Sermon: On not blaming the poor for their poverty

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
24th of October, 2021

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Today is the fourth and last Sunday that we will spend with the impoverished Job, his faithful wife, his three somewhat-silly friends, the Lord, and ha-satan. This past week has also been Anti-Poverty Week. One of the reasons that groups like the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and Berry Street, and Anglicare, and of course Uniting VicTas, combine to commemorate Anti-Poverty Week is because Australians who have not experienced poverty themselves frequently do not know what poverty looks like in Australia. Often the image in people’s minds is a man sleeping rough and asking for money outside supermarkets. But did you know that at least one in six Victorian children live in poverty; most people experiencing poverty live in families with children; family and domestic violence is the biggest cause of homelessness for women and children; and there are more women living in poverty in Victoria than men? Continue reading

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Sermon: The cosmos was not created for us

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
17th of October, 2021

Job 38:1-7, 34-41

On the day that I wrote this ‘Reflection’ Victoria had 2297 new cases of covid19 and in the previous twenty-four hours eleven people had died. This week the lectionary shows us the Lord at God’s most unfathomable and transcendent. What comfort is there for us in the God who speaks to Job out of the whirlwind and demands that he gird up his loins? Amid human suffering, what consolation is there in the knowledge that God made the entire cosmos? Why would the Lord think that a series of rhetorical questions about creation is any sort of answer to suffering? What does the Book of Job have to say to us during a deadly global pandemic?

Job’s story began with the folktale in which the Lord and ha-satan made a bet. Everything that Job had and everything that Job was, was stripped from him in order to see whether he would remain righteous or would instead, as ha-satan prophesised, curse the Lord to God’s face. Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God and die; his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, sat silently with Job in the ashes. These first two chapters are prose, rather than poetry, and the question they ask is: will Job, now that he has lost everything God gave him, also lose his integrity?

The next thirty-five chapters of the Book of Job are poetry and the question they ask is: why do bad things happen to good people? Job’s three friends and a young man, Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, who has been listening to them, argue that God does not punish the innocent. If bad things are happening to Job, it must be because Job has deserved them. God is just, rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. Job’s friends believe in an untroubled world in which the good do well and the bad do poorly. They are adherents of the prosperity gospel. The friends who began by compassionately sitting with Job in silence quickly evade troublesome existential questions by explaining that Job himself is responsible for his plight.

Job does not agree. In between each of his friends’ speeches Job proclaims his innocence; curses the day he was born; and wishes that he could confront God, his accuser. As his friends speak, Job turns away from them and increasingly addresses God directly. In the reading we heard last week Job complained that God was not answering him; Job was suffering unjustly, and he couldn’t even find God to protest. At that point Job still believed in a God of justice, he said that if only God appeared: ‘an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted for ever by my judge’. But God was silent, and God’s silence was even more painful to Job than all his sufferings.

God does not leave Job in silence. Today we hear part of God’s reply to Job, and unexpectedly it is neither an explanation that Job was simply the subject of a bet between God and ha-satan, nor the condemnation of Job that his friends expect, nor the vindication that Job demands. God does not address either of the questions that the Book of Job asked: whether Job would curse God to God’s face; why bad things happen to good people. The Lord who speaks from the whirlwind is intent upon something completely different.

I do encourage you to read chapters 38 to 41 of the Book of Job, the Lord’s two speeches, in full because they are truly amazing. The Lord describes the mysteries of God’s creation through a series of rhetorical questions. ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?’ ‘Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?’ ‘Is the wild ox willing to serve you?’ ‘Do you give the horse its might?’ ‘Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars?’  My absolute favourite part of them all is a description of the utter ridiculousness of the ostrich. The Lord does not even make that a question; instead God describes all its idiosyncrasies:

The ostrich’s wings flap wildly, though its pinions lack plumage. For it leaves its eggs to the earth, and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them, and that a wild animal may trample them. It deals cruelly with its young, as if they were not its own; though its labour should be in vain, yet it has no fear; because God has made it forget wisdom, and given it no share in understanding. When it spreads its plumes aloft, it laughs at the horse and its rider. (Job 39:13-18)

The message seems to be that God’s creation of the ostrich is so bizarre that it is simply beyond human comprehension. We can only imagine what fun the author of the Book of Job would have had if they had known of the platypus.

God has appeared but is not answering any of Job’s existential questions. What the Lord reveals is God’s total power, but this power was never called into question. The Lord does not appear to care about the substance of Job’s complaints, that Job was innocent and did not deserve his suffering. What the Lord instead seems to be saying is, ‘Who are you to question me? Look at the majesty of my creation and know that you, humanity, are not at the centre of it.’

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind 1825, reprinted 1874 by William Blake 1757-1827

The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind 1825, reprinted 1874 William Blake 1757-1827 Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the National Gallery and donations from the Art Fund, Lord Duveen and others, and presented through the the Art Fund 1919

The creation stories in Genesis put humanity at the heart of God’s creation. The creation narrative that the Lord offers Job is vastly different. It is a story of the places furthest from humanity, the foundations of the earth, the doors of the primordial sea, the horizon of the dawn, the recesses of the sea and the gates of death, the home from which light and darkness emerge, the storage places of snow, hail, rain, and wind. The everyday realities of rain, dew, frost, and ice are described, but rather than talking about the way they affect human beings, the Lord talks about the mysterious way they have of being absent one day and suddenly present the next:

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail …? Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no one lives …? Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoar-frost of heaven? (Job 38:22-29)

The descriptions of the animals are similar. These are the wild animals, the animals of the hunt, those who are either dangerous or useless to human beings: lions, ravens, mountain goats, the wild ass, the wild ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk. These are all animals that might seem to humanity to be purposeless, even harmful. But from their own point of view, and from the point of view of the Lord, they have just as much right to live as do humans. The debate of Job and his friends assumes that God is uniquely concerned with human life. The Lord’s answer says that the wilderness has a right to its own life. This may be one answer to the question of ‘why covid19?’ Might it not be that in God’s view not only do bats have as much right to live as human beings, so do viruses?

In most of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Lord is the one who brings order from chaos, light from darkness, land from water. But from the striking metaphor of the sea as swaddled infant, (Job 38:8-11) to the celebration of the wildness of those creatures who mock and spurn human control, (Job 39:19-25) to the ecstatic description of the monster, Leviathan, playing in the sea, (Job 41) it seems that God’s identification with the chaotic is as strong as with the human and the tamed. What God appears to be showing Job, and us, is that God’s creation has a purpose beyond its utility to humanity. It has a value of its own, that derives from God having created it. This is something that humans need to always remember, but is it an answer to Job?

After pairs of speeches between Job and his friends, we now have pairs of speeches between Job and God. God’s speeches refuse to engage Job’s arguments on Job’s terms, but they do engage Job. Job is not an Israelite, he is not a member of the people of God, he comes from the land of Uz. Throughout the debate between Job and his friends God is referred to as ‘God,’ Eloah, El Shaddai, Elohim, but the God who turns up is YHWH, the Lord, the God who made a covenant with the people of Israel. The God who answers Job is not the god of the prosperity gospel, who gives good to the virtuous and bad to the wicked, the god of cause and effect, but the Lord who lives with God’s people. And, apparently, God’s people include Job, the outsider, the stranger.

In describing creation, the Lord has focused on its freedom and wildness. In engaging Job, the Lord does the same thing. Job had never ceased to question God, and now it is he who is questioned. The Lord engages with Job. The engagement may imply that that there are things that Job will never understand, it may literally leave Job with more questions than answers, but it is still a conversation. The Lord speaks about the strange wonder of the non-human creation, but the Lord is speaking to Job. As when the Lord made a covenant with Moses, God is involving Godself with humanity.

We do not know why bad things happen to good people, or even why bad things happen to people like us, middling good and middling bad. The Book of Job does not give us answers; maybe there are none. What it offers us, instead, is the reassurance that despite the immensity of a universe that seems indifferent to us, we have not been left alone in it. The God who laid the foundation of the earth, who shut in the sea with doors, who caused the dawn to know its place, who knows the gates of death, the gates of deep darkness, is also the Lord who talked with the human Job.

One last thought. The Lord’s speeches tell us of the utter otherness and wildness of the cosmos, the non-human creation, a world that was not created for us and that is full of things that threaten us. We inhabit a universe that is billions of years old and sextillions of kilometres large. Given all that, surely the only way for humanity to live in the very brief time we have is in solidarity with one another. Rather than arguing why bad things happen, as Job and his friends do, maybe we should simply care for each other through them, as Job’s friends did initially when they sat with him in the dust. But more about that next week.

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Sermon: Faithful complaint

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
10th of October, 2021

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

I have been feeling awful this week. I try to remind myself how lucky I am: to be able to continue most of my work through this pandemic and to be paid for it; to live in Melbourne’s east, with access to beautiful parks if not to the sea; to not be frightened for anyone I love because they have all been vaccinated and are able to socially distance; to live in a country with a public health system and only fifty-one covid19 deaths per million people. I am extremely and undeservedly lucky and I know that. But this week, when Victoria set a record of 1,763 new covid cases in one day, followed by eleven deaths in a single day, my gratitude has been swamped by sadness and frustration. And in this darkness I am joined by Job. Continue reading

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Sermon: Job’s wife was right!

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
3rd of October, 2021

Job 1:1, 2:1-10

Today we hear from the beginning of one of my favourite books in the Bible. I know I say that about a lot of books, you might have discerned by now that I love spending time in the Bible, but the Book of Job really is something special. We do not know exactly when it was written, sometime between the seventh and fourth centuries BCE is our best guess, and we do not know who wrote it. I believe we know why it was written. The Revised Common Lectionary gives us readings from the Book of Job now because, like many of the Psalms and the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, it is classified as wisdom literature. But the Book of Job is anti-wisdom literature. Unlike the psalms and proverbs that promise that those who are righteous will prosper, the argument of the Book of Job is that misfortune can strike anyone, even the most faithful. Continue reading

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Sermon: Why is Esther in the Bible?

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
26th of September 2021

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

As a congregation that follows the Revised Common Lectionary, we do not spend a lot of time with Queen Esther, and sadly we never hear the story of Queen Vashti read out in church. Today is the only Sunday in the three-year cycle that we hear a reading from the Book of Esther, and that reading is only eleven verses long. This may be because Esther is such a puzzling and problematic book, one that raises all sorts of questions. Esther offers neither neat morals for the preacher to expound, nor moral examples for hearers to follow, and today’s ‘Reflection’ is very much an exploration without conclusion.

The Book of Esther makes no mention of God, or of the Law, the covenant between the Lord and Moses, prayer, or any of the dietary restrictions that distinguish Jews from the rest of the world. The early Jewish translators were so worried by all these gaps that when they translated the book from Hebrew into Greek they added prayers into the Greek version. Commentators think that Esther was written in the fourth century BCE, and would have been translated into Greek, with the religious additions, in the second or first century BCE, but it did not officially become part of the Jewish canon until the third century CE. The Western Church decided that it was part of the Christian canon in the fourth century and the Eastern Church finally agreed in the eighth century. Esther puzzled Jews and Christians for centuries.

The Book of Esther is a comedy, a farce. It begins with a drunken king, Ahasuerus, ruler of the Persian Empire, ‘one hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia’, who holds a seven-day feast, and on the seventh day demands, while ‘merry with wine’, that his wife, Queen Vashti, display her beauty before the party of drunken men. When Vashti understandably says ‘no’ the sages who know the law warn the king that she has put not only the king’s authority, but the authority of every man in the kingdom at risk: ‘For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands’. (Esther 1:17)  For the sake of poor husbands everywhere, the king puts the disobedient Vashti aside.

The king then has all the beautiful young virgins in the land gathered into his harem. Among these is the book’s acknowledged heroine, Esther, a Jewish orphan who has been raised by her cousin, Mordecai. As a woman she is at the mercy of the decisions of men: her guardian-cousin; the eunuch in charge of concubines; the king himself. Esther spends a year in the harem, winning the favour of the eunuch who provides her with the best cosmetic treatments. When she attends Ahasuerus, Esther also wins his favour and becomes queen. On Mordecai’s orders Esther had not told anyone that they are cousins or that she is Jewish. Thus when the king’s highest official, Haman, decides to punish all Mordecai’s people because Mordecai refuses to bow to him, he does not know that he is also targeting the queen.

Haman’s argument is the anti-Semitic rhetoric that has been heard again and again throughout history: ‘There is a certain people scattered and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them.’ (Esther 3:8) The Jews are not like us; they should be destroyed. We have heard similar rhetoric in Australia about Muslims ever since 9/11, although rather than demanding their destruction people usually demand their deportation, and the current pandemic has led to a resurgence in anti-Semitism as people have become isolated and afraid and have spent more time online. The Book of Esther has continuing relevance.

The king agrees, and Haman writes an edict giving orders to the governors and officials of every province in the empire to destroy all Jews on one day, Haman deciding on the date by casting a lot, or Pur, hence the name Purim. After this, we’re told: ‘The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.’ (Esther 3:15)

Mordecai sends word to Esther, asking her to intervene with the king. Esther knows that she risks death by doing this, but she bravely imitates Vashti. Vashti refused to appear before the king when he commanded; Esther appears before him without being commanded. The king forgives her bad behaviour, and Esther asks that he and Haman come to a banquet she has prepared. They agree, and at that banquet Esther asks them to return the next day for a second one. Again, they agree, and Haman leaves the first banquet ‘happy and in good spirits’. But when leaving he sees Mordecai and when Mordecai again refuses to bow to him Haman is so enraged that on advice of his wife Zeresh and all his friends he has some gallows fifty cubits high made, on which he plans to later hang Mordecai.

On the second day Haman and the king again attend Esther’s banquet and this time when the king tells her that he will grant her any request, even up to half of his kingdom, Esther says:

‘If I have won your favour, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’ Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?’ Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!’ (Esther 7:3-6)

The infuriated king grants her request and punishes Haman by hanging him on the gallows that Haman himself had built.

But the edict has been made, the Persians have been told that they can kill all the Jews, and that cannot be revoked. So rather than rescinding it, the king allows Esther to make another edict, by which the Jews are permitted to defend themselves against any armed force attacking them. Ultimately, the Jews kill more than 75,000 people throughout the king’s provinces. To celebrate this slaughter of their enemies, Mordecai writes to the Jews telling them to keep these days as a holiday. And so, the Feast of Purim is born..

Obviously, the book of Esther is not a work of history. One of its purposes seems to be to explain why the Jews celebrate Purim, which was probably originally a Persian or Babylonian holiday and was known for its frivolity. But its other messages are open to debate. What exactly is this story meant to be telling us?

Mosaic picture of a woman with a sceptre in her hand

Mosaic of Esther from the Church of the Dormition, Jerusalem

The characters in the story are not meant to be taken seriously. The king is a buffoon; the villain, Haman, is an idiot, unaware that his new queen is related to Mordecai, despite all the messages that go between Mordecai and Esther. Mordecai precipitates the crisis because he refuses to bow to Haman. In the Greek additions to the story this refusal is given a noble reason; Mordecai says that it was because he did not want to put the glory of man before the glory of God. But in the original no reason is given. Mordecai is just rude. Esther is a more positive character, who saves her people, but she seems to have had no objections to becoming part of the Persian king’s harem, and she does not follow any Jewish religious rites while there. Esther and Mordecai save their people by becoming part of the dominant culture, Esther as queen, Mordecai dressed in ‘royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple’, and then turning the tables on their enemies in an act of violent revenge. This is not a story of Jews remaining notably Jewish in exile, as the Prophet Daniel did. None of these characters is a reliable role models. Why are they part of our Scripture?

One commentator, Timothy Beal, writes of this book:

What kind of Scripture is this? God hiding and a royal buffoon filling the space of divine retreat, no sign of religion or religious practice, no sacred space, Mount Sinai lost behind smoke and ashes, the law of the Father illegible: what does this have to do with anything we commonly assume to be “biblical”? Everything. But not as an affirmation of those assumptions.[1]

Another commentator, Michael Fox, agrees that ‘the book of Esther is doing something unprecedented, and its theological message should not be assimilated to the expected ones’.[2] Esther is a puzzling and problematic book, and we should not try to force it into a shape the suits the rest of the biblical canon.

One of the things that we learn from reading the Book of Esther, a message particularly relevant in this time of pandemic, is that there are times when God does not appear to be present and when things do not make sense. Today’s psalm praises God because ‘if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive,’ (Psalm 124:2-3) but there are times when the trap is not broken, and we are caught like prey in the teeth of our enemies. Perhaps the Jews know this better than anyone. How can any sense be made of purges and pogroms, of the expelling of all the Jews from England in the thirteenth century by Edward the First or of the Holocaust, the Shoah, of the twentieth century? Esther is a comedy, but it is also an example of survival literature, and ‘one of the strongest themes in the literature of survival is that pain is senseless; that a suffering so vast is without value as suffering’.[3] We take pain seriously when we do not seek to explain it away by saying that it is not as bad as it seems, or seek to make premature sense of it by saying that we deserve it or that we have learned something from it.

Most of scripture talks of a God who is present and who cares for God’s people; ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’. (Psalm 124:8) The Book of Esther is a counter-narrative to that. Life is complicated, and while our religion and our scriptures can provide us with some explanations, there are times when our questions remain unanswered. The Book of Esther tells us that this lack of certainty is part of our religious heritage too.

We began our worship with a version of Psalm 124, which gave thanks to the Lord for saving his people, and with Martin Luther’s strong assertion that though our foes may cause us distress, even kill us, we will remain victorious because we are citizens of the kingdom of God. We will end the service by singing the affirmation that: ‘All my hope on God is founded; all my trust he will renew, through all change and chance he guides me, only good and only true’. The wealth of our tradition is seen in the way the psalm, these hymns, and the reading of the Book of Esther as survival literature challenge and confront each other. Life is infinitely complex, and our faith recognizes that. Amen.

[1] Quoted in Richard Treloar, Esther and the End of ‘Final Solutions’ (2008), p. 153.

[2] Quoted in Richard Treloar, Esther and the End of ‘Final Solutions’ (2008), p. 239.

[3] Terence Des Pres quoted in Treloar, p. 121.

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Sermon: Avril preaches to herself

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
19th of September, 2021

James 3:1-4:3, 7-8a

This morning we hear an extract from the Letter attributed to James, the brother of Jesus, and addressed to ‘the twelve tribes in the Dispersion,’ – the Jewish diaspora throughout the Roman Empire. We first hear of James in the Gospels according to Mark and Matthew, when people are scoffing at the idea of Jesus being anyone special. ‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?’ (Matt 13:55, also Mark 6:3) There are few references to James in the rest of the New Testament. Paul refers to him in his first letter to the Corinthians and in his letter to the Galatians. He is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles when Peter is released from prison by an angel and goes to the house of one of Jesus’ followers. Peter then says: ‘Tell this to James and to the believers’. (Acts 12:17) When Paul and Barnabas inform the Jerusalem church about their ministry to the Gentiles it is James who decides how these new Gentile followers of Jesus need to live. (Acts 15:19-20) Despite only being mentioned these few times, James is obviously a person of importance in the Jerusalem church. Continue reading

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Sermon: Choose to believe – at the core of the cosmos is love

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
12th of September 2021

Psalm 19

I hope that one of the things you are doing to stay sane during this apparently never-ending lockdown is reading the Psalms. If not, this is your encouragement to do so. The Psalter is a gift. Most of the Bible is made up of writings that we consider to be words from God (although as good Uniting Church members we are of course aware that the Word of God is Jesus, not the Bible). The Book of Psalms is different. The psalms are prayers, offerings of humans to God. We sing them or pray them in worship or alone, offering them as our words to God. In times like this sixth lockdown, whether we want to praise God for the beauty of Spring, or yell at God for the frustrations and fears of isolation, the psalms offer us words to use. But today I want us to instead listen to a psalm as God’s words to us; to treat it like any other part of Scripture, as a poem through which we hear God talking to us. Continue reading

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Sermon: Not just those like us

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
The 5th of September, 2021

James 2:1-10 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

If you have been following the news over the past few weeks you will have seen what has been happening in Afghanistan as the United States of America and its allies have withdrawn and the Taliban has taken over. The scenes at the airport as desperate Afghans tried to get on evacuation flights were awful even before an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed more than 170 people. Australians have been trying desperately to get family out of Afghanistan; defence force veterans have been trying to get colleagues and their families to safety; and the saddest stories are perhaps those of the Hazara refugees who fled Afghanistan and arrived in Australia by boat, who are unable to even try to help their families to come to Australia because of the limitations on temporary protection visas. As one of them said, ‘I am human first of all. Why does it matter how I got here?’

Australia has seen similar scenes before, and in the past we were more helpful. This week, on his final day as Governor of South Australia, Hieu Van Le said:

Looking at the television news in the last few weeks and seeing the situation in Kabul in Afghanistan brings back so many sad memories to us. We relate it back to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. I was there. I have a deep, strong feeling of what the people there are going through, so I wish the world will look into this with a very generous and receptive view. They need help, and we need to provide them with whatever help that we can. Continue reading

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Sermon: Counting our blessings

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
The 29th of August, 2021

Song of Songs 2:8-13

Last week’s Reflection talked about the long history of lament in Judaism and Christianity, and said that if our response to the sixth lockdown was anger and despair then the heritage of our faith tells us that kicking and screaming and blaming God for God’s absence is a faithful response. That is still true. But I feel that as your minister I am compelled to balance a Reflection about anger and sadness with one about hope and joy. If you are not in a place where being encouraged to ‘count your blessings’ is helpful, then please ignore what I am saying today and return to last week’s Reflection. The Book of Lamentations moves from lament to praise and back to lament again, and we will all be in different places in that cycle.

Because Christianity was born in the northern hemisphere the liturgical year does not fit with Australia’s seasons. We celebrate new life at Easter in the autumn, and the coming of the Light in the darkness at midsummer rather than midwinter. But this week it is we who are in the right season and Christians in the northern hemisphere will be out of step. For us, when the first reading tells us ‘now the winter is past … The flowers appear on the earth’ we can look all around us and see that it is true. The lectionary gives Christians only this one reading from the Song of Songs over the entire three years, and we hear it in Spring. Continue reading

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Sermon: Blaming God

Reflection for North Balwyn Uniting Church
The 22nd of August, 2021

Lamentations 3:1-6, 19-26, 31-33
Psalm 130

On Thursday Melbourne had been in lockdown for two hundred days. Luckily for us those two hundred days did not all happen in the one lockdown, or I am not sure we could have coped, but it was still a difficult milestone. It did not help that 57 new cases were announced on the same day, even though most of the people infected had already been in isolation. This year, thank God, we are not seeing the hundreds of deaths from covid19 that we saw last year. Most of the deaths in 2020 were of people living in residential aged care, and in 2021 most aged care residents seem to have been vaccinated. Every day, as we get Victoria’s numbers, I look at the 0 deaths in gratitude and relief. But in some ways this sixth lockdown is harder than the second. Last year there were no vaccines; lockdowns were the only way of controlling covid19 that we had. When announcements about vaccinations were made at the beginning of this year the projection was that 70% of us would be fully vaccinated by now. The reality is that about a quarter of us are fully vaccinated. So Lockdown Six is causing huge frustration simply because we did not expect to still need lockdowns in the second half of 2021. Continue reading

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