Sermon: Why I disagree with Israel Folau

Sermon for Williamstown
Easter Sunday, 21st of April, 2019

Isaiah 65:17-25
Acts 10:34-43
Luke 24:1-12

‘[T]hese words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.’

Today, Easter Sunday, we celebrate the ultimate unexpected twist in the tale. We remember what I like to describe as ‘the ultimate act of civil disobedience’ in which someone executed by the powerful Roman Empire just refused to stay dead. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, we rejoice that: ‘good is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, through him who loves us.’

Or is this all just an ‘idle tale’? Continue reading

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Palm Sunday Sermon for the combined service

Sermon for Holy Trinity Anglican and Electra St Uniting churches, Williamstown
Palm Sunday – 14th of April 2019

Luke 19:28-40

Today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem for the Passover. Like pilgrims throughout time, Jesus’ disciples rejoice as they enter the holy city, praising God for God’s mighty deeds. It is a moment of triumph. Jesus enters on a colt that his disciples are able to take for him from its owners simply by saying that, ‘the Lord needs it’. As Jesus approaches people spread their cloaks on the road under the colt’s feet. At this point I have to make the mandatory remark that in Luke’s version of Jesus’ entrance into the city not only are there no palm branches, unlike in the gospels according to Matthew and Mark there are no branches of any sort. According to Luke today is ‘Cloak Sunday,’ not ‘Palm Sunday’ at all. But while there may be no palms, there is a monarch. Continue reading

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Sermon: On not being able to do the right thing

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
5th Sunday of Lent, 7th of April, 2019

John 12:1-8

Today, the fifth Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of Jesus’ anointing. It was obviously a vitally important story to the first Christians; told in each of the four gospels in three different versions. As I have mentioned before, the church has often collated the three into one version which has led to poor Mary of Bethany being labelled a notorious sinner when there’s absolutely no evidence of that. Each version of the story of Jesus being anointed by a woman tells us something slightly different, although at the very least they all tell us that Jesus was comfortable with women and happy to receive their ministry. Continue reading

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Sermon: When bad things happen

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
Third Sunday of Lent, 24th of March, 2019

Luke 13:1-9

Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s such a common question. Why do some people seem to be targeted by fate, while others seem to float through life? Why do some live into their nineties, while others die by accident or violence or illness in their twenties? Why do some live in places of safety, while others see their loved ones swept away by floods? Why were fifty people in mosques in New Zealand killed by the Australian terrorist last week, while we worship here in absolute safety? Why is the world so demonstrably unfair? Continue reading

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Message to the Muslim Community

Monday 18 March 2019

Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network - Logo


We, the non-Muslim members of the Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network, offer our deepest sympathy to our Muslim friends after the terrorist attack in Christchurch. We are horrified that peaceful worshippers were killed and injured as they were at prayer. We commit ourselves to standing with our Muslim neighbours in this time of tragedy.

Those of us who are Anglo-Celtic Australians acknowledge that the terrorist was one of us, and said that he was acting in our name. We utterly repudiate his message of hate. We rejoice that we live in a multi-cultural and multi-faith community, and that all of us have been welcomed into Hobsons Bay by the elders of the Kulin Nations, who are the sovereign peoples of this land. We reject anything that divides us from one another.

As members of the Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network we commit ourselves to responding to hate with love; to terror with courage; to attempts to divide us with a deeper commitment to one another.

Hobsons Bay Interfaith Network Core Members:

  • Rev Dr Avril Hannah-Jones, Williamstown Uniting Church
  • Faz Fakhiyardi, Association of Islamic Dakwah Australia
  • Myly Nguyen, United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation in Victoria (Quang Minh Temple)
  • Saad Hussein, Altona Muslim Youth Association
  • Dr Scott Phillips, Holy Trinity Williamstown Anglican Church
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Sermon: God’s motherly love

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
The Second Sunday of Lent, 17th of March 2019

Luke 13:31-35

Yesterday I had the enormous privilege of preaching at the ordination of Carlynne Nunn at Brunswick Uniting Church. I was very excited and deeply honoured when Carlynne asked me to preach, but also a little worried. Over the past two weeks, as Carlynne and I emailed each other back and forth about readings and themes, we first had the news of George Pell’s conviction and then heard his sentencing. In that sentencing His Honour Chief Justice Kidd quoted from a Court of Appeal decision:

The exposure over recent years of the extent of the incidence of abuse of children in our community by persons entrusted with their care has created much distrust at all levels and threatened the very capacity of adults to interact in a normal healthy fashion with them.

If that is true of all adults, it is particularly true of priests, ministers, Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders. Where once we were automatically trusted, now we are almost equally automatically distrusted. It can feel like a hard time to be a Christian. Continue reading

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Sermon for Carlynne’s Ordination

Sermon for Carlynne’s Ordination

1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Mark 10:35-45

‘Faithful is God, who has called you and will not fail you.’

We are here today to confirm and celebrate God’s call of Carlynne to the office and work of a minister of the Word. This is a day of celebration, but given Australia’s current religious context no one would blame Carlynne if she followed in the footsteps of the great prophets in her response to God. When called, Moses reminded God that he stammered; Jeremiah said that he was only a boy; and Jonah fled to the farthest known point in the West when God tried to send him to the East. Carlynne could quite justifiably have said to God: no, not me, not now, when her call came. There have been times and places when and in which ordination has led to authority and respect, but those places have seldom included Australia and those times were not the twenty-first century. Continue reading

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