying to understand things from their perspective, and caring about them.  Another term for the same thing could be love.

It breaks my heart when people who claim to represent Christians can then support the mistreatment of people from marginalized groups, when they justify this on the basis of judging other people’s sins, or that they are of the wrong faith.  I can’t see how anyone can read the gospels and think that is what Jesus intended for us to do.

Jesus loves sinners.  How much of his limited time in earthly ministry did he spend dining with the good Pharisees?  How much with the sinners, prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors?

Jesus loves people who are from different cultures, and Jesus loves people who love others.   The Centurian who loved his servant enough to belittle himself and seek help from a wandering preacher from a subject people, was met with compassion from Jesus.

Jesus loves people who don’t believe in and don’t like him: on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for those who killed him.
To live in the Kingdom of God doesn’t require us to judge who is in and who is out.  Just to determine that we will love, and have compassion on everyone, regardless. There’s no option to decide we won’t care about the needs of the sinners or the needs of the people who have a different culture. If God places us in a position where we have the opportunity to show compassion to another person, then that is what we are to do.

There’s a stark difference between the Kingdom that Jesus sent the 70 (or 72 depending on which ancient manuscript your translation of the Bible used as a source) to proclaim, and the geo-political kingdoms of the world.  We’ve just had a two-month election campaign to remind us, in case we forgot. 

Earthly, geo-political nations do work on an in or out basis.  That’s why we have border protection.  They work a lot on selfishness and fear.  We limit migration because we don’t want “them” to have what “we” have.  That’s why we need our borders protected from people who come to us seeking help.

The Kingdom of Heaven shows compassion, seeks to heal the sick, care for the poor, provide for the needy.

The geo-political nation clamps down on disability pensions because pensioners are a burden on the economy, argues about what will happen with medicare, and wants growth, growth and more growth, because there’s no limit to the greed and the urge to have more and more and more.

The currency of the geo-political nation is money, and people are expected to seek to get more and more and more.  The currency of the Kingdom of Heaven is love, and its citizens seek to give more and more and more.  (Since money is based on things like work, minerals, and crops; and love is something that comes directly from God, only one of those is actually unlimited, and sustainable for eternity.)

Of course, we can’t opt out of the political system.  We all had to vote. And the best any of us can do is vote for whichever party we see at the time as coming closest to our actual values.  Any two people might start with the same set of values and vote for two different political parties, because they will all support some of what we believe is right, and some of what we believe is wrong.  There’s no party that’s actually cornered the market on compassion.  In the heat of an adversarial election campaign, it sometimes seems that no party has any interest in compassion, but hopefully that’s not completely true.  It’s just that the values of the world, really are not completely in line with the kingdom, and while we have to live with a foot in both camps, we have to deal with the tension.

And there really is a tension. Think about the wars that Australia’s involved in that no-one wins or loses, they just go on and on and on.  Do we as a nation love our enemies?  Can we even imagine what that would look like? Do we even love the people fleeing our enemies enough to help them get to safety?

We have to accept that life in the Kingdom of Heaven will sometimes have a sense of dissonance with life in the world around us. When we notice that dissonance, and have to choose one over another, choosing compassion is always the best option.  It’s what Jesus would recommend.

Hymn Together in Song 537 Let us talents and tongues employ

Service of Holy Communion  (UIW2 p163ff)

Hymn and offering  Together in Song 697 All the sleepy should have a place to sleep

Offering prayer

What’s God doing among us?

Prayers of the people

Loving God,
Yesterday, we elected a government,
Some of us may be pleased with the result,
Some of us may be disappointed,
However we feel, we pray that all those elected will carry out their work with wisdom and integrity, and with the utmost compassion for the people affected by their decisions

(from What God’s doing among us…)

We pray in Jesus’ name.


Go out into the world, care for those in need, and show them God’s love and tell them the Kingdom of God has come near.

And grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit be with you always.

Hymn Together in Song 599 Take my life and let it be

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Earth Belongs to God

Psalm 24:1-2

Good morning,

During the week you might have heard in the news that the United Nations Climate Change Panel is now 95% certain that climate change is caused by humans (up from 90% in its previous report.)

Climate change is a big issue for politicians and businesses. We've seen the carbon tax introduced, dramatically reduce Australia's carbon emissions and now about to be axed and replaced with a different scheme, which will hopefully have as much of an effect. This is an issue world leaders need to work on at a global level.

It's also an issue for us, in our own homes and community, in how we exercise our faith daily. Human beings are breaking the earth, and it's not ours to break. It's God's. Human beings have the task of caring for the earth. But the earth is God's handiwork and God's possession.

There are some simple things we can do to minimise our carbon impact: we can turn off standby power on products (turn things off at the wall when we are not using them); turn off lights when we're leaving the room (if there's no-one else using them); change to lower energy consuming lights and products; use public transport where we can; try to organise tasks so as to do as many as possible in one car journey; to try to buy food and other items that haven't travelled huge distances to get to us.
For those who are able, switching to solar power and cars that use less fossil fuels are also ways to help protect this planet.

It's a matter of using what we need, without waste: being thankful for, and respectful of, what God has provided.
Grace and peace,

Friday, 20 September 2013

Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 19
Good morning,
This week I saw a silent film, only a few minutes long, which in a couple of minutes told a horrible story about some of the effects first world wealth are having on the third world.
The film was called “Sodom and Gomorrah.”
You'll recall the Biblical story: the residents of the cities Sodom and Gomorrah were so evil that God decided to destroy them both. Abraham asked for God to save his nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom. As the story goes on we discover that Lot's just as bad as his neighbours. Two angels visit Lot to warn him to take his family and leave town. The men of Sodom demand Lot hand the guests over to be gang raped, Lot offers his daughters instead. (Lot really wasn't any better than the other Sodomites.) The people of Sodom failed to respect, let alone love, their neighbours.

So on to the film.
Have you ever wondered what happens to computers, and other electronic waste discarded by the first world?
Well, a lot of it gets dumped, either legally or illegally, in impoverished towns in the third world.
The very short film Sodom and Gomorrah, shows the people working in one of these dumping grounds. They have no protective equipment as they burn plastics, etc, to recover small amounts of valuable metals.

Their town is covered in the remains of burned electronic equipment, toxic smoke, and mountains of the western world's rubbish. Because everything is burned, and of the poisonous smoke, the town is known as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Only this time, the town wasn't destroyed by the residents' lack of love for their neighbour. This time it was destroyed by the first world's lack of respect or love for our poorer neighbours, and for the environment God created.
Grace and peace

If you want to see the film for yourself, the link is: