Sermon: Wait on the Lord

Sermon for Williamstown
15th of October 2017, Pentecost 23

Exodus 32:1-14

The God who is portrayed in today’s story from the Hebrew Scriptures is quite terrifying; an apparently angry and unforgiving God, eager to punish his sinning people with total annihilation. Admittedly, their sin in the today’s reading is quite extreme. Last week we heard the Ten Commandments, gifts to the people of Israel from the God who had rescued them from Egypt. The response of the people to those commandments was: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do,’ and almost instantly the people have broken the commandments that they welcomed. In response to their rejection of God, God rejects them, saying to Moses: ‘Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely …’


The character YHWH in today’s reading from Exodus isn’t simply the same as the God we worship, and neither is the king in Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel reading. In both cases we have stories which teach us something about God, about our relationship with God, and about ourselves, but which aren’t straight-forward descriptions of the ways in which God acts. They need to be interpreted. So let’s do that. What does this story of the golden calf have to say to us today? Continue reading

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Sermon: When commandments bring freedom

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
8 October 2017

Exodus 20:1-20
Psalm 19


The Ten Commandments, known by Hebrew Scholars as the ‘Ten Words,’ don’t have a good reputation among some Christians. Way back in 2008, as part of the introduction of his ‘New Faith,’ the then-minister at St Michael’s Church, Francis Macnab, put up an enormous billboard over the Tullamarine freeway with the text: ‘The Ten Commandments: The most negative document ever written.’ As a publicity campaign it was brilliant; as a piece of biblical interpretation it was appalling. The Synod meeting that year asked St Michael’s to take the billboards down and apologise, which as you can imagine was an unusual step for the Uniting Church to take. (In response Dr Macnab said that he had been defamed.) One of the reasons that Dr Macnab gave for his argument was that:

There are three critical commandments which are disregarded … “Thou shalt not kill”. (In wars we have killed approximately 70 million men, women and children in the 20th Century to the present time.) “Thou shalt not bear false witness”. People do this without reflection. “Keep the Sabbath day holy”. Continue reading

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Sermon: Food

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
1st of October, 2017
Talking about the Eucharist

Today I’m not going to preach on the Bible readings; I’ve decided instead to colour outside the lines. Today I want to talk about food.

Later in this service we’re going to celebrate what is called Eucharist or Communion or the Lord’s Supper. ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving and the name goes back to Paul’s description in First Corinthians when he describes what Jesus did: ‘when he had given thanks’ and ‘given thanks’ is eucharisteesas (1 Cor 11:24). ‘Communion’ describes what we do, we gather as community to share in common the body and blood of Christ and thus commune with God. ‘The Lord’s supper’ is what Paul called the meal when writing to the Corinthians; he says: ‘When you come together it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper’ (1 Cor 11:20). That name also reminds us of who is the Host at the table. The church isn’t hosting this meal; we’re all the guests of God. Continue reading

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Vote ‘Yes’ for Religious Freedom

As the slogan says, it’s okay to vote ‘No’. The people thinking of voting ‘No’ in the postal poll on the potential change to the Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry are not homophobic. Most of those who are considering voting ‘No’ love their LGBTIQ friends and family members, and respect their relationships. But they have concerns about recognising those relationships as marriages.

I’d like to speak to one group of potential ‘No’ voters; those who are concerned about religious freedom. Continue reading

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Sermon: Justice and Mercy

Sermon for Williamstown
24th of September, 2017

Matthew 20:1-16

As you may know, I am an aunt. One of the many things that being an aunt has taught me is the importance of fairness to children, and how early that importance develops. One of the most common expressions of small children, I don’t think that this is true just of those I know, is: ‘It’s not fair!’ They have a very strong sense of when something is fair, and no qualms about complaining when something isn’t.

This emphasis on fairness doesn’t diminish as we get older. The sense that the world should be fair and that there’s something wrong if it’s not, is part of human life. I don’t believe that that’s a bad thing. Most of human rights law and equal opportunity law is based on the idea of fairness; the belief that it’s unfair for people to be treated differently on the basis of their race or gender or religion or sexuality. Contracts are based on the concept of fair dealing between people; the expectation that people shouldn’t take advantage of each other. The entire notion of Fair Trade is based on the idea that people should get fair payment for their work, rather than be exploited by those with power. These are all good things. And yet this understanding of fairness, our belief that fairness is always good, is challenged by today’s story. Continue reading

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I’m fine!

Just a note, since I seem to have worried some people.

I’ve deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts because I’ve decided that being called satanic and told that I’m heading straight for hell over my support for marriage equality is not good for my mental health. For the same reason, I’m screening my calls.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter want me to go and it will take at least 30 days before my ‘deleted’ accounts are really deleted. In that time I might have decided that I can again face social media and I’ll re-establish them. Or I might have discovered that without social media I have so much more free time that I’ll allow the deletes to become permanent.

But, either way, I’m fine. Well, relatively fine. This ‘postal poll’ debate is not good for my mental health. There’s a reason the entire LGBTIQ community, which never agrees on anything, was united in its opposition to the plebiscite. We knew that it would unleash hatred. But I’m fine in the sense that I’m not currently suicidal.

Dear God, I am worried for younger people and those who aren’t ‘out’. Having the entire country vote on the rights of a minority that already has higher than average rates of mental illness was a very stupid idea, but it seems to have made Mr Shelton and Mr Abbott and Mr Howard happy, and I guess that’s the important thing for the Prime Minister.


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Sermon: We can’t choose our (church) family

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
17th of September, 2017

Romans 14:1-12

Things happen that might be pure coincidence, but might also be the result of nudges from the Holy Spirit. Over the past few weeks many Christians in Australia have been thinking and arguing about how to respond to the postal poll on the marriage laws. At the same time, the Lectionary has given us a series of readings from Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which Paul talks about how Christians are to live together. Today’s reading specifically talks about how Christians are to live with disagreement. Most people will see that as a coincidence, but I prefer to see it as a hint from the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

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