Prayer for Christchurch

As usual, shared in the hope that this might be helpful.

Loving God, who gathers us into your love as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, we bring our sorrow and outrage, our horror and shock, to you.

We pray for the people of Christchurch, all the people of New Zealand, and all Muslims around the world. We remember the many people killed as they were at prayer. We know that you hold them in your loving arms; may their memories be a blessing to those who loved them. We pray for the healing of all those who were injured, those who witnessed the massacre, and those who are grieving. Please give them the strength and courage they need to face the road ahead.

We pray for Jacinda Adern, for all the members of New Zealand’s emergencies services, and for everyone involved in the recovery after this tragedy. Give them the wisdom they need. If there is any good to come from this horror, let it be stronger gun control laws; that as Australia did after Port Arthur, New Zealand says “never again”.

Loving God, 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. Give us the wisdom of serpents, that we may never be led astray by the preachers of hate. Let us never be fooled by those who proclaim Islamophobia, who talk of anti-white racism, who share the slogan, ‘it’s all right to be white’. Help us to recognise racism and white supremacy in all its forms and to repudiate it utterly.

Loving God, we recognise that you are the God of Hagar and Ishmael as well as of Sarah and Isaac; that like Christians and Jews Muslims have Abraham for their ancestor, and so we are all members of the one family. Remind us that the human family is even greater; that every single one of us is made in your image and is your beloved child. Help us to live as we pray; to love one another as you love us; to never allow hate to divide us.

We make these prayers in the name of your Son, who told us that we would see him in the face of ‘the least of these’. May we never look at the face of another human being without seeing his face.


Posted in Liturgy | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Why the Uniting Church should be louder about its LGBTIQ inclusion

I know what you’re thinking. I’m going to pontificate about the wideness of God’s love and our responsibility to share the good news of God’s unconditional acceptance with people who feel excluded from most churches. But you’d be wrong. I say that sort of thing all the time. This is about what really matters. This is about getting bums on pews. There is evidence to suggest that being louder about the fact that the Uniting Church unconditionally welcomes LGBTIQ people as members, ordains LGBTIQ people as ministers, and allows same-sex couples to be married in churches, is just good advertising. Continue reading

Posted in Random Musings | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reflection on the sexual abuse of children

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
3rd of March, 2019

I have only once attended a worship service at which George Pell presided. It was held on Sunday the 23rd of May, 1999, and I know the exact date because I attended the service wearing a rainbow sash, accompanying lesbian and gay Catholics. ‘Rainbow Sash’ was organised in Australia by Michael Kelly, who was born and brought up a Catholic and embraced by his church until he came out as gay. The rainbow sash he wore to church made visible what would otherwise be invisible, his sexuality. Because of that he was refused communion. As a good Protestant I wasn’t eligible to receive communion in a Catholic church anyway, but I accompanied a Catholic school friend of my brother down the aisle at St Patrick’s Cathedral, and stood beside him as George Pell refused him communion. Afterwards, we hung a wreath on the cathedral fence in memory of the victims of homophobia in church schools. Continue reading

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

Prayer for the survivors and victims of child abuse

I’ve been trying to write a prayer for Sunday’s service in response to the news of the guilty verdict in George Pell’s trial. I was not sexually abused in the church, but news of the verdict still left me feeling sick and scared and young again, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Pell’s victims and for others whose experience was reflected in the story of Pell’s abusing. This is what I’ve come up with so far. It’s offered with deep humility, in the hope that some people might find it helpful. Continue reading

Posted in Liturgy | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Sermon: Imitating God

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
24th of February, 2019

Luke 6:17-26

If last week’s extract from the Sermon on the Plain, with its terrifying ‘woes’ to balance the blessings, was difficult to hear, this week’s reading is even worse. ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ I have heard and read this passage over and over again through the years and it still makes me gasp. This is what Jesus wants us to do when he calls us to follow him, and it is absolutely impossible. ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ might seem manageable, but ‘do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’? Surely Jesus cannot be serious here; the Sermon on the Plain can only be aspirational. Continue reading

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

Sermon: The value of a human life

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
17th of February, 2019

Luke 6:17-26

Do you know how much your life is worth? How about the lives of those you love? It’s a ridiculous question, of course; it should be impossible to put a price on a human life. I discovered recently in an article written by Richard Dennisss, the chief economist at the Australia Institute, that the federal government knows exactly how much an Australia life is worth. It is 4.5 million dollars. If you die prematurely, then each year of forgone life is worth $195,000. It’s fascinating – I went to check the advice that Denniss quoted in his article and found it freely available: a three-page document from December 2014 called ‘Best Practice Regulation Guidance Note: Value of statistical life’. The note says that, ‘A number of regulatory proposals are aimed at reducing the risk of physical harm, for example, occupational health and safety laws, warning labels on tobacco products and transport safety measures such as seat belt laws’. In order to work out whether they are worthwhile, public servants need to determine whether the value of the lives saved is greater than the amount spent to reduce the harm. Future lives are considered to be worth less than present lives. It’s considered more beneficial to save three lives now rather than five lives in eight years’ time – the note has a table showing that. I might not have believed Denniss if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Continue reading

Posted in Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sermon: The Glory of God

Sermon for Williamstown
10th of February, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11

Are Christians too casual about the ways in which we interact with God? Too familiar, perhaps, in our language? I have a Jewish friend with whom I chat online, and whenever she refers to God, about whom we talk surprisingly often, she spells the name ‘G’ hyphen ‘D’, in the respectful Jewish manner. This is based on the way in which God is described in Hebrew. Rather than spelling out the name of God the tetragrammaton (four letters) YHWH is written, and where we Christians blithely say that aloud as Yahweh, Jews are more likely when reading YHWH to say Adonai ‘my Lord’, or Elohim, ‘God’. It’s only we Christians who are so bold as to refer to God by name.

It’s not just in our language that we treat God as an equal. In many ways this is also the way in which we worship. My Professor of Worship talked to us about the ‘Uniting Church’ worship style. He said that when the Uniting Church was created we had had a choice about the way in which we would set this new church’s worshipping scene. Either people could enter the church silently and reverently, communing quietly with God while waiting for worship to start, or we could enter informally, as though we were entering a friend’s house, chatting with each other while waiting for the call to begin worshipping. The option that most Uniting churches have taken has been the second. That’s a fairly recent phenomenon. In my childhood people still wore special clothes when attending church – I remember wearing a good dress and the generations before me remember wearing hats and even gloves. Nowadays if I’m not actually leading the service the most I might do is find something clean. We feel comfortable and at home in church, or at least that’s the idea. Continue reading

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