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Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 28 August, 2016. The Reading was Luke 14:1, 7-14.

Did you know that there is only 119 days until Christmas? That’s 2856 hours, 171,300 minutes or 10,281,600 seconds. Not that I’m counting of course. Now, Christmas is a wonderful time of year because everyone is excited about the birth of Jesus, right? The whole world stops, and celebrates the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, because the whole world realises what an important and holy occasion this is, and that’s all that happens, right? No, for the vast majority of the western world, Christmas means one thing: Presents. Lots and lots of presents. The big department stores have already had their big Christmas lay-by sales, there will be more and more sales as we get closer and closer. Come next week we will probably start seeing Christmas decorations being put up into stores as they encourage us to spend more money to buy more presents because if we start buying earlier we can afford to buy more presents and buy bigger and better presents. But gift giving isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be. Sheldon knows this. If you don’t know who Sheldon is, allow me to introduce you to him. Dr. Sheldon Cooper is one of the main characters from the TV Sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. He is a Caltech theoretical physicist who received his first Ph.D at the age of 16. He is incredibly smart, incredibly nerdy, and incredibly socially awkward. Now, despite coming from a deeply religious family from the Bible Belt of Texas, Sheldon doesn’t celebrate Christmas – or as he puts it, the pagan festival of Saturnalia. And he similarly doesn’t like the tradition of gift giving, as demonstrated here. Continue reading Don’t worry about what others think, but do what God asks

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All One in Christ Jesus

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, All One in Christ Jesus, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 19 June, 2016. The Reading was Galatians 3:23-29.

I am, perhaps showing my lack of age here. And I mean that in no disrespect to my elders. Just recently, Liesl and I watched the movie, The Butler. If you haven’t seen it, I really do recommend it. It tells the story of an African American who started picking cotton, then after his father was shot was brought inside and trained as – to use the terminology from the movie – a “house nigger”. You follow him as he eventually becomes a butler, and finally a butler within the White House.

As you watch the movie, you get a real sense of the exclusion that was held at the time. That they couldn’t sit at the same lunch counter. Sit in the same seats on the bus. Drink from the same water fountains. And when I watch other films dealing with similar issues, such as The Help, or read books like To Kill a Mockingbird, you get an understanding that these things were held to be “just the way things are”.

And then I realise that segregation was outlawed in 1964, some 52 years ago. And that’s what hit me – when my parents was born, the United States of America was still segregated. I think nothing of it these days, because that’s the way it’s always been for me. I have to remember that it wasn’t always that way. Continue reading All One in Christ Jesus

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Understanding and the Trinity

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Understanding and the Trinity, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Trinity Sunday 22 May, 2016. The Reading was John 16:12-15.

Trinity?

Today in the life of the Church is what is called, Trinity Sunday. It’s a day where we celebrate one of the great mysteries of the Church. One of the great Theological conundrums. That we worship one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Third doctrine says that “We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.” So we believe that our one God is three persons, but they can’t be divided. It’s something that can be a bit hard to understand. Continue reading Understanding and the Trinity

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Feeling Safe

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Feeling Safe, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Mothers Day, Sunday 8 May, 2016. The Reading was John 17:20-26.

Feeling Safe

Liesl and I are very different in some respects. For example, I have no qualms about walking around at night alone. No worries at all. She, however, won’t step out at night unless she’s with someone. I would be more than happy to walk around the city at night, to take public transport or catch a taxi alone at night, where as those things would make her very nervous.

And I get it. I understand it. I am a privileged person. As a white male, I am less likely to suffer abuse when in those situations, than Liesl is. Still unlikely, but the unfortunate reality is that women grow up with an inherent understanding that if they are alone at night, they are in danger. Continue reading Feeling Safe

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God’s Gifts

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s Gifts, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 14 February, 2016. The Reading was John 21:1-23.

Societies Contrasting messages

As I’m sure you’re aware now, I turn 30 today. And it’s with these big birthdays that you start thinking about your life, about making sure that you’re doing things that you should be doing. So earlier this year, I went to get a skin check, and you probably saw me with a bandage on the back of my neck where I had a biopsy done. All clear, which is good, but it was a bit of a wake up as well. I want to make sure that I’m around for as long as I can be for my kids – but my word is the world a tough place to live in. Continue reading God’s Gifts

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God’s Big Reveal

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s Big Reveal, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Easter Sunday 27 March, 2016. The Reading was John 20:1-18.

I love a big reveal

Liesl and I love watching – when we remember that it’s one – we love watching this show on ABC2 called Penn and Teller’s Fool Us. It features two Magicians, Penn – the tall one who does all the talking, and Teller, the one who doesn’t speak. They have a big Las Vegas show, and through this TV show, they feature a whole heap of magicians who come on and perform a trick. If they are able to fool Penn and Teller, that is, if they aren’t able to figure out how the trick is done, then they win an opportunity to be the warm up act for their Las Vegas show.

Now magic is all about the big reveal. The showing of the box being empty. The showing of the girl sawn in half. The showing of the card that you signed being found inside the walnut which was inside the egg, which was inside the lemon. And I love it, because it gets you thinking – how did they do that? Continue reading God’s Big Reveal

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Jesus invites us to a party

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Jesus invites us to a party, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 6 March, 2016. The Reading was Luke 15:1-3, 11-32.

We’re fine with equality so long as we come out on top.

Now, I’m hoping that you will appreciate my jokes a bit more than Liesl does, but I’d like to start off with a joke today. The story goes that this is an old Jewish story. There was a hardworking farmer, and the Lord appeared to him and in response to his hard work and faithfulness granted him three wishes, but with the condition that whatever he wished for, the Lord would give double to his neighbour. The farmer, scarcely believing his good fortune, wished for a hundred cattle. Immediately he received one hundred cattle and was overjoyed until he saw that his neighbour had two hundred. So he wished for a hundred acres of land, and again he was filled with joy  until he saw that his neighbour had two hundred acres of land. Rather than celebrating God’s goodness, the farmer could not escape feeling jealous and slighted because his neighbour had received more than he did. Finally, he stated his third wish – that God would strike him blind in one eye. And God wept. Continue reading Jesus invites us to a party

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Be part of God’s Family

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Be part of God’s Family, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 14 February, 2016. The Reading was Romans 10:8b-13.

Beard, Mates, Family

Ben - Before and After
Ben – Before and After

You may notice something is a little bit different about me today. That something appears to be missing. Now, it’s not just because I was tired of Davey pulling at my beard, or that I wanted to look even younger. No, the reason that the beard came off is much more meaningful to me.

I’ve got a few really close mates. We’ve been mates since high school, when we all went to the same church. We’ve been through our ups and downs together, and through it all, we look out for each other. One of my mates, Christian, or CJ as he’s more commonly known, recently had a lump removed which was making him sick. The biopsy results came back, and he has commenced a treatment of preventative chemotherapy – which, if you’re have to have Chemo, is probably the best type to have. Now one thing that defines CJ is his facial hair. He always has some facial hair. Sometimes it’s a goatee, sometimes is a rough and wild bushman’s beard. The only time he’s ever bare is November 1st, when he shaves it all off to grow a moustache for Movember. So now, because of this treatment, he’s had to shave his beard off. Continue reading Be part of God’s Family

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E-mail to Brett Whiteley, MP re Humanitarian Intake

Hi Brett,
I write to you in regards to your suggestion to quarantine the increase of humanitarian refugees to Christians (and other persecuted minorities) from Syria and Iraq. While I do commend the increasing of the humanitarian intake, and do recommend that you continue to fight for this, I must question the limiting of it to Christians.
As a former Pastor, I am sure you are aware of Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. It has much to tell us about being hospitable, and being neighbourly. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new in how the Jews and the Samaritans weren’t exactly on the best of terms. You might even suggest that the customs around being separate could breed the fear of the different and unknown that is similarly striking around Australia at the moment. So it is striking that it was the Samaritan, not the Priest or Levite, who helped the Jew who had been attacked by bandits. And in Luke 10:37, in response to Jesus’ question of who acted like a neighbour, even the Lawyer couldn’t bring himself to say that it was the Samaritan, instead saying “The one who showed him mercy.”
This is what being a neighbour is about. This is what being a Christian is about. Even though the Samaritan may not had the same religion as the Jew, or agreed about the same things, when he was in trouble, none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was helping those who were not able to help themselves.
So with your announcement, you are suggesting that we protect our own, and not look after those who are different. You are effectively saying that as a nation, we should discriminate based on religion – that those who might be Muslim and fleeing persecution, fleeing a war zone, are less deserving of our protection than a Christian. And that goes right against what Christ taught. Christ teaches us that we are to love all, no matter of their ethnicity or religious identification.
So Brett, I ask you to keep fighting, and being Christ’s light in the parliament. But remember that Christ taught us to love all people, and it doesn’t matter who they are, what they’ve done, where they’ve come from, why they’ve come, or anything else. We are to show love to them, to be hospitable to them, and to be neighbourly to them.
With thanks,
Ben
This e-mail was sent to Brett Whiteley’s office on 7 September, 2015. He must have been waiting for responses, as this came back very quickly:

Thanks Ben for your response.

I hear your concerns and encouragement to consider widening the net so to speak.

As I have said previously the role of an MP is often one of balancing all aspects of the debate.

If we want to carry the community with us on an increased humanitarian intake we need to hear their thoughts and concerns as well.

Over the last few weeks I have held numerous community meetings. It is clear that there is not community support for a blanket intake.

I welcome your input.

Regards

Brett

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Refugee Sunday

Zahra and Ali* were Iranian Christians, persecuted because of their faith, and had fled with their family to seek safety. After having spent some time on Christmas Island, they were moved to Manus Island, and it was here that I met them on one of my first shifts. They were sitting underneath a shelter, and in an attempt to escape the heat, I wandered over and said hello. They introduced themselves, and offered me a cup of tea. Despite the circumstances that they found themselves in, they knew the importance of being hospitable, and welcoming this stranger into what was effectively – for the time being – their home.

Over my time there, Zahra and Ali were the family that I connected with the most. Every shift, I would seek them out, to see how they were doing, and even just to sit with him and chat for a while. I still think of them often, and while I don’t know whether they are still in detention, or whether they have received visas, I pray that one day our paths may cross again. Continue reading Refugee Sunday