Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All Saints/All Souls

This Sunday we will gather with Christians all around the world who light candles and remember loved ones who have died over the last year. We do this because November 1st, (next Tuesday), has for many centuries been All Saints Day. This is the day Christians have remembered all those who firstly died as martyrs for the faith, and then all those great people of faith (saints) who the rest of us look up to and are inspired by. From the twelfth or thirteenth centuries All Souls Day was held on November 2 to remember all people of faith. Today we remember all those who have gone before us, who have paved the way for us, and especially those we have loved and who loved us. We give thanks for the ways they have blessed us over our lifetimes and, as Zacchaeus reminds us, we honour their memory by how we bless others ourselves .  As we do this we also take another step in letting them go, trusting that they now rest in God, as they have always.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Whose Goodness?

Can be heard here

Gate Pa – Year C  30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Pentecost 23
Psalm                          Psalm: 65 (8am only)
First Reading:                         Joel 2:23-32                            
Second Reading:        2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 
Gospel:                        Luke 18:9-14               

What I want to say:
How often do we join the Pharisee and give in to the temptation that we have earned our salvation thanking God for our goodness? How often do we stand with the tax collector knowing we have nothing to offer, trusting in God’s deep love and thanking God for God’s goodness?
What I want to happen:
People to spend time giving thanks

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

A kangaroo kept getting out of his enclosure at the zoo. Knowing that he could hop pretty high, the zoo officials put up an 8-foot fence. The next morning, however, the kangaroo was out again, idly roaming around the zoo.

The zoo officials raised the height of the fence to ten feet. Again, however, the next morning the kangaroo was again roaming about the zoo. This kept on, night after night, until the fence was 20 feet high.

Finally, the camel in the next enclosure asked the kangaroo, "How high do you think they'll go?"

The kangaroo replied, "Who knows? Maybe 50 feet. Unless somebody starts locking the gate at night."

     2.     Pharisees

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
a lot about this story is wrong
eg Pharisees
yes they and Jesus seemed to be at each other
            although how much of reflects later tensions when Gospels were written hard to know
            we often see them as conservative rule keepers
-> negative force in Jewish life
            but relatively small group of reformers (only about 6,000)
-         felt priests and supporters Herod – broken faith with God
-         concerned with holiness of God
-         meditated on law as way honour God’s holiness
 – Psalm 119 gives clues to devotion
-         practices helped them keep before them law
-         adhered to in order that they honoured Holiness of God
-         so what Pharisee described as doing in this story is what happened
o   fasted
o   tithed more than law required – including on goods purchased in case tithe had not already been paid for them.
o   prays at temple
o   devout
we see them as defenders of status quo
at time their actions were seen as nonviolent opposition to leadership both Rome and Judean elite
or put it another way
not a lot of difference between Jesus and Pharisees
            both reformers
            both seen opposed status quo
            where they differed was how they interpreted law/Torah
                        through there adherence to the law made themselves holy/righteous/right with God
playing family feud
            asked “who were righteous” – Pharisees would been among top answers.

     3.     Where are we?

so going back to the story
- who is he talking to or about?
up to now – disciples
so is he talking to disciples who trusted in themselves….?
even those who were with him were getting it wrong
            seen it already
            continue to see it in gospels
that should make us all very nervous
this becomes a story about us.

      4.     The story

So Jesus tells a story about two men praying in temple
            well Pharisee is in temple
                        clearly part of the group who are “in” with God
            sinful and hated tax collector is in outer courts
                        such a person clearly not part of the group who are “in” with God
Pharisee plays his cards to God
            listing his virtues and holiness
            and listing the vices and sinfulness of others
                        to give his holiness extra gloss
                        even peeking over to that tax collector
he thanks God for his own goodness
            trusts in that goodness
            trusts that because of that goodness he will be rewarded
Tax collector is out of cards
            nothing to list
            knows he is as bad as worst offender
            can’t get any extra bonus points for being better than anyone else
            only option trust in God’s goodness
trust in God’s forgiveness
knowing there is nothing he can do to earn it

     5.     Us

That is the difference between the two people in this story
One gives thanks to God for his (mans) goodness
One gives thanks to God for God’s goodness
so where are we in this story?
Truth is most of us find ourselves with Pharisee too often
probably don’t even notice it
too busy being humble
            which is one cards I can play
if were to list virtues
            we go to church
            most us read bible
            most of us pray
            most us baptised – confirmed even
            most of us involved some kind of ministry
            most of us not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, murderers, p makers, drug sellers, etc…..
If heaven is the point
            then we should be pretty near the front of the line
thank goodness we are good people
God will reward us.
But there it is
us standing with Pharisee
            standing with those disciples
who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
In the end all of that really doesn’t count for much if we do it to earn a reward of some kind
we earn nothing
But if we do that in response to love that is freely given
do that in response to God’s goodness
do that knowing that we are no more or no less loved than any other person
            no matter how good or bad in our eyes.
So what do we give thanks for this morning?
give thanks to God for our goodness
give thanks to God for God’s goodness

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I wrote this three years ago. It still rings true today. 

Last week we heard the story of the insistent widow and were invited to pray unceasingly for justice for God’s chosen ones. The big questions in all that are who is God’s chosen ones and what does justice look like for them?
This week we are confronted with the Pharisee and the tax collector. One is pretty sure he is one of God’s chosen ones. And he thanks God that he is not like those others out there that are clearly not one of God’s chosen ones. It is such an easy thing to think isn’t it, that we are God’s chosen ones. After all, we like the Pharisees, listen to God’s voice, we do our best to obey and live good and holy lives, even if we might not use that language. Every now and then we hear other Christians sounding awfully like this nasty Pharisee, whether it is in relation to gay and lesbian people, or criminals, or a number of other groups. And deep down we give thanks that we are not like them and that we are much more inclusive and broad minded and…. snap! There we are standing with that self-righteous old Pharisee. Only most of the time we are feeling too righteous to notice.
Luke however offers some other groups of people as Gods Chosen Ones. In Luke 6: 20-21 he describes the poor, hungry and those who weep as blessed. In other words these are God’s chosen ones. And we are to pray unceasingly for them, for justice for them. If we do that then we will be changed. And maybe we will take ourselves out of the centre and start to walk away from the Pharisee, and maybe even find ourselves with the tax collector.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Spreading the spirit of love and harmony

A few years ago a fellow Franciscan, Richard Easton TSSF, offered to write some thoughts around the daily readings from The Principles of our Order. The Principle for Day Eight reads: 

The Second Aim (Cont’d)
To spread the spirit of love and harmony

We as members of the Third Order fight against all injustice in the name of
Christ, in whom there can be neither Jew, nor Greek, slave, nor free, male,
nor female; for in him all are one. Our chief object is to reflect that
openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus . This can only be
achieved in a spirit of chastity, which sees others as belonging to God and
not as a means of self-fulfilment.

Richard wrote:
Keep us humble when we help another person,
When they leave us with comfort and hope,
When what was said was right for them
And what they needed to hear.
Protect us from glorying in what we did,
From seeking ears to hear what we achieved.
O God, this is when we need you.
I offer this as we prepare to reflect on the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Luke 18: 9-14.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Prayer for Justice

Can be heard here

Gate Pa – Year C  th Sunday of Ordinary Time,

Psalm:                         Psalm: 119:97-104
First Reading:             Jeremiah 31:27-34                 
Second Reading:         2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5              
Gospel:                      Luke 18:1-8                            

What I want to say:
Do we pray without ceasing? what is it we pray for? and why do we pray – so that God will fix it, or something else?
I want to explore what it means to pray unceasingly for justice, and how that prayer changes us to be people of justice.

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on how they pray, what they pray for, and what they hope will happen.

The Sermon

     1.     Introduction:

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
i wonder
are we guilty of praying always? unceasingly?
and what do we pray for?

     2.     The Story

so Jesus goes on to tell a story
about a judge
            who neither fears God
            nor had respect for people
certainly didn’t love God with all his heart and soul and body and mind
            didn’t love his neighbour as himself
ð some suggest is definition of the very thing he refused to give
and a widow
in his world life got really hard without man in your life
ð became non person
life expectancy got much much shorter
especially true if already among poor
which most people were
so have judge not good giving justice
widow who comes to him and beat him black and blue with her complaint
'Grant me justice against my opponent.'
judge neither fears God nor respects people
            so refuses to act
but she keeps coming –
            the greek says she beats him black and blue with her complaint
eventually he relents just to stop her coming
Jesus continues
“"Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? 7 So what makes you think God won't step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won't he stick up for them? 8 I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet.”
finishes with – “But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?"  

     3.     Questions

which all seems really straight forward
pray continuously
God will act
ð if God is acting – why do I need to be like the widow?
ð what is it I am supposed to be praying for?
ð what do I hope will happen?

    4.     Why pray

so why pray unceasingly?
sometimes we see ourselves in this story as the widow
nagging God with our requests
            which doesn’t feel right really
            because God is not an unjust judge
            but God deep and passionate love for all people
But what if God does not need our nagging
what if we need our nagging
went mountain biking few years ago
            guy leading it told us to look where we wanted to go
because on bike (and I think in life)
            we go where we look
in fact signs all over Victoria in Australia for motor cyclists saying just that
you will go where you look
prayer directs our looking
we pray for what we are looking at
sometimes we pray for things that deeply concern us
and sometime we pray for things that we think we should pray for
            not that important to us
more we pray
more we look
more we go there
more those things become important to us.
so prayer isn’t about us nagging God
it is about us learning to look
or to put it another way
our pray shapes us
            more we pray for something
            more important that thing will become for us
            more time we will give it
                        more we will look to it
                        more we will become God’s agents in that situation.
            when we pray without stopping
            we are slowly changed by our prayer
our priorities change
            what’s important to us changes
            way see world changes
Praying isn’t being like widow nagging God
Praying is being like the widow nagging ourselves to pay real attention to what we are praying about.
In that way – we are the unjust judge
not fearing God
not respecting others
and in prayer we learn
            love god
            by loving neighbour as ourselves

     5.     Praying for?

So what are we praying for?
the persistent faith of widow was her expectation of justice
            that justice would be given her
            what is justice?
            when God is feared and people respected
            or when we love God with all our heart and soul and mind
            by loving our neighbour as ourselves, and as we are loved.
I think
A lot of people I read about this passage suggest
our incessant prayer is to be about justice
our prayer is to be about widows of our world
and we are to be like widow
            beating down God with our demands for justice
            and in doing so learning to be like widow
            beating the powers of our time that do not fear God and to not respect others
what are the issues of justice that need our incessant prayer today
            prayer to God
            that leads to action

     6.     Rant about housing