17 July 16: Luke 10.38-42_Martin Robinson

Amos 8.1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1.15-29; Luke 10.38-42

SERVING JESUS

Introduction:           ‘There is need of only one thing’ (v 42a)

One of the side-effects of the disrupted politics we see in Australia, Britain, and the USA at present (just to mention the nations we are closest to in many respects) is our forced reflection on why this disruption is happening. There seems to be a loss of an agreed narrative about our national identities, and a lack of a common discourse about it in the media. Indeed the proliferation of media is a partner in the chaos, as minority groups and the immediacy of social media give credence to views that have not been subject to serious scrutiny, and our education systems are struggling to persuade students at large, and perhaps some of our newer migrants, about the nature and value of our political life. The question of our ‘needs’ is at the heart of this, but there is little agreement about the answer. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs might be at hand, but we are at odds as to the answer to the ancient question: ‘What is the Good Life?’

  1. ‘On the road with Jesus’

Two weeks ago we considered the trajectory of our Lord’s ministry after Peter’s confession that Jesus was in fact the Messiah of God, the Christ. He is on the road, focussed on Jerusalem, and his disciples (ourselves included?) are with him, observing, learning, struggling. Last week we heard of the exchange with ‘a lawyer’, an expert in the religious law. He challenged Jesus with the fundamental question about the Good Life. It is in Jewish terms, but that is what it is about: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’

The simple answer is ‘to do God’s will’, summarized in the two great commandments with which we are so familiar: ‘Love God with heart, mind, soul and strength; and your neighbour as yourself.’ Now as you will recall, the lawyer, seeking a meatier discussion, picks up the question of who my neighbour is, giving us the powerful parable of the Good Samaritan, and the irresistible imperative to ‘Go, and do likewise’.

It would appear then that today’s little domestic scene reflects Luke’s concern that we also dig a bit deeper into the first Great Commandment: what might challenge us about how we love the Lord our God with all we’ve got? If we are left only with the ‘Go, and do thou likewise’ according to the example of the Good Samaritan, we might become caught up purely in Christian activism. This is a sensitive issue, and we should not be too keen to find a strong distinction between the two commandments. So let us think about the incident with Mary and Martha, noting that Jesus is on the road: ‘Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home…’ (v. 38)

  1. A Domestic ‘Scene’

A very typical Middle-eastern picture it is: hospitality shown to travellers; but the domesticity and ordinariness of the scene has interesting features. It is Martha’s home: is she a widow? She is anxious to please, perhaps going ‘over the top’ in her preparations. Martha is indeed overanxious about the meal. The Greek word translated ‘distracted’ in our text means ‘disturbed’, whatever the reasons for this might be. Some commentators suggest that the words of Jesus, though affectionate, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things’, may refer to the number of courses she has decided to serve! One would have been enough! There is more than a hint of sibling tension, with Mary, probably the younger sister, preferring to soak up everything Jesus is saying, ‘sat at Jesus’ feet’, in a stark contrast with her bustling sister. This behaviour of Mary, moreover, would have been unusual in households of the day, where women were not expected to be interested in questions of theology, or discussions about them. How familiar is this scene to you?

We see then that there is a lot going on, and Jesus would have seen the need to tread carefully. He can’t discount the generosity of Martha’s hospitality (her ‘activism’), but he similarly does not wish to imply that Mary’s teachability is out of order. Quite the contrary: Mary has pursued the greater good, ‘the better [lit. ‘good’] part, which will not be taken away from her’ (not by Jesus, anyway).

It is as well that we are not told what happened after Jesus left the home. This might be the stuff of comedy, but it is mere speculation. We must hold onto the point our Lord makes.

  1. Serving Jesus

The fact that this scene is one of hospitality means we can express the point in terms of service: ‘what does it mean to serve Jesus?’ The answer is that it is not in preparing a meal, nor in the contemplative life, but it is in listening to him. Listen to what he says (even women!). ‘Few things are necessary, or only one’. The ‘Good’, the better part, was Mary’s choice. This ‘better part’ is the teaching of Jesus, or the blessings of the Kingdom to which it testified. This must not be taken away from Mary: it is an inalienable right and possession, guaranteed by Jesus. So the bottom line is that Mary should not be deprived of the one good thing by helping Martha, and Martha should curtail her domestic concerns so that she too will be able to have the one thing that matters.

Coming as it does as a pair with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which may satisfy our need for action, for moral purpose, (both individually and as communities of faith,) the episode of Martha and Mary reminds us that love of neighbour cannot be detached from love of the Lord God of the Bible; and we express this love by listening to Jesus, the Son with whom he is well pleased. As the voice on the Mountain of Transfiguration declared (9.35): ‘this is my Son, my chosen; Listen to him!’. If we do so, our subsequent actions will also be more likely to please him.

MBR

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3 July 16: Luke 10.1-20_Martin Robinson

2 Kings 5.1-14; [Psalm 30]; Galatians 6.(1-6) 7-18; Luke 10. 1-12 (13-16) 17-24

                                                                ON THE ROAD

Introduction: The reality of being ‘on the road’ has figured in the experience of many. Some cultures demand that the adolescent male prove his manhood by undertaking a journey, perhaps with a number of tasks to complete. The ‘growing up’ journey of many first novels, or the epics that are so often the founding literature of a culture (from Homer and Virgil to Wordsworth and Byron to DH Lawrence and Jack Kerouac) suggest how powerful the journey is as a metaphor for life: the journey is not so much the visible wandering or quest as it is the interior discovery of oneself and one’s human calling. Doubtless you have reflected on your own inner ‘journey’, whether or not it was driven by a geographical one, (as with so many refugees or migrants).

The earliest Christians described themselves as followers of ‘the Way’. The term ‘Christian’ appears to have been a sarcastic reaction to the new sect’s confidence that Jesus the itinerant preacher and healer was ‘the Christ’. But for the believers, it was a journey in the footsteps of Jesus, who they now called Saviour and Lord.

The Gospel passage before us today sets a pattern. The believer’s experience is to be understood as one of being ‘on the road’. Indeed, from Luke 9.51 to the end of chapter 19, ten chapters, Jesus is ‘on the road’ to Jerusalem and what awaits him there, and Luke draws our attention to this repeatedly. The disciples observe how focussed Jesus is ‘on the road to Jerusalem’, and it sometimes scares them. (Mark 10.32). As the gospel reading Sunday by Sunday will trace this road for the next four months, it seems appropriate to draw attention to this background.

  1. The Turning Point: in the first three gospels the ministry of Jesus falls into two halves. The turning point is Peter’s ‘confession’, where, in answer to our Lord’s question ‘who do you say that I am?’ Peter replies ‘You are the Christ /Messiah of God’ [Matthew 16.16; Mark 8.29; Luke 9.20]. Jesus binds them to silence, speaks of his coming suffering, and indicates that the way of discipleship will be the way of the Cross. The Transfiguration gives Peter, James and John a confirmation of the true identity and coming glory of Jesus, and Jesus then quite deliberately turns his face to Jerusalem: Luke 9.51: ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.’ Should we or the disciples have any doubts as to the kind of journey this will be, we hear some interchanges with would-be disciples: Luke 9.57-62: ‘As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said ‘Follow me.’ But he said ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me say farewell to those at my home’. Jesus said to him, ‘No-one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’  The reading today follows directly after these interchanges.
  1. The Mission of the Seventy: Let us briefly identify the features of the way of discipleship in this blueprint; some will seem quite alien; others more familiar:

(a) It is a big job (v.2): ‘the harvest is plentiful, but…’

(b) You will be like lambs in the midst of wolves (v.3)

(c) You are to be purpose-driven (v.4): no baggage, or pleasantries

(d) Take advantage of whatever opportunity you get to talk about the Kingdom (v.5-9)

(e) You will be unpopular, but it is the message rather than you (v.11-16

(f) The reality of your experience is profound, but it is not about you (v. 17-20)

  1. Walking with Jesus: as we hear these coming chapters of Luke’s Gospel, I hope we will keep this larger context in mind. We will encounter much of the New Testament record of Jesus that is unique to Luke, such as the parable of the Good Samaritan next week, and we will be regularly challenged about our attitude to our possessions. Our services will provide a setting for us to reflect, prayerfully, and in the presence of God, on what our Lord seeks for us in our own contemporary situation. It will help to keep in mind that we as disciples are on the road, taking a great and significant journey, following in our master’s footsteps.

MBR

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Dedication Day

“Lively Stones” – Professor Peter Alexander

May the words of my lips and the meditation of our hearts be now and ever acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.

Readings:  1 Kings 8:22-24,27-30 Psalm 84(sung as hymn) 1 Peter 2:4-10 Matthew 7:24-29

Today is our Dedication Day.  St Jude’s Church, meaning this magnificent building, in which we see everywhere the signs of those who have gone before us in this parish, was dedicated on this day in 1865, which means that the Church is 149 years old today. Which means that next year there’ll be celebrations to write home about.  And although the church was dedicated to St Jude, the day in 1865, as it is now, was St Peter’s & St Paul’s day. I’ve appropriately taken as my text the Dedication Day reading which John read for us, I Peter 2:4-5, in which St Peter tells all Christians that Jesus was chosen by God as a living stone to build up his church, and Peter goes on,

‘Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’

‘Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.’ This is a brief sermon about a peculiar idea, being like a living stone, something which few of us would find very appealing.

I have a soft spot for St Peter, partly because I was named for him and think of him as a father figure, partly because every now and then he is silly like us, so that one can’t help feeling sympathy for him. The silly things he says on the mount of Transfiguration, and the silly way he hops out of a boat in the middle of a storm and tries to walk on the water before giving a yell of panic as he sinks into the waves and has to be rescued by Jesus. And Peter is poorly educated, so that his writing is clumsy and appealing.  Seldom does he use an image that reaches out and speaks to you.

But here St Peter, in that passage, is telling Christians that Christ was the foundation stone of the Church, he uses the metaphor of a living stone, and he urges us to be stones in the church structure too.  This image had particular meaning for Peter, whom Jesus had named: Petros means stone or rock in Aramaic.  What’s true for Jesus, the foundation stone, is true for the man named Peter the Rock, and is true for us.  St Jude’s, he’s telling us, is not just this beautiful structure, not even primarily that:  St Jude’s is us, the people who are the body of Christ in this place. We are both the workers, and the work.

The stones of which this church is made are so heavy that virtually none of us could lift even a small one. Yet even though sandstone is not the strongest stone, they are so strong under compression that one of them can sustain the weight of many others. If you follow the great gothic arch to its peak above my head here, look at the wall of stones that rests above that arch point. What holds all of that up is the arch, which carries the weight down on either side through these slim pillars. These pillars are holding up many hundreds of tons, and that’s not just true here: it’s true of the pillars throughout this open airy church. The stones are characterised by huge strength, by stability, by steadfastness, and by the way they lock in with each other to sustain the whole structure. That’s what Peter says is the ideal image of a Christian.

To be part of the structure of the church, like these heavy stones, is what’s being suggested for us. Peter was writing at a time when there probably was not a single stone church in the whole world, but he’s looking to the future. And the alternative to being part of the church is summed up for us by a modernist poet named Philip Larkin. Larkin was librarian at the university of Hull, and became famous partly for putting swear words into his poems. His best known poem is called ‘This Be The Verse’, and in it he blames his parents for the mess of his life:

They mess you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

Blaming your parents is always a safe thing to do, but Larkin also blames the church, in a poem called ‘Church Going’ which you’ll find a copy of in your white pew leaflet:

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on

I step inside, letting the door thud shut.

Another church: matting, seats, and stone,

And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut

For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff

Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;

And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,

Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off

My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

The narrator in the Larkin poem is a kind of tourist, on a bicycle, stopping at churches to have a look, without knowing why he does it. An important figure in Modernist writing is the flaneur, a French word which means a kind of widow shopper, an idler without allegiances. The Larkin speaker is a flaneur.  You’ll notice from the first line that he wants the church to be empty: only when he knows there’s nothing going on does he step inside. And the church is alien to him: when he notices ‘some brass and stuff/Up at the holy end’ he’s talking as if he were a Martian, with no understanding of what he’s seeing. For him the place is dead: he notices dead flowers, dust, little books, and silence.  Notice how ambiguous his title is: ‘Church Going’ could mean ‘going to church’, but it could also mean ‘the church is going, it’s on the way out’. And now he’s in the church, what’s he going to do? Stanza 2:

Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few

Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce

‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.

The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door

I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,

Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

An Irish sixpence is worth nothing in England, so he’s pretending to support the church while doing nothing of the sort. So then he begins to wonder why he stopped (stanza 3):

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,

And always end much at a loss like this,

Wondering what to look for…

Slowly it comes to him that the church has a weight that can’t be ignored. Have a look at the last stanza:

A serious house on serious earth it is,

In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,

Are recognized, and robed as destinies.

The important events of life, baptism, marriage and death, are given shape and significance by the spiritual values of the Church;

And that much never can be obsolete,

Since someone will forever be surprising

A hunger in himself to be more serious,

And gravitating with it to this ground,

Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,

If only that so many dead lie round.

And he finally fixes on the fact that the church is not just a building, nor even living worshippers (the church militant), but it is also what theologians call the church triumphant: the building is powerful ‘if only that so many dead lie round’. There’s something beyond life here.

The kind of incomprehension you see at the start of Larkin’s poem, that ideological gulf between the church and the world, St Peter and Larkin, is getting wider. Because the church is not just different from the world:  the church is an affront to the world.  The church says to the world, there is a different and a better way to live.  The world responds with rejection, incomprehension, even hostility.

We are not to follow the world, but to provide standards for it to follow.  St Paul tells us, in Rom 12:2, ‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed.’   While the church holds to the Gospel, it can never be finally defeated, and it holds up a light to the world.  We fall, but we get up again.

As St Peter tells us, our struggle is to ensure that we are not just flaneurs visiting church, but part of the very spiritual structure.  We are living stones trying to do the will of God, and our strength and solidity and steadfastness are achieved through daily prayer, even just five minutes before we start work in the morning, through reading our Bibles to make sure that we know what we believe, and through living for others. We’re not flaneurs: we’re believers for whom the church is a source of power; looking around this extraordinary building we see ourselves reflected in it, because we are part of it.  That struggle, to build up the truth and be part of the structure, is worked out in each of our lives every day. It’s because Christians in Randwick have waged that struggle before us that we’re here today in this place.  We give God thanks for it, on this our Dedication day.  ‘Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.’

Let us take a moment to meditate on these things.

Lord, we praise your name that in building up your church you should give us the chance to follow you as living stones in that structure that stands firm for eternity.  Amen.

Peter Alexander.

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RECTOR”S ANNUAL RECTOR’S REPORT – March 2014

The basic feature of St Jude’s is the Christian community of people that gather here.

Buildings and property give a certain character to this community, but without the people stone and brick and glass and slate would be a sad reflection of St Jude’s.

I like to see the community here in a broad way. Community especially depends on those who faithfully commit and contribute to Worship Services here week by week.

Yet the community also extends to those people and families who have a strong history or local connection here  – those who come for Christmas and for Baptism or Marriage or Funeral Services.

Community also extends to those who come here to ring bells or visit graves, to the Child Care families that come here week by week. Some come to us for financial or spiritual help. There are other people who are interested in the history of Randwick or the Graveyard.

Community links exists when we are involved in local Anzac commemorations. From the beginning of our local schools, Religious Education was seen as an important feature of School life and we have maintained involvement. coordinating a group of teachers and helpers at Randwick Public School.

I see our role to be embracing and welcoming of the hundreds even thousands of people who have some connection here. This I believe is true to Christian witness and the nature and roots of an Anglican Church – The concept of Parish is an embracing one.

Our outreach opportunities come from these connections, and how we respond is a positive or negative witness to Christ. The impetus for Christian Service, and the call to be a church that follows Jesus Christ, are important as we prepare for Easter.

SERVICES

Weekly attendances for 2013 were encouraging.

Average attendances for 2013:  8am – 45 (44) 9:30am – 76 (75) 11am – 34 per fortnight, 6:30pm – 18 (22)

The Sunday School and it’s dedicated ministry has been growing and more families are becoming involved.

During 2013 there were 29 Baptisms – 15 Weddings  – 29 Funeral Services (18 in Church)

Among the Funeral Services in the Church we did say a sad farewell to many of our regular Parishioners whom we commended into the hands of our loving God: Jean Tennant, Diana Carter, Dorothy McLachlan, Connie Devenish, Diana Bryers, Rita Doyle, Eunice Eling, Winifred Milson, Colleen Simms.

We miss them and their part in the Parish and in our lives.

STAFF & VOLUNTEERS

Church Staff have continued their devoted work and ministry during 2013.

We acknowledge the devoted ministry of Amanda Wharton through Sunday School, Family Service, Evening Service, Scripture Coordinating and teaching, Playgroup, Child Care Centre Chaplaincy.

Rev Jim Le Huray continues to bring a wise guidance and counsel to Sunday Services and Pastoral work  in the Parish.

Rev John Bowen has brought a cheerful understanding in his contributions to Sunday Services and ESL ministry.

Angus Gilchrist our Organist, and Choirmaster brings quality church musicianship to our Parish. Angus is always looking for new Choir members to join those who faithfully sing.

In the office our Secretary Veralene Lobo’s caring and kind ways add significantly to the greeting that people receive when they deal with the Church. Cathy Taliano continues to conscientiously keep the church books, under the careful oversight of our hard working treasurer Alan Clark.

Padre Jim Cosgrove has willing stepped in to help with Youth Group and some great musical compositions for the Sunday School.

Terry O’Brien continues to give great leadership to the ESL Group.

So many in the Parish contribute in so many ways – all of the groups that operate within the Church are filled with dedicated people seeking to care and work as unto the Lord.

The Bible Studies, The Bell Ringers, The Choir, The Career’s Group, The Child Care Centre, The Craft Group, The Playgroup, The Creche and Sunday School, The Scripture Teaching, The ESL Group, The Flower Group, Friend’s of St Jude’s, The Men’s Breakfast Group, The Parish Council, The Readers, The Servers and Young people, The Social Auxiliary, The Sides People, Women’s Fellowship, The Working Bee and Gardeners, The Confirmation, Those who serve on the Child Care Committee. The 2013 Science and Religion Seminars with Dr Jaan Boersma were well supported.  We acknowledge the wonderful dedicated Pastoral work of Dr.Ruth White over many years. Marie Scroope has now graciously stepped into Ruth’s Coordinator role with The Carer’s Group.

All these groups add to the vitality and mission of the Community here. I deeply thanks all for your willing contributions.

Our dedicated Warden’s Alan Clark, Diane Hill and Philippa Skuja, together with the Parish Council have provided endeavor and wisdom to the Parish, as well as financial prudence and oversight.

To all Parishioners for your presence and contributions – our community life here is blessed by you.

RESTORATION WORKS and FINANCES

We have continued the Restoration work of this wonderful and challenging property. Part of the stewardship of this Parish will always be to care for this unique Heritage site and buildings.

During 2013 we made significant progress with general maintenance, as well as with 4 major projects.

  1. The Repointing of the Child Care Centre Hall,
  2. The Restoration works on the Gravestones and Railings in the Historic Church Graveyard (The oldest Cemetery in the Eastern Suburbs).
  3. The Church lighting is now complete except for a European spot light problem. All of the wiring in the church has been wonderfully hidden.
  4. The Church tower restoration. Thanks to the generous thoughtfulness of Parishioners the Tower project was brought forward a year and is now completed.

These projects cost over $800,000.

I would especially like to recognize the Honorary work of our Heritage Architect Geoff Danks. Geoff grew up as a server in St Jude’s and sees this as his spiritual home, even though he now lives and worships elsewhere. Geoff gave much openhearted effort and expertise to the lighting project, as he has to many other projects here.

For the first time the income of the church reached $1,000,000. More than half of this money came from the generous giving of Parishioners, and the balance came from income from the appropriate use of the property (Childcare Centre, Graveyard, Staff Housing, Occasional Services)

Despite the heavy responsibility of property care here, the church has contributed to ministries beyond St Jude’s – $13,000 to various Christian Missions, $17,500 to the ministries of the South Sydney Regional Area, and $52,000 in Diocesan assessment, part of which goes to Diocesan programs including new ministry and land for new churches.

The Parish here is on a stable financial footing. Into the future St Jude’s will be able to exercise Christian Ministry, to care for it’s property and to repay debt.

CONCLUSION – Some of you have asked me about my future as I turn 65 this year, and have been here for 22 years. I have applied for an extension of time to the Diocesan Retirements Board and hope that God willing we may be able to stay on at St Jude’s for a bit longer.

I thank Catherine for much behind the scenes effort, and do thank you all for your part in St Jude’s. We have many blessings to be thankful for.

We pray for Christian unity and witness. We pray that we might be a positive Easter community that cares for all and serves others during 2014.

Gregory Job – March 2014

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