Monday, December 22, 2014

special to God

The prophet writing in Isaiah 61, knows that he is special to God because God honoured him by provided him with garments of beauty and value just as God clothes the earth. The writer of the Epistle to the Galatians pointed out that we are all adopted children of God and as such have been given the Spirit of Jesus.[Gal 4:5,6]  Everyone is special to God and Jesus showed us that God displays preferential treatment towards those who have special needs.
There are others who are special to God but are not considered special in our culture. These are older people. In the work place, people don’t need to be elderly to be undervalued. From the age of thirty, people are thought to be too old for some jobs and those who lose their job after the age of fifty find it increasingly difficult to find a new one. Many older people are made to feel they are a nuisance to society especially if they also have a disability. Many, many times I have heard older women say, “I don’t want to be a burden on my family.” Yet from early on in our Scripture we hear God telling people to take care of widows. Older people feature strongly in God’s scheme. Living to an old age was seen as a blessing from God. Abraham and Sarah were old. Moses was certainly elderly when he finished leading the Israelites. The Wise men would only have had that said of them if they were elderly. Simeon and Anna from the Gospel reading, were both elderly.

May we bring praise and thanksgiving to God by treating all people and all creation as special.
Rev Julianne Parker 
for full sermon see sermons page

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Interpreting the story




Gospel writers Matthew and Luke
are the approved suppliers
of the raw materials
from which we cobble together our Christmas stories;
faith being the thread that seeks,
gathers and ties the meaning.
The angels speak of the wonder
of the aching God who decides to take action
and to embrace uncertainty.
The girl-woman, Mary,
is a sign of human obedience
and willingness to let God’s perplexing purposes
take their unpredictable course.
Her carpenter husband, Joseph,
in determining to proceed with their marriage,
shows the persistence of human compassion
in the face of bewildering embarrassment.
And the baby, strange and vulnerable,
tells us of the mystery of divine love
found, unexpectedly and riskily,
among us.

So, what of the fat man in the red suit,
intruding uninvited into our neat nativity?
Perhaps he is God, laughing.


© 2009 Ken Rookes

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is this Love?

Tim went quiet in the group and then almost started sobbing out his questions, “What have we done? What have we done?”  What have we done to all girls and women and to God for nearly two thousand years in idolising what were said to have been God’s actions towards Mary? We have known for a long while that Mary was probably only in her early teens when this is said to have happened. How can we still continue to suggest such submission as a privilege when we know it is abusive, that people for whom such a scenario has been a reality? It denies the possibility of any pain and disgrace for Mary in being an unmarried mother. That is a major difference from how it is for most victims. However, it can be linked with the confusion some feel when the only person who is ever nice to them is the perpetrator,
Virginity has been glorified beyond all reason. A young couple from one congregation where I was went to another church on the morning after their wedding because the Uniting Church will not be part of a system that demands they bring the bed-sheets to the service to prove the virginity of the woman.
How differently we would see the love of God if we had been told Mary had conceived as a result of rape which would have brought shame on Mary’s family. Mary would have been blamed, disowned or even stoned to death. What if the story said God saved her by adopting and loving the child. That is more like what a God whom we call love is likely to have done. In these circumstances her singing of the Magnificat would have been poignant and its words meaningful to women and children who have been manipulated and victimised through the centuries.

Love says to the victim, “What would you like me to understand?” Can I hear your pain, anger and disillusionment and become more compassionate and proactive?” In the quiet love which is everywhere we look around, in every sight and every sound, let’s continuously ask of our thoughts, words and deeds, “Is this Love and are we reflecting the Love of God generously and unconditionally? Amen.

Rev Julianne Parker (for full sermon see sermons page)

Scenario





Like a scene from a carefully crafted play,
the angel messenger from above,
an apparition in glowing white
given the name of Gabriel,
passes uninvited through the door
(enter stage left), and approaches
the girl. The wardrobe department
has also dressed her in white,
for reasons which will become apparent.
It is a contest in whiteness.

The heavenly envoy tells the girl not to fear,
that she will give birth
to a Child of Light;
one who, when the stage lights are dimmed
for the penultimate scene,
will continue to shine
for all humankind.
The girl protests the improbability
of such a scenario;
she has not known a man.

She is told that the script for the second act
has already been written.
A divine spark
will overturn the laws of biology
when she is overshadowed
by a mysterious spirit something;
she has only to accept the role.
She does, without actually seeing the script,
thus allowing the rest of the drama
to proceed to its unpredicted ending.


© Ken Rookes 2014.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This is true! ...

The Jesuit priest and peace activist Daniel Berrigan (born 1921) reminds us in his Advent Credo that there are greater things that are true than injustice and futility:

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss —
This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction —
This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever —
This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world —
This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers —
This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity, of peace, are not meant for this earth and for this history —

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rejoice!

Politicians, Company Directors and others have a duty to declare their interest in issues being discussed so I declare my interest in this subject of rejoicing in God and life and giving thanks for all things. On National Bible Sunday in 1988, the minister asked us what our favourite Bible verse was. I have had many favourite verses over the years and what I chose to say that day is the one you have just heard, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Pray without ceasing and give thanks to God in all things for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” The next afternoon, I was standing with that minister, beside the body of my husband who had died suddenly aged 45. “Is this what it means to rejoice always and give thanks to God for everything?” I asked quietly. As a friend of Ed, the minister was too upset to answer.
I could not even begin to think what rejoicing in the Lord always might mean though I quickly realised I was praying more frequently. That might sound pious but I assure you it was a sign of how devastated and desperate I felt. Often I was frustrated, disappointed and my words were angry. There were also times when I wanted to leave God out of it altogether as God just complicated things. As for giving thanks for all things, that just seemed totally ridiculous. How could anyone give thanks for the mess we found ourselves in as more and more problems and expenses arose that were directly attributable to Ed’s death.
Incredible as it seems, I came into closer relationship with God through this terrible event and subsequent traumas. Somewhere along the line I was reminded of the first line of the Shorter Westminster Catechism which I learnt for confirmation many years earlier, “Our chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” I had skimmed over it before. We had been told that the way we lived our lives would bring glory to God and I was comfortable with that. But enjoying God seemed to be altogether another thing.
As with rejoicing and celebrating, enjoying God is about putting some time and effort into expanding our relationship with God. We can do that by living prayerful and grateful lives.
Many times it might feel as though we don’t have much to rejoice about. Is it unfair to expect us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and to give thanks for all things”? Probably not when we realise the size of the gift God has given us in anointing us to become the agents of release for those who are oppressed, captured or enslaved; to be a comfort to those who mourn and an encouragement to those who are dispirited.

May the joy of the Lord be your strength as we all learn to enjoy God forever.
Rev Julianne Parker
(for full sermon see sermon's page)