Sermon: What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
3rd of September 2017

Romans 12:9-21

Earlier this week I found myself arguing with a stranger on social media about marriage. Now, I know that I should (a) spend less time on social media and (b) stop using it to discuss marriage with complete strangers, but that argument gave me the prompt for this sermon. What the other person said was along the lines of: ‘Haven’t you read the Bible? What has love ever had to do with marriage?’

In one way my arguing partner was right. The Bible describes a lot of marriages, but it very seldom talks about marriage as a relationship of love. This may explain why the couples whose weddings I help celebrate rarely choose Bible readings that talk about marriage for their services. They’re much more likely to choose readings about love, like the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. If you’ve been to many weddings in churches I suspect that you could join me in reciting it: ‘Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… ,’ but as I say every time I preach it, that reading was not written about married love. The Bible does not suggest that love is essential to marriage.

But for Christians love is essential to marriage, no matter what the Bible might say. That’s because for Christians love is at the heart of every relationship we have and everything we do. Love is at the heart of who we are, because we worship and try to imitate the God who is love. Continue reading

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Sermon: White supremacy is blasphemy

Williamstown Uniting Church
20th of August, 2017

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28

Australia is a land of drought and flooding rains; of bushfires and cyclones and the occasional earthquake. We know the pain of the death and destruction caused by natural disasters, and so we can imagine the pain of others around the world when the natural environment seems to attack them. This week a mudslide in Sierra Leone is thought to have killed at least 300 people. The death tolls from our natural disasters are usually nowhere near that number, but we can empathise with the feelings of the people affected. Continue reading

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Reflection: Why I support Marriage Equality

This is based on a letter I wrote to several Victorian senators asking them to support marriage equality when a Bill on the topic finally makes it to the Senate. Initially I wasn’t going to share this letter at all; then I was only going to share it with Friends on Facebook. Despite having done it quite often over the last twenty years, a couple of times on national television, I hate ‘coming out’. It makes me sick to my stomach. I am always afraid that people will reject me, and especially afraid that people will reject my ministry and no longer allow me to pastor them, if they know that I belong in that very complicated LGBTIQ acronym. (I claim the B and the Q.) I do not have a partner and am not planning to ever have a partner, so it is easy for me to stay quiet. But today silence feels like cowardice. And if me being open about who I am can help even one young person feel better about who they are, then it’s worth it. Without amazing lesbian and bisexual Uniting Church women like Dorothy McRae-McMahon and so many others I would not be here. I want to follow their examples and live with courage.

I am bisexual. Acknowledging that was an important part of my recovery when I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of twenty-two, in 1995. I express my sexuality through a commitment to celibacy. My family, friends and church all find that a little odd; the Uniting Church in Australia does not have a tradition of ministers choosing to live a celibate life in order to better serve God. Nevertheless that is how I identify sexually, as a celibate bisexual. Continue reading

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‘The Sickness Unto Death’, by Anne Sexton

Source: ‘The Sickness Unto Death’, by Anne Sexton

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Sermon: Against Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence
Williamstown Uniting Church, 23rd of July 2017

I’m not going to preach today. We were going to continue with Paul’s letter to the Romans, but earlier this week an article on Christianity and domestic violence was published by the ABC. It was written by Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson, based on twelve months of investigation that included interviews with survivors of domestic violence, counsellors, priests, psychologists and researchers from a range of Christian denominations, and it was extremely troubling. Discussing domestic violence may be painful and difficult for some people, and I’m very sorry, but I think it’s an essential issue for the church.

The article on Christianity and domestic violence was the second in a series on religion and domestic violence; the first looked at Islam and was titled ‘Exposing the darkness within’. I remember hearing about that first one, but I must admit that I didn’t read it. No matter how appalled I am by domestic violence, an article about domestic violence in Islam didn’t seem immediately relevant to me. But when the reference to an article about Christianity and domestic violence appeared in social media I quickly clicked on the link to it and searched for the word ‘Uniting’. There’s only one reference to the Uniting Church, this sentence: ‘Queensland academic Dr Lynne Baker’s 2010 book, Counselling Christian Women on How to Deal with Domestic Violence, cites a study of Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches in Brisbane that found 22 per cent of perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse go to church regularly.’ Once I’d read that one reference I went back to the beginning of the article and read slowly and carefully and extremely sadly. Continue reading

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Sermon: We can live out love

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
16th of July, 2017

Romans 8:1-11

Finally, we have an optimistic Apostle. After last week’s lament: ‘I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do,’ and the warning from two weeks’ ago against being the slaves of sin, which leads to death, now we have Paul rejoicing that we’ve been set free from the law of sin and of death. Everything that we could not do by ourselves has been done for us by God. Last week’s reading ended with Paul writing: ‘with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin’. This week begins with: ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’. Left to ourselves we cannot achieve righteousness through our own actions, but as Paul reminded us in last week’s reading, we are not left to ourselves. God did not leave us alone and floundering. In Jesus Christ God entered into creation and joined us in our humanity, and in the Spirit God is still with us, around us and between us and within us. We are never alone. Continue reading

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Sermon: Jesus is not a life coach

Sermon for Williamstown Uniting Church
The Fifth Sunday of Pentecost, 9th of July 2017

Romans 7:15-25a

Sometimes I read the writings of the Apostle Paul and all I can say in response to them is: ‘Yes!’ Sometimes Paul just seems to get it – and today is one of those days. When Paul writes: ‘I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate,’ and ‘For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do,’ all I can do is nod my head in sad agreement. Paul is absolutely right. And he wasn’t alone in saying this. In this part of his letter to the Romans Paul is echoing something that was a commonplace in the ancient world. The Roman poet Ovid wrote the most famous version of it: ‘I see the better way and I approve it; but I follow the worse.’ It’s apparently part of what it means to be human. We know what we should do; but we don’t do it. We want to be good and obey God’s law, but we find that we can’t. It’s a universal problem. Continue reading

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