Sermon: God’s NO to violence

Sermon for Williamstown
Easter Sunday, the 16th of April, 2017

Matthew 28:1-10.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

This is the joy at the heart of Easter; the affirmation at the heart of the Christian faith; the happy ending that makes all other happy endings possible.

I had a strange Holy Week. On Tuesday I involved myself in a fight in a shopping centre car-park. Two men were grappling apparently fighting over one hitting the car door of the other. They both had partners and small children with them, and the children were terrified, so I found myself trying to get between the men while saying, ‘Sir, sir, please stop; you’re scaring the children’. At one point I had my arm around a little boy, I think about three or four years old, who was sobbing in fright. Continue reading

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Sermon: Innocent Blood

Sermon for Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Palm and Passion Sunday

Matthew 26:14 – 27:66

It’s such a quick transition; from the crowds who spread cloaks and cut branches to put under Jesus’ feet, to the crowds who yell, ‘Crucify him!’ It didn’t happen quite as quickly as it did this morning, but it still seems to have been an unusually rapid change of mood.

Matthew is more concerned than the other gospel writers with allocating responsibility for Jesus’ death. It’s Matthew, for example, who takes time during the Passion narrative to tell us about Judas’ response to his betrayal of Jesus. According to Matthew, Judas repents very quickly. As soon as Jesus is condemned Judas brings the thirty pieces of silver he was paid back to the chief priests and the elders and tells them that he has sinned by betraying innocent blood. In repentance, he throws down the money, and then goes to hang himself. It’s too late by then; despite his attempt he cannot absolve himself. He remains the betrayer. Continue reading

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Sermon: On death

Sermon for Williamstown
2nd of April, 2017

John 11:1-45

One of the things I like about the three year lectionary cycle is the trips down memory lane that it prompts me to take. When I begin thinking about the Bible passages for any particular Sunday, I look back at what I said about those passages three, six, nine, and now twelve years ago. So I can tell you that on the fifth Sunday of Lent in 2014 I didn’t preach at all, because we were celebrating both the Eucharist and a baptism. In 2011 I preached on the reading about the dry bones from Ezekiel, connecting their ability to live again with the church’s ability to live again even if our numbers and powers are declining. That was because six years’ ago the fifth Sunday in Lent was also the day on which the first Sci Fi and Fantasy service of the ‘Church of Latter-Day Geeks’ was held, and media from all around the world were reporting on it as an attempt to get more bums on pews in a declining church, rather than as Adam Hills making fun of me while I enjoyed dressing up. Fake news!

Nine years ago, and twelve years ago, I reflected on the raising of Lazarus in the context of death. I first preached in this passage in 2005, a painful, death-darkened, year for my community. Continue reading

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Sermon: Another one of Avril’s feminist sermons

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
19 March 2017

John 4:5-42

Despite the fact that I am now well into adulthood, even middle-aged, I still occasionally do things that are bad for me. I binge on junk food. I stay awake reading until 3 am. I spend an entire working day listening to the live-streaming from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

That last was what I did on Friday the 10th of March. The Uniting Church was going to be appearing, and I didn’t want to miss it, so I tuned in to the Royal Commission from 10 in the morning. Before the representatives of the Uniting Church appeared, the Royal Commission questioned representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what I heard from them disturbed me so much that I ended the day by breaking my Lenten fast and eating two bars of chocolate. Continue reading

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Sermon: Golden fonts and visits by night

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
Lent Two, 12 March 2017

John 3:1-17

I absolutely adore visiting the British Museum in London. I’ve visited it four times, so far, which indicates how incredibly privileged I am as a person for whom flying to the other side of the world is even a possibility. But each time I’ve left the British Museum, drunk on everything I’ve seen, and aware that there were so many things I missed, I’ve wandered around London deeply envious of all the people who live there and who can drop into the museum any time they like. Luckily for me, the nice people at the British Museum have published books and created web-pages about their collections, and it was in one of those books that I found this.

Private Gold Font, 1796

I’ve never seen it in real life but, trust me, the next time I’m in the museum I’m heading straight to it. Continue reading

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Sermon: These things are not ‘sent to try us’

Sermon for Williamstown
First Sunday of Lent, 5th of March, 2017

Matthew 4:1-11

jesus tested

There is a comment that is occasionally made in my family: ‘Ah, well, these things are sent to try us’. It’s only ever used about something minor, traffic snarls, for example, or my littlest niece taking the scissors to her hair, and always as a joke. But there is a stream of theology that takes seriously the idea that difficulties are sent to us by God to test us. It has variations in which people say that God never gives us more tragedy than we can bear, or that God particularly tests those people whom he particularly loves. Continue reading

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Newsletter: Spending Lent Wisely

As I’ve mentioned before, the early Church baptised those seeking to join it at Easter. Candidates for baptism spent the forty days before Easter in preparation and fasting, and from the seventh century all Christians were encouraged to join them and Lent as we know it was established.

One of the results of the Reformation emphasis on living out the faith only as it’s described in the Scriptures was that Protestants stopped fasting in Lent. It became something that those Catholics over there did, and was looked at with suspicion. Continue reading

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