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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Jane’s Story

Biblical Truth

Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:

   You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
   God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
   You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
   Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.

   You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
   Joy comes with the morning.

Luke 6:20-21, The Message

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Ben’s Offering

Jane’s Story

Jane’s* father left when she was three years old.Years later her mother began seeing someone who Jane fought with all the time and at age 14 she was told to leave home. Jane stayed with some relatives for a while until an uncle tried to sexually abuse her, and no one in the family believed her when she told them what had happened. She dropped out of school and began ‘couch surfing’ from one friend’s house to another and met some new friends who introduced her to drugs and alcohol. For the next few years Jane moved between friends’ houses and hostels. Looking back, Jane sees that lots of people tried to help her but either they didn’t know how or she wouldn’t let them. When Jane arrived at YASS she smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol and had taken speed, ecstasy and marijuana. She had been sexually abused twice and was very distrusting of adults. For the first few weeks Jane “sussed out” the staff, looking for ways of affirming that adults were untrustworthy.

After a while she began to notice that the staff genuinely cared about the young people at YASS. They cared about her story and cared for her as an individual. The more of her story that Jane told the more staff were able to help her. With their help Jane stabilised her life and stopped taking drugs and smoking. She began to re-establish some family relationships and discovered that she had a whole other side of her family living in NSW, including a younger sister, who were very interested in meeting her.

Jane couldn’t afford the fare but YASS staff managed to get her a free flight through a corporate sponsor. They found her some temporary accommodation within an hour of where her family lived. Since then Jane has found long term accommodation, is studying full-time at TAFE and working part-time in a café. She volunteers at her local youth centre and wants to become a youth worker.

* Not her real name.

Homeless Young Australians: Issues and Responses, Mission Australia

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UnitingCare Australia is an agency of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). They represent the UCA’s network of UnitingCare community services of which there are over 1,300 service delivery sites nationwide.

The UnitingCare network is one of the largest providers of community services in Australia, providing services to more than 2 million Australians each year, employing 35,000 staff and 24,000 volunteers nationally. It provides services to older Australians, children, young people and families, Indigenous Australians, people with disabilities, the poor and disadvantaged, people from culturally diverse backgrounds and older Australians in urban, rural and remote communities.

You can donate to any of the State Branches: in Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and ACT, and Queensland (Donate to one of the service agencies)

Invite the Misfits

Biblical Truth

  Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people."  That triggered a response from one of the guests: "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!"

  Jesus followed up. "Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’

  "Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’

  "Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’

  "And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’

  "The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’

  "The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded— and there’s still room.’

  "The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’"

Luke 14:12-24, The Message

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Ben’s Offering

From a Salvation Army Media Release, dated 9 July, 2009.

The Challenge to Slash Homelessness by 2020

The Salvation Army welcomes the release of state and territory Counting The Homeless 2006 reports today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. These provide the benchmark data for the efforts required to address homelessness in Australia.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Counting the Homeless 2006 reports were co-authored by Associate Professor David Mackenzie from the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University and Associate Professor Chris Chamberlain from RMIT using 2006 Census data, data on users of SAAP services combined with data from a national census of homeless students. Australia is unique amongst Western countries in having good data on the homeless population and on service usage.

Homeless has remained at about 100,000 persons – men, women and children for a decade and in the past period little priority was given to addressing this issue. Some 30,000 units of public housing were lost and real funding for homelessness services steadily decreased. At a time when Government revenues were recording unprecedented surpluses and unemployment reached a fifteen-year low, homeless people were not able to benefit nor was public money invested in the issue.

The Rudd Government has given homelessness a high priority on its social policy agenda. The White Paper released in December, 2008 by Minister Tanya Plibersek was a landmark document with strong policy positions. However, the global financial crisis has caused huge dislocations in the international economic system and unemployment rates are beginning to rise. Reports are coming in of disadvantaged people being especially affected.

The number of rough sleepers in the inner-city areas of capitals throughout Australia has increased, with the exception of Melbourne, along with the number of children 12 years and under and elderly people 65 and older.

Young people (aged 12 to 25 years) are a significant group in the homeless population on census night – 32,444 individuals in total. The good news is that the number of homeless teenagers on their own has decreased by some 21% from 2001 to 2006 and this is attributed to the impact of early intervention. However, over the same period the number of homeless families increased by 17 per cent. There were 2714 homeless children under 12 in Victoria on census night 2006 – compared with 2618 in 2001 – an increase of 7 per cent. During 2006-2007, the AIHW report Homeless people in SAAP for Victoria reported that 20,500 children had accompanied a parent(s) who were clients of SAAP services.

The Salvation Army is committed to working with the Commonwealth and State Governments to develop effective responses to homelessness. We are particularly concerned about the growing numbers of homeless families. The Global Financial Crisis and the crisis in supply of affordable housing impact this group significantly. It is imperative that we develop early intervention strategies to prevent more families becoming homeless and that interim housing options are put in place for those who lose their homes.

The bold targets set in the Rudd Government’s Homelessness White Paper are achievable but can only be realised if community groups, local communities, corporate and government work collaboratively at the local level to prevent people becoming homeless and respond quickly and appropriately to those experiencing housing crisis. These Census figures assist us to confront these challenges.

The Challenge to Slash Homelessness by 2020, The Salvation Army Southern Territory, Australia.

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Southern Territory Comissioner Jim Knaggs recently posted that The Salvation Army was voted by consumers the most trusted brand in Australia. And with good reason – the Salvos are very much into working with those who are overlooked. Their homelessness programs, their domestic violence refuges, their counselling and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs have enabled them to help a great number of people. That help can’t happen without financial support, so why not consider donating to the Salvos – you can do so from their website.

Poverty in Australia

apw_web_button Biblical Truth

He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to
the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”

Luke 4:16-21, The Message Continue reading “Poverty in Australia”