Funeral Reflection for Howard James ‘Jim’ Learmonth

Jim Learmonth was a delightful man, who died after a very long, rich, life at the age of 93. I was extremely honoured to be ask to take his funeral, and to give this eulogy as part of the service. ‘Eulogy’ is Greek for ‘good words’ and I hope that these are good words for a good man.

Psalm 121

Jim was born in 1926, the year of the ‘Canberra Florin’ coin, the son of Alexander Robert and Alice Learmonth. He had three brothers, Rus, Lyn, and James. His father worked at Massey Ferguson, as did John Twigg, who would become his father-in-law, and as Jim himself did later. Continue reading

Posted in Reflection | Tagged | 1 Comment

Reflection: God our Rock

‘There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.’ – 1 Samuel 2:2-3

Earlier this week The Spectator published a reflection on the closing of the Climb up Uluru by David Long. Although Mr Long is a ‘retired solicitor and economist’ he doesn’t appear to be interested in any legal or economic questions raised by the Climb’s end. Mr Long instead seems to be writing theology, and that drew my attention. I don’t want to give this article any more publicity than it has already received, but I can’t leave Mr Long’s errors unaddressed. Continue reading

Posted in Reflection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sermon: The welfare of the city

Sermon for Wesley Uniting Church
13th of October 2019

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Today’s sermon is a sequel to that of last week. To understand the radicalness of Jeremiah’s prescription for the exiled people of Jerusalem, we need to remember the anger and pain and outrage we heard last week in psalm 137: ‘Happy shall they be who take [Babylon’s] little ones and dash them against the rock!’ Both the psalmist and the prophet Jeremiah are responding to the same event, the defeat of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian Empire, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its people. Today we are hearing ‘the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon’. So, some further context: Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon: A psalm of hate

Sermon for Wesley Uniting Church
6th of October 2019

Psalm 137

I seldom have the chance to preach on today’s readings. They appear in the lectionary around St Francis’ Day, when Blessing of the Animals services mean that I tend not to preach. So today I’m taking the opportunity to look at Psalm 137 in detail. It’s a doozy! Most of it was made famous by Boney M. in the 1970s, but their version, as you may recall, does not include the final stanza. No babies’ heads are smashed in the pop song. Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon: A terrifyingly simple parable

Sermon for Wesley Uniting Church
29th of September 2019

 Luke 16:1-13
1 Timothy 6:6-19

Last week, if you remember, I had to confess that I didn’t understand the parable of the dishonest manager; I have no idea why Jesus told a story about dishonesty that included apparent approval of it. I don’t feel too worried about my ignorance, though, because no one else seems to know either.

This week’s reading from the Gospel according to Luke is different. Today’s parable is equally hard. But not because it is in any way difficult to understand. If anything, today’s parable is too comprehensible. Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon: A complete puzzle of a parable

Sermon for Wesley Uniting Church
22nd of September 2019

 Luke 16:1-13

Last week I said that when Jesus told parables he was not doing so to make his message easier to hear; that the story form was not the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Parables were meant to leave Jesus’ hearers with something to chew on, something to puzzle over and argue against so that the parable became part of them. Well, if that was Jesus’ intention in telling his parables, complicating the issue so that his hearers were forced to reflect on his message, he certainly succeeded in the one we hear today. Almost no one has any idea what this story is really about. The Church Fathers tended to ignore it;[1] renowned biblical scholar Rudolf Bultmann apparently declared it to be incomprehensible;[2] and some commentators have suggested that Luke himself was baffled by Jesus’ story, and so added a series of morals to the end of the parable in the hope that they would make sense of an otherwise nonsensical tale.[3] It’s a parable that is ‘deeply unsettling to our sense of justice and fair play’;[4] and one that is often ignored.[5]  I know that the congregation here at Wesley can cope with wrestling with a difficult parable, so we won’t ignore it. But please make allowances for the confusion of what follows! Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sermon: God must be crazy!

Sermon for Wesley Uniting Church
15th of September 2019

 Luke 15:1-10

In the two parables from today’s gospel reading we are in the very heart of the Gospel according to Luke. Christianity would not be the faith we know without these two stories and the one that follows them, the story of the so-called ‘prodigal son’. These stories of lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons reveal to us the overwhelming nature of the love of God. In fact, so extravagant is God’s love that the theme of these three stories could be ‘God behaving badly’. Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment