Monthly Archives: October 2012

Church Sign of the week 18

Church sign of the week 18

What’s love got to do with it?

Well, this might be a short blog post as this question has a one word answer…

EVERYTHING.

Do I need to go on? Since I like the sound of my own voice (or the look of my own typing in this case) I will, allow me to elaborate a little.

The Bible has a lot to say about love. There are at least 280 references to love in there. From Paul’s great description (that you have heard at almost every wedding you’ve been to) to Jesus’ greatest commandment – Love the LORD your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Love is used loads of times in the Good Book.

Why is love such a central theme? Why does God and Jesus and everyone else seem bang on about it so much? Why should it be the core of every Christian and every church?

Why? Well THE most important thing the Bible say about love is this: “God IS love.” (1 John 4 v 8).

Let me say that again in bold with various highlights so you don’t miss it –

GOD IS LOVE

Is doesn’t come much plainer than that. There is no hesitation, no subtle language that could be mis-interpreted, no vagueness at all. Simply put, elegantly stated, easily read but often forgotten – God is love.

At the core of everything God does (and by association everything every Christian should do and every Church church should do) is this basic concept – God is love. In fact this chapter in 1 John goes on about love a lot more. It mentions the fact that God is love not once but twice (just to make sure we didn’t miss it first time). If you read this blog you will have seen (last time) that a friend of mine left me speechless – she said, “All I see in the church is hate and all I read in the Bible is love.” Well to all those haters, those small minded bigots who try to paint God on far too small a canvas may I draw your attention to 1 John chapter 4 and verse 20 –

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

You are liars; tiny minded, bigoted liars who cannot love God. And that’s not my words that’s what God says – you are so fond of quoting scripture to try and justify your little views let me use your own methods to make this point. Here is one part of the Bible you don’t seem to have read yet (or if you have you seem to have forgotten) – “Whoever claims to love God yet hates……is a liar.” So put down your “God hates fags”, your “White God: White Church” and your “Women should be seen and not heard” banners and pick up your (obviously) dusty Bible and turn to 1 John 4 and read what you should be like. Then join us in trying to live as God wants us to, a life of love towards ALL others.

So, when Ms. Turner asked, “What’s love got to do with it?” she didn’t expect a one word answer – but here it is:

EVERYTHING!

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Church Sign of the Week 17

I get fed up with people telling me who and who doesn’t count to God – (actually not to God but to certain groups’ views of God). There are so many churches and so many people who want to inform us of who is important to God and who isn’t; there are the K.K.K. and their ilk (sadly far too many of them) who find that the colour of your skin defines if God loves you or not; the legions of fundamentalists (and their sort) who find that your gender or your sexuality determine whether you count to the Divine; thousands (if not hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions) of Evangelicals (mainly from America I must add) who know that how much money you have matters to the Almighty. There seem to be so many things that determine if God loves you or not and if you don’t fit into the boxes these people create then they (and their God) hate you.

To all the haters I say – Put your stones down, none of you have the right to be the first to cast them! None of us do.

 

I had a fascinating conversation with a young woman the other day – I’ve been going to the shop where she works once or twice a week for quite a while and we say, “Hi” and the usual pleasantries. I must have gone in in my Sunday best one day (collar and all) because last week she said to me, “Why do you talk to me? You’re a priest and you know I’m gay.” That flawed me, left me speechless (which is quite a feat). Why wouldn’t I talk to her? Why does the fact that I believe in God mean I can’t talk to certain groups of people? What made her think that?

We chatted (the shop wasn’t busy). She went to Catholic school and Mass every Sunday, the usual childhood and upbringing in a Roman Catholic home. Then came the line that sent me reeling, made me feel ashamed to be Christian, made me want to apologise for the idiocy of those who think they are the mouth pieces of Jesus when, in reality, they are just turning people away from him. What she said actually made me cry –

All I hear in the Church is hate and all I read in the Bible is love!

Read that line again – really look at it and try to make sense of what it means –  it means that many people think that the Church is all about hatred.

How can we (the Church that is) allow people to think this?! In what version of the New Testament is there hatred on every page? Show me where Jesus  says, “Hate your neighbour and love yourself” or the bit where he refuses to eat with the ‘publicans and sinners’ and heads off to dine with the religious fanatics.

Please show me this Gospel of Hate – it sounds so much easier to live with than the Gospel we have. Not having to ‘love your neighbour like yourself’, not praying for those who hate us, not caring for the poor and outcasts – the gospel of hate sounds far easier than the alternative and yet that’s all we have,  that’s what we’re called to – a life of love not hatred. A life where you have never looked into the face of someone who doesn’t matter to God.

That homeless guy by the station – HE MATTERS

The annoying woman down the street – SHE MATTERS

The bloke in the office with B.O. – HE MATTERS

The prostitute trying to feed her habit – SHE MATTERS

The asian guy at the petrol station – HE MATTERS

The gay girl in the shop round the corner – SHE MATTERS – even though she doesn’t think she does because all she sees in the Church is hate.

 

So look into their eyes, all their eyes and see the children of God. Then remember as they look into your eyes they see the face of someone who matters to God too.

 

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Church Sign of the Week 16

He who angers you controls you.

I was going to write about the life of controversial Australian Nurse Sister Elizabeth Kelly, who first came up with a version of the words of our sign. (Her words were, ‘He who angers you conquers you’) but given events in the last few days I want to say something else.

There are a lot of stories inducing public anger in the media at the moment (being realistic, there always are). The Slipper incident, yet another pedophile discovered in the Roman Catholic Church, the radio star that many wished video had killed to name just a few.

If you have followed the story of the alleged child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church (not just in Victoria but nationwide and, indeed, globally) you will know that the Victorian Police have said that the Roman Catholic Church is actively stalling the investigation.

Now, the Bible never instructs us not to get angry but it does warn us to be slow to anger, to keep control on our temper for anger is not always the wisest of emotions. We have all said and done things ‘in the heat of the moment’ that we have regretted later. A word or action that once released cannot be taken back. However there are some cases where anger is truly justified, and this,I believe, is one of those cases.

Why, oh why has the Roman Catholic Church not been as open and helpful as possible to rid the Church of these horrible atrocities? Priests, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals and Popes should have spoken out against and stopped protecting the evil, child abusing priests years ago and their failure to do so is seen in the public anger against the Roman Catholic Church and rightly so.

I know of a priest who was forced to leave the Church after he was outed as gay and yet, within the same diocese, a priest accused of pedophilia was quietly moved to another job and no further action taken. Is this right? In the country where this happened only one of those ‘offences’ is illegal and yet it seems the real crime wasn’t investigated.

Our society sees child abuse as one of the most heinous of crimes and there should be no place for child abusers to hide from prosecution especially not inside the Church!

Tim Minchin has a song around the whole issue of pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. Called ‘The Pope Song’ it cleverly asks the listener to question their attitudes to child abuse within the R.C. Church. It is not for the faint of heart, for as Billy Connolly would put it, “There is swearing in it” but it makes the point well. Many will find the language offensive but if you listen to it all the way through even that issue is addressed. To paraphrase; Mr. Minchin says that if you don’t like the language but are prepared to tolerate the behaviour then you need to have a long, hard look at yourself.

I should say that I haven’t cleared this blog with the Elders of the Melbourne Welsh Church and these are my feelings but I feel confident in saying that all the Elders would agree that there is no place for child abuse in any church.

So to Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Hart I implore you to open up your Church to a full investigation and not protect those accused of terrible crimes done to innocents placed in their charge. Disobey the Pope if you need to because, in this policy of silence and non compliance, he is wrong.

I pray to a God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that you will seek justice for the wronged and help in the healing of many broken lives.

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Church Sign of the Week 15

It would take Jesus to stop the Melbourne Storm. Congratulations Premiers.

In a city that is mad on sport it takes a lot to make a headline that knocks the AFL off the back page. Melbourne Storm winning the Rugby League Grand final is just such a story. Anyone, who hasn’t been asleep for three years or on Mars, will know of the way the Storm were stripped of their Premiership titles after being caught breeching the salary cap – this win was well deserved!

The newspapers are full of how the Storm’s defence won them the title. After scoring 4 tries in the first half they kept the second half scoreless against a dogged (and I use that word carefully) Bulldogs attack. Not even cannibalism could stop the Storm – ‘ear, ‘ear I hear you shout, luckily so does Billy Slater.

In the Gospel of Mark chapter 4 (verse 35) we read the story of Jesus calming a storm – in a miracle that to me is the greatest (see this blog ). He stills the winds and waves and returns the calm to the sea of Galilee. It would have taken that kind of power and authority to stop the Storm yesterday because we’ve got Billy Slater!

Many people tell me that Christianity has no place in the sporting world and the churches should not get involved in professional sport. But what happens if the sports involve the Church, is that wrong? Most professional sporting clubs in Australia have a Chaplain attached to them – we’ve had the chaplain from the Melbourne Demons Footy Club preach at church (I know the Demons NEED a Chaplain). I have worked with one or two teams over my time in the ministry – just because somebody plays a sport it doesn’t mean they can’t have a faith.

Many sports men and women have a very strong faith – this message was tweeted by Usain Bolt after his great win in the summer Olympics this year –

I want to thank GOD for everything he as done for me cause without him none of this wouldn’t be possible

This is a picture of Steven Pienaar the Everton soccer player after scoring a goal.

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I could find loads of other examples of Christians in sport – David Pocock the Wallabies Captain; many rugby league stars, plenty of AFL players.

Jesus is a big part of Australian sport and in Melbourne it is only fitting that we celebrate the Storm’s win and give thanks to God, not for the victory but for the fact that we can play, watch and enjoy the sports we love.

Well done Melbourne Storm!

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