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Minister's Desk
Canberra City UCA >  Minister's Desk

We are pleased to have
Rev Dr Paul Chalson   Email:   Mobile: 0409 473 081  and
Rev Miriam Parker-Lacey   Email:  Mobile: 0413 586 885
providing ministry with us. You can also contact them through the church office:
                   Phone: (02) 6257 4600

From time to time we publish a reflection and/or sermon notes. 
                The reflections are shown below and the
                sermon notes are on the Sermon Notes sub page


18 June 2017

Abraham’s Terebinths

Our Old Testament reading today sets the scene of Abraham’s tent placed near “the terebinths of Mamre” (Genesis 18: 1).  Here, at midday, Abraham, while seated at the tent opening, communicated with three men, acknowledged in early translations as ‘angels of the Lord’.  As a welcome, Abraham and Sarah displayed all the courtesies of good hospitality by offering the visitors water to bathe their feet and by providing food as freshly-cooked cakes, milk and meat, while they rested in the shade of a terebinth grove.

During my research to find out what a ‘terebinth’ was, I discovered that the botanical name, Pistachia terebinthus, describes an evergreen shrub of the cashew family that yields turpentine (a term derived as a corruption from ‘terebinth’).  However, early translations of the Septuagint (the Greek source of the Old Testament and the Jewish Torah) refer not to terebinths but much more imposing oak trees.  The Palestinian or Sindian oak (Quercus pseudococcifera) shares with the terebinth the qualities of longevity, strength and durability - but it is a massive tree.

I researched further about the site of Mamre.  For millennia, Mamre has been a venerated site – long before Abraham set up his tent.  Archaeologists have found shards of bronze age pottery, dating back to 2600-2000 BCE, and the location marks an overland transport junction near an ancient well.  Writing in Antiquities of the Jews (CE 94), the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records that Abraham set up a permanent encampment of many tents at Mamre, choosing a site frequently used for animal sacrifices by Jews and pagans near a shady oak tree apparently immune to fires.  Centuries later, Herod constructed a stone wall 2 m. thick to protect this sacred tree.  However, the wall was destroyed during a Jewish war of rebellion against Roman rule (CE 132) and then rebuilt by Hadrian’s army.  Hadrian also revived market fairs at Mamre, but these were shunned by Jews as idolatrous.  Under Constantine (302-337), the Mamre fairs became inter-denominational but these scandalised Eutropia, mother-in-law to Constantine who then destroyed pagan idols, consecrated the enclosure, and built a Christian basilica dedicated to Saint George.

Despite such activities, the ancient oak survived.  From the third century, Christian pilgrims began to visit ‘the Oak of Abraham’, but by the seventh century this had been reduced to a stump as sacred slivers were removed by souvenir seekers. A stump was still visible to the Russian pilgrim, Abbot Daniel, when he visited in 1106.

this week’s reflection prepared by Terry Birtles

21 May 2017

It is People

Recently Margaret and I went back to New Zealand for one week. We had not been back to Dunedin since arriving from New Zealand some three years ago. It is a lovely wee city but we weren’t there for a holiday. A number of friends were sick, some critically ill. We thought we had better go and see some while we were able.

I suppose we anticipated that it would be a hard time visiting people knowing we might not see them again.

Instead we felt very blessed. We stayed in two different homes and our hosts couldn’t have been more welcoming and kind. Another friend had offered the use of a car for the week -  little did I know I would be driving a large Mercedes – VERY carefully I might add!!

Difficult visits were made “easy” by the courage and good nature our friends displayed. They were appreciative of the effort we had made to come and see them, they were interested to hear about our new life in Canberra. We spoke about grandchildren and about the good people we had met, principally here at City Uniting Church.

We came away feeling that it was them that had ministered to us. We didn’t talk about our  faith but perhaps by showing love we were acting out part of our gospel reading today – “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14: 15), and the commandment to  “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12: 31).

We were pleased to have made the effort. And by their courage and dignity and good humour in spite of their circumstances we have learned and gained much. This story is not just about us. Margaret and I are very cognisant of the fact that we are part of a congregation in which we see so much love and care, acts of kindness and love that are truly Christ-like.

I think I have mentioned once before a proverb from New Zealand Maori:

      He aha te mea nui,
      He tangata
      He tangata
      He tangata

What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

this week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

14 May 2017

Psalm 31

Psalm 31 is important in the lectionary, as it contains words that Jesus said from the cross in Luke’s version of the crucifixion. Luke uses it again, though more subtly, in the book of Acts when Stephen utters his last words after being stoned. It is for this latter reason that it is included in the readings for this Sunday.

Psalm 31 is also important for other reasons. It is one of the psalms that refers to God as both rock and refuge, and it talks about the steadfast love of God and salvation for the God’s people. It also has something important to say about the life of people of faith.  It describes times of where God seems to be missing and times when God’s presence can be felt. A psalm of lament, it nevertheless has at its heart the notion of trusting in God, no matter what might be crashing down around you.

Not only does the psalmist express abandonment, there is the fear that the psalmist is surrounded by those who would do him harm. As the psalmist describes his physical and emotional torment, it is clear he experiences others’ rejection and fear as an assault, and feels both abandoned and besieged by hostile forces.

This psalm is important as it reminds us that being Christian offers no protection from life’s tragedies. To suggest otherwise is neither true to the biblical record, nor to the human experience. The joy of which the Bible speaks is not found in isolation from the bad things is life. What Psalm 31 does offer is the confidence that no matter what is happening, the God who is present in the darkness, who supports and comforts us during times of adversity, holds us in God’s hands. 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

7 May 2017

Walking in both the Light and the Dark

We are well into the season of Easter now, and have travelled with the lectionary from the darkness of Good Friday into the light of the resurrection.

But the psalm this week, despite the images of sheep and good shepherds, reminds us that in our lives we will walk in both light and dark places.

The world around us tries to convince us that darkness and sadness are bad things.  We prefer the light of resurrection to despair of Good Friday. Frequently we have grown up with an antipathy to darkness, a result of bogeyman stories and the fear of what might lurk within the shadows. We forget that our human lives contain both light and darkness, in a literal and metaphorical sense, and that is normal, and also biblical.

Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we cannot see where we are going, and when it seems no one will answer when we call, there is still a divine presence with us that transcends all of our ideas about lightness and darkness. In a favourite book of mine, Learning to walk in the dark, the author Barbara Brown Taylor notes that “to be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting the other half away where it will not interfere with one's bright fantasies of the way things ought to be.”

The Easter journey, along with Psalm 23, invites us to walk on a less travelled road, a darkened road where there is pain and doubt and suffering, a road that invites questions and encourages us to search for God in the dark places of our world, as well as the light.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

23 April 2017

Growing Into Faith

I think that we often make the mistake of assuming that for the disciples the Resurrection and Pentecost experiences were so profound, they were instantly transformed from a group of frightened and disillusioned people  into a fired-up bunch of fearless witnesses.  But this, I think, is wrong, and today’s reading seems to emphasise that the process of becoming less fearful and less doubtful took some time.  In the reading Jesus appears to them twice.   On the second occasion, which happened a week after the first, not much has changed for they are still behind locked doors, still fearful and  even Jesus’ words of ‘Peace be with you.’ hadn’t got them out from that room.

In many respects those first disciples were just like us.  Even though quite a few of us could name the time and place when we first experienced the life giving presence of Christ, others of us can’t, and none of us would be able to say that everything about our life was utterly transformed on the spot:  that we were totally released from our doubts, our fears, our apathy, our lack of love.   I know I look back on my first conversion experience as a turning point rather than the moment when I was miraculously changed into a perfect model of discipleship. For me, it was a turning point from which faith and hope and love began to take root and grow.   

Those first disciples were not much different – their faith journeys were a gradual process which changed them from being huddled behind the locked doors of fear and doubt to carrying the gospel to the ends of the known earth. 

Conversion to a faith which conquers the powers of death and despair often, but not always, has a sudden and memorable beginning.  But whether it does or not, it is always, always, an ongoing process

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

16 April 2017

What are we to make of this day?

On one level, the answer is obvious – Jesus was killed, and now he is resurrected. This is a Christian gathering, and the answer is simple. Easter is all about celebrating the resurrection. It assures us we will have life after we die. But is this the only thing of importance?
What are we to make of this day, a day when the graves are opened and the dead awaken? If we ask this as post-enlightenment people, we will assert that Jesus' resurrection was a myth created by the early church to maintain and grow a new movement, and that the resurrection was a metaphor of how our sins are dead and buried with Jesus' death and burial, and how we can start afresh to be better people. But is it this straightforward? Or this individualistic?

What are we to make of this day, a day when life refused to be contained, but burst forth in the most strange and unexpected way? Who was truly freed by the experience of resurrection?
What are we to make of a day where nothing is impossible, where hope cannot be extinguished and where love cannot be conquered?

Embracing resurrection means embracing new possibilities, new realities, and new ways of being. Instead of being limited by our fears and prejudices, we can open our minds to believe that unbelievable grace is possible. Instead of being limited by wanting to control things, we can release the hold fear has on our minds, and open our hearts to unbelievable hope. Instead of being limited by death and despair, we can open our lives to live and to love, in the light of Christ’s liberating life.
The resurrection teaches us that nothing is impossible. The resurrection shows us that hope need not be extinguished, and that love is never conquered.

As you come among us now, Jesus, in your resurrected glory;
May we feel the power of your life;
May we turn away from those things which destroy life;
May resurrection happen again in us today.
And may we become agents of resurrection, where ever we find ourselves.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

9 April 2017

Passion Sunday

If Palm Sunday publicly announces that Jesus is king, Passion Sunday reminds us that the Messiah who is the king is the suffering Messiah, the one who is crucified. His kingly rule is exercised through suffering and rejection. Jesus was the victim of the religion and politics of his time. The authorities and powers of his day crushed him because his teachings and actions went against their vested interests.

Was Jesus the only victim of the inhumanity of fellow human beings, of religion and politics? No! There were thousands of people at the time of Jesus, and millions of people today who were and are crushed and destroyed by those who hold power and authority. Thousands and thousands of crosses of innocent women, children and men, old and young, are raised every day all over the world – the crosses of the exploited, oppressed, tortured and destroyed. 

Jesus still cries ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’  In that cry of dereliction we hear the cries of all God’s children everywhere. Jesus has recapitulated in his passion, the passion of all his people of all times. To speak of Passion Sunday is to speak of a God who has come to be part of the passion of his people. The cross of Jesus is the cross of God.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

2 April 2017

Some Thoughts on Today’s Psalm

Psalm 130 is about hope – about hanging on, even in the depths of despair. The psalmist asks for God to be attentive and says, that even in the midst of despair, he will hang on to the hope that God offers.
Down through the centuries people have cried out to God from their places of need. I have done it and I have no doubt you have as well. There are people throughout the world today who, in their places fear, doubt and despair, cry out for help

Further in the psalm, the psalmist speaks of waiting like one who watches for the morning. How many of us have experienced that night time fear – desperation that is magnified somehow by the darkness? From the watchers in the tower, keeping vigil until the daylight brings a sense of safety, to those who tonight, will sit and stare and pray for the dawn.

Finally, it is important to unpack the understanding that the voices cry out because they hope someone will listen. God does not wave some magic wand to answer people’s cries. God works through people like you and me. Will we listen and respond to those who cry out for connection or care? Will we be the hope they need in the morning?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

26 March 2017

Christian Students Uniting : CSU-ACT (An update)

CSU is the name given to our “student body” here at City Uniting Church. However, attendance at Sunday worship is not compulsory and we have other students who are members through attending our fortnightly Bible Study. We also organise social outings and trips.

The new Executive for 2017 is Pesta Sibarani (President), Kelvin Lee (Secretary) and Rui Shen (Treasurer). These three met with me and came up with a “manifesto” or “raison d’etre” that encapsulated what were the special features of CSU. Kelvin will outline them in the service this morning along with the advantages CSU has as an affiliated group within ANU. Together with members of the Student Ministry Support Group we need to work on a strategy to further advance the very important outreach that is inherent in our support of CSU.

Our basic message to ANU students is that we are the LOCAL church (only minutes walk from Uni Lodge), we are MAINSTREAM Protestant, and for international students we offer a “home away from home” – a caring church family with pastoral support and ENGAGEMENT with the local Canberra community.

We have set up a Facebook page called CSU-ACT Alumni. We did this so as to keep in contact with past members of CSU who have returned home. I try and post something every week on church or CSU activities. If you would like to view it just send a “friend request” and I promise to approve it!
Our students value the hospitality of City Church folk. They are a long way away from family and the first year especially can be a difficult time as they adjust to student life here in Canberra.

This Week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

19 March 2017

How Long To The Promised Land

When things are going OK it is pretty easy to trust God. When a crisis comes, however, the reality of our faith is often exposed. The Children of Israel’s faith was tested time and again on their journey through the wilderness and almost never did they rise to the occasion. The crisis recorded in today’s reading was serious, and potentially lifethreatening. They had travelled and arrived at camp but there was no
water, which is not a good thing - particularly in the desert. All too easily the great events of their deliverance were consigned to history and their original prejudice against Moses resurfaced. The mood
turned ugly and mob rule was not far below the surface.

Whilst being without water was a practical issue and there was an urgent need for it to be resolved, fundamentally it was a spiritual issue, reflecting their lack of trust in God. Moses acted decisively by first
bringing the matter to God in blunt terms. Then he obeyed the Lord’s clear directions which involved bringing the leadership on side with him. His act was to be simple yet spectacular. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. The need was met but the underlying problem remained.

We might ask ourselves: If our default position is to doubt, and to express that in grumbling and disunity, how long will it take us to get to the Promised Land?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

12 March 2017

How Long To The Promised Land

When things are going OK it is pretty easy to trust God. When a crisis comes, however, the reality of our faith is often exposed. The Children of Israel’s faith was tested time and again on their journey through the wilderness and almost never did they rise to the occasion. The crisis recorded in today’s reading was serious, and potentially life-threatening. They had travelled and arrived at camp but there was no water, which is not a good thing - particularly in the desert. All too easily the great events of their deliverance were consigned to history and their original prejudice against Moses resurfaced. The mood turned ugly and mob rule was not far below the surface.

Whilst being without water was a practical issue and there was an urgent need for it to be resolved, fundamentally it was a spiritual issue, reflecting their lack of trust in God. Moses acted decisively by first bringing the matter to God in blunt terms. Then he obeyed the Lord’s clear directions which involved bringing the leadership on side with him. His act was to be simple yet spectacular. Moses struck the rock and water flowed out. The need was met but the underlying problem remained.

We might ask ourselves: If our default position is to doubt, and to express that in grumbling and disunity, how long will it take us to get to the Promised Land? 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

5 March 2017

The Cunningness of Temptation

The lectionary reading from the Hebrew Scriptures is the story of how Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, and were led astray. The story is a vehicle for helping us understand what happens when we decide to go our own way, rather than listen to God. It also makes it very clear how easily we can be tricked into doing what we know is wrong.

There has been much speculation on the symbolic meaning of ‘the tree of knowledge’, usually translated as ‘knowing good and evil’. The literal meaning is anything but simple, but may indicate that when we disobey God, we discover what it is to be sinners, and innocence dies. Because we disobey God we experience what it is to have a fallen nature. Eve’s encounter with the serpent shows us how temptation can come at us sideways.

The snake starts with a question in order to get Eve thinking about fruit. She responds with a correct reply. Then the snake suggests that God was perhaps not as kindly as Eve had assumed, and was warning her off this fruit because it would give her power God did not want her to have. Eve saw the beauty of the tree, thought about becoming wise, and decided that she would take the serpent’s advice and eat the fruit – also giving some to Adam. All this shows how humans fail to trust the goodness of God, and the wisdom of what God says. The pair does get understanding, but it includes the knowledge of what it is to be exposed in shame before God and one another.

As a response to this story, let’s think about the times in our lives when temptation can come at us sideways and how we might be better prepared to say ‘No!’

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud
Adapted from an article by Rev Jock Stein of The Church of Scotland

26 February 2017

Blurred Edges

In our Gospel reading for today, Peter, James and John have an experience. They see Jesus transformed before their eyes and hear God’s voice naming him as ‘My beloved Son.’  It would have been a pretty unreal experience and, I imagine, they would have had difficulty coming back to reality.  But Jesus tells them that they can’t stay on top of that mountain forever and they need to go back and face the everyday world.  For them all, but more particularly Jesus, that meant journeying onwards to Jerusalem and the fate that awaited him there.

As I was thinking about this reading I reflected on the difference between mountain-top experiences and the realities of everyday living, and I wondered whether there are blurred edges around both.  Can we divorce our mountain-top experiences from the everyday?  I would argue that we can’t. 

Firstly: unless our mountain-top experiences inform our daily living then there is not much point to them.
Secondly: I believe that it is in the ordinary, everyday events of our lives that transfiguration and transcendence occur.  God is always in those places where people interact with people.  His transforming presence is not just limited to the mountain-top, but is found everywhere – even in the most unlikely places and people.  If only we would open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to recognise it.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

19 February 2017

Guidelines for how to become a positive social epidemic.

The readings could be understood as asking God's people to spread grace and compassion-filled social epidemics throughout our neighbourhoods and our world. In particular, Leviticus and the gospel of Matthew are envisaging God's people as a model for a healthy alternative community.

Leviticus is too often dismissed by Christians as a ‘book of rules’. But Leviticus is much more than this. Known as the Holiness Code, God instructs his people to "be holy, for I am holy". Such holiness involves some counter-intuitive actions and motivations. "Don't be like the other nations, and stoop to slander, hatred, and revenge”, says Leviticus 19. Rather, remember the poor, the alien, the aged, the deaf, and the blind. Love your neighbour as yourself. In summary, your actions and life should reflect the character of God who is perfect love and goodness.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus appears to have adopted the Levitical code as part of his mission. He further suggests we deepen our love of God by attending to our motivations and inner feelings, as well as just refraining from doing wrong. "Don't be like tax collectors or Gentiles," Jesus says. “Learn to love even your enemies. Share your possessions and money. Be compassionate”.

Take a moment and imagine a community where people didn't need to steal, because everyone shared liberally with others in need. Or a community where everyone was treated fairly, and no groups were exploited or oppressed on the basis of status, ethnicity, sexuality or religion. Or a world where women and girls were honoured as equal to men, and where the alien was treated as one of the family?

When we live like this, we, the people of God, reflect the character of God. Our lives could not help but to spread a positive social epidemic of love, compassion, goodness, gratitude, civility, respect and justice, that would not only build a healthy community, but would build the kingdom of God, here and now, on earth.

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

12 February 2017

You have heard it said ….. but I say to you …

Matthew has Jesus speaking these words in our Gospel reading for today as he challenges his hearers to move from the demands of the old covenant made between God and God’s people, to the new covenant embodied in Jesus.  The demands are the same – obedience, obligation, loyalty – but in Jesus they go beyond simply observing laws and statutes.  For Jesus, living out the new covenant is not about an intellectual agreement, but transformation of heart and mind.  In other words, going deeper as we think what it really means to follow the way of Jesus.

In the passage, Jesus gives practical examples of how to live out life in this new covenant.  At first hearing we might be shocked with what he is saying. There are words about being ‘liable to hell’, being ‘thrown into prison’ and tearing an eye out if it causes us to sin.  But we need to remember that Jesus was quite fond of shocking his listeners with over the top statements in order to make them think beyond the square. 

The examples Jesus gives have, at their root, themes of reconciliation, forgiveness and truthfulness. Through them Jesus points, not just to a new way of obedience, but to a new way of being human.

Being in a covenant relationship with God is not an easy option.  It’s fairly easy to follow rules, but perhaps what we should be doing is challenging ourselves to go beyond simply observing the ‘rules’ of Christian discipleship to understanding at a deeper level, what it is that God requires of us? 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Betty Stroud

5 February 2017

How can we be salt and light in a chaotic and fearful world?

In the world of the first century, light and salt were extremely important. In a power-free and fossil fuel-free world, the preservative salt and the oil lamp were as important to the ancients as electricity and cars are to us. This saying of Jesus is really a very simple concept, using light and salt as symbols for discipleship. Let your actions be seen, says Jesus. Let your worth be known through what you do.

In a world where hate is being encouraged by political leaders and extremists, it is important not to mistake being a good citizen for being a good Christian. John Pavlovitz suggests that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out what he expects of his followers very clearly. He calls this ‘radical extremism’, and describes it thus:

"Radical extremism is the essence of The Cross and the life of Jesus; a confounding, expectation-defying, hate-rattling decision to love defiantly in the face of violent intolerance. It's the greatest thing a Christian can aspire to; not might or force or payback or revenge. It is in cultivating a heart which spends itself on behalf of the hurting, the forgotten, the silenced, the wounded in the most audacious manner, even to the point of its breaking."

Living such ‘radical extremism’ is a daunting task. It is much easier to subscribe to an ‘escapist’ faith, to disengage from the pain of the world, keep our heads down and noses clean, and practice our faith in a way that requires little sacrifice or work, and that changes little around us. Isaiah criticises such a faith most harshly in the reading today. But an engaged faith pays attention to the injustice around us, calls out corruption and exploitation, and holds ourselves and our leaders accountable for how our decisions impact on the oppressed and vulnerable. "Radical extremism” means finding ourselves in uncomfortable places, upsetting the peace, and being labelled as ‘troublemakers’ “or ‘unchristian’. Christian ‘troublemakers’ are needed more than ever today. Can we find the courage to be the salt and light that Jesus expects us to be?

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Elizabeth Raine

29 January 2017

The Season of Epiphany

We are now well into the Season of Epiphany. Epiphany is a Greek word meaning “appearance” or coming into light”. Greeks used it for the dawning of a new day and especially to refer to the visible manifestation of a usually invisible deity. Christians early on applied it both to Jesus’ first coming and to his second coming.

By the second century Epiphany came to be the name for the commemoration of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan as well as his birth at Bethlehem.  Over the years, the celebration of Christ’s birth was moved to 25th December and Epiphany then came to focus on the visit of the magi [wise men], the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana.

In time, the wedding at Cana fell into the background, and the baptism of Jesus came to be celebrated in the week after Epiphany. So January 6 in the western church has been celebrated as the feast of the magi, representing the coming of light to the Gentles.

The entire Epiphany season is one of light. It begins with the star of the magi and ends with Jesus’ transfiguration into light.

Epiphany reminds us that into all of life’s uncertainties, God speaks to us. While much is hidden, much is revealed. Above all, God’s self-disclosure is located in the Christ event.  Epiphany comes to us not because we have earned it, but because we are loved.

So today we hear Micah’s summons to walk in newness of light, Paul’s confession that the message of the cross defies human wisdom, and Jesus’ teaching in Matthew about the surprising character of God’s blessing. 

this week’s reflection prepared by Rev Ian Diamond

22 January 2017

From Darkness to the Light

Our Bible readings in recent weeks are about a people who were in the darkness, now being bathed in the light. Today’s readings from the Psalms, from Isaiah and Matthew all attest to this. In today’s parlance we would talk of the “Holy Spirit”. We talk of “receiving the Holy Spirit” as a way of describing how the force, power and gift of God may be personally encountered. No one can “possess” the Spirit but everyone can pray over and over again for the Spirit.

I will be referring to the hymn “Veni Sancte Spiritus” which Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote about the year 1200 and which describes the variety of the effects of the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ

O Holy Ghost, come down from heaven’s height,
Give us thy light.
O Father of the poor, all gifts to men are Thine
Within us shine.
O Comforter beyond man’s comforting,
O stranger sweet
Our hearts await Thy feet.
In passion Thou art peace,
Rest for our labouring, our cooling spring.
O solace of our tears,
Upon the secrets of our sins and fears,
Pour Thy great light.
Apart from Thee, man has no truth unfeigned,
No good unstained.
Our hearts are dry.
O River, flow Thou through the parched ground,
Quicken those near to die.
Our hearts are hard,
O bend them to Thy will, Eternal Lord, to go Thy way.
Thy sevenfold power give to Thy faithful folk
who bear Thy yoke.
Give strength to endure,
And then to die in peace
And live forever in Thy blessedness.

To place our trust on this Spirit means we can confidently say even now: “Credo in Spiritum Sanctum “. This poem and some thoughts taken from “Does God Exist?” by theologian Hans Kung.

this week’s reflection prepared by Dennis Martin

15 January 2017

A Touch of History

We recently visited Europe to catch up with daughters and family in Lutry (Switzerland) and Liverpool (England).  Our sightseeing included historic buildings dating eight or more centuries, including Chester where the cathedral includes some hewn blocks retained from Roman occupation. 

I had an interest in Liverpool where my grandfather was born and we made a point of visiting the Saint Nicholas church where two forebears were christened during the seventeenth century.  This church dates from 1356 as the chapel of Liverpool, to become Anglican under the authority of Henry VIII. After Liverpool became a major port (1680), Saint Nicholas served as ‘the sailors chapel’ – closest to the quayside.  As the industrial revolution proceeded and wealth grew, churches began to spring up with city expansion, including almost every variety of Nonconformist chapel after 1770 and several chapels for orphan asylums and Welsh-speaking Methodist or Baptist immigrants. Meeting-places were also established for Sandemanians (Glassites), the United Free Gospel Church, Moravians, Quakers, Calvinistic Methodists, the Berean Universalist Church, Christadelphians, Swedenborgians, and the Bethel Union.  For a time, Catholicism was rigidly suppressed as Liverpool became a decidedly Protestant town in the face of a large Irish immigrant labour infusion (driven by the famine of 1846).

Repeated recession and the huge loss of males during two world wars have since changed Liverpool. Many churches have closed (some were blitzed) and religious tolerance has extended to the mutual support for construction of an Anglican and a Catholic Cathedral (each located in Hope Street). 

My return to Australia has reminded me of how relatively untouched we are by human history and architecture.  At the same time, I can marvel at the persistence of the messages of Christ’s gospel and its many interpretations.

this week’s reflection prepared by Terry Birtles