Monthly Archives: August 2013

Welsh sermon from last Sunday

I was asked after Sunday’s Welsh service if I would translate the sermon into English. Well here it is, as requested.

To background the sermon – one of the members of the Welsh congregation said to me a few weeks ago, “Why are the churches dying? Who is the church really for?” This is my response to those questions.

One of the questions I’m asked most often is, “Who is the church for?” It’s a question I’m asked almost every week and its one I struggle to answer.

It seems to a lot of people (me included) that many churches have forgotten who the church is, who the church is for, who the church works for and in whose name we work.

So who is the church for?

Well, if you listen to many ministers/pastors/priests the church is for them! You know the ones, the “holier than thou” bunch who live to wield the church’s power and authority as their own, by divine right as God’s great under shepherds.

The church is the minister’s kingdom. He shouts and people listen, he speaks and people do, he is the only one who works, for no one else is capable or under the authority of God. He is THE most important person in the church.

The church exists for him!

No, say the elders, that’s not true. The church is for us. After all we do most of the work, we sit on the committees and the boards, we make sure things go forward (or don’t go forward at our discretion), we pay the bills. We’re the important ones.

The church exists for us!

What nonsense says the congregation. The church exists for us, after all we are the ones who are here every Sunday, the doors are opened for us, we’re the ones that sing the hymns and listen the boring sermons. We are the important ones.

The church exists for us!

Meanwhile, if you listen very carefully you can hear other voices, voices from outside, voices that cry in the wilderness –

The church is not for us, say the poor.

The church is not for us, say the homeless.

The church is not for us, say the outsiders.

Nor for us, say the homosexuals.

The church is not for us, say the young.

The church is not for us, say women all over the world.

And if you listen as hard as you are able – you can just hear Jesus weeping and as the tears fall he whispers,

“The church is not for me either…”

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Actions Speak Louder Than Like Buttons

It’s not so much a blog this week as a rant!

Like most people on Facebook I like people to ‘like’ my posts. It doesn’t destroy my life and equilibrium if I don’t get loads of ‘likes’, nor does it make my life better if I do but it is nice to see how many appreciate what I post.

BUT

(Did you see the big but there?) But, like the title says, actions speak louder than like buttons. We can press ‘like’ 1000 times on posts similar to the ones below but if we do nothing about it then we have wasted our time and energy.

As of 9am 6 people have liked this picture…

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And that’s great. I know most of them and I also know they will try and live out what it says.

4 people have pressed on this one…

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And I just posted this…

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All I want to say is

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN LIKE BUTTONS

Don’t just press it – live it!

Rant over.

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Jesus and the Jedi mind trick

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I was with a certain esteemed clergyman of our fair city the other day. I didn’t know him too well but the time was supposed to be a sort of getting to know you session. We decided to go out for a coffee. I met this ArchBishop (not his real rank but I’m trying to protect the guilty here) at his rather large church and we walked to a rather famous coffee place that is not far from where he is based.

As we approached said coffee house (which has sliding doors) we both, simultaneously and (this next phrase is for emphasis) at the same time, raised our hands and did the Jedi door opening move. We looked at each other and then collapsed in fits of laughter. What people must have thought of two grown men, both in suits and clerical collars, rolling around crying tears of laughter, I neither know nor care. It was one of those priceless moments. As you can imagine the conversation was Star Wars based after that. Things like – “Jesus said to them, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”” and “These clergymen are not the ones you’re looking for.” etc etc You can imagine the rest. It was a fun hour, one of the best meetings I have had in a long while.

I don’t remember when automatic sliding doors became widespread but for as long as they have been around I have been opening them like a Jedi. They let me express my inner child, who is about 8 and still loves Star Wars and bubble gum (although mum doesn’t let me have it very often).

I don’t know about you but for me it’s the simple things in life that make me happiest – sliding doors that open on my command; texts from friends; a decent hot chocolate; a meal with nice people; a good book; 10 minutes of peace and quiet while people watching. The list goes on and each thing on there is a ‘simple pleasure.’ I get child like delight from a wrapped present; I love the feel of clean socks; those times when the shower temperature is just right; lying in bed listening to a storm; the wags of the dogs as I get home; smiles on friends’ faces; perfect toast.

Dickens reminds us, “That it is good to be a child sometimes” and I think he’s right and never more so than when we are in church. We must never forget that Jesus tells us that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Now I’m not saying that we should all be doing colouring in and dot to dots on a Sunday morning, but I am saying that I think God wants us to see faith as a simple thing.

Christianity is not a set of rules to be followed, not a series of tick boxes to be filled in every day.

Prayers said – tick

Been nice to a few people – tick

Mentioned Jesus to a couple of friends (who already go to church) – tick

Was bigoted enough about the place of (insert whatever group you wish to hate today here) – tick

That is NOT what following Jesus is about.

The heart of the gospel is like the heart of child – filled with love and wonder.

Keep that in mind and we won’t go too far wrong. Acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, patience, love. Things children (and Jedi) have in abundance (most of the time) – but this is gospel message. Not fear, not anger, not hatred – to relapse into Star Wars mode for a moment; “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

If you must have things in adult terms then look at this – “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself.” You could spend the rest of your life working out what that sentence really means.

Be filled with love and wonder, open doors like a Jedi, let your inner child out and while you’re at it spread that love a bit more too. It’s a simple thing that can change the world!

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Love thy neighbour

Love thy neighbour as thy iPhone

#BeAPPtitudes

We’re going to write some new BeAPPtitudes. They are like the Beatitudes only moderner. Occasionally we’ll find one and put up a blog about it.

Feel free to send them in – @MelbWelshChurch and we’ll use them (if they are any good of course).

The first one, shamelessly stolen from the monks at @UnvirtuousAbbey, is “Love thy neighbour as thy iPhone.” Before any of you take the fun out of fundamentalist and tell me that “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is not a Beatitude – remember this – I know it isn’t – but we’re writing the BeAPPtitudes and we can take any piece of scripture we want and BeAPPify it!

So

Love thy neighbour as thy iPhone!

If Apple’s numbers are to be believed 402,000 iPhones are sold every day (figure from the first quarter of January 2012) and almost all of them are treasured by someone. I know I would be completely lost if I misplaced mine.

It goes almost everywhere with me. It knows everything I do each day, it gets me up (with the alarm app); it’s my address book; it guides me (with my TomTom App); it entertains me (with my music and audiobooks); it reminds me of what I should do (with my iCal and Reminders); it helps me to pass time (with Angry Birds); it keeps me in touch with people (with my Twitter and Facebook Apps); it helps me write my sermons (via the Internet and Dropbox); it expands my knowledge (with iBooks); it helps with my Bible reading (with my Glo Bible); I can take pictures and video with it (with the camera); I do my banking on it; it keeps my plane and cinema tickets (in passbook); I wrote this blog on it (via WordPress); I track my runs on it (with run keeper); it holds my emails; it tells me the weather (with the weather Oz app) and I can even use it as a phone – if I need to!

I love my iPhone, I would be lost without it. I look after it, I make sure nothing happens to it. In short I take very good care of it. I’m sure most people do the same. Most people would take care of their $500+ iPhone.

Imagine how much better the world would be if we took as much care of other people as we do of our technology. Imagine if other people meant as much to us as our iPhones (or Samsungs or whatever else you have), we would live in a very caring world where everyone saw everyone else as important and not someone to beat down and climb over on the way to the top.

So I say, in a clear and loud voice,

“Listen to a new BeAPPtitude – Love thy neighbour as thy iPhone!”

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Let’s fight poverty not poor people

To all our politicians,

Let’s fight poverty not poor people.

My colleague came up with a great update to a parable of Jesus –

There was once a man who had a wide, brown country. In the 1850’s he threw open its doors and invited people to come in and share in the good gold there was. In the 1960’s he again threw open the doors and invited people from all over Europe to come and settle in this lucky country. In the 2010’s many more people came to that land, mostly by boat, and those who were there already said, “We’ve been here for years and these new comers want the same things as us, it’s just not fair.”

And the Traditional owners of that land just shook their heads.

I don’t think our Prime Minister has sung the second verse of our national anthem. I had to learn it for my citizenship ceremony, the government made me. Maybe he should take a little time to familiarise himself with it and then sing it to all his little politician friends instead of making up silly laws that go against the human spirit let alone human rights.

Mr. Rudd it goes like this –

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Now Mr. Rudd, may I politely suggest you sing lines 5 & 6 again –

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share.

Unless I’m reading it wrong, there is no mention of Papua New Guinea. Not a hint of detention camps. Those boundless plains are Australian soil and i’m pretty sure they have room for a few Asylum Seekers.

Now before you go and label me naive or a soft, lefty, liberal do-gooder who doesn’t know what’s going on in the world let me say I know that not everyone who tries to get here by boat is a genuine political refugee. Some are just people looking to find a better life for themselves and their families, and if that is a crime then most of us who have immigrated here should be shipped over to P.N.G. and locked up.

Many of them, though, are genuinely seeking political asylum and as a welcome they get shipped off to P.N.G. and treated like prisoners.

The rest of the world is branding Australia as racist; the United Nations are saying we are in breech of many and various conventions on Human Rights; many Australians think we are just being selfish and are pretty sure the government can find a better way to spend $1.1 billion.

As many people see it, me included, the problem is not solely the Asylum Seekers. They are just people seeking to better themselves, economically or politically. We should be asking ourselves why do they want to come here?

Why? Because we have a better life. 100’s, if not 1000’s, of them are willing to pay all they have to known people smugglers and risk their very lives for the chance of settling on our ‘boundless plains”.

Why? To escape poverty and helplessness. To try and give their families some hope for the future. If we want to do something we should be trying to tackle the reasons for the boats not the boats themselves.

Instead of spending millions on new or expanded camps funnel those funds into international aid or overseas development – give people a reason to stay, a hope for their future. Then, maybe, the boats will go from here to there and we’ll see how they treat us.

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