“How long, O Lord?

Every now and then a random scripture will stop me in my tracks.
The impact may be emotional, intellectual, or both. For a while it may become all I think about.

Almost inevitably, a few days later, my congregation gets to hear about it on Sunday, because I can’t avoid sharing it. Psalm 13 is one of those texts, and this is one of those weeks!
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Imagine… You’re on a boat. An old boat, not totally seaworthy, perhaps. You really wish you were somewhere else, almost anywhere, in fact. You really wonder now why you’ve given your life savings to the boat’s owner, based on the promise that he could get you where you wanted to go.
Then you remember where you’ve come from, and you remember thinking that trying to get your kids to safety was worth any risk. Anything is better than where you were…

There’s a lot of you on the boat. As the seas turn nasty (again!), you start to get really afraid, because the boat’s not holding together too well. You realise that after trying to get away to avoid being killed at home, you might end up dying a long way from anywhere. Some people have died already.

The cry goes up: “A ship! Over there.”
It’s a military vessel, but you don’t know whose. Still, you can’t help thinking that all will be well now, you’re being rescued… aren’t you? Continue reading

Strange wisdom… Strange blessings…

( A reflection offered at Hobart North Uniting Church. 2nd Feb 2014)

And maybe a strange title too! 

As I’ve grown older I’ve had to deal with the fact that something which makes quite a lot of sense to me, makes very little sense to a whole lot of the people around me!

The Christian faith that I hold dear, and which helps me to make sense if the world, is described by many people in our world today using words such as: immature, hogwash, insecure, superstition, evil and just plain wrong!

And when those words are used to describe something that I hold dear, I find that tough to hear or read.

That’s a tension that I suspect many of us feel on a fairly regular basis.  Continue reading

on ‘lostness’, and being found…

(Reflections on three parables of Jesus in Luke chapter 15)

 When it comes right down to it, “lostness”, in Luke’s gospel, is about being found.  In other words, it’s about grace!

And it’s about celebration: celebration which draws everyone around into it.

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 Something’s going on, here in Luke’s gospel.  The writer has a wide range of stories to work with, as he draws together HIS story of Jesus: stories drawn from decades of oral sayings and traditions.  The three parables which form what we now call chapter 15, tell us a whole lot about how Luke sees Jesus, and the realm of heaven to which he points constantly.

Three stories: one about a farmer who finds his sheep… one about a woman who finds her coin…  and the BIG one!   One of the parables that only Luke tells.  It’s the story of the father who welcomes home his wayward son, and the brother who doesn’t.

Putting the three together helps us reflect on what each might have to say.

For example, it helps us to see that each has a touch of the crazy about it!! Continue reading

“Jeremiah, politics, and starting over…”

An Election Day Reflection on Jeremiah’s visit to the potter’s house.  Delivered as a rant on Sun 8th Sept at Hobart North UCA

I have to confess that actually getting started on this reflection was incredibly hard for this week.  Trying to write a well thought-out, logical and objective witness just wasn’t working…

Mostly because for much of this week, and the last few weeks, I’ve been too angry to think straight!

 Now don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with which party will form government after yesterday’s election.  (As I wrote this, it was still yesterday morning, when I was feeling sick about having to vote at all.) 

 As a matter of fact, my anger is not all directed at the major parties… (Not ALL of it!)

 It’s actually directed mostly at the social, political, and media process that has brought our nation to the terrible situation in which we find ourselves, and at ourselves for allowing ourselves to misled by all the lies we’ve been fed. Continue reading

“yours”. No, “yours”: Jesus, a father and his sons

A reflection offered at Hobart North UCA, 10th March, 2013

Check out these pictures.  I wonder what you see…

As you look, please take note of what you notice first… what draws you in, if anything?

Note the position of the characters… their expressions, their stance towards each other…

What touches you?  You know the story, how do the pictures help you see it?  Anything new?

The pictures:

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What did you notice most?

For me, it was the expressions on the father’s face: delight, relief, gratitude… and some emotions beyond mere words, it seemed to me!

It left me with a question.  Why is this story most widely known as “the prodigal son”??

Quite apart from the fact that ‘prodigal’ is a really strange word, this story of Jesus isn’t about the son at all!  It’s about the other 2 characters: the father, & the elder son.

They are the ones whose responses are important to Jesus the storyteller: they, and their relationships with the younger son. Continue reading

The boats are stopping…

Dear Julny Gillarbbott, I’m hoping you can help me with a problem.  You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve managed to stop the boats, they’re here in Hobart.  The problem is that the people on board don’t seem very interested when I offer to drive them to the Detention Centre at Brighton.  They’re even less interested in going to Nauru!  What should I do?

Or is it ok that these boats arrive? Their owners seem to be quite wealthy and healthy, and there’s food on board, and they don’t seem to be in fear for their lives: is that the difference between these and the other boats that arrive?  Both lots are legal, so it can’t be that…

Please forgive me writing to both of you at the same time, it’s just that I’m not really sure who’s actually running the country!

Regards, Rod

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G.O.D. is love… Love is G.O.D.

(Begins with a monologue from the beginning of “Love Actually”)

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.  General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that.  It seems to me that love is everywhere.  Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.   When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love.

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.

 Some of the most rewarding conversations I’ve had about faith have happened when people discovered that the GOD they don’t believe in, is the same GOD that I don’t believe in either! Continue reading

JOY: Keeping it real…

 

A reflection offered at Hobart North UCA for the third Sunday in Advent

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That phrase intrigues me: “Keeping it real”.

Often said as “Yeah, just keepin’ it real, bro”, or similar.

Sometimes it’s said by sportspeople & commentators and comes out something like “we’re concentrating on keeping it real for the boys”   (It usually comes somewhere between “full credit to the boys” and “we’re just taking it one game at a time”!)

Keeping it real…”  I really do wonder what it actually means. Continue reading

Hope: the practice of defiant faith

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent   (Hobart North UCA)

So…               What IS hope?

We light a candle for it…

But what is it?           And why is it part of our preparing for Christmas?

We could look up definitions.  But, to be honest, I’d rather we think about it from our own point of view for just a little while…  And maybe our own experience.

What does that word, that idea, mean? Continue reading

It’s the little things…

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to read a book. A whole book, in one go! Well, nearly one go. It took a couple of days, firmly esconsed in the incredibly beautiful State Library of Victoria. I had spent time with colleagues in retreat, hearing stories of “Weaving Connections”, and of the year that’s passed since we shared our faith adventure in England. Now it was time for me to be by myself for a bit.

The book itself turned out to be ok but not all that special. Called Ministry as an Art: Exploring Voluntary and Professional Church Leadership (by Clair Woodbury and Clark Saunders), it didn’t have too much that was new to me. I knew this as I started to read.
What it offered, though, was an invitation to read, to think, and to draw together a whole heap of things that have been going around my head for a long time, as I do ministry at Hobart North and within the central Hobart UCA. This was more important than the content of the book itself.

I had been aware for a while that I didn’t need more content, more stuff to process. What I needed was time, and the discipline, to just ‘be’ for a while, to sit with the many “G.O.D. stories” that are part of my/our life and ministry, to remember that life and ministry isn’t all about what I do. This last year or so has been very busy, and I had lost the ability to practice what I preach about seeing the holy Spirit at work among us, about creative and missional imagination, about giving my soul space to sing!

In that bustling, people-filled, and yet peaceful library, as impressive a ‘cathedral’ as any church building, I read a book. I watched the people all around me, some studying for exams, some avoiding study, some people reading for pleasure, some there just to look around.

I read, thought, dreamed, planned, got excited, and dozed once or twice!
And my soul began to be restored…

As I wrote this I had to resist the urge to draw out a ‘moral’ or point to the story, then remembered that the story IS the point of the story!
The End (not)