Reflection: The centenary of the Armistice

Reflection for Remembrance Day 2018
Williamstown Uniting Church

Today we remember the guns falling silent at 11 am on the eleventh of November, 1918, one hundred years ago today. But what is it that we are actually remembering on ‘Remembrance’ Day? I’ve recently come across copies of two small books, one published in 1917 and one in 1939, that have influenced my thinking about the Armistice.

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Praying for Melbourne

I have no words for my sadness at yesterday’s attack on Melbourne and particularly the death of Sisto Malaspina. So I offer again the prayer I wrote the last time Bourke Street was attacked. May God be with us all.

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Sermon: For all the saints

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
All Saints’ Day 2018

Isaiah 25:6-9
Revelation 21:1-6
John 11:32-44

Today we are celebrating All Saints’ Day, the feast declared by Pope Gregory IV in 835. As I reminded us last year, the early Reformers were unimpressed by the celebration of sainthood, and I want to again read from John Calvin’s satirical 1543 publication: A Very Useful Account concerning the Great Benefit that Christianity will Receive if it takes an inventory of all the sacred bodies and relics which are in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and other kingdoms and countries just because it makes me laugh. In it Calvin writes that if registers were to be made of all the saints’ relics throughout Europe: ‘one would discover that each apostle has more than four bodies, and each saint at least two or three’. He also wrote of Mary, the mother of Jesus: ‘There is so much [milk held in churches] that if the holy Virgin had been a cow, and had she continued to nurse her whole life, she would have had great difficulty to give so much’. Given this scorn, it’s one of the achievements of the ecumenical movement that Catholics and Protestants now both celebrate All Saints’. Continue reading

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Sermon: Don’t accept injustice (Part 3)

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
28th of October, 2018

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

Today is the fourth and last week that we’ll spend with Job. So, a very quick recap: God and ha-satan, the accuser or adversary, have a bet over the righteous man, Job. Will he still be a ‘blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil’ if he is made to suffer? As a result of this conversation between God and Satan, Job loses everything he has and everything he is: wealth; household; children; health. He ends up sitting in the ashes, scraping at his boils with broken pottery. Then his three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, come to comfort him. For a week they sit silently with Job, but then they start to speak, and they tell Job that he must have done something wrong, because God is just, rewarding the virtuous and punishing the wicked. If Job is being punished, it must be for a good reason. Continue reading

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Sermon: Don’t accept injustice (Part 2)

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
14th of October, 2018

Job 23

Last week, we began to read the Book of Job, a poetic book written sometime between the seventh and fourth centuries BC, with a prose introduction and conclusion that might have come from a traditional folk tale. Last week, if you remember, God and ha-satan, the accuser or adversary, had a bet over the righteous man, Job. Would he still be a ‘blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil’ if he is made to suffer? Last week we saw that, as a result of the conversation between God and Satan, Job lost everything he had and everything he was. He lost his wealth. He lost his household. He lost his children. In response to these losses Job said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,’ and we’re told that ‘in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing’. Then Job loses his health; he is inflicted with loathsome sores. His wife tells him to curse God and die, but Job replies, ‘Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’ and it’s written, ‘in all this Job did not sin with his lips’. Continue reading

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Sermon: Don’t accept injustice!

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
7th of October, 2018

Job 1:1 – 2:10

After spending the month of September making our slow way through the Letter of James, in October we’re going to go to the other end of the biblical canon and spend some time with the Book of Job. We might not be certain whether the Letter of James was actually written by Jesus’ brother James the Righteous, but we have some certainty about when, where, why and to whom it was written. We know none of those things about the Book of Job. We don’t know where it was written. We don’t know who wrote it. Commentators narrow its date to sometime between the seventh and the fourth centuries BC. We are fairly sure that Job is not intended to be a real person; the opening and closing parts of the book may be based on a traditional folk tale. What we can be certain of is that this is an absolutely amazing book and I hope that over the next four weeks you take the time to read all of it. I’ll let the scholars at the University of Nottingham introduce it. Continue reading

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Sermon: The church is called to pray

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
30th of September 2018

James 5:13-20

This week is the last in which we hear from the Letter of James, learning from his teaching about the true wisdom that comes from above, as opposed to the ‘earthly, unspiritual, devilish’ wisdom of the world. Two weeks ago James warned us about the dangers of our tongues. Now James tells us how to use our tongues well, in prayer. Whether we are unhappy, happy, or sick, James tells us to pray; however we may be feeling and whatever is happening to us, James says that prayer is the appropriate response. This is how we can guard our tongues and ensure that we don’t start a fire with them – by remembering that all our words are said in God’s hearing. Continue reading

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