Every nation, tribe, people and tongue

Fourth Sunday in Easter (Year C) – Commemoration of Anzac Day.

In the reading from the book of Revelation, John the Divine has this vision of an immense crowd – impossible to count – of people from every nation, tribe, people and language who have all been through the persecution / tribulation and have had their clothes washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Although it has some strange imagery, I believe this vision has a lot to offer us as we commemorate Anzac Day today.

When John has this vision – almost an interlude between all of the calamities that surround the breaking of the seals on the scroll – we are catapulted into both the present reality of heaven, and the vision of the final fulfillment of all things when heaven crashes into earth in the great wedding banquet of new creation which is the vision of the final two chapters of the bible (Rev 21-22).

Everyone who has ever suffered, and especially those who have given their lives in martyrdom are united with the 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel in this absolutely inclusive vision of paradise as every nation, tribe, religion, people, and way of life gather in worship before the throne (God) and the Lamb (Jesus). All these people – our brothers and sisters – are united no longer by flags and creeds, but because we have allowed the Lamb to wash away our sins in his blood.

Because of this, then there will be no more hunger or thirst, no more pain or tears – but all will be united in the worship of God around the throne. An amazing vision that can lift our efforts to continue to bring heaven to earth and bring into effect this vision of peace and justice reigning here through our worship.

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Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (8’15”)

Called to follow in the light of the Son

Easter 3C – John 21

In this final chapter to John’s Gospel – probably written later than the rest of the Gospel – John provides a magnificent summary of the Christian life. He starts with the disciples returning to Galilee and with Peter in the lead, they head back to their old way of life and go fishing. Without the blessing and presence of the Lord, they are fruitless and catch nothing. But then the new day dawns and now the risen Son is on the beach and invites them to cast out their nets for a catch. When they catch such a huge haul that it is difficult even for the seven of them to pull in the nets, this is enough for the beloved disciple to recognise who it is on the shore: ‘It is the Lord.’

Peter at this then takes action. Strangely we are told that he is on the boat in the nuddy. Why this is the case is unclear. It probably is not the custom of Jewish folk to be naked around each other – usually in scripture nakedness is a sign of sin and shame, but perhaps he has been around enough Greeks or Romans – who did have the custom of working and playing sport naked – that he finds it easier to work unencumbered. Whatever the reason, when we find someone who is naked throwing on clothes (to jump into the water!) we should be reminded – especially in John’s Gospel where the creation story is never far from view – of Adam’s shame after he sinned when he covered his nakedness. So Peter – perhaps reminded by the charcoal fire that is burning on the shore – is reminded of the time some days before when he had denied Jesus while standing next to another charcoal fire (Jn 18:18).


Finding mercy and faith in the heart of Jesus

E2C – Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

In Acts we are given the strange detail that people were bringing their sick to lay them on the streets near where St Peter would walk, knowing that if even his shadow should touch them they might be healed. The power of his amazing shadow! Surely this power – which is all about the healing power of the mercy of Jesus – continues to be present in the Church today where the successor of Peter continues to walk. Regardless of our personal feelings about Pope Benedict, it is clear that he continues to walk among us a sign of this mercy of the Lord. For it is in the encounter with mercy that we are able to come to a deeper faith in Christ – and this is what we see in the encounter between Thomas and Jesus in John 20.

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Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (7’53”)

Why Resurrection Matters

http://www.robbell.com/ – Rob Bell presents a great new video on the difference that Resurrection makes and why it matters for us… all in 4 minutes. Well worth a watch!

Jesus is standing in front of the temple in Jerusalem
the massive gleaming brick and stone and gold house of God
and he says destroy this temple
and I’ll rebuild it in three days

the people listening to him said how are you going to do that?
it took 46 years to build this temple!
but he wasn’t talking about that temple
he’s talking about himself
he essentially says, listen
I’m going to be killed
that’s where this is headed
because you don’t confront corrupt systems of power
without paying for it
sometimes with your own blood
and so he’s headed to his execution
if you had witnessed this divine life extinguished on a cross
how would you not be overwhelmed with despair?

is the world ultimately a cold, hard, dead place?

Full transcript here: RobBell.com
Download video here: Mediafire

What resurrection means for the world (Easter Sunday)

We celebrate that moment in human history when the stone was rolled away. A sign and symbol of the separation that exists between life and death. A grave-robber had come – but it was God the Father who had acted in human history to defeat death. Death is our greatest fear and worry – human death, but also the death of relationships, business, work, and hope. All of that was changed as a result of Easter. New creation. New life.

But the final line in the Gospel today is telling – the disciples did not yet understand the Scriptures. Perhaps that is still true.

The resurrection is about the transformation of human society. These things do not happen easily or quickly.

– It took 18 centuries for Christians to realise that slavery was wrong and had to be removed from society (a battle that continues – with more slaves now than ever before in human history – some 27 million) – even though there is clear teaching in the Old Testament as well as the New against slavery

– It took another hundred years before women were recognised as equal in dignity and the battle for women’s liberation began – again, even though there is clear teaching, particularly in St Paul, that all are one

– It took the terrible scars of the Holocaust that were the great blight of the 20th century for Christians to finally acknowledge and admit that the Church had deep anti-Semitic roots and had contributed to the many pogroms against the Jewish people and had systematically missed and ignored the deep Hebrew spirituality that is so deeply inherent in the NT


Death and new life in Luke (Easter Vigil)

Luke 24:1-12

Hey! I’ll let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? (whispering) Dead people – well, they usually stay dead. We didn’t need the insights and advances of medical science in the past couple hundred years for humans to know that.

The scriptures make it clear that no one who was following Jesus – his disciples or the many women who were travelling with him and stayed with him right through those terrible last hours of the passion, death and burial of Jesus – none of them expected to find anything other than a dead body in the tomb when they went back there early on the first day of the week – Sunday. And Jesus was certainly dead. It was not his disciples, friends or the women who certified that – it was the Roman soldiers who declared him to be dead. And let’s face it – they were the experts in killing people. That was their business and trade.

Hans Holbein – painting of “The body of the dead Christ in the tomb”, 1522 (Kunstmuseum, Basel). Fyodor Dostoyevsky fell into a feint when he saw this painting. This Jesus is so dead – humanly and in every other sense – how could he ever rise again? That is what the women were prepared to see when they went to the tomb that first day of the week.


Stones and the Cross – Good Friday

On Good Friday we reflect on the amazing love that was shown by Jesus. Last night we remembered the nature of our call to be a Eucharistic people and to respond to the call of our baptism through lives of service. Today we continue that reflection by remembering our call to be ministers and priests. Each of us is called to be like Christ and to serve and love the world. But it can be a sad and shocking realisation to be reminded that this is not necessarily the way that others see us as followers of Jesus. A survey was conducted recently and it asked the mostly unChurched participants to say what were things that came to mind when they thought of Christians and Christianity. They were not given a multiple choice test, but instead were presented with a blank sheet of paper and asked to write what came to mind.

Shocklingly and saddening, the most common response that was given by participants was not the cross, or love one another; the most common response was ‘hates gays.’

What a terrible indictment upon the Christian church. You would think that as followers of Jesus, the lover of sinners and lover of humanity, that we would be known as lovers of life, freedom, forgiveness, justice and truth…

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Recorded at St Michael’s Hall, 3pm Commemoration of the Passion (6’59”)

Namaste – Holy Thursday

Jesus was an endlessly fascinating character and a simply amazing human being. Across his whole life he never failed to love and bring life to the people that he mixed and shared with, as he taught and healed and forgave sins.

In more recent years we were inspired by the example of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, still better known as Mother Teresa (of Calcutta), who taught “We can do no great things but only small things with great love.”

“I am on my way to heaven”- a sign on the wall of the dying and destitute in Calcutta – on the morgue. On the other wall it said ‘thanks for helping me to get there.’ Everyday we would hold the sick and dying; we are allowing someone to die with someone loving them. Everyday people would die – in the arms of someone who loved them.

Into the earsof each person who was dying the sisters and helpers would continually whisper: Namaste – ‘I bow to you.’ Mother Teresa knew that the true reason to bow to another was because of the presence of Christ within them, so Namaste developed an even richer meaning: “I honour the holy one who lives in you.”

In the example of Christ serving his disciples and washing their feet we see the very presence of God in our midst come to life. We are invited to reverence the holy one who indeed lives among us – in the Eucharist, but also in the least who live in our community and neighbourhoods.

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Recorded at St Michael’s Hall, Holy Thursday (4’49”)