Prince of Peace

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Prince of Peace, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 21 December, 2014, for our Christmas with the Salvos Carols service. The Reading was Isaiah 9:2-7

I chose the passage for today a few weeks ago. The theme for this Sunday was chosen a few weeks earlier than that. And as I sat down on Tuesday morning, in a coffee shop just down the road, only 24 hours after a siege in another coffee shop in Sydney had started, which ended up costing three people their lives, and changed the lives of countless more, I had to wonder how I could possibly preach on peace, when our peaceful existence has been so shockingly changed.

We live in a world characterised by it’s non-peacefulness

The unfortunate reality is that we live in a world that is characterised by it’s non-peacefulness. Wikipedia currently lists 13 Wars and conflicts currently happening around the world. So far, in 2014, that has resulted in at least 113,804 deaths. Over 100,000 deaths in this year alone. That is almost as many as the average number of deaths per year during the Vietnam War. If you add in those classed as minor skirmishes and conflicts, you have 44 Wars, Conflicts and skirmishes, with pushes it up over 118 thousand deaths in this year alone. Some of this conflicts have been going on since 1948 – the cumulative fatalities caused by these active skirmishes tops 6.5 million. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reported that in 2013, we had 51.2 million forcibly discplaced people. This is the highest on record. During 2013, conflict and persecution forced an average of 32,200 individuals per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere – up from 23,400 in 2012 and 14,200 in 2011.

But it’s not just armed conflicts that we have to worry about. Life seems to get busier and busier. That business leads to stress, which means that we can’t perform at our best, and can lead to mental and physical health problems. Elsewhere in our society, people are dealing with poverty, drugs, violence, domestic violence and more. All of these things chip away at that ideal, peacefilled existence. Continue reading “Prince of Peace”

Advertisements

Discerning the upside down

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Discerning the upside down, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 29 June, 2014. The Reading was Jeremiah 28:1-9

Have you ever had an argument with someone, where the only possibility to determine who is right is to wait and see how things play out? Liesl and I have these almost every week. Not big arguments, mind you, but I’ll tip the Bulldogs, and tell her that she’s silly for tipping Melbourne. The only way that we’ll know for sure is to wait and see how the game plays out.

Or maybe I’ll tell her that she’ll really enjoy Star Wars Episode VII, and she’ll say that she can’t stand Star Wars. The only way we’ll ever find out is if she sits down and watches it with me when it comes out. Continue reading “Discerning the upside down”

Is any life more important than another?

It’s tough to write on such a subject a as the Boston bombings so soon afterwards the event. I want to extend my sympathies to the victims and their families. However, I’ve seen a slightly worrying tend starting to appear on Facebook. Is the images contrasting the Boston bombings with a bombing somewhere in the Middle East, generally passing the question why the Boston bombings received blanket media coverage, while the bombings in the Middle East didn’t receive any.
Is this a legitimate question to ask? Yes. Is the right time to ask it on the very same day? I don’t think so.
By saying that one bombing should have received coverage over another is saying, in effect, that some peoples lives are more important than others. Whether that’s American lives over those of the Middle Eastern lives, or the other way around, either is not right. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in God’s image, therefore we are all equally important to God.
So as Christians, how should we respond? Firstly, with prayer – for those affected by violence all over the world. Secondly, no matter who is responsible for these acts of terrorism, we need to remember that we cannot respond to violence with violence if we hope to achieve peace. You cannot achieve peace by fighting for it. As such, we need to be promoting a strong nonviolent response. How that will look like will depend on who is found to be responsible for the bombings. However, any response should be one that embraces nonviolent principles.

Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:14
At any time such as this, we need to strengthen our resolve to turn from evil and instead to do good. We need to seek peace and to pursue it in our world. We need to be the voice shouting in the wilderness of the new way, the way of peace, of nonviolence in ways that provide real solutions to the issues at hand.

Five things I love about Australia

Flag of Australia
Image via Wikipedia

This prompt, List five things you love about your culture, is provided by Plinky.

I love Australia, and there is no-where else on earth that I would rather live. Sure, there are places I would love to visit, but as the song says:

no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home

So here are five things about Australian culture that I think makes Australia great.

  1. Sporting. Australia loves their sport, and for a long time we have been successful in that sport. Around the turn of the century, Australia was experiencing a golden age in sport, being successful in Cricket, Rugby Union, Netball, swimming and more. While we are in a bit of a dip in cricket and rugby at the moment, we are still strong in Netball, and have added cycling (thanks to Cadel Evans), Soccer (well, the most successful that we’ve ever been) and golf (thanks to guys like Adam Scott and Jason Day). What I love particularly is that Australians are generally good sports, and while we will give the loser a bit of a ribbing, we have never seen scenes like is sometimes seen in English or European football, or like the Vancouver riots after they lost the Stanley Cup.
  2. Relaxed. Personally, I could never see anything like what is happening in England happening in Australia, because we’re so relaxed. I’m not going to say that it will never happen, particularly because it has happened in the past (I’m thinking the Cronulla Race Riots), however, for the most part Australians are relaxed and would rather click “Like” on Facebook or write a letter than actually step out the door to go and Protest.
  3. Peaceful. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can say we have never had a civil war. And apart from a few attacks on northern cities (Broome and Darwin) during World War 2, we have never experienced War on our land. While that does make us incredibly lucky, it is something that is reflected in our nation and our culture.
  4. Prosperous. Sometimes it may not seem like it, but Australia is relatively rich. Sure, it’s not up there with the likes of the US, or with the “old money” of Europe, but Australians by and large are better off than many other people. While that does come with trappings, as more people are earning more money, it does mean there is more money around to help those less fortunate, and the “luxuries” are often cheaper as well.
  5. Forward Thinking. Australia is an inventive nation, and generally forward thinking in many area. For example, great Australian inventions include WiFi – such a vital part of laptops, Tablets, and now even phones – and the Refrigerator. In 1838 an Australian came up with the first Pre-Paid postal system. In 1902 an Australian invented the notepad, and in 1906 saw Australia produce the world’s first Feature Film, Ned Kelly. Staying on the film idea, it was also an Australian who invented the “Clapperboard” in 1930. Australian’s also invented the Black Box flight recorder, the Ultrasound, Race Cam (for motor sports broadcasting), Bionic Ear, and more. Because we’ve had this history of innovation, it means that as a nation we are constantly looking forward (with a respect for our history) to find better ways to do things.

So there you go, five things I love about Australia. What are do you love about your culture? Stay tuned for tomorrow when I write about the things I don’t like about Australia.

7 Promises of Peace

Biblical Truth

Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.

The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.

The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

Psalm 29 (NIV) Continue reading “7 Promises of Peace”

Gaza

It is sad news that I hear that Israel is invading the Gaza strip. It is utter disbelief that I read that Israel have decided to suspend bombing in Gaza… for 3 hours a day. While this “humane” act is to allow shops to open, funerals to be held, and international aid agencies to evacuate the city, would it not be more humane to stop this bombing to allow shops to remain open, to allow the only funerals be for those who have died of old age, and for the international aid agencies to not be there because there is no threat?

The wondering pilgrim, the priest at my former church, posted a letter on his blog from The Rev. Charles Cloughen, Jr., who was able to speak with Suhalia Tarazi, director of the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. This gives us some idea as to what is happening in Gaza.

Dear Missioners,

I was able to speak to Suhalia Tarazi , Director of the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza this morning.
I took notes and I am sharing with you as best I can her situation in Gaza.

The situation is terrible. The injured are in their homes and unable to get to the hospital and the International Red Cross can’t reach them. Gaza is now divided into three areas. 20% of the staff including 2 doctors are now unable to get to the hospital. Unfortunately a bomb went off in Jerusalem Square, right outside the hospital , only 30 meters away and it blew a hole in the hospital wall.
One of the aid’s husbands was unable to reach his children. Later he discover that 1 child died and other members are all injured because a bomb destroyed a neighboring building.
The 19 year old son of one of the surgeons volunteered to work in the government ambulance. He was killed when his ambulance was hit by a missile. Three ambulances have been hit by Israeli missiles , five have died.
There is no electricity and no water. Fortunately the International Red Cross has provided Ahli Hospital with some food.
It is terrible and not safe to walk on the street.
After the invasion , Ahli Hospital on Sunday received 17 cases. Twelve were admitted to the hospital and 2 to government hospitals.
Today Monday morning 5 cases were received with 4 admitted for surgery. One doctor has slept in the hospital for the last 4 nights. Our staff is now working 2 -12 hour shifts, two shifts no days off. Streets are covered with blood. – bloody time.
Staff members have taken people in their homes, with 20-30 people for refuge. The ambulance driver has 80 living in his home.
We all have received leaflets and telephone calls ” you have to leave your home, we will attack it” Where to go for the 700,000 people in Gaza City?”

I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to speak to Suhalia and I have promised her that I will tell her story and the story of the innocents. Thank you for all you are doing to circulate these messages. Please feel free to forward them the family and friends.

I offer her hope and encouragement and our commitment to help, with prayers and financial support. Remember tax deductible gifts may be sent to the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, PO Box 240, Orange, CA 92859, or on line at http://www.americanfriends-jerusalem.org

I will continue to keep you up to date on this catastrophe happening in Gaza. If I can be of help please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

Peace, Love and Joy ,

Charles

The Rev. Charles Cloughen, Jr.
President Emeritus, American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

I’ve been watching a bit of M*A*S*H during my holiday. Far too much, as the characters invaded my dreams last night. Perhaps that’s why this letter gets to me. In the 50 years since the Korean war, the 95 years since World War 1, we haven’t found a better way to deal with conflict that doesn’t result in casualties.

“To World War None.”