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Sunday 27th September 2020 - “Walking the Walk”

8 hours 28 min ago

 The First Reading: Exodus 17:1-7 The Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:23-32  Hymn TIS 618: What does the Lord require? 

Walking the Walk   On Sunday 27th September, the Rev. John began his Reflection/Sermon by asking those watching him speaking on Zoom, listening via a telephone link, or reading his words which asked us to “Imagine you are watching television and a commercial comes on” and then he went on to describe an idyllic scene which was cleverly orchestrated to convince the viewers that buying their product would deliver “salvation – buy our product and it will save you from your harried, over-scheduled existence and lead you to this “perfect” life”.  

Of course we all know that life is not always perfect, yet each of us must admit that we have sometimes been enticed by clever advertising.  Quite recently, I was convinced by a TV advertisement that a new salted caramel biscuit with a well-loved name and international reputation would be quite delicious – instead I was very disappointed and felt let down and only finished the small but expensive packet of these biscuits to avoid waste.  I suspect the product has not been a great success because, after the initial six to eight weeks of blanket advertising, I have never seen these disappointing biscuits mentioned on TV again.

In the Exodus story mentioned by the Rev. John, the Israelites had no doubt been looking forward to a better and perhaps even “perfect” life as they journeyed out of Egypt, but as we discovered - when things became hard; “The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord ?’   But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’”

As “The Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” – the majority of us have expressed doubts from time to time when things go wrong.  I feel sure that many distressed people have questioned God about the current Covid 19 pandemic and asked how he could have unleashed such illness and struggle upon the world. 

During his sermon, the Rev. John went on to tell us a “modern parable” that described ‘someone’ like we have all seen come to worship at our church and grow in enthusiasm and goodwill, but who gradually found that everything was getting too hard.  Their religious fervour gradually waned, so that they may have slowly drifted away, with us barely noticing that one day they just stopped coming altogether.  The “modern parable”  went on; “He still believed in God and felt love for God but didn’t know how to integrate these pieces into the rest of his life. It all seemed like it was too hard, too much.” 

We should wonder why this person did not keep looking for a closer walk with God in our church community and ask; Do we always “walk the walk as well as talk the talk?” 

The Rev. John said; “Jesus gives a telling example of response to God’s love in his parable today about the two sons being asked to work in the vineyard. The first son tells his father outright that he won’t do it, but then has a change of heart and goes and does it anyway. Whereas the second son tells his father he will and then never does. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it gets the point across. Jesus tells this to the chief priests and elders – who rejected John the Baptist and were rejecting Jesus – in order for them to be caught in their own web of deceit. Jesus asks them, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” and they know they are trapped because the answer, of course, is the first son. He ended up living his life faithfully; he didn’t just talk about it or say things to appease his father.”

We often do similar things in our own lives. “How many of us have told someone we would pray for him or her and then got distracted and didn’t? How many of us have thought or talked a lot about helping the marginalised in our neighbourhood, but haven’t? How many of us have been puzzled when people who were once zealous about their faith faded away, and we intended to contact them but never have?

We all have good intentions. But as Jesus teaches us in our gospel reading today, our intentions don’t really matter. It’s our actions that are grounded in and flow from our relationship with God that count – individually and as a community.”

As Christians; perhaps we should encourage the alternate idiom; “Practice what you preach” as a greater motivation than other versions of “Walk the Walk” which is essentially saying “PROVE IT”.  Other such sayings that have great relevance to the expression of our genuine reactions are, “Actions speak louder than words” and “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”  A different interpretation of that saying is that the difference between what someone intends to do and what they actually do can often be called procrastination.

A few years ago, when my husband and I sorted through some old papers, we unearthed a “to do” list from more than 30 years ago - and the amazing thing was there was absolutely nothing on the long list that still needed to be done, yet not one job had been ticked as completed.  Although we laughed about it and recognised our serious faults of procrastination, we agreed that so called wise quotes are very much like statistics really; you can find one to support almost any argument you wish to make.  I consider myself a reasonably decisive person; however, I can nod my head in agreement with almost all the dozens of quotes on procrastination that I unearthed via Google.  I think the ‘tongue in cheek’ quote; “One of the greatest labour-saving inventions of today is tomorrow”, which is attributed to Vincent T. Foss, perhaps best fits the sad tale of our old unchecked list of jobs.  Although my mother, if she was still with us, would have opted for the often wisely quoted; “Procrastination is the thief of time” theory?  My mother dusted the house and swept the floor each day – it was like a religious ritual.  I have often wondered and imagined how much time would have been saved if she had procrastinated and done it only when her “round tuit” came conveniently to hand.

As we moved our fingers down the lines of writing on our list, we shed tears of laughter as we noted our soft blue British Wolseley didn’t need polishing - there have been around six replacements for that particular car since then.  More good news - the next thing on the list didn’t need doing either – the fuchsia garden that needed weeding and spraying for the black caterpillars that regularly stripped the leaves each time we felt a little smug about how pretty the garden looked, could be crossed off too.  Our daughter’s “new” bedroom was built over that spot some 30 years ago and the rose garden near the back patio didn’t need weeding either.  The sunroom extension was built over that nearly 20 years ago.

Neither did the wrought iron on the front patio need painting because the lounge room extension covered that patio at the same time the fuchsia garden was lost.   Almost doubled up with laughter, we crossed all the remaining jobs off the list with a flourish, feeling really good about all the time we had saved by not doing those jobs either.  Continuing to build rooms onto the house to avoid weeding the garden or painting, may sound a little extreme but it just goes to prove - if you put some things off long enough you never have to do them at all! 

However, the serious, older and hopefully slightly wiser me must now agree with the quote of Edward Young, which my very busy house-proud mother would have approved; “Procrastination is the thief of time; year after year it steals, till all are fled, and to the mercies of a moment leaves the vast concerns of an eternal state. At thirty, man suspects himself a fool; knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; at fifty chides his infamous delay, pushes his prudent purpose to resolve; in all the magnanimity of thought, resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same."

My reality is; I believe all people who achieve the things that are important to them in life, gain personal satisfaction and harbour warm feelings of fulfilment as well as setting a good example.  It is for each of us to live according to our own truth. 

However, I would like to share one final quote that may never make its way into the ‘endless list of quotes on everything’ to be found on the Internet.  It is an often repeated quote from a lady who can always find a reason to procrastinate when there is housework to be done.  If you know me well, you have probably often heard me say: “When I lie on my death bed I will not be saying, I wish I had done more housework!”

Thank you Rev. John for asking us if we are “Walking the walk”; We say we are Christians, but how do we know? How do others know? God has given us the gift of our lives and we are called to respond.”  You may like to click on the link and listen carefully to the words of Hymn 618 TiS.  “What does the Lord Require?” “Do justly; Love mercy; Walk humbly with your God.”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

"So Forgive Someone Today"

September 18, 2020 - 3:31am

Declaration of Forgiveness:If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, the forces of death would have claimed us as victims. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, we would have fallen to the sword or been drowned by the sea. Dance and sing to the Lord who is on our side and is on the side of all God’s children. Amen Thanks, be to God!   

Preaching of the Word - And in Anger..., - Matthew 18:21-35   And in anger the Lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So, my heavenly Father will also do it to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. NRSV Matthew 18: 34-35

This prayer of Forgiveness at the beginning of the Rev John’s service on Sunday the 13th September and the text for the Reflection/Sermon were reminders to me of the relatively harsh moments when we are reminded that forgiveness often has to be earned and it can sometimes be quite difficult for us humans.  As the Rev. John said; “This is not good news for those of us who have trouble forgiving.”

There are times for most of us when we can hardly remember what we are angry or upset about, yet we cling to our sense of grievance. That is why I try to “live by” a well-known adage; “People may not remember exactly what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”  I have not found any evidence of who actually said this, however there are lots of people claiming to be the authors of “wise sayings” that have obviously been their own versions of this saying.  I try very hard to use words carefully and avoid leaving hard feelings to linger or fester after I have moved on and forgotten an encounter. 

A friend once taped an interview with her 90 year old grandmother and one of the questions she asked her grandmother was; “What do you remember most about your father?”  The old lady quickly replied, “I remember he yelled a lot.”  At the time I heard this interview it hit me like a bolt of lightning – “the way I speak to and care for my children today will stay with them until they are perhaps 90 years old”.  I nervously asked my young daughters the next day, “If somebody asked you what you remembered most about your mother, what do you think it would be?”  They thought about it for a few seconds and agreed on their answer; “She gives great hugs.”   While breathing a quick sigh of relief I resolved to strive to remain careful, encouraging and loving, so I would be remembered positively even if they lived to 90 years old.

I also remember that the next day I heard a woman on one of the newly popular “talk-back radio” programs who was devastated to learn after her husband’s death, that he had died uncertain of her love for him.  She said she knew she loved him but had not realised he needed her to tell him.  The depth of the regret that poor woman felt was another timely lesson for me to always tell my husband, children, family and even my friends, of my love for them and my appreciation of them.

A person that I worked with came from a culture where men were considered as more important than women and money and success were so important that the men could have been considered by “happy-go-lucky” Australians as insensitive and mean.  In his culture forgiveness did not seem to be a priority.  I had a number of discussions about forgiveness with this young man whose idea of an apology was to say with a certain vehemence; “I will forgive – but I will never forget!”  

Was I wrong in believing that part of forgiving is wiping the slate clean and forgetting the grievance altogether?  I remember with some amusement how hard it was as a child to say those two words; “I’m sorry” but, the effort was always rewarded with a smile or a hug and the feeling of reassurance that I was loved anyway.

Before I had children of my own I was secretly highly amused when I visited one of my brothers and his wife; and their son was sent to his room for doing something naughty and told that he could come out when he was ready to say he was sorry.  Next thing my brother came back to join his wife, my husband and me in the family room and beckoned us to creep down the hall to listen to my nephew practicing his apology over and over with dubious success in sincerity as he faltered over those two soooooooooooo hard to say words – I’m sorry!  By the time the five or six year old reappeared in the family room he had mastered the delivery of his apology and somehow all four adults managed to keep a completely straight face.  

Yes, my dear little nephew learned that day forgiveness can be a joy – both for the giver and the receiver!     

I smiled as I thought about the wonderful father that my nephew had to guide him through life.  As my big brother, he had taught me valuable lessons about doing myself a favour and “letting go” of things that I could not change.  When I was in 6th class in Primary School I was coming home from school most days in a state of distress because I had been “kept in” with the whole class until a full blackboard of arithmetic had been finished.  This was a punishment for bad behaviour by a group of girls who habitually disrupted the last lesson of the day which was always history, which I really loved and during which I never did anything even remotely out of order.  The real unfairness of keeping in those who were well behaved, became intolerable for me because I was not ever good at maths and the badly behaved girls would rush through the punishment in record time and skip off home, while I was always the last person to finish and by then my bus had gone and I had to walk the four or five kilometres home from school.  My brother gently persuaded me that this was something I could not change and that it was not helping me to get upset and worry about the naughty girls not being punished.  He even suggested that my maths just might improve as a result of the extra work that was set almost every day.  So I learned that life is not always fair, but it is much easier if you forgive those people you can and accept that you can’t change some things. 

Put simply my older brother taught me; “It’s not so much what happens to you in life – it is more about how you choose to deal with what happens to you.” 

More than 50 years later a friend who was then in his eighties wrote wonderful stories about his early life in Rabaul, which he described as a “Tropical wonderland for children”.  One day he told a delightful anecdote about how, when he was a young boy, he stole a box of matches from the kitchen servants and started a wild grass fire. 

The next morning his mother told him “You had better go to Sunday school and ask God to help you stop being a naughty boy.”   He had the feeling from his mother’s tone that he was going to be “In deep trouble for some time.”  Unfortunately, that morning my friend’s Sunday School Teacher showed a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus and pointed out how sad Jesus was as she told the kids; “You can see how He suffered for us in this picture – just look at His sad face and His head hanging down with the crown of sharp thorns on it.”  The teacher then continued; “He suffered because of all the naughty things we have done.”    

l'eglise - St. Etienne (St. Stephen), Bar - sur - Seinne, France
Author - Mattana -  Mattis :  Wikipedia Commons Licence (c) free

As this was the first time my friend had ever seen a picture of the crucifixion and he admitted that as a child he was “naughty every day” he became very worried and began to think that his naughtiness had contributed to the agony of Jesus on the cross.  The teacher then handed each child a copy of the picture and told the children to try and keep inside the lines and do their best work because; “Jesus likes children who always try to do their best work”.

I have often wondered since hearing this story, how many children have been made anxious by their Sunday School lessons.  Perhaps this teacher did not properly explain the crucifixion using “love” words like the Rev. John used in his sermon on Sunday; “The cross is God's ultimate act of love and forgiveness. What God did through Jesus was not correct or legal or right. Rather it was pure love. God said to all humanity, ‘There is nothing that you can do that will end my love for you.’ 

It irritates God when we don't share the love and forgiveness we have received. So, forgive someone -- today!”

Do you ever come across a Bible reading that surprises you with harsh thoughts and violent stories and do you sometimes have problems fitting things together in the overall messages of love, peace and harmony? I liked the Rev. John’s thoughts about the text that he took for his Sermon because it offered a more gentle way of looking at God’s threats of the torture that might come our way if we hold back some of our debts to others and refuse to forgive those who have sinned against us.  This is just God acting as a parent and demanding a high standard from us when we are dealing with all His people. 

“It may be that the torture described in the text is just what happens to us when we refuse to forgive. The choice seems to be whether we will be right and miserable, wrong and miserable, or whether we will be forgiving and happy. There are some very clear words about this from Jesus that we all know: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," or in the familiar translation, "Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Amen.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

No Person is an Island

September 10, 2020 - 12:45pm


On Sunday 6th September the Rev. John looked at the human traditions of community in his Reflection and he began by saying; “Solitary experience is contrary to human nature because we are social animals. For all human history life has been lived in the context of communities of one sort or another. This, of course, is simply sociology or anthropology. It is a neutral observation, because communities can be good and bad.”  

In the 21st Century there has been a significant interest and practical adoption of social anthropology by much of society.  I have been impressed by the appointment of anthropologists by charities and commercial companies seeking to expand their work into third world countries, while being committed to avoid disruption of the traditions and cultures of those communities.  I know of and commend some great work done by Microsoft Anthropologists to enable third world village women to play a role in supporting their families through culturally acceptable home businesses set up through donations of equipment and training that does not upset the balance of those societies.  

The U.K. Economic and Social Research Council promotes the study of Social Anthropology on its website, saying; “Social anthropology plays a central role in an era when global understanding and recognition of diverse ways of seeing the world are of critical social, political and economic importance. Social anthropology uses practical methods to investigate philosophical problems about the nature of human life in society.”

While on a river cruise through Germany about ten years ago my husband and I were taken by bus into the city of Nuremberg for a tour of the city and a visit to the “Documentation Centre”.   We were not really sure what this involved, but were to discover that this is simply a name for their Museum about Nuremberg and the Nazi years.  This name was derived to avoid any possibility of glorifying the Nazi History, but is also supposed to underline the evil past and give no place or focus for neo Nazi’s to enjoy or have as a rally point.

Ninety percent of Nuremberg was destroyed by the Allied bombings so most of the city was built after the end of World War Two with much of it in the very bland 50s and 60s styles of architecture.  Some areas were rebuilt in their original style and look older than they are.

It was hard to know what to expect from our guided tour - but the impressive young guide we had was a sociol anthropology graduate from the local university and his “lectures” were very much based on sociology lines with absolutely no attempt to excuse or avoid the difficult moral issues that must be confronted by German people today.  Obviously, even with all the training in sociology and the attempts to apply all the theories of human behaviour, it appeared that he and the current generations cannot understand or comprehend how a whole generation of good people could have been drawn into such moral destitution that allowed the Nazis to do the terrible things they did.  We had been wondering how a guide could approach the history of Nuremberg for an audience of visitors from several cultures and the attitude of this educated young man filled us with some hope for the future.  We all know the quote by Edmund Burke; “All that is required for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.”

We were surprised to learn that many of the dreaded concentration camps were already in use in the early 1930s and we also learned some of the reasons why Nuremberg, with its central location and long history as a trading centre with successful Jewish traders who had also suffered a terrible massacre in 1298, became of such interest to Adolf Hitler and his Nazis.  Nuremberg was the site of the first German railway and became a huge hub and this contributed to its role as the venue for the huge Nazi rallies from 1927 to 1938.  It was incredible to stand in the vast place where these rallies we have all seen on TV or movies took place. 

Scene of the Nazi mass marches (above)

Photos of Nazi march displayed in the Documentation Centre (below)

We learned details of Hitler's wild plans and dreams of impressing the world with his might and power and learned how some of those plans were flawed from the start.  In his megalomania he appears through history as a really pathetic figure as you stand and view the failures of his building plans with the evidence of his unfinished projects which he refused to hear just could not work.   We found it quite moving to stand below the windows of Court 61 as we listened to our guide’s descriptions of the Nuremberg Trials that took place there.

Courtroom for Nuremberg War Crime Trials
I found that in some ways the feelings of the young Germans paralleled with the thoughts of many Australians about the ill treatment of our aborigines – while we don’t feel personally responsible for what was done, we can’t quite understand how other essentially good Australians allowed it to happen.

The Rev. John then spoke of the difficulties we humans have living harmoniously in the communities we crave.  He said; “The bad is easy to recognise, because the history of humankind is as much as anything a history of war and conflict. We read in the record of the past and see in the news of our day that humans have great difficulty getting along with one another—whether it be in the neighbourhood, village, city, state, nation, or world.”

Sadly, there are currently many dangers to the traditions of community looming, as a result of this distracting Covid 19 Pandemic, because the “rules” of keeping people safe from the deadly virus, contravene the way those who “gather together in Jesus’ name” care for each other and share their love of God, their troubles and their triumphs.  Daily we see the tragedy of Christians being locked out of their churches, children being locked out of their schools, workers being dismissed from their jobs, old people being locked in their retirement villages, families kept apart and bosses who have built up businesses and taken satisfaction in knowing they provide security and keep families safe from homelessness, hunger and distress all fall into some level of despair. 

Yet it goes much deeper even than that and our feeling of the loss of our freedom threatens all communities and the very ties that hold them together and deliver a measure of good, kindness and justice in our society.

Freedom is; liberty, autonomy, lack of restrictions, self-determination, independence, choice, free will, and sovereignty.  I decided long ago that to live in complete freedom I would need to leave my husband, children and grandchildren, and cut off all ties with friends and neighbours.  I would need to leave all behind and move to a place with no laws or rules; where no one would question any of my actions.  No matter how anti-social or selfish I was, there would be no one to control my dominion or question my rights. 

And there would be no one to care!  Yet caring for and being cared for by other humans is one of life’s great rewards and joys.

Do I want freedom if that is the price?  No - I like to be held accountable for my actions; and I consider it my moral duty to obey the laws of Australia and to follow the rules of God as set out in the Bible.  I believe it is a privilege to have a husband and family to share my life, even though this means they sometimes expect me to do something for them in return for the love we share.  I also enjoy being a part of a sociable community.

In order to keep this civilized and enlightened social order that we call society, the enforcement of rules and laws must generally be seen to be the right outcome to preserve the rights of the majority.  It is in fact ironic, that the price for a person who exercises what they may consider to be their personal freedom, in an anti-social way in a “civilised” society, is often punishment by fines or imprisonment, inflicted by that same society. 

This of course, brings up questions about the morality of the deprivation of freedom in many specific circumstances.  Particularly in these disrupted times, many previously law abiding but frustrated people are questioning the mandatory removal or suspension of their previously guarded and accepted “human rights” and the right of society to punish them for breaking these “new laws of humanity” being made to protect the life and health of us all – even strangers.  I suppose it is selfishness that stops those who can’t see and understand that to protect their own loved ones and even themselves, they must consider the needs of everyone not only in their own society, but also in other connected societies throughout the world.

The Rev. John said in his sermon; “We do gather in Jesus’ name. We re-call him to presence with us. And that makes him a part of us and of what we do. That is what we experience at each Eucharist—we in him and he in us. But we don’t celebrate Eucharist alone. If only the priest shows up for a mid-week service, for instance, there will be no celebration of the Eucharist. There is no community for whom to break bread.”  This reminded me of an interesting moment in 2011 when my husband and I arrived at a beautiful church in the French village of Bergholtz-Zell very late on a Friday afternoon; after a beautiful day spent looking for the most perfect village along the famous Alsace wine route.   

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name"
Bergholtz-Zell Church, Alsace, France

The church is famous for its exquisite wooden carvings, but as we quietly entered, we discovered that the priest was talking to two women in the church and he was ready to start a service where there really were just “two or three people gathered together in God’s name”.  As the service began, I found it both sad and yet lovely to see the fulfilment of this often quoted phrase, although I was a little disappointed to see that the two ladies stood one behind the other in about the fourth and fifth rows back from the priest in the front of the church.   As our understanding of the French language was almost completely non-existent, we quietly left the church and continued on our journey.

The conclusion from the Rev. John was; “Today Jesus makes it clear how important we are one to another. Through our link to one another through Christ, there is a power in our community, uniting the values of God to our values on earth. This is how Jesus enables us to use God’s power for making healing and life-giving love more effective among God’s people. We come together, we stay together, we work together—in our Lord's name, bringing to focus the presence of God and unleashing the power of the Spirit to transform our lives and the lives of all God’s children.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

John Wesley - Peace is Never Easy

September 5, 2020 - 3:45am


Over the past month we have learned a lot about the Rev. John Wesley and last week our Rev. John highlighted his conservatism and his loyalty to King and Country.  This week the Rev John spoke in his sermon of Wesley’s Thoughts of War.  In his book “John Wesley for the 21st Century” John O’Gooch wrote; “John Wesley was not fond of war.  He did not leap to the notion that we have to support the King in time of war, no matter what.”   O’Gooch stressed that Wesley tended to blame both sides equally in war – including the American War of Independence - certainly a battle of his own time. Gooch also stated; “And yet Wesley was not a Pacifist.  He thought war was foolish and wasteful and there should be better ways of solving international disputes.”

I’m sure there would be no argument about this from any ordinary, thinking and fair minded person some almost 230 years after his death.  While a Chaplain in New Guinea in 1943 my father wrote home in a letter; “What a mad futile business war is!”

In 21stCentury Australia when we think of war most of us will think about those wars that we Australians, our parents or our grandparents and for some even their Great Grandparents, took part in at the end of the 19th Century and during the 20th Century.   “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them” is a quote attributed to George Elliot the author, who died in 1888.  We older people have probably already passed on our personal memories and thoughts about war in some way to the following generations.  I have already written about my father and others in World War 11 as part of my Family’s History and also shared some of those stories about World War 11 with the readers of Margaret’s Blog.

For the centenary of the Great War of 1914-1918 I was inspired to write a book to share the memories of my husband’s grandfather’s family.   I called the book, “One Australian Family’s War 1914-1918 and beyond.”  My husband’s Grandfather died on the Western Front in January 1917 and another brother left to serve at the front just two weeks after his brother’s death.  Their younger brother had already died from wounds the day after the Gallipoli landing.  One of their first cousins died in May 1915 and his body was never identified.  He is one of 4223 Australians commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, along with another cousin who died unidentified at the Battle of Lone Pine in August 1915 and a third cousin who died in July 1916.  He was one of the Lost Soldiers of Fromelles and his identification in 2015 brought large numbers of their scattered families together to share our family history more widely and discover new family ties and friends. This also brought about amazing links between our families and some wonderful French people from the towns of Fromelles and Villers-Bretteneaux and the present day children of the schools in those towns who have carried on the traditions of previous generations from their towns and “Always Remembered Australia” and our soldiers.  Think bush fires!  Do you remember all the “good news” stories after our summer bush-fires when these and other French communities once again made generous donations to our Australian country people to care for our native animals and repair our schools.

In all eight first cousins of my husband’s grandfather, brother and three cousins, who died in France and Turkey also left Australia to fight for “the Empire” on the other side of the world.   This story is not unique, but is a heartbreaking reminder to us all of the horror, stupidity and heartbreak of war.  However, as a Christian, it helps me to believe that even in the worst possible circumstances we can look for and find love, loyalty, ingenuity, forgiveness and ultimately even be inspired by the good in humans as we ponder God’s “mysterious ways.”  By writing for my family and sharing my thoughts with a much wider family group I hope that in some minute way I may be helping to reduce the bitterness in the world and help people to work towards peace and understanding with responsible reporting of the “people’s history”.  As I wrote in this Blog some weeks ago; my Christian values tell me that tolerance is the glue that holds any society together. My book about war began;

Each year the moving Service of Commemoration held at Anzac Cove Gallipoli on 25th April takes place against the gradually changing backdrop of Anzac Cove in Turkey, with a mesmerising change from a dark night sky to a beautiful pink tinged pale blue dawn sky. The gentle lapping of the water and the silent expectation and reverence of the crowd presents an extreme contrast to the scene in 1915 when hell broke loose in that place.

The “trouble in the Balkans” which finally led to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro - Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 brewed and had many eruptions before the declaration of this first truly global war. The often used term, “trouble in the Balkans” is in itself an expression of the inability of any person to completely understand the complexity of the situation which was partly geographical, partly cultural and partly historical, but was rooted in the legacies of centuries of other wars and unsatisfactory and conflicting peace treaties between the many opponents. It was eventually bound to ignite into uncontrolled chaos and that fateful shot at Sarajevo in 1914 was the trigger that unleashed the horrendous consequences which changed the world forever.

In his speech during the Anzac Day Service in 2014, the Governor General of New Zealand, Sir Jerry Mateparae said; “When we remember our brave forebears we pay them the honour they deserve. It is also a time for reflection on war and its impact. And it is a chance to enlighten new generations about the events that shaped their world, and to encourage them to strive for peace. Looking out from where I stand this morning, it is very moving to see so many people assembled for this Dawn Service and to know Anzac Day services are taking place in many countries throughout the world. The scale of these commemorations shows how deeply people have been affected by what happened here.” During his speech, the Governor General quoted Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian for the Minister for Culture and Heritage, the organisation chosen to plan the Centenary of Anzac Celebrations for New Zealand. Neill Atkinson said: “History is a responsibility we carry with us now and into the future”.

My husband is currently reading a book, entitled “The Great War” written by John Terraine, which was first published in 1965, and he shared this emotional quote from a German man Rudolph Binding (page 46).  Rudolf Binding was born in Basel in 1867. He studied medicine and law before joining the Hussars. On the outbreak of the First World War, Binding, who was forty-six years old, became commander of a squadron of dragoons. Except for a four-month period in Galicia in 1916, Binding spent the whole of the war on the Western Front.  His diary and letters, “A Fatalist at War”, was published in 1927. His collected war poems, stories and recollections were not published until after his death in 1938, rather ironically just before the horror was about to be repeated, although it was actually written by Rudolph on, or very close to, the 11th November 1914 – only about three months after the Great War started and exactly four years before that war ended.  This was written by a German soldier in the context and immediate aftermath of the “First Battle of Ypres”, and at that time British losses alone had reached 89,000 with The Ypres battle alone accounting for 58,000.

Rudolph Binding, in his gloomy billet in Flanders, found time to set his feelings down“When one sees the wasting, burning villages and towns, plundered cellars and attics in which the troops have pulled everything to pieces in the blind instinct of self-preservation, dead or half-starved animals, cattle bellowing in the sugar beet fields and then corpses, corpses and corpses, streams of wounded one after another – then everything becomes senseless, a lunacy, a horrible bad joke of peoples and their history, an endless reproach to mankind, a negation of all civilization, killing all the belief in the capacity of mankind and men for progress, a desecration of what is Holy, so that one feels that all human beings are doomed in this war”. Then John Terraine continued; “It is a matter for awe to see how race after race was drawn in”.

Before 1914 the Great Powers were in two big alliance blocs: The Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The Triple Alliance (which consisted of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) later drew in more allies and was joined by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey plus the Middle East) and Bulgaria - its allies were then known as the Central Powers.  The war also quickly involved other countries who joined with the Triple Entente of France Russia and Britain, so the opposing side became known as the Allies and included Serbia, Russia, France and its Empire, Belgium, Montenegro and Britain and its Empire - including self-governing colonies like Canada and Australia.  Italy changed sides and joined the Allies in 1915. Other Allied nations included Portugal, Japan, Greece, Romania, China and, towards the end of the war, various South American countries, including Brazil and Peru. The United States fought alongside the Allies from 1917, but as an ‘Associated Power’ with no formal military alliance.

And what did it all achieve?  Four imperial dynasties—the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, the sultanate of the Ottoman Empire, and the Romanovs of Russia—collapsed as a direct result of the war, and the map of Europe was changed forever. The United States emerged as a world power, and new technology made warfare deadlier than ever before.  And once again the failure of negotiated Peace, along with the rise of Fascism in Italy, German aggression in Europe, the worldwide Great Depression and the rolling eruption of sniping invasions and unrest throughout the world, the hell of a Second World War was soon killing military persons and civilians in their millions amidst senseless destruction beyond belief.

There is no doubt, without God we humans make a mess of things!  The Rev John said in conclusion; “The Beatitudes call us above all to a sense of openness before God. We don’t see God until we see the face of Christ in others, we learn to do that by pursuing justice and kindness toward all people. We don’t see God until we stop trying to control and begin learning to walk humbly in God’s presence. But when we practice doing justice and loving kindness and walking in humility, the Spirit continues to work in our hearts, purifying us. And blessed are the pure in heart, for they are seeing God.” 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

John Wesley; Faith and Politics

August 29, 2020 - 1:38am


“How Far Is It the Duty of a Christian Minister to Preach Politics?” This was the title and the question posed in a short essay written by the Rev. John Wesley in 1782.  Like many people of his time John Wesley appears to have still been a believer in the “Divine Right of Kings” at a time when England was steadily moving into a state of Constitutional Monarchy.  In his sermon on Sunday 16th August, the Rev. John said; “Unfortunately, he (Wesley) confines the preaching of politics to defending the King, and the King’s ministers, against slanders and lies”.

History is sometimes unkind to the memory of certain historic figures and poor old King George 111 is one such maligned figure; with any mention of him quickly leading to stories of his “madness” and the loss of the American Colonies after the War of Independence from 1775 to 1783 during his reign.  But George 111 was actually a much more interesting King in changing times with problems like the threat of the Jacobites and Bonny Prince Charlie and France eager to retaliate against Great Britain following their defeat during the Seven Years' War.  There were also various conflicts against Napoleonic France which started in 1793 and led to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

In 1751 young George’s father died, making him the heir to his grandfather King George 11 who died in 1760.  George 111 was only 22 when he became King and he was the first of the Hanoverian kings to be born in England and call English his first language, although he spoke fluent German and also learned to speak French. 

He was one of Britain’s most cultured monarchs and he set a good example by loving and respecting his wife and taking no mistress.  George 111 and his wife Charlotte had 15 children with 13 surviving into adulthood. 

George 111 seems to have shared some of the interests that inspired the Rev. John Wesley and it is easy to understand that the King would have gained the approval of Wesley.  The King started a new royal collection of books and 65,000 of his books were later given to the British Museum, as the King’s Library and the nucleus of a national library.  He also had two other private book collections at Windsor which indicate the diversity of the King’s interests, like science, agriculture and farming.  He was nicknamed “Farmer George” for his great interest in agriculture.   George 111 studied science as part of his education and he had his own astronomical observatory.  The Science Museum now has a collection of some of his scientific instruments on display.  George 111 made accurate drawings and calculations of the Transit of Venus across the Sun on 23rd June, 1769 and accurately forecast further transits in 1874 and 2004.

To be fair, I should write something of the genetic illness called porphyria, long thought to be the cause of the mental instability and blindness that increasingly afflicted him with serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801.  It was not until 1810 that King George 111 became permanently deranged and was declared mentally unfit to rule.  His eldest son – who later ruled in his own right as George IV - acted as Prince Regent from 1811. As a result of new studies of King George 111’s letters and analyses of language and style of writing, there is growing belief the King may have been suffering from hypomania which is now called bipolar disorder as far as I can work out.  It appears that he was given arsenic poison to “cure” him and that could have made his situation so much worse.  I am so glad that I live in the 21stcentury aren’t you?

I should return to the Rev. John’s thoughts about John Wesley’s essay; “Three times in this short essay, he says that the chief business of the clergy is to preach Christ, and Christ crucified. That seems to sum up Wesley’s attitude toward the political system. That attitude is almost a hands-off one. Don’t bother with politics, except to set the record straight when people lie about the King or the King’s ministers.”

“Wesley did advise Methodist voters about voting. He told them they should vote morally, that is, they should not accept bribes or other favours in return for their votes. In addition, he said, they should vote for the candidate that “loves God”. If there were no candidate who loves God, then they should vote for the one who supports King George. That’s a pretty direct statement, in terms of telling people how to vote!”

There is no doubt that apart from basic moral advice, any advice on dealing with the political system and voting offered by the Rev. John Wesley would indeed have little relevance to the world today.  In the world we live in today politics seem to be freely discussed and are no longer considered “taboo” in polite society, but I still personally prefer to refrain from serious political discussions because each person is entitled to their own opinion and I would hate to restrict my list of dear friends to those who vote the same way that I do.  Although many people freely share their views, I would not even ask my children or grandchildren about their political leanings. 

As I look back and consider the formation of my childhood impressions about the social, political and religious issues of that time I realise that probably most children of the forties and fifties were as confused and ill-informed as I was.  There was still a great deal of discussion about, and residual poverty and pain from “the depression” and “the war”, although these two occurrences were never explained to young children at the time - and of course - having been born during the war, I had no personal memories to draw on. 

History seems to indicate that the decade before my birth was an age of confusing attitudes about “patriotism”, fear of the development of a distinctly Australian political identity, and a desperate clinging to the protection of “the Mother Country”.  As time passes and Australians become more generations removed from British ties and begin to mix with people of many other cultures these British traditions are perhaps harder for younger people to fully understand.  However, when I consider that the largest proportion of both mine and my husband’s great-grandparents were born in England, Scotland or Ireland this loyalty was not surprising. I could only remember the Liberal Party being in power and Robert Menzies being Australia’s Prime Minister (1949 to 1966) and he and Britain’s Winston Churchill were highly regarded by my parents although they never actually revealed their support in so many words.  With the passage of time most of us realise that perhaps history is not always reliable! As some bright spark quoted; “History is always written by the winners!”

However, I will give the Rev. John Wesley the last word with a quote from a letter he wrote on the 8th February 1772.  “I commend you for meddling with points of controversy as little as possible.  It is abundantly easier to lose our love in that rough field than to find truth.”  

Although I think I also need to point to the Rev. John’s summing up of John Wesley’s thoughts; “All through his life, Wesley leaned on the biblical idea of obedience to the powers that be. See Romans 13 for an expression of this idea. Wesley would also warn us to be humble about confusing our own political opinions with the will of God. And, incredibly important for a time when only a small majority of eligible voters actually do vote, Wesley would urge us to get to the polls!

Wesley would return us to Jesus. The same Jesus who calls us to our true, ultimate, and permanent citizenship. He makes that possible for us through his life, teaching, death, resurrection, and continuing presence with us. Our true citizenship will be at the heavenly banquet. The seating arrangements at the heavenly banquet are going to be interesting.

The ticket into the heavenly banquet is salvation, by grace, through faith. It is not connected to our works, either good or bad. It is a free gift from God. The passport to heaven is not something of this world. We receive it when we surrender to the love of God and claim Jesus as Saviour.”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Thoughts upon God and Slavery

August 23, 2020 - 12:47pm


It is true that some cruel forms of slavery still flourish in many places in the “enlightened” world today.  This is a really hard thought for us to process in our democratic and comfortable society isn’t it?  It is inconceivable to most humans (we hope) that one person can own another person and be in total control of their lives – or indeed, whether they live or die.  However, when I consider slavery and it becomes clear that historically many slave owners professed Christianity and some even used quotes from the Bible as an “excuse” for their treatment of fellow humans, I feel desperately ashamed of their behaviour and sad to know just how many times over the centuries slavery has reared its ugliness and horror.

On Sunday 9th August the Rev. John told us that “Although the Rev. John Wesley claimed to have been opposed to slavery from the first time, he heard of it, …we do not know with certainty when he first heard of slavery. He might have come into contact with slaves in England.” 

However, we do know that; “In 1736-7, Wesley visited North America including Georgia, which was then a British colony, and there he came into contact with enslaved people. This experience left him with a loathing of slavery but at first, he felt unable to act on this.” 

In 1774, he wrote that tract called "Thoughts on Slavery" that went into four editions in two years.  In it, he attacked the Slave Trade and the slave-trader with considerable passion and proposed a boycott of slave-produced sugar and rum. In August 1787, he wrote to the Abolition Committee to express his support.  In 1788, when the abolition campaign was at its height, he preached a sermon in Bristol, one of the foremost slave trading ports. In those days, an anti-slavery sermon could not be preached without considerable personal risk to the preacher and a disturbance broke out.  He maintained an interest in the abolition movement until he died.”

Although John Wesley noted in his journal that he did not like a sentimental style of writing, he seems to have written his “Thoughts on Slavery” in a deliberately impassioned style in order to strengthen his moral, religious and economic arguments.  He made no apologies to those who are sensitive about the truths that he has written.  He has been credited with being the first advocate for the abolition of slavery to make his arguments with sentimental rhetoric, which became the model for the subsequent debates against slavery.

Wesley also famously said: "Give liberty to whom liberty is due, that is, to every child of man, to every partaker of human nature. Let none serve you, but by his own act and deed, by his own voluntary action. Away with all whips, all chains, all compulsion. Be gentle toward all men; and see that you invariably do with everyone as you would he should do unto you."

It is not easy reading, yet I feel compelled to share a few of John Wesley’s “Thoughts on Slavery” – with apologies for this shocking content.  The problems of greed and the lack of kindness, care, understanding and love have overwhelmed society and allowed unbelievable evil to overcome good often throughout history.  People like John and Charles Wesley, William Wilberforce, John Newton, Lord Mansfield and many others were the right people for their time and were willing to work together and be examples of the power of working with the love of God as your strength.  On 22 May 1787, the first meeting of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade took place, bringing like-minded British Quakers and Anglicans together in the same organisation for the first time.  All the Abolitionist organisations working to free the slaves in America and the British and other colonies were making progress against the terrible problems of greed, dependence on slaves and the cruelty it brought to hundreds of thousands of the innocent victims were at last gaining momentum.

In his booklet, John Wesley gave DETAILED information from various sources about the orderly and calm nature and life of the inhabitants of the coast of Africa from which huge numbers of native people were seized, transported and sold as slaves.  He noted these details to quash the stories of the kidnappers that they were “saving” them from a terrible environment where few could survive!

“The Gold-Coast and Slave-Coast, all who have seen it agree, is exceeding fruitful and pleasant, producing vast quantities of rice and other grain, plenty of fruit and roots, palm-wine, and oil, and fish in great abundance, with much tame and wild cattle. The very same account is given us of the soil and produce of the kingdoms of Benin, Congo and Angol--From all which it appears, That Guinea in general, far from being an horrid, dreary, barren country, is one of the most fruitful, as well as the most pleasant countries in the known world. It is said indeed to be unhealthy. And so it is to strangers, but perfectly healthy to the native inhabitants.

Such is the country from which the negroes are brought. We come next to enquire, What sort of men they are, of what temper and behaviour, not in our plantations, but in their native country. And here likewise the surest way is to take our account from eye and ear witnesses. Now those who have lived in the Senegal country observe, it is inhabited by three nations, the Jaloss, Fulis, and Mandingos. The king of the Jaloss has under him several ministers, who assist in the exercise of justice. The chief justice goes in circuit through all his dominions, to hear complaints and determine controversies. And the viceroy goes with him, to inspect the behaviour of the Alkadi, or Governor of each village.

The Mandingos, says Mons. Brue, are rigid Mahometans, drinking neither wine nor brandy. They are industrious and laborious, keeping their ground well cultivated, and breeding a good flock of cattle. Every town has a governor, and he appoints the labour of the people. The men work the ground designed for corn; the women and girls, the rice-ground.  He afterwards divides the corn and rice among them: And decides all quarrels if any arise. All the Mahometan negroes constantly go to public prayers thrice a day: there being a priest in every village, who regularly calls them together:  And so the reports of the places and people go on.

We have now seen, what kind of country it is, from which the negroes are brought: And what sort of men (even whitemen being the judges) they were in their own country. Enquire we, Thirdly, In what manner are they generally procured, carried to, and treated in America.

First. In what manner are they procured? Part of them by fraud. Captains of ships from time to time, have invited negroes to come on board, and then carried them away. But far more have been procured by force. The Christians landing upon their coasts, seized as many as they found, men, women and children, and transported them to America. It was about 1551, that the English began trading to Guinea: At first, for gold and elephants teeth, but soon after, for men. In 1566, Sir John Hawkins sailed with two ships to Cape Verd, where he sent eighty men on shore to catch negroes. But the natives flying, they fell farther down, and there set the men on shore, "to burn their towns and take the inhabitants." But they met with such resistance, that they had seven men killed, and took but ten negroes. So they went still farther down, till having taken enough, they proceeded to the West-Indies, and sold them*.

It was some time before the Europeans found a more compendious way of procuring African slaves, by prevailing upon them to make war upon each other, and to sell their prisoners.  Till then they seldom had any wars: But were in general quiet and peaceable. But the white men first taught them drunkenness and avarice, and then hired them to sell one another. Nay, by this means, even their kings are induced to sell their own subjects.

Such is the manner wherein the Negroes are procured! Thus the Christians preach the gospel to the heathens!           

Thus they are procured. But in what numbers and in what manner are they carried to America?--Mr. Anderson in his History of trade and commerce, observes, "England supplies her American colonies with Negro slaves, amounting in number to about an hundred thousand every year." That is, so many are taken on board our ships; but at least ten thousand of them die in the voyage: About a fourth part more die at the different Islands, in what is called the Seasoning. So that at an average, in the passage and seasoning together, thirty thousand die: That is, properly are murdered. O earth, O Sea, cover not thou their blood!

When they are brought down to the shore in order to be sold, our surgeons thoroughly examine them, and that quite naked, women and men, without any distinction: Those that are approved are set on one side. In the mean time a burning iron, with the arms or name of the Company, lies in the fire, with which they are marked on the breast. Before they are put into the ships, their masters strip them of all they have on their backs: So that they come on board stark naked, women as well as men. It is common for several hundreds of them to be put on board one vessel; where they are stowed together in as little room, as it is possible for them to be crowded. It is easy to suppose what a condition they must soon be in, between heat, thirst, and stench of various kinds. So that it is no wonder, so many should die in the passage; but rather, that any survive it.”  

I will not burden you with the horrendous laws that John Wesley wrote about in his Booklet – laws that were made for the punishments to be metered out to slaves.  However, he did record; “The author of the history of Jamaica, wrote about the year 1740, in his account of the sufferings of the negroes; The people of that island have indeed the severest ways of punishing; no country exceeds them in a barbarous treatment of their slaves, or in the cruel methods by which they are put to death.”

The Rev. John concluded his Sermon: “Slavery continues to flourish in our world today. People who are hungry, homeless, or otherwise vulnerable are lured into debt slavery because they are promised a better life. Some of them are forced into prostitution. Some are forced labourers. Some are illegal immigrants who pay large fees to an “agent,” who smuggles them into a nation, and then keeps them in virtual slavery because of the debts run up. Some are children sold as jockeys, as prostitutes, as labourers. Some are farm labourers whose parents passed on debts to them and they will, in turn, pass those debts on their children.”

“The greatest riches are spiritual and moral.  And they are produced by a Gospel-enlivened society organically rooted in stable marriages and families, chastity, sobriety, self-denial, thrift, hard work and moral responsibility.  These virtues and practices are rightly encouraged by churches, which are called to redeem the fallen, and governments, which are responsible for public order.”

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Was John Wesley "The man who saved England"?

August 14, 2020 - 2:06am

Late in the year 2019 and before the arrival of the disruption to life in most countries with the Covid 19 Pandemic early in 2020, a small group of our Marsden Road church members had been involved in a study of a book called “John Wesley for the 21stCentury” by John O. Gooch.  The Rev. John was asked if the Marsden Road Congregation could hold a series of services and further studies, a family tea and other “old fashioned traditional” events to remind us of the importance of community and spirituality of people who claim to live as Christians. This was all planned for August 2020 as “Wesley Weeks” and I suppose you could say that there was a yearning for the Wesley way of the old Methodist Churches and perhaps a longing and a social need for a new Revival. 

Despite the strict health rules and the constraints about meetings and gatherings as measures to keep people in Australia as safe as possible, it can be said that, at Marsden Road Church we are all living with these constraints as well as possible.  So we are proceeding with the “Wesley Weeks” plans with a few necessary changes.  The Rev. John is leading five more weekly studies for those who are able to attend via “Zoom” and he will be presenting specially focused sermons about John Wesley and some of his social work, causes and beliefs.  On Sunday the 2nd August the Rev. John’s sermon focused on the life and work of the Rev. John Wesley and his brother Charles, with special reference to John’s particular interest in science, which was the topic of the study via Zoom on the previous Wednesday evening. In this sermon, the Rev. John wrote; “An insatiable reader, Wesley read scientific works throughout his life, often from the back of his horse.” … “From his own reading and the advice of others, he developed short lists of scientific works for his correspondents, schools, and lay preachers. These collections included older works by John Ray, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards as well as current works by Benjamin Franklin, Charles Bonnet, John Hutchinson, and Oliver Goldsmith. Wesley followed the debates that swirled around the various interpretations of Newton's ideas.”

As usual the sermons are available in full on the Marsden Road Church website each week, so you can read them there.  There is also a wealth of information on the internet in the form of countless history articles and many excellent YouTube videos, so I am wondering what path can we follow for the weekly blogs?  

John Wesley certainly spoke up and recorded his views clearly in all his writings and 40,000 sermons which he is said to have preached - and his brother Charles certainly gave us wonderful hymns to sing in praise of God.  I wonder who among us doesn’t take a deep breath and approach a Charles Wesley hymn with enthusiasm and a degree of thoughtfulness?

Having had only one attempt to ride a horse and having to retreat to have a long soak in a hot bath because I could barely walk; I certainly admire John Wesley’s determination and strength when I read that in all he travelled on horseback for about 400,000 kilometres and used the time often to study and read.  Today’s piece of trivia is the note I saw in one article, that said John Wesley had “Ridden his horse to the moon.”

I became interested in the Wesley family as a whole many years ago now, when I became deeply involved in family history and I read notes written by ancestors who had known my maternal GGG grandfather the Rev. John Mayor personally.  I was fascinated to learn that the Methodist Church began in the heart of the Anglican Church and that some of my ancestors, including the father of the Rev. John Mayor were buried in the non-conformist Bunhill Fields Cemetery in London with the likes of Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley and many of the early Methodist ministers and followers. 

A young follower of John Wesley - Rev John Mayor of Shawbury
                                                   where he served as Minister for 45 years

The Rev. John Mayor entered Worcester College, Oxford in 1774 and was ordained Deacon there in 1778.  He began his ministry at Shawbury in Shropshire in June 1781 after what seems to have been a period of unrest and youthful enthusiasm - perhaps in an area where the “Methodist” Anglicans were not as well received.  He wrote that he was ordained as a Priest in September 1779 “Where I had some blessed seals to my ministry and violent opposition which ended in my quitting the curacy in a years time, Michaelmas 1780.”  It has been written by his family that the Rev. John Mayor was a great preacher and he was one of John Wesley's well known adherents and he became a leader in the Nonconformist Revival.  His niece wrote of him; “He was stirring up the Shrewsbury neighbourhood when Wesley was busy in Devon.”  In his will there is a bequest to his son of “my Psalter”and another book which were given to him by John Newton.  I feel this and some other more definite clues, support the stories of his long friendships and involvement with people who had been great workers and advocates for the “Wesley’s Revival”. 

The World Book Encyclopaedia records; “Methodism originated as a movement with groups of students at Oxford University in the late 1720's.  They helped each other to be disciplined and methodical in their study, spiritual devotions and practical good works.”  It has been well recorded that John Wesley and his brother Charles preached in the open air and the crowds were very large as they taught their listeners about “personal faith and practical good” and I believe Oxford University students continued to nurture the future generations of students to join in the revival.  When John and Charles Wesley realised that they and the few enthusiastic clergy working with them could not do all the work and provide all the spiritual support needed; John Wesley began, from 1739 on, to evaluate and approve men who had not been ordained as “local preachers” - and this proved to one of the catalysts for the growth of Methodism. 

Modern History study for the Leaving Certificate in the 1950’s began with the French Revolution and ended with the causes of World War 1.  I was captivated by all History, but then, I was fortunate that a wonderful teacher made it into a fascinating worldwide saga about the ways the “age of enlightenment” and the “twilight of princes” evolved; with reason replacing God as an explanation of the world.  With these changed religious and philosophical thoughts, more popular and nonspiritual art, inventions that led to innovations in trade, transport and technology and the huge social changes of the ensuing Industrial Revolution, came the first stirrings of the age of revolution of which the French Revolution in 1789 was only a part. 

The first Industrial Revolution began in Britain after 1750 because the country was prepared financially and already had solid financial institutions like a central bank in place to finance the new factories, and the development of new technologies to work with iron and steam power and other kinds of mass production.  The economic strength of Britain was sured-up through high taxes which were also collected from the almost boundless British Empire.  In the majority of circumstances, with little regard for the workers - these rapid changes were made to the culture and life of people who had worked on farms and in their homes and were forced to move into new industrial towns and big cities in order to work long hours for low wages and endure poor housing.  However, a few mills belonged to benevolent men who provided housing, schools and medical care.  The New Lanark Mill even had a school, a church and a Co-operative Store where prices were fair and the workers benefited from any profits.  I wonder if the owners knew John Wesley?  I am certainly sure they knew God!

The Lanark Cotton Mill was founded in 1785 and it is now a World Heritage Site

The ‘upper classes’ went ahead with the building of big new factories with expensive machines that could make even bigger fortunes for them as they exploited the poor British workers and foreign growers of spices, cotton and rich silk fabrics and every kind of exotic thing from the Empire on which it was claimed “the sun never sets.”

Is it any wonder that the “lower classes” were beginning to show dissatisfaction with their miserable lot and there were rumblings of Revolution in Britain as well as in most of Europe?  John Wesley and his Revivalists taught and encouraged their followers about the love of God, who could bring a better world for everyone if only everyone would live the Christian life.

There are those who believe that John Wesley and his Methodist Revivalists saved Britain from its own violent revolution by doing their best to bring hope into a seemingly hopeless world by their spiritual and social revival, education of the poor, the provision of food, clothing, fuel, medical help, tools and the basic needs of life in those difficult times.  They also clothed and fed prisoners and cared for the aged and helpless in need.  At Oxford, John Wesley had studied basic medicine and first aid.  So in 1746 he set up the first free medical dispensary for the poor.  His passion for helping the poor and needy was lived out by the Wesleys and their followers.  John Wesley wrote and “lived” this statement; “We give to God not by giving it to the church, but by giving it to the poor.”  He personally helped in many ways and he gave all of his own money from his prolific writing to help the poor; living only on his stipend of ₤28 per year.  “John Wesley the Man who saved England.”  If you have access to a computer, tablet or smartphone, and a spare half hour, you might find this YouTube video very interesting.  The speaker is Sydney Adventist Pastor Gary Kent.

I have “reflected” for long enough today, so I will have to catch up with the topic of slavery, that was the focus of the Rev. John’s service on Sunday 9thAugust, during the next week.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Finding the Kingdom among the realities of your life

July 31, 2020 - 3:25am

“Today Let's Picture the World as an ungainly, promising mass of dough.”  O.K. That’s different, I thought, as the Rev. John started off his Reflection/Sermon on Sunday 26th July. 
I have been living in the world for more decades than I envisaged I may have survived and I have never once in all that time imagined something as amazing, mysterious and wonderful as God’s world; in such a colourless and heartless way.  The world is sometimes a scary place, sometimes a difficult place, and sometimes a sad place.  I marvel at the miracles and the intricacy of every plant, animal, element and design of God’s amazing creations – every single day!Often my life is enriched by small unexpected moments of secret joy - moments to be hoarded like a miser’s secret treasure - to be quietly relived and enjoyed later, or to be hugged to my heart to bring warmth to the day.I am not referring to those spectacular life changing and important moments like leaving home to join my fiancé in church to marry; or like holding each of our daughters in my arms shortly after the miracle of their birth; or even the look of joy on my husband’s face as he held his first grandson in his arms.  I am writing and thinking of those almost unnoticed moments when small acts of love, thoughtfulness or kindness; or moments of overwhelming and unexpected beauty creep into my heart and enrich my life. These are magical moments; often known only to me and appreciated only by me.  Do you remember such magical secret moments?I remember such a moment as I secretly observed the look of love on a new mother’s face as she watched her Dad lean tenderly over her new son’s cot and quietly study the miracle of six hour old grandson number three, oblivious to a roomful of excited, noisy and unthinking relatives and friends who all seemed to be talking at once with little regard for the tiredness of the new mother.   I am certain the baby, now a young man, could never imagine just how much he was welcomed and loved at that moment or how the three generations were secretly and momentarily linked.  I am sure God saw that moment - and I saw it too – just a secret moment in time!The Rev John, in speaking of what he called“the one liner parable of the yeast in the flour” reminded us; “We need to be patient and to exercise discernment (try judgement shrewdness or sensitivity) if a lump of dough is ever to be bread for the world.  He continued; “And we must exercise this same patience and discernment about the universe.  Life is something other than a pile of flour and a bit of yeast. Life is an ungainly, promising mass of dough, on its way to becoming abundant bread. Just as yeast permeates the entire lump, so the kingdom is present everywhere, and everywhere it becomes manifest for those with eyes to see.”
At first I was surprised by the much repeated use of the word manifest in this sermon.  It is a word which is not used as often as it might be; so I wondered why the Rev. John liked it so much - and I looked it up in several dictionaries.   There are so many other words with a similar meaning – he must have had a reason, I thought.  Synonyms given were; obvious, clear, plain, apparent, evident, patent, palpable, distinct, definite, blatant, overt, glaring, barefaced, explicit, transparent, conspicuous, undisguised, unmistakable, unquestionable, undeniable, noticeable, perceptible, visible, recognizable, observable.  All good words.  I discovered the dictionary said; “A manifestation is the public display of emotion or feeling, or something theoretical made real.  Manifestation's origins are in religion and spirituality because if something spiritual becomes real, it is said to be a manifestation.”“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened … Jesus wants us to glimpse the kingdom of heaven, that realm where God’s sovereignty is recognised.” Sometimes in the noise and clamour of a busy shopping centre or street a moment of God’s magic is seen; everyone knows that young people who are in love walk hand in hand through the streets and the shopping centres, but how much more beautiful is the sight of an ancient Chinese man and his shuffling bandy legged wife holding hands as they walk at a snail’s pace along the street?  And why did the glimpse of an old man driving carefully through the shopping centre in his electric wheelchair, with his wife holding his hand as it rested on the armrest of his chair, bring tears of happiness to my eyes?  Because it is easy to love when you are young - and it is easy to stay in love for a short time when life is good; however, love that endures through time and life’s struggles is much harder, and in the end much more worthwhile and beautiful.   Yet it is a beauty not always noticed or appreciated, especially by the starry eyed young lovers.At times music and coincidence have also brought magic into my day.  I remember sitting with my husband in a small hotel in France in 1964 and eating our first ever Continental breakfast of dry bread rolls and coffee.  It all seemed foreign and unfriendly as the radio played in the background in the dining room, and it was strangely unnerving to feel for the first time in our lives we were unable to communicate – then suddenly Waltzing Matilda was being played on the radio, and we heard and loved every single note as never before or since.   Sometimes outside influences intervene to spoil breathtaking natural beauty.  In a huge city like Sydney the cumulative luminous effect of endless electrically lit suburbs, streets and houses diminishes the rich velvet blackness of the night skies.  How I gasped with wonder when we stopped outside the small town of Benalla near the Victorian border to appreciate the dark velvety sky splashed extravagantly with countless millions of stars not visible anywhere near large cities.  It was a breathtakingly magical moment.  How can such nightly beauty be lost to untold millions every night?  What a sad thing that is.As a student and lover of history and architecture I should probably have appreciated the grandeur and classical style of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome more closely when I visited.  However, instead I was overcome with the magical effects of the light that shone through the famous dome onto the high alter over the tomb of St. Peter.  The lighting seemed symbolic and I could visualize the Pope standing at the alter bathed in heavenly light - the true earthly leader of his people.  It was not until much later that I discovered that the Pope is the only one who is allowed to speak from the high alter.  You can see from my photo that I was not the only tourist to be enthralled by the divine light that day.
I am grateful for the unexpected joys of daily life, and I hope I always remember to take the time to appreciate all the magical moments that come my way.  I will continue to find it difficult to actually follow the Rev. John’s suggestion to “Picture the world as an ungainly, promising mass of dough.”   But yes; “The parable about the yeast in the flour does help us see something of the kingdom of heaven, that realm where God’s sovereignty is recognized.”“And when you find the kingdom among the realities of your life, nothing prevents you from finding this same kingdom present as well in the circumstances around you, in the lives of other people, and everywhere you choose to look.”“As it takes faith to believe that bread will rise, so too, faith is necessary to see the kingdom manifest in the everyday and the ordinary. We must exercise patience and discernment wherever God places us. Then we will see that what seems like a dead lump is in fact bubbling with divine life.”“So may each of us go forth this week, and encounter places and people and circumstances, and look there for the kingdom: not as distant, but near at hand; not as obvious, but hidden; not as static, but alive and becoming manifest; a kingdom making room for all of us.”“When we look for the kingdom, then we find it present, abundantly present. And when we do, then we have more reasons to give thanks than we ever expected.”
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

"Can we stamp out Darnel?" or "Gathering God's People"

July 24, 2020 - 3:53am

The Rev. John called his Reflection/Sermon on Sunday 19th July, taken from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43  “Can we stamp out Darnel” or “Gathering God’s People”.  He indicated that he had some problems tracking down the exact meaning of the word ‘darnel’ when making preparations for the sermon - so of course I immediately took my favourite dictionary down from the shelf, feeling confident of finding a satisfactory answer.  We have a wonderful two volume dictionary that my husband saved from the rubbish skip during an overzealous clean-out at his place of work many years ago.  This edition of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles” – First Published in February 1933 and updated and corrected many times was printed in 1975 so was probably not all that old when it was randomly discarded. 
This book has been a great asset in transcribing old family wills and working out the legal, property and other terms in common use in centuries passed, while doing family and general history research.  We use it all the time; often comparing it with our Australian Macquarie Dictionary which of course no Australian family should be without in their home. 

Darnel – 1. A deleterious grass, Lolium temulentum, which grows as a weed among corn.  Also a book-name of the genus Lolium.  Also Rye-grass is named and mention is made of ‘cockle’ and ‘tares’ and of “Satan’s sowing of his errors and discords.”  Upon going to Volume 2 I learned:  ‘Tare’ in early times was a name given to some seeds of vetch which appeared as weeds in cornfields. ‘Tares’ are “waste in goods” or “that which is burned” and tare weight is commonly used today regarding packing and transporting goods.  

Having once again read the “Parable of the weeds” during this week, I was reminded of my fascination with the unexpected beauty of the seemingly endless farms in France, where I took many photos of fields that seemed to have the edges sprinkled with Flanders Poppies, field daisies, wild grasses of many varieties and other obviously invading plants the farmer would have resented.  However, I found them randomly beautiful and did not even think about the nuisance to the poor farmer as I took my photos. Because I have never lived in a rural area or on a farm I think I see things a little differently and I am actually so untrained on the subject of farming I can barely recognise most of the crops enough to be sure if they are corn or wheat or maize or almost any other crop.  
Bridge House Cemetery has just 43 graves and sits in farmland like many of the military cemeteries.

In the three weeks my husband and I spent travelling around France and Belgium in 2011, I was enchanted by the beauty and the tranquillity of this country which we had visited only very briefly previously.  The rural areas were scattered with villages and small towns among what seemed to be endless farms; and it seemed that everywhere there were beautifully kept military cemeteries dotted across the landscape.  But of course in reality in 1914, what we called the First World War, all too swiftly followed by the Second World War, were just the latest in centuries of catastrophic wars that created havoc and misery in almost every civilisation from the beginning of time. 
From this farm at Arramanches near Omaha Beach the remains of the huge concrete Mulberry Harbours of D Day 1944 can still be seen in the water.  Note the unwelcome but colourful weeds that have invaded the farmer's fields.
The core message for the day, this last Sunday, was in fact very similar to our “Parable of the Sower” from the previous week, except for the “enemy who came in the night” who obviously represents evil.  This led me to consider that if you ever needed to confirm that there has always been evil in the world - war has been a constant source of discord and evil for countless eons almost from the moment God created the world. 
So perhaps it has always been that each generation fails to listen to the stories and lessons from the past. 
Alexander the Great?

Ancient and medieval history is filled with stories of barbarians whose whole existence centred around endless battles and wars – “and what was so ‘great’ about Alexander?”  He lived just 33 years and his constant war mongering as the head of a civilization much admired by historians and classic scholars led him to lure many hundreds of thousands of soldiers to their death and encouraged those who survived to rape, murder and pillage in the cities and towns that were taken in battle?
Although nobody knows the true number there are estimates of 9 million Christians, Muslims and Jews dying in the 11 medieval Crusades – yet still the fighting carries on in these regions in the 21st century. 
In Moscow in 1982 at an International Peace Conference the message of a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 went largely unheard.  When the bomb exploded some 2,000 feet above the centre of the city she was an ordinary schoolgirl listening to an address by the headmistress.  She told of the “Heaven-splitting flash and earth shaking roar which demolished the city in an instant … The billowing clouds of smoke that brought sudden night … The fires which began all over the city and joined up to make the city of Hiroshima an inferno.”  More than 200,000 men women and children died.
In the Memorial Peace Park in Hiroshima there is a stone chest that contains the names of all those known to have been killed by the atomic blast.  The inscription reads, “Let all the souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil.”
Perhaps we have not repeated that particular evil – but with the weapons we have today, we might kill 500 million people and disfigure the earth for centuries.  When we visited the Farnborough Air Show in September 1982 we saw many sophisticated war planes and weapons; and remember this was just after the reality of the Falklands War; so we were aware that these machines had recently been used “for real” against some of God’s people.
I remember having seen on television, great gatherings of people in Argentina, praying to God for victory; and then seeing pictures of people in Britain attending special services to ask for His blessing on them.  Think how confused our children were! 
Now that I am older I worry that young people are not even interested in the lessons of history - and often war is a theatre entertainment or a violent video game, while for some a catastrophe is a broken finger nail or a beached whale.
The Rev. John summarised points of the parable; 1. There is good and evil in the world.
2. Bad things happen that are beyond our control.
3. Jesus & God are aware of the evil deeds in our life and world.
4. Jesus blames the bad deeds on the evil presence in the world.
5. The farm in this parable is the world.
6. Jesus is the sower.
7. The good seed represents the good people in the kingdom or those in a relationship with Christ.
8. The darnel or evil ones will not be a part of the kingdom nor will they have a relationship with Christ.”
When we are tempted to judge and separate the good and bad, we need to back off and remember that we are to love our neighbour. Without this love as the focus of our lives, it is likely that we would be considered to be darnel - the weed that Jesus intends to use for bonfires.”
I believe that while there is life we can and should, continue to encourage and help those who may be considered by much of society as ‘weeds’; and offer them a pathway into the way of life that reflects the love of God.   The Rev. John’s conclusion perhaps puts these ideas in a better way for us.
“The challenge is for each of us to live our lives as the good grain, the wheat, the staff-of-life. Let us pray for the strength, faith, and concentration to allow us to keep our course and to inspire others to join us. Let us pray that we are enabled to share the good news of Christ. Who knows--we may stamp out the darnel.”
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

The Responsibility of Hearing

July 16, 2020 - 8:52am

The Rev. John called his Reflection/Sermon on Sunday 12th July, “The Responsibility of Hearing” and this seems to be a good way of looking at and interpreting the parables from the Bible and their relevance in the 21stCentury; which may offer different paths of understanding to the culture and lives of the original hearers of these lessons presented by Jesus in the 1stCentury.  After giving a brief summary of the Parable of the Sower, the Rev. John said; “Not all of the seed fell on poor soil or poorly prepared ground. Some fell on good ground and brought forth fruit.  In comparing this kind of soil to the hearer, Jesus says it is a person who hears the word, understands, and responds to that same word.  Most of us hear, but it is important that we understand and respond in both word and action also.  How important it is for each of us to know our own hearts and our response to the gospel of Jesus?”
For those of us of a mature age, perhaps there is sometimes a sigh of resignation when we realise that the theme of the day for our church service is one of the well-known parables from the Bible that we have been hearing since we first listened to them with the wonder of a “Once upon a time” story in Sunday School.
Since that time we have probably heard dozens of interpretations of each parable at different stages of our life and I suggest that our reactions may have changed with our understanding as a child, a teenager, a young adult, a parent or a more mature person.  Who among us could not, as a child and a young person, see why the younger brother of the Prodigal son was a bit miffed about the fuss and the welcome given to his returning brother?  Then as a parent, I must admit that I could see that the father might have made things easier for his younger son if he had included him in the whole situation and encouraged his participation in the planning and the execution of the festivities. 
In my life experience, I have found that a good teacher does not ram facts down your throat, but presents the learner with the “tools” to listen, understand, interpret and research how the information presented can help them to embrace the “big picture” and discover the truth for themselves.   As a teacher, Jesus was surely telling his stories to allow involvement and questioning among his listeners and perhaps there were questions and discussions among the people who flocked to hear these “lessons”. 
In relation to The Parable of the Sower - or as the Rev. John suggested it could be called - the Parable of the soils; “It is the reaction of the soils and of the hearers, that makes the difference. He said; “This is the important part of the parable. The sower must possess the seed which is clearly the word of God … We need to first experience the truth of the gospel in our own lives before we can share it with others.”
I read an observation made by  M. – J. Lagrange, who was an early 20th Century scholar of the New Testament, in which he explained that “the parable” is not always clear, because “The purpose of a parable is to strike the imagination, to pique the curiosity, to make the listener reflect and work to arrive at the meaning, but only so that the lesson will be more deeply engraved on the mind.”  I like this idea because we need to have a way of looking into the stories and finding that 21stCentury relevance we are seeking.  Perhaps this is why I sometimes like to look at the possible meanings of any of the parables from a different point of view. 
In my reflections on the Parable of the Sower I have come to sometimes random conclusions like; It is perhaps part of God’s great plan that the birds who swoop down and eat the seed that the sower has carelessly cast on paths or the hard ground that will not sustain growth are really in need of that seed to survive. Just last week I was overcome with joy when a small group of sparrows swooped down onto the path I was walking.  They trusted me and landed to retrieve some food from the debris broken off the trees by the wind.  I can’t remember when I last locally encountered sparrows or blue wrens, although they were here in abundance 40 years ago.  Surely God would be as thrilled as I was to know that his birds that are struggling could find some food.
So if as it is implied in Jesus' story, the Word of God is the seed, and we are the soil, doesn’t that mean that those people who may have been carelessly planted among rocks or weeds may need our help to hear God’s word, or to live a life that reflects God’s Love.  In our lives we have seen and heard of many wonderful stories and miracles that have brought Faith and Trust and new life to people who may have been on the wrong road with the wrong kind of friends who may have been harmful weeds or thorns. 
I had an uncle who was a Policeman in the area where my brothers and I grew up and one day he came to my father and said; “You should stop your boys from keeping company with (let’s call him) “Fred” because he has been seen in the company of known trouble-makers.”  Although Fred may not have been the first choice as a friend for his sons, my father told them to be careful; but he told his brother that he was pleased that his sons could recognise the good in Fred  -  and he said that he thought his boys could have a very positive influence on  Fred’s life.  Fred’s father had died as a soldier in WW11 and the good people of Legacy and others were trying to help his widow - and set his daughter and young son on the right path.  My brothers ignored the dubious “new” friends that had come into Fred’s life as he left school at 15 and took a job in the Homebush Abattoirs.  A combination of too much money for piece work with an adult wage, together with a 3.00 pm finish to his working day probably contributed to his falling in with the wrong crowd. 
My brothers continued their friendship with Fred who was often to be found sitting around our house and sharing family life with other “safe” friends.  After my younger brother died a few years ago, another friend told me that he believed that Fred had benefited greatly from having a stable and loyal friend like my brother.  Tragically, when Fred was 19 he was killed in a motor cycle accident – I have always been glad that he had been part of our family and protected from “the thorns” of life by my brothers and their friends. 
I can’t help seeing all gardens as places of hope - I feel we must always look for tiny “plants” and “people at risk” and I thank God for all the wonderful people who spend their lives improving the soil in the lives of those who have problems in their way.  
Last week I sat on our back steps in the warm winter sunshine and looked around at the blue cloudless sky.  I saw the elegant bare branches of the peach blossom trees with their promise of spring buds beginning to swell; ready to burst into September flowers of exquisite beauty. 

 The mighty jacaranda tree with slightly yellowing leaves was giving an early sign of the time in November when the almost bare silver branches will be laden with purple flowers that will begin to fall gently and lay down a purple carpet beneath the tree canopy and beyond. 

And the Lorikeets will return to enjoy the abundance of flowers on the Grevillia in the rockery during the summer months.  We certainly need to look forward in hope as 2020 continues on its dreary and worrying way!  

As I looked around, I knew that the grass really needed to be mowed, but that must now wait until spring delivers the riot of wild freesias which will spread their joy throughout our back yard. Yes – those freesias really know how to bloom where they were planted over many years by the vagaries of the wind.
It is wonderful to share with you the news that Margaret is finally home from hospital and rehab and she sounded so much better and brighter when I spoke to her yesterday.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

"Come unto me - the Comfortable Words"

July 10, 2020 - 1:24pm

I know that it is usually recommended to; “Start at the very beginning.”  However, the end of the Rev. John’s sermon on Sunday 5th July offered such a succinct support of his theme; “Come to me” that I feel I should quote his conclusion before trying to express my thoughts and feelings.  As I have said before; I am by no means a student of Theology; and the Bible passage Matthew 11: 25-30 seems to have been vigorously discussed, investigated and speculated upon by theologians through centuries of different translations and philosophies.  
The Rev. John said; “The Comfortable Words, ‘Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you,’ remind us that God's incomparable, compassionate forgiveness is a gift that releases us into life with God as responsible human beings who want to grow deeper in love and joyful obedience. After all, we are called not only to find peace, refreshment and rest for ourselves but also to live the kind of lives through which others, too, find God's peace, God's refreshing grace, and the joy of placing their lives in God's hands. AMEN.”
Although I do not recall having heard the term “Comfortable Words” as part of my Anglican upbringing, I have always found great comfort in the traditions of the invitation the Rev. John spoke of; "Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith to all that truly turn to him..."  and other often repeated and reassuring routines of church services.  I do miss the regular saying of the “Nicene Creed” which was always a comforting reminder of our Christian beliefs and obligations in my earlier days and as part of the Communion Service in later times.  It seems that these days “The Creed” is usually only repeated as part of a service of baptism (and probably a confirmation service if one was to be held) – while I can see that this is a very important ritual of the baptism to remind us all what we are promising for the life of the child I would still find comfort in its regular inclusion in other services, because this would bring comfort and help the “church family” to remember what is required of them.  Then looking around at their fellow worshipers, they would be reassured that each person is surrounded by the love of God and God’s people.
Without knowing of “Comfort Words” - I do remember a warm and comfortable feeling when being given the assurance; "Come unto me all ye who travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."  I really liked the word travail which has among its synonyms; struggle, effort, toil, exertion and labour. The subtle shades of meaning must be something of a nightmare for translators - and the number of different versions of the Bible must be daunting to serious students of theology. However, the Bible I was given for my Confirmation was the King James Version and although probably not the easiest to unravel and understand, I just loved the sounds of the words – they sounded like poetry to me.  When our first child was born she was given “The Good News Bible” by her grandparents.  The next version that seemed to become favoured was the New English Bible which is still generally used in the Marsden Road Church in 2020. 
My paternal Grandfather was born in 1878 in Goulburn, NSW.  He was the youngest of ten children, six boys and four girls and his mother died at the time of his birth, so he was brought up by his father's recently married sister and her husband.  After his father died, he left school at the age of fourteen and started work as a messenger boy.  By then his foster parents had five children of their own to care for, feed and educate and they were difficult times for families in the inner suburbs of Sydney.
My Grandfather’s Uncle was very strict and insisted that he learn the Collect word perfect each Sunday.  If he could not say it correctly his Uncle administered a "hiding" on Monday because; being a God fearing man, he would not break the Sabbath.  For the punishment his cruel Uncle used a rope soaked in a bucket of salt water and I suspect the good that may have come from learning the Collect may well have been destroyed – and the lesson of the Uncle’s pious respect for the Sabbath also lost. 
Although he attended special church services like the Ordination of his son and perhaps went sometimes to listen to him preach, I do not remember my grandfather attending church until, in his mid 70s, he was confirmed by the Archbishop of Sydney at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in the presence of his family.  This really impressed me as an 11 or 12 year old, but it impresses me more now that I am of a similar age. I hope this indicated my grandfather’s forgiveness of his Uncle’s harsh “religious training”.  It was my Grandfather and Grandmother who willingly gave his Aunt a home for the last years of her life and he always spoke of her with gratitude for her care of him.My Father's Parents in the late 1930s
I was never in any doubt that my grandfather believed in God because he always showed great care and kindness to everyone and went out of his way to help people in gentle thoughtful ways, despite his serious disability acquired at work in September 1933.  During the Great Depression he was working as a wharf labourer and this meant that he had to present himself at the wharves early each morning for "pick up" to obtain work for the day.  During those times the lines of men formed before dawn down “The Hungry Mile” and times were very hard.  My Grandfather was injured while he was down in the hold of a ship when a sling of timber fell on him causing serious injuries that prevented him from ever working again because his spine was fractured and his neck dislocated, leaving him in a precarious condition.  From then on he always wore a heavy leather collar with three buckles at the back of his neck and a metal support under his chin. This accident happened before the days of Workers’ Compensation, yet my gentle grandfather filled his life helping his family, friends and neighbours. Hickson Road - "The Hungry Mile" where wharf labourers lined up for work during the Great DepressionHe died when I was 15 and I still remember him with great fondness for his kindness, his love and his great courage. However, one of the greatest memories of my childhood is the ritual of his special good-bye each time we met.   My Grandfather would take me onto his knee, put his arm around me and look me in the eye and bless me; "May the Lord bless you and keep you and give you health and strength to carry on."  This may have seemed like a strange farewell to a healthy little girl, but over the years the memory has indeed been very comforting.
The Rev. John’s reflections on the “Comfort Words” and my memories of how it felt to be blessed and comforted by being a part of comforting church services - and my beautiful Grandfather, prompt me to say that “the church” ie. The people of “the church” have a huge job to do at this difficult time to comfort those who are lonely and those whose lives have been unexpectedly ‘turned upside down’. 
We must also remember to comfort the comforters and remember that some people who suffer may hide behind their busyness.   

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

“Whom Ought I Welcome?”

July 2, 2020 - 2:10pm

This Sunday, the Rev. John’s sermon was focused on “Whom Ought I Welcome?”  – Matthew 10:40-42 “Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’”  A number of times during his reflection, the Rev. John reminded us of “Our obligations of welcome and hospitality; Such an understanding of hospitality, of the obligation of welcome, dates back to well before the time of Jesus. It was a matter of survival and community health which translated into the religious understanding of what God wants of us. Where and how do we experience such welcome today?”That is indeed a BIG and difficult question!  Of course, the world is and has been ever changing and it becomes confusing and sometimes unnecessarily guilt provoking if we try to judge everything and everyone against a yardstick from a different time in history.  I sometimes wonder how many of the modern world problems which cause the most angst, are left over from the incredibly tumultuous and war ravaged 20th century and are a direct result of the loss of country, identity, customs and traditions and millions of lives?  History shows us that almost every country has at some time been invaded by bullies who have changed the way the ordinary people can expect to live; and migration has been the pattern for thousands of years.The study of Ancient history in the first year of high school had already taught me that one great Empire followed the other with monotonous and inexorable regularity.  Even at the tender age of 12 it was obvious to me that greed, unrest, distrust and intolerance generally resulted in the decline of an empire - and isn’t that still happening today?  We are certainly watching the great “American Empire” appearing to self-destruct right before our eyes and some are perhaps bemoaning our changed allegiance after the fall of the British Empire of which many of us, our parents and our younger selves were so proud to belong.  Now as a country and as individuals we ask; should we blame or admire those who want to catch onto the coat-tails of the movers and shakers of the emerging modern Chinese Empire?  Didn’t the 20th and early 21stcentury teach us that Communism and Christianity often do not sit well together.The Dark Ages stretched in historical terms from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages or from 300 to 800 - when time morphed into the early Middle Ages – again not a really happy time to be alive.  I was recently fascinated to discover that historians today consider the use of the term Dark Ages, implies a “bad value judgement” because of the “negative connotations” of barbarity and intellectual deficit.Well, historians can call it what they like - and it seems that the preferred term today is “The Migration Period”- however it cannot be denied those days were shrouded in darkness of many kinds.  Surely I am not alone in thinking that this period of time - when an estimated 100 million people died as the result of war, poverty and plague - was indeed a dark time.Once again we are watching huge “migrations” making a mockery of established borders because of aggressive and violent invasions, poverty and famine.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly wonder what history will make of all these events.  There are such diverse views on the morality of almost every situation - whose history can possibly be “the truth”.  Whose “truth” is God’s truth?  The Crusaders certainly didn’t emerge from the early skirmishes with Islam looking too Godly and neither will we; if we condemn any people without thought, acknowledgement, or the lessons of history tempered with compassion.Conquest of  Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 - A 15th Century Miniature painted by David Aubert (1449 - 79)
Public Domain  - Wikipedia 
Will history offer apologies for the extreme violence of this century?  Will we take on the burden of responsibility for terrorism and extremism?  How can we ever agree on who we should welcome into our country, community, church or home?  I agree that successful integration and diversity can bring strong new alliances and friendships, but I believe that diversity both challenges and enriches us personally and as a society; but above all my Christian values tell me that tolerance is the glue that holds any society together.  In order to keep this civilized and enlightened social order that we call society, the enforcement of rules and laws must generally be seen to be the right outcome to preserve the rights of the majority.  It is in fact ironic, that the price for a person who exercises what they may consider to be their personal freedom, in an anti-social way in a “civilised” society, is often punishment by imprisonment, inflicted by that same society.As I grow older and observe the lies and the misinformation which have been propagated as “history” and “truth” in my living memory, I struggle with the probability that my experiences of the time I was alive will not be accurately portrayed.  I lived through the 60s; yet my way of life and the life of all the people I knew, in no way resembled the culture and the morality depicted as “normal”, which is now being passed on to younger generations as fact.  Also, how can it be that it is regularly reported in the media by financial experts that my generation was blessed in easily being able to own their own home in Sydney, when from our first pay packet, both my future husband and I saved very carefully, making financial and social sacrifices in anticipation of a future involving marriage and our personal responsibility for any future children. Our home was modest, with no furniture except a new fridge and mattress on the floor and some ancient borrowed wooden chairs, a discarded laminex table and borrowed suitcases for our clothes. From our families we had collected an assortment of old bedspreads, war surplus blankets and sheets to cover the large naked picture windows so fashionable in the red texture brick dream home of the 1960’s.  There were no fences, paths or gardens in sight.How much of the recorded history and way of life of previous centuries accurately depicts the truth I wonder?    Somehow as I grow old enough to have lived through significant historical events and actually been part of the history of more than half of the 20th century and two decades of the 21st century, I begin to wonder if education and science have now rendered history invalid and useless.  Before Columbus sailed to the New World did anybody dispute the belief the world was flat?I am confused.   Yes it is easy for Christians to feel confusion and guilt, especially as better education allows everyone to have an opinion and certainly in democratic societies to express our opinions.  Does it matter how much new evidence has been “uncovered” - sometimes quite literally - about the Dark Ages or Middle Ages, or any other time in history?Surely scientists can’t – and should not perpetuate theories like the flatness of the earth when we have marvelled at pictures taken from space and which prove the curvature of the earth!  Thousands of concepts like the forces of gravity which ensures that the water does not fall into space from the oceans and rivers as the earth turns upside down; have all been scientifically proved.  However, I can still, in sheer wonder, marvel at God’s amazing “work”.I believe that proven scientific knowledge is different to the recording of events that we call history?  Now this is a really tricky question to which many might consider there is no correct answer!  Should anyone take it upon themselves to try to change the history that has been recorded?  If there are important changes that can correct mistakes in reporting, this could be a reason to make some authorised historical corrections; but we cannot allow the modern opinions of the morality or even the harshness of past events to allow history to be distorted to please the whims of the current generations. Surely this can only lead to anarchy!The Rev John did in his thinking this morning put forward the challenge of who we should welcome, in this whimsical manner:  “Just so we get this straight: whoever welcomes you welcomes Jesus, and whoever welcomes your friend or neighbour or family member or work colleague or elected official or mother-in-law or next door neighbour or chatty seat companion on an airplane or the stall holder at the Farmers market or grocery checkout person or barber (if you still use one) – there was a slight chuckle here as he is not over-endowed with hair!) -  or the Startrack driver or the child who hit your new car with a soccer ball … and so on and so forth … welcomes God?   The Rev. John even suggested; “We could have fun with this!”“But would there ever be an end to such a list of those who are welcome? If there is an end to such a list of who is welcome, what does this mean? And if not, well -  what does that mean?” he asked.Perhaps there is no real answer to any of those hard questions, although we can truthfully offer some positive answers to the Rev. John’s other question; “Where is our witness to welcoming others, and thereby welcoming Jesus and the one who sent him?”A Quarterly Friendship Circle Morning Tea after Church on a Sunday Morning
Everyone is welcomed for a regular morning tea every Sunday
and anyone who has a Birthday ending in an 0 has a Birthday Cake
Our Marsden Road Church is a place where to my knowledge and experience over the last 50 years, everyone has always been genuinely welcomed and been offered hospitality and friendship; and this has always extended far beyond reasonable expectations and has indeed reflected the love of God through the care of his people.  During the months of the Covid 19 pandemic; although unable to offer traditional hospitality, it has been remarkable the way so many church members have looked after the spiritual and physical welfare of each person, specially caring for all those who are isolated, ill or lonely.  People have been printing and delivering copies of the weekly orders of service, newsletters and blogs to those without a computer and hundreds of phone calls have been made by our caring congregation members. I am pleased to say that our friend Margaret and her husband are at this time the recipients of all manner of hospitality as we all are when we are in hospital or sick at home.  Meals, biscuits, phone calls, encouragement and love are given, as Margaret continues to struggle through the aftermath of two complicated surgeries, with another to come.  I encourage all Margaret’s Blog followers to continue to include her in their prayers of intercession.Our special Solstice $2.50 Excursions for Seniors to see how far they can travel on trains, buses and ferries - and visit all kinds of interesting places are open to friends and family and everyone of any age is welcome - they just have to pay more! 

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

Let Nothing Disturb You

June 26, 2020 - 2:48am

Let Nothing Disturb You...,Let nothing make you afraid,All things are passing,God never changes.Patience obtains all things.Nothing is lacking to the one who has God--God alone is enough.  

I am sure we are all thanking the Rev. John for the calming reassurance of these words on which he based his Reflection/Sermon on Sunday 21st June.   
So far 2020 has been a very difficult and tedious year for us all and our patience has been strained and our hearts broken by the grief and the worry of trying to care for ourselves and those that we love as we witness the misery and the death that confronts millions of people around the world.  
St. Teresa - known as "Terasa of Avila - Painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
(Wikipedia - photo of painting in Kunsthistorisches Museum)
The Rev. John said; “These words, from a meditation titled "St. Teresa's bookmark," are a fine summary of today's Scripture Readings.  They all speak to us, strangely enough, about the gift of patience. We are taught that patience is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it often feels like a heavy burden. People in today's society mistake patience for submission in the same way they mistake kindness for weakness -- and they walk all over you. But as usual, we must look beyond the surface. God has a greater message in store.  Some truly great people in the history of Christianity have been "walked on" in this way, you see. Just as one example, St. Teresa, known as Teresa of Avila, is world famous as a theologian, reformer of the Carmelite Order, and spiritual advisor to the great medieval Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross. But Teresa's ministry was not well received in the community that she loved.  Her sisters had grown lax in faith and practice, she called for reform, and their response was to throw her out of convents that she herself had established.
On one occasion, she was turned out at night in the middle of a rainstorm. Dressed from head to toe in her coarse wool habit, she got back into her donkey cart and was riding along when the wheel of the cart hit a ditch and the cart turned over, dumping Teresa into the mud. She sat there, in mud-soaked wool, looked up to heaven, and said, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder that you don't have many."
On sitting down to reflect on the Rev. John’s thoughts on Wednesday I found I could really relate to St Teresa’s reactions when, as the last straw of a really bad day, she had a little rant at God and a bit of a Spiritual meltdown.  There was one year about 53 years ago when, like Queen Elizabeth said in 1992, my husband and I could have said it was an “annus horribilis”.  So many difficulties in one year made us decide to dress up and go to a restaurant near Sydney Harbour for dinner on New Year’s eve and begin the new year with optimism and a “bang”.  As the midnight countdown began I smiled in anticipation of a much better and healthier year – then right on the stroke of midnight a passing waiter spilled a glass of red wine all over me as he rushed by to deliver it to another table!   I looked at my lovely white faux fur jacket and my pretty dress and burst into tears as the cheering and the fireworks and the kissing and hugging erupted all around us.  “Well next year will have to be better I said as I mopped up the mess – this one certainly stayed difficult right to the end!”
“But frustrated as she was, Teresa clung to God. Her writings also lead us to suspect that she got a response from God while sitting in that muddy ditch. One of her meditations on the Disciplines of the Holy Spirit talks about how we must not be deceived by the appearance that evil triumphs over good, for sometimes, as she wrote, "God uses the Devil as a sharpening-stone for Christians.”  Teresa not only taught this lesson, she lived by it. She did not give up on God, even when her sisters fought her every step of the way, going to priests and bishops to make trouble for her.”
As a child I thought it was really good the way my Roman Catholic friends could call up a saint to help in a wide variety of inconvenient or difficult circumstances.  However, at the same time I soon discovered that although some of my friends always appealed to St Anthony to find something they had lost, it was my experience that it was much more fruitful to sit down and go back in my mind and work out where, when, why or how, I may have mislaid the item which was missing, before systematically searching thoroughly in all the possible places. 
I found it refreshingly different to focus on a traditionally Roman Catholic Saint in our service this week, specially as a person with an Anglican background. It is not that I have a problem with the recognition of many of the saints whose biographies show amazing kindness and selfless lives as they worked for the poor and lonely or the sick and homeless – it is just that I think that like knighthoods, the Order of Australia, Victoria Crosses and medals or other awards to recognize outstanding human beings, there are only a chosen few who gain wide recognition as saints or heroes in many walks of life.
While it is of course good for those people who are noticed or chosen and for those who admire or love them; we all know that like the unnoticed sparrows, there are countless “saints” and “heroes” as well as quiet and lonely people who will never be noticed, except perhaps by God.
King George VI (Photo from Wikipedia)
This work has been released into the public domain by its author Begoon.
On a night in February 1952 there was a news flash to report that King George V1 had died in his sleep.  On that same night in Sydney during a very fierce thunderstorm my grandfather’s sister Alice also died in her sleep.  Grand Auntie Alice was 78 years old and lived with my grandparents for several years before her death.  She had lived most of her life in the country, had never married and was quiet and reserved and walked with a distinct limp because one leg was several inches shorter than the other.  I never knew anything about Auntie Alice’s life except that she once told my brothers she had ridden a penny-farthing bicycle as a young woman.  This had seemed most incredible to us because as well as being lame, she was a very tiny woman.  When she lived with my grandmother and grandfather she cooked and cleaned for them and never complained.  I hardly ever remember her speaking, but she was a gentle soul and was grateful to be “taken in” by her brother and his wife.

The death of the King of England was front-page news all over the world with blurry radio photos showing the new Queen arriving home in London from Africa, and pages of pictures of the old King’s life.  There were family photos and Pedigree charts and pictures of the life of Queen Elizabeth 11 from the moment of her birth.  Everyone had a story to tell about the Royal Family.  

Auntie Alice died as quietly as she had lived without the world noticing that she had even been here. Yet strangely, I have always remembered that she died the same night as King George V1, and I think that at that time I realised for the first time, that each life is different, yet every life is important. 
I have often thought of Auntie Alice as being one of the fallen sparrows noticed only by God and I wish I could say that I had noticed her more.
So I believe, that as Christians it is only right that each of us must do our part to encourage and thank everyone who we notice being kind, thoughtful and caring and that we look for something special to notice and appreciate in absolutely everyone we meet.  Life is very tough for many people and it is a struggle just to keep going, but often others do not notice their struggles and appreciate their amazing strength of character.  Hence I love this final quote from the Rev. John’s sermon;
“Holy Scripture gives us lots of examples to follow. The Bible tells the story of a God who recognizes the righteous human, striving to do right in the midst of people who would do harm. Jesus spoke of "sheep among wolves" and warned of the harm that comes from people of ill will. But his warning is intended to teach us to handle our problems with the patience of God and to trust in God's righteous outcome, for "A disciple is not above the teacher." When we try to be like God, giving people the chance to do what is right, God steps in at decisive moments -- and miracles happen.”
So we must all be patient for as long as it takes and keep praying and working towards a special miracle to overcome the threat of this 2020 pandemic and for the individual miracles of recovery and healing being brought about by God’s hard-working and selfless “saints” throughout the world.

Categories: Syndicated Blogs

"We have so many ways of learning about God."

June 18, 2020 - 2:56pm

I found myself completely in accord with the Rev. John’s Reflection/Sermon last Sunday as I have found great depth and reason in my personal reflection of many many unintended “Jesus movies”.   

“We have so many ways of learning about God. We learn from Holy Scripture, of course. We learn from our worship, from the seasons of the year and the glories of nature, from one another, in our prayers. There is a way of watching movies that can open our minds and hearts to God in ways more powerful than we might imagine. When we see a movie strictly for entertainment, we've received our money's worth, but when we watch the screen through the eyes of faith, God can touch us in ways that are worth much more, ways that are surprising, even transcendent. Ordinary, commercial films become "Jesus movies." Take the film, The Green Mile, for instance.”

I find that I am able to watch and find much to reflect upon in such movies, sometimes watching them over and over again.  The relatively new political correctness of the random “judgements” of “history deniers” can only remove the opportunity for reasonable people to learn from history and avoid repeating some serious mistakes of the past.  Like “Gone with the Wind” - “The Green Miles” could easily be included in the growing list of ‘inappropriate’ movies.

“Gone with the Wind” is an enduring story full of life lessons, laughter and tears.  It is rich in history, although offering a biased account of the American Civil War and slavery.  It paints a broad social history from the perspective of the privileged residents of the Old South.  However, from the moment I first read Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel as a romantic 12 or 13 year old - at a time in my life when I greedily devoured books with my entire being, I did not for even one moment, form ideas of approval for any of the behaviour of the privileged people whose lives were presented.  

Although this Pulitzer Prize winning novel was then just a page turning and exciting story that kept me reading until the small hours of the morning; after the passage of almost 60 years of my own life experience I understand so much more of those life lessons and the historical and cultural significance that I imbibed as I read.  I can remember lying outstretched on the lounge room floor hoping that my mother would not wake up and discover I was still reading.  She had no patience with reading and would have spoilt the magic by nagging me off to bed with a guilty feeling that I had once more wasted my time reading.  My dear mother thought that reading was only a reward for having finished all the outstanding work still to be done.

When my husband and I visited Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston and other southern places in 1991, I re-lived some of the feelings of romance and heroism of the Deep South that Margaret Mitchell lamented in her story which has been called, “The last great posthumous victory of the Confederacy.”   As we drove for many kilometres along a tree lined road looking for our accommodation one hot summer evening the sight of the Spanish Moss hanging in abundance from all the trees instantly transported my mind to the Atlanta of Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton.

As we explored Atlanta during the next two days we found Margaret Mitchell’s grave in the Oakland Cemetery; saw beautiful antebellum mansions and visited the impressive Cyclorama and Civil War Museum which houses the largest oil painting in the world.  The painting is 42 feet tall, covers 16,000 square feet and has a 358 foot circumference.  We were told that laid flat, it would cover an entire football field.  With an air of expectancy we were transported to the Atlanta of 1864 and as we sat in rotating tiered seats, the Battle of Atlanta unfolded all around us.  In the foreground of this huge panorama is a three dimensional diorama with scenery and figures which blend with the painting to complete the reality experience.  The canvas was commissioned in 1885 and was painted by artists who visited the battlefields and listened to first hand accounts of the battle. 

Like most foreign tourists we went looking for Auburn Street or “Sweet Auburn” to pay homage to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and visit his birthplace, his tomb and the Ebeneezer Baptist Church where he was the pastor; following in the steps of his father and grandfather.  We discovered four city blocks had effectively become a shrine to the man and his work; yet a white woman we asked to give us directions when we were one block from Auburn Street, literally turned her back on us and muttered, “I wouldn’t know where that is.” 
Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Auburn Street, Atlanta

A few days later, as we watched a thoughtful man slowly walk alone in the grounds of the Carter’s Grove Plantation in Virginia, we wondered about the thoughts of this giant of a man, who just a few generations ago, would have been a much prized plantation slave.  As a white person I felt embarrassed that he may indeed have been a descendant of some of the slaves who had worked this plantation and lived in the slave quarters there.  We had seen an archaeological dig in progress in the mizzen heaps where the original slave quarters had stood and read some of the documented evidence that the Carter’s Grove slaves were brought to America from what we know today as Nigeria and Cameroon.  Was he wondering how they must have felt?  Was he feeling their pain and was he still feeling frustrated by the lack of equality he encountered in the south?  Having read “Gone with the Wind” and seen the movie, we could almost feel his pain.
A Reconstruction of Carter's Grove Slave Quarters
 Carter's Grove Plantation on the northern bank of the James River near Williamsburg, Virginia
was built in 1750 by Carter Burwell  
We discovered as we explored the historical, cultural and architectural highlights in Williamsburg, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia that there was still a great division between white Americans and African Americans as well as people from the north and those from the south.  We were surprised to see many Confederate Flags; but perhaps we were most surprised by the unfortunate gap that still existed between the very rich and the very poor - and this gap existed in both the white and black communities.   

We also discovered that the Civil War is still extremely personal in the South and that the selfish flawed characters of Scarlett and Rhett represented the people who adjusted and continued to flourish in the changing order of things after such a comprehensive defeat; while Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton embodied those who crumpled and lost all when the old South was swept away as if “Gone with the Wind”. 

When it was written this book may have been as divisive as the Civil War itself; but it was one woman’s act of defiance after history took the side of the Union while the people of the South did not really concede defeat.  The ‘heroine’ Scarlett O’Hara represents the fight that Southern women must have faced as they looked towards a very different future and struggled to accept change. Some of the characterisations were surely drawn from Margaret Mitchell’s own life experiences - and that may be why her characters are so believable and timeless. 

Born in November 1900, Margaret Mitchell grew up listening to the war stories of old Confederate soldiers and she suffered grief when her first love was killed at the end of the First World War.  Shortly after this her mother died and it was she who had to care for her father and brother.  Did she secretly wrestle against this responsibility as Scarlett did after the death of her mother?  Margaret was the first serious woman journalist for the Atlanta Journal and was said to have had many suitors – does this sound like the independent Scarlett O’Hara?

Her first husband, Red Upshaw turned out to be a bootlegger and an alcoholic – was he the foundation for the character of Rhett Butler?   She married John Marsh in 1925 and remained married to him until she died as the result of being struck by a car on an Atlanta Street in 1949.  Margaret Mitchell once said in an interview that the theme of her novel was survival and that in writing it she had looked at what it is that makes some people who seemed brave and strong “go under” while others survive similar circumstances.  She called this attribute “gumption”.  Was Margaret Mitchell demonstrating Scarlett’s gumption by having her retreat to Tara to regroup each time she was faced with intolerable odds?  Or do you think it was weakness and denial?  Perhaps even plain selfishness?

I often use a paraphrase of the famous final quote after a hard day when I feel unable to make any more decisions.  If you know me I may have said to you; “I will go back to Tara and think about it tomorrow!“

As the Rev. John noted at the end of his sermon; “John Coffey, the Jesus figure in The Green Mile is obvious; of course.”  However, there are hundreds of movies, old and new, which can help us through our reflections and respect for the past and willingness to learn in our quest to: – “As 21st Century Apostles, identify as people who strive to embody Jesus and to become daily more filled with the love and grace of our Saviour.”   I believe we should not live with guilt about history – we cannot change the past.  However, as Scarlett O’Hara said; “After all - Tomorrow is another day!” God teaches us - if we live well each day we can bring HOPE.
Categories: Syndicated Blogs

“Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty”

June 12, 2020 - 1:37pm

When I was in primary school we attended “St. Anne’s” Anglican Church at Strathfield which was rather a grand structure for our Sydney suburbs in the early 1950s. To be quite truthful, it was not all that warm and welcoming for young children – it seemed a bit “stuffy”, although in those times it was not usual for services to focus on the children present.  It was very early that I gave up trying to understand the difficult sermons about Trinity Sunday, which heralded the long “ordinary time” in the church year, when the colour green reappeared in the elaborate drapes and cloths around the Sanctuary and the altar, to stay until Advent in November.  

When we visited the Church of St. Mary in Shawbury in Shropshire, the altar was dressed with green.
The Rev. John Mayor (my GG Grandfather) was the Vicar there for 45 years and it was there
that his son the Rev. Robert Mayor was born in 1791.  

I loved the white and gold of Easter and Christmas, the purple of Advent and Lent; and the red of Pentecost and these church seasons were more interesting and even exciting for me.  After a few years one of my older brothers met a friend who had been to another local church that had a lively youth group, so gradually the family drifted towards that church, which had a warm sense of community.  It is only in the last decade that I have been pleased to hear that some of our Marsden Road ministers continue to have feelings of concern about what the Rev. John this Sunday called, “This anomaly of Trinity Sundays”.  He said; “It is always a Sunday that has provided most clergy with anxiety or anguish or consternation as they attempt to prepare a sermon on the Trinity that is not boring or so full of theological jargon that parishioners will fall asleep. How often have you heard clergy lament on having to preach on the Trinity? Well today is no exception for me.”  Yet, although you can read the Rev. John’s entire sermon as you possibly have already done – I think I should quote an entire long paragraph that I felt very descriptive and thought provoking without causing disturbance of mind or feelings of inadequacy in trying to understand theology.  So here it is:People are not converted to Jesus because we can articulate a theological doctrine, but because we can share our faith in very human terms. Sharing how God has acted in our lives as creator/parent, redeemer, brother, and empower spirit. Our God is a loving and generous God who gives to us unconditionally. The God we worship is the God who created all of us and accepts all of us as we are. God does not make mistakes. Understanding God in this way gives us knew insight into loving and accepting others who are different from us for we are all made in God's image. It is us, not God, who has put limits and parameters on who is acceptable to God. Understanding God this way also calls us to reach out and care for all of God's children especially those who cannot care for themselves. Paul reminds us there are a variety of gifts but one spirit. We are a variety of people in one Spirit. We are called to live out and develop our gifts to the fullest. Our gifts are complimentary to one another and there is no scale of 1-10 on the gifts of the spirit.Everyone is making the most of a difficult situation and doing their best to keep in touch and talk and listen to each other and lift the spirits of others; especially the people who are unable to attend church online.  It is sad that we are missing going to church with the familiar surroundings and the opportunity to Worship together, however the magic of “Zoom” manages to deliver the Sermon, the Prayers and the Bible Readings quite satisfactorily and it is good to see the people sitting at their computers making the best of the situation.  This week the Rev. John tried out a computer “trick” which placed him and his wife in front of a photo of the Marsden Road Church, which felt familiar and “homely”. However, we are still missing the joy of singing the hymns and have tried looking and listening to Youtube, which had some difficulties for a group situation.  We are now trying out having a pianist play the piano in their home while we all mute our sound and sing to ourselves, but somehow it just doesn’t give that wonderful sense of singing together, with the benefits of the amazing acoustics of our little church.  So on Sunday morning when I heard that we were to have the hymn “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty”which was written by Bishop Reginald Heber of Calcutta, I really longed for the time we can all sing together in Praise once again. I have always been rather keen on Bishop Heber’s hymns and as a keen student of history and family history the stories of the British in India and what I have discovered of the dozens of my mother’s ancestors who went to India during many decades of the 19th century for a wide variety of reasons - all of which would probably be seen only in an unfavourable light by those today who deny history - I have done quite a lot of reading and research.  My great great grandmother’s brother, the Rev. Robert Mayor went with his new wife and two other missionaries from the CMS in London, as the first missionaries to “work for ten years among the heathen” in Galle in 1817 and I remember being shocked when I read his memorial plaque in the church in England where he is buried.  Those were the exact words used.  I was quite relieved to discover that he was also a medical doctor who was said to have saved the sight of many of the people he served. 

Among my reading I came across a letter written to Robert’s father by Bishop Heber:“I arrived at this port five weeks ago, in visiting the different parts of my great diocese; and had the pleasure to be greeted, among those who first came off to our vessel, by your son Robert, looking stout and well and very little altered from what he was when I last saw him in England ….. Mrs Heber and I had the pleasure, in our return from the North, of passing the best part of three days with him and Mrs, Mayor, in their romantic abode at Baddagamma, where we also found his colleague Mr. Ward, his wife and family, in perfect health and contented cheerfulness.  I consecrated their church, which is really an extraordinary building, considering the place in which, and the circumstances under which, it has been erected; and I also had the happiness of administering confirmation and the Lord’s Supper to a small but promising band of their converts and usual hearers; and I can truly say, both for my wife and myself that we have never paid a visit which has interested and impressed us more agreeably, from the good sense, good taste, and right feeling, the concord, the zeal, and orderly and industrious piety, which appeared to pervade both families and every part of their establishment.  Mr Ward has in some degree got the start in Cingalese studies, but the progress which both have made in such a difficult language has been mentioned to me as highly honourable to them; and Robert, from his medical skill, his truly masculine sense, his bodily as well as mental energy, and his cheerfulness under difficulties, has qualifications of the most valuable kind for the life which he has chosen.  Both of them are all in fact which you or I could wish them; active zealous, well-informed, and orderly clergymen, devoted to the instruction and help of their heathen neighbours; both enjoying a favourable report, I think I may say without exception, from the governor, public functionaries, and in general from all the English in the colony whom I have heard speak of them.  The cause of Christianity is, I hope, going on well here.”Bishop Heber’s once popular Mission Hymn, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains”, has been called “A conspicuous example of that fervent belief to convert the world to Christianity which led Heber and others to lay down their lives in the mission field"; has been omitted from some publications in the last 40 years for words that “Seem patronising and insensitive to other beliefs.”  In 1925 Mahatma Gandhi expressed his offence 99 years after Bishop Heber’s death.  He said that such phrases as “Every prospect pleases and only man is vile", and the "the heathen in his blindness [bowing] down to wood and stone", implied assumptions that were untrue in his experiences. Gandhi said; "My own experience in my travels throughout India has been to the contrary ... [Man] is not vile. He is as much a seeker after truth as you and I are, possibly more so".

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