“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times.” So said Thomas Merton in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander in 1966. Thomas Merton was writing from the seclusion of a Trappist Monastery with a vow of
silence and an ordered routine of the day. Good Lord, if he felt that pressure what hope is there for the rest of us!
The necessity to be busy and work hard and to make good use of our time is bedded deeply in many of us. As a kid I remember my mother nudging me out of the comfort of my book to “Go outside and do something”. It’s no co-incidence my mum went to St Martha’s Industrial Home in Sydney where the main training was in how to be industrious. Wasting time is a no no for many of us and while I have it down to a fine art, I still feel guilty about it.
So I wonder which character you identify most within the story of Mary and
Martha. Rushed, harried, overwhelmed Martha or time wasting yet devoted Mary? Martha is doing the right thing in many ways. She is serving others, showing radical and extravagant hospitality and in many ways loving others as herself as we heard about in the Good Samaritan story. But Jesus rebukes her and recommends Mary’s way.
So are we meant to drop everything and sit at Jesus’ feet? Yes... and no... as it often is in these stories. I think this is not so much a story about wasted time or action versus contemplation but a reminder not to waste opportunities. Not to lose sight of the point of it all the busy-ness of “doing”. It wasn’t Martha’s work Jesus was challenging but the fact she had let it overwhelm her to the point she lost sight of why she was doing it.
I don’t think we have to choose a side here. Remember that this encounter is at the end of a chapter full of active examples of radical discipleship that sent men and women out to preach and live the Good News. However, it reminds us that at its heart whatever we do in loving service to others and in building up of the kingdom must be grounded in listening for and awareness of the presence of Christ in the midst of it.
How is your listening going?
The Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Reverend Dr Phillip Aspinall used his address to the 78th Synod of the Diocese of Brisbane (June 2016) to report on the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse, whose work he says ‘is changing the face of Australia in relation to child protection’ and more specifically on how the Diocese is handling the issue.
To quote from the Archbishop’s address: ‘In October 2015 Diocesan Council made another significant policy decision… that this Diocese would refund school fees if children who have been sexually abused in our schools….[such] requests were first received back in the late 1990s… At that time the request was declined.’
He then spoke of a particular case where a mother whose request (made in 2010) had been turned down: ‘But that mother felt a deep sense of injustice and persevered. She wrote to me again in 2015 repeating her case. She had paid money to us to send her child to our school in the proper expectation that, at the very least; we would keep her child safe. She explained that she wasn’t looking for compensation for her suffering [which would open up the complex issue of ‘secondary victims’ with rippling effects through families and communities, a ‘Pandora’s box’]. She was simply saying that we had failed her and her child in that most basic expectation, and, at the very least, we should refund the fees she had paid.
‘…with the benefit of the Royal Commission’s redress report, we thought about this mother’s appeal in a different way. Instead of seeing parents of abused children as the beginning of a long line of secondary victims, we saw them as people who had paid us fees for a service, and whose reasonable expectations we had failed to meet. Reimbursing fees were a different matter to providing redress payments to secondary victims…Diocesan Council agreed that refunding fees was the right thing to do and adopted the new policy.’
Now, says the Archbishop, ‘the deep burden of shame and guilt is being shifted from [parents], where it doesn’t belong, to the institution where it does belong’. He defines this as the ‘crucial dynamic’…’because there is indeed something of the truth of the cross at work here’.
This is a profound address, which I cannot summarise entirely here. If anyone would like to know more about the Diocese of Brisbane’s new approach to this tragic issue and also about the large number of questions raised at the Conference of the Laity, I would be happy to speak with you.
Dr J Wright
This week I am deeply sad. I am deeply saddened by the murder of 50 gay men and women and their friends in a nightclub in Florida... as I was and am deeply saddened by bomb attacks and mass shootings in other parts of our world, regardless of the sexual identity, colour or religion of the victims or perpetrators.
I believe the most meaningful tribute to those who have lost their lives and loved ones regardless of the place and perpetrator is to refuse to participate in escalating distrust and fear.
Some people do evil things. Most don’t. Some religious people including Christians and Muslims do evil things. Most don’t. Some gay and lesbian people do evil things as do some heterosexuals. Most don’t. Some migrants and refugees do evil things as do some long time Australians. Most don’t. Some men and some women do evil things. Most don’t. Some Anglicans do evil things. Most don’t.
To make broad brush statements about any one group that diminishes the person-hood of the vast majority of good, moral, loving individuals in that group does not honour the memory or worth of those who have died. Let’s honour them by resisting the fear of those who are different to us that acts of terror try to force us into.
Let’s speak up against hate in any form. This past few weeks I have heard one of our congregation speak of a gay man as a poofter. This is hate. I’ve read material reposted by members of this church from anti-Muslim organisations and had earnest conversations with people who profess to love Jesus but believe we should resist all Muslims because they want to impose Sharia law. This is untrue and promotes fear and hate.
Let’s speak up against those who misuse their faith, sacred texts or religious structures for their own purposes.
Radical fundamentalist interpretations of Islam is opposed by the majority of Muslims and is evil. As is fundamentalist Christianity. Subtler forms of racism, sexism and homophobia are accepted in our church but are just as oppressive to those who don’t enjoy the privilege of being “the norm” or whatever that means.
Let’s reject readings of the Bible that misinterpret the words of Paul and place the purity laws of the Old Testament in equal value to the words and actions of Jesus, particularly around human sexuality and relationships. Let’s reject the sort of teaching that does not welcome the stranger or the different. Let’s stop worrying about the sins of others and concentrate on treating all people with dignity and respect.
Let’s be known as the church in Gympie that welcomes all who seek God, regardless of gender identity, sexuality, religious tradition, questions or doubts. To those of you who have gay or lesbian children or family members, I want you to hear and to tell them that they are blessed creations of God and welcome here, despite the rejection they may have felt in the past when we failed to honour their deepest self. For those of you offended by that... I am not sorry at all.
Jesus said “love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. Let’s work on that and maybe we have a chance of changing the world. Give those you love a deep hug this week... we all need to feel the love. Give those you find hard to love an even bigger one... they need it most.
With love.. and a hug if you need it...
So apparently I’ve been sick in the last two weeks. Well, my reflections in the pew sheet have shown the symptoms of a grave sickness... Grumpy Christian Disorder. GCD is a devastating disease that can infect a whole congregation if the source is not isolated and dealt with. The symptoms of Grumpy Christian Disorder include an over-sensitivity to things that offend or challenge our dearly held ideas about how the world should run. There is no truth to the rumour that it’s just Grumpy Old Man Syndrome because it effects both men and women and has no preference for age. In the old days sometimes those out there referred to it as wowserism as it tended to be directed at all the fun things in life.
Grumpy Christian Disorder can be a problem in that it sometimes misdirects our energies and actually shows a lack of trust or faith in the ability of God to be in charge of the world. There is an element of defending God as if God’s shoulders are not broad enough to take a different opinion or that God’s skin is so thin offense will be easily taken.
The thing about GCD is that it is often about trying to manage, change or legislate about how other people live their lives. It is focussed outwards and can have just the teensiest bit of the Judgy McJudgy about it. There is often some finger pointing or handwringing involved and despairing cries of “Its a war on Christianity” or “Society is evil and corrupt and it never was when we were in control”. Some of the Grumpy Christian Disorder issues come about because of fear. Fear of change, fear of our own pet beliefs being challenged or just fear of people different to us.
The only cure for Grumpy Christian Disorder is... funnily enough... following the Gospel. Those little bits about loving God and loving your neighbour. Really the only way to change people’s behaviour or attitudes is to show others how transformed our own lives are by following Jesus. Grumpiness around things like sharia law or hallal food labelling could be legislated against I suppose but surely the most effective way to show the value of our beliefs is to live them fully. Putting Christ into Christmas is not going to happen by reposting a facebook meme or writing letters of outrage to shopping centre owners but by living the way of Jesus... which means loving our neighbour no matter what their creed or colour, looking after the poor, lonely and the refugee... living our own lives with such joy and purpose that others can only wonder and ask “Can I have what they have?”
I’m not saying don’t stand up for things that are important if real threat is there. What I am saying is that ultimately the only person we can change is ourselves. How is your life being transformed by following Jesus?
Many blessings to you, those you love.. and more importantly... those you find hard to love.
Ok I’m not a huge follower of the Melbourne Cup. It’s not as big a deal here in Queensland as it is in the southern states anyway and these days I’m probably less up for a boozy lunch in the middle of the day when I have to work and handing over my money as a donation to the TAB than I used to be. The profile it gives us on the international stage is not a bad thing but I’m also a little wary of the scenes of excess that have little to do with the sport of racing and the pressure for bigger and better performances does seem to take its toll on the horses themselves. Let’s not mention fascinators.
On the other hand the bit that grabbed the attention of the nation this year was the unpretentious young woman who rode the wining horse. Michelle Payne and her brother Stevie seem to have won hearts as they twist the story of the Cup into a different direction. Being a woman and a high achieving sportsperson
competing on a level playfield with men is sadly unusual enough to attract
comment. Having a disability and living and working in an industry in the way that Stevie Payne does is also sadly unusual enough to attract comment.
Wouldn’t it be great if a woman winning the Melbourne Cup or having any great achievement for that matter wasn’t unusual enough to comment on. Wouldn’t be great if a person living with a disability working in a prize winning stable wasn’t unusual enough to comment on. I think the scriptures today are saying something like this. Wouldn’t it be great if a widow didn’t have to worry about where she was going to live? Wouldn’t it be great if a woman didn’t have to convince a man to take her in and provide a safe home for her? Wouldn’t it be great if a widow had more than just two coins and wouldn’t it be great if the lifestyles and desire of the religious authorities didn’t come at the cost of those who can least afford it.
We are constantly being challenged to assess our priorities. Often in church we use the widow’s mite story as the encouragement to give as you can for the work of the church, no matter how little. I suspect the intention of Jesus was to challenge us as the CHURCH to give ALL that we can and say ALL that we can and do ALL that we can to bring about a world where a widow ( a refugee, someone living with a disability, etc etc) only having a little is so unusual it is worthy of great comment. I think that’s called working with Jesus to bring about the Kingdom of God.
I don’t know about you but when I see the increased presence of American style Halloween paraphernalia around the town and on the telly all I can do is sigh. Firstly it just seems so “unAustralian” (as difficult to define as that is). American cultural imperialism at its worst I’d say and I resent the
cashing in that overtakes our businesses at this time.
Maybe I’m just a grumpy old man but I just don’t think people think through enough when they get their kids dressed up as ghouls and witches and zombies or the like.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it came with some good discussion and teaching around the reality and management of death and suffering but I’m not sure the average tea table (or table at Maccas) sees much of that type of conversation. It could be a really good opportunity to talk honestly about the cycle of life and more particularly the hope we have in Christ in the reality of eternal life. That’s the core of what Halloween... All Hallows Eve... All Saints Evening... the night before All Saints’ Day... is all about. In the Christian calendar, along with All Souls’ Day, is a beautiful commemoration and celebration of those faithful men and women that have gone before us to rest in God’s loving arms. The celebration is not about death, dying, decay, fear, spooks or evil but a celebration of eternal life... eternal life that we all aspire to.
At most of our services today we will read out the names of those who have died and are a significant part of the lives of people in our community. Not to try and influence God to let them into heaven as God establishes that relationship without our help. We read them to acknowledge all they have been to us, give thanks for their lives and to pray for those who still mourn their loss. All Saints’ Day is a reminder for us not to fear death. Our God in the person of Jesus Christ has conquered death. It has no sting. Jesus has triumphed and the offer of eternal life is there for all who will hear.
Still... if the kids come to the door, don’t be as grumpy as me... wish them every blessing for the Feast of All Saints. It’s up to you whether or not you give out treats. Hmmm... Wardens... I’ve had another idea... maybe we should market a line of saint shaped lollies to give out instead?
Praise to our God who promises life eternal!
Mission Action Plan Consultation - Sunday 30th August at 9am – 9.45 am in St Peter’s Church
Parish Council met last week to continue working on our draft Mission Action Plan(MAP). After two days of discussion we now have a document for your consideration. I want to thank those who formed the working party for their hard work in putting the draft together. The document is very much a draft and Parish Council would now like to invite you to contribute your thoughts, hopes and concerns into the process.
The consultation process will include the following:
· Sunday 30th August: A presentation of the Draft MAP by the Parish Council and distribution of the draft document for prayer and reflection.
· Sunday 6th September: Distribution of a follow up feedback and reflection survey to collect comments, opinions, questions and concerns.
· 6th – 27th September: Time for you to pray, reflect and consider your response, then complete the feedback form for collection.
· 27th- 6th October: Feedback forms are collated and results prepared for presentation to the parish.
· Early October: A parish listening event to present the results of your feedback and open discussion (Date, time and venue tbc)
· End of October: A final draft of the MAP presented to the Parish.
Next Sunday the main focus will be on our vision for the future and the goals we feel God might be calling us to. Parish Council will also present some of the implications that might have for use of our resources of time, money and buildings. We need to focus on the principles involved so will not be working on what happens to buildings, times and places of services or any other implications of the MAP in any detail. This first presentation is about raising questions NOT specific and detailed answers.
There are bold suggestions in the MAP but the shape of the document at the end of the consultation process may be very different from where we start next Sunday. I am aware that the experience and process of change can be a very emotional one especially when we are talking about much loved and cherished aspects of our common life. I ask that we enter into this process with open minds and loving hearts and above all a prayer filled listening to what each other and the Holy Spirit may be saying to us. However, we must look to our future and in preparation I ask you to reflect on what St Paul had to say when writing to the community at Philippi. You might consider replacing “I” with “We” as you read it.
“I want to know Christ* and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal;* but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved,* I do not consider that I have made it my own;* but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly* call of God in Christ Jesus.“ Philippians 3:10-14
Many blessing to you and all you encounter this week. May the Holy Spirit guide us in all we do.
When are you going to take a break?
Yes, you... you know who you are. Your life is full of caring and activity and serving others. At home, in our church, in the wider community and in your contributions to worthy causes here and overseas. I worry about you. I worry that you will burn yourself out and fall in a heap. I worry that you will get sick or bitter and twisted or just so tired you retreat to the armchair and give up.
I worry that sometimes you seem to have the weight of the world on your shoulders and that at times the burden is just too heavy. I’m worried that you are worried... that if you don’t do it no one will or that it won’t get done right or that you feel you will let someone down. I worry that sometimes it’s difficult for people to help you or that you are worried people will think you are not living up to your obligations or the responsibilities you took on when you said “Yes” or “I do”. I’m worried that the needs are so big and the resources limited and that you will expend yours too readily and too early.
Come away and rest awhile. Sit down. Take a load off your feet. Make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine and take some time for yourself. Get a manicure, watch a race, read a book, craft something. Breath. Pray. Listen for the still small voice of God. Just be. You are so much more to us and to God than what you do. You are important and valued for who you are. You are loved for who you are. You are precious in God’s sight just for who you are. Let us carry the load with you. Let God take some of that burden. Share.
Some of us that you care for maybe need to cut you some slack or let go for a while to let you rest. Maybe we need to give you permission and to say that it’s ok to look after yourself. Maybe we need to acknowledge that we need to let others do things for us so you can re-group and be there for us in the way we appreciate so much. Maybe some of us who watch you work so hard need to step up, lift our game and not sit back expecting that you will do what you always do.
Jesus gave his disciples a break. It wasn’t a luxury or an indulgence. It was a gift but also a necessity. Jesus offers us a break by telling us, as he did his first disciples, that God continues to work with or without us... the work of God on earth is not dependent on us alone. Take a break and let God minister to you.
Blessings to you all, God’s precious flock,
I know I bang on a bit about Community but from where I sit it's one of the big ticket items.
Community is the heart of who we are as Christians. I’ve said many times that it’s almost impossible to really travel the journey of faith as a solo traveller. We need community. We need community to help us and support us when our own efforts just don’t cut it. We need community to be the hands of God in the world. We need community to do the hard work of building up the Kingdom of God. We need community to challenge us when we need challenging, to nourish us when we need nourishing and to push us out of ourselves when we become too self-focused and self-absorbed.
Living in community can be tough. Unless we work very hard to exclude those who don’t think and act exactly like us, community shows us exactly how hard it can be to live the great commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Community if lived fully will give us more than enough opportunity to practice self-sacrifice, patience or humility and can teach us the hard way how to be better people.
Living in community is also one of our greatest joys. I’ve been lucky enough to be nurtured and loved and supported by all sorts of community in my time and the Anglicans of Gympie and Region are among the best. I’ve been touched by the reaching out of many when I have been sick and by the reaching out to others that happens on a daily basis. I’ve laughed along with others in great community building exercises like last week’s fashion parade at Rainbow Beach (No truth to the rumour that it was busted by a group of coppers ‘cause people were having too much raucous fun) and I find Hoi at Kandanga one of the great efforts to build and grow community in the Mary Valley (Risqué yarns and amazing morning tea and all).
At St Peter’s today we will celebrate our patronal day, the Feast of St Peter and St Paul. So as well as looking to Peter as a role model of flawed humanity achieving great things with the grace and power of God, we will be celebrating the joys and blessings (and challenges) of journeying together as a community of faith. We are all called to community and I want to emphasise how important each and every one of you is, regardless of which particular place you gather with other Christians across our parish.
We need you. We need you as part of our wonderful, diverse, flawed, gifted, quirky and beautiful community of faith. So yes, it IS important that you crawl out of bed or haul yourself off your couch to come to church. May this Sunday be a day of re-committing ourselves, at St Peter’s and everywhere else, to the challenging yet so life-giving task of building the community of Christ.
Joy and blessings be yours, flock.
Fresh from the Archbishop Aspinall’s Address to Synod Saturday 27th June 2015.. On Anglican Identity.
“Our special character and ... our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that, owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected” (William Temple, Former Archbishop of Canterbury 1940). In that pithy paragraph Temple neatly sums up three main emphases in Anglicanism, the catholic, the protestant, reformed or evangelical, whichever term you prefer, and reason and experience (sometimes called the liberal emphasis, although wrongly I think).
...At the heart of Anglicanism is a constant tension between these three perspectives where each challenges and corrects the others. So rather than a laissez faire, anything goes kind of attitude, right at the heart of Anglicanism is a process of dialogue which requires a great deal of effort and energy to sustain.
...Anglicanism tries to live with paradox and ambiguity not by solving things in lowest common denominators, but by affirming the truth present in various positions which are in tension with one another. Anglicans attempt to live with apparent contradictions and paradoxes in the belief that God’s spirit will lead us more fully into the larger truth in which ultimately they will be resolved.
Now you might think I’m biased but I think this Anglican ethos has a lot going for it and a lot to offer people in our society and world. It’s inclusive and comprehensive in the best sense. It is open to new apprehensions of the truth, while not allowing us to dispense too lightly with what has been received. It’s future orientated while respecting our inheritance. It pursues the truth with vigour, while resisting the temptation to absolutism. It values artistic, imaginative, intuitive, synthesising modes of knowing alongside the cognitive, rational and analytic. It holds together the importance of the individual and the significance of community. This Anglican ethos is both classical and contemporary, catholic and reformed, orthodox and open. What more could anyone want? It sometimes surprises me that the whole world isn’t Anglican!
The full text of the Archbishop’s address is available from the parish office. Let’s be proud of our Anglican Heritage!!
We value serving others
It’s there in the parish mission statement on the front of this pew sheet every week... reaching out to all in loving service. This is a core value of our community and an affirmation of our desire to participate in the heart of Jesus Christ when he says “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35)
We are called to be a community that reaches out in loving service of others. As expressed so beautifully by Theresa of Avila “Christ has no body now, but ours. No hands, no feet on earth, but ours. Ours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.” In our listening and sharing you said clearly that you want us as a parish to seek ways to use our resources of time, talents and finances to respond to need, work for peace and care for all God’s creation.
One practical commitment we have made for the last two years is to set aside $10,000 of our annual budget as a “tithe” to use in supporting loving service in our community. Last year we contributed money to the school chaplaincy program and to the Victory Christmas Pantry. So far this year we have been continuing to support Scripture Union in their work with school chaplains and assisted a young single mother in finding safe, warm and appropriate accommodation for her family. At Monday’s Parish Council meeting, we voted to send a donation of $1000 dollars to Anglicare Southern Queensland for their work with homeless people.
This donation is particularly targeted at their work with vulnerable women as they rebuild the Anglican Women’s Hostel... appropriate given today’s gospel story in which Jesus shows love and care to two particularly vulnerable women. Of course donating money is only part of the story and we give thanks for the many hands who do many practical acts of loving service each day. At a time when it could be easy to get distracted by ethical debates, it’s important to remember our primary calling is to be God’s hands of love.
Be loving, people of God.
In our discussions about what is important to the Anglican Church, Gympie and Region, the centrality and need for prayer in all we do came through time and time again. At its heart prayer is conversation with God that places God at the centre of our lives. You said that you want to grow authentic and nourishing prayer lives – individually and corporately. As a community, we believe in the power of prayer: to strengthen hearts in times of despair or trial, to bring hope and life to a troubled world, to celebrate blessings received and to express our deepest longing.
We value times of exuberant praise, gentle silences and the poignant beauty of the spoken word. We hope to grow rich and nourishing prayer lives in which we can express our need for God and listen to what God has to say to us.
It’s this last aspect that many of us struggle with. It is relatively easy to talk to God. He is a pretty good listener and it is important for us to put into words the things that are on our hearts and minds. It’s harder to find ways to listen to what God may have to say in return. Some people find Christian Meditation a helpful way to enter the silence in which God speaks and our 5 pm Tuesday meditation group is going from strength to strength. The scriptures are obviously our prime source of listening to God and many people find the Lectio Divina process useful in moving beyond reading to praying the scriptures.
Lectio Divina, literally means "divine reading" and is an ancient practice of praying the scriptures. During Lectio Divina, we listen to the text of the Bible with the "ear of the heart," as if we are in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening relationship with God. Lectio Divina has been likened to "feasting on the Word": first, the taking of a bite; then chewing on it; savoring its essence and, finally, "digesting" it and making it a part of the body. http://www.centeringprayer.com/lectio_divina.html has a great introduction for those connected to the web.
How’s your prayer life going? Are you listening well?