As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Great Banquet, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Sunday May 13, 2018. The Reading wasLuke 14:12-24.
It’s 6:30am, and the temperature is in the single digits. I’m sitting on a picnic blanket on the lawns of Parliament House. To the left of me are two sisters and a friend who have travelled there from Adelaide. Next to them, a native Hawaiian who now lives in Sydney. Someone from Canberra. A couple from Newcastle. Behind me is a man recently arrived from Syria. And on the other side of the group, another man who originates from the Congo but arrived only last week into Australia from a refugee camp in Burundi. Prior to today, I had only met these people the night before as we watched the budget and shared in prayer and worship. Yet today, these people, from varied backgrounds and faith traditions, today we are family. We meet together to learn from scripture, and to be a voice for the unheard.
Over to our right, the news crews stand in readiness, ready to interview a range of politicians as they discuss this latest budget. And in front of us, a banquet table, jam-packed full of goodies to illustrate how the blessings of our abundance means that we have plenty to share with all who need it. Continue reading The Great Banquet
As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 18 May, 2014. The Reading was Luke 18:1-30.
On Tuesday night, I sat myself down at my computer, loaded up the live stream of ABC24 and watched Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget speech. Due to the numerous leaks and strategic misinformation that was around, I was prepared for a lot of what would be presented. But that still didn’t make it any easier. In a word, ouch.
There’s a lot of pain in that budget, and in some ways the only upside that I can see is that we will be getting a lot more people through our doors, just that they’ll all be for our Doorways service. But as I thought about how this budget would affect our nation, I turned to the teachings of Jesus. And I wrote a whole sermon out, and then last night I threw it away and started again. When I returned to the passage, and widened my view, I saw that Jesus’ teaching throughout this chapter, and even the passage following, Jesus’ parables and teaching is just as relevant for us today as it was to those he was with back then. Continue reading The Budget, Two Parables and some Teaching from Jesus
In last night’s budget, the Government announced a $7 co-payment for GP’s, as well as pathology, and a $5 co-contribution for medicines on the PBS. Now, $7 doesn’t seem like a lot, but the issue is, it’s not ever going to be $7.
Sometimes, a GP can’t get everything they need just by looking at you. They need to send you off to get some blood work done. So, what was a $7 visit, now becomes a $21 visit ($7 for the initial visit, $7 for the pathology, $7 for the results). If there is then medicine needed, that increases to a $26 visit. Continue reading Why the $7 co-payment is a bad idea
Following up on Yesterday’s post on the things I love about Australia, there are a few things I don’t like about Australia. It would be remiss of me to say the things I love without the things I don’t like.
Racist. As much as I hate to admit it, Australia is a little bit racist. This has come across more in the last few years, with fears about Refugees and Middle Eastern immigrants. It’s such a shame, as Australia has such a rich multi-cultural heritage, stretching back to the Chinese in the Gold Rush. I think this issue is mostly pushed by my second point.
Sensationalist Media. From our “Current Affairs” shows such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair, to our tabloid-esque newspapers, Australia’s media has a love of the blow-out story. From stories about Australia introducing sharia law (which the Federal Attorney General stated clearly that there was no place for in Australia), to scare campaigns about the number of “boat people” it is Australia’s media which effectively scares the population into submission.
“Un-Australian” and Australian Values. One of the arguments that is used to shoot down anything that the population (read: Media) doesn’t like is the idea that it is un-Australian. A Carbon Tax? Un-Australian. Having Daylight Savings? Un-Australian. Not having Daylight Savings? Un-Australian. Participating in the Cronulla Riots? Un-Australian. Not participating in the Cronulla… I think you get the point. The thing is that this idea that something is Un-Australian is just used when people think the whole nation should get behind the idea, but have no real reason why.
“She’ll be right” mentality. This is something that I suffer from as well, and I think it’s a good thing as well as a bad thing. The good thing about this is that we’re not worried about what happens, and whatever happens we’ll make a way through. That’s great. However, it sometimes means that we fail to plan for the inevitable. For example, Australia is currently living in the midst of a resources boom, where mining companies are reaping rich profits, and the Australian Government is reaping rich taxes from these companies. However, there doesn’t appear to be the planning for what happens once we’ve mined all the minerals out of the ground. Yes, we’re in a good position now, but what next?
Homelessness and Poverty. I’ve currently started reading “In Darkest England” by William Booth, where he highlights the poverty and homelessness situation in England in the late 1800’s. It absolutely broke my heart reading the stories of these people, and knowing that nothing has changed, over 100 years later and in a different continent. Australia is a rich country, yet we still have excessive homelessness and poverty.
So that’s what I don’t like about Australia. Areas for Improvement I guess you could call them. I hope that some of these things will change over time.
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.
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.
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.
"Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you, remember, were once strangers in Egypt.
"Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans.
"If you lend money to my people, to any of the down-and-out among you, don’t come down hard on them and gouge them with interest.
"If you take your neighbour’s coat as security, give it back before night-fall; it may be your neighbour’s only covering—what else does the person have to sleep in? And if I hear the neighbour crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.
So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.
But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.
Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.
The Brotherhood of St. Lawrence provides a document stating the difference between the Henderson poverty Line, and what people receive from Centrelink payments. The data is pretty shocking. For the March 2007 Quarter, a couple, one of whom is in the workforce with two dependant children, the Poverty line was drawn at $661.45. Centerlink would pay such a family $541.08, a difference of $120.37. In fact, the only situation where someone on Centrelink payments would not be below the poverty line is if they are a couple over the age of 65 and not in the workforce, or a couple on the disability support pension.
This is not good enough!
The government should be taking more action to ensure that no-one that it is supporting is forced to live below the poverty line. Today, as an action, write to your local member, asking them what is being done about reducing the gap between the poverty line and centrelink payments, and pray for those who are living below that line.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence was the vision and creation of Fr Gerard Tucker, a man who combined his Christian faith with a fierce determination to end social injustice. The Brotherhood has developed into an independent organisation with strong Anglican and community links. They continue to fight for an Australia free of poverty.
They provide a full range of services including job training and placement programs, care for the elderly and people with disabilities, early childhood development programs and support services for newly arrived refugees and migrants. These services are focussed in Victoria, from Craigieburn in Melbourne’s North down to Frankston on the Mornington Peninsula.
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
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.”
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
"You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
"You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
"You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
"You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
"You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
My mum proudly states that she was declared a heretic. The accusation came at the Anglican Synod, after she claimed that there was biblical evidence that Jesus favoured the poor. I’ll go into those examples another day, but Jesus does call us to care for the poor and needy – and it’s part of why I love the Salvos so much. They are so focussed on working with the needy and forgotten in our society, to make sure they are looked after.
This reading – the Beatitudes – is one that I find incredibly encouraging for all people. I love the way Eugene Peterson has written this passage. When we’re at the end of our rope, where the only hope we have is in God, it’s then that we have completely removed ourselves and allow God to fully control our lives. When we have lost that which we care about most (the NIV translates it as “those who mourn”), it is then that the one who will always care for us is known. When you are not building yourself up, boasting or bragging, but are content with who you are, you will receive “everything that can’t be bought”. Personally, I prefer the NIV translation of the next verse: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When you desire equity, goodness, honour, integrity, morality and justice as much as food and drink, it is then that we shall see that which we desire.
I could go on, but I think I might save it for a sermon one day. Goal for today: read the Beatitudes, and reflect on which one you might be needing to hear today.
I acknowledge that I live and work on land for which the Whadjuk Noongar people are the traditional owners and custodians. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. I also respect any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from other lands.