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”

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”

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”

Prayer for Asylum Seekers

In Australia, Asylum Seekers has been a major, divisive issue for a long time. Just recently, following a High Court appeal, Churches around Australia are offering sancturary to Asylum Seekers living in the community, offering them protection from being deported to the regional processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea). In response, I wrote this prayer, which is able to be used in congregations and in personal prayers, as need be. (For my own congregational use, I add a prayer from The Worship Sourcebook, but can’t reproduce it here. Second edition, pg 146. 4.3.27 if you have the book and wish to use it.)

You might also like to use this song alongside the modern hymn, Beauty for Brokenness (God of the Poor) (998 in the new Salvation Army Songbook). Continue reading “Prayer for Asylum Seekers”

God’s Busy Love

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s busy love, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday 31 January, 2016. The Reading was 1 Corinthians 13.

Words for Snow, Words for Love

Did you know that it is said that the Inuit people, or Eskimo as they’re sometimes commonly known, supposedly have 50 words for snow. 50! You know, I come from Perth, and we don’t really get snow there. Occasionally there would be a small patch about the size of a dinner plate on Bluff Knoll, and it would make the news. For us, if it’s white and came from the sky, it’s snow. But for the Inuit’s, because they live their whole lives in the snow, their language developed a lot of different designations for what type of snow it is. Apparently, they have words that mean “powder snow”, “drifting snow”, “snow that falls quickly” and “snow that falls slowly”. They have words for “snow that doesn’t reach the ground” and the “First snow of the year”. But I don’t trust my source, because it also claims that the word for “snow which has melted” is “wa-ter”. So I may be a little bit misled in my claim. Continue reading “God’s Busy Love”

End times?

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Worship as Lifestyle, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 15 November, 2015. The Reading was Mark 13:1-13.

end-is-nearHear Ye! Hear Ye! The End is near! War is upon us! Syria is rising up against the world! Russia and the United States are arguing. Israel and Palestine! Earthquakes all over the world. Famines through Africa. A shortage of Baby Formula in China. Donald Trump being an US Presidential Candidate. Starbucks not putting Merry Christmas on their coffee cups. Bunnings rising up next to K&D. These are the end times people! Jesus is coming! Look Busy!

As the human race, we seem to have an addiction to wanting to know when the end of the world will happen. The Great Fount of All Knowledge, Wikipedia, lists 168 Apocalyptic predictions, dates when various people have predicted the end of the world would happen. There are also 13 future estimates currently listed, including three scientific predictions over when the earth will no longer be habitable.

Some of these predictions, we seem to laugh at – such as Harold Camping, who had six attempts at predicting the end of the world. But others are from people that we respect, such as Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church from where The Salvation Army traces its lineage, and Martin Luther, the man who started the Reformation.

We want to know. We want to see Jesus. We want to know how much time we have left. We want to know whether it’s worth us doing the washing, or whether we’ll have enough clean pants to see us through… Continue reading “End times?”

Worship as Lifestyle

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Worship as Lifestyle, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 11 October, 2015. The Reading was Amos 5:1-15

Stop-watch, isolated on white, clipping path included

There are 3600 seconds in an hour, 86,400 seconds in one day, 604,800 in a week and  over 31 million seconds in a year.

To put that in perhaps more realistic terms, we know that there are 60 minutes in an hour, but that makes 1440 minutes in a day, 10,080 in a week, and 525,600 in a year.

All of us, no matter how good we think we are, only get the same number of minutes in a week. So how well do we use those minutes?

On Average – and these are all figures I sourced from the internet so they must be true – we will spend 168 minutes a day watching TV. That’s 1176 minutes during the week, or almost 12% of the week.

The average American spends 128 minutes on either their smart phone or computer. That’s 896 minutes a week, or almost 9% of your week.

You will spend, on average, 456 minutes sleeping each night, that’s over 30% of your week. We’re up over half of our week gone already!

You’ll spend only 66 minutes a day eating, that’s only 5% of your week.

If you’re employed, you will spend 516 minutes a day either working, thinking about work, getting ready for work and other work related activities. That’s 35% of your week. And by my quick maths, that leaves us with less than 10 percent left. How much have I left out?

When I was teaching violin, I would always stress the importance of daily practice to my students. I would get them only once a week. If they were lucky, and received an hour-long lesson, that would be only half a percent of their week. If they were to practice for an hour each day, their time spent learning violin would come to nearly 5% of their week. Continue reading “Worship as Lifestyle”

Power to the Powerless

Rosa ParksIt’s December 1st, 1955. A sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on a bus in the early evening. Despite having spent all day bent over an ironing board in the basement tailor shop at Montgomery Fair department store, she carries her swollen feet and aching shoulders erectly. She sits in the first row of the Coloured section on the bus, and watches the bus fill with riders. Until, that is, the driver orders her to give her seat to a white passenger. Her response was just a single word, but that word was filled with so much meaning and started something that would only be realised later. She said, “No.”

The Story goes that Rosa Parks was tired of being pushed around and decided to sit down. For me, this is part of the story that resonates with me. After years of fighting for the rights of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia, Christian leaders are tired. They have worked, and continue to work the political process. They have written letters, signed petitions, visited politicians on all sides of the spectrum, and still our nations treats those in the most need in ever increasingly worse ways. We are tired of fighting and getting nowhere.

Praying inside Senator Bushby's office
Praying inside Senator Bushby’s office

So on Tuesday, I joined in with a movement of other tired Christian leaders, and with five others, we sat. We asked for a response, and got none. So we sat. We prayed. And we waited for a response.

Ben being led out by the police after being arrested
Ben being led out by the police after being arrested

We sat, asking the Senator to release a statement saying that it was abhorrent that there were 127 children in immigration detention. We offered for him to be a hero to these children, insisting to the Prime Minister and Immigration minister to release them and their families immediately. But we received no response. So we sat, and we prayed, and having received no response, we were eventually arrested.

Ben in the Divvy van
Ben in the Divvy van

So we sat in the Divvy van, knowing that while the police had treated us well, there were many in Manus Island and Nauru who have been treated harshly by security guards and police.

The Love Makes A Way group in the watch house
The Love Makes A Way group in the watch house

So we sat in the watch house, while the wonderful police officers promptly filled out the paperwork and processed us, knowing that there still has not been one asylum seeker claim that has been processed on Manus Island.

The Love Makes A Way crew, released on bail
The Love Makes A Way crew, released on bail

And as we walked free from the Police Station, into the waiting arms of our support crew, we go knowing that there are still 127 children locked away in immigration detention. That there are still over 2000 people locked away in immigration detention, many who have been there for over two years. And that while the boats may have appeared to have stopped, that there are still millions of people seeking protection and asylum all over our world, seeking safety from oppression.

Aside – My Love Makes A Way Action

I feel, at this point, that I need to step aside and clarify a few things that may have been raised in your mind. Firstly, this action has been a long time coming. I have been preparing myself for this action for over a year, and planning for this action started in April. I also sought, and received, approval and support to take part in this from both the Territorial Commander and the Divisional Commander. So I didn’t act on this alone, but with the approval and support of leadership. You may wonder why I hadn’t mentioned that I was intending to take this action. Part of it is that it is kept confidential, so as not to alert the senator and his office prior to the action. Another part is that it helps gain discussion throughout the community and social media, with people surprised that it is happening. This is a vital part to continue the discussion, as we aim to not only change the policy, but also to change the discussion within the community and within the church. And while we weren’t able to change the policy in this action, we are still able to change the discussion in the community and in the church. So feel free to come up and chat with me about anything relating to Asylum Seekers if you have any questions.

There are people in this world who are oppressed

The reality is that in our world today, there are many people who are oppressed. They are oppressed by people who have power. They have their rights taken away from them by people who have power. They could be asylum seekers seeking safety from war-torn countries. They could be the disabled, facing uncertainty about the level of support by a government intent on reducing our welfare bill. They could be Aboriginals, being pushed out of their traditional lands. That’s just a few situations that are happening right here in Australia, but there are thousands more all around the world. And quite often, people in those situations will think that they have no hope. How can they possibly change the world – they are, after all, just one person.

But that’s exactly what Jesus was teaching right here in this passage. Jesus was giving those people who were oppressed the opportunity to be seen as an equal. To give them some power back. How? Let me show you.

First, I need a volunteer. Now, back in Jesus’ day, there were very strict rules as to what you would do with your hands. One of the things is that you would only ever slap someone with your right hand. So, please put your left hand behind your back. Now, there are two ways to slap someone. Open handed, or back-handed. Now, Open handed slaps, they were for men of equal standing. Think of those days of old, or possibly in the movies, where someone would challenge another to a duel by slapping them. But a back-handed slap, that was for someone who was lower than you – a master slapping his slave for example.

So if you were only to use your right hand while slapping, and you were going to slap me on the right cheek, would you have to do it open-handed or back-handed? And this would be known by the crowd – if someone slapped you on the right cheek, it was because someone saw you as less than them. However, if you then turned the other cheek, forcing them to hit you on the left cheek – there was only two options for them. To slap you again, this time with an open hand, signifying you as equal, or to walk away, surrendering their position. In this way, Jesus was able to put power back into the hands of the powerless.

In the same way, if someone was suing you to take your coat – it was only because you had nothing else left to give. For someone to sue you for your coat means that they are so insistent on damaging you that they will take everything that you have. The cloak – that was effectively their last layer of clothing, it was the only thing giving them any dignity. So when Jesus says, give them your cloak, he was effectively saying for them to disrobe, to get naked. Why? Because it gave the powerless a voice. It was allowing the person being sued an opportunity to say to the oppressor, “look at what you are doing to me. You have reduced me to this – that I have no dignity left.” And by doing that, it forces the oppressor to think about what he is doing – to be the person that left someone naked (and lose standing in the community), or to give up his claim on the other person. Again, Jesus was putting power back into the hands of the powerless.

This is an accurate photo of a Roman centurion, right?
This is an accurate photo of a Roman centurion, right?

The final example Jesus gives is going the second mile. Now, we know that the Romans were occupying Israel at the time, and a Centurion was able to conscript a Jewish person to carry their pack for them, but only for the distance of one mile, no more. If it was carried further, then the Centurion was able to get in quite serious trouble. So if a Jew was to get to that one mile mark, and to just keep on walking, the Centurion would be running behind them, pleading with them to put the pack down. And with that, the power has once again gone from the powerful to the powerless.

Jesus gives us dignity through our choices

This is what Jesus was hoping to achieve through this. He wanted to give power to the powerless. To give them a dignity in life. And he offers that same dignity to us as well. It’s unlikely that you will be slapped in today’s age, and our understanding of position and customs are different from what they were back then. Taking off your cloak will not have the same effect that it did in Jesus’ day. And there aren’t any Roman Centurions around to force us to carry their packs. But through what Jesus is saying here, we can take his message and apply it to our own lives. In every situation, we have a choice on how we act. We can choose to act and show love to all people. We can choose to treat all people as equals. And we can choose to stand up and be a voice for those whose voices are oppressed by people in power. In Proverbs 31:8-9 it reads “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This is what God is all about – because we are all God’s creation, and we are all created equally in God’s image.

We can see all people equally, and love all people equally

When we start to see all people equally, we start to see them how God created them. When we start to see them how God created them, we start to understand that they deserve to be treated with the same love and respect that God shows us. The same love and respect that gave us dignity in our choices. The same love and respect that doesn’t force us to worship him, but invites us to come and worship him as we see fit. The same love and respect that sent his son to die for our sins, so that we could enter into a full relationship with him.

Go, love your neighbour, and all others

That same love that God shows us, he calls us to love each other. Because if God shows it to us, and we are all created equal, then we should show it to all others as well. So we need to Go out from our building here, and show love to all people that we meet. We need to give love and dignity to all people that we come in contact with, because that’s what God gives us. And whether we are the powerful or we are the powerless, we need to treat all people as equals.

What’s God telling you today? Maybe he’s asking you to speak out for those who have no voice. Maybe he’s showing you people who you need to treat with love and respect. Maybe he’s showing you a way to stand up and be treated with love and respect.

In our response time today, you’re welcome to come and pray about whatever it is that GOd has told you today. Maybe you just want to come and pray for the 127 children who are still in detention. Or maybe you want to come and pray for the children in our community who go to school without breakfast or lunch. To pray for those around the world suffering in war zones, or to pray for God’s creation, and the way it has been ravaged by humanity’s greed.

As we do that, you are invited to join in this song that says “God of the Poor, friend of the weak, give us compassion we pray. Melt our cold hearts, let tears fall like rain. Come, change our love from a spark to a flame.”

Holiness drives us out to Mission

Has anyone here ever sculpted anything? Started off with a block of something and made it into something else? You may have heard of the quote falsely attributed to Michelangelo, who apparently said about his statue of David, that he started with a block of marble, and just chipped away anything that didn’t look like David. It’s that simple! You just chip away anything that doesn’t look the way that you wanted it to look.
You may remember a while ago, Liesl got me to bring in something that I had made – Picture of wooden sculpture - a Salvation Army Shield carved from Huon Pine on a disc of Huon Pine. Made by Ben ClaptonHere’s the finished product. This part here, it was once a square piece of huon pine. Then I decided what I wanted to make, and I just removed anything that didn’t look like what I wanted. With that in mind, I want you to watch this video. Continue reading “Holiness drives us out to Mission”

Preparing for the Work

Have you ever competed in a race?
I have, and I can tell you, it’s hard work.  I first competed in the Melbourne City2Sea, a 14km fun run, back in 2012. I had taken up running that year, and it was my first real challenge –  having never run anything over 10km before.  In the lead up to the race, I followed a plan that slowly increased the distance that I was running, so that I was able to complete the race.

Ben and his session mates doing the 2013 City2Sea
Ben and his session mates doing the 2013 City2Sea

The following year, I did it again,  following a training plan and getting myself ready for the big day. Then last year, I convinced myself to get out in the rain and run it one more time, this time 15km.

Each year, in order to reach my goal, I needed to prepare. You can’t just wake up on a Sunday morning and go, “I’m going to run from the MCG to St Kilda today. No, you need to put in some preparations beforehand.  You need to put in the hard yards, run the kilometers, and get your body ready for the race.   Continue reading “Preparing for the Work”