Well the world has changed over the past two weeks while I’ve been away. One week the world is one way then suddenly it’s changed.

Perhaps it’s the shooting down of the Malaysian Airline, so unprovoked, so innocent, so many people just going from one place to another. Not even an accident.

Perhaps it’s the conflict in Israel where any criticism of Israel is met with some type of resentment and where the world seems curious, if not silent, about why those in the Gaza strip, the most highly populated mass imprisoned on earth, feel such deep injustice.

Perhaps it’s the movement of fundamental Islam through Iraq and Syria that has swelled in the past few months and has no regard for life.

And perhaps these things remind us of all the other grief we have almost forgotten that no longer make it to our newspapers.

Continue reading The kingdom of heaven is like…

Today we’ll continue our reflection on the Old Testament passages from Genesis. Two weeks ago we read the passage about Abraham’s wife Sarah telling Abraham to send his second wife Hagar and his first son Ishmael away into the wilderness. Last week we heard the passage of Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac whom he had with Sarah, and this week we hear about the choosing of a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac.

Do you remember me saying how Abraham’s wife Sarah was a Jew, and Abraham’s second wife Hagar, who was suggested by Sarah, was from Egypt; an Arab. I also talked a little about how we see in this passage the division that still exists between the Jewish and Arab world and now even in this past week, how terribly we have seen this division lived out. One generation teaches another the way of hatred and violence.

In today’s passage we see again something of this division, and I’ll just put the whole reading in context before we hear it.

Continue reading Wells and springs of life

It is not that well received by a congregation, to begin a message with… “put your hands up if…”, but today I will…

Put your hand up if you found the gospel reading today shocking or disturbing?!

It is an amazing passage, that time when Jesus goes to the other side of lake Galilee by boat, and steps out onto land to be confronted by a man who had lived amongst the tombs for a long time. It is a passage that I have preached on before, found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, in one form or another.

Each time I have preached on this passage, I’ve thought to myself, this man is out there, living amongst the tombs, because he is a reject, uncontrollable, unwanted in the nearby town.

Continue reading The Garasene Demoniac

When Peta-Gai and I go away on holidays, we often go to a book store beforehand, choose a book together, a novel, and buy two copies. Then we take the book away with us, and read it together, like our own little book group. But over time a few of our friends, when they come away with us, want to have a copy of the book too, so this holidays we had 6 people reading the same book that we chose. The book was a novel, fiction, a tale, a journey. I’m also reading a book on the history of maps. Another person on holidays was reading a crime book. Another, a biography. Another person was reading American history. All different books, written in different ways, and it is, of course, the same with the Bible. There are different types of books, all put together, into the one book that we call the Bible.

Continue reading A word of truth, hope and vision

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of god with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

That is Jesus speaking. You know Jesus – son of god, saviour of the world, prince of peace. The same Jesus that in his poem for children Charles Wesley described as

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
look upon a little child;
pity my simplicity,
suffer me to come to thee

Bit of a difference here. Gentle Jesus or the Jesus who advocates self-harm? Which one represents the real Jesus? Now that’s a simple straightforward topic for a sermon – shouldn’t have any troubles with this should I? Yeah right, why am I walking into this minefield? For the same reason Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing climbed Mt Everest – because it’s there and ignoring it will not make it go away. Sometimes it is necessary to wade through the tough stuff because in doing so, sometimes something real is learnt.

Continue reading Will the real Jesus please stand up?

A few weeks ago, as part of our Old Testament stories that we are moving through with the children, I read the passage from Genesis 11, that amazing story from another time, of the tower of Babel. It is a short story, of a time when the whole earth had one language and the same words. And the people as a whole came to a place, a plain, in the land of Shinar and there they settled. You can imagine it as a fruitful, water sourced, flat plain in which to live. The people there discover they can bake bricks in fire, and make them as hard as stone, and also use bitumen for mortar to hold the bricks together. Remember this story is nearly 3000 years old! Then, as the story goes, the people have the idea that with their bricks and mortar they will build a tower with its tops in the heavens and in doing so they will make a name for themselves; they will be known as great, even godly, as they look down from the heights of their tower in the clouds.

This is not the first story in the Bible with this theme, of the desire of humanity to move beyond their world, to do something that is great, powerful, beyond their current knowledge, and to make a name for themselves.

Continue reading The call of wisdom