Friday, 26 August 2011

Sunday 28 August 2011 (Year A, Sunday 21)

28 August 2011
Year A Sunday 21

Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20. Green.

Call to worship
Give thanks to the Lord
and sing his praises
for all the wonderful things he has done.
Let us worship and praise our God!

Hymn Together in Song 491 “Father Welcomes”

Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of all Being,
you showed yourself to Moses in the fire of the burning bush.
You told him your plans and revealed to him your name,
you called yourself “I am”, not just an name, but an action,
You are the very act of existence -
all else can only exist because of you.
You are absolute being – not needing anything else to be -
all other being depends completely on you.
You are, and all else can be, only because you are.

And you have a plan for all that is,
You showed part of your plan to Moses
Through your word recorded in Scriptures,
you show part of your plan to us.
Through your word, coming into the world in Jesus,
you show your plan in action in the world.
Through your word, acting in our lives
you make us a part of your plan,
a part of your work in the world.

Living God,
Sometimes we forget your name means “I am”,
We act or speak or think as if you were some time in the past,
but don't live now, don't speak now, or don't act in our world now.
Sometimes we forget that your name is a verb,
we act or speak or think as if you were a “thing” static, unmoving;
when your name means the very act of existing.
Sometimes we forget that your name identifies you as the source of all be-ing,
We act or speak or think as if we existed apart from you,
when even your name tells us that our being, relies on your being.

God of all, forgive our sins,
Help us to learn to speak, to think, to act in ways which glorify your holy name,
We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness
The truth of the Gospel - God's word to us
that Jesus came into the world,
so that we might be
put right with God.

So I have confidence to say to you:
Our sins are forgiven.”
Thanks be to God!

Kids' time – Bec

Hymn Together in Song 236 Jesus' hands were kind hands

Exodus 3:1-15
Matthew 16:21-28

There's a saying that a week's a long time in politics. It's also apparently a long time in the life of a disciple.

A week ago we read that Peter was a rock, a foundation-stone Jesus could build a church on.

Today, he's a stumbling-block. Far from being the foundation of the church, he's the Satan, the accuser, trying to tempt Jesus away from his work. That's a bit of a demotion.

A rock's a rock. Of itself it's not good or bad. That's all in the way you look at it or what you do with it.

A rock could be almost anything. It could be a millstone, and grind grain into flour – or it could be a millstone tied around someones neck, dragging them down. It could be sculpted into a beautiful statue, or it could be the rock that starts an avalanche.

In a different congregation I was a part of once, the Sunday School children made prayer rocks. Those were rocks in small tulle bags, with instructions on use. The idea of a prayer rock is that you leave it on your pillow – when you hit your head on it at night time, you're supposed to remember you had to pray. Then you drop the rock on the floor beside the bed. When you hurt your foot stepping on it in the morning, you're supposed to remember to pray again. And you leave the rock back on the pillow. The children's prayer rocks were useful, but very uncomfortable. Sometimes, useful things just are uncomfortable.

Peter was a rock. Jesus had called him “Petros” - which wasn't a real name, but more a nick-name. It was like “Rocky” to us (but without the movie reference.) And for Peter, things did get rocky from time to time.

Peter had been praised by Jesus and declared to be the rock on which Jesus would build the church: because he had recognised that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the Living God.

The next thing Peter knew, he was being accused of being a stumbling-block, something tripping Jesus up.

Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me,” a reminder that the proper place for a disciple wasn't in deciding what should or should not happen, but in following the teacher. Then Jesus went into detail as to what following him would mean, self-denial, carrying a cross, following him.

Over and over Peter would get thism mixed up. He did have faith in God, and he did have faith in Jesus. He wouldn't have walked away from everything he knew to follow him if he didn't. But he was still an ordinary human being. He still made mistakes and said things he'd regret later. He wasn't the perfect disciple.

Peter's not all that different from us, I'm sure. We all have times when we seem like that strong stone which can be a firm part of Christ's church. Our faith seems solid and we seem to know exactly where God is leading.

Then we all have times when we are floundering. When we don't understand what God is doing, and we want to say: “No, do it my way.” In every life there are experiences we would rather not have had, experiences we can see no point to: just as Peter could see no point to Jesus' suffering.

And at times, we're all pulled up short, given the shock of being reminded that it is not our place to decide how God will act. We are the disciples, not the leaders, we should get back in our place and follow, even if we are following somewhere we really don't want to go.

It's comforting to know we're not the first to be in this position. Even those who were there with Jesus in his earthly ministry suffered from the same problem. When they thought they'd got it right, at times it turned out they were wrong. We don't know why Peter objected to Jesus going to the cross. Perhaps he just couldn't bear the thought of that happening to Jesus, his teacher, leader and friend. Perhaps he had other ideas of the role of the Messiah.

We have sometimes basically good reasons for objecting to the way God does things as well. Perhaps we see it as unnecessary. Perhaps we think thgere were better ways for things to happen. Perhaps we are frightened or distressed by the way things come about.

How often do we have to be reiminded that we ar ethe disciples, not the leader? We have to get behind and follow even when we don't like where it leads. Those times when we directly disobey, when we turn around and say “no” to God, how often do we hear those same words Peter heard: “get behind me.” We are reminded again of the path Jesus walked, to Jerusalem and the cross, and told if we are to be his followers, we also have to pick up our crosses and walk after him.

Like Peter, we're all a bit like rocks. Sometimes, we're solid rocks of faith, who seem able to withstand everything, a good foundation if we want to build Jesus' church. Sometimes, we don't want to go where Jesus is leading, and we become stumbling-blocks, causing problems for Jesus' mission in the world. I wonder what kind of rock I am right now. I wonder what kind of rock you are right now.


Even though Peter had to be put in his place, and reminded what it was to be a disciple, Jesus never rejected him. Jesus corrected him, taught him, and called him to continue the journey.

Hymn: Together in Song 490 Lord Jesus, once a child

Baptism of xxx



Prayers of the people – with Response Together in Song 741 “O Lord, hear my prayer.” I need a singer to help lead this

God of all Life,
We pray for all of the people living in your world,
For people not yet born, their parents, doctors and others already involved in decisions about their futures. We pray that every person you create will have the opportunity to live the life you intend for them.

Sung Response

For babies and children, for homes and food and clothes and health, for loving families, and safety and reassurance.

Sung Response

For teenagers, for guidance and care,f or help in the struggle of not yet being adult, but not feeling like children. For the challenges of working out who they are in the world. For the dangers they face, the risks and the pitfalls of life which they not be prepared for.

Sung Response

For young adults, finishing their education, searching for work, finding it or not finding it; establishing their homes and lives. For the basic skills for living they must learn to practice, whether or not they have been taught.

Sung Response

For parents, constantly finding new challenges, new fears and new hopes.
And for adults who never become parents, for the joys and disappointments of their lives.

Sung Response

For those who are old. For the peace or the trouble that memories bring. For the frustration of failing bodies. For watching other generations grow and learn. For the wisdom of experience. For the pain of loss.

Sung Response

For those who are dying. For peace and comfort. For love, and for a gentle move from this life into the next.

Sung Response.

We pray for all of the people of your world – especially the needs we are most aware of (prayer points from newsletter).

Sung Response

And we pray for xxx who has been baptised today, may he grow in grace and wisdom, and in love for you. Guide him throughout his life, and let him know you are with him.
We prayfor his parents xxx and xxx. Surround their home with your love, support and guide them in their role of parenting, and give them love that is great enough for all the trials of a family home. Help them to keep the promises they have made on xxx's behalf today.

Sung Response

We pray these things in Jesus' name, and we use his words:

The Lord's prayer

Hymn 599 Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord, to thee

Present baptismal candle.


Threefold Amen.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Newsletter reflection: Assylum Seekers

Good morning,

One of the political debates that comes back again and again is the issue of the “boat people”. From the reports we hear, it can at times seem as if we are overwhelmed by people trying to get to Australia illegally on boats.

So, let's get some things into perspective. Yes, we actually illegal immigrants coming into Australia. They usually come legally by plane, and then overstay their visas. Very few actually risk their lives coming by unseaworthy craft. Of the few who do come to Australia on these ramshackle vessels, most are eventually found to be genuine refugees, and allowed to remain in Australia.

So what are the issues about “boat people” that we need to be aware of?

Firstly, that the boat people, are usually fleeing some genuine life-threatening situation, and have risked their lives and paid everything they have to escape.

Secondly, is the issue of “people trafficking” - sometimes this means “slavery”. In the 21st century, we like to believe that slavery is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, it still exists in the world. Many women and children are traded across national borders for prostitution, and men and children for forced labour. Whenever anyone comes into this country, however they get here, it is important that there is some way to establish that they are here voluntarily. (It should be noted, however, that refugee boats would not be a popular way to transport slaves – slavery is a business and unseaworthy boats risk too much of the product being lost.)

Thirdly, again, sometimes known as “people trafficking” or “people smuggling” - someone, somewhere is getting very rich out of exploiting people in severe need and desperation. The reason people can pay everything they own to get passage on one of these illegal, unsafe, boats, is that someone supplies boats, and crews, to get them here. The boats, the crew, all have to be “disposable”. Apart from the actual businessmen at the top of this business, everyone else is victimised – people desperate enough to make the voyage, and people poor enough to be willing to crew such vessels.

When the government says it is trying to break the people smugglers' business model, the argument is that sending people somewhere other than Australia to be processed, will mean people are less likely to get on the boats, driving down the demand and therefore the profitability of the business. It is an attempt to try to protect people from becoming the victims of this terrible system. There are, however, enough wars, famines, and oppressive political regimes, in the world to keep people desperate to flee, so there will always be business for people offering any kind of way to escape. The people who suffer most in the off-shore processing of the refugees, are refugees.

So is there a solution? Both sides of politics have been working for years to find one. So far, neither one has found it. All that has been achieved has been to increase the suffering on the same group of people who were already victims. The only perfect solution would be to have a world where everyone was safe to live wherever they were. That would be a world without refugees at all. This side of eternity, that's unlikely to happen.

A just solution would be to prosecute the people who exploit vulnerable people, while working to protect them. Unfortunately, the nature of the places refugees are trying to escape from, means that the people who profit from their efforts to escape aren't going to be subject to the forces of law and order. Justice for the criminals who are making money in this situation is unlikely to be coming any time soon.

That being the case, surely our nation's response to the situation ought to be primarily one of compassion for those who were victims, firstly of the things that made them flee their homes, secondly of those who exploited them for financial gain as they fled.

For Christians, then, what do we pray? We need to be praying for our political leaders, from both sides of politics, for them to have wisdom, and compassion. We need to pray for God's protection of the refugees on the boats, for compassionate treatment in their assessment, and for their eventual settlement somewhere safe, where they can have hope for their future.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sunday 21 August - I'm not preaching

Hi All

I don't have a service for this coming Sunday - the Lovely Lyndal is preaching - if you want to know what the service is about you just have to be there....


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Newsletter reflection: The Daniel Morcombe case

Good morning,

Late last week, Australia received the news that someone had been arrested in relation to the murder of Daniel Morcombe, and that police were now searching a particular area where they believed they might find Daniel's remains.

The whole case of Daniel Morcombe's disappearance has had an impact on south-east Queensland. Everyone in this region is familiar with the trauma suffered by the Morcombe family, never knowing for sure what has happened to their son. Bus lines have responded to the tragedy with a “no child left behind” policy – to try to avoid another child being left alone at a bus stop, waiting for the next bus to come at whatever time.

So how do we respond to the news that someone has been arrested, and has now had his first court appearance?

Importantly, we must remember that in our society, any person is considered innocent unless and until a court determines otherwise. (If you or I were unfortunate enough to be arrested for any reason, we would be grateful for that rule – that we could not be labelled “criminal” unless it could actually be proven to a court “beyond reasonable doubt”.) That means the man who has been arrested, is not “Daniel Morcombe's killer” - he is just a man who has been arrested and is yet to have his day in court to determine the truth of the matter.

Because jurors are drawn from all parts of the community – it's the responsibility of the community to not prejudge this case (or any other). Jurors need to be free to go to the court and hear the actual evidence, (rather than rumors, innuendo, wild guesses, etc) without being influenced by what the people around them have been saying. That's the way our system of justice works. So we need to be careful of the words we use when talking about this matter.

There is a lot of high emotion about this case. People who don't know the family feel real grief in sympathy with them. People who fear this might happen to children they love are angry and defensive and are looking for someone to blame. We all want some sense that the world can be a safe place again.

It's a tribute to the Morcombe family that their public response to their loss has been to set up a foundation to help protect children, and that their response to the arrest has been to urge people to allow the justice system to work properly.

So what do we, the church, pray for in this situation? We give thanks that we live somewhere justice happens slowly and carefully, with no-one prejudged. We pray for wisdom for all of the people involved in this, and other, court cases. We pray that the truth will finally be known, and that whoever really is responsible will be held to account. We pray for the police and volunteers, everyone who is out searching once again. We pray that the justified community outrage at the crime will be used as an impetus towards further protecting children and other vulnerable people, not towards vengance. And we pray for peace and comfort for Daniel's family, that they might finally have their answers and be able to farewell their son as they would wish.

Grace and peace

Friday, 12 August 2011

Sunday 14 August 2011

Service for Sunday 14 August 2011

Year A Sunday 20

Holy Communion

Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28. Green.

Call to worship
This is the day the Lord has made:
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Hymn Together in Song 156 Morning has broken

Prayer of Adoration and confession

God Most High,
We praise you for all of your works, for your goodness to us,
For your presence with us from the very beginnings our our existence,
For your promise to be present with us into all eternity.
For making us all different from each other,
yet all reflecting your own image,
for making us able to be in relationship with you,
and for giving us freedom to grow and learn,
and choose the way we would live.

Among the first lessons our ancestors learned was blaming others,
and as people gained different languages,
and drifted into seperate groups,
and became nations,
people became suspicious of others,
and found others to blame for everything.

We confess that we are a part of what has gone wrong in your world,
we have judged,a nd misjudged, others,
we have failed to understand, and failed to try to understand,
we have done what is easy, instead of struggling with what is right,
we have turned away when people were in need.

We give you thanks that in Jesus,
you provided the means
for us to be put right with you.
We pray in his name. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

Kid's Time – Bec

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

Hymn Together in Song 260 He walked on earth (new one we've learned over past couple of weeks.)


(Narrative – remove stole, put on scarf, come out from behind lectern...)

I know I shouldn't be here, but please don't send me away. I know non-Jews, especially non-Jewish women, aren't really welcome in your temple. But I've come to find out more about this God the Jews worship, the God of Jesus, and to find a way to give my thanks.

I'm a mother, just like any of you Jewish mothers. I've got a little girl. I always thought she was the most wonderful little girls in the world. Well, most mothers think their children in are the best in the world, don't they? But I was always convinced mine really was. She was the most well behaved, polite, quiet little girl. She was kind and helpful to everyone.

But over tinme something started to change. At first I didn't really notice it. Then it became more obvious. I realised that she wasn't so polite. She wasn't so kind. She got into strange moods and became disobedient. I thought maybe she was a little unwell. Maybe it was something she would grow out of.

Over time, she became more and more disobedient, more and more destructive. And she started saying things, well, yelling them. Strange things. Things like.... Well, people have secrets, things they don't want everyone to know. Soemtimes other people do know them, and whisper them among themselves. But no-one goes out and yells them in the street. My daughter did. She yelled th emost private, most embarassing things to people in the street. It wasn't that what she said wasn't true, it was. But it wasn't right to say it.

Her father beat her, but that didn't change anything. People started to say things about a demon, and the other women would leave the well when I arrived.

Eventually, it became so bad that I could no longer pretend nothing was wrong. I don't know if you have ever pretended something bad was not happening. You can do it for a while, but eventually you have to face the reality.

Where could I turn? If all the gossiping voices were right and myd aughter really was possessed by a demon, what could I do? What would you do? Some of you are mothers or fathers surely? You must know what I went through

I went to all of our Cannanite gods. I know you don't believe in the gods of Canaan, but they are what I was taught to believe in. I gave sacrifices, I did everything the priests said, but nothing changed. Then the priests told me it was my fault that my daughter was the way she was: I'd displeased the gods! I couldn't believe I'd done anything so bad. Beside that I couldn't believe that any true god would punish my child for something I was responsible for!

I thought perhaps the gods of my people weren't so powerful after all. I went to the Roman gods. The Romans have gods for everything, and I thought maybe they had a god who could help my daughter. But it was just the same as with the Canaanite gods – I gave all the sacrifices, I did everything I was told and nothing changed.

I had reached a point where I believed that none of the gods of the world were true. None had any power. I know people trust them; the gods of money and love and peaceful households and good harvests. All of the gods of the world. So many people believe in them, so many people worship them. And what do they do in return? Nothing. They're not able to do anything. They're not real. If you've ever wanted to put your trust in any of the gods of the world, don't bother. I've tried.

Then I started to hear about Jesus, the prophet of the God of the Jews. People said that Jesus used real power, and really did heal people of all kinds of diseases. I had become suspicious of all gods. And I'd never really believed in the God of the Jews. As a child, I'd joked with the other girls about the God of the Jews, who lived alone, and was neither male or female, but all people were supposed to be made in the image of the Jewish God. There were no images of the Jewish nGid, and we joked that this God was too ashamed of its appearance to be seen. Yet we knew the Jews held this God in very high regard, and were expecting this God to send them a king like their legenary King David to save them from the Romans. Some people said this Jesus was the king the Jewish God was sending.

Well, I thought, I had gone to every other god in the world, would I be lowering myself too much to go to the God of Jesus? Jesus was coming into Tyre. So I went out to speak to him. Jewish men don't speak to women. They don't speak to their own wives in public, so I couldn't expect much hope that he would speak to a Canaanite woman. But I went anyway, determined that if he and his God could help my daughtery they would.

So I went out to meet Jesus and called out to him: Son of David have pity on me. He ignored me at first, but I kept calling out. His friends told him to get rid of me, I was annoying them, and embarassing them. And finally, he spoke to me. He told me he wasn't there to help non-Jews, just the lost sheep of Israel.

I wasn't giving up that easily. I kept calling for help. He said he wasn't going to give the children's food to the dogs. Dog was I? Well, I'd be a dog If the Jews were right, then all people were made by their God, even the people the Jews themselves didn't like very much. I said, well, our dogs get the scraps from the table, so they do get a share of the children's food!

He looked at me strangely. I thought he was shocked that I'd answered back. Then he smiled.

You're right, he said. I was right I couldn't believe I'd won the argument so easily. I would have done anything to persuade him to save my daughter .

He said because of my faith, my daughter would be well. I'd never heard of an argument being described as faith before. Do you struggle with your God often? Does your God accept that as faith? To argue, to struggle, instead of simply offering sacrifices to buy acceptance?

That was it. He didn't cme and look at her or touch her. But I knew, as he said it, that she was all right. And when I went home, I had my lovely little girl back, just as she had been.

So here I am in your temple at Jerusalem. And I want to know how to worship this strange God of Jesus. Because when all the other gods the people of the world put their faith in failed. When I'd argued with this Jesus and thought he'd refuse to help: this God of Jesus saved my little girl.



Prayers of the People

God of all creation,
we pray for your world,
a world you made to your glory,
a world of many different people:
people with different languages
people with different cultures
people with different laws
people with different values.

People created in your image,
people created to be in relationship with you,
people made to be included in your family.

Like many families,
the family of your people in the world has problems,
there are people who don't want to be part of the family,
there are groups within the family fighting,
there are poeople who hurt each other – even those who should most be able to trust them,
there are people in the family who carry hurts they can't forgive and so can't be freed from them.
There are people in the family who don't share what they have,
and there are people in the family who don't have their needs met.

Yet all fo the people of the earth
are invited to be a part of your family,
and in Jesus, we are all able to join.

So we pray for your people, your world, your family,
and ask that you would heal the hurts of this world,
that you would bring the peace and harmony that only you can bring.

We pray for the members of your family
who gather here in this place
and who have special needs at this moment....

names from prayer points in newsletter.....

You know the special needs of all of these people
We ask that your surround them with your love,
give thems trength and hope and comfort,
In Jesus' name. Amen.

Hymn Together in Song 538 Feed us now, bread of life.

Service of Holy Communion (Uniting in Worship II page 162)

Hymn Together in Song 531 Sent forth by God's blessing

Threefold Amen.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Newsletter reflection: Seasons of the Church Year

Good morning,

Community Care were looking at Seasons on Tuesday, and it seemed like a good time to have a look at the seasons of the church year.

Advent: The church year begins at the end of November/start of December – four Sundays before Christmas with the season of Advent. Advent looks forward to the coming of Jesus, both as the baby of Bethlehem, and as King of all at the end of time. The colour for Advent is Purple – the colour which signified earthly kings in ancient times. (Purple dye was incredibly expensive.)

Christmas: Christmas runs for 12 days from Christmas Day to Epiphany Day (6th January). The season celebrates the arrival of Jesus, and the events surrounding his birth and infancy. The colour is white – Jesus is revealed as not merely an earthly king, but the “lamb of God”. The season includes the celebration of the Naming of Jesus.

Epiphany: Literally meaning “Opening up” - Epiphany Day is when the church traditionally recalls the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. The season includes the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. The colour for Epiphany Day, and for the Baptism of Jesus is white. For the rest of the season, the colour is green, symbolic of life and growth.

Transfiguration: On the Sunday before we begin Lent, we recall the transfiguration. Concluding the season of Ephipany, Jesus is once more shown as the Heavenly ruler, not just an earthly king. The colour is again is white – again the “lamb of God” imagery, and a reflection of Jesus' clothes being changed to dazzling white.

Lent: Lent is the 40 days plus six Sundays leading up to Easter. It begins with Ash Wednesday, a day for repentence. In more recent years, our church has reclaimed the ancient practice of giving something up for Lent (traditionally, fasting; but now a symbolic sacrifice which may or may not be food-related). The last Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday – with a choice of readings for the day either focussing on the entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), or on the events of the final weeks of Jesus' life (Passion Sunday.) The lectionary (the list of readings for days of the church year) gives us readings for every day of Holy Week, from Palm/Passion Sunday throuh to Easter. The colour for all of Lent, up until Maundy Thursday (the Thursday of Holy Week) is purple – the colour for celebrating Jesus as an earthly king. From Good Friday, the colour changes to white – the “lamb of God” - seeing Jesus as both sacrificial lamb and Heavenly King.

Easter: Easter runs from Easter Sunday for seven weeks until Pentecost. The season recalls the resurrection of Jesus, and the colour is white.

Pentecost: Seven weeks after Easter (in the Old Testament “a week of weeks” after Passover), Pentecost in the Christian year celebrates the Holy Spirit. It includes Pentecost Sunday – with the colour red (for flames – the colour for the Holy Spirit, so also used for ordinations and inductions of ministers). The second Sunday of Pentecost is Trinity, which celebrates the nature of God as Trinity, and has the colour white. The season also includes the anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia, which has the colour red.) The rest of the season is green, for growth. (This is sometimes called the season “after Pentecost” or “ordinary time”.)

Christ the King/Reign of Christ: The last Sunday of the church year celebrates what the whole year has been leading up to: recognising Jesus as ruler and judge of all of creation. The colour is white.

Each year we go through this cycle, following the gospel story through the life of Jesus. Just like the seasons of spring, summer, autumn, winter, help to create a pattern in our lives, so the going through the life of Jesus each year helps to create a pattern for our worship.

Grace and peace

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Newsletter reflection: Ethical shopping

 Good morning,

I have always considered myself a reasonably ethical person. I took on board the church's social justice teachings from an early age. I really do believe that those of us who have all that we need and more have a responsibility to those who have less, and I believe we all share a responsibility to care for creation. That is why it came as a great shock to me to discover – I am an unethical shopper!

The journey to this discovery began with World Vision's “Don't Trade Lives” campaign, which told me that much of the chocolate I eat is produced by child slave labour on the Ivory Coast. When my own children have the benefit of education, nutrition, and housing, how can I support someone else's children being sold into slavery? Fortunately, my local supermarket has begun stocking fair trade chocolate – so I can continue to add to my obesity problem with a clean conscience.

At least I thought I could have a clean conscience. Then I bought a copy of “The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping”, which is printed on 100% recycled paper.

In the first couple of pages, this book advised me that the company which produces my hair dye is under an international boycott because it still uses animal testing (I could go grey worrying over that one) and the company that produces one of my lupus medications is under boycott because it won't take responsibility for a drug it produced that had serious side effects. This was bad – then I read on and informed my daughter that the cola she drinks is produced by a company involved in kidnapping and murder in Columbia.

As it turns out, almost everything I buy is produced by slave labour, endangers orangutans, is transported so far it is a carbon emissions problem, or is produced by a company that supports evil military dictatorships or dumps toxic waste in the Amazon. Everything else I buy causes cancer or heart disease.

I put the book down while I had a fair trade coffee to clear my head. I'd just have to buy the brands that got the tick in the book in every category. It would take a while to get used to it – but it would be OK. It was just a matter of changing habits.

That's when my daughter picked up the book, and announced, “Uh, Mum, we have a problem. Dental floss is evil.”

“All dental floss?”

“Not all. One brand gets the tick, but it's one I've never seen or heard of. I don't know for sure if it exists. Toothpaste is universally evil, and toothbrushes are pretty dodgy too.”

“Oh,” I said. “How do we break this news to our dentist? He seems to think dental hygiene is a good thing.”

“And we're going to have trouble finding shampoo that doesn't have palm oil in it. Palm oil plantations are displacing orangutans!”

Surely I couldn't leave an orangutan homeless just so I could have clean hair!

So what do we do? We have to eat, we have to take medications, and we even have to clean our teeth. I guess we need to be aware that what we buy does have an impact on God's creation, and on other people. And we try to make the best choices that are available to us.

The church council on Wednesday evening voted that in future all of the church's purchases would be ethical in terms of fair trade and environmental issues, wherever this was possible. It doesn't mean everything we buy will be totally without bad consequences somewhere – but we'll do our best.

Grace and peace

Sunday 7 August 2011. (Year A. Pentecost 8. Sunday 19)

Sunday 7 August 2011

Year A. Pentecost 8. Sunday 19. Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33. Green. 

(Note: because of a mis-print in the lectionary I've been using, Sundays have been mislabelled until now - hopefully corrected now.)

Call to worship

When two or three are gathered in Jesus' name
he is here with us.
But he is not the guest
he is the host, and we have come as his guests.
We are here at his invitation
to take part in the worship which all creation
owes to our creator.
Let us worship God.

Hymn Together in Song 442 All praise to our redeeming Lord

Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Creator God,
You made earth and sky
Sunshine and rain
day and night
things that fly and things that swim,
things that crawl and things that walk,
and you made us.

You made human beings,
creatures of the earth,
sharing th esame elements of the soil
but also creatures of spirit
made in your image,
made to know you.

And throughout our history,
you have watched over us,
you have showed yourself to us,
you have reached out to us.

Our earliest ancestors chose to deny you,
chose to push past the limits you had given them.
And we also, deny you,
we deny you in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions.
Yet you still reach out to us in your love.

You sent your own son Jesus,
the ruler of all creation
to live a life in the poverty of human existence
to experience our birth, our childhood, our maturity,
to experience our joys, our sorrows, the crises of our lives,
to be the victim of our hatred, our prejudice, our anger
to suffer the absolute worst humanity is capable of
and to take those things to the cross out of love for us -
to leave those things at the cross,
and to offer us a new life,
an eternal life, in real relationship with you,
a life free from all of the evils
which lurk in human hearts, minds and souls.

We give you praise and thanks for your goodness,
for all your works, and all your gifts,
especially for the gift of Jesus.

We are sorry for the evils which we have allowed into our lives
and ask that in Jesus, you set us free from them,
and work in our lives to bring about your truth.
In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of forgiveness

Kids' time -

Hymn Together in Song 260 He walked on earth (we learned this last week)

Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

I don't know if it ever came about, but about a decade ago, an Israeli entrepreneur had planned to build a bridge, just under the surface of the lake, so tourists could “walk on the water” where Jesus had done. To do so would take money, and of course faith – in Israeli engineering and bridge building. (Those of you old enough might also remember the the disaster with a bridge collapsing at the world Jewish games happened about the same time as this – so that faith might not have been so easy to come by.)

As I said, I don't know if it ever eventuated – but if I ever had the money to visit the holy land, I don't think this would be high on my list of things to see and do. While I'm sure it would make great photos, I wonder what the point would be. Would people going to Israel really want to stand on a bridge, ankle deep in water, and what? Imagine they are walking across stormy waters? Wonder if they could have as much faith in God as they did in the bridge that was holding them up?

What was the point of the original event?

Jesus had sent the disciples on in the boat, while he went away alone to pray. Remember, this still follows on from last week's reading. Jesus had the horrible news of John's death, set off into Gentile territory to get some peace and quiet while he grieved, found the crowds already waiting when he made it across the lake, and spent the day healing and feeding the multitude.

So at last, Jesus had his time alone to pray, to grieve, to deal with his relative's death. And he sent the disciples on ahead of him in the boat. Apparently they had not planned how they would meet up again, because the disciples really were not expecting what happened next!

They were out on the sea. The sea was a symbol of chaos, of the unknown, for people of Israel. The Jews had never been great sailors – most of their country was dry land, very dry land. Not even fishermen who made their living on the water tended to be very strong swimmers. So the sea was the unknown, and people suspected it was full of sea monsters and hidden dangers.

It was also the home of a very well known, and not at all hidden danger: a storm at sea. Storms could wreck ships, cause injury and loss of life.

The disciples went on ahead in the boat. They left Jesus behind, but some of them were fishermen, they would have the skills to manage the boat without their leader there.

As they set out on their own, the wind blew against them, so they made little headway. The waves battered the boat. And they struggled throughout the night to keep the boat upright, and going.

Early in the morning they were surely exhausted. The previous day had, along with Jesus, heard the news of John's death, and dealt with the multitude. Then after a night of struggling in the chaos of a storm at sea, they must have been tired and disoriented enough to doubt their own eyes And they saw a figure of a person walking out to them over the water.

Either they were halluncinating, or there was something very strange going on They opted for something strange, and decided it was a ghost. In the midst of the storm, the tiredness, the chaos, they apparently assumed things had gone from bad to worse! Ghosts were something to be feared indeed.

A ghost might not be the most logical thing to think of, but what does one think, as a person walks on water through a storm? If you'd never heard the story, if you were in the same situation, what would you make of it? And they did the expected thing: they panicked.

At this point they heard the line the Bible reserves for the most terrifying of situations: “Do not be afraid.” Seriously, this line's usually reserved for things like angelic visitations – the stuff guaranteed to cause nightmares. “Don't be afraid. It's me.”

It's me” - the word here is the verb to be, “I am”. Recall that in the Old Testament, the holiest name for God is based on the Hebrew verb to be: “I am” It was more than just their friend, companion and leader coming to them in the chaos of the storm – it was God present with them.

Depending how you look at what happened next Peter was either one of the most courageous or one of the most stupid men in history. He decided to test the situation – by putting his own life in even more danger than it already was. “If it's really you, you can order me to come out to you.” If it was really Jesus he could tell Peter to come out, and he would be safe. If it wasn't Jesus, Peter would not be safe.

We don't know what Jesus made of this: whether he was annoyed, or amused, or curious to see whether Peter would go through with it... But he said “come on out.” And Peter got out.

Peter began to walk on the water – but he looked at the storm and the waves closing in on him, now without the protection of the boat. He felt the water and the wind, and became frightened and began to sink. Peter's test backfired on him. “If it is you...” Yes, it was Jesus. But Peter needed not only for it to be Jesus, but to trust Jesus. His test of who Jesus was, and Jesus' power, proved to be an even bigger test of his own faith – a test that in the reality of the situation, he failed.

Jesus rescued him. Peter failed his own test – but Jesus did not leave him to the consequences of his actions.

Once Jesus was in the boat, the stomr subsided, and everything was calm again. All of creation is, after all, subject to God, and will obey God's power in Jesus. Jesus' words “Don't be afraid, it's me,” were the truth that they couldn't see because of the distraction of the chaos – that no matter what the situation, God, in Jesus, was in contol.

We all get caught in the storms of life at times: emotional storms, financial storms, relationship storms, work-related storms, actual natural disasters.

Sometimes the storms blow up out of nowhere. They're unexpected, and unavoidable Sometimes we see them up ahead but sail straight into them, thinking we have the strength, skills, whatever to weather the storms.

In the storm we discover, that we are not in control. Whatever the crisis of the particular storm, we find ourselves at its mercy. We can't control it anymore than we can control a real wind and rain storm. Whether it's the death of a loved one, and argument with a friend or family member, or being unable to balance the family budget- the reason for an emotional storm is that we are not in control of what is happening.

When we are out of control, we become afraid. We do not know what will happen next. We can't forsee the future, and we can't be sure it will work out well.

Sometimes in the storms of life, we discover that we have left Jesus behind. We have gone out on our own, so confident in out own abilities, that we have forgotten to ask for God's help, and forgotten to rely on God's provision. We can become like the self-made businessperson, who claims to have achieved everything alone, forgetting everyone who helped along the way.

And sometimes, when we do hear the voice that says: “Don't be afraid, it's me.” we are so caught up in our own distress that we don't recognise the voice at first. Sometimes God comes to us through people or events which we don't expect, which shock us, shake us up, but that is what it takes to draw our attention, to put the immediate crisis into perspective.

And when we do have Jesus “on board”, often the storm eases. Whatever has caused the emotional storm may not have changed, but we change. We regain our focus and see what is important. We can let go of things we can't control, rather than struggle to take charge. And leaving Jesus in charge, we can find that the storm does pass. And when the crisis is over we can find peace.

The storms will come, in every person's life there are crises. But if we subject our lives to God's power in Jesus, Jesus can bring us through the crisis, through the fear, and into peace.

Hymn Together in Song 589 Jesus calls us o'er the tumult



Prayers of the people
Merciful God,
we pray for your people,
all of the people of your creation.
Those who know you,
and those who do not
We pray for them all
in the storms of their lives..

Those for whom the storms area physical reality
who are facing, or recovering from disasters.....


Those for whom the storms come in the form of wars
who suffering because political disputes,
are fought with weapons instead of words...


Those for whom the storms come in the form of
everyday life
who just don't know how to cope....


Those for whom the storms come
as they find they are more and more limited
by bodies and minds growing older....


Those for whom the storms come
as an unknown future -
who cannot control their own lives....


God, our Creator,
the storms come into the lives of all your people
they are beyond our control.
But you are the God of all things,
even the God of the storms.
And so we bring these things to you
And wait to hear your Son's answer:
Do not be afraid: It is I.”
We pray in his name and use his words...

The Lord's Prayer

Hymn Together in Song 595 O Jesus I have promised


Threefold Amen.